Tuesday, March 31, 2009

THE ALL-AMERICAN REJECT

This past weekend, I had what must qualify as one of my strangest text-message exchanges ever. A replay...

Outgoing: "Hey. It's Jeremy. How are you doing? I'm about to meet up with my friend who is visiting from New York. Just wanted to say hi and see how you are."

Incoming: "Hi. It was nice to meet you last night, and I had a lot of fun, but I'm not looking to start anything as I am only in town for a few days. But you should definitely enjoy this great city."

Is it me, or does the incoming, a direct response to the outgoing, seem to belong to a totally different conversation? The incoming was the text message I sent early on Saturday afternoon to Mattheus, a guy I met on Friday night at Rheo, my favorite new gay hotspot in Buenos Aires. Not only had Mattheus spent a considerable portion of the night wooing me, but once I started to bend to his will, he gave me his phone number as well. We shared a pleasant conversation, a few kisses and nothing more, but judging from his response, which came around 11pm on Saturday night (draw your own conclusions), you'd think I'd proposed marriage.

I get it: He's just not that into me. Or maybe he's only in the market for besos sin vueltas (basically, a one-night stand without the sex). Whatever. Rejection, which doesn't faze me much at this late stage in my dating life, is one thing, but rejection when no real invitation has been made is truly perplexing. Either Mattheus is not accustomed to being treated like a human being by people he meets when he goes out, or as a guy who is truly average in every way (the only head he turned at Rheo was mine, which he physically -- literally! -- had to turn), this is his only available method of propping himself up. If nothing else, Mattheus, who is German, is a bracing reminder that poor social skills is an international shortcoming.

Next.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

COUNTRY FEEDBACK

I'm not sure which is the more impressive aspect of Lily Allen's new "Not Fair" video: the clever way that she has been edited into a vintage 1970s clip from Porter Wagoner's country music TV show or that an early twentysomething Brit like Lily would even know who the late Porter Wagoner was in the first place (if the concept was her idea). Burning question: Where's Lily's gingham and rhinestones? Her outfit is less "Jolene"-era Dolly Parton than Olivia Newton-John circa Xanadu.

video

Saturday, March 28, 2009

WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL

Adam Lambert confuses me. Or maybe it's just that I'm kind of over the whole American Idol thing. Several seasons ago (in fact, last season, with David Cook), a contestant like Adam would have had me on the edge of my seat every week, anticipating whatever twist on an old hit he'd pull out of his box of musical tricks. But eight seasons in, I'm having trouble mustering much excitement for Idol at all. The participants this season are probably overall the most talented bunch the show has collected yet, but Adam aside, I can't really remember any of them from week to week.

As for Adam, I love him, then I hate him. I found his performance of Michael Jackson's "Black and White" to be sexy and riveting, his "indulgent" (to quote Simon's spot-on assessment) take on "Ring of Fire" was a hot mess, totally missing the point -- and the melody -- of the song, and his "Tracks of My Tears" (a song I always wished Dusty Springfield had covered before she died) was beautiful but strangely unmoving. When I love Adam, I can't help but wonder if I'm reacting to his sex appeal, his hair, his sartorial choices or his voice.

And of course, there is the matter of his sexuality. My friend Mara, a senior writer at Us Weekly and my favorite person with whom to discuss all things Oscar and Idol, told me the other day that she recently wrote a piece about how several major news outlets, including the L.A. Times and EW.com, have taken it upon themselves to out Adam. This tidbit is somewhat disturbing to me, especially considering that several years ago when I was a senior editor at Entertainment Weekly, the then-managing editor threw a fit because a gay joke about the then-still-closeted Clay Aiken almost made it into the magazine. I also find it unfair that Adam's sexuality is even an issue. No one discusses the sexuality of Danny Gokey or Lil Rounds, so why is it newsworthy that Adam's kissed a boy? It's just another double standard that the United States needs to get over quickly.

While the U.S. press ponders Adam's sexuality, I will go on wishing and hoping for that milestone performance that will shake me out of my Adam ambivalence and make me love Idol again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SCENES FROM A DANISH RESTAURANT

Last night I had the strangest dream (to quote the opening line of Matthew Wilder's 1983 No. 5 hit, "Break My Stride").

