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June 2007

Ratatouille & more travel stories

When you are hanging out in NYC with the producer of the NYTimes film page, odds are that you are going to see films. I've seen two this week. One was an advance screening that I'll write about when the film is coming out. The second was the animated film for which this post is entitled.

Yes, Mekado said that it was something I could see anywhere, but he thought it was the best film out there to go see.

And right he was. The best thing I've seen this year (though I've seen very, very little). Splendid. Simply splendid.

The usually stunning Pixar visuals. The great story with fully formed characters. This one has real artistry and a lovely heart. Plus, it is daring. I have to say that I was turned off by images of rats at various points in the film.

I'm glad I watched it with this really engaged audience. People were laughing and applauding throughout the film and at the end it received a wild round of applause. I really enjoy when a movie is applauded.

Mekado and Tom are at great places in their careers. In this Sunday's Times an article by Mekado will appear. It is a q & a with Werner Herzog and covers most of a page. He is quite proud and excited; this is his first appearance in the print publication.

Tom's play that he's been working on for more than a decade will be produced as part of the huge Fringe Festival. The play is strong and he has a great team of folk working on it with him.

As for the film,
4 film reels
5 popcorn kernels


I was lying in bed this morning thinking about the writers whose language best captured Manhattan. The names that jumped immediately to mind were Edith Wharton, Walt Whitman, and Frederico Garcia Lorca. Of course, there are so many others, but those popped first into my head.

Why was I thinking such thoughts? Because last night I was sitting in Washington Square Park. Perambulating in the park gave me thoughts of Henry James. I was imaginging his novel (Washington Square) occuring in the houses I was walking past.

It was a lovely moment. The temperature had finally cooled just a bit (it has been miserable hot here). But it had cooled because of rain and so was even more humid. There were lots of fun people in the park. Tourists, skateboarders, moms with kids, couples on dates (including lots of gay couples), etc. There was this odd wooden and wicker chair just sitting in the middle of the park. One mom took her daughter's picture standing next to it. I was sitting on the fountain watching all this. It was a lovely moment I wanted to share with someone. The first choice wasn't an option. The second choices were at dinner together. So this led me to my friend who I call when I'm depressed, as I was beginning to be. Then I called another friend. And then my friend Tom arrived and we went to dinner and then our tour of the West Village.

My gay pilgrimmage to the site of the beginnings of the modern American gay liberation movement. The Stonewall Inn was having some lesbian event, so we didn't stay there. But we bounced around a handful of bars, finding a fun cabaret night going on at The Duplex (and lots of cute boys to boot).

We walked down to the Christopher Street Pier. I really loved it. I think it is something about rivers, about waters in general, that really touch me. Reflecting later on this moment, I thought of myself standing on the banks of the Mississippi thinking about the language of Mark Twain, and thus the circle closes on my thoughts of Manhattan and language.

Sidenote: the two things I've, so far, really enjoyed about the city: the pier and the fact that you can eat after nine o'clock, which is always a challenge in OKC.

Critique of Empire -- More Travel Stories

For a couple of hours Monday morning I lay in Bushnell Park reading. It was about as beautiful as a day can be. Bushnell Park is this lovely, sloping expanse of lawn, bordered by trees, that leads from the heart of downtown Hartford toward the state capitol atop a hill. The capitol is this odd mixture of French villa with Moorish and even a few farther Eastern architectural influences thrown in. It stands out compared to the mostly classical and federal style buildings of this old, historic city.

The main features of the park are the stunning Civil War memorial arch that sits nestled by trees and surprises one with its grandeur when one moves through the trees to see what goes with these towers poking just above the treetops and the fountain with the sculpture of the stag and Native American men and women. I had sat the night before and watched the fountain.

The night before I had been melancholy. Dinner had been early and there was much time to fill. I didn't have anything to do or anyone really to hang out with and the day was too lovely. I didn't want to go too early back to the room to read or sleep. Plus half a continent away my friends were all having fun at the OKC Pride Parade and the drinking and dancing that follows it. My melancholy that night was a foreshadowing -- though I had only the vaguest sense of that. I wandered around looking for ice cream and found none. There's a metaphor there, it seems.

But not on Monday morning. I was anticipating the day with Brian. Brian is a retired minister and our time in OKC had overlapped by just a few months, but we had really bonded. There is a deep connection between us -- a common sharing of the gay hermeneutic, the calling to ministry, a keen eye for popular culture and how it speaks. Brian is much quieter than I am, but when he speaks it is profound. And the day we spent together didn't let me down.

I was reading V. S. Naipaul's Beyond Belief, about his second travels through converted Muslim countries, writing about the people, their faith, and their world. It is a profound book. Written in the mid nineties, it is a window into a world. Naipaul is insightful about so many things that it seems most folk in 2007 still haven't realized. Though, it was interesting to see that even Naipaul himself, as insightful as he is, didn't grasp what was happening or about to come. I eagerly craved discussing this book with Brian.

And the speeches and sermons two days before. At the 26th General Synod, celebraing the church's fiftieth anniversary, there were many prominent speakers. And it seemed that their messages were connected, at least the ones I heard (I wonder if we self-select or it just happens that way?). They were critical of empire. American empire.

Moyers had plenty of words against the current state of media and politics. In recent months he has talked about our system being broken, though he didn't go into that as much this time. This was more like his calls to arms of the last couple of years. A last ditch effort to save the republic from the ever encroaching power of the empire.

