Monday, April 30, 2007

Creeping Connoisseurship

I blame cigars!

Previously, my world was divided between "likes" and "dislikes." I "liked" coffee ice cream; I "disliked" butter pecan. If it was coffee ice cream, I liked it, whether we were talking about Häagen-Dazs or Dolly Madison.

When I recently heard myself offering an opinion regarding Starbucks Mocha beverages--"I don't like the finish"--I realized I was sounding an awful lot like a connoisseur.

This is a departure!

And as best as I can determine, cigars are the reason.

I started smoking cigars because I thought I would be able to transition from cigarets to cigars and gum as my source of nicotine, a drug I love and which I'm hopelessly dependent upon. (So far, no luck.)

I started buying cigars from a place on West 29th Street between 6th and 7th in NYC. In their wee little storefront sat several latino men, puffing away and rolling them as you watch. As Will Smith said, "I don't like'em but I just want the look." (Or something like that.) Then, I discovered good old machine-rolled Grenadiers. Cheap, readily available, and a nice smoke.

Then I moved here, and one day I ventured into the Classic Cigar Parlor in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

I'd go in, pick out a few, and take note as I smoked them of whether I "liked" or "disliked" that particular cigar. On my next trip, I'd get a few of the "likes" and a few unknowns to evaluate. Then one day, a sales rep from some cigar house set up shop at the Classic Cigar Parlor, hoping to steer customers towards his wares.

And he was an excellent salesman, enthusiastic about the product as he was knowledgeable, and more interested in you leaving happy, even if you didn't leave with a pocketful of whatever he was pushing.

Our conversation initially went like this...

Rep Guy: So, what do you look for in a cigar?

Me: Uhhhh...

Rep Guy: Let me ask it this way, which cigars do you prefer?

I pointed them out.

Rep Guy: Aha! You like maduros!

He explained that the wrapper of the cigar lets you know how the cigar is going to taste. A "Claro" has a pale greenish wrapper, a "Natural" has a brown wrapper, and a "Maduro" has a dark brown wrapper. (Here's a good run-down.) He asked what I liked about the maduros I'd been sampling. I explained that the cigars I had tried with the paler wrappers, the claros and naturals, had an acrid flavor that hit me as harsh. Rep Guy told me that quality, which many people like, was called "grassiness."

Apt! Ever burn green grass? Or smell a farmer burning off his field in the Spring? That's just what it tastes like to me. And I'm not fond of it.

Ahhh... But maduros! So rich! So full of flavor!

The way I've come to think of it, Claro is green tea, and Maduro is espresso. Bitter, some would say, but so full of flavor.

And Rep Guy pointed me in the direction of a few of his favorite maduros (not from the house he worked for).

And I loved them.

I loved them so much that I came to experience cigars differently. It wasn't just "like" or "dislike," as in, how it hit my palate right off the bat, coffee ice cream style. Well I remember my first Trilogy. I lit it, and there were these luscious billows of seemingly narcotic smoke. And such a complexity of flavors. It evolved. They told a story. As the smoke unfolded, I'd notice different aspects.

And I've come to appreciate that complexity in other things. that multifariousness. What Gerard Manley Hopkins was talking about when he said "Glory be to God for dappled things". It's all about the interplay and the subjectivity... Because it's my experience. There's this aspect, but also that. And that. And that, too. And that and that and that.

Keep going down that road, and your palate becomes less and less a Star Chamber, dividing experiences between "like" and "dislike." Rather, it's all about noticing, paying attention, and appreciating the experience.

So with a mocha frappucino, there is that first hit of rich bitter-sweet. Yum! But there's a powdery quality, something insubstantial. But then there's the finish. the final third of what you suck up the straw: bad tasting water that leaves a nasty bolus on the back of your tongue, tasting of nothing in particular.

Oh Man...

Heroes is an amazing show.

I'm dreading the last episode of "the season" (the "season" of what exactly?). How long will I have to wait until I get another dose?

The writing is so tight, the characters are so compelling, the acting--overall--is spot on. I was a little bit peeved at the premise of tonight's episode from the previews, a look five years into the future at how things might happen. Cuz after all, so what?

But it had everything to do with the story arc! It moved the plot forward!

Heroes is sooooo cool!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Awed By CLAW

You mean you missed CLAW? You crazy! What the hell were you thinking? CLAW was great!

I left Friday morning, According to Google Maps, the drive out was 431 miles, door-to-door. I had some rain along I-80, but since the weather was heading east and I was heading west, it passed pretty quickly.

I love I-80. You leave NYC, crossing the George Washington Bridge, and you're on Interstate 80. And then--Ah! The joys and wonder of the Eisenhower Interstate System!--days later, there you are crossing the Bay Bridge into San Francisco! And there's a lot of nuthin' in between, those wide open spaces. In Western Pennsylvania, you pass those "Food Gas Lodging This Exit" signs that are blank.

But about 6 p.m., there I was pulling up outside of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cleveland. (And another great thing: an abundance of free parking available on the street!) I met my roommate; we were hooked up by a mutual friend. The roommate was a great guy! I could not have asked for better. Once unpacked, I headed over to the host hotel to join the festivities.

Friday Night

First up was registration, which was smooth and efficient. I opted for a volunteer package, which pretty much got me into everything free for four hours of work. (That is a great option!) They had a juried erotic art show, and there was some really strong entries. In particular, I liked John Colombo's photography (beautiful values and gorgeous choice of subject) and Walter Michael Bingham's painting (great conviction, incredible palette). And afterwards was the Cleveland Rocks Cocktail Party.

Oh. Man.

So they had this auction for charity. The auction items in question were jockstraps worn by various leather title holders. So that's cool, right? Well get this: the successful bidder got to remove said jockstrap from said titleholder. Right up there on stage. In front of a room full of people.

I was chatting with the man who holds the proverbial key to the proverbial padlock securing the proverbial collar around the neck of one of the founders of CLAW. He commented, "Can't you just see it this year backstage at IML? They'll be saying, 'Uh oh! What if I win? Then I'll have to go to CLAW and be humiliated onstage!'"

So yeah. Right up there on stage I and all the other attendees got an eyeful of Steve Kennedy, International Mr. Deaf Leather 2006; Mufasa, Mr. World Leather 2006; Bo Ladashevska, International Mr. Leather 2006; Larry Golubski, IML 1st Runner Up; and some others whose names I missed, buck naked. And here's the cool thing: it was verrrry clear that CLAW had neglected to mention to the titleholders that the auctioned jockstraps would be removed on stage. International Mr. Deaf Leather gets lots of waving finger applause for being a good sport about the whole thing. Everybody else decided to be coy, either cowering behind a tablecloth or turning his back to the majority of the crowd who didn't think fast enough to get behind the platform. they were standing on. (Boooo! Hisssss!)

After the cocktails, I was off to hit one of the parties. In the evenings, there are these fetish themed parties at various bars around Cleveland, and there are these rented trolleys that make the circuit between them. Because I had heard that Hamilton's Martini Bar was... uhhh... accommodating cigar smoking despite the recent ban on indoor smoking in Ohio, that's where I headed.

Hamilton's Martini Bar, alas, was some weird sh*t. It was a block away from the host hotel, and the party was "Rubber and Euro-skin." Other than the guys at the door, there wasn't a lot in the way of rubber and euro-skin types bellied up to the bar at Hamiltons when I arrived. More "gone-to-seed and chronic alcoholic." After sitting over my cranberry juice hoping something would happen, I realized there was a downstairs.

Aha! That's where the action is!

The horror. The horror.

Downstairs at Hamilton's is even seedier (just when I didn't think it was possible). And get this, there was a portion sectioned off where the floor was covered with sand, they had some lawn furniture situated thereupon, and, the coup de grace, beachballs. But here was the part that really creeped me out. On the wall, painted with stencils in foot high letters were the words, "WELCOME TO THE FROGGY POND."

Say wha..?

It was so bad that I allowed myself to become engrossed in women's boxing inexplicably being shown on their multiple televisions. (Go Vonda Ward!) At midnight, several rubber and euroskin types had shown up, but it wasn't enough to overcome how weirded out it was, so I left.

Get Educated!

Saturday, the first order of business (of course) was to find a Starbucks. I was all about "gettin ready for my presentation" mode.

Here's the blurb on me from the Official CLAW 2007 Yearbook...

Flagellation Workshop

The first thhing Drew Kramer
(That's me!) notices about a man is his back. When he finds a nice one, his imagination quickly turns to how much fun he'd have using floggers, whips, his fists, and open palms on that man's back, a symphony of sensation sure to get the endorphins pumping. In this workshop, Drew will share many of the techniques in his repertoire, and discuss the spiritual aspects of a good whipping, one of the most intimate experiences two people can have.

Bio: Drew has been told that for a sadist, he's a pretty nice guy. He enjoys whipping men until they bleed, chaining them up and pissing all over them, among other BDSM endeavors. He is a member and formerly an officer with GMSMA, an associate member of the Chicago Hellfire Club, and an associate member of the New York boys of Leather. He views BDSM as a spiritual path, and a way to find meaning in life, and an alternative to our culture that wants us to be passive, soulless consumers. He lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Okay. So I wrote that myself.

But I have to admit, being asked really blew me away. I was so totally honored, and for months I've been obsessing about this, thinking through what I wanted to do and say. I really really REALLY wanted it to be good, to do justice to the subject, and to give those folks who showed up the best I had to offer.

Starbucks found (and they're rare in Cleveland!), I spent time back in my hotel room running over my presentation, making a few last minute adjustments.

