Saturday, July 28, 2007

Onions and Tootsie Roll Pops

I grew up in the golden age of advertising meant to corrupt and influence children – the 70’s. I still remember the jingles, the characters and the products from those Saturday mornings when the networks carried the only cartoons for the week. As an adult, I was one who cheered when Conjunction Junction made it to Broadway.

One which carried the greatest effect was the Tootsie Roll Pop advertisements in which the young child asks the wise owl how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center. The owl started licking. “One.” “Two.” Crunch. “Two licks to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Roll Pop.”

I remember that because as a chocolate lover, I always crunched into the Tootsie Roll center as soon as I could.

Who cared what flavor was on the outside, I wanted that ooey gooey soft chocolate center.

My lovers should be happy that I’m more patient in reaching a cream filling.

As I’ve worked on the new job in the last month and encountered unexpected challenges, one of my supervisors made the comment that “it is just like an onion, peel one layer back and you find another one.” I laughed and thought about that for a while.

Then I realized. Every layer you peel down into an onion is just more pungent and brings more tears than the one before. Indeed, that has been the case with the new challenges I’ve found. Each layer I discover reveals more discord and challenge to overcome and heal.

The counselor in me knows overcoming and healing can be done, but the discovery of each issue sparks a little knot in my stomach (tear in my eye – if we’re sticking to onions). I mentioned in the past that I thrive on stress and that is remarkably true. For some reason, when I’m most stressed, I’m most healthy and that little knot in my stomach quickly changes to an adrenaline rush that I manipulate into a slow burn rather than an acceleration that leads to a crash.

And still I wonder – why can’t I get into a situation that turns to a Tootsie Roll Pop instead of an Onion? It’s probably for the best – a situation like that could kill me since I don’t do so well without stress.

But if you look in my goodie drawer…you’ll find more Tootsie Roll Pops than onions.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Opposite of Love

Anne Lamott wrote, “I don’t think anything is the opposite of love.” Throughout the chapter, she had been commenting on how writers often try to find absolutes and set up comparisons/opposites in black and white terms – like love and hate. She pointed out that love and hate are not opposites. She’s quite right in that – and there are very few absolutes in the world outside the science of physics.

Love and hate have far too much in common to be opposites; they each evoke the extremes of human passion and really are parallel emotions. Love, true love, seers itself into one’s spirit. Hate does the same. The intensity of the feeling and the rarity when love and hate exist together make them seem as opposites but it does not hold true.

Poets would have us believe that hate destroys. It tears apart the spirit, eating it piece by piece much like guests do a loaf of bread being passed around the dinner table.

Love, they say, conquers all, but how many have died of love? How many have penned tomes to love lost or unrequited. Poets love a good pining away in the name of love, but just like hate, love consumes.

Maybe Ms. Lamott meant that “nothing” is the opposite of love which would be closer. If love has an opposite it is emptiness; the blank heart shielding itself from feeling, vesting itself in the armor of itself. A man can exist easily enough without passion, but can he live?

We all know people whose heart pumps every bloody emotion for all to see. We also know the person who, though he may be sociable enough, never lets anyone in. He laughs and jokes and makes water-cooler conversation, but you never see blood – just skin.

Humans are not meant for emptiness, but for passion. Feeling brings with it pain, hurt, and anger but also warmth, succor, and joy. If all goes well, life’s balance tips toward joy. The myriad feelings we have, all in shades of gray, tend toward the lighter.

One acquaintance I’ve known for nearly twenty years has been delt a life with its grays tending toward the darker shades. Despite trial and pain, her outlook always manifests joy and I come away from each of her sadnesses uplifted by her spirit. Donna is not empty. Every cell, synapse, or plasma particle – whatever constitutes her spirit – is filled to capacity. When she breathes her last, St. Peter will throw the gates open extra wide to make room for her spirit – so fully inhabited and engorged with experience and passion.

Because so many sad things have happened to her, Donna’s passion could have moved off the loving rail to the hating rail very easily as they are never very far apart. Neither has she let love nor hate consume her. She lives and is filled by the experiences.

