Saturday, December 27, 2008

A New Year’s Riff

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

In my experience, the population is divided on the subject of celebrating New Year’s Eve. The most vocal members have had their plans in place for at least a month in anticipation of hearty partying. For the rest of us, it’s something to get through as uneventfully as possible.

I fall into the latter group, which, I suspect, is a silent majority. However, my feelings about New Year’s Eve are strong. I dread it. I think I almost always have.

In childhood, it was the celebration I always missed. No matter how hard I tried, sleep overcame me before that ball dropped. The next morning, the house rarely failed to show evidence of some secret grown-up ritual I was certain was as magical as it was mysterious. Someday, I thought, I will be old enough to join in such fun.

As an adolescent, I spend the long nights in a number of strangers’ homes, tending to their offspring as they frolicked away the last of the year. It was such a bore. Regular television was preempted for the New Year’s specials. It seemed that everyone in the world was partying but me, or so I imagined. At least then I earned a nice bit of change for the empty hours.

As I grew older, New Year’s developed into a time of involuntary reflection. It is when the earth and everyone on it ages, including me. Each January 1, I feel as if I have aged at least a year, although my birthday is five months away.

It’s not that I never had a good New Year’s Eve. While my children were young, I experienced the night through their eyes. We would go out to see a movie together and then either go home or gather at a friend’s house.

As our collective youngsters fought the good fight to stay awake, the adults cooked marvelous treats. We were even known to fire-up the backyard grill and roast s’mores. We sang camp songs and downed hot chocolate. And if anyone remembered, we turned on the tube in time to catch the ball drop, gingerly stepped over the bodies of sleeping offspring to offer the traditional New Year’s kisses.

It was heaven.

But all too soon, my kids were making their own plans for the evening. It seems that the celebration had now grown to include teenagers. Now, my job became one of worrying: Were they where they said they would be? Would they come home in one piece? The up side to having children is that concern for their well being often obscures concern about your own life. So, in a perverse sort of way, my New Year’s Eve dance card remained filled.

For some time now I have been left to my own devices. And I have tried just about everything I could think of to get the dark night behind me. Some years I would force myself to make elaborate plans to avoid ending up alone. This tended to drive my friends, usually a generous lot, and nuts. I’d start asking them in August what they were doing for the New Year. They would pat me on the head, laugh and dive back into the swimming pool.

So I tried ignoring it. It was just another night. Yeah, right. Let me tell so something. It doesn’t matter how many videos you rent or how early you hit the sack, the world will insist upon reminding you at midnight – with firecrackers, bells and whistles – that you are entering the New Year.

Lately, I’ve been taking a more moderate approach. I try not to obsess until mid-December. Then I make casual overtures to a friend or two. If nothing turns up, I try to make my peace with the evening. I may decide to go to a movie. Perhaps I arm myself with a good book, some incredibly decadent food and new CDs.

These days, I bet I can party harty on the internet. Betcha facebook will be rockin". Something tells me, I have a lot of company out there, eh?

Monday, December 22, 2008

ernie & bert

My daughter entered this world the same year as Sesame Street. My son followed 2 years later. We grew up on that fictional inner city block, the characters our neighbors. So a few years ago, when a friend mentioned that Ernie & Bert were devised to desensitize the young to gay couples, I burst out laughing. Ernie & Bert! To me, they were the puppet Odd (not queer) Couple, a cartoon version of Felix & Oscar.

But what do I know. I have no gaydar. Nada. Well, almost nada. I catch on real fast if someone is a flaming, lisping queen. As for the rest, most of it slides right past me. I don't notice. I am gay blind. Some time ago, I asked a co-worker if he had children. He raised his eyebrows and replied: "They don't allow us to have children." (note to those who actually live in "real America": this is Florida.) I am silent. "Roberta, don't you know I'm gay?" No, I say, it never occurred to me. He walks away shaking his head.

Just recently, I pointed out to another co-worker that a young woman was particularly good looking. "Roberta, what do I care, I'm gay." I cover my mild surprise with: "Well, I'm not, and she's still a looker."

I went through this weird time at the newspaper, when women kept coming out (not necessarily "on") to me. I started to wonder if I was giving out some vibes I wasn't aware of and asked a (very hetro) colleague about it. He insisted it was less about sexual orientation than about my non-judgemental nature. OK, I'll buy that.

When I moved here, it took a little while before I realized I now live in what I've tagged "The Castro East," with t-shirts proclaiming: Two of a kind beats a straight." No exactly my kinda poker.

Why all this talk of gaydom? I saw Milk recently. And the film is everything you hear it is. Sean Penn, and perhaps the film, should take the Oscars (no pun intended). I can't quite seem to get the picture off my mind. And it isn't the personally tragic end to Milk's life. It's the time.

