Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Big and Strong

Vanity Fair is running a piece on oral stories from inside the Bush White House. It's sad and depressing, and at times horrifying. We didn't kill people for oil, or to fight terrorism, or to spread the love of Jesus. We killed them to look big and strong:

Richard Clarke: That night, on 9/11, Rumsfeld came over and the others, and the president finally got back, and we had a meeting. And Rumsfeld said, You know, we’ve got to do Iraq, and everyone looked at him—at least I looked at him and Powell looked at him—like, What the hell are you talking about? And he said—I’ll never forget this—There just aren’t enough targets in Afghanistan. We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kind of attacks.

And I made the point certainly that night, and I think Powell acknowledged it, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. That didn’t seem to faze Rumsfeld in the least.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It really didn’t, because from the first weeks of the administration they were talking about Iraq. I just found it a little disgusting that they were talking about it while the bodies were still burning in the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center.

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Years Eve Orphan

There are no parties on the hill this year. The big houses are closed to us. And everyone is waiting around to see what everyone else will do. No one is making a commitment for anything.

I went ahead and bought a ticket for Firewater, a four-hour cruise in the harbor, thinking that I could lead by example.

No one followed. Everyone is hoping that something better will come along. They still have faith in the nightlife in this town. Silly boys.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Black Out

As far as I can tell, what happened last night was that lightning hit a power pole, and the entire electric grid shut down sector by sector ... in HECO's own words ... "to avoid a catastrophic power failure."

I don't know what the difference is between a catastrophic power failure and a 12-hour island-wide black out. I don't think we'll ever know. This spin is already happening - according to the papers we handled the storm quite well.

Although there wasn't actually a storm. There was just some lightning. No wind, no rain, no tornadoes, no water spouts ... just a lightning bolt. The governor says we learned our lesson from the last disaster, and installed portable generators at the airport.

The president-elect was safe. In other headlines, Obama ate a tuna melt for lunch yesterday, his daughters had shave-ice at Sea Life Park, and he made it on time this morning to the Marine Corps base where he works out, thought the McDonalds he usually meets his friends at was closed.

I was set to go to Tom and Joe's party last night, but figured it was off due to the black out. Now I hear that it went on and it was fun. Damn. I should've known my friends wouldn't cancel a party for silly reasons like this. I wish I had gone. Instead I bothered some friends on the phone, talked to Steve in Cali for awhile and Dawn out in Hawaii Kai, then had Maika over for some beers. It was a pleasant Friday, so no complaints. Just bummed that I missed the party.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

12 Gays of Christmas

Just Click. You know you want to.

Food Policy

How's that for being one day ahead of the zeitgeist? Both the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times ran strong articles this morning on the hopes for a new Food Policy in the US under Obama.

I'm not too optimistic. So far he's been pretty traditional in his pick of advisers - there hasn't been anything remotely progressive about most of his agenda so far. Still, at least he is rational, so there is some hope after the ideological madness of the past eight years. Christopher Cook of the CS Monitor offered these steps as a start:

  1. New public investments targeting sustainable agriculture, defined as organic, small- to mid-sized, diversified farming.
  2. New investments in local/regional food networks and foodsheds – to help build up the connections between farmers and consumers, to open up and expand new markets for organic farmers and those considering the transition; for more farmer's markets and food stores that feature local produce.
  3. A moratorium on agribusiness mergers, and strenuous antitrust provisions and enforcement to protect what little is left of diversity in the food economy.
  4. A moratorium on all new genetically modified (GMO) products, and an expansion of existing ones, and appointment of a blue-ribbon panel/commission to assess the impact of GMO foods on our environment and our health.
  5. A moratorium on – and gradual phasing out of – concentrated animal feeding operations, aka factory farms, which are among the nation's top polluters of water and air, and breeders of widespread and virulent bacterial strains.
  6. Dramatically expanded regulatory enforcement and staffing in the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to protect food safety and meat industry labor and environmental practices.
  7. Slowing the hazardously fast meatpacking (and poultry) assembly line, to protect workers and consumers.
  8. Incentives for small-scale urban, suburban, and rural farming ventures oriented toward diversified local food systems.
  9. Bold public investment in a raft of public awareness campaigns that build support, and expand markets and demand, for sustainable alternatives such as urban agriculture and gardening, and reducing fast-food consumption.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Food vs Stuff

I suppose the holiday is going to happen whether I do anything to prepare or not. Christmas wasn't so commercially in your face in South America. Rio had a big artificial tree floating in their lagoon, and a church I toured in Uruguay had Advent decorations. That was about it, I think. Things were low key even in Miami, which is more or less South American anyway.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, decorations are everywhere and the consultants are sending the office expensive but bland cookies and waxy chocolates and chemically-enhanced Japanese candies. I came in this morning and my stomach almost lurched when I saw another box of ... junk.

I'm having serious food withdrawals. Buenos Aires didn't have much of a cuisine - it was pretty much steak, lamb, potatoes, and wine - but what they had was world class. Grass fed and organic and fresh. And even though it's their beef that's famous it's the Patagonia lamb that I'm craving the most.

There was no 'stuff,' nothing from a can or frozen or processed or pre-made. It was a bit like Ireland and Turkey. It was real food. And even though it didn't look like people ever ate vegetables or fruit, and even though our diet gurus say Meat is Bad, the guys there were pretty fit and lean.

Michael Pollan tells us to 'eat food, not stuff.' Easier said than done. I went to Cost-Co last night and had a hard time finding food. Even the meat came from ranch-factories that feed their animals on products and hormones. I wandered the aisles, but couldn't find much. They seemed to have stopped stocking the few foods that I would normally buy. I picked up some nuts and cheese and called it quits. I ended up going to Tamuras to pick up some gourmet ingredients. It stretches my budget, but sometimes I need real food and it is getting harder and harder to find that in our stores. Even the stuff they call 'organic' and 'free-range' at Whole Foods doesn't really taste that much better.

Tamuras seems pricier, but I'm not quite sure. Good food had so much flavor that I eat less of it. I made a pasta with serrano ham and wahoo that was delicious. It was pretty thick and creamy, and I think it would only work if you use good pasta and real cream and good fish, etc. Otherwise it would just be a nasty tuna casserole.
Saute sliced shallot in 2T olive oil until shallots are slightly brown
Add 1.5 T orange zest, 2 anchovies, and two slices of minced serrano ham; saute for 5"
Add 2 T mashed green olives; saute 2"
Add 4 oz. tuna and a bit of oil; saute for 2-3"
Add .75 c cream; saute until reduced by half and sauce is thick.
Add pasta.
And that's it. Good pasta will have enough extra starch to thicken the sauce, so this was almost the consistency of a risotto. I'll make it again, maybe even tonight.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Island Life

It took almost exactly 48 hours to get home - long enough to make it all seem like a dream, something disconnected from this reality. It was 12 hours to Miami, then 12 hours in Miami. I rented a car, had breakfast, went to the beach, got bored with the beach, went to the gym, and then later realized I had forgotten my hat - a genuine peccary leather beret from Uruguay - at the gym. I liked it enough that I think I'll order another one on-line. Then it was a flight to San Francisco, and an over-night on Paulo's couch. When I left Hawai`i he was single; by the time I got to San Francisco he had a new boyfriend who had already moved in. What is it with you California boys and your new boyfriends every three months?

I unpacked right away, which was a first. Usually I leave my bags unpacked for a few weeks, as if I'm in denial that I'm back. This time I intended to dive right in, so when Ulu called with an extra ticket to the Na Leo Christmas Hula Extravaganza I jumped. Never mind that I am broke, or that I need sleep, or that I've invited a hundred people over for Christmas cocktails and the yard needs some ICU-level TLC. I live so intensely on the road, and yet at home I'm always watching my budget or making sure I get enough sleep or staying home to clean. I want to live intensely year round, not just during select seasons. I always pass when Ulu calls me. Tonight I say yes.

