Thursday, July 31, 2003

I'm a Host, and He's a Feature

So hosting went really well last night. I was given an official "spot": 4th Wednesday of every month. I've never had a "spot" before. I feel very arrived.

Sarah and I are planning a trip to Austin next week to see our favorite comedian, Robin Weinburg, perform. This is Robin's first feature: the venue booked a hotel room for him any everything. When he found out that Sarah and I were coming to see him, he offered to share his room with us so that we wouldn't have to pay for accommodations. I so hope he gets famous one day, so that I can tell people I slept on his floor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Alice Has Two Daddies

Only a few major flubs/missed entrances/et al at the show this weekend, and none of them my fault, so that's a nice feeling. After Sunday's matinee, a bunch of us went for pizza, where the director shared various compliments heaped upon him by the audience. Apparently, I have "very nice facial expressions during the dinner party scene." A resounding round of applause for my facial expressions.

Lee, an old friend of mine whom I used to work for in college, came to the show, and remarked to the director, "Hey, I think Mr. Sycamore's gay. Ha ha ha..." This is Lee's Favorite Joke in the Whole World. I could win the Nobel Peace Prize, and Lee would show up at the awards ceremony and go, "Hey, I think that guy giving the acceptance speech is gay. Ha ha ha..." It really shouldn't bother me that badly: after all, I'm pretty much the only gay guy most of my friends know. But it gets old sometimes. Like when I'm trying to be recognized for some kind of artistic endeavor, and all anyone can say is "You sure are gay. Ha ha ha..."

I shouldn't blame Lee: like a lot of straight men, he sometimes gets insecure when it comes to his self-image, like he's got to reaffirm that he is All Man to whatever audience he's facing. I just wish it wasn't so often at my expense.

I used to be highly anti-separatist when it came to the gay community, especially when confronted with gay guys who acted or felt superior to straight people. Sometimes, though, I totally understand the inclination. It's like, why should I bother pandering to straight people who're going to keep me around as the butt of their tired jokes, when I could go back to Lobo (a gay bookstore/coffee shop where I used to work) and immerse myself in an environment where sexuality (at least, mine) isn't an issue?

If anything, I'm sure I'll get a couple of decent poems out of this.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Right Angles

When I was flunking
geometry, my mother
told me to stop dreaming
about girls, and start focusing
on school.

So I stopped dreaming
about girls, and started focusing
on the football players.

I ended up passing
geometry. I figured out
the right angle.

The Shadow Knows

So I've been hanging out at KPFT (Houston's Pacifica Radio affiliate), working on their upcoming Radio Theatre Project, and had two scripts accepted for production. I wasn't sure how my stuff would go over, since I've never written for this medium before, but they really liked my work. Now, Sarah and I have got to cast, direct and produce one of them; and, like the impetuous little goobers we are, we volunteered to produce another show called "Super Saver," adapted from an old BBC radio theatre program, in which Sarah and I are featured. I'm loving the experience, but I'm thinking next time I get involved in a project like this, I'm going to try to wrangle a paycheck out of it (now go support your local public radio station).

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The Hostess with the Mostest

Went to Helios last night, read new stuff, received applause. Fiarly standard, except that at the end of the evening, the host announced that I was going to start hosting next week, and everyone cheered. Big ol' boost to the ego, that.

My buddy Howard Michael was last night's spotlight poet, and he read a series of themed poems "What it would sound like if various other poets had written William Carlos Williams' 'The Red Wheelbarrow.'" We are talking classic comedic and literary entertainment, people. In the Edgar Allen Poe version, the protagonist trips over a wheelbarrow and has his eyes pecked out by chickens... in verse. Brilliant brilliant brilliant.

I think I'm going to write a "Red Wheelbarrow" poem about Sarah Crowder: "I get it now / I know what I am / A wheelbarrow / A red wheelbarrow / For you to carry the things you want planted / All over your frickin' farm / And then you'll leave out in the rain, / Forgotten and rusty / Which one of us is more full of chickenshit?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Horton Hears a Sue

There's a 4-piece funk and jazz band in Ann Arbor, MI, called "Roadside Zoo." I was fairly freaked out when I discovered this, seeing as how I thought calling my web site "Roadside Zoo" was incredibly original, until I looked at their web site, Turns out, they got together long after I put up my site; looks like I even swiped the domain they wanted. You gotta be quick around up sensitive poet types.

I feel kind of bitchy saying this, but I totally understand why bands get sued over their names (i.e. "'Nickelback' is a registered trademark of our senior's investor club!" or some such). At the same time, I don't want to squelch anyone else's artistic sensibilities, so I'll just pout. That makes everything better.

Jack suggested that maybe I inspired the name, like, maybe they were sifting through the internet and thought, "wow, that would be a great name for a four-piece funk and jazz band. I think I'll start one! Hey, who wants to be in a band called Roadside Zoo...?" For the sake of my paranoia, I'll just go with that. I like the idea of being a muse.

