Metro Weekly

Wishing Will

Commentary: Stonewall Baby

My first plan for the new year was to send Mayor Fenty a subscription to Monocle, the fabulous new magazine from the same empire that gave us Wallpaper* and designed the livery for the new Swiss International Air Lines. It’s an empire headed by a man who stole one of my possible lives, Tyler Brûlé, the gay Canadian who got his arm shot up in Afghanistan while working as a foreign correspondent, then wisely turned his sights on fashion and travel. Another possible life of mine was stolen by Todd Oldham. But I’ll save my bitter envies for a laff-riot column some other day.

Back to Fenty and Monocle. The new mag sorts through global politics, trends, urban planning, etc. It’s a sort of guide for what works, and a fitting tool for any dynamic mayor, I’d argue. But at $10 an issue, coupled with the downward spiraling economy, I can barely afford every other issue myself. Sorry, Mr. Mayor. Maybe next year.

That was my only sort of resolution: resolving to buy that gift subscription. I failed. This isn’t much of a problem, as although celebrating the new year is my favorite annual party, I don’t put much stock into resolutions. The champagne is all I need.

Still in this first month of 2008 it seems, however, a fitting time to ponder where we may want to go in the next 300-some days, and where my doom-predicting psyche fears we’ll go.

I’ll get my fears out of the way first.

In the immediate post-9/11 reality, I braced myself for a D.C. ”dirty bomb.” My fear wasn’t the radiation so much as the economic collapse and desertion of the District that I presume would necessarily follow.

Nowadays, I’m thinking that fear was awfully exotic. My readjusted, new, pedestrian fear is simple, non-radioactive economic depression. I don’t mean just the loud popping noise coming from the real-estate market, but rising oil prices — which I believe will continue on a steady rise till the stuff’s all gone, even after we inevitably dive into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; retiring baby boomers; Iraq; competition from China and India; and overpopulation. So, for 2008, I’m guessing this will mean a general, ongoing decline in standards of living, a decline in quality and services. Not that D.C. has ever been renowned for its service mentality, but I predict ever greater surliness from all corners, behind every counter, as grumpiness surely accompanies belt tightening.

My other great fear is that the 2008 winter will be as mild as last year’s. This doesn’t mean I’m a fan of 20-below wind chills. It’s just that I hate rats. I don’t have any figures, but my eyes tell me the city’s infestation is impossible to solve with technology. And it’s been such a long time since I’ve been able to enjoy that warm feeling inside, as I walk frozen streets and think about the nests of clever yet dirty and invasive vermin freezing to death in their underground burrows. So I see more rats in 2008. Yuck.

With my sole resolution and my two fears out of the way, I can finally turn to my wishes. Actually, it’s really just one wish that I’d like to see manifested in a variety of ways. What I wish for is more cooperation, led by metro D.C.’s gay community.

I look at Jonathan Blumenthal and Eric Cohen, the compassionate couple who founded the local Burgundy Crescent Volunteers in 2001. Or Jeff Cotter, the Maryland native who founded the Rainbow World Fund in San Francisco in 2000. Both groups are philanthropic in nature, and their good works don’t go back to the GLBT community exclusively. In RWF’s case, efforts are aimed primarily at the mainstream, whether that’s helping earthquake victims in Peru or working to end hunger in America. These two organizations embody what I would wish for in Washington, sort of.

Using the phrase ”cooperation” rather than ”charity” means that what I’m wishing for is people cooperating to improve the District and the world, reaching out far beyond our specific subculture. If an economic depression is coming, this would be a fiscally conservative way to raise all ships, so to speak, giving us all something to keep our minds off our credit-card debts or lagging home values.

What my wish envisions, specifically, would be along the lines of D.C. public school kids showing up at a spot like the Charles Sumner School in the early evening, where all manner of GLBT professionals could be on hand for an hour or so of tutoring. Just think of all the HRC brainpower a few doors down who could support an effort like that.

Or, perhaps once a month or so, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network might organize some gay labor to come together and make care packages for U.S. troops abroad, each box to include an SLDN T-shirt. Maybe Darlene Nipper, always an advocate for gay folks helping youth, could lead a GLBT recruiting push with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area? Anything along those lines would fulfill my wish for 2008.

So 2008 is the Year of the Rat in China, and for me too, in that I’m thinking about them. But my coda for this bright, shiny new year should really sound more like, fiscally fearful, but optimistic about outreach opportunities. Look for me soon in my FFBOAOO T-shirt.

Will O’Bryan, Metro Weekly‘s managing editor, was born as the Stonewall Riots ended, making him a Stonewall Baby, he insists. He can be reached at

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Shelf Wood
Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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