Monday, June 28, 2010

Aging Gracefully

Greetings from the hot and steamy Midwestern Funky Town. With all the humidity, the town’s nickname might need to be modified as Midwestern Funk Town. We have had an unusually difficult summer already – Tornado warnings, violent storms, and unpleasant heat. I tell you, I did not move to a place where the state flower is an icicle just so that I could swelter in the summer.

The official start of summer also means that my birthday is upon us. Those of you who are old enough probably remember the day thirty-six years ago when the earth shook with goodness. As is always the case, I like to take time to consider where others were in their lifepaths at age 36.

    If I were Mary Richards at age thirty-six, I would have moved to Minneapolis six years ago. Love would be all around for another year.

    If I were Elvis Presley, I would be given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award this year.

    If I were Murphy Brown, I would enter rehab four years from now.

    If I were Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, I would have left the White House three years ago. It would be another three years before I married Aristotle Onassis.

    If I were Jesus at age thirty-six, I would have risen from the dead three years ago.

    If I were Cher, this would be the year that I starred in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean on Broadway. My acting career would skyrocket after that.

    If I were Marlo Thomas, this would be the year that I teamed up with Gloria Steinem to create the "Ms. Foundation for Women".

    If I were Bob Marley, I would be dead.

    If I were Oscar de la Hoya, this would be the year that I retired from boxing.

    If I were Oscar Wilde, this would be the year that I published The Picture of Dorian Gray. Is it a coincidence that at age 36 Wilde was fantasizing about the possibility of never aging? I think not.

    If I were James Dean, I would have been dead for twelve years.

    If I were Pancho Villa at age thirty six, I would be at the height of my power in northern Mexico and still serving as provisional governor of Chihuahua in the midst of the Mexican Revolution. Things would start to fall apart for me next year.

    If I were Elizabeth Montgomery, I would have been starring in Bewitched for five years. I wouldn’t give my last twitch for another three years.

    If I were Harvey Milk, it would be another 11 years before I became the first openly gay elected official in a major U.S. city.

    If I were a bottle of wine, somebody would pay a lot of money to drink me.

    If I were Saint Anthony of Padua, I would be dead.

    If I were James Baldwin, this is the year that I would publish Nobody Knows My Name.

    If I were Frida Kahlo, this would be the year that I painted “Roots.”

    If I were Diego Rivera, this would be the year that I painted my first mural “Creation” at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City at the expense of the Mexican federal government.

    If I were Anthony Perkins, I would star in the forgettable Pretty Poison. It would have been eight years since I originated the character of Norman Bates.

    If I were Franklin D. Roosevelt, I would be serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. This would also be the year that I would first meet Winston Churchill. It would be another 14 years before I would be elected President of the United States.

    If I were Princess Diana, I would be dead.

    If I were Kate Jackson, this would be the year that I started filming Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

    If I were Farrah Fawcett, this is the year that I would win critical acclaim for my off-Broadway performance in the play Extremities.

    If I were Jaclyn Smith, this is the year that I would star in Sidney Sheldon’s Rage of Angels, thus starting my reign as the Queen of the Made-for-T.V.- Movie.

    If I were either of my parents, I would already have three children. The youngest would be eight years old.

    If I were Dolly Parton, I would star in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas this year. It would include my performance of “I Will Always Love You.”

    If I were Dorthea Lange, this would be the year that I accompanied my husband to Taos, New Mexico. It would be another four years before I broke out of the crushing boredom of domestic life to become one of the most famous photographers of the Depression era.

    If I were Nina Otero-Warren, this would be the year that I became the superintendent of public schools in Santa Fe County.

    If I were Barack Obama, I would be serving my first term in the Illinois Senate.

    If I were Paul Lynde, I would be filming Bye Bye Birdie.

    If I were Marilyn Monroe, I would be dead.

    If I were Pearl Bailey, this would be the year that I starred in the Broadway musical House of Flowers.

    If I were Manuel Armijo, I would serve as mayor of Albuquerque while enjoying my wealth from sheep trading.

    If I were Walt Whitman, I would publish the first edition of Leaves of Grass this year.

