Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Midnight Rainbows With Charlie

How credible is the message "life can be good" when there is so much turmoil in Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma and Sudan? To be sure, there are times when I feel that living with HIV is just a walk in the park after navigating the landmines of the day's depressing news. On Sunday night I was sitting in a restaurant in Times Square with my good friend Charlie from Hawaii. Charlie and I met three years ago outside a gay bar in Manhattan, eight months after I was deported back to America. He was in town for the US Open. Our eyes met and we got to talking. We agreed to go see matches at the Open one day. It was the first date I had been on since learning I was HIV+. He was so nice, so good-looking, I thought I was in a dream. He wasn't shy about holding my hand in the stadium or showing the kind of sincere affection that made your heart start beating a little quicker. But it was when we found ourselves alone that I really got nervous. I wanted to tell him about my status. I felt myself caring about him. So I found a way to force the words. And he found a way to take me in his arms and tell me it was all right. I felt so protected, so accepted. Charlie went back to Hawaii, but we kept in touch. I went to see him in 2005. Rainbows everywhere--in the sky, on the license plates--it was a gay man's paradise. Looking out the window at the midnight rainbows of Times Square, with Charlie next to me, I felt the world could be peaceful and beautiful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

From Iran to Singapore, With Love

Just yesterday Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was at Columbia University claiming that the phenomenon of homosexuality did not exist in Iran. This clueless remark was one I heard voiced by older people when I lived and worked in Asia--many of them also thought that homosexuality was an abomination confined only to the West. Contrast these sentiments with those of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who went on record last Friday in support of retaining Singapore's laws that criminalize sex between men, insisting that "that's the way many Singaporeans feel." So which is worse--the ignorance on the left or the insouciance on the right? That's a question I often ask myself as I come into contact with people (many of them gay) who either don't know anything about HIV, or don't care to know anything about HIV. While a cure would surely wipe out the virus, I'm not so sure it would eradicate my question.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Living Life in "The Bubble"

In Chelsea last evening, I saw a terrific film from Israel called The Bubble. The movie has supposedly stirred a lot of controversy for its love story between a gay Israeli and Arab couple and its decidedly anti-war stance. Mixing gay sex and politics might be a typical cocktail on the evening news here in America, but in the Middle East it's an explosive combination. This was one of those movies where you do more than just care about the main characters, this was a movie where you really wanted to be their friends: hang out with them in their apartment, be active in their community association, rave together at the beach. Lulu is the idealistic, romantic straight girl living with two gay roommates, Noam and Yali. They are a happy family who make room for Noam's new Arab boyfriend, Ashraf. It's unrealistic (by New York City's cynical standards, at any rate) how quickly and passionately the two take to each other, but their love makes you realize that the present is all that is important in love. In the end though, Noam and Ashraf prove the tragic point that when it comes to love you never quite know what hits you. If being in love means living in a bubble, that should be enough to tell you how the movie ends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Own Private 9/11

I was living in Asia at the time of 9/11. The 14-hour time difference meant I was walking into my local video shop as I often did in the evening. The clerk usually had the latest stuff playing on the store's video monitors, so when I saw the sight of the World Trade Center buildings collapsing I casually asked what the movie was. He looked at me grimly and said it wasn't a movie. I hurried back home and tried to call my family in NY. The lines would be tied up for days.

Everyone has their day when the world just collapses. Afterward, everyone is forced to reckon and remember. For me, 1/1/04 was the day I was deported back to America for being HIV+. For the first few years on the successive 12/31s, I turned out the lights, hid under the covers to block out the merriment and just cried myself to sleep. Strangely, I found myself seeking solace in the cold, gloomy skies the following morning. The past few years, however, while I haven't quite been able to get out and find a New Year's party, I do find myself awake. Glad to be awake. Making an accounting of how I feel my outlook on life has changed. How I have tried to make a difference in the world. Slowly but surely, what used to be a time of grief and solitude has turned into something more reflective, more peaceful. This is not to say that I don't find myself grieving about having lost my former life. I still grieve. And at the oddest times. The sounds of Belle & Sebastian in Starbucks today made me long for the streets of Seoul. Southern All Stars takes me back to Taipei. Paul Smith stirs up memories of Tokyo.

