Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Rotate Img_0070

Greater Christmasville rises from the glitter snow again!!

Read Full Post »

A special holiday gift from http://www.Eric Shaw Quinn.com and all the residents of Greater Christmasville.

Read Full Post »

The Colosseum and me from the porch of Hadrian's Temple to Venus.

My list of what I want to see in Rome is now much longer than it was before I arrived.

It was impossible for me to fully realize Rome in absentia in much the same way I could not have understood the American desert southwest before regarding it face to face.  I had seen pictures and Roadrunner cartoons featuring the buttes and canyons of the big square US states.  But not until I stood flatfooted on the high desert plain and saw mountain ranges hundreds and hundreds of miles away as clearly as houses across the street, could I begin to comprehend the vastness and the immense privacy of that awesomely desolate place.

So too was my experience of Rome.

I have seen pictures and paintings of the Coliseum so often in my life that, like Devil’s Tower to the characters in Close Encounters, I could probably have reproduced il Colosseo in some detail before I ever actually climbed into the stands of that most storied stadium.  But, as I made my way onto the Palatine – the hill on which the city began – I found myself experiencing the oddly familiar surroundings of this eternally famous place in a wholly unexpected way.

It is inexplicable to me that such a wonder as Rome could have sprung up in a time when most people were living under hides stretched over sticks.  I can see how those who are so disposed, could easily make a case for the intervention of some extraterrestrial or interdimensional  intelligence intervening to alter the course of humankind forever by creating the anomaly that is Rome.  In context, the achievement, is as alien and unexpected as such an outlandish explanation might suggest.

Dazed, I wandered through rubble still so monumental in its ruin as to impress and amaze a man who had actually flown across the world in less than a day for a glimpse.

The ruins of the Roman Forum still nicer than many of the neighborhoods where I've lived.

My day on the Palatine and in the Forum was too long without food or water.  Unlike most of Rome, there was not a cafe on every corner.  In these places of ancient sanctuary the very stones are accorded protected and endangered status  and are unblemished by Cafe Romulus or any such blasphemy.  So, by the time we’d made our way through Severus’ palace, Domitian’s Stadium, Augustus’ living room, Trajan’s Market, Saturn’s temple and the Basilica of Constantine, I was in a kind of dehydrated, creatively hallucinatory state.  Since Xanadu had already been written – the poem not the musical – I turned my unfettered thoughts to the improbability of the city around me.

We took refuge at a cafe in the Piazza Novona.   I sat sipping limone te and contemplating the plashing waters of the Fontana dei Quatro Fiumi– calling it the Fountain of Four Rivers is like singing Puccini in English, just not the same in translation somehow.

The Fontana dei Quatro Fiumi and company in the Piazza Navona.

Hundreds milled about me.  Some idiot woman was desecrating the site singing whiney-American-lady-pop-music.  I tried to avoid eye contact with any of a roaming band of mimes for fear they would endeavor to “entertain” me.  I wondered at the place.  I tried to imagine the cheering multitudes and the thundering hooves of the horses orbiting the circus of the hippodrome that had once stood where I now sat dipping indescribably good bread into drinkably fresh olive oil.

Suddenly, I saw it.

I understood Rome.  Perhaps it was just that it was nearly five in the evening and I had yet to have lunch.  Or maybe it was a little belated jet lag.  Possibly it was just a little too much science fantasy  and SimCity over the years.  But I don’t think so.

Rome is a trap for the smartest animals in the world.

I hate to use the world trap because it sounds so negative, but there it is.  Unlike the more innocent creatures of the wilderness, a cage or a pit wouldn’t hold us for long.  Many simpler creatures in fact simply stay, never thinking to leave.  But people are tricky.  You have to make them want to say, fight to stay, work to stay.

This bit of Serverus' Palace plumbing was around 200 years old when Christ was born -- I was much younger then, too.

First, you have to get them there.  Well, they say all roads lead to Rome, but that’s not quite true.  The fact was all the roads started in Rome, so they had the effect of leading there, but really served as much as an enticement as mere transportation.  The roads of Rome were among the greatest, if not the greatest, technological achievement of their day.  They were the equivalent of today’s telecommunication in their effect on the world they connected for the first time.  Christianity owes as much to Roman roads and the common language of Greek as to the words of Jesus himself.  Without the Greek lingua franca and Roman roads to carry those words, Christianity might be a small middle eastern Jewish sect.

Okay, so now the Roman roads have led the “prey” into the city.  How do they keep them there?

This is where the 40 ft statue of Constantine stood in 308 AD and where I stood in April 2011 A

Like any seduction, Rome is at once attractive and illusive.   For thousands of years there’s been so much to see and to do in Rome, but it has been and remains, very hard to stay.  So our trap draws people in, “captivates” them and then makes remaining in the delicious snare a personal achievement that one might work a lifetime to maintain.

That’s a pretty brilliant trap.

