Issue 424

Arts Spotlight: 424

Cowles Center Opening Weekend Celebration — The Twin Cities is a mecca for theater but it also has more dance companies per capita than any metro area in the US. However, dance performances in the Twin Cities are often relegated to facilities ill-equipped to handle their particular needs. From changing into dancewear to the type of floor that safely supports the dancer’s dynamic athleticism, until now, the needs of local dance have been insufficiently addressed.

But finally, after years of preparation, which has included literally moving the historic Shubert Theater from a block away to the site right next to the Hennepin Center for the Arts and yards away from the light rail, that palace from the vaudeville era is now the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. A restored exterior and revamped neoclassic interior with 500 retrofitted seats will host most of the established Twin Cities dance companies.

CC Executive Director Frank Sonntag compares the Cowles to New York’s pre-eminent dance center, the Joyce Theater. He says it’s about “elevating dance to the level that’s been enjoyed by music and theater.” The name ‘Cowles’ refers to dance’s two penultimate Twin Cities patrons, John and Sage Cowles.

Sonntag says, “Above all, dance,” as he shows me the sprung wood floor with rubber stoppers every six feet below it, making for protective insulation. From the moment the dancer prepares in one of over 30 dressing rooms until she finishes up her performance and is back in her dressing room to re-don her daily garb back, her feet and joints are protected.

Arena Dance choreographer Matthew Janczewski explains “[for]dancers, jumping up and down on cement and hard surfaces really hurts, so a sprung floor actually prolongs a dancer’s career without stressing their ankles and joints. The more you dance on hard surfaces the more your muscles contract and go into protection mode. The sprung floor can also assist in more bounce and getting higher up in the air.”

Opening weekend festivities include a ceremonial blessing by the Native Pride Dancers, a galaxy of artists, and a combination of black tie and less formal events.

Sept. 9-11 • Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 528 Hennepin Ave. So., Mpls. • (612) 206-3600 • www.thecowlescenter.org

Obama Mia! — For some time the Brave New Workshop has tiptoed too gingerly around offending one side of the aisle over the other. Moreover, until now they’ve been hesitant to come down too heavily on President Obama. This may have to do with the fact that they’ve been an all white comedy troupe. However, African American Andy Hilbrands has now joined the team and he’s a terrific. Don’t worry, they don’t resort to Tea Party-style disinformation wackiness but the President’s inability to create more jobs is spoofed and that seems fair game indeed. Fear not, he’s counterbalanced with Michele Bachmann madness. Through Oct. 1 • Brave New Workshop, 2605 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. • (612) 332-6620 • www.bravenewworkshop.com

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency — Nan Goldin’s slide show of New York and Boston’s hardcore drug scenes is emblematic of the late 1970s to the ’90s. Some say she glamorizes grunge and heroin but Goldin unmistakably photographs from the heart. Many of her subjects are/were close friends. Same- and opposite-sex couples, interracial and not, and the children of those photographed, make for a poignant viewing experience. The show’s natural nudity and graphic sexuality are relevant to its purpose.. Through Oct. 16 • Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. • (612) 375-7600 • www.walkerart.org

True West — David Mann directs Peter Hansen and John Skelley as brothers Lee and Austin in what’s probably Sam Shepard’s funniest play. Hansen calls this gritty comedy “a battleground strewn with what it means to be a man. Each brother is incomplete and wants desperately what the other has and what the other seems to be. Hanging over them both is this idealized and impossible vision of the mythic man of the West – tough, independent, successful, resourceful, and dangerous.” Through Sept. 5 • Minneapolis Theater Garage, 711 W. Franklin Ave., Mpls. • (952) 929-9097 • www.torchtheater.com

Rumors — Neil Simon’s 1988 comedy tapped into public disdain for moneyed privilege in the Reagan Era. Actor Ryan Grimes who plays dinner partner Ken shares “it’s about a group of rich couples who make a mountain over a molehill because they obviously have nothing better to do. We laugh at these people for continuing to make mistake after mistake while trying to cover up something that really didn’t require any covering up to begin with.” Sept. 9-24 • Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd. So., Mpls. • (612) 396-2025 • www.urbansamurai.org

Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass — Ananya Dance choreographer Ananya Chatterjea has an ingeniously illuminating way of integrating sensual female intimacy with unsettling geopolitical issues like climate change, refugee dislocation, energy justice, and now the gold industry. She calls her latest “quite a queer piece. In exploring gold, we are also exploring systems of value, valuation, how women come to be ‘valued’ or devalued in terms of ‘things’ – gold jewelry, material objects that are often used to mark our femininity. This also feeds into our relationships with each other, as women, as they turn out to be relationships of love, intimacy, cruelty, and support.” Sept. 8-11 • Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. So., Mpls. • (800) 838-3006 • www.brownpapertickets.com


MNUnearthed: Mondo Collecto
— The monthly MNUnearthed series of independent films by Minnesota filmmakers gets launched with R.P. Whalen’s Mondo Collecto. Series co-curator Dan Schneidkraut relates that it shows “a guy who collects Pez dispensers because they look like penises, a hippie eccentric who collects ‘space’, and an exposé on a gentleman who likes to have sexual intercourse with melons.” Whalen appeared in the horrific ’08 documentary SNUFF: A Film About Killing on Camera. Schneidkraut’s co-curator is Joe Larsen. Wed., Sept. 7 • Trylon Microcinema, 3258 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls. • (612) 424-5468 • www.take-up.org

Leatherpage.com Returns

One thing modern media technology has done for the leather/BDSM/fetish community is to increase both the number of voices from the community and the ability of those voices to be heard.

When this column started in 1995 I joined a landscape of leather commentators that included Marcus Hernandez, aka Mr. Marcus, in San Francisco; Jack Rinella in Chicago; and Vern Stewart in Washington, DC Dave Rhodes was writing and publishing The Leather Journal, and other writers and columnists appeared in Drummer Magazine and International Leatherman. Back then, leather discourse was led by those few writers with access to an ink-and-paper pulpit from which to declaim.

Within a few years the landscape had changed, and suddenly anyone with something to say could say it electronically on the World Wide Web. On the leather frontier of that change was Leatherpage.com, a website run by IML 1996 Joe Gallagher, which gathered the work of many leather thinkers, pundits, and writers (including your humble columnist) and presented it all in one convenient place on the Web.

A few years ago Gallagher suspended the website, but now he has transferred the Leatherpage domain name to San Francisco activist Leland Carina who, with Gallagher’s blessing, has restarted and rejuvenated Leatherpage.com.

New publisher Carina is deeply involved in the San Francisco-area leather community. She is a graphic designer at Kink.com and also does a wide variety of volunteer work for various individuals and organizations in and beyond the San Francisco Bay area. She is President of the San Francisco girls of Leather (SFgoL) and serves as Chair of the PR Committee of the San Francisco Bay Area Leather Alliance. You can see examples of her design, photography and modeling work at lelandcarina.com.

Contributors to the new Leatherpage.com include Leatherati.com, Race Bannon, Sir Hugh (International Leather Sir 2010), Mollena Williams (International Ms Leather 2010), Hobbit (International Ms Leather 2008), Wendell Joost III, Violet Blue, Instigator Magazine, The Leather Journal, the Bay Area Review leather column and, of course, Lavender Magazine’s Leather Life column. (Carina has been a contributor to Leatherati.com—another leather-commentary website well worth your time—and plans to continue in that role.) The new Leatherpage.com also plans to republish historic posts from the archives of Leatherpage’s first era.

So check out the reborn Leatherpage.com (and be sure to add it to your browser bookmarks).

Hi, Darling.

I reek of hairspray as I make my entrance into my kitchen.

“Jonesy!” Fab-Glam Brandon calls. We embrace. He’s a model. I hate him for his good looks and how easily he gets men. He tells me he plans to move to Chicago, which is of course unacceptable because I need him here to be fabulous with me.

