Love VS Hate, Hate VS Love

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Senseless.  Tragic.  Unfathomable.

Those are the words we hear during times such as these, as sombre politicians and law makers parade before the cameras offering their sympathy and support while they ask people to pray for the victims and their families during such unimaginable grief…as if sitting somewhere in silence and praying to no one in particular is our greatest call to action.

We hear these same leaders say things like “this could have happened anywhere….but today it was our city’s turn” as though we’ve come to expect shootings such as these like we might anticipate rainfall for the weekend.  We watch as people come forward, giving exclusive interviews to the media and gaining their desperate fifteen minutes of fame as they claim some expert knowledge of the shooter.  They tell us how unhinged this person seemed for so long, how angry, violent and unpredictable was their nature.  And how they needed serious psychiatric help and no one would listen..and yet this so-called cry for help on their behalf always comes after the true horror of these events unfolds.  Never preemptively, never proactively, and almost always posthumously.

As I reflect on the past few days in Orlando, so many things run through and rattle about in my mind.  First, the staggering realization of such a profound loss of beautiful young lives, cut short in their youth and their prime, as they gathered together as a community, to laugh, to celebrate, and to dance.  To live, and to freely love.  If you’ve ever been to a gay dance club, you’ll understand, at its core, what an unabashedly joyous and fun-loving place it can be.  A place where people are free to let loose and be themselves without fear or recriminations, to let all thoughts and worries and sometimes even reason  get swept away as they lose themselves in a crowd of positive energy, flashing lights, and pumping beats.  Clubs such as these SHOULD be a safe haven for our community, and a celebration of love and acceptance for all who enter it’s doors…but early Sunday morning past it became a literal hell on earth, only our latest example of how terror and hate continue to wreak savagery in our modern world.

As a society, we’ve become desensitized to this degree of violence and mayhem.  For many, we shut it out completely and become almost numb to it, while others acknowledge it briefly before we quickly move on to our daily routines, with our Pinterest finds or the latest Game of Thrones spoiler, or some new fad diet or workout routine.  Or, for some, perhaps we truly become overwhelmed by it and are unsure of just what to do with all of our grief and our upset and our rage.  Most of all, that is where I find myself these days.

I question what I thought I knew.  I once again am left to wonder if we perhaps we haven’t come nearly as far as a society in our acceptance of LGBTQ people as I once thought we did.  With this singular terrible act, I am left with the possibility that I have only been deluding myself, convinced that the world had changed and that my rights and my beliefs, and those of my “family” of brothers and sisters,  were as valid and as important as anyone else’s.   That I was embraced and accepted by society at large, and that I was free to love whomever and however I choose.   And more than anything, I HATE that this self-doubt has come creeping back in, to take up residence in some dark, dusty corner of my mind.  Someplace I thought I’d locked away and banished forever.

So where do we assign blame for this latest tragedy?  Where do we focus our frustrations and our sadness and our anger.  There seem so many places.  I’m angry at today’s pop culture, and how we continue to glorify mayhem and violence in our TV shows and our movies, our music and our video games.  We rest easy at night thinking of the fun and the entertainment value of it all, and convince ourselves that no rational or sane person could truly be motivated or inspired to carry out some heinous act through the influence of Call of Duty or the Walking Dead.  But do we stop to consider how these games and movies and music we become so addicted to absolutely sensationalize and glorify violence,  paint unrealistic portraits of sex and incredible distortions of body image, and promote misogyny, bigotry, and homophobia?  Who truly profits from this?  When we try to justify or rationalize it to ourselves, do we stop and consider those less rational than us?  What about those significantly less rational and dangerously more radical?

I’m sick over the lack of gun control laws and the pervasive influence of the NRA on the political landscape in the US, particularly the power and influence it seems to wield, supporting the very politicians who built their careers around stomping all over the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ community, women, and minority groups everywhere.   Consider these statistics: In the US there have been over 1200 was mass shootings (defined as incidents where 4 or more people are shot) in the past 3 years.  And in these past two weeks in June there have been 74 deaths and 125 people wounded that are attributed to gun violence.  That’s 199 people in less than two weeks!   Let that sink in for a moment.

I’m saddened for the young members of our LGBTQ community.  What does this absolutely horrific and devastating hate crime say to them?   What happens when what was once considered a safe and welcoming space becomes a literal hunting ground of terror?   And now we are forced to bear witness as the  world media avidly works to downplay the idea of this as a “hate crime” against gay people everywhere and promote it more as some insidious plot stemming from ISIS and other terror regimes, as though our response to one should outweigh the other?  Or is it because the political gain is so much greater when we can invoke the fear of terrorist attacks?  How much does it sting to hear of blood shortages but know that, because of your sexuality, you are unable to donate to your very community that so desperately needs help?  How must it feel to hear these latest reports that the shooter was gay himself, and was perhaps facing some profound and terrible internalized homophobia that led him to his actions that day?  Are we suggesting that being closeted and conflicted can therefore lead to murderous thoughts and rampages….that we as a community somehow ignored and rejected this man, and in turn created our own monster?

