Monday, November 28, 2016

A Ruinous Lust

You look at him. He smiles. It’s that same smile he’s been smiling at you for years. That same smile he smiled at you back when he was still “straight.” You feel the flutter in your stomach. You thought those butterflies had flown away, or better yet, died years ago. You worked hard to coax them away; bury them. You tried to give them no nourishment so that they would have to leave you alone and find another place to live; find their way into someone else’s stomach through the hole in the heart left by Cupid’s arrow.

It seems that with the sensation you felt that day you realized they had merely fallen into a deep slumber. Your feelings are still there. You would go with him one more time if he would only ask. You're not in love with him but you love him. Lust is what you’re in with him. You’re in the deepest lust with him and you just want to feel him deep inside you.

He doesn’t care about you. You realize that, right? Yes. You realize it. You know it. He will be your friend but he will be nothing more. He used you once. That was about him and not you. Your feelings were collateral damage. You will never kiss him again. You will never feel his lips on yours or his hands on your body. You will never take him into your mouth again and he will never penetrate you in the way you yearn. Unless you consider the way his has penetrated your heart. But you have to heal that wound. It will do nothing but fester if you continue down this path of wishing and pretending.

He can still be beautiful in your eyes. You have to find the balance. He will never be yours and you will never find yourself comforted in his embrace. You will never fall asleep with your head on his chest.

He is not good for you. You know that. Yet your heart overrides your head every time you see him. You keep hoping, as you’ve been doing for too many years, that the right moment might arise and his eyes will be open and see you as the person he is missing in his life. That is never going to happen. He sees you and he wants nothing more from you than friendship.

That hole in your heart left by Cupid has merely crusted over. Propel the butterflies up and out. Make them break through the scab. Make them exit. Let that particular hole close. Cupid will hopefully provide you with another one day. 

He is the boy that was never meant to be yours and no amount of wishing is going to change that. He doesn’t want you. He never really did. You’ve been suffering, on and off, with your unrequited love of him for too long. 

It’s time you loved yourself more than you think you love him. It’s time to remove the infatuation cataracts from your eyes. Your lips, hands, and body deserve more than the desire to one more time have a chance to get it right and win his heart. 

Your heart is more important than his and some desires do nothing more than ruin a life. Don’t let his smile and your lust continue to affect your life. They’re a mad combination doing nothing more than conspiring against you.

There will be another He if you let there be.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Shoes & Safety-Pins: Unexpected Symbols of Freedom

Sometimes a shoe is more than a shoe. 

Sometimes it's a piece of art that you wear for its beauty. But sometimes it’s a symbol you wear in defiance of all the prejudice, fear, and hate that is around you.

Sometimes a man needs to face himself in the mirror and apply a swipe of mascara, maybe a bit of eye shadow or eye liner, or both, then put on his heels and confidently (Oh how I've had to muster every ounce of courage to appear confident in the days since) walk out of the apartment.

In a country that has proven itself to be at least half (considering the voters in the recent election) full of racists, sexists, and phobes of some sort, it takes a lot for someone like me (a person who deviates from society’s idea of normal) to hold his head up and Just Be.

I am not alone in my fears. I am not alone in my devastation. I am not alone in my courage.  And I am thankfully no longer feeling alone in my sadness. I have friends who can help me be strong and who I hope I help be strong. Now more than ever I feel like we have to be there for each other. We have to support each other. We have to find support if we don’t have it. We have to help others who are hurting—friends and strangers alike. 

Yesterday, as I began to see images of vandalism; to read tweets and status updates of racism and homophobia—at a reprehensible low—I took a moment to breathe down the nausea. Then I took a moment to feel grateful that I live in progressive and generally accepting New York City and had not directly experienced that hate. Then I got angry.

Our President-elect incited this madding crowd during his entire campaign. He unearthed them; brought them into the light. His inability to hold his tongue and be diplomatic (EVER!) has given many of his supporters a sense of empowerment to now say and do whatever they want to anyone.

I want to do more than use my words. I’m stirred to act up; fight back. I want to get my hands dirty and help. I’ve donated to The Trevor Project and Planned Parenthood. That is not enough but it’s a start.

Our President-elect doesn’t have the backs of most of the people that he is set to starting leading in January 2017. It doesn’t seem as if he will surround himself with advisors that will have our backs either.

There are many of us that are angry. Many of us that are scared. Many of us that are grieving. Many of us trying to find a safe place to land.

There’s a new symbol that is being warn to show solidarity. It’s a simple safety pin. You’ve probably got several in the bottom of a drawer where you live. It’s in the name already—safety. It’s a symbol of support: an identifier marking an ally; a safe place for all of us humans who are targets of the Make America Great Again constituency to feel supported, respected, equal.

So as I enter the Third Morning After I’m reminded of a few lyrics from that good ol’ show tune, “A Little More Mascara” from La Cage Aux Folles: “When life is a real bitch again and my old sense of humor has up and gone…I put a little more mascara on.” To this I will add a fabulous pair of shoes and a safety pin.

I will be myself and be a safe place. I will support you and ask for your support in return. I ask that you help me stay strong and courageous and I in turn will help you.

Sometimes a shoe is more than a shoe. And sometimes a safety pin is more than a pin.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Even in Trump’s America, I Will Shine My Light

As I sit in my apartment, trying to drink a cup a coffee on the morning after, I can’t help but feel completely alone. I’m trying to assuage the dread and fear that is knotting my stomach. I’m trying to decide whether crying or not crying is best. I’m angry. I’m devastated. I’m scared. 

I have connected with friends this morning who share in my grief at what happened yesterday in America. I have reached out to a few family members without knowing what the response will be or even if I’ll get one. I have read through many tweets and articles that have already been tweeted and published this morning regarding the outcome of yesterday’s actions. Texts and tweets are a from of connection but in reality, I’m alone in my sadness.

I never knew how much racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia existed in my country: the land of the free; the home of the brave. (I’m no fool. I knew it existed just not to this extent.) With the hate-filled words that spewed from his mouth during his entire campaign, Mr. Trump shined the brightest light in the sky, illuminating his existence for all who might feel the same way as he and want to follow him down his dark path of making America great again. (America is already pretty great. Where do we go now?) 

Parallels between Harry Potter’s big bad, Voldemort, and Mr. Trump have already been made Mr. Trump's his Dark Mark shining in the sky brought forth a glut of supporters. His divisive words allowed those who longed for the “good ol’ days” to stand tall, proud, fearlessly in that light and affirm their beliefs because he was saying out loud how they felt. 

As a gay man I have seen so much positive change in our country during President Obama’s two terms. Change that I fear our new president wants to wipe away as quickly as he can. I don’t want to go down the road of #NotMyPresident. But I don’t know how to respect a man who does not respect me and will not have my back.

I’m afraid for my LGBTQ friends (adults and youth alike), my muslim friends, my black friends, my latino friends. Our new conservative leader does not seem to have the best interest of any of us at heart. His own words have proven that during his campaign. On the whiter side, he does have the backing of the KKK. Wait. Stop. Think about that for a second. I saw a tweet this morning by Mikey Walsh that said: 

"Our First Black President will have to greet, and give up the White House & the presidency to a Man endorsed by the KKK. 2016."

Is this America? 

So, what am I to do? What are any of us whom our leaders view as second-class citizens supposed to do? Noah Michelson wrote a fantastic piece at 3am this morning called Dear Queer America: Here Is What We Must Do Now That Trump Will Be President. He tells me to never stop fighting. He tells me to continue to live my life and be me. He tells me to come out again and again. He tells me to be vigilant, to be brave, and to speak. 

The first thing I did was cry. (That answers the question posed in the first paragraph.) Then I tweeted Noah my appreciation and came out again to him. I plan to continue to live my life and show up and be seen. I will continue to love men. I will continue to paint my fingernails and wear high heels with my boy clothes. I will continue to wear eye make up whenever I want to. I will continue to write and explore and be me. I will continue to push back against those who wish I would just go back inside the closet.

I’m terrified of what this upcoming regime change may bring upon this country I call home. But as terrified as I am I don’t want to cower in fear of the Dark Mark hovering above us. The homophobic, racist, sexist, misogynistic citizenry cannot be allowed to make us feel less than. I am an American: a man, a homosexual, an equal.

The sky is gray in New York City today. At first I thought is was the perfect metaphor for the ominous future that is hanging over our country. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe those dark clouds need an even brighter light to illuminate the sky and dissipate the darkness. Maybe a disco playlist will lighten the mood.

I’m still here. I’m still queer. I’m still me. And you’re still you. We have to pull together and not allow this victory to defeat us. We’re Americans, damn it. We’re made of stronger stuff. And to quote the Tony Award winning Best Musical Avenue Q, “Donald Trump is only for now.”

