Tattooed with a Nude

OnlyJudyCanJudgeMeSo I’m on the airplane yesterday, the last leg of one of the more irritating months of my flying career. This family’s in the last row, bottle-blonde mom, kid in a car seat, chunky, hunky husband in a t-shirt and shorts. He gets up out of his seat to get who-knows-what out of the overhead bin and I clock the naked-lady tattoo on his calf with an inward eye-roll. How classy, I groan, if only to myself. She must be very proud. What kind of woman, after all, runs around with the kind of jackass that parades around town with porn on his body? He was pretty cute, mind you, and they’d both been above-average friendly, but my knee-jerk impulse was not just to judge them, but harshly. They were airplane passengers, after all — they must have been doing something wrong.

I mean, it only took about five seconds — which can seem like a long time when you’re right in the middle of it — but the other shoe did eventually drop. My husband has a tattoo of a naked guy. A big one. Oh wait — have a tattoo of a naked guy. On my calf. And it drives me crazy when people react to it like it’s porn. “You have a penis on your leg!” No I don’t; it’s Michelangelo’s David, for Heaven’s sake. It’s not a penis, it’s Art! Heed the Bible verse referenced by another of my tattoos: Don’t judge me! (“Luke 6:37,” as my left ankle will tell you.) Oy, the irony…

Naturally, as someone who has one, I don’t really have a problem with naked tattoos. I was even moved to write Jared’s (color and shading to come) a little backstory. And because it’s in my favorite little 100-word format, I’m sharing it here. I’m sure this guy’s topless Waikiki wahine has her own story, too. I didn’t ask to hear it, but if its moral is “Give people a break,” she should consider her message received.

J's PHX Tat2Rising from the ashes is one thing, but exploding in flames hurt, dammit, and this had been a tough recovery.  His strength trickled back so slowly when he mourned a mortal lover, and he languished being earthbound.  His wings took forever to regenerate, and waiting, he was a prisoner of his muscle-heavy body, clumsier every day as gravity mocked his lavishly furled tail feathers.  Finally today, the anxious rustling of impatient wings had woken him.  He stayed for an extra minute to savor the lust for freedom — suddenly delicious, its quenching imminent — and then took to the sky.

 

Advertisements

And Yet None of My Bullies Were Fat…

diet coke guyThere’s a Golden Girls episode where Blanche meets a guy at the library, agrees to go out on a date with him, balks when she realizes he’s in a wheelchair, and hilarity (naturally) ensues.  At one point, the girls find themselves sitting around the kitchen table hashing out the pros and cons of Blanche’s latest romantic entanglement — you remember that episode, right? — and Sophia weighs in:  “Just because a man’s in a wheelchair,” she says, “doesn’t mean he can’t satisfy a woman.”  Invited to elaborate, she unspools one of her famous Sicily stories.  “Picture it,” she says (and I paraphrase here), “Sicily: 1918.  A man in a wheelchair satisfies a woman.  It’s a short story but I think it proves my point.”  In this spirit, the following post:

When I was in the eighth grade (nearly thirty years ago, I am aghast to calculate), our school was one block from the nearest 7-11, and, with unfettered access to the Big Gulp soda fountain, I became what might charitably be described as a fan of Diet Coke.  I had only recently grown tall enough that my body stretched my weight up and down rather than from side to side, and I wanted to stay that way, and it had the word “diet” in it — if one Diet Coke could make you skinny, imagine the miracles that 200 fluid ounces a day could make manifest.  On the very first day (literally Day One) of high school, therefore, I didn’t even hesitate — why would I? — to plunk in my two nickels or whatever vending machines cost in those days and order up my Diet Coke come lunch time.  I wish I was exaggerating, but the hostile, shitty, faggot-bashing, limp-wristed lisping “Diet Coke” heckling started up before the actual can even clunked out of the machine, and it carried on for two years, until I transferred schools.  You read that right: I was intimidated and verbally hassled by the same eight or ten dickheads every single day (they did take weekends off), for two years, because I drank a fucking Diet Coke with my lunch.  A few of my so-called friends bailed on me, one or two of the gayer ones actively participating in the bashing bullshit to deflect attention from the faggoty gold bracelets with which they dripped, but my friends who had the balls and the strength of character to stick around were heckled by association, some to an extent of which I have only been made aware in recent years.  All because of a can of pop.  (Well, that, and a crippling fear of Self, with which I truly hope those guys grew up to come to terms, not that it’s my job to wish them well.)DIET COKE

