Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Obama declares U.S. combat in Iraq has ended

At the end of a very hot day here in Brooklyn that included growing concerns over what Hurricane Earl could potentially bring to Fire Island on Friday, I find myself thinking about President Obama’s declaration Operation Iraqi Freedom has ended.

So much has changed since I walked past those three men huddled around a battery-powered radio at a newspaper kiosk on a street in Granada, Spain, around 3:30 a.m. on March 21, 2003 (or around 9:30 p.m. EST on March 20, 2003.) I was walking home after I dropped my friend Becky off at her hotel after a night of bar-hopping. I could not hear the news to which these men were listening (probably because I was tired and possibly still drunk), but I realized hours later when I saw the front pages of several newspapers that these men were almost certainly listening to then-President George W. Bush announcing American and coalition troops had begun to enter Iraq.

I was among the handful of siesta-hour shoppers in the Al Campo department store near my house in Granada who gathered around a group of televisions to watch American troops pull the Saddam Hussein statue in Firdos Square in Baghdad to the ground on April 9, 2003. We stood there in silence as the spectacle unfolded live on Spanish television, but shoppers slowly returned to their shopping. I did the same about 15 minutes later.

More than seven years later, Obama is now commander-in-chief. His Oval Office speech earlier tonight contained an abundance of patriotic metaphors—including a description of American troops as the “steel in our ship of state”—and a strategic use of the words “security” and “milestone” and the phrase “domestic challenges”, among others, but Obama has fulfilled his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq. Bringing a polarized country together and turning the page on one if the most divisive issues it has seen in recent history, however, will take far more than an abundance of patriotic metaphors and categorizations of those who served in Iraq and the use of politically strategic words ahead of mid-term elections.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fire Island 2010, part 14

Started to write at 3:58 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29, during Ariel Sinclair’s pool show at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove.

It’s a warm late August afternoon here in Cherry Grove. A rowdy crowd is hooting and hollering at Ariel Sinclair as she and her girlfriends perform at the weekly Sunday afternoon pool show here at the Ice Palace. A woman with a 22-year-old son just overwhelmingly won a rather ad hoc modeling contest. And Brittany Taylor just jumped into the pool (and a particularly good Samaritan just retrieved her neon pink wig.)

The last issue of the Fire Island News for this summer (Sinclair is less than 10 feet away from me performing some twisted number to prove her womanhood.) hit the beach on Thursday, Aug. 25, and I confess I am a little fried. The end of August can prove a breaking point for some who work on Fire Island (Sinclair just announced someone complained about the noise and Logan Hardcore is now performing Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”.), but the show must go on as Sarah Ferguson told Oprah earlier this year after she offered access to her ex-husband to a tabloid reporter for £500,000.

In addition to delivering newspapers in Atlantique, Sailors Haven, the Grove, the Fire Island Pines, Davis Park, Watch Hill and Ocean Beach on Thursday, this weekend included Daniel Nardicio's underwear party at the Ice Palace, two late night walks from the Grove to Ocean Beach, an interview with U.S. Sen. Kirsten (Hardcore just jumped into the pool.) Gillibrand (Sinclair is once again trying to prove her womanhood with her final number with Hardcore, Taylor and Brandon Cutrell.), schlepping through shin-deep water on Bay Walk in Ocean Beach, shooting clips of Hurricane Danielle-generated surf and packing up nearly four months of memories. (And the pool show is now done.) Here are three observations and notes from the previous few days.
- Personal integrity does not always spring eternal on Fire Island.
- The fried clams and French fries at Nicky’s, which is across from the Fire Island Ferries terminal in Bay Shore, are the perfect way to start any trip to the beach.
- The Long Island Railroad should seriously consider placing attentive personnel on train platforms the next time a switch fire causes major disruptions so confused passengers, such as myself, can actually figure out where they can catch their trains and/or whether they are actually on the correct one. The LIRR employees at the Babylon station on Wednesday, Aug. 25, should particularly take note of this rather obvious consideration.

Fried clams and French fries at Nicky's.

Flooding on Bay Walk in Ocean Beach on Thursday, Aug. 25.

Flooding around Whitney's Market in Ocean Beach on Thursday, Aug. 25.

A sign of the impending change in seasons at the Pines Pantry.

Twilight from the Cherry Grove dock on Friday, Aug. 27.

Miss Mole in the Grove.

Trying on some pumps in the Grove on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Dallas Dubois works the crowd at her and Logan Hardcore's weekly pool show on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gulf Coast commemorates fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

To say time heals all wounds seems a woefully insensitive thing to say as the country marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the southeast Louisiana coast.

