My Sinatra, His Way

My Sinatra, His Way

 When I was young I don’t recall my parents, both born in 1912, to be Sinatra oriented in any way. They albumed through Perry Como and the like but I believe Frank Sinatra represented an ethnic diversity they were absolutely unable to tolerate having been steeped in the early Twentieth Century xenophobia that was pervasive in east coast mentalities.

It was not until I moved to San Francisco in the seventies and adopted my own personal ethic of tolerance and with it an absolute obsession with all things 40’s; vintage clothing, accessories, and two-tone, perforated, wing tips that I discovered Sinatra….my own version of Sinatra. I gravitated to the song stylists of his era; Billie Holiday, Ella, Judy, singers with élan, power, emotion, and most of all…….phrasing, that ineffable ability to emote through a lyric the inner-most emotion of a feeling and convey it into verse and voice.

While the vintage vogue was in full swing in the Bay Area I will admit to a large degree of outsiderdom in what was then the Disco Daze that permeated the twenty-something culture of which I was also a major member. In fact, most of my circle referred to Frank Sinatra with the derisive sobriquet of “Stank” when his songs would appear on the Musak that permeated the public domain of the day.

And then there was Palm Springs.

I moved to the desert on a whim in the eighties, scared of living and afraid of dying in the Decades of Disaster that delineated the AIDS epidemic of the era. In truth I hated it there from Day One but I made my way forward passing through a paroxysm of fear and loathing and somehow secured a series of jobs and even a career that kept me there for years.

Before the career took root though I went back to the one thing that I really knew, and loved, waiting tables. The money was great…then… and I thoroughly enjoyed the social intercourse with the patrons and the proximity of the food, having already been a chef but preferring the luker on the front side of the house to the pseudo-notoriety of the back. I viewed every new table that was seated as a mini opening night at the theatre, one in which I had to asses their moods and desires and leave them asking for more at the end of their meal.

And so we arrive at my intersection with Frank Sinatra.

I had a job at a small but well-worn and well-heeled place on North Indian Avenue called Delmonico’s, a hold out and living homage to the glory days of Palm Springs and the era that had spawned and nurtured the Rat Pack and its entire ilk. Dark, wooden, red leather banquettes, softly glittering chandeliers and sconces….white table clothes…only; we, the wait staff, in tux jackets and white shirts, rumpled though they were in those fading days of the Service industry.

I no longer recall the aging other waiters who populated this tiny domain but I was certainly the youngster of the bunch, bringing an enthusiasm to the task (I needed the money!) and a fresh face that did not reflect the nipped and tucked versions of themselves that confronted all the patrons in their hallway mirrors as they primped and pomaded their perfection for a meal out.

Palm Springs back then operated on a whim. When the luminaries of the loche life got an urge, they simply acted upon it, at once. Delmonico’s was to Sinatra what every great, long-lived, establishment hopes to be; a living embodiment of their customers wonder years, a place they feel at home, can call home, and in Sinatra’s case, acted like it was his home.

He would phone ahead and tell the owner (an old Gumba aficionado of the best sort) that he was coming in for dinner with a party, the number to be determined as the members collected. Whatever the number, Delmonico’s essentially closed for the night, or at least the hours that Sinatra would be in house, to accede to his borderline paranoiac avoidance of crowds and the associated entanglements that they represented. Sinatra was, after all, the first of the public domain, luminous, females screaming in his wake, superstars…ever, and by now, he was very, very, tired of it all and had the money and the juice to insulate himself from the madding crowds. Palm Springs was still a small pond and Frank was by far the biggest fish in it.

At Delmonico’s he had His table, His Waiter, and His Way.

The exact night that I intersected with His World is lost to me now, somewhere in the heady haze of the late eighties. I came in for my shift to be pulled aside and seriously, I mean Seriously, talked to by the owner. Sinatra’s waiter was off (sick? tired? old? drunk?) I don’t remember why but I was up, I was “It”. He had told Frank that he had a “new guy that’ll you’ll love” waiting to take care of him and his party….”guaranteed”.

