Saturday, January 26, 2013

New York City Gay Bars Rated: January 2013 Update

Back in May 2011, my BF and I - both native New Yorkers - decided to spend some time visiting and rating gay bars in NYC for the benefit of others planning a trip to The City. We have since decided to keep this rating list 'fresh' and updated every 6 months, so we continue to re-visit our rating sites and add new ones along the way. Keep mind that we prefer a “Bear” crowd of masculine men, and will take 'small and dark' over 'glitzy and pretentious' any day. If you agree, or disagree, or believe that there are other bars or nightspots we should review…let us know in the comments! We’ve rated all of these from “zero woofs” (don’t bother) to “5 Woofs” (our favorites), all from a Bear's perspective, and have arranged them by neighborhood. Here is the full list with the most recent January 2013 updates, organized by neighborhood.  On this particular update, we visited growing 'gayborhoods' in Hell's Kitchen and Jackson Heights (in Queens).


The Eagle, 554 W. 28th Street at 11th Ave. New York’s premier Three-Floor Leather/Levi bar, though on crowded weekends most men are more likely to be seen shirtless and in jeans rather than in leather. It is a very cruisy, woofy crowd in an overall “bad-ass” atmosphere (we've seen at least one military man in uniform here...) The Eagle atmosphere is “Uber-masculine” but friendly at the same time. If you scare easily or are a leather-bar virgin, take a friend. Beefy bartenders who know how to pour a drink; Casual first floor; 2nd floor is always crowded, sometimes with a hot dancer; Third floor Roof Deck often packed, with a small smoking crowd. A constant favorite, this is a very *late* crowd (it normally doesn’t open until 10 pm); Good drink prices and strong mixed drinks. A MUST for Bears, Leatherman, and NYC visitors. We've returned several times in the last six months, all different days and events, and every time it was top-notch for sheer Eye-Candy, decent drinks, and capable bartenders. Spent my birthday here in December, and wasn't disappointed ! :-)   5 WOOFS

The Gym Sportsbar, 167 8th Ave., at W. 18th Street. The first time we visited, we thought from the start that this gay sports bar had definite potential…but it didn't seem 100% sure of what it wanted to be.  There were many male couples, and many hot men, but the lights were WAAAAAY too bright. We rated it 3 WOOFS, and decided to re-visit.

We tried it again on a Saturday afternoon and a Sunday night, and found that the Gym has indeed found its footing.  With classic brick walls, about a dozen flat screen TVs broadcasting different sports, and a room full of men, this is a *real* gay sports bar.  Older guys, a softball team still in uniform fresh from the diamond, college guys, and bears all comfortably intermingled.  The Owner/managers Erich and Rick were outgoing and upbeat, and their bartender - Jerry, the "Cele-Bear-ty" - was adorable. The lights were low enough to make it a 'bar,' and the music perfect: loud enough to make it a party, but not so loud you couldn't talk to the guy on the next bar stool.  4 WOOFS

Rawhide, 212 8th Ave., at W. 21st Street. I had visited this small neighborhood bar years ago…and I have to say, it is better than ever before. A cool antique motorcycle hangs from ceiling in the rear, and the smell of leather and beer as you walk in the door is absolutely intoxicating. There was a mixed-age, masculine crowd and HOT bartenders. There were 2 strippers that knew how to move, and a third not so much, but still nice eye candy. Great drink prices, and a great bar even if it is somewhat tiny. We returned in January with some younger friends, and found everyone still just as friendly, (especially Michael the bartender!), dancers still hot, and everything still just as good as we remembered it. [UPDATE: We have visited this bar two more times in January, and three more time this June, and three more times in Dec/Jan.....and we have NEVER been disappointed. On our most recent visit, our woofy/beary bartender, Miguel, treated us like close family. Drinks were good, crowd was friendly...there is just never a bad night here!  We also discovered that Rawhide is the home bar of ONYX, New York's leather club for men of color - we attended one of their events, and found ourselves as welcome as ever. This is consistently the BEST guy's bar in Chelsea!] 5 WOOFS

[MARCH UPDATE: in a casualty of gentrification, the rent on Rawhide was increased to $25,000/month, and the bar closed at the end of March 2013.  There is an empty place in my soul.]

