You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘politics’ category.

After nine and a half years of committed, monogamous bliss and servitude, guess who finally got hitched? After eight years of living abroad, guess who finally took care of some loose ends on a recent trip back to New York and finally got married? That’s right. Me. Us. We. Just don’t call it gay marriage.

My partner and I have been married in our minds for years now. He has had to endure my near breakdown when we were living in Tokyo. I’ve had to endure the way he eats his cereal. He has had to endure my strict adherence to time and obsessive compulsive nature. I’ve had to endure his being late for everything and sloppiness. This is marriage. And there is nothing gay about it–except the couple.

You see, I’ve come to really dislike the term gay marriage. Hate is too strong a word here. For example, I hate Rush Limbaugh, the Ace of Base and reality TV shows (don’t get me started on Toddlers and Tiaras) but I dislike the term gay marriage. Do we say straight marriage? No. It’s marriage.

Adding gay in front of marriage, simply and unfairly classifies it as something other than a traditional marriage. I’m typing this on the sofa, half watching the Metropolitan Opera’s production of La Traviata on cable. I’m sick but I still managed to get my ass out of bed to make it to the supermarket and the dry cleaner. I’ll have dinner on the table when my partner gets back from work. Tea lights will be lit. Jazz will be playing. Wine will be opened. If there is anything gay about this marriage, it’s that every night is like this. I make coming home a production, a low-key production of a relaxing evening at home. Hell, if I made the bacon and he played pampered expat housewife, you’d better believe I’d expect nothing less of him.

I told my partner that I wanted to wait until New York state legalized marriage equality. Growing up in South Texas, I always knew I wanted to leave my home state and move to the big city. New York City has meant a lot to me. It was the first place I ever really felt at home–and I moved there when I was 24. Screw Vermont and Connecticut, I was going to get married in New York.

The recent presidential election, however, sped the process along in a big way. My partner has been following Nate Silver for months now so I knew Obama was ahead in the key swing states. But still, I was worried. What if Mittens pulled it off? What if an amendment to the constitution was passed denying me of my legal right to marry my partner? What if we had had all this time to close the deal in New York state and blew it. Our relationship would not be valid in the eyes of the law. We wouldn’t even be in a legal gray area, married in one state, overruled by our government. And so on my partner’s recent business trip back to New York, I followed as I often do, but with a goal in mind.

The day of the ceremony, one of our best friends (and our witness) arrived with boutonnieres and a camera. As always, she went above and beyond what was expected of her. I wanted her signature and a pair of eyes, she brought a mini party. My partner, as always, was constantly checking his Blackberry. He had arranged a meeting with colleagues after the ceremony. This annoyed me and I made a joke of it but I got it. We were already married in our head. This was just a formality. Years from now, we could laugh that he went to a meeting directly after our wedding ceremony.

When the city clerk who would marry us called us into the east chapel, I smiled. When she had us stand before the podium, I giggled. When she had us face one another, I thought I’d break out laughing. It was all so formal, this ceremony. I get church giggles so anything formal or ceremonial always puts me over the edge. But then something happened. My eyes started to tear. Here, in front of me, was the man I was about to commit to, officially, for the rest of my life. I recently turned 40. If I’m lucky, I’ll have another 40 years, and with this man in front of me. I said I do. He said I do. We kissed. He ditched the meeting and the three of us took a cab to the Algonquin Hotel for a drink. He even got us a last minute reservation at one of our favorite New York restaurants, Union Square Cafe.

We surprised most everyone on facebook when we posted a picture of us in front of the podium. We kept our plans under wraps, surprising both family and friends. I’ve never received so many warm electronic messages. People cheered us from Switzerland to India, Japan to the UK. People wrote that they had teared up, been caught off guard, completely surprised. Pictures of champagne glasses in our honor appeared. I received an email from his mom welcoming me to the family. But wasn’t I already family? Weren’t we already married? No. We weren’t.

