Friday, August 29, 2003

Last night was a nice trip back into my own theatrical past via the production of Sondheim's PACIFIC OVERTURES at the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, MA. I designed this musical a decade or so ago here in Boston, one of five Sondheim musicals (also SWEENEY TODD, LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, INTO THE WOODS and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG) I have been lucky enough to get to design during my career.

It was a really solid production of a great piece of material and a joy to watch. I knew the work of the designers so the visual strength and inventiveness came as no surprise. The production had originated at the Cincinnati Playhouse and was uncommonly well and consistently cast. A huge number of people who love American musicals absolutely loathe Sondheim, who writes intelligent, challenging and literate musical plays. As a colleague at MIT says, "When most Americans think about musicals, the first thing they want to know is 'Where are the girls in the feathers?' and she is spot on.

Anyway, one nice thing is that while I could admire what my designer colleagues had done last night, I could look back on my own production with a real feeling of having honored the material and that felt pretty good.

Today we had our monthly gay lunch with only five guys which made it nice and informal. We usually get between eight and fifteen but for the beginning of a holiday weekend, five was just fine. Tomorrow I head up for my partner's place for the annual Work and Play Weekend. There is a lot of work to be done, especially getting a location ready for an eight
man hot tub that is on order. Evenings are given over to movies, dancing, good food, games and some xxx activity. Interestingly, he phoned me this afternoon with the names of the guys who are expected to arrive tomorrow and suggested an evening of mixed doubles on his queen sized bed. This could be fun. Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I should talk about my partner. He is somewhat older than I--13 years--and we have talked about some of the implications of that as we get older together, he entering old age and I still in middle age. I think he worries about my finding other lovers and possibly leaving him. There isn't much I can do other than assure him of my abiding love, in which he believes, and the power of his own incredible love for me. I have been knocked around quite a bit in life and have NEVER been loved the way this man loves me.

I try not to use cliches, but it really IS like a great wave crashing over me. Just to be enclosed in his strong embrace is theraputic--a healing touch and a transforming, protective, liberating power. He remains as he has been throughout his life: a creative, vital presence in the lives of the many people he touches via his teaching and sponsorship of gay events and programs. Built like an oak tree, he makes love with the passion, skill and delight of a 30 year old. I don't care if I gush, he is an extraordinary and treasureable man.

Now, do I desire other men? YES--I'm a gay man and my life is filled with wonderful, desirable men. He's told me many times that "sex happens," meaning that he knows some infidelities are possible, maybe inevitable, during any long term relationship. We have both had make-out sessions with some of the guys who gather at his property for the sweat lodge & dinner nights, the Labor Day weekend and New Year's house parties. But we have never taken things further than that. I have learned to deal with my desires. Maybe some day we'll do a threesome. I loved those before I met him and I know that lovers can actually become closer when they share the body and affection of another man. One thing I know for certain is that I will be with him through to the very end, whichever of us goes first. I won't let anything ever come between us.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

My cat is a lovely companion and extremely talkative. She clearly is unhappy when I spend the night at my partner's place and she is very giving of affection, not just accepting (demanding) of affection like some I have had live with me.
I cannot imagine ever living without a cat and have at times had as many as three in the house.

Her name is Starr. I would never have chosen this but she came with it from the animal shelter, knew it and answered to it, so I decided to keep it. For a brief, loony moment I thought of translating it to Stella so I could call her by yelling "Stella!" up the stairs like Stanley Kowalsky in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, but I dropped the idea very fast.
I do pride myself for having SOME subtlety. Starr suggests two people: Ken, the sleazy lawyer who was involved with
the Whitewater scandal surrounding the Clintons (no good, male and insufferable); and Brenda, the cartoon heroine
who became the subject of a forgettable movie. Actually, Starr is a homebody, a gentle soul but a great hunter (two
bats caught and killed in the house in the last two months--Boston is suffering an invasion of bats this summer infesting
neighborhood houses). I wake up every morning with her pressed into my left thigh, waiting to have her tummy stroked and VERY anxious to start the process of opening cans to feed her.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Yesterday (Sunday) my partner and I drove up to York, Maine to visit a valued colleague and dear friend who used to live in the Boston area but decamped several years ago with her husband to the University of Chicago. He became vice-president and director of admissions and she eventually took over directorship of undergraduate Latin studies in the Classics department. They have a cottage right on the ocean, separated from a black basalt pebble and rock beach by 300 feet of wild flowers. The weather was spectacular and the location is beyond description.

