Tag Archives: gay and lesbian

Happy Birthday Alice B. Toklas! Pass the Hashish Brownies

Alice B. Toklas (left) with Gertrude Stein

Today is the birthday of Alice B. Toklas (1877 – 1967).

Toklas was the longtime companion (read lesbian lover) of American writer Gertrude Stein and writer of a cookbook (first published in 1954) that included one famous (nay, notorious) recipe for brownies (or as Alice called it, “hashish fudge”).

I included the recipe below.

But first a little bit about Alice B.  Toklas.

Apparently Toklas met Gertrude Stein in Paris on September 8, 1907 on the first day that she arrived.  Together they hosted a salon at 27, rue de Fleures in the 6th Arrondissement (on the left bank) that attracted expatriate American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder, and Sherwood Anderson and avant-garde painters, including Picasso, Matisse and Braque.

Your humble blogger made his way to 27, rue de Fleurus recently.  Sadly I was 80 years too late for the salon.

Your humble blogger at 27, rue de Fleurus, Paris.

Acting as Stein’s confidante, lover, cook, secretary, muse, editor, critic, and general organizer, Toklas remained a background figure, chiefly living in the shadow of Stein, until Stein published her memoirs in 1933 under the teasing title The Autobiography of Alice. B Toklas. It became Stein’s bestselling book. The two were a couple until Gertrude Stein’s death in 1946.

Apparently Stein’s work was incoherent (even more so) before Toklas’ editing.

Alice and Stein are now buried together inin  Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. They also share a tombstone with Gertrude Stein’s name on the front and Alice B. Toklas’ on the back.

Alice B. Toklas grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France

Now back to that recipe.

(But first allow me to predicate this by reminding you that The Gay Groom does not advocate the use of hashish or any sort of mind altering drug (except caffeine, of course).  And do remember that your humble blogger is also a teetotaler who doesn’t even partake in alcohol.

I submit the recipe only as a historic curiosity.

But there was that time back in the mid 90s in the red light district of Amsterdam that I saw Alice’s recipe on a menu…  however like all my Amsterdam files, they are now closed.)

And now, as your humble blogger promised, here is an excerpt from The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book and the infamous recipe for Alice’s fudge (“which”, Alice noted, “anyone could whip up on a rainy day”):

————————————————————————————————————————–

Alice B. Toklas Hashish Fudge

This is the food of paradise – of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to the ravished by “un évanouissement reveillé”.

Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 whole nutmeg
4 average sticks of cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
These should all be pulverized in a mortar.

About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together.

A bunch of Cannabis sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together.

About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Obtaining the Cannabis may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as Cannabis sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognized, everywhere in Europe, Asia and part of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope.

In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called Cannabis indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.

————————————————————————————————————————–

So there you have it, dear readers.  And please do remember that Alice stresses the point that “two pieces are quite sufficient”.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under alice b toklas, alice b. toklas brownies, alice b. toklas cookbook, blogging, gay, gay atheist, gay blogging, gay groom, gay photos, gaygroom, gblt, hash brownies, paris, writers, writing

In Search of Proust

Marcel Proust

Today is Marcel Proust’s birthday.

Regular readers will remember your humble blogger’s (mild to medium) obsession with the French writer of one of the longest novels ever written (in fact, those who have  Shirts and Skins may have notice that I payed homage to Proust (specifically the narrator meeting Robert de Saint-Loup in the barracks at Doncières in Guermantes Way) in my own novel.   However such an obsession makes complete sense to me.

Proust changed my life.

That’s not hyperbole.  In my senior year of undergrad at the University of Toronto, I majored in Literary Studies (this was in addition to my specialist in English and my minor in Political Science).  And my fourth year seminar class in Literary Studies was a full-year class where we read all seven volumes of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).

Why?

À la recherche du temps perdu is a cathedral.   In his great novel Proust raises the dead. For Proust, the act of writing becomes a memorial that redeems losses and makes them bearable.

It’s sublime!

Begun in 1909, À la recherche du temps perdu consists of seven volumes totaling around 3,200 pages (about 4,300 in The Modern Library’s translation) and featuring more than 2,000 characters.  Author, Graham Greene called Proust the “greatest novelist of the 20th century”, and W. Somerset Maugham described the novel as the “greatest fiction to date”.

Quite an accomplishment considering that it had been turned down by numerous publishers in Paris resulting in Proust having to pay to have the first volume published himself!

(Actually, I should mention that my experience of Proust is limited to the translation (the Modern Library) I used, though I have read portions of the novel in the original French).

Who was Proust?

Proust was born July 10, 1871 after the Franco-Prussian war during the violence of the Paris Commune.  His father was a doctor searching for the causes of cholera and his mother was the daughter of a prominent Jewish family.  Often you will hear people refer to Proust as “half-Jewish” – I’ve always thought this was a stupid thing to say – since there is no such thing as being “half-Jewish”.

And like me, Proust was asthmatic (air and breathing being one of the motifs in the novel).

Also like me, Proust was gay (or an ‘invert’ as he called it).   He was one of the first European novelists to mention homosexuality openly and at length in the parts of À la recherche du temps perdu (most explicitly – and wonderfully – in volume four, Sodome et Gomorrhe, which deal with (one of the most interesting characters in all literature) the Baron de Charlus.

Since university, I’ve taken a number of trips to Paris. And each time I’ve made the pilgrimage to a number of Proust Places in Paris.

Of course I drag the husband to all these places as well.

One place I always head to is Proust’s home 102 Boulevard Haussmann.  Proust lived here from 1907-1919 and wrote most of À la recherche du temps perdu here.  No trip to Paris would be complete without a trip to Haussmann.

Jeffrey outside 102 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris

Proust’s home at 102 Boulevard Haussmann

Proust wrote in bed and, to minimize outside noise, he had the bedroom walls covered in cork. The bedroom where he worked from 1906 to 1919 at 102 Blvd Haussmann is now on view at the Musée Carnavalet.  The furnishings are all Proust’s.

And they don’t like it when you touch stuff.

Proust’s Bedroom with a portrait of Proust’s father, Achille Adrien Proust

Proust’s bedroom

Jeffrey in Proust’s bedroom

I made the walk to Musée d’Orsay to see Jacques-Emile Blanche’s famous portrait of Marcel Proust.  Though it’s never a hardship to go to the Musée d’Orsay.

And since all the American’s are gathered around Whistler’s Mama (ugh!) , I can spend a little time alone with Marcel.

Jacques-Emile Blanche’s Portrait of Marcel Proust Musée d’Orsay

Marcel Proust et moi Jacques-Emile Blanche’s Portrait of Marcel Proust Musée d’Orsay

It was at 44, rue de l’Amiral Hamelin where Marcel Proust actually died of pneumonia in 1922. Today the building is the Hotel Elysee Union.

A plaque over the door commemorates the site.

44, rue de l’Amiral Hamelin where Marcel Proust died in 1922

Finally I went to see Marcel Proust’s grave in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery is Paris.  I took some violets with me (read the book) and left them on Proust’s grave.

It was very moving for me.

Marcel Proust’s grave. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Marcel Proust’s grave. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Jeffrey at Marcel Proust’s grave. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

The next time I go to Paris I will make the trip to Illiers-Combray (the town based on Proust’s childhood home, Combray in the novel) to sample the petite madeleines and tea.  Of course I’ll drag the husband there as well.

Happy birthday, Marcel!

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

Leave a comment

Filed under asthma, À la recherche du temps perdu, blogging, combray, gay, gay groom, gay men, gblt, in search of lost time, marcel proust, paris, proust, writing

Am I a ‘Daddy’ Now?

50 Year old designer cum director Tom Ford with younger pals.

For Father’s Day, a re-post of my Daddy blog:

———————————————————————————————————————-

The husband gave me an Instinct Magazine for my forty-third birthday last Sunday with the article “How I Went from Daddy Chaser to Being the Daddy”.

The husband likes to think he’s funny.

The article was a short fluff piece (kinda like this, though I’m sure the writer got paid for his piece) about turning 40.  Not that I have anything against fluff pieces…

Now your humble blogger really doesn’t mind turning forty-three.   Though I do know that I don’t turn heads like I once did.  Canadian author Alice Munro wrote a short story about a woman who suddenly discovers that men don’t notice her anymore and is devastated.  For me, that realization came over a number of years.   Yet I still do recall the days when I believed that any man that didn’t look at me when I walked into a bar had to be straight.

Perhaps I was a tad conceited in my youth.

But that really doesn’t happen anymore.  Though I still might get a couple of turns of the head…  and, much even to my surprise, I’m amazingly alright with that.

Especially since I was (as I said) a tad conceited in my youth.

Perhaps my nonchalant attitude is partly due to being married.  Just who am I trying to impress?  And for heaven’s sake why would I need to impress anyone (this ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude comes with age too)?  After all, I have a husband at home who loves me – laugh lines around my eyes and all!

So today ‘Daddydom’ feels rather like slipping into a warm bathtub – a little hot at first but quite comfortable once you get used to it.  I remember being told by a boyfriend that when I was a mere thirty years old that I had a “pre-daddy thing goin’ on”.  I didn’t like that, but the truth is I sorta felt ‘daddyish’ for quite some time.  Perhaps because I never really related to younger guys – and from the beginning, I’ve always been attracted to men that were older (not Methuselaha older – just a bit older).

Yes, I do like those salt and pepper haired men – or even just salt.  And there is always that confidence that mature men seemed to possess that the younger chaps didn’t.

But though I do like older men, it used to irritate me to see mature gay men wearing clothes made for youngsters. We’ve all seen those forty and fifty-somethings in ripped jeans and Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts… still hitting the raves after twenty years – sometimes looking every twenty long years of it – but then your humble blogger tried to be more thoughtful.

After all, we are really the first full generation of out gay men to make it to middle-age.

And we should allow this lucky generation to find their own way.  So if some older gay guys out there still like to wear Abercrombie and Fitch when their straight counterparts have moved on to the Arnold Palmer collection from Sears – what the hell.  And if they want to Rave to 90s music till the cows come home – what’s it to me?

Who am I to be so judgmental anyway?

And I have to admit that some of those older guys still look good in Abercrombie and Fitch.

So what do you think?  When does one become a ‘Daddy’?  Or does one need to become a ‘Daddy’ at all?  Could it be that the term is outdated?  Are there any other silver fox admirers out there?

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

anderson-cooper-andy-cohen

Sexy Daddies Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen

8 Comments

Filed under Abercrombie and Finch, atheism, atheist, birthday, blogging, gay, gay abercrombie, gay atheist, gay canada, gay daddies, gay groom, gay mature, gay men, gay men's health, gay toronto, gaygroom, gblt, mature gay men, older gay men

Happy Birthday Alice B. Toklas! Pass the Hash Brownies.

Alice B. Toklas (left) with Gertrude Stein

Today is the birthday of Alice B. Toklas (1877 – 1967).

Toklas was the longtime companion (read lesbian lover) of American writer Gertrude Stein and writer of a cookbook (first published in 1954) that included one famous (nay, notorious) recipe for brownies (or as Alice called it, “hashish fudge”).

I included the recipe below.

But first a little bit about Alice B.  Toklas.

Apparently Toklas met Gertrude Stein in Paris on September 8, 1907 on the first day that she arrived.  Together they hosted a salon at 27, rue de Fleures in the 6th Arrondissement (on the left bank) that attracted expatriate American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder, and Sherwood Anderson and avant-garde painters, including Picasso, Matisse and Braque.

Your humble blogger made his way to 27, rue de Fleurus recently.  Sadly I was 80 years too late for the salon.

Your humble blogger at 27, rue de Fleurus, Paris.

Acting as Stein’s confidante, lover, cook, secretary, muse, editor, critic, and general organizer, Toklas remained a background figure, chiefly living in the shadow of Stein, until Stein published her memoirs in 1933 under the teasing title The Autobiography of Alice. B Toklas. It became Stein’s bestselling book. The two were a couple until Gertrude Stein’s death in 1946.

Apparently Stein’s work was incoherent (even more so) before Toklas’ editing.

Alice and Stein are now buried together inin  Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. They also share a tombstone with Gertrude Stein’s name on the front and Alice B. Toklas’ on the back.

Alice B. Toklas grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France

Now back to that recipe.

(But first allow me to predicate this by reminding you that The Gay Groom does not advocate the use of hashish or any sort of mind altering drug – except caffeine, of course.  And do remember that your humble blogger is also a teetotaler who doesn’t even partake in alcohol.

I submit the recipe only as a historic curiosity.

But there was that time back in the mid 90s in the red light district of Amsterdam that I saw Alice’s recipe on a menu…  however like all my Amsterdam files, they are now closed.)

