Sunday, August 30, 2009

food stamps for sex, and other stories from the brink

So you know what this recession is good for? Thinking outside the box! You've all heard about that woman who was auctioning off her virginity online? Even more ingenious, a Swiss friend of mine opened (with her husband) a Bed & Breakfast in their brooklyn apartment!!! People are just so darn creative these days. Take Anita Private. He's decided the only way to get some hot action is to hire a hooker, but who can afford a hooker these days? Recessionistas, think smart!

Anita wrote this craigslist posting:

"In need of a man tonight. I don't have any cash....but I have food stamps. Come over for sex and I will give you food stamps, and feed you some chicken and my homemade peach cobbler."

He got 4 responses to that post! One or more of them beginning, "You can keep your cobbler..."

In other world news not related to the recession, a friend was visiting NY from Texas when he told me about Mary Tyler Moore's miscarriage. A miscarriage is a total tragedy, but have you heard about hers? She wrote about it in her memoir. While pregnant, I guess she had pains in the middle of the night so she got up to go to the bathroom, but right there in her hallway she has a miscarriage and before she can even process this horror, her German Shepherd walks over and...eats it!

I know!

Moving friend Coppelia was visiting New York this weekend and as we walked hungover through the East Village on Saturday morning, she reminded me how, in Zambia, after a night of record-breaking drinking on an (unlimited) booze cruise, she walked hungover with me to Victoria Falls Bridge to watch me bungee jump. There was another girl, on the heavy side, who was also going to Bungee Jump but didn't....not because she was scared, but only because they write your actual weight in big, black letters down your arm!

What else? Cooldan is back from a cruise he took with his visiting parents. They hit a bunch of islands, including St. Maarten. "Isn't that where you did the pirouettes?" Yes! Back in 1997 I lived for a few months on St. Maarten, working as an extra in a flop of a film called Speed 2. One day we shot a crowd scene where all the locals are supposed to run away from an oncoming cruise ship which is headed right for us!! AAAHH, so scary!!! It was a huge shot, cameras on helicopters, masses in a big stampede. Well, me being me, I didn't just run away down the pier screaming....I did actual pirhouettes down the pier, twirling away from danger!!!!

We had to do it over after the extras got a huge note about how much money had been wasted on that shot because "one of you was spinning down the pier!" They failed to mention how much money had been wasted on that crappy film! If you dare watch it, you get big points for spotting me! (Hint: it's not in the scene described above).

Friday, August 28, 2009

White Sham/e

I've been watching this heartbreaking PBS documentary about the Native American experience called We Shall Remain. I highly recommend it, even though we all know the outcome: They Don't Remain.

The Wampanoag tribe initially made the choice to befriend and help the struggling, pathetic Pilgrims. And after watching pieces of this documentary (Bam can't even watch it--too sad, he says) it makes you wish they didn't join in that first Thanksgiving. What's the point of peace? What's a promise?

Soon, and inexorably, "puritan" settlers evicted the natives. Mostly in the name of God.

This series is worth a watch--just to see the valiant effort made to resist the invaders. Tecumseh was incredible. He and his Shawnee tribe stoically resisted the usurping of more and more land. He brought various tribes together, forging alliances, attempting to maintain and establish an Indian Nation north of the Ohio River. They even tried diplomacy but were stolen from, betrayed, and ultimately stamped out.

Can you believe the Treaty of Paris made absolutely no mention of the natives?

Today we see native cultures are often portrayed as drunk and disorderly; uneducated and poor. Would you have much ambition if they stripped you of all your dignity? Consider the Cherokee. They did everything right! There was a Cherokee Nation in the south which accepted to the "civilization" techniques the missionaries put upon the "savages". They went to school, they became literate, they had assimilated. They even had a constitution and governing body.

Still they were ordered to leave their (already shrunken by various "treaties") lands to make way for white settlers (there was a discovery of gold). The Cherokee were ordered to move west of the Mississippi; their constitution declared invalid, meetings of their leaders declared criminal. So what did the Cherokee do? They went to the Supreme Court of the USA to plead their case and won. The Supreme Court of the USA said that the states had no right to take away Cherokee Nation sovereignty!

Let me repeat: they won the right to stay in their own sovereign land!

They could not have done anything more right, yet President Andrew Jackson refused to uphold the Supreme Court decision. Jackson defied the law of the land. He went rogue! Jackson still illegally expelled the Cherokee, ordering them on a forced march to Oklahoma during the winter of 1838, killing thousands. This is now known as the Trail of Tears.

What a dismal stain upon the supposed ideals of this country. How progressive and inclusive our nation may have been! What makes me most upset is that instead of seeing a sovereign Cherokee Nation now existing in upper Georgia and into Tennessee, I see President Andrew Jackson's imperious face, glorified on the $20 bills we use every day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Roller Derby on the Jersey Shore!

Says Bam, "There's something attractive about women and violence!" Don't ask why, but we made it to the Jersey Shore and Asbury Park just in time to witness the Ladies' Roller-Derby!

About 10 years ago, gays started to buy up property in the forgotten Jersey Shore and today their boardwalk is back in order, there are small businesses all around, and the city is even charging to go to the beach! I'll never understand that charging to go to the beach thing. Last I checked it was a natural resource, are they next gonna charge for air?

Asbury Park's Convention Hall must have been a beauty back in the glory days, and now it's a decrepit relic, not without serious charm. Inside the Murder Beach Militia took on the Anchor Assassins. Roller Derby has its own rules. There are jammers and pivots and blockers (oh, my!) but basically, with names like Trauma Doll, Chesty McBruiser, and Black Eye Betty...these girls are out to fuck each other up!

The match started off with Irish Bagpipes. Naturally.
And they're off!!
Morguetisha Adams was a thrill to watch.
We met the team manager of the Murder Beach Militia. Her name is TOASTFACE!! Poor toast-face got roughed up in a recent roller-derby. Here she shows us her broken collar bone.
Toast Face is not retiring, though. She can't wait to get back in the game! Which kind of made me decide that of all the things I'd do if I were born a girl, Roller Derby is #2. After #1: A pin-up painted on the side of a bomber.

For more on their mayhem, check out Jersey Shore Roller Girls!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An American Duty

Swing, Batter! Yesterday I did something I only do once every five years. I saw a baseball game!

The Mets new stadium (CitiField) is in its inaugural season--and it's a beauty. It's also, unlike my neighborhood, a super-easy place to spot a Citibank ATM! Bring on the concessions!

Sadly, my unlikely appearance at a baseball game was not a lucky charm. The Mets got crushed by the Phillies. But I figured out why I don't really enjoy team sports---it's the fans! When they boo, I'm like--stop it! That's so rude! And when the crowd goes wild, it's like we're in some kind of ancient coliseum, rooting for the lion to eat the Gladiator.

Thankfully, it was a gorgeous day.
Jesse Anita Louisa Paul

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mighty Moab! (See it to believe it)

I've heard so much about Moab, Utah. So I had to check it out! It's this mecca for mountain bikers and rock climbers. Being neither, I just went on a reconnaissance camp out with my friends.
Rachel gives us Gisele Bundchen in the whorehouse.
Would you believe Rachel and I went to high school together? She was Beaverton High School's top long distance runner. My dad was our coach! She lived in Brooklyn for years, but is now in Salt Lake City. We spent a few days with her in Salt Lake, and discovered it's the perfect jump off spot from which to see the west.
I love this! "Why have just one?"
Those pesky Mormons. Did you know the only reason they stopped polygamy was because their leader at the time had a "vision" ? Did you know the only reason they stopped being racist and allowed blacks into the priesthood was also due to a divine revelation? How long until a vision materializes to stops them from excommunicating homosexuals and then spending millions to take away their equal rights? I'll give em this though: at least they (unlike other faiths) are able to update.

In actual, earthly is Cooldan, doing the Gisele Bundchen on top of a red rock.

We took a drive (and ruined the rental!) up the unimproved Pot Ash road. What a view! Click the video to see more.

I forgot to do the Indian pose because I'm waving to a boat down on the river.
Rachel and Jesse...on the brink!
Rachel and I decided to find the trashiest beer available. We succeeded in finding Bud Light and Clamato juice. Together in ONE can! It was actually tasty. Bud light/Clamato: don't leave camp without it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Here's a thriller!

Tattooing Michael Jackson on your butt? Now that is dedication! Somehow she's managed to perfect a fierce come-hither, even-though-I'm-grieving look.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fingering the Fumarole, and other adventures at Yellowstone

Day 2 of the no-shower camping marathon: The obligatory entrance shot at Yellowstone.

You wouldn't believe how many people were in Yellowstone. We could not even find a place to camp. Every campground was "Full" first thing in the morning. I don't understand how that works. At some of them you're supposed to reserve, so much for spur of the moment traveling! But at others they are first-come-first-serve. Naturally, we drove around and found they were all full by 8am. It's like, who do I have to fuck around here to rent a tiny stretch of land?

Finally, we went into Canyon Campground and just as the woman said, "We're Full..." another woman walked in and said, "We're checking out early, give 'em ours." And boom! Done. We wouldn't be sleeping on the side of the road.
Old Faithful. We stayed back from the tourists, not the gushing geyser.
CoolDan called them "Geezers", and who could bear to correct his cute little Lebanese take on the language? Not me! If you read National Geographic, you know that Yellowstone is one big supervolcano waiting to happen (again). It blew at least 3 times in the history of the world and each time changed the landscape of the entire earth and its atmosphere. Which kind of makes you not too concerned, ultimately, about human emissions.

Everywhere the earth bubbles, boils and steams.
An elk-ess?
A flyer handed out at the entrance warns: "Each year tourists are gored by Bison." This doesn't stop my best friend from egging me on.
"Closer, Jesse. It's practically asleep..."
Natural steam baths for the bison! The earth at several places is weak, as if you could fall into this steaming mess---and that sulpher stench! Not that we smelled any better.
Cooldan and Jesse above a big boiling hot broth in the cauldron.
Fingering the Fumarole. Totally against the rules, but c'mon...wouldn't you?
Dan thought maybe if we peed into one, they might explode. (They didn't). He also took off his socks and "washed" them in another big fumarole, which meant he did the rest of this hike sans socks. That kid will do anything for a good photo opportunity! (Pics on his camera).

We endured heat and a shocking bout of HAIL, until we came around Ribbon Lake and were surprised to find the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone right before our eyes. Wow!! We were only surprised to find the canyon there because we didn't have a map. The few other hikers we saw on this 7 miler had maps--and water, walking sticks, rain gear, and packs. We had no provisions at all, but we were dressed rather fashionably.

Here's a video that gives a bit of an idea of where we landed. It looks more yellow in person! Press Play!

I refuse to do death-defying poses if you can't tell I'm on the lip of a 100000 foot cliff!
Cooldan on his stomach. For once.

Yellowstone Falls. We took so many photos, BOTH of our cameras ran out of batteries!

By the 3rd or 4th night, we decided that going to bed at 9pm in a tent was really overrated, so we decided to leave the tent and traipse into Cody, Wyoming, to see if we could find the only gay in the village.
It's a lot further to Cody than it looked. We headed down a twisting Mountain Pass...
When we arrived in Cody, way past 9pm, Cooldan got out to take a shot of the sign "Welcome to CODY" when he gets back in the car and says, "I think I hear an outdoor....PLAY". What? I turn off the engine and listen. A play? It's a RODEO!!

We screech into the stadium and catch the last couple of bucking broncos. "I'd name this bull HILLARY CLINTON," says an announcer. "That'd scare me!" Ha! Cooldan had never been to a rodeo and what more perfect intro to Cody, Wyoming?

The announcers were a riot. "So my wife just turned 40," one tells the other. "Oh yeah?" "Yeah," he says. "So I traded her in for two 20's." "So how's that going for you?" "Not so well. I'm not wired for 220's." How's that for culture? An electrical joke!

After that we hit the Silver Dollar Bar. It was hopping on a Saturday night! After 4 days of not showering--we smelled great!--when Cooldan thought he spotted the only gay in the village. "Look at his shoes!?" They were some snazzy loafers, but after watching him for a while we decided he wasn't gay -- just uptight.

At that point we headed to the Hotel Irma. It's western-chic, and has a ton of history. I'd love to stay there one day. Inside, we met this cowboy at the bar who took us through the dining room (it was closed) and showed us a gorgeous Cherrywood bar. "Queen Victoria gave that as a gift," he told us. "Queen Victoria was here?" I ask and he says no. She sent it as a gift after HE did some show for her.

When you're in Cody, you know who HE is. "Buffalo Bill?" I ask and cowboy nods. Then he takes us into a room with a bunch of moose heads on the wall and over to a giant chimney and says, "If you can find the gold star in this chimney, I'll buy you both a drink." Cut to Cooldan and I practically scaling the outside of the chimney, scurrying inside of it, in a desperate drunken search for a gold star!

The cowboy is saying "hot" "cold. Colder. Really cold." Until finally, he grows weary and says, "I'm staring at it right now." Oh, there it is! We didn't hold him to the drinks.

The Irma Hotel

We saw no gay in the village, and we later learned that Wyoming (despite the whole Matthew Shepard Laramie thing) is the only state in the union without a gay bar! Shocking! And more shocking? We realized, at about 1 am, that in order to get back to our tent we still had to drive two hours back up a mountain pass and far into Yellowstone.

We are really sad not to stay in Cody, because on the way out of the Irma we come to a retail window and face to face with a pair of Hello Kitty cowboy boots. We briefly discuss busting the window to get at these beauties:

The stitching says, "Smoking Pussy"!!!

We managed to make it back through the tent, without killing one red fox ("that's the second most valuable fox fur," says Cooldan--implying I should aim for it? ) and one big buffalo which stood in the middle of the road. We've both decided we must return to Wyoming to:
a) open a gay bar.
b) get our hands on those gorgeous boots!
c) chisel that gold star out of the chimney.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

Dan and I began our road trip camping in the Grand Tetons. We picked up matching cowboy boots (of course) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Homo on the Range

Near our campground of Gros Veintre, we saw a ton of bison. Everyone knows there used to be millions in the wild west. That is until those pesky white people came out and took random pot shots from trains, for fun.

For those hunters (like my brother) out there who say it's not a sport: why do they call it "game"?

Herds tumbled from the millions to a total of 25 animals left in Yellowstone by the early part of last century. They combined some animals from a private owner and built back their numbers. Today there are over 3,000 wild buffalo.

Look, he's got one of those friendly birds on his back. Mutualism!

Less well off are the bears. At all the campgrounds we stayed at there were warnings and flyers: "Be Bear Aware!" and "A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear!" You're supposed to put all your food away in the trunk or in a steel container because the rangers tell us that once a bear gets used to human food it becomes "aggressive".

There were several pictures up of real, live bears pawing at a car window (someone had left food on the front seat), or pawing at a tent with food inside. They didn't look rabid to me, more like pecking around, but the photos mentioned that these bears had to be "put down" because they were aggressively in pursuit of human food. I love the "had to be put down" bit. There was no other choice!

Why not dart and fly them to a remote section of Seskatchewan? Or dart them and ship them to a needy zoo? "Putting them down" must be, I presume, the only financially sound reason. This hypocrisy is magnified when I read in a book on Yellowstone that the National Park Department used to empty the trash outside purposefully, so that the bears would come rifle through it and the tourists could all take photos. This happened all the way up until 1971!

Now if the policy has changed so dramatically, why blame the bears? I say if you leave the cheeze doodles in your tent...face the Grizzly consequences!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hillbilly Rafting!

I love to be home for the annual Trout Lake Country Fair. There are all sorts of blogworthy surprises. Check out this load of firewood for raffle. Hot!
Even hotter? This firewood: leftover from the big Cold Springs Fire that hit Mount Adams last year. My mother sent me the t-shirt.My relatives Fred & Dee Dee won the Jack & Jill sawing contest! They cut through in 54 seconds!
This baby Llama. It's like a 4-legged ewok.

Bam Bam and I took a hike with Cousin Karen. Here she shows us the proper way to carry all your hiking provisions. Cell phone in the right, the binoculars left, and a Merlot in the middle.
Bird Creek Meadows, Mt. Adams. Injun territory!
Hell Roar Canyon, Bird Crick Meadows. The base of Mount Adams.
Cousin Karen lives next to a creek. She invented "Hillbilly Rafting": floatin on an air mattress down the crick. A popular local sport.
There's lots of duct tape patching up the holes. I owe Karen a new mattress.
The cousins are practically pro.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Butch Cassidy and Sissy Sundance

For once, I didn't dress like the whore! Rachel looks much better, anyway. On a road trip with CoolDan and Rachel to sensational Moab, Utah, we couldn't resist posing for these:

A little branding never hurt.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grandpa tried to Drag me to Hell

The notorious grave-stompers of Klickitat County!

My cousin Karen is the other black sheep of the family. She's 50-something, has never been married, and travels the world over and over. Despite this, she still lives in the little farming town of Trout Lake, Washington, where our ancestors settled.

While I was up there at a family reunion, I went to her house one night and she zipped me up into this elaborate mermaid outfit she had recently created for a costume party. She then dressed herself up into a full birka that she'd picked up in Dubai. "Let's go visit your grandparents!" she said, grabbing a bottle of Absinthe she'd bought for me in Germany.

My grandparents lie on the other side of the valley, up a dark dirt road, surrounded by fir trees. The cemetery is pioneer-gothic. In the middle of the night, with the full moon, there is no creepier place to be. We stood on my grandparents grave, the Mermaid and the Muslim, a flashlight trained on their headstone.

As we swigged Absinthe (not an easy achievement in a birka, Karen decided) we reminisced about the people beneath us. We've done this before. We like to honor my grandparents in a way that also honors the way we are: My grandpa was a particularly tough man; dynamic, and dogmatic. He loved us, the black sheep, and we loved him even though if he could see us now, he'd roll over in his grave. Holy shit! Maybe he did!!

-Kerplunk-! The ground beneath me opened and swallowed my foot! I fell into grandpa's grave. Deep. I fell all the way up to my lateral fin!

I screamed. Karen screamed, too, and we hauled ass out of the cemetery. Before we peeled out, I made sure to shine the flashlight to where my foot had sunk just to be sure I was not making this up. Yes, there was a gaping hole, billowing with dust and spindly roots like skeletal hands.

At the reunion the next day, I went around telling everyone. "Grandpa tried to drag me to hell!!!" It was hysterical. What a story! But my relatives didn't think it so funny. Hell is nothing to joke about! Grandpa's been dead five years, and most haven't even been to the grave since then, but nonetheless they were not amused.

My aunt Donna (she is usually fantastic) went to check on the site that evening. The next day she looked at me somber and colorless, the same way one should remember the dead. She said that the earth above my grandfather's grave was sunken. The whole area, she said, was sunken in the shape of a large rectangle. As if the coffin had collapsed.

It could have. Grandpa did insist he be buried in a cheap pine box. Or she could be exaggerating, and it was only a gopher hole. Either way, Aunt Donna regarded me with abject pity. I know that look. She looked at me like I wasn't going to survive the rapture.

Slowly, she shook her head and said, "Jesse, you'd better pray for forgiveness." This is where I get confused. For what must I pray forgiveness? Precious Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the settling of the earth.

Cousin Karen got a furious phone call. How could she let this happen? Among other entreaties, cousin Karen was forced to promise she would never again go with Jesse to the cemetery at night. "Defiling a a felony!"

What do they think we were doing up there? Thankfully the law has finally caught up with us. The notorious grave-stompers. Wanted in 12 states!

If the coffin were going to collapse, it would have collapsed even if we were there in suits, reciting the beatitudes, at high noon. If it did collapse, which I'm not convinced it did, the thing would have collapsed the next time aunt Donna went up to weed it, or perhaps under-hoof of the herd of elk that often pass through.

Had it been anyone else up there getting pulled under, I can imagine the cries of "poor thing!" What this has to do with is our manner of remembrance. It's not normal. It's disrespectful, and maybe -just maybe- tsunamis are god's way of smiting society's wickedness. but because it was us, dressed up, the family will have to feed the black sheep from their bountiful harvest of guilt.

Instead of asking us to fix the grave, or including me in their efforts, an army of aunts and uncles and cousins has been organized to go up to the cemetery and "make things right". I'm not sure if this means adding dirt to the grave, exhuming flattened grandpa, or what, but I'm really glad I could facilitate this coming together of (my?) family.

As to "making things right", they could've done that in the first place. As far as I'm concerned, the family who plopped grandpa into that hillbilly cemetery should be paying my therapy bills! Security measures, such as a standard encasement, would surely protect innocent mermaids from being sucked to hell!

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Grubby Gays, haven't showered in days!

Cooldan and I have been camping, hiking and terrorizing young American families in Yellowstone National Park (and the Grand Tetons) for the last several days.

Says Dan, "I've been smoking all my life...I can't believe I just made it to Marlboro Country!" Naturally, we were woefully unprepared for any of this wildnerness business (Who ever heard of anyone packing a propane stove from New York City?)

The only thing of actual practical value we had was a TENT when we began our road trip. We borrowed sleeping bags and various other warm things from friends in Salt Lake City when it was discovered that despite the recent western heat wave, and the fact this is August, nighttime temperatures in Yellowstone get down to (yes!) freezing. I know why buffalo keep their beards!

It's kind of like being on Safari because each time you see a few cars stopped you know there's an animal: buffalo, bear, elk. Of course if you miss these animals in the park, outlying towns have their heads all over the walls. It was really difficult to slow down to the pace of driving around the park, but we eventually got used to it. We took long hikes (that we thought would be short hikes) and explored the terrain of mountains, geysers (Cooldan kept pronouncing them "Geezers" and I just let him), lakes, and one day we unexpectedly came upon the breathtaking brink of the Yellowstone Canyon.

Other hikers sported hiking sticks, rain gear, backpacks and even water. We had none of this, but we were dressed fashionably. Because we thought maybe, just maybe, before going back to that campground and sleeping at the pitiful hour of 10pm AGAIN---that we'd escape through the mountains, hit Cody, Wyoming, and try to hunt down a gay bar before returning to our campground.

I have so much to tell you!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Living With Jesse #14

Mt. Adams, Washington. Jesse boldly refuses to face the early morning sun.