The rest of the evening is a bit blurry. But the take away was like an impressionistic painting of the golden age of America; the music that massaged the mood, the pasta that piled up in steaming bowls, the bourbon that lubricated the conversation, the laughter that roared ever louder as the clock would down ever later.

He asked my name straight out of the gate, Sinatra wanted to know…and control, everyone in his immediate sphere at all times. He would never again refer to me without using my name, more respectful as time went on and credentials were earned. That first night I stayed, taught but attentive, to the side, ready to pounce if needed and the need was signaled with no more that a raised eyebrow on Sinatra’s forehead and slight jerk towards him indicating that someone’s glass needed a top-up or that the lighter or cigar humidor needed a refill.

The tip was, shall we say, generous? The call from the owner the next day was resume worthy if one could list celebrity high-fives on one’s curriculum vitae. Sinatra always called to personally thank the owner after a meal (and I’m sure rebuke him if the need be) and he had called to say that “the gang had a great time and by the way, the new kid “Rob”, was terrific”.

My fate was now linked, and sealed. I was His Waiter from then on. His dinners were not that often but when they were, they were memorable. Sinatra learned bits and pieces of my history over time as he signaled longer pauses during service to ask questions, introduce me to his friends. He slowly elicited my relationship to food and wine, my love of good bourbon, gently benign personal stuff that felt ultra-personal to me. Moving foreword he never failed to pour me a glass of whatever great wine they were drinking raising his and saying “Salute!”. “Grab a glass for yourself, Rob, you’ll love this brandy!”

Aside from the alcoholic warmth of those moments coursing through me there was another feeling that I never realized until those days were nothing but never fading memories. The Italian word in Famiglia; family. Sinatra had this uncanny, innate, and well-honed ability to make everyone in his presence, everyone he like that is, feel utterly at ease, at home, and as if they absolutely belonged…right there….in that moment…with him. Astounding.

Over the years I saw Sinatra at other events; I catered at Bob Hope’s home and Sinatra was there, always with an effusive greeting and a warm handshake of recognition and a “Hey Rob! Howya doin’?”. The other waiters were nonplussed even in star obsessed Palm Springs.

In the ensuing years, through various Come Back tours and Vegas appearances the Sinatra’s spent more and more time at their Palm Springs compound. Frank and Barbara Sinatra were huge supporters of many, many charities and were major donor/sponsors of the newly constructed Palm Springs Art Museum. And here we come to my last encounter with Sinatra.

As the steering committee firmed up the details of the opening gala for the Museum, the catering was being put in place for the hundreds of luminaries who would glitter their way out of their Rolls’ and bangle up the red carpet to banquet and bid.

Back at Delmonico’s the owner got a call. It seems that Sinatra, in his quest for atmospheric control at all times, had dictated to the committee who his waiter would be for their ten-top at the gala, me. I did not work for the catering firm that had the contract. But I soon would, even if on a one night only basis. Because of the security concerns even then, and more because Sinatra was Sinatra, I made the obligatory trip to the catering offices, filled out the requisite payroll information, and was officially on staff for the big night.

Sinatra and his party arrived and made their way through the room to the center-front table (big money begets great seating), while the other guests in the room actually stood and applauded! It felt like an awards show.   As they settled into their seats his curtain of security guards tightened around the perimeter. From then on, no one was allowed to pierce this spherical layer of bulky energy without a nod from the Man himself who was on constant alert as to who was lurking about the periphery. I was the only one with unfettered access and Sinatra, with a well-practiced casual cool, made the point right away with a “Good to see you Rob!” and the welcoming handshake.

It goes without saying, the tip was more than just generous as was the man I knew. Whatever has been said and speculated about Frank Sinatra, the man I knew was nothing but a really, human, gentleman.

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Old Was Never an Option

Old Was Never an Option

Let me rephrase that. I simply never, actually, thought I would BE old.

