Friday, October 31, 2008

THAT OLD FEELING

Everyone remembers their first love. Mine was London. For most of the '90s and the first half of the '00s, before I discovered Buenos Aires in 2005, I was a die-hard Anglophile, obsessed with London and all related things. I went for the first time in the fall of 1994, and afterward, I visited so often (at least twice a year) that my friend Andrew, a Londoner whom I met in Prague in 1996, once joked that I spent more time in his town than people who live there. An exaggeration, yes, but I got his drift. In fact, I'm shocked that it's taken me so long to devote an entire post to the city that's been as influential in my adult life as New York and BA.

I remember walking down the streets of London, always burning with frustration because there never seemed to be enough time. I felt like I was in a long-distance relationship, with the long plane rides and the feeling of dread that would set in sometime around Wednesday afternoon (I usually planned my trips so that I'd arrive on Thursday morning and leave on Sunday afternoon, some 10 days later), because it would soon be time to say goodbye. Sure I saw other people--er, cities: Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Budapest, Vienna, Lisbon, Athens, Copenhagen. But I'd always come back to London. Even around the beginning of the new millennium when Italy turned my head and threatened to take center stage, London waited in the wings.

My earliest impressions of Londoners were mostly positive--although it was the city where I witnessed both my first street fight and bar brawl. I was floored by how dependable they were, fighting fits aside. I'd make plans on Sunday to meet someone on Thursday, and even if we didn't speak before our appointed rendezvous, they would always show up. Coming from New York, where everyone confirms and reconfirms to the point that you start dreading what your confirming and begin looking for an out, it was a welcome change of social pace and worlds away from my experience in Buenos Aires, where no one ever seems to make a plan that they probably won't break at the last minute.

I'm not sure how one falls for both London and BA in the same lifetime. London and New York, yes. New York and BA, sure. But London and BA? It's a little like going from Jennifer Aniston to Angelina Jolie. Aside from the fact that they are both beautiful (in totally different ways--London and BA, Jen and Angie), they have very little in common. But then, I've always had wildly unpredictable taste, in cities, in music, in men. Asking me to describe my type is like wanting to know what kind of mood I'm in. For a temperamental guy like me, the answer, my friend, is blowing in--and changing with--the wind. I'm as hard pressed to pin point exactly what I love about BA as I was with London, which, shockingly, I haven't visited in four years. In the English capital, it certainly had a lot to do with the people, who, while somewhat aloof, have the sort of impeccable manners that I didn't truly appreciate until I moved to code-of-conduct-free BA.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again (I promise this will be the last time): I don't love BA because of the people. I love it in spite of them. In a strange way, that's part of the appeal. I'm always up for a challenge, and most of the time, I enjoy living in a city where I'm completely out of my element, right down to the most basic form of communication: talking. Learning Spanish makes me feel as if I'm accomplishing something major. And cracking the mystery of the porteño psyche gives me a similar rush. It may not put my chemistry with BA quite on par with what London and I had all those years ago, but you know what they say (or maybe it was Rod Stewart) about that initial brush with true love: The first cut is the deepest.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

THE BOY WITH THE THORN IN HIS SIDE

Last night Ariel sent me a string of text messages. And speaking of word games, he didn't play any, perhaps because he doesn't seem to have yet mastered his own language. He said it had been such a long time since we'd last spoken, and he wanted to know how I was doing. He invited me to get together soon, perhaps for dinner (my place, of course), if I was interested. A succession of strangely spelled and poorly punctuated sweet nothings followed: "kiero verte pronto MORENO HERMOSO," "tengo muchas ganas de verte, ganas de abrazarte fuerte y darte un beso super poderozo si me dejas?," etc. Translation: You rock, man. Hurry up this way again.

I smiled as I read each SMS (that's text message in these parts) and thought to myself, Who the hell is Ariel?

Eventually, I figured it out. I was introduced to Ariel months ago when I walked his girlfriend (whose name completely escapes me) from the club where I met her to the subway. He and I ended up hanging out afterward, and we had a decent time. But as I never heard from him again, I pretty much extricated him from my memory within a week.

Better late than never, that's true, but I wondered why he waited all this time to contact me, so I did something pretty revolutionary: I asked. He said that he had been carrying around his memories of me since the night we met, and he'd thought of me often and wanted to reconnect. If I'd made such an amazing impression on him, I asked, why did he never call me?

His response nearly caused me to fall off the couch: He was afraid of falling in love with me. He didn't think I'd want to see him again, and he just couldn't deal with feeling bad as a result. As ridiculous as that explanation sounds in English, it's much more effective in Spanish and, believe it or not, believable. Strange, I know. So is the fact that even in English something offensive can sound the exact opposite if said with the right accent. I remember visiting Florence, Italy, in 2000 and having this guy Alessandro say to me, "We make love," in the most adorable Italian accent. Although I would have laughed in any American guy's face for daring to utter such a crude come-on, I actually considered taking Alessandro up on his offer.

But back to Ariel. I began to wonder how many other guys I'd scared off for the very same reason. I know how proud Argentine men are (orgulloso, egoísta, histerico--it's like living in a country full of Leo's) and how terrified they are of rejection, but this is truly loco. As apalled as I was by Ariel's explanation, in a strange way, it made me feel a little better about my strange rapport with porteño guys--it really isn't me; it's them. Still, what a turn-off! For me, a little bit of courage goes a long way, and a complete lack of it, well, it won't get you to second base.

