Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tim and Socrates

It's never too late to learn. At least that's what Tim thinks when it comes to the Continuing Education of Happy. He and I are working on the Socratic Method. Socrates was the guy who invented modern medicine among the Greeks. Just kidding. Even I know that dude was Hippopotamus.

The Socratic Method is a means by which a fool and his interlocutor determine the random fallacious arguments made by the fool. The interlocutor asks the fool a question, the fool foolishly answers, and then the interlocutor rips the fool a new one, if you know what I mean.

Tim hasn't ripped me a new one, yet, although he does at times ask me very puzzling and difficult questions. Most of these have to do with odd cultural references or something about the iPhone, clearly stuff I don't need to know. For example, "Happy, how many angels can square dance on the head of a pin?" The answer, of course, is one. Consider, for a moment, that the head of a pin is on a point and is, in fact, a point in space. We know from physics (and by extension, in this particular case, metaphysics) that two angels cannot occupy the same point in space. Ergo at most only one angel can square dance on the head of a pin; however, how can only one angel square dance on the head of a pin? This is a difficult question, because it takes eight angels to square dance.

Consider, that at Tim's program in square dancing (Basic Challenge), that a single angel could be dancing with as many as seven phantoms (although it is more likely that the angel would only be dancing with two other phantoms). However, the angel in our illustration is constrained by a single point in space, and, therefore, must be dancing with seven phantoms in order to satisfactorily answer the question, "How many angels can square dance on the head of a pin?"

When Tim uses this method of elucidation on me, he tires of it very quickly. He will often just ask me a question, then let me carry on the rest of the Socratic interview with myself. I have to admit that this is easier than having him constantly interrupt me with logic and facts. Logic and facts should never get in the way of a good baseless argument.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin?

A couple of things that Sarah Palin has going for her: she was born in Sandpoint, Idaho, and she graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in Journalism. I say this, because I was born in Idaho, and I graduated from the University of Idaho in the same department, but with a different major.

Sarah and I have ended up on different sides of the culture wars. Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local." In that scope, Sarah Palin's views on abortion, gay rights, and religion in the public sphere don't matter much. But those same views are quite alarming a heartbeat away from the Presidency, and her nominiation reflects John McCain's pandering to a religious base that threatens America's founding value, the separation of church and state.

While I wish this campaign would focus on important issues: ending the war, the national debt, the economy, and healthcare reform, John McCain in his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate trumps any of his often thoughtful positions on the other issues. She is too extreme (and too inexperienced). That she may have input into decisions about who will be nominated for the Supreme Court is a chilling thought, indeed.

I hate these culture wars. But I'll continue to fight as long as there are extremists out there who would deny me the same human rights that they claim for themselves. John McCain's choice should fool no one. And it isn't going down well with this Idaho native.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Been a Painful Week

For the first time since Monday, I'm having some relief from some major back pain. I pulled my back out on Monday, and it's been miserable ever since. Damn those pachysandra, and my water bucket!

But I can't complain too much. It's been a good week, too. I've enjoyed watching the speeches at the Democratic National Convention. Go Barack! I am moved by this moment. America witnessed a new page of history being written in Denver. We should all be proud.

Besides watching convention coverage, I was working on the DC Diamond Circulate web site, putting up a volunteer page so that club members and other dancers can help put on our square dance convention next April. You can volunteer, too! I've had fun with it. It's caused me to brush up my PHP skills, and get crackin' with code.

And just because I had a backache doesn't mean I didn't have a sex life. For that, I am grateful. (Aw c'mon guys! What did you expect? I'm rolling my eyes, too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Herstory and History

Tuesday, Senator Clinton gave the speech of a lifetime, and it was a remarkable moment. The woman who came the closest ever to the Oval Office, who had bested all the White Guys, was proclaiming her support for the Black Guy. Yesterday, Senator Barack Obama became the first African American to be nominated by a major political party in the United States. Today, Senator Obama will accept the Democratic Party nomination.

I've been enjoying the speeches. The rhetoric is red meat. Senator Clinton, President Clinton, and Senator Biden know how to deliver. This election has too much at stake for four more Republican years. That message was delivered loud and often. Barack Obama is the man. That message was delivered loud and often.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Field Trip on Frederick Rd.

Ron and I had an errand in Gaithersburg this morning (something about flying kitchen drawers needing repair), and drove past the county's waste recycling center. So on the way back we stopped in. Ron had seen an article in the Washington Post (KidsPost page), and thought it might be interesting.

It is! As you enter the driveway into the facility, there is a parking lot on the right in front of the Recycling Center where you can park. (Otherwise, you drive all around the facility and the waste transfer facility.) The center has an information room that tells you all about the county's recycling efforts. It also gives an overview of the recycling activities in the center.

After we read the information in the information center, we walked upstairs (be sure to get your earplugs!), and walked out on a mezzanine above the facility floor. From the mezzanine, we could see the various sorting activities, trucks bringing recycled goods into the center, and trucks taking recycled paper out of the facility. We arrived during lunch break, so we got to see all the workers get to their positions, then the machinery start up. It's an amazing collection of conveyor belts, bins, and exciting activity. Any guy who likes gears, belts, machines, and dirt will love this place.

The work looks like it's grimy and monotinous. I appreciate the employees (I think the center has about 30 people working on a shift), because they take care of the recycled waste of a million people, and the workers do it every day.

The visit is also eye-opening, because of the amount of waste that county residents generate. The visit reminds me (yes, this is a civics lesson) that I need to be cognizant of my purchases, and my habits. Some tips: the county now accepts more plastic items than it used to, including margarine tubs and lids. Also, you can recycle steel cans and their lids. Empty plastic drink bottles before putting them in the recycly bin (the extra weight sometimes gets them dumped on the wrong conveyor belt). Finally, quit using the plastic bags offered to you. Take some reusable bags the next time you go shopping.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Loaded for Bare

Synopsis: Set in a Catholic boarding school, the show centers on a group of friends during their senior year. Altar boy Peter is in love with his roommate Jason, one of the most popular kids in school. They are carrying on a closeted romance but Peter wants to go public with their affair, at least to his mother, whom he loves dearly. Jason isn't so keen on the idea, as he feels that his entire world would crumble if word of the relationship got out. Things get more complicated when Ivy makes a play for Jason. Her rejected suitor Matt discovers the secret that Peter and Jason have been keeping and it's only a matter of time before things start to spin out of control.

My thespian friend is onstage with the College Community Theater (CCT) with 2nd Flight Theatre Company production of bare, a Pop Opera in Sterling, VA. He's part of the chorus, a very cute looking part of the chorus. He told me about the production, and how excited he was to be in it. So I decided to go see it.

I did my homework. The Internet is all about Bare. I figured I'd be doing some major eye-rolling during the performance, and I was not disappointed. As the Director's Notes say in the program,

The show was optioned for an off-Broadway run in 2004, where it was panned by critics and audiences alike. Ask someone to explain teh plot of bare and you will hear nearly every Catholic school cliche in the book: teen pregnancy, drug use, homosexuality ...almost the whole canon.

Yes, the show is campy (although the actors played it very straight), the mother is a hysterical mess, and the nun has a big heart. But... the music is catchy, and the lyrics really grab the emotions. More than that, I think bare is honest to its context and premise. Indeed adolescence teems with melodrama. Teenagers, even the smart ones, do stupid things like fall in love with the wrong person, or never figure out how to love the right person. Of course, it all ends tragically, too! (But at least the play didn't include a fag-bashing.)

