Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Never Look Back

What Will You Do After Purple?

Along with countless assorted friends, family and acquaintances, I am wearing purple today. We are showing our unity, striving to be a vibrant, visible sign to those out there who’re struggling to just get through high school, to get through life – at a time when so much of the world is confronting them with the worst it has to offer.

Thanks to the efforts by the folks at the It Gets Better Project, many people are sharing their stories – true stories that often start in pain, yet end in joy and beauty. Tomorrow, after you take off your purple and put it away, you still have a job to do: Share your stories. You may not be gay or ever have been bullied, but I know you have a story to tell that will help someone out there. It’s time for us to reach out.


It didn’t take a genius to figure me out in high school. Let’s see, I was in Band, Orchestra, and Choir. I was Drum Major in the Marching Band. Not only was I in plays and musicals IN school, but I also performed with the local community players. Then there was Student Council, Scholastic Quiz Bowl, Forensics Team, and Computer Club. I was so uptight, I practically squeaked when I walked. (Oh, and a B- was nearly the end of the world…)

I knew I wasn’t like my friends, and I’d known that all my life. At 14, I finally found the words to say it to myself, and did what I considered a very brave act. I had a cassette tape recorder – some of you may have to Google that – and every now and then, I’d record the following …and then “pretend” to forget that it was on there.

“I am gay. What am I going to do about it? ...........Nothing…”

Of course, I never did forget to erase it; it was just a stupid game. Stupid, but somehow it got me through. Even if it wasn’t truly brave, it felt brave to me – and that’s all that mattered. This was the early 1980s in very rural Northern New York State; being gay was NOT something you talked about with anyone, except as crude locker room jokes at the expense of others.

Sure enough, I got called every imaginable name in high school, and sure enough, it hurt like hell. But somehow, I managed to hold onto hope and the knowledge that someday - not too far in the future – I’d be able to get on with life. (College isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than high school!)


Thanks to the incredible outpouring from breathtakingly fabulous people, YouTube is now packed with hundreds of stories of survival, of anguish and support and love and friendship. Rather than dwelling on just how awful high school is, there are some essential things we need you to know.

It gets better. I know it must seem cliché now, but I have to tell you – looking back, I could never have hoped that life would turn out this well. There will be wonderful, deep abiding friendships that last longer than you’ve been alive so far. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll be terrified of admitting you need someone to lean on, and you’ll be wildly passionate about a hundred different causes. You’ll visit places where you’ll feel truly, madly, deeply at home in a way that you may never be able to articulate to anyone. Some of your friends will become the best family you could ever imagine – and some of your family will become your most ardent supporters. And you’ll find your own way of getting through.

Oh…and there will be love. You’ll fall in love – and you’ll get your heart broken. And you’ll fall in love again. And along the way, you’ll find out how remarkable it is to love and to be loved, just for being you.
So, hold on. Be here for the good stuff. Be truly you. Stick around and see how much better it gets. No one’s promising that it won’t suck along the way, and no one’s saying that life as an adult is a piece of cake; just remember that we’re out here – and we are LIVING proof that life gets so much better.


So, to all of us: tomorrow, we might not be wearing purple, but we need to, must carry this feeling with us. There is no wrong time to reach out. There is no bad time to let others know you care. Share your struggles and triumphs. Be a good friend and a great example. Let your children catch you doing good things. Dream big and dare to love. Open your minds to a world that is better today than it was yesterday, but not as great as it will be tomorrow.

And be there, so these kids can be here to see that it gets so much better.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sad, but still Marvelous

We lost another bright light yesterday.

Mary Travers was a big part of my early music life - we had the Peter, Paul & Mommy album. I'm surprised we didn't wear it out.

I knew every song by heart, all the lyrics and all the parts. It wasn't until much later in life that I realized how extraordinarily well-crafted these songs and arrangements were/are. And one of the most magical things about them is how truly effortlessly they sang these songs.

Infused with humor, yearning, giddiness and pathos, these songs grabbed hold of me and never let go.

I Have a Song to Sing, O!

Puff, The Magic Dragon

Day is Done

Going to the Zoo Tomorrow

But. The one that has always been the best, my most favorite, is the one that makes me well up with tears, despite never having had children of my own.

The Marvelous Toy

The last verse just gets to me.

So, today we celebrate the life of a lovely singer who touched the lives of a lot of people for several generations.

Mary, you will always be Marvelous to me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Walking, Soles United!

Yesterday, we held our SideWALK Sale to raise funds for our NO/AIDS WALK team, Soles United.

There was only a 70% chance of rain...but it had been raining pretty much all the time, every day for that last 10 days. This had us concerned.

I got up and walked the dog around 6:30am and to my surprise, there was actually a sunrise. You know, one that you could see. far so good.

We managed to set up in time for the early birds - and 9am, we still had decent weather. We had mixed clouds and sun for the next 2 hours.

And. Then. only started to sprinkle. And then stop. And then sprinkle again.

And around 11:20, it start seriously drizzling and we decided to pack it in. (We were set up under the eaves of the condo building, which is further shelter by an ancient live oak tree.)

Um...We weren't counting on the electricity.

You know, the natural kind?

There was thunder and lightning the likes of which we've not seen in at least 5 years here. At one point the storm was overhead, the flashes and booms nearly simultaneous and I thought to myself, this is not the time to be carrying this metal headboard back in the house.

So, we succeeded in packing up the last of the unsold items without getting struck by lightning - a little sore and wet, but alive. For a rainy Sunday morning, during church time and one the morning of the first Saints game of the season (a home game, no less!), we did OK.

So, we are down to the last of it - we'll be carousing the French Quarter this Friday and Saturday evening, twisting arms and adding to the coffers for our Walk Team. Our team is doing well this year, but as in years past, I have my own very personal reasons for Walking.