I was diagnosed with HIV about as early in its virulent history as it gets, early 1984 officially but through blood donor studies in San Francisco and other, more convoluted statistical measures, more likely the late 1970’s. Back then symptoms, not the elusive diagnosis that was still years to come, meant death, often within weeks and surely within months.

Walking past the Star Pharmacy windows on Castro and 18th back then, seeing the Bay Area Reporter obituaries going up and growing up every week was a right of passage no one had dreamed of nor desired. One day he was your funny bartender friend at the End Up and the next week he was a face on “The Wall”; gone, leaving a shell-shocked circle of disbelief in his short-lived wake. You saw the gaunt gazes shamefully peering out from beneath tightly tucked baseball caps, their necks swaddled in scarfs and their long sleeves belying the sunny halcyon days of the party that was San Francisco; the party that was even then winding down to what would become the worst hangover in the modern world’s history.

Shame. Terror. Anger. Fear. Uncertainty. Death. They haunted the psyches and back alleys of every person’s mind and we all, each of us, were certain that “it” was coming for us, was punishment for our lives, was inexorably on its path to mow us all down as the punditly prophetic politicians deemed was our due.

By virtue of being who we were born to be, we were now being summarily executed by a vengeful god and hailed as falling and failing infidels, relegated to the dumpsters of the dead sinners that walked the earth for generations before us. Dumpsters were then even too good for the likes of our mortal remains. Back then, we could not get medical personnel to lay healing hands upon us no less a mortician to fire up our remains for burial services that even our families, in large portions, would not attend regardless.

Even our closest and dearest cringed when the next among us began to wobble. Weight loss? A fashion statement no more but a precursor to the Death March that was soon to follow. Aside from assuaging our ever-present fears with reflexive food and alcohol consumption, keeping weight on…ne: gaining weight even, belied the “fact” that we were most assuredly (in our own minds) next to fall on the front lines of this war that we had not enlisted in and that had no cause celebre save for the trumpeting vengeance of the zealots who would, historically, have our heads for and by any means they could.

We were fodder for the Uber-Right’s over consumptive tactical warcraft. Virile, handsome, exuberant youth who flaunted their sexuality and lived the lives that so many of those in power would themselves, secretly, pursue and, as the age of information grew, fall victim to themselves in an almost tragi-comedic, multi-generational stage show that runs still today. Politicians Behaving Badly. Someone needs to do the expose on that one. Retribution is mine sayeth the Gays.

And so, given the terroir of our particular vintage age, most pointedly old……age……, was not on the menu for any of us consumers of fine lives. We would stumble, fall, and wither along with the rest of our brethren, to be tossed on the horror-heap that had become our past, present, and infinite future.

Old Age was not an option, it was a future denied.

By now, as Paul Harvey would intone, we all know “The Rest of Story”; medicine “caught up” to reality, albeit without the help of anyone in power or authority (conjure up a bombastic, script-reading Reagan never acknowledging a problem no less putting forth a leadership-driven path to a solution), drugs were developed, many of the early ones feeding directly into Francis Bacon’s all too true axiom “The remedy is worse than the disease” category, and glimmers of a version of hope began to flicker across the near-dead visages of the afflicted. Actually those glimmers came first to their doctors and nurses who saw if not a path, at least a cluttered trail through the dark wood that had so far been in-penetrant to any light at all. In truth we, the patients, were much too busy with the business of our own dying to see that path in that forest for the all the fallen trees.

I have recounted before that upon being given a 6 month expiration date once in the late 80’s, still feeling hale and hearty, I chose to go on a cruise, buy a Trans Am, and charge up all the credit I could muster to assuage my final exit in the style (or lack of, it was the 80’s, after all) to which we were all ascribing (again, think lots of gold chains and pinky rings).

And then I lived. And lived. And lived. On.

Oooops.

And then I met my husband and lived on some more.

