Wednesday, May 24, 2006

American Dildo
It's almost over. Well, for another 6 months anyway. Tonight is the big finale of American Idol and I truely cannot wait for this latest abortion of a television show to be over.
Now, I'm not one of those guys who hates the show and has never watched it. While my ex and I were together, I slogged through three seasons. Time I will never get back. Kinda like the relationship itself. I hate it because I HAVE watched it, and I've seen the process, and I've listened to the legion of little fans who cling to the excruciating avalanche of mediocrity that makes up the lion's share of the talent.
But it's not the contestants that make the show so revolting. Nor is it the panel of judges. Mostly Paula, Simon, and Randy speak the truth about what they feel.
I hate it because it is equal parts karaoke and Prom King and Queen contest. The truth is, most anyone could be swooped up by the Corporate Music Machine and groomed to become a "star". That we, as the public, buy into that process and support it makes me sick to my stomach.
There is more talent, workin their butts off night after night in grimey little dives and singing their asses off in greasy spoons and holes in the walls all over this country, that will never get a break because they are "too old" or "too hard to market". People who can not only sing, but play an instrument, and write personal music from their hearts. These people are paying their dues right now, and will be better musicians and performers because of it. I hate that we would rather sit and be force-fed an image and be used as a force of our own to apply pressure to make someone become homogenized enough to be neatly fit into a label or a niche.
But, most of all, I hate it bacause the winner is determined by the frothing audience itself. People who can't be bothered to vote in their local school board elections, or for State Representative are sure as hell gonna text message for their favorite Idol.
Green Day said it, "Don't wanna be an American Idiot!"
American Dildo: Fuck it!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Another Missed Opportunity from Doing The Right Thing
I've recently found out that my deaf sister, who lives with her husband and two kids in Missouri, is having some marital issues. My family, scattered all about the US now, has expressed concern. I decided just a few weeks ago that I would take some vacation time and drive the 11 hours from central Texas to out-in-the-middle-of-fucking-nowhere Missouri and pay a visit. Just to see if everything is okay.
It will be a major road trip over Memorial Day weekend.
As luck would have it, I just found out earlier this week that I will be out of town for a major pool party/social event in the bear circles here locally. Austin Beardom's favorite powercouple, Dave and Rich, are throwing a shindig to kick off the summer party season. And I'm going to miss it.
I had heard about these guys, and their parties, for years. Every new Hunk of Funk that I've met since coming out has eventually asked me, "Hey, do you know Dave and Rich?" and the feelings of inadequacy would roll over me in waves. "Man, those guys know how to throw a party!"
I finally met these guys at TBRU in Dallas this March. They totally lived up to their reputations: warm, funny, smart, sexy. We hit it off. I went out to dinner with them just two weeks ago. They mentioned that they have pool parties. They said they would be sure to let me know when the next one was coming up.
Two days after making arrangements to drive to Missouri, I get the phonecall. It's a party.
(heavy sigh)
There will be other opportunities. Patience is a virtue. I'll be a dutiful brother and son, and I'll be happy doing it. But, forgive me if I daydream while on the road, about a backyard full of hairy, beefy bears sipping adult beverages in various stages of undress, soaking up the sun, playing in the water, and bonding with one another.
All in good time, Jim.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Welcome to Peggy, Texas

I've known Peggy for coming up on 14 years now. She was a friend of my mother's, originally. Now, this dear woman is friends to us both. If you knew my mother and me well, you'd know what a curse this must be. Add the fact that it was only after I had eventually moved in with this woman and tried planning a life together with her, that I nearly had a nervous breakdown from the realization that I was, in fact, a gay man trying desperately to deny my true nature and subsequently abandoned this wonderful person and broke her heart: well, she's a fucking Saint, in my book. I love her dearly.

We met when I had stopped in at my mother's house one spring day to visit with a relative who was staying with my mother. A relative that I didn't feel close to or, for that matter, particularly like. She was my mother's cousin and had grown up with Mom. My grandmother had taken her in as a teenager and she had lived with Mom's family for a few years, because of some hushed up family problem she was having. I think. No one knows, or is willing to talk about it.