I was told after I arrived that I would, in fact, have a demo bottom. Yay! It was challenging in that I was talking about flogging and whipping, and I only had forty-five minutes for the whole thing. Going into it, I thought it was a safe assumption that everyone I would be talking to had either flogged or been flogged at some point. So with that in mind, I discussed what I like to bring to a flogging scene. My jumping off point was the shamanic journey: what you do when you flog a man is taking him on a shamanic journey. That being the case, you'll want to mix it up, keep it interesting for the guy. Give him a good ride, and that means giving him your full attention. And challenging him to go to a place he's never gone before. I showed off my floggers, demonstrating my technique on Ben, my demo bottom, who was great!

But then there's whipping. It was my assumption that the majority of the folks would be new to whipping, so I gave a broad overview, explaining the different types of whips, and explaining the dynamics of the scene.

Eeeeeeeee... Walking back to the host hotel, I was all full of nervous energy, but that's a good thing.

We got the room set up, which mostly meant getting the first row of chairs out of the way to give me some room to swing.

Okay. First thing I noticed. Y'know how the back rows fill up first? Not with these folks! They crowded into the first three rows. (Turnout was good!) I ran through it all, and managed to say most of what I wanted to say in time. As I was closing, Larry Golubski--I didn't recognize him wearing clothes!--came in to take over the room for his presentation, "Slippery Lube: Which Lube Is Best?" I moved out in the hallway to answer questions and continue the discussion.

Then, it was off to the "Smoking Deck." (A suggestion for next year: could there puh-LEEEZE be a smoking area that's sheltered from the elements just a little?) I ran into Jed from Chicago, enjoying a cigar with his roommate Rick. I started telling them about my presentation, and Rick seemed verrrrry interested. And whaddya know! He stripped off his shirt and offered me some dorsal skin. And I happily obliged.

For a little while. Not that I wasn't enjoying myself, and not that he didn't look Really Hot with his cigar sticking out of his face while I whipped him, but it was cold out there on the smoking deck, and I am so cold averse that I couldn't help thinking to myself over and over again, 'Gosh! He must be cold!" Which might seem odd given that I was whipping him, but I hate the cold that much. But, I'm gonna see what I can do to get Rick an invite to Inferno, and perhaps I'll be able to give it to him really good in September. Let's put that under the heading of "leave'em wantin' more."

So at this point, I'm famished. The Leather Family Dinner was scheduled for that night, but I was thinking that I could do better, for less money, heading out into the wilds of Cleveland. I suggested this to Rick and Jed, and they were up for it. We dropped off stuff at our hotel, and I got directions for Lake View or Lake Wood or whatever the hell the name of the gay Gay GAY neighborhood is in Cleveland. I figured it would have a Main-Drag-Walk-Around-y area, and we could find a decent place that way.

Okay. That strategy worked really well.

We found a place called the Tick Tock Tavern. Perfect! It was comfy, they specialized in ribs, and they had plenty of inter'stin' local fare on the menu (Saur Kraut Balls. Uh huh.).

Then, back to CLAW Central!

I had to do my volunteer duties that night. A few years ago at Inferno, my voluteer duties included moping up the bathrooms. Which I did with pluck and aplomb! All I knew about my CLAW volunteer duties (a manageable four hour shift), was that I'd be helping out at the uniform-themed fetish party hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Uniform League, aka MAUL at a bar called Cocktails. After a brief nap in my hotel room, I met up with the men from MAUL in the lobby of CLAW Central. And I knew a few of them.

All the Men of MAUL were in their uniforms, basically police patrol. And that would be matching uniforms.

Y'know what was the coolest? All these people would come down the stairs of the lobby, see all the Men of MAUL, and do a double-take, thinking it was a raid with what they took at first to be a crowd of cops hanging out in the lobby.

We all crowded into the MAUL mini-van. And I mean crowded. We had twelve men in there. There were a few Keystone Kops jokes made, but I was wondering if we were perhaps off to solve mysteries. On the way, we divvied up volunteer duties. I would be working the door from 11 pm to midnight. Cool!

Once at Cocktails, we set up shop. The party involved selling raffle tickets for some sweet looking BDUs, and they also had this cool thing where you could pay two bucks to have a friend arrested by one of the Men of MAUL. As in, they'd slap the cuffs on you. You then had to collect three bucks to make bail. I love that idea!

The door was busy. Even though it was a "suggested donation" situation, most people were happy to cough up $5. With your donation, you got a chance at a door prize, won by picking a red chip from a box. The door prizes were different color Official CLAW handkerchiefs. Me to a lucky winner: You got the red chip! So you get to pick. What are you up for tonight? We have fisting, fucking, piss, anything, or... uh... dark red. (I couldn't remember what maroon is in the hanky code. Since no one else could either, no one wanted to pick that in, not sure what they'd be letting themselves in for by flagging it.)

The party rocked! The energy was great, and I was continually treated to people walking into the bar, seeing ten guys in cop uniforms, and think that the place was being raided. For the most part, they were reassured when they saw some of the apparent cops down on their knees extending raffle tickets from the floor to peoples crotches.

After I finished working the door, I decided that the whole arrest thing was not as popular as I'd like it to be. (There were some verrrry hot guys there I'd like to see in handcuffs.) I saw my buddy PhilaBondageBud and decided that he had probably done something arrest worthy in the recent past. I gave my $2 to the nearest Man of MAUL, pointed at PhilaBondageBud, and hollered, "Officer! Arrest that man!"

And they did!

I saw several more arrests after that, and at one point I think there were five guys running around the bar handcuffed, begging for contributions to their bail funds.


Finally, the last trolley of the showed up, and most of the CLAW crowd headed out. But not before it was announced that the Men of MAUL had raised over $500 for CLAW charities! Go MAUL!

I rode back in the Mystery Machine MAUL Minivan.

The MAUL guys were great. And, they threw a great party.

After the night's festivities, I headed back to my hotel, and got a good night's sleep. Tomorrow, I had a long drive home.

My roommate kindly got me up in time to get the free breakfast--which was really well done--at my hotel. When I got down to the dining room, my roommate was sitting at a table next to this way hot man I'd ridden up in the elevator with the night before.

So I joined them.

Way Hot Man was from Kentucky. With the ministrations of coffee and oatmeal, I started to become aware of my surroundings, and I became verrrrry aware of Kentucky Guy. I pretty much announced that my plans for the day were to head back to my hotel room, shower, pack, and drive 431 miles back home.

Kentucky Guy had another idea: "Would you like me to give you a massage?" he asked.

As if I could say no to that! Ever!

And it got better. He's a massage therapist back in Kentucky. And he had his--get this!--heated massage table all set up in his room!

Now, if a man wearing blood-spattered clothes carrying a chainsaw in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other asks me if I want to come back to his place for a massage, I'm probably going to say 'yes.' And when this way hot man from Kentucky asked me that, I was as good as spread out naked on his heated massage table.

The massage was amazing. Kentucky Guy does great work. And I got a special Grand Finale that I bet he doesn't offer to most of his clients. And for which I was truly grateful.

All the way back home--or most of the way back home--I was totally blissed out from Kentucky Guy's massage.

And from CLAW. CLAW rocks!

What a great event! Maybe it's the preponderence of pleasant midwestern folks in attendance. It's such a friendly, pleasant crowd. Everybody is approachable and gracious.

But as I was driving home, heading east on I-80, I got to thinking about the Title Holder Jockstrap Auction. That was just brilliant. In addition to being a great leather event in and of itself, CLAW is also a loving send-up of leather events. Surely I'm not the only person who's seen the "jock strap" portion of some leather contest or other and wondered what was underneath that jockstrap. So, apparently, have the organizers of CLAW. Nice.

Plus, let's briefly review the fun I had at CLAW...

• I was asked to do a presentation (!)
• I had a great time doing my presentation and it was well received
• I got to whip a guy (however briefly)
• I met the Men of MAUL, who I liked a lot
• I got a massage
• I really enjoyed meeting and spending time with my roommate

Mark your calendars now! You missed CLAW this year. Don't let that happen again next year.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Till Monday!

You are hereby absolved from obsessively checking SingleTails from now until sometime on Monday. I'm off to CLAW, Faithful Companion will be delivered tomorrow morning to doggie lock-up, and Dear Old Dad will be fed by the kindly illegal immigrant next door.

Unfortunately, it looks like I'll be driving through rain a good portion of the way. This is Not. Good. News. I hate driving in rain. I'd rather drive through a blizzard than rain. Luckily, a few months ago I got new tires for the Jeep Liberty (the old ones were pretty much balled and wouldn't pass inspection). I specifically asked for tires that would give me good traction in the rain, so we'll be able to test that tomorrow. (At any rate, the new tires look good. Often, when I talk to the trusty Jeep Liberty, I'll comment on them. As in, "Hey Li'l' Car! Don't you look spiffy with those new boots of yours!"

Y'all be good while I'm gone! Do your best to fall in love at least once, or at the very least, get laid.

That will be my strategy.

Democratic Candidates Debate

Bill Richardson totally rocks.

'Nuff said.

Another Word About Iraq

Maybe I've been reading too much of Andrew Sullivan's blog lately. Or maybe it's just on my mind a lot.


So the rejoinder to the "let's get out now" thing is often, "Yeah, but we broke it, so we're responsible to fixing it."

And I find that compelling. But only up to a point.

If we could buy our way out of the situation, increasing our already huge national debt, paying more taxes (and I hate paying more taxes), hell, even cutting my social security benefits and such. I'd be for that.

BUT, it's not worth the further loss of American lives. It's just not. Let Iraq and the region descend into chaos, reduce our effectiveness to prevent Al Quada from setting up training camps, and cause enormous suffering to the iraqi people. So be it. For generations, it will be a huge black mark on our nation, but I don't care.