Boxers NYC, 37 West 20th Street at 6th Avenue. Billed as New York City’s newest “Gay Sports Bar,” it aims to break stereotypes, and should be a natural for Bears. One wall is covered with HUGE flat screen TVs, all with different games on. Unfortunately, in spite of the large crowd, no one was watching them. Any men who could be described as bears were standing, each one very much alone, exiled to a rear corner. The front of the bar was occupied by young, straight women (at least 30% of the crowd) with their harems of male suitors surrounding them, blocking aisles and taking up thrones at the bar like any other after-hours, after-work pick-up bar. Nothing identified Boxers as ‘gay,’ or even gay-friendly. The bartenders were annoyingly young, in red boxer shorts with no shirts – and no visible sign of having reached puberty. They were entirely uninterested in conversation or being friendly. Boxers was our most disappointing visit. A True Gay Bar, it is not. We felt like we were pulled in by the Boxers PR machine and the Hype of being a “Trendy” gay bar. We advise gay men – even masculine gay men into sports - to avoid this trap, unless you really want to watch the game. If that is the case, we have a very nice recliner in our living room and the drinks are better and much cheaper. ZERO WOOFS.

Barracuda Lounge, 275 West 22nd Street (nr. 8th Avenue) I have to admit, we stumbled into Barracuda (literally!). We had not intended on stopping here, but we were walking home from another bar and figured we might as well try it. As we walked in, we immediately noticed that the bar is divided into two sections: a small, fairly standard bar area as you enter, and a large room with a stage in the rear. And the reason for the stage was obvious: about a dozen drag queens were competing that night.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that as a general rule, I’m not partial to drag. But in the next breath, I’ll admit that we had a great time at Barracuda.

The crowd defied pigeon-holing. It was was amazingly mixed: young college guys, middle-aged bears , drag queens, muscle boys, average joes – you name it. An older man sat at one end of the bar, and it was clear that he was just as welcome and a ‘part of the bar’ as any young flamer bouncing across the room. My partner and I were the only ones decked out in leather, but in this mixed crowd we did not seem or feel out of place. In fact, everyone was incredibly welcoming. The bartenders poured decent drinks and were efficient and friendly. The Drag Queens were some of the best we’d ever seen. And the crowd was, overall, in very good spirits. We were pleasantly surprised, and will definitely return. 3 WOOFS


The Boiler Room, 86 E. 4th Street at 2nd Ave. The Boiler Room is a ‘big enough,’ nice neighborhood bar, with a good mix of guys from young twinks to daddies, all relaxing together. Take your pick of men: Bears, fashionistas in wool scarves, working-class stiffs arriving after work, a dreadlocked rasta-looking guy, professionals, college-aged, black, white - you name it. Each time there the bartender has been friendly and attentive, and the crowed friendly and warm as well. A nice place to simply spend the evening…or the place to start and/or end the evening. This place is solid as a rock and an east village fixture. 4 WOOFS

The Eastern Bloc, 505 East 6th Street, just east of Avenue A. Remember (or write down) the address, or you may not find it - and you definitely want to find it! This is a small neighborhood bar, with no flashy sign on the front. In fact, the exterior is dark wood and the name is stenciled in letters only three inches high in an alcove above the door. Once inside, you are in a unique place with its own quirky decor. The low red lights and the black walls and furnishings keep it appropriately dark; Retro pictures evoke eastern european communism, small TV screens showed vintage and sepia images, and a stuffed zebra head hangs on the back of the bar. The bartender, Rob, was on during "Happy Hour," which lasted until 10 pm and feautured $4 drafts. Everyone, from the bartender to the patrons, was friendly and conversational, and we were made to feel like 'regulars' from the moment we arrived. The early crowd was Daddy-like without being trollish - perfect for us. We revisited later in the same evening, and the next shift's bartenders were just as friendly and efficient, the crowd a tad more diverse, and the pole dancer hot. A definite 'regular stop' for us. 4 WOOFS

The Cock, 29 2nd Avenue at E. 2nd St. A Total Dive. The Cock is one large square room, very, very dark, with a crowd of people walking (or being pushed upstream like salmon) in circles hoping for a grope. The $15 weekend cover charge was not worth it…though drinks were cheap. Dancers on the bar willing to be a bit naughty. It is something that should be experienced as part of the NY Club scene…but only once. 2 WOOFS