Will Ariel score another chance at bat? Probably not. I'm currently in week four of detoxing from Argentine boys--from guys, in general. Aside from the one hour I spent in that Montevideo disco this past weekend (my excuse: I was engaging in an anthropological study, the result of which I still haven't quite put together), I've neither gone out nor have I had any kind of romantic interaction since Sunday, October 5. Celibacy rules, and that's too bad for Ariel. If I'm going to break my stride, it's going to be for someone whom I at least know will have the courage to contact me the next day (or at least within a fortnight), not months after he's been withdrawn from my memory bank and deposited into the trash bin of old flames that have permanently lost their spark.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

WORD GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Living in a foreign language for the past two years has made me more appreciative of English than I ever was during my lifetime in the United States. But sometimes as absence is making the heart grow fonder, it also makes the brain a little forgetful. The truth is that my decades-long relationship with my native tongue has had strained moments. Although I built an entire career around it, I didn't always understand it. We've all had those conversations in which there's such a disconnect between what is said and what is meant that all parties involved might as well be speaking in tongues.

Since I moved to Buenos Aires and began tackling a second language, I've gained a newfound clarity where the first one is concerned. Reading between the lines and deciphering hidden meanings--in English and, at this point, in Spanish, too--are second nature now. For those of you left in the dark by people who are too chicken to say what they're really thinking, it's time to get a clue. Here's my Guide to the Word Games That People Play, Volume I. Coming Soon: Volume II, The Spanish Edition.

WHEN THEY SAY "What's up?" THEY MEAN "I'm kind of boring, and I don't have a thing to offer to this conversation." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "It was nice seeing you. Bye."

WHEN THEY SAY "When am I going to see you?" THEY MEAN "I want you to think I care, but I'd be totally fine if I never again laid eyes on you." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "If you're free later, let's grab dinner?" (I kind of hate the verb "grab" when it's used with "dinner" or "a drink," but hey, that's how people talk.)

WHEN THEY SAY
"Keep in touch." THEY MEAN "I want to close with something better than 'good-bye,' but I'm not creative enough to fulfill such lofty ambitions. Oh, and by the way, the ball is in your court." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "I'll give you a call tomorrow so that we can make plans for this weekend."

WHEN THEY SAY "I'll let you know later." (In reponse to: "Are we still on for tonight?") THEY MEAN "Don't call me; I'll call you....Actually, I won't." (Deliberation is never necessary for something that someone really wants to do. This is particularly true for the Spanish variations on the "I'll get back to you" theme in Buenos Aires, where no plan is valid unless it's made at the last minute. Word is so not bond with porteños.) BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "Tonight isn't really good for me. Can we reschedule for tomorrow?"

WHEN THEY SAY "I'll try to make it." (Tone arch and voice slightly higher than normal, like when one says, "It like it," after taking a bite of the foulest piece of cheese ever.) THEY MEAN "I've got better things to do." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "I already have plans, but have a great time."

WHEN THEY SAY "I care for you." (In response to: "I love you.") THEY MEAN "I love you not." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING Nothing. A kiss is worth a thousand words--and if it's done right, it'll preclude them.

WHEN THEY SAY "He/she is attractive/exotic/unique." THEY MEAN "He/she is funny-looking." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "Looks aren't everything." Though we all know they are.

WHEN THEY SAY "It has a good beat." (Which, by the way, are four words I uttered countless times--sometimes followed by "I could totally hear this on the radio" for maximum brown-nosing effect--when music publicists would show up at my office to play me the latest hitbound track from their next big thing.) THEY MEAN "This song really blows, man." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "I don't love it. But you know what? I don't really get Lil' Jon either."

WHEN THEY SAY "Yes we can." THEY MEAN "My fellow Americans, I know you love your politicians packaged in pithy slogans, so this one's for you." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "Do you really want four more years of W?"

WHEN THEY SAY "Take care." THEY MEAN "Have a good life. See you in the next one. Maybe." BUT THEY SHOULD BE SAYING "Cuidate!" Same phrase, different language. Here in Buenos Aires, when people say it--Cuidate, that is--they really mean it.

WHINE, WOMEN & SONG

Some posts ago, I griped about Beyonce's current single, "If I Were A Boy," an attempt to put a new twist on the old-as-dirt battle of the sexes that turns out a cliched mess targeted at simpleton mentalities. I thought about the song the other morning as I was walking to my Pilates class and my iPod's random play selected "A Woman Left Lonely," a track from Jukebox, Cat Power's recent covers CD. Now I'm ashamed to admit that although I downloaded Jukebox the week of its release last January, I've never listened to it in its entirety. (I still stuck on Cat Power's flawless 2006 opus, The Greatest, one of my Top 10 favorite albums of the '00s. Stay tuned for that list--coming soon, before the end of 2009.) In fact, I didn't even realize that she'd covered the late, great Charlie Rich's country non-hit from 1971 on Jukebox. In reality, she probably had Janis Joplin's version in mind, but I'm more familiar with Rich's rendition.

As I listened, I found myself thinking about Beyonce's similarly themed single and then going off on a tangent, wishing that more contemporary singers would pay their respects to pop music's rich history and be less predictable when doing it. A perfect example: Celine Dion and her version of Heart's "Alone" from her 2007 CD, Taking Chances. Carrie Underwood had already unexpectedly and successfully gone there in front of millions of TV viewers during the fourth season of American Idol, so why play follow the leader? I'd pay good money to download Celine renditions of Linda Ronstadt's "Long Long Time" or Phoebe Snow's "Poetry Man" or some other undercharted covers territory. In Beyonce's case, time will tell whether the soundtrack to the upcoming Etta James biopic, in which Beyonce portrays the R&B/blues legend, will mix relatively unsung Etta classics ("Losers, Weepers, Part I," "I'd Rather Go Blind") with the tried and truly done-to-death ("At Last," "Tell Mama").