I was in Copenhagen visiting my friend Zena, who was living there short-term for work. The city was beautiful but desolate, nothing like I remembered it being when I vacationed there seven years ago (in real life). We arrived at Zena's building, which appeared somewhat squalid from the outside. She lived on the fifth floor, and when we reached the top of each staircase, we actually had to push forward a ramp, which allowed us to enter the floor and proceed. I didn't have high hopes for her apartment, but when we arrived at the fifth floor, I almost fell back and down in shock. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Zena had the entire floor; the rooms were huge, the kitchen more so, and abundant sunlight made it the most cheery-looking place I'd been to since I'd left my apartment in BA. "Pick whichever room you want and make yourself at home," Zena said.

After settling in, a process that must have happened off-screen (or rather, off-dream), we headed out to get breakfast. The streets were wide and barren; crossing them was like trying to make it from one side to the other of 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, which is said the be the widest avenida in the world, in one green light. We got to our little breakfast nook and settled into one of the community tables. I turned away for one moment, and when I looked back at Zena, she was already digging into some amazing-looking omelet/tortilla concoction. That, I said out loud, wondering how Zena had gotten her food so quickly without even ordering it, is what I'll be having. I asked Zena what it was. Silence. Again, I asked. More silence.

Strange, I thought. After a few more rounds of this, I turned to the woman sitting across from me at the table. She was equally impressed by the dish, and together, we tried to get Zena's attention. Silence. Silence. Silence. I didn't understand why Zena was giving us both the silent treatment, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from experiencing that awesome-looking dish. I motioned to the waitress. "I'll have exactly what she's having," I said, motioning to Zena.

WHAT?!?!

There was nothing in front of her. "Zena," I pleaded, "what happened to your food? I want to order the same thing." Silence. "She's on the phone," the waitress said. "She can't hear you." I inspected Zena closely, even using X-ray vision to gaze into her eardrums (the dream's one foray into visually surreal Escher territory). She did seem to be in the middle of something, but it was unclear what that might have been. She wasn't reading anything, and there was no headset communication apparatus attached to her ears. I tried to explain what Zena had ordered, but the waitress had no idea what I was talking about. (Strangely, everyone spoke perfect English without a hint of an accent.) I turned to the woman who was sitting across from me for some divine intervention. She had no idea what I was talking about either.

That's when I woke up. Stomach grumbling, head pounding, I looked out the window. It was morning, and I was back in BA. Slightly disappointed that I was no longer in Copenhagen and that Zena was a continent away in New Jersey, I got dressed and went out in search of breakfast.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

DESTINY UNFULFILLED

"I don't know no shame, I feel no pain, I can't see the flame."
-- "Mandinka," Sinead O'Connor

I'll never forget the first time ever I saw her face. University of Florida, 1988, on 120 Minutes, a late-Sunday night MTV program dedicated to airing alternative music videos that the network wouldn't have been caught dead airing any other time. There she was, bald and beautiful, wielding her guitar like a weapon of mass destruction, wailing at the top of her lungs. What she was going on about, I had no idea, but she spoke to me. Tracy Chapman and Toni Childs released equally brilliant debut albums that year, but I found myself rooting for Sinead and The Lion And The Cobra more than the others.

Then something happened on the way to greatness. Sinead went a little bit crazy and lost her focus. Or maybe she was bonkers all along and that's why The Lion And The Cobra was so great and unusual. I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got and its worldwide No. 1 single, "Nothing Compares 2 U," were worthy follow-ups, but by then the magic was starting to fade. Fueding with the Pope, ripping up his photo on Saturday Night Live and releasing a covers album three records into her career were probably not the smartest choices. Neither were the short-lived forays into lesbianism and the priesthood.

She still sporadically produces great music -- such as the 2005 CD of reggae covers, Throw Down Your Arms -- but if she'd continued on the edgy rock & roll musical path she started on, today we'd probably be mentioning her in the same breath as Bjork and PJ Harvey. I think it's time for her to kiss the covers albums and the dull Irish-folkie thing goodbye, record a kick-ass electro-rock CD with Kleerup and Stuart Price, and just shut up and sing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE?

This morning I was reading one of my favorite weekly blogs, Chartwatch by James Masterton, which provides commentary on the UK music charts for Yahoo, and James said something that I found more than a little disturbing. Citing the middling chart performance of the new Pet Shop Boys single, "Love Etc.," a No. 14 debut this week, as well as the short life span of all the duo's recent singles and albums, he wondered aloud if it's not time for them to call it a day. Ditto Depeche Mode -- he's even dubbed this past-their-prime career phase "Depeche Mode syndrome" -- and other artists who are, at this point in their careers, preaching to the choir only. "You have to wonder why they continue to bother?" he asked.

Actually, James, I don't. Especially when sufferers of the dreaded Depeche Mode syndrome continue to create music as fresh and inspired as PSB's Yes; Depeche Mode's latest single, "Wrong"; Cyndi Lauper's Bring Ya To The Brink and Alison Moyet's The Turn. If all I had to look forward to was Rihanna's next hit or the latest overrated single from Lady Gaga, I'd become that thing I've always feared most: a middle-age guy obsessed with retro tunes from my glorious misspent youth. I'm grateful that chart success is not the only motivator because if it were, we wouldn't have the possibility that someday R.E.M. or Morrissey might record an album that makes me love them again (as PSB have just done). And what if movie directors felt the same way? We wouldn't have had Roman Polanski's Oscar-winning The Pianist in 2002; Todd Haynes would have given up several movies ago; and there'd be no chance that someday Woody Allen will truly get his groove back (he's getting there, but be patient, not yet).

James's words make him sound like a guy who has no respect for artistry, and I am absolutely certain that with James that is not the case. One presumes the reason why some artists continue to make records long after the The Top 10 and chart longevity have begun to elude them is because of an addiction to creative expression. Annie Lennox hinted at this in a recent interview with Jonathan Ross in which she said that the one thing she wishes she had more hours in the day to do is spend time in the recording studio. Spoken like a woman who couldn't care less that she hasn't had a Top 10 single since 1995.

Considering that musicians make most of their big bucks from touring, merchandising, licensing and endorsements, for artists who have no trouble launching sell-out tours and making money in non-recording ventures, going into the studio and creating new music is largely a labor of love. It's not all about the benjamins.

Although one cannot say that about Smashing Pumpkins, who disbanded at the dawn of the '00s because they couldn't bear to compete with the Britneys and 'N Syncs of the world. Billy Joel retired from pop after releasing 1993's The River Of Dreams in order to focus on non-pop ventures, so that at least when his sales began to slip, he'd have a good excuse. And where in the world is David Bowie? I haven't heard a peep out of him since 2003's Reality. On the flip side, no one in my house is dying to hear new music from Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder. Sometimes the best way to preserve your legacy is to let it be.

Paul and Stevie aside, if you ask me, there is a lot more dignity in releasing excellent new music that may not quite reach the chart heights scaled in an act's early days than to settle into a middle age as a purely nostalgia act (sorry, Billy, Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and Rod Stewart). And of course, if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Look what it's done for Cher -- multiple times throughout her career. You've just gotta believe in life after number one.

BRINGING SEXY BACK

Ah, autumn in BA, a great season (my favorite) to be single and in love with great singles. There's nothing like a solid, cohesive long player (coming some day: a mega-post on my all-time favorite albums), but as a child of the 1980s, that decade of great one-hit wonders, I've always had a soft spot for singles, both throwaway and timeless. Three months in, 2009 has already produced a number of standouts. Here are my favorites so far.

"Love Etc." Pet Shop Boys
Just when I wasn't sure if I even care anymore, PSB reel me back in with an anthemic electro ode to life, liberty and the pursuit of carnal pleasures.

"Zero" Yeah Yeah Yeahs "So get your leather leather leather on on on on on," Karen O demands over a gurgling chainsaw synth groove. For you, Miss O, anything.

"Diva" Beyoncé Totally un-diva-like. After years of not trying, Beyoncé finally strays from her comfort zone with an utterly successful bid for street cred.

"Not Fair" Lily Allen It takes guts to record a country-tinged stomper about a guy who sucks in the sack (pun intended) and even more to release it as a single. Goddess bless Lily Allen!

"Shining Light" Annie Lennox After years of hand-me-the-Prozac-please chamber pop, it's nice to have Annie creating uplifting commercial music again.

