Friday, November 30, 2007

Seattle 1995

I'm on Friendster, Myspace, and friends have recently convinced me to join Facebook. So now I'm on all the social networking sites. Have at it---please "friend" me. Help me waste more time online!

One curious biproduct to these sites is hearing from people from your distant past. People you haven't known for years and years and years. They remind you how you used to be.

A friend from Seattle, Troy, who now lives in San Diego got in touch on myspace. I haven't heard from him for at least 10 years. He reminded me that back in Seattle we slept together ...in the same bed. "You slept in sweats from head to toe," he wrote. "You were such a prude."

My, how times have changed.

Troy scanned and sent the pics of us below (I'm on the right) circa 1995. How do you spell T-W-I-N-K-I-E- ??

How about that hairdo?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Passport Magazine

I'm thrilled to be reviewed in the December 2007 issue of Passport Magazine. It's a gay travel magazine (damn, I should be writing a column in there!) As my book, You Can Run is "Gay, Glam, and Gritty Travels in South America, I'm thrilled to see it there.

Jim Gladstone gave it a witty, well considered review. Hell, he called it "Fun with a capital F-U"...so I see he read it cover to cover!

He also chose it as "Airplane Read of the Month" (click here and scroll down) More likely, however, the book will inspire you to get on that airplane.

Layover

I just swapped a South African summer for soggy wet winter. On the way back from Capetown, I stopped over in London for a night to stay with a friend who lives there. One night is all I could afford, really, with the US dollar gunning for the Mexican peso.

The exchange rate now is 2.2 dollars to 1 British pound.

My friend took me to Harrod's where he insisted I have one of their famous HOT CHOCOLATES: the perfect antidote to the frigid London fog. Great idea.

Harrod's hot chocolate is so famous it cost 11 pounds. Wait a second. That's $25.

Harrod's famous hot chocolate didn't happen.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Talk About Bitter:

Meet someone we can all learn from. Miss Jacqueline Smith of Memphis, Tennessee.

Jacqueline Smith has been protesting outside the civil rights museum ever since it was created. That makes 20 years. Why?

The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King was assassinated. Then it became low-income housing, and the home of Jacqueline Smith. When they decided to turn the Lorraine Motel into the Civil Rights Museum, they kicked all the tenants out.

Jacqueline Smith refused to leave, citing Martin Luther King, and the power of the people. In the end she had to be forcibly removed from the premises and dumped unceremoniously on the street outside.

She never left.

At first she assembled a makeshift tent; now she stays with friends at night and returns to her protest corner by day. She looks good, fresh and made up, which makes me wonder about her motives. Still, Jacqueline has a point.

She says that Martin Luther King would’ve wanted the Lorraine Motel to remain as a place that glorified the living—not the dead.

She calls it the “Civil Wrong Museum” and informs tourists not to enter. I had a little chat with her in Memphis this August.

“If the Museum set up a room for you and let you live there again, would you go back?”

“Not if it was still a museum.” She stood on principle.

“But it's a museum that educates people on the struggle for civil rights which MLK championed,” I said.

Jacqueline answered pat, “They can go to the library for that.”

Jacqueline has a point…but how is she changing situation? What is she doing for the living? Is she galvanizing efforts to raise money for low-income housing? Um, no.

Rather, she's found something to live for. I mean, to live against. For 19 years and 220 days (when I was there), Jacqueline Smith has stood as a one-woman testament to the refusal to move on.

The girl sure can keep a grudge.

Shall we send her to Ellie of Provincetown?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

OUT December/January

OUT magazine has a double issue (December/January) which sucks because I only get paid once for a double issue!

My column this issue is all about a malevolent old boss of mine named Ron. Nasty. Calculated. Bitter. Angry. I have never been treated worse in my life than by an older gay man. Gay Scrooges. They're around in full force.

I found out he recently that Ron died and I just cackled "Good riddance!" which worried me.

Did he zap my compassion?

