Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gay Divorcee at Thanksgiving

My former partner and I spent 23 Thanksgivings together. After we parted company in 2001, we had one or two more (he was a member of my family despite our change in circumstance) before he relocated to another part of the country.

As I was driving around doing some errands today and feeling rather relaxed, I was hit by a pang of nostalgia. It was only a little surprising since I've come to expect that around this time of year. The older I get the more attuned I am to the bittersweetness of each holiday. It's a cliche, but the image of empty chairs at a table is an accurate one for me and for a couple of days each November/December I have to work to not let it overwhelm me.

Ex and I hosted Thanksgiving for my family and our friends for most of the years we were together. I recall from my childhood how my mother collected folks at the holiday - people with no family in the area, usually. Ex and I continued that tradition and through the years the celebration got larger and larger. As our relationship wound down, though, so did our extravagant holidays with our guest lists dwindling to just a few close friends. Not sad - at least not at the time.

Thanksgiving now is held at my sister's home and tomorrow will be a small crowd, including two couples from my days with Ex who are members of my family now as surely as he was. The only children in my family - my grandniece and nephew - will be sharing turkey with a certain Florida-based rodent. I'll miss them because 5 and 8 are such an interesting age and they are such delightful children. They're too young to remember Ex, but they love Uncle Ollie and his straight "white guy" hair is a source of endless fascination to them! We'll have them back at Christmas if their mom, my nephew's wife, decides she doesn't want to be a Jehovah's Witness in December. She goes back and forth.

I'm trying to learn a new way to be thankful which isn't always easy. Very often when we consider all that we are thankful for, it is in the context of what others don't have - a good example would be I'm thankful for good food because many are hungry. I try to make an effort to simply be thankful for it all - food, breath, my family, my job, the 2.4 people who read this blog - all of it. Frankly, I just don't think I need a context for that other than waking up to a new day.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving,

Monday, November 24, 2008

Prince William's Penis

I'm a little embarrassed. I don't think I could be more loyal to HM the Queen or a closer follower of the Royal Family than if I were actually British.

I suspect I like the dresses and the jewelry. Still, if there is something on PBS about the Royals, the TIVO is set. I'm one of those people who got up at the crack of dawn for Diana's wedding and her funeral.

I like these people.

I also like boys. I really like penises. So the opportunity to see Prince William's Willy (that's not original is it?) seems like a real treat. There's a paparazzo out there who is probably a millionaire now so I'm also a little envious.

And somewhere lurking in the back of my mind there's a little war going on. As much as I admit to enjoying this kind of thing (I also have a fondness for voyeur videos, but that's another post), I also struggle with the whole idea of why I, along with it seems everybody else in the world, appear to crave what, in other circumstances, would just be a gross invasion of privacy. In my channel surfing, I come across a show called TMZ the basic premise of which is let's follow celebrities around and ask them annoying questions or, better yet, see if we can catch them doing something . . .well . . . normal. Guys pee. The governor of California should be able to go commando without it becoming a big deal.

The same is true of the shows on TV during the day and the proliferation of Judge shows - people airing their dirty laundry for the titillation of the masses.

I'm not making a judgment here - look at the picture at the top of this post and you'll see I'm in a position to throw any stones. I suppose I'm just wondering how we landed here. If you read a tell-all bio of any Hollywood star or public figure from back in the day, there's an element of surprise when the details of their lives our set out. Almost always, those details also include the interesting fact that everybody knew. But, the agreement back then between the celebrity, the press, and the fans was that those things could be guessed at, but not published. It would take an extremely stupid move on the part of a "Star" to find a big secret in publication the next day.

Now, Hollywood/New York/London are big Star Zoos with high paid papparazzi on Safari, looking to land the big one. Prince William's penis is probably the equivalent of bagging a great Lion.

And like an accident on the Beltway, I'm still looking to see what I can see.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hot Guy(s) Friday! (NSFW)

In honor of our President-elect, a few lovely men of color to grace a perfectly beautiful Friday afternoon in the Nation's Capitol.

The beautiful Darryl Stephens and Christian Stewart from Noah's Arc.

Mathew St. Patrick of Six Feet Under

Archie Cho, Actor

Hero, Sendhil Ramamurthy

And finally, Actor Marcus Patrick - who's explicit nude layout for Playgirl magazine cost him his role on Days of Our Lives in 2007

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In My Lifetime . . .

Pre-Election Reflections . . .

Election 2008

I had lunch recently with a young man who interned in my office a couple of summers ago. Our lunch dates are always intellectually interesting, especially as we discussed the upcoming election. I told Joseph that I would be voting for Obama mostly because he’s black. Our poor political system is a limping, broken thing and I have no real faith that either candidate can give us the fixes we need, much less keep the promises made to get them through the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I am left to follow the candidate who most closely reflects my own view of things and, for me, that is Obama.

Joseph’s next question was pointed. While he could understand my voting for Obama because he’s black, he was confused as to why mine was not a racist statement but were he to express the same rationale for a McCain vote, it would raise cries of racism. I didn’t have an answer for him. All I could do was attempt to describe the extraordinarily strong set of emotions I’ve carried around inside since I heard Senator Obama accept the nomination on that stage in Denver. Well before my lunch with Joseph, each time I contemplated casting my vote for the likely first African-American president of these United States, I have been overtaken with emotion.

I have a picture in my apartment – a family heirloom – of an elegant couple on their wedding day circa 1901. Both stare straight into the camera in that oddly direct way of old photos. He is seated and she stands next to him with her hand on his shoulder. She wears a magnificently wide brimmed, beflowered hat and empire waist gown with a large pink bow. At first glance, they are a white couple. In fact, they are my Mom’s grandparents - my great-grandparents. Grandma died the year my sister was born, but I have clear memories of Granddaddy who did not pass away until the late 1960s. Granddaddy presided over a family of 13 children, most like my grandmother with white skin, straight hair, and blue grey eyes, and all raised within the African-American community of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Despite the complexion of his skin and the ability to “pass,” my great-grandfather rejected the wealthy white land owner who fathered him and chose to rear his family under the law of the day – a single drop of black blood made you a Negro.

My parents tell stories of childhood in the Jim Crow south – my Mom of spitting in the “Whites’ Only” water fountain as a child, and of a particularly harrowing encounter with a department store salesclerk who didn’t realize my mom, a dark child, and grandma, an apparently white woman, were together. My Dad spoke of working as a teenager at the city’s largest, most exclusive hotel which remained segregated until the year I was born. Not so many years later, the same hotel would host our family reunions.

My most vivid racial memories center around 1968. The country was staggering under the weight of the King and Kennedy assassinations and the race riots in April of that year. There was turmoil in my own family that often had to do with how “white” some members were in the face of how black it was becoming necessary to be. The conflict seemed to be epitomized by the horrified reaction of my grandmother to her son’s shaving off the long, beautiful hair of his two young daughters to short, funky Afros. My grandma’s sister, an activist and advocate for the disadvantaged and the original political junkie, made sure that we kids were at the railroad crossing in Wilmington, Delaware, when the funeral train bearing Bobby Kennedy’s body made its way from New York to Washington. She felt it was important we see firsthand the consequences of what was happening in our world. I remember seeing Mrs. King gazing out a window from that very slow moving train only two months after her husband’s murder.

From the safety of a close-in suburb, I remember seeing the smoke hanging over Washington as the riots raged along the 14th Street corridor.

It appears the smoke has cleared.

After my parents married and moved to Washington, DC., my sister and I were often among the first black kids in some schools and neighborhoods. For me, this was the beginning of learning to be comfortable as the only black in a roomful of white people – still not an uncommon occurrence. Throughout my junior high and high school years, more white kids called my mother “Mama” than her own two children. By the time I left home at 18, my brother and sister, one white and the other Puerto Rican, were still there with Mom. To this day, family is family and color has nothing to do with it.

Thanks to my Mom and Dad and the efforts of those before them, I grew up in a world where hyper-vigilance regarding my race and others’ reaction to it wasn’t quite so urgent though still necessary at times. With such an integrated, almost color blind, upbringing, I am shaken and surprised by just how moved I have been during this campaign; a campaign in which I am politically disappointed but, as a man of color, I am invigorated and stirred on a deeply visceral level.

I look at my life, the opportunities I enjoy, and the ever more limitless future available to my nephews and nieces and to their children, and the tears and emotion of the last couple of months make perfect sense. Those rich and enveloping feelings remind me – color blind though I might be - that I represent the latest of less than five generations in which the impossible now appears possible. I am the product of a white-appearing family who refused to “pass,” and the son and grandson of people who imagined and then created a future for me that ensured my oyster and its pearl would be the same as that of any other American child.

I think that for many African Americans, in the last few weeks we have moved away from a political race and into the realm of dreams. The black experience in this country has often been compared to that of a dream – prophets proclaiming visions of what can be in the face of what is not.

Joseph’s question deserves an answer, but how can I explain to him what I really see? The Dreamers are awakening. What proof - other than my own inner knowing - can I give him that my ancestors, all the enslaved, the Martyrs – Till, Evers, X and King – all those of darker hue who have suffered in this country, stand near? They are Awakened. All waiting to see what we – what I – will do with this new reality.

I would not blame the person who sees nothing more here than romantic notions in the face of the difficult times confronting our country. Perhaps I should have more concrete, sophisticated reasons for casting this vote, but I don’t. What I do have is the overwhelming sense of the millions standing quietly – my aunt’s hand again on my shoulder – urging me to pay attention. To notice. To awake into the Dream.

No – it is not sophisticated, nor is it the neat intellectual package I’d like to present to my friend, Joseph. But for now it is the only reason I can give. I’ll go back to what Jeff considers my obsessive and cynical political analysis after the election. Even in this incredible moment, it is not lost on me that to win an election is not to successfully govern a country.

The lines are going to be long tomorrow morning – hours, even. But what, really, are those few hours compared to the waiting of a people who have wandered an endless dreamscape of far away continents trying to reach “that shining city on a hill,” who have been told that the future is just beyond the Mountaintop?

Walt Whitman said: I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers, And I become the other dreamers.