Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Moscow Idaho, Day 1

I like Moscow. I like to come home and visit my Mom. But I have to admit that sometimes I get bored. I do a lot of walking here, and Moscow is a very walkable town. I love to walk around the university campus. It's a very beautiful place, particularly on a crisp fall day. I did that yesterday, dropping by the bookstores, the Women's Center, and the Commons.

Earlier in the morning, Mom and I had a set to about "the Illegals." Mom is afraid that they are taking over America. I'm afraid that she's reading way too many news magazines and listening to too much of Lou Dobbs.

I bought three books, one of which is The Rich Get Rich and the Poor Go to Jail. It's a sociology text. I going to send it to Mom when I finish reading it. Then I'm going to give her a test and ask her to write a term paper....

Last night, I cooked dinner, my famous eggplant (which only gets better each time I make it), Swiss chard, and brown rice. Simple, and if plated appropriately, elegant. Beer.

Growing Older Close to Home

I'm getting older. I think the argument is closed on that. I complain sometimes about aches and pains, but my world seems to be very different from the elderly - the very old. My Mom's world is a very scary place, not only as she constructs it, but in fact. Even those two worlds are radically different from each other, but a product, too, of living to a very old age.

My Mom has these fears, not for herself, but for her friends not having the means to live comfortably. Do I buy food or medicine? The infirmities of age are clearly evident from dentures to broken hips, assisted living to dementia. It's a steady, slow, inexorable decay that ends in the Moscow Cemetery.

Mom plays bridge with a foursome where one of them is in a nursing facility, another is taking care of her husband who is suffering from fibromyalgia, and the other woman suffers increasingly from dementia. This is a world that is growing smaller and more isolated.

Happily, Mom is in good health for her age. She's also in good humor, which probably keeps her mentally young. I hope I'm as gracious when I'm very old.

Mom and her friends are challenged by our (lack of a) medical system, by local infrastructure like transportation services, and by isolation, being far from other family members, and not being physically able to go places. It's not all bleak, and Mom and her friends have many happy moments; nevertheless, growing very old in Moscow, Idaho is a cautionary tale.

Monday, October 29, 2007

On the Road

I've been on the road since Friday. My sister, Grace, and I are visiting the Idaho Homeland, land of Larry Craig. We flew to Seattle and attended a square dance fly-in with the Puddletown Squares over the weekend, then drove across the mountains yesterday, and ended up in Moscow, Idaho.

The fly-in was great. Anne Uebelacker and Scott Zinser were the featured callers, and a whole bunch of talented GCA callers to boot. Saturday featured lots of Advanced dancing, and the evenings were taken up with high-energy, challenging Mainstream and Plus.

Grace has just started dancing Advanced. We got into very strong squares, and she did very well. Her mind got boggled briefly on Saturday afternoon, and she went to the Plus room. But we need another dancer to fill out a square, so we dragooned her back to the Advanced room. Square dancing is hot!

Yesterday driving across, Grace and I had some wonderful conversations about family, childhood, our lives. I'm very grateful for the family I have, and these trips do carry with them a mythic signficance. The weather has been beautiful, and the colors are gorgeous. There wasn't a tree between Seattle and here that Grace didn't want to get a picture. It's genetic.

We got here yesterday afternoon. Katherine was already fixing dinner. We chatted a couple of hours after dinner, then we all went to bed. I'm staying at a hotel in Pullman, and Grace is staying with Mom.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Big Push

Now all I have to do is pack, then get up in time to get the taxi to the airport. It's picking me up at 4:45 a.m. I have a Frontier flight out of National. I'm meeting my sister, Grace, in Denver, then on to Seattle. I'm really not clear on everything we're doing, but I guess that's okay.

The last two days have been extremely hectic trying to get work, square dancing, and my personal life all put together for this. I am not ready yet! Right after work, Ron and I were in Bethesda talking with the Glitter Boyz about retirement, and how we were going to finance 2008. I tell ya - I'm glad that they are handling it! The good part is that we're in good shape and in good hands. I'm very grateful for that, to them, and especially to Ron.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Getting Ready for Idaho

I'm about on my way to Idaho (on Friday). I'm looking forward to it.

I finished the Fawn McKay Brodie biography today. She was a complex person, obsessed with strong men, and herself driven. She chafed under imposed authority, questioned her own repressed sexuality, and tenaciously enlarged and enriched the realm of psychohistory and psychbiography. I thought Bringhurst's biography painted a compelling portrait of her.

I have a lot of square dance odds and ends to finish up before I leave. I tackled some of them tonight, and will finish up tomorrow night. I feel rushed.

Hopper and Turner

They aren't a rock band or a law firm. Instead they are two exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art (Hopper is in the East Wing) that Tim and I went to see on Monday. The Hopper show made me realize he's my favorite artist that I never knew was my favorite artist. His art is American Iconic, and permeates our larger culture sense. The exhibit was eye popping and engaging. Loneliness, alienation, beauty, light, shadow is all on display.

The Turner exhibit is overwhelming, and it's overwhelming with color and light. Maybe overdone. After seeing it, I know where some of the pictures in my head are rooted. He painted and possibly originated some seascape archetypes (which Hopper reimagined - a very interesting juxtaposition). In the end, I felt a little disappointed by the many classic allusions of Turner's work. I guess I'm a Philistine. On the other hand, if you're Irish, you'll love his paintings of the burning of the British Parliament in 1834.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Celery Root?

So what do you think about when you go out on a walk with your Sweetie? I was thinking about all the vegetables in the refrigerator, the celery root, the cooked squash, and the Swiss chard. Because I can chew gum and walk at the same time, I was able to plan dinner while Ron and I walked the neighborhood, a nifty trick....

If you read Craig Claiborne's New York Times Cookbook, it has three recipes for celery knobs (as he calls them), or celery root (as I call it). I found a knobby root in Whole Foods last Friday and decided, hmmm, what the heck!

Celery root is a strange vegetable. It's very gnarly, and a challenge to peel. I fixed it by cutting off the greens, and chopping them up, then peeling the root and julienning it. (You can use a potato peeler to peel it. It's not a pretty operation.)

I fried an onion and the greens, then added the chopped root, cooking it on very low heat. I added some chicken broth, and a cooked small winter squash and continued simmering, then added salt, pepper, allspice, fennel, vinegar, and probably some other stuff.

I pureed the cooked vegetables and thinned it with milk. Ron liked it. It has a distinct celery taste, but some nice sweetness from the squash. We also had the Swiss chard - chard, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

What's Up with Robert Altman

Yeah, I know he's dead, but Ron and I just got around to seeing Gosford Park. Ron thinks it's a yawner, but I liked its humor, and the carefully drawn life of the servants. Class may have its privileges, but their life is arid, rude, and cold. It's about being born into something rotten, tottering, and malignant.

Most of the Altman films I've seen are formless, plotless, and long. His characters are difficult to care about. His storylines are opaque.

Gosford Park is no exception, but I enjoyed it anyway. Although I couldn't understand the dialogue (British accents, anyone), I loved the bleak snobby privilege upstairs, and its effect downstairs. This film is about class warfare thinly disguised as a (very long) mystery. The murder doesn't happen until 90 minutes into the film, so just be patient.

Finally, if you have problems following the film, Wikipedia has a great plot exegesis that sorts everything out. Of course, I couldn't sort out the plot summary. See the film, but don't blame me if you don't like it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Little Bit of Persia

When Ron retired, one of his colleagues on the magazine gave him a Persian cookbook. Tonight Ron gave it a test drive. Other than it took about three hours to get dinner on the table, the results were mighty fine. I hope that the preparation effort doesn't discourage him from trying some of the other recipes in the cookbook. They look very good. We had a chicken stew with sour preserved limes and herbs, and saffron rice.

He was counting the number of steps in the different recipes. A blurb on the back cover stated that "Most take less than an hour to prepare: many require only a few moments...." Do I really believe that?

After Sex

So I'm lying in bed next to Tim thinking, so this is what square dancing is all about. Am I glad I connected with square dancing! At least, that's the fantasy. I slip in and out of conscious consciousness, just vaguely aware of awareness. Thinking or dreaming, I'm not sure, but I could really get used to this. Actually, I am quite used to this, and I don't think I'll ever get tired of it. He and I get into a discussion about square dance "grippers" (you know who you are) and strategies for defeating them. Finally we get out of bed and head out for lunch at La Tasca. Tapas anyone?

The Joys of Biography

A couple of years ago, one of my co-workers "loaned" me the biography, Fawn McKay Brodie: a Biographer's Life by Newell G. Bringhurst. In preparation for retirement, I've been bringing my personal books home from the office, and I dropped the biography in my book bag.

Day before yesterday, I picked it out of my book bag and started reading it on the train. I haven't been able to put it down since, reading it at every opportunity. I love when a book gets a hold on me. I'm enjoying this book.

It's full of names and incidents that evoke a place and time in my own life. I'm always surprised how strong a hold the Mormon church has on my psyche. Bringhurst's biography of Brodie examines the ambivalent but central role that the church played in Brodie's life.

Brodie, for those who don't know, wrote a controversial biography in the 1940s of Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the Mormon church. Within a year of the book's publication, she was excommunicated. Bringhurst's biography covers all of this but reveals a complex, sensitive, and sometimes conflicted biographer who had her own flaws and her own history (just ask Hugh Nibley).

So I'm enjoying this read. I'm remembering my own struggles in the church, and out. And I do intend to return the book to my friend at work.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Waiting and Impatient

I'm a very impatient guy. Like everyone else, I don't have a real reason to be impatient; I guess I just want to stress out. I think it's a lot of the grass is greener on the other side of the fence phenomenon. I'm stuck here, and what you're doing over there looks ever so much nicer.

Today at work, I was stuck in four and half hours of meetings. I was challenged at every turn not to drool or fall off my chair. I wanted the meetings to get over. I wanted the world to start moving again. I felt in the thrall of doom.

Then I come home with good intentions to work on some computer stuff, and up comes the Windows Update. Download Updates! It'll only take five minutes I'm promised. I'm in the depths of Hell. I fret. I play antsy in my chair. I stare at the screen hoping my system will work faster. I take a shower. I wait. I wait. I wait. I wait. Seven downloads, two restarts, and two and one half hours later. Computers updates are worse than mandatory employee training. I'm sure.

And now, I'm waiting for a guy to come over for sex. I hope he's not late.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mystery and Intrigue

I went out with a guy for about a year who is now the center of a mystery. Emergency responders found two dead bodies in his living room four days apart. I was reading the paper, and saw the story in the Washington Post, and then saw a related story in the Washington Blade.

It's really bizarre to read about a guy and a place you know, particularly when it is this big mystery. More than that, the story is reported in a way that takes me back to the whole time and scene I spent with this guy. He's a nice guy, but.... I'm not surprised by the strangeness. I'm not surprised that the man in the middle has ended up in this pickle. The whole thing has a creepy feel.

You never expect a day to go badly, or a life to end badly, or lightening to strike once, much less twice. But it is hard to explain the two corpses in the living room.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Retirement Plans

I must be getting close to retirement, because people keep asking me if I have plans. Yes and no. I don't have a schedule, yet, of what I intend to do and when, but I have a pretty good idea of some activities that should keep me busy for a while.

I want to clean out my office and my bedroom. I'm a pack rat, and I need to be very stern, and throw a lot of stuff out. Ron and Perry have volunteered to help, and I'm going to take them up on it. I'm thinking I want to do this before the New Year. I retire on December 13. I'll have 18 days, then I'll have my whole life ahead of me!

Two software projects have been in my head for a long time, and maybe I'll have a chance to work on them. I want to create or perhaps modify some civic software to make it easier for small groups to keep track of membership, events, newsletters, etc. I've had a lot of experience with small groups, and have discovered that records often end up in someone's basement. I'd like to end that kind of record keeping.

The other project is related directly to retirement. I want to create a virtual gay retirement community to help gay men and lesbians find friends, activities, assistance, and resources close to home. I believe that our community is under served and faces unique challenges and discrimination in retirement services and assisted living. I'd like to develop a network of people who look after and help each other - postponing as long as possible the need to go into assisted living.

So those are some of my projects. I'm going to keep traveling and square dancing, too. Three or four trips are in the planning for next year. I'm planning to attend the Gay Caller Association's Caller School in Cleveland, as well as the IAGSDC convention there in July. No moss growing here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Senator Craig: U Go Grrrrllllll!

Senator Craig, June 11, 2007, Minneapolis, MN

Senator Craig announced this week that he was not going to resign, and that he intended to serve out the rest of his term. The news filled me with a certain kind of giddy elation: his Republican Senate colleagues no doubt have their knickers in a twist, the boys back in Idaho are stonewalled (as in what former Lieutenant Governor was going to become a U.S. Senator?), and I understand that Minneapolis International is remodeling one of its restrooms.

This whole (I'm trying to be delicate, here) tawdry episode makes me proud (truly) to be an Idaho Country Farm Boy. Senator Craig, a Pillar of Rectitude, seeks solace and understanding in his "I'm not gay" (wide) stance. Those Minneapolis airport policemen deserve special commendation for spending inordinate hours in men's rooms checking out the patrons, then arresting them during the President's War on Terror. Sgt. Dave Karsnia, deserves whatever recognition he gets for the hard work he does in airport restrooms. He's keeping us all safe from sexual terrorists.

Senator, keep up the good fight. Stick it to those mealy-mouthed, double-dealing Republican Senators (and presidential candidates) who deserted you exactly one second after this story broke. Make 'em feel uncomfortable in their hypocrisy. Maybe you and they will learn that under the Constitution there is no difference between "solicitation" and "freedom of speech." Every day you sit in that Senate Chamber, you remind them of that. I hope you beat the rap. I hope you get your own knickers untwisted, just not too fast or easy.

And this isn't even that much of a sex scandal. At least Slick Willie got to stain a blue dress. Republicans and sex are a sticky (and inept) combination.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Installing the Kitchen Window

Ron is busy in the kitchen washing windows - new windows. Today, a crew came out and installed new vinyl windows with argon, or whatever. It's kind of weird looking out of an empty window frame. One window wasn't installed, because the manufacturing company made the window too large, but everything else was installed. In the meantime, Ron is meticulously cleaning every shiny surface (while I'm writing this blog entry).

The crew had a few challenges. The window frame for the kitchen bay window wasn't quite plumb, so they had to shim it, and add some extra insulation (styrofoam) around it. It ended up okay. In the dining room, the window simply didn't fit. They reinstalled the old window (upside down!) and promised to be back with a new window in about two weeks.

(I'm not complaining about the dining room window. For the next couple of weeks, it's a conversation piece. It's also inside out. It looks okay, until you look closely at it. You don't know quite what's wrong.... Then, hmmm, this must be an alternate universe.)

So the home improvements continue.