Thursday, October 30, 2003

A bit of real excitement for my guy and me--the eight man hot tub has been delivered, hooked up electrically, filled up, and is warming up. He may or may not be able to get into it tonight--the temperature of the water was only 55 degrees when we last spoke on the phone. The first time we get to use it together will be when I go up to his place on Saturday night. I'll spend some time Sunday working on a plan for a shelf to run around it on one side to hold drinks and munchies, as well as a stair unit to climb in.

So we'll have the Sweat Lodge and a hot tub when the guys come over. The first really big gathering will be a three day house party over New Year's. We have twenty five signed up already, ourselves included. Kitchen duty is on a rotating basis so that nobody gets stuck doing all the meals, and from among ourselves we are developing an offering of activities. There will be naked yoga, a movie night, a dance, a big fancy dress dinner on New Year's Eve by candlelight, an informal talent show, body shaving, and a game of Sardines throughout the main building of the Center.

Sardines is played by gathering everybody in one room and turning out all the lights throughout the building. One guy is chosen to be"It" and gets ten minutes to find the best hiding place he can manage. Then one at a time at one minute intervals, each man goes out to search for him. If he finds Mr. It, he has to get into the hiding place with him and everybody in the hiding place has to be as quiet as possible. Last time we did this, half of the boys found Mr. It, who had devised a superb way to disguise an open space so nobody would think anybody was there. The rest of us finally had to go from room to room turning on all the lights until we found them, right there in what would have been plain sight.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I should go to bed. It's just past midnight here in Boston. I'm a morning person, always awake around five to five thirty. But recently, I have become a night person as well and I am not sure how this has happened. Maybe it was when I began to explore the web a couple of years ago and started to find really fascinating things because I felt I should know a lot more about computers and cyberspace. Next thing I knew I had discovered web cammers and I became interested in the psychology of living life in public in front of a 24/7 video camera.

I don't follow too many webcams any more. So many have become pay sites or require paid web age verification IDs and I don't want to get into that. Somewhere along the way I found Blogs just about the time many of my favorite cams were shutting down and I dug further to find the gay blogging community.

There is a sweet young gayboy whose blog is called trabaca. He wrote today about the joys of having a steady boyfriend and how he is now having to introduce the guy to his friends, family, etc. In the process he is outing both of them to people who had no idea previously. I wrote him a little note of encouragement, complimenting him on how determined he is to be open and honest in his life, and telling him that the coming out process never ends. There is always someone you just met, someone who has to repair your crashed computer with the Jeff Palmer wallpaper you neglected to change before bringing it in, the new job where you have to start the whole process all over again.

I thought a lot before starting this blog because I realized that coming out on the web was on a scale way different from coming out to a small circle of family and loving friends.

I have found it wonderfully liberating.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I went down and to NYC and back yesterday to catch this season's revival of LA TRAVIATA at the Metropolitan Opera. I generally buy tickets for the standard core repertory sparingly since I have seen these operas so very many times. It takes an extraordinary star or ensemble cast or a brand new production to get me into the opera house for BOHEME, TOSCA, CARMEN etc. I save my ticket money for the out-of-the-way, for the premieres of new works and for operas I have managed not to see a lot for whatever reason.

Yesterday was different because Renee Fleming has taken on the central role and was being supported by the fresh-voiced, extremely gifted and astonishingly cute young tenor Rolando Villazon, and the hunky Dmitri Hvorostovsky whose gorgeopus baritone is at its zenith these days. Press on this production had been strong and all performances featuring Fleming are sold out. Virtually nothing else at the MET is selling out these days and some performances--very good ones with fine casts--have large blocks of empty seats.

There seem to be three or four reasons for this, all of which have managed to strike at about the same time. The economy is still sluggish and this fact is having a devastating effect on arts donorship as well as ticket sales. Secondly, our schools have for so long neglected or totally abandoned any presence for the arts--and in fact have in many cases taught the kids that European-desceded "high art" is an anti-democratic, "elitist" passtime--that we have raised a couple of generations that avoid theater, opera, etc. like the plague. The audience is aging and, as its members die, they are not being replaced by an equal number of youngsters growing up to the arts. Also, the new generation of gayboys is finding a kind of mainstream acceptance unknown to its older predecessors; they are far less inclined to find refuge in traditional gay safe gathering places, like an opera house, and far more liable to be out with the other boys, large numbers of them "metrosexual" or otherwise completely gay-friendly, skateboarding and playing sports.

