Monday, April 20, 2009

DW: The Reckoning

I did go to the funeral last week, and I am so glad that I did. It was wonderful to connect with my past and see people who I haven't seen in about 30 years. Time really does bend.

The best part was hanging out with my friend's dad, who is the last parent standing. It was like being able to speak in a tribal language that you rarely have the chance to speak. I'm seriously thinking of going down to visit him in Florida with a video camera and just ask him questions for 3 days straight and see what comes out. I realized the other day that he is Burlesque's version of Robert Evans and "The Kid Stays In the Picture." The only way I can describe my delight is imagining yourself in a wax museum and seeing William Powell suddenly coming to life.

Thanks AV for all your encouragement!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

AV: PSAs from the underbelly

Thanks everyone for your support for my personal endeavor of my own blog. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank you as well for your indulgence of my three-part-harmony conversation in my recent post to this site. We all appreciated it.

That said, I'm writing on my personal site: and keeping you posted here on that. I've got a few things out there and my goal is to post (almost) daily.

Interestingly enough, some of what's showing up there amount to PSAs for the FoB (Friends of the Bereaved). I figure if I don't know what the hell I'm doing, you probably don't know either. So, yeah, I'm here to tell ya (in a teaser-go-visit-my-blog sort of way) ...

"There's Good News and Bad News
It occurred to me sometime during the last months of Aida's life that, in general, we just don't pay attention to the obvious: That "till Death Do Us Part" means that one of us is going to die before the other one. One of us is going to go first.
"

And another thing. Life's interesting paradox continues: today I bought three wonderful little bunches of yellow and white daffodils ($1.29 a bunch at the local Trader Joe's). I came home, tended their little green stems with fresh cuts and fresh water, and placed them in a vase. Then, their thirsty bodies swelling in the deep of the vase, I finished the survey for the good folks at San Diego Hospice. The cable radio station was playing an old disco tune .. "If I can't have you, I don't want nobody baby."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

WC: Netflix Understands Me!

Based on my movie ratings, Netflix has developed the following category of recommendations for me:
Steamy Dramas Featuring a Strong Female Lead
Boy, Netflix has my number!

WC: Amazon Mess-Up

The Amazon mess-up is being fixed. How it happened is still not absolutely clear, but they admitted having made a "ham-fisted" error, and they've been very good with gay books in the past, so I'm inclined to accept it as "one of those things."

My book is now being ranked again. It's the 280,445th best-selling book on Amazon! Don't mess with me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

WC: Reproductive Freedom

The following is from an article on Iron Chef Cat Cora and her significant other and their children. I would have to say that their ideas of reproductive freedom are on the far end of the, uh, speculum!
Cat and Jennifer have two sons Zoran and Caje. Both Jennifer and Cat are now pregnant with their third and fourth children. According to a press release from Cat Cora, Jennifer carried their first son, who she conceived through artificial insemination. Their second son was carried to term by Jennifer, but this time using Cat's embryo. Now both Cat and Jennifer are pregnant, Cat's pregnancy is the result of in-vitro fertilization with Jennifer's embryo. Jennifer was implanted with embryos from from both women, so the biological mother is unknown. All children have the same sperm donor.
I really don't know what to think about this.

On one hand, it's none of my business. On the other hand, they put out a press release, pretty much making it everyone's business.

And, on one hand, I really believe in people being open about life choices, as it normalizes different options and lets others know that there are many ways to live. On the other hand, I imagine that, once their kids hit middle school, they may feel that their moms released a bit too much information.

And, on one hand, I believe that everyone should have full reproductive freedom. On the other hand, doesn't this all seem, well, a bit much? And doesn't each level of technology (in vitro, carrying someone else's embryo, being implanted with multiple embryos) bring with it an extra risk?

But, hey, God bless 'em, you know? And yay for freedom!

WC: Some Personal Horn-Tooting

(Photo by Shilo McCabe.)

There's some weirdness happening at, where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered books have been suddenly put into an "adult" ghetto where they are no longer ranked and are more difficult to find. I'm not going to write about that yet, because it is currently unclear if was hacked and how Amazon is going to respond to the situation.

I did, however, note on that my book (The Lesbian Sex Book), along with a number of other titles, was no longer being ranked. And someone with the screen name of Strawberry wrote a wonderful response to me that made my day:

Let me just throw a great big giant personal 'THANK YOU'! I bought my copy of "The Lesbian Sex Book" way back in college and I adored it. I feel all fangirl excited now!
Aw, shucks.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

WC: Jerome Robbins Documentary

(photo by Frederic Ohringer)

Broadway director-choreographer Jerome Robbins was a temperamental genius. People chose to put up with his nastiness because he challenged and inspired them to do better than their best--but few have nice things to say about him as a person. Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance To, a 2009 PBS American Masters documentary, has a lot going for it: a fascinating story, interviews with smart and articulate artists, performance footage, and access to various interviews Robbins gave over the years. It's a solid introduction to, well, an American master.

I do wish, however, that they hadn't put all the footage of Robbins dancing in slow motion, and I also wish they had let the people being interviewed talk more. In particular, in the DVD extras, I wish they hadn't divided people's interviews into thematic sections: for example, Austin Pendleton's comments are spread over four or five sections, and each has to be clicked on individually.

And I mostly wish the documentary had a certain oomph to it. It just wasn't as interesting--to me at least--as I felt it could be.

Monday, April 6, 2009

DW: To Go or Not To Go?

About 6 months ago I connected (via Facebook) to a childhood friend who (along with her family) has a very significant place in my past and my psyche. When my mother was sick, I stayed with her family for several months, and her mother was someone I loved very much. In the 1960's she was young, glamorous, and reminded me of Samantha on Bewitched. She even had an adorable widow's peak. We would spend hours sitting in the kitchen talking with her about our 6th grade adventures while she ironed her satin sheets--sipping a can of Black Label beer and smoking her Kools.

One of the many highlights of this friendship were the serial sleepovers we would have at each other's house. Though we were in the same class at the same school for many years, our "day" life was very different than our "night" life. In school, we hung out with different people with some overlap, but sleepovers were different. We would watch "Chiller Theater" or Johnny Carson, or any adult'ish movie we deemed relevant and interesting. We would play Barbra Streisand albums and soundtracks to Broadway shows and movies, singing passionately into our respective hair brushes. Goldfinger was a particularly vivid number that we spent hours choreographing and concluded, in our collective 9-year old perspective, that it would be a great strip tease song.

My parents' friends were people that didn't set their alarms for 7:00 am. They travelled the country playing in or managing burlesque houses where they worked with people like Phil Silvers, Danny Lewis (Jerry's father), Abbott and Costello, and many others. It was very Guys and Dolls, and they had a ritual known as "night lunch." This was something I looked forward to during the sleepovers. Night lunch was something you ate after the last show, around midnight. It could be mussels or a ham sandwich, eaten in your hotel room or a nearby bar. When our parents became suburban they thankfully didn't abandon this wonderful habit, which meant cold spaghetti or leftover meatloaf was always a possibility. I remember staying at the Paramount Hotel in New York in 1967 with my parents, walking to the grocery store around the corner to get bread, cheese, bologna, and fruit. We always had an ice bucket in the room, with a small jar of Guilden's mustard nearby.

My friend and I eventually went our separate ways for high school and college, and haven't seen each other since 1977.

I noticed she hadn't been on Facebook for a few weeks and had a feeling that something was very wrong. I poked around and saw a Wall message that a friend had posted that said "you and your mother are in my prayers." Shortly thereafter she wrote me the devastating news...her mother's lingering cough turned out to be stage 4 lung cancer. She said that the X-rays looked like a snow storm.

I decided that I needed to acknowledge her mother's presence in my younger life, and sent her a Teddy Bear last week telling her how much I appreciated her being there for me, ie, being a mother when I didn't have one, and how her tuna fish sandwiches are one of the strongest sensory memories that I have of my childhood. Her secret was putting in a hard boiled egg, but it wasn't too eggy, it was just perfect. I received an email late last night that contained her obituary and then a note from my friend saying that she had received the bear and was very touched.

My dilemma is whether or not to go to the funeral tomorrow. It's 3 hours and a lifetime away. Part of me wants to see everyone and part of me doesn't want my memories tainted by the present. What is there to say after 30 years and all of the sleepovers? My concern is that I don't want to feel like I sometimes feel with my family, ie, having to regress to my 1972 vocabulary of words and experience in order to connect and get through the event at hand. Maybe I'm thinking too much about it, but I'm apprehensive...maybe I should just send flowers and a loving note and suggest that we connect in a less intense set of circumstances.

She is the last parent to leave this world for the next, and it feels a little lonelier knowing that she is no longer here to make those wonderful tuna fish sandwiches.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

AV: Changes

*Backstory: On February 3rd, my beloved wife, Aida Mancillas, took her final breaths on this earth as I lay draped across her chest. Accompanied through the long night by Aida's sister, brother-in-law, and one of the angels from San Diego Hospice, I attended to the sacred duty of helping my love move through the thin veil from here to there. The 60 days since her death have been ... almost indescribable.*

Dear friends,

I'm sorry I haven't been here for a while. It's been a mix of things. In the dark and obscured swamp in which I exist these days, I have been unsure about what or where and whether to post anything.

I have decided that yes, I will. And that I will do so most likely on a separate blog. Or maybe both together. I am undecided.
(Please, I invite your opinions on that question: let me know what you think. A different blog? This blog? Both together with duplicate posts? I really want to hear what you have to say.)

Part of the inner conversation is ongoing between a few of my inner voices. It goes something like this:

AV: No one else is writing about this grieving thing in the queer community. WTF?
Dolly: Yeah, but why are *you* the one who has to do it?
Deirdre: Yeah, and who even wants to hear your whining? The world is depressing enough and we have our own problems.
AV: Thank you for sharing, but I think that maybe my speaking honestly about my experience, maybe just maybe that might give others the permission to talk honestly about it. Even if it's only with themselves.
Dolly: Okay okay, I get it, but why do you have to be so *public* about it? Do you really want that much information out there about you? Haven't you heard about online crime?
AV: I know. I've thought about that. It's the second biggest reason why I've been silent for so long here. The first, of course, is Deirdre.
Deirdre: What?!? What did I do?? Everybody always blames me! I'm really just trying to take up as little room as possible here, y'know ... and *still* I get blamed ..
AV: No no, Deirdre ... what I meant was that I have the same concerns you do. I'm not so sure that anyone cares about what I have to say either. I mean, it's not like I'm posting the daily contents of my refrigerator or anything, but you're right, people have their own problems. What do they care if I'm grieving the death of my wife?
Dolly: well ... maybe ...
AV: Exactly. So I think that's what I'm going to do. I keep my journal, of course, but I can't find much of anything online or in print that speaks to *me* or to the unknown number of LGBT folks who are stumbling in the darkness just like me.
Dolly: So what are you going to do?
AV: I think I'm going to keep my own blog and post every few days about what's up for me, for the friends I have who are in different stages of this journey I'm on, and the resources I discover along the way that can help the next person. Or someone who's suffering just like I am.
Deirdre: Are you at least going to disguise your name?
AV: Not sure yet. Part of me would like to, but I feel it's important to talk fully about my wife, Aida, and to do otherwise would be to dishonor her and her memory. To do that, I need to be "out."
Dolly: Well, whatever. If you want to do this, okay, but just don't drag us into it.
Deirdre: Yeah, good luck with that.
AV: Thanks you guys.

so, that said, here's the link to my first post (some of you will recognize the url):

And an excerpt:
It has occurred to me that no one is writing handbooks for us queer folk on how to manage this thing. I mean, fer crissakes, we aren't even sure how to do weddings, let alone funerals and every single bone crushing day afterwards.

let me know what you think. Dolly and Deirdre are really interested.