Inspiration for August 28th: “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John

From where I stand
You are home free
The planets align so rare
There’s promise in the air
And I’m guiding you

I know. You just read those lyrics and said “Huh? WTF.”  Trust me. This will all make sense. To truly understand the depth and brevity of “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John, one must first sit through the brain melting cinematic donut that is 1980’s Xanadu. Suffice it to say, “Magic” is a song of encouragement performed by Olivia’s character Kira help inspire the leading guy who never worked again to build a clandestine disco roller rink that could perhaps save all of humanity or at the very least Venice Beach. Did I mention that Kira is a Greek muse and that ELO wrote “Magic” (along with the rest of the soundtrack)? See, I told you it was all totally logical. Clearly, this inspiration is one of the guilty pleasure variety but 32 years ago today, “Magic” celebrated it’s fourth week on top of the Billboard charts cementing Olivia as one of the era’s most popular stars. And really what’s not to love?

Plus the song itself rocks. It still stands up as a great roller skating jam with weird, trippy lyrics and a thumping baseline. Granted, Tuesday, August 28th could be a depressing, inappropriately hot and uncomfortable day but I’ve decided it will be magic. Sure I might not have the gumption to build my own mystical roller disco but I can drop my crappy attitude, blast my favorite tunes and generally enjoy myself. Even if it is just for a few moments. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to turn your home office, car or kitchen into a temporary roller disco too. Remember, we have to believe we are magic and nothing will stand in our way. Now, where did I put my legwarmers?

 

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Inspiration for August 24th: Roisin Murphy

We round out an inspiration-filled week with the sounds of the incomparable Roisin Murphy. At 39 years of age this Irish dance auteur, fashion icon and musical renegade has carved out a niche for herself globally as a soulful, intelligent purveyor of pop music. From her lyrics to groundbreaking outfit choices, no detail is missed with Murphy. After a five year break, Murphy is expected to relase a new record in the upcoming months. But for me, Murphy has long been a source of inspiration as well as providing the soundtrack to many bootyshaking sessions. Since her days as part of dance music duo Moloko, Murphy has stood out as an individual and an incredible talent. Witness her badassness below:

On this Friday, I’ll again use the music of Roisin Murphy as my thumping soundtrack to help me finish out my work week.  But she also inspires me to work a little harder on my whole creative package (my new photos, book cover, etc.) So fabulous readers what are you listening to today?

and one more for the road…

The Last Time I Saw LA Gay Pride

Throughout the month of June, all over the country, in cities big and small, gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered men and women are flocking to their local pride parades and festivals. If you’ve never been to one of these events, I can tell you that if you do attend you are likely to see a musical act from yesteryear performing on one of the stages (Belinda Carlise! The Village People!), you are likely to see fried food on a stick (because corn dogs and churros cross all lines of discrimination) and you will certainly see a lot of people who are really, really intoxicated.

Now I’m not saying that everyone who attends a gay pride festival is going to get fucked up but let’s be honest here. The only thing gays like better than half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets is half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets drinking. Gays are so fond of daytime drinking in the streets, gaggles of them often appear at random festivals solely for that very reason. I’ve personally attended everything from Cuban festivals to an abysmal non-New Orleans version of Mardi Gras all in the name of drinking in the streets. As citizen of Los Angeles for 15 years, I could bore you with dozens of drunken tales from the West Hollywood gay pride festival. In fact, as I read blogs and saw pictures of this weekend’s celebration, my mind took a trip down memory lane. I recall line dancing in a country music tent with a drag queen. I remember drinking vodka and watching what remains of the Mary Jane Girls perform near a baseball diamond. And how could I forget seeing Cyndi Lauper wave from a hot pink convertible as a dance remix of ‘True Colors’ thumped in the background? Yet it’s my last time at gay pride in Los Angeles that solidifies the gay pride experience for me.

A friend and I went over to the parade in 2007. With cocktails to go, we headed over to West Hollywood. Perched from a cozy alcohol adjacent corner inside Rage, a parade route- friendly watering hole, we watched as the rainbow of topless men and aforementioned booty shorts pranced by interspersed with floats sponsored by  Gieco and local erotic bakeries alike. This being a Los Angeles event, “celebrities” pimping their latest reality shows or albums were on display too. We cheered as famous hot mess and former America’s Next Top Model judge Janice Dickinson floated by with a bevy of shirtless models. Dickinson claims to be the world’s first supermodel but I would contend she may also be the world’s first celebrity with Tourette’s syndrome. I however always admired her frank nature and the fact that here was a famous person who was shockingly more wasted than I was. She made me feel like, “Gee, maybe I’m not a total disaster.” Dickinson, like any good addict, had moments of sobriety followed by moments of hot messiness. During this particular celebration, it would be safe to say she was experiencing the latter. As the parade wrapped up, we plotted our next move. Do we pay $20 bucks to get into the festival or do we go drink somewhere else? Well, clearly our Jacksons would be put to better use at a bar so we headed over to the Abbey. While you’re unlikely to find nuns at this Abbey (unless it’s Halloween), you were guaranteed to find strong cocktails, more naked men and on that day even Janice Dickinson. Along with a thousand or so of our closest friends, the partying really started to happen. More beers, more shots, and a pill that someone told me was “kind of like Ecstasy.” I wanted my picture taken with Janice but her tanned trio of bodyguards politely shooed my wasted ass away. The rest of the afternoon was a slurry blur and by 4pm I was home and napping off my daytime drunk.

I share this story because in my mind the preceding events had nothing to do with being proud of being gay. I wasn’t drinking and dancing and harassing celebrities because I loved being gay and loved who I am. Quite the contrary, in fact.  Yet that’s how I always celebrated gay pride: by getting absolutely shithoused drunk.

While in LA and newly sober, I stayed away from gay pride. Not because I was worried that I would relapse. But because I felt like it I had no business being there. Like a vegan at Outback Steakhouse. Everybody else was going to be drunk so why bother? A few years later, I’ve lightened up. My recovery is such that I can attend this kind of stuff  without feeling like I’m the only one not wasted. But also I know when not to go too. Like even though its been over 3 years, there are times that I can’t go to places where lots of drinking will be going on. And this is okay. Gay pride means being proud of who you are and today I can honestly say that I am just that. I’m proud to be gay, sober and positive. And I can celebrate all of this without drinking, booty shorts or Janice Dickinson.

Disco Damage

If you randomly bust into dance moves when you hear “Le Freak” by Chic  coming from the sound system at the grocery store, if you still expect to be on the guest list even though you have been to a nightclub in several years or if you suffer from minor hearing loss due to dancing next to speakers for an extended period of time; you may be suffering from disco damage. Other common symptoms include the unwavering belief that nothing gets good until after 12am, spontaneously yelling “Hey girl!” at drag queens even if you don’t know them and  a deep desire to dance instead of dealing with your life.

Disco damage sufferers like myself have a had tough week. The back-to-back deaths of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb reinforced the depressing, unavoidable truth: nothing,not even a great dance song, lasts forever. I was a toddler during the original disco era but the beat must have seeped into my brain at an early age because my whole life I’ve been in love with dance music. Yes, I am aware that an affinity for dance music is part of my gay DNA but disco and the culture around it were very much a fantasyland and that appealed to me very much as a future drug addict and alcoholic.

I was scooped into nightclubs and raves at an early age. And what goes better with dance music than drugs? Body glitter and platforms are fabulous but if I really wanted to dance my ass off, drugs had to be my number one accessory. Once at a rave in a warehouse in suburban Denver, the Chic song I mentioned earlier came blasting out of the speakers. I was high on ecstasy and it felt like this  was my moment. This is what I was looking for my whole life. I had friends on the dance floor, I felt fantastic and I was 20. This kind of high needed to happen all the time and normal life needed to feel more like this. So it was this feeling, this hunger that propelled me from Colorado raves to LA nightclubs to working at a record store and to DJing and promoting my own clubs in Hollywood. The goal of a budding disco diva was simple: get high and dance. Ecstasy was the preferred dancing accoutrement for many years but cocaine did the trick and so did some strong cocktails. (For the record, 3 Long Islands and  2 Vicodins aren’t a great dance floor combo and we’ll leave it at that.) There’s a great line in the disco classic, “Lost in Music” by Sister Sledge that sums it up:”Responsibility to me is a tragedy. I’ll get a job some other time.”  For many years, I worked to keep partying, I kept partying to avoid really living.

Eventually, the lights came on, last call was called and I tried to live real life. For a club child, this  is a difficult prospect. We’re used to phony relationships and being high all the time. Things like paying our bills and dealing with our problems are icky tasks meant for those boring, grownups we’d see heading to church on Sunday mornings on our way home from the club. I eventually would face the music and lucky for me that music still  had a disco beat. You could take the homo out of the nightclub but disco would forever “toot, toot- aah- beep beep” in my heart. Donna Summer and the Bee Gees were the soundtrack to my growing up, the background music at the roller rink and still bumping at after hours clubs when I was hell-bent on vanishing in the 1990s and 2000s. Now, songs like Nights on Broadway or Try Me I Know We Can Make it are celebrations that despite ingesting more drugs than a Rick James after-party, I too will survive. My dance parties today take place at my desk most of the time although I still occasionally hit the clubs with other sober folks.  So be kind to me if you see me shaking my booty in the frozen food aisle to Bad Girls or Jive Talking. It’s just a little disco damage and a sweet hangover that I don’t wanna get over.

Enough is Enough

I’ve been in a ton of self-imposed pain lately. Clearly I enjoy it otherwise I’d get myself out of it. But to be fair, as a gay, former Catholic, alcoholic my tolerance for pain is like superhuman. I reckon I could have survived the Inquisition, yawned and asked for a cigarette. Well, finally this week I had my Tina Turner-running-out-of-the-limosine moment. The only difference is the crazy abusive prick I ran away from wasn’t Ike Turner. It was myself.

What’s love got to do with it, indeed! I’ve gotten lazy (okay not gotten lazy- that’s like saying Mel Gibson’s ‘gotten racist’. I’ve been lazy.) I’ve been resting on my laurels. I’m not really sure I have laurels or what they even look like but as a person in recovery I’m told over and over again that I shouldn’t rest on them. Smartassafrass aside, at the end of the day, I haven’t been taking care of myself. Meaning I’m not praying really or going to very many meetings or helping other people and this sludges on for months like some painful soap opera that needed to be cancelled six years ago. And whaddyaknow-I’m batshit, balls out crazy, uncomfortable and doubled over in pain. I have had enough friends relapse or die doing this type of non-recovery dance routine but you know I’m different. I’m special. I don’t need meetings or help or any of the stuff that saved my life in 2009. Yeah right, bitch. Thank fucking God, this neglect didn’t gently shove me into a drink or mountain of blow.

This week a professional situation that has been miserable for months came to a head, got ugly and then pushed me into my Enough is Enough moment. I was resentful and felt like I’d been compromised and ignored. But talking about it would be yucky, un-glamorous and I’d have to be a—gasp!-human being. So I tried to ignore it. Again, dangerous games for somebody who’s major M.O. was to escape, avoid and disappear. Not dealing with things never worked for me and in sobriety the jig is up fairly quickly these days. A few heart-to-hearts with folks in the know and some prayer later, I eventually pulled my head out of my ass. I took a little action, I spoke from the heart and I stepped away from a creative position that was causing pain.   And low and behold, here on Thursday night I do feel better.

I’m sharing this right now for a couple of reasons. I need to tell on myself and you folks seem to listen and get it so why not bend your ear? I like to pretend you’re a captive audience but if actually read this while watching reality TV that’s okay too. Secondly, I want to tell the truth about this sobriety gig. Sometimes, it fucking sucks. It’s hard and I feel like I’ve graduated and don’t want to be perfect anymore. But the fact of the matter is I cannot go back to a life where I drank and used. So I stick it out. I hang in there knowing that it’ll pass and that drinking and using won’t solve anything. After 3 and a half years completely clean and sober, I am not all better. I keep going to meetings even when I’m so crispy dry I could crack in half. I pray a message of recovery reaches me and it does. Every time. But pretending it’s a walk in the park or can be solved by some bumper stickers never worked for me and I don’t think it helps others either.

Lastly, I need to write this down and see that regardless of how awkward and fucked I feel today, my life is so incredible and beautiful. Warts and all. Unlike when I was drinking and using, I know I have hope, that people care and that I deserve to love myself. PS- you deserve that too.

I Can Touch the Sky. I Know That I’m Alive

The incomparable Celine Dion sang those words in the title of this post. Yes, the Canadian songstress not only knows how to find older husbands who look like Santa Claus but she can sniff out a song with syrupy lyrics better than any singer in zee world.  I’m being a sarcastic tool of course. I really don’t have anything against Celine Dion.  She seems nice enough even if her music makes me wanna hurl most of the time. She’s  just really easy to make fun. And I enjoy doing so (damn you, program of honesty!). That being said, I’ll be the one you make fun of after you hear my connection to that musical masterpiece quoted in the title.

