Wednesday, May 30, 2007

 
It was a lovely weekend, although it was hard work that made it so. Because of our various schedules and the weather’s unpredictability, we hadn't been able to get together with M to finish work on the Sweat Lodge--and our guys were scheduled to start arriving Sunday evening at 5pm. On a holiday weekend and with everyone expecting the debut of the renovated Lodge, we expected a healthy crowd.

I drove up to New Hampshire on Saturday and Fritz and I went out into the woods and began to do whatever we could with whatever materials were left from the original supply. Fritz shingled the roof exterior while I got inside the Lodge and began to sheathe the eight triangular segments of roof with cedar plank.

M arrived, took stock of the situation, made up a lumber order and soon we were going full tilt. Working just with hand tools, I got three sections of the inside of the octagonal roof finished before we closed up for the evening.

Sunday morning we started early but this time M fired up his generator and chop saw. We seemed to race through the work. M built benches out of cedar, one between two tree trunks and one free-standing. Fritz kept on shingling--his specialty, learned at his businessman father's knee--and I got the final five sections of roof done in three hours. Then we spread three fifty pound bags of sand to make a new floor in the Lodge and we did a big clean-up, finishing just before 1pm. After lunch we went up the hillside to fell trees.

With only Fritz’s chain saw--we only had one lumberjack to help us take down trees in the house site--we didn't get too much cleared before men started arriving--and arriving and arriving-- a final count of 21. Five elected to spend their time in the hot tub with Fritz and the rest of us took the new and improved Sweat Lodge out for a test drive.

It was a huge hit. Lined with new cedar, it smells wonderful. The octagonal skylight was very popular as was the new bench with no more ass-pinching gaps. The steam rose high from the red hot rocks and then came down the back of our necks in a natural convection that felt just great. Heavy insulation in the roof makes an amazing difference. After three or four ladles of water on the stones the basic temperature is reached and the new lodge maintains that temperature seemingly indefinitely. The acoustic is startling—one guy mentioned that it was like a steam bath inside a giant violin. When we chant or sing songs in rounds, there's a warm resonance that’s deep and rich.

M, who designed the entire new scheme, got several rounds of applause, and then suddenly the sweetest gift he could have been given—D, a lovely man M's not so secretly falling in love with, arrived late and slipped in next to him on the bench. You’ve never seen someone so happy. Eventually we all left them alone and headed back to the showers and some play time before a big pot luck dinner.

Monday morning Fritz I got my new mailbox installed. Even though I'm not moving up to Raymond until mid-July, I need to be getting mail there. All I have left to do is fill out the Post Office’s service form and I'll be in business.

My home computer is acting badly these days after an invasion of pop-ups that a couple of programs imported specifically to kill that sort of thing off are controlling but not completely eliminating. I'll try to get some pictures of the new Sweat Lodge posted from work later in the week.

Friday, May 25, 2007

 
Many, many thanks to those of you who left comments congratulating us on our anniversary. We had a lovely time. The food at Radici in Portsmouth is extremely good but, stalwart homos that we are, we also have ulterior motives. The host/maitre 'd is cute as a bug's ear and just delightful; Sam the handsome bartender, always dressed completely in black, has an infectious smile and is one of those men who just exudes desirability while doing absolutely nothing but standing there looking great.

For the record, Radici has superb bread and roasted garlic-infused dipping oil thats addictive. We'd considered beginning with a pot of Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in white wine, shallots, etc., etc. but decided on a second round of bread and oil instead along with our pinot grigios. Fritz had seafood Fra Diavolo while I chose Pesto Salmon (perfectly broiled) served on a bed of warm English cucumber salad. I don't believe for amoment that a warm salad is remotely English but so much the better--with a subtle hint of balsamic vinegar and a lot of subsidiary veggies, it made an ideal companion to the salmon.

We ended with coffee and then treated ourselves to an obscene amount of ice cream on the way home.

*******

Karl, one of the QBB (Adventures in Gastronomy), tagged me with this question on why I blog (I note that he then fled the country immediately, on his way to Paris with his boyfriend). As it happens, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing so here's the meme:

The rule of the tag:
Post a similar post like this one and add a linkback to the person who tagged you.

* List 5 reasons why you blog about the things you blog on your blog.
* Choose your 5 tag ‘victims’ and tag them nicely
* Write a comment on their blog letting them know that you tagged them. Voila!

Five Reasons why I blog about what I blog:
1. Gay Issues: I began because I'd been reading blogs by gay men for about six months and finally decided I wanted to be part of that world. I started DesignerBlog almost four years ago in August of 2003. In that time I've linked to blogs by gay men of all ages, professions, lifestyles, political and personal philosophies and sexual practices.

This experience has confirmed for me that the variety and richness of gay life in this country is truly amazing; I'm fortunate to have developed friendships and acquaintances among men of all types, both in this country and abroad. And blogging for me is a further extension of being out and demonstrating the value of a gay life to anyone who will read.

2. The Art of Writing: I've always enjoyed writing but much of it has been of a utilitarian nature. I wanted to improve my skills, become simpler and more direct, and be forced to write constantly to keep in practice and constantly developing.

It's become much easier; I've discovered that I can sit at the keyboard with an idea seemingly worth only one or two sentences and, as I'm writing them, the whole thing starts to flow and develop a life of its own. It's exciting when that happens and leads me to hope that maybe I'm actually becoming a writer, one of my earliest goals in blogging.

3. Myself and My Thoughts: I came from an extremely insular, even isolated family that was obsessed with privacy almost to the point of paranoia (and past the point of paranoia in a couple of cases as they moved into old age). Any kind of self-revelation was avoided and condemned.

In school we were often urged to keep a diary and I tried but soon grew bored. Who would read it? Only me. Then why do it, I wondered. Blogging solved both problems. Ive become much more comfortable revealing myself, and what I put out on the blog is a means of reaching out to people who read of my life and experiences and perhaps connect and may choose to write back.

4. The Arts, The Performing Arts in Particular: They've been my life. There's no way I could write a blog and be honest about myself and not include them in a major way. I'm sure that the heavy arts component of DesignerBlog is one reason I don't have daily hit statistics through the roof, but I'm delighted with the readers I have, and noticed in the comments to Wednesday's post several who commented for the very first time, which is just great--welcome, and I hope you won't be strangers here.

5. I wanted to become more confident working on a computer, and that's certainly happened. I'm much more comfortable multi-tasking on the machine now. I've also become more knowledgeable about the immense number of resources, research opportunities and services available on the web. I tend to go to the web first now, instead of grabbing a yellow pages, or a dictionary as a first reaction.

I generally don't tag bloggers, but I must admit that I would like very much to find out why these guys blog about what they blog about:

Ted, of The Neighbors Will Hear
Michael, Spo Reflections
Evan, of Life is Sweet in the Fenway
Jess, of Splenda in the Grass
Lewis, of The Spirit of Saint Lewis

*******


If nothing happens to ruin the deal, the new owner of my house in Roslindale and I will pass papers on Thursday, July 12 and I will cease to be a Massachusetts resident. Here, from one of the Town of Raymond, New Hampshire's sites, is a bit of the official word on the community into which I'm moving:


Origin: This territory was settled in 1717 by Colonel Stephen Dudley who claimed to have purchased the land from the Sagamore Indians. The township was called Freetown, because it was exempt from the usual obligation of reserving its tall pine trees for masts in the royal English Navy. (photo of the Town Hall and Library in 1906)

In 1726, Freetown was included in the incorporation of Chester. It was separated from Chester in 1764, incorporated and renamed Raymond for Captain William Raymond, who had raised a company of soldiers to fight in the war against Canada. (photo of the beginnings of the Exeter River on the Chester/Raymond town line--it becomes a raging torrent in spring floods)

Land in Raymond was granted to soldiers from Beverly, Massachusetts, and it was also known as Beverly-Canada.

[Despite the official version above, there is a persistent legend that Raymond was actually first settled by a group of monks. Fritz and I, given some of the activities we host, find this story highly appropriate]

Population, Year of the First Census Taken: 727 residents in 1790 [Two years later Benjamin Poor built a handsome, very typical center-chimney home near the western edge of Raymond town which is Fritz's current home] (Photo of the Historical Society, housed in the old train depot from the days when Raymond was a major southern New Hampshire summer resort with train service fromBoston, etc.)

Population Trends: Population change for Raymond totaled 8,269 over 50 years, from 1,428 in 1950 to 9,697 in 2000. The largest decennial percent change was an 82 percent increase between 1970 and 1980; both the previous and next decade had a population change of over 60 percent.


The 2005 Census estimate for Raymond was 10,122 residents, which ranked 28th among New Hampshire's incorporated cities and towns. [These figures are seriously obsolete—condo development in the area has been intense and the town is developing rapidly]
(photo of the center of town, most of which was lost to a catastrophic fire that leveled the heart of Raymond in the late 1800s)

*******


There was a meeting at the Fritz's Center yesterday morning of our general contractor, M (who has been doing all the architectural construction drawings), and me (Fritz had an engagement in a neighboring school district). We went over the GC's estimate on the house's cost, answered questions, made a few decisions, walked up to the house site and declared everything ready to begin construction just as soon as the building permit is issued.