The Pyramids are great – new and old world.  The Parthenon and its environs are the seat of philosophy and forms of governance that we are still debating and perfecting without, as yet, much improving – though women are allowed to vote now and we have dispensed with the whole hideous slavery aspect of ancient democracy.  But no place represents the same kind of achievement as that of Rome.  There are cities/traps modeled after it, but there’s no debate about the source of their form.  We’re still building coliseums and filling them with gladiators.  Many new roads surround us.  Our prey arrive in cars and ships and planes.  People pour in and then work themselves literally to death in order, not only to stay but, to pay for the care and maintenance of the trap.

I don’t think that it was aliens or that the Roman’s ever thought about the building of Rome in such terms, but the effect is undeniable.

I try to imagine the world then — not as myself, who will not walk on the grass in front of my own house or go outside if it can be avoided, but — as a noble savage.  It was a green and abundant world unspoiled by the civilization for which Rome is the ultimate blueprint.  My savage self might spend his days wondering through this simple world, tasked only with my survival, plucking olives from the trees, making fires for warmth and cooking, living out a brief but uncomplicated life as free as the birds of the air or the other creatures in the forest.  Or I could go to this violent, foul smelling crowded heap of stones and waste called Rome.  There I could fight and claw for enough shiny metal to buy the very fruits and flesh I might have plucked or hunted for myself for free so that I might live out my short and dark life surrounded by and in the company and close proximity of the most vicious and dangerous creatures on the planet.

All that's left of 40 ft Constantine and a lot of extra me -- thanks pasta!!

Intended or not, that’s a pretty awesome, impressive and fearsome achievement.

And then Cafe Navona brought my lunch.  A perfect, pizza caprese, a bottle of still water and te caldo and I was ensnared, as content and as captivated as the other simple savages who’d come before me, charmed by the most beautiful and successful trap in the world.

Read Full Post »


Basic cable wannbe Colton Haynes kissed a boy and tried to “Big-Homophobic-Brother” the evidence. Ashton Kutcher made out with Sean William Scott in a movie and will be making 750K an episode on 2 1/2 Men this fall. Who’s sorry now?

Never do anything you wouldn’t want to read about on the front page of the newspaper.  Admittedly, today the front page of a newspaper might be a good place to keep a secret, but you get the idea.  Those are words that I try to live by.

I don’t mean live your life like you’re in a PTA meeting or on the Mouseketeer’s Club or as a living saint.

I mean if my life was being reported in the paper or on-line or in a continuous series of YouTube posts, I wouldn’t alter my behavior to suit others.  I try to suit myself.  If I want to send out pictures of my junk on Twitter or sleep with my secretary or sell senate seats in Illinois, it only needs to be okay with me.  If I’d be ashamed for other people to find out about what I’m up to, then I shouldn’t be doing it.  But if I’m gonna do it, I own it.

No one can gossip about my behavior if I’m okay with it –Warts-and-Sunday-School – all of it.  It’s not gossip if it’s true.  So, if someone’s making stuff up about me or hacking my Twitter account to make me look bad, then that’s on them and I can deny it with confidence.  But if I’m sending dirty pictures of myself to people I met online and people find out and post it on their blog, we’ll then I’d best state proudly and in a good loud voice:  “And damn fine pictures they are.”

Insofar as I can tell, the only thing Representative Weiner’s has done that concerns anyone other than Mrs. Weiner is that he lied about the pictures when he got caught.  If he has holy hell to pay for that with his wife, that’s between them.

I feel the same way about that Senator who was screwing his married staffer, or that idiot South Carolina Governor or that guy in the airport bathroom stall or President Clinton.  It’s none of my business.  Usually they only get into trouble when they try to cover it up.

I guess it all comes down to that most useless of all human emotions – Shame.  I can’t think of a single purpose for this one.  A little guilt helps keep me on the right road, but being ashamed of my choices in life? That means I’m more concerned with what you think than how I feel.  That just seems a complete waste to me.  Especially if I’m feeling ashamed of what people only pretend to think.

It is not possible, in this age of E-Harmony and Girls Gone Wild, for us to continue to pretend to this ridiculous Victorian-at-best shock, horror and moral-blush-inducing-alarm.  I’d be willing to wager that the majority of men out there have or have had a picture of their junk on their phone and/or hard drives in the process of dating, adolescence and simply being male.  There is just too much online hooking up going on for that not to be true.  Sex is our most powerful and most sustaining drive and we will apply whatever technological means at hand in its pursuit.  I’d also plunk down good money on a bet that the second movie ever made was porn.  Maybe it was just a kiss or a woman’s ankle but, in context, still porn.

What’s more, our continued pretense around the penis seems to me to a form of sexism that surely we can begin to grow past.  Boobs are EVERYWHERE.  We are inundated with this most visible of the female sexual arsenal and, with the rather inexplicable exception of Janet Jackson’s left nipple, impervious to literally having boobs thrust in our face.

There is an entire industry built around the design and manufacture of foundation garments that make breasts more visible, noticeable and unavoidable.  I don’t think that’s a good or a bad thing, but it is an undeniable fact.  Imagine garments that made the penis stick straight out and pants cut so low that you could see all but the tip.  I think it would be incredibly uncomfortable, but then I’ve no idea how it feels to walk around with your boobs half-exposed and pointing the way.  We are surrounded by women’s breasts all the time yet we have no reaction.  But, apparently, even a glimpse of penis through thick, decidedly-unsexy-gray-underpants turns us into a pack of grade school simps.  By this standard, the Sears Catalog, if it still exists, is more shocking than Representative Weiner’s pictorial but there has literally been nothing else on the news for going on two weeks!!

