things to think about

today i am grateful for: INTERNET VIDEOS (ABOUT XMAS)
December 25, 2010, 6:28 pm
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Friends,Book cover for "There's No Such Thing as a Chanukkah Bush, Sandy Goldstein"

I fucking love Xmas. I know I shouldn’t, because I am a Jew, but it’s basically what if the whole country threw a theme party and EVERYONE WAS INVITED. People dress up! They decorate! They sell special foods! It’s like the world’s biggest normal-infested spectacle performance art. I couldn’t’ve dreamed something up that was better.

And one special corner of my heart that is made especially warm is, of course, the Xmas video. YouTube is probably my single favorite thing on the internet. Real movies. Videos of kids singing songs. I fucking love this shit, and I love sharing it with people. I’ve done YouTube tours in the past, and this is one of my favorite – a collection of videos from around the internet, both videos I found and videos from other people.

1) Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas is You”

This is the most traditional song on this list. If you don’t get it, I think I hate you.

2) Bear Force 1, “Christmas is Here”

It’s San Francisco’s premiere all-bear dance music phenomenon, Bear Force One! Holy shit! Scream! Throw your jocks! I also love the visuals, for obvious reasons I’m sure.

3) David Bowie and Bing Crosby, “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”

I love anything that smells of multigenerational talent coming together onstage. I love the shmaltzy pretext of this song – “Oh, I’m David Bowie, I live down the road!” “Oh, I’m Bing, the cousin from America who sings.” “Oh! I sing too!” I cannot even begin to describe the surreal nature of this particular pairing – Bing Crosby did the original “White Christmas,” did you know Evidently this was recorded as part of Bing Crosby’s Christmas Special – there’s a bunch of information over at the Washington Post article here.

4) Dana, “It’s Gonna be a Cold Cold Christmas”

So Dana won Eurovision way back in 1970. If you don’t know about Eurovision, you are American, and you have no idea how we have been deprived. Eurovision is like American Idol, but with pageantry and full production numbers and drag queens and dance beats, set up as a sort of “tournament of the countries.” Maybe I’ll do a Eurovision post in the future – seriously, you guys, you have no idea how much we are being deprived. But, for right now: Dana won in 1970. Her winning single was a world-wide bestseller. She ran for the presidency of Ireland! But none of that can keep her warm without youuuuuuuuuuuu. (Sorry this cuts off so abruptly! It’s because the announcer cut her off before she finished the song (discovered via a different cut) and so whomever put the video up decided to cut him out entirely.)

5) Charo on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, “Feliz Navidad” (thanks Janie!)

Pee-Wee is so right now! He’s on Broadway in a show I can’t afford to see (please send tickets!) and everyone I know right now is obsessed with a) his show and b) being his friend. I love this set, I love this era of weird design, and I love how Pee-Wee keeps running around through the whole video. I also realized, hearing this, that I hear Spanish all the time but never from Spain – Charo’s lisp! So intense and unlike the Spanish I am used to hearing.

6) The Julekalender, “Støvledance” (thanks Kasper!)

So the Julekalender is this TV show that originated in Denmark in the 1990s. Versions have been made across Scandinavia. (This one is Norwegian.) It follows these three guys as they play all the characters in an epic where they are trying to find a key to open a magic music box to save their elven race, the Nisser, from destruction by the bad guys. This is their drinking song.

7) The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

This is totally classic. I love the voice, I love the style, and I love the song. It’s one of my favorite Xmas-time things. Also, anything that can include the lyric “you’re a nasty-wasty skunk” and make it sound really mean is golden. This song is one of the purest fuck-you songs ever, and yet the singer is totally self-righteous and satisfied about it because, I mean, it’s the GRINCH! He HATES CHRISTMAS! How could you have even ONE NICE THING to say?

