Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End of a Decade - And a Goodbye For Now

As 1999 was coming to a close there were dire predictions about the impending doom that was to take place due to Y2K computer meltdowns across the country and around the world. As far as I'm aware nothing of the kind occurred on January 1, 2000 - except in the office where I was working.  A database program designed for and purchased by a state department and being used by several state funded HIV/AIDS agencies including the non-profit agency I worked, would not, we were warned, recognize the year 2000.  In the previous months I had time to design an Access database into which I imported the demographic data we needed for our reports.  Sure enough, on returning to work on January 3, the old database was completely useless - completely! It may as well have self-destructed. Your tax dollars at work.















2000 ushered in the "New Millennium", a term I haven't heard much since.  It was the year we bought our little house in the woods - less that what we wanted but so much more than we could have asked for.  This is our place before we added a sunroom. 

 In October we we had an opportunity to accompany a friend of ours to Fire Island for a gorgeous Indian Summer day - our first time there - as she looked for a summer rental for 2001.  Leon and I were speechless when we heard the rental agent quote prices.















2001 was one of those good years when we seemed to be "making it".  We added the sunroom, took a summer vacation with some friends to Canada;  returned to Fire Island for a weekend with Barb; celebrated Leon's 40th birthday.  I think it was the year Leon told me I had "too much salt in my pepper" and got me started using Clairol.
 
 We all probably remember exactly where we were on 9/11/01 when we got the news.  I was driving to Springfield to deliver a package for the agency I was working for.  It was a gorgeous September morning and I was listening to PBS radio.  The classical music was interrupted by a rather brief announcement about a plane hitting one of the twin towers, then a return to music.  My reaction was, "What? These things don't just happen. Why are they going back to music?"  I dropped off the package in a mail slot, began the drive back by then there was a report of a second plane crash. I was close to our girlfriends' house just south of Springfield. I knew Joyce was working at home, so I stopped there.  I made her turn on the TV and we watched in horror.  This single event has set into motion a chain reaction that continues to this day and has colored our world in ways we may not even realize.  My sense is that it triggered a world depression of the emotional variety and ultimately the coming depression of the economic variety. (I don't think we've even seen the beginning of an economic downturn - the implosion has barely begun).
















Despite the horror of this tragic event, life does go on with some semblance of normality.  One result was that no one was flying.  We were able to book a 6 day trip to Italy for $500 each, including airfare.  We added some days, and a few nights off the beaten path for a few dollars more.  It was my special thrill to show Leon around Rome where I had spent my Junior year of college.















In 2002 I got sent by my employer to Boulder, Colorado for a conference and was able to add a few vacation days to the trip; it is a beautiful state.  It is sometimes the little things that one remembers, like the herds of joggers and bikers all running or biking as though compelled by peer pressure or guilt ... and seeming to not to be enjoying the experience. It reminded me of that Star Trek episode... And the crosswalk lights that had a time limit and a countdown ... this place meant business.

Was it 2003 when we took the proverbial 3 hour boat tour with Tony and Steve from PTown harbor to Wellfleet?  At that time it was a rare treat to be invited on the boat, so we said sure.  It was around one in the afternoon on a beautiful sunny September day when we headed out for a leisurely cruise.   When we got to Wellfleet we disembarked, walked around looking at boats, had a late lunch and decided we had better get back.  It was already way past 5 pm and the sun was low in the sky and the tide is going out.  Well, the channel at Wellfleet is marked by buoys that are quite far apart and barely visible from the harbor.















So were heading out and Tony flags down an incoming boat to ask the way to the channel. After getting the direction, Tony guns the engine, heads out but somehow decides its time to turn sharply right into open water.  Leon is looking at the depth finder showing 22 feet, 17 feet, 12 feet, 7 feet, and asks, "is this really supposed to be saying 6 feet?"  Tony gasps, cuts the engine as the depth finder reads 3 feet, then 2, then we come to a dragging halt and the boat lists to the side.  We are now stranded on Wellfleet's notorious sandbar, three miles off shore in the twilight at low tide.  Did you know that there are creatures in the water that glow at night?  Now, it was out of the question to call the Coast Guard ... not only could they not get to us, but the humiliation!  We could only wait till the tide came in to float the boat ... we got back from our three hour tour about 1 in the morning.

2004 was a quiet year, working, gardening, an annual trip to Provincetown.

















Our second "trip of a lifetime" took place in 2005 when we decided to go to Hawaii.  Foregoing travel planners as always, we devised and itinerary that took us from Oahu to Big Island and Kauai.

Leon, ever the good son, invited mom to come along for most of the trip, but we did manage the last few days on our own at a gay B&B in Kauai.
One of the highlights was our predawn hike up Diamond Head to watch the sunrise.   
Big Island was not what we were expecting: vast areas of solidified black lava, almost desert-like. 




























We hiked the trail to the island's active volcano, Kilauea, but when I felt the heat from under the hard lava, I sissied out. The park ranger had not encouraged us at all by warning about the possibility of falling through the brittle rock into hell.  We saw lava flowing into the sea from a distance.

The Luau at one of the nearby resorts on Big Island was too commercial and basically a disappointing rip-off.    We enjoyed a day of snorkeling with the tropical fish.  The scenery of the islands is absolutely spectacular.


It is frightening how Things can change in an instant, in a day, how one's inherent flaws can be a determining factor in one's life. 










The next year, 2006 was to be a difficult one.  I would lose my job, take a six week sabbatical colored by flashbacks and personal doubts and, upon my return apply for a nightmare.
The unemployment nightmare was a series of appeals and counter appeals by my former employer that played upon my anxieties and triggered  a persistent insomnia that often made it difficult to function over the course of the next two years.






























I have documented the road trip my blog Nuances and here on RR. 















In October I landed a job - one that I was grateful to get and terrified to take - writing grants for a Catholic-based homeless shelter.  I never felt completely comfortable there. 

I worked through 2007 -  and it was a year of blessings despite some of the setbacks and ramifications from the year before.  Bruno the dog celebrated his 13th birthday and had a party with 12 of his doggie friends and their people.

We used our camper as always as our home away from home.  We have pretty uneventful lives when we're not traveling or camping.





























I turned 60 in 2008, a number I still find it difficult to say.  I had been looking for another job and had actually planned on leaving the agency I was working at when my boss "left unexpectedly".  Things were bound to happen and I knew it was a good time to get out.

 I was offered a part time consulting position with a non-profit in my town - it was time.  I don't make a lot of money, but I have no commute as I work at home and I can actually work from just about anywhere, given the internet and email.















We began 2009 in Illinois, both Leon and I were sick with bad colds.  The weather there was brutal and the rest of the winter at home was cold and snowy and much too long.















Our beloved Bruno had his 15th birthday in February 2009, and went to doggie heaven in June.  It was a very sad time and I'm not sure if things have been just right since. 















We took a camping trip to western New York State early this summer and I saw Niagara Falls for the first time.















Even though I had the opportunity to spend six weeks at the campground in Provincetown this year, it just wasn't the same without the Bruno.

So here we are at the end of another decade,  whatever significance that may have.  I am seriously thinking of putting this blog to rest - at least for a while.  I have been spending a lot of time in the blogosphere of late and I think I need to get outside more or work on other projects.

I guess I won't sever ties completely because, well there may be something in the days ahead that I may want to share with you all, whoever you might be.  I promise to continue to reluctantly rebel.

Wishing us all a very Interesting New Year, one with unexpected blessings and opportunities.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Posting comments on other blogs

Is it just me, or do others have problems commenting on certain other blogs?  It seems that the comments text box behaves differently on some "blogger.com" blogs and, for example, when you click submit, your comment disappears but there is no indication that it has been directed to the blogger or whether it is being saved for moderation.  Two blogs that come to mind recently are Jeepguy's Jazz and Apsalted by the Lord.  What am I missing?  Would love your comments.

Greetings and Memories

I just finished scanning some photographs for a friend I went to school with in Rome forty-one years ago and had to chuckle at myself. Do I look like a gay "guido" or what?  Inside that cool exterior was an insecure, lonely soul.  Damn, to look at him now, I'm thinking I could have had some fun.



I also ran across something I wrote some years back, appropriate to the season:

December, 1998

Greetings!
...dreams evaporate more quickly than years
yet another year has done just that
while we were playing at the lake or watching 
fiery ocean sunsets...
busy times can conspire to deny us cool summer
tonics in the backyard...or long mountain
hikes...or watching storm lightening from the 
comfort of the porch...
remember...when a whole day's plan consisted of
picking autumn apples, rolling crusts and
sharing homemade pie with friends...
   (now such things are often just grocery chores
   encased in plastic containers without the
   anticipation that warm cinnamon excites...)
december offers the gift of another year
of lake days and ocean sunsets...of tonics, hikes
and storms...and the lingering scent of cinnamon
to excite your buds...


wishing you peace and contentedness

Frank and Leon

 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nor'easter and I Can See the Lights

Its been a few days since the storm, but here are a few pics of us digging out.  Only about 8 inches of powdery white.  But it hasn't been above freezing for a week, and nothing is melting.  Winter in the Northeast is about as unpleasant as summer is pleasant.  Now, when I used to ski, I would have considered this Heaven.  Haven't skied in years however due to the fact that Hubby didn't quite get it, the cost has skyrocketed, and since I've had problems with both knees, I really don't want to chance it.  I settle for a daily hike in the woods up back.