Today, 23 years after that auspicious meeting, we continue to live on having traversed too many miles to recount but enough to know that we have really and truly lived, well.

And so today, as I approach the onset of my 65th year, I marvel and recoil in equal measure, at the old man that I am rapidly destined to become. As the youth movements, which followed after me, have taken their rightful place in their own histories I, and those exactly like me, are left to sort out our honeycomb of emotions as we contemplate what our specific “old ages” will look like. While the worker-bee youth flit about us in frenetic, perpetual, motion, adorning themselves with the trappings of their brand of pollen, we elder Queens are left on the shelf, not exactly revered, but in possession of some sort of stature that we have yet to define and more pointedly to work to our advantage.

As anyone of a certain age will opine; “Old age is not for sissies”.

Well this Sissy has got to say “Old age IS for sissies” and Cissies, and straights, and any other human beings who have managed, through the trials of their own lives, to make it to an age that they may or may not have envisioned for themselves.

60 is the new 40.

Balls. 60 if fucking 60. Live with it. 60 has issues. 65 will have more issues. Live with them, or not, your call.

The indignities of age in our modern society are too numerous and multi-faceted to enumerate. The housing of elders in “homes” (a euphemistically-enhanced term denoting storage bins), and the diminution of status amongst the still living are two prime suspects that we all know, see, and fear.

For men, gay men in particular but all men in reality, the vanity of the vanishing virility is paramount. Our identity as male humans has revolved around the concept of a vigorous, sometimes to the point of virulent, sexuality that has propelled our cores through the ages and stages of our lives. Now we have prostates that wake us, aches where before we had muscles, and the face that reflects in the mirror is none too familiar, nor do we ever want it to be. Culture (and Big Pharma) deluge our already fragile egos with cures for all causes; Viagra, Cialis, derma-fillers, dyes, ab- sculptors and organic hormone enhancers.

As gay males and thrivers in the time of HIV/AIDS we add the indignities of not having ever planned, financially or emotionally, for this long of a life span. We are short on time, money, and resources and getting long in the tooth. Our drugs cost upwards of $100K a year, the rest of our medical management maybe that much again. We haven’t worked in decades (and can’t if we want to qualify for any aide programs to help defray the poor house knock) and so we trundle about seeking value and worth in our vindication as survivors.

In truth, we are the best at this practice in the world, as any survivor of war would tell you. When you’ve dealt with the worst that humanity can throw at you, looked it squarely down to ground zero, and managed to live another day to do it again, there is little you cannot and will not do.

We arrive now at World AIDS day once again, December 1st. I was here for the first in 1988, and now, almost 30 years on, have small glimmers of hope that I might actually be around to see the last; a time when we no longer have to gather and commemorate, grieve, demand recognition, and lobby for justice and equal treatment and protection. A time when HIV/AIDS will take its rightful place on the bookshelves of the world as an historic, epochal, life-altering time in human history that millions have had to endure and thousands have had to activate and motivate through in order to effect change and progress and demand that human decency prevails.

Old may not have been option for me when I was young but now that I am here, I would not trade a moment of the life I have had. I am richer in time and timber for the battle and as any senior will tell you, perspective is everything when memories are becoming your chief currency and the simplicity of routine is more comfortable than the thrill of the unknown once was.

I choose Age…..not Old.

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A Good Husband Makes a Good Wife. John Florio (1553–1625)

How The Supremes Saved Marriage

And

Didn’t Even Know It

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling, making marriage legal throughout the country, may just have the exact net-positive effect that the religious fanaticism of the far right has been postulating would not be the case and would, in their warped world of wonder, bring down modern civilization as we know it, begging the question;

Can marriage be all bad….or all good?

If you follow the logic of the Kim Davis’ and Mike Huckabees, and Pat Robertsons, or god forbid, any of the Duggars, marriage is a good thing and despite what the flood of polling tells us about marriage in America (it’s on the decline) and/or divorce (it’s like a Katy Parry concert bra…on fire and exploding), then an very interesting fork in the road in fast approaching that may just give incense burning, robe-wearing, bible-thumping persons everywhere sudden pause….and possibly a huge case of the vapors when the actual statistics start piling up.