When you have young nieces and nephews and you’re a person who doesn’t want to live in reality, things can sometimes work out in your favor. Like a viable excuse to go to all of the current kids movies. That includes Stuart Little 2. What’s that you say, you had no idea they even made a second one? Well I did and I even saw it in the movie theater with my niece, nephew and my parents. The film features Michael J. Fox(alcoholic!) as the title character, Melanie Griffith (pill popper!) as a canary named Margalo and a naughty cat named Snowbell voiced by Nathan Lane (gay!). Suffice it to say that’s a cast I can identify with. Who knew I’d have so much in common with a mouse, a bird and a cat. Don’t answer that. Anyway we took the kids to Burbank in the dead heat of the summer to enjoy a family film. Burbank, in case you’ve never been, is one giant mall located directly beneath the hottest surface of the sun, Jay Leno works there and they have a Bob’s Big Boy!

At the end of the film, the Celine Dion song plays. La Dion sings as the mouse and bird fly away in a tiny plane which from what I’ve read is the appropriate soundtrack when this occurs. In the dark theater, I watched as the little friends flew off and silently sobbed.  The lyrics of the song and the tender moment coupled with the hangover caused tears to drip down my face. As we’ve discussed, I am a crier, a personality trait my mom attributes to being Swedish and one a shrink I saw for a brief time tried to treat with antidepressants. The point (and I use that term lightly) is that Celine’s song moved me to tears. Embarrassing for the alternative kid who grew up to be an insufferable music snob. As far as the film goes, don’t ask me what the plot was. It was 77 minutes long and the last time anyone saw Geena Davis. That’s all I know.

But my history with “I’m Alive” doesn’t end in the dark movie theater. I continued to hear it on several booze shopping trips at Rite-Aid, which was also across the street from my house. Like I’ve said before, that apartment was an easy place to be a drunk. The song no longer made me cry but I always noticed it and sung along with it. I’m not going to get into a line by line analysis of the song here.  (You’re welcome) But let’s just say you can count on the lyrics  rhyming  “I’m alive” with “wings to fly,” “all my worries die”,  “I can touch the sky”and “I’ve got pink eye.” Okay,  maybe not the last one. Yet as corny as these lyrics are the song still sort of affects me. it reminds of a time where I didn’t know what real hope looked like. It reminds me that the summer I saw Stuart Little 2 was also the summer before I turned  30 and my drinking and drug use had wreaked some serious havoc. I was promoting a night and spinning records at a club in West Hollywood. Often times I would pay bands, tear down elaborate decorations, settle up with the bar and coordinate plans for the following week all in a blackout. I’d leave with people and not tell my boyfriend or the others I came with. It started to get out of control but I was knee-deep in a fabulous scene so I couldn’t see that I needed to fly away too.

I heard that song during my first year of sobriety at a Walgreens, because apparently Santa made some sort of deal that Celine’s music must be played at every drug store chain, every hour on the hour for the rest of time. (Insert evil French Canadian laugh here). Again, I chuckled and hummed/sung along. But what was lost on me then was that the song at that moment should have become my theme song. Because for somebody like me could have been killed by his craziness, “I’m Alive” was beyond ironic. It was brilliant. And I didn’t even need a talking mouse or canary to figure out how lucky I was to be just that.

And now you’re back from outer space

Sometimes you haven’t blogged in awhile. And sometimes you wanna use part of a Gloria Gaynor song as your title when you finally do blog again. And sometimes you just want to post a disco ball version of the Death Star because late at night it seems to make sense. This, my friends, is one of those times.

First off, I feel like I’ve been in outer space. My mom came to town, my play opened and social obligations exploded. All blessings and quality problems. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was, I am exhausted. My chronic manageable condition, HIV, really takes a whooping on long stretches where my life is go, go go. I feel like a car that’s run out of gas on the freeway and waiting for Triple A.  And yet being really busy keeps me happy and out of trouble. For the most part. My other manageable condition, alcoholism, needs treatment too. I haven’t been to a meeting in almost a week and it’s time. I started to act like a bratty bitchy teenager with my mom earlier and had to check myself. It wasn’t her. It was me. Bitch just needs to get to a meeting. So that’s what I’m doing before I hang out with the family in the afternoon. The extreme highs and pressure of opening a play and putting myself out there have kinda kicked my butt. But I’m so happy! And it went so well and I’m so proud of the work.

Overall, I’m thrilled with finishing something and not letting fear cripple another creative project. But more on all of that later next week. I also want to blog about songs that save my ass, talk about poor Demi Moore and my own Nitrous experiences, and other sparkly, scary, life affirming stuff. In the meantime, do me a favor. Turn up some dance music and shake your booty all by yourself. Or sing loudly and horribly your favorite song, preferably a guilty pleasure like the one referenced in the title. Or just be nice to yourself for a whole day. You deserve it. Dammit.