Leon with the evil snowblower.


Front Deck


I get these ideas that never pan out.  Like driving up and down the streets looking for the best and worst of holiday lighting displays.  Especially those real tacky ones where they threw three sets of blinking lights any old way, with sections blinking out of sync.  Well, these are neither the best nor the worst and my photography skills are wholly inadequate.  I have a Canon 1080 with way too many features. Someday I'll learn how to use it.

Neighborhood Lights


Some folks should not be allowed to play with electric lights




Religious iconography at its finest.







Saturday, December 19, 2009

Season's Greetings

With a link from Ultra Dave I took the Christmas Tree Test.


And it's pretty much on the money for me:
During the holidays, you do things your own way.  Except even more so.  I've expressed my feelings about the holiday before.  
You have eccentric decorations and traditions. My only concession to the holiday this year has been to bake Christmas Cookies.


 We don't even have a "Charlie Brown" tree this year or wrapped gifts or the stockings.  We don't have any decorations except for the ceramic tree and a wreath in the sunroom.


You like to keep things a little kooky and crazy. Hubby wrote cards.  We had some friends over for a "traditional Christmas lasagna" a few weeks ago.  No gifts, just dinner. 
You hate it when the holidays are too upscale or stuffy. We decided - and this year it was more hubby than me - to avoid Holiday parties and even family get-togethers (which for Leon is easy as family is at a distance).  We are definitely as far as you can get from "upscale".
You believe that the holidays are for everyone, and you like to make your own celebration funky and eclectic. We are planning to spend a quiet day at home or somewhere...we wanted to go to a gay guest house in Vermont but money is an issue this year.
You mix and match what you like best. No one is going to tell you how to celebrate this year!  That sums it up.

Money.  It really is all relative.  We have everything we need (new tires, fuel oil, food).  What we "want" we can't afford (and you probably can't afford to give it to us either).  We did go "shopping" (read "looking") for that LED Panasonic TV, a new gas range, a snowplow for the truck, new Apple Computer) but came home with groceries and a few odds and ends from Ocean State Job Lot. 

Leon got "us" a Netflix subscription and a Roku box which allows you to watch Netflix movies and TV series on demand over the internet and wireless router.  It really is cool, and definitely worth the price - especially as we are TV/movie junkies.  Hubby always manages to get "us" something he wants, "Well, you use it too."

So I guess you can say we are a "Bah Humbug" couple this year.  Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Haves Win of Course; Have-nots, Lose Again.

I don't usually rant about purely political stuff, especially non-gay political stuff.  But I've just about had it with all the crap in Washington.

We have a disgracefully dysfunctional government.  As many of us already knew would happen, the Health Care Reform legislation would be watered down, compromised and twisted to death.  Our elected officials cannot seem to get over themselves and do what is right for the people.  The haves fear for their "way of life" a life that keeps them enjoying all the best this country has - real estate, education, medical care, travel, food, legal representation, services beyond imagination, cars, boats, planes and toys, etc. etc. They fear that by providing medical care to everyone in the country, they will lose their right to free or cheap health insurance and that someone might be rationing their health care.

Well, wake up!  Health insurance companies are already rationing care and deciding who gets what level of care.  All based on the bottom line profit.  What an outrageous system.  Do you remember when Health Insurance was totally non-profit?  Somewhere along the way the blessing was given for entities to make a profit from insuring people and denying claims.  A perfect formula for Wall Street investors.

I have only just heard a brief news report, but I am presently inclined to agree with Howard Dean of Vermont.  What is left of the Health Care Reform bill is garbage, throw it out.  This is not a case of some bill is better than no bill;  garbage legislation will do more harm than good. 

I am so disgusted with the inability of the government to recognize their responsibility to do the right thing, especially for those who are poor, disenfranchised, and without a voice.  They are sworn to represent the people, not the lobbyists, big business, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies.   This is now a government for the wealthy, by the wealthy and that includes the Senators and Congresspersons.  And don't even get me started on Senator Leiber-whiner, the self-serving SOB who my state re-elected even after he became a traitor to the Democratic Party.  The weasel.

They can't pass a decent health reform bill, they can't do away with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell",  they can't see the folly of DOMA, they can't get past their own small-minded, morally-superior, hypocritical ideologies and make this a functioning country again.

If the wealthy think they can protect their status quo, I'm afraid that it won't be long before they are singing a new tune.  George Bush threw multiple billions of dollars out of our economy with his personal war on Iraq.  This war did not stimulate our economy as past wars had done because WE DON'T MAKE ANYTHING HERE ANYMORE.  And what we do make (like cars for Toyota, Honda, BMW, Nissan, etc. ) is for foreign companies who all take their profits home.  China practically owns us.  The state governments are practically bankrupt, the aging infrastructure is crumbling, the environment is polluted,  the glaciers are melting while Nero fiddles, and, if you listen to NPR, you will learn another 27 issues per day that you can do nothing about while driving to or from work.

All this, while priests molest children, while bishops determine how to help the Vatican control everything and while Entertainment Tonight keeps us up to date on Tiger Woods, Kate and Jon and others I've never heard of and could care less about.

So what can I do about this sorry state of affairs?  Make "Pasta alla Norma" of course:













Saute the Eggplant in Garlic and Olive Oil; make a simple Tomato Sauce and add some of the Eggplant and some Grated Ricotta Salata.  Boil the Pasta, (I used Festonati, an unusual pasta shape).  Toss  the Pasta with the Sauce, serve with pieces of sauteed Eggplant and more Ricotta Salata.  Nice with a glass of Red Wine.  Could use a Seconda Piatta, but we skipped that for the Dolce (Christmas Cookies).



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Some links for now

Just been too busy to write so I'm setting up a link or two...

See a video of Matthew Shepard from 1990's.

See Bilgramage for more commentary on the Vatican's response to the Uganda plan to exterminate gays.

See Heretic Tom for some interesting posts on ex-gay therapy, Uganda and more

Monday, December 7, 2009

Applied for Lab Rescue Adoption


This photo is taken from labrescuct.com

Well, Leon and I have put in our application for a lab rescue dog.  We're thinking it is about time.  The house is so empty without our Bruno and our walks in the woods are not nearly as fun as they might be with a furry friend.  Wish us luck in getting found by the perfect pup.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Works of Mercy: Ireland and Uganda


Thanks to Google, I happened to land on a Canadian News service to read the story of the settlement awarded to victims of abuse by Irish nuns.   However disturbing the news story,  it was the ignorant comments by readers that triggered my response.  Their hatred is as despicable as the sins they criticize. In as much as logic and language itself are often inadequate, honest commentary and criticism has a place.  Those who have read some of my posts know that I have "Catholic issues".  However, I can be, at times, somewhat of an apologist.  I posted my comment/reply to this story:

The situation is so tragic for all involved. Of course, especially for the victims of abuse, but also for the Sisters, most of whom, both past and present, lead prayerful lives of service in education, medicine, social work, homeless shelters and many other areas. They must now suffer for the sins of others who lived in a very unenlightened age. It is not at all unlikely that those who perpetrated the abuse, were themselves abused as children, whether by family members, strangers, foster parents, priests or sisters. There is enough blame to go around, for sure. As for the money, I imagine most is tied to property – convents, schools, retreat facilities – and to investments/endowments that are used to fund the services to the poor and sick. Unfortunately, there are no winners here.

Just as a reminder, the works of Mercy (and,  I think,  the definition of the Catholic Church at its best) are as follows:

The corporal works of mercy are:
To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy are:
To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.

This is a sad time for the Church.  I would hope and pray for a new beginning - where mercy is shown in a true spirit of humility and integrity.

And while we're at it, read a plea for help from Uganda:
LINK HERE.  
And see this report on the topic from Rachel Maddow

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Bumbling From Church Officials

I will not bother to cut and paste these news articles, but LINK HERE for Cardinal  Javier Lozano Barragan and LINK HERE for the official "clarification" obfuscation by Cardinal Lozano Barragan.  When Cardinals don't know official church teaching, who does?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

St. Sebastian



I am posting these photos of a painting of St. Sebastian for Russ Manley of Blue Truck, Red State  who mentioned the Saint in a recent post and for Sebastian of Suffer the Arrows whose blog is named for him.  This outdoor mural was photographed somewhere near Populonia and Piombino in Italy in 2002 while we were on Holiday, as they say.

This rather contemporary Sebastian struck us as being very gay - painted by artist Daniele Govi.

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