Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Two Cents to Discovery and TLC

Sarah Palin hosting a program on Alaska for a supposedly pro-environment educational company like Discovery is insane. This woman advocates killing wolves from helicopters and raping the wilderness for oil. She is a self-serving hypocrite and is in no way up to the high standards of the Discovery network (although TLC obviously does have lower standards). Not to mention the absolutely ridiculous and totally obscene amount of money you have agreed to pay her for her lack of intellect. There are dozens of more appropriate hosts for Alaska than this former nobody. You can be certain there will be boycotts of both Discovery and TLC and every sponsor in your entire line up. Are you people nuts? What were you thinking?

The response 3/29/10:

Dear Viewer:

Thank you for contacting Discovery Communications.

We appreciate your correspondence and for taking the time to share your
thoughts and concerns with us regarding Sarah Palin's Alaska on TLC.

In an effort to ensure the highest quality programming, comments such as
these are taken very seriously.  Each and every comment is forwarded on to
our programming executives for review and consideration.  Maintaining the
integrity of all of our networks is our primary goal.  It is these types of
comments that contribute to creating change and improving our programming.

Again, thank you for contacting Discovery Communications.


Viewer Relations
Discovery Communication

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Something Amiss

While my honey and I are planting trees, the ex-governor of Alaska is busy, along with a cohort of others dividing America into "US" and "THEM".   While I am teaching senior citizens to use a computer, the Bishops of the Catholic church are denying children of Lesbian parents education, refusing communion to politicians who vote their conscience and curtailing social services rather than acknowledge the rights of married couples.  While men and women working for subsistence wages are told to supplement their incomes with government programs, their employers are maximizing profits and raping the budgets of small towns and cities.

Billionaires are getting wealthier (why?) while others cannot afford food or housing.  Capitalism is gone insane, dictating the direction of politics, health care policy and access, availability of medicine, food production and distribution, the use of land and natural resources and so many other critical areas of our lives on the planet.  The entire economy is out of whack.  The ordinary pleasures of the lower classes, like growing a garden or keeping a dog or going to the beach are now out of reach for many (Seriously, go to your local garden supply, check the price of dog food, ask about veterinary charges and heatworm pills, look at what some states charge for park entry fees).

Something is amiss, something is definitely not working.

This is evolution?  This is progress?  I used to believe that we could make a difference.  That people working together could make this world a better place for all.  But when everything is a "tug of war" or an outright war, and decisions and directions are determined by the strongest for the benefit of the strongest, no outcome can be satisfactory.  Unless we come together to determine a course that is to the benefit of all - and maybe benefit is not necessarily greater wealth -  we will be just spinning our wheels and spiraling out of control.  What ever happened to cooperation, consensus, the concept of the "common good"?   These concepts seem to still operate on a small scale but are not translating to the bigger systems of human endeavor, like governments or communities.  Democracy is beginning to look like a failed experiment.  Christianity along with religions in general are beginning to look like the Tower of Babel.

I pose the question.  God knows, I have no answers.  That is why I plant a tree or three, teach at the senior center and start my garden in the window.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tree Planting Time

Leon has been wanting fruit trees and I've been reluctant because our soil on the mountain is all rock and sand.  There are naturally growing Oaks, Hemlocks and Mountain Laurel which indicate very acidic soil.  There is too little sun on the property except on the right-of-way which is also rock and more rock and sand.  

But it was my birthday, so he bought me three fruit trees.  I told him, apparently after he had already purchased the trees, not to buy me anything that required WORK.  Unfortunately, this required work.  But I was not going to be stuck with the job alone.

MacIntosh, my favorite and Delicious, Leon's Favorite.

So we planted these trees together and it took a couple of hours or more.  And, although 3 chocolate chip cookies are good for probably 200 calories, I'm sure all our shoveling, hauling and excavating rocks burned off only about 50.
If they survive, among the spruce I planted over the past few years and if the insects don't destroy them, they may eventually bear fruit.   I wonder how long it will be.
Peaches another favorite.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Car Story

The local chapter of Lambda Car Club solicited stories about first love.  This is mine.

