Monday, August 18, 2008


I absolutely cannot wait for these gymnastics events to be over. They are seriously bad for my disposition.

My girl, Nastia, got TOTALLY screwed.

I'm not mad about the tie-breaker situation. That is a computer-based solution to a problem that shouldn't exist. Here's the thing: gymastics, like diving and ice-skating and ski-jumping, etc... is a sport which relies on the opinions of experts. These experts are human. No matter how hard the sport tries to eliminate bias and incompetence, the results will be intrinsically unfair. There is no way to truly define a winner or loser in a sport that uses human beings to determine the results. This is a condition which the sport has accepted. But the new scoring system has been designed to mitigate human error as much as possible.

Unfortunately, they’ve created a system that makes scoring harder without actually fixing the problem, which is: THE JUDGES ARE FRIKKIN’ BLIND.

I’ve said it a thousand times, I’m not an expert. But if I can see visible errors from my T.V. at home, then there is no excuse for the judges to ignore them. Tonight, the Chinese girl and Nastia each did routines with the same difficulty score, which means they started dead even. The Chinese girl had visible errors and didn’t stick her landing. Nastia had fewer visible errors and stuck her landing.

Yes, the computer-based tie-breaker was a load of bullshit, but it shouldn’t have even COME to that.

I know what people will say: “Well, Reeva, you’re an emotional American. You’re watching the American telecast led by American commentators, which is supplemented by the blustering of Bela Karolyi. You’re not an expert, so shut the hell up.”

I will respond, “No, YOU shut up! Everything you say is true, but the scores are right there for me to see. And the judges have been systemically generous to the Chinese and overly critically to the Americans. Yes, Bela Karolyi has a bias, but I trust him, because he’s been in the sport longer than anyone in that gym, judges and coaches included. There is no way that Chinese girl deserved that high of a score for her routine, and Nastia obviously received questionable deductions. Basically, Nastia got screwed over by the judges and the Chinese girl won by a technicality.”

And then we‘ll pull each other’s hair.

Seriously, after watching Alicia Sacramone get screwed on the vault, and then this, I can't bring myself to watch the floor exercise competition. I hope I have my Olympic spirit back by tomorrow.

EDIT::: OK, it's been about 15 minutes and I'm much calmer now. First of all, the Chinese girl has a name, Kexin He, and I didn't mean to be disrespectful towards her. She performed a gorgeous routine and very much deserved to be rewarded. I take nothing away from her. I have to remind myself that in a sport with such relative scoring standards, these things happen all the time. In a way, these suck-outs are in the nature of the sport.

No, my beef is with the judges. So... judges: if I may suggest Lenscrafters... the eye exam is free.

The sisterhood of Fabulous...

Since the premiere of the third season of Ugly Betty won’t come fast enough, here’s a post about America Ferrera to tide us over.

(aside: I'm not sure if this dress is great, but I like it because it looks like lots of keyboards. It makes me want to go pound out some Chopin...)

I’m not the first to notice this, but it is interesting how things have worked out. When The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants came out, Alexsis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn were the hotshots du jour, thanks to successful stints on Gilmore Girls and Joan of Arcadia, respectively. They shared the movie screen with a then unknown Blake Lively and a known but still underappreciated America Ferrera. Three years and a dramatic switcheroo… now, America is an emmy-winning, Latin-achievement-award-accepting, beautiful-red-carpet-gown-wearing superstar, and Blake Lively is a blog-heroine thanks to her role in Gossip Girl, a show which gets a ton of attention, and yet, no one seems to watch.

Full disclosure: I probably won’t see Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 in theatres. I don’t know, it just seems like more of a rental to me. That said, I’m sure it’ll be good. I have noticed that the press for the movie has been skewed America’s way, which is fine with me, although… I do wish Alexis would get more attention. Anyway, since America and Blake are the popular girls now, they’ve been doing some interviews together, with hilarious results. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who thinks Gossip Girl is kind of dumb. Keep your eyes on Fidgety McBoredom (America).

If it’s possible, seeing that makes me love that girl even more.

Besides being delightfully bitchy, she is always radiant on the red carpet, too, and I’m hoping she gets recognized as one of the better dressed celebs at some point. There’s a polish to her that you don’t see all the time, and listening to her speak, I actually perceive that she has a brain. Really, all four girls in the cast of Sisterhood are up there in my book. They aren’t in the tabloids that much, they are always wearing panties, and they can speak in complete sentences. What else is there?

Jakey-kins… is that you??

I know these shots are a little bit old, and any and all Gyllenhaal enthusiasts have already seen them, but I just had to post these pictures. I was kind of surprised to see him looking so buff, though, because from the little that I know about the videogame, the Prince isn’t necessarily a huge specimen – but I’m not complaining. Like, at all.

The long hair is something to consider. When the pictures of Jake with the longer hair started surfacing a few weeks back, I was not a fan – mostly because it looked like he wasn’t washing it regularly. But here, it totally works.

I’m glad Jake seems to recognize who is paying his bills. If Brokeback didn’t secure 100% of the gay demographic, this movie should grab the stragglers. He knows his fanbase, and we soooo appreciate it.

And Helllllloooooo codpiece.

Past fav pics of Jakey-kins, after the jump…

Friday, August 15, 2008

Finally... GOLD for US Gymnastics...

I’m having a different Olympics experience this time around. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I watched so little of the Games. I was unemployed during the Athens Games, so… that helped. But the time difference is the real killer. The gymnastics events are happening sooo late at night; I can barely stay awake to see the outcomes. For the women’s team finals, I missed the epic meltdown of Alicia Sacramone, because I was having an epic meltdown of my own… in my bed. Wait, that doesn’t sound right at all. I went to bed, ok? And I hated myself for it.

The next night was a repeat. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the end of the Men’s all-around, but I suppose I didn’t miss much – I think my man Horton finished 9th and the other one was 12th.

I did watch the swimming, though, which is always fun. I’m gonna be honest here: I think I have Michael Phelps fatigue. I’m invested in his run to 8 gold medals and all the records and blah blah blah, but I feel like the primetime coverage has become so Phelps-centric, I’m all, “can I see something else, please?” I mean, aren’t there other Olympic-type things going on somewhere? I felt the same way about the gymnastics coverage, too. I’m pulling for America and everything, but I’m not opposed to watching other athletes from other countries compete. Like, in the men’s team finals, all we saw were the Americans and the Chinese. The Japanese took the silver and I don’t think we saw more than two of their routines. What’s up with that?

The women’s team final was good Olympics, though, at least the parts that I saw… I really enjoy watching Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin work. First of all, they look like women. There’s a maturity to their movements and athleticism that I appreciate, and which I don’t get it from the Chinese girls. Alright, let’s just do this! I don’t believe for a second that all those Chinese girls are over 16. Some of them? Maybe. But most of them are still in diapers. So what if the Chinese government produced passports? This is the same government… you know what? I’m not going to do this. If the proof of age documents passed the IOC, then I guess it’s a done deal. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t put it past the Chinese Gymnastics Team to do anything, and I mean anything to win. The part that confuses me most is why they would cheat, if they did. Is it an advantage to be younger and smaller? I would think the inexperience would be enough of a disadvantage to discourage sneaking in younger gymnasts. Then again, the younger gymnasts aren’t dealing with beaten up bodies and even more beaten up psyches. Maybe it’s a toss-up. But those girls aren’t 16.

I hope the women aren’t too disappointed with their second place finish. Obviously, if Sacramone had landed her routines, or even just one of them, they probably would have won the whole thing. Any other night, and they probably would have won, but them’s the breaks, right? I thought they performed magnificently, and they certainly put pressure on the Chinese. Taking second place is always easier to swallow if you know the winner had to really work for it, and those Chinese girls definitely had to work. Moreover, I couldn’t be more proud of Sacramone and her teammates. In interviews, Alicia Sacramone made no excuses, but simply stated that her nerves beat her, which can happen to anyone. Meanwhile, the other girls stood by her, smiling and enjoying their silver medal win. After all, competing in the Olympics is an honor in itself, and a silver medal is nothing to cry about.

I will say that I love the America/China rivalry, because it’s one that I can actually see - like, for myself, without all the help from the commentators. I can’t really explain it, but I think I can see it. The Chinese are more polished and elegant, but the Americans (both the men and women) seem so much more explosive and powerful on the equipment. I think the judges have their preferences, too, which goes a long way to explain why the two countries are constantly trading the first place finishes. But the Chinese are also incredibly consistent, which isn’t surprising considering the lifetime of focus and pressure.

What does everyone think of the new scoring? It took me a while to understand it, and now that I do… I’m undecided. I applaud any attempt to make the scoring fairer, which I believe is what they’re trying to do. By establishing a degree of difficulty score, and taking the deductions from a separate execution score out of ten, and then combining the two – it seems like a good way to go on paper. But I have to say, it sure does drain the excitement out of the sport.

The degree of difficulty score is meant to reward the gymnasts who perform difficult skills, but what that actually does is force more falls, because some gymnasts are doing skills they don’t really have, so perfection becomes more and more rare. But it doesn’t do them any good to do easier routines, either, because then they can’t beat the harder routines even when they perform perfectly. Am I making sense? The Chinese guy with the hardest routine could miss his landing completely, and even skip a skill during his routine, and he would still receive a higher score than the French dude who performed an easier routine, but perfectly. So what happens is – teams like the Chinese and the Americans just shut everyone else out. The contest is decided before it even starts. I’m struggling to find the sport in that. Ok, I’m done.

That brings us to last night. I’m shocked at how into volleyball I am during the Olympics. I really enjoyed watching the Men’s volleyball team beat Bulgaria. And the Beach Volleyball match between Misty and Kerri and the Belgians was a real treat. It fires me up. How crazy was it that Misty and Kerri almost lost that first set? To an unseeded team? Who barely made it to the elimination rounds to begin with? I have no doubts that Misty and Kerri would have come back and won the match, but dropping a set would have been a huge upset in itself – for them, anyway.

I only made it through the first two rotations of the women’s all around in gymnastics. I was excited about it, but then I quickly became discouraged when the scores started popping up. After both Shawn and Nastia got screwed on the vault and the uneven bars, I decided to call it a night. I was getting all sorts of pissed off about it and I don’t like to go to bed angry, so I shut it off and went to sleep. I was thinking as I dozed that I was going to wake up to a major headline, “U.S. Team Protests Crackpot Judges,” or, “Luikin kicks balance beam judge in teeth – mayhem ensues,” or, “Shawn Johnson moons judges during Floor routine – audience gives perfect 10.”

I really don’t understand how these athletes and coaches keep their cool during these meets when the judges are throwing out scores that clearly aren’t based in reality. I don’t know if it’s the new scoring or what, but when the Chinese girl jumps on the balance beam, checks her balance no less than 5 times, steps out on her landing, starts with a lower difficulty value, and STILL manages to score better than an American who did a tougher routine and did it better… something ain’t right! That’s what was happening. I loved how the commentators were literally biting their tongues. You just know they wanted to call bullshit. Well, they don’t need to because we aren’t blind. Those judges were going very easy on the Chinese and that is a FACT.