Budgets are under attack, just like all funded institutions these days, but leaving the 1% diatribe aside for this discussion, the very real ways that governing bodies, be they governmental or corporate, save money is from cutting benefits. We see it all the time, Social Security being the piñata of punching bags for this concept.

For a couple of decades now, progressive, correct-thinking companies (and more than a few states) have offered domestic partnership benefits, primarily to allow same-sex couples to enjoy a degree of sameness that their married counterparts take for granted. True, a small percentage of heterosexual, non-married couples have availed themselves of these benefits as well and why not, benefits are benefits.

Until they aren’t.

Now, the budget crunchers and actuaries across the country are quickly lining up their line-items and looking for ways to once again impact their collective bottom lines. Now that marriage, with all its inherent, god-given largesse, is the law, why have a two-tiered benefit structure that costs them money to administrate and allows virtual scofflaws to piggy back onto their fellow couplers and tap into a fixed pool of monies that only the sanctioned should have access to. And everyone is now sanctioned. Everyone may now marry.

States and companies alike are rapidly reassessing their packages and realizing that they no longer have to separate out the married from the merely self-proclaimed joined. Fire up the ovens for those wedding cakes (if you can find a bakery that is not under litigation); pull out those wallets for the stipends paid to the officiants and endorsers of marriage (if you can find ones that deem to follow the law of the land) and let the masses marry.

Institutions, always the arbiters of all things fiscally responsible (sic), are quickly coming to the obvious conclusion that marriage, all marriage, will be a boon to their budgets or at the very least no longer a sucking hole in their profit balloons. A recent Pew Charitable Trust survey http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/09/11/after-same-sex-marriage-ruling-states-reconsider-domestic-partner-benefits informs us that this next phase of reexamination is already well underway.

Within moments of legalizing same sex marriage, some states (Maryland) immediately, quietly, eliminated domestic partnership benefits from the arsenal of weapons aimed at the wanton. If we follow the leader, can corporate America be far behind? Silicon Valley pay heed. All that talk about “attracting the best and brightest” will fly out the window along with all the rice, or the more politically correct birdseed.

The net result, if everyone can marry then every should marry, if only to be on equal footing, benefit-wise. Again, putting aside the relative merits of the overall premise, the logic is fairly true to form and thus marriages, of all stripes, should soar or at least uptick in a quantifiable way.

And isn’t this what the religiousitous who live among us have been advocating all along. Shouldn’t the Kim Davis’ of Middle Earth (Amerka) be rejoicing instead of threatening yet another taxpayer funded lawsuit aimed at preventing people from marrying?

If more people marry isn’t the world a more “Christian” and god-fearing homeland. Isn’t this what security is all about? The more stable, committed, relationships exist, the better off society, as a whole, will be.

But then I suppose Kim Davis’ divorce lawyers might have an opinion on this.

 

 

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Men of Steel

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Day Dreams and Night Terrors

Day Dreams and Night Terrors

Helene, the proverbial middle child, is in the hospital tonight, sending us all into our versions of hell as we fret the night away wondering what the morning will bring. Fighting what? Pneumonia? A blood clot? Maybe, but really just cancer.

Just cancer.

The cancer that has been lurking and loafing and lumbering around her body and our lives these past four years since Tony died and left us all bereft in the way that only losing a child to war can do.

It was Tony’s dying that today let’s us have Hélène living. After any service related death the wonderful men and women who watch us in the field also have our backs at home and insisted that those closest to Tony, the most viscerally affected, get complete checkups, something we had, as a family, not been able to convince Hélène her nagging cough had warranted.

It was there and then they found the lung cancer. Stage IV. Not good.

But Hélène, the soldier that she is, marched to a different band than the rest of us hysterics, one backed up by a chorus of faithful that sang louder and stronger than the “Sky Is Falling” back up bitches that we all became in various forms and at various times.

