Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter Break!

Kip and I will be in South Carolina and Tennessee for a week (to see the Nephews and such) and I'll be away from the blog. Please enjoy this new set of covers during the brief hiatus.

GO HERE for the file directory, and to download the tracks.

1 - Milkshake -- Kelis
2 - Miss Jackson -- The Vines
3 - Cupid -- Amy Winehouse
4 - All That She Wants -- The Kooks
5 - Crying -- k.d. Lang
6 - Venus as a Boy -- Mike Flowers Pops
7 - Love Song -- Tori Amos
8 - Believe -- Robbie Fulks
9 - Crazy in Love -- Snow Patrol
10 - Wonderwall -- Ryan Adams
11 - Joyful Girl -- Soulive
12 - With or Without You -- Scala Choir
13 - Irreplaceable -- Sugarland
14 - Johanna -- Megan Mullally

You can also download and print this nifty CD cover if you want.

See how good I am to you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Paula Poundstone

Kip and I went to see Paula Poundstone play the Blender Theater on Saturday night, and she was funny and awkward and wonderful. Some of her material is old material--but that's okay, that's part of what we want from comedians, is to hear their most famous bits, even if we know the punchlines.

She is famous for her crowd work, all of which is improvisational. This is where she picks someone out of the crowd, talks to them about what they do for a living, or who they came with, and generally makes a hilarious mess of them. It seems random, but she picks the most interesting people. At our show, she picked on: 1) a publisher who's currently editing a porn star's autobiography and previously published "The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women," 2) a real estate appraiser who claimed to make "a lot of money" doing what she does, 3) a gay guy who helps people get out of debt, 4) a waitress who insulted Isaac Mizrahi's cabaret show which played the theater the previous night, and 5) a maple syrup seller. Ya. Me.

I knew she was going to pick on me. I could feel it as soon as we walked into the room. There was an empty seat beside me, we were in the third row, I was wearing a plaid shirt. These jokes write themselves, ladies and gentlemen. Paula wanted to know if there was any syrup rivalries at the Greenmarket, and indeed there are--I made it out to be an issue over plastic vs. glass bottles, which is the major issue in my opinion--and she rolled with that a few times. She even gave me a callback later in the evening, proclaiming that she'd tried a black market maple syrup ring herself, only in paper bags, and thus her business failure. It it surely one of the highlights of my show-going life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Banksy does New York (Sort Of.)

Mario was in town from Ithaca this week, so we galloped over to the Vanina Holasek Gallery to see the Banksy show, which is not authorized by the artist himself, but collaged together by the gallery. The works have been, according to the gallery's website, "privately sourced, over a period of time, especially for this show."

Clearly. The show is a mish-mash of prints and a few originals scattered throughout the gallery, which is a converted townhouse with staircases of Himalayan proportions. The work is hung upside down, crooked, sideways. The walls are spattered in something that I guess we're supposed to take for blood. The walls are scrawled with text which is, I guess, Banksy-esque. Some of the prints are still wrapped in bubble wrap, torn open to reveal the image.


But I think the problem lies in Banksy's work, not as much in the slapdash, money-grubbing way it's all been assembled. The price list is posted periodically, everything is in the five-figures, save for a few small things--tee-shirts, posters, postcards. The prices are also written in dark pencil, in quick, lazy handwriting, beside each piece. I guess that's something Banksy would do--post it all in a way that feels ridiculous and overdone--his interaction with the commerce-side of his artwork (read: art career) has been well publicized. (In February of this year, Banksy, after much of his work sold for over 350,000 pounds, put an picture on his website of people bidding on a picture which read, "I Can't Believe You Morons Actually Buy This Shit.")

Of course, with someone as hot as he is right now, the gallery was quite full. Probably 20 people total, which is 18 more than every other gallery we strolled into. I guess that counts for something. And there's always the argument that Banksy's laughing all the way to the bank. Who cares? A lot of people laugh all the way to the bank, but they do it selling stocks or they play the lottery, or they win American Idol. Why is "all the way to the bank" the response which suddenly validates something that sucks?

The actual graffiti pieces, in London primarily, have a much more interesting effect than the works on paper. And I completely appreciate the punkish, antihero attitude of the whole thing. The problem is that the work is soulless. I understand what he's doing--reframing. (The winner of a photo finish changes depending on where the photographer stands, right?) But none of it has any real love or passion or reference for anything. Sure, there are a few images of children which tug at the heartstrings, but none of it seems to go anywhere past the initial shock factor.

I can't figure out if the work is entirely motivated from outside sources--capitalism, war, police brutality; nothing introspective or emotional--and that's why it bores me, or if it's just built in a way that makes it seem brilliant. Or seem surprising. The gallery is installed in the same way--is this brilliant, or is this shit?

It's shit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tree-Trimming!

Kip and I hosted our annual tree-trimming party--in which guests arrive and are not expected to actually trim the tree, merely to eat and drink. This makes some of them relieved, and some of them disappointed. People said they had a lovely time, and I think they did. All I care about is whether the food was good, and it was.

I made: mozzarella marinated in creme fraiche, chili peppers and lemon; homemade pigs-n-blankets, and portobellos-in-blankets for the vegetarians; gougeres, espresso brownies from Kathrine Hepburn's recipe, hot cider, a red pepper and white bean dip, and we scattered around chocolate candies and such. Sarah made a delicious egg nog.

Of course, Kip made his incredible iced cookies, a small selection of which appears here:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

from An Evening with Quentin Crisp

In the late 1970s, Crisp began performing his one-man show in New York City, in which he would recount his personal autobiography in the first act, and in the second act, he would take questions from the audience. If you can catch this on VHS--it exists--or on CD, do. It's a delight. For example:

Q: What advice to you have for aspiring writers.

A: Never read. This is very important. if you read books in order to improve your writing style, you will find yourself trying to write literature, instead of saying what you really mean. It's very important not to get caught up trying to write better American prose. Don't do any such thing. Just try to think, Am I saying what I mean? Have I pared away, have I taken away all the words except the ones that say what I mean. And then your writing will be fine. You have the most wonderful writers in America, really great stylists, people like Damon Runyon, and there's no floweriness, no literary effect, in the work of Damon Runyon, he is as neat as he can possibly be. One of his stories begins 'Some parties who do not wish him well have put Maury in some quicklime.'

Monday, December 10, 2007

So Long, Syrup Van

On Friday morning, at about 7:35am, I was driving the big blue syrup van down 2nd Avenue, like I have every Friday morning at 7:35am for the past 18 months, when the engine died. I rolled one block to 23rd Street and tried, over and over, to start it again while the lights went through their usual, indifferent cycles, and the whole of New York began honking and waving and pointing at me with their middle fingers. Eventually, five minutes later, the van started and I was able to drive forward about ten feet before it died again, rolled another ten feet, and thus was stranded in the middle of the intersection of 2nd Avenue and 23rd Street.

It is important to note that when your car is broken down in the middle of the intersection in Manhattan, everyone simply drives around you. Police cars speed past and do not offer to help. No one gets our of their cars and offers to help me push--which is what I ended up doing, alone, until the van was securely double-parked on the left side of the street with the hazards on. It is also important to note that at this point--when the major tragedy has passed--EVERY policeman who drives past wants to stop and tell you that you are blocking traffic, that you can't park here, and that you are about to get a ticket. (And, I suppose, it is important to note that once I explained that the van wouldn't go--and trust me, it wouldn't go--they were all very nice and drove on without giving me a ticket.)

The tow truck came about 90 minutes later, we backed the dead thing into the east side of the Greenmarket, and I carted everything over to my usual Friday spot--the north end in front of the North Fork Bank--one hand truck load at a time, and was able to start selling syrup at about 11:15am.

At this point, I had had enough. This was the second break down, and even $1,000 worth of new parts and service didn't seem to do any good, as the second breakdown was the fault of the fuel pump, which wasn't serviced during the first time in sick bay, and so the third time--and there would be a third time, I was sure of it--it would be something else. A minor example of the various plagues with which the van was afflicted: hanging from the base of the steering column were lots of cut wires. Who knows where they belonged? Who knows what they were supposed to do?

