Saturday, January 21, 2012
The bank is my stage.
Well, it is outdoors anyway, right out in front.
What do some grownups do for fun? We randomly start dancing to recorded music right out in public, in front of God and everyone, in a seemingly spontaneous manner.
I have always wanted to be part of a flash mob, and I will be performing in my first one tomorrow - Sunday, at 1:30 pm, in Hollywood, at Sunset and Vine.
I apologize for such short notice but apparently that's part of the whole deliberate process, the sorta'-kinda' almost-last-minute notice. It's to keep the element of surprise in it, at least to some degree . . . I'm guessing.
We will be tap dancing in sneakers, on the front steps of Chase bank, at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. If you're in the neighborhood around 1:30 pm, keep an eye out for a large group of people dressed in the simple uniform of white shirts and black pants.
We will be tapping to Madonna's "Ray of Light." The rehearsals this week have been a joyful process for me. I love to dance, and I love working on a live performance with other dancers and performers.
My new friend, Fran, was the one who told me about Flash Theater L.A. (you can find them on facebook). Fran was one of the singers in last month's performance for "A Little Tokyo Christmas." She asked if I was available to tap dance in tomorrow's performance, the first of twenty flash mob performances scheduled for this year!
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
There is much that I am able to take for granted, having the freedom to live as an openly gay man. I am not constantly viewed by women as potential marriage material, thanks to current times and my geographical location.
How awkward would that be, always?
I was lured once, in the mid 90's, during my first contract in Japan. I met Hiromi at a small gym in the suburban city of Miyazaki. She was one of the few women that came to exercise in the independently owned facility. She didn't speak any English, and my Japanese was limited. Still, we were able to make enough conversation for her to learn that I was 29-years-old and from America - and single.
I can't remember who invited me to dinner, whether it was Hiromi herself or her friend, Keiko. I went to the apartment home of Keiko and her husband, which seemed like neutral territory, a gift box of cookies in hand. I had lived in Japan before, so I knew not to show up as a guest empty-handed.
Dinner felt stiffly polite and mostly comfortable. Keiko and her husband had two daughters, and I am always more relaxed around children.
"Wasn't the casserole delicious?" Keiko asked me in Japanese. "Isn't Hiromi a good cook?"
I wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but I had the feeling of being baited. We finished dinner and dessert, and I made sure to thank both Keiko and Hiromi before saying good night.
I didn't tell Hiromi I was gay. I didn't want to step on any one's cultural toes, so I felt it would be polite to stay in the closet, at least around the Japanese who were not my coworkers. In the mid 90's even the Japanese male dancers were still talking about "my girlfriend in Tokyo" (which was the same thing as the "my girlfriend in Canada" claim made by the closeted puppet in "Avenue Q").
I saw Hiromi a few more times, but only at the gym. I finished my contract and went back home to America.
A few years later, I returned to Japan for a second contract. I renewed my membership at the same little gym. I didn't see Hiromi, not at first, and not at the gym. She had gotten married and had become a mother.
I was a little relieved.
Hiromi had married one of the regulars from the gym, a man slightly shorter than me, and more physically fit than I could ever hope to be. Her husband had won a local body building competition. A picture of him, holding his first place trophy and wearing only his competition briefs, was prominently displayed on the gym wall. I was glad that Hiromi had landed an honest-to-God straight husband.
I left my second contract feeling less guilty about Hiromi.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Me and my petty problems. This is how hard my life gets, or not hard, I should say: I let a Chinese woman upset me in the supermarket parking lot. At least, I think she was Chinese. She was definitely an immigrant, her English spoken with an FOB accent.
I was already annoyed with her. She had been behind me in the checkout line, and she had started loading her groceries on the conveyor belt before I had finished unloading my own cart.
Out in the parking lot, I should have just glanced politely at her flyer. I should have just smiled and thanked her for inviting me to her church. But no, passive-aggressive me - mostly passive - still wishes that I had more of a backbone, so I try to practice standing up for myself when I can.
"Oh, no thank you. I'm gay."
"You can be fixed," she countered. "Jesus can fix you."
"No, you're wrong. I disagree." These are two specific phrases that I have been trying to employ more in any conflict.
"You have to repent! My daughter was fixed, and you can be fixed, too!" (her daughter was gay? "was?") [is, probably, still] Her silent husband stood a few feet away, by their car.
"You're wrong!" I repeated as I got into my own car, slamming the door.
I wish I didn't let a situation like this make me so upset. I considered that she might have been feeling none too good about our conversation, either, maybe even worse than me. She was someone very much like my mother, with good intentions and just trying to do God's work, trying to do what she thought she was supposed to do.
It would have been better, easier, to just fake it and play the game, to just smile, nod politely, and pretend that I would actually consider visiting her church.
I am still learning when it's important to be fake and when it isn't.
I am still struggling with how honest to be with my mother. She gave me another Christian DVD for Christmas. She asked me if I had heard of the speaker (no). In his DVD, she told me, he speaks about how he was healed of "sexual brokenness." My mother thought that both Domestic Partner and I could benefit from the DVD.
We're sexually broken?
I'm used to receiving Christian self-help books and materials from my mother, so I try not to get too upset about it whenever I receive something new from her. During the post-Christmas clearing of clutter, I threw the DVD into the garbage.
