12.24.2010

Christmas in 2010

"The Night Before Christmas" over Skype. Keeping up with the Jetsons!

Happy Holidays!

J.

You made me laugh one day in study hall by singing the Backstreet Boys with attitude, and I was glad to find a kindred, someone who valued education but was just as serious about silliness.  Everyone talked of your laughter and charity.  I can only hope for such a legacy.

Your sister was my constant companion during the darkest time in my life. Her story and other events of that year made me aware of how brutal the world could be, but her friendship numbered among the things that made me up for the struggle. ("And I thought I wouldn't have to be / with you / a magazine.") When I wrote about angels eleven years ago, I was writing about her. She loves you so.

I know she has my back down here, and I hers, and maybe you could do the same for us up there.  For what it's worth, I asked my grandfather to look out for you, to "show you the ropes." I know that sounds ridiculous, but please forgive us the limits of our mortal understanding, and our imagining of what comes next.

Meanwhile, back here, I will remember you, and I will strive to honor you by continuing your good work.

Love,

Brian

12.20.2010

Prayer of Saint Francis

It's a time when words are failing me.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

12.15.2010

Rental Car

I've been cruising around in a rental car of late. Another Dodge Charger.  It has satellite radio.  I'm digging 50s on 5.

12.12.2010

Sao Paulo Snapshot

I arrived 11:00 AM on Tuesday and left 11:00 PM on Wednesday, but there was still enough time to note:
  • Wonderful Christmas decorations on Ave. Paulista, a bank wrapped like a present, a bridge stuffed with oversized toys.
  • The $140 cab ride that resulted when the driver stayed parked outside my meeting for 3 hours.
  • The meeting itself: confrontational but successful.
  • All right, Henrique, with your Darren Criss eyebrows, and your hairy arms, and your ill-fitting uniform, and "Your room is on the twenty-twoth floor": that's enough.
  • The mall didn't have a Santa.  It had a nativity scene.
  • Gay couple holding hands. Teenage lesbians, one had braces, kissing in McDonald's.
  • Traffic at all hours.
  • Things you should check before planning to wear a new shirt, just ripped from the plastic, to a meeting: does your room have an iron?
  • The cab driver who played Enya: stroke of brilliance.  It makes the ride so peaceful!
  • Feijoada for lunch. At the restaurant, they served different types of meet in different pots.  I watched to see if any of the locals picked from the Ear/Tongue pot or the Feet/Tail pot, and none of them did.  At the table they told me they had never seen anyone eat it, but that using those parts gives the dish better flavor.  F. said when she cooks it herself, she uses them but removes them before serving.  And you put oranges in to absorb the salt and the "grass", meaning grease.
  • Chatting about the latest presidential election there, and what the kids wanted for Christmas.
  • Brazilian surprise that English doesn't have a single word for the symbol $. In Portuguese, it's cifrão.
  • The handshake always involves a clasp on the shoulder or the back or some other touch.

12.11.2010

Elephant


This was supposed to come after the “Describe Yourself” post. There is a story here, but I didn’t see the humor in it until a friend pointed it out. An elephant walks into a bar. He goes home with a guy. The guy learns sex without love isn’t all that great, the elephant decides he’s straight. Lolz!

(I would lift a line from another story.  Walking with Kennedy in the Metropolitan Museum’s Hall of Arms and Armor, talking about summers in Colorado: “That’s when I found out I wasn’t gay.”)

Truthfully, I’d end up wanting to tell it as a romance (another defining quality). Never forgets elephants.  The elephant didn’t just walk into a bar. The elephant took me to the Mapparium and J.P. Licks years before on a pleasant not-a-date.  On the way uptown to my apartment we held hands in the taxi. And later the elephant made a joke and, well, whatever happened he seemed very sweet.

The elephant lives in the Midwest. He is married to a woman. Now the elephant is going to be a father.

Other angles to investigate: anger-sadness that the arcs of our lives didn’t curve together for a little longer? He should have called three weeks later, when I was home, mingling with a herd of others that the same sentiment applies to.  Anger that he could move on? Anger-anger that I’m self-centered enough to think that.

