Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Vestigial tails

December 8, 2010

So, yesterday, for what might be the first time in my entire life, I finally put some change in the change-pocket of my jeans.  I’m not quite sure why — for decades I’ve been perfectly content to use regular pockets.  But, yesterday, I apparently decided that if my clothes have a tiny little useless pocket sewn in above the regular pocket, and it’s commonly called a “change-pocket,” then I should probably put my change in there.  It seemed very reasonable at the time.

Why does this matter?  Well, as I type this, I’m sitting in a café on a rainy day, thinking that I might like some hot chocolate

(I’m all manly like that)

and I happen to be wearing the same pants I wore yesterday

(fresh underwear, though)

and therefore in my change-pocket is the pocket change I need for that hot chocolate.

However, that change isn’t coming out.  The pocket is surprisingly deep, and actually narrowest at the top (presumably to keep my change from falling out if I should happen to be upside-down), and even my rather slender girly-fingers are struggling to do more than idly poke the change at the bottom of the pocket.

The end result of my efforts is that people sitting near me are politely ignoring how I’m struggling with my crotch.  I am not, however, getting any closer to my change, and therefore to my hot chocolate.

I’m left with the question of how this change-pocket is supposed to be any help.  It is, admittedly, doing an admirable job of holding my loose change, but it’s a bit of a design flaw that there seems to be no way to get the change back without taking off my pants and slowly poking the money out from the inside.  And, I suppose I could do that, since I’m wearing clean underwear and this is a mellow café, but it’s rather a lot of effort.

So, is the deal here that no one uses the change-pocket, and  I just missed the memo?  Is it simply understood that this is a fashion feature of my pants and not actually a functional pocket, like all the straps and buckles on a hardcore-gay leather jacket?  Perhaps this feature is a relic from a time when inaccessible pocket change was a meaningful defense against adolescent Dickensian pickpockets?

I don’t know.  Further, I don’t care.  I would like hot chocolate.

I foresee some awkward nudity in my near future.

In all fairness, talking trees ARE scary

December 1, 2010

Recently, in an effort to expand my horizons and appreciate the subtler and more refined qualities of fine dining, I ate at a rainforest-themed tourist-trap family restaurant.  And, this was no accident, and neither was I roped into it as part of a nephew’s birthday or any other consequence of someone else’s tastes in venue.  I wanted to be there, and was actually quite excited to go to a place that I’d been wanting to see for awhile.

I even convinced an attractive young woman to join me, providing a street cred that I would have sorely missed eating by myself in a restaurant decorated with robot monkeys.

The whole place felt like a ride at Disneyland.  It’s not that it was packed with people (we were clever enough to go on a slow night), but just that it was very… thematically consistent.   Moss and bark covered the walls, vines drooped from the ceiling, and the path inside was clearly marked by the pastel footprints of some giant mutant frog monster.  The gift shop in the lobby had a talking tree.

(Actually, the talking tree kind of freaked me out a little)

The illusion was damaged only by the bright “exit” signs, and the pleading, tortured eyes of the pleasant fellow who took us to our table.  We sat under the steeply-angled trajectory of some sort of predatory parrot, who dangled from the ceiling like a murderous, feathery Christmas ornament.

To say that the restaurant was like Disneyland is no overstatement.  Animatronic apes twitched and grunted.  Elephants roared and flapped their giant goofy ears.  A listless panther rested above a waterfall that poured steaming (but, somehow cold when I checked) water past a giant metal Atlas holding a neon-decorated globe on his shoulders.  I’m sure the colourful (real) fish darting back and forth in their tanks had no idea that they weren’t in their native jungle habitat.  Honestly, it was all rather a lot to take in, although the bottle of wine before we left for the restaurant certainly helped.

By the time it arrived, the food was a bit of an anticlimax, although I’m not sure what could have possibly topped the decor.  It was standard theme-restaurant stuff, washed down with a sangria that really did seem like just a few pieces of fruit dropped into Hawaiian Punch.

I tried to pay with an expired credit card.  Smooooooth.  That’s how you impress a lady.  Although, I probably forfeited my chance to impress when I was visibly delighted at flapping animatronic elephant ears.

So, why am I describing this?  After all, my blog posts usually have either some hint of social commentary or are just a chance to vent about something stupid.

Well, first, it’s not every day that I get to go somewhere with animatronic animals in the company of a hot girl.  This seems worth bragging about.

(I actually managed the same thing for my most recent trips to both Chuck E. Cheese and Disneyland.  Damn, I’m a stud.)

Also, I realised that the last time I went so long without a blog post, I forever lost the chance to have an “October 2010” entry in my archives.  That omission will haunt me forever.  So, a post on the first of the month seemed like a good hedge against being so busy later that the archive gets another irreparable hole.

But, mostly, I just wanted to come out firmly in favour of silly, tourist-esque (somewhat drunken) fun.  Schlock is amusing, and being too snobby to try out new things is just denying yourself a cool experience.  I’m not exactly burning to go back any time soon, but it was definitely worth the experience, and I even briefly considered buying a t-shirt on my way out, until the unsettling robot tree started talking to me and scared me away from that corner of the gift shop.

How many people live in a city for years without doing things that tourists get to in the first two days?  Tourists go to tourist spots for a reason: it’s fun.  I’m perfectly willing to admit that it’s easier to go to a place with robot elephants if you’re confident that no one you know will see you (what I call the “porn store effect”), but, really, even if you do run into someone you know, that person is there too.  It’s like running into your high-school math teacher in an adult theatre — if you never bring it up, he’s sure as hell not going to mention it either.

(Not that, um, that happened.  Right, Mr. Terwilliger?)

So, do yourself a favour.  Put on some clothes that partly obscure your identity, and go visit some of the goofier attractions in your city.  You’ll have fun, you’ll know your home a bit better, and if nothing else you’ll have fodder for that blog you’ve been meaning to update.  Bonus points if you don’t run from the talking tree.

Love is in the air

November 10, 2010

My neighbour is humping.

Good for her.  It doesn’t happen often, and I’m happy for her happiness.  She’s really not especially cute, and she’s rather short, and not exactly athletic or trim, so I wish her the best, and I’m glad she’s enjoying herself.

How do I know she’s enjoying herself, you ask?

Because I can hear every damned thing that goes on over there, from her delighted grunts to the awkward rhythmic slapping of midget flesh.

Fortunately, the throes of ecstasy usually last only four minutes or so, before the lovebirds go back to discussing telenovelas.

Take that, bus!

September 17, 2010

So, I’m waiting for the bus a few hours ago.  It’s mid-afternoon, and students from both the local high school and the nearby university campus are crowded around the stop.  It’s a busy time of day, and the buses are standing-room only.  I’m thinking that this was a stupid time to bring a half-dozen heavy grocery bags on the bus, but then I’ve never been clever about that sort of thing.

(It was also a stupid time of day to bring an entire TV table on the bus, but I did that yesterday)

(Don’t ask; I just really wanted a new TV table)

So, a bus comes, and big family — a mom and a bunch of teen-ish kids — all try to board.  The driver stops the first one of them, a big burly guy, and says, “Sorry, you can’t bring ice-cream cones on the bus.”  They’ve each got a big, fresh cone from a place right by the bus stand.

Now, to be honest, I’d think it’s common sense not to bring an ice-cream cone on public transit.  I’ve seen drivers be varying degrees of lenient about food, but an ice-cream cone on a city bus just seems especially like an invitation for airborne dairy products, especially when the bus is standing-room only.  But, you, know, maybe these folks just weren’t thinking about it.

So what does the guy do?

He gets off the bus, and takes his ice-cream cone and smears it over the front window.

Take that, bus!

Now, I’m watching this and thinking, “Dude, little kids do that with food.  You just had a tantrum against a vehicle.”  And, I thought about saying it.  This guy was bigger than I am, and clearly in a foul mood, but I really felt like letting him know that he looked like a big crying baby.  In hindsight, I really wish I’d said something, instead of just standing there idly watching.

Meanwhile, one of the other kids is moving to clean up the mess, and her mother is telling her not to.  “No, don’t clean that up.” “Come on, mama, it’s a mess.”  After a few moments, the daughter steps up and wipes the ice-cream off the bus window with some napkins.

So, what did I just see?  A big dude showing no common sense had a tantrum when he was told he couldn’t bring big sloppy food on a crowded bus.  A grown woman thought his tantrum was a great idea.  Her teenage daughter, I think probably the youngest of the bunch, realised how ridiculous it all was and made some effort to clean the mess.

