Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scott McClellan and Trashy Tell-Alls

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan flays the Bush administration in his new book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception." According to McClellan, the administration availed itself of lies and propaganda to wage an "unnecessary" war on Iraq. And PS, George Bush Jr was a coke head.


McClellan's book doesn't say anything most informed Americans don't already know. Instead of excoriating the President, it only makes his former Press Secretary look like a disgruntled employee, the likes of which either badmouth their former bosses at cocktail parties, trash their offices before being escorted out of the building or resort to Facebook-bullying.

The only good that can come of this week's White House drama is a revelation that the Obama camp ghost-wrote McClellan's book.

And speaking of trashy tell-alls, I'd been meaning to write about Barbara Walters' memoir, "Audition," which I suspect was ghost-written by Danielle Steele.

That a journalist of Barbara Walters' stature has resorted to rehashing cat fights and bedroom trysts is disappointing and pathetic. I would have gladly read a book about her ascent up the ranks in the world of broadcast news, but for the hijinks and tackiness Babs is promoting, I'd rather read US Weekly. Or better yet, Star.

Christina Crawford set the standard for the celeb tell-all. Let's leave perfection alone.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

San Francisco, California

As Memorial Day marks the official start of summer, over the next few days I'll be running my old travel posts to give you some inspiration for a summer getaway.

San Francisco, California
Original Post Date: July 2005

I left my heart (and some blood) in San Francisco.

The city by the bay was everything I had expected it to be: gay, clean, cold, and full of nerdy people. All kidding aside, San Fran is gorgeous. And though I personally wouldnt want to live there, I thought the scenery was lovely and the people were very friendly. Also, unlike LA, it seems like people in SF have actual jobs and take public transportation. SF seemed more real.


1. Alcatraz: Take the night tour. Well worth it.

2. SF Museum of Modern Art: If you're shopping on Market Street you might as well drop in. I didnt see much of the "extensive" Frida Kahlo paintings everyone raves about, but the space is nice and has a nice sized Impressionist collection and some works by lesser known artists (at least to me).

3. Chinatown -- so steep! How do those little people climb up and down those hills everyday? Craziness!

4. The Castro: Everybody get your lube on! Finally, at the age of 24, I have made my first gay hejira. I hope to make many more.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Istanbul & Kusadasi, Turkey

As Memorial Day marks the official start of summer, over the next few days I'll be running my old travel posts to give you some inspiration for a summer getaway.

Istanbul and Kusadasi, Turkey
Original Post Date: August 2007

If you're lucky enough to enter Istanbul via the Sea of Marmara, the first thing that will strike you is the sheer size of the city. From your first glimpse of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia your eye can wonder in any direction and your still looking at the same city (which I'm told can take as long as four hours to cross from either end) but at two different continents.

The Bosphorus Strait divides Europe and Asia -- and it's here, New Rome, Constantinople, Istanbul, where the East and West meet in a touchy, sticky amalgam of customs that I call "Islam Lite."

Yes, they're Muslim, but no, they don't mind belly dancers. Nor the mingling of sexes. And their mosques are open to everyone. And the men are kinda gay. Like, way gay. Like, I'm just buying a T-shirt-please-get-your-hands-off-my-crotch gay. Like, if I didn't have a boyfriend I'd head back to Istanbul gay ;-)

Something else that struck me about Istanbul was how clean it was. The subway was fast and spotless, and Taksim Square, which for lack of a better reference is the city's Times Square, reached forever along four main streets, all bursting with local versions of H&M and smart cafes.

Of course our trip included a visit to the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia and the Topkapi Palace (left). Mind you, these are all within walking distance of each other and you can do just fine by reading a good guide book before your visit. However, we checked our wits along with our luggage on board the ship so we paid for a cruise-endorsed tour of the grounds. That aside, stepping inside the Blue Mosque is like stepping into the middle of a ribbon dance. The sprawling cursive of the Arabic alphabet catches your eye from any corner of the mosque, as do the low hanging lanterns from the dome at the top of the Mosque. Everything in the mosque seems to swerve, not jet, upward.

The Hagia Sofia (left)was amazing but you can only listen to a tour guide's broken English for so long. Bla bla bla, church, mosque, church, mosque, museum. I spent more time reminding my party to listen to the tour guide than I did listening myself. And it's fine. I learned that when the Christians were persecuted a drawing of a fish came to represent Christianity (per Jesus' parable of the importance of teaching a man to fish) the church has tons of fish renderings everywhere.

After two days in Istanbul our ship headed south to the Aegean city of Kusadasi, which literally means the island of the birds. We drove to the town of Ephesus, where the apostle John and the Virgin Mary are said to have spent their final days together.

My mom was in tears at the tomb of St John until the guide told us that his remains were lost at sea when they were being transported to Rome.

More tears, this time from pilgrims, followed at the reported home of the Virgin. Apparently some German nun had a vision in the 1800s that Mary's home lay atop a hill somewhere in the Middle East. Not sure if I believe all that but hey, I can say I went and it was lovely. I was skeeved by the "pure springs" that ran out of a thanks.

Hagia Sofia by night

Lanterns inside Hagia Sofia

Istanbul street at dusk

Gold ornament atop Blue Mosque

Two Turkish guys having tea

Gold for sale at Grand Bazar, Istanbul

GCL at St. John's Basilica, Kusadasi

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Buenos Aires, Argentina

As Memorial Day marks the official start of summer, over the next few days I'll be running my old travel posts to give you some inspiration for a summer getaway.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Original Post Date: February 12, 2006

Twenty four hours after we left New York, escaping what we hear was a massive blizzard, we arrived in Buenos Aires.

Growing up the tormented, imaginative and studious (GAY) child that I was, it had long been a dream of mine to go to Buenos Aires. Not for the tango, not for the Malbec, not for the famed Avenida 9 de Julio.

Ever since I was nine years old, I have been obsessed with Eva Peron.

Every gay man has his female icon. Some men adore Barbra, Joan, Madge or Britney. Me, I worship at the church of the holy trinity: Evita, Mariah and J-Lo.

But Evita is my first love. To wander the streets of the city she once ruled with an iron, Van Cleff and Arpels-studded fist was a dream come true on par with my first trip to Paris.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city. After spending a few days there I can understand why the Argentine people have a reputation for being snobby -- no, they're not Latino, they're European. And while they speak Spanish it's like saying people from Trinidad have the same culture as the British. They don't. Language is one thing, culture is another story. To mention Buenos Aires in the same breath as Caracas or even Bogota is to mention New York in the same breath as Des Moines. Get it?

So, in bullets, here's what I love about BA:

-- The Fashion: A visit to Palermo SoHo, which actually looks like West Hollywood (but interestingly enough there's a neighborhood in BA called Palermo Hollywood), is where you'll find clusters of little boutiques that tout fashions I haven't even seen here in the states. For the ladies I saw glittery kimono that are perfect for Carrie Bradshaw Sunday brunches; for myself, I scored Pucci-esque beach shorts and floral cowvoy shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons.

--The Food: Never spent more than $100 on a dinner for four, with wine and dessert, and was rubbing elbows with fabulous Argetines and, unfortunately, other Americans.

The Architecture: If it looks like Paris, smells like Paris, and the people speak Spanish, it's Buenos Aires.

-- The People: Gorgeous. Sure, mullets are the rage here, but I saw some striking women. Pam doesn't agree much with me on this point, but I saw some beautiful women. On my worst day, after a pogrom through the Botanical Gardens, our friend Vince took us shopping in Palermo SoHo and I was miffed to see him and James twiddling fingers at the handsome hustlers --err-- sales boys at a store called Airborn. Sigh, the men are handsome too.

-- Antiques: If I had a hammer I'd build a house and fill it with all sorts of antiques that can be found anywhere in the city at cut-throat prices.

I left my heart in BA, and I have the I Heart BA t-shirt to prove it.

Update: How cool is this? Another one of my clients at work is LAN Airlines, which offers the best service to BA out of NY, LA and Miami, and other points in the US.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

San Juan, Puerto Rico

As Memorial Day marks the official start of summer, over the next few days I'll be running my old travel posts to give you some inspiration for a summer getaway.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Original post date: March 10, 2005

Mi isla bonita, Puerto Rico!!" -- Jennnifer Lopez upon taking the stage during her first, "live," concert in San Juan.

Ah, Puerto Rico. Don't let its sons and daughters on the 6 Train deceive you, this is really one of the most beautiful places on earth: lovely, sexy people, gorgeous beaches and lots of things to do at night.

What's most striking about Puerto Rico, aside from the sickeningly blue waters and how friggin' gay-friendly it is, is how cosmopolitan San Juan is. The city is 500 years old and yet within the walls of the old fort (El Morro) and Old San Juan, you'll find bars and restaurants where nothing short of Manolos and designer jeans will do.

And the people -- callate (a dismissive term used in Spanish that means "shut up" but can be used to ease people into something shocking. Like, "callate, I just ran over your kid.") SO friendly. Friday night we took a cab to Old San Juan (just tell the cabbie "I want to go to Old San Juan) and ate at Agua Viva. To us, it looked like Asia de Cuba in New York. But instead of drowning in some Eurotrash cologne, we were invited to have birthday cake with a party of ten next to us and then off to a bar with a friendly gay couple from L.A.

"We're in town for the Atlantis cruise."

Oh are you now? Ten minutes later James and I are in some hired car with Karl Lagerfeld (dead ringer, honestly) and a heavier-set Brian Boitano to Eros -- THE gay club out in San Sebastian.

