Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Deja Vu - Road Trip

Benni was such a good doggie and didn't complain until the very last hundred miles.

Five star motels were not in the budget. Not even ONE star.
And, given a chance, once inside, some are not SO bad. That is, if you can stand the colors and the guy in the next room watching TV all night. My guess is that he was passed out and couldn't care less about the blasting TV. I am a light sleeper and EVERYTHING keeps me awake. 
Not quite the leaning tower of Pisa. Amerika.

We went from this:
To this - in a matter of a hundred miles east to west. This is when Benni whined so much we had to us make a pit stop.

Today is cold. Can't get away from it. But Benni always seems to make the most of it and always finds a stick to play with.
Our current digs. Thankfully, quiet and cozy.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Central Park NYC

Amidst a busy time of year and the beginning of my seasonal doldrums and irritability phase, I decided to take a day for myself, without Benni or Leon and go to New York with a friend who belongs to the CT Pride Hikers.

Although not the usual type of hike, they had a hike through New York's Central Park scheduled for Saturday the 20th.

I've been to New York, though not as often as many Connecticut residents. Usually it's been for a specific purpose - to drink alcohol when we turned 18, to eat at Momma Leone's, to march in Gay Pride, to see Hairspray, to get across the George Washington Bridge, to walk the Greenway, to see the Cloisters, but I'd never gone to Central Park.

It was a place I knew was there, I could see it while marching down Fifth Avenue, but I had never been in it.

So Bob and I drove down to New Haven and took Metro North into Grand Central Station.

Here are some photos of an exhibit at Grand Central's Transportation Museum Gift Shop.

Walked to FAO Schwartz, a big toy store where we saw a cute guy demonstrating magic tricks - and outside, the Apple Store.

Then it was off to meet the group in front of the Park Plaza Hotel where some of us went for a comfort stop. I would have liked to wander around the great foyer and take pictures, but time did not permit. Off to the park with our tour guide Doug Burke.

Too bad it was bone-chilling cold - not quite what Accuweather forcasted. I'd like to come back there in the spring - when it is green and full of flowers and cute guys biking, skating and sunbathing.
This is the Dairy.

 The bubble guy.

 The Bow Bridge.

 In memory of John Lennon.

 I want to make these benches for our back yard.

After lunch Bob and I headed back to Grand Central where Bob checked out a bakery and then we hopped the train back to Connecticut. I'll probably go on another CT Pride Hike in the spring.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"DAVE" or "Those Pesky Security Questions"

Can somebody please tell my why some Russian school kid can hack into the CIA or Bank of America and the North Koreans can read everyone's emails at SONY, but my 76 year-old neighbor lady cannot get ATT.net to tell her what her own email password is?

My good friend Dottie (whose dog Katija is our dog Benni's bff) decided to finally get an iPod. Partly because we told her how easy it would be just to do email and internet stuff.

Dottie doesn't do much with technology and her old laptop is a bit of a clunker, so she thought it was time to get modern. Leon and I said we'd help her. We assured her it would be a piece of cake to get going. We do Apple stuff all the time.

So we all go off to the Apple Store at the mall and she picks out an iPod, not the top of the line, but a modest iPod with everything she could possibly use and more.

What Leon and I did not take into consideration is that Dottie does not remember her email password because she never had to actually use it once her Windows email client was configured.

Dottie doesn't recall ever having or using a password for email. But she does have a few passwords scribbled in her notebook next to things like Amazon and Ebay.

We tried each of those at the Apple Store with the Apple Tech who helping set up the iPad. No, that's not it. Tried it with an uppercase letter. No, that's not it. Tried a different spelling. No that's not it.

The geek who set up her Windows computer must have either made up a password and never told her or she never wrote it down. He obtained her password and programed it into the Windows email client. She never had to access email directly and so never used her password.

Of course, there are ways to obtain your password if you forget. Just go into Yahoo or ATT.net and follow the prompts.

So over approximately an hour and a half at the Apple Store we did:

Enter your USER ID.

Type in: email address

ATT.net: For security purposes please answer the following questions:

ATT.net: What was the name of your first pet?

Dottie: Well, it could have been Tiger.

Type in: tiger

ATT.net: What was the farthest place you've ever traveled to?

Dottie: Well, I went to Budapest last year.

Me: No, Dottie, it has to be a place you would have answered when you set up your email years ago, not last year.

Dottie: I never answered any questions like this.

Me: Well, You used to live in Germany, so lets try Germany.

Type in: germany


ATT.net: Sorry, the answers you provided don't match those we have on file.

Start over. USER ID

ATT.net: For security purposes please answer the following questions:
               What was the name of your first pet?

Type in: tiger

Dottie: I think maybe I spelled tiger with a Y.

 Backspace, type in: tyger

ATT.net: What was the farthest place you've ever traveled to?

Me: You lived in Munich, didn't you?

Dottie: Yeah, Munich and Berlin, and some other places.

Type in: munich


ATT.net: Sorry, the answers you provided don't match those we have on file.

Another attempt:

ATT.net: What was the name of your first pet?

Dottie: Maybe I should use Blacky. He was my first dog, Tyger was a cat. Blacky had been scribbled in Dotties notebook so maybe Blacky is the key.

Type in: blacky.

What is the farthest place you've ever traveled to?

Me: OK, let's stick to Germany.

Type in: germany.

Sorry, the answers you provided do not match those we have on file.
You have made three failed attempts to retrieve your password. 
For security reasons your account will be locked for one hour. Please try again later.

For further assistance you may access ATT Live Chat.

Me: Let's try the live chat.

Enter your USER ID.

ATT.net: Hi, Dorothy,  this is Shamantha. For security purposes can I have the 10 digit account number associated with your email account.

Type in: area code and phone number

Shamantha: Thank you, how can I help you?

We explain Dottie's dilemma.

Shamantha: I think I can help you retrieve your password. I'll just need you to answer a few questions for security purposes.

Dottie: OK

Shamantha: Who is your favorite singer?

Aside: Dottie: I don't know. Me: Didn't say you love Cher. Dottie: Yeah, Cher.

Type in: Cher

Shamantha:I'm sorry that is incorrect.

Dottie: It's been years since I used my password and I don't remember answering any questions like this. I type in what Dottie just said.

Shamantha: I can give you a hint. It begins with D.

Aside: Dottie: I don't even like music or singers. Me: What about Donna Summer? Dottie: Who's that. Leon: Donny Osmond? or Dean Martin? Dottie: None of them.

Figuring Dean Martin is closer to Dottie's generation I type in Dean Martin.

Shamantha: No, I'm sorry that is not the answer we have on file.

Type in: What do we do now?

Shamantha: I can give you a phone number for ATT.net support.

Condensed version of what happened the following evening when we again attempted to help Dottie get her password:

We dial the number Samantha gave us: This is Barbara at ATT.

She asks for a 10 digit account number for security purposes. She asks how can she help. Dottie explains her dilemma. Barbara says ATT no longer handles support for internet, that is now Frontier. She gives us the number. That number is no longer in service. We call back the first number. We finally get a working number and get in touch with Frontier and they transfer us to ATT because they don't have passwords for ATT.net accounts. ATT sends us back to Frontier. Frontier says maybe we should try getting support from Yahoo because Yahoo handles ATT.net email.

We go on Yahoo and type in USER NAME.

Then click on Forgot Password.

Please type in your USER NAME

The security page for ATT.net pops up

For security purposes please answer the following questions:

What was the name of your first pet?

Me: let's try tiger again

Type in: tyger.

What is the farthest place you've ever traveled to?

Me: OK, let's stick to Germany.

Type in: germany.

ATT.net: Sorry, the answers you provided do not match those we have on file.
You can access Live Chat for further assistance

Needless to say, Dottie still has not configured her email account on her new iPod. She really doesn't want a NEW email address as all her contacts have the current one.

Now on an Apple computer there is a thing called Keychain. You can go into Keychain - provided you have the master password - an see all the passwords for all the accounts and websites that you've signed up for. I have no clue how or even if you can do that on a Windows computer. Dottie will get in touch with the geek guy who set up her laptop computer several years ago. Maybe he knows.

His name is Dave.

Last night as I was lying in bed, I had the devious thought that Dave is the key:
I bet he answered all the security questions himself:

What was the name of your first pet?

What is the farthest place you've ever traveled to?

Who is your favorite singer?

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Little Bit of Paradise

I wish I had an inspiration to blog about something interesting, entertaining, timely, political, philosophical or profound. There is plenty of that around the internet and people who do it much better than me. So, until something inspires me:

As promised, here is the full Bird of Paradise:

And a second bird on the way (This will be the first time we've had two blossoms):

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Little Color on a Winter Day

The Bird of Paradise has blossomed again - the last time was in 2009. Don't know if it is just a cyclical thing or something I did - plant food, repotting, change of location.

OK, I jumped in too quickly with this post. I am noticing that the blossom is not yet fully opened - and there is another stalk with another blossom coming up. Will have to update later.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

One Thing That Facebook Is Good For

Anyone who's on Facebook can go to NOM's Facebook page and answer their question:

 "Is there a couple in your life who have a strong, lasting marriage that inspires you? Tag them in the comments!"

Apparently the site has been flooded with comments from gay, lesbian, bi and trans folks as well as straight allies who are naming same-sex couples who "have strong, lasting" relationships/marriages.

After all, it is the National Organization for Marriage, and well, the growing number of same-sex marriages shouldn't be left out! Many of us have been together much longer than many straight couples and much longer than the length of time since our marriages became legal. Leon and I are just going on two months after a 26 year engagement. I wonder if it will last.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Anniversary of the Assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone and Other Considerations

A Re-Post from November 27, 2013 with addendum:

Like it or not, we live in a country where all kinds of people occupy space. Most are not descendants of indigenous peoples. We do not share the same ethnicities, histories, religious beliefs, political leanings, philosophies of life, economic status or a host of other characteristics that make us the individuals we are.

And while we all occupy space, either by some god-given right or by chance or fate, none of us have the right to impose our will or belief or righteous indignation on another by means of violence or intimidation. Dan White took it upon himself to assassinate two political colleagues, Harvey Milk and George Moscone because he didn't agree with their views or their politics, or envied their success as popular politicians. Dan White could not tolerate views or opinions or civics lessons or the fact that LGBT folks might have civil rights in his jurisdiction.

Dan White could not abide diversity. So he tried to destroy what/who he saw as his enemy.

Ours is a country built on an experiment - an experiment in human rights. Human rights, if not an absolute, are a constantly evolving concept. But there are still those who see the evolution of human rights as a threat, and those who are the beneficiaries of newly defined rights as the enemy.

LGBT individuals are still scapegoated, bullied, hurt, maimed and murdered because of intolerance, hatred and fear. Many of our local and state government leaders, many members of our US Congress are not so different in their attitudes from Dan White. Hopefully none of them will shoot the collegues they disagree with. But their money, power and influence still harm us and their dismissal of our legitimate concerns stifles the evolution of this experiment in human rights.

On this anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, we remember men who died in service to our and the larger community through the political process - a process that can only work in a spirit of reason and compromise.

November 29, 2014

Thinking of Civil Rights at a time when rioting, violence, gunfire and looting have been in the news in the aftermath of the Grand Jury decision in Missouri, I cannot help but relate the above thoughts to the larger issue of civil and human rights in this country. When, if ever, is such violence justified?

Would the announcement of the Grand Jury decision, no matter whether it returned an indictment or not, to be just an excuse for those who were poised to engage in further violence and mayhem? Does my asking this question belie my own bias?

I have never served on a Grand Jury but I imagine it is very serious business and that the jurors take their task very seriously and conscientiously and that such a process, for all its flaws, has been instituted in the cause of justice. After a bit of reading, it seems to me that the Grand Jury did what was required. I think it is unfair to blame the Grand Jury for all of the injustices people have suffered and for the subsequent rioting, as if the reverse decision would have righted all wrongs and made everyone happy.

The outcome of this Grand Jury was met with anger and violence as other decisions have been. There were riots in San Francisco in 1979 after the jury there acquitted Dan White of murder and convicted him of only of manslaughter - another instance of an imperfect process - and of pent-up anger that spilled into the streets.

There is a difference, however. There was indisputable evidence that Dan White shot two people, twinkies not withstanding. In the Ferguson case, the Grand Jury did not find compelling evidence of a crime to even go to a jury trial. They decided that the policeman's actions were within the legal parameters of his authority. So maybe those parameters need to be changed. Maybe cops need to be required to use all other options. Maybe other changes need to be made to make ours a more just and equitable society. But it was not the task of the Grand Jury to do so, nor was it in their power to do so.

In reflecting on my feelings about the San Francisco riots (not at the time, but much later in 1984 after viewing the documentary,  The Times of Harvey Milk) I realize that I am/was more sympathetic to the LGBT community, to their indignation and anger, and more forgiving of their display of violence than I am toward the black community in Ferguson, their indignation and anger; and I am less forgiving of their display of violence.

Have I changed or am I merely responding on the basis of my own prejudice? Certainly I felt more intrinsically a part of the gay minority as represented by my brothers and sisters in San Francisco and could relate to their anger at a deeply personal level.

I do not relate in the same way to the black community as to the LGBT community, because I am not a part of that community, nor am I welcomed to relate to or understand that community. I think that blacks, like gays, move about in and have a perspective on the straight/white community but the straight/white folks don't necessarily have the same opportunity to move in and understand the LGBT/black community.

So, all things considered, I guess in terms of the experiment in civil/human rights, of achieving a colorblind society, we all have a long way to go.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shame on Google and a Trans Funeral

Two things got my attention on the blogs today: A hateful game promoted by Google and a transwoman's funeral. I find that the closer we come to being equal in this society, the more such things seem to stand out.
Somehow Google allowed a disgustingly homophobic, hateful "game" to get onto its Android App site. The object of the game, called "Ass Hunter", is for the "Hunter" to kill naked gay men who appear from the bushes; failure to do so allows the naked men to basically rape the hunter.

Not only is the game offensive on so many levels, the fact that Google somehow allowed this garbage to make its way onto a site for Android Apps that Google sponsors, is unacceptable.

Google pulled the cartoonish App after registering the outrage from the community. But the game is still out there. Thrilling the likes of immature imbeciles in the French- and English-speaking world who hoot and holler whenever they kill a gay or or their buddies get it from behind from a naked gay guy. The epidemic of stupidity is out of control, the epidemic of hate is a part of it.

On over to the funeral in Idaho: (If the NY Daily News can be trusted) A young transgender woman who died of a brain annurism was displayed in open casket as a male with all references to her transition and life as a woman virtually eradicated, including her legal name change.

All done by decision of her family who were not supportive or of her in life, and even more disrespectful of her in death. Sad story and such a very ignorant family.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

LGBT Homeless Youth Crisis

See NPR for story on homeless LGBT youth.

Partly because young people are coming out at an earlier age than their predecessors, more are being kicked out of their homes or, if not kicked out, forced out through intimidation.

And most of these homeless kids are on the streets as a result of their parent's "religious beliefs" - beliefs that they choose over supporting their own children.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Unexpected Praises From My Younger Brother!

I got this email from my brother.

When I read it, it blew me away.

I never expected such praises from him. Mainly because he is usually rather reticent about such things. Or at least not quite as profuse. And he put it in writing, and he wrote a review on Amazon as well!

To be honest I thought he might consider my book to be 'just ok" and probably say some kind, but neutral, words to me about it when I see him at Thanksgiving.

But he emailed me this unsolicited praise; and of course his opinion is completely objective and unbiased:

I LIKED IT A LOT!!!! I literally could not put it down. I read a little over half of it last night, went to bed at midnight, couldn't sleep, got up at 1AM and read the rest of it. I haven't read a book like that (in one day - actually 2 since it was before and after midnight) in ages. 

I also wrote what I thought was a good review in Amazon. I might have gone a little over the top comparing it to other famous literary works but what the heck, a little salesmanship can't hurt, besides I really was enraptured with it which is more than I can say about most other books I've read. 

I guess knowing you personally has a lot to do with my level of interest in what you had to say and the stories you told and it was pretty much impossible to try and read it from a detached point of view, but you really do have a way with words. Parts of it were humorous such as in one of the first chapters when you guys are playing cards and you are telling anecdotes and trying to be somewhat deep and serious and the other guys just keep busting your stones. 

Many parts are very serious and inspiring. I don't have much more to say other than I don't remember being at the Cape with you unless you kind of made that part up.

My NOTE: Memories are funny things. I was positive my brother was at the Cape that time when we were there with all our cousins at a cottage in Harwich. There was a fresh water pond in back and we all went to the Mashpee PowWow and to Ptown for whale watching.  If I had doubts I would have checked it with my brother before putting it in print, but I was trusting my memory.

It doesn't change things in any substantial way however, so I defer to his memory of not being there! And I'll call my flub poetic license

So, to see what he thinks is so good, buy the book! (click on the book pic on the sidebar or go to Amazon here.

Below: Original mock-up of front and back covers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sign Of The Times - In A Good Way

When Leon and I married on October 25th, ( And here) we had our immediate families and closest friends at the ceremony and for dinner at Pagliacci's Restaurant. And while we knew our families were supportive, we couldn't be so sure about extended family members and others.

We decided that we would let family and friends know that we are now legally married. And that our status in the community had changed.

We sent formal announcements to many extended family members, straight friends and old neighbors. Others learned of our nuptials from those attending. 

Although we haven't heard from all of them, we did receive cards and even a few gifts from many. When the cards and hand written notes started arriving, some of them blew our socks off!

Really, I don't think we've often given people credit for how genuinely they have embraced Leon and I and our relationship over the years.

I'd like to share a few here:

From a former neighbor lady and her son, when we lived in New Britain 15 years ago. 
She used to make pierogis once a month for fundraising at a very conservative Polish Catholic parish and always brought us the "factory seconds". She is now in her nineties:

From my old boss, a straight guy in his 70's:

From two Catholic nuns who live with my sister:

From my cousin and her husband along with a gift saying that Leon has always been a part of the family:

From my brother's mother-in-law, a very Irish Catholic woman:

From a 68 year old woman who was an HIV client of mine back 8 years and more ago:

From my Ex who I wrote about in my memoir and who now lives in Florida (can you hear his Acadian-French  accent?):

From Leon's cousin in San Jose:

From my ninety year old Sicilian Aunt and my cousin:

Many of our gay friends were not as excited and congratulatory as many of our straight friends and relatives, including some very "Catholic" ones.

Perhaps they are the real "silent majority" and despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of the Fundies and TeaBaggers and Hate Groups, maybe these loving people do represent a growing new majority - at least here in the Northeast where same sex marriage has been legal for years without a major breakdown of straight marriages or signs of Armageddon.

Perhaps is is that our (in the collective sense) "coming out" makes more and more people realize that some of their friends, family members, co-workers are LGBT; that they really do know, love and respect someone who is gay.

Perhaps we are the "new normal" and our legal unions are, on the one hand no big deal, and on the other hand, something the straight world is eager to celebrate.

Go figure.

From my sister:


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