30.6.11

Not Available in All Areas...

I heard an ad the other morning for the Chevy Volt; it can be plugged in anywhere and gets great mileage...wait for it though...it's only available in select markets (auto ad-speak for big cities), perhaps where a super milage efficient car is least needed. Why is it that everything that's "cutting edge" or "life changing" must debut only in select markets? We're lamenting the move from rural areas to urban centers, yet we can do nothing proactive to stem this trend? I wonder what would happen if the Chevy Volt was made available only in areas with 50k of population or less? In the spirit of innovation, let's limit availability on a few other things, just see how this plays out:
1) Marriage Licenses: perhaps we can have a lottery set up for these, with quotas by state. Just for fun, let's make the quota the same for each state. I'm sure that California and Hawaii and Nevada will sell out quick, but North Dakota, Rhode Island and Nebraska would benefit from increased tourist dollars.
2) Churches: already have a Catholic church in your city? One's all you get. Ditto on the Lutherans, Episcopalians and Methodists. How about a new mosque, synagogue or standing circle of stones complete with altar?
3) Government Terms of Service, all organizations, Municipal, State or Federal: the president can serve 2-four year terms, so can you. Don't like the break? Try out a seat in congress, the drain commission or be mayor. Still want to be engaged? Volunteer your time where you're actually going to do some good for once.
4) Humanity: "I'm sorry, we've reached our threshold for single white females in Boston. What's your next choice?" If we're really a mixing pot, let's mix things up--again...
I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts on this; anyone care to join the discussion?

27.6.11

The Game's Afoot

I'm writing this afternoon from a coffee shop in downtown Rockford, MI; it's a quaint little town just a bit north of Grand Rapids. You might never know that there was a relative metropolis out there if you never made it further south than here... A lot of the locals here compare the downtown to that of TC, but to me it's more like downtown Petoskey (minus the breeze off the lake and the hilly streets and the friendly people on the streets, not just in the boutiques...) minus the influences of northern MI. It's interesting that the house brew coffee here tastes the same as it does at home, even though they roast in the vicinity of the shop, interesting too that it costs twice as much. I'd say economies of scale, but that is a moot point I'd wager, I'm not sure that lovely Rockford is much more populous that lovely main street where I'm from... Sure there are more retail opportunities here, but the town seems a bit lax in old neighborhoods and tree-lined side streets. With all these boutique-type shops and specialty retail establishments and the dearth of petite bistros and pseudo-gourmet restaurants, I'm left wondering where all the fags are? I suppose it's possible that they're all on their way back from pride in Chicago (which went down this weekend), though with the persistent rain, I'm guessing that that might not be the case. Perhaps they are all still working in the city, it's only about 10 miles to the south. Perhaps they have all fled for the summer, preferring the climes of Fire Island or Saugatuck or P-town to this... I think that if I had my rubber duck costume and my tutu I would run around with my bullhorn shouting, "Come out, come out, wherever you are!," to no avail I am sure. I sort of figured that there would be visiting fags here for the weekend, where are the Chicago-ites that fled the city for the weekend, looking for sofas or archaic tables for their chic lofts in the Loop? Where are the stylish lesbians from Fort Wayne, with their Monday afternoons off, looking for vintage and modern decor for their trailers by the lake? Where are the local standard-bearers, giving unsought advice about what to wear this season or what to decorate the house with or what's all the rage "Up North"? I decided against the city this weekend on account of the weather that was headed this way, thinking that I might do some window shopping for ideas about what to do with the exterior of my house, seeking inspiration for the back yard and the kitchen and the roof. I thought that I might happen upon others that had the same sort of ideas that I had, others that thought that they might skip out on the city and head into the country to pick strawberries and search for vintage Americana or find other ways that they might occupy their time. I wonder now if such others exist; I wonder now if I might be the sole survivor of a mythical tribe. As Sherlock Holmes said, "The game's afoot." I wonder if anyone remembers how to play?