There is a war between the modern school of stage direction and traditional opera lovers who can't stand post-modern productions. They are retreating into the past faster and faster via their extensive LP, tape, DVD and CD collections rather than pay for what are often stunning and revelatory theatrical experiences which they reject in nostalgia for the day when opera was just "voice, voice, voice." A corollary is the claim that there are no huge voices or exciting personalities on the stage any more. The shade of Nora Desmond can be heard spitting out in disgust, "You are still big because you remember the old days, it is opera that has gotten small!"

But there is one other cause that has been written about and that seems to be quite powerful--the suburbs are hesitant to come into the city and gather in vulnerable public buildings. It isn't an "afraid of inner city violence" thing any more but a heritage of 9/11. I have read several articles on this trend and many opera and theater companies are working hard to restore their links to the largely affluent suburban audience. It was not so long ago that what turned out to be an "urban legend" circulated: in a black humor mood, the stage managers of productions in Broadway theaters had started a pool on which of them would be the first to be hit by a suicide bomber in the audience. I have confirmed through contacts in Actors' Equity that it really isn't true, but the very fact that it began and spread indicates that the subject was out there and on people's minds.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

The Boston Herald is a tabloid and not the most literate of that rather limited species by any means. But it went to bat late last week with the rest of the city against the Wang Center, a conglomerate of performing venues under the umbrella of a not-for-profit. The actual building in question used to be called The Metropolitan Center and several other names before that, I'm sure. It's a huge old movie palace in high late Beaux-Arts Victorian Baroque style dating from around 1910. The grand lobby is a feast of marble and gilt bronze. The stage, as was typical for a movie palace that had a vaudeville-type show as a curtain raiser for the movie, used to be quite shallow with little off-stage space because comedy acts and the occasional girly show finale really didn't require much room. Then An Wang gave vast amounts to have an all new stage house constructed so that big shows, shows on a scale to fill a 4000 seat auditorium, could play there. The place was named for him, and the Boston Ballet, which had been struggling to do its productions on the old cramped stage for years, settled happily into residence in a first class facility. Fot thirty five years in one production or another, the Ballet has been presenting the city with one full month of Tchaikovsky's THE NUTCRACKER each year over the Christmas/New Year/Hannukah Holidays.

Until NEXT year. The Wang informed the Ballet they would not be welcome to do NUTCRACKER there after this December since the Wang "hoped" to get the touring arm of Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Show in the future. The Herald's headline, with a typical Herald pun, was "Are they NUTS???" The Ballet is a beloved fixture of Boston's cultural life and its current NUTCRACKER production is by all standards "the" NUTCRACKER to see in the U.S. They pulled out all the stops, even to having Clara and the Prince enter act two in a hot air balloon. That the Wang would throw the city's great holiday tradition out on the street seems incomprehensible to everyone, and the whole affair quickly turned into a well-deserved public relations catastrophe for the Wang management and board of directors.

The mayor even got into the act very quickly, announcing on TV that "The Wang isn't going to be the Scrooge of THIS city's Christmas." He is trying to negotiate performance space in either the old Hines Concention Center or the new major Convention Complex in South Boston that will host the Democratic National Presidential Convention this summer. The problem, of course, is that neither space is really set up as a theater--all of which points to another of the mayor's pet causes--Boston doesn't need a new Fenway Park or a sports megaplex, Boston needs a genuine performing arts center.

Well, God love the man (Tom Menino) because there are precious few advocates for the arts these days in this country. He is smart enough to know the incredibly valuable service the Ballet's annual NUTCRACKER run provides for the city's children. Thousands of kids, whose schools currently have no band or chorus or music classes because of budget cuts and neanderthal administrators, get exposed to a live orchestra playing Tchaikovsky for a first rate ballet company with superb production values in unamplified, unspliced, undigitized, unrecolored or manipulated live performance.

