Monday, April 07, 2008

What Started As a Fun Weekend Took An Ingmar Bergmann Kind of Twist...

This weekend, The Joans played the Flesh Hungry Dog Show, a monthly queer-themed rock showcase at Jackhammer in Rogers Park (NOT Edgewater, as the gay media insists because Rogers Park makes them too squeamish and isn't fashionable enough--yes, gay snobs are rife in Chi-town). We've played the show several times before, but this one was by far the best and most fun we've ever had playing it.

This was partly because of the other bands sharing the bill: Bric-A-Brac (featuring our friend Johnny C.), which boasts a sound "like listening to AM radio in your parents' basement in 1964," opened the bill and their sound lives up to its reputation. Very retro in a good way! Also, finishing out the bill was Jinx Titanic, a high-energy queer punk band that was playing their last live show in their current incarnation. The place was packed! I saw lots of friends, a few neighbors from my building who've been coming to the show each month, and a few old friends Chicago Gay Men's Chorus (which I sang with for eight years, up until three years ago).

I had driven to work Friday since I knew I was picking my drums up at Taylor's. Since we did our sound-check first, I was able to leave right afterwards and run home (six blocks away, which takes two minutes to drive) and take a shower and change into my performing clothes). I made a pot of coffee and smoked three cigarettes (hey, we all have our rituals) and headed back to Jackhammer. There was still lots of parking! AND I got a 9AM-6PM meter, so I didn't have to pay anymore! Life was good...

Taking the drums down and loading them in the car at 2AM was not so much fun. But I was able to get a decent night's sleep and take a nice walk Saturday (the weather was beautiful).

*****************************************

I had a sort of painful epiphany this weekend, too.

Saturday night I'd visited a friend and we watched "Relax...It's Just Sex," a gay-themed romantic comedy from 1998.

The movie had Mitchell Anderson from "Party of Five" (which was hot property back then so people knew who he was), Jennifer Tilly and Serena Scott-Thomas (Kristen's sister). The others were folks I hadn't really heard of and don't care if I do again.

It was one of those navel-gazing, meaning-of-love-and-friendship, tripey romantic thirty-something comedies that were really popular back in the mid-late 1990s, when "gay" was becoming chic and America was still prosperous. People had nothing important to worry about, so they worried about love and urban angst and being cutesy. Indeed, Mitchell Anderson as Vincy (yes, not even "Vince"--he's too cute for that, so he has to be "VincY") spends most of his time worrying about whether one of his revolving-door tricks is "the one," or if any of them are.

The catalyst is a dinner party at Tara's (Jennifer Tilly) house. Javi (Eddie Garcia) revealing to his friends that he's HIV-positive in a sort of "It's My Party" kind of atmosphere. Vincy has brought along his trick-du-jour, Buzz (T.C. Carson), who he provokes an angry discussion by claiming that HIV has nothing to do with AIDS and that the whole AIDS epidemic is a blanket stigma that society has used to blame and persecute gays (apparently, he's not a big reader of scientific text). But after the dinner party, he's seen hooking up with Javi as Vincy and Tara overhear.
(Well, at least the son-of-a-bitch is a man. That proves it.)

Javi has reservations, but Buzz assures him that there's nothing romantic between him and Vincy (maybe he should have told Vincy, ya think?), and ultimately Vincy gives them his blessing.

The whole thing just seemed so inconsequential and was treated in a cutesy, revolting way that gave me acid indigestion. Probably because there was not a SINGLE PERSON IN THIS MOVIE THAT I COULD RELATE TO. It takes place in L.A., so everyone's thin and beautiful, two things that I've never, ever been. (And I've never had any desire to even visit L.A.)

The movie had big aspirations to be a Woody-Allen-esque introspection festival, as evidenced by the annoying vocal jazz score than played underneath throughout.

Nothing happens and nothing happens, oh-Vincy's-in-despair, what's he going to do with his life? Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a gay bashing: Vincy and Javi are set upon by a pack of yahoos in a beat-up Toyota in an alley immediately after leaving the other friends after an evening's hanging out. The two are beaten by the yahoos until Javi's screams bring the other friends running to assist, dispersing the bashers. Then, in a moment of blind rage, Vincy turns the tables on the lone remaining basher and commits an act of violence that shocks and horrifies his friends. This harkens back to an earlier revelation that he was once bashed in college and of course the authorities did nothing about it (reassuring to know some things never change).

So now he's good and angry, and his amorous ruminations have ended! DANH-DANH-DAAAANNNHH...

It was instant gravitas after a lengthy period of levity, and it sat in my mind like a heavy meal sits on an empty stomach: not well.

Through all this, though, there were two characters that I really DID like: Jennifer Tilly as Tara, a straight girl who holds the whole group together, and Lori Petty as Robin, a butch dyke who's in a new relationship with lipstick lesbian Sarina (Cinda Williams), who's newly dumped by bi-sexual Serena Scott-Thomas. Confusing? You bet. But I cared more about those two characters than any of the others, because they were the only ones who seemed to care about anyone besides themselves.

Jennifer Tilly really had acting chops in this one, which we see as she faces her own personal tragedy near the end. Of course, all the friends rally around her (it's the LEAST they could do, for fuck's sakes), and we are left with Vincy's narration (he IS the writer in the group, God help us) and the sense that life will go on.

It left me with weird mixed feelings. They were hard to identify at first, but then I recognized them: nostalgia and envy. As much as I rolled my eyes inwardly at these characters, there was a time, years ago, when I was first coming out (around the time I moved up here and of this movie, actually, which I never saw until Saturday) that I wanted to BE one of these people. I guess that's why I came here: I wanted to LIVE that hip urban lifestyle and have goofy Seinfeldian conversations and obsess about absolutely nothing at all.

First the nostalgia: it seemed like nothing happened during the 90s. I drifted along on a sense of powerlessness, waiting for something to happen, until I realized (too late, really) that I had to make it happen. And so I moved to a bigger city, still unattractive and pushing 30. Wow! Talk about your great ideas. By the way, some of us don't get any more attractive as we get older...did you know that? I didn't either, but boy I do now!

Then 9/11 happened, and the whole world changed. We will probably never have a period of life where we can feel peaceful and concentrate on love ever again. Any movie or play about such a thing will be retrospective and set in the past...

Then the envy: I missed out on that phase of life. I don't have a "group of friends" with a shared history that I can hang out with. I certainly don't have a bevy of beaus lining up outside my revolving door like Vincy (for obvious reasons), and I don't really do anything fun (except for The Joans). I work and I go home. And I watch the people around me on the train with a growing sense of disdain at their pettiness and rudeness, and a panic engulfs me as I realize our growing age gap and that these little shits are the ones who are poised to take over.

Can we just hang it up NOW??

When did I turn into my grandmother?? Fuck!

And I'll be 40 in June. Double-fuck. Triple-fuck. This is all happening way too fast. I keep getting this nagging feeling that life is nearly gone, and I barely got a slice...

Fuck, fuck, fuck...

(There! Now I should be at about 55% on the Cuss-o-Meter.) :-)

*Sigh* Ah well...tomorrow is another day closer to the Grim Reaper. Yeah--another day! :-)

8 Comments:

Blogger American Girl said...

Hang in there, Aaron. Eleven years ago, I was at my friend's 40th birthday party. As I was just a baby at the time, I asked her how she was handling the Four O. She said, "When I turned thirty I was finally comfortable with other people. Now that I'm forty, I'm comfortable with myself." Since I happened to age in soap opera time, I found she was dead on in her assessment. Sarah

5:58 PM  
Blogger Gregory said...

That's a heap of angst, kid.

I find that I don't have much advice anymore. But I'm reading, and I'm here. I'm also available to hang out and obssess about nothing. (Or I will be after wednesday)

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now Aaron, they'll be no talk of the Grim Reaper. I'll tell you what my grandmother used to tell me when the neighborhood kids called me ugly. "You're pretty on the inside, dear". As for 40 being old, Uh, I don't think 40 or 50 is old for a human. It would be very old for a head of lettuce but very young for a mountain but for a human it is just right. Ed

6:28 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Sarah: Thanks, I'm sure I'm just going through a "patch" that hit me when I saw a movie that came out when I was in what should have been my "prime." I've had lots of friends tell me that 40 was when they finally discovered who they were and they felt comfortable no longer trying to be what everyone else wanted. I suspect once I actually GET there, I'll be OK... ;-)

Gregory: Thanks! And thanks for sticking around for the angst! It isn't always like this...we'll have to obsess over nothing sometime--it'll be fun to do that again!

Ed: I don't really think 40 or 50 is old, so you mustn't mind my rant. I think I'm just doing a little navel-gazing myself lately (it seems to have collected a lot of lint!). Once I have something really nice to show for myself, I'll be OK...I think I'm just tired by life's circumstances right now. But I'm certainly not the first person to go through these things! And others have lived to tell about it...

Thanks all!

7:23 PM  
Blogger BC said...

Oh God, 40 is so hard. Especially if you aren't in a relationship, like I wasn't. I ate and smoked and ate for a year. I also went to London and Rome. But, you get through it. I owe it to all my friends who died of AIDS in the 90's to live a healthy and happy life. I do it for them, cause they can't. You're not unattractive, Aaron! Just stop that, you tranny hooker.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Tranny hooker! Say, there's one of thew few professions I haven't tried since I've moved up here...perhaps this could give me the personal and professional fulfillment I've been longing for!

10:09 AM  
OpenID afod said...

40 in June? Welcome to the club! I bet turning 39 was harder for me than turning 40 will be in June. It seems like this whole year I've been fretting about where I've been, where I'm going, etc. We'll have to "yuck it up" and celebrate in June. But you really shared a lot about yourself in this post and now I know what makes you "tick." Forget about 40. It's living until you're too old to live that you should be worried about. ;-)

"...provokes an angry discussion by claiming that HIV has nothing to do with AIDS..." I had my share of people to deal with regarding this claim when I was a boards manager on Gay.com. Some of these claims are "way out there."

11:02 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

The thing that upsets me most about those claims is how angry ande vehement some people are in making them. I mean, really--what's in it for them? What's at stake for them that it's SOOO important we believe there's no connection? They always come off sounding as angrily irrational as Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly.

Yes, yucking it up and celebrating is definitely on the agenda for June! You're on...:-)

12:32 PM  

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