Thursday, August 31, 2006
VMA's Tonight At Radio City
A few weeks ago, I thought I'd cheer up a friend who just lost his job by getting us tickets to MTV's Video Music Awards, which are back in NYC this year. The cheapest of the dozen or so online ticket brokers offered tickets at $5000 - $7500. For real. And since that's about 100 times what I'd be willing to pay, we are not going. Maybe I'll walk by the venue on my way home and get some red carpet shots for you guys. "Beyonce'! Look over here!" MTV is giving a nod to Internet 2.0 this year, with a special YouTube channel.
Morning View - Under The 7
Open Thread Thursday
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
The S Is For Super
The little train that could, midtown's S train shuttles between Times Square and Grand Central, delivering in one minute, those too tired or lazy to walk the 0.8 mile distance on 42nd Street above, as well as providing a connection between the lines that run up the east and west sides of Manhattan. Think of the S as the middle part of a capital H. There is a driver on each end of the three-car trains, which merely run back and forth all day on three separate parallel tracks, the shortest line in NYC.
I love the ferocious Queens accent the announcer has on the Times Square end, "Da nexx train arroives on Track Foh-ah." There is no Track Three, by the way. The S train only runs until midnight, after which it is often used by movie crews. Trivia for NY'ers: the Manhattan S train is also the 8 train, in case you wondered why there was no 8. But maybe you don't, now that there's no 9 train anymore.
A cab ride from JFK Airport to Manhattan runs around $55-$60, including the flat fare, tolls, and tip, but it can be more for the metered ride to JFK. Taxi fares just went up 26% last May, but cabbies are agitating for another increase, with greatly increased gas costs eating at their daily take. I usually only take taxis on weekends, but I'm finding myself spending at least $50 a week. Combine that with my monthly $76 subway pass and it's still quite a bargain, to my mind, anyway. At least you can get a cab in NYC, unlike when I lived in SF, where post-clubbing cab hailing becomes a blood sport.
National Month Of September Awareness Month
Over one million Americans lost their health insurance coverage in 2005, bring the total of uninsured in this country to 46.6 million, or 1 out of 6 Americans. The uninsured continue to insist on getting illnesses and injuries, swarming public hospitals, sending the cost of supporting Medicaid soaring. In New York State, supporting Medicaid costs the average family of four more than $5000 a year.
What is our noble leader doing about it? Well, yesterday he declared that September will be National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Thanks, Dub, that helps. Oh, he also declared September to be National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Awareness Month and National Asshole Awareness Month. Sorry, Dub, I'm already aware of you.
The president declined to declare September, National Stem Cell Research Month. He also is proposing a new law that reduce the ability of patients to sue hospitals and drug companies. Desperate times, desperate measures. Doesn't everybody feel better about the healthcare crisis now?
Morning View - Empire State Building
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
PhoboQuotable - Tony Perkins
"This is outrageous. Wal-Mart has made its billions by serving the needs of rural communities throughout America. It has never discriminated against homosexuals who want to purchase their products at low prices. Nor has it discriminated in hiring against homosexuals. But that is not enough. The homosexual lobby demands that Wal-Mart grovel. They demand that Wal-Mart take sides in the great cultural clash over marriage." - Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, going psycho on the news that Walmart has partnered with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Ford Moves Boldly. Maybe.
Times are tough for Ford Motor Co. these days, and advertising critics are buzzing over Ford's new Bold Moves campaign, which Ford says is meant to reach out to many demographics, including nontraditional families. Critics don't know what to make of Ford's Bold Moves website, with its frank acknowledgement of Ford's current financial difficulties.
I'm particularly struck by one spot that features a regulation family of four enjoying a trip to the beach in their new Ford Freestyle SUV. At the end of the spot, Dad gets out of the car with his suitcase, hugs the kids and says carefully to his wife, "Thanks for inviting me this weekend." Mom nods slowly and gives Dad a sad smile, saying, "Sure." Then Mom and the kids drive off, leaving Dad at his apartment.
Critics are seeing this ad as some wacky attempt to reach out to divorced families, as an open acknowledgement from an advertiser, finally, that most people don't live in an Ozzie & Harriet world. There's some talk that kids will respond to seeing families like theirs, whose parents don't live together. But watch the commercial and tell me if you don't also see a possible gay subtext to the scenario. To me, this ad can be read as though Dad has finally come out of the closet, and Mom is regretfully coming to terms with her situation. I don't see any of the usual post-divorce vitriol in Mom's expression, I see resignation. I don't see how the creators of this piece cannot have forseen this interpretation, and therefore I'm giving them tentative applause, until I know better. Am I reading too much into this? What do you think?
HomoQuotable - Elton John
"I want to work with Pharrell, Timbaland, Snoop, Kanye, Eminem and just see what happens. It may be a disaster, it could be fantastic, but you don't know until you try." - Elton John, telling Rolling Stone that he wants to make a hip-hop album. Please, Elton. No. (via 365gay.com)
Get The Aricept
Friday - Attempted to walk through the subway turnstyle without swiping my entry card, resulting in an embarassingly public pubic injury to the groinal region.
Saturday- Walked into a pizza parlor on the UES with three friends. Ordered pizza, paid for pizza, then walked home without pizza or friends.*
Sunday - Bought and lost two umbrellas.
