Thursday, March 31, 2005

Reality of Being a Starr

I believe there is a song for every event, situation and emotion. Music is so beautiful and sometimes when I can’t express how I am feeling in my own words or find myself tired of saying it I can just play a song that says what I’m feeling for me. As of late, and probably until the end of May there is a song that I listen to a lot – Reality by the singing trio known as 702.

you dont know
what we go through
so i'm singin this song for you

They sing about the reality of what it is like to be a star. Of course those who aren’t famous see the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood life. But beneath the glitz and glamour lies hard work and struggle. Even the biggest cultural icon is still human and has feelings, emotions, problems and insecurities just like anyone else. In the end we are all human. But stars are not to be forgiven. Their lives are to be scrutinized, judged and subject to public ridicule.

aint got no time to play around
it aint about just hanging out
i got so much more to do
it aint worth being with you

In Washington, DC I am a familiar face in many circles because of my involvement in community projects and my leadership role on a board that I sit on. Part of being involved with the “community” and sitting on a board for an organization is being visible. This sometimes just means going to meetings. Other times it means going to social events, fundraisers, readings, forums, lectures and wherever you need to be to put your organization above the radar. After a while people see you at these events and think you are having the time of your life. That couldn’t be further from the truth in many instances. There are times when I’d much rather be at home in my bed or on my couch than at some party schmoozing with someone – not because I adore them so much as I need them to do me a favor on behalf of an organization I work with. It is hard to explain to others that what I do is because I’m cultivating a relationship for a group. It’s not about me. It is about a tough process of creating, building and nurturing relationships with people I both love and hate – all without them knowing rather I love them or hate them or not.

some people think they wanna live this life
they see the fame but they don’t know the price
it aint that easy
i need you to feel me
reality’s of a star

To flip through a local gay newspaper or website a few times a year and see my name or face wouldn’t come as that much of a shocker. I am far from the most notable Black gay man in DC but there is a number of people who know either my name or my face and they usually link it to a group I work with. So, naturally if someone sees me on the street, Metro, in the grocery store, at a party, anywhere – and they have a suggestion, question, complaint they feel free to bring it to me. A few weeks ago at 7:30am I was on my way to my barber before work when someone wanted to engage me in a conversation about all that is wrong with the organization that I sit on the board for. I felt like MJ and JJ and wanted to SCREAM. Eventually I figured out the best way to make him shut up, I asked what committee he would like to sit on and how he would like to make things better. He stopped talking.

And of course everyone thinks that they can do it or do what you do better.

i’m staying focused on myself, hey
aint gotta please nobody else, uhh
got to do whats best for me
thats the way it has to be, baby

When I look around me and the country for that matter, I see very few people my age doing the same type of community building projects that I do. I don’t know if that’s because I started out so young or because no one else my age is interested or cares. In typically working with people older than myself I have been able to see two great things. One is what type of older person I don’t want to be and the other is the type of mature man I want to grow to be. This community has all kinds and I’ve encountered damn near every single type. So that is a good learning experience for me as I continue to grow and try to shape myself into the man I want to be years from now. Fear of being an old bitter queen keep me on the straight and narrow.

I’ve also realized I can’t do ‘community’ work for very much longer. I’ve seen how it consumes lives, politics and politicing can leave you scarred and bruised, not to mention I think that it can be one of the most thankless jobs that often makes me wonder why am I doing it. I don’t know if any community has been built off of any efforts I’ve made. But then again there have been two times in my years of doing this stuff that I have been reminded of the very moment I realized I was in a world where I wasn’t all alone. I pray that I have more of those moments.

some people think they wanna live this life
they see the fame but they don’t know the price
it aint that easy
i need you to feel me
reality’s of a star

Monday, March 28, 2005

Raining Men

With the coming of spring in DC there is also usually rainfall. For the past several days it has been raining in DC in more ways than one and when it rains it pours. In the past seven days I think I have encountered every man that I have tried to get with in the past seven months. Where did they come from? Some of them I haven’t seen, talked to, heard of or even thought about since our last encounter, whatever and whenever that may have been. But suddenly in a matter of days they all unintentionally reappeared and there we were face to face.

It started last week when I bumped into The Bachelor. He did more to acknowledge my presence then than he did when he and I were playing the dating game. I thought that seeing him last week was it. But no, it was just the beginning.