Skipping ahead: Picture it: The airplane the other day, from LAX to Denver.  A big gay flight attendant serves a Diet Coke to an honest-to-God (according to his leather jacket, leather hat, t-shirt, and tattoos) Hell’s Angel.  And this burly, bearded, busted-up-lookin’ biker dude, when offered the can, demurs, satisfied with a little 6-oz. plastic cup of it.  Which is fine; I’m way past the point of judging people by what they order to drink on the airplane (although not above judging them by how they order it.  “Would you like something to drink?”  “No, thank you.  Just a black coffee and a tomato juice.”  OK, if those aren’t “to drink,” I’m gonna need to know just what the hell you are planning to do with them before I serve them to you…).  You want a Diet Coke, I’m happy to serve it to you, and you wanna split the can with your tough-as-nails wife, frankly, I think there’s a certain romance in there somewhere.  But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t strike me; would those Regis dipshits have had the nerve to laugh at this guy?  To belittle or berate him over a beverage choice?  And pay for it — if you’ll allow me to rhetorically ascribe imaginary and stereotypical violent tendencies to a man who was perfectly friendly to me — by spitting their teeth into a puddle of their own blood in the parking lot?   I doubt it.  And not least because by now I bet they all drink the shit on airplanes, too.  A big reason that being bullied is so frustrating is that it can be so frickin’ arbitrary.  I was an easy target, and self-loathing has to go somewhere, although a better place to put it would be Away.  I’m out now.  I’ll never be skinny again, and I don’t drink more than a 6-pack of pop in a year.  I serve a million Diet Cokes a year, to every kind of person, without even thinking about it.  It struck me funny the other day, is all — this dude as butch as they come, and all the shit I had to put up with?  Like I said, it’s a short story.  But surely it proves some kind of point…

Homophobia Hits Home

(Avoid alliteration always!)

Pinky and MeI will stipulate that we might not be a strictly “conventional” couple, what with both of us being men, and one of us being a pink-coiffed drag queen who’s about six-foot-eight in heels, but for the most part my husband and I just sort of go about our gay business. We neither seek input nor require guidance from our families, any church, or the government on how best to conduct our Big Gay Relationship.  We don’t spend a lot of time, at least not intentionally, tearing at the Very Fabric of Society, although we do watch a lot of Golden Girls and order in kind of a lot of Indian food.  We do each have a tattoo of a naked man — I guess if society really is going to crumble, you wanna get a few good chips in, kinda the way people eventually flung themselves at the Berlin Wall once it became clear that puppy was comin’ down.  I say all this to say: I don’t give a shit what you think about me, just stand aside and think it over there so I can get at the garlic naan.

And you know what?  No exaggeration, that’s 99.9% true.  I don’t care what other people think of me.  At least not enough to let it be a factor in my decision-making.  It doesn’t affect what I write or how I write it, how I choose my friends or how I relate to them, what color I paint my toenails.  Nobody who cares about you judges you, and nobody judging you on criteria like your sexuality has a stake in your success or your happiness.