Sad-angry that he might be making a mistake.  Angry that my view of the world isn’t universal.  Sad that we’re too distant now to ask anything.

12.04.2010

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

The only thing I knew about I Never Promised You a Rose Garden was the title, but I decided to read it when I saw an article in Westword mentioning that the author, Joanne Greenberg, lived in Colorado. I enjoyed it. I came away wondering why I hadn't read it before.

P.S. The mention did not say it was written under a pen name, so it was tricky to find in the library.

P.P.S. Joanne Greenberg teaches at the Colorado School of Mines! I have always been fascinated by that school (mostly because the first time I heard about it, I thought it was the Colorado School of Mimes).

12.02.2010

The Music Lesson

Mrs. Sab offered practical advice on drinking enough water each day (that I think the Today Show covered last week): "PEE: PALE!"

11.28.2010

Some Greek Plays

I read the three plays that make up Aeschylus' Oresteia, and I read Jean-Paul Sartre's adaptation of Euripides' The Trojan Women. They all center around the consequences to the victors and the vanquished of the Trojan War (warning: a subject I don't know much about.) Cassandra is in both Agamemnon and The Trojan Women, and I keep thinking about how great her story is: a prophetess who speaks the truth but whom no one believes! Aeschylus makes her fearful of her coming fate, but in Euripides she's kind of insane and goes willingly with Agamemnon because she (accurately) foresees that the Greeks may have destroyed Troy, but they don't really "win" since their destinies are just as shitty: most of them would drown returning home, Odysseus has a ten-year return trip, and Agamemnon (spoiler alert) gets murdered by his wife (who was pissed because he had sacrificed their daughter to charm the contrary winds, thus letting the Greeks sail to Troy), who in turn (spoiler alert) gets murdered by their son to avenge the father's death.

The other thing that is apparent in both stories is that everyone, whether Greek or Trojan, hates Helen, pretty much blaming her for the whole damn war. In The Oresteia, she and Clytemnestra are "twin disasters" for Greece; she is a character in The Trojan Women, and Hecuba paints her as an opportunistic whore. If I were to write a musical version of these events, I'd call it Fuck you, Helen!

The Trojan Women was the more moving of the two, but it's hard to tell if this is due to a more liberal translation. Anyway, the line about Troy stayed with me over the weekend in NJ: "Its glory was that it was home."

11.24.2010

To Do

Change my morning routine.

11.21.2010

Describe Yourself


During chorus retreat, we were asked to describe ourselves in one word. I said “optimistic.” JP said that was a lie. I know, but I couldn't find a word that expressed what I wanted to say. He summarized my defining quality as: “the ability to find humor in any situation, for better or worse.”

11.16.2010

3 of 10

This week I checked off #10 (Visit a participant in another city) and #8 (Shoot as many different types of guns as possible at a shooting range) when I went to visit the front-runner of our fair competition in D.C. As evidence I submit to you the following photos. The close-up of the target shows Hannah's shots, which means I will seek her out when the Zombiepocalypse comes.


Lots more fun was had over the weekend, including: an impromptu tour of the DOJ (Boobs of Justice!), a trip to the zoo, a debate about whether it would be creepy to go to a dog park without a dog, a visit with Elaine (and a fight. for her right. to taxi!) Dukem, Zaytinya, an introduction to The A List, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, brunches, Yogato, and birthday greetings.

11.10.2010

Social Circles

If the majority of people I hang out with in Denver are gay singers or therapists, how do we think this might affect my worldview? I asked some of the therapists the other day if they believe people can change, since it seems like a profession where that might be relevant. One said she believes people can change, but she's not sure she believes in free will. What?

11.09.2010

Letter


Dearest,

I was running today, and I listened to that song that recalls you to me.   You probably find the song trite, and who’s to say that you ever really liked it; I might have made that up; you know me well enough to know that’s a possibility, that sometimes reality is overrated, that sometimes I’m prone to rearranging it to suit my needs. It was warm out, 75 degrees.

I was wondering if I should not have worn the long-sleeved shirt because of the weather, but I saw an old man on the path ahead with a cardigan and a fedora, and I thought, To each his own.

