The Truth About Paul

sc000bcfb9Today I read an article that a friend posted on Facebook about Daniel Dobson, the son of a prominent evangelical minister coming out as a gay Christian.  The person who posted the article is someone with whom I attended Bible college.  Most of you know that I graduated from Bible college, Ozark Christian College, in Joplin, Missouri, to be specific.  I entered in the fall of 1986 with a prayer that if I went to Bible college, God might help me not be gay.  I spent four years there and even still, I consider that period among the most formative of my lifetime.  There were many things I loved about Bible college.  I loved my friends, we laughed A LOT.  We prayed a lot and the spirit of the campus lent itself naturally to intimate relationships.  I myself have been out of the closet now for over 20 years and I still maintain friendships (thank you, Facebook!) with many of these people.

Reading about this Daniel Dobson made me harken back to my time at Ozark Christian College.  There was an incident that occured in my junior year that I will never forget.  There was a non-traditional student whom I’ll call Paul Fielding who was in his 30’s.  We were not close friends, but I liked him and I thought he was a funny guy.  One day, mid-semester, there was a rumor floating around campus that Paul had cancer and that he’d left immediately to go home to a state that was 1500 miles away from Missouri.  The next day, in several classes, teachers mentioned Paul’s illness and prayers were made.  In chapel (we had chapel services every Tuesday and Thursday) either the president or the dean of students made a special announcement about Paul’s cancer and again, a long prayer was made.  There was much talk of Paul’s illness, asking God for healing.  We never saw Paul again.

A few months later, I asked my friend whom I’ll call Matthew if he had spoken to Paul and if he knew how his cancer treatment was going.  Matthew and Paul had been good friends.  Matthew told me that Paul was doing well.  Then he asked me if I could keep a secret and  I said, “Of course, I can keep a secret!”  He then proceeded to tell me that Paul did not have cancer at all and he’d been expelled from Ozark for going to a gay bar.  (This is a gay bar??? I’m leaving just as soon as I finish my LEMON DROP!!)  He continued to tell me, and I must admit to the details being a little fuzzy, that he got caught by another student who was a prominent figure on campus, a performer in the college’s premier singing group who walked into the bar, saw Paul, got scared, went to school authorities, and ratted Paul out.  This other character, I’ll call him Luke, did not get expelled, although he was removed from the college’s premier singing group.  

When I meet people, I always assume that they assume that I’m gay.  I wear pink, I gesture a lot with my hands, I’m not above belting a Whitney tune.  I am a Chardonnay drinking, VW driving, bruschetta eating, 2(x)ist underwear wearing, Rupaul’s Drag Race watching gay stereotype.  It’s hard to remember a time when my biggest fear was someone finding out that I liked guys.  There were guys on campus that I suspected of being gay and I always kept my distance from them.  I remember the dean of students was a little mean to me and I thought it was because he knew what I knew and what I was afraid everyone knew.  So much torment over something I had no control over.

I still have so many questions about the entire Paul Fielding incident.  Were they cruel or compassionate when they asked him to leave? Who came up with the idea that the entire college faculty replace the word cancer for homosexuality every time they referred to Paul?  Isn’t that lying?  Did any faculty member consider going rogue with a “Guys, we should just tell the student body the truth!”? Did the school ever reach out to Paul in the aftermath?  Did Luke ever feel like an asshole for ratting Paul out?  Did Paul ever come to terms with his sexuality?  Does Luke still wrestle with his sexuality?  Would the event play out the same way if it happened today? And most importantly, why do I still care about this incident so much, 25 years after the fact?  

I do think I know the answer to the last one.  When I learned about about Paul’s eviction, my first thought was a fear that if anyone ever found out the truth about me, I would have not a place.  I would have been shipped off, written off with a cursory prayer.  In the matter of days, there was no more room for Paul at Ozark.  The thought of being kicked out terrified me.  Apparently it still terrifies the subconscious me because about every six months I have a dream that I’m in college and the administration has found out I’m gay and they’re expelling me.  So, well, make of that what you will.

