Saturday, January 29, 2005

I hadn't meant to be three days away from the blog but with our production of THE INTERNATIONALIST moving into the time-eating tech and dress rehearsal phase, with everything else on my plate at work, and with a severe need to escape for at least an over-night with Fritz before all my time has to be spent in a dark theater watching light cues happen, there just wasn't time.

I 'm home this morning getting prepared for it all--laundry's in the dryer and bread's baking. Until next Friday, I'll be home just to feed the cat, sleep, feed the cat again (priorities! priorities!) and head back to work. Just to make it all the more complicated, the new term starts Monday, and I teach two classes this spring.

So I got out of town on Thursday afternoon and headed up to Fritz's. He has within him the amazing quality to wrap me in his arms and somehow all my tensions, all the frustrations, upsets, disappointments of of life just fade away. Gone. I don't know how he does it but I noticed very early in our relationship that he's a healer. (Now, if he could just make this damn lung congestion go away!) We spent the evening watching the sweet little Australian gay romance "The Sum of Us" with the very young Russell Crowe.

Oh, and thanks to those of you who wished me better health. I'm working on it.

Tuesday night I met with the gay book group guys, hosted in a penthouse condo with stunning views of the Zakim Bridge, the graceful new symbol of Boston. The book was the current international hit, "The Line of Beauty" by Alan Hollinghurst, the first gay-themed book, apparently, to win the top prize for fiction in England. I'm very grateful to these guys because they've got me reading good current fiction--left to my own devices I'd happily spend all my time with biography and history.

Hollinghurst (known for "The Swimming Pool Library") writes of the 1980s in England, the Thatcher years and the beginning of the AIDS crisis. His prose is extremely elegant but never artificial, he has a wicked sense of humor and sends up all the pretensions and out of control self-aggrandisement of the Thatcher years (read the Reagan years here) while charting the journey of a familiar British literary type, the boy from a middle-class background who gets attached by luck (and some careful pandering on his part) to an upper class family very close to the highest levels of government and society. Nick's sexual rise from personal ads to becoming the kept lover of one of the most beautiful, exotic, wealthy and "happening" boys in London climaxes at a 25th anniversary party where he dances with Thatcher herself. It then rather quickly descends to public revelations and exile from the family while his lover, dying from AIDS, goes off probably never to be seen again.

For all the seriousness of the theme, the book is actually a rolicking comedy much of the time and, as Nick is a survivor, the ending is a possible door opening to new things rather than simply slamming shut in despair. Hollinghurst writes in the Henry James tradition and once you get into his style, it quickly becomes a page-turner.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

We're getting back to something a little like normal very slowly here in Boston. In my neighborhood, we work for hours to shovel our driveways and sidewalks, and then the plows come and shove huge mounds of snow right at our houses, obliterating all our work. I have shoveled the mouth of my driveway four different times now and the stuff is increasingly heavier and more dense wach time. I've given up on my sidewalk--a wall of snow almost five feet high and four feet deep surrounds my property.

This damned chest cold won't leave me. It's taking a lot of the joy out of the glorious clear and bright winter days that have followed the storm. And it's making my work at MIT which is very physical right now, painting a huge metallic floor for the current production, extremely tiring. The really bad news is that we're expecting another four to eight inches more snow tomorrow.

I've put a couple of differnt news items together into an interesting story. The first is that rabid right wing Republican Senators and Representatives are talking about defying Bush on the anti-Gay Marriage amendment. Bush has apparently decided not to push for it any more as he realizes that there are nowhere near enough votes despite Republican gains in both Houses during the last election. However dumb he may be, he's politically smart enough to realize that a big loss on this issue would look really bad for the Republicans right now. The other story concerns a coalition of radical Fundamentalist Christian Churches that are warning Bush they won't support his proposed Social Security reforms if he doesn't make an all-out national crusade for the amendment. There are other little signs of fissures developing in the Republican Party as well. I'm all for this but wonder if the Democrats can get their act together sufficiently to take proper advantage of any splits the Republicans may suffer.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Saturday night: There’s a story circulating among some classical music and opera blogs that the Metropolitan Opera has encountered difficulties in holding Singles Night at the Opera events that have been big money-makers and audience-builders at other opera houses worldwide. It seems that only single women were signing up--in healthy numbers. But virtually no men have bought tickets. New York City’s single male opera lovers, while interested in dating, are not interested in dating women. (Well, DUH!) It gets me wondering if the MET would have the daring to offer a Single Men’s Date Night at the Opera. I can guarantee they’d be swamped with applications (I know who’s sitting around me when I go to performances there!) and it would also help take some of the lunatic Fundamentalist heat off Spongebob. I think it’s a win-win situation.