She was four or five years older than my mother. Her name was Juanita, she was called Neetie, and I had always found her to be an incredible pain in the ass.She was one of those bible-thumping, sexually repressed Lambs of God that take it upon themselves to educate anyone within earshot about what exactly God's Plan is. She was an overt flirt with any man she came in contact with, and yet I know for a fact that she hadn't had "relations" with anyone since her husband left her in 1974. She had a nasal voice which, when excited, turned shrill, and when she spoke about someone or something she found offensive, one side of her upper lip would curl into a sneer that reminded me of Elvis singing "Hound Dog". It would have been cool, if she'd just played the guitar.

She was staying with Mom for 2 weeks. I hadn't seen this person in, easily, a decade and I wasn't looking forward to having to hang out with her. But I had to; Mom insisted that I put in an appearance. She was here for 2 weeks and "...surely you could find a few hours to spend some time with Neetie. She's looking forward to seeing you and asks about you all the time!" Now, this was 1991. I still had my long hair and beard, and was deep into "The Motorcycle Years", a period of 3 years where my only mode of transport was a Kawasaki 750. I just knew, pulling into the driveway on my bike that day, that the next few hours were not going to be pleasant.

When I met her at the front door, Neetie seemed, as expected, agitated. She hugged and kissed me quickly, roughly, and then pushed me out at arm's length to inspect me. She nearly bent my arm the wrong way as she tugged my jacket off. She brushed at my shirt, and pulled at my bearded face, and ran her fingers through some hair behind my ear in one spastic motion. Later, Mom told me that she was struck with how much I looked like her late son, Rory, an only child who had died in a car wreck, drugged up out of his mind, some 15 years ago. Neetie very much lived in the past yet, since her son's death, she had given her life over to the Lord and only focused on her future in Heaven. There was no 'present' with Neetie, just what "was" and what "will be".

But there was another reason for her anxiety, as it turns out. Because after the initial greeting at the door, I was led into the livingroom to where Peggy sat. I was introduced to this round little spitfire of a woman wearing bright, bold colors of red, and blue, and yellow. She had a shock of red hair to her shoulders and long, dangley earrings that matched her outfit. Big, oversized eyeglasses sat perched upon a little button nose. Her cheeks were ruddy and there was a real twinkle in her eyes. She wore sandals and her toenails were painted bright red. Mom introduced us and excused herself to make iced teas. I found myself in a chair with Peggy sitting across from me to my left, and Neetie, sitting next to me, and the end of the sofa on my right. Mother had invited me and then abandoned me. This is why I don't do the Family Thing anymore, I said to myself.

It was obvious from the get-go that Neetie did not like Peggy. I was trying to make conversation that included them both, and with each sentence out of Peggy's mouth, The Sneer became more and more evident. It wasn't like Peggy was doing anything wrong, she was being pleasant and social. She did not demand any more attention than anyone else in the room and exhibited no sign of inappropriate behavior or break any rules of etiquette. But Juanita had judged her to be undeserving of any consideration and unwelcome in the conversation. She also displayed a new weapon in her arsenal of rude behavior: a melodramatic rolling of her eyes, as if she couldn't believe she was having to put up with such an Idiot.

I was shocked and embarrassed.But, to my amazement, this did not negatively affect Peggy in the slightest. As a matter of fact, each caustic glance from my relative seemed to egg Peggy on.

At one point, Neetie said something snotty, and when I looked at Peggy she gave me a quick expression that I read immediately. It was, "I'm not afraid of this old bitch" and, "Let's have some fun with this shriveled up prune!" And just that fast the conversation went from talking about Texas weather, to how much she loved to lie in bed during a thunderstorm. I agreed and said that I always found the sound of rain comforting and erotic. She nodded enthusiastically and explained that her second husband had had a cd of storm sounds that she just HAD to put on, every now and then, during the dusty Texas summer while they were married. I asked what happened to husband #2. She said that she had divorced him after he chased her around her house one night with a butcher's knife. I told her that some cowboys consider such an act Foreplay. We were just horsing around...

