Friday, February 25, 2011

Planning a Trip

Leon and I getting ready to take a trip.  I can't believe we're doing this, but those sky mile points Leon's been collecting for years were going to start we are biting the bullet, so to speak and scraping up a few pounds to fly "across the pond" to London and the English countryside.

Our friends Dave and Al, (the Bristol Dave and Al, not the Sturbridge Dave and Al) will be house and dog sitting while we are gone.  It makes me feel better knowing that our boy Benni will be able spend most of the time in his own home, rather than in another house or Dog Forbid, a kennel.

We are trying to pack light, hence, no laptop computer.  I can post a few time using Leon's iPod as I mentioned yesterday.  Pain in the butt, and no way to upload pictures.  Which is the whole point of blogging while touring England, isn't it mate?  Maybe there'll be a computer in the hotel or I can stop in a Internet cafe or public library.

Looking at the map I notice that all the towns we are familiar with here in "New" England have counterparts in "Old" England.  We should feel right at home.

I was in London once before - too many years ago to think about - in January 1969, when I was spending my Junior Year at Loyola University Rome Center in Italy.  It was semester break.  I traveled with some other students, then went off on my own with a Eurail Pass to see London, Paris, Portugal and Spain.  When I think about it now, I was 20 years old and traveling around Europe alone and thought nothing of it.  I spent almost a week in London, relieved to be hearing English being spoken for a while.  Unfortunately I couldn't speak it correctly.

My fondest and most "embarrassing" memory in London was asking the "Bobby" for directions to "Traffle-gar Square".  "Oh," he said, "You mean Traf-AAL-ga(r)" and graciously directed me.  I won't make that mistake again, I hope, but despite all the British TV shows we watch, I still have difficulty understanding spoken English at times.

In addition to "free" airfare, we got a great deal on a land tour.  We thought about renting a car - Leon loves cars  - but the thought of petrol prices, auto insurance riders, car rental fees, driving on the wrong side of the road with the steering wheel on the right, having to find places to stay along the way, etc. it seemed prudent to just go with a tour.  We'll see Stonehenge, Bristol, the Lake District, Edinburg, Scotland, York, the Cotswolds, and also a tour of London with breakfasts every day and dinners most evenings, most gratuities included.  The tour company had a winter special and we got a "last minute deal"- 8 nights for around $2,000 for two of us.  Not really "cheap" for us, but probably a steal nonetheless.

Well, its Netflix time and Leon is complaining that I spend too much time blogging...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From the iPod

This post is a test to see how I can blog while on holiday in England. Not easy. I don't know how people text message with these things. And there is no way to upload photos from my camera to the iPod, as far as I know. I will be looking for computers at the B&B or hotel lobby. But this can work in a pinch. But a blog without pics?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Being Born Without Dimples or Musical Genes

I'm not sure what's going on or if anyone really cares or wants to read about it.  I just want to get this crap off my chest.  It's a combination of aging, getting gray and fat, money worries and knowing that it is really too late to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  The semi-retirement thing sometimes leaves me feeling a bit aimless as I either wait for projects to come in or procrastinate actually working on them when they do.  Plus a few health insurance and medical annoyances thrown in.  All on a backdrop of House Hunters International and CBS Sunday Morning.

