Monday, August 29, 2011

The View from Jefferson Street

Good riddance Irene!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Video: Hurricane Irene Bears Down on Bushwick

I shot this from my bedroom window on Jefferson Street in Bushwick around 7:50 a.m. as the center of Hurricane Irene passed within 30 miles of the city.

Leaves and some tree branches have come down, while the sunflowers that were in the garden across the street from my building have fallen. There is some garbage and debris on the street, but we still have electricity.

Video: Hurricane Irene Bears Down on Bushwick

The brunt of Hurricane Irene continues to bear down on Bushwick.

The lights have flickered a couple of times here on Jefferson Street, but we thankfully still have electricity. A tree in our backyard continues to lean. The wind has also shredded a canopy that covered an outdoor patio in the building next to mine.

I shot this video from my bedroom window around 6:20 a.m.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Outer Bands of Hurricane Irene Reach Bushwick

The outer banks of Hurricane Irene have begun to reach Bushwick.

A steady and increasingly torrential rain began about 20 minutes ago. The breeze has begun to freshen, but it remains well under 20 mph.

The checkout lines at the Associated Supermarket on the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Starr Street were more than a dozen people deep earlier this morning. They were even longer at the dollar store on the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Troutman Street, but everyone was calm and orderly as they stocked up on canned foods, candles and other supplies. I even purchased some Bacardi Gold at a nearby liquor store to make some hurricanes during the storm.

Several windows on my block on Jefferson Street have tape on them, but restaurants, Chinese take-outs, the supermarket and even the laundromat on Knickerbocker Avenue were open around 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake Shakes Bushwick

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 shook large swaths of the East Coast shortly before 2 p.m.

The earthquake’s epicenter is near Charlottesville, Va., but I certainly felt the tremor here in Bushwick. I was actually on the phone with my boyfriend in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., when the pots and pans hanging above my stove suddenly began to sway. I initially thought that a gust of wind had caused them to move, but I realized it was an earthquake when the floor started shaking. I grabbed my keys, walked outside and watched several other people come out of buildings on Jefferson Street.

Aside from no cell phone service, everything appears to have returned to normal here in Bushwick. Social media networks remain uninterrupted. And the tremor managed to push Dominique Strauss-Kahn from the headlines.

Back to work...

Judge Dismisses Charges Against Dominique Strauss-Kahn

A Manhattan judge on Tuesday, Aug. 23, dismissed all charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Nafissatou Diallo claims that the former head of the International Monetary Fund sexually assaulted her inside his suite at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan on May 14. Prosecutors on Monday, Aug. 22, filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Strauss-Kahn over what they described as concerns over Diallo's credibility.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fire Island 2011: All About Ascension!

Started writing at 9:12 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21, while listening to the rain and thunder from inside Ocean Beach and reading Tweets about the increasingly likely downfall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

It’s another rainy Sunday night here in Ocean Beach, but the weather is nothing like last weekend’s deluge that left the village waterlogged for days.

The weather fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon one’s perspective) did not damper Countess Luann de Lesseps’ performance at the Ascension kick-off party in Fire Island Pines on Friday, Aug. 19. Kelly Killoren Bensimon joined her “Real Housewives of New York” cast mate on the balcony. Congressman Barney Frank made a brief appearance, while Bensimon had an impromptu performance of her own when she climbed onto the bar at High Tea and began to dance.

A flip flop malfunction did not stop us from reveling among the cute boys with minimal bathing suits at the Ascension pool party on Saturday, Aug. 20. A complimentary cocktail from the Absolut vodka boys at Canteen proved a refreshing respite from the day’s festivities as we watched the world pass along Harbor Walk on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. And the Ascension tea dance and fireworks over the day rounded out a perfect Saturday in the Pines.

As if Saturday didn’t feature enough revelry, the beach party on Sunday, Aug. 21, proved Ascension’s seminal event (at least for these two non-circuit queens.) The weather held out long enough for Dragonette to perform “Hello.” Actor Wilson Cruz, porn star Arpad Miklos and Reichen Lehmkuhl of “The A-List: New York” were among those whom prying eyes spotted throughout the day.

It’s almost time for bed, but snarky source’s astute observation seems particularly appropriate: Mother Nature certainly proved herself a fag hag over the weekend.

Sunset from the Ascension tea dance on Saturday, Aug. 20.

Ascension detritus.

At the Ascension pool party on Saturday, Aug. 20.

Hanging out on the dock in Fair Harbor on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

Awaiting the fireworks at the Ascension tea dance on Saturday, Aug. 21.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Man Charged in Murder of Camila Guzman reported late on Wednesday, Aug. 17, that police have arrested a Brooklyn man in connection with a transgender woman’s murder inside her East Harlem apartment earlier this month.

Equan Southall, 25, allegedly stabbed Camila Guzman on Aug. 1. reported that Southall and Guzman, who emigrated from Chile in 2001, had been dating for four months. The National Coalition of Domestic Violence Programs most recent report indicated a 15 percent increase in domestic violence incidents in LGBT relations in 2009—and a 50 percent increase in domestic violence-related homicides from 2007 to 2009.

“As a community we must openly and honestly discuss this problem and create an environment where victims of domestic violence can access the support they need to be safe,” said Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fire Island 2011: Cherry Grove Welcomes FIBO

Started writing at 8:24 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14, while cooking dinner in Ocean Beach.

The torrential rains that inundated the area throughout the day have finally relented—at least temporarily, but I remain sore after slipping and nearly falling into the bay as I walked to catch a water taxi from Ocean Beach to Fire Island Pines earlier in the day. That said, the weekend largely went well until the downpours commenced and I nearly spurred an amphibious rescue.

Thousands of LGBT people of color (and their admirers) packed the beach in Cherry Grove for the ninth annual Fire Island Black Out. FIBO organizers presented the Cherry Grove Fire Department with an $800 check at the Belvedere Guest House on Saturday, Aug. 13, while the Ice Palace hosted the Bump and Dip Dance and Pool Party later that night. Revelry aside, one of my favorite moments of the summer is spending an hour on the beach among FIBO participants and their elaborate tents and soaking up the positive energy, camaraderie and abundant eye candy. This year certainly did not disappoint!

With umbrella and wounded pride in hand, I trudged over to the Pines earlier today to interview Lt. Dan Choi at a fundraiser for possible New York City Council candidate Yetta Kurland. I also sat in on a conversation between Gawker's Brian Moylan and Steven Petrow, author of "Steven Petrow's Complete Gay and Lesbian Manners," at the Blue Whale before heading back to Ocean Beach.

On a somber note, long-time Grove resident Michael Guerette died on Friday, Aug. 12, while hiking in Maine. News of the former Garden Grove owner’s tragic death spread quickly throughout the tight-knit hamlet and put a damper on the weekend long before the rain arrived. I extend my deepest condolences to those in the Grove and elsewhere who knew and loved Michael. He will surely be missed.

This sign on Surf Road in Ocean Beach reminded Fire Islanders that the impact of the ongoing Verizon strike continues to be felt on the beach.

Saturday, Aug. 13, proved the perfect beach day for thousands who flocked to the Grove for the ninth annual Fire Island Black Out.

Some eye candy on the beach in the Grove during FIBO.

From the Belvedere shortly after sunset on Saturday, Aug. 13.

The torrential downpours on Sunday, Aug. 14, spurred a mass exodus from Ocean Beach and other Fire Island communities.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Those Gotcha Questions

It was apparently a night for gotcha questions!

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich certainly let his displeasure with his former Fox News colleagues known during last night’s Republican presidential debate in Ames, Iowa. The thrice-married social conservative’s scorn aside, the spectacle that took place at Iowa State University proved somewhat interesting and even entertaining for this native Granite Stater who watched it unfold from his parents’ home in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann arguably proved she does have a titanium spine as she deflected pointed questions about her personal life and defended her record against former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared rather presidential as he tried to rise above the intra-GOP fray that unfolded on the Ames stage, although his assertion at the Iowa State Fair earlier in the day that “corporations are people” and his support for a Constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman confirm questions about his convictions. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum should have looked in the mirror before he criticized the Iranian government for trampling the rights of gays and women.

The debate was equally as newsworthy for those who did not participate—most notably former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Perry will make his presidential aspirations official in a speech he is scheduled to deliver in South Carolina on Saturday, Aug. 13. Palin’s national bus tour will roll into the Hawkeye State just in time for the Iowa Straw Poll.

Should we anticipate even more gotcha questions from those annoying journalists in the coming days and weeks?

You betcha!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CNN: Rick Perry to Announce Presidential Candidacy on Saturday

A spokesperson for Texas Gov. Rick Perry has told the Associated Press that the Republican will formally announce his presidential campaign in South Carolina on Saturday, Aug. 13.

Will we see Fred Thompson 2.0?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Day in the White Mountains

The White Mountains proved the perfect place for this flatlander to escape the "big city" on Wednesday, Aug. 10.

Today's itinerary included a quick stop at the White Mountain Bagel Company in Lincoln, a drive across the Kancamagus Highway, shopping at the North Conway outlets, a quick stop at Willey House in Crawford Notch and a cocktail and nosh on the veranda of the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods.

A torrential downpour forced me to pull off to the side of Interstate 93 near Lincoln during the drive back to Manchester. Here is a short clip of the storm and other snapshots from the day.

Kancamagus Pass, at 2,855 feet above sea level, was shrouded in cloud.

Kancamagus Pass, at 2,855 feet above sea level, was shrouded in cloud.

Crawford Notch with Saco Lake in the foreground.

Mount Washington and the Presidential Range from the Mount Washington Hotel's veranda.

A cocktail and Mediterranean noshes at the Mount Washington Hotel.