So that’s what marriage is all about in the end. Maybe you know you are married in your mind. Maybe you don’t care for the government to acknowledge your relationship, certify it, validate it. Maybe on principal you think it’s wrong for the state to get involved in what is very much a highly intimate and personal relationship between two people. And maybe you’re right. I just know that after I said “I do” I’ve had a newfound appreciation for our union. It’s official. We’re official. Our friends and family, strangers, see it as official. Hell, it’s a political act for some people. But for me, it’s time to start dinner.

My partner and I celebrated our 8th anniversary Cebu this year. We were supposed to go back to Bali but waited too long to book the tickets and couldn’t get any round trip business class tickets on Cathay Pacific. OK, I waited too long. Me. And I waited too long on purpose.

You see, spending our 7th in Bali was so magical, so fantastic, so incredibly amazing that I was afraid to go back. I’m a firm believer that if you ever try to recreate an experience, you’ll fall flat on your ass trying. Why cheapen the initial memory?

If you don’t believe me, rent Ground Hog Day and see how you can end up in hell, or at least purgatory, trying to recreate any experience. Besides, we’ve been in Asia for nearly seven years now. There are still many places we have yet to visit. I figured, why not knock The Philippines off our list?

I had no problem cashing in miles for our tickets and on the exact dates I wanted too. Of course, this was alarming. If it’s too easy…

I also booked an ocean view room with club access at the “best” resort in town, The Shangri-La Hotel. Basically, I went all out for every bell and whistle I could find. It was our anniversary after all (and yes, I’d find another excuse to do the same even if it weren’t our anniversary).

Did I listen to our friends who had stayed there when they said that the hotel was in need of a renovation? No. Did I read up on the fact that this is a child friendly resort? No. Did I bother to stress about the fact that I might have made a terrible mistake in booking this resort. Yes. Every night and every day.

It got to the point where if my partner said, “I think you put too much garlic in the guacamole.”

I’d say, “It’s because you don’t want to go to Cebu, right? You think it’s a bad idea. You’re going to blame me for not being in Bali. You’ve heard what our friends with kids say about it and now you don’t want to go. Right!? Right!!?? Admit it.”

The day before our trip, I stepped up to the plate and let the shit fall where it may. You can’t cry over spilled milk. We booked the damn flight and now there was no getting around that.

As in Bali, when we arrived in Cebu, we were greeted by a man from the hotel at the airport. Unlike Bali, this man wasn’t interested in making us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Unlike Bali we were not greeted with an ice cold peppermint towel, bottled water, fresh juice and a box of truffles. No. We were greeted with a smile (sneer?) and told to get in the back. The towels were lukewarm and the bottled water hot from sitting in the sun.

As soon as we entered the resort compound, we knew, each of us, quietly and with a stiff upper lip (at least for me) that this was not going to be the St. Regis Bali. Incidentally, if you are ever going to Bali for vacation, do yourself a favor and book an Ocean View Room or a Villa at the St. Regis Bali. You’ll thank me later.

We were greeted in the shabby Club Room Lobby Lounge by some headish honcho and several of his minion. I was all smiles and exuberance. I could teach women on how to fake an orgasm, I’m so good at being unfailingly joyful, at least at the start. Again, like a woman.

Our “Ocean View” room was ocean view if you were Plastic Man or had a trick neck and so I kindly requested what we paid for and was told that we could not have it until the next day. Now normally, I would find this unacceptable. You see, after being unfailingly polite and joyful, it is my hope that I’ll get what was promised. When this does not happen, well, I’m not so polite or joyful. But this was our anniversary and I had gone out on a limb to book Cebu and the Shangri-Nah Hotel.

Let me say right now that this experience in Cebu has colored my impression of the Shangri-La Hotel brand. The Island Shangri-La Hotel here in Hong Kong is (was) my watering hole of sorts. I’d sit at the bar and the host or bartender would say, “Grey Goose martini straight up with a twist?” I’d smile and say yes. We have friends who swear by this hotel brand. But now? Now, I’ve started to frequent the Blue Bar at the Four Seasons. Do they have a live jazz band? No. Will I likely go back to the Shangri-Nah hotel for live jazz? Depends on the singer. And there are plenty of nice hotels with live music. It’s too bad that said live music is often hit or miss.

