Thursday, January 31, 2008

Confessions of a (former) Chubby Chaser

Dan Conner was hot. No, not hot, but hawt. Before "Roseanne" reached its final season on television, and before it was put to pasture in re-runs, I realized that I was attracted to John Goodman, the actor who played the husband and father in the series.

It was another phase, strange in its unexpectedness, a phase where I was attracted to large, overweight men, especially if they were also tall. Like most things in my life, I didn't give it too much thought at the time.

I was busy working three part time jobs: as a cheesy dancer in the cheesy Snoopy show at Knott's Berry Farm; as a server at Spoon's Bar & Grill; and as a "dancercise" instructor at Racquetball World health club. And I still wasn't able to dig my way out of an overwhelming mountain of debt. George Michael's song "Hand to Mouth" kept running through my head, month to month, paycheck to paycheck.

I wasn't able to get hired as a performer anywhere else that year. It was a depressing year.

The following year I got hired to perform in a theme park in Japan. The job provided housing, transportation, and great pay. The year-long contract started in the springtime, and the living was easy. I was able to pay off large percentages of debt each month.

Once the stress of the previous year had been removed, my hindsight was twenty-twenty, once again. It became clear that I had been attracted to large men when I was stressed out about my financial situation.

Why was that? Did large men represent security to me, whether financial or physical? Did I see them as being able to protect me from my precarious state and possible bankruptcy? Or did I merely see them as temporary sanctuary to escape to and be completely surrounded by, away from financial woes, however briefly?

Domestic Partner is not a large man, but he is my stability in life, in many aspects.
I haven't felt drawn to large men as much, since that desperate year of debt. But neither do I look at large men, nowadays, as being completely unattractive.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Early, Cloudy Memories

It has been atypically rainy and cloudy for the past week, here in L.A.-la land.
Overcast days always take me back to one of my first memories, of standing up in the crib and looking through the bedroom window. Our tiny one-bedroom house was on a corner and I still remember the grey sky over the grey asphalt of the intersection.
The house that was diagonally across from ours, catty-corner, seemed a great distance away, to my toddler perspective.

Is that an actual memory? Or is it something my mind created and then fastened on to, in the almost-forty years since? When I drive through that old neighborhood, now, the streets and our old house all seem to have shrunk to much smaller proportions.

I take such early memories for granted. I turned three the year that my brother was born. I can still picture and describe the layout of each room in that teensy, first family house. I remember the wooden potty-training chair with the removable plastic bowl, underneath (I got Tootsie Rolls as a reward if I had been a good boy on the potty). I remember clinging to the dishtowel hanging from the refrigerator door handle, and hiding my face in it when the ominous sounds of thunder frightened me.

I remember watching "The Addams Family" and "Hobo Kelly" on television.

So, I am a little surprised when people, such as Domestic Partner, say that they don't remember much about their lives before the age of five. Perhaps any lack of memory is simply suppression--a defense mechanism--a built-in psychological protection for those who had to survive through any kind of emotional or physical trauma at an extremely tender age.

For as non-traumatic as my childhood has basically been, I also wonder if, as children, we don't view things as being so horrible at the time that they happen, simply because we take them for granted. We don't know much about the world beyond our own tiny environments, so we have no basis of comparison. We just accept things as they happen.

That was my experience, anyway. I did not question much as a child, and I simply accepted things as they were, in their seemingly random and haphazard ways.

There are many details from childhood that I do not remember, but have written down. Before puberty, I started keeping regular journals, thanks to the wonderful influence of "Harriet the Spy," and "Henry Reed, Inc."

I merely recorded what had happened during any given day. The bad stuff didn't happen too often, or too severely. But when it did, it got documented. I didn't think too much about it at the time. As a kid, I didn't try to analyze the events, I just felt sad about them.

As an adult, it has been mildly jolting to read over a couple of family spats that I must have forgotten about. Normally, I would be among the first to claim that I have no suppressed memories. But reading over some of the recorded events has been slightly disheartening, enough to put a couple of good nicks in my carefully crafted plastic bubble.

Did some of that stuff really happen? It must have, if I wrote it down. My journals were for writing down the truth, not exaggerating it, and not for making up stuff.

And what about forgiveness? Must we choose to learn it? Do we learn to choose it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's That Smell?

Kelly and Gina are sisters. They are two beautiful, young, blonde women that I used to work with at Disney. They told me a story about a little boy, in their Orange County neighborhood, who smelled.

"His parents couldn't figure out why he stank so bad," Gina told me. "They bathed him several times and still, there was a horrible smell coming from him."

"They checked everything," Kelly added. "They checked his hair and his feet. They kept checking his socks and shoes, his underwear--everything!"

The bewildered parents finally took their son to a pediatrician. After a little searching, the doctor located the problem.

It turned out that the boy had stuck two raisins up his nose, one in each nostril. They had been in there for a good two weeks or more, before the doctor had discovered them.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Am Woman, Hear Me Not

I'm the girl.

If gender roles are defined partially by specific social behaviors, and not just by whether you have a vagina (and/)or a penis, then, in my relationship with Domestic Partner, I am the woman. This has been confirmed by my female coworkers.

Me, complaining to coworkers: "When I tell him that I wish he were more physically affectionate, he does not validate that as an actual need, versus his need for me to do more cleaning around the house. It's like my need to be touched by him is not even a real issue."

Female and Honorary Female Coworkers: "Omigod, you're so the girl!"

Understand, please, that I'm not even talking about the physical roles of who's-catcher-and-who's-pitcher (email me, if you really want to know--although you may be disappointed by the answer). I mean emotionally.

"What's wrong?" Domestic Partner will ask, when I am being uncharacteristically silent.

"Nothing," I will answer before adding, "I'm just tired."

This was the stock answer I gave last week, when he was less than supportive in his response to my expressed desire to buy the new smart fortwo micro car.

"It's not practical!" he protested (duh!). "It seats only two people and it's too small. It doesn't seem safe if you get into an accident. You should wait until you've finished paying off your scooter before you start making car payments."

Inside, I was thinking all of the things that I wanted to yell back at him:

I don't want to be practical! I don't care about the safety risk--any car is going to be safer than my scooter! I'm really excited about trying to buy this car. Why can't you just be supportive?

Instead, I said, "Never mind, forget I brought it up."

I remained silent for the rest of the evening, in the car and during dinner at the restaurant.

Normally, I am very chatty with Domestic Partner, as I am with everyone. I talk about feelings, how things make me feel, rather than sports, or politics, or anything that has to do with mundane reality. I write my feelings down in journals. I discuss emotional problems with friends, family, and coworkers. I am someone who is comfortable hugging people on a regular basis. Domestic Partner is not, not even with me.

Does that make me the woman and him the man? I can live with that. I'll also live longer than him.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Toot ! Toot!

Yes, I am blowing my own horn, or on a much smaller level, one of those squeaky party favor toys that unroll when blown into before rolling back up, like a frog's tongue.

"And my fine instrument deserves to be blown!"
~ Varla Jean Merman

Friend and Teacher, Noël Alumit, has invited me to be part of the next Promising Series reading, at A Different Light Bookstore. I am both excited and humbled. Participants in previous readings have mostly been well-established writers/artists, such as Prince Gomolvilas.

Take a gander:

The First Promising Series Reading of the Year Will Take Place

on February 13 at A Different Light Bookstore

( Los Angeles ) The Promising Series is the only reading series in Los Angeles that exclusively features Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender writers. A goal for the series is to celebrate established writers and introduce the next generation of writers that will explore the GLBT experience. The next reading will be held on Wednesday, February 13th 2008 at 7:30pm.

“I’m glad that we’re kicking off another year of Promising,” said series coordinator Noël Alumit. “It’s another year of featuring fierce and exciting work.”

The February 13th reading will feature:

Frederick Smith is originally from Detroit , Michigan . He is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and Loyola University Chicago. A finalist for the 2004 PEN Center Emerging Voices Fellowship, and a member of the 2004 VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation at the University of San Francisco ) novel seminar, Fred is an advocate for social justice and equality issues. He lives in Los Angeles . His first novel, Down for Whatever, was published in 2005. His second novel Right Side of the Wrong Bed was recently published. Readers can contact him at

Hilary Goldberg began her professional filmmaking career in 1997 while attending film school. Working until its release in 2002, she co-directed and co-edited the feature documentary Render: Spanning time with Ani DiFranco alongside the folksinger. Hilary toured the country as a Spoken Word Artist performing at venues ranging from small coffeehouses to large festivals like Seattle ’s Bumpershoot. She released a collection of poetry Giraffe Medicine in 2003. Her latest film, “in the Spotlight” features writers Michelle Tea, Clint Catalyst, and Guinevere Turner in a film noir tale about a literary hoax.

Peter Varvel leads a contented life, despite his former involvement in ex-gay ministry. He postponed Real Life for two decades by dancing for Disneyland and cruise lines before eventually earning his Bachelor's at USC, in Gender Studies. He hopes to emulate the empathetic style of Young Adult novels.

Margaux Permutt is a songwriter, poet, and activist. Her poetry connects the personal to the political to the metaphysical. She draws inspiration from nature, relationships, and current issues. She hopes that through her words she may help others navigate parts of themselves and their world they may not be familiar or comfortable with.

Series Curator Noël Alumit wrote the award-winning novel Letters to Montgomery Clift. His most recent novel Talking to the Moon went on to become a Los Angeles Times Bestseller. His solo shows The Rice Room: Scenes from a Bar and Master of the (Miss) Universe played at venues on both coasts. .

The Promising Series will take place on Wednesday, February 13th at 7:30pm. A Different Light Bookstore, 8853 Santa Monica Blvd , Los Angeles , CA 90069 , (310) 854-6601.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Noid

I hate people.

Well, only sometimes. And not as often as I used to, when I was still waiting tables.

Still . . .

I went into our staff's kitchen, at work, to grab my fifty-cent container of generic yogurt out of the refrigerator. There was a white, Styrofoam take-out container, as there usually is, on the middle shelf. Most people just scrawl their name on the surface of the compressed, spongy micro-dots. This container had attached to it a hot-pink post-it note with a name and the following words: "Please do not eat--I spit on it."

The message, which had a heart doodled around the name, was followed by a doodled happy face with a tongue sticking playfully out of the doodled mouth.

Highly annoying, as BFF Kathy says.

"So did I," I added to the bottom of the note.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mmm, Cold Spaghetti

"Did you heat it up?"

This is a question that has been asked of me for about the last quarter century. I love eating food cold. I don't mean food that's supposed to be eaten cold, such as salad or chocolate pudding or gazpacho soup. I enjoy eating cooked food cold. I even used to buy extra Big Macs so that I could enjoy them chilled, later (this was in the days when I still had a metabolism).

Delivery pizza is always delicious cold, the next morning.

I know that I am the odd man out. It bothers Domestic Partner on a weekly basis when I am eating leftovers from Tupperware containers, right out of the refrigerator. Before I moved into Domestic Bliss, my roommates used to think I was strange. "How can you eat food cold?" they used to ask me.
In high school, when I would come home late from a rehearsal, I could count on finding a plate of dinner right next to the microwave, lovingly wrapped in plastic wrap. "Did you heat it up?" my mother would ask on the nights she came downstairs to check in with me. "Yes," I would lie.

"Yes," I lie to Domestic Partner's face when he asks the same question, even though he knows I'm lying, and despite the fact that he's close enough to the kitchen that he would've heard the four "it's done" dings of the microwave, had I actually used it.

Hunger makes the best seasoning. Other than that, it's difficult to describe why and how much I truly enjoyed leftover spaghetti (veggie-crumbles 'meat' sauce) for dinner tonight, right out of the flat, square Glad brand container. Even fried food tastes good cold. Two nights ago, for dinner, Domestic Partner had grilled some ahi tuna and steamed some jasmine rice. He didn't bother preparing any vegetables since we had brought a ton of tempura from a family meal that my mom had made this past weekend.

"Did you heat it up?" Domestic Partner asked. I nodded, all the while chewing and never taking my eyes off of the television screen.

I don't know why he even bothers to ask, anymore.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dashed--and undashed--Dreams

BFF Kathy gave me the "Little Miss Sunshine" DVD last year. She really wanted me to see this film. Domestic Partner is not a movie person, and I have gotten very lazy about going to see movies on my own, so I miss almost everything.

("I don't know much cuz I don't get out much." ~Bette Midler, Mud Will Be Flung Tonight!)

Of course, I loved the film. I thought it was very funny. And of course, I loved the stripper-ography the young girl had learned from her late grandfather.

I was also impressed with Paul Dano's performance as the sullen teen, Dwayne. The character of Dwayne had taken a rebellious vow of silence that would be maintained until he was allowed to get his pilot's license.

In a pivotal scene that has etched itself onto my bleeding heart, the character discovers that he is color blind, which makes him ineligible for flight training. His breakdown is immediate and stormy. I cry while watching this scene, while watching this young man wail and curse the universe at large for taking away, in a matter of seconds, the most important thing to him in the world.

It is cruel at any age to have a dream taken away, but it seems especially poignant when it happens to a young adult who places all bets on a single goal. Author Alex Sanchez talks about his "inner teenager" in interviews, and mine seems directly affected by Dwayne's dashed dream.

What if I had never managed to dance and perform? What if I had succumbed to parental pressure and merely attended college, only to start working 9-to-5 in my early twenties? Since I had started training rather late in life, it had been almost too late for me to make it as a dancer, even to the modest levels that I eventually attained, and that is why I cry.

These type of what-if questions, however, are the better kind. I'm grateful that I didn't reach this point in life asking myself such questions as "What if I had tried being a dancer back then? What if I had just went for it?"

I am grateful that I have so few regrets, so far, in life. It is one of the reasons I continue dancing, even if just in my own kitchen, in order to express the joy that is available in life.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Uncle Milton's Ant Farm!

Sometimes I miss having an ant farm. You know the kind I mean, the now-classic one with a green plastic frame and white sand for the ants to tunnel through.

I can understand why some folks would find it grotesque, deliberately keeping large numbers of insects in your house, no matter how hermetically sealed/contained they may be. But I was fascinated as a kid. I loved having my own little world that I could hold in my hands!

The ant farm was one of those instant gratification toys: live ants usually went to work, immediately, digging holes and tunnels, as soon as they were dropped into the farm. I thought it was much more satisfying than Sea Monkeys, which were a gyp because they were not humanoid creatures with bright smiling faces, and the female sea monkeys did not have tufts of blonde hair and little hair ribbons, as they were falsely advertised in the comic books. Yes, I'm still bitter about that pig-in-a-poke!

Uncle Milton's Ant Farm was true to his advertising word (despite the fact that the packaging usually displays a smiling farmer ant dressed in overalls and a straw hat). If you had one, you'll remember that you had the choice of either capturing your own ants in your yard, or you could receive a small, plastic vial of red ants in the mail.

I know that they are just "bugs" to most people, but I always felt kind of sorry for the ants that I had mail ordered. I imagined them being plucked from their familiar home and then being transported for days in a tiny, plastic prison, pitch-black dark for most of the journey and with little to no food.

Less than a decade ago, I had tried one of the new, "space-age" ant farms. Instead of white sand, it was filled with a blue-tinted clear gel. The gel was supposed to be infused with nutrients and supply ants with both food and water. The ants that I put in the gel-filled frame all died within less than a month.

Stupid futuristic ant farm!

Ants are a good lesson in perseverance. I had spilled my ant farm in the bedroom, once, when I was about twelve. I scooped up as much white sand as I could, and most of the ants, into an empty glass jar. I was going to eventually transfer them back into the ant farm, but the ants wasted no time in digging out a new home.

This image has stayed in my mind for what it means to "get right back on that horse when you fall off."