With as large a family as we roll in, you might expect and would not be surprised to get the gamut of practical and emotional and reactive responses that we have oh-so-typically demonstrated throughout the process.

And the process has been continual…..for four years now.

To our delight but not our surprise, Hélène dove into the deep end of the pool and learned to swim in the murky waters of Cancer Care with a clarity of vision and serenity of soul that led the rest of us through the dark woods of our wanderings and into a clearing, however temporary we did not know, where we could catch our breath, feel the sunlight, and follow her lead back down the path to the people and the family that we have always been.

Through “good” numbers (and there are such things even in the midst of these battles; we all cheer when the cancer markers are down and the emotional markers are up) and the “bad” ones, Hélène has had the steady hand of a sailor on the tiller of her ship, guided in no small part by her faith, a faith that I said from the very beginning of this adventure would carry her safely through to port, whatever harbor that was to be.

The rest of us have been and will continue to be varying degrees of Hot Messes.

This is our normal state as a family so why should a major illness, like any other bump in the road, make our reactionary riotism any more or less evident than normal; it simply gives us an external focus if you will and, for a time, a reason d’etre for dizzying dives into momentary madness.

But therein also lies the strength and the core of a wild, wide, and diverse family: we’ve got this.

When one sister is melting down and raising the white flag of surrender to the power of panic, there’s a brother, or a nephew, or a mother, or another cadre of sisters that step in and surround the scary with love and limit its lifespan to as few frightening moments or fitful nights as possible and, along with Hélène at the helm, we’re back on course, keel down instead of ass up.

I’ve had my sleepless nights, I’m having one now. Something told me when I awoke at 0 dark thirty to check my night-silenced phone. It was lit up like Bourbon St at Mardis Gras and when Corinne and Mimi lead the number and message lists, I snap to. This was not a sisterly 3am “Hey dude, how’s your holiday” string.

This is a hospital, group text, mass message, call to arms, bugle-me-awake sorta call.

And so I pause.

I try and breathe.

I try and not panic.

I try and not project. (How can I get plane fights out of Key West during Spring Break? And wait………didn’t I have this exact problem LAST year when my husband had a heart attack this very week 3,000 miles away? It’s now 4am, how early is too early to call/txt someone in the know? How many hours does it take to drive from Key West to D.C? What can I do when I get there?)

Stop.

Tomorrow, in 2 hours to be precise, I’ll be on The Yankee Freedom III (what kind of name is that for a Caribbean Catamaran?) skimming across the Gulf of Mexico towards a TINY, tiny coral atoll so close that, to re-coin an iconic popular political gaff of recent memory; “I can see Cuba from my deck!”.

Hopefully I’ll have some cellular service and call Hélène directly, assess her voice and her demeanor myself, listen carefully to what she has to say, and then I will act accordingly. Calmly.

The rest of the sisters, brothers, cousins, nephews, nieces and extensions of the family core will all fall into line, behind Hélène, as we have done from the start of this ersatz family adventure; think Chevy Chase with a really, REALLY, bad sense of humor…….but one that still make you do spit-takes of laughter at the inappropriateness of life in general.

And what I have said form Day One will come to be.

Hélène, of all of us, will be fine. She has the Family Faith locked up in a vault in her heart that nothing is going to touch. It’s up to the rest of us to believe as much as she does and we will be fine too.

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I Am Now a Member of AA

I Am Now A Member of AA

Aging Amnesiacs

As I careen forward into the decades, knocking over years like stacks of falling dominos, it occurs to me almost daily (hourly?) that the axiom “Everything old is new again” has more than a ring of truth to it, it has the deafening peal of a city-wide bell toll reserved for a royal funeral in London. Peter Allen and Carol Bayer Sayer said it best in the song for The Boy From Oz and All That Jazz:

“Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again”

As a perpetual hoarder, the concept of discarded flotsam has always been foreign to my nature. As age and downsizing and right-living practices have come to dictate more practical ways of managing my often hectic life, one thing I have not dispensed with is my memories……….just my memory of them.

