Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Taking A Leap

Over the weekend I registered to join an audition class. Though I've lived in New York for nearly four years, this will be my first in town. I'd been seeking one for a while, but had procrastinated signing up for all the reasons one can name. I liked, but didn't necessarily have complete trust in those who made the recommendations, money was tight, I wasn't ready, I'd already spent gobs of money on classes... Basically? I was afraid. Afraid that I would choose the wrong glass, or choose the right one, but not be good enough for it to be worth my time and efforts.

And yet, my auditions are not as plentiful as I'd like, and while I get good visual feedback (smiles that look ever so sincere, and the occasional "really great job") none of this so far has led to a single call back. Yes, I need to up the number of auditions I attend, but I also need to be confident in what I do once I'm in the room. And so... I took the leap. One of my good friends recommended a class, and it was reasonable, and so even though I don't have tons of money to spend on classes, I am trusting the funds will come, and that this action will raise my confidence level and lead to a better me, and hopefully, more work. Or just... work.

It means being strong enough to allow myself to look and feel like a novice at something I flatter myself to be pretty good at, and diving in and trusting the coaching and opinions of someone I barely know. And it all begins tonight.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Following the Stars







I was raised by a mother who was very open and explorative of all the world's mysteries, which has made me a pretty open minded person as well. Mostly?  I know enough to know that I don't know that much. I have my thoughts, my theories, the ways that work for me, and the beliefs that, when I am able to key into them, help my life flow and allow me to be more productive and feel closer to my authentic and best self. But, I do not judge those who have other beliefs and ways of exploring "the mystery", nor do I attach to much importance to the little t "truth" of these things. Long story short? If they work for me, and the message of these things resonates on a deep level, feeling T "true"?  I go with it. 

The basic premise of the article, entitled Tarotscopes That Slay by Brandon Alter, is that he drew a  Tarot card for each sun sign, and then applied the meaning of that particular card in context with what will be happening astrologically for that particular sign. Now, even  though the tone of the article is geared toward the lgbt community, I'm going to hazard a guess that, anyone, gay or straight can find meaning and guidance in these cards. 

In light of the intense questioning I've been going through the past couple of months, the many nights of tossing and turning, and the doubts that any of this work I'm struggling to produce will be worth it, the card for Aquarius for September 9th - October 8th, The Hangman (reversed), seemed very apropos and brought some gentle comfort.  The gist of it? Surrender. Surrender deeply. 

The following is excerpted from Alter's article...

"The Hanged Man doesn’t struggle, he accepts and allows. And that’s the mantra for this next cycle, to accept and allow everything that presents itself to you. Most importantly yourself. The Hanged Man relinquishes control to the tides, to the rhythms of nature and especially to his own unique design.
You are who you are and that is glorious. Stop fighting yourself. Stop judging yourself. Every piece of you, from your kinks to your curiosities is of cosmic design. Instead of trying to fit yourself into a box that’s too small or pretending to be normal like everyone else, this moonth should find you being your most extra."

See what I mean? It feels spot on. And... so did the message for Pisces, which, before you say anything, is not my rising sign. Although, I was born on February 14th, which some consider the cusp of Aquarius and Pisces, so... basically, you can think to yourself that Astrology and Tarot are just another one of those "applies to everybody and works on your psychology and your willingness to believe" and is thereby bogus, or you can think "this has been around for centuries, and there is something to this". 
Or you can think that this is an imperfect system that may have value for you, regardless of any quirks and imperfections. Essentially, claim it if it suits you.
And, if you'd like to pursue more in this vein, Brandon is based in San Diego where he gives classes on understanding the Tarot, and does individual readings. He and his husband also host a podcast., The Spiritual Gayz, so venture out and explore all you lil' seekers and dreamers!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I'm Gonna Buy A Paper Dolly

Willa Paskin's Decoder Ring is a podcast that examines the workings of different pop culture artifacts. How they came to be, how they might be different than how we have come to understand them, and how they continue to work in the world. It's not one that I listen to regularly, but if the topic is one to which I feel drawn, I've found it pretty inspiring. The latest episode on paper dolls is one of those. It features a paper doll artist by the name of David Wolfe, who's work I've long admired, those featuring movie stars like Judy Garland and Rosemary Clooney. His work is whimsical, and incredibly evocative, but unlike some other contemporary paper dolls I have seen, these don't simply reproduce the details of past costumes, but they evoke a feeling of nostalgia and glamour from a contemporary perspective. There's a lot of yearning in the David Wolfe's illustrations.


The paper doll art of David Wolfe, available at paper dollywood.com

Myself? From the ages of five to seven, I had an accordion file, maybe three inches thick max, in which I kept my paper dolls. I'm not sure how I was first introduced to paper dolls, but I can only imagine that one day when my mom and I were at the drug store looking at coloring books, I'd seen the Walt Disney "Snow White" paper dolls and pleaded for them until she relented. My aunt, who often watched e during the day while my mom was at work, would help me with cutting them out, and showed me how to put them on the stand. The funny thing is, I don't really remember playing with them much, as I remember cutting out each outfit as delicately as I could, because any bit of white at the edges spoiled the illusion of the clothes. I also remember poring over the pictures, and imagining what they would look like on Snow White. The actual product of them on the stand was never as satisfying as the pictures of what the result might be. Those imaginings were perfect in a way that the reality of snipped up and folded paper could never be. My next paper dolls were Wizard Of Oz paper dolls. I was only interested in paper dolls based on characters that I already knew, and in the ways that those different outfits would change the way I thought of them, open them up to different possibilities and futures in which they might need a Halloween costume, or a fancy gown.

Now that I've gotten older, paper dolls inhabit a strange in-between place for me. They are not quite dolls in the way that we think of them. They're a craft project, easily dispensable, and they cost little more than a coloring book.  All of these qualities are what made it acceptable for my mother to buy them for me. And, the art of some paper dolls, especially those of David Wolfe,  you'll have to forgive the pun, "stands up on its own" and is worthy of framing, but the dolls, by their very nature, were meant to be cut up and played with, even though the execution of that "play" takes something away from them, because the reality of them in action is never quite as beautiful as the promise of their pristine state. And that, for me, is one of the very things that makes them fascinating. They exist as a great big beautiful tease, like a "mint in box" collectible toy just beckoning you to take it out of its box and play with it.

If you're curious to find out more about paper dolls and their beginnings, including the art form's hidden queer history, the Slate podcast episode can be listened to here or anywhere you get your podcasts. To admire and purchase the work of David Wolfe, visit https://paperdollywood.com.

Struggling.

I've been going through it this past few months. By "it", I mean doubt, fear, depression, the value of trying, and questioning my own self worth. All of these feelings combine, multiply, expound, and collude until they make up one big ball of resistance that seems to have packed itself all around me. It's had me questioning my life here in New York, my viability as a partner in a relationship, and my ability to function in the world.

Why? It's a mixture of factors. I'm currently without full-time permanent work. I'm not in a relationship, nor are there any fun flirtations on the horizon. My friend network is still relatively small for someone who has lived here three years. And I have an impending performance, and I'm fearing that no one will show, and if not, what does that mean for the quality of the show, a show that I have spent the last year pouring myself into? These things were tapping away at me, persistently and almost imperceptibly, until a month ago, when my family suffered a deep loss, with the death of someone who was far too young, and who's life seemed like it was just beginning.

It's difficult to comprehend the full impact of events like this, or just how they work on us and our lives. The important thing, I'm realizing now, is not to judge them. For me? This event sent me into a withdrawal period. It had me spending hours in my bedroom, mired in escapism in the form of video games, netflix, dating apps... none of these things were working toward a future, they were just there for the purpose of making the present seem more livable, through the avoidance of all the fears and doubts in the way that seemed the easiest to reach. When I deleted some of these things to make room in my life for things of value? Other things crept in, or I wavered and downloaded them again. The hole that they left was too vast, and the prospect of filling that hole by making art or submitting for day jobs, or going out into the world brought with it individual armies of uncertainty. The prospect of a lot more suffering when those things would surely turn out to be self created delusions. Of course there were days when I thought I had beaten it. I went to a writer's support group, and thought I was well on my way. Ditto for any job submission or excursion to see theatre. But inevitably I found myself back where I'd started. And yet, each of those things began to add up. Individually they were not enough, but the more I was able to do, the better I felt, and the more opportunities for doing seemed available and just as important, doable.

Something that helped me? One of many things, was a book called The War Of Art. It made resistance a force of sabotage. The inevitable force pushing against all of us anytime we have hopes for our future. And unlike most books, describing the situation I was in ad-nauseum without any practical solutions until the last chapters, this book, which I've had on my shelf for years, put hope in the first few pages. And slowly, I've been putting its principles into action. The principles? There's really only one. Do it anyway. Do it, whatever it is, as if your happiness depended on it. Resistance is there to stop you. Don't let it. It isn't "right" about you. It's an illusion. A very powerful one. And the fight against it is never ending. But you have to fight, and fight hard, with every ounce of effort.

And sometimes its stronger. I'm not out of this hole quite yet. Or at least, I don't think I am. But, I am better now than I was. And not having a permanent office job? It's a plus! As long as I can continue to get money in through whatever means possible, the freedom it allows me gives me the opportunity to audition. It allows me more time to write. To plan more cabaret performances, to increase the visibility for my work. But if I'm wasting all that time on immediate gratification? It feels like a waste. And of course, looking back on the past months, I realize they haven't been a waste, as that time allowed me to process, but I'm much happier "here" than I was "there".

Resistance even played a part in the posting of this topic, because this kind of honesty is often discouraged, especially in a world when every message feels geared, to toward honest communication, but toward marketing. Marketing of our "best selves". This kind of posting? It's false, it's the worst aspect of the internet, and it doesn't break down walls. It builds them. Better to communicate with the intent of being honest. And this sometimes means stating things which make us feel vulnerable. Of course, if you are deciding to put that out into the world, the importance of just how you do it can seem inflated, so that's another way resistance wheedled it's way in. You have to find the right amount of time to ruminate about it, edit it, you have to have to be in the perfect part of resistance to be able to write about it, because if you are completely out of it, you feel like you are preaching, and if you are too steeped in it, you worry you are whining. The point is? It's everywhere. And as exhausting as it seems to be consciously fighting it daily, it will do its work whether you fight it or not. And to not "try" is to not play.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Outward Podcast, At Last!



I'm lucky to have some wonderful friends who are not only generous, witty, and soulful, but also have their fingers on the current pop culture and literary pulse. This is how I was introduced to Slate's The Culture Gabfest, and through that I discovered The Waves. Both of them are podcasts that are savvy, thoughtful, with the added benefit of being comforting and providing lovely company as you make your way through the day.

Recently, my other podcast loving friend alerted me that, as we had just been hoping, Slate has brought forth an LGBTQ podcast with one of our favorite critics and writers, J. Bryan Lowder, at the helm. I frankly adore his work and his insights, and while I naturally don't agree with everything her says (I see his point but have some disagreements regarding his assessment of the new Queer Eye) he always keeps me thinking. This along with the fact that he is looking at issues and stories that few others seem to, and that resonate with me. If you are not familiar with his work, check out his essay on embracing "What's Gay", or check out his appearance in the feature doc examining drag that you can see on Filmstruck. He and fellow critics Christina Cauterucci and Brandon Tensley will be doing a monthly podcast discuss trending lgbt issues, and to broaden our horizons, if such horizons need broadening. I could not be more excited to have this out in the podcast world, because while there are many lgbt podcasts, it is doubtful that there are any that are as well produced and thoughtful as this one will be. I highly recommend it, and if it doesn't thrill you right away, I encourage you to stick with it for two reasons.

1. It sometimes takes our ears and minds awhile to adjust to new formats and new personalities. Allow yourself sometime to adjust to the slight pretensions and the unfamiliarity of the panelists and their quirks. When I first listen to any podcast it takes awhile to get past the feeling of being in a foreign land, and to make my own decisions about the panelists, seeing past the self established personas to who they are. Once I do it always worth it as they become like second world friends that both get me laughing, remind me of the gentle reason in the world, and teach me.

2. This podcast is just beginning, and may take a little time to find its footing, but it surely will, and if you listen and subscribe now you can boast to your friends that you were there from the beginning.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Angels Revisited

Last Sunday I caught Part 2 of Angels In America before it closes on Broadway in the next few days. The guy I'd been seeing had not been able to get tickets to the second half, and I was able to score some very reasonably priced tickets that would allow him to see the second part, and for me to hold this production close to my metaphorical bosom before it leaves forever.

God, I love this show. God, I love this production. For how sprawling and far reaching and important and inclusive it is. For Andrew Garfield and how empathetic he is, and the fact that both David and I can adore him and not feel unmoored by the awareness that the person we are seeing finds other men attractive, that's how undeniably lovely he is in this play. I love it for it's humor. For its cold neon glamor, and its earnestness. And for its many many allusions to The Wizard Of Oz. I want to live inside it, it's so beautiful. But only because I know that its a journey that I know how it ends. Knowing that ending allows me to relish in the way we get to that ending, and to find joy in each twist and rest along the way. It's kind of the same way people want to live in the forties. Our whole fucking way of life was at stake, and people were being slaughtered. Our loved ones were going off to shoot people and may never come back, but Oh, the clothing! And fashion!

I hope this play comes back in my lifetime, and that I can go back and hear those words spoken, see those tender fuck-ups struggle just like I do through my own jiggles and bounces. It will be heart wrenching, and bittersweet, and I will laugh and cry with another group of people as we acknowledge our commonalities together through "mutual emotion", but it will never be the same. This is what theatre has that is special, and that Hollywood can never own. That intimacy, that momentous thrill, and that magic of vanishing.



My date caught a bit of the final bows on his phone, and I was equal parts annoyed and grateful that he did it. It's nice to have even the smallest piece to keep and remember.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Putting it together.

