Sunday, March 25, 2007

Racism is in the Eye of the Beholder

One of the people for whom I work as a personal assistant travels, extensively. He has a very close friend who is always the recipient of gifts from these trips. The last time Ken came home from a trip to Paris, he brought a package that appeared to be many small packets of (what could only) be peanuts..maybe candies. My best friend, David, was hanging out with me at work, since he and Ken are close friends, as well. When I came upon this gift I said "These can only be for Adrian" and David looked at me and, together, we both said

"Why are there pictures of Little Black Sambo on there?"

It was offensive.

I remember the book Little Black Sambo. I read it as a child. That was the sixties, even the seventies. I also remember moving back to the states (and, more specifically) back to Texas after graduating from High School in Switzerland. That was 1982. There was a restaurant in Fort Worth called Sambo's and there was a big statue outside the restaurant of Little Black Sambo. I remember being appalled that in that day and age there would be something so racist. I made a very vocal remark upon it that drew bemused surprise from people.

"Oh, yes, that place has been around for years. People love it."

Sambo's went out of business later that year.

When Ken came in from the other room, we asked about the gift. They were packets of peanuts. When you pull each of the packets off of the cardboard you discovered that there was a big size illustration of the monkey seen on the smaller packets. David and I protested that this was no monkey--it was Little Black Sambo. The argument that followed lasted a good four minutes. Ken insists that the illustration is a monkey. We insist that it is a racist drawing. Finally, we had to table the discussion.

It is my responsibility to get Adrian's gifts to him, after each trip. I brought home this latest present and set it on the kitchen table. Pat walked in and looked at it and said,

"Why is Little Black Sambo on all these candy packets?"

The House Protects The Dreamer

It was three years ago... I think. I'm not sure anymore. My book had just come out and I needed to take some time off so I announced I was retiring from photography. The truth is, I retired from everything. Pat said he would pull our cart, solo, until I was rested and ready to work/face the world again. I was unhappy and unsure of where I was going and what I was doing. I spent a lot of time here, at home, just being PatNStephen. I'm not sure I was being Stephen because I was going through one of those times when I didn't know who he was. Did I want to keep struggling as a photographer or did I want to try something else?

So I threw myself into a project, which is always a good idea, a good solution, for me.

I started rennovating our apartment. I began stripping paint off walls, window frames, door frames, the tin ceiling in the living room. I knew this was the answer because Francesca in UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN rennovated her home and, by the end of the movie, was happy. At the start of the film someone said "you're going to be happy again" and by the end of the picture she was. It had to work for me.

After two weeks of stripping I said (not necessarily out loud) "well screw this". It was boring work and it was work with capital letters and hyphens between each one.

So we have been living in unfinished land for three years. Finally, I couldn't look at those awful, dingy, dirty white walls full of holes from old nails and sticky residue from velcro (used to hang artwork). I was, finally, in a place to finish the whole project and, what is more, I saw a theme. My life has been filled with unfinished projects; in fact, I think that I am an unfinished project, a work in progress. So I decided to leave all the half-stripped places incomplete, sand them down, put on finishing touches and make it a theme for the apartment. Each room is incomplete, like me, waiting to be be finished--a work in progress.

Pat chose all the colours for the walls. I chose the trims. We modeled the kitchen after my inspiration, UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. The bathroom just sort of evolved as we went along. And the living room developed out of repeated viewings of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. New artwork given to me by one of my employers helped spruce things up and I dove into the artwork stored in my office for the rest. Then, just to make sure that everything would be perfect, the universe sent our landlord with the news that we were getting a new kitchen sink/counter unit, something we have been asking/waiting for for four years. The old one was falling apart--indeed had no doors on it and was missing the front of one drawer and was bowing in the middle. A mess. He replaced it with a brand new one and, combined with my handiwork, everything is pretty again. It took me a week to paint the kitchen, a day to do the bathroom and a day to do the living room. The other room in our home will have to remain unpainted but it doesn't really matter, since the walls of that room are a (literal!) scrapbook of memories from our lives. The wall hangings cover almost every bit of the walls. All that remains is to either get a new kitchen floor or an area rug to cover the (horrible) one we have. I can live with that, though.

And you know what else? It was true. My prophecy came true. I don't think it (really) had anything to do with rennovating. Natch, there is a strong sense of accomplishment and Pat and I ARE happy with the way our home looks now. But, for myself, inside myself, just like the man in UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN said to Frances Mays "you're going to be happy again".

I am happy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Can't Win Em All

Thought process during this day:

--I have a little extra money in my pocket, I should download some new music into my Itunes to listen to while traveling next week.

--Elliott Yamin has released a cd! I love Elliott Yamin. I voted for him on American Idol.

--I don't like the cover art. I'm hyper critical about cover art, though.
--Nice beat on this first song.

--Same sound on this second song.

--Does anyone use real drums in the recording studio anymore? Is everything electronic and synthesized? It's so sterile.

--Runs don't make a song.

--All these songs sound the same. I wish it were just Elliott and a three piece combo. Him with a piano, bass and drums would be hot.

--Some of these lyrics are pedestrian.

--Why does this sound like so many of the r&b divas and divos? He's a white boy with his own sound.

--Why's he screaming? He's already got the job.

--That's why he's screaming. All these generic, homogenized arrangements are being blared so loudly that he probably has to put his lips right on the mic while singing.

--Song FOR you. The song is called A Song FOR you. The lyric is 'But we're alone now and I'm singin this song for you.' I don't think Leon Russell would appreciate the change in that lyric; it changes to meaning, the intent of the lyric. Song FOR you, not to you.


--Ten bucks and all those gigs wasted.

--Better luck next time. I know I'll buy that cd, too. I just ...


Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I was about to be VERY pissed off!

What have I become? What has happened to me?! I have voted in the last seasons of DANCING WITH THE STARS, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and AMERICAN IDOL--but sporadically. Now, though, I vote for the entire two hours that you CAN vote after AI because I just HAVE to have MORE!!! I must tun on my tv every week and hear what Chris Richardson is singing!

I am not going to say he is the only person I tune in to watch. I love, Love LOVE Blake Lewis. I am IN LOVE with Melinda Doolittle. I am enamoured by Jordin Sparks. And I dig Lakisha. These folks just can't go wrong by me. I think Chris Sligh is a wonderful singer and an amusing fellow and after singing Tell Him in those hotpants and high heels, I think Haley is a doll.


Chris Richardson's recording of THE BOSS has been on permanent replay on my Ipod for a week. Now his latest available download has just been placed in my Ipod. And tonight he was in the bottom two and almost went home! I was actually sitting on the sofa, fearful that this would be his last night on the show. How could I tune in next week and not see him...hear him? Oh, no, no, no. That AIN'T gonna happen. Last night I spent an hour voting for him and an hour voting for Blake. Next week I will do double duty with my landline in one hand and my cellphone in the other. I have become one of the masses.

But I still have my pride.

I didn't vote for anyone on GREASE! YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT!
Please note that I did not take the photo seen above. I found it on the internet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I'm sick.

No, truly. I have caught a bad cold. My boss, Ken, had one last week and he thinks he got it from our friend David (who has been around a lot, helping with the Klotz job) and Ken thinks, further, that he gave it to me. I don't know. I think I got it by working myself into the ground, not sleeping enough and not wearing a muffler when I go out walking. But I can't bear all the clothing one has to wear in the winter time. It's one of the things I hate about winter--aside from the deplorable, hateful, cold and wind; the wearing of so much clothing, to keep you from getting cold, that you cannot feel anything. Your hands get so cold, even inside your gloves, that you cannot feel that when you pulled your hand out of your pocket to get your subway Metrocard, you dropped a twenty on the floor. You are so bundled up that you are like Randy in A CHRISTMAS STORY and cannot move. I don't like it. I do, though, like New York; so I put up with it. I just bundle up as best I can before it is too much.

So now I have a cold.

Pat is filling me with medicines and homeopathic remedies and all that stuff. Fresh squeezed lemon juice, acidophylus, garlic, goldenseal, echinacea, zycam, emergenC, Cold-Eaze, Airborne... All of it. It's nice to have someone to look after you when you are ill. Because I am the biggest baby when I am sick. It is my experience that most men are big babies when confronted with illness. My boss won't let me come to work. I accused him of being scared of catching it. His reply: I had it. You got it from me. I want you to stay in bed and get better. It's funny. It's like having two boyfriends, like running two houses. I get up in the morning and do my housework and office work, then I walk down the block and do Ken's housework and office work. And he and Pat are both devoted to me. It's nice. One needs to be reminded that people care about them. So, while I am sick with this awful cold, I have a lot of time to reflect on having such wonderful people around me to say that they love me.

I've been lying around and sleeping and pissing and moaning about being sick. I pout. When I am not (actively) sleeping, though, I watch whatever I can find on tv. I don't want to get on the phone with anyone (cranky does not look good on me, even over the phone) and I don't want to focus on reading. When I try to work, it is too much for me. So television it is. I watched GREY'S ANATOMY and BROTHERS AND SISTERS (two of my favourite shows) and I watch movies (caught THE WAY WE WERE on TCM) and I see people caring for each other and loving one another. It moves me so that I wrote a piece about the cruelty we heap on each other (it's on my MySpace blog). I'm amazed that I have let myself become a (at times) bitter and angry, sad and depressed person but that there is still this core of optimism, this little bit of sunshine that lives at the center of my being that is still moved by the predictable emotions exhibited on a nighttime tv show or an old soap opera (because let's face it: THE WAY WE WERE is a soap opera that, because of the artists who executed it, is revered as art). I guess I haven't been dragged into the dark side quite as much as I had thought (speaking of which, have you all noticed how STAR WARS and all of its pre and sequels have been on cable ALL THE TIME lately? THAT'S heavenly). I suppose that the roller coaster of life that I have been riding may have taken me into a depressed state in recent years but the mere fact of optimism living inside of me and seeping out at opportune (or even inopportune) moments is something about which I should be happy.

My friend Jimmy has become the person I wanted to be and was on my way to being. He is completely healthy. He rises at five and works out, he eats a completely healthy diet, he has daily spiritual rituals that he practices. He is poised for enlightenment, for success in his life and his work. I got derailed. I know when. I know why. Now I just need to get re railed. Jimmy will serve as a great role model for me. Thank heaven I have people like Jimmy and Pat and oh, so many other loved ones to be my role models when I need one.

I began to cry last night and told Pat that I needed guidance, that I need a Socrates (that is Dan's teacher in the novel and subsequent film version of THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR). His reply? "life is your teacher and the journey is the lesson."

Thank God I have these people, these journeys, these lessons. Without them, I would be nothing, I would have nothing. What is the point of being alive if you aren't going to learn something, at least every week?

This week I learned: wear a g-d muffler when you go out in the cold. And get some sleep, for pity's sake.