"Last Of The English Roses" Pete Doherty Quite unlike anything else in regular rotation on my personal playlist right now, my new hero Pete (shirtless, above) performs with a vaguely melancholy swagger, like he may have recorded the song mid-bender. Pass the pint and check out the video below. (Is that Pete kissing a guy at the end? One word: Wow!)

video

Sunday, March 22, 2009

YOU MAKE ME WANT TO JUMP AND SHOUT, BABY

I may be a gay man (and becoming more unapologetically so every day), but sorry, guys, I'm all about the girls. Compared to my favorite actresses (Juliette Binoche, Julie Christie, Cate Blanchett, Glenn Close), actors are merely incidental. And ladies like Shania, Dusty and Kylie outnumber the boys at least 2 to 1 on my iPod. The one area where male singers have always outdone the girls is rock & roll. But every few years, Yeah Yeah Yeahs release a new CD and make me rethink that stance. The female-led band's latest, It's Blitz (another brilliantly arch title, on par with Fever To Tell and Show Your Bones), is more of the same, only more.

Karen O's sexy intonations still bring to mind (at least my mind) Siouxsie Sioux, PJ Harvey and Patti Smith (three of my all-time favorite girl rockers), and listening to her makes me want to put on some eyeliner and glitter and get my ass to an East Village dancefloor pronto! Yes, her voice is one of the few things (close friends excluded) that makes me miss New York City. In a just, perfect world, platinum sales would be a foregone conclusion, and "Heads Will Roll" would be No. 1-bound on Billboard's Hot 100. It's not an impossible dream. In 2008, the US downloading public finally got it right and sent such worthy singles as Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" and MIA's "Paper Planes" into the Top 5. Will lightning strike again in 2009? Probably not. While we're waiting for a miracle, we can enjoy Yeah Yeah Yeah's new single, "Zero," below.

video

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NATASHA RICHARDSON 1963-2009

For the past two days, I've been following the tragic, devastating story of the beautiful Tony award-winning actress Natasha Richardson and how a simple fall on a beginner's ski slope in Canada led to her unexpected premature passing on March 18 at age 45.

It's hard not to draw parallels between this incident and my friend who purposefully jumped from a third-floor balcony in my building last week in an attempt to end her life after being dumped by her boyfriend. At one point, I was certain that my friend would not survive and even began to prepare myself for life with her, but it now appears she will be okay and is now on a very long road to physical and emotional recovery. Though she's apparently still in a somewhat confused, dreamlike state, she's now eating, and the other day, unimpressed by the hospital food that she had been served, she demanded to see a menu. It's fitting that she'd assume she was in a restaurant after coming out of a coma because we've always spent so much time in them.

But poor Natasha. She didn't fall nearly as far as my friend did, and, one presumes, she had every hope and intention of continuing to live a long, creative life with her husband, Liam Neeson, and their two sons. My heart goes out to her mother, Vanessa Redgrave. I can't even imagine what she must be going through right now. I believe there is more to this story than is being told, that it was not the random, freak occurence that is being bandied about in the press. Hopefully, time will reveal more.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

GIVE ME TONIGHT

I'm no fan of intentional one-night stands (or as way too many guys on Manhunt put it, sex sin vueltas). I think they reduce people to objects, and they leave anyone with even a hint of a soul feeling a little bit empty. But I can understand why people indulge. There is something to be said for being able to hook up with someone and just allowing yourself to be in the moment. And when the person leaves, there's no agonizing over whether he (or she) will or won't call.

But then, avoiding all those games people play can only take you so far. Good romantic things only come to those who are willing to put their hearts in the line of fire. If you spend your life running from love and commitment out of fear (and I think this is what the majority of people who basically hang one-night-only signs above their beds are doing), you miss out on all the joy that love can bring. Or rather, the joy I've heard that love can bring. I'm not so sure that I've ever truly been in love (though not for lack of wishing, hoping and thinking that I was), so I'm basing my strong convictioins completely on word of mouth.

Five great one-night stand songs:
  1. "Help Me Make It Through The Night" Sammi Smith (see video below)
  2. "Fastlove" George Michael
  3. "Johnny One Time" Brenda Lee
  4. "Tight-Fitting Jeans" Conway Twitty
  5. "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You" Heart
video

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

THE SHINING LIGHT AT THE END OF THE DARK ROAD


Annie Lennox is back where she belongs. This week, her current single, "Shining Light," one of two new songs on her new The Annie Lennox Collection compilation CD, jumps from 50 to 39 on the UK singles chart, becoming her first Top 40 solo hit there since 1995. It joins Leona Lewis's "Run," a recent UK chart-topping remake of Snow Patrol's first big hit (No. 5 in 2004), as a soulful cover of a rock band's track that improves on the source material. Unfortunately, the video is not yet available on YouTube in Argentina, so for now I'll have to do with various live performances on UK TV. Below check out videos of Annie singing her version on ITV This Morning and Ash's 2001 original, a No. 8 single, and see which one you prefer.

