Friday, August 29, 2014

One reason I'm not Republican is because their entire platform seems based on returning America to its alleged former greatness. As the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer says, "It is no exaggeration to say that the Protestant faith, particularly its moral values and its work ethic, made America what it became," indicating that a mass return to religion is required to make this U-turn.

I won't argue that the world is a swirling cesspool of idiots and assholes. However, it's pretty easy to prove there used to be faaar more.

My mail carrier has a cleft palate. Great guy, very friendly, cleft palate. Every time I see him I think, "Ooh, there's a dude with a hare lip. Hey, that's Mike!" I don't mean to be rude; it's just automatic. It's what people were like before political correctness.

I saw Mike yesterday and thought, "Ooh, dude with a hare lip. Hey, that's Mike!" and immediately felt guilty. I decided it was time I parceled out the blame. I mean, at some point in the history of time, a doctor -- a well-bred, upper-class, educated white man -- delivered a baby with a cleft palate. He'd probably treated the family for years, maybe even delivered the mother herself. With heartfelt empathy and a bedside manner honed from years of experiene, he looked at the baby, then looked at the mom and dad and said, "Whoa! Looks like you two are the proud parents of a fuckin' bunny rabbit!"

The mother must have freaked out. Surely she sought out other medical help. Maybe she complained further up the ladder, and brought it to the attention of the American Medical Association. Maybe they convened a committee to discuss the malformation, and eventually they reached a conclusion. "We have looked through all the literature and discovered that this condition afflicts a significant portion of newborns yet has not been given a name. With all the gravity this august body can muster, we're going to call it a hare lip, because c'mon, that kid's begging for a carrot, right?"

"That doesn't seem particularly scientific," the mother might protest. "You're naming a medical syndrome after a subjective observation and offensive slur?"

"Look on the bright side," another doctor might offer. "Maybe he'll get extra chocolate at Easter time."

Then there's Mongoloids. That's what people with Down Syndrome used to be called. With the intelligence and compassion their field is noted for, a doctor declared that a child born with a birth defect looked like somebody Chinese. And for years his observation was gospel. "Pronounced supraorbital ridges, post-orbital constriction, protruding occipitals," a delivering doctor might note. "I don't want to scare you or anything, but how do you like the name Ching Chang Fong?"

WOMAN: What?

DOCTOR: And I thought I'd have to wait until lunch to get Chinese take-out.

Later in life if one suffered a head injury, that person was declared to be a vegetable. Say a young man is hit by a horse-drawn carriage and thrown into a coma. His parents rush to his side, but he doesn't wake up. He doesn't respond. Eventually the doctor turns up to give them the grim prognosis. "I'm very sorry to tell you," he says, "that your son is a vegetable."

The mother stares at him in confusion. "Can you narrow it down? Is he corn? A rutabaga? Oh, God -- don't tell me he's -- " She cringes here as she can barely whisper the words: "Brussels sprouts?"

What were they thinking? Why would a brain-dead person suddenly become a vegetable? Do they now contain extra iron? Do they start bathing in butter? Are they suddenly something you avoid until Thanksgiving comes? It makes just as much sense to say they're now a doorstop, or an enormous rock, or a giant hunk of cheese.

Still, I'm not going to argue with Bryan Fischer. If he says the Protestant faith made America what it became, I won't dispute it. However, I will thank heaven that there were smart atheists around to fix everything they fucked up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yet Another Gay Survey Wants To Tell Advertisers How Much Money We Spend

I got excited when I saw that Metro Source magazine wanted to know what I thought. Ordinarily I delete email surveys, but in this case I'd be happy to oblige.

Metro Source says their obscure gay publication is a "glossy lifestyle and entertainment magazine geared towards the modern metropolitan gay community." Which apparently means pushing overpriced designer shit to insecure boy toys with more money than sense, and reinforcing the idea that gays have carloads of disposable income to heterosexual bigots. For page after page they blather on about the newest trends, whether it's a new wi-fi Blu-ray John Varvatos bathmat or the Gucci Cadillac that comes with a monogrammed Shih Tzu carrying case.

