Today is a day off and I've been catching up with good friends, all of us linked in strange, nearly magical ways. This one's for you guys, and all we talked about today:
Today is a day off and I've been catching up with good friends, all of us linked in strange, nearly magical ways. This one's for you guys, and all we talked about today:
I started this blog - purely by chance - as the sudden scandal and resignation of Mark Foley unfolded. You remember Mark Foley, right? Congressional pages? Male pages?
America is a nation with a curious culture when it comes to sex. It's about puritanism, and guilt, and voyeurism, and capitalism, and it screws with our heads, ruins our public discourse, and fascinates us, all at once. We are the nation that the French think of as uptight prudes, and the ones with enough experience and sense to arrest Dominique Strauss-Khan rather than look the other way. We are the nation of some of the most virulent antigay bigots and the largest gay pride parade in the world.
In short, girl, we are a hot mess of a nation when it comes to sex.
Some people say it's Republicans who can't handle allegations of sex and scandal in their public officials. I tend to disagree - I don't think they like it (and I do mean sex), but I think they know how to handle it. Democrats, on the other hand, like to think we can "handle it", but I think part of the lefty charm is actually that Democrats are often deliberately, sweetly naive. We don't have any idea what to do with affairs and sexting and fetishes and so much more (SO much more), because, every time, it all just seems so new and unexpected. Arnold Schwarzenegger cheated on Maria Shriver? Bill Clinton let an intern flash her panties? Anthony Weiner sent some girl a picture of his hardon?
It's not that liberalism is somehow equivalent to "no moral compass"; it's just that, well, we need a minute to put the new data into some sort of perpective. This can often be labeled "overthinking it."
Democrats like to say we "handle sex scandals differently" - than those uptight, prudish Republicans - but really, we don't "handle" them at all; and in that, I think, we reflect, more fully, the national muddle when it comes to sex and acting out sexually: mostly we'd rather not know... and when we have to know, it's mostly how can we make this go away, and quickly. It would be a much better story, really, if the liberal view of sex were, in fact, demonstrably liberal: that we felt people should talk, freely and openly about sex and sexuality; that the free expression of love and desire among people is perfectly natural and understandable; that what we deplore is sexual acting out that involves force, coercion and lack of consent.
We don't do that. But liberals like to pretend, often, that we do.
Anthony Weiner's place in our odd discussion of sexuality is not new; his song and dance about "I couldn't possibly have sent some girl a picture of my hardon that accidentally wound up going out over the internet to everyone on my twitter feed" is not new and didn't seem true pretty much the minute he said it. He lies badly. And hypocrisy, really, is the standard for American scandal that can't really be overcome.
There will be a lot of "I can't judge Anthony Weiner" comments from lefties, which isn't really true, either (Rachel Maddow's take on the scnadal was a good barometer, really, of how to deftly manage the "I'm not judging" while reveling in every tacky seamy moment of his fall). Of course we judge. Of course we look. Of course we stare. That's what we do. That - the staring part, the quietly judging part - is who we are as a nation. Voyeurs, who think it's rude to stare, but would often pay extra for the privilge of staring longer.
Whether Anhony Weiner stays in Congress or resigns in disgrace - or some other yet to be seen scenario unfolds - doesn't really fascinate me (I'd love to say the naughty pictures don't fascinate me... but pictures of boys on the internet are life's little joy, these days). What fascinates me about this "scandal" is what makes it "scandalous" - a notion about sex as dirty and hidden and shameful and naughty that we can't, as a culture, seem to shake. And our choice, really, is to adopt, as conservatives already do, a kind of rigid, inflexible standard for behavior that's often unrealistic and needlessly cruel, or adopt a kind of senseless, messy "anything goes" notion of permissiveness that creates as many or more problems than it solves.