We’ll get through this. We have to. It’s either survive or die and death is not an option. Stay strong. Show up. Be seen. Be yourself. Shine your light.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

In The Wake of Orlando: How Uneasy I (Still) Feel

Is anybody else out there still anxious, uneasy, or just plain scared? I hate to admit it. I think I might even be ashamed to admit it. But uneasy is exactly the way I've been feeling for the past few days. The tragedy in Orlando not only saddened me it angered me, frustrated me, and continues to leave me with my defenses up; an uneasy feeling, not just in the pit of my stomach, but pulsing through my entire body.

In the face of that unease I have to admit my truth one more time: I am homosexual.

It was June 22, 1993. North Carolina (of all places). I was performing in summer stock for the first time. I was at the pool. The water was crystal clear as the sun glinted off its translucent ripples. The sounds of laughter and music from that day are still present in my memory. Friends -- both gay and straight -- basked in the sun's rays. It was on this day 23 years ago that I quietly, yet bravely, opened my closet door and walked out into the world.

I celebrate the anniversary of that day every year as another birthday. For that's exactly what it is. Coming out was scary but necessary. It was the only way I could live. Staying in the closet could only continue to propagate loneliness, fear, and confinement. It was suffocating. I was dying. I needed to be set free. I was fortunate enough (as theatre people often are) to be surrounded by a gaggle of gay men who hugged me, loved me, welcomed me (even if some said, "It's about time"). That slap on the ass did not elicit crying it beget a laugh of elation. It was the first time I started being me. The relief far outweighed the trepidation of what my future might hold, i.e. coming out to my parents, revealing my true self to the world. That's reason enough to celebrate this day every year.

With those same embracing, accepting, welcoming men I went many times to the gay bar, Scandals, in Asheville, North Carolina. I enjoyed the unrestricted freedom of dancing the night away with my friends...and strangers alike. I watched with glee as the drag queens lip-synced the hell out of songs by Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Cher. I sang along at the top of my lungs. I laughed. I drank. I kissed boys. I pressed my body against other men, nary a slit wide enough for light between us. It was freedom. I wasn't scared. It was a place filled with people just like me, celebrating life, hurting no one.

I was a young 22-year old man; naive, excited, nervous, ready.

I'm now a 45-year old man who has seen the world change since that June day in North Carolina all those years ago -- change that I didn't think I would ever see. Personally, I've made tremendous strides in accepting myself and living my life authentically in public. And humankind has made tremendous strides toward equality and human rights.

Change is happening. Most of it positive. It's exciting. But it creates what a friend of mine described perfectly as "a false sense of comfort." We forget how many people merely tolerate us and in some cases simply wish we would shut up and go back inside our closets. There are haters out there and social media allows them to share their hate prolifically.

I live in New York City. And in my City I often feel we live in what I can only describe as a bubble. I don't regularly stop to wonder what life is like for people who don't live here. New York City is such a melting pot of races, cultures, religions. I doubt I'm alone in that bias. Do you think about the attitudes and opinions of people who live in upstate New York, the Midwest, or Deep South very often? Ask yourself. That imaginary bubble creates a sense of security that when truly pondered, especially in the wake of the devastating shooting at Pulse night club in Orlando, is misleading at best.

I don't want to be scared. I don't want to hide. I want to be defiant, vocal, unabashedly out and proud. But god damn it I am afraid. There are preachers who are happy about the massacre in Orlando. (I'm talking about you Steven Anderson, and you Roger Jimenez, and you Donnie Romero. Loving Christians indeed...NOT!) There are Republican leaders in the House of Representatives who block votes on amendments to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. How could I not be afraid in an America (ok, a World) filled with so much phobia and hate? My fears get the better of me and I find myself cowering.

Gay bars should be a safe haven. We shouldn't have to fear for our lives when we're inside. There's enough to threaten us outside the door when homophobic people lie in wait for us to head home so they can hit us with their hateful slurs or, in some cases, their hateful fists. LGBTQ people should not have to worry about losing their jobs because of who they kiss, hold hands with, fuck, or marry. LGBTQ people should not have to worry that a member of one of the Baptist churches, pastored by one of the above mentioned men, will take to heart what their spiritual leader is saying and gun us down.

I have needed all my courage to throw my shoulders back, hold my head up, and walk down the street, completely visible -- vitally visible -- in the days since waking to the nightmare in Orlando. I understand that we, the LGBTQ community, cannot hide, must not hide. We have to be seen. We have to be louder. We. Have. To! That means no matter how uneasy I might still be feeling, I have to continue to be me -- gay, beautiful, fabulous, gender expansive, funny, creative, normal me.