After they left I went down to the local main bank (which, happily, is the same bank as mine here in Boston so I won't have to close accounts and start up again) and arranged for new checks to be printed with my Raymond address. I then went out and bought a nice big mailbox, large highly reflective numbers to place on its sides, and a post to mount it on. It will be set into the shoulder beside the road some time this weekend.

Then I drove down to MIT and sat with my fellow designers for a couple of hours figuring out the grades for all the design classes. When I had those all recorded, forms filled out for students taking incompletes, etc. etc., I delivered the grade sheets to our departmental office and my career as a teacher at MIT officially ended.
And the fun began.

Three or so years ago, MIT began an Open Courseware program that would make all our courses, their syllabi, reading lists, examples of student work and other relevant information available to the general public on the MIT site. I met with the team implementing the program and decided to work with them getting the six design courses we offer into the system. Then I went back to our building, discussed with my colleagues the advantages of Open Courseware and found them completely uninterested in doing the work required.

They even remained uninterested when I mentioned the stipend being offered--$2000 per course in the first year of the incentive period, $1200 in the second year, $750 the third and last year. So I dug in and started doing the work myself.

By the time I had over $4000 at my disposal for use in any legitimate academic purpose (one professor placed four courses into the system in the first year, applied for a half-pay semester’s leave, set herself up in a little apartment in Paris and did research leading to publication of a book that later guaranteed her getting tenure), they realized that I was getting all the cash. They suddenly discovered their inner lesson planner and started cranking out the stuff--at the much lower third year rates.

So at the end of day, I worked with one of the administrative assistants to set up the purchase (aided by the Institute's big volume discount) of my first-ever laptop. There will be bells and whistles, a 17” screen, a stylish carrying case, a large capacity external storage drive and a couple of other accessories. And there will still be money left over for a couple of other goodies as well.

But when I got home, there was the biggest goodie of all--a voicemail from the Building Inspector of Raymond, New Hampshire to tell me that the building permit for the new house had been issued yesterday morning and could be picked up at any time. The waiting is over. Construction begins next week!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

 

Ten astonishingly beautiful years

On May 23, 1997 I was at a gay men's tantric-erotic massage evening; at about 9:30pm I looked up and saw two clear French Blue eyes looking down and a big smile. We've been together ever since. Tonight Fritz and I will drive to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to a lovely restaurant we've just discovered called Radici and celebrate our tenth anniversary (and third as married men on May 23, 2004). The ten happiest, most productive and wondeful years of my life. Happy Anniversary, my love!

Monday, May 21, 2007

 
Devious Steve-O (thanks, Steve!) featured this survey on his blog, and here's my response:

1. Do you try to look hot when you go to the grocery store just in case someone recognizes you from your blog?
No, but I try to look good because my supermarket is full of gay guys and, well--you know.

2. Are the photos you post Photoshopped or otherwise altered?
No. A) I wouldn't falsify anything and, B) I wouldn't know how!

3. Do you like it when creeps or dorks email you?
I like it when ANYBODY emails me.

4. Do you lie in your blog?
No, never.

5. Are you passive-aggressive in your blog?
No.

6. Do you ever threaten to quit writing so people will tell you not to stop?
No, that's manipulative bullshit.

7. Are you in therapy? If not, should you be? If so, is it helping?
No, and No. I tried a bit of therapy during a traumatic break-up many years ago and the therapist finally told me I was too realistic about things and insufficiently delusional--I should just go home and live my life. I did.

8. Do you delete mean comments? Do you fake nice ones?
No to the first. As for the second, I've never faked anything (ahem).

9. Have you ever rubbed one out while reading a blog? How about after?
Maybe once while reading a blog. Several times when watching webcams in the past.

10. If your readers knew you in person, would they like you more or like you less?
They seem to like me a great deal. It's because I'm interested in them, I think.

11. Do you have a job?
Technically, yes. But I'm very soon beginning an early retirement, so I won't have one in a couple of months.

12. If someone offered you a decent salary to blog full-time without restrictions, would you do it?
Very probably.

13. Which blogger do you want to meet in real life?
Teddy from The Neighbors Will Hear. Also, Nicky from Dominic's Corridor. I've been lucky enough to meet several bloggers and have enjoyed their company greatly.