The NUTCRACKER even provided a full month's guaranteed rental income for the Wang management. All this they have rejected for the "hope" of getting the Rockettes and a living mock-up of the nativity scene. What they deserve is for the Radio City Show to go elsewhere and the place to go begging for a rental for the whole month.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

As an interesting postscript to my earlier post today, Boston talk radio tonight is just full of Irish Catholic topics, including a lot of newly discovered secret deals between the Kennedys and the Vatican. Boston is still very much THE Irish Catholic center in the U.S.

There were hearings all day today in the State House on the upcoming vote in the Massachusetts Legislature about the establishment of gay marriage in the Commonwealth. One cannot rely on the legendary liberality of Massachusetts on this one. The Catholic Church is, of course, mounting a major offensive (a word I use here in respect to both of its meanings) based on "protecting" marriage. They are speaking, I can only assume, in the desperate hope that they still retain some vestige of moral authority here in the epicenter of the priestly abuse cover-up scandal. To a great extent, the vote in the legislature may be an indicator of how much of its once massive political power the Church still wields.

How exactly gay marriage is supposed to harm heterosexual marriage I have no idea. Over 50% of first marriages in the US end in divorce, so I think the hets have pretty much torpedoed that institution all by themselves. And I predict that legalizing gay marriage would NOT result in a rush of gay men trying to seduce straight men into holy wedlock--there is enough anecdotal evidence and more than enough personal experience among my friends and me that large numbers of allegedly straight guys are knocking on our doors all by themselves. And we're certainly not going to be going after the women,
now are we?

A partnered lesbian state rep with a daughter spoke eloquently in defense of granting us our simple civil rights. We'll see what happens. No matter how passionately I feel on this issue, I understand fully that it is far from a done deal.

And that's ironic because my partner and I have discussed and tabled the idea of a committment ceremony or a Vermont gay wedding. Two of my dearest friends, lovely guys who have been together for years, took off and got one of the latter. There was a delightful reception back here for them and I felt incredibly good about what they have done. I think my guy and I just feel it is irrelevant to what we are and to where we are in our lives and love. I also have a strong feeling that gay marriage, both the ceremony and the day to day reality of the relationship, should not be some sort of imitation of what goes on among heterosexuals. I would have any ceremony grow directly out of gay culture, a concept that is just mind boggling in its possibilities. And fidelity would be a voluntary thing, a particular gift that some partners would give each other if it is right for them and that should not be imposed on others for whom it is not. I know many gay partnerships that have lasted for decades that have included other men in all kinds of configurations, and that , too is very much part of gay life.

The big point to be made, in the final analysis, whether gays and lesbians elect to take advantage of same sex marriage or not, is the necessity of granting the full civil rights of American citizenship to all--ALL--not just to those who mate in mixed genders.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Many Bloggers publish a list of 100 things about themselves. Here's mine.