Friday night I was giving face time at a local club when Light & Curly approached me. I hadn’t seen him since October at a screening of Noah’s Arc. I thought (when I met him) that he was so handsome and kind. Later I learned he was not kind to me knowing a lot of people in DC. He always lamented, “People sure love to talk to you.” “You always have dudes up in your face.” “You always some where doing something.” Excuse me for having an active social and civic life. I always thought if people didn’t want to talk to me that would be problematic. Apparently he thought otherwise. Nevertheless, when we saw each other on Friday he and I exchanged simple pleasantries and that was that. I hope I didn’t have too many dudes in my face.

Saturday I was hit with a double whammy. I had a fantastic dinner with AQueer and one of my former interns. After dinner AQueer needed to fill his tank with gas before he headed back home. I decided to tag along to the gas station. It was there that someone gave me gas. I was sitting in the car and out of the corner of my eye I saw a nice frame of a man. I immediately adjusted myself to see how well the frame would fill out. I gasped. It was Emotionally Unavailable. He said hello. I greeted him. We were having a pleasant conversation – then one point in the conversation led to another and he says, “I didn’t know you were interested in me like that.” My jaw dropped and immediately I wanted to also drop kick him. I have always prided myself on being a great communicator. This is not just because I was formally educated to be a great communicator. This is because I convey a clear message from sender to receiver. Surely I know that I made it clear that I “was interested in him like that.” Thank goodness that interest has faded like the color in cheap jeans.

Oh yes, jeans. Saturday night I was going to a birthday party and couldn’t think of what to wear. I finally decided on wearing a pair of jeans so tight they looked like I painted them on. I don’t usually dress like that but it was something to do – it was a chance to step outside my box. So, after slipping my photo ID and debit card in my back pocket and handing my cell phone to Mr. Kane (I couldn’t fit anything else in my pockets) we step into the soiree. I grab a cocktail, look down to stir my ice, look back up and see the face of man who had me all stirred up just a few months back. He is much older than me but I enjoy his company so much. He is rather attractive and carries his age very well. I find him quite the delight to talk with and there is something in his handshake and hugs that make me feel strong comfort.

Him: It’s good to see you.
Me: Always a pleasure.
Him: How are you?
Me: As good as you look.

We go on with the mutual admiration, then talk about work, his dog and finally I inquire why he and I never connected again. He had recently come out of a ten year relationship…and it goes on. He says now his life is returning back to normal after whatever else he was going through. Perhaps next week he and I will do dinner.

I haven’t met any interested guys (that I have had any interest in) in the three months of this year. Was seeing all the ones I was interested in at the end of last year some supplement the Universe was providing for me? Ironically, I just had a very long conversation with AQueer on the subject of me not finding a mate. He and I questioned if my problem was attracting men or keeping them once they were attracted, or if I was just too damn busy or picky. If only I had created a questionnaire on the “Starr Dating Experience” I could have administered it to all the guys I saw this weekend and the one from last weekend to get some feedback. But alas, the search and saga continues. Its raining and when it rains it pours. Who/what next?

I did meet a new cutie last night. Fresh rain?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I told ya...

I wasn't joking.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

No Joke

I have been called many things by friends, family and general acquaintances. Three things I am often called by those that know me best, rather playfully or serious, are frugal, cheap and miser. Yes, I count my coins like a mother counts the strings of hair on a newborns head. I want to make sure each one is there in the condition that I left it and that the growth is on track. This has made me the butt of many jokes but I believe in the end I will have the last laugh.

A few minutes ago I was on the phone with my mother discussing my brothers’ plans for his 30th birthday party next month. It totally boggles my mind why he is spending so much money on his birthday party – more than what I think he has to or should spend. Of course this is just my opinion. My mother doesn’t have the best financial habits, my sister and brother for the most part follow in her footsteps and in fact I think my brother leaves her in the dust in the race of money mismanagement. Tonight my mother asked me how I turned out so different. She answered before I had to. I saw what I didn’t want. So often that is the best way to learn what you don’t want to do – just looking at what someone else is doing and seeing for yourself. Learn from the mistakes of others, don’t make the mistake yourself.

When I look at my family I see many things and how I was raised to handle money. On one hand, I stand in awe of my mother because on far less than what I currently make a year she was able to feed, clothe and grant many extras to herself, my brother and sister. I don’t know how she did it. She is an amazing woman. Of that fact I am certain. On the other hand I wonder what some of my family members (sometimes including my mother) were and are thinking when they spend and don’t save or invest. I am 25 and I constantly stuff away money when I can because I know that I won’t be young forever and will need money for retirement and because I also know that life is full of unexpected twists, turns and emergencies, all of which require money. Money my family wouldn’t have to give to me in a pinch. I know that I must to the greatest and reasonable extent possible be self sufficient.

