We Will Be Found

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HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE NOBODY WAS THERE?

HAVE YOU EVER FELT FORGOTTEN IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE?

HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE YOU COULD DISAPPEAR?

LIKE YOU COULD FALL AND NO ONE WOULD HEAR?

 

We have arrived, my friends, at the last day of school. It went a little longer than it usually does, but next year we may get out earlier depending on how this goes. This is the final day of new blog posts until September 22, 2017. That is the first day of fall, a fitting time to mark a return to blogging. I’ve never been away from this place for that long, so it will be an experiment for all of us. (I also reserve the right to return without notice at any time, particularly if Madonna releases a new song or that loser in the White House gets booted.) With those unlikely events far out on the horizon, it will probably be September before you hear from me here.

And though I’ll still be on Instagram, Twitter and FaceBook, part of this summer vacation is going to be a slight stepping-away from all the social media nonsense that has evolved to take up so much time. (To be honest, the majority of my FaceBook posts are merely links to blog posts here, as I’ve been sour on their protocol for quite some time.)

Those who need it will always be able to reach me. I don’t have the largest circle of friends in the world, and those I count among that sacred circle aren’t usually wading through the muck of this site. They talk to me and see me and hang out so that such diary-like ramblings are often a rehash of what I’ve already told them. The rest of you, and I think there are a few more than I realize, are welcome to revisit favorite posts or simply enjoy the silence until September. 

WELL LET THAT LONELY FEELING WASH AWAY

MAYBE THERE’S A REASON TO BELIEVE YOU’LL BE OK

CAUSE WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL STRONG ENOUGH TO STAND

YOU CAN REACH, REACH OUT YOUR HAND 

AND OH, SOMEONE WILL COME RUNNING

AND I KNOW THEY’LL TAKE YOU HOME.

There’s nothing very noble about blogging, at least not in the stuff I do here. Once in a while I feel I have touched something universal, something gorgeously true that resonates with more than one person, and suddenly there’s a slight frisson in the dark – a connection or recognition that makes me feel a little less alone. I hope you’ve felt it too. But though this online voice has the potential to reach the outer reaches of the world, I’m aware that it rarely does. More than that, I’m aware that this is a largely one-sided affair, and on this side of the darkness it can get lonely sometimes.

EVEN WHEN THE DARK COMES CRASHING THROUGH

WHEN YOU NEED A FRIEND TO CARRY YOU

AND WHEN YOU’RE BROKEN ON THE GROUND

YOU WILL BE FOUND.

 

SO LET THE SUN COME STREAMING IN

CAUSE YOU’LL REACH UP AND YOU’LL RISE AGAIN

LIFT YOUR HEAD AND LOOK AROUND

YOU WILL BE FOUND…

When I started this website back in 2003, I did it as a way of chronicling some of my writing and photographs, and as a way of sharing my work with anyone who wanted to see it. It was also a way of connecting with people, even if I didn’t know it then. Up to that point I’d been searching for someone to share a life with, a friend more than anything, really, but some way of connecting, some way to feel less alone. In my youth, before the advent of the internet, there was no way to reach out, and when someone did come along my thirst and hunger for that connection resulted in strange letter-writing behavior that was never taken in quite the almost-innocent manner in which it was intended.

When things in my personal life quieted and calmed, my creative restlessness and artistic temperament demanded an outlet, and I found it to large extent here. I’ve always enjoyed hosting parties – this blog has become an online party of sorts – a small one, to be sure, but one in which everyone is welcome to pull up a chair and partake in whatever manner the reader wishes. I’ve strived to create a space for all that I find pretty and wondrous and enchanting, and other things that challenged or spooked or bothered me. Part diary, part documentary, and part self-exploration in the service of working through all the things I didn’t understand. Part of it has also been for sheer entertainment value. Eye candy. Flower and food porn. Hunks of the Day.

I hope that has been what this blog has become over the years – a space of quiet and contemplation, some silliness and shirtlessness, a place of beauty and exploration, a journey as much mine as it is anyone who deigned to join in the fun. But I also hope we have forged a connection in these perilous times. When so much of technology seems hell-bent on separating and isolating us as much as it brings us together, we seem to be in danger of losing the basic human need to connect.

THERE’S A PLACE WHERE WE DON’T HAVE TO FEEL UNKNOWN
AND EVERY TIME THAT YOU CALL OUT
YOU’RE A LITTLE LESS ALONE
IF YOU ONLY SAY THE WORD
FROM ACROSS THE SILENCE
YOUR VOICE IS HEARD.

At the very least, to anyone who is reading these words, I feel you. I feel a presence. I feel a connection. And if at times I shout – in the nakedness of my honesty and the bluntness of my heart – it’s because I know that there are more of us that need to be heard.

So let us have a wonderful summer, all that remains of it. Let us refocus on what makes us happy, on what enriches our lives, on what really matters. It’s not what you’re reading on your screen or phone. It’s everything beyond those things. For years I’ve struggled to find some meaning here, to make sense of life, and though I’d like to believe I’m a little closer to that, I understand the secret is in knowing there is no end, no final definitive answer. There is joy in that. Let’s go find it, and meet back here in two months. We will have much to tell.

September’s coming soon

OUT OF THE SHADOWS
THE MORNING IS BREAKING
AND ALL IS NEW, ALL IS NEW
IT’S FILLING UP THE EMPTY
AND SUDDENLY I SEE THAT
ALL IS NEW, ALL IS NEW
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

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Almost Waving Good-bye Through This Window

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Go on. Touch it.

Don’t be afraid.

Tap it. Tap the glass.

Knock on the portal in front of you.

Does the light bend at your finger? Do you make a mark in the dust? Do you feel the warmth?

No. I can’t either. I feel only the cold computer screen.

Is anybody there?

Is anybody…

I’VE LEARNED TO SLAM ON THE BRAKE
BEFORE I EVEN TURN THE KEY
BEFORE I MAKE THE MISTAKE
BEFORE I LEAD WITH THE WORST OF ME

GIVE THEM NO REASON TO STARE
NO SLIPPING UP IF YOU SLIP AWAY
SO I GOT NOTHING TO SHARE
NO, I GOT NOTHING TO SAY

STEP OUT, STEP OUT OF THE SUN
IF YOU KEEP GETTING BURNED
STEP OUT, STEP OUT OF THE SUN
BECAUSE YOU’VE LEARNED, BECAUSE YOU’VE LEARNED…

I cannot feel you here. If there was a body, if there was another person, it would not be this cold. Life – real life – is never so sterile, never so silent. That’s why I seek out the quiet, as unnatural and unnerving as it may be for some. The music of life is too much sometimes. All that noise, all that talk, all the words – it all adds up to a mess of nothing.

ON THE OUTSIDE, ALWAYS LOOKING IN
WILL I EVER BE MORE THAN I’VE ALWAYS BEEN?
‘CAUSE I’M TAP, TAP, TAPPING ON THE GLASS
I’M WAVING THROUGH A WINDOW
I TRY TO SPEAK, BUT NOBODY CAN HEAR
SO I WAIT AROUND FOR AN ANSWER TO APPEAR
WHILE I’M WATCH, WATCH, WATCHING PEOPLE PASS
I’M WAVING THROUGH A WINDOW, OH
CAN ANYBODY SEE, IS ANYBODY WAVING BACK AT ME?

WE START WITH STARS IN OUR EYES
WE START BELIEVING THAT WE BELONG
BUT EVERY SUN DOESN’T RISE
AND NO ONE TELLS YOU WHERE YOU WENT WRONG…

Here I sit, writing after midnight ticks past, waiting for revelation, waiting for redemption. I pound the keys and nothing happens. There is no reaction. There is nobody here. I pound harder. My heart beats faster. I pummel the screen and try to break through. I am trying to reach you. I am trying to be heard. Like those dreams where you try so hard to scream but no sound comes out, I feel helpless and small. There is panic in this space. There is desperation. There is loneliness. I wasn’t quite ready to reveal that, but there it is. The truth laid out in the silence.

WHEN YOU’RE FALLING IN A FOREST AND THERE’S NOBODY AROUND
DO YOU EVER REALLY CRASH, OR EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
WHEN YOU’RE FALLING IN A FOREST AND THERE’S NOBODY AROUND
DO YOU EVER REALLY CRASH, OR EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
WHEN YOU’RE FALLING IN A FOREST AND THERE’S NOBODY AROUND
DO YOU EVER REALLY CRASH, OR EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
WHEN YOU’RE FALLING IN A FOREST AND THERE’S NOBODY AROUND
DO YOU EVER REALLY CRASH, OR EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
DID I EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
DID I EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
IT’S LIKE I NEVER MADE A SOUND
WILL I EVER MAKE A SOUND?

{One more post before I go…}

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #140 – ‘Express Yourself’ – Summer 1989, and ever since

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{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

COME ON GIRLS!

DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE?

CAUSE I GOT SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT IT

AND IT GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS…

The time is right now.

The moment is at hand.

In a world where a madman runs the most powerful nation on earth, the only thing left to do is resist.

We can no longer rely upon the Democrats or the Republicans to put our country first.

It will be up to We the People to save America.

It’s what our Founding Fathers did, and it’s up to us to preserve our legacy and define our future.

In a makeshift protest gathering to that very end, Madonna recently performed an acoustic version of one of her most iconic anthems – ‘Express Yourself’ – and almost thirty years after its inception the words ring with just as much import and power as they did back then.

It was the Women’s March, and what had happened to bring it about had left many of us, including Madonna, feeling helpless and concerned. She knew that we had just given our country over to the tiny hands and inept care of a traitor. She went on to say a few disparaging remarks about our illegitimate President and his increasingly shady and lying White House. But underneath it all was her perennial message of self-empowerment, shaded with a newly-realized reliance on all of us working together for something better.

“Can you hear me? Are you ready to shake up the world? Welcome to the revolution of love. To the rebellion, to our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny. Where not just women are in danger, but all marginalized people. It took this horrific moment of darkness to wake us the fuck up. It seems as though we all slipped into a false sense of comfort, that justice would prevail and that good would prevail in the end. Well, good did not win this election. But good will win in the end. So what today means is that we are far from the end. Today marks the beginning; the beginning of our story. The revolution starts here.”

DON’T GO FOR SECOND BEST BABY, PUT YOUR LOVE TO THE TEST

YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW, YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE HIM EXPRESS HOW HE FEELS

AND MAYBE THEN YOU’LL KNOW YOUR LOVE IS REAL.

The power of a good pop song lies in its ability to endure. To inspire copycats. To become a rallying cry for whatever emotion or event is on hand. Madonna channeled the greatness of this country’s most enduring freedom, and expressed her disdain for our current Clown-in-Chief in her own way. It’s been her way of life for the last three decades.

This is one of the Top 5 Madonna songs of all time in my humble estimation, joining the elite of the elite such as ‘Like A Prayer’, ‘Vogue’, and my personal fave ‘Drowned World/Substitute For Love’. It is Madonna’s greatest clarion call to emotional arms, a defiant anthem for self-empowerment, and a celebration of the love that we all deserve to so demand.

YOU DON’T NEED DIAMOND RINGS OR 18 KARAT GOLD

FANCY CARS THAT GO VERY FAST, YOU KNOW THEY NEVER LAST, NO, NO

WHAT YOU NEED IS A BIG STRONG HAND TO LIFT YOU TO YOUR HIGHER GROUND

MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A QUEEN ON A THRONE, MAKE HIM LOVE YOU TIL YOU CAN’T CALM DOWN. 

Summer 2012: The last time Madonna performed this song in a proper way was on her anger-fueled ‘MDNA Tour’ – it was the first ray of light in that dark night of majesty. Following a demon-filled hell-set of flames and fury, she suddenly appeared as a cheerleader, pom-poms and all, with a flying marching band above her head. As cartoon images of working women appeared behind her, she sang out her signature hit and seamlessly slipped into a bit of Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ in the slyest shading of shade. Using the controversial rip-off as a way of reinventing her own song was genius; tacking on a bit of ‘She’s Not Me’ was the icing on an icy cake. Look it up, indeed.

I’d not really listened to the song in a while, but given this new context it fit into the proceedings quite well, coming as it did on the tour that supported her divorce-laden MDNA album. (Interesting to note that the original ‘Express Yourself’ was from her first divorce album, ‘Like A Prayer’.) It was clear that after all this time, Madonna’s main credo was still to be found in this 1989 classic, perhaps her most glaring antidote to the ‘Material Girl’ manifesto that had previously defined her early career.

DON’T GO FOR SECOND BEST BABY, PUT YOUR LOVE TO THE TEST

YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW, YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE HIM EXPRESS HOW HE FEELS

AND MAYBE THEN YOU’LL KNOW YOUR LOVE IS REAL.

Summer 2004: Madonna made ‘Express Yourself’ a military exercise in arms during the ‘American Life’ segment of 2004’s Reinvention Tour. Barking orders to her troop of gun-slinging gentlemen, she switched out the intro to ‘Come on boys, do you believe in love?’ and the gay guys saluted in screams and sing-a-longs. I was glad to see her resurrect the song from a too-long dry-spell, and it definitely deserved to be on one of Madonna’s more hit-heavy tours.

I have a distinct memory of strutting down the streets of Manhattan after this concert. Suzie and I had just parted ways at the subway stop, and with a sense of inspiration and empowerment I walked in the direction of my hotel. An insignificant moment: a moment alone in the city, feeling like I was on top of the world. I didn’t realize how young I still was. We never realize how young we are. On that night, the metropolis sparkled in hazy summer form, and the loneliness that sometimes accompanies a walk in New York had dissipated like the summer storm that struck right before the concert. In many ways I was still just a boy who believed in love, and at that high of a moment I wanted to sing about it too.

LONG-STEM ROSES ARE THE WAY TO YOUR HEART BUT HE NEEDS TO START WITH YOUR HEAD

SATIN SHEETS ARE VERY ROMANTIC, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU’RE NOT IN BED?

YOU DESERVE THE BEST IN LIFE, SO IF THE TIME ISN’T RIGHT THEN MOVE ON

SECOND-BEST IS NEVER ENOUGH, YOU’LL DO MUCH BETTER BABY ON YOUR OWN.

DON’T GO FOR SECOND BEST BABY, PUT YOUR LOVE TO THE TEST

YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW, YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE HIM EXPRESS HOW HE FEELS

AND MAYBE THEN YOU’LL KNOW YOUR LOVE IS REAL.

Fall 1993: “I’m gonna take you to a place you’ve never been before!” We go back in time further, to a moment when the world was a circus and Madonna was on her Girlie Show tour. I was in-between girlfriends. (Told you the world was a circus.) Madonna’s place in it was shifting too. Following the tumultuous ‘Sex’ book release and ‘Erotica’ album, she had been shaken off her pedestal by a fickle atmosphere that had been waiting for such a stumble since the ‘Like A Virgin‘ days. We have never been shy about our blood-thirst that way. The insanity of being Madonna came through on that tour, and in ‘Express Yourself’ it found disco glory and dance release. She descended from a giant disco ball, a future peek at ‘Future Lovers‘, then brought back the first of many disco infernos in a blonde afro wig, platform shoes and glammed-up sparkle. She was a showgirl no matter what, and at all costs.

As I made my way through the circus of my life, trying to make sense of my sexuality, trying to make everyone happy, trying to figure out how best to navigate the world of relationships and messy romances, I wanted to scream. When the world threatened to overwhelm like that, I found strange solace and release in that silly Girlie Show performance. She threw her hands up at the end of it, dancing with abandon on the end of the catwalk as longtime companions Niki Harris and Donna DeLory twirled behind her. “Cause you know they always do! (Every time!)”

AND WHEN YOU’RE GONE HE MIGHT REGRET IT

THINK ABOUT THE LOVE HE ONCE HAD

TRY TO CARRY ON BUT HE JUST WON’T GET IT

HE’LL BE BACK ON HIS KNEES, SO PLEASE…

It was too soon to ask, ‘Have I said too much?’ and at various points in our lives we said more than we should have. When taken to an extreme, expressing yourself is bound to get you in trouble. For all the times I felt my heart break, there were one or two others I had broken along the way. I didn’t see that then. It was better to be bold and brash and bitter, to banish the love before it stood a chance of turning to hate. There’s no denying that Madonna stomped on a few hearts along her rocky romantic journey. Taking that as license to do the same, I turned any hurt I had into rage.

I walked to the beat of the bridge of this song, gleefully imagining the regret those who passed me by would one day feel, stamping out all my anger and disappointment onto the sidewalks, defying anyone to get in my way, staring out at the world with a vicious and potent gaze of fierce vehemence, of battle-worn heartbreak, of the kind of madness that comes only from being denied love. Love was a battlefield and this was my battle cry.

DON’T GO FOR SECOND BEST BABY, PUT YOUR LOVE TO THE TEST

YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW, YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE HIM EXPRESS HOW HE FEELS

AND MAYBE THEN YOU’LL KNOW YOUR LOVE IS REAL.

Summer 1990: The Blond Ambition Tour.

A sweaty mass of oiled-up shirtless men.

The spinning cogs of a rainy metropolis.

A gold-chained monocle.

A pin-striped suit.

Jean-Paul Gaultier’s cone bra.

She opened the legendary Blond Ambition Tour with ‘Express Yourself’ – an extension of the original video for the song, brought to thrilling life with her soon-to-be-iconic back-up dancers. It would be captured for posterity in ‘Truth or Dare’, and like any good gay-guy-in-training, I promptly learned every choreographed step of the performance, and even found a monocle to make it legit down to the accessories. My stage-fright and shyness and social anxiety would never allow me to get very far, but behind the door of my bedroom – where “no one else can see” – I never tired of dancing there all by myself. Maybe one day I’d dance with someone else, but if the lesson of this song was anything, it was that I might be happy dancing alone. I might have to be.

{A fascinating side-note: the origins of that Blond Ambition performance actually run back to the MTV Video Music Awards in the fall of 1989. It was there where she first grabbed her crotch and, less-acknowledged, introduced a bit of voguing into the mix.}

Summer 1989: The follow-up to the ‘Like A Prayer’ single is released, along with the video.

The silky chartreuse dress.

The muscular dirty men.

The teasing lingerie peep-show.

The cat and the milk.

The monocle and the chains.

It was classic Madonna. All the elements that she would play with over the years were on full-display, all the kinks and giggles, the winks and nods, the tease and please. Above all else, it was a piece of pop art, the very best sort of video the medium could provide. With a few deft images, she pulled the gaze of men, women, and all of us in-between, marrying those Metropolis-fueled fantasies to a song and instantly creating a pop culture anthem that we’d be discussing decades later.

The original video was directed by David Fincher (who would later go on to direct ‘Vogue’ and the cinematic ‘Bad Girl’ along with an impressive body of films). It called out to my growing gay lexicon, resonating with something deep within me, something I could not name or categorize, but that I understood in a way that I’d never understand football or spitting or beer.

This was a world filled with beautiful men, commanding women, and an art-deco atmosphere that favored freedom above all else. The freedom to live, the freedom to love, the freedom to express yourself. It was a world captured by Herb Ritts, drawn by Keith Haring, and choreographed by Vincent Paterson. Informed by visionary gay sensibilities and the shirtless male models whose job it was to support and strut behind her, Madonna has always been at her best when surrounded by great gay men and women. Yet rather than emasculating those around her, it made everyone a little more powerful. Far from chaining herself, Madonna had found the ultimate freedom. “A lot of people don’t say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.” For all those reasons, ‘Express Yourself’ was and remains a monumental signature song for Madonna – mantra and lifestyle and credo in one.

A kaleidoscope of memories is the gift of many a classic Madonna song, and the memory of ‘Express Yourself’ that may mean more to me than anything was made in the summer of its release. It is my first memory of the song. My brother and I were in the family station wagon, on one of the last vacations of our youth, heading to Cape Cod. Already we were growing apart – my brother and I, and all of my family from me, it seemed. Yet we stayed together that trip. I made a bet with my brother that Mo Vaughn, a famous baseball player at the time, was in this song. He knew the song, and knew that Vaughn wasn’t in it anywhere, so he challenged me and took the bait. I waited and sang/talked my way through the part in which he appeared: “So if the time isn’t right, then Mo Vaughn!” He cracked up laughing. There was, and there is, no happier moment than cracking my brother’s exhausted veneer of dealing with my zaniness and making him genuinely bust up laughing.

The wind rushed through the windows in that fourteenth August of my life, the splendid sea-scented wilderness of the Cape washed over us, and the sun drenched the inside of the station wagon. We were enjoying the final days of a summer and a childhood that would be gone too soon. Madonna had unwittingly charted of course for my adult life. No longer would I be a shy scared child, but I didn’t know that then. All I knew was that the sun was warm. My brother and I were laughing in the backseat of the station wagon. The rest of the season stretched out, school felt a far way off, and the funk-fortified groove of a Madonna song made my world happy for a little while longer.

“WITHOUT THE HEART,

THERE CAN BE

NO UNDERSTANDING

BETWEEN THE HAND

AND THE MIND.”

SONG #140 – ‘Express Yourself’ – Summer 1989, and ever since

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Another Ultimate Hunk Collection

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A slutty-sister post to the original Ultimate Hunk Collection entry, here are a multitude of additional Hunks of the Day to keep you in stock for the rest of the summer. Pages like this are meant to be bookmarked and perused while I’m away, a blessed little retreat to which you may return time and time again until a fresh batch of Hunks begins their parade in the fall. God bless.

Greg Rutherford

David McIntosh

Mark Wright

Andrew Christian

Marco Dapper

Christof Innerhofer

Jeremy Abbott

Louis Smith

Gus Kenworthy

Pablo Hernandez

 

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Do You Believe In Love?

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“Without the heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind.”

Before we bid adieu for our summer break from this blog, here’s a back-to-back classic post-pairing, as Madonna follows on the fashionably-attired heels of Tom Ford. This is a preview of the next Madonna Timeline, one of the last entries prior to my summer sabbatical, and it’s a doozy featuring one of the greatest Madonna songs of all-time: ‘Express Yourself.’

It’s impossible, at this stage of the timeline, and more importantly at this stage of Madonna’s storied life, to fully encapsulate all the nuances and memories involved in such an epic song. But I did my best, and if I’m hiding behind unexplained vague references, it’s only because I’m suddenly feeling quite shy. I’m already enjoying the fact that this curtain is almost down for the end of Act One. But one more Madonna Timeline before I go. We all deserve that.

Here’s a look at the song through the ages:

So many versions, so many dance routines, so many Madonnas. We shed our past selves like snakes shed skin, but while they get to leave their papery shell behind, we carry ours with us – as ghosts, demons, angels and protectors. ‘Express Yourself’ is one such entity. The second single from the ‘Like A Prayer‘ album, it’s the funkiest one of the bunch, dwarfed only by that indelible title track. (Only Madonna could trump her own work, making ‘Express Yourself’ into second-best, baby.) The rest of the album was pop confession perfection: ‘Til Death Do Us Part‘, ‘Promise to Try‘, ‘Cherish‘, ‘Dear Jessie‘, ‘Oh Father‘, ‘Keep It Together‘, ‘Pray for Spanish Eyes‘ and even the wretched ‘Act of Contrition.’ Even among those jewels, ‘Express Yourself was a stand-out.

Tonight, the Madonna Timeline returns one last time before we break – baby, ready or not!

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Shore Scent: Oud Minérale by Tom Ford

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A scramble and a gamble, this is Oud Minérale by Tom Ford. 

I broke the cardinal rule of fragrance-purchasing: never buy an item that you haven’t tried on. But this is Tom Ford, and his Private Blends are made for breaking the rules. Unlike the Vert and Portofino lines, which each feature a magnificent specimen (Vert d’Encens and Mandarino di Amalfi) for each clunker (Vert de Fleur and Fleur de Portofino), the Oud line has, thus far, had winners across the board. I’m especially enamored of the classic Oud Wood and it’s smoky floral sister Oud Fleur, so if there was ever a safe bet to make on a Ford fragrance untested and untrue, it would be the latest, Oud Minérale. Thankfully, it’s a gamble that paid off.

The scramble part is that I wanted a fragrance for our trip to Maine, where we would be reunited with the sea, but there were only a few days in which to make that happen, so as an advance anniversary gift, Andy (with a little preparatory aid from me) managed to have the Tom Ford rep at Bergdorf Goodman overnight us this release. There’s nothing more magical than making a memory with the power of a new scent. I wasn’t particularly looking for a new one, but when the new Oud claimed to be a woody marine sort, something rather new to Ford’s lexicon, I thought it might be perfect for the coast, something that embodied the salty grandeur of the sea, and the rocky rugged landscape of the Marginal Way. I’m happy to report that I found both in this thrilling addition to the Private Blends collection. The literature for it is filled with typical over-the-top Tom Ford superlatives, but it all comes remarkably close to the truth:

Original. Oceanic. Elemental.

Private Blend Oud Minérale merges rare and precious Oud with the fresh exuberance of the ocean, capturing the refreshing play of surf and sea against the burning flame of smoked wood.

Tom Ford’s reinvention of Oud marks an olfactive watershed that pairs two of the world’s most intriguing elements to reveal tonalities both exhilarating and powerfully transcendent.

The first thing that hits me is the smoky wood. Once it drifts away, the salty pungent sea swirls mysteriously in its wake. it churns like this for a while – about an hour or two – and this oceanic heart carries its precious cargo of Ford’s Oud as a worthy companion. They jockey for prominence, and for a moment I think this water might be a tad too choppy, but then it recedes and calms. As the dry down begins, there are exquisite echoes of Venetian Bergamot. It’s an intriguing coupling of wood and water that feels right for a summer seaside night.

 

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Calling Out the City of Amsterdam (With Updates)

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{SCROLL DOWN FOR LATEST UPDATES}

During one of the last downpours we had on Friday, the basement of my parents’ home in Amsterdam flooded with raw sewage, something it has done regularly for a few years now. This time was the worst, as it rose over a foot and destroyed everything they had stored there. Their next-door neighbors had a more damaging experience – it came through the toilets and poured out, ruining much more than an unfinished basement.

This has been a city pipe problem that no one in Amsterdam seems to care enough to correct, but I’m guessing if a lawyer is involved the health hazards of raw sewage to a household of four (including two young children) and a city negligent in correcting a problem that has been reported countless times over the years (not to mention the destruction of an entire floor of stored items and the carpeting that leads upstairs) would be a slam-dunk of a lawsuit. (At the very least, it would make for one of those local news stories that you watch because you’re thrilled you’re not the ones involved.)

For now, I’m imploring any City of Amsterdam officials to do something. Thus far, my parents have been given the run-around, with one person saying it’s the responsibility of someone else and then that person saying it’s the responsibility of the first. The end result is nothing but raw sewage running through the neighborhood pipes with no corrective action.

UPDATES: Still awaiting any response from my tweets to Senator George Amedore, Jr. and Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara, and a FaceBook tag of Amsterdam’s Mayor Michael Villa

JULY 16, 2017: Another back-up resulted in more toilet paper and raw sewage coming up through the basement sink. Some of it still has not yet drained.

JULY 18, 2017: Michael Villa, the Mayor of Amsterdam, responded to my FaceBook post with the following: “Lets first be fair. I have met with all those that are facing this unfortunate situation and we have called in McDonald Engineering to investigate this issue. To say that this is a “new” problem is unfair and untrue. I have read all the reports and this dates back to 2006. I wish I could tell you this is an easy fix but that is unrealistic since this has gone on for 2 previous administrations. To place blame at this point is unfair. There is a solution that all residents were told years ago and that was to purchase and have a back flow preventer installed. The home that sits below the three houses impacted by this has one and he has reported no issues. We are working to get this problem resolved to the best of our ability but to expect it to be corrected immediately is simply not possible. My door is always open if you would like further information.”

First of all, no one ever said this was a “new” problem – if anything, it is blatantly obvious that the problem has persisted for years and no one has done anything. (Words like “regularly” and “countless times” are the antithesis of “new”.) My parents don’t care about politics or administrations when it comes to raw sewage entering their home, so to bring that up makes no sense and has no bearing on the situation. After speaking with my Mom, I discovered that the cost of the back flow preventer would be about $3000 to $4000, but if the problem has to do with faulty pipelines then why should a retired couple have to pay that much for something that should have been solved many years ago? My Mom also informed me that the engineer who originally told her about the back flow preventer said that it was a law that they had to have one installed. She did some research into that, and it appears that she was lied to. She’s not sure if it was an effort for the city to not have to deal with the pipe issue by making the residents pay for a temporary solution to a bigger problem, but it certainly sounds as though that’s plausible. Personally, I’m not getting bogged down in blame and politics: the bottom line is that right now there is raw sewage still sitting in my parents’ basement, the current Mayor of Amsterdam is Michael Villa, and we are waiting to see how long it takes for this to be rectified.

JULY 19, 2017: The Mayor stopped by my parents’ home after our FaceBook exchange. It was an admirable demonstration, and my Mom had a decent conversation with him. Later, Angelo Santabarbara stopped by and took a tour of their basement, offering his engineering experience on what might be done to rectify the matter. My family is appreciative of both appearances, and looks forward to seeing a solution on the horizon. I’m glad to see that something is being done, and I’ll keep this post updated as to the progress that results. Thanks to both gentlemen for taking the time to set this into motion. We shall see…

AUGUST 1, 2017: As reported by the local news crews, Assemblymember Santabarbara and Mayor Villa have made the pipe improvements a priority for the city. They interviewed my parents at their home and it looks like work has begun on rectifying the issues that have plagued the city for years, with a $900,00 influx of money to Amsterdam to make it happen. I’m very impressed, and my parents are very grateful, that movement has finally begun. Looking forward to a more permanent solution, and I thank Mayor Villa and Assemblymember Santabarbara for their personal consideration and work in this instance. (They have yet to hear anything from George Amedore, Jr.) Perhaps by the time this blog returns to its fall schedule there will be a happy ending, and I’ll be able to write a positive story on crappy situation.

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Life Should Be An Event… And It Shall Be Again

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It always strikes me as amazing, whenever I attend a Broadway show, that these talented performers are doing their shows eight times a week – that they’ve done it countless times before and may do it for countless times thereafter. I feel lucky to catch a favorite when they happen to be gracing the stage, or revisiting a once-in-a-lifetime performance when lightning strikes for a second time.

Philosophically, that’s how I think of this blog – as a daily ritual and performance for a small audience of dedicated favorites – and I’ve managed to do it consistently for well over a decade. If you’ve been away from it for a few days you can catch up with the more extensive Blog page, or search the archives for a specific date and navigate through ‘Older posts’ when the option appears. But if you’re a regular, you know that I’m here at least twice a day with some sort of nonsense or fluff or, when I’ve been extra-prolific, something worthwhile and soul-searching.

That sort of schedule takes its toll, however, and as mentioned it’s almost time for a break. A small one for now; a bigger one down the line. Rather than take the air out of the sails, it will hopefully reinvigorate our juices – both in my creative output and perhaps in your thirst for visiting.

Lately it feels like things have been getting watered down, or, even worse, repetitious. In the past, I’d create one or two projects a year. I’d have a few months of exciting creation – organizing inspiration and ideas into a workable theme, focusing on refining and editing passages, and putting it all together in the solitude and secrecy of my own space. This blog has made all of that public, as I work things out in diary-like fashion. It has become an endless project of its own, evolving and morphing through the years, but never offering a break or moment of rest.

I want to get back to the idea of an event, a release that happens on a certain date and lasts for a specific duration. Something that can be encapsulated for the future, and that has a beginning a middle and an end. Something finite and sure. A traditional project. Like the sculptural rendering of Albany’s iconic Nipper, in various painted forms throughout the city. They won’t last forever, and like the Dutch clogs that stormed the city a couple of years ago, their magic is only fleeting – but here I am talking about shoes and dogs in a way I can only wish this blog is discussed at some point in the future.

I also want to get away from a daily schedule. My Virgo nature enjoys a good timeline and the comfort of a regular program, but the most enchanting parts of life tend to be surprises – I want to capture that unexpected magic, to show up unexpectedly and disappear in similar fashion. A tendency of the trickster should prevail for anything as fleeting and whimsical as a blog.

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Our Last Summer Recap

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Relax! We have the whole summer ahead of us! But this blog won’t be back next Monday, and so we won’t have another recap until late September. For now, let’s look back on our final full week here – it’s still too soon for the back-to-school specials to begin.

Julian Edelman got naked again and no one complained.

Things got a little prickly here.

We need beauty, we need art

Sleeping sperm.

Summer sabbatical.

Ben Affleck nude in the shower.

Boston brings beauty.

Before the rain.

Dinner during the rain.

Oh heavenly garden.

The hunt begins.

The Ultimate Hunk Collection.

A different kind of rear view.

The last Hunks of the summer included Chris Pine and Sean Sarantos.

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Objects in the Rearview Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

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TRAVELING DOWN THIS ROAD
WATCHING THE SIGNS AS I GO
I THINK I’LL FOLLOW THE SUN…

For the first two years of this website, there was no blog page. This space existed solely as a stagnant repository of writing and photographs, to which I would occasionally add new content, but not with any regularity. It wasn’t until the third year or so that I started the daily blog. From there, it quickly grew from a single short post every day, to a three-post-a-day schedule, with projects and photographs and videos.

Every two years or so I’d revamp the website entirely – new theme, new pages, new everything. And in keeping with my dislike for looking back and embracing an easy nostalgia, I’d discard all the posts that came before. I liked starting over again every couple of years. It reinvigorated me. It gave me life. And it made it impossible to live in the past.

While it might have been nice to look back at the Archives of 2005 to see what insanity was coursing through my mind at the time, for the most part it’s been good to purge and move forward. A clean cleaving of all that came before. Now it’s time to get going again… just for a bit.

ISN’T EVERYONE JUST TRAVELING DOWN THEIR OWN ROAD
WATCHING THE SIGNS AS THEY GO?
I THINK I’LL FOLLOW MY HEART
IT’S A VERY GOOD PLACE TO START.

July 20, 2017 will be our final day of new blog posts for the summer; I shall return with fresh stuff on September 22, 2017 – the first day of fall. (Like the objects in the rearview mirror, it’s closer than it appears.) There will also be a new schedule – the blog will be dark on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (my version of a mid-week weekend). I’m hoping this will make for a tighter and more compelling collection of posts. There’s nothing worse than meaningless filler (unless it’s frivolous eye-candy).

I can’t wait to see what adventures await us. Even if it’s nothing more than reading by the pool, I’m certain they will energize and revitalize any complacency among us. Until we meet again in September, there are a few more entries that will hopefully see you through the summer. We each have a journey to make – I hope to see you at the end of it.

TRAVELING DOWN MY OWN ROAD
WATCHING THE SIGNS AS I GO
TRAVELING DOWN MY OWN ROAD
AND I’M WATCHING THE SIGNS AS THEY GO

TRAVELING, TRAVELING
WATCHING THE SIGNS AS I GO…

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The Ultimate Hunk Collection

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Bookmark this page for those sultry days when you need some summer eye candy when this blog has already gone dark for the season. Here is the kinkiest and linkiest post of some of the gentleman who have graced this blog with their physical prettiness and presence. The Hunk of the Day feature is what will likely be missed the most until I return to posting in the fall. Until then, however, check out this not-quite-comprehensive listing of all the Hunks who have come before… and come back for more because you can’t possibly click all those delicious links in one sitting.

 

 

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The Japanese Stewartia

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My new obsession for acquisition: the Japanese Stewartia. I stumbled happily upon these trees at both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where they offered a bit of cooling shade on a warm July day. At the former, they made up a shaded corner of a Japanese garden, while in the latter they assembled in a small forest on one side of Ms. Stewart’s magical haunt.

In both instances they formed handsome clumps of foliage, with gorgeously mottled bark and delicate day-long flowers.

Upon researching the Stewartia, I discovered they may be hardy enough in our Zone 5 locale to try, though at their price point I may wait a couple more years until global warming gets us into a safer Zone 6 designation (hey, it’s no joke – we used to be Zone 4, and the only thing that’s changed is the weather).

I read a little further until those insipid comments started, and I saw that people were complaining about the flowers. “Insignificant” and “simple” seemed to be the general consensus of complaint, as if either was horribly insidious. I then remembered my cardinal rule not to read comments by the anonymous public. If someone has a problem with the simplicity of a bloom, or the thrilling fact that each only lasts a day in hot weather, then they cannot be counted on to understand the intricacies of true beauty.

Further proof that I need to be out in the world experiencing the flowers rather than reading snarky comments about them.

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Tenshin-en

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One of the first things I noticed was the fallen.

Not the stone pagodas or the pebble seas or the granite bridge.

The fallen blossoms.

They laid there in various states of decomposition, and from a distance I thought they might be litter.

It turned out they were the remnants of the flowering stewartia, in the midst of its high-summer blooming period. A rare time for a tree to be in bloom, this made the occasion all the more solemn. I was quickly won over by such an anomaly – a tree that dares to bloom when most have finished. We have a seven-sons’-flower tree that pulls a similar trick. We value them more when they wait until such a fine point in time.

“Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” ~ Muriel Barbery

This is ‘The Garden of the Heart of Heaven’ as designed by Kinsaku Nakane. Inspired by the Zen temple gardens of 15th century Japan, it arrests time in the ways that only beauty and art can manage.

“The camellia against the moss of the temple, the violet hues of the Kyoto mountains, a blue porcelain cup – this sudden flowering of pure beauty at the heart of ephemeral passion: is this not something we all aspire to? And something that, in our Western civilization, we do not know how to attain?

The contemplation of eternity within the very movement of life.” ~ Muriel Barbery

I followed the stone path to the source of the fallen flowers, tracing the pretty mottled trunks into the sky, and found a few at the height of their beauty. In the dappled sunlight, with their downward-turned petals, they made a shy show, as if it was best to hide their beauty from the world.

Sometimes that is the case.

As their fallen brethren would attest, the world is not always kind to pretty little things.

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Rainy Dinner: Sushi at Shabumaru

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It’s one of those places I pass en route somewhere else, in the go-through walkways linking Copley Place Mall with the Westin Hotel. When planned correctly, it’s possible to walk a great length in such covered fashion – a gift in the colder months of the year (and the hotter ones too). On this day that bled into evening, it was a way of escaping the rain and storms, which came hard and heavy in my last hours in Boston.

We’d had a filling lunch on Newbury earlier, so I just wanted something light, and I recalled a little place where they served Japanese hotpot dishes, but also some sushi. As the rain pounded down upon the windows, I sidled up to the bar and ordered two rolls – a Spicy Tuna and a Golden Lotus. I don’t even remember what the latter was about, only that it tasted good.

A rainy dinner, secluded from the bustle of the city, safe from the driving wind and wet, was the perfect ending to a brief Boston stay.

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Braddock Before the Rain

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Given my job, I don’t often have the luxury and treat of being in Boston on a Wednesday morning to enjoy the street cleaning barrenness as depicted here, but this week I did. It’s a hazard for those unaware of the rules (they will ticket and tow in a heartbeat) but it keeps things neat and tidy, and affords the rare shot of a car-free side of the street.

On this day, I was showing my Manchester pal Andy around before his flight departed later that evening, and the day was humid and hot and threatening rain, but it held off until the very end. A day in Boston is a treasure indeed, and I’ll take them whenever I can get them.

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