She and I have co-directed and operated a summer study/travel tour to Europe for gifted high school Juniors and Seniors for over a dozen years. The last couple years, however, international conditions have not been conducive to parents putting their kids on planes to parts not unknown but known to be in the line of fire. The Balkan War scrubbed our Greek trips; and 9/11 and continuing unrest in the Mediterranean have done in our Italian and Spanish trips.

What we do is establish a center in whatever country we want to use as subject for the study. Talloires in the French Alps, the island of Spetses in Greece, a former monastery converted to a school in Rome, and a branch of the University of Granada in Spain have been centers for programs on Empires established in Europe, the Medieval Period in France, the Muslim Period in Spain, etc. There are two weeks of intensive study followed by a week travelling to historical sites and a couple of days at a resort at the end for play time. Some of our kids' lives have literally been changed by these summers. They take away with them a University of Chicago credit, letters of recommendation for use in college admission and, in some cases, friendships that have lasted a decade or more.

She served lobster salad for lunch and I had brought champagne as a hostess gift. We toasted past accomplishments and wished for better conditions in future. Late in the afternoon, we left for my partner's place via dinner at a good fish restaurant in Portsmouth, NH. Then to bed, to each other's arms and to lovely wake-up sex this morning

Saturday, August 23, 2003

With summer winding down, I spent a briliant day on the Vinyard at the nude Gay Head/Aquinnah Beach. I think that final "h" is new this summer. There had been less erosion to the beach and cliffs last winter than in some recent years, all of which is very good news. The air was clear with a good breeze and moderate temperatures at last. The water is polluted just now because the recent major blackout led to the release of raw sewage from urban sewer systems, which is unfortunate but temporary, I hope. So, no swimming and more time for people watching.

I am a chronic cruiser. Today was a very good day for long walks down the beach to ogle the mature man. Lots of them were in attendance, and almost across the board they were in really good shape, admirably equipped and open to conversation during "casual" stops at their beach camps.

OK, I'm slime. I developed a technique some years ago of carrying a small sketch book with me sometimes so that if I get caught heavily cruising a guy who takes it badly I can explain that I am an artist and designer (true enough) and was studying bone structure for when I do portraiture (a stretch, but they usually fall for it).

There was also a very interesting menage about three camps over from me, two really hot guys in their late 30s and a lovely, much younger (early 20s) guy. You could plot an entire novel with everything that could be fantasized out of that!

Friday, August 22, 2003

Last night turned out to be practically idyllic. I left the Boston area around three with a good friend and the boyfriend of one of our Council for the Arts members at MIT. We were going to meet him at a restaurant in Lenox, MA, have a good dinner and then head to the David Daniels recital. Dinner turned out to be a lot of fun and in the middle of it a chance remark by the boyfriend led to the revelation that they were friends of my cousin in Montreal. Are we down to TWO degrees of separation these days?

David was in superb voice, singing mood pieces including some very soulful material rather than his more famous baroque heroic coloratura repertory. Long lines, rich, rounded tone and excellent diction combined with unaffected, direct communication. No wonder he is THE countertenor these days in the US with a very healthy career in Europe as well. The accompaniment was not on a piano--one of my least favorite instruments, actually--but on a classical guitar by the Australian Craig Ogden. The rich colors and intimacy of the guitar were perfect for the mood David was working to maintain. By the way, David has lost some weight, gotten a buzz cut, ditched the perennial four day stubble and he looks great.

The weather remains hot with saturated, stagnant air. But I am getting to escape with friends tomorrow to the clothing-optional beach on the west end of Martha's Vinyard at Gay Head (honestly, I'm not making that up) which the local Wampanoag Tribe is trying to get everyone to call Aquinna. The beach is at the foot of multicolored clay cliffs topped by an historic lighthouse and attracts everybody--straights, gays, lesbians, families, groups of young professionals vacationing on the Vinyard. Swimming is good and the vistas out over Buzzards Bay and the other islands are stunning. I love nude beaches. They cater to the exhibitionist in me putting my tattoos fully on display. Afterall, why have them if people can't see them?

Thursday, August 21, 2003

We are having the kind of weather that reminds me all over again that, except for the chance to garden and all the great fresh fruits and vegetables, I really despise summer. I lose all my energy in this weather and on the most humid days I get a bad feeling of claustrophopia.