Me and Centoventotto camping

Those of you who know me, know that I am not a car lover.  But I guess just about everyone has at least one car in a lifetime that they were excited about.  Mine was a 1974 Fiat 128 Sport Coupe with front wheel drive, 4-on-the-floor and a trunk, not a hatchback.  Ever since I had spent my Junior Year in college in Roma, I knew that I wanted a Fiat.  By 1974 I had been working a few years out of college and had saved for a new car.  

It was early September.  I found a Fiat dealer somewhere outside of Hartford and went shopping. I don’t know what happened.  I was naive.  I had never purchased a new car before.  I was not prepared for the human sub-species known as a “car salesman”.  I remember looking at the Fiats when approached by some guy with fangs and big club.  After that is a big blur.  I was just about to put a deposit on an Opel (Cadet, I believe), which the Neanderthal had talked me into.  I suddenly came to, frightened and disoriented, and it was all I could do to keep from screaming “No….” at the top of my lungs.  “No, no, I can’t do it. I don’t want an Opel.  I really, really, really want a Fiat.”  I got up and left the dealership in a daze. 

On the rebound, I visited Pellotti and Poole in Hartford.  It was a more sublime experience.  I felt at home in Little Italy and they were like family (not mine, but someone’s).  They had a very sporty Fiat 124, 5-speed for around $3,600 (over my budget) and a few other models (like the X-1/9 and the Spider, both out of my range), including one 128 Sport Coupe, red with beige interior and black dash and armrests. The armrests/door handles though sexily curved and very sleek just didn’t go with beige.  They looked like they belonged to the car I ordered: red with black interior.  $3,100.  Two hundred more than the cheaper 128 sedan model. It took six long weeks for the bambino to arrive - which it finally did in late October.  I was glad to not have to ride my zippy 175cc Honda motorcycle to and from work.  After all, all I had was a fake imitation Nagahyde “leather” jacket to keep me warm.

It was love.  I immediately had a cassette player installed so I could play my copy of 1969 Tutto San Remo Music Festival hits and, when the weather got warm, my Beach Boys albums.  She was truly sporty for an economy car.  You could feel the road connected to the steering wheel.  I went to visit friends in Vermont that spring and pretended I was in the Apennines.  I might have scared them just a little on the curves around Stowe.  

I am not a car person, but I maintained my spark plugs and, after my uncle made me a metric Allen wrench in his machine shop, I changed my oil regularly.  I was not, however, prepared for the whining noise in my front wheel that indicated bad wheel bearings.  After that replacement and the end of warranty, I found Tony (as in Fix It Again Tony- "F-I-A-T") – a garage owner in Southington.  

Tony was a life-saver on several occasions, having replaced each of my wheels bearings at one time or another.  Sometimes, if he was real busy, he’d say, “If you go get the part, I’ll fix it when you get back.”  Who could ask for more.  A few times he tinkered under the hood and when I asked, “How much?” he’d say, “Forget it”. Tony was a keeper.

I once drove the car back from Sound View with no clutch.  When the clutch cable snapped, someone (I don’t remember who) advised me to just shift by the sound of the engine.  I was surprised how easy it was.  The stoplights required me to stall the engine to stop, then put it in first while turning the ignition.  That was quite fun, but I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis. The second time it happened, I cruised into Tony’s shop, stalled the car and probably said, “Fix it again, Tony”.  The fifth set of wheel bearings, which were replaced during a hurricane in Nova Scotia, put me over the edge.

My affair with “Centoventotto” reminded me of an old Neapolitan song, Mala Femmina:

Femmena, (Woman)
tu si 'a cchiù bella femmena,(you are such a beautiful woman)
te voglio bene e t'odio (I love you and I hate you)
nun te pozzo scurdà... (I can never forget you)

After “Centoventotto” I turned to another object of infatuation, a Mustang.  By then it had become something entirely different and I hated it.  But that’s another story.

