Saturday, April 30, 2011

Feeling Minnesota: Outsight's Last Waltz

Originally Posted on January 8, 2007

In December, Pride Alive's literary 'zine Outsight rolled out it's latest, and quite possibly it's last, edition. It's not because it has not been successful as a form outreach of by Minnesota AIDS Project's program geared towards gay and bisexual men. There has been some changes in the agency that has shelved this form of outreach for the time being.

I am blessed to be a part of this 'zine as a contributing writer and poet. For this last edition, my poem from The Boy From Reseda, "New Kid in Town", was re-printed for this edition. In addition, I wrote a humorous essay that is self-explanatory by its title: "Feeling Minnesota: How a California Native Can Flourish in Minnesota Without Really Trying".

In fact, you can read it right here...

Another Look at Ol' Saint Nick

Originally Posted on December 6, 2006

As children, we are told that the Holidays arrived when Santa Claus comes to town. We are often told the story of “The Night Before Christmas” as a reminder that St. Nick is bringing us our goodies on Christmas morning.

Over the years, we found out that Santa is really not that guy at the mall you tell your wishes to. We also found out that your letters you’ve been sending to The North Pole end up at a post office in Prudhoe Bay, and what normally would be “returned to sender” gets “delivered” into the Dead Letter Office. In reality, you are Santa incarnate. You buy the gifts, hide them under the tree, then turn around coyly to say that Santa went to Macy’s and got you that lovely Izod sweater for Christmas.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…but he’s more of a legend than anyone you can actually trace on a Driver’s Licensing Bureau’s database.

A Decade Away From "Home"

Originally Posted on November 25, 2006

On December 1, 1996, I arrived 3,000 miles away from the place I was born to start a new life. A cloudy sky emitted a limited amount of light in the dawn of this particular Sunday.

Overnight I flew out of Los Angeles International Airport with all of my remaining personal belongings. Just a few bags were checked through on an American Airlines 757 heading eastbound. Just before six in the morning, the plane landed at Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia. After being shuttled from the plane to the terminal to gather all of my bags, a new adventure began.

Ten years ago, I left my home state of California and never looked back. I became disappointed and disillusioned by the lack of opportunities that never materialized personally. There were also other points of contention with the people I grew up with, but I can honestly take the blame for that situation.

National Coming Out Day: Telling My Story

Originally Posted on October 9, 2006

The coming out process for me was a protracted effort. I had to wait for the right moment and the right place to do it. Once I did, I hit the ground running and was able to do more since coming out than I did beforehand.

The wish I had was the opportunity to explore my sexual orientation further when I was younger. It seemed that when I was a teenager that every time I wanted to come out, I knew I would not be accepted by everyone. I was not prepared for the “classic coming out story” that ended in total estrangement from my family, so I kept myself in the closet and held on to a fragile heterosexuality.

Being a "Bear"

Originally Posted on September 27, 2006

Sometime back in the early 1970’s, when you found someone else who was gay, regardless of what they looked like, you welcomed him into the fold and showed him the universe. It just seemed right that the only way other gay folks reached out to each other was indeed through a common experience: same-gender sexuality.

As we grew as a movement establishing a community along the way, we became vain. All of the sudden, our attractions became part of the politics and social pecking order of gay liberation. One can speculate that because someone was not attracted to some other guy who was overweight, the rejected party decided to start his own movement. The result came when Girth & Mirth groups began springing up from San Francisco to New York and anywhere else chubby gay men can meet without ridicule.

Somewhere in the midst of this, some other overweight gay man came to a realization of his own sexual attractions. This particular guy was covered from head to toe with hair, including his face, and exhibited masculine attributes that make him even sexier. He started hanging out at leather bars instead of Girth & Mirth parties, and, soon, found himself hanging out with other hirsute gentlemen for private parties and other good times.

Fast forward to 1996, when beardom exploded from the underground onto the internet. Bear clubs start popping up all over the world, especially in places where it is illegal for a man to have sex with other men. Even younger guys were getting into the act. Attendance skyrocketed at Bear events and guys start traveling miles to meet other guys like themselves. Yet, when they came home there was either no one they can hang out with or trick. The internet was indeed this savior of the bear culture.

The Dramatic Consequences of Personal Blogging

Originally Posted on September 26, 2006

For the past few years, it seems that everyone in the world publishes a blog somewhere. A blog is an online journal, whether it is one provided by Live Journal, one embedded onto a MySpace site or something similar to what you’re reading now. Journaling is nothing new, but the proliferation of online journals is just another extension of the Internet as we know it.

The advantage of blogging is that you can put your thoughts online either for your own personal outlet or to share with others. A blog is sometimes used as a way to keep in touch with friends from afar. You know what is going on with them though you have not seen this person is months, perhaps years. Sharing stories and emotions also makes the heart fonder.

The rule of thumb for sharing blogs is usually with friends you can confide with your innermost secrets and emotions. It is also implied that blogs are supposed to be confidential information where trust is of the utmost of your friends.

Regarding Language Usage In Writing

Originally Posted on September 24, 2006

Every month, I attend the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Writer’s Group here in Minneapolis. As a part of this group, we get a chance to listen to other writers as they share out their craft with other fellow writers. It is also a place where I can try out new things and hear feedback on whether I am on the right track or not.

This past meeting was amazing. I read three new pieces for the first time and received what I consider to be a common feedback for my work. Compared to most poetry, I do not use flowery or oblique language. This is often the reason why many people why away from poetry at first. People who have either read my work or listened to it often come away with a complete comprehension of the poem and can relate in direct language and normal terms what the poem is all about.

I am encouraged by this and often wondered whether this is a unique situation or perhaps I am going about this the wrong way. It’s not about being talented, but perhaps finding a voice to an idea, an observation or an emotion that needs to be expressed and conveyed to an audience.

Just Another "Bear's Story"...

Originally Posted on March 19, 2006

For the past eleven years, I traded my blessings and curses for my own subcultural identity. In all, I love being a bear (or, rather a bear-identified gay man) and found a core group of friends who also identify with the same subculture.

However, there is always hope that we can provide ourselves with media and entertainment opportunities that feed the interest of our subculture. So far, there has been a mixed bag with magazines that tout the upper income levels of Bears and “mainstream” articles trying to explain and who and what we are. As far as we’ve come in the past eleven years, we are still trying to find things that embrace a wider picture of our subculture.

When it comes to films, if I’m looking for just mere entertainment, the latest films that feature our subculture certainly fill the bill. The big film from Spain, Cachorro (Bear Cub), arrived right on time. Some may be appalled by the sexual behavior of Pedro, the bear who has to take care of his nephew Bernardo, but if you follow the Spanish subtitles (or understand the dialogue), you can get really into it.

Honoring an Influence: Richard Pryor 1940-2005

Originally Posted on December 11, 2005

On Saturday, December 10, 2005, the world lost a great voice and influence in comedy. He certainly influenced me in a lot of ways. Before we get into the reasons why Richard Pryor influenced me as a younger writer, let me have you peek into his world a bit. This happens to be one of my favorite routines of his.

"You ever heard?  The (bleep) had the biggest dicks in the world and they were trying to find a place where they could have their contest, see.  And they wasn't no freaks; they didn't want everybody looking.  So they were walking around, looking for a secret place.  So they were walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and the (bleep) sees that water and it makes him want to piss, see.  One said, 'Man, I got to take a leak.'  He pulled his thing out and was pissing.  Other (bleep) pulled his out and took a piss.  And one (bleep) says, 'Goddamn, this water cold.'  Other (bleep) says, 'Yeah, and it's deep, too.'"

"I Was Born A Jewish Bear"

Originally Written in the Early 2000s - Last Posted on December 11, 2005

On that fateful day in the winter of 1964, Sheldon and Barbara Stern gave birth to their last son while overlooking the Ventura Freeway near Los Angeles. They cleaned him up, brought him home and made an appointment with the local rabbi. A few days later, the rabbi blessed the plump baby and made his ceremonial bris upon his appendage. Things were never the same after that day.

A few years later, the Stern children overheard an argument between their parents. The father, a cad in his own time, argued that the children would be better off celebrating Christmas. The mother, a faithful Conservative Jewish mother, who poured the guilt better than any Jewish mother on the West Coast, wanted to light the Menorah and celebrate Hanukkah. By 1971, mom won the battle of the Holidays and dad was out the door the next spring.

World AIDS Day: The Fight Continues

Originally Written in the Early 2000s - Last Posted on November 30, 2005

"We're fucking ourselves to death!"

This was the battle cry against an epidemic that was already stigmatized against us. Larry Kramer used it to build a platform that created New York City’s leading AIDS services provider. The playwright also used it to rally the troops against the Reagan and George H. W. Bush Administrations by a direct action movement. Both efforts were effective in getting the word out about AIDS, HIV and all related unresolved issues spreading throughout the gay male population.

Over two decades later, we’re still "fucking ourselves to death."

Are The Holiday Blues Troubling You, Bunky?

Originally Written in the early 2000s - Last Posted on November 26, 2005

The blues.  I’m not talking about the Blues that Buddy Guy and B.B. King wail from their guitars. Nor am I talking about the House of Blues in Chicago.  And, for all you hockey pucks, I’m not talking about the St. Louis Blues either.

During this time of year, a vast majority of us will suffer that terrible ailment that wreaks havoc on our daily lives: the Holiday Blues.  For those of you who may not be aware, the Holiday Blues is temporary form of depression that is caused by environmental and social conditions. These environmental conditions are induced by the sightings of Christmas decorations, large numbers of families gathering in a particular location, overtly positive behavior by people in your community and a downward change of the temperature.

Potential sufferers of this ailment usually live alone or with cohabitors who are from other cultural and social groups.  The Holiday Blues hits those who relationships with their birth families are strained by either distance between the sufferer and the main core of the family or by a negative relationship of that family.

Thinking About Thankgivings Past

Originally Written in late 1990s - Published in November, 2003 on - Last Posted on November 22, 2005

As I ponder my plans for Thanksgiving later this week, I started to reminisce about all those prior Thanksgivings in my life. It has been a mixed bag from the joyous to the sad, but memories nonetheless.

Indulge me, if you would?

A Thought For The Holidays

Originally Written in 1995 - Last Posted on November 20, 2005

A lonely young man sits on the edge of his bed in a deserted room, deep in thought. He walks around in a mindless pace, looking around the room for something to distract him. Finding nothing, he peeks outside. The wind whips through the neighborhood sweeping the sky clear. He's wondering why he's in this space on this, supposedly, the homiest of holidays.

He remembers what it was like with his family on Thanksgiving Day. Father and brothers gathered around the television to see the annual Detroit Lions game. Mother and sisters in the kitchen cooking up a feast for plenty. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents roll in from all over to partake in this glorious of days. All are seated around the long dining room table with the aroma of turkey and stuffing, the glimmer of cranberries, and the tenderness of all of the trimmings. Those were the days of wonder.

Reminiscing about all of those great times in his life, the lonely young man is saddened by the memory. He ponders many reasons why he is not with his family on this holiday. He wonders why his family didn't invite him over for their glorious feast this year. It won't take long to realize that, since it was his family who rejected him for who he is and how he lives his life.

My New Urban Minneapolis

Originally Posted on September 19, 2005

About fifteen years ago, I remember a conversation with a friend regarding my life in the Bay Area. I was asked if I would consider living in the city of San Francisco. Honestly, it did cross my mind, but I was content with life in San Rafael, a mere twenty miles away.

In retrospect, life in San Francisco made sense. After 1993, I stopped owning a car, so I relied on public transportation and the occasional rented car. I love the fact of urban living for the convenience of having everything within blocks away or a short bus, train or taxi ride. Urban living also had the added bonus of access to nightlife and other social opportunities.

Last month, I moved into a wonderful home in Minneapolis. A duplex in the Southeast part of the city about two blocks from the Mississippi River with access to the transit and other conveniences. Granted, it is not the major urban ideal I had in mind back in San Francisco, but the neighborhood is simply fantastic and the house has a certain urban neighborhood charm.

Remembering 9/11/2001: Mark Bingham - American Hero

Originally printed in the Midwest Ursine, October, 2001 - Reposted on September 9, 2005

Mark Bingham looked like a hero to begin with. He stood tall and well-defined. He was a champion rugby player. He was a public relations wunderkind, in command of his own PR firm in San Francisco. When he led a group of passengers on United Airlines flight 93, mid-flight out of Newark, NJ, to disarm the box-cutter-wielding al-Qaida terrorists and save the flight from intended mass destruction, he became larger than that.

A hero.

Remembering 9/11/2001: These Troubled Times

Originally printed in the Midwest Ursine in September, 2001 - Reposted on September 9, 2005

September 11, 2001.  For an entire generation, this date shook an entire nation out of complacency and into a state of alert.  As we slowly recover as a nation, the looming threat of Anthrax scares and other possible threats of terrorism still challenge our nation’s strong foundation.  Through these times, we heed the call to be a nation united.  After all, we are all Americans.  

What Kanye West Said on MTV

Originally Posted on September 1, 2005

Before the Video Music Awards, rapper Kanye West was intereviewed by MTV News correspondent Sway. The rapper formerly of the South Side had something to say about Hip-Hop's favorite word for disrespect:

"After my parents got divorced and we moved to Chicago when I was 3, I would go see my father on Christmas, spring break and summer. My father was my everything, but during the rest of the time, my mother was my everything. Of course there's a good side to that, but the bad side of that is that people call you a mama's boy. It gets to the point that when you go to high school and you wasn't out in the streets like that, and you ain't have no father figure, or you wasn't around your father all the time, who you gonna act like? You gonna act like your mother. ... And then everybody in high school be like, 'Yo, you actin' like a f--. Dog, you gay?' And I used to deal with that when I was in high school."

And what happened was it made me kind of homophobic, 'cause I would go back and question myself, like, 'Damn, why does everyone else walk like this, and I walk like this?' People be like, 'Yo fam, look at you. Look at how you act.' If you see something and you don't want to be that because there's such a negative connotation toward it, you try to separate yourself from it so much that it made me homophobic by the time I was through high school. Anybody that was gay I was like, 'Yo, get away from me.' And like Tupac said, 'Started hangin' with the thugs,' and you look up and all my friends were really thugged out. It's like I was racing to try to find that constant masculine role model right there, right in front of me. I would use the word 'f--' and always look down upon gays. But then my cousin told me that another one of my cousins was gay, and I loved him, he's one of my favorite cousins. And at that point it was kind of like a turning point when I was like, 'Yo, this my cousin, I love him and I been discriminating against gays.'"

But everybody in hip-hop discriminates against gay people. Matter of fact, the exact opposite word of 'hip-hop,' I think, is 'gay.' Like yo, you play a record and if it's wack, 'That's gay, dog!' And I wanna just come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, 'Yo, stop it fam.'"

Thank you, Kanye! I couldn't have said it better myself!

The Art of Relocation

Originally Posted on August 28, 2005

ow many of us can say that moving was a flawless experience? When you move from one to place, whether it’s cross-town or to another state, there will always be one glitch that would almost ruin the experience.

What About Your Friends?

Originally Posted on August 17, 2005

Did you know that President Abraham Lincoln, in his younger days, used to share the same bed with another man? Shocking, isn’t it? Before there was an efficient way to heat the bedroom, men had to rely on each other for warmth though those cold winter nights.

What about the fact that men used to write “love letters” to other male friends, fawning them with admiration and ending with a statement of a yearning to meet again? Mind you, these were heterosexually identified men who were doing these things about 175 years ago.

One would think that today’s gay male society would operate along the same lines as our ancestors about eight generations ago. The expectation of gay men being as warm, friendly, comforting and loving has been lost with a guarded sense of trust and a weathered view of human nature. In other words, we are a jaded lot!

Music Soothes The Savage...Bear?

Originally Posted on August 15, 2005

One Saturday night, about 1985 or so, I was driving home on the northbound Ventura Freeway near Los Angeles.  It was a clear night and I had the radio blasting in my rented Thunderbird.  I suddenly tuned to the new wave station and caught a cool tune from Joe Strummer of the Clash called “Trash City.”  I remember this tune specifically, because the local video show featured his video the night before of this same song.

Why would I mention this?  Well, they had this hot, woofy guy playing congas on this song.  This big bear of a man was wailing on the skins while Joe Strummer was wailing on what’s left of his voice.  The conguero wore a Kangol ascot-type hat and a thick beard.  I mean, he was majorly woofy!  I was ready to just have an accident…with the car.

As I found out, the conguero’s name is Poncho Sanchez.  Unlike most of the percussionists in the Latin jazz field, he was born in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and played mostly in and around Los Angeles.  I was immediately a fan; simply because of his playing…OK, his woofiness.  When I started playing congas back in 1988, it was no accident that Poncho Sanchez would be an influence on my music.

Bobaloo Sez "Do Not Pass Go!"

Originally Posted on August 14, 2005

Don’t let the haters to tell you anything, Bobaloo Rox! The spelling is correct, according to his website. Yet, if I correctly spelled the word “rocks,” it would take away from one of the funniest people I know who employs his craft professionally.

The comedian popularly known as Bobaloo is actually Bob Koenig, a kid from Milwaukee, who takes you through his rough-and-tumble working-class childhood using board games as a euphemism for life in his one-man show, “Do Not Pass Go.” The short one-act piece premiered at the Columbus Gay and Lesbian Theater Festival last year. This year, it was presented at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis as part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. The venue was perfect for the Los Angeles-based Bobaloo’s comedy and energy.

It is not just the games that enable Bobaloo through his tough childhood as he emerged easily into being openly gay by the time he attended college. In-between references to the various games he played, Bobaloo reveals a lonely boy who was not shy about wanting to connect with his friends...and with the characters of a popular Parker Brothers board game. His journey takes you through his love for Kiss, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and lets you laugh through the entire show. If you’re lucky, you might even do the Time Warp with him.

Co-written with playwright Randy Wyatt, Bobaloo’s performance de-emphasizes the theater aspect of the show and take you down the middle between classic comedy theatre and his stand-up act. The balance works very well as he weaves this story through a series of vignettes presented chronologically. He also takes time to make fun of himself and let everyone laugh along with him. This is part of Bobaloo’s magic and charm.

Everywhere Bobaloo performs, he knocks everyone’s socks off. Even with a small crowd on the Festival’s final day, no one was able to escape Bobaloo’s web of hilarity. In the end, Bobaloo Rox!


Originally Posted on August 13, 2005

It happens every time I sleep.  I snore.

Apparently, it’s not a bad thing.  Or, is it?  Over five years ago, I used to visit a close friend of mine down in Columbus, Ohio on a regular basis. However, after a few nights of sleeping in the same bed with him, I was banished to the futon in the living room.  Why?

Because, I snored loudly.

Not all of my experiences with my snoring are that extreme.  A former roommate in Madison, Wisconsin had resigned to the fact that we both snored loudly.  He is still a friend and we sometimes travel. Even on the road, we’re used to our snoring patterns as well as our different sleeping times.

So, I ask, is it normal for big men to snore?

Dude, I'm So Stressed!

Originally Posted on August 12, 2005

We all experienced this before.

It's mid-term time and you know you're doing fine in your classes. You study like mad day and night to make sure you're ready for your exams. You take your tests.  Then, a week later...your grades arrive  lower than you've thought.  Yes, you've studied hard enough, but...

So, you work almost around the clock to make sure you get the grades necessary to raise your GPA.  You put all of your emphasis on the final exams, forgetting about the small things you need to do, such as food and laundry. about this.  You worked for a year at your company and your review is up.  Your boss, among others, have been praising you for a great job since you've been hired.  Sure, you've made a couple of mistakes, but those mistakes weren't critical enough to get you fired. The day comes and your boss calls you into his office to discuss your review.  Not only does he rip you to shreds over those incidents, but the pay raise is much lower than you normally get.

So, you work five times as hard, putting in overtime, to show your boss that you are more than capable of performing your job competently.  You want a better raise, so you try to help out in everybody's department to get your name out in the firm.

These two scenarios are dangerous examples of a common problem we have amongst us: stress.  Not a day goes by when one of us feels the most common disease amongst people in industrialized nations.

A (Big) Man’s Home Is His Castle

Originally Posted on August 9, 2005

That sure was long commute this afternoon, wasn’t it? A long day at work coupled with a packed bus moving slowly up its route because of a couple of accidents and the usual rubberneckers out there on the roadway. As irritated as you are, you can only think of one place where you’d rather be: home.

After a short walk from the stop to your doorstep, you fumble with the keys. You are beat, tired, malfunctioning. You need food...wait; you need to revive yourself before you can any food in your body! You need a long soak in the tub. It’s a lovely idea, but not as simple as you would think.

Most of the homes I lived in had these bath/shower enclosures that are too small for a 6’1” tall, 300-pound chubby bear to comfortably soak in the tub. No problem with the shower, but the tub? My legs were climbing up the tile work. Plus, any slight move in a tub full of water will allow gallons of water to flow out of the tub onto the floor. Not fun, folks!

Certainly, as a renter, you may not have much say in what kind of bathroom fixtures you would like to have to make your life comfortable. But, as a homeowner, including condo owners, you can do whatever you please with your more intimate parts of your abode.

Everyday Clothes That Make The (Big) Man

Originally Posted on August 9, 2005

I’m a big man. I can’t help it, I was born this way. My baby fat is still part of my figure as are my blue eyes, elongated nose and small round head.

As a triple extra-large person living in an extra large world, one size has not been fitting all. Remember the picture from the 2002 Chicago Auto Show when I was attempting to sit in a MINI Cooper? Some of you laughed at it and wondered why I would dare fit my fat big bear body in a “pregnant roller skate?”

Ponderances of Life at Work

Originally Posted on August 8, 2005

In my travels over the past 14 years of being an openly gay man, I find it amazing how many people never gauge me as being one of the tribe. It boggles my mind that even my own people would even think of me as either a closet case or some straight guy with a wife, 2.54 kids, a house in Maple Grove and a Honda minivan. Then, I realized that I have never done any of the obvious things that would even give any straight person any credence towards my sexual orientation.

So, here I am, looking pretty masculine to my own people, while walking among my co-workers at my mundane job who are probably wondering why I never talked about having any relations with a woman.

You gotta love heterosexuals!

The Attraction Puzzle

Originally Posted on August 7, 2005

Way back in the late 1990’s, as with most people during that time, I was on quite a few e-mail lists.  What amazed me about these lists were the strings that permeated these forums.  Once someone posts a message, 50 people reply to the post for days to try to say something edgewise.  Half of the people agree; half of the people don't.

Sometime around 1997/98, I recalled in one of the bear lists I received where a guy from Berkeley, California wrote about how in the gay community big men normally are not attracted to other big men, "or, worse, purposely avoid them."

There were several responses to this post. One response in particular, another subscriber from New York, stated that a new group just formed in that area for big men who like big men. I thought it was a great idea, but many others felt it would subdivide the community even further. The issue was simply that a few people in the chubby/chaser community questioned the invisibility of chub/chub couples. Let alone the attraction one big gay male has for another similarly sized man.

30 Days and More

Originally Posted on August 6, 2005

Last night, I was watching a couple of TiVoed episodes of a series on News Corporation's cable channel FX called "30 Days." This breakthrough series is the brainchild of Morgan Spurlock, the man behind the documentary Super-Size Me. What Suprlock does is to take individuals and put them in an opposite universe for 30 days. The two episodes I watched were glaring examples of this concept.

A Year In Minnesota

Originally Posted on July 31, 2005

Perhaps Peter Mayle and I have something in common. Granted, the Land of 10,000 Lakes is as far from Provence as you can get proverbially, but some of the locals may as well been a part of a Mayle book. Yet, I have not encountered any truffles out in the wilds of Minnehaha Falls, but one can say that home problems and regional dialects seem to run in common between these two experiences.

In case you are wondering why I mentioned Mr. Mayle and referred to a favroite book of mine, today marks my first anniversary of my move to the state of Minnesota.

Moving Right Along...

Originally Posted on July 27, 2005

People wondered whether Jay-Z truly "retired" as a recording artist. He did emerge as an executive for the parent label of his own Roc-A-Fella and still collect his cash from his other enterprises. However, Mr. Shawn Carter also knows something that I do about "staying power."

Sometimes you have to bless the past, leave it back there, then, going forward, do something even better.

Looking back, I had my share of joy and pain with Gen-X Bears. I was at the point in late 1998 where I walked away from it and left it for those running it to make it or break it. Apparently, they made it a success, but they also pissed off a lot of people. The movement almost was destroyed twice because people's own petty behaviors.

My intention this year was to honor that past. In the past week, I felt as I need to simply let go and, as Stockard Channing said in "Six Degrees of Separation," consider the chapter an "anecdote."

I was hoping people would come together and celebrate. I was hoping people would stop being selfish and nascissistic and find a way to bridge any strife and heal from it. In the end, people no longer cared about the space they used as a diving board into their own cleverness and vanity.

What am I now? I'm just a guy. I live in Minnesota. I have a small group of wonderful friends and acquaintances that I love hanging out with locally. I also have other friends strung out across state lines and time zones. I pour my soul into my writing. This is I what I've become. That is where I want to be right now.

As far as I'm concerned, Gen-X Bears is now an anecdote. Shall we move on?

Ten Years of Gen-X Bears: A Look Back

Originally Posted on July 26, 2005

This week marks the Tenth Anniversary of my signature work, Gen-X Bears. It is something I am very proud of and embarassed by at the same time. Looking back, I wanted to compile the most important moments of this strange trip that enabled a whole generation of gay and bisexual men to become a part of an emerging subculture.

Let's look back, shall we?

Open Letter: Happy Tenth Anniversary, Gen-X Bears!

Originally Posted on July 23, 2005

Dear Fellow Gen-X Bears (and Everyone Reading This),

Please join me in honoring this wonderful movement and the subsequent groups that came out of it a Happy 10th Anniversary! I want to thank everyone who had a hand in continuing its relevance in today's GLBT and Bear society. Also, I wanted to thank those of you in the Bear Subculture, GLBT Community and elsewhere who admired this movement and was influenced by it into your own lives and work.

Thousands of people from all over the world have been a part of this movement. We are still remembered and recognized all over the community as a vital part of the emergence of our generation onto the GLBT scene.

I am very proud to have created this space ten years ago. I am also proud to have made some wonderful friends, acquaintances and contacts along the way. I also honor my enemies and haters who have made my job interesting.

Take this time to reflect on how GXB has helped or enhanced your own development as a human being. Now, go celebrate!

Peace...and *HUGZ* to Everyone!

- Randy Stern
Gen-X Bears

London Calling

Originally Posted on June 30, 2005

It is truly hard to comprehend who we are supposed to react to today’s news from London. I went from shock to anger in a few milliseconds. This is the same anger I experienced on September 11, 2001.

I have never been to London. I always wanted to go and experience it. However, today’s bombings will not deter me from this dream. London is a polyglot of people that are tight knit and community-oriented. Yesterday, London scored the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. As an entire city celebrated, there was no indication of what may come the next morning.

Again, a cell of al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for interrupting the lives of a city and its nation. As with the attacks in the USA on September 11, 2001, Londoners were not prepared. It also appeared that the Blair Government were not prepares for such an attack, either.  

There will be fears. Fuel prices will respond accordingly. Airfares in and out of the UK will rise. Already the New York Stock Exchange experienced a drop in their index in their reaction to the London bombings. Yet, Prime Minister Tony Blair, in closing the G8 summit, has devoted his time in a quick resolution and recovery for the city. The International Olympic Committee remains committed to London as the site of the 2012 Games.

We will experience a lot of knee-jerk reactions to today’s bombings in London this morning. We will pray for those who were lost or injured during the four bombings in Central London. We will also become resilient to the enemies who want to destroy our society and our way of life.

We must also have to put our trust into a city that went through even worse in the past century. A lot of us may not recall the Blitz that Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe employed over the city in the early part of World War II. Unfortunately, this is a different war. A war over global society through a different interpretation of faith.

Today, I ask everyone to join me in sending healing to the people of London, the UK and the world. Let us hope that we can all rise above this and find a peaceful resolution to this chasm in our world. Let us be safe and secure in our everyday dealings. Let us continue living our lives, even if it means making a few adjustments to enable us to get through the day without fear.


Oh Look...a New Bear Magazine!

Originally Posted on June 30, 2005

You've probably heard about the inaugural publishing of a new magazine, A Bear’s Life. I certainly applaud the efforts within my subculture in the creation of a non-pornographic lifestyle magazine and I am curious as to how this will be presented. I am also curious as to the quality of the writing in this new publication.

Admitedly, I am a bit jealous. I entertained a dream of creating a similar magazine years ago. Frankly, I don’t have the cash to build a magazine from the ground up and the time to woo advertisers and edit content. Seriously, I don’t even have the skills to do layout using Quark or other similar software.

In all, I’m pretty content with my efforts at MotorGeek (v2.0, that is). I like the freedom being a "freelancer" with access to media sites to help create articles with facts and photos. Luckily, I am not after advertising. Yet, I truly feel alone in my efforts as I have been trying to encourage others to participate on the blog.

I wonder if I can get hooked up with the new magazine somehow.

Gen-X Bears at 10

Originally Posted on June 30, 2005

"Let me tell you a story. No, this is not a fairy tale, but a true story about some fat kid with body hair, facial hair, some organizational skills, a lot of vision and some nerve to create change inside of a subculture within gay male society. Some say that this is a tall tale. Others still live to tell how this subversive action has forever changed their lives."

- Cover Story August/September, 2003

That paragraph sums up the story about a guy and a movement. Perhaps the most unlikely of activists to ever start something that ended up making an impact on a part of gay male culture.

He wasn't polished in the ways of moving the masses. He never went to a college full of well-educated, multicultually-minded and subversive peers. He only had a professor who motivated him to become a change agent.

Yet, everything he understood about creating change came down to a post in the Bears Mailing List during the summer of 1995. For the next ten years, he has seen his work through a rollercoaster ride from a booming success to the high drama that almost destroyed his most important contribution to his people.

The work has survived a decade. And so has he. It's a small wonder how he survived that rollercoaster. Sometimes, he wonders why his work has lost its vitality or its relevance. Sometimes he wonders if he’s lost his ability to become a hub for people to gather. Yet, he feels truly blessed that his work is still recognized and remembered by many segments of our community and beyond.

Incidentally, that person is me. And, I thank you for all for being a part of this history and allowing me the space to reminisce about this wonderful chapter of my life.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Gen-X Bears!

Quote and Link © 2003 Olivera Jr.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pride 2005

Originally Posted on June, 2005

First off, I want to thank the North Country Bears for having me read yesterday at their booth at the Twin Cities' Pride Celebration. The crowd and the club was very supportive through the heat and the screaming huckster across the way. NCB Board Member Kevin Vales predicted that I would have dreams of a woman repeatedly screaming "three balls for a dollar!" Not yet, Kev!

I was nervous at first, but loosened up towards the end of the short set. One of the problems I encountered was that I am unable to project my voice. For someone who was known to having a loud voice, yes, this is unusual. Perhaps this is why I don't do well in the theatre. Maybe next time, we'll have to get a microphone and a small PA set.

Yesterday's reading was concluded by this special poem celebrating Pride and Gen-X Bears' 10th Anniversary. Take a gander...and Happy Pride everyone!

The Influence of Hip-Hop Upon My Writing

Originally Posted in June, 2005

Before we begin, let me explain something to my GLBT friends. Please understand where I came from and the influences that since shaped my world.

It's All In The Marketing

Originally Posted on June, 2005

The last thing any artist would want to talk about is marketing. Normally, the publisher does all of that. However, when the artist also has experience in publicity and writing press releases, guess who does a chunk of the marketing?

Kicking Off The After Party

Originally Posted in March, 2006

Last night, I hosted a release party for the After Party at my home in Minneapolis to a small and highly appreciative crowd. It brought out friends from near and afar, including those whom I have not seen in years.

In all, they were very receptive to the material presented in the new book. The program included discussion that talked about issues and experiences regarding the subject matter of the material. This format worked when Richard Brown and Cory Moll hosted me last October at their place in Madison during the 'Zine Fest. The discussion was fantastic and ranged from the topic matter to the poetry style.

If I do any more solo events in the future, I will be employing this format.

Just thinking about “what’s next,” there was plenty of talk about that. The main focus right now is the Southern California trip in April/May. I am also involved in organzing a GLBT Open Mic during Pride Week in Minneapolis, sponsored by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Writer's Group, The Loft literary center and the Pride Alive program of the Minnesota AIDS Project. There has been talk of taking my material on the road again. This time, we’re talking Madison (again), Duluth, Columbus and Philadelphia.

I wanted to thank those who attended the After Party release event last night. Tell the world about this wonderful publication and bring 'em to the Autumnbridge Media website to get their copy!

Lions, Tigers, Bears, Chubs, Chasers...Oh My!

Originally Posted in September, 2007

What transpired this weekend energized my soul. It was an amazing experience.

What happened? To explain, Minneapolis was the annual stop for the Affiliated Big Men’s annual confab, Convergence. This is where gay and bisexual men of large size and the ones of like them get together for a weekend of fun and camaraderie.

Originally, I had planned to sell Autumnbridge Media’s collection of books there. After thinking it over, I backed out. Instead, I thought about doing something in a form of a seminar. That also did not work out for me. A lot of this had to do with the timing of my first class at St. Mary’s (MN) and the request on the syllabus to read some chapters in preparation for Tuesday’s initial class meeting.

Luckily, I was able to accomplish my reading in time to heed the call of a couple of online friends visiting for Convergence.


Originally Posted on May, 2007

It was an amazing night! Lori and I made it so by switching places and keeping the evening lively. Andrea Jenkins, one of the curators of the GLBT Reading Series at SASE, was completely blown away. Well…so was I.

The highlight of the evening came when I was asked by Lori to read a piece from her short story compilation, Stepping Out: Short Stories. It was a letter from a father to his lesbian daughter on the occasion of the birth of his grandchild. It was a cold reading done in the voice of what I call a “typical Minnesota father.” Frankly, I was amazed I pulled this reading off.

I do not teach any classes on writing or spoken word performance, but I can pass along one thing to anyone who reads this blog: if you write something read it out loud! When you do, find the voice that reads in the way it should be delivered! Lastly, see how your voice can be flexible to use a different inflection, tone, accent, octave…etc…as long as it is not false to your audience.

Oh yeah, and characters exist in poetry…not just in mine!

Thanks to those who came out and attended this event! Until next year…somewhere…

2006 Madison 'Zine Fest is a Wrap!

Originally Posted in October, 2006

Our return to Madison ‘Zine Fest was a very successful trip. Scott Schumacher and Autumnbridge Media had plenty to offer with our four titles (including my two) and other ‘zines published by the Minnesota AIDS Project’s Pride Alive program. We received a lot of great feedback on everything we brought to Madison, including the Pride Alive ‘zines. I’m certain that Michael Lee at Pride Alive would be happy to read that every copy of Outsight and Shameless was gone that day and he has requests for more to be sent to two organizations back in Madison.

Christopher Wilde of the Queer Zine Archives Project led a roundtable on the history and purpose of Queer ‘Zines. Scott and I contributed along with a good cross-section of the community. It was great to see Chris, Milo from QZAP, Mara Williams from KDVS in Davis, Calif., Billy from Loop Distro in Chicago, Joe from Microcosm Publishing in Portland, Ore. and the other zinesters from last year.

"Speak Your Word" Open Mic: Mission Accomplished

Originally Posted on June, 2006

Tonight's Open Mic at the Open Book center was absolutely amazing! The collaboration with the Twin Cities gay men's Writer's Group, The Loft and Pride Alive resulted in a quality evening for all who attended and participated.

Among the highlights, local spoken word artist Kevin "Kaoz" Moore simply blazed the stage! So did other spoken word artists Michael Antonio Bosch, Wonder Dave, Rev. Pat D. ...well, everyone rocked! If you want to know these new faces of the literati, check 'em out at various spoken word events around The Cities! We also got a good mix of poetry, prose and non-fiction from the rest of the participants.

There was a great prose by Laura Lively, the only woman on tonight's program, about a polyamory situation that was fantastic! During intermission, I informed her that "polyamory was the new black." She cracked up!

Back From The 2005 Madison 'Zine Fest

Originally Posted in October, 2005

The most successful promotion of The Boy From Reseda happened over this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. Not only has the book caught the eye of several people in Madison; it has also got some people interested beyond the place.  Sunday night's reading at Motherfools was unbelieveable! We had a great mix of readers joining me onstage and the material was incredibly amazing! There was a lot of love in the room, not only for the readers, but for The Boy From Reseda. I felt I had my best performance of my work ever.

The "Soundtrack" for The Boy from Reseda

Originally Posted in June, 2005

As some of you know, music has always influenced everything I've done. When I was writing the poems that are a part of The Boy from Reseda, there were certain songs that popped in my mind when these poems were written out.

If there was a soundtrack available as an accompaniment to the book, it would include these following songs:

YOU! I Want To Take You To A...

Originally Posted in June, 2005

The bar is a common place in gay society. A place one knows to go to find other people like themselves for a night out of fun and debauchery.

Every city, large town and a few suburbs has a gay bar. Some are not as obvious as others, but once you find it, it is a piece of paradise for a night. Or, it could be hell for a few moments more than usual.

In my travels, I've wound up at some bar somewhere. I must admit that I had a few wild times in those lovely taverns, especially where men of my subculture are present. An errant circle around the place...a promenade of the fresh meat available for the night. Checking out what's on the walls, human or otherwise. Some just stand and pose; others smile, wave, nod and even say the magic word: "woof."

A Tale of Two Coming of Age Poems

Originally Posted in June, 2005

As part of theme of The Boy From Reseda, I wanted to explore back to the times when I had a feeling that I would be gay. The moment of puberty where you start to figure out what is natural versus what is expected.

The idea created two poems addressing the theme of self-discovery. They share a common trait where the discovery of one's own sexual identity is tied into the setting of school. Junior High (or Middle School in most places) is a terrible place to live through. You have two options: survive or succeed. Success are for those who are self-assured in puberty and are ready for high school. Survival are those who can make it out alive with all of their limbs and capacities in tact.

Not Your Typical Day At The Grocery Store

Originally Posted in June, 2005

I recently created some poems that reflected a local flavor to my newly adopted hometown. The Cities, also known as the Twin Cities or, to be more specific, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, has a lot of flavor for a place primarily known for its winters. I can see a lot of the places I've been throughout my years here. This is perhaps why I truly feel comfortable being a resident here. It's been a long time since I can honestly say that.

One of the poems talk about a rather unusual trip to a grocery store in the area, "The Rainbow on Arcade." Let me say right off that the title alone is not a code. Let me explain...

Welcome To Reseda, Dude!

Originally Posted in June, 2005

Throughout the process of doing the book, people were curious as to the meanings of places and events. I was quite prepared for those questions.

For example, in my first poem of the book, "Welcome to Reseda," I gave a quick tour of of my hometown through three decades. Sadly, I should've done more research. I referenced a place called Incognito, a bar on Reseda Boulevard near Sherman Way at the heart of Reseda. After searching through the web, it looks like the bar's name has since changed to Bananas. I figured to leave the old bar's name there as a last personal memory of Reseda: the discovery of a gay nightlife blocks away from where I grew up years after I left.

Where Does it All Come From?

Originally Posted in June, 2005

Back in March, I was at the North Country Bears Bar Night at Trickx in Saint Paul when a friend announced that he wanted to do a reading of one of my poems at my release event for The Boy From Reseda.

At first, I was taken aback and tried to discourage him from doing so.

Then, I thought about it. He picked a poem that I have read a few times over the years and I can see him interpreting it to the humor and the situation it is set. Having someone read a piece and give it their spin on the meaning of the poem is actually what this is all about.