Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Napster's back, and my arms are wide open to welcome it. Come here, Napster. Oh, how I've missed you!

Of course, it's a totally different service now. The old Napster never asked for your credit card number, and half the time you'd spend an hour downloading some rare hard-to-find track by your favorite band off some kid in Germany, only to learn it was actually a mislabeled demo track from some neo-punk skinhead band from Stuttgart. That problem is gone now, but only because you'll never find those rare hard-to-find tracks on the new Napster at all. Yeah, there are drawbacks, but unlike iTunes, new Napster actually works properly on my computer, which I consider a big plus. I installed it yesterday, and I've already downloaded two songs I've been trying unsuccessfully to download from iTunes for the last week: "Hey Ya" by Outkast, which is the greatest song ever, and "Crazy in Love" by Beyonce, which was the greatest song ever a couple of months ago.

The problem is that Napster's interface, while it totally rips off iTunes', is much clumsier and harder to use, whether you're searching or browsing. And the window is too large, blocking out the task bar at the bottom of the screen so you have to minimize in order to switch to another application. That's not good for a music application, which is exactly the kind of thing most people like to run in the background behind other applications. And wait a second: the free service only covers singles, and I have to sign up for the $9.95 a month premium service just to download an entire album???? Uh, no. Maybe they'll fix these problems in the weeks ahead, but aren't focus groups supposed to take care of obvious flaws like these before you introduce your product to the public? Couldn't they have bribed ten college kids to give the beta software a whirl in exchange for some hot dogs and nachos and thus ensured themselves a smoother launch product? Then again, what do I know?

As for the jukebox itself, iTunes wins again. It's much simpler and easier to use than Napster's, which forces you to create your playlists in a tiny, cluttered sidebar. Plus, iTunes has that great 25 Most Played feature. (My current #1: "Mr. Bojangles" by Robbie Williams. Feel free to mock.) So the solution is simple. Download on Napster; play on iTunes. Great idea, only iTunes won't let me import the songs I've downloaded from Napster, even though it seems to recognize them on my hard drive. Is there some competitive thing going on here? Is this a "Park your Honda in Tokyo" middle-finger-flip from iTunes? Is Apple saying, "Play your Napster tunes on their crummy jukebox! Ha, ha!"? Well, you stink, Apple. And I'll continue to enjoy watching your lousy company teeter on the verge of bankruptcy. So there!

I guess it's back to MusicMatch...


Tuesday, October 28, 2003

This past weekend was originally supposed to be called Long Overdue Weekend, where I'd take care of things I should've attended to long ago. But I'm not crazy about the acronym created by that name and, looking back now, I think a more appropriate name and acronym are provided by the moniker Wildly Overdue Weekend. I think when you finish reading this post, you'll see why.

It started off with Drew and I renting "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle". We had originally gone to see the movie this summer with some friends, but completely uncharacteristally, I ended up drunk and proceeded to sleep through most of the movie. Since then, whenever I've been asked "Did you see Charlie's Angels 2?", I've been stuck for an answer. "Well, kind of," I'll say. And then I have to tell the whole embarrassing story.

Now that I've seen the entire film, I can answer like this: "Yes, and I wish I hadn't." I mean, really. In all the discussions about the poor box office performance of this film, I can't believe no one suggested that maybe the reason for the lackluster showing was that the movie just plain sucked. That the stunts were so cartoonish and unrealistic that it drained the movie of all dramatic tension. That the computer-generated effects were a giant step backward from whatever technology they used to make the animals talk in "Babe". I think five or ten years from now, when special effects have evolved a thousand degrees further, people will look back at "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" the way we now look back at the films of Ed Wood. You can see the strings on the flying saucer, and you can see the pixelation on Lucy Liu. This is not the kind of film you should watch sober. And I think I speak for all of gaykind when I say we're over Drew Barrymore -- a realization that was wildly overdue itself.

Then, on Saturday night, instead of seeing a brand-new film like "Elephant", I saw "Runaway Jury". Okay, it wasn't like that was wildly overdue, but allow me a little dramatic license, please. "Runaway Jury" is the kind of movie where you know who the bad guys are because they operate out of a dark, evil lair and they're good with computers. Dustin Hoffman adopted a Southern accent and delivered an overdue return to the characterization of Dorothy Michaels, the character-within-a-character he played in "Tootsie". Several of his lines in "Runaway Jury" have the exact inflection of "Good day, Dr. Brewster! I said good day, sir!" All of which is to say that it's the kind of movie that's fun if you don't take it too seriously. Come to think of it, maybe "Charlie's Angels" would've been fun if I hadn't taken it too seriously. But I seriously enjoyed hating it.

At "Runaway Jury", we saw the guy who plays Mickey, Kramer's dwarf friend on "Seinfeld". People kept going up to him and saying hello, which I think people do more to minor celebrities than to real stars because they figure the little guys (pun intended) enjoy it. And this little guy seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. He was really friendly and chatty with his fans, which is always nice to see. I dared Drew to go up to him and tell him how good he was in "The Station Agent". Yes, I'm a horrible person. Maybe that admission is wildly overdue.

Acknowledging that Drew Barrymore sucks and I'm a jerk? Seeing two movies a little late? Maybe you're wondering if this should've been called "Stating the Obvious Weekend" or "Slightly Delayed Weekend". But who wants their weekend to be called SOW? And SDW doesn't spell anything at all. Where's the wildness, Jerry, you ask? What if I throw in eating Indian food for the first time? Does that help? Okay, well, there's still one way to justify Wildly Overdue Weekend.

On Sunday afternoon, I finally came out of the closet to a friend I've known since high school.

Overdue? Certainly. Wildly? Read on...

He and I met in 9th grade. In fact, he's my oldest friend who I still keep in touch with. We've drifted further apart and closer together dozens of times over the years. We went to different colleges, I moved to LA, he moved to New York. But despite everything keeping us apart, we've always managed to stay in touch, and I think that says a lot about our relationship. I've probably known I was gay at least since he and I first met, but by the time I accepted it and started coming out to other people, we were living on different coasts.

The thought of coming out to this guy was difficult for a lot of reasons. Distance was only part of it. We saw each other whenever I went back to visit my family, and a couple times, he came to LA on business, and I got to show him around my turf. But each time I saw him, the circumstances seemed wrong for telling him my big secret. There was never enough time, or there was too much else going on. And what if some awkwardness followed? In my experience coming out to people I'm really close to, it always does. Whatever their feelings about homosexuality (and thankfully, I don't come from a background of bigots or religious extremists), it takes time for people to adjust to the news. Sometimes they feel hurt that you didn't tell them sooner, or that so-and-so found out first, or they feel like they never really knew you. Gradually, they realize that nothing about me or my relationship with them has changed and, with only one exception, I've ended up feeling closer to everyone I've come out to than I did before. But when you only see someone for a day at a time, you don't have time to get past that awkwardness. Last year, this friend and I went to Europe together for a week. We went to Wimbledon, we spent a night in Paris, and we had a great time. There were plenty of opportunities to have my talk with him, but who wants to ruin a vacation?

