Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Faux pas in an Elevator

"I don't want to plummet to my death," I said while standing in an unreliable elevator surrounded by hundred-pound boxes. Moving a friend from one apartment building to another.

Before I explain just how inappropriate my comment ("I don't want to plummet to my death") was, let me describe the elevator. Context is everything.

The elevator was in an old building, a building so old that when it was built elevators were a new concept. You know how you think of elevators? Press a button, the door opens, you get on, press another button, the door closes, the elevator moves to the button-appointed floor, the door opens, you exit the elevator? Yeah, that's not how this elevator worked. I mean, it usually got the button-appointed floor right, but that's about it.

Here's how this elevator worked: Press a button. Wait. When the elevator arrives, you open a door as if you're entering a room which had previously been closed off by a door. Step into the elevator, close door. Press button. Glide down or rise up.

A sort of magic wardrobe, this old elevator. If you were standing on the fourth floor and opened the door without waiting for the elevator, you would be confronted with the gaping void of the elevator shaft. Entering that void would lead to ruin and shattered bones. However, if you entered the door at just the right time, you'd be presented with a tiny mechanically-operated chamber to transport you from one world (the fourth floor) to another (the lobby). Or, you know, you'd just take the stairs. Whichever.

Let me give more context: I'm wary of elevators. Whenever I get into one, I try to work out the right time to leap up just in case the cables snap, the safety-brakes fail, and the thing starts hurtling down a lonely shaft to a dead concrete stop. Jumping up just as an elevator reaches the bottom of its shaft, I'm told, can save your life. (I used to spend all my time in elevators hopping up and down until I was told that 1) it made me look insane and 2) the hopping put extra stress on the elevator's cables, increasing my chances of realizing my worst fear, which was/is being in a falling elevator.)

Wait, no. More context: Accidents happen. One of my dearest friends recently plugged in her hair dryer and set her entire apartment on fire. No fault of her own, but she nearly died escaping the conflagration. Another friend recently woke up with a dead wife in his arms (she'd been alive when he went to bed). No one's fault, but the wife was dead all the same.

So. The move. There I was, in mid-air, in an ancient elevator with boxes weighing more than humans, suspended from a cable, making a statement: "I don't want to plummet to my death." I made this statement in response to a question from a friend I was helping move from one building to another.

"Can we fit more boxes in the elevator?" the friend asked.

"I don't want to plummet to my death," I replied. I also chuckled. Dunno why I chuckled.

The friend shut the door to the elevator. The elevator installed in a pre-War building. The elevator which required its door to be shut manually.

Here's even more context: A few weeks ago, that friend watched his boyfriend slip out of a window and plummet to his death. The friend I said "I don't want to plummet to my death" to had very recently witnessed a loved one plummet to his death.

It didn't occur to me to joke, "I'm hanging by a thread here," which I was since who knew how much weight the elevator could take.

It didn't occur to me to quip, "How many boxes you want to stuff in here," since we are both gay and not accustomed to box-stuffing, and I'm a sucker for terrible bawdy puns.

It didn't occur to me to state, "I know this move must be hard for you since it isn't a move you intended to make. You wanted to move in with your boyfriend who fell out of a window and plummeted to his death."

What did occur to me to say, though, was, "I hope I don't plummet to my death." Because, frankly I didn't want to plummet to my death and the weight of the boxes made me nervous.

The thing about death is that you can't write about it later. You can't explain it. You can't justify it. When you die, you're dead and have no voice. at least not an audible one. It's an experience you have and cannot share. The living see one thing but the dead see quite another.

No one wants to plummet to his or her own death. No one wants to die in a fire, or in someone's arms. Or in an elevator stuffed with heavy boxes. But absolutely no one wants to remind survivors just how lonely death is. No one--me--wants to remind another person just how awful an experience accidental death appears when that other person witnessed it first-hand.

Death is a solitaire experience without the computer or a deck of cards. It's the one experience we all share and the only experience we can't discuss later, over coffee, as if we'd been in the audience of the new Spider-Man musical.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lara Logan is not an 'It' girl

Here's the first paragraph of a blog post written for LA Weekly about CBS correspondent Lara Logan: "Breaking news: South African TV journalist Lara Logan, known for her shocking good looks and ballsy knack for pushing her way to the heart of the action, was brutally and repeatedly raped while a crowd of 200 celebrated the February 11 resignation of 30-year Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak."

Here's the second paragraph:

"Logan was in Tahrir Square with her "60 Minutes" news team when Mubarak's announcement broke. Then, in a rush of frenzied excitement, some Egyptian protesters apparently consummated their newfound independence by sexually assaulting the blonde reporter..."

First off, why is the author, Simone Wilson, using the word 'consummated' to describe the celebration of freedom in Tahrir Square? She used 'repeatedly raped' in the first paragraph--why switch to 'consummated' in the second? "Egyptian protesters apparently repeatedly raped their newfound independence" is more accurate than "Egyptian protesters apparently consummated their newfound independence," surely.

Secondly, "Egyptian protesters"? I'm not sure where Wilson gets her information, but if she knows the identity of the men who attacked Logan, she should turn it over to the State Department, since nothing in CBS News' terse statement indicates that the men were protesters--the statement reads "a dangerous element." Mubarak's goons were wandering the streets of Cairo, attacking journalists--most infamously going after Anderson Cooper--so it doesn't seem to me a logical assumption that the peaceful protesters suddenly decided to turn to rape as a means of celebration. But Simone Wilson declares, straight-up no chaser, that "Egyptian protesters" repeatedly raped Lara Logan in order to "consummate" their peaceful ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

Here's something else I don't find logical:

Strangely, Logan had just been detained by the Egyptian government during anti-Mubarak protests the week before her rape, and was reported as having returned to the U.S. momentarily on February 4.

But she returned, hoping to catch Middle Eastern history in the making -- and fell victim to the chaos of the moment. An Esquire interview with Logan last Friday called her "insane" for making the return trip to Egypt. One chilling excerpt:

But Lara Logan, you see, is not afraid. "There's no doubt in my mind that the situation we were caught in before, we are now arriving into again," she tells The Politics Blog.
Another unsettling discovery for us, in light of Logan's brutal rape, is how viciously she's long been attacked by both right and left bloggers for her no-holds-barred approach.

Strangely, Ms. Wilson, a woman, feels the need to blame Logan for the rape. Which is a habit most people fall into, since most people are determined to encourage fear over bravery. Most people think the rape was Logan's fault because she chose to be in Tahrir Square with her "Hollywood good looks" [Wilson's words].

Or as the average Internet commenter puts it, "darwin missed the boat on this one...americans have become so fucking stupid that they are astonished by stories like this [Logan is South African, not American, btw]... political correctness is to blame for what ever happened to this girl.. she got what was comming to her and is a effin idiot for going there thinking unicorns and roses were going to greet her and keep her safe with unicorn power.."

One wonders if the same comments would be made if Anderson Cooper had been raped, or "consummated," rather than punched in the head.

Fact is, people mistake the talking heads on their TV screen for journalists, and so have no clue what actual journalism is. They've forgotten, because it's been so long since they've witnessed it.

Journalism is not sitting at home, watching television or reading a blog, and having an opinion. Anyone can do those things, which is why Facebook is so popular. Which is why FOX News is so popular, frankly--FOX is just a network of lazy couch potatoes hanging around, occasionally yelling at a camera, just like most Americans. No facts, no leg-work, really; just a lot of talking heads offering commentary, as if they're watching a football game and not the resistance of a country against dictatorship. Americans identify with FOX.

Lara Logan was (and still is) a journalist. When she went to Tahrir Square, she was doing her job. Had nothing to do with her looks, had nothing to do with her sex. She knew the risks, and she took them. She didn't sit at home and play arm-chair quarterback or spin ridiculous conspiracy theories--she went to the source to report her impressions, because that's what she is paid to do.

Too often, we are told to be afraid. We shouldn't be afraid, of course, but we're told that fear makes us wise, that caution makes us brave. It doesn't. Here's what fear makes us: assholes sitting on a couch, watching TV and yelling at the Internet.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kathleen Turner

The table: bottle of beer, bottle of beer, glass of wine, and glass of cranberry juice. Four plates of chicken cordon bleu. A bowl of roasted asparagus. A bowl of roasted potatoes. Four forks, four knives, four napkins, Eight male forearms resting against the four edges of the table.

A pause in conversation. Four mouths twisted into silence. Eight eyes trained on the food.

(Two dogs, a large one and a small one, sniffing about, hoping for scraps, crumbs, sloppy eaters.)

And one attempt to start the conversation: "Kathleen Turner has a disease. A disorder. It's why she's fat now. It's why she now lacks Body Heat."

I was the one who made the conversation attempt. I mentioned Kathleen Turner because the gentleman to my left, Ray, had professed his love of V. I. Warchawski twenty minutes earlier. Twenty minutes earlier, we'd been in the livingroom. Now we were in the diningroom, at the diningroom table, enjoying the meal Ray had cooked for us.

"Oh, she was so hot in Body Heat," Ray said. "Now she's so fat."

"She's our Elizabeth Taylor," I said.

The apartment we were in: Highboys, side tables, couches, recliners, end tables, area rugs. Actual curtains.

The apartment I share with Greg: tablecloth as a kitchen curtain, and a blanket for a bedroom curtain. And a futon for a couch, and a stripped-out computer casing for an end table. And we never eat at a diningroom table: we eat in bed, or at a computer desk, or on a futon with a plate resting precariously on a stripped-out computer.

"Kathleen Turner's doing a new show," I said.

"Oh?" Ray said, placing a forkful of potatoes into his mouth.

"Yeah," I said. "This chicken is amazing." It wasn't amazing. It was good. It was nice. It was delicious. Amazing chicken dances around the edge of the plate before diving into the center of it, like Esther Williams. Ray's cordon bleu chicken was inert amongst the asparagus and the potatoes, confident in its appeal. Ray's chicken was comfort, skillfully prepared.

"Ray and I recently watched War of the Roses," Ray's partner said. "That death scene."

"That death scene," I echoed. "The chandelier smashes to the ground, Michael Douglas reaches out to her with his last dying breath, and she flings his hand away. Then she dies."

Four forks scraped at four plates in another awkward silence.

"This is delicious, by the way," Greg told Ray.

"Thank you," Ray said.

Ray's partner took a swig from his beer bottle. Said: "It's better than delicious." Ray's partner had a scruffy beard and looked like Chris McCandless and occasionally leaned back in his chair to enjoy whatever moment had come upon him. He seemed to be a guy at peace. He smiled often.

"The thing about Kathleen Turner," I said, "is that she combines old Hollywood with new. Back in the day, she was like a studio trooper, you know what I mean? She played to type but she knew how to work the type, the sexy ingenue, the mature Lana Turner type, the brittle Bette Davis type. She could do film noir, she could do rom-com caper. Crimes of Passion seemed kinda Barbara Stanwyck Double Indemnity, right, and Romancing the Stone seems sort of Kate Hepburn anything."

Greg nudged me beneath the table with his foot. Or rather I expected him to nudge me but he didn't--he let me go on.

"So Kathleen Turner did a role Elizabeth Taylor made famous. Both actresses were known to be sexy in their youth but... well anyway, they both played Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."

Ray looked at his partner.

Ray's partner scraped his fork against his plate.

One of the two dogs sniffed my thigh.

"At least she didn't turn out like Sean Young," Ray said.

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