The Ozarks

30 09 2007

As my last post indicated, I’m back in Philly after spending the week with family. After flying into Oklahoma, I spent much of the week with my parents and sister in a condo in the Missouri Ozarks.

Does that sound bad? Well, it was definitely a little bit bad. I didn’t entirely enjoy chaperoning my elderly parents as they (and I!) attended my dad’s Navy reunion. For one thing, the reunion’s organizers tapped the nearby talent pool in Branson for several courses of uplifting, patriotic music. Now, I’m as patriotic as the next guy, probably more so, but how many Tributes to the States can a guy be expected to endure in a week? I sat through three. (There are only a couple of really good state songs, one of them being “Oklahoma!,” of course, and I heard it every time.) That’s at least two too many.

My Dad is a WWII veteran, and—as you can imagine—he and his shipmates are showing some age. Traveling each day on a tour bus with all those bad knees and walkers tested my patience at times. That said, most of the guys were pretty cool. I could pretty much imagine them as 18- and 19-year-olds on a ship in the Pacific. (And that was before my dad told a sexually explicit joke to all the guys and their wives and families on the bus.) I adopted a new family, too, a sweet vet from Oregon and his lady-friend, and I just generally played the good son. So it wasn’t all bad, and it was certainly nice to be able to spend some time with my parents and sister (who, unfairly, didn’t have to attend the reunion events with her brother).

It’s so beautiful in the Ozarks. When I was a kid, we used to spend some of our vacation time in the area (frequently at my sister’s condo). I loved Silver Dollar City, the area lakes, the country music (but only the good stuff), and the pine trees. In fact, I can imagine renting a cabin there for a vacation now. But, then, all the local entertainers feel like they have to pander to the most conservative, most religious elements in the audience. That’s how one guy ends up in three Tributes to the States in a week…. Ugh.

What the Ozarks need—actually, what Branson needs—is a Queer touch. It needs a little more “Harper Valley PTA” and fewer Lee Greenwood wannabes. It needs a little more upscale food and a little less, um, fudge and pecan logs. More galleries, fewer buildings shaped like the Titanic. More bed-and-breakfasts, fewer cheap motels. My people can help, I’m telling you.

And, for that matter, I’m sure there a lots of gay people in Branson already. Several of the entertainers who performed for my dad’s reunion, well, set off my gaydar. But Gay Branson is just too subterranean (in the closet?) to be palpable, it seems. If there were some organized gay tourism in Branson, some good things would follow. Unfortunately, until there’s a little bit more going for it as a gay vacation spot, the bland magic shows and bad flea markets are going to win.

Maybe I should start my own tour company…. Any investors out there?


Philadelphia Phillies 6, Washington Nationals 1

30 09 2007

They did it

For several years in a row, I’ve had tickets for the final game of the season. And I’ve sat through a string of cold, dreary, meaningless games. Today was different. The Phillies and the Mets were tied for first, and the game with the Nationals mattered.

I got to the ballpark in time to stand in an absurdly long line for crab fries before heading out to the outfield (I sat in Section 103, if you’re [inexplicably] keeping track). It was a gorgeous, more-like-summer-than-autumn day. In fact, in the late innings, as the sun found just the right place to get to me, I might’ve gotten too much sun on my face. The ballpark was packed, of course; it was a sea of red and white—and rally towels.

By the time I was in my seat, the Mets—whose game started 25 minutes before the Phillies’—were already way behind. The Phils took an early lead (thanks, primarily, to Jimmy Rollins, who got on base and then stole two bases), and they never trailed. As the game progressed, and especially after the Phillies took a 5-1 lead in the sixth, it started to sink in—with me and everyone else, it seemed—that the Phillies were going to win the Division. “Wow,” I kept hearing people say. And they were right. Wow.

It was an amazing season. The Phillies had a dreadful April, but they recovered and hung tough. During most of the season, I figured the Phillies would finish, inevitably, as they so often do, two or three games out of the Division lead. Indeed, at the beginning of September, the Mets were seemingly a sure-thing to win the NL East, leaving only a possible wild card for the Phillies. As everyone knows, though, the Phillies played like demons in September, and the Mets collapsed in spectacular fashion, becoming the first team to lose a seven-game lead with a mere 17 games to play.

When the game was over, fireworks accompanied the players’ on-field celebration. In the stands, there were high-fives aplenty and at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted cheering. I’ve never been a part of anything like it. Noisy, communal joy. Today’s game absolutely made up for all those dreary, end-of-the-season games.



23 09 2007

Oklahoma Flag
I’m celebrating my 41st birthday today. And I’m doing it from Oklahoma. Yup, yesterday, I poured myself into one train, then another, then an airplane, then another, to arrive at Tulsa International Airport to find my parents waiting for me. Unfortunately, there was still an hour’s drive to my parent’s house—and I was pretty much bushed by then. Traveling is hard work.

But I woke up this morning in my hometown, just a short distance from the hospital where my mom and I spent some fairly eventful time 41 years ago.

As much as I’ve become attached to Philly, and I have, I love being from Oklahoma. It’s a cool place. Really! The drive south from Tulsa yesterday evening was gorgeous. Miraculously, it’s still green here—it has apparently been a rainy late summer—and there was lots of baled hay and happy-looking cattle in fields. The accents sounded right, too. I moved to Philly in 1996, but I’m still taken by surprise sometimes by what words sound like. Here, they sound different, of course, and in a way that sounds right to me. When an Oklahoman struck up a conversation on the plane ride from Dallas, she sounded country, and—somehow or other—I relaxed.

And as much as I hate to say it, men might even be handsomer here. To my eye, anyway. I’ve spent significant chunks of my adult life in Philly, New Orleans, northwest Ohio, and Oklahoma. In each of those places, it seemed to me that the men were just built differently. There were lots of fit, tall, clean-shaven, muscular farm boys (and grown-up farm boys, too) in Ohio. In New Orleans, my 5’7″ frame seemed a lot more normal. And in Philly, men frequently have a more obviously, um, ethnic look than anywhere I’ve lived before. (When I first moved to Philly, I’d be completely puzzled when someone asked me about my background. “No, I’m not Italian,” I’d say, once they explained their question. “I’m not Polish. I’m not Irish. I’m from the South. We stopped being ethnic a long time ago.”)

In the other places I’ve lived, it has taken me awhile to adjust my taste in men to the local flavors. (Recently, for instance, I realized that I’m now truly into Philly guys. Of course, that could just be Middle Age talking.) In Oklahoma, though, the guys have always just generally looked good to me. Whether they’re country ranchers, or Tulsa businessmen, or the Muscogee man who sat near me at the airport yesterday, I’m interested. I guess that’s not all that surprising; Oklahoma’s where I developed my Queer Country™ aesthetic.

Gosh, that was quite a digression. Anyway, so I’m in Oklahoma…. I don’t expect much fuss to be made over my 41st birthday. That’s just not the way my parents roll. I used to wish they’d make a bigger fuss, but I know better than to expect it. I will see my sister today, though, and there’s a fair chance I might get some birthday cake from her.

I probably won’t do any blogging for two or three days, so don’t worry about me. My family and I and going to head off on a little adventure in the Ozarks. (I still can’t believe I’m doing it.) I imagine I’ll have lots to blog about when I get back.

Question of the Day: World’s Best Beer

20 09 2007

What is the best beer on planet Earth?

Submitted by Remmy Van Hornie.

Well, I haven’t changed my mind since January, when I proclaimed—in answer to a different QOTD—that Lindemans Framboise was “the best thing since sliced bread.” It’s a Belgian Lambic beer flavored with raspberries. If you like funky Belgian beers (yum), and if you like raspberries (double yum), this might just be your gold standard. The beer is sour, and it’s sweet, and the balance of those two properties is (to my palate, anyway) ideal. By contrast, I’ve previously blogged about how a Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise was simply way too sour for me. The Lindemans gives you both sourness and sweetness.

By the way, I’ve also been drinking quite a bit of Lindemans Pomme lately. If you like apples, you might want to give the Pomme a try. It’s like drinking the best Green Apple Jolly Rancher you can imagine. As that suggests, it may be a little too sweet or candy-like for some. Not me, though. The Pomme hasn’t displaced the Framboise as my favorite, but I think it’s downright delicious, too.

Live-In Maid

20 09 2007

Cama Adentro
Live-In Maid
(Cama Adentro) really touched me. It’s the story of a time of transition in the lives of Beba (Norma Aleandro) and her longtime maid, Dora (Norma Argentina). The two have lived together in Buenos Aires for nearly 30 years, but Beba has recently fallen on tough times. She hasn’t paid Dora in seven months, and she’s been reduced to selling cosmetics and pawning her personal effects. She appears to have no real prospects, few friends, and no support system. At home, she’s fairly helpless—even when it comes to simple things like pouring a drink.

Despite what one of the chatty women behind me in the theater seemed to think, though, the relationship isn’t entirely one-sided. Dora respects Beba’s sense of style and approach to life.  In the past, too, Beba has obviously taken care of Dora when necessary. More fundamentally, Dora has simply become a member of Beba’s family. These women are dependent on one another.

Live-In Maid isn’t really so much about what happens at this one point in time. Instead, director Jorge Gaggero is interested in having us experience the relationship at this moment. This isn’t to say that nothing happens in the film; indeed, something fairly dramatic does happen. But I left the theater thinking more about Beba and Dora’s ties, not so concerned about particular plot points.

Both of the lead actresses are quite good. Aleandro, a prominent Argentine actress who earned an Academy Award nomination for Gaby: A True Story, absolutely commands your attention. Argentina, amazingly, is a neophyte, one who has actually done some housekeeping; her inexperience simply doesn’t show.

On my four-star scale, I give Live-In Maid three solid stars.

Wiki Wednesday #25

19 09 2007

Blue Globe
As always, I go to Wikipedia, click on “random article,” and report on the outcome.

Mikołaj Gomółka

Mikołaj Gomółka (born cca. 1535 in Sandomierz, died after April 30, 1591, most pro[b]ably March 5, 1609) was a Polish Renaissance composer, member of the royal court of Zygmunt II August, where he was a singer, flautist and trumpeter.

We apparently don’t know that much about Gomółka’s music. According to the full Wikipedia entry, which isn’t that much longer than the portion I quoted above, his only known work is “Melodie na psałterz polski, a volume of melodies to all 150 psalms.” I guess that might be a fairly lengthy piece.

What else is there to blog? Well, I guess I could go more macro on you and just talk about Poland…. A few years ago, I went through a phase in which I was especially interested in Polish things. I ate at a Polish restaurant, attended the Polish-American Festival at Philly’s Penns Landing, visited the Polish American Cultural Center, and stopped by the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial. I dreamed about visiting Warsaw.

But then I realized that Poland remained a hotbed of anti-gay sentiment, and my passion for Poland waned. Does that make me shallow?  Maybe I should reconsider?  Maybe the man of my dreams is Polish, and I’m frustrating my ability to meet him?

Ahoy, me hearties!

19 09 2007


It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day. Where be me treasure?! Arrrghhhh!

(Also, check out the International Talk Like a Pirate Day website, which has some helpful advice about how to pick up a pirate. “Ya know, darlin’, I’m 97 percent chum free.”)

Update: There was actually a man dressed like a pirate on my morning train.  I especially appreciated the scarf decorated with tiny skulls-and-crossbones.