We'll see how long this lasts. I forgot that I'm dealing with Honolulu here. I drive and park in Waikiki, and our tourists seem so bland compared to Miami Beach or Ipanema, and I think: who are these people? At the show, I can't get over the sheer falseness of it all; it's all fake bourgeois nostalgia, Hawaiian style. Worse, it's in the old Waikiki Nei theater, where Peter had his show. He strove for authenticity when the producers wanted glitz and flash and flesh. His show was killed. Now we get this: lots of am-radio style ballads, and keiki in cellophane skirts and Carmen Miranda headdresses doing hula to Feliz Navidad, followed by a call to "bring Hawaiian culture back to Waikiki." It was total Donny and Marie. The crowd loved it. I cringed in horror. The one bright spot was Kamakaiwa Lopaka Kane'ole, who had a beautiful and powerful voice and brought a lot of needed mana to the stage.

90 minutes later, they gave us a 20" intermission, and I knew then that I was going to claim jet lag and not return. But first, to the bar of Honolulu's "dance mecca," Level 4. I get a flyer for New Years Eve, but when I ask who the dj will be I get a blank stare. They never thought to advertise that, which is a bad, bad sign. Since I feel like suffering, I order a martini. A regular martini, I stress.

Gin or vodka? the bartender asks. I suppose that's a legitimate question these days, and I give him a pass. Gin.

He pours a double shot of Hendricksfuckingville in the shaker, shakes it, and pours it into a plastic cup. Ulu asks what I ordered. I tell her I ordered a martini, but that I'm not sure what it is that he made.

We have the standard conversation. It's a martini, the fake bartender says. No, I say, it's a shot of gin. Cheap gin, I think. The bartender tells me that he hasn't put vermouth in a martini in six years. I have nothing to say. He tells me that I'm a traditionalist, and he says people used to complain that they couldn't taste the Grey Goose when he added vermouth, and I'm worse than speechless because my mouth is moving but no sound comes out. He gives me a completely made-up and inaccurate history of the martini, and adds some vermouth. I sip the "martini", and it's crap.

Did I tell you that in Buenos Aires the bartenders could make an excellent negroni without asking what goes in it? Here they can't even make a basic cocktail. How can we have fallen so far as a culture?

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I changed my mind. I´m not ready to go home after all. I had a great afternoon & I´m back in the ´don´t let this life end´frame of mind.

I was wrong about La Malba yesterday. It wasn´t a film actress that shut the place down - the were screening a film about an activist who challenged the dictatorship, and the right-wing had threatened to bomb the museum. They´re going to screen the film tonight regardless. Freedom is not just another word here.

Hollis spent most of the day in bed; I spent it at the museum. I went for Frieda Kahlo (Still Life with Monkey and Parrot), but stayed for the hundreds of other artists whom I had never heard of. It was all 20th C Latin American art, and it was more dynamic and exciting than any modern art that I´ve seen before. There was also film - they were screening silent films from the 1920´s and 1930´s in one room - and music, from Kurt Weil to Ravel, taken from the museum´s founders collections. I wasn´t alone; it was a beautiful sunny day yet the Malba was full of young people. I was one of the older patrons, and I loved being in a place were art was actively relevant. It was fantastic.

The street fair was in full swing when I got back. They took all the tables out of my square (like that? One week and it´s already "my square") and it´s full of antiques dealers and the queens that love them. The side streets are full of musicians, including half a dozen barefoot and scruffy tango orchestras. It´s a great day, and it´s too bad it has to end, but it´s time for me to pack.

Last Hours in Buenos Aires

And I´m ready to go home. I´ve stayed away just long enough, or maybe a day or two longer. It´ll take a bit over two days to get home, so there´s still a long way to go.

I don´t think I´ve done Buenos Aires right. There´s been parties in the old plaza outside our hotel all night for the past few nights. The city here only really comes to life after 1 am. The people I´ve met, or traveled with, have been more conservative. They go out, for a few hours, but don´t dive in. I want to dive in. There´s so much here I haven´t done. I´ve seen the main sites and taken the photos but haven´t lived the full experience. And so it´s been fine, and in most cities that would be more than enough - I´ve been coming home between 3am and 6am each night - but I know that that is only a nibble. I know because I hear the party every night. Even now, at 10am, I can hear the musicians in the plaze. Last night it was flamenco, formally, then a South American street jam, informally, when the stage was taken down.

If I make it hear again I want it to be with the wild friends who stay up all night and sleep all day. I think Hollis and I saw most of the Daytime Sites. Not all, but most. Justify Full

So. Tuesday. Hollis and I arrive, and head to Siga la Vaca for our first parilla. It´s an all you can eat grill featuring every part of the cow and quite a few from the sheep. I have bif de chorizo (porterhouse) and morcillo (blood sausage) and mollejas (sweatbreads) and lamb ribs that a juicy, crackling skin. The lamb was the best. Lunch came with .5 liters of wine, and Hollis doesn´t drink, so I had to finish the carafe myself. Napped, and then wandered to Plaza Mayor and on to the Obelisk. We get caught in a cold rain, and wait out the storm in a cafe along Corrientes, the theater strip. We´re off to a good start.

Wednesday. We head to Recoleta. The streets there confuse me, and we walk and walk and walk trying to find the cemetery. We finally do, and it is fantastic. It´s a marble necropolis that houses all the famous poets, leaders, villains, and revolutionaries of the last few centuries, and some of the tombs were beautiful works of art. Hollis wants his photo taken in from of Evita´s tomb, and I refuse to take it at first, it seems disrespectful, but everyone else is doing it & I start to feel silly sticking to my point and give in. Later we hit the Museum of Belles Artes. It´s a great collection, with a number of sculptures by Rodin. He was the surprise for me; I knew The Thinker but had no idea how raw and sexual his main body of work was. I loved it. Hollis was bored.

Wednesday night I want to go to a all-male milonga, but can´t find anyone to go & it sounds to intense to do solo and without many language skills. Instead I take a wander through downtown, hitting two smaller bars that I had marked on the gay guide to Bs As, Toms and Flux. I love walking the city at night like this. The first joint is pretty cruisy, but the guys are odd. One tries to force me into a back corner, which: fat chance. Guys here are slim, and I have a dozen pounds on most of them. I don´t hurt the creep, just twist his arm hard enough to give him the message that that macho shit doesn´t fly with me. The second bar was run by an ex-pat UK and Russian couple, and everyone inside it spoke English. That was a nice surprise. They drank like the English too - everyone was totalled. I pretended I didn´t speak English to one shit-face American. Good times. The bartender made me a Negroni that was awesome. I taxi home.

Thursday we took a ferry to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. The highlight is a centuries-old village on a promontory that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are now lots of artists living there. We have lunch on a garden on the Rio de la Plata. The second highlight is the exchange rate: 25 pesos per dollar. I go shopping for the first time in two weeks. I really like this town. Hollis and I are back on the same page.

Thursday night. Did we sleep? I forgot what we did Thursday night. It´ll come back to me, I hope.