So you can imagine how happy-slash-upset I was this morning to read that Nastia and Shawn managed to snap up the gold and silver. Happy because, well… it’s good news. But upset because I missed it. I’m sure they’ll show it again at some point (I hope!). The best part, though, is that the US ruined the chance for China to sweep the medals. I think it was the Chinese head coach who said, and I’m quoting loosely, “This Olympics will be a failure if we don’t win all the medals.” First of all, that’s just a terrific attitude, I say sarcastically. Second of all, SUCK IT! HAH!

Now we have to work on breaking their gold medal streak in diving.

Some bonus eyecandy!

We didn’t see much of him during the competitions, but Raj Bhavsar is sooooo hot. I have a thing for ethnic guys, especially Indians.

This picture made me laugh out loud. It’s incredibly cheesy, but I appreciate it anyway. For obvious reasons.

Ah, camaraderie. This picture does it for me, I’m not gonna lie.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bronze = Win!

I was thoroughly enraptured by the Men’s Gymnastics Team Final last night. Picture me on my couch, a large afghan wrapped around my shoulders, rocking back and forth with nervous energy, a pillow close at hand in case I need to cover my eyes during a particularly stressful routine on the pommel horse. That was my night.

And seriously, who needs The Brothers Hamm?! I sure don’t; not with all this eye candy around. I kind of fell in love with Jonathan Norton a little bit – so compact, so tightly muscled, so happy to be there. I don’t know who the official leader of this team happened to be, but I felt like he was the main motivator – the emotional leader of the crew, at least. His floor routine was magical.

And what about Justin Spring, with that insane high bar routine? Like Jonathan, Justin was consistently good all night long, and he really came through when it counted. Just think, if Paul or Morgan Hamm had been around, we wouldn’t have met these guys. The thought of it makes me sad… and angry. After watching the Chinese robo-perform, I’m not sure if the Hamm brother’s presence would have made a difference in the outcome.

I have to say, though, the Chinese Team was kind of unreal. Based on what we heard about the Chinese gymnastics culture, these guys are true machines. While I admire that kind of discipline and focus, I’m not sure the American culture can cultivate that kind of single-mindedness. From observing, I sensed that the American team just wanted to do well and maybe, just maybe, prove themselves a little bit. Meanwhile, the Chinese Team competed like they had knives at their throats. A part of me thinks the Americans have it right, even if they don’t win gold medals.

I was so thrilled to see how happy and excited the American team was when they clinched the bronze. They could have been disappointed, because up until the last rotation, they had a really good shot at the silver. They had some missteps, of course, but with everything the team went through, and the intimidation factor of facing China at home, winning a bronze medal is a huge W-I-N, and I was gratified to watch them celebrate that - sincerely. Do you think China would have reacted that way if they’d ended up with a bronze? Yeah, I think the Americans have it right.

But I’m not hating on the Chinese, really. They were out of this world. Amazing. Well done and much deserved and all that. And I have EPIC respect for them, considering the level of pressure on them. They competed with great poise and professionalism, and even though they were the obvious favorites, they never gloated or acted “better than”. The Americans should be, and I’m pretty sure they are, honored just to share a podium with them. And really…

Cutest Guy Ever. Yibing Chen, I’m so glad you did well last night. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t have seen you smile.

Monday, August 11, 2008

This is why I heart the Olympics...

Last night had some seriously awesome Olympic action, didn’t it? If you don’t believe me, ask my upstairs neighbors, who got an earful and maybe a slight earth-shake after Michael Phelps and Co. defeated the French in the 4 x 100 m freestyle relay.

I mean, GAWD, it couldn’t have been more dramatic if it were a movie! There was so much at stake… The US team was not the clear favorite to win. The French team had been talking some serious smack. Michael Phelps needed to win this race if his dream of winning 8 golds in one Games was to come true. The US hadn’t won this race since 1996.

And then, the US was behind on the final leg. Bernard, the French dude talking all that trash, was tearing through the water at a rate significantly faster than the world record, and Jason Lezak, the US anchor, was a full body length behind at the final turn. And then, in the last 50 meters, Lezak crept up on the Frenchman, but not catching up until the very last possible second with about 10 meters left to go. And Lezak STRETCHED, and the French dude tightened up, and OH MY GOD!!!

I got so excited; I hit my head on the ceiling fan. And then I screamed a little bit. For 10 minutes.

My poor neighbors.

Women’s gymnastics thoughts, after the jump…

Meanwhile, the ladies of the US gymnastics team started their competition with an audible thud (I believe it was an ass-on-mat thud, to be specific) and, you know, this is just not good for my heart condition. Shawn Johnson was the only member of the team who delivered consistently good routines on each apparatus, while the others showed clear weaknesses (read: bombed). To be fair, they were under a little pressure. As I understand it, five girls compete in each round during the qualifiers, and the lowest score is dropped. Well, the 5th girl had to drop out of most of the rounds because of an ankle injury, meaning the other four had to make each routine count. It didn’t help that Chellsie Memmel (and seriously, one day I trust the world will agree on a good way to spell Chelsie because it’s getting ridiculous… I mean, 2 L’s?? C’moooon…) fell off the uneven bars, which was the only event she could participate in thanks to a bum ankle. After that fall, she certainly won’t qualify for the individual medal on that apparatus, so… she’s kind of just chilling out on the sidelines from here on out. Excuse me, but where are the alternates? Isn’t it funny how I pretend like I know anything about gymnastics? Well, I’m just getting started – I can talk out of my ass like this for days! It would seem that these teams are built with specializations in mind, like… this girl is the vault queen, and that girl has the wicked dismounts on the beam, and so on… but they seem to forget: if this girl or that girl blows it on the big day, where does that leave the team? In second place to the Chinese, that’s where!
Despite all that, the girls succeeded in qualifying for the finals in second place behind the Chinese. I have a feeling that if the US girls can get their acts together and do their best, they can count on the pressure forcing some of the Chinese girls to fold, opening up some windows of opportunity. Based on the qualifying performances and the unpredictable judging (let’s be honest, this new scoring system is whack), I doubt the US can pull off an upset, but they could get close, which will be fun to watch.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Costumes and Choreography and Giant Flames...