But most of all, I guess I was scared. He and I were teenagers together. Being a gay teenager means being terrified of being outed, even more so in the 80s when I grew up. My memories of those years are mostly bad, mostly about being afraid and ashamed, of hoping against all evidence that a better life awaited me. Through no fault of his own, this guy has always been linked to that dark period, and even though he was my best friend at the time, he was guilty of saying one of the most brutal, soul-crushing things anyone's ever said to me. I only remember one conversation we ever had about homosexuality, but it made his position on fags crystal clear. "I could never be friends with someone who was gay," he told me. There it was: my greatest fear emphatically confirmed, underlined and bolded. If he knew I was gay, there'd be no more friendship.

Yes, he was 16 when he said that. It was safe to assume he'd become a little more open-minded in the intervening years. He'd probably met plenty of gay people in college. He'd probably worked with gay people. He'd definitely seen "Ellen" and "Will & Grace". I figured if I came out to him, it wouldn't be a big deal. It'd be a little awkward at first, then he'd be fine with it. But I couldn't be sure.

Now that I'm going to be moving in with Drew, I don't have much choice but to finally come out to those last few people. I'm just not interested in the deception staying closeted would involve. "I'm moving in with a friend," I'd have to say, "just, er, to save money on rent". Lie! Everyone knows what a great deal I have on my apartment. And what about when Drew came back with me at Christmas? Would I have to make some excuse for not being able to hang out with my friend? Or come up with some lie about who exactly Drew was? Some "my platonic roommate came home with me for the holidays" story? The more I thought about it, the more absurd it became. Awkward conversation or not, it was time he knew.

The buildup is always the worst part. Once I got him on the phone and we made our small talk, I announced, probably way too dramatically, "I have something I want to talk to you about." I never know where to go between there and "I'm gay", but I know you can't go right to "I'm gay", especially not after knowing someone for 17 years. "This conversation is long overdue," I said, "and for that I want to apologize in advance". It's usually at that point in my coming-out conversations that the other person gets very quiet. They may or may not know where I'm headed, but they know I'm not just asking for a ride to the airport.

He was totally silent. Even after I dropped the bomb, he said nothing. Absolutely nothing. So I kept talking. I couldn't bear the silence. I explained what a long process coming out has been for me and how I hoped he wouldn't be hurt that it took me so long to tell him, that it was more a reflection on me than on him. Blah blah gay blah. I must've talked for two minutes straight, and still he said nothing at all. This was not good. This was not going to be smooth and easy. This was going to be complicated. What the hell was he thinking? And finally, he interrupted.

"It's okay. You can stop." He took a long pause. "It's fine. I'm cool with it. I've… I've kind of been going through the same thing."

And then, it was my turn to be silent. I wasn't sure what to say. I had prepared myself for this talk for seventeen years. I had had the same talk with plenty of other people, and I thought I was ready for any outcome. I knew how to handle it if he was shocked (i.e., my sister), a little freaked out (i.e., my old roommate), surprisingly supportive (i.e., my mother). But this, I was not prepared for. Was this conversation headed where I thought it was headed? "What do you mean?" I finally asked.

"I've been… you know, questioning."

Oh my God. He couldn't even say it. Here I was apologizing for being so slow in coming out, and it turned out I was talking to a guy who was even further behind in the process. He hadn't even accepted it himself yet. From the tone in his voice, I could tell he was scared.

I did most of the talking after that. It became clear that he had been questioning his sexuality for years – and that he was pretty much through questioning. His question had been answered. But he hadn't told anyone. Anyone. He had tried, he told me, but he had chickened out. With his sister, he had chickened out "like five times now". I told him not to feel bad about that. He was nowhere near my record.

I tried to be supportive, I tried to say all the right things. I told him about Drew and about how happy I was, hoping he'd see a light at the end of the tunnel. He let me do most of the talking. I reminded myself that when he picked up the phone a few minutes earlier and heard my voice, he had no idea that after hiding all his life, he was about to reveal his big secret for the first time. His silence was understandable. We talked for about half an hour, and it was a good talk, easily the most open talk we've ever had, and then we said goodbye. I didn't want to overwhelm him, and besides, I was still a little overwhelmed myself. When I nervously picked up the phone to call him, it wasn't quite the talk I was expecting to have.

I had certainly considered the possibility before that he might be gay. Though not what I'd consider effeminate, he does fit some of the stereotypes. He dresses well, is acutely gifted in the field of sarcasm, and he likes Bette Midler a lot more than most men do. Plus, all my life, if there was one person even more secretive about his love life than I was, it was him. He talked about girls sometimes, but never to say he was dating one. Girls and sex were subjects the two of us never discussed, though I guess I usually assumed he was doing me a favor. After years of occasionally considering the remote possibility that he might be gay, I dismissed my suspicions entirely. I mean, come on, the guy was 31 now. He had to be straight. The only other possibility was that he was gay and even more in the closet than I was. What were the odds of that?

I thought back on that cruel thing he'd said in high school. "I could never be friends with someone who was gay." And then I remembered what came after it. "Could you?" he asked. Suddenly, I realized that his statement hadn't been motivated by hatred, but by fear. It was a possibility I didn't even consider at the time. Back then, I was crushed. And I had to respond. But how? I was caught off-guard. I was afraid. All I could say was, "I don't know."

"I don't know."

And what followed was seventeen years of "I don't know". It seems absurd now that all that time we were both struggling in private, we each had a huge untapped source of support right beside us. We could've been there for each other, had someone to talk to, someone to share with, someone to explore the gay world with, to make us feel normal, and most of all, someone to understand us. I wouldn't have had to deal with my fear alone, and he wouldn't be 31 years old and still afraid. Growing up gay was hell, and there's nobody I would rather have gone through that experience with than him. If only we'd known. Maybe if, instead of "I don't know", I'd told him the truth, our lives would've turned out much different.

I'm still taking this all in. I'm still not sure what to make of it, or how exactly it'll change things, for me and for him. But I know it's a huge step forward for both of us. And I know the conversation was overdue.

Wildly. And woefully.



I still have a long post to finish about my weekend, but in the meantime, I'm going to ramble about that music video DVD release party from last night. I hate Hollywood parties, mostly because they're full of Hollywood people. But I was really excited about seeing the videos on a big screen and with an audience, so I forced Drew, who hates Hollywood parties even more, to use his invite to take me there. When we got there, the line stretched around the block. The buzz was that the theater seated 750, and 1,700 people RSVP'ed. If we'd gotten there any later, we wouldn't have made the cut.

The line moved really slowly, and while we waited, we enjoyed watching which celebrities got to walk right into the theater (i.e., Andy Dick) and who had to wait on line like the rest of us schlubs (i.e., Sarah Silverman). When we finally got up to the front after about half an hour, Drew stopped at the table to check in. I walked right past security without a word and never had to explain myself to anyone. Maybe they thought I was Beck. (My hair was a bit messy last night.)

The Egyptian theater is really nice and has a large section of stadium seating. But as it turned out, all the good seats were reserved for people with "pink tickets" (not us). So we sat on the lower level, where the seats are so close to the screen that they're tilted upward planetarium-style. Normally I might feel slighted in that situation, but a lot of people worked on those videos, and I was just some lucky Jack who knew somebody who knew somebody who scrounged up some extra invites. Bjork deserves to watch her own work without cramping her neck. I was happy just to be there.

Before the screening, some guy came up and introduced the whole thing. I have no idea who he was, but was really nervous, for which I was grateful. People who enjoy attention are often boring public speakers. When somebody's anxious, there's always the tension that they'll screw up, and that keeps me interested. He spoke for a few minutes, then introduced the directors, Spike Jonze, who looked like an old guy trying to look like a teenager (a look I fully support), Chris Cunningham, whose face was not visible from behind his tousled, shoulder-length black hair (meaning he looked like a music video director is supposed to look) and Michel Gondry, who was so adorable I wanted to take him home and give him a big ball of yarn to play with.