My point is this I think.  We’re only pretending to be shocked.  No one cares, save a very few very silly, probably very old people.  MoveOn.org was originally founded to get the House and Senate to GET OVER and MOVE ON from Bill Clinton’s cigar interlude with that horrid little opportunist who saved her dress for the DNA.

The number of under-and-unemployed in this country is holding around 25% and all we can talk about is how you can kind of see this representative’s junk through his underpants? Really?

But more than that, we have got to stop telling public figures and particularly politicians that they should lie to us.  We’re a big, grown up country now and we need to start acting like one.

When a football player sends pictures of his erection to some woman, we should be thankful that he’s not accused of raping her after she came up to his room drunk at two in the morning.  If some Freshman Republican House of Representatives guy is all excited about what he and his new trainer have done with his chest and he posts it on Craig’s List, we should turn the photo over to Mrs. Freshman Republican and close the door.  That way, when some little hottie gets a gig on the basic cable channel that brought us Gay-Porn-Star-VJ Simon Rex and the ambi-sexual bed hopping of The Real World he might not feel so much shame over an old picture taken of him kissing some boy for a magazine that he hires lawyers to help him pretend it didn’t happen by claiming it was porn.  (Winner Worst Defense EVER!!)

In fact, it might even be possible that when horrible old Newt tells the truth about Paul Ryan’s death-to-grandma-coupon-healthcare he can actually scrape together enough character to own his own words.

I think we live in an age of cynicism where politicians pretend that we can skip paying taxes and maintain the highest standard of living in world, closet cases pretend they’re the Family Research Council and racists pretend that it’s the about the birth certificate.  We don’t believe any of it, but we pretend we do, because we’re just as ashamed of what we really think as they are.  Shame, it would seem, leads us to that still more Victorian practice: hypocrisy.

So, in the end, the building is on fire and we’re all too embarrassed to admit that we smell smoke?  Now that’s a shame.

Read Full Post »

Il Mio Ritorno*

Gentle readers,

I hope you can forgive my long silence.  I returned from Italy a month ago today and have yet to write a word aside from the occasional Facebook bleat.

I came back deliciously exhausted by three weeks filled with excessive quantities of inexcusably delicious food,  heart stopping scenery, beautiful Italians and hideous tourists.  Few of the clothes I’d packed still fit, I was so tired I could not hold my head up and I could not have been more pleased with how I got my extensive blisters.  To my dismay, so far the most lasting memory of this most amazing trip has been more than a little disconcerting.

For the past thirty days, I have suffered the oddest malady.  On the first leg of my return flight home, as my flight from Venice descended to land at Heathrow, my ears “pressurized.”  It was not my first flight so I wasn’t unaccustomed to the uncomfortable sensation, though this seemed especially painful.  We hung at the awkward altitude for a bit as we waited to be cleared, so it was also a bit more protracted than usual, but still.  My left ear went back to normal as we landed but not the right one.

It’s been thirty days.

I’ve been through doctors, anti-inflammatories, endless anti-histamines, even steroids and no change.  Thursday, another specialist and I hope . . . but we’ll see.

My point, dear readers is to let you know I haven’t forgotten you.

I have however been hopped up on allergy pills, roided into a stupor, sleeping at odd times and fitfully even then.  My protracted case of the mini-bends has put half my world on mute and given a mild case of inner ear disorientation, but that’s not the worst of it.  There has been a bad horror movie sound track – all heart beats and breathing (mine) – echoing in my head since London THIRTY DAYS AGO!

You know I almost never use exclamation points so you can tell just how strung out I am.

Meanwhile, every time I sit down to write, it’s not bad enough I’m hopped up on some med or other, I feel as though I’m appearing in a bad version of the Tell Tale Heart.

But I can bear my isolation no longer.

It is time to write about Italy, at least.  I can wait no longer (and the pictures are too good not to share).  So I’ll see how it goes.  If you don’t hear from me for a while, you’ll know there’s Raven, perched on the scalp of some Italian souvenir bust or other, croaking at me in triumph “Nevermore.”

On the plus side, unless Thursdays’ specialist is a miracle worker, I probably won’t hear him.

* This could possibly mean “My Return” but don’t take my word for it.

Read Full Post »

It’s my birthday!

I’m also happy.  I love my birthday.  It’s the day that makes all my other great days possible.

I feel fortunate in this.  I don’t find that my attitude about ageing is shared by my peers or those who, in time, will be potential peers, should they be lucky enough to attain age of any substance.

We live in a ridiculous culture that equates getting older with personal failure.  We eschew wisdom and experience in favor of the unearned physical attributes of youth.  Everyone gets to be young and cute.  It’s no trick to be 12 or 21.  Youth requires almost no effort and rarely offers more than greater elasticity and a bit more hair.