1974 Fiat Centoventotto Sport Coupe 

(picture from internet in public domain)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review - Breakfast With Buddha

I always found it somewhat tedious to read books - especially the so called "required" reading in high school.  A Tale of Two Cities, Moby Dick, War and Peace, David Copperfield, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, the classics that I found infinitely boring and filled with too many characters to keep track of, turned me off to reading literature.  My mind would wander constantly and I would find myself reading and rereading the page or paragraph over and over - reading the words but not registering any of them in my brain.  I would easily forget all the important details of a character who had been mentioned several chapters ago, then suddenly reappeared in the story. Any book of more than 150 pages seemed like Everest.

I found non-fiction books on the sciences, social studies, theology, psychology and even biographies much more palatable, but even then it was always an effort to read.  In the eighties, gay-themed non-fiction and fiction as well captured my interest and I read everything I could find - but that's when a gay-lit bibliography might have contained 100 or so contemporary titles.  I could go to the local alternative/gay/lesbian bookstore and buy books that were not in the libraries or mainstream bookstores.  I had some "disposable" income and books were not terribly expensive.  Even then, I could easily fall asleep after reading a few pages.

It would sometimes take me weeks to finish a book, and walking into a bookstore would overwhelm me: where to begin? where to look?  would this hold my interest?  Most fiction I figured I could get from TV or movies, except for gay themed fiction.  I was not one to "curl up in a chair" and get immersed in a mystery novel.  Fantasies like Lord of the Rings never even perked my interest.  All the rest, well - it was a huge mountain of granite I could not fathom chipping away at.  That, and my propensity to fall asleep made picking out or picking up a book seem futile.

Certainly there were a few books I came across like Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and its several sequels that held my interest.  Christopher Bram's page turner Hold Tight was pleasantly erotic and some of John Rechy's works were very fascinating.  In the psychological/philosophical vein was intrigued by Sheldon Kopp's If You Meet the Buddha and Sam Keen's Apology For Wonder and To A Dancing God.  

More recently, with the demise of the independent bookseller, a trip to Barnes & Nobel or Borders seems akin to booking a trip to Monte Carlo and a five-star hotel.  Even the coffee is out of my league.  I've donated about 90% of my library to the Gay Archives at the local university, to get rid of clutter and hopefully give someone else a chance to read up.  I need to rediscover libraries.

In the meantime I've been known to browse Goodwill and other  thrift shops book shelves, usually not seeing much that sparks my waning intellect.  But I did pick up a one-dollar novel recently called Breakfast With Buddha, by Roland Murullo.

I read the bulk of it while on vacation and just finished the final chapters.  It is about an upper middle class, married-with-children-book-editor who is tricked by his flaky new-age sister into taking on a Russian Buddhist monk as a passenger in his road trip to North Dakota to settle his parents estate.  And the adventures and spiritual lessons that transpired along the way.  My favorite part was the encounter between the monk and a bunch of beer-drinking toughies at the bowling alley.

The author eases you in with the narrator who is a major skeptic.  And it was an easy ride.  A nice read on a deck chair by the pool or at the beach.  Tell you what.  Let me know here if you'd like to read it - I'll mail it to you if you promise to recycle.  Murullo has another novel that sounds interesting called, American Savior.  I guess it's back to Goodwill.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bible Belt Radio

Religious stations throughout northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia dominate the FM dial.  There is preaching, proselytizing, music interspersed with bible verses, Country Western bible music, plain ole bible music, and WWJD attitude for miles. It was a challenge to locate Public Radio at all.