    If I were Cleopatra VII, this would be the year that Octavian launched a Roman invasion against my kingdom in Egypt.

    If I were Betty White, I would be filming the sit-com Date with the Angels. It would be another 15 years before I appeared as Suann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Twenty seven years would pass before I would play Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. It would be 52 years before I would star in Hot in Cleveland.

    If I were Miguel Otero, Junior, I would be serving as the Probate Clerk of San Miguel County, New Mexico. It would be another two years before I became the first Mexican American governor in the United States.

    If I were Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, I would be remarkably unkind.

    If I were Captain Kirk, this would be my last year commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise on its five year mission “to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations.” Unless I was the Captain Kirk from the poorly written recent film, in which case I would have skipped over all the hard work of earning that rank eleven years ago.

    If I were William Shatner, I would have been playing Captain Kirk for one year.

    If I were Captain Picard, I would be serving as first officer of the U.S.S. Stargazer. It would be another 23 years before I took command of the Enterprise.

    If I were Patrick Stewart, I would have been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for ten years. It would be another eleven before I accepted the role of Captain Picard.

    If I were Popé, it would be another nine years before Spain’s religious authorities would arrest me for practicing “sorcery.”

    If I were Truman Capote, it would be another five years before I published In Cold Blood.

    If I were Octaviano Larrazolo, this would be the year that I moved to Las Vegas, New Mexico. It would be another 33 years before I became the first Mexican American elected to the U.S. Senate for the state of New Mexico.

    If I were GayProf, it would have been three years since I moved to Midwestern Funky Town. My blog, The Center of Gravitas, would be five years old.

    If I were Reies López Tijerina, this would be the year that I devised the Alianza Federal de Mercedes while living in Albuquerque.

    If I were Wonder Woman, I would age another 2,455 years before joining Patriarch’s world to fight crime.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Meow, Woof, and Everything In Between

You know, I just can’t think about Arizona anymore. Did you see the story about that school mural? The fine city of Prescott, Arizona demanded that artists “lighten” the skin color of a Latino student depicted in a scene about riding bikes. Yes, it has now reached the point where the [white] people of Arizona don’t want to even see Latinos in public. Some may snicker, but I am beginning to suspect that Arizona’s elected officials arrived in town via hot-tub machine from 1882.

Believe it or not, I don’t like to spend all my days thinking about racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of institutional inequality. People on the political right often imagine that the contrary is true for people on the left. They should know that it is actually a real drag to have to constantly be addressing issues of unfairness. Believe me – I am a creative guy. I can think of other ways to occupy my time. I’d much rather be thinking about puppies! Or kittens!

Indeed, I really have been thinking of puppies and kittens. It has been about a year since I lost my beloved and loyal little cat. While no new pet could replace him, I am ready for another animal companion.

Sure, I have companionship from friends and even a gentleman caller from time to time. Let’s face it, though, animals give a type of friendship that humans really can’t muster. They are always loyal, honest, and dependable. They are also much easier to share a house with than a boyfriend. Cats might have a habit of crawling into the dishwasher, but you don’t have to argue with them about the right way to load it. Likewise, dogs might tear up you favorite slippers, but they won’t wear them without asking. Of course, unlike humans, cats and dogs might be tempted to feast on your remains should you die in the middle of the night. Well, unlike most humans at least.

The problem that I am facing is that I am uncertain which animal I want my new roommate to be. Normally when I am faced with this type of dilemma, I turn to the sacred texts of Diana of Themyscira. In this rare instance I found no useful instruction. We are told that Diana can communicate with the animals telepathically, but she rarely seems to keep a pet around. I guess being an international spy, Amazon warrior, and sometime dress-boutique owner keeps you too busy for animal companions. The exception seems to have been that wonky gorilla subplot that I never really understood.

I have long been on the record as being bi-animal. I grew up with dogs (mostly a long-lived terrier mix). As an adult, my faithful cat was the most stable living creature in my life. Anybody who claims that cats aren’t affectionate has clearly never lived with a cat. Or at least a cat that liked them.