And as the Baron pointed out to me the other day, the principle charges brought at the Nuremburg trials concerned the invasion of Poland, a sovereign state, on trumped up, untrue cause belli.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


So on Saturday, at CLAW, in Cleveland, I'm doing a workshop on flogging and singletails. And today, I found out I don't have a demo bottom.

So I'll need to recruit.


How the heck is that going to work?

Luckily, I'm only scheduled for a forty-five minute workshop, so a lot of it will be my talking. Thus, recruiting the proverbial "volunteer from the audience" might not be too difficult.

Or, I could hang in the lobby and try, "Hey there Mr. Boy! I'd really like to do a hot flogging scene with you... front of an audience. At two o'clock today. With me dividing my attention between you and keeping up my witty repartee. You in?"

So obviously, this is a thinly veiled plea. If'n anybody out there knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who wouldn't mind being my demo bottom, please let me know. 'Kay?


No. Way.

Check here to read some reportage on Rudolph W. Giuliani's comments on why we need a Republican in the White House to stop more terrorist attacks on the scale of September 11th.

I mean...


Grab my hand as we leap over the logical chasm that having a Republican in the White House and a Republican (namely Rudy) in City Hall didn't stop the original September 11th terrorist attack. (And gosh, said Republican in the White House ignored many indications that Al Quada was planning that attack and said Republican in City Hall set up an emergency command bunker in the World Trade Center and was heading there when the towers collapsed.)

Rudy specifically points to "waving the white flag in Iraq, dismantling of electronic surveillance and weakening of the Patriot Act as the reasons why a Democrat in the White House would result in large scale terrorism.

I guess that means that a Republican in the White House would mean that we'd see continued and escalated waste of American lives in Somebody Else's Civil War, the further erosion of civil liberties, and a Big Brother government that George Orwell on meth couldn't begin to conceive.

That's all I need to hear.

The man's totalitarian tendencies were checked as mayor of New York City by an uppity press corps and very active and activist constituents, ensuring that he only managed to successfully bring the hammer down on the weakest adversaries. But as President, he'd take way too many pages from the Bush-Cheney playbook of the Supreme Executive.

It would be a mess.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who The Hell Is That Guy And What Is He Doing In My Mirror?

All the way on my drive to the gym today, I was doing my best to head to Starbucks first. Or instead. (In my experience, it works out much the same.) But I managed to get there. Today is "Day One," arguably the least demanding day in my routine. Day One is the day I focus on the pectorals. Real simple. First up is cable flies, then the decline bench press, and I close with three sets of push-ups, doing as many as I can in each set.

Cable flies were just about the same as the last time I did them. But then came the decline bench press.

There's not a lot of spotting that goes on at my gym. Part of the weird vibe of the place. So I go it alone. The past few weeks, i've been a little tentative. I swear, I almost killed myself. Or injured myself severely. Or just embarrassed myself, which would have been worst of all. I do my best to go to Just. Past. Failure. Which is tough without a spotter. And I almost didn't make it up on the lift.

This week, some bozo was using the decline bench to do crunches. Grrrrr. As he showed no sign of stopping, I ran over to the dumbell racks and did a few sets of bicep curls, low weight, real slow, lots of squeeze. When he was done, I made a beeline over there.

Okay. Here's how I work it. I start off with weight that's heavy enough for me to just get off five or six reps. Then I take off weight five pounds at a time until I can do a good solid set of ten.

Last time I did decline bench press, I started out at 65 lbs (as in, 65 lbs of weight on each end of the bar, for a total of 175 lbs including the 45 pound bar itself. And I was able to get out seven reps. I dropped down to 55 lbs on each end of the bar before I could get to ten.

So I load it up with 65 lbs, get into that headspace, and I did ten reps. Clean. Perfect form.


I didn't quite know what to do after that. Except push ups, of course. Nothing exceptional went on there.

Back in the lockerroom, I had the place to myself as I stripped to get ready for the shower and steamroom. And I couldn't resist a look-see in the mirror.

And... and... there was this guy! Totally built! The guns on him! And those pillowy pecs! And those delts like bowling balls! And those forearms like tenpins! He was a big guy! Like, big enough to get work as a bouncer!

What is going on here?

I think it has something to do with the 300 soundtrack I have in heavy rotation on my iPod shuffle. That and Jinx Titanic and a few other sundry testosterone fueled selections.

Now, before I hear "post some pics!" keep in mind that the post-workout pump is verrrry short-lived.

It was fleeting, but I saw it.

And I made it happen.

SingleTails Comes To The Defense Of Harry Reid!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has come under a lot of fire for his recent remarks that we've "lost" in Iraq. Among other things, that's been called demoralizing to our troops.

But, this is actually something I've been thinking about for a while.

Awful as it is to admit, I think we have lost whatever battle it was we were fighting over there.

I asked myself, What would losing look like?

Large portions of Iraq, with the exception of the kurdish north, are chaotic and ungoverned and no one is safe?


American forces are mostly devoting themselves to protecting isolated bases?

Check. (With the exception of certain neighborhoods of Baghdad targeted by the recent surge.)

An ineffective government in disarray?

Check. (The Iraqi parliament hasn't met as a body since they were seated after their election and won't in the near future because they don't have quorum: too many of the members have fled the country. The various agencies of the iraqi government are corrupt and broken by sectarian turf battles.)

From my 100% unscholarly reading of the news out of Iraq, since the surge, things have only gotten more violent and dangerous for our troops and for iraqis. Thus, it seems to me that there is no way to salvage victory. No way at all.

Further, speaking with absolutely no background or even the most superficial knowledge of military strategy, it seems to me that our men and women in uniform are wholly blameless. They are, in fact, heroes. Their nation called them to duty and they answered the call. The blame for the defeat of the United States of America in this war is laid exclusively at the feet of our Commander-in-Chief.

It's sad and terrible. There is no "bright side" to turn to. Regardless who takes office in twenty months, it will not blot out the wrong that has been done.

Urgent Recipe!

Here's some good eatin'! But you gotta act fast. In fact, if you live south of me in Southeastern Pennsylvania, you may have already missed the boat.

What I'm talking about is a Kramer Family Favorite: Dandelion Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing.

Look in vain for dandelions in the store. And don't think about substituting arugula or something. This is all about dandelions. And here's the time element: you gotta "harvest" before the plants have flowers. Once the plants have flowers, the leaves get really bitter. And, possibly, a little bit poisonous.

So here's the delio. First off, you get out your little basket with a handle to go over your arm. (You'll want to whistle and skip for this part.) Or, of course, there's the grocery bag option. The basket-over-the-arm just makes it more interesting.

And basically you go to the nearest ill-tended lawn and look for dandelions. They're easy to recognize, even without the flowers. Dandelions are a corruption of the french "dentes de léon," or "teeth of the lion." So the leaves, like your mussy or pussy, have teeth: that is to say, they're jagged. The dandelion has a flat habit, growing out in radii from the root close to the grown. If you pull them up, you'll find one tuberous white root, like a small carrot.

You'll want to gather about four times as much as you think you'll need. For two reasons. First off, when you add the boiling hot dressing, it will reduce by about half. And secondly, there's the next step.

In the next step, you'll want to pick through the dandelion with painstaking care. And I mean painstaking, taking off the lower parts of the leaves where it starts to get all white. And, of course, getting rid of all the foreign matter (grass and leaves and such). This part is a real bear. Then, of course, you'll want to wash it really well. And pat it dry with a towel or do it up good in the salad spinner.

Okay! Then you're ready to make the hot bacon dressing.

If'n you love bacon like I do, you'll want to use as much as you can spare. (You can use turkey bacon if you don't do the pork thing, but use some olive oil or whatever in the pan.) Cut up the bacon into little pieces before you start to cook it over a medium-low heat. I don't like my bacon crisp, so I don't let it get that way. When it's as done as you want it, add some apple cider vinegar, about three or four tablespoons. Keep stirring it around to combine the bacon grease and the vinegar. When it gets all bubbly, add as much sugar as you added vinegar. I also like to add dry mustard. Your choice. Then you add a little bit of flour to thicken it. To bring the volume up to what you want, add some apple cider.

Then comes the good part. Pour the bubbling hot dressing over the dandelion and mix well.

Then there's the pay off. Chow down and enjoy!

The dandelion is slightly bitter, but not unpleasantly so, and full of flavor like nothing else. But then, there's the texture: it's tough, it's got substance, you've gotta chew it.

Oh man.


Madonna And Me

Twenty-five years ago today, April 24, 1982, a single called "Everybody" by an unknown singer named Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was sprung upon an unsuspecting world.

Not long after, I traveled up to NYC to go clubbing with some folks I worked with. I'm not quite sure about the venue--maybe Danceteria, maybe Area--but the music was great and I was all over the dancefloor.

There was this woman about my age who cut a really mean rug, too.

I needed to take a break, and was working my way across the dancefloor to where my posse had commandeered a lounge area. And there I was, side by side, with the woman I had noticed dancing.

Her: You're a good dancer!

Me: You, too! I don't know how good I am, but the music here is amazing! I'm Drew.

Her: My name is Madonna.

Me: What a great name! I'll remember that.

Her: I hope so! I have a single out.

Me: Wow! That's so cool! If you sing as good as you dance, it will fly right up the charts.

Her: Buy it, okay?

Me: You got it, Madonna!

And we parted.

Details are vague at this point. I couldn't find a single by anyone named Madonna in the local record stores, but when I saw an album by Madonna, I showed it to my friend Ed saying, "Hey! I met her up in New York! She's really nice!"

The salient point: Madonna said I was a good dancer.

The other salient point: That was twenty-five years ago.