Right now I'm istening to the music of Visudo, the composer/producer who wants to work with me on a spokenword album. His work is really, really cool: my goal now is to self-produce the album, and then send it out as a demo to a couple of independent record labels and see what happens. I know it's unrealistic, but I relish the thought of Ani DiFranco sitting in her living room, listening to my poetry and thinking, "Hmmmm... I think I'll call this guy up and offer him several thousand dollars and a recording contract..."

Speaking of contracts, I finally got a manuscript submission together and fired it off to Manic D Press. I called their offices to find out who their poetry editor was, and was told by an incredibly friendly secretary, "Oh, just address it to Manic D. No big deal." Lawd, I hope they like me. If I end up published by the same company that puts out Justin Chin, my heart will swell and my head will explode.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Compliments and Curtain Calls

"You Can't Take it With You" opened this weekend, to rave reviews... okay, we kind of sucked, but it turns out many memebers of the cast are skilled at covering other people's flubs, so the show ran smoothly regardless. We had a matinee yesterday, with an audience of senior citizens. They didn't clap until the curtain call, and they didn't react to anything that was happening on stage. I kept thinking, "C'mon guys, this play was written when you were all teenagers! You should at least get the jokes!" Next time I'm on stage and the audience doesn't clap at the end of an act, I'm going to wait until the blackout and then start clapping like crazy, just to nudge the audience in the right direction.

Oh yeah, the big freakin' compliment: My friend Morgan, who I've known ever since she was a freshman in college, told me last night that when she first met me, she had a huge crush on me. Morgan is gorgeous, talented, intelligent, independent... while I am perfectly happy with my sexual orientation/determination/whatever we're calling it these days, it's nice to know that if I ever jumped the fence, I'd have a really cool girlfriend.

Speaking of Morgan, her boyfriend (also gorgeous and talented: if they ever get married and have kids, they'll become the Partridge Family) gave me a CD of various electronic songs he'd composed. I'd made a comment to him a while back that I wanted to put out a spokenword CD with electronic music behind it, and apparently, he's very interested in the project. His music rocks, too: ranges from calm and ambient to toe-tapping, x-dropping mayhem. I was running poems in my head along to his music and thought, "Wow, this could really work."

AND, on top of that, on Saturday I laid down vocal tracks for a local radio station's upcoming Radio Theatre Project, and was invited to come write and direct for the project. While none of this is making me any money, my name's going to be all over Houston. And not just on restroom walls and stall doors...

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Drag, Drama or Dairy... they're all Queens

"You Can't Take it With You" opens tomorrow night. Oy. Oi. It's been a long time coming. According to the director, he's 106% pleased with the cast, the crew, the set... everything except the venue. Actually, the venue's been stressing everyone out: it's several miles outside of Houston, so we're all fighting rush-hour traffic to get to rehersals, and once we get there, we're all fighting with the other shows at the theatre (apparently, the cast of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" has been stealing our props and costumes). It's going to be a good show, though, and it runs for a month, so we've got a lot of time to tweak and polish.

Speaking of tweak and polish, I am having so much fun with stage make-up. I think I'm maybe one-eighth drag queen or something, which would explain all the fun I had at the MAC store today, buying bronzing powder and oil-control facial lotion.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Two days and counting

"You Can't Take it With You" opens this Friday, and I have to say, I'm actually psyched about it. I haven't done a play since college, so I think it will be a good experience overall.

I decided that I didn't want to have to share stage make-up with assorted grungy cast members, so I went out and bought one of those Ben Nye kits, took it home, had a few beers and tried to make myself look middle-aged. I overshot, though - ended up looking like a middle-aged drag queen who doesn't know how to match a foundation to her skin tone.

The Ben Nye kit also came with mint-flavored fake blood. I just think that's the coolest thing ever.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The biggest ass on the face of the planet is not Anna Nicole's

Remember how Jack threw out all my Pride beads? And I was pissed and hurt and betrayed? Well, I was tooling around the apartment this morning, and caught a glimpse of something bright and glittery in the cabinet of my nightstand... and there were my beads. All of them. Right where I put them several months ago, when Jack asked me to get them out of the living room.

I am such an ass.
Howard-Stern-drunk-at-a-strip-club type of ass.
Reality-TV-producer type of ass.
Antonin-Scalia-takes-a-wrong-turn-in-Greenwich-Village type of ass.

On a positive note, the reading at the Community Center went well last night: the audience was smaller than I expected, but attentive and energetic, so that made up for it. My bestest buddy Rassul showed up, too, skipping out on a Houston Slam Team weekend retreat to come hang out with me... well, that, and so that a bunch of gay guys could drool over him. He gets such a kick out of that: it would be hilarious, except for I get blamed for it (i.e. "How dare your attractive, boyish, talented friend be heterosexual when you know he's my type!").