But back to Cat Power and "A Woman Left Lonely." The song details the emotional burden of the fairer sex, emphasizing resignation over recrimination with a fairness that makes it interpretable by both male and female singers: "And the fevers of the night/The can burn an unloved woman/And oh, the red hot flames/Try to push old love aside/Oh, yes it does." Does Cat Power outdo the Silver Fox? I think she falls somewhat short, but it probably has more to do with the haunted early '70s piano-and-strings production values that elevate Rich's version than anything either did vocally. You be the judge.

LISTEN Cat Power: "A Woman Left Lonely"

LISTEN Charlie Rich: "A Woman Left Lonely"

iPOD SONG LYRIC OF THE DAY

"Tony Tony Tony/I know that you're horny/But there's something 'bout that Bush ain't right."

--George Michael, "Shoot The Dog"

Yes, it was biting (pun not intended) and cut right to the chase, indicting then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair's support of George Bush's War on Iraq, but I never understood what all the fuss and controversy was about in Michael's native UK. I guess every country has its very own hangup. In the UK, blasting the ruling government can seriously derail the seemingly sturdiest pop career, and for George Michael, it left him temporarily in the doghouse (pun intended).

In the U.S., the hangup is sex. Over the years, it's pushed many a star--from "Soul Kiss"-era Olivia Newton-John to Madonna circa Erotica and the Sex book to George Michael (again!) after his infamous public-bathroom arrest to Janet Jackson post-Nipplegate--from their chart pedastal. Thus far, only Madonna has managed a full recovery.

And let's not even get into religion. Or rather, let's. Say the wrong thing when it comes to the Almighty and His chosen, and it pretty much can have a career-chilling effect worldwide. Not sure about that one? Check in with Sinead O'Connor. You can find her in that doghouse for fallen pop stars. She's been biding her time there since ripping up that photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live in the early '90s.

Aw, come on, fickle, holier-than-thou, unforgiving music lovers. Fight the real enemy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

NAME THAT TUNE OR CONFUSION ON THE DANCEFLOOR


Is it me, or does "Womanizer," Britney Spears' current electro-pop single, bear more than a passing resemblance to "Keeps Gettin' Better," Christina Aguilera's current electro-pop single? I never realized it until tonight. I went to a disco in Montevideo, Uruguay, and three or four songs after I arrived (and following Ida Corr Vs. Fedde LeGrand's "Let Me Think About It" and a particularly thumping mix of Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music"), the crowd began to squeal in delight at the DJ's selection.

Ooh, I thought to myself. The new Christina!

Then that unmistakeable croak kicked in, and I knew I was listening to "Womanizer." Musically, it sounded a lot better cranked up a trillion decibels, but there's no saving that inane chorus. Shortly afterwards, I ventured downstairs. After several tepidly received tracks, a familiar electro-pop beat got the dancefloor crowd pumping.

Britney? Again?

Uh uh. This time it really was the new Christina. Same beat, better song.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

THE FEAR OF BEING ALONE

I've always been fully aware that I belong to the neediest of species. But recently, it's become a near-inescapable fact. It seems that just about everyone I know or meet has this desperate desire for companionship. I'm not talking strictly about the romantic brand but the platonic kind, too. These sociaholics avoid being alone like the plague, preferring to spend every waking hour surrounded by others rather than face a few hours in silent solitude and quiet contemplation.

I'm not one of those people. Never have been. Despite my gregarious party-boy streak, my friends would probably describe me as, among other things, private, secretive, given to bouts of reclusiveness, the person most likely to pull a Greta Garbo in old age and disappear into his ivory tower. Thank God for my friend Cara, who lives three floors down from me in Buenos Aires, and who, like me, enjoys being by herself as much if not more than being with others. (It's so good to have someone close by who I know won't stop by incessantly--or unannounced.)

How did I end up like this? I blame my parents. Actually, I thank my parents, because I'm quite happy as is and have absolutely zero desire to become a mindless socializer addicted to the sound of the crowd. My siblings and I were always overprotected by our folks, to the point where we weren't allowed to play with the neighborhood kids. To be completely honest, three out of four of us pretty much didn't want to anyway, and we used this as an excuse to retreat into ourselves, becoming consumed with books, academia and, especially in my case, music. Of course, we had each other, but we never used that to fill the empty space. We all had better things to do.

When I was a kid, I don't remember ever begging my dad to take me out to the ball game or to the nearest arcade to play a billion rounds of Pac-Man. My idea of the perfect Saturday afternoon was one spent in the Kissimmee Public Library on Main Street. Every week, we'd beg Mom and Dad to take us to the library, check out tons of books (mine were almost invariably about U.S. history with an Encylopedia Brown mystery collection thrown in), devour them in a few days and repeat.

It may sound like hell to a lot of people, and it certainly didn't make me any new friends, but I'm glad things played out the way they did, because it allowed me to become comfortable with going solo. It also helped that although I was well-known for being smart (and, at my teacher's request, reciting the names of the then-39 U.S. presidents to all the second-grade classes), I never had a lot of friends. The possibilities of why are endless: I was fat. I was gay (unbeknownst to me until I was a little bit older). I talked funny (my still inexplicably present Caribbean accent was crazy strong back then). I was totally uncomfortable in my skin. (Who can blame me?) In other words, I had no choice but to develop a relationship with myself, as the masses were not exactly clamoring for my company.