Friday we go to the La Boca neighborhood. It looks pretty rough and tumble - wide dusty streets and lots of poverty. In the center are a few smaller streets that have been renovated and have become a major tourist attraction. Friday night we head to La Canitas on Dave G´s suggestion, meeting Dave, Eli, and Donielle for dinner at the famous Campo Bravo. This is my fist taste of the beautiful life in Bs As. San Telmo, where we stay, is full-on bohemian - narrow buildings and plazas with old men drinking wine and cobble stone streets; I expect Garibaldi to come along and liberate it at any moment. La Boca was rough and tumble, Centro was major urban inner city, and Colonia was artists. La Canitas was fashion and glitz and the newest place to see and be seen. It was quite a change. Mariano was supposed to join us, but turned Latin on us - he called and was surprised that we had grabbed a table so early. At 9;30 pm. By 3am The rest of the crew goes to bed. I try one last club. I skip the mega club in favor of a smaller place, and get more macho weirdness. Think 20-year olds who want me to call them ¨Papi." It just doesn´t work. To make it extra weird, the exact same kids who would try to come on macho would then melt in my arms when I´d stop them from biting or grabbing or squeezing or whatever.

Yeah. Biting. I´ve never had so many men try to bite me. At least not in public and at the bar. I get home at 6am. Back in my barrio the party in Plaza San Dorrego is still going strong, but I´m still dressed trendy from La Canitas and don´t really blend well with the working-class vibe.

Saturday I want to go to the Malba, the Latin American museum. I never make it. Hollis and I decide to walk. We spend a few hours wandering, then Hollis gets pickpocketed while we watch a tango show. The criminals are good - the opened his bag and opened his wallet and got 300 pesos without being seen. All I saw was a flash, and I couldn´t tell where the hand came from. It was amazing, really. It puts Hollis in a capital-f Foul mood. Of course. I've been there to, and there's nothing much to do but slowly work through it. No museum for him. We have a late lunch at an outdoor cafe. A thief rips a necklace off of another patron and darts into the street. She screams and cusses, la puto! and ladrone! And half the men jump up and chase the thief down the boulevard, but he is too fast. That´s enough crime for one day. Hollis goes home, I go to the Malba, but we are evacuated after a half hour so that a film-star can tour the collection. I don´t know which one, but if I find out I will forever hate them. The collection looked awesome, and I´ll try to visit again before my check-out.

Saturday night, and it´s no disco for MC. Poor me. I go to a parilla with some guys from the hotel. It´s good. The steak is far better than what we get in the states, but I still haven´t had that piece of so-soft you can cut it with a fork slab of meat that this country is famous for. The hippie member of our party, who was already getting on my nerves both for his slimy bragging about how much ···· he gets from his young boyfriends here and for his lack of fashion sense (red and yellow Pippi Long Stocking socks with Birkenstocks, commits a fatal error at dinner and I let my inner monster out and slash into him, hard and loud.

If anyone is actually reading this far, here´s a warning. I tip well at restaurants. It´s my choice. Do not try and stop me. Last night we divide the bill, then I throw an extra ten pesos in. Hippie announces it´s too much and takes the money as his change. I throw another ten pesos in. He again insists its too much, that the waiter was rude and doesn´t deserve the tip, and redistibutes it to the other members of our party.

Can you say dead in the water? The bitch was nothing but road kill after that. I threw in more money, he started to reach for it, and I laid into his ass hard. That pretty much broke up our party. I went to a small bar with two guys from Montreal, but I think they were a bit nervous around me and things were too subdued for a Saturday night.

And now its Sunday in San Telmo and I only have a few hours left. I´ll go to the museum, pack, and spend my final hours drinking wine in the plaza, as I should have been doing all along.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gear Shift

You could here the gears grinding in my brain when I tried to switch from Portuguese to Spanish. It didn´t help that one of the guys at the Bed and Breakfast is from Paris, and that the guy who works in the evening is actually from Brazil. I couldn´t even speak basic English; the best I could spew was some unintelligble mush of four languages.

Doing better today. The Spanish here is pretty damn different than any I´ve heard, but since I don´t actually speak Spanish that isn´t much of an issue. I´ve been doing ok if I can think of what I need to say ahead of time, but I am not having much luck in speaking on the spot. And even then only a few people actually understand what I am trying to say. Luckily one was a bartender. ´Punt e Mes´ is on all the menus here, and I´ve read about it & that it´s great in manhattans and negronis and the elusive sazerac, but I´ve never found it. I finally got to try it. It´s a bitter, a vermouth I think. It was a bit of a production - the bartender brought a tub of ice, some orange slices, sparkling mineral water, and the bottle to the table. He put in an orange, added ice, some Punt e Mes, muddled it, added another orange, another cube, more vermouth, muddled it again, then added a bit more vermouth, another ice cube, then topped it all with the soda.

It was tasty, and I´ll be bringing some back.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

South America Update

I´ve been doing Facebook more than blogging this trip - the days have been too packed to sit down and do this properly.

Our group had a mixed reaction to Brazil. I loved it, but I was one of the few who found a life down here outside of the race. For most of them they were Kamehameha CC 100% of the time, from the moment they stepped off the plane. For me, I had met two guys - Marcos and Cim - and spent a fair amount of time hanging out with them. Hollis came down from NYC on the weekend, so we hung also. Friday to Sunday I was all Kamehameha. I think there were some tensions among those who never escaped the group, though I didn´t even notice until I was set to leave.

The breakdown:

Tuesday - arrive, and I am so beat I can barely function. It´s a bit cold and grey. I take a walk along Ipanema beach. I meet one guy, Marcos, and make plans to go dancing later in the week. At night I have coffee with Cim, a friend of a friend of a friend, and we hit it off and also make plans for later.

Wednesday - it´s cold and rainy. I run into Ruby by chance - she had been down here camping - and we head downtown to the museums. They weren´t that interesting, and Rio´s downtown was standard: beautiful old buildings and thousands of people bustling and hustling. That night more of the group arrives, but I can only convince Allen to go out with me. We hit Galeria Cafe, a small art studio that turns into a gay dance party at night. We meet Marcos, and dance until late at night. Everyone dances; there is no standing still. It´s all Brazilian music, and the crowd is cute and friendly and surprisingly normal - no twinks, muscle heads, or fashionistas. Just guys having a real good time.

Thursday - I work out for the first time in a week, then chill with Jake and Allen and Roz at Ipanema´s gay beach. The men are drop dead hot. I get too much sun. That night, our last night of freedom, no one will go out with me. Lame. I have a great time with Cim on my own.

Friday - Roz has us meet at 7:30 for a team work out - core, a bit of strength, and a run on the beach. Ouch! I hurt after that! The rest of the crew arrives, and we head to Urca to get the canoes ready and meet Nicholas, our Rio Vaa rep. The water is big, and it´s an intense trip from Urca to Copacabana and then back to Praia Vermelha. Luckily Mariano turns out to be an amazing steersman, with a talent for riding the backwash of the waves as they crash against the rocks and cliffs. It is either exhilerating (most of my crew) or a bit scary (yours truly). We ride the cable cars up Sugar Loaf after. That night I ditch the crew to hang with Cim. I wasn´t impressed with the restaurant choices, and it was getting too expensive to always be eating with a group at nice places. I love having dinner with groups like this, but it was getting to be too much. Plus, well, yeah you´re seeing a pattern.

Saturday - We put together a Master´s Crew for a 6km race: Jake, Allen, Jake, MC, Steve, Mariano. The water is choppy and confused, and I can´t say that we blended very well together, though it was the first time we had paddled together in this lineup and it was different. We come in 4th. Out of 4. We spend all day at the beach, then nap and later head to a nice Italian Restaurant for our team dinner. I have a Rosa de Bacalhau, a pasta stuffed with codfish in a tomato sauce, and it´s great. The first great meal I´ve had, really. We get to bed later than I wanted to.