Having been the recipient of their services in the past, I do what I can to help support the NO/AIDS Task Force. I know many of the wonderful folks who work there - and count a lot of them as friends. If you can and wish to support this cause, you can check out my personal pledge page here. Any donations you are able to give - $5, $10 - anything - is more than they had before.

And from me...thank you.

Anyway, next Sunday is the NO/AIDS WALK - if you are in the New Orleans area and want to show your support, come on down to Audubon Park before the kick off at 10AM. It's always a lot of fun and it's for an incredibly important cause.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Of Rants and Racism and Presidential Speeches

In just a short while, President Obama will be addresses the students of America, our future.

While I do agree that the accompanying lesson plan was not crafted in the most well-thought out manner, I am having a hard time getting all the stains out of the ceiling tile from each time my head has exploded over the last week, listening to the unfathomable brouhaha.

Here in Louisiana, it is optional from parish to parish. Public schools in New Orleans are all viewing the President's speech, while the suburbs (to which all the white flight occurred) are making it optional and at the superintendents’ discretion. Some schools are offering alternative assignments and giving parents the option to have their kids not watch it.

What I want to know is this: how long are they estimating this speech to be? Tops, 10 minutes, right? After all, how long are kids going to really pay attention?

The argument that it disrupts the curriculum for the day is specious at best. It takes longer to wrangle students for a bathroom run. And how much is this costing in administration and extra labor hours to provide the alternative activity and more teachers/substitutes to watch the kids who are not viewing the speech?

And finally (sorry for the soapbox moment), if the righties really fear this as a piece of potential indoctrination, why not let the President go through with it as originally planned? At that point, a righty could then step back and say, “See. This is exactly what we were talking about. He is Satan/Hitler/Mussolini/Easter Bunny Killer.”

The stupid. It burns.

Monday, September 07, 2009

We Heard A Rumor

So, Labor Day Weekend is Southern Decadence in New Orleans, an event that started in 1972 as little more than a bar crawl and has now become a massive series of parties and gatherings, culminating in the very popular parade Sunday afternoon.

This, of course, leave Monday - Labor Day - for recovery.

Southern Decadence now draws more than 100,000 folks to New Orleans every year - and despite Hurricane Katrina squashing the big events, a rag-tag bunch still wandered about the French Quarter on Sunday, September 5th in their own version of the parade.

Police tried to stop the procession - understand, this was less than a week after the levees had failed. However, one of the revelers actually produced the parade permit that had been granted by the Southern Decadence organizers, and the parade went on unhindered.

Last year, the parade was completely thwarted by the mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Gustav. Things could have gone on - most of the Quarter only lost power for 2-4 hours on average.


This year, we started hearing buzz about a new entry in the parade.

A Gay Marching Band.

Really, what could be more fabulous?

Of course the jokes started flying when we heard this rumor - with a gay marching band of 200 members, we speculated that the general (and highly stereotypical for humor's sake) makeup would be:

  • 9 Lesbians playing bass drum
  • 112 piccolo players
  • 53 color guard
  • and 26 queens fighting to be Drum Major(ette)

We could not have been more wrong - and all jokes aside, they were sensational.

The group - Lesbian & Gay Band Association - is in New Orleans this weekend for their annual national conference, and offered to play in the parade. Nearly 200 strong, they had a huge brass section, lots of percussion and woodwinds - and to be fair, only 3 drum majors, 5 flags and 7 piccolo players. (There were several lesbians playing drums...)

This is Paloma - one of the Grand Marshall's for 2008 and 2009. She and her co-Marshall, Tittie Toulouse, reigned again this year after not having the chance to fulfill their duties last year. Paloma is so sweet, photographs really well and can walk in killer shoes - but let's just say that lipsynching is not her strong suit...

It was a wonderful parade - and despite some very heavy downpours, the timing for the parade was perfect.

There is a lot about Southern Decadence that gets less than flattering press...

So, the Beau and I were both a little misty-eyed with pride when the band came by - at a time when horrible things are being said about gays and lesbians here and around the world, it was so very important to see them.

Just people. Making music. Making other people happy.

Is there a better gift?

Wanting Something

There are many songs that move me...spirituals, arias, folk tunes, soaring Broadway of all genres.

Some of them appeal to me as a performer - how I yearn to to sing certain works in the context of their original setting, be it a requiem mass, opera or stage show. To have that connection for just a moment with the audience - so tenuous and infinite all at the same time - and draw them in, make them feel and leave them changed, somehow.

Other works move me in a different way - the songs that I want, need to listen to. Many of them are well out of my range and not anything that I could ever attempt to perform. Some of them are what I turn to when I need to cry or laugh.


There are those few songs that I need. Songs that from the first moment you hear them, you think to yourself, "Ah, now if someone, some day would sing that to me..."

I learned this the hard way in college - one of the grad students - a friend of mine - was to perform an aria that was new to him at a group recital. Larry asked if he could use me to focus on for his performance; knowing how seeing a friendly face in the audience would help calm him, I agreed...not knowing it was Una Furtiva Lagrimar from Donizetti's L'elisir d'Amour.

I melted.

And from that day forward, I have pined to hear someone, anyone sing it to me again, that way. So completely sublime.

And now, for Monday Music, here's the more contemporary song that holds that place - no one has ever sung this to me.

And I don't know that I would be the same again if they did.

Aaron Lazar and Katie Clarke,

Performing "Love to Me"

from Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza

Sunday, September 06, 2009


I saw this online months ago and saved it, intending to write some insightful post about technology outpacing humanity's ability to understand, utilize and cope with it.

Instead, I think you ought to just watch this and marvel at the shear brilliance.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sunrise and Spiderwebs

(click on for some incredible detail.)

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