I enjoyed this production. The acting and singing were good, and the cast put their whole heart into their performances. And yeah, some of my eye rolling is because I'm a jaded old cynic who's thinking, "You're not trotting out that spavined old pony again!" My truest plaint is that you have to kill off the homo before the last curtain falls. But, what was I expecting? This is an opera.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


New Refrigerator
New Refrigerator

A new refrigerator has come into our life. It was delivered this morning before 9 a.m. Two earnest, young delivery men showed up on our doorstep shortly before Ron had breakfast. I had already emptied most of the retiring fridge, but I certainly didn't expect the men from Appliance Land knocking at our door quite so early.

The retiring refrigerator still worked like a charm, but it was 41 years old, and its estimated energy cost was about $250/year, which is about five times what the new refrigerator will cost to operate. The new refrigerator will pay for itself in about five years as a result of energy savings. The expected life of the new one is about 10 years. I had done some research, and Ron did, too, then we went to Appliance Land on Thursday afternoon and inked the deal.

This refrigerator is going to take some getting used to. It makes noticeably more noise than the old one. It's also white and shows up every smudge. On the plus side, it's much larger than the 14 cubic foot one that we had.

Beaten, but on Bowed
Beaten, but not Bowed

So the guys bring the refrigerator up to the front door and wheel it in the front hallway. We have an island in the middle of the kitchen, and one of the guys felt that the island was going to make it difficult to move in the refrigerator. He asked me if it could be moved, and I told him it was on rails, but could be lifted up over the rails and moved out of the way.

He and I grabbed the island's countertop (a voice was screaming in my head: "Empty out the pots and pans before you move the island!!!!"). I'm quite good at ignoring myself. The top fo the island popped off, the island came crashing down on my left toe, and the drawer in the island went flying across the kitchen and ended up in pieces, along the quantities of kitchen gadgets accumulated over the last 19 years, and stored in that drawer.

Island sans Countertop
Island sans Countertop

So this is what the island looks like now: the countertop is leaning against it, and the drawer is in three different pieces in the living room, waiting to be taken to a furniture shop for rebuilding on Monday. The drawer contents are in a box in the dining room. You'd be surprised how inconvenient it is to have all your kitchen gadgets packed in a box in the living room. I hope the furniture shop guys can repair the drawer quickly.

In the immediate aftermath, Ron felt a little queasy, after I told him about my toe. I told him to get on with his breakfast, and I started putting all of our food into the new refrigerator (focus on the immediate situation!). I also wiped some yogurt off of a cupboard, the victim of the exploding island. Eventually, things calmed down.

So after the catastrophe (which is really overstating it), Perry came over to consult about the countertop. Then he and I made a list and headed off to Home Depot. I like shopping. I bought some glue, Dep 10-Minute Hair Clog Remover, two wood clamps, two screwdrivers, ten wood screws, and the fall issue of "Fresh," a magazine full of goodlooking recipes.

By the time I got home, the toe was really bothering me. We couldn't find a bowl suitable for soaking it (my foot isn't big, but most bowls aren't big enough), so we ended up putting some water and ice in a small cooler. It fit my foot, and brought some immediate pain relief.

Tomorrow, I'm going to fill in the screw holes in the island countertop, and attempt to install it (I did it the first time, 18 years ago, so I might as well give it another whack). I'm also going to try to repair the splintered fiberboard in the drawer with some glue and filler (hence the wood clamps). I'm taking the drawer to a furniture repair place on Monday to fix it properly.

So that's been pretty much my day.

Friday, August 22, 2008


We have a newly opened Greek restaurant in our neighborhood, Kefi. Tim joined Ron and me tonight for dinner there.

We started off with Imam Baldi (eggplant with garlic and pine nuts) and Horta (dandelion greens) for appetizers. The small plates here are small, but very tasty. Ron and Tim had the Bronzini special (a very dead fish), and I had pork loin in mustard sauce. I really enjoyed what I had - I mean how could I go wrong? The pork was served on top of sliced fennel root, and set off with some sliced potatoes. Frankly, the dish looked white, but it tasted glamorous. I completely cleaned my plate, if you know what I mean.

No dinner is quite complete without dessert. We all had the Kataifi Ahkmek. I think we were swayed by the promise of shredded phyllo. I'm sure that's it. Sweet, custardy, and a good excuse to eat dessert. A woman from the table beside us engaged me in some envious conversation about dessert. Her husband said little.

And that was today's gastronomic adventure. I'm sure we'll be back.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Portugal Looms

I visited my travel agent yesterday. The vacation across the Big Pond is taking over my head. I'm twenty days from departure. I've been a little more focused on the trip this week. I tend to get overwhelmed, thinking about the details. So I've been concentrating on actually doing things that will get me to and from Portugal.

After seeing Ms. Travel, I went to Barnes and Noble and purchased a couple of maps of Portugal. Between them and the Lonely Planet tour book, I'm going to start laying out a more definite itinerary for me and my sister.

We fly into Madrid and spend three days there. There were lots of things I didn't get to see the first time, so I'm looking forward to seeing the city again, and doing some more exploring. I especially want to go back to the Prado and spend several hours there. I need to dust off my Madrid tour book and my Spanish phrase book. Homework!

I've also ordered some travel clothes and a new backpack, and I need to get a European adapter for my computer and battery charger. I haven't decided completely whether to take my computer, but it would be nice to have it with me on the road. I also need a security wallet and a secure strap for my camera.

I've started a Portugal folder to put all my travel papers, passport, tickets, and reservations. My theory is that if I act like I know what I'm doing, I might actually know what I'm doing. My sister and I are excited and are getting ready to roll.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sex and Politics - Can't We All Just Love Each Other?

Shortly after posting my last blog entry, I received an email from one of my most avid readers, "you've heard the latest re: Manhunt ... ?" with an ominous looking link. Jonathan Crutchley was asked to step down as chairman of the board of Manhunt because of a $2300 campaign contribution that he made to Republican Presidential candidate John McCain. (Crutchley has also resigned from the board.)

McCain has stated his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples, gay adoption, and ENDA. He supports the current military policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Crutchley's contribution may cause a backlash on Manhunt. Manhunt members are being urged to cancel their accounts in protest of the campaign contribution. One writer suggested a boycott. Others are suggesting that members use alternative web sites. The writers are a little shrill (read the comments at the end of the entry), a lot of heat, but little light on the issue.

And what is the issue? Does Mr. Crutchley's contribution mean that he's a bad, hypocritical, self-loathing man who is making evil dollars off of gay men who want to have sex with each other? I doubt it. And $2300 is nothing when it comes to campaign money. I think most of the writers just can't stand the idea that some gay people might be Republican (I do admit, though, that it is a rather odd phenomenon.)

A couple of issues seem important here. Mr. Crutchley can contribute to any candidate that he wants. I disagree with his choice of candidate, but Mr. Crutchley has his reasons, and he actually spelled them out in a response to a reader (see same entry, above). The other issue is the "ick" factor. Sex and politics are a pretty combustible mix. Was I supporting John McCain when I entertained my gentleman caller yesterday afternoon? Should politicians accept contributions from the owner of a sex hook-up site? Is the most intimate, personal act ultimately political?

Well, yes, homo-sex is political. Gay people are on the spot to protect their sexual lives, and their relationships. The pressure from the political and religious right is relentless, and will continue long after John McCain and Proposition 8. How much should our personal, sexual politics drive our social actions? Should gay men everywhere boycott Manhunt?

That, too, is a personal choice. Before you fire off an angry cancellation email to Manhunt, you should know that Mr. Crutchley was acting on his own behalf, not on behalf of his company. The company co-founder, Larry Basile, is a life-long Democrat who has done a lot of activist work for the community.

I won't be canceling my membership on Manhunt any day soon. Just like I'm not boycotting other companies whose chairmen and directors are contributing to John McCain's campaign. I don't make my decisions about which companies I patronize on the basis of the owner's campaign contributions. I'll cancel my membership on Manhunt when a better hook-up site comes along.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gentleman Caller

He called it a date. I would have used a different term of art. In any case, he arrived on my doorstep this afternoon, and I have to say, he looked good, and he performed a good deed.

Most of the men on Manhunt (and you know who you are), are looking for immediate relief. Don't get me wrong, I sincerely understand, and periodically need relief myself, I just can't offer immediate attention to your felt needs.

So I was pleasantly surprised when a gentleman with whom I had exchanged messages on Manhunt weeks ago, sent me an email on Saturday suggesting that we get together this week. Emails like this fill me with anxiety, because my schedule is very constrained with square dancing, lunch invitations, dinner invitations, as well as the other very important things that I do with my life. My fear is that when I tell the guy, "Well, how about 2 p.m. on Wednesday, or 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, week after next," that he will think I'm playing "mind games" and will drop me from his social set.

I told the gentleman either Tuesday late afternoon or Thursday noon. Remarkably, he was good with that. We exchanged a few other email pleasantries, and he ended up on my doorstep.

I'm grateful for technology that facilitates me having sex with other guys. Admittedly, we don't know or find out a huge amount about each other, but I wouldn't be doing this if it meant I had to go to a bar. Forty seven minutes after he arrived, he was heading out to the gym. He was smiling, and I was, too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Busy, Busy

I'm not equating busyness with productivity, but I felt a little like the Energizer Bunny®. I got up, made myself some breakfast, read the paper, then got a wild idea to mop the kitchen floor. At this point, I started my laundry. I mean, if you're going to mop the floor, you might as well run a couple of loads of laundry. After that it was off to the gym. When I got home I wrote my brother a birthday card, then Ron and I walked to the Post Office, after which we walked to Safeway and did a little food shopping. About this time, I really needed a drink (I'm so grateful for cocktail shakers!), then I steamed some broccoli for a salad. I answered some emails, purchased an airline ticket, reserved a rental car, and made a hotel reservation for trip to Idaho in November. I finished making the rest of the salad - chopping celery, slicing tomatoes, sauteing garlic, grating carrots, the usual, (I made another cocktail) then I cooked the ravioli, warmed up the pasta sauce, and set the table for dinner. After dinner, I watered all the pachysandra, which meant repeatedly filling a bucket full of water, and traipsing down the path to the thirsty little plants. (I just about killed them, but I think I'm nursing most of them back from the brink.) Now, I'm writing in here, then I'll read the Economist before going to bed. This is what I mean about retirement - I have a lot to do, but not an awful lot to show for it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Yesterday, Ron and I went to see Tropic Thunder. It's not for the faint-hearted. The Washington Post had a long op-ed, (Patricia Bauer) about the offensive use of the word "retard" in the movie. For the record, Ron and I knew before we went to the move that the movie was offensive to just about every group out there. The movie is over the top, and hilarious often at the expense of marginalized groups including African Americans, the cognitively impaired, and gay people.

The movie is parody. It's a parody of action movies, of the Hollywood "system," and of celebrity fame. Bauer points out that the other humor often had a foil that showed up the bad behavior of the movie character, but that the "Simple Jack" character had no such foil. That's a valid point. And the epithet, "Retard," very often hurts a person who cannot effectively defend him- or herself from the bullying.

On the flip side, the movie is rated R, so when a person attends this film, the moviegoer is presumed to be at least 17 or accompanied by an adult. The moviegoer also expects to experience themes that are inappropriate for children and younger teenagers. Humor is almost always at the expense of someone or some group. Parody is always over the top. Yes, some of the laughs are cruel in Tropic Thunder. Maybe that's a price we pay, sometimes, for art.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Never Met an Eggplant I Didn't Like

Baba Ghanouj, Baigan Bharta, who doesn't like eggplant? Tonight I fixed some Eggplant Parmesan, although it didn't have any parmesan cheese in it.

I really felt the need to cook today, so after breakfast at the Silver Diner, Ron and I headed out to Whole Foods so that I could get some vegetables. I saw and eggplant and fell in love (again).

I loaded up on some buffalo mozzarella, and some parmano, too. Then we headed up to Tim's because he had been to a farmers market and had purchased me some vine ripened tomatoes.

This afternoon (after my gym workout), I prepared a tomato sauce complete with onions, peppers, carrots, celery, canned tomatoes, and some secret herbs and spices. After it had cooked down a bit, I took it off the stove, and let it sit while Ron and I headed off to see Tropic Thunder (the funniest movie I've seen in a long time).

When we got back home, I sliced the eggplant, brushed the side of each slice with olive oil, and fried them in a medium-high skillet until the slices were browned and soft. I put some tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, covered it with the eggplant, then sliced the vine-ripened tomatoes on top of the eggplant, added slices of the mozzarella cheese, ladled on a little tomato sauce, sprinkled on a quarter pound of shredded cheese, and finished with some bread crumbs. I baked it at 350ºF for 30 minutes.

Perry, Ron, and I pretty much demolished it. But there is enough for leftovers, maybe for Monday lunch, if Ron doesn't tuck it away first.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Getting a Grip

I've said before in this blog that I like the freedom of being retired, but I really don't have a handle on the aimlessness my life seems to have taken on. I've talked about this with other retired people, and it's a pretty common observation. Some people live with it. Others seek out a more purposeful life.

When I was working, the lack of purpose didn't seem too much of a problem because work overshadowed everything else; it gave my life a built-in purpose. Square dancing, sex, cooking, and exotic mixed drinks don't particularly fill my life with purpose, either. On the other hand, the freedom of retirement more than makes up for the ersatz purpose that my work gave me. I'm glad to be free of that, and I would have a difficult time returning to the workplace. I think the next job (if ever) is going to have to be at home, during my hours, on my terms.

After eight months of just enjoying retirement (it's the longest summer vacation I've ever had), I'm ready to head out on something new and different. I won't be scanning the Want Ads, but I'm getting back to some projects that have been shelved, some software development, and an idea for a virtual retirement center. I'm making a list of things I want to do, and I'm going to figure out how to do them. My biggest challenge is moving beyond the inertia that my life has taken on. And I've already started addressing that.

Square dancing, sex, and mixed drinks will still continue to be part of my retired, civilized life, but I'm intent on moving beyond them to act rather than drift, to drive rather than be along for the ride.

I don't want to minimize what I have been doing in my retirement, either. I've learned a new program in square dancing (and I'm a caller wannabe). That has been a real achievement and a lot of fun. The travel this year has been wonderful, and more locales beckon. I'm reading more and enjoying that time. I've also had a lot more time for my friends. Retirement has given me freedom to act that I didn't even know existed. It's pretty intoxicating. I'm ready to act more and react less.

As I read this, I'm rolling my eyes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Good Night and Good Luck

All right, I should be in bed already, but I just got back from square dancing, and my mind doesn't settle down immediately so that I can get to sleep. So I thought maybe I should write in my blog about my Doodle, today.

The big news today is that I met Athena, and she wants to dance Contra. I want to dance Contra, so I volunteered to be a partner when we can get our schedules to mesh. It won't happen until after I get back from Europe, but I'm very excited about it.