And now, as your humble blogger promised, here is an excerpt from The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book and the infamous recipe for Alice’s fudge (“which”, Alice noted, “anyone could whip up on a rainy day”):

———————————————————————————————————————————

Alice B. Toklas Hashish Fudge

This is the food of paradise – of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to the ravished by “un évanouissement reveillé”.

Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 whole nutmeg
4 average sticks of cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
These should all be pulverized in a mortar.

About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together.

A bunch of Cannabis sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together.

About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Obtaining the Cannabis may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as Cannabis sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognized, everywhere in Europe, Asia and part of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope.

In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called Cannabis indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.

———————————————————————————————————————————

So there you have it, dear readers.  And please do remember that Alice stresses the point that “two pieces are quite sufficient”.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

2 Comments

Filed under alice b toklas, alice b. toklas brownies, alice b. toklas cookbook, blogging, gay, gay atheist, gay blogging, gay groom, gay photos, gaygroom, gblt, hash brownies, paris, writers, writing

Testing out ‘Suggested Fee’ Museums in New York City

284487_10150393293464112_4778266_n

According to today’s Gawker, two “hero lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art over the museum’s attempts to make its absurd but optional $25 admission fee appear to be mandatory”

Well it just so happened that your humble blogger tried out “Suggestive Fee” Museums a while back.

This is a re-post of that blog…

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

On our trip to New York City last weekend, I planned to try out two suggested fee museums, The Metropolitan Museum and The Frick Collection.  I wanted to see just how low I could go in gaining admission… and I also wanted to see if the museum staff would give your humble blogger attitude for being a cheapskate when he did.

I told the Husband I was planning on doing this but I didn’t tell him I was going to try to get in for as little money as I could.

Yes, I was prepared to look like a cheap bastard to get to scoop on suggested fee museums for my readers.

The Metropolitan Museum

As I waited in line at the Met, I watched how much people in front of me were paying.  First a family paid the full price and then two women bought a membership.  Two younger women right in front of us paid a dollar each.

I wondered how little I had to pay.

“It’s a suggested fee of 25 dollars, right” I asked the woman behind the counter.

“Yes,” she said.

“So I can pay anything?”

“Anything.”

“Can I pay nothing?”

“No,” she said, “I have to put some amount into the cash register so it has to be something.”

“Is this OK?” I asked, handing over two pennies.

“That’s fine,” she said and handed me my receipt (see photo below).

And that was it.  There was no grimace or hint of annoyance in her face.  She pleasantly passed me my tickets and we left.  I was a little disappointed that they took it so well.  That’s hardly the stuff of blog drama, I thought.  She didn’t even roll her eyes.

The Husband, however, was mortified.

“You’re going in alone at the Frick tomorrow,” he said.

The Frick Collection

On Sundays between 11:00am and 1:00pm, the Frick Collection is also ‘pay what you wish’.

Again I tried to get in free but was told I had to pay something.

“So a penny is fine?”

“Sure is!” she said.  She handed me my ticket with a smile.

I assume I wasn’t the first person to have got into the Frick on the cheap. I went in the museum while the Husband paid for himself… two or three people behind me in the queue.

Included in my cent admission was a free audio guide at the Frick.

Conclusion

For those who cannot afford the prices of either the Metropolitan Museum ($25.00) or the Frick Collection ($18.00), say older people on a fixed income or less affluent folks who find museum prices far to high (or even for those who are just bloody cheap), suggested price museums are a great way to see some of the best art in the world in one of the best cities in the world (and save your cash for the MoMA).

And since the Metropolitan and Frick staff were nothing but hospitable and charming when I handed over a mere penny, one should not feel embarrassed or think that they will be treated badly by the staff of either museum because they are paying what you can afford.

After all, that’s the name of the game!

PS: Before you bust your humble blogger’s chops for being a cheap prick, I should mention that I made a donation of $50.00 to the Metropolitan Museum to cover the admission price of the Husband and I.  At the Frick, the Husband gave them enough to cover the both of us.

 

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

Leave a comment

Filed under art, bastard, blogging, frick collection, gay, gay blogging, gay groom, gay new york, gay travel, gaygroom, manet, metropolitan museum, new york, new york city, nyc, suggested fee museums, van gogh

Breathless

Inhale.

What do writers Marcel Proust, John Updike, Ann Radcliffe, Edith Wharton, Dylan Thomas, Samuel Johnson, Djuna Barnes, Elizabeth Bishop and your humble blogger all have in common?

We all had sex with Gore Vidal.

No, that’s not true.  Gore Vidal did not have sex with Samuel Johnson.

The truth is we are all afflicted with asthma.

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition, in which the airways may unexpectedly and suddenly narrow, often in response to an allergen, cold air, exercise, or emotional stress (in my case all four).  Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.

Asthma is rather like knowing that at any moment a boa constrictor could wrap itself around your chest and squeeze.

That’s a good if well-worn (and dare I say homoerotic?) analogy.

An acute asthma attack is terrifying.  An excellent first person account of how horrific an asthma attack can be is found in John Updike’s memoir, Self-Consciousness.   Updike writes:

“An asthma attack feels like two walls drawn closer and closer, until they are pressed together… I thought, This is the last thing I’ll see.  This is death.  The breathless blackness within me was overlaying the visual world.”

An excellent description.

I’ve also tried to write of the horror of the asthma attack.   From my novel, Shirts and Skins:

The first attack happened at night.   It had seized Josh by the throat from out of the darkness, strangling him.  He woke up gasping for air.  I can’t breathe.  Arching his back with his stomach in the air, the boy strained to inhale and a sickening wheezing sound emerged from deep inside him.  His eyes bulged.  The room was dark, except for the glowing orange numbers on the clock radio beside his bed.  1:33.   Pushing himself up on his elbows, Josh gagged and coughed something thick and wet onto the front of his flannel pajama shirt.  His throat opened slightly and he sucked a small amount of air into his lungs murky caverns.  Terrified, Josh tried to call out to his parents sleeping down the hall, but could only choke out another loud wheezing gasp.  His legs kicked out wildly over the faded brown horses printed on his bed sheets until one foot connected hard with the wall beside his bed.  In the living room, on the other side of the wall, something fell with a thud and shattered with the tinkle of a thousand jagged shards onto the hardwood floor.

And does asthma affect the writer’s work?

Some interesting study has recently been done specifically on the asthmatic writer.  Two such writers, Marcel Proust and Elizabeth Bishop, have recently had their work re-examined through their asthmatic symptoms.  In Proust’s case, researchers have at their disposal a large amount of correspondence that details his respiratory illness and treatments.  Relying on such comprehensive information concerning Proust’s health, investigators have attempted to relate Proust’s fiction back to his respiratory illness.  One such example, “Proust’s Prescription: Sickness as the Pre-condition for Writing,” Lois Bragg and William Sayers study how illness, and particularly asthma, manifests as a number of extended similes in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

And I once gave (if I do say so myself) a brilliant paper in graduate school on Ann Radcliffe, the grande dame of Gothic fiction who died during an acute asthma attack in 1823, theorizing how she transformed the asthmatic symptoms that tormented her through most of her life (breathlessness, sudden violence, tyranny, nocturnal attacks, suffocation, darkness, constriction etc.) into an abundant collection of dark metaphors that became prototypical Gothic images.

(I specialized in Restoration and 18th Century literature.  You can imagine how useful that is in real life.)

Your humble blogger’s own asthma comes and goes. I take medication everyday in an attempt to limit my asthma symptoms.

Luckily I have times of remission (often lasting months) followed by its inevitable (and at times depressing) return. Though, unfortunately, I never have completely normal lung functions even when in remission.

Like anything, you live to learn with it.

And though living with asthma can be trying, with the likes of Proust and Updike as fellow sufferers,  I am in grand company.  Which makes it a little easier.

Exhale.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

2 Comments

Filed under asthma, asthmatic writers, blogging, gay, gay atheist, gay canada, Gay erotica, gay fiction, gay groom, gay men, gaygroom, gblt, gblt fiction, John Updike, marcel proust, queer fiction, writers, writing

In Search of Proust

Marcel Proust

Today is Marcel Proust’s birthday.

Regular readers will remember your humble blogger’s (mild to medium) obsession with the French writer of one of the longest novels ever written.   However such an obsession makes complete sense to me.

Proust changed my life.

That’s not hyperbole.  In my senior year of undergrad at the University of Toronto, I majored in Literary Studies (this was in addition to my specialist in English and my minor in Political Science).  And my fourth year seminar class in Literary Studies was a full-year class where we read all seven volumes of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).

Why?

À la recherche du temps perdu is a cathedral.   In his great novel Proust raises the dead and the act of writing becomes a memorial that redeems losses and makes them bearable.

It’s sublime!

Begun in 1909, À la recherche du temps perdu consists of seven volumes totaling around 3,200 pages (about 4,300 in The Modern Library’s translation) and featuring more than 2,000 characters.  Author, Graham Greene called Proust the “greatest novelist of the 20th century”, and W. Somerset Maugham described the novel as the “greatest fiction to date”.

Quite an accomplishment considering that it had been turned down by numerous publishers in Paris resulting in Proust having to pay to have the first volume published himself!

(Actually, I should mention that my experience of Proust is limited to the translation (the Modern Library) I used, though I have read portions of the novel in the original French).

Who was Proust?

Proust was born July 10, 1871 after the Franco-Prussian war during the violence of the Paris Commune.  His father was a doctor searching for the causes of cholera and his mother was the daughter of a prominent Jewish family.  Often you will hear people refer to Proust as “half-Jewish” – I’ve always thought this was a stupid thing to say – since there is no such thing as being “half-Jewish”.

And like me, Proust was asthmatic (air and breathing being one of the motifs in the novel).

Also like me, Proust was gay (or an ‘invert’ as he called it).   He was one of the first European novelists to mention homosexuality openly and at length in the parts of À la recherche du temps perdu (most explicitly – an wonderfully – in volume four, Sodome et Gomorrhe, which deal with (one of the most interesting characters in all literature) the Baron de Charlus.

Since university, I’ve taken a number of trips to Paris. And each time I’ve made the pilgrimage to a number of Proust Places in Paris.

Of course I drag the husband to all these places as well.

One place I always head to is Proust’s home 102 Boulevard Haussmann.  Proust lived here from 1907-1919 and wrote most of À la recherche du temps perdu here.  No trip to Paris would be complete without a trip to Haussmann.

Jeffrey outside 102 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris

Proust’s home at 102 Boulevard Haussmann

Proust wrote in bed and, to minimize outside noise, he had the bedroom walls covered in cork. The bedroom where he worked from 1906 to 1919 at 102 Blvd Haussmann is now on view at the Musée Carnavalet.  The furnishings are all Proust’s.

And they don’t like it when you touch stuff.

Proust’s Bedroom with a portrait of Proust’s father, Achille Adrien Proust

Proust’s bedroom

Jeffrey in Proust’s bedroom

I made the walk to Musée d’Orsay to see Jacques-Emile Blanche’s famous portrait of Marcel Proust.  Though it’s never a hardship to go to the Musée d’Orsay.  And since all the American’s are gathered around Whistler’s Mama, I can spend a little time with Marcel alone.

Jacques-Emile Blanche’s Portrait of Marcel Proust Musée d’Orsay

Marcel Proust et moi Jacques-Emile Blanche’s Portrait of Marcel Proust Musée d’Orsay

It was at 44, rue de l’Amiral Hamelin where Marcel Proust actually died of pneumonia in 1922. Today the building is the Hotel Elysee Union.

A plaque over the door commemorates the site.

44, rue de l’Amiral Hamelin where Marcel Proust died in 1922

Finally I went to see Marcel Proust’s grave in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery is Paris.  I took some violets with me (read the book) and left them on Proust’s grave.

It was very moving for me.

Marcel Proust’s grave. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Marcel Proust’s grave. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Jeffrey at Marcel Proust’s grave. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

The next time I go to Paris I will make the trip to Illiers-Combray (the town based on Proust’s childhood home, Combray in the novel) to sample the petite madeleines and tea.  Of course I’ll drag the husband there as well.

Happy birthday, Marcel!

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

2 Comments

Filed under asthma, À la recherche du temps perdu, blogging, combray, gay, gay groom, gay men, gblt, in search of lost time, marcel proust, paris, proust, writing

It’s So Hot the Toronto Island Ferry Took Off His Slip

Two things Canadians love to talk about are how hot it is and how cold it is.  Today this Canadian will be doing the former.

It’s bloody hot in Toronto.

