Saturday, December 30, 2006

Music Review: Josh Groban - Awake

What can I say? I'm a Grobanite and have been since the term was coined on his early website bulletin board and in the AOL chat room. For the second time, I purchased a Josh Groban CD on the day it was released. Unlike with the release of Closer when I was waiting for the store to open before going to work, I waited until the evening to purchase Awake, but I started playing it in the car before leaving the parking lot. From the first lyric to the last, the trademark Josh Groban voice remains in fine form. If there is a finer male voice in music today, I've not heard it. Certainly some performers have a gimic and some have a greater range, but if I was told I could only listen to one male singer for the rest of my life, I would choose Josh without having to think.

With that said, Awake, is a disappointment in that there is no standout song. The cd contains all original songs (to the best of my knowledge though some of the foreign language tracks may have been recorded by previous artists), but none of them reach out and grab me. I don't hit repeat on my iPod when any one song plays. I can listen to the entire cd repeatedly and be perfectly content, however, almost two months later, I have never caught myself singing along to one of the songs.

The biggest disappointment, though, is that two "bonus" tracks are only available if the cd is bought at a certain store or in a certain format (Target and iTunes for example). More artists and production companies use this practice and I find it highly offensive and discriminatory to consumers. After making my purchase at a store, I came home and purchased two "bonus" tracks from iTunes, one of which is the TITLE SONG. Who thinks this is a good idea? Josh should be ashamed that his production company pulled this stunt and should offer to replace the cd of everyone who purchased an incomplete version with the full fifteen track cd.

Josh continues to grow with his Italian lyrics. Each cd has shown an improvement in his fluency in the language. I do not know how much study of the language he has undertaken since his first cd, but it sounds now like he could converse comfortably. Many singers sing phonetically and do a good job, but they don't show a natural fluency in the language [I don't know Italian at all, but the songs on Awake sound more fluid to my raw ear] which Josh seems to be grasping with each new cd.

Josh's songwriting improves as well on Awake. He wrote the music, lyrics, or both on four songs. One to which he contributed music and lyrics, "February Song" anchors the English songs on the cd. Josh covers his full range on the song. His other music/lyric contributions include: "Now or Never", "Lullaby", and "Machine." Sadly, "Machine," with Herbie Hancock is probably the weakest song on the cd: it simply does not fit him.

As he has on his previous cd's, Josh manages to get some talented guests to perform with him. In addition to Herbie Hancock mentioned above, Josh has Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform on two songs. He harmonized beautifully with them and if I were to put a song on repeat, it would be "Weeping." The lyrics to "Weeping" tell a story that while African sounding, contains lessons for us too.

Despite the fact that I'm disappointed at the lack of any blow-my-socks-off songs, Awake on the whole remains a solid piece of work. I strongly recommend the purchase of the cd, but be certain to purchase it at a store or in the format that contains all fifteen songs, not the thirteen available in some locations - at least until Josh remedies the horror of the short cd.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

More Internet Fun...

Thanks to Velleity NYC who was the first I've seen to post this, one can determine their gender through a submitted writing sample. I was much more masculine than I expected! Go me!

Go you, and check it out at: Gender Genie

A Better Time?

President Ford was the first president I was consciously aware of. There are stories of me being pulled around in a wagon waving my arms with my hands showing the peace sign like Nixon, but I didn't really know what I was doing. Ford, though, I remember being a person in power.

I turned eight two months after he became president and was ten when he left the office, so consciousness that he was an important person is about all I was able to have at that time.

Oddly, my first memory that comes to me about President Ford is from the campaign of 1976 when he made a stop in San Antonio. He was eating some local cuisine - tamales - and did not know to take the corn husks in which they are wrapped off. I suppose someone from Michigan would not know that the finger food would have a wrapping to hold it together. His tamale incident in San Antonio played into his image as a physical klutz. Some say Chevy Chase made a career imitating Ford's mishaps. If one looks into his history, though, one finds that Ford was a rather gifted athlete.

Perhaps Ford's physical clumsiness was merely his way of showing discomfort with the sudden focus placed upon him. He went from being a Representative from Michigan, to the appointed Vice-president, to President following the resignations of Agnew and Nixon. He was a man without presidential ambition suddenly thrust into leadership at the pinnacle of the greatest political crisis in the nation's history. History has generally been kind to Ford and credited him with managing the crisis and restoring confidence and laying the foundation for credibility in the government once again.

President Ford remains a symbol of a much more civil time in Washington. In that time the political parties had genuine differences in philosophy and in governing. They fought bitterly for their side on the floor of the House and Senate - and then went for beers together when the session adjourned for the day. Sadly things have changed with our congressmen and senators genuinely disliking one another on a personal level and choosing to make all politics personal and divisive. Despite the crisis of Watergate, politicians then worked for the good of the country first and their ambitions second. If Watergate happened today, the other party would have the party involved deported faster than an Muslim facing east.

I was too young to realize it at the time, but Ford was also a progressive on GLBT issues. He appointed openly gay people to positions within his administration and in the last few years took vocal stances in support of gay marriage. He was a member of the Republican Unity Coalition advisory board which raises funds and seeks to make homosexuality a non-issue within the party. He always believed the GOP should welcome and include gays. He was remarkably progressive for a Republican of his generation and could set the example for many today.

As an adult, I look forward to learning more about this first president I remember and seeing how the historians address him through the official period of mourning.

And for his progressive stance on gay rights - may Heaven provide him all the unshucked tamales he can eat!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday Recovery

Gifts are given. Trips have been made. Christmas is over.

Despite all the anxiety, everything really went well with me this holiday. A rainy day in the country with a mother who watches the made-for-tv movie channel which is only showing made-for-tv Christmas movies (combined with the Disney Christmas parade [read commercial] hosted by Regis and Kelly) is a torture even Jack Bauer couldn't endure.

Still, my brothers and I got along. My parents didn't do anything to upset anyone, so we all spent all Christmas afternoon together while watching the kids (my three nephews) play in the house and on the lone paved spot in my parent's driveway.

While my holiday was generally boring because I have changed so much since moving to Austin and it seems that they have all stayed the same in the small town. There really isn't much that we have in common to discuss. They catch me up on the news of all the people I know from the thirty-three years I lived there. I tell them a little about life here, but they don't really understand it and I don't really care about a dispute between two people I knew seven years ago.

At least I have a family I can go visit. They don't really accept and are not willing to discuss my lifestyle, but they do take me for who I am and don't make a big issue of it. For that I'm thankful.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holiday Anxiety #3

And we're done!

The shopping is complete.

The gifts are wrapped.

Now I just have to load them into the car and drive two hours so my nephews can destroy them in two minutes. The loading can wait until after church tomorrow.

Despite the challenges, I'm pleased with the gifting I've done this year. I only relied on gift cards for two people (though I must admit, I would rather get gift cards most of the time).

The wrapping was more of a challenge than I expected. Pillows can be rather tricky: try finding a gift box that fits a penguin shaped pillow the size of a three-year-old. The blanket was not as hard as the penguin, but it came close.

The traffic today was worse than yesterday. I guess that is what I get for doing last minute shopping.

Still, I'm done with the shopping and that feels good.

Now I just have to survive a couple days with my family.

