Friday, April 30, 2004

On The Bus, Part 2

PREVIOUSLY: On The Bus, Part 1

-----

Two months into this contract consulting gig, I was able to convince the powers-that-be that I can support the client from their downtown Chicago location instead of out in Naperville. I told them that all that clean, fresh air is wreaking havoc with my complexion. They might as well use water for my coffee instead of a double vodka. My successful lobbying meant that I am now able to go back to using the bus to get to work.

I love the bus. Nothing is more annoying to me than having to drive to work, specially when the only thing you can do is sit in traffic and talk back to the radio, who doesn't listen to what you say, like that ex-boyfriend who's idea of monogamy was to have a membership at one gay bathhouse at a time.

While on the bus this past week, I was able to read "Saul and Patsy", a wonderful book given to me by Annie, one of my closest friends. I wish I could share this book with you. It touched me deeply, like a proctologist. But alas, I can’t. So you have to buy it from Amazon through the link provided and earn me a kickback. Then I will know you are my friends, for you are providing for my addiction to male/female oil wrestling porn. I was thinking about setting up a PayPal donation button, but I figured that was too subtle. My mom always said "Keep hitting them with a shovel until they're dead, and then bury them with it." My mom's a card.

The book you read is like the "tell" in a card game. It tells a lot about your personality, your station in life, your inadequacies in bed. You can bluff your way with an Armani suit or a Tag-Hauer watch, but when the pants are down, your deuce is still a deuce.

Here’s a selection of books that I may have been spotted reading on the bus:

"The Vampire Lestat" by Anne Rice
The New Yorker magazine
"About A Boy" by Nick Hornby
"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" by JK Rowling
"The Hours" by Michael Cunningham

This is what it says about me:

"The Vampire Lestat" – gay. The New Yorker and "About A Boy" – elitist snob, good record collection, possibly with a bad British accent, gay. "Harry Potter" – creative, whimsical, quite possibly gay. "The Hours" – a complete flamer.

Of course, some people will seek to use this knowledge to their advantage by prominently displaying a copy of The Wall Street Journal or carrying around a worn copy of "The Iliad" they found on a windowsill, formerly used to prop up an airconditioner. I have been known to oh-so-casually put a copy of Field and Stream magazine on my lap to project a more rugged and outdoorsy nature--I like fishing for trouser trout.

The bus is a wonderful way to meet potential mates. You can surreptitiously study a person, their personality and habits. The lurching movements of the bus and the close quarters make it easy to strike up a conversation. You can even feign surprise and say that you have the same stop and offer to buy coffee. My friend Fernando was able to meet several women this way until he was arrested for swindling them from their Social Security checks.

Such is the Romance of the Bus. It is the gondola that ferries us from our homes to our dismal, mind-numbing places of work, spewing thick, black smoke along the way. Idly, I wondered what kind of freak I will sit next to today. I pull out my wallet and pay the fare...


-----
Get these recommended books:

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

On The Bus, Part 1

You only have a split second to make a decision of who to sit next to on the bus. The bus is a few minutes late and more than a half full, nary an empty row. The woman behind you with the curiously smelling duffel bag and wild grey hair already has her eye on a seat. You can tell because you can feel the heat emanating from her agitated body, her breath moist on your neck. Even bombarded with these sensations, your amazing brain has the capacity to divine that minutes ago, she had that disgusting egg and cheese Toaster Strudel. You suspect flatulence in her near future.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find a seatmate least likely to be annoying in your 45-minute trip to work. Choose wisely and you will be able to enjoy a short nap or read your favorite book. If you fail, it will be a hellish trip, an ominous start to your workday.

The task is difficult, video game-worthy, requiring super-honed senses and bullet reflexes. The man in the blue suit? Too fat and already visibly praying that nobody sits next to him. The woman with the flowery blouse? Possibly drowned in Chanel No.5. The scrawny teen with the "Anarchy Rules" t-shirt (a clever oxymoron) and the headphones? Bingo. He’ll be staring out the window the entire trip thinking about his cute little doggy and the funny pink hotdog that emerges from the dog’s shaft when it’s excited, the t-shirt merely badass posturing. This is your choice.