Five other excellent Annie Lennox covers (all from Medusa, her 1995 album of remakes):

  • "Something So Right" The story of my life. Anyone who's been singed by love and made reluctant to jump back into the water can no doubt relate. I never heard Paul Simon's original until long after Annie's version touched my soul, so for me, Annie will always own the song. My friend Nancy, who was visiting me in BA this weekend from L.A., said at lunch on Saturday afternoon that she couldn't imagine me ever crying. It's true: As an adult, I've rarely shed tears, but the first time I listened to this closing track on Medusa, I bawled like a baby.
  • "Don't Let It Bring You Down" A dreamy and dramatic production that's part dirge, part lullaby. I've always wondered what Neil Young thinks of it.
  • "Train In Vain" Annie brings the Clash to church. Not that the band's 1979 classic needed saving, but I think Annie improved on what was already a near flawless track. And yes, I realize that I'm going to get crucified for saying that.
  • "Waiting In Vain" A Bob Marley reggae jam reconstructed as a lilt-free torch song. Simply beautiful.
  • "Thin Line Between Love And Hate" Only in Annie's hands did this Persuaders classic, previously remade by the great Chrissie Hynde, finally reveal itself to me as a pitch-black murder ballad.

video video

Monday, March 16, 2009

BEING BORING

"Show some emotion. Open your heart. Set free emotion. Only a feeling can save us now." -- Celine Dion, "Show Some Emotion"

Last night it finally dawned on me why I had absolutely no desire to see him again. He couldn't hold my attention. It wasn't that there were so many better-looking guys in the room (and there were). Being around him was just such hard work. Not because he didn't speak a word of English. I thought that was the reason. But it wasn't. The source of my discontent: He never said anything. Ever.

When he came up to me at Ambar la Fox, he stood there looking at me like he was expecting something. It was a repeat of the scene two weeks earlier when I ran into him at Plop. I knew what he was thinking: that I was giving him "bola." I'm still not sure what "bola" is, but when he said that he thought I was giving it to him at Plop the day after our encounter there, I got his drift. I hadn't been so successful at hiding the fact that I had wanted to be anywhere but there, standing in front of him.

The morning after we met three weeks ago, he left my apartment and went to an art exhibit in Recoleta. I was impressed when he told me this the following evening on our first proper date. He must be an artist, I thought. My heart sank just a little bit when he told me that he wasn't. Oh well, I figured, at least he loves art. That's good enough for me.

And it was, for exactly one and a half more dates. But somewhere between Friday morning and Friday night when I saw him at Plop, something shifted inside of me. His long silences went from being kind of sexy to kind of annoying. It might not have happened so quickly had I suspected that he was just a contemplative person and was perhaps mid-existential crisis, conducting some inner dialogue about the meaning of life. But I had a feeling that he wasn't. He was sweet, attentive, affectionate and the worse thing a date could possibly be: boring. For all of his kind words when he did bother to say anything, there was no passion behind them, nor behind his eyes, nor behind his sad, tentative smile.

We got together one more time, and then I started to avoid him. Last week, with my huge workload and personal travails, I actually had a valid reason. But last night when I went out to let off some steam, I had to face him, and several minutes into our one-sided conversation, I decided that the time had come for him to face my cold harsh truth. The horse and pony show was over. I wasn't going to continue humoring him, trying to come up with clever things to say just so he wouldn't think I was giving him "bola."

"Cuidate," I told him. "Me voy a mis amigos."

Translation: Hasta la vista, baby.

Now I'm not the kind of person who needs to fill empty spaces with idle chit chat. For me, small talk is deadly. There's nothing uncomfortable about silence. In the best relationships (and the only kind worth having, as far as I'm concerned), two people can be happy together saying nothing. But silence is defeaning when someone is standing there looking at you like he paid for Phatom of the Opera tickets. The boring one may not have been saying anything last night, but the implication was loud and clear: Here am I now. Entertain me.

