Monthly Archives: April 2007

My Own Private River Phoenix

boogieboard0.JPGWhen I was little I was fat and loved to go to the beach. The past couple of days I have been staying with my aunt and grandma by the beach in Connecticut, home to the media archive of all things me. I have three previously used personal hard drives down here, all the items recovered from my childhood home, as well as the full collection of family pictures, from when my sister and I were born until the present. Rarely do I explore these media. But tonight, after salad, pasta and bread, I did.

Looking at the aged photos, the first thought that crossed my mind was how hard I was running when I left the East Coast for Chicago after high school. I must have forgotten, or been blocking, the memories of the beach. Now, that was a hard time for my family and me. I clearly couldn’t take living with my mom and her problem any longer, and remembering the good times at that point could only have been bitter and cruel. I cried when I left my house for the drive to Chicago because even for just that one day my mom couldn’t bring herself back.

boogieboard1.JPGThe Midwest is young and restless as I was. It has its lakes and its peaks, but they are about as different from our ocean and mountains as can be. For one, the Great Lakes are fresh water, not salty like tears, and the peaks are steel skeletons dressed in concrete and glass tuxedos. I was about as conscious of being lost when I got way out there that anyone so lost can be. Anyway, I think what triggered these thoughts was the Gus Van Sant film I watched last night, late and alone. That would be, “My Own Private Idaho.”

To be honest, I didn’t enjoy watching this movie. Nor did I find River Phoenix to be convincing as a young gay prostitute. He seemed positively straight to me. Keanu Reeves (whose first name means “cool breeze” in Hawaiian and is one of my favorite actors) I thought played his part magnificently, but River seemed out of touch with the femininity required. Shit, he wasn’t even subtly feminine, which may be a West Coast thing, correct me if I’m wrong. I wouldn’t characterize River Phoenix in “My Own Private Idaho” as typically gay.

The ideas the film presented that dealt with the search for a lost mother and homosexual desire towards a heterosexual friend dwelt in my mind long after I had switched off the TV. In fact, I very well may have opened up the photo boxes tonight on a quest to aid my mind’s grappling with those topics. I was looking for pictures of my mom before she got sick… Sparing too many details (hopefully), I found what I was looking for, kind of.

boogieboard3.JPGI was shocked to see my chubby self on the beach circa fifth grade without a shirt on. After that year I deemed my big belly and mipples too embarressing for public consumption, and swam always with a shirt on. Several of my favorite shirts lost all of their color from repeated dips in salt water and chlorine.

And there was my mom, looking healthy and smiling wide. Bottle of rose in the open fridge but not drinking. She was happy and beautiful and I miss her. I guess you could say that in those boxes of photos I discovered a newfound admiration for, or at least empathy with, River Phoenix’s performance.

I know for sure that this once fat kid still loves to ride the waves.

Cold Spring Harbor

Thank you, lobster roll and Lady C.

Boy of Summer

North Shore beach felt right. Lady C brought me up and bought me up a lobster roll. Delicious! Took off the teeshirt and let it all hang out… Real hot, but I can say goodbye to Hollywood.


It’s A Bono-Nanza!

My sister is going to love this… our Wednesday dinner service (which is a live act itself) was interrupted by a visiting Bono impersonator. He strutted into the bar in full flamboyant Bono character, leather jacket, green shades, Euro man-purse. As if the podium and bar area of the East Coast Grill were the stage of Giants Stadium, and the ten or so people working the floor and hundred or so “regular” customers were screaming teenage throngs. “I can’t live, with or without, this delicious Martin’s Margarita. On the rocks, with the salt, one life you got to do what you should.”

“Its a beautiful day,” sang Dave G, the gruff Bear (what’s the Bear 411?) as he twirled past me into the Lava Lounge aka Grindhouse. I didn’t have the slightest clue that Bono was at the bar, because I was working hard in the crawlspace Lava Lounge, isolated from the spectacle. “Arthur,” Dave asked me, “Would you ever want to work as a Bono impersonator?” Without hesitation, I told him no. If I were to pull a “You, too,” and impersonate a member of U2, of course I would be… The Edge.