So, with a heavy heart and a sober mind, we said Goodbye to the big blue syrup van. I waved as it was towed off to somewhere in Brooklyn, where it would be maybe tuned up, maybe torn apart, maybe left to rot in the pale sun which shines over the Gowanus.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

BGE 2008

My story, "Orange," is included in Best Gay Erotica 2008, which is finally out in stores this week.

"Step one: Pick a moment in your life. Press your finger down onto it, holding it like you would the first loop in a square knot. Step two: Find a moment that represents where you are now, something separate, current and different, and touch another finger to that, too. Step three: Measure the distance from one to the other—in lovers lost, furniture stolen from street corners, estimated electric bills paid, early morning phone solicitations, car accidents you witnessed. Band-Aids on fingers. Step four: Figure out how the hell you got here now from where you were then..."

Buy one for yourself! Buy one for your mom!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Clark Houck, Sr.

My grandfather, Clark Houck, Sr., passed away last night. Over the weekend he had fallen down, remained confused and generally addled, and once he was admitted to the ICU, became quite belligerent. His heart eventually gave up. My dad said they watched the monitors--he was up to 140 bpm at one point.

My brother and I spent many weekends at his house when we were children, giving my parents a night off, and giving the grandparents a chance to have a house full of kids again--something they loved. Many of my childhood memories take place in his office--the adding machine that spit out miles of white paper. I became obsessed with adding the digits 1 through 100, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, on and on, over and over: 5,050. I am still that detailed, compulsive kid. And of course, his singular pride, probably 75 meticulously labeled photo albums, in chronological order, the entire record of the Houck Family as told in pictures, records, letters, birthday cards; anything flat would do. I think of those albums as a grand--if somewhat bulky--achievement.

My grandmother Ruth is the only grandparent I have left--other than Lola Buckingham, my surrogate grandparent who was my neighbor for fifteen years growing up in Chattanooga. I wonder about Ruth now, where she will go, what she will do with her days. She lives these days as if her ears are full of cotton. This is true both literally--she is, basically, deaf and you have to yell right at her if you want her to hear--and figuratively, having spent the last 20 years (some would say her entire life) building a kind of cottony space around her, deciding what is true and what isn't, regardless of the facts. I wonder if my perception is correct--if she feels insulated by her invented world, or if it is harsh and bright, like open nerves.

Clark had spent the last years lost, it seems, between this world and the world of his childhood, which he spoke of constantly, cherishingly, and happily. Conversation quickly turned to those stories whenever possible. If I had a wish for him, it would be that he finds himself again there, with muddy dogs galloping all around and sawdust in his eye. This may sound a bit painful--but I think it made him feel alive.

Update: The obituary can be found here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Dialogue, in Two Parts (Unrelated.)

W: I only want to see movies with starships, explosions, and superpowers.

L: Right.

W: And cute boys.

L: Right.

W: And cute boys with superpowers flying startships and making explosions.

--AND--

E: Maybe if I had the vaginal canal of a dwarf it would be okay.

L: What kind of vaginal canal do you have?

E: The kind of a grown ass woman.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Teaster Trailer #2

Pitiful, this breaking and entering. Pricking your Psyche, always the prettier sister.

She waits. No more dividing grains with the help of black insects—old news! Instead, she counts the hairs on her head, parting, cataloging, braiding. Pressing them into thick ropes of gold. They are heavy and precious, like a newborn is heavy and precious. Like your memory is heavy and precious. And braided. Psyche braids and braids, until her head weighs as much as stones and snaps her neck.

Not to mention rude.

You know that I will only allow you access to what I care to share. Some hardcore partitions went up years ago, in another millennium, built by mistakes and good intentions—but what is the difference?—with stone and string and bits of loving care so tiny and focused that no one can undo it. Not even me. Only the wind.

Monday, November 26, 2007

We Apologize for the Inconvenient

This sign is posted on the door of The Container Store on 6th Avenue. I thought it was a nice idea, to apologize for everyone's cosmically impossible tasks. Getting out of jury duty, combating cat hair, addressing SPAM.

So, thank you Container Store.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gooble Gobble, 2007

It went something like this:

--Crostini of melted tallegio with figs and baby arugula
--Ground turkey with chestnuts, cranberries, croutons and mache.
--Tagliatelle with pesto and zucchini
--Chingale: Wild boar stew over polenta with swiss chard.

Then, the onslaught: Hazelnut, vanilla and fig gelatto, warm chocolate cake, olive oil cake with orange, various biscotti. There was also wine, and wine, and wine.

We forgot to take pictures.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fag Names

At some point in the writing of my first novel, (read: the beginning,) I had a kind of interlude between sections of the book that was an alphabetical list of derogatory--though sometimes hilarious and fabulous, and many of them antiquated--names for homosexuals. I had culled them from all sorts of historical and modern books, blogs, even homophobic websites.

Colon-choker, sperm burper and semen demon? Hemorrhoid hitman? Amazing. I excised the list from the novel--of course--but here it is anyway, for all to enjoy:

Anal astronaut, ass bandit, ass pirate, ass burgler, assboy, Athenian, auntie, badger, b.b., back-door commando, back door kicker, balloon-knot bandit, batttie boy, battyman, beachcomber, bender, blow-boy, bone smuggler, booty buffer, boretto man, bottom, bottom man, bowler from the pavillion end, boy buster, breechloader, brilliant, broad-boy, broken wrist, brown artist, browning queen, bufty, bufu, buggeranto, bull, bum boy, bum chum, bum plumber, bummer, bum-robber, bunduster, bunny boy, butch, buttercup, butterfly, cake eaters, cakepipe cosmonaut, Cadbury’s canal boat cruiser, camp, candy bar punk, capon, chemise lifter, chicken queen, chicken rustler, chicken, chuff chum, chutney farmer, cloven hoofster, cocksucker, cocoa-eater, colon choker, cookie dipper, cookie pusher, cot betty, cot queen, cot, cream puff, cupcake, daisy, dinner masher, donut puncher, dyna, egg-sucker, eye doctor, faddle, fag, fagamuffin, fagola, fairy, fantail, fembo, femme, flip, flower, foop, foxy lady, freak, freckle puncher, fruit for monkeys, fruit loop, fruit, fruitcake, fruit-fly, fuckboy, fudge-packer, funny man, gal-boy, Ganymede, gayboy, gayola, geriatricks, ginger, gump, hair fairy, half-a-man, haricot, hawk, hemmorhoid hitman, hen, hesh, himmer, hock, hole filler, Hollywood Hustler, homo, hoop stretcher, horses hoof, huckle, hula raider, indorser, inspector of manholes, in-between, jailhouse daddy, jamduff, jobby jouster, john-and-john, joyboy, juicy fruit, kisser, knick-knack, lavender cowboy, lavenderboy, lemonsucker, letterbox, lily, lilywhite, limpwrist, log-cabin raider, log-pusher, macho, madge cove, mama man, maneater, marmite driller, Mary Ann, mattress muncher, minty, mole, morphodite, mud-packer, nance, nancified, Nancy, nancyboy, nanny, navigator of the windward passage, nellie duff, nelly, nice enough, nudger, oofterpay, one of those, one, Oscar, pansy, pantywaist, peanut buffer, peanut packer, pee-willy, percy-boy, percy-pants, perv, pickle kisser, pile-driver, pillow-biter, pilot of the chocolate runway, pineapple, pipe smoker, piss elegant, pisshole bandit, pitcher, pole pleaser, pood, poofdah, poofta, poofter, poo-packer, poo-percolater, poo-pusher, poo-stabber, pork and bean, powder puff, pretty, pretty-boy, princess, prune pusher, puff, punk, queer, pussyboy, putty pusher, queen, queerbait, quilt, rabbit, rear seat gunner, receiver, rectal ranger, rentboy, rimadona, ring master, ring raider, sausage jockey, sausage smuggler, scatman, screamer, semen demon, shandy, Sheena, shim, shirtlifter, shit-stabber, shunter, sissie, sissypants, skid-pipe plumber, slop pail, smockface, sod, soft boy, soft, sperm burper, spoony, steamer, stem-wheeler, stir-shit, streak of lavender, stroke-on, sweetcorn shiner, tailgunner, tan truck driver, three-legged beaver, toad, tooti-frooti, troll, trouser bandit, twiddlepoop, twinkie, undercover man, uphill gardener, visitor to the valley, waffle, weirdie, windjammer, woofter.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ms. Difranco at Town Hall, Night One

Ani Difranco played Town Hall last night, to a rather subdued, though excited audience. She still turned it out, the consummate professional. It's a reminder to all performers, whatever medium, that a quiet audience doesn't mean they're not out there--it just means that they're listening.