Thankfully, I eventually outgrew the social outcast thing. It was a slow process that began around the age of 18 when I dropped my baby fat without really attempting to do so. Slowly but surely, I emerged from my shell and became something of a social butterfly, a truly "recovering introvert" (to quote my brother Alexi)--but an introvert all the same. Although I now consider wild-and-crazy Jeremy to be a valid expression of one side of my personality, I'm a loner at heart. When I enter life-of-the-party mode, I feel as if I'm having an out of body experience, watching myself play a role. But when the going gets tough and being in public starts to get on my nerves, one thought keeps me going: My ivory tower awaits.

Please, do not disturb.

Monday, October 20, 2008

THE FUNNIEST MOVIE REVIEW EVER

Here's what the New York Daily News had to say about Madonna's ridiculously titled directorial debut, Filth And Wisdom, which, to be honest, I'd never heard of until a few moments ago. (Between recording her latest CD, promoting it and planning a tour, when did she even find time to cowrite and direct a film?)

"...an atrocious mess that feels like it was written by the Madonna character in Desperately Seeking Susan and directed by the Madonna character in Who's The Girl."

Pardon me while I die laughing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

SEX AND THE CITY: ARGENTINE MEN ARE PIGS PART XLVII

The other night I was over at the apartment of my friend Audrey catching her up on the latest comings and goings in my romantic department when the story of Alejandro, whom I cut loose a week and a half ago with a scathing email, seemed to pique the interest of Jay, the guy Audrey is dating. But when he picked up the laptop from the coffee table and started to type, I figured it was just a false alarm.

Moments later, he handed me the computer. Holy, sh...! I was looking at an email chain between Jay and Alejandro (name unchanged so as not to protect the guilty and pathetic). Said name had made Jay wonder if, by some wild and crazy coincidence, it was the same guy. Or maybe it was the inappropriate behavior I had described in my story.

Let me explain. Jay is new in Buenos Aires, and before his arrival, he had placed a posting on a business networking sight about his move, inquiring about job opportunities in Buenos Aires. Alejandro pounced. But as with so many goodwill missions, there were strings attached, which he made crystal clear at the end of his third or fourth email. "One question," he wrote after suggesting that they meet up for drinks. "Are you gay?" AH, HAH! Poor Alejandro, always on the prowl. Hey, jerk, this is a place of business, not Manhunt! And if you have to ask, don't!

Bullet. Dodged.

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS?

Am I alone here? Does anybody else find it virtually unfathomable that after nearly 10 years of being one of the biggest female pop stars on the planet (second, perhaps, only to Madonna, whom I'll get to later), Britney Spears is only now collecting her second No. 1 hit with the creatively underachieving "Womanizer"? And if that's not enough of an eyebrow-raiser, "Womanizer" is only her fifth Top 10 hit on Billboard's Hot 100! Personally, I think "Toxic" and "Gimme More" were both more deserving of the chart-topping honor, but it seems like the stars are aligned for a spectacular Britney comeback. And to think, just last week, I was dismissing her as the underdog to Christina Aguilera, whose single, "Keeps Gettin' Better," plummets from 7 to 17 in its second chart week.

Speaking of Madonna, why do married celebrities continuously deny split rumors when a simple "no comment" would do, only to do the deed months later? It's not like a Madonna-Guy Ritchie divorce wasn't a foregone conclusion on their wedding day in 2000. And Hard Candy's love-on-the-rocks ballad "Miles Away," which I am convinced is about Guy despite Madonna's protestations to the contrary, only fueled speculation. The timing seems a bit strange, though, considering that she's in the middle of her Sticky & Sweet world tour. Did they decide to break up back stage after a post-concert showdown? Or has it been underway for months, but they are only now getting around to announcing it? I suspect the former, as I have a hard time believing that anyone not pulling a major publicity stunt would see this as the best time to go public with such news. And that Madonna tellingly and bitterly dedicated the song to the "emotionally retarded" before declaring, "You might know a few people who fall into that category--God knows I do," when introducing it in Boston the night after the divorce news broke, makes one think that something major went down between husband and wife.

I have no doubt that Madonna will survive--emotionally, romantically, professionally. As for Guy, it's a good thing he's already signed on to direct Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock and Jude Law as Watson, which will probably end up saving his career. How'd he score such an A-list gig? And what about the children? I imagine that Guy and Madonna will share custody of their 8-year-old son, Rocco. But I can't help but wonder what kind of relationship will Guy now have with Madonna's 12-year-old daughter, Lourdes, and their adopted 3-year-old Malawian son, David Banda. Surely the David was a Madonna project. At least he'll get to kiss the macrobiotic diet and all that Kabbalah stuff goodbye. If he even wants to.

How do you know a daytime soap is in top form? You find yourself rooting for both the good guy and the bad guy. That's the case with One Life To Live these days. Here's the deal: Todd Manning is falling in love with his presumed-dead amnesiac former rape victim (only in soapland kids, only in soapland) Marty Saybrooke and vice-versa. While he's nursing her back to health far from the prying eyes of her loved ones and her son, who all still think she's six feet under, Todd is keeping her in the dark about their tortured history and the fact that she has family in town.

Meanwhile, Todd's arch enemy, John McBain, who was sleeping with Marty when she "died" and is now hitting the sheets with Todd's ex-wife Blair, is hot on his trail, trying to find out whom he's hiding upstairs in his secret room. If the chemistry between Trevor St. John and Susan Haskell, who play Todd and Marty, wasn't so red-hot and their performances so on-point, I wouldn't buy any of it for second. But as I watch, I find myself hoping and praying that Todd and Marty will live happily ever after and that John will finally confirm the identity Todd's secret house guest. (Did I mention that Todd is also planning on stealing the baby that his pregnant teenage daughter Starr is about to give birth to so that he and Marty can run away and raise him together?) Only the best-written soap can test a viewer's tolerance for the improbable while creating genuine moral conflict in said viewer. Love. It.