Phoenix, 447 E. 13th Street, between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. This was probably the hardest bar to "get a handle on;" much was simply not 'adding up.' Upon arrival, we noted a beautiful long (and well-stocked) bar, wooden floors, and vintage wooden cabinets behind the bar. The music was great, and the lights at a nice medium-low level; the crowd was decidedly young. It seemed odd to us that there were 5 bar staff (four dressed in unmistakably twinky attire), and not one of them appeared to be able to give the time of day to customers; they huddled together and engaged in intense discussions with each other about who-knows-what. I had barely finished my drink when one of the barstaff came zooming at me from across the floor to grab my glass and run off with it. I held on to it, and watched him smile for the first time. We noted that there were no bar stools, and no place to sit except for a small clumsy room off to the side. At the end of the bar, a middle-aged lesbian stood watching the bar staff like a hawk and speaking with friends as they came over to her. The atmosphere was intense and cold, so I finally asked someone for some details. It turns out that the lesbian was the new owner as of the start of the year. She removed the bar stools to pack more people in on weekends, and apparently believed that her only 'role' was to intimidate the bartenders. Meanwhile, her friend made sure that give-away magazines were in perfect stacks, and we suddenly realized what was happening here: A new owner (or owners) more interested in packing people in and micromanaging staff than in making customers feel welcome. Sorry, but I'd rather sit on a stool in a crowded bar and joke with my bartender than be shoe-horned into someone else's vision of The Perfect Bar. This bar has much potential, but very poor senior management. They need to back off and relax, let the bartenders be bartenders, and let the bar be a bar. ZERO WOOFS.

Nowhere, 322 E. 14th Street between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave. With it's long green awning running to the sidewalk, and an underground location with fairly low ceilings, Nowhere is a unique but popular club for the young set. Long and narrow, it has some interesting little stone-and-brick side nooks common to basement bars, but it was appropriately lit, and even has a quirky faux-fireplace. We arrived a bit after 11 pm on a Friday night, and it was packed wall-to-wall with a young crowd of straights, lesbians, and gays that mixed well. The bear-cub bartenders were working quickly and efficiently, and in spite of the pace, were still friendly and in good spirits. There was a covenient and much-needed coat check at the front door, and a pool table in the very rear, which, in spite of the crowds making a game difficult at best, was quite active. There was no room to dance, but the music was very good. This is a young person's place: my BF and I were definitely the bar Daddies.

After our initial rating ("We give it ZERO WOOFS for Bears like us, but highly recommend it as an East Village stop for the younger crowd. And the bartenders *were* adorable :-)"), we received an email from "Damien C.," who wrote,

"I've been throwing a weekly Bear Party at Nowhere every Tuesday called "Buddies" for four years. It's really popular. Most nights there are plenty of Bear-types there, too, even Fridays. Were you there on the 17th by chance? [As a matter of fact, we were!] I was spinning at The Eagle and just about everyone who might have gone to Nowhere was with me."

Many Thanks to Damien for his response. Since we haven't witnessed his "Buddies" night, we feel we should hold off assigning any rating until we see what Tuesdays are like...but either way, we liked the place!


Barrage, 401 West 47th Street (nr. Corner of 9th Avenue).   Stayed for one drink, and fled.  This place is about as far removed from a neighborhood named "Hell's Kitchen" as you can imagine.  It is really a "lounge," where you expect people to order martinis, barely loosen their ties, and bring their fag hags from the office with them to enjoy the over-the-top pastel lighting and bohemian sitting areas.  The only thing we enjoyed were the amazingly hot bartenders....but the place, overall, made this guy's skin crawl.  (Now, if you could take the bartenders from Barrage, and put them to work in the labor-lacking 9th Avenue Saloon, you could possibly have the newest, bestest hot spot on Manhattan's west side.  but until then...) ZERO WOOFS

Flaming Saddles, 793 9th Avenue (near W. 53rd Street). If there is any bar worse than Boxer's in terms of claiming it's one thing and being something entirely different, Flaming Saddles takes the prize.

Billing itself as New York's Gay Country Bar, and using all sorts of cowboy-motifs and jargon, one would think that this was a real meat-and-potatoes, rodeo-man's home.  We should have read the Yelp reviews that called this a real "Cunt-try" bar for a clue.

First off, we walked in and the efficient, and very nice but oh-so- twinky-boi bartenders were dancing on the bar (Couldn't grab a beer until they were done.)  In fact,  I have since learned that Flaming Saddles actually posted a help-wanted ad for "bartenders who can dance, and dancers who can bartend."  The only patrons who were 'regular guys' were clustered at a back table just drinking their beers, while a young, loud, mixed-gender crowd were playing quarters up front.  Several lesbian couples hung around the bar, and some young guys played the jukebox - which ran from hard core country to 1980s rock and roll.  The red, flocked wallpaper covering the place was more reminiscent of a 1970s long island suburban living room than a country-western bar.  For some people, this would be a fun location (and the group playing quarters was clearly enjoying themselves) - but in terms of looking for Bear - well, we give this ONE WOOF.