Monday - Got angry with ATM machine for refusing to accept my insurance card.
And this morning I picked up my garbage, locked my front door, walked right past the cans at the front of my building, and carried my garbage three blocks to the subway. Kids, it's time for Paw-Paw to start on the Aricept.
*possibly due to alcohol.**
**probably due to alcohol.
Morning View - Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island, as seen from the Queensboro Bridge, with the reverse shot underneath. Smack dab in the middle of the East River, Roosevelt Island residents are technically Manhattanites, although they receive police and fire services from Queens. Formerly Minnahannock Island, then Hog Island, then Manning's Island, then Blackwell Island, it was most recently known as Welfare Island, not becoming Roosevelt until 1973. The lower shot is the view from the end of my street on the Upper East Side.
As Blackwell and then Welfare Island, it was a dumping ground for New York's unwanted, who were sent to the island's many institutions: The New York Lunatic Asylum, The Smallpox Hospital, The Charity Hospital, and a huge penitentary. There was also a "poor house", the place that my grandmother always moaned that we were destined for. I remember having a vague feeling of dread, wondering what the poor house could be. For some reason, it seemed to be tied to the cost of toys.
Today the island is largely car-free, the 9500 residents access the tiny .23 square mile island by a small vehicle bridge on the Queens side, city buses, the currently out-of-service tramway, and the subway, which only added a Roosevelt Island stop in 1989, at a cost of $800 million, one of the biggest public transport boondoggles in history. For many years, the only access to the island was a giant vehicle elevator which lowered cars and trucks from the Queensboro Bridge, but now the island is inaccessible from the bridge. For a thorough history of Roosevelt Island, go here.
I apologize for making you suffer through my bizarre fascination with Roosevelt Island.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told" and is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers", according to Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), whom you may not-so-fondly recall as having headed the outrageously botched vote recount in 2000 when she was Florida's Secretary of State. That recount swung Florida into Bush's column and his heel onto the neck of the world.
Harris also says that not electing Christians is a good as "legislating sin", words which may just not help her very much in her current senate campaign against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. Hey Katherine, somebody shoulda told you there's a lot of J-E-W-S's in your state. The Wicked Witch of the South has really stepped in it big time.
Money Talks, Bullshit Is Extra
If you need a motivational speaker for your next event, you can peruse the personalities offered on AllAmericanSpeakers.com, where for a mere $200,000 you can have Donald Trump or Lance Armstrong. If your budget is more modest, how about Chastity Bono at $5000? Although many of the celebrities listed have the coy phrase "ask about fees" appended to their names, it IS fascinating to learn that, for example, Michael Flatley gets upwards of $100,000 to appear. That had better include some fucking dancing, Michael. Actually, on second thought...
Co-worker 1 (who has a Cockney-ish accent): Joe, what's a good gay pie?
Joe: A gay...pie?
Co-worker 1: Not pie! Party. (He pronounces it "pah-ee", hence my confusion.)
Joe: Oh, I don't know, but what would be a gay pie?
Co-worker 2: Lemon meringue. Definitely.
Joe: Yeah, I can see that.
Co-worker 1: Yeah, lemon meringue. Definitely gay. It's all sculpted.
Obey The Eyebrows
I found this billboard on 11th Avenue yesterday. I wonder if they had to photoshop the model's eyebrows or if he just lives in Chelsea? In any case, this is a good example of how the word "queer" has positively entered the public lexicon, to the point where even advertisers feel comfortable using it. Would this billboard have been just as funny or effective if they had used "gay" instead of "queer"? I think with Gay.com billboards around town, the usage of "queer" is still notable and memorable. Manhattan Mini Storage also has a subway campaign that plays off on Brokeback Mountain.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Overheard At The Eagle
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Bank Of America Tower Rising In Midtown
With the demise of the World Trade Center, the four tallest buildings in NYC are all about 75 years old. But change is coming and the building I'm watching most excitedly is the Bank Of America Tower, currently going up at the corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, which upon completion in about 2 years, will become NYC's second tallest building. The building will have two spires, one at 1200 feet and one at 945, placing it second only to the Empire State in height, even though it will only have 57 floors of office space.
Being constructed with tax-free Liberty Bonds, intended to rebuild lower Manhattan after 9/11, the BOA Tower is not without controversy. However, the public's imagination (and mine!) has been captured by some unique aspects to the tower, which include a giant wind turbine at its top, which is claimed will be able to provide 70% of the building's electricity needs. Builders also claim that the building's air purification system will exhaust cleaner air than enters the building, rendering the tower as one giant air filtration system for the city.
Also of interest is the builders' claim to be using mostly recycled materials and their plan for a greywater system with will capture and reuse waste water and rainwater. I'll be grabbing pictures of construction of the BOA Tower every few months and posting them here. The main skeleton should be done in about a year. This glass tower, for once, looks like a beauty.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Brooklyn Gets Hairier
I am turning into a regular outer-borough-going type person. Two days ago, I rode my bike over the Queensboro Bridge (slightly scary but feelin' groovy) and explored Long Island City (definitely scary) . T'was my first Queens experience, other than taking the AirTrain to JFK. And tomorrow, Saturday, my crew is gonna trek to BK for the Big Lug bear picnic. Next stop, Staten Island. W00t!
