“Back” in the Kitchen (or, “Bake to the Future”)… Recipe Included!

Now here’s a blog post I never thought I’d write.

I’m really not very good at baking. I used to do it more often — and when I did it, even though I fucked up a lot, I was rather proud of my occasional successes — and now after an extended break I’m just starting to pick it up again. And besides, few things in life give me quite the same satisfaction as somehow managing to whip up something without accidentally blowing up my kitchen.

So last week, when I was bored and hungry, I decided to see what I could bake from the limited ingredients that Dirk and I had on hand in our kitchen. We usually eat scrambled eggs and grilled chicken, and certainly don’t bake very often, so our pantry is pretty limited… but I found a recipe for blueberry quickbread online and decided to give it a go. And — if I do say so myself — it was actually pretty good, as evidenced by the fact that Dirk and I basically devoured the entire loaf in less than 30 minutes.

Here’s the recipe if you’re interested (courtesy of AllRecipes.com, with a couple of modifications by yours truly):

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (can substitute a few packets of Splenda for some of the sugar to trim a few calories)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (or mix of blueberries and raspberries)
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Mix the flour, sugar[/Splenda], baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir the milk, oil, egg, vanilla extract, and lemon juice into the flour mixture until the batter is just blended. Gently fold the berries into the batter (not too much or the bread will turn blue!)- and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

    The quickbread only takes about 10 minutes to prepare and an hour to bake — the hour gives Dirk and me a chance to proactively work off some calories, link NSFW — but try to let it cool for at least half an hour before you try to remove it from the pan… if you have the willpower.

    If you do try out the recipe, please let me know how it goes in the comments below. I must say it’s been fun getting back in the kitchen… I think I’ll start doing it some more!

    I need your vote for the 2018 Grabby Awards!

    :  Please vote for me for “Hottest Body” at the 2018 Grabby Awards! Here’s the voting form (alternate link here):

    The 2018 Grabby Award nominations are out, and I’m honored and humbled to be nominated for FOUR awards:

    • Performer of the Year
    • Best Versatile Performer
    • Hottest Rimming* (with Steve Roman in “Muscle Daddies”)
    • Hottest Body

    And my hubby Dirk has also been nominated for Best Flip Scene in “Cum Laude” with Jackson Grant!

    This year’s Grabby Awards is a bit different, in that YOU get to vote in the “Hottest Body” category! The competition is fierce, but I would really appreciate your vote, which you can cast at the top of this page. I’m one of the oldest guys on the list — I’ll be nearly 45 by late May, when the Grabbys are held — and wouldn’t it be cool if this “old dude” were to win? Anyway, I’ll leave it up to you guys… there’s plenty of amazing looking guys on the list, especially my good friends Jason Vario and Liam Knox… but if you wanna vote for me that would be awesome!

    The Grabby Awards are being held on May 26 in Chicago. The show is open to the public; you can buy tickets here.


    * For those of you who aren’t familiar with rimming (also known as “anilingus”), here’s the Wikipedia article on the subject. I hear the Grabby award comes with a toothbrush and a bottle of mouthwash.

    Happy 2018 International Women’s Day!

    Happy International Women’s Day! The holiday, which has been observed since 1908, is a global celebration of women everywhere, their achievements, and the strides that nations and cultures the world over have made towards equality for women. This year’s theme is “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives”, which is particularly appropriate in this age of #MeToo and #TimesUp. In the spirit of the holiday, I just want to take a moment to wish all you wonderful ladies out there a huge thank you for all the support you’ve given me and Dirk over the years!

    And there are a lot of you to thank.

    Facebook lets me track the demographics of my fan base, and according to their metrics, 15% of my Facebook fans are women. That’s almost 30,000 of you! That’s pretty amazing, especially considering a lot of people people think women don’t have any interest in gay porn. But let’s face it: straight porn is typically made for men. The focus is definitely on the actress, and some studios exploit gender inequality by unfortunately objectifying rather than humanizing the women in their films. (Not all straight porn, though… check out the ethical porn movement.) By contrast, I’ve heard that gay porn can appeal more to women, as the focus is more on the scene in general than one person plus some moving parts. Plus, as was once explained to me by one of my straight female fans, “I’m attracted to guys… so why wouldn’t I want to watch for the price of one?” (Dirk and I spoke to Hannah Reilly about women’s interest in gay porn on the Australian radio station triple j… here’s the audio if you’re interested.)

    Interestingly, our female fan base jumped from about 6% to a whopping 11% back in October of 2013 with the release of Andrew Grey‘s gay romance novel, Inside Out. J.P. Barnaby, a famous author of gay romance fiction herself, suggested to Andrew that I could be a good model for the cover of his new book; he then reached out to me and I happily agreed, not realizing that it would introduce me to an amazing new fan base. Since then, Dirk has appeared on the sequel to Inside Out called Upside Down, and we recommended a friend of ours who modeled for the cover of the third book in the series, Backward. We’ve appeared on the covers of several other well-known authors too, like K.C. Wells — whom Dirk advised on her best-selling novel First — and Kaye P. Hallows, with whom we’re long overdue for dinner!

    A large percentage of GayRomLit fans are women, and over the years we’ve met many of the wonderful ladies who enjoy homoerotic fiction. Thank you, J.P. and Andrew, for introducing Dirk and me to all of those amazing people who we’re ever so proud to call our fans!

    So, once again, Dirk and I would like to express our eternal gratitude for all those incredible women out there whom we’ve chatted with at events and appearances, on the Facebook page, on Twitter, or here on the blog. We’re so, so grateful for your support! Thanks to all 30,000 of you!

    Johnny Parker, J.P. Barnaby, Dirk Caber, and me at Hamburger Mary's in Kansas City

    Johnny Parker, J.P. Barnaby, Dirk Caber, and me at Hamburger Mary’s in Kansas City

    Today is National Coming Out Day. Here is my story.

    National Coming Out DayHappy National Coming Out Day! Here’s my coming out story. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this before, but here goes. When I was 20 and studying in Japan, I was basically in love with my best friend… who, unfortunately, was straight. And a fundamentalist Christian. That in itself led to a particularly thorny couple of years involving a ex-gay ministry, which I’ve already written about in case you’d like to read it (see http://huff.to/1yXDCaY). But what I didn’t mention in that article is that before I came out to my best friend, I’d written a letter to a man I’d never actually met.

    His name was Todd, and when I was in high school, he spoke to our entire class during a special assembly. He was a teacher at a neighboring high school — he taught English, if I remember correctly — and although he told us his last name, he told us just to call him Todd. He was the first openly gay man I’d ever really heard speaking about his experiences at length. He started the lecture by asking people to shout out any derogatory names they’d heard for gay people. Most of them I won’t repeat here; if this story ever makes it to Facebook, I’m afraid I’d be banned because Facebook’s anti-hate-speech engine doesn’t understand context. But suffice it to say, there were the usual suspects: “queer,” “f–got,” “fudge packer…” I even remember one person saying “square donut,” which drew a laugh from the assembled crowd. But then Todd turned it around, and asked us to imagine what it would feel like if those same words were hurled at us as insults, or even threats. It was a very powerful moment. The whole speech was very moving, and at times touching… like when Todd related coming out to his grandmother, who replied, “Well, sweetheart, even Jesus didn’t have any children.” I was closeted and rather terrified of coming out at the time, so I didn’t have the courage to speak to him afterwards, but the entire experience stuck with me and I’ve never forgotten it.

    Fast forward three years, and I’m back in Japan, in love with my best friend who couldn’t love me back in the way that I longed for. I was wrestling with those feelings of loneliness and fear that we’ve all experienced at some time or another, compounded by the isolation of being 7,000 miles from home. So before I came out to my friend, I wrote a letter to Todd and addressed it to him at his high school. My tone was at once lonely, desperate, and oddly apologetic. It was a bit clinical as well: I remember using the word “homosexual” instead of “gay” (I used phrases like “I’ve suspected I was a homosexual since I was 12 years old”). I repeatedly asked Todd if there was something wrong with me. If I was normal.

    About a month later, Todd’s response arrived by airmail (this was 1993, and email wasn’t particularly prevalent yet). It was handwritten. It took me about a week to open it, because part of me believed that the letter would confirm my worst fears: that I was, in fact, damaged. I half-expected the letter to contain punishing language, chastising me for what I assumed was my deviant soul. The reality, of course, was the opposite. The best word I can use to describe Todd’s letter is “soothing.” He reassured me that being gay is in fact okay, and even better, that there’s a huge network of support out there. He sympathized with my loneliness, and while he didn’t know of any support groups in Osaka, he gave me a phone number for an LGBT support line back home in Boston. He encouraged me to hang in there until I came home, assured me that things would get better, and told me that if I ever needed to reach him, he’d be there for me and do whatever he could.