I'm also still totally in love with General Hospital: Night Shift. Tuesday's episode was the first of the two-part season finale, and once again, I laughed, I cried, I wondered why it has to end so soon. This week, I was particularly impressed by Kimberly McCullough, who plays Robin Scorpio, especially during Robin's monologue to her comatose dad, Robert, who, thankfully, snapped out of his deep slumber toward the end of the show. The character of Robin can be infuriatingly preachy, but Kimberly really nails the material week in, week out. If the writers of the parent show would give her such meaty material instead of focusing on all that mob nonsense, which no one but the writers seems to enjoy (the proof is in the ratings), she'd be a virtual Emmy shoo-in.

Guillaume Depardieu, the 37-year-0ld son of Oscar-nominated French actor Gerard Depardieu, died on unlucky October 13 in Garches, France, from pneumonia brought on by a virus he'd contracted while filming a movie in Romania. I panic whenever anyone younger than I am dies suddenly, but Depardieu's death hit me hard for another reason. He was the star of, Tous les matins du monde (that's him, second from the top, and his dad, bottom), the very first foreign-language film I ever saw in the theater. My first boyfriend, Derek, dragged me to see it in 1992.

I'm glad he did, because if I hadn't seen that movie, which I loved, and all the other subtitled films he took me to, I may have missed out on one I saw on my own, Trois Couleurs Bleu, starring my beloved Juliette Binoche, which remains my all-time favorite cinematic experience. I still remember the exquisitely beautiful score to Tous les matins du monde. Derek bought the soundtrack at the Tower Records near Lincoln Square after we saw the movie. He played it so much that it became the de facto soundtrack to our relationship from that moment on. My heart goes out to Gerard and the rest of the family that Guillaume left behind.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

MAGIC MOMENTS

General Hospital: Night Shift is kicking ass. Still.

Today I watched the 12th episode of Season Two, and two scenes, in particular, made me cry just a little bit. The first was between super-agent exes Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) and Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers), the latter of whom was on the verge of lapsing into a coma due to complications from his treatment for colon cancer. In the sequence, the former couple put aside their usual verbal sparring to talk lovingly about their long, complicated history, the sacrifices they'd made for their work and how they'd both always imagined that someday, at the end of their respective final missions, they'd somehow find their way back to each other and grow old and gray together, sipping Mai Tai's on some remote beach.

The scene was like a master class on effective, understated acting. Every word, every single note rang true. If only Night Shift's parent show would take notes from its spin-off--and also sign Hughes and Rogers to long-term contracts pronto--GH might actually crawl out of ratings hell (which is what every daytime drama, with the exception of The Young & The Restless, currently calls home).

I teared up again watching the show's final scene between Dr. Kyle Julian (Adam Grimes) and his patient, played by openly gay actor Chad Allen, formerly of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (above right, with Grimes). Allen's character is awaiting a liver transplant, but time is running out. In the scene, he asked Dr. Julian if he'd ever had a perfect moment, before going on to deliver a short soliloquy on his one (something about being in New York on a beautiful fall day). "Have you ever had a perfect moment?" he asked Dr. Julian again after he had finished telling his story. "Yes," Dr. Julian responded. Silence. "Right now."

The response was predictable, but again, the delivery was so simple and so understated that it didn't matter. Afterwards, doctor and patient leaned in toward each other and sealed the tender moment with a kiss. A real kiss. We've come a long way, baby, since Melrose Place's Matt Fielding (played by Desperate Housewive's Doug Savant), his hunky boyfriends and their chaste hugs.

As I watched the scene, I thought about perfect moments and whether I'd ever had one. I decided that yes, exactly one. It was early autumn in New York City, about 16 years ago. My first boyfriend, Derek, and I were lying on his bed listening to Talk Talk's Laughing Stock CD. It was Saturday around nightfall, and it was raining outside (very similar to how it is now in Buenos Aires as I type). It was dark in Derek's apartment, and just a little bit of natural light was coming through the bedroom window from outside. Not a creature was stirring. Derek and I were just lying there, listening to the Talk Talk's art-rock opus, silently enjoying each other's company.

I haven't seen Derek since 2004. We dated for a year and a half and broke up around this time in 1993. I'll always think of him as the one who got away. When we started dating, I had just turned 23, and he was 27. He was ready for a serious relationship, but I was still a wild thing, and as Joni Mitchell once said (in an album title), wild things run fast. Derek couldn't keep up--and I wasn't ready to slow down. I wonder if he remembers that perfect moment, and if it was as good for him.

If I ever see Derek again (and considering that I unexpectedly ran into him in 1999 in a train station in Florence, Italy, chances are that I will), I'll have to ask.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

TWO DIVAS, THREE HITS?

It's me again, offering more unsolicited opinions, this time of the latest offerings of two longtime queens of oversung pop.

Beyoncé: "If I Were A Boy"/"Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"

Oh, girl. Here we go again. More guy-bashing, courtesy of Beyoncé's maddening and frustrating new single, "If I Were A Boy" (LISTEN HERE). Sporting the same strummed, mid-tempo groove of every other would-be crossover R&B hit these days (including Beyoncé's own 2006 chart-topper, "Irreplaceable"), it's saddled with the worst cliches about the pig-like nature of men. One has to wonder why any woman with such a low opinion of the opposite sex (and I suspect there are many) wouldn't just start dating girls. After all, only the female sex is apparently enlightened enough to actually feel. A definite miss. Ditto "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)," the other new single from Beyoncé's third solo CD, I Am, due November 18. "Ladies" is catchier and more energetic than "Boy," but it's basically "Get Me Bodied" from B'Day with different lyrics. Somebody (preferably not the snooze-worthy and inexplicably in-demand Ne-Yo) needs to get this girl some new material!

Christina Aguilera: "Keeps Gettin' Better"
The title certainly doesn't refer to her music, which peaked with the 2007 single "Candyman," but Christina returns to the Top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 this week with one of two new songs (LISTEN HERE) from her forthcoming (November 11, exclusively at Target stores, to be exact) greatest hits compilation, Keeps Gettin' Better - A Decade Of Hits. Has it already been that long? Anglophiles will notice that it treads the same electro-pop terrain previously plod by Goldfrapp (on their Supernature CD) and the pitifully underrated British pop diva Rachel Stevens (on several of her U.K. hits, most notably "Some Girls"). But whatever the song lacks in originality, it's nice to hear Christina displaying some uncharacteristic vocal restraint. Who would have guessed we'd live to see the day when the other one was the underdog in the Britney Vs. Christina battle of the divas?

DOWNLOAD "Boogie Woogie Candyman": Christina Aguilera Vs. The Andrew Sisters

CHECK OUT The way she was: my 2001 Teen People cover story on Christina Aguilera

Thursday, October 9, 2008

KICKING IT WITH BECKHAM

I couldn't possibly care less about soccer--or as they call it here in Argentina, fútbol. And Lord knows, I never thought I'd live in a place where anybody else did. But strangely enough, my three favorite countries (of all the ones I've visited--and loved--before), England, Italy and Argentina, are all mad about the sport. I recently went to a bar in Buenos Aires on a Friday night, anticipating a few hours of fun, and when I walked in, lo and behold, not only was the place practically empty, but among the small group gathered, all eyes were glued to the television set. The big attraction: a live championship match featuring Boca Juniors, Argentina's national fútbol team.

It was all I could do not to go home, pack my bags, head to the airport and get a one-way ticket out of here. I resisted the urge and waited it out. Eventually, the game ended (I still don't have a clue who won), the regular Friday night crowd arrived (apparently, unlike pub-crawling Brits, the average porteño prefers to enjoy a match from the comfort of home), and normalcy was restored to my world.

A few days later, I was looking through my old files and came across the transcript of an interview I did with British soccer star David Beckham way back in May of 2004 when he and his wife, Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, were making a bid for crossover U.S. stardom. At the time I was a senior editor at Us Weekly magazine, and we did a huge photo shoot with the two of them together. Unfortunately, the dynamic duo, who, in person, seemed to be completely sincere in their devotion, never quite took flight in the U.S. as they had hoped, and my interview never ran in the magazine.

Too bad. Rereading my interview with Beckham after four years, I thought it better than I did at the time. Maybe my standards were higher back then. Or maybe my two years at Us Weekly had conditioned me to deem unsuccessful any interview that didn't produce some salacious revelation. Below I've posted an edited version of my Q&A with Beckham. Judge for yourself.

JEREMY: You are one of the world's most popular sports figures, famous even among people, like me, who don’t care about soccer. How does that make you feel?
DAVID
: It's great to be loved by people who support me and support football. It’s a great honor in itself. But to be loved outside of football by people who don’t even support football is an amazing honor.

J: What did you think of having the film Bend It Like Beckham named for you? You weren't even in it!
D
: It was pretty cool, actually. I think the film went well in England and Europe, but for a film like that to come over to America and do what it did is pretty cool. And it helped me coming over to America because people were hearing things about Beckham, and they were probably like, "Who in the hell is Beckham?" All of a sudden they saw a picture of me, and that helped my profile. I’d love to be recognized in America for being a great sports star, because in America people are just so patriotic about their country, and I love America.

J: Both you and your wife, Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, are celebrities. Does all the scrutiny affect your marriage?
D
: We have quite a lot of pressure, honestly, as a couple. But I think having two children, having children around, takes all the pressure away. You know you can have the worst day at work, and then you come home and see your sons smiling. There are pressures on us as a couple, but we’ve had that since we first started going out. So we’ve gotten used to it, and we have a way of working through it by looking out for each other.

J: What are some of the challenges of being famous and married with children?
D
: There are certain situations that have gone on in our lives since we got married and also since we’ve had children, and we have had to change our lifestyle for [those] situations. But you have to try and have as normal a life as possible--not just for us but for our children. We want them to have as normal a life as possible. It's gonna be hard, but they’re the important ones.

J: How did becoming a husband and a father changed you?
D
: I think that’s what changed me totally, as a human being, really. It's one of the most amazing things--becoming a father--and it changes everything in your life. Your responsibilities change, and you don’t worry about the things that you worried about before you had children.

J: What initially attracted you to your wife?
D
: Her legs. She was in the Spice Girls when I first saw her, and she used to wear these mini-skirts, and everyone used to say, "Who’s your favorite Spice Girl?" I would say, "The one with the bob, the one with the legs." And that was my answer, because she had these amazing legs.

J: But she never smiled!
D
: People used to say, "Why doesn’t she smile?" And you know, that’s the whole Spice Girls thing. You had Baby and Ginger and Scary and Sporty and the Posh pout. It was a look that was known throughout the world. It didn’t bother me if she didn't smile. There was a sort of mysterious way about her.

J: You are the rare male fashion icon. Where did you develop your sense of style? Have you always had it?
D
: I’ve always liked to dress different, even when I was a boy, I wanted to wear something different, even though my mom turned 'round to me and said, "You might have people laugh at you." And I was like, "Well, no, I like this, and I want to wear it." So I’ve always wanted to wear different things. It’s great for me to be told that I’m a fashion icon.