The snow began a bit later than the predictions—about 4:00pm—but made up for it by roaring in with winds that at 11:00pm are 40 miles per hour and driving the snow horizontally. Eight inches have fallen so far and we have twelve hours of this yet to go. South of the city, the hurricane warning flags are flying along the coast. There’s a State of Emergency for eastern Massachusetts and the National Guard has been mobilized. It’s beginning to look like 1978 all over again.

I had a ticket to the Sean Curran Dance Company tonight and, as my cold lightened up during the afternoon, I mentioned to Fritz when I called that I was planning on going. I said that instead of driving all the way in to Boston, I would just drive to the Forest Hills Station at the end of the Orange Line and go up via the T. There was a split second of hesitation on the other end of the line which I knew meant he thought this was all lunacy. When he did speak he asked if this was really a good idea. One of the (many) wonderful things about my beloved is the way he can express caring and protectiveness without becoming controlling or suffocating. So, I went out, got there and back again safely, although on the way home, the two and a half miles between the station and my house was treacherous driving—the Jeep’s 4-wheel drive was essential.

Sunday morning: The wind is still howling and we officially have 20 inches of snow on the ground with many more hours of this to come. The plows have obviously been concentrated on the major roads. The two roads that form the corner on which I live have obviously not been touched since nine or ten o’clock last night. This is the same situation that closed Boston down for a whole week in the Blizzard of ’78 and I’m worried about something similar now.

I’m glad I made the effort to get to the Sean Curran Dance performance last night. I can’t say I know him but I did meet him at my house one night nine or ten years ago. I’d invited a couple of guys down for dinner and they called to say they’d met this young choreographer/dancer and could they bring him along. I said yes and he turned out to be a real charmer (although his current publicity headshot features a proper "edgy contemporary artist" scowl). In a way, he’s Billy Eliot—a Boston Irish boy who began with step dancing, made it into the Bill Jones/Arnie T. Zane company, and did some time in the dance production STOMP. I had seen his work most recently choreographing dances in two operas for the New York City Opera. He’s had his own company for either seven or ten years, depending on which press release you read.

Given a working class background, Celtic dance and STOMP, the work I saw last night was surprisingly lyrical and elegant. There is no tension in the bodies of his dancers, unlike the Bob Fosse dancer who’s a coiled spring or the Twyla Tharp dancer who can be very uptight one moment and a rag doll the next. Curran strikes me as the George Balanchine of modern dance. He likes his male dancers hunky and muscular but effortlessly graceful. His women are willowy without being starved to death and have a serenity about them that’s radiant. The dances were set to music by the Moravian composer Leos Janacek, (“Sonata: We Are What We Were”); Young Marble Giants, Radiohead, Solex and Jesse Manno (“Companion Dances”); Meredith Monk (“St. Petersburg Waltz,” a solo for Curran); and Ricky Ian Gordon (“Art/Song/Dance”). The Gordon songs had texts by Gordon himself as well as by Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, James Agee, Dorothy Parker, W.S. Merwin and Tina Landau. When there’s sex in a Curran dance, it’s as likely to be between a male couple or a female couple as a straight couple, and there’s a lot of wit along with a beautiful discipline of pattern and line. I’m going to be seeking out his company’s performances particularly in future.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I’m “never” sick but yesterday morning I woke up with a big chest cold. I got through the day and even pushed myself a bit. I was supposed to be painting part of the current production today and didn’t want to have to come in. I did what I normally do with a cold, and went to bed early with a stiff hot whiskey and lemonade under my belt (there’s always a medicinal bottle of Jack Daniels in the house for these occasions). I slept for ten hours—almost double my normal night’s sleep—but this morning I’m no better, and it’s moved into my head as well.

It’s 2 degrees below zero in Boston this morning with the big mid-western snow storm on the way. The prediction tonight is 2 to 4 inches of snow an hour driven by gusts up to 65 miles an hour. Fritz thinks I shouldn’t even try to go to the modern dance concert I have a ticket for tonight or perhaps even come up to the monthly Sweat Lodge at his place tomorrow. We’ll see, but right now all I want to do is sleep.