Not tonight.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

HARD TIMES FOR LOVERS

These are not the best of times. Relationships are falling apart all around me. In the past week, two of my best friends broke up with their boyfriends -- and not by choice. Both reacted in extremely different ways. One retreated to her apartment for several days because she couldn't bear to face the world. Yesterday, just when she was beginning to pull herself back from the edge, our mutual friend, distraught over being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend of several months, jumped from her third-floor balcony.

As the second friend lies in the hospital in a coma fighting for her life (or, sadly, maybe not even), the ex-boyfriend insists that he doesn't care if she lives or dies. Two days ago, he was telling her that he loves her and couldn't imagine life without her. I've always said that Argentinian men are hot and cold, but this, this is not even human behavior.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE?

This morning I was watching the Friday cliffhanger episode of One Life To Live on YouTube, and I had a disturbing flashback. The previously goody-two-shoes character of Matthew Buchanan, who has been acting out recently in order to impress Becca, his No. 1 crush, into thinking he's a bad boy, was at his first high school dance and ended up on the receiving end of the worst kind of humiliation. After the two shared a slow dance, she revealed to him in front of everyone that she'd only danced with him on a dare, laughed in his face and walked away.

Poor thing, I thought, both sympathetic and empathetic with Matthew. I knew exactly how he felt. When I was in 8th grade, I had a major crush on this girl named Kim LaRose. If you don't count Ricky Sampson, Kim was the only person I'd liked since I laid eyes on Sandra Runyon, in 3rd grade. My unrequited admiration of Sandra (or was it? -- interestingly, Sandra always picked me as her square dance partner in music class) lasted until she moved to Utah the summer before 6th grade. Then along came Kim. I was no prize back in the day -- a chubby nerd in unfashionable too-tight clothes. I was also incredibly shy. So my love for Kim went unannounced -- except to all of my family and friends.

But I decided that the night of the end-of-the-year 8th grade banquet, during which we celebrated our graduation from middle school and the beginning of high school the following fall, I I would finally make my move: I'd ask her to dance. The night of the banquet, I tried to look as sharp as possible, and after my mom and sister wished me good luck, my dad drove me to the banquet. My stomach was in knots the entire way there. I was certain that I couldn't do it. I was an outcast of sorts: smart, nerdy, heavy, poor and black in an early '80s deep-south society that rewarded coolness, beauty, richness and whiteness.

Then the opening strains of Air Supply's "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" came over the sound system. It's now, I thought to myself, or never. I walked straight over to Kim and popped the question: Could I have this dance? She looked at me in astonishment, started laughing and walked away.

I was a humiliating moment that wouldn't be equalled until years later when Kevin dumped me by email while I was on vacation in Rio. Kim stuck that knife in even further, and twisted it around, when moments later, she was on the dance floor with Stacey Sparkman (yes, a boy), my main rival for her affection. I spent the rest of the night sitting on a table against the wall, as various friends approached me and tried to console me. One of mutual friend of Kim and mine even came up with this most ridiculous story about how she and Kim had made a bet about whether I'd ask her to dance. Kim was allegedly so certain that I wouldn't ask her that her laughter was more a sign of her shock than rejection. The Carrie in me was not amused.

A few hours later, my dad arrived to pick me up. I spent the entire truck ride in the passenger seat silently weeping. When we got home, I went straight to my room and sat in the dark, crying and wondering what was wrong with me. One by one, my sister, my mother and my dad came in to console me. They didn't exactly make me feel better, but it was nice to know that they cared. It was one of two times in my entire life that my dad and I have had a true father-son talk. Several years later, in college, I wrote an essay about it and earned high marks. My sister, untrue to form, threatened to kick Kim's ass. And mom did what mother's do, wondering how any girl could not fall in love her son.

In some ways, the Kim LaRose episode was a defining moment of my life. Although I eventually blossomed, losing the baby fat as well as the nerdy tendencies (at least on the outside), inside I will always be that chubby unattractive kid that Kim LaRose rejected. She ended up moving away that summer, and I never saw her again. But I'm sure it's only a matter of time before she turns up on Facebook. Doesn't everyone at some point?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

SICK AND TIRED

It came on so suddenly. Thursday night, after scrubbing my bathroom spotless, I sat down for a hard-earned rest, swallowed, and it cut like a knife -- at least it felt like I'd swallowed one. Could it be, I thought? Aside from my regular massive headaches (a malady that's plagued me since I was 8, graduating to full-blown migraines by the time I hit 30), I rarely get sick. In fact, dolor de cabeza notwithstanding, I hadn't been ill in nearly two years, since my first winter in Buenos Aires, and then all of a sudden, I wanted to just curl up in a ball and check out.