Holiday Anxiety #2

Holiday drivers are NUTS!

I thought Friday morning shopping would not be too wild since people were supposedly still working, but the traffic quickly made me want to just give gift cards. I had spent some time coming up with ideas for "real" gifts for almost everyone on my list, but the mass of drivers soon brought out the scrooge in me.

After some back street maneuvers, I made my way to one of my favorite shopping centers and in going through a few stores, was able to find appropriate gifts for almost everyone on my list.

The one gift I have not been able to find is for my middle nephew. I have his mother's list, but I'm not buying his mother's list for Christmas: I'll buy from his mother's list any time except his birthday and Christmas. So, today, I'm off once again to go find something for him. With luck, I'll find just the right item to give him some excitement through the whole year to come, but it will have to be just right.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Anxiety #1

Four days to Christmas and the holiday anxiety is setting in. I have three nephews and NO CLUE what to buy them. The one who always had a three page wish list responded with "I dunno." when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas over Thanksgiving. The one who is three will be happy with paper and bows. The other nephew has the list his mother made. Christmas presents from the uncle are for fun - not for school! I'm sure I can find something suitably exciting for him without making his parents too mad.

As far as I know, my brothers and I have called a truce and are not going to exchange presents this year, but I have not heard that directly from one brother, so I don't know whether to be prepared or not. Mom and dad, of course, won't go along with that, so I still have to figure out what to get two people who already have more stuff than house/garage/barn can hold.

Friends are an entirely different matter. Some are doing the gift thing, but I have no idea who, so I feel like I need to be prepared for any contingency. Do I buy "cool" things just to have on hand that can go to anyone male or female? Maybe I'll just do a dinner for them...people usually do enjoy my food. Then there are the random gift bags/baskets...I can do that....

The only way around all this would be to ask everyone if they are getting me a gift - and that would seem like I'm asking. We need to come up with some clear etiquette on gift giving during the holidays.

Dating = gift

Close friends = gift

Acquaintances = no gift

Co-workers = draw or no gift and no breaking the agreement (if one gifts it makes everyone else look bad)

Family = decide (children = definitely, adults = come to an agreement)

Fortunately, I don't live or work in a building where holiday tipping is an expectation.

I don't want to come off as a scrooge, but in the last few years, the most fun I've had is with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We have the rule that you buy a present for everyone, but for the adults you cannot spend more than $1. That rule suddenly makes shopping a challenge and gift receiving an adventure. When we are together, we laugh and enjoy being with one another more than you can imagine. Instead of being about the gifts, the gifts are the catalyst for much laughter - so much so that I usually ache for days afterward. We are all thirty/fortysomethings, so we don't wait for the holidays: when we need something, we go buy it instead of putting it on a wish list.

It has been much belabored each year that the holidays are too materialistic, so I won't add to that lament. I would like to see my friends and family expanding the dollar gift tradition. It is tremendous fun for the gifter and gifted.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Queer of the Year Conundrum

As I've mentioned before, I'm addicted to a daily check of Joe Jervis's blog, JoeMyGod . He has a relaxed style and experiences across the city of New York that I can only fantasize about having here in Austin. I've managed to catch him a few times on OutQ in the morning on Sirius and that same personality comes across on the air. The next time I get to visit New York, I'm going to have to frequent his haunts in hope of running into him and meeting him.

Currently Joe is running a Queer of the Year poll on his blog with six distinct candidates selected by his panel of judges (other bloggers). I'm having a difficult time trying to decide which one of five I want to win. There is only one candidate I have no desire to see win. Voters are asked to vote for the one who did the most to improve the standing/quality of life for GLBT America. Nominations came from readers of the site and were narrowed down by the panel of judges.

The first candidate he has listed is Laurel Hester. She became known this past year with her deathbed battle to have retirement/pension benefits expanded to domestic partners, not just "married" couples. Her appeal and the groundswell of public support forced the Republican county leaders to give in and extend the benefits to domestic partners about three weeks before she died.

The second candidate, Lane Hudson, gained much more national attention after he anonymously posted emails from Congressman Foley to pages which forced the media to break the story. Hudson has long been a political activist with Democratic campaigns and worked for the Human Rights Campaign (which fired him after he was revealed as the blogger).

The third candidate, Kim Coco Iwamoto, became the first transgendered person to win a statewide election when she was elected to the Hawaii State Board of Education. Somehow this news was not carried in the mainstream media and I have to admit I had not heard of her until her nomination for QOTY.

Candidate number four is the one who, along with Lane Hudson, did more to put the Republicans on their heels leading into the mid-term elections than the entire Democratic party combined. Mike Jones rose to fame just weeks before the election with his exposure of Ted Haggard, the Colorado mega-church anti-gay minister, as a drug-using, gay-escort hiring fraud. Jones was among the advisers President Bush called when devising his anti-gay rhetoric.

The fifth candidate, Rosie O'Donnell, was admittedly selected by the judges just because so many people nominated her from the blog. Rosie remains one of the most obvious gay faces in the media with her recent ascension to a seat on The View, replacing Merideth Viera. She also strives to be a face of the gay family with her partner and the gay-family-friendly cruises she sponsors.

The sixth candidate, Soulfource, is one of the quietest and most unheralded grassroots organizations changing the attitudes towards gays in America by confronting people directly with the bigotry they promote. They began last year touring college campuses that have admissions restrictions allowing access to the college for openly GLBT students. They have also been involved in sit-ins at recruiting stations to challenge the Don't-Ask-Don't Tell policy. The group is made up primarily of young adults who are taking a stand.

The only candidate I don't really support among the six is Rosie O'Donnell. She has on a couple occasions worn her gay badge a little too loosely and after bashing Michael Richard's racial rant, went on her own a few weeks later. While her visibility and activism are good, I don't see how anything she has done this year did anything to promote the GLBT cause.

Mike Jones and Lane Hudson certainly did their last minute hammering of nails into the coffin of Republican majority in the House and Senate. While Jones's actions served to expose the hypocrisy deep within the nation's leadership and Hudson's revelations succeeded in exposing the corruption that went to the highest levels of House leadership, I'm not certain I want either of them nominated for a stamp just yet. Jones spent years as an "escort" who used and had drug connections for his clientele. Hudson, with his experience in politics and abundant free Internet resources for posting blogs, still managed to violate his employer's policies by posting the blog that brought down Foley and ultimately cost Hastert his leadership position among Republicans. Both men's actions took courage and a degree of personal risk. While they certainly played a role in discrediting the powers-that-be, I'm not certain they actually brought down the Republicans dual-handedly.

That leaves a cancer-stricken police officer, a politician, and a group of young adults. All three made a positive change that establishes a precedent for future actions. Hester's victory in gaining benefits, set the pattern for more municipalities to extend survivor benefits to domestic partners. Iwamoto's victory in a statewide election showed that voters can overcome the issue of sexuality and sexual identity and vote based on issues and candidate qualifications. Soulforce's adoption of the strategies of the Civil Rights movement of the '50's and '60's have forced discriminatory institutions to defend their bigotry publicly like none have been called to do regarding GLBT issues.
All three are incredibly worthy, but after debating almost 24 hours, I finally voted for Soulfource. The national work of these courageous young people at a grass-roots level in areas that are most traditionally hostile to GLBT issues is forcing people to look deep within themselves to defend the antiquated ideas about homosexuality. Though many in these conservative strongholds don't like it when confronted with actual facts, the education Soulfource is doing will ultimately lead to national change.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sinus Infection Hell

I get sinus infections.