This afternoon, four of us are heading to Tanglewood in western Massachusetts for a recital by David Daniels, probably the most famous and accomplished of the astonishing race of American countertenors. A second new male voice category is developing for the baroque music scene as well, the male soprano. I am told the difference is that countertenors have low speaking voices and are really mostly baritones who have been able to develop their falsetto into a wide-ranging and viable main singing voice. Male sopranos, on the other hand, have very high speaking voices and the high range is their real singing voice. I heard one of each in the same opera out at Glimmerglass and there really is a difference in the tone, although both were excellent artists and sang their music flawlessly. I am delighted to be living in an era when the great works of Handel, Mozart and others can be sung by real men rather than mezzo sopranos in pants.

David's recital tonight is not opera but songs by operatic composers, folk material and some pop. He is a delightful guy--I had the pleasure of meeting him in Fort Lauderdale after a performance there and again at Glimmerglass. He is gay, in a long term relationship with a pianist/choral director and emblematic of the newer generation of opera singers in this country-- probably everywhere, actually. Gay men in the opera world have been coming out in droves in the last decade, confirming what most of us have known seemingly forever. Backstage at most opera houses looks like a gay club these days. Recently, a trend among female singers to come out and acknowledge their partners in or out of the profession has been picking up steam. All sorts of studies, informal to somewhat scientific, have been done to find out why so many gays gravitate to opera and "classical" music in general--far above the percentage of (known) gay men and lesbians in the general population. The cliche is that we all gravitate to the arts, the chic and fashionable, involves diva-worshop, etc.

In my case it was somewhat more complex. I started being hooked on opera around age seven over the radio (there was vastly more opera and symphonic music on the radio in the 50s through 70s than there is now). For me it was the largeness of the art form and its emotional whallop that got to me. Things were far from great at home and opera for me was the equivalent of "Everything is beautiful at the ballet" in A CHORUS LINE. Later my love of history kicked in and I could readily see how all the performing arts related to the culture, politics and social structure of various countries. To this day I do not teach theater history without relating it to events and historical movements that surround it.

Anyway, countertenors have become the gay icons of the moment in opera and, indeed, the vast majority of countertenors I have had the pleasure to meet have been gay, virtually all of them out. So tonight we'll be four gay men--a good friend, a member of our Council for the Arts at M.I.T. and his partner, and I--at a recital by a gay man in an audience that will probably be at least half gay. This is the new reality in the performing arts

Monday, August 18, 2003

Back from the Glimmerglass Festival. I love it out there. They do four operas every summer in beautifully cast, well directed productions that are carefully rehearsed. The opera house and grounds are friendly, not in any way pretentious and the auditorium has great sightlines and acoustics. They also do a good mix of styles and combine rarities with restudied old classics. Heaven for a guy like me.

Of course, it isn't opera all the time out there. I usually drive around the beautiful New York State countryside on any back road I can find, stopping at yard sales, checking out antique barns and visiting caves, historic sites, etc.

This year I discovered the Belgian-style brewery Ommegang just southeast of Cooperstown. Who knew that Belgian beer is brewed in a process analogous to champagne? True--besides using a variety of different flavorings and spices as part of the brewing process, all Belgian beer is given a second fermentation just like champagne and benefits from storing in moderately cool temperatures for a year or two. In any event, the stuff tastes just great and one of their beers (we got to taste four)called Hennepin really comes over as a cross between a good beer and a good white wine.

The bottles (the size of a standard 750ml wine bottle) have to be extra thick to withstand the pressure of the secondary fermentation. They had a special that if you bought a case you got an extra bottle and also a heavy, footed brand crest beer glass. I bought two mixed cases--one to break up and give for Christmas gifts and the other for me.

Otherwise, not much. I have to read play scripts tonight. Then maybe a nice Kristen Bjorn video and bed. :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Picking up from yesterday and talk about smaller New England Museums, I took my partner to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA today as part of my birthday gift to him. This museum has always been outside of the Salem witch hysteria business, concentrating on the city's rich clipper ship trade with the Far East and other aspects of its past not connected with those tragic events of the late 17th century. Previously, it had been a very old fashioned place, not 100% a "mothballs" kind of museum but cramped, not overly lit, and somewhat dull in presenting its treasures. Recently, it has had a multi-million dollar make-over. Completely new is a great headline exhibit, a complete 18th century house of a Chinese merchant family disassembled piece by piece (lots of pieces-- 50,000 roof tiles alone) and rebuilt by skilled Chinese craftsmen working with American carpenters and conservators.

