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 🙂

Advertisements

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.

 

SOCHI’S Gay: Ellen Page, Michael Sam, and a Tale of Good Timing

Rainbow Flag

There’s something to be said about good timing.

I don’t mean being ON time.  As someone who’s spent an absolute lifetime perfecting the art of chronic lateness,  I would never speak to THAT.  I mean choosing the RIGHT time….that quintessential second to raise your voice and be heard, or  that now or never moment to jump to your feet and take action. During the journey of most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, there inevitably comes THAT day.  When it comes  you either peek your head out of that figurative closet you’ve lived in and take some cautious steps out into the world,  or you cozy back up in the corner with a blanket and think “I’m just fine just hanging out in here for now, thank you very much” or you go all ninja like and attack the door, kicking and screaming until there’s nothing left but splinters and sawdust.  Now truth be told, for most of us the journey to outness isn’t that literal, and for many it often involves variations of all three of those options, sometimes during some very different stages in our lives.   Some roads on this incredible journey are dark, with fear, intimidation, and self loathing at almost every corner,  and other paths are brighter, full of hope, promise, and some hard-won feelings of acceptance and belonging.

Ellen Page’s moment came on Valentine’s Day,  as she stood, nervous but brave, on a small stage in Las Vegas,  ready to finally share her story.  Here, at the inaugural Time to Thrive conference (sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, an organization dedicated to the betterment of the lives of LGBTQ youth everywhere), Page delivered a very eloquent, very moving, very personal speech.   She spoke of being fearful of coming out and how, as a result – now listen up, because this is important – not only her relationships but also her spirit and her mental health suffered greatly.   Page spoke of her belief  that gay people should be able to love freely, openly, and without compromise,  and that together we have suffered “too many dropouts, too much abuse, too many homeless, too many suicides” as a direct result of people being bullied, mistreated,  abused, and rejected simply because of who they are, and for living the life they were born to live.

Now the cynic might look at Ellen Page and roll their eyes and say clearly they knew about the “lesbian thing” years ago, or complain about these celebrities who feel the need to share all the intimate details of their sex lives with the world.   Just sorting through my Facebook feed alone the last few days I’m quick to discover comments like “why do these gays feel the need to come out anyway?  I didn’t come out STRAIGHT” or “it doesn’t matter to me if someone is gay or not, I just wish they’d keep quiet about it so I wouldn’t have to know”  (Alas, it will be hard to deprive myself of these little nuggets of wisdom, but somehow I sense some Facebook UNfriending soon).

As important as Ellen Page’s  coming out has been, she’s not the only one making “gay waves” in the news today.  Michael Sam, a defensive lineman from the University of Missouri, announced last week that he was gay, and is now poised, post draft season,  to become the first openly gay player in NFL history.  Sam noted his coming out was driven by concerns someone else might leak details of his private life, and he felt the need to “own” his own truth, saying “no one should tell my story but me”.  Sam’s candour has been divisive among the professional sporting world, but for the most part he’s been shown mad support and acceptance, particularly from his fellow players and coaches.

It’s ironic that these two people, heroes to many, have come forward at a time when we’re celebrating the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The controversy that surrounds Sochi has certainly affected my enjoyment of the Olympic games on a personal level.   This is disappointing because, as a guy who’s not so great at sports, the Olympics are my chance to feel like a total jock.   Or, at the very least, play armchair athlete and sit around in my underwear, drink beer, and scream at the TV “are you blind??  That was clearly just a twizzle and not a triple toe double loop, you big idiot!”

Like many other parts of this world, the rights of LGBTQ people in Russia have long faced legal and social challenges, with gay people often subject to various forms of abuse, harassment and discrimination.  What makes Russia “unique” in this respect is that just eight months before the start of the Games, Russian President Vladimir Putin passed a law making the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors illegal.  The media claimed the legislation was blatantly  “anti-gay”, while LGBTQ rights activists took it one step  further by condemning the law as a return to the Middle Ages, and the government’s way of effectively banning most forms  of LGBTQ culture.  Since the passage of the anti-gay propaganda law, the media has reported the arrest of many gay rights activists, as well as an alarming increase in incidence and severity of homophobic violence, including attacks by ne0-Nazi groups against young minors.

This struggle for gay rights that has now played out on the world stage serves some very good and important purposes.   It has made  the International Olympic Commission reconsider just how hosting the games in a place like Sochi contradicts the principles of their Olympic charter regarding anti-discrimination in sport, and will likely force them to review these principles and more carefully consider proposals from future host cities.   Above all,  it has uncovered blatant human rights violations suffered by LGBTQ citizens of one of the most powerful nations in the world, and brought to light the discrimination, abuse and hardships visited upon them each and everyday.  It is a cry for justice that will not go unheard long after these Olympic Games are done.

S0 how important is the idea of movie actresses and professional athletes announcing to the world they are gay and ready to live their life out loud?  I say it’s more important than you know.  The whole process of coming out for many is a terrifying one.  A gay kid is first already burdened with this terrible knowledge that they are different from everyone else.  Their differences single them out – to be made fun of, left beaten down,  made to feel their worth as a person is somehow less.  And no matter how true it is, even when surrounded by others a gay kid often feels alone in the world… isolated, mistreated, and misunderstood.  It’s challenging enough to navigate all the wonders and mysteries and awkwardness of adolescence for anyone, but for a gay kid it becomes, for these reasons and more, so much more difficult.   So imagine, if you will, that artsy loner kid who now finds herself a kindred spirit in Ellen Page, or the basketball fan who sees in his sports hero Michael Sam a glimmer of himself.  Imagine watching these proud gay Olympians hold their head high and represent their sport and their country with dignity and grace in a place that would marginalize, reject, and condemn them.   Accepting you are gay means accepting, in many ways, that as you travel down those roads in life, your path is going to be just that much harder, with enormous obstacles and burdens along the way.  But it can also mean that life, despite it’s hardships and its compromises, will ultimately be that much more grander, richer, vital, and fulfilling.   We can say “it gets better” but we need to live by those “better” principles, or otherwise the message is meaningless.   That means standing up for what’s unfair and what’s unjust.  It means being brave and opening ourselves up to the world, being that role model that others need so that they might  grow and learn from our strengths and from our weaknesses.  It means recognizing we’ve already lost far too many beautiful lights, and taking five minutes, as Ellen so perfectly noted, to recognize each other’s beauty instead of attacking each other for our differences.  It means loving and accepting ourselves, so that we’re at a good time and in a good space to do all of these things.

That’s the kind of world I want to live in.   That’s the kind of world I plan to live in.  Won’t you join me?

Pride Flag in Halifax for Olympics 2014

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

 

 

IMG_2412

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.

IMG_0192

See, I can help too!

IMG_0371

1175067_10153143955045136_1991471727_n

Man CAVE

 

IMG_0397

 

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!

IMG_0374

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!

IMG_0408

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!

IMG_0421

IMG_0430

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.

IMG_0319

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!

IMG_0207

IMG_0214

For Shawn, Christmas 2013

Dear Jodie

Jodie-FosterI love Jodie Foster.

Some people quote the Bible, or lines from their favourite books, or lyrics from a song. I quote Silence of the Lambs. I mean, just the sight of sunblock has me screaming “it rubs the lotion on its skin and puts it in the basket!” I’ve followed Jodie’s career most of my life, and along with cheering all her amazing accomplishments, in roles like my beloved Silence, Taxi Driver, The Hotel New Hampshire, and the Accused to name a few, I’ve forgiven her for the seemingly unforgiveable, like continuing to hire Mel Gibson when no one else would touch his racist, homophobic, misogynistic ass, and for Panic Room, a movie I actually liked but one that will forever be marred for inflicting the wooden depths of Kristen Stewart’s “acting chops” upon an unsuspecting world. So as I watched her rather mesmerizing speech at the Golden Globe awards, I wondered was THIS something for which I could proudly cheer her on, or scream in horror “oh no, she’s pulled a MEL… again!”

Seems the answer’s actually both

See, as much as I love Jodie, I love lesbians. Over the years, lesbians have been some of my bestest friends. Those gals can drink like truck drivers, make great wingmen at bars, and are wicked spotters at the gym. And truth be told, I’ve been accused more than once of having some pretty strong lesbian sensibilities myself, with my love of short hair and hoodies, cargo shorts and aviators, beer samplers and junior hockey, Wonder Woman Barbies and She-Ra, Princess of Power, and the musical stylings of Alanis and la Goddess Tori Amos…. but come on, DAMN, you have to admit, those sapphic sisters know where it’s AT.

Just this past year, we’ve had a rush of casual gay MALE coming out stories in Hollywood (I’m looking at YOU Zachary Quinto!). Celebs like Zachary or Big Bang’s Jim Parsons will now suddenly drop a line or two seven paragraphs into a small magazine story (something about their organic vegetable shopping spree at the local market with their male partner of a zillion years, then shrug it off and talk about their next indie role). Now with all due respect to Ellen and Portia, the way I see it, it’s the ladies turn. And after a near miss a few months back (I’m looking at YOU Queen Latifah!) I held my breath, thinking Jodie was going to do IT. You know, become this year’s Anderson. Sort of.