Age is the great democracy.

I am amused by the frequent age bashing of those who are both young and stupid.  I’m not saying those two attributes necessarily go together but they are all too frequently inseparable companions.  Combined, they bring on a kind of intellectual blindness and delusions of immortality that produce a  disdain of people for achieving something that should, if you aren’t a complete moron, be your life’s principle goal.  If a young person has the good fortune and the good sense required to put together a few years, they too will be old.  The only escape is death.

Our misunderstanding of media, further fuels this absurd belief that people who’ve gotten older have screwed up somehow.  Because it’s easier to sell crap to the inexperienced and uninformed, 3D movies about stapling your testicles to alligators and TV shows about high school moms and celebutards dominate the octoplexes and the airwaves.

As a result, the studios can use insubstantial digital fireworks to fill stadium seats with butts and marketers are able to sell a lot of useless crap to people who are still gullible enough to believe that said crap will make them happy, sexy, popular, attractive, etc.  The sad outcome is that we grow up believing that life and good times have passed us by if we succeed in accruing a few years and few gray hairs.

If in the future we are judged only by what is most often at the top of the charts, it will be assumed that the single most important social issues of our time revolved around our physical appearance and our mating habits.  I’m sure this isn’t a unique or even a recent cultural development. Still, as I look back in the science and history books I find almost no examples of how any individual’s sex life or physical appearance changed history or advanced culture.  Troy was a debacle, Cleopatra and Henry VIII were only practicing the statecraft of their day and Marie Currie just married her lab partner.

I say all this not from a point of superiority, but as a former young person and member in good standing of this superficial culture.

Many, many, many years ago, I too was young.

Back then, in the days of better living through chemistry, The Pill was so successful that condoms had become a sort of down market joke; the province of those too young, too poor or too rushed to get a prescription filled.  Among my people, for whom pregnancy was not at all a risk, the only prescription we ever needed for non-recreational use was the occasional penicillin booster.

We were naive and defenseless.  I was still in high school when people started to die.  They called it GRID – for Gay Related Immune Deficiency – at first.  We had no idea what caused it.  We had no idea how to prevent it.

I am alive today by the grace of two twists of fate I cursed at the time.  First, my parents could not afford to send me to the colleges in and around the big cities in the Northeast where I longed to go.  I had to attend a state college in South Carolina where being gay in the 70’s was like being Jewish in Iran.  I got to New York after my graduation in the early 80’s where I was faced with my second piece of unwanted good fortune.  I was the plain one with the good sense of humor.  Everyone wanted to be my friend but my friends all went home with Prince Charming and I went home on the train with everyone’s coats and backpacks.

Thanks to the influence of the media of the day, you had to look like Burt Reynolds or Richard Gere to be sexy.  I was pale and skinny.  I wasn’t nearly hairy or stocky enough to be desirable, so I went home alone.  It broke my heart and it saved my life.  With few exceptions, all my friends from that time in my life are dead.  They were dead before I was 30 – and before they were.

I am today that rarest of endangered species – a 52 year old gay man.

It is not lost on me that I’m lucky to be 52.  It took more grace, good fortune and just dumb luck than skill or intelligence to get here.  I don’t know how much I’ve learned along the way, but I have figured out that getting older is a privilege and an achievement.  I’m not rich or famous – yet!  I’m still single so I still get to discover what first love feels like.  But most of all, I’m alive which means everything is still possible.

I raise a toast each year on this day to my little gang at Uncle Charlie’s who didn’t get to see 30 or 40, let alone 52.  And I celebrate me today for being born and for managing to stick it this long.  Happiness, it turns out, isn’t something that arrived on my birthday, it’s how I got here.

Happy Birthday!!



Read Full Post »

Lost Sheen

So, they fired Charlie.

My heart goes out to all the folks who work on Two and a Half Men – all but one.  I don’t wish Charlie ill.  I hope he picks up the clue phone before he kills himself.  I hate that the media uses this sort of tragic spectacle as ratings fodder.  Lindsey, Anna Nicole and now Charlie.  They still cannot stop talking about Marilyn – I always wonder how her story would have played out if she’d lived? Lushy old has-been or grand dame of the business? Either would have been more interesting than 50 years of badly written, National Enquirer, conspiracy theories.

But the people who suffer most in all this are not the ones getting all the air time.

I know from personal experience how this plays out.  A few years back, I was convinced to write a couple of novels with Pamela Anderson, based on her life – or at least what people believed her life to be.  I was paid almost nothing.  I was promised a nice cut of the profits but what convinced me to do it was the assurance that we were developing a series.

Every writer hopes to come up with a writing project that keeps on giving.  Harry Potter, Miss Marple, Twilight, Lestat, a new novel every year and a built-in audience waiting to buy it.  It’s a writer’s dream come true.  This was hardly the stuff that I’d dreamed of writing, but the promise of regular work and the possibilities that it offered for my life and my career seemed worth the sacrifice.  I went along for the ride.

Success was far from assured.  She’d tried and failed before.  The project had been around for a while and was foundering and, I think, considered a bit of a lost cause by the time I signed on.  She was like press catnip, but the book just wasn’t coming together — I realize now it was because she wouldn’t get it together.