It is part of who I am.

This last one wanted me dead!

I have been sick before and have felt really bad, but I don't think I've come close to this last experience. And the illness was only compounded by the antibiotic the lovely doctor gave me to fight it. For the first three days I experienced some congestion and a very hoarse voice, but I actually felt good. I did not sleep well because all the congestion made it difficult to breathe any time I moved in the night, but I was handling it and ignoring everyone telling me to take some medication.

I started taking Claritin D early this year because I saw that the cedar bushes were about to burst at any time and cedar is the worst reaction I get each year. I hate Claritin D due to the jitteryness and sleeplessness it causes in the first few days, but it is the only allergy medication I've found that does what it needs to do.

Since I knew cedar was on the way and was already on the Claritin, I scoffed at everyone telling me to go to the doctor. I knew I was feeling great and that my symptoms were minor and would soon pass.

That was fine until Friday about noon. That afternoon, we had a meeting about something (I honestly don't remember it). I sat at the end of the table away from everyone fearing I would give them whatever had caused the whole world to crash down on me. About 3:30 Friday I left the office, went home, wrapped myself in blankets and crawled on the recliner.

I began to move again late Tuesday night.

Monday morning I did make it to see the doctor (a fill in since my doctor was fully booked). He dismissed it as a sinus infection and gave me some poison he and the pharmacist called an antibiotic. When I finally read the full statement about the medicine on Thursday, I began to understand why I truly felt so bad. Side effects include potential disruption of the digetstive tract (as is common with antibiotics - they kill the good and the bad). Another potential side effect is the sensation that someone has buried the dull side of a hatchet in the center of your forehead, just above your nose: I have never had a headache sustained for so long.

On top of it all, the taste in my mouth made eating anything essentially unbearable. In just over a week, I've lost thirteen pounds and with the digestive issues, feel certain to drop a few more before the course of antibiotics is done. Unfortunately, they are all coming from the face, legs, and arms, not the mid-section where they need to be leaving. If an illness is going to have this effect, surely it should do it in a positive way. I look in the mirror and see a figure that reminds me of the images of a childrens drawing - a bloated round torso with stick limbs. Having a buzzed head also does not help when one is feeling bad.

Three more antibiotic pills to take and I'll be done with this course of treatment. Hopefully Monday I can start re-introducing the good things back into my body and I can get some energy do do more than pile the freshly washed clothes on the bed. Maybe I can actually get them folded and hung.

Music Review: P!nk - I'm Not Dead

I have been a fan of P!nk since "Get This Party Started" but I never explored much of her music. She appealed to me as a fun and energetic performer, but I didn't attribute much more to her than than.

Aside: One of the nice features to iTunes is that one can sample parts of each song before purchasing. I enjoy and often use the feature to decide whether to purchase individual songs or an entire cd. Most often, I purchase the individual songs rather than the entire CD. Artists rarely put together 10-13 songs I really want to hear.

I went to iTunes to purchase "U + Ur Hand" the first single from I'm Not Dead. While there, I started listening to other songs from the cd. After about the fifth song, I realized I was into a remarkable collection. Every song was unique P!nk, but they varied in style from hip-hop ("Stupid Girls") to acoustic-folk ("Dear Mr. President" feat. Indigo Girls). The fourteen tracks on the cd each stand alone, but together have a nice mix and flow.

"U + Ur Hand" is a typical P!nk, rockin', attitude-filled song. If I were straight, I would be terrified to find this woman as my girlfriend - something I fear I would find out much too late. On days when it is good, it would be awesome, but on those certain days, I would seek residence in another city (an idea strongly supported by the video). The suggestiveness of the title is made clear in the song through the lyric, "Keep your drink, just give me the money. It's just you and your hand tonight." Despite the aggressiveness of some of the lyrics, I can't help but come away from the song smiling. It's just fun.

"Dear Mr. President" which features the amazing Indigo Girls is just what it's title suggests, an open letter to President Bush that asks some direct questions covering issues his administration appears blind. With a Dixie Chicks set of balls, P!nk and the Girls directly go to the compassionate heart of the country. The acoustic nature of the song is not what one would normally expect of P!nk, but allows her voice to be heard.

The hidden track on the cd is a duet P!nk sings with her father. She offers a nice introduction to the track and it is a pleasure to hear the kind of harmony that only comes with family.

Across the cd, P!nk's voice servers as the most powerful and consistent intstrument. Her voice has matured since her earlier cd's and she utilizes it for full effect in each song. She presents it as a clearly tuned instrument as mentioned regarding "Dear Mr. President," and then transforms it to the rhaspy, emotion-filled blues horn in "Nobody Knows" and "The One That Got Away."

Songs from across the cd are already making it into my various playlists -ranging from workout playlists to cooking, housework and reading/studying playlists. It has such a variety that one can find a song for so many different situations. I'm looking forward to getting to know the cd better in the months to come as I'm sure I will.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

San Diego...

It is just past Thanksgiving and we are enjoying the three nice fall nights we get here in Austin. Actually, the weather at night is another whole reason I like living in Austin. Except for a few nights in the summer where the heat overwhelms even in the darkness, nights are generally pleasant.

Tonight, I’m working from my laptop on the back patio with a fire in the chiminea and planes gliding in for landings at the airport a few miles away – just far enough away that they are not loud, but bring a rather contented roar of commerce and opportunity.

I really do like flying when the destination is far enough away. A couple weeks ago I was in San Diego for a national conference and the quick trips there and back were so nice. And since I made friends out there, I am hoping it will become a flight I become accustomed to making.

I’ve never had a post-conference vacation quite like the one I had in San Diego. This was the second time I’ve extended my business stay by one or more days to spend time there. The city itself continues to be as pleasant as ever. It truly is blessed by location with good weather and blessed by culture and philanthropy to have good places.

But this time, I truly lucked into meeting some locals who showed me the city from their perspectives – the rolled tacos and take-out-everything. And for the first time ever, I did karaoke without drunkenness or shame being involved. They gave me the chance to relax without one time thinking about work. I had an amazing time with some truly good people.

I sit here enjoying the fire in my chiminea and wonder if the rats are back in Sasi’s pool heater.

Ran is somewhere in Las Angeles running around with his friends there.

And since it is Saturday night, Dominic and others are probably gathered somewhere eating and getting ready for singing.k

I’ll just watch the fire and hum a variety of ‘80’s tunes and remember the good time I had and think about things I can do to show them as much fun when they visit Austin.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

IKEA is open!!!!

Bah...not that impressed. It's big and has many things to clutter up my house. Maybe I'll go back when there are not 10,000 people in the store at once and look again - or maybe not.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Colorado dreams...

The two best political ads I've seen this season.

And if the measure passes, the Colorado dreams will be psychedelic!


I just can't help it.

I just keep laughing.

I've searched out every salacious detail.

I just keep laughing!