But I digress.

The best thing about the hotel was the beach. The beach and the spa. The food sucked. The pool was overrun with rug rats. The bathroom was mildewy. The balcony furnished by Wal-Mart interiors, but the beach, the beach.

I guess you can’t go wrong with the beach in Cebu. Weak current, clear water, live coral, colorful fish and white sandy beaches. In Bali, the current was strong, the water not as clear, and sadly, often polluted with trash (it’s not in any of the brochures).

The spa was an oasis of kid unfriendly calm in a resort otherwise teaming with expat children and the people responsible for them. The men’s water garden was set amid lush trees, tropical flowers and soothing fountains. My man and I were the only ones there at the time. He was using the indoor facilities so I was able to spend the first fifteen or so minutes by myself, naked with the water jets, the blue skies above me. It was the happiest moment of my trip. I started humming my favorite Jobim bossa nova songs. Hell, I was singing them.

Was it a bad trip? No. Was it a good one? No. Was it a memorable one? Yes. On the one stormy day, I saw the royal wedding live on CNN. And the day we left, President Obama came on the television to say that we had killed Osama Bin Laden. Now, I don’t follow the royals but the weather was crap outside and before I knew it, I was caught up in the whole enchilada. Incidentally, Kate’s brother is a total Mary. As soon as he got up to speak, I thought, “Yeah, Baby!”

On the plane back to Hong Kong, everyone in business class had been staying at the Shangri-Nah Hotel and everyone ignored each other. It’s oddly comforting to know that no matter how far you go in life, no matter where you are, or where you are from, everyone is still a small-minded, middle-school child. Well, at least it confirms my cynical view of humanity. Be kind, be courteous and always insist on what you want. Life is too short to do otherwise.

According to most recent reports, 26 people have been implicated in the death of Mahmoud al Mabhouh, a senior leader of the Palestinian group Hamas. The assassins carried passports from all over the world, arrived by boat and plane and left as quickly as they came, but not before leaving one terrorist dead in his hotel room. Imagine the poor chamber maid’s horror, “Excuse me Sir, would you like turn down servi-AHHHHH!!!”

Everyone knows Mossad is behind the killing, but Israel remains tight-lipped. You know, that whole can’t confirm or deny thing. And who can blame them? It’s worked in the past. Hell, it even worked for Putin. Remember that guy he had poisoned in London? The British were up in arms but Putin just said, “Who? Me? Him? Nahhhh.”

I’m just surprised Mossad handled the assassination so sloppily. They’re supposed to be the experts at this sort of thing. And Jesus, exactly how many Jews does it take to kill a terrorist? So inefficient.

We Mexicans would have got the job done with a much smaller hit squad, albeit with heavy collateral damage. Four guys in a truck with automatic weapons drive up to his house. Boom! Even the dog is dead.

Of course later it would be, “What? What do you mean the wrong house, Ese? The neighbors? Shit, you told me the directions. Orale buey, and I just opened a can of beer? Now we have to go back.”

When I first started teaching fifteen years ago, kids didn’t label something dumb as gay, or call someone annoying a retard. Back then, they said fag or faggot.

An idealistic newbie from a liberal university at the height of the politically correct movement, I forbade the use of either slur outside my classroom, in the hallway, gymnasium or wherever I happened to be on school grounds. I told my kids that I equated both slurs with the N-word or the S-word (spic). Most of my kids were brown like me, so they got it. They respected me for it. No one should be put down for who they are.

In 2010, most students understand that using the word fag or faggot to make fun of someone is not cool. You only make yourself look bad.

When I left New York for Asia six years ago, the words “retard” and “gay” were becoming popular among students. There were a few incoming freshman at the university I worked at that would use these terms. I’d always tell them the same thing.

“I have a retarded brother.”

“Sorry.” They’d say.

“My sister is gay.”

“I didn’t mean it like that.” They’d say.

I’d then tell them that I didn’t have a mentally disabled brother, but what if I did?

I’d tell them that my sister wasn’t gay, but that I was.

