Saturday, March 22, 2014

A QUESTION WITHOUT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER

When I say Boise is a once in a lifetime destination, I mean it. I just don’t mean it in a good way. Not in a bad way either. I don’t have friends or colleagues dying to know about my trip. Boise doesn’t register.

Imagine being the poor soul responsible for Tourism Boise. He must have plenty of time to keep his desk clean. Moves his name plate and Disney snow globe every half hour. Poor Mickey has viewed that frickin’ office from every possible vantage point.

“Why Boise?”

I got that question repeatedly before I set out on my Spring Break road trip. Usually the questioner would try unsuccessfully to repress a frown. When the customs officer at the U.S. border asked, I responded with, “Good question.” I thought I was being funny. Be warned. Bad humor will get your car trunk searched, your whole suitcase rummaged through.

Of course, Boise was never the draw. I hadn’t seen my friend Robert in seven years. We met as volunteers for AIDS Project Los Angeles twenty three years ago when I was still in law school. He proved a refreshing change from the academic set who could kill an evening by going on and on and on about the top law firms in Los Angeles. (They didn’t appreciate my comments about McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak, my first choice in an “L.A. Law” firm, mostly because the men wore stylish ties, but also because I really wanted to work with Susan Dey and Michele Greene. The fact that it was a fictional firm didn’t faze me. There was plenty of fiction in law, wasn’t there? Alas, it was a sure sign that my interest in a future legal career had already waned.)

Robert left L.A. for the same reason I did back in ’94: he’d grown to hate it. Too sprawling, too artificial, just too much. He’d also become an alcoholic and decided a change of venue would help ensure he wouldn’t resume old habits. Some people might say Boise will drive you to drink as well, albeit for a different reason: too little. Fortunately, he has settled well—five years of sobriety and strong connections with local family and friends. Just seeing that made the trip worth it. Sometimes travel is not about sunshine, shopping and searching for a long distance Mr. Right.

It's true that I may have been a little concerned about my
vacation choice when I dropped off my dog to be groomed
at a place beside a SMOKES shop and a gun store. At
least there was a church right behind the gun place. God
would make sure people would do right with them guns.
But that’s still hard to explain to most people. I was reminded of this as I dutifully answered questions at the Canadian border. As if to prove that I am a suspicious middle-aged man on an international level, the border guard one-upped his American counterpart. He ordered me to pull over and await further instructions from his colleague. I was directed into the Canadian compound where I was further questioned. I’d set off a silent alarm. Apparently, I’d failed to give a convincing, plausible response to one key question: “Why did you go to Boise?” I didn’t feel the need to elaborate on its variant: “How do you know someone in Idaho?” The obvious, highly prejudicial subtext: Idahoans stick to their gun-totin’, potato-plantin’ selves. How could I have truthfully declared that I wasn’t bringing back firearms or edible contraband in the form of sacks of spuds?!

Naturally, an official told me to remove my fierce miniature schnauzer from the car and kennel him. Then I had to hand over my keys and wait inside while they searched for guns, potatoes and whatever else they thought a potential criminal like me might be smuggling. Half an hour later, I was cleared which, as I’d feared, led to a chain of events that made me get home four hours later than had I been waved through like all the other motorists. (Don’t ask.)

It all reinforces my feeling that, yes, indeed, Boise is a once in a lifetime experience.

Maybe the next time Robert and I connect, it will be in Omaha. Or Moose Jaw. Let him deal with overzealous border officials.

And maybe next spring break I’ll do the sensible thing and book a gay cruise. But then again, maybe not. Hot gay guys stick to their six-pack-barin’, carbs-averse selves. So what was the true purpose of your trip?

Maybe staying home is best.

POSSIBLE GAY SIGHTING IN SPOKANE!

In posting about my big adventure in America's Third Gayest City, I got a little carried away. In fact, I may have shown my bias. So intent on noting that there is nothing particularly gay about Spokane, I withheld evidence to the contrary. And so it's full disclosure time.

I managed to snap this shot of a gay couple outside a Spokane grocery store. (Naturally, they wanted nothing to do with me.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

THE ULTIMATE GAYCATION

Tonight I am in the Third Gayest City in the United States!

And I am definitely alone.

I spent the afternoon driving around and then walking in the downtown core. Not a rainbow flag to be found. Not a club. Not even a little multi-colored sticker on a shop window.

Third. Gayest. City.

Yeah, forget San Francisco, New York, Miami, L.A. and Chicago. This place outranked dem wannabes. Only Tacoma (#1—natch!) and Springfield, Massachusetts (#2—duh!) are gayer.

There really shouldn’t be any suspense. I’m in Spokane, of course.

I’ll repeat:


Spokane!

No doubt, The Advocate got an awful lot of publicity when it published its list. It also lost a chunk of its credibility as a magazine with its pulse on the gay community.

If that community exists in Spokane, its pulse just stopped. I’ll take the blame. I killed it. As soon as a hit city limits—POOF!—the gay factor cleared out.

