Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Champers all right with you?

I will confess it. A birthday dinner was had. It was earlier this month. Before the election. When I felt celebratory. I read an article in Men's Vogue some time ago about small boutique champagne producers. I was fascinated. I tore out the pages and put in my "look book". That is who I wish to be, someone who drinks champagne so fabulous that no one else has heard of it and it will cost less than all those big name producers.

About a year and half later things begin to come together.

Someone in our circle of friends turned 40-ten (we are not allowed to use the full mathematical equivalent). He would be at my house when I would be having a birthday (a rare occurrence, I am usually out of town so no one can fathom me aging), plus another friend would be having a special day the day after me. A perfect storm of conditions to bust out the big guns and get my champagne on.

Lyle said he would cook.
The chef at my favorite restaurant, Chez Lyle.

GAME ON. I went to a new wine store in Glendale and stood in front of their champagne section for about five minutes. No one offered me any help. I was the only customer in the shop. I left.

I went to Du Vin on San Vicente in West Hollywood. Unbelievably helpful! I showed them the article I had been carrying about for some time and they explained that they would not have the exact same brands as the article as it was written on the East Coast, and the West Coast gets different distribution of many things. I told them no problem, I just wanted to head down that vibe and to guide me through the store. They asked a price point. I gave them from $30 to $60. Perfect! came their reply.

We would be 6 for dinner. And the sales person thought 4 bottles would be a good amount. As soon as that champagne hit the house we took a bottle to a friends house that night. That was Friday. By Tuesday all the champagne was gone and I had learned that four bottles would never satisfy this group of six. I went back and got seven.The outside table was set for appetizers and cocktails. We started with the Henriot champagne.
92 points Wine Enthusiast and 90 points Tanzer. Henriot's vineyard has been around since the 1700s, but they didn't begin producing bubbly until 1808. Composed of 40% chardonnay and 60% pinot noir the Souverain Brut tends toward a lighter, more crisp style with decent acidity and flavors of green apples, pears, limes, nectarines and a light bit of minerality. Also has some cream and vanilla on the finish.
We mixed it with gin to create the cocktail known as French 75. Or as I think it should be called, Yes! I'd like to get hammered!
French 75
- 1 1/2 oz Gin
- 2 oz Lemon Juice
- Champagne
- 2 tsp Superfine Sugar
- Garnish: Cherry

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice except champagne. Strain into a champagne flute (or collins glass). Top with champagne. Garnish with cherry.
We modified it slightly:
One shot of gin, juice of one lemon wedge squeezed in, one spoonful of powdered sugar - mix together. Top off flute with champagne. Much easier.

Appetizers were from Lyle's charcuterie portion of his cooking class. A chicken liver pate made with fresh seasonal pears. (the recipes I've linked to are just for reference. Lyle used the recipes he got from his cooking course.)

Pork rillettes served with warm mini-toast
And a Breton Casoulet
Then out came the birthday tiara...

Our birthday honorees.
Ruled over by their sovereign.

Who is very free with sharing the crown.

Everybody gets a turn.

After appetizers, we came indoors to the dining room.
Our next champagne was the Lenoble Blanc du Blanc Grand Cru.
This is intense, concentrated and refined. Peach, honeysuckle, toast and mineral aromas and flavors meld beautifully with the vibrant structure and supple texture. The harmony of all the elements and intensity of flavor make this Champagne a standout.
It was stellar.
Green salad with roasted fingerling potatoes and cherry tomatoes in a warm brown butter red vinegar dressing.

By this time we were already in the Lallier Champagne.
Maturity and persistence Delicately fruity and elegant. A hint of apricot followed by buttered brioche. Marvellous balance of the low dosage and the full bodiness of this Champagne. The perfect blend for great Champagne lovers !
And we had our main course,

Duck confit, scallop potatoes, and a bean ragout of black eye peas, flageolet, and few others that I can't even name.

And last, no birthday is complete without an amazing cake. The cake was baked by Lewis, supervised by Lyle, and final icing done by me in the back yard in the dark because the house was too warm to keep the icing from sliding off the cake.Looks pretty good for doing it in the dark! But wait until you see the inside...

Three pounds of butter went in to the icing of this cake. Unfortunately, I believe I may have eaten a third of the cake, so I just ate a pound of butter. Good thing I can still ride my bike around here.

We were down to our last bottle of champagne, the Nicholas Feuillatte Rose.
Bright and lively with a shading of sweet earth and red strawberries, the Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Rose is a pert example of this genre.
For the record, I am not a rose or blush kind of guy and I was apprehensive. But I tried it and... I didn't like it. Luckily others did.

And luckily, by now everyone was ready to work the tiara. Working it hard with a jaunty sweater accessory.

Getting all up in his grill.

Thrilled to be finished with cooking (and friend).

Then the staff went home, the candles got blown out, the candles got knocked over, the kitchen got cleaned, more cake was eaten, someone got pantsed... well, you get the idea.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cleaning out the Protest Folder 02

As mayor of the Munchkin horses...
(Photos were taken Saturday night by our friend Robert Galvin.)

I know, it's a lot. I've been sort of overwhelmed by all the stuff going on around me and I am finally coming up for air and have too much to share.

First off, this Saturday there is a National Day of Protest. Anyone who doesn't live in California and has been wishing they could get involved, there is a rally somewhere near you, even in my hometown of Bellingham. If you don't live in California and wonder why you should be bothered with all this, keep reading.

I hear a lot of people who supported Prop 8 saying, "You lost. Get over it." and "The people voted. It's done."

But we didn't loose. They lost. They lost last May when the Supreme Court of California handed down the ruling that being gay and lesbian made you part of a suspect class of people who were discriminated against. People who needed the court system to protect them from majority rule. That was the fascinating part of the ruling that got lost in all this hoopla. That is the reason the California Supreme Court granted Marriage Equality.

Then the other side got all in a snit and went after it with Prop 8. As an end run around the very checks and balances that make our government work. Imagine if after desegregation they had put it to a popular vote, would we still have segregated schools? I mean come on. You guys lost, get over it!

So while this is going to take some time, I believe that the California Supreme Court will have the courage to stand up and strike down this end run around the judgment that they were entrusted with.
Ironically, I've lost my voice and march quietly.
Oh, and now you know that I dress for every occasion.

And that bring us to another part of it. The way that Prop 8 was presented as a "minor revision" to the constitution and not a fundamental alteration. Only Minor adjustments can be made by a simple majority of the voters. Anything on a large scale must be first passed by the legislature and then given to the voters to ratify. So Prop 8 is doubly vexed.

The people who will cry the most when this is once again struck down will shout that their rights have been stripped by activist judges. Just as they cheered when George W. Bush was given the white house by activist judges. Funny, they told all of us to just "get over" that as well.

The people organizing these propositions and amendments aren't stopping at California. They funded and passed hurtful legislation in Arizona, Florida and Arkansas as well this November. There is a great op-ed piece written by Dan Savage in the New York Times, part of which reads:
Beginning on Jan. 1, a grandmother in Arkansas cohabitating with her opposite-sex partner because marrying might reduce their pension benefits is barred from taking in her own grandchild; a gay man living with his male partner cannot adopt his deceased sister’s children.
How very "pro-family" of them. This doesn't stop at California. This doesn't stop at gay. This doesn't stop at children. The Mormon church has been highly involved in this battle since the late 90's in Hawaii and Alaska (I had the distinct displeasure to be on the receiving end of a group of Mormon school children's leader fueled hate-speak while on vacation in Hawaii one year). The Mormon church has also been behind the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment for the US constitution.

I don't blame Mormons who go to church. I don't blame Catholics who attend mass. I don't blame Blacks or Latinos. No one group passed this by themselves. No one group voted 100% in unison for this. I blame individuals who didn't look into what they were voting for. Individuals who bought what the ads told them. Individuals who don't know the difference between religion and the constitution.

But every great cause needs a villain. For the Mormons it's the gays. Since I can't get behind the vilification of a whole group, I will lay the blame at the leaders. I blame the leaders of the Mormon Church. I blame the leaders of the Catholic church (I've been saying that for years now). And I blame a whole lot of people who have the best intentions but sit idly by and let others speak for them.

A couple of great posts that I have been reading and I can recommend:
Rolfe Schmidt - How Many Souls Did You Save?
Jasmyne Cannick - The Gay-Black Divide

Love that sign.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cleaning out my protest folder 01

Here is an online site that seeks donations to fund the legal battle to Invalidate Prop 8. For every $5 you donate, they will send a postcard to the president of the Mormon Church to let him know that a donation has been made by you in his name. We have donated $100 to send him 20 postcards. I know of another very generous donor who has sent him 1000 postcards. These donations are through a charitable organization and are tax deductible.

My mom is a mother. And as such has been concerned about her son marching in the streets (thanks Mom!). I have reassured her that I am always cautious and courteous. In fact, may I just mention that I have never seen such a nice and polite mob chanting in the streets? We follow our leaders, we try to not litter, we park only where legal, and I am consistently giddy over how polite we are to one another in the crowd. "You go first." "Pardon me." That's great sign, and I love your shirt." "What a cute baby!" "Sorry." "Would you like some gum?"