1. I was born June 23, 1945.
2. I was born in New York City, Manhattan Island
3. I was born at 7:30 am.
4. I am an early riser.
5. My Western zodiac sign is Cancer.
6. In the Chinese zodiac I was born the year of the Cock (no comments,
7. I have always had a pretty wide rebellious streak in me..
8. I was baptized Catholic but have totally repudiated that religion and all its
9. I accepted that I was an atheist when I was in my mid 30s
10. I came out to myself at the same time.
11. I had my first complete sexual experience with another man very shortly
thereafter. It was a transforming experience.
12. I have no siblings but always wanted brothers.
13. My mother was an alcoholic for as long as I ever knew her.
14. My father was a highly decorated bombardier in the Army Air Corps in World
War II.
15. My paternal grandfather immigrated from Massa di Carrara, Italy and was a
marble sculptor.
16. My paternal grandmother immigrated from Paris, France. She was very
culturally French although from an Italian family.
17. My maternal grandparents both immigrated from Liverpool, England.
18. I am 5' 9" tall.
19. I chose a career in theatrical design very early in life and have never
regretted it.
20. I teach in the Music and Theater Arts Section of the Humanities Department
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
21. I am currently in my 29th year there.
22. I have the rank of Technical Instructor and the title Technical Coordinator for
Theater Arts.
23. I speak a fair amount of French and Italian in addition to English.
24. I was married for ten years.
25. My ex and I adopted two daughters from Korea.
26. She wanted a husband and family until she had them and then she had a
crisis and left.
27. My daughters elected to live with me, which I wanted very much and, young
as they were, the court listened to them.
28. I raised them as a single parent and that became the central, defining act of
my life.
29. I am a Myers-Briggs Type ENFJ.
30. I am an extremely strong J.
31. I am also a strong E.
32. When I was a child, I was almost pathologically shy.
33. I love books and read voraciously.
34. I find prejudice of any kind impossible to accept.
35. I co-direct a travel/study program to Europe most summers for advanced
high school juniors and seniors.
36. I have many tattoos, including a full back piece.
37. I design all my own tattoos. With a couple of intentional exceptions, all are
adapted from pre-Columbian art in black with red and brown accents.
38. I have piercings: a curved barbell in my left nipple and rings in both ears.
39. My back piece combines Leonardo’s Perfectly Proportioned Man with
the “What a piece of work is a man” speech from “Hamlet.” It was the
strongest and most positive statement I could make about all the wonderful
men in my life.
40. I spent seventeen years after accepting my own homosexuality in a large
number of sexual relationships of fairly short duration.
41. I met my dearly loved partner six years and four months ago. We are mated
for life.
42. My daughters are crazy about him and that is a joy for us both.
43. I became enthralled by opera at a very early age.
44. My first Broadway musical was the original cast of “The King and I.” My
parents took me out of school for a Wednesday matinee when I was seven.
It changed my life
45. My first Broadway play was Shaw’s “Major Barbara” when I was ten. A ten
year old at a Shaw play should have been a disaster. I was mesmerized.
46. I was just barely seventeen when I came to Boston to study set design at
Boston University.
47. I almost chucked that for History, a subject that fascinates me to this day.
48. I am currently writing a book on lighting in theater and opera before the
introduction of electric light.
49. I love to garden.
50. I adore giving dinner parties by candlelight for my friends.
51. I am a creature of email.
52. I wear briefs.
53. I love to sing but have a lousy voice.
54. Being gay gives me my strength and joy.
55. I am an accomplished scenic painter.
56. My guilty pleasure (well, one of them) is Hollywood Biblicals and other
historical epics.
57. I wear glasses as I am extremely myopic.
58. I like to go to nude beaches.
59. I love to travel anywhere in the world.
60. I took my daughters back to see Korea where they were born in 1985, and
then toured China with them.
61. My partner and I are the best of travelers together.
62. During our entire relationship he and I have never said an angry or unkind
word to each other.
63. I lead a very active life physically but was never any good at sports or
64. I am good with my hands and love making miniatures.
65. I have never been to South America or Antarctica but have been in all the
other continents.
66. I listen to classical music, opera, world music and really good jazz.
67. I cannot stand rap.
68. I am fascinated by Eminem and how he manages his career. Also I think
he's really hot.
69. I find intellect sexy in a man.
70. I am attracted to a wide variety of types of men with twinks being the major
71. I have never had an appendectomy.
72. I have had my wisdom teeth removed.
73. I have had a carpal tunnel operation on my right hand.
74. I have never smoked.
75. My only alcoholic drinks are wine and European-style beer.
76. Irises and Monks' Hoods are my favorite flowers.
77. I love to drive and always feel liberated behind the wheel.
78. I am bothered by all the incorrect English grammar being used in the media
these days.
79. I enjoy wearing unconventional or creative clothing.
80. I do embroidery for relaxation and sometimes make my own clothing.
81. I would like to be remembered for being a kind and generous man.
82. I get restless at the prospect of having nothing to do.
83. I am something of an exhibitionist.
84. I have some voyeuristic tendencies.
85. My computer is a PC by Dell.
86. I enjoy working and socializing with all people but am happiest in groups
of gay men.
87. I need very little sleep.
88. I can’t imagine living without at least one cat.
89. I opened my first savings account as a boy of 11 when a local bank was
giving them away to children with a $1.00 gift opening balance.
90. I generally do not eat red meat.
91. I eat large amounts of fruit and vegetables.
92. I had major prostate problems, two different prostate procedures and now
have no further problems.
93. I love having sex in the morning.
94. I try to keep from watching too much TV.
95. I have come to love baking my own bread.
96. I love my partner with all my heart.
97. I am currently working on a major Family Tree that now extends to eight
98. My love of country does not blind me to the mistakes that I fear are currently
being made in many matters.
99. I am fascinated by the accomplishments of non-Western cultures that I feel
have been suppressed in the writing of our History.
100. I cannot understand the mania for war as an alleged solution to the
problems in the world.

