My Week Spot

Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully, you can find something worthwhile on these pages. I am so grateful for all of the responses you have sent, and I am deeply touched by the fact that my random gleanings have had an impact on so many of you.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Valentine's Day, That Great State Holiday

(One year ago, Bill Maher made these comments on gay marriage. His thoughts are even more on point and hysterically funny now.)

NEW RULE: You can't claim you're the party of smaller government, and then clamor to make laws about love. If there's one area I don't want the US government to add to its list of screw-ups, it's love.

On the occasion of this Valentine's Day, let's stop and ask ourselves: What business is it of the state how consenting adults choose to pair off, share expenses, and eventually stop having sex with each other?

And why does the Bush administration want a constitutional amendment about weddings? Hey, birthdays are important, too - why not include them in the great document? Let's make a law that gay people can have birthdays, but straight people get more cake - you know, to send the right message to kids.

Republicans are always saying we should privatize things, like schools, prison, Social Security - OK, so how about we privatize privacy? If the government forbids gay men from tying the knot, what's their alternative? They can't all marry Liza Minnelli.

Republicans used to be the party that opposed social engineering, but now they push programs to outlaw marriage for some people, and encourage it for others. If you're straight, there's a billion-five in the budget to encourage and promote marriage - including seed money to pay an old Jewish woman to call up people at random and say "So why aren't you married, Mr. Big Shot?"

But when it comes to homosexuals, Republicans sing "I Love You Just the Way You Oughta Be." They oppose gay marriage because it threatens or mocks - or does something - to the "sanctity of marriage," as if anything you can do drunk out of your mind in front of an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas could be considered sacred. Half the people who pledge eternal love are doing it because one of them is either knocked-up, rich or desperate, but in George Bush's mind, marriage is only a beautiful lifetime bond of love and sharing - kind of like what his Dad has with the Saudis.

But at least the right wing aren't hypocrites on this issue - they really believe that homosexuality, because it says so in the Bible, is an "abomination" and a "dysfunction" that's "curable": they believe that if a gay man just devotes his life to Jesus, he'll stop being gay - because the theory worked out so well with the Catholic priests.

But the greater shame in this story goes to the Democrats, because they don't believe homosexuality is an "abomination," and therefore their refusal to endorse gay marriage is a hypocrisy. The right are true believers, but the Democrats are merely pretending that they believe gays are not entitled to the same state-sanctioned misery as the rest of us. The Democrats' position doesn't come from the Bible, it's ripped right from the latest poll, which says that most Americans are against gay marriage.

Well, you know what: Sometimes "most Americans" are wrong. Where's the Democrat who will stand up and go beyond the half measures of "civil union" and "hate the sin, love the sinner," and say loud and clear: 'There IS no sin, and homosexuality is NOT an abomination' - although that Boy George musical Rosie O'Donnell put on comes close. The only thing abominable about being gay is the amount of time you have to put in at the gym.

But that aside, the law in this country should reflect that some people are just born 100 percent outrageously, fabulously, undeniably Fire Island gay, and that they don't need re-programming. They need a man with a slow hand.

Happy Valentine's Day everybody!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In memorium

"It is easier to believe than to think. You must think about what you believe."

Kit Carter's last words - November 24, 2004. We miss you, Kit.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Stanzi will turn 15 on March 1st. At her age, sleep takes up most of the day. Posted by Hello

Stanzi is my Wheaten Terrier. She is quite simply the greatest dog God ever made. Posted by Hello

Soprano Jokes

(The Divas, not the Mobsters)

If you threw a violist and a soprano off a cliff, which one would hit the ground first?
The violist. The soprano would have to stop halfway down to ask directions.


What's the difference between a soprano and a terrorist?
You can negotiate with a terrorist.

What's the difference between a soprano and a pit bull?
The lipstick.

How many sopranos does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. She holds the bulb and the world revolves around her.
Two. One to hold the diet cola and the other to get her accompanist to do it.
Four. One to change the bulb and three to pull the chair out from under her.


What's the difference between a Wagnerian soprano and a Wagnerian Tenor?
About 10 pounds.

What is the difference between a soubrette and a cobra?
One is deadly poisonous, and the other is a reptile.

How do you tell if a Wagnerian soprano is dead?
The horses seem very relieved.

What's the first thing a soprano does in the morning?
Puts on her clothes and goes home.

What's the next thing a soprano does in the morning?
Looks for her instrument.

What's the difference between a soprano and a Porsche?
Most musicians have never been in a Porsche.

What's the definition of an alto?
A soprano who can sightread.

