True Colors

R, G, J and I wound up Pride weekend in Berkeley at the Greek Theatre at UCB for the True Colors concert tour.  We got there a little late (BART troubles) but got into the theatre and seated during the Wanda Sykes stand-up performance without drama.  I hadn’t been to the Greek before (word – I’ve only ventured over to Berkeley three times before) and liked it immediately.  It’s a classical amphitheatre and all seats have excellent sight lines, albeit some folks need to bring opera glasses.

Wanda Sykes’ performance was hurt-my-abs funny, and I enjoyed the fact that a section of her material was drawn from the January Atlantis cruise which I already blogged about here.  Funny material then, and she has tweaked it a bit now do it’s even better.   Plus, she wasn’t totally inebriated so that improved the delivery LOL.

Next up, the B52s who performed quite a few cuts from their latest release, “Funplex.”  I liked the title cut best, with the line “I’m doing the mall on a diet pill.”  That totally sounds like me. Oh, yeah, they did do “Love Shack” and other oldies too.  I kept annoying my bf by saying things like “which one is Debbie Harry” and “are they going to do Walk like and Egyptian?”  The two friends we were with are both DJs so I felt totally justified in being stupid about all things musical.

Cyndi Lauper came on with her musical entourage and played to the crowd, wading right into the fans frequently.  I mentally was urging her to just dive off the stage and mosh around for awhile.  Haven’t seen that in years.  And the crowd was totally up for it.  She did not read my mind.

After the obligatory pretend-end where we all stand and clap and hoot for five minutes while the stage remains dark and forbidding, Cyndi came back and performed the closing routines which included “Girls just wanna have fun”.  All the performers came back on, rainbow lights came up, and as huge vari-colored balloons were lobbed off the stage for the audience to toss around, Cyndi began the rendition of “True Colors” which indeed was the finale.  I was verklempt!

We got back to the Castro in almost record time (like forty minutes) considering we were taking BART and Muni.  All the connections clicked.

Now, if I can just get my cellphone back from where I must have dropped it on BART I can post the videos I took of the performance.  Luckily I sent pics up to Flickr as I took them, so they are not lost.

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A Universe of Pride

Pride weekend has been fun so far, with stops at Lookout on Friday night for cocktails and a view of both Critical Mass winding its way through the Castro, and the Transgender March which passed right by on the way up 16th Street and down Market Street.

R went to Pink Saturday (while I napped) before we both headed to the Universe “reunion” dance late over at New York Studios in the Mission. The music was great, a lot of old standards befitting the fact that this was a reunion party of sorts for all the people who used to go to Universe every Saturday night, way back then.

Ultra Nate performed – my whole group of friends was like “who is that?!” as we listened to her hit songs without being able to remember her.  Fortunately I had read the club flyer – so even though of all my friends I know the absolute *least* about music, was able to clue everyone in LOL.  That was a first.  Hot flesh abounded (to say the least!) it was a very pretty crowd.  I did see Kyle King dancing with a very attractive date who I did not recognize.  Donna Sachet was there in red (of course) looking fabulous.

R had forgotten to take his 5 hour energy drink, so we were back home by 4am though walking half-way due to lack of cabs. I’m sure the Castro was still emptying out. Tonight it’s the True Colors concert with Cyndi Lauper, B52s and Andy Bell over in Berkeley for us.

PS – later we found out from friends that the place significantly emptied about thirty minutes after we left, when the DJ played an inexplicable (and apparently inexcusable) disco version of ‘Edeweiss.’

Black is not a Rainbow color

This post is a personal “Rainbow Flag” story, prompted by a post by Kelly over at the blog Rambling along in life requesting readers to post the Rainbow Flag photo, and tell a personal story.   June being Pride month it is the time to share the gay rainbow and stories related to coming out, being in the closet, and pride in general. Each of us has many such stories, especially if over a certain age. This is one of my stories, and takes place in high school back in small-town Maryland.
To set the scene, this was before Queer as Folk, before even the gay characters on Dynasty.  In fact this was before Showtime and HBO, back in the lost age of over-the-air TV and three (or four when the weather was right) channels to choose from.