The Ted Haggard news which has broken over the last four days has done more to lift my spirits than any other news lately. The cliche that the most homophobic boy on the playground is the one most enjoying his peers in the shower gets demonstrated here yet again. Here, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the organization which organized to pass anti-gay marriage amendments across the nation, finds himself caught with a drug pipe in his mouth and his pants down (dropped for his gay call-boy).

Surely a demon came upon him. ( A demon and half the male prostitutes in Denver)

The human part of me keeps whispering that I should show some degree of compassion. After all I denied my homosexuality for thirty-three years. But then the other side of me yells out that he devoted his life to hating himself and me and that even caught, he does not have the courage or grace or whatever virtue applies to come forth and admit who he is as a man. The yelling is winning so far and I'm just enjoying the spectacle. The deeper the schaden, the greater the freude.

I'm curious to know how the organizations with which he has so closely worked are going to respond. Did Bush call him with consolations saying that the nasty ol' prostitute should have just kept his mouth shut? Is Dobson going to lay hands upon him and declare him healed? The religious machine is going to do everything they can to spin this story in their favor (take a note from the Pharisees - there's not a stone big enough).

I'll continue to bask in the joy of Haggard's misery as I wait for the next homophobic bully to fall.

Schadenfreude. Big word. Bigger joy!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why I Need a Boyfriend #1


I carry my stress in my shoulders and soaking in a hot bath only does so much.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Gay Baptists are REAL!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Tenth Annual Gay and Lesbian Baptist Retreat in Texas. A few months ago I discovered University Baptist Church, but this weekend, I discovered AWAB - The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. Below is my letter to the executive director which was forwarded to the board.

The discovery of AWAB has been a watershed moment in my faith, even moreso than the introduction to University Baptist Church. As I shared at the retreat, the moment I accepted myself as a gay man, I became closer to God because the barrier of pretended heterosexuality I had erected between myself and Him was a lie I could never overcome. While I was very active in a church, my relationship to God was academic. I was a teacher and a leader, but my relationship to God did not exist in any personal way. I read the scripture, studied the scripture, and interpreted the scripture, but now I can look back and see that I did all those things without the guidance or presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

My faith was an expectation of the community, but not a reflection of me.

Years ago I was introduced to University Baptist Church as the congregation who was disassociated from the Southern Baptist Convention because they ordained an openly gay man. That introduction to me was incomplete. I knew that event, that action from that body, but I never investigated or imagined it would mean a church body could be Baptist and inclusive, so when I came out and moved to Austin, I did not even consider UBC as a potential church home.

And maybe I'm glad I didn't make that move six years ago. I was not ready for a church to accept me because I was not ready to accept a church.

When I was finally introduced to UBC this summer, I knew from the first Sunday I set foot in the building, that the body of believers who called that place home, was Christian in the Christ sense of the word. I spent a month considering the move of my membership to UBC before I finally did it because I wanted to be certain. I have never looked back.

This weekend, discovering the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, in many ways was an explosion of my faith. Not only do I have a congregation I can call home, there is an association in relationship with many other faiths across the nation I can call a friend. The weekend is not even over, but I sense the impact this discovery has had on me.

As a child, I always thought I would be a minister. As a teenager I reasoned I could never be one because God would never let me. After this weekend, I have the hope that I may be able to impact people in service to the Lord again.

Friday, October 20, 2006

More Meat Snacks...

When I first came across the various texts on the meat snack package I could not resist the obvious jokes and even created a t-shirt iron-on with the most suggestive line. I'm going to have to work out a bit more before I can wear the shirt out in good conscience, but it still gives me jollies as I try to come up with a non-personal use for the 3.65 ounces of meat snack in a bag.

The company did eventually write me back (from the cold north woods of Wisconsin). The disclaimer about personal use simply means that I cannot export the meat snack and sell it.

3.65 oz of meat snack costs $5.99 at the store next to my office.

I had no idea that meat snacks were so in demand around the world that I could make a profit by buying, shipping, and re-selling the meat snack in foreign lands.

Here we lavish one another with gifts of gold: there they come bearing meat snacks.

Hopeful Male: Darling, you are the most precious creation in my eye. I brought you these.

Blushing Female: Ohhhhhh...Meat shouldn't have.

And just like here - she REALLY meant it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Big Four Ohhhhhhh!

For the last few months, as this milestone age has approached, I've felt the need to reflect, ponder, muse, and cogitate on the lessons I've learned. For a few years, I would add a lesson a year to a list I had going and I included this list to younger friends in a birthday letter of wisdom. I long lost that letter and decided that simply surviving another year did not in itself mean one had accumulated additional great wisdom.

Some years, in fact, were so blase' that I don't even remember them - the twenties for instance.

One observation I have made, though as I approached forty with excitement rather than dread, was that life really just gets better. In my twenties I discovered just how miserable the teenage years were. I mourn for the many people who look back on high school as "the best years of my life." If you climaxed by eighteen, then you have lived one miserable life.

My twenties were a dramatic improvement to the teens, but with ten years distance between the present and then, I could never go back to that time. I grew very much as a person through my twenties, but those years continued to be a struggle for identity as I created myself professionally.

The thirties, though, I romanticize. I matured professionally and actually reached positions I had never originally aspired to. I also finally reached a personal maturity as I finally accepted myself as a gay man. The decision to accept myself for who I am, is by far the best decision I ever made. It gave me personal freedom to be me without the constant paranoia of looking over my shoulder to see who might accidentally see something in me which was the truth I kept attempting to hide.

The progression of quality of life from decade to decade has been so good, that I am now looking forward to my forties. I'm ready to be there and to see the life I have to live in the next ten years. I'll have to be ever vigilant of my health. I have no guarantee that an aging body will fight the disease as well as my younger body, but I'm going to give it all the tools it needs to fight well.

And I'm already looking forward to botox treatments to keep the crows feet around my eyes at bay, but hey, science is good and gives us such gifts! Who knows what will be around by the time I turn fifty!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Music Review: Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah

Saturday I bought the new Scissor Sisters cd after only hearing the first release, "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" which is one of the most misleading titles in music history. One song was enough for me as I had fallen for the group with their first big song, "Filthy Gorgeous."

Ta-Dah proves to be a successful sophomore outing for the group. The thirteen songs on the (iTunes) album span a range of influences from early Elton John to the Statler Brothers. In between I hear bits of Blondie, The Bee Gees and some Queen.

The first release, "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" makes one sway, tap one's feet,or just stand up and really move. I'm anticipating some of the club releases to hit the stands soon. Contrary to it's negative title, the song is upbeat and positive. Despite all the reasons not to dance, the rhythm dictates otherwise.

"Land of a Thousand Words" and "Lights" are the two songs I just like listening to. "Lights," especially, has an upbeat rhythm that makes me want to dance, but both songs have layers to the lyrics that come clean with each listen.

My favorite song on the cd is "I Can't Decide" because I'm in a good mood after hearing it. It has a definite Statler Brothers feel to it with a saloon-piano/organ in the background. And while the singer trys to decide whether the antagonist should live or die, I keep envisioning a Keystone Cops scenario playing in the background. With lines like "flys were cats you'd be a litter," and "It's a bitch convincing people to like you" the song can't be taken as too serious a threat.

I've listened to the cd steadily for three days now and continue to enjoy it. The more closely I listen to it, the more I discover in the clever writing. Cleverness and energy are the greatest strenghts to the Scissor Sisters. I would like to see a live show to see if the energy translates into the live performance or if the energy comes from production.

All in all the entire cd is enjoyable. It has not been around long enough to make it to my top ten list and I doubt it will, but for the fun the songs provide, it is definitely worth adding to your collection.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Artsy or too lazy to cut and paste?

In getting ready for my upcoming birthday party, I decided it was necessary to finish decorating the walls to my house. Luckily one of the craft stores was having a big sale on frames, so I bought some big frames to get the various posters and prints I had already purchased finally up on the walls. While I was out and about, I went to one of my favorite discount stores (no, much more discount than Wal-Mart). and bought a number of picture frames. I cleaned the store out of silver frames and came home and started printing pictures.

I am not one of your really big crafty persons, but I did learn how to use the editing feature on my photo editor to make some of my landscape pictures black and white. I guess a bit of Ansel Adams ( haunts me when it comes to landscapes and I have always preferred black and white to color. I have a collection of snow photos I took a few years ago and since they are essentially devoid of color, I decided they have alway been best that way.

After hours of selecting, editing, printing and framing pictures, I found I had one frame left and decided it would be best with a collage of snow photos. I found some of my pictures of flowers in the snow - flowers are normal in south Texas in the winter, snow is not, so I found many examples of tropical flowers - hibiscus, azalea, and lantana blooming while covered with snow. My photo editing program would not let me make a collage of them, but I decided it had to be done on the computer - scissors, tape and glue were way too 1990's - and if you remember, I don't even have one of those cute birthday calendars on paper - it had to be on a spreadsheet.

Finally after a bit of searching, I found a freeware program (courtesy of the ubiquitous search engine that with a certain software company will together rule the world) that would do collages. With a bit of manipulation, I managed to create the collage above. It looks better on here than printed, but...I'll go with it for the time being.

And though I was too lazy to print the pictures and cut them out - now I'm going to have to cut out the picture to make it fit the frame. I guess scissors, tape, and glue are still part of the collage world.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sometimes I Amaze...

...Even Myself

Somehow, I managed to relax today and in the afternoon decided to cook. It has been a while since I last had pizza, so that is what I began to crave. I have made my own bread for the last, I guess eight years now, so a pizza crust is nothing, but the topping can be a little tricky. I searched the kitchen and decided I wanted a spinich pizza which worked because I had frozen spinich in the freezer and all the fresh basil and oregano and rosemary growing in the garden. I have enough of the herbs growing at this point that I could have had a purely herb pizza if I wanted. Basil grows like crazy in the right soil and environment as does the oregano. The rosemary is practically a native plant around here - it is fantastic for the xeroscaping in the dry central Texas rocky soil. Also as people in the suburbs know very well - deer don't eat rosemary.

After chopping and mixing for a little while - with some added fresh onion and garlic and then the parmesan cheese grated and mixed in, the aromas began to take over the kitchen and I was not certain I would make it to the actual baking of the pizza.

By the time the topping was complete, the dough was ready to be worked into pizza shape. I had preheated the stone, so the dough would start rising as soon as I put it down and I could form a nice bowl to hold the sauce and melting cheeses. It worked beautifully and soon the nice round crust was piled with fragrant herbs, cheeses, and spinich.

After rising another thirty minutes it was ready to bake and that just made the anticipation worse as I could smell every bit of it's goodness fill the house. About the time it was done, I turned on the broiler and set the pizza under it for the last few minutes

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I think it is is time to find a good cosmetic surgeon. I tried three different photos before I went with this one and none of the three ever brought up Lance Armstrong, and Lance is the guy I'm always being told I look like. I guess you have to be in Austin to truly appreciate that.

I just know I'm going to be googling some of these names - especially Mr. Redondo!
MyHeritage - create your own Celebrity Collage

Monday, September 18, 2006

Reason # 2 W hy I Love Austin...

God loves live music!

He really must. Tonight on day three of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, thunderstorms were building to the west as a hurricane which hit the west coast of Mexcio and a cold front were merging and stirring up all kinds of fun.

As we watched the clouds approach it started to lightning to the east of us. Then it started to lightning to the west of us. But it never started to lightning over us and with only one pause for a downpour, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers showed why they were the headliners and closing act for ACL Fest. #5.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Sermon to Ponder

Two months ago my pastor preached a sermon about the rejection of Jesus as the Christ in his home town. The people there could not see beyond the man they watched grow up. They could only see him as "the carpenter."

And that made me ask the question - "Did Jesus ever build a wobbly table for someone?" If He cut a board the wrong length, did He just say, "Fit!" and everything was good.

Today the lesson looked at a passage of scripture where Jesus responded with racist terms to a gentile woman who came to Him to heal her daughter. Perhaps, the response was to test the woman's faith. Perhaps the response was Jesus's humanity showing through His divinity. Whatever the interpretation of the response, it leads to an examination of one's personal Christology. Because the Bible teaches that Jesus was both man and God, there is the possibility that as a person, Christ was influenced by the society around him.

And that has had me pondering the question: if Christ, as a man, could be influenced by the society around Him, how much more so are we?

As an educator, though I am no longer at the campus level, I constantly consider the effect the decisions I make has on the staff and students of the 29 campuses I with which I work. When I make a decision, it creates a certain response from the people who work on the campus which leads to a reaction by the students.

At the campus level a certain environment develops. In some ways, each campus has it's own culture which evolves over time. Through systems theory, one can understand how changes take place and that the influence of certain key people can determine the entire climate that surrounds a place, just like the gravity of a celestial body determines the atmosphere which surrounds its mass.

I would be deluding myself to think that every move I made affected the effectiveness of each campus, but then again, with systems theory: a butterfly flaps its wings in a rain forest and a hurricane strikes the Caribbean. Given that understanding, I do consider the ramifications of all my actions on the 40,000 students.

No wonder I suck at relaxing.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I SUCK... relaxing.

I took a vacation day to have a four day weekend, but by noon, I was frantically worrying about the meeting I have scheduled for tomorrow morning. I worried so much, I was getting sick to my stomach.

I tried taking a bath and decided I would scoop out the water into a bucket to water some of the plants in my garden (surely the phosphates in the soap would be good for them) but then it started raining.

I have been gone for three days and my dogs didn't make too much of a mess. I was very proud of them. Today, for some reason, two of them pooped on the carpet.

I thank you for your kind attention to my whining. I'll go work on my powerpoint for the training I'm doing Friday.

A Day Off nice to have a day off.

I have a hard time relaxing - I've already made a list of things to do. I'm resisting. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Up With People!

That past vestage of wholesomeness and happiness is back and driving badly in front of me.

I had not thought about Up With People in nearly two decades since they came through the college town where I was living and going to school. Those of us who were happy enough without listening to inspirational people-friendly songs made much fun of the happy pretty people who were clearly chosen for looks rather than talent (which was confirmed when I googled them and read some articles this morning). The entire event had something of a circus atmosphere with some (happy pretty) classmates auditioning for and leaving town on the bus.

We never found the happy pretty people they left behind to make room. Maybe they were not all that happy when they figured out where they had been left.