While we could not bear to listen to religious radio for very long while driving through the countryside, we did catch a few grains of brimstone here and there.  What I did notice was not so much the content but a tone that was either new or, more likely new to my perception.  I can only describe this tone or nuance as anxiety.  It seems as though the fundamentalists are terrified that the secularization of society (read: sin) will bring on the wrath of God and that they, the innocent bystanders will be caught in the crossfire.

They are no longer concerned about the souls of sinners except insofar as the retribution directed at sinners will affect their nice little lives with their rigid delusional beliefs. Their awareness is accompanied by desperation; the B-bangers seem to take seriously their responsibility to convert the larger secular society, not because they have any genuine love for the souls of sinners, but because they really fear that their failure to do so will be their undoing.

Perhaps the fundamentalist evangelical point of view is really failing to reach beyond its source community to significantly influence contemporary culture and mores. Are the bangers developing a real inferiority complex?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Catching up.

That's the thing about vacations...have to play catch up when you get home.  Get the mail, pay the bills, get together with friends, help the elderly aunt with paperwork, call customers (Leon) and get back to the job that pays the bills.  Not to mention that today was absolutely spectacular - clear blue sky, warm sunshine, daylight saving time, daffodils and lilies poking through...hopefully a sign of an early spring.  Will be checking in soon with something to say, hopefully.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Road Trip, Final Tally

This is what it cost us for two weeks away:

Accommodations (11 nights)
Host Gratuity (3 nights)

Even though we cooked meals in several nights at the guest house, a few of those restaurants (not necessarily one's we would have chosen) proved a bit pricey.  But we would have had to eat even if we stayed home.   $678 per person for 14 days is not too bad.  Sleeping is a strange activity in itself.  When you think that it costs more to sleep than to eat, it seems stranger still.  But there are hotel rooms that cost more for one night than we spent on our entire trip.  Total milage, including side trips: Home - St. Pete - Ft. Lauderdale - Home, roughly 3,400 miles.  We're saving our soda and beer cans for the next trip (actually Leon want to go to Detroit for the Lambda Car Club Show in August, so, if he takes those cans and bottles with him, he can get 10 cents apiece instead of 5 like they did on Seinfeld).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Round Trip Complete

A few pics from a long day on the highway beginning at Rocky Mount, North Carolina where we had stopped for the night.  The highlight of last evening was Spaghetti, Eggplant Parmegiano, and Sausage in a nice Tomato Sauce.  After two weeks without Italian food, (not that Florida lacks Italian cuisine - we just made other choices) I was in withdrawal.  One heavenly meal.

Somewhere in Virginia
Ball-more.  Is that how they say it?
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Into Delaware
Welcome to New Jersey

Mr. Perfect Driver, Leon, took a wrong turn instead of going to Vince Lombardi
Otherwise known as the Guy Lombardo Rest Area
GW Bridge - in the home-stretch

A unique view of NY
Into Manhatten
Hudson River
Bronx to Cross County 
Some of the Art Deco Overpasses along the historic Merritt Parkway  in Connecticut.  

Connecticut is not flat

Clock Tower after Firenze
Still a bit of ice here
At our driveway
Up the driveway...two weeks is just a blur

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Day at Jensen Beach

We left Ft. Lauderdale this morning and met up with Sarah and Robbie, the girls from Blondie's in Bristol, CT.  Their hamburger joint is a seasonal operation and has great food and the best fries in town - better than 5 guys.  They are in Jensen Beach for part of this winter and believe me, they are a stitch.  Had a lot of laughs, and a great day, though we didn't get far on our way home...oh well, life is too short not to stop and have a beach day.
Poor Robbie sliced her thumb by accident so is wearing the rubber glove to keep the water and sand out of the dressing...good thing it happened toward the end of their vacation, not a good thing that it happened at all.

Another modest beach-front property

Sarah, a Florida native, is a surfer.  Leon is posing for Surfer-boy of the year.

Bridge from Jensen Beach

Leon wants you to know about our gas milage; I am just happy the car did not take off uncontrollably at 120 miles per hour.
Entering South Carolina heading North


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