In ten or fifteen years, I don’t think we’ll hear the words gay or retard thrown around as much. Thank God. Making fun of someone because they were born black, brown, gay or with Down Syndrome is low and inappropriate.

Making fun of someone for something that can be helped, like being an ignorant, incurious embarrassment ala Sarah Palin is fine–so long as the jokes don’t pertain to her being a woman. She was born that way. I refuse to believe she was born a dumbass.

Come and play! Everything’s A-OK!!!

Harmony among the monsters and people. Neighbors looking after (and spying on) one another, Oscar the Grouch as a lovable homeless “person” living in a trashcan. Of course Sesame Street is populated by lefties and their POX News hating monsters. There is no question the program promotes fairness, tolerance and a homosexual agenda. Ernie and Burt for Christ’s sake! You even know who the bottom is in that relationship.

Can you imagine if Sesame Street had been conceived by the religious right? Conservatives? Sarah Palin!!??

First of all, it would be set in the suburbs of some second-tier Southern city. Big Bird would wear Brooks Brothers and drive an SUV. Oscar the Grouch would be his illegal Mexican gardener. Elmo would have Down Syndrome (which would explain a lot actually) and Grover would take him to church and sit righteously with him up front, basking in the glow of his selflessness while the Cookie Monster looked on in admiration and thought, “He could have had Mrs. Grover abort him, but no. He had the little guy.”

Elmo would be slobbering into a high Mrs. Grover’s Sunday best. She would be smashed on the Oxycontin she takes to deaden herself to the pain of an abusive spouse and a dead-end life. Grover drinks, you know. Beats his poor wife near and far.

Ernie and Burt would be married, but not to each other. They would exchange knowing glances at the gym, toweling off vigorously before going home to their “loving” muppets. Sure, Burt would take his own life after The Count threatened to go public with their affair. But Ernie wouldn’t be so lucky, enduring a lifetime of ice cream socials and company picnics until the day, Rolf, a drunken pianist from a visiting town, plows his sedan into Ernie’s Corolla. At least the end was quick.

No, my friends. A right-wing Sesame street would be no picnic indeed. A Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Can’t sleep? Restless? Try waterboarding!

Stiff neck? Stressed at work? Turn on the faucet!

Bored? Plagued by random thoughts? Whip out the hand restraints and face cloth!

You just knew that once Christopher Hitchens tried out waterboarding for Vanity Fair, the whole thing would catch on like wild fire. Those pics were priceless by the way.

Pretty soon you’ll have the inevitable heart attack, death or partial paralysis that comes from recreational waterboarding. Crazy kids! The effected family will go on Oprah. Barbara Walters will halt an argument between Joy and Elisabitch to announce in her high-pitched, sing-song voice, “Did you hear about the little boy who is now clinging to his life in St. Louis after waterboarding with his friends?”

“Mmmm!” says Whoopi shaking her head.

I say we should just waterboard controversial people simultaneously and publicly during the evening news. That’ll get those ratings up in a jiffy. First, Nancy Pelosi and Rush Limbaugh! Who can last? Who’ll come out the better person? With more street cred?

On CBS, Katie Couric can challenge Sarah Palin to a waterboard face-off. I’d advise Katiekins to cheat given that Palin is already brain dead.

Next Miss California and Perez Hilton on ABC. Which bitch will gurgle first!? C’mon Senor Perez, show that skanky bimbo the way to her Sweet Lord!

Is there a support group for the children of Dittoheads?

Me: Hello everyone. My name is Mr. Y and (whimper, choke, whimper) my dad is a Dittohead.

Everyone: (Clapping) Hello Mr. Y. Welcome.

When I was a kid, my dad would talk the talk of a conservative. Small government. Personal liberty. Low taxes. Fiscal responsibility. And as a kid, I agreed. It was only on road trips to visit relatives that my mom would discuss her political views and challenge my dad’s way of thinking. He didn’t like this, and would shout, talk with his hands and get all Mexican until my mom would order him to calm down and keep his eyes on the road.

I would sit quietly in the back seat listening to The Carpenters or Leo Sayer or whoever else was on the radio and think, “Mom is right.”