9th Avenue Saloon, 656 9th Avenue, between W. 45th & W. 46th Streets - A great location with a ton of potential...and inept bartenders.  On our first trip, we stopped by the afternoon. We liked the classic old wooden bar and brick walls...although it was very odd to see modern paintings on the walls of what was otherwise a very 'blue color' gritty place.   On our second trip there, the paintings were gone, so we assumed that someone was doing a favor for a local artist.  Mixed messages on the wall are no big deal in the grand scheme things - but bartenders who shouldnt be bartenders is another story. The first bartender was more concerned about asking everyone (multiple times in several minutes) if they wanted popcorn. I had to wonder if his obsession with popcorn was an effort to cover up for a lack of bartending know-how: when I asked what single malt-scotches they carried, he looked befuddled, and pointed at the bar and said "here's what we have."  Except he wasn't even pointing at scotches. The second bartender was no better: he spoke to no one, engaged in no conversation, and just poured drinks and went back to reading his newspaper.  Overall, it was an incredibly disappointing experience, because the place HAS great potential...its just that no one seems to care. TWO WOOFS.


The Toolbox, 1742 Second Avenue (Between E 90th & E 91st Streets)   A Tiny, tiny, long narrow neighborhood bar….but just about the only choice for a gay man on the Upper East Side.  We stopped in early – at 9:00 pm – so my recollections may not be ‘typical’ of a late night experience.  On the down side, it is SMALL…if someone at the bar pushed their seat back, they hit the rear wall.  And there was nothing overly memorable about the decor or the set-up (although they do an amazing job maximizing what little space they have!).  But on the upside, this place is FRIENDLY…bartenders and patrons made this a clear “local watering hole,” and we were welcomed as if we were regulars.  And some of the men were pretty damned hot.  We will return late night to get another view . 3 WOOFS


Boots & Saddles, 76 Christopher Street, nr. 7th Avenue. Once a small, boring ‘old man’s’ bar, Boots & Saddles is now ...something else…though we’re not sure exactly what. The small crowd combined older regulars with younger “twinks” and a surprising herd of young girls ogling over the stripper/dancers on the tiny dance space. One twink behind me thought of me as a prize and kept squeezing my tricep muscle. There was a cadre of very bored strippers. Would have been better if the lights were dimmer, the twinks would have quit their whiny bitching, and if the annoying inebriated fag hags would have found other quarters. ZERO WOOFS.

Rockbar, 185 Christopher Street at Washington Street. On our first visit, this became our new favorite bar, and we stopped in three nights in a row to make sure. This bar has had a rough time under previous ownership, but it has overcome this spotty past with a vengeance. Home bar for a group of NYC Bears, each night it was full of masculine, beary men, and featured contests and special events. The shirtless bartender was 100% Grade A Beef, who took the time to talk to his clientele and get to know them. This was just a great group of guys and a lot of fun beyond belief.

Then came our 6-month revisit in January, and some serious disappointment. With a sparse and self-absorbed crowd and a new pretty-boi bartender who couldn't be bothered pouring drinks or giving patrons a second thought, we shook our heads. There were three signs posted about a new coat check, and when we asked about it, the bartender literally blew us off because he couldn't be bothered. If this had been our first time, we would have given it a ZERO or ONE WOOF rating. So, we tried again this June, hoping that we had just run into a bad night.  And fortunately, that appears to be the case: We arrived on a Saturday night, and Rockbar was back to normal.  An event called "Body Rock 6" (BR6) was taking place, with a DJ projecting his eclectic and wonderfully weird video montage, and the place was FULL of some of the best-looking, beariest men in NYC.  Many seemed to know each other, and it was clear that Rockbar was "home base."  We'll overlook one bad night:  An emphatic 5 WOOFS!

Ty’s, 114 Christopher Street nr. Hudson Street. Ty’s is THE Classic neighborhood Men’s Greenwich Village bar. Open every day at 2 pm, it features a Thursday evening Bear Night, but in reality, Ty’s always has a Bear-crowd. We walked in the door fairly early in the evening and got woofed at by the patrons; the bartenders were equally friendly. Ty’s only real drawback is its relatively small size, but as men’s bars go, it’s a must. Home Base of New York City's "FireFLAG," a gay-supportive firemen's organization. The 6 month revisit was no disappointment: As always, a friendly bar full of woofy men. A consistent anchor in the West Village. 4 WOOFS