I don’t know what you’re doing tomorrow night, but I’ll be making an imprint of my ass on the couch as I take in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. I am literally rabid with excitement. Li’l Sis and I are even ordering Chinese take-out for dinner. We love a themed dinner party!

My expectations are very high… no one does pageantry like the Chinese, so I’m very interested to see what they’ve come up with. I’m looking for color, movement, and synchronization. How do you say, “Make it Work!” in Chinese?

Also, I’ve made a wager with myself that I can cut two miles off my next jog if I can make it through the torch-lighting ceremony without crying… something I’ve NEVER been able to do. I’m such a sucker for ceremonial flames and the lighting thereof. Gets me every time.

Most people tune out during the Parade of Nations, but I am OBSESSED. For one thing, the outfits are fantastic. If you thought last night’s Project Runway episode was full of Fug, wait until you watch an entire parade of national sportswear designed with varying degrees of taste. Now that’s entertainment. It’s also a geography lesson. Watch with your laptop nearby so you can look up every country you’ve never heard of on Google Maps. Learn something!

Admittedly, I am a little disappointed that this will be a Hamm-less Olympics. If you haven’t heard, both Paul and Morgan Hamm have dropped out of contention due to injuries. Of course, I will still watch the Men’s Gymnastics competition, and maybe this will give us a chance to focus on the other amazing male sex machines athletes on the U.S. Team, like Raj Bhavsar (pic below). I will miss the twins, but hey, we’ll always have Athens.

In which I discuss who will win So You Think You Can Dance…

As is my custom, I fell behind on my recaps, but I’m actually quite sure I will finish them, even if it takes until Christmas. That said, I did want to at least post about my reactions to last night’s performance finale episode briefly, with the intention of going into far more detail later.

First thing: I couldn’t have been happier with the final 4. All season long, I’ve felt a little apathetic towards this crew of 20, which has been hard to deal with. I was so emotionally invested last year in Sabra and Neil (and Pasha) that I was kind of a mess on finale night. Not having that connection with the dancers has made the experience this year less magical and exciting, but you know, lightning so very rarely strikes twice. However, over the weeks, I have grown to appreciate, if not actually love, Courtney and Joshua. Katee and Twitch are also fantastic, but I won’t lie straight to your face and tell you I love them. I would have traded Mark for Twitch in a heartbeat, even though that makes me public enemy number one to most of the fans of the show. We’ll take about Twitch more in the recaps that I will eventually post (especially the whole “4 real” phenomenon, which I LOATHE!, and which I am convinced is entirely Twitch’s doing).

I can’t believe these four kids learned so many dances in one week. That was a sh*t-ton of dancing. They each did three partner dances, a solo, and a final group routine PLUS the huge group routine for the finale which we haven’t even seen. I mean… how are they functioning?? I would be puking up all of my internal organs after all of that, and I’m not even kidding. I suppose I have to stand up and applaud them for even making it through the night, besides performing well, and that thought makes me go on to another thought, which is: maybe it was all too much.

By the end of the night, Courtney looked done, and Joshua looked kind of piqued as well. Their jive was kind of painful, to be frank. A part of me is grateful to the show for eliminating a lot of the useless filler that usually comes with these kinds of shows, but I would rather they NOT do that if the dances have to suffer. If I remember correctly, last year’s finalists performed the same amount of numbers (minus the solos), so last night was nothing new, but I think the dances last night were far more intensive and athletic… Twitch and Joshua did a Trepak for god’s sake! I’m saying: these four dancers got a much tougher workout than Sabra and Co. and while I was completely impressed, I’m not sure it was all worth it.

In my heart of hearts, I’m pulling for Courtney, because she is the light of my life. Don’t laugh at me, but I totally started crying before she did during the judges’ comments after her solo. She is a bundle of joy, and what she has achieved technically is remarkable. I don’t believe she has a prayer of winning, but in a way, she has already won… at least for me.

Katee has been excellent, and I’m tempted to say she’s the absolute best overall dancer this show has ever had. To be absolutely fair, she’s had some luck with the dance styles – I think she has performed more contemporary routines than any other dancer (confirm this), but she has shown amazing versatility when it counts. Her only big weakness is her personality, which has been elusive throughout the season. At first, I thought she just wasn’t getting enough screen-time, aside from her “awkward-dancing”, but now I think she’s just a lovely young girl who doesn’t really have a personality, which choreographers will LOVE, but it won’t win her any reality T.V. dance competitions.

