Saturday, December 28, 2013

Now that I have…

     Now that I have a little time to take a breath and a short break from packing up and getting ready for my major, life-changing move to Florida, I thought I would sit down and catch y’all up on what’s shakin’ here. 
Just 'cause I thought he was pretty.
     I had intended to carry on with explaining some of the books I listed the last time I posted on here, but I had somewhat of a revelation yesterday. Yes, I’m afraid more mad ramblings are coming. Who knows where this is going to end up? I’ll try and get back to the why on the book list. Wish me luck. 

     Anyway, here are some of the things that have been running rampant through my mind this week. One, I’m going to be working on an old project as soon as this move is over. I know, some of you are not going to like this, but the next book about Rich and Johnny is going to be put on hold for a bit. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to it, but I have something I started over a year ago that I really want to get back to, and yesterday I had a spark, well, more like an explosion in my head, to return and get it done. This is something I've wanted to do, but I kinda ran out of steam with it. 

     The thing about going back to it is that I've learned so much in the last year, thanks to so many good writers and great betas. I’m glad I didn't finish it as I looked at it again. When I went back and read it again, I saw where I will change things, cut things and really pull it all together. Put a good polish on it, which is only going to make it better. 

     I’m not going to say too much more about it, but I will say it brings two of my greatest passions together. 
     Okay, now back to my book list. Where did I leave off…? 

     Maurice by E. M. Forester. Damn, what can I say? I found this book quite by accident. I think I was about twelve when I read it. It was a very confusing time for me. It is hard to come to terms with your sexuality when everyone and everything around you is telling you that you are wrong. Bad. Evil. Going to hell. This book actually grounded me somehow. Made me feel like I wasn't alone and that I wasn't quite so different somehow. Very narrative, which was the style of the day, but he painted such vivid pictures for me. Loved it. Still have a copy to this day. 

     When ‘The Lord Won’t Mind’, by Gordon Merrick came out, I couldn't wait to read it. I had to wait almost six years to be able to, however. Why? Well because I couldn't find a copy in the small town I grew up in. Why? Are you kidding? A book about homosexual love? Like that was ever going to happen. I remember the drug store close to my house always carried the top ten best sellers on the New York Times list… all but THAT one. It was, as far as I know, the first gay romance book to ever hit the number one spot on that list. I think that was the first contemporary M/M romance book I ever read. I was a fan from then on. I read everything Gordon Merrick wrote after that. 

     Armistead Maupin. What is there to say about this guy? If you've never picked up any of his books, you have missed out, big time! His ‘Tales of the City’ series is so wonderful I can’t help but want to jump right into them all over again. It is such a true accounting of what it was like to be gay in the 80’s. They are cute, funny, emotional, stock full of characters you fall in love with; you can’t help but connect with them. They also made a TV series out of this series of books. Very controversial at the time, also worth checking out, but I’d read the books first. 

     Okay, now for those of you who tend to like the BDSM world, listen up. Some of you are going to laugh your asses off, but this is all true. Too weird to have been made up. Amy Vanderbilt’s book of Etiquette. Of course my mother used that other etiquette book and although she taught me many things from that one, she never made me sit down and read it either. Mrs. Vanderbilt’s however, I was made to read. By whom, you may ask? Sir Paul, one of the elite leaders in the gay male leather community here in Atlanta, circa 1979. This harkens back to the era where EVERYONE started off on the bottom and worked their way up. You were taught by doing from the submissive side. No ifs ands or buts about it. You didn't want to do it, then fine, be on your way. Just don’t expect to be welcomed into that very exclusive, secretive community. 

     Yes, the big bad Leather Dom made me sit and read Amy Vanderbilt’s book of Etiquette from cover to cover and then would test me on the damn thing. That was how he started ‘training’ newbies. Some of you may wonder what the hell does that have to do with leather or anything about the BDSM community and I’m here to tell you, a whole hellova lot! Anyone who knows leather protocols can read that book and know exactly what I’m talking about. It relates directly to Old School training (I still hate Guy Baldwin for inventing the term ‘Old Guard’. The pansexual community has taken it and twisted it into something vile, if you ask me.) Anyway, there is a lot to be garnered from that book, leather or not. 

     The last book I want to mention is Anthony Bordain’s Kitchen Confidential. If you ever wanted to know what it is like to cook professionally, or want to know what goes on in a commercial kitchen, then you need to read this book. It is sooooo true. 

     Sorry I missed doing the blog last week, but I've been a bit occupied with getting this move underway. It is one thing to move across town, but entirely something when you move several hundred miles away. It isn't like you can just go back and forth until you have everything. Then you have to get all the vet records, doctors records, insurance stuff transferred, and the list seems to go on and on. Such a pain. But the pay-off is going to be fantastic. I am so excited I can hardly stand myself! 

     I am not sure if I will be able to do a blog next week or not. I’m not counting on it since next Friday is the official move day. I will have a lot going on next weekend, so I may not make it. If not, happy New Year, everyone. Be safe. 
If you don't know by now, I love Gio Dell. He inspires me every day.
     Again, try and do something nice for someone. It really isn't painful. Trust me. 

     Later y’all, 

      Max ;-)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another Week, Another Blog…NOT

     I’m starting to think this whole blog thing might be becoming just a wee bit easier for me. What I mean is, I’m starting to have more ideas earlier about what to ramble on about, instead of panicking as I face a blank page the day of posting. This one came to me earlier in the week from a post on FB. 

     If you follow me on Facebook, or anyone else in this small corner of the literary field, you couldn't possibly have missed that list that went around, asking for the top ten books that made a difference in your life or some-such thing. I think I got pinged on that one about ten times, so I finally broke down and did a list. I also stated that I wasn't going to tag anyone else, but everyone seemed have done it already and quite honestly, I was really kind of sick of seeing it. So, here is the list that I made. 

1. The Pearl by John Steinbeck; Not sure why this has stuck with me all these years, but it has. 
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; This was a powerful story and I liked Boo. 
3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; I can’t remember how many times I’ve read this book. 
4. Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice; I should actually just list this author as there are so many of her books that I've read that have impacted me in one way or another. 
5. Maurice by E. M. Forster; Major change in my life after this book. I wasn't alone. 
6. The Lord Won’t Mind by Gordon Merrick; Another author that should be listed. This book though really changed me. It was also the first gay themed book to hit number one on the New York Times best seller list. 
7. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin; I loved this whole series. They were just fun.
8. Etiquette by Amy Vanderbilt; Yeah, I know there are some who are shaking their heads over this one. I have my reasons. 
9. Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook; by (duh) Fannie Farmer. What can I say? I’m a foodie geek. 
10. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bordaine; I actually cheered when this book came out. It is all so true! 

     What does this have to do with anything you may ask? Well, just chill out for a minute and I’ll tell you…sheesh… There are many things on this list that shaped, formed, and directed me through my life as a young person/adult. That’s why this list reveals a lot about me. 

     You may have noticed that my list includes cookbooks. Yeah, I’m that kind of foodie-geek and always have been. As I get ready to pack up and move, again, I look at my bookshelf and am now glad that I only unpacked about a quarter of my books from when I moved last year. I knew this wasn't going to be a permanent residence, so I knew this move was coming, but still, I don’t have to like it. The reason I mention this, is that I only have a few cookbooks to pack away.

     As crazy as it seems to some, I would say seventy percent of the books I own are cookbooks. Quite a few were gifts over the years, but there are quite a few that I purchased myself. Now here is where it gets a little weird and I know some won’t get it, but I almost never buy a new cookbook. I want them to be well used. Loved. I want to see the stains on the pages. Pages that stick together from previous owners concoctions. If there are notes in the margins, I’ll probably buy it no matter what kind it is. If I see a used bookstore, chances are I will go directly to the cookbook section. Yeah, I know. It’s a little weird, but that’s who I am. 

     I’d like to explain ‘Cry to Heaven’ if I may. Yes, it was a wonderful historical book that I've read several times, and still enjoy it to this day. It had all the elements that I love. Venice, so romantic, classical music, hot sexual situations, and then that something special that fascinated me, drew me into the book like few ever had. There is a passage where one of the main characters was noticing a man’s hand. The description of just that hand had me drooling. The power of words, right? 
     Now I've always had an attraction to hirsute men. Don’t know why, just wired that way. I remember being enthralled by my Uncle Mac’s very hairy legs (uncle by marriage). I was about five years old at the time. Although I didn't understand the attraction, it was there even then. I guess it didn't hurt that he looked a lot like Tyrone Powers either. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention ‘Interview with a Vampire’. That was the first Anne Rice book I read, and fell in love with her then. 

     My grandmother was born in 1880 on the family farm in Tennessee. She was somewhere towards the middle of the pack of thirteen children. I still remember going to that family farm, which is still in the family, by the way, when I was very young. Her eldest brother was still alive at the time, and very old. As I try to remember, I think he was somewhere between twelve to fifteen years older than my grandmother. With those figures in mind, he was born not long after the Civil War. I would sit on the porch while he would tell stories of when he was growing up and all the things that our family endured and how they had barely been able to keep the farm. This led to my fascination about the Civil War era and the traditions of the Old South. Think of the Uncle Remus stories. Oh, I forgot…NOTE: for those who don’t know about Uncle Remus, you should check them out. In all our trying to be politically correct, poor Uncle Remus and his teaching stories have pretty much been censored right out of our history books, all because he was perceived as an outdated ‘Uncle Tom’ type. Hey, it was part of history. We need to embrace it, accept it, and take the wonderful words of wisdom in those very intuitive tales. 

     To say I am a fan of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind would be a major understatement. I remember the first time I read the book. Here is a little story from my childhood that y’all might find amusing. I was in fifth grade which made me ten years old. The new big modern library had just been finished in my home town, which wasn't far from where I lived. 

     To truly understand my love of reading and books, you would have to understand my mother. She was constantly putting a book in my hand. Up until the age of four, I was read to constantly. My mother, sister, father, grandmother, nanny (yes I had one) and various aunts and uncles, were always reading to me. My mother and sister started to make me read to them when I was about four along with forcing me to tie my own shoes. Very demanding women in my family, but I digress. (There is a reason why I call this ramblings, remember?) 

     Off we go to the new library to check it out. The place was huge to a ten year old. Row upon row of books, as far as I could see. I’m sure my mouth was hanging open. My mother set me loose to go and find a book or two. I was first directed to the kids section. I looked around and immediately turned my nose up. These books are for little kids, I remember thinking to myself. 