Jake was kind enough the other day to share a favorite bran muffin recipe on his blog NoFo, and as I love the things (I bake a lot, including all my own bread) I bought everything his recipe called for, some of which are not your typical bran muffin ingredients. He promised they’d be really great and that’s exactly how they turned out. All Bran and Bran Buds cereals are the heart of the recipe along with the usual flour, sugar, butter and baking soda. The liquids are boiling water (to turn the All Bran into a soft mash) and buttermilk.

I made a couple of changes and additions as I always do to any recipe—not always the same changes and additions every time, either. Because I love the taste of it in breakfast breads, I substituted light brown sugar for one third of the regular sugar and whole wheat flour for a quarter of the (unbleached) white flour. I like fruit in bran muffins so, while it wasn’t called for in this recipe, I added about half a cup of chopped Turkish dried apricots. The muffins baked up moist and light with a rich flavor and nice texture. The recipe yields two and a half dozen in the size muffin tins I have. For the recipe, go to NoFo (link at right) and scroll back a couple of days.

We are--or were--under warning of a possible terrorist dirty bomb attack here in Boston. The threat is being dealt with in a very good way so far, no panic, serious investigation, but we’re also being told that the tip given to the FBI is typical of hundreds of others that come in all the time and that so far there is no corroboration. I COULD be cynical and wonder if this announcement being made the day before the second Inauguration isn’t another “wave of the bloody shirt” at a time when the majority of Americans feel the war is going badly and shouldn’t have been started in the first place. But I won’t—I’ll just mention the fact.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Boston is famous for many things and just as deservedly infamous for its driving. I believe we still have the highest insurance rates in the country, used to have the highest auto theft rate in the neighboring town of Somerville, and insurance companies are actually competing with each other to NOT write auto insurance policies in Massachusetts. During my two years running theater design for Middlebury College in Vermont, the sight of somebody behaving very badly behind the wheel was invariably followed by the comment, "Must be from Boston."

Among the major problems, running red lights is a daily occurrence all over the area, a kind of blood sport--literally. I don't mean speeding up a little to get into the intersection right at the end of the yellow light, I mean driving right through the red if the driver feels like it. Passing on the right, failure to signal, cutting people off, habitual speeding, tailgating (I have been rear-ended--NOT in the good way, guys--more often than I care to tell), all manner of aggressive driving tactics (I once saw a driver charge out of his car with bared teeth and brandishing a tire changing wrench because the diver behind him had simply honked)--sights like this are daily fare on Boston roads. And we pay for it dearly when the insurance bills come in.

Our traffic jams are also legendary and much of this comes because Bostonians habitually clog the intersection just before the light turns red so they can go again as soon as the cars in front of them begin to move--IF they begin to move. The attitude is, damn those people who have the green light on the cross street, and yes I DO own the road, thank you very much. The result, of course, is gridlock, sometimes of massive proportions. New York City solved this problem quickly and effectively several years ago. Intersections were marked off by painting white lines in the shape of a box, sometimes with stripes inside the box for further visibility. Signs appeared everywhere with the legend "Don't block the box" and stiff fines for box blockers were strictly enforced. The result is that gridlock declined dramatically in New York and I wonder that nobody seems to have thought of doing the same thing here.

Rotaries are another problem. Although some have been eliminated on roads into Boston that have become major commuter routes, there are still many more out there. Now here is where Boston itself is partly at fault by "training" its drivers to become aggressive brutes behind the wheel. A decade or so ago, the Department of Motor Vehicles decided to change the rules of the road. They declared that from then on, cars ENTERING the rotary had the right of way. It was a bad decision that was not terribly well pubilcized, and the result in the rotaries was absolute chaos. Huge numbers of cars wound up unable to exit as steady streams of cars entered uninterruptedly. So, they changed their minds within a year and said that from then on the cars IN the rotary had the right of way. This was even less well publicized than the previous change and it took a good two to three years for traffic to get properly organized again.

Because Boston grew from a late Medieval-style English colonial village, only the Back Bay that was built on filled land in the middle of the 19th century is in any way consistently laid out on a grid pattern. Therefore we are full of "Squares" like Copley, Harvard, Kenmore Square, etc. where as many as five or six major roads converge depending on where the cows walked to pasture or the carts moved from the farms into market in the distant past. Until some time in the late 60s, most of these squares had no traffic control whatsoever. You had lights or stop signs in the streets coming into the Square but once you were there, it was Every Man for Himself.

In 1970 I was traveling for an entire summer in Europe and heard of a place where it was supposed to be even worse than Boston--Brussels. For a long while, Belgians were not required to have drivers' licenses or be tested in any way. The major international guidebooks warned Americans to consider not driving in Belgium, Brussels especially--the carnage to people and vehicles was reputedly enormous. In Boston, it still is.