The videos, of course, were amazing, and thankfully, each director tossed a couple of more obscure ones in the mix. I finally got to see Gondry's video for Cibo Matto's "Sugar Water" again. It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I had never seen any of Cunningham's videos before (at least not the ones he showed last night), but the crowd favorite by far was a video he did for Aphex Twin. It was about a bunch of little kids in creepy disfigured old man masks who attack a grandma who's out walking her dog. Then a devil creature comes out of the TV and screams at her. I kept waiting for the devil creature to eat Grandma or disembowel her or something, but all he did was scream. Whatever. He could've done that from inside the TV. If there's a theme to Chris Cunningham's work, it's putting creepy disfigured old man masks on unexpected people, whether it's little kids or booty-shaking home girls. Interesting, but I'd rather watch Bjork get eaten by a giant teddy bear any day. Gondry's stuff was easily my favorite. Please, really, can I take him home with me?

There were three stools and three microphones set up at the front of the auditorium, which had us all expecting a Q&A, but when the lights came up, everyone just left and headed to the party. Oh, well. It spared us the usual types of questions at these things: "Hey, you know the part when the devil creature screams at the Grandma? That was cool." Q&A sessions at events like this tend to be a lot like "The Chris Farley Show".

The party was the part I was dreading. Drew would know tons of people, and I'd be smiling and saying, "It's nice to meet you" a lot. It's not very often nice to meet people, which isn't a commentary on the people but on the act of meeting itself. Meeting people is hard – at least for me – but you can't be honest and say, "Hello, I'm uncomfortable meeting you" or "Since we have yet to establish any common interests, I'm struggling to think of something to say" or "I'm deathly afraid that you'll find me boring and prematurely abandon me for a trip to the bar or the bathroom or a friend you're pretending to see far, far across the room." All you can say is "It's nice to meet you", which makes you sound phony, which is what makes people hate Hollywood parties, which makes me no better than everyone else. Thanks, but I don't need to come to parties to realize my limitations as an individual.

Thankfully, with Drew's droll commentary (Which basically boiled down to three things: "I hate her." "I hate him." or "I fucking hate her.") to keep me entertained, things weren't too bad. The event was catered by an airline, which was not a good sign, and the menu was all organic, which was even worse. So Drew and I skipped out early and went to Mel's Diner for a burger.

There were no gift bags on the way out, no freebies, not even for people with pink tickets. So that means I'm going to have to make a Best Buy run today to pick up my copies of the DVDs. I'll also be picking up the new Tony Hawk game, which comes out today.

Can anyone get me into that party?


Friday, October 24, 2003

Bad news from the locker room: it looks like the perpetually naked guy at my gym has now become the perpetually naked singing guy. Every time I go to the gym, I see him, looking naked and unattractive and not wearing any clothes. Let me just say that I think being comfortable naked is a great thing. But I also think being too comfortable naked is very, very bad. Perpetually naked guy is probably in his mid-30s, about 5'6", very muscular, African-American, completely hairless and – and I say this only because his defining characteristic compels me to – has a large, misshapen penis. He stands by the showers, he stands by the blow dryers, he stands by his locker, he walks back and forth, he talks to people. And he does all of these things naked and with a large, misshapen penis. Now he sings, too. "Feelings", no less. Loudly.

There's nothing unusual or unnecessary about locker room nudity in theory. I totally understand a person's need to get naked to take a shower. It helps you clean everywhere; it keeps your clothes dry. And without going too much into his psychology, I think it's pretty obvious why Perpetually Naked Guy feels the need to stay naked after showering while stretching, posing, applying lotion, striking up conversations with strangers and belting out schmaltzy 70's ballads. The thing that always surprises me is how overly willing other, seemingly normal people are to indulge Perpetually Naked Guy. "Well, you're in a good mood today!" said one Briefly Naked Guy to Perpetually Naked Guy this morning. "I just feel like singing!" came the reply. And then another verse. It reminds me of the "Simpsons" Halloween episode where the billboards come to life and start trashing Springfield, until everyone realizes that the way to make them go away is to stop paying attention to them. But stupid Homer just can't look away from the enormous donut, dooming the entire town to more torment. So why do people encourage Perpetually Naked Guy?

It's not what you may think. I started going to this gym specifically because it was a "straight" gym, or at least as straight as a gym can be in LA. I got tired of seeing guys who were too comfortable naked and way too comfortable jerking off in the showers. (Yes, I witnessed it. Twice.) And I can't be the only one who feels this way about Perpetually Naked Guy. If a guy like me, who let me assure you, is extremely pro-naked men, gets this creeped out by Perpetually Naked Guy, I can only imagine how much he creeps out the straight guys -- you know, guys who are creeped out by any naked man, much less a perpetually naked one with a large, misshapen penis. The only reason I can think of to explain why he's such a popular guy, why his overtures for attention are consistently reciprocated, is that people must think of him like they do of the disabled. Most people tend to be overly nice to the disabled. You don't want to be rude and dismissive to a guy who's missing a couple of limbs and make him think you're uncomfortable. I guess people feel the same way about guys with large, misshapen penises.

So far, I've managed to avoid Perpetually Naked Guy and never had to talk to him myself. I have my tricks. Get in and get out of the locker room fast. Choose a locker far, far from his. And never ever ever make eye contact. That's how you become his friend. That's how he draws you into his *penis* web. How he remembers you from week to *penis* week and says, "Hey, how 'bout those *penis* Yankees?" "Did you have a good *penis* workout?" "Feelings, nothing more than *penis* feelings!!!!"

Don't get me wrong, though. He's not a bad singer.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Stories like this one warm my cold, wicked heart. They really do. The son of that guy who died after being impaled in that woman's windshield and then left in her garage has been given a $10,000 scholarship by a group of death row inmates. Aw, they're so sweet!

I'm glad John Allen Muhammad rehired his lawyers and gave up his bid to defend himself. For an unqualified person to take on such a monumental task when there's so much at stake is incredibly foolhardy. It turns something extremely serious, which is better left to professionals, into a circus and a joke. We'd never allow something like that to happen in California.

What's the one thing cooler than DVD compilations of music videos of three of the best, most creative, most whacked-out directors in the world? Telling your boyfriend about them and having him tell you he just got an invite to the release party. Yipee!

I lost in my gay tennis league playoffs last night. Sad me. What really sucks is that I lost to a guy who -- and I say this objectively -- is the worst player I've ever seen (3-6) and another guy who's a totally cocky jackass (1-6) and who kept foot faulting. The only guy I beat was a twitchy 56-year-old with Tourette's syndrome (6-3). At least that's what I'm guessing his affliction is, given his twitchiness and his tendency to blurt out things that made no sense. He claimed he was cursing in Dutch, which must mean that "fuck" is the same in Dutch as in English. He claims to be a psychotherapist. Then again, maybe he means that as two words.

The fun part was having Drew come and say obnoxious things to me privately all night, like promising "I'm gonna tell that asshole he's a foot faulter" and saying of the guy my tennis friend Rob has a crush on, "Luis is ugly". (Luis was about five feet away from us at the time, though thankfully his bad ear was facing us. But you didn't know he had a bad ear, did you, Drew?) Drew said that no matter what happened, I was a winner, which was incredibly sweet, though between that and Tourette's guy, I sometimes felt like I was at the Special Olympics. Eh, I'll get 'em next season!