Yesterday morning, a REALLY BAD driver was annoying all the traffic around me as I was heading to work. I could not quite figure out what it was about the obviously perky fifty-something faux blonde driving an oversized Mercedes that annoyed me to the pit of my stomach beyond the fact that her driving was slowing everyone down. There was also something bizarre about a perky, fifty-something faux blonde being that far over on the east side of town.

Finally it was my turn to be the car directly behind her and I could see that she had one of those custom license plate holders and aross the top it said, "Alumni." It took a couple blocks before I could finally read the smaller print at the bottom of the holder, "Up With People."

No wonder a perky, fifty-something faux blonde driving an oversided Mercedes was on the east side of Austin: she was on her way to cure poverty with happiness.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Reward of a Job...

...well done is supposed hold its own satisfaction. I suppose that holds some truth, although, I'm not certain it holds any kind of certainty. I've worked my butt off for the last few months and it has not all led to what I expected. Some of it, in fact, has been so frustrating that the dream I had last night was so real, I'm wondering if my calling is not to change jobs and go back to teaching.

I do miss the classroom, but despite the frustrations of my current position, I have to say that more than the satisfaction of a job well done is a life well lived. Today I had my quarterly doctor's visit and for the second time, after an incredibly stressful period, rather than the stress taking a toll on my body, my bloodwork came back better than before.

Sadly, to the converse, when I've been relaxed and comfortable, my blood tests have not been so good.

It is an ironic pick your poison: do I want to go by a heart attack or HIV?

With a heart attack it would be fast, but I worry if my co-workers could find all my notes to finish the projects I'm working on (hint- check the floor of my home office). Yes, even in death, I think I would worry about the ease with which my replacement could follow me.

Thanks to the advancement in medicines, HIV would likely be slow to progress. My major fear is that it does make that blood/brain leap and I begin to experience AIDS Related Dementia. I have not found the appropriate accomplice for assisted suicide, but I would have a diagnosis as AIDS Related Dementia as a criterion for someone assisting me.

The other fear is that I waste away slowly and leave an ugly corpse, but that's just vanity, and ego is no excuse for assisted suicide.

So in the meantime...

I keep working on the stress-filled life well lived.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Under Pressure

The temperature outside today nearly matched the temperature under my collar this afternoon. Depending on which weather report one checked, Austin reached 103 degrees today. I knew my day was booked with meetings and had carefully planned my day to be prepared for them. I had not carefully planned for the meeting location to change after the meeting originally was scheduled to begin.

Flexibility - always good.

That four hour meeting today was, in part, to provide information for my portion of a grant proposal. It was a very productive meeting and I left confident I would easily be able to write a very good piece and fit it within my length constraints.

I was just down the street when my boss's boss's boss calls my cell to inform me that the piece was due thirty minutes previously instead of in two days as I thought, and that I only had one-half page in which to fully cover my topic. Because the office "liked" me they were giving me another half hour to write the piece.

I was in my car.

I was in rush hour traffic.

I had a three page draft.

I had a thirty minute deadline.

My gas gauge was showing empty.

First things first. I stopped to get gas.

The radio reported over a dozen accidents being worked at the time. I'm really glad I had turned my satellite radio off and was listening to NPR's All Things Considered at the time. Otherwise, I would have been stopped in two diffrent traffic jams. Fortunately I was able to negotiate my way around the traffic tie-ups and make it home rather quickly.

Fifteen minutes later I called the grant office and my boss's boss's boss to report that I had completed and submitted the half page. There are two stylistic changes I would like to make after re-reading it an hour later, but other than that, all I can say is, "Damn! I'm good!"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Weirdly Good Mood

I think it's now safe to say I have a boyfriend. After the evening I just had, I think it means we are together.

I came home and sent the following email - incredibly uncharacteristic of me....

A while back I was watching one of those artsy - craftsy shows where they demonstrated a birthday calendar where the dates were not listed in a weekly order, but rather they were generic by the month so it didn't matter what year it was. The idea was that you could put people's names by the date and have a monthly reminder of who's birthday was when.

I thought that was just a stupid idea when I could create a spreadsheet on the computer much more efficiently, so...

...I created a spreadsheet.

Now, I just need important birthdays (and if you are getting this, you are important!!!). If your children call me uncle, or will when they can talk, please include their birthdays as well (providing they have been born -- the two {at least} of you know who I'm talking about). You can also include spouse/partner's names and birthdays as well.

I'm not promising a gift, but it may help me remember to send one of those Internet cards (as long as they stay free).

Happy Birthday Everyone!

Check out my blog sometime: (*disclaimer - don't read it if you don't already know that I'm gay.)

I think everyone on the list except one already knew I was gay. I wanted to include some kind of "oops" line at the end, but that would have just blown the joke.

I already have two dates that have two birthdays and one double birthday/anniversary on my calendar. I can't wait to see just how many of my friends are Libras like me.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Read the Package!

Last week, I was about to head into a meeting that was scheduled to last four hours. Because the day had been one of our typically busy days in the office, I never stopped for lunch, but since I was getting hungry, I decided to walk over to the convenience store behind the office. I wanted some highly caffeinated drink and some substantial snack (and I needed to get cash to pay for my share of a birthday present).

Chips and such didn't really seem filling enough, so I decided to get some of the meat snacks available.

I went back to the office, gathered my notes for the meeting, and started reading the back of the package of meat snacks and it made my day!

The first paragraph declares, "It all started in 1885." (I was hoping the meat had not been dried back then.) "My great-grandparents settled in the north woods of Wisconsin, bringing with them family meat snack recipies and an adventurous pioneer spirit."

I can just see them packing the wagon:

"Honey, don't forget the meat snack recipes."

"Dear, where did you put the adventurous pioneer spirit?"

(Hopefully under some axes and lots of clothes if they were heading to northern Wisconsin.)

But even better than the imagined conversation between great-grandpa and great-grandma was one of the disclaimers in a box at the bottom of the package: The meat contained herein is for personal use only. I have a rather vivid (and warped) imagination. I have yet to be able to imagine a use for 3.65 ounces of chunks of beef which have been highly dehydrated that is not personal. I even emailed the company, since they clearly have had experience with people using it for non-personal uses. I have not heard back.

Apparently people who make meat snacks are very enthusiastic about their business. My first encounter with this excitement was a letter I received last fall from a vendor who would be displaying at a conference I was scheduled to attend. He was so happy to be killing and drying cows.

He was so happy to be killing and drying cows that he obviously skipped English class.

I had to go back over his letter and repunctuate in order for it to make any sense. I almost made a copy and mailed it back to him, but since I sometimes do my own creative interpretation of English standards, decided not to invite karma to do it's turn. After reading the comments on the package this past week, I regret throwing that letter away. I guess I'll have to go back to the same conference to get meat-boy's letter again.

Until then, I think my entertainment will be purchasing various kinds of meat snacks and reading the packages.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hooked on...

I'm hooked on two other blogs so far.

My friends Kristen and Sean have a regular journal of their beautiful little girl's development. I'm addicted - I have to check at least once a day to see what new adventure she has had.

I heard an interview with Joe on OutQ radio on Sirius Satellite radio and had to check it out. He's just a guy, but I love his blogs and check them out daily as well.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Joy of...

...being alone!