OK, lets start with CBS Sunday Morning.  They periodically do stories on people who have had illustrious careers.  The pattern seems to favor musicians.  People who picked up an instrument at age 3 and now in their 70's, 80's or 90's are still making music, playing concerts or cutting recordings.  They live in relative luxury, move among interesting people, pursue other artistic endeavors, write books, and conduct philanthropic enterprises. They are, as Maslow would say, "self-actualized.
Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg‎ converted to jpg This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Resized, renamed, and cropped, 18 June 2009 Source Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs.svg AuthorUser:Factoryjoe
So many of us (more so as the economy has plummeted so many closer to poverty) must spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy just securing our physiological needs and safety needs in order to have some resources for activities that bolster self-esteem, confidence, achievement or allow creativity and problem solving to flourish in a self-actualized way. In other words we are working at exhausting jobs, doing our own laundry, clipping coupons to make ends almost meet, angst - ing over the copays for the doctor visit and trying to avoid situations that, if allowed to spiral out of control would send us to the poor house or asylum. Take the guy who cannot afford to get his car tail light fixed or trying to save a buck, puts it off. He gets stopped by the cops one morning making him late for work with a fine on top of it. He gets docked for the hours he was late and those fewer dollars result in a bounced check and a bank fee. He still has to get his tail light fixed so decides to do it himself. Imagine the ripple effect that continues to affect other areas of his life. The arguments with the significant other. Postponing the doctor or dentist appointment. The bounced check to the credit card company with the accruing interest putting him further behind. The lost hours of sleep.

It has always puzzled me how some people, despite difficulties that life brings seem to thrive, develop and prosper in ways that are fully integrated and others who struggle with conflict, difficult decisions, and woundedness, seem to always fall short despite their efforts. The "successful" ones attribute their triumph to their own resources like determination, will-power, hard work, being goal-oriented or highly motivated. They rarely mention the fact that they may have been born with a certain genetic disposition, temperament or character traits that were not entirely of their own doing but which gave them an advantage over others. They don't think it significant that they have dimples, had their teeth straightened when they were preadolescent, or that their physiognomy falls within the societal parameters of beauty. They take for granted that they have enjoyed other gifts that they had no role in securing. "Luck", in their world view, has had little to do with their success.

Others, despite their hard work and heroic efforts seem to have been born with an Achilles' Heel. They seem destined to reap only futility from their endeavors. Will power, determination and self-direction are illusions. Getting what we want by hard work or will power does not necessarily make it so. Their inherited characteristics are anxiety, obsessive-compulsive traits and/or less desirable physical attributes. They aren't likely to be buying a 1.5 million dollar condo in Santa Mariposa on House Hunters International.

Then there are those who seem to have everything: talent, career, money, good looks, the perfect significant other - then blow it because their particular Achilles Heel - sex, drugs, power, hubris, got the upper hand. This life is such a damn toss-up it's not funny.

Things go along more or less copesthetically then you go to your doctor who sticks her finger up your butt and finds a minuscule amount of blood because you just happened to have popped a tiny hemorrhoid that morning. Naturally she sends you to the gastroenterologist so as to make sure HER ASS is covered. Call me cynical but I think Doctor Gastro makes his very good living by scheduling everyone who walks through his door for a colonoscopy. Never mind that you had your innards examined four years ago and that doc said "see you in 8 to 10" or that you might just have a roid or that you lost your way in the hall. No need to check that butt here, lets schedule a "procedure". I bet he has a Condo in Santa Mariposa.

Not to mention that you have this crappy health insurance that you get because you can't afford the good health insurance. If you have your canal checked, you get to pay your $400 deductible, PLUS your $400 "co-insurance" PLUS 20% of any covered amounts depending on who you ask, PLUS 100% of any uncovered amounts - which the insurance folks can't really tell you what they may or amy not be, nor can the doctor, nor can the medical facility, until you get the bill. And was this just because your primary care doc stuck her finger in your ass on the wrong day OR are you really riddled with cancer and about to die if you don't get the scope done?

So the fact that I'm collecting early Social Security means that this procedure will cost a month's pay, (not counting what SS allows me to make freelancing for my yearly 1099-MISC). We have saved our quarters, dimes, nickels and sky mile points to take a two week vacation to England. There's no way I'm going to schedule a procedure this week so I can S-M-B-O and pay to do it.

And I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but boy, do I feel better!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What We Did For Fun Last Sunday

We had a few hours above freezing on Sunday and Monday. Fun. We were too busy chopping ice to go to the beach.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Drop Dead Diva on Netflix

Drop Dead Diva is a Lifetime series that we discovered on Netflix - watch instantly.  This show has no gay characters so far, but the show very is gay nonetheless. It is up there with Golden Girls, maybe even better.  I don't generally go for the premise of "people switching bodies" or "guardian angels" but the writing is so good, you start to really take the premise for granted.  If you can get past the hokey soul-switch proposition, and I think you will, and into the extremely likable characters and the story lines - you will thoroughly enjoy watching.

The combination of the two personalities in the smart but not slim attorney, Jane serves as the basis of any number of comic and thought-provoking situations:   the reincarnated "Fashion Diva and Valley Girl type and now deceased Deb Dobson" embodied in the "Intelligent, Serious, Work-aholic, Sweet-eating, compassionate, Lawyer Jane" is superbly pulled off by Brooke Elliot.  As the series progresses, Jane becomes more and more integrated and seamless.  The other characters also reveal a greater depth as the series progresses.  The writing is top notch;  it is funny, serious, sad, happy and smart and interesting.  The legal story lines are as good as any TV lawyer series. There are also some cute guys of course and a lot of emerging romance.  Highly recommended.

Here is a clip

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reluctant Rebel Activist Days

My First Gay Disco
Going through some old photos yesterday and decided to scan some into digital.  They're from my rebel era.  It's sometimes good to see and recall where you've been and what paths you've taken to get where you are.  It was relatively late in life when I finally embraced my gay self (I've written before of my "Catholic" inhibitions - here, here, and here ).  But when I did come out, I did so every which way and without wasting any more time.  It was a multifaceted coming out - a real gay liberation movement for one - it was sexual, spiritual, political, social, personal.
Me, fourth from left - Pride Day
Within months I had gotten a boyfriend, gone to my first Gay Bar, joined Dignity, started volunteering at the local Gay Men's Health Clinic, joined the Gay Rights Coalition and was working as an HTLV-III (HIV)/AIDS Counselor; within the next five years I had gone to almost every Gay Pride Day event at home and in NYC, joined the Sexual Minorities Committee; was on the Board of the local Dignity Chapter, the Board  of the Gay Men's Health Clinic, on the Gay Bowling League, spoken at a Gay Pride Day rally, Marched on Washington, and resurrected the local Gay Youth Support Group.  I was too chicken to get arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court in 1987 but went to support those who did.

My Gay Pride speech, June 1987
Don't Hide Gay Pride - 1987

I am not entirely comfortable either as a leader or a follower.  I guess the most comfortable place for me is to be walking side-by-side, hand-in-hand, with others on this journey.  So standing up here alone is a bit scary.

I am privileged today to speak to this very special gathering of people who are courageous as well as proud.  We are a community of persons who will no longer "hide our pride", but who will stand together visibly, publicly, openly, proudly proclaiming our strength as well as our rights, our dignity as well as our political agenda.

This has been a year which has seen a tremendous growth in solidarity in the gay/lesbian communities throughout the state.  The tremendous efforts of a number of dedicated individuals, and the visible, financial and moral support of lesbians and gay men brought the cause of Civil Rights to the legislature and to the consciousness of the citizens of Connecticut.  The cooperation among our political, religious, health, social and business organizations continues to bring us together, whether to hold candles in the night or to celebrate our sense of gay Pride in ever increasing numbers.

If I had to choose one thing that opens the closets of fear and isolation and contributes to a sense of Lesbian and Gay Pride, it is sheer numbers.  I still remember the exhilaration I felt when I went to a Festival-sponsored event, "Putting on the Rizt" at (local) College, more than two years ago.  Being new to Gay life at the time, my reaction to that gathering of what had to be at least three-hundred beautiful men and women was: "My God, where did they all come from?"  I don't think I had ever felt less alone or more affirmed until I went to Gay Pride Day in New York City that summer.

So, our being here today is a powerful message to all our brothers and sisters who are hiding the pride that they may not have yet even experienced.  Our numbers, our presence here today loudly proclaims to all who are isolated and fearful: "You are not alone."

Our presence here today loudly proclaims our firm conviction that it is no longer OK to deny us employment, or housing,or public accommodation.  It has Never been OK.  It is no longer OK for local radio DJ's to tell offensive "gay jokes".  It has Never been OK.  It is no longer OK for our Church leaders to judge us "objectively disordered" or "intrinsically evil".  It has Never been OK.

These insults to our pride can no longer be tolerated.  These tactics designed to keep us in our closets will no longer work - because WE ARE OUT, WE ARE HERE, WE ARE PROUD and we are loudly proclaiming to all our sisters and brothers: "Don't Hide Gay Pride!"
Pride Day 198?
A mixed adult/youth excursion.  We took several members of the Youth Group to NYC Pride on a school bus that we rented and a with a 20 year-old "youth" bus driver. When I think of it now - no special insurance, no parents' signed permission slips, crossing state lines, no organizational sanction - how great it was!
I'm Sure Our Trip To NYC With
The Youth Group Came Close To Breaking
Laws In Two States
Me, Leon, Bob at AIDS Quilt in DC
Even activists had to cook and do the dishes
Me, left on the Gay Bowling Team
Hector, Me, Fr. R, Robin, Unknown, Fr. J,  and B. at March on Washington
Demonstrations come with Eye-Candy
March on Washington
I only lament what I see now as the relative apathy of our movement as we become more "mainstream".  Yet we should not be fooled;  we should not fall asleep while the waters are mostly calm.  We are still hated by many and even our straight "allies" mostly "don't get it".  Our lives and our rights are always in imminent danger and given the right circumstances either can be taken from us.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ho Hum

I hear even Arizona has joined the deep freeze!
So we don't feel too bad about not going south this year.  A few more pics of beauty:

P.S. Cubby - that last post got misplaced from 12/30/10 and your comment today did not get attached. Sorry

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Roles, Chores and Being Family

We, as gay men, are fortunate not to be restricted to certain roles based on gender.  The other day Leon and I fixed our clothes dryer, yesterday he and the boys were out shoveling a customer's roof, while I made  eggplant and veal parmigiana; today Leon "Betsy Ross" got out his grandma's sewing machine and sewed two old couch cushions together to make a new bed for our dog Benni while I worked on a grant.  He also  gave Benni a bath.  After lunch we're both out clearing the driveway and truck of new snow.

Benni's new bed.
Depending on the occasion, we cook, sew, run a chainsaw or a rototiller, make arts and crafts projects, do auto detailing, build a stone wall,  fix things, garden, iron, do yard work, and home maintenance.  We work well together and often pick up a chore where the other left off.  I'm not crazy about ladders, washing cars or connecting electronics;  Leon doesn't like to write or cook (although he cooks pretty well) or fuss over the garden.  I clean the toilet, he cleans the tub.  But not necessarily.

Leon snow-blowing (there aren't too many pics of me snow-blowing because when I'm snow-blowing Leon isn't taking pictures).
I am purported to be the "worrier" but Leon will not sleep knowing there is a foot and a half of snow on the roof or planning how to park the camper when we get to that campground two days hence.  I figure the roof will take care of itself and the camper will get parked, but I worry about whether that plastic container can go in the recycle bin or whether the fish I just bought was wild caught and sustainable. 

A new place to hike with Benni
After twenty-two years we still enjoy each other's company and doing things together - whether finding a new place to hike with the dog or going on a trip to England. (Yeah, we're going to England).  Our roles in our little family are pretty interchangeable, fluid, and also complementary.  It makes for a good domestic partnership, and a good marriage (though we're not legal yet).  I'm content and glad to be gay.

The butch truck up to here in snow

Ice Box
Driveway, first pass with the blower


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