Stonewall Inn, 43 Christopher Street at Stonewall Park. Unfortunately, this historic site where the gay rights movement began over 40 years ago, is a mere shadow of its former self. Friendly men & women, but not a single person on the dance floor upstairs two nights in a row on the weekend, and fairly quiet downstairs. Groups of people came together, and tended to stay together. I wanted it to be better because of its history, but it wasn’t doing anything to excite me. It’s historic but needs to have something to make history new every day. A must for history…but that’s it. On the 6-month update we returned with a crowd of nine. It was still "under-populated," but drinks were decent and the bartender was fun and attentive. Definitely a better experience than the first time. 2 WOOFS

The Hangar, 115 Christopher Street nr. Hudson Street, convenient walking distance from Rockbar and the Stonewall, and right across the street from Ty’s. The Hangar has a significant African-American presence (probably a 50/50 black/white mix) where everyone is welcome. Very crowded, nice bartenders, and probably the most attentive and best male dancer we saw all weekend. Like many bars we visited, the lights were too bright. Lower the lights and this place would be great. 3 WOOFS

JACKSON HEIGHTS (Unlike the above neighborhoods, all of which are located in Manhattan, Jackson Heights is a neighborhood in the Borough of Queens.  One of the newest and growing 'gayborhoods,' there are a number of gay bars opening up along Roosevelt Avenue, easily accessible from the L line, in a heavily trafficked, upbeat Latino neighborhood)

True Colors, 7915 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Hgts, nr. 79th Street   From the outside, there is little that appears exciting: just another fairly darksmall store front, tucked in among bodegas and salons and food stores that post signs that are bilingual....or solely in Spanish.  Up and down the street (which is under the L tracks), Columbian, Dominican, Ecadorean, and other flags from various Latin American nations were flapping in the wind.

Then we entered....and felt right at home.  This bar is still a neighborhood bar, with a complete spectrum of men, women, older, younger, latino, and anglo customers mingling together well.  The lights were low enough to make it a bar atmosphere, but light enough so you could see what you were doing. The music and videos playing were loud enough to create atmosphere...but not so loud that you couldn't have a conversation. The place was already decked out for Valentines Day (we visited Jan 23), the bar very well stocked, the prices very reasonable, and the bartender (Anthony) was friendly, efficient, attentive, and hot as hell. (His black T-shirt was stretched across his pecs and you had to wonder if it would just rip in half if he moved the wrong way...)   We stopped in for one drink, and stayed for six. Nice place, fun neighborhood, well done! 3 WOOFS.

Friends, 78-11 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Hgts (nr. 78th Street).  We visited Friends after having started the evening a block away at True Colors, and wondered if it would be as welcoming as the first...and to our surprise, it really was.   Once again, this is a bar that is neither too small nor too large, but just big enough to be a good neighborhood bar.  The lighting was right, and the largely Spanish music was just the right level.  The walls were covered with impeccably clean glass, and the wooden bar is a classic - I had to believe parts of it were 100-year old antiques.  Once again,the drinks were very reasonable (maybe half Manhattan's prices!) and we felt right at home, even though the Latino flavor is a bit stronger here than at True Colors.   If there was one disappointment, it was that the bartender (and two other workers) were so fixated on the sound system (and in chatting with a single friend of theirs at the bar) that they ignored everyone else.  Will definitely return here and check out the late night we were leaving (fairly early, around 9:30) we started getting approving eyes from some patrons....a good sign all around.  3 WOOFS

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Gay Liberal Opposes Gun Control

By most standards, I’m liberal: I’m gay (and support GLBT equality), and support progressive taxation, breaking up the Mega-banks, alternative energy, a social safety net, legalized cannabis and compassionate immigration laws. I’m the president of my local teacher’s union, believe in mandatory profit-sharing, and a national health insurance plan. Most of my friends – both “Facebook” friends and flesh-and-blood friends generally agree with my positions.

But when it comes to the Second Amendment – well, I am going to stand apart from the crowd.  I do not support the current efforts to curtail firearm ownership.  And I hope my otherwise liberal friends will at least give me the benefit of reading why I am not on the bandwagon.

1) This nation should NEVER adopt legislation as a response to a crisis.  Our track record in every area is awful, because we let emotion and politics and a blind desire to “do something!” drive the program…and we often make big, big mistakes.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed, the nation demanded that government do ‘something’ in the name of security.  

 That ‘something’ was one of the most shameful chapters in American history, as our government rounded up 110,000 Japanese-Americans, sent them to concentration camps, and confiscated their property. President Franklin D Roosevelt did this through an Executive Order, which allowed local military commanders to designate "military areas" as "exclusion zones," from which "any or all persons may be excluded." This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona. It took until 1988 for a formal Presidential Proclamation apologizing, blaming the actions on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

And yet, we did it.  And it was clearly unconstitutional.  But we did it in response to a perceived crisis.