With each exchange, Neetie became more and more exasperated. You could read her pious face like a book. How dare this fat tart talk about sex! Who does she think she is? How could someone this heavy possibly have ONE husband, let alone TWO? Any woman who hops from man to man like that deserves what she gets! If I have to listen to this much longer, I may stab someone! You could just read it in her face.

I immediately began having a good time.

By the time Mom had made it from the kitchen with the teas, the livingroom was a war zone. With each outrageous remark from Peggy, Neetie's sneer arched higher and higher up her cheekbone. The woman's teeth went all the way up to her eye sockets! And with each grimace from Neetie, Peggy would laugh and kick her feet out in front of her and splay her painted toes. There was no doubt that Peggy was having a blast. I'm sure she had dealt with people like this all her life. She was used to people's prejudice against Obesity. You could tell. She knew how to defend against people's looks of disapproval and disgust, and acts of cruelty and ignorance. She wasn't going to let this pompous, vain prude make her feel uncomfortable or unacceptable. She giggled and laughed and talked in double-entendres and risque metaphors. My mother, unaware of what was going on, laughed along and seemed oblivious to Juanita's manners. I figured she must have been sitting on the Non-Sneer side of Neetie's face. Just for good measure, I made some mention of my crotch. Maybe it was a lightening rod reference, I can't remember. But it went over big. Peggy howled, Mom had a swallow of iced tea go down the wrong pipe, and Neetie stood up, the veins in her neck bulging, and announced that she was tired and wanted to go to bed, marched to the guestroom, and slammed the door.

The dreaded hours of the visit had turned into twenty minutes on a roller coaster.Juanita did not ask to spend anymore time with me during that visit.My mother eventually got over being ticked off with me.I became fast friends with Peggy.

I knew that Peggy had kids from the start, but I wasn't going to let that interfere with my agenda. The Bachelor's Agenda. I wanted to run around with this woman and not have to babysit, police, or in anyway interface with her children. She kept them well hidden early on. I knew that she had four. Two were grown and out of the house. The two others were 9 and 12, I think. I'm not really sure. I was trying hard to not pay attention.

The first time we went out, she invited me to a "Lusty Month Of May" party. Pool party and cook-out out in the hill country. I was hoping for Nudity. Turned out to be a bunch of fully-clothed drunk forty year olds. Seemed like false advertising to me. The host of the party fancied himself a songwriter. He had won some award years back in a competition. Peggy thought he was really talented and asked him to play. He pulled a guitar out and, in my humble estimation, stank the room up. Peg seemed so impressed by him. I made a mental note to be sure and blow her away with some of my stuff later. If she liked this shit, I was going to come off like The Beatles! When we went out, we'd always end up back at her place. Because I had a roommate, and she had a nicer lifestyle (Her first ex-husband was a nuclear physicist. Trust me, her lifestyle was nicer.)

We could always stay out late because we'd only go out when her two boys were sleeping at their father's for the weekend. Which was fine. I can honestly say that I didn't feel I was missing out. We'd sit in her livingroom and light candles, eat strawberries with chocolate sauce, drink wine, and I'd play the guitar and sing for her. (I was right. She thought I was very talented.) We smoked pot and gave each other backrubs. She had a body massager/contraption that was as big as a pommel horse.We took turns buffing each other's butts. But always, ALWAYS, I was out of there before the crack of dawn. Until, that is, the first time we partied a little too hard and long and I fell asleep in her room. And the next morning was the first time I met Chris.

I'm a heavy sleeper. I could sleep through a tornado. I think I have, actually. But put a child anywhere near my vicinity when I'm out, and I'll wake up like I've been electrocuted. All I remember is the giggle, like a cluck of a chicken or the yip of a puppy. Like the purr of a kitten or the chirp of a sparrow. It stopped the Rapid Eye Movement. It tripped a switch in my central nervous system and stopped my breathing. And paralyzed me, I should mention that.