24.6.11

I'm Straight (Just Ask My Wife)

My friends will tell you that I have this knack for attracting straight guys; too often when out I'm the guy that gets asked what's good to drink or what the score is of some sports game or some other such thing. After the question is asked there is usually some sort of follow-up question, which leads to a conversation and voila, a new friend...and then things progress over the course of the night, the "May I sit here," and pointed personal questions and the attempt to make plans for some mysterious date in the near future. If it gets to this point, I usually enlist the help of one of my friends, though sometimes I just let it play out. Invariably I find that most of these guys like to talk, but can not seal the deal as it were. It gets annoying, to outsiders you seem either taken or enthralled, which sort of belies the point in trying to meet potential future husbands while out. I have dated 2 "once straight" men in my life, one while at university (he was a great guy, but not out to his family, which made things too awkward) and another half a decade ago (fun guy, but workaholic and confused about what priorities should be placed where); I can't deny that there's something interesting about dating this type of man, they can offer insight about the straight world that can be garnered nowhere else, plus there's the thrill of meeting the ex-wife, ex-girlfriend and ex-whatever else. I can sort of understand if a straight guy goes to a gay bar to meet men, I mean what are the chances that his wife or girlfriend is going to find out (we all know that her cosmetologist wants to fuck her man anyways, he's not going to let that secret slip in the event that some attention might slip his way); but what about the straight men that cruise openly, sometimes with significant other in tow? I've had the son of a regular at my place of work chat me up, offer to buy me drinks and try to arrange for a night out with me for about 5 years now; of course the son and his wife live out of our area, so what's the chance that she would find out? But when my staff ask me how well I know this guy and if he's always this openly aggressive about meeting up, it's bound to be noticed by my patrons (and his father?). There's another guy that I used to often see, he'd stop in on his way home from work for a bottle or two of wine, I've met his wife and young daughter, they're both very nice. He asked me out for a glass of wine one night, which led to a series of text messages for the next few months, usually stating that his wife was away or that he was going to Grand Rapids for business, did I want to meet for dinner and wine? I'd have understood if this was just a casual invite, like when my neighbor asks me over for wine and a game of cards, but when the guy in question wants to sit next to you in a booth as opposed to across from you, bumps his knee against yours and continues to nudge you or pointedly asks if he can come over after his wife goes to bed for the night, you have to read between the lines (though the bulge in his pants and the half open zipper may also be clues). There's a friend of my aunts who approaches me often when I see him, granted he's divorced, but I'm not sure how to read his actions, it's a case where I'm supposed to make the first move I think, though I'm truly not sure if he's in the closet or just lonely; following these "encounters" I'm often asked by others if he's available or if we're together or if I know that he has kids--to all the world it appears that he is initiating something, yet the blame as it were, may be mine. I got my hair cut this week and got cruised in the salon; he was attractive and married and a teacher, you might think I'm imagining things, but when another man stares at your crotch and your ass and then blushes profusely and drops his eyes when you stare back at him, I'm pretty sure that counts as cruising. In a salon. As he was waiting for his wife? I paid up and turned to bid my stylist farewell, he was back at it, another dropped head, ditto the red flush. With all this straight male attention I'm beginning to think I may have the answer to why I can't find any gay men to date--perhaps they all think I'm taken. I'd like to press the point sometime, I wonder what his soon to be ex-wife or girlfriend will think when her "oh-so-straight" man turns out anything but? Appearances may be deceiving, but your husband's hand in my front pocket can only mean one thing--get a clue...