On the bus, we are all outwardly civilized, thinking deep, industrious thoughts in our staid work attire; only the occasional rebellious denim jacket, blue hair or cowboy boots in our midst. You feel a certain camaraderie with these rebels in your defiantly ratty underwear with the disintegrated waistband. You’re livin’ on the edge.

Inwardly, it is a battle of wills, over control of that last millimeter of vinyl between two passengers, of elbow space for reading, or the size of the crack of the window.

Once, I was locked in a desperate battle over control with a middle-aged Asian woman. There were still empty seats on this particular bus, so I was annoyed when she plopped herself next to me with her loathsome, fake Burberry bag. Doesn’t she know it’s all about the faux Coach baguettes? I could have confided to her about the sidewalk vendor in our neighborhood who had some fantastic "Dolci & Gabanos" and "Proda" merchandise, if not for the fact that she pulled out her USA Today and started reading it, the pages clearly invading my airspace.

I harrumphed to no avail. The daggers my eyes shot were deflected by her disinterest. So engaged, I opened the window despite the unseasonably cold weather just enough to create a mini-tornado. Oh, how I sniggered when she fought to keep her place in the paper. I did a mental jig when she finally decided to move to another seat. I relax into my seat, triumphant...

NEXT: On The Bus, Part 2

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Coming to Terms

nate landerThe word “faggot” to me has the same level of gravity as the words “homosexual” or “gay.” It’s just another word used to denote me and my gorgeous hair. In my multi-lingual universe, “faggot” does not have the same menace as its Filipino equivalent “bakla,” which even on the screen makes me wince.

Imagine, if you will, armed with this translation, that you were nonchalantly walking (okay, sashaying) down the street when out of the blue, someone yells “bakla!” to you at the top of their lungs as they drive by in their tricked-out, souped-up and chromed Honda Civic. You instantly think: how gauche! how nouveau-riche! before realizing a full minute later that you were meant to be insulted. You belatedly give the finger to a startled 76 year-old woman pushing her walker, the offenders long gone.

When I was in my early teens, I had a crush on Boy George, the colourful and flamboyant lead singer of Culture Club. Ok, “crush” might be too strong a word, maybe “terrified” is more like it. While millions of other people conjectured if George was a Boy or a girl or something in between, I had no doubt that George was indeed a Boy, and the make-up and chapeaux were just theatre, you know, like KISS.

After the infamous Grammy acceptance speech when Boy George more or less outed himself, the word “gay” suddenly had a greater import. It was like I always knew the meaning of the word “gay”, but not what it meant, if that makes sense. Suddenly I connected my confusing feelings toward my friend Charles to love. I was so overwhelmed that I did what every love-struck teen did: I stole Charles’ lunch money and tripped him on his way to History class.

Since then I have come to terms with my homosexuality. After all, it has given me insight to an effective nightly skin regime. It wasn’t easy, there were years of deep torment, loneliness and sub-standard evening gowns.

Come to terms. An interesting turn of phrase. Let’s go through the terms, shall we?
Ass spelunker, bent, butt pirate, cock jockey, cock sucker, doughnut puncher, fag, faggot, fairy, fudge packer, homo, nancy boy, nelly, pansy, pillow biter, poof, queer, sissyboy, woofter.

Auf Deutsch: Schwuler, stricher, warmer bruder, lustig.

In Italiano: Frocio, finocchio, puppo, busone, effe, recchione.

En Français: Pédé, tapette.

Nope, just a distant buzzing.

"motherfucker fagit i fucking hate u.u make me fucking sick. all u homos..fuck all of you!!!!"

These are the words nate left in my tagboard (go look, it may still be there). These terms, possibly meant to arouse my anger, didn’t even register. I truly did not care. I was more upset when Blue Pencil left a withering criticism of my writing in the GuestBook. I left nate’s words on the tagboard but I deleted Blue Pencil’s entries. The vitriol is lessened by nate's broken sentences; his lowercase “u” is definitely not my uppercase “I”.

In Filipino: Mantsutsupa. Bading. Tsupaero. Bakla.

These terms, these slurs once had enormous power over me. Their power is much diminished, but sometimes, they still sting like bees.


Friday, April 16, 2004

Bloodless

First impressions matter. If you don’t believe me, try wearing something white after Labor Day, you know, like a white gown and a pointy white hood.

