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Travel Bound
by Jim Gladstone
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“Bali was a bacchanalia,” writes Piper Kerman of the brief pleasures that precede the long fall she recounts in her frank, utterly engrossing memoir Orange Is The New Black: My Year in A Women’s Prison (Spiegel & Grau, $25., “Days and nights of sunbathing, drinking, and dancing until all hours with Nora’s crew of gay boys.” Nora is the mysterious older woman who seduces Kerman, just graduated from Smith College, into not only an affair, but a brief stint as an international drug-money mule. While Kerman extricates herself and tries to cut off all ties to her guilt-inducing misadventure after just a few months, the past catches up to her years later in the form of federal marshals knocking at her door. There’s an agonizing gap of years between Kerman’s initial apprehension and the day she finally has to report to the Danbury penitentiary, a strange psychological limbo in which she hides the eventuality of her imprisonment from all but her partner and a few close friends. Then, there is prison itself, hardly the land of Oz or even The Women of Cellblock H, but a much more subtle and complex world of subcultures and personality clashes that will keep readers turning pages at a rapid clip even as they find their perspectives on the justice and prison system slowly and surely altered by Kerman’s crisp, clear-eyed, and admirably honest prose.

In his recently released feature film, 44 Inch Chest, director and photographer Malcolm Venville demonstrated that he understands the potential for sly entertainment in the interweaving of camp and machismo. In the movie, that irresistible scenery-chewer Ian McShane, of Deadwood and Sexy Beast fame, plays a cold-blooded gay gambler, one of the toughest in a film full of tough guys. Amidst the thuggery, Venville also slips in some winking humor. There are a couple scenes that mimic moments from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1950 Samson and Delilah, with Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr. Venville’s playful sensibility is even more evident in Lucha Loco (Universe, $24.95., a collection of his vibrant color portraits of the Mexican wrestlers known as luchadors. Venville, borrowing from Richard Avedon’s portrait style, poses the clownishly costumed wrestlers against plain gray backdrops so that their garish masks and lycra jumpsuits practically vibrate off the page. For all those gay American men who, as kids, felt their first tingles of burgeoning ’mo-dom watching the beefcake pileups of the Iron Sheik, Gorilla Monsoon, and Jesse Ventura on Saturday afternoon television, this book will provide a dual jolt: it’s sexy and it’s goofy all at once. Check out “Maximus” in his silver boots and neon-pink gladiator drag, his bulge peeking out beneath a mini-skirted tunic. The bright red and baby blue winged tips of Astro Boy’s pleather mask are almost as pointy as the nipples on his bare, well-oiled chest. Ridiculous and delicious, innocent and lurid, Lucha Loco has an irresistible charm, which, like any luchador worth his spandex, is a bit slippery and hard to pin down.

LGBT travelers should take note of Back Roads ($25), a terrific new guidebook series from DK, publishers of the popular Eyewitness line. Beginning with volumes on Italy, Great Britain, Ireland, and Spain, to be followed later this year by Australia and Germany, Back Roads is an invitation to authenticity. Each book features detailed itineraries for 25 driving routes that take two–seven leisurely days apiece, meandering through small towns and scenic vistas, with overnights at inns and bed and breakfasts, non-trendy restaurant recommendations focused on local culinary specialties, and plenty of walking tours and other out-of-the-car activities worked into every day’s adventure. A pull-out road map is included in each book, and GPS postcodes are provided throughout the text to help you navigate, making this sort of self-guided travel much less intimidating than ever before. Back Roads may be the first series to focus on a very specific niche: independent-minded travelers who are not necessarily looking to vacation on the cheap. You’ll find top-notch slow food restaurants, elegant hostelries, and fine wine along these routes. What you won’t find is the same-old same-old.

Another new series of self-guided tour books is well-geared to American travelers whose recessionary travel budgets may be leading them to consider the staycation. The Trips series, from Lonely Planet, is tightly focused on driveable itineraries. Volumes’ subject regions include: New England, California, the mid-Atlantic, Arizona and New Mexico, the Carolinas and Georgia, and the Pacific Northwest ($19.95 each. These books are a terrific choice for local residents who want to explore the areas around their own homes in engaging, thematic ways. The New England volume, for instance, includes a two-day itinerary focused on the best Massachusetts diners, another wrapped around visits to Vermont dairy farms, and a multi-state ramble to the homes of great literary figures, from Herman Melville to Jack Kerouac.

“When pressed to account for her affinity to gay men, Moira always smiled and said, ‘I am a gay man, trapped in a woman’s body…This is San Francisco!’” At once funny, knowing, sexy, and a tad twisted, Moira (a character in Kevin Killian’s story “Greensleeves”) reflects the overall tone of Impossible Princess, an eclectic collection of short fiction that sparkles, sizzles, and arouses the intellect (City Lights Books, $15.95. Fisting, fetishes, Showgirls, and Kylie Minogue each have their smartly entertaining place in Killian’s skewed universe of polymorphous perversity. In “Ricky’s Romance,” an underpaid clerical temp stays late to reward himself with unapproved use of the copy machines. (He’s printing the latest issue of his Faye Dunaway tribute zine.) Ironic comeuppance (cum-uppance, really) arrives in the form of Osbaldo, the even more underpaid janitor, who mistakes Ricky, bent over the copier, for their condescending boss and takes his carnal revenge; the machine runs on throughout, lights flashing as endless images of Ricky’s ecstatic face spit into the print tray. At once a comedy of mistaken identity, a dirty stroke book yarn, and a wicked little observation on class-warfare, this is a plum example of the witty, genre-bending fun Killian has in store for readers.

[Published: April, 2010]

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2012 Gay Event Calendars

International Gay Pride Calendar 2012
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