14. Which bloggers have you made out with?
None, but the thought HAS crossed my mind.

15. Do you usually act like you have more money or less money than you really have?
I act like me. I don't play for image of any kind.

16. Does your family read your blog?
No. But my husband does.

17. How old is your blog?
Four years this coming August.

18. Do you get more than 1000 page views per day? Do you care?
Ha! I get between 130 and 150 per day. I kind of care. I'd love to have more readers (Joe.My.God and Mark from Zeitzeuge can write about what they had for breakfast and have 45 comments by lunch time). I consider my circle of reader/commentors to be small but choice.

19. Do you have another secret blog in which you write about being depressed, slutty, or a liar?
No, not that I haven't considered it.

20. Have you ever given another blogger money for his/her writing?
No. But I've supported Mark of Zeitzeuge, Jake of NoFo, Bryan of Chaos in Austin and a couple of others for doing AIDS walks, rides or runs.

21. Do you report the money you earn from your blog on your taxes?
I don't make any, and don't care to.

22. Is blogging narcissistic?
Exhibitionistic, perhaps--but not narcissistic, at least not in my case.

23. Do you feel guilty when you don't post for a long time?
My goal is to post every two days. If I go longer, I don't feel guilt but am concerned about losing readers.

24. Do you like John Mayer?
I know of him but have never heard him.

25. Do you have enemies?
I'm sure. We all do.

26. Are you lonely?
No. Alone sometimes, but never lonely as long as I know Fritz is there in my life.

27. Why bother?
Because to bother--to care--is to live.

*******

The Body Electric weekend was most enjoyable. Three men we've know well for years were the presenters. There were some great guys among the participants--it was on average a much younger group than normal--but two decided to drop out during the weekend which is very unusual.

On Saturday night we did the usual fancy banquet-style dinner by candle light with a nice menu (Fritz's special chicken in rosemary-herbed sour cream sauce, green beans, salad and fudge brownies with ice cream for dessert. After dinner one of the guys showed a film which he helped make and in which he's featured, a documentary of the gay singing duo, Y'All. The two singers, partners professionally and personally, toured around the country in a 20 foot trailer (celebrated in their song "Life in a Box") and one night the young man who was with us for the weekend sat in the first row at one of their performances.

The three shared a dinner later that evening and very quickly fell in love. The documentary traces a year in their relationship, the change in the dynamic between the original lovers, the evolution of the threesome, and the final decision for each of them to go his own way. Well made, if somewhat choppy in the editing here and there, the film was an interesting anatomy of a three-way relationship and a tribute to the ups and downs of love among men. When it was over and the lights came up, one of the guys commented, "aren't all threesomes unstable by nature?" which brought the retort frome someone else "arent all couples unstable by nature?" Laughter, and point taken.

*******

There was some real sadness around Boston at the announcement that the Jesuits are going to close their Jesuit Urban Center in the South End after many years' ministry to the city's gay and lesbian Catholics.

The story is interesting and complex. As an order of priests specifically created during the counter-Reformation to combat the development of Protestantism, the Jesuits were always both the intellectual arm of the Church (intellectualism not being high on the list of virtues the Catholic Church holds in regard because it leads to asking questions) and a conservative force for the preservation of the traditional faith. However in Boston the Jesuit Urban Center, focused on its splendid 1860s church in Roman Baroque as imagined by the Victorians, became The Gay Catholic Church.

The road was somewhat rocky. Up until 2000, there was a steady congregation of around 400 and that was enough to pay the bills and keep up the property. But in that year a nun employed at the Center was fired for baptising the child of a same-sex couple. A priest was also let go in connection to the incident. The Jesuits maintained that the gender of the couple never came into it, but that nuns are forbidden to administer sacraments like Baptism except in extreme emergencies. Nevertheless, there was anger among the faithful and about half the congregation departed never to return. In succeeding years, there was further attrition and debts mounted up.


The Jesuits altered the interior of the church to build offices for the noted early music ensemble The Boston Camerata, and they took in single performance events such as our Intermezzo Chamber Opera production last November of Benjamin Britten's "Curlew River." But even that income wasn't enough.

As the ministry at the JUC became more and more focused on serving the gay community, groups like Mass Resistance, a homophobic organization devoted to stamping out all gay rights and gay visibility, urged mainline Catholics to rat out what was going on in the South End to the local hierarchy and to the Vatican. But it's neither of them who has decided to close the Jesuit Center, it's the order itself. The Jesuits' income comes largely from the salaries of members who teach at Boston College, and as with all religious orders in the U.S., as older members retire or die, there are fewer and fewer young men coming in to replace them. They simply don't have the money and will put the property up for sale and disband the ministry.