I've been reluctant to post photos of me out protesting because I don't think this a "me" thing. It's so much bigger than me. But her is a shot of of some hot guy who got dressed to look like a respectable Mormon to protest at the Temple. Gosh he looks familiar. Also please note how conservative he wore his hair.

But just for those three anarchists who think we should go all WTO in Seattle, here are some helpful tips from the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center:
  • The police are not our enemy. Top city officials support our cause, including the mayor, the city attorney and the heads of the police and sheriff’s department. They are doing their job to protect you and the community. Individual police officers, however, may occasionally act in ways that are not in accordance with what the top brass wants. If you have concerns about police treatment, please contact the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Legal Services Department: 323-993-7670
  • Don’t attack reporters. We've heard disturbing reports about a few people verbally assaulting the press. By and large, the media in Los Angeles cover LGBT-related issues fairly and responsibly. Please discourage people from showing hostility to reporters. If you read or see stories you think are not fair or balanced, please send an email to media@lagaycenter.org
  • Be smart about signs! Creative signs generate press attention, but signs that attack any group of people or contain foul language may not help our cause. Prop. 8 passed by a slim margin of people, most of whom don’t hate LGBT people, but were misled by a deceptive advertising campaign. Signs that position all supporters of Prop 8 as people who hate us may not help our cause.
I loved this sign.

And then there is the Petition to ask the IRS to review the Mormon Church's tax exempt status. There is a clause in the code of tax exemption that claims that to maintain an organization's tax exempt status
They must not devote a substantial part of their activities to attempting to influence legislation.
Let me say right off that I did sign the petition. I also support free speech. I believe the Mormon church can say whatever it thinks it needs to AS LONG AS THEY PAY THEIR TAXES. If you want to be tax free and enjoy the benefits of that status, then SHUT THE HELL UP. Get it? Free speech isn't free. You'll have to pay taxes just like any other lobbying group in Washington DC.

All that said, its not an area I will be putting any more effort into. I have bigger fish to fry.

And finally, if you or someone you know is angry enough there is a place where you can register your name as someone who is resigning from the Mormon Church. Vote with your voice. Vote with your feet.

This glass is half full

So I got this "cheer you up" email that listed the "TOP 12+1 Why We Won" as we lost the No on 8 vote. I decided to repost it here with minimal additions.

1) We're marching for the first time, for something other than a Pride Event.

2) For Godsakes, Barack Obama was elected President! He's pledged to roll back Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Repeal , repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and push for anti-discrimination laws against gays. And the Speaker of the House is from San Francisco. Who started taking her kids to gay pride parades when they were kids. Can we have more supportive people at the top??

3) 48% voted against hate, up from 38% in 2000 when Prop 22, which did the same thing that Prop 8 does except it was not a constitutional amendment, passed. That's a 20 point swing in 8 years!

3) Young people voted overwhelmingly with us and they don't put up with bigotry and discrimination being written into state laws; their vision of the future will set us free.

4) 69 newspapers wrote editorials on Prop 8. 69 opposed Prop 8 including conservative papers like the San Diego Tribune and the Orange County Register. Unprecedented in our community! Not a single paper endorsed this discriminatory measure!

5) We built a truly national coalition and received donations from all FIFTY states; the opposition received the bulk of their money from Utah and California, with smaller donations from people in other states, except Vermont. Yay Vermont!

(and since there is a handy website where you can see who donated and how much by zip code, I did. From my hometown of Bellingham Washington, there were 12 donations all against prop 8. Thank you hometown! And in my zip code in Los Angeles there were only 7 people supporting Prop 8 and 330 opposing donations. I feel better walking my dogs in the neighborhood.)

6) In 2000, we won just 6 counties, all in the bay area. In 2008 we won 15 counties and were just a point away from winning LA County. All the more reason why we need to keep fighting. Nearly 1/3 Californians lives in LA County, the biggest in the country, and where LA County goes, so goes the state, where the state goes, so goes the nation.

7) We had endorsements and votes from everyone important. Brad Pitt (D-Calif) Britney Spears (R-Calif), House Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif), Governor Schwarzenegger (R-Calif), Senators Feinstein and Boxer (D-Calif), President-elect Obama (D-Ill), and God (D-Heaven).

8) The tide is turning and history is on our side. Every single movement that started in the streets for civil rights, from women to the United Farm Workers, has won and our day is within sight!

9) The most popular companies in America took out full page ads on our behalf and supported us throughout the campaign. Every time someone from Yes on 8 buys an iPod, does an internet search at Google, or pays their electric bill to PG&E, their money is going to a company that will continue to fight for us. (or buys a pair of Levis)

10) Now that the different groups that made up Yes on Prop 8 are done stripping fundamental rights away from gays, they'll probably go back to attacking each other.