I do have a few things I wish I could say to that 20 year old me who was sitting in his friend’s dorm room finding out the truth about Paul while struggling with his own sexuality.  Chiefly, it’s going to be okay.  You will become the person you feared becoming and you will be okay, better than okay.  Your life will be full of joy.  Your life will be full of love.  There will be a place for you.  You will have friends that will always be there for you.  And you will no longer wear that Coca-Cola shirt that you think you look so cute in.

 

Sentimental Fool

resized_Elizabeth_Taylor_in_Father_of_the_Bride_trailer1Clearly, I love Youtube.  I could and do spend hours watching different videos online.  When Jim and Pam got married on The Office, they had a wedding flash mob of sorts to Chris Brown’s Forever.  I did not realize until after the fact that it was an homage to another wedding flash mob by a real couple from 2009.  I watched it immediately.  I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats!  If you are the last person in the world who has not seen it, I’m posting it for you here.  It gets me every time!

I spent the evening searching for wedding flash mob videos.  I also found several videos of brides singing a song as they walk themselves down the aisle (with mixed results).  I loved this video of a bride singing The Prayer.  The bride’s got pipes, and I’ll admit she reminded me of a friend of mine, which made me like her more.

I found two wonderful Les Miserables wedding videos.  One American, the other Danish.  I couldn’t decide which of the two to post so I went over my lumpy editor’s head and decided, screw it, I’ll post both!  One Day More!  Which one is your favorite?

I found a few gay wedding entrances, too!  I don't even like Gaga anymore and this one still made me cry.  I'm a sucker for any video with a grandma dancing to Edge of Glory around a swimming pool in Palm Springs to show how much she loves her gay grandson!

Morning Swim

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If I’m lucky, every morning I start my day with a swim.  About four years ago, I joined a gym with access to an outdoor pool and ever since, swimming has been a regular part of my life. Because I swim, I tend to have a bit of a tan year round and at least once a day, someone will ask me where I got my tan.  I’ll tell them I swim regularly and they will always respond, “Oh, I loooove swimming.”  It amazes me how every time I start my first lap, I instantly feel like a child again.  I’m not a doctor or scientist, (insert best joke here) but I believe we love to swim because it subconciously reminds us of swimming in our mother’s bellies as fetuses.  Feel free to quote me on that.

The other reason I think we love swimming is that it’s sensual.  This blog adheres to a strict PG-13 guideline so I won’t elaborate too much further, but swimming is sexy.  People with attractive bodies look hot in swimsuits. 

I’ve compiled an album of swimming pools, please peruse, comment, if you feel compelled.  Summer’s here, it’s time to dive into the pool!

Edward Hopper

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When I was 22, I bought my first piece of “art” at a flea market while visiting Orange County, California on vacation.  It was a print of Gottfried Helnwein’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams.  Proudly, I carted the framed print back to my small Missouri town and hung it prominently on the living room wall in my apartment.  Every morning when I woke up and walked into the living room, I gazed happily at my purchase.  I’d look at the images of Marilyn and James Dean and Elvis and Bogart, trying to understand something great about art and myself.  I loved the picture because it reminded me of a painting I loved called Nighthawks that was one of the works of art in the childhood board game, Masterpiece.  