I have another friend who lives just the opposite of Donna. His life has been easy and handed to him, but he is an empty man. He’s had a partner for years, but I always wonder how. He expects everyone to respond to his every emotional whim, but he does not have the capacity to honor or respect any subtlety of those he knows: he’s a demanding friend who is incapable of being a friend to those he knows.

I’m trained as a counselor (Master’s degree in counseling), but I cannot endure his emptiness. Nothing I have found personally or professionally has ever even tempted his soul.

As much as Donna has overcome the sad events of her life, M’s successes suck him further into need.

No, hate is not the opposite of love: emptiness is the opposite there.

I pray I’m never that empty. Let me suck up life. Let me live each moment be it in pain or joy.

My shyness makes me hard to know. My education (counseling) makes me even harder. Even though I share openly – it is only my skin, not my blood. I really do guard my heart because of too many breaks and even more years of pretending I was straight. Therefore, I know what emptiness is.

I don’t think I’m stuck in emptiness; I just know what it is like.

And because of years of emptiness, I speak from personal experience in believing that it is the opposite of love (and hate). I’m not stuck at empty, because, unlike my friend, I believe I can be filled and satisfied with another person and I want everyone else to experience the same thing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Finally - My Turn

I knew it was just a matter of time before my luck ran out and I was going to be tagged to do one of the infamous meme’s on the blog. I normally don’t’ read other people’s memes and was going to skip the one who tagged me, but as I was scrolling down, I caught my name in the list at the bottom.

So here goes – Eight things about me

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

1) I should be in advertising instead of education. My first degree is Radio/Television Production, my second degree is (or would be, if I had taken one more semester of Spanish) English, my third degree is Psychology related – Counseling. Media/English/Psychology – sounds like advertising to me.

2) During two summers of college I worked at the Texas Department of Public Transportation. Yes, I used to wear a hard-hat, sexy reflective vest, and wave a flag at drivers. I also drove trucks and tractors as I worked to build and repair roads.

3) While working for the Highway Department during the summer, I worked with a high school acquaintance named Steve Williams, who later went on to fame as wrestler, Stone Cold Steve Austin (Austin 3:16).

3a) He now has made movies. I should have been a jock

not the drama club president.

4) Getting my drivers license was delayed by a few months because I broke both arms shortly after my sixteenth birthday. That’s what I get for playing Tarzan over a dry creek bed.

5) My first personal pet was a parakeet named Jim Bob after one of the boys on The Waltons (he was the cute one; surely my parents had a clue early on).

6) Although my real name, Roy, is a bit old fashioned. I like it because it was my grandfather’s name AND it’s the three BRIGHT colors of the rainbow.

7) I tend to be just a bit uptight and always have been. I had my first ulcer when I was starting ninth grade.

8) I’m a morning and night person – just don’t expect much out of me in the afternoon. I get up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. and go to bed about 10:30 p.m. I just have a few “waking” naps during the afternoon.

And so here goes my eight (rushing to get this done before they realize Curly named them)

1) Southern Boy

2) Lunar Gemini

3) Tina-cious

4) House of Jero

5) Royspeaking

6) Post No Bills

7) See My Briefs

8) Angel Eyes

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Gaysted - vs - Straisted

Most of us homosexuals have always reasoned that the straight object of our affection was only a six-pack away from being open to our suggestions and advances. The straight community apparently has become aware of the same thing. The hip community in Las Angeles has coined a term to describe those heterosexuals who get engage in homosexual behavior when they are drunk – gaysted. I’m at once flattered, amused, and insulted by the advent of the word.

I find it flattering and amusing that the “phenomenon” is so widespread that a word is needed for it. It also provides hope for all of us with a straight crush. Sadly the word came from such a simple compounding of gay and wasted that it did not take much creativity. Even sadder – I cannot come up with a better word for it.

