Brothers Parker & Monk
The dog days are done. They arrived somewhat late a month ago while I was still in northern New Hampshire, followed me to New York City and out to Long Island’s North Fork, back up to Boston and across to upstate New York. Now in Brooklyn, I’ll soon head home to Amsterdam. For me the dog days of summer correspond to the seasonal transition from one place to another – and not only geographically.
Ralph and Gypsy in the White Mountains, Swee’Pea in the Catskills, Jackson and Lily in Clifton Park, Max at Mirror Lake, Parker and Monk on Long Island, and Leo in Brooklyn. Connect the canine dots and you’ll find a dog days map of my summer journey, roughly shaped like the constellation Canis Major. “He really likes you,” I’m told again and again. It’s reassuring to know I’ve not lost my empathic bond with the descendants of Sirius, the Dogstar, brightest beacon in the night sky.
I couldn’t help but smile at year’s end when the Arts section of the New York Times published an essay by James Franco called The Meanings of the Selfie. It followed a November announcement by Oxford Dictionaries that selfie was their international Word of the Year 2013. Old news now, with the lightning speed of the information highway. But together the stories had a full-circle resonance for me. I began the year with a determination to pave new paths in social media. And almost everywhere I turned, James Franco popped up waving a checkered flag.
On a sunny spring morning in 1985, I walked downtown to the World Trade Center and took the elevator up to the South Tower Observation Deck. I had lived in New York City for ten years. The next morning I would fly to Amsterdam and this seemed the perfect way to say good-bye… Sixteen years later, I watched the towers fall on a television screen in an eerily quiet Dutch newsroom. Within a couple of weeks I tried to put my feelings into a radio feature. A few years later, authors were doing the same in their books. The following piece was originally written in 2005.
Nicole Lewis flashes a mischievous grin as she hands me a plate of freshly made blueberry oatmeal pancakes. “I’m warning you. They’re very healthy.” It’s not my usual breakfast of coffee and a cigarette, but change is good. Nicole and I agree on that. It’s part of why we’ve become friends. We met when she arrived in New Hampshire in June to direct a play at the Weathervane Theatre. I arrived a month earlier to visit my college friend Joanne who owns the Inn at Whitefield, right next door.
I got my first hate mail. Well, not actually mail and not my first, but I’ll explain that later. My first hate comment since I began writing this blog on LGBTQ topics in January was short and to the point: “Dirty fag.” I can’t say I was surprised, except perhaps that it took so long. (In seven months I’ve had over 3100 views by visitors from 67 countries.) One friend even noted it was a sign that I’m “reaching the right audience, and not preaching to the converted.” True enough, and an apt metaphor.
The cowardly act of schoolyard name-calling was hidden behind a curious Twitter handle: Girolamo Savonarola. In case you’re not up on Italian Renaissance history, Savonarola was a 15th century Dominican friar who castigated the rich and powerful in Florence with fiery apocalyptic sermons. His reform campaigns included the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities, in which objects deemed “occasions of sin” were burned – masks and carnival gowns; playing cards and musical instruments; “immoral” books by Ovid and Boccaccio; paintings by Botticelli.