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11 entries from May 2009

The Fifth Annual Whiney Expat Blogger's Meetup: Munich, September 5-6

To the Meetup Homepage. Login Needed. People blog for a number of reasons. Some for professional purposes.  Some to stay in touch with family and friends.  Some for vanity. Some to find their writer's voice.

The expatriate who chooses to blog often has another another reason, on top of his or her usual motives.  Your blog connects you with a community that speaks your own language, and understands the odd circumstances in which you often find yourself.

Five years ago, in Germany, a group of bloggers took those connections offline.  They met, and firm friendships were forged.  They shared many of the delights of living in Germany, like the beer.  They shared many of the frustrations of living in Germany, like the Kreisverwaltungsreferat.  They pondered how to explain their lives to the folks back home, who are sometimes perplexed by quaint German customs like infrastructure investment, public-option health insurance, and bicycles.

But most of all, they talked, ate, drank, and laughed.  It turned into an annual event, the Whiney Expat Blogger's Meetup. 

It's a fantastic get-together.  And this year it's in Munich.

For anyone in Germany who blogs in English, I encourage you to attend.

You'll meet people from all walks of life, old and young, families and single people, gay and straight, expats and immi-pats.  We've put together a program that includes tours, (optional) cycling, biergartening, kid's activities, and a smattering of nightlife.

If you're a blogger in a German-speaking country, you'll need to register at the Expat Bloggers in Germany website.  Look forward to seeing you!


Photo Friday: Shiny

Where is he gay today? Barcelona.
Cake decorations Boqueria mercat

This week's Photo Friday theme seems to challenge most of the photographers.  Shiny objects frighten them. Perhaps they've seen too many naked men reflected in toasters on eBay.

Luckily, our recent trip to Spain veritably glistened with shiny things.  The shiny objects above come from a candy stall at the Mercat Boqueria, the central food market in Barcelona.  You use these sugary tidbits to decorate wedding cakes.

Lisovika Piotr Rybaczek

The second image is a detail from a work on display at the Galleria La Basilica, in the Gothic Quarter.  Polish artist  Piotr Rybaczek created a sculpture of Lisovika, a legendary Slavic goddess with deer horns who delights in creeping people out.   He mounted a pair of real deer horns on a department store dummy, and covered them both with over 40,000 black crystals. You'll find a much better, shinier, photo of this work here. Rybaczek loves the technique, as you can see in his rather twinkly Carmen.

Carmen Piotr Rybaczek

Photo Friday Homepage


The Bishop Has a Headache

Gay romance is tempered by a realistic understanding of male psychology.

Like any good stay-at home-spouse, Master Right fares me well every morning with a kiss at the front door.  "Do your best." he says, in a literal translation of the Japanese gambatte.
Wurst, Semmel and Senf
"What have you got  planned for today?" I once asked him.

"Nothing much. As usual."

A smile crossed my lips. "OK, dear. Be sure to think about me when you masturbate."

"I will." he said. "Mostly."

My heart filled with sentimental goo. How sweet! Mostly!  He always knows the right thing to say.

Let us segue, deftly, into a related subject.  That Queer Expatriate reminds us that May is International Masturbation Month.  At the annual Masturbateathon in San Francisco, a Japanese national, Mr. Masanobu Sato, beat his own record with almost ten hours of tuggery. 

One would need to check his kanji to be sure, but Masanobu literally means "a proper hermit".  Because Japanese has so many homonyms, it can also mean "polished knob".  No, really.  Check out the Denshi Jisho for masa and nobu.

Mr. Sato wanks for a crust, as it were.  He's the leading stunt-dick for Tenga K.K., a manufacturer of masturbation aids—big business in Japan

(Sato-san to boss: "I have some good news, and some bad news, Bucho-san.  The bad news is that I didn't win.  The good news is that I came first.")

With a tendency toward shyness, an ample supply of erotica, and many helpful devices to hand, one could conclude that Japanese men prefer a quiet buff to the genuine article. 

So from time to time, on taking leave in the the morning, I will ask my husband to say hello to Mrs. Palmer for me.  He smiles politely. But he hasn't yet figured out exactly what I mean.