Anthology Ships Monday
The anthology I'm a part of, From Boys To Men: Gay Men Write About Growing Up, is shipping on Monday. Pick it up for stories by me, Alex Chee, Aaron Hamburger, Michael Dogpoet McAllister and others. The book is edited by Ted Gideonse and Rob Williams. Oh, and I just got a little bit of a rush to see that Amazon is offering a special deal if you buy the anthology AND Andrew Holleran's Grief. I have to go lie down now.
Kiki & Herb Benefit Ali Forney Center
Kiki & Herb's Tuesday, August 29th performance will be a benefit for the Ali Forney Center, NYC's homeless shelter for LGBT youth. Buy your $100 ticket on the shelter's site, and get a fantastic Broadway show and a post-show VIP party with the cast, including some free booze! Here's a great chance to do some good and see a show that has garnered one of the best reviews I've seen from the NY Times.
Morning View - American Radiator Building
Midtown's Byrant Park Hotel has been reviewed as "New York's Most Romantic Hotel" and "one of the best hotels in the world". Built in 1924 as the American Radiator Building, it was designed by Raymond Hood, who patterned it after his earlier Chicago Tribune Building. Check out the hotel's crazy flash-heavy website and you can tell that most of their business comes from the fashion industry.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I'm The Internet, You're The Internet
Blowoff -The CD
The album I've been waiting all year for is now available for pre-order! Blowoff, the DC-based duo comprising indie rock legend Bob Mould and dance hitmaker Rich Morel are releasing their self-titled first CD. The Blowoff parties at DC's 9:30 Club have entered into the realm of nightclub legend and faithful JMG readers know that these guys are friends of mine, as I write about them often. (And for those that have written to ask, that's a Blowoff poster over my shoulder in the first JMG vidcast.) After hearing the first single, Hormone Love, I can't wait to get my hands on the full-length. Get yours here.
UPDATE: I should have noted that the entire album is available on iTunes now.
Morning View - Roosevelt Island Tram
That tiny swinging basket up there is the Roosevelt Island Tram, which was being tested yesterday after months of repairs following the stranding of 67 passengers over the East River for 11 hours, back in April. Roosevelt Island is also accessible via the subway and a small bridge on the Queens side of the island, but not via the massive Queensborough Bridge that straddles the island, pictured above under the shroud.
Open Thread Thursday
A popular relationship question has always been "Would you rather have hot sex or true love? A variant of that is "Which is more important to you, sex or love?" Here's a weirder one.
Would you rather lose your libido or lose your ability to taste food?
A) Hot fucking but just chewing.
B) No fucking but delicious food.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Last Call For Stonewall
The most famous gay bar in the history of the world, New York's Stonewall Inn, is closing. The New York Observer, in reporting the bar's impending demise, uses a clever play on the old headline used by the New York Post during the Stonewall Riots, "Stonewall To Shutter? Queen Bees Stinging Glad!", a reference to the distaste that neighboring merchants and residents have for the young, hip-hop crowd the Stonewall has been attracting in recent years.
I've only been to the Stonewall a couple of times since moving to New York, not enjoying either experience as the place is pretty much a stripper bar these days, relying on guest appearances from porn stars who do jack-off shows. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but hey, there's two bear bars on the next block. According to The Observer, the Stonewall is $150,000 in arrears for its rent and has just lost a lawsuit with its alcohol suppliers over lack of payment.
Closed after the riots in 1968, to finally reopen in 1990, an interesting point made in the Observer story is that the clientele of the Stonewall today is actually fairly close to those that patronized the bar back in its riot-era heyday, namely hustlers, dealers, and outer-borough gay youth of color. What will replace the Stonewall Inn in today's gentrified, less-gay West Village? Another attempt to cash in on the name? Or another forgettable noodle shop? The building IS a registered National Historic Landmark. Either way, I don't see much of an outcry coming from gay New Yorkers. And that, gentle readers, is a pity.
No Soup For You
Sigh. I noticed yesterday that the Nissin Foods sign is gone from its long perch atop 1 Times Square. The 60-foot Cup O'Noodles was the last of the "steaming" signage in Times Square, which has included over the years: a steaming Preston iron, an A&P cup of coffee, and a smoking Marlboro cigarette. Doubtlessly, Chevy plans on replacing the Nissin cup with Times Square's zillionth Jumbotron.
You Talkin' To Me?
On Sunday, Jeff, Tom and I were in a Lexington Avenue store when an elderly woman stopped in her tracks to say to me, "Oh, my! You look just like Robert De Niro." Reading my reaction, she walked away muttering, "I meant it as compliment. I happen to think he's very handsome." I had totally forgotten about it until last night, when the guy in front of me at Best Buy gave me the weirdest double-take. He was buying Goodfellas.
This isn't funny, people.
OK, this is kinda fun: Two dorks are trying to break the NYC subway riding record today by traveling all 26 lines, all 665 track miles and through all 468 stations in under the record time of 25 hours, 11 minutes, which was set by two other dorks in 1998. Even if they break the record, they won't make the Guiness Book Of World Records, whose rules mandate that stops must be made in all stations. Competitive subway riding first began in the mid-60's when students from MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab wrote a computer program that plotted out what was thought to be the most efficient route. Today's dorks are working from their own maps. Go dorks! For the Amateur New York City Subway Riding rules, go here.