But I didn't. I ended up going out with my friend Luciano. In the past, whenever I've felt illness coming on, I've been able to ward it off with a good old night on the town. I'm not sure how this works. My friend Dave once hypothesized that alcohol (especially tequila) zaps the germs, chases them away. This sounds suspect to me, but on Thursday night I prayed that the whiskey would do its damage.

But it didn't -- which was actually both good and bad. When I woke up on Friday, I didn't have a killer hangover, but I did have the feeling that perhaps the knife I'd swallowed the night before had doubled in size. I'm already a complete hypochondriac, and because it's been such a long time since I've been sick, all these worst-case scenarios began popping into my head. Was this the beginning of the lethal illness that would eventually do me in? A three-hour visit from Sebastian did a lot to kill the pain (and my fear of impending doom), but when he left shortly after midnight, so did all signs of relief. By the end of the the night, I was imagining that the tendinitis that I had first contracted late last night year and has recently flared up again after months of dormancy was a sign that a heart attack was on the way.

I updated my Facebook status with news of my illness, spreading the word. Just in case the worst happened, it wouldn't take days for my lifeless body to be discovered. This morning my hypochondria has passed. I still feel pretty rotten, and my medication possibilities are limited. Instead of stocking up on Nyquil as I always did in New York during throat emergencies, I'm eating fruit salad, drinking lots of orange juice and downing an illness-fighting liquid-yogurt-like concoction called Actimel.

And I'm looking on the bright side. At least I have a great excuse to spend my Saturday doing nothing: no gym, no work, no going outside just to say that I spent a few hours enjoying this beautiful late summer day. And the best news is that tonight if I break any plans, I won't have to suffer from guilt. There's nothing like turning lemons into lemonade. Now pass the lemonade! I need all the vitamin C I can get.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

LOVE HURTS

It must suck to be Chris Brown right now. This afternoon I was watching an episode of TMZ, and those improbably comely tabloid reporters were debating whether the allegations that Chris Brown beat up his girlfriend Rihanna, who has reportedly taken him back three weeks after the alleged attack, would be "the final nail in his career's coffin" (yes, their words -- as if his shining star had previously been in danger of flaming out). Someone mentioned that this would reflect poorly on black performers, which I don't really see, given the up-to-now crossover appeal of Chris and Rihanna; both of their images and their popularity transcend race. Someone else, hypothesizing that the death of his career was not a done deal, mentioned Kobe Bryant and how five years ago his admitted marital indiscretion spawned premature -- and ultimately inaccurate -- prognoses of career death.

I say the the two are completely incomparable. Infidelity is tolerated -- almost expected -- from celebrities. From Bill Clinton to Brad Pitt (if you believe Angelina Jolie's insinuations in Vanity Fair) fooling around on your spouse, even when she's as A-list as you are, does not necessarily hasten the twilight of your career. Consider Ingrid Bergman. After a brief Hollywood exile in the 1950s, she rebounded from her extramarital affair with Roberto Rossellini and went on to win two more Oscars.

But spousal or domestic abuse is a much more serious matter. Sure it didn't dent the career of Josh Brolin after police were called to his house to intervene in an undisclosed domestic disturbance between him and his wife, Diane Lane, in 2004. And when Madonna sang "Til Death Do We Part," a song on her 1989 Like A Prayer album that hinted at spousal abuse and which many assumed to be autobiographical, it did less to temporarily hinder the career of her by-then ex-husband Sean Penn than his general crankiness and public temper tantrums.

Will Chris Brown be so lucky? Unless you're living under a rock (or simply couldn't care less about such things), you've probably seen the infamous photos of a battered Rihanna. Not since the 1993 film What's Love Got To Do With It has a case of superstar domestic violence played out so publicly in the media.

