Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Tuesdays with Tao: Three - The Way to Wu-Wei

A Doorway to the Way of Tao?

:: Every Tuesday, I'll be publishing one more chapter of my personal re-interpretation of Lao-tzu's awesomely inspiring and quietly wise Tao Te Ching. Despite being written down some 25 centuries ago, it is a marvel of contemporary insight. The opening chapter, The Essence of Tao, is here; Two To Tango is here.

The first chapter introduced us to "Tao" and some of the inherent paradoxes of trying to describe the indescribable. Last week, the Sage was first invoked as someone who emodies Te -- the way in which Tao manifests in the universe. This week, "wu-wei" or not doing -- that is, taking action with instead of against -- is discussed along with related advice about desire: desire is a distraction from Tao. Much of the first 37 chapters revisit these ideas repeatedly so that gradually you come to "know" what Tao and Te is, without having to "figure it out".

Three - The Way to Wu-Wei

Exalting those who do good works, instead of celebrating the work itself, creates jealousy.

Withholding that which is rare creates artificial value and thus leads to scheming to attain it.

Placing the beautiful out of reach in glass cases quickens the desire to grab it.

Knowing this, the Sage distracts the People by:

  Emptying their minds;

  Filling their bellies;

  Discouraging their ambitions;

  Strengthening their bodies.

When the People are not exposed to trivial knowledge, they will not act from desire.

Then even the cunning ones cannot tempt them.

When not-doing is embraced, all is done, nothing is left undone, and peace reigns throughout the land.

Comments welcome!

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Sperm: Mining the Net for Humour

Sperm, a gay man’s best friend, and maybe yours, too

:: I was minding my own business -- I just can't believe it! -- when one of my best friends remarked when I had introduced him to my blog, that I "had too much time on my hands". Doesn't he know that I am an artiste?!?

To prove him wrong, wrong, wrong! I decided to spend the day surfing the net looking for facts about sperm and to discover, perhaps, a culture of sperm. This blog episode is the result. Steel yourself! During the time it takes to read this, hundreds of millions of these unfortunate helpless folk will perish. Alas, that is their lot in life.

I decided to begin my search in the discipline of music lyrics. Here man's natural expressions of admiration, frivolity -- and lust, perhaps -- might be found; a quick trip to Google did not disappoint. I searched for "sperm" and found quite a lot -- much of it not printable even in this blog. However, an old favourite headed the list: from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Every Sperm is Sacred. It is sung from the point of view of a Roman Catholic head of the household and eventually every member of the family chimes in.

Every sperm is sacred.

Every sperm is great.

If a sperm is wasted,

God gets quite irate.

Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,

Spill theirs just anywhere,

But God loves those who treat their

Semen with more care.

Every sperm is sacred.

Every sperm is good.

Every sperm is needed

In your neighbourhood.

After this parody, however, things go downhill rather quickly, with images of death, destruction and nastiness in most lyrics containing spunky bits. Rap and metal are to blame! I am certain Schubert wrote nothing of the sort.

I did like the poetry in a lyric of a band called Momus -- "My Sperm Is Not Your Enemy" (from the album Oskar Tennis Champion (2003)) of which this is a sample:

My sperm is not your enemy

In it glistens destiny

Some day you'll appreciate

This acrid, viscose gunk

An agglomerate of goo

Ammonia, bamboo

Condensed milk, runny glue

And eternity!

My sperm is not your enemy

Hold it in your hand

You hold (you know it's true)

The future of man!

Among the remaining printable lyrics from other sources, Caldwell/Ferryman/Kaufman/Mullin sounds the most intriguing: "Airborne sperm from outer space / You better watch your face. / Airborne sperm from outer space / You know you love the taste."

Sperm he is very very small

:: Which brings us quaintly round to the correct use of sperm. Now of course, there is a fundamental purpose for it: to join with an egg and create a new human life. However, just as most women only make use of a handful of their eggs in a lifetime, most men dispose of, flagrantly some would say, on average 1,080,000,000,000 or so sperm. So if something on the order of 1 in 500 billion or so of these little devils is actually pressed into service creating life, it is probably ok for us to find other uses for the 1,079,999,999,998 remaining -- give or take a few billion -- that aren’t required for procreation.

Abby's Sexual Health Info site seems to have the right attitude and includes a Fun Sperm Facts page.

For example: what's the shelf-life of sperm? I don't mean in a fertility sperm bank; I mean still inside that cute boy you've been cruising? Did you know those tasty critters only last 2.5 months, from "development to ejaculation"? For most of us there's little danger in them "going off" because they've been let out long before they are due to expire. And it's a darn bit longer than a lot of boyfriends last these days!