8) The Kinks, “Father Christmas”

Speaking of fuck you songs! This is the video, and I love that, but it is such low quality because it is vintage. This is a re-synched version someone on YouTube made with the album track. This is one of my favorite of a whole genre of songs best called “poor people saying fuck you to the rich, materialistic ideals of Christmas.” I love it. This is about little kids mugging Santa Claus. The chorus: “Father Christmas, give us some money/We don’t got time for your stupid toys/We’ll beat you up if you don’t hand it over/Give all the toys to the little rich boys.” I love this shit, and I love it even though I know that in the class revolution, I’ll probably lose. DIRECT ACTION MOTHERFUCKERS.

9) The Year Without a Santa Claus, “Heat Meiser/Snow Meiser”

I don’t know if anyone else remembers those claymation stop motion movies that are about Christmas. They came out in the mid-70s – Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, beautiful stop-motion movies about Christmas themes, being a good person, and (as I recall) some really scary parts – Frosty gets locked in a greenhouse! Shit like that!

My favorite of them is The Year Without a Santa Claus, where Santa Claus – suffering from the burnout endemic across the present-delivering industrial complex – declares he is taking a year off since no one believes in him anyways. These two elves go on a quest to find him kids who believe, run into a problem with their reindeer, etc, etc, but the upshot is that in order for it all to work out it has to snow in Southville (balmy!) on Christmas. This requires delicate negotiations between the Heat Meiser, who controls Southville, and his stepbrother Snow Meiser, who controls snow. THIS IS THEIR STORY.

10) Barbra Streisand, “Christmas Mem’ries” (thanks Bizzy!)

So I love Barbra. And I love that our little Jew evidently has one of the best selling Xmas albums of all time. It is hard to be a Jew in the US and not have an intense relationship with Christmas, whether positive or negative; I love it (consier this post!) but not everyone agrees. But then there’s Barbra, and her album, which was #1 in 1967 and has gone quintiple platinum (that’s 5 million copies, people!) as of 1999. We all have to work out our own way to deal with the holiday; I like that Babs chose to get paid. Babs doesn’t seem to have any video of her up singing this, so instead, I bring you her version edited together by someone on YouTube (or possibly a television special?) of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov ice skating, along with some precious ice skating pictures – the only way to improve on a classic.

EDITED TO ADD: Ok, so David Levy, one of my favorite internet friends, has totally SNAPPED ME INTO PLACE by pointing out that this is from Babs’ SECOND Xmas album, which was also very nice, but not the album I describe above. Ok. I stand corrected. In addition to the ice skating video, here is one from the REAL first album, “Jingle Bells,” here used for the OSBORNE FAMILY SPECTACLE OF DANCING LIGHTS at Disney Studios. HOLY SHIT. Also I wish she had said “and soon Miss Franny Brice was sitting by my side,” but that is because I am ridiculous.

11) Grace Jones, “Little Drummer Boy”

I know, it’s two Pee-Wees AND it’s two Drummer Boys. First of all, is this some sort of strange phenomenon wherein freak weird geniuses must sing “Little Drummer Boy”? Second of all, having Grace Jones come to your house to sing you songs is about the best reason I can think of to be president. Third of all, I like how committed Pee-Wee was to being weird, not just his kind of weird but weird period. Grace Jones on a kid’s show is my kind of holiday.

12) Kurtis Blow, “Christmas Rappin'” (thanks Kim!)

So one of the things that is really interesting to me is the way in which Christmas albums can bookend a career. They’re a guarantee – they always sell! Everyone can do standards! I was joking earlier with a friend, in fact, that it’s totally the jump-the-shark sign for a pop star. But this song is actually on the other side – this was, in fact, the first rap song ever released by a major label, back in 1979. Kurtis Blow signed a two-single deal — if the singles were successful, he’d get a deal for a record. This was one of those singles, and here we are today.

today i am grateful for: POOH POOH POOH
December 7, 2010, 2:21 am
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I was riding the 4 train home after: 1) work 2) work social 3) free haircut 4) writing work 5) workshop 6) talk to ehowe 7) talk to emmaia and 8) run into a strangerfriend on the platform. At Brooklyn Bridge, an older man went down – sitting on the floor and unable to breathe. They announced a sick passenger and I didn’t even realize it was in our car at first; I was all bundled up and making conversation. But he was right there in the door, sitting, and no one was going to him. There was someone on the emergency phone to the conductor. 