Mom always wanted the government out of her life. She wants the freedom to make choices without anyone interfering. She hates paying taxes and even now will challenge the tax increases the city of San Antonio places on her house. She still physically balances her checkbook in pen and in an actual check book. She always tells me to save, save, save. And taught me to always look for a sale and at the best stores possible.

My dad is all for the integration of church and state. He opposes abortion personally and would like to make his opposition law for all people who, unlike him, actually have a uterus. He opposes gay marriage. (Dad, you know your son is gay and lives in Hong Kong with his partner, right? We all had margaritas on the river at Zuni Grill. Remember?). He was for the “War on Terror” because it was the right(wing) thing to do.

He kept his mouth shut when W was slashing taxes for the wealthy and running up huge debts. He never accompanies my mom to fight for lower taxes on their home. And recently, when my mom joined him while he was working on some project in Guatemala, it was she, not he, who had the cojones to complain that the shower was spewing scalding hot, then freezing cold water and that they needed another room.

“Why complain! Why do you have to complain!?” he screamed at my mom.

They got a better room and he will stay at a hotel that is not being renovated the next time he’s down there.

But he sits there watching FOX in the hotel. He cheered when Rush Limbaugh said he wanted Obama to fail. He laughed at the racist jokes his Republican “friends” would forward to him via email before the election. He listens to Limbaugh every weekday morning and watches FOX at full blast (he has a hearing problem but would probably listen full blast anyway) every day. My mom and I have to watch The View on low volume and then must change the channel when he enters the room.

He cannot stand to listen to Obama speak. He hates Hillary Clinton with a passion that scares me (and even I don’t care for her). He rants. He screams. He makes it difficult for my mom to maintain old friendships with family friends. He makes scenes at restaurants. He sits on the sofa biting his nails and then editorializing during the commercials.

He knows not to push me too hard because he’s seen me become the scary spic diva from hell (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess). He says that all liberals are angry and sad but I disagree. Everyone I know who is left of center is hopeful and mostly happy–even when Bush was in power. We drink, talk, debate, discuss and disagree and then do it all over again. My dad the Dittohead? He sits on the sofa and screams at the TV. He has few friends.

Who doesn’t want lower taxes, fiscal discipline and personal liberty? Hell, sign me up. In theory, I have almost always agreed with my dad. In theory. In practice, the Republican Party as it is now, is not conservative. It is not a party for all. It is a party for the well fed. It is a party for those that think alike and look alike. It is a party that excludes. A party that dictates. A party that indoctrinates. A party that my brown, short, dark-skinned son of an illegal Mexican immigrant dad will never be invited to.

Last night, Star TV finally aired The Academy Awards in Hong Kong. I already knew who won. I just wanted to see the show. Mostly, I was looking forward to Dustin Lance Black’s acceptance speech. Imagine my surprise when his speech was cut short.

Yes, I live in Hong Kong (technically China). Yes, the authorities might very well be monitoring my blog (Hola, Konichiwa and Hello guys!!!). Yes, I can see Mr. Black’s speech on youtube.  But that’s not the point.

Allow me my soapbox here, my “Lights Please” Linus moment in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I am gay. I knew I was gay since I was a little boy–yes, gay children really do exist. Gay people are everywhere: China, North Korea, Iran, Singapore, Costa Rica, Hong Kong and America. Maybe our struggles in the Nordic countries and in Spain are mostly (somewhat) over. But we still have a way to go in the US and God help you if you live in India or Japan.

I moved to the other side of the world with my partner. We gamble in Macau together. We get annoyed with each other. We hold hands on a plane when we are excited about landing in a new city. We worry together. We stress about home visits (his Dad still does not want to meet me). We laugh uncontrollably. We shout when we’re angry. We wake up together. We are a couple. And one day, we will marry legally.

I’m pissed off.

I used to think that Japan was bad with their opaque circles over genitals, buns and boobs.  What am I?  In fifth grade?

