The Nights of Tel Aviv (Bring Wisdom)

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My first night out in Tel Aviv was on a Monday.

I googled what kind of fun was happening in the city reputed as the “Gay capital of the Middle East”. There was a girls night in a bar called AlphaBet, just a couple of blocks away from the Café Sheleg (‘snow’ in Hebrew) where I was hanging out.

I decided to give it a try, although I know too well my propension to freak out in girls-only environments. I don’t like the lesbian world. Women are hard on each other, because they don’t feel good with themselves most of the time. There is often anger, frustration and things to prove in the air. Once, a friend of mine told me “You are the only happy lesbian that I know” – and yet, most of my life shit has had to do with my orientation.

I thought I’d stay at AlphaBet for a drink or two and then move on to the male bars which are – in my case – guaranteed awesome party. But when I entered the AlphaBet, I got hit by an unusual good vibe. The atmosphere was cool and relaxed. I gave a look around. 9 girls out of 10 were beautiful and friendly-looking. It felt too good to be true, but there I was, I had found the spot of earth where all the pretty and nice lesbians were hiding. They’re all at the AlphaBet in Tel Aviv.

The bartender started chatting me up very soon. It was her second shift so she was under pressure. She translated the cocktail menu for me. She had a super warm and positive energy. I was already liking her. She kept laughing and I wanted to laugh with her. She asked me if I had randomly or purposely landed in Lesbian Paradise. I am used to that. I confirmed that I didn’t get lost in the L-World to encourage her to hit on me.

I had an unexpectedly AWESOME night. I would have never bet one second on having such a good time in a lez party on a Monday with a cocktail menu written in Hebrew so I had no clue of what I was drinking (that must have added to the fun). The best part of the night is that I didn’t talk, flirt or danced with anyone. I just sat at the bar or danced alone on the dance floor and I watched the happy girls. I love happy people. It really moved me and impacted me to see queer girls who were feeling good in their own skin. It shouldn’t be extraordinary, but it is, at least it’s been so far in my world. I just hanged out there like a lonely idiot to record all those beautiful faces in my memory.

There was a very young couple making out close to me, they were 17 at the most. I haven’t seen that young girls in lez nights in other countries, where the crowd is usually mid-20s to mid-40s. These two couldn’t let go of each other, they were so cuuuuuute, I wanted to step forward at them as their Queer Godmother to keep them forever protected so they wouldn’t get hurt by the idiot bullies on the outside world. I may need them more than they need me, though. They looked perfectly fine and they will continue to be. They belong to a new generation where hopefully who you fuck with starts being less of a collective deal. I watched them for a while, and when alcohol kicked in, I got overwhelmed by the unjust feeling that I am owed 15 years of my love life. I wish I could have gone to gay bars when I was 17 and find normal to make out with my girlfriend in a public place. I don’t know. This whole love/sex thing has been more arm-wrestling than fulfilling since my teenage. When I had my first girl attraction, I lived it like a malediction instead of jumping for joy. Some of it is due to the same-sex factor, some of it is due to the girl-off-the-beaten-path factor, and some of it is my personal ghost. I start gently taming it, though.

I stayed till the end. Cool Bartender had finished her shift and had long been gone after wrapping her arm around me. I left the place but I immediately got back in to do something that I don’t easily do when I have a crush on someone that I could potentially really like. I gave it a chance. I asked another bartender – who also thought that I had landed by accident in the lez jungle – to give my card to the girl. It was my corporate business card, not the writer one. That night, I took the conscious decision to reverse the course of my destiny and to give a chance to awesomeness in relationships. There are great people out there in the broadness of our planet.

I was super proud of myself for a change.

The day after, on Tuesday, it was Drag Queen night at Evita, one of the most famous gay bars of Tel Aviv. When I enter a male gay bar anywhere in the world – and I’ve seen MANY – I get this exact same feeling of home, safety and family. I know I am going to be instantly accepted. It never fails. Gay boys love me, and it is passionately mutual. It is an entire part of my sexual identity, because I have been assertive about it for longer. I have a magnificent “collection” of gay husbands whom I love in an irrational manner. This type of love is blurry. There is some kind of sexual attraction to it. It is hard to describe, because it is fascinatingly proteiform, as anything relating to human desire. (The trend calls that “sexual fluidity”, but I prefer not qualifying it. Makes me feel stronger about it.)

So, I entered the Evita as a conquerred land. It took less than a minute to have a guy all over me. He was the waiter of the place, Calvin Klein model looking. Ridiculously well-built. The drag show was the cheapest I have ever seen. There were two worn out drags with VERY big feet. The most worn out of the two asked if there were any foreigners in the audience. I was the first to raise my hand, I thought I’d have my minute of glory from my eternal fans. But cheap drag with big feet (and ugly shoes) told me: “Argh, you’re a girl, not interesting.” These two scarecrows lost my attention for the rest of the night. I only laughed when the timing of their jokes about Eurovision was really off.