And then she did. Sort of.

Yes, in a six and a half minute rambling yet elegant, “am I missing the inside joke here?” to “she really gets me!” kind of speech, Jodie gave up one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood and “came out”, noting she’d first done so back in the stone age to “trusted friend and family….then gradually to everyone who knew her, everyone she actually MET.” Now to me, that sentence alone says a lot about our society and its’ celebrity obsession, and our need to know the most intimate and secret details of the Hollywood crowd we so admire. Our Jodie is NOT Honey Boo Boo as she noted….her life and the life of her family is not some goofy reality show for our daily amusement and consumption. So bugger off, she’s saying, let me live out my fifty but still smokin’ and currently single life in peace.

Now some people are of the mindset that, as a celebrity, one gives up the right to a private life….that everything you do, everyONE you do, should be public knowledge. Not so I say. I work with kids with behavioural issues and with their parents on developing strategies to deal with said behavioural issues. Most days I love my job, and if I must say so myself, I’m really good at it. But that doesn’t mean that, when at Costco let’s say, I should drop my jar of pickles the size of my head and rush over to intervene when some little seven-year old darling baby boy is screaming he wants the new rated M for mature Call of Duty game while his mama is screaming “STOP THAT OR WE’RE LEAVING RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!” even though I know 1) she has no intention of leaving ’til she gets that latest Fifty Shades knock off and 2) junior will smugly get whatever he wants just to SHUT HIM UP! And sure enough, fifteen minutes later baby boy is clutching his killer game while machine gunning the massive hot dog lineup mama has dropped everything for and is now waiting in, just to get him a jumbo sausage with extra ketchup. No, as much as I sometimes want to, I won’t step in. I gave at the office, so to speak, and so, in my twisted logic kind of way, has Jodie.

I want to celebrate Jodie’s speech. I want to say “Hey,my sistahs! Finally you can give Ellen a break and get a new poster girl! For realz this time!” But there’s something about the vagueness of her message that doesn’t sit well with me. Because being vague implies that maybe there’s something there that should remain hidden, something that is still shameful to just admit. By flirting with the rumours, then addressing them in such a roundabout way, doesn’t make Jodie the role model I want her to be. But only part of me feels that way. Because listening to Jodie’s message, really LISTENING, I realize her words just make her seem more human, more real to me. And it makes me think of my own experiences and those of friends and how, as gay people, we’re almost constantly “coming out” to people. We constantly feel this pressure to take the spotlight and make this great proclamation about our lives. A need to explain away the important people in our lives, to defend who and what we are. To define our own “modern families”. Scarlett Johanson isn’t pressured to grab a mic and shout “I am a man-eating HOE and you are my next victim!” Ryan Gosling isn’t forced to say “watch out! I WILL sleep with your woman cuz I’m a big ol’ hetero STUD!” So in that respect why must Jodie shout from the mountaintops that she not so secretly wants to do Megan Fox? It’s because we insist upon it. We save those precious moments of full public disclosure for the queers among us. And so, on that note, BRAVO to Jodie for taking her own road. I’ll respect her coming out story. Because it’s her story, and all stories are different. And I won’t treat her life as a reality show, because unlike Honey Boo Boo, that’s not how Jodie rolls.

To be honest though, I can’t promise I won’t obsess over Jodie’s love life, especially if she soon bags a hot celebrity girlfriend. Because, after last night, one thing Jodie truly confirmed….she is one fine smokin’ hot single lesbian. And an “on the market” available one at that.

