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July 2019

Yes, Virginia, There is Creativity After 15 @ktshy @katieshanahan

This comic strip by Katie Shanahan aka @ktshy is exactly the conversation I have with my 'vampires' these days about my blog, my comic strip, and creativity in general.

CreativityblogMany years ago I "temped" for a major media company in LA. I was in legal services and was assisting the head of the department.

One day I overheard this person chew out their son over the phone for missing a prep class for the SATs. The kid was 14. I wasn't really challenging them on this but was just sort of trying to get an idea of the problem... "aren't the SATs something that one takes when one is a little older?", I asked.  

This person looked at me as though I had just taken off my clothes in the office, and followed it by saying "no one does anything creative after the age of 15 and there is no merit in anything that they do after that; MY SON'S TIME IS ALMOST OVER". I must remind you here, that the son was 14. 

As someone who was, at the time, within spitting distance of 40, I was at first appalled and then I was genuinely sad for them that this is how they led their life and figured how miserable the son must be. Even if they were making bajillions of dollars, to be that full of fear and loathing, well, was it worth it? And what did taking the SATs even have to do with creativity in the first place? It all seemed to me to be so mixed up and strange. 

The son would be about 34 now and I wonder how he turned out. Was he b.s. crazy like his parent or did he (hopefully) find a way to live even a semi normal life? I would be really sad for anyone who thought that because they didn't write a blockbuster movie as a teen, that their life was a failure. 

The temp job only lasted a few weeks as I couldn't take the constant shrieking for very long (who could? Indeed, I was the third temp this person had had in as many months. Clearly this person needed some external help. Maybe the shrieking was a literal cry for help?) 

So here I am, many years later, attempting to create, write and draw... and there are days when the devil voices the 'you took too long' mantra and, although I hear it... I find a way to bring up the strength to respond "there's no cut off date for creativity" and "it won't be a waste of time if I've enjoyed it".

Thank you, Katie for the encouragement! 

Johns and Marys 5: Boys Don't Kiss Other Boys

Johns and Marys v2Writing this chapter has been unexpectedly hard.

Getting the right tone is important to me because, I think, it could too easily be taken too seriously or, well, not seriously enough… but that’s kind of the danger in telling our stories, right? – not everyone is going to ‘hear’ it in the way that we tell it. But, taking out the truth of any story renders it toothless and, thus, why bother even telling it then?

So it happened when I was pretty little – I’d say around 4 or 5. I vaguely remember kissing my brother and sister goodbye when they'd leave for the day to go to school. I don’t know how long this went on, I just remember it being a kind of regular thing in my pre-kindergarten life. My mom and I would be at the door as they would rush out to catch the bus and I would be there to kiss them goodbye. I guess I thought that's just what people did for people that they love. I certainly loved my brother and sister in those days. 

One morning after they had left and the front door had closed, mom gently pulled me aside and told me “boys don’t kiss other boys”. At the time I remember feeling vaguely embarrassed that I might have done something wrong which, for me, meant, something that upset her, but I don't think that it was meant that way; I think it was more instructional/informational than that.

We had a funny family dynamic - my parents encouraged my imagination and really didn't push me to do what the culture would consider more "manly" things - like sports (which I was pretty bad at overall, mostly because I was pretty uncoordinated and hated all that competitive stuff which, for me, made the whole thing un-fun), hunting deer (I was always like 'why are we killing things when there's food at the supermarket?" lol), and that type of stuff. I got lots of teasing from my brother and other kids at school, ("femme" mostly, but, strangely, hardly ever "fag") but mom and dad were pretty encouraging of things like drawing, singing, and doing theater. I guess the arts is considered a feminine thing, but, looking back, I guess it says more about the others' expectations of what a 'man' should be rather than about me specifically. <shrug> 

Along the way, my mom did give little course corrections - looking back I can see a string of "boys don't do this - " type statements -- when I wanted to play the saxophone in fifth grade, for example, mom chafed and insisted on the trombone saying that "boys don't play saxophone"... which is, of course, not true. By the way, I spent 8 years playing an instrument that I didn't like and was terrible at it mainly because it wasn't what I wanted to do ... but you know how it is, you have to compromise on some things to get other things (I lost the sax battle but I got to do theater, which, in my mind, was better). I did make many friends who played trombone, though, so it really was OK. 

Anyway, so, perhaps it was more that my mom wanted me to fit in because she, as a person who liked to dress in ‘sparkly’ clothes, knew something about not fitting in. And, although my dad had many many friends and was very well liked, he was a regular reader of The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic so I assume that he too understood the value of having a child who was more imaginative even if it was a little out of the norm. 

But, then and there, the 'boys don't..' statements confused me and would continue to confuse me throughout my childhood and into adulthood. Many of my gay male friends have experienced the same thing and it is common in the community to struggle with issues surrounding actual and perceived masculinity. There's certainly a part of the gay community that over-exaggerates their manliness in order to overcompensate for their/our fear of femininity. I've certainly been one of them...... but that process of untangling those thoughts and feelings took a long time, unfortunately.

It also took a long time for me to figure out that others were having a lot of the same questions that I was about how to navigate the real world. Some of those kids found that lashing out at someone weaker than them was a way to manage their insecurities, and some made of them made other choices. Thankfully, some also chose to be kind. :) 

It's a lot to unpack and there's a lot of story to tell, but I can tell you that, as an adult, expressing affection to others whether they be gay or straight, male or female, or whatever, has been a freeing thing. Telling someone you appreciate them, love them, even, is something there's too little of in the world today. While being expressive like this put me through much pain along the way, I don't think I'd trade it for being any other way; it has been one of life's greatest joys. 

Click below for links to previous chapters of JOHNS AND MARYS: 

Chapter 1: The Lucy Show

Chapter 2: The Things Before We Wake

Chapter 3: The Gasoline

Chapter 4: The Swing Set 

We're Cookin Grub In Our Tiny Place #rihanna #coqauvin #crockpot

Tinyplaceblog2For those of you who may have been following me the past couple years on Instagram, you'll be pleased to know, after a brief hiatus during the recent heat wave, we're once again cookin in our tiny place. 

Yesterday, Sunday, the Mister cooked up a mean coq au vin in the crockpot and we had one amazing dinner. Yum. He even managed to make turnips taste good. I'm currently reading a book about the myths and legends of "Native Americans" and turnips are mentioned often. Not that that is why we included them, but it was a nice bit of life following art. 

In any event, if you haven't been following my Instagram, no worries, I'll be posting here going forward - my bf and I cook (well, most often HE cooks, I just take pictures) of meals we make in our incredibly small New York apartment with a teeny bit of counter space and usually for less than the price of what it costs one person to eat out: last night's dinner cost us $14: eight pieces of chicken (two of which we froze for another meal), a turnip, a carrot and an afternoon in the crockpot. Ok there was a couple of tablespoons of flour thrown in to the gravy  - so, maybe $14.25. And it made two meals and it was DELICIOUS. The crockpot is an amazing invention. 

We both say we long for the day when we'll live in a house with a proper amount of prep and cooking space (and, well, real ventilation, rather than a fan hooked up near the stove during the summer... sigh) but we'll probably look back at these days with great fondness. ......ok,  naaaah. LOL 

As a side note, for those of you who are Rihanna fans, "we're cookin grub in our tiny place" meters out to "we found love in a hopeless place". Someday we'll post a video of us singing the theme song, but only when we can guarantee that Rihanna won't sue! ;) (Come for dinner Rihanna, we love you!)  


All The Sugar #holidayparty #chexmix

Happy Friday - oooof, I don't know about you but even though things are supposed to be slowish in the summer (really, mostly the difference between 100mph and 80mph but hey it's Allthesugarblogsomething), it's the end of the work week and I could use all the sugar in this cart.

And, you know, I'm not even really a 'sugar' guy, much more of a salt guy (give me a bag of Chex Mix and I'm happy for hours. To me, a family size bag is a single serving... just putting that out there for those of you who are already shopping for my March 9th birthday). 

Anyway, it's Friday .. I keep telling myself this because I need to: in the event world, we're working on a Holiday party. In the middle of 80 degree weather I was literally having a conversation today whether we should have 'holly' or 'bells' on the party invite and name badges. Retail queens can relate, I'm sure. 

But that's OK. It keeps me off the streets. :) 

Meanwhile, a fellow Typepad blogger named Julia spent a day taking a Flying Trapeze class in order to overcome her fear of heights. Check out the blog post here and leave a little love for Julia - she rocked it!!

Now there's someone who is "Flying through the air" with Joy, not just Jumping!! ;) Go Julia! 

In the comments sound off what you're up to this weekend, I want to hear from you! 


The Wow Factor

It's true that there are plenty ups and downs to every profession. But the events profession sometimes feels as though it has more 'downsides' than 'upsides'. This isn't true, of course, but like every job, it's easy to get bogged down by the things that are a drag. 

LibertyblogThe biggest upside is that my job often takes me to interesting venues and locations that I, as an average Joe, would not otherwise have access to - and yesterday, as I rode in a speed boat across the Hudson on my way to a site visit of a venue for an event I'm working on for October, I felt giddy as I was suddenly aware that there I was riding in a speed boat across the Hudson on my way past the Statue of Liberty (me: "oh my gosh, it's RIGHT THERE!!") to what would turn out to be an extraordinarily gorgeous venue! 

And the wow factor isn't just for the city  - this also happened on a recent trip back to my hometown in Wisconsin - I haven't been in awhile and I was reminded just how amazingly gorgeous the place is - the rivers, the mountains, the farmlands, everything. I found myself experiencing the wow factor there too. 

There's certainly a small neurotic voice that pops up when I get like this that tries to stamp out that enthusiasm with the argument that at my age I 'should' stop being such a kid ... but I can't help it, it's in my DNA.

And you know what? I'm glad that I still have the wow factor; that I'm still surprised, impressed, and tickled by things like this. I think I'll be bummed if I stopped thinking "THIS IS SO COOL!!" when experiencing super cool things. 

A few nights ago I found myself at a networking event in Long Island City and happened to chat with a guy, about my age, who has spent his entire life in the NY area. I found a kindred spirit as our exchanges were basically "what super cool things have you done with your life?" "Wow, that's so awesome, here's what I've done!" "Wow, that's so neat". Honestly, it was like we were two 13 year old boys at summer camp comparing notes and that, in and of itself, was kinda awesome. 

Look, it's easy to forget just how amazing life is; the world certainly does not encourage expressing this, but tourists know. Although they annoy the heck out of New Yorkers, when I see a tourist stare up at the tall buildings, I think, 'they are having a wow factor moment'. I just wish they'd not do it in the middle of the sidewalk when I'm late for work <wink> 

In any event, today's assignment:  Find your enthusiasm again and enjoy the 'wow' factor! 

Tuesday is the New Tuesday

Happy Tuesday!

Hope that you had a weekend that was refreshing for you to take on the challenges of this week. 

I spent the weekend mostly huddled up indoors writing things for this blog (I succeeded) and generally trying not to sweat (I did not succeed at this task). 

Such is life. Onward.

Yesterday was the birthday of one of my best friends and I had an amazing day managing an event in New Jersey which I had been planning over the past few weeks. It was a networking meeting/D&I discussion exchange that won huzzahs from my boss and a high five from the company's Chief Diversity Officer. 

It wasn't until I tried to leave New Jersey that the troubles started. Water dropped from the sky and the New York metro area apparently went crazy - trains, subways and cars all came to a halt. It took me several hours to take a trip that it usually takes about 70 minutes. Such is the transit roulette that we play every day here in the Big Apple. Whatchagonnado? 

Today is another day. And with another day, we roll the dice and hope that it turns out better than the one before it. 

CookiesblogAs a side note, I posted all the blog entries from the past week or so on my page at Ello and, when I saw all the photos side by side, I realized that I sure do post a lot of pics of food. And we haven't even gotten to the "Cookin Grub In Our Tiny Place" side of my life (which is featured heavily on my Instagram account - although we are not cooking as much cuz our tiny place is like a tiny hot box).

So, in honor of a series of "food pics", I am posting another - this of the remains of a box of delicious cookies that my other best pal gave to the Mister and I couple weeks ago. I'm very proud of ourselves that we made it last as long as we did  (I think it was about ten days total but he had said that the whole thing was "one serving" so I think we did pretty good. But, I think a trip to Canada is in order for more).  

Honestly, they taste like waffles and syrup. It's really amazing how good they are! 

That's enough for one morning - see you back here on Wednesday, which is, by the way, the new Wednesday. 


RIP Robert W. Richards #leslielohman #art #newyork

Good morning and Happy Monday.

Today, I feel the need to write a little bit about something that happened recently:  On Friday, July 12 I found out that one of my favorite New Yorkers had passed away: Robert W. Richards. 

WithRWRRobert was an artist of note who was one of those New Yorkers who was the very definition of "fabulous" and he always made everyone he encountered feel fabulous even if they weren't as fabulous as he was (which is most of us). 

I am honored to have had a portrait illustrated by him of me for a magazine during the late 90s when I was producing fundraising events here in NYC and in LA...... I did not sit for him, but discovered the portrait on the cover of a gay weekly magazine in 1998. I moved to LA the week it was published and, without the miracle that is social media, never met him on that first go 'round here. 

But, a few years later I returned to New York and began, among other things, producing a weekly fundraising Bingo event at which I would always feature LGBT celebrities. One week I did a fundraiser for the Leslie Lohman gallery and I came up with the idea of having someone create a work during the event that we would auction off; they suggested Robert.

The moment he arrived, it was like meeting an old friend. I expressed the honor that I had at being drawn by him and, portrayed, perhaps, a bit more fabulously than I really was. :) 

At one point during the event, he pulled me aside and told me that he had had buyers interested in the original, but that he had told them that he had lost it. He then presented it to me, signed. I was beside myself with gratitude. 

It has been framed and hanging in my hallway for over a decade. It is one of my most treasured possessions. Later, he included the portrait in a book and gave me a copy with a personal note written inside "thanks for the loan of your fabulous face, Robert".

While not close friends, per se, over the next 10 years or so, when we would run into each other at events, parties, gallery openings, etc it really would be like running into an old trusted friend and companion. I suspect many people felt this way about him.

Robert's art touched many lives and, for this small town guy, having Robert in my corner really meant something to me in ways that may not have fully known.

For a variety of personal reasons, I am choosing not to post the artwork, however, I will value it til the end of my days as a reminder of a special and specific time in my life and as a tribute from a man for whom I had tremendous respect and admiration. 

Rest in peace/power, Robert W. Richards, you will be missed by many, but especially by me. 

(Pictured, Robert W. Richards and I July 11, 2007, Midtown Manhattan. Photo by A.B.)