"Did you watch the DVD yet?" she asked me this past weekend.
I lied. "No, I haven't gotten around to it. I added it to the pile of other DVD's I've been trying to get to, most of them still in shrink wrap."
Passive-aggressive, right? It makes me angry. I'd really like to tell her that her view of me as "broken" is damaging. I have been her son for almost 46 years. As long as she keeps thinking that there is still something about me that needs fixing, I will never feel accepted by her.
I always think about asking her if she would be willing to consider the other side(s) of the issue and read any books or materials from PFLAG.
How long do I nurse these decades-old hurt feelings? How do I let go of these grudges and still maintain a relationship with my mother?
My mother is almost 70. I may have to fake it with her for only another two decades or so, maybe less.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
I didn't know if I would be asked back again, this year. If I wasn't invited back, I had made up my mind that I would not feel jealous and left out. I would be supportive, instead, and buy tickets to cheer on my friends. I would not be the old Petty Pete that I'm still trying to leave in the past.
The second annual "A Little Tokyo Christmas" was performed last month, at the East West Players theater in downtown Los Angeles. I was asked to return, to sing and dance, and I was very happy to be included. I didn't really invite anyone to come see me perform (I know . . . a bit hypocritical). BFF Kathy couldn't believe that I almost didn't invite her and her children.
The holiday show, while well above community theater level, is definitely a hodgepodge of a community show, much of it cheesy and even corny - which I love! The cast consists of Asian American actors, directors, and playwrights, some with notable stage and screen credits. Actors such as Tamlyn Tomita, John Cho, and the radiant Amy Hill volunteered their time to be part of a one-day-only event with two performances. So, for someone like me, it is a fun privilege to get to play on stage with so many talented folks.
Tamlyn was on 'glee' this season, so, of course I had to foist myself on, I mean, talk to her. I get starstruck too easily, so I have to make some effort to rein it in and not geek out too much with "recognizable names" such as her (or "gleek" out, in this case). Rodney K. was also back in the show this year, my unofficial mentor and role model for how to age fabulously as a Japanese American gay man.
This year's theme was "A Little Tokyo Christmas goes to Las Vegas." We opened with the tune made famous by Elvis, "Viva Las Vegas." Other acts included a Supremes medley and an elf toyshop sketch mimed by a superb acting troupe. There was also a beautiful trapeze act worthy of any Cirque du Soleil show, and a rousing performance of "Proud Mary" toward the end of the second act (I couldn't sit still in my seat during the dress rehearsal for that one!).
Not very Christmas-y? Well, we had a theme to adhere to, as much as possible, and everyone contributed with their strongest talents and fortes. Really, though, it felt more like a Motown Christmas during rehearsals, which I had suggested as the next theme.
One of the numbers I sang in was a Four Seasons song called "Let's Hang On." I wasn't familiar with the tune but I was thrilled to learn and perform a nostalgic doo-wop number. I absolutely relish singing any type of four-part harmonies, and adding dance moves puts me right into performance heaven. I don't know if I'll ever accomplish my goal of being in a production of "Forever Plaid" or even "Jersey Boys" but performing this one Frankie Valli/Four Seasons song allowed me to live out that fantasy for a bit.
I love the instant family atmosphere that I always feel with this particular theater group, with friends both old and new. I love the perspective it provides of being part of the Asian American communities in Los Angeles. It's always like a fun reunion whenever I am part of a project with East West Players. And it's a chance to meet the younger, up-and-coming actors, dancers, and singers, some of them already well established in the professional theater world.
If there is a third annual A Little Tokyo Christmas show, I'll give you a little advanced notice here in this blog.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
I had a few days off from work this past week. I went to the Long Beach aquarium with BFF Kathy and her children. Kathy and I realized it had been six years since we had last visited the aquarium. Her youngest, now seven, had crawled around the outdoor play area in his diapers last time. "Squirt the baby!" young children had yelled while he splashed about in the small puddles. Kathy said his diaper had inflated to full size, being super absorbent (with no wings, however).
We arrived early, not finding any of the freeway traffic we had anticipated. While waiting for other friends to arrive, we ran across the street to Pike Place and looked at the holiday decorations. Naturally, there was an ocean theme infused among the green and blue Christmas trees. The clam shells were big enough for a 7-year-old to crawl in. Kathy's camera clicked away as her kids sat in one of the boats. Almost instinctively, I perched myself upon the bow of the tiny ship and struck what I hoped was the beautiful pose of a carved, wooden mermaid. I think it worked. You decide.
In my mind, I am a mermaid while I listen to Madonna's song, "Swim," if only symbolically. It is a song of meditation for me, of baptism, and of death and renewal:
I can't carry these sins on my back, don't want to carry any more
I'm going to carry this train off the track, I'm going to swim to the ocean floor
Crash to the other shore . . .
I envision pushing off my old self, shuffling off my mortal coil, at least from the waist down, liberating a deep lilac, shining lavender tail to swim toward a newer version of myself, toward more of the life that I want to live.
2011 was a good year, but I want to work on pushing past some of my old self, and morphing toward reaching my goals, swimming closer to accomplishment, including my writing goals.
I have a good life. I am safe. I am free. Sometimes I forget to focus on those facts, but I am always grateful when I remember them.