And you, if you're LGBTQ, have to continue to be you.

"There are some wounds that can never heal. There are scars that make us who we are but without them we don't exist." Written by John Logan for the character of Lily on Penny Dreadful.

If you're feeling like me, reach out to the LGBTQ people in your life for support, strength, and courage. I have done that. I continue to do that. If you're the parent of an LGBTQ child or a straight ally, reach out to the LGBTQ people in your life and show them you support them, that you love them, that you're there for them.

"I love you, Michael!!" Those words came to me via text on the Monday following Orlando. They were from my mom. I knew that she was reaching out to her gay child to assure me in four simple words that she was thinking about me after the senseless attack on the LGBTQ community took the lives of 49 people who were merely enjoying their lives in what should have been a safe place to do just that -- enjoy their lives.

That text meant so much to me. You never know who is frightened, who is angry, who is suffering. But kindness and support and love goes a long way toward restoring calm...and healing.

"Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it's a good place to start."  Jason Collins

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Fashion Forward: Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Fashion. I love it. Some might say I'm a slave to it. While I like to wear what's "in," I'm also a sucker for something classic; or vintage. So I don't think I'm exactly a slave to fashion. Others might call me a label whore. I can accept this title. There are brands that I like (Louis Vuitton, YSL, Hermès) and brands that I find look good on me (Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood). If I can afford to buy the label, I'm going to buy the label. I've even been referred to as a fashion victim. Well, I have to say that while I have been known to buy the brand because of the label (LV, Hermès), I'm not one that's willing to shell out the money to buy the label just because it's the label, especially if it doesn't look good on me (or the bag doesn't fit my needs). The point is, everyone buys clothes. We're all drawn to certain things. I enjoy cultivating my style in the garden of designer labels when I can. I haven't always been able to do that. And I don't consider my desire to wear labels or my ability to afford them (Gucci platforms, YSL mini bag) a negative attribute. I work. I save. I purchase. Sometimes I have buyers remorse even if I've finally purchased the very item I've been saving for. Money is tangible. Joy from the purchase is not. Ultimately, I find the joy and have no regrets for spending the money.

Fashion trends are dictated by the designers (or Anna Wintour). We're all aware at some point in a season of that one item on everyone's Must List. Maybe it's a bag. Maybe it's a shoe. Maybe it a certain leg width for denim. For spring, I read that the bomber jacket was a must have. After reading that bit of information, wouldn't you know I saw bomber jackets everywhere. It made me wonder what underground syndicate tells every fashion house We want bomber jackets to be the It thing for spring so make one. 

Fashion changes. Sometimes gradually; sometimes from season to season. (Christian Dior used to change his silhouette with every season effectively outdating what was in a woman's closet every few months.) It can be based on the shifting mood of the times. Or can shift the mood of the times by creating something altogether new. 

Style is what you do with that fashion. I prefer to buy things that are on trend with a bent toward the classic. That's my style. I don't want my clothes to be dated by the next season. Something that is in the center of the fashion zeitgeist this season might need only the right accessory to keep the look fresh year after year. 

I do like to find out what has been deemed the hot color of the season. Again, does that syndicate tell everyone This fall we wants lots of cordovan but for spring we want emerald? I incorporate the color either in nail polish or a piece of jewelry or a shirt that has that color in it. Something that allows me to participate without going overboard. And let's be honest, a shirt with cordovan in the print is still going to work for autumn no matter the autumn of what year. Deep red is an autumn/winter color. It's a classic. Emerald will always work for spring/summer. Be smart about what you buy. Have fun, but be smart.

This fashion lesson was brought to you in honor of my visit to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs today. The museum is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a panorama of fashion spanning three centuries. I was in heaven. It's a shame you can't see my halo and wings. I didn't take a selfie. Sorry. 

According to their website there are "300 items of men's, women's and children's fashion from the 18th century to today." I saw them all. Corsets, panniers, breeches, waistcoats, vests, bustles, trains. From Charles-Frederick Worth (consisered by many as the first couturier) to Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin and Madeleine Vionnet. And what French fashion exhibit would be complete without Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent? 

I was mildly intrigued by the gowns and menswear of the early 18th century. They're beautiful. There's no denying it. Especially when viewing the details. It's easy to imagine Marie Antoinette and the ladies and gentlemen of the period wearing those clothes. We've seen the images a hundred and two times. We can't imagine how long it took to dress with all those layers. Forget about doing it alone. And forget about a quickie in the antechamber. Beautiful to admire, but yawn. 

Then there was the room filled with dresses I would expect to see in Scarlett O'Hara's closet...although not in her window. 

The changing of the silhouette becomes extremely interesting when you can view it all at once. The corseting and bustles to no bustles to finally no corset--women had to, and still do, go through much more than men when it comes to fashion. Although women have so many more choices than men when it comes to decorating their bodies with the beauty of clothes.

It was upon entering the room showcasing designs from around 1903 and forward that I came alive. These were dresses designed by names I recognized.

1. A selection. This is where my halo started forming

2. Elsa Schiaparelli (she loved shocking pink). To your right is a gown by American designer Mainbocher

3. An Elsa Schiaparelli pink jacket, again in shocking pink. To the right, a blue haute couture gown by her rival, Coco Chanel

4. The room where I got my wings 

5. The "New Look" by Christian Dior

6. Yet another gorgeous Dior

7. This Pierre Balmain is reminiscent of a few gowns I saw in photos from this year's Met Gala--Manus x Machina

8. Hubert de Givenchy coat

9. Again with Dior. The gold outfit to the left belongs to Chanel

10. Cristóbal Balenciaga

11. Both of these pieces are from the mind of Paco Rabanne

12. Both purple and yellow selections are Yves Saint Laurent

13. A Christian Lacroix that might have felt at home in one of the previous rooms

14. That ensemble on the right is the creation of Vivienne Westwood

15. A Raf Simmons dress for the House of Dior

16. The back view of the Dior on the left. The gown on the right is Riccardo Tisci for the House of Givenchy

Regardless of where you spend your money on your clothes, find your style. Figure out what you like, what makes you happy. Pick up a Vogue magazine once in a while and check things out. See what's in your closet already that looks like something you saw in its pages. Have a good time. Fashion should be fun.

Fashion is fantasy. Style is how you express the fantasy. Find your fantasy. Be yourself...confidently. I dare you!

Mon voyage se poursuit. Au Revoir

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Une Fondation et un Cimetière

I was nearly overcome by tears as I descended from the 4th floor terrace of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. The sky was overcast, the sun fighting to break through the haze. The air was crisp. I could hear the water gently rolling down the man made, stepped waterfall, the birds chirping, the various languages one hears in a museum full of the melting pot of people gathered to admire its contents. I was truly happy and surrounded by beauty. Hence the near trickle of tears that nearly dampened my cheeks as if it was a smaller version of the waterfall in front of me. 

The structure of the Fondation Louis Vuitton is itself a piece of art. If you're reminded of the Sydney Opera House when looking at the above pic you're in good company. I was too. Maybe that's because of the curvature. The curved glass portion of the upper levels of the Fondation are designed to look like sailboat sails inflated by air. The Opera House calls its roof "shells". Both look aerodynamically designed with wind in mind. 

Commissioned by Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH (Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton) the Frank Gehry (American) designed building is glorious and modern. Its design strikes a contemporary and artistic pose on the outskirts of an historic Paris. Although the metropolis of the business district can be seen from the second floor terrace, that image of glass towers is not the image so often associated with Paris. Which makes this contemporary structure all the more rapturous.

My wish would have been that the sun be a shining today and that I wouldn't have needed a jacket. That was not in Mother Nature's plan. As much as the sun fought to shine through the clouds the clouds proved a stronger opponent than the power of the rays.

However disappointed I may have been by the rain, I'm not sure I can say that it didn't create the perfect atmosphere for strolling through Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Two days in a row I roamed among the dead as they rest. 

On my last visit to Paris in Septembre 2015, I twice attempted a visit to this cimetière. My plans were thwarted both times so I was determined to make it this time. 

Cemeteries are like cities of the dead, don't you think? There is a design to the layout much like a city. The tombstones are monuments much like buildings. There are often flowers and in most cases grassy space--like parks. There are roads on which to drive or walk. It's a city of the dead. 

It's peaceful in a city of the dead. Think about doesn't often hear raised voices or loud music in a cemetery. As I said yesterday, the dead are so respected. And they can't even appreciate it. They're dead! But I digress.

The cobblestone streets running through Père Lachaise were dappled with green grass growing between the stones, which were wet and slick from the pouring rain. The downpour shook loose the flowering buds in the trees mixing them with the rain as each fell to the ground, a mix of flurry and fury. 

