Thursday, June 30, 2005

 
I spent all day at home yesterday finishing things up before our departure for Europe tomorrow evening. In the process, I experienced a couple of life’s simplest and nicest pleasures:
Spending six hours intensely cleaning up my studio and actually finding all the
things I feared were lost;
Spending six hours intensely cleaning up my studio and seeing parts of the floor
that hadn’t been visible in months;
Trying on two shirts I’d bought at Zara the last time I was in Spain and realizing
they still look very good;
Listening to music all day that I hadn’t played in years in some cases, and loving
it all over again;
Finishing all the technical drawings for our fall production, including lots of
measurements and notes, and knowing it’s DONE;
Learning that while I was deep in work the other day Canada became the third country
in the world to approve gay marriage nationwide;
Realizing how much I miss my cat who I took to stay with friends on Tuesday for the
time I’m away.

I’m going up to Fritz’s this afternoon to spend the night and bring him back to Boston tomorrow morning. We’ll fly out of Logan tomorrow night on Icelandic to Copenhagen where we’ll be with friends for a week. We then fly to Budapest for a couple days on our own in a city and country neither of us has ever visited.


The Viking Neptune, our floating hotel for two weeks

On the 10th we join the riverboat for two weeks sailing up the Danube, through the canal and down the Rhine to Amsterdam with many stops to explore along the way. After five days in Amsterdam we fly home on the 28th of July.


The Rhine Gorge, part of our itinerary

If I’m lucky enough to come across any cybercafés along the way, I’ll post something about how it’s all going. In any event take care and my best to everybody while I’m away.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

 
I grew up in a repressive, fundamentalist theocracy. Every aspect of what I did, what I learned and how I was taught was controlled by ultra-conservative religious women and men. They distorted both American and World History and controlled us through fear. Religion pervaded every subject in school, including even arithmetic in which the set-up for written problems dealt with situations that made knowledge of the number of religious holy days in a year, etc. essential to solving the problem. This wasn’t in the Middle East somewhere but in one of the five boroughs of New York City at Resurrection-Ascension Parish and Catholic School, Rego Park in Queens.

I had meticulously researched history papers given failing grades as being “not Scriptural.” We were urged not to play or have anything to do with protestant or jewish children. A moment of revelation came when a comic book-style tract on the evils of “godless, atheistic Communism” was distributed, illustrating the evil tactics of party indoctrination behind the Iron curtain, and it looked EXACTLY like the way we were being indoctrinated, er, taught. I was not allowed to be Valedictorian at my high school graduation because I had chosen to attend a non-Catholic university. All this was supported by my parents.

It’s all coming back, all of it that I had walked (run) away from as soon as I could get away from home and be on my own. Only now it’s being imposed at the national level and on the entire population, adults as well as children--catholic, muslim, protestant, agnostic, jewish, athiest—-everyone. The fundamentalism headquartered in Topeka, Salt Lake City or Crawford, Texas is no less dangerous than that in Teheran, Damascus or Baghdad.

Last weekend, there was a funeral in Marblehead on the coast north of Boston for young Chris Piper who had died while serving in Afghanistan. Piper left a wife and children. His family and friends wanted nothing more than to face the tragedy of his loss in the strength of a loving community. But they arrived at the service to discover the fanatical crew from the Fred Phelps church in Topeka, Kansas in place and waiting to harangue them all on the evils of homosexuality. Have these people any common decency? No, nothing remotely like. The community mobilized to shield the family from the fundamentalist goons as much as possible, but they held their ground. After the service, one of Piper’s siblings commented in public that Chris had died trying to protect the right of ALL Americans to think and live as they wished.

The news yesterday morning on the Today show discussed Bush’s having already begun the 2008 Presidential Campaign, mobilizing Republican money and political networks to locate and get commitments from potential candidates to run for the range of public offices across the country. There were no Supreme Court resignations on Monday but they, or deaths among members of the court, will surely happen and give Bush a golden opportunity to pack the court in a way that can guarantee oppressive decisions for a generation or more.

Jess (Splenda in the Grass) posted a particularly lucid comment on the meaning and implications of the Supreme Court ruling on bringing religious monuments into judicial areas. Jess is a bit more optimistic than I think I am about the decree that apparently has both conservatives and liberals scratching their heads (and that is expected to spawn more cases before the Supreme Court) but he rightly points out that coming struggles are going to require a lot more effort than just signing and passing on an email petition or two. There was more complacency in the last election than is healthy for “traditional American freedoms.” We have to make it different next time.


The Danube near Vienna

In preparation for our trip that begins this Friday, Hans aka Castor was kind enough to send this lovely sunset view of the Danube, up which we will be sailing in just two weeks.

Monday, June 27, 2005

 

"Bloody Mary" and me on my birthday night last Thursday

In spite of intense heat and humidity, we all managed to have a delightful weekend. "All" meant Fritz, my two daughters and my son-in-law, my cousin and his wife; Fritz's two sisters, the son of one and the daughter of the other along with her husband and their toddler son who had come over from the Netherlands. Fritz was juggling the party he had planned for me along with the graduation of this year's Master's degree class in creative arts and education. We ate out on Saturday night and six of us visited Newburyport on Sunday, strolling the waterfront that was much cooler than even fifty yards inland, visiting the shops and taking a long, liesurely lunch.


Celtic Harpist in Newburyport

Well shaded, fortunately, we stood and listened to the sweet but powerful tone of this Celtic street musician in the heart of old Newburyport. Much of the town is pure 18th century and a pleasure to walk, even in the stifling heat.

The party back at Fritz's was a lot of fun, much of which came from the fact that my younger daughter and his Dutch nephew-in-law whose birthdays are around this time, had no idea they were getting presents and celebrations too. I also had a gift for by elder daughters fourth wedding anniverasary.

When it was all cleaned up, most of us settled in for one of the great schlock movies of all time, "Clash of the Titans." Most of it concerns Harry Hamlin in various states of undress as Perseus, who kills Medusa and various other mythic creatures in laughably crude special effect sequences. Dropped in occasionally are scenes in the Council of the Gods, the Gods being played by some of the great English actors of the time including Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Sian Philips, etc. My guess is that the God scenes, all of which could easily have been shot in one or two days at most, were an afterthought with the idea of giving the thing some class, because the majority of the movie is borderline dreadful.

No reply yet to my help note to Google/Blogger about the displacement of text. Thanks for scrolling down to find me.

Friday, June 24, 2005

 

My House in Boston's Roslindale Section

Late today, Paul from Oz (Melbourne) was kind enough to forward me a stray line of html he had found on one of my entries that he said was probably the cause of the displacement of all text to below my sidebar. I have been unable to access the the code myself. However tonight I visited two other blogs--one is Patrick Doyle's The Traveling Spotlight--that are suddenly displaced exactly like mine, so I think it's Blogger that has screwed something up. Again. I have a note into the Help Desk.

The Boston Gay Mens' Chorus has arrived in Europe and is about to become the first openly gay organization to perform in ultra-Catholic and conservative Poland. Warsaw's mayor banned a gay pride march, but there was one anyway in defiance of his orders. Because of this civil disobediance and the arrests that came of it, the Chorus's appearance in Wroclaw is creating a big stir, including a change of next Monday's curtain time at Philharmonic Hall to accommodate the crowds that are expected to come by train from Warsaw.

This weekend the Chorus will sing in several pride events in Berlin and will also present a letter of greetings to Berlin's gay mayor from our mayor Tom Menino. The tour will end in Prague with a concert to benefit the campaign for gay civil unions in the Czech Republic.

Can anyone explain the Supreme court's ruling that cities can take over anybody's house and property and destroy them to allow private commercial development? The case arose from the desire by the city council of New London, Connecticut to take over a neighborhood of small, quiet residences to enable a private developer to put up hotels and shopping malls . Eminent Domain was formerly limited to major public works projects, not development that will displace large numbers of law-abiding citizens to provide enormous profit for millionaire developers.

The pictures I wanted to post tonight didn't make it from my office Mac to my home PC for some reason, but I'll get them on here as soon as I can.

 
I have no idea why Blogger suddenly decided to put my last post UNDER everything
in my sidebar--it wasn't that way yesterday. This is actually something of a
test post to see if I can get tha alignment back. The real post is tonight.

HOWEVER, we had a delightful dinner at Shogun last night, Bloddy Mary was in
great voice and I've come away with a photo Fritz took of the two of us together
(I think she comes up just to my shoulder but her voice could be heard back in Massachusetts). Photos and blog tonight.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

 

To Me! Posted by Hello

Fritz is taking me out tonight for my birthday to one of our favorite restaurants, Shogun in Manchester. It’s one of those sit around the grill Japanese steak and seafood houses where the chefs juggle utensils, flip egg shells into their toques, and slice vegetables at warp speed. But the main reason I want to go there is because of “Bloody Mary.”

Any of you who are into American musicals will know “South Pacific” and the seductive/scary character of Bloody Mary, the Tonkinese Mother Courage in a sarong who can supply anything, find anything, knows everything in the chaotic world of World War II in the Pacific. Shogun has its own version, a Japanese or Okinawan hostess with a voice like a buzz saw, huge smile, positive energy into overdrive, and an aggressive sales manner. “You want drink, sir” isn’t really a question the way she delivers it.

I love her. She’s a hot ticket. Wiry and maybe five feet tall, she can whip a party into shape around a grill like nobody’s business. For the last several years most times when we’ve gone to Shogun, there’s been a birthday, sometimes two or even three somewhere in the place while we’ve been having our dinner. For the birthday people, a special dessert is brought out and a couple of the staff do back-up for “Bloody Mary” singing Happy Birthday in the standard English version and then in the Japanese. And the Japanese is a trip.

Nothing like the song we know, it’s a big, noisy, heavily rhythmic chant with lots of hand clapping that I could easily imaging being accompanied by the Kodo Drummers in full cry. I’m hoping she isn’t ill or taking the night off or suffering from laryngitis. Tonight, I want Bloody Mary singing to me.

On the phone yesterday, Fritz told me an interesting story about an article in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine. The subject is the singer who dresses in full American Indian regalia while performing with The Village People. It seems he offered the gold record he got for one of their albums to an Indian Council, which was happy to accept a gift that showed the continuing influence of Indian culture in mainstream America. So far, so good. But as Fritz read on, he noticed that one word was conspicuous by its absence. The Village People performed “in Greenwich Village;” the singer had recruited “other buff young men and costumed them in macho mufti;” what could have been “an inside joke just in lower Manhattan entered the mainstream,” etc. Put it all together and most people can figure it out, but the absence of the word “gay” ANYWHERE in the article about one of the iconic gay groups of the 70s and beyond seems very suspect—except, of course, in this time of looming censorship and dominant Christian anti-gay bigotry.

I suggested to Fritz that a Letter to the Editor might be appropriate. He seemed dubious, but I think that in these times we have to keep the pressure up that we’re here and we’re Americans too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

 

Not the tenants I expectedPosted by Hello

I read many years ago that the Chinese believe you are blessed if animals come in from the outdoors to live in your house with you. If this is true, then I’m probably close to sacred at this point in my life.

We’ll start with all the mice that have wandered in, usually in the winter but not exclusively, and generally for a very short stay, this being a house that has had one to three cats in residence at all times. My first cat dropped the corpses in my shoes. The first time was particularly rough.

There have been three bats. The first was out on my glassed-in entry porch one morning when it was about ten below, huddled in a corner trying to keep from freezing to death. I didn’t begrudge him his will to live but with two small children, I wasn’t anxious to have him in my house either. When I went over to look at him, he turned his face up to me and bared his teeth, a row of very sharp, brilliant white points sparkling like diamonds. That sort of thing gives one pause. So I got a shovel, picked him up carefully, took him outdoors, and deposited him in a hole in a dead tree trunk in the sun.

I discovered the second bat late one summer night when closing up the house. My first cat, the fearless, very intelligent Cornface was behaving very strangely in the living room, looking like she was stalking something I couldn’t see. And then I caught a brief glimpse of something brown and hairy scuttling along a base board. Brown, hairy and BIG. Cornface was doing her special dog growl so I knew that whatever it was, was serious. The thing began to climb up a Navajo saddle blanket I have hanging in a corner of the living room—which is when I saw the wings. I told the girls to go upstairs, got three heavy terrycloth towels layered together to protect my hands and grabbed it off the blanket, rolling it up gently into the layers of towel. Then I went outside, laid the towel roll on the ground, flipped it open and ran back into the house.

Number three was beyond any help. I found him trapped inside the metal gratings of a window fan in the attic one spring when I went up to get equipment down for the coming summer. If he could get INTO the box fan why, I wondered, could he not have gotten out. He was very dry and very crisp.

I’ve had several families of garter snakes living in my garden and one of my neighbors saw a mother snake giving birth one day to a huge litter (I’m not sure, actually, that snakes come in litters—maybe they come in slithers—a slither of snakes). A very big toad lived in a little rock cave in the garden for a while. I’ve had skunks living under my front porch and one day while I was winterizing that porch, I came home to see the insulation torn away a bit in one place. I pulled it back to investigate and found a coiled boa constrictor. Animal Rescue came and got it for me. I thought it might be a bit out of the ordinary for them but the guy they sent had taken a pair of timber wolves out of a back yard in Everett the month before and didn’t impress easily.

But it’s bees that have most consistently gotten into the house, into the outer walls and set up hives. They’ve burrowed right through the wood, spitting the sawdust out so I had long tan streaks down the side of the house. Well, I had the place resided two or so years ago with materials bees can’t eat through. I thought I didn’t have to worry any more.

But Fritz gave me a nesting box for Christmas, the kind that’s held to your window by suction cups. I put it up on the pantry window, within sight of the bird feeder and waited. Nesting season came and went—no birds. I looked in late last week and saw that one lone bee or hornet had taken up residence and was building a multi-chamber house hanging from the underside of the roof. I thought bees were swarming insects, but this one’s a loner.

The picture is taken through two layers of glass in my window and the Plexiglas on the back of the nesting box, but I think you can see him there working away. It’s not exactly the kind of little family I thought I’d have in the box but he/they/whoever have come to live here and I’m working as hard as I can to feel blessed.

Monday, June 20, 2005

 

New England plain: the Friends' Meeting House in Epping, New Hampshire Posted by Hello

 

The interior. Posted by Hello

 

The Sweat Lodge in the woods by a pond, with the fire pit in the foreground Posted by Hello

 

The lodge interior, bench around the walls and pit for the rocks in the center. Posted by Hello

The weather in New England is finally shaking itself out into the kind of Spring we should have had during May. The weekend was idyllic, very domestic and full of friends. It began with yard work and housecleaning at home on Saturday morning. By 2pm I was up at Fritz’s doing errands, reading things we had put aside for each other during the week, and checking notes on the big trip that begins in ten days.

We had dinner out with two guys from the Boston area, another married couple and great friends, at the home of a woman who lives not a dozen miles away and who frequently turns up at the same concerts and operas in New York that I attend. We ended the day in the hot tub.

Sunday was bracketed by two seemingly very different gathering that in some ways are much the same. The first and third Sundays of the month are Quaker Meeting days. The mid-19th century Meeting House in Epping is a building of severe but elegant simplicity, perfectly designed and proportioned for meditation. It was here last August that we had our Quaker committment ceremony to celebrate our marriage the previous May. The local group is very small these days, usually just three or four, ourselves included. We sit in complete silence for another, then greet each other, share cider and a cookie while catching up on local happenings and each-other's news.

At 5pm guys began to arrive at Fritz's for the monthly Sweat Lodge. We had nine this time. The lodge is like a sauna in many ways although philosophically it descends from Native American sweat lodges, a place to sweat out the toxins, physical and spiritual. We begin by laying a layered fire on a sheet of corrugated cardboard. Paper first, dried branches criss-crossed to make a platform for the rocks, the rocks piled loosely, and finally a mound of wood covering everything. The fire needs about an hour to fully heat the rocks and ideally to get them glowing red.

Not all rocks will work. Granite has tiny pockets of water trapped in it. As it heats up, the water turns to steam and exerts enormous pressure—granite can explode in a fire. Marble breaks down into lime in a fire, slate falls apart, etc. Soapstone absorbs an enormous amount of heat (it’s used in some wood-burning stoves to store and radiate heat) so we’re always on the lookout for sources of good-sized soapstone cobbles. As the fire burns down we gradually get rid of all our clothes, then transfer the rocks into the lodge and enter after a short greeting ritual. When we have it, we put a little eucalyptus oil in the water that’s ladled onto the rocks and the lodge is filled with its lovely scent. If the rocks get hot enough, a sweat can last a half hour or longer.

It was the end of Bike Week in New Hampshire this weekend, so the roads were filled with motorcycles heading home singly and in large convoys. It was reported to be the mellowest Bike Week in years. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always had a romantic image of bikers—I’m sure I identify them in some way with knights-errant on their horses, strong, handsome loners going out into the unknown to seek adventure. The reality of black leather, beards and tattoos doesn’t get in the way of that romantic image one little bit.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

 
Happy Father's Day!

My very best to those of you who, like me, are gay fathers. I'm at Fritz's this weekend and will post some pictures tomorrow about the activities here.

I'm happy to announce that I have lost something like four and a half pounds in the last two or three weeks. Finally! I'll be working to make this a trend.

Friday, June 17, 2005

 

My girls at my elder daughter's wedding--the bride is on the left. Posted by Hello

I’ve become a very different person in the last decade from the man I was earlier. I came out of my childhood, adolescence and early closeted years with a lot of anger and defensiveness. The change began with raising my daughters, which I still consider to be the great central act of my life. Getting to be the nurturer I had always thought I was meant to be started a process of reexamining everything I believed in, everything I had thought I was. Some months ago I wrote “being gay saved me.” Finally coming out to myself in my mid-30s and beginning to explore the gay world properly might never have happened without those two.

