On mornings like this, when it’s the Friday before a long weekend and the pants I’m wearing pants don’t already feel too tight that I wish we had a Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner from our office.
Archive for August 2007
Why am I obsessed with Bob Altman’s sprawling 1975 movie, Nashville? I watched it back in the 90s and was amused but befuddled by it. Then for some reason I decided to rent it about this time last year and I watched it twice. During that go around, which I blogged about, I started falling in love with the characters. Then a couple of weeks ago I decided to rent it again and have pretty much watched it on a loop off and on since. I finally bought it, along with the soundtrack which is made up of some of the catchiest (and purposefully bad) music to come out of Hollywood.
Altman, who died earlier this year, called himself the “action painter” of movies, referring to a phrase used to describe Abstract Expressionist painters of the mid-20th century like Jackson Pollock whose technique Altman’s crowded and layered style most closely resembles, at least of that group. Personally I would associate him more with someone like Robert Rauschenberg, who shares some of the same visual qualities as the ab ex crowd, but with subtle doses of irony and elements of everyday experience thrown in. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that Altman’s magnum opus would slowly reach out and grab me and keep me coming back over and over again, just like a high octane painting does.
On Sunday John and I took his brother Ben to eat sushi for his birthday. As we drove past the corner of Michigan and Mass Ave. I noticed a couple walking down the street holding hands. Probably in their 20s, khaki shorts and t-shirts–sweet, nothing remarkable about them really. It wasn’t until we’d almost passed them that I realized the couple was two guys.
I shouted, “Hey, did you see that? Those two guys were holding hands!!” in a fast, high-pitched squeal like tires screeching to a halt. John and Ben turned to look and then went back to talking about whatever it was they were discussing, apparantely unimpressed that they were watching what I feel sure was a little piece of Indianapolis history in the making.
Their lack of interest didn’t keep me from talking to myself about how proud I was of those guys. Indy doesn’t really have a gayborhood so it was basically like they were walking down Main Street anywhere. For the benefit of my readers who are not gay, that is risky business even in 2007. I read stories all the time about couples who get jumped in cities larger than Indy.
I detest double standards for gay couples, but John and I have frequently lived by them out of fear. Having to ask yourself, “is holding John’s hand worth the stares, stitches and insurance premium” sort of drains the joy from any spontaneous act of affection. Unless you’re drunk. Once I shouted “I love you” at John at a very loud sports bar in West Lafayette popular with Boilermaker fans and players. I couldn’t figure out why his only response was to silently let the color rush from his face. Like any normal slightly buzzed southern boy I took it personally. Having to be on your guard constantly, even when you aren’t conscious of it because it is so second nature, wreaks silent havoc on your psyche. Just ask John. This is why Rosie O’Donnell’s gay family vacations are so poplular–nobody on that boat has to worry about being judged or afraid.
I hope those guys enjoyed their walk. And I hope they, like John and Ben, would be surprised by how surprised I was.
When all couples like the one I saw can be who they are without having to bury their identity beneath a straight facade I suspect we won’t end up with closeted “Family Values” senators soliciting cops in airport bathrooms or park toilets or gunning for anonymous sex via the internet while their wives sit at home. Based on what I saw Sunday, the future may be a little brighter for the younger generation.
To celebrate we took a cue from Marc and Karen who always take Barkley shopping on his birthday. Since her Uncle David loves Claire AND shopping, we invited him to join us. After David gave her a talk about what she can expect as a three-year old,
we took off to For the Love of Dogs on East Washington, our favorite dog store-so fun and the staff is awesome. I forgot to take my camera into the store so I don’t have pictures of the new toys and collar she got. Will try to post those later. She was very well-behaved and didn’t eat any of the homemade dog biscuits that were sitting in baskets at lick level. She did hover near the barbecue bones, so we got her a sack of those.
Our friends Jackie, Heinz, and baby Conrad said we could bring Claire by for a playdate with her friend Barney. Barney loves to chase Claire and he has a big yard with lots of squirrels to hunt.
Jackie, who we found out later was also celebrating HER birthday that same day, had picked up some tasty dog birthday treats, which I thought was really sweet, since she is pretty busy with an 8-month old and swam in a triathalon that morning! Barney and Claire appreciated it too. They ate and ran and then ate some more.
We threw the new squeaky bungee squirrel thingy we’d just bought, which landed in a tree and became kind of a doggie piñata. We know Claire had a good time even if she didn’t have a clue what we were celebrating. Besides, it was actually John and I who were celebrating, specifically all that she has added to our lives over the past year. Definitely worth a party.
My favorite job during my college years at the University of Arkansas was selling women’s shoes for Dillards Department Store. I’d love to say it was because I craved high style and design in my life, but honestly, it was about the money. It sounds mercenary, but if you bring out enough boxes of the right stuff, lots of women will walk away with two shopping bags full of heels.
Anita Bryant was a notable exception. The sum of my celebrity sightings is hardly impressive. They include Wynona at a mall in Nashville while working my way through grad school and Bozo the Clown at the Batesville airport when I was seven. One could argue that compared to these two Anita hardly registers. I say that because I’m about to have to explain who she is to the majority of my readers.
Anita Bryant was a runner up to Miss America in the late 50s who went on to record a few minor hits in the 60s, and then screwed up thousands of people’s lives in the 70s. Tall, dark, and wholesome, her big break came when she was tapped to be the national spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Growers. As you gasp in amazement at that plum gig, I’ll also throw in that she gained most of her notoriety as founder and spokesperson for the “Save Our Children” campaign of 1977, in which as America’s self-appointed mom she mobilized the religious right with sound bites like this all too familiar canard: “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children…” All of this was done in the name of Christianity, of course.
Long story short, she succeeded in removing a Dade County ordinance that prohibited people from being fired from jobs based on their sexual identity. Her work aided a ban on gay people adopting in the state of Florida, a ban that stands to this day. Then she went on to try rewriting discrimination into the legislation of California communities and other American towns, giving rise to the now common phrase, “The city council meeting isn’t over until the second-rate hack sings.”
Actually I just made that last bit up. It’s kind of mean. But maybe not quite as mean as helping to make it so that foster children who have been with a family from birth until they are 14 can never be adopted by the only parents they have ever known.
Of course, none of this registered with the extremely closeted and uninformed 22 year-old hillbilly boy fitting Anita for shoes that day back in 1991. I was just thrilled to have a semi-bona fide and attractive, in her own way, mostly retired gospel singer sitting there waiting for me to assist her.
I kept expecting her to smile or say something pleasant, or anything for that matter, as I tried to make a little small talk. She was a former Miss America pre-lim pageant queen after all, and therefore American royalty by default. One might expect at least a half-smile to come pretty easy. But she just sat there and said no to everything from Cole Haan to Amalfi without even making eye contact. She was perfectly in her right as a customer to say no with a frown, but it’s kind of unusual behavior for people in that part of the country. Maybe she could smell the gay on me. Or maybe her chickens had come home to roost. I don’t know. I suppose it doesn’t matter much now. What I do know is that dress Anita’s wearing in that photo above is completely awesome!
I remarked to John just the other day that we hadn’t heard from you in a while. I get a little antsy when that happens because it usually means another batch of civil rights is about to get flushed down the toilet like a handful of losing lottery tickets, either that or some group of innocent Americans is about to be screwed by an effort to distract them from some ginormous lie that people are catching on to. Yeah, we know. It’s just business. Whatever keeps the Grand Old Party’s festive balloons airborne, right? Then, bam! You up and resign.
I’m sure you have your reasons, aiding the political career of another wealthy, hapless and easily manipulated politician perhaps, or keeping this administration’s record “clean” by receiving any forthcoming indictments when you aren’t on staff. Or maybe you just need a little “me time” to hunt the blood of baby seals so you can recharge whatever elixir keeps your shriveled undead heart and soul kicking. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that John and I not miss an opportunity to express our gratitude to you. We’d hug you if we could.
I don’t have to tell you that America is on the road to granting family fairness and equality to people like us in no small part because of the way you made our families a huge wedge issue during Bush’s administration and reelection. If it weren’t for you, only Massachusetts and Vermont families would be this far along in gaining equal rights.
But because you shrink-wrapped fear and scared the bejeebies out of people in other parts of the country whose only exposure to gay folks were the raggedy stereotypes Falwell and the Family Research Council promoted, you forced thousands of regular, healthy, and productive gay families to make themselves visible as they took to defending their futures.
Yeah, even those silly state amendments that ban gay marriage are part of America’s process of dealing with a bunch of new information—the equivalent of a parent’s fearful tantrum, frequently a messy start to dealing with a child who they find out is gay. And were it not for you, that process might have been years in beginning.
Now, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, and even tiny Eureka Springs, Arkansas are deciding that it is a good idea to support all kinds of families. And as our international economic rivals continue to realize staying competitive means treating all people the same, a tidal wave of fairness will bounce back to the U.S. until it seems silly and financially stupid to disadvantage some families just because of who they are.
As one of your friends likes to say, “it takes a village.” And if our village was Bedford Falls in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, I’m happy to say you would be our Mr. Potter. Turns out, few people can energize a force for good the way a villain can, and they don’t come scarier than you.
So on behalf of our family and the families of people like us who are in for the civil rights battle of their lives, thank you Karl. Thank you very much.
I’ve been battling a killer cough lately. I stayed home Tuesday to see if not talking and rest would get rid of it (it didn’t). Daytime television is so unbearably bad. If our culture is skipping towards decadence, truly Springer and Montel are to blame. I pray that no one is filling their heads with this garbabe on a daily basis, but I fear they are.
Fortunately, my laptop was better company. And with the help of You Tube and several anonymous video pirates I was able to watch nearly all of the broadway musical Wicked in a series of fifteen minute segments.
Did you know Ana Gasteyer from Saturday Night Live did a stint as Ephalba, the “wicked” witch of the West during the Chicago run?
The day’s only dissappointment (other than it not helping my cough) is that with Internet time moving at about three times as fast as real time, it was over in what seemed like two hours.