The song played. “Purify my mind.”  I thought how we who were raised Catholic, we are still always asking forgiveness, aren’t we? I’m asking forgiveness and sometimes I don’t even know why.

The man stood by a metallic folding chair. When I crossed his way he motioned for me to stop and told me he had good news to share with me, and showed me a religious pamphlet titled, “Steps to Peace with God,” by Billy Graham.  I decided to be polite and take the paper. He told me to share it with family and friends.

I turned the pamphlet over to read the back, and after an elaborately designed bullet point were the words:

“Admit your need—that you are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness.”

It was truly weird.

And I know what I’m sorry about. I wonder if you get angry when I write these things about us, and I use your name without even asking if it’s okay.  And I wonder if you get mad when I write about him.  I’m sorry about that.  It’s just that recently I was thinking about years ago, and one thing I realized was that he is a person who allowed me to be myself.  I think he understood me.  At that time when we were inseparable I could be made fun of for being a good kid, for being a smart kid, for being a drama kid, whatever.  But none of that mattered, because I had this friend. So I ask forgiveness, because part of me will always love him for what he was.

The other thing I needed to tell you. The chorus is singing a song based on a Tennyson poem, and this line struck me: “Ring out the false, ring in the true.” When we met, I felt like a very closed person, that expressing feeling was somehow a dishonorable thing. And while you seemed to say you had the same notion, in practice you jumped in and told me what you thought, who you were. I think every conversation you and I have ever had has moved me closer to ringing in the true. That is the gift you have given me.

I called you and we talked about none of these things. Talking about the feelings, you know, can still be difficult.

Also, I forgot to tell you that Erica is training her dog to think that the word for squirrel is “zombie,” just because it would be funny to see the dog perk up when we say it.

Never doubt I lerve,

Brian

11.06.2010

The Places I've Gone

"Why Vermont?" Erica asked. I was again hinting to JP that we could settle there. And I concluded that it's a place that I only have good memories of. We used to go to ski once a year as kids, and when I was older, we trekked through the state to visit Sue, and we always had a time. The only drawback, as I see it, is the lack of good Italian food, a memory from those ski trips with parents and a flock of Staten Islanders.

(Sidenote: Here in Colorado, on the road to Keystone, there is a small shop called Jersey Boys Pizza and Deli. It is a godsend. There are Yankees and Giants pennants and a map of New Jersey decorating the walls, mixed in with a poster of The Sopranos. The back wall in the dining area is plastered with an eighties-ish photo of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline at night.)

(Sidenote 2: Not for nothing, but it's true that Vermont is one of the few places I actually could get married.)

If you've only visited a place, you don't have insight into what it's like to live there, but it's the reason I also look favorably on Rhode Island. Yelena (before she was Elena, after she was Helen) and Jon were married there, and the wedding was beautiful, and the weather was beautiful, and the drive there was beautiful, and we were on the peninsula of Bristol surrounded by water. AND there was a drive-through homemade doughnut shop. I could live there.

Hari thought retiring to Florida was a fate worse than death. But Florida was amazing in how unlike home it was: the beach, the shuffleboard, the adult tricycles, the lizards, the flea market with roaming peacocks, the homemade breakfast sandwiches, the pull-out love seat, and half the time we were there it was my birthday. To me, Florida makes perfect sense.

I think Chicago is one of the most beautiful American cities. But the majority of times I've traveled there has been to work, and the flight home was always delayed, and I hated it so much that I would call Erin and she would hate it, too, on my behalf. (I think a lot of people hate New York because of their experience at La Guardia, but my apartment was a fifteen-minute cab ride away.)

The question forming in my mind this week: what can you write about a place if you didn't have your heart broken there?

New Orleans has rocked every time. I asked Becky why she is always going to Miami. She said it's her "happy place." Maybe New Orleans is mine. I think Jenn's is San Francisco.

San Francisco is great. Damn you, California, for trying to make me like you. Rohini and I ate dinner together once, and I confessed to her my grudge against California. I loved someone once, and he left for California. I loved someone twice, and he left for California. And, yes, I realize that now we live together, that he has returned in a sense, but these things aren't rational. How can I compete with this state? I know he would love to move west, and to me that borders on unimaginable.