J: Do you have any kind of a workout or fitness routine?
D
: I go to practice nearly every day, so I go in the gym every now and again, but it's not a religion to me. I don’t go in there everyday....Nobody likes to workout.

J: Do you avoid eating certain foods?
D
: No, not really. I’m one of the lucky people that can eat most things and get away with it and not put on weight.

J: Do you ever worry about being off your game?
D
: You always have your doubts. But you know, I’m quite shy off the pitch, but when I’m on the pitch, I’m a confident person, and it can sort of change my personality.

J: What else do you want to accomplish both personally and professionally?
D
: To have a healthy life with my family, and professionally, I’d like to carry on playing as much football as possible and win as many trophies and accolades as possible. Maybe one day have soccer schools all around the world, and, you know, be recognized in America. That’s one place where not many soccer stars get noticed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

IT'S JUST ANOTHER MANIC MONDAY

This past weekend was not my finest moment. I won't divulge any of the gruesome details other than to say that what began as a relaxed dinner for two (my friend Cara and I) on Saturday turned into a night to remember and to try to forget. In fact, if I could turn back time to, say, Thursday, there are a few things I would I do differently, the first being taking that bus to Rosario--Argentina's third biggest city, which is only a few hours away from the capital--for my long-desired weekend getaway.

But to paraphrase Toni Braxton on one of my favorite TB songs, first thing Tuesday morning (she actually sang, "Monday morning," but hey, it's already Monday evening, and I'm still in physical, mental and emotional recovery), I'm gonna pack my tears away. Not that I cried this weekend--or today--but you get my drift. Tomorrow is a brand new day. (Scarlett O'Hara would be so proud!) Back to running, back to Pilates, back to the gym (actually, I'll save that for Wednesday), back to writing, back to feeling alive. It's springtime in Buenos Aires, and aside from the off-the-charts pollen count and air particles that make your eye balls feel like they're being attacked by a million grains of sand, the weather couldn't be more lovely.

I've been thinking about getting a dog. I've always wanted one. As a kid, I couldn't because my father was allergic. As an adult, I was the one who became allergic--to the responsibility. But on second, third and fourth thought, maybe getting a dog is a bit too drastic. I think I'll start by walking Cara's pug, Sammy. You know, baby steps.

(Speaking of walking a dog, I've always wondered how the dog walkers here in Buenos Aires--el pasea perros in Spanish--keep track of which pups have done their, ahem, stuff, and which ones haven't. But that's probably something deep and meaningful to ponder another day.)

I think this dog thing might be a stand-in for the baby fever I've recently been feeling. You know, baby steps--actual baby steps, which, as I've mentioned before, I've been dreaming about for a while now. But since being a daddy at this stage in my life is pretty much a long shot, given my fear of responsibility and commitment (though as indicated in my last post, far less qualified guys than I are becoming baby daddies all over Buenos Aires), a dog seems to be more reasonable.

And Cara insists that walking a dog is a great way to meet guys. But wait! More guys? Oh, no! As Prince would say (I promise, this is the last song reference of this post), I need another lover like I need a hole in my head. Maybe Sammy and I can just bond in the comfort of Cara's apartment, far far away from the maddening crowd of BA's boys.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

GIVING UP EASY

Years ago, my mother, my best friend and I were in a taxi on the way to my 28th birthday celebration in New York City, and Mom said something that I've never forgotten. We were talking about love and understanding, love and anger, love and pride and all that jazz when she dropped her bombshell: "Jeremy," she said, "sometimes you give up on people too quickly." I silently disagreed but wondered if perhaps she had a point. Years of experience eventually led me to the conclusion that she did. She'd hit the nail on the head.

I once went on a Fourth of July first date with a guy whose cell phone rang during dinner. I couldn't believe that he had the gall to interrupt me mid-sentence to answer it. I vowed then and there never to go out with him again. And I didn't. After the fireworks, he invited me to have a nightcap. I politely declined and went home, deleting his number from my phone en route. Now I look back and think how silly I was for reacting to a simple call in such drastic fashion.

"I break up with him before he dump me," Missy Elliott rapped on her first hit, "The Rain." Me, too. I also weed out undesirables before they get the opportunity to really cross me. It's what I do, as anyone who's violated my golden rule knows all too well. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are late, and I never wait more than 20 minutes for anyone. Even if someone is picking me up at home, I will purposely leave after 20 minutes, just so that when they arrive, they'll see that they've made the trip for naught.

I did it in Santiago de Chile when Marcelo had the nerve to show up 45 minutes after he was supposed to without so much as a phone call. I didn't even wait that long. At 9:30, after a half hour of waiting, I went to dinner alone. When I returned to the apartment, he finally contacted me (via IM, natch!) with an excuse so lame that I can't even remember it. Why he didn't call to let me know he was running late, I'll never know. I didn't give him a second chance. I figure that anyone who really wants to--or deserves to--see me will move heaven and earth to get to me within five minutes of the appointed time. Or at least call. (Coming soon: People Who Ask You Out And Then Never Call: The Alejandro Story or From Perfect Saturday Afternoon Picnic Date To Complete Asshole In Less Than Three Weeks)

Now before you go branding me a cold, heartless SOB, let me amplify. I suspend my rule for people who bother to let me know that they are running late--of course, this is clearly asking too much of Argentines, who are chronically late and can be chronically ill-mannered as well. Last night I promised this guy whom I had met the previous night named Javier that I would be in front of a certain bar at 11 p.m. He must have sent me a dozen text messages over the course of the evening confirming and reconfirming our plan. Geez, I thought, this guy will probably be there at 11 sharp. I'd better be, too.

Flash forward to 11 p.m. I arrive at the bar, and there is no sign of Javier. I wait 15 minutes before sending him a text telling him I'm by the door. He says he'll be there "en 5 minuto" (he's a native Argentine, but correct Spanish grammar and spelling are obviously not his strengths)--just in time, I thought, to make my deadline. Five minutes later, he still hadn't arrived. I sent him another text, this time telling him that I was about to leave. "ESTOY YEGANDO (sic) ESPERAME AFUERA." I figured that since he was coming all the way from Tigre, I'd let him off the hook and not give up on him so quickly.

I'm glad I stuck around, because I got a great story out of it. It wasn't as entertaining as the episode of Friday Night Lights that I was missing to be there, but few things are. After one of two jumbo beers (I drank orange soda), he started to loosen up and got up close and personal about his life. He told me that five months ago, his live-in girlfriend of four years left him and their two kids, aged 2 and 3, and moved to Italy. (I know what you are thinking, but he's not the first guy I've gone out with here who has ex-girlfriends and kids.) Her departure came without warning. She just announced one day that she was leaving, and since everything they owned (including their home) was in her name, she took it all. He, in turn, lost everything--which is actually how he began the story: "Hace unos meses, me perdí todo." That, I thought to myself, would be a great opening line for a short story: A few months ago, I lost everything. Who could resist reading on?

I also wondered what kind of woman does such a thing to her kids (or what kind of fool lives in a home with someone who owns everything in it and in the driveway). Now, Javier and the kids (whom I imagine must be beyond adorable) live with his parents in Tigre. At 28, he's living a life that's pure soap opera. Personally, I think he's kind of fortunate to have two kids without having to deal with the baby mama. I didn't tell him this, but I did tell him that he's lucky that she didn't take them with her. I can't help but think that her role in this story is far over. I predict an Act II straight out of Kramer Vs. Kramer (see photo above). She'll eventually come back looking for her children. Isn't that what would happen on One Life To Live? I wonder what the Argentine courts would have to say about that.

When I left Javier around 1:30 to go home, he was on his way to a nightclub. Father of the Year, I thought. He told me that he goes out practically every night. I'm not sure what's in a nightclub that's more important than his kids, and something tells me that he doesn't know the answer to that one either. I just hope those little ones turn out okay, and that his actions don't come back to haunt him in a custody case.

Mom would be proud to know that I'm not giving up on Javier. I've never been able to resist a good soap opera, and I'm dying to see how this one unfolds.

HERE COME THE GIRLS

Just because Britney is coasting with her snoozefest of a new single doesn't mean all of the returning ladies of pop and soul are asleep at the microphone. A sampler of new offerings from the past few weeks:

(Note: I originally posted this on September 30, but it mysteriously disappeared from the blog. So I've rewritten it slightly and tried again.)

Alicia Keys Ft. Jack White: "Another Way To Die"
I'll never understand why, with the exceptions of Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" and Rita Coolidge's "All Time High," every James Bond theme gets saddled with an unwieldy, meaningless title, even, as is the case here, when they don't match the name of the movie. But my carping stops there. This summit of rock and soul superstars will likely polarize disciples of both, and while I've never been particularly gaga over either, I think the pairing is inspired. Thanks to Jack, who wrote and produced the track for the upcoming Quantum Solace, Alicia sounds like she's having fun for the first time since...well, ever. Jack has brought out the woman in her, a feat Usher couldn't quite achieve several years back with "My Boo," his superstar collaboration with Alicia. Forget Timbaland. Every R&B diva on the block (how I wish Mary J. Blige, who could certainly use a new direction, had thought of this first) should be banging on Jack's door, begging for a piece of his action.

Dido: "Don't Believe In Love"
"I want to go to bed with arms around me, but wake up on my own," the queen of atmospheric pop declares right out of the box on her first single in five years. (I must admit that I didn't really notice her absence--and I'm a fan!) Dido sure knows how to make a grand re-entrance, and she does just that in the opening lines of this detailed account of the not-so-sweetest love hangover. The tale of a hopeless unromantic heart in armor begins promisingly with a spooky rhythm-driven verse and lyrics that carefully outline romantic indifference. But then we get to the chorus, and, like a beautiful but lazy lover, it just lays there. Where's the orchestral crescendo that characterized the choruses of previous hits like "Here With Me" and "White Flag." The pop landscape has changed drastically in the past five years, and Dido probably should have returned with something a bit more dynamic and dramatic. In the end, it looks like she might be unintentionally waving that white flag, after all.

Sugababes: "Girls"
Thank God, for small miracles. Sugababes have ditched the subdued, tasteful (translation: boooring!) pop of their 2007 CD, Change (the yawn-inducing title said it all), and returned to the in-your-face, sex-on-a-disc groove that made them UK superstars with this, the first single from their upcoming Catfights And Spotlights (now that's more like it!). Love the attitude! Love the party vibe! Love the horn riffs! It's the tastiest slice of girl-power pop since the heyday of TLC. It's a mystery why the trio's UK success has never crossed the Atlantic. Disharmony and back-biting within their ranks might partly be to blame. But that also makes them more interesting and gives the music an exciting tension that it might otherwise lack. Still, it's tough to properly promote an act when you don't know who'll be in the band on any given press day. In then end, though, the music speaks for itself. Ex-Sugababe Mutya must be kicking her self right about now for leaving so soon.

SAMPLE AND BUY:
"Another Way To Die"

SAMPLE: "Don't Believe In Love"

WATCH: "Girls"

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