Tripping on a budget

Recently, my boyfriend and I wanted to embark on a fun, easy and cheap getaway. Since I live in Rhode Island, we were sold on the idea of a short drive out to Provincetown, Mass. right on the tip of Cape Cod. We gave ourselves a budget of just $150 for the 24-hour adventure — and even with gas at four bucks a gallon, we made it happen. Here’s how we did it … and how you might on your next trip:

Call motels and inns directly. While booking online is super convenient, it’s always helpful to talk to a real person. They will know of any last-minute cancellations or special discounts.

Travel off-peak. Our motel room was just $87 on a Thursday night. The same room on Friday before Memorial Day goes for $150. We saved $63 by leaving a day early.

Travel locally. While the world is full of wonderful destinations, many great spots are in our own backyards. You don’t have to travel far to have a great time. And staying closer to home will help keep costs under control. By driving the two hours to P’town, we saved a potential boatload of transportation expenses (airfare, taxi, etc.).

Eat like a local. P’town’s downtown core, like many tourist spots, is full of great but pricey restaurants. By taking a short drive off the beaten path, we were able to find a local hangout with more reasonable prices — dinner cost $28 for the both of us.

Use your feet. While P’town has some convenient paid parking lots, we were able to find a free parking spot a short walk from downtown (a $10 savings). Some destinations also offer great public transit options, making for an affordable and fun way to experience a town and meet new people.

Take advantage of the free stuff. Some of the best things Provincetown has to offer — landscapes, beaches and nature trails, people-watching and architecture (like the Pilgrims Monument, pictured) — are free. Hanging out in the sand and getting a little sun charges the soul and doesn’t break the bank.

Pack your own beverages. For less than $10, we filled my trunk with bottled water and soft drinks so we didn’t waste money on motel vending machines. Even better, bring along a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and help save the environment. Cheers!

Hit up the grocery store. Since we were only staying for one night, stocking up on groceries didn’t make a lot of sense, but for longer trips, I love packing the mini fridge full of fresh food. It’s a lot cheaper than restaurant dining — and a lot healthier. Fruits, veggies and sandwiches bought at a local grocery store make for great food alternatives.

Take advantage of free food. Our motel offered a free continental breakfast. It wasn’t super fancy, but a quick croissant and coffee tided us over until the bigger meal of the day. Ask about any included meals when booking your room.

Talk to the locals. I try to befriend locals wherever I go. Natives can be a tremendous resource of recommendations and often know of free events (concerts, festivals, etc.). Be friendly and wear your smile.

— David “Davey Wavey” Jacques

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Dying’ onstage

Rhett Henckel plays twin brothers — one straight, one gay — in ‘Dying City’

It’s not unusual for an actor to play multiple roles in a single play, but that’s a position usually reserved for minor characters. But for Rhett Henckel, the two men he plays in Dying City — twin brothers —are the main characters. One, seen in flashbacks, is a straight man who may have killed himself in Iraq; the other is a gay actor who visits the dead man’s widow a year after his death.

Second Thought Theatre closes out its 10th season with Christopher Shinn’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play that touches on the Iraq War and the prickliness of family relations with a clipped, realistic style. Lee Trull makes his directorial debut.

We asked Henckel about playing two roles — and which one he identifies with more.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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DYING CITY
Studio Theatre, Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road. Through July 2. $15–$20.
SecondThoughtTheatre.com

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Dallas Voice: One of your characters, Peter, is described as an “intimidatingly handsome actor.” Typecasting? Henckel: I’ve been self-described as that, but I don’t hear it all the time. I have to act a little for it — I have to earn it this time.

Peter has a promising career, but he seems to have slept his way there. Same question. [Laughs] That’s maybe some advice I should take! If I want to have as promising a career as him, I should be more promiscuous. I’ve never really had that opportunity to do that — maybe I should have initiated it more. Though in rehearsals, I have flirted with [director] Lee Trull much more than I expected to. I’m constantly trying to gauge my fuckability in Lee’s eyes.

