Livejournal: My Life Story

Originally published on my long-defunct Livejournal. A friend had put out a call on her blog for others to share their life stories. Here’s my response.

My great-grandparents on all four sides, none of whom I’ve ever met, all came from the same area of the world that at times has been Poland, Latvia, or Lithuania. That may not be right, I’m not really sure where Latvia is. Also, my maternal grandfather (who liked to be called Papa Harold, so I will never likely call him that again) occasionally claimed that his ancestry was from Chelm, but I could never tell if he was serious. (In terms of derogatory jokes, Chelm:Poland::Poland:America; that is, Polish people tell jokes about how stupid the folks in Chelm are.) At any rate, I come from hearty Eastern European Jewish stock.

At least two sets of my great-grandparents divorced and remarried, which is interesting not only because it provided my Grandma Ida with a good supply of stories about her gambler father and no-good step-father, but also because growing up, my own nuclear family was one of the only families I knew with both parents still married to their original spouse. 

My father, Barry Levy, is the youngest of three sons. He grew up in Rhode Island, which is entirely uninteresting. My mother, Lois Elaine (Schneiderman) Levy, is the middle child (surrounded by two brothers). She grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts, which is only slightly more interesting than Rhode Island.

My father has a BA from URI, although I’m not sure in what field (perhaps accounting?), and my mother earned her Associate’s degree in Dental Hygiene from Forsythe School of Dentistry on the Northeastern Campus. They met in the late 60s – I think it was via a personal ad, although they claim it was a “blind date”- and married before the decade was out. By 1970, they had their first son (Frederick Alan Levy) and a house in the Boston suburb of Stoughton.

My conception was not only accidental, it was also incredibly dangerous for my mother’s health. She had survived breast cancer years earlier, back when very few actually did. At the time, doctors told her she could never have children again. I gather than when I was conceived, my parents debated having an abortion. My mother risked her life to have me, something I only learned on my 21st birthday and still haven’t really processed.

I was born on Valentine’s Day, 1978, just after the big blizzard.

I am named for my mother’s grandma Dora, my mother’s favorite relative
I’ll never get to meet. There’s a certain irony here, since perhaps my most strained familial relationship growing up was with my mother’s parents, who never seemed to get the hang of being good grandparents. When my grandfather died, I felt the most profound ambivilance I’ve ever experienced. It was then we discovered that my Grandma Eva (now my only living grandparent) has Alzheimers, which had gone undiagnosed for quite a while because she was so busy taking care of my grandfather. I still harbor quite a bit of anger at a man dead over a year.

Growing up, my first best friend was Daniel Levy (no relation), who was
born exactly one day before me. Together, he and I discovered the joys of computers, he with his Apple II, me with my TI-99/4A. We each got our first PCs around the same time and together learned about ANSI animation, BBSing, DOS, and more. He lived in a different town, but we spent nearly every weekend together from birth through junior high. By the time we hit puberty, we had drifted apart. He’s in the Navy now, and we catch up once every couple of years.

My next best friend was {name supressed, but we’ll cal lhim Jeff), whom I met on the first day of Hebrew School in the second grade when he broke my lunch box because I left it outside and he felt like jumping on it. For reasons I don’t remember, we became friends anyway, which his parents encouraged quite a bit because I was a good influence on him. We had a stormy relationship – he was a mischiveous kid who knew how to press my buttons – but we also shared a formative time in our lives, when we discovered the joys of the human body. He invited me on a trip to Disneyworld in the fifth grade – just me, Jeff, and his dad – and one night in the hotel, when his dad had left to go for a walk, Jeff asked me if he could pretend I was his girlfriend, took off his pants, and changed the course of my life. I’m not saying he made me gay, but that moment crystallized it for me. Jeff and I stopped being friends around the eighth grade – utlimately, I couldn’t take the bipolar aspect of our stormy friendship. Sometime during high school, he joined the public school system and sat near me in home room. We were friendly. We graduated next to each other. During the winter of my freshman year of college, he was found murdered in Troy, NY. I didn’t go to the funeral, and I will probably always regret that.

I have a problem with closure. One of the problems with growing up gay at in the suburbs in the exact moment in time I did, right on the cusp of it being okay to be gay in high school, is taht rather than having boyfriends, I had friends I fucked around with without ever having a structured relationship. Not having a relationship means not having breakfups. Not having breakups means that now, years later, I still sort of … not quite pine for, but wonder “what if” about some of these boys.

So yes, dear readers, I have never had a boyfriend. However, I did have quite a bit of hooking up behind the scenes in high school – with the lead trumpet player of my high school marching band, with friends from my Jewish youth group, etc. Meanwhile, I was a kid who did everything – three bands, three choral groups, editing the newspaper, remodeling the school store, starring in plays, and establishing a cult of personality within the structure of said Jewish youth group (USY). Somewhere in there I became Very Observant, keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, etc. Also in there I discovered the internet, just before it got really cool, and became invovled in usenet via rec.arts.theatre.musicals, alt.tv.muppets, and more.

I made a deal with myself. I wouldn’t enter college without coming out to my parents. I waited until the last minute and told them on September 1st, 1996, just outside the gates of Harvard Yard when they dropped me off for Freshman Year. Heh. I assumed they already knew, but my mom’s response was “We always thought it would be your brother.” Seven months later that prophecy would come true as well. Coming out to my parents was harder than it should have been – they’re very accepting – mostly because for a long time I viewed myself as our family’s only disfunction (back when that was a buzzword). Now I know that’s not the case, nor has it ever been. My parents are incredibly okay with having two gay kids; every summer they host a kosher PFLAG barbeque/pool-party.

I started college with FAP, the Freshman Arts Program, which I applied to on a whim (having already decided I would leave drama behind at high school) and was accepted to because the proctors thought it was hilarious that among my achievements I listed having authored the Stephen Sondheim FAQ on the internet.The drama bug bit me again, and I spent the rest of college doing thigns like producing (and writing quite a bit of) the Freshman Musical, directing several other shows, producing a handful more, joining the business staff of the Hasty Pudding, and instigating a six-person production of EVITA in the basement of Adams House.

During those early college years, I had a part time job working in the contract management command of the US Department of Defense; I worked faster than the folks I worked for, so I spent a lot of time online. I got addicted to the harvard.rec.theatre newsgroup, and thanks to an e-mail from Michael Davidson, soon found myself basking in the waning days of alt.groppi. I was hooked. I came out on the newsgroup before I came out to all of my friends at Harvard, back when the confi clause meant something. The support here helped me come out the Shabbat before National Coming Out Day during services at Hillel. I gave quite a speech, considering it was off the cuff, based on mishnah, and entirely unplanned.

In later years, I traded the DOD job for one on-campus at the Office for the Arts. I ran for UC President on a platform of humor and later singlehandedly undermined the authenticity of the following elections by becoming a crooked UC Elections commissioner. I dyed my hair green and blue. I became less religiously observant. I became more fun. I still wasn’t getting laid. I became Adams House Committee Chair, and in a last busrt of glory before randomization engulfed the house, managed to start many of the things Katie Murphy takes credit for in the current issue of Harvard magazine. I ran BAGELS with Talya Weisbard, and while we may have had 200 people show up for a sneak preview of Trembling Before G-d (featuring a talk by the filmmaker), I’m most proud of how much we did to make it okay to talk about gay things at Hillel. Well, that and the night twenty lesbians sat on my floor eating kosher chinese food and watching Yentl.

Just before I graduated, I started a web journal which now lives at http://www.itsdlevy.com. Even before I graduated, I was working for an exciting startup record label devoted to Broadway music called Fynsworth Alley. I moved to West Hollywood, CA the Tuesday after graduation and have lived there since. I currently live with two roommates (both from Harvard – Matthew and Anne) and one cat (also from Harvard – Maestro). The music gig ended about a month ago in a messy situation that generated some lovely press including a splash-page article on Broadway.com that called me a visionary. I am about to end my spate of unemployment with a part-time job selling retro toys at a store called Sparky’s on CityWalks, Universal Studio’s version of a mall as seen in Blade Runner filtered through The Jetsons.

My hobbies include learning to play the banjo, occasional trips to play gay bingo, and dicking around on the web. Things I don’t generally admit in public: I meet men on planetout.com; I am not as psychologically put together as I claim to be, but probably not as fucked up as you suspect I am; I am far more shy in person than most people realize – I’m only really wacky and outgoing among people I already know.

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