I Never Watch The News

I tend to get my news from the web. Why? Even though there are significant downsides (perhaps more down- than upsides)—most especially the self-selecting behavior that locks you into self-serving ignorance—it’s much easier to avoid the fluff-pieces. It’s much easier to avoid the media’s idea of “balanced” news stories (e.g., Creationism does not deserve equal time with evolution). It’s much easier to ingest the information at your own leisure.

Tonight I was maneuvering TiVo (top of the hour is a tricky time), so that I could get back to watching the Tonys (yes, I’m at least that gay).

I landed on the local news, which had a story about same-sex marriage. More to the point, it was about the much-anticipated legal recognition of (not “legality of” as the reporter called it) same-sex marriages. It’s a supreme, potentially embittering irony that same-sex marriage shows up at a time in my life where not only do I no longer have someone in my life with whom to contemplate marriage, but that I have been knocked down enough that I am not even ready consider being with anyone with whom I might contemplate marriage.

Naturally, my thoughts fly backwards: I visit each relationship as an exercise in futility what could have been (I’m too fragile to consider what really was). Movement backwards is never easy. It’s never healthy. I’m not talking about remembering: Memory is a gift, a blessing. Like any powerful influence, the chance for abuse is great. Like any narcotic (chemical or spiritual) addiction is a danger. The danger of addiction to the Past (or to anything) brings the exact same cost: you lose the Present. You forget to live.

Don’t forget to live.

In all candor, the news was difficult to watch. I didn’t stop watching, though. So much excitement: a wedding chapel in the Castro. Same-sex wedding bands. The Mayor performing the very first marriage at 5pm tomorrow. So exciting!

So far away.

But only the weak-minded and small-hearted can look at the personal successes and happinesses of others and keep to their selfish negativities. In the abstract, availability of civil marriage is a beautiful thing. In a free society, there are no concrete obligations within the context of the civil marriage, but in the context of good will the spiritual and emotional obligations are obvious.

Good will is a thing in short supply. No one knows how good will comes into existence, but we all know how it leaves. It does not follow the laws of conservation of the rest of the world which, I suppose, gives it the freedom to blossom without limit. It may not follow that marriage will change the people who enter it, but the availability of something so long wanted may prove fertile soil.

Hope won’t die.

By the time the story ended—after “balancing” the story with Fundie idiots saying they don’t hate homos but they think homos are going to ruin all of society by tying the knot (sigh)—my balance was restored and I’m back in the mindset that the increase in happiness after 5pm tomorrow will be palpable: a rising tide raises all boats!

All the while I’ve been writing this, the Tonys have been going on. There’s a revival of Sunday in the Park with George this year, and it’s up for at least one award. The selection from it—shown right after the presentation of an honorary award to Stephen Sondheim (nice touch)—was ‘Move On’.

Serendipity and simultaneity never fail to astound me, even for how frequently such stuff happens in San Francisco.

The words of that song have inspired me in so many ways, so many times. Its literal meaning is to do with creativity, but Broadway music is never ever solely literal. So this song is also about fear and about the future, about love and vulnerability and opportunity, and intimacy. All those things that are so difficult to be or do, but provide so much upside. And so much downside, perhaps.

Moving On past any lingering or niggling bitterness or sadness about my distance from a true marriage—including the insidiousness of my doubts that most of the couples I’ve known won’t likely appear to live up to any of the ideals of marriage whether or not they get married—had its effect once again. How a single song can deliver so many different and varied epiphanies, I don’t think I’ll ever understand. Truth suffers from too much analysis.

Later, there was a tribute to “Rent”, including the appearances of the original cast members of the play, including a reprise of the main song. In the chorus?

“Measure your life in Love.”

The Parade Passed By

Broadway Showtunes Queen til the end.

And the end—an end—feels near.

A hundred thousand people (or more) are over in the Castro celebrating something the vast majority of them had no hand in. In a very local sense, I suppose the word for this is “entitled”: a wish, a hope and out of the blue falls same-sex marriage and they celebrate. Now, not that I’ve contributed much to the cause of same-sex marriage, but I’ve always had a profound respect for the institution. I suppose this is the contrapositive of the argument that marriage is a sacred institution whose boundaries are rigid, whose boundaries would snap rather than bend and those who believe that’s always for the worse.

So I respect the fact of it. The fact that my parents have been together for very close to 47 years. I don’t know if they’ve been completely happy overall. I suspect they would tell you quite earnestly that they are, that they have been. That overall, it was the right thing to stay together rather than seek greener pastures. This is one topic I don’t think I could ever broach with my parents adult to adult; I don’t know if that’s because of who I am, who they are, or if that’s just a preserved attribute of my family’s history.

On the flip side, I tend to agree with a friend of mine who put it, “In my book, you don’t get points just for staying together.” Meaning that if two people are miserable together, after trying everything, or after not caring enough to try anything, just dissolve the union, at least in a civil sense: and do it civilly, as adults, ok?

Life is complicated, which makes life difficult, especially for the emotionally-retarded. You can spot the emotionally-retarded quite easily: they’re the ones who sit back and expect things. They’re the ones who ignore consequences. They’re the ones who surrendered to their ids a long, long time ago. Much as I hate Freud, his framework is helpful here: the only way to give complete power to the id is to murder the super-ego and keep the ego distracted. Distract it with neediness, distract it by depending on an external view for its own robustness (which is to say, it lacks robustness entirely). Notches on a bedpost, avoidance of commitment—and I’m not talking about marriage or relationship here, I’m taking about fear of choice and fear of results of a choice, fear of missing out on something the capricious id would have liked, fear of the obsessive id driving a truck through the ego’s home when it doesn’t get what it wants.

In general, well, just Fear. Fear is a consumer. Fear conflates. Fear chooses all of it, which is to say it makes no choice at all.

The emotionally retarded are afraid, as are we all. The difference is just that they expect their fears to be allayed without having to lift a finger. How? By avoidance again. Avoidance of conflict, avoidance of the hard metal of reality, avoidance of the Outside (and you know I don’t mean out of doors). By the alchemical short-sightedness that feeds the id that spins the artifice of no-dissent, no-challenge. Monoclonal individualism as a social construct.

The sequacious lot huddle together to protect themselves from interlopers who vary from the larger lot, because that’s the only way to maintain the prevention of maturation: there’s no such thing as a mature id. So they pile paralogism on top of paralogism, keeping the whole mess intact with spit and barbed-wire, bound up in a thick, glaucous layer of self-imposed ignorance.

Is it time yet or time past where I should put up a circle of orange traffic cones warning people that I am opinionated and that these are my opinions? Strongly so, but not out of order or out of turn. Opinions do not come easily to me. Where possible, they are backed by fact, simple or—where that same sequacious lot dare not venture for fear of exposure to strange elements—subtle fact. Where not, they are formed by personality spinning out a reticulum of relationships between and among fact. Defensible, always defensible, except where they cannot be, and then it comes down to disagreement, difference of opinion. Set up a situation like that and see who runs away or attempts to preempt and there you’ll find the emotionally retarded.

Am I one of that lot? Well, challenge me and see if I stay around for the argument, and not argument in the sense of raised voices and emotional outbursts, but rather argument as presentation of fact and informed opinion. Argument, whose function is nothing more and nothing less than to change the nature of truth.

This population are some of the people who’ve been handed marriage. For real. Loathe as I would ever be to discriminate or deny two consenting, chronologically-adult people from entering into a marriage, I do allow myself opinion. In case you hadn’t noticed.

What will change in the short-term? Relationships will go to Marriages and the State is both empowered and required to recognize such Unions. Perhaps for a little while some might look to all the examples of marriage they have before them, good ones and bad ones, successful ones and those which divorce, and perhaps believe it means something more than what they had before.

But none of the people I’ve described are likely to change. There will be no evidence of a relationship cum marriage, there will be no example to others of what a marriage looks like, because it won’t look like anything new: couples entering bars and their body language never gives it away that they’re together as they close in on whatever their respective ids want. Off, off they go without regard for anyone but themselves. Collectively—and I’ve watched this happen—the open door policy breathes out contagion to this world in the form of expecting less. Those who are single by fiat must be let into the relationship and become subject to its rules, must expect that the only valid fantasy allowed is the one that the married person permits to happen, which is usually the fantasy that his id plays out, paving over the id and ego of the single person whose super-ego was ignored. Dragged into the relationship for frictional scenario(s) and just as unceremoniously ejaculated out of it.

Am I not allowed an exegesis on this happy day of the advent of state-recognized same-sex marriages?

In the longer term—for those who contemplate or simply recognize that there is such a thing as “longer term”—marriage is marriage is marriage, and while same-sex couples will bring something positive to the marriage table, it won’t be anytime soon. Not soon enough for those of us achingly ready for all those longer term, more mature things like deep commitment without fear, being exemplary to others, at least to some extent and being able to depend truly on the spouse sticking around to fight for the relationship instead of running out to burn off all that “icky” negativity elsewhere and with someone else. I happen to think that’s a shitty way to expend energy when it could be better spent maintaining or enriching a marriage.

It’s all about showing up. Simply showing up. My friend, a doctor, told me that once: set aside all the majesty, mystery, vauntedness of a job/relationship/person and it all comes down to the same thing. Showing up.

It’s been a long time since that kind of dependability, comfort, trust, expectation have been there in my life. And going back to where those things weren’t there to catch me when I was falling as I truly expected them to be, I don’t think revising history by slapping a capital M on any of those relationships would have changed anything even one mote.

Marriage is ours now, at least until November. I wonder how many of those celebrating its arrival today will see it through November, working to earn it, to appreciate it, to keep the nay-sayers and the closed-minded voters at bay.

If you appreciate someone, you fight to keep him close to you. You let him know it every day in deed and not just in word. You carve out a private space, a somewhere-only-we-know and you let no one else even know such a private intimacy exists. When he needs you, you’re there. When you need him, he should be there and if he’s not? Well, learn. Learn and act. When you have conflict, you stick around to resolve it, knowing that it might be difficult, knowing it might have consequences, but in the end trusting that the other will still love and respect you when the conflict recedes. Think I’m rigid or provincial? Stick around and convince me of it. Feel threatened by such words? Challenge it. At least acknowledge that there is a world of people who don’t feel and believe and agree with every little thing you do. If that’s unsettling to you to the point of seeking safe ground, well, you know how I’ll interpret that. Run away? Stay away.

A private and precious intimacy, that’s the kind of marriage I’d want. And I’ve learned not to settle for anything less. Better to be alone and know you’re about to make a hard landing than to settle for being with someone you know won’t bother catching you, that someone who’s wearing a scarlet M and a matching ring.

So congratulations all, whether you understand it or not.

My Hero, A Republican

Sometimes a thing happens that is so surprising and so meaningful and so genuine that it sends sarcasm, irony, cleverness and conceit scurrying under furniture and into dark corners. Dark places are where such belong when good will and honest candor rule the day.

It’s the fault of everyone and no one that these wonderful and joyous qualities do not rise each morning with the sun.

Jerry Sanders, the Republican Mayor of San Diego, is my hero. Not because I have some personal stake in what he talked about; not because he’s sticking it to the standard Republican party line; not because of anything other than the willingness to side with what is right instead of what the right says or what anyone says. For being a compassionate man, for being a good father. For being a fine human being at the end of the day.

My own writing here is in the way of something and someone eminently more….well, just more, so here he is. Click on the image to watch.

Picture 7

Camille Paglia: Stud Finder

I have long found Camille Paglia utterly detestable. There’s nothing charming about her, nothing convivial or even in vivo about her writing. She’s a pedant. She’s a hypocrite. She mainly uses the height of her pulpit to cast long shadows or to direct her self-appointed-cognoscenti (oh yes, I went there) lackeys on where to shove ponderous push-pins into her own map of the world. She could squeeze the final dribbles of moisture from a desert with her prose alone: there’s a museum quality to any subject when she writes about it.

Why am I taking time here and now to talk about this? Well, Ms. Camille, growing ever more glacially comfortable with being an out Lesbian, decided to spew a little dust onto the Larry Craig story. She finds the whole idea of two men hooking in up a restroom to be “a bit de trop”. Can you imagine? De trop, people! (that means, in her context, “icky”).

This from the woman who thinks male urination is some kind of sexually transcendent act, but for women pissing is just “[watering] the ground she stands on”. Or squats over, in this case, a position that suits quite well her relationship with her subject most times. She blames the “PC Squad” back in the day for being pissed off that she observed “the modern male homosexual has sought ecstasy in the squalor of public toilets, for women perhaps the least erotic place on earth.” It’s all bananas and orchids, is it?

Ms. Paglia, it’s a frickin’ room that men happen congregate in for pissing (sorry, micturition), some of whom enjoy the attentions of another man or at least another hand or mouth. There’s some privacy afforded, and it happens. Men aren’t cruising toilets in search of “ecstasy”, they just want to get off. Men have no problem with sexual expediency, usually. Is that really so difficult to accept prima facie (rolling my eyes) instead of spinning a whole web of stuffy academic bullshit around it?

Later (two paragraphs later) in the Salon.com piece I linked to above, she insults the very over-intellectualized bullshit that she employs when she’s trying to show you how much better she is than you are:

Too often defamed these days as racist, imperialist piracy, archaeology has more scholarly soul than, well, most of the Ivy League’s humanities departments ensconced in their plush, airless tombs. [Ow! My sides from hypoxia!]

First, let’s just gloss over the fact that she took exactly three sentences to segue from Larry Craig to Bronze Age Crete: she skewers the Ivory Tower while standing atop it.

It gets…..ummm, better? Her next stop: Absolutely Fabulous! But you’ve been punished enough so far. Moving on…

After a brief mention of a minor early 50s film, Never Wave at a WAC, she moves on to the movie Auntie Mame also starring Rosalind Russell. (Land, ho! A segue!). Now, after dropping trou and dribbling territorial pissings on Larry Craig, the Ivory Tower, the state of field archaeology, British satire and 50s American comedies, Ms. Paglia finally delivers the punch line:

Alert, all “Auntie Mame” fans! (That sparkling 1958 movie, starring Russell and based on Patrick Dennis’ witty book, was one of the central, formative experiences of my youth — a taste inexplicably shared with battalions of gay men worldwide.)

The emphasis is mine, because I’m just overwhelmed. Because I’m so underwhelmed.

The woman who believes she totally clinched the totality of bathroom cruising with…

It’s not just furtive, closeted gay men who frequent toilets: Flamboyant pop star George Michael, who eats up stranger sex like a pastry cart of eclairs [cream-filled phalluses! bonk, bonk on the head! -Eds.] got nailed [double entendre alert, Ibid.] for soliciting a cop in a public john right across from his posh Los Angeles hotel. The sleaziness is a turn-on, probably inflamed by the hyper-distillation of testosterone smells.

…finds it “inexplicable” that gay men love the movie Auntie Mame????

She’s an idiot. Plain and simple. Why do they still give her a pulpit?

•••

Story Rhyme01

Extra credit: which one is cartoonier?

•••

Speaking of unworthy pulpiteers, Andrew Sullivan got married. For realz.

I read it from my friend Rex first, but then scooted over to Joe.My.God. (say it sassy and it feels like praying, or something like that) because Joe and I have this weird, unpredictable overlap when it comes to Andrew Sullivan and I still haven’t found a good predictor for it yet.

After reading through a bazillion comments, after sort of agreeing with the people who hate him and sort of agreeing with the people who thought a high-profile same-sex marriage was a good thing, and after taking Rilke’s (the poet) advice about use of irony, I just decided to lay my cards on the table and comment from the heart:

I’m absolutely the last person on earth who goes in for schadenfreude.

That said, I get a kind of icky feeling that someone so hypocritical and disingenuous in public is making a “commitment” to another human being who could get hurt.

Of course I wish them well and I hope I’m wrong. In the meantime, pass the pepto.

Where does this come from for me? Well, the one experience that I goes back to when I saw that Sullivan was getting married was a few years ago when I “dated” this guy Dave for about five and a half minutes, just long enough to meet a couple of his friends and realize how amazing they were. Dave, not so much, because he had strong “types” for men in his black and white and shallow world. Great looking man, but oy. A couple of years later, after Dave had been presented with a restraining order (nothing to do with me!) and moved to the South Bay and moved somewhere else and then to Southern California then somewhere else (itinerancy takes many forms), he was up here visiting with his “fiancé” (scare-quotes only because same-sex marriage was not legal then, nor is it at the moment). I walked into the bar where he was and he comes charging over to me and says, “I’m getting married. And he’s white!” See, aside from me, Dave went in for the Latino types. Seriously. I could list the details (which he’d listed for me) of separate features of Latino men that were so important to him in a life-partner, but you can’t cross a chasm in a hundred little steps, can you? So I’ll spare you.

Anyway, Dave is who I thought of when I was figuring out my feelings towards Sullivan’s nuptials. I don’t know Andrew at all; I’ve never had direct contact with Andrew except for the reply I got after I Fedexed him a copy of Baby Be-Bop, the then-current installment of the Weetzie Bat series by Francesca Lia Block. It was three months after Allen had died and I thought the author of a book such as Virtually Normal needed some Weetzie Bat far more than I did.

I jokingly told Ronald that had I had only Sullivan and Paglia as “luminaries” guiding my path out of the Closet, I might have stayed in.

Seriously, people, how’d we end up with these two as front-runners when there are so many other, better voices out there?