     Next stop was the ‘Young Adult’ section. After looking around I saw a few things that kind of interested me, but nothing that I wanted to be my very first book from the new library. I wanted something special. For the life of me, I will never forget that day. I can remember the smell of the place and all its newness with the scent only old books can have floating above it. The way the brick floor felt under my feet and all the light from the high windows. 

     Then I saw it. There on a table in the middle of the ‘adult’ reading section was a display of Gone with the Wind. It had recently been re-released into theaters and I guess the library thought it timely to display it. That was it. I went and picked up a copy, of which there weren't many, and took it to the checkout counter. The lady looked at the book, and then looked at me over her half cat-eye glasses, the little chain that held them draped around her neck. I remember thinking how pinched her face looked. 

     “Don’t you think this may a bit above your reading level?” She asked. Her name tag said Silvia Shipe. 

     That is how much of an impact this had on me. I still remember her name. When I said no, her face scrunched up. She decided that she knew better and suggested some other books that would be more ‘age appropriate’. I remember two that she suggested. Little House on the Prairie, which I’d already read, and the Borrower series, which I’d already read. When I informed her that I’d already read all of those a few years back, it was clear to me that she thought I was lying. 

     Anyway, she said that she thought it best that I go and choose something else, and took the book away from me. Poor, poor Silvia. Little did she know what a can of worms she had just opened up. 

     I went right to my mother and told her what happened. I knew from the look on her face, her mouth going kind of crooked, that poor, poor, Silvia Shipe was in for it. My mother took me by the hand and walked me right back up to the counter. She addressed the pinched faced lady by asking her what right she had to dictate who had the right to read a certain type of book? I’ll never forget the shocked look on that poor, poor woman’s face. My mother demanded that she give me the book back and check it out to me. 

     I went through that book like a house-afire. There was one point when my mother found me still reading at midnight and took it away from me for the night. I could easily see my great uncle Dewitt in that story, which may be one reason why I could feel that book. He just seemed to fit there. Of course now I know he couldn't have been, but then, I just knew it to be true. 

     When I returned the book, ol’-pinch-faced Shipe wasn't there, but Mrs. Laughlin was. She had been my teacher in second grade and I had loved her. I handed the book over and she didn't bat an eye. Instead, she put her elbows on the desk and asked me to tell her about the book. See why I loved her? I think I was there about an hour telling her all about it. 
The End...get it?  ha ha ha
     Okay people, I’m going to leave it off there. I’m going to make two more installments about my book list. I may not be around much on FB for the next few weeks as I’ll be packing it all up for my move to Florida! YAY!!! But I’ll try and keep the blog posts going during this time. In keeping with the season, remember it won’t hurt you none to be nice or do something nice for someone. I’m going to give you a little example of how this works. A friend of mine and his partner recently went out to breakfast. Someone anonymously bought them their breakfast. In turn, they went and gave the money that they would have spent on breakfast to the Lost-n-Found so that a kid could have a winter coat. Life would be so much nicer and a lot more exciting if we all did this, don’t you think? 

     Go forth and have a great week! 

     Max ;-)
Because I can.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Oh Hell, Now What?

     I was sitting here this week, writing away, while in the back of my mind I was stressing over what I was going to blog about this week. Last week it was rather emotional and not exactly what I would call ‘up-lifting’, and I wanted to change that. Nothing drab, please. Enough is enough, after all. 

     I thought I had an idea and then completely forgot what it was. It’s funny how I can remember things from over thirty years ago and can’t remember a single idea from just a day or so ago. It is rather frustrating. 

     So…here I sit, rambling on as usual, about nothing in particular. Then I see a picture on FB that brings back a distant memory from years past. Then another, and then another. You see, for those who don’t know, I worked in the food industry for many, many years. There isn't enough time for me left on this earth to tell every story of my experiences while in the kitchen. Ask anyone who has ever worked in food service and they will also have more than a few stories to tell, I’m sure. 

     I've decided to concentrate my ramblings specifically on the holiday. Let me tell you, there isn't a busier time in the hospitality industry than the holidays. There is usually party after party after party. I worked in both hotels and country clubs, and man, they never seemed to stop. From the day after Thanksgiving, I knew I was going to be busy and have plenty of overtime available. Not too bad for the wallet! 

     Now, this one hotel I worked for had a customer that always had their big parties and important functions there. They also put up all their VIPs there, so I’m sure they were pretty tight with the sales department. They were a major boating company, known worldwide, and quite the big spenders. They have a massive work force and each year they would have their company Christmas party at the hotel. I looked forward to this party more than any other. Why, you ask? HA! They had the biggest, butchest, blue collar men around working for them, that’s why. You think I’m crazy? Well… don’t answer that. 

     So when they would ask for volunteers to do a carving station or something on the buffet line, you can damned well be sure my hand was the first one up! I looked forward to that party every year I worked there. Now it was no big secret why I always volunteered for these parties, and I was used to the ribbing and the laughing that went on when I volunteered. Back then, like now, I never hid who I was or what I liked. If someone didn't like it, fuck ‘em. Let them turn fruit into tropical flowers. Ha. Basically I had skills that were not very common and I made sure to use them. 
Not mine, but you get the idea. Yeah, I did this kind of work.
     Anyway, I digress. I mentioned that this boat company had blue collar workers right? Well, they weren't just your average blue collar workers. These men were skilled craftsmen. Not your everyday run of the mill redneck contract labor. No, these guys were a high quality type of blue collar guys. Educated, for the most part, polite, well behaved but still with that edge to them that I found irresistible. 

      Side note: There was another company who also had their big Holiday party at the same hotel. A huge mobile home manufacturer and they also had a large employee base. They also had a lot of blue collar types. The big difference was theirs were total rednecks. Let me just say that the tooth to tattoo ratio was a bit skewed. They had way more tattoos than teeth. Never volunteered for those parties, nor did anyone else. They were just awful. 

     I forget what year it was, but I’m sure it was pre 9/11. Anyway, I was given the carving station for the roast beef, the best station I could have gotten. I think part of the reason I got it was that I had, and still do actually, a Shun carving knife. If you know anything about knives, you’ll know that this is like the Rolls Royce of knives. Now you may ask why that particular job would be so desirable to me. Well, duh! Men like meat. They like red meat. Those hot men were always lined up in front of that big ol’hunk o’meat! Are you kidding? I ain't no dummy. 
     So here is where I need to tell you that this boat company was a major employer in the area. They treated their employees right. Rarely did you hear of a job opening or of anyone leaving unless they were retiring. They pulled out all the stops for these people, but they also understood these guys. They didn't insist on everyone getting all gussied up. All they asked is that they dress nicely. In other words, leave them jeans with holes in ’em at home. I have to admit, most everyone did wear jeans, but they were good jeans, and they wore collared shirts. They all cleaned up pretty good, if I do say so myself. 

     There I was, the night of their big Christmas party, carving that huge piece of beef, chatting with the guys, and yes, even their wives when they showed up, having a grand ol’ time. Then I looked up to the next in line and my eyes were met with the bluest eyes I think I’d ever seen. A big bright smile, surrounded by a short, clipped, dark brown beard, completed my idea of what a perfect man should look like. He also had on a big fluffy red Santa hat trimmed out in white fur. I know my heart skipped a beat right about then. 

     I asked him how he liked his meat, as I swallowed hard. He said he liked it rare with some au jus and some horseradish, which of course I had. I sliced him a few pieces, not daring to speak. I just knew I’d squeak if I opened my mouth. I gave him his plate of beef and smiled. He took the plate and winked at me. I just about pissed myself. I watched him walk off and take his seat. 

     He was sitting close to the back of the room, not far from where the buffet line was located, so I could watch him throughout the evening. He came back twice more, each time knocking me over with that killer smile. The last time he handed me a rolled up bill. He thanked me with that deep rumbling voice of his. You know, the type that vibrated through his chest each time he spoke. He had that deep Southern drawl which I thought might be from Alabama. I took the bill somewhat dumbfounded. No one else had offered a tip, and to be quite honest, I nor anyone else expected one. Well, with the exception of the bartenders. I stuck the bill in my pocket. Before long it was time to break down the buffet so I didn't give it a second thought. In my mind I said goodbye to the big hottie, satisfied with the knowledge that I had some serious fantasy material to work with later, if you know what I mean. 

     Later when I got home I emptied my pockets and there was the rolled up bill. I unrolled it—it turned out to be a five, by the way—and there was a slip of paper. I remember my hands shaking a bit. On that paper was his name and phone number and a message, ‘give me a call sometime’. I didn't know whether to jump up and down or pass out from shock. His name was Johnny. 

     If any of you have read my blog before you know I talk quite candidly about sex, and have even alluded to my own sexual exploits. Right here. Right now, I’m going to say…Johnny and I dated for several months and during those months, there wasn't much we didn't try. As I call it, ‘flip-flopped and fly’. We both seemed to enjoy everything equally so there was never any ‘I’m only a top’ kinda crap. There are plenty of sex scenes in my books that could quite easily describe some of my very own…experiences with Johnny, let’s say. I’m even going to go as far as to say there are several things that Johnny and I got into that are NOT in any of my books. Doesn't mean that they might not make an appearance sometime down the road, but…some things are just too personal. Or maybe not. 

     Johnny moved back to Alabama, where he was indeed from, when his father was diagnosed with cancer to help out. He was the youngest of seven, it turned out, and the only one who wasn't married (big surprise there) and didn't have a bunch of kids. So it fell on him to go and help his mother and father out. 

     We tried to stay in touch. I even drove down there once, staying in a motel that had seen better days, just to see him. Eventually we lost contact. I often think of Johnny when writing some scenes and I smile, thinking, ‘damn, that sure was fun’. 

     Now…for some of those doubters out there who say some of the things I write about just aren’t possible or true, I call foul. Well, actually I’m a little more colorful than that but you get the general idea. To those, mostly women I’ve noticed, I say…when you grow a fucking dick, you just let me know, okay? Then we’ll talk. 
     I hope you liked my little jaunt down memory lane. I have a fantastic Thanksgiving story that I’m saving for just the right book. I’ll let you know when I put that one in a book. A word of warning though…make sure you've used the bathroom first. If not, I’m sure you’re gonna piss yourself laughing. And yep, it’s all true. 

     'Tis the season right? Do me a small favor, please. Do something nice for someone else. Doesn't have to be much. Remember, a simple smile can make someone’s day.    

     Till next week… 

     Max ;-)

Gio Dell. One of the most positive people I know. A constant inspiration to me.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Time of Reflection


     Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of World AIDS Day, as declared by the World Health Organization. This was done when the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, wouldn't even utter the word. 

     I felt I needed to say a little something today. One reason was that I felt I had to explain myself as to why I do not send out Christmas cards or holiday cards. Why? Well, a good friend, Dani Mass, asked that I send her a holiday card. It stopped me short. I hesitated. In the end I didn't tell her why I didn't do cards. At least, not anymore. 

     So…here goes… 

     In 1989 I was living in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, having moved there for a job that didn't last. Never fear, I persevered and got another job and had a grand old time. Of course, this was a difficult time for any gay man. The threat of AIDS was ever present in our minds as our government sat on its proverbial ass, doing nothing. There was fear in the eyes of most gay men in those days. 

     It was the gay male population that took control of the situation and demanded that something be done. We educated ourselves as best we could with the information we had. We took care of each other when we were sick. We held the hands of our friends while they lay dying, their families having abandoned them long ago. We made sure they had food to eat. Hell, there were even fundraisers to help feed and get vet care for their pets! 

     This was a strange time for the gay man. We were all scared for our lives but proud that we had pulled together, rallied for our cause and were slowly making headway. It just wasn't fast enough to save so many lives. You see, the only medication available was AZT and it was almost as bad as the disease itself. I don’t think a day went by when there wasn't either a fundraiser going on, a lecture on how to be safe with the latest knowledge or a funeral to go to. 

     The day after Thanksgiving in 1989 will be one I will never forget. Being the ritualistic individual I am, I always sat down and did my Christmas cards that Friday after turkey day. I got a good bottle of wine and went to it. That year was no different. I opened the wine, one of my favorites then, a lovely red, Robert Mondavi Merlot. I opened the two boxes of cards. Two boxes that was for all my gay friends and another box for the few family members that I stayed in contact with, and of course those pesky straight friends. He he he… Got my address book out and started. 

     The further I got into my address book, the more and more names were crossed out. I stopped filling out the cards and went through the entire address book, crossing out the names of all the friends I had lost that year. By the time I was done, more than two-thirds of them were crossed out. The more I crossed off, the worse I felt. 

     To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, it kinda goes like this. There were eighteen men in the Rook Card Club I belonged to. We meet once a month for a potluck and to play cards. That day, half were either dead or dying. The Gay Men’s Chorus of D.C. was decimated. There were over 30 dead. The Leathermen of D.C. was disbanded because there weren't enough members left of the hundred or so. And so on. The numbers just kept adding up. 

     I picked up both boxes of cards and tossed them into the trash. I poured the bottle of wine down the drain. Got my coat and went out and got totally shit-faced. I stayed drunk for three days. I called off work sick and did nothing but cried and stayed drunk. 

Since that mournful day in 1989 I've never sent out a Christmas card. 

     It sometimes surprises me when I hear or read something and I get a strong emotional reaction. I do the same thing with smells, too. Certain things just send me back to another time and place, and I avoid them like the plague. That old Aqua Net hairspray? That is one of the worst. The smell takes me back to the day when my mother told my sister and I that she and my father were getting a divorce. It wasn’t so much of an issue for me because I didn’t fully understand it, but my sister fell completely apart. My mother was fixing her 1960’s hair and using that hairspray when she told us. I know it may sound odd, but that smell brought it all back like it was a movie playing in my head. 
AIDS Quilt. Each panel is the size of a casket.

     I guess this is where I get my key out to the express escalator to the top of my soap box…hold onto your jewelry! 

     For those who are against Obama Care, pay very close attention here. Did you know that insurance companies could refuse anyone who was HIV positive or had AIDS? If they did accept them, they made them wait up to two years to provide any medical coverage for HIV/AIDS and that included any medications. 

     Why is it that our government sees fit to pay the drug companies to send these same life-saving medications to Africa and not force those same drug companies to provide these drugs to Americans? I gotta ask, what’s wrong with this picture? 

     In our not-so-great state of Georgia, the local government turned down the funds to expand Medicare, purely for political purposes. What did that do? Well, first off it denied seniors the added benefits to keep their drug prices low. It did away with dental coverage for children. Oh, and of course, it meant those living with HIV/AIDS were not able to afford life-saving medications. Do they have to worry? No, of course not. The STATE pays 100% of their health benefits, and their families. Am I the only one seeing this as a problem?  

     Okay, down escalator… 

     We are far from having this HIV/AIDS situation under control. What saved so many gay men’s lives was education. One of the largest school systems here decided they would try to teach abstinence instead. Yeah, well, we all know how that worked. What is really wrong with this picture is that parents are more than willing to let the public school system teach their kids the basic facts of life, which includes sex education. If I had kids, there would be no way in hell I’d leave it up to those ass-hats. Just sayin’. 

     I’d like to know how many of you have seen any type of public information about this day? Any announcements? Dedications? On the local TV stations here I’ve heard nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. It is like it doesn’t exist. 

     I’m tellin’ y’all now, this is going to come back and bite everyone in the butt. The issue is still there and it isn’t going away anytime soon.

     So, today, I am dedicating it to the wonderful friends I've lost. The most creative, imaginative men who were artists, cabinet makers, pastry chefs, chefs, cooks, waiters, bartenders, landscape designers, musicians, telephone linemen, electricians, plumbers, accountants, architects, small business men… I salute you, I raise my glass and I remember your smiling, happy faces of so long ago. I wipe my eyes as I love you still. I miss you and wish I could hold you once again in my arms. 

     I remember…

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ramblings of a Gay Mad Man

     I don’t have a specific subject this week, so it is going to be a bit of a mish-mash of thoughts I've had this week. We’ll see if y’all can keep up. Yes, there will be a test! 

     First off, I need to make a few clarifications on my post from last week. Charlie Harding contacted me and let me know that there were a few facts that were not completely correct from the article I’d used as my reference. 
Top to Bottom 5: Daddy's Turn
Charlie Harding and Mike Dozer
     One is that he indeed has recently done his first bottom scene before on film, entitled Top to Bottom 5: Daddy’s Turn, with Colby Jensen. I thought so, but wasn't quite sure, which I did mention. Secondly, in the recent scene where he went bareback, he was not bottoming, which the article implied he was. He was topping and with a good friend of his, Mike Dozer. Since this is a good friend, they each knew each other’s status, and they therefore trust each other, additional testing was not needed. So I stand by my statement that it is an individual choice and no one else’s business. I’d like to thank Charlie for contacting me and setting the record straight. 

     This was the week of Thanksgiving here in the States, as I’m sure everyone knows. You’d have to be living under a rock not to have noticed. Several things crossed my mind. Sometime around Tuesday I noticed I was feeling a bit off for some reason. Of course my vertigo had decided to show its ugly head, so I thought that was it. Wrong. It persisted all through Wednesday until I finally realized what it was. I wasn't cooking! Now as most of you know, I was in the food and hospitality industry for most of my adult life, so cooking was something I was used to, along with working most holidays. If there was a holiday I wasn’t working, I was still cooking for family and/or friends. Mostly friends, but I’ll get into that later. The point is, I was feeling a bit odd about the whole thing. Antsy might be a good word. Just odd for me, is all. 

     Yes, I spent the holiday alone. No, I didn't have a problem with that. I really am quite happy with my own company and do not have an issue with being alone, even on a holiday. I did turn down a few dinner invitations, and that was my choice. Not to worry. I fixed myself a very nice dinner and was quite happy with it, and I didn't have to share the pecan pie! 

     I think my biggest issue was that I felt as if I was supposed to be doing something and couldn't for the life of me remember what it was. You ever have that feeling you’d forgotten something really important that you needed to do, but couldn't remember? Yep, that is how I felt. Once I realized what it was I had to laugh at myself. I truly am a creature of habit. I tend to develop a routine and stick to it. Hell, I even make sure to put my toothbrush back exactly the same way every time. 

     This leads me back to what I referenced earlier when I said ‘family/friends’. I saw the above picture and I had an immediate reaction. Several, actually. My first thought was how I had chosen a family to spend time with, especially holidays. Those people who I called my friends, brothers and sometimes lovers. The next thought was a pang of hurt at having been rejected by part of my own family. 

     When I was nineteen or twenty, I can’t really remember, I was living in Knoxville, my hometown so to speak, and it was Thanksgiving. I had worked that morning, of course, and was racing to try and make it to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I stopped to get gas and then my car wouldn't start. Using a payphone—this was long before cellphones—I called my Uncle Pete to see if there wasn't someone who could come get me. I knew there was. Most all of my cousins, aunts and uncles were there, and it wasn't that far away, so I was pretty secure in feeling that I’d have a ride. He said they were just about to sit down to dinner and he would see what he could work out. 

     I sat there waiting for three hours. When I finally realized I was on my own and there would be no one to come and get me, I walked home. Back in those days there was nothing open, much less a garage or mechanic to deal with the car. On the way home I stopped by Gus’s Greek Diner, which was about the only thing open. They were Greek and didn’t really know much about the holiday so they were open for business. I had a great gyro, several baklava and called it a day. 

     The next day my mother called me, furious, wondering why I hadn't shown up for Thanksgiving dinner. When I told her she was dumbfounded. Seems my dear Uncle Pete never mentioned that my car had broken down. My uncle had become one of those born again Baptists and didn't approve of me or my ‘lifestyle’. I was able to calm my mother down and told her not to worry about it, stating that it had happened and there was nothing to be done about it now. 

     On a bit of a side note here: My cousin, dear Uncle Pete’s only son, attended Liberty College. For those who are not familiar with it, it was founded by Jerry Falwell, the leader of bible-thumping evangelists who promoted gay hate from the very beginning. The cousin got a Master’s Degree in Theology. He officiated at my aunt’s funeral, one of my favorite aunts, and it was so bad I sat in the back and giggled. His English was so bad, it was embarrassing. So much for that degree! 

     I only wish that dear Uncle Pete had lived long enough to see his idol arrested on drug charges. There was the homemade porn collection that included teenage boys going at it, along with several videos of bestiality, but the biggie was all the drugs the man had. When he was interviewed later, he said the devil had put those things in his house. I had to laugh. 

     Long story short, I never darkened dear Uncle Pete’s doorstep again. I was always working most holidays, and several years later I had moved far enough away to where I wasn't expected to make an appearance anyway. I’m sure it was a great relief to certain portions of my family, which suited me just fine. Whenever I was in close proximity, at other family functions that I did attend, I made sure to go out of my way to be as charming and as nice as I could be. 

     Years later, I was asked by one of my other cousins, dear Uncle Pete’s eldest daughter, why I was never around for other family functions. I politely told her that I refused to go where I wasn't wanted. She questioned me further and I told her the story of what her father had done. Poor, dear cousin’s face tightened and she apologized for her now dead father. I even got an invitation to her wedding, which was nice. I sent a lovely pair of crystal candle sticks with regrets. Too much water under that bridge. 

Over the years I made my own family. We always got together either on the actual holiday, or a day or two later. I can still remember the moaning of those who were forced to attend family gatherings. Most of them didn't want to attend but felt obligated, which made me cringe inside, wanting to yell, ‘then don’t!’ But each of us have to deal with our families and coming out on our own terms, so I kept my mouth shut for once. Not an easy feat for me. Even back then, I was out and proud of it. Something that wasn't all that common back then. Many gay men lived in the closet for their own reasons. A lot of the time it was because of family. I found it sad that they couldn't live their lives and truly be themselves. It still happens, but not nearly as much as it did all those many years ago. Me? I had to be me. Period. 

     So did I have a good Thanksgiving? Yes, absolutely. I did things I wanted to do. I ate what I wanted to eat. I spoke to my sister, even though she was busy dealing with her in-laws, bemoaning that they got on her nerves. It seems that family, no matter if you’re gay or straight, can be a royal pain in the ass. 

     What I really want to convey here today is that gay men, and I’m sure lesbians too, are very strong independent people. We have to be. A lot of time we have no choice but to be strong. Often times we are shunned by our own families. I've witnessed those who were denied jobs or fired because they were gay. I've seen and been a victim of hate crimes. I've seen the look on people’s faces that changed to disgust when they have found out that I or others were gay. Or the look of pity, which is by far worse, and even recently ‘I didn't know they got into watching sports’.

     Do NOT feel pity for the gay man, because he has a backbone of steel. Most are independent, strong, well educated, well-adjusted men. Remember the old adage? That which does not kill us makes us stronger? Yep, I’d say that’s just about right. 

     Moving on… stay tuned and come back tomorrow. Yes, I will be doing an additional blog tomorrow. Something important. So stop back by tomorrow. 

     Remember, doing something nice for someone else is truly a gift to yourself. 

     Later y’all, 

      Max ;-)
Because I can!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Welcome and happy Saturday.

     Happy Saturday, everyone. Hope y’all are enjoying your weekend so far. This may be, for some folks, the last weekend before the madness of the holidays. I’m abstaining this year. I’ll be too busy packing and getting ready to head south, to Florida! YAY! 

     First the latest news… 

Mon Héros
     My Hero is now in French! I’m now international. LOL I’m thrilled. Thanks to Bénédicte Girault and Valérie Dubar for the translation. They are available for other authors who choose to have their works translated. You can look them up on Facebook. There is a link under the cover if you would like a copy of Mon Héros in French! 

     So…I've gotten quite a few comments appreciating this blog thing I’m doing here. Not so sure why, but it seems I've given quite a few people an in-depth education on what it is really like to live as a gay man. Guess I’ll go with it and take it as a compliment and just keep doing what I’m doing. Now, it is true that most gay men are truly a breed unto themselves. Did you know that in Ancient Greece, gay men were considered children of the Gods? It seems that they had the best qualities to raise children. Imagine that, would ya? Many were extremely masculine, perhaps uber so, but also very maternal. Wonder what the religious right would think of them apples? 

     Okay, moving on to the topic of the week. Safe sex, or the lack thereof… 

     First off, let me state for the record that there is no SAFE SEX. Let’s just agree on this point and accept it. Nothing is one hundred percent safe. End of discussion. So we are left with safer sex. 

     There has been a big controversy over the past few weeks in the gay community about porn stars going bareback. Now this has been a fairly contentious discussion in our community, with some getting really nasty about it. I don’t see a need for that, personally. There is no need for someone to go after some of these guys personally. Just not cool. You can make your point without all that crap. 

Charlie Harding
     So why now? Why the big shake up? Well, let me tell you. A fellow Atlantian, Charlie Harding, is doing a premier shoot as a bottom…and doing it bareback. (I could have sworn he’d bottomed before, but I may be wrong.) Anyway, this really went viral, stirring the stink pot up once again. 

     One side says it is sending the wrong message to gay youth that it is okay to go raw, while the other side says it is fantasy, and everyone should remember that. Okay, I get both sides of that argument. However—and it is a big however—everyone should take responsibility for their own actions and make up their own minds what is best for them. No one else. 

     This reminds me of cartoons. Yeah, I know…strange jump there, huh? But bear with me. Let’s take Tom and Jerry, for example. I’m sure most of you can remember those classic cartoons. If you look, you’ll see that those cartoons were more than a little violent. Road Runner? Same thing. He was constantly dropping large objects on Wiley. Now would you do that in real life? I’d hope not. Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam were always shooting at each other and Bugs was beating the hell out of poor Sam. Get the connection now? 

     Porn is fantasy, people. Do you really think that all gay men are stupidly gorgeous with huge dicks? Ummm….. NO! Most are just average Joes like myself. Okay, granted, most gay men are better looking than the average male, but there are some reasons for that, which I’ll go into at another time. Nothing scientific there, just my own observations and experiences, mind you. 

     Back to the subject at hand. Condoms versus non-condoms. I’m going to be as clear on this as I possibly can, which is not always easy. Basically, it isn't any of YOUR business if these guys chose to go bareback! Clear? That is THEIR personal decision. Do you honestly think that they are not aware of the risks? I've known several gay men in the adult entertainment field, and I've yet to think of any of them less other than highly intelligent, especially Mr. Harding. Okay, there was this one, but he was so good looking no one really cared, especially his boyfriend. 

     Before Charlie Harding went through with this shoot, he and the other guy were tested, tested and then retested. That part is fact, not that it is anyone’s business but theirs. That is taking responsibility for your actions and your partner’s safety. Follow me so far? 

     Granted, there are a lot of gay men out there who are not as diligent about being tested as they could or should be, but most are. I know of several couples that are in monogamous relationships, and still get tested as a matter of habit. It’s just part of their normal health routine, and I don’t think it is a bad practice. Just sayin’. I think it helps keep them honest if you know what I mean. 

     I started thinking about this subject on Tuesday this week, so I had time to do a little research. No surprise that the majority of porn is heterosexual. Men are men, and most men are pigs when it comes to visual stimulation, gay or straight. Sorry, but that is just how we’re wired, I guess. First stop on my research train, choo-choo, was the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Not surprising, but there were more male-to-male infections than heterosexual ones over the past five years in the US. Black men were off the charts in particular, which was a surprise to me. Of course, these statistics are for the US only. 

     Next stop, WHO (World Health Organization). Well what’d’ya know? Flip. Total opposite. More women are reported infected in the rest of the world. Was I surprised? Nope. Nor was I surprised that there are more anti-virals prescribed on the continent of Africa than in any other region in the world. (This is a major point of contention for me, which I may go into another time.) 

     Oh, so you think you are so smart, eh? I can see many of you sitting there all smug, pleased with yourselves saying… “I knew it!” HA! Not so fast. What, you may ask? There is a HUGE reason for this disparity in statistics. In this country more gay men are tested than any other portion of the population, considerably so.I'll even go so far as to say there are more gay men tested in this country, per capita, than anywhere else in the world! So I ask you this: WHEN was the last time YOU were tested for HIV? Unless you are a gay man, I would be willing to bet that most of you will say never or it has been a very long time. Then ask yourself: When was the last time I had unprotected sex? Hmmm? How confident are you in your sex partner? Can you be one hundred percent sure that this other person is totally committed to you and you alone? Is anything ever one hundred percent? Remember, no safe sex, only safer sex. If you are a white female in this country, the chances of you having been tested for HIV is almost zero percent, barely a blip on the screen. 

     Now let me go back to my porn investigation… ugh. Yes, I did it. I went looking for straight porn. It was a chore, let me assure you. I’m not a big porn watcher to begin with, and this was not something I enjoyed. (GAG) Trust me on this one. But what I found was that of the sampling I did see, not once did I see a condom used. Nope, not one. No latex was ever visible. Which makes me ask, why the double standard here? Now I did go and check and in most instances I found that even in the straight porn industry, stringent HIV testing was done. Good for them. But again, why the double standard? I've yet to hear anyone screaming that these people were not practicing safer(er) sex! At least within the gay community we are policing ourselves, just like we took charge of the HIV/AIDS prevention programs back in the 80’s. Hell, most gay bars have a large container of condoms out free for the taking. I've not seen that in any straight bar I’ve ever been to. Have you? 

     I guess it all boils down to this: Take responsibility for yourself. Those who live in glass houses… well, you can finish that one. 

     In most all of my books, condom use is clearly stated, up to the point where a commitment is established. And in each case, my characters knew each other and their habits very well by that point. Yes, I've had comments from readers who didn't even like that! I would like to ask those very people about their own condom use and their HIV testing practices. Anyone brave enough to withstand that kind of scrutiny? 

     Romance novels are fantasy. They only represent real time and people. They are not real people. Porn is also fantasy. It is there for entertainment purposes, just as novels are, nothing more, nothing less. It is all a land of make believe where we go to lose ourselves in another place and time. We love to fall in love with characters and sometimes they become very real to us. If that happens, that is wonderful. It only means that the author or actor has really done their job well, but keep in mind it still isn’t real life, folks. 

     If you have an issue in watching bareback porn, then don’t watch it. It really is that simple. If you don’t care for the way I write or any other author, there are so many other wonderful authors out there whom I am sure you’ll enjoy. It is your choice, just like it is their choice to go bareback or not. 

     This wasn't supposed to be a rant, just educational. I guess I’m just trying to point out how a gay man would view all this. Like I said, I think we are a different breed, and therefore think differently. One of the big things I’d like to mention here is that gay men really do take care of themselves, for the most part. They are above the norm for obtaining higher education. Why do you think there are so many companies soliciting their products to gay men? For the most part, gay men make more money and have more disposable income. That also is a fact that I learned several years ago from a marketing professor at the University of Tennessee. (Go Vols!) 

     I guess what I’d really like for everyone to take away from this is, give it a rest. Set aside your notions that erotica is corrupting people, or leading them down some dubious path. Be an adult and take responsibility for your own actions and choices and then leave the rest of us to do the same. 

A Christmas Memory
  Oh, one last promo… A Christmas Memory is available. If you need a little jump start to get yourself in the mood for the holidays, give it a try. This is one of my favorite stories. Nice warm fuzzies. 

     Go forth this week and remember to do some little something nice for someone else. It will come back to you. Promise. 

     Till next week… by y’all! 

     Max ;-)
Because I can.