Sunday - Race day. And I remembered, once again, and as usual too late, why they call these races "iron." Because of course if it were easy it wouldn´t be iron, or impress anyone. If anyone is impressed. We went from Praia Vermelha to Ipanema and back, and then into the Bay to Urca and back to Praia Vermelha - 42 kilometers without rest through all kinds of water. And I was loving it and later hating it then loving it and then just kind of delerious. Our line up was Eli, Jake, Lance, MC, Steve, Mariano. And we came in last, but I´m ok with that - we were a master´s crew, and the only Master´s Crew that even attempted the full iron course. That night we partied with the Rapa Nui guys at Baixa Gavea, which was basically a standard issue college type party where everyone drinks in the streets until the late hours of the night.

Monday - Ah sweet freedom! No tensions or anxiety, no worries about training, and one mean hangover (Eli and I had to keep one step ahead of Donielle in her caiparinha intake, cause it just would not have been right to let her drink more!). Those two took off to Buzious, the rest of the group took a cab ride to Corcovado, and Hollis and I climbed the mountain. ´Cause I haven´t been physical enough the past week, I guess. It was nice, though it sucked up the last of my body fat reserves. I have abs again! That night I finally got people to come dancing with me - Pam, Roz, Phil, Ruby, Lance and I went to Carioca de Gema in Lapa to hear some live Samba. We ran into the Tahitians, and had a great time dancing. I can, almost, I think, at least in my mind, samba and keep in step with the slower dancers here. Fun times.

And now Hollis and I are in Buenos Aires and a whole new movie has started. It´s a world apart; our neighborhood is cobblestone streets and narrow houses and could be Cervante´s La Mancha if it were on a different continent and you removed the buses running up and down the street. And I´m liking this too, but more on BA later ...

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Arrivals are always the same. I think that I am doing pretty good with the language, but can't even order a coffee at the airport and so switch to English. I plan on diving right in and taking the bus, but I'm tired and confused and so splurge for a taxi. The route from the highway passes through tenemants - tall, crowded, brick or cement, half-finished buildings that seem to radiate heat and oppression, and I wonder how anyone survives here, much less brings a new generation to life.

The City and its poverty always goes on and on, and I wonder how many days until the next revolution. I get to my hotel, and crawl into bed. I need to shower. I'm hungry, I'm tired, I have no local money, and I don't want to leave the room. I don't know what the week will bring and I can't imagine that I will ever make sense of this particular city. I wonder why I travel, and put myself through this. I debate spending the week in my hotel room.

Hunger wins, and I eventually shower and head out into the street for a quick bite before taking a much needed nap. I leave the hotel, without a map, never with a frikkin map, because I don't intend to wander far. And I end up wandering far, and taking wrong turns, and spending hours putzing about.

So that's the part that's always the same. From there on out it's all particulars.

Rio has been fantastic. I slept half of Tuesday, but still managed to meet a guy, Marcos, and make plans to go dancing later, and later to meet up with Cim, who I had friends in common with.

Wednesday it was cold and rainy. I ran into Ruby, and we headed downtown, to Centro, to explore the museums. The museums were just alright, but it was fun being in the middle of a big city again with all it's 19th Century architecture and bustling crowds and chaos. The second crew came in that night, we met Mariano, our steersman from Buenos Aires, and then Alan and I went to Galeria Cafe, met up with Marcos, and danced until 3am. It was a gay bar designed by a local artist, so the space was great and the crowd was fun. It was all Brazilian music, but a wild mix of faro and samba and hip hop and techno and who knows what else. And Marcos turned out to be an amazing frakkin dancer, so that was special to be dancing with him.

This morning I worked out and then a group of us went to Ipanema Beach to sun and cruise. Later we all met Mariano at Praia Vermelha and went over the course. It looks hard core. I might race a second race - there are some women from Maui looking to put together a mixed crew for Saturday. Then we took a hike through the forest, then took the cable cars up to the top of Sugarloaf. Tonight I ditched the crew. Some are taking naps, some are going out for sushi. I had planned to meet up with Cim, but he had to work late. And though I love my crew, they're all going to be early and I have no plans to. There's another club I want to check out designed by the same artists as Galeria, so I'll grab an acai and head there and see what the night brings.

Not bad for only 2.5 days. I have to switch back into training mode tomorrow, with a 7am practice, so this is my final night to be a bit wild. Then I have to be very good for three days. I can do it.


It's been fun so far, and I haven't had time to do emails or post. Just dropping a line here to let you all know I'm alive! I had to change my Facebook account after someone hacked in and posted obscene comments, so now I don't know if I can do that from my phone anymore. So much for technology.

All is good. More late. Off to the beach.

Monday, December 01, 2008

White Party Miami

A guy walks up to me in a Miami Beach bar here and asks if I used to model.

I smile and tell him "no" ... and his eyes glaze over and he walks away as if he had never spoken to me in the first place.

And that was my experience with The Beach. These guys are so style obsessed they make West Hollywood look like a bunch of granola-eatin' love children. It was a bit much at times. I could see guys checking me out, but if I turned to look they'd get whiplash they's turn away so fast. Or maybe they weren't checking me out. Maybe they just had never seen a gay man who wasn't wearing Dior sunglasses.

It's early Monday morning, I've checked out of my hotel, and I have an hour until the SuperShuttle takes me on to the next adventure. Time enough to try and recap a bit ...

The Beach really was stunning; the architecture alone is worth a visit. They people, all blue-eyed Cubans, really are beautiful. It's a great place to meet up with friends, and I enjoyed the first few days of reunions and dinners and cocktails with guys I hadn't seen in awhile. Bill, John and Neil were in from New York, Mike was in from Maui, Steven K and his group were in from LA, and Ron stopped by on his way back from Puerto Rico. I got to catch up with Louie, who I had met in Montreal years ago. I tried to see Bugie, and ran into a sadly tweaked-out n... a few times.
So, with that, I didn't mind the attitude at the bars. Besides, I had some fabulous parties to attend.

I'll try to be objective here, and there were some great times, but this did not work as a "Circuit Weekend" for me at all. First the bitching:

SCORE: FONSECA - I skipped this night, but friends say Fonseca was On & that they think he's a great choice for Palm Springs. The club was crowded and smoky, so they didn't stay long.

FRI: TONY MORAN & CHRIS COX - Again, I passed (tried to pick up online since the bars were a failure for me. Depending on who you ask, it was either a great party, an ok party, or a just regular club night.

SAT: POOL: NIZRI - There might be some wet angry queens after this ... the pool wasn't packed, but they were making people line up because it was 'full.' We were sent inside by a worker to use the restrooms because the outside line was too long. Security stopped us and sent us back. Management stopped her and had to escort us through the ballroom to the bathrooms! "They are our guests and you will treat them like guests" she snarled at one rent-a-cop.

SAT: VIZCAYA: BILL HALLIQUIST - Vizcaya was really beautiful, and I thought it was an excellent way to kick off a weekend. It was a mansion / estate built like some mini- Versailles. I had a great time, and Ron said it was the highlight of his weekend (he never does after-hours) and was thrilled. The other guys skipped it. BUT I think this event has changed a lot; it was not what we were led to expect. There were no fabulous arrivals by yacht. There was some food - I think four restaruants had tables. It was hardly 'dinner.' There weren't people in fabulous costumes, celebrities, A-list queers, etc. But it WAS a dance night for us - and we were told not to expect that! Bill's set was close to my favorite over the weekend - it was high on vocals and happy house, and most songs were new to me. I'd love to see a track list. He's not main-room style yet ... he wasn't able to maintain extended stretches of peak energy. But it was fun, and the dance floor was packed for four hours. Good job. Fun party. But One Hundred Fifty bucks? I won't do it again at that price.

SAT SHUTTLES - What's a party without shuttle drama. Our bus was re-routed for some unknown reason, a French guy accused another guy of 'hijacking' it, and we sat in traffic jam while the two of them and the driver had a bitch fight.

SAT: PARKWEST: JOE G - I love Joe G. Great remixes, he kept the energy up, I finally got to hear this "Like a Prayer" dance mix all of you have been talking about. I could have danced all night and been so happy, except that Joe was just the warm up, and the main act was ...

SAT: PARKWEST: VICTOR - who gave me a headache. I know some guys, including dj's, who love him. He has his fans, and I tried to find what they find. But it was all beat! No melody so no love; no syncopation so no sex; no groove and so no dancing. The guys who stayed all shifted into a dull march. Interaction ended on the dance floor. If you even brushed someone they would stiffen and pull away (and seriously, guys, if your job is folding clothes you might want to tone down the attitude, no matter how pretty you are). I tried. I went inside to find the groove. I went outside and tried to pick it up from the crowd. I chewed half my tongue off. I was not having fun. I left, and this was my last chance for Victor. Never again. I don't care that they were all "his own beats." Music is more than a fucking beat.

SUN: BEACH: PHIL B - Ooh did I wake in a bad mood! I don't attend many events, and it felt like there was a big hole at the center of this weekend. I didn't want to get out of bed, and so missed Wendy Hunt. Some of my crew never got out of bed, and missed the Beach Party entirely. No loss. At first, I was happy to hear love and vocals from Phil. It was a Victor antidote. But ... it was too vocal. It was just top dance remixes, one after another. No surprises, no progression, nothing that couldn't have been done randomly. I swear I'm not always a bitch like this! But most of my crew stayed home, it was cold and windy, the crowd was a bit aloof, and once you're in that bad place it's hard to pull out. After 2hrs Phil put on Kung Fu Fighting and I went home back to bed.

SUN: CAMEO: MANNY AND ABEL - Brothers, I was not feeling it by Sunday night. My original plan was to be the first in the door and the last out. Instead I drank Guiness and watched a football game at Jerry's Deli while a storm swept in from the ocean. And I found more brotherhood there than I had yet at any of the parties, and that's shameful. I was hating the Circuit, and thinking: yeah, maybe it is dead afterall. I finally went to Cameo around 12:30. Manny was good. Manny is always good. There were rumor mills going around that he had "fucked up" his last visit to Florida and that people were booing and throwing water bottles at him & so no one local was going to go. I don't believe these rumors. Then Abel came on, and did his thing, It was a great night, the music was hard and sexy, the guys were friendly and interactive, people smiled and danced with their neighbors, and I finally had the night I had come all this way for.

My theory, and I'm sticking to it, is that Rauhofer & Co., drew off all the assholes to Mansion on Sunday night. In which case, I am all for competing events. We should make them standard!

So overall, I reunited with friends, and had some good club nights. My legs are still sore from dancing all half the night Saturday and straight through til dawn last night. There was no Central Event (for the most part, the guys at Vizcaya were not the ones at the parties). There was no "progression" a la Palm Springs or Orlando, where you all share the same journey throughout the weekend. And so, no "circit." I would come again if other friends all came, but I won't be leading the charge.
On to Rio ...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Proclamation to the Mormons

Donny Osmond, who isn't gay at all, has been quoting from a 1995 Mormon text The Family - A Proclamation To The World to explain why gay marriage was wrong:
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
Here's the problem I see: the Mormon and the Catholic Churches have been pouring millions into attacking marriage. You want the government to strengthen the family, then the government ought to recognize all families. And if the Mormon Church is going to attack our marriages, and fight rabidly for the disintegration of our marriages, then ... in the words of their own "prophets" ... they'll be the ones to blame when the calamities foretold come to pass.

And - they need to lose their tax-exempt status now.

Cha Cha Wednesday

I missed posting any cha-cha clips last Friday, but since today is my Friday I'll post two sets to make up for it. The first is Gwen Verdon doing a Fosse routing to Mexican Breakfast - this is where Beyonce got the moves for Single Lady.

And finally, the first and only video on samba de roda that I could understand. I don't know how many dozens of friends have tried to teach me; all were vaguely incoherent (you step out, and then kind of do this little like I don't know like a jump but not a jump maybe a hop but not like that oh well close enough ...).

Finally I get it! Now I'm ready for the samba train!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Global Personality Test

I love these tests, even though most are so transparent as to be silly. This one asked me if I exercise three different ways, and then told me in the results that I was physically active.

Advanced Global Personality Test Results
Extraversion |||||||||||||| 58%
Stability |||||||||||||||||| 74%
Orderliness |||||||||| 38%
Accommodation |||||||||||| 46%
Interdependence |||||| 23%
Intellectual |||||||||||||||| 70%
Mystical || 10%
Artistic |||||||||||| 43%
Religious |||||| 23%
Hedonism |||||||||||||||| 70%
Materialism |||||||||| 36%
Narcissism |||||||||||| 43%
Adventurousness |||||||||||||||| 63%
Work ethic |||||||||||||||| 63%
Humanitarian |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Conflict seeking |||||||||||| 43%
Need to dominate |||||||||||| 43%
Romantic |||||||||||| 50%
Avoidant |||||||||||||| 56%
Anti-authority |||||||||||||||| 63%
Wealth |||||| 30%
Dependency |||||||||||||| 56%
Change averse |||||||||||| 43%
Cautiousness |||||||||||| 43%
Individuality |||||||||||||||| 63%
Sexuality |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Peter pan complex |||||| 30%
Family drive |||||| 23%
Physical Fitness |||||||||||||||||||| %
Histrionic |||||| 30%
Paranoia |||||| 30%
Vanity |||||||||||| 50%
Honor |||||||||||||| 56%
Thriftiness || 10%
Take Free Advanced Global Personality Test
personality test by similarminds.com

So I'm poor, smart, and slutty. Raise your hand if this comes as a shock.

Native Species Defense Fund

We have done too good a job of raising awareness of the threats to the indigenous and endemic species of Hawai`i. Now it seems that any tree that isn't pre-Contact isn't properly green enough, and doesn't have real value.

The lawyers for the Development came in this morning, arguing that their parcel should be rezoned from Conservation to Urban. The parcel is covered in trees, but none are native says the haole lawyer, and they're basically giant weeds says the Chinese lawyer.

There is a patch of laua`e fern, and they are willing to make that portion a 'cultural reserve' for traditional gatherers who use laua`e in hula practice ... though it's not native laua`e says the Chinese lawyer. Snort, says the haole lawyer. Snort, agrees the Chinese lawyer.

Off with their heads! shouts the commie urban planner, pulling out his samurai sword and taking both lawyers out with one graceful stroke.

Not really. In reality, the commie urban planner sat quietly, because he knows that the community - the indigenous and the non-native - is already mobilized to fight the developers, and their lawyers.

Gucci Fags

The upside of the downturn is that Waikiki is going to have to reach out to a wider population, and move their focus beyond just Japanese Shoppers and American Upper Middle Class Families. They're going to have to acknowledge that bohemians and artists and queers and club kids and other tribes exist, and are even more likely to travel when times are tough.

At least, that's my theory.

When they renovated the Ilikai I suggested to one of the investors - gay himself - that a low-key gay bar would work on that side of town. He shuddered in horror. Gays were bad for business, the whole hotel would get a 'reputation,' the families would stay away ... you get the idea. Money trumps loyalty.