Thank God, another show was going on behind the counter. The jaw-dropping waiter was shamelessly hitting on me all night. He claimed to be straight. Every time he was passing by me, he was whispering dirty stuff in my ear, but as I was difficult to convince, he started licking the bar, the beer pump and every piece of furniture he was approaching to “turn me on”. But I was just dying laughing. He tried everything to take me home. Well. I started considering it, because he made me a very interesting proposal. I have a fantasy to f**k a boy like a boy – to be a gay boy just for a moment – and he was into that. So I could have quenched my curiosity that night. I never even thought I’d be given that opportunity so easily. That would be a very interesting research on human desire and a very funny story to write.

But there I was again, as a good story maker. I pondered for a moment. Something was holding me back. The guy was pushy and over the top, and I was trying to sense where my own desire was. Just writing a good story? I don’t want to be the girl with good stories any more. I am known for that in my circle, this is even why I launched a blog. I want to have a funny and adventurous life, but I want the good stories to be off my heart and knickers. I am claiming the right to be “normal”, plain, serene, even sometimes boring, at the emotional level. I deserve it. Yeah!

The Bar Licker gave me half an hour to make up my mind as the bar was closing. Fuck your perfect abs, dude. I’d rather sleep again with a guy with more belly but more heart. Not interested. I walked back home when everyone left, and I went to bed alone and happy. I had acted on reversing the course of my destiny again.

I was super proud of myself for a change.

The day after, Wednesday, was another girls night at a bar called Shpagat. It means ‘split’ in Hebrew. I drunk Arak and grapefruit alone at the bar. There was no magic this time. I wasn’t impressed. I was feeling average and tired after the emotions of the last two nights. I shook up my habits and went to bed by 11pm.

I was super proud of myself for a change.

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Portraits of America #1 – The Drag Queen of New Orleans

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βμ goes by the name of Eureeka Starfish* as a drag queen in the local clubs of New Orleans. His main job is at the Lucky Pierre on Bourbon Street.

He moved to New Orleans two months ago from his native South Carolina where he used to occasionally perform in small clubs. But that wasn’t taking him where he wanted and his ambitions were frustrated.

A few months ago, his dad manifested from Louisiana where he had moved. βμ hadn’t spoken with him for ten years because he disapproved of his homosexuality and queerness. βμ took it as a sign of destiny and made the move to New Orleans to live with his father on the other side of the river.

He’s quickly built a professional circle here and now spends most of his time in drag, working in average 6 nights a week. His skin can barely breathe, and as he “loves his porcelain skin”, he walks around the hot streets of New Orleans with a vintage sun umbrella.

About a month ago, his dad came to see him on stage. He finally understood. (There is hope for everyone!) Not only is he now supportive of his son’s life style and identity, he’s also super proud to have given birth to a diva with that many eccentric yet classy outfits.

βμ now lives with his boyfriend on the second floor of a gunshot house near the French Quarter, where most of his gigs are happening.

On his days off, βμ goes drag shopping in the vintagy extravaganza shops of the city: Fifi Mahony’s, Trashy Diva… he knows his wig and lingerie stuff.

He’s mixing all kind of influences in his numbers and outfits: Japanese pop culture, Pop Art Warholy icons, house wife from the 50s, vintage, mainstream. He also writes his own electro music and would like to bring more arty numbers to his drag club such as covers of the electro French singer Emilie Simon and other French divas who are unknow here. (I HAD to tell him about Mylène Farmer and he obviously instantly fell in love with her. If some Mylène Farmer covers are ever being performed in NoLA drag clubs, I might be the one responsible for it.) He’s finding his balance between paying mainstream gigs and his real artistic, more alternative vein.

One of his favorite part about drag is contributing to the cultural shift in mentalities, especially when working in more commercial venues. He’s very often confronted to audiences who have never seen drag before. They can even be afraid of queer and gay, because it is unknown to them. He takes time to make them feel comfortable about it, to talk to them with goodwill. In most cases, after the show, uptightness and fear have turned into enthusiasm and admiration. These are his routinely little victories.

βμ is changing the world on his own way.

*His facebook account as Eureeka Starfish was recently suspended by Facebook which censored many drag queen artists and arbitrarily closed their accounts under the pretext that they were using their stage name and not their legal name. Facebook has since then presented an apology to the Drag queens in question.

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The Misfits II

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Yesterday, µ, who is Greek, dragged me to a chic piano recital in the Hellenic Centre of London. I had picked the ideal occasion to look punk (for my standards). I had a dirty hair and was wearing baggy jeans and my torn T-Shirt of the Kinsey Sicks, an American drag queen quartet. (H’s brother is a drag queen called Daisy Buckët and I am éperdument in love with her. On the picture above, Daisy is the one with a finger up her nose. I used to tell H to tell her bro that he’s sitting on my right boob, but I guess he’s not sensitive to that kind of tribute).