11) You can now take that money you were planning on spending on that wedding, buy stocks at record low prices, and when we can get married again, throw a wedding that all your straight friends will be jealous of. AND have enough left over a down payment on that fabulous West Hollywood condo!

12) How much better did we look on the campaign trail vs. the opposition?

+1) We always said that we could not win this without 100% support from our community and allies (even out of state!) and although we had record breaking numbers of people involved and giving, we need those last few holdouts to get involved and push us over the top. Now is the time to talk to those friends, families, and voters that we didn't on November 3rd, and make sure they're on board giving money and giving time as we move forward.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Halloween!

What? It's not Halloween anymore? Where has the time gone...

In any case, I still have Halloween to share and I forge ahead. We spent Halloween in Seattle. On our way to my parents 50th anniversary in Bellingham. I never had a Halloween growing up that didn't include rain. It rained in Seattle on Halloween this year as well.

Here is my brother all dressed up for Halloween as a wet Seattlite.

When I discovered that I would be in Seattle for the auspicious occasion, I called my nieces ans asked them if they knew any good parties to go to. They are 11 and 15. They told me the coolest thing was to go trick-or-treating with them. Since I had to be up early the next day for the anniversary party I decided an early night might be a good idea.

"Uncle Jim," they asked in unison over the speaker phone, "What are you going to wear!?"

Hmmmm, I replied, I'm not certain, but the one word that comes to mind is.... HOTPANTS!

"Noooooooo! You can't wear Hotpants! You'll freeze!"

I'll be fine, the pants, you see, are HOT!

"Uncle Jim! You're crazy!"

Crazy for HOTPANTS!!!

And so I was stuck. I now had to come up with a costume wearing hotpants, that wouldn't embarrass myself, my husband or my nieces. But it still had to be good. I began my search early and found the answer!
OK, technically not hotpants, but that is a swimsuit. Lyle decided to dress as someone who is easily annoyed by me. As I say every year, "It's not a costume if you wear it every day, it's just an outfit."

My brother's family lives in a pleasant neighborhood in Seattle that seems to have an abundance of Range Rovers, BMWs, Mercedes and Volvos in every driveway. Suffice it to say, they get a lot of trick-or-treaters. To illustrate, by the time I got there at 7, my brother's house had already run out of over 100 candy bars. To contrast, at my house in Los Angeles, we've never had one trick-or-treater in three years.

We did the walk. And walk. And walk. I guess it seemed long to me because a) I wasn't getting any candy and b) I was in hotpants. I guess it seemed long to my niece and her friends because they wore super high heels to go trick-or-treating in the rain.

Janie, Sage, Madeleine (as Rachel Zoe) Allie (as a street sign) Darlene, Nicole and Nicole.

For me, the best costume of the night were the three young guys who were dressed in prisoner stripes carrying swords with cereal boxes skewered on them. The notice on the front and back of their shirts read: Convicted Cereal Killer. I screamed and hid behind my brother. The guys ran away laughing and about two houses away I saw them stop, turn around and look at me in my GIANT CEREAL costume and say, "Oh wait a minute, I get it... HE'S CEREAL!!!"

Trade you an Almond Joy for a Sugar Daddy?

Friday, November 07, 2008

I had a life...

And I still have a life.

This past week I keep telling myself that I will stop with all the politics. After the election... after the protest... after the bigger protest... after Saturday?

My life is so much more than just being gay. My life is so much more than just being married. And yet...

The goal of this last round of hateful (and oh how the opposing side is stung by being called hateful) propaganda has revealed the true core of what "they" want. It all came down to "what if we had to tell the children that two people of the same sex could marry? What if the children found out it was OK to be gay? And the unspoken half is, because obviously it's not. Every time our loving family sees a gay person we demand out children look away in horror and we shout that they are Satan on earth and they will burn in hell.

Excellent parenting skills there.

But 52% of Californians bought that bat shit crazy idea and now I can't help but look around and wonder who wishes I would go away. That is the ultimate goal. To silence me. Shove me in a closet and not force my "lifestyle" into their line of sight. How large a jump is it from this line of reasoning to being forced to wear an armband or declare my status on a form so I can't be found where I might be near those precious children?

It's obscene.

I don't care one bit for all the platitudes that "they" give about how they don't hate, the don't discriminate, love the sinner not the sin or any other bullshit excuse they can come up with to cover their unbelievably disgusting ugly hate. Their actions speak louder than their words.

I don't feel better after I march in the street. I don't feel better after handing out leaflets to voters. I don't feel better after posting photos or even writing this blog post.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We're here. We're queer. We're taking over Sunset!

I went out tonight to perform my civic duty as an extra in the No on Prop 8 post election rally. So many things are swirling through my brain and I am certain I can't make much sense of it all, but I will dutifully vomit it all on the page and let you make the journey with me.

I went to West Hollywood tonight with my friend Ellys. Lyle couldn't go, too depressed.

I expected nothing. What can a post election rally do for me? It can't heal me, I am too pissed off. It isn't going to teach me anything new, I sat all day in front of the computer today.

But I can do something. I can show up. I can be the 2001st person in a sea of 3000 people so that the news helicopter will take our pictures and tell everyone who watches that what has happened is wrong.

So I showed up.

True to form, the West Hollywood sheriff's department was very efficient, organized and polite. (Thank you!!!) And I think we all knew going in to this that at some point the protesters would take over the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente.

Seen in the crowd, Rikki Lake and Chastity Bono.
Trust me, that is Chastity Bono in the brown, in the center, at the bottom of the picture.

After the speeches the crowd surged towards the boulevard. The street was closed off and a police car was just ahead on Santa Monica to escort the "angry mob" on a little tour and bring them back. Exercising your first amendment and working off some steam. All planned nice and tidy.
But the mob was pissed and took off straight up San Vicente towards Sunset Blvd. (audible gasp) SHOCK!!!

As we marched down Sunset I could hear inside my twisted mind, "We're here! We're Queer! We taking over Sunset!" That's not what was actually said. But c'mon, protesting for equality in West Hollywood?

Yeah! Let's trash our own neighborhood! Let's piss off and inconvenience everyone who already supports us! But the people in the cars and the people on the street were amazingly supportive. Honking, waving, shouting and holding out their "No on 8" signs.

The crowd was chanting STOP THE HATE! angrily. Ironically. Then someone in a car yelled "Fag!" at someone and was suddenly surrounded. I could see how easily that car could have been rolled over. But wasn't. STOP THE HATE, EXCEPT FOR THAT ASSHOLE!

We marched all the way down Sunset Blvd to Crescent Heights. The leading police escort turned down and the group rebelled. Stopping traffic at another major intersection and refusing to budge.

Most of the group finally followed. One faction peeled off and went to Hollywood & Highland. I went with the group who didn't wear their hiking shoes, towards home.

The news is making all sorts of sensationalistic claims. That the protest turned violent. ONE protester didn't do exactly as the LAPD shouted and was summarily beaten to the pavement by three police officers.

I don't know where all this is headed.

I'm tired.

I cried tonight in the middle of a street.

I want my life back.

I want my rights back.
On the right, iconic hotel Chateau Marmont.
On the left, ironic billboard states, "As History Unfolds, Don't Miss a Minute."

Tomorrow there is to be a press conference to confront the Mormon leadership on all the lies and hate they spread during this ugly campaign. It is a t 2:00 at the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica near Westwood.

I'll be there.

Please hold while I try to connect you with your fundemental rights...

I woke up with a COLOSSAL cake hangover this morning... It was a post celebration/mourning party. Hooray for the regime change! (I'll eat cake to that!) Shit, what is up with Prop 8? (God Dammit, add ice cream!!!)

The only way I can describe it is to say it feels like I got everything I wanted for Christmas. Then my house burnt down.

As devastated as I feel today I will give you the small window I am looking at the world through via the Equality California website:

Monday, November 03, 2008

I showed this little "blooper reel" to my family this weekend.

I'm sure I'm in big trouble for showing it here.

But I posted it anyway, didn't I?

Just part of what makes me fascinating...

Vote No on Prop 8, November 4th!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I am in Bellingham celebrating my parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary!

I once voiced to my mother, some unhappiness I was having in a relationship. I said I was so angry that I could just pack it all up and walk out the door.

"Don't go just because your angry," said my mother.

What? I should wait until I'm deliriously happy and then leave? I replied sarcastically, Who would leave then?

"Uh-huh..." hummed my mother.

But if you can't leave just because your pissed off, and you'd be a fool to leave because things are making you happy... then what? You can just NEVER leave?

"Ah-ha..." said my mother.

Well that's not fair. There must be some reason that would allow you to leave, I spluttered. I was, after all, pretty unhappy and looking for any excuse.

"Leave because you don't feel anything at all." came my mother's advice, "if you're mad, that means you still care, if you're happy then things are working. But if you feel nothing, then it's done. And that is the only time you should leave."

I'm still with him past 19 years now. My parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary.

She's kind of a smart lady, that mother of mine.

Vote No on Prop 8, November 4th!