It’s geographically ironic that I am writing this blog entry on Fire Island. I was packing my bags in Tekla van der Plas’ house in Ocean Beach on the morning of Aug. 28, 2005. The last issue of that summer’s Fire Island News had hit the beach a few days earlier—with a story about the dangers hurricanes and tropical storms pose to the particularly vulnerable barrier beach—I was planning to return to Brooklyn. Everyone in the house that morning (myself included), however, was watching cable news reports on the category five hurricane that was about to make landfall near New Orleans. None of us in Tekla's house that morning had any idea how calamitous Katrina (and its aftermath) would possibly be. And it proved far more disastrous (and far more disturbing) than any of us could have possibly imagined.

Politicians spent years pointing fingers for abysmal response to Katrina after it made landfall near Buras, La., but five years later, this blame game arguably matters little to the millions of people in the Crescent City and along the Gulf Coast who were so tragically affected. The region has slowly begun to rise from the destruction this hurricane and its aftermath brought, but the Deepwater Horizon oil spill provided a stark reminder the path forward for the Gulf Coast remains painfully fragile. And this country must never forget the painful lessons Katrina continues to teach us all five years later.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A (rare) rainy Wednesday morning

It's a (rare) rainy morning in Bushwick on Wednesday, Aug. 25.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fire Island 2010, part 13

Written at 9:38 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, on the Long Island Railroad between Sayville and Oakdale.

Today brought me to the Eastside Kids Arts Show in Ocean Beach, the 30th annual Cherry Grove archives exhibit, to Sweet Licks to interview Linda and her granddaughter Melinda, to my Torontonian friend Bonte’s barbecue on Greene Walk, to the Pines to meet with a Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association vice presidential candidate and back to the Grove to attempt to understand the hamlet’s drag queens through Dallas Dubois and Logan Hardcore's eyes. Aside from the group of city-bound women who obviously don’t understand the concept of inside voices on the train, I am quite content at the moment.

This summer's last print edition of the Fire Island News hits the beach on Thursday, and this time of year is always bittersweet. I certainly look forward to returning to the city full-time after roughly four months on the beach. That said, however, the end of the summer obviously means winter will come—and anyone who knows me remotely well is acutely aware of how much I loathe cold and specially snow. Those days are mercifully months away, but here are three observations and lessons from the previous week.

- Insect repellent is an essential accessory for anyone who visits the beach.
- Gusty Winds jumping in the Ice Palace pool to celebrate Logan Hardcore’s birthday on Saturday, Aug. 21, proved the Grove’s drag queens’ sisterhood is even stronger than I had previously thought.
- Mary calling me the “Carrie Bradshaw of Fire Island” outside Sandbar in Ocean Beach on Tuesday, Aug. 17, is one of the best compliments I have ever received—and I wasn’t even wearing Manolo Blahniks (I was wearing a pair of black Old Navy flip flips that cost less than $3 for anyone who may want to know.)

Birthday Bingo at the Ice Palace on Monday, Aug. 16.

Inside the Fire Island Lighthouse.

Looking east towards Ocean Beach from the top of the Fire Island Lighthouse on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

On the way to Bay Shore on Saturday, Aug. 21.

Gusty Winds celebrates Logan Hardcore's birthday on Saturday, Aug. 21, in her own unique way.

A birthday wish scrolled onto an inflatable penis at the Ice Palace.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Questions for proposed NYC mosque opponents

August is traditionally a slow news month, but the ongoing debate over a proposed mosque near Ground Zero has proven anything but tranquil.

As I write this blog in my apartment here in Bushwick, an Italian news reporter is discussing the controversy from lower Manhattan. Everyone can almost certainly agree it remains extremely important to acknowledge the nearly 3,000 people, including Muslims (and not the terrorists who co-opted Islamic teachings to justify their own barbaric acts), lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. That said, however, this controversy continues to prompt the very direct question I posed on long-time contact Joelle Ruby Ryan’s Facebook page the other day: Would anyone question a proposal to build a Roman Catholic or Christian church or Jewish synagogue in the former Burlington Coat Factory building near Ground Zero?

The answer to this question is arguably obvious to those who support the proposed Cordoba House on Park Place, but it remains necessary to reiterate the challenge I posed to those on Joelle’s Facebook thread who expressed their opposition to the planned mosque: Talk with a person who identifies themselves as Muslim, attend services in a mosque or even travel to a Muslim-majority country before coming to any conclusion about whether this facility is/isn’t appropriate. The last thing this country needs is yet another talking head expressing their self-professed outrage over the proposed mosque in order to garner more ratings for their program, yet another self-serving politician who seeks to rally their base ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections or yet another average citizen who forms their opinion on the Cordoba House without understanding the facts (or what the above mentioned talking heads and self-serving politicians profess is true in order to further promote their own interests).

