Sunday, December 30, 2012

NO TURNING BACK

I had an opportunity to make my life a whole lot easier and I turned it down.

I got a call two weeks ago from my former employer, offering me a position to begin in January.  Immediately, I did the math.  Six more days of ferry commuting...that’s all!  My five hours of daily commuting would be reduced to forty minutes, maybe thirty.  My alarm clock could snooze an extra 60-90 minutes each morning.  My three days at the gym could be upped to five.  A life of balance!

Even after I said no, he didn’t accept my answer.  Told me to think about it over the weekend. 

Thinking can be dangerous.  It can also be exhausting, especially when it kicks into high gear at 3 a.m.  (Has someone invented the caffeine patch?)

He called again Tuesday.  Again, I said no.  Again, he told me to think about it.  One more day. 

A poem and a song nagged at me, dissuading me from saying yes.  The song, an oldie (even for me) has never been a favorite.  I am rather certain I have never hummed the chorus; in fact, the ditty is a downer.  More than anything, it annoys me.  One (Is the Loneliest Number).”  Sample lyrics:

One is the loneliest, number one is the loneliest
Number one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
One is the loneliest, one is the loneliest
One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do.

Yeah, thanks for that, Harry Nilsson and Three Dog Night. 

Going back would effectively shut the door on my ever having a dating life again.  Single gay men under seventy do not exist here.  Long ago, when blue collar laborers, potters and potheads, lesbians and retires settled, the gays passed.  The moat was too large, separating the rural folk from that Homo Kingdom, Vancouver’s West End.  Every now and then there is a gay sighting, but they are less frequent than cougars and sasquatches.  I suspect these naive men quickly turn around and get back on the next boat to civilization. 

That stupid song doesn’t just remind me about my destiny as Lifelong Bachelor.  The social life wouldn’t be much better.  Yes, I go for the occasional coffee with former coworkers but when “Argo” came to town last month for its five-day run, there was no one I could call to join me for the Saturday night screening.  After seven and a half years!  Yep, I went solo.  Dammit, one can be a lonely number.

He called again today.  Still no.  How about coffee to talk about it? 

If only gay men pursued me with such interest. 

No coffee.  No is no.

That poem?  Not an annoying choice.  This time it happens to be my favorite poem by my favorite poet: “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. It hijacks my inner voice whenever I am about to make a significant compromise in life.  When I first read the poem in ninth grade, it resonated. 

The final verse:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I do not find joy in clomping along the beaten path.  It is safe, but there is no adventure and all the expectations are established by people I don’t know.  Turn left, cross the stream here, avoid that patch of rocks.  Going back would be familiar, momentarily a relief and most definitely the healthier decision.  (Imagine looking in the mirror each morning and not facing Rocky Raccoon!) 

Still, it would be a copout.  I continue to cling to dreams and goals...perhaps foolishly.  The plus side of the loneliest number is no one else is harmed.  In the big scheme of things, I still hope for more than another decent date.  Maybe we’ll connect and we’ll actually get it right.

I still entertain the idea of venturing elsewhere, perhaps far, far beyond the Homo Kingdom.  I still hope to move to Los Angeles to pursue a writing dream against all odds.  (Oh where, oh where, do my immigration documents sit?) 

I still yearn to connect with new friends and chat at classy restaurants that specialize in a single cuisine (unlike the Greek/Indian/pizza establishments in my neck of the woods).

A short-term fix sacrifices a long-term solution.  The five hours of daily commuting will continue in the New Year.  The alarm will keep on blaring too early.  I’ll still fret over a compromised fitness regime.  And, yes, the raccoon eyes will go on frightening strangers. 
But hope will remain.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

“MARY” MAKING ME MERRY


I don’t know if being an avid fan of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is a gay thing.  Based on the commercials during last night’s airing, I’d say it’s a geriatric thing.  Diabetes management.  AARP.  Incontinence.  I’ve always been mature for my age.
Gay or not, I’ve always had an inexplicable affinity for “MTM”.  I can watch old episodes and not laugh once, yet I still thoroughly enjoy the experience. 

“Mary Tyler Moore” was more than comedy.  The show consisted of lovably flawed characters whom Mary Richards had to awkwardly, endearingly finesse her way around:  buffoonish, egotistical Ted, tough guy/softie Lou, snarky Murray (kept in check by acerbic Sue Ann), batty, tender Georgette, hard-done-by Rhoda and grand dreamer Phyllis (with ever-sage daughter Bess).  The actors always brought their A-game, making each character seem entirely real.

While I’ve had many Rhoda moments (and perhaps even more Brenda connections from the “Rhoda” spinoff), I have identified most with Mary.  While the theme song—more on that in a minute—included the line “Love is all around”, it always felt that “Loopiness is all around” in Mary Richards’ fictional life and in my real life. 

Even at seven, I empathized with Mary over dating woes—sadly, never the right guy.  Sometimes the guy with newsman good looks is unattainable.

 I remember one episode in which Lou recalled Mary’s first entrance into the newsroom.  Apparently she said “Excuse me” to a desk she bumped into.  I’ve done that many a time.  (Garbage cans also receive my profuse apologies.  I run into them more than you can imagine.  Indeed, they are the source of the perpetual leg bruising.

Mary exuded 70s fashion, with long-legged pant suits flared at the bottom, curve-accentuating sweaters and colorful scarves.  Her hair was always thick, lustrous and flawless.  Despite mild indignities, she strutted with confidence.  I try, at least.

Perhaps nothing sticks with me more than the theme song, ending oh so cautiously in Season 1 with “You might just make it after all” and dreamily evolving to “You’re gonna make it after all.”  Yes, I should be so lucky.  When I am down, all it takes is a quick YouTube search of the tune to give me a needed pick me up.  In fact, when I moved from L.A. to Vancouver, a friend who knows me too well bought me a beret as a going away gift.  The instruction:  toss it high—like Mary—when you truly make it.

Eighteen years later, I still have the beret and I’m still waiting for my Mary moment.  I still believe it will come. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

MY CHRISTMAS SOLO

As I walked the dog this Christmas Eve, I noticed that this sleepy hamlet had a sense of bustle to it.  Extra vehicles spilled out of driveways and lined the streets.  As I gazed at Christmas lights, I glimpsed large groups gathered in living rooms and dining rooms.  Seems the grown children who left years ago to find better work opportunities have returned with their own families for a day or two of festivities.  Oh, to be home for the holidays!
My last trek home for Christmas was fifteen years ago.  My grandfather, living in Ontario and I, based in Vancouver, decided during my summer visit with him that we would both venture to Texas for Christmas.  I’ll go if you go.  Since my grandmother had died a few years earlier, we were the two single guys, each wanting assurance that there’d be someone we could relate to.  We stuck together and shared some good laughs.  I remember him “modelling” all the baseball caps I’d bought him.  He loved to cover that shiny bald head.  My grandfather died a year and a half later so there is no one left to convince me to make the trip.
I did try to go a couple of times while I was still with my ex.  I thought it would be nice for the two of us to bond with the family.  On one occasion, when I wrote about going, my mother replied by saying that since my brother and sister’s families had other plans, “there is no point.”  The next year, it was the opposite scenario.  Both families were coming so my mother told me there wouldn’t be room.  I still remember my ex’s aghast look and his reaction when I got off the phone:  “They really don’t love you.”  They do; it’s just complicated.
This year, my sister and brother-in-law are based in Saudi Arabia.  I knew my parents were heading to my brother’s house so I called on the 23rd to wish them Merry Christmas.  My mother repeated her holiday tradition of recent years, gushing, “Oh, I got to thinking.  You should have come home.”  It is always said when it is too late, an empty thought that, in my mother’s twisted way of being, is still heartfelt. 
I have spent a few Christmases with my closest friend in Vancouver but our contact has become less frequent as my time away from the city continues.  I am getting used to Christmas on my own.
When I first bought my home here, I spent a few Christmases buying and decorating a live tree and putting up the lights outside the house.  I played Christmas music, baked shortbread and made a full meal of roasted veggies, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
That stopped during the year I took a leave of absence from work to write full-time.  Forced to be frugal, I did without the tree but still made a mini feast.  In the years since, the home I was once so proud of buying doesn’t feel like mine.  Sure, I continue to pay the mortgage, but I’ve gone back and forth in putting it on the market and taking it off.  It’s that old cliché:  this house is not a home.
This year I told myself I’d embrace the spirit of the season, but time got away from me.  December is always a ridiculously busy month at work and, combined with the five-hour daily commutes, Christmas Eve arrived before I knew it.  Boxes of ornaments sit in the basement, boxes of cards I bought rest on the hutch in the dining room.  I’m not trying to be a Grinch; I’m just pooped.
I put on a brave face as I prepare for another holiday alone.  Get through it without wallowing.  I have rented some videos—yes, there is still a video store in town--, I bought a new jigsaw puzzle (woohoo!) and I picked up a magazine and a new book for reading.  I’ve got fresh veggies for dinner and I bought pure maple syrup to top my blueberry pancakes on Christmas morn.  The key is to keep busy.  Still, I admit to wiping away tears after my mother’s belated quasi-invitation to come home. 
In some of those windows tonight, while things may have looked lovely, there were probably some hurtful words exchanged, some old wounds scratched up.  Nonetheless, we are told that Christmas is a time for families so many people keep going back even if they shouldn’t.  Indeed, I may not have it so bad after all.
 
 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A GAY CLICHÉ?

I’d like to think I’m a unique individual...“special” as my mother used to say.  (She always gritted her teeth when she said it, but I assumed that had something to do with a lactose intolerance.  That kind of thing wasn’t widely recognized way back then.)  Sometimes, however, I get the feeling my life has been a gay cliché.

Yeah, I felt a special affinity to Dorothy and Toto (even if I had to root for them through a double-hand screen when those flying monkeys appeared).  I loved how Maria made play clothes from drapes and mastered marionettes.  I thought Ken was a rather comely doll.  (G.I. Joe’s duds? They’re called fatigues because they’re tired.)  I had Donna Summer posters hanging in my bedroom in high school.  When I started university, I bailed halfway through fraternity rush week so I could get in line for Barry Manilow tickets.  (My first concert ever was Air Supply.)  I adored Julie on “The Love Boat”, wavered each week on my favorite Golden Girl and turned every Olivia Newton-John single into a duet.  (I’ve said too much.)  All this before I ever started mixing with the boys of West Hollywood.

All my childhood and adolescent likes seemed to scream that I was a Gay in the Making.  It’s hard for me to think of many non-gay early interests.  I liked hockey, but I was lousy at it.  I didn’t want to body check anyone and the helmet messed up my hair.  (I did think the cards made nice collectibles.  And my hero, Ken Dryden, was both smart (a lawyer!) and clean-cut.  How nice!)  Anything butch?  Tonka trucks?  No.  I preferred Lite-Brite and Doodle Art.  I did play with Lego—mostly for the nifty window and door pieces—but I spent more time drawing gardens and placing my animal figurines from Red Rose Tea around the tin foil pond.

When I look back, I am always checking myself.  Was everything a gaydar indicator?  Surely other nascent gays weren’t huddled by their TVs to catch a wheelchair-bound Raymond Burr in the syndicated run of “Ironside”.  Perhaps I did have some uniqueness at nine after all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

LIFE WITHOUT “PARTNERS”


When CBS cancelled its freshman sitcom within twenty-four hours of ABC’s axing of “Last Resort” and “666 Park Avenue,” the Internet furor never came.  Of the three shows, “Partners” generated the least network hate.  While the show was okay, it was far from must-see TV.

There was a time when I’d tune in to any show that featured a gay character.  I wanted to see Billy Crystal on “Soap”, but my mother forbid me from watching.  The first regular gay characters I remember were Steven Carrington on Dynasty and that throw-away gay couple that engaged in the first televised same sex bed scene on “thirtysomething”.  In the 1990s, I remember gathering with a group of friends on Monday nights to see if Matt would ever gain a sex life on “Melrose Place”.  Then came “Will & Grace” and the British and American versions of “Queer as Folk.” (I tried but I couldn’t stick with the American version.  The actor who played Michael annoyed me in every scene.) 

Yes, it used to be that gay characters on TV created Event Viewing for a gay man.  It is a sign of progress that such is no longer the case.  Admittedly, I stuck with a couple of extra seasons of “Brothers & Sisters”, primarily because of how adorable Kevin’s beau, Scotty, was.  (Oh, Luke Macfarlane, come back!)  While I regularly watch Cam and Mitchell on “Modern Family”, I choose to watch because the whole darn show is hysterical and all the actors are so talented.  Tossing in a needless gay couple on “Desperate Housewives” did not sustain my interest, I was a fickle fan of the dark, sometimes morose “Six Feet Under” with Michael C. Hall playing the gay brother and my days of feeling gleeful about “Glee” are past.

This fall, I looked forward to two new series that prominently featured gay characters.  Ryan Murphy’s “The New Normal” garnered more publicity, including threatened boycotts from the two dozen members of One Million Moms.  I watched a trailer of the show back in June and predicted the show would be dead on arrival.  I have watched two episodes and the only interesting character is the sage Shania Clemmons (played by Bebe Wood), the young daughter of the gay couple’s surrogate mom.  It has been given a full season order, not because anyone is talking about it around the water cooler, but I suspect because networks want in on Murphy’s Next Big Thing, assuming he has something left in the tank.

I felt “Partners” was the better show and watched it whenever I made it home early enough from the ferry on Monday nights.  It was fine, something to watch as I made dinner or checked emails.  Louis, as played by Michael Urie, was a married version of his character Marc St. James from “Ugly Betty”.  Moreover, there was something even more familiar.  The show might as well have been called “Will & Jack” as Louis was a slight tweaking of Sean Hayes’ Jack McFarland and his straight friend-for-life Joe had an uncanny resemblance to Eric McCormack’s Will Truman. (So often, I could hear McCormack’s voice delivering the lines.)  Been there, done that.  And better to boot!

Despite having a gay couple as half the main cast, “Partners” was nothing new.  It failed, not because America doesn’t want gays invading their living rooms, but because it had little to offer.  As over the top as Louis may have been, I liked him.  Can’t say the same for the other characters which were different incarnations of bland.  I confused the sassy office worker from “The New Normal” with the one on “Partners”—both parts are utterly disposable.  (Too bad they couldn’t poach David Spade.)  Most egregious was the depiction of Louis’ boyfriend, Wyatt, played by Superman stud Brandon Routh.  Who decided to make this piece of eye candy intentionally flavorless?  Wyatt was essentially a non-character.  If the creators wanted to cast someone to give a flat delivery of lines, why not go back to the original source and bring on Shelley Morrison’s Rosario?  (There’s got to be a Members Only jacket for sale on eBay.)   Finally, “Partners” did not fit in its time slot, not smart enough to follow “How I Met Your Mother” and not dumb enough to precede “Two Broke Girls”.  Simply stated, it was not enough.

It was “nice” knowing “Partners” for a couple of months, but we all know that relationships must evolve beyond nice.  This is one amicable breakup.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

BABS AT THE BOWL

I suppose it’s a cliché to be gay and traveling a great distance to see Barbra Streisand in concert.  To clarify, it was my straight girl friend who purchased the tickets.  And she just happened to think of me.  There are far worse types of profiling.

On a frosty Los Angeles night—it may have dipped below 50!—I raced toward my favorite concert venue, the Hollywood Bowl, after a weekend of slogging and slugging it out as a wannabe sitcom writer.  I stood out as soon as I got out of my car after generously donating $22 to the Starving Parking Lot Owner fund.  “Aren’t you cold?” asked an attendant while I walked past in a t-shirt.  That’s when I noticed everyone in the Babs flock wearing winter coats, scarves, gloves and lugging totes with blankies.  In the men’s washroom, a fellow mentioned wearing two pairs of long underwear.  It wasn’t a lewd come-on.  He just needed to talk about the freakish weather.  Los Angelinos are a fragile lot.

Despite her New Yorker background, our favorite diva has spent too much time in Malibu.  She too made at least two dozen references to the cold and draped a parka over a fabulous red dress that we got to see in a photo that flashed on video screens.  Our Funny Girl bantered at length between songs, coming off as amusingly folksy although I suspected that even if the most throwaway lines were fully scripted.  (Celine Dion, take note.  Divas can still project a real personality.)

Coming just five days after Obama’s re-election, the concert provided a forum for Babs to share the political equivalent to a post-coital glow as the liberal-leaning crowd clapped and whooped in all the right places.  (I imagine Romney supporters stayed away, licking their wounds while slouching in La-Z-Boys and catching up on DVR’d episodes of Reba sitcoms at home.)

It was an odd mix of concert goers.  I thought I’d glory in a Gay Immersion experience when I saw a drag queen dressed as Liza Minnelli clomp by me before I met up with my friend.  Alas, my gaydar lapsed to Inactive mode.  The night belonged to seniors and clusters of women who could not persuade their husbands to turn off Sunday football. 

As we ascended the steep paved path to our nosebleed seats, I detected a wisp of marijuana, a sign that a lone headbanger was going to be very disappointed when he realized this was not the Iron Maiden show. 

One of the charms of the venue is the picnic atmosphere before the show.  My friends and I staked out a bench outside the main gate to dine on takeout from California Pizza Kitchen as a hodgepodge of buffets popped up around us.  Others feasted at their seats, smuggling in bottles of wine to toast the fact they’d escaped the profane armchair quarterbacking that comes with watching a Cowboys game on the tube.

This charming dining element also proved to be a drawback.  Arriving late for the show, an older woman sat behind my friend and me and proceeded to fondle her plastic bag, fishing out munchies throughout Barbra’s quiet, controlled version of “The Way He Makes Me Feel.”  Crinkle Bag Lady continued to add her unique percussive sound to “Evergreen” and a truncated version of “Stoney End.”  My friend’s shushing and “Could you please stop with the bag?” made no difference.

There were other noise distractions.  Ushers moved about, their walkie-talkies blaring loudly as they tried to negotiate conflicts between several clusters of people purporting to have claims on the same seats.  Ugh!  Why can’t concerts be like tennis matches, whereby ushers refuse to allow movement until logical breaks?

During intermission, Crinkle Bag Lady was forced to mosey along elsewhere as someone else rightfully had a ticket for the spot.  Relief!  But shortly after the lights went down again, an older woman ascending the stairs fell and remained sprawled in the aisle.  I power-focused on music from “Gypsy” and missed most of the hullaballoo as attendants escorted the woman away.  Was it a tragic hip injury?  A casualty from smuggled wine?  Maybe it was the result of a sudden case of rheumatoid arthritis, brought on by the frigid air.

In the end, the sideshow distractions didn’t matter.  The Hollywood Bowl will always be a glorious setting.  Babs will always be a talented vocalist whose perfectionist tendencies are fascinating to watch unfold.  And getting to spend a Sunday evening with a university friend I’ve known for (gasp) thirty years is the ultimate cause for celebration.  No force could rain on my parade.

Friday, November 16, 2012

TWEETS FROM THE SITCOM ROOM


I have wanted to write for television since I was a child.  Strangely, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” was the first show I wanted to script.  (Yes, I was a pioneer in writing for reality TV.)  Cut all scenes with lions hunting game.  Cantaloupes, not antelopes!  Things evolved.  I wrote lines for the Muppets and imagined Chrissy on “Three’s Company” following the yellow brick road in search of a brain.  I re-imagined episodes of “Laverne and Shirley” (more Carmine, less Lenny and Squiggy—a bad bent, motivated by impulses I didn’t yet understand).


I wrote my first spec script in 1990 for “Designing Women” as a diversion from law school exams.  Studying in Malibu proved highly motivating.  I’d spot Bob Newhart in the video store and zip home to crank out another script, certain that he would accost me next time and say, “You’ve got that homely look of a writer.  Got anything?”  I developed a spec portfolio of “Mad About You”, “Seinfeld” and “Murphy Brown.”  Unfortunately, Bob never asked.

After bad experiences getting shot at during the Rodney King riots and screaming helplessly in my thirteenth floor apartment during the Northridge earthquake, I fled L.A.  I stupidly put my life ahead of career.

Over the last eighteen years, I have kept writing.  I’ve had a novel and some magazine articles published, but writing scripts has always been the most satisfying.  As I wait for U.S. Immigration to process my documents—could they be in a slush pile, too?—I yearn to build connections and gain a better sense of what it takes to be successful in television.  That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to fly to L.A. for Ken Levine’s TV Sitcom Room weekend.

Going in, I had realistic expectations of what the experience would offer.  It only reaffirms my desire to break in to the biz.  I have scripts ideas to flesh out and a better sense of where I am on track and where I need to sharpen my skills.

I won’t give a play-by-play of the weekend.  You have to experience it yourself.  If I’d had a chance to go on Twitter during the weekend intensive, these may have been my ten tweets (weeding out all lurid references to the Chicken Dance):

1)      Mention of a laugh-free sitcom will always get a free laugh. #Whitney

2)      Chinese food does not keep if you put it in the hotel room safe.

3)      People don’t see the funny in gluten-free.

4)      If you go for the testes, the natural response is a loud groan.

5)      Los Angelinos look for any opportunity to show off their winter wear. Toques? Really?!

6)      It’s true, nobody walks in L.A. At least, not when I’m schlepping back to my friend’s place at 3 a.m. 

7)      Networks should take note & hire Ken’s dad as an exec.

8)      Falling out of your chair is a good thing…when triggered by laughing. (Bruises heal.)

9)      Twelve hours can seem like a blip and an eternity at the same time.

10)   The real thing may be sweet, but I’d pay extra for a laugh track for some insincere ego boosting.
 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

HAIR: THE REVIVAL

When you swim in the shallow end, you’re going to hit your head on the bottom every now and then.  Yes, I am overly concerned about my hair.  I’ve been have a bad hair year with gray imposters sprouting up and a ‘do that naturally styles itself into that popular feathered look.  From the ‘70s. 

When my stylist unexpectedly shut down her salon, I had to dive back into the frightening abyss of unknown cutters.  I Googled salons for an hour and a half, reaching dead ends with stylists booking three months from now and establishments that required me to register online with yet another password to memorize (eight characters, including at least one number, two punctuation marks and an optional bouncing emoticon) only to take me to a screen indicating the online booking system was experiencing technical difficulties.  It was looking like I might have to be a walk-in at a place wafting with Old Spice where the choice is buzz cut or full noggin shave.

Eventually I did find a salon in Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown.  I phoned and a live person answered.  I begged for a cut and highlights any evening this week.  I should have seen the openings as a clear sign that the salon was not as exclusive as its highly stylized website suggested.  Instead, I was simply relieved, knowing someone could tame my tangles and give my some youthful California streaks before my trip to L.A.

In arriving for my appointment, I dumped eight bucks in the parking meter for the maximum two-hour period, walked by the salon to case the joint and then entered.  The interior met the basic criteria for trendiness:  high ceilings, exposed industrial pipes coated in white paint and a New-Age-meets-club-music soundtrack.  After I donned a thin black robe that far from flattered me, the receptionist ushered me to a chair by the window for passersby to mock.  I fixated on the odd light fixtures at each stylist’s stall, enlarged rhino tusks protruding from the center of each mirror, a clear misstep. 

Serious hesitation came when my stylist appeared wearing a paisley vest like I owned in the ‘80s and sporting a bad dye job that made the back of his hair frizzy.  Too late.  I was in the chair without any hope of a last-minute pardon.

The initial consult caught me off guard.  Jed squinted as he stared at my face.  Was he lamenting the fact the salon didn’t pre-screen clients with an interview, a video submission and five references?  He spoke of my “very long face” and the prominence of gray.  Defensively, I almost blurted something about the vest.  I didn’t, of course.  With all that gray, I am supposed to be older and, yes,...wiser.

Jed lacked the quips of my on-the-lam stylist.  Moreover, he lacked basic conversation skills.  I sat for an eternity with foil in my hair while flipping through magazines that either documented Lady Gaga’s weight gain or featured black-and-white photo spreads of emaciated models working to put heroin on the table.  The images had the unintended effect of making me feel not as bad about my very long face.

After another twenty minutes of hair rinsing, washing, toweling and further goo applications, the first snips occurred.  I gazed at the smock covering my lap as gray clippings fell.  Where had all the auburn gone? 

After a prolonged cutting session, out came the blow dryer and Jed shaped my hair into a bouffant to rival Marge Simpson.  Either that or I resembled a 1980s televangelist.  While horrified, I wasn’t surprised.  What should I have expected from a guy in an ‘80s vest?  Moreover, the “subtle” blond highlights I’d requested were too subtle.  I couldn’t see any hint of a color change.

At the receptionist’s desk, I forked over my credit card and in a quick swipe I became $230 poorer.  I walked to my car, grateful for evenings getting darker sooner due to the time change while cursing the fact I’d have to being the Great Salon Search anew.  I discovered more to curse about on my windshield:  a parking ticket.  In all, a costly lesson from being too Hair Aware. 

This is why some people collect baseball caps.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

HOW MUCH DO WE KNOW?


Sometimes my trivial traumas become even less significant when I am awakened to the turmoil of someone else.  In this instances, my bad hair takes a backseat to my reportedly bad hair stylist.

First, the hair.  It is more important to me than it should be.  I’ve blogged about it before.  Rational or not, I feel it is my best physical asset.  If I ever come down with male pattern baldness, I’ll be staying up late each night, calling 1-800 numbers for every Miracle Gro hair product that exists.  Sell me hope and I’ll buy it.

When a stylist successfully cleans up my overgrown Medusa look, I feel a strong attachment to her.  If I ever win the lottery—come on, I’m overdue!—having a professional pop by the house each morning to skilfully apply the styling putty will be my first expense.  I kid not.  It’s all documented in my Lottery file. 

Today I had a hair appointment.  I’d been looking forward to it and worrying about it all week.  Whenever I looked in the mirror, I appeared disturbingly old, tired, even sad.  While I realize a haircut can’t cure all that, slapping on some dye to cover the grey sideburns always helps.  Taming the curls gives me a confidence boost, too.  And today’s appointment included blond highlights as well.  

The highlights happen twice a year.  I scheduled the makeover earlier than usual because I need a greater boost and an instant injection of relative youthfulness.  I am heading to Los Angeles to participate in a simulated TV sitcom writers’ room under the direction of a writer whose credits include “M*A*S*H”, “Cheers”, “Frasier” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”.  My ability to work with the group, brainstorm amusing scenarios and craft witty dialog should be scrutinized more than my Larry Hagman eyebrows and my pronounced forehead lines; however, much of Hollywood, even regarding behind the scenes talent, is about appearances.  I have heard from many that ageism goes unchecked in script writing, particularly in television.

I didn’t get my customary call yesterday, reminding me of my appointment.  Unsure of my exact time, I wrote a note asking for my stylist to call me, grabbed a roll of tape and drove to the salon.  As I pulled up, there was already a note on the door.  It relates to what I’ve been worrying about.

“The salon will be closed indefinitely.” 

I wasn’t surprised, but disappointed.  (Alas, I head to L.A. with my tired, greying Flock of Seagulls look intact.)  More than that, I am even more worried.  And here is here my trivial hair matters no longer matter at all.

Back in July, my stylist got arrested.  The charge:  possession of child porn.  The report in the paper included a quote from her, saying that a house guest or someone else getting into her wireless network must have accessed the offending material.

In the three appointments I have had since the arrest, my stylist openly shared her fears and the ordeal she has gone through.  Glares in the grocery store.  Cancelled appointments.  Other stylists defecting to other salons.  Every court appearance, however brief, includes a hefty fee for the lawyer.  The prosecution wants to make a bigger case of the situation since it is so rare to have child porn charges against a woman.  She is experiencing a hellish nightmare with no clear end.

During our appointments, I have listened supportively.  I have never given a look or made a remark to question her involvement.  Innocent until proven guilty, right? 

But then an additional heinous charge was added during an October court appearance, as reported by the newspaper.  I cannot imagine her involvement in any of the allegations (which are not fully described due to a publication ban).  The situation gets darker, the hope of restoring one’s life fades.  I want to be supportive, to provide a hug and a look to say, “Hang in there.  Stay strong.”

But what if it’s all true?  How well do I really know her?  What do you do when everything you sense about a person is rocked by reprehensible criminal charges?  How would anyone know who is involved with child porn?  Surely, there aren’t visible signs.  As we go about our daily lives, our internet habits are unknown to the people we encounter.  If I didn’t confess it, you would never know that I spend too much time surfing Entertainment Weekly online. 

So many times I’ve watched newscasts and read news articles in which friends and neighbors talk fondly about people accused of shocking acts.  “He’s the nicest person.  Always waves when picking up his mail.”  How do you shift your opinion about someone when a sinister suspicion gets thrust in your head?  

Indeed, what if the charges are proven?  If I ever see my stylist again, do I shun her?  Pretend I don’t see her?  Jeer?  I really do not know.  I sense that the sadness I feel right now will only deepen.  However, nothing changes about my interactions with her over the past six years.  We have shared so many jokes and commiserated about the isolation we feel here as single people creeping toward forty and, for me, fifty.  She is one of the few people to truly understand my lingering sorrow from when my dog died last year.  She is one of the only people around here who knows I am gay.  There is goodness in her.  Indeed the person I know is someone who deserves support.  Even good people can do terrible things. 

I will carry my hair woes with me through the week, yet I am reminded how truly superficial the concerns are.  I am far more distressed by the judgments my stylist must endure.  I have no doubt she has left this small town to be with her parents, one of whom is terminally ill. 

Life is so much easier when it is only the grey hairs that give you grey hairs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WE WANT YOU!


One of the more ludicrous allegations that the Homophobic Front continues to utter is that gays and lesbians are recruiting.  I doubt the people who mention that believe it.  I suspect they are hoping that more gullible people will buy it.  It’s all about the power of suggestion—Happy Meals make kids smile, laughtracks cue us to the uproariously funny parts on reruns of “The Brady Bunch” (Oh, that Alice!) and gay marriage laws make Grandma Hazel consider leaving the ever-flatulent Grandpa Fred for that heretic who wears running shoes to church.  (Should have never let Hazel go to a taping of “Ellen”.  She danced in the aisles right along with that curmudgeonly recruiter posing as a talk show host!) 

Despite Ellen’s solid daytime ratings, there doesn’t seem to be a surge in lesbian numbers.  And that Ryan Murphy with his “Glee” hasn’t converted straight teens to gay any more than his “American Horror Story” has led to creepy neighbors annihilating new residents in the house next door.  Gay marriage laws in Canada (and in Sweden, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, Belguim, and the Netherlands) haven’t spawned a slew of Tonys defecting from weddings with Tinas and eloping with Tims.

If we are recruiting, we’re doing a really poor job at it.

When I was young and closeted, an oft-cited stat provided comfort:  one in ten.  It was a figure lifted from Alfred Kinsey’s 1953 study, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, and gays latched on to it as a comforting “fact”.  The statistic helped many of us cope.  Ten percent of the population!  Yep, one in ten...I am not alone. 

I remember sitting in high school classrooms of thirty and wondering who my two cohorts were.  (Please, please let one of them be Randy Weir!)  In college lecture courses with ninety, I had eight Friends of Dorothy.  A potential for friendship, solidarity, maybe something more!  And yet, I could rarely peg anyone else with the gay tag.

I held onto the stat even without proof of its veracity.  Didn’t know the Kinseys, but they must have been highly accurate researchers.  All research is true, right?  Studies never conflict; they are never repudiated.

Within a year of moving to L.A., I bought a white t-shirt with an upside down pink triangle and the names of famous gays and lesbians from history superimposed on it.  Da Vinci!  Michelangelo!  Wilde!  My heroes.  Below the triangle, that familiar phrase:  ONE IN TEN.  I proudly wore that shirt when dusting on Saturday mornings.  (Blinds closed, of course.)

Even before I moved to Nowhereland, I realized that statistic was heavily inflated.  At some point during my time in Los Angeles, I honed my gaydar.  Ten percent of Los Angelinos?  Not a chance.  Vancouverites?  No.  Not even in the West End gay ghetto.  Both cities had a clear presence, but one in twenty felt like a stretch. 

Now I would be thrilled to be immersed in a population where five percent of people identify as G, L, B or T.  Where I live, our numbers—at least for G, B and T—would be deemed statistically insignificant by Kinsey’s academic ancestors. 

I’d say there are about 30,000 people along the sixty kilometres of coastline where I live.  3,000?  Baloney!  1,500?  Someone’s hallucinating.  Gay sightings are extremely rare.  In the seven years I’ve lived here, I’ve known two single gay men under the age of seventy and I dated them both.  No hope for any kind of relationship.  I believe both wisely realized there were no prospects to be had and moved back to Vancouver.

Being as I’m stuck in my current environment—I took my house off the market today—I would like to recruit some of those alleged recruiters.  Bring on the gays.  Stat! 

I’ll settle for one in a thousand.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A “FERRY” TALE WITHOUT THE HAPPY ENDING


There’s so much excitement as they amble down the covered walkway.  No one moos, but I get that particular vision for a moment.  It is quickly altered as I hear the rolling wheels of tightly packed suitcases with all the possible wares for a weekend of hiking, shopping, beachcombing and possible puddle jumping.  Grandparents welcome children who close their electronic games.  Maybe the trees, rocks and water will prove to be a sufficient distraction from the gadget reflex. 

The marine air is crisp this morning.  Still, there parade of cars disembarking the ferry, loaded down with mountain bikes, kayaks and canoes.  Others tow fishing boats and trailers.  Fall is officially here, but summer lovers plead for an extension.  I can spot the tourists just by studying the people riding shotgun.  Their heads bob back and forth, glimpsing the ocean, then the rocky shoreline and the forest beyond.  Oh look, Howard.  Isn’t it beautiful?  Poor Howard must keep his eye on the Buick in front of him as a retiree complies with the 20 kilometer-per-hour signage. 

I try to soak in all the anticipation, the eagerness, the hope for a weekend or a week of memories.  Just think of all the photos we can post on Facebook!  I still see the beauty of this place.  Indeed, I will never tire of gazing at the silhouette of the mountains edging the water, especially at dawn and dusk.  But I have overstayed my own adventure by thirty-four months.  This land is a Siren that lured me and won’t let me go.

Before moving here, I explored this coastline, coming over for weekend and weeklong visits.  The brouhahas from work and the stresses of navigating through city traffic vanished from my mind as soon as the ferry set sail.  I always said just going by ferry made me feel like going to a foreign country, as though heading to some place more exotic than the matching coastline on the Vancouver side of the water.

Now, instead of feeling at ease, I get a sinking feeling each time I board.  The boat may be afloat, but I am fighting to keep my head above water.  I cannot cope with the two-hour stoplight I so often face on my commute home from work.  The ferry schedule takes away all joy I once felt about my home and my surroundings. 

This week has been brutal, but it is not atypical.  The ferry ran late all five days.  I try to slip out of work by 4:30 so I can be home by 7:00, but I had a meeting go until a perfectly reasonable 5:10 p.m. and then got home at 9:00.  I had another work event last until 7:15 which meant I didn’t get home until 11 p.m.  My work team skipped lunch on Friday to start an early weekend at 2:30 p.m.  I had a 150-minute wait at the ferry terminal and got in at 7 p.m.  I don’t know how I can rationalize these experiences as normal.

As this is Saturday, I normally have a break from ferry travel.  I crave the downtime.  I require the weekends to attempt to recover.  The social isolation becomes greater as I avoid ferry trips to the city and turn down the few social invitations I continue to receive.  However, I signed up for a screenwriting course in Vancouver, something I looked forward to attending.  The eagerness became tainted during my prolonged stay at the ferry terminal yesterday as I figured out my schedule for the day.  To attend a three-hour workshop takes nine hours of my weekend.  Just.  Plain.  Brutal.

Later today, I will call my realtor and lower the price of my house once more.  I did not think I could go lower as the loss I am taking is already hard to swallow.  But I’ve taken in too much water as it is.  It is time to bail myself out and start life over again.

Monday, September 3, 2012

THE CATCH


This is Part Two of a first date I had last week.  To read the first post, click here.


All great dates must come to an end.  It’s just unfortunate when that end happens at the halfway point. Should have parted with a coffee buzz and an excitement about next time. 

But I’d suggested a walk and he’d accepted.  Date on...

We walked along riverside pathways and through new subdivisions, continuing to chat without pretense.  It was a Goldilocks night—not too hot, not too cold.  Everything just right.  Everything.

Every time we reached a logical point to turn back, he’d nod at the next path or sidewalk.  Yes, walk on.  I sensed he would have walked with me all night.  Each time I looked at him, I got a stronger feeling that he was quite the catch.  At last.

And then he revealed THE CATCH. 

I’d asked him if he was out to his family in Mexico.  He replied, “You should know,...I’m married.  To a woman.  And I have kids.” 

I smiled.  Nodded.  Yes, everything is okay.  He said something else, but “I’m married” echoed in my hollow head.  I kept smiling and nodding. 

Somehow I managed a quick recovery and asked all sorts of questions about the wife and kids.  This is not a case of him being divorced.  Still married.  This is not a case of the wife being in Mexico.  She’s here.  Not in Vancouver.  Not down the street.  Living in the same home.

It’s a complicated scenario, that has been playing out for more than a year.  How long exactly?  I missed that detail.  The “I’m married” echo kept bouncing off the lovely exteriors in the trendy subdivision and hitting me anew.  The kids—two of them—are tweens.  The wife knows Javier is gay.  The kids don’t.  Some gay guy—me?!—is going to be “the other woman”, the one blamed by the boys for bringing down the marriage and destroying the family.

Red flags!  An objective outsider would be yelling for me to run.  Game over!

But we kept walking and talking.  We talked a lot about his children and his pride featured prominently in everything he shared.  I asked many questions about the wife, her process in accepting his coming out and his process for moving out.  Yes, that is the plan.  No, there is no specific timeline.  My jaded self, listening to someone else spout off these circumstances, would say, “Of course there isn’t a timeline.  There never is!”

As we finally stopped and stood on Fort Langley’s main street, I said the unthinkable.  “I’ve enjoyed this.  I would be interested in meeting you again.”

He said the same, as I knew he would.  Oh, what a time for me to finally find a greater confidence.

Once back in my car, all the rational thoughts against further interaction patiently queued before establishing a compelling case.  Defeatism seeped in as well.  They’re all deeply flawed.  Yes, there’s always a catch. 

So there you have it...two dates in one.  Outstanding, then utterly confusing.  What now?