Right now I am weighing which type of animal is best suited for my life. Dogs and cats each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. As I am out driving, I do find myself slowing as my eye catches sight of a spry Airedale being walked by her owner. Previously the only thing that slowed my speed like that was hot shirtless male jogger.

Dogs are certainly more willing to devote themselves to you 100 percent of the way. Several of my friends also have dogs who could enjoy a play date. On days like this, when the sun is shining in Midwestern Funky Town, having a dog to walk sounds so pleasant. Canines are great as an active companion. They will go with you on rides, walks, jogs, and jewelry heists.

Then again, the sun shining in Midwestern Funky Town is a novelty. Taking a dog out to trudge through the frozen tundra twice a day sounds much less appealing. Not to mention that finding rentals that accept dogs can be nearly impossible. The landowner of my current cottage has said she would be willing for me to get a dog – for a price. And, let me tell you, her price suggests that she ain’t no dog lover.

Cats have lots of advantages over dogs. They are much more self reliant and don’t require as much hand holding, or, er, paw holding as dogs. One can take a long weekend and a cat will be able to tend to its own needs. Should I decide to rent an apartment in the future (and the shoveling of snow sometimes makes that seem like an attractive option), cats are much better suited to make that adjustment. Unlike dogs, cats purr. I could also name my new cat Pyewacket and live out my fantasy of being Kim Novak.

There is still quite a bit of time for me to decide between a cat or a dog. This summer will involve some lengthy travel for me. So, obviously, I don’t want to get an animal until I will be more permanently based in MFT. Once I am settled in the Fall, though, I will have much time to devote to a kitten or a pup as NERPoD will be totally in bed and I will be free from teaching thanks to the generosity of a research foundation funding NERPoD: The Sequel.

In the meantime, I have received plenty of input into which animal my friends think I should adopt. It seems that the people who surround me have a lot invested in the type of animal that their friends choose.

Maybe it is just human nature to try and convince other people to make the same decisions that we have made in our lives. Or maybe people feel that they will be disloyal to their own pets if they don’t act as an advocate. Whatever the case, I am a bit surprised by the depth of opinion. Forget the debate over health care. Never mind the divide between Republicans and Democrats. Evangelical Christians and Fundamentalist Muslims are the best of friends compared to what really divides the world. Dog people and cat people are totally nuts. The gangs from West Side Story should have been named the Kitty-Kats and the Poodles. When they face off, somebody is sure to lose a pint of blood.

To listen to dog or cat people, there is only a choice between happiness and misery. People who hate cats (who seem unfairly plentiful) put forward a barrage of arguments. They will say things like, “A cat will destroy your furniture” or “Cats just aren’t fun” or “Cats steal the breath of small children.”

Then again, never in all the places that I have lived have I met so many people who are fearful of dogs. I don’t mean indifferent, but actually terrified. They are some of the biggest dog detractors. They say things like, “Dogs bite people” or “When I think of dogs, I think of Nazis using them in concentration camps.” Apparently they missed those reruns of Lassie.

It is interesting that people have such strong feelings about cats and dogs. After all, it’s humans who engineered both of them to be our companion animals. Perhaps no other creature on earth has been more genetically manipulated by humans than dogs. Well, dogs and Gregor Mendel’s evil mutant bees. Over thousands of years, we have created particular dog breeds to do almost any task from herding, hunting, and guarding. No wonder people feel so attracted to dogs. We warped their DNA to appeal to us.

On the other hand, humans only ever asked one thing from cats: kill, kill, kill. As long as they ate their weight in rodents, humans were more than happy to have cats around. Some people suggest cats are only semi-domesticated as they really can live just fine without humans.

Despite what one might think, there are more pet cats in the United States than dogs. The tricky bit, though, is that there are more dog owners than cat owners. Cat people have a peculiar habit of not being able to stop at just one. Even my local animal shelter really pushes you to adopt two (or more) cats at a time. It’s funny that humans are less likely to give dogs, who are pack animals, another dog companion. Yet with cats, who are solitary creatures, we push them into little mini colonies.

None of this makes me any closer to a decision. Maybe I’ll listen to Farmer John on that Beekman show and end up with some goats.