We were driving in New Jersey. Either: Bob, Erin, Corinne, and me, for Dre's birthday at Medieval Times, or: Bob, Erin, Tommy, and me, to visit Dani down the Shore. Bob played that song, "To the East," and then he quoted it. "It could be home, Brian."

Dream, 11/5/10

Joey D. from high school is joining Penn Singers. We may be discussing this in the lounge of KC3.

11.04.2010

Now Is the Autumn of Our Laziness

Mike expected a novel. It's not going to happen this month. I didn't run the Denver Marathon in October, even though I paid for my entry. Between July and November, I didn't run at all. (I ran once over the weekend.) In the 10 for '10 competition, I have only completed one challenge.

But:

I think I can knock off potentially 4 challenges before the end of the year, which would not put me in the running for the win, but would at least make me feel better about myself.

Epic game of Brickbreaker.

Evening with Sufjan

The highlight of the week has been the Sufjan Stevens concert. He encored with the old and mostly played the new. "Impossible Soul" was fantastic. "Boy, we can do much more together!" I want a new job as one of his two ridiculous backup dancers. I don't know what else to tell you reader; words are futile devices. He said he wrote that song when he was 21. Of course.

10.31.2010

The Graveyard Book


The Graveyard Book is an engaging tale about a boy who grows up in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts.  I liked how the things that normal kids might find frightening—ghosts, witches, werewolves, crypts—are the symbols of good in the book, while all the danger stems from the world of the living. I liked that Bod wanted to go to school so he could learn about the world outside of the graveyard, and that he sticks out because of this: “Do you know how weird that is?...Nobody comes to school to learn. I mean, you come because you have to.” (When I was thinking about the “It Gets Better” video last week, I was thinking that I got picked on as a kid because I was fat and because I liked school. And one of my other thoughts on the subject was a theme from Gaiman’s Coraline:  that bravery is not fearlessness, rather it is being scared shitless and doing the thing anyway. The same theme shows up in this book but is less important.) I like that the story needs to have the discussion of why Bod should live. As a boy who grew up among ghosts, he doesn’t immediately see what the big deal about being alive is. (“It’s only death.  I mean, all of my best friends are dead.”)

The author says he was influenced by The Jungle Book.  I’m going to add it to the reading list.

10.27.2010

Paralysis

I know I was supposed to stop talking about It Gets Better. But, sorry, it’s been on the brain, even more so since the DGMC was making a video. I’ve been paralyzed thinking about it, about what I would say. I finally took time to write stuff down today, and it is crap. But maybe now I can move on.

10.21.2010

Bus Stop

One of those songs I've always loved.

10.19.2010

I Had $7 on a Book Store Gift Card

So I bought a copy of "Howl." (I just finished On the Road. I might have to go through a phase.) Then I started reading it at lunch in the Food Court, and then I teared up a little because I was happy, and it's that good.

And it talks about weird NJ (Greystone) and Denver ("who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes...").

10.13.2010

The Good Samaritan

Notes on a man I met in New Orleans after Yvonne’s wedding:

I called a cab to take me to the airport, but there was already a cab from a different company parked out front. The driver told me that two women who were staying at my hotel were leaving for the airport in ten minutes, so I could join them and save on the fare. He was an Egyptian named Omar. While I was on the phone telling JP I was leaving for the airport, Omar grabbed my suitcase and put it in the trunk. The New Yorker in me was paranoid that the two women did not exist and that he would drive off with my bag. But like Andrea on an Italian submarine, I ignored my inner voice and got into the cab.

The women recognized me from the day before. “I think I saw you in a suit.” I told them I was in town for a wedding; they told me they were on a service trip for their alma mater, building homes, but that they gave themselves a night at the Green House Inn as a reward at the end of their week. They were on the way home to Philadelphia, and I told them I went to school there. They corroborated my story to Omar that the hotel is great, that the pool really makes it, and that the charge is about $150 per night. Omar was shocked that I paid that. “That’s too much! No one would charge that! There are people who don’t make $150 in a week!” I couldn’t tell if he was angry or just loud. But when the women told him the same thing, he said he thought about taking his wife there for a weekend getaway.

The gray clouds that lingered over the city all morning opened up to a drizzle as we were leaving the Garden District. The highway was backed up. Omar thought there must have been an accident because Sunday afternoon traffic was unusual. His suspicion was soon confirmed when we saw a Mercury Grand Marquis that had spun out and crashed into the concrete border or the highway overpass.

“Just a little rain like this is worse than a real rain because the road is SLIPPERY!” Omar explained, in logic that sounded like my mother’s.

Traffic crawled by the crashed car. Its rear jutted into the right lane of traffic. This caused the whole road to slow as cars scrambled to steer clear.

Omar said, “What: he can’t move the car?”

“No one can help push the car out of the way? Even if it is not drivable, three guys can help him push it out of the way!” Omar saw the solution. It always seemed like he was yelling at me.

“The problem is no one will DO it. They see how this is blocking the whole highway.”

The women and I agreed with him, and then:

“Is no one thinking like we are thinking?” I told him maybe not. “Are we going to have to help him?” Omar asked us in a way that implied it was time for him to take control.

As we approached the Grand Marquis, Omar moved into the right lane and pulled over to the shoulder right after we had passed it. He rolled down my window.

“HEY! You need HELP?” he yelled across me to the driver of the car, a young Latino man pacing with his cell phone. I didn’t think he understood. He smiled and said, “Yes.”

“Is it DRIVABLE? CAN YOU DRIVE IT?” Omar asked. Again the guy said yes. Omar jumped out to take a look.

The women and I sat in the cab. I turned and told them, “It looks like the service component of your week is not finished yet.” They laughed and we all remarked on how unexpected the situation was, how it was one more story in their week’s adventures, and how kind Omar was to stop. When we turned to see what was happening behind us in the stranded car, Omar was in the driver’s seat, righting the car so it was out of the way of traffic.

“And the guy couldn’t have done that?” I asked like a jackass, concerned about catching my flight home. I thought our work was done, but we saw Omar motioning with his hand outside the window. He was waving us forward.

I asked, “What does he want us to do?”

“I think he wants you to drive!” the woman behind the driver’s seat said and then erupted into high-pitched laughter.

“Are you kidding me?” I said, but even as I did, I was sliding across the seat and turning the key in the ignition.

I tried to find the hazards but couldn’t. I was more frantic than I needed to be, but I was driving a cab with two strangers in a city I didn’t know. There was a lot of subsequent laughter and me cursing and general incredulity. We couldn’t figure out the endgame.

“We have his CAB!”

“Where the fuck are we going?” was my question as I kept one eye on the increasingly rainy road but mostly tried to decipher Omar’s plan by watching him in the rearview.

The accident had happened on an overpass with a small shoulder. We figured that Omar was trying to get the car off the bridge and onto an area that had a real shoulder. After about a half-mile we reached the end of the overpass and saw Omar signal to pull over towards the grassy side of the road.

After I stopped the cab, the women asked what my name was. At this point I guess introductions seemed in order.

When Omar returned, the brunette said, “Sir, you are a good Samaritan.”

He shrugged off the designation. “All the time I hear people talking and talking about the problem and I say, ‘This will not solve the problem.’ You need someone to do something. We have to look out for everybody.” I told him we needed to get him on the oil spill next.

The rain became heavier and the road more difficult to see. “I told them, ‘Today we will have heavy rain.’ People said it has been cloudy all weekend and it didn’t rain, and I said today it will rain. My prediction is coming true.” We thought we might be delayed. “Will it rain long like this?” asked the blonde woman as we entered the airport.

“I said it would rain, but how long? I don’t know, but after a quick call,” he pointed his finger upward, “I can find out. I can predict sometimes, but He controls it.”

I should have asked the women’s names, but I didn’t. They were the first drop-off. We wished each other safe flights. “Brian, you’re one of our stories, now.”

Likewise, Madam.

******

I told two Denverites this story. One girl, originally from New Jersey, said, “Did you tip him after that? I would never tip him!” One girl, originally from North Carolina, said it made her want to move back to the South. I gave Omar a huge tip.