    Sadly, I didn’t write back.

    If you haven’t read the Huffington Post article I linked to earlier, here’s a quick summary of what happened next. I wasn’t quite able to hang in there. I continued to fall head-over-heels for my friend, to the point of trying to convert to Christianity just so I wouldn’t feel so damn alone. I tried as hard as I could, but in my heart of hearts knew I was wasn’t being true to who I really was inside. The conversion therapy didn’t work — it never does — and I spent several years recovering from the effects that the ex-gay ministry had on me. I’d chosen the wrong path… but the right one was still waiting for me, and I’m now happy to be out and proud and comfortable with myself, even if it took me a few extra years to get there.

    Anyway, that’s my coming out story. Maybe a few of you can relate, or are in a situation now like I was back then. I also just want to say that Todd was right, you’re not alone, and there is tons of support out there. You can read other coming out stories and find your local LGBT peer group by visiting the It Gets Better Project website at ItGetsBetter.org. And remember to love yourself, stay true to yourself, and above all, trust your heart.

    – Jesse

    P.S. Todd, I know it’s a long shot, and I don’t know how to reach you anymore, but if you happen to be reading this: THANK YOU. You gave me hope when I needed it most, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

    Me and Dirk at NYC Pride in 2015

    Me and Dirk at NYC Pride in 2005

     

    America is Not a Simulation

    SimCity Godzilla (New)

    Note: I originally wrote this article for Huffington Post on October 10, 2016. You can find it on the HuffPost website here.


    When I was a kid, I used to like to play SimCity. Actually… that’s misleading. I didn’t exactly play it. I didn’t have the patience to build cities from scratch or try to manage one of the fully-developed ones that came with the game. Instead, I would load a pre-made city — Boston was my favorite — and unleash as many disasters on it as I could. Earthquakes, tornadoes… there was even a Godzilla! What can I say… I was only 15 at the time and that sort of stuff was fun to watch. Then I’d delight in the destruction that I had caused, quit the game (without saving), and come back and do it again.

    That’s what I’m reminded of when I hear people talk about electing Donald Trump as a “destabilizing force” who will “blow up Washington” and build a new, presumably better system in its place. I understand the rationale, in theory — burn down what you perceive as a broken system so that a phoenix may rise from its ashes — but I have a couple of problems with that. First, is Trump really a good choice to do the rebuilding? Does he have the experience required to handle what would be a monumentally complex and delicate task? And how he envisions this “America Reborn” is still maddeningly unclear to me. He says it’s supposed to be great again, but that’s really all we know. Where are the specifics? I’m not sure Donald himself knows the answer to that question.

    Second, and more importantly, is that I believe that our current system of government, for the most part, works. Yeah, it’s not perfect… far from it, in fact. Watching the Congressional deadlock over the last six years has been excruciating, and our economic recovery from the Great Recession isn’t as fast as many would like it to be. But our country is by and large successful, it’s resilient, and in the course of a measly 240 years — a drop in the historical bucket — we’ve become that “shining city on a hill” that Reagan so optimistically portrayed in 1980, and stayed there. Yeah, we can do better. We can always do better. But we’re already doing pretty damn good, and I believe that to blow it up now would be a devastating blow to our democracy… clearing the way for a demagogue like Trump to fill the ensuing vacuum. But there’s no “King of America” for a reason. Our Founding Fathers envisioned our country as a democracy, not an authoritarian regime. So when Donald Trump uses phrases like “I alone can fix this,” it quite frankly scares the crap out of me.

    The kid in me still appreciates the appeal of unleashing Godzilla just to see what happens, and what kind of destruction it would wreak. But America isn’t a simulation. There’s much more at stake here, and you have to live with the consequences of the devastation you unleash. You can’t just hit reset and start again. We should elect a leader who understands that, and knows that while we have to keep improving, we should also appreciate and cherish what we’ve already accomplished and just how far we’ve come.