Writing this story comes from a conversation I had with Fritz earlier this evening. Our trip in July is being planned by a woman who does a lot of the travel arrangements for various MIT departments. As I work at the Institute, I get to use her services and any discounts for which MIT might be eligible. It also means that I, as a small client, sometimes get sidetracked as she takes care of the big groups or rush arrangements required by an internationally-known institution. Fritz, normally very laid back, has been concerned at some points that things weren’t being done as quickly as they should, and while I’ve been pushing her to make sure things don’t fall by the wayside, I haven’t panicked or gotten angry. “Either I’ve gained some wisdom and calmed down a lot from being loved by you,” I told him, “or I’ve suffered a catastrophic loss of testosterone—my behavior last weekend notwithstanding.”

I can see it in myself at work and in my personal life—the hair trigger is gone. When there are crises at MIT or something unpleasant happens in my private life, I stop to think before reacting. I’ve come to realize that a lot of sound and fury just isn’t worth it. The turn-around came in the fall of 1996 when I did a weekend program by the Body Electric School. I heard about their work in November, a month too late to do the Boston-area event—at which time I would have met Fritz eight months earlier than I actually did, since Body Electric works out of his center. Instead, I traveled to Philadelphia in December and had an extraordinary experience. Matters of sexuality and spirituality are central to Body Electric work. But in the middle of the weekend at a crucial moment, the message I heard forcefully in my head and heart was that if I were to get anywhere in the rest of my life, I’d have to get rid of the residual anger and resentment I had stored within me.

I never expected anything like that—it came in from left field but was very powerful and started me on the last leg of a journey I seriously needed to take.

 
The other day I woke up in a funk which is unusual for me, the ultimate morning person. When I called Fritz as I do every 7am when we’re not together, I said that I would probably feel better when I had something to eat and got the blood sugar going. I looked out to see murky gloom. Record-setting cold temperatures are in control here now after one week of heavy humidity and heat. Blood sugar didn’t cooperate. My inner Jewish Mother being my default persona in these instances (as well as in times of stress or heartbreak) I began cleaning, starting with piles of old clothing that were awaiting inventory to be given away to charity.

I had gone through my closets and drawers over the weekend when Fritz was down here for Pride. He doesn’t actually have to DO anything at these times, he just has to be on hand with a critical eye. I do the same thing for him up at his place. Neither of us is really good about going through our stuff and throwing out, but each is a champ at editing the other’s tangle of old clothing, stored “maybe someday” items, and just plain junk. We keep each other honest. We were both naked in the oppressive heat Sunday afternoon, he on the bed reading, I pulling the place apart. Just his presence was enough of a goad, but occasionally I’d ask “what do you think?” and often all he had to do was give me a look—THE look, a loving but devastating visual comment.

So the other morning came the mopping up operations, the inventory for tax deduction purposes, packing everything into trash bags. Some tchotchkes (my spell check suggests thatches, scotches or crotches) will go to MIT’s prop stock, the clothing to Good Will, and I’m eyeing the books--they REALLY need thinning out, but I think I’ll keep my backlog of [2] Magazine just a while longer for entertainment purposes.

Things got better as the day progressed, particularly when Karl came down from Harvard Square (Harvard and MIT are almost certainly at the same height above sea level but Harvard is somehow ALWAYS on a higher plane) to have lunch and catch each other up on recent developments. Karl’s blog is Adventures in Gastronomy, although I think it’s been the better part of a year since he posted a recipe. The last recipe I took off a blog was Jake’s (NoFo) recipe for incredibly rich and good bran muffins, and the Guy Dads post full menus which makes difficult reading sometimes when I’m facing a lunch of four mustard sardines on a Wasa cracker because I’m trying to get even more svelt for the summer. Ok, just a LITTLE BIT svelt would be nice.

Karl seemed to have a good time (I think I caught his eyes sparkling in the costume collection) and we always have fun at lunch. By the time we both had to go back to work, the funk was gone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

 

My surprise in the mail Posted by Hello

I’ve cancelled my malfunctioning comments program. It was frustrating hearing from some of you that you couldn’t post, and every time in the last twenty four hours that I tried to access the function I got a message that the comments would be unavailable “for a short time” that never ended. So I’ve enabled Blogger’s own comments. They’re a bit different to use—you click on the word “comments” to get a new screen showing the post you want to respond to and have to scroll down to “Post a comment.” From there on out, it’s pretty much business as usual. Apologies for the inconvenience the last couple of days.

I had a nice surprise at work yesterday and I’ve been given to understand that some of you who read DesignerBlog have had a hand in it. I was working on the paint floor in our design and production building when our administrator brought me a package from Holtzbrinck Publishers in New York City. I drew a blank when she asked if I had ordered something for research purposes, and opened the mailer to find “The Fabulous Sylvester: The legend, The Music, The Seventies in San Francisco.” The author is Joshua Gamson, formerly of Yale, currently at the University of San Francisco, who divides his time between the Bay area and Martha’s Vineyard--lucky guy.

The book is a history of the rise of Sylvester from member of a gospel choir to stardom in the notorious troupe The Cockettes, to diva status in disco, all set against the era of emerging gay lib and massive social and political change. Lovely, I thought, but how has this come to me?

An enclosed letter from one of the staff at Holtzbrinck offered me the book with their compliments in the hope that I might mention or even review it on this blog. She seemed to know a lot about me. As there was an email address, I wrote back thanking her for the book and asking how I had come to her attention. I got a nice note back telling me that she had come originally from Boston, and the company wanted to put the book in the hands of some bloggers. She said she has friends in Boston who read Designerblog who suggested I be sent one of the promotional copies.

So, those of you who may have mentioned me to the lady, thank you very much! And if you feel like sending me an email or making a comment telling me who you are, I'd be delighted. Just reviewing some of Sylvester’s drag outfits and stage costumes is going to be a pleasure, let alone what looks to be a most interesting story.

Boston is experiencing record cold weather—we officially have the lowest temperature in the forty eight contiguous states right now. I went out today in flannel and polar fleece and, frankly, I prefer this to extreme heat and humidity. Summer, redeemed only for me by the ability to grow some of my own food, has always been my least favorite season.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

 

Spiderwort against my forsythia hedge Posted by Hello

When I bought my house, the property was mostly barren. An older woman, a widow all of whose children had grown and moved on, lived in it and did the best she could to maintain the structure, which wasn’t very much. Any cracks or gaps in the woodwork or a window frame were repaired with modeling clay. Any thing that came loose (like some of the wallpaper that was six layers thick in the downstairs rooms and that went back to the very late 1800s) was secured with pink thumb tacks. There were pink thumb tacks in the walls, the siding of the exterior, even in the garden. The house was sold as a “handyman special.” You’re reading the handyman right now.

The property was so bare because the owner before her was a developer who wanted to take the house down (it then had half an acre of land), buy a couple of other adjoining plots, rip those houses down, and build a subdivision of cheap little ranch houses. But the other properties wouldn’t sell, he just subdivided the land so that my house now sits on a simple 1/8 acre house lot, built some little cape houses on the remaining land surrounding me, and stripped all the good topsoil off everything to use on another site. When I bought the property, crabgrass would barely grow here.

I eventually built up the soil by composting and by many, MANY trips over to the police stables in West Roxbury to bring back barrels of horse manure and straw to spread over the depleted subsoil. But some extremely hardy things had taken root and survived (if not flourished) during the bad years. The spiderwort above apparently can survive in anything and was there to greet me during my first spring in the house. Lilies of the Valley, some very old fashioned yellow and deep burgundy/brown iris, and violets also had a toehold. In my time, all these have come along and spread so that the annual flower count (to which I have added astilbe, day lilies, roses, carnations and a variety of bulbs) is high.

The heat wave broke this morning in an innocent little ten minute or less shower. Within four hours, the temperature dropped from 88 degres to 56 degrees. We're apparently going to have a summer of extremes, weather exactly mirroring the mood of the nation . . . .

. . . . which is a perfect segue to the latest fascistic statement out of the deranged, obsessive, and potentially extremely dangerous religious right:

Christian Coalition: Gays Should Wear Warning Labels
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
June 13, 2005

(New York City) The leader of a conservative Christian lobby group says that gays should be required to wear warning labels.

"We put warning labels on cigarette packs because we know that smoking takes one to two years off the average life span, yet we 'celebrate' a lifestyle that we know spreads every kind of sexually transmitted disease and takes at least 20 years off the average life span according to the 2005 issue of the revered scientific journal Psychological Reports," said Rev. Bill Banuchi, executive director of the New York Christian Coalition.

The journal regularly publishes articles described by many mainstream psychologists as misleading and faulty. The homosexuality morbidity study was conducted by the conservative anti-gay Family Research Institute.

Banuchi called LGBT Pride celebrations held in New Paltz, north of New York City, and other areas of the country on the weekend "sad". He called on people to "pray for those who are deceived by the lies of popular culture, who are caught up in a destructive lifestyle, and for the children who are being zealously evangelized by radical homosexuals."

It is not the first time gays have been told they should wear labels. In Nazi Germany gays were forced to wear the pink triangle to differentiate them from other internees at concentration camps.

 
I had a pretty rocky time in high school. I hated the place: Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, New York. My parents had insisted on a straight Catholic education, grades 1 through 12—something neither of them had ever had to endure. I had started to separate myself from Catholicism sometime in the fifth grade. My grammar school grades were good, good enough that when registering at Molloy I was not allowed to take French, which I wanted very badly, but was strong-armed into Latin for which I had no interest whatsoever. Their standard procedure was to get the better students into Latin so they could lean on them to go into the priesthood or into major Catholic Colleges.

Unfortunately, I don’t take well to that kind of bullying and Latin turned out to be an extremely painful ordeal. They finally gave up and let me take French in junior year The school had no use for the arts, little understanding for those interested in the arts, and contempt for anyone not consumed by and skilled in athletics. I didn’t fit in on several levels, and few opportunities escaped them to remind me of this fact as often as possible. When I graduated and got away to (non-Catholic) college, I swore I’d never go near the place again.

Fast forward to a month ago. I got an email from R, a guy I meet sometimes at performances in New York City. He told me he and his partner, S. were coming into the area to see S’s niece graduate high school, and could we get together for lunch. I said sure. Early in the lunch he suddenly asked, “Did you go to Archbishop Molloy High School?” I asked how he knew and said he’d Googled me to give S some idea of what I do; an alumni page from the school had shown up, listing me as a “lost alumnus." He gave me the URL in case I wanted to be in touch with the school.

I had no intention of doing so until the thought crossed my mind that one reason I blog, and why I admire the many gay bloggers in cyberspace, is to be out and visible. The idea of registering as a gay alumnus on a Catholic site became more attractive. So I visited the site and registered. When I came to the “personal information” box, I didn’t hesitate but entered:

Theatrical Designer (scenery and lighting); out gay man who raised two daughters adopted from Korea as a single parent; married legally in Masachusetts in May of 2004 to my long-term partner, a free-lance educator and proprietor of a conference/educational center in southern New Hampshire. I celebrated thirty years as Technical Coordinator for Theater Arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June, 2005.

Before clicking the submit button there was a statement that all registrations had to be approved before an alumnus became a member. I figured, sure, they’ll bounce me as soon as they see the word “gay.” This was last Wednesday afternoon. I heard nothing on Thursday or Friday but this morning at about 10am, I got an email telling me my membership had been approved. I thought, score one for them, or at least for their alumni director. In the face of the Church’s homophobia and despite the new Pope’s hate campaign, he had balls enough to post every word exactly as I wrote it.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

 

Theater Offensive's irrepressible Abe Rybeck Posted by Hello

This being Pride weekend in Boston, Fritz came down from New Hampshire for the first time in about five years. He hadn’t been able to get away in the intervening years because of groups that had rented his center on Pride weekend. It began with a pot luck in Jamaica Plain that began at 7:30 and went late into the night. We stayed about two hours and estimated the crowd at around fifty. Guys came and went; the company was excellent as was the food. With air conditioning going full blast and various cooking devices working overtime, circuit breakers kept popping regularly. Aside from some old and dear friends, there were several men who had recently been at gay events at Fritz’s and it was nice to see them wanting to remain within our circle.