When my ears confirmed the follow up giggle, longer yet softer and seemingly closer, I knew I was in a very serious situation. There was a young boy within a four foot radius of me and Peggy was either asleep, gone, or dead, because I heard no sign of her presence. No one could help me.I wondered how long I could pretend I was sleeping.

There is nothing quite like the panic of knowing that you are in bed and inches from the child of the woman you've just slept with when you're naked under the covers and your pants are in a wad on the floor on the other side of the room. Call it Instinct, but I knew that I was not the one in control or empowered in this scenario. When I finally summoned the courage to open my eyes, I found her youngest son, Christopher, sitting on the edge of the bed with a bowl of grapes in his lap. He beamed when I looked at him.

"Hello!" he said.

I cleared my throat, pulled the covers up to my nose, and tried to make conversation.

"Where's your mother?" I croaked.

"She said she had an appointment to show a house and not to bother you." he replied. "You're Jim, right?"

"Why are you in your mother's room, and on the bed with me, if you're not supposed to bother me?" I asked.

"I figured you'd like some breakfast," he reasoned. "Want a grape?"

I pulled the covers over my head.

"My mom really likes you. Want me to bring you your pants?"

Christopher is now 23 years old. He's a fine young man. A fine young man who knew he was gay, and proudly announced it, when he was about 16 years old. He is a hero of mine. It was because of his self-assurance and bravery that I found the mettle to come out myself.

But, that's another story...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Problems With Group Sex
1.Too many options.
2. Is everyone having a good time?
3. It can never be just about me.
In conclusion:
No, thanks. But I appreciate the invitation.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cheese Of The Gods
Italians have a passion for cheese. A lot of their cuisine uses cheese, particularly Parmesan cheese. That Mario guy on The Food Network is always referring to Parmesan cheese as "the King of Cheeses". Now, don't get me wrong, I like Parmesan cheese just fine, but to call it the "King" is just a little crazy. Maybe it's the "King of Toppings", but I doubt it.
Here in America, we seem to be very fond of Cheddar cheese, and the stuff is good, sure, but I find cheddar's flavor to be a bit over-powering.
American cheese isn't even "cheese" at all. It's some kind of nasty petroleum product. I think it's some gourmand's sick little joke way back when to attach "American" to this shit. Chefs all over the world snicker at the slam.
No, to me the "King Of Cheeses" is Swiss Cheese. It's nutty, it's mellow, it goes well on darn near anything and it doesn't overpower the flavor of other foods. It melts nicely, has a nice "goo" factor.
It's just the best cheese.
When I want cheese in my mouth, I want it to be Swiss.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Mr. Hanon,
I'm so pleased that you remember me. You had so many kids continually clamoring for your attention, it really means alot that my name even rings a bell.

Can I share a memory with you?