Chris's half-hearted acts of contrition (including hokey invocations of his mother and pastor) won't slow his slide. His only hope is for hard evidence to surface (preferably from the mouth of Rihanna) that he had nothing to do with what happened to her, followed by a very public and very believable reconciliation. But then again, their supposedly in-progress reunion might not be enough -- especially for a young singer whose image up to now has been built on a sexy but clean-cut image, a la Justin Timberlake.

If the allegations against Chris are indeed true, I hope he spends some time in prison. I find any form of domestic violence to be unacceptable -- even a slap, whether inflicted by the male or the female. But looking at the pictures of Rihanna, the attack against her appears to have been savage and brutal, with decapacitating intent. If Chris was to blame, and she really is giving him another chance, she's a fool. She's one of the biggest female stars of the moment, and public goodwill would send her star soaring even higher (complete with a standing ovation at the 2010 Grammys), if she gave him the boot. Or like Hillary Clinton, she could stand by her man, be condemned for taking back a louse and end up being both the victim and the villain.

As for Chris Brown, in my eyes -- and to my ears -- the damage has been done. "No Air" will never sound the same again.

Monday, March 2, 2009

DOGGIN' AROUND

They (women, that is) say men are dogs -- and I finally understand why. This weekend I took care of Sammy, my friend Cara's pug, and it was almost like having a two-day fling with Martín, Ariel or Sebastian. No offense to anyone with those names, but the majority of the boys I meet in Buenos Aires tend to go by one of the three.

As you can see in the photo above, Sammy is blond. I generally go for brunettes, but that's splitting dog hairs. And granted, Sammy does certain things that I would never dream of tolerating in a human male: sniffing piss on the sidewalk, picking up strange things on the street with his mouth, doing No. 2 in public and giving the time of day to every other dog that crosses his path (I am, after all, a very jealous boyfriend).

But when it comes to food, Sammy behaves just like so many guys do when it comes to sex. He just can't get enough. The more he gets, the more he wants. This weekend, I was under the distinct impression that whenever I approached, he wasn't so much happy to see me as he was to possibly be getting his insatiable appetite whetted -- or rather, not quite -- again. He wanted it all the time -- morning, noon and night. Every piece of trash that he found just lying around seemed to make its way into his mouth. Sounds like more than a few of the guys I've met.

As a kid, I always wanted a dog. I had no clue what kind of dedication was involved in being a dog owner, but I wanted one -- preferably a beagle, like Snoopy -- because they were so cute. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, now that I think about it), my dad was allergic to dog hair, so I couldn't get one. To make up for it, a friend of my mom's at work would regular give me stuffed pups as presents. Of them all, I remember Pluto (as in the Disney pooch) most fondly. (Years later, my second boyfriend gave me a stuffed golden retreiver which trumped Pluto and which I still have some 15 years on.) Thankfully, I didn't have to feed Pluto, walk him, pick up his dog poop or risk permanent hearing damage, due to his incessant barking.

My real, live pet ended being a tiny frog that my dad brought home one night. How I loved Timmy -- for a week or two. I'd catch live flies for him to eat; dig for worms in the back yard, also for him to eat; and chase him around the bathroom with his bottle whenever he escaped from it. Eventually, I realized that Timmy wasn't meant to be caged (or in his case, bottled); wild hearts run free, and Timmy needed to as well. So one Saturday morning, I let him loose in the backyard. I often wonder how he lived out the rest of his life span and if he ever made it past the back fence.

Although my dad meant well, Timmy was no great substitute for Otto (my favorite dog name). And walking Otto, feeding him, picking up his poop would probably have been far less taxing than digging in the dirt and capturing live flies. And let's face it, there's nothing particularly adorable about a frog (unless it's a cartoon one or a Jim Henson creation, like Kermit). In a strange way, I think dog behavior is kind of cute (in the woof woof breed, like Sammy, not in boys). But of course, I knew that Sammy was merely a weekend fling. If there were ever to be anything more long-term between us, I'd have to know that he was jumping for joy -- or whatever -- whenever I entered the room because he was geniunely happy to see me and not because of the biscuit I may or may not be about to give him.

After all, there's so much more to me than things you can put in your mouth!

5 Great Dog Songs
  • Belly: "Slow Dog"
  • George Clinton: "Atomic Dog"
  • Kim Carnes: "Crazy In The Night (Barking At Airplanes)"
  • Pet Shop Boys: "I Want A Dog"
  • Tears For Fears: "Dog's A Best Friend's Dog"