The play jumps quickly between years, and requires you to go between Peter, who’s gay, and his twin brother Craig, who’s straight. How do you subtly convey which character you are? I hope that I am doing it subtly. I think Christopher Shinn is very intentional on that — he wants the audience to be confused for a bit, even though they are two distinct characters. I’m not working off myself because I don’t see that character; it’s been through the eyes of Kelly [Craig’s widow] that I find the characters. Peter and Craig have very distinct opinions of Kelly, so that has opened up a lot.

But I think they are really alike. There’s a reason you are supposed to be confused. They have a lot of the same psychology and grew up in the same household. I have a therapist I talk to who I shared this play with, and when I said they had been described as polar opposites, he looked at me strangely. He thought they weren’t at all opposite, but really two extremes of one person. We’re all sort of that complex.

Which character do you relate to more? When I first started I identified as Peter — his passive-aggressive way of dealing with people; being an actor; his rampant egoism. But once we got into rehearsal, it was Craig I found quicker. There’s a quiet fury in this man that I feel like I ended up relating to. A lot more things are going on in Peter; Craig is a little bit simpler.

Peter is kind of complicated, for one, pretending to be antiwar to his gay friends even though he could not escape his conservative upbringing: Midwest values, guns, hawkishness about spreading freedom. Did you get that contradiction in him? I’m not even sure that’s entirely true — that’s what Craig says Peter told him. It’s hard to get to the core of what Peter really believes. Getting to the core is what’s so devastating. Being really honest about how we feel, confronting ourselves.

If I had to label the main theme of the play I would say it’s about how difficult true honesty can be: to others, to one’s self. What’s your take on it? No, that’s absolutely correct. Lies in this play are a very core theme. As any great play, it confronts this idea of what is the absolute truth. I hadn’t thought of it before, but Brick [in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof] is a very similar character to Craig. And even Peter. What is a lie and what is full disclosure and what is truly at the core of ourselves? It’s really fucking messy when we get right down to it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dynamic duo

Dallas’ fittest gay couples share their secrets for staying healthy and happy

ATHLETIC PAIR | World-class swimmer Dave Swenson, right, and his biking-running mate of 21 years James Maddox, left, will be headed to Hawaii next month for Swenson to compete in a major gay swimming meet. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

It’s been said that couples who bench-press together, stay together. OK, maybe that’s never been said, but it should have been — especially about gay couples. There’s something special about a relationship built on shared values, especially if those values include the inspiration and motivation to stay in shape. And, in an era when childhood obesity is alarmingly on the rise, recognizing those who stay fit as they age together seems like an especially responsible activity.

Which is why we kick off a new series in Dallas Voice dedicated to fit couples — those who bond over a decadent lunch of Bibb lettuce and Tic-Tacs instead of burgers and beer. You’re unlikely to see a muffin in their hands — or a muffin top around their Spandex.

We begin the series with a couple who have made exercise a part of their lives and their relationship for more than 20 years.

— Jef Tingley

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Names and ages: Dave Swenson, 48, and James Maddox, 43.

Occupations: Swenson: Manager for a Frisco software company;

Maddox: Customs broker

Years together: 21 in October.

Sports: Swenson: Swimming; Maddox: Running and biking.

Exercise regime: Swenson: I swim with the Dallas Aquatic Masters (DAM) three to four times a week. I also lift weights at the gym, but not nearly as often as I’d like. I used to run and do triathlons, but running injuries have pushed me more towards swimming.

Maddox: I lift weights five times per week, as well as run and row three times a week.

Do you play any sports or are you on any leagues: Swenson: I’m a registered U.S. Masters swimmer, and swim with the Dallas Aquatic Masters. I used to swim fairly regularly in masters swim meets, but I’m starting to enjoy open water swimming more than pool swimming. Last summer I swam in the Waikiki Roughwater swim in Hawaii, finishing second in my age group and 24th overall out of about 1,000 swimmers. In July, I’m swimming in the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatic Championships in Oahu, which includes another open water swim.