I remember the first time that we met. I had just moved with my family to Bellevue only a few weeks before school started. The previous year I had attended a military academy where I played varsity football and was on an athletic scholarship. Not bad for a sophomore. My Dad, a talented jock his entire life, was so happy and proud. But after a year, I knew that Culver was not the place me. Rough crowd. I mean, there were kids there with some serious problems. I also knew that I'd had enough of football. I'd been playing since 6th grade and I wanted out.
This wasn't something I had ever told my father. He talked nonstop about how big I was getting, how good I was becoming as a lineman. With each passing year, it was less and less fun for me. Culver had many graduates continue on to Notre Dame. My Dad was planning out my future for me, and I couldn't find the courage to tell him to stop. All that I knew was that I wanted out of the Military and off of the Team.
In order to get out of the military school, I had to paint a picture for my parents of drug use and severe anti-social behavior by my fellow cadets. It wasn't tough. I told a story about climbing the campus water tower with some friends and drinking a bottle of Southern Comfort. I chronicled accounts of "plebe" hazing by the upperclassmen. I told them about my roommate, who spent his time making model airplanes and sniffing glue. I didn't have to make these stories up, they were true. I asked my folks if they would be disappointed if I didn't return to Culver the next year. My father agreed, and noted that since the family was relocating to Nebraska, it looked like I was going to become a Cornhusker. I remember telling him that I thought the Huskers were cooler than the Fighting Irish anyway. I told him I'd check out the school's program when we got to town.
I promised.
So, I get to Bellevue and every day my Dad tells me to walk to the school and introduce myself to the football coach and get started in the morning workouts that were already in progress. I put it off for as long as I could. I just couldn't bear the thought of two more years of killing myself every summer in order to prepare myself for hanging out with the intellectual midgets that I had judged high school athletes to be. But, time was getting short, and I needed to get to school to register for classes as well as make a decision about my future in Football.
Walking up the hill to the school (we lived in Cherry Hills), I saw the guys practicing. I saw the tackling dummies and the equipment and the kids running drills and the coaches in shorts yelling at them. I heard the coaches whistles and the team's grunts and the groans. My stomach was in a knot. How was I going to tell my father, who loved this shit, that I wanted no part of it anymore? My Dad was a pilot in the Air Force and was gone for long stretches at a time when I was growing up. Football was a way for us to connect. One of a very few ways. I'm his only son. I wanted to please him.
When I got to the school, instead of going straight out onto the field, I decided to go into the school building, just to check the place out. Also, to think. I tried the front door. It was locked. I knew the gymnasium door must've been open, but I didn't want to be seen by the coach. Too risky. I'd be in shoulderpads whether I wanted to or not, if I wasn't careful. There were another set of doors down by the auditorium so I went over to them. I was relieved when they opened. I stood in the auditorium lobby for a few minutes wondering what to do next. At one end of the lobby there was a trophy case filled with statues and awards. They were for Debate and something called "Forensics". Cool enough, I supposed. I tried to formulate just the right excuse that would work on my Dad for not signing up for football. I was burnt out? That wouldn't fly.
After playing varsity and being on a scholarship, uh, I felt it beneath me to have to start over and prove myself in a new program? I knew better than to try that one. Jocks are morons? Dad was a jock! What in the hell was I going to do? No way around it, if I didn't play football, my Dad was going to KILL me.
I opened the doors going from the lobby to the auditorium. Jesus, the place was HUGE! I slipped into a chair off the aisle in the last row. I just wanted to sit and think. The place was quiet. It seemed so civilized. I sat and stared into space..After a moment, a man walked out to the middle of the empty stage wrestling a wooden window frame with fabric stretched across it. He then started beating the hell out of it with a hammer.
I must have coughed or made some kind of noise, because at one point he stopped pounding, put his hand up to block the lights from his eyes and called out to me. He had this big, deep voice and I remember being amazed that I could hear him so clearly while being so far away from him.He invited me to join him on the stage while he worked. And, I must admit, I was curious about what all was back there, behind the proscenium. What I found, when I got up there, was an arsenal of sets suspended above my head, way the hell up there! I saw a lightboard with what must've been a thousand switches. I saw a garage-like shop area off to one side filled with lumber and paint. I saw what looked like an acre of hardwood flooring that made up the stage, empty and vast. I never knew a stage could be so big. I saw the dark orchestra pit just beyond the lip of the stage. And I saw all those empty seats in the auditorium, all facing in my direction. I saw a catwalk that you couldn't see if you sat in the audience, where spotlights were positioned and pointed down on me. I kept looking at those seats. Cool enough.
He asked me a lot of questions, this guy. All the while, he was smacking boards apart with his hammer. He had on blue jeans and a denim shirt, both covered in paint, and he had a full red beard with fairly long hair, for an adult.I figured he was a janitor.He said his name was Kent Hanon. That he was a teacher who taught Drama and put on a Fall Play and a Spring Musical each year. He asked me if I had considered taking Drama as a elective.As he talked to me, he kept his eyes on his work. Since he wasn't much looking at me while I spoke, I found myself telling him more than he initially asked. Within five minutes, I was spilling my guts about my miserable situation. I kicked at a piece of masking tape stuck to the floor. I picked up a long flat and marveled at how thin and wobbly and light it was. I found myself telling this man everything I struggled so hard to express to my own father, yet couldn't find the words.And he LET me talk! I bitched about my Dad and his obsession with Sports. I bitched about my family. I bitched about military school. I bitched ALOT about Football.
Since he wasn't staring at me, I had ample opportunity to watch him. He didn't seem like a "Theatre"-type guy to me at all. Weren't all men in the performing arts, like, effeminate homosexuals? Isn't being responsible for putting on a school play considered punishment in some school systems? Was this guy for real?I remember when he laughed, he threw back his head to expose a set of teeth that, I'm still certain, were more numerous than neccessary. He was all teeth when he smiled. I liked this guy, I knew right away. He wasn't stuffy and formal.He let me have my say. He nodded appropriately when he was conveying that he understood my point, he knitted his brow and grimaced when I spoke of a particularly serious aspect of the same point, for the tenth time. And he, along with me, weighed the consequence of the dilemna at hand. Yet, he waited until I said, "...and I don't know what to do..." before he offered his opinion.
He told me that I knew what I needed to do. He told me that being a Man means taking control of your life. He said that I underestimated my father's love for me if I thought he couldn't understand, or love me, because I don't share his same interests.
"Follow your heart, and be willing to stand up for yourself", he said. "Be a Man. Lots of people don't like sports. Big deal. You don't think your Dad can deal with that? How much longer are you going to pretend to be someone you aren't?"
Then, he shrugged and wandered offstage to bring over another chunk of the set he was breaking down.
"Your father is proud of you because he thinks you are exceptional at something that you love to do. When you finally tell him that it's not something you love anymore, he won't want you to waste your time. Give him the chance to rise to the occasion. He can't love you for who you really are unless he knows who you really are. It's time for you to go home and talk to your father."
Then, he pointed out that auditions for the Fall Play, "Arsenic and Old Lace", were only a few weeks away.