Now, James and I are committed to each other, so we don't get down with poppers, coke and other couples (no matter what James tell you, I'm the one telling the truth) which meant that 10 minutes into our foray to Eros (we had to tip the bouncer 20 bucks to let us jump the line into the empty club) we had to leave.

Which is all fine and dandy, it just gave me more time to work on slow roasting myself on the beach the next day. If you didnt think that baby over here could get suburn, think again. By 7 pm that night I was so burnt I could barely walk and I passed out by 9.

Enough about my woes, what we also loved about PR was the food. Sunday night we hopped in a cab and asked the lady at the wheel (who, like most people in PR have an aversion to seatbelts) to take us to place where SHE would go for dinner. We wanted pork, rice and beans and didnt think that the Radisson (per our moron concierge's suggestion) was the place to go.

Sho' nuff' we wound up in some hot spot with every cross section of Puerto Rican fabulosity was chowin' down on alcapurrias (fried, doughy dumplings with meat), asopao (shrimp soup) and lechon asado (roast sucking pig). What a meal, all for $30.

Monday we went around old San Juan to do some shopping and tour the Old Fort. From a far we could see the cemetery at La Perla, the seaside Shanty that has gained a place in popular Spanish lore as the home of many of the immigrants who left Puerto Rico for a better life Stateside.

If you haven't been, go to Puerto Rico ASAP. You'll love it.

Update: As luck would have it, three years after writing this post I found myself working on the Puerto Rico Tourism Company account at my job.


The fabulous little guest house we stayed at, right on the beach in Ocean Park, Numero Uno Guest House. Highly recommend.

Throwback Travel Joints - Yes, We're in Re-Runs

So far all is well in Mexico City. It's everything the telenovelas had made me believe it would be and more. Some local friends took us out for a late night spin and dinner at a fab restaurant - i fell out after one cauldron-sized margarita. Bad news is our hotel sux and we're moving, but more on that later. But here's a tip: snazzy web sites and all the glowing reviews in the world do not a good hotel make.

Anyway, I'm going to update you on all things Mexico City later, but in the meantime, I thought I'd use the long weekend to post write-ups from my travel blog at Planet Ranger. I'm going to move all my travel posts to GCL at some point, but over the next few days I'm going to re-run recaps of some of my favorite destinations.

Forgive me the self-indulgence. We begin our weekend of re-runs with San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Off to Mexico City

Going to Mexico City for Memorial Day weekend. Am hoping to post a blog or two on my adventures in El Day-Efe.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama This Close to Winning Nomination; I'd Rather Look at Pandas...

...and Eddie Cibrian, Ricky Martin and Usher (or, Ersher, to those of us in the know).

As the Doomsday Clock ticks one minute closer to midnight and B. Hussein Obama's nomination as the Democratic candidate for the November elections, I'm going to look at pictures of pandas.

It's what I do in times of stress.

Hillary's campaign is going in the black, Obama is already doing victory laps in Iowa, and Ted Kennedy has a brain tumor. Throw in cataclysmic events in China, Myanmar and Oklahoma, plus my own personal drama for fun (I really hate a certain television host and his/her crew)and my mood worsens so that I might throw a chair at someone.

Before I reach the boiling point, I'm going to focus on the things that make me happy. Like my trip to Mexico City on Friday for Memorial Day Weekend with James, pandas, cute guys and Ersher's new track, Love in this Club.

So here's a montage of happy things to brighten my day and yours:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

ALAS Concerts in Mexico City and Buenos Aires

The Latino version of the Live 8 shows took place in Mexico City and Buenos Aires this weekend with a stellar line-up of big name acts that have teamed up to generate awareness of childhood poverty in Latin America.

Ricky Martin, Shakira, Juanes, Alejandro Sanz and Mana joined other artists for concerts that were held simultaneously in both cities yesterday, May 17th, in support of the ALAS (Wings) organization who, according to their site, "is a movement dedicated to the children in Latin America. Founded by Latin America's most influential artists, intellectuals and business leaders, this unique non-profit organization strives to launch a new social movement that will generate a collective commitment to comprehensive Early Childhood Development programs for the children in Latin America."

I'm thrilled that Latin America is using its own talent to fuse art and marketing to address the issues that plague this part of the world. I was watching some of the performances on and was especially touched by a short speech Shakira gave during her set where she thanked everyone who came out for not giving it to indifference. It's so easy to bemoan the problems of the world, but to do something to help another human being - and see a spectacular show in turn - is way better than flipping the channel in resignation and disbelief.

So, kudos the ALAS Movement and to all the artists who showed up to raise awareness for an important cause.

And Ricky Martin looks adorable with his buzz cut, performing in Mexico City:

Shakira in Buenos Aires: