Virtually Everything

As I sat working from my bed this week in my sweatpants, because why bother to get dressed or sit at a desk at this point, I vaguely remembered a movie character called the laziest woman in the world.

This woman was sort of blathering, complacent and yet somehow smart and all knowing because she managed to figure out an entire life where she never had to leave her bed.

.. and it’s Swoosie Kurtz!

Pretty sweet deal, I recall thinking, probably because I was young, tired and had too many other options.

Well, be careful of what I wish for.  All of you.

As it turns out this character was actually called The Lazy Woman and she was one of many strange people populating the 1986 movie True Stories, directed by former Talking Heads front man David Byrne.

Of course it was the eighties and of course it was David Byrne.

You know… the guy with the suit #slimming

Where else and by whom else could time be elevated, while laziness and selfish inertia was viewed as among the most coveted of commodities in the world?

Or perhaps Mr. Byrne and the eighties were just playing with us and giving us their own post-modern take on self-indulgence. Propping up an unenviable situation to enviable in order to comment on the ridiculousness of our human situations.

Well, right now it doesn’t matter, does it?

Time is meaningless

This is because in many American cities these days there is real reason to stay inside and not intermingle with the world.  It’s taken almost 40 years but when The Talking Heads first admonished us to Stop Making Sense, well, who knew they were correct and this would be where we’d eventually wind up?

Still, staying inside these days does not necessarily mean we don’t intermingle.  What we’re all discovering, well those of us in the majority of American cities where it’s advised you don’t freely run out into the streets without a mask or perhaps a Haz-Mat suit, is there are quite a lot of ways to interact with each other without actually moving more than a few feet from your literal comfort zone.

Thanks, Silicon Valley.

And congratulations for knowing in advance a way to give us the tools to do what we’d so desperately need while making your selves even filthier rich at the same time.

Ruh Roh!

I do have to hand it to technology, though.  Just when you write it off forever is when you realize its immense advantages in the real world.

This week I attended a virtual college graduation of students I’ve taught over the last few years and rather than it being the intensely — let’s all face it – droningly DULL affair it can so often be (Note: Unless you snag the likes of Michelle and/or Barack Obama as keynote speakers) it was instead fun, familial, touching and, yes, meaningful.

Much better than this would have been

That was because in forcing us to do everything trapped in our homes, where each graduate was seen onscreen for 10 seconds holding up their diplomas or making a virtual toast to the rest of us with their beverage of choice, we actually got to see them INSIDE their homes.

And yes, some of them were even in their beds.

This is not to imply any of this was done in a lurid way.  Instead, it was open season to take the 10 seconds and do EXACTLY what you, the graduate, wanted to and with whom you wanted to when your cue came up.

Pretty much like this for 2 hours

You had no script, nothing was rehearsed and all the heavy lifting was done.  Instead, it was each graduate’s choice to interact with us and each other in that moment.

What wound up happening was each virtual moment was about as more alive and real than any graduation I, or you, have likely ever attended.

I will never forget the young woman holding her pet guinea pig on her shoulder while it lovingly snuggled against her, nor the myriad of pet cats and dogs doing the same.

Woof!

Equally memorable were the parents, many of them my age, enthusiastically jumping up and down and throwing confetti on or near their graduate in sheer and utter joy, usually cracking up their child into laughter (and probably for the first time in years).

There were also the virtual toasts with champagne, beer, wine and assorted other beverages because hey, everyone’s home and, even if they weren’t, what the heck do you think college students REALLY DO to celebrate even the removal of a hangnail?

This is just a gross stereotype, right?

That said, someone even reached for a dope pipe, though he quickly and aptly had his time shortened. (Note: Yeah, some things never change).

There were simple hand salutes, the traditional moving of the tassel from right to left and even one very inventive young man who, outside his picturesque house, nodded thanks to the screen and then proceeded to cinematically walk towards the lake into the distance under the setting sun.

I mean, you couldn’t do anywhere near that well were this live on some academic quad or inside one of those many overly hallowed campus halls.

I DID IT!

Sure, there were some inspiring Zoom speeches from the elders, particularly from a host of WORKING alums from all over the country providing words of encouragement and promises of survival to the class of 2020  (Note: Hey, imagine YOU are the one virtually graduating this year during a global pandemic and all the promise that would hold for your young twenty something self).

Not to mention a short virtual video each graduate would later see from none other than pandemic expert and current pop culture icon himself, Dr. Anthony Fauci, made specifically for the health science graduates of our school.  In it he urged them all to please hang in there because we need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character to get through this difficult time.

Suddenly they, and by extension us, were personally being invited to join Team Fauci!  It might have been virtual and could seem canned in the writing, but in this particular reality it actually felt more real than the liveliest of live rallies.  Not to mention, A LOT safer.

In fact, as I think about every virtual image I saw on my laptop sitting on my bed that day it occurred to me that laziness is not about where you are at any given time but what you choose to do with whatever time you’re allotted.

Imagine how ingenious we could all get simply staying at home if we put our collective minds to it.  It’d be the exact opposite of lazy.

Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime” 

Truth Bombs

It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in this country, said the hate-filled man who spreads it daily.

We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t have to specify whom.

Suffice it to say you want him as far away as possible in the aftermath of the largest attack on a Jewish synagogue in U.S. history.  If only in respect for the 11 dead worshippers and their families, as well as for the six members of the police force shot trying to save them.

Sadly, this is impossible when he occupies the most powerful bully pulpit in the land.

Chairy, it’s really been a rough week

Oh, and for the record, blackface was not okay when Megyn Kelly was a kid. In much the same way race baiting tweets are no-no’s today.  At least for some people.

She might have thought so because she was a kid in the eighties, a time when lots of people adopted tone-deaf insensitivity as their overpowering scent.   The greed is good mantra/catchphrase of Oliver Stone’s fictional antihero/villain, Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko, was their guiding North Star and it extended to far more than money.

I can’t even look at him without wanting to barf

And luckily, we’ve gotten soooo beyond that.

People nowadays remember the eighties quite nostalgically. They quickly, very quickly, get all Goonies on you.  Soon after they might start singing the Ghostbusters theme or even begin quizzing you on who your favorite Back to the Future character is. 

Well, we know it certainly isn’t BIF #canteven

I didn’t have a favorite character from that particular film, nor did I think a bunch of guys pretending to kill ghosts or a group of kids fighting special effects thingies were particularly amusing at the time.

That is because back in the eighties, when I wasn’t tripping over homeless people in the street or watching many of my contemporaries being wiped out by the AIDS epidemic, I was marveling at how a second-rate actor clearly in over his head pretended to be president for eight years.  And to such acclaim by so vociferous of a base.

This isn’t meant to be political.  Seriously, I didn’t get it.  Because if you look at Ronald Reagan’s old movies they were truly not very good.  It was the same watching his TV performances as president.  Bad Hollywood dialogue he didn’t write delivered with the faux sincerity of a television pitchman, which was what he was before he slid into California’s governor’s mansion and later the White House.

Frances McD knows what I’m talking about

To this day it’s a wonder to me and to my friends how it happened.  So put that in your pot pipe and inhale before you dismiss the crazies in 2018.

One might say my friends and I hold a very niche minority opinion on Mr. Reagan and that the 1980s are not the twenty-teens.  But anyone who says that clearly didn’t bear witness to that president committing passive genocide daily in the eight years he was in office against thousands in the gay community, dozens of whom were my friends and several of whom were former lovers.  Our then president’s refusal to take the lead as the leader of the free world in a clearly growing pandemic because it primarily affected a minority group outside his base, (Note: Not to mention, one they didn’t care for), or to vaguely step up or, to even do anything meaningful at all on the issue ever, is a matter of public record.  And as such, it is irrefutable.

PREACH

I know this because I’ve silenced many a room over the decades that were singing his praises by staring coldly at anything human in my eye line and proclaiming in my most non-hysterical, deepest and resolute voice:

DO NOT TALK TO A GAY MAN OF A CERTAIN AGE ABOUT THE VIRTUES OF RONALD REAGAN.  DO NOT.   I WAS THERE.

The same will be said about Donald J. Trump one day, but not only by gay men.  It will be said by African-Americans, by Mexicans, and by any person of color vaguely paying attention.  It will also be voiced by the disabled, by the sick, by the uninsured and by all those who like to drink clean water or breathe fresh air.

You know, everyone but these guys

It will particularly be voiced by women, who, by then, will likely outnumber the men in leadership roles.  Assuming, that is, we are still united enough to lead and there are enough of us left.

One supposes this depends on how far off that said future is and how fatalistic one chooses to be.

A president doesn’t need to personally fire a gun or inject someone with a virus in order to be held responsible for presiding over the mass carnage left in the wake of domestic terrorism or disease.

A glimpse into the white house

When you are the person at the top, the place where the buck stops, it is enough to fan the flames of hate against particular minority groups or political foes from the opposite end of the spectrum and then watch in faux horror as the chips fall where they may.  In that sense nothing has changed since the 1980s, though ads featuring Black Welfare Queens seem almost quaint in comparison to today’s not so passive presidential endorsement of white nationalism and the KKK rallies from which they draw (Note: Drew?) their power.

It is infuriating, as a gay Jewish man of a certain age, to have to once again bear witness to a U.S. president who offers nothing but insincere hollow platitudes and a crystal clear lack of intent to do ANYTHING AT ALL to stem the tides of hate.  One hopes it is equally infuriating to those of any heritage or sexual persuasion at any age.

reality

Still, what makes it worse this time is that the platitudes offered don’t even attempt to be soothing.  Instead, they are tinged with threats of law and order violence and a recommendation for more guns, along with a promise of capital punishment retribution.

And that’s on the day that it happened, before we’ve buried even one of the 11 latest bodies we’ve yet to mourn.

It’s unclear where we go from here when almost half the country doesn’t understand what the big deal is in supporting a TV host who thinks Blackface isn’t any big deal.  But certainly let’s not go back to the 1980s, or the 1950s, for that matter.

Huey Lewis – “The Power of Love”