I am indebted to Duncan of the blog called welshcake for the format to the above list.

Friday, October 17, 2003

So, eveybody--well not EVERYbody, but lots and lots of bodies--here in Boston are in deep mourning today and treating the halting of the Red Sox march to the World Series (actually, the United States Series when you come to think of it) last night as some kind of disgrace. I guess I show my ignorance, but as I see it, they got into extra innings in the last game of the last playoff before being eliminated for the Series itself, which means that they are #2 in the entire American League. I think that's impressive. I offer my appreciation on what is clearly a successful season. But in our current culture, if you don't win it all, you are a "loser," a "goat" or a "failure." You suck. It is what I call "Vince Lombardyism," the mania for winning as the ONLY thing and not looking at the process and valid accomplishments of actually playing the game day in and day out in a superior fashion. I think such people deny themselves a lot of life's pleasures and I feel sorry for them. Congratulations to Pedro, Manny, Nomar, Kevin, Trot, Grady, Jason, Tim (a REAL team player, a true sportsman and my favorite Red Sock), Derek and all the Red Sox players and organization for a fine showing this year.

As it happened, I was not watching TV last night, but I was in Boston's Symphony Hall for a tremendous performance of Debussy's opera PELLEAS ET MELISANDE that was presented in concert. After that was over a good buddy of mine and I went out for a drink where we watched the 9th and part of the 10th innings peripherally on the bar's TV. Fortunately, there was no violence or vandalism last night over the loss, whereas there had been a lot of both when the Red Sox won a game in the earlier, five game regional playoff. I never understood that--win a game and run riot in the streets, looting people's businesses and overturning people's cars. I wonder sometimes at what kind of a society we have created here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Every now and again I think a bit on the passing of time in my family. Right now I am in the second oldest generation but only by a very little bit. The only surviving member of the oldest generation is a remarkable 93 year old woman who looks as fragile as a little bird but who can knock back a couple of Black Russians with the best of them and who recently came through a fall without any fractures but a couple of compressed vertebrae that healed in a surprisingly quick time. She is much beloved by all, including my daughters, and will probably--hopefully--go on for some time longer.

The men in the family (this includes both my father's and my mother's side) don't generally last past 71 if they get even that far. It is hard, however to say if they were felled by genetics or by the physical self abuse that was rampant, particularly on my mother's side. Alcoholism and heavy smoking combined with terrible diet were everywhere. It is sad to contemplate the wastage of human life and talent. My mother dropped at age 52, a terminal alcoholic and she was not atypical. They all signed on one after another, acting as each other's enablers and putting up impenetrable defences against getting any kind of help. A rebel against many areas of my family's dearest beliefs, I realized at a very young age that to survive, I had to repudiate all of what they stood for and how they lived.

I suffered and in some ways still suffer feelings of disloyalty to those closest to me but there really was no other way. My own generation, almost across the board, pulled the plug on the dominant lifestyle and enjoys far better health, physically and psychologically, than any of their elders. Except, of course, for the 93 year old who came into the family by way of her daughter who married a cousin of mine. She came in from a whole different tradition and had far better life habits, those Black Russians notwithstanding.

Monday, October 13, 2003

The color in the trees was at about 80% of peak at my partner's place in southern New Hampshire this weekend--and it is a good year, just as I had thought it might be. The Chinese Reds are really spectacular and there is a lot of vibrant orange as well. To top it off, all the blueberries and sumacs are a deep burgundy. Add the cloudless brilliant sun and the effect was breathtaking. It might be slightly past peak next weekend but there will be a lot of color left for us as we host a Body Electric School weekend. We will have, at last count, 22 gay men to cook for--perhaps one or two more as the week progresses. We both love these weekends as we believe wholeheartedly in the work Body Electric does. And we meet the nicest guys, many of whom have chosen to keep the Body Electric philosophy alive in their daily lives via activities at the my partner's Center. And anything we do together turns out to be full of laughter and love.

This weekend we had, among other guests, a lovely gay man who has adopted two boys from Ukraine. The four year old has a hearing disorder but is learning how to deal with it. He is an extremely smart boy, full of fun and energy and already drop-dead handsome with a killer smile. The two year old is a classic Slavic type with a thatch of golden hair, big eyes topped with amazing strawberry blonde eyebrows, and plump cheeks. He is "mister personality." The father and I got along very well as I raised two adopted daughters on my own, so we had lots to talk about. I was shocked to discover that he started something like a dozen years later in his live than I did. My first daughter came over from Korea when I was 29 and her sister when I was 31. But this guy, who looks to be a boyish 30 is actually already 45. With these two little dynamos on his hands, he'll need every bit of energy he can muster because he'll be in his mid to late 50s as they enter their teens.

Anyway, we had some good talks and as he was leaving we sought each other out for a long hug, some final words of encouragement and a sweet "good bye and good luck" kiss. He knows what's ahead but wouldn't change a bit of it for all the world. I remember what it was like and, even knowing it all, I wouldn't have changed a bit of it for all the world, either. God love him.

Friday, October 10, 2003

If there is anyone out there who reads me on a regular basis, apologies for the silence of this week. The big exhibit I designed for the Lesbian/Bi/Gay/Trans group here at MIT (essentially a portable art gallery) opened yesterday and turned out to be a huge success. It was set up in the lobby directly under the Great Dome of the Institute along the "Infinite Corridor," the major pedestrian thoroughfare at MIT. It drew lots of people and was THE way to place gay life before the community. But this week leading up to the opening has been filled with days ending at 9PM and/or beginning at 6:30AM.

Top it off with the sudden collapse of my one year old Dell computer at home, depriving me of the late evening hours to catch up on my fellow bloggers and to write a bit myself.

Anyway, I am off to my partner's place for the Columbus Day weekend and wish all of you from the U.S. a lovely holiday.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Word arrived via CBS radio today that Tony Blair can apparently be proven to have informed some members of his government that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction in operating condition--two weeks BEFORE George Bush began the Iraq War. Duncan on his welshcake blog confirms this and speculates on dire consequences for Blair's political future.

I would imagine that George Bush's future could be thrown into deep doubt given his extremely close association with Blair. This in the face of an investigation about a very dirty little business in which an extremely high White House official purposely leaked the name of a woman who was an under cover CIA agent as punishment to her husband, an ambassador, who disagreed in public with the president. Disclosing the identity of secret agents can be a death sentence for them and for the various sources they control. It is a major breach of acceptable conduct besides being a federal crime. With any luck all this and the decline of belief in Mr. Bush's ability to manage the economy and the Iraq reconstruction project will manage to get him out of office after only one term and before he has had a chance to bankrupt the country completely.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Barbara Cook sang a highly acclaimed performance of her "Mostly
Sondheim" program at Symphony Hall not so very long ago in
superb voice. She returned to the Hall last night in company with
Marilyn Horne for a tumultuously received program "from the
American Songbook." Cook admits to 74 in her program bio
and Horne to turning 70 this coming January.

The first half of the evening was not an unalloyed delight even with
its many highlights. Cook sounded reduced in tone, air leaking
audibly around all the notes in her middle and wisp of a top. The
bell-like purity of voice for which she is famed was in short supply,
however, the complete mastery of phrasing and word painting never
failed. She shaped "It might as well be spring," "I'm beginning to
see the light," and "This nearly was mine" from SOUTH PACIFIC
gorgeously. Marilyn had sung the first set after a raucous playing
of the overture to GYPSY. The great mezzo still has that rock
solid pipe organ of a chest voice but a rusty patch in the middle
caused some trouble as she ascended into the upper middle and
lightly touched top. She sang a nice, not completely settled "In
the still of the night" to open, did even better with a jaunty
"Bewitched, bothered and bewildered" that had an interesting
and thoroughly appropriate hint of ruefulness, sounded unsettled
again in "Over the rainbow" but brought her set to a rousing
close with "Ding Dong! The witch is dead." Pulling out all the
stops, including a loopy cadenza poking fun at her old coloratura
specialty, she gave the first real hint of what this evening could be.
The ladies ended the first part with Joe Raposo's "Sing" very
nicely indeed.