(Oh. Dear. God.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

yeah, but you've just had Hurricane Katrina to deal with while we've had decades of corruption and incompetence!

It was reported in the local news here how New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who was in Philadelphia recently to see our urban blight efforts (I cannot imagine what that would be all about), dissed the City of Brotherly Love when he got back home, saying it was a dirty, dirty town.

He doesn't know the half of it! He left out the two other D words proposed by SingleTails as the new tourist board slogan for the city: Dirty! Dour! Dangerous! Philadelphia!!!

So, lemme get this straight. Essentially Mayor Nagin, whose city was devastated by hurricanes and flooding, was saying, "But gosh, if you want to see a city where they've got it really bad, go to Philadelphia."

I couldn't agree more!

The best part was the local NBC affiliate showed a text of Nagin's remarks to sundry philadelphians (you could see their lips moving as they read the New Orleans Mayor's remarks) to get a response.

"Hey! I'm proud to be from Philly!" was the most that could be mustered.

Case you didn't know, Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of any large city in America; they're well on our way to surpassing 2006's eye-popping murder rate; a priceless collection of incompetent, mediocre hacks are vying to replace the current incompetent, mediocre hack of a mayor; and you still can't find a place to park in Center City should you have the profound misfortune of having to visit the place.

But I love those cheesesteaks and soft pretzels!
From the Sunday New York Times...

"A sighting in Washinton State of the giant white Palouse earthworm Driloleirus americanus, which stretches to three feet long and smells of lilies, sent shockwaves through the earthworm community last year."

The "earthworm community."

I love that.

Years ago, my vetrinarian confirmed my suspicions that he was gay when he encouraged me to have my cat tested for feline leukemia virus by saying, "FLV is devastating the feline community."

Friday, April 20, 2007

"That's What Makes For Successful Relationships"

Relationships are like dogs.

Hear me out. There are millions of dogs in the world, but in the minds of some people, only some dogs that matter. Just talk to the American Kennel Club. According to the AKC, for a dog to matter, the dog must be an outstanding representative of its breed.

Which makes sense until you think about it a bit, and then it doesn’t. Most “breeds” are recent creations. Not so very long ago, there were only a handful of recognized breeds, and now there are hundreds. Someone crossed something with something with something with something and came up with something which they called a Papillon. And when there were enough papillons in the world, the breed was submitted to the AKC and acknowledged. And now, certain dogs are judged on how well their phenotype aligns with a theoretical concept of a papillon. Or not. It’s all pretty Platonic when you think about it, no? Is there actually a papillon out there to which these dogs are compared? And this, of course, leaves my own dear Faithful Companion in the lurch. He’s no breed in particular. But he’s definitely dog. And a great dog. One of the best I’ve known.

And that has to do what with relationships exactly?

Wellll... The Powers That Be seem to have prescribed certain ways of being in relationship. Marriage is the best example. Two people meet, fall in love, and with the blessings of their friends and family, embark on a life-long, committed, monogamous union. Although this is presented as timeless, that’s hardly the case. It’s a pretty recent development in human history. A little older than airconditioning, a little newer than representative democracy. In the not so distant past, most marriages were arranged and “love-matches” were discouraged. And they were chiefly found among the upper echelons of society. Poor people (most of the worlds population until mercantilism) couldn’t afford a priest, and priests couldn’t be bothered. So this model was plucked out of the ether and imposed upon us.

And there our troubles began. To my mind, there’s no “wrong” way to be in a relationship. Problems tend to arise in trying to conform our relationships to received models. Although calling them “received models” doesn’t quite do them justice. They’re imposed, not received. It’s as if the American Kennel Club went a step further and deemed dogs that don’t match breeds to be anathema and launched a huge canine eugenics campaign.

I don’t think it’s correct to say that there are as many kinds of relationships as there are “grains of sand on the seashores of the world” or whatever. In all human relationships, there are three basic elements, and the kinds of relationships arise from which of these elements are in play, and to what degree.

The three elements are Sex, Romance, and Companionship.

Sex is the purely physical and animal. It’s the act itself and whatever leads up to the act. And, briefly, the aftermath. The basis for a sexual relationship is mutual sexual attraction and compatibility: “I like you, and I’d like to do this to you, and you like me, and you’d like me to do that to you, so let’s get busy.”

Romance is that “dizzy dancing way you feel.” The “some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger” thing. One day, he’s the guy who works in the mailroom, and the next day he’s The One For You, all you can think about, all you desire, I wonder what he’s doing Right Now. Maybe thinking of you? Wondering what you’re doing Right Now? Could it be? Oh God, please let it be so.

And finally there’s Companionship. When spending time with him is like being with yourself. The person who doesn’t have to ask “how was your day?” because just seeing your face, he knows how your day was and responds appropriately. The person who seems to like the same odd things you like, who shares your passions. The person you can talk to for hours and, more importantly, listen to for hours.

And each of these give rise to certain human activities. Sex is characterized, tautologically, with having sex. If you’ve got a Romance going on, you’ll want to be dating, that is to say, engaging in some novel activity together. And the business of Companionship is communication, sitting and talking. Or sitting and not talking, but communicating nonetheless.

Largely due to neurochemistry, timelines for these three are built right in. With Sex, there’s no reason for it to continue beyond the act. (That tautology thing again.) If it’s Romance we’re dealing with, then as long as the energy can be sustained, it can continue. But keep in mind that sustaining that energy takes a lot. On the other hand, with Companionship, there’s no reason--short of treachery--that it should end.

So there they are, only three elements in our periodic table.

By my count, that gives rise to seven possibilities for a relationship that two people can have with each other.

Here’s a tour of those possibilities.

Sex You’re Fuck Buddies! You share the same fetish, or you’re both available on Wednesday afternoons, or you live down the hall from each other. And your sexual compatibility is so on target that it’s on par with masturbation.

Sex + Romance What you’ve got going on is a Fling! Often, a Fling happens between two people who don’t know each other well. Both of you finding yourself in an unfamiliar setting (a trade show both of you have traveled to, on a cruise, the French Foreign Legion outpost, a Sting concert) sets the stage for a Fling.

Sex + Companionship God bless teenagers! For eons, we had no name for this relationship, but now we do. Thanks to teenagers: Friends With Benefits.

Romance Straight up Romance we call a Flirtation. And aren’t they sweet? Some would say better than sex. And often, you get dinner!

Romance + Companionship We could call this a “Platonic Friendship,” but that strikes me as a little bit quaint. Some recent nomenclature I’ve heard to describe this is “Straight Guy Man Crush.” Of course, it also goes down among women, and it’s so common that it’s never to my knowledge been identified as a phenomenon. And between a man and a woman. Any two people of whatever sexual orientation can encounter this. But at any rate, I’m partial to the word, so let’s call it a Krush.

Companionship This we refer to as Friendship. Good old Friendship. Way too under-appreciated and often taken for granted.

Sex + Romance + Companionship Let’s give a neologism to this and call it a Trifecta. With the Trifecta, of course, a lot of our problems begin. It’s what we’re told we’re all entitled to, and the Dr. Phil’s of the world are all about telling us How To Do It and why it’s the Gold Standard. They’re wrong and it’s not. It’s just one possibility among several. Too, there’s really no way of doing it “wrong.”

And, a relationship between two people can evolve over time.

Let’s say you’ve got a Fuck Buddy. Every once in a while, you two get together and get it on. But on one occasion, as he’s putting his pants back on, he notices something on your coffee table. “Whoa! Is that Wim Wenders Wings Of Desire? Best. Movie. Ever.” And since you happen to agree, he sticks around to watch. You both rewind Peter Falk’s soliloquy three times, savoring every line. “Who is this guy” you ask yourself. You never quite noticed the amazing color of his eyes, and that cock-eyed smile he has that just makes you weak. “Wanna go to dinner?” You head stumble upon an Afgani restaurant, and by the time dinner is over, you’re both prettty much head over heels. For weeks, you’re callling and texting each other constantly. And, of course, you’re beset with terrible doubts: should I have told him that I didn’t finish college? Will he think I’m not on his level because of that? What did he mean when he said “I’m afraid of getting hurt”? Is he getting cold feet? But slowly those doubts and fears subside, as do the exhilarations of being together. You spend more and more time together, discovering there’s a lot more than sexual compatibility and Wings Of Desire that you have in common. And he’s so nice to come home to. And so nice to wake up next to. And so full of (pleasant) surprises.

Okay. If we wanted to chart this out, it would look like this:

Fuck Buddy (Sex) becomes A Fling (Sex + Romance) becomes Trifecta (Sex + Romance + Companionship)

One more thing. Sex and Companionship don’t lend themselves to exclusivity. You can have sex with a lot of people, and you can have as many friends as your time and attention allow. Romance, on the other hand, is all about exclusivity. Although it’s not impossible to maintain Romance for the long term, either as the sole element in a relationship or in some combination, it’s unlikely. It takes a lot of psychic energy. And you’ll probably get fired from your job. Much more likely that over the course of a relationship (say Friends With Benefits), Romance will crop up now and then and you’ve got a Trifecta for a time.

But you see what I’m getting at? Without Romance, exclusivity is... well.... unnatural. If you want exclusivity, then you better be ready and willing to do a hell of a lot of work to keep romance alive.

But my point, and I do have one, is that the relationship is what it is. And what it is is good. So don’t go getting all concerned because it’s not the Ricky and Lucy thing you dream about. Not everybody can be Rod and Rob Jackson-Paris. Not even, if you’ll recall, Rod and Rob Jackson-Paris.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Moi? That is so not true! Just becau... Oh wait! Shhh! Jackie's Laying Into Peeler Again."