You'd think we'd be nicer to one another than the outside world, but often it's the other way around. Just read blog comments at the gay blogs. It's fun to be nasty to each other, and we gays know how to deliver; sharp and sudden like a feral cat. We grow up and clone Scrooge.

Stop it. May we leave a new legacy to the next generation.

Honor. Respect. Solidarity. Support.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hey, they Invited me...

I was at a pool party in the penthouse suite of the Bantry Bay International Hotel in Capetown. I had a cocktail, maybe a few cocktails. Then I took a tour of the suite, and spotted it. A Zen Rock Garden.

It was filled with manicured sands, and a few perfectly placed pebbles gave it the right calming, feng-shui effect. A miniature rake was delicately used throughout, and then the whole creation was positioned, vulnerable, on a side table in the hotel suite.

I put my cocktail down and set to work.

I overturned the sand, and tossed the pebbles willy nilly. I added a pinecone that I found in a kitchen display, shook the whole thing and overturned the rake. Then I found a cigarette butt and stabbed it into the zen rock garden.

I was in such a fit of hysterics I couldn't even speak. My whole body shook. What's wrong with me? Making an ash tray out of the Zen rock garden was the most fun I've had in years.

I get my thrills creating chaos from manufactured order.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sweetness in Africa

My friend Keith owns a design/architecture firm here in Capetown, and he employs a large older black woman by the name of "Sweetness" to do the odd cleaning, and make tea for the office employees. I worked in his office for a while last year, and found Sweetness to be just that--sweet.

This year, Sweetness has decided to train to become a "Sangoma" which is an African witch doctor, or traditional healer. I'm sure there's lots of great things one can learn from a shaman, but the shamans of Africa are the ones telling people that to cure AIDS all they need to do is fuck a virgin, or eat beet root. So in all fairness their superstitions are probably killing as many people as they cure.

But back to Sweetness.

Since Sweetness began her sangoma training she comes into work wearing all white, with white face-paint sometimes. Soon after, she jumped back afraid of anyone wearing the color grey. Then she refused to serve tea to anyone wearing grey.

As it is an office, and most people wear grey, I figure Sweetness was onto something. She said it was the gods, who warned her to be wary of the color grey. Keith and his workers walked the fine line of respecting her beliefs, and not worrying what color of shirt to wear to work.

Finally, Sweetness showed up to work recently refusing to do any work at all.

"The ancestors told me I can't make tea today," insisted Sweetness. "If I do, I'll break all the cups."

Keith gave up. Finally, his business partner Pieter boldly faced Sweetness. "My ancestors had a chat with your ancestors," he told her. "And they all decided that you need to make the tea or you'll be fired."

Sweetness had a little cry. And then she made the tea.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Capetown Sunset


According to locals, there shouldn't be clouds in November. But they light up great in this shot I took of lastnight's sunset. In the distance are the end of the 12 apostles mountains, and below is Clifton beach (site of the last post).

As you can see, it's hectic here. So hectic I may change my return flight to the year 2015.

White Women in Africa

Sunbathing on the beach ("Clifton 3rd") in Capetown, with some local white colonial gay boys.

A most amusing afternoon, to say the least. This could be the gayest beach on earth. Here are snippets of three separate conversations. Just insert a high-camp English accent.

On the super-hot dark-skinned go-go boy across the beach:

Colonial 1: “He’s absolutely delicious, isn’t he?”

Colonial 2: “Is he Brazilian? Moroccan? Where’s he from?”

Colonial 1: “Brian? He grew up here in Stellenbosch.”

Colonial 2: “And so dark? Hmm...”

Colonial 1: “...Touched with the tar.”

Me: “Touched with the tar?”

Colonial 2: “Yes, what was granny up to?!”

On the weather. We're lying on the beach which is 75 degrees, instead of the usual 90:

Me: “Do you want to go in the ocean?”

Colonial 1: “It’s far too cold to actually go in the water.”

Colonial 2: “This is not beach weather at all.”

Colonial 1: “Hideous November we’re having.”