She played a series of old songs, "Dilate," "Not a Pretty Girl," "You Had Time," "If He Tries Anything," and pretty much avoided anything from the records of three or so years ago. She's happy now, at least that's what she's calling it. It shows: song choices, clothing choices, hair choices--all of it more womanly, more open, more relaxed than I have ever seen her. I've seen her on stage more than twenty-five times--okay, I'm a bit much here--and this year both last night, and in Brooklyn back in July, she keeps having more and more fun on stage.

She played "Good Luck," the song that has become the Loch Ness monster of Ani songs--which is to say that she played it once a year or two ago, and then it disappeared, no bootleg of it surfaced, and many fans began to think that perhaps it didn't really exist. It does exist, and it's, well, okay. The band seemed to really be grooving on it--which may be because they haven't played it a hundred times already. But I remember when I first hear songs from Revelling/Reckoning--I was in Amherst, and she played, one after the other, "Ain't That the Way," "Marrow," and "Rock, Paper, Scissors." I thought they were okay. But they grew on me, and now I love them. So who knows?

The highlight of the show was a spoken word piece Reprieve. There are times when you hear a song on the record and you think, oh that's good, and then you don't particularly pay much attention to it again. But then you hear the song performed live and something about the immediacy of the performance allows you to hear it better--poetry works especially well for this. I loved this poem last night.

The crowd was older, as her crowds are getting--of course she is getting older, too. Fans that found her in the early part of her career, the early nineties, are now fifteen years older. She's had a difficult relationship with her fans in the past--difficult is perhaps the wrong word; complicated is a better choice--and she's talked about that often in interviews, and, most notably, right there on stage in front of thousands of them. "I love you guys," she said last night. "I love you guys now, too." Everyone laughed. "Not just when you're all I got."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vacation Photos!

All the pics from Utah are now up at Flickr.
You can CLICK HERE to see the whole set.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Home Again

Back from Utah. Amazing. Many more pics to come, but until then:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Some pics from Kip's annual Pumpkin Mutilation party. From top: Kip's "Chimp-O'Latern," Ross's "Bat-Boy-O'Lantern," Kevin B's "Eyebrow-O'Lantern," and Paul's first-prize-winning "Dolly Parton-O'Lantern:"



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Full Moon = Crazies

There was a full moon last week, Friday and Saturday, or something like that. What it meant was that the crazies were out in full, spectacular force. I'm used to dealing with most of them, considering that when you work at the Greenmarket you're essentially a sitting duck for ten hours, and what can you do but listen (or try to ignore) whomever strolls up to your table and starts talking. But Friday was something else.

Glen is homeless to some extent, although he will often tell you about his house, it's vague and you're never sure about any of it. He must have some actual place that he goes to sleep--a shelter, maybe--but I don't know where that is. Although he's quite together, in most ways--he actually works for a few farmers at the market doing various tasks and helping customers--he will sometimes say something that is a bit askew. I asked him once if he ever went to the movies and he said he'd recently seen the sequel to "The Fantastic Four." (The Fantastic Four 2? The Fantastic Four Two?) "How was it?" I asked him. Glen's review was: "It. Was. The. Same." End of story.

On Friday Glen wanted to know if I'd heard what happened on September 11th. I figured I was about to get the "askew" version, full of conspiracy, spies and collusion. Here is Glen's version: "They hijacked some planes and flew them into the buildings, then buildings fell down. They tried to blow it up from underneath back about 15 years ago, but it didn't work." Well, yep, that's what happened.

Mikey likes to talk about hotel rates in places like Lyndhurst, New Jersey. He's obsessed with milk crates, where they are, and where he left them when they didn't get stolen. This is Mikey's typical monologue: "So I'm going out to Lyndhurst, maybe take a room there, it's $72.00, can you believe, but I know a guy, maybe he'll give me a deal, you know, so I'll take a train, take a room in Lyndhurst, have some dinner with my sister, then maybe look at some beautiful ladies and go to bed. Tomorrow I gotta be up here to see if this crate is still where I left it. I left it at 3rd Avenue and 10th Street, and I left one at 1st Avenue and 13th Street, and there's one here that I have behind a truck." This might go on for another five or ten minutes. The only part that I find really unnerving is the part where he says he's going to 'look at some beautiful ladies.'

Does this mean a strip club? Does this mean porn? Do the ladies even know they are being looked at?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bathroom Wisdom

From the bathroom wall at Nowhere Bar:

"How can you be a drug addict in the new millennium?"

Vampires!

I have just returned from the movies, where I witnessed the spectacle called "30 Days of Night." It's based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, in which a bunch of vampires prey on the tiny town of Barrow, Alaska, as it is so far north in the Arctic circle, that the sun never rises for a whole thirty days. I'm not sure how much of this is based in actual astrological fact, but hey, that's the idea, so here we go.

It's sort of a bad movie, and also good one. The dialougue is all exposition and plot movement, which sounds necessary, but if done badly is, well bad. And I'm more a fan of the vampires in Coppolla's "Bram Stoker's Dracula," and especially Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian"--who are rooted in generations of intelligentsia and fabulous costumes--than I am these new-fangled vampires, who seem to have no class, no sense of the theatrical outside of slow walking. 30 Days' vampires look like a bunch of overly-dramatic goth kids who haven't taken a shower in a while. Or is that redundant?

What's good about it is that it delivers on various fronts. Explosions, blood and gore, hideous vampiric yelps screetching from the maws of the undead. That sort of thing. The trouble for me, however, is that in such formulaic pictures, I already know (basically) whose fate will be what, and I often just want to skip ahead and see how it ends. Like, get to the fighting back part already. But, really, I bought the ticket. I knew what I was in for.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the movie is that the head vampire looks just like my friend Tom. If Tom were totally cracked-out and had horrible vampire teeth, etc. Maybe he'll tear my throat out for saying that, but I think he could have played it much better. More camp, less heaviness.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It. Is. Happening.

He tore the paper bag
into long brown strips,
and lay them over the railing,
like fish out to cure in the sun.
They dried, twisted, and some blew
away in the breeze.

He kicked the rusted spark plug
through the parking lot,
where the Sears used to be,
before it was a Books-A-Million,
and a Toys R Us,
and an Old Country Buffet,
and whatever else.
Finally, he was bored of it.

Sometimes, he would look at me,
slowly, deliberately, and say:
"It. Is. Happening."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Die, Mommy, Die!

Last night, I went with a small gaggle of folks to see Charles Busch in his newest revival "Die, Mommy, Die!" at the New World Stages. The play is an homage to the old Lana Turner, Joan Crawford movies in which everyone is shot, wronged, abused and so forth. The husband, for example, is poked with a poison-laced suppository, and dies....or does he? There are lots of dramatic, melo-moments--a knowing look is exchanged between Mr. Busch and the audience, or he slips into this strange mush-mouthed voice, and we suddenly get the joke. Or we're let in on the joke.