Abby, a younger -- MUCH younger -- Sue Johannsen

I also discovered from Abby that they rocket out of one's manhood at the not too shabby pace of 28 miles an hour and generally only need to travel 3 to 4 inches to fertilize an egg. How ironic that, years later, it's so damned hard to get him off the sofa to carry the trash down to the end of the driveway.

Not that I'm bitter, but, ladies, we don't get those multiple orgasms you (reportedly) enjoy. We get ONE. And we hate wasting them. The worst thing in the world is to sploosh without the RUSH. And the whole thing only lasts four seconds, on average (that's the orgasm, even if sometimes the rest of it seems just as brief).

:: Emboldened, I decided to dig further. If a man's sense of virility is tied to size and stamina (or so say the dozens of Viagra ads overflowing my e-mail box daily), the amount he cums is also a vital measure of his masculinity.

While modesty does not permit me to divulge personal specifics, I chuckled at the unlikely claim that "average volume of semen per ejaculation is 1-2 teaspoons". I have seen a teaspoon of yoghurt! A teaspoon of maleness couldn't possibly create this much mess. (This is a good thing; unlike environmental spills, small is not better. Let's face it, men: quantity is part of the quality.)

More controversial, perhaps, is the 7200 ejaculations per lifetime. Durex, international maker of Performax condoms which contain a "climax control lubricant on the inside to help prolong your sexual enjoyment", reported last week that the average Hungarian was having sex (with a partner) 150 times a year. Most of us guys are busy exploring solo "down there" more than 2 or 3 times a week -- at age 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 .... Again, without releasing any state secrets, I'd suspect the average male might burn through those 7200 lifetime ejaculations just as a teenager.

Labelling in Canada is not always what it seems

Using the paltry teaspoon-per-ejaculate, and a mingy lifetime-of-7200-splooshes, let me just say the claim that we "average guys" only produce 18 quarts over 60 or 70 years of the world's finest, mass-produced, natural elixir sounds like it needs to be revised upward. Big time.

Every teenage boy has wondered if he's going to "run out" or "run dry" and most of us have tried to, on occasion. But they are persistent little critters, our sperm! Did you know we're producing these wiggly guys at the rate of about 5,000 per second? Our bodies are on a quota schedule to produce about 400,000,000 new ones every day. Now that's a party!

Thankfully, those cute sticky little guys are small -- there are 80 to 300 million of them in a single serving. You can see why your boyfriend needs to pause before providing a generous second helping if he really delivered well the first time. The risk of pregnancy has got to go down on the third or fourth outing in a single night.

Nutrition begins at home, one mouthful at a time

:: If you were concerned that I wouldn't get around to discussing the nutrient value of that blond twink shaking his booty on the dance floor -- no fear!

The nutritional value, even of demon seed, is all on the plus side. Cute bois, and even less cute ones, will present you with a yummy mixture of: water, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), blood-group antigens, calcium, chlorine, cholesterol, citric acid, creatine, deoxyribonucleic acid, fructose, glutathione, hyaluronidase, inositol, lactic acid, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (just like bananas!), prostaglandins, purine, pyrimidine, pyruvic acid, sodium (something you'll need replacing if you've been sweating a lot coaxing the little beggars out of their cave), sorbitol, spermidine, spermine, vitamin B12 and zinc.

Still, it's less than 1 calorie and, based on a standard 300 million spermatozoa serving, provides: 150 mg protein, 11 mg carbohydrates, 6 mg fat, 3 mg cholesterol (not sure if this is good or bad cholesterol), 7% US RDA potassium, 3% US RDA copper, 3% US RDA zinc. If you're a vegetarian, I suggest you get over it and get under him. We all need some protein in our diets and this is an all natural living source. (Think of it as warm yoghurt.) Remember: a trillion of these guys are going to die anyway so you're not really harming anything.

Eat pineapple, cinnamon and celery to make your semen sexier

There are numerous discussions of how to alter or improve the taste. Unbelievably, some women and a few gay men actually don't like the taste of the stuff. It's important to point out that the sperm itself -- that's the chewy, chunky bits -- have very little flavour; it's the semen, or carrier fluid, which adds to the savoury satisfaction. From a practical point of view, you might want to remember that the tongue is made up of different taste receptors. The ones sensing sweetness are on the tip so you may want to be sure to give your guy a good licking before swallowing ... I am sure he won't object.

One source on the net claimed: "In general, the taste of a man's semen varies with his diet. Some say that the alkaline-based foods (fish and some meats) produce a buttery or fishy taste. Dairy products can create a foul taste; the taste of semen after eating asparagus is said to be the foulest. Acidic fruits and alcohol (except processed liquors) give it a pleasant and sugary taste. Examples: oranges, mangos, kiwi, lemons, grapefruit, limes, Labatt Blue, Honey Brown, etc. (drinking a Corona with lime is double the fun." (Others reported celery, pineapple and cinnamon improve the flavour. Looks like I need to do some serious extended research on this.)

And nix the artificial sweeteners. Regular use appears to lower sperm counts measurably. Equal, Aspartame, Saccharine, Sweet-n-lo, Nutrasweet ... if you want your sperm counts to remain high ... or your boyfriend does ... stick to real sugar and do another couple of reps at the gym to burn off the extra calories. How's that for a win-win situation? Unless of course he's disposing of some of those delicious gooey treats in the steam room ...

Classy animated sperm are smiling here swimming in packs

:: A lot of women, as we have already seen, take a healthy interest in sperm and sperm production. Holly Webster reports:

The sperm's only motivation is to get into the woman's vagina and uterus, to impregnate an egg.

Sperm can swim in hot tub water, can swim through underwear, can swim across skin. They do not need to be PUT into the woman in order to GET into her and get her pregnant.

Sperm can live for up to 5 days after being released, and can 'wait around' for an egg in order to impregnate it.

(It made me wonder if gay guys produce sperm looking for other semen? Most of us are delighted to make the acquaintance of a sailor.)

The Australians have a neat male sex health site which is lubed and ready to answer your questions, safely, about all aspects of male sexuality.

You'll discover, among other things answers to questions like:

Can I taste my semen?

Yes, though you have to get some in your mouth first.

Is it common among straight men to taste and swallow their own semen?

Who knows? Straight men are the least likely to talk about which parts of their bodies they like - they often have enough trouble admitting they like their partner's bodies. However, you are not automatically a homosexual (or a bisexual) just because you like your own body and its fluids. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your own body, regardless of what anyone else may say.

Boyfriend in a glass, shaken and stirred

More than one site posited the question: "Are you looking for a sperm drink?" but they didn't mean a shot glass of fresh jism, just alcoholic beverages with a nod to the colour and possibly the texture of your date's private juices that you dragged to that fancy martini bar. Now just in case you think I am making this up, here's the instructions on making a Sperm Bank.

Fill a shaker half full with ice cubes. Pour all ingredients into shaker and shake well. Strain drink into a Cocktail glass and serve. Ingredients: 1.5 oz. Light Rum, 0.5 oz. Creme de Cacao, 1 oz. Heavy Cream.

No word on whether to shake or stir your boyfriend after a couple of those.

I also came across a couple of bizarre news stories. From Russia's Pravda (oh how things go down hill in the news biz once the dictators go home) I found this item:

The taste of sperm can predict future

The visitors of one of the brothels in the Japanese town of Nagoya are offered to mix business with pleasure. Kaho, the priestess of love who works there said that she can predict a man's future after having oral sex with him. As Kaho said, she has already predicted the future of almost one thousand men, and they are all happy, since they paid for sexual services, but also had their fortunes told. Kaho once told one of her clients which horse to stake on in a race, and he really won. She also helped another guy make a proposal to the girl he loves, and now they are happily married. This reputation is very good to Kaho, as she now has a lot of clients.

Popsy’s advertising is tres gai

And a controversy erupted in Holland when a manufacturer of one product, Popsy, started to sell its vanilla-caramel flavoured booze in 20mL "sperm-shaped bottles" with the slogan "I’m coming!" emblazoned across the label. The Dutch Foundation for Alcohol Prevention grumbled that the campaign is perverse and breaks advertising codes.

Associated Press ran a story over the summer, "Study: Abstaining makes sperm perform worse", the gist of which was couples struggling with infertility due to low male sperm counts may increase their odds of pregnancy if they "do it" a couple of times a day around ovulation, instead of "saving up" hubby's juices for one massive assault during the wife's most fertile moment. Withholding those sperm for more than a day or two can actually decrease the quality of the male's contribution. 7200 semen sample were examined in this study (where do you get these jobs, anyway?).

The number and proportion of motile sperm, meaning active and moving sperm, fell significantly from day two onwards, reaching a low at day six and remaining low. The percentage of malformed sperm also increased after just a few days of abstinence, the scientists found.

"You may have more sperm and more semen volume, but the quality is less. Usually, fresh sperm are better than stale sperm," said Lynn Fraser, a professor of reproductive biology at King's College in London. "What you really want to do is flush the system out so that the sperm that are there are fresh."

Finally, leave it to the BBC to run a story indicating scientists are ready to fertilize a woman's egg without male sperm. Scientists in Australia have found a way to fertilize eggs using genetic material from any cell in the body -- and not just sperm. This could put Brian Kinney out of a job; he'd have to stick to making Justin sticky from here on in and leave the girls to their own devices.

A sperm is like a nose? Does this guy have tenure?

:: Hey! And just when I thought I'd gotten all sticky in a barrage of one porn link after another researching this article, what do I find? Academics (fun people we know)!

In an article entitled Only the sperm knows, Hopkins MD/PhD student Loren Walensky asks: "Why is a sperm like a nose? Because both can, in a sense, 'smell'." He finds that sperm tails contain the same types of odor-binding proteins that noses do. The proteins, he suggests, "smell" odor messages from the egg, which allow the sperm to find the egg. He goes on at great length, always a happen circumstance with male sexuality.

Where is Wilhelm Fliess -- the man who convinced Freud there was a direct connection between sexuality and the nose -- when you really need him?

The Sperm Aficionado among current readers (are you still with me? Sick puppy!) will also want to check out some clinical discussions of sperm. A reasonably plain language introduction is provided by Rothamsted Research , a division of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of Britain. There will be a test following. Be sure to memorize acrosome, centriole, mitachondria, flagellum and be able to describe how the little guys wag their tails and how they eat their way into the egg to fertilize it (ugh).

Don't even try to take your sperm for a gym workout

And at California's Stanford University, there's even a whole website of sperm animations available online. I rather liked this one because it demonstrates another amazing sperm fact: A sperm's muscle drives nature's only known rotary-joint. The tail SCREWS, not whips. No kidding. Really. I am NOT making this up!

The things you learn on the net! Perhaps I do have too much time on my hands -- but when I do meet Mr Right, with regular access to that delicious male elixir again, think of all the fascinating things I can find to chat about?

Ending, as we began, on a humourous note: there were a lot of jokes posted about man's best friend; here are two that made me smile and not wince. (It helps to be gay to find these funny.)

How do you tell if your boyfriend has a high sperm count?

If you have to chew before you swallow ....

What does your boyfriend and the Bermuda Triangle have in common?

They both swallow seamen ....

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Adventures in the City: A Weekend with Gabe

:: I realise everyone believes I lead the life of a monk and, for the most part, that's true. But once in a while I actually do manage to meet someone -- like Gabe, who I met online. While this adventure occurred six months ago, it brings a special smile to my lips tonight.

As Sophia Petrillo might say ... picture this! ... A sultry spring (albeit snowy) Saturday night in Toronto ... Apr 5th, 2003 ....

A true tail in the city (mine? his?) ... and I'm still glowing from it. ...

So there I was, on a date this weekend, in truth the first one in quite a while, with this sweet Asian guy, 5'11", who'd been pursuing me online, on the phone, in e-mails and in person. We'd already had a beer together at Woody's once for a "look see", and ran into each other (expectedly) at a function called Asian Xpress the week before. But this was the "big night" -- a real date!

It started well.

Statlers Piano Bar Doorway, Church St, Toronto

We met at 10:30 pm on a (gasp!) still snowy April Saturday night outside Statlers, a cosy piano bar, where the guy at the keys was purring out Elton John, Annie Lennox, Cole Porter and various and sundry show tunes. Gabe (my date) had a smart tomato juice; I had a tasty local Toronto brew -- Cameron's Auburn Ale. Before I could lean over and compliment him on his lovely smile, he reached down into his knapsack and produced, at the ends of his long, sexy fingers, two documents: "A Meditation on Intimacy and Ecstasy" and "Forever, Brothers". (The first is a poem/performance piece I wrote for a spiritual retreat in Pennsylvania last January; the latter a story about a gay adopted guy who meets his mom for the first time, later in life; see links at right.)

"I'd like to discuss these with you, line-by-line," he said. (Did I mention he's studying to be an accountant and turned 21 in January?)

"This is a true story, right?", he exclaimed. "I was soooooo deeply moved!" He exhaled, with a slight squeal, authentically sincere.

"Well, um, actually, no. It's fiction. I made the whole thing up. I'm a writer."

His face fell. "But it's sooooo from the heart! You mean, that's not your brother in the story? I didn't mind the incest. You are such a romantic. I just love your mind. It's not just all about your sexy body, you know!"

Dan at Statlers during Toronto Pride, 2003

Just then the bartender, incredibly almost as adorable as Gabe, came by to see if we wanted a refill. Dan is possibly the hottest young man on the street, white, blond, twinky in the nicest way; and as gentle a personality as you can imagine.

"Well, ok, maybe another tomato juice -- with a bit of vodka this time", Gabe suggested.

Dan squinted at him.

"I'll have to see some ID." He looked at me apologetically (Dan knew me; I'm a regular here). Gabe fished out an Ontario Health Card, and a driver's license, both with photo ID, an address and birthdate. Dan examined them for a moment, then lit up all smiles as he handed them back: "Gosh! You're 11 months older than me! I just turned 20!" and then scurried off to complete our order.

For the next 90 minutes Gabe read through every page, commenting on this and that idea, or turn of phrase, and then turned to the Meditation for examination, as well. I was at a terrible disadvantage because, in the lowish lighting and without my bifocals, I couldn't really see the page. (It's always a good idea to be on the same page with a hot young date. I would have studied up on them earlier in the evening! What can I say? I write, and I move on. Who knew there might be a test tonight?) He didn't ask for my autograph, though.

Meanwhile the piano player sang on.

Who knew to take pictures that night? This is not Gabe, but you get the idea.

:: But this was Saturday night and it's no place for two cute guys -- one young and the other of indeterminate age -- to hang out all evening. Ya gotta dance!

So soon he was packing up his knapsack, and, after I helped Gabe on with his coat, we headed out to The Barn, a local dance club, where he likes to go on Friday and Saturday nights while he's living in Toronto. (He'd been doing a four month co-op stint and would return to Waterloo in May.) The Barn was a couple of blocks down the street and, despite the snowy sidewalks, the temperature was mild. Bois were passing left and right, in both directions, and Gabe grabbed my hand as we walked.

Wasn't that nice? He didn't need to steady himself on the ice. He liked me! It's amazing we didn't float to The Barn!

We chatted about this and that until we arrived at the club. I noticed that I was feeling nicely warm with his fingers tightly clutched in mine. Then, after dropping off our coats at the door, we did a quick spin around the club -- all three floors -- to check out the scene. In the middle of it, suddenly he pulled me to one side and asked: "Can I spend the night with you?"

Graciously I agreed to let him spend the night ....

"Gosh", I thought to myself.

"How could I live with myself if I say no? Is it really my place to break his young heart?"

Deftly smoothing my hand over my forehead attempting, without much success I am sure, to keep the horns from rising any further -- and discretely wiping the drool from my lips -- I graciously responded, "Yes".

We then proceeded to dance for the next three hours, mostly to music I'd heard in the club before but had no idea what the tunes were (I don't own a radio). From time-to-time, we paused to take a breather and he introduced me to this friend and that, and to have a bottled water, or something even nicer, to drink. I had a chance to reflect on how many Glucosamine Chondroitin tablets I'd have to swallow the next morning for my knees to recover.

But quickly my mind wandered to swallowing other things. Gabe had returned with a fresh bottle of water in hand and I learned, over the thud-thud-thud coming from the adjacent dance floor, that we'd been listening to souped up J-Lo, Mariah Carey, Cher and other divas I don't remember now.

Pet Shop Boys, maybe singing Always on My Mind, or maybe not

Suddenly I heard something I actually did recognize -- The Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind -- and we were back on the dance floor. I was really into this number and for the first time tentatively offered a kiss as I danced in close and put my arms around his shoulders. If we were sticky before, we were now, suddenly, very hot. A little tongue later, I was being twirled around and I found myself engaged in some interesting front-to-back manoeuvres (!).

But then it dawned on me this tune was released when he was 4. Thanks to the good manners of arithmetic, I am no longer twelve times his age. Small mercies!

(Trivia note 1: did you know that someone has made a rap/disco version of "Killing Me Softly With His Song"?!? So, call me an old fart!, but, honestly!, Roberta Flack's original was better. Much better.)

(Trivia note 2: did you know that when you are sitting in someone's lap, even when the music is very, very loud, you can still feel their cell phone vibrate when it goes off?)

:: By 3 am, we were literally soaking wet, head-to-toe, every article of clothing ready to be wrung out. We reclaimed our jackets (and knapsack) and faced what was now much colder night (early morning) air and walked home the few blocks north to chez Alexander. We tried to be quiet entering the apartment where, of course, my roommate DJ was sensibly long since sound asleep. The cat glared at us but stretched out in a silent greeting.

It ought to have been time for sleep, right? But bois will be bois.

I suggested we take a shower (hey! I was prepared for separate showers) and I tossed him a fresh towel as I started to take off my icky wet clothes.

But I didn't get very far. (Thank you, God.)

Tiger-boi decided the shower could wait and, for the next hour, there was much cheer in the land. The cat left in boredom and Teddy sobbed quietly in the corner (he hates to be left out). Don't ask me why I even bothered to try to make the bed.

So maybe even the shower head was smiling that morning ...

With that out of our system, a shower was even more in order. Miraculously, based on the evidence of snoring, roommate DJ was still happily undisturbed -- but not for long. Here on Maitland Street, we have a Shower From Hell with a Whistle from Hades but Gabe and I managed to tame it, sort of. I don't know what they teach in university these days but if there is space to enrol in this semester's "Showering and Its Social Impact 101", I recommend you take it. I took it (is that the correct way to put it?) then and there -- the one hour introductory at least. This blue-eyed 40s-something pupil apparently pleased his teacher, muchly.

But boyish giggling from the soapy duo finally aroused (is that the right word?) DJ from his slumber. Sorry about that, sweet man! Kitty continued to doze. Teddy remained unamused. As the door to the roommate's room opened in the shadows, the two of us made a freshly towelled dash for my bedroom.

This was the evening of the spring time change (so it was already an hour later than it felt) and by now the sun was coming up; still, for the next hour or so, we managed to find interesting new ways to flex this muscle, and that, before finally (and gratefully) collapsing into a heap of arms and legs and licks and snuggles and tired giggles and a close, tender embrace.

Sleep had finally won out. Teddy stood guard, silently.

Teddy being upacked

:: About four hours later, I opened my eyes to see another set, these brown and baleful and, realising this was not Teddy as usual, mumbled, "Mornin', Gabe". Has anyone else ever had an erection in the morning? Or is it just me? LOL. More giggling ensued -- followed by a lot of heavy breathing. No surprise that soon it was time for another shower.

(But not before he'd also looked at my shelf of CDs and squealed with approval. One title especially required his close inspection. Michael Jackson? Backstreet Boys? Sonique? Macy Gray? Ella Fitzgerald? Nope ... Franz Liszt!)

Sheepishly, as Gabe was dressing, I sauntered out to the living room to discover DJ diligently marking exams. I asked how he slept and got a glower in return.

"Tea?", I offered, knowing it wouldn't really soothe the savage beast.

How many hair care products are in there?!? But before I got the kettle on, the sing-song voice of my dressing-for-success date called out from the bathroom: "What sort of moisturizers do you use?"

Little did I know that his knapsack -- full to bursting -- contained only two classes of things: samples of my writings; and a plethora of hair and skin care products. The things I learned in the next 20 minutes would entitle me to an instant promotion as Estee Lauder clerk-of-the-month at Bloomingdale's.

Alas, all good things come to an end and, as it was now pushing 2 pm on Sunday afternoon, I retrieved his winter jacket (which had every pocket stuffed, incredibly, with even more hair care products -- did I mention he was studying to be an accountant?!?) and we were on our way to "breakfast". The all-you-can-eat special at the local pancake joint was already over so we settled on The Village Rainbow at Church and Maitland. At 5'11" and maybe 160 pounds, I have no idea where Gabe put all that food. I had the discrete two poached eggs and and a slice of fried tomato; he had the Lumberjack Special with sausages, three eggs over easy, french toast, homes fries, brown toast, bacon ....

But what a sweet conversation over the next couple of hours chatting about life, and dreams, and bois and the night before. Gabe isn't exactly what you might term "butch" (ROTFLMAO) so I wasn't quite sure how to take his going on about how "refined" and "dainty-like" my mannerisms were. Anyway, he liked them and thought I was polite. I heard most of what he was saying but I did get distracted by the way he ate those sausages. Slowly. Lingeringly. Nibble-by-nibble.

After much hand-holding, it was time for him to go home to his parents (!) so at 4 pm I walked him to the subway. We kissed and caressed outside the entrance for a minute or two and then he disappeared into the train station. I headed home, refreshed, and spent, in a good way.

What to do for an encore?

Is it Friday, yet?

(PS -- Whether an act of God or an act of Glucosamine, my knees turned out to be just fine, thanks. Whew!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Birthdays: Join me in Best Wishes

Today the oldest of my younger sisters turns 47. Another sweet offspring of Saskatchewan, not unlike her brother. You might say: a most beautiful flower from the good soil of the prairies.

Happy birthday, sis. And many, many more.

Kisses from your only bro.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Tuesdays with Tao: Two - Two to Tango

A Doorway to the Way of Tao?

:: Every Tuesday, I'll be publishing one more chapter of my personal re-interpretation of Lao-tzu's awesomely inspiring and quietly wise Tao Te Ching. Despite being written down some 25 centuries ago, it is a marvel of contemporary insight. The opening chapter, The Essence of Tao, is here.

John Chalmers created the first known complete english translation in 1868 and famous ones followed by James Legge in 1891, Paul Carus in 1913 and Aleister Crowley in 1918. Since then, famous and infamous, scholars and poets, ministers and aetheists alike have tackled their own Taos. If you hunt online, you'll find at least 35 current translations/interpolations/re-interpretations, including, soon, one by SensualPoet!

Tao Te Ching means "The Book (or sacred texts) of the Way and Virtue" where "way" is something like all-encompassing Nature and "virtue" is a way of being which attempts to harmonize with Tao. Much of the first book concerns itself with trying to describe the indescribable. Lao-tzu uses about 5000 characters (these are rich chinese characters, each equivalent to a word or a paragraph densely contained within) for the entire 81 chapters; my first 37 already stretch to 4300 words. But then, I am using english. ;-)

Two - Two to Tango

When your mind tingles aha! as it digests a morsel profoundly beautiful, don’t be dismayed that you must also have swallowed ugliness.

When your heart soars, alive and gleeful, because you have just experienced goodness, rejoice, too, that you have given your innocence to evil.

Day is unknowable without night; this is the bound-together inside-and-outside Truth of Tao.

Difficult and easy complement one another.

Long and short measure against one another.

High and low rest upon one another.

Sound and silence create music from each other.

Before and after are meaningless without one another.

The Sage teaches wordlessly, by example, allowing Nature to flow unimpeded, presenting its lessons according to Nature's own time.

He welcomes the coming, he accepts the going, of things;

neither restraining nor invoking, he nurtures them impartially as they appear.

By declining to take credit for his effortless efforts, nothing can be taken from him.

Comments welcome!

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Getting to Know You: A True Southern Gentleman

Jack Parsons, Toronto, February 2003

:: If you'd told me a few months ago that I would be spending part of my autumn in North Carolina, soaking up the pleasures of small town life, nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains bordering on Tennessee and South Carolina, at the very least I would have glared at you. I'm pretty much an urban bunny and while Toronto may not be Manhattan, it passes for cosmopolitan in my country, Canada. At about 70,000 people, Asheville, NC, does not a metropolis make.

But what a marvelous town it is! Schumacher got it right: Small can be beautiful!

Jack at home at his piano, Asheville, September 2003

Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to meet a youthful man of the theatre and arts, Jack Parsons, who, while he was raised in West Virginia, settled in Asheville in 1987. Like many of us, he's had his share of good relationships, and sorrows from the loss of departed loves. Today he lives in a modestly sprawling home steps from a quiet lake near a bird sanctuary and just a ten minute drive from the centre of town and his successful corporate career -- and you sense immediately that this is a man who comes home for lunch.

You don't know Jack? Come closer and let me share some reflections about a few hours he spent with me displaying his energy and quiet compassion for life.

After a somewhat harrowing experience actually getting to Asheville from Toronto, via huricane Isabel, Jack met me at Asheville's exceedingly modest (ok, ok -- small) airport on Thursday evening. He drives a bright sunny yellow Cooper Mini (now made by BMW, these legendary English "bugs", at one time called the Morris Mini Classic, reek of a bell-bottom, flower-power age). I was already some nine hours later than expected but Jack was gracious and attentive.

Home is on a hill, with a variety of trees and shrubs dotting the sides of a steep, curved driveway which provide shade and beauty to the front of the house. At the back, there is a wooden porch which we later held a party on, and an outdoor stone bar-be-que. And inside, a well-appointed and functional kitchen; a spacious living room with a baby grand in the front bay window; a dining room (or more accurately a dining room table in the dining room and very little else); two baths; two bedrooms; and a mainly self-contained wing plus a full basement. A lot to dust for one!

Alexander and Jack the weekend they met at Kirkridge in Pennsylvania, January 2003

Photographs are everywhere. In amongst some very attractive paintings by local artists are scattered dozens of frames, of all sizes, showing off different facets of Jack's more recent years: his loves, his family, and most of all, his many friends. I was somewhat taken aback to discover a half dozen pictures of myself already displayed in various locations (we had met already three times this year, once in Pennsylvania and twice in Toronto). He "curates" his picture gallery in logical groupings, with labels; still other frames rotate from storage for variety.

Barley's brew pub, Asheville, NC

:: On Friday morning we took a tour of Asheville, beginning with Malaprops, a local independent bookstore which is aggressively author-friendly and has a very well-chosen and broad selection of books. Its gay and lesbian section, and the atmosphere itself, was my first clue that Asheville truly has more than a hint of mint and displays it matter-of-factly. A cafe, and performance space, adjoins the front room. Part of the tour included viewing the town's biggest pun, a sculpture of an iron in front of the historic Flat Iron Building. (Get it?) Lunch consisted of some local fare at a modest venue called Early Girl Eatery which overlooks Wall Street from the second floor. The corn bread was especially scrummy. Beer seems to be a local pastime and more than a few bars and pubs could be found with at least a dozen brews on tap (one boasted 48). These folks are serious about their beer and they have every right to be proud. After sampling one at Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria, we headed back to the car (parking fee 50 cents) and returned home to freshen up.

The early evening found us back in the town centre for the Downtown After Five street festival, a recurring summer event, held at the base of the Vance Monument in Pack Square. After showing my passport, I was branded with a sticky yellow polyester tag and allowed to buy another brew in a plastic cup as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band revved up the large and appreciative audience.

Joe Orton, acclaimed, gritty homosexual British playwright

:: We didn't have much time though because by 7:30 Jack had whisked me around the corner to a presentation by the North Carolina Stage Company of Joe Orton's classic, Loot. This 1966 British dark comedy -- about a young gay man who is in cahoots with a sexy bisexual undertaker, and attempts to hide some stolen money in his mother's coffin (!) -- was extremely well done. The theatre seats barely 100 but both production and acting was first-rate. Kermit Brown starred as McLeavy, the widower, and despite a distinguished career elsewhere, returned to his hometown for this three week run. Charles McIver as Inspector Truscott wavered just on the cusp of ham -- but his thespian acrobatics were perfect for the role (he is also Artistic Director of the company). Anne Thibault as Nurse Fay and Matthew Detmer as son Hal filled out their roles professionally. The very sexy Steven Campanella, originally from Alaska, in playing Dennis didn't give away that this was one of his very first professional gigs; many eyes stayed glued to his, er, performance.

David Hopes, a friend of Jack's, and a fellow writer, academic and theatre lover, had joined us for the show and afterwards the three of us strolled over to Smokey's Tavern on nearby Broadway for a pint (or two or three). At this particular gay bar you "sign-in" as a member at the front door. There are a couple of pool tables in the back room; the front area features a bar seating perhaps ten with three more high tables opposite. The music was recent but familiar, mainly pop and dance tunes; the lighting afforded the ability to actually see who was there; and sound and smoke levels made it possible to comfortably have a conversation and a good time. We did.

Jack in his sexy yellow Mini at Devil's Courthouse, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

:: Saturday morning, after a reasonably early start, Jack and I tumbled into his lemon coloured chariot and we were off for a gorgeous day driving toward Tennessee on the Blue Ridge Parkway through the mountains. The weather was perfect for driving, and for hiking; we did both with aplomb. The roadway in this area leads up from Asheville's elevation of about 2200 feet to over 6000. The deliberately scenic follows a series of twists and bends and goes through a number of short tunnels. Much of the original roadwork was done in the 1930s as a depression era make-work project; the craftsmanship and engineering feats remain clearly in evidence even today.

Scenic vista at Pounding Hill Lookout, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

We stopped at numerous lookouts, admiring the vistas, taking pictures and tickling each other. At Grave Yard Fields we took a trail down the mountainside to a rocky stream. At Devil's Courthouse, we hiked up to the highest point of our journey -- 5720 feet -- which afforded some truly spectacular views of the neighbouring forests and mountains. From this vantage point, and on a clear day, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennesse and Georgia can all be seen. On the return journey, we stopped at Mount Pisgah Inn for a bite of lunch in an efficient and reasonably priced venue with, again, an awesome nature view from our table.

Cantaria, Gay Men's Chorus in Asheville, NC

:: The day would have been complete as is but Jack, ever the social butterfly, had other plans. We returned home shortly after 4 pm and a little more than an hour later, the first guests arrived for a laid-back potluck. Jack not only performs in musical theatre in his spare time (including starring in a highly successful revival of "Falsettos" last June) but he also sings in Cantaria, a gay men's chorus; several members came to party. Most of the folks already knew each other and none made me feel out of place. The crowd was broadly in my age range -- 30s to late 50s -- and the conversation, and laughter, was evidence enough that Asheville boasts a rich population of genuine and welcoming souls.

About to be married! Amy and Douglas, Asheville, September 2003

As the evening wore on, it became apparent that the final part of our day's plan, to visit a gay dance club called Scandals was not to be. By 11 pm, we were down to a few stragglers, including Amy and Douglas, who are to be married in mid-October. These are clearly long-term deep friends of Jack's -- and salt-of-the-earth folks, too. Douglas, who at 43 has a 21 year old son (whom he spoke of lovingly and proudly several times), has led an adventurous, checkered life including his current profession as a master story-teller. His partner, Amy, is equally delightful and has the warmest smile and most genuine laugh -- half giggle, half guffaw -- that I have encountered in a long time. When she bubbled, we all glowed in response.

But all good things come to an end and Jack had some obligations early the next morning at the Episcopal Cathedral of All Souls. The four of us had been enjoying a good time, and immodest amounts of liquid cheer. This canny Canuck came to the rescue with a spare contact lens case for Amy and so it was decided the pair would spend the night safely in the spare bedroom. After a few more hugs, and well before the cock crowed, we all said our good nights.

Jack and Alexander, Toronto, February 2003

I hope, gentle readers, and kind Toronto friends, if I don't return to Ontario as soon as planned, you will forgive me -- and be able to guess why.