Wednesday, November 28, 2007


On Monday, this guy on the Metro struck up a conversation with me. We exchanged e-mail addresses. Tuesday he sends me a couple of e-mails. I sent him one today, and he responds to the e-mail, then ends with "I won't be able to correspond with you anymore, but I wish you the best, and I agree with you on MANY points."

That's okay, but it's full of mystery.... I Googled his name, and found what appears to be references to him. Lawyer. Patents. Here's how I parse the last line:

  • "I won't be able to correspond with you anymore" - I initiated these e-mails, I want to tell you my ideas, but I'm not real interested in yours.
  • "but I wish you the best" - BUT I don't want you to think I'm giving you the brush off, or anything, even though I am.
  • "and I agree with you on MANY points." - (but I don't want to ever talk with you about those points, because I don't want to correspond with you anymore!)

Or maybe he just thinks I'm ugly.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Found Out That I'm a Pastafarian

And I didn't even know it. The adherents of the Flying Spaghetti Monster present a curious puzzle. On the face of it, their beliefs seem silly, or idiotic, or unbelievable. But when one digs deeper one sees an odd parallel with any faith-based belief system.

The reason I think I'm a Pastafarian is because I like Buccaneer outfits, and the noodly appendage, as a means of spiritual communication and change, appeals to my inner being.

Season's Greetings

While the holiday season for retailers seems to start shortly before Halloween, for me, it officially begins the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I figure I need at least a day to recover from Thanksgiving before contemplating the biggest, grandest, most expensive, and perhaps ridiculous celebration of all. Christmas is way over the top.

Don't get me wrong, I like family holidays. I like holidays where I can get busy in the kitchen and cook something wonderful for the people I love. But this holiday is out of control. I guess I am a grinch at heart. We've never put up a tree or a Channukah bush. We don't send out a lot of cards. And we try to keep the gift giving under control.

Ron and I went out for breakfast this morning, and quickly found ourselves seated in the Silver Diner. We went to Trader Joe's for some groceries, and again, the crowds were thin. I'm speculating that the masses were tuckered out from their Friday and Saturday shopping adventures.

Of course, the real reason I dislike this season is that our main road west goes right through a junction with the shopping mall entrance. For a month, traffic is pretty awful. Then sanity returns.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Way Too Much to Eat

I remember when I was a little kid, how belly-busting full I could get on Thanksgiving. It doesn't seem to get much better as I get older. I have no self-control when it comes to this kind of down home cookin'.

We had Perry, Tim, and Dave over for a post-Thanksgiving meal. I fixed chicken soup, cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and mince pie. Munchies included an excellent St. Andre cheese (triple-cream brie). So I ate too much.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

So this is the other half of Thanksgiving Day. Ron and I went to Christina's for dinner. It had turkey on the menu, but, it's an Italian restaurant, so we opted for two of the chef's specials: I had ravioli stuffed with crab meat, and he had ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and goat cheese. Both were very good.

We had a delightful meal. Our wine was a Shiraz. He had a cup of minestrone soup, and I had cream of turkey with vegetables, then, the Caesar Salad. We finished off the meal with pumpkin pie, and I also had a cup of coffee.

The food was well prepared, and the service friendly and sincere. We enjoyed it from beginning to end. The meal had hints of traditional Thanksgiving (the turkey in the soup, the butternut squash, and the pumpkin pie), and some nice Italian preparation. We enjoyed a very different Thanksgiving Dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving (hence the title of this posting), and Ron and I are going out to a restaurant for the big meal of the day. We're having Tim and Perry over tomorrow, so that will be our holiday dinner. I made a bunch of turkey stock from neck bones, because I need that ingredient in spades, tomorrow.

I just got off the phone with my brother Frank. He and I don't talk a lot, so when we do, it's a lot to catch up. We talked for about an hour. I really enjoy his perspective. He told me a story about my cousin Jim. Jim's an archaeologist, and I guess a wild man to boot.

In some other family news, Mary one of my daughters, sent me a thank-you note for the Christmas letters (since 1948) that I sent all the kids. It's a way for her and them to get to know my family. She said she was really enjoying them. I sent her an email back with a list of most of my relatives. By the time I got done, it had sixty or so people on it.

So, I'll make a few more phone calls. We'll have dinner at Christina's, and I'll call it a day!