So are these the messages we must take away?

No.  They are decidedly NOT. But in order to make sense of the senseless, in order to find meaning in the tragedy, we HAVE to learn something.  We have to find something that makes us better and stronger and more united than before.   Once again, we are forced to look for meaning in the darkness and the chaos.

And so, the message is this:

Stop glorifying the shooter.  Don’t try to understand their motives by giving them some international spotlight they do not deserve.  Remember that often these actions are fuelled by some sick need for attention that’s gone unfulfilled,by their desire to leave some terrible mark on this world and incite others to do the same.

Do not give him – do not give anyone – that sort of power.

Stop trying to process the fact that some unhinged individual with violent tendencies and a history of spousal abuse, someone who was investigated by the FBI TWICE for possible terrorist connections, was still readily able to buy assault rifles and handguns within the span of a day or two and then use them to such terrifying ends.  There IS no logic there.

Remember and honour the victims.  Celebrate their lives and let their spirits live on by holding close the ones we love and reaching out with compassion and tolerance to those that we do not.

Accept the simple fact that gun control laws save lives.    Australia adopted stringent gun control laws in 1996 following decades of violent outbursts and has not had a single mass shooting SINCE.  Not one.  Let that be our statistic.

Stop using religion to promote hate and intolerance.  Let our religious teachings centre on love and acceptance, not some warped interpretation of some loose guidebook allegedly written hundreds or thousands of years ago.  They were meant as a reflection of that time, not ours.

Stop attacking Muslims and immigrants and refugees.  Stop vilifying people who are probably more frightened than you are. Stop equating all Islamic people with terrorist and radicals, and acknowledge and accept the fact that a small faction has  perhaps perverted the Islamic religion to their own sick and twisted ends and means.

Accept that this was undoubtedly a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, carried out by an AMERICAN citizen…a mentally ill and repressed homophobic man, radicalized by a father who appeared more concerned his son would be considered gay than his newfound infamy as a mass murderer.

Don’t let a hateful, knuckle dragging, fear mongering and all around repulsive human being such as Donald Trump actually have a chance to aspire to the “highest office in the land” by allowing him so spew venom and hate and actually use this tragedy for his own personal political gain.  It sickens me to the core that a tragedy affecting LGBTQ people could be a true catalyst to his rise to power.

Be mobilized, demand change, fight oppression and hatred in ALL its’ forms and promote peace, acceptance, and harmony.  Embrace diversity in all is beautiful forms in this world and stop marginalizing others.   Accept differences and worry less about these stupid conflicting opinions.

Realize that ALL life is precious, and that our time here is simply too damn short, and enjoy each day as some kind of blessing.  And know forever that love is love is love is love….

 

 

RANKLED! Or How to Survive a Broken Ankle

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I WISH I had a better story.
I wish I’d been surfing a killer wave when I was dragged under by some vicious undertow! Or mountain climbing and I tumbled from a ledge for almost fifty feet! Or perhaps tidal boar rafting when the boat suddenly flipped over and I was smashed viciously against some rocks!

Now THAT’S the way to break some bones!

Emegency Room, Take One
Emegency Room, Take One

But no.

We went to watch some fireworks, or what will now forever be known as raining darts of hellfire. (I mean, I don’t even like fireworks, with all their loud noises and sudden popping and their big build up until they fizzle out to nothing – and that was BEFORE the incident.)

Afterwards, we slowly started back home, enjoying the warm summer night. I was walking down a hill, on a poorly lit roadway, took a misstep off the curb, fell down a small embankment, and BOOM – next thing you know I’m laid up (mostly) for six weeks with a twice fractured ankle.

Not in the cold winter, or the rainy spring, or the windy fall. But the summer. During quite possibly the sunniest, hottest, haziest summer we’ve had in years.

Now let the injustice of all THAT sink in.

Living the Dream!
Living the Dream!

Now, when most people hear those magical words escape a doctor’s lips – “looks like you’ll be off work four to six weeks” – you think “PARTY!” and “I’m the luckiest guy in the universe right NOW!” And you start to say stuff like “Work nerds! Have fun while I’m off “working” on my tan!”

But then comes the reality check.  In order for that nasty break to heal, your foot needs to be immobilized, and in order to be immobilized, it has to be  confined in a plaster cast at a 90 degree angle.  And casts, in case you don’t know, are heavy, ugly, stupid, awkward things. And despite being all hard and substantial, I came to learn they can actually break fairly easily, which then leads to multiple trips back to the hospital for multiple re-castings. You know, to that awful place where all the germs and all the sick people live.

As for “making the most of it”, racing on crutches is only fun for maybe the first day or two. Pretty much everyone else is busy working or vacationing or raising babies or dog sitting or just living life large, so you find yourself talking to your cat a lot. And rudely, he rarely ever talks back. You start to read or watch TV a lot, but then you criticize everything you see, and you grumble how you could write or act or sing an opera WAY better, and start to wonder how are you ever going to get those last 30 minutes back. And napping or just generally laying about?  Sounds fun in theory, but seriously overrated. Because then you’re awake at night, cursing the napping while everyone else is sleeping.