Everybody else was super dressed up – borderline Christmas tree in some instances – but we sat down on the first row anyway, to have a better view of the pianist born in 1984. These prodigies younger than me just get on my nerves. I was also concerned that Daisy Buckët on my chest would distract him from his score but we were all safe in the end.

When he sat (late) at the piano, µ told me in a whisper: “He has a very stiff upper body. He would need some body-mind centering.” 

At the interval, I picked the program of the Hellenic Centre and we headed to the ladies bathroom. µ turned around and asked me (about the program): “Did you find anything interesting?” As she was saying that, she intercepted the gaze of a gentleman in his 50’s who was coming out of the male toilets. There was a moment of suspension and the man seemed super confused about the nature of the question. I told him: “Don’t worry Sir, she was talking to me.” He looked visibly relieved and said: “I was trying to think of something to reply!”

We rushed into the bathroom and peed our pants laughing.

After Beethoven and Chopin, we hanged out to eat petits fours and make connections in order to exhibit at the Hellenic Centre. µ talked to a poorly dressed plastic surgeoness who requested a proposal by email. Then an older guy chatted us up about social dance, cha cha, jive, ballroom tango, and was like “Call me, we’ll go dancing at the Rivoli together!” Sure.

We continued the evening at the pub around the corner and ordered 2 peppermint tea leaning on the bar. Colombia was playing against Japan and we were shouting at Colombian players because we wanted to see their victory dance when they score. The bartender asked us: “You are not really Colombian or Japanese, right?” I think he was trying to figure out what a regular dressed girl and an overly dressed girl with fucked up accents were doing in a Marylebone pub shouting at football players with a cup of peppermint tea in their hand.

Yeah. That’s just an average London night for µ & I.

Our life is about throwing people off.

Hanging out @ the Stonewall Inn

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I literally spent all week-end at the Stonewall Inn. It is hardly impossible to have a bad time at there.

For those who have no clue what I am talking about  – the Stonewall Inn is a gay bar which is the birthplace of the first gay pride, and more widely of the movement for LGBT equality. It coincides with the death of Judy Garland back in June 1969. The gay community was mourning its icon and there was tension in the air, so when the police did another raid at the Stonewall Inn on June 28th, 1969 to put people under arrest – as homosexuality was still penalized at the time – the community broke into giant riots which lasted several days. One year later, an anniversary parade commemorated the events of June 1969, and so was born the Gay Pride.

I don’t identify with the Gay Pride today – I have never even been – but I give a big up to the guys who protested at the time and stood up against the world to get the right to screw how they want, therefore the Stonewall Inn is one of my cult places.

Today, the Stonewall Inn has a discrete sign on its facade which immortalizes its history, but it is really easy to go past it if you are not aware of the importance that carries the place. Two years ago when I randomly came across it, it was displaying red glitter shoes in its window (tribute to Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz) but it seems that they removed them.

I went on Friday night after 5 Rhythms for the Lesbo-a-Gogo karaoke night – the name is self-explanatory – only to find out that it was over and that an all-girl party called Girls Nation was kicking in. The lesbian events always take place in the minuscule room upstairs and guys have the large ground floor room- of course – so it is easy to get tight together. I was awkwardly hanging out by myself  for a moment and a lovely black girl, J.,  who was sitting next to me at the bar was drinking the same bad wine as me so we ended up speaking and dancing all night in the middle of this beautiful, friendly and caring crowd. The spirit there just makes you feel good about yourself and it is effortless to make connections with people and have a good laugh. I touched the boobs of a drag queen named Alyssa who had a super bleach blonde hair and was trying to pull the bartender.

I went again on Saturday night for Drag show. Bring it on! It was amazing. All my beloved drags were so pretty and approachable, I stalked them for silly pictures like a groupie and they were kind enough to tell me that I was the beautiful one. I am probably the natural version of a drag queen – for the exaggerated hair, boobs and outfits – so there is a strong sense of family between us. Oh Ladies, I love you. One of them even let me smoke her cigarette butt.

J. was there and I also met ∑ – a lovely miniature version of Shane McCutcheon – for those who know what I mean. So many beautiful and fabulous people, I am getting dizzy.

Walking Manhattan in the middle of the night is a fun experience – especially on a Saturday when everyone is on post-party mode. There is a lot of light and kindness in the air, people chat each other up with no animosity. It was almost surprising how safe and surrounded it feels to go back home alone in mini-short jeans and fetish shoes. It’s like being escorted by angels from the heart of the City to your door.

At 4.30am on the train back home, I spotted pretty blue-hair boy (see previous post). I came across him randomly again! Incredible. His name is µ. He said Oh-my God-I’ve-been-thinking-about-you-I-looked-you-up-online-let’s-be-friends. He was wearing vintage heel shoes this time. I rushed to write him down my contact details on a Paris metro ticket.

This time, I am sure. It is not that I love NY. It is that NY loves me.