Fast Forward to 9/11…and we did the same thing.  The Patriot Act, NDAA, the right of Government to spy on library and bank accounts without search warrants, actual public hearings seeking to deny Muslims the right to open up mosques, the suspension of habeus corpus, the indefinite detention of Americans without charge or trial, and the ongoing tragedy of Guantanamo Bay show that we are still all too willing to engage in overtly unconstitutional acts when we respond to a perceived crisis.  Every time you remove your shoes to get on a plane, and every time a TSA agent strip searches someone’s grandmother, you continue to see these effects.

We even do it in legal areas unrelated to security:  In 1993, the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that a government must show a compelling state interest to prohibit gay marriage; the emotional howling of conservatives – who feared that conservative states would have to accept same-sex marriage – led to an emotional passage of DOMA, the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” which has been ruled unconstitutional in no fewer than eight federal courts, including both the first and second Circuit Courts of Appeal.  

Whenever we say, “We must act now!,” and act based on emotion, we do a historically terrible job of complying with our own Constitution.

I have read a number of very strong opinions lately, and am struck by how little people actually know about firearms. Raised on a generation of Matrix and shoot-em-up movies, much of the public believes that semi-automatic rifles simply let loose with a burst of bullets. Very few seems to understand that a semi-automatic does no such thing – it’s one trigger pull, one bullet – but in the heat of emotion, facts don’t seem to matter.

2) Making something illegal – or harder to obtain – does not make it go away. Rather, it drives the good or service underground where it is controlled by criminal elements – the very thing we do not want to do.

Once again, we can look at actual, objective history: 

We outlawed alcohol, and it didn’t go away.  Instead, it went underground, and its distribution was controlled by crime families.  Violence increased significantly as these families battled for territory.  The same is true of today’s Drug cartels.  We outlawed gambling, only to see it driven underground. As expected, the openness of offshore internet gambling accounts has actually increased the visibility of the ‘service,’ and reduced criminal violence. Until 1965, birth control was illegal in Connecticut, and until 1972, abortion was illegal in the majority of US states.  Do you think that no one in Connecticut used birth control, and no one obtained abortions?  Rather, both were relegated to unsafe, shady operations that resulted in tracking difficulty and more crime.  And finally, thirteen states enforced laws outlawing sodomy…do we really believe that gay men lived celibate lives until The Supreme Court overturned these laws in 2003 (Lawrence vs. Texas)?

Outlawing human activity, goods, or services has *never* eliminated the market for those goods and services.  It has only served to drive them underground, off the radar, and into the hands of criminal and shadowy elements.  

Is that what you want for firearms?

In the wake of Newtown, I wish people would be honest and admit that the guns used at the Newtown massacre WERE STOLEN.  They were ILLEGALLY OBTAINED.  No amount of registration, background check, or prohibition stops this activity.  There is an irrational disconnect between most of the proposals being floated and what actually happened at Newtown.

3) Please, in the name of all that is Honest, I am asking all of our politicians to cease parroting the mantra that goes, “Oh, I fully support the 2nd Amendment, but we need restrictions/controls/limitations…blah blah blah”

Let me lay some Constitutional Law on you folks: the Second Amendment is NOT about hunting or sports.  It’s about personal protection – and that includes protection against the police power of the State.  You don’t have to like it or agree with it, but that is our legal history.

Some have recently developed some twisted interpretations, suggesting that the Second Amendment is too obsolete, or only applies to rural hunting situations, or is only meant for state militias (not average citizens).

Enter District of Columbia vs. Heller, the landmark 2008 Supreme Court case, which held,

“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

Not militia use – any individual.

Not hunting and sport - Personal Defense.

In so doing, the Court invalidated a hand-gun ban and a trigger-lock requirement.
 The Second Amendment was drafted and adopted in order to allow every-day citizens to protect themselves against government tyranny.  It is a defense against both criminal elements and the police state - a defense denied to Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and, tragically, to Matthew Shepherd, the iconic gay youth who was beaten and tied to a Wyoming fence a decade ago.   
On an all-too-frequent basis, we read of gay men beaten with tire irons and baseball bats and left as bleeding pulps in the streets of our urban centers.  In 2004, the FBI reported that 1,482 gays were violently assaulted – some killed, some permanently disfigured and crippled.

This gay man will not be at the mercy of criminals, nor will he wait for the police to arrive.

Do I wish each of these guys carried a pistol?  Damn Straight. But cities – notably New York City and Chicago – make it near impossible for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves or carry, even if they are walking through high-crime areas late at night.

When seconds count, knowing that the police can be 5 minutes away offers no solace.

4) Constitutional Rights are not ‘contingent’ upon licensing, approval, background checks, or government permission.  You have a Right to speak, without the government deciding you are stable.  You have a right to form and engage in a religion, even if the government doesn't like it.  You have a right against self-incrimination, even if you are the most vile criminal.  You have a right to be compensated if your property is taken by eminent domain, without a public vote on whether we like you or not.  And you have a Constitutional Right to defend yourself with firearms, without government ‘permission.’ 

People are clamoring for ‘background checks.’

Can someone tell me what you are looking for in this background check? Mental stability? Criminal records?  How about a credit check? 

Do I think that convicted felons should be able to carry firearms?

Yes, I do.

[WHAT?! OK, Thom, you went too far here….!]

Hear me out:  1 in 6 black men in this country has been jailed. It is a societal embarrassment that our so-called “War on Drugs” has decimated the minority community and made ‘criminals’ out of people who never hurt anyone.  In some states, young men are branded ‘sexual offenders’ for ‘crimes’ as innocuous as peeing in public when drunk. People involved in one-time violent crimes, who have paid their debt to society and have reestablished themselves in their community wear a Scarlet A on their chest for the rest of their lives.

Should we disqualify anyone with a criminal record? 

Better be careful: it may not be long before we all have some ‘stain’ on our background, either because of an innocuous crime, or a credit rating that says we are a ‘danger,’ or songs downloaded from the internet, or because we had the audacity to support a group on a Facebook post that the government has branded a “terrorist” organization.

The clamoring for "background checks' is not being accompanied by an explanation of what we are actually looking for - and what is fair. 

After all, it is the government against which the Second Amendment is meant to protect me that would be performing the background checks. 

I will not give up any of my Constitutional Rights without a fight to the end.  That includes:

Speech (whether you agree or not, and whether you find it ‘hateful’ or not.)

Assembly and Protest (whether I have a ‘permit’ or not, even when the cops come armed with tazers and pepper spray.)

Religion (whether its ‘mainstream’ or not.)

Press (Whether I have a ‘press pass’ or not. I will use my phone as a camera to film police activity. It is my RIGHT.)

Right to Remain Silent (even when a cop pulls me over and asks me where I’ve been. I do NOT have to answer.)

And yes, the Right to Bear Arms….even when the State or the public prefer to render me defenseless.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pushback: Why I support Lance...and the use of PEDs in Sports

In 2005, again in 2007, and then again in 2010, I wrote on this issue, defending the use of controlled substances by sports figures...not a popular position then, and probably no more popular now. Like so many aspects of our schizophrenic culture, what is done in private is one thing, but what we self-righteously say in public is supposed to be something else entirely. Well, I don't play that game.

Right now, Lance Armstrong is in the trigger hairs of the media, which is frothing at the mouth to tear down yet another hero.  It is a repetitive story in our culture: build up a hero, then tear them down (often followed by some semblance of public redemption).  

I will not defend Lance because 'everyone does it' or because his foundation did such a wonderful job.

I defend Lance because its time to re-examine - and overthrow - the "reefer-Madness" opposition to Performance Enhancing Drugs ("PEDs").  I actually SUPPORT their use.

In 2007, the New York Times reported, “…Former Sen. Mitchell's 300-plus page document on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, 21 months in the making, claims that nearly 90 players -- most notably Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Miguel Tejada -- are guilty of using some form of PEDs.”  The indictment of Roger Clemens for allegedly lying to Congress is the next step in 'getting those guys' when they can't produce the evidence to convict on the original case. It's the Get-Martha-Stewart approach to justice.

When Mark Magwire was hounded by the press for using Androstendione ( a substance that was legal and sold over the counter in Golds Gyms, GNCs, and Drug Stores across America), it was easy to point the finger at “One Bad Guy.” When Barry Bonds was fingered as a steroid user, the writers at Sports Illustrated (sports nuts who cant play, but who delight in the catty process of creating legends and then destroying them) frothed at the mouth, issue after issue, because they could crucify One Bad Guy.

But now that steroids have appeared in major league baseball across the spectrum of time and teams, (as well as wrestling, football, basketball, and cycling) prosecutors can have a field day.

In 2005 I wrote:

“…Sitting on my shelf is a bottle of ProLab ThermaPro, a thermogenic designed to raise metabolism and help burn fat. I used this (same basic ingredients as the original Hydroxycut and Xenadrine) several summers ago, while running in the hot  sun every morning while trying to lose weight and tone up (mission: successful!). Ah, but this product contains ephedrine!!! [crowd gasps in horror in the background.] When I used it in 2002, I was using a sports supplement. When the FDA banned it in 2004, I became the possessor of an illegal substance. When the Court overturned the FDA ban, I was an upstanding citizen again. Then the FDA declared that my 20 mg ephedrine was greater than the amount in the court case, and was illegal, and presto-chango, I’m a criminal again.

And this has been the history of steroids and sports supplements. The non-steroidal Androstendione which was available in every health and vitamin store a few years ago, all of a sudden disappeared because the FDA arbitrarily decided that since it was only “one step away” from a steroid, it is now illegal. However, DHEA, which is two chemical steps away from a steroid, is still OK. The steroids that Jose "save-my-own-ass" Canseco mentioned being used in MLB were by and large completely legal in 1980. Many of them are still legal in much of the world, including industrialized nations such as Germany and Holland. Some (Fina) can be made of 100% legal substances in a kitchen. Others are legal as veterinary substances. And a great deal comes into this country from upstanding American soldier-heroes, who discover that the rest of the developed world doesnt have the knee-jerk Prohibitionist response that America has.

The history of Sports is the history of going the extra mile and being slightly better than anyone and everyone else. Athletes give up much of their personal lives and incur a great personal cost in training. They regulate what they eat. They pound back protein shakes.They take vitamin supplements such as Calcium. They take Glutamine to prevent muscle breakdown. They take Milk Thistle and ALA to keep their livers healthy. They take Glucosomine to help repair their stressed joints, and if they’re in trouble, they get shots of Cortisone from their doctors. Some take “stacks” to raise metabolism and speed weight-loss (like my illegal aspirin-caffeine-ephedrine stack). They use Creatine as a muscle volumizer and NO2 to increase muscle pump, while downing extra-heavy whey-protein isolate shakes to increase food to muscle cells. Somewhere along the line Congress is going to find out that many use insulin to increase food nutrition entering the muscle cells as well. Some use 2-step-away prohormones like DHEA, others used 1-step-away-prohormones.

And yes, some use steroids. And the line between what is a legal substance to use, and what is an illegal substance, is arbitrary and artificial.

Yes, the bar is constantly raised. In the effort to be bigger, better, stronger, greater. And if anyone thinks that taking steroids means you take a pill and you’re suddenly Hulk, they are sadly misinformed. Guys who take steroid injections and just ‘wait’ for the effects find themselves fat and tired. An athlete who has chosen to use steroids will be working his butt off 5-6 days a week in grueling workouts. There is no ‘free ride’ by using steroids.

It is amazing, isn’t it? If someone goes to Beverly Hills and forks over $10,000 to a surgeon to have 40 pounds of lard sucked out of their gut in a two-hour operation, that is not only legal, it’s indicative of being One of the Beautiful People. But if you work your tail off during a 12-week steroid cycle to reduce your body fat from 15% to 6% through arduous workouts, well…..”that’s illegal! That’s immoral! That’s just not right!!!! We must punish baseball players! Lance is a cheat!”

Actually, it seems a hell of a lot more honest to me. Of course, why stop at baseball players, or with Lance?

Does anyone really believe that the models on the cover of Mens fitness magazines get that way from situps and spinach? Have they asked the Governor of California how he got that big?

Wake up, folk: when you outlaw a substance, you don’t make it go away…you make it go underground, and you increase the danger of its being tainted. Anyone remember Prohibition?

What’s more important, is that no one has been able to tell me just who is so harmed by an individual athlete’s choice to juice that it requires federal robocops. Have these sports figures killed anyone? Assaulted anyone? Robbed anyone? Maimed anyone? Can you point to any damage they have caused?

There are those who will say that when young people emulate these guys, they are hurt. But that’s like saying that NASCAR should be responsible for kids who drive fast, that McDonalds should be responsible for obese slobs who sit and eat Big Macs every day, and that Clint Eastwood should be responsible for a kid who shoots someone.

If the Players are upset, or the union, or the fans, or the owners, they have immediate remedies and avenues. If they have chosen not to pursue them, perhaps Congress should realize they’re barking up the wrong tree. We don’t need Congress to decide who should be and shouldn’t be our sports heroes. We’ll do that for ourselves, thank you.