In other news, the DC Diamond Circulate Committee met before square dancing tonight. These meetings last longer than I like, but they do keep all committee members abreast of what's being planned. It's interesting to see how the committee works, and it actually works pretty well. We're getting serious now, because we're a little less than eight months out, which isn't very much time. I got the Cowboy's contract signed, and I'm trying to track down the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington. I guess things are going okay. We have a place. We know the dates. We have our callers. All we need are the dancers, and the details. And that's where the devil is. I'm getting more excited about it, and I think it's going to be a wonderful weekend. Now all I need is the stamina.

Next week is full of lunch and dinner dates. I'm glad that I'm hitting the gym regularly. You may not see much improvement, but I do. I weigh my bod every day, and it is slowly getting lighter. I'm trying to prove that you can eat yourself to a slimmer you. Next week will be a test of that hypothesis.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wheaton Thai

Last night, Tim and I ate at Nava Thai, a new eatery that has the best Pad Thai in the neighborhood (although Ruan Thai afficionados might disagree). In fact, the immediate neighborhood boasts four Thai establishments: Suporns, Dusit, Ruan Thai, and Nava Thai. I've eaten at all of them, and all have their devotees.

When we first moved to Wheaton, the only Thai restaurant was an establishment call Thai Hut, which had blazingly hot curries, as well as just about everything else on their menu. Dusit now occupies that place. I like Dusit. It has well prepared food, but it's not too adventurous; nice atmosphere and relatively inexpensive drinks. I've had some nice meals there.

Suporns came to the neighborhood about sixteen years ago. Early on, it was a favorite, and we would eat there once a week. But bad times descended on the kitchen, and the food was disappointing. The restaurant has survived, and the food has improved. I guess I'm still a little burned by my earlier experiences, but we've been back several times, and it continues to be a neighborhood fixture.

It's difficult to say who's Pad Thai is the best: Ruan Thai or Nava Thai. You should try both versions! Ruan Thai has also been in the neighborhood a long time. Besides the Pad Thai, check out their other noodle dishes. They are consistently wonderful. Their curries are also very good.

Nava Thai is the newest restaurant on the block, and its food is delightful. You have try the Pad Thai. When the menu indicates that food is spicy, you better believe it. The restaurant also offers Fanta pop imported from Thailand. The Carbon Footprint has come full circle.

And Wheaton has lots of other wonderful restaurants, too: Hollywood East, Los Matamoros, Paul Kee, Royal Mile Pub, Kefi, Ferdinand's, Los Chorros, El Boqueron, and more chicken joints than you can shake a stick at. I hope all the redevelopment around here doesn't drive these eateries away, because they are a lot of the charm of this town. You can't beat the eats in Wheaton.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bullies, and a Moral Foreign Policy

I'm writing this as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announces a cessation of hostilities in Georgia, and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili claims that Russian troops continue their military activities. A small country pokes a stick in the eye of a neighboring bully, and then is surprised that it is invaded and punished for its actions.

I don't think anyone in the U.S. State Department believes the Russian claims of genocide in South Ossetia. Certainly, President Bush was understating the situation when he said that Russia's response to Georgia's military action was disproportionate. What's astonishing to citizens of the United States is that Georgia apparently expected western nations, including the U.S. to come to its aid.

And here's where a moral foreign policy falls apart. The United States is not going to war over Georgia. No matter that Russia provoked the war (or didn't, it depends whether you are Georgian or Russian), and no matter that Georgia was trying to assert state authority over its own territory; no matter that Georgia is a democratic state, and Russia is increasingly autocratic, no matter that Georgia may have the moral right on its side.

Russia will pull back some, but will impose some heavy terms on Georgia that may include the loss of its sovereignty. The U.S. will probably try to impose some moral nostrums and toothless sanctions on Russia, but the truth is, our allies in Europe depend on Russia for energy. Russia is increasingly nationalist and militarist. Russia is reasserting is influence over its neighbors, many of which are democratic states.

How is the U.S. government going to respond to this? How far is the U.S. willing to go in support of these democracies (particularly Ukraine and the Baltic states)? The U.S. is spread very thin around the world. Does the U.S. assert moral right, or realize that it has interests in other parts of the world that have to be protected, perhaps at the expense of friendly democracies that border a world-class bully?

George Washington told his young nation to steer clear of foreign entanglements. Dwight Eisenhower warned the U.S. about the dangers of a military-industrial complex. In light of the events of the last eight years, and of the last week, I hope our new president considers the limits of a moral foreign policy, and to what extent the U.S. can afford to impose order on an unruly and ungrateful world. Russia isn't the only bully; just ask the Iraqis.

Monday, August 11, 2008

August in Wheaton

Most years, August in Wheaton is pretty beastly. The weather is hot and humid, only more so. But this year, we've been having some remarkably wonderful weather. Right now, it's 74º and the humidity is 44%, which for the dog days of summer is perfect.

Yesterday, at George's memorial service, we had similar weather. A thunderstorm threatened, but nothing came of it. The service was really nice. I liked hearing people's stories about George. He will be missed by the garden club, by his partner, by his special friend, by his brother, by his lesbian and gay brunch group, by his neighbors, by his potluck social club, by the nude campers, and by his sex playmates. He was a real character, and certainly woven tightly into the fabric of Takoma Park.

George lived frugally, and simply. He was a packrat with a purpose. He reused everything. He had the best compost and garden for miles around. He would deliver the garden club and the brunch club newsletters on his bike because it saved on postage, and probably because he loved riding his bike. He loved flea markets. In some circles he was shy. In others he wasn't. He loved being naked.

I only knew a small slice of George's life. I knew the men's potluck, nudist, sexual, gay, square dance part of his life. And his life was a whole lot more than that. Every person has a story just waiting to be told. In hindsight, it seems a little sad that we really find out about others only when they die, but at least we heard George's story.

After George's service, I sent Ron back to Wheaton, then I went downtown to see Eldritch. He's moving out of his condo apartment in Dupont Circle, and he was having a party last night to say goodbye to the place. A lot of bears, faeries, and hangers on were present.

I've known Eldritch for a very long time. We inhabit parallel, mostly compatible worlds. He had had a very bad week. He came down with appendicitis on Tuesday, was operated on Wednesday, and discharged from the hospital on Thursday. Considering all that, I thought he was pretty brave to host the party, and Eldritch really does host. The vat of mojito (how convenient!) was very good. I would have eaten more, but I had a date with Ron and Perry in Wheaton.

So I came home and the three of us ended up at Ruby Tuesday's. Go ahead and sniff your nose at me! It may be a family dining experience, a chain restaurant, and "American" cooking, but it does what it does very well, and we had a very nice meal. I had two turkey sliders, some fries, and the salad bar (and a beer). Now that's a downhome experience. And it was also very tasty. I enjoyed the company of my two boys, and I enjoyed the food. It was a great way to finish out a weekend.

And August continues to unfold. This week is go see the doctor week. I got my teeth cleaned early this morning. Dr. Perkins really knows how to scrape plaque. Tomorrow is Dr. Ford, who will survey my flesh; she's the dermatologist, and finally, Dr. Bonecrusher will finish me off on Friday. Sounds like a whole lotta fun, doesn't it?

After today's jaunt to the dentist, I headed off to the gym. I didn't surpass my previous calorie total of 710, but turned in a respectable 709. After the cross-trainer, I went up to the studio to do my cool-off. It borders on a religious experience, not unlike sex, probably because my body at that point is one big endorphin molecule. I'm literally soaking wet, laying on the floor, in a state of semi-bliss, thinking, "This makes the workout okay." I hate going to the gym, but I love being blissed out. What I'll do for a cheap thrill.

This is another mostly square dance week. Tonight, I'm dancing at Ett's (C-1). Tomorrow, Tim and I dance at Billy Harrison's club (C-1), and on Thursday, it's club night (Plus and Advanced). I need to review my calls before dancing.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Remember the Dead

Today, Ron and I are going to a memorial service for George. I believe that I am partly responsible for George's death, although I'm not certain. George died two days after I square danced with him at summer camp. I do remember the caller telling George to stand like a statue so that I could turn him.

Ron and I knew George through a men's social group as well as through summer camp. We didn't know him very well; it was a social friendship, more from a distance. We knew about each other, but didn't really know him that well.

So today's memorial service gives us a chance to say goodbye to George, and maybe we'll get to know him just a bit more than we did when he was alive. The George I knew was smiling, kinda loud, sexy and sexual, and not a little bit stubborn - at least he appeared that way to me. He looked like a prophetic character out of a DeMille film, except George usually had fewer clothes on. He was energetic to the very end, and even though he was only in my peripheral vision, he won't be in my montage anymore, and it will certainly be a little less colorful for that.

Someday, I'll die. I'm pretty sure there will be a memorial service. I hope that people who just knew me a little might show up and discover something they didn't know. All of us have a story, and all of us deserve to be remembered, and George, I'm going to be there at your memorial because you really were part of my life.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Northwest Branch

Yesterday, Ron and I wanted to do something different. We planned an afternoon together and decided to hike along the Northwest Branch trail. We got on the trail on Colesville Road, then hiked south toward the Beltway.

The trail is challenging in some places; you have to clamber over rocks. But that is part of the fun of this trail. I think when I hike this trail again, I'll take a walking stick, because it would probably help. It's amazing that right in the middle of suburbia are these quiet, beautiful woods with a creek running through them. Only when you get near the Beltway do you hear the rumble of traffic. Also, the bridge that spans the creek is a sight, itself, rising a hundred feet or more from the creek bed.

We saw a couple of fishermen and a few hikers out, mostly with their dogs. We ran into one particularly frisky pooch who was extremely friendly, wagging a tail that wagged every other body part, and jumping all over us. This dog was a real people lover. The dog's owners were appalled that the dog was behaving so badly, but I felt honored to have the dog's company.

The walk amounted to about 1-1/2 miles over the course of almost two hours. It gave us an opportunity to talk. We touched on a number of subjects including our friends, our sex lives, and what it is about men that turn us on. Clearly, Ron has higher standards than I do. I think we both knew that anyway. I really enjoyed the time with him, away from the distractions at home, in a beautiful place having a conversation that veered and rambled as much as the trail. This time together is precious. It's a great experience to share an unknown place with someone you love, when you both see it for the first time.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hellenic Republic Calls It Quits as of June 12!

This may not seem like a big story to you, but if you go to the Greek Embassy's web site, you'll notice that everything stopped on June 12, 2008. No additional explanation was provided on the site. Click on the graphic to see details.

Nothing has happenedin Greece since June 12, 2008
Nothing has happened in Greece since June 12, 2008

Did anything unusual happen on June 12? It was certainly a slow news day in my blog. Some mystery, huh? It's amazing, if you click through the items on the Latest News link, you'll not find a single entry after June 12. I'm totally flummoxed.

This is even more interesting to me, because I'm planning on visiting Greece in October. I'm hoping that some news happens between now and then. If you hear of anything, please let me know.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mixed Mind about Exercise

Today I accomplished a milestone of sorts for me. I burned up 710 calories on the cross-trainer at the gym. When I started working out in January, I was doing about 580 calories, so I'm seeing an improvement, although I'm not sure that I can do much more than 700 calories during one of my workout sessions.

The gym is my friend inasmuch as it allows me to eat more and not gain weight. In fact, I've lost about 18 pounds since January, too, and I've been able to keep it off, but I'm not losing additional weight (another six pounds?). Unfortunately, working out has also significantly increased my appetite, so I'm still at war with myself. But now when I pig out, I'm a little more prudent about it because I know how much I hate exercising.

The gym is also a benefit because a couple of times a month, Michael (who works out about the same time I do) and I have lunch after workout. This is something to look forward to, and the workout is much less dear than the lunch afterwards.

I think that the working out is slowly having an affect on my blood pressure. It's a little too early to tell, but if it does lower it five or ten points, that would be a very good thing, indeed.

Finally, I like weighing less. I look better, and I'm vain enough to think and believe that. So vanity is a spur to working out. For the life of me, I can't get rid of my little tummy. Ron thinks it's cute. I don't. No exercise short of liposuction is going to change that. Well, maybe if I didn't eat anything for the next forty-five days.

The downside is I hate going to the gym. While I'm working out, I don't enjoy it, but I get enough feedback from the machine's display to think that I'm accomplishing something, and feel vaguely superior for doing the right thing. At the end, it's a delicious feeling to be completely soaked and to feel so wiltingly tired. I like that.

When I'm done with the cross-trainer, I go up to the studio, and strike a couple of poses. It isn't really stretching, but I do a few movements during which I can completely ignore the noise and the people around me. I feel serene and empty. If I can't do my wind down because the studio has a class or activity going on, I'm disappointed, because I really look forward to the time I spend inside myself in the studio. It's meditation. It's my spiritual destination.

So I'll keep going to the gym. I'll keep being annoyed about having to get there. I'll keep using all the wrong reasons to sustain my enthusiasm. But what really keeps me coming back are those quiet moments at the very end when I'm not really exercising at all. I'm just doing my stuff. Soaking wet. Blissfully exhausted. Mentally empty. Smelling... like a rose!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Retirement Revisited, Remarked, Retouched, Rethought

I'm still thinking through this retirement thing. It's been about eight months since I walked out the front door of Fannie Mae and headed on out to Wheaton. Retirement isn't what I thought it was, but I'm not about to give it up, either.

The most vexing challenge that retirement poses for me is that it imposes no deadline. It's not like work at all in that regard. I'm not complaining; however, the imperative of work provided built-in needs, goals, and (for everyone else, except me) aspirations. I'm not much of a self-starter, so that kick in the pants was very useful.

The other thing about work that I miss is its supplied schedule (I always knew when I was getting up on a school night), and convenient friends. I think what I most miss is the friends. I really liked and enjoyed the people with whom I worked. It was a wide circle of several dozen people that I saw on a regular basis. Although we talked a lot of shop, the conversations were also social. I was in the loop.

Post-work, my circle of friends is far smaller, but the conversations are indeed more social and instrumental to my life. A big challenge for me is to not let myself get isolated from other human beings. Some days, I can sit at this damn computer and not have any meaningful human interactions, and I'm not counting emails or my visits to social networking sites.

One of the pluses of retirement is that I can do what I want to do when I want to do it. It pleases me to go to the zoo, or to take a special vacation. I treasure the time I spend with Ron. I love seeing his goofy grin any time I want. I enjoy lunch with Michael and other friends. I love learning a new square dance program. And the gym, hooda thunk that I'd be fairly faithful getting to and sticking with the gym? (I'm shocked!) I spend more time with Tim, and that is always delightful.