A jazz musician dies and goes to heaven. He is told "Hey man, welcome! You have been elected to the Jazz All-Stars of Heaven--right up there with Satchmo, Miles, Django, all the greats. We have a gig tonight. Only one problem--God's girlfriend gets to sing."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I am what I am

One of the hardest things to do in a constantly changing world is stay centered. 21st century realities demand constant adaptation. Careers that used to span a lifetime now seem to begin and end over night. “Long-term” relationships are often measured in something (much) less than years. Many of use have lived in several places in our lives, each move allowing and requiring self-redefinition. Madonna may be the master of reinvention, but we all have to do our share of it.

In fact, the only constant is change. Some changes are dramatic: death, marriage or a new job. Others are more subtle: a new friend, a receding hairline or a tooth replaced by a crown. Most day to day changes are trivial: a flattering shirt that gets coffee stained, a missed bus or a thought-provoking Blog. But, each change forces us to view the world differently, to accept a revised definition of “normal.”

The more transient the world becomes, the more I value those things which last. Family. Old friends. Antique furniture. Old master paintings. Classical music. While I don’t pretend that anything is permanent in this world, these things have stood the test of time and somehow seem more worthwhile to me than ephemera. That often puts me at odds with gay culture; I have no tattoos, no piercings and no Gwen Stefani CD’s.

But in the final analysis, the only reality we carry with us throughout our lives is ourselves. Sometimes this is easy to forget, because we get so busy adapting to new environments. For all the adjustments, we are still the same person. Only by holding on to who we were, can we keep track of who we are.

My career as a singer has encompassed many different styles of music: theater, pops, opera, oratorio, liturgical and cabaret, plus more than a few Temple High Holy Days. I haven’t sung in a rock band yet, but who knows? Each type of music requires a slightly (sometimes dramatically) different vocal technique. Even within the same style, different conductors can have vastly different tastes.

Since moving to Chicago in 1996, I have worked primarily as a choral bass, in contrast to my prior background as a solo baritone. This has necessitated that I expand my range downward (I use my low D’s frequently). I also have taken much of the “ring” out of the voice, in order to blend in the choral setting. These were not so much conscious choices, as pragmatic adaptations to the requirements of each gig.

Then, last week I had a coaching session with Patrick Sinozich, a friend and colleague from Grant Park Chorus and Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. He is a brilliant diagnostician and a constructive and supportive tutor. He immediately identified the techniques that I had adapted (rightly or wrongly) for choral singing which were not my best voice for solo singing. Specifically, he was missing the ring in my voice.

As we worked, my singing improved in quantum leaps. I was seeing improvements immediately that singers study voice for years to achieve, simply by changing my thinking about how I was singing. Everything became easier, particularly the high notes. It physically felt better, always a good sign in singing. It was much more fun for me, and probably much more fun to listen to, if only because I was enjoying singing more.

I was not discovering a new way to sing, but reconnecting with the way I used to sing. It had been so many years since I had sung that way; I had come to believe I couldn’t do it anymore. I thought age (and martinis) had robbed me of my ability to sing with that ease and clarity of tone. My voice is obviously a little different from what it was years ago, but its essence has remained remarkably constant.

Singing this way brought back a flood of memories, like having my life flash before my eyes. I remembered who I had been in my prior life. (That may sound like Shirley MacLaine talking, but it’s true). I remembered roles, performances, venues, mentors, directors, conductors, coaches, and even extremely patient choreographers. I remembered the friendships I made. All happy memories.

Over the years, there have been some who liked my singing, and some who disliked it. I tried to develop as versatile a technique as possible, so that I could be useful in as many situations as possible. I always prided myself on being able to provide whatever was required by the impresario del giorno.

But attempts at versatility ignore that fact that my voice is what it is. I may try to vary it: larynx up or down, brighter or darker tone, louder or softer, more or less vibrato, crisper consonants or more legato. In the end, the essence of my voice remains more or less the same. And that’s OK. Actually, that’s pretty special.

Reconnecting to the past has been very centering. Reconnecting to a happy past has been particularly edifying, like a warm homecoming. Plus, reunion with my prior self is enabling a much more confident approach to the future. Thank you for that, Patrick.

Now, I’m going through my closet, trying on clothes I haven’t worn in a long time. Some of them look pretty good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Top Ten Bush Quotes

10) "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." —LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

9) "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." —Greater Nashua, N.H., Jan. 27, 2000

8) "I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft." —second presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004

7) "You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.'' —Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

6) "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." —Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

5) "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." —Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

4) "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." —Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

3) "They misunderestimated me." —Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

2) "Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" —Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

1) "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." —Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

Monday, January 24, 2005

This was the view Sunday afternoon from my living room window. Even amid all the harsh weather, winter can be surprisingly beautiful.  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Blue State Blues

The thinking (nearly) half of the population is feeling pretty blue this Inauguration Day. Like most GLBT's, I'm feeling downright scared. But, take heart! Here's my list of reasons not to slit my wrists, leave the country, return to the closet or otherwise give up.

1. We always get more accomplished during repressive regimes. During Clinton, we got the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask/Don't Tell. During W, we got overturning all sodomy laws and the first legal marriages of same-sex couples. Never underestimate the power of being the underdog in this country.

2. All of the prior attempts to stack the Supreme Court have failed. The reason: Justices serve for life. They don't have to kowtow to any constituency once they have the job. The majority of justices who voted to overturn sodomy laws were appointed by Republicans for their "conservative" beliefs. Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences.

3. W has created such an unholy mess with his idiotic foreign policy. Now, he's going to have to clean up after himself. Never underestimate the power of bad potty training.

4. We are divided into two camps in this country. Those who live by intellect, and those who live by faith. When I was growing up, the goal was to live by both. Now the faithful have no intellect, and the intellectuals have no faith. But both sides CAN evolve into something more integrated. Never underestimate the power of synthesis.

5. Finally, America ultimately responds to HOPE. Bush was elected on the basis of FEAR. In West Virginia, Republicans received mailings saying that Democrats were going to ban the Bible. In Florida, Hispanics received mailings saying that Democrats were anti-Catholic -- conveniently ignoring the fact that our candidate was Catholic. Fear of terrorism. Fear of a change in leadership during wartime. Even fear of that most dreaded of all evils - Gay Marriage!!! But fear never creates any progress, which is why we Americans tire of fear so quickly. Never underestimate the power of HOPE.

The next successful candidate will be the one who leads the country out of fear, into hope. Let's work our asses off to make sure that person is on our side next time.

Pandora’s Consolation

It’s been almost 30 years since I was in Junior High, but some days it feels like I never left. Junior High is a trying time for most kids: raging hormones, peer pressure, acne. But for some of us, Junior High was a living nightmare.

Pizitz Middle School was my second home for 6th through 8th grade. 1973-1975 was post-Stonewall, but that just made things worse. In Birmingham, Alabama, before Stonewall, everyone pretended there was no such thingas homosexuality. After, it was the greatest evil a person could commit. Being called a “homo” was worse than being called a thief, a rapist or a murderer.

I tried desperately to be closeted. Actually, I tried to be invisible. But the bullies were onto me. I got beaten up almost daily. I had very few friends. My day was divided into two sections – P/E and the time I spent dreading P/E.

As bad as it was for me, Dean Rainer had it the worst. Because of a series of extremely unfortunate events, he was suspected of being gay and rumors about his sexuality quickly became common knowledge. He was regularly mocked by everyone – including the school principle in a student convocation! He was being held up to all the rest of us as an example. “This is what we do to fags.”

Those wounds were deep, and the implications were tragic. Fear of loving. Fear of being unlovable. Fear a rejection from parents, siblings, friends, teachers, clergy, everyone that I loved. Fear of living. Fear that I would never be entitled to all the basic joys of life: god, family, marriage, children, respect, career options. Essentially, I thought that I would have no life, no liberty and no pursuit of happiness.

Today is Inauguration Day. And I feel like I am right back in Junior High. For the first time in years, I am actually afraid to be gay. However, ……

There is a huge difference between now and then. I was wimp in Junior High. No more. Now, I'm a dirty-fighting, bitch-slapping, take-no-prisoners, shrieking-in-your-face Cruella DeVille with nine inch nails. And I am pissed off. Now, I won't be bullied.
I’m working hard for the Human Rights Campaign (Federal Club Member, thank you), Lamda Legal, Chicago Gay Men's Chorus and anyone else I can find to productively channel my anger through. Most of my free time, most of my free money, most of my energy and most of my thoughts are about how to make this world VERY different from the f#%ked-up place it is today.

Like many others, my first impulse after the election was to leave. Go to Canada. Amsterdam. Paris. But that was Junior High thinking. What if all the Stonewall rioters had just packed up and gone quietly to jail? What if Lawrence and Garner had not stood up to the state of Texas when they were arrested and had not taken their case to the Supreme Court (ultimately, resulting in the elimination of all sodomy laws)?

Mostly, what about my ballet-dancing, organ-playing 15-year-old nephew Kevin who might be gay? What about all those other kids who are gay? Who is going to leave the world a better place for them if I give up? I had to grow up in a hostile environment with no mentors; I don’t want any more kids to have to endure that.

So, I’m fighting back. OK ... Now I’m feeling a little less scared. Maybe even a little hopeful.