Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vitriol Is Pervasive

A recent article in a local paper referred to a news story about a North Carolina program designed to insure proper nutrition for young school children by either providing school lunches or by providing supplemental food items to balance a child's "paper bag" lunch.  Apparently an overzealous Health Department employee doing a random check of home prepared lunches told a little girl she had to go to the cafeteria and eat a school lunch.

I was curious so I looked up the story here, and the follow-up, here.  Of course the story was featured by Faux News and was not particularly "controversial", but merely revealing of how some people might take a well meaning program to an unintended extreme.  However this angle - the fact that an individual state health department worker may have an erroneous or grandiose interpretation of his or her role in implementing the program - was not explored.

What did strike me as disturbing was not the meat of the story, but the fact that it was an opening for all kinds of vitriol in the readers' comments section which followed the stories.  The discussion almost immediately turned into a condemnation of Obama, health care reform, and government policies;  thrown in for good measure was First Amendment rights, the Catholic Church's stance on birth control, homosexuality, rampant socialism, etc.  I'm surprised no one mentioned the NRA and the right to bear automatic weapons.  And this in response to a story about school lunches!

My point is this: we read blogs and news that more or less supports our world view and the issues we care about, so become somewhat insulated from the reality of an alternate universe; but there are countless others who only need an innocuous story about a school lunch program gone awry as an excuse to vent their irrational fears, anger, contempt and hatred toward Obama and every issue we care about.

These people are both scary and pathetic. Should we be worried?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Perhaps There's Hope for the Catholic Church Yet

It is so easy to bash Catholics and the Catholic Church because of the hierarchical ignorance that is so prevalent and tends to make the news at every turn of the political screw.

Thank God for Rebel Nuns:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

From My File Cabinet - 5 The Hetero Quiz

This is a "souvenir" of my days as a health educator and activist, when we would be invited to give presentations on HIV and AIDS.  It was the era of Gay Men Coming Out - and gay men being forced out of the closet by AIDS.

Depending on the circumstances and the audience, we sometimes slipped in a little fun exercise to help educate people about homosexuality.

It seems to me that a lot of people, especially a bunch of Republican politicians and leaders of (un)Christian churches could use a little education.  I am not so naive as to think they can actually BE educated, but lets try.

Send them this questionnaire.  (seems I'm into questionnaires lately).


1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?

2. When and where did you decide you were a heterosexual?

3. Is it possible this is just a phase and you will out grow it?

4. Is it possible that your heterosexual orientation has stemmed from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?

5. Do your parents know you are straight? Do your friends know- how did they react when you told them?

6. If you have never slept with a person of the same sex, is it just possible that all you need is a good gay lover?

7. Why do you insist on flaunting your heterosexuality... can’t you just be who you are and keep it quiet?

8. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?

9. Why do heterosexuals try to recruit gays into their lifestyle?

10. A disproportionate majority of child molesters are heterosexual... Do you consider it safe to expose children to heterosexual teachers?

11. Just what do men and women do in bed together? How can they truly know how to please each other, being so anatomically different?

12. With all the societal support marriage receives, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

13. How can you become a whole person if you limit yourself to compulsive, exclusive heterosexuality?

14. Considering the menace of overpopulation how could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual?

15. Could you trust a heterosexual therapist to be objective? Don't you feel that he or she might be inclined to influence you in the direction of his own leanings?

16. There seem to very few happy heterosexuals. Techniques have been developed that might enable you to change if you really want to. Have you considered trying aversion therapy?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Never Say Never

We have not given up hope!

I have put together a survey about camping preferences and campgrounds serving LGBT campers or would-be campers - tent, trailer, pop-up, cabins, back of the SUV - whatever.

The survey is open to all, but I am particularly interested in responses from New England and the Northeast or from campers who may visit New England and the Northeast.


End of An Era - Whitney Houston

Back in the 1980's many of us spent hours on the dance floor with Whitney singing "I Wanna Dance With Someone".  Fond memories.  A Diva passes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Final Tune - Last Episode of Damages - Season 3

This song "Everybody Knows" (by Leonard Cohen with Sharon Robinson) really sums things up for these crazy times.