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Somewhere between 1990 and now, I did become a little more sophisticated in my relationship with art, though I will never be an art historian or expert.  I moved to New York in 1992 and spent a lot of time going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art and other New York museums where I discovered the works of American realist Edward Hopper with my own eyes.  For the longest time, I would tell people that Hopper was my favorite artist.  There is an exhibit that just opened at the Whitney, the first major museum exhibition to focus on his drawings and creative process. In the last few years, it seems like Hopper is more popular than ever and I believe what makes him so beloved is the fact that anyone can look at a Hopper painting and be moved by it. He evokes childhood, he evokes a simpler time. His subjects are lonely, staring into space or their cup of coffee. We relate to his art. When I lived in New York, I would go to the 24 hour donut shop on my corner and I felt like I was living Nighthawks. When I look at the gentleman at his gas pump in Gas, I think of my father who owned gas stations when I was growing up. The few times I worked an office job, I spent way too much time daydreaming like the man in Office in a Small City. Even now, when I walk into an old theatre, I think about the lonely girl standing at the rear in New York Movie. Art is subjective, thank goodness, but Hopper is, in my humble opinion, among the most universal of artists.
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Now that I am a little older, I think of Edward Hopper a little differently. I still count him among my favorites, but I always think of him as the first painter I really loved, the first one who I felt like he was painting just for me. When I look at the paintings of other artists I now gravitate to, like John Sloan, or Winslow Homer, or George Bellows, or Thomas Eakins, or John Koch, there is almost always a recognition that I love them because they remind me a little of Hopper. My apartment walls no longer boast mass market prints, but rather paintings and photographs that Eric and I have collected through the years. Some were collected at yard sales. Some were gifts. And many remind me of the works of Edward Hopper. It makes sense, because, of course, you never forget your first.
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Remembering Art

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“You give them a good product, good service,” said Levkovitz, who has spent 50 of his 62 years in the deli business. “They come in, and over a period of years they feel at home. They live by themselves. If they went to other restaurants, they’re strangers. Here, they’re friends.”

The quote above is from an 1986 L.A. Times article about Langer’s Deli.  The man speaking was Art Levkovitz who worked there for over 25 years.  After he “retired”, he went to work at a restaurant named Barney Greengrass and that is how I had the privilege of knowing him.  He passed away two years ago at 86 on May 24, 2011. This morning I woke up thinking about him and his funeral which took place on the Sunday of Memorial weekend of that year.  I still work at Barney Greengrass and even now someone every day will ask about Art or tell us how much they miss Art.  Sometimes people offer stories about him, sometimes people get a little teary talking about him.  There are a few things that always make me think of him.  I have an orange Oxford shirt that once, when I was a little portlier, I wore it and 6 times that day he told me I looked like a jack-o-lantern.  I’ve never worn the shirt since.  I also think about, crave actually, his kippered salmon salad.  I know the ingredients: kippered salmon, red onion, celery, fresh dill, tabasco, lime juice, mayonnaise, but I will never know the exact recipe, the increments, that made it so delicious.  My other thing that I think about when I think about Art is how he always asked me how my parents were doing.  If you knew Art even a little, you knew his love for his family was at the heart of who he was.  He was always bragging about his son and daughter and grandson.  And you heard it in his voice every time he called his wife “sweetie” when he talked to her on the phone from work.

I have had a few friends over the years who have asked me when I was going to grow up and stop working in restaurants.  And by the way, if you are reading this and you were one of the people who asked me that and you’re wondering if I forgot when you asked me that, No, I have not forgotten you asking me that.  There is something inherently theatrical about working in a restaurant.  People don’t just go to a restaurant for delicious food, they come in for the experience.  Art understood that.  

I don’t know how long I will work in restaurants.  I wonder about it, sometimes I worry about it.  But when I think about Art and the legacy he left and the way he touched people’s lives in the decades he spent working in this field, I do feel like I’m in good company.