Chow Down at Chick Fil A

CHOW DOWN AT CHICK-FIL-A

I have a secret.  A secret only a few very select people know.
Something I only just this past week shamefully admitted to my boyfriend of four years…
I LOVE fried chicken.  In particular, Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken, with its 11 secret herbs and spices.
It reminds me of hot summer days of my childhood when, after a day of swimming and sun burning at Front Lake or Dominion Beach, we’d all pile into the car (or at least as many of us as could fit) and head off to the nearest KFC to get a monster bucket of chicken, with all the fixings: golden french fries, coleslaw,macaroni salad, soft rolls and hot gravy.  Sometimes if someone was feeling really extravagant, we ordered the potato salad too (never as good as mom’s though!)  AND as an added bonus to all this yummy goodness, we got to use paper plates and forks, and when you come from a family of five kids plus their  friends and your very own large extended family hanging about on any given day, and your chore that week was to wash AND dry all the dishes, THIS was a major blessing!  And so, sandwiched inevitably as I was next to my much bigger and left-handed brothers, my much smaller and woefully right-handed self would clash elbows in an all out war before those crispy fries got cold, battling for bread rolls and gravy, creamy coleslaw and ice cold pasta salad, and the most mythic, legendary piece of them all: the keel (Hell, I didn’t even know what keel meant – it’s actually the breast bone of the chicken – but I knew I’d fight to the death for it, or at the very least until my brothers would hold me down and stick their disgustingly wet fingers in my ears until I screamed and gave it up!)
Over the years I tried to branch out, with a dabble or two into Mary Brown and her offerings, and a weekend special here and there at Sobey’s or some local pizza joint, and as a grown up I even tried to make my own healthier, oven baked variety.  (Also, I learned about things like clogged arteries and double chins, and decided the rare and occasional indulgence suddenly suited me best).
But alas, nothing could compare to the good Colonel.   And to be honest, dining alone on a Toonie Tuesday could never compare to the epic battles of my youth.   Where was the fierce competition, sense of adventure?  Where was the yelling, hair pulling, and tripping one another (and that was just the fight over who got to CARRY the bucket!)
Would I ever recreate that long ago magic?
So it was with some interest that I heard a few months back about a possibility of some famous deep fried chicken franchise known as Chick-Fil-A possibly opening in Halifax. Could it be I’d find a newfound love, where I could trick a group of  innocent and naive friends into going out for dinner, and then before they even knew what was happening jump ’em and hold them down with the threat of some wet willies or atomic wedgies until they gave up the most desirable pieces and were left, sad faced and still hungry, holding nothing but some small, sad, shriveled wing?
But then Chick-Fil-A hadto go and ruin things and bring the Baby Jesus into it.

Now, unless you’ve been living in a box somewhere, cut off from all society and its many trappings, you  have seen, heard, or read about the controversies surrounding Chick-Fil-A these day.  Founded in Atlanta  by the Cathys, a southern Baptist family with some pretty deep religious convictions, this once small town American family restaurant has grown into a monstrous chain, going from 1 store in 1964, to over 1600 strong present day.  Dan Cathy, son of the company’s founder, and current President and Chief Operating Officer, has come out raging in the media (well, perhaps ol’ Dan wouldn’t approve of “coming out” or “raging” as the best choice of words) as a very outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and a strong supporter of conservative Christian causes.  EXTREME conservative causes that Chick-Fil-A has allegedly bankrolled for a cool 5 million,  like Exodus International, those zany “straight advocates” who support “ex-gay” reparative theory (ie, they promise to “pray the gay away” and restore you to blissful heterosexuality) or the Family Research Council, who’s charming philosophies put forth the idea that gay men are all mentally ill pedophiles, that gay sex should be illegal and criminalized, and that they’d support gays being exported from the country. (Not sure what island nation they plan to ship them off to, but I’ve gotta admit, that would be SOME party!)  I’ve since googled this stellar organization, and came across images of a few of their founders such as Tony Perkins (no relation to Psycho) and Peter Sprigg, and seems to me one thing they all have in common is an unfortunate case of “Gay Face”.  Or in other words, I doth wonder if they protest too  much?