Shop Local

Yelli lives with her husband and toddler son in suburban Berlin.  Life is pleasant,  safe and rewarding.   Her blog paints a rich picture of days filled with children's birthday parties, choral music, trying out new recipies, personal scholarship, and moments of reflection.

So imgine her surprise—and delight, no doubt, since cookies and choir practice can amuse one only so far—to find a flyer on her windscreen which promised hot steamy raunch.  That was just from the neighbourhood beauty parlor.  Hair and nail salon, and Salon Kitty salon

Beside it, she found a piece from her local sex club.  The two ads are pictured to your left.  A certain similarity, wouldn't you agree?

The latter promised table dancing and all-you-can-eat pizza.  Not sure how that would work.

Yelli read about the forty feminine artistes who would beguile the visitor, and the large discounts which men (and certain hardy women) could enjoy if they stayed for breakfast.  So intrigued was she, that she tastefully airbrushed out the gooby bits, shared it with her blog readers, and invited them to post photos in response.

Yelli was unfazed by this flyer under the wiper.   Many of her countrymen (she is American) may not have been.

One of the things which can unsettle Americans who live or travel abroad, is the matter-of-fact way in which sexual occupations ply their trade.  Pretty much all sex-work is a legit job in Australia, Europe, and US states such as Nevada, where the industry's legal staus affords some safeguards. 

Sexual occupations hold inherent risks—as this recent post from As Long as There's Sidewalks, I'll Have a Job reminds us—and the law can't eliminate every hazard.  But if our Berlin table-dancer breaks her leg after treading on a slippery bit of pepperoni, at least she'll get workers comp.

The Honourable Husband is a man-of-the-world, who has thoroughly acclimatised to a more liberal environment after spending a large part of his life abroad, right?    Our recent trip to Barcelona proved otherwise.  On being approached by prostitutes, I disappointed myself with white-bread hangups.  Hubby's white-rice hangups were even worse.  My reaction was quite disrespectful of the working men and women I have come to know over the years.

For the moment, let's leave aside the manner in which such occupations, under some circumstances, may exploit workers.  (If you need a refresher course on the topic, consult Spinster Aunt Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy.  In fact, consult her anyway; she's brilliant.)

But I digress.  On to Yelli's challenge.

Though Americans are among the most prolific pornographers on the planet, we are the most coy.  By contrast, the Japanese display adult material in abundance, almost everywhere, some of it quite violently sexualised.  The only concession to good taste is that actual genitalia are "mosaiced" electronically. 

Early this decade, we lived not far from Shimbashi, in central Tokyo.  It's quite an important transport hub, where bored salarymen linger after a hard day, enjoying gentlemen's entertainments of every kind. 

Adult section at my local vid store 3

Stars of adult stage and screen would often make promo visits to the local Tsutaya Culture Convenience Club, otherwise known as a video library.  I'm not entirely sure what their autographed photos say.  My guess is that they send a greeting to fans or the management, since we find "san-he" after the kanji

To my eye, one or two of the letters look a bit Korean.  In a perverse way, one shouldn't be surprised.  

I once heard a (female)  Japanese client  make a remark about "those hot-blooded Koreans".   I pressed her on it, and asked if that were meant to be disparaging.  "A little," she admitted, "It's rather like you Americans talking about a hot-blooded Latina. Koreans have a license to be emotional in a way that we don't.   You may notice that our most popular soap operas are Korean."   It seems many Japanese look on Koreans the way some Americans look on Mexicans.  

So, Yelli, that's my contribution to Funny Photo Freitag.  Um, probably not what you were expecting!

On a lamp-post in Roppongi, 2001


The International Day Against Homophobia, 17 May

Michael-Kirby-thisisoz

May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia, or IDAHO.  Originally a Canadian initaitive, it's been embraced around the world.  IDAHO commmemorates 17 May 1992, the day on which the World Health Organisation de-listed homosexuality as a disease.  The movement has gained momentum since the Canadian Fondation Emergence declared it in 2003 , and this year a number of European governments join  NGOs in Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and the UK in recognising the day.Matthew-Mitcham-Sydney

 Besides not being homophobic for 24 hours, what can you do?   IDAHO UK has a list of events (registration required), as does the international site.  But one of the most intriguing and accessible ideas comes from Sydney.

