Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pack-rat No More

Domestic Partner loves to watch the television shows about hoarders, people who live in houses crowded with possessions towering to the ceiling. It's humorous to me how fascinated he is by this topic since he is the exact opposite of a hoarder. He doesn't even like leftovers to stay in the refrigerator for more than a day or two.

I am kind of a hoarder. I believe leftovers are still okay to eat a week later, as long as nothing smells bad when you lift the Tupperware lid. I watch the hoarding shows, sometimes, but not as intently as DP does.

Hello, my name is Peter and I am a former pack-rat.

I used to save everything while I was growing up. I have several Memory Boxes that I started while still in high school. I saved everything because I wanted to remember everything. For example, I saved the empty plastic bottle that contained the blue dental rinse from my orthodontist. At 13-years-old, I wanted to remember the time and process of getting braces and wearing head gear.

For whatever reason.

So, living with Domestic Partner has been good for me. I have learned to, every so often, get rid of clothing that I never wear (or no longer fits). My dresser drawers no longer contain old socks and underwear as "emergency back-ups." I got rid of my bike shorts from the 80's and 90's, despite the off chance that I might some day need them for dance class.

I am pretty good about cleaning up the family room table that serves as my desk and work space, periodically getting rid of receipts and old bank statements.

Although my pack-rat-itis has diminished, I still have to make an effort to keep it in check. Last month, I finally donated a pair of powder-blue Ugg boots to Goodwill, a pair that I had bought five years ago because they were on clearance. I never wore them, not even once. Every winter, the old classic-tan pair of knock-offs (Emu brand) still feels more comfortable.

Erin was my First Girlfriend in junior high, about the same time we both had braces. We remained close friends after high school. Erin is the kind of Good Friend who will keep you company while you take seven hours to clean up your bedroom. I'll never forget the lesson she taught me years ago, in the difficult decision process of To Hoard or Not to Hoard.

"Just go through your stuff and consider one item at a time," she advised me. "If the item makes you happy, keep it!"

I no longer have the empty plastic bottle of dental rinse.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Butch Queens and Motorcycle Dykes

She looks like a petite K.D. Lang disciple, from the subtle pompadour of her D.A. hairstyle to her sturdy biker boots. Her classic black leather motorcycle jacket tops her practical and faded jeans, in the recognizable, retro look. Two platinum blond streaks arc over her boyish cut, like racing stripes.

She could be a short, cute boy with a skinny build. So, how do I know she's a woman? It's the helmet she clutches, as she wanders among the tall shelves of Borders bookstore: her motorcycle helmet is bright pink, metallic, and glittery.

Still, this is Hollywood, and even a young man would proudly protect his skull with such flamboyant headgear in this town. On the rare occasions when I venture away from my office, I get a front row seat to the way people in Los Angeles create and express their gender.

I'll never forget my Bestest Gurlfren' Eddie commenting (in the 80's) about all the "butch queens who ride bikes," such as the tall, blond dancer at the Orange Coast Repertory Ballet Company. He rode his classic and expensive-looking motorcycle with the same masculine grace and balance that he displayed while rehearsing his leading man roles in the studio.

And there was Evan, one of the parade dancers at Disneyland who always got good parts because he was so tall and talented. He also rode a motorcycle, which seemed to both clash with and complement the effeminate personality we came to know and love backstage.

And then there was me, with my small, used Vespa scooter. Eddie was forever rescuing me when my scooter broke down, coming to save the day with his construction worker father's huge pickup truck ("I feel so butch!" Eddie exclaimed when he got behind the wheel, sitting five feet above the pavement).

As a kid who never felt butch or like a "typical boy" while growing up - and who also felt inferior about it - I thought that riding a Vespa scooter would help me create a more masculine image, or at least be a good start. Maybe that's why Evan and the Orange Coast ballet dancer also rode motorcycles, to overcompensate, even, for their graceful dancing skills.

And more than twenty years later, it seems to be a deliberate and wonderful construction of masculinity for the motorcycle rider with the pink, glittery helmet that I get to see in Hollywood.

Like Disneyland, Hollywood often has its own street parade of costume get-ups and costumed characters. I work on Sunset Boulevard, a few minutes' walk away from the Mann's Chinese movie theater. Sometimes the superheroes and cartoon characters busking in front of the theater take a coffee break in the Borders book store next to my office building.

Did you know that Spiderman is really African American?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Identity on the Catwalk, Part 2

One of my problems with being a performer/actor-type in Los Angeles is that I am easily starstruck. It's difficult for me, sometimes, to let well known actors just be regular people if I get the chance to meet them.

Mr. T was one of the male models in the fashion show fund raiser for Nisei Week. He is a prominent actor and director, and a standout celebrity in the Asian American acting community. A highlight of his impressive career was winning the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, Visas and Virtues, in which he starred, directed, and co-wrote.

He is an obvious role model for Asian American men, as much for his good looks and physique as for his accomplished career.

I had met Mr. T before, at other fund raisers and theater events, but only briefly. It had been years since I had last seen him, and I doubted that he would remember me. I was happy that we would have the chance to work more directly together, even if for only one afternoon.

Theater friends had told me that Mr. T is "a nice guy" but not very sociable. Even having been forewarned, I was still disappointed when he wasn't very responsive to my attempts at small talk with him. During a lunch break with the other models, Mr. T seemed content to stay out of conversation and let his gaze wander elsewhere.

I was sorry that the chance to be buddy-buddy with Mr. T did not organically occur.

Mr. T reminded me of an alter ego I had invented as a kind of defense mechanism exercise: "Tad Tokunaga." Where in real life I am sometimes too emotional for my own good, the fictional Tad is stoic and aloof. In my mind, Tad is full-blooded Japanese (I am only half) and very Asian looking. He is the silent type, non-responsive in general, and rocker-thin. And he smokes.

Tad Tokunaga is everything I'm not, and it helps, even if only a little bit, to focus on who he is when my feelings get hurt and I want to not care about it.

It was strange to recognize that Mr. T was a good true-to-life example of who I imagine Tad Tokunaga to be. I don't know Mr. T's stage and film roles well, but after last month's fashion show, I'd guess that he saves most of his emotional expression for his acting career, and maybe for those he is closest to.

Maybe he is just a very private person.

Even though I was disappointed not to have the chance to be chummy with him, I still admire him. I still hold Mr. T up as a role model, especially as we both progress through middle age (he is still a sexy and attractive man at the end of five decades). If I am too emotional, I can use the inspiration he provides to balance my own real life persona.