Well, I guess it's finally time for me to give up hoping for What's Happening Right This Very Moment!!! or some other new incarnation of my favorite TV show ever (yes, my favorite favorite favorite I-don't-care-what-you-say favorite). TV's heaviest cast ever (excluding "Babes") is a little thinner, and I'm a lot sadder. No Mama, no Shirley, no Rerun, no rent. R.I.P. Fred Berry. Better put down that cheeseburger, Danielle Spencer. Looks like Death and I have the same favorite sitcom, and you could be next.


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

If you thought Danny Pintauro's Friendster profile (thanks, Let Me Get This Straight) was a little disturbing, check out Richard Hatch's ad on Big Muscle (Caution: this link might not be safe for work. In fact, I would've posted this yesterday, except my company blocked the site.) Rich goes by the screen name "Triwhale", which I'm counting on somebody to explain to me (please).

The "Survivor" champ says he's "looking to intimately share life with a bold, intelligent, integrous man".

So do we have a love connection? Well, let's see. Rich says he's "versatile (really)" and that he prefers "sexually assertive men (total tops or truly versatile guys)". Danny, on the other hand, is a "versatile bottom sexually", and he's also looking for a top, though a "versatile" one "with the qualities of a bottom". Well, everyone sounds pretty versatile. So far, so good… I guess.

But before you email Danny to tell him to head over to the Barona Casino in San Diego, take another look back at his ideal man. He wants someone "adventurous…" (check), "open minded…" (check), "not self centered…" Oh, well. Sorry Rich. But good luck pursuing BeefNBoxers. He seems like a nice young muscle bear.


Monday, October 20, 2003

Lately, just for fun and because I'm weird, I've been giving every weekend a theme (i.e., No Plans Weekend, Let's See a Million Movies Weekend, etc.) My initial inclination was to call this past weekend "Inconvenience Weekend". Yet in the end, despite all indications, I've decided that the theme of this past weekend was not in fact "Inconvenience". Before I explain why, let me tell you all the reasons why I originally planned to call it Inconvenience Weekend:

In anticipation of the upcoming Big Move-In with Drew, I've started listing some of my excess furniture on Craig's List. On Friday morning, a guy emailed me and asked if he could come look at my futon. His name was "Micheal" -- and yes, that's how he spelled it (though on his answering machine it sounded just like "Michael"). I got two other inquiries that day, and I let each of them know that Micheal had first dibs.

So I waited at noon on Saturday for Micheal to show up. And waited and waited. Finally, I placed a "Where the hell are you?" call. No answer. I left a message, telling Micheal I was going to offer it to the next guy. Well, Micheal didn't call back, and the next guy, unfortunately, couldn't make it until 4 o'clock. He was a German guy who had just arrived for his graduate studies at UCLA and who reeked of cigarette smoke. REEKED. Sorry, futon, but if you thought the musty odor of stale Teddy Grahams from my apartment was bad, it's about to get a lot worse. The German guy bought my futon, but it didn't fit in his van, which also reeked of smoke -- REEKED -- so I had to help him disassemble it and carry it down. One futon sold, one day wasted. Inconvenience #1.

On Saturday night, I got together with some friends for dinner. Most of my friends live in my part of town, for which I am eternally grateful, but the charming and adorable Julie, a very important part of our group, lives in Santa Monica. Since Julie is outnumbered geographically, she always ends up coming over to the 323 area code to hang out. And so, every once in a while, the rest of us feel guilty and agree meet up in 310. Saturday was one of those nights, so instead of a quick trip to P.F. Chang's on La Cienega, I schlepped over to P.F. Chang's in Santa Monica. Inconvenience #2.

On Sunday was the AIDS Walk. (No, I didn't participate, and not only that, but I'm about to whine about how this fine charitable event ruined my day by interfering with local traffic. If you'd like to continue to think of me as a nice person, please skip to the next paragraph.) The AIDS Walk blocks off streets in a wide rectangle around my neighborhood and pretty much seals off all traffic in West Hollywood for eight whole hours. As a result, a trip that would normally take five minutes instead takes eight hours and five minutes. Eight hours seems like a long time to close down a city considering the AIDS Walk is only 6.2 miles, but Drew thinks that's because old people do it, and they have to close the streets until EVERYONE finishes. I'm touched that the elderly would join the fight against this terrible disease, but if we all chip in a little more, couldn't we spare them the grueling eight-hour trek and open up our streets to traffic a little sooner in the process? Inconvenience #3.

Then, there's the ongoing supermarket strike. (Props to Drew for buying the picketers at Pavillions a $50 Starbucks gift card. That's right, Drew. I just told everyone your secret.) There are about 1,000 supermarkets within a ten-block radius of where I live, and 997 of them are off-limits due to my good liberal conscience. As for the others, Trader Joe's is too weird, Whole Foods is too healthy and Gelson's is too expensive. I just want to buy a box of Cocoa Puffs for under $6. Is that too much to ask? Eventually, I'll break down and shop at those other places, but this weekend, I bought my essentials at the Target about five miles away. (And if that doesn't seem far, remember that these are city miles -- and AIDS Walk city miles, no less. The entire trip took about two hours.) Inconvenience #4.

Also, someone -- and I won't mention any names, but before we condemn him, let's remember how nice he was to those striking workers -- mistakenly downloaded some nasty unwanted software that unleashed an unmanageable torrent of popup ads on my computer. We're still not sure exactly how this happened, but after hours of frustration and struggle and closing popup after popup, I think the problem has finally been fixed. I think. Inconvenience #5.

I won't count Drew and I having to wait a long time for a table at our favorite restaurant as an inconvenience, because we go every week and we know what we're in for. But getting seated in that new waiter's section was not part of the bargain. Not only was he slow to take our order, slow to fill our order and just plain slow, but he was rude, and he messed up the order, too. Inconvenience #6.

Then, as we were leaving the restaurant, Drew held up the receipt and asked me if I noticed the waiter's name. Well, no, Drew. No, I hadn't. Drew pointed to the upper right-hand corner of the receipt, and there it was, giving me another of those brief, shining moments where all the world makes sense.

The rude waiter's name, as it turned out, was "Micheal".

Yes, Micheal.

Thus ended Micheal Weekend.


Friday, October 17, 2003

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is this British gossip email thing called Popbitch. It's mostly full of weird links (like the one to the "KISS midget tribute band"), stories about people whose job it is to "wank off" dogs and chatter about British celebrities you've never heard of, which is surprisingly fun. I don't know who James Gooding is, but I'm as shocked as anyone that he's dating Aimee Osbourne. It's kind of like reading strangers' blogs, I guess, but with good bad jokes (Q: What's the best thing about having sex with twenty eight year olds? A: There's twenty of them.)

Here is my favorite thing from this week's installment, an excerpt from Mariah Carey's book proposal (or so they say – this just seems too good to be true). Apparently, Mariah wants to write a book of poetry for kids. This is from her poem titled "The Unicorn and I":

"I love my unicorn, he knows I am true,
My troubles go poof, my unicorn named Boo
My lambs are all here, all smiling and gay,
Boo and I dance, we sing and we play..."