Last night was one of my very occasional television nights to see what if anything is worth watching. I found the same kind of sharp style and satiric punch on Mad TV that the original Saturday Night Live used to have back when they had real writers and talented, totally off the wall performers. Reno 911 has become a huge favorite of Fritz's and mine for its total lunacy. Last night I decided to look at Queer Eye for the Straight Girl for the very first time. Whatever you might think of the original, this is a paler imitation . . . BUT then there's Danny. Danny the Brit. Buttons got pushed (and I don't mean on the remote), chains got yanked--what a hot, cute guy. I'll probably watch again just for Danny, and I'm planning NOT to hate myself in the morning.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I've lived in Boston long enough to know that the very worst of winter cold is almost always in the third week of January. And this year it's happened like clockwork--third week in January and some below zero temperatures are predicted or will at least be approached very closely.

I have a bit more to worry about than some people because I live in a pre-Civil War era house that didn't have indoor plumbing when it was built. To modernize it somewhere in the 1880s or 90s, a small extension was built on to hold a kitchen scullery on the first floor and a bathroom--a very SMALL bathroom--off the stair landing three steps below the second floor. Since three sides of this extension are exterior walls, and all the plumbing is in them, I always worry about frozen pipes at this time of year. So far the worst that's happened is that the drain line out of the washing machine has frozen when I don't remember to run hot water through the it at least every morning and every night.

Fritz and I are making plans for our summer travel this year and I have an extra trip--a week away in April to Chicago. I'm going to the Chicago Opera's performance of Wagner's RING OF THE NIBELUNG. It takes four nights to perform, an epic retelling (in light of the Industrial Revolution and rise of rampant capitalism during the time of its composition) of the ancient creation and end of the world myths of the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples. Fritz won't be with me for this one since he's NOT an opera man although splendidly indulgent of my addictions in that regard.

For the big trip we're planning almost a week with our friends in Denmark followed by a river boat cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, where we'll have several days seeing his neice, nephew-in-law and their baby who'll probably be toddling by then. We'll both end the summer in Seattle: more friends and yet another RING performance for me. This one wasn't planned--I had just gotten tickets to Chicago when I got a call from the Seattle Opera saying I had won a lottery for tickets there. I've not won much of anything in my life and this came as a complete surprise and of course I said I'd take them. He still loves me, though, he really does!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Fritz and I spent the middle of Saturday in downtown Boston where the shopping district along Washington Street merges into Chinatown. We took an architectural tour of The Opera House that has recently been renovated and restored for $38 million, a fraction of the cost to build a new 2600 seat theater suited to large-scale musicals and operas.

The house was built in 1928 by Edward W. Albee (a relative of the contemporary playwright Edward Albee) as a memorial to his late business partner B.F. Keith with whom he had assembled the biggest Vaudeville empire of any producers in the U.S. The idea was to create a palace-like atmosphere (various parts of the building are modeled after Versailles and other French and English royal residences) that the "common man" could enjoy for a pittance. Performances and activities went on 24 hours a day, including rooms for billiards, an arcade connecting the theater to blocks of Boston's shopping district, bars and food counters, and a discretely placed passage leading from the Men's Smoking Lounge to a next-door brothel.

The theater opened about a year before the stock market crash of 1929 but, more importantly, just as the movies were beginning to "talk" with movie musicals not far behind. Vaudeville faded and died. The Keith became a movie theater with large parts of the building left unmaintained. In the 1980s the eccentric and colorful Sarah Caldwell produced several seasons by her Opera Company of Boston there and the name "Opera House" came into being and has stuck ever since. I remember attending a great many performances where there weren't enough working light fixtures in the Bolcony to read a program by, and when you went to the only working men's room in the basement, you were slogging through a half inch of standing water.

Caldwell's company folded in clouds of red ink, bad management and IRS investigations of Sarah herself. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to book touring companies into the rapidly crumbling theater, it was boarded up and left to rot. From exile in Siberia (literally--she was running the opera company in Ekaterinberg, Russia) Sarah tried to raise money to renovate the building but nothing came of it--her credibility in Boston was finished.

It took a Texas-based communications conglomerate to convince the city to let them renovate the Opera House and, most importantly, to get the city to give them the street behind the theater to expand the very shallow vaudeville stage into something adequate for modern opera, musical and ballet productions. Everything behind the prosceneum arch was demolished and a brand new stage house built, much deeper than before. The restoration work is extremely impressive, particularly the detail and care taken with the ornamental plaster work. To replicate the 1928 red brocade wall coverings, special wider than normal looms had to be constructed becaus modern looms are too narrow to produce the size of the repeat pattern in the original. The building now looks absolutely magnificent.