Colonial 2: “It’s bitter cold. Just bitter!”

On hiking up Lion’s Head, a beautiful (short) mountain hike right behind the beach:

Me: “You’ve never been up Lion’s Head? And you live here?”

Colonial 1: “It’s all too much for a white woman in Africa….”

Colonial 2: “I went half-way once.”

Me: “Why only half way?”

Colonial 2: “It was canceled.”

Me: “Canceled? How do you cancel a hike?”

Colonial 2: “I can cancel anything,” he says, flicking a wrist. “Christmas is canceled!”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Learning Something Every Day

On my first day in Johannnesburg, I was picked up by a film festival worker named Torah. He's driving me all around and we strike up a conversation. I ask him where he lives and he says, "Soweto." The next thing out of my mouth is: "And you have a car?"

He just looks at me like: oblivious American.

Torah is offended. Whoops. Soweto is the where they moved all the blacks during apartheid. It's a township. It's crime-ridden. I figure they don't have cars in Soweto because, well, I never saw a car in the movie Tsotsi.

Thankfully, even ignorant white Americans deserve an education. Torah and the festival gave me a full tour of Soweto. I'm happy to report I saw plenty of cars.

Soweto: home to motor vehicle owners.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It all began here

. Jay Brannan rehearses in my room at the Glen Hotel before he debuts inside the Labia.

Lastnight, Jay performed a selection of his music in Capetown at the Labia Theatre. Yes, the labia theatre. His friends got a kick out of that. "What's the labia like?" they asked. "We've never been inside!"

My friend Lars drove me to the show. "Which Labia is it?" he asks me. Huh?

"You know there are two Labias..." he says matter of factly. Of course there are.

No, Seriously. It's not a joke. There are two Labia Theatres in Capetown.

I can't believe it. "Oh yes," says Lars..."Many people get lost between the two!"

Happy to report we didn't get lost and even enjoyed it! Jay's folk music was bitter and sweet and appreciated. I especially liked the song "Goddamned" which talks about religion as mythology.

"Cause virgins don't have babies, and water isn't wine" sings Jay. While I saw it live within the labia, you can see him performing this song below (from Youtube).

Four Letter Word for YES

WWoThe Out in Africa festival has taken me on game drives, dinners, outings, and has put me up in the most fantastic guest houses: Graton Guest House in Johannesburg, and the Glen in Capetown. I could get used to this.

Also here is singer/songwriter/actor Jay Brannan. We've been spoiled together.

You may have seen Jay on youtube, or in the film Shortbus. He's here with a new film, the drama Holding Trevor. He's doesn't hold Trevor, or drop him, but in the film Jay plays a slut. So we have something in common. He's been typecast --not entirely without reason.

In Capetown, Jay met an adoring fan and they started a little whirlwind romance that's already finished. The guy wasn't totally his type, but as Jay gently put it, "How often do you get to sleep with someone who speaks Zulu?"

That's the spirit!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Really???

South Africa English is a lot different than mine. Take “robot” for instance. I hear robot and think Tweeky from Buck Rogers. In South Africa, it's a traffic signal. These are highly educated, proper people, and they say things like: “Take a right at the next robot.” It kills me every time.

That's an endearing idiosyncracy. But then there’s “Is it?”

“Is it” is thoughtless, like breathing, except you don't need to do it. Still, South Africans use it all the time--and it has no connectivity to any conversation.

“How did you like the game drive?” someone may ask. “It was great!” you’ll respond.
And they follow that up with: “Is it?”

Or maybe, “I’m sitting at the robot.” “Is it?”

Happens all the time.

“Is it?” can also get tweaked out and warped into “As Aaait?” which is the way I've been using it lately. Helplessly, hopelessly, I tack it onto greetings, events. I put it in my morning coffee. It's that bad song caught in your head. “Is it?” You ask. It is.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Live Television

South Africa's 1994 constitution --is the most advanced and liberal in the world. When you've got such struggle and discrimination in your past, you can't help but understand what it means to be equal. That's what they're constitution promises. Gay marriage, for example, is legal.