Morning View - Two Deco Gems
To the left is the 47-story tower of the Waldorf-Astoria, built in 1931. An art deco gem of midtown (the lobby is a must-see), the Waldorf-Astoria started as two separate hotels owned by feuding cousins William Waldorf Astor and John Jacob Astor. New York is littered with streets and neighborhoods named for the Astors. William built his original hotel on the site where the Empire State Building stands. A second Waldorf-Astoria, to be built near Disney World, was announced by Hilton Hotels earlier this year.
To the right, at 50 stories and also built in 1931, is 570 Lexington, formerly the General Electric Building. This is one of my favorites, with lots of zig-zag ornamental references to electricity and you really can't do it justice without a long lens. Visit the above linked site for some much better shots. In the early 90's, during a Manhattan real-estate depression, the building was donated to Columbia University.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Right On Time For The Midterms
In his new book, State Of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, currently #1 on Amazon, former presidential candidate and current crazy person Pat Buchanan claims that the Mexican government is secretly encouraging illegal immigration into the U.S. as part of its plot to retake the American southwest for Mexico.
"Between 10 and 20 percent of all Mexicans, Central Americans and Caribbean people have already moved to the United States."
"Powerful Mexican and U.S. elites seek to erase America’s borders and merge the United States and Mexico into a “North American Union.”
“Concerned about his legacy, George W. Bush may yet live to see his name entered into the history of his country as the president who lost the American Southwest that James K. Polk won for the United States."
Where are the men with the nets when you need them? Buchanan also calls for "an Eisenhower-type deportation program, beginning with all illegal aliens convicted of felonies and every gang member not a U.S. citizen." Oh c'mon, Pat. Deport over 10 million people? We couldn't even get a drink of water to a tiny fraction of that many people during Katrina, and THEY wanted to be found.
In his last book, The Death Of The West, Buchanan ranted that declining birth rates among white people in Europe was going to bring out the end of Western Civilization. You may also recall his '92 presidential campaign chestnut, "AIDS is nature's retribution for violating the laws of nature." Buchanan is a madman and it depresses me immensely to see his book at #1.
No Majority From NY Dems
In a statewide poll conducted for CBS News, only 48% of New York Democrats said they support gay marriage, a low number that surprised the poll takers. The lowest support comes from black Democrats, 45% of whom are "strongly opposed". Gay marriage did not make the top ten list of concerns for Democratic New Yorkers. The poll takers noted that the majority of support for gay marriage came from the NYC area. (Via 365Gay.com)
Will these lower-than-expected numbers affect Democratic strategy? How will the GOP exploit this new poll?
Times Square - 9:45 AM
Valley Girl, Meet Bronx Girl
Morning View - Trump Palace
I've ragged on other Trump Buildings around town, but this one I really like. Trump Palace, built in '91, is the tallest building on the Upper East Side at 55 stories. With balconies for every unit and windows that actually open, it looks bright, airy and livable. It's peach-ish color seems more suited for South Beach than Manhattan, but I rather like that too.
I admire this beauty every day on my way past it and several times a week I shop in the grocery store in its basement. The building is mostly condo, not co-op, as newer buildings in NYC tend to be, with some rental units as well. A friend of mine looked at a 400-sq foot studio and when he reported the price as $2600/mo, I actually said, "Oh, that seems reasonable!" Then I caught myself and laughed and laughed.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Scaffolding Ad Crackdown Imminent?
Today's Metro has a bit of good news. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer appears ready to crack down on the abuse of scaffolding advertising, something that has irked me ever since I got to town.
The way the scam works: 1) Building owners schedule some kind of repairs or maintenance. 2) Scaffolding goes up to protect pedestrians from falling tools/debris. 3) Building owners sell space on scaffolding to advertisers, who reap huge visibility. 4) The repairs conclude (if they ever took place at all), yet the scaffolding and the advertising remains indefinitely. It's a huge blackmarket industry for advertisers who are happy to plaster ads for HGTV or Lipitor along several hundred feet of a prominent landmarked building. Above, see the Volkswagen Rabbit ads on the glorious 500 Fifth, a picture I took at lunchtime today.
Aside from being more visual pollution, these ads are often illegal and always an obnoxity (not a word, but should be). I have never gotten a decent photo of the Flatiron Building in five years, thanks to the eternal "temporary" scaffolding and the Citibank ads that reside upon it. I'll be very interested to see how successful Stringer is with this campaign. After all, the business of New York is business, and it's very hard to tell people they can't have millions in ad revenue anymore.
UPDATE: After work, I walked around the corner to get a picture of the fabulous art deco facade of the Graybar Building, which when it was built in 1927 was the largest office building in the world. However, the entire block-long facade is covered by ads for reality shows. FUCK! Oh well, here's somebody else's picture of what I wanted to show y'all.
More Violence In The Village
This spring I wrote about the problems the West Village was having with gangs of violent gay black and latino youth, a topic which generated considerable debate among the readers. Today comes news that a "gang" of seven young lesbians from New Jersey stabbed and beat a 28 year old man for "coming on" to one of them. The New York Post covered the story with the header "Gals Gone Wild!" Just two weeks ago, the gay youth empowerment group, FIERCE!, came to an agreement with the city that will bring more police and social services to the pier beginning September 1st.