I hope everyone who lost someone on 9/11 will eventually make it to another landscape. One where there are no collapsing buildings. No smoke and fire. No cries of anguish and panic. A landscape where the grass is gentle and the water runs clear. A place where you can meet the person you lost. As if you had never lost that person in the first place.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

US Open Fashion Notes

Poor Maria only got to wear this red beauty, a tribute to the Big Apple, for the first week of the Open before she got bitten in the third round and spit out in three sets by an unheralded Polish player. While the dress, beaded with hundreds of Swarovski crystals in front, combined the best of form and function, in the end it was Maria who was seeing red.

Bethanie Mattek struck again, and not with her forehand either. The Minnesota girl with the game, the thighs and a whole lot of chutzpah showed up at the US Open in a leopard print. The ensemble caused such a stir the tournament's head referee was forced to make a ruling. And while he didn't go so far as to call it a fault, he was clearly dismayed by the sight of all that animal flesh. Grrrr...

The New York Times gave Roger a black eye concerning his evening outfit, proclaiming he looked like he was channeling Johnny Cash. On the contrary, the color added even more mystery to a guy that none of the other players have come close to figuring out.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way to Jones Beach...

The far end of Section 6 of Jones Beach is, as any self-respecting gay New Yorker knows, the rainbow zone where brothers and sisters gather together behind shady sunglasses to scope out the pecs and buns and richly packaged sausages. (Me personally, I could never spend $300 for a pair of swimming trunks.) Last week, my friend and I took a late morning train from Penn Station (it's a $15 round trip purchase on the green-colored Babylon line, which includes the bus you take to the beach when you get off at the Freeport station.) But before we boarded, brimming with anticipation, we stocked up on food and water and trashy magazines. I purchased the latest issue of the Economist. I opened up the cover and the first advertisement was courtesy of Chevron, the energy company, which read (between the lines) as follows:

The fact is, the vast majority of countries rely on the few energy-producing nations that won the geological lottery, blessing them with abundant hydrocarbons (lucky Middle Eastern bastards...) And yet, even regions with plenty of raw resources import some form of energy. Saudi Arabia, for example, the world's largest oil exporter, imports refined petroleum products like gasoline (fuckin' idiots don't even know what to do with all that oil...)

So if energy independence is an unrealistic goal, how does everyone get the fuel they need (bomb the hell out of Iraq), especially in a world of rising demand (seize control of their oil distribution network), supply disruptions (300 killed today in another suicide attack), natural disasters (screw Katrina victims and just get those oil rigs pumping again), and unstable regimes (ding dong, Saddam is dead, Bush is a lame duck pre-si-dent)?

True global energy security will be a result of cooperation and engagement, not isolationism (another surge in troops for Iraq, please...) When investment and expertise are allowed to flow freely across borders (send us your weary scientists and engineers, and no, we don't need any more sand-logged Mexicans...), the engine of innovation is ignited (file that damn patent), prosperity is fueled (ching-ching!) and the energy available to everyone (in New York City and Los Angeles) increases. At the same time, balancing the needs of producers and consumers is as crucial as increasing supply and curbing demand (we're gonna gouge drivers at the pump because we can, and what the hell are they gonna do about it?) Only then will the world enjoy energy peace-of-mind (the world of oil executives who just took home a $200 million Christmas bonus.)

Succeeding in securing energy for everyone doesn't have to come at the expense of anyone (just everyone in Africa.) Once we all start to think differently about energy (more is more), then we can truly make this promise a reality (hell is where the fuel burns eternal--we'll see you there.)

And they hadn't even called our train yet.