Things are far from perfect, and it's going to take a long while for society to catch up with the constitutional court, but they're on their way.

In an effort to push for the equality that the constitution promises, President Mbeki has mandated a more varied representation in all media, to promote visibility of diversity. In short, they put sparkly little American me on the South African national news. Live.

Oh dear.

Viewers of E-TV this morning saw their national weather forecast, a report on overcrowded prisons (at 300% capacity!), and an intro to the gay and lesbian film festival and my film, A Four Letter Word. I am introduced, and the interviewer asks about my characater, Luke.

Cut to me:

"Luke is an unapologetic slut." Pause. "Can I say that?" I just did. On national TV.

He asked more questions and then showed a two minute clip of the film. The clip shows Luke in a bar, sitting beside a hot guy and blurting out, "I'm Luke---what name do they call out when they pin your ankles behind your ears?"

My jaw drops. They do bleep out a couple instances of the word "Fuck" flowing freely from my mouth, but the clip goes on and my character is talking about vodka and glitter and sex and when the hot guy says he's a total top the scripted response is a horrified, "How can you neglect your prostate like that?!"

This is national news.

Some conservative Boer farmer outside of Bokston was drinking coffee and watching this. Wow. The South African constitution is hard at work. We cut back to the studio to answer a few more questions about the film, the Out In Africa festival, and director Casper Andreas.

Then the newscaster, after listening to his earpiece, says:

"I just got word from my producer that they liked the A Four Letter Word clip so much, we're gonna run it again!"

There I go again. What name do they call out when they pin your ankles behind your ears?

When it's all over, I thank them and express my disbelief. "I can't believe you can show that clip on national tv...twice. If you did that in the USA, it'd be worse than Janet Jackson's tit!"

"Oh, we'll get a few calls," says the newscaster. "But I like pushing buttons."

Bravo, South Africa!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Work Days

The southern hemisphere sun is blazing down. I'm in a backyard garden, laying by the pool in Johannesburg, South Africa. It's November and the birds are chirping. Bougainvillea blooms magenta; the jacaranda is lavender and another tree bursts with bright red blossoms. They call it the flame tree. I feel right at home.

I'm lounging around in Africa. Which reminds me of a story: This past summer, I was taking a ferry back from Fire Island when I overheard one guy tell his friend:

"I would've stayed out on the island longer--but I've got to save a few vacation days so I can go see my family at the holidays." I just thought, how sad. Vacation days.

Most people work all year, in order to be granted a few measly days of freedom.

It occurred to me then that I live the exact opposite. I work the measly amount of days necessary to sustain a life of vacation.

I don't have a real career or a lot of cash; I don't eat out much. It's not for everyone, but on days like today I have no regrets.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Halloween - by night

Just arrived to Johannesburg, and I'm not sure if I'm jetlagged, or if I'm still recovering from Halloween. It was one wild party to the next. Halloween is one American tradition I'm all for.

Here I am in the subway. Heading to the next party is the Queen Bee and company:
From Left to Right:
Allie Jazeera (holding baby jihad)

A bedazzled butterfly
The Queen Bee (that's me) Check out my heels. I tromped all over the city in those!

At the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, all the freaks came out to play.

This Babushka was last seen waddling down 6th Avenue

She wins my award for best costume--the claw machine.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cover Boy


I'm on the cover of this Canada's OUTLOOKS magazine for November 2007. I love how they photoshopped Incan ruins behind my big head. It gives me some much needed mystery.

More appropriate is the word *FREE* right beside me.

If you don't live in Canada to pick up a copy, go to the Outlooks website, and download a .pdf of the issue and read the two page cover story on my book You Can Run! You Can Buy...here.

The editor is a big traveler himself, and really liked the book. He also talks about my films in the piece. A curious typo in the story--I'm quoted as saying "el fiesta." Of course it's la fiesta.

My photo (and retouching!) done by the fantastic Kevin Hees.