Let's all take a collective breath...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fire Island 2010, part 12

Written at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove at 11:27 a.m.

It’s a typical Sunday morning in August here in Cherry Grove with people slowly recovering from last night’s festivities, but the music currently on Sirius XM Radio has brought an almost whimsical feeling to this hamlet.

It is Fire Island Black Out and Ascension weekend here on the beach and this is a summary of the notes I jotted down around 11:30 last night as I waited on the dock for the water taxi back to Ocean Beach: A Britney Spears’ medley at Cherry's competed with Rihanna, Khia and hip hop at Island Breeze while hundreds of gays and lesbians of color (and their myriad of friends and admirers) waited for the ferry back to Sayville. Special shout outs go to the two lesbians at Cherry’s who proved this white boy can get down with the best of them (even after a very busy day in both the Grove and the Fire Island Pines), and to Eric, Kelton, Rick, Daniela and Michelle who were on the water taxi back to Ocean Beach.

7:25 p.m.
Written on the day bed in the Ocean Beach cottage.

The overcast sky, the breeze and a largely unobstructed ocean view combined to make this year’s Ascension a largely enjoyable experience (for this reporter). I particularly enjoyed the Freemasons’ remix of "Bamboleo" and The Bucketheads' "The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind)", but I thank Andy Tobias and Charles Nolan for allowing me to spend some of the afternoon in their cabana. And on that note, here are three observations and notes from the previous few days.

- It is arguably a very bad idea to charge $5 for bottled water at a circuit party. Eight dollars for a cocktail, however, is quite possibly the perfect way to prevent overindulgence.
- Kudos to the Cherry Grove Property Owners Association for the giant rainbow flag that flew from one of the dock’s flagpoles on Saturday, Aug. 14.
- Fame and talent are often only in the eyes of those who claim to be famous and/or talented. This observation’s underlying message can also potentially apply to those who try to impress their friends with their designer clothes and accessories, name dropping and especially latching onto a reporter in an arguably desperate attempt to enhance their own self-defined social status.

Four parties later...

Ascension Party in the Fire Island Pines on Sunday, Aug. 15.

Sunset at Ascension Tea Dance in Saturday, Aug. 14.

The beach in Cherry Grove during the Fire Island Black Out on Saturday, Aug. 14.

Beach decor at Fire Island Black Out in the Grove on Saturday, Aug. 14.

Crispin and I at the Ascension VIP Party on Friday, Aug. 13.

Lucille Ball at the Ice Palace on Thursday, Aug. 12.

Rudolph along Bayview Walk in the Grove.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A sense of justice comes to Brooklyn

As activists, politicians and other officials continue to respond to the series of hate crimes that have shaken Staten Island in recent months, it would be completely remiss not to acknowledge the Sucuzhañay family received some sense of justice last week in a Brooklyn court room.

Judge Patricia Del Mango on Thursday, Aug. 5, sentenced Keith Phoenix to 37 years to life in prison for José Sucuzhañay’s murder on a Bushwick street corner in Dec. 2008. Hakim Scott received a 40 year sentence for manslaughter, but a separate jury in May declined to convict him on a second degree murder as a hate crime charge.

I first learned the details of this horrific crime at a City Hall press conference roughly 48 hours after the two men attacked José Sucuzhañay at the intersection of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place. Reporters are supposed to check their emotions at the door before they cover a story, but this task became virtually impossible as City Council Speaker Christine Quinn detailed what happened roughly 10 blocks from my apartment on that cold December morning.

Nothing will obviously bring José Sucuzhañay back, but a judge gave some resemblance of justice to his family, friends and community who continue to mourn his tragic death.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fire Island 2010, part 11

Written at 1:09 p.m. while on the Ocean Bay Park ferry terminal (and later crossing the bay.)

It’s a typical Sunday afternoon in August. People (and their children) are online at the ferry terminal waiting to return to the mainland after another weekend on the beach, boaters are enjoying the beautiful weather out on the water and one man is even trying to convince his friend he was right (about which I’m not particularly interested to know.)

It was a fairly quick trip to Fire Island this weekend because I am coming out for a week on Wednesday night or Thursday morning. In true August form, however, there was a lot on the agenda. This includes the annual Concerned Women of the Grove breast cancer benefit, a fundraiser for state Assemblywoman Ginny Fields at the Hotel Ciel pool deck in the Fire Island Pines, a tribute to long-time Cherry Grove archivist Harold Seeley, delivering newspapers (and several hours of dancing at Low Tea, Sip n’ Twirl and Cherry’s thrown in for good measure.)