I find it amusing, too, that there is no word for gay people engaging in heterosexual activity. “Straisted” maybe? There really is not a need for the word either because gay people don’t go “straight” when we get drunk. It is not possible to get me drunk enough to go straight.

So for that I’m a bit offended. They (straight folk) create a word to explain away or justify a behavior that only goes one way. They say it like there is something wrong with homosexual behavior unless you are drunk. Actually, the way the word gets used in context glorifies such behavior – when drunk.

Since gay people don’t go out getting straisted, how straight are the straight people who go out getting gaysted? Using the word simply continues to drive a wedge between parts of society and actually demonstrates a lack of acceptance. Science and Psychology have definitively determined that sexual orientation is not a choice. Using a word to justify a natural and normal behavior furthers the false notion that the action is neither natural nor normal.

While “gaysted” sounds funny and drunks are easy enough to laugh at, the word minimizes an entire population. The “PC” police normally get on my last nerve, but I’m putting on my badge for a bit. Recent celebrity and political outbursts have created an awareness of the weight of words. Words, with their power to empower or diminish, need to be used with great care. Combating hate speech is not difficult; it just requires calling it out whenever it occurs.

I’m calling out “gaysted” now. Let’s work together to stop the spread of the word while it is limited to a few pretty people in Las Angeles who think they are being cute.

Or am I the only gay person who does not get straisted? Take the poll and let me know.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lamott's Woodpecker and My Blog

In this dark and wounded society, writing can give you the pleasures of a woodpecker, of hollowing out a hole in a tree where you can build your nest and say, “This is my niche, this is where I live now, this is where I belong.”

I never thought of this blog as my little place on the web – in this world – but Anne Lamott’s sentence rang so true, that perhaps, deeper in my psyche, in my vanity, I became so involved in the writing process that I needed the place to become comfortable with my writing.

In the years I studied to become a teacher, I devoted those efforts with the certainty that teaching writing and literature would make me a master storyteller with a penchant for naturally knowing the very best word in any circumstance. Confidence often proves to be our own undoing. Eight years of correcting bad student writing and teaching the generally banal literature covered in lit textbooks diminished my capacity to write and even think critically about what I read. Instead of maintaining my focus, it drained my passion.

Lamott goes on to say about many of the writers who give up:

They got into I for the money and the fame. So they either quit, or they resort to a type of writing that is sort of like candy making.

I was one who quit for a while. I have a friend who resorted to candy making and there is a difference in him now from when he was writing for passion.

For several years – now that I am somewhat removed from teaching – my desire to write grew from a passing fancy to a real yearning. And so I began to blog thinking no one would ever see it – and actually not many people do – but it gives me the outlet; to write, to observe, to share. Most importantly, if fulfills that yearning to be creative.

I’ve made my woodpecker hole and hopefully instead of it being hard and dark, it will be a soft bright spot for my imagination to nest.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Disturbing Terror Statistics

I don’t too often get into politics here, but when I read numbers like this, I can’t help but think the Bush administration’s every actions have actually let the terrorists win.

According to the United States Department of State’s National Counter Terrorism Center in 2006:

Worldwide terrorism deaths: 20, 498

American citizens killed by terrorism: 28

I don’t think I can even editorialize on that.

Toilet Terrors

One of the perks of my job is attending conferences in different parts of the country. It helps satisfy my travel urge – in fact, I rarely take vacations apart from a day or two on either end of a conference.

In conjunction with the travel, I get exposure to a variety of hotels with their range of accommodations. Some graciously treat their guests and others find every way to bilk each penny they can from the guests (why is it the more expensive the hotel, the more I have to pay for internet access, but the cheaper the hotel, the more likely it is free?).

A favorite part of any stay in a hotel is the restroom.

As eco-friendly as I try to be at home, I admit I am something of an eco-terrorist at the hotel. I like the clean towels. I like hot water that does not run out. I like the creams and smelly things the hotels put out.

So, I spend as much time in the bathroom as I spend in bed.

The hotel I’m staying in this week is an exception. I have not been able to adequately control the water temperature, so it is either scalding hot or freezing cold. The creams are not nearly as nicely smelly as at many other hotels.