17.6.11

Straight Education

My friend told me the other night that some of what I blog about has been eye opening to him; he's straight, we'll excuse him for that, but it made me wonder if I should put a disclaimer or some sort in the header of my blog. I sort of thought that with a moniker like: The Rural Homosexual, and the fact that 98% of the people that browse me through Facebook know me--and my uncensored way of speaking, that would be enough. Perhaps I should smile a bit more now that I have introduced the concept of the glory hole to one more of the masses, perhaps I should compile a list of terms that are common in the gay lexicon though abstract in the minds of the other team, perhaps I should figure out a way to incorporate stick figure drawings in my post so as to illustrate though not become totally and thoroughly "adult"... I wonder how that would go over, flipping to the front of the blog and seeing a term du jour with shabby illustration (I say this because my art skills are horrible, cut and paste I can do, actually draw, Hah!) or maybe I should embed a link to my terms, just click on the little blue underlined term and voila, picture or video or expanded definition, maybe some etymology for the word... Maybe I can generate a term to begin each posting with, if you get past the first few lines, then I know that you are primed for the rest. Maybe I should finish with my term of the day, give you something to contemplate while you start your work day or get ready for bed (lube costs extra of course!). Maybe I can get some kickback from the Boy Butter people, you know, give a plug line: If you feel the need to seed after your read, reach for the tub before you rub... *Click below for complimentary sample and more information*
Term of the Day: bareback
Riding anyone?

16.6.11

You Have To Play to Win

I often quip before leaving work that I won't be there tomorrow if I win the lottery; one of my co-workers is quick to reply that my lack of playing negates the comment. She knows me too well; most times I'd rather spend my dollar bill on a pack of chewing gum or an envelope of radish seeds or some other small purchase. I heard a piece on This American Life the other day about a guy that spent his day pondering what he'd do with his lottery winnings-- you know, the ones that he might potentially win. It makes me think about all the arm chair explorers that I know out there, all my friends that are quick to point out where they would like to go on vacation or if they had some money or if they were suddenly gifted with a pair of plane tickets and a carte blanche itinerary...but that's as far as it ever gets, just to the what if stage. I once quipped that I'd like to spin the globe, close my eyes and stop it with my finger, where it stopped, that's where I'd go on my next vacation. I hoped that this would not result in my going to Duluth, but thought that I could change the formula a bit by stating that if I'd been to the place already, then I'd get another spin (luckily I've already been to Duluth); I gave the globe a spin and pointed my finger with closed eyes and stopped the sphere in the middle of Peru. I booked a ticket later that week and hopped on a plane a few months later. It was a great vacation; I met a lot of nice people, proved that language does not have to be a barrier--especially if you are willing to mangle the pronunciation of the basics, laugh at yourself and smile like you mean it. Returning from the trip, I was ready to do the whole thing over, though I decided that I might have to wait a while, replenish my rainy day fund and go from there. As I get older I find that life is sort of like the lottery, you have to play to win. I'm off to plant radishes.