"We don't want it to become a condo" said one highly placed local Jesuit, but condo conversion is the virtually universal fate of churches that have lost their congregations in Boston, particularly downtown and in the immediately adjoining neighborhoods of Back Bay and the South End.

As to the gay community left without a place to gather for Catholic and social services, the Jesuit Order invited them to check out a church inf Chestnut Hill near Boston College (a big trek); the Paulist Center downtown (albeit the apostle Paul himself was hardly cordial to gays or to women of any sexual orientation); the church of St. Ignatius in Boston--or the Cathedral of the Holy Cross several blocks away. The latter, the Jesuits admit, may not exactly be appetizing to gay Catholics as it's the seat of Cardinal Sean O'Malley, a rabid homophobe closely allied to the former-Hitler Youth Pope who clearly hates them as well as homosexuals everywhere.

Sad. What possible value does a religion have that isn't devoted to bringing people together and helping all people live in fruitful harmony?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

 
The Boston area is once again in the cold and damp with periods of heavy rain and a lot of stinging wind-blown drizzle. Pardon me, is this golbal warming or global cooling? Or is it global exchange--the poles melt and the temperate zones freeze?

But it's warm up at Fritz's with all the wood stoves going. We're cooking this weekend for the Body Electric School. It's a very intimate group this time, ten men taking the program and three in the presentation crew. It's going to be very easy on the two of us--all the breakfast dishes, cups, bowls and glassware, including all serving and preparation pieces--went into the biog industrial Hobart dishwasher in just four trays. I LOVE that machine--I have great fun working it and, of course, working closely with a group of gay men is always something we look forward to.

We kicked the weekend off last night with a performance at the Portsmouth Music Hall by Patti LuPone doing her one woman show "Woulda, coulda, shoulda." It's a well-constructed retrospective of her considerable career (which reportedly continues at top speed with a planned new production of "Gypsy" in the works).

She began by detailing leading roles performed in childhood on back yard patios and in school, singing the numbers and building up to her audition at the newly formed Juilliard School division of theater (John Houseman on her classical speech: "Miss LuPone, I don't believe that's exactly what Shakespeare had in mind") where she was admitted on the basis of a cute little novelty number that she performed last night with virtuoso speed and energy.

The entire program was a joyous romp through songs she sang on stage, would love to have performed, or could have performed if only someone had been smart enough at the time to cast her. Highlights of part one were her singing both roles--Anita and Maria--in "A boy like that!" from "West Side Story" (doing a delicious send-up of Chita Rivera in the process), and "Don't cry for me, Argentina" from . . . you know.

Part two began with her singing men's songs from three musicals, declaring that as she was the only leading man on stage at the time, these belonged to her. She aced "Trouble" from "The Music Man", and then took on Billy's big monolog from "Carousel", singing it with more sustained dramatic power than some of the men who've attempted it on stage recently.

After several other songs, including two by Sondheim ("Here's to the ladies who lunch" in a bitter, rueful interpretation that was just about perfect), she did two encores to rapturous applause (the audience was filled with gay men and others who knew their Broadway cold) and then appeared before the curtain to sing a final encore a capella and without amplification, doing some of her best actual singing of the night. Throughout she was hugely communicative and highly personal. A great evening.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

 
Things continue to go well concerning the sale of the house, which is a huge relief. Yesterday the house inspector went over the place with a fine tooth comb. There were a couple of surprises, all minor and manageable. Several will probably fall under the "as is" agreement with the new owner and I may have to take care of a couple myself, but I put some money aside for that sort of thing a while ago and should be able to cover things like a new pipe from the furnace to the chimney (there are rust spots and pinholes that are letting minute amounts of exhaust out into the basement), for example.

July 12 is now set as the day papers are passed and I will no longer be a Massachusetts resident. I'm ramping up my packing and transporting of as much as I can up to Fritz's, so the actual move by a professional moving company will be pretty modest by the time it has to happen.

MIT held the farewell party last Saturday night at the Hotel @ MIT up in Central Square. It was a big, fun, kind of joyous event. Aardvark, the jazz band conducted by one of our music faculty played wonderfully. Fritz and I danced and then another gay male couple danced and everybody had a great time.