Which is why the way my husband’s grandfather reacts to me at family functions like the wedding we went to over the weekend pisses me off.  I don’t care what he thinks of me, and I for sure don’t care that he uses his “religion” as an excuse for his own rigidity, but I do care that he hides behind a set of values that he chooses to let external forces impose on him when he disrespects Jared. Continue reading

Eleven Years On

I don’t expect that I shall ever forget being jarred awake with the news that my workplace had been flown through the side of someone else’s, resulting, naturally, in the fiery destruction of both.  In the ensuing worldwide panic, fear, and sorrow, the airplanes (and, lest we forget, the people on them) were quickly reduced to little more than the visually arresting catalysts of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but to airline employees, and to air crews in particular, September 11th is an especially sacred day of remembrance and reflection.  In a way that the media rarely does, we remember our co-workers and the sacrifices they were called upon to make.  Pilots and flight attendants who lost their lives in the line of duty in ways that we had never previously been called upon to imagine (murdered point-blank with box cutters, used as components of flying Molotov cocktails, disintegrated in a Pennsylvania field helping to fight for positive control of an airplane-turned-missile in a world gone mad) and that since we are forced to confront every day.  We empty our pockets and take off our shoes and isolate our laptops and publicly submit to an elaborate security screening ritual, knowing that box cutters are permitted in passengers’ carry-on luggage, an unfathomably boneheaded First Step in allowing the entire horrifying process to one day repeat.

It is my intention each year on September 11th to remember the sacrifice and honor the lives of the 25 flight attendants who were killed.  I knew none of them, and if I’m completely honest, my professional respect for each of them and my sincere sympathy for their friends and families is tempered still by a profound gratitude that flooded me as I stood at a payphone in a Big Island laundromat eleven years ago, weak in the knee and weeping with relief that I recognized none of their names.  I honor them as colleagues and ache at the idea of a fear that I can’t fully conceptualize and hope never to glimpse, but true grief for them belongs to others, and is mine neither to appropriate nor to define. Continue reading

City Code Snapshot: MCO

It is my personal experience that Orlando has little to offer the traveler who is not 8 and counting the seconds to Disney World.  Not that I wouldn’t have a ball at Disney World — the minute my youngest nephew is old enough to walk the entire park without need for a stroller, we’re there, budgeted to load up on churros and Phineas and Ferb souvenirs.  But if you’re not on a theme park mission, or on a quest to eat every meal for the rest of your life at Chili’s, Orlando can be kind of a dud destination.  When we used to layover at the hotel that seemed to host every college football team that came through town, entertainment was no farther away than your pool-facing balcony, but we haven’t stayed there in ages, and now there’s little to which to look forward.

Except for ZaZa, the Cuban coffee oasis ensconced in the back of a stereo store at the Orlando airport (note the complete absence of anything even vaguely cafe-ish in the photo).  While the prospect of an 18-hour layover at our airport-adjacent hotel holds little appeal, I thrill at the opportunity, such as I had yesterday, to pass through Orlando en route from Point A(re we there yet?) to Point B(e serious — we’re still not there?).  Like so many of Life’s Pleasures (ahem!), the coffee is hot and dark, strong and sweet.  Almost inky — much like my favorite guy behind the counter, who wears a neoprene sleeve under his t-shirt to cover a tattoo that I am dying to see.  I always smirk inwardly at the company policy that no doubt requires him to cover in this manner, drawing, as it does, ten times more attention to the fact that he’s got a giant tattoo than the tattoo itself probably would in this day and age.  And so I wonder, is it especially “offensive?”  Has it been deemed inappropriate for kids (with which this particular airport, obviously, is infested)?  Is it overly sexual or violent in nature?  He’s the nicest guy — a little bit cheeky (he always calls me Papi) but ever-ready to be of service, and he always remembers my order, even if it’s been months between visits — and so I wonder How bad could it be?  Would it shock me with its theme?  Amaze me with its artistry?  Its lack thereof?  Is his manager being overly officious, or is it really some kind of Big Deal?

Maybe he’s become the draw.  As much as my afternoon is improved when punctuated with a swirling shot of cane-sweetened oil slicky goodness (with a shot of milk, just because it’s fun to order a cortadito), here in the Town That Disney Built, where every place that isn’t a tragically predictable chain restaurant sells Tinkerbell t-shirts Ten-for-Ten-Dollars!, it’s well worth the three bucks to be served a cup of coffee — or anything, really — with a dollop of mystery.