Saturday we made our way to Copley Square and found our group, the Theater Offensive. TO’s founder Abe Rybeck and I go way, way back to a time when his day job was with MIT Press and I helped him get productions mounted, including his early work “Blame It on the Big Banana.” The heat was intense. We came equipped with sun screen and frozen water bottles, loose cool clothing and Fritz had a multicolored umbrella that looked very festive. As we awaited step off, the jobs TO’s coordinator wanted us to do kept shifting but we were finally posted to the very front, carrying “The Theater Offensive” banner, backed by four Vespa motor scooters, two of which were driven by men and two by bare-breasted lesbians with heart-shaped pasties painted on. EVERYBODY went crazy over them, straight guys, lesbians, gay boys, local access TV cameramen, everybody. Delightfully, several of our friends ran out of the crowd along the way to give us a quick kiss as we passed.

This is as good a time as any to mention that I walked out of the house having completely forgotten my digital camera. DUMB! Especially when there was someone so photogenic as the big bear in the feathered mummer-style costume and three foot high penis and testicles headdress made out of brightly colored fuzzy balls.

Given the current political/religious climate, there were some surprising groups marching, including Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church that clearly does not buy Vatican hate policy and announced on its banner that all were welcome. A Jesuit group with a similar message was also represented.

The approximately three mile walk wasn’t too hard—there was a wonderful breeze that sprang up with some regularity and in the South End, trees lining the streets provided welcome shade from the sun. When we reached the end at Charles and Beacon Streets, we folded up the banner, stored it in the truck and hung out under the trees on Boston Common watching the crowds go by, and rehydrating on overpriced but very good freshly made lemonade. We were there for about half an hour and an entire spectrum of gay life from lesbians with children to mostly naked leathermen (one on a leash led by the other, both magnificently tattooed) passed us by.

When we got back to the house, the heat finally caught up with me. This means two things—one, I have little desire to do much of anything but, two, I get fiercely horny. Heat just does that to me. We’ve had more sex in a forty-eight hour period this weekend than I can ever remember. Anyway, we ended the day with my taking him out to dinner at the Village Grill and Sushi, a relatively new restaurant in the increasingly Jamaica Plain-ified (ie, becoming gayer all the time) Roslindale Square.

Today we lay low because of the heat. We had friends in for brunch this morning and went to the Boston Gay Men's Chorus George Gershwin concert tonight--musically very challenging for them and rewarding for the audience. Even the fact that Jordan Hall's air conditioning wasn't working--a potential disaster for the chorus in this weather--couldn't hurt an excellent program superbly performed.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

 

"Compass Rose" tattoo on my right thigh Posted by Hello

A friend emailed yesterday to tell me that E had died in Florida. E was a source of much positive energy, both erotic and intellectual. He and I met via the internet many--at least twelve--years ago on a gay chat group. He was in the vanguard of gay men who settled in Ft. Lauderdale, because he loved the nude beach, the sun, the easy life style and ocean, and mostly because he loved men. I met him briefly one year as he was on his annual pilgrimage up the coast, in a head-turning vintage Cadillac convertible, to the big GAYLA gathering on the coast of Maine. E probably didn't know it, but he was part of an inexorable chain of events and people that brought Fritz and me together.

Back in the mid-90s, I was feeling my way from the simple acceptance of my homosexuality that had happened at least a decade and a half before, into a deeply personal discovery of gay spirituality. E and I often wrote about this topic on the chat group. Around that time, I had read a chapter in a book about little-known aspects of life in Cambridge, MA that spoke of the author's visit to a group called F.M. There, gay men gathered and engaged in rituals designed to foster bonds among them that went far beyond hit-and-run sex. I was intrigued--it sounded exactly like what I was looking for but I could never find it. I spoke to friends and local gay organizations, I asked guys I hooked up with, etc. etc., but I couldn't locate F.M.

Then a very Zen thing happened: I gave up. I decided it either didn't exist any more or might even have been an invention of the author's. So I let it go. Not two days later after I had posted something to the chat group that a couple of people were kind enough to find profound, E wrote me and said, "From the way you're writing now, I think you’re ready to meet my mentor. His name is H and he hosts a group in Cambridge that meets once a month. It's called F.M." He included H’s contact info.

I was stunned. The moment I stopped batting my head against it, it came to find me. E played a key part in my meeting Fritz at H’s in May of 1997.

E's initials EET are tattooed onto my right thigh as part of a piece of art, in the shape of an old-fashioned Arabic compass rose, in tribute to the people and the process that led me to Fritz. In place of the usual direction initial--N, S, NE, SW, etc.--are the initials of seven men and one woman, people who provided the direction for me, linked in pairs directly opposite each other. Farewell and happy rest, E, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, June 10, 2005

 

For Hannukah, day one, one year Posted by Hello

 

The Great Pumpkin hack--the eyes are hidden in shadow in this picture Posted by Hello

 

This hack celebrated the premiere of the original Lord of the Rings movie. Posted by Hello

I’ve gotten a couple of appreciative notes on the MIT hacks, so I’m posting a couple of others. I should mention that hacks can take place anywhere, in any form, from bogus editions of “The Tech,” the Institute’s semi-weekly newspaper, to surprise additions to major Institute events, to decking out the big public spaces as cathedrals complete with massive stained glass windows and sounds of an organ playing Bach chorales.

The hacks are anonymous and almost all require a carefully coordinated team effort. Occasionally at something like a class reunion long after the event, a group will come forward and take credit for a particularly famous hack, providing all the proper documentation of their hackship.. Among the best was “home on the dome,” a two room prefabricated cottage that was discovered atop the dome one morning. It took Facilities several days to get it dismantled and removed--it had, of course, been transported and assembled on the dome by the hackers in the space of a couple of hours.

The Great Dome sits behind an open grassy courtyard facing the Charles River and the city of Boston. Just to its west, the Harvard Bridge carries Massachusetts Avenue over the widest part of the river and traffic crossing it has a clear and unobstructed view of whatever may be on the dome. On a couple of occasions, I’ve heard a news report of a particularly spectacular hack and changed direction to approach the campus via the bridge to get a clear view. On at least two occasions (the Lord of the Rings hack and a giant propeller turning in the breeze—they had made the dome into a huge fraternity initiation propeller beanie), I just happened to be driving over the bridge on the morning when a hack was in place.

Another sort of hack created the smoot as an accepted unit of measurement. As several MIT fraternities are on the Boston side of the river, the brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha decided in the fall of 1958 to mark the bridge’s walkway with some kind of measurement so that those walking from Boston to campus would have an idea how far they had left to go. All involved SWEAR they hadn’t been drinking, but somehow they decided the length of a frat pledge's body should be the unit of measure. Oliver R. Smoot was chosen because at 5’-7” he was the shortest pledge that year. The idea was to cut a length of string to Smoot’s exact height and use it to lay out the marker ticks.

Now although they claim they STILL weren’t drinking when they got out on the bridge, they tossed the string and had Smoot walk along, lying down each and every time a smoot was to be marked by a stroke of brightly colored paint (the legend that they measured by rolling Smoot end over end across the bridge has been disproved). The resulting total was 364.4 smoots—and an ear—from one end of the span to the other.

The smoot marks, with occasional editorial comments, (at 182 smoots, the legend appears “Half way to Hell”) are maintained by the fraternity. When the bridge was given a badly needed make-over several years ago, the members painstakingly restored the markings in their original style and colors on the newly poured and hardened concrete. And the Boston Police routinely note at what smoot mark an accident has taken place when filing official reports.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

 

The gay B&B hotel on a canal in Amsterdam where we'll be staying. Posted by Hello

 

Riverboat at night in Koln, Germany Posted by Hello

We’re just about three weeks from leaving on our July trip to Europe. We lost our vacation last summer due to Fritz’s mild coronary and resulting bypass operation (first anniversary, last weekend). We’re indulging ourselves a bit this summer; we were looking for a slightly different, low impact get-away that would place us in an area we hadn’t yet explored: Mittel Europa.

We’re starting with a week in Denmark visiting a friend Fritz has had since his college years and her husband. The first time we went there together, I fell in love with the place immediately. Denmark is an immensely rational country that looks after its land and people in a sane and benign way. I guess it didn’t hurt to sit at dinner one night in a restaurant overlooking the entrance to the Famed Tivoli in Copenhagen and see two guys casually walking down the street holding hands, and to realize that this is business as usual there. The countryside is delightful. We like to explore small villages and historical sights without any deadlines, targeting different areas of the country each time we go.

From Denmark we fly to Budapest for a couple of days on our own and then join a river boat for two weeks. We’ll cruise up the Danube, through the Rhein-Danube Canal, then down the Rhein to Amsterdam. Along the way we’ll stop in cities and towns in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. In Amsterdam we’ll have five days visiting with Fritz’s niece, nephew-in-law and their little son, and fly home from there.

I’ve loved to travel ever since I was a very little boy. I also love getting mail. I think both are bound up together for me in that they both bring new experiences in from the outside world. I didn’t have the happiest of childhoods, feeling isolated a great deal of the time because my interests and abilities didn’t correspond to what everybody else was doing. In Catholic school in particualr, there was a lot of pressure to conform—something I don’t take to without a serious struggle—and I was always looking for a way out of the tedium of the “normal.”

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

 

The stunning Simmons Hall Posted by Hello

 

Full scale replica of the Wright brothers' plane on the hundredth anniversary of its historic flight  Posted by Hello

 

The police car hack observed by WBZ-TV's traffic helicopter Posted by Hello

Above is Simmons Hall, the latest dormitory to be built at MIT, in response to the Institute’s need to house a greater percentage of the student body on campus in the face of fraternity alcohol scandals (including deaths) and soaring prices in the local rental market. Simmons (designed by Stephen Holl) and the Stata Center, that I featured a couple of days ago, were built in response to a mandate by our director of building projects: henceforth everything we build shall be done by a name architect, nor shall anything we build ever again resemble some kind of industrial lab building. Simmons won the 2004 Harleston Parker Medal administered by the Boston Society of Architects. The Parker has been awarded to the "most beautiful piece of architecture, building, monument or structure" in the Boston area since 1923.

The building’s long, thin format is dictated by the narrow site, squeezed between Vassar St. and the train tracks that still bring freight trains into the heart of Cambridge and across main arteries via level grade crossings at about five miles per hour with bells and lights but no barriers of any kind. In the middle of this university town, the freight has priority. We’re even constructing a huge new brain/cognitive building with a tunnel through its heart just to accommodate these freight trains. Holl claims to have been inspired for Simmons by a sponge. As with anything on campus that is out of the ordinary or doesn’t have strictly right angles and time-honored geometry (which Simmons actually has in abundance) a majority of the old guard loathes it. Inside, Simmons is filled with a rich variety of textures and has many attractive features such as an extremely quirky but interesting playing space with a stage eighteen feet wide and close to fifty feet deep, no proscenium, and a narrow, steep seating bank for one hundred twenty five people

An integral part of MIT culture is the hack. Hacks (aka pranks) are common at colleges and universities and are frequently both clever and daring. MIT’s are all this and a great deal more—they consist of exquisite timing, genuine danger and meticulously planned engineering. Hacks can break out anywhere at any time (the annual Harvard/Yale football game is hacked by MIT with great regularity). When former president Charles Vest arrived for his first day on the job, he stopped briefly in his office to get essential papers and he then went to the executive conference room. Two hours later, he returned to the hall to discover his office had completely disappeared. A student hack squad had silently and efficiently, installed a wallboard panel over his door, taped and painted it the exact color of the existing wall, an hung a cork board covered with papers that upon close inspection turned out to be enthusiastic welcoming greetings to MIT’s first president since the first one not to have been an MIT alumnus. Vest was thrilled to have been greeted by a hack so faultlessly executed.

The Great Dome has long been an irresistible lure to hackers, a magnificent pedestal for them to display their creations. The car in the slightly fuzzy accompanying photo may well be the most famous hack of all. A Crown Victoria was painted like an MIT Campus Police cruiser and cut in four with added flanges to bolt it back together when in place. Like all hacks, it was transported up inside the dome (that houses an active library) then out, up the curved surface to the flat plateau on top. Like all hacks, it must be installed in the dark hours of just one night and cause no injury to people or property. In the front seat were placed a box of donuts next to a dummy of an MIT policewoman in uniform who held in her hand an envelope containing instructions on how to disassemble the whole thing and get it down. A public phone booth (not visible in this shot) was placed at some distance, and the phone began to ring the moment the first member of the Buildings and Grounds staff had arrived at the summit to inspect the installation. The entire hack is now housed in the MIT museum.

Monday, June 06, 2005

 

The Chrysler Building--my favorite NYC building of all Posted by Hello

I Love New York

I live in Boston and am very happy here. I’ve built a rewarding career and sunk deep roots into both the rocky New England countryside and the mucky, man-made fill of Back Bay and Cambridge along the Charles River. But I’m a New Yorker born and bred. I think if you’ve been born there, a part of The City goes with you wherever travel or live.

I go back to New York regularly to see family and for performances in the city’s opera houses, theaters and concert halls. I love walking its streets. I arrived once for a day at Lincoln Center and parked in my favorite garage on 63rd Street and West End Avenue. I had a lunch date at 14th Street and Union Square on the east side and walked all the way for the sheer pleasure of being there.

I spent the first five years of my life at 235 West 72nd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue. I played in the extensive park along the Hudson River and remember vividly many of the people who lived and worked in the area. We frequently ate at the Sea Cove Restaurant, at the corner opposite the subway pavilion, with its sweeping curve of windows looking out at the big intersection where Broadway slices through the orderly grid of Manhattan streets. On the ground floor of our building was Sklar, the Furrier’s shop and I played with Jeffrey Sklar, sometimes in the shop when he came in to work with his father, sometimes on the little terrace outside our third floor apartment. The Blum sisters, two older ladies in retirement, lived at the Westover Hotel across 72nd Street. Tibor Kozma, an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera (who departed with his wife rather suddenly one day when word reached him that his government had appointed him General Director of the Hungarian State Opera), lived on the ground floor, rear and had the garden behind the building as his own private preserve.

When I was almost five years old, the family moved to Queens. For many reasons, it turned out to be a huge mistake. Putting together the walk to the bus, the bus ride and the subway trip, it was an hour into Manhattan. We lived in an anonymous apartment complex, there was no street life, and I remember being bored out of my mind, so much so that I had to be started in school early so I wouldn’t drive everybody crazy. Queens has some vibrant and interesting neighborhoods, but mine--heavily conservative, Irish Catholic and without a cultural life of any kind--wasn’t one of them. As I grew older, I got an after-school job in a local card and gift shop to keep me in theater and opera tickets, and spent as much of my weekends back in Manhattan as I could. There was life there and the little basement French restaurants in the theater district would serve coq au vin and put a small carafe of red wine on the table, not caring whether you were eighteen or not.

Today is my last trip of the season to New York for a concert at Carnegie Hall. I’ll connect with friends in New London, Connecticut this afternoon. We’ll all go into the city in one car and out again afterwards, back to their place where I’ll stay the night. It’ll all start up again in the fall, and a big part of me can't wait.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

 

Iris, part of the purple season at Fritz's . . . Posted by Hello

 

and myrtle, an extensive ground cover. Posted by Hello

There's a small political fracas here in Massachusetts. One of Governor Romney's chief advisors made a public statement that Romney was not a pro-choice Republican as he had claimed to the electorate, but a fundamentalist Mormon who was anti-abortion and only masquerading as choice-friendly to get votes. There were pained cries of "treason" among the Republican faithful. Next day, the advisor made a public statement saying, as is usual in these cases, that his comments had been taken out of context by the press.

My question: is anyone fooled, or has anyone EVER been fooled, into thinking that Romeny is anything but a fundamentalist Mormon and sleazy political opportunist who will say anything necessary to pander for votes?

More interesting, or perhaps just a good deal funnier, is George Bush's latest gaffe. During a speech he announced that a certain group of people were "disassambling. That means they're not tellin' the truth." Well, George, the word is dissembling--disassembling would mean that they're taking things apart. What I loved about this incident is his assuming the role of vocabulary teacher, when he hasn't the slightest clue.. Above and beyond all the other disasters of this presidency, the man is simply a standing embarrassment to the country.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Chruch of Topeka, Kansas have arrived in Lexington, MA to spread hatred against gays, liberal values and the Catholic Church. Carrying signs reading "God hates Gay Enablers" and "Pope in Hell", they started picketing Catholic Churches this morning and plan to hit the Lexington high school graduation this afternoon. They inform passers-by that "living in Massachusetts is like living in a whore house." Well, it's fun here but nothing like some parts of the country.
After alienating everybody in Lexington, they plan to head on to Lowell and Dracut, the three cities having been chosen for their "acceptance of homosexuality."

Lowell? Dracut? Guys, the gay bars, the pride march, the South End and its subdistrict Bay Village--universally known as Gay Village--and the State Supreme Judicial Court that decreed gay marriage are in BOSTON. I mean, OK so they may have failed utterly to denounce faggotry in Lowell and Dracut and Lexington to the satisfaction of the bigots, but if you want to see acceptance of homosexuality, walk down Tremont Street in the South End for Saturday or Sunday brunch and you'll see acceptance verging on unrestrained public celebration.

Of course the Catholic Church hates gays too, so a barometer of just how hate-filled and totally fanatical these people are is that they can't stand even those who agree with them. This situation is getting worse and worse and it's doing so faster and faster.

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