One of the things I thank God for is the discipline he has instilled in me when it comes to stewardship of my own money. It is indeed a blessing. I create and stick to a monthly budget, pay myself first and constantly take time to do a personal financial forecast every few weeks to make sure things are all lined up. In 2003 my success was that I paid off all of my immediate debt [ read : credit card bills ] and 2004 I followed my aggressive savings plan and in 2005 my goal is to begin investing. I don’t recall much about fifth grade but I do recall every day before our teacher dismissed us from class we would all stand together and say in unison the words of Jesse Jackson Jr., “I will sacrifice my wants of today in order to satisfy my needs of tomorrow.” I don’t think that then I was able to really grasp those words and apply them to my life but years later I embrace them and that philosophy wholeheartedly. I do it but not without struggle though at times which I suppose is human nature.

Last year around this time I was absolutely obsessed with buying a home. Twelve months later I know that is still on my list of things that I want to do but it is no longer my very focus. I wanted to buy my own home because I knew it was a step in building personal wealth – owning your own stuff. On a nonprofit professionals salary, paying back student loans for two degrees and trying to stay afloat in Washington, DC and a year’s worth of seeing other peoples successes and mistakes I have done some reevaluation. Based on a number of variables it will take me a little longer before I can buy my own and I am okay with that. Interestingly enough I have a coworker who is my age, makes around the same amount I do and is about to go into closing on her co-op in a pretty nice area of DC. How did she do it? Her father. His name will be on the dotted line with hers and she will pay only a portion of the fees and monthly. [ read : he is setting her up quite swell ] My mother couldn’t co-sign for my apartment when I first moved here.

This struggle to get, keep and grow the mighty dollar on a less individual level is so interconnected to so may social issues it is hard to talk about one topic without talking about the many others. Economic class in the United States I believe is the elephant in the middle of the room as a society we tend not to discuss much though when I look around me I don’t understand why it isn’t the focus of nearly every topic of conversation or important dialogue.

My best friend O-Canada said the funniest thing to me the other day on the subject, “There is no such thing as middle class. Rich people made that up to make poor people feel better.” Her joke made a lot of cents. Too bad I don’t think enough people get it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Starr 7

How was my weekend? I can sum it up in Seven.

1.I talked to my best friend this weekend. It was wonderful to actually talk to her and hear her voice. We had been playing phone tag for three weeks. At one point in the conversation I asked what her husband was up to. She told me he was downstairs doing all the laundry. “All the laundry,” I asked. “Yes,” she said “all the laundry.” I asked her did that include her panties. She said “Hell yeah. If he can take them off he can wash them.”

2.Saturday afternoon I met a very attractive young German woman of African descendant at a coffee shop. She is a year younger than I am and we talked for a good deal of time about her views on the US. It was a great discussion and a wonderful chance meeting. I hope to see her again soon.

3.I went through an experience nearly five years ago that I thought would be forgotten and done with by now. This weekend I learned that in some way I and that experience were the topic of a discussion on a list serv of people from up and down the East Coast. The author of the email didn’t call me by name but clearly painted a portrait of me. I will not respond to the email but it has provided me extra thought about some of my life decisions past and present.

4.After deciding to take myself on a date Saturday night, per the usual my plan for that was foiled. This time in a good way though. I ended up having dinner with the 19 year old nephew of a friend of mine. He is a sweet kid who just moved to DC in January. I hope he continues to acclimate to DC life.

5.I started cleaning my apartment. My living space is often a reflection of my life. For the past several weeks I have been on the go constantly and my apartment looks like a tornado has hit it some sections. Meech Muffin is coming for a visit this weekend and I have got to finish getting my house in order before he gets to town. Tonight when I get home from work Operation Get Right continues.

6.Sunday night I went to a community meeting to discuss the organizing of the lesbian and gay contingency for the October 15th march to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. I saw some of the usual suspects and a few new faces. Black gay politics in DC is like no other waters I’ve ever had to navigate. The waters are sometimes calm, sometimes rough and always full of ships.

7.I finally got a copy of the book Nickel and Dimed. I’ll begin reading today.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Some Shoes to Fill, In Life and Death

We live in a violent world with violent people in a violent time. The result of that violence is sometimes death. This evening as I was leaving work I felt a vibration that made me stop in my tracks. It was my cell phone and the number displayed was that of one of my closest friends. I thought he was calling to share good news, or just some news, about a meeting he was to attend. Instead he shared the shocking news of yet another tragic death.