Been watching Damages with Glen Close on Netflix. It is a sick, cynical lawyer show. With unexpected twists and turns.  It's addicting.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

If It Ain't One Thing It's Another

This must be "Smash Mailboxes in the Neighborhood Week".   It's celebrated about every two years, or so.  We've had ours smashed at least four or five times times, so far.

We replaced the box once, but subsequently we decided it was not worth the expense.  So we've banged out the dents but had to replace the post or parts of the post each time.

Each time the structure gets stronger.  I hope the juvenile delinquents, (a nice old term, don't you think) break an arm the next time they take a baseball bat to our post box.

The expense is only half the annoyance - the other half is the time it takes us to jury-rig what timber we have laying around to fix the darn thing.  Several hours in the cold, with drills, hammer, screwdrivers, socket wrenches, saws-all, bolts, nuts, and various other pieces of hardware.

The result is this lovely "white trash mail box" adding to our curb appeal.

Reinforced Post
Hum, Needs A Calling Card

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let You In On Project Number Two

In addition to sprucing up the house, Leon and I have been exploring the possibility of a major change.  I wish I could report a different outcome, as that might have been a bit more interesting.

We have enjoyed camping in our Fifth-Wheel trailer for many years and have frequented many campgrounds from New England to Florida to Arizona.
 We have enjoyed camping at several gay campgrounds on the East Coast because of the very relaxed atmosphere, the freedom that guys have just to be themselves and the beauty of the natural settings of many of the campgrounds.

And the fact that they are, well, just SOOO GAY!

 Here, in the Northeast, most of the gay adult membership campgrounds are about a 5 hour drive from us.  There are no full-fledged gay campgrounds in New England.  Leon and I have long thought that a gay campground in this area would be a boon.
We have, on more than one occasion, looked into buying a campground ourselves as we think we would really enjoy the work.  Years ago we looked at a local campground for sale.  The price was about $350,000, a bargain, but no matter how we figured it, it was out of our reach; especially since the 18th century house on the property was at least a $250,000 liability - it would have to be restored or razed or replaced.  So much for that.

A few years ago we looked at another local campground - a $750,000 property that needed more infrastructure and a pool and house repairs and rec hall repairs.  We fantasized about making a low ball offer and getting bank financing....So much for that.

The problem is always, right from the get-go, MONEY.

Probably 80% of the campgrounds for sale are over $500,000. Most established campgrounds are selling for well over $700,000, with many going for one, two three million or more.  If I had that kind of money, would I want to own a campground?  I don't think so.  We could live off the interest alone for the rest of our lives and travel and visit other people's campgrounds, or villas in Italy.

But I have been out of work since July and don't expect to be hired for anything anytime soon, especially since I no longer "tint" and so look like someone's grandpa.  Leon is tired of climbing ladders and cleaning gutters and washing windows and cleaning carpets.  He actually got excited when someone recently inquired about buying his business.

So we have been revisiting the campground idea again, or should I say campground fantasy?  Every once in a while we'll see a listing for a campground for under $300,000 and get excited.

Recently we found two such campgrounds, both in Vermont.  We contacted the respective sellers/realtors and set up appointments to see the properties.

One, we'll call Camp North was listed at $275,000.  We drove the 5 plus hours to get a closer look.  Everyone knows the admonition "Location, location, location".  Camp North, even though it has impeccable infrastructure - water, sewer, electric, (but no pool) is so far North, well, no gay person from Boston or Providence or Hartford or New York would ever travel that far to sun their collective bare asses for a weekend.  Besides, the place was both very remote and, at the same time, lacked privacy, as it was right on the road across from a house.  So much for that.

The other campground, Camp South is listed at $199,000.  Now that is a sweet price for a campground.  It is in Southern Vermont, an ideal location within two to two and a half hours of large metropolitan areas with lots of gay bears who love to camp and show off their fur and romp in the woods.

The "Unusual" House
While our first tour of the property revealed some things lacking, we thought (hoped) that the positives outweighed the negatives and that location would be the overriding plus.

We had a realtor to see our house and tell us what we could get in this depressed market.  Although we had planned on sprucing up the house, the realtor encouraged us to do more - tile the sunroom and kitchen, replace the bathroom vanity and stage our house like it was HGTV.  Can you say cuh-ching.  And there was no guarantee that we would get a higher price for our pain.  We stuck to painting.

Another realtor's opinion left us as depressed as the housing market - the price we could expect to get for our home is less than we've put into it over the 12 years we've lived here and $40,000 less than the campground.  And in this market, it might take six months to sell.

But we were undaunted.  We could cash in all of our retirement savings, which isn't much, and if Leon could actually sell his business, maybe we could swing it.  We'd put all our eggs in one basket - what the hell - when we're dead, what will it matter?  We'll make it work.

We spent hours over several weeks researching the permits on the property, the environmental laws, the survey maps and various documents the realtor supplied.  We made phone calls and wrote emails to environmental departments and banks.  I researched and started writing a business plan.
The Electricity is Good
We made an appointment to see Camp South again, this time to see the insides of the house and cabins which we could not see the first time as they are occupied.  (The fact that there are full time residents is one of the major issues with this property.  The proximity to the road was another negative, but one that could possibly be remedied by current owner).
The Cabins Need Work

If You See Smoke, People Are Living Here

We spent six hours with the realtor in Vermont touring the campground and going over the well and septic engineering plans he had acquired for us.  The house was not pretty, but it was livable.  My feeling was, if I HAD to live there, I could.  It needs work.

One Well Is Working
The three cabins, unfortunately, are non-conforming and would not pass inspections. They would need remodeling or preferably rebuilding - but only on the original footprint or that would mean additional permits.

A Little Lysol?
Still hopeful, we saw the leach field overgrown with pine trees.

The three stage septic pumping system was not in use.  Was it functional?

The three water wells on the property were apparently dug by some grey-bearded Vermonter with a willow branch. According to records the wells could not supply a sufficient flow of water to service the campground and required huge, 30,000 gallon holding tanks (underground) and pumps to meet code.  Were the tanks ever installed?  What is their condition? Do they leak?

"One of the wells blew" according to the resident "caretaker".  What that means is anyone's guess.

Septic Pump Station
The realtor gave us a an estimate for the inspections that would be needed just to determine the condition of the infrastructure - $5,000 to $10,000.   And this is before we sell our house or get a loan. We could back out at that point but lose whatever we've paid for inspections.

It wasn't looking great.  If the wells and septic didn't pass muster, we can back out.  And did I mention, there is no pool.  You know how gay guys like to congregate at the pool.  Permits, engineering, construction...

Leon and I both agreed that the negatives were outweighing the positives.  Neither of us are great risk-takers or wheeler-dealers.  Unless the inspections go well, this property might be for someone with very deep pockets.  We decided to think about it some more.
A Brook Runs Through It
Leon believes the right campground is out there.  It probably is.   But will we ever be in a position to acquire it?  He wants to keep looking.  But the bottom line is, we don't have the working capital and will need an income almost immediately should we acquire a campground business.

I don't know if our problem is that we dream too big or too small or not at all.  To many people a few hundred thousand dollars is chump-change.  For people like us, an entrepreneurial venture seems always just out of reach, like chasing rainbows.

We will keep looking for now, but I'm afraid every star and planet will need to line up in perfect harmony for us to find that rainbow campground.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's Out of Context?

Romney's statement, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.  If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it.” is so reprehensible on so many levels, whether "out of context" or "in context", it should be repeated when ever his name is mentioned and tattooed backward on his forehead so he will be reminded of it whenever he looks in a mirror.

Beyond the obvious insensitivity of the remark and its underlying callous disregard of fellow Americans, the reference to "a safety net" seems to imply that no one really ever gets hurt by poverty.  (And I'm not arguing about the definition of the word poverty.)

"Safety net"  "Safety net"  "Safety net"

The fact that one would even need a "Safety net" implies that one is in danger, that one's situation is precarious.  Having to depend on a "safety net" is not to live with full dignity or with the promise of America.

Do we really want to "own" an America where the poor are both taken for granted and dismissed as irrelevant?

The fact that Romney even acknowledges the need for social programs that comprise the "safety net" - a very anti-Republican admission - undermines his entire political position; while admitting that such social programs might even need fixing, he dismisses the issue as a kind of "non-issue".

No matter what the context, whether "in" or "out" of context, Romney's statements belie his real belief that the poor don't count in his world view.  Their plight, their lives, their beliefs, their needs, their wants, their dreams, their families, even their votes are of little or no consequence to him.


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