Anyway, with all this time to kill, I decided I needed to write more. And the first thing that came to me – the first thing I noticed was lacking – was some some handy dandy list of ways to survive a broken ankle (or broken anything for that matter) while maintaining MOST of your sanity. This may not work for everyone, but over the course of the summer I’ve found it to be pretty helpful guidelines to follow, and for the most part I’ve been able to retain most of my sanity. Note I did say mostly.
So here we go…

1) Seek out medical advice.  Sure, maybe you’re clumsy and walk into walls and glass doors and such, and maybe you’re used to falling down because you’re not looking where you’re going or you’re quite easily distracted (squirrel!)  But let’s face it, when your foot is purple and visibly throbbing and the size of an engorged watermelon, it’s time to call in the big guns.

2) Get a second opinion.  In seeking out medical help, sometimes the first doc you see will make Doogie Howser look like a senior citizen. Still, when he wraps your ankle and wisely tells you to “walk around on it,but don’t BABY it” you think “dude or not, this guy is the DOCTOR, so he must know what he’s talking about!” But when little Doogie’s panicked phone call comes the next day with the news of two fractures in your ankle he somehow missed, and he’s screaming “FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T WEIGHT BEAR ON IT! YOU COULD CAUSE PERMANENT INJURY!!!”, you realize TV lied, and Lil’ Doogie does NOT know what he’s talking about, and that all doctors should indeed be old and wise, with thick glasses and weird facial hair and wrinkled lab coats with mysterious stains that smell vaguely of mothballs.

 

3) Accept the fact you’re new cast is one ridiculous looking appendage that just kind of hangs there and does nothing but gets in your way. Fact is, you can’t dress it up, you can’t make it prettier, you can’t make it lighter. I will refuse to cooperate, so just stop trying, and instead consider unique ways to take a selfie with it…

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4) Realize that stairs are now you’re one true enemy.  Obsess over how you will hop on one foot while maneuvering crutches in a futile attempt to conquer them.  Focus on creative ways to crawl, sidestep, back pull or plain ol’ scooch yourself up and down these blasted obstacles from hell, and hope that no one’s shooting the YouTube video of same.

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5) Kiss your dignity goodbye!  You will not only seem awkward, but you’ll look plain stupid trying to do the things you are used to doing or those simple tasks you foolishly take for granted everyday.  You will hear the words “pee bottle” and shudder and think NEVER, but before you know it you’ll quickly change your mind. Someday, you will come to think of that pee bottle as your best friend. “Pee bottle? I love you! What did I ever do before you?” Seriously, you’ll want to marry that damn pee bottle. I am speaking the TRUTH.

6) Have a good support system!  Your loved one(s) will have to do things for you that neither one of you will EVER want to speak of again (see #5 re lack of dignity)  Be kind to them, because you’re going to need them someday in ways you never imagined, and probably don’t want to ever consider. Trust me on this one.

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7) Get a furry sidekick.  He might sleep on the job lots, but he knows your feeling down and will make it his mission to cheer you up! Also, you can reveal to him all the gossip you want, and he will never share it with anyone.

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8) People will STARE.  STARE BACK.  I like to stop, put my hands on my hips, and give them a good ol’ fashioned Oscar the Grouch staredown while pretending to sharpen my crutches like spear tips.  You better believe they break eye contact first.  And usually start running.

Oscar-the-Grouch---SCRAM

9) Start to realize how poorly many of our city establishments are equipped for handi-capable people as you venture out into the world, and make a mental note to increase awareness of that in the future (actually, give yourself a mental spanking for not noticing it before).  Marvel at the gaping chasms in sidewalks and street corners. Ponder the narrow stairs you must climb or clunky entrances you must pole vault over. Laugh at the sheer stupidity of people who stand in the way while two five foot wooden sticks and a boatload of plaster are swinging in their direction by someone who has no idea how to wield either…

10) Celebrate graduating to a fracture boot/walking cast, until you realize just how hot and sweaty plastic, foam, and air cushioning can be.  Then, discover you have to learn how to walk again, because “walking cast” or not, that sucker encases your foot at the same ol’ 90 degree angle – there’s no pivoting, no twisting, and just a lot of loud, massive thumping.

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11) Mourn the fallen victims of your loud, massive thumping. (Thus far, together we’ve destroyed several glasses, a few books, a lamp, and, most tragically, a pair of Rayban Wayfarers.)

Rayban

12) Start to consider what a kick ass Darth Vader Costume this will all make someday!

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And I suppose, most importantly of all, KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOUR about it all and just keep smiling!!

With just a week or so left, I know I can and WILL survive the experience. And soon enough I’ll get to go dancing (badly) again. And hike over some strange undiscovered hillside. And jump joyfully into the ocean for that first summertime swim.

I’ll just be sure to avoid fireworks this time! And most of all, I will always remember to look before I leap!
(Oh, who am I kidding! I’ll just hang on to the boot!)

A Boy and his BAT(MAN)

BATMAN - as imagined by my 9 year old nephew Kyle!
BATMAN – as imagined by my 9 year old nephew Kyle!

As the superhero of my youth, I dreamed I could fly.
Literally.
So, as a young lad of 6 or 7, I’d grab my mother’s finest tea towel, tie it a bit too tightly around my neck, and jump, joyfully and willfully, off of any ledge, platform, or stairwell I encountered. Naturally, this led not to me soaring through the sky like some super-powered avenger as I’d planned, but rather sprawled out, bruised and battered on the floor, surrounded by cracked tables, shattered lamps, overturned sofas, and, for my crowning achievement, a large piece of glass stuck firmly in my right leg (something that has left one mean looking and DEEP two inch scar to this day!)

At a loss of what to do and fearing I’d probably kill myself if I carried on this way, my parents sought to put a stop to my high flying heroics. Suddenly my stash of capes – or, my mom’s tea towels – moved to a higher shelf, my Spidey action figure was nowhere to be found in my toy box, and my Superman pajamas were mysteriously missing from my closet. But it was all to no avail, because these super-villainous parental figures of mine couldn’t stop me! Why, I had too many crimes to solve, and evil to keep in check, and nothing they could say or do could ever thwart my passion for superheroics! Finally resigned to this, they opted for a new tactic: they would steer me away from the big blue boy scout Superman, he who could leap over tall buildings in a single bound, or Spider-man, that wall crawling, web slinging masked menace, and instead feed my crazed obsession with someone a little more grounded and down to earth. Someone a little more human. Someone called…. the BATMAN!

Batman? But wait a darn minute… he doesn’t DO anything! He doesn’t even have ANY cool powers! He’s not from some distant alien planet! A radioactive spider didn’t mutate him! He’s just some dude in a pointy-eared mask! But my dad said that’s where I was wrong… and started telling me all about his old favourite television series, starring this Batman and his boy sidekick Robin, who fought crime as they cruised through Gotham City in the Batmobile. These were characters that’d been around in comics ever since he was a little boy, and what was most special about Batman was that he was just a normal man who stood against crime.

And I thought, “WOW, I’m a normal dude and I stand against crime.  That’s just like me!”

Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder

 

 

Still, I was suspicious about their distraction. “But what about the bad guys?” I’d ask, because as much as I was an expert crime fighter, I secretly LOVED the villains. (Truth be told, I always wanted Wile E to catch that damn Road Runner, and when it came to Archie and the gang, Reggie was totally da man!) He then proceeded to tell me all about the clown prince of crime, the Joker, and the hideous and tormented Two Face, the dangerous and deranged Penguin, the clever but dastardly Riddler, and the sultry and cunning Catwoman. With a cast of characters like that, how could I refuse? And so before long, there I was, crouched on the edge of the sofa, almost overcome with excitement, ready to watch some old reruns of my dad’s old favourite show, fully prepared to be completely and utterly amazed…

And then the show started and…
I HATED IT!

Who were these buffoons clowning around and winking at the camera? This was supposed to be about the very serious business of superheroes thwarting super villains – there was no time for FUN!! Why did Batman have big ol’ eyebrows on his mask? Why did the Joker look like my aunt when she wore too much makeup? Why did Catwoman purr instead of talk?? Why did that man they called Robin, who was supposed to be a kid but who sure looked like a man in TOO short shorts, keep yelling “HOLY” all the time? (GASP! Had I been tricked?? WAS THIS SOME KIND OF CHURCH?) Whatever foul deed was afoot, leaving the room in disgust, I swore I was DONE with THIS Batman dude.

 

Angry Bird Batman Cake

 

But that didn’t last long.
Flash-forward a few weeks later and I’m at a corner store with my mom, and I’m allowed to choose just ONE comic book from an overstuffed spinner rack to accompany me on a long car ride.  This is so it will:

1) keep me quiet so I don’t torment my younger sister, who unbeknownst to her has already been secretly cast as the Incredible Hulk to my Superman for this very ride, and

2) stop me from bouncing and flailing around too much so my infamous motion sickness doesn’t make an appearance and force me to projectile vomit all over the car, Exorcist style.  

Stuck with the hard task of choosing just one,  I remember being drawn to a cover of this dollar size digest comic book called Batman Family starring Robin, Batgirl, and, as the tagline read, “Batman, the Dark Knight Detective!”

“WAIT A MINUTE, Batman is a DETECTIVE!?! NO ONE told me THAT!” And so with the realization that Bats and I both might be a super sleuths – a piece of information I’d clearly missed up to this point – he suddenly appeared much more interesting to me. Maybe his super power was his big brain, and he used THAT to solve crime, just like I did! Well that did it…I had to have the book. And for weeks I carried it and brought it everywhere.  I read it so often  that the staples started to come apart at the seams, and the pages became smudged and hard to read. But…the capes! The spandex! The batarangs! The super sleuthing! I was HOOKED!