Carrie Fisher once said to me that in publishing “you get the money up front or you surely get it from behind.”  And not in a good, loving, well-lubricated kind of way.  It’s more like jailhouse shower ambush.  I had learned my lesson in publishing the hard way, long before I met Pam.  But I was starry eyed, I guess, though more for the promises than for her.  She seemed nice enough.  I figured if she could deliver the press, I knew how to do the rest.

For wages far below the poverty level — and paying a percentage of that pittance to my agents — I wasted more than two years of my life.  She did her part and I did mine.  The first book was a New York Times Best Seller and the critics, hmmm, let’s say tolerated it.  The tour was amazing.  The crowds were enormous here and abroad.  It was more than anyone had hoped.  My editor began calling me “Golden Boy.”   I was, by proxy, Amazon’s Chick Lit Author of the year.  I wrote a second book that almost no one has ever seen.  It was a genuine sequel to the first book.  It was damned good.  Pam said she loved it.  The publisher was thrilled.  The tour was planned to be more sumptuous and glamorous than the one before.  We began shopping for voice talent to do the audio versions.  All we had to do was score another best seller and new contracts and real money were a genuine possibility.

Then, at the eleventh hour, I was summoned to a teleconference not unlike the recent series of “press releases” Charlie has issued on YouTube and radio and every formerly legitimate news outlet on earth.  In a breathless discourse – literally I don’t think she inhaled for half an hour – Pam revealed to me and our publisher that she and her brother had “stayed up all night” and “fixed” the book that no one thought was broken.  As an alternative to the book I’d written and she’d signed off on six months before, she pitched us what I later discovered was the plot of a dreadful movie called Paparazzi. She told us she wouldn’t do the book tour if we didn’t make the changes.  We really only needed her to do the book tour.  The books were fiction and I wrote them.  The publisher got them printed and distributed and planned the tour.  It was do or die.

I had literally 72 hours to create re-writes of the book in a series of cuts and insertions to the already typeset manuscript scheduled to go to press the following week or the deal was off.  I worked through the long Memorial Day weekend and managed to achieve coherence, at least, and something of a the twisted narrative she had blackmailed us into deforming the book.

Once the novel was printed, our “Star” announced she was “too busy” to do the book tour after all.  Too prove it she went to Miami to attend the VMA’s at the very same time we would have been there on book tour.  I guess it was the parties she was there for since she wasn’t nominated and isn’t a musician.  She was even filmed signing our book – something she never actually did in real life – for the movie Borat.  She destroyed the novel, sabotaged the promotions and killed a successful series.   The last time we spoke was when I called to wish her a happy birthday a month before the book was published.

She has never paid me a dime of my share of the royalties.  She has broken every deal and contract we ever had.  She has never returned a call of mine, let alone called to find out if I’m okay after she left me destitute.  She has never offered me any explanation for her bizarre and selfish behavior.


All she had to do was show up for the tour, be wined and dined, go on Letterman and Leno, wear the fancy clothes, fly on the private jet, be a star.  In exchange, she might well be reaping the benefits of contracts for a bestselling book series.  Ask JK Rowling how that’s worked out for her.  The only price she had to pay was to do her job and be the star.  All she had to do was a couple weeks of celebrity summer camp each year and we might still be minting beach reads and making a tidy profit.  Instead, she needed to get fucked up with her friends at the VMA’s.

Charlie’s show, like my book project with Whats’ername, was the collaborative effort, the hard work and the living wage of a lot of people who were not being paid the big money.  Charlie was getting millions for a success in which he had to do little more than say the words and not crash into the furniture.  It wasn’t Hamlet.  I suppose he has some talent.  I never saw it.  I found the show a bit misogynistic but I don’t think they made it for me and thirteen million people a week thought differently.  He was the star and I know how the system works.  Still, it’s a pretty dingy little star who puts his ego above the welfare of those who have bent over backward to try to help him (or her) surmount what is admittedly a potentially fatal malady and refuse to go to rehab and clean up.

I wish Charlie a speedy recovery.  I hope Pam sobers up, too.  I’d help her out with that if she asked.  But she’s had a series of — albeit increasingly degrading and exploitative – jobs since she suffocated our book series in the crib.  Fired, Charlie has begun the Anna-Nicole-reality-series-death-march that will keep him in porn stars and crack pipes until his heart stops or the next hot mess pushes him off the front page.  I only worry about them to the extent that someone might let them drive or that they might do themselves harm as they are encouraged in their insanity by the same forces who use celebrity to make gold.  Tarnished gold spends the same as shiny.

No, my heart goes out to all the folks who built the scenery, painted the faces, wrote the scripts and produced the series that made Charlie famous and paid him so disproportionately for blessed little work.  I feel for Holland and Conchata and John and Angus and Chuck and all those people that this selfish, childish jerk has put out of work because he’s too good and too smart and too cool to clean up his act and toe the line that the least of his cast and crew must meet by necessity each day.

