Friday, December 19, 2008

American Boy

Riding my bike home from work, Estelle's American Boy streaming into my brain via my Iphone, I get a sense of peace and serenity in the knowing that it's all gonna be alright. The Golden bomb of light setting before me over Biscayne Bay helps the zen moment encompass my being completely. I'm living proof that the recession is here. I may be suffering but I'm not doing too shabby. My credit is still intact, I haven't foreclosed on my investment properties or my main residence in Midtown condos. I have had to give up some luxuries and for the first time since i was 15 i am making do without a car. This is no big deal to anyone from any other country in the world or even someone from Manhattan but in Miami a car is a necessity since it is a city with a very spread out layout. Being an "American Boy" I realize how tied we are to our toys, our blackberry's, Iphone's, cars, the latest trend in clothing, etc. I always try to take the good out of the bad and it seems that there is a new dawn upon us, one where we are pushed to find a new way of living, of thinking, of consuming. A more conscious way, more awake, more in tuned to the earth and it's limited resources. A consciousness that at any moment, oil can run out or get too expensive and the shit can hit the fan, affecting all of us in every country, in the millions.

We are living a global recession. With that, comes a new, worldwide awareness that hate us or not, America is a keystone in the world economy, without us the rest of the bridge falls. To maintain that keystone's strength we must now think of alternate ways to consume, to put it simply, consume less and more wisely. Recycle more, trim our local and federal governments, trim the fat from our corporations and homes.

I am a victim of this recession. I am a gay, latino son of Cuban immigrants, a college graduate, a professional with a solid career. I am America. I produce and consume for America, paying my taxes along the way. I give to charities and help my fellow man whenever I can. I am the American Dream come true, what my parents risked all for leaving their homeland, just so I could get a piece of this "pie". Im not a victim in the way my Republican friends like to describe it as if I got in over my head with a bad loan because I was greedy. No, I invested in a condominium after 10 years of schrewd investment decisions and flipping properties. I didn't plan for the bubble to burst so quickly. Stuck with a duplex that won't sell, I now have my property taxes choking me to almost foreclosure until I can cash out on my duplex. I've had to take on a roommate to offset this added cost. No twice a month maid, no dining out except for special occasions, worst of all, no more 4 door, electric green, 2007 Jeep. The wonderfully unorganized City of Miami conveniently denied my property tax transfer relief because i left my move in date box empty. They, as a result can charge me the full tax value for my condo until the appeal date is set. That could take over 10 months to resolve. Government inefficiency at it's worst. The fact that I could lose my hard earned investment as a result of an empty box and now forced to pay $400 extra per month in the meantime, is as contrary to the purpose of government as it gets.

Giving up my Jeep forced me on to a scooter to get to work. That was a good plan until I got hit by a car and got a free ambulance ride to Jackson Trauma center with a concussion, scraped face and broken nose. The important thing is I survived and now ride my bike 5 miles each way to work. Since then i've healed from my accident, finally have my short term memory back, no more migraines and have lost a good 7 pounds, making me trimmer than I've ever been. The abs I've always wanted have finally arrived!

American's have "moxie". We will get through this. We just have to get off our comfortable asses and work together to find more creative, earth friendly solutions to survive a world with ever limited resources. Who knows maybe a new wave of Americans riding bike to work can cure our nation's obesity epidemic? It'd be nice to trim that fat. I was given a second chance at life and now for the first time since junior high school, I can ride my bike without handlebars and I feel lighter and freer than I have felt in a very long time. Cue music here:

Article on new wave of American's commuting via bicycle:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Come Out Come Out Wherever you Are! Letter to Ricky Martin & other closeted celebrities

