Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Morning

I like the coffee too, but lately... it's all about the tea.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Department of Why Some of Us Are Still Single

Today's New York Times article about dating-apartment horrors was incredibly entertaining; I also found many of the reader comments quite hilarious. I also think it's pretty cool how at least one same-sex couple was included in the profiles as a matter of course; that kind of thing is actually a big deal if you think about it. I'm not sure they are always as conscious of that kind of inclusivity in the Des Moines Register or the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, though I could be wrong on that.

My own personal litmus test (I'm there, comment #77) would be the absence of books. I am fairly stunned when an individual doesn't own a single book. I don't know that I've ever gone back to the apartment of un amoureux and found it bookless, but I did once have a roommate who didn't seem to own any books (actually, I think he had one, but I'm not sure if that was just a gift or something). I find this creepy.
So, how about you, three faithful readers? What discoveries in a potential mate's apartment would send you sprinting for the door?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ah! Who can that be?

I took the opportunity last night to see for a second time the entertaining French film, Avenue Montaigne (or Fauteuils d'Orchestre), since it opened in general release and friend J. hadn't seen it yet. I enjoyed it a lot during the SB Film Festival in January and wanted to see it again.

I'd almost classify it as a "light, frothy springtime romp set in a chic Parisian neighborhood," but it's a bit more than that. Somewhat serious and literate, dealing with themes of death, love, life, and livelihood, but also very lighthearted. No chance of courting depression with this one. Definitely not to be confused with the films of les frères Dardenne or Michael Haneke. Seriously, The Piano Teacher is a nightmare (I did not really enjoy watching Isabelle Huppert sniffing cum-soaked Kleenex plucked off the floor of an adult bookstore booth -- yes, for reals; she was much more entertaining teasing Mark Wahlberg with "la Force" in I (Heart) Huckabees, but I digress...). I'm curious about Elfriede Jelenik since she won the Literature Nobel, but I'm not sure her work would be my cup of tea. Too bad, as I've been trying to figure out how to work more Austrian novelists into my reading list...

Anyway, Avenue Montaigne was fun, but just serious enough to make one "think about life" for about ten minutes, then go home and listen to an Edith Piaf CD (and do you doubt that I actually did that?).

In addition to starring the charming Cécile De France (who I must look for again in a closer viewing of another film I love, L'Auberge Espagnole), there were several scenes and little nuggets of dialogue that I really enjoyed:

- an elderly, widowed art collector, when explaining to his son (played by co-screenwriter Christopher Thompson, whom I find quite attractive) why he's selling his collection and has taken up with a youngish "golddigger" type of woman, says, "There comes a time in life when time passing becomes time remaining."

- A concert pianist, cracking under the pressure of an intolerable concert schedule playing to emotionally dead audiences and sufferring a sort of midlife crisis, pleads with his wife-manager to escape with him and imagine a life of "me giving piano lessons, a house by a lake... would you kill youself?", to which she replies "I don't know...".

- De France's character talks about metaphorically having found "a seat not too far back and not too close": a reference to a conversation that clarifies the film's French title, about theater audiences who are always seat hopping to get closer to the stage, until finally they're in the front row, where they can't see any of the action at all.

- Perhaps the best line, in which De France's character, Jessica, says: "There are two types of people in the world: those who, when their cellphone rings, say 'Now who the fuck is that?', and others, like me, who say, "Ah! Who can that be...?"

What can I say, I liked the bits of bubblegum philosophy tucked into this movie. I recommened seeing it if it comes to your neighborhood... or for your Netflix queue if it doesn't.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

I'm seriously feeling this song lately. Nice to know someone is sorta channelling the spirit of the late, great Ms. Nina Simone....

Will the last gay man please turn out the lights?

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, West, ran an interesting and rather touching article about the ongoing demise of the gay bar scene in Laguna Beach. The article brings up many issues related to what makes a "gay community", whether we're in a "post-ghettoization" era, and whether gentrification is resulting in gay businesses and residents being priced out of previously gay areas.

Laguna Beach isn't alone in its evolution. From South Beach to San Francisco, progress and economics are creating similar debates.

Though gay neighborhoods are thriving in some cities—Houston, for example—other, more settled enclaves are changing fast. The Castro district in San Francisco has had to make room for more and more straight families. In West Hollywood, straight college kids have infiltrated gay bars, sometimes by the busload, and one of the biggest concerns is what a city official has termed "heterosexualization."

