Currently hoofing it up in ‘Wicked‘, Josh Green is the Hunk of the Day, and he’s been captured by the likes of fellow Hunk of the Day Daniel Robinson. (It’s a veritable two-degrees of separation here when it comes to the Hunks.) He’s also got an entrancing website that features a number of lovely photographs. We love guys with websites.
The question caught me off-guard, not just in its meaning, but in its delivery. I’d just had dinner with my family, but instead of driving straight to my home, I stopped at my parents’ place to pick something up. I had made it into the house before my family arrived, so I was standing in the kitchen when my nephew bounded in and found me there. Usually, I would have just driven home and not been in my parents’ place at that time, so he was unaccustomed to seeing me there.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, half-wonderingly, half-accusingly.
“I… I… well, I live… I used to live here. This is still…” and then I tapered off because either he lost interest or I lost the words to explain. It was a simple question, a harmless and meaningless question from the mouth of a four-year-old, and yet it meant so much more.
A few days later my Mom e-mailed me to tell me that they were going to set up a bunk bed in my childhood bedroom for the twins, trying as diplomatically as possible explain that my room was going to be theirs. In truth, Andy had told me as much because she’d already told him, I was just waiting to see if they would ask me first. I’d braced myself for what it would make me feel, trying to work through whatever anguish or unreasonable sense of possession I felt over the room where I’d grown up (and in which, on the occasional night of difficulty, I still found solace and safety) before the actual news was delivered. Of course, you can’t practice for pain, especially when it’s delivered by your own family.
I realize that was foolish of me. Not just to feel so hurt by the action, but to even think I held any ownership or claim to a childhood bedroom. My mother explained that there was more history to that room than my time in it, and that, in her words, “It is the season for nostalgia but these are also times for passing the torch, so to speak, for new traditions and new directions.”
I felt foolish for feeling so hurt. She was right. My brother lives there. His children live there. My parents live there. The only family member who doesn’t live there is me. It’s only fitting that I should not have a room or place of my own in that house. In truth, I haven’t felt part of that home in years, and it’s as much my fault as anyone else’s.
Like my mother, I remember every incarnation that room went through as I grew up. I remember when I was old enough to ask for a change in the wall-paper – it had been a striped background with blue soldiers ever since I could remember – and in a last-ditch effort to win over my father I chose a new pattern of horses with a border of a horse race – hoping that his love of OTB and betting on horses would somehow translate to a new love of his first-born son. Following his lackluster reception, I think I gave up on trying to make him proud, or even trying to get him to like me in such blatant, pandering ways. (In his defense, I don’t think I was a very likable child.)
But before that, my parents had kissed me goodnight there. In the days before I grew into whatever it was that made people draw back, into whatever off-putting version of myself that kept love at bay, that made people hesitate and pause, I’d been loved – unconditionally, unquestionably, undeniably loved. That sort of love comes, if we’re lucky, once or twice in our lives – and, if we’re very lucky, it starts in childhood. That was what I remember most about that room – not the soldiers or the horses or the pattern of the air-duct grate – it was the love.
That’s why it was hard to let go. Part of me thought there was still some remnant of the boy that I was still inside me, still worthy of that kind of unconditional love. Part of me thought if I held on to that room, there would still be a chance to unlock that love again. But I was wrong.
It’s time for two other children to get that love. I hope they can hang onto it longer than I could.
To be honest, I don’t know what “mixed martial artist” means, but such is the fancy description of the Hunk of the Day, Mitch Chilson. Nicknamed ‘The Dragon’ (after Ricky Steamboat perhaps?) Mr. Chilson is a featherweight at 5’8″ and 145 lbs. (you actually lost me at ‘feather’…) giving some of us smaller people hope and inspiration.
“No one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood; only family knows its own weaknesses, the exact placement of the heart. The tragedy is that one can still live with the force of hatred, feel infuriated that once you are born to another, that kinship lasts through life and death, immutable, unchanging, no matter how great the misdeed or betrayal. Blood cannot be denied, and perhaps that’s why we fight tooth and claw, because we cannot—being only human—put asunder what God has joined together.”
― Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt
Sometimes it takes the superior words of others far more talented than me to convey something that would come out monstrously cruel or petty and childish, so I’ll let an expert like Whitney Otto speak to the complex bullshit that family doles out, especially around the holidays. One day, though, I’ll tell my own story. It’s not the one that everyone wants to hear, and it’s probably not the one they think they know, but it will be honest and brutal and true, which will only serve to infuriate certain people all the more. The truth does that.
Though his reign as Mister International was for 2013, José Anmer Paredes is still worthy of the Hunk of the Day honor bestowed upon him today. Mr. Paredes hails from Venezuela, further proof that much of the world’s hotness is being born and bred in South America. That’s the sort of heat we need for the month of December, and the shortest days of the year.
A friend was perusing some of my books the other evening, and she happened upon ‘The Short History of a Prince” by Jane Hamilton. Perhaps better-known for her book ‘A Map of the World’ I have always found more of an affinity to ‘The Short History of a Prince.’ You’ll have to read it for yourself to understand why – or just read a few of my favorite quotes from it:
His was an ordinary tragedy, he knew. he had been happy as a child and had not realized it. But happiness was spent so quickly, he thought, and identifying it, feeling it, trying to hang on to it, made him nervous. maybe it was better to be ignorant of bliss, unselfconscious, and later have the sense to recognize its traces. ~ Jane Hamilton
You have to live wildly, every now and then, so you can sleep at night, and have interesting material for your dreams. Don’t you? I figure it’s for the dream life that we have to really live. ~ Jane Hamilton
Some of us tend to forget that porn stars are people too. Hunk of the Day Nick Capra reminded me of that as I perused his blog and read about the tumultuous year he’s had. People are so much more than the image we have of them. When you think ‘Gay Porn Star‘ you don’t usually think of tenderness or depth, but sometimes it’s there. We just need to take notice.
“Somewhere, right at the bottom of one’s own being, one generally does know where one should go and what one should do. But there are times when the clown we call “I” behaves in such a distracting fashion that the inner voice cannot make its presence felt.”
― C.G. Jung
There’s nothing like an imposter to make you take a look at yourself and how ridiculous you might actually be. Such was the case when a fake Twitter Alan Ilagan cropped up on my feed the other day. At first, I was flattered and amused – the mark of any supposedly-vain soul – and more than a little curious. Who would dare try to be me? More importantly, who might want to?
The person behind the account certainly seemed to have a grasp on who I was, at least of the caricature I tend to portray when online. It got me to dwelling a bit on the online personae we create for ourselves. The internet entity that you know as Alan Ilagan – and that I’ve worked rather doggedly hard on crafting as Alan Ilagan – has little resemblance to the scared little boy that I hide in the deep protected fathoms of my heart. I don’t show that guy to the world because he can’t handle the evils of everything on the internet. The anonymous trolls that social media has brought forth from the darkest pools of hatred would have a field day if I didn’t protect myself with a coat of aloof armor, and an arsenal of sarcasm that puts most of any ignorant attackers to bed before they know they’ve been tucked in.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― C.G. Jung
Yet as I read some of the tweets from the fake “Real Alan Ilagan” I was struck by how easily some of them might have slipped out of my mouth. How far had I strayed from the real me when engaging on FaceBook and Twitter, and, to a lesser extent as I’m a little more honest in this space, right here on this blog? As I examined my own ridiculousness I had to own up to a few things – the first of which was how often I am just that – utterly ridiculous. And I’m ok with that. Luckily, much of it is an exaggeration of myself, done mainly for entertainment – yours and mine.
An examination of our selfie-obsessed selves, James Franco-style, always runs the risk of producing accusations of vanity and hubris – yet that is precisely the result of today’s technology and the online world, where the ease of a camera-phone and the ability to share images with the entire planet can make us all “celebrities” in a certain respect. The likes and the views and the visitors, the easy access to instant love and mass adoration, like waves of applause washing over Eve Harrington – it all feels so seductive, and it’s easy to get photoshopped up into believing all of this is real. Which brings me back to internet impostors.
There’s always someone behind you. Sometimes they want to help, sometimes they want to hurt, sometimes they want to play, and sometimes that want to push. Sometimes it’s you, and sometimes it’s me, and sometimes it’s someone we’ve never even met.
You can pretend to be real, but do you even exist? There’s only one way to show yourself to the world, and you can’t do it by revealing yourself or your face or even by taking off all your clothes. You can only do it by revealing your heart.
“Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner? You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life…If you want to find paths, you should also not spurn madness, since it makes up such a great part of your nature…Be glad that you can recognize it, for you will thus avoid becoming its victim. Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical. Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.”
― C.G. Jung
He makes an unorthodox Hunk of the Day for a couple of reasons: the first being that John Fugelsang is not traditionally one of the names that comes to mind when you say ‘hunky’ – no offense to the man, but it’s true. Second, there are no shirtless photos of Mr. Fugelsang for your viewing pleasure. Instead we get the merest glimpse of chest hair. Yet somehow he merits the honor more than most men, thanks in no small part to his humor and wit. Funny is sexy, and witty is hot. Coupled with a straight-ally agenda and a razor-sharp mind, they are the very building components of what makes a man attractive. It’s not all pecs and abs, peeps.
My brother and I didn’t always get along. Just a year-and-a-half apart, we were probably too close in age to be much more than adversaries, and too far apart to be as tight as twins. For a while, in the dim dwindling days of my high school career, we barely spoke. In fairness to both of us, we were about as different as two brothers could be, so the fact that we didn’t actually kill each other is a Christmas miracle in itself.
Once I went away to college, however, the distance helped our relationship, and time healed the perceived hurts we each felt the other inflicted. On my first or second Christmas home from Brandeis, we somehow ended up volunteering to pick up the family Christmas tree, so we hopped in the Blazer and made our way to Bob’s Tree Farm way out in Galway.
The day was bright and brisk, the sky a vivid blue, and backed by a strong wind. We recalled our shared childhood memories of going to get the tree as little boys. There is only one other person in this word who knows exactly what it was like growing up in my house, and that’s my brother. That’s a bond that can never be broken. On that December day, I started to understand that.
We arrived at Bob’s and got out. The smell of freshly-cut pine, of Christmas, brought a smile to my face, and I think my brother felt it too. We walked around a bit, not wanting to rush the moment. He stood up a few trees and we examined them, coming to an agreement on a fair specimen. The wind was cutting, and we squinted in the falling sunlight. Somehow it got tied loosely to the top of the car, and we were back on the road.
My brother was driving, and as gusts of wind pummeled the car I looked in the rearview mirror to see the tree swinging wildly back and forth. Before I could say anything it rolled off the car completely and into a ditch by the side of the road. My brother’s shocked face, and the image of the tree growing distant in the background, made me laugh. A lot. He backed up and by the time we reached the tree I was hysterical. He kept saying it wasn’t funny, but I could see he was trying to keep from smiling.
I hadn’t laughed that much with him since we were kids.
We got the tree righted, and better-secured than before, and made it back home without further incident. To this day, the memory still makes me chuckle. It was the beginning of our way back to each other, and the start of several holiday traditions that we have managed to maintain over the years. As strange as it may sound, there’s no one else I’d rather have as a brother.
The barista calls out my drink order for a Decaf Skinny Peppermint Mocha and I lean in to pick it up. A bearded gentleman gives me a smirk and says, “Decaf? What’s the point?!” I smile and say, “For the taste!” He laughs a little and moves on.
Dude, I have a Skinny Peppermint Mocha in my hand and you go for the decaf angle? I gave you a lot to work with there and you squandered it. If you’re not going to step up to the plate, put the bat down.
With all the snow we’ve had already, it’s worth noting that winter has not even officially begun yet. Just thought I’d put that out there to give us some sad perspective on how the next few months will play out. Thankfully, there are things to keep the cockles of the heart warm and cozy, and I’ll do my best to keep things hot here.
A pair of impostors cropped up (coincidentally?) on the same day, and I don’t know whether to be flattered or offended.
Babs, Part 1.
Mixing things up with Tom Ford.
And this year’s snowy holiday card.
Babs, Part 2.
Dandy. Just Dandy. Such is the character that Finn Wittrock portrays so wickedly on this season of ‘American Horror Story.’ I actually left off watching a few episodes ago, which is precisely when Mr. Wittrock decided to drop his pants and display his butt, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, it’s available for our viewing pleasure minus the fatigue that plagues Ryan Murphy’s shows in their fourth or fifth season. As for our Hunk of the Day, anyone with a name as perfect as Finn Wittrock (no word on whether it was parent-given or what) is cool by default. Hot too.
Having recently declared my non-fandom of Barbra Streisand, I’ll backtrack a bit to give it up for this song from ‘The Way We Were.’ It inspires a snowy memory, a warm and happy memory, a memory of solitude tinged with family ghosts…
It was a night in January. My parents were out of town, so I stopped by Amsterdam to see my brother (who then lived a few blocks away) and to check on the house. We would do similar nights in the future, but for now I was alone in the house in which I grew up.
As evening fell, ghosts from the past entered timidly, whispering friendly words of forgotten scenes – those departed family members who stayed with me through the years, whenever things got quiet, whenever the world let up on me, and sometimes when it felt like everything was crashing down. On this night, it was peaceful and still. A thin layer of snow fell from the sky as I turned on the lights in my parents’ bedroom and searched for something comforting on the television. A Barbra Streisand film – ‘The Way We Were’ – had just begun, so I let it play for a while, as the saccharine melody of Marvin Hamlisch filled the empty room.
In a large dark house, even if you grew up within, it’s easy to get spooked. The wind can make things creak, the floor can make things moan, and if you’re not careful your head has suddenly wrapped itself in terrors that would be unthinkable in the light of day. Thankfully, that didn’t happen on this night. I had the silly curls and serious nails of Ms. Streisand to take my mind off other frights.
Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were.
I watched the unlikely love story between Streisand and a very youthful Robert Redford, looking golden and in his prime, and I was drawn in as the night progressed. It wasn’t what I expected – it was actually much more enjoyable – and I settled onto the bed from which I used to watch ‘Santa Barbara’ if I could get home from school in time.
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
You can never go back. No matter how wonderful or awful it was. All we can do is move forward, keep going, keep trying to be better. Streisand’s Katie Morosky fought for the world to be a better place. Redford’s Hubbell did it in his own way too. I don’t quite have that drive, or that star power. What started out as a comfort left me feeling deflated, as if every endeavor on my plate was an exercise in futility, in simply stalling, or trying to recapture days that were more fun, more vibrant, more alive. Time marched on, leaving the good memories dusty and forlorn.
Memories, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember…
The way we were…
The way we were.
“And the mist of snow, as he had foreseen, was still on it – a ghost of snow falling in the bright sunlight, softly and steadily floating and turning and pausing, soundlessly meeting the snow that covered, as with a transparent mirage, the bare bright cobbles. He loved it – he stood still and loved it. Its beauty was paralyzing – beyond all words, all experience, all dream. No fairy-story he had ever read could be compared with it – none had ever given him this extraordinary combination of ethereal loveliness with a something else, unnameable, which was just faintly and deliciously terrifying.” ~ Conrad Aiken, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”
This year’s holiday card takes its theme from my hair: white. Blow and go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. That’s right, I’ve gone all blustery and Whitney on you, but for theatrical purposes only. (I made an alibi video of how the card was created in case Andy decided to press any sort of charges on the drug cartel in his basement. Let’s just say Arm & Hammer was the sole supplier for all the supposed fun.)
This sets the stage for next year’s tour, so if you don’t like what you see here, come back at some point in 2016 because it’s only going to get rockier. Sometimes you have to go dark to see the light. Happy Holidays!!!
“Just why it should have happened, or why it should have happened just when it did, he could not, of course, possibly have said; nor perhaps could it even have occurred to him to ask. The thing was above all a secret, something to be preciously concealed from Mother and Father; and to that very fact it owed an enormous part of its deliciousness. It was like a peculiarly beautiful trinket to be carried unmentioned in one’s trouser-pocket – a rare stamp, an old coin, a few tiny gold links found trodden out of shape on the path in the park, a pebble of carnelian, a sea shell distinguishable from all others by an unusual spot or stripe-and, as if it were anyone of these, he carried around with him everywhere a warm and persistent and increasingly beautiful sense of possession. Nor was it only a sense of possession – it was also a sense of protection. It was as if, in some delightful way, his secret gave him a fortress, a wall behind which he could retreat into heavenly seclusion.” ~ Conrad Aiken, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”