13.6.11

*Some Exceptions May Apply

My copies of The Advocate & Out arrived in the mail the other day, wrapped in their usual shroud of mouse-colored plastic. I'm glad to see that the publisher does not feel the need to further mark their wrappers with either a warning that they contain "Adult" materials or that the weird gray wrapper "May Be a Choking/Suffocation Hazard for Infants & Small Children"--especially since both magazines routinely appear on newsstand racks up here, and, I'm pretty sure the number of subscribers to the magazines with infants and small children are the minority. I've been getting these two publications by mail for a while now, aside from a couple of journals from plant societies that I belong to, they're the only glossy magazines to which I subscribe. When I first started reading the Advocate, back when I was at university, I was impressed at the range of news topics that it covered; there were notes from all over the country about issues facing the GLB community, anecdotes about gay life and stories about HIV/AIDS. I don't remember buying OUT until my last couple of years of university, Attitude was my gay pulp magazine of choice back then, full of glossy pictures and racy advertising and whatever was du jour in Continental style. At some point in time OUT supplanted Attitude, perhaps due to the ease of finding OUT up here, but I really don't remember the reason. Chronology aside, I've always enjoyed reading a "mainstream" gay publication. It's sort of like picking up an issue of Cosmo that's written solely for us. I've enjoyed flipping through the pages and seeing what's up-and-coming in the world of theatre, I've enjoyed the photo-rich interviews with mainstream celebrities and pop icons, I've enjoyed the occasional editorial review of literature or film or art, I've enjoyed the snippets of insight from LA and London and New York and Hong Kong. Sadly though, most days I now find myself nostalgic for the Advocate of years past; where once there were articles covering topics from Denver to San Francisco to Berlin, now the magazine seems to follow the formula of so many others: feature piece set in New York, feature piece set in LA, feature piece set in Paris (insert other major European city here), advertising layout for somewhere vaguely historic or pleasure themed or previously "off limits" to the gay public, 3-4 HIV maintenance drug ads, personality page--usually featuring a star or celeb that was seen recently in one of the cities featured in an article in the magazine & an editorial or two from the editor and/or guest editor of the magazine. The same formula seems to hold for OUT, with the addition of several glossy fashion-based photo spreads (I've still not figured out who can afford these clothes, save perhaps closeted members of the Saudi royal family, gay children of aging pop stars or spouses and partners of those in the Wall Street world), ads for apparel and fragrances & photo memoirs of recently held gala and charity events. Don't get me wrong, it's interesting to peruse these pages, but after 15 years or so of the same format, I think it's time to overhaul things. We've had our share of tragedy in the GLB world, spotlights shining on abuses in Wyoming and Utah and Vermont and Latvia. Likewise we've had our share of triumphs, hats off to Iowa and New Hampshire and Israel and DC. Interesting and infuriating however that what raised eyebrows and earned solemn glares or congratulatory praise should fade so fast, still simmering on the periphery while New York and LA and London again step to the front of the bus. I'm left wondering what happened to the rest of our stories, why there isn't more attention placed on Chicago or Portland (either one will do!) or Madison or Denver? I'm curious why the prodigious fashion spreads don't feature upcoming GLB designers or those on the edge of their game? Where are gay youth from middle America, the gay professionals that hail from the Heartland and Hinterlands, the leaders from our "before" times? Where are articles dealing with the rest of our lives--educational hurtles from disappearing grants and state budgets, crippled mobility from underwater mortgages and dying economic models, disappearing health care from over-taxed and under-worked government; dare I continue? I've come to the conclusion that if I don't live on the West or East coast, am not in possession of a black Amex, have no season tickets for a box at the Met or make less than twice what my parents make, I can't afford the $12 subscription.

12.6.11

I Should Be Dancing with Myself

Out here our selection of gay bars is sort of limited; most of the bars are friendly to everyone (Michigan being in a super-recession and all...), but there are only really 2 full-fledged gay bars within an easy drive of my house. One of these is a bit more of a hike than the other, so it is often to the bar in Traverse City that my friends and I go. On any given night the crowd ranges from a handful of gays and lesbians to quite a crowd, Friday nights and Saturday nights are the most popular with the out-of-town crowd of course, but holiday evenings and summer nights can be crowded as well. The gay bar up here is pretty much like any other gay bar that I have been in, though in microcosm; there is the prerequisite disco ball on the dance floor, the well-stocked bar, the baskets of condoms scattered over various counters & the ubiquitously placed mirrors in the men's room. It's pretty much like every other gay bar that I have been in, aside from a few that cater to more individualized tastes. On off nights there's an Internet-fueled jukebox to feed and play, if the song you have in mind is not available from the "standard" list, you can burn a few more credits and the machine will browse the web and upload your selection. On the other nights a DJ spins, taking requests from the patrons or offering a program of music tailored to the theme of the evening. The last few times that my friends and I have gone, the DJ booth has been open for requests; to make a request, one simply writes what one wants to hear on a slip of notebook paper, along with the artist, and runs the paper to the door of the DJ booth. What happens next is anyone's guess... My friend Mark once quipped that the best way to get your selection played was to tip the DJ when handing over the slip of paper--of course by "tip" he meant give a blow job, no currency involved (though sex is a currency isn't it..?); the DJ in question is nowhere near what I find attractive, though perhaps if he installed a glory hole in the DJ booth door.., but I digress... Any given night that the DJ is at the bar, I can just about write up the evening's play list before I get to the bar: there will be a few gay bar standards (ABBA, Donna Summers, Cher), whichever of Lady Gaga's songs are currently in the Top 40, at least 2 remixed versions of The Blackeyed Peas, a selection of gay 80's ballads and about 4 actual requests. Aside from a themed line-up night, there is little deviation from this formula. All of this brings to my mind 3 questions:
1) What is the point in soliciting requests if you are neither going to play them, nor, perhaps, consider adding those most requested to future nights of bar play?
2) I've heard that often the requests are often for music which is simply too new to be available. If the internet-connected jukebox can find my selection on the web and download it nearly instantaneously, why in the age of 3G and iPhones (like the one you have strapped to your hip) can you not simply download our solicited selections and proceed?
3) When I'm out on the dance floor swaying to the beats that I've brought on my iPod, looking stupid gyrating to Dominoes by Niki Minaj while you're playing Born This Way for the third time in the evening to a cleared dance floor, do you even notice?

11.6.11

Size Queen

A few weeks ago I went to one of our local chain clothing stores looking for some "basic" black pants for work. There was a varied selection of fabric choices, cuts and styles, some ready to wear, others needing a hem or two to complete them. I gathered up a selection and brought them with me to the dressing room, sure that I would find something suitable. I must mention that I wear and odd size--36x36 though 36x38 is often better for dress pants. As I made my way through that stack of pants, I was amazed that each pair seemed a looser fit than the last; I run a lot, so it's not that unusual for me lose about 1/2" on my waist line, especially when I am training for a race, but I didn't even have to unzip or unbutton these pants, I could just pull them on and off. I went out to the sales floor, grabbed a 34 waisted pant and gave them a go, same thing, easy on and easy off. I was perplexed. I asked a sales clerk if there was some label problem of if they'd redone the sizes or something; her reply, "It's the comfort waist feature. There's a hidden elastic band on both sides of the hips, it expands. Isn't it a great feature?" I'm sure she must have seen the abject look of horror on my face as I asked, "Why not just call a size 40 a size 40; now we have to call it a size 36 Comfort Waist?" She just gave me a wan smile and explained that most men need a little extra give in the waist area. "No," I replied, "Most men need to lay off the beer and potato chips while watching NASCAR and exercise a few times a week. Problem solved." Blunt, I know. I asked if they had any pants sans comfort waist feature, but apparently when 85% of the town's population is overweight, the rest of us are stuck dealing with the fallout. The salesperson mentioned that I could always order from their catalog, as they carry the extended collection of sizes and additional features. I could even have the selection shipped to the store to avoid paying shipping fees... Curiously, I failed to find any blue jeans in the store with this new Comfort Waist feature; apparently if you are overweight and wish to go casual, you must cede to actual waist sizing. A trip to a competing local chain clothing store yielded much the same results; they did, however, have a wide selection of pleated pants which were available with standard sized waists. A word on pleated pants, IMHO, if they aren't reverse pleats, nobody looks good in them; it's like having origami attached to either side of your hips, I think the extra vertical lines are supposed to imply length and slimming features, but all that extra fabric and hemming just makes you look like a japanese fan that met a roll of milled rayon. I eventually found the pants that I was looking for, at one of our small independent local clothiers; the selection was of such array that I could have spent all afternoon trying on pants. And the Comfort Waist? I'm sure they existed somewhere on the racks of the shop, like mythical beasts waiting to be discovered or destined to be forgotten. Sizing, as I discovered, is no longer set; many objects are indeed larger than they first appear.

10.6.11

Status seeker

Yesterday, a friend of mine commented on the iPad that I'd recently purchased. I'd been wanting one for a while and a great deal presented itself to me one afternoon while surfing the net. My friend asked the standard questions relating to my purchase; how much memory, was it 3G or not, etc. Satisfied by the answers, he made one final comment, "You do know that you bought an iPad 1 right? The iPad 2 is much sleeker, it weighs less, it's faster." I just smiled and asked how he liked his iPad; his comment, "I don't own one, it seems like too much of a status thing to me," left me with a smirk on my face. This is the guy that will only wear a watch if its a Tag Heuer, Movado or some brand approaching Rolex; shoes must be from Trask or Johnston & Murphy or shipped over from Italy in cedar-lined coffins. This is the guy that once told me my vintage Izod raincoat was passe, even as he sported part of the current season's collection, same cut, different color (funny how the little alligator gets noticed more readily on passe yellow)... I've always wondered what the attraction was to big name status brands; I was always taught that quality and function out-trump label placement or designer's name. My mom always told me to buy a few expensive things that will mate with many others: I imagine if I were female, that would have meant handbags or shoes or jewelry; as a gay male I aspire to a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk and a Steinway grand piano (suddenly my LL Bean shorts, new to me shirts & Levis Slim Jeans will get an instant upgrade...as will every room in my house, especially if I position the instrument in front of my bay window). I can't justify spending 22K for a steamer trunk (just imagine the luggage surcharge flying Delta with that beast!) much less as much as my house cost on a piano (did I mention the instant house appearance upgrade?), so I can sort of understand sporting the not quite a Rolex Rolex, but why does one need to be outfitted head to toe? Putting this question to my friend, I got an answer I expected to hear, "Because men notice me." I certainly noticed what he was wearing the first time we met, I couldn't tell you his eye color or height or hair style; I couldn't even remember his name until we'd met 3 or 4 times, I'd simply refer to him as the guy in the horrible Polo pants or the guy with the ugly Ed Hardy belt. True, I did notice the labels of the clothes he was wearing, but I'm not sure they conveyed the message he was hoping they'd send.

9.6.11

Sacrificial Offerings

A couple of weekends ago I went to a gay & lesbian campground downstate. This is the type of a place that bills itself more as a resort than strictly campground, with a pool and social activities and plethora of other things. There is a nightly meet and greet, there's a camp social director and plenty of events and themed days that occur throughout the summer and fall seasons. It's like summer camp for those of us that didn't get to go as kids--though there is alcohol and nudity and many more adult themed goings-on at this summer camp I suspect than at those of my youth. I always look forward to making the drive down, setting up the tent and socializing. I meet all sorts of people, from all over the midwest: a doctor and his partner from metro Detroit, a couple of guys from the UP, a riotous lesbian couple from Indianapolis who told me they met while working in porn, transplants to San Francisco that moved to Las Vegas then on to Madison, the list goes on and on. More than half of them I'd wager told me stories about growing up in small-town USA and then moving away to college or for their first job to somewhere metropolitan; making the drive to camp was their way of getting out of the city and making a nod to the way that they had spent some time in their youth. Many of the men (and women!) that I chatted with around campfires or shared a drink with at drag queen talent shows told me that they really didn't like living in the city, "I'd rather live in a small community," or, "I can remember tomatoes out of the garden in the summer, I miss that," or, "Life is too hectic, it takes me ___minutes to commute, and then I have to do the whole thing on the way back. I only get to unwind on the weekends." Invariably I would ask why they didn't hike up their trousers and make a change; I expected that I'd hear that money was the number one reason, but mostly I heard it was their partners. To this I'd often reply, "I thought relationships were about compromise?" Apparently this is not a point that is often up for compromise, as the chorus of, "He/she'd never move, there's no opportunity for him/her outside of the city." Funny that a lot of the partners of those queried are doctors or business owners or consultants; they own medical practices or travel extensively for work or oversee production in businesses that they own--to say that there are no opportunities for them outside of metropolitan areas is like saying there's no water in the Great Lakes. When further pressed with the point of their partners' mobility, most were quick to tick off pretty much the same list of "other" reasons why a move was impractical: "We have an open relationship, so long as my partner doesn't meet the people that I bring home, nor I meet the ones he/she brings home, well that's the rule (we couldn't do that if we lived in a small town)"; "All of our friends live in the city, we'd have to make new friends, develop new professional acquaintances, we've spent the last ten years doing that and I don't know if we could go through it again"; or, most disturbing, my favorite, "He/she makes the money." So much for compromise, so much for stating your mind or blazing a new path or stepping out of the box to try something new. I heard recently that the majority of gay youths are just waiting to graduate from high school so that they can move away from home and get on with their life, feeling the need to escape smothering or unsupportive parents, looking for the "sophistication" that they see in gay men and lesbians that have made it in New York or LA or London, wishing for a better life with little regard to what it takes to get there. It's a mass migration of sorts, but unlike the lemmings that plunge from cliff to sea, we have the abilIty to look back; I just wish more of us had the courage to turn around.

