Thursday, March 15, 2007

And A Rock Feels No Pain
This week, the Washington Post's health section ran a number of articles all about men. I gravitated to "The Masculine Singular: Social Isolation Is Hazardous to Men's Health, but Many Find It Hard to Open Up." At my age, I find it harder and harder to meet people who aren't already coupled. So I thought the article might have some thoughts on what to do about the whole problem. After spotlighting some Harvard research showing social isolation is hazardous to a man's health (who knew?), the article gave these options for venturing off that deserted island:

Join a group;
Take a chance (i.e., open up to another guy);
Consider women (as friends);
Get married (um, I can't, legally);
Remember, you're not alone (kinda hard, when that's the problem!);
Be a man (and courageously deal with whatever emotional problems you have).

I finished the article, yet felt I hadn't learned much. I did feel that the article was a bit heterosexist, laying out solutions that would work for a straight guy (like the marriage idea), without taking into account the fact that gay men may feel just as isolated, if not more so. DC's got a large gay male population, and it's not a stretch to predict that a couple of those guys read the article. You may see a few of these guys dining alone, if you walk by Annie's on 17th street on any evening around 6pm or so.

I further found it odd that the Post would run the article online, along with the others in the series, graced by a perfectly muscular shirtless torso (photo detail above, next to this post's title), which would definitely catch the eyes of gay men - and maybe even some straight women.

So what are the options for a guy like me?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Whatever Happened to Personal Training
I spent much of 2006 in the massive, capable, and torturing hands of personal trainers at my gym. I haven't totalled the exact amount of money I spent last year on having experts tell me what weights to lift and for how many reps. But it's surely in the thousands of dollars. And while I really didn't achieve my (ridiculously) high personal goals, I did achieve something. I realized, once and for all, that to be massive with non-massive genetics, you need illegal help.

But that's a step I was unwilling to take. So here I am, back to working out on my own. I'm the same weight I was last year at this time. I think I'm going through some kind of withdrawal, in that I'm finding it tough to get motivated to actually go to the gym. Last year, it was the money I was paying, along with the knowledge that I really didn't have to think once I got there, that kept me going and going and going.

But I have noticed one thing now that I'm back to working out by myself. I can concentrate better and get into a zen-like (like I know what zen is all about) state when lifting. Whether that's just because nobody's watching me now, or because I've actually progressed somewhere in my workouts, is hard to tell.

One thing for sure. If I don't go back to the gym, all last year will definitely be for nothing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What I've Learned from Writing Scripts
After ten years of seriously writing plays and screenplays, I've not only learned some lessons from the activity, I've also internalized some aspects of the profession and turned them into ways of progressing through life. A number of these lessons came together in my head over the past few days, and I took the time to write them down:

1. Chronic passivity gets you only so far. One of the biggest things I had to get past when I started is a problem many writers face - that of the passive main character. A character that watches, while everybody else goes around doing things. Once I started making my main characters not only do things but take chances, things took off. And I did too.

2. Creation happens at the cellular level. That means you don't have to write the script all at once. You don't even have to write a scene all at once. Sondheim, in Sunday in the Park With George, writes "bit by bit, building up the image." And that, for me at least, is the way it happens.

3. It's never going to be perfect. It can't be. Ever. So don't even try... well, you can try, but don't let that mess with the next lesson:

4. Meet your deadlines. And those others set for you - especially directors and theaters. If I know I have to deliver a script to a director by a certain date, I make sure I've set myself up with enough time to get it to the point where I can say "OK, it's as good as it's gonna be, for now," and then hand it off. And when I do, I always:

5. Resist the urge to make excuses for anything I deliver. You know what I'm talking about. Handing over a work and saying "it's just ok, if I had some more time, I was thinking of doing, I'm really just starting out, it's only a fifth draft." Say those in your head, and let them stay there. Then later, when the feedback comes at you:

6. Don't balk at criticism. And don't argue with it either. There have been numerous times I've received criticism from others that go against everything I'm thinking - and then reveal themselves to be fantastic ideas that, once put in place, shoot the work to a much higher level. When that work's at a higher level, though, remember:

7. What you say about someone else's work - might come back and be said about your's. Before I really started writing plays that people took seriously, I ripped movies and shows apart in conversations. Then, when I saw my stuff onstage, I wondered how many people in the audience were going to do the same thing I often did. And once I modulated myself, I experienced something strange:

8. The things I thought were funny sometimes weren't, and the things I thought wouldn't work sometimes did. And it's fun to be surprised that way. Which brings me to my favorite:

9. Sometimes it's not about putting words down, it's about taking them away. AKA editing.

Kind of a long post. Maybe I should follow my advice in #9 and remove some

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Ghaytto Evaporates
I've lived in Dupont Circle for about 18 years now. I've seen the neighborhood's gentrification, which halted at 16th street when I first moved down here, expand to 14th and beyond as the years have gone by. So it was with particular interest that I read QueerSighted's post on "Death of the Gayborhood." Richard Rothstein mainly discusses the New York City scene, but the things he says about it are pretty much true for DC. Although on a smaller scale. Isn't that always the case?

Here in my neighborhood I see more and more young couples pushing baby strollers these days, although there are still six gay bars on 17th between P and R streets (if you count Annie's as a gay bar.) The 14th and P intersection is now packed with nightlife, offering a number of "mixed clientele" restaurants along with two bars. When I moved here, that area was just abandoned buildings and old old old neighborhood stores.

What do I think about the "death of the gayborhood?" A number of things...

Neighborhoods change all over - it doesn't matter who inhabits them. They change. They're gonna change.
The relative comfort I feel on the streets of Dupont with my friends may not be immediately transferrable to another locale - like, say Woodbridge, VA - for awhile.
It's terribly limiting, not to mention paradoxical, to live in an enclosed space of any kind in order to feel "free."
It still takes a special kind of non-gay person who feels comfortable in a gay bar or one catering to a "mixed" clientele.
There are still plenty of people out there who would make it hard for us to genuinely mix in some neighborhoods. Just look at how easy it is for us to get married in the USA.

Thanks, Maria Palma!
...for providing a link to my positive customer service snippets in your blog post "Good Customer Service Stories: Spreading the Good Vibes." Maria writes the "Customers Are Always" blog, a fantastic place to visit if you're at all interested in the kind of service you receive in stores, restaurants, hotels and many other places. I first read about Maria's blog in the September 2006 Fast Company article "Self-Serving." Customers Are Always was one of three "service" blogs reviewed. I took a look at it and immediately added it to my list of blogs I visit. Maria runs her blog for customer service professionals, and I find her perspective compelling. And I'm not even involved in customer service... except as a customer! Thanks again, Maria, for the recognition!