Cheese Danishes

I awoke this morning to the birds singing and the bright misty light in the bedroom and immediately realized that my alarm didn’t go off. It was 5:30 am – the time I usually leave for work. My phone lost its charge and died somewhere in the early morning hours between dreams. I chose not to rush and even stopped at the market near work to pick up a cheese Danish, something I’ve enjoyed since high school. It’s one of the few things of pleasure that I recall from that long-ago era.

There is something perplexing about the taste of a warm cheese Danish topped with melting butter that immediately takes me back to the summer of 1980. I was in summer school taking preparatory classes before starting freshman year. On the long bus trip across the San Fernando Valley, I had met two guys that were also accepted into this small Catholic boy school in Encino. Scott and Joe were from my corner of town and, for the first time in my youth, I felt accepted by a group.

We would hit the McDonald’s around the corner from school and get cheese Danishes before class. Joe said that the butter made it blast in your mouth. And it did. Maybe it was the newness of being in high school or hanging with new cool kids, but those pastries were amazing. Every weekday, all summer long, we hit that place. Summer school wasn’t so bad, and I wasn’t heading into ninth grade alone.

Scott was tall with dark, handsome looks while Joe was heavy into punk rock with all the trimmings that would fit within the dress code. Both guys seemed to accept me and my Go-Go music without exception. That is, until I came out of the closet later that year.

I made it onto the varsity swim team as a freshman. A childhood of swimming competitively made that an easy feat and that status helped give me a jockish veneer, but didn’t stop the subtle ridicule from the other students throughout my high school career. It wasn’t as if I jumped on the lunch tables and shouted, “Hey, I’m gay,” but I couldn’t help but wear my gayness on my sleeve, and I never denied it or apologized for it.

Unlike others in public school, I was never physically accosted for being gay. But the chatter went on behind my back. Between classes, someone would yell, “Fire!” on the staircase and get a laugh from the mass of students. I used to imagine myself as the character Diana Prince to get through the day; I was a superhero in disguise and nothing could harm me. I tried to minimize the attention I was drawing to myself. I dieted down in size until I looked unhealthy but was very thin. I kept quiet, kept to myself and didn’t say a word more than I had to.

Scott and Joe avoided me once they realized I was gay—to the point of denying we had ever been friends. I began to think that life would be a series of disappointments. I started to doubt that I could do anything I wanted to in life. I questioned my intellect and started to lose my drive to succeed. There were few role models for a gay, Mexican-American teenager in a school filled with brilliant, pretty white boys.

One of my saving graces was our freshman counselor, Father Terry. This understated, loving man took me on as his charge. I could speak with him daily and he gave me all the time I needed. He assuaged my fears and normalized what could have been a traumatic experience.

Terry taught religion with his zest for life and passion for living. He spent an entire week showing us the entire movie “Auntie Mame” with Rosalind Russell. That one movie, he explained, would help us make it through life. Damn, I loved that man and his unconventional approach to teaching young men the ways of life.

Terry helped me to believe in myself in spite of the adversities that life can throw at us. He said the ridiculous and hurtful actions of others could not kill us. This high school experience, he continued, would prepare me to handle life and the occasional cruelty that might come my way.

The late Fr. Terry’s lessons have stayed with me for the past thirty-five years. They’ve guided me through life’s journey from the Carmelite seminary to working with homeless teenagers in Hollywood. A lifetime of helping others has helped me find my own voice in writing and advocating for a more equitable society.

So here I sit at my desk with my warm cheese Danish dripping with melted butter—an hour later than usual. This oddly bewitching flavor transports me back to that summer and the endless curiosity of youth. I wish I could share this moment with Terry over a cup of tea and see, once again, the sheer joy of life in his tender, loving eyes as we talk of the past and the little things that help us appreciate the art of being alive.

It’s Nothing but Racist Revulsion for the Bodies of Fat People

It’s hard to find the words to describe the disgust I have when I see complete and absolute hatred of a person by a fellow human being. My initial desire is to bring the venom-spitting goon to his or her knees by any means possible with less-than-elegant names and a few punches until I feel better. I admit that taking the provocateur down a few rings would satisfy my desire to knock some sense into their hardened heart. But I’m not a violent person.

When I read about a trainer in St. Louis who posted a photo of a fat woman at Busch Stadium on his company’s Facebook page, I was disgusted by his display of smugness and condescension.

“Where individuals like the one I posted are impeding other people’s ability to enjoy a baseball game, a flight, a seat at the movie,” Keath Hausher stated and further described this patron’s intake of food as “unhealthy and never ok.” He went on to state that having manners wouldn’t work with this type of person. “The customary way to respond to this now is to want to hug someone and tell them ‘no matter what size you are, that’s great.’ But in reality it’s not great.”