 

Batman Cookie Jar

 

 

 

Barbara Gordon Batgirl, DC DIRECT
Barbara Gordon Batgirl, DC DIRECT

And so the obsession began, and it’s continued unabated to this day Comics were the medium in which I came to understand “the Bat”, and discovered the things about him that I related to or admired the most. And in my imagination, comic book creators like Frank Miller, Denny O’Neill, Jim Aparo, and Neal Adams literally scripted and animated my childhood, just as the new champions of the Bat Family mythos like Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, and Jim Lee excite and inspire me today.  But others have grown to know and love him through many different mediums: the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan movies, the Batman Animated Series, the Arkham Asylum games, or, yes, even, Adam West and his crazy television antics. And soon we’ll enter the era of “Batffleck” as Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill bring the ultimate bromance to life in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. What’s interesting about Batman, and what sets him apart from most other superheroes, is that he CAN exist in all these different forms and interpretations – over his 75 years he’s been a vigilante, a “cop”, a detective, a space faring superhero, a scientist, a jokester, a grizzled war veteran, and a dark brooding anti-hero – and still remain as valid, relevant and truthful to the times today as he was way back then.  Batman’s origin – as a young boy he witnessed his parents murder in a dark alley and vowed to to one day rid the city of the evil that took his parents lives – has stuck mostly to its basic premise over the course of time, and there’s a reason for that – it simply works.  To echo what my father said many years ago, what’s at Batman’s core – what makes Batman BATMAN -is that he COULD be someone just like you or me. What makes him most a hero is that he’s someone who became obsessed over a terrible childhood tragedy, and then used that tragedy as motivation to achieve a state of physical and mental perfection in order to become the absolute pinnacle of what a human being could be. Soneone who would stand as guardian of his city, its greatest protector, so that no one under his watch would ever share the same fate he did. Taking tragedy like that and somehow turning it into triumph is something we can all relate to and admire.

Because that’s noble. That’s heroic. That’s BADASS.

And that’s Batman.

 

Keep Calm and Call Batman

 

Drawn by my then 8 year old nephew Kyle :)
Drawn by my then 8 year old nephew Kyle🙂

SISSY THAT WALK!

 

Sissy That Walk!


I love RuPaul.

I  love that I live in a world where a working class  6’5′ tall gay black man in a wig, makeup and a fancy dress can grow up to become a truly iconic pop legend who now arguably stands, at the age of fifty four, at the height of an already long, enduring and impressive career.   Currently storming the Billboard charts with a new album (Born Naked) and single (Sissy that Walk) and ruling the airwaves as creator of  a truly unique “what the hell were they thinking, and yet DAMN it works!” television show called RuPaul’s Drag Race, the original Supermodel of the World appears to be, as always, an unstoppable force of nature.

If you’ve ever watched RuPaul’s Drag Race, now in its sixth glorious season (well, seventh if you count All Stars!) then you’ll know it’s one of the most endearing, funny, smart, creative, and entertaining hours of reality television around.  What you probably don’t know is that RuPaul and his/her show (pick a pronoun….Ru don’t care!) has done much to give the art of drag a new and enduring visibility and open acceptance in our modern culture.   For the uninitiated, Drag Race is a competition show centred around the search for American’s next drag superstar, starring RuPaul as both mentor (as the suited, bespectacled, and very male RuPaul Andre Charles) and host (as the utterly fabulous, beautiful, and beguiling RuPaul).   Fourteen drag queens from across the US compete, using all the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent they can muster (did you catch that?!) to bring their soccer mom, business executive, or party girl “realness to challenges that use their comedic skills, acting chops, designer sense, and runway fierceness.   As they “lip synch for their lives” to avoid extermination….I mean elimination (it’s as exciting as it sounds!), the one who outperforms gets to “shantay” (that means stay) while the other sashays away. (Side note- I swear RuPaul and these catch phrases has practically given me an entire new language!)  What’s striking about some of these colourful exits is that competitors leave, not with hard feelings and recrimination, but on an almost transformative high note, with our esteemed host singling out their strengths and unique talents before sending them off into the world where they might step into their own very special fabulousness.  In other words, no one’s flipping the bird and dropping the F bomb before they go back to being a poor loser in the real world.   (And maybe THAT little fact has something to do with why so many eliminated queens have gone on to foster some pretty fabulous careers of their own, like Willam Belli, Detox, and Shangela to name a few, while past winners like the almost otherworldly Sharon Needles, have carved out iconic careers themselves….while those seeking their fifteen minutes of fame on Survivor and Big Brother are usually both disposable and forgettable.  Like, pass the mind bleach so I CAN forget kind of forgettable!)

Sure, at times things get formulaic, with certain “characters” or archetypes showcased each season….someone inevitably “plays” the ingenue, the villain, the front-runner, or the dark horse.  But regardless, Drag Race pulls the curtain back on the great illusion by showing us the true lives of the real honest to goodness MEN that live behind the glittery makeup and the sequined gowns.  For some, it’s a passion and a calling, for others its a form of creative expression and for others still it’s  simply how they make their living, a job like any other, even if it’s unlike anything we’ll ever know.  What’s often remarkable about the show is that it finds the balance between showing the light and not taking any of this all too serious, and yet uncovering the dark corners and the earthy realness of it all.  While it pokes fun at its subjects, it never makes fun of them, and it always presents the queens in a very real, very human light.  These queens have experienced their fair share of trials and hardship, with many facing hatred, discrimination and non acceptance on an almost daily basis n their “real” lives.   Some are very forthcoming about their stories, while others more guarded….but eventually everyone tends to break down in what’s proven to be some pretty vulnerable and refreshingly unscripted moments.  Well, that and the vodka helps!

For all it’s participants, Drag Race is a study in fearlessness, strength, and resiliency .  It portrays a group of people who are true survivors –  battered but never broken – and we see an evolution for many as they discover things about themselves as yet unknown, and have the chance to form an even stronger and fiercer persona before unleashing it upon an often cruel, ignorant, and now unsuspecting world.

As impressive as it is for a fifty something gay black man to create such an iconic character as RuPaul- an achievement so staggering to me it bears repeating – it’s equally impressive that a show in theory by a man in a wig in a dress ABOUT a bunch of men in wigs and dresses can even find a place on network TV let alone carve out such a large and faithful following.   Someone took a pretty spectacular risk to make this happen, and we can all be thankful they did.   Such role models as these queens – and yes, they’re role models – could not be found when I was younger.  I grew up surrounded by Rocky and Rambo and the A Team, where men were men and guns and fists stood in for mid-life crises, receding hairlines, and erectile dysfunction.   As nostalgic as one might get for Three’s Company and Chrissy, Janet and the gang, the closest touchstone I had to “queer” personalities on television were the comedic stylings and yet so homophobic antics that went on between Jack Tripper and Mr. Roper on Three’s Company.   With that as my mirror on life, I shudder to think how unfabulous I would’ve turned out minus my sister’s Donna Summer and ABBA records!)

I didn’t always understand drag queens, or the desire to dress up (I haven’t always been this enlightened creäture before you, you know).  For one thing, these shoulders would not look pretty in anything spaghetti strapped, I can barely walk a straight line in sneakers let alone heels, and don’t think for a second you can ever tame these eyebrows.  But in all seriousness, I suppose my not understanding came from a place of fear, or perhaps some feelings centred around some  internalized homophobia once upon a time.  But not anymore.  RuPaul and Drag Race helped change that….helped change both my understanding, my perception, and my world view on what drag really means. On what being gay really means.  On what being YOURSELF really means.

In our world today, there are literally millions of school age LGBTQ children.  And among that staggering statistic live an inordinately large number of scared, helpless, hopeless children who spend their day planning – not what they’re going to wear or what team they might try out for or what movie they might like to see – but instead how to survive from being bullied, harassed and shamed for being who they are, or how to hide and suppress what they really feel inside just so they might find some peace on the outside.  They have to plan for their safety each and every day, how to look, how to talk, even how to move…and those that love them need to equally fear for the harm that might come.   How awesome is it that some weird gay kid who’s struggling to find their place in the world – that are being bullied for being too femme or too butch, that are being tortured because they were born a boy when inside they feel like a girl, or vice versa – can now turn on the TV today and see this colourful cast of admirable characters living their lives out loud, leading the charge for the rest of us as they do what we all want to do…be their own true masters of  their own true destinies.  And if you disagree with that, then I guess you’ve never felt that pain or been that scared kid…or had to worry about one.

I hope RuPaul’s new single Sissy That Walk, in all it’s success with its huge dance beats and simple yet catchy lyrics, becomes an anthem for those leading the way, for those that have walked the road already, and for those about to head down the path.   Not “just” a gay anthem, but an anthem for us all.

 

“And if I fly, or if I fall
Least I can say I gave it all
And if I fly, or if I fall
I’m on my way, I’m on my way…

Now SISSY THAT WALK”

 

Sissy that walk, butch that stroll, glam that runway.   However you do it, just be that beautiful, unique creature, unlike ANY other,  you were born to be.

THANKS for that message Mama Ru.

 

 

Sissy That Walk

 

 

Go to YouTube to watch the official Sissy That Walk video starring RuPaul and legends in the making Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano, Courtney Act, and Darienne Lake.

 

Bollard House (The Great House Adventure)

 

Bollard House
Bollard House- Birthday Cake Style
 

I really need to start paying closer attention.

You see, I’ve slowly come to learn that when my partner Shawn has just the slightest idea in mind, when he gets some tiny notion in his head, that stray thought that swirls around and around and  just won’t quit….then it’s time for me to brace myself, take a deep breath, and change into some clean underwear as we prepare  for whatever fantastical journey is just up ahead.   If I was only slightly more self-aware, I’d see the signs more clearly.  When Shawn is interested or focused on something, it starts to…invade his life, and, in by a process sort of like osmosis, mine.  Take for instance when he really wanted to buy this antique Sheraton sofa he’d discovered recently online.  Suddenly, the words “Sheraton sofa” start to pop up in many of his conversations.  Then he starts to relay warm childhood stories about his memories of Sheraton sofas (because everyone has those, right?) and then he’s pointing them out in books, in movies, and in magazines.   Soon he’s googling them wildly at night and moaning about them in his sleep.   And the next thing you know, you find yourself barely awake at some god awful hour on a Sunday morning, driving down some dirt back road of some rural township you’ve never heard of, so you can precariously strap to the back of your trusty station wagon your very own Sheraton sofa (albeit one in serious need of some TLC, but never fear, because Shawn has an amazing friend named Aimee who’s a designer and upholsterer extraordinaire on call for just such an emergency.  And these emergencies can happen often!)

So with experiences like that under my belt, you’d think I’d be more prepared when he stopped talking about silver trays and pottery mushrooms and folk art and jumped right to a mysterious place called Bollard House.  I mean, a house is a lot bigger than a sofa, so that alone should’ve stopped me in my tracks.  I’m a bit embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about the history of Bollard House a few short months ago until Shawn casually mentioned it one night, but quickly he brought me up to speed.  Turns out Bollard House was built in the 1830s in the township of Halifax, so before our great city was even a city.  It was built in a Georgian style, with detailing around its doors and ceilings hearkening back to ancient greek civilization, and in 1863 a triangular addition was created, making the house six-sided in appearance.   The house is one long room deep throughout with seven flights of stairs connecting its four floors.  It is truly unique in our fair city in that it remains, after all these years, virtually unchanged and unaltered today.   It has withstood the ravages of time and stands proudly today to tell the tale.  It has had a very colourful history during its long life, including a period during the 1970s when it served as a spa for poodles (yes, you read that correctly!)   Bollard House became a registered historic property in 1985, which is approximately when Shawn actually first visited it and fell in love (because as you know, some boys fall in love with historic houses and some fall in love with Batman).  And why do I know all of this?  Because Shawn knows all of it, and life with him is kind of like having your own personal commentator from PBS and the History Channel, only one that’s much better looking, smells good, and is a great dancer.

 

Bollard House
Bollard House

 

 

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Shawn is a member (and former board member) of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, an organization that fights to preserve some of the most architecturally and historically significant structures in the province, as well as promote and advocate for protective legislation with business interests and at various levels of government.  Through the Trust, he came to know this lovely lady named Janet, a champion in her own right who works hard to preserve the built heritage of our fine city.  The two hit it off well with their shared passion for preservation (as the Batman lover in the relationship, I suspect these Heritage types all have capes and spandex in their laundry that they wear to strike fear in the hearts of those evil modern developers/destroyers.  But alas, I’ve yet to find any costumes in the laundry).  Anyway, Janet had recently acquired Bollard House after it’s previous owner had passed away,  but was uncertain of her plans for the property, other than her goal of keeping its rich heritage intact.   Conversations began with Shawn, he who is ever so opinionated about just these sorts of things,  on hypothetically just what one might do with a property like Bollard House.  And rather than it involve any knocking things out or tearing things down, any demolition, deconstructing or defacing of any kind, his ideas centred around a whole lot of paint and the occasional swing of a hammer.  And before you know it, somehow THAT evolved into the idea of  our moving into the house, living their and caring for it, and bringing it back to life, so to speak, while respecting where it’s been.  When I first had a chance to tour the house, even I  could see her “good bone structure” and recognize the charm and character of the house  (it truly felt in a way you were stepping back in time when you walked through her doors), but it was clear the house was going to need a lot of time and love and careful attention.  As it were,  we were also both pretty attached to our old apartment, a heritage property itself and quite full of charm and character, but it had been obvious for a while we’d outgrow that space.  And so, with practically four floors at our disposal at Bollard House, an impressive showcase for all of Shawn’s unique and wonderful STUFF, and the challenge of breathing new life into an old property, how could we refuse such an opportunity?

And so the journey to Bollard House again (well, technically, it wasn’t much of a journey, as we’d only lived four blocks away).   From the start, the whole never enough hours in a day and the time needed to do everything that needed to be done was a bit worrisome.  I’d recently returned to school, and had made a bit of an insane decision to work full-time and take a full course load.  Since “phoning it in” isn’t in my vocabulary, and I tend to be a bit of a a high achiever,  I figured it’s all straight A’s or bust.  (And, by bust, I mean bust your face if I don’t get that A!)  Shawn has a pretty demanding job, one that’s anything but 9-5, plus he likes to dabble in….well, just about everything.  Our cat Mungo, a feisty little guy with a pretty demanding sleep schedule, was initially rather unimpressed with this decision to move.  I mean, no one bothered to consult with him that his nightly (potential) mouse patrol would now involve four floors instead of four rooms.  That’s a lot of work!

But in the end, the chance to do this was simply too good to be true, and the challenge ahead seemed fun.  We started cleaning, painting and stripping (not the Magic Mike kind) for weeks on end, often late into the night.  I already knew Shawn was as handy as he was handsome, but truth be told, I worried at first about his focus, as he tends to get a bit easily distracted  – oh look, squirrel! – and that could  potentially slow things down.  But never fear…it was clear from the start he was throwing himself  wholeheartedly into a mission to restore life to this beautiful home.  That’s not to say we didn’t face a few obstacles along the way.  The staircases are small and narrow and difficult to move furniture around.  Hence, when an old sofa refused to climb the stairs before becoming jammed, it was attacked by a very creative friend with an exacto knife and brought out in small pieces (you don’t want to get on her bad side!).  And although we were able to squeeze a small sofa and even an oversized antique linen chest upstairs, the laws of physics said that queen size box spring just wasnt going to make it, and so we spent a few weeks sleeping on the floor until we could get a replacement  And finally there was the late afternoon I took my niece Nicole on a tour, proudly showing off all the space we’d now have. When we’d reached the end and I’d shown her small dark room with the slanted roof and skylight that would be my office and writing space, she declared “um, doesn’t this room kind of remind you of the Amityville Horror?”

WELL IT DOES NOW!!

Red rum, Red rum...
Red rum, Red rum…

Alas, any reservations I had about the work we were doing was put to rest early on.  Shawn had let me in on a little secret, one I didn’t realize or know.    He said old houses aren’t like more modern, almost disposal ones.  Houses like this one just need a little paint and a little sprucing up, a little love, hard work, and attention, and before long they start to respond to what you’re doing, and slowly start to warm and come to life on their own.   And sure enough, before my very eyes, it did!  We built a man cave in the basement that’s the envy of all football loving fiends across the land (too bad it’s mainly used for Madonna and Gaga blu-rays!)  Shawn chose a colour scheme and design layout for our bedroom that makes it look like some high-end magazine photo shoot – remember that saying that your  bedroom should feel like an oasis?  Our bedroom IS an oasis, and as big as some small apartments.

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See, I can help too!

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Man CAVE

 

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And that Sheraton sofa?  IT is now totally rocking the living room.

I do have one minor complaint about our grand new residence.  For one, where’s the ghosts??! (True, I’m opposed to the Amityville Horror of my new office, but come on…ghosts are cool!)  I’d convinced myself when moving into an historical home that has experienced as much as this house has over the centuries, that it only made sense we’d be left with a few former inhabitants, or at least an occasional visitor or two.   I waited up most of the night Halloween, saying this would be the night.   But nope….nothing.  I even watched The Conjuring recently (mostly behind a blanket, with one eye open), figuring some ghostly apparition would say “oh yeah, so that’s how you want to play it huh?” and start slamming doors or levitating tea cups around me.  Still nothing.  (I’d say BOOOOOO but I was  hoping the damn ghost would do that!)  Regardless, I still talk to the house all the time, like it’s a person.  Just check in, see if it likes the new paint colour or the smells of supper and such.   Someday it’ll answer back, I know it, and for that reason, I want to stay on its good side!

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Um, what was THAT?!?!

And so you know, since no one bothered to run this rather significant life change by Mungo the Cat, he’s still decided to begrudgingly patrol the house.  However, he will NOT do so quietly.  So instead, with all the grace, dignity, and poise of a baby elephant, you can hear him slowly wander about with LOUD, sharp banging motions, climbing stairs and opening doors (because, yes, he can hook his paws underneath doors and make them move!) as he seeks out and finds new and exciting places to nap.  Also, despite the change from four rooms to four floors, and the increased exercise he’s um…gained a bit of poundage somehow (he calls it muscle)…although I suspect this could be part of is revenge plot.  In other words,  baby elephant ain’t so baby anymore, and you better believe the kitty grocery bills going to feel it!

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Oh, and it seems Mungo also likes to um…weigh in on decisions about the house, like paint colours.  So much so that he’s now investigated three freshly painted rooms, just so he can give it one meow or two.  You’d think with all the paw scrubbing afterwards he might be a bit deterred from being so opinionated, but nope…but then again, maybe he’s just looking for a day at the spa!

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It wasn’t me!

And so the cat and I are having a lot of fun living here….but nowhere near as much fun as Shawn.   Shawn loves the house, and takes great joy and pride in living here.  He’s very respectful to its history, and he takes great loving care of it everyday.  And I  think for those reasons that the House has been just as lucky to have him as he’s been to have it.

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So here’s to the first of many more great adventures at Bollard House.   And stay tuned for many more updates, as they’ll be sure to come….I promise, I really am paying attention now!

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For Shawn, Christmas 2013