The music is loud, but it’s nine on a Saturday. We have a couple hours before we have to worry about the neighbors complaining. We’re listening to a classical-techno fusion: high in class, heavy in bass: the story of our lives. The air is thick with cologne from a dozen of my closest, most darling friends.

I’m an awful host, so I tell guests to help themselves to the alcohol in the fridge. My roommate, Ty, is better at that stuff–he’s nice enough to actually pour someone a drink. I’m too busy saying hi and hearing about what’s new (which translates into my needing to attend a class on hosting etiquette). At least I’m providing decent vodka.

I make my way outside to talk to the smokers. It’s humid. We have a huge balcony with a view of the city–a perfect backdrop for risky romantic liaisons, Sunday morning recaps about Saturday night mistakes, and conversation over cocktails.

“Hi, love,” I say and lean in to kiss a familiar face, “Love your outfit. Very, um, Summer in the Hamptons.”

He laughs. He’s Mr. Harvard Graduate, so it fits him. We talk with a couple of friends about the perils of our week, which somehow shifts to what “happiness” really means. Were I a smoker, this would be a flawless moment: stylishly encased in a cloud of tobacco fog, watching the sparkle of downtown, debating life with friends. I’d use my cigarette hand to emphasize critical points.

The night’s just begun, and will unfold over the next 9 hours–it will end as the sun rises- -and in those 9 hours, I will greet friends and acquaintances (and a few strangers) as we navigate the city’s nightlife. I’ll have many more alcohol-induced conversations that are too deep. And I’ll love every fucking minute of it.

Off the Eaten Path: Café Levain

Unfortunately, summer is considered the slow season for Minnesotan restaurants. It’s ironic for such a produce-rich state, but backyard grills and picnics can be understandably more enticing for the cabin-fevered and winter-weary than a dimly-lit dining room. I hadn’t been to Café Levain in a few years, but once I heard Adam Vickerman was back—and now, as its Executive Chef—I couldn’t wait to return. While I suspect that at a few other restaurants, summer menus aren’t always taken as seriously as their fall and winter selection, this season’s menu at Levain is truly a revelation.

We started our evening with a refreshing glass of off-menu (at least, at time of press) Prosecco, flush with notes of tart green apple. When I’m off the clock (and on a budget), I am often tempted to skip the ever-important aperitif. I believe, however, that if one had to choose between dessert and a pre-dinner cocktail or sparkling wine, opt for the latter. An aperitif instantly changes the mood of the evening, and everything that follows it feels decidedly more festive and satisfying.

 

As our starters arrived, we moved to a dry, food-friendly Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend ($10/39). The wine list at Levain is relatively simple, but changes often and coordinates perfectly with Vickerman’s intricate fare. This little blend, for example, brought out the buttermilk/beet vinaigrette in the Bibb Lettuce Salad ($9), rendering even the lightly-dressed salad exquisitely flavorful. Indeed, diced, de-seeded cucumbers, garden strawberries, radishes and a dab of goat cheese make this the best summer salad I have had in quite some time, if not to-date. Additionally, the plate is topped with rich brioche croutons that are just ever-so-slightly sweet for an added bit of texture and playfulness.

However, the Sweet Corn Soup with pork belly, curry, coconut, basil and kohlrabi is the darling dish that made me change my mind entirely about ho-hum summer dining. No more will I fantasize about fall’s roasted root vegetables and red meat–at least exclusively. Now, visions of crunchy, peppery, fresh garden vegetables in a creamy broth will also dance in my head. This soup could easily have been a little too hot ‘n heavy, but a bit of spice, a careful dice and a deft hand prevailed: it’s a masterpiece. The Sweet Corn Soup, as well as our entrées, were actually part of the special “Sunday Suppers” menu, where Levain diners can enjoy a three-course meal for a low, fixed price. If you see the soup on the Sunday menu or any other, strongly consider structuring your dinner to accommodate it.

