Sunday, December 30, 2007


I don't hate flip-flops as much as I used to.

As a teenager, I got it into my head, somehow, that wearing flip-flops would only perpetuate the image of me as a rice paddy peasant. Flip-flops were for FOB's (fresh-off-the-boat immigrants), not for Asian Americans. I didn't want anyone to misinterpret that I wasn't "in the know," especially white people!

Let's just say that my adolescent distaste for flip-flops symbolized a mild self-hate for my Japanese heritage--in America--and predated my embrace of cultural pride.

So, it was almost a shock for me to see flip-flops become so common and acceptable (here in Southern California, at least), and even fashionable and trendy. I think it was six or seven years ago, around the turn of the millennium, that I noticed a young, Asian American sales rep at Abercrombie & Fitch wearing expensive jeans and flip-flops during his shift.

It marked one of the first signs of being past my prime.

I loved, however, going back to college and seeing that flip-flops and board shorts, and even plaid, flannel pajama bottoms, had become everyday-wear for coeds attending classes. I am all for comfort.

I am a bit incredulous that I am even seeing flip-flops on guys at the gym, on the weight floor. You just know they're going to end up dropping a thirty-pound barbell or twenty-five-pound plate on their toes.

Cinderella had a pair of flip-flops, according to Dawn S. at Disneyland. Dawn was one of the pretty, smart, and funny girls who played Alice in Wonderland. Often, I was her White Rabbit. Dawn had a dry sense of humor and I loved listening to her tell fairy tales to children:

"The Fairy Godmother waved her magic wand and Cinderella's rags changed into a beautiful ball gown. Cinderella worried about finding the right pair of shoes to go with her gown. She had some flip-flops in her room's closet, but that would never do."

I don't hate flip-flops as much as I used to, but Dawn was right--flip-flops never go with formal wear.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Flock of (actual) Seagulls

This one time (no, not at band camp), in the eighties, a dozen of us Disney employees, from California, went on an employee-discount-vacation to Walt Disney World and Epcot Center. Yes, people who work in theme parks go to other theme parks on their days off. It's part of the slight mental sickness that helps us to have job longevity when working for The Mouse.

The Orlando theme parks had much-over-much that the Anaheim park did not, even twenty years ago. Besides acres and acres of extra space and a five-star Cinderella Castle (which makes Sleeping Beauty's Castle on the west coast look like a cottage), the three-story buildings in the Floridian Town Square and Main Street, U.S.A. both impressed us and overwhelmed us a little, at first.

Something else that the Orlando parks have, in overabundance compared to Anaheim, are a myriad of seagulls. We had gotten the attention of an entire flock, it seemed, while snacking on some in-park french fries. I felt like the Pied Piper as I held a single fry aloft, while a smaller brood of gulls hovered behind in my wake.

On a dare, Robert lay down on the pavement with a fry sticking out of his mouth, as if it were a crispy, yellow cigarette. He waited to see if any of the seagulls would actually come and snatch it out of his mouth.

Once he was in place, all it took was a shared look among the rest of us. Without a single spoken word, four of us grabbed handfuls of fries and threw them directly at Robert's face. The reaction was immediate: at the motion of so many fries being thrown, practically the entire flock of gulls swooped in at Robert's head.

I had never seen anyone go from horizontal to vertical so quickly! Not even Tippi Hedren!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Peter's Embittered Rules for Grocery Shopping


1.) Keep your shopping cart and your big, fat ass to one side of each aisle. There will be other people and their carts coming from either end of the aisle, while you take ten more minutes to decide which flavored coffee you think you need for the upcoming week. Do not block any aisle with both your shopping cart and your big, fat ass.

2.) Imagine what it must be like to work on staff, at your local food market, and then kindly make the effort to push your shopping cart back to where it belongs, after loading your groceries into your car. Do not leave it in the parking lot, especially in an empty parking space. Besides, your fat ass could probably stand to burn the extra few calories.

3.) If you're going to use coupons, remember to check the expiration date of each one, and then double check to see if you are required to buy more than one of the same item in order to use the coupon.

4.) Please have coupons, club cards, and your-choice-of-payment-method out and ready to go once you have unloaded all of your groceries onto the checkout conveyor belt.

5.) If someone ahead of you is paying by check, be patient. Do not huff exaggerated sighs of impatience just because you pay with your lickety-split debit card and they don't. Remember: in a few short decades, the tables may turn, and while you are still paying with your old-fashioned debit card in your senior years, younger generations may look at you with disdain because you're not set up, yet, to just have your thumbprint scanned (or your Mark of the Beast!) in order to pay and go.

6.) If you feel the need to curse in public, or argue with someone, either in person or on your cell phone while shopping, shut the hell up! I, and the other shoppers, do not want to hear it!

7.) Be reasonable--see things my way.

Feel free to add your own rules/suggestions. People need to learn.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Light and Dark

I feel fortunate to live in Southern California. We are spoiled by the weather, here. I'm wearing a down-filled ski jacket in our non-insulated playroom because the temperature has dipped below fifty degrees. This is after the day had already reached a high of almost seventy, in the greater Los Angeles area.


I am feeling especially lucky as we approach the winter solstice (December 22nd, this year) because the shorter days are not darkening my moods as I had thought they might.

Two years ago, we had to put a beloved pug down, right after Thanksgiving. He was fourteen years old, and it was time. The early evening darkness in December that year seemed only too appropriate for the acute grief I felt over the loss of Caesar.
I was approaching final exams and term papers at the end of a semester, then. I kept thinking to myself, I can't do this, I can't do this.

My heart was broken.

I wanted to give up. School--everything--seemed pointless without my little baby. The only reason I continued making an effort was that I was one semester away from a Bachelor's degree, finally (and my fortieth birthday). It would have been sheer stupidity to get so close to finishing, only to give up.

I cried a lot, at home, because Caesar wasn't there. I just couldn't believe that he wasn't around anymore. Denial is supposed to be one of the four stages of grieving a death, before reaching the fifth and final stage, acceptance (as I had learned from repeatedly viewing "All That Jazz").

I missed the bond. I realized that my little fawn-colored pug had been a tangible symbol of my own inner child, and that I was able to transfer on to him all of the love and nurturing that I had always craved for myself.

It may sound silly, but I really feel that Caesar was the closest I ever got to having my own son.

Domestic Partner and I waited seven months until we adopted new dogs. We knew we wanted two pugs, and Moxie and Prudence came as a pair that needed to be placed together. We also got one-eyed Oscar thrown in as a freebie. Oscar was twelve years old when we adopted him with the two girls, and all three ended up being ideal pets.

"Why did you get a dog so old?" a friend had asked. "You're just going to have to go through the same loss all over again, very soon."

We knew that. Oscar wasn't Caesar, but he bonded with me, and he truly helped to fill that empty space left behind by Caesar, both in my heart and in our bed at night.

Oscar lived with us for eleven months until it was his turn to be put down. I cried for him, too, and I miss him as much as I miss Caesar.

Every year, now, with the approach of winter solstice and the early darkness, I will think of Caesar, as well as other dogs I have bonded with and loved.

The tears of grief are finished, for the time being. When I think of Caesar and Oscar, I sing songs to myself, in their memory, while riding my scooter. "Hush-a-bye Mountain," from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday," from The Muppet Movie; "I'll Cover You," from Rent; and "I Will Remember You," by Amy Grant.

Something else I learned, from reading the Peanuts comic strip: "It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Purple Shoes (or I Should Be Nicer to Mom, part 2)

In my teen years, Mom had indulged my fetish for rainbows by buying a complete rainbow bed set, and sewing matching curtains for my bedroom. She also indulged my Purple Period by helping me order custom Van's and paying for them.

For twenty years, from 1981 to 2001, I wore something purple every day. Sometimes it was as subtle as a purple watch or purple socks. Other days I was balls-out blatant, such as the Halloween that I dressed up as "Captain Purple," one of Donny Osmond's characters on the "Donny & Marie" show. On what appeared to be non-purple days, I was sure to be wearing purple underwear.

It started out as a silly way to get attention, in junior high, but I was genuinely passionate about the hue. Plus, you know us 'artistic/performer types,' always desperate for attention (some of us, anyway!), and so adamant about expressing our individualism!

In the early 80's, there was not much ready-made purple clothing for young men, other than overpriced Ralph Lauren goods. Before I started dying my Levi's 501's with Rit, having purple sneakers made it easier to keep up my purple streak in its early stages.

We're talking practically last century, here (well, I guess the twentieth was the last . . . ), before the Van's company started supplying their own purple canvas material for shoes. No online shopping and customizing of shoes back then! No sir! Mom and I went to Woolworth's where I was able to buy my own purple fabric, which our local Van's shoe store shipped to the Van's factory to be made into Off the Wall's in my size.

I don't think I realized at the time that my shoes were purple polyester. We had just gotten out of the seventies, so I think it was still acceptable. Sorta.

The first, traditional Off the Walls were navy blue with a bright red saddle. I wanted the purple adaptation of that around my junior year. My little Japanese, Christian mom objected.

"No! Those are an evil woman's colors!"

I think she meant 'prostitute.' I ended up getting purple and chaste-white Van's slip-ons, that year.

I still wear purple, now and then, and I still have a pair of purple shoes.
"When I am an old lady, I shall wear purple." Why wait?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Skinny as a Spice Girl

You know I'm gay-gay-GAAAY, because I obsess about my weight, constantly. I'm not a get-on-the-scale-five-times-a-day obsessive (in fact, I can't remember when exactly I weighed myself last), but I do think about trying to gain back more muscle tone and a smaller waist line, on a daily basis.

I just want the dress slacks that I bought last year, for my First Real Job Ever, to stop feeling so annoyingly snug. Less than a month ago, I finally quit cold turkey the five-days-a-week-snacking of granola bars and mixed cocktail nuts at my desk.

And it's not even about good health, for me, mostly. People used to say to me, "Oh, you're so good about going to the gym and working out all of the time!" No, I'm not.
I'm vain. I'm narcissistic. I just want to look good, or at least, better than you.

I don't just want to be trim, I want to be 1%-body-fat-sickly-thin. Not that I am in any danger of actually becoming that, but I find myself constantly admiring women with the impossible size-zero figures, like a couple of the women on "Friends," the 'B' and 'C' members of Destiny's Child, and of course, the Spice Girls, even before Mrs. Beckham morphed into a popsicle stick with two inflatables attached.

As comedienne Paula Poundstone once said, it may be that I'm half-bulimic--I do plenty of binging, I just forget to purge.

I want to emulate these unrealistically thin celebrity women, anti-feminist as that may be. Sure, I have a handful of age-appropriate male role models: Benjamin Bratt, Dermot Mulroney, and Johnny Depp (yum, yum, and YUM--check-check-check!). But more frequently, it is celebrity women's waist lines that I envy, such as Gwen-frickin'-Stefani--YOU JUST HAD A BABY, GAIN SOME WEIGHT ALREADY!

I swear: These women who have borne progeny and then bounced back with nary a stretch mark on their publicly-bared midriffs must have sold their souls to the Dark Side!

But I can't lay off the white powdery stuff--I must have sugar on a daily basis, preferably in chocolate or cookie form. No, not 'or,' I meant 'and.' There is no happiness without a Daily Fix. Without it, no point to life.

So, I'm swimming, now, three days a week, for a half hour at a time. It's a good time of the year for me to start, too. The six month period from October to April has become the Danger Zone for me in recent years. There is no safe haven in sight from trick-or-treat candy to Easter chocolate. In between, you've got Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine's day. Holiday chocolate is on clearance, non-stop, in the supermarkets, and at Target, and everywhere else that I shop!

It's a good thing that I don't drink at all, because I would only be compounding my holiday/winter padding with New Year's Eve toasts and St. Patrick's Day beer.

I will never voluntarily sell my soul to the Dark Side, so I suppose I will never become Posh Spice thin. But I can still touch my toes.

Good enough.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Domestic Partner and I have a new pet.

About mid-October, we heard the tiny mews of a kitten, outside, when we both came home from work in the early evening. I looked around the bushes bordering the front yard, but then the mewing stopped. I thought I had scared the tiny kitty away.

Several hours later, at 5:00 in the morning, we heard the mewing again, loud and insistent. This cat had pipes and stamina! DP was sure that the poor thing was trapped in the attic somehow (once or twice, cats have had their newborn litters inside the sheltered part of our family room's roof).

After finding the kitten on the roof, outside, DP put the ladder up against the side of house, in the backyard. The poor thing had been out in the chill, October air all night! The young feline was so desperate to be rescued, it ran straight into DP's hands and allowed itself to be lowered to safety.

Once on the ground, though, much hissing and arching of the back prevented us from touching it, again. DP put on some gardening gloves and threw a towel over the frightened and starving baby. She stopped the hissing almost immediately, once she realized that DP was not going to hurt her.

She must have been completely exhausted. Before going to work, we shut the grey and white kitten into the garage with old towels for bedding and a small dishes of canned tuna and water. The tiny baby seemed about four weeks old, and we didn't trust our dogs enough to leave it in the house.

When we got home in the evening, the tuna was gone, and the kitten was affectionate and purring. The two dogs were not too jealous. DP and I are more 'dog people,' but we are also bleeding hearts for any animal in need. We quickly arrived at the mutual decision to keep the kitten permanently.

Neighbors have told us that they've seen the mama cat with kittens that look like ours. We're not sure why the mama never came back to get her baby trapped on our roof. Maybe she's deaf.

After a week of considering different names, we settled on Cleo--her full name is Cleocatra (we didn't realize until later that Cleo is a common name for a pet cat).
She's very hyper and plays hard, chasing whatever cat toys we are willing to animate for her, otherwise chewing on our fingers and ankles. She also tries to chew on the pugs' tails and legs. She teases them mercilessly and aggravates them every day. The pugs, highly irritated, bark aggressively, and trap the kitten under their muzzles, as if to chew out her intestines. She thinks they're playing. We think the dogs are playing . . . So far, there has been no blood drawn among the three animals.

DP and I, however, are all over scratches and bite marks on our hands and legs, for six weeks, now.

Last weekend, we finally took Cleo to the animal clinic for her first shot. We figured she was well over two months old. She cried a little bit, but was very well-behaved for the most part.

The veterinarian at the clinic informed us that Cleo is a boy.

Friday, November 30, 2007

An Early Writing Sample (lengthy, too)

Thanks, once again, to Jason Phoon, for encouraging me to write about the idea of gay-vampires-for-Jesus!

Thanks to Noel Alumit, a terrific Intro to Fiction writing instructor, for another week of last-minute desperation, caused by the need to come up with something to turn in on time!

Thanks to You, my small, powerful, and oh-so-significant Reading Audience, you people who are exactly the type with whom my mother hoped I would never associate!

Enjoy your acknowledgments, here, because there may not be room enough when the novel is completed and then published!


There were no vampires. Of course there weren't. It was just his imagination going into overdrive, fueled by the guilt of having had sex again.

Jaden knew his pattern, by now. He could abstain for only so long, be celibate for about three or four months before he needed a fix. And it wasn't as if he deliberately went looking for trouble. With hardly any conscious effort on his part, opportunity, or trouble, or whatever the hell you wanted to call a convenient hook-up, always seemed to find him, three or four times a year. And as part of his consistent pattern, he swore, after each time, that it would be the last.
Addicted to dick, he would joke to himself. Time to quit cold turkey. Again.
Usually, the post-sex guilt alone was enough to convince him that he would be able to get through the rest of his life without ever having sex with a guy again. But this time there was also fear involved, fleeting but definite, and a little pain, as well.

His jeans still unbuttoned, Jaden pulled down the elastic waist band of his boxers and tried to examine his crotch by the light inside his car. His Geo Metro's overhead light wasn't strong enough. What he saw looked like traces of blood, dark and wet, but he couldn't be sure. Instead of blood, it might be ejaculate, either his own or Nicky's, gleaming in the wiry brunette patch below his navel.

What have I done, he thought. I knew I was getting in over my head, pushing my luck, once again. Dear God, please forgive me enough to let me still be alright.

He waited until he got back to Pasadena and into his apartment, where he could see more clearly in the privacy of the small but well-lit bathroom. It was after midnight on a week night, so his roommate would not be awake. Jaden shut the door anyway, as quietly as he could, before undoing his jeans, again.

There was no mistaking the blood this time, dried to a dark purply-brown, and hardening into two small dots on his lower pelvis, one on either side of the base of his penis. Jaden smeared the still-soft scabs, revealing the cherry-red brightness of residual blood underneath.

"Easy, easy!" Jaden had begged, between small gasps, when he felt the scrape of Nicky's teeth. Nicky was a biter, and Jaden couldn't completely relax and enjoy the blow job. "I'm not really into the S&M thing," he joked. It was a wonder he had been able to maintain a full erection.

"I'm sorry," Nicky had said, coming up for air. "It's just that you're so hot and I can't control myself."

Even as Jaden had felt himself getting closer to ejaculation, his thoughts had formed the usual lecture: This is so wrong. You shouldn't be doing this. This is exactly what God hates. You're doing and being the abomination. There are no actions without consequence. Punishment will surely be a direct result of this, punishment and pain.

Jaden's normal pattern of guilt and worrying had morphed into fear as Nicky applied more pressure with his teeth. What if this guy were to bite extra hard and chomp my dick off, right now, and just sever it completely? Feelings of fear were at risk of mounting into outright panic, even as Jaden's physical pleasure heightened. He tried to push Nicky's head away.

"I'm close! I'm going to come!"

Nicky had been breathing gustily through his nose. "Mmf, hmf" was his response as the grip of his mouth only tightened. Swallowing was one of the 'high risk behaviors' but apparently Nicky was okay with that.

Jaden had felt a brief, sharp pain at the base of his shaft, at the precise moment his body had convulsed with the first wave of ejaculation. Although he was fully aware of the pain, he was too distracted, at the time, by how differently his orgasm had felt, how much more intense it had been.

It was worth putting up with Nicky's biting, Jaden thought as he searched for the cotton balls under the bathroom sink. Wasn’t it? He couldn't remember ever having had such an amazing orgasm before. Fuck Nicky, anyway, literally or otherwise, he thought as he flinched from the sting of rubbing alcohol. Fuck his kinky ways, and fuck him for being so damn friendly at the River of Life meetings.

The weekly support group meetings were supposed to be a safe place for Christian men who 'struggled,' not another pick-up joint. Fortunately, Jaden didn't feel much temptation among the other members. Most of them were middle-aged or older. Quite a few of them were even married and had children. Every one seemed to have a sob story to tell. Still, he considered them friends, especially those who were in his small group.

Besides Jaden, Nicky had been the only other member under thirty who showed up every week. And every week, no matter what the weather, Nicky always walked into the underground classroom at Fuller Seminary wearing shorts. Jaden had to make a constant effort not to stare at Nicky's legs, which were furry with the same dirty blonde color that poked out of the top of his tee shirt. Nicky wasn't girly-prissy blond. He looked more viking-heritage blond, in Jaden's mind, at least, and Jaden liked that.

If he managed to sit right next to Nicky, it was easier for Jaden to be more subtle about looking at his legs. He could probably get away with looking as though his eyes were downcast in contemplative thought. Also, there was the added bonus of getting to hold hands with Nicky in the closing prayer circle.

After feeling a few squeezes and thumb strokes from his oddly cool hand, Jaden had been only too eager to "grab a bite" after tonight's meeting, as Nicky had proposed. They never made it into Denny's, just the back part of the restaurant's parking lot where Nicky had led the way in his old Mustang.

Jaden replaced the white plastic bottle and bag of cotton balls under the sink. He thought over what he and Nicky had done while messing around in his Metro's front seats. Except for the oral sex, they hadn't had what could technically be called sex. Just a lot of heavy petting and necking. Jaden laughed to himself, despite his underlying concerns, for thinking of such an old-fashioned phrase.

It was such adolescent pawing, at first, reaching under each other's shirts to feel bare torsos and chests. Jaden had been excited at the chance of running his fingers through the thick growth of hair that he knew was underneath. He was glad that Nicky liked to french kiss until he started nibbling a little too hard, alternating between Jaden's tongue and lips. He had even managed to bite the inside of Jaden's lower lip, somehow.

While searching through the medicine cabinet for some antibiotic ointment, Jaden thought about body fluids. Exchanging saliva was pretty low risk, he had read, but maybe not one hundred percent safe. But mixing blood and saliva? There was definite risk involved with that. And if Nicky was willing to swallow, how much risky behavior had he done with previous sex partners?

Almost unexpectedly, Jaden recalled Nicky’s eyes. Normally a bright sea-grey blue, Jaden had thought Nicky’s eyes looked as if they were glowing with a greenish-yellow color during the bliss of fellatio. In the heat of the moment, he had simply dismissed it as the parking lot’s urine-yellow lamplight being reflected in Nicky’s eyes. Now that he thought about it, he had also thought that Nicky’s eyes had looked cat-like or reptilian in the dim shadows of his car.

Ridiculous, Jaden told himself. That was just your imagination running wild, again. Plus, you really can’t see anything objectively when you’re face-to-face and that close to something.

Jaden thought again about the feeling of fear that had coursed through both his mind and body, earlier. And his spirit, too? The feeling had been brief but intense, much like the amazing orgasm had been. Had the orgasm really been worth it?

He dropped to his knees and elbows, on top of the frayed bath mat, and cradled the back of his head with both hands. Okay, this is it, I swear, he promised both God and himself. I need to really commit, this time, to choosing to never have any sexual relations with another man for the rest of my life, whether that means truly being celibate, or marrying a woman and learning how to have a healthy sex life with her. I can’t do this by myself, and I need to rely on God’s power to help me accomplish this. I need to take tonight’s scare as a genuine warning. If ever there was a red flag, this is it.

God help me, please, if it isn’t too late.

(All opinions welcome, P.V.)

Monday, November 26, 2007


At one of our neighborhood food markets, the following has been taped at each register checkout:

Don't forget the fish the loving most of you!

I love that Domestic Partner and I live within walking distance of the Hong Kong market, which is smack in the middle of Hong Kong Plaza, here in West Covina. Not only are there more than half a dozen restaurants that run the pan-Asian gamut, and a feisty Korean lady who takes in my shirts for cleaning ("Why you not get married, yet?"), we also get a frequent dose of delightfully mangled English, such as the phrase above, or, "Engrish," as some of you well know.

Now, I'm sure that the above sign was meant to serve as a marketing reminder to buy some of the wonderfully fresh seafood available in the store, and that the translating author of the sign safely assumed almost everyone enjoys eating fish, since the majority of their customers are Asian immigrants and Asian American. That's my interpretation, at least.

But it's always fun to think about how else an Engrish phrase like that can be interpreted.

"Don't forget the fish that's enamored with you, but not all of you, just parts of you?"

"Don't forget the seafood, most of you who are loving people while a few others are not?"

"Remember that the majority of you are ichthyphiliacs?" Talk about'cher profiling!

If you're not already familiar with, click here now!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Family Skeletons, Barely There

The emotional drama in my family is between minimal to non-existent, more so since my parents have been divorced. Holiday gatherings for our family are not the ticking time bombs of pent-up feelings and held-in resentment just waiting to explode, as it may be for some families. The pleasant attitudes among my family may not always be completely genuine, but we get along peacefully, and for that I am grateful.

I don't send out Christmas cards, ever. I have nothing against that tradition, I've just never started, and I don't ever intend to. It's one less thing to worry about, and every year I save on the cost of stamps and stationery. So, needless to say, I don't even write out an annual recap newsletter.

My mom, however, has continued the annual family newsletter on her own, after the divorce. She has my sister proofread it before making copies of the final draft. This year, my sister emailed the rough draft of the letter to her siblings, to see if there was anything we wanted to add or omit, in our respective blurbs.

I took two seconds to speed through mine:

Dear friends and family,
Christmas 2007

Celebrating the birth of our Lord, the Savior, the prince of peace, and
the King of kings

Peter continues to enjoy working at the Los Angeles Recording School in
Hollywood admitting students from all over the country. He commutes
on his motorcycle on freeway. We are thankful for the Lord's
protection from any harm.

I emailed my sister back: Mine's okay.

She responded: Don't you want to include any trips you and Domestic Partner have taken together, or any details about new animals you two have adopted? I took a few more seconds to ponder that.

It would be nice if my mother chose on her own to include Domestic Partner. She includes the names of my siblings' spouses (when they are married), and those of any grandchildren. No, DP and I are not legally married, but we've been together longer than any of the respective four marriages among my three siblings. He is always welcome at any of our family get-togethers, for holidays and birthday celebrations, so there is no conflict there, even.

Ya gotta pick your battles. Was this worth getting upset over? Was this worth making a fuss about and bringing to my mom's attention?

I thought about it some more and emailed my sister back: Most of the recipients of this newsletter will be Mom's Christian friends, so I can understand her not wanting to highlight her son's homosexual relationship.

I personally know some of Mom's Christian friends, but many I have never met. In the end, what do I care whether or not they know what I've been up to? It doesn't change or take away anything that's really important in my life. And besides, Domestic Partner himself does not care, either way. He's just not that emotionally invested.

Was that too wishy-washy of a response?

Nah. It's trivial enough. If I really cared, I would get up off of my lazy ass and write my own damned newsletter to let people know how 2007 was for Domestic Partner and Peter Varvel.

I have too much to look forward to and work toward, in 2008, to waste any negative energy on this.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

An Iridescent Life

My entire bedroom was decked out in rainbows when I was in high school. My mom had bought a rainbow comforter and matching rainbow sheets. Two pillowcases shared the duplicated arc of the rainbow, blending in perfectly with the comforter. My mom even bought an extra set of sheets and made matching curtains out of them.

. . . I really should be a nicer son to her.

I had a little rainbow bathmat at my bedroom door. I had a ceramic rainbow on my dresser, something I had hand painted while helping out at Vacation Bible School ('God promised with a rainbow,' I had painted underneath the arc, in purple).
On the wall, above my bed, was a paper rainbow, an actual photograph of refracted light. I had attached clouds at either end of my paper rainbow. On the right cloud sat Kermit the Frog, strumming a banjo.

How my parents never suspected . . .

I even had rainbow suspenders from my junior high school years, just like Robin Williams wore on "Mork & Mindy."

This was all before I even knew about the gay pride flag, or pride colors, I swear to Buddha!

First Girlfriend Erin and I made rainbows 'our thing,' during the eighth grade, and it grew from there. Erin also had rainbow suspenders, but thinner than mine, dainty and petite. Her mother had hand-stitched a rainbow-on-clouds, on a tee shirt for each of us, complete with our names. We wore our matching tee shirts and suspenders on a date to Disneyland. We wore them in her church talent show, singing "The Rainbow Connection," while my younger brother hid behind a rainbow striped facade, animating a Kermit puppet with a paper banjo taped to it.

When I retire, I will spend part of each year in Hawaii, the Land of the Rainbows!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Play Elevator Roulette

BFF Kathy and I had made up a game, back when we were young and impudent, called Elevator Roulette. Here's how you play:

-Once you get in the elevator and the doors close, the first person lies on her or his back, on the elevator floor. This was my part.

-The second person then lies on top of the first person (yes, with clothes on--there is no time for disrobing!). This was Kathy's part.

-If no one is standing there waiting for the elevator, when the doors open, you win!

-But if there is someone there when the doors open, you lose, and you get up very quickly and rush out of the elevator, with egg on your blushing red face, hopefully to a nearby exit.

Or you can just stay horizontal on the floor and wait to see if they get in the elevator anyway, or if they simply wait for the next one.

Zero money risked! Happy gambling!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ay, Gahd, I Gotta Rest My Chi-chi Bo-bo's!

"Ay, gahd, I gotta rest my chi-chi bo-bo's!"

Thus sayeth the Divine Miss M on her comedy album from the eighties, "Mud Will Be Flung Tonight!" She is speaking in reference to her ample bosom.

This has nothing to do with tonight's post. I'm just a huge lifelong fan of La Midler and her bawdy, crass comedy. And that saying was on my mind as I sat down to type.

A writer writes. This simple statement was a quote from Alex Sanchez, one of the many authors I hope to emulate. Alex said he had thought that becoming a writer would mean becoming rich and famous, as well. He discovered that being a writer means that you write.

Who knew?

Well, it's obvious, yes. But who knew that it was allowed to be that simple in theory, if not in our actual realities?

I have wanted to be a writer since before puberty. That was a full three decades ago.
I have finally been taking some significant and substantial baby steps toward reaching that childhood dream. It's a major part of what has made the past few months such a good 2007 for me.

So, to the few and faithful who tune into this blog, I apologize for being so absent. I am writing! Just give me another month to complete the wonderful writing workshop that currently dominates my spare time, and I will be frothing more often, once again, with the plastic bubbliness that churns within the world inside my mind.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gay Vampires for Jesus (or, Sympathy for the Evil)

Guilt seems to directly define our worst fears.

How lucky am I that I wasn't raised Catholic? I had enough guilt as it was, having been raised Protestant, especially when it came to my sexuality. So, whenever I was sexually active, both guilt and my imagination fueled my paranoia.

What if the guy I was having sex with was actually a vampire? What if while he was, um, "goin' downtown to pleasure me," he sprouted fangs and decided to slake his sudden thirst for blood, right in the middle of it all?

I have never gotten through an entire Anne Rice novel. But I have always thought that the Christianity and homosexuality conflict would make a good background for a vampire story.

Being bitten by a vampire and then being turned into one seems to make a good symbolic parallel for blood infection, and for contracting HIV and AIDS. What if, in a fictional story, there was a support group for Christian men who had been bitten by vampires when they had sex with these night creatures? I could write the gay-Christian version of "The Lost Boys."

In real life, it would be too simple to say that ex-gay ministry teaches self-hate. It doesn't fit into that convenient of a nutshell, at least not with the support group that I had been involved in. But I'll confess that my time with them helped to influence the view of myself as something a bit monstrous, like the poor, deformed Phantom of the Opera, a soul not quite guaranteed salvation.

I don't miss ex-gay ministry. I'm glad that I checked it out, and that I made an honest effort toward achieving their goals. But I'm also glad that I'm past that part of my life, years past the self-pity of that time, and that I have been able to reach a point of being at peace with--and acceptance of--myself.

Thank you, Jason Phoon, for encouraging me to blog about this!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dancing Through Life

I am 41-years-old, and I was dancing around my kitchen, today, to the new Britney Spears CD. It's awesome! I love it!

It's radical! Cool! Boss ! Bitchin'! It's major! Gnarly! Like, tubular! Totally rockin'! It is off the chain! It's slammin'! . . . uh, it's dope.

That's it, mostly. Those are all the hip, current, and not-so-current colloquialisms that I can come up with, from the past four decades or so, to describe how much I really like this new album.

But when does it all slow down? When exactly am I supposed to be "too old" for certain activities? And even if I don't have to be too concerned about all of that, when does it start to be too creepy?

I was hired to do double duty on board my first cruise ship contract. When not dancing in the nightly revues, I was working as an assistant cruise director ("camp counselor for adults"). For the male dancers/ACD's, our required duties included having to dance with the female passengers on Big Band Night--or as we called it, "drag a bag." Of course, most of the women passengers were senior citizens. It wasn't too terrible, as I really enjoyed swing music, and any boogie-woogie from the forties.

But it made me wonder, back then in the early nineties: What will my generation be dancing to, in thirty or forty years, once we had achieved senior citizen status ourselves? What will replace Big Band Night when we're on a luxury liner in our golden years? It's hard to imagine silver-haired ladies and men bumpin' and grindin' to Madonna's "Like a Virgin," or Michael Jackson's "Beat It."

For some reason, my imagination keeps going back to a bunch of old folks getting down to Prince's "Darling Nikki," not that that was ever a big dance hit.

If you're ever in the North Hollywood neighborhood, near Universal Studios, try to go to Oil Can Harry's on a Saturday night. Normally a country & western gay bar (I think), the club has a retro night on Saturdays, playing seventies disco and eighties pop. It seems to be a more age-appropriate atmosphere for me, with a mostly middle-aged crowd. And in that club, among people in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and even older, how old you are does not matter.

It doesn't matter at home, either, or in my own mind, really. What matters is how endorphin-high I feel, as I get my groove on.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I am Edward Scissorhands

I dressed up as Willy Wonka, today, a la the new Johnny Depp version, for the third Halloween in a row. I have been accused of having a Johnny Depp fetish, which is not entirely untrue. A friend had pointed out, however, that I dropped the ball by never bothering to dress up as Jack Sparrow for Halloween. But I have never even seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

I am horrendously lazy, sometimes, even when it comes to fetishes.

Johnny Depp aside, I felt an immediate connection with the character of "Edward Scissorhands," right when I first viewed the film at a sneak preview in late 1990. I just knew that I had to make this my next Halloween costume. I didn't cut my hair for ten months.

There are favorite movies, and favorite books, music, etc. that become so much a part of your own character. I saw Edward Scissorhands as the perfect representation of my inner child: too freakishly different to fit in with a cookie cutter society; imperfect; and tragic in that he was not able to be together with the one that he truly loved.

I was startled to see, in the film, Winona Ryder create the exact same pained expression of heartache that Kathy had on her face, during an unforgettable moment of break-up discussion in high school (before we embarked on our real Will & Grace relationship).

The film was released shortly after I had become involved in an ex-gay ministry support group. One of the perspectives that this group had of gay men is that we were not "whole" as men. According to them, we gay men were missing something vital that would otherwise complete us and bring us to a heterosexual identity.

So, Edward was the perfect symbol of a man who had been made almost complete by his creator. In the film, Edward's creator dies before that last vital puzzle-piece is put into place--in this case, his hands. What a tear-jerker for anyone with abandonment issues!

My involvement in ex-gay ministry included an attempt at celibacy, an attempt at which I failed, repeatedly. Being alone is different than loneliness, but feeling lonely back then seemed that much sadder because I had deliberately chosen to be alone. Like Edward, I spent a lot of time feeling sad over the fact that I was "incomplete and all alone."

Indulging in my fantasy of being Edward Scissorhands, however, only nursed my perpetual self-pity. Looking back, I would say that dressing up as Edward Scissorhands for Halloween, and being him, however briefly, was therapeutic.

I no longer feel sorry for myself, not with the alarming frequency that I used to, anyway (I have moved on to greener pastures--into toxic anger, mwuah-ha-ha-ha!).
I still cherish my inner child, though. Because of that, I will still stop and watch "Edward Scissorhands" when I happen upon the film while channel flipping.

It is Halloween night, and I am sitting at home, passing out candy, for the first time in I-don't-know-how-many-years. I still love this holiday, I still enjoy dressing up. And I am filled with peace, tonight, in my tender feelings toward Edward Scissorhands, toward my inner child, toward myself.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mirrored-Ball Memories

I was the king of disco, in seventh grade. I had a pair of cream-colored Angel's Flight polyester slacks, a matching vest, and two shiny shirts, one red and one blue, all from Sears. Hush Puppies were my boogie shoes.

I could not wait to dance. My younger sister and I had already been practicing at home, in front of the television, copying the intricate moves of dancing couples on "American Bandstand" and "Dance Fever." We had no idea what the names of the steps were, so we just made up our own: 'jelly-roll kick' and 'drop-catch-kick & bounce.' We practiced the same routine over and over. We were well-rehearsed, and we would show off at wedding receptions.

Until school dances started in junior high, I was mostly a loner. Part of being a seventh grade boy meant having to prove yourself out on the field, in a kickball game during recess. I opted out. Instead, I usually sat by myself at an outdoor lunch table, reading a library book. I was content in my solitary, peaceful shell.

I was anxious, though, at that first seventh grade dance, anxious to get moving to the music! My desire to dance was greater than my shyness or any potential embarrassment from others watching me dance. I went around the cafeteria/multipurpose room and asked every seventh grade girl in attendance to dance with me. Most of them simply said no. Some of them replied, "Not yet. Not until someone else starts dancing."

Mrs. Strozier, one of the school teachers chaperoning the dance, helped me to break the ice. With me as her dance partner, she taught us how to do a "snowball"--a dance that started with one couple dancing together for a few seconds before splitting apart to find new partners. After dancing with Mrs. Strozier for a few seconds, and feeling only slightly awkward, she yelled, "Snowball!"

My second partner was Debbie. I could always count on Debbie to be my first dance partner at every seventh grade dance, after that first one. Debbie was friendly enough, but she was not the kind of girl that boys asked to dance. Her mother was the lunch room monitor, but that was among the least of her social worries. There were several hard-to-articulate reasons why Debbie did not get asked to dance. Sometimes, while dancing, Debbie would drop to the floor, squatting briefly in a frog-like position. I'm not sure if she had seen that move somewhere, or if she just came up with it on her own.

Selena was a cool, confident girl. She was the one that I immediately made a beeline toward as soon as I heard the opening notes of Chic's "Le Freak," or Foxy's "Get Off." She could dance to those hot hits of the late seventies.

But I saved the slow dances for Erin. Erin had been interested in Japan and its culture before our family moved back to California from the Tokyo area, so I practically had an instant 'in' with her. She and I both enjoyed drawing, and we both loved reading. Erin had won the school district story writing contest two years in a row. She was a girl that I admired and respected enough to want to slow dance with.

We were comfortable slow dancing with each other, arms almost fully extended, with about two feet of air between us. We would sway to the relaxed tempo of "Lady" by the Little River Band, or Rex Smith's "You Take My Breath Away."

A year later, in eighth grade, Erin became my first girlfriend. We 'went around' as a couple for a full sixteen weeks before breaking up. I never kissed her once. I knew, even at that early age, that I wanted to kiss boys. For the rest of my life, though, I will always enjoy dancing closely, even romantically, with women.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cool Rider

I wanted to be the green ranger, over thirty years ago, when I was a kid. Before the Power Rangers became a permanent kid-pop fixture in the US, my brother and I tuned in faithfully to the original Go Rangers television series, during the time that our family lived in Japan.

We had already established sibling colors while living in California. I was green, and my brother was blue, which meant that I got the green Tupperware cup, the green toothbrush, etc. while all things blue were the property of Number Two Son. Anything red or pink were sister's possessions, and the baby brother's, yellow.

So, it was a natural progression to identify with the ranger of the corresponding and unofficially assigned color. My brother hero-worshipped the blue ranger, while the green ranger was my automatic role model.

The green ranger had a number five on the forehead of his mask, firmly establishing his bottom rung status in the Go Rangers hierarchy. This was okay. The green ranger was the strong, silent type, brooding, and even moody. This was an appropriate image of masculinity to me.

The Go Rangers rode motorcycles. I coveted the green ranger's motorcycle helmet that was being sold in Japan's toy stores, right before we moved back to the states. It wasn't the face-hiding mask helmet, but the helmet worn when he was still in his citizen/mere mortal state. I never did get the toy helmet, which I still regret to this day. Having and wearing the helmet would've helped me be like the cool, brooding, silent man that I had watched on T.V.

These days, when I am riding around on my scooter, I alternate between being Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield in "Grease 2." Sometimes, I trade back and forth between Prince and Apollonia in "Purple Rain."

And yes, sometimes, I am the green ranger, a loner, silent, isolated, moody, aloof, and yet, oh so cool.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dumbledore is a 'Daddy'



Dumbledore is gay! J.K. Rowling outed him, here!

Wow! Randomly discovering this juicy tidbit online is rather worth having another boring night in with nothing better to do!

Think of the new series that Rowling could possibly write on the life and times of Albus Dumbledore, alone, and how that could benefit the queer youth of the world!

Personally, I have always found Professor Snape to be rather sexy, in the film adaptations, which disgusts Domestic Partner to no end.

Hmmm, who else might be slipping under the gaydar, in favorite and popular literature?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Zany Zappers

For my fourteenth birthday, I had received a pair of Zany Zappers--toy sunglasses with a small flashing red light attached to each lens. The lights had to be flashed manually by pushing the button of the small hand-held device connected to the sunglasses by a thin wire ("batteries not included"). I had unwrapped them with great delight and expectation, inside Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour.

Zany Zappers were a good toy to use for scaring the crap out of yourself, as Prince, my most-recent-favorite-playwright-to-stalk (although I still haven't seen or even read any of his plays, yet), had reminded me in his own post, today.

Remember "The Amityville Horror," the original film? And remember those creepy, glowing red eyes that belonged to Jodie the pig, and when those eyes entered the doll's head? That's the image I would scare myself with, while wearing my Zany Zappers.

I would shut myself in the family bathroom at night with my Zany Zappers in place. Standing in front of the mirror and in complete darkness, I would keep my thumb pressed on the button and stare back at the pair of ghostly red eyes gazing at me from inside the mirror's reflection. I could practically fool myself into imagining that Jody the pig was right in front of me, and it freaked me out.

It was my version of "Bloody Mary! Bloody Mary!"

Happy Halloween season!

Monday, October 15, 2007

More Growing Up, BLEAH

I have had probably one of the most extended adolescences ever, longer than most people, anyway. And it has been hard to let go of, especially since I've started working at my first proper, full time job, last year. That has really gotten in the way of my Real Life.

Prominent signs of my new, official grownup-ness continue to taunt me and gloat, even, like the annoying bug-a-boos that they are:

1.) I have been invited by two different people to go to Knott's Scary Farm, this year, the annual theme park Halloween haunt here in southern California. In high school, "in the eighties," it was the coolest event to attend as a SoCal teen (and it still may be, for all I know). It was a place to see people, and a place to be seen. But now? Grownup Me (bleah!) is not too eager to waste about $50.00 and spend most of the evening just standing in line, only to experience a few brief minutes of chills and thrills.

The point in going would be to enjoy the exceptional company of those who had invited me, either of them. But at this point in middle-aged life, I think I'd rather spend the same amount of time--and perhaps less money--sitting in a diner all night, constantly eating and gabbing with the same friends.

2.) My "first real job" includes signing outgoing letters on a daily basis. It's sobering to see that I have joined the ranks of those that have developed "doctor's signatures," my rushed autograph mostly legible, seemingly apathetic in its I-don't-care-enough-to-slow-down-for-this flourish.

3.) This is the first Halloween in a long time that I haven't put any thought or effort into a costume. I told BFF Kathy that this first full time job has just sucked up all of the hours that I would normally put into planning and designing a costume. Kathy was rather sad about it, in a bittersweet way. At least she has two young children, now, for both of us to focus on, for costumes and other holiday fun. Her little 41-year-old is finally growing up . . .

I assured Kathy, however, that one of these years, I will fulfill my Halloween goal of dressing up as the Child Catcher from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

"Come here, kiddie-winkies!"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Random Tees

(Feb. 5, 2011 - I decided to delete the graphic that was originally here, the one that said 'I heart vadge-eye-nuh,' since it kept bringing so much uselss traffic to my blog stats.)

I love the stuff that's not made up. It's usually more interesting.

The charming graphic above is an actual tee shirt, available at, perfect for that one special guy who is so hard to shop for, during the holidays. Don't you think?

No, I would not wear it myself. Two weeks ago, I wore Domestic Partner's souvenir tee shirt from Thailand, with 'Phuket' emblazoned on the front. I have never been to Thailand, and half a dozen people asked me about my trip there, in the course of an afternoon.

So, just imagine, if you will, the bombardment of questions that I would have to endure if I were to parade around in that billboard tee.

Last weekend, Domestic Partner and I were walking through yet another mall on a food court lunch quest. We both saw her at the same time, a middle-aged Asian woman wearing a tee shirt that read "I love(heart) Europeans."

Shortly after that, we saw a younger Asian woman in a black tee shirt, which was encrusted with the proud rhinestone message of "Cheap and Chic."


As Asian Americans ourselves, we realize that we shouldn't be so quick to judge, but it's too easy for Domestic Partner and I to assume that these type of women are FOB (fresh of the boat) Asians, because really, why would any American wear these kind of message tee shirts?

My favorite message tee, to this day, was seen during a visit to Sea World, years ago, in San Diego. A blonde overweight woman was wearing a pretty pink tee shirt bearing a single word: 'pasta.'

Friday, October 12, 2007

Great Balls of Blue Fire!

Everyone has a fart story. One of these days, I will get off of my procrastinatin' butt and go around asking for people's fart stories so that I can get it published as a compilation (one of my "better" get-rich-quick schemes, I'm sorry to say).

I used to think that lighting your passed gas on fire was just a myth, one of those urban legends or something. Chris G. proved that it was true, in the boys' dressing room of the theme park gig we were working, in Japan.

He offered to demonstrate for us, which in itself was funny to the other male dancers, so we were already laughing. He may have thought our laughter meant that we weren't taking him seriously. He changed into his spandex swimsuit briefs, "because, you know, you can accidentally burn skin and/or hair while setting your flatulence a-flame," as Chris had previously learned, the hard way.

Chris grabbed a book of matches from our bathroom and sat himself down on the floor, trying to balance himself in an awkward sitting position with his legs in the air, and with his hands free to strike a match. Our dressing room had no windows, so with the door shut and the lights turned out, it was pitch black. We waited in the dark, anticipating the assault to both ears and nostrils.

Unexpectedly, blue flames flared up in the pitch black, near the floor. The flames were freakin' blue. We all lost it, completely, tears streaming from our eyes and stomachs cramping up from laughing too hard. So, this is what was meant by "LMAO ROTF" (I had to have that explained to me, this year).

If you ever need an honest-to-goodness gut-wrenching laugh, especially to help cure the blues, get a willing friend to light her or his flatulence ablaze--bathing suit, optional.

Everyone has a fart story. What's your fart story?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don't Throw Me Away

We are such a disposable society. There are even disposable cell phones, now. But I worry that we treat people as disposable, too, especially those closest to us.

Certainly, most of us know what it's like to feel dispensable at our jobs. We are too easily replaced, and there is always a new crop of younger people waiting in the wings, willing to take over our sometimes crappy jobs for us, for the same crappy pay--or less.

I have felt dispensable as a restaurant server, for far too many years. And in between restaurant jobs, I have felt not completely indispensable as a dancer. When working on cruise ships, it was easy to understand the point of view that we were rather dime-a-dozen, as live entertainment.

Break-ups and divorce seem to be the most difficult situations in which people are disposed of, thrown away. I have never been married, but being dumped from a relationship can sure feel like being tossed out as so much crumpled-up used tissue. That's when feeling disposable, replaceable, can hurt the most.

I think about my father divorcing my mother, and my brother divorcing his wife. Neither of the women had wanted the divorce. Both had wanted to stay in their respective marriages, to keep trying . . . It felt to me as if they had both been thrown away by the men in my family, especially when both my father and brother each married for a second time.

I am just as guilty as the next person, though, when it comes to disposing of former friendships from my life, justifying the feeling that too much negativity was not worth any further effort. I felt it was necessary to throw away the emotional damage.

Is the problem overpopulation? If there were fewer people on the planet, would we value the individuals around us more? It reminds me of how shocked I felt when I first heard that perhaps war was a necessary evil for population control.

I like my life, love it, actually, most of the time, but without gettin' all "It's a Wonderful Life" sappy (which I have never seen, but that's a crime for another post), I doubt that the world would be very different without me living in it. Everything that I've done, so far, could have been taken care of by another person, in my life time. Personal friendships, however, that's a category more difficult to be so cavalier about.

As long as I am occupying space on this planet, though, I feel obligated to make the effort to value the people around me, and to respect them enough to see them as not so disposable. I'm not saying that I always manage to do so, but I try to remind myself of that, now and then.

Besides, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Monday, October 8, 2007

Family Affair Hair

Is it me, or is Billy Ray Cyrus' new do looking more and more like that of his daughter's television character, Hannah Montana?

Maybe they both get their hair done by the same stylist. I guess anything was better than that Achy-breaky mullet.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Kathy's Hair, Part 2

Kathy had had her hair cut short in high school, partly because of me. Or maybe it was all because of me. It happened during the summer after my junior year in high school. I was seventeen, then, Kathy was sixteen.

I was visiting her house one afternoon, to celebrate the start of summer vacation. At the end of my visit, that day, we had had our first kiss in her garage. I had felt as if she cornered me.
She probably had just gotten tired of waiting for me to make the first move, ever since we had met at the beginning of the school year, nine months earlier. She had claimed, later, that she hadn't wanted the neighbor kids, across the street, to see us kissing.

I don't think I called her after that, I'm not sure.

What I do remember is going to a school's-out party, that weekend, and seeing Michelle there, with an eye-catching new haircut. Yeah, I definitely didn't call Kathy. I started calling Michelle, after that night's party.

Michelle was polite, and she allowed me to pursue her a bit, but it didn't last.

I hadn't seen Kathy all summer, until right before school started again. I was out walking the dog when she drove by. She stopped her car and I saw that she had gotten a very cute, pixie-short haircut. We were able to resume our friendship before the beginning of my senior year.

Six years after that summer, at the age of 23, when I had already survived the throes of coming out, Kathy and I were cuddling on my apartment couch. I was looking at her dark hair, which had been grown long, again, for a while, by then, when a question suddenly occurred to me.

"Hey. Did you cut your hair that summer because I had gone all gaga over Michelle when she cut hers?"

"Man!" Kathy exclaimed. "It took you long enough!"

Straight or gay, it doesn't matter--men are just inevitably dense around women, sometimes, I guess.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Kathy's Hair, Part 1

It's funny what the cutting off of hair can symbolize, especially for women.

BFF and soul mate, Kathy, had felt abandoned when I had gone back out on another cruise ship job, years ago, shortly after when I had just come home from a previous
gig. Her now-husband was attending graduate school, out of state, at that time.

Kathy was romanced briefly by Dude Man, that year, when both her now-husband and I were gone. Dude Man even trimmed her hair, turning her long tresses into a cute, playful bob. It was impressive work for a heterosexual man with no formal cosmetology training. I even met Dude Man, and he did not set my gaydar beeping off the slightest bit.

Shortly after being given a new do by Dude Man, however, Kathy moved out of state to be with her now-husband while he finished graduate school. In the winter, I received photos of her with an even shorter haircut. She had gotten a very boyish style, much like Demi Moore's in the movie "Ghost."

After that winter, when I saw Kathy in person, she explained that she had felt she had to cut her again, as a way of "cutting Dude Man off," and out of her life, in order to leave him behind for good.

Kathy's hair has not ever been that short, again, since that time, more than a dozen years ago.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

And . . . I'm Off!

It's been a "literary week," to borrow some phrasing from friend and novelist, Noel Alumit.

This past Sunday:
I helped out at the West Hollywood Book Fair, as a volunteer. I got to listen to Noel speak on two different panels.

I love books. I love being around where they are sold, the way some people love being in shoe stores. I cannot enter a bookstore I happen to be passing by, major chain or independent, and not find something that I just have to have, whether it be frivolous or classic, or something in between.

I bought Mickel Angelo Paris's novel, "The West Hollywood Story," mostly because he's half Asian/half caucasian, like me, and I'm narcissistic enough to fork out some cash for that reason alone.

Last night:
I attended the first class meeting for an Introduction to Fiction Writing workshop, taught by--yes!--Noel Alumit (I tend to stalk those that I admire). I was a-swirl with joy and expectation. The first meeting alone was everything I had hoped it would be. It's going to be a busy and great ten weeks, this course. Mr. Alumit must have given us a good first work out--I was starving after class.

Tomorrow night:
I'll attend a book signing and meet Alex Sanchez, one of my newest favorite authors.
His latest novel is titled, "The God Box," and deals with the identity conflict of homosexuality and a Christian upbringing. This is my book. Thank you, Mr. Sanchez.

BFF Kathy thinks that I'm going to try to seduce Alex Sanchez, when I meet him in person.

You don't know me.

Okay, so, she's the person who knows me best in this world. As long as I end up with an autographed copy of his new book in hand, that will be sufficient . . . for the time being.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Shocking Discovery

I accidentally peed in an electrical outlet, when I was seven, and bolts of electricity shot out of it (out of the outlet, that is).

Here's how it happened:

Mom was in the hospital with number four, the last of us siblings. As the oldest, it had become routine, by then, for me to spend the night with various babysitters whenever Mom was in the hospital and having a baby. Dad would keep working, during the day, and be with Mom in the evenings.

One night we had to stay at Mrs. Herschel's. I liked visiting the Herschel family. They had lived in Spain and had a boy, Georgie, who was about my brother's age. Georgie had different and interesting toys and books.

They also had a single bathroom that you would get locked into if you shut the door completely, all the way. It only took one time of getting locked in there for me to vow that I would never, ever use their bathroom again.

Of course, in the middle of the night, I needed to use the toilet. Too risky, though, to enter the inevitable trap that was their bathroom. And no way was I peeing with a bathroom door open. Even at seven, privacy was not optional. I decided to innocently pee in a dark corner of the bedroom that I and my younger siblings were sleeping in. I was sure no one would ever notice.

I crawled back into bed, relieved, and relieved that the dilemma had been so easily solved.

I was rudely jolted out of bed by a terrifying noise. It was like the sound of an angry, syncopated car horn, but ominously metallic, and yet kind of bouncey-rubbery at the same time. Bolts of bright orange-yellow electricity were shooting out of the wall and over my two year old sister sleeping on a floor mattress. I panicked at the thought that she might catch on fire.

"Mrs. Herschel! Mrs. Herschel! The house is catching on fire!" I ran, screaming to her bedroom, to wake her up.

Another bolt of electricity shot out in front of her as she tried to enter the bedroom. After a few minutes, the outlet fizzled and sputtered before becoming completely silent.

When I got back to Mrs. Herschel's house after school, that day, she told me that "the men" had come to check the outlet and that they had fixed it. There was a black, smokey burn staining the corner of the wooden cabinet closest to the outlet.

"They said that something wet had gotten there," she informed me.

"Well, how did that happen?" I asked, trying to put the most guilt-free tone in my voice.

I have known, ever since then, to never get anything wet near anything electrical.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Family that Pees Together

I had a play date scheduled with BFF Kathy and her two kids last weekend. Her 5-year-old daughter's soccer game got rained out, so we had unexpected extra time together.

"What should we do?" Kathy asked. We wanted to do something fun, indoors.

"The La Habra Depot Children's Museum?" I suggested.

"Or maybe the Discovery Science Center?" Kathy offered.

Her daughter got to pick. Her first choice: to visit the bathroom with the two toilets in the family lounge, the one in the mall's food court near my home.

Kathy laughed with delight. She thought it was an odd choice, but what the heck, it was free.

Kathy's husband braved the rainy, crowded freeways to bring their family of four to West Covina. We enjoyed a good, healthy lunch of chicken, vegetables, and rice in the food court of our local Shopping Town Plaza.

We got lucky! The family lounge restroom was empty as we entered, on that busy, rainy Saturday afternoon. Kathy and her daughter went in first, to use the restroom with two toilets, side by side, one big one for the parents, and one little one for the kids. The three of us men made ourselves comfortable in the lounge area.

The lounge is set up like a nice, comfortable waiting room, with counters on one side for diaper changing, and a microwave for heating up bottles of milk or packed lunches. There are magazines to read, cartoons playing on a T.V. screen, and a play center in the middle of the area rug, one of those sturdy wooden set ups with several colorful and movable pieces. It's supposed to represent a small school bus, so you can pretend to drive, too.

Kathy's husband and almost-3-year-old son went in next. I didn't need a turn.

We spent the better part of an hour in the family lounge, relaxing quietly. Several other families came in after us, mostly young married couples with babies who needed their diapers changed. It became busy, as we had expected. When the two-toilet restroom was occupied by other families, we helpfully pointed out to others waiting that there were regular restrooms on the other side of the food court, across the way. And, no, the regular restrooms are not as special or as nice as the family lounge, so we understood people's reluctance to leave.

None of us seemed anxious to leave. Our palates still needed some sweet, however, so we were finally lured out by the promise of hot fudge sundaes at the food court's McDonald's.

Sometimes, it's the simple things in life that satisfy the most.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

21st Century Awesome!

I saw something new, today, while waiting to cross the street in the Hollywood neighborhood where I work.

At first I thought it was another skateboarder cruising down the Sunset Blvd. sidewalk, until he quickly got closer. The young guy's movement and stance were skateboard-like, but his feet looked like they were on roller skates. In motion, he was perfectly balanced on two separate platforms, small tile-like squares with wheels attached underneath. Fortunately, he stopped at the same intersection.

"They're freeline skates," he answered when I inquired.

When the light turned green, he dropped one freeline skate to step on with one foot, pushed off with the other foot, and then dropped the second skate to meet his launching foot, in a smooth, well-practiced motion, and glided away.

The sight of this new toy in action delighted the kid in me, and at the same time, it also seemed to emphasize how far past prime my age is.

I can't even balance myself in the Heely skates that have been sitting in the back of my closet since I bought them.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Beyond Ocean Dome

A good friend recently asked me what my favorite performing gig had been. That would have to be my time spent at Ocean Dome, in southern Japan.

Ocean Dome was a bizarre place. It was an indoor pool park that was enclosed in a dome covered stadium. On sunny days the dome would be remotely activated to split in the middle and slide apart, opening up right above the center of the park--a man made stretch of artificial beach and ocean, complete with waves. The waves would be cranked up for the surfers' exhibition, one of the park's daily shows. Perhaps the most bizarre thing about Ocean Dome was that it was only about a half mile away from the real beach.

As a high school freshman, I had practically predicted that I would work in a domed facility as an adult. I still have a Language Arts composition of how, in the doomed and imagined year of 2001, pollution would have grown so dense and toxic, it would have become necessary to move all animal species into protective reserves. In my self appointed future, I was working as a veterinarian at one of these sanctuaries, the Last Kingdom, a colossal, glass, domed structure.

When I first saw Ocean Dome in person, however, it seemed to be more along the doomed lines of "A Wrinkle in Time" than my zoological fantasy--it was easy to imagine Ocean Dome as completely empty, and serving as the housing facility for IT, the severed brain and evil nemesis of that story (is it frightening to anyone else that most work places refer to their tech support staff by the two initials, I.T.?).

My limitations in math and science soon prevented me from pursuing an education in biology, as well as any future jobs in caring for animals. Still, it was gratifying to go see "The Simpsons Movie," this past summer, and see a bit of my adolescent dream realized on the big screen when the town of Springfield was quarantined underneath a giNORMOUS hermetically sealed see-through dome.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Soggy Night Dreams

WARNING: The following entry may be TMI

There are fewer things that confirm a young boy's sexual identity and feelings than the dream images that accompany his first nocturnal emission, in my own experience, at least.

Sha Na Na.

The cast of Sha Na Na--that all male group that performed 1950's rock and roll hits and short sketches in a half hour family variety show in the late 70's--they were the guys in my first wet dream. Especially prominent in the dream were Johnny, the hot Latino, and Bowzer.

Bowzer? Yes, Bowzer, the one known for flexing a bicep in his trademark macho pose, mouth wide open, and the one that sang the opening bass vocals of Sha Na Na's closing theme song, "Goodnight Sweetheart."

"Do-do-doo, do-do-doo, do-do-doo, do-DOH"

Was is it just my naive 12-year-old perspective, or was there something homoerotic about this family friendly bunch of guys? First of all, there were those glittering gold blazers, often worn without shirts by Johnny and Denny (who was the one Black guy in the group). Mix those among the denim vests, the sleeveless muscle shirts, a black leather jacket or two, and you basically had a watered down version of the Village People.

There were two women in the cast, Jane Dulo, the elderly, curlers-in-hair matron who would hang out of her apartment window to deliver lines, and Pamela Myers, the perky blonde who had a giant parrot on her poodle-skirt.

In an interview, Pamela Myers mentioned an episode involving a kissing contest or a kissing booth, I can't remember exactly what. What I do remember is Miss Myers saying that Johnny had been the best kisser, shirtless-hottie Johnny, the one who had sang "Those Magic Changes" when Sha Na Na was featured in the movie "Grease."

It's been almost three whole decades since that first dream in the early stages of puberty. And here's a deep, dark, long-kept secret: Bowzer has always seemed to bear too close of a resemblance to my own father.

Ewww! That's beyond TMI, even for myself!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Future Security

Domestic Partner is going out of town for two weeks. His job, which he loathes, drives him crazy. So, for sanity's sake, he actually uses up weeks' worth of vacation time that he has accumulated, on a regular basis.

I am fine without any travelling, right now. I've done enough of that with previous employment. Besides, I have to pay off student loans! I am very much okay with staying at home while Domestic Partner travels alone or with friends.

Does this mean wild nights of unbridled infidelity for me? No . . . (not usually, anyway) What it does mean is peaceful nights of staying in so that the two canine kiddies don't feel neglected. It also means that I get to indulge in unbridled pig-sty messiness. I can eat pizza for dinner in front of the TV instead of our self-enforced soy and veggie meals! I can drink out of the milk and juice cartons without him catching me! Cyclone Pete can hit every room in the house with unlimited untidiness--for two whole weeks!

But it also means that my usual number of prayer requests for safe scooter rides is amped up a couple dozen notches, in a fit of daily paranoia.
One of my biggest fears is that something will happen to me while Domestic Partner is gone, and no one will even think to check on two little black pugs at home, slowly dying of hunger and thirst until it is too late.

Thank you, yes, I am a self-admitted drama queen, at times. But if these are my real fears over domestic pets, what must parents put themselves through in worrying over their human children?

I can alert the family across the street:
"I'm going to hang a red bandanna from the front door knob each night when I come home from work. If you don't see that red banner a-blowin' in the breeze, here is my cell phone number and several emergency contact numbers."

We already have electronic security systems for homes (Domestic Partner and I do not), the ones where people have to punch in a security code each time they leave and enter the house.
Hopefully, when I am much older, I'll be able to have a similar system installed into the home just to ensure my regular well being, a system that would require me to punch in a security code every day. If I don't, or even if I just forget to do so, a security center would be alerted to call and check on me. If I don't answer, then the center would proceed to call my emergency contact numbers to alert friends or relatives to stop by the house and check on me.

This type of system would be especially handy for the elderly and/or for those who live alone. If it's costly to have installed, it would still be worth the peace of mind it would afford me, especially if I have any pets in my old age.

"Someone to waaatch over me . . . " and my surrogate children.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bend Over!

If I ever ask you to go to the gym with me, don't. I will embarrass you, especially among the free weights.

I like to stretch, between each and every set of reps. And I don't stretch "like a guy," either, that is, bent over double with a rounded back, hands dangling just past the knees. No, I stretch like a big ol' girly ballet dancer. Well, maybe not to that extreme, but I do employ actual stretches learned in dance training.

Luckily, no one has ever kicked my ass in all the years and in all of the gyms that I've done my girly stretching. I used to worry about it, at first, but not so much anymore. But still, to this day, whenever I bend over to touch my toes, or squat in a wide second stretch, I don't want to look as if I'm "presenting," so I'll try to stretch in front of any out-of-the-way wall or any broken equipment awaiting repairs. I generally try to avoid bending over in front of mirrors to stretch.

At first, I started stretching between sets as a way to calm my heart rate and my breathing. It was also a good way to avoid wasting time, instead of just sitting there like a big lunkhead taking up space and hogging equipment, the way so many gym dorks do. Stretching is also a good way to maintain my lower back, though, especially since a lot of weight lifting involves the lower back muscles, which are easily strained.

When I do go to the designated stretching area of a gym, I like to do my pseudo-yoga. I like the pose where you lie on your back and throw your feet over your head, your body folded over in half. I'm especially conscious of people looking at me when I'm in this position, my butt to the wind. I can't help wondering if people ever wonder if I'm flexible enough to gratify myself ("Look, Ma, no hands!") in this position.

If I ever do get my ass kicked, at least I'll be warmed up enough to kick high and hard, in self defense.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Last Time I Kissed a Girl

Most people remember their first kiss. I had mine at 15, at church camp, on a breezy summer night.

"Let's go climb the water tower across the road, and look at the stars," Carey had suggested.

Clueless me had thought that we were actually going to gaze at stars. In what little light that was available on top of the water tower, I remember Carey looking at me, in the most non-threatening way, her braces glinting in her gentle smile. Nothing had been verbally communicated, and yet, the clue had become suddenly obvious in my mind. I knew what she wanted to me to do. She had brought the two of us to the proper setting--it had been up to me to make the first move.

Kissing a girl was not as gross as I had thought it might be, even with her tongue in my mouth. I had even tented in my Op corduroy shorts, although I suppose that at 15, the slightest bit of any fleshly contact would've brought that about.
I remember wondering if we should worry about getting our braces permanently locked together.

Carey had given me my first kiss. Jill had given me my last.

"In the eighties . . . ", while I was working at Disneyland, and struggling to find a compromise between my sexuality and Christianity, I had had my last kiss with a girl.
Jill worked in the merchandise department, in the stores of Fantasyland. She used to watch me working, dressed up as Tummi Gummi Bear and interacting with children and parents visiting the park. She had asked around backstage to find out who was inside the bear costume.
Having a pretty girl be interested in me had hardly ever been that easy or automatic, so I jumped at opportunity, and went with the flow.

We barely dated, but we did kiss, on the back of my Vespa scooter, in the employee parking lot of Disneyland, in sight of one of the Disneyland security guards.

Kissing Jill was nice, but I still liked kissing boys better. And more than kissing Jill, I enjoyed the image of myself kissing an attractive girl on the back of my Vespa. I enjoyed the rare affirmation of masculinity that this image gave me, when my usual self perspective involved perpetual fretting over my lack of a masculine persona.
Of course--just like a guy--I was an insensitive 21 year old jerk, and I ended it with Jill without telling her that I was ending it.

I ran into her a decade later, at the (then) Arrowhead Pond, at a Mighty Ducks game. She was working with merchandise there, and I was working as one of the cheerleader types. She was not very friendly to me, even ten years later. I did not blame her.

After telling my coworkers about this pathetic little tragedy, one of them had pointed out her husband to me. Jill's husband looked like a taller version of me.
I wished I hadn't seen him.

The last time I kissed a girl, Jill-from-merchandise, was in 1987, twenty years ago. Her version of this sad little memory may perhaps differ.
There is no way I can take any of it back. And maybe there are some things in life that you may never get another chance to apologize for.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Just Like Van Dyke

The following was submitted as part of my university application essays, in 2004, for an undergraduate program:

As a kid, I wanted to be like Dick Van Dyke when I grew up. Like most children in the early 1970's I only knew Dick Van Dyke from the family films “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” I wanted to dance and sing the way Dick Van Dyke did in those two movies. I wanted to be silly and happy while performing–and make other people happy–just like Dick Van Dyke.

“Oh, no!" my parents protested, "You can’t want to be like Dick Van Dyke! He’s an alcoholic!”

I didn’t know that. I was only eight at the time. And I didn’t care. My focus was on Dick’s singing and dancing, a point my parents seemed to miss. I wanted to be a Mouseketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club. They wanted me to join MGM, Mentally Gifted Minors. I wanted to attend a performing arts school like the teens on the TV series “Fame.” My parents wanted me to get a “real education.” Maybe there was a reason Dick Van Dyke was an alcoholic.

I attended classes at UCLA, for a year, for my parents, before dropping out to become a dancer. It was difficult, but I did not end up regretting the decision. And I did not become an alcoholic.

I loved being a dancer. I was certainly not the most talented dancer auditioning. But I was a working dancer, mostly on cruise ships and in theme parks. I was happy to make it even to that level.

Dancing is the best feeling in the world for me, whether nailing an audition or perfecting a routine for an audience. It is a natural high that is better than caffeine, better than chocolate, even better than sex (sometimes). It is an endorphin rush that is both a feeling of accomplishment and of unadulterated joy. It is a feeling of defying gravity, even if just for brief moments.

But gravity takes its toll. Dance careers are short lived. The last couple of dance jobs have shown me that my stamina is not what it used to be. I have reached the dreaded identity of “aging dancer.” Lately, my desire to dance has found several outlets through choreography work, including in church musicals, local beauty pageants, and even in group exercise classes at health clubs.

I will always want to dance. Fortunately, the ongoing Palm Springs Follies has a minimum age requirement of fifty-five years old. I better keep practicing!