To my right just after entering I saw the sign outlining the locations of the notables buried within the walls. Edith Piaf is there. Chopin, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Jim Morrison. Sarah Berhardt is there as well as Molière. These were a few of the names I recognized. I must confess though that it wasn't terribly important for me to see any of their graves. Maybe I would have felt differently if the rain hadn't soaked through my shoes to my socks. But I'm not sure it would have mattered even if the sun had been shining down on me. I just wanted to be inside the walls, see the burial markers. 

They are quite grand, most of them. Some reminded me of phone booths in their shape and height. Some of those had broken doors and revealed a space just large enough to kneel and, most likely, say a prayer for the dead. Not that they need the prayer. They are dead after all. 

Père Lachaise is quite congested with graves. There's barely a space between markers. It seems there are strict limitations to who can be buried there now and the lucky families can purchase in perpetuity or for 50, 30, or 10 years. Leasing for 30 years is a popular option these days. (You can lease your burial plot like you're leasing a new Fiat.) However, if the lease isn't renewed, or the 50, 30, or 10 year time previously purchased not extended, then the bones are dug up, moved to a modern day catacombs, and the grave sight sold or leased to another family. Moral of the story: death may not be the final resting place in Père Lachaise so if you want to stay up.

The day was filled with beautiful monuments although two quite different versions of beauty--the new and the old. The new modern structure of the Fondation Louis Vuitton was contemporary, if not futuristic. While the oldest structures in Père Lachaise (my favorites) were grand on a smaller scale, mixing centuries of styles and motifs, harkening back to many other times. I do love vintage.

Mon voyage se poursuit. Au Revoir.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Les Catacombes De Paris

"Halt, this is the empire of the dead."

I have a fear of death. I'm fairly certain that it is the ppain connected with dying that scares me most--drowning, burning, the agony of disease. Dying alone. That's a huge part of the problem. I know...we all die alone; death is a personal passage; a solitary journey. I get that. Even when someone is holding your hand you're still alone in that final sleep. 

A few days prior to this trip to Paris, I was lying in bed, awake with anxiety, trying to fall asleep. I kept repeating the word "death" over and over. I was trying to get comfortable with it as a word, take some of the darkness and mystique from it; challenge its power.

It is fitting--if only to me--that on my first full day in Paris (on this, my second trip) that I spent some time underground, communing with the bones of many a Parisian's past. 

The descent began via spiral staircase. Spiraling down into the depths of the city's underground. Roughly 60 feet.  Dimly lit, narrow passageways, well worn and slick from moisture and travel, were the path to follow as I felt myself sloping gradually deeper below the surface. The only life was that of the others around me doing the same thing.

It was cold. Chilled to the bone now takes on a new meaning. I felt my teeth trying to chatter. I forbade them to do so, daring them to defy me. I won. I felt my body tense, waiting for someone to jump from one of the dark crevices to scare me. But this was no haunted house or set for a horror film. This was concentrated ground.

Aside from those walking this passage with a companion (and talking while doing so) the journey was silent and serene. Even those holding conversations were kerping them at a low volume. Isn't it amazing how much respect is given to the dead? Oh that we might treat each other in life with as much courtesy and respect. Imagine what your subway ride might actually be like.  

To ogle at stacks of bones might seem an odd thing to do, but the history behind their stacking is fascinating.

In the 18th century it seems health conscious Parisians were looking to improve the city's sanitary conditions. Their bright idea was to empty the church cemeteries, moving the bones to what had formerly been limestone quarries underneath the city. It took decades to complete the process. Ceremonial processions of carts of bones were led by priests to the newly repurposed quarries, now catacombs. In places, the bones could be found stacked five feet high and up to 80 feet deep. Talk about sharing space. And for that matter, can you even imagine the uproar it might cause today to even suggest moving bodies from the cemetery? I don't even want to think about the backlash and sense of entitlement that would present itself.

Death is cold yet I wonder if the ancient ghosts feel the warm presence of the bodies passing through, gawking at their bones as they lie, en mass, in rest. 

"Happy is he who is forever faced with the hour of his death and prepares himself for the end every day."

86 narrow steps twist to the surface. I wasn't any worse for wear--the chill warmed; the damp spots from the drips that fell on me from the limestone ceiling dried--just different. Walking between stacks of bones, staring into empty holes where once sat eyes that saw the Paris of another century, isn't something I do every day. 

In the remnants of death it seems we're all the same. That we might recognize that while we're alive. 

Mon voyage se poursuit. Au revoir.