A not for profit company called Broadway in Boston manages the space and books the attractions for the Texas-based owners. They did an extremely smart thing by opening with the national tour company of THE LION KING, making vast amounts of money, getting great publicity and media visibility in the process.

After the tour, we shopped a bit and had a Korean lunch in Chinatown before driving up to Fritz's for the rest of the weekend. I drove back to Boston today in the beginnings of yet another major snow storm. Tomorrow isn't a holiday for me but a regular work day at MIT with just one week remaining before our current production moves onto the stage. Theater never sleeps!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Boston did not smile this morning. There was a heavy cloud cover and we were under some kind of temperature inversion. Warm, moist air was being held down against a couple of storms' worth of ice and crusted snow. The result was a thick fog. I've actually always loved fog, particularly for the way it flattens houses, walls and trees into receding layers, separating them shadowlessly in a mass of luminous cloud.

A couple of summers ago, Fritz and I were traveling across Scandinavia on our way to joining friends on the west coast of Denmark. Due to a train scheduling problem, the Danish railway put us into a Mercedes Benz taxi and a delightful young man drove us for several hours across half the country. The Danes know a lot about fog and our driver told us that the Danish word for fog translates as "sea dust."

I've always thought of fog as being very Japanese. It's not just because Japan is a grouping of islands and must have a fair amount of ocean mist, but because I fell in love very early with ukyio-e, the traditional wood block prints of Japan. Depicting weather of various kinds delighted a lot of the famed print artists who worked through the challenge of depicting translucent conditions like rain, ice and fog in graphic line and by shading colors together on the flat wood block surfaces to suggest indefinate distance.

Our yo-yo weather continues. The high temperature for the day is predicted for midnight tonight--at or near 60 degrees. Then tomorrow the temperature will plunge again and we'll have more snow or freezing rain. There's a reason this place is called New ENGLAND.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Here is a slightly edited review of a new gay-themed opera that I posted to an internet opera chat group:

Intermezzo: The New England Chamber Opera Series is dedicated to contemporary opera in English, with an admirable policy of raising funds to premiere new works. The importance of Intermezzo's mission was underscored by composer David Paul Gibson last night just before the premiere of his one act opera on the fascinatingly dysfunctional but deeply human gay relationship between French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Gibson spoke of the importance of producing new operas, noting the number of highly talented young composers he knows of who won't go near the medium in despair of ever seeing their work on stage. He went on to say that preparing V&R for Intermezzo has allowed him hear the opera in the only way that will permit the next step--evaluation, rewriting and preparation of a revised score.

Intermezzo broke with its normal programming policy last night by omiting a "curtain raiser" to the major work in favor of a recital of songs set to poems by the title characters and sung by appropriate cast members in costume and in character. It was an imaginative stroke that not only introduced the particular literary world in which Verlaine and Rimbaud operated, but also pointed up the astonishing gulf between their ecstatic, luminous poetry and the details of their private lives--an issue that would be explored in the libretto.

Gibson is a quintuple threat man—he’s composed, written libretti (including this one), directed, designed, and conducted. He had a long association with Gian-Carlo Menotti at the Festival of Two Worlds, and Intermezzo has engaged him as director for THE MEDIUM and for THE OLD MAID AND THE THIEF (which I have been asked to design) next season. He’s written a swiftly moving opera, a cascade of short scenes, to the point but deeply revealing, that flow from one to another, sometimes directly, sometimes via eloquent interludes. I spoke with him afterwards about how well V&R would work as video and he replied that it is an idea that interests him very much. He directed an unfussy, precisely characterized production that made a group of frankly problematic, even unlikable people compelling, three dimensional and ultimately moving. One great moment occurred in an interlude when the two men twice circle a table, focusing on each other, their body attitudes and facial expressions precisely defining their growing involvement and its dangers.

The opera opens as Verlaine, already seduced by Rimbaud's poetry, leaves his uncomprehending wife and mother-in-law to meet the younger poet at the train station. Rimbaud sees Verlaine, who does not recognize him, and makes an obscene gesture. Rimbaud arrives at the house before Verlaine and lobs "Bourgeois!" at the women like a grenade. When Verlaine returns and recognizes Rimbaud with surprise, the younger man storms out.