Would you ever see a Jewish person get up on stage and dance the Hora with a Skin head? Would you ever see a black person paint themselves white and dance on stage with KKK leader David Duke? No you wouldn't. So why then would Ricky Martin, the biggest and most obviously gay celebrity since Liberace get on stage and shake his "bon-bon" with the gay community's biggest enemy, George Bush at his inaugural concert? Because he can hide his "gay-ness" and he somehow believes that selling out to the highest degree is absolutely correct and appropriate. To dance on stage with the leader that tried his hardest to change our constitution to deny us gays rights to equality in this country. Why do I single out Ricky Martin, you ask? Many reasons, he is latino like I am, he lives in Miami and I am completely over hearing stories about his sexcapades all over Miami with guys I am friends with and last but not least because gay youth in America are more likely to commit suicide 4 to 9 times more than their heterosexual counterparts- Although Ricky Martin has done good work in protecting children with his charities,, these are the children that Ricky Martin forgot to help. His fellow gays.

On the other end of the gay spectrum, we have Harvey Milk ( who was our "Martin Luther King", the first openly gay politician elected to office in the United States in the 70's. He was our champion, our leader, our reason for pride. He was such a visionary that we are still fighting the fight he lead a full 3o years later, he even envisioned his own death by assasination 10 years after the assasination of Martin Luther King.

They both died for exactly the same fight, a fight for a disenfranchised minority to gain equality and protection in the United States. So why did Martin Luther King's battle succeed and ours still a full-on civil rights battle? Well my theory is simple, it's because BLACK people CAN'T HIDE their difference to the rest of the world and we CAN. The Catholic Church a few years ago released an official statement to the world stating that to be homoseuxal is not a sin but to practice is. The Don't Ask Don't Tell policy enforced by the US military is more of the same. If you hide your "gayness" it is acceptable and you will not be discharged but if we find out you are you are out. By hiding in the closet these "traitor gays" are tacitly allowing for this mentality to go unchallenged. In the avoidance of the truth they have inherently allowed for this crime to go unchecked. Just like the law in New York city that holds you in violation if you see a crime in progress and do not report it, the same principal is applicable here.

Imagine if every gay person in the world woke up tomorrow somehow genetically altered to have purple skin. Yes, purple skin. As purple as a teletubby. There would be a worldwide upheaval causing every country's citizens to reanalyze their beliefs on what it means to be gay and the rights that are associated or denied with being that way. When they realize how large a portion of every society that we really are, that we include every sector of society from servants to blue collar workers to corporate leaders to even royalty. They would be forced to accept us because it would be too large a reality to theologize away with any known religion. You wouldn't be able to block the instantly huge worldwide population of gays finally united and out'ed by their beautifully purple color. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would have to admit that indeed his islamic country has thousands of gays. The Mark Foley's, Ted Haggard's and Larry Craig's that fight so hard to prove they are not in the closet by promoting laws aimed at pushing us further into the closet would be instantly outed for the hippocrites they truly are. It would be the end of our civil rights war. Yes folks, it is a war. A social and legislative war. We still cannot adopt, marry, inherit our deceased partner's social security benefits or legalize through marriage our partners who are living undocumented in the US. It is still illegal in some states to have sex in the way that we please (anti-sodomy laws still in effect in 40 countries- ). The military's Don't ask don't Tell policy is still enforced. The war is ongoing and we have a way to go.

The "outing" movement of the 90's was a direct result of the massive die-off of so many of our own. It was hatched by activist groups Act Up and Queer Nation, fighting the good fight in the most effective, grass roots way they could think of. They believed the worst enemy of the gay community was not the religious folks, but the self-hating, closeted gays that will stop at nothing to prove to the world they aren't gay. Closet cases live with a constant angst that affects their relationships with partners, friends, co-workers and the rest of the world. It's basically a self-inflicted barrier against feeling complete happiness and like the saying goes, "you can't love others until you can love yourself". When someone like Ricky Martin whom is a celebrity refuses to admit that he is gay, even though every one knows he is, it is a silent approval promoting the notion that we should keep ourselves hidden. It doesn't matter that gay mecca's have arisen throughout the U.S., (Atlanta, South Beach, Chelsea NYC), these migratory gay birds carry their fears and their closets with them. They come to South Beach to be free from discrimination but fear, unfortunately is part perception and part reality. Even though they are no longer in the backwoods of Ohio, they still carry the same fears with them. We have to think out of our gay safe zones and be conscious of all the other cities and countries that are still extremely hostile and violent to gay people. It is far from rosy in these places. Even though "outing" was a terror tactic, it worked. It pushed many hiding in the shadows to come out and start behaving like self-respecting gays and start joining in the fight for our equality. Is it now time for us to return to the extreme tactic of outing our fellow gays that hate themselves so much that they become our enemy and our worst PR nightmare? (ex: George Michael) I vote "yes we should". Will the next Harvey Milk please stand up?

So to you celebrities out there, take note of the words in the song Superstar by Lupe Fiasco; "If you are what you say you are, a superstar then have no fear, the camera is here and the microphones and they wanna know oh oh oh oh. If you are what you say you are, a superstar Then have no fear, the crowd is here."

The crowd is us, thousands, probably millions worldwide who are waiting for a superstar to come out and stand up for us to feel pride to reach higher to stand up to the contradictions and weak religious justifications. Come out Ricky Martin, you sure aren't selling any records but you can be our superstar. For real, this time. Think of all the children's lives in Latin America that you would change by saying two words; "I'm gay". You would save hundreds from suicidal thoughts or actions. They would have a role model to believe it is possible to be out, proud, happy and successful in the latino world. You too Tyler Perry, you have your millions, your shiny new studios in Atlanta. Think of how many young African Americans would be rescued from a life on the DL by saying two words; "I'm gay". The African-American and Latino communities need their gay icons too.

Here are the closeted celebrities im writing about today (allegedly, so I don't get sued)
Ricky Martin (the most obvious closet of them all), Tom Cruise, Richard Gere, Anderson Cooper, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto (Evil Sylar from Heroes and soon to be the next Spock), Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Ryan Seacrest, Cristina Aguilera, Michelle Rodriguez, McCauley Culken, Hayden Christensen, Sean Hayes from Will & Grace (I know I can't believe he isn't out yet either), Latin heart throb Eduardo Verastegui, and yes, Barry Manilow (no surprise there).

Black Celeb's in the closet;
Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Eddie Murphy,Will Smith, Alicia Keys, Toni Braxton, Prince, Tyler Perry

Some kinda black celebs still in the closet;
Vin Diesel, The Rock

Celeb who has "kinda" come out;
Jodie Foster-

Some dead ones:
James Dean, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Rudolph Valentino, Ramon Novarro, Michelangelo, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, King William III of England, Alexander the Great

Some that don't need to come out, we just know they are and kind of wish they would go back in the closet:
Clay Aiken, Richard Simmons, George Michael

Wanda Sykes, who is known for her feisty and blunt style, said the passage of California's Proposition 8 made her feel like she was "attacked." This led to her publicly coming out.
"Now, I gotta get in their face," she said. "I'm proud to be a woman. I'm proud to be a black woman, and I'm proud to be gay."

Drew Barrymore- our new ally, for the moment:

Actor James Franco kisses david letterman after Letterman hounded him about his on-screen kiss with Sean Penn in Milk:

George Clooney's wimpy, half-witted remark against the passage of prop 8:
Kevin Spacey semi-outed with a male stripper:

Sarcastic blog about Ricky Martin dodging Barbara Walters' outing attempt:

Blog about Will & Grace's Sean Hayes and his closeted position:

One of Harvey Milk's most famous speeches:

Slideshow of hope highlighting our past and present victories/failures

Article on "outing" politicians as discussed in movie Outrage:

Excellent book covering the history of outing in America:,M1

Friday, December 5, 2008

Art Miami-Art Basel baby!

Plugged in to the "matrix" at work, reading my auto-emailed Daily Om (an inspirational thought for the day kind of email) I realized it was ironically about being in awe of beauty. It was ironic because I was just logging off to go meet friends at this year's Art Basel events in Miami.
It said: "Beauty speaks to us in soft whispers or bold declarations. She calls on us to gaze in awe at her splendor. We are enticed by beauty. We adore her, idolize her, and even court her. Beauty seduces all of our senses. We find beauty in the wonders of nature. Beauty offers us a symphony of colors with every sunrise and sunset and reveals to us her brash power through a storm at sea. Beauty can be cruel, and our pursuit of her can be in vain. We may go to the opera in anticipation of finding beauty there, and she may bore and disappoint us. Beauty will forever inspire works of art, and she will always pose for her portrait, selecting the artist who is most worthy of her catching her likeness." Daily Om

As I walked through the halls of Art Miami, mouth open, heart and soul pumping, feeling alive I found myself surrounded by hundreds of amazing, larger than life art pieces, photography, sculpture, etc. I looked around and realized all these fine people are here in Miami from all over the world because like me, they are addicted to the high that art gives you, that they are in "awe of beauty". Just like the email, Art Basel is all about bringing beauty into our world, not by noticing mother nature's sunset but enjoying man's manipulated photograph of that same sunset, replicated, frozen in time for all to enjoy, snap more photos of and even maybe buy (if you can afford it). It was such a "wow" moment to realize I was surrounded by people that have come to be fed by the fantastical images that have come out of some genius moment an artist somewhere picked up from the universal vibrations floating around in other dimensions the rest of us cannot see. In a way the art we see are windows to other dimensions that on some level our spirit needs to see and it feeds that same spirit and calms it in making it aware and confirming again that this mundane life we lead is NOT all there is!

I bought my condo (pre-construction) at the Midtown project for that reason. To be in walking distance of the Design District when Art Basel comes. Each year never ceases to amaze and each time it evolves into a bigger animal, drawing thousands more. All for the sake of sipping the absinthe-high of manmade beauty made solely for beauty's sake. This year Midtown seems to have evolved into an extension of the Design District and hosts enough art to satisfy the most hard core art-addicts out there. There's even an indoor skate park (human art in action) where the Ocean Drive studio will be. The usually desolate streets are now teeming with people walking and talking, just like the developers dreamed it would. It has become a little SOHO down in the tropics, Miami-style baby. I like to call it "MoHo" like "Mojo", the Cuban all-spice with NY attitude mixed in for good measure.
Out of all the tents, the SCOPE miami is the edgiest with the most up and coming artists represented (I spoke to one of the gallery rep's that brought about it's birth). The Art Miami tent exposes more established talent and is just as wonderful. Oh and don't you dare miss the back of the SCOPE tent where the Friends With You genius' (Cubans homies representin') have created an adult wonderland with bounce house and a candy colored live DJ to match the walls. Another favorite discovery at Photo Miami was the work of young artist from Paris, Pascal Loubet- very sexy Desperate Living photo series of men inspired by the TV show Desperate Housewives.
My best advice is to talk to the Gallery reps in the day about the pieces you like. They are all so passionate about their artists that they invariably enrichen your experience by giving back stories of the pieces and how they came to be. **Bonus tip, if you like some pieces, snap a picture with your cell phone camera or digi-cam and enjoy the art any day of the year as your wallpaper or home screen image on your phones. I changed my Blackberry's home image to a naked picture of Naomi Campbell surrounded by bananas and apples- FOR FREE- how cool is that?

Another place you have to experience is the Aqua hotel on 1530 collins, South Beach. A boutique hotel with some amazing hand picked galleries in each of the rooms. If your lucky, you might get to catch the hairy bear guy with a black tanga (his balls were showing) hanging above the hot tub while a tub of honey was poured all over his face and back. It was refreshing and cute to see that. Don't you dare miss the anti-hero series of Stephen Hopwood-Lewis at the room (first one on the left)-Simply Amazing! The Chinese art in the last room on the 2nd floor-doubly Ammazing!

Now get your arse up from your computer, call in sick from work and go feed on the BEAUTY and feel why right here, right now, Miami is the best place in the world to be!