Adventures at the Jungle Farmhouse

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Albert and I just returned from visiting our very good friend Danny, who has been living on the big island of Hawaii for the last 11 years. We had been to Kona, the dry, resort-side of the island, but had never spent time on the wet side, where the locals live and play. I had no idea what to expect and it was fantastic.

Danny has a charming B&B in Hilo, 4 bedrooms, each with a private bathroom and balcony in a 100-year-old plantation home. His boyfriend Matthew happened to collect vintage Hawaiian fabrics and 60’s tiki tchotchke, so the place is decked out exactly like you want it to look. Matthew also makes breakfast at the B&B four days a week, and he’s a delicious cook, so I’m sure it’s great.

The reason I didn’t have his breakfast was that we stayed at Danny’s other property in Pahoa, which is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, jungle farmhouse. And when I say jungle farmhouse, I mean, the surroundings look like Jurassic Park and the farm has 2 dogs, 2 cats, 4 goats, 25 chickens, a rooster, ducks and ducklings, and a pig named Wilbur. Albert and I were with our friends William and John Price in the main house, and Danny and Matthew share the guesthouse in the back. The place is absolutely magical.

So, I got to wake up every morning and have coffee and watch the chickens and dogs outside the window. Then I would take a shower in the outdoor screened-in shower, and vary between relaxation and nervousness, when I would imagine a wild boar or God knows what lives in the jungle, attacking my bits. For the record, that’s all I ever saw was a dog and the chickens.

Every day we went to a different beach or volcanic tidal pool to swim in and snorkel. I saw amazing coral that looked like those Magic Rock chemical kits, and fish of every color. A giant sea turtle swam into me, and let me tell you, when that’s all you see is a huge green flipper grabbing you from the deep, it is terrifying. Later, the gentle sea cow was a beautiful thing, but first it was frightening.

We also went hiking at Volcanoes National Park through lava tubes and across vast barren landscapes that look like the moon. As I was walking across the rough, black pumice stone, I started to hear a rattling that was getting louder. I looked around the desolate ancient crater for the noise, hoping it wasn’t the Great Pele ready to explode, when I saw a couple far in the distance pushing a baby stroller across the lava field. The wheels on that thing were vibrating like machine-gun-fire, and that baby had to be shaking like a maraca, but the European couple looked like they were just strolling at the Walmart.

Danny also knows everybody in town so we got to meet the nicest locals. We met a lady who collects art glass and apparently cats. Her cats had cats, and her dogs each had a cat, and her bird also had a cat. She also built an awesome stage in her backyard so she could learn to tango. A teacher and other students show up every Wednesday night for dance class under the stars and twinkle lights. She also showed us her collection of imported tango shoes from Buenos Aires. Did I mention she’s a collector? Oh, I meant hoarder, but not the dead kitten kind, the nice glass and shoe kind.

We also spent a day at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens near Hilo, which is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen, with stunning ocean views. From here we visited friends of Danny who recently purchased a coffee and macadamia nut farm. The two couples are fixing up the house and learning to work the antique processing equipment, the beginning of a new adventure for them. After a tour of the property and delicious al fresco dinner, they made us individual banana splits with fresh island bananas, Kona coffee ice cream, and macadamia nuts they just picked and roasted for us. It is what I imagine heaven tastes like.

The vacation was fantastic and Danny is the best host. I wouldn’t be telling you all of this if it wasn’t possible for you to experience it for yourself. That would be just mean. Danny’s place in Hilo and his magical Jungle Farmhouse are both available to rent. So, if you are looking for a real Hawaiian adventure and need a place to stay, here are some links to his rentals.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/57447

http://hilobayhalebnb.com/

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RIP, Dad

vetI stopped blogging again, but this time I have an actual excuse. My dad died. Everything stops when somebody dies. It’s really the only unplanned thing that stops the world for a large group of people.

I’m not really ready to tell you the story yet. I process things by making them comedy, and I’m not ready to do that yet. My dad was progressively getting worse over the last 8 years, so I thought in the end it would all be easier than it was. I will say that I was sick with grief and then overwhelmed with love, both of which are a lot to take in. I was also reminded just how connected we all are, all of us.

So, my dad died on August 25. He would have been 88 on October 19, and then Dia de Los Muertos and All Saints Day were earlier this month, so he has been on my mind. Today is Veterans Day, and my dad served during the Korean War and had a military send off at his funeral. So again, he is on my mind. I miss him all the time.

I was sick of being sad, sick of things stopping and ending. So, I decided to learn something new, something I’ve always wanted to do, and have a new beginning. I turned to the thing that always gives me joy — music, and, for the first time in my life, I am taking piano lessons. I’ve had 5 half-hour lessons at the Hollywood Academy of Music on Melrose with a Filipino lady, and I’m terrible. She pokes me and says, “No, Beely!” and “Sit up straight, Beely,” and I absolutely love it. My lesson book is called “Adult Piano Adventures” which I think sounds like I’ll be learning to play music to accompany porn. In actuality, my piano adventure sound much like what I imagine Hellen Keller’s piano adventures would have sounded like. Noise.

There is an 8-year old Chinese girl I can hear in the lesson before me, who plays like Mozart, which makes me feel completely inept. She’s also adorable, so I totally hate her. I walk in after her, smile at my very patient teacher, and start banging out “Camptown Races” until I get poked. If my dad is watching, I’m sure he is laughing at me, and smart enough to leave the room for the next half an hour.

A Great Weekend

CarolOne of the best weekends happened right between my June 18th birthday and the 4th of July, two already fantastic weekends. On Thursday night, my friend Kris Garcia invited me to The Magic Castle for a benefit magic show that was to be followed by an interview with Carol Channing. Kris secured us the best seat in the house, so after some excellent magicians, I was about five feet in front of the 94-year-old legend for her fantastic storytelling. Channing was dressed exactly like Colonel Sanders, and because she has terrible vision she addressed most of her stories to the only person she could actually see—me! It was as if Carol Channing stopped by my house to tell me her best anecdotes, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Throughout the night Channing mentioned celebrity after celebrity, almost all of which her interviewer/handler would afterwards comment, “They’re dead.” Channing looked very upset about this old news, and repeatedly responded with an, “Oh no!” for optimum comic affect. To make the evening better, I was sitting next to two of the gay dudes from The People’s Couch, and further down the line was another famous Carol—Carol Brady. Towards the end of the evening, Channing’s interviewer mentioned that Florence Henderson was in the audience. Without missing a beat, Henderson screamed out, “Carol, I’m not dead!” I might add that not only is she alive, but she looks fantastic for 81. Apparently reruns keep you young.

The next morning, Friday June 26 for posterity, I woke up to the news that the Supreme Court approved gay marriage. Albert and I cried in bed as President Obama spoke those beautiful words. It was something that we have marched in the streets for, something we deserve as humans, yet something that I never thought could happen. I don’t know if I’m more excited about the potential of marriage, or that I just don’t have to hear so much hate spewed in my direction. I always sensed that ignorant people didn’t like homosexuals, but to actually hear such negative things said openly to your face as if you aren’t in the room is hard. It’s very hard. I have been a minority since around the age of 21, and it is eye-opening in every sense. I hope it’s made me a better, more empathetic person, because I believe there is a reason for everything. That’ll do.

Later that day, the same Kris that got me into the Magic Castle sent me a picture of a book he got autographed for me. It’s from his friend Richard Sherman of The Sherman Brothers who wrote all of Disney’s classic music. So to be clear, I met Carol Channing and Carol Brady, woke up to get my civil liberties, and then had a musical genius write my name in his book for me. Later that night I celebrated at an equality rally in West Hollywood. I was practically shooting happiness rainbows out of my eyes. To quote Channing, “Raspberries!”

To top it off, my good friends Trisha, Kevin, and Mayson were visiting from Cincinnati, and my good friend Danny was in from Hawaii. We all celebrated life with dinners, drinks, and pool parties. We ended the weekend dancing at The Hollywood Bowl to The Basement Jaxx. I’d already been to The Bowl twice in June, for Lady Gaga with Tony Bennett and for Jungle with Underworld. Both were awesome concerts, but I will never forget dancing Sunday evening under a sea of rainbow-colored glow sticks, feeling like I was part of something bigger. I wasn’t feeling gay pride, which I’ve felt before. I was feeling American pride.

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For a Good Time, Watch This

JackI used to love television, because beyond entertainment, it was our social media. It was our shared experience, because everyone was watching almost the same thing at the same time. You could sort of guess who your like-minded people were, by which of the four shows on television at any given time they liked. If they watched Love Boat and Fantasy Island, perhaps we would have been friends. If they liked Hee-Haw, they were not in my social circle. Simple. Now, I watch much less TV, because it’s less of a social topic. Nobody cares to hear what tired show you binged on all weekend.

With that said, I’m going to tell you some recent shows that have risen to the top of my list of shows worth watching. Sense8 on Netflix is the best show I’ve seen since Lost. It is done by the Wachowskis and it’s beautifully shot, directed, and acted. It is a sexy, humanistic sci-fi story that had me intrigued through all 12 episodes. Oh, and the cast is gorgeous, and they all get naked.

I also just started watching Humans on AMC, which is also a sci-fi with a lovely cast. It’s not as cinematic as Sense8 and so far has zero nudity (boo) but it’s also an interesting premise of a show that reminds me of a Black Mirror episode. If you haven’t seen that show there are only a few episodes out of the BBC and it’s excellent. I also just started watching Mr Robot on the USA network, which reminds me of Fight Club, also directed by the fantastic David Fincher.

If comedy is your thing, my favorites new shows not to be missed include: Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, You’re The Worst on FXX, and Grace and Frankie on Netflix. These shows are not for kids, and they might make you pee your pants. You’re welcome.

I also have a theater review for you, and it’s a musical you can bring your kids to. I saw the premiere of the national tour for Matilda and loved it. First, to be clear, I don’t have kids, and this show still cracked me up. I was not familiar with the source material, and I’m happy to say it’s as dark as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, another Roald Dahl book. The villain, Miss Trunchball, is played by a man, and his costume alone had me laughing whenever he took the stage. He/she refers to the kids as “maggots!” and gives Annie’s Miss Hannigan a run for the money for best evil guardian of children. Bring your own little maggots to this show when it comes to town, or go have fun like I did, knowing you don’t have to take a maggot home at the end of the night.

Tippi the Hat

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Tippi Hedren has been haunting me the last couple of weeks, even though she is quite alive, and we have never met. First I blame NPR, which is always blabbering away on my radio, like some smarty friend who always knows more than I do. There was a story about her crazy family making a movie called Roar, where they all lived with over 150 lions, tigers, and cheetahs, and many of the cast and crew were severely injured. While the movie was a disaster, Tippi continues to work for animal causes and created The Roar Foundation.

Then, there was another story about how Tippi Hedren is largely responsible for all of the Vietnamese nail salons in America. After the Vietnam War she actively looked for a way to help all of the refugee women. The ladies loved her nails, so she brought her manicurist to show them all how they were done. She taught them a valuable skill, and literally changed the economy for a large population of female entrepreneurs.

So, I have Tippi on the brain, and I’m running some errands on Melrose. I stop at a vending machine to possibly get a snack, when I realize that it’s a beauty vending machine. It is filled with hair extensions, fake eyelashes, and nail polish. I really just wanted some chocolate and hadn’t considered an afternoon of drag, so I continue on to my car. I take a seat in my car and leave the door open and check my phone messages before I leave. As I’m looking down at my phone, I feel something fly right by face and to the passenger seat. As I look over at the large bird sitting to my right, another bird flies into my open door, right by my face, and both birds start flapping around in my car. I do what any adult male would do in this situation. I jump out of the car and scream like a girl.

I’m screaming and running around the car opening all of the doors from the outside, when I notice a woman carrying her groceries into her house. She doesn’t even look at me. I could have had rapists in my car, not birds, and this woman couldn’t have known any different or cared any less. I continue to scream and swat like Tippi Hedren in The Birds until the devil beasts leave my car.

I get home and pull myself together and I’m sitting on the couch. I start to tell Albert about what happened in the car, and how I’m quite sure that Tippi Hedren is somehow responsible. I am clearly conjuring Melanie Griffith’s 85-year-old mother. Just then SMACK a bird hits the window outside, directly behind my head. Oh. My. God. Tippi!

GOsemite!

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Albert and I recently visited Yosemite Nation Park and it is stunning. Yes, I took a beautiful picture of one of the most fantastic panoramic views this country has to offer, but it doesn’t even begin to capture the overwhelming scale of this place. You absolutely must experience it first hand.

A couple weeks before we left, I was talking to Gabi’s sister Dalia about our plans and our reservations at the South Gate of the park, the closest entrance to Los Angeles. She looked at me and responded, “Well, you’re doing it wrong.”

We hadn’t even left yet, and we were already doing it wrong. First, let me say, for doing it wrong, it was still an unforgettable, beautiful trip. Second, after seeing how massive the park is, and how the South Gate was still an hour and a half from all of the activity in the Yosemite Valley, I realized that we were totally doing it wrong.

The park is celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year, which is also sort of amazing. Constructing the trails that climb for miles up granite cliffs, while also protecting the land, would be a feat today, with modern equipment. How this was done with dynamite, ropes, and horses, sort of blows my mind. They actually blew through the side of one of the mountains, just so cars would have to drive through a tunnel of darkness, like being shot out of a cannon, to exit on one of the most majestic views I have ever seen. The view stops you, stops everything. People from all over the world are walking around Yosemite with their jaws hanging open, just looking at all the splendor.

I have been to the Great Smokey Mountains, the most visited National Park, as well as Zion, Joshua Tree, The Petrified Forest, and, of course, the Grand Canyon. Yosemite is now at the top of my list of parks I want to return to for more hiking. If you have any interest in nature, get in your car and take a drive to one of these places. They are OUR parks, politically neutral, carved out by God and nature, and they give me American pride. Look what we can do! Thank you, Theodore Roosevelt.

Salvation Music

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There is a two-hour Bruce Jenner special on ABC tonight. It’s called Farewell to Bruce and I hope to God he reveals that he wants to be called Kim. Speaking of Kim Kardashian West, did you hear that her face is officially porn in Israel? Imagine being so beautiful that they have to blur your face, not your dirty bits but YOUR FACE, because people can’t stop touching themselves when they see you. I want that.

Instead, I’m fighting a losing battle against what goes into my mouth versus how often I want to go to the gym. I just read that it is proven that people who watch cooking-shows are fatter than those who don’t. Um, I have The Food Network on all the time, so even when I’m not focused on it, I’m sure I’m subliminally gaining weight. Just typing the word food made me hungry, so I don’t have a chance.

Speaking of food, there was another lost dog in Bronson Canyon with an unfortunate name. Do not name your dog Hambone and expect it not to be eaten by something. Looking at his picture on his “Have you seen Hambone?” sign, he was adorable and appetizer size, so watch out, dinner-sized pets! Also I just read that “bone broth” is a new trendy food in Los Angeles. Do people not know that is just stock, and really only the beginning of a recipe? Puhlease.

So much music has happened since last we chatted. First, I saw Carrie: The Musical at the La Mirada Theater, which was very fun and surprisingly good. The telekinetic bloodfest has been turned into a rock musical about bullying. They’re testing it as a site-interactive show, and in this production we were actually seated on the stage set up like a high school gymnasium, and they also had people seated on bleachers, which were moved like sets. The cast performed everywhere around the room, and both the cast and the props flew dramatically through the air and overhead, which was very cool. Emily Lopez beautifully and nakedly (literally) played Carrie White. Her mother was hauntingly portrayed by the always terrific Misty Cotton. Yes, that is her real name and she can sang.

We also went to the first weekend of Coachella with our friends Steve and Corey. It was perfect weather and the Goldenvoice people know how to throw a great party in the desert. The art, the lights, the food, and of course the music, were all top notch. My standouts included Alabama Shakes, Kaskade, and Fitz and the Tantrums. This years star sightings were Clint Eastwood, Katy Perry (gorgeous), Eddie Cibrian (gorgeous), Shaun White, Tony Goldwyn from Scandal, and Kaitlin Doubleday from Empire who looks like a young Kelly Ripa.

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We also took a side trip to the Salton Sea, which is a large beautiful mistake of a lake. It is a huge salty lake created by an accident, fed by runoff, and surrounded by destitution and methamphetamine. There’s also a giant art piece in the middle of nowhere called Salvation Mountain, which seemed to have been inspired by Jesus and Dr Seuss. Again, I’m guessing methamphetamine. It’s a colorful, whimsical, and inspirational mountain of love and insanity.

Last weekend the music continued as we were invited to a garden concert. Our talented friends Rayna and her husband Jason sang folk songs accompanied by beautiful guitar and banjo playing. Several of their friends sang and played under a tree twinkling with lights, and we drank wine by a crackling chiminea and soaked in the stars above. Summer in SoCal has begun.

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