Today I had a sweet couple from China, who had just arrived from Vegas on a typical West Coast tour. After losing $100 in Vegas and visiting the outlet shops, they asked for my advice on a fish tackle shop to find a gift for the girl’s fisherman father. I said “If you want to find the perfect gift for a fisherman, you are talking to the right guy!” Then I looked up fishing store on Yelp because they were talking to the wrong guy. I’ve never fished for anything but a compliment.
So anyway, adorable and charming little couple, describing their journey and asking for recommendations on where to go next. Their eyes lit up about New York, Boston, and Miami, but when I suggested Chicago, they visibly recoiled.
“Oh, no… too many black people…”
“Oh…,” I said nodding and wide-eyed, like you do when you’re being supportive and overly-affirming to a foreigner struggling with the language.
To a native English speaker, I’d have nervous laughed and said something like “Did you just say too many blacks?” But to someone with a thick Chinese accent struggling to speak English, I just smiled and said “Yes but just the right amount of deep dish pizza…”
In my mind I wanted to add “But New York also has a buttload of blacks, and honestly if you’re avoiding blacks you should probably steer clear of every major city in the U.S. And PS: how many is too many? Also you can’t say stuff like that, because it’s actually pretty racist and offensive. Especially coming from a Chinese couple — because you’re terrible drivers but I wouldn’t say that out loud because that’s racist. I mean I said it right there, because I was making a point.”
But seriously, can you imagine rush hour in Shanghai?
I probably should have taken a stand or at least pressed for clarification — I feel like I missed out on a potential Rosa Parks moment. (Although frankly, I don’t know Rosa Parks’ whole backstory on her back of the bus story. Maybe she took a shine to the married bus driver and wanted to sit in front because she’s a slutty home wrecker. Maybe she saw a spider in the back of the bus and moved to the front because she’s just a fraidy-cat. We’ll never know the real story).
All I know is that if I had suggested San Francisco and they had said “Oh no — too many gays…” I would have gone OFF. (And by gone off, I mean watched TV with a glass of wine).
Anyway, I just shrugged and withdrew to my bedroom, as my charming but racist guests headed up to discover the Walk of Fame.
I was just channel surfing and accidentally ran aground on PBS, a network built on the principle that begging for money 24/7 is morally superior to airing commercials. PBS primarily alternates between 3 shows: Yanni in concert, Wayne Dyer, and begging for money. Today it was Yanni in Concert, or Yawni as I used to call him in college – although that joke only works when it’s written, or if you do a yawning hand emotion when you’re saying it. Since Yanni has always been the David Copperfield of music to me, I thought it would be fun to see how terrible he had become.
After a minute it was kind of ok, so while I was waiting for the terrible I started tapping my foot, just to pass the time. The concert is like a circuit party for old straight people whose only drug is Chardonnay. As the music kept building and more instruments and singers joined in, audience members began hugging each other, openly weeping, and generally falling apart.
Suddenly the song became so exciting I felt like the whole Universe was opening up to me and I was a flower bud that had just discovered sunlight. Packs of wolves were circling and howling and stars began shooting across the sky and the music continued to build until I wanted to stretch my arms out wide like Christ the Redeemer (if that Christ is just posing to be awesome and not being nailed to a cross or whatever), and yell “Yes! Yes! We are alive and we all are one!”
Thankfully the song finally ended and I quickly changed the channel to something that is a better reflection of how young and hip I am.
I was 17 when my father died, and the only moments of peace in the months that followed were in the few seconds after waking up, before my synapses started firing. That twilight between my dream state and the reality of my day. But when my first thought finally formed each morning, it was inevitably, “something is wrong.” Then the fog cleared and I remembered my father was gone. And in an instant, the heaviness in my heart returned, my spirit shrank, and the physical weight of my emotional grief climbed on my back like a giant gorilla.
It’s how I felt again, the day after Steve Jobs died.
While the world lost a charismatic visionary, I lost something far more personal. Steve had been my hero since I was 15 years old. In my career as a Mac consultant, and later editor, publisher, and TV writer, he was my True North. On the day I heard the news, even more than grief and sadness, I felt derailed and set adrift.
Every teen feels the world revolves around them, but growing up in Silicon Valley in the 80s, it actually did. For me, the best of America was California, the best of California was the Bay Area, and the best of the Bay Area was the Silicon Valley where I lived — the epicenter of an industry that was transforming the world.
I was naturally drawn to technology, and I was one of the geeks who’d spend every lunch hour in high school shackled to an Apple II writing code in Basic. Writing programs that always returned a predictable result was so powerful to me. The computer was never wrong. Even when I was certain I had done everything correctly, if the computer returned an unexpected result, it was always due to user error.