Manhattan, When I was Young

1333647646_real-housewives-of-nyc-zoomThey say that anything is possible.  An example of this is that one of Bravo’s Real Housewives led me to one of my favorite authors.  In early 2012, when I read that someone named Carole Radziwill was going to be one of the new Real Housewives of New York, I picked up her book, What Remains, a New York Times bestseller about her husband and their friendship with his cousin, JFK Jr. and JFK Jr’s wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.  I was moved by her well-written account of love and loss. She wrote in the book about another book Manhattan, When I was Young and how it was a comfort to her during a troubling time.  Talking me into reading a book about New York City is about as difficult as talking me into eating chocolate cake for breakfast.  So, I read it.  The author, Mary Cantwell, broke the book into five different parts, the five different apartments she lived in when she first moved to Manhattan in the 1950’s, first as an unmarried college graduate with a new job into her first years of marriage and early motherhood in the 1960’s.  The book is about her husband and children and jobs, but centrally it’s about a stranger coming to New York and finding their place.  I loved it.  And then I read her other books, American Girl: Scenes from a Small-Town Childhood and Speaking with Strangers: A Memoir.  All three are currently available as a trilogy called Manhattan Memoir.  I read all three in the span of a few days and they are wonderful.  The first is about her childhood, the third is largely about her daughters and travels writing for Mademoiselle and Vogue.  But her second is the one that touched me most.  While I was reading it, I google earthed every address she talked about in the book.  Of course, every building is still there.  And it wasn’t hard to imagine a twenty-something moving to New York, a heart full of dreams, making their way with successes and failures in the big city.  She reminded me of Peggy from Mad Men, but she also reminded me of someone else I know even better.  

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Ray’s Favorite Things

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There are two things that I have not fully recovered from:  1.  Oprah retiring from her talk show and 2. me not winning the lottery this weekend.  At work last week, we pooled our funds and bought Powerball tickets and Saturday was electric with the possibility that we would all be millionaires by 8:01 pm PST.  We did not win, but we laughed a lot, speculating how we’d spend our money.  

Who doesn’t love to give a gift?  Oprah did and her favorite things episodes were among her most popular every year.  Well, I’m not a millionaire and I do not have a talk show, but for a few minutes let’s pretend.  These are my favorite things!   Would that I could, they’d be coming to you in a big gift basket tomorrow morning!

1.  Magnolia Bakery Chocolate Cake.  Best chocolate frosting ever!  The cupcakes are good, but a slice of the cake is better!

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2.  A case of Piper Sonoma sparkling wine.  There are people that will never be able to look at a bottle of Piper Sonoma without thinking of me.  It’s my go-to bubble for nearly any occasion.  I could have sent you a bottle of Dom or a case of this.  I figured if I send you a case, you HAVE to throw a party!

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3.  Levi’s 501 Shrink to Fits.  My trademark dungaree since 1982.

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4. Pepperoni from Claro’s Italian Market.  The best!  And yes, there is a vegetarian option:  Olive Muffaletta.

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5.  Damon’s Gift Card.  There is a tiki steakhouse in Glendale, CA that is frozen in 1978.  They have the most delicious mai-tai’s in the world (I’ve done the fact-checking) and the prime rib’s pretty great, too.  

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6.  Sirius Satellite Radio.  When I bought my most recent car, it came with Sirius for free for three months.  Now I can’t imagine not having it.  And I love starting my morning listening to Frank DeCaro and Doria Biddle!

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7.  Four Plays by William Inge.  Self-explanatory.

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8.  Subscription to Sunset magazine.  For the little old lady in all of us.

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9.  A basket of popovers and strawberry butter from Popover Cafe.  

 

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10.  MAISON FRANCIS KURKDJIAN  Bergdorf Goodman 111th Anniversary 754 Eau de Parfum.  When Eric and I visited New York in January, I found this fragrance, exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman.  It’s $300 and my olfactory perception say it’s worth every penny.  I stopped into BG every day to squirt a little behind my ears.  It’s unisex, too!
 
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11.  My Mom’s Pork and Potato burritoes.  They are one of my favorite childhood foods.  I make them myself, but they never taste as good as Mom’s!
 
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12.  Tide Mountain Spring laundry detergent.  
 
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13.  Asics Tiger sneakers.  Sporty and comfortable and they look cute on everyone!
 
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14.  Izod Lacoste Polo.  Because for some of us, it will always be 1986.
 
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15.  A week at the Plaza.  It’s the only thing on the list I have not experienced first hand, but we’ll go together!  I’m sure it’ll end up being one of our favorite things!
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