So of course I went to him. He was unresponsive. Someone said he had asthma. So I hollered out to the car to see if someone had an inhaler and finally sent someone specific to go ask in the next car if anyone a) knew CPR b) had an inhaler. But this didn’t look like asthma; it looked like dying. There was no fight. He laid back and he wasn’t responsive and his jaw was clenched. We got an inhaler and I tried to inhaler him. He had a very weak pulse. Finally, a lady who knew CPR came, and she and a med student from the back of the train started at it. I went to see if they had a defibrillator or something in the booth; they didn’t. He took one big breath there, lying down, like he was dying.

The paramedics came after his heart had stopped. They did their paramedic work with the paddles and got his heart started again. Everyone was crowded around to watch and they were really angry; we were all invested, though. We were all there! The 4 train must have been a disaster – no service on the downtown side at all. They started running 4 trains downtown from the uptown side and that is how I got home.

I guess tonight I am grateful for being pushy – for being a loudmouth who can organize people to go get people. That’s how the lady and the med student came. I am grateful that other people knew what to do when I didn’t. I am grateful, sort of, that that guy lived – I mean actually I don’t care that much – I mean, I am not a person who thinks of death as a tragedy unless it’s tragic. Sometimes it just happens. It’s easy to say that when it’s not your dad or uncle or brother who might’ve just died but for the grace of God and some people.

I am grateful that I am the person in a crisis, provided it isn’t a crisis about feelings, who can keep a calm head and direct people and do what I can that is actually helpful. I am grateful that I feel that kind of responsibility to other people and do so without thinking twice about it. I am not writing this to get pats on the back as much as to have the whole thing witnessed. There but for the grace of God go I.
Jews say baruch dayan emet on a death – blessed is the true judge. You have to let go of these things. I like Jewishness when it is about an incredibly visceral detachment – about engaging with both hands but realizing ultimately it is out of your control. I can armchair quarterback what I could’ve done – taken that CPR class in 2001, asked the booth people for something different, gotten something between his teeth so his airway didn’t close. But that is I guess what God is for me – it is challenging myself to the grace of not being in control. Of not being perfect, and that being okay. Of doing the best work you can. Of ritually distracting the evil eye just in case.

I am not even sure what I am grateful for right now. Grateful to be alive drinking silk nog and bourbon. Grateful that there was a cop (eventually) who helped out the woman who did the CPR without a face shield – helped her find out where to find out what communicable diseases he might have. I am impressed that she did it anyways. I am grateful that they figured out a way to run the 4 trains so they got me home. I am grateful for my bed. I am grateful for my luck. Many, many things.

today i am grateful for: QUEER LEGENDS IN OUR MIDST
December 7, 2010, 2:21 am
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Saturday night I went to see a show by Tim Miller, one of the NEA 4, a real QUEER PERFORMANCE ART LEGEND. Then I went to a latke party at the home of a QUEER MOVIEMAKING LEGEND. I stood around all night and talked with people I didn’t know, and some I did – some of the most interesting people in NYC I am sure. I helped make latkes. I watched as two artists I respect immensely did the best Chanukkah ritual I have seen yet and I held a Chanukkah candle in my hand as my own little light. I got driven home by a filmmaker I respect immensely who did something awesome and we had an amazing conversation together sitting in her car in front of my house.

It was basically an answer to the question “why do you live in New York, anyways?”

I’m not a huge starfucker generally speaking – or I guess the thing is that I don’t like to be this guy who is all I LIVE IN NEW YORK BECAUSE IT IS COOL. I am a huge starfucker in that I fucking love living in this community with living legends. I performed on Friday at the book release party of the person who basically made up modern performative drag kinging – obviously, it’s evolved since then, but you know. She was the first, or at least as much the first one to get recognition, or at least the first one to get recognition and live in New York. It’s easy to be an asshole here and forget that other places have awesome artistic history too because you’re talking to someone and *her* most recent show is about all the time she spent with Andy Warhol.

I am taking class with Tim Miller and I am thrilled. It is amazing when living legends turn into regular people, people who maybe talk a little too much and fart and have weird neuroses and are pretty good teachers but not always the best. I live in this place where all these living legends ARE regular people – and I get to interact with them and remember that I am just a real person too, and that it is okay that I am not always A MAGIC CREATURE WEARING JEWELS because even the most magic creatures still have to eat breakfast and take a shower.

I feel in context here. I feel like a freak at work – yes, lesbian paradise – and I feel my weirdness all the time in the greater landscape but I also have a little safe place to retreat to where we are all striving together. It is amazing to feel your heroes and legends just be people around town. It is amazing to feel yourself a part of their work, moving forward. THAT is why I live here, under it all, why I pay so much, why I work so hard. There really is nowhere else like it – and if I can make it here, sure, I’ll be fine everywhere else, but that is because I will have had somewhere to put down roots and grow strong.

today i am grateful for: FAMILY
December 7, 2010, 2:20 am
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A twisty donut made into a chanukkah menorah.Heath and I have been friends forever. I guess since 2004 or something, but that’s a long, long time. Forever. Heath and I are family in the way that we squabble but we care very deeply. We take good care of each other. Heath pushes me into being a better person, like buying a motorcycle jacket or thinking about living on my own. I think I provide something to push against for Heath, and a logic brain, and I don’t know. A sense of something.

Anyways. Heath and I come from very similar places and, more than that, we come from VERY similar shit. The weight of our pasts and how hard we are working. That is where Heath and I just get it. We’re family. You know? I don’t know how you say it. My experience with family is just so tricky and so often I feel alienated and weird and so I am so extra very grateful for the family I choose.

For Chanukkah we went to a diner, and made a menorah out of a donut. We ate a lot of donuts. Heath did not get too mad at me when I started singing Tina Turner in a cat voice. If that is not love I don’t know what is.

I have a lot of chosen family in my life. I think it’s because my birth family was such a disaster zone. Luckily I can count my little sister as a part of this chosen family, which feels so good. I have people in my life who really love me, who love me despite all the little and big things that make me a pain in the ass. I have so much love and so much inspiration and I am such, such, such a lucky person. I never thought in one million years I would say I was grateful for family, but here I am and I mean it.

today i am thinking about: GRATITUDE DAY 2
December 2, 2010, 12:59 pm
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I live in one of the most expensive cities ever on the planet. I am stuck in a job that will pay me enough to live here, more or less, which means that I have to choose between living the life I came here to live and taking care of teh things i need, ie, if I buy nice winter boots at full price I cannot have any fun. After my expenses I have about $16/day, which is a ton of money except that a) I am a terrified cook and grocery stores make me panic so I do not eat cheaply and b) I like to go to the theater and out on the town and also c) if I want to buy things like clothes or shoes new that is also a lot of money because I am fat. That $16 includes all food except the work groceries I try to buy – so dinner 7 nights a week + breakfast and lunch on the weekends — any things I need like toothpaste or lotion or costuming or god forbid a new pair of shoes, and my entertainment budget.

And I will TOTALLY OWN that this means I do not actually have a money problem. I don’t have enough to live the life I would like to live but I have a lot of money left over and I can cover all my bills. If I could get over this food shit I would have a LOT of money left over. As it is, and for the record – I am very self conscious about this – it is not like I am eating out super fancy, and it is not like I go out and blow $50 on alcohol. But I have a drink when I go out (almost half of my daily budget), and sometimes I like a coffee when I am in a restaurant (an eighth to a quarter of my daily budget). Sometimes I like to take Erin out to dinner (two days worth of budget!). Sometimes I like to buy a bottle of bourbon to have around the house (a little over a day of budget.) Or go to a theater (somewhere between a little over half my daily budget and a little over one day’s budget.) Or get insoles for my shoes! (Almost my whole daily budget.)