The AIDS Council of New South Wales and the web-zine Same Same have joined with many other government, private and community organisations to launch a site called This is Oz.  On it, you may upload a portrait of yourself in which you hold a printed or hand-written message which promotes acceptance and diversity.  It also links to initiatives in other Australian states, such as Victoria and South Australia.  I am sure that international messages of support would be welcomed. 

The current galleries include portraits of a number of Australian luminaries, including senators, broadcasters and olympic sportspersons.  My favourite is pictured above, at the top of this post.

I have a cerebral crush on  retired High Court Justice Michael Kirby. With his public statements, his legal judgements, and his work with United Nations bodies, he's become one of the world's great authorities on the intersection of law and ethics. Julie McCrossin In so doing, he acted as a natural supporter of gay rights, placing them in the context of broader human rights, and thus making a stronger case.  He chaired the World Health Organisation task force on HIV and AIDS in the early nineties, and was instrumental in the WHO's decision to de-pathologise homosexuality--the event which IDAHO commemorates. 

Everything he says or writes is a masterpeice of clarity and reason.  Only after he makes the rational case, does he close with a compelling picture of the  personal dignity a such fairness can enable.Poster_homophobia2009_ICON1

I once heard him address a gay charity event in Melbourne in the mid-nineties,  shortly before he came out.  He spoke in his usual calm, measured tones about the AIDS crisis.  Was it a gay disease, brought about by sexual practices many found distasteful, he asked?  Or was it a tragedy which robbed the world of men with immense talent and energy?  In his argument (for it was, in truth, an argument) he skillfully affirmed the worth and humanity of those whom so many despised.  

He came out in quite a matter-matter-of-fact way, simply declaring newsagent Johann Van Vlouten as his partner of (then) 30 years in  Who's Who 1999.  "Johann is my official escort to all public events," Kirby once said, "He and the Queen got along famously." 

May 17th is a Sunday.  From how many pulpits will we hear a message against homophobia?  Just asking.

Photo Credits:  Portraits of  Michael Kirby, Julie McCrossin and Matthew Mitcham come from thisisoz.com.au.

EDIT: I'll relax my anonymity policy just this once.  Here's me.  And by way of beautiful coincidence, the theme for Photo Friday this week happens to be Self Portrait, 2009.

Do I make you feel uncomfortable 3aBlueskystudio2


Interview 2009. Hag seeks fag, but fags flake out.

The marvellous Strange, Dark Gypsy Girl continues her interrogation as part of the Interview 2009 Project. She was interested in my personal take on gay life. There are more such questions to come.

Gay dogs 1

 Do gay men have anything resembling lesbian bed death? My gut instinct is hell no.

I may need to ask for a lifeline here. Lesbian readers: is lesbian bed death a myth?    Many straight men will argue that they, too, catch a dose of lesbian bed death from time to time. 

Shaw wrote that marriage will remain popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.  Remember that Shaw went to his grave a virgin, and so had no fucking clue what he was talking about.  

The answer is yes, all cohabiting couples eventually taper off, no matter how ruddy their libidos, or obliging their natures.  

Master Right put a hand down his pants the other day, and confirmed what we both suspected. It had fallen off.

I leapt in to  the helpful-spouse drill.  "Well, where do you remember last having it out?"

“If I recall, it was at the candy counter in the Karstadt.” he replied. “Perhaps we should phone their lost-and-found?”

“Nah. It’s probably been sucked up some vacuum cleaner hose by now.” I observed, mildly aroused at the thought.

 As for my own todge, I regularly remind the hub that like anything else in cold storage, if he doesn’t eat it soon, it’ll go off.

 That said, no man is lonely if he has a free hand and a little imagination.  Broadband helps, too.

How do I go about finding a new gay best friend (I've got the lesbian best friend covered)? I haven't had one since college, and I'm feeling the fag hag lack. Fair warning, though: I live in the benighted South, where football is king, everything is fried, and people wear trucker hats without irony.

Gosh, do they wear trucker hats without irony?  You mean wrinkled, straight off the clothesline?

Enough joking.  One of the terrible things about the Honourable Husband's inability to meet a deadline, is that the answer I would have given your question, when you asked it, may be interpreted completely differently under current conditions.  Gypsy, if these comments grate a bit, given your state of mind and heart, forgive me.

I suspect you don’t really want a fag to hag.

Before I moved from New York to Munich, and changed its name to Deutschland über Elvis, I called my blog High Maintenance Hags.  

High Maintenance Hags 2a2 
It reflected the outlook of a middle aged gay male.  As I got older, the genuine female friends had begun to sort themselves from the hags.   And the hags had become insufferable. 

Maybe it was a New York thing. Sex and the City made a certain kind of shallow, label-chasing, sexually-demanding loveless single woman flavour of the month.  And one of her must-have accessories was a fag.

As I grew older and wiser, the role of handbag became less rewarding.  Especially when handbag turned into suitcase turned into steamer trunk.   Frankly, if I wanted a woman with whom I had no sex, but who demanded the intimacy and emotional support of a lover, I’d just turn straight and get married.

Shopping with them was torture. Shoes?  What is it with women and shoes?   

I wrote a post on this before, which speculated that a woman’s peak hag years are under 25.   Perhaps a fag and his hag are lovers who are too immature for an adult sexual relationship? 

Am I being unfair?  Maybe.  But experience shows boys make extremely bad girlfriends, in the long haul.

Most of the hagships in my life have matured into proper friendships between equals, which involve two complete, fulfulled lives that intersect.  Gypsy, perhaps one of the reasons you don’t currently have a fag to hag, is simply because you’ve outgrown it.  If you actually did hold a light-loafered lad on a leash, you’d soon grow tired of him.  And he’d grow tired of the leash, fo’ shizzle.

My advice is to make ten new male friends.  Statistically, at least one of them will be gay.  And as a bonus, the other nine will be eligible.  It works, even in the South.


Viva Taxi Libre!

Where is he gay today?  Barcelona.
Barcelona cafe

On the Placa Reial

We were dining in a sidewalk cafe in Barcelona when Master Right posed a question.  "Would you like to be poisoned?"

 Two young women had just given us vouchers for a free drink in the bar next door. "I know what you're thinking," I reassured him.  "They're not like that."

Free shot 2 Our hotel faced La Rambla de Catalunya, a lively street on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, and a magnet for tourists.  On the footpath, several ladies plying an ancient trade thought us likely prospects.   This left him uncomfortable.  Unlike his husband, who once sat on the other side of the church,  Master Right finds the very idea of girl-sex kinda icky.

"I'm Japanese, so those women are less dangerous for me," he observed.  "They'll probably just steal my passport.   But they know many Westerners have blood type O, which is compatible to everyone.   You are very useful to them.  You will wake up in a bathtub of ice without a kidney."

I smiled.  "They won't find me saleable.  I'm A negative."

This had become a little joke between us.  Japanese pop culture goes crazy over blood types, and their effect on personality.  Type O, relatively rare among Asians, apparently makes one excitable, and is thought to explain much gaijin behaviour.  The business of O-jin being able to receive all other blood groups is poorly understood, and urban legend maintains that Westerners swap organs willy-nilly.

"More people end up in hospital than you think.  My Japanese guidebook says to watch out in a bar, if someone accidentally cuts your finger." he continued, as though bloodletting were as common as a game of darts, among the wild Spaniards. "They take away your cocktail napkin and perform tests."

One of the things I love about my husband is his quaint Japanese outlook on so many aspects of life.  But this began to sound like a mixture of xenophobia, sexism, and just plain being a pussy.   

"Look, Barcelona attracts a lot of tourists, and people need to make a buck. So far, we've encountered a thoroughly gracious city.  Even the prostitutes spoke politely."

Graffiti Barcelona

Barcelona graffiti

"They gave me a bad feeling."  He sulked for a moment over his grilled octopus.  

"Here we are, two fiftyish men, womanless in a big city, and they jumped to the wrong conclusion," I continued. "If you get so uncomfortable when people assume we're straight, let's go someplace where that won't happen.  How about that gay bar we spotted online?"