8.6.11

What is there to do up there anyway?

I travel a fair amount in my free time, usually to Chicago or Saugatuck or Kalamazoo, and the thing that I most often am asked is: what is there to do up there? I can tick off a list of things that are fun to do, I can tick off a list of interesting things to do in the winter or in the summer, I can talk about fun places to go nearby or must-see places that you should go. Usually I get through all of this, sit through a flummoxed pause, then hear, again, what is there to do up there? I give pause at this and ask for clarification... How do you meet men? I usually just shrug and point out that I meet them the same way that the rest of the homosexual population does; there's the Internet, the bar, Facebook, friends of friends and other sources. While this satiates curiosity for some, it seems to lead to more questions for others; what do you do when you want to go shopping, is there any culture, what about when you get three feet of snow and there's no hope of going anywhere, and on and on. To answer briefly, I can shop on the Internet or take the train to Chicago if I'm not happy with local stores; we have museums, art galleries and plays out here too; and the snow, seriously? If three feet of snow fall overnight, I'm up early, skis ready and off to play. The point to all of this is that I realized a long time ago that if I wanted to have a yard, putter around in the greenhouse, play in the garden, rip out aforementioned yard and plant giant mixed beds--and not have to spend 800k or travel 1.5 hours one way to work to do it, I was going to have to live out/up here. Much as I yen for civilization some times, often all it takes is a trip to the greenhouse to clear my senses.

Oops!

6.6.11

Not all is as it seems

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in Traverse City, the nearest "large" relatively cool town; I wanted to look at some plants for the landscaping project I'm in the midst of, visit a brewery that I love going to & had told a friend that I could give him a ride back to our hometown after he'd dropped his car at the dealer for service. My friend was not going to need to zip back until relatively late in the evening--he had to work the bulk of the afternoon--so I had plenty of time to run my errands and enjoy a leisurely dinner. After dinner, finding that the brewery was closed due to graduation ceremonies or some such thing, I decided a few shots in the dark would be the next best thing, besides, the coffee shop has wi-fi, so I can catch up on my mail and catch up with friends. Coffee in hand, I logged onto a few social sites and began the work of emptying my mailboxes. Most messages were assorted Hellos or Have a great weekend from friends, little notes to let me know that they were still alive or bits about how their previous week had gone. Second coffee in hand, I logged onto the three gay social sites that I routinely use. I should mention here that my profile on any given site tends to be pretty vanilla: while I do have the odd nude picture, all are tasteful; I'm a stickler for filling out my profile and providing an accurate age, physical description & spelling out what (and what not) I'm looking for and just generally trying to be truthful. I get all sorts of messages, ranging from the standard Nice Profile or John Doe has sent you a wink to S'up stud, I'd really like to f@#k you hard (I don't do censoring as a general rule--my 8 and 10 year old cousins are following this blog on FB so I'm going to make an exception for the word f@#k only; at some point I'm sure I'll forget, but we'll cross that bridge when I get to it...); some I respond to in kind, others I take the time to write a bit more and some I just ignore all together. I've made a few new friends from connections on these sites, some that I have met in the flesh, some that exist only in cyberland. Over my second coffee I caught up with a couple of my new friends, and hammered out a few notes to men that had sent me emails; as is often the case, I clicked on these guys' profile pictures to see where they were at or what they were looking for or to maximize their profile shots. Most guys that mailed me seemed pretty decent, men from around Northern Michigan or men that were going to be visiting the area over the summer. One guy, however, sent me an email that was more than stock openers and talk about the weather, he'd taken the time to ask me a few pointed questions and told me a bit about himself. These are the types of emails that I enjoy sending and the type that I enjoy receiving, guys that take the time to introduce themselves and read your profile I find immensely attractive. This guy hit all the marks, had a great profile and seemed like a genuinely nice person. I zipped a note back, answered his questions and asked a few of my own. 20 minutes or so later, I received another note from him, with a few more questions and some replies. I'd begun to type a reply, when I received an addended email that my new friend had unlocked his pictures for me. On this particular site, most pictures that are locked tend to be adult in nature. Being a gay male, I of course set aside what I was doing and clicked the link to have a look. Most of the pictures were pretty standard stuff, torso shot, butt shot, cock shot, leading up to a full body shot from both front and back--like a composite 360. There was one last shot in the series--a very explicit shot. The last shot made me pause, I went back to the profile and reread it, looked at the key word listing that is included in the briefing with every profile and read the short profile that appears next to every man's picture. All written information reiterated the same thing: safe sex, safe sex and safer sex. The last shot in the series is a photo of bareback sex; I'm not sure if the writer is the top or the bottom, but it left me wondering how much of the profile is truth and how much is fiction?

5.6.11

Taken--though I'm not sure where or why.

Last night my friend Mark was lamenting to me the availability of gay men here in Northern Michigan; there are great numbers of profiles for men looking for men up here on all the popular gay network sites--Manhunt, Gay.com & Adam4adam--just to name a few. Why, he was wondering, do men take the time to fill out a profile, post a picture or two and visit the sites, when the majority of them express no interest in meeting other men or even pursuing anything with another guy? Between the two of us, we can throw out quite a few handles of men that are in relationships (and supposedly contentedly committed and therefore off the gay market), a number of profiles that are suspiciously copy-cat in nature and more than a few that possess pictures so old that one wonders why in the age of 8mp cell phone cameras its so difficult to provide new images... Both of us are single and attractive, yet it seems that everyone we meet is either coupled (and actively seeking a third or fourth or more) or closeted or can not be bothered to respond back in any way after an initial conversation. Gay friends, oh sure, we have quite a few of those, but it seems that our observations about gay men in Northern Michigan are universal. 15 years ago when I was at university, if I wanted to meet other gay men, I simply went to any of the coffee shops in town, ordered an espresso, propped open a book and waited, sooner or later conversation would ensue with someone. If coffee was devoid of interesting men, I could always go to the bar or fire up gay.com on my computer and venture on. It seems that men were more social back then, less afraid to have a conversation or share something about their life. Flash forward; the coffee shop still holds its allure, but I've a better chance of meeting someone on the other side of the world as I type on my Mac then I do of striking up a casual conversation, gone too are the men in the gay bar, much easier to tap the Grindr app on one's smartphone and find exactly what you are looking for, no conversation required. And gay.com? Perhaps if they'd just stuck with their easy to use format and stopped the tweaking, we could actually find each other. I don't mean to whine or sound bitter, but where have all the gay men gone (and where are all the gods?) and when are they coming back? Mark suggested we cast our circles further & cancel our Manhunt accounts; I'm sure there's wisdom in his words.