So the funny part for me… yes, I had to get involved somehow. Lady C was waiting on Bono at a table way up front by the grill… I was way in the back with a group of thirteen. Half of my group was Japanese, and not very good with English. The other half was British wildboys, who were using all kinds of English I’d never heard before. I go back there, a twinkle in my eye, and ask the boys, “Who wants me to take your picture with Bono?” And the trouble started.

Dave suggested that I go over to Bono’s table and ask him politely to come over for a picture. His suggestion was that I employ the opening line, “I know you’re off duty, but…” Now Bono was definitely not off duty. He was even speaking in a strange, stilted Irish brogue, which was weird. But that’s exactly what I said when I went over, and he said yes. Bono stood up, pulled on his leather jacket, donned the shades, left the Euro man-purse with his female companion aka bag handler, and followed me to the Grindhouse.

This is where I started to laugh uncontrollably. The boys were hesitant at best about having their picture taken with Bono, but he didn’t know that. Mostly this had been organized by me for my own enjoyment, and for a laugh for the staff. So Bono enters the Lava Lounge, and as he does so takes a deep breath and puffs himself up like a pelican. One single British fellow begins slowly clapping. Everybody else is silent, stunned. Is that really him?

Bono walks over to the table of thirteen and asks how everybody’s dinner is. The Japanese can’t answer, but one British guy says something like, “Swell Jimmy,” or some kind of British slang, and Bono says back to him something like, “Whattaya havin’ then Jakey?” Brit: the halibut. Bono: I swear to God he asks him, “Did you get it just for the halibut?” What is this guy, moonlighting as an Arthur impersonator with the cheesy one-liners? “They call that the fish so nice they named it twice,” was on the tip of his tongue.

After one picture, and believe me the Japanese were all about the photo, Bono became uncomfortable and left. I am screaming and hysterically wailing now, on the floor. The Japanese are still kind of posed for another photo, although the Brits have lost interest. One of the Brits had a highly stylized mohawk. I took another picture, just for the halibut. And scene.

East Coast Pep on Marathon Monday

More than speaks for itself.
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When Its Fun, Its Done

artIHOP.jpgLatenight, Lady C and I went to a birthday party in a warehouse in Allston, at the storage space practice place of the band Halston, to commemorate the birthday of lead guitarist Carl. They played their two most loved songs, “Lights Away” and “Its My Night,” both of which can be found on myspace in better quality than whats to be found here.

But only I have the raw unfiltered live video, snitches! Enjoy the power of the triforce; Carl, Art and Dan playing live right here. That just happened. After the lovin’, my ladyfriend and I needed refreshment. The picture is of me, post flood, at the neighborhood IHOP, with more local federales than the Mexican border… Greasing up my intestines like new oil in the engine of a deathproof muscle car. Young Kurt Russell…

Savvy Hair (The Hair Knows, Just Ask Questions)

savvy1.JPGRelenting on my clenched no-cut hair strategy, yesterday I went to the hairdressers in the neighborhood for a trim and got the service one expects at a Cadillac dealer. The place is called Savvy Hair Design and is notorious in the neighborhood for being a rehabbed storefront painted entirely deep blue. I think people are scared of the whole damn thing. They shouldn’t be. Inside you will find an oasis of hair cuttery unrivaled from Cambridge to Somerville.

The affair began on Monday with me making a phone call to Savvy, leaving a message and detailing my problem. To bring the reader into the fold, somewhat, I will explain now that I was having medical problems with my long locks. Never having had locks this long, I was disturbed and even distressed that in the shower the long side pieces would cover up my ear, and being wet, create a flap with suction that could muff my entire ear and totally distort my hearing. Every time that happened in the shower, I freaked. Couldn’t hear a damn thing with that wet muff there!

savvy3.JPGSo in the message that I left on Monday (when Savvy is not open), I detailed the medical problem in a truncated manner, hung up, and thought nothing further. The very next day I check my messages and Savvy has called me back and left me one. It is Helen on the message, talking about how she feels the pain of my distress, and how she would properly address the stress. Very professionally, I like. So I call Savvy.

This time I speak with the owner. I actually have video of this phone call, if anyone is interested. Its not that funny or relevant, or you’d see it here. The funniest part is when I am describing my “medical” hair problem and the owner is like “slow down” and I roll my eyes. There, I ruined the video for everybody. Now forget it. Anyway, I began to get the full impression that everything is going to be okay. My mind, overwelmed by hair problems, begins to relax, and I make a hair appointment and then go play basketball.

I lose at H-O-R-S-E, but tie at Around the World, shower and change my clothes, then walk down into Inman Square for my scheduled hair appointment. I show up at Savvy Hair and I am the only mofo there, which is no problem because I have enough hair for a small mob. Helen is ready and gets a cape on me. I feel good to be in the chair in the hood. And I’m not worried about events taking too long because we discussed my work scheudle on the phone. Besides, my work is across the street. I am easy.

savvy2.JPGHelen starts a conversation about ringtones and in particular, compliments me on my ringback tone. She has written down the message from the company, which says, “Please enjoy the music while your party is being reached…” that plays when you call my phone. I tell her that its a song I paid for by accident, recorded by “Ghostface Killah.” She continues to compliment me and says that it sounds like I am someone very important person and rico suave because I have a ringback tone. Instantly comfortable, the street attorney kicks back and awaits the scissors…

She has a story about Ghostface that I simply must try to replicate, though I may butcher it. One time, Helen says, she was on a motorcycle with the owner of Savvy Hair (and to be honest she may be the owner, or they may be an item, or something, I really let my hair down on the detective work) in Harvard Square. The motorcycle pulled up to a van that said, “Ghostface Killah” on the side and she looked up and saw, in the passenger seat, a big black man. “Hey!” she yelled, “Are you Ghostface Killah?!” And the man slowly, calmly, but pleasantly, looked down to her ride and said, “No, I’m King Bee.”

savvy4.JPGWho the fuck is King Bee? Anyway, my lady Helen knows and speaks to me about hair strategy. About the principle of cleaning up the shape, the footprint of the future hair. So that when the damn thing grows into one length, one desirable buttery hair length, it will be uniform, buttery and clean. I totally dig the head session. She cleans up my sideburns and procedes to stick my head in the sink.

I have to cut this shit short (not my hair). The boys no good, and my Wu Tang prints just arrived from California. ***All Photos are the geniusworks of Keek the Sneak***

Film Review “Wild Tigers I Have Known”

Wild Tigers I Have KnownThe film, written and directed by Cam Archer and produced by Gus Van Sant, is the coming out story of a thirteen year old male somewhere in America. Instead of grappling graphicly with sex, as in say, Running with Scissors, the movie mixes in metaphors, comparing the hero, Logan, with a mountain lion, a wild tiger, and a ghost. As a writer and a person who loves to bring special significance to animals, these themes engaged me and drew me into the mind of the main character.

Logan is a junior high school student who knows he is different but is in an isolating stage of denial about why, exactly. From the opening scene where he is shown masturbating to the mental image of two young wrestlers competing on the mat, it is clear that deep down Logan knows he is gay. However, there is the Fear that if others know, they will reject him. Preemptively, Logan draws back from the society of youth and spends most of his time alone daydreaming.

The school that Logan attends has the Tiger as its mascot. One of the major threads of the plot is that there have been mountain lions seen near the school, and everyone is put on alert. One scene of an assemly in the gym had a banner in the background that said, “Go Tigers!” while in the foreground a teacher in a Hawaiian shirt shows students how to react if approached by a mountain lion: show no fear and make yourself as big as possible. The mountain lion may represent many parts of the film, but I thought it was most representative of the fear of coming out.