Even before the advent of book on my iPad, I have found myself in possession of books; back then purchased, flyleaves read, pages perused, brought home to the shelves and when pulled down on a rainy afternoon to begin a new literary stroll, only then….and only after a chapter or ten into them, discover that I have, indeed, already consumed this particular tale. Receipts be damned, I would shuffle back to Crown Books and ashamedly admit that “oooops, I already read this…” and exchange it for not one but several more potential reads, hoping against hope that I had not already been down their typeset paths as well.

It used to bother me.

Was I that shallow and obtuse that I simply chose “forgettable” authors? Or was there something deeper happening here? Was I in an already advancing state of mental decline (catastrophic thinking always ready to spring to the fore)? I always opted to blame it on my frenetic lifestyle and my over-scheduled existence.

Now with the advent of Amazon and online book purchases I have a new social anxiety to contend with. I can’t simply un-buy a digital book when I’m sixty pages in and suddenly recognizing characters and plot twists that I couldn’t browse ahead online, pre-purchase.

Now I own these cursed books forever, again.  They reside in the Cloud, bought and paid for with my cloudy memory and my “One Click” purchase button.

But recently I have discovered that this fog of forgetfulness is leaking into other media and not just the written word. Maybe this is why I can watch reruns of Designing Women and Seinfeld and, even while reciting complete scenes aloud, find them endlessly amusing…..still…..again.

Is this a benefit of age or a sign of it?

My husband often comments, when he is subjected to one of my family’s many verbally orgiastic reunions, that never in his life has he seen a group of people who tell the same stories, in exactly the same way, for decade after decade, and still find them uproariously funny and endlessly amusing….to us, alone. I have thought about this a lot. Are we cementing our collective history so that we will not lose it as we pass through it, and beyond, or are we simply simplistic and boring creatures devoid of the ability to create new and engaging stories in the present tense? I like to believe that we pause and repeat these anecdotally amusing instances in order to implant them in the next generations that are so rapidly filling in the time behind and in front of us. We are giving them their foundational blocks upon which the laughter of our lives was built in the hopes that they will make their own ecstatic tapestries. But still, ‘tis a puzzlement.

It does cause me pause though and wonder if I had my entire life to live over again, with all the seminal events presented in exactly the same order and consequence, would my life re-imagined still surprise me? Would I react as I did then, devoid of the filters that age and experience have provided? Would the wonder still be as marvelous? Would the tragedy still take my breath away? Would I question my motives and my desires the same way I did on the first ride around the carrousel?

Would I enjoy my own rerun?

Time will be the tale-teller here, and I will never know the difference.

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So You Wanna Put On A Show

So You Wanna Put On A Show

Artists are a breed apart from all others in the world. We are deeply insecure, wildly enthusiastic, mild to moderately arrogant and perpetually engaged and engaging (usually, at least in the sense that we are forever fretfully ferreting out new targets for our roving talents to explore) but above all else we are humblingly human. But just like Judy and Mickey, we seek approval from the rest of the world only we do it in a way that virtually assures we will have to contend with more than a fair component of rejection, whether outright in our face or more subtly subsumed though the DNA of the “quiet ignore”

I, never one for subtle or demure, chose to stage the first real showing of my photography at an actual gallery opening complete with wine and nibblies and arty types who would mingle and mange and evaluate and judge, all with me standing around trying to act nonchalant and oh so engaging.

Oh…….and trying not to imbibe more that the perquisite gallon or two of cheap wine that my fragile ego would require to keep me ambulatory, non-slurring, yet incapable of fleeing my own party as I have been known to do, pulling up my tent stakes and toddling off even when said party was happening in my own home.

“Where’s Robby??” Oh, he went to bed, party on. Not unheard of in the least.

But last night, in a town far from home (a good thing in many respects), I staged a showing of my work for the general public to come and judge. And now, in the bright glistening Florida morning while my hosts are off at church, I sit by the pool contemplating my navel and asking, in my very best Peggy Lee; “Is That All There Is?”

My home-host and gallery mentor-in-one, Tedd, is a master of the curated art show. He pairs his artists with great care, has a dead-on eye for hanging a show and a master’s touch at marketing and outreach. I learned so much just helping him arrange the show and watching him work the walls and the crowds.

I did not sell one piece.

And so in the bright morning light of the cheap wine after-ache, sitting by the pool trying to put some sort of context to the entity as a whole, I am left with a blank space where my emotional core should be. I am in no mood. I’m not in a bad mood, I’m not in a good mood……I.…am…..in….no…..mood. Neutral; gears unengaged; mind spinning in place; trying to psyche up for….what?

Here is where a disclaimer of sorts must be inserted.

My exhibit focused on graffiti penises.

Dead stop.

My co-exhibitor is a detailed photographer/painter who takes a large scale picture, grids it up into one inch squares, cuts it apart, hand paints each square similar to the original print, and then reassembles them back to an approximation of where he began. Very intriguing. Very labor intensive. A visual dichotomy that provokes and perplexes, creating a slight-of-eye shift that pulls the viewer into the work.

He came with a following. His entire office. All 50 plus of them, all eager to support their coworker in his art and endeavor.

It’s good to have a crowd at an opening. They bring validation to the gallery, the artists, and to each other. There is a self-congratulatory air that reinforces the collective camaraderie of the art-going ethos.

A party is always better with partying people.

And on the opposite wall…………dicks. Loads of phallic imagery in stark contrast to portraits of Marilyn Monroe deconstructions, and Roman Coliseum reconstructions, and a co-workers sweet kitty portrait reconstruction thrown in for that softer, more personal touch.

To be fair, my story was more documentary in nature, an interesting and entertaining tale of American industry, gritty coal mining grime, and redneck ruminations spilled out in a public forum that actually boggled the mind and joggles the inner sanctums.

Burning Desire: The Show, is the culmination of months of work editing, curating, selecting, and de-selecting images that would, I knew, bear the patina of the priaptically challenged from the start. Genitalia are not neutral.

Yet these particular images are not real. They are no man, or man’s. These are chalk and paint doodlings of dongs not dangling. These are images out of imaginations brought forth with spray paint and furtive finish-art longings expressed on an expressway, literally. Perfectly private parts put down on primitively public places. An abandoned public blacktop highway seems the quintessential palate for prurient paintings, no?

Who could resist documenting this? Not I.

In fairness, most people I talked to about this project loved the idea. Now whether they loved the idea of the idea or loved that idea that I was the one actually “doing” the idea is still an unanswered question. A curiosity someone should explore and thank god Robby was the one who thought it up and did it. I’ll at least go take a furtive peak….if I get the chance….and no one’s watching.

And now the hanging begins; the hanging around.

My dicks are dangling, my time in the spotlight is over and my personal hanging around commences. We shall see if anyone sees what I see in these images of true Americana Graffiti. Bathroom ball prints? Guest room shockers?

And so I head homish to Key West, former land of the vaginally challenged but now home to the ubiquitous Gay Guest House. Nude Gay Guesthouses, everywhere. The street schlock T Shocks are all boobs and crudes. You’d think a simple line drawing of penile portraiture would not shock and abhor but the general statement from ALL the people I talk to in stores and galleries is: “Key West is very conservative.”

Huh?

I’m offering free art for Sexy Guesty rooms, with a tag attached, and they’d rather have street scenes and coupons for boat rides. Hmmmm

It’s a puzzlement.

I’m still gonna put on a show, it’s who I am, it’s what I do. Like it? Loathe it? I really don’t care. I get credit for the effort.

 And now…..I’m in a mood! <grin>

 

HandJob “Hand Job”

 

 

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