The greatest drawback I have with the bathroom, though, is the toilet.

That’s right, the toilet.

I stay in fear I may accidentally hit the knob and make it flush.

The toilet in my room flushes in milliseconds. I tried to time it, but my fingers are not fast enough on the stopwatch among my phone features.

Did I ever mention I was a bit obsessive?

The toilet flushes loudly too (albeit it is a short loud sound). The shy me remains convinced that everyone on my floor and the floor below me and room above me knows when I’ve done my business.

I actually look forward to getting home on Friday with my softer towels, better smelling creams…

…and quiet toilet that does not devour pets and small children.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rusty/Roy Roy/Rusty some of you who may have been directed here by posts of the others who attended the blogger weenie roast may be a bit confused about my name. Some call me Roy, some call me Rusty.

So who the heck am I?

I am both of those people. And while I don't really have multiple personality disorder, each of those people is a little different.

Rusty is the hometown me. I was given that nickname by my parents because I was born with red hair and they didn't want anyone else making up a less-fortunate nickname. Unfortunately, by the time I was in school, my hair was no longer red and I spent my entire life back in my hometown (and ever since when someone discovers that name) explaining why people call me Rusty.

Roy is my given name after my maternal grandfather. As soon as I left my hometown for college, I became Roy so I wouldn't have to explain why I was called Rusty when my hair is brown.

In many ways, Rusty is still my parents child. He's person who grew up in the country outside a small town and repressed himself in so many ways. Rusty is still painfully shy and try as Roy might - he can't work him out of the core.

Roy is the professional adult I've become. Most of the people in my hometown don't even recognize him because he is so confident and assured and professional (- and so FABULOUS!)

So, Rusty/Roy or Roy/Rusty - either way, he's me. (and for some strange reason, I've had three people randomly decide to call me Randy - no matter how many times I correct them - because they have all said I "look like a Randy, so that's what I'm going to call you.")

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

bird by bird

I have spent the last six weeks in starts and fits both devouring and savoring Anne Lamott’s bird by bird. A librarian friend recommended it to me and I have been studying it carefully.

Lamott’s humor is something to be devoured. I can read 100 pages in a sitting and not know time has passed. The book flows smoothly and almost seems random with her musings, but then the lesson comes. Just as I settle into a real, full belly laugh, a truth as Anne tells it, smacks me across the head.

Those truths are what, in Lamott’s writing, provide the substance to savor. So many times while reading, I discovered that I had put the book down after ingesting an idea and was chewing it over – rolling it from place to place in my brain to pull out ever nuance of wisdom. Sometimes the parts of my brain were arguing with her lesson: it sounds true, feels true, but if it is so true, why don’t I already know it? I guess that makes her a good teacher. We learn the lessons we should already know but do not. Once we learn them, we cannot quite go back to being the person we were before – in her pupils’ case, they cannot be the same writer they were before.

I am comfortable with the informality of writing this blog. It is what it is – an extension of my personality without a definitive style. Sometimes it’s funny; sometimes it’s serious; and sometimes it JUST IS because I feel guilty about not posting in a while, so I put some ideas down.

The entries that “just are” have to be okay too. Lamott regularly refers to the “shitty first draft” (hereafter sfd). She does not exactly say it, but she alludes to the idea that sometimes the sfd is as good as it gets no matter how much revision one does. Some ideas are just not ripe for writing.

Most of the time I go through several drafts before I post (publish). After teaching writing for eight years, the compulsion to revise remains strong though I have accepted that the absolutes of the grammar police are not nearly so absolute. The world does not END if I decide to capitalize a word for emphasis or if, I, chop up a sentence, with commas.

Sometimes I just want to make a point.

Other times, I want to employ great Russian sentences that continue for paragraphs and link otherwise random thoughts into their own grammatical universe which is filled with phrases and dependent clauses that leave an oral reader breathless because I just don’t know when to stop.

I am not consistent.

Because this is a blog, I almost put “LOL” at the end of the last line, but hopefully you gave a little chortle without my prompt.

I have a few more essays about some of the ideas I’ve been savoring from bird by bird. Out of reverence to Ms. Lamott, I want to move them out of sfd into more refined essays. Actually, as I think over the ideas she suggests and my own interpretation of those ideas, I owe her, myself, and you the respect to make my writing clear, meaningful and maybe even approach the quality of humor she shares in her lessons.

I promise not to share any of the sfds with you. However, I cannot guarantee that you won’t find my second or third drafts to be any less shitty.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Real People Behind the Screen

One of my personal characteristics that most people doubt or challenge after getting to know me is my intense personal shyness. Over the years I have learned to control the terror I feel when I walk into a room of strangers – and even more so a room full of people I know. With age has come a certain comfort in my own skin. I’m not going to get better looking without tons of plastic surgery. I’m not going to be taller without stilts.

Because of my shyness, I am comfortable being on line and discovered that I will chat with people I would not otherwise talk to. I will email a stranger or comment on a blog. I’m safe and far away. I write this blog and know some friends and family will read it, but mostly it is strangers and that anonymity is good.

Last night, however, I took a personal step and attended a blogger gathering in New York hosted by the lovely, sweet, and hysterically funny Curly McDimple. More bloggers gathered than I expected to meet, but they were all as charming and entertaining as they are in their posts online. I laughed, and groaned along with those in attendance and even swooned over some. I won’t say who I swooned over; just, that since my sex life is mostly solo – I would still be calling out the name I call out the most!

Even if overcoming the shyness was not enough, attending the weenie roast led me to violate two of my major rules: 1) I don’t eat weenies (mentioned in an earlier post) and 2) I don’t eat “bar food.”

1- I’m not much of a meat eater anyway. No moral grounds, I just don’t like it. Nevertheless, the idea of what constitutes the meat pulp that fills the casings of most hot dogs turns me off even more. The wieners being served at Cattyshack appeared more to be thin sausages than hot dogs, so I took the plunge and ate one (and since a Texan cooked it, it was pretty good).

2- I go to bars. I know what happens there. There are wise sayings about what you should not do where you eat. Those things are not necessarily common functions at bars, but close enough. No one else had died (at least among those who lived to attend the weenie roast) of the Cattyshack food, so again I took the plunge and I’m alive to write about it (but I probably won’t make it a habit in Austin).

Of the many bloggers I met, it was a real treat to meet Joe of Joe.My.God, the father (daddy) of all bloggers. After hearing an interview with him on Sirius OutQ, I came home and read his blog then started checking out the bloggers he linked to. Almost every blog I read is within six-degrees of Joe. He is the reason I was in contact with the bloggers attending the weenie roast, so he aptly deserves some credit for my trip to New York.

The real treat of the evening was meeting Southern Boy, his bf, and Lunar Gemini. I have emailed and chatted with Southern and Lunar since December and meeting them felt like picking up a conversation with friends I had not seen in a little while.

In an effort to overcome my shyness as much as I could, I had read the blogs of everyone I knew was coming and I was thrilled to discover that the real people behind the screen are as much fun as the people on the screen. Though we were only together a few hours, I was able to come out of my shell enough and discover some people with whom I could be friends.

I may be making some more weekend trips to New York. Now someone just has to throw open their couch.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Me and the Simpson Me

I've lost track of all the times I've said, "I never do this, but..."

This morning when I found out you can personalize your own Simpsons character, I had to do it. The movie website has an avatar creator and you can make your own Simpsons You.

I almost posed in a black tee and jeans, but was having hair issues, so went with what I already had on. I never can tell if my hair is messy enough or too messy. Whatever did combs do to become such unwelcome items in styling?

Below is the Simpsons Rusty and the Real Rusty. Can you tell which is which?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Streets and the People who Live on Them

This week we have been puttting together a bulk mailing and I have been watching the information as it came through me. The number one observation I've had is that we have some creative street namers around here.