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has watched the development with mixed feelings. "The loss of these enclaves does hurt and is something to be deeply concerned about," he says.

On the other hand, much of the change is being driven by inexorable forces. The Internet, he explains, has made it less important for gays and lesbians to go to special bars and communities to meet each other. And the once-blighted neighborhoods that were settled by gays—often because they felt unwelcome elsewhere—now are so gentrified, in many cases, that younger people can't afford them.

"Property values go up and straight families move in and gay people move on," Foreman says, "either because they want to capitalize on their investment or simply can't afford to live there anymore."

And underlying it all may be an even bigger factor: the power of acceptance, says UCLA demographer Gary Gates. The post-HIV era and the debate over same-sex marriage, he says, have brought about a major shift in public attitudes and "a fairly big coming-out process."

I don't have time right now to tackle all of the issues that this article brings up, but I found myself both pensive and somewhat sad and nostalgic reading it (though I've never once partaken in Laguna's gay scene).

Of course, Laguna has been a "gay spot" in a way that Santa Barbara has not been, but I couldn't help but feel some parallels to the situation here. There has not been a gay bar here in town for about two years now (since the closure of "Hades" on W. Montecito Street), and I believe there was a lack of any bar for a year or so prior to the opening of Hades.

I also certainly don't think that there will ever be massive shutterings of gay bars in big or even medium-sized cities as a result of whatever demographic or economic shifts are implied by this article. Certainly, specific businesses will come an go, but I don't think we have to worry about a Castro/Market corridor without even one gay bar (well, at least for a few more decades, until there's perhaps some much larger demographic shift).

However, this all makes me wonder what's happening in smaller towns and cities like Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach, and others. I suspect that perhaps there's not just one trend taking hold. I think of a place like Asbury Park, New Jersey, which has for a long time had a "gay vibe," but has actually seen several gay-oriented businesses spring up in the past few years (while the decades-old hole-in-the-wall bar "Down the Street," which survived the seediest of Asbury's years of urban decay, closed its doors almost a decade ago).

At the same time, I lament in some way the loss of a tiny, lowest-of-the-low-rent place like "The Gold Coast" in Santa Barbara, which saw its demise sometime around 1998 or 1999. One got the sense that it had barely changed since some time in the mid-1960s or early-1970s. In college, we made fun of its postage-stamp-sized "dance floor," the back billiard room that was covered by practically nothing more than a tarp, and the innumerable nights on which we left within five minutes of arriving, after declaring that "We've seen who's here" (referring to the entire population of four or five barstool habitués we found there). Still, I'm glad to have those memories to draw on. Do they represent an old fashioned "ghettoized" existence, or a lost era of side-street camaraderie? Or both?

The truth is, even if The Gold Coast still existed, I wouldn't be lending it my economic support by having a daily, or even weekly beer there. The bar scene (at least in Santa Barbara) is just "not my thing" and mostly never has been. Still, I think the town is missing out on something now that it is bereft of any exclusively gay venues. Then again, maybe the weekly Sunday "gay night" at a popular local club is enough. I'm just not in the scene enough to know.

Another quote from the above article, regarding an effort to save the "Boom Boom Room," now the only gay bar in Laguna, which is scheduled to close in Fall 2007:

"And when a town like Laguna Beach loses its gay soul, he asks, who'll be left to save it from total straightness?"
I still have to ponder whether a question like the above is one worth asking, or even whether "total straightness" is something from which to be "saved." I'm just not sure...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wisteria Friday

March in SoCal does have its merits. Let it never be said that my desire to return to New Jersey has anything to do with hating it here. Especially when my family were digging out from sleet and ice earlier this week.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday: My So-Called Life

Another mini-heatwave here on Sunday; must have been at least 80 degrees. Nice. (Remind me again why I'm trying to put a plan in place to move back to New Jersey within a year?)

Also, despite having had to do laundry, I was in a much better mood compared to my crankypants-fest on Saturday. Not sure exactly what that was about, but I spent a good part of the day in bed. With a pillow over my face.

Whatever. I'm blaming it on my adjustment to my new best friend, duloxetine, otherwise known by a name that sounds better suited to an orchestra's percussion section: Cymbalta.

Yes, I'm medicated. Believe me, everyone likes me better that way. Especially me. I think.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sing Me to Sleep. Then Leave Me Alone.

I have been So. Damn. Tired. all week. Maybe I need to start eating lighter lunches, because sometime around 2pm every day it's as if a wall of bricks has fallen on me.

It is going to feel SO good to sleep as late as I want tomorrow morning. And I'll probably crawl into bed well before 10pm tonight too.

It is official: I am elderly.

Deep in the cell of my heart I really want to go... z z z z z z z z

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Today is Tisdag

Another view this morning of the trees outside the building where I work:

So... sometimes I do stupid, incredibly nerdy things like write demented journal entries in Swedish, or poems, or just random things. Sometimes I like them, even though I don't think they're great. As other bloggers might say, I am unleashing my inner teenage girl through this blog sometimes. Anyway, a verse about "today":

vad är det då, för dag?
idag, jag lever
jag bor i världen
jag sjunger

jag bor här och där och där
och i dig
kom så tittar vi på solen
det är bara idag

Monday, March 05, 2007

Die ersten Pflaumen blühen bereits

One of my favorite annual simple pleasures at my job: two large old plum trees in front of the building. Although spring in California isn't nearly as sweet and welcome as in colder locales, these first blooms are always a delicate, sublime reminder that winter is yet again a dark memory.

Ces heures qui tuaient parfois...

Could my recent 39th birthday possibly have something to do with anything?

Il faut oublier tout peut s'oublier

Sigh. I'm not depressed at all, really. Just a little tired. But I'm feeling as if I should be depressed. Or horrified. Or mortified. Or something.

Instead, I start this day like any other, walking the five or six blocks through this town's Craftsman-populated "Upper East Side" to the bus stop. Zone out on the 101 and 217, arrive on campus at 7:45ish, walk to the office, eat the oatmeal, sip tea from the thermos, do at least a little bit of work and a little more fucking around on the internet, then wonder, "what the hell is there to write about."

I told my therapist on Friday that I've realized more than once in the past few years that I don't "see" anymore future to be excited about. That is, I feel like I once had plans for things that excited me: moving to Santa Barbara, getting a degree, studying abroad in Ghana. Those all involved long periods beforehand of planning, getting excited and scared at the same time, and anticipating.

For awhile now, it seems like the only thing I anticipate is whether I'll be putting the usual raisins in the oatmeal, or prunes for variety and excitement. Which is not to say I don't enjoy my life. It's just that it feels as though now that I'm weighed down by a Lily Bart-esque debt (though certainly far less than some friends of mine), all that's "on the horizon" is dragging myself to work to earn some money to try to make payments to whittle away (at a glacial pace) the financial monstrosity before me.

Which is not to say I don't enjoy my life. (Did I make myself clear? Shall I repeat that again to make sure I've you've got the message?) I'm amazed sometimes that I get to live where I live. I went for a walk late yesterday afternoon and I felt as if I were on vacation, even though I was within blocks of my apartment. I have friends with whom I frequently go to dinner and movies and coffee and have a great time. Why am I even thinking I need to enumerate all this stuff?

Does life need to be "exciting" the way it was when we were 22 or 23? Does the trajectory of life always need to be Citius! Altius! Fortius! in order for us to feel like we're "living up to our potential"? Is this a particularly American/Western obsession? I thought I cut through so much of that crap when I started "getting into the, like, Buddhism thing" of "Be Here Now" and all that. And yeah, all of that can be eyeroll-inducing, but I feel like the philosophy of Buddhism really helped me to enjoy what's happening now and not regret the past or overthink the future.

So why do I feel as though I'm killing time? Or, as a really wise peer told me at least ten years ago, "sitting in the Waiting Room."

Is it possible to self-actualize without a Trust Fund for educational expenses?


On a lighter note, I was supremely entertained by the following quote from an article in Sunday's Los Angeles Times about cloned beef and some of the science used to perpetuate the genetic line of particulary hardy or desirable breeding stock (it was a really good article; I very seriously loathe food-technology Luddites, even though some of my bests friends are in that camp):
UC Davis animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam pulled out a photo of a
stout, jet-black Chianina bull from Canute, Okla., named Full Flush — one of the
most sought-after sires of recent times.

"He was not able to satiate the desire for his semen," Van Eenennaam

Sounds like a promo tagline for Treasure Island Media.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

But It's Sure to Give Nonna's Gnocchi a Kick

From Wire Reports via Los Angeles Times

"A woman in a town near Naples, Italy, bought a sack of potatoes, put them into water to peel and discovered a dirt-covered hand grenade among them.

The explosive found by Olga Mauriello, 74, apparently was left over from World War II and was believed to have traveled with the potatoes from France, ANSA news agency reported."