People who meet me, often have a hard time believing how painfully shy I am. For years, I have practiced and forced myself to go out in public, give presentations, lead groups, performed on stage. I'm actually pretty good at it and display a very confident persona when in those situations.

However, when the experience ends, every ounce of my personal energy has gone. My body may still be charging ahead, but my mental self wants to crawl in bed for a couple days. In those situations, I'm always hyper alert to read the non-verbal communications of the people around me and work to respond appropriately to the verbal communications as well. Maintaining that level of energy through a period of time saps the spark of life.

Audiences take a great deal of energy, but the largest draw on my personal strength is one-on-one experiences. Intense attentiveness sucks out who I am as I feel required to be in the same place as my companion. I want to be nice and supportive. I want to care and be cared for, but too often, conditions predicate reciprocation and the negotiation of those terms takes more concentration than monitoring an entire audience.

Once the terms are determined (with friends, lovers, partners, co-workers) then the energy drain is not the same and can sometimes flow the other way.

It takes some time to recharge the batteries.

For me. The recharge comes from serious alone time. I don't want to be on the phone. I don't want to be with anyone. Even the dogs can demand too much attention. Give me music, a book, something to cook, and increasingly, a chance to write. That combination gives me a private outlet without mental concentration outside my own sphere. As I turn the pages or the food comes together and as the words fill the white space on the page, I can see an accomplishment that is just for me and by me.

Today was an awesome recharge day. I accomplished many housecleaning tasks, got the needed groceries, and cooked. I made probably the best hummus I've made so far: I discovered a new recipe and I, of course, took off with my own variation. I also did some experimentation to figure out a recipe I've been considering for over six months - that started out of a joke in my office. When I get it worked out, I'm sure there will be a blog about the various awards I win with it.

Now, my mental batteries are nearing full again, but my physical batteries are wearing down. I'm all showered and know there are clean sheets on the bed. There aren't many nights better than that. I'm going to bed alone, but it's oh so nice!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Why I Love Austin - #1

The weather!

Today, the temperature once again surged beyond that impressive one hundred degree mark.

Today, there was a summer musical perfomed in the park as schedule.

Today there was an outdoor wedding at 7:00 p.m.

I love the weather in Austin. Even when the temperatures soar, we have outdoor events. The same holds true when the temperatures plunge into the frigid forties at the height of winter. We like to be outside and are willing to bear what many consider uncomfortable conditions.

"It's a dry heat."
Despite the complaints of some Austinites, the humidity is not bad in Austin. We sometimes reach 50% humidity. After growing up near the coast where we lived with 70+% humidity, I still have to use skin moisturizer at 50% humidity. The low relative humidity, coupled with a fairly steady breeze, makes for a comfortable evening when the sun is no longer beating down directly on you.

AC is optional much of the year.
It all depends on how much sweat you can stand or how many layers you are comfortable wearing, but one can get by with minimal air conditioning for probably six months out of the typical year. I enjoy having my home open with air flowing through. Because the temperature is so moderate and there is so often a nice breeze, one can really function without the AC cranked to any high or low. My goal annually is to make it from March to at least mid-May without turning the air conditioning on. It does not always happen, but for the majority of the time, the air conditioning can be turned on just long enough to cool down the house in the late afternoon.

Ice Stops the World.
On the rare occasion that winter actually comes to central Texas, we don't get snow or anything fun, we get ice. Fortunately, the city essentially stops when the lightest coating of ice falls. Certainly, it does not stop the adventurous (read foolish) people from getting out and attempting to navigate the hills. Ice comes about every three years, so we don't have it too often. It makes for a nice, unexpected day off.

The nice weather, makes possible several of my other favorite things to do in Austin.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

And the Beat Goes On...Much Faster

After the Element, can you blame me?

For two days, I questioned my decision about buying a new car - even though the deal was absolutely unbeatable.

I don't question it anymore.

I'm hooked.

I like driving fast.

It's not quite done yet -- I still have to get the pin-stripes and window tinting done. I'm also having my satellite radio installed.

Life is pretty good right now.

The Phone Rings in the Middle of the Night...

A few weeks ago, my boss's boss insisted I give her boss - yes, that's my boss's boss's boss (don't you love bureaucracy)- my phone number because she (by boss's boss) was getting tired of getting calls at 5:00 a.m. from him (her boss) to ask me (her employee's employee) questions (of course in a bureaucracy it is the person at the lowest level who actually has an answer). She gave him permission to contact me directly (thus thwarting the inefficiency of bureaucracy and allowing herself an extra hour and one half of sleep). Since then, I have become accustomed to getting calls at strange hours - like the middle of dinner and during my morning workout because he (my boss's boss's boss) works late and gets up early.

So hearing the phone ring while I'm sound asleep, is really nothing shocking for me anymore, though it used to be (another story about my boss's boss calling).

Last night the phone range at about 12:30 (I didn't check the time until the caller asked what time it was).

I answered the phone with a sleepy, "Hello." and heard, "Answer the f***** phone." (keeping this family friendly and seeing just how many times I can insert a parenthetical comment in a single blog) in response, so I did the obvious and said, "Hello." again. To which I received the same, "Answer the f***** phone!" In my stupor, I again said, "Hello."

The scene was repeated a few more times (I think a single sentence paragraph is a parenthethical comment too...).

Finally, the party on the other end, began to speak. After a bit, he asked, "Do you know who this is?" I could only reply that I had no clue. He then told me his name, and in my sleepiness, it did not ring the tiniest bell...

...for a little while...

...until he identified that we had chatted online for years. He had told me earlier in the day that he was going to a party and would likely get rather intoxicated. So now I have an internet friend calling to chat while he is drunk and I'm sound asleep. Neither state promises much good communication(though my accelerated heart rate when my boss's boss's boss calls gets my mind to working rather quickly).

All in all the conversation was rather short. He was too worried about the girl coming in to drink his peachy drink and I was just thinking I wanted to get back in bed.

But I woke up with an idea. I was going to call him back at a time when I felt he would likely be sleeping and starting to feel the effects of a hangover. The phone ringing would be good to give his head a throb or two (I also wanted to check to make sure he had not died of alchohol poisoning). Fortunately all was well when I did call.

There is much more I could tell about the conversation, but I think I will hold that in reserve. M. is a person I consider a dear friend and someone who has the talent to become a superstar if he wishes. I'll save the rest of the phone call until his superstar status has him wealthy enough to pay me to keep from telling it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

All good things...

For the last three and a half years, I've had the most wonderful vehicle I could imagine. Sure, it's kind of funny looking and resembles a baby hummer; however, unlike the recent commercial for the H3, I picture my Element's parents being two full grown military type hummers, not some fusion of robot and monster.
It may look funny, but there are few things it could't do!
I never had the intention of buying an Element when I first drove one on a whim at the Honda dealership, but after running through the list of cars I was "really" interested in, I could only come back to the Element. I never could decide what to call it - a car, truck, suv. It could be any and all of them depending on whether I had the seats in or a trailer hitched on. If versatility is a virtue, then the car was a saint.
Unless some other truly spectacular vehicle comes along in a few years, I am certain I will have an Element again.

...I turn forty in a few months.

And the sports car bug bit me.