We have our fair share of numbers, plants, and people names, but even some of those are pushing the limits for names. I wonder what kind of person would swallow their pride and take up residence on a street with a really odd name.

One of the streets that stood out for me was Curved Wood Place. I guess that because it was a "Place" Crooked Stick didn't work. For "street," "lane," or "road" Crooked Stick would have been the only way to go, but for a "place" curved wood almost has to be the option.

All the streets in my neighborhood are named for spices which is good for Anise, Cayene, Coriander, and Poppy Seed.

It does not work so well for Dill Weed.

Fortunately Dill Weed does not have any homes facing onto it; it is just a cross street. Still, I can think of a few people I would nominate to live there.

It is incredibly juvenile, but I want to be able to point at them and with a Nelson-like "Ha Ha!" go "Dill Weed!" as I ride my bike past them.

And don't judge me too fast. I know you have nominated some people to live on Dill Weed, too!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gay Dilemma 101

The closer the trip to meeting some fellow bloggers gets, the more anal I get about it. Today I double checked the list to make sure I was up-to-date on reading all the blogs so I could engage each person there in intelligent conversation.

Ok, so I’m a bit stalkish obsessive.

But at a blogger gathering, the last thing I want to say is, “What? You’re a blogger?”

I really want to say things like, “That was a very insightful review of Gypsy you had.” Or “I’m so glad the new job is going well,” or “Wow. Carrie poster. Scary.”

And I’m from Texas going to hang with the New Yorkers.

Austin may be the best city in the nation, but we are not exactly known for our style. If you can get it at a second-hand shop, it’s perfect.

I’m afraid that won’t work in New York.

My greatest dilemma is choosing footware. My choices are: cowboy boots or flip-flops. I may have a closet full of clothes (ultimately that is what forced me “out” I couldn’t live in there with so many clothes). I’m really a flip-flop kind of guy – I even wear them to church, but when I was last in New York in 1991, cowboy boots came in very handy for the walking I did – contrary to popular belief – well-fitting cowboy boots are the most comfortable footware I’ve ever had.

To resolve the dilemma, I emailed the bar where we are all meeting. They were no help whatsoever: Anything you're comfy in! Tshirt jeans, dress, flip flops, ball gown--whatever! That's how we do it! Just be SURE to have your ID with you. Cheers!

I’m 40 – ID should not be too much of an issue.

So I’m still left to decide – do I wear boots or flip-flops? Get the inch boost from the boots or go as my pocket-queer me in flip-flops. New York – be on the lookout for visitor with mismatched footware.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Holidays and the Nearly Holidays Around Them

It has been an entire week since the Independence Day holiday. Having a holiday like that fall in the middle of the week throws the entire week into an unusual pattern.

And it throws all the co-workers into an unusual pattern too.

With the holiday on Wednesday, most of the co-workers were treating Tuesday like a holiday (also known as Friday). Unfortunately, it was the second day of my new job and I always had so much to accomplish, so even when they let people leave early, I got to stay around later.

And then on Thursday, it was a repeat. Everyone else was acting like it was a holiday, but I had been given a 2:00 deadline. Fortunately the person I work most closely with is amazing and helped me pull it all together.

Suddenly we hit Friday – which is always almost a holiday since it is the day before the weekend.

Three days into the next week and I’m finally feeling like I’m over the holiday.

We are such creatures of habit that any disruption to our schedule like a holiday in the middle of the week throws us off our routine. It is one reason I don’t like taking vacations – though I need some time away!

Someday I’m going to learn how to really relax.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Job Time!

Well…I’ve been in a new job for a week.

I guess July 2 is a good day to start a new job since it is a short week.

That can also make the new job hell.

I thought my last job was full of politics – it was a good starter course for the new job. At least I know this job is all about the politics of the community. In the last job I thought I was there to make a difference. For this job, I know they hired me because I have a (somewhat) pretty face and a great sense of the political in the community (basically I know when to say yes and no).

Despite all the politics of the nature of my job – I still think I can make a difference.

Check back with me in week three….