There's a dear friend on the faculty, a woman with whom I've worked on one of her personal appearances doing her cabaret act. I brought in some simple lighting equipment and then just improvised light and color from the control board during her program, working off her moods and what her accompanist was doing throughout the evening. If there's such a thing as improvisatory jazz lighting, this was it and the three of us had a great time. I had asked if it might be possible for her to sing Fritz's and my song, "At Last" that was a big hit for Etta James. She did--in fact she sang the socks off it, and it got the after-dinner part of the evening off to a great start.

There were about 85 people, very good food and they gave me a gift of a gorgeous door that Fritz and I had found for the new house. It's oak with a big vertical panel of clear glass in various textures, leaded in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright's windows. It's perfect for the style of the house and will be mounted in the opening between the house's vestibule and the Great Room, allowing lots of light to pour into living area. It's an expensive item and an immense help that they decided for it to be my gift (Fritz, of course, was the discreet go-between on the deal). The fact that they gave something that will become part of the fabric of the house means a great deal--we'll see it and use it on a daily basis.

Tomorrow I teach my final classes at MIT--perhaps ever, who knows? When I look at the list of projects and experiences I've got lined up, I know that I am certainly not going to be idle. I'll probably be like some people I've met who retired early and then wondered how they ever found time to work.

**

I received an interesting bit of direct mail advertising the other day, a three-fold flyer for Just for Men hair color. The TV ads show guys with newly colored hair and younger women hanging all over them. It took a moment for me to pick up on the fact that the photos in this ad piece show only men in groups of two or three, one of which has this text:
"It's Romantic. He likes it when you make a little extra effort to look good for him."

As I've noticed before, popular acceptance frequently walks hand-in-hand with commercial profit opportunity.

**


This is my Tarot Card--although not all the text copied from the site that analyzes and tells you what your
card is:



You are The Star

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Star is one of the great cards of faith, and dreams realised

The Star is a card that looks to the future. It does not predict any immediate or powerful change, but it does predict hope and healing. This card suggests clarity of vision, spiritual insight. And, most importantly, that unexpected help will be coming, with water to quench your thirst, with a guiding light to the future. They might say you're a dreamer, but you're not the only one.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

 
Fritz and I spent the night with this man, sadly not in the Biblical sense. Brian Stokes Mitchell, at the top of his game in a relaxed, vibrant performance, played to a well-filled Sanders Theater last night and demonstrated why he's a big Broadway star.

The program was announced to last for 75 minutes without int--mission but Mitchell was so generous with encores--demanded by a crowd on its feet and begging for more--that it went to 105 minutes and could have gone longer as far as the audience was concerned. There were songs from his Broadway successes as well as jazz and pop numbers that fit into the frame. Halfway through, like Barbara Cook in her concert appearances, he put down the microphone to sing "This nearly was mine" from South Pacific. He filled--and I mean FILLED--Sanders with his warm, sexy, expressive voice.

His final encore was "The impossible dream" from Man of La Mancha. After singing the entire number with mic, he dropped it to his side for the climax and with his own natural, unamplified voice, topped the volume and energy level of what had come before. The two songs from South Pacific that he sang during the evening had been written for one of the great operatic bass voices of the 20th century, the handsome, charismatic Ezio Pinza. For those numbers, Mitchell produced a solid, gorgeously colored legitimate bass that opened out on top with no sense of strain. I honestly believe this man could sing ANYTHING.

*******

Phone call today from my elder daughter with congratulations on the big farewell party for me at MIT tonight--after which she hit me with this:

ED: Are you aware you outed yourself to the entire Willamette University community?"
Me: How did I manage THAT?
ED: You didn't but their Public Relations Office found your blog."
Me: How? Not that I mind; I'm completely out to everyone, I might as well be out to them.
ED: They google the school every day to check up on anything people are saying about
Willamette. You didn't mention any names but they read that J is joining the
Math Department and put two and two together. So now the Department knows about their new Math Professor's gay father-in-law with the sustainable, green house in New Hampshire. Everything's green and
environmentally friendly out there.

I told her that Fritz and I can't wait to go out and visit, spending time in both Salem and Portland. Fritz has been to Oregon but I never have, and I'm looking forward to spending some real time there.

*******


This is totally gratuitous but why not? Having begun with one gorgeous singer, here's another, the Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. I have no other reason to post this today except that I think beauty is its own reward.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

 
This isn't the post I thought I'd write this morning but it is literally "breaking news" that developed even as I was writing the first two paragraphs.