Twitch is the great thorn in my side. He is without a doubt the crowd-favorite, and he has been since the first day of auditions, thanks to his screen-time last year, and he has ridden that wave of public goodwill through some shaky routines. I can’t spite him his fanbase, because he is very easy to like, but ever since his second or third week with Kherington, I’ve been stifling my inner voices, all of which scream words like over-rated, goofy, and, pandering. I stifle the voices because thinking that way makes me a supreme asshole, because Twitch is amazing and how DARE I not love him?? Look, this is really easy. He’s a terrific dancer, and he’s been passable in the styles outside of hip-hop, and he’s kind of funny (I guess), but I can’t, in any fashion, come around to liking him. Maybe it’s the fact that the judges have been pimping him from day one. Maybe it’s the fact that all of his solo routines have been exactly the same, proving to me that he’s a one-note. Maybe I’m blind. Who knows!? I don’t like him.

Now Joshua is a totally different story. In the grand tradition of So You Think You Can Dance success stories, he’s an untrained dancer who claims a street style as his main cup of tea, but is so excellent in ballroom and contemporary and everything else, that it’s hard to believe he’s ever done anything but dance. He’s the proverbial natural, capable of out-dancing and out-shining even the most well-trained dancers on the floor. Now, don’t be fooled, he IS trained, because he said he has taken classes, even if he hasn’t taken as much as the others. But I don’t mind so much that the judges keep saying untrained, because it isn’t too far from the truth compared to someone like Katee, who has been dancing her whole life.

It’s pointless to try and predict the wanton whims of the American voting public, so I’ll just record for posterity the outcome which pleases me most.

4th place: Twitch
3rd place: Katee
2nd place: Joshua
1st place: Courtney

A more realistic outcome that still manages to please me would be…
4th place: Katee
3rd place: Twitch
2nd place: Courtney
1st place: Joshua

And based on the voting history of the show thus far and the dances last night and the cold, cynical light of reality, the results will probably be…
4th: Courtney
3rd: Katee
2nd: Twitch
1st: Joshua

You know, I’ll be happy as long as long as Joshua wins.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Swampfest 2008 and Reeva Dubois Revisted Part 4 & 5…

Ok, so last weekend was Swampfest 2008, an annual gathering of my college friends for Roommate’s birthday, in Beaufort, SC. This was the third such gathering, and I’ve grown to count on these jaunts to get an entire year’s worth of debauchery and not-acting-my-age out of my system. This particular trip wasn’t drastically different from the previous ones, except I remembered to bring my camera. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to bring it with me on most of the excursions. But at least I can finally post pictures of the fabulous house, nestled in the salt marshes of Cat Island. Ok, actually, I didn’t get any pictures of the house. What I did manage to capture is the backyard scape, which, to be honest, is my favorite part of the whole scene.

The house is actually on a golf course, but the course is set amongst the natural marshes and swamps characteristic of the area. While I’m sure some of the scenery is fabricated, I like to think most of it was there before the golf-carts and sandtraps took over. No matter what, it’s unbelievably pretty.

Unlucky for you, approximately three seconds before I took this photo, there were hundreds of sea-birds (egrets, I think) roosting on all those banks, but as I exited the porch area, I accidentally slammed the screen door, inciting a migration. Take my word for it, though – there were tons of them. Once you get over the racket they make and the overwhelming stink, it’s easy to get lost in their beauty. We even spotted a blue heron, a massive and intimidating bird up close.

There are alligators in these waters, but they’re rather tiny and inconspicuous. I’ve only seen one (last year), and I wasn’t impressed. If one tries hard enough (and waits patiently enough) one can eventually distinguish between the alligators and the bits of flotsam floating in the pond, but I find that sort of thing tedious.

Rather than bore you with the details of the rest of my activities, I’ll just do some bullet points.

- Gays aren’t afraid of Marines, especially if the Marines are drunk…
- Marines ARE afraid of gays, especially if the gays are drunk…
- Indoor beachball volleyball and indoor monkey-in-the-middle should be Olympic sports…
- You’re never too old to swing (and I don’t mean “swing” as in “partner-swap” but literally swing, like on a swing-set, or, in this case, a park swing clearly not designed for such things)…
- Cute waiters are great, but they rarely amount to anything…
- Cracker Barrel is still the best thing ever after a long weekend…
- No amount of heckling or teasing will make me ashamed of liking Ashlee Simpson…
- I will probably never get tired of talking with Roommate until the sun comes up…

After the jump, I revisit the Swampfests of old…

Reeva Dubois Revisted Part 4: Swampfest 2006

This was posted in my LiveJournal on July 19, 2006, and is entitled Sparkles in the Water

My trip to Beaufort, SC has come and gone. It was a good Vay-k and God knows I needed one. For the most part, it was chill. I arrived late (getting up early on day one of vacation was vetoed) so when i showed up at the beach house, Roommate and his friend were at the beach soaking up the sun. I had a hard enough time finding the house so i was a little scared (petrified) to venture out into the marshes on my own, so i grabbed a book and just chilled out. TWO hours later, my host arrived and we had a great dinner - surf and turf, ya'll. Anyway - we were sitting around making our evening plans and i made the suggestion that we go back to the beach. I love the beach at night for many reasons - the biggest one being that i can sit out and enjoy the beach without crisping like bacon in 5 minutes flat. The group was into it, so we packed the cooler and hopped in the car.

Upon arriving at the beach at about 10:00 pm, we began to hit some hurdles. Unbeknownst to me, the beach we were going to is not a public beach, but rather a National Park that charges a nominal fee. Well, they were closed. As we pulled up to the area, some dude in a beard was locking up the gates. I'm not one for useless confrontation so i figured that we were out of luck. Well, roommate and his friend weren't having it. After haggling with the guy for about 10 minutes, the outcome was, obviously, no beach for us. What a surprise. They got back in the car and i tried to make the best of it by suggesting some other beachy-type activities, namely boozing it out with the Vodka we purchased. Before the words were out of my mouth, Roommate was hatching a plan to sneak into the beach - or as I like to call it: Premeditating Felony Trespassing. FUN! Before I go further, I must describe this beach. Its a national park in a more-or-less undeveloped stretch of coast. After you enter the gate and pay the fee, you drive along a gravel road through a palm/pine forest. Its dark and dense with lots of creepy crawlies. I can tell you without a doubt that if I had known what we would be strolling through i would not have gone along with this little mission. I know that if we had been caught by 'scary bearded guy' he probably would have just laughed and told us to buzz off - but you never know with these southern crazies. I was not looking forward to spending the night in the Beaufort jail.

We parked the car on the shoulder of the highway about 20 feet away from the entrance. We had a cooler, two packs of towels and other beach supplies, and of course, ourselves. At first, roommate and his friend weren't too concerned about the success of this mission, and were talking and giggling and carryin' on. Of course, I'm having fits. We didn't get our first scare until we had jumped across the barricade (the one that bearded guy was closing). We were walking down the gravel road (I was trying not to scream every time something touched me - I'm talking palm fronds to the face, spider-webs, and whatever else was running around that we coudn't see) and we saw headlights coming towards us. Every gay gene in my body screamed as Roommate literally pushed me headlong into nature - it was very Lord of the Rings Frodo hiding from the Ringwraiths (including the bugs). The car (no doubt the bearded guy who was really starting to get on my nerves) passes by. At this point all bets are off - we turn off our flashlights and take off our flipflops because we are passing little security posts and various buildings and we didn't want to risk being seen or heard. Roommate and Friend start sprinting barefoot down the gravel - and i'm about to puke my heart out through my stomach because A) I don't run, B) I can't see a GODDAMN! thing, C) I'm just pissed.

The rest of the journey is sort of a blur, but i do know that i did eventually make it to the beach. At this point, i was trying to keep my shit together and not go carnival freak crazy on Roommate. Once I sat down on the sand and got my heartbeat back down to normal levels - i started to think. This little escapade was the exact type of thing i thrived on in high school and college. We weren't really breaking any important laws and it was sorta fun to be bad. So why was i about to have a coronary? After putting things in perspective, i was able to enjoy what turned out to be a GORGEOUS beach in the middle of the night. The stars were, God, everywhere. More stars that I have ever seen. You couldn't even find the constellations because of the sheer volume of light up there. We saw some shooting stars and made appropriate wishes, and it seemed like a lucky night because we saw no less than 12 shooting stars. I was happy that i remembered to wish for a Lottery win, which is the one i tend to forget cuz i'm too busy wishing for a man, thinness, and World Peace.

After much consternation and frustrated heckling from Roommate, I was finally convinced to go for a midnight swim - which is something i had never done. I dunno, maybe the opening scene of Jaws is burned into my pysche. I refused to go out farther than waist-deep and I insisted on carrying the flashlight with me. Roommate and his friend were much more adventurous. It was while I was having yet another panic attack (they were out sooo far and i was not interesting in pulling a Baywatch rescue) that i noticed that little lights were following them around. The water was literally lighting up as they swam through it. The water wasn't doing that for me and i felt slighted so i forced myself to move out farther. Once I was about neck deep - i witnessed the phenomena for myself. We were swimming with Bioluminescent plankton. Ya'll it was amazing. Everytime your skin touched the water the plankton would flash and sparkle. You could literally see your entire body under the surface as you swam. If you dunked your head underwater, they would attach themselves to your hair, and upon resurfacing, your entire head would glow for about 5 seconds. I was in awe. Somehow, we managed to play with the plankton for about 2 hours. I felt like a little kid and i loved every minute.

My joy was short-lived. Since it was now nearing 2 in the morning - we decided we should probably head back (Cue the Mission Impossible theme song). Luckily, we made it through without incident. Of course, i totally forgot where we parked and for a moment i thought we had been towed (Fourth panic attack of the evening commences). But no. The car was still there.

The rest of the Vay-K was spent drinking but not getting drunk, sun-bathing but not getting burned, eating but not getting super Fat. So except for the Beach subterfuge - i managed to have a mature and adult-like vacation. Cheers.

Speaking of adulthood- its back to the grind tomorrow.

Reeva Dubois Revisted Part 5: Swampfest 2007

This was posted in my LiveJournal on July 2, 2007, and entitled Ghost Stories, Hoedowns, and Adventures with Alcohol

I didn’t mean to, but I’ve managed to schedule a summer vacation that occurs in fits and starts. It probably has more to do with the crazy schedules of all my friends than my own disorganization, but I have a feeling that by the end of the summer I will be quite tired, not to mention destitute. While it would probably be far more relaxing and financially sound to have one long vacation, I will take three, in three different places with three entirely different groups of people.

Phase 1 took place this past weekend in Beaufort, SC with former Roommate, two of my best friends from college, and their guests. BEAUfort is (quite appropriately) a BEAUtiful city, full of history and quaint southern charm. It’s also hot as hell, humid with lots and lots of very large bugs. We thought their city motto should be, “Beaufort, SC: Muggy and Buggy.”

The house is absolutely beautiful, with traditional Old South patios overlooking the swamp, which teems with giant frogs, sea birds, and alligators. The inside is decorated in leather and dark woods, with billiards in one corner and a card table in another. Bizarrely, the other family that shares the house chose to decorate the entire inside with roosters. There are literally hundreds of roosters all the over the place… it tends to be overwhelming. That’s a lot of cocks – and not the good kind (ZING!).

I arrived last on Friday night (thanks to my boss’s bitchery) and once I was settled, the whole crew (4 gays and two girls) went to downtown Beaufort to rustle up some grub, booze, and boys. Over the course of dinner, it became apparent that we were the first gays this town had seen in quite some time, if at all. Clearly, the rules of southern hospitality do not extend to staring, pointing or otherwise gesticulating wildly at the homos. We were perplexed, of course, and couldn’t quite figure out what had tipped the locals off. We weren’t dressed in any particularly gay way, nor were we doing Pride Cheers at our table. We went around the group and tried to pinpoint who exactly among us was “acting” so overt that everyone just knew we were “special”. The conclusion ended up being, “Well, we’re all pretty gay.”

After dinner, we strayed into a couple of the bars along the battery and, luckily, the locals seemed to have calmed down a little, probably because everyone was completely wasted. People are so much nicer to the gays when they’re drunk, aren’t they? That didn’t mean our problems were over, though. The two girls hanging with us were getting restless and uneasy because no one was offering them drinks or hitting on them, which is sooo not right because they’re total hotties. Once again, we huddled to discuss the strange behavior of the people in Beaufort. Finally, a gentleman came up to my friend Mary and started talking to her and in the course of their conversation he was able to shed some light on this current mystery. He and his buddies had been eyeing Mary and her girlfriend for quite some time, but weren’t sure about us. Were we boyfriends? Brothers? Parole Officers? In the interest of full disclosure, Mary went ahead and introduced us as her gay entourage. He seemed relieved, but that didn’t mean he wanted to hang out with us or anything.

I will say in defense of Beaufort - that even though the locals didn’t exactly welcome us with open arms, they also didn’t chase us out of town with pitchforks and torches, and in South Carolina… that’s saying something. We left the girls to do their dirty work in the bar, and the four gays took a stroll along the battery under the full moon, catching up on old times, and you know, talking about Madonna and Britney Spears… like we do.

The next day, we returned to the same beach that was the scene of Beach Subterfuge 2006. The beach was really crowded, which everyone else moaned about, but for which I was thrilled. I love to people watch and people who share that trait with me know that the two best places to people watch are airports and beaches. I only went in the water for a short time and spent the rest of the time hiding underneath my beach umbrella, protecting my sensitive skin from the ravages of the evil, evil sun.

One of the perks of my friends and I getting older is I can finally insist that we do educational things and not be accused of being “dorky.” Secretly, I’ve always been one of those people that dislikes the big party scenes with tons of people and lots of hormones. I prefer to go to museums, or shopping, or sight-seeing. So I was floored when my suggestion of a walking tour of Beaufort before dinner was met with enthusiasm. We chose to go on a “Ghost Tour,” which covered the supernatural folk-tales and legends of the city.

Our docent was a crackpot of a lady that we adored once we got used to her. I imagine it takes a special kind of person to do something like that… you know, tell ghost stories in period dress in front of complete strangers? Well, she was fabulous and we had a fantastic time. Some highlights? The Gray Man is a very popular ghost story from South Carolina, and it was interesting to hear Beaufort’s version of his legend. If you don’t know, the Gray Man is a spectral man dressed in gray (well, obviously) that appears on the beach before a hurricane. He appears all over the Carolina coast, but mostly in Charleston. It makes sense that South Carolina would have a spirit guarding her shores, thanks to some seriously bad storms over the centuries. Every time a major storm hits, the Gray Man stories resurface, thanks to multiple sightings right before the hurricane’s landfall. I didn’t know about the Gray Man until after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Parts of our coastline were decimated by the Category 5 winds and storm surge, and Charleston took a particularly bad hit. Our newspapers were riddled with stories of centuries old buildings washed away, historical markers destroyed, new landmarks damaged, and lives lost. In between all of them were first hand accounts of seeing the Gray Man.

The story goes that a beautiful young woman from Pawley’s Island was married to a sailor only days before he would have to leave by ship for some reason or the other. The seas were particularly rough that year and their parting was one of worry and anxiety, having only been together for a brief time. Around the time he was supposed to return from his journey, a storm descended upon the island, and the young woman refused to leave her home, despite the warnings from her family. Instead, she kept a steady vigil up along the Widow’s Walk of her house, fretting and watching for her true love’s return. When the storm hit, it battered the house to oblivion, leaving nothing but the foundation’s footprint. The young woman was lost forever. When the sailor returned and saw what had happened to his home and his wife, he was so stricken with grief, he drowned himself in the same waters that took his love. So, if you’re ever at the beach in the Low country of South Carolina, and you see a man dressed in gray rise out of the sand dunes and walk slowly along the breakers until he disappears into the mist and surf, then you should high-tail it back to your beach house, pack up your stuff and hit the road. If you heed his warning, you’ll find that when you return after the storm, your home will be undamaged and your property untouched.

She told us this story next to the battery at dusk, with the wind wailing and the waves crashing. The chills going up and down my spine were exquisite.