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I just finished Longhorns by Victor J. Banis. It's an engaging, delightful gay romance about a crusty old cowboy and a sweet young buck. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Help the Homeless

Today was Washington DC's Help the Homeless Walk. The walk is sponsored by the Fannie Mae Foundation, so it is a BIG deal at work. I walk most years, and was there today, dressed very warmly because the weather was not.

I always feel a little strange on the walk. I usually walk by myself, thinking each year that I can connect up with some co-workers, but trying to find anyone in a crowd of 120,000 is pretty difficult. I did have the good fortune to walk a short distance with a friend and his mom, but they turned off, because mom was getting tired.

The downside of the walk is that it starts at 9 a.m. That's really early on a Saturday for any self-respecting gay man. Ron and I had stayed up very late last night. So this morning came very early. But I rolled out of bed, and hustled myself through a bowl of oatmeal (no coffee), then out the door. After getting there, I did enjoy the walk. The nature of the event makes me realize how extremely fortunate my own situation is, and I'm grateful for that.

Help the Homeless

Today, I walked in the Fannie Mae Foundation's Help the Homeless Walk. It's always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Some years are miserable. This year was chilly. I was glad I had a warm coat.

The purpose of the walk is to help end homelessness in the DC metro area. Each year, for 20 years, that has been the purpose of the walk. And each year we walk, vowing to end homelessness.

Sometimes, I think the walk is simply a gesture to make us feel like we're doing something to help the problem. In the midst of a Free Enterprise ideology that blames the poor for being poor, and the homeless for being homeless. I'm pretty sure that we'll be walking for a good many years. The ideology blinds our society to the problem's solutions.

I suggest the following solutions:

  • Low-cost and affordable housing for the employed homeless. Keep the employed in the jobs, and in their homes.
  • Substance abuse programs for whoever wants (and needs) them. De-criminalize substance abuse. Provide safe alternatives to the street scene. Fund needle exchanges.
  • Adequate mental health facilities, treatment, and care for the homeless. Releasing mentally ill people on the streets is a recipe for homelessness.
  • Active intervention programs for the chronic, homeless substance abusers - the ones that require the most emergency and police resources. Get them into apartments and into treatment.

While none of these programs would be cheap, in the long run, it's cheaper to seek solutions that will actually move people off of the streets into treatment and into housing. Over times, emergency medical care and policing should decrease. Of course, the real way to fight homelessness is to eliminate poverty. That's achievable, too, but only with a truly different ideology that is focused on the dignity and welfare of our fellows rather than the sanctity of our wallets.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Shoes

My tennies are just about dead - no sole. So I went to the mall to get new shoes. I like free enterprise, but I can't even begin to fathom the fruits of the capitalist system when it comes to athletic shoes: walls and walls of shoes, and no explanation to differentiate the product. The "sales associate" was not a great deal of help, either.

It appears that Nike is the king of shoes. The ratio is about 90:1, and that 1 includes all the competition. This was true in three different shoe stores. Nike has niched its product into several hundred slices, but I can't tell what slice is mine. I finally erred on the side of cheapness. They are ugly but serviceable, and halfway comfy. I can live with it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Saying Goodbye

Today I was out at the Reston office, because I had some meetings out there. Several people came up to me to say goodbye. I'm not leaving for a month, folks! On the other hand, I understand this separation anxiety, because I'm feeling some of it, too.

My boss told me we'd do two retirement lunches - one in DC and another in Reston. I like that idea. Well, I like the food. Time is moving very quickly at work, and I can hardly believe it's all happening.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Harpers Ferry Hoedown

Okay, I realize I'm not Doodle Today everyday. I was in Harpers Ferry this weekend at the Harpers Ferry Hoedown, a square dance weekend in a sleepy town. The drive up was in cloudy weather, but the drive back home was full of glorious fall color. The leaves have lots of red and orange this year that fills me with an excitement and wonder. I love this time of year, when the fall looks like this one. We've had a very late season because of the warm temperatures and the drought. I've heard that the stress on the trees (which must be considerable because of the drought) makes the fall colors more brilliant. This is a very colorful autumn.

The callers were fabulous. Billy Harrison, Sandie Bryant, and Tom Miller moved us across the floor with grace, speed, and not a little mental effort. The level of the dancers was higher than at some fly-ins, too. I was in many excellent squares.