Right now, I'm feeling a certain rootlessness, a lack of purpose. I expect the rootlessness will last, but the lack of purpose won't. I'm looking for my next great passion, something to throw my heart at. I have the energy and the time, just not the focus right now. But when I find that new enthusiasm, you'll be reading about it right here. And I'm so blond that I might not even realize it. I just hope it contributes to the betterment of humanity, or at least Wheaton.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

October 15, 1987

Here's some history that Ron saved, a letter to my parents written twenty years ago after a gay civil rights march in Washington DC

Dear Mom & Dad,

This is the third day I've stayed home this week with the October yukkies. I should have stayed home yesterday, but didn't, so today I feel like a piece of brain dead cupcake. Ron and I pushed too hard on the weekend, and I just got too strung out.

And what a weekend! We had seven houseguests - two from Oregon (Kim and Ron), two from California (Bob & Kat), and one each from Florida (Howie), Massachusetts (Zev), and New York (Michael). Bob and Kat arrived a week ago, stayed with us over the weekend, then went on to New York City. All of the guests then descended on us last Friday, and the last of them left on Tuesday.

The occasion was the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The event was like a very large family gathering, all 500,000 of us. We participated in activities all weekend long. Friday evening was spent getting people settled, and just talking. It was the first time in 4-1/2 years that Kim, Bob, and I had been together. So we shared a lot of dumb Hanford stories, and probably bored everyone else to tears.

Saturday started out early for Kim (and Michael, too), Kat, and me. We went to Arlington National Cemetery to be part of a national Frontrunners group escorting Brent Nicolson-Earle in to Washington, D.C. There was a short press conference at the cemetery, then we ran across Memorial Bridge up the Mall in front of the Capitol, and ended at the Ellipse behind the White House. Brent said a few words at a brief memorial service for those who have died with AIDS. He is running around the country, raising funds for local AIDS caregiving groups. He has already run through 38 state capitals, and he's still running. He averages a run of 22 miles each day.

After the run, we came home to change. Ron, Kim, and I went to lunch. Kat and Bob left for downtown, and Kim was supposed to join his Ron after lunch. (Ron was downtown sightseeing. There aren't many museums in Eugene, Oregon, so Ron was in Heaven, "And they're all free!")

Ron and I hadn't made any particular plans for the afternoon, but he wanted to go see the "wedding." A group had organized a wedding for Gay couples Saturday afternoon. I was leery of it, thinking that it could be really awful - visions of inappropriate heterosexual and patriarchal models (no offense intended) - everything that Ron's and my relationship isn't. Furthermore, the ceremony was publicized as non-sectarian, and again, I had visions of a ceremony full of sentimental mish-mash, and robbed of its sacred promise to bless a relationship. Needless to say, I had misgivings about even being in the same state, much less attending. But Ron really wanted to go.

So we hopped in the car at 1:40 (it began at 2 o'clock) and raced down to the Mall. Parking was awful, but we arrived at 2:10, and hadn't missed anything. Immediately, I knew that this wasn't an ordinary wedding. 3 blocks of Constitution Avenue were jammed with couples, many in wedding outfits, many in "good" clothes, and some in jeans. Karen Thompson spoke to us. Her partner, Sharon Kowalski, was injured in an auto accident several years ago, and after a bitter custody battle with Sharon's parents, Karen has not been allowed to see Sharon for three years. Other stories were told about lovers who could not visit a sick partner in the hospital, and parents who refused to respect a partner's wishes regarding funeral arrangements - those kinds of activities that are never questioned for straight, married couples. What I want in my partnership with Ron is respect - respect for our wishes, respect for our life together.

At first, I thought the wedding ceremony might be a mockery of what I consider to be a sacred and holy act - two people committing their lives to each other. But in the events of the afternoon I came more clearly to see other things. First of all, society makes a mockery of our relationships by refusing to recognize them. Worse than that it despises our relationships by having sodomy laws on the books, by refusing custody and visitation to Gay couples, by denying us in a hundred little ways the right to be a family. I mean, I love Ron, and he's more than a friend or a roommate. He's my partner and lover.

So when the invitation to participate in the wedding was made, Ron and I moved into the crowd. We held each other's hands, and we made promises to each other, promises that will strengthen our relationship, but more than that, promises to reaffirm our love and our family. I realize that no society, no institution, no person or power can set apart our relationship; Ron and I have to do that together. Even though church and state withhold their sacraments and recognition, none of that makes our promises to each other less binding. We made holy promises because we made them holy.

We stood in the midst of thousands of other couples who were doing the same thing. There were not many dry eyes. All of us realized the solemnity and the joy of the day. At the end of the ceremony, hundreds of balloons were set free, rising into the sky with our own hopes and dreams. We congratulated the couples around us and they congratulated us. Several couples broke out champagne to toast their wedding. Lots of rice was thrown (I still have some in my shirt and pants). So I think that October 10 will be a special date and anniversary for us.

But that isn't all! After the wedding, we went to an open house that a couple from St. Margaret's were hosting. We also invited our out-of-town guests to go (the hosts said the more, the merrier). We had an enjoyable time meeting many other people from around town and around the country.

Washington was really amazing over the weekend. As one of our guests said, "It's like someone waved a magic wand and turned the city into fairyland." It's a wonderful feeling, seeing and being among so many Lesbians and Gay man. I felt very, very happy.

Back to the story, When we left the open house, Ron went home to help Howie with dinner (Howie wanted to cook us a big meal). I went on to a Fronrunners reception being held at one of the downtown bars. The Onyx is an old bank building, and the bar has incorporated all of the bank furnishings. Lots of marble. The reception was very nice. About 300 Frontrunners came from around the country. I talked at some length with an FR from San Francisco. He's a former priest, and he had an interesting story. I stayed until about 7:30, then I headed back to Silver Spring.

Well, dinner was supposed to be at 8, but we started eating at 10:30. However, Howie did prepare a wonderful and tasty meal, even if he did destroy every single dish, bowl, and utensil in the kitchen. One of his dishes was bulgar burgers, and we still have enough in the freezer to feed the Austrian army. Howie made a mite too much.

In a way, I was glad we ate so late, because we had an opportunity to do lots of talking. Ron's friend, Joey, from New York City came to dinner, and brought another guest as well. So we had lots of good talk, good food, and dirty dishes. (I did a lot of the dishes after dinner, but we were still finding survivors in the rubble on Tuesday.)

Sunday dawned too early. Nine sleepy guys had to get ready for the biggest event we'd ever been in. Most of us (not me, though) had breakfast, but Howie and I decided to go for a run, which we did. I took him around parts of Sligo Creek Parkway, and we did about 5 miles. After ablutions, we took the Metro downtown, in several different groups (Howie took his car). The march was stepping off from the Ellipse, which was crowded with hundreds of thousands of people. We found the Pacific Northwest contingent (including Idaho). Meanwhile, Ron and I got press passes (he's covering it for the upcoming AIDS issue of C&EN). I was his assistant and helped carry his bag, etc. I also asked people, a couple of times, to hold their banner this way or that way so that Ron could get a better picture. The press pass earned me some instant, if undeserved, respect.

When the march stepped off, Ron and I stepped out in front to get pictures of a group of Persons with AIDS (PWAs) in wheel chairs. Many of them were badly ravaged by the disease. Ron got lots of pictures, trying to work in the White House and other public buildings as backdrops to the march.

We continued taking pictures, but eventually joined the march itself, on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Old Post Office. We marched with the Washington, Oregon, and Idaho contingents (we met Kim and Ron with the Oregon group). The Idaho group had a clever little shout that spelled out "IDAHOMO" (they also sang the state song), and the Oregon people were singing to the tune of Row Row, Row Your Boat: "We're from Oregon / Lesbians and Queers / Gaily, Gaily, Gaily, Gaily / We've been there for years." The Oregon people were rather shy and retiring, like Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companions, - granola in flannel shirts. Washington, on the other hand, was a band of organized activists. But my heart was truly with Idaho - most of whom were transplanted compatriots. Like true Idahoans, they were out for a good cowboy time on a Saturday night. Their cheer brought lots of laughter, and their (I should say our - I mean I shouted myself hoarse) rendition of "Here We Have Idaho" was quite good.

Other groups of note included the Gay Mormons with a few bent elders, some corn fed Iowa Queers (as they called themselves), and a large contingent from the Show Me State. Every state except South Dakota had a contingent.

And people everywhere. The march stepped off at noon, and the end of the march reached the Mall at 5:15. Official estimates of the crowd were over 200,000, but unofficial counts indicated about a half million people. It was the second largest demonstration in D.C.

Also on the Mall was a large quilt composed of panels memorializing persons who had died from AIDS. The quilt covered the area of two football fields. People could walk on walkways on the quilt - it was a very somber memorial, lots of tears. I walked along the edge, and a woman came up to me and we hugged each other. The quilt brings home the enormity of the human suffering caused by this awful disease. It also serves as a reminder about the negligence of this administration that has done next to nothing to help the sufferers and educate the public. These people need love but are shunned by a hysterical public. They need shelter, but are turned out of their homes. They need work but are fired by their employers. They need medical care but are made destitute and dependent by the enormous cost of the disease.

Kim came up to me after he saw the quilt. He fell on my shoulder and wept. I held him for a long time.

That's enough for now. I'm going back to bed. Love, John & Ron.

P.S. Mom and Dad in the polemic about marriage, I want to reassure you just how much Ron and I appreciate your support for our relationship. Your love, prayers and concerns have been a strength for me in the years Ron and I have been together. You have blessed our family in your words, and in your deeds.

Michael Joseph Gross's Essay on how Manhunt took over the world

Michael Joseph Gross writes an interesting piece about Manhunt in the September issue of Out. Of course, my mention of all of this probably raises a couple of questions in your head: Is Happy writing another Manhunt blog entry (yes...), and why in the world is Happy reading Out?

Happy's reading Out because Ron used his airline miles to purchase a subscription from the same people who bring you the Advocate. Not to be snarky (okay, I'll be snarky) but the same banner ads run on the Out and Advocate web sites. Who knew? Yeah, I know you're shocked! And Ron subscribed to the Advocate, as well. So I guess I have plenty of reading material this winter, don't I?

Mr. Gross isn't a big fan of Manhunt, and he becomes less and less enamoured as the article unfolds (over many pages). His article describes in great detail (and Mr. Gross is a very competent columnist; I enjoyed reading this piece), how gay dating mores have evolved from the time of Stonewall until now. It used to be you would check out personal print ads in gay newspapers, and actually write letters, you'd correspond with some dude before hooking up. I remember those days well. I had some great ads going for me in those days:

Low Piscop begs indulgence seeks High Anglican for climactic Second Coming. No Anabaptists, Calvinists, Papists, Mormons, or Wesleyans. Will consider Greek Orthodox to heal schismatic tendencies. Send epistolary writ to....

The problem with that ad, and the others I wrote during those years, is that they didn't let me filter, weed, and block. Enter Manhunt.

No High Anglican ever responded to that ad, although some Papists and Calvinists did respond, and even a follower of the Mosaic Law. I got exactly seven responses, and got laid five times, which actually is better than my results with Manhunt.

Gross is worried about how socialization is short-circuited with Manhunt. He's worried that gay men are devaluing themselves, and objectifying who they are and what they are.

....When we started cruising online, neither I nor any of my friends would have dreamed we'd post naked pictures of ourselves for strangers to see. Now almost all of us have done it. When we crossed that line most of us felt we were violating ourselves. But it got us laid. We took more pictures - better ones - because the hotter our pictures, the more we got laid. When we questioned our choices, we reminded out selves, We're gay, this is our culture, Manhunt is the 21st-century gay bar, and you can't stop progress. Besides, every fuck, we rationalized, was another chance to find a boyfriend. Yet, the more we did this, the fainter grew the hope of finding something more meaningful than a hookup. As our hopes faded, we learned to see one another, and finally even ourselves, as things.

I'm not quite as pessimistic as Mr. Gross. I've had many hookups from Manhunt. Some of those have progressed to friendship. I'm always open to letting hookups be more than hookups. Having said that, I respond viscerally to where Gross's line of thinking goes, that we're objects seeking objects. Sometimes, all I want is a quick fuck and a big dick. I pause, now, and ask myself, can that progress to friendship?

Can I experience profound intimacy from the longings I have when I log into Manhunt, wanting to get laid. Of course, my heart wants that, and I wonder how out-of-sync my head is. Am I thinking with my dick, or am I hoping with my heart?

I don't think that intimacy is dead. And I'm quite sure that we're not rock-like objects appraising girth and length at the expense of truly human interaction (well, I would make a plea for height/weight proportionate, but that's probably too much to ask). Frankly, I like the hunt. I get off on the tension of opening the front door. Is he what he says he is, or is he a fraud? Am I going to give him the ride of his life, or is this going to be ho-hum? Sex, at least male-on-male sex really is, initially, about objectifying the prey, deciding who's on top, and taking charge, desiring a rut, making a score. That is exciting sex, and it doesn't always lead to Mr. Right, and happily ever after in the suburbs. But man, it's hot! No getting around it. It's hot!

What Mr. Gross doesn't discuss, but I know it happens: a day or so after that incredible sex, one of the guys logs on to Manhunt and sends a message to the other,

"Man, that was soooo hot! Thanks. Any time you want to get together let me know."

I know from personal experience that at that moment, intimacy has a real chance in the lives of these men, and Manhunt made it possible. I'm not logging off of Manhunt anytime soon. See ya there. Check out wheaton_guy.

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My!

Welcome to the Zoo
Welcome to the Zoo

I was talking with Tim yesterday morning, and we decided to spend the day at the zoo. A walk in the National Zoo on a pleasant summer day makes for a delightful spontaneous adventure.

I smeared on the sunscreen, grabbed my camera and my Economists, and quickly headed out the door to the Metro. I looked like such a tourist - almost as much as Tim! The trip downtown was uneventful, the train full of other tourists like me.

Guardian Lion
Guardian Lion

Upon coming out of the station, I called Tim on my cellphone. For some reason, we weren't connecting, so I left him a curious message, and he left one for me. We eventually established voice communication and met just inside the zoo entrance on Connecticut Ave.

Okay, I don't know the names of most of these animals, but they are really fascinating. It's like something from Star Wars, only it's free, and it's real. Notice that many of these dudes just point their butts in my direction and dare me to take their picture. Kinda like my boyfriends.

Nice rack!
Nice Rack

Look at the horns on this guy! I wish I were that horny. Most of the time, this creature was behind pile of branches, but here he is looking like a goat with an attitude. He (or she?) looks like he's been tagged in his ears, too. Still, a nice headpiece.

This is why I like the zoo. I'd only see this in a book and imagine this, but I'm looking at this animal, and marveling at how different it is from what I'm used to. This experience moves me out of my own life into something else. (I know this is very un-PETAlike.)

How would you like this in your bathtub?
How would you like this in your bathtub?

This pygmy hippopotamus is cute! And this is only the pygmy size! We saw the full grown adult size around the corner in the swimming pool. I notice that all of these animals have some coping strategies for ignoring people like me. They turn their butts to us, they engage in various kinds of neurotic behavior (much like I did in my cubicle when I was working), and they lay on the bottom of a swimming pool for seven minutes, then come up for seven seconds for a breath of air.

Tree Shrew
Tree Shrew

Visit those small mammals! Most of them are either monkeys or rodents of some sort. They are (for the most part) furry and cute. These are the kinds of animals that every nine-year old dreams about. Of course, the nice thing about the zoo, is that the zookeepers get to handle all the poop. This is a bonus for nine-year olds and their parents.

Now, Where's the Ketchup?
Now, Where's the Ketchup?

Speaking of pets, this is Perry's new house cat, Charlie. Just kidding. Now that's a cat! This tiger came out and put on about a 5-minute show for Tim and I. Admittedly, we had a wide moat between us and kitty, but this scene really evokes a kind of awe. This is a magnificent beast, and I didn't have to go to India to see it.

Mongolian Horses
Mongolian Horses

Horses anyone? These guys are extinct in the wild, but the zoo is engaged in a breeding program, and they are slowly being reintroduced into Mongolia and China, where they originated. Sturdy, well-insulated, these guys are ready for those Mongolian steppes and the blowing snow.

Well, we saw more. We walked and walked. We saw tourists, babies, teens, and very friendly zoo employees. This place is a very happy place, indeed, just the right place for a summer's jaunt.

Check out this Drag Queen!
Check out this Drag Queen!
White Stork
White Stork
Black Cormorant
Black Cormorant

One of the last exhibits we visited was Bird Land. I love the lady in blue! In a couple of parts of the exhibit, you can walk right into an enclosure full of birds. At first, everything looks green and leafy, and then you realize that the birds are everywhere, all around you. Tippy Hedren aside, it was the very best Hitchcock moment without the drama. Look at the blue eyes on the cormorant.

And yes, we finally saw the sloth bear. This is my favorite guy in the whole zoo. Who wouldn't love him? The zoo has recently (well within the last couple of years) redone the sloth bear enclosure. It isn't nearly as open as it used to be, and the view isn't as good. But the bears are there, and I love them!

Mr. Sloth Bear
Mr. Sloth Bear

Here's a slide show of our zoo visit.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bitches in the Washington Blade

By bitches, I mean the ranting, whining, complaining kind that Phil Gramm talked about when he was being honest, rather than political.

The Bitches column in the Blade is a type of reality genre. It provides a guilty kind of pleasure for the reader, and a certain notoriety for the writers. Some of the quips/observations/idiocy rises to ironic, shallow entertainment. A lot of it is puerile crap, but even that has a morbid fascination value. Many of the writers appear obsessed with youth, looks, fashion, sex, and terribly failed relationships. Lesbians also come in for a fair amount of unfavorable comment, but not nearly the abuse older men (apparently, any guy over the age of 27) receive.

I point all of this out because I confess that I read this column every time I pick up the Blade. I catch myself chuckling at some of the lamebrain observations of what passes for gay in Washington, DC. For the most part, I don't see my gay friends, or gay me in it, and I often think of some nifty rejoinder that would probably get me bitch-slapped by a screaming 22-year old wearing some gay male version of a Jimmy Choo.

The column is offensive, but any public airing of artless prose ends up being offensive. Most of the writers appear to have the intellectual depth of a Jerry Springer reject. I suppose even they need a public forum. I am bothered by the amount of racism and misogyny that, on occasion, gets slathered on thickly in the column. While the George Bush Center for Intelligence out in McLean could be fooled into believing that the expressions in the column represent all gay opinion, don't you - gentle reader - carry the same misconception. Some of us airheads don't need to be published to prove our wit.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Birthday for Brian, Finally

I know that Brian has a birthday, because I see him periodically, and he's walking, talking, cute, all the evidence points to his existence. So I just assume he has a birthday, without paying a lot of attention to when. So last night the Boys went out to Heritage India to celebrate Brian's birthday, even though he acts like an Aries. I don't quibble over actual dates. I just want to eat food and celebrate my friend's birthday. Besides, all of the Boys' birthdays seem to get inconveniently bunched up in the March - April timeframe. Consider last night's celebration a "smoothing function" certainly after a couple of cocktails.

Brian, the Birthday Boy
Brian, the Birthday Boy

So here is Brian looking like a deer in the headlights. Notice that Tim doesn't look like a deer in the headlights. Perhaps that is because Tim likes to have his picture taken. Or an alternative explanation might be that he saw me get out the camera and realized that his picture was going to be taken anyway. Brian may have mistaken the camera for an appetizer, and so was unprepared for the flash. I'll have to ask him about that.

Ron and I got to the restaurant first, so that I could have a drink. Perry is certain that I have a drinking problem. I am less certain, though I might be in denial. At any rate, Brian shortly showed up, followed by Tim, then Perry. I only drank a small portion of my second drink (yes, I know, it sounds like I'm binge drinking, doesn't it?), because Tim and Brian drank most of it. It serves them right, because it was a fruity drink that Carrie might have tossed back just before Mr. Big did her. Guys, it was a GIRLIE drink.

While the other guys walked to the table, I shambled behind because a) I was settling the bar bill (BTW, the appetizers were marvelous. Yummy small plates of Indian delights half price at the bar during happy hour. What an excellent idea!) b) I was shambling because of the toxic affects of impending alcohol poisoning. Perry kindly pointed out at the table that I was stoned. I was probably lighted a little bit, but entirely conscious throughout the meal, and contributed my own bon vivant devil-may-care commentary.

Tim ordered a nice white. Brian wanted his own portion of eggplant, and Perry followed suit with some lamb dish. I ventured into hell with Lamb Vindaloo, which could cause acute gastric distress if you have any problems with the volcanometer. But it was damn good! Tim ordered a pea and mushroom curry that was also spicy, and Ron followed up with Aloo Ghobi, although the restaurant billed it as "Cauliflower and Potatoes with turmeric." The food at Heritage India is very good. I'm pretty sure everybody enjoyed the spread. We all ended it with an assortment of desserts. I ate my gulam jamun with a deeply satisfying nostalgia, thinking aw too, this soon will end at a doughnut shop. Which it did. Nothin' like a Crispy Creme after an Indian dinner!

Happy Birthday Brian! You don't look a day over 30. Honest. You're still cute as a bug. Anytime you want to celebrate your birthday, give me a holler. Ron's birthday is next....

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cool Off This Summer!

We're looking for a new refrigerator, and I'm beginning to do the research. We have one of those old Westinghouse workhorses, and RJH 42, which has been in the kitchen since 1967. It is an original appliance. It works well. We have no complaints, but we're thinking now about energy efficiency. That refrigerator costs us about $200 more in electricity than we would get with a more efficient model. The down side is that the older fridge will never wear out.

Normally I like tight holes, but the hole for the fridge is a little too tight. These days, refrigerators are bigger, taller, wider. We'll have to go with an 18 cu ft model. The kitchen can accommodate a fridge that no more than 66-1/8" tall, which is about an inch and half to small. So we're really limited in models and styles.

I went to the appliance store and talked with a salesman (Dan!). It looks like that by the time it gets all delivered and installed, it's going to run about $800 or so. The models vary in price by about $50, then there is the delivery charge, taxes, and probably some things that I don't know about. Dan would like to sell me a fridge, though.

Frigidaire is having a sale through the end of August that is knocking about $100 off of some of their models. I'll drag Ron to the store to look at models, then we'll order one, and wait for about a week. Then I'll have one more thing to cross off my list.