One more week of rehearsals, and then I finally get to go back to Helios. I should write some kind of "Welcome Back Whitaker" piece...

Thursday, July 10, 2003

The Dinner Party: a Vignette


We find our heroes at home, preparing to go to a potluck dinner party. Jack has spent the last three hours busy in the kitchen. Evn is sprawled in the bedroom, watching a B movie on Sci-Fi.

Jack enters the bedroom with a big bowl of hummus.

Jack: "Taste this."
Evn: "Mmmm. That's good hummus."
Jack: "Does it need anything?"
Evn: "Maybe a little lemon..."
Jack: "It's got a ton of lemon in it."
Evn: "Oh. Then it's really good."
Jack: "What's wrong with it?"
Evn: "Nothing. It's really good. I usually prefer creamier hummus, but..."
Jack: "It's very creamy."
Evn: "Fine. It's perfect, then."
Jack: "What else does it need?"
Evn: "Nothing! It's fine!"
Jack: "Are you sure?"
Evn: "A little more olive oil wouldn't hurt..."
Jack: "It's got three cups of olive oil."
Evn: "I'm wrong, then. It's the best hummus ever made."
Jack: "You don't like it."
Evn: "Aaaargh! I like it, okay?! It's FINE!"

Jack leaves the bedroom. Evn develops an overwhelming urge for a cocktail and a cigarette. Jack returns with a bowl of chicken salad.

Jack: "Taste this."


Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Whiskey on an empty stomach

I got a rejection letter from Gulf Coast Review yesterday. It wasn't even a real letter: it was a strip of paper with the word "regretfully" emblazoned in the text... apparently, they run off a bunch of those, fitting several rejection letters on one sheet of paper. Very economical. I'll always treasure my commemorative Gulf Coast rejection bookmark.

What kills me is that I really thought I had a shot at this magazine. I don't suffer from any delusions of grandeur, but I thought my writing was pretty comparable to what they publish. Jack tried to make me feel better by saying, "Hey, it's no big deal. Just resubmit!" He also pointed out that "maybe the wrong person read it," so I should send in more poems on the off chance that the next editor is a huge fan of sarcastic gay poetry with good one-liners.

I know I shouldn't see this as a setback, but I really, REALLY wanted this. On the St. Mark's Poetry Project web site, it says, "The best poets will never be published," so right now I'm pretending that the Gulf Coast editors are too dull and mundane to truly understand the metaphysical undercurrents of my work. (Note to self: add metaphysical undercurrents to that poem I wrote about Henry Rollins' pecs, just to show up the Gulf Coast editors.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Commissions, without the commission

OutSmart Magazine is doing a feature next month on reflections on the Supreme Court's sodomy ruling, and the editor asked me to contribute a poem. I've been messing around with ideas for a couple of days now, but all I've come up with is, "It is officially legal for Antonin Scalia to go fuck himself." Not sure if that's the angle they'd like...

It just hit me that in less than a month, I take over hosting Helios' Wed. night poetry readings. Much psyched about it... Helios (nee the Mausoleum) was one of the first places I ever read poetry out loud, and I've made a lot of good buddies at that venue, so I'm going to end up getting really emotional about the whole hosting thing (a real Sally Fields at the Oscars moment). Helios usually maintains a stable of about three or four hosts, but almost all of them are ready to give it up, so I'll probably be hosting three nights out of the month instead of just one. As of this moment, I'm hosting a monthly glbt reading called "In Our Own Write" that's really taking off (we're working on getting an anthology together), and I'm starting to enjoy the hosting more than the performing. Color me egotistical, but I feel like I've paid some dues and have moved to a more respected level of the Houston scene, you know?

Yeah, that sounds pretty egotistical. I'll have to summon up my forensics days and practice looking gracious.

Monday, July 07, 2003

On a schizophrenic note...

Chocolate and Caramel Creme Savers make me very, very happy. Like, almost too happy. The seedy underworld of oral fixations is an ugly place, my friends.

Why does my fan smell so bad?

It just hit me that I'm hosting and performing in a reading this Friday, and I've got nothing new, except for one really whiny, childish piece about a waiter:

To the Waiter at the Raven

I don’t like mushrooms.
Mushrooms are not
vegetables: they’re fungi.
I don’t want to eat
mushrooms, or
mildews, or smuts
unless I need to fight
an infection
or hallucinate.
I know the enchiladas
were pre-rolled.
I can deal with that.
What I can’t deal with
is your rationalizing,
tip-draining statement,
“There’s not a lot
of mushrooms in them.”
You just told me
to pick around them.
You just sounded
like my mother trying
to force-feed me dinner
during my militant
vegetarian phase:
“There’s not a lot
of meat in this.”
I didn’t want
any meat.
I don’t want
any mushrooms.
What do you say
to people who
like mushrooms?
“There are more
mushrooms in these
enchiladas than you’ll
know what to do with.
I hope you’ve got
an appetite
for mushrooms,
because, man,
you’re about to be
served some mushrooms.”
It’s not your fault.
You’re the waiter.
You didn’t plan
the menu or cook
the food. Your job
is to take the orders
and make suggestions.
Here’s my suggestion:
when a customer asks
a yes or no question, like,
“Can I get the enchiladas
without mushrooms?”
answer yes or no,
then take my order,
and bring me
my damn dinner.

Okay, so I like it, but I'm not sure it'll read well in terms of how the audience will take it. Will they find it cheeky and off-the-cuff? Or will they let out a collective "What a bitch" and stop listening? I need topics, dammit. Somebody inspire me! Aaaargh...

"Now my pants are chafing me..."

A straight friend of mine hit on me yesterday. Sort of. He's going through a breakup, and was complaining to me about the current lack of sex in his life, and made a comment to the effect of "I'm about ready to ask you to take care of it." Okay, he was joking, but there was a subtle, Dirk Yatesian feel to the conversation; I'm pretty sure that if I had said, "You mean, take care of...this?" I would've ended up with a hell of a lot of explaining to do across the board.

Here's the thing, though: the guy's cute as all hell. We've always flirted in a casual, harmless way (kind of like sorority sisters), but I've always thought of him as quite the catch. So when he made the "porno-movies-start-this-way" comment, my first reaction was, "Why couldn't you get this desperate when I was single?!"

Note to self: find some ugly, homophobic straight guys to hang out with.

Movin' on up, to the Northwest side...

I'm helping Sarah get her first chapbook together (it's called "The Turnip Made Me Do It," because according to Sarah, the turnip is the funniest of all vegetables), and she paid me for doing her layouts and graphic design by buying me a sword. A celtic-style, leaf-blade short sword, to be precise. This has to be the coolest payment for services rendered ever. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but I'm currently fighting the urge to chase Jack around the apartment while screaming, "There can be only one!"

Speaking of apartments, Jack and I will be moving into a new condo at the end of August. I'm dreading it. The new place is great, and the landlord is a friend of ours, so no pet deposits and affordable rent, which is nice, but I'm just not looking forward to moving. I don't like the area (off of I-10, far away from friends, work, Montrose, etc.), and I don't think it's going to feel like "home." Of course, that's what I say about our current apartment (In the Galleria area, in the same complex Jack lived in before we met), which makes me wonder if I'm just entirely too picky. The condo is going to be overhauled before we move in, and Jack has promised that the second bedroom (well, the study, really) is to be officially My Space, but I feel like I'm slowly drifting farther and farther away from the area of town where I'm most comfortable. A friend of mine summed it up best: people who love living in the Montrose area of Houston can never be happy anywhere else.

We made a stab at apartment hunting over the weekend, but we couldn't find anything we liked in our price range. There was one place I would've sold family members into white slavery over: bottom floor of a two-story duplex, 2 bedrooms plus sunroom, beautiful aged brick exterior with a backyard and everything, but the rent was more than we pay now, so not an option. Sigh. I have got to write a bestseller or something. Or blackmail. I hear blackmail is lucrative.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Straight to the Spotlight

Jack and I were hanging out at a local Irish sports bar with a few of our straight buddies, drinking cheap beer and watching a basketball game, when someone brought up the subject of Will and Grace. For some reason, straight people seem thoroughly compelled to mention their love of the show in my presence, like some sort of example of their personal commitment to progressive thinking and minority patronization. I always expect them to quote lines from “Roots” and burst into a spiritual.

When asked how I felt about the show, I said that I find the series fairly repugnant. It follows the standard format of a straight actor playing a sanitized, sexless gay character, and a gay actor playing an ├╝ber-flaming slut boy—the traditional Hollywood “gay neighbor”—which gets really tired after awhile, Emmys aside. This segued into a conversation about openly gay actors, which in turn led to a deep discussion of the cinematic career of Anne Hesche.

“I totally didn’t buy her as Harrison Ford’s romantic lead in that one movie,” my friend Darren said. “I mean, we all knew she was dating Ellen. Who was she trying to fool?”

“So basically, no one would really accept a gay actor portraying a straight lead?” I asked.

“No way,” Darren responded. “You’d just keep thinking about how he likes guys in real life, and it would kill the whole thing.”

“So why is it so easy to accept heterosexual Eric McCormick playing a gay character?”

An uncomfortable silence descended onto the table for a brief moment, until someone mentioned that the X-Men movies don’t follow the comic book, and we were off on another beer-fueled debate.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Sensitive Guy, Part the Second

Turns out bagpipers playing "Amazing Grace" during Episcopal festival services also make me cry. Go figure.