Say it with Flowers

We bought flowers too far from Stonewall. We were lost. Duane Reed, CVS, Duane Reed, a different CVS? Aric’s internal compass is unflappable in the Midwest, but two hours after our arrival in midtown Manhattan, we were fully stuck.

So we bought flowers. Two little bunches of them. These flowers are important; we told the man with our eyes. These are grief flowers, for a very deep grief. Aric fumbled with his wallet. The man wrapped the flowers in heavy paper (SAY IT WITH FLOWERS!) and Aric and I took turns cradling the bouquet like a child for the remaining blocks; two dumb bunches of flowers, lighter and heavier than you can imagine.

Outside Stonewall—we found our way, finally—barricades from the previous night’s vigil had been pushed into bunches. Tonight there were 40 people outside. No barricades necessary. Maybe a few, to keep people from stepping into the street. Police officers in bulletproof vests with very big guns made us feel more protected and more aware of the possibility of danger.

People in the small crowd were taking turns introducing themselves or saying a few words. Name, Borough, tears. Hugs from strangers. The deep joy of being a queer person suddenly surrounded by other queer people. Shame for being joyful, here. That kind of joy comes to an end faster than a life can, or 49 lives.

A boy named Daniel announced that he was from Long Island. He was very drunk. I’ll never, never, never forget the names of the victims, he said. I’ll never say another mean thing about anybody, ever. He was shouting. Everybody wanted to believe him. Everybody wanted him to stop shouting. Cops. Guns. This is a peaceful place tonight.

More introductions. More hugs. A pop-up community fluent in the new vocabulary of trauma. We will never forget, everybody says in turn. Their names, their lives. We are angry and hurt and heartsick with grief. We don’t know where to turn. All of life has become the moment from the Amy Hempel short story where, after an earthquake, a teacher encourages her first grade class to yell “BAD earth!” at a broken playground, “because anger is stronger than fear.”

Before we leave Stonewall, before I toss our flowers onto the pile, Aric gently removes the thick outer paper from the bouquet, rolls it up, and puts it in his backpack.


Say It With Flowers paper

That flower paper sparked something in me. I decided to spin the pattern of that paper into 49 little pieces of art, each one dedicated to one of the victims in Orlando. It was something to do with my hands when my hands felt so powerless.

As a visual artist, I am an infant, still learning to crawl. Most of these pieces were traced, but I can see my hands becoming more steady. I see smudges and smears and full-blown fingerprints, none intentional. I can see the little moments where I let go of control and was better for it.

I’m excited to share it with you.

Say It With Flowers Title Card

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“An infant is a pucker of the earth’s thin skin; so are we. We arise like budding yeasts and break off; we forget our beginnings. A mammal swells and circles and lays him down. You and I have finished swelling; our circling periods are playing out, but we can still leave footprints in a trail whose end we do not know.

Buddhism notes that it is always a mistake to think your soul can go it alone.” Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

Four Years!

Today Aric and I celebrate our fourth anniversary. This means he’s put up with my particular brand of insanity for the length of a presidential term. The same length of time you wait for the Winter Olympics to come back around again!

In those four years, he’s shown me what a person can accomplish with gentleness. He’s deliberate, kind, and curious. He’s a patient teacher who has taught me how to fly a drone, light a grill, tell north from south, occasionally admit when I’m wrong, balance a checkbook, steer a kayak, polish a countertop until I can see my reflection in it, and line dance, poorly.

His tolerance for showtunes is higher than it was four years ago, or his resistance has been worn down. Either way, I’m a lucky guy.

Farewell, Old Friend

Playbill.com launched a whizz-bang new website this morning, which at long last brings it in line with the way the internet looks and works these days. Image-heavy with a decent amount of white space, it’s a nice site overall.

President and chief executive of Playbill Philip S. Birsh called it a “brand-new day for Playbill.com”:

Our team of editors, writers, designers and developers have been working tirelessly for the better part of eight months to deliver a sleeker, more enjoyable and interactive Playbill.com experience.

I’m sure they have. Designing, building, and launching a website takes a massive amount of work. Still, I’m going to need some time to grieve.

Up until this morning, Playbill.com looked much like it did when I first visited it—as Playbill On-Line—almost twenty years ago. It was terribly un-fancy, untouched by time. Pages didn’t scroll infinitely. In fact, they were hard-coded HTML with a few banner ads, connected by hyperlinks. It was like the internet in 1996, where load times were long and images were tiny.

I mean, yesterday, in 2016, this was what the show listings looked like on one of the most world’s most popular theater websites:
Playbill.com BWAY listings

And their table of current show grosses, which I pore over weekly like scripture, looked like this:
Playbill.com BWAY grosses

When was the last time you saw a popular website with an HTML table that had a border like that? Beautiful.

I believe in progress, and the new Playbill.com is objectively a better website than the one that came before it. Still, it feels like I lost a little piece of myself today, and we all lost a little piece of 1996. Life won’t be the same as it was, but it just might be sleeker and more interactive. And that’s something, right?

Disconnecting

In a recent CBS Sunday Morning segment about the Broadway-bound musical Shuffle Along, director George C. Wolfe sat at a table and said to his cast, “Never rush through failure. Walk. Walk.”

I’ve thought about this quote a lot. Nearly every one of my failures can be traced back to an inability to focus. Distraction is my vice, and I am ready to walk, walk through it. I want to get better at my job, finish the book manuscript that’s captivated my attention, and write about Broadway here on this very site.

To do that, I need focus. So, tomorrow I’m signing out of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and similar sites for a year. I won’t see a Facebook message or a Twitter DM until February of 2017. I don’t think these tools are evil or inherently wasteful.

I am easily distracted.
I lack follow-through.
I have a crippling tendency to let other people shape my identity.

And I need to stop waiting and start making shit happen for myself. I’ve had a fraught relationship with technology since the first time I tasted a sip of that sweet, sweet internet. After shorter breaks and attempts at mindfulness, I want the clarity of total abstinence. It can’t hurt, right? That’s what I tell myself to overcome my nerves about missing fun events and cute photos of the babies I love.

If you’d like to see what I’m up to, I’ll be writing regularly here on this site, sending occasional updates to an email list. And if you’d like to hang out in person, or just say hi, call me or email me. I’m really hoping meaningful human interaction will come as a gift with a purchase in this whole experiment.

I’m excited to see what I’m capable of, and I hope you are too.