At the Oscars this year, the speeches that impressed me most were those of Christian Bale and Natalie Portman.  Each, while standing in the spotlight before billions to accept the accolades of the world, took time to remember by name and thank the people who, by their hard work and unsung achievement, had not only made Chris and Nat look good but, in a real way, given them the opportunity to stand where they stood at that moment.  Not just producers and directors, but make-up people and beat up old boxers.  More than that, Christian and Natalie and all their fellow nominees and winners showed up for work and did a bloody good job while they were there.

Those are stars with some real sheen.

Everyone else should take a lesson or maybe shut up.


Read Full Post »

Now available for download to read on Kindle, Nook, iPad and your computer.  https://ericshawquinn.com/store/


Michael was sitting on the front steps smoking a cigarette when his parents got there at twenty to nine. They blew the horn anyway.

He went to his father’s door and tapped on the window. The electric motor whirred as the glass went down.

“I’ll drive,” Michael said.

“I don’t mind driving,” Ashton said.

“Dad,” Michael said, “we have this argument every time you go to the airport. Let me drive.”

“Oh,” Ashton said, not moving. “Well, if you want to.”

“I do,” Michael said. “Get in the backseat.”

“Hello, darling,” his mother called across to him.

“Good morning, Mother,” Michael said.

“Why don’t I just drive?” Ashton said.

“Because we don’t have time. Now get in the backseat,” Michael demanded.

“Oh, Ashton,” Ann said, “let him drive.”

“You two are always against me,” Ashton shouted. “I don’t see why —”

“Because,” Michael cut in. “You drive too slowly. You don’t deal well with in-town traffic. And most of all, because I can drop you and your luggage with the skycaps at the door and park the car while you check in. Now hurry up. You’re late, and I’m freezing.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Ashton said as he always did at this point. Then, as he always did, he rolled up the window, turned off the engine, put the keys in his pocket, unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door and got out of the car.

Ann sighed, of course.

“May I have the keys?” Michael asked without looking to see if they were in the ignition.

“What?” Ashton asked. “Oh, the keys. Certainly,” he said, fumbling through his pocket and then almost handing them over.

“It’s this one,” he indicated.

“I know, Dad,” Michael said, not looking.

“I was just trying to be helpful,” Ash said, patting his coat pockets as if he had misplaced something.

“I know, Dad,” Michael said, getting into the car. “Just get in.”

It was quarter till nine. It was twenty minutes to the airport.

The flight was at nine. It was a ritual.

He started the car. The chimes sounded.

“Put on your seat belt,” Ashton said, closing the back door.

“I don’t wear a seat belt,” Michael said.

“Neither does Kathryn.” Ann sighed. “I wish you kids would. Allen wears his seat belt.”

“Allen,” Michael said, squealing away from the curb and making a questionable left on yellow. “Allen wears a safety chain on his zipper.”

“You know, Allen …” Ashton began sagely.

“I’m Michael,” Michael said.

“I mean, Michael,” he went on. “In New York they have a law requiring you to wear seat belts.”

“Mmm,” Michael said, weaving around a VW and running another “pink” light.

“If you plan on pursuing this acting thing,” Ashton continued, “you’ll have to go up there. So you might as well get in the habit.”

Michael tried not to laugh.

“That truck is turning,” Ann said calmly as she jammed her brake foot against the floor.

“How is your little company coming?” Ashton asked.

That acting thing had been Michael’s college major. His “little company” was he and a group of his college friends. They performed for local events and made enough to cover gas, if they were lucky.

“We’re doing fine, Dad,” Michael said. “We really need a permanent place to work, though. We could build a reputation and a repertoire.”

“You ought to buy a place,” Ashton suggested absurdly.

“I can’t even get a Visa card, Dad,” Michael said, trying to point out the absurdity.

“Well,” Ashton said, “if you’d listen to me and save some money like Allen does.”

Michael’s knuckles went white as he clutched the steering wheel.

“And you ought to go down to the credit bureau and check your record.” Ashton needled an old wound. “I just bet you it’s that brush you had with those furniture rental people.”

“Michael, slow down, this is your turn,” Ann said, absolutely rigid with fear.

“I know, Mother,” Michael said, taking the turn at full speed.

“If you get something on your credit record” — Ashton made a hissing sound — “that’s it.”

“Michael, slow down, there’s a curve in the road.”

“I see it, Mother.”

“I wish that boss of yours would give you a raise. Have you asked him recently?”

“No, Dad.”

“Michael, the pedestrians.”

“I see them.”

“You know you ought to look around for another job.”

“I really don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“Michael, you’re following too closely.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Well, I was just trying to be helpful.” Ashton harrumphed. “If you’re going to take that attitude …”

“Michael, if you know you’re following too closely, then slow down.”

“Mother, we’re late. Listen, Dad, when we get there, I’ll pop the trunk. You get the in-flight stuff; Mother, you go on in and check in. I’ll get a skycap and send the luggage in to you. You go on to the gate. I’ll park and catch up.”

“Michael, you need to be in the other lane,” Ann said.

“Are you listening to me?” Michael demanded.

“I don’t know why we should listen to you.” Ashton sulked. “You never want to listen to a thing I say.”