I have a habit of noting the monthly rates at the parking garages around the city. I don't have a car and don't plan on getting one, but I like reminding myself how insanely expensive keeping a car in Manhattan would be. The garage next to my apartment building (shown) has the lowest rate I've seen so far. Notice NYC's 18% parking tax!
Morning View - Christopher Street Pier
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Female To Mostly Male
Today's NY Times has a fascinating look into the lives of female-to-male transexuals, a growing phenomenon that is sowing anger and dissention among some lesbians, who see gender transitioning as a betrayal of feminism and lesbian activism. Many of the women who transition to male do not completely change their gender, leaving the so-called "bottom surgery" unperformed.
The article raises some interesting questions about how we define gender. For example, does a transman on testosterone, who may have a beard and a vagina, qualify to play women's sports in college? How about the Olympics? It's an interesting flipside to similar questions raised about Renee Richards back in the 70's, who successfully sued her way in playing at the U.S. Women's Open. It's fascinating to watch this all unfold. For many of us, Buck Angel is only the beginning.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Morning View - West 42nd Street
This shot was taken from the 14th floor outside deck of the AMC Theatre on 42nd Street, looking north. That green-roofed building is the current headquarters of the New York Times at 43rd & Broadway. In 1904, Longacre Square was renamed Times Square when the Times built their first home on 42nd Street, the building now topped by the giant cup of soup sign. The Times is building its 3rd brand new home right next to where this picture was taken, at 8th Avenue and 41st Street.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Fakes On A Train
I tried to get a photo of the young men from Ivory Coast who stand on the train platforms with open briefcases full of counterfeit watches, but when their sentry saw me aim my camera, he shouted, "Mbuala a'fahti!", which is Yaoure for "That fat guy has a camera!" and they all snapped their cases shut and began chatting about the Yankees. I only wanted the picture so I could make the above headline joke before all the funny is used up from the movie title. Sigh.
I think I'm already beginning to get a little annoyed with the onslaught of "my". Thanks to News Corp, we've got MySpace, MyNetworkTV and New York's My9 tv channel. Sure, I've got a MySpace account (even though most of the time it won't let me log in), but this whole army of "My" (nerdy Bjork shout-out) is getting on MyNerves. Now excuse me while I check out MyGaydar.
Spitzer Plans Expanded Protections
New York gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer plans to include same-sex couples in domestic violence legislation, according to his running mate, David Paterson. Spitzer has already pledged to legalize gay marriage if elected, although as Attorney General he was forced to argue against it in court cases. Spitzer is a shoo-in for the November election, drawing massive support from both major parties, as well as the endorsement of major gay organizations. Things look very promising for the Democrats to retake the governor's mansion in several key states.
Morning View - Halfway To Staten Island
I took this photo from the rear of the Staten Island Ferry. The most prominent building in the receding skyline is the tallest building in New Jersey, the new Goldman Sachs Building, which I rather like.
HomoQuotable - Johnny Is A Man
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Just Like Tracy Turnblad
Last night I finally had the ultimate New York experience. Walking down 14th Street at 10pm, a ginormous rat darted out of an alley and ran right across my strappy-sandled foot. The girl walking towards me froze in horror, then yelled, "OHMAHGAWD! Do you want me to take you to the hospital?" I laughed and said, "For a tranquilizer?" She said, "No! For the amputation!"
No, really. I'm fine.
Open Thread Thursday
Morning View - Washington Square Arch
The 77-foot tall arch in Washington Square Park was built in 1892 to commemorate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration. It was designed by Stanford White, one of the most revered of the Beaux Arts architects. Washington Square Park used to be a cemetery. "You son of a bitch! You moved the headstones, but you didn't move the bodies!"
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Sirius OutQ: Thursday 10AM EST
Tomorrow morning I'll be back as Larry Flick's guest on Sirius OutQ In The Morning, the only national all-gay morning talk show. Stream the show, here. My bit's at 10am, 7am on the left coast. I love radio, I don't got to get my hair did.
Ricky Loved Madonna
Today is August 16th. It's Madonna's 48th birthday. That's not something of which I'd ordinarily make note.
Twenty years ago today, August 16th 1986, I was a few months into a new job with AMC Theatres, a job that I would hold for seven years, after having spent a few years after college drifting around bartending, waitering, and DJ'ing. After burning through 3 DJ gigs in about a year, I took the management position with AMC almost in desperation, happy to finally have a regular paycheck. I bought my first brand new car. I had several dozen underlings. I had a business card. I felt like a grown-up, almost.
Twenty years ago today, it was a Saturday. As the assistant manager, I had to be at the theatre at 10am, even though I had closed the midnight shows the night before, not getting home until almost 4am. I stumbled through the still-unfamiliar opening procedures. My mind was on Ricky. I took the cash drawers out to the concession stand and the box office and turned on the air conditioners and lights in all the auditoriums. The first movie, a Disney cartoon, started at 11:30am and we had hundreds of people in front of the box office before I even rolled up the mall gates.
Twenty years ago today, the night before was a Friday. It was the opening night of the remake of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum. My six-plex was jamming. The Fly sold out at every show, driving the overflow audiences into Top Gun and Aliens, which were still doing decent business on their own. All six auditoriums sold out by 8pm, and I rushed to get that show's money counted before the first of the auditoriums began to let out and we had to start the process all over again. I pushed into the counting room inside the manager's office and dumped several thousand in $20's onto the countertop. The intercom buzzed.
"Mr. J., there's a man here to see you."
In the lobby was my friend Todd. "Joe, I'm on my way to see Ricky. Can you come? He's worse."
I looked out into the mall, where hundreds of teenagers milled around in front of closed storefronts. The Interstate Mall was on its last legs. All that was left was the theatre, a pinball arcade, an adult novelty shop, and the driver's license bureau, which was closed at that hour. The teenagers roamed the broad unswept avenue of the mall in swirling, shrieking packs, anxious for the late show to begin.
I shook my head. "Todd, I'm the only one here. I have the late show and then the midnights. The last movie doesn't let out until almost 3am. I have to lock up." Todd nodded and made a move like he was going to hug me, then realized that a dozen of my employees were watching. Awkwardly, he stuck out his hand, as if that's what he'd intended all along. I shook it and he left. I had never shaken Todd's hand before.
Twenty years ago today, one week earlier, Ricky went into the hospital. He'd had a seizure on the bathroom floor of his sister's condo. Todd and I went to the hospital the next day and found him lying unconscious in his bed, unattended, in a pool of feces. Todd staggered into the hallway and tried to control his retching while I looked for a nurse. At the nurses' station, the stout Jamaican woman behind the counter nodded curtly but didn't get out of her chair when I asked that Ricky receive some attention. I went back to find Todd sitting out in the lounge, smoking.
"Joe, I can't be here. I'm freaking out. Do you know we walked right in there without a mask on?"
"I think the mask is more for him than us....so if..."
"I have to go."
We stopped at the Burger King a few blocks away and washed our hands. Even though we hadn't touched Ricky or anything but the door of his hospital room, we scrubbed the front and backs of our hands like we'd seen surgeons do on television.
Twenty years ago today, two weeks earlier, Todd and I had dropped in at Ricky's sister's condo. Ricky had been forced to move in with her. He'd lost his job at the giant hotel near Disney, where he'd been training to be a pastry chef. For a long time, he'd managed to keep his illness a secret, wearing long shirts even in the hot kitchen, so that nobody saw the lesions that were growing inexorably from his wrists to his elbows. A lesion appeared on the back of his hand and that one he covered with make-up, but when a lesion appeared right on the tip of his nose, the head chef and head of human resources had called him in on his day off to fire him. Surely he understood, they told him, that they couldn't have him handling food. There was no HIV test at the time, not that it would have done Ricky any good.
When Ricky's sister opened the door of her condo, she made a face. "He's not feeling well." She'd already made it clear to Todd on his previous visit that she did not like her brother's "friends". Todd said quickly, "Oh, well, we just wanted to drop off a present for him." I had Madonna's latest release, True Blue, on CD in a sparkly bag. We knew that he'd gotten the vinyl album earlier in the summer, but since he was such a big fan, we knew he'd like to have the CD version too.
His sister led us into the bedroom where we found Ricky watching television. He was cranky and inattentive to us, but momentarily brightened when we gave him the CD. He examined the cover. "It's the same as the album, just smaller." He didn't have a player, hardly anyone did yet, so he laid the longbox reverently on his nightstand, propped against the lamp. His sister hovered in the doorway smoking, anxious for our departure, and we soon obliged her.
Twenty years ago today, three months earlier, I met Ricky for the first time at a party thrown by Todd. I'd heard from Todd that Ricky was "sick", but he seemed fine to me. We stood outside on the patio and watched guys jumping into the pool.
Ricky said, "So what do you do, Joe?"
I said, "Well I just started working for AMC Theatres."
Ricky screamed a little bit. "Which ONE?"
I stepped back. "Interstate Six, why?"
"Because I am in there ALL the time. I saw At Close Range about five times just to hear Madonna's song in it!"
"She wasn't in the movie, was she?"
"No, but I'm just a freak for her." He paused, then added dramatically, "We have the same birthday!"
"Oh....really." I began to look around for Todd.
Ricky began to get very animated. "Yes. Same day, same year. I was born exactly at midnight and my mother always said I could have August 15 or August 16 for my birthday, it was my choice and for the longest time I had it on August 15 cuz that's Julia Child's birthday and she's a chef and I'm a chef and she was like my idol when I was little, such a fag, right? Anyway, when Madonna came out and I found out her birthday, I was all...that's IT. I'm August 16 from now on!"
Ricky continued professing his undying love for Madonna until I was finally able to make a graceful escape. Later, Todd told me that Ricky had dressed as Madonna for the previous Halloween and belonged to her mail-order fan club and we laughed a little bit at his adorably nutty fandom.
Twenty years ago today, August 16th 1986, was a Saturday. The theatre had brisk business for the morning show, selling out the Disney movie. After all the houses were rolling, I pulled the money from the box office and sat alone in the office to count it. I turned on the radio so I could hear Casey Kasem counting down the Top 40.
Todd called. "Well, the hospital just told me Ricky died around midnight last night."
"Oh, no. Did you get in to see him...before.....?"
"No, his sister and mother were there, so I just left without going in."
"Right." That's how it usually went back then.
Todd hung up and I sat there finishing up my money counting. I didn't know how to feel. I really couldn't call Ricky a friend. I had to count and recount the money several times, I kept losing my place. Then I heard Casey Kasem say, "Hitting number one is Madonna's Papa Don't Preach."
I called Todd back. "So, did they give you a time of death for Ricky?"
"Right, but is that today or yesterday?"
"Well, today is his birthday and it's Madonna's birthday and I just heard that she's number one today...and.....it would be, you know, sorta nice if it was today."
"What the fuck is nice about dying on your BIRTHDAY?"
We never talked about it again. I never did find out what day was listed for Ricky's death. As the years went on and Madonna's fame increased, the press began to note her birthday. And ever since that started, I think of Ricky on August 16th. I never knew Ricky's last name. He wasn't a close friend. But he has stuck with me over these two decades.
I know that writing these stories about dead people is rather maudlin. Melodramatic. In a way, a story about a stranger's death is always going to feel melodramatic, I suppose. I've written stories like this a half dozen times over the two years of this blog's existence, and I've got many more, more sad stories still untold. I think I get feeling scared that if I don't get the story out there, I'll forget it. Forget how it happened. Forget the person.
Twenty years ago today, Ricky, aged 28, died on his birthday. I will always hope that it was his August 16th birthday. Ricky loved Madonna.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
The Dugout Can't Handle The Truth.com
The Dugout, Sunday 7pm
Announcement: "Gentlemen, I'm So & So from TheTruth.com and we are here at the Dugout today looking for men with very hairy backs to cast in a national anti-smoking commerical. This is a paid casting and if you are cast you will also get residuals from future showings of the commercial. You must have a very hairy back and be willing to let us shave a letter in the hair, so that when we line you up, you all spell out "cigarettes"."
A few minutes later a young girl came through the crowd with a clipboard looking for applicants. Surprisingly, she seemed to find none. And for the first time in my life, I heard men tell a woman, "I'm sorry, but I don't have a hairy back."
Bet They Found The Gig On Craigslist
Casting Call: Eight athletic men needed for DVD promotion. You must be fit, dark, sullen and willing to wear a pleather Roman Centurion outfit (including helmet!) outside Grand Central Terminal (in the rain, during rush hour) while carrying a litter of Rome: The Complete First Season box sets, as hundreds of thousands of commuters mock you. If passing homosexual bloggers attempt to chronicle your pleathery hotness, LOOK AWAY.
Hersh Story Grows
Lots of attention is being paid to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh's claim in The New Yorker that the United States engineered the Israeli attack of Lebanon in order to ensure that Hezbollah forces would not be able to attack Israel once the U.S. bombing of Iran begins. Hersh has a track record of exposing U.S. misdeeds, going back to the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. In 2004, Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. In April of this year, Hersh claimed in New Yorker that the U.S. is planning on using bunker-busting nuclear bombs against Iran. In the new piece, Hersch cites anonymous sources and the U.S. State Department has denied his story. Read the latest New Yorker article. Here's the transcript of Hersh's appearance on CNN Late Edition on Sunday.
Reactions: Of course, the Freepers are going crazy, accusing Hersh of being a traitor for revealing the conspiracy or mentally ill for having dreamed it up. Israeli officials are denying like crazy in the Jerusalem Post, because they are NOT puppets of the U.S.
Morning View - Midtown East
Monday, August 14, 2006
George Bush on the Lebanon ceasefire: "We can only imagine how much more dangerous this conflict would be if Iran had the nuclear weapon it seeks."
Hey kids, why fail at two simultaneous wars when you can fail at THREE? Buy two disasters, get one free! Every third body bag is on the house! Hey, got any spare teenage males just lounging around the house goofing off with Playstation? GWB knows just where to send 'em!
I can see why this coming war with Iran is so irresistable. Iran meets all four criteria for American aggression. 1. They have oil. 2. They want nukes. 3. They hate Israel. 4. They have oil. It's a fucking perfect match!
Dead Man's Chest
I love Johnny Depp, I really do. Edward Scissorhands? Brilliant. But I'm just having trouble wrapping my head around the phenomenal success that Pirates Of The Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest is having. To date, the film has grossed $855 million worldwide, and the thing is still going strong. Next week it will pass Finding Nemo to become the highest grossing Disney movie in history. By the end of summer, we could be talking Titanic territory. I've seen the trailer, I've read the reviews, I even watched a "making of" thing on Showtime. Dead Man's Chest is already the #12 top grossing movie of all time. I'm baffled.
Kitchenbeard Does The Pier
My buddy Stephen, the former NY'er also known as blogger Kitchenbeard, was in town this weekend to officiate at his brother's wedding, as Stephen is a bona-fide internet authorized minister. It appears that San Francisco is treating him well. That's Stephen on the right of the three men standing in the middle of the picture, on the Christopher Street Pier yesterday. Notice how I caught the Empire State Building in the far background, framed by those dreadful Richard Meier glass towers. I've heard that Stephen is an amazing chef, but in the years I've known him, he's yet to cook for me. Ahem.
Sharpie Snark Wars
From a poster in the 68th Street subway station under Hunter College:
"Last year 1 out of 12 high school students was assaulted by a fellow student."
A short graffiti war follows:
Snarky 1: That should be "were assaulted".
Snarky 2: No, "one....was" IS correct!
Snarky 3: Y'all is funny!
Snarky 4: Y'all ARE funny.
Snarky 5: Dumb bitches. It's "Y'all BE funny."
Winner: Snarky 5.
Next: The War On Lipliner
The Transportation Safety Authority has removed lipstick from the list of items banned from carry-on baggage. And the drag queens of America rest a little bit easier.
HomoQuotable - Christine Quinn
"I don’t believe there is any expectation of privacy as it relates to going to a club.” - openly gay New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, commenting on the privacy concerns of gay activists regarding her proposed rules that would require NYC nightclubs to videotape and electronically record the IDs of patrons. Christopher Dunn, of the New York Civil Liberties Union responds: "Many people might reasonably fear retaliation if a picture of them in a gay club were splashed across the Internet or the pages of their local paper. If the city intends to require videotaping, there must be strict privacy protections.” The new rules would only apply to the 250 NYC nightclubs that have a cabaret license, which allows for dancing. (via NY Times)
And there is it. The gay head of the NY City Council believes that attending a nightclub means surrendering your right to privacy. What's next? Personally, I couldn't give a flying fuck over the concerns of some closeted married jerk who wants to dance with the boys at Roxy. But this continuous erosion of personal liberties has got to stop somewhere. The question is, how far will we let this go?
Morning View - New York Water Taxi
Vasco snapped this for me yesterday from the Christopher Street Pier. The NYC Water Taxi makes stops all along the lower half of Manhattan and has special service from the South Street Seaport to Shea Stadium on game days. You can get a "hop-on/hop-off " pass for $15 on weekends, which allows two days of unlimited use.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Kiki & Herb, Alive On Broadway
Friday, David and I attended the opening night of Kiki & Herb's Broadway debut in their new show, Alive On Broadway, at the Helen Hayes Theatre, where the septuagenarian duo served up their fantastically twisted takes on Gnarls Barkely, Dan Fogelberg, The Cure, Public Enemy, and many others. The storyline is familiar at times to longtime fans, but Kiki's (Justin Bond) meandering narrative was by turns hilarious and profound.
The absolute show-stopper was Kiki's heart-wrenching performance of Mark Eitzel's Patriot's Heart, which brought the room to tears. This show delivers the political Kiki and she eviscerates everybody from Bush/Cheney to the Pope. Kenny Mellman as Herb, her adorable gay "jewtard" accompanist, has an expanded role in Alive On Broadway, and he opened the show with a solo number before welcoming Kiki onstage to a standing ovation. Sure, lots of Broadway acts get standing O's at the end, but how many get them at the beginning? David and I left with our faces sore from smiling. The show has a limited run, ending September 10th. Get tickets here.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Viread Shows Potential As HIV Preventive
Early testing of HIV therapy drug Viread as a preventive for HIV has shown promising results in a study funded by Bill and Melinda Gates. Single daily doses of Viread and a placebo were given to almost 1000 African women in the study. Only 2 of the women taking Viread contracted HIV, versus 6 of the women taking the placebo. Interestingly, taking part in the study seemed to cause the participants to practice safer sex and have fewer partners, as scientists expected those on the placebo to contract HIV at a much higher rate. Other larger studies are planned, including one involving 1400 gay men in Peru. The cynic in me wonders if this news may spur more U.S. gay men to acquire Viread from their HIV+ friends or through the internet and begin their own private study, a phenomenon we are already starting to see.
Friday, August 11, 2006
The Numbers Don't Lie
Since Apple only has 5% of the market share, yet over four times that many JMG readers use Macs, my conclusions are:
1. The gays love Macs.
2. The gays use these Macs to read JMG.
3. The gays love JMG!
It's right there in the numbers people! (These stats only represent the last 100 JMG visitors, but the percentages stay amazingly constant overall.)
Back On The Shit List
-Wednesday, the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC performed the national anthem at RFK Stadium, as part of Night Out At The National's, the annual gay & lesbian night for DC's pro baseball team. AOL Gay & Lesbian editor Kenneth Hill has the stirring video of their performance. Check out GayBaseballDays.com for gay nights at the ballpark near you.
-Check out Cinncinnati photographer/artist/blogger Chris Glass' beautifully designed site. I could look at his photos all day. I've been meaning to direct y'all over there for quite awhile, especially after I caught Chris' funny lip sync'd rip on Fiona Apple.
-Visit my occasional drinking buddy and fellow smartass, Chicago blogger Palochi, for a hilarious list of suggested names for the rides at a proposed military-themed theme park outside of Chicago. My favorite: It's A Small New World Order. As a commenter said, it's comedy gold.
-DC blogger and scruffaniac Jimbo has just finished a week of Porn Star 'Stache blogging. He even used that "Firechief of Itchboro, New Jersey" picture of me that all of you had so much fun mocking.
No Big Whoop
OK, so the new drill is that we cannot carry drinks and toiletries onto a plane. Big deal. I have no problem with this. The biggest downside for me with likely be increased rage at non-compliant passengers, who already drive me to near-violence by insisting on bringing ginormous "carry-on" luggage into the cabin. From now on, I'll just stow my backpack inside my larger suitcase, check it, and stroll onto the plane with a book. So the days of carry-on luggage might be over. Think how fast pre-flight boarding could go now. In a way, it's a good thing. No big whoop.