It’s arguably unnecessary to provide any sort of analysis to contextualize the past weekend, but here are three notes and observations to consider.

- Lady Gaga performed at the Ice Palace on Aug. 8, 2008 (and “Paparazzi” is currently playing on my iPod as I write this blog on the ferry.)
- It is indeed possible to have at least three costume changes a day on Fire Island
- Kudos to the lovely Dallas Dubois for leading those at her and Logan Hardcore’s pool show on Saturday, Aug. 7, in a toast in honor of U.S. Circuit Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Dubois also called out Best Buy and Target for contributing to a group that supports Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

A perhaps all too common sentiment on Fire Island.

The lovely Dallas Dubois performs at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove.

The Concerned Women of the Grove auctioned off Lady Gaga paraphernalia at their annual fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 7.

Looking east into the Meatrack from Heaven n' Earth in Cherry Grove on Saturday, Aug. 7.

Looking towards Ocean Beach from the Ocean Bay Park ferry terminal.

On the Ocean Bay Park ferry terminal.

Lady Gaga performs at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove on Aug. 8, 2008. [Photo by Koitz]

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Yorkers applaud Prop 8 decision

It remains unclear whether U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's decision will have any tangible impact here in New York State, but those who attended last night's rally in lower Manhattan obviously welcomed it. And they also put lawmakers on notice: support marriage or else.

Here are some snapshots from Centre Street.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Judge to issue Prop 8 ruling today

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is scheduled to post his decision on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 later today, and activists around the country plan to hold demonstrations, rallies and other events to react to the ruling.

A rally is scheduled to take place outside New York City Supreme Court on Centre Street in lower Manhattan at 7 p.m. Marriage Equality New York's Web site has more information, but Rex Wockner continues to compile ever-growing list of rallies and other events around the country.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More snapshots of a Fire Island summer

Here are three more clips shot on Fire Island over the last few days. Log onto the Fire Island News' Web site for stories, photos and other information from the beach.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fire Island 2010, part 10

Written at 10:23 a.m. while sitting on the porch in Ocean Beach.

It’s a beautiful August morning here on Fire Island. The Ocean Beach Youth Group’s newest members are playing in the baseball field down the street from the cottage. Some insects are buzzing loudly in the nearby trees. And the clear blue sky once again proves overpaid (and overhyped) meteorologists often have no idea about what they are talking—their inaccuracy simply affords another beautiful day on this beloved beach.

It was Pines Party weekend, and the overall consensus is Josh Wood produced a generally spectacular bash. Casino at Whyte Hall proved particularly fun – and creative – with Queen Beach DeBree, Coco Love as a lobster, Luisa Verde as a piece of coral, Gimmi Hoffa as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Urban Sprawl and others on hand as dealers and bartenders. The fishnets around my waist quickly disintegrated into a potentially catastrophic wardrobe malfunction, but the night proceeded quite smoothly once they and the plastic mussels pinned to my sarong (file this one under the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” folder) were either thrown in the trash or left back in the house on Driftwood Walk. And watching the sunrise over the beach around 5 a.m. proved an almost emotional experience. A truly beautiful night, and I hope Dan from Lebanon enjoyed the sailor hat I gave him sometime around 4:30 a.m.!

One of the more interesting points of conversation over the last few days was the Page 6 report about how Congressman Barney Frank [D-Mass.] reportedly became upset at the Sayville Ferry terminal when employees refused to offer him the county’s senior discount. One source commented on how “the press knows what’s important to focus on”. It goes without saying, however, nearly everyone was not at all surprised the cantankerous politician caused this scene on his way to the beach. And on that note, here are three more Fire Island-generated lessons.

- All press is good press because it simply proves relevancy.
- Eating fried clams on top of the ferry in a 20 mph wind is almost certainly a good idea as this hungry reporter found out first hand on Wednesday, July 28.
- Safety pins are an invaluable accessory for anyone who wants to avoid a particularly embarrassing wardrobe malfunction at any cost.

Long Island corn outside Pines Pantry on Sunday, Aug. 1.

Hanging out by the Hotel Ciel pool deck in the Fire Island Pines on Sunday, Aug. 1.

The incomparable Panzi at Casino at Whyte Hall in the Pines on Saturday, July 31.

Constructing the Pines Party on Friday, July 30.

Delivering the Fire Island News on Thursday, July 29.

Cherry's in Cherry Grove on Friday, July 30.

On the beach in Cherry Grove on Friday, July 30.