The two drink at a tavern and read each other's work, Rimbaud advising the older poet not to fret about being a mediocrity as he, the genius Rimbaud, is now here to help him realize his true potential. Later, Rimbaud suddenly and passionately kisses Verlaine, who is concerned that Rimbaud is alienating the entire literary world of Paris. Rimbaud is unconcerned, saying that they are the only writers who matter. Verlaine returns home after an unexplained long absence to collect some of his work. Mathilde tells him she is pregnant. He rushes out of the house, knocking her down in the process. Her mother muses on the split between Verlaine's life and his art.

In the countryside, Rimbaud sleeps as Verlaine sings of his love for the boy. Rimbaud wakes and says he intends to leave Paris and Verlaine, shocking the olderman. Later, Rimbaud says he was just testing Verlaine and suddenly throws himself at the older man, begging for shelter. They work together, but Rimbaud feels written out. Verlaine immediately suggests running off to a life together in Brussels. They quarrel. Mathilde arrives, begging Verlaine to return home to his new son. Rimbaud enters and a virtual tug of war ensues, but Verlaine chooses Rimbaud.

Later, the two confront each other and Verlaine pulls a gun on Rimbaud, shooting him in the hand. He is sentenced to two years in prison. Mathilde intends to stand by him but knuckles under to her mother's insistence on a divorce. Verlaine has a dream in prison acted out to Gabriel Faure's "Cantique de Jean Racine," in which his wife and young lover are joined with the blessing of her mother. Waking, he sees his only hope is to reconcile his life with his deeply felt Catholicism.

Leaving prison, Verlaine meets Rimbaud with whom he hopes to begin again, but the young man says he is leaving for Africa and will never see Verlaine again. Broken and alone, Verl;aine is haunted by the voices of wife, lover and mother-in-law.

The story, rather simplified from the even more sensational reality, bears some striking parallels to Oscar Wilde's better known one. Gibson has set it for piano and violin (the invaluable Busby and superb StanislavAntonevich) in a late romantic style, quite grateful to sing (Verlaine's solo scenes in the countryside and in prison, and Mathilde's mother's unexpected contemplative aria are both gorgeous pieces of music).

The premiere was dominated by the performances of John Whittlesey as Verlaine (the look of fascinated panic in his eyes as Rimbaud stalked him demonstrating perfectly the value of the intimate chamber opera format) and Aaron Sheehan as the dangerous, enigmatic Rimbaud. Primarily a medieval and renaissance music specialist, Sheehan is a tall, dynamic young singer with a sweet, clear tenor and seemingly no stage inhibitions. Kaja Schuppert and Sharon Brown gave fully rounded, well sung portrayals of Mathilde and her mother. Domenico Mastrototaro, silent and inscrutable as a sphynx, provided props and moved furniture with admirable concentration and discretion.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

It's been really depressing here lately with storms passing through every other day, and although I know the days are now supposed to begetting longer it was dark and gloomy all day. I had a wonderful time, however--didn't set foot outside once. I baked bread, made soup, cleaned and reorganized, even got my "adult' videos into some kind of logical line-up. Speaking of which, is anyone else as intrigued as I am by Aiden Shaw? I'm only interested in him for his novels, short stories and poetry, you understand. Uh-huh.

His story is interesting--born in England to an Irish family; did exotic dress and some make-up in school which didn't make it any easier for him to be a gay kid in working class England; went off to art school and began escorting to pay tuition and living expenses, then found a way to integrate sex-for-hire with his art. He did a stint in Hollywood as a highly popular porn star, then returned to England and nearly died in a car wreck that left him paralized for a while. He's now fully recovered, has made something of a return to adult video along with playing in a band and writing. Somewhere along the way he became positive. He also began writing about contemporary gay life from the perspective of his experience in what used to be called the demi-monde. He looks great, particularly given what he's been through, somewhat younger than his real age, with that combination innocent boy/totally hot hunk look some Brits are lucky enough to have.

At M.I.T. we're working on a production that takes place in a very high-concept European office tower and eveything has to look beyond gorgeous. With the budget we have, it's prooving to be a challenge. I've designed all the office desks and we're building them in the scenic shop--lacquered pedestals with inch thick clear acrylic tops. Because we're all about the latest technology at the 'tute, we should be able to get the most recent power books and PDAs on loan and I'm working on finding chairs that are as sexy as possible to go with the desks.