Levain has its own garden, and Vickerman uses this hidden strength to full advantage in every dish on the menu. Perhaps it is this single attribute that allows the kitchen to elevate their summer cuisine so. Or perhaps it is simply that Vickerman delights in robust flavors and complexity, and he doesn’t play it safe. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for fall.

As we transitioned to our entrées—the Wild Red King Salmon and the Grilled Hanger Steak, our server arrives with a zesty, berry-scented Nine Vines Rosé ($8.50). Both salmon and steak were incredibly moist, and served atop a bed of succulent cannellini bean and baby potato ragout, with tomatoes, garden-fresh herbs and roasted fig. If the specials somehow fail to hold your attention, Levain’s regular entrees also include vegetarian selections, and are very reasonably priced, with most under $25.

For dessert, our prix fixe menu choice was Pecan Shortbread with apricot puree, apricot granita, and marinated apricots—an unexpected and unique delight. With the buttery shortbread, we round out the evening with a glass of Chambers Rosewood Muscat. While I often find dessert wines too sweet for my taste, this Muscat mitigates sweet cherries with a hint of tea on the finish.

Café Levain has experimented with some outdoor seating, and has found even sidewalk dining to be a resounding success. However, if its summer clients will deign to venture inside, even its darker, masculine interior, with quirky accents and open kitchen, lends itself to a relaxing, escapist experience. To make a reservation, or to follow Chef Vickerman’s blog, visit www.cafelevain.com.


Café Levain

4762 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 823-7111
www.cafelevain.com

Socially Savvy: Home Away from Home

Spending a few days in a Duluth B & B

On cool summer days, Duluth’s mystique draws you closer to the lake. The steep hills spilling onto the rocky shoreline inspired architects to create amazing homes in the heyday of Duluth’s business class. One such architectural wonder is the Olcott House on Duluth’s historic East End. Built for a mining magnate in 1904, this Georgian colonial mansion is just the right place to watch the end of summer unfold when the 25th annual Duluth Pride takes over Labor Day Weekend.

Proprietor David Vipond and his partner, Jerry, happened upon the old house on a vacation five years ago. Visiting from Los Angeles, they were drawn to the grand home and the idea of running a bed and breakfast. “It’s something I always wanted to do,” says Vipond. With a background in marketing, advertising, and event planning, he set out to create an unsurpassed lodging experience as Duluth’s only gay-owned B&B (there are six other lovely bed and breakfasts in town, all part of the Historic Inns of Duluth, where David serves on the board).

 

The home boasts five suites and there’s a larger suite in the carriage house. Each room is tastefully decorated with a collection of period antiques and comfortable furniture. This is not your grandma’s doily-filled attic, but a clean-lined colonial revival of white enamel and mahogany furniture. Guests are encouraged to explore the house and use the gracious rooms—even to play the grand piano in the music room.

At Olcott House, the famous candlelight breakfast is its specialty. A rotating menu of breakfast favorites, depending on the crowd, keeps everyone nourished for a day of adventure in Duluth. Guests who arrive around the cocktail hour are greeted with wine, lemonade, and hors d’oeuvres, a lovely light snack before returning to the sights of the Twin Ports.

A bed and breakfast is a more intimate experience than staying at a hotel for the weekend, not to mention much more interesting. A B & B is usually a small operation run by its owners, incorporating their personal tastes and standards of operation. The code of conduct for guests at a B & B lies somewhere between hotel lodging and staying in a friend’s home for the weekend. Here are a few simple steps to make sure your visit to a B & B goes perfectly:

• Book, cancel and rearrange your schedule far in advance. Understand the cancellation policies and you’ll be fine. When booking, remember that B & Bs don’t have 24-hour call centers; call during business hours (your host needs to rest, too!). Ask for directions, dress code (if any), restaurants, upcoming events, etc., in advance. Tell your hosts of any special needs and occasions. Most B & Bs are on top of this; few will fail to accommodate your needs if notified in advance.

• Divulge your allergies and food preferences. Gluten-free, no shellfish, vegetarian–whatever they may be–giving your hosts notice allows them to easily meet your needs. Respect check-in and check-out times. Proprietors often do the work that several people might do in a hotel, so their time is valuable—and limited.

• “Please be on time to meals, everyone else will be,” says Vipond. Give your hosts feedback. They’re here to make your stay the best possible. If they’re doing everything right, let them know!

Olcott House Bed & Breakfast
2316 East 1st Street
Duluth, MN 55812
218-728-1339
www.olcotthouse.com

To find the associated B & Bs in Duluth, visit www.duluthbandb.com.

To find other gay-friendly bed and breakfasts on all your travels, domestic and foreign, check out www.purpleroofs.com.

Make It at Home
Try this signature breakfast item served at the Olcott House for your next large brunch gathering.

Sausage & Spinach Strata with Smoked Gouda Cheese
Serves 12-15. Prep time 30 minutes. Rest period 8 hours. Bake time 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Ingredients
1-1/2 pounds sausage
16 slices sturdy bread (1 loaf homemade bread), remove crust, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 16 oz frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess liquid
1-1/2 pounds Monterey Jack cheese, grated
(3 packages)

1/3 to 1/2 pound smoked Gouda cheese, rind removed and grated
8 large eggs, beaten lightly
3 cups milk (skim is fine)
1 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire

Directions
Brown sausage and drain thoroughly. Microwave spinach with a little water for 5 minutes on high. Divide bread and Monterey Jack cheese into thirds. Put one-third bread cubes on bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish (Le Creuset Stoneware works even better). Sprinkle a third of the Monterey Jack cheese and half the smoked Gouda over the bread cubes. Arrange half the sausage and half the spinach on top of the cheeses. Repeat with another third of the bread cubes and Monterey Jack and the remaining Gouda, sausage and cheese. Top with the last third of the bread cubes and Monterey Jack. Combine eggs, milk, salt, cayenne, mustard and Worcestershire in a bowl, the pour over the assembled strata. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Let the strata stand at room temperature for 45 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dish in a water bath, with water halfway up the side of the dish (a large roasting pan works for this).

Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Swanke Design

If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of an extensive remodeling project, you may be quite familiar with playing go-between for your contractor and designer. It’s more than just an uncomfortable and stressful place to be: having a separate designer and contractor actually can slow the entire process down. “If you hire a designer to do the work…then what you do is find a contractor who is going to build that work. Then, there’s a lag time when you have to do a bid process.” states Michael Swanke, owner of Swanke Design. Moreover, architects may have a spectacular vision, but they can often underestimate the costs associated with making that same vision a reality. Even with an extremely talented architect on-board, that single limitation can land a homeowner with a nasty surprise on their final bill.

Swanke wanted to make the entire process more comfortable and efficient for homeowners, and was inspired to start his own Design-Build firm. “It’s creating a single-source entity from concept through completion,” Swanke begins. “I’ll sit down with the client, listen to their dream, turn it into a plan, work with them through the bid process, and then through construction and completion. It’s a seamless delivery system.” It sounds revolutionary; however Swanke explains that the single-source concept was how the great pyramids at Giza were achieved, along with the rest of the ancient Wonders of the World. And like the master builders of old, Swanke is not just a glorified builder who designs: Swanke considers himself a designer who builds. He brings thirteen years of architecture and construction experience to his company, which can facilitate anything from new construction to restoration projects—even custom furnishings.
In addition to simplifying the process, one of Swanke’s passions is environmentally-friendly construction. “I’m a member of Minnesota GreenStar, but I’m not being green just for the sake of being green. It’s cost-effective, and it provides a cleaner home,” he declares. Inspired by his own home, a 1928 craftsman bungalow in southwestern Minneapolis, Swanke also has a special place in his heart for a smaller, energy-efficient home, rejecting the usual “bigger is better” mentality. “I’ll always try to re-use an existing space or try to capture space before adding on,“ he concludes.
A portfolio of Swanke’s diverse work can be found on his company’s website; though Swanke often focuses on the southwest Minneapolis area, his company performs work throughout the greater Twin Cities. For more information, or to set up an in-home consultation, call 612-810-2848 or visit swankedesign.com.

Name of Company: Swanke Design + Build, LLC
President/CEO: Michael Swanke
Number of Employees: 1
Phone: 612-810-2848
Website: www.swankedesign.com

Glimpses: 424

Loft Literary Center
SECOND STORY READING SERIES at The Loft Literary Center is hosting an exciting event focused on LGBT Young Adult literature—with several area YA novelists and an esteemed visitor, author David Levithan. A panel discussion with several LGBT authors (moderated by KFAI Radio’s Charlotte Sullivan) will be followed by a reading by the amazing David Levithan and debut author Brian Farrey, A reception and book signing will end the evening. Saturday, September 17, 2011, at 7:00pm at The Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Rainbow Bowling
Rainbow Bowling League is a USBC sanctioned, diverse, friendly league consisting of 30 teams that meet on Wednesday nights at 7:30pm at Memory Lanes in Minneapolis. The 2011-2012 bowling season is 28 weeks long beginning September 7th. If interested in bowling on a team as a full-time bowler or as a league sub, please email the League Secretary at rainbowleaguesecretary@yahoo.com for more information.

My Mother, the Monster

My mother wants me to kill all the chipmunks in my yard.

My mother is a monster.

“I don’t give a damn that they’re cute,” she yelled at me from my back deck. “Kill them all.”

“But they’re my friends,” I said, tossing sunflower seeds to a small gang of chipmunks.

“They’re terrorists,” she said. “Get rid of them.” I live in a woodsy community and my yard is filled with wildlife. My mother doesn’t approve of any wildlife, except for ladybugs, which she gives a pass to because they share so many traits. On the surface, ladybugs and my mother are coolly elegant and cultured. But their good manners simply mask their vicious brand of practicality. Ladybugs eat aphids and other garden pests. My mother eats her own.

My parents drove up for the day to help me plant my garden. My mother is a master gardener whose life work has been transforming her yard into a mini-Tivoli. By contrast, I kill any plant unlucky enough to find its way into my yard. It’s not that I don’t have a green thumb. It’s just that I can’t be bothered to water, weed, or fertilize. I manage to take care of myself on a subsistence level. Why can’t plants do the same? I give them a place to live. What more do they want from me?

Our gardening skills are just one of the many things that differentiate me from my mother. She’s willowy, blonde and blue-eyed, and I look like I just hopped off the boat (steerage class) from Sicily. She’s obsessed with fashion, and I wish I had a job that required me to wear a uniform so I didn’t have to decide what to wear every day. My mother dressed me until I was a sophomore in high school. She still rues the day she lost control of my wardrobe.

And, so, it shocked the hell out of me when my mother announced that we’re exactly alike.

Here’s how it happened. We were in my backyard, arguing about my dirt.

“And here’s another thing you don’t want to hear,” she said. She prefaces most of her statements this way since everything she says is some type of criticism about how I live my life or the sorry condition of my hair. “Your dirt is terrible. Simply terrible.”

I looked down at the dirt in the flowerbed, which did look a bit anemic. But there was no way in hell I was going to concede that to her. I do not believe in appeasing my mother. It only encourages her.

“There’s nothing wrong with my dirt,” I said, defensively. Just as I was debating whether to storm into the house in protest, I heard someone call out to me from the driveway.

It was a candidate for my Congressional District. He walked into the backyard and handed me his literature. I glanced at it and saw the words “Conservative Republican” and “Family Values” blaring from the front of the flyer.

“Get the hell out of my yard,” I said, shooing him away with pruning sheers.

My mother leaned back in her deck chair and smiled smugly. Although my mother has rather shocking views on the death penalty and welfare reform, she’s been unwaveringly supportive of the gays and considers right-wingers morons.

“Here’s something else you don’t want to hear,” she said. “You’ve done everything possible not to be like me, but you’ve failed. We’re exactly alike. Neither one of us will tolerate pests in our yard.”

“Well, don’t get your hopes up about the chipmunks,” I said. “They’re staying.”

Ms. Behavior©: Ex on the Brain

Dear Ms. Behavior:

Everyone has one ex they still think about, right? I’m not obsessed with mine, but mostly I regret that we didn’t end up at least being friends. Kris was smart, interesting, and very funny. Our chemistry was strong but we weren’t together long, mainly because of bad timing: I was involved in a sticky breakup and there was a period of overlap before it was over. I told Kris from the beginning that I was too raw for a serious relationship and needed some time, but she didn’t understand why I couldn’t jump right out of the relationship I was in and into one with her. Ultimately, it all blew up into a big dramatic mess with the woman I was with, and Kris also felt that I’d made promises to her that I didn’t keep. She was hurt and I felt bad about it, so even though I broke up with girlfriend # 1, it soon seemed too complicated to remain friends with Kris.

Seven years have passed and I’ve happily settled with another partner. A few weeks ago, I saw Kris from a distance in a public place. I didn’t approach her, but I later sent an email apologizing for my having cut off from her during our breakup. I also said that I hope we can some day be friends. She wrote back a harsh note about how our whole relationship was a joke and I wasn’t ever available, and she was never really in love with me anyway.

That hurt my feelings and I also know that it wasn’t true. I’ve composed many more letters in my head, but I don’t know if I should actually send them. I’d like to write back and acknowledge that she’s right that I wasn’t available to be in a relationship at the time, but now I’m available to be friends. (What is there to lose?) Should I also argue with her statement that she was never really in love with me? I know she was. Or should I try to let it go and forget the whole thing?

—Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Dear Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Look deep inside for a moment, please. You say you’re “happily settled” with your current partner, but what if you’re actually bored? What if you harbor a secret wish–hidden from even yourself–to stir things up with Kris? It’s easy to reawaken dormant chemistry, especially if Kris is as smart and funny as you remember.

Here are some clues to the fact that you may be off-kilter here: First, Why do you care that Kris says she was never in love with you? If you just want to be friends, why does it matter how she felt about you back then?

Next, historically speaking, it sounds like you like to triangulate. So if you don’t want to end up creating a whirlwind of drama, at least pay attention and be conscious of your choice. Make a decision about your level of commitment to your current relationship and honor whatever that is. If you want to leave, that’s fine, but make a decision; don’t just blow things up again.

Also–unless you’re a polyamorist in a relationship with another practiced polyamorist–here’s some advice that will probably be useful to you in the future: If you want someone you’re dating to believe that you’re not available, you must align your actions with your words. Think of it this way: What would you think if your girlfriend were to tell you that she’s not actually available while she had her hand inside you? Okay, so maybe the timing would be slightly better and she’d disclose her unavailability slightly before or after the act, but either way, if you’re both female, this type of behavior can produce cognitive dissonance. Especially if she looks into your eyes (or your vulva) and tells you that she loves you, but then somewhere between 10 minutes and 24 hours later, tells you that she’s not ready for a relationship.

Which reminds me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least make the occasional corrective attempt more general: Lesbians, please align your actions with your words. Yes, yes, you’ve given all the protective warnings that that exist in this land: “We are just friends who have sex. In fact, we are Fuck Buddies! We won’t get emotionally attached!” Blah blah blah blah. But in reality, you are made of flesh. Lesbian flesh at that. So don’t go jumping in front of a train and thinking you will bounce off of it like a rubber duckie. You’re gonna get squashed.

Your honesty won’t make her see you as “damaged and gross.” It will more likely make her feel tender toward you.

Ms. Behavior doesn’t think she needs to tell you not to fake any more orgasms, but it will also help if you make it a practice to not lie about anything. In fact, if your girlfriend asks you if you like her hideous new shoes, say, “No, I think they’re hideous.” If she asks if her snoring awakened you, don’t pretend it didn’t.??If you’re lucky enough to have found The One, don’t blow it. Be kind and clear and truthful, and she’ll probably insist on staying with you forever.

Dancing in Neverland

What Happened to Pretend?

Sometimes it feels as if we live in a patchwork–in lives stitched together by a thousand pockets protecting a thousand shades of who we are. Memories and old friends fill one, and this pocket we call Nostalgia. Ambition and excitement lives in another; this, we call Hope.

Some pockets slip away with time and, among the forgotten, we find the one filled with fantasy: in this pocket, we find Neverland…

“Pretend I’m a wizard and you’re looking for the Sword of Ever, and–”

“That’s dumb, Justin. The “Sword of Ever” is a DUMB name, Justin Lee Jones,” C.J. interrupts me with the twangy full-name-I’m-serious southern tradition. He’s my best friend. We’re 9 years old.

“ANYWAYS,” I brush off his ridiculous criticism, “I’m a wizard with a pointy hat and I’m wearing all blue with gold moons and stars all over and I have a wand that is gold and it has a star on the end of it. But it isn’t a girl star. Also, my robe is made of velvet, and the stars are shiny.”

C.J.’s eyes glaze over as they usually do during my wardrobe descriptions.

“C.J.! Play right or I’m not gonna be your friend anymore.”

“OK, but I get to pick everything next time.”

C.J. and I play Wizard for the next three hours. Our quest: Retrieve the Sword of Ever from the clutches of the Grand High Witch in the Winter Forest.

The Casual Observer would call C.J. and me “welfare children.” They’d see us running around a government-subsidized apartment community with a broken toy dagger, screaming in agony about our lot in life. The Casual Observer can’t see the thousand-foot tall diamond trees that we do, or the giant ice castles hidden in the bushes. They don’t smell the Bewitching Flowers used to entrance enemy soldiers. They don’t know that our screams are calls to unleash the Bright Monsters–the Monsters that will come to defeat our Witch.

That’s because the Casual Observers are Grownups: those who seek truth rather than possibility. Those who have forgotten Neverland.

Think now to your childhood. Think to a time when your favorite toys weren’t the ones in your room, but the ones in your head. Think to a time when the world was your playground–when no surface, no tree, no stair, no cardboard box was immune from your imagination. When mounds of sand became castles. These were the most enchanting days of our lives. Nothing was what it seemed, and the grownups were always too foolish to see it.

Back then, we were the ultimate visionaries, the ultimate purveyors of Carpé Diem. We were explosive little monsters pretending to be everything but.

A day would come, though, when the impossible occurred: the day we grew up–the day we said never would happen. On this day, we folded up our intricate imaginations and tucked them away from the world, for fear of ridicule and rejection. “Pretend” became “reality.”

We’ve since forgotten Neverland. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world–why kids can befriend one another with no pretense or judgment while we, the grownups, view cynically our peers’ ambitions and lock away our hearts so we’re never too disappointed. But just because we let the fantasy slip away doesn’t mean it disappeared. It’s still alive–still tucked away into that patchwork pocket, waiting to enchant us once again. All we need to do is to see Possibility–to replace pretense with play and fears of rejection with hope. Only then will we return to Neverland.

Neverland. The place where nobody grows up. Where nobody stops pretending. A self-sufficient place, still. A place still burdened with chores, yes, but a place where chores are a means to an end–not a way of life. Here, there is but one rule: do not see things for what they are–see things for what they can become.

The last time I played with C.J. was when we were 11 years old. Neither of us is sure why we stopped then, but both of us are certain that we wish we hadn’t…

Come away with me, then, to a place we’ve been before. Let’s go Dancing in Neverland.

Keep in touch! Facebook.com/JustinJonesWriter

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