Today we hit 35ºC (or 95ºF for my American readers).  However, with the humidex it felt like 42ºC or 107.6ºF.  I think we can actually describe that as ‘goddam hot’.

Now Toronto is great in the summer (not so much in February).  But right now it may be a tad hot to be shlepping across the city. But we aren’t the only ones melting. The heat is on all across North America.  Well all across North America EXCEPT the folks in the north west.

Look at this image from NPR showing the number of places in the US where daily maximum temperature records were broken in June. The data center says 2,284 records were broken and another 998 were tied.

That’s what global warming looks like.

Now there are a few ways to cool off in Toronto.  The city has set up cooling stations through the city for folks to get out of the heat of the street or (for those without air conditioning) the heat of their apartment, city pools are open until midnight, and we have a number of beaches in the city as well (being situated on Lake Ontario) including a nude beach on Toronto Island called Hanlan’s Point.

Sign on Toronto Island

Hanlan’s Point is pretty gay.

But anywhere there are naked men, gay men seem to pop up.  It was even through the efforts of a group of gay men in Toronto (TNT Men) that Hanlan’s Point became ‘officially’ clothing optional about a decade ago (unofficially it’s been clothing optional for about a hundred years).

And it’s changed since becoming all legitimate.

Back in the day there was nothing but the relentless sun on the sand at Hanlan’s Point (and the occasional rustling in the bushes along the sand-line), but today visitors can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas…  there is a snack bar and washrooms nearby and boats anchor by the shore.

The once alternative strip of freedom (where he risk of being charged with public nudity was all part of the fun) has now become a tourist area.  Suddenly there was an influx of lookie-loos – clothed folks trying to get a cheap thrill walking on the beach.

During Pride they even have a big dance party on the beach – I have never attended but I hear it’s a fun time.  Though I think I’d rather see people wearing at least some shorts when they’re dancing.

How about you?

Now your humble blogger has been in clothing optional beaches around the globe – Mykonos in Greece, Spain, France, Brazil…

And the guys (and even the gals) in Toronto’s can hold their own with those other places.

Though I don’t head to Hanlan’s Point too often anymore.  It requires a ferry ride… and a bit of a walk.  And since everyone has an iPhone (or equivalent) these days with a built-in camera and video recorder, what was once a fun one-off skinny dip can now result in your big white ass being put on Youtube before you dry yourself off.

iPhones giveth and they taketh away.

So I’m more inclined to wear my swim trunks these days.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

8 Comments

Filed under blogging, clothing optional, gay, gay atheist, gay beach, gay canada, gay groom, gay men, gay toronto, gaygroom, gblt, hanlan's point, naked men, nude beach

Testing out ‘Suggested Fee’ Museums in New York City

On our trip to New York City last weekend, I planned to try out two suggested fee museums, The Metropolitan Museum and The Frick Collection.  I wanted to see just how low I could go in gaining admission… and I also wanted to see if the museum staff would give your humble blogger attitude for being a cheapskate when he did.

I told the Husband I was planning on doing this but I didn’t tell him I was going to try to get in for as little money as I could.

Yes, I was prepared to look like a cheap bastard to get to scoop on suggested fee museums for my readers.

The Metropolitan Museum

As I waited in line at the Met, I watched how much people in front of me were paying.  First a family paid the full price and then two women bought a membership.  Two younger women right in front of us paid a dollar each.

I wondered how little I had to pay.

“It’s a suggested fee of 25 dollars, right” I asked the woman behind the counter.

“Yes,” she said.

“So I can pay anything?”

“Anything.”

“Can I pay nothing?”

“No,” she said, “I have to put some amount into the cash register so it has to be something.”

“Is this OK?” I asked, handing over two pennies.

“That’s fine,” she said and handed me my receipt (see photo below).

And that was it.  There was no grimace or hint of annoyance in her face.  She pleasantly passed me my tickets and we left.  I was a little disappointed that they took it so well.  That’s hardly the stuff of blog drama, I thought.  She didn’t even roll her eyes.

The Husband, however, was mortified.

“You’re going in alone at the Frick tomorrow,” he said.

The Frick Collection

On Sundays between 11:00am and 1:00pm, the Frick Collection is also ‘pay what you wish’.

Again I tried to get in free but was told I had to pay something.

“So a penny is fine?”

“Sure is!” she said.  She handed me my ticket with a smile.

I assume I wasn’t the first person to have got into the Frick on the cheap. I went in the museum while the Husband paid for himself… two or three people behind me in the queue.

Included in my cent admission was a free audio guide at the Frick.

Conclusion

For those who cannot afford the prices of either the Metropolitan Museum ($25.00) or the Frick Collection ($18.00), say older people on a fixed income or less affluent folks who find museum prices far to high (or even for those who are just bloody cheap), suggested price museums are a great way to see some of the best art in the world in one of the best cities in the world (and save your cash for the MoMA).

And since the Metropolitan and Frick staff were nothing but hospitable and charming when I handed over a mere penny, one should not feel embarrassed or think that they will be treated badly by the staff of either museum because they are paying what you can afford.

After all, that’s the name of the game!

PS: Before you bust your humble blogger’s chops for being a cheap prick, I should mention that I made a donation of $50.00 to the Metropolitan Museum to cover the admission price of the Husband and I.  At the Frick, the Husband gave them enough to cover the both of us.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

Leave a comment

Filed under art, bastard, blogging, frick collection, gay, gay blogging, gay groom, gay new york, gay travel, gaygroom, manet, metropolitan museum, new york, new york city, nyc, suggested fee museums, van gogh

Happy Birthday Alice B. Toklas! Pass the Hash Brownies.

Alice B. Toklas (left) with Gertrude Stein

Today is the birthday of Alice B. Toklas (1877 – 1967).

Toklas was the longtime companion (read lesbian lover) of American writer Gertrude Stein and writer of a cookbook (first published in 1954) that included one famous (nay, notorious) recipe for brownies (or as Alice called it, “hashish fudge”).

I included the recipe below.

But first a little bit about Alice B.  Toklas.

Apparently Toklas met Gertrude Stein in Paris on September 8, 1907 on the first day that she arrived.  Together they hosted a salon at 27, rue de Fleures in the 6th Arrondissement (on the left bank) that attracted expatriate American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder, and Sherwood Anderson and avant-garde painters, including Picasso, Matisse and Braque.

Your humble blogger made his way to 27, rue de Fleurus recently.  Sadly I was 80 years too late for the salon.

Your humble blogger at 27, rue de Fleurus, Paris.

Acting as Stein’s confidante, lover, cook, secretary, muse, editor, critic, and general organizer, Toklas remained a background figure, chiefly living in the shadow of Stein, until Stein published her memoirs in 1933 under the teasing title The Autobiography of Alice. B Toklas. It became Stein’s bestselling book. The two were a couple until Gertrude Stein’s death in 1946.

Apparently Stein’s work was incoherent (even more so) before Toklas’ editing.

Alice and Stein are now buried together inin  Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. They also share a tombstone with Gertrude Stein’s name on the front and Alice B. Toklas’ on the back.

Alice B. Toklas grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France

Now back to that recipe.

(But first allow me to predicate this by reminding you that The Gay Groom does not advocate the use of hashish or any sort of mind altering drug – except caffeine, of course.  And do remember that your humble blogger is also a teetotaler who doesn’t even partake in alcohol.

I submit the recipe only as a historic curiosity.

But there was that time back in the mid 90s in the red light district of Amsterdam that I saw Alice’s recipe on a menu…  however like all my Amsterdam files, they are now closed.)

And now, as your humble blogger promised, here is an excerpt from The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book and the infamous recipe for Alice’s fudge (“which”, Alice noted, “anyone could whip up on a rainy day”):

———————————————————————————————————————————

Alice B. Toklas Hashish Fudge

This is the food of paradise – of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to the ravished by “un évanouissement reveillé”.

Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 whole nutmeg
4 average sticks of cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
These should all be pulverized in a mortar.

About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together.

A bunch of Cannabis sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together.

About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Obtaining the Cannabis may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as Cannabis sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognized, everywhere in Europe, Asia and part of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope.

In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called Cannabis indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.

———————————————————————————————————————————

So there you have it, dear readers.  And please do remember that Alice stresses the point that “two pieces are quite sufficient”.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

3 Comments

Filed under alice b toklas, alice b. toklas brownies, alice b. toklas cookbook, blogging, gay, gay atheist, gay blogging, gay groom, gay photos, gaygroom, gblt, hash brownies, paris, writers, writing