The Carnival of Modern Man, My Dad, Walt Whitman and me


All of you who have been chiding me about my recent lack of blogging will be happy to know I’ve been summoned from my slumber by the brand wizards and trend gurus at PSFK. They were looking for some guys to blog as part of their “Carnival of Modern Man” and, as a big fan of their blog, masculinity and, well, carnivals I guess, I said yes. Thus the logo. (Does this make me a carny of some sort?)

Anyway, I’ll be blogging on this topic frequently for the next couple of weeks and I really hope all of you–the nonfamous nonstrangers and our quiet lurkers alike!–will chime in. Feel free to give me tips on any man-related tidbits that you think would be good grist for the mill.

It’s an expansive topic, and one that I navigate with occasional perplexity. What’s a post-gay guy to do in a world where metrosexuals, ubersexuals, transsexuals, thugs, bears, bois, meatheads and Fake Cowboy Presidents fight over the scraps of meaning in our fallen republic? As Rufus Wainwright sings “Made me a man/ oh but who cares what that is?”

Actually, compared to a lot of gay guys I know, I don’t worry about it too much. I guess the main reason I can be completely comfortable in my skin as a man is my dad. Those of you who know him know that he’s a giant redwood of a man who has spent most of his life tearing down (and occasionally blowing up) buildings. For the past year, he has been in New Orleans helping dig the city out of its mucky neglect. In short, his butch bona fides are there for all to see and have never been questioned.

But he’s also an amazingly delicate man with a laugh that is prone to escalating into a high giggle, a propensity to cry at the movies and a steadfast commitment to doing his share (OK, more than his share) of the housework. He has never told a fart joke and no matter how filthy hours of work on a demolition site might make him, his nails are always fastidiously clean. I’m not sure which of my sisters started it, but we’ve called him a “sensitive new age redneck” for years–which I suppose means for him it’s no contradiction to listen to Rush Limbaugh and tell me how angry he gets when the GOP has another of its bad jags of gay-baiting. The “Big L” is an amazing guy and as different as our lives are, he’s an amazing father and role model for me. Here is my favorite recent picture of him, with me at David’s and my wedding in Vancouver:


(That may well have been his pink cocktail by the way… he hardly ever drinks but when he does he kind of likes the girly drinks.)

And just for good measure, a shot of him and his Christmas present the previous year:


The Quake being, of course, the gay rugby team David and I played on. Why not?

All that is to say that I always knew, on a deeply personal level, that real men aren’t troubled by our contradictions–we revel in them. Walt Whitman is, of course, the patron saint of this faith:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I conradict myself
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

But there’s very little Whitman left these days, which I guess is one reason Modern Man needs a carnival. Just don’t waste your money on the ring toss.

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4 thoughts on “The Carnival of Modern Man, My Dad, Walt Whitman and me”

  1. I wonder how much of people’s conception of masculinity is based upon their father and the role he played in their life?

  2. What I always find charming is that at any age and from any race or culture, boys will be boys. There is always a moment when that boy-behavior peeks out through the mature/masculine facade. My next door neighbor from Pakistan used to take apart fire-works and rebuild them into bigger ones when he was a boy. My husband, half a world away did the same thing. United on our street on the 4th of July, they regress to 10 year olds, excitedly strategizing on the best way to blow up stuff.

  3. The Larry is the greatest. Jay is second. What a lucky girl am I to have these two men as the major influences of my childhood?

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