Which is my way of saying, we weren’t getting the message that gay-is-OK.

I was in the ninth grade, in our school system the first year of high school, and I was all excited about it.  The school was large-ish for our area, on the order of six hundred or so students, so out of that pool I met a few people who had similar interests, which when you are that age is a big deal.

The high school drew on several junior highs in the area, so I was able to meet new friends from all over the southern part of our county – a good thing for me because my own junior high had not been a hot-bed of like-minded people.  I endured junior high school mainly on the basis of band (I liked the teacher), and gym – paradoxically since I was hardly an athlete; it was just I really enjoyed playing with the athletes.   Ah, junior high wrestling practices LOL!

When I entered high school, somehow I entered a micro-clique of (what now would be called geeks) math and science-liking guys and gals.  Well, one gal, Eleanor who actually was brilliant.  The rest of us were just interested.  Anyway, it was a very small clique, Eleanor, me, plus David, Max and Eric. Eleanor was from my junior high so I knew her but David, Max and Eric were new to me, all having come from different schools.  Eric in fact was a military brat whose parents had moved to the area over the summer.

We had a math team, chess club, all the geek accoutrements of that pre-internet era.  Oh, we had a computer – an HP timesharing (hah, look it up young’un!) ‘mainframe’ running some sort of BASIC OS.  We would spend lunches in the counseling office, which had the only terminal.  The purpose of the computer was to help students do research for college, but this being way before any public networks, we used it for games and to practice programming.

Whenever the jocks and cheerleaders were able to finagle a school-wide pep rally (often) we all went to study hall instead, and played chess, or military strategy games if the monitor went out.  That was our big middle finger to the popular kids.

Now amidst all of this I was the closeted teen, and from a family that, due to my mother’s mental illness, was ostracized by other families that knew of her condition (this was also before therapy was popular – think Eagleton).   So I always walked a fine line between trying to have friends, and getting “too close” to people because I had double secrets and desperately wanted to keep them.   Even then I was not sure that my friends wouldn’t have been OK with the gay thing, but surely my family would not have been.
So while I got to know these friends in school I never spent much time with them out of school, calling on the one family phone and such.  (Remember – no IM, no mobile phones, texting, emails!).

So it came to me as a complete surprise the morning in the spring semester of ninth grade, when the principal came on and announced after the Pledge of Allegiance that our fellow student, Eric, had been killed in an accident the day before.  We were all shocked, especially my micro-clique; more so when it leaked out that he had actually killed himself with a rifle in his own garage the day before.   Everyone agreed Eric had seemed so happy, had been such a great student, had such a great family.  I was quite affected, I think this the first time someone I knew died; my grandfathers had both already passed away when I was too young to know them.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized Eric had been setting off my gaydar before the term was probably even coined.   I’ll never know if he actually was gay, going through the same angst of trying to keep his secret, or possibly trying to figure out how he could change himself to be ‘normal.’   I have wondered if this might have been what caused his suicide.

But whether or not that was the root of Eric’s suicide that day, I do know that the suicide rate is incredibly high among gay teens and it’s not hard to see why.  Although times are changing, acceptance is growing, and teens have access now via many new types of media to information that can possibly save their lives; LGBT teens grow up in households that at best can hardly understand them, and at worst are toxic.

So my Pride message this month is really to the straight community:  to pass the word that your acceptance of us ‘mos as a normal and welcome part of your lives might actually, and unknowingly, be a lifesaver for someone.

And this is an appropriate place for a link to a couple or important organizations, The Trevor Project which combats LGBT youth suicide nationally, and LYRIC, the Lavender Youth Resource and Information Center which is here in the Castro.

And I dedicate this post to Eric, wherever he may be now, knowing that whatever problems he struggled with, his friends loved and still miss him.

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Yum, smooothies

The art gallery-cum-jewelry store that just vacated the 18th Street space down from Starbucks near Castro, is re-opening as a “smoothie spa.”  Yummy, I love good fruity smoothies, and the spa branding may mean a focus on the healthier side of the blended-foodstuffs spectrum.  Nothing is worse than those airport “smoothie” stands that just whip up yogurt with pre-packaged ‘fruit’ syrups where the primary fruit is apple juice (if you’re lucky) and corn syrup (if you’re not).

Weekend update

It’s been a busy weekend.  Friday was after-work drinks at Lookout with our friend D whom we’ve known since we were just coming out in San Jose.  We met, I believe, at the gay community center down there, the Billy de Frank center, when it was on Keyes Street in a rundown Victorian.  And that, believe me, was before any downtown renaissance.  But we wanted to catch up with D, who now lives in Noe Valley and works for a high-tech firm near the ballpark, because he had just gotten back from the East Coast where he went to visit his mother in the hospital.  Fortunately she took a turn for the better, and is now out and in convalescent care.  The doctors said her condition might have been related to taking too much calcium.  Anyway, D has been stressed about his parents, work, and,  well D is pretty much a ball of stress in the best times, so we knew he needed some help unwinding.

Since we were drinking at Lookout, we ended up eating dinner across the street at Bagdad Cafe.  Now, I used to like Bagdad Cafe but what has happened?  I’m not going back, at least until I forget this visit, but I do hope they can get the kitchen and menu back on track because I used to like eating there, with the funky decor and friendly servers.

Which reminds me that R and I ate at the new Kasa restaurant on Thursday night.  I hope they get everything worked out – it was so busy that the brand-new staff were quite frazzled.  And given that Pak-Wan is just a short #33 Muni ride down to 16th and Valencia, I hope they get the food prep kicked up a notch as well.  It wasn’t that it was bad (go to Bombay Oven on Market for that) but it was a watered down experience, and not executed well at that.  But they’re brand new so I’ll check back and hope it was just opening jitters.

Saturday I attended the day-long Guy Writers’ conference at the Gay Community Center.  Organized by Philip Huang and others of Guy Writers, the keynote was given by John Fisher; playwright, Artistic Director for Theatre Rhinocerous, and now teaching at Yale.  The event  was an opportunity to meet and network with fellow queers who write, whether prose, poetry or plays.  An indie film producer / script writer participated as well.

I was frankly surprised at the number of people I met – even in this small town of Queeristan,  you can’t ever claim to have run into everybody.  I just seems that way sometimes, right?

I attended workshops on using spontaneity in writing, and writing for humor; and picked up techniques I will definitely be able to put to work.  I came away with more contacts, and inspiration, than I went in so the time was well spent for me.

After the conference, I headed over to Corona Heights to a friends house for a combination birthday / CD-release party.  Had a few too many of the wicked orange margaritas, and chatted with people like I was saying my last words and my head would be lopped off if I stopped.  Very unlike me – but yes – those last Tudors episodes are still giving me nightmares.

I did find out from a friend who works at Falcon that drama a-plenty is brewing there.  Or maybe has already boiled over.  A coup d’etat shook the place at the end of May, with locks changed and the CEO forced out by (formerly) silent partners mid-day.  Rumors are swirling about a possible move to Las Vegas.  New web domains are being snatched-up.  Reports are that Falcon has been hurt by subscription sites like Sean Cody.  I better get my friend Erik Rhodes on the line and find out what he knows.  He’s been silent on this topic so far on his blog.

We were tired after the party, so had a quick bite to eat at (Pasta) Pomodoro on 24th.  I was bad and had the delicious lasagne with fontina and mushrooms.  They rotate recipes every few months, and this is one of the best, so I indulged a little.   But it was the small portion, which is quite filling enough.  We ended up catching the new episode of Kathy Griffin’s Life on the D-List (gay stereotypes that we are) on DVR, then crashing early.

Today I managed to get out to the gym for a stairmaster climb and some weightlifting.   One of these days I keep telling myself I am going to try Spinning, but haven’t gotten motivated enough so far.  I managed to research and write another weekly article for Online Tech Tips, which I got a week behind on when I was visiting my Dad back in Delaware.  R is now making veal meatballs and vegetables for dinner which should go well with the cool weather today.

And I am going to sign off here and try writing another episode of The Alien at the Coffeehouse.