Wow! Incredible transformation. One of the more innovative things is that the audio tour devices are not only complimentary but when an item catches your eye, you can enter its code number which is recorded on a chip. Before leaving the museum, you download the item numbers onto a file you set up with your email address and you can access them any time via your "account" at the museum's website. I haven't encountered such a service at any other museum but for a designer like me it is a fantastic tool. I can walk out of the museum with all my research waiting for me at home.

I leave tomorrow morning for three days at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival in Cooperstown, NY (yes, Virginia there IS something at Cooperstown besides the Baseball Hall of Fame!).

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

I'm going up to my partner's this afternoon to take him out to dinner at our favorite Japanese steakhouse restaurant for his birthday. Tomorrow we drive down to Salem, MA and visit the newly renovated and greatly expanded Peabody-Essex Museum that has as its new centerpiece a complete Chinese house that is something like 200 years old and has been beautifully restored. We love to do this sort of thing when we travel and are now beginning to catch up again with the good museums here.

New England has a great many smaller or "regional" museums that actually have terrific collections and/or are able to snag excellent touring exhibits that are too small or too specialized for the big guys. The Currier Gallery in Manchester, NH owns a complete (down to the dishware and the clothing in the closets) Frank Lloyd Wright house from the very early 50s that makes a fascinating afternoon's visit. The Hartford Athenium has had several superb shows including original costumes (all handpainted silk) from the famed Ballet Russe. The deCordova Museum and sculpture park in Lincoln is an outstanding contemporary art museum. My personal favorite for many reasons is the Isabella Stewart Gardner here in Boston. Mrs. Gardner was a rebel from Beacon Hill society who consorted with artists and had a strong bohemian streak. She built "The Palace" as it was called in Venetian Gothic style to house her collection and she lived on the top floor. The collection is good but as a look into the mind of aquirky personality of the Belle Epoque, the place is priceless.

Tuesday has suddenly become gay night on the Bravo channel. I try not to watch too much TV but the long-promised gay network has never materialized and other channels are taking up the slack. Boy Meets Boy, which was widely predicted to be exploitive and smarmy, turns out to be fairly interesting and the wild card aspect--that several of the contestants are actually straight--has not been overplayed but has been
a positive aspect of the show. Perhaps significantly, James (the eligible gay bachelor looking for a boyfriend, who does not know yet there are straight men in the dating pool) has eliminated four of of them on the very logical basis of "no chemistry." My personal favorite at this point is Rob--great smile, sweet personality and seems like a great guy.

Gay Eye for the Straight Guy could be really silly and IS really over the top but I find it delightful. Five gay men in New York City take on a straight man each week who is facing some kind of landmark event. They analyze his life, his goals and then make over his wardrobe, his residence, his diet, his personal grooming and, if possible, manners. It is a great send-up of the gay decorating gene stereotype and is notable for the fact that they work within the man's established personal style and career needs--just better. I've liked them all so far but the first episode, where they worked with a stunning young man planning to ask his equally stunning girlfriend to marry him, was perhaps the finest. At the end he proposed, she accepted and we got to see five gayboys celebrating their facilitation of a hetereosexual marriage. Hey, weren't we supposed to be the ones THREATENING straight marriage?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Lovely day today. The weather was not good for working in the garden, which I would have loved. High levels of humidity and downpours lasting ten to fifteen minutes about once an hour. So, I explored the web and my computer some more. In the process I discovered Duncan of the blog called Welshcake. He is a resident of Cardiff, has a Danish boyfriend and writes with wit and style. My kind of guy. Interestingly, my partner and I have just finished a vacation where we spent considerable amounts of time in both Wales and Denmark.

So, I wrote Duncan and got the nicest note back. I then followed all the directions from blogger 101 and tried to install as links the blogs of Duncan and a couple of other bloggers whose writing I value. It worked for just a little while but the links soon dropped from color to gray and won't connect any more. And here I thought I was making progress using the web!

I should explain why I use the term "my partner" instead of giving his name. Maybe I will some day but I have decided that I shouldn't use people's names here. I'm Will for William and that is fine but it was my choice to go public and nobody else's, so I will speak only in "titles."

Speaking of my partner, I will be up at his place tomorrow night and Thursday to celebrate his birthday. He is somewhat older than I but built like an oak tree, full of vigor and energy, sexual dynamite and he loves me as nobody ever has. We celebrated our sixth anniversary at the end of May. He is my first long term relationship.

I spent years doing "hit and run" sex and, frankly, it was a lot of fun. I sometimes miss the variety and especially the little rush that comes from the build up to the moment of consent when it could go either way. He might and he might not but then comes a hand on the arm, a kiss, or just a slight smile and you know you've got him. Such a thrill! But I have no intention of ruining something so great. My partner isn't into open relationships (he does talk about three-ways sometimes--and three is one of my favorite numbers) but I will never do anything to hurt him or break the immense bond we have forged.

Gee, too bad we're gay and supposedly incapable of the deep emotions and committment worthy of entering into a legal marriage.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Since my partner and I got back from Europe on July 30th things have been pretty interesting for gay folk. Gene Robinson survived the voting process (including the almost inevitable arrival at the last minute of the bimbo du jour) to be named the first gay Episcopalian Bishop. Then the champs of organized religion (ANY and ALL organized religions) did what they do best, which is to cause conflict and division. I was reminded all over again why I had to get all religion out of my life. I am still a recovering Catholic, recovering because I am still angry about all the bigotry,intolerance, homophobia, anti-semitism and hipocracy that I encountered while still being sent by my parents to Catholic school.

Anyway, my partner knew Gene from many years of gay activism and the two of us know between us at least eight gay Catholic priests (healthy gay men, not pediphiles) with active, normal sex lives. They make it work for them and I can admire the way they refuse to have their identities oppressed in pursuit of their personal religious vision. But I just can't deal with any of it any more. These days when people ask me my religious preference I say "Gay." Yes, gay as a religion or, at least, a spiritual locus. I have never been together with a group of gay guys when something positive, creative and wonderful hasn't happened. And if religion isn't about coming together to make something better, to get along as people better, what is it about? That obscene oxymoron "religious war"? Killing people because they don't believe exactly what you do? Claiming that you are right and everybody is wrong and damned forever? I think not.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Ending a really nice weekend. Saturday I went up to my partner's for the monthly Sweat Lodge gathering. The lodge is a low, octagonal building with a domed roof that is heavily insulated but translucent as it is made of plastic tarp and layers of clear bubblewrap stretched over bent PVC pipe ribs. This is a gay men's event followed by a pot luck supper that is always great fun. For the Sweat, we heat soapstones in a fire until the fire burns down to coals and then the stiones are raked out and carried into the lodge, piled in a stone ringed pit in the middle. After stripping naked, we all pile in, sitting on the benches that surround the pit and water is ladled onto the stines to create steam. This all descends from Native American Sweat Lodges with a healthy dose of gay spirituality and enough of guys getting together to have fun to keep it from being pretentious. Sometimes there is chanting, sometimes discussing matters of interest to the gay community, sometimes silent meditation, sometimes, ahem, a little fooling around. Or some combination of the above. We come out invartiably feeling mellow but refreshed. We shower and then head for dinner.

I'm working on the research for my fall and winter productions now. The first big one is COMPANY OF ANGLES, a play about a group of survivors from the Nazi camps who form a small theater company to perform in Yiddish for for other Jews still not resettled somewhere or waiting for word of relatives, friends, emigration, etc. It is a moving play. I'm reading a history of the Lodz Ghetto in Poland from which some of the characters in the play actually came.

Otherwise I am pretending to be cleaning out parts of the house. I say pretending because I am really no good at throwing things out until I get into a particular mood that is NOT compatible with heat and humidity. Tomorow, I go into the Music Library at MIT to get training on the library system's new computerized research program. I know how important all this isand I have increased my computer literacy majorly in the last couple of years but learning yet another new protocol just gets to be too much every now and then.

Friday, August 08, 2003

This is a new direction for me, journaling and doing it in public. I have wanted to write for a very long time and my fascination with reading the blogs of others, particularly of my fellow gay men, has led me to begin a blog of my own.

I live in Boston where I moved to study stage design in the early 1960s. I had grown up in New York City (72nd Street and Broadway at first, Rego Park in Queens later) and will probably always be a New Yorker at heart but I fell in love with Boston and stayed through grad school and then into a career designing for theater, opera and special events.

For the last 28 years I have had a base of operation in Music and Theater Arts at MIT where I am Technical Coordinator for Theater Arts, designing and teaching design, facilitating guest artists, scheduling and budgeting for productions.

I have two adopted daughters from Korea whom I raised as a single parent. One is
married and working in environmental policy in Colorado. The other lives in NYC and works in the human relations field. I have a magnificent partnerwho lives in southern New Hampshire. We've been together just over six years and since we are each established in our own careers and he manages his own business on his property, we're commuter lovers although close enough to be together a lot.

So, there it is: a highly varied, busy, sometimes chaotic but always rewarding life. Whether any of you will find it remotely interesting remains to be seen!

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