“Because I’m not catching a goddamned plane to Miami in three minutes, that’s why,” Michael screamed as he changed lanes and turned, without slowing down, into the airport drive.

The abrupt move, the squealing, the horns and the shouting stunned everyone into silence.

Michael screeched to a halt in front of the terminal and everyone followed orders in silence.

After his parents had gone in, he slipped the skycap some money, which, added to the fifty cents his father would fork over, would make a nice tip. Then he parked the car, ran into the terminal, caught up with his parents and rushed them on to check in. By the time he got their stuff through the metal detectors they were ready to board and the plane was revving.

“Thank you, Michael,” Ann said, hugging him.

“Sure, Mom.”

“Don’t forget to get the car —”

“I won’t,” Michael said, hugging his father. “You all have a good trip, and don’t worry about anything.”

“Don’t be lonely,” Ann called back just before they vanished.

“I won’t.” He smiled as he lied.

And they were gone.

As he drove back into town, he sang with the radio, thought about Kevin and tried not to be lonely.


Read Full Post »


Being gay is like being left handed.

Left handed people just are.  It’s how their minds work.  And NO, I’m not saying that left handed has ANYTHING to do with being gay or that left handed people are gay, so don’t write me crazy letters about it.  What I am saying is that being left handed is not a choice.  It is a function of the brains of left handed people.  Maybe it’s structural or genetic but, whatever the case, it is a natural state of being.

Those with primitive religious beliefs have subjected the left handed to suspicion and derision.  The word sinister, which we use to mean evil, untrustworthy and “underhanded,” is actually the Latin word for left.  Left handed children have been forced to use their right hands, often to their mental detriment and never in their best interest.

Such old ideas seem silly and ill informed in this era.  The President is left handed, for heaven’s sake, and clearly no one feels prejudiced against him! Right?

Our primitive beliefs about the left handed have abated, though systemic bias still exists.  The world is literally designed for the right handed majority.

In much the same way, gay people live as a minority in a world designed for the majority.  The primitive religious beliefs of some, have been used to push gay people outside society.  Simple social customs like dating, the prom, going steady and marriage, around which society is designed, have been denied to gay people.  Attempts to participate in these normal social rituals from a same sex perspective have been punished by further exclusions in work, housing and the rights of citizenship like peaceable assembly and the pursuit of happiness.

As a result, our resourceful, creative and gay little band developed a shadow society within the boundaries that second class citizenship forced upon us.  The rituals of pair bonding were replaced by furtive outlaw sex not necessarily because it’s what we wanted but because we had no other choice.  We were not allowed to participate in the personal sexual evolution that leads to the expression of the pair bond through marriage.

If you are forced to live outside society, your behavior becomes anti-social, not by design but by necessity.  In this way, we became antisocial, not by choice but for want of choice.

Enter the 21st Century.

After forty plus years of civil rights struggle, gay people are beginning to attain the rights of full American Citizenship.  We’re not there yet, but with the fall of federally institutionalized discrimination and the rise of marriage rights, gay people are getting closer to getting what we asked for and what we said we wanted.

The news is great and getting better, but the response in some quarters is surprising.

Like the people in Plato’s cave, many gay people have come to believe that the shadow life of second class citizenry IS being gay.  People in and outside the community have confused and conflated the anonymous hook ups and cover-of-darkness-sexuality that has long been our only option with what it means to be gay.  That is no more true than saying that S&M is what it means to be straight even though the Marquis de Sade and the majority of those who follow in his path are straight.

Gay people are ten percent of everyone – every group.  We are not all the same save for the one relatively minor shared trait of our sexual, same-gender preference.   It would be a mistake and an extreme form of discrimination to try to describe all gay people in such limited terms.  We don’t all want to hang out at bath houses.  Some of us don’t like gay bars.  Some of us like to get up in drag and some are happier in a sports stadium.  We are not any one thing, though who we are allowed to be has been severely limited for a very long time.

But as those limits fall away, surprising new oppressors are emerging.

We have an election coming up in my little town with its big gay population.  I’ve been thrown by the way this  issue has arisen.  The same people who fought and marched for the rights of marriage, whose bumpers are stickered with slogans about hate not being a “family value” are now opposed to including gay people into the mainstream.

A local gay politician here is actually campaigning against our being a “family oriented” community.  His Tea-Party tactics are whipping up fear in gay people who have lived as second class citizens so long they seem to have forgotten that the battle against Proposition H8 was a battle FOR gay families.

Now, no one is saying that any rarified sexual tastes should be denied anybody, or at least I’m not.  Hell, gay people can’t hold a candle to what straight people get up to sexually.  There are 8 billion people in the world and gays had nothing to do with it.  Sexual behavior neither defines nor characterizes anyone’s participation in society as a whole.  What’s more everyone has the right to opt out of participation in social norms.  I hope what we’ve fought for is to make that right one of our choices, not our only option as it has been for too long.