I rather enjoyed it. Others had mixed reviews--of the playwriting, of the supporting actors--but everyone agreed that Mr. Busch's performance is, in a word: flawless. It is also odd, heartbreaking, hilarious, disturbing, peculiar, and brilliant.

I'm amazed at Busch's journey as an artist. Much like John Waters, his only competition is his early work. No one really does what he does--play elaborately fake, disarmingly lovable, high camp, iconic women time-warped out of the golden age of cinema....but wait, is it the golden age? Isn't that the 30's? What about the 60s? And the 50s?....you can see that what Mr. Busch does is essentially his own. His style has progressed into this bizarre, hilarious take on those women. It is as if he has been all alone, playing with his wigs and dresses in mummy's attic for so long that he's created a singular lexicon: The World of Charles Busch. His style has been revised over and over, in a closed way, and thus it presents a kind of fast-forward take on the evolution of an entire language.

You can see some--but not enough--Charles Busch on YouTube. There is a wonderfully intriguing and touching documentary about his life and work, "The Lady in Question...is Charles Busch," which you can get from Netflix; the trailer (of sorts) you can watch here. There is also, of course, the feature film version of "Die, Mommy, Die!", and you can watch that trailer here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

To-Do List

For the coming months, in no particular order:

--Kara Walker at the Whitney.
--Young Frankenstein on Broadway.
--50 new pages.
--Invite people for dinner.
--Learn to make that 30-minute mozzarella.
--Thin out the library a bit.
--The Wooster Group's Hamlet at the Public.
--Me and Kip vacation in Utah for a week in November. (YAY!)
--Ship in a View with Andrea @ BAM.
--Kiki & Herb @ Carnegie Hall!!

I'm so lucky.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ugh

Here's what happened today:

1) On my way to work, the V train got fucked up and went over the E line.
2) I went to visit a dear friend in the loony bin at St. Vincent's hospital. The forreal loony bin. He was not well, but is getting better.
3) On my way home there was a "temporary loss of power" on the entire Queens Blvd. corridor subway lines and I had to walk to the N train.
4) On my way to the N train, there was an ambulance parked on the corner. Into the back, they were loading a gurney on which laid a person completely covered by a sheet.
5) I went to the doctor, who told me I had shingles. Now I'm on three different pills.

**Update: The shingles are getting better. Thank god for pills. Still hurts like fucking hell, but, as the nurse told me, "The pain pills are working, though you may think they are not. That's how bad it hurts if you don't take them."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Trouble with Audioguides

Witold and I were recently at the MoMA to see the Richard Serra exhibit, and we wandered through the upper floors of paintings, photography and design. I have a habit, sometimes, of watching the people watch the art. I am, perhaps by nature, an observer. It was while watching a family of four, along with some other tourists, look at Paul Cezanne's "The Bather," when I really got stuck thinking about those troublesome Audioguides.

You know these Audioguides: a telephone-like device which you hold to your ear as you walk through the galleries. You punch in the number that corresponds to an item in the collection, and the Audioguide gives you background, perhaps some narrative or anecdotes, or information on technique, historical context, or even the details of how the museum came to own the piece. They are narrated by the curator, the museum director, or often by some celebrity or voice-over actor who has some vague, or more direct, connection to the exhibit. I was once involved in the securing talent for Audioguide tracks for an exhibit of African-American prints and drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The trouble with Audioguides is that they make art-viewing a passive experience. They create an essentially didactic relationship between the art and the viewer, and force museum goers down a kind of "best-of" cafeteria line-style museum experience. Most museum visitors, particularly in large tourist destination cities like Paris, New York and London, are new to art, or at least to new to skills or tools which may help them have a more meaningful, personal experience.

If a group of people are briefly gathered around a painting looking in silence, there is some kind of interaction going on within that group--they have, collectively, created a relationship with each other, and with that painting. The Audiguides remove that (however brief or fleeting) sense of community that is randomly created over and over again as people pass through the galleries. (Not to mention the traffic jams.)

I understand the benefit--new museum goers are often intimidated by art and museums in general, and it's good to have a "companion" to guide you through the art, and give you some, if limited, context or background. Particularly for beginning viewers, Who painted it and When are less important than, for example, what ideas or feelings that beginning viewer might discover if pressed to consider the work on her own. Why delve into the art if all you need to know about it is fed through a device in your ear? Movements, styles and periods are meaningless to most museum goers--and the Audioguides often distance us from the work itself, relegating it, again, to the elite world of Art, capital A.

Perhaps I can offer this example more clearly: At the Greenmarket, where I work selling maple syrup, what makes me the most irate are the customers who force their children to do math during a transaction. "Now, I just gave him five dollars, little Jenny, so how much do I get back?" The more interesting--the more important--lessons learned from shopping at the Greenmarket have less to do with math than with sustainable agriculture, local economies, and the plain old (read: extraordinary) miracle of food. You can talk about all these ideas on a child's level, of course.

So, go to the museum. Look at the art. Watch it. Think about it, wonder about it. Skip the Audioguide.


**Much of my pondering which inspired this post has been informed by the work of Abigial Housen and Philip Yenawine. Read more about their work here.**

***Check out this project, in which people created their own podcasts--witty, musical, sardonic, Audioguides--that you can put on your iPod and bring with you to the museum. (These are created for the MOMA, specifically.) In this way, at least, you're getting alternate perspectives.***

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sugar: The Other White Powder

A billboard in Bushwick. It's sort of a last supper of cereal mascots: Tony the Tiger, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, Cap'n Crunch, Snap, Crackle & Pop, Frankenberry, etc.:

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Top Chef

I was briefly--very briefly--on the Bravo series Top Chef the other night. One of the challenges involved shopping at the Greenmarket, and in this shot, if you look carefully, you can see me, bearded and standing there, in the background.

The season was somewhat un-exciting, as I remembered the chefs involved in the challenge that day, and so I knew that at that point, whenever it was--this guy, this one, and that woman--they would be the ones left. But I still love the show.


Here's a better look:

Monday, October 01, 2007

Excerpts in Limbo, Vol. 8

Daniel drove her to the store and she somehow found herself in an awkward, insistent conversation with a stranger, who carried a small dog in a mesh-sided bag. Why she relented and told the lady she was a painter, she did not know—over the years Helena had developed an entirely different vocabulary for small talk such as this. At parties or benefits, where inevitably someone would try to talk to her about Picasso or Monet or—God help her—some minimalist back in New York.

“Oh, I love art,” the lady said, throwing the bag over her shoulder, no doubt rattling the animal inside. ‘I love art,’ they always said. What could this mean?

The lady continued, “Thomas Kinkade is my favorite artist.”

Helena had heard this sort of thing a thousand times, and it no longer surprised her—or drove a spike into her heart. Kinkade democratized and thus destroyed painting. (Not on his own, of course, but he was the benchmark.) His world was supposed to be cheery, sentimental, easy. But Helena thought his houses looked demonic, transplanted from Amityville, ablaze with the urge toward invented perfection. She expected Virgil at the front door. Linda Blair drooling and vomiting on the sofa. His paintings were utterly false.

The lady began slowly wrapping up the inanities, and Daniel turned the corner, stepping into the aisle. “Mom?” he said, and surely at the sight of him, the lady shrank away and disappeared.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Not Just R.I.P.

From an email exchange regarding Viggo Mortensen's full-frontal male nudeness in the film "Eastern Promises."
Lee: I mean, it's limp, it has a shaft and a head, there are nuts underneath. Who cares?

Witold: So that's it? No more interest in Viggo's Mortensen?

Lee: You say that like this is an easy decision for me.

Witold: 'It's limp, it has a shaft and a head, there are nuts underneath.' This needs to go on your tombstone.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Perilla

For my birthday, Kip was wonderful enough to take me to Perilla, the new restaurant run by chef Harold Dieterle, winner of season one of Bravo's "Top Chef." It was, in short, perfect food.

To start, we had: Garden Pea Salad, with wasabi peas, pea sprouts and pickled radishes; and Seared Scallops with a parsnip puree and other wonderful other things on the side -- oh, now I'm remembering, hearts of palm and....watercress? Something like that. Along with a side of creamed corn with watercress and chiles.

