Friday, March 27, 2009

Maybe Some Things Have Changed

Spring has sprung in the Holy Land. Today, the first day of daylight savings time, has been sunny and windy but not too cold. Liz and I set out early (before noon), walking first to the Lehem Erez on Ibn Gvirol where we bought a chocolate halvah cake for the middle daughter. The schlep to Ibn Gvirol was necessitated by the closing of the Lehem Erez on Ben Yehuda, another victim of the recession. We then went to the Tel Aviv Port for what was advertised as free, live music by some alternative rock bands.

Except for some misplaced high rise towers, Tel Aviv is an architectural marvel, featuring small parks tucked in between blocks of low rise, international style apartments and tree-lined boulevards with wide, central pathways. So the walking and the sitting on strategically placed benches was great.

The bands were a bust as they were playing inside a portable TV studio set up by Channel 24, a music video channel. TV gnomes were ushering groups of young people inside to be the live audience as the various musicians played their latest hits. They could be seen on a large outdoor screen but the sea proved far more interesting. Liz and I sat out in the sun for a while and finally walked the short distance to the Speedo Cafe.

Speedo is one of several cafes set up on the port's wide boardwalk with cushioned chairs facing the sea. Thanks to the large umbrellas we were able to sit in the shade and gaze out at the sea. Today the sea was a beautiful aquamarine with just enough waves to make things interesting. As I sat, drinking my cafe hafuch (cappucino in Italian) and eating apple pie with chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla, I thought about some recent Facebook communications I've had with three Gay men.

Having been raised in a family where political discourse is a form of blood sport, I sometimes forget that I'm communicating with real people who may be justifiably sensitive about certain topics. So, when I suggested that the life of LGBT people in America had progressed since the days of the Stonewall Riot I was castigated by a 20-something Gay man. To make matters worse, I threw into a defense of Israel's self-defense a suggestion that if he didn't like Israel he should go try being Gay in an Arab country. At this point he, quite correctly, verbally ripped me a new orifice. Remembering how angry I used to get when, during a protest against the War Against Vietnam, some clueless middle-aged asshole would hold up a sign suggesting that if we didn't love America we should go live in Russia, I realized that I had gone too far and deserved what I got. If he reads this he can hopefully take some solace from being one of the very few people to ever get a public apology from me after a political brawl.

However, in spite of it's unartful expression, I'm not convinced that my observation is wrong. Is America racist? You betcha. But we have gone from murdering people trying to register African Americans to vote, to voting for or against Obama based on what he had to say about being President. I think that's progress. I think a similar statement can be made about LGBT people. Is America homophobic? You betcha. But too many LGBT people are living openly and living well to say that nothing has gotten better since the Stonewall Riot.

I was reading my young FB Friend's quite accurate litany of all the abuses heaped upon the LGBT community in America when a new posting hit my Home Page. It was a video of another Gay FB Friend's son performing in the second grade class play at our local Jewish day school. This FB Friend is also both a real flesh-and-blood friend and my personal expert on the LGBT world. (The man has the patience of a true tzadik, tolerating the really stupid questions I ask him. He's going to make a very good Rabbi.) He's also married and lives near me in the suburbs with his husband, three children, a minivan and a mortgage. The video was quickly followed by a picture of my friend's husband hugging the smiling, triumphant young man. The joyful comments soon filled the page.

So there I sat, contemplating the juxtaposition of the first two sets of postings, when a posting from a third Gay FB Friend showed up. Titled "Yes, the 'Q' in Quiznos Stands for Queer" he sent his review of a Quiznos ad, complete with a video of the ad. In the ad, the Quiznos oven gets a young man to purr the price of a more than foot long sandwich, the Toasty Torpedoe. The ad ends with a screen filled with hands holding aloft rigid, foot long sandwiches. Have you seen this ad? If not, here's the link to his blog (the ad is also on YouTube): (The blog is Jeff Weinstein's Out There on Arts Journal). The ad is the gayest and funniest bit of film I've seen since West Side Story on singalong night at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.

So, maybe, over the past 50 years or so, some things have changed and maybe some of that change has been for the good. I'll let you figure this one out for yourself. For now, I need to figure out where we are going for dinner tonight.

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