And so I did. Talked to my Dad, that is. It wasn't easy, but I went home and sat down with my parents and told them my decision. Turns out that my mother hated football all along and was glad that I had decided not to bash my brains in. Dad was quiet. He said that he thought I was making a bad choice here, but that it was my choice to make. He asked me to keep an open mind in the future, that if I missed it enough, I might want to get back into it.
And this time when I promised, I meant it.

When I registered for classes, I signed up for Drama, and Journalism, and Chorus. Got a small role in the Fall Play as Officer Brophy in "Arsenic and Old Lace". I was given the opportunity to stand on that stage, under those lights, and look out on those seats, now filled with people. I remember noticing that when you're out there, on stage, in front of a big audience, you can hear them breathe! The "buzz" they gave off was amazing! It was a powerful and intoxicating feeling, knowing that you were about to deliver a line that was going to make the crowd laugh.
I loved just standing in the wings, watching the sets fly up and down. I loved the dead-seriousness we all took in putting on a Comedy. And the best part was knowing that at each performance, my father was out there, somewhere, in those seats.And I knew that he was proud of me. Because I was doing something I loved.
In the next two years, my Dad never missed a single performance of mine. He was my biggest fan.

Mr. Hanon, you told me to never underestimate my father or the love he has for me. And since then, I never have. And he has never disappointed me.
Thank you, Kent Hanon!
Jim ("Dancing Bear", class of '77)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Nuts of the Gods

When I really love something. I really love it. I obsess a bit. I'm sitting here at the keyboard munching on something I really love: cashews.

Cashews are the world's most delicious nut. Cashews are the nuts of the Gods. If given a choice, cashews are, hands down, the nuts I would prefer to put in my mouth above all others.

Buttery goodness.

I can't type now. I'm busy.