Most memorable athletic goal accomplished: Swenson: There have been a few, for different reasons. Qualifying for the 1984 Olympic Trials; being named to a U.S. National Swim Team; setting the SWC swimming record in the mile; breaking a world record in masters swimming; completing my first marathon; and watching James finish his first half-marathon.

Maddox: I have completed two half-marathons. It is a great feeling to cross that finish line after months of continual exercise and pushing yourself.

Upcoming fitness goals: Swenson: Just to remain active and healthy. If my legs hold out, I’d like to finish an Ironman distance triathlon one day.

Maddox: Lose 10 pounds for our July beach vacation.

Least favorite piece of gym equipment: Swenson: A treadmill — running in place is a slow form of torture.

Least favorite exercise: Maddox: Sit-ups!

Workouts preference: mornings or evenings? Maddox: I prefer to run in the evenings. However, as the temperature increases, I will run in the morning before work, when it is cooler. I primarily lift weights on my lunch hour and row in the evenings at the gym.

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise outdoors: Maddox: White Rock Lake is beautiful. The Katy Trail has beautiful people. However, the Addison Trail, near my home, is nice and convenient, so I utilize it most often.

If you could become an Olympian in any sport, what would it be and why: Maddox: Gymnastics. The talent and skill of good gymnasts is so evident in their performance. The best ones make it look so easy. And, they have incredible physiques.

How do you reward yourself for a great workout: Maddox: Cheesecake and peanut butter!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Starvoice • 01.14.11

By Jack Ferti

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYmichelle_obama

Michelle Obama turns 47 on Monday. Face it, we love the First Lady for adding some major fabulosity to the White House. She knows how to work a gown and a hairdo like no other first lady in a long time. Of course, we get behind what she’s doing for the country, too, taking on childhood obesity and support of military families. She just looks great doing it.

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THIS WEEK

Mercury lining up with Pluto in Capricorn helps us to focus our minds, although it can feed obsession over details and plans. Be mindful of where you place your thoughts and prioritize with productivity.

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CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You were made to overcome hard times. Even when you feel old and worn out, those are signs of your work and accomplishments. Don’t forget to rest and charge your batteries.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Your darkest fears and nightmares are keys to powerful revelations. Face down your demons. Filthy gossip is the best kind, but it’s a terrible distraction from necessary work.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
The future looks bleak, but your imagination will find ways to make it through. Ignore fair-weather friends and party queens. Talk with those you can count on through the toughest times.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
Figure out how to reach your goals in life, no matter how long it takes. You should have a major career peak in about seven years. The better it’s planned, the higher it will be.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Push your mind and imagination to their limits. Don’t be scared of big arguments or grand ideas or even a bit of controversy. Getting a little out of your comfort zone will be good for you.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Some of your darkest feelings come up like a geyser. Erotic passion and secret fears are at the top of the list. Have a close friend handy who can be trusted with your nastiest intimate secrets.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
It may feel like an argument with your partner could kill your relationship, but not airing those issues is worse. If single, being honest will scare away all but those who truly deserve you.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Every relationship takes work. Take up the tough issues now while it’s a little easier. You’ll be surprised at what problems can be resolved in the bedroom. It will at least help.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Honing your skills is fine, but don’t get worked up over something that’s supposed to be relaxing and fun. Even if you’re looking to go pro remember, it’s an entertainment, not an obsession.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You can unlock family secrets, but are you sure you want to know? Let sleeping dogs lie. If you find out you will learn why it’s a secret and why you must guard it just as carefully.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
You can be trusted to keep a secret, and your friends see you as a father-confessor. Keeping their secrets and offering counsel may be an honor or a burden. It’s not obligatory.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
As bleak as your financial situation looks, there are answers. Figure them out, even if they seem out of reach. It will probably take a lot of time and effort, but don’t get discouraged. You can do it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas