Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"You Don't Post Often Enough"

It's true. I don't post enough. Blogdaddy cajoles me, but to no avail.
I WANT to post more. *


My excuse? I'm severely typing challenged. It takes me forever to two finger these things into the damn computer. I thought I could just wait out the coming improvements; that soon enough I could simply talk to the machine and little digital fingers would fly over a silicon key pad inside the big ugly whirring suitcase at the other end of all these wires. Like on Star Trek. My standby, epic procrastination, failed to serve me again. Technological advances lagged behind my expectations even as everyone else who was paying attention honed their data entry chops. Here I sit. Clack. Clack. Clack. I really did TRY to learn, once, but somehow it just didn't take.

Computers came late to back water Rhode Island, only the kids in accelerated math and science classes had use of them. I was on the iconoclast/slacker track, so only saw them through the computer lab's glass doors. All that most of us were offered was typing. I took two semesters of it, with Miss Lupenacci. "Loop", as we all called her, was fresh out of teacher's college at U.R.I., then renowned for it's agricultural studies department. She wore tight sweater dresses with plunging necklines, cinched with wide buttery leather belts, or draped at the hips with brassy gold chains. She tip-toed on high pointy heels, exaggerating the kinetic cantilevers of large breasts and full round buttocks balanced on the fulcrum of a tiny waist. The Future Secretaries of America who normally made up the ranks found themselves fighting for slots with increasing numbers of Industrial Arts boys and the entire football team (who's Captain, only three years her junior, Loop favored with blow jobs in the back seat of his dad's LTD). I took the class because there'd be no homework.

Miss Lupenacci often stood in front of the class by an opaque projector, her demonstrations of the home row and proper striking techniques mimicked overhead by huge red manicured fingers (one wore a gold ring dispaying her initials in curvacious script) on the pull down screen covering the blackboard. She'd admonish the class not to look at the keys and to instead concentrate on the letters as they appeared on the white sheets covering the rollers. The generally undisciplined class, with their eyes following their fingers, paid her little attention. This instruction was doubly ignored by (most of) the boys, who focused instead on her jiggling cleavage or the glittering links caressing her thighs.

Loop's demonstrations were accompanied by a manic stream-of-consciousness patter, reflecting on various topical concerns, mostly originating in T.V. sitcoms and last night's Action News. My assigned seat was in the front row by the corner of her desk, at her right hand. She'd offer opinions and commentaries, and wander off on tangents, often using me as a foil. I felt like I was on the Tonight Show. I had already built a world for myself on a foundation of cynicism and irony; she demonstrated neither. It was completely fascinating.

Sometimes she'd read passages for us to type, varied in form and content in order to encourage the flexing of our developing typing muscles. She particularly loved lists in columns, which gave us additional experience setting tabs and margins. One exercise featured "famous people" (though mainly unknown to most of the class) and the jobs they held before the onset of notoriety; Sean Connery: brick layer, Golda Meir: school teacher, Elvis Presley: truck driver. She'd stop after each, offering personal evaluations of those she recognized. We didn't actually get in a whole lot of typing. Finally she reached Adolf Hitler, who briefly toiled as a commercial artist before finding his metier as a genocidal despot. He was listed as "greeting card designer". She paused for a long moment, examining the text to be sure she'd read it correctly. She looked up at the class, eyes blinking and mouth open, "HUH!" She turned to me, her brow now furrowed with consternation,"That's a nice job", she puzzled, "I wonder why he wanted to be a dictator?"


Five years later, after his graduation from U.R.I., Miss Lupenacci and the Football Captain were wed.
Whatever typing abilities she'd fostered faded with the years, as did any knowledge of proper spelling I once held, and I still can't get blogspot spell check to work on my MAC.

*...and another thing.

It's not for lack of material. Those unfortunates who know me well must endure a constant litany of factoids, endlessly related tales, observations and anecdotes. "A Font of Useless Information", "Master of Arcana", "Compares Everything to Food" they mock. Yet when they need to know the telephone number of the decades closed Stork Club in N.Y.C. (PLaza 3-1940), the year plastic lawn flamingos were introduced (1947, by Don Featherstone) or how many rivets were used in the construction of the R.M.S. Titanic (slightly more than three million) they come to ME. Say what they will, but EVERYBODY knows the size of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and the color of a bowl of Campbel's Tomato Soup. If you ask for a knob in that size or paint in that shade, both the decorator and the guy at the hardware store know EXACTLY what you're talking about.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


"Do you want good coffee, or gay coffee?"

I am a coffee snob. Details of bean selection, roasting, preparation and how it is properly served, are all dictates of the sensual elitism of it(and of my beer, chocolate, and food consumption generally). I take it all very seriously. I can't remember a time when I DIDN'T drink coffee, sharing cafe con leche with my mom and feeding imaginary cups of it to my stuffed menagerie. Living in my former high school girlfriend's Cambridge basement apartment, I made the leap from canned Maxwell House to Sumatran, Ethiopian yergacheef, and Yemenni mocha matari. She worked at Coffee Connection, one of the first East Coast craft roasters, located in a converted parking garage right off Harvard Square. We ground our precious just roasted beans in one of the several Braun or Krupps electrics on the counter by the ready french presses, and poured the hot (NEVER boiling) water into the glass cylinders over heaps of the richly aromatic grounds, waiting one minute, then pressing the dark nectar from the swirling mixture.

Years later in Philadelphia, during my Golden Age of Coffee Drinking, I was able to structure gallery and restaurant shifts (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday days, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights) allowing most early afternoons to be wasted at the Fairmont bagel institute after a morning of sleeping in. I was a fixture. The staff had my order ready before I reached the counter, a table and chair would be dragged (for me alone) to a sunny spot out front in brisk late fall and chilly early spring, and my (late and lamented) old yellow convertible in the loading zone(never ticketed) was a sure sign that they were open for business. I had my own mug. My world was deeply disrupted when undercapitalized overexpansion closed the small chain's doors for good. Rootless and disenfranchised, a man without a coffee country, I began my wanderings through the city's coffee shops, becomming familiar with all. I formed short tenuous alliances, but never truly shook my refugee status and found a home. Finally, on the other side of the castelated Penitentiary walls at the end of my street, the unfortunately named but exceptionally good Mug Shots (the ball and chain dragging convict striped logo mascot enthuses "Not your usual line up!" *cringe*) recently opened, ending my long Exodus, and giving me a neighborhood sanctuary.

So standing in front of his hotel, I asked my visiting D.C. friend (a coffee conoisseur himself) what exactly he was looking for. A continental breakfast had provided an initial coffee infusion, but the sunshine had beckoned through the leaded glass lobby windows, promising a coffee filled world outside, and we were both interested in some more, some more of SOMETHING.

"Um, I want GAY coffee."

Coffee plays a far different role in THIS section of town. There are four coffee shops in the gayborhood: Stellar, Cafe Joe, Mean Bean, and Millennium. Their patronage is largely based on their visibility, unfortunately inverse to the quality of fare. The best are Stellar and Cafe Joe. Stellar is on the edge of our gay little world, and though excellent, is not ostensibly gay, so I eliminated that one . The spotless Cafe Joe is superbly run by its hardworking and charming namesake. The high quality varietal beans are never over roasted, and the brews are kept in thermal press pots, preserving each batch's flavor. The baked goods are entry level artisan quality, and they stock excellent imported and domestic chocolates(extra points). The large cheerful room opens onto a wide tree shaded brick sidewalk, across from the bustle of Jefferson University Hospital. It should be number one. Regrettably due to it's relative seclusion, it brings up the rear of the big three.

The Mean Bean is halfway between Joe's and Millennium, and middling in all respects. It's especially popular with the Twelve Stepper community. The coffee is fine, the food is O.K., the service is adequate. The room is tiny and cluttered in over the top gay eclectic splendor, like a prop warehouse. A large formerly delightful terrace overlooking a neighborhood garden next door is now claustophobically tented and dark, as year round seating. From it's blue and tan rattan French cafe chairs, your view of the street is obscured, and you are in turn concealed by a forest of palm filled cast iron urns. This is where you go when Millennium is too packed, or you have a fever blister.

Millennium is the home room/cafeteria of Homo High School. It's located at one end of the 12th Street Runway, where queers strut and turn, craning their necks to see who is sitting at the sidewalk tables and lining the banquet beyond the open French doors, and being concurrently evaluated themselves. The 12th Street Gym is next door, with it's attendant parade of buff and aspiringly buff patrons; God's gifts to spandex. Across the street is one of the larger, tonier apartment buildings in the 'hood, brimming with highly sought after Jefferson residents, finance professionals and well-to-do graduate students. The steady stream of dog walking tenants coming and going, cabs picking up and dropping off, and guest arrivals (and especially those closely scrutinized Sunday morning departures) are an unending source of comment and speculation. The coffee sucks. Left to sit carmelizing on the flame, it's the perfect accompaniment to the food; Leaden bagels, sugary lardy pastries eclipsed by any average supermarket bakery's most perfunctory efforts, soggy pre-made sandwiches, and soups rolled off the delivery truck in industrial sized drums. Cliched dance tracks drone overhead, and the strikingly young pretty staff moves to the rythm, ignoring table wiping, half and half refilling, and your presence at the counter. The tip jar is full. The venue is like orchestra seating at the cross roads. In the good weather, naturally, it's packed.

"So where do you think?" the visitor asks me.

We stood next to the awning. Hmm. Cost/beneffit ratio. I ran through my mental files again while the sun warmed my jean jacket shoulders. Groups of men funneled past, down Locust Street and 12TH towards the cross roads, towards the locus, toward the center. The answer was clear.

"Millennium, of course" I cheerfully asserted, "and after that, we can go get us some COFFEE!"

Monday, May 16, 2005


All my Dad ever wanted to do was play the guitar.

In high school,and right after, he and his buddies had a band. They toured, cut a few singles, even got some regional air play. He dreamed he could take it further, all the way to Memphis. There he'd play the clubs, do session work, and then maybe...Who knows? But his life was circumscribed; legacy college, naval engineering degree, and future position in our small town's gentry. After his first year of College, to his family's collective horror, he dropped out and took a summer job with the Post Office. He never left. It was the first independant decision he'd made in his entire life, and there wasn't a thing Grandpa could do about it.

After taking early retirement, and with a zeal and enthusiasm he never focused on being a dad, he devoted himself to grandfatherhood. I have copies of the video tapes he made for my Brother's kids, standing in front of the dark mahogany dresser in his bedroom, playing bluegrass songs. His broad hands strum steadily, his fingers pick with precision and speed, and slide along the ebony neck of the flat top guitar he'd crafted himself in his basement workshop(where he now makes tiny working mandolins, puzzle boxes and wooden trains). I'd watched him steam the thin mahogany sides in long galvanized trays on my Mother's stove top, and clamp the malleable strips curved in thick wooden forms set on a beach towel on her table. The guitar's contours fit his body perfectly; he still plays it today. I show the tapes to musician friends, they smile at the dour, spectacled man in his codger's uniform of blue work shirt and baggy navy blue Dickies, held up with broad elastic suspenders - a striking resemblance to Grant Wood's 'American Gothic' farmer, with a hollow body instead of a pitch fork. Then their eyes focus on the long, flat tipped fingers flying over pickguard and frets, and- when he breaks to anounce 'Shady Gove', 'Turkey in the Straw' or whichever song he'll play next - they turn to me in surprise and a kind of mild awe:

"Your dad, man, he's GOOD."

He never made it to Memphis. Before enough money and motivation could be banked for a trip to Tennessee, my Mother, we three boys, and the mortgage arrived in succession. In the dining room of the house he constantly had to patch and repair, my Mother kept a stack of photo albums in a maple hutch. Most were filled with familiar family scenes. One was different, a black bound scrap book with 'Memories' printed across its cover in tarnished silver script. It held images of my Father's pre-married life. In it I'd seen a photograph of my Dad, and the white Impala hard top which would have taken him and his Gibson L5 to Tennessee, parked next to my Grandfathers house. In the black and white picture, it's a clear, bright afternoon, and he's leaning against the front fender, legs crossed at the ankles and veiny arms folded across his proud chest. He fills out a white t-shirt, snug levis, and sports a broad confident smile. Raybans conceal his eyes. I know from standing in that same gravel driveway, that he's facing south-west. Maybe he was looking toward that magical city, and his bright future there.

My Father played all the time when we were growing up. After dinner each night, he'd lean against the washing machine by the back door, the corners of his mouth tight and level, looking out through the wavy panes of glass . He'd stare off into the sunset on Spring and Fall evenings, and into the cold dark western sky in Winter. In the Summer he'd start later, after an additional round of chores, and if it wasn't raining, he'd play outside. I remember one night just past twilight. He was leaning against the back of the white Ford station wagon which had replaced the coupe, three miles, ten years, and a lifetime from where that old black and white picture had been taken. In the yellow light from the laundry room window his deeply shadowed profile looked just like his father's stern sepia toned face in other photos from that same old book of memories. My Brother and I watched him. We sat silently, pressed against each other on the granite slab steps which still held the summer days heat, warm against the cool skin of our bare scabbed and scratched little boy legs. The polished mahogany and satiny spruce glowed softly, and the tuning keys glinted like the attendant fireflies. He stood there alone in his world, with the guitar held high across his stomach - like Buddy Holly in the Ed Sullivan Show kinescopes we'd seen on PBS. We followed every motion, and listened to each note float off into the darkness, as he played Johnny Cash songs to the lilacs, spruce tree, rose of sharon, and the far away Birthplace of Rock and Roll.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Weekend Recap

I scurried around madly on Friday afternoon, trying to get myself up to Manhattan. I decided to forego driving, instead selecting Amtrak in the hope that paying the premium (500% over the Chinese bus) would get me to GB:NYC-2 close to on time and allow me a much needed hour and a half nap. The train ran 30 minutes late and the young woman behind me screeched Cantonese into her cell phone the whole trip. I can't escape. A quick cab hop to Hell's Kitchen brought me to a bar filled with especially articulate name tagged homosexual patrons, stumbling over a minefield of those stupid tiny cube ottomans which litter every bar decorated after 1998 (George PUSHED me. I swear).

I was delighted by the mix. Beardom was heavily represented (with the exception of the fashion bears, who must have been off somewhere fabulous and exclusive, collecting catty anecdotes and mean spirited photos). There were alterna-queers, adorkable grad student types, compact hirsute men, and a few smartly turned out haute' gays. Two bewildered bartenders managed the crush. The crowd became gradually friskier, though no, that wasn't MY silhouette pressed against the frosted glass men's room door by a handsome and known-to-be-sexually-generous diarist. Or maybe it was.

Saturday began with us too tired and hung over to meet social commitments. Homer arrived, and we set out for lunch in the East Village wandering eventually to the West. We finished up with an early drink at the new multi T.V. screened bar in Chelsea where a packed roomful of fags in sports drag watched baseball and the Kentucky Derby while practicing their "masculine". We returned to the U.E.S. for a slumber party, to talk about boys, watch "Fat Actress" via cable-on-demand, and eat take out rice bowls from the corner chicken joint. The other houseguest and I did NOT make out so hot and heavy as to chase our host from the apartment. Or maybe we did.

Late Sunday morning we had waffles(!) followed by what turned into a Bataan Death March of touristy wandering and unsuccessful shopping efforts over miles and miles of Manhattan. We visited the Christopher St. Pier where we rested our tired dogs huddled from the wind on the grass in the intensely sunlit lee of the undulating concrete benches. We ran into some other bloggers , and all wandered over to The Dugout. Hung out with some of my NYC buddies (who were impressed by my new vintage boots) and chattered about next weekends ICFF and the current Diane Arbus shows. Later the pack shifted over to The Eagle for part II of our Sunday Beer Blast. We ate cheese burgers prepared on grills out front. Inside, we met MR. NYC Eagle 2005, who read us the draft of his upcoming IML speech, and made sure we each had a slice of the flourless chocolate cake with butter cream frosting he'd prepared. He'll surely win the IML bake-off at the end of the month. I tripped on the catwalk stairs leading to the roof deck, sprawling face down onto the metal grate landing and adding knee, shin, and elbow bruises to the shoulder gash from my collision with the garage door facade of Barrage. I did NOT spill my beer. Outside, we surveyed the roof top crowd playing who-did-fuck-would-fuck-who before the shivering of those of us who'd dressed for June rather than early May forced us all back into the building. Downstairs, Blogdaddy sent us packing but stayed himself, resolutely fending off the amorous attentions of cubby young fans he could very well have fathered. Or maybe he didn't.

Woke up Monday morning and frantically threw my things together in order to catch the 10AM Orient Express back to Philly. Cabbed home to Fairmont, and dropped the top of the sleek black leopard before driving the allergy symptom inducing tree lined boulevard to Spring Garden, watering eyes shielded by sunglasses from brightness if not pollen. Took the cage elevator up to my floor in the studio building, arriving just before 1pm, tired and happy and eager to tell you ALL about it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


I'm going to New York for the second annual gay blogger thing. Blogdaddy sent me the roster and wondered "which blogger you'll be throwing yourself at" during Friday's festivities. Unfortunately Jim won't be attending, but still, It's a long and impressive list.

Any suggestions?
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