I found something by an Italian designer called the Mouse Chair, a really hot and cheeky little number in silver gray metal mesh with great curves and a rakish back tilt to the seat, up on a five caster pedestal. Sadly, I had pulled a catalog that was so one year ago and found out the vendor, Design Within Reach, no longer carries it. The kicker is that here's no other known U.S. representative, so I'm back to square one. A good but frustrating reminder that I have to clear out my files more often than I do.

Fritz came down on Thursday afternoon and we went to the Museum of Fine Arts to see the big Art Deco show that's been travelling around the country. I had caught it at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco last June and was stunned. About three weeks ago my financial advisor called and offered Fritz and me two free passes which I jumped at. The bad news was that the Museum had only enough room to show maybe 40% of the original collection. In particular the spectacular banana yellow Cord roadster from the early 1930s wasn't there, even though its hood ornament had been used as the symbol of the exhibit in Boston. But it didn't matter much as the items the Museum did have were choice, and we had a lot of fun. I even found a book to to give to my cousin and his wife next Christmas--only about 350 days left!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

There’s been another new Boston-area radio appearance by America’s Homophobic Sweethearts, Ed and Sally Pawlick. You’ll remember the Pawlicks who are on an obsessive drive to rid the state of gay marriage and all who advocate it. This one’s a little bit surreal.

They begin their 60 second slot by introducing themselves and reiterating their bona fides as defenders of civilization against homosexual marriage. Then they say they’re hoping “a higher power” will arrive in the state, purge the Supreme Judicial Court of those nasty pro-gay activist judges and stamp out gay marriage. I was stopped in traffic on my way to work when this spot came on and I sat there trying to figure out what out-of-state authority would have the power and authorization to remove judges in Massachusetts. Then it hit me --as they dropped a few more hints—god. These nut jobs are expecting god to come to Massachusetts in person to smite all the people and social movements they think should be smited (smoten? smitten?). They go on to ask if the listeners’ churches and synagogs are leading prayers against gay marriage. In the event that they aren’t, the Pawlicks urge listeners to instigate such prayers among their congregations so that god will feel encouraged to show up personally (not on tape with a seven second delay, mind you, although that would surely be handy if god were to let fly with a couple of god-sized obscenities while the smoting’s in progress).

Now in case you’re of a liberal persuasion and feel that god gave up smoting some millennia ago, there’s an influential Muslim cleric who has declared the tsunamis to be Allah’s punishment on the sinful and hedonistic who went to warmer climates to practice fornication (sex) and usury (use of credit cards, presumably, although it's really the banks that practice the usury). The fact that tens of thousands of totally non-fornicating, non-usurious Muslim children were killed by the tsunamis doesn’t make this man stop to think, as it turns out. He declares that the Qoran says Allah may kill Muslims if it means destroying the sinners in their midst. I really think this guy and the Pawlicks should get together--with any luck, they might wind up destroying each other.

It’s been a good week for me with fellow Boston bloggers. I discovered urbanoutback who lives in the Boston’s tres gay South End. And his blog introduced me to:

“The new multi-million-dollar Museum of Creation, which will open this spring in Kentucky, will, however, be aimed not at film buffs, but at the growing ranks of fundamentalist Christians in the United States.

“It aims to promote the view that man was created in his present shape by God, as the Bible states, rather than by a Darwinian process of evolution, as scientists insist.”

Exhibits include one showing how the Grand Canyon was actually created by the swirling waters of Noah’s Flood, another showing dinosaurs and humans living (or trying to, I suppose) at the same time as each other, and –you may have sensed this was coming—one showing that homosexuals are responsible for AIDS. Oh yes—natural catastrophes are god’s punishment for man’s sinfulness AND the Columbine massacre was caused by Darwinism (the boys were killing their peers influenced by the idea of the survival of the fittest). This bastion of reason and responsible education is located within fifty miles of Cincinnati and is expected to draw about 300,000 visitors annually, and has been created as part of Fundamentalism’s growing power in this country and sense of entitlement due to the Bush presidency. Check out urbanoutback (link now at right), which is undergoing redesign and may be available sporadically for a day or two, for the whole story. You can also contact me and I’ll forward the complete article.

Lastly, but very definitely not least, I had an Adventure in Gastronomy yesterday, actually a Chinese lunch in Harvard Square with that blog’s author, Karl. It was my first meeting with a fellow blogger, a fun lunch and now I’m wondering why such a smart, personable guy calls himself “Snarl.”

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A number of memorable and popular on line journals closed up shop last year. Jake on NoFo just identified the departed SoBlo as a major influence inspiring him to blog; yesterday, Keith, whose KeithLife did the same for me, began the new year by announcing the end of a photo journal he’s been running since 1999.

I’ve been visiting the site for most of its five years. Keith turned forty and found a great love, seemingly THE great love, in the person of Ben during the last quarter of 2004. A Brit who made his career in the US, Keith has shared his highs, lows, the joys of living in San Francisco, desire to supplement life in the corporate world with filmmaking, and many, many pictures of his tall, lean, sculpted and beautifully maintained body with his readers. Literate, often witty, always a keen observer, unfailingly honest about himself and his life, and a good documentary photographer, Keith leaves a seriously empty space behind him. I’ll probably keep the link for a while just in case he changes his mind--but I doubt he will. He jets back and forth between New York and the west coast for work, has just moved from San Francisco to LA to be with the adorable Ben and has clearly finished one phase of his life to begin a wonderful new one.

I spoke with Fritz last night about those moments in my childhood when I looked at the family around me and wondered seriously, “do I belong to these people? Could I have been adopted?” In many ways I have assimilated and revel in some of the rich heritage and culture of my Italo-French father’s family and my English-Welsh mother’s family but my parents demanded absolute conformity to the style they had established and I didn’t fit in.

I was frequently unhappy as a child, feeling isolated and not in tune with what all the other kids wanted and felt and how they lived. The fact that things at home weren’t terribly good didn’t help, but it was in a highly repressive, anti-intellectual Catholic school that the big trouble occurred. I remember one day at home being deeply depressed, in tears or at the verge of tears, and being asked roughly what was the matter with me, why I couldn’t just be like all the other children. I said because I was different from all the other children. I knew that I was different from an early age even if the combined forces of family and church had managed to keep me very much in the dark as to the real nature of that difference It was totally the wrong answer. My English grandmother very sternly told me “Don’t be ridiculous, child. Get on with your business and don’t get above yourself putting on airs!” To an old guard, class-conscious Englishwoman of a certain era, getting “above oneself” and, in particular, being a child who dared to express opinions or show some individuality was about the worst thing one could do. As you might expect, political ultra-conservatism and homophobia were cornerstones of my parents’ belief system.

I remembered all this after reading Keith’s farewell. He had taken Ben, who is southeast Asian, home to the English midlands to meet his widowed Father (who had never actually recognized or spoken of Keith’s being gay), sisters and gay younger brother. There were issues of sexuality and being a mixed-race couple to be faced. The family took a stroll together in a park and Keith excused himself to use a public men’s room. He said that when he returned, his father was in animated, friendly conversation with Ben and that the barriers of something like 20 years had fallen in perhaps as many minutes. I felt very close to him in that moment, as he experienced a revelation and connection I was never to have with anyone of my parents’ or grandparents’ generation. Good bye, Keith, and thanks!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

My cat and I got home from New Hampshire late this afternoon after a wonderful New Years. Fritz and I hosted 18 friends beginning Thursday afternoon and ending around 3pm today. The guys brought great food and B. the chef made all or part of several super meals.

For New Year's Eve dinner we did fancy dress, as usual. Some of us had brought our own costume. For those who hadn't, Fritz opened up what he calls the drag boxes, a random collection of period garments, ethnic clothing, exotic material in various lengths and theatrical costumes, including something that looks for all the world like a Titania, Queen of the Fairies gown and headdress in shades of lavender and mauve illusion. I wore drapey black ray0n pants and a saffron t-shirt with a hand-batiqued sarong I had bought in Australia draped like a sari over my right shoulder, a silver necklace of chain web-work with little ornaments and bells from India, silver arm bracelets and the proper little mark painted on my forehead. Dinner was by candle light.

The weekend was filled with games, a Sweat Lodge, hikes, hot tubbing, a major massage ritual, and some performances on New Years night. A delightful and sparkling young man who had come as B.'s date was the MC, dressed in an almost non-existent black thong, a black Venetian mask--and the rest was body glitter. At the end of day today he stole our hearts by offering to package up all the left-over food and deliver it to a shelter for the homeless in his neighborhood. Any surprise that we've asked him to become a regular?

Four days without television, so I came home to the nice surprise of Spain's having approved a bill to allow gay marriage, making it the third European country (after Belgium and the Netherlands). Sweden and Denmark have civil unions. The liberal Spanish Parliament, with input from a very liberal Prime Minister, is expected to pass the bill over the strident objections of the Catholic Church.

Thanks to Karl, Jeff and Jess for New Years wishes.

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