The code objectively reflected the user’s thinking process, and thus revealed any flaws. Ultimately that meant the solution to every problem was within me — to get a different result I had to alter the program or change my approach, which is an ideal metaphor for all of life’s problems. For me the computer came to represent objective truth, which is probably why unlike my parents’ generation, I tend to trust computers over people. Through programming I learned not only critical thinking, but also the power and precision of language. It’s probably why I’m a writer today.
My father owned an electric typewriter rental company, and I used to help him on his delivery runs. He’d pack his giant Cadillac up with a selection of IBM Selectrics, and I’d accompany him around to different offices where I’d lug the typewriters in while he flirted with the secretaries. His gift was humor — a talent he’d use to charm these girls into ordering just about anything he wanted to sell them.
But dad’s whole business was built on a technology that was about to get stomped on by the PC, and more directly, the LaserWriter. It may have just been a generational thing, but he was perfectly happy running his analog business. While I valued my dad’s humor and ability to connect with people, I was starved for a young role model I could emulate, who understood computers and the future that Silicon Valley was creating.
When Steve Jobs burst onto the scene, he was handsome, charismatic, and confident, and embodied everything the Bay Area was about. He was sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and he resonated with me immediately. I grew up in Los Altos, less than 2 miles from Steve’s infamous garage on Crist Drive, so Steve’s story naturally became my own blueprint for what was possible as an entrepreneur. Steve and I lived in the same hood so I considered him my tribal leader, and tasked myself with learning everything I could about the man and the company he was creating.
I once delivered a typewriter to an office which had a just-released LISA computer — the precursor to the Macintosh. When the owner saw me stop in my tracks, typewriter in hand, to stare at the LISA, he tried to impress his secretaries by explaining to me “This is a LISA — it was named after Steve Jobs’ daughter.” I shot back “It’s also an acronym for Local Integrated Software Architecture. Where do you want this?”
An old man thinks he knows more about an Apple computer than me? Please.
At the time, I was also a closeted teenager, and I had done what so many gay kids of that era did to distract the world from our developing sexual identities: I became an overachieving “Golden Boy.” I kept my hardworking single mom happy by cleaning the house and having wine and cheese waiting for her when she got home from work. I related to adults better than with other kids, and bonded with my mom’s friends – who often confided in me with their marriage problems. I helped dad with his business, taught myself computer programming, and set a school record for the 50-yard dash. I took AP classes in high school during the day while taking classes in French and Accounting at a community college at night. I was the youngest member of a local dance company, and was even dating (albeit platonically) the head cheerleader. Like a good Golden Boy, I had all my plates spinning solidly in the air.
When my father died suddenly of a heart attack, all the plates came crashing down.
His death cracked me wide open and left me lost and scrambling. I didn’t know who I was or how to move forward. Without my father’s guidance, and still rejecting my true self, I needed that tribal leader more than ever. Steve Jobs became my superman, and a model for the kind of man I could be moving forward.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Macintosh. It was the first consumer level computer with a graphical user interface (GUI), and there was an application called MacPaint, which let you fill a square with a pattern like stripes or bricks, and select different tools like a paintbrush or spray paint can. Once I created a wall of bricks and wrote my name in spray paint to emulate graffiti, something clicked. It wasn’t what the technology could do, it was what I could do with the technology. Digitally manipulating graphics is trivial now of course, but 32 years ago, it was a revelation.
That first Mac experience was also the first time I uttered the two words that became my mantra around every new Apple product: “Must. Have.”
The Mac was $2,500 – and this was in 1984. I had no idea what programs came with it, if any, but as a non-artist I could create a graffiti wall in seconds and that’s all it took. The technology made me an artist. That was the magic of Steve’s vision. It wasn’t about the computer, it was about what technology could do for regular people — which is why his vision for the Mac was “a computer for the rest of us.”
The first time I performed with the dance company on stage was at the age of 15 at Flint Center – the same stage where Steve announced the Macintosh. For the next 30 years, I continued to follow in Steve’s tailwind as he journeyed from Apple to NeXt to Pixar and back to Apple, transforming industries with products like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. I made my living as an Apple consultant off and on for 20+ years, and explored veganism, meditation, Zen Buddhism, and calligraphy solely because Steve did. In 1998 my partner Sam and I created a successful magazine for gay men who didn’t feel represented by gay media. The magazine took off when in a nod to Steve we added the tagline, “the magazine for the rest of us.”
I never missed a single one of Steve’s Apple keynotes, and I’ve waited in line for every new Apple product since the first iPod. In 2013 when I was a writer/producer for Ellen Degeneres, the first monologue I wrote for Ellen that made it to air was about the release of the latest iPhone. Suffice it to say, Steve’s influence on my life has been significant.
One of the things I admired most about the man was his obsession with design. Steve knew that design could function as a key to unlock understanding. Remote controls are inherently confusing because there are too many buttons – so simplify, simplify, simplify, and you’re left with a 5-button Apple TV remote. Keep refining the design of a smart phone and you’ll get an iPhone with a single button. That same design rigor created a complex tablet computer that even a 2-year old can intuitively use (if you’ve seen a child with an iPhone or iPad you know what I mean).
I’ve learned that writing functions in the exact same way – it’s the other side of the design coin. With careful thought and precision, you can design a reader’s emotional experience simply by writing down words and phrases in a specific sequence. The right sequence can evoke laughter, tears, understanding, and connection. Writing and design are both tools for transformation — programming languages with the power to change the world.
Steve understood this — it was the kind of magic he orchestrated on a daily basis. And sometimes we don’t know the magic we’re capable of creating ourselves until we see it in someone else.
It’s been 5 years since the world lost Steve Jobs, and since today is his birthday I wanted to say thank you, Steve — for the endless moments of beauty, magic and inspiration you brought and continue to bring to my life. You were a bright light in a dark time for this young boy, and it was an honor to have been a part of your tribe.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Remember when 2 Girls 1 Cup made us all swear off ever eating a Frosty again? Just found this reaction video I made in Thailand. I love that videos of people just watching the video for the first time became a thing.
Jerry Brown lives in my hood and few months ago Romeo greeted him in an outdoor patio where he regularly has coffee with his wife. He was nice, petting Romeo and telling me about how he used to have Golden Retrievers and how long they lived.
For some reason, anyone I pass on the street who has ever had a Golden, and I mean ANYONE, insists on telling me how old THEIR Golden was when he died. This is just a bizarre and inappropriate thing that everyone does, and Jerry was no exception.
Anyway, I just saw Jerry having dinner across the street from my house, and Romeo again ran onto the patio to greet him like they were long lost friends. I love that Romeo is the great social equalizer.
Jerry knows I’m a fan but I had just seen Whitman’s latest ad and I literally had to bite my lip to not blurt out “Uh oh… hide your wallet…” because at the time I thought that would have been so freakin hilarious.
Upon reflection, I’m glad I kept quiet. I was on my third glass of wine.
Oh well – petting my dog may be the equivalent of kissing babies during an election, but I like that Jerry’s so accessible AND he’s a dog person.
Just found this video I made on my last day at the Cocktail World Cup in New Zealand. As I was packing to leave Queenstown, I began to realize that I am completely delusional. Does everyone pack like this? Or is it just me?
So I met this guy online and he seemed cool and we’d even hooked up once before a few months ago, and it seemed about time to try another date. So we’re all set and he’s literally on the way over, and I get out of the shower to find an email from him on my iPhone.
Oh and before I come over there’s something you should know… It’s nothing nasty, painful, or dirty…
I was kind of disappointed that it wasn’t going to be nasty, painful, or dirty, but his announcement ended up being just a little too clean for me. Like kids’ birthday party clean.
I have a balloon fetish. I know that must sound totally strange and weird but I find the act very powerful and masculine. These are just the regular round shaped ones you get at the party supply. All that I ask you to do is blow up a couple. You game?
I love that he pointed out that it’s “just the round shaped ones,” lest I thought he wanted me to blow up a clown balloon and twist it into a giraffe or something. Because THAT would be weird.
Sadly, I wasn’t game.
And I did take a moment to think it through, because I’ve done a lot crazier things for sex, but when I walked through the scene in my mind, I couldn’t get through it without laughing. I have this panel of friends who are always sitting in my head (Derek, Alex, Laura), and when I have plans that the panel in my mind would laugh at, I usually don’t go through with them. This is why I don’t do karaoke or have any piercings or date anyone under 25 (any more).
I guess I’m pretty traditional. Like talking dirty during sex — I’m sorry, but it’s ridiculous. I just want to say “What are you doing? Are you being a character? Are you acting out a little scene while we’re having sex? How is that not weird?” But then you don’t want to kill their game so you half-heartedly answer back with some kind of “Um, yeah — I do like that…” without sounding sarcastic or patronizing — which is hard enough for me in the first place.
Why couldn’t he be into something hot like wearing scrubs or a cowboy hat or a uniform? Even if it were throwing darts or jumping rope or spinning like a top, I probably could have suffered through it. But slowly blowing up a balloon was just too inherently whimsical to take seriously.
I was also positive that I was being punk’d and my friends just wanted a videotape of me blowing up a balloon to get laid so they could post it on YouTube. So I called off the date and sent my circus friend on his way.
I’ve been procrastinating on a few scripts and projects for a few… um, decades. But I make it a policy to never complain about that to anyone EVER. Except friends and family and people ahead of me in line at Fat Sal’s and customer service reps. So when a friend recently suggested I read a book about “breaking through blocks and winning your inner creative battles” called The War of Art, I countered that I didn’t have writer’s block, I just didn’t know what to write, which sounded self-aware until I typed it into our IM, where it immediately became retarded. So since I have Amazon One-Click the book arrived in 48 hours. Page 1:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
I was instantly exhausted and confronted. This seemed like a good place to stop and contemplate my general disdain of books, and reading in general. And following the advice of friends.
Thankfully I had thought to bring two popsicles to this reading session with me, so I put the book down, and spent several minutes carefully unwrapping the popsicle, wrapping the paper back around the stick, sucking on the top, and positioning the popsicle in a way that would provide easy access to both eating it with one hand, and turning the page with the other. It was like a popsicle tea ceremony. I continued.
Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
I sighed loudly and closed my eyes. This mattress pad is amazing. How does Costco have such low prices? I wonder if they have samples during the week, or is it only on weekends?
I continued to read the book for what must have been at least 90 seconds, and began physically writhing and twisting on the bed. Each word burned my skin like holy water on Linda Blair, and I fidgeted until I could bear it no more. I took the book to the bathroom.
When you don’t have a real job, you begin creating tasks to complete during your day, which give you a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. A year ago I had tasks like:
write 10 pages
Now my list includes easier items like:
eat a snack
cuddle with dog
go to the bathroom
I’m close to adding “digest food” and “divide my cells.” But in the bathroom I realized that I forgot to add “read War of Art” to my list… So with nothing to cross off when it was done, this whole attempt could be considered wasted time.
And at this point I didn’t even have an active list to add to, so I’d have to create a brand new list. I made a mental note to create a list, and a second mental note to add this book to the list. Maybe I should keep a physical list of mental notes? I made a third mental note to create a physical list of mental notes.
Before further filling up my mental note pad, I thought I’d check how many pages I’d read so far, to try and psyche myself into going on, like one of the contestants on the Biggest Loser hoping they had lost at least 10 pounds. But there were no page numbers! This was madness. Why would they write a book and not include page numbers? I flipped through the book and there seemed to be numbered pages towards the back… Finally I realized that the pages of the book were numbered, except for the Intro, which was four pages long and I was still stranded on page two. I’d been wrestling with this book for a half hour and apparently had only turned the page once.
After such an intense realization, I took a deep breath and decided to just stop everything and do what needed to be done:
When you’re in Patong, it’s hard to get your mind around all the creepy white guys who come for the girls. Almost ALL the white guys are with Thai bar girls. Occasionally they’re young and attractive guys, but the vast majority are much older and/or morbidly obese. Which is absolutely fine – everybody deserves a little lovin! But what makes it creepy is when they walk around holding hands like they’re showing off their young, hot girlfriends. I just want to say “Dude, put your ego in check — everyone knows you’re paying for sex..”
Here’s a montage of a typical day at Tiger Muay Thai.
And below is Saohin, one of my favorite trainers, doing his famous warm-up. He tries to get me all excited so I’ll jump in and join him, but I mostly just cower in the corner, watching him and complaining about my back.
It’s so funny that these guys are constantly walking around with giant bruises and black eyes and skinned knees, or just bashed up arms from wiping out on their moped, etc. I’m so not used to my body being hurt in any way. One of the trainers was wrapping my hands and I told him to wrap it high on the knuckles because I had a “boo boo” (Look it just came out. He didn’t speak much English. It’s a universal word.)
As if my fighter street cred wasn’t tenuous enough.
Today as I was dodging coconuts on the way to Mama’s, a huge coconut branch fell out of the tree and landed next to me. Like god was saying “Think you can escape my coconut bombs? Try surviving THIS!”
Then I looked down at the ground just as my foot was stepping directly onto a 3-foot snake. Now granted the snake was dead, but let’s just say I’m not exactly proud of my reaction, and just thank Christ no one had that on video. Because if they did, I’m pretty sure “Screaming jumping snake guy” would be an internet sensation by now.