The details are yet still unclear of how or why someone chose to take her life. I find some of those details rather unimportant. I don't care so much about why it happened or how it happened but more simply that it happened at all. It shouldn't have happened. It should not have happened to her. It shouldn't have happened to a brother in Brooklyn. It shouldn't have happened. Death at the hands of another man should not happen.

I am reminded of a song from my days in the church youth choir, "you know not the day - when the Lord shall call your soul away."

Recent deaths have not only made me stop to reflect on mans inhumanity to man, they've also brought forth the very real question of how am I spending my time here on Earth now. If I died today what would I be able to say about and for myself? The past few months I've been moving closer to being more concerned not about how I make my living but how I make my life. When transition time comes for me I want to be in the shoes of my grandfather who always tells me that if he were to die today he would feel comfortable knowing he has done everything in life he wanted to do and had a great time doing it. What a pair of pleasure those must be to wear.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Some Enchanted Evening

Friday night I got home from the fundraiser around 11pm. The tour bus for the ClayStarr One Night Only Tour (brought to us by Strayhound) was leaving at 1am.That gave me just enough time to shower and pack for my weekend getaway.

At 5am the before the sun began to peek its head above the New York City skyline the tour bus rolled into the City and I rolled off the bus hungry beyond belief. Thirty minutes later found AQueer and I having a very early breakfast at the Manatus. We ate, talked, ate some more, talked some more, read the paper. The trip was already off to a good start. I was in my second city and very much felt at home.

I didn’t do much the rest of the day which is exactly what I needed to do. Then around 7pm AQueer, Foxy and I decided it was time for cocktails. We met up with Lean Back and his best friend Six in the village for drinks. Delightful. Lean Back was laid back and Six was on Ten. After a drink or two it was time for AQueer and Foxy to head to Brooklyn to do what I’d come there to do – go to a birthday party. It would be the birthday celebration that for me would become some enchanted evening…..

The party was for a brother that I had only met once. Before meeting him I’d heard all about him from several friends and colleagues. He and his boyfriend are greatly adored and with very good reason. They are both beautiful people whose lights warm you when you are lucky enough to be in there presence. This birthday celebration drew me in for many reasons.

Their home was an unfamiliar place to me but I was surrounded with many familiar faces. Faces that make me smile every time I see them and make my laughter dance. Although I travel to the City frequently it was my first NYC house party and I enjoyed not feeling the cold eyes and pretentiousness of the DC house parties I am accustomed to. There is something about NYC and its dwellers that I love. Every now and then I daydream that one of them will also love me.

I’m literally always asked why I don’t live in the City. I tell people I don’t know why, yet deep down I know the real reason is that I think I’m a little afraid to leave the District now that I have grown so comfortable here. I know DC. I know her ways, her ins and outs, her beauty and ugliness. In just a little under four years DC and many circles know me too. A move to NYC would be almost like starting over again.

But Saturday night reminded me of all the reasons I should overcome my fears, more than just the City but about men also. Right as I was leaving the party a man looked in my eyes and I looked in his and without speaking he said to me – life is beautiful, so is love and one day you may have a love of your own. His eyes were so sincere and his embrace was so brotherly.

The past few months I’ve become more jaded then ever before around the idea of finding a lover/partner/friend. And there at someone else’s birthday party. Someone else’s lover gave me a gift. He told me one day it would be. It was some enchanting evening.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Freedom Friday

As I sit here typing I can hear Aretha Franklin singing, “Freedom, Freeeeedom, Freedom!”

The day I have been waiting for since Sunday is finally here. It is Friday and in a matter of hours I will declare my freedom. Freedom from this spot, my lovely cubicle numbered 197. I am so anxious to leave work today. This week I worked my tail off. Wednesday was the climax of a project I have been spearheading for the past month. It was my first large scale project that I’ve been the lead on since I’ve been at this organization and it was a success. We raised $15k, wined and dined some of our supporters and got a little bit of press. Great, but that event was in the middle of the week! As one might imagine, my productivity since Wednesday has been below par. I am ready for a break.

This weekend is going to be my break. This morning I donned my black suit, white shirt and black & gold bowtie. Clearly, I’m heading to a frat gathering directly after work. Then I’m going home taking a nap, throwing some boxers in a bag and hitting the road tomorrow morning headed to NYC.