It didn't take long to become thoroughly sick of the souped
up, overloud orchestral accompaniment. Forty two musicians
were involved, many of them including the acoustic guitar, the
piano and even the marimba rendered completely inaudible by the
three French Horns, three Trumpets (placed right against the back
wall of the stage and braying unbearably all night), three trombones
and four Saxophones, let alone the drums. One wanted so much to
focus on Horne and Cook but got showy saxophone glissandos
and trombone blasts instead. Microphones or no microphones in
the stars' hands, it was all just too loud.

But part two started well and got progressively better. The saxophones
were gone and a couple of numbers were accompanied only by piano
with Wally Harper proving to be a far more subtle and supportive
accompanist on it then he was with the orchestra. Best of all, the
ladies were loosened up and warmed up. Barbara Cook led
off this half with a big and confident rendering of "On a clear day you
can see forever." The top and middle were beginning to emerge from
the fog. Turning to Sondheim, she did a lovely job with "You could
drive a person crazy" from COMPANY and then combined "He was
too good to me" by Rodgers and Hart and "Losing my mind" from
FOLLIES into a mini psychodrama of bitterness, pain and loss. Voice
was pouring from her at this point in the evening and the ovation was

Marilyn Horne then began her second set with a powerful rendition of
"Georgia on my mind" followed by a delicate "Beauty and the beast"
and then let loose to turn "Bridge over troubled water" into a joyous
contralto anthem. All parts of the voice were working just fine by
this time. Cook joined her for a lively, swingy "Blue skies."
Horne took the first encore, "Look for the silver lining." Cook then
followed with "No tears, no fears," her trademark encore without a
microphone during which her voice sounded at its best of the evening.
Then the two singers ended the night with a comic duet that may
or may not be called "That's wonderful!" A) the line keeps repeating
so that is what I took away with me and,B) it accurately describes
both of them, their obvious love of what they do and enjoyment at
doing it with each other. For the fashion conscious, it was an
evening about caftans, drapy evening coats and lots and lots of
sequins. Both women, Horne in particular, alternated numbers with
relaxed, sometimes earthy and always funny stories about their lives,
the songs--and each other.

JUST BETWEEN FRIENDS: Selections from the American Songbook"
is the title of the program and, despite my misgivings about some of it,
do not hesitate to get tickets if it comes to a hall near you and you're
a fan of one, the other or both of these remarkable singers. But
if ONLY Wally Harper could be persuaded to drop half of the orchestra,
weeding out the heavy brass in particular, these great ladies would
have the kind of setting they deserve instead of a competitor they
have to withstand.

Friday, October 03, 2003

I had been going to make a couple of observations on the California recall election, but then I remembered that I come from Massachusetts--specifically Boston--home of some of the most bizarre and incomprehensible politics in the nation. I am put in mind of the old saying about glass houses and stone throwing.

How bizarre and incomprehensible is it? Well when I came here to study at age 17 in the 60s, this state elected its governor and lieutenant governor in separate campaigns and elections so it could and did happen that you would have a Democrat in the top seat and a Republican standing by or vice versa. Then there was the city councillor of a community just south of the city who ran for re-election from his jail cell where he had been imprisoned for embezzling the funds of his constituants--and won. Then there is the old tactic when it gets down to the final days of a close race of attacking a candidate on the grounds that he or she isn't really a good Catholic.

The way this is done is to distribute a comic book-style broadside giving statistics
on how many times the candidate has actually attended mass on Sunday, generally accompanied by a statement from a parish priest to the effect that, "She is a member of the parish, perhaps, if you look at her address but I certainly don't remember her coming to confession in the last several years . . " I have experienced this kind of thing with both Edwina "Winky" Clougherty who was running for Boston City Council, and Senator Ted Kennedy. "Winky" who was never referred to by any other name during the election by her opponent, is the one whose poor attendance record and failure to confess whatever she may have been guilty of was attacked in "her" comic book. Despite a walking campaign through the district to set the electorate straight on her record, she was slaughtered in the election. Remember always that Boston was the epicenter in the U.S. of the Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries and many of our neighborhoods remain predominantly Irish and Catholic to this day.