Their "Health" section, naturally, is a euphemism for plastic surgery and electrolysis. One column warns that you need to prepare in advance for your Instagram photos. "The good news is: You don’t need major surgery to look good," though you will need professional help. Um, that's good news? I was hoping I could just dim the lights, or apply the Daguerrotype filter. On another page they insist you'll cry tears of joy after your beard transplant.

The "Gourmet lifestyle" column recommends Paiche, a neo-tapas restaurant where one Yelp user "had lunch for $80 ... and still felt hungry," and another called the prices "elitist and absurd." Metro Source says "there’s no limit to where [the chef] may take his food next," though at $20 for an appetizer I'm pretty sure it'll be driving in a Gucci Cadillac.

When I spotted the survey, then, I leapt at the chance. I wanted to tell them that they're the most irritating magazine in existence, and I read Conde Nast Traveler. I wanted to tell them that their focus on luxury and materialism was disgusting, and that I was much more interested in social reform, income inequality and LGBT issues.

I answered question after question until it dawned on me: They didn't want to know what I thought. They wanted to know how rich and dumb I was so they could sell more advertising. My first tip-off was the list of ways in which they thought they might influenced me. Had I eaten at a restaurant they recommended? Had I stayed at a hotel they loved? Had I bought a car after reading their publication? I wanted to say, "Uh, girlfriend, your infotorials are so sketchy I wouldn't buy lemon Skittles if you praised them." Their list included everything short of "Do you masturbate to our publication?" which again isn't very likely unless one is aroused by $27 guacamole.

I checked "None of the above."

Next came another long list asking what I buy, and how much do I spend. I can read between the lines. I know what they really want to ask. Would I consider spending $3,000 on sandals? What if they were made from baby quail, and had the word PRADA on them? Would they make me feel better than everybody else?

We're one-quarter of the way through the survey when we hit this question: "What is the total amount spent on watches in the last 12 months?" Now, I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that the main issues involving the gay community don't involve whether you're strapping Timex or Tag Hauer to your wrist. That's when I decided to fight back against LGBT commodification. That's when my new persona popped in my head.

I was no longer RomanHans. Suddenly I was Billy Bob Budlacky, an 18-year-old gay man in Butcher Holler, Kentucky. Billy Bob is out and proud, but he hasn't had much schoolin'. The last thing he bought was some Elmer's glue to patch his overalls. He shares a small shack with six of his cousins and he makes $1,400 a year whittling hog calls.

Billy Bob has something to say.

What does Billy Bob drink? The choices lean toward upscale alcoholism but he writes in "Cousin Zeke's corn squeezin's." He's definitely not going to spend "$1,000 or more" for a watch. In fact, he wants to write in, "When I need to tell the time, I draw the numbers one through twelve on my wrist, and then I hold a toothpick in the middle and stand in the sun." This time, though, there isn't an "Other (Please enter)" field. He goes with "I haven't bought a watch."

How many trips has he made in the last year? Well, he nearly went to visit his Uncle Cooter a couple of weeks ago, but he just lives on the other side of the tracks. Are they talking about getting on one of them silver sky birds? He's still waiting til they get all the bugs ironed out.

Spend any nights in a hotel or motel? They break it up into business and personal columns, but whittling hog calls doesn't exactly call for a trip to Vienna.

What types of doctor has he visited? Billy Bob is shocked at all the options. Along with Plastic Surgeon there's three varieties of Nut Doctors. He doesn't need any of them. There's a reason the Butcher Holler General Store has a whole shelf of Colonel Beauregard's Mustard Seed Poultice.

"Do you personally have, or have you had, any of the following ailments in the last 12 months?" The list runs around like Uncle Floyd after drinking bad moonshine, with "Hair Loss" and "Wrinkles" tossed in there with "Cancer." There's no entry for "Yodeler's Throat" so Billy Bob checks none of the above.

The next question is about cigarettes, both regular and electronic. That's a great marketing opportunity -- selling cancer to young gay men. That'll get them perusing those doctor ads! Billy Bob wonders if they make electronic chewing tobacky but just checks "None of the Above."

"Do you rent, own, or live rent-free?" Billy Bob never thought that last one was an option, but he's got one big eyebrow. He definitely doesn't belong to a country club, own a weekend home, or have boat owners' insurance. If his canoe sinks, it sinks. Does Billy Bob own a smartphone, an e-reader, a 4K Ultra HDTV, or a VOIP subscription? Billy Bob doesn't subscribe to VOIP, but he's pretty sure he's hidden a copy of Playgirl in it while killing time at the General Store.

I finish the survey with my fingers crossed. I don't hold out a lot of hope. I know there won't be ads for Gulden's mustard in the next issue, but maybe they'll have second thoughts about $329 letters that let you spell your name on your living room wall or "bespoke chairs" named after dudes like Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood who'd tell them to fuck off.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Breaking news from the Los Angeles Times. What, you wanted to read stuff written by journalists? Christ, grandma, you know we've got electricity and smoothie bars these days. Keep checking back for more fitness band news updates. This is probably a spoiler alert, but tomorrow three guys in Sacramento get erections!

As I watched the MTV Video Music Awards an inescapable thought lodged itself in my brain. It wasn't "What kind of idiots watch this crap?" or "Holy God, is Beyoncé still on?" No, it's this:

Why don't men empower themselves by showing off their penises?

It seems like just a few years ago both sexes were ashamed of their bodies. They thought flesh was a tool of the devil and a doorway to sin, which subsequent TV movies and Prince records seemed to confirm. But then women took a giant leap forward with the suffragette movement. Thousands of determined young women fought and suffered and went to jail solely for the right to bounce their tatas in our face. They tore open their high-necked crinoline petticoats and shook their Jello pillows and said, "THESE ARE MY BOOBS AND I WILL NOT BE ASHAMED, ESPECIALLY IF YOU STICK DOLLAR BILLS IN BETWEEN THEM!"

Just think -- what a radical notion! It totally transformed the world. That was the heterosexual version of Stonewall, except instead of equal rights now women have dresses held on with double-stick tape. Just imagine what the world would be like without this grass-roots activism! I don't know about you, but my life would have been a hollow shell without the underboob and sideboob trends. Baywatch would have been a show about a has-been German singer with muffin-top.

Men, though, didn't have an equivalent movement. Ironically, it's because they were too busy working! They didn't have time to burn their underwear and chant slogans, or parade back and forth down Main Street with their proud penises straining at cantilevered pants. Their shame remains intact up until today, which explains why despite my fervent emails Jockey still hasn't added bungee cords or jelly pouches to their underwear. While women's red-carpet costumes frequently consist of two post-its and a Dorito, men still hide their best parts in shame, and not just the bent or pencil-dicked ones. They have to console themselves with thoughts like God made them and God doesn't make ugly, or at least they're 94% of the employees at Facebook. Is that just a wrinkle or is Idris Elba happy to see me? I don't even need to see the picture to tell you what the answer is.

Of course, this dark cloud isn't without its silver lining. I speak, of course, of Jon Hamm, who is doing what Rosa Parks would have done if she'd had a huge rod and giant sack. He proudly and unashamedly shows off his genitalia to a chorus of offended catcalls. But let's make this perfectly clear: His penis isn't the problem, though if he's like me there are six-week periods where it is. No, it's the bitter people looking at it. (Though even some on our side quibble that he could take a stronger stand. He seems reluctant to say "I'm proud of my penis!" let alone when he has a drip spot on the front of his pants.)

So while there is a faint hint of sunrise on the horizon, we need to face reality. We men will have to bow to penis shame for many years to come, contenting ourselves by showing off intellect and initiative and drive and determination and other traits you can't fake even if you suck off a plastic surgeon. I personally think there won't be full equality between the sexes until we turn on the VMAs and say, "Holy God, would you please get all of those giant dicks out of my face?" Which sadly won't be happening any time soon.

J. LO: What is that? Why are you painting a red stripe on me? It looks like my hips are on the warpath.

STYLIST: Girlfriend, it's supposed to be a muscle.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I hope there's a sequel called, "Why Does Daddy Look Like Mommy With A Mustache?"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

According to TMZ, Mariah Carrey and Nick Cannon are filing for divorce. They say she's mad that he publicly admitted he had sex with Kim Kardashian, but a little bird tells me the split is over the names they gave their kids. They went with Nick's picks, Moroccan and Monroe, but Mariah never forgave him for ignoring her choices, Yes ... It's the Diva Sharlamayne Marie and Introducing Me I Used To Be A Baby Mm-hmm.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Last night I had a very weird dream. I was walking to the neighborhood grocery store when I noticed a road I'd never seen before. I thought that was odd: I've lived here for years, so I knew all the streets, but somehow I'd missed this one. I decided to follow it and find out where it went.

The road was very quiet, like nobody else had found it either. There weren't any signs, or houses, or cars -- just trees on both sides and wide, clean sidewalks. As I continued walking it sloped uphill as it curved and gave me a nice view of the city.

I'd only been walking about ten minutes when I saw a brightly-lit building in a dark clearing. The low wooden forms flanked the grassy hills, and crystal lights sparkled through the full-length windows. The building was surrounded by shiny, expensive cars, and every once in a while attractive people in fashionable clothes would exit to the sound of flirty giggles.

I'd barely set foot inside when a handsome waiter approached. "Good evening, sir," he said. "Can I get you something?" I told him I didn't have any money, and he laughed. "Everything is on the house tonight," he said.

He brought my drink with a smile, happy to serve me, and I wandered around the posh club. Everyone I bumped into either said hello or made small talk or flirted with me, the women all fit and pretty and the men v-shaped and well-groomed. I'd decided that I'd stumbled into heaven when I realized I had to use the bathroom.

I left the flagstone-lined lobby and passed a walk-in fireplace, spotting a bank of wooden phone booths. That's probably where the bathroom is, I thought, but instead there was a single elevator. The doors opened as I approached, so I got in.

"No harm in looking," I thought, so I gave a random button a push.

The doors slid closed and the elevator descended, and when they re-opened the scene had completely changed. Wood and brass gave way to linoleum and plastic. Craftsman lamps became dangling lightbulbs. Framed artwork became ads for stores that were opening in the fall: Pretzel City! Sandy's Sweater Shoppe! Aunt Frannie's Funnel Cakes! Zala 21, designer clothing knock-offs "For when you need attention even more than you need money!"

I poked my head out, drawn like a gay moth to a Kmart flame. Overweight families stomped by like zombies holding cotton candy and helium balloons. They'd pause at the Couch Potato store to watch a giant-screen Mario Batali braise a porterhouse, then stumble to the food court again.

I turned to go back to the elevator and discovered it wasn't where I thought it was. Had I turned a corner? In its place was an Anthropologie store lined with antique French armoires painted with giraffe spots and 1920s beaded handbags that had been turned into Victorian soap hammocks. I took a couple of steps in the direction I thought I'd come from, but as the scene turned utterly unfamiliar I realized that I was lost.

Three chubby, middle-aged men in oversized shorts and sideways baseball caps were headed straight at me. They clearly knew their way around. "Excuse me," I said to one. "Do you know of a really nice restaurant around here, I think upstairs?"

He screwed up his face in an effort to think. "The people are attractive," I added, trying to jog his memory. "They wore real clothes. Nobody's fat?"

He shook his head and prodded his pals toward the Plastic Container Store, where a sign prompts shoppers to "Ask Us About Polycarbonates!" Feeling increasingly agitated, I ran up to a heavily-rouged woman whose hairstyle looked like she'd propped a monkey on her head and snipped around it with pinking shears. "Where is the elevator?" I asked.

"Elevator?" she repeated. "This mall only has one floor."

"No, it doesn't," I insisted. "There's an upstairs. Where women know how to apply makeup, and hire professionals to cut their hair."

Her eyebrows furrowed and I realized I'd hit a dead end, so I ran over to two girls in crop tops. Each wore tiny velour workout shorts with words spelled out on the butt in Swarovski crystals: one read SLUT, and one read WHORE.

"Excuse me," I said with increasing desperation. "I've got to get upstairs!"

"Upstairs?" one replied after struggling to decipher the odd concept. "What's upstairs?

"It's incredible," I said, with a mix of envy and desperation. "Everybody's stylish. People are intelligent. Nobody's even remotely gross."

They both stared at each other as I realized they probably weren't familiar with the neighborhood. I wandered toward a booth that laser-carved positive affirmations into decorative rocks and realized I'd reached the end of my rope. I spun around but all I saw were chubby legs and the drips of multicolored dipping sauces. "I HAVE TO GET UPSTAIRS!" I yelled. "HOW DO I GET UPSTAIRS?"

A mom-type approached in boob-high jeans, zipping closed a plastic baggie full of Froot Loops. Behind her she dragged three hyperactive kids on the ends of retractable plastic leashes. "What's upstairs?" she asked.

I randomly waved a hand around me. "Cocktail chatter! People with jobs! Kids who aren't going to be on Jerry Springer in about six minutes!" She scowled at me, and suddenly I noticed everyone was headed toward me. Their wide faces were frozen in anger and determination, so I started to run. "IT'S INCREDIBLE!" I yelled. "THERE ARE NO IDIOTS! KIDS ARE ALLOWED TO ROAM FREE! THERE ARE GROWN MEN WHOSE PANTS REACH THEIR SHOES!"

Despite the fact they could barely move their legs, the crowd was gaining on me. Wielding their corn dogs like weapons, they cornered me in the scented bathmat aisle of Pier 1. Just as an oversized Skecher was about to kick me in the ribs, I woke up shaking, drenched in cold sweat. It took me two hours and three cups of tea to calm down, and to stop expecting zitted faces to pop up in every window. In my next dream a theater burned down that was playing Star Wars so at least I woke up with a smile on my face.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It's Unanimous: A White Guy With Ethnically Diverse Sidekicks Will Save The Universe

So, I went to Los Angeles for eleven days, fifteen years after I'd scurried off to New York. I'd made a list of all the incredible things I could see there that are exclusive to L. A., but unfortunately I was never in the vicinity of the burrito machine.

Why did I go? A myriad of reasons. I like to travel, I have an inquisitive personality, and in the summer New Yorkers can sublet their apartments on Airbnb for roughly triple the rent they pay. It's ironic: for once in my life I was knee-deep in money, but I wasn't in New York. It's like being able to date anybody you want as long as their last name is Kardashian.

Three days after my first Airbnb guest arrived I got this sweet note from her:

Hi there. This could be something unrelated, but i just wanted to let you know that i have a lot of bug bites on my legs that seems to coincide after sleeping in the bed last night. Have you had any problems before?
Isn't that a nice little note? It's so thoughtful that a woman from Montreal would bring BEDBUGS to the attention of a longtime NEW YORKER. It's like Vladimir Putin lecturing Martha Stewart on the many uses of maple syrup.

If you're not from these parts, you should know this is the worst insult you can fling at somebody. Worse than asking a fat person if they're pregnant. Worse than asking your dinner host if they picked up tonight's entrée from White Castle. Worse than asking somebody if they're sleeping with Charlie Sheen, because they won't be dealing with his descendants forty years from now. It's not like bedbugs are constantly on our minds: only the fourteen times a day we see an abandoned couch, chair, pillow or mattress on the sidewalk and we run screaming to the other side of the street.

Of course, my guest thoughtfully doesn't blame me. Those bleeding welts could be "something unrelated." Like, maybe she has a condition that causes tiny insect bites to spontaneously generate on her legs whenever she sleeps at a stranger's home. No blame! The phenomena could just "coincide" with her touching my bedding, like gunshots just happen to accompany P. Diddy on his ventures out to nightclubs.

In my head I composed a similarly-thoughtful reply:

Hmm. This is certainly a quandary. I mean, you say you have bug bites, which causes alarm. But you don't mention the "philosopher" that you met here to shack up with. Are his pasty, pigeon-thin legs similarly bitten? I'm sure you'd have told me if they were. Or do you think my bugs just attack people from Montreal? I wouldn't blame them, but I've tried poutine.

Have I had any problems before? Yes, now that you mention it! The last time I slept there! My legs were dotted like my grandma's bingo cards. I crossed my fingers and hoped they all died, but apparently I should have taken further action. Live and learn!

Instead, I just sent this simple note:

Did you go up on the roof the night before? New York is rather renowned for its mosquitos in August, which is why all the smart people leave.

Your friend in Los Angeles,