I read somewhere that people make up their minds about someone they meet somewhere in the first seven minutes, which makes a good first impression crucial. I tend to agree; I generally know whether a guy I meet is someone I will be eventually dumping, dating or stalking.

It sounds contrary to everything your parents told you when you were growing up: "Don’t judge a book by its cover" or "It’s what’s inside your pants that count." After all, nobody thinks of themselves as shallow; you would lie through your teeth before admitting that your Louis Vuitton bag is real.

And it’s even worse in cyberspace (such a quaint 90s term) where online profiles tout qualities that are complete fabrications; that they are funny (not), they go to the gym (one time, six years ago) and well-adjusted (complete and raging co-dependent psycho).

I remember a guy asking me once, in a chatroom, what kind of sports I play. Without a beat, I typed “basketball,” even though the last time I played was when I was fourteen and it was with nine year-old girls.

For gay men, what kind of sports you play is like a barometer of your “butchness” or masculinity. A gay man who plays football is man’s man; basketball, your boy next door; and tennis, the limp-wristed stereotype. And don’t ever admit that you don’t play sports; you might as well say you have a special shelf where you store your tiaras.

Of course, some gay men will overcompensate and play football just to confound you. A friend who was in a gay football league told me that a huddle is where he got a great recipe for German Chocolate cake.

People want to put their best foot forward, make a good impression, which really makes getting to know someone really difficult, if not futile, in the short term. Nobody’s gonna present their real selves. Might as well go along with the fiction and enjoy the ride because one day you’re gonna wake up and wonder how you married this person with the chronic flatulence and $500 a day cocaine habit.

Same thing with interviews. I don’t know how questions like "give me an example of how you handled conflict" or "what are your weaknesses?" are supposed to help find the best candidate for a position. It’s not like you sit in an interview and say "Yes, I will be coming late to work everyday, steal the toilet paper, and eat other employees’ lunches in the refrigerator. And when I’m done with that, I’m gonna sleep with your husband—beeyaatch!"

The way I see it, the most convincing candidates are probably the ones you have to be wary of. Any question beyond experience and qualifications are really not relevant unless you have a lie detector or a nipple clamp.

I was in an interview recently where the woman asked me one hypothetical scenario after another about how I would resolve conflict with people. I got frustrated because I have never met these people that are supposedly giving me a hard time. In real life, I would know whether a bagel, a beer or a blowjob will smooth things over. In an interview, what I may say isn't what I would necessarily do.

It’s like that ethics test that they give potential employees:

You are in charge of petty cash. You forgot to go to the ATM and you need $10 to buy lunch. Do you:

a. Take the money from petty cash.
b. Borrow money from petty cash and return it later.
c. Don’t take the money.
d. Take the money but answer "c" in this questionnaire.

Duh.

By the end of the interview, I was drained, bloodless. My cheeks ached from smiling so much. I knew I didn’t get the job, her first impression counted.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Achy Breaky

Maybe I’m wrong about lottery tickets after all.

I got into an accident today, two minutes away from work. Some idiot driving a tank didn’t slow down as he got on the exit ramp and plowed into the car behind me, which slammed into my car, pushing my car forward and into the car in front of me.

This is the first time I have been involved in an accident involving four cars. Makes ya tink bout dem lottery tickets.

It was weird hearing the loud crash and then watching the approaching disaster in your rear-view mirror, thinking ohshitmom’sgonnafindmyporn before feeling the impact. People say that your life flashes before your eyes but I think that they just confuse it with finding out they have herpes.

I sat there in the middle of the exit ramp, a little in shock. Gawkers drove by, slowly surveying the damage. While waiting for the state trooper to come to the scene, I wondered if I should unbutton my shirt just in case he’s cute.

I’m fine, I think, although I won't really know for sure until I've consulted my lawyer, to be on the safe side. My body’s kinda achy-breaky. I am a little woozy, hyper-aware; wondering if I have a headache and then thinking that this wondering is going to cause a headache. It’s unsettling, being in a car accident--a bit like an out-of-body experience, like noticing that your shoes don’t match your belt, or finding out that the girl you went home with last night is not a girl after all but a man, a man who gave you a blowjob and you enjoyed it, ENJOYED IT and now you’re out trolling for trannies.

Or maybe I’m just hungry.

I guess I got off easy. Could have been worse. I could have been involved in an accident with Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Three Hours

I hate being in an airplane. Despite the soundness of the underlying physics of jet propulsion and space-age engineering, my inner caveman is in disbelief: how can tons of metal, plus 722 passengers, plus their suitcases of ugly vacation outfits, be held aloft 50,000 feet in midair? Either most people are in denial or they really believe that Britney’s boobs are real.

Think about it: the odds of getting killed in a plane crash is 1 in 300,000; the odds of winning the lottery is like, 1 in 14 million. Yet people buy lottery tickets. I am not a superstitious person, but if you believe that you can win the lottery, then you have to believe that a plane can crash. I ain’t never buyin’ a lottery ticket. Despite this, the idea haunts me the millisecond I walk through the threshold and smell the sharp, stale, disinfected cabin air up until the final moments of landing when you feel the hard bounce of the wheels against the sweet, sweet ground.

On an airplane, my normal stoicism gives way to a jumble of emotions. I am giddy, tearful, horny, all at once. My feelings are heightened, anything, everything can summon fears or tears. Right is wrong, up is down, Glitter should have won an Oscar. I’m serious. I laughed and/or cried so hard watching that movie in a flight home from Amsterdam. It was intense, like God. I hope the next time I fly they show Gigli.

And flight attendants creep me out. This job is like the equivalent of people buying $500 worth of lottery tickets every week. How can they stand there and greet me cheerily and offer me peanuts when in a few minutes we will be willfully going against the laws of gravity? The only explanation is that these are just the husks of people who have been taken over by aliens. That’s why in long transatlantic flights, the flight attendants will curtain off a section of the airplane, turn down the cabin lights and start the in-flight movie. Inside the curtained area, they slither out of their husks and rejuvenate, feasting on the human waste processed in blue toilet water they siphon from the lavatories.

Then, there’s the weather, that bastion of predictability, throwing its little monkey wrench. You are greedily sipping your complimentary soda and then you choke abruptly as the plane get thrown around. Once, on a trip to Houston, we encountered exceptional turbulence. My knuckles were white from holding on to the next guy. Then he zipped up his penis and I wiped my knuckles off with a tissue.

That trip to Houston was about three hours. Three hours to think about being embroiled in a freak storm, hit by lightning, an engine catching fire, smoke in your lungs, and the nearest exit into thin air.

Three hours. That’s about how long the drive is from my house to work in Naperville and back. The odds of dying in a car crash is 1 in 19,000 per year, 1 in 247 per lifetime. Everyday, those three hours are like lottery tickets bought. In the car, in unguarded moments, thoughts of those odds lodge itself like a bullet in my brain.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Lost Time

One of the things I wish I did earlier in life was to take guitar lessons. I’ve always been a music fan, a child of pop. I went through many phases where I only listened to British bands, hair metal bands, British hair metal bands. I am the kind of music fan that wants to read all your liner notes, collect your esoterica, play "air" instruments with your band.

I played at many a concert, alternating from air drums, air keyboards and air guitar in one swift minute. I was such an adept at the air instrument that I could take an invisible monkey and an invisible organ grinder to a street corner and make some serious money. If I had learned to play the guitar earlier, I might have been a rock idol, instead of a being a legend in my own living room. When I finally summoned some courage, I enrolled in my first class a little over a year ago. In that first hour, I learned to play three chords, and with those three chords, five songs.

Spring forward. We advance the clock one hour, ceremoniously going through the house, coming upon each face, moving each set of hands until each one is set and then we have lost time; the season has changed from dreary winter to exultant spring.

I think about that lost hour, and the other thirty-four hours I have lost in my lifetime. Doesn't seem so much; not even two days or a working week. But then I think about how much I learned in one hour of guitar class.

The movement of the time forward has a tangible effect. What if I watched an earlier show at the movies? What if a troubled couple spent an extra hour in bed together, talking? What if Princess Diana left an hour early that fateful night of her death?

I met Brian two years ago, this month, in a bar, at 2am--the magic hour. What if instead of staying until closing, I decided to leave an hour early? If I had given in to fatigue, I would have missed him, drunken and flirtatious. Then this spring day, I might have been sitting alone at the coffee shop, staring out the window, as he walked pass with some other guy on his arm, in some other lifetime.