If that is real (and I pray that it is), someone has to publish it. Otherwise, what will future college kids read when they're stoned?

My latest guilty pleasure is reading people's "Dear Birthparent..." letters on the internet. I've been reading "The Kid" by Dan Savage, about his attempts to adopt a child with his boyfriend, and I learned that people trying to participate in open adoptions are required to write letters to prospective mothers as a means of introduction.

And naturally, I became obsessed.

You can find tons of these letters on the internet by typing "Dear Birthparent" or "Dear Birthmother" into a search engine. I feel so many emotions reading these people's stories and picturing them waiting by the phone for the call that some expectant mother has chosen them. I can't explain the voyeuristic thrill it gives me. It's like a non-psycho person's fight club. Instead of going to support group meetings for diseases I don't have, this is what I do to feel alive.

Most of the profiles have photos of the happy couples (and occasional singles) smiling with a mixture of hope and desperation alongside lengthy pleas to anonymous mothers to entrust them to raise their unborn children. Some common themes: what a difficult decision the birth mother must be going through, how they met each other, how much they love playing with their niece/nephew/neighbor's kid, how much they love each other, how much they love their pets, how much they love Jesus, how many wonderful cultural institutions are in their immediate vicinity, and hiking.

And there's nothing more exciting than seeing one that has "Matched!" printed next to it. My favorite so far is the couple who spent a lot of time acknowledging that yes, they were "a same sex couple and a multi-racial one at that" and "yes, we are two men", and who obviously thought that for these reasons, they'd never in a million years get picked. But they've been "Matched!", too. Congratulations, Avi and Will!

Some favorite quotes:

"We can’t wait to buy that first pair of Mickey Mouse ears."

"We have a dog named Gryffindor and a cat named Hufflepuff who are great playmates."

"Monica already has millions of ideas to make our child's room a fairy-tale like place."

"We have a very deep well within our hearts that is filled with love and caring and we are confident it will spill over and fill the heart of your baby as well."

"He looks forward sharing his passion with a child by building a tree house play structure in our backyard."

"Frank will be a great dad. I know this because of the special relationship he has with our cat Max."


Thursday, October 16, 2003

Today is National Boss Appreciation Day. If that gets you giddy with glee and sets you off thinking of all the creative ways you can show your boss how much you appreciate him or her, let me inform you that you are the person whom everyone else in your office secretly hates.

So, anyway, a few minutes ago, I got the following email (reprinted in its delectably effed-up entirety) from the woman in my office whom everyone secretly hates:

"Today is National Boss Day, our you guys interested in doing what we did last year for Boss Appreciation Day "ICE CREAM SUNDAES". I will be collecting $5.00 (or whatever you would like to give) from each staff member who wishes to participate for Boss Appreciation Day, so we can buy the goodies for the ice cream sundaes. Please let me know if your interested asap."

This puts me in a difficult situation. It goes without saying that I don't appreciate my boss. And that goes double when it comes to occasions in which we are expected to show our appreciation for each other. Let's remember, this is the guy who gave me a lousy free gift bathroom kit bag for Christmas last year and who has done NOTHING for me on the last two Administrative Assistant Appreciation Days (or whatever the new PC name is for the equally bullshit counterpart to Boss Appreciation Day). So it would feel really good to go out of my way to snub him. I love the thought of him showing up to get his sundae this afternoon only to be turned away when someone says, "I'm sorry. Your assistant didn't contribute, so you can't have any."

But okay, that wouldn't happen. What would really happen is he'd get his ice cream, he'd assume I appreciated him and I'd piss off all the other assistants at the office and become the guy who's too good to chip in five bucks. (Which, by the way, is an AWFUL LOT for ice cream now that I think about it.)

Besides, if I didn't contribute, I wouldn't feel right having a sundae of my own. And you'd better believe that if there's ice cream in the office, I'm going to partake.

I'll just have to swallow mine along with a hearty helping of bitterness.

UPDATE: They made me sign a card! Ugh. As if the indignity of paying for this wasn't indignifying enough. There was some major ass-kissing going on on that card, too. Plenty of "You're the best bosses ever!" and "Thanks for making this the best place to work!!!", but the really scary thing is the woman who wrote, "May your bountiful blessings continue!". Yuck. I opted for a simple, "Thanks. Jerry". You never have to worry about getting any false sincerity from me. I don't think I'm capable of it.


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Asking me to sit through anything on TV that lasts two hours is usually a pretty tall order. The last shows to hold my interest that long were "Celebrity Boot Camp" and the "Facts of Life" reunion movie, both of which were so unwatchable that I couldn't stop watching. (Two hunky guys fighting over Natalie?!? I mean, how can you turn away?) But if USA Network really makes a sequel to "16 Candles" called "32 Candles", I'll set my Tivo and green light it to make sure it never gets deleted. Joy oh joy oh joy.

George W. now has a propaganda page blog of his own. So if you want uplifting stories on W's glowing environmental record or how well the Iraq operation is going, and you've already read Fox News, now you have somewhere to go.

On a related note, did you know W has proclaimed it "Marriage Protection Week"? If you didn't, don't worry. You still have three days left to protect marriage. But hurry. Marriage depends on your support.

Previous two links courtesy of this guy, who writes a great blog over in Sweden.

Rest easy, kids. Beyonce has God's permission to be sexy. Whew! I'd hate for God to get in the way of Beyonce's career or anything. She also says God doesn't want her to kiss girls. Hmmm... I like to be sexy, and I have no interest in kissing girls. Finally a religion I can get on board with!


Monday, October 13, 2003

In my ongoing feeble attempts to introduce some new slang into the vernacular (i.e., "celph" = cell phone, "Mr. T" = toilet), here's the latest: A&E. It's more than just a cable network I don't watch. It's an attitude I can't stand. "Arrogance and entitlement." Of the people I hate, it's the #1 thing I usually hate about them.

Examples of A&E:

  • Parking your Porsche sideways across two parking spaces.

  • Refusing to move over to let someone pass by on a sidewalk, forcing them to walk on the grass.

  • Blocking a lane of traffic outside a parking garage while you finish your cell phone call.

  • One person saving eight seats in a movie theater.

  • That guy's seven friends.

  • Invading a country without the consent of the rest of the world, and then asking the rest of the world to help foot the bill.

No, wait. That last one is just absurd.



If you've been putting off buying your copy of Bachelor Bob Guiney's CD "3 Sides", which I mocked last week, looks like you're out of luck. Bob has apparently pulled it from the market in hopes of making it suck less. The album won't be out until February 2004 at the earliest. Good idea, Bob. You don't want to capitalize on the publicity of the TV show. Wait until long after it's off the air to push your singing career, because then, people can really concentrate on, you know, the music.

Over 1,000 people have cancelled their LA Times subscriptions because of their last-minute article on Schwarzenegger's busy hands. The public has spoken once again. Sleazy journalists: boo! Sleazy politicians: hooray!

DISPOSABLE INCOME DIGEST, Issue 1: I guess I have to buy Clay's album when it comes out tomorrow. I mean, I'm as creeped out by him as the next guy (man, I hope he's straight -- people hate gays enough already), but he has a great voice, and Simon's right. If you close your eyes and you don't have to see those winks and hip thrusts, "This is the Night" sounds totally dreamy. American Idol solo albums are 1 for 2 so far. Kelly's was pretty good. Justin's was really bad.