So today I headed down to Chestnut Hill to wish the Baron a Happy Birthday all proper like and in person. To be sure, I baked him a birthday cake. (*sigh* When will someone bake a cake for me?) It was my strong suit: devil's food with vanila buttercream frosting.

We met up at the Starbucks on Germantown Avenue, and I found a parking space at a meter right across the street. The Baron was delighted with his cake, which had survived the trip pretty well, and the two of us yacked away for hours. Then, charged up with all the sugar from the cake, we took a walk around Chestnut Hill to burn some of it off.

Chestnut Hill is pretty fascinating. WASP culture predominates in that wee enclave. Sort of surprising to remember that a wee ten blocks away, people shoot each other for giving a dirty look in good old Killadelphia.

On our walk, we passed a fabric store. They had a window display announcing that it's prom season, I guess encouraging high school girls to make their own dresses. Part of the display was a manequin wrapped in blue and purple tissue paper.

The Baron and I stopped in our tracks.

"Pretty Project Runway," I commented.

"Yeah," the Baron said, "But not very strong."

"True. Those colors wouldn't look good on anyone."

And then the Baron turned to me and said it: "You are such a Bravo Queen."

I gasped.

Omigod could he be right?

Just last night I was all about Sheer Genius. Now, I could not be less interested in hair. In general, guys with hair hold just about no interest for me. And when I meet a gay man who does hair for a living, at the back of my mind I always think, "Couldn't you think of ANYTHING else to do for a living?" It's like if I was Jewiish and I met a fellow Jew who described his job as, "I'm a money lender. I charge extortionary interest."

But those shows on Bravo just suck me right in. There I was, loving him, trying to decide of the two weakest who deserved to go. And the night before, I was watching Work Out. (Why can't Brian be the queer one?)

I think it's true. I drank the Kool-Aide.

I... am... a... a... Bravo Queen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Hi Greg! Remember Me? I Guess You're Wondering What I'm Doing Hiding In Your Garage..."

Today after my workout, while I was reading through a local community paper while I drank my MetRx at the gym. I ran across the obituary for a guy who was who had an Unusual Last Name. An Unusual Last Name I recognized.

There was this guy... In high school...

His first name was Greg. It's lucky I didn't have any classes with Greg. When I would catch sight of him coming towards me in the hallways between classes, I'd walk right into a bank of lockers. Forget what class I was going to. Drop my books.

And totally get a hardon like only a seventeen-year-old boy can get a hardon.

Greg was about 5'8", and a total little fireplug. The guns on him! And the pecs! This was way before anybody went to the gym, especially greasers. Which Greg was. So he didn't play sports. So that hot body was his. Everyday he wore jeans and workboots and the only day-to-day variation was whether he wore a tight white pocket tshirt or a tight black pocket tshirt. And they were always pocket tshirts because he had a pack of Marlboro Reds there. For awhile, Greg was dating the stepsister of a friend of mine. Verrrrry unnerving to be hanging out at John's house and in the door comes Greg to pick up Maria. Totally humina-humina-humina...

So I read down in the obituary, and sure enough, Mr. Unusual Last Name was survived by his son, Greg. Who lives ten minutes north of me in Ottsville. I wonder if he's listed in the phone book..?


There he is.

With his address.



Maybe next time I'm up that way I'll drive there.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I, Taxpayer


On the last possible day!

I have not been looking forward to filing my taxes. Because of that whole question of "How am I going to pay if I owe anything?"

I usually break even on Federal taxes but have to send a check to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

But the news here is good!

I'm getting a refund of $500 from the Feds, and I owe nothing to Pennsylvania. (Happily, I remembered a buddy of mine years ago when I lived in Philadelphia who was obsessing about him always driving us in that oh-so-walkable city so he could use a parking garage. He explained that he needed the receipts for taxes. While I was working at the Previous Place of emPloyment, whenever I had to go into Center City, which was often, I would make sure to get a parking receipt and save it. This year I learned why that's a good thing if you live in Pennsylvania: because un-reimbursed business expenses can be claimed as deductions on your State taxes. I have receipts to the tune of $209.50. Thanks, Ray, wherever you are!)

So that's over for another year. I can stop sweating and worrying.

Starting tomorrow, I'll call the IRS and demand to know when the hell I'm going to receive my refund.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Be Kind, Be Kind, And Be Kind

That's a quote from Henry James. Answering the question, "What three things are required from all mankind?"

Ah, the arc of the day.

I got up this morning and headed up to NYC. Today was our final softball practice before the season starts next Saturday. Lots of new guys on the team this year. And they all seem pretty solid. But they're good! They're damn good! I'm more than a little nervous that I'm gonna totally be the mutt of the team this year. Good thing I'm pretty, huh?

I got some coaching on throwing the ball today. (Guess what! Throwing a softball is different than throwing a bullwhip! It's true! Really!) And after the time I've been putting in at the batting cages, I think there was some improvement in my hittin' o' the ball. Six years playing softball, and one double. (Oh. And that was my first year.) However, my arm really hurt! In and around the elbow. A tendon kind of hurt. Still a little twingey, but mostly gone.

After practice, we headed back to Ty's. And to be sure, a good time was had by all. I spent hardly anytime at all looking wistfully across the street at Bruiser's place of employ. Yeah. Well. Whatever. Onward.

I planned to leave at 6 p.m., but I wanted to pick up a copy of the Sunday Times before I left. (I'm a sucker for the City Section, which doesn't show up in copies sold outside the five boroughs. I headed to my favorite new Starbucks at the corner of Hudson and 10th to pass an hour.

Time to head home.

To pass the time on the way home, I gave the Baron a call. And we had a great conversation. Talking about relationships.

Both of us hauled up mishaps from our past and disected them in minute detail. (For me and the Baron, that's Huge Fun. And that's why our friendship endures.)

I was recalling the disastrous Memorial Day Weekend I spent out in Los Angeles with Mr. Big Shot Hollywood Producer. (He knows Rita Moreno personally! Truth!) From the moment I got off the plane till the I headed on my way, I was treated the way he might deal with seagull shit landing on his Dolce & Gabana. Y'see, Mr. Big Shot Hollywood Producer is an asshole. (Although he is pretty good in the dungeon. I'll give him that.)

My recent reading of The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis sent to me by sebastian--if'n you haven't read it, do that pronto--gave me an insight. Y'see, it's a common misunderstanding that we can unleash whatever bad behavior we choose to on our nearest and dearest. After all, within the Family Circle, no need to hold back, right? Just relax and be your (boorish, bad-tempered, carping, whiny, complaining) self.


Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!

The Baron offered that although he prized authenticity in human relations, he agreed that what he wanted behind closed doors at home was just a little tenderness and consideration.

I respectfully disagreed. Authenticity is exactly what I want. And if I'm in a relationship with someone, it would be my sincere hope that he has the same affection for me that I have for him. And not a blind to all my legion faults kind of affection. But a basic and fundamental "I like the guy." And that his behavior towards me would reflect that affection.

Always? All the time?

No. 'Course not. We're only human. But if I've done something to piss him off, I hope he'd come to me pronto and say, "Today we got a letter from the power company and they're planning on shutting off our electricity because you apparently forgot to pay the bill last month." Or "Holy hell I've had an awful day! That idiot I work for has gone way too far this time... But I'm suddenly feeling way insecure about my job and losing it would put our ability to pay the mortgage in jeopardy." And we talk that through, getting angry and even fighting or whatever. But in a direct and up front way. And when we drain the pus from that wound (eeeewwwww!), we can go back to being affectionate.

And that, brothers and sisters, is all I ask. Just be kind to me.

If I had that, there's nobody I wouldn't shack up with.

Me: Is that you, Sweetheart?

Dick Cheney: Yup. Home early.

Me: To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure? Did everything go alright today in your efforts to trample the Constitution, bankrupt the Treasury, and prop up that colossal failure of a President and the senseless war he dragged us into?

Dick Cheney: Yeah. It was fine. Just decided to get hear early. 'Cause I missed you. Been thinking about you all day.

Me: Awww... Really?

Dick Cheney: I sure have. I had my chief-of-staff call that place you like where they make homemade ice cream and whip up a batch of your favorite, mocha almond fudge. After dinner, I thought we might build a fire and settle in with a couple of bowls of ice cream.

Me: Omigosh... Dick... That sounds like a perfect evening to me. One thing though. Take off your shirt and tie and let me give you a backrub.

Dang, Boss! You're tense! What's this knot here?

Dick Cheney: That would be the Senate Judiciary Committee...

Me: That'll take some work. Whoa! What about this one?

Dick Cheney: Let's just call that Condoleeza.

Me: Gotcha. Y'know our neighbors' cat just had kittens in the garage. Maybe you want to unwind while I make dinner by chewing their legs and tails off? I know that relaxes you.

Dick: Nah. Not tonight. I'll keep that in mind though. Tonight I want to put all that aside and do what I can to make you feel good.

Me: Y'know, I'm the luckiest guy in the whole world...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Why Don't Fools Fall In Love


When I read Helen Fisher's sweet book Why We Love about love and neurochemistry, I remember musing that people don't do a lot of that "falling in love" thing that she talks about much any more. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I fell in love with guys (still do), and guys fell in love with me. And I heard stories all the time about friends and friends of friends falling in love. And of course, in 1991 or so, I had a life changing experience one night at the Altar, a short-lived but great leatherbar in NYC, when I saw two middle aged leathermen meet, chat, and over the course of the evening fall head over heels in love with each other. It was amazing to watch, and as I remember, I wasn't the only one to see it. When they headed out the door, holding hands and stars in their eyes, there was very nearly applause.

But, as I've discussed before on SingleTails, it just doesn't seem to happen a lot any more. So why don't fools--or anyone else for that matter--seem to do much falling in love anymore?