People everywhere seem to be taking sides, with liberal mayors in cities such as Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco telling the Cathys that their chicken lovin’ but homosexual hatin’ selves aren’t welcome in their towns, so they can forget about any expansion plans (although technically it’s illegal to block a business due to a person’s religious beliefs, according to that pesky Constitution of theirs, so not sure how THAT’S going to work out for everyone).  In recent days, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who demonstrated his racist roots with some ill informed attacks on the Barack Obama’s childhood experiences during his failed presidential nomination bid, and his stupid roots by crying downright moral outrage over the Chick-Fil-A anti gay backlash, and  calling for Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, urging people across the country to demonstrate their love and support for “a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse” by showing up at the chicken chain on August 1 and blissfully buying their way to obesity, cardiac arrest and Type II diabetes.   Chick-Fil-A went on to record sales that day, and as a counter move by some prominent gay activist  groups, same-sex couples were encouraged to protest with “Kiss Ins”, by storming their nearest Chick-Fil-A and taking videos and pictures, then later posting them online,  of some good new fashioned same sex PDAs.
Then, most recently, a (former) CFO for a medical manufacturing  equipment company in Arizona by the name of Adam Smith got fired from his job after berating some girl named Rachel who was working the drive thru at Chick-Fil-A when Mr. Smith drove up to express his righteous indignation at this “horrible company with horrible values”.  Calmly and politely keeping her composure throughout, although looking on the brink of tears, young Rachel  gets berated – and worse, videotaped before even having the opportunity to run off and check her hair or makeup – while  Mr. Smith has his say, who then rides off yelling he’s “totally straight, I just can’t stand the hate.”  Well Mr. Smith, while I’m sure you at least thought you were well intentioned, and undoubtedly  ‘mos everywhere appreciate the straight man support, I have but one thing to say to you: You, sir, suck.  Furthermore,  ANYONE who gets all up in the face of some fast food drive thru worker person SUCKS.  You see, as a former drive thru worker myself, I know what it’s like first hand to be barely 17 and be expected to work “close” and stay out til almost 3 am on a school night and STILL smell like raw meat during your 10 am history class the next day, no matter how much Irish Spring and your dad’s Right Guard you use.  And THEN, while at work, having to deal with the irate customers who are throwing a hissy fit because you accidentally let an onion touch their Big Mac or you forgot the damn sweet and sour sauce for their chicken nuggets.   Trust me, I doubt being the Chick-Fil-A drive thru girl is Rachel’s dream job (NO offense, but for that matter, who wakes up one day and says “I know, I want to be a medical manufacturing equipment guy when I grow up!”).  No, she probably gets to scrape by on minimum wage, and you were probably just one small example of any number of jerkfaces she must encounter and strategically maneuver about, all the while keeping a bright smile on her face, day after day, night after night.  Next time you want to express such an opinion, ask for the manager – from my experience, they are better paid (although probably still not nearly enough) to put up with the average customer’s crap, and, more likely then not,  they’re probably off  napping, taking a 2 hour coffee break, flirting with the new girl half their age or busy yelling  at the new guy why they are so much  better then him.  See, if you yell at each other, then Rachel and the new guy are left alone.  Also, it’s pretty clear now that all you’ve accomplished  in this messy situation is to go and get yourself fired, while likely getting Rachel one kick ass promotion.  I figure when she’s running the show and starts supporting anti medical equipment manufacturing groups, shutting down companies like yours and insisting we go all holistic and home-grown instead, you’re going to be one even sorrier dude then.
However, I think it’s important to note that with all this drama, we’re forgetting one very important demographics in all this:  the chickens.  Think of all those poor little chickens who got plucked and flash fried and gave up their very lives to satisfy those good Christian masses.  And then the poor few that survived the All Appreciation Day Massacre, likely gone to waste the very next day as all those good soldiers that lined up the day before now run screaming from those very same Chick-Fil-A stores, worried they’d catch ” the gay” with all those demonstrations of man loving and girl on girl action.
But seriously, with that said, I truly think that, at the end of the day, everyone needs to calm down.  It’s CHICKEN!  And not even boneless, skinless chicken, but deep-fried!  And I’m not sure what YOU believe in, but as the good Catholic boy I was raised to be, I do believe somewhere there’s a higher power, and I’m pretty certain that He/She/It  has a hell of a lot of better things to do then intervene in the affairs of some Southern deep-fried chicken franchise and its wacky owners, even wackier supporters, and the latest folks they’ve antagonized this week.  Also, might I suggest that if all those good Christian soldiers wanted to show true appreciation for life, liberty, justice and God above, then perhaps they could’ve lined up outside a local food bank and donated the cost of a spicy chicken sandwich and waffle fries to it, rather than fattening the already deep pockets of the Cathy family and their at best suspect and mostly insane causes.  Or perhaps, in a better world,  the Cathys could support some causes I’d be willing to get behind, like banning the term “sushi pizza” (its raw fish people, it’s got NO place on a pizza pie!) or criminalizing the sale of skinny jeans everywhere (I don’t care how small and cute you think your butt looks, this “human sausage look”, where I can visibly count the small change in your pocket, looks good on NO one!)
I must say I do find the whole idea of the “Kiss In” as a form of protest rather amusing.  Who wants to join me in a big ol’ same sex make out session at the nearest KFC so I can protest those artery clogging halcyon days of my youth?
Although don’t be fooled….I’m really just there for the 2 piece and the neon green glowing coleslaw.  With a side order of  jabbing elbows and wet willies of course!

PS I “borrowed” the title “Chow Down at Chick-Fil-A  from a video by Willam Belli, a FIERCE queen and star of RuPau’s Drag Race.

As she notes, “if Drag Queens endorse Christian owned Chick-Fil-A, is it still an endorsement?  NOPE”

Check it out. It’s FUNNY!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO-msplukrw&feature=channel&list=UL