Tim and I had a wonderful time together. I greatly appreciate his friendship. He had booked us a stunning room in Hilltop House, one of the "Tower" rooms, a seven-sided room with a sitting area and a decent bathroom. We immediately booked the room for next year. After six years at the fly-in, we've found "our" room. It was worth the effort.

Each year at the fly-in, Tim and I usually go out for dinner on Saturday night. This year we went to the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown. If you ever want some northern European food in a luxe setting, this is the place to go. I had three sausages (bratwurst, knockwurst, and weisswurst) and two hams with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Tim had goose with a potato dumpling. The servings are way too much food, but the service and atmosphere are terrific.

Hilltop House was recently purchased by a new owner, and the owner is planning to renovate the hotel this winter into a four-star lodging (that's what one of the employees said). Hilltop calls itself "quaint," which is considerable understatement. I'll be interested to see what the renovation does. I hope it preserves the quaintness while improving the comfort level, like more hot water, and not-quite-so-lumpy beds.

Ron was glad to see us when we got in early yesterday afternoon. He and I took a snooze, then he went off to the gym. We ended the day with Perry and dinner at Bombay Indian Restaurant in White Oak. We ate too much, but the company was good, and I love the boys and the food.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Wiggles

I'm not four, and I don't have a two-year old, but there I was this afternoon in Verizon Center at a Wiggles Concert. The Wiggles are an international phenomenon. I'm not sure why, but then, this is a group that is probably competing for the Teletubbies market segment.

It was an interesting afternoon that I spent with Isaac and Amity. Amity fell asleep, and it took some coaxing to get Isaac to sing and clap. I did get him to wave at the Wiggles at the very end. Every day is a cultural adventure.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Welcome back to Wheaton! I got kicked out of a cab at the airport. The cabbie wanted to take the long way home, and I told him no. He jumped out of the cab, grabbed my luggage, and set it in the middle of the traffic lane. The attendant asked me what was going on, and I told him. He immediately got me another cab. The cab that had dumped me was at the next cabstand loading a passenger. My cabbie jumped out and accosted the other cabbie, who pushed his passenger inside his cab, jumped in the cab, and roared off. They got his number, and I imagine he's having second thoughts, today.

Other than that, the trip home was pretty uneventful. The passenger next to me on the Denver-DC leg of the flight is a language arts teacher at Cardozo. This is her second year. She kept track of the time she spent with her 110 pupils in classroom, lesson preparation, etc. and it came to 87 hours a week. She's also in a Masters program at AU. I really do hope she has a life, because the future of America is in her hands. She is America's brightest hope.

Monday, November 5, 2007

You Can Go Home Again, and Again...

You can go home again. But it's not the same home you left. As I get older, everything around me gets older, too. I've known this objectively, but my visits home make the point, tellingly.

Moscow is growing like mad with new houses, but the population stays pretty much the same (those households get smaller as the square footage gets larger). The Methodist Church Annex looks so dated now, sleepily seedy, and I remember it snazzy and shiny back in 1960 or so.

The University Library has a new front. The Classroom Center has been rebuilt. Downtown Moscow has some of the shops I knew as a kid, but many new restaurants and boutiques, a gym or two.

It's the same as I remember in 1974, only very different, recognizably the same and different. Progress decays to new progress. Shiny becomes dull, becomes burnished, becomes a whisper of something past and a harbinger of new progress and decay. Nothing ever stands still. Why am I puzzled?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Just about on the Road

My bags are packed, and I'm about ready to head over to Mom's and go to church, the First United Methodist Church in Moscow. This, of course, floods my mind with childhood images of extremely tall grownups and me dodging a forest of adult legs while being a holy terror at coffee hour in Epworth Hall.

What a difference fifty years makes. The grownups are no longer tall. The ones I knew then are now bent over with age, and crowned with gray and white. During the part of the service where the congregants express thanks, my Mom will introduce me, and carry on over me for a bit. I'll feel like a kid again, slightly embarrassed, but more bemused, grateful for this moment of connection with my roots.

Most of the people I knew from church are gone, out to the cemetery that used to be way out on the east side of town. Moscow has now grown up around the cemetery, a place where my father, mother, and brother now live, without a care in the world.

Yesterday evening, Katherine and Karen came over to say goodbye, and Katherine showed me the watercolor that had she painted for me. It's a gorgeous picture of Moscow Mountain from out near the cemetery on the east side of town.

Yesterday's ham will make a couple of really great tasting sandwiches today for the road. I reserved a room for Grace and me in Seattle. I think we're all set to declare this vacation pretty much over.


Today we were up in St. Maries visiting my aunt and uncle and family. They are very elderly, and I'm always afraid that this visit will be the last one. I had a long talk with my uncle about his life. He's been a farmer and a logger most of his life. He told me lots of hunting, fishing, and logging stories. It's about a life that is so far removed from my own, a different world, a separate universe, and he gave me a glimpse into it. It's a world I recognize and appreciate, because I grew up in it. But I have this sense of loss and awe. I see my history slowly fade away in his arthritic knees, his failing hearing, and bent frame.

My aunt made me her famous Miami Birthday Cake, which is so bad for you, that you know it's going to taste so good! And it did, because it never disappoints. I love her dearly. She has this smile and twinkle that has never faded, and she can call me Johnny, and I won't object. She has some heart problems and osteoporosis. Both she and my uncle are slowing down. They complain about aches and pains, but they never complain about life.

My cousin was there with her husband. She had a stroke seven years ago, and has lost a lot of mobility. She relearned how to talk, and she adjusted from an extremely busy life, to one of more limited horizons and constraints. She's a very wise woman who fiercely loves her family, and she has a husband who cares for her in every way that he can. It's a touching love story.

I'm surrounded by this tapestry of blood, determination, pain, love, and hope. My hope is that as I embark on my own retirement, and confront my own aging and decline, that I can do it with the equanimity and openess of heart of these loggers, teachers, steamfitters, and clerks that are my kin family. They don't love me for who I am or what I do, They simply love me, and that's a gift wrung from toil in these Palouse Hills and mountains. I guess that's why I keep coming back home.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Yesterday's Adventure

Yesterday was pretty full, puttering around Moscow. After taking Katherine to lunch, all of us (Mom, Grace, Katherine, Karen, and I) clambered into the jeep, and set about exploring Moscow. The town's population hasn't increased that much, but subdivisions have sprouted everywhere. I suppose the families are getting smaller as their houses are getting much larger. We also visited Moscow's first (and only) roundabout.

We also went out to Katherine's studio in Uniontown. She's preparing for a show in a couple of weeks. The Barn (where her studio is located) has an exhibition of collaborations among the various artists with studios there. Of course, the piece I really liked cost $3000 and was far to big to fit in the living room. Lucky Ron.

We ended the day at Katherine's. She cooked a fabulous dinner, and we all reminisced a lot. Karen supplied two kinds of ice cream that when mixed together tasted like Girl Scout Samoas.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I've been roughing it in my hotel room. I like steel cut oats for breakfast. My room has a microwave. I have a straight-sided bowl to cook the oats, and the microwave causes the oats and water to overflow (and make a mess) when I'm cooking them. I've devised a couple of strategies. I soak the oats overnight, and they absorb much of the water. It took me two (duh!) days to figure out that I could put a paper plate underneath the bowl, then the overflow would end up on the plate, rather than on the bottom of the microwave. The hotel provides the plastic spoon and sugar, and I'm very happy with my breakfast.

Katherine and I went to lunch today to talk about everything. I'm grateful to have some time with her. Karen, Grace, Katherine, and I went out for a drink last night, and we've spent a couple of evenings just talking, but it was special having some time just with her to talk.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mystery and Awe

The fall colors splash reds, oranges, and yellows with wild bold strokes across the maples and oaks. The beauty catches in my throat, and I have to drink it in to get my breath back. This moment brushes against the inexplicable and the unknown. A botanist would tell me that the chlorophyll is dying, and the other colors of the leaf are showing through. Frost, sugars in the leaf, drought all play a part in the leaf's palette, too. But all I can do is stand and look, in awe, thinking about this mysterious life and death playing out in front of me. The universe (multiverses?) gives me this special gift to ponder and appreciate, and I don't need an explanation, I only need this moment.

Lavender Lunch, Coming Up

I went up to the Women's Center on campus today and talked with the LGBT program coordinator. She told me about the Center's Safe Zone and Allies projects. She also gave me an Argonaut newspaper story featuring a gay male couple. In short, there's a lot more visibility on campus than when I attended, and this is a good thing!

She introduced me to a couple of other staff members, and invited me to lunch tomorrow. It's the Lavender Lunch, and I'm paying for it. The lunch is funded with the money that I give the center. It's proven popular with students, as long as they like PBJs.