No doubt he thought posting a photo of the woman from behind onto his company’s business webpage was a cute, fun thing to do. The girl was nothing more than some big fat chick with rolls-a-plenty to be plastered for the public to see. She’d never see it and even if she did, doesn’t everyone make fun of fat people? She’d never say anything because the fat girl (or boy) would be so ashamed that they’d run and hide while the bully stands in the righteous light with a smirk on his face. The bully knows what he did was right and correct and thinks that, just maybe, the fatso got the message and might decide to lose weight because, after all, isn’t that the best possible outcome in the end?

Wrong on every level. Bully’s like Mr. Hausher use the goal of “healthy living” (including weight loss through diet and exercise) as a shield by disguising their own prejudicial hatred for a particular type of person. In this case, fat people. Mr. Hausher stands on his self-righteous pulpit and preaches his vitriolic contempt for the obese with a racist-revulsion against the bodies of fat people by simply stating, “It is a public health issue.”

Really? So this guy Keath is standing up and proclaiming himself Sentinel of Health and body shaming this woman is justified because he cares about society so strongly that he just has to shame another to make his point.

This method of fat shaming has been a standard method of proclaiming the hatred for the bodies of chubby people in the guise of “health” and “concern” and the “love” for our fellow human being. But it’s not about any of those things, as good and lovely as the goal of a healthy society may be. Mr. Hausher’s only goal was to show an example of a fat, disgusting person to boost his business by stating (through example), Don’t let this happen to you.

Mr. Hausher added, “I didn’t name her, or show her face. It is raising awareness to say it’s okay to not stand for that.” Everyone has the right to stand up for what they believe, but no one has the right to diminish the humanity of another regardless of how “right” they believe they may be.

The big woman who sat in front of Keath had every right to be there, in public, and eat whatever she wanted and as much as she desired. I hope she took delight with each bite and savored all the glorious taste that comes with ballpark food. And when she got home, I hope her partner got lost in each bountiful roll of delectable flesh and kissed each stretchmark with lust-filled passion. And I hope she has season tickets in that seat in front of Mr. Keath Hausher forcing him to see her big, beautiful body at every game.

http://www.wfsb.com/story/28999430/trainer-not-apologizing-for-body-shaming-woman-at-busch-stadium?autostart=true

Book Release Bound

So we just finished reviewing the hard copy of the book. Proofing for final edits, and we are on track for release at the end of March 2015. The initial reviews from the novel have been stellar and I am beyond thrilled.

Please feel free to visit the official website for the novel, http://www.fatizen.com, for all things Fatizen.

Onward to the official release. We are planning an event for March 28th in downtown Long Beach. Details forthcoming!Bookarrived

Publication Update

So I just heard from my fabulous editor Genie Rayner of Branch Hill Publications. The expected publication date is now 2015, which is what I was expecting as we head into the holiday season. It took a while for me to make the last round of line edits and there are one more set of minor edits I’ll have to review and implement. But Genie says it’s looking really good and we’re getting to that stage of final polishing so I’m rather excited.

Stay tuned and thank you to everyone for your ongoing support and shared excitement about the novel! And for more information, please visit the official website for the book at: http://www.fatizen.com.Print

Defamiliarization and Using Random Metaphors in Writing

So my new daily habit is to plug into  my new favorite podcast, “Inside Creative Writing.” It fills the hour drive home from work and it’s like attending a really great writing seminar. I’m doing my best to catch up on past episodes. Teacher and writer Brad Reed has a wonderful presentation style and is a joy to listen to. His website is: http://www.insidecreativewriting.com/about-the-podcast/. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you are interested in improving your craft.

Last night, I was deep into Episode 3. Mr. Reed discussed how to spark your creativity and described the process of “Defamiliarization.” I had never done this before but the exercise he walked us through was something that I think a lot of writers (myself included) could benefit from. Here are the basics to that process:

“The process of generating a random metaphor is based on the technique of defamiliarization and involves the following steps:
1. Choose a character (or other element) that is particularly “flat” or uninteresting
2. Choose a random object (possibly using a random noun generator like this one)
3. List the qualities of the random object.
4. Compare the character to the list of qualities of the random object. How might your character have these qualities?
5. DO NOT USE the random metaphor in your actual writing. It is only meant to be a way to see your character from a new angle and suggest new possibilities.”

– See more at: http://www.insidecreativewriting.com/page/2/#sthash.ILdSYwng.dpuf

See how it works for you in looking at your character(s) in a new way. I can’t wait to try it myself. So, until next time, keep writing every day!