I probably shouldn't go into too much detail about this but the house may have been sold. At the very least, I've have gotten the first viable offer from a young man who we identified a long time ago as our target buyer--someone who embraces the period style and layout of the place, who actually appreciates the quirks of an old New England farm house. We got the offer several days ago. It's not near what we had originally hoped but it's a solid, serious offer backed by guaranteed financing and will probably let me take out of the sale an adequate amount of money to bring the new house to completion with just a bit left over.

Sale prices in the area have continued to fall. The house in the neighborhood we identified as our chief rival went under agreement about a month ago at the same figure as my house after the two price reductions we'd made. That house had been more modernized than mine and has a larger plot of land. We found out last week that it's back on the market, its deal having fallen through, and its new asking price is just about identical to the offer I've gotten.

We've notified the agent representing the husband and wife architects who'd given me the unacceptably low offer to see if they might be interested in making a higher counter offer; I suspect they won't. My broker and I talked the whole thing over at length early this morning (I've just put down the phone), and we'll take this guy's offer, which is firm and uncomplicated. Given the fact that it's a full 25% lower than our original asking price, and that his intention is to do a full renovation, we'll stipulate that no matter what the home inspector's report says (short of that the building is in danger of imminent collapse), I'll spend no money on having anything done as he'll probably only rip it out anyway.

I'm conscious of the fact that it's not a completely done deal yet, but I'm beginning to investigate moving pods as an alternative to a big professional mover. I'll be living with Fritz for several months before the new house is finished, and pods will work as both moving and much needed storage on site.

I'm a little bit numb at the moment but all in all, I think I'm happy it's working out at least this well. If everything goes through OK--if--it will be the successful end to a difficult process at the worst possible time to sell a house, and I'll be grateful for that. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

I've got to get out of here and get up to MIT--I'll follow up on last weekend ASAP.

Monday, May 07, 2007

 
This is a place-holder post because today is just insane what with lots of work by day, and a put-in and technical rehearsal for the Intermezzo opera company by night. I'll almost certainly have something new tomorrow.

The weekend was one of the most fun that I've had in New york City for some time. It was built around three performances at the Metropolitan Opera but it was the peripheral events that gave the weekend its sparkle. And the Cinco de Mayo party was a hoot all the time I was able to spend there, particularly the arrival of the company of acrobats, and watching the Kentucky Derby on a huge flat screen TV with about fifty great people all hitting the margaritas and having a perfectly wonderful time.

See you tomorrow!

Friday, May 04, 2007

 
Live performance is always a crap shoot. I know some people who won't go to anything without getting a lot of reviews or waiting for their friends to see what they're interested in so they can get their opinions. Or they'll say that they've heard something's "bad" and won't go near it. I don't understand this. I'll never understand this.

People's reactions to anything in life are essentially subjective, filtered through their personal experiences, what they know and feel versus what other people know and feel. I've connected viscerally to plays, operas, movies, and dancee pieces that have left others cold and vice versa. You have to experience the production yourself to know whether it works for you personally. You take a risk, of course, but that's part of the game when you're involved with the arts. Your ticket doesn't come with a warrantee or money back guarantee, but I learned early on that you can sometimes learn more from the failures than from the big hits.

Wednesday night, Fritz came down from New Hampshire because we had tickets to a performance by Kinodance, a small experimental company that synthesized dance, film, video and projections presented this year in the Celebrity Series of Boston. The work was titled Denizen and was billed as an homage to Armenia through the medium of Armenian cinema. The company had traveled to Armenia, worked with musicians there, shot images of the country and its characteristic architecture, and selected clips from the films by Sergei Parajanov and Artavazd Peleshian. It all looked great on paper.

Not ten minutes into the one hour performance, it became obvious that we were watching perhaps the single most boring production of anything we'd ever seen. The skill level of the dancers was basic at best, the choreography uninspired and, worse, repetitious. What was uninteresting the first time became stultifying the second and third.
The only element of the production that was in any way alive was the woven wood set by the wonderfully named Dedalus Wainwright, a handsomely textured wall that took the grainy, non-specific projections and inexplicable film clips (lots of Armenian sheep) very well, and a tall, striking bent-wood sculpture within which the dancers posed, but nobody found any compelling way to use.

Film and dance and Armenian history are each very dynamic in their individual ways. Why anyone would want to do this I don't know, but somebody worked very hard to make them all appear so dull. We went home and broke out good cheese, some liqueurs and cognac, watched a little Logo channel TV and made the best of the night.

*******

Ive begun breaking up my office. Ill be working actively for about a month more but I dont want a huge job all at once and I do want time to pick through and make choices carefully. I'm leaving a lot of books behind--play anthologies, single scripts, art books, reference and craft books--to establish a design library for my colleagues and future students. A lot of stuff is going out and I'll begin to purge and reorganize the computer files next week.

The big farewell party is next Saturday the 12th at the MIT Hotel and from the few details I've been able to get, it's going to be big and fun. The planners are going to use stage models of some of my designs as centerpieces at the dinner tables.

Later on today I'm driving to New York citry for a packed couple of days. Tonight is dinner with my younger daughter followed by the first of three new productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Puccini's Il Trittico. Tomorrow I have the matine performance of Gluck's Orfeo ed Eurydice starring gay countertenor David Daniels, followed by a trip to Brooklyn for the Cinco de Mayo party given by a former lighting designer of ours at MIT and his wife, then back to Lincoln Center for Rossini's The Barber of Seville.

Sunday I head north to New Hampshire for a day with the husband. Happy weekend everybody
!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

 
These days in Boston there's always something happening on the T and it usually isn't good. I found myself unexpectedly in the middle of THE news story of the night last night when I left a new author book reading at the Harvard Coop and tried to get back to MIT.

The event in Harvard Square--known universally here simply as The Square, no matter how many Squares there are in the Boston-Cambridge area--was a meet-the-author reading with Johnny Diaz, Boston Globe writer, published author, and gay Boston blogger: http://www.beantowncuban.blogs.friendster.com/ Beantown Cuban, one of the few but proud is Johnny's blog and a rare connection to gay Hispanic news and community. While with the Miami Herald staff Johnny was part of the team reporting on the Elian Gonzalez story that won a Pulitzer Prize, and he published "Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul." Since moving to Boston, he's advanced in the Globe's Living/Arts section and recently joined the gay mini-migration to the city's Dorchester neighborhood.

Johnny started his first novel, "Boston Boys Club," as a creative outlet on Friday nights after a week of exclusively objective, factual writing. He began last night by reading a big chunk of the first chapter of the book that tracks a year in the lives of four young gay Bostonians whose lives revolve around regular Thursday nights at the Club Café in the city's South End. He then opened the evening up to questions that explored the writing/editing process; the extent to which the book is autobiographical (it came out pretty quickly that he's spent many years as a regular at Club Café on Thursdays and Saturdays and is obviously a keen observer; and his second novel "Miami Manhunt" that went into development even before the first had been published.

I discovered Beantown Cuban this last winter and have had some enjoyable comments back and forth with Johnny in the months since. The brilliant smile in the photo is real, unforced and breaks out frequently as he talks with people or speaks with complete ease at the lectern. He took time with each member of the audience and wrote at length, personalizing his dedications to everyone who purchased a copy. I asked if he'd be interested in coming to speak with the gay book group of which I'm a member and when he said yes, I said I'd bring up his book and the idea of a visit at our next meeting on the 13th of this month.

As I left the Coop and headed down into the Harvard Square T station, I saw that entrances onto the platforms were being guarded by T employees who weren't letting passengers in. There was no information on what was happening, only walkie-talkie communication that there was a complete stoppage of all red line trains due to some kind of emergency. The obvious alternative for me was the #1 bus to the west side of MIT with a walk across campus to my car. I stopped in to the news stand in The Square where the extremely handsome young man who had sat behind me at the reading was asking directions on how to get to Central Square. I said "follow me."

We got the third bus because of the crowds who had come up from the T station, and he asked if he could sit with me. It struck me, in addition to having this radiant young guy sitting with me, that I was transitioning out of an academic career in Cambridge just as he was beginning one. It turned out that he was from Oregon near Portland and we found a lot to talk about. It was a longer ride than the distance we traveled should take because of the crowds trying to get on at all the stops with the T out, so we had an enjoyable conversation before he left and I continued on to MIT and then home.

The eleven o’clock news revealed the mystery of the T stoppage; Boston's venerable Longfellow Bridge, colloquially known as the salt and pepper bridge for the salt shaker shape of its granite towers, had been closed due to fire.
Under the bridge and within its lower girders the mattresses and other possessions of a homeless colony had caught fire when one homeless man discarded his cigarette into the mass. Short on flame but extremely smoky, the fire brought car traffic to a halt on the bridge itself as well as on Storrow Drive that passes under one of the bridge arches that was most involved. As smoke filled the Charles Street T station, shutting it, train service was halted. Most of the bridge was eventually enveloped in thick white smoke.

By this morning, the fire was out, the bridge was declared structurally undamaged, commutation has resumed and all is normal again.

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