One of Logan’s recurring daydreams is some kind of romance with Rodeo, a “cool kid loner” at school. About one third of the way into the film they begin to develop a friendship, and Rodeo takes Logan out into the woods to see the caves where the mountain lions supposedly live. The woods and the ocean are the two locations where the fantastic shots and digital editing overwelmed me. Overlapping shots enveloped by localized lighting, inverted images of mountain lions’ eyes, spiders on webs superimposed over tree branches… show why the film won a Spirit Award in cinematography.

As the friendship between Logan and Rodeo continues, Logan increases the frequency with which he locks himself in the bathroom at home to put on makeup and then stare at his pretty self. When Rodeo gives Logan his phone number, Logan puts his face on and calls, late that night, disguising his voice as a woman. The director does not show Logan’s lips moving while he speaks as a lady, and films him in a basement room where hanging bare flashbulbs light up and glow red. They talk dirty on the phone… and Logan calls himself Sophie. Eventually, Rodeo wants to meet. They go to the mountain lions’ cave.

wild3.jpgI am not going to give away the rest of the movie, but I do want to mention one part of the ending which may be a spoiler to some. You have been warned. In one of the final scenes in the movie, the school’s emergency alarm starts ringing, alerting the students that a mountain lion is in the area. All the kids run screaming, except Logan. He walks calmly around the school to a fence, right to where a giant mountain lion is, and just stares at it. Stares through it, completely unafraid. The shot drops to darkness, with the sound of “thump”, and then reopens to find Logan wading into the ocean, waves surging over his sneakers before fading fuzzily into light. I thought for sure they’d killed him off, but…

We then see Logan back in the bathroom with his lipstick, writing on his chest and stomach in rouge, “It Did Not Kill Me.” That part really touched me, and I’m sorry if its a spoiler but it really gets to the heart of what this movie is exploring. Its about the feelings of a thirteen year old coming out into the world, not the hurly burly per se, but the sometimes subtly different (sometimes not so much subtly) experience of a homosexual child growing into a teenager in a heteronormative world. It really reminded me of what I was like at that part of my life, not in that my experiences were similar to the main character, but in that the feelings were similar.

Back when I was twelve or thirteen years old my life was in a real turmoil. I too knew I was different. When I started eighth grade I weighed almost two hundred pounds; by the end of that year I was around one twenty. My mom knew something was going on with me. She’d watched my sister and cousins dress me up in women’s clothes for years growing up, and she confronted me when I was in middle school and asked if I was gay. I’m not gay but I am different. Its too bad I didn’t talk more openly with her. My mom was a hip, hip lady.

wild2.jpgI think it was pressure from my father that shut down open dialogue with my family. He was and still is a strict and ultra conservative Catholic. Being different manifested itself sideways. I dressed exclusively in yellow short sleeved shirts that I got from the Salvation Army. I was obsessed with Asian culture. My friends began to constantly make fun of me, ridiculing how I dressed and my voice. It was not an easy time, and it culminated in several fights between us. In one they ripped the shirt off my back and tried to give me something more straight and preppy to wear… a real collar popper if I remember correctly.

In high school I had girlfriends, but the main woman in my life, my mom, was drowning herself in the bottle and no longer was really there for me. The summer after high school I moved away to Chicago, where after one year I would again get myself beaten up for advances on a straight male friend. Straight as in, he would meet me about halfway, then later punch me in the face because of how he felt. I moved back to the East Coast after my mom died.

This film is a mindful exploration of what it feels like to be different, and I highly recommend it. The mother has a great line, which I will end with, when she is cleaning make up off of Logan’s face, “You know it gets better, right? Everybody hates junior high.”

The Real Deal about the Three

Put the Webby in the dirty sock for this one… and beat it ’til the sock turns pink.

The Ladies Pow Wow

This is what its like in the Grindhouse (Lava Lounge) when Christa and I link arms and take mad orders simultaneously, spinning down the wretched alley from hell. Thats how we do. Then we walk with one eighty, its heavy baby.