Also, Travis' new album comes out tomorrow. It's called "12 Memories", which is pretty much how many bad memories I have of their last album, but "Why Does it Always Rain on Me" is such a good song that I'm willing to give these guys one more shot. It has a song on it called "Peace the F**k Out", which, since they're British, is probably aimed at George W. I think UK bands are required to have a token anti-Bush song on their CDs these days. I hear George is a big fan of Britpop, so I'll bet he's starting to get the message.

I saw a lot of movies this weekend, so here come the blurbs....

"Kill Bill" was super-fun, in a Tarantino kind of way. There were enough slow parts that Harvey Weinstein probably should've made Q cut it down rather than splitting it in two. (It was a creative decision... right???) P.S. Lucy Liu is the most adorable assassin ever!

"Intolerable Cruelty" is also fun, in a Coen brothers kind of way. The best part of it was some guy I'd never heard of, who played George Clooney's sidekick. I'll bet he'll get a lot of press out of it and probably a sitcom role next season as somebody's sidekick.

"Mystic River" was really well made, with great performances and a terrific storyline, and the more I think about it, the more I think it stunk. I don't want to spoil anything, but the movie sets up its dramatic situation so well that it's easy to go along with it, expecting the resolution will be just as satisfying. You might even be so dazzled by the artistry that you think you're satisfied by the resolution once it happens. But you're not. Think about it on the ride home. You were cheated, and cheated bad. Bad Clint Eastwood! Bad!


Friday, October 10, 2003

Is anyone else getting annoyed at how CBS is falsely teasing Survivor episodes? Just look at a couple of things promised to us by the official CBS website for last night's episode:

    Andrew and Ryan go in search of a good fishing spot, but instead they find themselves in a dangerous situation: lost in the jungle without water.

This is true only up to the comma. Yes, Andrew and Ryan went looking for a good fishing spot. Then they misread the map and ended up in a bad fishing spot. That's it. They were never really lost. Trying to make a story out of nothing, Burnett added a cheesy insert shot of an apparently nearly-empty canteen (footage that was probably shot sometime last week) as well as a comment from Andrew that leaving camp without adequate water wasn't the brightest idea. They don't seem to have been the least bit dehydrated. They were never in any danger, nor were they in the jungle. And the whole thing was never resolved. The show cut away from this storyline, then the next time we saw Andrew and Ryan, they were back with the tribe.

    Lubricated by whiskey, one Survivor creates a spectacle at a Tribal Council that is not to be missed.

Did anyone else see a drunken spectacle? I sure didn't. Sure, Burnett wanted a drunken spectacle. Probst even tried to nudge Jon into creating one by acting like Jon had said something terribly offensive about his tribemates (in actuality, it was the same kind of vague response everyone gives to Probst's questions at TC). The sad truth is, Jon's a lame drunk. He's one of those drunks who, when he gets drunk, just sits there with a moronic grin on his face thinking about how drunk he is. He's more fun when he's his usual annoying sober self.


In other reality TV news: this was probably announced ages ago, but there's going to be another "Celebrity Mole". This one's called "Celebrity Mole: Yucatan". (Ooh, Yucatan! How exotic!) It gets worse. The cast will be made up of Ananda Lewis, Mark Curry, Angie Everhart, Tracy Gold, Keisha Knight-Pulliam and Dennis Rodman. Hey, I like Rudy Huxtable as much as the next guy, but would anyone watch anything because any of those celebrities were on it? Six random strangers off the street would be just as telegenic and way more interesting than this cast. Oh, and Stephen Baldwin and Corbin Bernsen are back. Notice I didn't say "by popular demand". Ditto Ahmad Rashad. Ditto no "popular demand". No air date yet.

Further evidence that you can ruin any good TV show by putting the word "Celebrity" in front of it.

(Oh, Anderson, I miss you…)



Well, I finally have a follow-up on my recent matchmaking attempt, and sadly, it's not good.

I spoke with the woman from my office, who told me that she'd had a very good chat when she met the guy for coffee. They spoke for about 45 minutes, discovered some common interests and learned that they even went hiking on the same mountain. She said he seemed really nice.

And then he never called her.

How strange, I told her. I ran into the guy the day after they'd had coffee -- or more accurately, he saw me and came jogging up to me to thank me again for the introduction and give me an update -- and he told me that they'd had a very good chat. He said they spoke for about 45 minutes, discovered some common interests and learned that they even went hiking on the same mountain.

It didn't make any sense. He definitely seemed interested in her when I spoke to him, so why wouldn't he call? Maybe since he made the first move, he figured it was her place to make the next move. But this guy was in his 40's -- doesn't he come from a generation when men usually made all the moves? Was he terrified of expressing his interest by making a follow-up call and willing to blow the whole thing rather than pick up the phone and say, "Hey, I had a nice time. Would you like to meet for dinner next time"? Was he really that shy and insecure?

I ran all these possibilities by the woman, and suggested maybe she should call him if she's interested. But she wasn't having it. If getting together with this guy was going to be that much work, she figured, it just wasn't worth it.

Anyone else looking for a soulmate? Looks like I'm 0 for 1.


Thursday, October 09, 2003

Black artists take over US top 10

For the first time ever, all top 10 singles on Billboard's Hot 100 are by African-American artists. Wait a second... Chingy is black?!?

Hooray! I finally found a cached copy of the Onion's unfortunately-timed editorial "Thank You, But That Was Siegfried's Idea", which appeared just a few days before Roy's tiger mauling and was quickly taken down by the site in "good taste". A quick scan reveals nothing morbidly ironic. Darn.

I finally figured out why I like Robert Randolph and the Family Band so much. It's because they remind me of one of my favorite bands of the late 70's and early 80's.

I finally figured out what my neighbor's vanity license plate means. It reads "3SCORE9". (Hint: Think Lincoln.)

It reminds me of the time I was waiting at the drive-thru at Arby's and I looked up at the giant hat, staring at their name. "Arby's... R... B... Roast... Beef... Roast beef, but of course!"

It's these moments of clarity that put me at peace.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

"Thank you in advance."

Yeah, and a preemptive "Go to Hell" to you, too.



"Hmmm... wasn't he that guy who got removed from office?" -- California recalling Gray Davis

Everyone knows by now who won the election, but what about the guy who came in last? According to the Secretary of State's official count, that would be Todd Richard Lewis, an Independent who received a grand total of 172 votes.

Who is Todd Richard Lewis? Well, according to a quote he provided the LA Times, he's an unmarried film producer, performer and businessman from West Hollywood who appeared as the "Bum Hunter" in the infamous "Bumfights" video and recently released his own video called "Bum Hunter". He even has a web site.

His quote in the LA Times: "People are going to know the Bum Hunter is doing this, and hopefully it will get the young demographic to go out there, support me, register to vote, and be involved in future elections. And it will draw attention to the homeless people; no one realizes how many people are out there." Well, apparently, less than 172.

He also wrote up a statement on fiscal spending which reads, in its garbled entirety: "Like the people I work with everyday(the homeless), our yearly salaries are no more than $3000.00 a year. Mostly made from panhandling. That is the kind of fiscal spending we need oin office"

Now we have the answer to what happens when you run a joke campaign for a very serious office. You either come in dead last, or you win.


Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The big lesson I learned from Disney's California Adventure this weekend was definitely "Kids are exhausting".

I know. Duh.

On Saturday, Drew and I went to Disneyland's neglected and misunderstood stepchild with our friends Chuck and Meredith and their one-and-a-half-year-old son, Cameron. In addition to being one of the cutest babies in the world, Cameron is also one of the most well-behaved. Throughout eight hours of sensory overload, the kid only got cranky once. In fact, Drew cried more on the kiddie coaster than Cameron did all day, although maybe that's not the best comparison, since Drew cried A LOT on the kiddie coaster. (Hopefully, outing Drew as a ride-o-phobe doesn't undo the good will I generated by supporting his ride-o-phobia on Saturday. See Drew's blog for details.)

I know that kids as easy-going as Cameron are hard to come by, but even if you've got an atypically chill baby like him, the fact remains: "Kids are exhausting". And I'm not just talking about the fact that after holding a 26-pound toddler for five minutes, I was wondering if the symptoms I was feeling were typical of a hernia. (I kept thinking of all the teeny tiny young moms I see every day carrying around their porky youngsters. Props to them all.) But the only thing worse than holding a growing young boy is putting him down, because those suckers do like to run. As a parent (or in this case, a parent's friend in charge of watching the boy while the parents are on Soarin' Over California), your job is not to let the kid run too far, especially when you're in a crowded theme park (although if you want to avoid crowds, California Adventure is probably your best bet). So I pretty much wore myself out weaving among strangers, blocking Cameron from running into the women's restroom, and retrieving his ball from the spiky-haired punk kid who got beaned in the knees with it.

All that chasing is enough to make you want to put a leash on your kid. And by "you", of course, I mean "you, you horrible monster. How dare you put a leash on a child?!?" I saw more than one parent choosing expediency over their child's dignity by employing leash technology, and the only thing that disturbed me more was the fact that the leashes were emblazoned with the Mickey Mouse ear logo, as if they had been purchased in the gift shop alongside Ariel hair clips and Finding Nemo pencil tops. The thought that Disney sanctioned this kind of thing was particularly disturbing. Coincidentally, Saturday happened to be Disneyland's annual Gay Day, which is an event organized by an independent group that's not officially sanctioned by the park. Sure, they don't want to encourage the gays, but they're 100% behind child leashing. Sorry, I'm getting off-topic.

After I saw the first leash, I turned to Chuck and confessed my disgust. "Not being a parent myself, I'm reluctant to judge other people," I said. "But I really can't stand those leashes."

Chuck not only agreed, but without any reservations over seeming judgmental. "Once you're a parent yourself," he said, "you don't hesitate to judge other parents."

So until I'm a parent, I won't judge the guy on Soarin' Over California, who was taking his six-year-old son on the ride for what seemed like the 10,000th time. As we stood in line, the eager dad went through every beat of the experience with the boy. "And remember when the golf ball comes at you? Whoosh! And then the jets? Eeeeeeeeaarrrrrroof!" I understood he was trying to keep his kid entertained and excited during the wait, but I could've done without all the spoilers. Then he played a game with the kid. "How much do you love Grandma?" he'd say. "A little," the kid would say, and the Dad, as a goof for the kid's lack of enthusiasm, would "punish" his son with tickles. "How much do you love Mommy?" "A little." More tickles. "How much do you love Courtney?" "A little." It was a delightful game, but one without end. I think Dad got around to quizzing the kid on the depth of his affection for the living room sofa by the time I tuned out. It was another example of how exhausting kids are, as well as a reminder that, once you've got a family, you can forget about discussing that fascinating article you read in "The New Yorker" or that charming French film you caught at the NuArt last week. With six-year-olds, silly sound effects and shameless tickle-baiting are sometimes the height of conversation.

I've always thought I wanted kids. It seemed like an easy decision. You got older, you had kids. And kids were fun. They were somebody to take to amusement parks, somebody to play video games with, somebody to teach how to curse. But now that I'm getting to a place where having them is looking like a definite possibility (though admittedly, for a gay man, having kids is no easy task), I look at every encounter with them as a pop quiz. Watching the dad on the line for the ride, I wondered if I was ready to live his life. Could I keep up with a kid, mentally and physically? Could I handle eighteen years of tickling and running and conversations about SpongeBob? And, most of all, could I do it without going crazy? As our wait came to an end and we buckled ourselves into our seats, I heard the dad, still hard at work, psyching his kid up for the ride. "Now let's say 'Thank you, Jesus!'" he said.

It was a great relief. So he was crazy.

It's not that I have anything against people raising their kids in their chosen religion, but teaching your kids that Jesus is the kind of guy who likes to take credit for theme park rides seems like a bit of a liberal reading of the Bible to me. I couldn't help thinking about what would've happened if the dad had asked him, "How much do you love Jesus?" and the boy had responded "A little". Something tells me tickling would not have followed.

I'm sure most prospective parents have doubts like mine. The rest probably figure it'll be easy, and they're probably the same ones who slap leashes on their kids. (Sure, and if you lock your kids in a box, they're no trouble at all.) Luckily, the more I question my own parenting abilities, the more certain I am of Drew's. Whatever he's called upon to do – hold the kid, watch TV, play peek-a-boo – he can do it for hours and not only without complaining, but loving it. (This is especially fascinating when watching him play peek-a-boo. It's not a game that in theory seems very rewarding for an adult.)

While the rest of us went on rides, Drew was happy to stay behind and keep an eye on Cameron, and not just because Drew was scared to go on the rides, as he'd have you believe, but because there was clearly nothing he'd rather be doing than hanging with a baby. Drew is more natural with kids than anyone I think I've ever seen, and I couldn't be more relieved. He makes the thought of parenting seem easy and obvious again. I'd probably grow into my role as a parent if I ever had kids, and I'd learn to deal with the exhaustion, but even if I didn't, even if I totally sucked at fatherhood, at least Drew would be there to do the hard stuff. How much do I love him for that?

A little.



Voting is one of the few things I'll wake up early for.

As corny as it may sound, I always get a little choked up when I vote. When I'm in the voting booth, I feel a little surge of patriotism and a sense of pride at taking part in the democratic process. Even if I know my candidate or my cause is likely to lose, it feels good to have my say. I can't help thinking of all the people around the world who only wish they had the right to elect their own leaders and how much they envy something most Americans take for granted. Voting makes me feel good. And voting in the morning before work gives a boost to my entire day.

So as usual, I woke up early this morning to vote. But it felt different this time. It was strange to vote in October, for one thing. And it didn't seem right that I was handed a punchcard ballot. (I know, I said I was going to vote early on the touchscreens, but I eventually decided I didn't want to pass up the excitement of election day.) The volunteer told me, "Be sure you check your chads." The fact that she used a word like "chad" so freely was a reminder of how and why that word had entered our collective vocabulary in the first place. It didn't seem right that, knowing what we know about chads, we still have to deal with them at all. It's been almost 3 years since the disaster of Florida 2000 -- isn't that enough time to get new voting mechanisms in place? Of course, we weren't supposed to have an election in October...

And then, of course, there was the issue of what was on the ballot. A recall, in theory, is a perfect example of democracy in action. It's another way to give the public a voice in the government and hold the elected officials accountable. But what disturbs me about this particular recall is the way it's been executed without any regard to determining the will of the people of California.

It was put on the ballot by one crackpot billionaire and a lot of out-of-state workers who were paid $1 per signature to get people to express their desire to fire a governor who, while certainly not a great leader, had committed no crime. Perspective candidates were treated to a truncated campaign window which didn't allow the public much time to digest their platforms, or for their backgrounds to be investigated. (Arnold took advantage of this, knowing it was his best shot at winning an office he's long coveted, and it came back to bite him in the ass, leaving him no time to respond to charges made against him.) And worst of all, there would be no runoff. In a field of over 130 candidates, the winner would be determined by a mere plurality of votes. So much for majority rule.

So I punched the card. I checked the chads. I voted "no" on the recall, "yes" on Bustamante (who, while better than all the other candidates, would probably be a worse governor than Gray Davis). But it wasn't like election day. I didn't feel proud or patriotic or excited this time.

I felt a little sick.


Monday, October 06, 2003

I'm wondering if the notion that women all across the country are swooning over Bob Guiney of "The Bachelor" is just ABC-created hype. I mean, I applaud the casting of anyone other than the typical buff personality-free himbos who usually represent my gender on dating shows. And I understand that lots of women fell in love with Bob on "The Bachelorette" last season because he was shlubby and humble and sweet. But now he's lost weight, he's a big TV star and in the new series, he no longer comes across as ANY of the things that set him apart from the pack. He's turned right into another boring hunk.

Plus, let's be honest: he was never that funny. I'll agree that his self-deprecation was much appreciated among the overly serious stud boys who were competing against him for Trista's love, but self-deprecation does not equal a sense of humor. And now that he's toned, shaved and full of himself, all he's got is a dopey grin and an apparent need to make out with every woman who comes his way. (Uh... yuck.)

Okay, so maybe my real problem with him isn't that he erased everything women liked about him and yet is still popular with women, it's that he has the nerve to release an album.

But considering that it comes out tomorrow and is, as of right now, ranked #702 on Amazon (By contrast, Clay Aiken, whose album doesn't come out for another week, is ranked #7), maybe I'm not the only one who's gotten over Bob the Bachelor.


Friday, October 03, 2003

If NBC ever decides to recast Alicia Silverstone's role in Miss Match, they might want to give me a call.

While I was having lunch at the food court at Century City mall, a guy saw me talking to a woman from my office. About five minutes after she was gone, he came over to me, very tentatively, and started asking me about her. He was a good-looking guy, probably in his mid-40's (which is about the same age she is), tall, with a bulky frame, blond hair and a boyish, slightly nerdy appearance. Somewhere between Dick Gephardt and Jim Gaffigan.

I understand that there are two ways to read this: "sweet and charming" or "creepy and disturbing". Please take my word for it when I say it fell squarely on the "sweet and charming" side. He was very shy and modest when he approached me, and the fact that he waited so long after she left before he came over to me makes me think he was debating it in his head for a while.

But I couldn't really help him, since I didn't know whether she was married or involved with anyone. (It's a sad commentary on how little gossip I've picked up around the office, I know.) Luckily, a few minutes later, she walked past again, and this time he made eye contact and quietly said, "Hello". I held up my hand to motion for him to check for a wedding ring.

No ring.

He walked back over to me, newly optimistic. I asked him to give me a business card that I could pass along to her. "Maybe she'll remember me from when I said hello," he said.

Then he got up and left, and I continued eating my lunch and reading the newspaper.

About fifteen minutes later, he was back. "I changed my mind," he said. "I don't think you should do it." He told me he was nervous about what she might think, and he didn't want to make her uncomfortable. He thought maybe he was being too forward. I assured him that passing along a business card to a complete stranger through a third party was actually the opposite of forward. I promised to handle the situation delicately, and he smiled and left.

At this point, I was not only going to give her the card, I was going to make sure she called him. I mean, how sweet was this guy? He probably got all the way back to his office before having second thoughts. Then, the more he pondered what might happen, the more he panicked. Maybe she'd think he was creepy for hitting on a complete stranger. Maybe she'd think he was a wimp for not talking to her directly. Or maybe I was the jerk. Maybe I'd run back to my office and mock him. "Remember that guy who said hello to you at the mall? Was he a tool or what?" He must've weighed the possible humiliation of her response against the actual embarrassment he'd face from asking me for the card back, and he finally decided the latter was the better option.

This was not a man who tried to pick up women in food courts on a regular basis. This was a guy who was clueless about dating, who had clearly decided to engage in a rare act of boldness. Maybe he was a lifelong bachelor who had been really lonely most of his life, and he was tired of waiting for love to find him. Or maybe he had married very young, and after fifteen or twenty years of marriage, his wife had left him or died in a horrible accident. It could be that this was his attempt to take his broken wings and learn to fly. (I love making up entire psychological profiles of complete strangers.) Whatever the case, I was like Alicia Silverstone in Miss Match... or come to think of it, Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. I had a project.

So I went back to my office and knocked on the woman's door.

"Hey, remember that guy who said 'hello' to you at the mall?"

"Yeah, he practically leaped out of his chair."

"Well, he asked if you were married."

She smiled and blushed and looked away nervously. Could it be that he had her at hello?

She told me she wasn't married, but she vaguely alluded to a kinda sorta boyfriend who maybe, well, you know... Yeah, I know. Everybody needs a way out of an uncomfortable situation. There was no boyfriend.

"He was really sweet," I said. I'm so shameless.

By this time, a small crowd of catty co-workers had gathered. (I should've closed her office door. Her embarrassment was clearly my biggest obstacle here.) Everyone had a question for me. "Was he cute?" they wanted to know. "Was he weird?" "What does he do for a living?"

We all agreed that she should call him. But she was unconvinced. All she would give me was "I'll think it over."

I was pretty sure she wasn't going to call. She'd think about it, for sure, but she'd debate it and debate it, holding onto the card day after day, and then one day she'd decide the window had closed and just throw the card away.

I felt terrible for the guy. I knew he was going through the hardest part right now: waiting for a response. And I didn't want to leave him hanging. So I decided to email him. (I'd made a photocopy of his card before I gave it away, of course.)

Hi, --

I'm the guy you spoke to outside at Century City today. I just wanted to let you know I talked to my co-worker when I got back to the office. The good news is she's not married. She remembered you from when you said hello, and she thought you were a very good-looking guy. [I debated this wording for a long time. I was afraid "very good-looking" wasn't the kind of thing men normally said to each other and would seem suspicious, but that just "good-looking" sounded perfunctory and unenthusiastic, while also being the kind of thing men didn't normally say to each other. But I figured the most important thing, if he was really getting rejected here, was to boost his self-esteem, so I ultimately decided to be as flattering as possible.]

The bad news is she IS dating someone, although it doesn't sound serious. Sorry I don't know the full story there, but she said she might be open to calling you.

I put in a good word for you and said you seemed really nice, so I've got my fingers crossed for you. Good luck!


He wrote right back to thank me and tell me he had his fingers crossed for me as well. (Uh, sorry, bub. I'm taken.)

I was glad that I had done my part and satisfied that even if they didn't fall in love, that both of them got a little boost out of the situation. That was really all I could hope for.

Then she called him.

That was five years ago, and this weekend, they're getting married. I'll be the best man, and I couldn't be more excited for them.

Okay, that's what I hope to be writing five years from now. At this point, they've only had one date. (Sorry I tricked you. Don't I stink?) But the day after the date, I ran into the guy at the same place where I'd seen him the first time. He stopped to thank me and to tell me that he thought things had gone well when they'd gone out. "We like a lot of the same things," he said, "like the outdoors".

Ah, the outdoors. Of course they like it. That's where they met.


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