Master Right thought about it for a moment. 

"What do Spanish people call a drugstore?" he asked.

Bimbos no dogs "A farmacia. Why?"  

 "We need to get protection."

This took me aback.  A married, fiftyish gay couple doesn't go to a bar looking for that kind of thing anymore.  In fact, they don't go  looking for that kind of thing anymore, period.

"Huh?"

"I'm not going to a dance club without a face mask."

My patience wore thin. "Let me point out, MR, in spite of what your guidebook might say, Spain and Mexico are not the same country.  Furthermore, as a precaution, I intend to drink a skinful of the planet's most widely-used disinfectant.  Come on."

"Mmmm....I don't know." he whined. "You go out and enjoy.  Maybe I'll just head back to our room."   And lock the door.  And bolt it.  And lean the armoire against it, no doubt, lest any of those pesky women knock, offering a shop-at-home service.  Barcelona police
Two Barceona cops on the beat in the Placa Reial. A picture of order and good government.

Master Right slunk off, avoiding eye contact with the ladies, as I looked for a cab.  From among the traffic, an ancient Citröen in bumblebee livery approached.   A green light glowed on top, beneath which a sign flashed Libre.  As required by local law, he had also flipped a sign up on his dashboard, which showed the Catalan translation, Lliure.

I hopped in, and gave the address of the club.  The driver replied in a torrent of Catalan.  When that didn't work, he switched to Spanish.  When that didn't work either, he spoke  Spanish very slowly, very loudly, and peppered in a few English words .  (Admit it. Have you not used the same approach in your native tongue, from time to time?)  

It seemed my poor old bar simply would not do.  Éstas lame, apparently.   The driver took me on a little tour of the Eixample, Barcelona's gay neighbourhood, pointing out many bars I might enjoy when they finally open at two in the morning.  "Éstas gay gay gay", he announced of each, "No señoritas."

One of his cab-driver buddies approached from the opposite direction.  The two stopped in the middle of the street, door to door, put their arms out the window, and slapped up a high-five.   (Such excitable gaijin!)   The driver's pal knew where the action was, and we headed off to a club which, this particular evening, was totally smokin' calienteSmoking allowed bar

Well, smoky rather than smokin'.  I ended up at Metro, a Barcelona institution.  The conceit is that the bar is located in a cellar, a bit like the subway.  Except you can't smoke in the subway.

Now, as I like to say, gay bars are McDonald's.  Walk into one anywhere in the world, and frankly, you could be anywhere in the world.  The music, lighting and buff barmen made sure Metro met gay corporate-ID best-practice, but it excelled in some distinctive ways.

Gay club Barcelona

Inside Metro.  Estas gay, no?

First, there was a room devoted to local Catalan music.  Not a note of We Are Family, Tainted Love or It's Raining Men to be heard. 

Second, Metro hosted a throng female visitors; they hadn't read about the no senioritas rule.

And third, in the the men's room, atop every urinal, sat a video screen.  It played material which, if you watched long enough, would make it very difficult to pee.

I was digging the vibe at the bar when a couple of young gentlemen struck up a conversation, in English.  How splendid!  Friendly locals, pleasant chat, bridges toward international understanding, that kind of thing, right?

The fellow with the best English didn't take long to ask a leading question.  "Do you find my friend attractive?" he asked, and rubbed together his right index finger and thumb. "Comprende?

They trafficked in organs, too, in their own way.  I replied that I thorougly comprended, and gosh, look at the time, better be getting home. Where's the nearest taxi libre?

I'd been to Barcelona before, but never found the locals quite so, um, sexually enterprising.   And it was a little confronting that so many of them assumed a middle aged gent, by default, would be well-heeled sexual desperado.

I opened the door to our hotel room to find Master Right in bed, half-asleep.  "You'll never guess what happened," I began, eager to share my little adventure. 

"Honourable Husband," he said, "You can tell me all about it in a minute.  But wash your hands first.  And gargle."

Ferreteria Barcelona

"...and a side-order of weasel to go, thanks."