Ted Kennedy was the object of a 20 page "exposé" of his various faults--most of which are fully public knowledge--capped by the section that began, "So, in the final analysis, it comes down to whether or not he can be considered a good and sincere Catholic." The illustration showed Ted looking clueless with a Bishop in full ecclesiastical drag observing him through a magnifying glass and saying "Hmmmmmmmm."

So I really shouldn't comment on what's going on in California except to say that maybe the two coasts aren't so different as we have been led to believe.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I am going through an unaccustomed orgy of TV viewing, something that happens every season as the new shows premiere. I see if there's anything worth watching, catch any legendary disasters before they disappear forever, and decide on one or two shows that I might want to follow.

Last night "It's All Relative" premiered, a sitcom about two kids who want to marry but come from different backgrounds that may get in their way and that certainly should provide some decent comic opportunities if the writers are alive and alert. The show is set in Boston and features an Irish working class family with a son who wants to marry an upper middle class girl with two adoptive gay fathers. The possibilities for cultural and generational complications are everywhere. The sharp-eyed--with long memories or some history of the theater behind them-- will have already have seen this show as another take on "Abie's Irish Rose," an old Broadway standard from the era of the great Irish and Jewish immigration to the U.S. "Bridget Loves Bernie" from a couple of decades or so ago was another TV manifestation. At the moment the four parents are the most interesting part of the mix. The kids are bland and apologetic and that will need to change.

William Benjamin Hickey, playing one of the two gay dads, is hardly a household name but as a member of the original cast of Terrence McNally's "Love, Valor, Compassion" who went on to be cast in the movie, he's the best known actor
here. The rest are fresh, energetic, and already secure in their basic characters. Whether the writing will deepen to explore the emotional underpinnings of the cliche lines that were tossed around last night remains to be seen. I believe this cast is up to the job because they tossed those lines out as if they were freshly minted, unlike the dire crew on the very poor "Coupling." Episode one ended with the Irish couple talking the situation over in bed with the lights off. If the producers, writers and director have the guts to put the gay guys in the same situation this show will have a chance, because they will probably also have the smarts to do a lot of other things right as well.

I can hear people saying, "What? ANOTHER gay-themed sitcom?" Yeah--we're trendy now--and the unspeakable Rush Limbaugh has been thrown off TV as well. Who would have thought? I'm having a very nice time.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The first of October, the beginning of my favorite month of the year. The day began as I flipped the page of my Jeff Palmer calendar, the sinewy and well furred torso of Mr. September giving way to the sculpted golden beauty of hunky Mr. October. Life is good.

As I live in New England, October means the turning of the leaves. This year the rain and temperature combination should lead to spectacular color. Already the "trash trees," swamp maples and any trees that are on their last legs, have
gone through their prolog to the big show. The Columbus Day weekend should be immense for the sugar maples that are the stars of the forest for their brilliant oranges, chinese reds and buttery yellows that seem as if lit from within.

My partner and I have a couple of rituals we love. One comes from way back in his grammar school days. One of his teachers used to teach her students a poem each year at this time about "October's bright blue weather." This Sunday morning we'll wake up, throw on whatever is close to hand and go out among the fruit trees and berry bushes. He'll recite the poem and we'll hold hands and
laugh, hug and kiss and then go in to breakfast. He'll ask if I want eggs or pancakes and on this morning of all mornings of the year I'll say pancakes because I know he will overfill them with blueberries that we picked and froze in August. And since it is the first Sunday of the month there will be Quaker Meeting in mid-morning. We'll sit silently next to each other for an hour in an exquisitely simple early Federal Period meeting house under the white pines, sunlight pouring in through tall slender windows, the scent of hardwood smoke in the air from the wood stove. October is the quintessential New England month, something so beautiful that it staggers the imagination.

We share it as we share everything, he and I. He loves me as nobody ever has and sometimes the reality of that is just overwhelming. He has only to put his arms around me and anything that hurts or frightens melts into insignificance.
How incredible is the love between men.

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