Then we had the Roasted Organic Chicken with asparagus, hazelnuts and apricot puree. Also Red Snapper with something lovely, something else and pickled vegetables. The veggies with the snapper weren't exactly my taste, but it was still flawless. I could see how the dish was constructed, and how, were that your thing, it would be your fantasy in sweet/sour snapperdom.

Dessert was the Mascarpone Panna Cotta with vanilla shortbread and tropical fruit; and the White Chocolate-Hazelnut Parfait with macerated raspberries and candied citrus zest. One of the highlights of the evening--not just the food, of course--was the table next to me, wondering aloud to each other what 'macerated' meant. "I think it's like, chewed up," he said to his date.

The space is beautiful; forgive me if I steal from the Times and cut and paste: "Like a bistro with elegant tailoring, it has a low-key glow rather than a high-wattage sheen."

Everything was incredible.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Overheard

Woman waiting on the F Train: "Can you believe he just volunteered his sperm like that? It's not like he's rich, or smart, or good-looking."

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Moral of the Story

I went to bed last night already dreaming of the circus. They, whomever they are when we speak of them, say that most of your dreams--the ones you dream at the beginning of your cycles--are mainly the kind where you replay the day from back to front. The idea is that whatever you, or your subconscious wants to keep, files speedily away, and the rest of it gets tossed out--or filed deeper, in locked, hard-to-access areas.

The dream was a series of quick costume changes that happen at one point of the show, when I help four of the ring performers out of their clothes basically all at once. I'll leave it at that--no body really wants to hear anyone else's dream. The details are too staggeringly real to be meaningful to anyone else. And once you've told the dream, then that person has to walk around in your dream for the rest of the day. Unless they unload it on someone else. And what's worse than listening to someone's dream? Listening to someone tell you about someone else's dream, that's what.

The reactions to this year's show were very different. There was a much clearer narrative structure than in year's past. Backstage, we looked through the curtains, wondering why they seemed to be watching so intently--"like they're watching a play," Jennifer said. Perhaps that's because they were. Since the set became smaller, people said, the performances seemed larger. Our bodies in the space felt larger, more raucous, more AMOK. I think the show was also, at it's most basic level, more hilarious, more detailed by the actors than by the stuff, with the right combination of "content jokes" and sight gags.

So, the circus has ended for 2007. I'm glad. I don't like that it's over, or that it ends, although there is a relief. What would it be like to have something so hard and intense go on forever? It would be a different animal. So I'm glad to have the impossible-to-quick-change dresses in their bags, the foam duck feet repaired for the last time, the fucking GWB puppet tied up once and for all, and I'm glad to have the sweat and grime and filth scrubbed off my body for a while. But--some part of me still wishes that in the morning, I'll find some glitter on my pillow.

When someone says to you, like they did to me ten seasons ago, that there's this queer circus you should run away with: Do It.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Peach Cobbler

I don't normally do this--share recipes over the blog. But this one is too good to ignore. My mother has been making this peach cobbler forever, and I am now going to share it with you, along with her keen tips, in italics:

Peach Cobbler

butter
1 cup milk
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
peaches

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a 8x8 or 9x9 pan, or one of similar dimensions. (Use a pan that will allow about 1 inch of extra space for rising of the soft cake.) Whisk the three cup of's together and gently pour over the melted butter.

Peel and slice about 3 large fresh peaches, letting any golden juice drip seductively into the bowl. Add a little warm water to them if you need more juice. (It is better to have some juice instead of just dry sliced peaches, but you will have juice if the peaches have had a favorable growing season.) Carefully spoon the aromatic peaches and juice onto the top of the butter/batter, creating a marbled effect.

Bake uncovered at 325 for glass pan, 350 for metal pan about 30 minutes, but don't set a timer and wait for it to ring. Check the cobbler after 25 minutes. Sometimes it takes longer, but the sides of the cake should be golden brown with butter-crusted edges.

Canned peaches are unthinkable. If you have any blueberries, sprinkle some in before baking for an added nutritional treat and enhanced visual appeal. The purple nestled with the coral is delightful!

Serve just warm with whipped cream or rich, vanilla ice cream, if desired. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. I guess that's what you would do; I don't have any leftovers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Do You Need?

do we make history? you asked
knocking the heel of your boot against mine,
holding your wrist behind your head,
so I could see the fur in your armpit.
or are we made by history?

that's when I accused you--rightly
of plagiarizing Tony Kushner,
because I recognized that quote
from an old interview in Mother Jones,
which I used to read before I moved to
New York and got bored by The Whole Thing.
(unfortunately.)

you said
you did it because
you knew that I knew
the quote, and you knew that
it would provoke, in me, the response
that you wanted, and what did it say
about me
that I did exactly that.
nothing, I said.
what does all that say about you?

let me, I used to say.
reaching into your wet eyeball
to retrieve a stray lash.

what do you need?
I wanted to say.
when you got out of bed and went into the
dark living room, with long shadows
born of the dry, mangy ficus by the
window, you stood there
looking away for
a moment,
naked

what do you need?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Best Gay Erotica 2008


Look for my piece "Orange" in the upcoming Best Gay Erotica 2008.

"Step one: Pick a moment in your life. Press your finger down onto it, holding it like you would the first loop in a square knot. Step two: Find a moment that represents where you are now, something separate, current and different, and touch another finger to that, too. Step three: Measure the distance from one to the other—in lovers lost, furniture stolen from street corners, estimated electric bills paid, early morning phone solicitations, car accidents you witnessed. Band-Aids on fingers. Step four: Figure out how the hell you got here now from where you were then..."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Goodbye, Coney

Circus Amok did two shows in Coney Island yesterday--possibly the last time we'll be able to perform there. Thor Equities (along with Taconic, and soon maybe others,) has managed to buy up most of the land along Stillwell Avenue, promising to turn the area into a large, resort-style hotel, much in the vein of Las Vegas's Bellagio, surrounded by smaller amusements. Ideas that have been floated around--none of them confirmed or unconfirmed--are an indoor water park, 975 high-rise condos, retail shops galore, a man-made canal, and several other roller coasters to rival the historic Cyclone.

Even the developers continue to wrangle back and forth about what the area should become, and should be used for. Joe Sitt, the founder and chief executive of Thor Equities, said upon release of the newest set of plans: "This is our way of showing the New York community that we're responsive to what they want." But this is not what we want. What we want is Coney Island.

Coney Island for me is ten seasons of Circus Amok, loading tons of scaffolding and props onto West 10th Street, under the rickety roar of the Cylcone--still at 80 years old one of the world's greatest roller coasters. It is the winter that Chris and I walked on the beach, in the snow, and had our pictures taken. It is the year when I passed out on the subway after a day in the sun with too little to eat. It is the old Thunderbolt coaster, decrepit, crumbling, finally torn down in 2000, to everyone's dismay. (Or maybe only to coaster enthusiast's dismay.)

Coney Island, as novelist Wade Rubenstein said, is "once America's playground, [but] now it's subconsious." The warring parties will go back and forth--and eventually some stale solution will be found. I don't know what it will be, what it will look like. But I promise that the development will take away something genuine about the place. Perhaps the biggest loss will be the move from public to private ownership. Because with hotels and fancy shops come more security, a new image to protect and cultivate, new public relations campaigns.

Will the new architects and designers know how the decades of use have made Coney Island beautiful? The thousands of hands brushing across the edges, people climbing up onto the BreakDancer, the WonderWheel. Please remember when you tear down the railings: the paint is worn off because they are loved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Opening Weekend

Circus Amok Presents:

Bee-Dazzled!

SAT 9/1 — RIVERSIDE PARK—2PM & 5PM
SUN 9/2—WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK—1PM, 3PM & 5PM
MON9/3—CONEY ISLAND—2PM & 5PM

THURS 9/6—UNION SQUARE PARK—12:30PM, 3PM, 5:30PM
FRI 9/7—COLUMBUS PARK—12:30PM & 5:30PM
SAT 9/8—ST MARY’S PARK—3PM
SUN 9/9—PROSPECT PARK—1PM, 3PM & 5PM

FRI 9/14—MARCUS GARVEY PARK—5:30PM
SAT 9/15—FT GREENE PARK—2PM & 5PM
SUN 9/16—TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK—1PM, 3PM & 5PM


For those of you who live in the NYC area, you must come out to the parks and see the show. It's FREE, get that? FREE! If you're not sure what Circus Amok is, check out the website. You can't see me here because I'm hiding behind the boat....but take a gander at the 2006 show-opener. Incredible!


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Grace Paley

Grace Paley died this week. She was 84.

In the summer of 1998 I was working in Vermont at the Bread & Puppet Theater, when I looked over to my left to discover that Grace was operating the giant head puppet with me. I had a certain kind of starstruck--the surprise of her suddenly next to me, involved in the same activity. And yet, why shouldn't she? The puppet was cumbersome, heavy, and required many small movements coordinated by four or five people, all choreographed by sound cues that included, among others, listen for the banjo-playing goats to emerge from the woods--forty yards away. "This is hard," she said.

There is a certain kind of pressure, cosmic perhaps, that you feel when a person like Grace Paley dies, if you see yourself as the kind of person with similar interests in politics, art, and personal responsibility--and if you, like me, see the lines between those three divisions as negligible, blurred possibilities, not actual divisions. She said in an interview once: "Whatever your calling is, whether it's as a plumber or an artist, you have to make sure there's a litte more justice in the world when you leave it than when you found it."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

In the Adirondacks

The Circus has arrived in the Adirondacks--well, some of us. Various others became hindered by failing fan belts, bad directions, lack of good judgment. But the ones who made it--8 of us so far, ballooning to 16 later in the week, have just had a gorgeous meal of eggplant with mint and garlic, farfalle with pesto, fresh corn that we carried up from NYC's Greenmarket, which we sprinkled with chili pepper and lime juice. Then ginger snaps. I had forgotten how good we ate up here. Actually, I hadn't. It's a joy to come back.

We're here for a period of intensive rehearsal, intensive art making, intensive being together. In the truck are giant gold and purple bees, a giant queen bee dress, gay trucker costumes; it just goes on and on. I won't spoil the rest of it for you... You know, it's the circus.

We return to NYC on Saturday, then the 2007 show--BEE-DAZZLED!!--opens on September 1 in Riverside Park.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Women

Today I rode the subway four times--two round-trips, in and out of Manhattan. The whole world was full of women today. There was:

--A woman with a cane, not blind, sit beside another lady, and proceed to jab her in the thigh with the end of the cane. With the motion of the train, the rocking, the shuddering, the cane would prod the lady in the leg, bunching the fabric of her skirt around the metal. The lady didn't say anything. She just let the cane-woman jab her in the leg.

--A young girl, maybe 20, crying. No one asks her what's wrong. We've all been there at some point, crying alone in the city.

--"Do you have a tampon?" a teenager asks her friend. "Do you mean 'do I have one in?'" the friend says.

--A lady crimping her eyelashes, and brushing them with blue mascara. She winks at me when she catches me staring.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Circus is Coming!!

New York's renowned, acclaimed, award-winning, astounding CIRCUS AMOK presents our 2007 tour of the city parks in:


BEE-DAZZLED!!

*** ALL REAL *** ALL ALIVE ***
*** FREE FREE FREE
***


Glamorous, Gritty, Dangerous, Glorious, Acrobatic Entomologists,
Querulous Quandaries, Fantastical Fruits, Incredible Insects,
Vaulting Villains, Stupendous Sideshow Spectacular.

SAT 9/1 — RIVERSIDE PARK—2PM & 5PM
SUN 9/2—WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK—1PM, 3PM & 5PM
MON9/3—CONEY ISLAND—2PM & 5PM

THURS 9/6—UNION SQUARE PARK—12:30PM, 3PM, 5:30PM
FRI 9/7—COLUMBUS PARK—12:30PM & 5:30PM
SAT 9/8—ST MARY’S PARK—3PM
SUN 9/9—PROSPECT PARK—1PM, 3PM & 5PM

FRI 9/14—MARCUS GARVEY PARK—5:30PM
SAT 9/15—FT GREENE PARK—2PM & 5PM
SUN 9/16—TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK—1PM, 3PM & 5PM

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My Sentiments Exactly

About a year ago, I decided that I would start another blog, this one focusing on the talk-back nature of graffiti on subway advertising. At the time, my cell phone wouldn't take pictures, and I didn't want to lug around my clunky digital camera, which, since it is from 1998, still uses four AA batteries, which means it weighs about nine pounds. Or at least feels like that in your bag. Then I decided that I didn't have the energy for another blog.

You, out there--someone should do this. We'll all arm ourselves with our phones and contribute to this fight-back mechanism. I suggest that you call it: The Platform Manifesto.

This, on The Bratz movie poster. My sentiments exactly.


Seems that other people are getting in on the same act. This morning, two days after my original post, the following appeared on another platform:

Friday, August 03, 2007

Visits

Lately, I have been thinking of Meg. The armored trucks are the trigger. And it never fails that every other day, or every day, I see one parked outside of some or other business, just waiting there quietly for the attendant to do his job. They are all young men.

In September, it will have been two years since she died. I think of the time that has passed--how it has been empty, and how it has been full. I think of that long, arduous phone call with Laura--which saved me in the moment. Me sitting on the edge of my bed, periodically sobbing and asking question after question after question--none of which had any answer.

The weeks following her death, after clearing out her apartment, after the services in Chattanooga and Massachusetts, people would call or email and tell me of a moth that appeared and wouldn't leave. Or a tiny green grasshopper that sat patiently on their leg and made them feel at ease. There is Jennifer's pigeon movie. They all said what a comfort these small appearances had been, these vague, soothing messages from the natural (spiritual?) world

That first night alone in my apartment, I felt so full of Meg, so surrounded by her that it nearly hurt to take a breath--I had no more room to expand. She was in every molecule, in every painting on the wall. She was in my head, literally. She was behind my eyes, using them to peer out, to point me in various directions. All of this has only become clear to me in the last several weeks--now, 2 years later. Why hadn't I thought of all this before?

I know all this now. If everything I know to be true were to vanish, I would still have the understanding that all that pressure, all that focus and nearly/almost/bordering on physically unbearable--it was her. She was there. It was Meg.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Leave Your Name at the Border

Read my friend Manuel's Op-Ed piece in The New York Times: Click here.

Among other things, he writes:

The corrosive effect of assimilation is the displacement of one culture over another, the inability to sustain more than one way of being. It isn’t a code word for racial and ethnic acculturation only. It applies to needing and wanting to belong, of seeing from the outside and wondering how to get in and then, once inside, realizing there are always those still on the fringe.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Where the Boys Are


An excerpt from my first novel, Yield, will be published in the upcoming anthology Where the Boys Are. Look for it from Cleis Press in late September.

About the book: Many a confident urban gay man in the Castro, West Hollywood, and Chelsea was once a wide-eyed newcomer. Every year thousands of young men arrive in these queer-friendly neighborhoods, seduced by city life and its sexual possibilities. In Where the Boys Are, Richard Labonté collects raunchy memoirs and stories about these newly arrived country boys. Here are stories of first times, initiations, bars, backrooms, dance clubs, and parties, reading (or misreading) the codes — and sometimes teaching those city boys a thing or two.

Pre-order here from Amazon, Powell's, Barnes & Noble, or better yet, run out to your local independent bookstore--the gay one if it still exists--and tell them to order it for you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Told Ya So

I found this quote in this interview Ani Difranco did with the Santa Cruz Sentinel. I offer it to you as evidence that what I was talking about--the rebirth, the back catalog--in the long Ani post a few days ago, is actually the case:
"My songs of a few years ago have a lot of melancholy and desperation, disillusionment and anger and shame. When I look into my bag of tricks to pick songs for this tour, the ones from three to five years ago are just too bleak.

But you've got to admit, things are looking up. The pendulum swing back to the left has just begun, and everywhere, there's criticism of the current regime. I feel like the atmosphere is very exciting right now. If we can all invest and believe in this change, it's gonna be awesome."

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Body Never Lies, or Why I Could Not Be Seen at the Laundromat in That Moment

For years I've been sending my laundry out, like most New Yorkers. (Okay, maybe like some New Yorkers.) The laundromat on the corner is staffed by four or five different women, each of them with varying levels of English proficiency, but all of them excellent at doing the laundry and making it exactly like I like it. They are lovely people, and without them I would descend into one dark level of stink and ugly that I don't think anyone wants to witness.

I went today to pick up the laundry that I dropped off this morning, only to discover that the woman who had taken my rumpled bag from me this morning was busy stuffing some clothes into a washer at one end of the room. I don't mind, I just wait patiently by her desk until she returns. Then I noticed that someones clothes were rustled in one of those rolling carts, in mid-fold.

They were my clothes!!! The horror!! That yellow t-shirt, the blue one, the new underwear. It was all there. The evidence was staggering.

Now, obviously, I've been passing my clothes to these ladies since 2001. But I guess in the same way people don't want to know where their food comes from, I didn't really want to see my intimates spread out all over the place like that.

It was ridiculous, I realize--but I simply left without her seeing me. What a juvenile, dumb reaction. I'll go back later when they're finished. And when I can look her in the eye without shame and regret.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ani Difranco Celebrates Brooklyn

Ani Difranco played the Prospect Park bandshell last night, and we were there. A few years ago, she said that the worst part about her job was that she had to go to every single Ani Difranco concert. Not the worst fate I could think of. And as evidenced last night, I think her mood is shifting, her perspective simultaneously fixating and lengthening in scope. She has always loved playing music for people--but I'm feeling something different from her, a relaxed approach, a new sense of trust.

Last year, about this time, I wrote this post about Ani's pregnancy. She would have a baby girl, Petah Lucia, on January 20, 2007. The folks at her label--her benevolent, radical empire--Righteous Babe Records, posted some pics, which you can find here. The baby has, I'm certain, changed her in ways that even Ani won't articulate/share/expose to her public, regardless of how all-loving and reciprocal we (the fans) are. After all, some of you will remember when she released Little Plastic Castle, then her most lukewarmly-reviewed record, married a man, and thus legions of lesbians felt betrayed. Many swore off her for life.

Musically, she is moving away from her earlier song patterns, which longtime fans will recognize as that trademark "rocking" motion she creates in her guitar playing--and shifting instead to open spaces and, frankly, less static jerk-y-ness which characterizes (and makes great) the records from the first half of her career. I wonder, then, if motherhood has given Ani a new sense of freedom? Has it given her a renewed sense of trust in her back catalog? If Madonna can pull-off a Re-Invention Tour, then call last night's Prospect Park show Ms. Difranco's version.

The lesbians who defected? They've returned--in droves. The audiences these days are filled with a broader range of types and sexes (and sexualities,) tattooed or not, in various states of fandom. Ani sells more records now than she ever has--and her label has expanded to include not only Ani's discs and a few others, as it has for many years, but more than a dozen artists of all genres, a new collection of merch not to be outdone by, well, even Madonna, and The Church: a performance venue, label headquarters, and gallery/lounge/artspace, etc. And all of this is, rather can only be, because of the music--which lands upon the fans' ears in CDs, bootlegged MP3s (already I've downloaded this show, which ended about 14 hours ago) and those never-ending tours.

So, the music. (Even me, even this, gets bogged down in Ani's personal life / politics / business acumen. No wonder she is so bored by the media.)

So, really, the music:

The setlist was ripe with old favorites. A plinky, jauntier version of You Had Time, (which will appear on Canon, a two-disc career retrospective out Sept. 11, along with a few other re-worked ditties.) Also, Subdivision, Paradigm, Little Plastic Castle, Overlap, and, perhaps the oddest choice: opening with Done Wrong. But all of it succeeded.

By far, the strongest, most historically amazing number of the evening was Napoleon. She's futzed with the melody a bit, and since she can, quite simply, sing better now than she ever could, she lets it loose, holding the notes longer, then longer--the sound erupting from the stage was so full of--how can this be for a song like this one?--pleasure. I could have stayed in that moment, well, forever.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

In Tennessee

I'm exhausted--teetering, as Ms. Difranco says, between tired and really tired--which is why I haven't been able to sit down for good while and write about our trip to Tennessee.

<--- The Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

Kip and I went to visit my folks in Chattanooga for about a week--ostensibly so we could attend their annual 4th of July party, a legendary occasion all its own which draws in somewhere in the range of 150 people, in a low-key, elaborately casual sort of way.

Here is my mother awarding one of the attendees. -->

Yes, there are awards for the most elaborate costume, the most patriotic kid, and other coveted categories. And it's brunch. Read this post for a better run-down.

We also went to visit Dollywood. If gays are called to the four corners of the gay universe, they are New York, San Francisco, Provincetown and Dollywood .

Kip is decidedly easy-going about almost everything, and my parents--stubborn and decidedly parental in certain ways--truly know how to relax and have a good time doing something or nothing. We ate, we ate, and somehow--this is the greatest wonder of human nature--we were later hungry and could eat again: Foster's pound cake, potato salad, mac-n-cheese, biscuits, watermelon, that chicken thing with the chipped beef.

My great aunt Allene, who for the last however many years was a caretaker, until her mother died two years ago, has never been known, as far as I can remember, to be anything other than in perfect, relaxed control of the situation. Lately, she is perpetually on the edge of tears--or slap happy with uncontrollable fits of laughter. For no other reason, it seems, than she is old, exhausted and still running around, for the most part, full-speed ahead. She still mows her lawn, for example. Granted, it's a small Atlanta lawn, but she mows it.

<--- From left: Margaret, my Dad's sister who lives in Southern California, my Dad, me and my Mom.

My parents neighbor, Lola, who is essentially my surrogate grandmother, is becoming a bit slower, beginning to retreat into stories from the past--but then we all do that, so why should it be alarming? She is still sharp. What separates her, I think, from my father's parents is that she is still genuinely interested in other people's lives. How did the Houck's become so distant, so drawn into themselves as to obsess over the tiniest, perhaps-invented notion of what your life was, and is? Nothing comes out of the blue, I want to write--as if to prove that we could have foreseen their slow, strange, co-dependent decline that their marriage has become--but I know that is untrue. I know that sometimes the phone rings and your life is changed.

Dollywood is as I remember it, only with larger crowds. And now that NYC has colored (distorted, enhanced, righted, informed?) my perception of everything, only the people look bizarre. I forget that people don't know how to walk. That is, they don't know where their body is in space. Car culture in non-pedestrian cities is such that your spacial awareness atrophies. Or never develops to begin with. People just swing their arms and stop, turn without warning--bad drivers, if you will.

At Dollywood, we at BBQ sandwiches, heaps of roasted potatoes and cole slaw, chocolate covered potato chips, and later handfuls of red, white and blue Kettle Corn.

<-- We took pics in the photobooth.

We rode the world-ranked and Golden Ticket-winning Thunderhead rollercoaster, which lives up to its promises, or is simply a great ride, if you're not the type--like I am--to have read about it's development, construction and opening, since it was announced. (Geeky Thunderhead stuff can be found here, here and here.)

They've re-vamped Dolly's Chasing Rainbows Museum, where the story of her life and career is told via photos, her awards, and dress after dress after dress. They've also shellacked personal notes passed between Dolly and her personal assistant/longtime partner Judy. (Dolly's a lesbian, by the way. It's not unknown, but people are sometimes shocked to hear. I think the more shocking thing is that a lesbian can't have a career in country music.) It's quiet, respectful way of including Judy--since she must live an otherwise invisible existence.

We returned to New York--it's now been more than a week. It was a lovely trip.

Here we are in the parking lot before our departure -->

Thursday, July 12, 2007

This Blog is Rated G



Apparently, my blog is rated G. As the website told me: "This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words: anal (1x)." If I had used the word anal, say--(7x,) or even (49x)--would that have pushed me over into another realm? Because, even though I want readers, I also want to be rated XXX, even though I'm not really interested in writing posts that say anal (49x).

This reminds me of Ani Difranco talking about that maybe-real list of banned songs which supposedly was circulated among Clear Channel radio stations post-9/11. How she kept saying to herself: "Oh man, ban one of my songs!"

So how about this: shit, piss, fart, fuck, pussy, cock, asshole, jack off. Now let's see what I get.



Now we're talkin'!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Have you heard?

Chris: Have you heard about this anal bleaching?

Me: Yes.

Chris: Why do they do that?

Me: So it's not as brown, I guess.

Chris: What if you like it the way it is?

Me: Then you're a pervert.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Open Letters, Vol. 5 - Celebrity Edition

Dear Ben Gibbard,

There is a song that I need you to write. It's perfect for you--it's about inanimate material objects, seemingly inconsequential, that I have to look at occasionally, and that randomly strike me as entirely poetic and rich with metaphor.

I work in one of those buildings in Manhattan where there are a bunch of offices and one or two bathrooms on each floor. Each office has their own set of "men" and "women" keys. In fact, all day long I see people in the hallway with their random, oversize plastic (or other) things which the keys are attached to--a giant ladle, a coat hanger, a chunk of wood--in an attempt to make it impossible to accidentally leave behind.

Here's where I think you will really get interested.

Our keys are simple, banged-up bronze ones, attached to binder clips. The clips have old masking tape on them which "Guys" or "Gals," depending. Every time someone goes to the bathroom, they sit the keys, on their binder clips, back onto this electrical box where the lights switch is. But the keys themselves, they sort of flop over into all these different, but still similar positions. The keys are always having some kind of relationship to each other. And it reminds me, sometimes, of love-making.

Sometimes "Guys" is really excited, and points right at "Gals," in a totally perverted way. "Gals" might be absolutely not pointing back at "Guys" with the same fervor, but looking more coy. Sometimes "Gals" is completely ready for whatever "Guys" wants to give her, but "Guys" is flopped over to one side, completely in ignorance. And sometimes they're pointing right at each other. Their metal teeth touching ever so slightly. Whenever I have to take "Guys" with me to the bathroom, I try to bring him back to "Gals" as quickly as possible.

I took this picture with my cell phone. It's not very good, but you get the idea.


Let me know what you think. I like your records.

Thanks-
Lee

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Some Happenings

-I got a new phone. Now what will I do come September when this class action lawsuit goes through?
--I got a new haircut(e). It's a Mohawk, basically. Emphasis on the 'mo.

--We went to the Pride Parade today. There were so many churches. Oy. Who knew the gays went to freakin' church so goddamn much?

--Someone walked up to the syrup stand and asked me: "What is a petri dish? I heard about it on the radio."

--Kip wants me to place a $350 order from Prevail Sport, whose catalog I stole from my PO Box. (I don't think so.)

--Kip and I are going to Tennessee next week, plus Dollywood. Be jealous.

--Quote of the Week goes to Alice, at VUE: "When I went to the allergy doctor, someone had a dog in the waiting room. At the allergy doctor! Don't you think that's not something you should bring to the allergy doctor?!?! OH, and GET THIS, his name was Peanut."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Greenmarket Photo

My friend David Bivins, took this photo of me and Andrea at the Greenmarket. I had forgotten he took it at all--people take pictures of us all day, of the stand, of the table, of their wives and sisters standing behind the table with me. But this one is special.


Check out the rest of David's pictures on his Flickr. He rocks. I'm amazed at how he manages to make regular, everyday street scenes look like movie sets with flawless lighting. His pictures do what pictures are supposed to do--make you notice things.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

from Orange

We’re pushing our bikes up this giant hill, and the bugs are swarming around our heads. Hot Southern summer, with salty beads of sweat around our brows and upper lips. Slapping our necks with our dusty hands, smashing black gnats. Sometimes one will fly into your mouth. But we don’t care when they do. And when we get to the top of the hill we find a beat-up old cassette tape, cracked open and spilling its threads of sound onto the pavement. And we unwind the tape, a huge, hundred-foot string. And we snap it in half at the middle, tying the pieces onto the seats of our bikes, and ride back down the hill, watching the glittering of who knows what on cassette flowing behind us like a tail, like a stretched-out wish, like a thin brown destiny.

We’re driving a beat-up white car through a rainstorm at three o’clock in the morning in the middle of Mississippi—or maybe we’d made it to Alabama without seeing the sign, or maybe we were still in Louisiana. And the rain is coming down so hard that we can’t see the street in front of us. And we’re both thinking tornado warning for upper and lower Alabama, but we don’t say it out loud. So for three hours we travel what adds up to be forty-two miles on the low-shoulder freeway. We pass a few cars parked on the side, determined to wait it out. And in those three hours, the loud, wind-shaken hours, we don’t speak. I squint, my eyes low along the top of the dash, and he drives, tapping the gas pedal, not braking, easing on, rolling back toward home. Then, crossing the state line, we see the brightness of the morning. I look over at him, he stares ahead.

We used to take drives out to nowhere on weeknights. He’d smoke and we’d put a mix tape on and take turns talking. About what we wanted to do when we grew up, even though we were sixteen and didn’t know what we wanted to do when we grew up. And didn’t really care. And what we wanted to do would change every few miles, every few minutes. And we were grown up already. We’d pass rusted farm machinery, crumbling frames jutting out of the browning grass, leaping out of the dirt. Out near the deserted factory that you’d ride past if you went far enough. He’d take pictures of me in front of it. He wouldn’t let me take pictures of him, he said he didn’t like his picture taken. I wouldn’t smile because I knew what we were doing was serious. And he knew it was serious. And so he didn’t ask me to smile. We didn’t have to pretend. It was too hard to pretend. And mostly it still is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

You Know How it is with Power

Manuel wrote to me:
You know how it is with power--you can't hang on to it.
Yeah, I thought, just like
love and beauty and weather and
dandelion puffs and free space on your hard drive.
And rivers and borders and good intentions
and every other fucking thing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Today Kip and I are off to visit Jennifer at the new Circus Amok office/storefront space. How very exciting. We managed to trade some office space for a couple of short performences/happenings, which is fabulous. Don't you love to barter?

Then I have to deliver syrup to Egg, a charming, cozy, delicious, friendly, warm, affordable, happening breakfast spot in Williamsburg. If you go, and I think you should, be sure to bring several of you, so's you can try different things. For one, the "country ham biscuit," which their menu describes as "country ham from col. bill newsom's hams in princeton, kentucky, served on a biscuit with homemade fig jam, grafton cheddar, and a side of grits." How can you pass that up? And that's fig jam from Beth's Farm Kitchen, a Greenmarket institution, by the way. Tell Maggie, at Egg, that I sent you.

We're also going to see Elizabeth Streb's company in their most recent Slam Show, and then of course, this evening, how could you forget, THE TONYs.** This year, I don't really care, except that Cristine Ebersole has to win for Grey Gardens, and Kiki & Herb have to win for "Best Special Theatrical Event." It would be nice to see Vanessa Redgrave win for "The Year of Magical Thinking," even though she probably won't, and the play is somewhat problematic--and I am still one of Joan's disciples.

And thank Witold for this game, which he described as "dumb, but highly addictive."

**Updated: The TONYs sucked. Kiki & Herb were passed over for--no joke--a ventriloquist act. And the rest of the show was about the boringest I've ever seen. But Fantasia sang toward the end, and she blew the roof off.