I’m looking forward to the City although I’ll only be able to stay for a very short time. I’m going to stay with Meech Muffin and pal around with AQueer. Tomorrow night I’m going to a party and then I’m going to shake it like a salt shaker. Besides the routines I do around my apartment in the morning to get energized for the day I haven’t been dancing in way too long. I haven’t a clue of what else I will do once I get there and that is a good thing. For a change I’m not making a packed schedule of everywhere I need to go and everything I need to do. I’m going to go on the faith and strength of I am always every where I am supposed to be, when I am supposed to be there. Just doing me and if I meet the right one, hell I might do him too.

My coworkers are probably wondering why I am bopping my head and they don’t hear any music. They just don’t know I have the Aretha song in my mind. Freedom!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Something on Saturday

Today is Tuesday. All I can think about is Friday. Last week was long, the weekend was longer and this week I am busy as ever. Work all day, meetings and events each night. I always talk about how I have little time for me. I work hard and I’m typically overly involved in organizations and the like. I am currently active with several organizations and my fraternity. I hold an elected office in each. I try to give all these organizations equal shares of time. Is that the Libra in me trying to find balance? Or is that me not being realistic?

I complain about the long and late hours that I keep and how these external forces keep my busy and drained but I can’t seem to get away from them. A few months ago I had come to the point where I decided I was going to step away for a while and enjoy some me time. I was going to resign from the organization that requires the most out of me. I went to the meeting to resign and walked out Vice President. When I told my mother this of course she laughed. She said she knew I wasn’t going to walk away from that organization – or any other. I ask myself all the time – why do I do all the things I do? I have never come up with a real honest answer for myself.

Last spring my boss asked me, “what do you do for yourself?” We sat in silence for a few minutes. She wanted an answer that I couldn’t provide at the time. I think that I am doing better at doing things for me now than I was then but I think to a degree I am falling short. How do I know? Because when someone asks how are things going with me or what I have been up to – my response is really not about me. I rattle off reports of what’s going on at work and other professional and civic projects I’m involved with. That is not me personally.

I think this has probably hindered me from making some love connections too. I appear to be overly busy for some guys. Some people just assume I’m already seeing someone. Some guys don’t like my level of visibility or the fact I know a lot of folks (they stem from organizations I work with/and a big personality). One guy told me, “every time I see you, you have a group of people in your face.” Another described me as having a “fan club” at one event I was at. To those guys I said get over it! If people like me (and not everyone does) get over your insecurities and let me be.

But at the end of the day, I be by myself it seems. For all the organizations I work with, for all the contacts I make at work, for all the love I have for my fraternity brothers, for as many times as I talk to my mother, brother, sister and family back at home – at the end of the day I go home to an apartment with just me. That’s another entry within itself though.

So today is Tuesday. I am looking forward to Friday. After work I’m going to a theater production benefiting a local foundation that gives scholarships to high school students. Following the show I will go home, fall fast asleep and awake early Saturday morning and head to NYC. I am going to a party, I am going to go dance a bit and I am just going to do something for me.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

New Sweet of the City

I remember when I first moved to DC three years ago some people thought I was crazy because I moved in a neighborhood that wasn’t the greatest. I didn’t care though because it was affordable, near the metro station, grocery store, bank, barber shop and church. Everything was in five minutes walking distance, it had to be because I didn’t and still don’t have a car. I liked this neighborhood. Sure, it had some crime and seedier elements but honestly all of that reminded me of home. I grew up in East Cleveland, Ohio and the hood has been good to me.

But my neighborhood here in DC, like the rest of the city has quickly begun to change. Right down the street from me when I first moved in was a horrible apartment building that was always full of crack addicts running in and out of it. Not long ago, they closed the building, renovated it and turned those apartments into condos. That was the first sign that my little piece of DC was also about to be turned out.

All over it seems Chocolate City is starting to look more like Vanilla Village. I often wonder how do African American natives of Washington feel about this change, this ‘take over’ and do some of them even realize what is going on. People of color are being pushed out by high home prices and the taxes that go right along with them. The cost of housing in DC has soared over the past several years and shows no real signs of slowing down. I once had Brown Sugar dreams of living in DC indefinitely, but as of late those Brown Sugar dreams have been colliding with the white confectionary reality of green cash and all that surrounds me.

Harlem can you hear me?
Houston, I hear it’s happening to you too.

Gentrification/ simplification/
indications of socio-economic-class relations/
going head to head causing frustrations.