Which is to say that I am always on the lookout for affordable nice things for myself. And though New York is expensive, it is also very cheap if you know where to look. And there is nowhere I like to look more than the deli or the food cart that has my favorite vice, EGG AND CHEESE ON A ROLL.

A delicious egg and cheese on a roll sandwich, wrapped in tin foil.

courtesy NY Serious Eats.

Yes, friends, EGG AND CHEESE ON A ROLL. The breakfast of the lazy New Yorker. For a dollar fifty at the deli on the corner I can get an egg and cheese on a toasted roll with salt and pepper. For two twenty five I can get TWO eggs and cheese on a roll at the cart by my work, sometimes on an everything bagel instead.

EGG AND CHEESE ON A ROLL is melty and delicious and kind of gross – it is “cheese” in the loosest sense – but it is soft egg and salty plastic cheese and a crispy roll that is a little like kleenex underneath. Sometimes when you are having a stressful morning, say, and you have to leave your girlfriend’s house because you do not have time for her to finish her morning routines, and you have to go to the hardware store (one quarter of my daily budget) AND go to two banks AND stop by the drugstore (almost half my daily budget) AND get to work early, sometimes, it is just too much to go to the grocery store to get work groceries, which is problematic because then here it is and it’s 9:30am and I’ve already spent just under 3/4 of my daily budget and I still need to eat breakfast and lunch and buy something nice to take to dinner, and I have to get a haircut on my lunch break, and shit there goes the daily budget.

TWO TWENTY FIVE. (an eighth of my daily budget). It is so delicious and if I am lucky it will take me through lunch because I got two eggs instead of one. Sometimes it is the little things that make it better. Thank you, eggs. Thank you, plastic cheese. Thank you, soft white roll.

today i am thinking about: GRATITUDE DAY 1
December 1, 2010, 12:54 pm
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My friend Jess on LJ is doing this thing about gratitude – one thing she is grateful for a day. I love it. So I am going to do it too, both on my LJ (blast from the past!) but here, too. I like being public about this stuff and I think it will challenge me to be honest in public rather just in private space. So I will repost here.

a nerdy gay wearing a bow tie and big fake glasses talks into a microphone. Today i am grateful for: MY FAKE PLASTIC GLASSES.
So the World Famous *BOB* says that she had to become a drag queen to learn how to be a woman. That is how I feel only it’s something else, like I had to learn how to be an awkward nerdy boy to learn how to be a woman. Which is to say that these days I am getting questioning looks or rude comments in the bathroom way more than ever before. But it is also to say that I feel so awkward about that sometimes. My mom was always like IT’S OK IF YOU’RE GAY (well, that wasn’t really true) BUT JUST DON’T BE A BUTCH GAY. At any rate, whatever, my presentation is what it is, it’s a hoot, but I discovered something that makes it all feel good AND THAT SOMETHING, MY FRIENDS, IS FAKE GLASSES.

I wear them constantly. I am addicted to them. They make me feel like myself in a way nothing else ever has. They are just 3-D glasses that I cut the lens out of and hide the logo with a little black electrical tape. Usually people do not even realize they are fake at first – or rather, that they have no lenses, because as I say – they’re real! They’re just not medical.

And this totally free object has made it easier for me to feel like myself than anything else I own. ANYTHING. ELSE. I. OWN. Sure I can buy clothes or whatever, sure I have nice things, but somehow these ridiculous fake glasses make me feel at home in myself. In my body. They make outfits look like me. They make me funny, and nerdy, and stylish like a hipster. They’re like a little rebellious nonsense statement. I mean, today I had my crotch examined by the doctor, and I kept on my fake glasses. Just because.

I am grateful for that. I am grateful for feeling like myself. I am grateful that I put them on and any outfit looks finished. I am grateful that I can wear them at work and feel less out of my body and weird. I am grateful for a lot of other things, but these stupid plastic glasses are basically my favorite things in the world and if I lose a pair I just go to a movie theater and ask for a new one. I have different pairs for different occasions, and I don’t feel like such a freak, or maybe the correct answer is that I feel good being the freak that I am.