Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Scrape them pumpkin guts!
Had a fun time at my friend Drew's pumpkin carving party where all the Aussies are getting into it!

Can you see the Mistress of the Dark?

When are the Aussies going to get into Trick or Treating? When that happens, will it end up like this?

Happy Halloween, SUGAR!
After all, it IS terribly close to swimsuit season...

Hurricane Sandy LOVES New York City

Alphabet City is now... Alphabet Soup! Thinking of everyone in New York... where it's always extreme survival so I know you're thriving.
Bet you're all making new memories and helping each other out. Wish I could join the LES refugees up in all those impromptu HK slumber parties with.. electricity! Running water! And the latest in essential footwear!

Friday, October 26, 2012

What A Leader Looks Like

Big bird, binders full of women, and of course horses and bayonets.
The Presidential debates were red meat to the hungry internet. In fact, I hardly watched the debates but rather viewed them through facebook and twitter feeds. The commentary was priceless.
There could not be two candidates more diametrically opposed on the ideological spectrum. On one hand, I see an elegant statesman and then I see someone who will say whatever they have to say to win.
In following all this on the internet, I see some friends and family members liking the Romney page and though I value a difference of opinion surely they know that this opinion devalues me? Romney would seek a constitutional amendment to define marriage, supports and defends DOMA (which has been deemed unconstitutional in 8 courts now), considers hospital visitation for gay couples a "benefit" not a right (just how would you feel?) and look at his Mormon LDS church (no doubt where all his "charity" $$ goes) and tell me how you think he would lead the ENTIRE nation:

No matter how disgusted I am with divisive politics, exhausted and overspent and feeling like not enough aloe rubbed over too much sunburn, it must be said this is no longer just politics - it's personal.

I just spent a week on a houseboat in Utah's Lake Powell with 12 other gay guys and about 10 of them had been raised Mormon. Not one of them emerged to who they are now undamaged, having been indoctrinated inside that tightly bound box of conditional love, fear and expectation. Seeing how they each have survived (some better than others) could earn yourself a PhD in psychology.

The quest for fairness can not be seen from a framework of scripture because one day your desire for equality might be trampled by someone else's god and when that happens I hope you would not stay silent. You can't lecture Leviticus 18:22 without heeding Leviticus 11:9-12. And while you banish gays and shellfish, you must also cast out menstruating wives and daughters because Leviticus 15:19-30 says so. This cannot be picked apart. The bible is not your SALAD BAR.

It seems most people speaking for Jesus have entirely forgotten he would be hanging out with ME.

I wish I wasn't on the internet so much because I know too much. Just this week another pastor has compared gays to Hitler, and yet another has said we deserve to die ("according to the bible"). It would be comical if it weren't hurting people and driving others to suicide. The anti-gay "propoganda" law in Russia has proven just how ludicrous now that they have crucified Madonna, imprisoned a girl band, forbidden marches, signs, groups from gathering and now... investigating a brand of milk for being illegal as they claim it promotes homosexuality to children because of its rainbow logo:
So thank you internet, because I know too much.

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you, BUT... is it too easy to find this kind of proof? One of our shortcomings as human beings is that we continually look for evidence to support what we believe - and avoid or ignore evidence that does not support what we believe. Call it laziness.

So I try to focus on conflicting evidence: the 100 catholics who signed a pledge to support marriage equality in Maine (against their bishop), or the 1,000 catholics in Washington state who have done the same thing. I try to remember the NAACP officially supports marriage equality and that a few pastors, even black pastors in the south like Frederick Haynes III, have spoken out in recognizing that the US is governed by constitutional law, not biblical law.

This is in no small part due to the watershed of President Obama affirming his support of equality. All this in an election while not... invading two countries, your precious stockpile of shotguns or your uterus. Do you think a man like Romney could ever conceive of what it's like to be anyone else? To be me, and have feared my family? To be a woman and fear the night? To be black, and fear the police?

In President Obama I see empathy. A man who continually treads the (too little-trafficked) high road and knows we are each, above all, earthlings who deserve a fair deal. That is what a leader looks like.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Love Your Lamas

Backpacking across South America and living inside of shoeboxes around Manhattan provided me with a crucial ability to edit. I travel with only a carry-on, and that's all I had while i was over in the States. That's not entirely true as my mom did generously take a few things to mail me in Sydney, marking the first time her impeccable hand has carved the words "studded bra" on a customs form....

So yeah - just one small bag, which means I can't collect things. But while in Salt Lake City, staying in the adorable guest house of my friends Rachel and Seth, I came across vintage shop DECADES. If you're ever in SLC, screw the temple tour and go back in time at this excellently curated shop. There was so much had to have and chief among them - a pair of Tony Lamas for just $30.
You can't get a poke in the eye in Sydney for $30. But nobody in Sydney is wearing cowboy boots. They also wouldn't fit beneath the leg of my skinny jeans so I couldn't wear them. Most importantly, there was no way they would fit into my small and stuffed carry-on.  

I resisted and left, but kept obsessing. A little bit like in Female Trouble when Divine stomps on the presents and throws her mom under the christmas tree when she doesn't get her cha-cha heels.

I told Rachel my predicament and asked her to come with me and tell me what to do. She graciously accompanied me to Decades, took one look at the Tony Lamas and firmly reminded me, "They won't fit in your bag and nobody wears cowboy boots in Sydney."
"So I should get them?"
"Yes," said Rachel. Thank you for being a friend!

I threw out my skinny jeans AND a pair of running shoes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gloss Your Leak!

You may not reinvent the wheel - but you can makeover your urinal!
I've never wanted to take home a urinal before, but then I saw these beauties at Club Nevermind. LOVING it. Though I couldn't help noticing the tongues are white. Could it be a case of candida? 

I'm always thrilled to see innovation creating something extraordinary out of the ordinary. However, the humorless forces of PC are always pissed off. They've already forced one Australian restaurant to remove them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bleeding White Knuckles meet Julie Garden

The month of Ocsober is half-way over and I’m climbing up the walls! In AA, they call this being a “dry drunk”. One thing that bothers me about AA is all the vernacular, aphorisms, and steps with a higher power. They wouldn't even say I'm sober this month, I'm just a dry drunk since I'm not following the program.  What I’m doing this month is called “white knuckling” and let me just say the white knuckles are bleeding! Wouldn't yours?
I’m not worried that I might be an alcoholic, because each time I’ve sworn a month off  – be it a Dry July, September to Remember or OcSober, I’ve always been able to keep my pledge. I’ve also always done it with friends and NEVER once has that friend been successful. Should I name and shame? This go round it means YOU, Gerald! Gerald’s had his share of Ocsober “busts”  – another AA term. 

While we’re on messed up language – if I said SPAGBOL, would you get it? That's Aussie for Spaghetti Bolognese. Cute, right? ALMOST as cute as Mozzie (mosquito) or Lino (linoleum), which has to be my favorite when it comes to cute-ified Aussie vernacular.  

Then there’s my favorite fitness instructor (talk about cute-ification), Winkin’ Will (sigh) – who this morning said, “This DID LEFT (dead lift) track is awful, nasty and going to make you sick. I hope you didn’t have a big breakfassssst!” He’s Aussie but he sounds Kiwi when he talks about working out our LIGS and HEPS and then the DID LEFTS. I must could kiss him.  

Finally, there is Bam – there should be a term for what he does. It’s not spoonerism, or maybe it is. He mixes up the middle of words. You should hear him try and say the word “debilitating”. It comes out “deliberating”. And when I say, “What about your debilitating speech impediment?” He yells, “I don’t have a speech imdepiment!” 
He's always been excellent fodder for my writing. In the film Half-Share, he inspired the following drunken dinner exchange:
"You're being obstreperous."
"I'm not giving up strippers!"  

He just keeps on giving. Ella Fitzgerald was playing on the radio and I asked Bam if he knew her voice. He has trouble with these things, too. For example, he can’t tell the difference between J.LO, Angelina Jolie, and Beyonce. He swears they are all the same person. So when I ask if he knows the classic honey voice on the radio, he thinks a moment and responds, “Is it JULIE GARDEN?”

I really lost it there. Judy Garland would call that a DRY DRUNK!

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Happened in Hawaii?

The horizontal luau!

Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent is a stodgy 1962 political drama about the senate's Advise & Consent to the nomination of one Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda) to Secretary of State. I'll save you the anguish - he doesn't get the post.

To finish the film, I had to watch it over the course of several nights. Otto Preminger does things like hold on the entire chamber's long applause until the very last clap, forces viewers to watch the car go all the way down the street, turn right, and pull up the driveway before the character gets out. It's like watching the opera - you just wanna put this crap on fast forward. Edit, honey.

But the best thing about this film? If you can get past the boredom, it's got so much to offer.  It marks the comeback (of sorts) of Gene Tierney. She gets a thankless role as Walter Pidgeon's lover - a far cry from her star-making turn in Preminger's Laura (1944) and I know electroshock therapy was a bummer, so it's good to see her back on screen - if looking worse for wear.
That's the curse of great beauty. Its bloom was only born to wither. Gene Tierney, in my books, was the greatest beauty of them all.
Charles Laughton as the grudge-bearing senior senator from South Carolina. What an excellent role, and it was his last. Laughton was dying from kidney cancer during production. Barely made the premiere.
The sad curse about ugly? Laughton once claimed, "I have a face like an elephants behind." Though no gay wants to claim him, Charles Laughton was homosexual. His widow, Elsa Lanchester, wrote about it in her memoirs. Elsa Lanchester, ironically, played the original "Bride of Frankenstein".

Advise & Consent is about the hunt for closet communists AND homosexuals. The senator in charge of the nomination committee and his wife are hounded by blackmailers who send photos of him with another man. "What happened in Hawaii?" and an accompanying letter he wrote to his former lover that apologizes..."It couldn't have happened were it not for war and exhaustion and loneliness!" In the midst of the blackmail, he goes to find his former lover who was paid to rat him out - and we see the first post-war gay bar on screen.  Soon after, our closeted gay commits suicide. Blame the loneliness!

Interestingly, this movie - taken from a Pulitzer-prize winning book - is taken from the real case of a Wyoming senator, Lester C. Hunt, who was blackmailed for his gay son. His son and namesake was caught soliciting "lewd and immoral acts" with an undercover cop, and the senator... an arch rival of McCarthy's witchhunts... was threatened with a smear campaign. Instead of facing that family shame - he killed himself.

In the film, which in the end has nothing to do with the nomination of Robert Leffingwell and everything to do with backroom shade.... Walter Pidgeon confronts the blackmailer -

Senator: "The senate often tolerates prejudice and demagoguery, but you've dishonored us."
Blackmailer: "What I did, I did for the good of our country."
Senator:"Fortunately, our country has always survived 'patriots' like you."

But what's the GAYEST thing about Advise & Consent? The adorable senator from Kansas:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Breaking Bad's Krysten Ritter

Is Krysten Ritter a dead ringer for a Hollywood B Queen? I resisted watching Breaking Bad because let's face it - I like to watch pretty people and this cast had none of that happening, especially with a 50-plus chemistry teacher as its anti-hero. Thankfully, my friend Yvette was persistent that this is the best show on TV, and it is. The writing is so clever my brain struggles to catch up with its racing plot points. In season 2, it even gifted viewers with a pretty face: Krysten Ritter.
Ritter's smoldering looks bear an uncanny resemblance to RKO's "woman with the Mona Lisa smile", Jane Greer, best known for playingthe scorching femme fatale in the noir, Out of The Past. I even got to wondering if that resemblance is why they named Ritter's character "Jane". Is it just me?
Or is it just all glamorous white women look the same?

*Update* (thanks J.Lee) Krysten Ritter also evokes another old screen queen Gail Russell. Pretty white women! How to tell them apart? 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reflecting Absence @ WTC 9/11 Memorial

I didn't really want to see it. Having been in NYC and seen it all on that fateful, crystal clear blue morning of 9/11/2001, I hate its legacy. The destruction and loss of life wrought on that day brought about only more destruction and loss of life. Not to mention bringing about patronizing color-coded "terrorist alerts", or the hassle of taking your shoes off at airport security. It felt like humanity learned not to move forward, but how to regress in fear. Then there were families of the victims who stalled progress on rebuilding plans, insistent upon making lower Manhattan into a graveyard.

Annoyed and over it - that was my frame of mind as I begrudgingly, almost dutifully, marched myself downtown to see what all the new fuss was about. I signed up at the visitors center and at the appointed hour shuffled past through more security checkpoints than I've ever witnessed in my life to the tribute created in the footprints of the two WTC towers. They named it "Reflecting Absence".
Engraved around the rim are the names of all those lost, all those same names I saw in the days after the towers fell - accompanied by photos on hastily scrawled "missing" posters from Union Square to Grand Central. Beneath the names, waterfalls cascade over steely gray edges and further down into a bottomless square chasm. Its power is both prehistoric and futuristic. Timeless. 
I found myself unexpectedly moved by its beauty; unprepared for the profundity of its effect.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

What's Behavior Got To Do With It?

Tony sent me this link to a New York Times profile on 80 year old Chuck Bennett. He lives in Maine and is part of that state's (second) attempt to allow same-sex couples to marry at the polls. The piece is not a little bit heartbreaking, and also reinforces the value of standing up and being visibly counted. Mr Bennett was kicked out of the Navy for homosexuality and the only way he knew he wasn't alone back then were reports of police vice squads arresting men for "obscene" behavior. He laments being "born 50 years too early".

His elderly roommate, however, who wonders why gays are so determined to ape hetero conventions such as marriage. “How can somebody like me, who has made a significant investment in inventing an alternative world, come around to accept gay marriage?” he asked, clarifying that he supports the referendum.

It's something I've personally struggled with, especially after recently finishing a book called The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture. Current movements to out-bore the straights at their own game feel almost self-cancelling, an obsequious bow, a feverish bout of Stockholm Syndrome, but at the same time - if I have a foreign lover and want to live in the US with him? Hospital visitation, joint federal returns, inheritance and estate taxes? These are more important for me, but if you simply want the typical, time-honored celebration, recognition, dignity... go on! You should have that right.

My reticence on the matter was blown away when I heard someone say (was it in a column? Or the magnificent documentary We Were Here?) marriage equality is a mandate. Some kind of a bone thrown to the memory of all the men who died, unremarked, of AIDS, because politicians, Reagan and polite society didn't consider them equal and thus care enough to fund the research necessary to contain the virus when it could have been contained.

I also caught an incredible symposium at NYU law school with Ted Olson and David Boies, the litigators who argued against the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, and won. Rachel Maddow moderated and they spoke of what the Supreme Court might ultimately decide, and how it almost goes without saying that such cases are against popular opinion. Almost without exception, when put to a vote, the majority will vote against minority rights. The question this court has, and everyone knows which way the wind is blowing, is: will they be Plessy vs. Ferguson, or will they be Brown vs Board of Education? We shall soon see if the Supreme Court wasn't born 50 years too early.

I found it particularly interesting their point (and I've brought this up before, as even gays clash in our attempts to put our best face forward and silence those of us who don't) that you can still be a death row inmate and marry. What's behavior got to do with it? Behavior's just a second-hand emotion!

Interestingly, Ted Olson also is a Republican. In fact, he's now coaching Paul Ryan for Thursday's VP debate. When pressed by Maddow, Olson acknowledges the disconnect, but says this kind of dialogue (he plays Biden in the prep room) is necessary, and the only thing that has and will change minds. He also mentions personal responsibility, and thus marriage equality, is a conservative value in his "Party of Lincoln" (no comment on how Lincoln's party has been wholly hijacked by the religious right) and that nobody cheers for politics.
I've no idea how to justify the conflicts and contradiction in Olson. Behavior has nothing to do with marriage rights, but it has everything to do with character and in Olson's case - a fascinating one. As one poster commented, this symposium should be required viewing for civics class in the USA.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

You Matter!

Fellow US ex-pats! It's not too late to vote absentee in the upcoming Presidential election. If you haven't already, it's easy and here's how:

Saturday, October 06, 2012

RIP Kyle Spidle

With what's left of my heart, I mourn the passing of my friend and co-star Kyle Spidle. He brought the character of Mac in Half-Share alive with truth and humor. He played a newcomer to Fire Island, shocked by his outrageous new housemates. Over the course of the film, our characters warm toward each other, but the warmth I felt toward Kyle, like so many others who knew him, was immediate. 
I'll never forget having first seen him stand out in a play at the Cherry Lane Theatre, or the way he made a hectic location shoot on Fire Island so much smoother. He wasn't on the crew, but he helped lug film equipment from house to house. He was so easy-going, always smiling, and I remember him busting out laughing after nearly every take, having had to feign shock and horror while in character.

It's taken me a while to write about this beautiful soul, as it's difficult to comprehend how he passed in his prime, so suddenly, so unimaginably, to bacterial meningitis at 32. He couldn't have known that the symptoms which must have appeared as a terrible flu would turn fatal. Certainly in NYC, if you don't have insurance, who would have gone to the hospital? It could have happened to so many.

The longest lasting impression I will retain of Kyle is a lesson he taught me the last time saw him. Uptown, at the door of swanky Club 57, I was arguing with some clubkid who said I wasn't on the guest list. I was supposed to be on that list, or maybe I was only pretending to be on the list, but he was having none of it and said I had to pay a $20 cover charge. I was having none of him and spun around to leave. That's when I bumped into Kyle. Kyle and his big smile.

I told him I was headed back downtown because I wasn't about to pay that cover charge. Without a moment's hesitation and before I could decline, Kyle said "I got you." He grabbed my wrist, pulled me inside, paid cover for both of us and we spent the night dancing.  Kyle sure wasn't going to let a stupid thing like $$ get in the way of enjoying life to its fullest. You never know when it might end.

It's devastating to acknowledge I will never spend another night dancing with him; to comprehend the incalculable loss of his pure human sunshine.

If you're able, please consider honoring Kyle's memory with a contribution to help his family pay for his funeral expenses. 

Got The Creepy Crawlies

I thought it was just a shadow, but there it was racing across the carpet in my room - a spider bigger than my HAND! A Jurassic, hairy, 8-legged thing. I grabbed a shoe to kill it but then, maybe it would squirt acid alien blood? I picked up my phone to call Richard. "Don't kill it," he said. "It's just a friendly Australian tarantula." Alas, my first introduction to the notorious Australian HUNTSMAN spider:
I've heard of them before. They're harmless as a daddy longlegs, but 600x as big. In fact, it eats daddy longlegs. It doesn't make webs, it kills prey with its venom. And it catches prey by racing after them at a rate of 1 yard per second. 1 yard per second! Richard came into my room to scurry it out the window, but then, in one quick second, it ran under my bed.

Though its venom is harmless to humans, Huntsman spiders kill just as many humans as redbacks and funnel web spiders when it hops out of steering wheels or drops into laps of unsuspecting freeway drivers. Scream, swerve, smash!
Richard seemed to think I should just go to bed and forget about the Jurassic arachnid lying in wait beneath it! "It's more scared of you than you are of it" "It's harmless," "It will keep the insects away!" --- well bring on the insects. I will swap a hornet's nest for that creeping thing. Nothing would entice me to sleep in that bed with FANGS underneath it, not even an IV drip of morphine. You say it's harmless, but what happens when it crawls on my face and I wake up to find it laying eggs in my mouth? Huh? I've SEEN the Brady Bunch Goes to Hawaii, and Peter woke up to a tarantula doing exactly that.

We tore up that bed and hunted the Huntsman until he galloped out the window! 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Truth and Dare - Gone Viral

I was partying in Los Angeles with my pal Andreas in June when we passed a man outside a medical van who asked if we wanted to come in and take a rapid HIV test. Right there on Santa Monica Blvd!  It would only take 15 minutes and not the former (or usual, in Australia) week of anguish, and I had just enough liquid whimsy to say yes. I entered that van like Hansel & Gretel peered into the oven, and as a kindly nurse pricked my finger, I turned to Andreas to say, "This could very possibly ruin my night..."

Now you could very possibly ruin your night, or that of one of your closest friends! Planning a get together? Birthday? Bar or Bat Mitzvah? Put down the kazoos, confetti, and elegant ice sculptures, there's a new party favor in town. Yes, the FDA has just approved the rapid, at-home HIV testing kit.

You can be that girl at the office who keeps a pregnancy test in her drawer. The one who's afraid to know, but has to know - like what's behind game show "Door Number One", or who your boyfriend's been texting all night. Now that element of anguished surprise once kept in antiseptic hospital corridor files is now at your home and much, much closer to the vodka. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Retribution Was Harsh, But Worth It

My favorite cousin Karen and I got together this past summer when I visited my parents in Trout Lake, and enjoyed our usual black sheep shenanigans - hillbilly rafting and beer blast spelunking. We're still shunned by certain family members for that episode when grandpa tried to drag me to hell, but this time we got up to mischief we actually do claim responsibility for. When Karen's mom, great aunt Aimee, went on a shopping trip to Portland...she asked Karen to look after her insipid white lap dog, Lucy.

At about the same time, Karen found some old-school food coloring in the house.
And I helped her give Lucy a luxurious spa treatment...
Pretty in Pink! 
It was the only occasion Karen has ever heard her mother utter the word DAMN. 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Return to Oz

Back to Sydney in all its glorious pre-summer splendor! I spent the long weekend intimately with my jet lag. Together we went through my affairs (ahhh, to touch them all over again!) and came across a birthday card from my friend Mike (aka Anita Dictionary). Inside, the best inscription ever:
At the time, I was too drunk to read it. Or was I trying to decipher the scribble? This spectacular find is fitting considering it's the month of OcSOBER. No doubt the month of Cocktober is preferable, but I've made a dry pact with Gerald (just think of the savings!), so the white-knuckling begins. So does Swim Club!

In exciting news, I've got a new home! My friend Richard graciously adopted two roommates (Bam and me) into his beautiful terrace home in Darlinghurst. So far, I can't keep my hands off his collection of books on old stars from Tallulah Bankhead to Mae West and the Paramount Pretties. There's also plenty of wine in the fridge. Is it maybe still September in... Guam?