The poignancy of the film is almost unbearable, as it is set in the days just before AIDS decimates the Castro, and entire gay community. There is a lightheartedness to the sexuality in the film, that along with the bath houses, are gone forever. It's like watching those people in the 1920s innocently partying their way into the depression. Or even those or so assimilated Jews in Germany in the 1930s.

The present struggle for gay marriage pales in contrast to an era in which homosexuality was illegal, and coming out often meant losing everything. Harvey Milk was audacious enough to offer hope. Sound familiar?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Doggie dominatrix: update

So Victoria Stilwell has now been unleashed on America for while now. And it pains me to admit I’m sorely disappointed with the US version of It's Me or the Dog. (see original post: Oct.6)

Firstly, the show had been supersized. From a snappy 30 minutes to a meandering 60. It’s bloated and lost its pace.

Victoria herself also appeared to have lost her edge. She was spotted last Saturday in (aghast) jeans. More than driving on the left side of the car, she has gone native.

The first two doggies in need, borrowed from Heather, of kids, book fame, and had two mommies. It seems that single sex households have the same difficulties as duel sex. No surprise there.

The next household was a single mom with two kids, living in a spacious suburban house. This woman was so traumatized by a break-in that she brought a humongous mastiff puppy into the home. The doggie proceeded to terrorized everyone, including the kids. I would have invested in an alarm system. It couldn’t cost more than feeding that animal, not to mention replacing the items he destroyed, including a weight bench.

Even with the “puppy” by her side, the woman was afraid to sleep in her upstairs bedroom,. Opting instead for the sofa, doggie at her feet. Victoria presented her with "Beware the Dog” signs, which supposedly discourage unwanted visitors. Again, I would have opted for the alarm system signs.

Yet, I continue to watch anyway. I still love the way she says “dog”

I have had first hand experience with Brits and their dogs. I walked my daughter’s Siberian husky Misha during a visit to her home in London several years ago. As we strolled the common, we were practically mobbed by admirers, old and young. Almost all remarking on her eyes --one brown, one blue. “Just like David Bowe,” they would exclaim.

“Oh, darling, look,” said one entranced mother to her youngster, “This doggie has one blue eye and one brown eye. Just like David Bowe...She’s a wise and magical dog.”

Lady, I recall thinking, you’ve been reading too much Harry potter.
That same "wise and magical dog" managed to catch and down a whole squirrel before my daughter or I could stop her.

Maybe it’s just the sometimes incomprehensible British accents I miss.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cutting our loses -


Why do we continue reading bad books? Or sit through awful movies?

Sunday night I saw Synecdoche New York. I sensed I was in trouble when it opened with the lead character, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, beginning his day by reading the obits.

This sorry excuse for a movie quickly devolved into an unintelligible mess and seemed to go on for 2 days instead of 2 hours. Yet few of us got up to leave. Why?

Some may have been waiting for it to improve, to make some sense. After all, it had a first rate cast and good reviews. It was even billed as a comedy. I will admit to bursting out laughing a time or two at the inanity of it all, but I was the only one. Some comedy. It was so relentingly dreary people just sat, stone faced staring at the screen. Why?

I stayed because my companion will not leave in the middle of a film, regardless, unless we have aisle seats.

Others, doggedly wanted their “money’s worth,” I wager. My own time, though, is worth more to me than that.

My main theory is that most of us are afraid, afraid we are missing something, that we are the only one not smart enough to understand the deep meaning. Afraid to declare the script has no entertainment. As my former father-in-law would say: donkey dust.

If it doesn’t make sense to you, odds are there is something missing in the work, not in you. To those of you muttering that I didn’t “get it’” that it was an existential exercise. I got it. I will concede that it might have been meant as a send-up. If that’s the case, I really am not smart enough to see the difference.

How about you? The truth now. Do you vote with your feet or your seat?

Monday, December 8, 2008

face out

I confess.
I have strayed, lured away by superficial charm.
By facebook.
Instead of blogging, I have been frolicking on the field of the cheerfully mundane.

Last week or so, I finally took the plunge and joined the site. While I have barely scratched the surface, I now understand the lure. It IS the surface. In real time. It's the 21rst century party line.

My son may be too busy building an empire to respond to an email or phone call, but fb fit into his life. I like knowing when he stops for pizza. It's kind of like the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when he, his sister & I are all on aim at the same time. Silly, eh? Yet it's akin to how I felt when, as teens, they were both in their beds at home. Am I making any sense?

Then there is the fun of seeing the list of friends grow exponentially and reconnecting with the long-forgotten and the unexpected.

Sure, there is the serious, the organizations et al, but I am convinced it's the quick peep into the lives of those "friends" and "friends of friends" and so on, that addict.

Have to run, need to check my page.
Look at ya later.