The Mount Washington Hotel's veranda.

Inside the Mount Washington Hotel.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Hampshire State of Mind

Spending a few days with my family in Manchester, N.H., provides an opportunity to take stock of the political goings on ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary state. This post is the first in what will become an ongoing series of blogs from New Hampshire ahead of the primary.

Politico reported yesterday afternoon that Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to use a speech he is scheduled to deliver at a RedState conference in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday, Aug. 13, to announce his presidential ambitions. Perry is scheduled to attend a dinner at state Rep. Pam Tucker's Greenland home later in the day.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann had been scheduled to travel to the Granite State one day after the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday, Aug. 13, but her campaign has apparently cancelled the appearance. She is scheduled to appear on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Aug. 14.

Meanwhile, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney spoke to the Concord Chamber of Commerce and the Manchester Rotary Club before he attended a town hall meeting in Nashua. Romney repeatedly blasted President Barack Obama for his handling of the country's economy during the three appearances. And he stressed Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade the country's debt rating late on Friday, Aug. 5, only confirms this economic mismanagement.

“America’s creditworthiness just became the latest casualty in President Obama’s failed record of leadership on the economy," he said in a statement posted to his campaign's website. "Standard and Poor’s rating downgrade is a deeply troubling indicator of our country’s decline under President Obama. His failed policies have led to high unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, and now, the unprecedented loss of our nation’s prized AAA credit rating. Today, President Obama promised that ‘things will get better.’ But it has become increasingly clear that the only way things will get better is with new leadership in the White House.”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fire Island 2011: From Gillibrand to the Concerned Women of the Grove

Started writing at 4:42 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, as the bus on which I am traveling to Boston passed Exit 72 on Interstate 84 in northeast Connecticut.

Aside from the fight that suddenly broke out at High Tea in Fire Island Pines last night, it was a good day on the beach.

Yesterday’s packed schedule began with an interview with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at Canteen before she attended the first of two fundraisers for her 2012 re-election campaign. To say that Standard and Poors’ decision to downgrade the country’s credit rating loomed over the day is a gross understatement, but her Pines supporters gave her a largely warm welcome at Michael Lin and Jim Spencer’s home at the Blue Whale.

The day continued with the Fire Island Pines Arts Project’s Biennial Arts Show at Whyte Hall and a fundraiser for the LGBT Community Center at the far east end of the Pines. The Concerned Women of the Grove held their annual fundraiser for breast cancer research at Heaven n’ Earth in Cherry Grove. The sushi, shrimp and wine were certainly abundant, and a drag queen who stepped off a Cherry Grove Fire Department truck actually upstaged the real women who accompanied her with her ability to walk on the boardwalks in heels. Only in the Grove would one even consider this scenario anywhere near normal!

The flamingos go marching one-by-one in the Pines.

One of the works of art that Dr. Lori Zeller showcased at FIPAP's Biennial Arts Show at Whyte Hall.

The bayscape from Heaven n' Earth in the Grove.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Transgender Woman Found Murdered in East Harlem Apartment

Spending the summer on Fire Island can certainly insulate one from the outside world, but news of another transgender person's death provides an all too sobering reminder of the reality that LGBT people continue to confront.

Camila Guzman was found brutally murdered in her East Harlem apartment on Monday, Aug. 1, but news of the trans woman’s death comes less than two weeks after Lashai Mclean was shot to death on a Washington, D.C., street. Another trans woman was shot on July 31 a block away from where Mclean was gunned down.

Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar was found strangled to death in her Queens apartment in March 2010. Karlota Gómez Sanchez is among the 18 LGBT Puerto Ricans who have been killed over the last year and a half.

A report that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Project issued last month found that 70 percent of known victims of anti-LGBT violence in 2010 were people of color. Forty-four percent of them were trans women.

"Camila Guzman's murder and the series of violent attacks against transgender women of color in Washington, D.C., highlight the disproportionate impact of severe anti-LGBT violence on transgender people of color," said Ejeris Dixon of the New York City Anti-Violence Project in a statement that her organization, the Audre Lorde Project, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released on Thursday, Aug. 4. "These murders are a wake-up call for all organizations that work to end hate violence. We must work collaboratively to create specific strategies to prevent violence against transgender people of color and to ensure that survivors receive the support they need."

As I have previously reported, there is no easy solution to reducing these disproportionate rates of violence. There is a collective responsibility, however, to ensure LGBT people can safely live their lives with dignity and respect.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Video: Thunderstorms Brush Fire Island

It was certainly a dramatic early evening on Fire Island on Monday, Aug. 1, as a series of thunderstorms brushed the beach.

A downpour drenched Fire Island earlier in the afternoon--dark clouds were quickly gathering as I was walking back to the cottage in Ocean Beach from the beach between Fire Island Summer Club and Robbins Rest around 1:45 p.m. The same storm system produced torrential downpours, gusty winds and even hail as they passed through the Hudson Valley, Queens and Long Island.