Thursday, September 28, 2006

I just got an invitation to go back down to my old Catholic high school to speak at career day again this year. As it happens, they're holding it on a day when I have to teach two classes and am close to production week for a dance event that I'm responsible for as Producer, so I can't go. I'd been trying to work out whether or not to do it if they asked again, and had more or less decided that this year is going to be so busy that I'd probably send regrets.

I'm still amazed at the school's complete turn-around concerning arts and homosexuality. Not only do I have a page on the alumni site as an openly gay man and artist, but Sal Sapienza--alumnus, a former Marist Brother and teacher at the school who left the order, came out now runs a gay B&B with his partner--has photos on his alumni page of him with the Scissors Sisters, and mentions his just-published first gay novel. Things ain't like they used to was--and that's a GOOD thing. I wrote back saying I wasn't available this year but please to keep me in mind for the future.

Last weekend Fritz and I went on a hike through his 36 acres maintaining the trails. I renewed the colored dots on the trees that distinguish one trail from another while he clipped saplings and we removed any other obstructions.

Due to the heavy spring rains and some recent fall downpours, the fungus crop is just enormous, and a lot of them are extremely beautiful. Of course most of them are also extremely poisonous, but we weren't out there looking for food mushrooms, just admiring their considerable beauty of form and color.

One colony, all ruffled and wavy in a lovely tawny orange color, began about a foot up the trunk of one of the trees and spread out on the ground like the tail of a flamenco dancer's skirt. There was an ivory-colored variety that resembled sea coral. Others were tiny, elfin things, looking like micro sponges on long delicate stalks. As I have no training in recognizing mushrooms, here's the kind of list I was able to make of the different varieties we saw (many of these photos match what's growing on Fritz's property, others don't but were too interesting to pass up):

Bright red “toad stools” with little bubbles

Pure white "rocks" cascading down a slight decline

Ivory, fingered growths, like coral

A fan of ruffles around a tree trunk

A tan-colored colony of ruffles about two feet long growing directly on the forest floor

A group of pure white discs on stalks that almost seemed phosphorescent they were so bright. Maybe they were.

Tiny "sponges" no bigger than a small pea on tall, slender stalks

Big cream-colored disks on thick stalks. The edges of the discs were upturned and filled with rain water.

Lovely peach-colored domes looking as if they’d been sprinkled with cinnamon

Mahogany-colored "wood ears" growing on several tree trunks

We also checked out the beaver pond. For a couple of years the water level’s been going down and it looked like the beavers had died out or perhaps been driven out by the gravel quarrying on the other side of the pond, leaving the dam to deteriorate. But the water level is way up now and it’s been holding steady, so we think the little guys came back and repaired the dam. And that should bring the herons back as well.

I'm leaving town today after my afternoon class and going up to spend tomorrow at Fritz's. Two of our close friends were supposed to come over to continue cutting trees to extend the new road the last seventy five feet or so to the new house site but tomorrow is supposed to be the one day this entire week with rain, so that may not happen.

Saturday morning I'm going down to New York to see the new production of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" at the Metropolitan Opera. It opened the season last Monday and inaugurated the company directorship of Peter Gelb who comes to the Met from the classical division of Sony records.

Gelb is highly media-savvy. He had a giant TV screen mounted on the façade of the opera house and broadcast the performance to anyone who wanted to come to Lincoln Center Plaza to watch. There was also a giant screen with the performance showing in Times Square. When the performance, which features a whole new Asian thgeater take on staging the opera, was over Gelb had the cast come from taking bows on the stage to take a bow on the balcony overlooking Lincoln Center especially to greet those who had stood in the plaza for the performance.

He's signed a deal with Sirius Radio to broadcast four Met performances and/or tapes of historic performances each week. This deal will go far to ensure the MET's availability to the radio audience it was losing when regular FM stations began dropping the MET on Saturday afternoons in favor of "elevator classical" and talk shows. All publicity for the company has been redesigned and ticket prices restructured to make several hundred tickets for each performance available at $15 each.

Gelb's the freshest thing to hit the MET in a long time and it looks as if he'll revolutionize how the MET interacts with not only the opera world in the New York, but with the entire arts community--and with people who never thought they would be interested in arts and opera at all. It's going to be a very interesting process to watch.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign has settled quickly into a pattern. Current republican lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, beginning her campaign forty points behind the front-runner in the polls, has gone the attack ad/personality assassination route in her TV spots, all of which emphasize that she went to public schools and do their best to hide her vast personal wealth. THE front runner, Deval Patrick--it's his election to lose--continues his calm, reasoned campaign style with passing, dismissive references to the fact that his opponent is running a negative campaign and allows the public, which adores him, to draw its own conclusion as to which candidate is taking the high road and which one is playing in the gutter.

Oh, their track record on gay rights, including same-sex marriage: Democrat Patrick warmly supportive, Republican Healey dead set against. Did you wonder?

There are two others running, Grace Ross from the Rainbow/Green Party was almost completely unknown; her appearance on the televised candidate debate this week ended that but doesn't seem to have given her any particular bump in the polls. Independent candidate Christy Mihos, however, is another thing entirely.

Mihos is beginning to attract some real notice, both good and bad, which probably translates eventually into all good, given what politics is. He was on the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and was an early whistle blower about the Big Dig, which got him fired by a total nonentity, former Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift. Swift became governor when the incumbent resigned to take a plum job elsewhere. She had the dubious distinction of going to Washington DC to testify before a Congressional Committee on some issue of interest to Massachusetts, emerging to public statements by committee members of both parties that she was uninformed, inept and completely unprepared.

From there it was downhill into charges that she had forced state workers to act as baby sitters for her new-born twins and commandeered state helicopters to ferry her back and forth across the state to her home in western Massachusetts. As she had never actually been elected governor, the media picked up on the proper protocol, and referred to her mercilessly as "ACTING Governor of Massachusetts, Jane Swift"--as in, it's all an act, folks--which indeed it was.

Her firing of Mihos was suspect from the start and, in the grim aftermath of twelve tons of Big Dig tunnel ceiling falling and crushing a woman to death in her car, Mihos looks like a shining beacon of integrity and civic responsibility in the midst of a quagmire of graft, corruption and blatant greed at the public's considerable expense in both money and safety. So he's very anxious to keep his Big Dig history before the public eye. Thus the TV ad.

The TV ad debuted three days ago around 10pm. It's an animated line drawing of Mihos confronting a group of well-dressed, business suited people including one whose hair-do marks her unmistakably as Kerry Healey. The Mihos figure approaches one man and asks why, as an engineer on the Big Dig, he didn't come forward to reveal the mismanagement and bad design. The engineer harrumphs briefly and then leans over and sticks his head up his ass, waddling away as his muffled voice continues to prevaricate from inside--well, you know where.

Mihos then approaches the others who begin to deflect the question and then lean over and stick their heads up their own asses, including the Healey figure. Soon the screen is filled with everyone--except Mihos, of course--waddling around in aimless confusion with their heads up their asses. In the long and loony history of Massachusetts politics, this one's a keeper.

The TV news shows originally told us that this was an ad aimed at adults, that it would not be played before 10pm as it was felt unsuitable for children. Apparently some better-informed source let the Mihos campaign in on the fact that seven year olds are staying up for Letterman these days and that a bunch of anally stuffed line drawings was nothing compared to what kids are routinely seeing stuffed into various body orifices on the web. The ad quickly made its debut at dinnertime, and is now being seen frequently throughout the evening.

Good blogger that I am, I tried googling and searching for any image of the ad, from a still shot up to the whole thing on You Tube, but I came up with nothing to show you. If anyone knows where the ad can be accessed on the web, please let me know. What it stunningly lacks in sophisticated political discourse it more than makes up for in an out-there self confidence, along with a kind of fourth grade gross-out humor approach to the issue. Besides, the political analysts claim that a successful Mihos campaign will hurt Healey far more than Patrick. Given that, I'll get behind the ad as a great piece of statesmanship and prepare to enjoy the outcome

UPDATE: With many thanks to Sandouri Dean Bey, go to and the ad is right there to click and see.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I found this meme thanks to DWQ Online's blog (I'm in theater--we always credit our sources in the program):

1. Have you ever been searched by the cops?
No, although I've considered acting in a suspicious way around quite a few I wouldn't have minded doing that to me.

2. Do you close your eyes on roller coasters?
I can't ride them. My inner ears start spinning on amusement rides and I get so dizzy I can't even walk, and have to lie down for half an hour or more. Also, the ones they're designing now scare the shit out of me.

3. When is the last time you went sledding?
One or two winters ago. Fritz bought us snow pants with a sliding disc thing molded onto the ass. I'm NOT making this up. They're fun!

4. Would you rather sleep with someone else, or alone?

With someone. And all that doing so entails.

5. Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes, actually, I do.

6. Do you consider yourself creative?
I sure hope so, otherwise my entire career so far has been one big hallucination. A well paying, with good benefits hallucination.

Do you think O.J. killed his wife?

8. Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie?
Can I please have the meme that asks, "Chris Meloni or Adriano Marquez?" Thanks. I'll have one of each, please.

9. Can you honestly say you really know anything about politics?
Yes, just enough to understand that there are depths of sleaze in politics the scope of which I have yet to fully comprehend.

10. Do you know how to play poker?
No. I was coached through a fun evening of Texas Hold 'em by the QBB about a year ago and actually won a few hands, but I honestly couldn't tell you even one of the rules of the game right now. Except for cribbage, I just don't retain game rules and have to re-learn each time. Fritz could write a small essay on the subject.

11. Have you ever been awake for 48 hours straight?

Many more times than I care to tell you.

12. What's your favorite commercial?
The "What’s in YOUR wallet?" Barbarian-Viking series. Particularly the one where they're invading the department store to rape and pillage and the perfume demo lady's spraying them as they run by, wishing them a nice day. I love funny-silly commercials like that.

13. Who was your first love?

First is hard. At some point in grammar school I read a biography of Alexander the Great and was totally infatuated. The book was written for kids so there was NO mention of his homosexuality beyond a couple of suggestive references to his very dear friend and drinking buddy Clitus. Must have been a very early manifestation of gaydar on my part. It also got me looking at books on Greek and Roman sculpture for the naked male gods' and athletes' statues.

There were lots of crushes. First love who made me ache for him when he wasn’t around and look forward to his phone calls? A boy in high school. It was unquestionably love, but I had no way to express it or to deal with it within myself--which made it all the stronger. Unless he was a lot more sophisticated (or I a lot more obvious) than I think, he never knew. I actually know where he lives now and I could even contact him, but I haven't and I won't.

14. If you're driving in the middle of the night, and no one is around, do you go through a red light?

No. I'm SUCH a good boy. And besides, the cops can hide those cruisers in the smallest and sneakiest places in the dark of night. For forty seconds of delay, it's just not worth it.

15. Do you have a secret that no one knows but you?
Yes. A couple, but one less for having answered #13.

16. Boston Red Sox or The New York Yankees?
Can I please have the meme that asks "Boston Symphony Orchestra or Vienna Philharmonic?" It's the Red Sox, even though I was born in New York City. My father took me to several Yankee games he desperately hoped would make me into the kind of jock son he'd always wanted. I actually enjoy baseball now in small doses, especially on TV where the almost theatrical drama of the tension in the faces and reaction among the players to each play is captured in the close-ups you can't begin to see in the ball park.

Boston Symphony, by the way.

17. Have you ever been Ice Skating?

Yes. I was taken as a kid. I'm not especially physically coordinated and spent a lot of time flat on various parts of my body trying to get back up. I didn't have fun. But I could roller skate like a champ and traveled all over my neighborhood in Rego Park, Queens on roller skates. With them, I never fell.

18. How often do you remember your dreams?

Very frequently. For many years I didn't remember my dreams at all but one of our directors at MIT is working in a dreamwork project to unlock creative thinking on life and artistic issues. All of us working on one of her productions did the dreamwork exercises and ever since then, I've gotten memory of my dreams back. I'm happy I did.

19. What's the one thing on your mind right now?
A couple of guest lectures I'm giving at Greenfield Community College in the middle of October that I'm preparing for right now.

20. Do you always wear your seat belt?
At all times in my car or any car I'm riding in.

21. What talent do you wish you had?
I wish I could read music and play the harpsichord.

22. Do you like sushi?

23. What do you wear to bed?
Nothing. Nothing at all.

24. Do you truly hate anyone?
One person, not even so much for WHAT was done but for the incredible amount of gratuitous cruelty, ingratitude and abuse to me and to my daughters with which it was done. I got beyond the hot hatred/obsession phase some years ago. It's now a thoroughly manageable total lack of respect, and a firm desire never to be in the same space with this person ever again.

Beyond that, George W. Bush.

25. If you could meet one famous person, who would it be?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, three days before his death, and if I could have with me a two week course of strong antibiotics. I firmly believe that if he had lived beyond age 36 the entire course of western music would be different, and filled with astonishingly inventive masterworks.

26. Do you know anyone in jail?

27. What food do you find disgusting?
Things like chocolate covered insects. I'm not that picky about food--I even ate part of a sheep's testicle in Iceland.

28. Have you ever made fun of your friends behind their back?
I honestly don't think so. If I have, I apologize for it here, publicly.

29. Have you ever been punched in the face?

30. Do you believe in angels and demons?
Only in a metaphoric sense.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Getting dressed in my house in the morning is a joint effort between me and my cat. I'm always up early--I wake naturally between five and five thirty most days. I stay in bed until six or six fifteen--reading, wanking, whatever, mostly wanking truth to tell--then breakfast and my daily call to Fritz at seven. After showering and shaving, I'm ready to get dressed but Starr's ready for the first big nap of the day, which is taken on my bed. Since she'd much rather I didn't leave her alone all day, she frequently settles down on something I've laid out to wear in hope this will prevent my leaving (I don't think she's figured out the sheer number of alternate garments I have yet).

She used to steal my socks. When they come out of the dryer, I place them one on top of the other and roll them up from the toe until they're in a ball, and tuck the ball into the top of one of the socks. That way they don't ever get lost one from another. But for a cat, they're perfect--just the size of a kitten or other small animal that a cat might want to carry around. One day she made off with a pair and I found her on a rug downstairs lying on her side with the sock clutched against her tummy as if she was nursing a kitten.

She doesn't make off with socks any more but she does try to prevent me from putting on my pants. Very early in my relationship with Fritz, I was getting dressed at his place and sitting on the foot of his bed threading a belt into the loops of my trousers that were on my lap. I heard laughter, looked up and there was Fritz looking at me incredulously--"What ARE you doing?" I thought it was perfectly obvious and said so--nicely, you understand--we'd just slept together. "But you're doing it with your pants OFF!"

"As opposed to what?"
"With your pants ON, of course."
"Does it make a difference?"

Apparently it did, or does, and doing things the way I do was considered highly amusing. I explained that when I tried to thread the belt with the pants on I invariably missed a loop somewhere along the line and that this way I never missed. "You are a source of constant delight," he told me. You see why I fell totally in love with this man?

Anyway, back to my cat--you remember my cat? She loves it when I sit on the edge of the bed and start threading the loops with the belt du jour. She attacks the belt, hangs on with her teeth and gets dragged across the bed as I try to feed some more belt though one more loop. Then she'll run behind my back and pounce on my trousers from the other direction, getting the belt between a couple of loops, trying to pull it out. But she's about eight and a half pounds and I'm one hundred and . . . well, I'm bigger than she is and I get dressed and go to work every time.

I'm staying in town tonight for a performance of Monteverdi's "Orfeo," so I dressed up a bit this morning. Simple raw umber colored slacks with one of my great recent thrift shop finds, a regular shirt but one transformed by an Indian pattern in jewel tones of wine, orange, dark teal and gold. It's downright cold these nights in Boston so I decided to wear a vest, and picked leather in warm orange-gold with brass buttons.

She had such fun with the belt

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I'd meant to post something long before this but lately there don't seem to be enough hours in the day. We went through the Primary voting process yesterday, and I think the fate of any Republicans standing for major office in Massachusetts this coming November is pretty much sealed. Not only are the Democratic candidates who won yesterday in positions of great strength going into the final stages of their campaigns, they are universally pro-Equality when it comes to gay marriage, employee and other civil rights. Unless something completely unthinkable happens, we should see the return of a Democrat--Deval Patrick, partnered by liberal Worcester mayor Tim Murray--to the Governor's office for the first time in twenty years. Patrick will also be the state's first African-American chief executive.

I don't want to jinx it by saying too much too soon but, given recent trends which see a lot of the traditional Republican base turning against Bozo and his gang, I suspect that Democrats could win big in the November elections, taking at least one, possibly both, houses of Congress and several state houses.

We're having an extended warm spell here. I went out to Au Bon Pain yesterday afternoon for iced coffee, turned a corner and was stating directly at the breathtakingly beautiful, shirtless back of a young man spraying a newly poured concrete sidewalk with water to assist its curing in the brilliant late summer sun. His jeans were slung low in his hips, a handsome tattoo of an abstract sun face placed perfectly between sculpted shoulder blades. I had a momentary fantasy of walking up behind him, taking him in my arms and . . . but I went on down the street, delighted and grateful for such male beauty in the world.

The latest Advocate has an interesting story that the majority of Google searches for gay porn come from guess where: the Islamic world. It may be a rabidly homophobic society with severe penalties under the law for homosexual activity, including the death penalty freely applied, but Muslim men apparently love gay porn. I'd noted--and been surprised by--the number of hits I get from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan and Turkey.

Fritz forwarded a link and message the other day from a site soliciting signatures on a petition urging the Congress not to vote for legislation pardoning Bush for his illegal domestic spying operation. Apparently Republicans are trying to get this past on the quiet. The pardon of Richard Nixon (who WAS a crook, no matter what he said) by Gerald Ford in the deal that made Ford Vice-President, was a disgrace. It should NOT happen again. Here's the link:

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I had a moment on Thursday afternoon, a flash of realization of the type I guess I'm going to have at intervals all year. I'd just come from teaching the second and last of the Period Style classes that form part of the beginning of our Principles of Design class. I was back in my office reshelving books I'd used in the class and starting to file left-over hand-outs, when I remembered I'm not teaching this class ever again. Whoever succeeds me will have his or her own material and no interest in hand-outs I've developed and used. I looked around, took a deep breath, quietly dropped them in the recycling basket, and started something else as quickly as possible.

It isn't a problem, really. It might be if there weren't something (and someone) wonderful to go to, as there is. I've never built, or supervised the building of, a house before. And it isn't my house, it's OUR house, Fritz's and mine. That's the key. Our lives will finally be lived completely together, we'll wake up in the same bed every morning, garden together, set up the conference rooms for various clients together at the beginning of the day before he goes off to teach or develop programs, and I start various projects in the decorative arts I've already laid out in my mind and wanted to have time to do for years.

I never used to deal well with periods of transition. They always felt uncomfortable, undefined and scary to me. But things change. I think I'm using this transition as an opportunity for reinvention and renewal--at least I hope I am. I've pulled that off at least once before and it turned out to be the beginning of the happiest phase of my life--my life as a gay man. So I should be able to pull it off again, and this time I won't be doing it alone.

Others are beginning to work behind the scenes toward my leaving next June. I've been asked to draw up a list of friends and colleagues for a big farewell party at the Institute. Plans are apparently afoot to have something named after me. I have no idea what at this point, but I was told that when and if the new arts facility is ever built, some part of it will have my name on it--preferably NOT the custodian's closet, please!

This has been my insect hell summer. Interestingly, I've gotten fewer mosquito bites than usual, probably because I've been careful to use bug spray liberally, even spraying it on my clothes because they just bite me right through fabric if I don't. Fritz is lucky since they don't generally go for him, particularly when I'm around. I'm the magnet. They just love Italian food.

I've had another attack of the ground hornets not so long ago, and been bitten by something a couple of times this summer that leaves big, hot and itchy welts that take almost a week to fade. Maybe they're spider bites since I've seen a lot of spiders, including big, scary ones with some interesting markings on them. I've currently got three bites in a triangle formation on my abdomen that are alternately itchy and painful. Unfortunately they're perfectly placed to be irritated by the belt in the top of my trousers. Much though I'm not looking forward to the heating bills, I can't wait until the first frost kills some and sends the restl into hibernation this winter.

I'll be in New Hampshire this afternoon and evening with Fritz and tomorrow morning I leave for New York City. My opera-going season begins at 1:30pm at Lincoln Center with a performance of "Semele" by George Fredrich Handel, a stylish and witty comedy of manners about a mortal woman who's courted by no less than Zeus, King of the Gods. The possibilities go to her head and, when she starts demanding that her suitor reveal himself in his true form instead of the human disguise he's used for the protection of mortals, his radiance immediately fries her to a crisp (offstage, fortunately--this IS a comedy). It's a classic tale of pride going before a fall—her big aria is the delightful but oh, so self-centered "Myself I shall adore." The lovely Elizabeth Futral stars.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I found this today on Devious Steve O's blog (thanks, Steve!), took it and the results are very accurate. At least I think they are--I'll leave it to others to decide whether or not they recognize me in them.

My Personality
Openness To Experience
Find your MySpace/Xanga/Hi5 soulmate / pysch twin
Test Yourself Compare Yourself View Full Report

You are sociable, outgoing, energetic, and lively. You prefer to be around people much of the time. You are generally calm and composed, reacting moderately well to situations that most people would describe as stressful. Novelty, variety, and change spice up your life and make you a curious, imaginative, and creative person. You have a strong interest in others' needs and well-being. You are pleasant, sympathetic, and cooperative. You set clear goals and pursue them with determination. People regard you as reliable and hard-working.
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Last night Fritz and I went to the local town zoning board meeting that was the final step in the subdivision of Fritz's property. Since the planning board had said they would recommend the required variance (165 feet of road frontage instead of the normally mandated 200 feet), we were pretty confident. We actually didn't speak ourselves. The surveyor, whose crew (stout, cute lads all) had done the mapping of the site, was present to explain the subdivision decisions and answer any questions. I think the entire process took about fifteen minutes and in the end, as expected, we were approved.

We could have left but the only other presentation to the board was by a neighbor of Fritz's, the guy whose antique barn, which was his business, was destroyed by that horrendous lightning strike I wrote about last April. Since his insurance company had been working to find every possible loophole to pay him as little as possible for his loss, he wanted to sell off some land to get some money coming in. Fritz wanted to see how it would all work out for him, which gave me a chance to really look at the zoning board members.

On the whole, this was the zoning board time forgot. As this was small town New England, the atmosphere was informal and the dress casual. The secretary was a short woman wearing a lime green top and some sort of checkered bottom in black and white, both top and bottom being just a tad too tight, so that each lump and bump was fully highlighted. One of the men on the board sported a classic 1940s hair cut, hair greased to perfection. His suit jacket was from about the same era.
The one woman on the board had her hair done in a perfect 1930s "Grandmother" do, pulled back to a tight bun. It could have been a scene right out of Norman Rockwell.

These were fully contemporary people, very good at their jobs, and if I seem like I’m poking fun at them, I'm not really. But you don't have to get too far out of a major urban area before familiar old lines like "next season EVERYBODY will be wearing" cease to have any relevance.

Because of the meeting I didn't catch any of the TV debate among the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Massachusetts. (The Republican candidate, Kerry Healey has refused to meet with the three Dems in debate, preferring to see just which of them is chosen in next Tuesday’s Primary election before she begins her campaign in earnest).

The big story here has been the emergence of Deval Patrick as the comfortable front runner in the race for the State House. A largely unknown former Justice Department figure in the Clinton Administration when he became a candidate, Patrick has pulled way ahead by running a low-key, focused and somewhat bland campaign free of controversy, attack ads, and attention-getting histrionics.

The latest polls are encouraging--no matter which of the three Democratic candidates is chosen in the Primary, even the one who's trailing badly, state Attorney General Tom Reilly, could defeat Healey in a minute. It'll be good to have a Democratic governor in power again here.

Today ended with getting back together with Boston blogger atari. He'd been visiting bloggers around the country and mentioned in his blog, The Lost Find, that he's lost touch with the QBB. I commented that we're still here and how about we have dinner together, particularly as we live close to each other. Joined by Keith of Data Jockey, we spent a very pleasant couple of hours at Doyle's, a genuine Boston Irish Pub (it's one of the epicenters of Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day revelry). Hopefully, we won't lose touch again.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Strange things are happening to gas prices in the area. Generally, prices up near Fritz are a couple of cents to a nickel lower than they are in Boston. But in the days just before Labor Day weekend, Boston prices went into free-fall, which they never do BEFORE a big holiday, whereas they eased only very slightly in New Hampshire. Boston prices bottomed out briefly at around $2.59 in my neighborhood and have since dropped to $2.49 at my local station.

But when I got off Route 93 in Derry, NH Saturday afternoon on my way to Fritz's, I saw gas prices at two of the six stations by the exit that I couldn't believe: $2.29 a gallon. There was a big gap up to $2.65 for the medium grade. Sunday as I headed back down to Boston, the price for regular had dropped to $2.25 and was offered at three of the stations. Plus and Extra remained forty to sixty cents a gallon higher.

Finding gas so reduced in price was icing on the cake of a very nice day. The host of the Body electric reunion in Winchester had planted cedars around the entire rear portion of his property so there was complete privacy. When I arrived, naked sun bathing and swimming was the order of the day. I spent a very pleasant hour and a half with the guys before continuing my trip and Joining Fritz and one of the teachers for dinner that included my husband's superb swordfish, excellent home made New England succotash, and enough wine to get us all just about completely shit-faced.

This morning as I drove to work, the radio stations were focused almost across the board on the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero in New York City. Part of the ceremony involved widows, widowers, and the surviving partners of those killed, reading the names of the dead. They came in pairs and alternated reading a group of names, the last name each read being their own lost loved one about whom they said a few personal words. In the part of the ceremony WBZ radio broadcast before cutting away to coverage of the rest of the day's remembrances, the readers were all women and they were all remembering husbands.

I allowed myself to wonder if any of the gay men or lesbians among the bereaved were going to be included and allowed to acknowledge the loss of their same-sex partners. I'm sure there'll be coverage of that one way or the other in the various gay print media, because there was bitter protest five years ago about same-sex partners originally being excluded from the financial compensation packages and other considerations. Eventually cooler and fairer heads prevailed, but not before a lot of anger and hurt had been vented.

However, the answer to my question was answered affirmatively when I got home tonight on Boston's six o'clock TV news. At the State House on Beacon Hill, the first widower WBZ-TV interviewed was a man who'd lost his partner on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center. As he spoke a photo of the man he had lost was superimposed over the screen, and then the coverage went on to other things. Massachusetts makes me so proud--sometimes; in the last election for governor, we DID vote in Mitt Romney after all. Not me personally, please note, but the state as a whole. And this state has been quite well punished for its sin.

The concert last night went very well. Soprano Joanna Porackova was in fine form and has to have been strong as an ox. As I mentioned previously, the program was lengthy and very challenging. However, she aced it, her voice getting stronger and more brilliant as the evening progressed. My little essays between her selections went well. Part of my job was also to deliver a piece on the harmonic structure of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" that had been written by the evening's pianist. It was quite technica, included a lengthy digression to explain the Phrygian Mode in music that required quoting a lot of German.

I'm very secure in my French and Italian pronunciation because both languages were in my family and I studied both in school. I can just get by in simple German although I have only the basics of its pronunciation. But it didn't help when a group of about six people, all of them native German speakers, came in and sat down in the first row directly in front of where my lecturn was set up and stared at me expectantly when I took the stage. I figured the best thing I could do was to disarm criticism immediately and, as charemingly as possible, begged the audience's indulgence for my German pronunciation.

In the end, it all went well. To make it all the more pleasant, I had long overdue surprise reunions with a Boston-area director with whom I studied at Brandeis University's graduate theater program, and with one of the area's leading flute players whom I hadn't seen in years.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

End of the first week of the academic year at MIT! It's always hectic, always filled with meetings (at least they have very good food), always involved with long days--and always fun to be back with the students.

What hasn't been fun is trying to teach, hold meetings, even trying to maintain a conversation with the noise coming through our south wall as they finish demolition of the adjoining building. With everything gone but the parts that actually cling to our wall, this was the time that I was told was for "hand work." Well hand work turns out to mean "work done by hands holding jack hammers. "

There are two cherry pickers working different areas of the wall, each with two construction workers in the basket blasting away at the brickwork, and particularly at the poured, reinforced concrete columns that were molded right to our wall when the wrecked building was constructed. A couple of times I was sure they were coming right through the wall, and they obviously thought so, too. Regularly during the day the foreman (a big, strapping slab of a man—quite a sight to see, actually) and an assistant would come in to make sure they hadn't broken through. It looks like we're going to have the better part of a week more of this because the big pillars are tough going. The jack hammers are set on the slowest speed because of the delicacy of the operation and the pillars--all seven of them--are big and quite solid.

Today's a mixed bag. I'll be working around the house and property all morning. On my way up to Fritz's, I'll be making two stops. One is at MIT to finish up word processing and printing my continuity narration for the concert tomorrow (I currently don't have a working printer at home). The other is to a Body Electric reunion in Wakefield which is just off the highway between Boston and Fritz's place. The two Body Electric weekends each year that we host at the Center frequently make long-term friends among the guys who participate. One of them from one has invited everyone involved, including Fritz and me, to a pool party this afternoon.

My beloved is teaching all day for the Lesley University Masters Degree program but I'm planning on interrupting my trip for a couple of hours, especially since there are hints in the correspondence with this guy that his property has enough privacy to allow skinny dipping. The weather is supposed to be perfect and on the warm side. I haven't actually been swimming yet this summer. On the Cape in July the water was so cold that you only got in as far as it took to completely numb your calves and feet before retreating. And this has been the second year in a row that I didn't make it down to Martha's Vineyard to the nude beach at Aquinnah. I'm overdue for a little naked splashing around.

The concert's tomorrow. A local soprano who's nothing if not daring has planned a recital to be given at St. Paul's Church in Brookline, reputed to have superb acoustics. She's planned five serious challenges: Leonore's big first act aria from Beethoven's "Fidelio," Isolde's Narrative and Curse and the Liebestod from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," the opening monolog from Richard Strauss's "Elektra," and she's finishing with Brunnhilde's Immolation Scene from Wagner's "Gotterdammerung." I can't help wondering if she's invited people from New York for this in the hope of making the leap from Boston.

Each of the selections is a real voice cruncher by itself. In the operas in which they appear, there's some space around each where the character doesn't sing in order to soften the strain. Well, that's where I come in--she requested the concert organizer, the Wagner Society of Boston, to give her a good five minutes between selections, perhaps with some continuity commentary somehow linking the selections thematically. Above and beyond mentioning all evening that the program's a real ball-buster, that is. The Society asked if I'd be interested. Always one to rise to a challenge, I’ve written a series of short essays, each of which begins with a comment from either a music critic or a performer at the time of the work's premiere; to bring a little humor into the proceedings, most of these comments are decidedly negative opinions of works now recognized as established masterpieces. My very favorite is from the Viennese music Edward Hanslick about Wagner's "Tristan":

"The prelude to Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE reminds me of the Italian painting of the martyr whose intestines are slowly being unwound from his body on a reel."

Oh, how I’d LOVE to have written something like that!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I was going to post something last night but arrived home from New Hampshire too tired after a tremendously packed but satisfying and enjoyable weekend.
I left Boston early Friday morning and shortly after getting my cat settled into Fritz's place, we left for the coastal town of York, Maine for a visit with an old and dear colleague of mine and her husband at their cottage that's separated from the shore by three hundred feet of wild flowers on which the annual migration of monarch butterflies was just beginning to perch. With L. I had spent a dozen years leading study/travel trips to Europe in the summer for advanced high school students. Her husband M. had been our admissions director at MIT, in which position he had revolutionized the undergraduate student body by A)steadily increasing female enrollment, and B)by finding a more diversified kind of student scientist, one who could, as I sometimes said, play the odd sonata or paint the odd picture as well as split the odd atom.

On Friday night the first two guys arrived, bearing chain saws and prepared to start taking trees down the next day. Fritz and I had marked the way by tying orange tape bows onto the trees that had to come down to create the road up to our new house site. We worked hard against the deadline of rains accompanying the remnants of hurricane Ernesto that were due in early evening. Two more men joined us after lunch bearing in their big pick-up truck a gas-powered hydraulic log splitter. Before quitting at end of day, we'd taken down at least twenty trees, cut the trunks and major branches into lengths that could be loaded in the back of my jeep and taken down the hill to a pile where they can season and dry for a year before being cut into firewood. The log splitter was then set up by last year's pile, a huge elm that had succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease.

Elm is an extremely dense and hard wood but, as this one was extremely dry, we were able to cut it into stove lengths and watch the hydraulic wedge rip it into chunks in no time at all. By the end of the weekend, we' cut and split enough firewood to take Fritz and his Center through winter and spring, saving large amounts of money in New Hampshire where firewood is currently going for $300 a cord.

Sunday was rainy, going up the hillside to fell trees wasn't an option and we never got back up there the rest of the weekend. Sunday was spent working on stripping paint off the slab floor of a big conference room so it can be painted with sealer and prepared for a new foam-padded vinyl surface. I spent a couple of hours cleaning out the loft of the barn. We had scheduled a Sweat Lodge gathering that evening but it was way too wet to get a fire going to heat the rocks. But in spite of the weather, several more men arrived knowing that even if the Sweat was cancelled, there'd be a big pot luck supper and some sort of party afterwards.

The dinner was a lot of fun for what was now a group of fourteen. After we cleaned up, we settled into a showing of the movie "Saved," partially a satire against fundamentalist Christianity, partially a sweet love story built around the idea of strong personal faith that transcends the limitations of closed minds. The second feature was "42nd Street," the big Depression-era Busby Berkeley extravaganza. Despite its reputation, Fritz and I found the first half hour dull going. As the guys were beginning to create their own amusements in various groupings, we slipped away together for the night.

Labor Day Monday began late with homegrown raspberry pancakes. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, the floor was finished, the remaining elm cut and stacked, everything cleaned up, and friends kissed good-bye and thanked for what had been an extraordinary amount of work. We're extremely blessed with the men who are our friends.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Good Labor Day Holiday Weekend!

It's very early Friday morning--the cat and I are packed up and ready to head up to Fritz's for the weekend. Today we'll drive up the coast a bit to visit friends who have a cottage on the coast in York, ME. We'll probably get lunch out at the Chauncy Creek restaurant where lobster, mussels, clams and fish are prepared incredibly fresh and served on picnic tables under awnings on a pier that overhangs the creek.

In mid-afternoon we'll return to Fritz's to greet the guys and help them get settled. It's Work & Play Weekend, a regular Labor Day event for us. As long as the weather holds before the remnants of Ernesto hit northern New England, we'll be cutting down trees, chain sawing and splitting them into firewood. At some point, doubtless, there'll be some sort of revel to mark the passing of summer into autumn--we all know what gay men are.

Have a great weekend. Oh, this is really sweet. When I googled "birthday/anniversary cakes" earlier this month for the blog's third anniversary post, this was one of the pictures that came up. I've no idea who this particular Dad or his Anthony are, but I feel a great affection for them and for the children who've embraced their father's true self and the love of his life.

Happy holiday weekend to you all!

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