Archive for May, 2013

FOOD FOR THE JOYBODY: The Gift of Desire

May 20, 2013

Last month I gave a talk at Living Soulfully, the monthly gathering the Center in New York City for friends and associates of Easton Mountain Retreat Center, where I’ve taught for many years. I adapted the talk into an article which has been published by the online gay newspaper EDGE. The gist of the article is this:

As a gay sex therapist, I spend a lot of my working hours listening to people talk about the nitty-gritty details of their sex lives. I meet a lot of smart, soulful, intelligent men frustrated at their inability to find love and connection. One of the themes that comes up again and again has to do with asking for what you want.

“Ask for what you want” is advice that’s easy to give but often strangely difficult to practice. What gets in the way of identifying our desires and sharing them with others? Growing up gay, we probably learned early on to view our deepest desires as shameful, socially unacceptable, or at the very least subject to other people’s negative judgments. No wonder we’re a little gun-shy when it comes to letting others know what we want, especially in the realm of love and erotic play.

You can read the whole article online here. Check it out and let me know what you think.

gift of desire

Culture Vulture/Photo Diary: 5/16-18/13

May 19, 2013

5-17 any day now still
I watched the DVD of Any Day Now, Travis Fine’s indie feature starring Alan Cumming as a drag queen in LA who becomes surrogate parent for a kid with Downs syndrome whose mother is a junkie. Everything about it sounded contrived and cheesy and yet the movie grabbed me. It’s set in 1979, so Cummings’ character Rudy’s signature number in his drag act is France Joli’s “Come to Me” – lip-synching it directly to a handsome stranger in the bar launches a love-at-first-blowjob with Garret Dillahunt, a recently out closeted lawyer who becomes an overnight activist in support of the self-made family he forms with Rudy and Michael, who’s left abandoned in the apartment next door when his mother gets busted for drugs and prostitution. Cumming’s American accent wanders from Brooklyn to Boston, and Dillahunt is stiff as a board. But Isaac Leyva (above with Dillahunt) as the doughnut-munching, doll-clutching highly alert lump of a kid is heartbreakingly wonderful, and Cummings/Rudy’s instant identification with and protection of him makes the movie ridiculously more touching than it has any right to be.

5-17 rain room exterior

5.17.13 Beautiful sunny day in Manhattan. An art-viewing day. I started out trying to experience Random International’s new “Rain Room” at MOMA but even at 10 AM it looked like an hour-long wait to get in, and I resolved to return better prepared with breakfast, patience, and/or companions.

5-17 dave shades

I met Dave Nimmons at Chelsea Market, where we scored yummy spicy pork belly sandwiches at Num Pang, a Vietnamese sandwich joint with nary a Vietnamese face in the kitchen (our friendly order-taker told us she’s Dominican) and took them out on the High Line to eat and people-watch.

5-17 highline skyline

Our gallery crawl began by chance at Luhring Augustine, looking at Philip Taaffe’s psychedelic canvases….

"Imaginary Landscapes"

“Imaginary Landscapes”

"Emblem Painting"

“Emblem Painting”

…on our way to Gagosian to look at the Jeff Koons show. I keep wanting to find something to treasure about Koons’ work. It’s fun but ultimately too shallow for my taste. What you see – gigantic stainless steel balloon animals selling for $30 million – is all you get.

We stopped at Andrew Kreps to see “The Book of Hours,” Christian Holstad’s sprawling show of witty, whimsical, ultimately mysterious sculptures of everyday objects (bees’ nests, baby strollers) and fantasy creatures knitted out of shredded bath towels (with Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren labels clearly visible).

5-17 holstad 5
5-17 holstad 4

We dipped into Matthew Marks to see the Ellsworth Kelly show, which took less than a minute.

5-17 matthew marks gallery

Gallerygoing inevitably refreshes the eye for the art that appears everywhere in public, whether man-made…

5-17 gallery stroller

Or natural.

5-17 w21 st

Our afternoon ended with tea and croissants at La Bergamote on Ninth Avenue.

5-17 la bergamote

The evening’s destination: the Public Theater, where Andy and I started out at Old Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance), Richard Foreman’s latest Ontological-Hysteric production. Foreman’s work, which I’ve been seeing with interest since 1977, is not for everyone. His plays are surreal, dream-like, aggressively non-linear and non-narrative, literally ephemeral in that the sentences and their meanings evaporate as soon as they’re spoken (in that, they bear a strong family resemblance to Gertrude Stein’s work). This one is not one of his most substantial or enjoyable. At the heart of it is a kind of romance between Samuel (Rocco Sisto, dressed as a jester or playing card come to life) and Suzy (Alenka Kraigher, a beautiful coquette) but even to say that is to suggest more narrative than the play contains.

old fashioned prostitutes
It is a piece of performance art, perversely chaotic yet precisely executed by the actors (Sisto and Kraigher are excellent) and the characteristic Foreman visual feast of sound, light, and ever-morphing set. I chatted a little beforehand with Richard, whose Sunday routine was recently the subject of a New York Times feature, and he mentioned that he has agreed to direct a production of Brecht’s In the Jungle of Cities at the Public Theater. Also in the audience, the legendary downtown theater duo Linda Chapman and Lola Pashalinski.

5-17 don and matt alber5-17 matt andy no flash

Andy’s friends Randall and Mostafa met us for tangy Tibetan food at Tsampa, and then we returned to the Public for a meet-and-greet in the mezzanine with the handsome and talented singer-songwriter Matt Alber.

For his show at Joe’s Pub, Alber generously shared the stage with Celisse Henderson, a singer and budding songwriter with great chops a little nervous about making her NYC debut. When the cord dropped out of her electric guitar, she got so flustered she forgot the lyrics to the song she was singing, but when she admitted as much and started over from the top, she won the audience over. Alber, the finest gay singer-songwriter to emerge since Rufus Wainwright, performed an array of his own songs (“Old Ghosts,” “Tightrope,” and of course his best-known song, “End of the World”) and covers (Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody” and Keane’s “Bend and Break”). And for the encore he surprised us with a gorgeous song about New York City that he’d just written the day before.

5.18.13 We were all set to trek up to New Haven to see Robert Woodruff and Bill Camp’s stage adaptation of Fassbinder’s In a Year of 13 Moons at Yale Rep but Metro North trains weren’t running and the buses were all full. So we stayed home and watched on DVD just about my favorite movie ever, Nashville. I very rarely see movies more than once, but this was my sixth viewing, Andy’s first, and it was fun to watch him squirm through Ronee Blakley’s breakdown onstage, admire Lily Tomlin’s performance, register surprise that “I’m Easy” is a song written and performed by Keith Carradine rather than Jim Croce, cringe at Geraldine Chaplin’s “Opal from the BBC,” and figure out why the guy with the violin case never brought it out to play his instrument. The movie holds up as a great piece of ensemble filmmaking, and Blakley’s performance in particular continues to impress me. I love that Justin Vivian Bond has recently recorded her song “Dues,” first heard in the movie in this poignant performance.

5.19.13 Private advance showing of Steven Soderbergh’s film about Liberace, Behind the Candelabrabased on the memoir by Scott Thorson, who was Liberace’s boy toy for five years. By now you’ve probably heard about the impressively ballsy performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon and the script by Richard LaGravanese, all of which deserve praise. You may not have heard about the terrific cameo appearances by Scott Bakula, Debbie Reynolds, Dan Ackroyd, and — most outrageous, — Rob Lowe.


Lynn Hirschberg conducted a thorough, intimate interview with Douglas for New York magazine last week, and the week before that, the New York Times ran a long fascinating piece in the Sunday Styles section about Thorson, who’s currently incarcerated in Reno.

Quote of the day: ADVICE

May 19, 2013


My advice to you is as follows:

one, learn meditation practice;

two, empower yourself with your own emotions –

don’t be afraid of grief, or heartthrob;

three, be willing to expose yourself and be a fool,

to not be intimidated in the presence of presidents

and rock stars, but come on as a gentle, living,

flesh and blood human being.

Don’t treat people as icons.

If what you’re doing is considered by all your friends

as too far out, think thrice –

so you don’t go outside the bounds of sanity –

check it out.

Get a good education in reading the Eastern and Western classics. Avoid animal fat.

Be a slave to love.

Wear your heart on your sleeve.

Twenty rejections in a row are wiped out by one acceptance.

— Allen Ginsberg


In this week’s New Yorker

May 19, 2013

new yorker innovators
At first glance, I didn’t think I had the time or interest to absorb the key features in the annual Innovators issue — but I did. They’re all worth it:

* Susan Orlean’s American Chronicles piece on treadmill desks, which made me want to buy one;

* Ian Frazier’s “Form and Fungus,” about a couple of dudes disturbed by all the crappy non-biodegradable Styrofoam in the world who figured out how to grow an all-natural substitute for plastic out of mushroom tissue;

* John Seabrook’s “Network Insecurity,” basically on the hopeless dream of cybersecurity;

* Michael Specter’s “Inherit the Wind,” about another pair of young guys who’ve figured out how to generate electricity from wind energy using kites, as opposed to the wind turbines that even green energy supporters like cartoonist Lynda Barry have catalyzed huge populist activism to oppose;

* Nathan Heller’s “Laptop U,” about the budding field of MOOCs (massive open online courses), which all the big schools are getting into — despite my instinctive revulsion against it, this phenomenon apparently does have some pedagogical advantages; and

* Rebecca Mead’s Reporter-at-Large story, “The Sense of an Ending,” which moved me to tears several times with its reporting on specialists at the Beatitudes Campus, a retirement community in Phoenix, who have found compassionate, humane ways to treat elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The iPad…excuse me, Tablet edition also features a hilarious interactive version of the Christoph Niemann cover illustration (above). And I’m going to let Ben Marcus read his story “The Dark Arts” aloud to me.

et tu killbot

Playlist: iPod shuffle 5/16/13

May 17, 2013

“Home,” Barbara Streisand
“Smoke Dreams,” Mildred Bailey & Red Norvo
“Memories,” David Guetta featuring Kid Cudi
“Animal,” Conor Maynard
“Easy to Be Hard,” Jennifer Hudson
“Rich Kids Blues,” Lykke Li
“Beware Our Nubile Miscreants,” Of Montreal
“Low Expectations,” Calexico
“Our Love Is Insane,” Desmond Child & Rouge
“A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But For Very Good Reasons,” Sufjan Stevens
“Now That I Know Who I Am,” Nona Hendryx (Precious OST)
“Caught in the Briars,” Iron & Wine
“Alabama Song,” Justin Vivian Bond
“Happy Lovers at Last United,” Morrissey
“Temecula Sunrise (Live at Other Music),” Dirty Projectors
“Covers,” The Sea and Cake
“3:14 Every Night,” Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (The Social Network OST)
“This Lamb Sells Condos,” Final Fantasy
Now his massive genitals refuse to co-operate
      And no amount of therapy can hope to save his marriage
“High Living,” Toro y Moi
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Aretha Franklin with Keith Richards and Whoopi Goldberg
“We’re Here to Tell You,” Duncan Sheik
“Without You,” Lizz Wright
“I Wish It Was Over,” Teddy Thompson
“Ghost Blues,” Loudon Wainwright III
“San Luis Obispo,” Scissor Sisters
“Montauk,” Rufus Wainwright
“El Nowm,” Natacha Atlas
“Dark Love Kill (Kanye West vs Hypnogaja vs La Roux),” DJ ShyBoy
“Get You Up in Peace,” Bry Webb
“Dark Matter,” Bjork
“Towards the Sun,” Alexi Murdoch
“Boy Cried Wolf (Live),” Patti Smith
“Human,” DIIV

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