Well, the same Helen Fisher proposes an answer: maybe it's all those Special Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (aka anti-depressants) that are so commonly prescribed these days. It seems that in addition to interfering with levels of serotonin, they also inhibit dopamine, and dopamine is critical to that giddy wonderful feeling you had when you first knew he cared for you the way you cared for him. You can read all about it here.

On the one hand, I'm relieved. This doesn't necessarily mean I have bad breath or stinky feet or that I Just. Don't. Measure. Up. in some junior high school way or other.

But on the other hand, does this mean that I'm condemned to live in a world where all I ever get is lackluster coffee dates or all but anonymous hookups? Never more that whole, "Gosh but I think you're a really special guy and I'd like to see you again sometime and soon" thing. After all, is there anywhere in the world a gay man closer to fifty in age than thirty who isn't on some kind of anti-depressant medication? Not likely, right? Even I have about half a bottle of Welbutrin in my medicine cabinet from my last attempt to quit smoking.

And remembering that, it briefly crosses my mind to drink the Kool-Aid. To start back in on the Welbutrin and just forgo these vain hopes. I was an awfully pleasant and productive person on Welbutrin.

But no.

I'll soldier on.

Even though I'm sort of feeling the sting of Bruiser not seeming to have much in the way of time for me, I'm not willing to count myself out just yet.

Not just yet.

And hopefully not ever.

Music To My Ears

So. Last night I bought the soundtrack to 300 off of iTunes. I loaded it onto my iPod, along with a few other recent acquisitions, and set up a playlist featuring the new stuff. I headed down to the batting cages to get in some practice. On the drive down I heard Cafe Tacuba offerings recommended by Jockohomo who never steers me wrong. And I ripped up the batting cages. I'm getting better and better. That's what practice will do for you.

But then, on the ride back, the 300 stuff came on.


Amazing stuff.

From the opening strains, there welled up in me an all but unquenchable desire to whip a man until he bleeds. To take a warrior, rope him down, watch his muscles flexing as he tests the bonds that hold him, drink in with my eyes the topography of his powerful back, lengthen my whip out behind me, and then bring it forward, directing just where I want it. See him recoil, hear his exclamation, again and again and again. Then seeing those first red rubies, the few drops of blood on his back.

Then we're just getting going.

That's what good music will do for you I guess.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Soon To Be Heard In A Dungeon Near You!


I just got the 300 Soundtrack off of iTunes.

Watch me load up my Shuffle with it and destroy the gym!

Yesterday at the gym when I hopped on the scale, the read-out was 97.7 pounds. That is an all time high for me. And I'm an ectomorph! A hard gainer!

Much of the credit goes to none other than hot tub guy. I gave him a rundown of my workout routine, and he gave me a suggestion. Previously, I would start off with a weight where I could squeeze out ten reps. Then I'd add five or ten pounds and do eight more reps, add another five or ten pounds and do six reps.

hot tub guy suggested that I start off with a heavy weight, where I could do at most four reps. Then, take off five pounds and do another set, then another, then another, going to failure each time. I keep dropping the weight until I can do ten reps.

I'm working a lot harder, but I'm working more efficiently. It takes me way less time to get through my workout. And I'm upping my weights like crazy. Before, when I'd have the thought "Gosh! That was easy," I'd put a notation in my little book to up the weight next time. Now, when I'm able to do more than seven reps on the first set, I know to add more.

And it's working!

I hope the weather is warm in Cleveland when I head out there for CLAW in two weeks, because I want to be wearing as little as possible.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A New Path

So today, I called four calls in the area (Drexel, Stevens Institute of Technology, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and NYU), and asked to set up a meeting with someone to discuss their Construction Management programs. Next Wednesday, I'll be heading down to Philadelphia to meet with a guy from Drexel. NYU has a "stop by any time, Monday through Friday, 9 to 5" situation going on, so I'll think about what day I can get up to NYC. I didn't hear back from Stevens or NJIT. (What up, New Jersey? Don' leave me hangin'!)

And I've been sitting with the whole thing, thinking about it.

Last night, I had an interesting insight. That whole goal-setting thing? Y'know, have a dream, go for it, make it all happen... Well, never done that.


My life has sort of gone this way: an opportunity presents itself, a door opens, I walk through.

Like that.

Or a challenge presents itself, a problem comes up, I deal with it. That kind of thing.

I guess you could call it "reactive" rather than "pro-active." (Although let's be clear, "pro-active" is not a word. There's no distinction between the word pro-active and the word active. I'm just aping corporate speak.)

But holy heck! That would seem to be what I'm doing now, huh?

There's me... Mister Construction Manager!

I'm all kinds of sought after because I'm up on green building practices, and I'm expert at realizing high end architectural elements ( that Richard Meier on the phone???). Given my background, I'm sought after by non-profit organizations in managing capital projects so that the new building allows for growth but reflects the mission and vision of the agency...


I would love that. All I have to do is figure out what I have to do to get from here to there. And then do that.

Goal setting, in other words.

And not be crippled with self-doubt.

For once.

I hope.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Question For Any Astronomers Among The Ranks Of SingleTails Irregulars...

Is that the constellation of Taurus I'm seeing in the night sky? (Tonight with his horns down, last night with his horns up.) And is that Leo?

(Just walked Faithful Companion and it's 2:00 a.m. And I'm at 40.24 N. and 75.04 W.)


I've written before here--and would have written more were it not for fear that I'd drive you all away by yammering on about it as much as I'd like--about my ideas of an intentional community for leathermen.

There are hundreds of intentional communities across this great land of ours. Like-minded people buy land, and develop a scheme by which they can live together there. More familiar models might be the kibbutizim in Israel, or, nearest and dearest to my heart, a monastery. (In fact, intentional communities take advantage of that portion of the U.S. Tax Code written for monasteries.

The intentional community I have in mind would be a place of teaching and learning, and an opportunity for the men who are members of the community to delve more deeply into this thing we call BDSM. And as medieval monks learned, when resources are pooled, the result is something like abundance. So it would have a kick-ass dungeon.

Every third person or so I've spoken to about this has commented, "You should really talk to Guy Baldwin. He's been saying much the same thing for years." And so I did. I just sent an email his way.

Guy Baldwin.

Guy Baldwin looms verrrrry large in my imagination. I almost think that so much of what I think and what I've written about could be summed up as "footnotes to Baldwin." For him, SM is not just a hobby or a weekend activity, it's a worldview. And that's what it has become for me. It's how I understand myself and my place in the world. And I don't know very many other authors whom I like and admire who have taken it quite that far.

So, I really had to gird up my loins and stick myself to the sticking place to send off that email just now. A mixture of "Dear Mr. Gable I am writing this to you..." and something I once read about Robert Frost describing how the worst thing about his life was that he had to read so much bad poetry that young poets sent him asking his opinion and guidance.

Ergo, perhaps I'll hear back from Mr. Baldwin, and perhaps I won't.

But hopefully, at some point in the future, I'll be sitting down to the simple but hearty fare we call dinner in an intentional community of leathermen. After dinner, we'll hang in the refectory or relax in the hot tub, and at 10 p.m., the dungeons open up.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Violins In The Media

I like my mornings quiet. Not so, alas, my father. He stumbles out of bed and turns on the television. Hence, I love getting up before my dad.

Usually, his early morning television choice is CNN. The local area cable channel--are they trying to immitate SCTV, or are they for real?--can't quite fill all the time given to them apparently, so in the mornings, they broadcast something called "Classic Arts Showcase." Sometimes, that's his option. And I love that. As I type, my father and I are watching an avant-garde film from the '20s made by Man Ray.

They usually start out with Strauss and Haydn and things get a little bit less accessible. (This Man Ray thing is pretty interesting, eliciting a comment of "What the hell is going on now?" from my dad.)

Anyway, they just showed a film featuring Kronos Quartet. I love Kronos Quartet! Back in the '90s, I saw this really cool thing where an arts cinema showed Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" while the Kronos Quartet provided a live soundtrack. It was pretty amazing. That was the first time I had seen Metropolis in its entirety. (Get a load of me! My only exposure to "Metropolis" up until then was in a Queen video.)

Man Ray has fun with
light, shadow, swimmers, movement..
"Makes no sense," says dad.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Good Friday

An hour isn't a very long time. When you're watching an episode of Supernatural, for instance, it goes pretty fast. Especially when the older brother spends a considerable amount of time on screen tied in a chair and gagged. And if you do like I do, and not fall for the trick of going along with the "well that's over!" that they always do because you see with a glance at the clock that there aren't two minutes left to the episode but fifteen so you know the demon or whatever is gonna pop up again, then the hour flies right by.

But when you spend an hour with God, time slows down and every moment is comparatively jam packed.

Last Sunday after church, I signed up for the vigil at the Altar of Repose. After Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the consecrated host is removed to the little chapel down around the side of the church. When the altar party gets back from that particular mission, they start to strip the church, and I've described plenty on here how much that effects me, seeing the church turned into a big building, hard to heat. The folks who say 'God is dead' are right when they say that for a couple of days every year.

My shift for the vigil was from 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Thursday night. I drove to church, not passing a single car on the way till I got into Doylestown, parked in the lot, entered through the side door, and took a seat. The chapel was lit only by candles. Along with the consecrated host, wrapped up and sitting on the altar, several of the altar cloths were folded about the room, and all the plants--palms, daffodils, the odd philodendron--had been deposited here as well.

The shifts were staggered so there were always two people there, so I overlapped with a woman doing the midnight to 1 a.m. shift and a guy doing the 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. shift. (Although he was late, so for fifteen minutes, I had the place to myself.

