Friday, July 31, 2009

Second Date: A Sweaty Affair

I scanned a weather map of temperatures across North America yesterday. Boise, Phoenix, Miami,...all warmer. But here in coast British Columbia, temps surging above 30˚ Celsius make brain and body functions cease. For me, it means that I towel off every few minutes.
After a promising first date over coffee earlier in the week, I agreed to meet Hal after 6 p.m., thinking temperatures would be cooler (because 33 is so much better than 34, right?!). I drove on the ferry to avoid the sauna scene on the city bus and cranked the A/C for the first time this year. I had three shirts in the backseat, figuring I would do a last minute costume change before meeting at a coffeehouse in Vancouver's West End. I had it all worked out.

And then I walked in Melriches to get my (iced) coffee. No A/C in the place! I could feel the beads form on my brow and my (too?) snug shirt cling to my back. I peeked down the front and spotted the first water splotches. Not a pretty sight when trying to make a good second impression.

When Hal appeared, he said, "Where to?" and without hesitation I replied, "By the water."

It's a law of nature, right? It's always cooler by the water. Always! Well, Vancouver broke the law.

Call 911!

Waiting at a traffic light before reaching the seawall, I felt like I'd been crammed inside an oven...fully preheated on Broil.

For a city known for its gorgeous greenery, I expected to enjoy a shaded stroll beneath towering evergreens. Nothing doing! We started the walk on a stretch along the beach that would have made Paul Bunyan proud. The closest clump of trees was as out of reach as those six-pack abs that taunt me from the covers of men's fitness magazines.
(I no longer shell out the money to read the how-to plan inside. Science fiction has never been my thing.)

By the time we hit a shady patch, I was drenched. Glancing down at the front of my shirt, my sweat stain had formed its traditional Mickey Mouse head image. Used to amuse me. Not this time.

Hal was glistening with sweat, too. He, however, took it in stride and continued to converse about visiting the Philippines in monsoon season. Yeah, hotter than Vancouver. Not a comfort.

We found a bench high above the seawall, overlooking a beach and some swimmers--smart folks. Definitely envious. We stayed and chatted long enough for my shirt to dry. (Yes, it gets dark quite late in Vancouver in the summer. One advantage of being farther north.)

And it seems there will be another date. Things should cool down in the next few days. I'm looking forward to that as matters (possibly) heat up in other ways.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Being a single gay man, my move to a rural area a ferry ride away from civilization might not have been my smartest idea. Wasn’t interested in dating back then; didn’t have the foresight to think things might change.

I rely on an Internet dating site as my only shot at connecting with other SGMs. No, not or Manhunt. Both seemed sleazy. They serve a purpose, no doubt. Just not what I’m looking for.

As with everything, Internet dating is a crapshoot. And my location is a definite handicap. Last week a hot guy fifteen years younger than me sent me a series of messages. My age turned out not to be a factor. Where I live? A dating death sentence. (Hey, I get it. When I was under thirty, living outside of a city seemed unfathomable, too.)

I went for coffee today with a guy only two years younger. The time together was an hour and a half. Very promising start. Of course, I left home at 10:30 in the morning and didn’t get back until 5:30 at night. I did no errands, I swear. Just coffee talk. (Oh, Mike Myers, I miss the funny you!)

Times ticks by when you’re dependent on ferry and bus schedules. (Driving wouldn’t have saved me any time. I’d just have had a longer wait at the terminal on the return trip and, in fact, I would have had to arrive at the terminal in the morning earlier in order to get a spot.)

Was it worth it? You betcha! Nice guy. There’s potential. Can I continue with this skewed reality? Not so sure.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Towel, Please

The fact that I'm the only gay guy at my local gym is not the only thing that makes me different. I'm also the only one--man or woman--who brings a towel each time.
We all sweat--well, I've got this one friend who doesn't seem to. It's so irritating to see his shirt and forehead are still completely dry after a vigorous two-hour tennis session! Anyway, almost all of us sweat. We need to be accountable for it.

They've set up these spray bottles with colored water in them and wipe rags, but few people ever use them. The treadmill folks are far better than the bodybuilders. To the he-men who throw ridiculous weights on the bars, it's like wiping down the bench is a girly thing. And staring at your pecs from front and side profile isn't? What about that triple berry protein shake you get at the end of your workout? And how about that conversation you guys were having about how to add more avocado to your diet? And here I thought the steroids did it all.

Yeah, I sound cranky. I get tired of being the only one with a towel. I feel like Linus walking around with his blue blanket. I'm no germaphobe, but sometimes it's like sliding in one of those Jello pits when I've gotta use a bench after these guys.

Towel off!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Highlighting Summer (What Makes a Gay Icon?)

