Last night I went back to my New York gym, after having been away awhile. The locker room there is theatrically lit; I have to make sure I find a locker that's beneath one of the small spotlights or I can't see to work my combination lock in the dark. There was something wrong with the electrical circuit, so some of the lights were flicking on and off, and it made for an amazing effect, as if strobes were freezing images of some of the most astonishing men in the world. I'm not being hyperbolic. This is Chelsea, where the standards are set very high, and though plenty of the members are just gay men who want to look good, there are also bouncers, go-go boys, personal trainers and various other fellows for whom physical beauty equals making a living. It's a glorious scene, and it spurs me on when I really don't feel much like doing those leg-lifts, and never fails to make me think about the spirit-lifting combination of sexy and esthetically pleasing that a body can be. You don't ever get used to that.
It was thus lifted that I returned home, through the quiet cold of Monday night, to read about the Pope's latest. He's somehow conflated saving the rainforest with saving the world from homosexuality, and he's declared that behavior beyond the hetero range that the Lord intended is "a destruction of God's work."
Curses and invective aimed at same-sexers from the institutional managers of the divine word will come as no surprise to anyone -- but it's still a fine Merry Christmas, Benedict, thank you very much. And I wanted to set that pronouncement beside the heart-stopping beauty of that locker room on W 23rd, where what's taking place is, slyly or with undisguised affection, the adoration of the universe's handiwork.