I started out whispering Compline to myself from the Book of Common Prayer.

Such a beautiful office. By far my favorite. Such poetry in there.

"Keep watch, Dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen."

That is my favorite prayer, committing to God's care all of humanity. I especially love the "shield the joyous" part. That's sublime.

And then, I just sort of went with that. I started out with thanksgiving, offering my gratitude for all the gifts God has given me. For my life, for my health and strength, for my mind, for the material things I have. But mostly, of course, for the people God has put in my life. The list went on and on. One by one, names and faces floated into my head. I felt all but overwhelmed.

For no good reason, I thought of hot tub guy. More than most, he really seems to me to have sort of airdropped into my life by God. And I feel blessed by that.

I moved on to remembering the people I love who have died. My sister (always first on that list), my mother, my stepmother, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, friends, my lover Terry... Sitting there in the dark chapel, I felt particularly close to them, feeling their presence, as if they were only at the other side of a curtain.

I prayed for all of our troops serving over in Iraq and Afganistan. So much suffering. So much terrible loss. And for the people who live in those countries, the children who are growing up amid violence and bloodshed. A terrible, terrible world we live in.

Almost as an afterthought, I threw in a couple of intentions for myself. I asked God for strength, for wisdom, for a kind heart, to bring a healing Christ into a broken world, to be an instrument of God's peace.

And, guiltily, I asked for something purely for myself: for what I quaintly termed a "special relationship." Qualified, of course, with "if it is Your will" and that kind of thing. Don't attribute that so much to humility on my part; mostly I think it's about how I don't quite want to admit to myself how much I long for that and want that.

Towards the end, I sat quietly. Just watching the candles burn, the shadows flicker on the wall. I sank into sleep once or twice. (Saint Theresa of Avìla said that's just fine, so that's good enough for me.) I noticed my watch and found that I had overstayed my welcome by twenty minutes. I girded up my loins and headed back out into the cold, dark night, driving home in silence with the radio off.

It was easily 2:30 before I went to sleep. And an odd thing this morning. At 8:00 a.m., I was wide awake, an hour and a half before the alarm went off.

And I woke up full of self-recrimination: stupid, stupid, stupid. Specifically, I was thinking about when I split with my Ex and the brownstone we owned together was sold. And my portion was $65,000. And with that, I made a huge mistake, and purchased a condo down in Fort Lauderdale. Renovations quickly became a money pit, and at an association meeting I missed, it was decided to redo all the common areas of the complex and landscape the grounds and pave the driveway with gold or something, and the association fees went from $210 a month to something like $650. Not to mention my mortgage. I couldn't keep up with the payments, and about the time I moved back here had to sell at a loss.

And the thought running through my head this morning was this: you should have taken that money and gone back to school.

And I should have.

Now, I realize full well that's all proverbial spilled milk at this point. But I used those extra hours added to my day to poke about on the interweb looking at the offerings of colleges and universities within driving distance, and putting some thought into what I might study.

On the one hand, I'm not working right now. On the other hand, I have not a lot of revenue to cover the costs of education.

But still... If I could do anything, what would I do?

I started a load of laundry when my father got up, and headed down to the post office in Point Pleasant to pick up the mail, then did some things around the house.

Good Friday is supposed to be a day of fasting and penitence, somber and quiet. Tonight, again, was church.

At 2 p.m., I was cleaning the kitchen. (Long overdue.) My phone rang. It was hot tub guy.

"What are you doing?" he asked. I told him I was cleaning up all the mouse droppings on the counter in my kitchen.

"Better idea," he said, "come on down. I have the day off and we can hang out."

And so I did.

Okay okay okay! So I cut church! So sue me!

But there's a little bit of a coinky-dink going on there, no? Although we've talked on the phone plenty, I haven't seen hot tub guy since December. And last night, I felt so moved when I prayed about him.

So there I was, shooting down I-95.

We met up at his place in Fishtown. I called when I was getting close. As I drove down his block, I saw this guy come out of his building. From a distance, he looked way hot. I pulled into the first parking space that presented itself and hustled to get a closer look at this fine specimen.

Who turned out to be none other than hot tub guy, come to meet me.

We spent the afternoon and evening together. Nothing special. We went to a Greek restaurant on Pine Street he likes, then walked up to Brew-Ha-Ha on 12th and sat talking over a latté (for me) and hot chocolate (for him). We caught each other up on what we've been up to.

And the conversation took an interesting turn. We started talking about this haunted, supernatural world we live in. About night visitors and those strange entities that populate our dreams. Beings that we experience as being far too real to call them hallucinations or delusions. I talked about how when I was writing my Great (Gay) American (Werewolf) Novel(la), it was the experience of Gary, the main character, visiting me every night, telling me "what happened next." And how, when I sensed that the story was drawing to a close, I realized with sadness that meant I wouldn't get to spend time with Gary. One night, driving home from somewhere, I conjured him in the back seat of my jeep, and we talked. I told him how much I was going to miss him, how much I had liked spending time with him, hearing his stories. He thanked me for listening, and said that he thought I had done justice to his tale, and that Vic, his... uh... significant other, thought so, too. (And Vic would be by far the harsher critic.) And I talked about Wolf, my spirit guide, who visits me from time to time. When he does, the rule is that I ask the questions, and Wolf gives the answers. When I start talking, Wolf goes away. "Since you seem to know so much, you don't need me, so no use me hanging around. See ya." And I'm left alone.

hot tub guy has his own Wolf. "Right," he added, "and he's never there when you need him, he only comes when you're ready for him to come, which is different."



I talked about my Demons of 4:30 In The Morning. Sometimes, when I'm under stress--and occasionally when I'm not--I'll suddenly be wide awake at 4:30 a.m., regardless what time I went to bed. Not 4:25. Not 4:40. I look at my alarm clock and see that it's 4:30 on the dot. And then they show up. I experience them as snakes, slithering out of the corners of the room, up under the covers and into bed with me, and whispering in my ears: "What if...? What will you do then? If you fail, you'll never recover from this. You'll end up alone. Abandoned."

It's terrible. Full of self-doubt. Undermining.

I once mentioned to Diabolique how my one phobia is of snakes. I'm terrified of snakes. If I come across a lenght of garden hose in the lawn, I'm screaming and jumping around.

Diabolique imparted a bit of shamanic wisdom: That means you have something you have to learn from them.

I thought about my whips, how whips resemble snakes.

And later, I remembered the Demons Of 4:30 In The Morning.

And the next time they showed up, I welcomed them. "So what do you have to teach me?" I asked them.

And I learned a lot that night.

And still got a good night's sleep.

And I mentioned waking up this morning. And why. The anger at myself for squandering that opportunity. About wanting to go back to school.

"Well why don't you?" asked hot tub guy, "Y'know people go back to school who don't have $65,000 dropped in their laps. You get a student loan."

I thought student loans were just for high school students, I responded, and realized how wrong that sounded as the words came out of my mouth.

"Talk to an admissions counselor," hot tub guy advised, "they know about those things."

Yes, they do.

And yes, I will.

We headed back to hot tub guy's apartment. hot tub guy has a beautiful apartment. Filled with plants and candles. It's not minimalist, but there definitely is a fine sense of curatorship that went into it. It's such a wonderful place to be.

Together, we watched last year's King Kong on cable. Maybe not what I wanted to see. Since it's all about life-changing love.

Although it doesn't turn out well.

But sometimes life-changing love is like that.

I love hot tub guy.

Not in the same way I loved him oh those many months ago, wanting to possess him, wanting (needing!) the security of making him Mine.

But just loving him, pure and simple, for the man he is. And being grateful that God has put him in my life.

King Kong was over. We hugged and kissed goodbye. I went downstairs, got in my jeep, and drove home up I-95.

Even though I missed church tonight (the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Solemn Collects, the Veneration of the Cross, the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified), I'm not quite feeling like I missed anything.

Today was a Holy Day.

Spring feels like winter,
but like the crocuses, love
pops up everywhere.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cleveland Rocks!

Yay. Yay! YAY!

I am going to CLAW. I've wanted to get to CLAW for years now. Such the great event. Never having been there, I base that on the following information...

1. Dennis and bob, who started the whole ball rolling, are two of the best guys you'd ever want to know.

2. There's no contest! Just good ol' SM and cammeraderie without the distraction of one of those goddamn annoying pageants going on.

3. There are "outings" built in. Tragically, because they're on the road this time, that won't include going to see the Cleveland Indians. (Hopefully, before I die, I'll get to see a baseball game in the middle of a block of seats filled with leathermen.) But, there will be museum trips, and there's always the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

4. It's in Cleveland! A million years ago, I had a night at the local leather watering hole, the Leather Stallion, that can only be described as Sick. And I mean that both as kids today use that word, as high praise, and in the more conventional sense.

5. I can drive there. Unlike SmokeOut in Vegas and Wet'n'Wild in Palm Springs. That means that if the opportunity presents itself, I can lay 200 lbs of chain secured with padlocks on some hot men.

And it gets better! I have been asked to do a workshop on flagellation! I only have 45 minutes, so as much as I'd like it to be a hands-on thing, I'll be lucky if I get time to do a decent demo. But it's certainly a subject near and dear to my heart, and I'm definitely gonna give it my all.

So if you have plans that weekend, cancel'em. Whatever you have going on, you'll have way more fun in Cleveland.

There on Lake Erie
Leathermen gather for fun,
even with no baseball.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Steamin' Pork

Aa-Ooo! I found local batting cages! And really nice batting cages, too. In this industrial park about 20 miles south of me. I found the place without too much trouble, gave them ten bucks for twelve tokens, and after waiting for some kids to vacate, spent the next hour hitting balls.

It was so cool. Having the balls come at me one after the other allowed me to concentrate on different aspects of my swing. As it was the middle of the day on a Wednesday, I practically had the whole place to myself. But then, this other guy showed up. I was feeling pretty flagged and so we alternated in use of the cage. He was a shaggy guy, wearing a tshirt and cut-off jeans spattered with spackling. Luckily, he wasn't a whole lot better than me, and he gave me some pointers, such as, "don't go after the ball, just sit back and let it come to you. By my last round of eightteen balls, only two got by me, and had they been sent my way by an actual pitcher as opposed to a machine, I wouldn't have swung on them. (And I've got a good eye for that.)

Sweaty and sore, I called it a day. A great workout for only $16, all things considered.

And I headed for Starbucks in Doylestown.

I enjoyed a latté and read through the Times, and as I was preparing to leave, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a new-to-me member of the local constabulary. And damn! This guy--solid, beefy, sporting a high-n-tight--was right out of something from Stationhouse Videos. And whaddya know! I had an excuse to talk to him!

Y'see, my father gets all of these solicitations from these alleged police associations, asking for $20 in return for which they'll provide you with a nice sticker to ugly up your ride. Back in NYC, several shakedown artists worked this ploy, until the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association made it known that money given to these groups did not, in fact, benefit police officers in any way. And I wanted to ask him if any of them were legit. He greeted me with a "Hiya, Buddy!" and I asked him if he had a second for a question. It turned out he was actually on a call, taking care of a miscreant youth who was using the bathroom of Starbucks without having earned that privilege with the purchase of a Starbucks beverage. After said miscreant youth was hauled off to get locked up (I'm totally serious, they take that reeeeally serious here in Doylestown), this smokin' slab of man-meat in blue serge said, "I'm sorry, now what was your question?"

I asked, and he answered. I didn't hear a thing he said, I was way too busy drinking him in with my eyes. Quite the sight to behold. My appreciative (and probably pretty obvious) eye-balling of this police officer screeched to a halt when I got to his little brass name badge. It read, "HOTHAM."

Now, possibly he pronounces that to rhyme with "gotham," or even to rhyme with "bottom," but of course, what went careening around in my cerebral cortex was "Hot Ham."

So lost was I in reverie that without my being aware of it, the words, "You sure are!" came out of my mouth.

"'Scuse me?" he asked, more perplexed than beligerent.

"You've sure been helpful," I offered.

And by the way, I got to watch him put the handcuffs on the youthful miscreant. That was pretty sweet. Although probably not for the youthful miscreant. (I wonder if he ever got a chance to use the bathroom or if he still had to piss. And how bad he had to piss.) And I couldn't help thinking how nice it would be to have the opportunity to cuff Officer Hot Ham. And ball gag him. And put his nightstick way up his hole.


Hot Ham. And with Easter coming up, I have quite the taste for ham.

Just what is involved
in you pledge to protect and
to serve, Officer?

Verka Berserka!

I want to be a back-up dancer for Verka Serduchka! Verka will be representing Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest (that used to be parodied on The Benny Hill Show, which is the only way I know about it). This has proved controversial in her native Ukraine, as many Ukrainians question the sagacity of having an enormous draq queen representing their proud homeland on the European stage. I think it's wild that a mere fifteen years after the Wall came down, the U.S. is apparently falling behind in the worldwide strategic fabulousness race.

The New World Order
made me a drag queen, so I
made the world my stage.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007



You didn't like 300, huh? Didn't really get it? Couldn't quite understand what was going on? You were all like, "Oh! This is so violent!", huh?


Perhaps you're Homoerotically Challenged, a terrible condition afflicting many, leaving them unable to detect sexual tension between men, even when it hits them right in the face.

Fortunately for you, there's now a cure!


Six hundred pecs and
one thousand eight hundred abs
if you do the math.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Giggling While Shopping

Grocery shopping tonight at SuperFresh Stoopid Fresh in Doylestown, I ran across that a placard announcing that the employee of the month for March was someone named Bunny Hassler.

What were her parents thinking? That poor woman! What hell she must have gone through in grade school. Could even her teachers keep a straight face? I refuse to believe that anyone could love a man that much to add that name to her own when she married him.

You're a team player
and never late, but please, let
those rabbits alone

Plane--commercial, commercial, commercial--t Earth

At the recommendation of just about everybody I know, I've tuned into Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel. And absolutely the photography is amazing. Just breathtaking. The manager of my softball team hates the narration provided by Sigourney Weaver, but I don't mind it too much. Even though she says "Wudder," as in the basis for all life and what there isn't a lot of in the desert.

But what's totally getting to me is all the commercials! Sigourney gets out maybe eight sentences before they cut to a commercial. I'm guessing the making of Planet Earth cost quite a lot of money and they gotta pay for it somehow. At least they aren't doing what Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom used to do, where just as the cheetah started to give chase to the impala, they'd do a commercial break. But I may very well wait for it to come out on DVD.

The price you pay for
seeing nature is having
to watch commercials

Our Hymns And Prayers And Anthems


(Well, to me anyway...)

Today is Palm Sunday. I am about to plunge headlong into Holy Week. For my Episcopalian heart and mind, this is one terrific ride. Friends of mine are often exasperated with my taste in movies. I'll watch just about anyting, but I prefer comedies (not romantic) and mindless action movies. I dislike irony in movies. Or bathos. And I like to be titilated (Vin "Chained at my feet, drenched in my piss" Diesel in xXx wearing handcuffs and threatened with his life by the bad guy was perfect), but I don't favor explicit sexuality.

"But... That doesn't fit... You quote Andrew Marvell when you're seducing guys... You've read Joyce's Ullysses..."

Perhaps it's because I've been through a lot of Holy Weeks in my life.

How to describe for those who have never experienced?

Holy Week is essentially an opportunity to participate in the Passion and death and resurrection of Christ. Like Mel Gibson's movie (which I haven't seen), only You. Are. There.

On Thursday, we'll gather in the church. Things will be pretty much normal. La-di-dah. Only there's the washing of feet. Right up there on the altar, the priest will was the feet of several folks from the congregation. And it's actual foot washing. As in, take off your shoes and socks, and here's this warm water and a basin. But then, after the service, while we all sit there, the church will be stripped bare. Violently. Abruptly. All the flowers and vestments and candles and crosses are removed. Everything is taken out. The Host is taken down to a small chapel. For the next twenty-four hours, in one hour shifts, we'll all be keeping vigil, sitting all through the night in the chapel. When it's all over, the lights go on, and you're sitting in a big empty room. The church is no longer a church. God is dead. It's just a big building that's hard to heat and air-condition. Friday there's another service. Again way toned down. No music. The church is still bare. It concludes with the adoration of the cross. Up on the altar, they hold up a big wooden cross with a silver Jesus in agony hung on it. One by one, people from the congregation go up, and confront it, close up. Some people just stand silently in front of it, maybe crossing themselves. Some people will touch it with their fingertips. Nutjobs like me get down on their hands and knees and press their lips to the wood of the cross. Then we all go home. Okay. So then there's Saturday. Saturday night, at 9 p.m., is the Great Vigil of Easter. When we all go into the church, there's almost no light at all. At the back of the church, a spark is struck, and then a fire--as in, an actual fire!--is kindled. And candles are lit. Everyone in the congregation is provided with a candle, and from the Paschal Candle at the back, two candles are lit, and the people bearing those candles spread out, and start lighting other candles, and when your candle is lit, you light the candles of the people, till soon, the church is filled with light from the candles, all started with the lighting of the Paschal candle. Then there are readings of passages from the Bible, the Creation, the Valley of the Dry Bones... And like three hundred more. It takes a while. Slowly the light comes up, and then the announcement is made: "Alleluia! Christ is Risen!" To which we all reply, "The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia!" And then when we all sing the Gloria, we take bells out of our pockets and ring them.

Say wha...?

Yeah, that's what I'm looking forward to.

See what's going on there? Thursday night is the Last Supper, when Christ washed the feet of his apostles. After celebrating Passover together, they go to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus asks them to wait while he prayes. (That's the vigil through the night part.) In the Garden, Jesus is arrested and ordered to be put to death. That's the stripping of the church. Friday is the crucifixion. And lemme tell ya, the Good Friday service really feels like that, like it must have felt for the people who had been with him all through his preaching and teaching, watching him there, hanging on the cross. I'm so shaken up by Good Friday. Always.

And then, when we come into the church on Saturday and it's all dark? That's because we're there in the tomb with Jesus. Who's dead. And that spark that lights the fire, and the light that spreads out? That's Christ rising from the dead.

Next Saturday night, there I'll be, tears streaming down my face, wildly ringing my bell as I sing, "Glory to God in the highest! And peace to his people on earth!"

So after going through that year after year, most of what passes for "heavy drama" in Hollywood movies just falls short.

I'm an Episcopalian. We know drama.

Here's the haiku:

I pause, motionless:
my own Oberammergau
is soon to begin.

April Is The Coolest Month

It's April! Also known as National Poetry Month. Which I love.

A few years ago, I committed myself to posting here a different poem for every day in the month of April. And that was a hell of a lot of work. I'm not taking that on again. But I do have an idea. During the month of April, all of my posts will include a haiku summarizing that post, sort of a poetic telegraph to all my blah-blah-blah. That should keep my brains from turning to mush, at least for the next thirty days.

A haiku, as we know, is a poem consisting of three lines with a specific number of syllables in each line. According to the classic Japanese rules, the haiku should have a reference to the seasons or some other natural phenomenon. I'll abide by the syllable count, but I make no promises as to the season or natural phenomenon reference.

So here's the first one:

First five syllables,
then seven, then five again
while daffodils bloom.