Gaining admission to the mainstream means letting go of our second class status.  Equal rights doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want to.  Equal rights means taking equal responsibility.  Saying “I Do” comes with a whole host of duties, whether it’s taking an oath to defend my country, become a citizen, or show up for my partner no matter what.  It means growing up.  For a very long time we have been forced to live outside society.  We have embraced and come to love the antisocial behavior that was forced upon us.  We have lived like lost boys, excluded from the rights and privileges of becoming men and women.

We can still live the Peter Pan life if we choose to, but that is not equality.  That is a choice.

As we gain our rights after this long, hard fought struggle — a struggle that is far from over — I hope we will not lose sight of what it is so many have sacrificed so much to achieve.

African Americans endured and survived years of discrimination but it would be a mistake to allow slavery to define what is it to be black.

I do not want to lose the cultural identity of our gay community.  Neither do I want an identity forced upon me by those who claim to be on my side.  Victory is taking our place at the table, not demanding a table of our own.


Read Full Post »

I feel as though I have been liberated.

I’ve been in with a cold pretty much since the year began.  Sorry to have gone quiet on you, but I can’t seem to write when I’m all hopped up on cold medicine.  Snuffling and under the influence, I find it impossible to remember how I started a sentence by the time I get to the end.  Either my sentences are too long or the Tylenol Severe Cold Formula has kicked in.  Whichever the case, I didn’t want to put you at risk.

But, all better now.

I’ve spent the past week nursing my shattered feelings as well my cruddy health.  The events in Tucson have left me stunned and speechless – a rare occurrence.

Of course my first reaction is, as always, thank heaven the lunatic was able to buy a gun.  Congrats to all those in congress who voted to end the ban on assault weapon sales in 2004.  Way to go.   Great idea.  Really worked out.  What’s next? Grenade launchers at Sears?

Those who are supposed to lead spend more time pandering to the lowest common denominator than governing or inspiring us to higher ideals.  It is sad that in the face of this gun related tragedy there is not enough courage among our alleged leaders to do anything about the problem.  If the guy had showed up with a knife instead of an assault weapon, how differently this might all have ended.

But even more than our refusal to address the corrupting influence of the gun lobby and all well funded special interest groups, I am more concerned with our interpretation of the first amendment than the second.  The sad events in Arizona have raised troubling questions about the tone of our national conversation.

The President has called for a more civil discourse.  There even seems to be some movement, a real effort on the part of many, to agree to disagree more agreeably.

Of course, the big quitter from Alaska is still determined not to lead — though hardly anyone’s asking her to since her formal refusal to do so at the state gubernatorial level.  I guess Grizzly-Pit-Bull-Moms do believe that their day has come, but they don’t believe in having the good manners to say “I’m sorry for rhetorically targeting you for assassination.”  It is a shame she doesn’t even possess the good taste to shut up about herself at someone else’s funeral.

I’m sure Quitter Palin will support my first amendment rights to call for someone to please blow her head off — with votes and the remote, of course, since declining television ratings would be worse for her than losing another election.  I know that she’d endorse my right to call for her desperately media hungry family to be chopped up into little pieces — by the critics, of course — and fed to the dogs of public opinion, all poetically speaking.  Isn’t that my right? And she doesn’t seem to mind what people say about her.  She’s been such a good sport so far – right, Mr. Letterman? Tina? Katie?

In fact, it’s not at all clear that the deranged young man in Tucson was inspired by the irresponsible words and oaths of those politician and pundits who are abusing their considerable power in office and the media.  It is interesting to me though, how quickly the topic came up and how much longer it has persisted than the story of the tragedy itself.

I continue to believe that we confuse the right to free speech with freedom from taking responsibility.  Shouting fire in a crowded theatre is NOT different than calling for an angry and heavily armed electorate to “reload” or saying that if ballots don’t work, bullets will.  Attaining the age of consent comes with rights AND responsibilities.  Calling for the assassination of anyone, metaphorically or otherwise, is calling for their assassination.  Calling Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Killer”, as one irresponsible television hack repeatedly did, was a key and undeniable element in the man’s recent assassination by domestic terrorists.

These don’t seem to be free speech issues to me.  Still, I’m not sure how I would want them enforced.  I suppose civil penalties seem the most likely, but that puts the burden on the victims.  Perhaps fines? But then who to enforce? I am more afraid of the return of McCarthyism than all the bombast on all the cable news channels.  I miss the old days of personal responsibility and editorial discretion that preceded the 24 hour news cycle.

I do still firmly believe that we need to reclassify prejudice and the irrational hatred of others as mental illness.  In fact, I think we could also broaden the definition to include ignorance.  I don’t think people suffering these maladies should be locked up or drugged or given shock treatment.  I’m not sure anyone but the most violently disturbed should be — the shooter in Tucson, for instance.  Ignorance and prejudice are undeniably mental conditions though and happily the cure for both is the same – education.

Meanwhile, I begin this New Year with hope.

I hope we will move toward a more civil discourse.  I hope that our leaders will do more leading and less pandering, baiting and posturing.  Most of all, I hope that as we demand our rights to free speech, or to keep and bear arms, or to petition the government for the redress of our grievances that we take up our responsibilities with equal fervor.

We can’t all just quit and get a gig on Fox.


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: