Thursday, February 08, 2007

Circuit Breaker
There were 3700 passengers (3695 guys and 5 women) on the Freedom of the Seas last week, and that is way too many people. Naturally, a significant portion of those guys were of the buff, tanned, athletic, handsome gene pool. Early on I could tell there was something different about this cruise, as the first half of the week was slightly marred by the overabundance of circuit party types who didn't follow the first unwritten rule of any Atlantis cruise: when you pass somebody in the stateroom hallways, you always say hi. From some buff bodies I received a few icy grunts. And the guy across from my stateroom let fail his half of a short, basic conversation I started. It got to a point where I judged friendliness by the shape of a body advancing toward me. Too much muscle meant too much attitude - and it didn't take all that much muscle. I wondered if I was noticing this because I'm now a much more seasoned "cruiser" and can view the scene with a more focused eye. But then a number of other people on the cruise made comments about this phenomenon, speaking of the "ice queens" on board.

As gay men, I think we somehow believe that we can all treat each other with friendliness and respect, since we were all subject to the same fears and humiliations and societal hatred when we were growing up. When we run up against the dreaded "attitude," especially from someone we find attractive, our gay grid of a belief system is shocked into disarray - not to mention the fact that it hurts!

I ran across a quote - a question, really - that speaks to this, on Life Beyond Code:

"What do you see when you see people?" The speaker goes on to explain:

We can have an instrumental view of people and see them simply as means to achieving our ends. Or we can see them as humans deserving of our respect, care and attention. Ancient practices of hospitality grew from choosing to see the “stranger” as a person and not a threat. Civility which is much lacking in our world also comes from a willingness to examine our perspective on others.

Saying hi to everyone you pass in the stateroom hallway equalizes the whole experience. If we choose to say hi to everyone, we aren't seeing people as a "means of achieving our ends" (whatever that may be...)

And who knows, me might meet someone who will end up important to our life.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Didn't Even Watch the Commercials
The American Airlines flight from Miami landed at around 6:30 last night, depositing a bunch of guys from the cruise into the frigid locale of Washington, DC. The flight's captain announced over the plane's PA system:

"Thank you for flying American. We hope you have a great night, and Happy Super Bowl!"

Um, tell me, since when did Super Bowl Sunday achieve the top level of calendar observances which instigate their own specific greeting?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Marketing Golden Rule
Atlantis Events (the gay travel charter company of which I am an "alumnus" - having traveled now on four of their vacations) maintains a Web site plastered with pictures of buff male bodies, youthful and athletically energized, all hanging out with other handsome buff young gentlemen by pools, on beaches, and striding through picturesque locales. I'm going to forget for the moment that I've bought the Atlantis product, and click through the site for the first or even the fifth time.

In doing so, I'm bound to conclude Atlantis isn't the vacation for me. That is, since I'm not one of those buff gorgeous athletic perfect specimens. But the funny thing is, Atlantis still wants to be your travel agent, even if your 65, 120 or 280 lbs, working too hard at your job to maintain your body at the gym, and bald with glasses.

How do I know this? Well, Atlantis tells me so, right on their FAQ page:

"Do I have to have a great body to fit in on Atlantis?
Very funny. Seriously, while we have some great bodies in our brochure and website (remember it IS marketing after all), Atlantis is really all about being yourself and feeling great about who you are. Whatever shape you’re in, you’re going to feel right at home on Atlantis. We promise."

Focus on those words in the parenthesis - "remember it IS marketing after all." Now read this from Seth Godin, who has incredible insight on marketing today:

"My hopeful side says that marketers should start taking responsibility for what we do, and start marketing to people the way we'd like to be marketed to. The cynical side of me realizes that this isn't bloody likely."

While Seth's quote comes from a post on the recent Aqua Teen Hunger Force advertising debacle, his words resonate throughout his blog. And they've made me question why Atlantis feels it has to constantly parade the A-Gay pictures in order to make sales. To me, it's disingenuous to market your product this way - ESPECIALLY when you then have to retract the message your images carry. You end up sending two conflicting messages. In essence you're simultaneously promoting and negating your brand.

I'd like to ask Rich Campbell, CEO of Atlantis Events, what are Atlantis Events precisely? Playgrounds for the genetically gifted? Or experiences for us all? I'm confused.

There's a very easy way to resolve this dilemma. Post pictures of actual Atlantis guests, in a wider range of ages and body types. Show us we're going to "feel at home." Then you don't have to tell us.

Do you really think bookings will suffer?

Where Winter Has No Meaning
Just got back this evening from an incredible Atlantis cruise to Puerto Rico, St. Maartin, and Labadee, Hispaniola (aka "Haiti"), and I was overwhelmed by the fact that there are places on this earth where winter is irrelevant.

I'm tanned, burned, mellow and in heavy denial. Denial that I'll be returning to work on Tuesday after using Monday as my re-entry day. I'm also over-tired, over-danced, over-spent, over-socialized, over-baconed (which I thought was impossible) and under-hydrated.

The actual cruise itself was a 24/7 festival of meeting new and interesting/exciting people, and signs of a community continuing to divide itself. I suspect I'll be writing about the past week in the next few days, but I won't bore you with all the specifics of my day-to-day activities. That would be the equivalent of "Earl and Belinda's slides of their trip to Cancun." Instead, I'll try to present some observations on the gay community through the lens of a rarely-experienced gay microcosm: our ongoing worship of beauty's tyranny, the aging gay man's battle for self respect in spite of reality, the messages we sell ourselves while we ignore the messages we try to tell ourselves, and the secrets to stability while boogie-boarding one of those surfing pool things.