Beaufort is also famous for its historical churches and graveyards. Since the founding, this city has survived Native American guerilla-style warfare, and occupation by the Spanish, French, British AND the Yankees. It is therefore no surprise that the city is also full of graveyards and cemeteries. Most of the ghost stories we heard were focused on specific graves along the route of our walk and one in particular was really sort of spooky. Apparently, back in the day, doctors weren’t very good at pronouncing people dead, especially when the patient lapsed into a coma. I’ve heard that as recent as 75 years ago, it was very common to discover upon exhumation that the person was buried alive. You can tell by the marks on the top of the coffin. *shudders*

She told us of a little girl named Isabelle who lived in Beaufort right before the War Between the States. She was the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man, who had fittingly just purchased a beautiful marble mausoleum in the cemetery of the largest church in town. When she came down with a vicious case of diphtheria and “died”, the entire community was consumed with sadness. They buried her in the family mausoleum, and everyone was touched and saddened that she would be the first to rest in it. It was about 30 years before the grave would be reopened on the day of her father’s funeral, and when the marble doors were opened, the family was stunned to see a perfectly preserved skeleton of a little girl dressed in lace laying at the foot of the mausoleum, instead of in her crypt. The family rededicated her body and reburied her, taking solace that at last she could rest in peace in the company of her father.

A few months later, an aunt came to visit the gravesite with fresh flowers and found the marble doors open and gaping. She raised almighty hell on the caretaker, going as far as to beat him soundly with the ivory handle of her fan. He assured her that he checked the doors on his rounds three times a day and had never seen them open. The aunt watched as the doors were closed and locked and reminded the caretaker that she would be watching him from now on. Over the course of the next decade or so, various family members would come to the cemetery and find the marble doors ajar, and each and every caretaker was just as confused as the next. They tried cement, chains, padlocks, extra hinges… but every time, the cement would crack, the chains would split, the locks would break, and the hinges would unhinge. Finally, almost a century later, a member of the family decided to just give up, and the marble doors were officially removed. One was put in the ground in front of the steps of the tomb and inscribed with Isabelle’s name and that of her father. The other is leaning upright against the side of the tomb, so that all can examine the twisted metal of its hinges and the strange marks etched into the stone.

Our docent admitted that it is very possible that the whole thing is an elaborate, decades-long hoax… but she likes to think Isabelle simply refused to allow the family to bury anyone else in that tomb, and if they did, she wasn’t about to let anyone else die scared and alone and in the dark.

While I was refreshed by these stimulating and historical goodies, the rest of my crew was getting antsy - eager to recommence boozing and cruising. Before that, though, we had a fabulous dinner at a waterfront restaurant called Panini’s. I had lump crab lasagna, which tasted a lot better than it sounds, trust me (I tend to avoid any foods that contain the word 'lump'). It was during our meal that we encountered the individual that would hence be known as “the only gay man in Beaufort.” He was a manager at the restaurant and made a point to walk by our table every frikkin’ minute. At first, we weren’t sure whether he was cruising us or if he was about to ask us to leave because other guests were complaining. You never know. It wasn’t until we realized that he was ignoring our hags and making eyes with all of us gays in turn that we figured everything out.

The girls were desperate to have a better night of whoring so they abandoned us again, leaving us to our own devices at a bar filled with drunk frat boys and scantily clad college girls. We grabbed a table in a corner and gabbed the night away. Throughout the evening, drunk girls would fall into us and tell us how cool it was that we were there, and how they so wished more gay people would come to Beaufort. This happened so often, we started to feel a little bit like celebrities. I bought Roommate a drink to congratulate him on landing the only gay man in Beaufort… literally.

When we got home, we put Roommate and his new boy out on the porch to make out or whatever, and the three of us leftover had a dance party in the living room. We found a CD in the stereo system that was just perfect…Hoe-Down music. We turned it up really loud and square-danced and doo-si-doed, except because of all the alcohol in our blood, there was a little bit more head-butting and falling down than actual dancing. We found out later that Roommate was sufficiently humiliated by our antics, to which we said, “Mission: Accomplished!”

Speaking of humiliated, right about the time our hoe-down was just heating up was when our girls arrived, with straight boys on their arms. The looks on their faces!!! I think the girls may have told them they were staying with four guys, but I have a feeling they left out the part about us being raging homosexuals. We were informed that we were in the presence of two Marines, and fairly high-ranking ones at that, so that merited several jokes at their expense, such as, “You didn’t ask, but I’m telling you…” and, “Hey, need any new Privates?” To their credit, the marines were so drunk that they’re awkwardness was pretty short-lived.

Soon after, I turned in. I just can’t keep up with these kids anymore, but it was all good, considering everyone else was… busy.

When I got up the next morning, the marines were gone and the house was quiet… and Tee-rashed! My girl, Mary, was awake and her code of ethics was still intact, so instead of driving to the drug store for a bottle of Advil and a pregnancy test, we started to clean up. Gradually, the rest of the house got up. Roommate’s boy had to do the walk of shame, but hey, that’s the price you pay. As they said good-bye to each other outside, the rest of us took bets as to whether or not we’d ever see him again. I’d say the odds are… not.

So what do gay people do on Sunday morning? That’s right, brunch. The South isn’t really big on brunch, you know, because of church, so we had to do quite a bit of research online before we found a place to go. We ended up at a cozy little cafĂ© that served excellent omelets and amazing coffee. Of course, we were brutally rebuffed on one brunch staple. When we tried to order Mimosas (and seriously, what is brunch without a Mimosa?) we were told that alcohol was not available on Sundays. South Carolina Blue Laws strike again. I swear, it’s like we’re in Amish Country. Or anywhere in Utah.

After that it was time to go back to our normal lives. I love those guys so much, even if they still act like they’re 22 at Spring Break. Maybe I am acting too old for my age? You know what? It doesn’t matter. I can always count on Roommate to treat me to a good time, and let’s face it… there will always be good stories.