So I’ve put up with all the odd editing of cable TV here in Hong Kong.  I’ve put up with deleted scenes of favorite movies.  I’ve put up with bad dubbing to replace offensive words.  I’ve put up with the bloodless gore flicks and that odd Jean-Claude Van Damme fixation the locals seem to have.  Are his goddamn movies on daily?!

But today, this afternoon, I put my foot down.  Sandra Bernhard‘s Without You I’m Nothing was censored in Hong Kong.

I thank God I didn’t see the entire movie, just the last few minutes starting with her version of Sylvester’s “Do you want to Funk?”  The song was censored.  “You are gonna funk, you ingrate mother…”

Then nothing.  Nada.  Fade to black.

Next Sandra sings Prince’s classic, “Little Red Corvette” as a ballad.  Love it.  We all do.  And we ALL know what comes after THAT.

In Hong Kong, NOTHING.  All you see is Sandra tugging at the rope of the American flag wrapped around her.  Then, CUT.  Her brilliant fuck-the-man dance in patriotic pasties and a thong is completely cut.  You just see Ms. Sandra looking forlornly at the black woman who has stayed to watch her perform.

Remember how that lady writes “Fuck Sandra Benhard” with her red lipstick on the tablecloth?  Well, in Hong Kong, the word “fuck” was an opaque jumble of nothingness and over it were the words “get lost.”

That’s right, “GET LOST Sandra Bernhard” instead of “Fuck Sandra Bernhard.”

What the fuck?

I was told that they often censor movies in this region to comply with the most conservative standards (Malaysia and Indonesia), but give me a break.

Get Lost Sandra Bernhard my naturally brown ass!

Thankfully, I own Without You I’m Nothing on DVD.  Censors be damned!

When I was growing up, my cousins referred to me as a coconut. Brown on the outside, white on the inside. I spoke Spanish with an accent, went to school with mostly white kids and my mom drove a Mercedes.

I never knew what to say to this accusation because I’m mean, not stupid. I thought, “Well you’re poor and live in an ugly house and go to public school, and your mom’s car is avocado green.”

Had I said that, I would have confirmed the coconut status. Instead I said, “No I’m not. I’m Mexican too.”

My cousins didn’t know that some of my white classmates teased me for my year-round tan. That I knew even back then that I was gay. And that I knew that neither they nor anyone in my Episcopal primary school, or even my parents for that matter, could comprehend a young gay coconut.

I wasn’t raised in a traditional Mexican-American household. We didn’t attend church. I had only one sibling, and our parents didn’t tell us that we had to be a certain way. The world was there to be explored.

So I got interested in “white things” like jazz, vegetarianism and mid-century modern furniture design–and “gay things” like The Carpenters, hotel upgrades and Miss Piggy.

I stayed true to my heritage too. I know how to make a mean guacamole, love Mexico City and listen to all those sad Agustin Lara boleros. My partner sometimes says, “Look, I love your papas con huevo, but could we please not listen to moody Mexican music this morning?’

Now I find myself in Hong Kong after four years in Tokyo. And this after never wanting to leave New York and my beloved restaurants, parks and friends. My partner is white. I’m currently a homemaker. I buy things like tofu and vegetarian eggs (how does the farmer know the chicken didn’t eat a worm when he wasn’t looking), and just attended my first David Byrne concert. Incidentally, I’ve never seen so many white people in one room in my life, Asia or otherwise.

We go to the opera, like to visit Macau mostly for the colonial architecture (at least I do), have brunch on Sunday, read the FT, like martinis at swank hotel bars, and hope to visit India later this year–you know, white/gay/coconut things.

My partner likes to say to me, “You’re whiter than me!”

He also likes to say that I exaggerate when discussing how prejudice the U.S. can still be. He doesn’t get it. He’ll never get it. that look from a salesperson when he enters the Gucci in Houston with his sister. He’ll never know what it’s like for an old Caucasian person to stare at you because you’re sitting in first-class and he’s not. He’ll never know what it’s like to get the question, “Where are you from? No, really?”

But he saw me cry when Obama was elected president. I had no idea I was going to cry because I had no idea Obama would win, could win. Maybe I don’t get it.

Gay coconut expats of the world rejoice!