Brueggemann was the best. Probably because he stays so close to the text and nothing is more powerful than the written word of God. There is a line of development from Pharoah through Solomon to Augustus (though Brueggemann didn't make this point) and on to Bush and Cheney (he did make this point). He wants us to recover a society based upon covenantal love, justice, and righteousness, the three themes of Torah and prophecy, in response to the society based upon wealth and control of wisdom (represented by these various empires). He called for a recovery of Deuteronomy and its establishment of such a society. A society where the money-making engines of the economy are told to leave aside some for the widow, orphan, and immigrant. He called for us ministers to remain close to the text. He said, "anyone can do therapy, management or youth programs, our job is the text."

So I am to embody this story. To stand as a witness between God and the people, standing for covenantal love, justice, and righteousness. It is to be my very being. A humbling and difficult task.

And just the next day I try to be a witness of love and forgiveness and covenant and am reminded how difficult it really is.

Blogging from New York City

Last Thursday I flew to Hartford, Connecticut. My first time in that city/state and even the first time in New England. I was there attending the 26th General Synod of the United Church of Christ. A handful of folk I knew were there, and I enjoyed hanging out with them. Speakers at the synod included Bill Moyers, Walter Brueggemann, Barak Obama, Lynn Redgrave. Highlights of the trip included the Wadsworth Athenauem (the oldest public art museum in the US), Sunday brunch at an old mill restaurant on the Podunk River, just outside of the city, and spending a full day with my friend Brian Kovacs, who now lives in Providence, RI and drove over for the day. I'm sure I'll blog in more detail when I get home a week from today.

Yesterday, my first full day in NYC, I wondered around Central Park. Saw the penguins at the Central Park Zoo. Went to the Guggenheim and really enjoyed the exhibition there. And spent 2 1/2 hours at the Natural History Museum, primarily to visit the Hayden Planetarium. It was quite nice. Last night Mekado took me to the advance screening of a film.

I've had trouble sleeping the last two nights, so I'm getting a really late start to my day today and think I'll probably just take it easy today anyway.

I really need to cry, but am unable to and know that I won't be able to for seven more days, until I get home. And that's an exhausting prospect.

Gender, Violence, & Homophobia

Two Sunday's ago Paula Sophia preached a stunning sermon entitled "Samson and Sophia." The text was the Wisdom passage in Proverbs. Paula, who is transgender, talked about gender, the relationships between strength and wisdom, violence, and homophobia and connected lots of strands together.

Here are some excerpts reflecting her basic points. When it gets posted online, I'll add a link.

I believe that this suppression of the femnine has led to the suppression of wisdom and the over-reliance upon strength. Seeking consensus and emphasizing dialogue are often seen as the methods of wimps. . . . And in our own country, demonizing feminists, pacifists, and homosexuals has become a tool of political strategy that creates a pervasive homophobia that has become a powerful wedge device in local and national politics, a wedge issue that has kept those in power who have used strength unwisely.
I believe that homophobia is the fear of diminished strength, the fear of losing one's masculine vitality. As a result, we have become a results oriented society where the most expedient tool seems to be strength, often at the expense of wisdom.
I believe that the struggle for gender equality is a manifestation of the impulse toward wisdom, a balancing of the masculine strength that has ravaged our earth for too long, and I believe that the struggle for glbt equality is an offshoot of the general struggle for gender balance, not only in our culture and politics, but in our own psyches.
The wise one loves others and loves one's self, the masculine and feminine embodied in us all.

Michael's High School Reunion

Weekend before last was Michael's high school reunion. Now, being the date, you wonder if you'll have a good time. I had a blast! He had such a great group of high school friends. Many of them added me as MySpace friends right after the event.

On Friday night we hung out drinking and playing Trivial Pursuit with the closest friends.

Then Saturday was a picnic lunch in the park for families. Because it was a picnic, I packed a picnic lunch. I filled my picnic basket with my picnic supplies -- plastic plates and utensils, plastic cups, plastic wine glasses (stems included). I had napkins to match the school's colors. Wine. Fruit and veggies in plastic baggies. A blanket. An ice chest with ice. Lawn chairs. And we stopped for great fried chicken.

We got there and everyone else, including whole families, had simply brought Sonic or Subway. Not a picnic! Might as well have met at a fast food restaurant.

Then we started unpacking all our stuff. Add to it that we were wearing white linen pants and flouncy shirts and we were uber-gay. Everyone kept remarking on the spread. I didn't feel that the spread was gay at all. It was how my mother would have a packed a picnic for our family. Straight women are slipping! We gay men are the one's maintaining the practices of our mothers!

That evening was the dinner at the Choctaw golf course. We drank and talked and had a good time. Then we went to some crazy straight bar called the Landing Zone where an awful Elvis-impersonator was performing and the Blue Angels were there getting drunk before the air show the next day at Tinker.

Upcoming trip

So, I've got a great trip coming up!

Thursday I leave for Hartford, Connecticut to attend the UCC General Synod. I've never been to New England before. John Penalosa, from high school, is working in Hartford this summer, so we'll get to hang out. Brian Kovacs, who lives in Providence, will travel over one day to hang out. Plus other friends, like Dan DeLeon, will be attending the synod.

At the end of the synod, I'll be taking vacation. First I'll head to New York City, where I'll stay with Mekado Murphy and Tom Johnson and enjoy my first vacation to New York (I attended an APA meeting there in 2000 in December -- my 31 hours spent in LaGuardia during a blizzard!).

Then on the first, I'll fly to Dallas for the wedding of Garrett Vickrey and Cameron Mason. I'll stay in Dallas through the fourth, enjoying time with friends and lounging along the Wootens' pool.

I'll have you know that my three one way flights were altogether cheaper than a roundtrip ticket to Hartford would have been!