Yesterday the Element went to find a new home and I came home with my mid-life crisis car. I have not totally lost my mind. I probably have the most practical sports car out there - never mind that it's a 6-speed standard with a V-Tech engine....

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ronald and Me

There are places where fitness really have no place. Supersize Me clearly demonstrated that McDonalds food IS NOT good for you. Nevertheless, McDonalds is attempting to give itself a new image by changing the ever jovial baggy-suited clown, Ronald, into a buff example of clownishness by dressing him in a fitted jumpsuit and showing him being active. Surely a fit, well-dressed (relatively speaking) jester violates some clown code.

Despite all the cultural violations Ronald-the-stud creates, I personally am happy to see it. I’ve had a crush on Ronald as long as I can remember and now I can imagine just what it is I’m lusting. As a gay child in a small town in the 70’s there were no gay role models for me to emulate, but I remember hearing a news story about the actor who played Ronald McDonald being gay. Suddenly, I had someone to whom I could tie my emerging desires. It was tied by the narrowest thread, but since then, every time I’ve seen Ronald in a commercial or at a child’s birthday party, a thought has flashed across my mind: “You’re gay just like me.”

In the 70’s in south Texas that was a milestone. I was so insulated that I didn’t even know what begin gay meant, but I knew when I heard it, that somehow it applied to me. As I struggled with that identity it became so hard to be comfortable with myself in any form. I had some of the usually crushes on characters of the time – Luke Skywalker, Richie Cunningham, not Ponch, but Jon on C.H.iP.s, and Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati, but with Ronald there was something special. Asking to go to McDonalds was expected, but being concerned about Jon’s well being after an episode when he wrecks the motorcycle was not quite the same. Holding onto any connection kept me living from day to day. Maybe Ronald was not much of a connection to the fantasy land of homosexuality, but it was enough.

It took me 33 years, but I finally was able to make the leap from small town to the fantasy land. And now a few years later, I find out I finally get to see Ronald’s form and maybe even check out his butt. Certainly it is not the same actor, but I can still look and have that thought, “You’re gay just like me.”

Now we just need to do something about that hair….


For a year, I have been happy with my lovely Emma. However, a couple months ago I dog-sat for a friend and Emma was so much happier to have a companion with whom she could play all day while I was at work. When Milo had to go away, Emma clearly was not has happy, so I decided to get her a playmate to keep her company. I searched for several weeks to find the perfect playmate to keep her happy but with no luck. Finally I saw a post on Craigslist (check it out) for two Chihuahuas needing a new home. I wanted one dog, but they seemed nice enough and having been raised together, it was not right to separate them.

So, Rocco and Bruno joined our home six weeks ago and there have been a few changes. I soon discovered that they were not well housebroken, so we have been going through a crash course in housebreaking. They also have the mistaken assumption that the cypress mulch in my back flower bed should be transformed into slivers in my living room carpet. Thank goodness, next to my cooking appliances, my favorite housecleaning tool is a steam vacuum.

Emma, though, rules the roost. She has become the boss of all that the dogs do and does not hesitate a second in making both of them behave. She is a little bigger than the others - well, I guess a pound of weight is significant when you consider that the maximum weight of the three is nine pounds. Emma has a pound or more on each of the other two. I think it is because she has been raised on "good" food and the others were raised on discount department store brand. They are within two months of each other in age with Bruno being the oldest by a couple weeks.

All three of the dogs insist on sleeping in the bed with me and it takes about ten minutes for everyone to get groomed and settled. Emma has made two changes to her sleeping routine since the boys joined us. I sleep on my side cuddling a body pillow - since I don't have a person there to enjoy, I have adopted two body pillows. Emma has always slept against the back of my legs in the curve of my knees. She now sleeps on top of the body pillow against my stomach as the boys both sleep against me - Rocco in the bend of my legs and Bruno against my back. The biggest change though is that she won't get under the sheets. She burrows around until she is on top of the sheet and under the comforter. I guess she has decided it is a matter of character: there is no way she is getting all the way under the covers with three men.

The dogs are all as different as children. Emma is the obedient oldest child since she has lived with me for a year. Every time the boys get in trouble, she reacts as though it is her fault. Bruno, the long haired one knows he is beautiful. Whenever I pull out the camera, he is the first to find a position where he can pose and when something happens, he reacts as if there is no way he is responsible. Rocco, the black one, is the baby of the bunch. Most of the time he is responsible for the messes, but he reacts with a, "What? Who? Me? Is that wrong?" look everytime I catch him in something. Meanwhile, the other two dogs have already run out the doggy door in the back.

One thing most certain that I've learned: Chihuahuas are little dogs, but when you have three of them running around, you've got a whole lotta Chihuahua!

Singing in the...garage!

I sing along with the radio as I'm sure you do too, whether you admit it or not.

Since getting on the satellite radio bandwagon a year ago, I have been able to fulfill my love of Broadway music every time I'm driving in my car, sitting in my office (via internet), or relaxing at home, thanks to the home unit. Living in central Texas, we only get the occassional touring show for Broadway shows of some seasons ago or college productions of the tried and true musicals. Satellite radio gives me the new Broadway music just as soon as the cast recording comes out - or sometimes before thanks to Seth Rudetski's bootlegging (or connections).

I sing alot. I sing loudly. I don't sing well. Thankfully I am aware of all those factors - especially the latter which helps me avoid embarrassing my self at karaoke bars and parties.

Because music means so much to me, I do make efforts to see live music as well as listen to it on the radio. Friday night I went out to hear my friend, Kevin Ahart, sing at one of his regular gigs. Kevin performs American Standards (the Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, etc. songs) with his own flair. In the last few years he has developed his own interpretation of them so each time I hear him, it is fresh and new, not a live-juke-box version of songs I've known most of my life. On the way downtown, of course, I was listening to music on the radio and singing along. As I pulled into the parking garage, a song from one of my favorite musicals came on and I knew all the words without really even thinking.

It did not take long to find a parking spot and I pulled in and got out of the car with the tune still going. I had only taken a few steps from my vechicle when the echo hit me. The tune I was certain was in my head, wasn't: I had stepped out of the vehicle belting just as loudly as I had been in the car and parking garages, being essentially concrete caves, have amazing resonance.

I'm no Bernadette Peters, but I know that everyone for three levels of the garage heard me declare, "I'm just a girl who can't say no!"

Emma Arrives

Almost a year ago, I decided that since I was not going to have a relationship, I should have a dog. All the research I have found shows that single people with pets live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Living in an apartment, I started looking for small dogs and finally found an incredibly beautiful young chihuahua.

Well, she's beautiful now.

I went to the home of the person who had posted an ad on Craigslist ( - check it out). I walked into a house with little doggie presents all over the floor and was handed a tiny puppy missing hair in a couple spots and with fleas all over her. She seemed quite ordinary and I didn't have an instant connection with her, but I could not bear to leave her in that situation, so paid my money and fled.

It took only a few days until I discovered that my reasons for the decision were not the best to make, but my decision had been the best one. Emma - she chose that name herself - was a sweetheart who wanted nothing more than to be with me and I could see how people with pets are happier and healthier.

Now I just need to teach her that all pieces of wood do not need to be chewed to splinters in my living room. Then again, maybe what makes me a healthier person is the daily vacuuming!