Or we could, painfully and mostly haltingly, try to continue a national process of growing up, of treating sex and sexuality more openly, a little more honestly, and with some sensitivity and humanity. That kind of approach might, in the end, help us to separate what's not so important in this case - the fact, say, that he was aroused - from what might be kind of inappropriate - sending unwanted, highly sexually charged messages to people we find attractive.
I mean it's just a thought. And it seems like a waste of time... but that's what it's all about.
It was one of those parties no one really wanted to see end, the one where you don't notice that your feet hurt, or your bra is digging in, or you're running on exhaustion... at least until you get back to your room.
I don't think I've seen Red quite so glowing, floating through the scene armed with the widest smile ever. There's nothing like my redheaded pal when she's happy, but this was waves of happiness emanating outward in all directions, eliminating everything in its path. And that, I realized, was a room filled with love.
Even the usual wedding stresses seemed to vanish - in part because Red, as she does, found a bunch of professionals and simply expected everyone to be on their game - and there was nothing, no cross moment, no moment of high stress, no fainting in the middle of the vows. Planning, clearly is key... as is a vision of what one has in mind.
It was a wedding in the best sense - a real reflection of the couple getting married, all the things they wanted, and pretty much nothing they didn't. It was a big sprawling blended family, traditional in some respects, and completely unbound by tradition in others. I'm not sure I've seen a wedding where the bride dirty danced to Usher one moment, or used Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" for a chaste, romantic slow dance. But that's my Red... and she's unstoppable. And undeniable.
In the end, for me, the whole experience will always be slightly bittersweet; there was too much personal drama in my own life for me to really relax until the festivities began, and the world of bridesmaids - a chance to see the theater of wedding from behind the curtain - wasn't as seamless and fun as I would have liked. Expectations, of course, are everything, and I probably started from a position of dreaming too big. But nothing, really, can overcome the force of a love so strong, the moment when love is all around... and I'm happy to let love rule. Love is a wonderful thing, indeed. Here's to the happy couple, and may they keep spreading joy.
It's Red's wedding weekend... and while I had hoped to find some time to blog, stress and various travel plans have intervened. Sorry for the two day break. Posting will be light, I think, through the weekend.
Last night was the rehearsal dinner... and I missed the rehearsal itself - but rehearsals are for actors, and our friend Joey got to stand in as the Justice of the Peace... so I think it all worked out just fine.
The good - as I titled this post - is seeing Red and her MAS so happy and to be a part of what is, really, such a joyous event, one that, more than many weddings I've seen, really does reflect the two people going through with it. And the supportive friends and family around them, too.
The bad, aside from not blogging is that the whole process was kind of fraught with more emotional landmines than I expected... but much of that is passed, and we are all focused on making today - tonight's the ceremony - the best it can be.
Still, the awful part is that all of this has happened at the same moment as my own personal complete financial meltdown. I have been scrambling to change banks, keep my finances and order, and deal with the headaches that come when direct deposits are in limbo, cash machines aren't an option and credit cards won't solve the problem. It's basically a nightmare, and I'm afraid my memories of these days will really be more about the financial disaster than the joyous event.
If I can leave you one piece of advice, I can only warn you never to use TD Bank. But even the satisfaction of sharing that bit of discouragement can't change my overall sense, right now, that the bad outweighs the good, the awful is winning over everything else, and I am little more than a flower crushed under the wheel of life. This will pass... but not soon enough.
Three years. Today.
When I started blogging, I was living in Boston, not sure what I wanted to write... but convinced that I had to try.
A lot has changed, yet again - I'm no longer in Boston, or writing every day, perhaps not writing exactly all I'd like or as often as I'd like... but I'm learning, fitfully, to live with what I can accept, and accept what I can live with.
What went through my mind, today, was all the support and encouragement I've had from friends and family, and how, when I started, I was surrounded by friends who either didn't blog, or who occasionally blogged, as I did, alone and perhaps kind of quietly. Now, my blogger friend has her own paid gig, my best friend posts his pictures online, and my fashion friend made her own leap into blogging just this past month. I am pleased, and proud, to know all of them... and to believe in what they do, too.
This has not been an easy year - not personally, or professionally, or blogging. I went from a heady feeling of sudden promise - all because so many politically minded lefties found themselves fighting for Hillary Clinton - to a precipitous drop in readers, attention... and my own interest. The up and down nature of blogging, more than anything, caught me off guard. I am not big on self promotion - it violates my WASPy, inbred sense of decorum and good taste - and I can't write controversy for controversy's sake ("Roman Polanski is a fucknut who deserves to be thrown in prison!"... eh, not so much). And because of my inner reserve, and my reliance on closely held anonymity... I know I have to accept a certain sort of limitation of audience.
What I've learned, this year and in all the time blogging so far, is a life lesson in writing what I love. Writing for me takes a certain alchemy: in the right mood, with the right topic, and the right amount of time... I can turn out amazing stuff. Take away any of those elements... and I get a bit stuck.
For all the heartaches and reversals... there's never a moment - never, not one... literally, no seriously, literally - when I think "not writing" is the solution. Not doing this blog, just giving up... that's not an option. And what I've realized is that... I have to put this blog up there on my list of priorities. It's not an afterthought. It's the thing that gives meaning to who I am and all of the rest of what I do.
Sixteen hundred and fifty posts, More than 110,000 page views. More than 1600 comments. I can live with that, feel good about it. I've made a promise to myself that in the next few weeks I will reinvigorate my blog, all the elements that go into it, and recommit myself to my personal mission of doing this with passion (and as J and j know... energy, enthusiasm and purpose). I also promise, finally, to do the thing I promise every year... I am sifting through those 1650 posts... and finding ones that I am proudest to call Best of NYC weboy. If it kills me... and it just might.
I'm going to try and make this a weekly (or maybe even biweekly exercise of clearing out interesting bits I find in my web browsing. Now with less calories!
My friend Red is getting married.
This is one of those wonderful bits of "personal business" that's been providing some of my offline distraction lately - I'm thrilled for her, and for Steve, her fiance, and I'm in the wedding party. (And by the way, not all the "personal business" is nearly so wonderful... but never mind. Let's stay in the happy place.)
So last night we had a little engagement party for Red and her man down in a dive bar on the Lower East Side - well, really more of a "dive bar" in that it seemed like one of those artful reconstructions of the real thing than the actual thing itself - and I was reminded of what it is to be friends with my Red... part of a smart circle of really interesting folks.
It was great to see the "Brandeis Girls", friends from her college years who've remained remarkably tight knit and connected; and the other ones, like me, that Red's collected over the years, and who bounce off one another in interesting ways making fascinating sparks.
I mention all of this because I wound up in a long, fun conversation with an actor friend in this circle, husband to one of Red's most supportive friends (and beautiful, even at nine months pregnant like last night). Joey is a real working actor, a journeyman who's found his niche in many ways, and works pretty regularly in a field that's not the most secure. After talking about his most recent theatrical experience, we moved on to a wide ranging musing about acting, writing, and creative pursuits generally.
We talked about the challenge of talking about writing, or really any creative endeavor - that really, you don't want to share much, that we hold our work close to our hearts, and the act of showing them is a brave one. And that, if you share to much, it may keep you from creating the work: talking, rather than doing. I was sort of interested to hear Joey say that he doesn't talk about acting, and it's true - he'll tell you what he's done... but not the process of what he's doing, how he finds a character or creates a role.
Writing is hard; we were both keenly aware of it (and so was Red, who admitted the grind of daily blogging was getting to her). And it's hard, sometimes, to get started and keep going. Joey mentioned a playwright acquaintance who was a runner, like he was, and they talked about the "seven minute warmup" of running - that you have to run for about seven minutes before the endorphins kick in and it becomes a kick, even fun, to do it. But you have to go through the first seven, often painful and difficult, minutes to get there... you can't avoid it.
The creative process, he pointed out, was very similar; you have to take those "seven minutes" of pain to get to a place where the writing, or the whatever, just flows, and when you do - like a painter friend he has who can go days just painting and sleeping in his studio space - you may not want to stop.
And I thought... Exactly.
It was just the conversation I needed - talking to someone who "gets it" about the creative process, the process of creating. Letting out, for just a moment, the dreams and ideas that animate what we do.... and remembering that what we do is hard, and rewarding. And we do it because it's hard... and rewarding. And I thought it might be nice to share that with you.
And to get on with the seven minutes. Thanks, Joey.
I'm guest posting over at Red's US Poverty blog at Change.org this week - please take a minute to check it out, and check out Change.org generally, as they're doing a lot of interesting stuff.
Before she left for London, Red and I got into one of our long, often economic-based debates, this time about the Reagan years. I forget, at times, that Red is a child of the eighties, not the seventies, as I am. But she's read up and I rely mainly on memory, so she has me on some very good points about just how bad the Reagan years were in terms of shredding the social safety net.
Still, if I had to pick an area of truly long lasting damage, I'd point more immediately to the Reagan-era urge for "deregulation", an argument that, somehow, the real problem for America - especially American business - was an overabundance of unnecessary rules and strictures. And so, from airlines to banking, to mining and beyond... we started to deregulate.
And, as Paul Krugman points out today, the legacy of deregulation - in his well reasoned case, the way Savings & Loan deregulation can be seenas directly causing the mortgage crisis - continues to haunt our problems today.
And that's all I was planning to say about it... but then I realized, we're not actually past it yet.
I've been waiting for Redstar to get back from her vacation and weigh in - from her uniquely connected vantage point - on the AIG bonus mess... and naturally, she does not disappoint: reminding us all, yet again, that underneath the "bonus rage" is a kind of judgment about "who is deserving" that needs better scrutiny.
Take it away, Red:
FWIW, I think when AIG accepted government funds in September 2008, the Board and leadership should have halted all bonus payments at that moment for the foreseeable future. But I also believe in progressively higher tax rates so that we can more equitably provide social service programs, housing, education and healthcare for every resident of the U.S. So maybe you personally don't want me making the decisions about pay schemes at your job or house.
And that's the thing - why I rail against all this "personal responsibility" rhetoric. Seriously, in principle, who's against it? Not one of us, from what I can tell. In practice, it can be a different story. But according to whom? Outraged working families? Joe the Plumber? Who's going to police your behavior??
Maybe, just maybe, if we could get down to the business of governing towards a more just society where we all have the basics of healthy food, a good education, an affordable place to live, and the chance to earn a reasonable wage - we'd be far less likely to face runaway corporate bonuses, shocking homelessness, widespread job loss and unbearable anger and fear. In other words, it'd be a lot easier for all of us to fulfill our collective expectations of personal responsibility. Who knows, we might even discover a pleasant sense of collective responsibility! Imagine that!
Owned. And awesome. And thanks for the hat tip. :)
In the midst of an overwhelming week, I found myself embroiled in not one, but two long discussions with my good friend Redstar - one which you can witness in the comment thread to the previous post, the other a long discussion via e-mail about our differing approaches to politics and debate.
It's all been great food for thought, especially at a moment when I find myself, well, not blogging with the regularity I once did (oh dear... irregularity). And it got me thinking about the interaction of emotion and reason when discussing politics.
Writing is my passion, and it was flattering, really, to have Red suggest in our e-mails that I write, passionately, about politics. That's not how I see it. If anything, I see myself as ultimately very dispassionate about politics; because I think as a society we tend to be moved, less rationally, by prevailing emotions, rather than by careful, reasoned judgment. But rational judgment is why I'm a liberal, after all: I do, sincerely, believe that if one looks at the problems we have and what it would take to solve them... then the liberal solutions are really the best ones.