Friday, January 30, 2009

Pepsi Kicks Ass . . . Yet Again

Well, apparently Donald Wildmon and his American Family Association are calling for a boycott of Pepsi because of their recent advertisement featuring a gay protagonist, and also because of Pepsi's financial contributions to the No on 8 campaign.

I can't wait to see the AP story of Wildmon caught with one of the young male interns.

Here is the fun ad:

In fact, I was actually meaning to blog about this before, but on the last day of finals, there were Pepsi promotion workers all over downtown SF handing out the new Pepsi Max.

Now bloggers everywhere have been throwing a fit over the new Pepsi re-design, blathering about how awful they think it is, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I am going to be a voice of dissent here and say--you know what? I don't hate it. I actually kind of like it. It's clean, slick. It feels kind of grown up in a way. It is, of course, doomed to look dated in a short while. But that is the nature of Pepsi--reinvention, young, etc., Coke is the classic, the maintstay.

I would never have tried Pepsi Max without that promo guy (who generously gave me two), but I really like the taste. Nice and sweet. Not artificial. I would definitely drink it again, especially after finding out they are out there pissing off guys like Donald Wildmon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Right Questions

"A wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions."

-Claude Levi-Strauss
(NOT the jeans guy, he was a French anthropologist)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Four-Day Weekend in So Cal

A return to my land of birth, in the most unexpected of contexts--when Shane invited me to come with him, I was dubious. We have really been dating for a very short while. Shane allayed my concerns. He helped me realize there was no good reason not to go.

That is how I found myself on Friday afternoon, holding Shane's hand, in front of the ticket counter of Virgin America in SFO.

It was such a bizarre experience being back in So Cal. The FEELING of So Cal was palpable. San Francisco has always been a puzzle to me in that it feels like California, but it definitely does not feel like the California in which I grew up. It is difficult to quantify. Southern California, however, no matter how long I am gone from it, will always feel familiar and comfortable, even while others may perceive it as preening and stressful.

The weather was ridiculously idyllic. While I heard about freezing temperatures back East, the weather of So Cal which invited tank tops and shorts seemed to mock the nation and declare that while it may be part of the U.S., it still dwells in its own reality.

In fact, L.A. seemed to be putting on its best colors, as if to beguile me on my return, to seduce me back to its tucked valleys and bumper-to-bumper traffic. While L.A. is obviously warmer in the winter than most places, it is never THIS warm. The skies were insanely clear, barely a tinge a smog showed, which, in fact, just served to give the sunsets of my weekend a beautiful blood-orange stain.

It felt good to be back in So Cal. It is my home. It always will be. Others may judge it harshly, but there is something of it in me, and I will always understand it in a way I think only those who have grown up here can. Perhaps I will indeed return after my post-graduation is complete. Sometimes I yearn to be back behind the wheel of a car, and, in some ways, I think it would be wonderful to begin my adult life in the place where I saw my childhood end.

*As a note: I often refer to "we", this would include some really wonderful people I met in L.A., including Phillip, Donna, Jess, Kevin, Ronny, and Larry.



If you have never flown Virgin America, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It is a completely different sort of flying experience. The staff is wonderfully friendly and everything is run smoothly and orderly. Every aspect of the experience pays careful attention to a sleek, sexy, yet fun aesthetic experience, down to the lounge-like lighting and Mac-echoing white interior.

However, perhaps the best part of the whole Virgin experience is: in-flight TV!!!! At every seat, individual monitors with your own remote control and great selection of in-flight movies, cable stations, and premium entertainment. You can start watching (or listening to music, or eventually read literature) the minute you sit down, before you leave the ground, until you unbuckle your seat belt and leave the plane.

When we were flying back, there was a considerable delay on the runway. Shane and I didn't mind one bit. We were busy being entertained by Stephen Colbert.

Virgin seems to really respect that their passengers want a pleasant, human experience with a sense of some autonomy in their choices.

I have always been a Southwest devotee because of their low-fares, consistent and prompt flights, and friendly service, but Virgin definitely gives it a run for its money in my loyalty.

The delightful Virgin safety video; worth watching if you've never seen it:

The Factory
The main factor in our trip to L.A. was a business meeting for Shane, and added bonus was that it was the birthday of his good friend, Phil. We actually spent the weekend at Phil's West Hollywood apartment. It was in the perfect location, central to everything, right off of Santa Monica Blvd.

After a small get-together of friends and an opening of gifts, we all walked over to one of the big gay dance clubs in West Hollywood: the Factory. I was pretty freakin' delighted. The space was huge, with the lounge area distinctly separated from the dance floor. There was enough room that even at its most crowded everyone was able to dance comfortably. The floor was air conditioned!!! No suffocation or icky, slick neighbor rub-ups required. There were a few fun stage areas, which I have always enjoyed, and which we made good use of. The music was seriously awesome. One of the best pop mixes I have ever heard.

The men, in general, were much more attractive than in SF, a fact which repeatedly astounded Shane. I am sure part of it is that L.A. is a natural magnet for aspiring models, performers, actors, and fashionistas, but I think also, in L.A., surrounded by constant reminders of being the nexus of glossy entertainment, one cannot help but feel like one ought to look as best as one can. If you can have perfect skin and teeth, then why not? In SF, to be consciously concerned about one's appearance in such an aspirational way can sometimes be perceived as trite and lacking substance. There are no such ridiculous pretensions to depth in L.A.

This is not to say there is no depth in L.A. To the contrary, I often find myself exasperated by the lack of true depth in SF, whether because the people I encounter are trying to mimic edgy New Yorkers or they are satisfied in having checked all of the boxes in the requisite list for being a progressive intellectual. It is my humble opinion that while Los Angelinos may aspire more to tanned, magazine cover physical perfection, they also have a certain degree of greater curiosity and openness to new ideas. This could, however, be a reflection of civic patriotism (which would be a surprising twist for me).

I digress.

After the club, we swung on the swings in a nearby park, while Shane and Kevin and Ronny belted every song known to man, from Master P to TIna Turner to the musical RENT.


Of course we had to go to the beach. The next morning, er . . . afternoon, we headed over to Will Roger's beach. It was great.

When I found my love for the ocean and beach in San Francisco, it was something of a dark and terrible love. I found the ocean expansive and liberating, and at the same time terrifying and potentially destructive. I could feel myself being sucked in by the sirens of the broad blue-grey sea, a song of promise of liberation and possibility, and was frightened of being submerged and crushed under the heavy surf, or worse of just choosing to plunge myself to my own annihilation in its cold, shark-infested depths. It was a chilling love. I have only shared these feelings with Tai.

I found the beach in L.A. to so much gentler and happier. It's rolling waves seemed to beckon a reverie of meditation; the sound of surf setting a rhythm like a metronome and a fullness of sound like the singing bowls my friends and I used to use in the mountains of Utah. The sun was happy and the sand warm. I was delighted to see people playing games and families riding bikes.

After spending about two and a half days attached at the hip with Shane, I needed a break from people and took a walk down the beach.

I was amused by the preening swimwear of the tanning gay men of Will Roger's, but more than anything I was relieved to have some time to make a meaningful connection with the Creator. Surrounded by people, I had little time for prayer and contemplation, and I needed some time to get centered.

I was so grateful for that time on the beach, and I was grateful to discover a different character to the sea. I also found the most beautiful piece of sea glass and an intricate, beached sea plant. I returned the fragment of plant to the ocean and kept the glass as a souvenir.

After the beach, we had margs and Mexican at a beachside restaurant and headed back to the apartment for some snooze time. Well. I snoozed. And that may have been my cervical undoing. The night before, Shane and I had to share one couch and it threw a serious crick in my neck. I think that second visit to couch slumber did it all in. It's four days and many applications of Ben-Gay later, and my neck is still killing me. I guess your mid-20's are for realizing its time to start taking care of yourself.

So. We had the Mexican and a siesta and then went to the Abbey. The largest club have ever been to. Period. It was also to nicest gay club I have ever been in, with various themed rooms. It was definitely THE place. You kind of just have to see it. But I will say two things: lots of hotties of both the male and female persuasion (all lipstick lezzies feel free to flee here) and (for a guy who does not like fruity drinks) a REALLY good berry martini.

The night wrapped up with our second game of Scrabble that day (Shane and I make a pretty good Scrabble team, I think) and a 2 am hunt for a 24 hour Walgreens for some Icy Hot (settled for Ben-Gay (no wise-ass remarks, please)).



Within easy walking distance, in WeHo (West Hollywood), is an IHOP! Of course I had to drag us there. In SF, there is one IHOP, which is about a 45 min trip from my house. My college days have forever left a soft spot for IHOP in my heart. I think I may have started the conversion process for Shane.

In addition to the easily accessible IHOP, there is also a Trader Joe's and 24 Hour Fitness in WeHo. Were I ever to move there, all of my needs would be centralized to a three block radius. Could you possibly ask for more?

In WeHo, there is also the famous Pink Berry, a local frozen yogurt chain, at which the venerable Lindsay-Paris-etc's have been spotted by paparazzis proving that they are just like "us". The yogurt was good. The pomegranate mix-ins better. There is an even better frozen yogurt place in SF just south of Bloomingdale's.


We spent the rest of the day take a car tour of L.A.

We went to the Pueblo downtown, where for 85 cents I was able to practice my Spanish and take a trip down memory lane with Limon 7 and a tamarind candy.

For those of you who grew up Latino or in Southern California in the 90's, you know exactly what I am talking about.

I took two licks of each and wondered why on earth I ever wanted to torture my taste buds or my gut so badly.

We ended our tour at the Los Angeles Observatory. It was breath-taking. I am hoping Dawn posts the pictures she took on Facebook. You could see the whole twinkling city of Los Angeles all the way out to the sea. Every color in the rainbow was elegantly represented in the landscape and the sky.

I was also astounded by the incredible throng of people there! Families and couples and students all milling to the top of this mountain for an educational experience and an opportunity to witness natural beauty. It renewed my faith in humanity a bit.

I was, however, very irked by a few of the looks Shane and I received. We held hands a few times and put our arms around each other as we admired the sunset. One woman openly stared wide-eyed. It made me angry. Why should me pursuing a simple happiness be a radical political statement?? It was an unconscious gesture of affection, an extension of myself and Shane. I looked over the terrace and spotted a straight couple in far more amorous behavior. No one batted an eye lash.

It will be a wonderful day when the dream which started our nation will be at last fully realized, that people will be free to pursue their peace and happiness in an environment of mutual respect and protection without the false sense of need to foist upon others our personal dogmas. This goes for the godless liberals as well as the heartless pious.

In any case, if you are in the L.A. area, I strongly recommend going to the Observatory. I can't believe I never went as a child. It is a beautiful, panoramic view, and the architecture is really wonderful. I was particularly captivated by an interior dome mural.

Electric Karma
I am still searching for Indian food in San Francisco to match the Bombay House of Provo, UT. In the meantime, I have found Electric Karma in West Hollywood. To quote an annoyingly ubiquitous television figure: "Yum-O!"

Also captivating were the Indian music videos projected onto the rear wall. I paid scant attention to the dinner conversation as I was spell bound by the beautiful women, the elaborate, cheerful choreographies, and the hopeless cheese. It was like Bollywood and United Colors of Benneton slept together and had a shared wet dream.

My House

Of course no visit to glamorous gay Hollywood is complete without attending a hot, new club opening. Which is how, after a quick stop over at a gay producer's swank fag-stag pad, we ended up in line for the opening of My House--a club which was anything but homey.

Vast and multi-level, with a semi-outdoor courtyard about about 6 bars, My House was quickly filled with the creme-de-la creme . . . ahem of aspiring, gay Hollywood networkers. For a brief while, the electricity in the air was intoxicating, invoking my competitive spirit, and inviting me to new grounds to try and conquer in this glossy, yet surely challenging battlefield. After a while, though, the mousse and spray-tans seemed to approach the absurd and it lost some its luster.

Nonetheless, it was fun. By now, I had also finally taken to action a note from the lesson book of Brandon and brought some ear plugs along to the club. I may be an old fart, but at least I will be an old fart who can hear. Clubs in general are way too loud, and the ones in WeHo seem to be vying for the honor of who can cause spontaneous ejaculation through sound wave stimulation alone. I, for one, know I felt the bass rattling my rib cage more than once.

It was in this club, in one of the lounges, exhausted from several days of partying, that Shane proposed we finally make honest men out of each other and call this thing official. Since we have been acting like exclusive boyfriends for awhile anyway, and since that has felt easy and natural, I said "yes." So I now have a boyfriend again, at a time when I really wasn't expecting it.

I am delighted, of course. It just feels nice to be connected to Shane and it brings a smile to my face when I think about it. The more time we spend together, the more we get know one another, the better we seem to fit. We grow increasingly comfortable with each other, and I have strong hopes things will go well. Much remains to be seen, but for now, we can at least proceed with certain questions answered and focus on more important things--like who gets the remote.


This was our last day in California. I will sum it up briefly. It was the day of Shane's meeting. It appears to have gone well. I was able to spend some more time for personal reflection as I listened to my Ipod and walked through the center of West Hollywood. It was nice.

Kevin and I did some shopping at the Beverly Center. I was delighted/vexed to definitively find that the shopping in L.A. is exponentially superior to the shopping in San Francisco. Living amidst skinny Asians, skinny fags, and skinny hipsters, leaves me scant options for affordable clothing.

We had our last meal at In-N-Out. While there is an In-N-Out in San Francisco, it is somehow different when you don't have to wear a cardigan and can see real palm trees while you enjoy your Double-Double.

We spent the flight back basking in delightful political punditry (courtesy of Virgin Air TV) and an interesting, yet slow BBC documentary on the role of religion and politics in America.

I thought it was a kind of perfect way to end the trip: a documentary on the two things that both tie us together and at times tear us apart. Shane-I am glad for the discussions we can have; even if I am right, 90% of the time.

*My camera has been on the fritz, I am afraid I have to scour on line resources for visual fodder.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Camus Quote on Charm

Okay, okay. I am finally getting back into my groove after the holidays. In FINALLY got to wake up and read the papers, like I usually do. It was great. So i am way behind on blogging. I have a list an arm long of things I need to blog on.

I am going to start using my blog not only to provide updates on my life, but as a reservoir for myself of things that I find interesting in culture and as way to perhaps process some observations. In that vein, I came across this quote. I needed to put it somewhere so I wouldn't lose it. I am putting it here, so I will always know where to find it.

"Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question." - Albert Camus