RumFire, the former Esprit Lounge, is the first to take aim at a gay crowd. Too bad their aim was off. They missed, badly. This was in my in-box this morning:
The party itself is called Phoenix—tagline is “Get your flame on…” So, while the party definitely caters to the gay community—it is not exclusively a gay party… We want to include everyone and anyone who wants to have a good time in a beautiful outdoor venue like RumFire. You can dance around a firepit into the Sunset… while being oceanfront with the best view of Diamond Head with a martini in one hand… and your Gucci man-purse in the other! Russell Tanoue - fashion photographer extraordinaire - is helping out, as is Dr. RJ Matyas who is leaving Hawaii!!! We are offering bottle service provided by SKYY as well as drink specials.
If I even had a man-purse I would bitch slap the promoters with it. I expect the follow-up email will complete the Sex-in-the-Wannabe stereotype by offering Deconstructed Cosmos and referring to Jimmy Choos.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Cat is Alright

It took three days, but I think my cat is ok. I didn't find any swelling yesterday. The only problem now it, I was giving him tuna for being good while I worked on him - I know it hurt - and now he thinks that tuna every night is a right and not a privilege.

So much with this trip remains in flux! We lost two paddlers early on, but Allen joined in & we found a steersmen from Buenos Aire (Mariano Larghi of Manu O Ke Kai Argentina, and he looks awesome). Madame Lim canceled on Miami long ago, and though I keep giving her shit for it I never believed she was coming in the first place. Last week Steve's visa fell through, and he's trying again but it's going to come down to the wire for him. He already delayed his flight a week. And now Hollis had an incident with his car & might have to cancel on Buenos Aires. Which sucks. I was originally prepared to go to BA solo, & was happy when he joined in. He still might make it; we'll find out soon.

Random stuff: I'm so very glad I didn't put my life on hold so that I could buy an over-priced condo here. So very, very glad. And I know that real people are suffering in this meltdown, but ... some of those who are going down are the same land speculators who made so many of us suffer over the past half dozen years. Land is not a commodity, and now we'll all pay because some tried to turn land into something that could be bought and sold and traded.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Modern Traveler

Once upon a time I went to Europe with only a carry-on. I went to Jamaica thinking I could wing it. I went to stay with a bronze-age culture in Sumba with only a letter of introduction.

Once upon a time friends and I could just jump in the car for a road trip and make it up as we went along.

(Kelley and MC in Washington; thanks K. for the photo!)

That was then:

This is now:

Four days to go and it will take me all weekend to pack and prep. Hitting the road with a change of clothes, a pack of cigarettes, and a passport is over. If Kerouac were alive he'd have changed and adapted to. Here's part of my current to-do list:
  • Download Season 2 of Ugly Betty onto my i-phone (check)
  • Download Portuguese and Spanish lessons into my i-phone (check)
  • Start tanning, teeth bleaching, and home micro-dermabrasion (in progress)
  • Get a pedicure (check)
  • Print Google Earth maps of the neighborhoods I'll be staying in (in progress)
  • Check out Manhunt for potential amigos.
  • Set aside clothes for Vizcaya and the clubs in Rio and Buenos Aires.
It's all so very modern. The kid in the first photo would've been horrified.

Though some things don't change - I have about 60 hours of flight time total, and have picked out two very, very fat epics for the journey: Robert Fagles new translation of The Aeneid, and Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's new translation of War and Peace.

I tried War and Peace once before, but got lost somewhere past the middle. The language in this translation seems much more dynamic and poetic, so I think I'll have an easier going. I've read the first chapter, and it's brilliant.

And of course, I am not flying the extinct, and possible mythical, PanAm (above). I'm flying American (below). I'll dress nice and wear a jacket regardless. I'll be fabulous just to spite the bean-counters. The second half of the trip is on Aerolineas Argentinas, which was just nationalized. I hope that's a good thing - Latin socialists can't possible be as dour as Eastern European ones.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Barefoot Vet

I just got done performing surgery on my cat. He was acting super docile and affectionate the past few days; I figured it was age, and that he was just nearing the end. Turns out that one of his wounds - he gets in a lot of fights - had become badly infected. I went to drain it, thinking it was no worse than any other gash he gets from protecting his turf. This one went deep, though, and smelled god awful once I opened it to drain it.

He's sleeping on the couch now. I'll find out tomorrow if I got all the infection out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

mea culpa

Honolulu had it's march / rally in support of gay rights this morning, and I slept in. I was so absolutely sure that it was going to be the same crowd that brings us the world's most embarrassing Pride that I didn't even consider going.

I was wrong. Friends who went say there were close to 400 men and women, and that it was a high energy crowd with lots of young folks taking the lead. Next time I'll try and be just a little bit less cynical. Just a little, though.

Nights Out in HNL

It's Friday and midnight and I'm home already & I'm not quite understanding how that happened. Maybe I've been reading too much on Rio and Buenos Aires and Miami and New York, where the nightlife doesn't even kick into gear utnil 1 or 2 am. I forgot where I was.

It's been a fun week. Gary is in town with his new beau, and we've been joing up with Peter and Allen and his friend Mika & going out a lot. Last Thursday was Chiko's, Saturday I cooked Mexican at Gary's condo, Sunday was Hula's beer bust, Tuesday I took Francisco and Joe up to Ka`au Crater and yesterday was Aku Bone.

So tonight we went to see Zamora Linmark's new disco and sex fueled stage version of Rolling the R's at Kumu Kahu theater. I pulled together a group of about 15 guys, and Leanne pulled in an additional five women. That's enough for a party, right? Most of us started off with drinks at Bar 35. I've always avoided that bar thanks to the long line of suburban kids I see outside on First Fridays. Turned out to be pretty cool on a regular night. It's a lounge, and had all the requisite beautiful people inside, but was still mellow and chill enough to be very fun.

The play was fucking awesome, and it still runs for another week or so & it should not be missed. It's local underground, so there were obvious rough patches, but it was also obscene and funny and surprisingly poignant. Or, as Village Voice put it on the novel: Linmark has done more than simply use the argot of equatorial poverty as a sexy, colorful idiom. In its structure, tone, and depths, Rolling the R's is true to the furious and witty rhythms of a vernacular culture of resistance.

Then things got weird. Not bad. Just strange. We had different groups of guys, and though we all went out afterwards everyone stayed in their own tribe. I tried to get people to mix - I mean, it was Friday night and we were downtown and we all have some connection, but they wouldn't. I actually had to play go-between: this group wants to go to Smiths, and these guys want to go to Mercury, and the women are up for grabbing a bite to eat. I told them to talk to each other, but that carried zero weight. It was strange, as they were all standing in their own group not five feet from each other.

And so I was part of all groups and central to none. We went to Mercury, and the bar was as lame as I remembered. Half the patrons had emo hair, and the artwork was gothic and pretentiously hip. Eyeballs with the word 'death' scribbled across. I know so many guys who think this bar passes for a discovery. I don't get it.

Neither did most of the group, and after one or two drinks everyone was out of there. One group went to eat and some guys went home and one group went to the Dragon and and one group left without a real agenda and suddenly I was standing alone in the bar - literally, as even the other patrons had left - with half a beer.

So I chugged it and went outside and caught up with some of the stragglers. Said our goodbyes, made plans for drinks on the beach Sunday, and it was only 11:30pm and I don't get it. It was a pretty awesome night; it was strange for it to suddenly poof and end like that with no warning.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cha Cha Time

Thirty minutes til the work week is over!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama Cool

I don't have it. One of the things I really admire about the man his how graceful he is under pressure. I would have snapped long ago. I don't even have the patience these days to gracefully handle the small-time local con artists we have at home, much less assholes on a national scale.

Fri Update: I managed to take down one of our trouble makers at our Neighborhood Board, and did it with a bit of tact, but she is rich and bored & is unlikely to stay down for long. I had less luck controlling an unruly applicant at this morning's Land Board hearings. All he had to do was sit still and not say anything and let me do the work; he'd have gotten his permit and saved his house. As it is ... he spoke ... and now might lose it all.

Friday, November 07, 2008

NOB5: Battle for the Minutes

I wonder a lot about what the point of being elected to the Neighborhood Board is. In terms of political or social influence we fall somewhere between "condo association" and "dogcatcher." There is potential here; if we spoke clearly and rationally we can make an impact.

So far Neighborhood Board No. 5 has only had an impact on parking. Specifically, they saved one parking lot from being developed as a store - and that took a year of protests. Luckily I had to excuse myself from the issue as I work for the State and there was a potential conflict of interest.

So we have potential. But instead, we spend our time dealing with nonsense side issues. I thought becoming an Executive Member (i.e. Secretary) would at least let me influence things a touch. Instead, I am fighting to accomplish simple things like getting the minutes approved.

This will bore most of you. The political junkies will enjoy it. Maybe. I don't care. I am hereby unilaterally applying the sunshine law to my webmail and liberating these executive emails for public consumption and review. For background, a representative from the Neighborhood Commission provides meeting notes for us. The secretary reviews them, and then every other Board on the island votes to approve them. Not us. We go half a year at a time without getting minutes approved.

This is the shit we deal with each month, and this is why we never get shit done.

From: Michael Cain
To: 4 board members, Chair, and Michelle S. Matson
Sent: Thursday, November 06, 2008 11:34 AM
Subject: Fw: Draft minutes for October

Aloha all,

Here are the draft minutes from October. Monday should
everyone enough time to go over them.

If you have suggestions for corrections, I'd like to
one favor: keep them brief and substantive.


From: Michelle S. Matson
Sent: Nov 7, 2008 9:54 AM
To: Chairman Bert Narita NB#5, Michael Cain
Cc: (4 Board Members, and 1 Commission Official who has
blocked our emails)

Subject: Re: Draft minutes for October

The NB meeting is Thursday, November 13.
See attached Reso provided at the October meeting.
Apparently this was not
reviewed by the regular NA
to have any initial effect.

What is the proposed status of the previous two
months' minutes
,(August -deferred in September and
October- and September - deferred
in October)and
their substantive and formatting corrections as

previously provided for the record?

From: Michael Cain
To: Michelle S. Matson ; Chairman Bert Narita
Cc: (4 Board Members, and 1 Commission Official
who has blocked our emails)

Sent: Friday, November 07, 2008 11:05 AM
Subject: Re: Draft minutes for October

1. The resolution was introduced but not, to my
knowledge, voted on or approved
by the Board.

2. I will be moving to accept the August and
September minutes at the
upcoming meeting. Members
are free to object or vote against approval.I did not

incorporate the nine pages of edits you sent. If you
need an
explanation I will do it publicly and on the
record at next week's meeting.

- Michael

From: Michelle S. Matson
Sent: Nov 7, 2008 8:46 PM
To: Michael Cain , Chairman Bert Narita NB#5
Cc: (4 Board Members, and 1 Commission Official who has
blocked our emails)

Subject: Re: Draft minutes for October


1. The Resolution was received by the Board and deferred
to the November
meeting since there was no time for approval
of this or the corrected
minutes at the end of the October
meeting. As in previous months it was
also suggested that
the regular NA review the recommendations and try to

work on some of the improvements.

2. There were not "9 pages of edits" but specifically
digital tracked changes
within the minutes text, which showed
the substantive and grammatical corrections
and formatting
improvements as a helpful convenience to assist comparison.
simple text without showing the corrections preferred?

3. If / when all substantive corrections provided by Board
officers and
members have been incorporated into the August
and September minutes,
respectively, we would appreciate
receiving your corrected draft minutes
prior to the November
meeting so that we know what has been corrected for
of the minutes. In turn, for convenience of comparison please

indicate where the corrections have been made.


From: Michael Cain
To: Michelle S. Matson; "Chairman Bert Narita NB#5
Cc: (4 Board Members, and 1 Commission Official who has
blocked our emails)

Sent: Friday, November 07, 2008 4:03 PM
Subject: Re: Draft minutes for October


You waste too much of too many people's time with this
silliness. It stops

You can take it up at the Board meeting if you have a
problem with this.

From: Michelle S. Matson
To: Chairman Bert Narita
Cc: Michael Cain (& five board members and one commission
official who has blocked our emails)

Subject: Re: Draft minutes for October
Date: Nov 7, 2008 7:02 PM
I believe we are all looking for a democratic approach
to resolving current
issues with the ongoing timing,
formatting, grammatical and often
substantive deficiencies
in the minutes - deficiencies also acknowledged by

Board Member Cain in previous emails (attached).

Is it too difficult to provide open disclosure to the Board
of any
corrections to the minutes prior to the Board
meeting(s) at which such
minutes are anticipated to be
adopted? One would expect that any
minutes would be mailed/emailed to all Board members prior

to the meeting date of any noticed anticipated approval.

As a constructive suggestion apart from the apparent
acrimony, an NCO regularly-issued
recorder could provide the NA with needed
assistance for
any substantive areas of question. The bottom line is that

we would like to see positive and productive outcomes for
the whole in the
form of readable and referable substantive
reflections of all Neighborhood
Board meetings for the
collective community.

It is interesting to note that for some unknown reason
September's deferred
minutes were publicly posted today,
November 7, with the unanimously
deferred August minutes.
Both are absent any preliminary approval by the

Executive Committee or ultimate approval by the Board:

To: Michelle S. Matson, Chairman Bert Narita NB#5
Cc: (five board members and one commission official who
has blocked our emails)
Subject: Re: Draft minutes for October
Date: Nov 7, 2008 11:31 PM

This discussion needs to occur in public and on the record.

Please cease your emails to me on the matter. I do not feel
they are appropriate.

Although I guess it is on the record now. Or at least in public.

A Butler Well Served by This Election

For 34 Years, Eugene Allen Carried White House Trays With Pride. Now There's Even More Reason to Carry Himself That Way.

By Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 2008; A01

For more than three decades Eugene Allen worked in the White House, a black man unknown to the headlines. During some of those years, harsh segregation laws lay upon the land.

He trekked home every night, his wife, Helene, keeping him out of her kitchen.

At the White House, he worked closer to the dirty dishes than to the large desk in the Oval Office. Helene didn't care; she just beamed with pride.

President Truman called him Gene.

President Ford liked to talk golf with him.

He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week. "I never missed a day of work," Allen says.

His is a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen.

He was there while America's racial history was being remade: Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.

When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn't even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia. "We had never had anything," Allen, 89, recalls of black America at the time. "I was always hoping things would get better."

In its long history, the White House -- just note the name -- has had a complex and vexing relationship with black Americans.

"The history is not so uneven at the lower level, in the kitchen," says Ted Sorensen, who served as counselor to President Kennedy. "In the kitchen, the folks have always been black. Even the folks at the door -- black."

Sorensen tried to address the matter of blacks in the White House. But in the end, there was only one black man who stayed on the executive staff at the Kennedy White House past the first year. "There just weren't as many blacks as there should have been," says Sorensen. "Sensitivities weren't what they should have been, or could have been."

In 1866 the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, sensing an opening to advocate for black voting rights, made a White House visit to lobby President Andrew Johnson. Johnson refused to engage in a struggle for black voting rights. Douglass was back at the White House in 1877. But no one wished to discuss his political sentiments: President Rutherford Hayes had engaged the great man -- it was a time of high minstrelsy across the nation -- to serve as a master of ceremonies for an evening of entertainment.

In the fall of 1901, another famous black American came to the door. President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington, head of the Tuskegee Institute, to meet with him at the White House. Roosevelt was careful not to announce the invitation, fearing a backlash, especially from Southerners. But news of the visit leaked quickly enough and the uproar was swift and noisy. In an editorial, the Memphis Scimitar would write in the ugly language of the times: "It is only recently that President Roosevelt boasted that his mother was a Southern woman, and that he is half Southern by reason of that fact. By inviting a nigger to his table he pays his mother small duty."

Fifty years later, invitations to the White House were still fraught with racial subtext. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow pianist Hazel Scott to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race, many letters poured into the White House decrying the DAR's position. First lady Bess Truman was a member of the organization, but she made no effort to get the DAR to alter its policy. Scott's husband, Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell, subsequently referred to Bess Truman as "the last lady of the land." The words outraged President Truman, who vowed to aides he would find some way to punish Powell and barred the fellow Democrat from setting foot inside the Truman White House.

The first black to hold a policy or political position in the White House was E. Frederick Morrow, a former public relations executive with CBS. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's presidential campaign operatives were so impressed with Morrow's diligent work during the 1952 campaign that they promised him a White House executive job if Ike were elected. Ike won, but Morrow ended up being placed at the Department of Commerce. He felt slighted and appealed to Republican friends in New York to force the White House to make good on its promise.

The phone finally rang in 1955 and Morrow was named administrative officer for special projects. He had hoped the title would give him wide responsibilities inside the White House, but found himself dealing, for the most part, with issues related to the Brown desegregation ruling, the Rosa Parks-led bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., and the 1957 Little Rock school crisis.

"He was a man of great dignity," says Stephen Hess, senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution, who worked as a speechwriter for Eisenhower. Morrow was in a lonely position, but "he did not complain," says Hess. "That wasn't Fred Morrow."

When Morrow left his White House position, he imagined there'd be corporate job offers. There were not. "Only thing he was offered were jobs related to the black community," says Hess. Nonetheless, "after Morrow, it was appropriate to have a black person on the staff of the White House."

'Pantry Man'

Before he landed his job at the White House, Gene Allen worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and then at a country club in Washington.

He and wife Helene, 86, are sitting in the living room of their home off Georgia Avenue NW. A cane rests across her lap. Her voice is musical, in a Lena Horne kind of way. She calls him "honey." They met in Washington at a birthday party in 1942. He was too shy to ask for her number, so she tracked his down. They married a year later.

In 1952, a lady told him of a job opening in the White House. "I wasn't even looking for a job," he says. "I was happy where I was working, but she told me to go on over there and meet with a guy by the name of Alonzo Fields."

Fields was a maitre d', and he immediately liked Allen.

Allen was offered a job as a "pantry man." He washed dishes, stocked cabinets and shined silverware. He started at $2,400 a year.

There was, in time, a promotion to butler. "Shook the hand of all the presidents I ever worked for," he says.

"I was there, honey," Helene reminds. "In the back, maybe. But I shook their hands, too." She's referring to White House holiday parties, Easter egg hunts. They have one son, Charles. He works as an investigator with the State Department.

"President Ford's birthday and my birthday were on the same day," he says. "He'd have a birthday party at the White House. Everybody would be there. And Mrs. Ford would say, 'It's Gene's birthday, too!' "

And so they'd sing a little ditty to the butler. And the butler, who wore a tuxedo to work every day, would blush.

"Jack Kennedy was very nice," he goes on. "And so was Mrs. Kennedy."

"Hmm-mmm," she says, rocking.

He was in the White House kitchen the day JFK was slain. He got a personal invitation to the funeral. But he volunteered for other duty: "Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral."

The whole family of President Jimmy Carter made her chuckle: "They were country. And I'm talking Lillian and Rosalynn both." It comes out sounding like the highest compliment.

First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him in the kitchen one day. She wanted to remind him about the upcoming dinner for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He told her he was well ahead in the planning and had already picked out the china. But she told him he would not be working that night.

"She said, 'You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.' I'm telling you! I believe I'm the only butler to get invited to a state dinner."

Husbands and wives don't sit together at these events, and Helene was nervous about trying to make small talk with world leaders. "And my son says, 'Mama, just talk about your high school. They won't know the difference.'

"The senators were all talking about the colleges and universities that they went to," she says." I was doing as much talking as they were.

"Had champagne that night," she says, looking over at her husband.

He just grins: He was the man who stacked the champagne at the White House.

Moving Up, but Slowly

President Kennedy, who succeeded Eisenhower, started with two blacks, Frank Reeves and Andrew Hatcher, in executive positions on his White House staff. Only Hatcher, a deputy press secretary, remained after six months. Reeves, who focused on civil rights matters, left in a political reshuffling.

The issue of race bedeviled this White House, even amid good intentions. In February 1963, Kennedy invited 800 blacks to the White House to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Louis Martin, a Democratic operative who helped plan the function, had placed the names of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and his wife, May Britt, on the guest list. The White House scratched it off and Martin would put it back on. According to Martin, Kennedy was aghast when he saw the black and white couple stroll into the White House. His face reddened and he instructed photographers that no pictures of the interracial couple would be taken.

But Sammy Davis Jr. was not finished with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He got himself invited to the Nixon White House to meet with the president and talk about Vietnam and business opportunities for blacks. He even slept in the Lincoln Bedroom once. When Davis sang at the 1972 Republican convention in Miami, he famously wrapped his arms around Nixon at a youth rally there, becoming forever identified with a White House that many blacks found hostile.

Lyndon Johnson devoted considerable energy and determination to civil rights legislation, even appointing the first black to the Supreme Court. But it did not translate to any appreciable number of blacks working on his staff. Clifford Alexander says he was the sole black in Johnson's White House, serving first as a National Security Council officer, then as associate White House counsel.

"We were fighting for something quite new," says Alexander. "You knew how much your job meant. And you knew President Johnson was fighting on your behalf." As a young man growing up in Harlem, Alexander had heard about Morrow. Mothers and fathers pointed to him as a grand success story. "Fred was a lovely man," says Alexander. "But they did not pay any attention to him in the Eisenhower White House."

Colin Powell would become the highest-ranking black of any White House to that point when he was named President Reagan's national security adviser in 1987. Condoleezza Rice would have that same position under President George W. Bush.

The butler remembers seeing both Powell and Rice in the Oval Office. He was serving refreshments. He couldn't help notice that blacks were moving closer to the center of power, closer than he could ever have dreamed. He'd tell Helene how proud it made him feel.

Time for Change

Gene Allen was promoted to maitre d' in 1980. He left the White House in 1986, after 34 years. President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him, tight.

Interviewed at their home last week, Gene and Helene speculated about what it would mean if a black man were actually elected president.

"Just imagine," she said.

"It'd be really something," he said.

"We're pretty much past the going-out stage," she said. "But you never know. If he gets in there, it'd sure be nice to go over there again."

They've got pictures of President and Mrs. Reagan in the living room. On a wall in the basement, they've got pictures of every president Gene ever served. There's a painting President Eisenhower gave him and a picture of President Ford opening birthday gifts, Gene hovering nearby.

They talked about praying to help Barack Obama get to the White House. They'd go vote together. She'd lean on her cane with one hand, and on him with the other, while walking down to the precinct. And she'd get supper going afterward. They'd gone over their Election Day plans more than once.

"Imagine," she said.

"That's right," he said.

On Monday Helene had a doctor's appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again. He was all alone.

"I woke up and my wife didn't," he said later.

Some friends and family members rushed over. He wanted to make coffee. They had to shoo the butler out of the kitchen.

The lady whom he married 65 years ago will be buried today.

The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.