I sit before my computer screen on a bright and breezy Sunday afternoon, at my desk, tucked away in my creative corner of the apartment. My face is covered in a slick sheen of black which is slowly crusting and fading to grey. No. You do not get a picture. Because, while everyone else seems perfectly content to post pictures and videos of every minute detail of their daily routine, to me... at least some things are semi-sacred, and putting on a charcoal beauty mask is one of those things, so you are left with your imagination on this one. The mask is part of my steps of productivity today. I am working very hard to get small things done every day, and to avoid as much as possible the trap of insidious computer phone games, the re-runs of classic sitcoms, and the teeming torsos of tumblr that seem hellbent on pulling me from creativity.

I'm working on organizing, purging unneeded items, and on a couple of larger creative projects. The one that has my most focused attention this month, is a Christmas cabaret featuring Cathy Dresden. I'm not certain that I'll be able to mount it in time for this year, but at least I plan to have it completely written and structured by the end of the month of July. This focus is inspired by Camp Nanowrimo, a virtual writer's retreat, which is extremely flexible. So far I've used every day in July to work on the show, and while as of this moment it has been more planning and research than actual writing, I do feel like progress is being made, which pleases me.

It's hard creating a cabaret, as anyone who has ever tried can tell you. Some people think it's just a matter of finding a bunch of songs you like and putting them together. Plugging your individual favorite songs into a formula. But it's more than that. You do need to find songs of course, but they have to be the right songs. Right for your voice, right for your presence and personality. They have to sound good through your instrument and look natural emanating from you from an audience perspective. Either that or they need to be framed in the right way so that the audience will accept your singing something you normally wouldn't be expected to.

And you don't just need ten to fifteen of these songs, you need to find fifty to a hundred of them. Why? Because they all need to work together to create a large piece. A piece that works thematically, with every song supporting that theme, and your expression of it. Not only that, but there needs to be a real reason for you to sing the song. How can you make a particular rendition of a song unique? How can you make it mean something different than it has before while keeping the integrity of its original message? How can you make it your own? Can you???  And keep in mind that you can't have to many of one type of song in an hour long show, or not only will the show seem kind of monotonous, but it won't be taking a journey to anything.

And then, what if there's something to say that you don't have a song for? It's something that absolutely has to be in the show, it's the capper, it sums up the night, and you don't have a song that assists you in doing this? Well then you have to go hunting. Or try and write it yourself (I would not suggest this for most people) or try to do it through patter or a story. There's a lot to think about, and a lot of research and compiling, and testing of the songs before they go into the show. And that's before you even think about where they go in the show, which can cause so many more complications. It's surprising to think about how many "perfect songs" get cut from shows because they fit the show as originally conceived, but once things start coming into shape, the song no longer does what it should.

An example from my own work is the song "As Long As He Needs Me". It's a beautiful number, sits well on Cathy, shows off my high notes, and I love singing it. And yet, it is the kind of show stopping number that you can't place too early in an evening of song, and for my first show, which was in essence about a woman coming into her own power, you can't end on a song about a woman who will love a man no matter how much he hurts her, as long as his being with her is serving a purpose to him. You just can't. And so... it's not in the show.

And this is all on paper! You have to finish the thing up on paper (the dialogue, songs, and running order) and then start working stout in real life with a director and a pianist, until the songs and dialogue and blocking and lighting and sound are as good as their gonna get. And that's its own heap of complications.

Cabaret is never just a collection of songs. It's story telling, through songs, and every aspect of those songs has to fit the story you are telling. How you contextualize it, how you perform it, where it goes in the evening... all of it. And yet, as daunting as that can seem at times, you have to start that journey if you want to try to perform a cabaret show. And if you want it to be good, you have to work to make it 40 percent better than you think, so that you can allow for some falters and nerves and miscommunication from singer to hearer. It's that old "shoot for the moon and land in the stars" philosophy. Of course it gets easier as you continue, and the more times you start a new show, but it's never easy, because you never want to repeat yourself. You are always working to create something new, and find new and better ideas than your last.

Lecture over. I didn't expect to go on so long, but it does explain how the mere planning of a cabaret show on paper can take longer than a month of concentrated work to come to fruition. And even then it will continue to morph and change, way beyond the first performance.

And now I have stop, because I still have this mask on my face and it is calcifying.

Mustering up a sense of PRIDE


[Composed June 14th, 2018]

It's Pride in New York. This means that it is the day of the Pride Parade. The parade kicked off at noon today, and right about now there are huge amounts of people out in the sun celebrating their gayness. I am not there. And I'm feeling emotions about it. Why am I not there? What would keep me away? And, doesn't my absence make me a bad gay person? Isn't it my duty to go out and be counted, to be amongst the throngs? And yet... this day? This is "Gay New Year's Eve" with all that that implies.

You should have your Pride planes cemented way in advance so you know what you are doing, with whom, and where. Then you can choose your outfit, "slenderize" and tan up for it. As you will be seen by many, many, gays and others alike. You need to look good. It isn't a requirement, per say, but it feels like one. Just like New Year's Eve. And just like New Year's Eve, it is very important to have a good time. It is kind of a sign of your gay year to come. And will you? Well, do you on New Year's Eve?

I think if I'd had close friend here who were going, I would have dragged myself out, but one of the few gay friends I have is currently out of town, and not many other people I know are motivated to celebrate. And yes, I was invited to join a couple of different sets of plans, but that comes with its own set of social anxieties. Those of fitting into a small social group, as well as being respected and admired my the people at large. And there will be throngs of them. And I don't always do well in crowds. I tend to worry. This, plus the fact that I didn't wake up early enough to do the laundry and get in to the church service that would be the beginning of the first set of plans, and that I couldn't bring myself to join the second set of plans which involved the guy I'm dating and his much younger than me female friends, added to the fact that I hopped on the scale this morning and saw a horrific number, and that I have no cute clothes that are "gay enough", all caused me to stay home on Gay New Year's Eve. And now that I'm feeling like I should have gone, it feels to late to strike out.

I'd told myself I would stay home and be incredibly productive, and yet that has not manifested itself enough to justify the absence.

Am I doing this to myself? Did I do this to myself? Or is there a lot of very real pressure out there? I think the answer is "yes" to both questions. Pride is essentially a very amped up microcosm of society, and I cn make what I want to of it. I can overlook all the twinks that I only ever was for about two years from the age of six to eight, and then it would have been illegal for me to do anything about it (WITH GOOD REASON) and yet, I am kind of sad tat my truly skinny years were wasted on a child.

And I can avoid spending a ton of money (another reason I was laid out for skipping) and I can avoid eating a bunch of bad food. I mean, it's not like it's a fair. There's no Funnel Cake being served at gay pride. And if I run into the 6 ft 7 guy that dumped me a couple of months ago, and now will have the joy of seeing me fifteen pounds heavier than the last time I saw him? I mean, he would be easy to pick out in a crowd, because it's kind of hard to  Well, there are worse things that could happen, right?

I guess a big part, outside of all of these "what ifs", what if I do, and then I have a bad time, and I miss out on doing the things I have been telling myself for weeks now that I had to get done?

Next year? I promise I will be better. I mean, it is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and not incidentally, the death of Judy Garland. So I have to go. And it is being turned into the location of a World Pride Event. So I really can't miss it!

I've always done this to myself. Psych myself out of doing something and then at the last minute I change my mind and go, and whether I feel good about it or not, I at least went. I at least tried. I may do this yet.

[I ended up leaving to meet a friend around 3PM, and while many people were heading home at that time, it turned out not to be the worst time to go. I was alone for much of it, waiting for my friend stuck on the opposites side of the parade, while I mingled and awkwardly joked and sang with strangers. When my friend and I caught up it was about 5:30 and we ducked into a darkened bar and I had a glass of rose while he drank a Coca-Cola. I am glad I went. Glad I participated in the world, even half-heartedly. I think a large part of enjoying it is about keeping expectations low, and making plans early. Next year being the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, added to the fact that New York City is going to be the epicenter of World Pride, it's one not to miss. I decided not to post publish the original post at first, fearing that it was more about me than about any real observations of the outer world, but I do think it has some value, so... just like my subway journey on June 14th, this post is a little late.]

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Manic Pixie "Best Friends With No Benefits" of Alex Strangelove


You may have heard about it. You've likely seen ads for, or read buzz about a new romantic teen comedy that is touting itself as Love, Simon but edgier. And as someone who  found the prior mentioned film  bland and homogenized, created by committee with the expressed mission of not offending anyone, I won't blame you if your interest was as piqued as mine.

And when I sat down to watch it, in that first few minutes,  I had a lot of hope. A lot. The actors in the film? They're very attractive, but they have edges. They don't look like moving photoshop. They are allowed to be beautiful and imperfect. And thank God the parents don't look like they stepped out of a magazine ad for Abilify. And there's humor! Weird ass, off the wall, occasionally crude and sometimes intentionally insensitive humor. It's a light hearted film, but just edgy enough, and it reminds us that real life is kind of dirty. And that's ok. Fun, even.

As for the title character of Alex Truelove (the title is a play on his actual name) I found him charming and affable, and bought him as a kid struggling with his sexuality. It was nice to see a protagonist who was gay, and skewed a little more to the effeminate side of the spectrum. "Simon", of the earlier film seemed bio engineered in a lab to be that guy that was effortlessly straight acting, and yet, if you really wanted to imagine it... could be gay. Hooray! Someone for everyone. He's perfect. Too perfect. Alex, on the other hand... he's handsome as can be, and yet, he's skinny, somewhat gawky, and if he has washboard abs under his shirt, we don't see them.  Cute enough to moon over, but with a sensibility that strays far enough from the stratospheric bar of Hollywood beauty for him to be "approachable". And he's an over thinker, a nerd, a go- getter! And yet, because of his off-beat interests, he's worried that no girl will love him, but you know what? One does.

Claire. Equally intelligent, equally off-beat, equally gorgeous, and with similar interests. So they begin dating, and yet, after some time has passed, and Claire has been trying to get Alex to have sex, nothing is happening. And this is where the trouble begins. Why? Because Claire deserves better, as a character than all the crap that's about to rain down on her, and audiences deserve a girl who behaves in a healthier way when it does. Believe me when I say that she could, and this film would still be exciting and dramatic it could even be more satisfying because you'd have poignancy and a character who believes as a real person would, not as a plot device for some dude's ultimate happy ending.

Spoilers here, so if you want to and have not seen the film, here's where to make a hasty exit, see the film, and come back.

Why is nothing happening with Claire and Alex? Because Alex meets Eliott, the out gay freshman college kid that he begins to have feelings for.  And it's right there, in that first meeting, that the film becomes problematic for me.  You see, Elliott is hanging out in the nearly empty room with his best friend Gretchen.  Quick sidebar. GRETCHEN???? That's the name of one of those fucking Hummell figurines that your grandmother needs to take a feather duster to. It is not the name of a living breathing girl in 2018.


This is a Gretchen
But, if you just want to say to the audience that she's about as sexually appealing as oatmeal, well then, ok. Why the fuck not??? Gretchen it is. Hazel would work, too. Also Bernice, Madge, and Agnes. Anyway, Eliott mistakenly believes that Elliott and Gretchen are a couple, and who could blame him? They talk about doing things to better their relationship, they "kiss and make up" after a brief spat, and then... Gretchen is given the thankless  task of cupping Eliott's chin and saying in baby talk "If only Elliott were straight...then at least I'd have a chance." And yes, friendships like this exist, I understand that. My problem is that the film doesn't show any indications that this is unusual, or that Gretchen deserves better. Ethan certainly doesn't tell her that. He compliments her folks, but not her. And the film just lays this relationship out, implicitly condoning it as the way of the world.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I'm watching this, and I'm seeing this beautiful girl with amazing retro makeup play reluctant wing woman for her gay friend that she publicly loves.  She has relegated herself to being Eliott's #2. Always the sexless bridesmaid, but alas, never the bride. And once her job is done, does this girl ever come back?  Do we get a scene of her and Eliott later, or even her, on her own, having a life outside of him, or expressing opinions that are only hers? Nope? Job done. Goodbye. I'm sorry this happened to you, Gretchen, you deserve more. Certainly a better name.

Move aside Gretchen, you have served your plot point... uh... purpose.

And Alex? Well, he's shaken by his newfound desires, and this complicates the upcoming date that he and Claire have set to consummate their relationship. In Alex's confusion he begins to mistreat Claire, popping off at her for no reason discernible to her (actual reason? He wants dick, and he doesn't want to want dick). To top it off, he does this on the same night that her mom (played like one of the living dead with apropos grayish make-up and a rigorous sense of ennui) has been in the hospital with... what, Cancer? I don't honestly think the script clarifies because, eh... C plot.

Now, for Claire. She's gorgeous! She's feisty, she's going to Columbia!! And yet, her boyfriend is being an asshole. Why? He's gay. And very confused about it. Now, gay boys of America? Here's some advice. And some for you, too, girls that find yourself in the situation of dating a guy who turns out to be gay. Being gay is not an excuse to be an asshole. If you're a guy in a relationship with a girl and you discover you like a guy, and are feeling things you've never allowed yourself to express before, and suddenly here is someone before you who can give you something she can't? AWESOME. You've discovered something about yourself. But WAIT!!! Stop. Think. Be a good person. Don't cheat on your girlfriend because you've discovered someone you like better. Whatever the reasoning. Whether you are longing for another girl, or for a boy, it's an asshole move.

Claire, Claire, Claire... you had me on the edge of my seat for a while, wondering how this was going to play out! I mean, when, later in the film when you happen upon your nearly drowned, possibly ex-boyfriend (it's ambiguous) prone on the cement after an ill-fated leap,  GOOD ON YOU for turning away and leaving him at the end of the night when he's asked you, essentially, if you're mad at him. I mean, you'd already tucked him in and nurturingly smoothed out his forelock with your fingers. Enough is enough. Right on! I mean, when he first told you he was gay, the shocked expression on your face made me think you were going to forgive him everything in this righteous act of understanding that girls are constantly, and very unreasonably expected to deliver. But when you got to your home where your Boo-berry faced mom awaits with open arms, you bawled your guts out. As you should have. You had every right to. It sucks to be cheated on. It sucks when your boyfriend pauses in the act of deflowering you to tell you the he likes someone else. I loved this scene, because it shows you as a real person with feelings, and I was really excited to see what you would do next, I anticipated a declaration of self, free of Alex. That is not what happened. I mean, any reasonable person would have taken some time to heal, but Lcaire jumps right back in there. And everything in the script is implying these next actions are how a girl should behave in this situation. But no. Let me tell you, that if your boyfriend behaves in this way? Let him be. I mean, if you're really a Saint, you can have a conversation of closure with him and let him process his shit, but Claire... and Claires of the world, I implore you, when you're recent ex boyfriend says he couldn't come out of the closet earlier because he was afraid of losing you... you tell him "tough titties." Because if he treats you like shit, and he did (being confused and does not give you a free pass to constantly ignore the feelings of others) he deserves to lose you. And PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY GIRLS- if, after breaking up with you he asks you to still go to prom with him, I hope you politely, and with dignity, GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE! And by all means, if you do go with him to the prom (and seriously, why?), don't go out of your way to invite the boy he likes, who doesn't go to this school, to come to the prom and then give him a loving nudge in the direction of your  ex boyfriend so that said ex can slow dance with the guy he made out with while dating you, and then kiss him again in front of everyone at school including yourself. You deserve better than that!!!  You absolutely do. Because if you don't say "enough is enough", he gets to make goo-goo eyes at his new love while you make the winsome expression that tells the audience "Don't worry about me, I'll get through this".  Because if you put up with this, then you're in for a lifetime of those expressions while you spend it taking a backseat to Alex as he bemoans his shitty love life and cries on your shoulder when Elliott dumps him for being selfish and self involved.

And girls watching this film? They deserve to know that if they fall in love with someone who later turns out to be gay, they can break from him and protect their emotions if he has been cavalier with them. Heck, even if he hasn't. If it's too hard for you be around him and not have him? Don't torture yourself because he "needs" you. He WILL BE FINE! Plenty of others will be around to fill your shoes, and you can busy your own little feet finding someone viable for you. I urge you to forgive your friend, and if, after you have taken some time to heal, you want to be his friend again and he has proven himself worthy of that friendship?  It's your life. But you have to do what is healthy for you. My personal recommendation? Move on, and take heart in the fact that you have  the intelligence, wit,  humor and charm that draws love to you. But then remember that it's not all about whether you are worthy of him. You need to ask yourself if he has proved worthy of you. Whether that love is physical or not, there are basic requirements for giving and receiving it, and he needs to meet them, and to know that his actions have actual consequences, and if he values that relationship, he should not take you for granted, and putting up with his shit for any longer does not make you "cool".

Girls, please don't settle for a lifetime of making this face.

Now, a request to gay male screenwriters. We get it, you write what you know, and from your perspective on life. But even if she isn't the central character, please give us a film with a girl who is not just someone to be bent and posed in whichever position you need her to contort in order to make the story work, and allow our gay male protagonist love his boy free of guilt. Because if Alex created collateral damage on his way to love, especially to the girl who helped make him ready to love the next partner in his life by being a terrifically loving and supportive partner herself, well then he should feel a little guilty. It will make him a better person, and make your story far more interesting for being authentic and grounded in a reality where everybody's feelings matter. And it's funny to me that you deal with this very issue, but again, you take the option of scolding the girl, rather than looking at the relationship that is central to your plot.  Dell, Alex's "quirky" best friend says to the girl he has loved for a long time, that girls like her have a power over boys like him and they should be gentle when they use that power, and still be respectful of the nerds. Yes, straight girls should be respectful, but so should boys. Gay boys are not immune to the dangers of behaving insensitively, and they definitely have a power over young teenaged girls who see a boy who takes care of his looks, isn't afraid to pursue cultural and intellectual interests, and who relates to them on a level beyond the purely physical. And instead of constantly excusing Alex's behavior by telling us over and over that he is a good person simply because he ponders whether or not he is good, make the same demands of him that you do of your female characters. Respect that power, respect those feelings, and make them of equal importance to yours.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mementos

For the past month I have been working my way through a book called Getting Things Done. It has been an instigator for doing some things I always intend to do, but can never focus on for long enough to actually write them down and then do them. One of my tasks for today was to measure some of my old sheet music and photos in order to frame them, and while seeking these out I came across a pile of mementos I've kept. There were some pictures of people I had dated, a couple of old letters, and then underneath the papers were these things:

The bottom of a plastic champagne glass from a past New Year's Eve
A purple plastic Lei from that same night
A mixed tape an old girlfriend made when I moved from Texas to L.A.
A large dried leaf that dropped onto the patio table during my first date with a man
A blue collar from my cat Ira, with his tag
A green collar from Ira with his rabies vaccination tag
An antique stopwatch and blue cloth case
A plastic pangolin
A baby picture of Z.M. Madsen
A little orange cloth heart
A green rubber bracelet from the publication date of one of the Harry Potter books
An orange rubber bracelet from a production of Annie
A piece of pink plastic cut like a jewel
A small bowl crafted from a gourd, with a beaded interior
A handmade button with a puff paint snowman

It's funny because some of the things I've kept seem to have little significance now, and then some I will keep simply to remember people and animals past, even though the items themselves are of little significance. They all stir up emotions and make my mind wander back to the past, and the way things shook out.

Like that leaf? When it fell the guy I was with, an over earnest slam poet named Ted, mentioned that it must be a sign, and when he wasn't looking, I slipped it in my pants pocket. That night we ended up on the beach kissing, getting sand in our hair and under our shirts. I felt things for him that I just hadn't before, and from that moment on I knew I couldn't deny that my attraction to men was far more than the merely physical thing I had been trying to pigeon hole it as.

The cat collars make me think of my sweet cat Ira that I had with me for more than 18 years, through six moves, multiple roommates, and through countless nights of him yowling like a little old man to get food, attention, or to be let outside.

They all leave me with a slight sense of melancholy, which is probably why people don't often go through their mementos. And while I'm glad I did sift through mine for a bit, it's time to slip that little painted box back under the bed for a while.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Movies, movies, and more movies...

It's a little after seven on a Thursday evening, and I'm at the apartment, windows letting in a gentle breeze, and sipping on a glass of red. I'm not classy so it's not a Shiraz or a Pinot Noir or even a Merlot. It's a "blend". Which probably means a bunch of garbage grapes that couldn't go in to anything else, but it tastes great to me. Sweet, like I like it. Of course, there was a time back when I would have given the squinty eye to anyone having a glass of wine at home alone, but today, that person is me, and it's a wonderful little wind down to the week.

I have been working for the past week and half (you may know that I was let go from my former company during a restructuring) doing temp work for a staffing agency. It's only been part-time, but it goes full time beginning on Monday for a month, and while it's not the kind of work that would constitute my dream job, it is a terrific opportunity to get to know the staffers at the office, and to have an income. Plus, it was founded by and is run by strong and charismatic women, and I feel very appreciated and at home. That said, it does take some psychic energy to take in and acclimate to a new office dynamic, so this glass of "mixed red" feels well earned.

Now, why the title of "Movies, movies, and more movies..."? Well, June has always been a time for me to celebrate film, because Judy Garland was born on June 10th of 1922 and died on June 22nd of 1969. So June is for me, Judy month. And since so much of Judy's career revolved around film and television, it means that I inevitably end up watching a lot of films in June to celebrate her, and to treat myself to the filmed work of the artist I love most. And this month, TCM, in conjunction with Ball University, is offering a free online course entitled "Mad About The Musicals". I, and many in my friend group have registered, and so far it has been another wonderful reason to watch great films. In this case, these are films that I, in many cases, have not been exposed to before. Now, I'm aware that much of the motivation for the course is to drive people to TCM on Tuesdays and Thursdays when they will be showing the musicals most mentioned in the class, but so far (and we are only in day 4) it has been really educational, and it's given me a new way to work my brain muscles.

The final "Movies" in the post title, refers to the fact that Filmstruck", an online streaming service that I recently subscribed to, is featuring a collection of six films that center on the art of drag to honor Pride month. It makes me a little queasy that they chose to use drag as the entry to understanding gay culture, as I think drag as an art form has been used to limit gays, to compartmentalize us simply as men who like to dress like ladies. But, I do understand that it has also been a gentle gateway for mainstream audiences to find common ground with the gay experience (drag is after all I kind of "illusion", and audiences have always loved magic). Plus, Filmstruck focuses on classic films, and films of the past have found it more palatable to focus on drag as an aspect of gay life, than to actually look too deeply at what happens between two men in bed.

So, I plan to watch a lot of films this month, and hopefully I'll also squeeze in some time to celebrate gay Pride through actually going out into the world and socializing! Stay tuned...

Taking A Leap

Over the weekend I registered to join an audition class. Though I've lived in New York for nearly four years, this will be my first in t...