Yesterday, I reread a tribute article about Heath Ledger. When he died, gays were particularly effusive in praising him and embracing his legacy. That got me wondering, How does someone become a gay icon? Especially when they are not gay themselves. Sure Heath Ledger played a gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain”, but so did Jake Gyllenhaal. I don’t see Jake having the same status amongst gays. Even if he suddenly died—tragically at that. (And I would contend Jake is at least as good looking as Heath. Check out the promo shot for his new movie, "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time", in the July 24 issue of Entertainment Weekly.) Jake's got the acting chops, too. (I just did a check and he, not Heath, won the ultra prestigious MTV Movie Award for Best Performance. Heath and Jake shared the coveted Best Kiss honor.)

But this isn't about Heath. Or Jake. I started thinking back to one of my first entertainment idols, back when I was twelve. Did all fortysomething gay men grow up gyrating in the basement to the pulsating beat of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”? (Once, maybe twice, I mimicked the rhythm by plucking a rubber band. That part couldn’t be gay, could it? Geeky, yes. Unfortunately, I can't find the original version on YouTube. It seems everybody's got a remix or a hokey, sit-on-the-stool-in-the-family-room cover. Hey, listen to--er, watch--this gay-pleasing version of "I Feel Love" on YouTube. You won't see where the elastic comes in because there is a clapping effect instead. You won't care. Trust me.)

To a kid who was almost a decade away from the club scene, what drew me to a singer whose biggest album was “Bad Girls” a concept album paying homage to female prostitutes? I didn’t know a thing about drag queens back then so that couldn’t have been the link.

I didn’t know anyone who openly identified as gay at the time. I hadn’t yet figured out my sexuality. All I knew was every part of my existence felt awkward. Why did I take solace in all things Donna? Nobody observed my feeble batter’s stance during agonizingly long beach baseball games and suggested that I should stay inside and listen to a danced up version of a song about leaving a cake out in the rain.

Yet somehow I knew. Donna Summer was my idol. I had all her albums and the poster that came with “On the Radio” was displayed prominently in my room.

Right beside an oversized montage of Olivia Newton-John writhing in water with dolphins.

On a surface level, I was passing for straight. Gorgeous women adorned my walls. But why did I hang posters of Donna (and Olivia), not of Farrah? (My parents refused to let me watch “Charlie’s Angels” because they felt it was risqué. Oh, I’ll bet they wish they could have a do-over on that one! Might have even slipped a Beta video of “Debbie Does Dallas” under my pillow.)

I realize I am painting with an awfully broad stroke when I link Miss Summer with gay men of a certain age. Still, I think many of us connected with her. What drew us to disco instead of Pink Floyd? Somehow Summer fit.

It seemed to be destiny how I met my first love years later at a gala celebration to honor volunteers of AIDS Project Los Angeles. As an AIDS buddy in the early 90s, I had to attend monthly sessions with a facilitator to ensure that each of us felt supported as we, in turn, supported an APLA client. During a retro disco dance, I hovered in the background safely mixing with other volunteers who were already taken. When the DJ announced it was the last dance he played—what else?!—Donna Summer’s Oscar winning song. My facilitator came out of nowhere, grabbed my arm and tugged me onto the dance floor. I stood there, feeling awkward—somehow that never really went away—while he rushed off. Moments later, he reappeared with one of the APLA employees. “This is John,” he informed me. “You two really need to get together. Now dance.” We did. And we did.

The love didn't last, but Donna did. She continues to release new music. Some of her songs apparently still hit the dance chart. I find them on YouTube, listen a few times and that’s that. Like all aspects of pop culture, Donna Summer’s star has faded. But, on a Saturday night when I have nothing going on—and there are many such Saturday nights—I will often dig through my CD collection, passing over the ones by Barry Manilow, the Divine Miss M and Babs, and put on vintage Donna. Yes, the cake is gone and I will never have that recipe again, but Donna can still whet my appetite.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Highlights of Summer

I am trying to convince myself that highlighting my hair is not a gay cliché. Doesn’t David Beckham go for the blond streaks?

Okay, I cannot put myself in the same league..for anything. (Gotta admit, I think he overdid it on the tattoos.) I see teens and twentysomething guys playing with their hair color all the time. It’s a hip thing to do.

Of course, I’m a fortysomething and I don’t wear hipness convincingly. The dye has been cast. I now have my own streaks of blond.

Two decades ago, the blond would have appeared naturally as I lifeguarded and spent countless hours outdoors in the midday summer sun. Melanoma changed that for me ten years ago. No more sun. I’ve got the scars to remind me that pasty white is my permanent skin tone from now on. Still, I missed being a bit blonder—and, let’s face it, being a bit less gray. (My hairstylist mistook some gray for blond so I can’t complain. And I still have all my hair, another windfall!)
I did get highlights one other time, many years ago. Probably right after the melanoma. I needed a pick-me-up after sitting in the waiting room of a skin cancer institute, thirty-five years younger than all the other patients. I was so worried that my dye job would overly feminize me, as if my voice and my mannerisms were textbook he-man. Anyway, I asked for the dye job to be subtle. It turned out to be so subtle that no one (other than my partner at the time) noticed.
This time I was (slightly) more daring. As I read an older issue of Rolling Stone—hey, that Adam Lambert* guy is gay! At least little “Idol” girls still have Seacrest*--while the product bleached clumps of hair, I fretted over the reveal. Egad! What if it’s Pamela Anderson platinum? Or Anderson Cooper white? (Cooper white is fine if you’ve got the piercing blue eyes and Ivory skin. Hmm, no and no.)

My stylist did a spot-check after a half hour and announced it was “still too yellow”. She walked away and chatted at length to another idle stylist and the new gay receptionist with the lovely (South African?) accent. Another tangent: there’s a new gay in town! Turns out his partner is the gay guy at the bakery. That makes it official. Yes, I am the only single gay in the community.

I worried that the conversation was distracting my stylist. If the dye stayed on too long, what color would my hair become? Would magenta work with my green eyes? Fortunately, it all worked out. I didn’t trust the mirrors in the salon so I rushed home and verified the look in each mirror.
The highlights are apparent but “natural”, recalling years past. Do I look younger and kissed by summer? That was the goal.
Maybe I really am a clichéd, old gay fart, but this cliché feels fresh. Good enough.

*Dyes/highlights his hair.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Can we get rid of the online laughtrack?

As I continue to live as a single gay guy in a rural area, my dating options are limited. I cannot be satisfied watching poor Jillian's suitors on "The Bachelorette". (It's down to two and the chatters online are divided into the Ed's gay camp and the Kiptyn's gay camp. Please don't let Ed be one of us--not with those shorts and that leisure suit!) Before moving on, I did learn from Reid how important it is not to hold back your feelings, but I am still faced with that glaring obstacle: to whom? I don't intend to talk to a tree. (It won't listen, dammit.) I seem to have no opportunity to apply my reality TV lesson!

Which brings me to the online dating thing. Yeah, still trying. Still getting nowhere. I've had a few new messages in the past week and they remind me of one of my peeves regarding online communication, be it emailing or blogging or desperately seeking someone. Can we please all agree to put lol to rest? The initial thing reminds me of that preteen character played by Gabby Hoffmann in "Sleepless in Seattle". It's CFJBAMS (cute for juveniles, but adults must stop)--Hmm, that one isn't going to catch on.

Are we all so insecure with our ability to write something funny that we have to cue the reader? Bad start today. I slipped on a banana peel with a cup of hot coffee in hand. lol. Maybe it's time for the monkey to go. lol.

If comments are not funny (see above paragraph), will someone actually laugh or smile because of the lol direction? Who is so easily manipulated? We've gotten away from canned laughtracks for sitcoms so how did the written equivalent creep into the Internet world? Please kill the lol. That would at least give me something to smile about. :)

Don't get me started on the typed happy face...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One in Ten. Really?!

Last weekend a friend sacrificed the hot summer city action for a visit to my peaceful abode. He always marvels at how dark it gets at night and how many different birds can be heard chirping at 4:30 in the morning. These matters are remarkable when you're accustomed to the mood lighting of office buildings that remain lit 24/7 and when sirens and motorcycle rumbling drown out any auditory evidence that animal life exists. I'm glad my setting has something to offer!

Over a bottle of wine, we sat on my deck and chatted about a range of subjects. Somehow, the conversation drifted to an oft-quoted stat that I heard in the late 80s when I was on the verge of coming out. One in ten. I would try to imagine it, going back through my high school classes to figure out what other two students in Government 12 were gay. My imagination always seemed lacking. All I could come up with was one in thirty.

Living in Dallas, I'd scan a restaurant or a movie theater and try to identify the others who'd bring the crowd to ten percent gay. Granted, it was easy to do before a screening of "Maurice", but I struggled while grabbing a bite at Long John Silver's, name notwithstanding.

I took comfort in the stat even though I questioned it. Once I moved to Los Angeles, it no longer mattered. I could go to the gay ghetto, West Hollywood, and experience gay immersion. The same happened in Vancouver, with its much prettier ghetto, the West End. I was not alone.

Now that I live in the boonies, the stat has resurfaced with all its doubt. About three thousand people live in the closest town and, counting the outlying areas, the population reaches about five thousand. That means five hundred gays. Not a chance! Sure, many would have fled for metropolitan areas, but the numbers don't even seem to reach three figures. I'd put it at seventy, with lesbians representing the bulk of that.

Even in Vancouver, I don't think the numbers hit ten percent. My friend suggested that many continue to hide within heterosexual relationships. No doubt, some do. But we have gay marriage throughout the country and, while there will always be intolerant oafs, things are pretty open and tolerant.

One in ten. I just don't see it.