I don’t know whether I’m mostly disappointed that adults can be such children, or happy to see a child be such an adult.

The first thing I did when I got home was eat a pint of ice-cream.

Why doesn’t Macy’s want me to feel pretty?

August 2, 2010

I went shopping for clothes the other day.  I’ve been running my existing wardrobe into the ground, and in the interest of not looking like I wear the same clothes every day, I’ve been trying to shop more.

(For the record, I have plenty of underwear.  I am always wearing clean underwear.)

(When I wear underwear, that is)

Now, I have body image issues.  Pretty much everyone does, but I feel like I have them more than most, although maybe everyone feels like that too.  I’ve got funny body proportions that make shopping tricky — it’s hard for me to find clothes that fit one part of me without being loose and flappy (or worse, pinchy and vice-like) elsewhere.  Add to that to how finicky I am about clothes (I routinely spend an afternoon at the mall with nothing to show for it), and shopping can be a bit of a struggle.

(My tailor loves me.  Half of the things I buy have to go through him before I can wear them without looking funny.)

(Yes, I have a tailor.  More people should.)

(No, I’m not gay.)

At any rate, I actually quite like shopping, so it’s not like I’m hating the time.  But, I feel like it’s more effort for me than for some.  Again, though, I bet everyone feels that way, like how most people consider themselves smarter than average.

So, anyway, on this last shopping trip, I once again was confronted by the familiar question: why is everything about change rooms designed to make me look ugly in these clothes?  This question is hardly new, and the inadequate change room experience has been an ongoing joke in fashion circles for a long time.

(I almost said “for ages,” but that’s probably needless exaggeration.  Also, I feel like the issue would have been resolved during the Italian renaissance if the problem had existed then.)

I’m not exactly a bronzed beach Adonis, but I do have what in more naïve times might have been called a healthy tan.  So, why do the lights in change rooms make me look the same shade as the Pilsbury dough boy?

And, while we’re on the topic of doughy mascots, why do those same lights manage to make me feel flabby and unfit?  One of my issues is that I’m too skinny, and yet somehow a department-store change room can make me consider going on a diet.  Usually, when I look at someone suffering from Anorexia, I wonder, “How could you possibly think you need to lose weight?”; but, I bet all it took was five minutes in a change room at Macy’s.

Now, in my apartment there’s a spot in my bathroom where the lights hit me just right and my muscles are exaggerated by the shadows.  When I stand there, I look fit.

(I spend an awful lot of time standing there.)

My theory is that the “before” and “after” shots you see in muscle magazines are created through a similar approach.  It’s definitely possible to improve the appearance of a physique just through clever lighting.

So if my bathroom lights at home can flatter my body and the clothes I’m wearing, why on earth can’t the ceiling light in a shopping mall change room do the same thing?  That would make me buy clothes.

It’s the higher-end clothing stores that confuse me the most about this.  I can absolutely understand if Hot Topic’s cramped little ad hoc change room wedged behind the rack of Badtz Maru belt buckles isn’t as well-designed as it could be.  But, higher-end boutiques and big stores like Macy’s or Selfridges will spend a fortune on displays designed to make clothes look wonderful off the rack, and then they have you try it on in a change room with decor reminiscent of an office cubicle.  I get that office managers need to keep the drones disillusioned and hopeless, by why would a major clothing store do the same to its customers?

The silver lining is that buying clothes often puts me in the position of being aggressively comfortable with my body.  In a concerted effort not to be reduced to a puddle of whimpering self-loathing, I’m forced by those mirrors to accept who I am at least long enough to try on a shirt.  That is, arguably, good practice for surviving self-consciousness in the real world, something that just about everyone can benefit from.  They say that we’re our own worst critics.  So, if we can handle our worst critic, looking as bad as we’re going to look, then maybe we can handle a bunch of random other people who probably aren’t looking too closely to begin with.

(and who are often ugly, anyway; people in glass houses…)

Not that I think, for even a moment, that such a result was even remotely the intention of the people who designed those pallid little rooms.  But, I suppose if I’m going to look pale and doughy while trying on expensive clothes, I might as well at least be toughening up while I do it.

Actually, a better idea is probably just to buy only from stores with a solid return policy, and try all my clothes for the first time in my favourite corner of the bathroom.

All the cool kids are doing it

July 6, 2010

There are pretty much only two reasons people exercise: they either care about their health, or they want to look good.  I’ve personally  always fallen firmly on the latter side of that fence.  I have tons of appearance-related issues with my body, but I’ve always had naturally good health.  When I do push-ups, I’m doing them to look and feel more attractive, not for some improvement to my natural pushing ability.

But, a few days ago I started jogging again.

Improving my cardio conditioning has always seemed like a waste of effort.  No-one can see that I have the heart of a 120-year-old man, so why worry about that when bigger triceps might impress women at a bar?

(And, if a sexual encounter ends after two minutes in me clutching my chest with one hand and miming an ambulance with the other, then, well, at least I got that far in the first place.)

Now, I’ve always, since I was a little kid, had absolutely terrible cardio conditioning.  I blame Nintendo for showing me that there was something more fun than running around all afternoon in a giant field chasing a ball.  I was never overweight, and in general my fitness was good, but when it came to sustained aerobic exercise (running, field sports, long division), I was just a wreck.  I remember doing the annual government fitness test in gym class and acing everything except the endurance run, for which I would stumble to the finish line at the end of the pack and collapse into a twitching, gasping mess on the ground.

However, a few years ago, for reasons I’m still not sure I understand, I started jogging regularly, for the first time in my life.  For about a year I went running maybe five times a week, and slowly worked up from a few puny city blocks (and being half-dead after it was over) to doing a good 8k a night (and being merely somewhat dead).  Of course, to anyone who had been running for a long time, that distance and my near-geriatric pace aren’t very impressive at all.  But, to me it was a big deal, because it represented such a huge improvement.

Then I stopped, and, bang, it all went away and I returned to the feeble gasping wimp I’d always been.

Once or twice since then I’ve tried again to run (jog, stumble, whatever) regularly.  It’s never stuck, probably because I find it just so damned unpleasant.  “Jogger’s high,” my ass.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve enjoyed going for a run, or felt even remotely good when it ended; every moment I’m either counting down the paces until it’s over, or trying to distract myself from counting down the paces until it’s over.

And, yet, I’m doing it again.  Why?  I don’t enjoy it, nobody can tell if I do it or not, and I look like a fumbling amputee when I’m actually at the task.  I’m also not especially worried about being chased by a bear any time soon.  But, I keep coming back to running; there’s got to be a reason.

My theory: peer pressure.  I know lots of people who jog regularly, and they are all (almost by definition) much better at it than I am.  It’s downright emasculating to know that a significant number of my friends, perhaps even a majority, could run circles around me; in the admittedly unlikely event that we are ever chased by a bear, I’m the one who’s bear food.  But (since I’m not really that worried about bears), it’s not a performance issue, so much as the inescapable feeling that all the cool kids are doing it.  Whenever friends drop casually into conversation that they just came back from a run, or are going for a jog later, or bought new running shoes, I feel left out.

So, I run.  Not because I care about my heart (I do not anticipate any bear-related emergencies), and not because it will make me look better (because no one can see it, and it would be gross if they could), but because I want to be able to say that I do it.  There’s nothing worse than feeling left about because you haven’t seen the new movie everyone is talking about.

This is an interesting example of how peer pressure can be a good thing.  I do something that I don’t want to do, just because everyone else is doing it, and I’m better off for it (assuming I’m not hit by a car).  The lesson here is that social pressure can actually be a useful thing if you’re clever enough to blindly follow a healthy crowd.  Even though it’s kind of a damp and cold evening, and even though I absolutely don’t want to, at all, I’m about to go for a healthy, cleansing run.  It’ll suck, and I’ll get no meaningful sense of satisfaction from it, but I’ll do it.

Peer pressure was easier when it just meant that you had to do drugs.

Merchandising the subaltern*

June 29, 2010

*(For those of you not hip to the post-colonialist lingo, here you go.  It’s a pretty big word in some circles.)

By far my most-visited blog post is one I wrote last year discussing my participation as a straight man in an increasingly open and inclusive queer community.  This stuff gets people talking.

(My second most traffic-heavy post is the one that turns up in search engines to “woman squirting.”  That says a lot, I think, about what most people are looking for with Google.  I bet they’re disappointed when they end up here.)

This last weekend was our local Pride celebration.  Where I live, this is not a small thing; we take sexuality seriously ’round these parts.  Or, we used to (so I’m told, anyway).  Since I moved here, what I’ve mostly experienced is a thin veneer of tolerance covering a giant excuse to party and advertise.  And, I’m generally fine with that, because a good party is a good party.

This year, though, I was struck by how the party might be getting stretched just a little bit thin.  The Sunday morning parade was fun, but I’m not sure it had to be several hours long.  Someone needs to explain to parade organisers that a flatbed with men in underwear dancing is not, by itself, enough to constitute a parade float.  Similarly, you know what doesn’t make for an exciting parade float?  A guy I’ve never heard of in a suit, waving.  If he’s gay, why isn’t he in a thong dancing to Lady Gaga with everyone else?  And, every freaking business in the state made a point of having a float. Yes, Google has eleventy-billion employees,  many of whom are doubtlessly gay. Do we need a float to tell us that?

It’s actually the latter two examples that struck me the most.  Every parade has its “boring waving politician” moments (Oh, look, it’s… some old guy, the Marshall of the Easter parade!), but there sure seemed to be an awful lot of them this weekend. Watching elected city administrators climb over each other to identify with a significant voter block really doesn’t make for festival-level entertainment.  In a city like this, being open-minded about sexuality is less a commendable political stand and more of a bare minimum, but that doesn’t prevent all the political jumping and waving, “Look at me!  I like gay folks!”

Now, this isn’t to say that the parade wasn’t still fun, and generally successful at being vibrant, inclusive, and fabulous.  But, for every well-decorated float full of mostly naked men dancing in clever costumes, there was a “Yes, yes, all your male sub-management employees are gay, Virgin America, we get it” moment.  It’s a good thing the airline companies were in the parade to let us know that their flight attendants are gay, or we might not have known.

(I expect the next big shocker on that front will come from the modern dance industry.)

But, after the lamely conservative (can’t have too much fun wearing your employer’s logo, after all) corporate float moves past, it’s replaced by a truly creative and entertaining living rainbow, made up of mostly-naked men in body paint running and climbing around in a choreographed flow.  And, the crowd cheers, and the folks on the float laugh and dance, and everyone is having fun.

And then the old Asian lady representing district 8 goes by waving politely from the back of a convertible, and the buzz is killed.  She’s not even naked.

This was the up-and-down of the entire, rather long, parade: genuinely entertaining and celebratory content alternating with corporate and political cash-ins.  And, that, in a nutshell, is the queer rights movement around here.  The transition from protest to celebration has been a slow and hard-earned one, and there is, I think, a lot to be said for appreciating both at once.  However, it’s also a little disappointing to see that once something is acceptable, it’s also exploitable; somehow, we’ve commodified tolerance into corporate and political capital.

I can’t decide if that’s a bad thing.  It seems like a patently self-serving perversion of a minority’s struggle for recognition and acceptance to so obviously milk the cultural capital of a social movement.  But, this is also a reflection of corporate and political interests treating gay rights as they would any other acceptable, mainstream, safe phenomenon, and in a goofy way that’s a bit wonderful.  You know that your days as a subaltern are numbered when AT&T makes a float in your honour.

(I bet you wondered if I were ever actually going to use that word in my main text.)

Of course, nothing I’ve written so far means that the movement to recognise the GLBTetc community is over, or even meaningfully close to the goal line; it’s a rather safe bet that major corporations aren’t scrambling to enter Pride parades in Oklahoma City.  Still, it’s got to be a good sign when private interests start trying to profit from association with minority rights.  And, maybe it’s even a good thing when the celebrations get watered down by all the self-serving irrelevant stuff; the threat of dilution and irrelevance could be a legitimate spur to progress within a movement that might otherwise drift into fabulous complacency.

Good or bad, though, none of this changes the fundamental fact that members of the city parks commission do not make for exciting parade floats.  And, that’s not an issue of minority recognition, corporatisation, or political pandering; it’s just the simple common sense not to stick too many dud floats in a parade.  If all of this shows nothing else, it’s that the gay rights movement has finally reached the big leagues, and maybe it’s time to step up and do a little quality control.  An inconsistent level of fabulousness will hurt brand loyalty.

For example, anyone wearing a banana-hammock thong need not apply.  I saw way too many of those this weekend.  They aren’t sexy. Borat was parody, people!