I did not spot a single gay man. Or a married one. I am used to them passing me with that West Hollywood walk of indifference or crossing to the other side of the street when they see me coming, but there wasn’t even any of that. Just nothing.

The free weekly news rag contained nothing gay. Not in the articles, not in the ads, not in the events listings. But it did have a story on the “dead” art of taxidermy.

The local grocery had no gay magazines. Heck, it didn’t even carry GQ. Instead, it had a large collection of gun rags—Shotgun News, Handguns, Shooting Times & Country. Maybe I didn’t run the gays out of town after all.

This gaycation is a bust.

Shoulda hit Tacoma.

PEACE & QUIET...OH, NO!

Nelson, B.C. on a busier day.
For the past eight years, I have been urban-deprived. So when I came across the road sign that said, “CAUTION: Sheep on the road next 18 km”, it dawned on me that maybe I’d erred in my vacation planning.

I keep going for scenic, rustic, peaceful. I have learned nothing.

Day 1 of my travels and I felt so calm—at least after navigating through a ninety-minute snowy patch with my dog sitting and shaking riding shotgun, while enduring a panic attack. The mountain fog was a breeze after that. I also felt disconnected, but that’s status quo.

Nelson is a lovely little town in the Kootenays of British Columbia. It’s also mighty sleepy on a rainy Sunday in mid-March. After checking in to my hotel, the dog and I went for a walkie. He was thrilled to mark new territory. But then, he was just as excited piddling on a littered yogurt cup in a dirt parking lot during a quick road stop in seemingly abandoned Princeton, B.C. (While he did his thing, I kept my eye out for zombies. Freaky interaction averted. Maybe zombies just want a dairy fix.)

The streets of central Nelson are lined with beautiful old buildings. But at 4:40 on a Sunday afternoon, the sidewalks were empty. Well, there was an off-key busker, looking for a nuisance fee. (I’d rather encounter yogurt-deficient zombies.) To wholly avoid him, I jaywalked to the other side of the street. No risk of being struck by traffic. Unfortunately, stores closed at 4. Or even 3. Restaurants didn’t even bother opening, sticking to that Closed on Sundays norm from sixty years ago. I started to wonder if Nelson was the original homestead of Ozzie and Harriet.

Dinner ended up being a burrito from the co-op grocery store—open until 6 in the evening! The dog and I retreated to our hotel room for more quiet time. I almost welcomed the nonstop coughing wall. Interaction! I named it Wally. If Tom Hanks can name a volleyball, I can bond with a too-thin wall.

Sadly, as I pulled my pillow ear plugs away in the morning, Wally said nothing. A wall of silence. Time to say goodbye to Nelson.

Surely things will be bustling in Spokane.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

THE OBVIOUS VACATION DESTINATION

Woo hoo! It’s Spring Break and I've got a week's vacation. Naturally, I am heading to Boise, Idaho.

Wait a minute. What did you just say? Boise is not a vacation destination?!

I'm going to have to have a word with my travel agent.

Seems I am as good at selecting my holiday spots as I am in picking men. Come to think of it, I’m not so good with avocados either.

In truth, I fully intended to go to Boise. A good friend of mine from when I used to live in L.A. moved to Boise. (He's Hawaiian. When it came time to abandon West Hollywood, why, oh why, didn't he choose Honolulu?!) Oh, well. I do like road trips. It's Nelson, BC, then Spokane, Boise and Seattle. And, yes, I am looking forward to it. Don't hold that against me.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

CLEAR AS MUD

Coffee can be so confusing.

The uncertainty started with the last sentence of Daniel’s message, confirming the meeting time and place:  “Looking forward to this long anticipated intercourse.”

Okay,…what?

These are not words to drop on a sexually frustrated single guy. Yeah, I get that “intercourse” can refer to a conversation, but why not choose its less provocative cousin, discourse, or something plain and simple? Chat. Talk. Hell, how about “conversation”?

Intercourse?!

I had to go through the whole manscaping routine. Just in case.

Actually, I should rewind. There was some earlier confusion as well—just not as scintillating. When Daniel suggested we correspond off match.com and use our personal emails, I had his full name right there in the email address. How could I not Google him? By golly, he even came up in Google Images. His online dating images appeared but so did a photo of an older Daniel bearing a remarkable resemblance. Still, it was the kind of older image that indicated his best days were a generation ago. Instant disappointment. Why do people post dated photos of themselves? It creates a certain letdown upon actual meeting. Aren’t there enough in-person letdowns as it is?

I refused to look again at the Google evidence. Maybe, just maybe, these were entirely different people who coincidentally had the same name, eyes and nose. After so many go-nowhere dates, I deserved a solid maybe.

A solid maybe with a possible alternate definition of intercourse.

Trekking to Vancouver for the coffee encounter, I tried to repress the nagging thought that I’d be meeting Old Daniel. I refused to brainstorm possible excuses for an early exit. As well, I tempered any notion that the impressively articulate and handsome Younger Daniel would walk in the cafĂ© and be instantly smitten by me—dark rings under the eyes and all. (FYI, none of those miracle eye creams work. Still, I keep slathering them on just like I continue to make my weekly donation to the provincial lottery. Sometimes I can be hopelessly hopeful.)

Just go and see. No expectations. Be in the moment.

I arrived early so I could stake out a table and shed all the wintery layers that make me look like a rejected defensive end for the B squad of a minor college team in Lichtenstein (which I am assuming is not a football hub). Nice to shed the appearance of fifty extra pounds with a few zipper pull-downs. I pulled out my iPhone and pretended I was socially connected to gazillions of people sending me texts and tweets. In truth, I checked the weather.

Daniel walked in after I’d surveyed the present conditions in Montreal, Honolulu and Boise. (Yeah, Boise. Why not?)

Younger Daniel! Whew. He charmed me in an instant with a “hello” that revealed his Scottish accent remained intact despite having moved to Vancouver twenty years ago. I wonder if my Canadian accent would be as alluring if I moved to the United Kingdom. I suppose it would be trying too hard if I moved there and packed four “eh”s into every sentence.

Over the next three hours—which included a walk along the Stanley Park seawall—we connected, at least from my perspective. Lots in common in terms of experiences and ways of viewing the world. Still, as I have learned from so many coffees that failed to lead to a second date, a lively chitchat means diddly squat if there is no physical connection. I found Daniel attractive with his slim build and enticing blue eyes, but what did he think of me?

I decided to be bold. Why sit around a day waiting for an email and blaming the lack of any message on what must surely be an overzealous spam filter? Why let confusion linger?

I put it out there. “I’ve enjoyed this afternoon. I find the physical attraction hard to come by, but I feel that with you. Do you have any interest in another date?”

Perhaps I caught him off guard. Daniel gave the desired response—or some semblance of it: “I’d like to get to know you more.” And then the conversation died. Suddenly, the wintery air felt even cooler. (Oh, to be in Honolulu!) Daniel walked me halfway to my car, then escaped up a side street.

End of intercourse.

What happened? In a flash, everything became clear as mud. Sure, it was sludge dredged up from a charming, wee loch, but mud is mud.

Boldness is overrated. As it turns out, being meek and left to check email forty times the day after isn’t such a bad thing after all.

While writing this, I received a text message from Daniel. While the last pre-date message referred to some “long anticipated intercourse” this one veered down a much different path, ending with “Hope your week goes well, my friend.”

Ouch.

No more mud. Add clarity to the overrated heap as well.

Monday, February 10, 2014

THROUGH THE "LOOKING" GLASS

Okay, that’s it. I need to become a TV character.

I just watched the first episode of HBO’s “Looking” on YouTube and it made me pine for fantasy over reality.


I was so interested in watching. They producers had me with the title: Looking. Hey, me too! The difference, however, is these gay men are Looking and Finding. Okay, more like Looking and Hooking Up, but still, they are passing Go. Something is actually happening.


What a concept.


The show has generated comparisons to “Girls” and “Sex in the City”. Rightly so. As far as I can tell, “Looking” focuses on three main characters, with Jonathan Groff taking on the Carrie Bradshaw role. This is San Francisco, not New York and he’s a videogame developer, not a writer. Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to. He’s supposedly the “straight” guy while his friends are the randier ones. Still, the series opens with Groff’s character getting an awkward hand job in a cruising area of a park. “Ooh! Cold hands!” Yeah, I’d probably blurt the same thing.


Not that I’d ever be in that situation. I am trying not to be judgmental. Just not my thing. Besides, I’d be willing to bet that I could promenade through the cruisiest area of the cruisiest gay park and still reemerge with nothing but a renewed appreciation for nature’s way of allowing fallen trees to decompose. Oh, and I’d bend over (unnoticed, of course) to rescue a few slugs that slithered onto a main pathway. Death by rubber sole averted.


I know it’s San Francisco, not my setting in gay oblivion, but the premiere episode showed that gay dating (or hookup) possibilities are endless. Cue The Weather Girls! Groff sends out a message on an online dating site and—BAM!—he’s set for drinks at a trendy bar later that day. His friend labors on an art installation and, by golly, the hired help happens to be gay and ready to play. The other friend cruises the new waiter at work—apparently every employee in San Fran is gay—and is momentarily rebuffed. Poor soul. It’s the first time he’s ever been turned down.


Ah, fantasy. I can’t even relate to the guy having no sex.


Groff’s bar date doesn’t go well, but no need to despair. As soon as he’s seated on the subway, another guy is at the ready to aggressively cruise him.

Call it “Queer As Folk 2”—or “3” if you want to count the American QAF as a separate entity. (I hated that version due to some awful acting.) To be sure, the show feels more real than recent network misfires like “Sean Saves the World”, “Partners” and “The New Normal”. I would even continue to watch if I could access HBO. But, as someone who has been floundering at gay dating for a huge chunk of my adulthood, it amazes me that “Looking” could look nothing like my own experiences. Then again, a show that strives to represent my take on dating would be called “Napping” or “Looking…and Watching Paint Dry.” Viewer count: 0.


Perhaps we all need a little diversion from reality.