Sunday, November 30, 2008

One Big Happy Family

Yesterday evening, Perry and I went to Nick's 50th birthday party. I think Perry and I were the gay contingent (there was also a high school contingent, and at least one guest that the other guests couldn't identify). Nick is one of seven kids, and five of his brothers and sisters, and his dad were there plus aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and lots of in-laws.

It was a big sprawly, loud, wonderful, happy birthday party. His family took Perry and me in like we were long lost relatives and made us feel completely at home. Nick (arrived late...) had a big grin, and made the rounds greeting everyone and being such a gracious guest of honor. I was really happy that Perry dragged me along to this joyful family affair.

I met Nick over ten years ago, and we worked a lot on local gay community stuff. We've kind of lost touch over the years, but have seen each other occasionally. Nick is still delightfully Nick. I've always thought he was a sharp looking guy. And he just gets more mellow, and good looking! At the party, his family had put together a collage of pictures, and it was very precious to look at. On the table, next to the cake, was his high school graduation picture. He looked like a stoner with a subtle smile and the wisp of a mustache playing across his top lip. Ah, the 70s, how we miss them!

The gift un-wrapping ritual featured Nick ripping wrapping paper off a mountain of gifts which featured tools, alcohol, and one Ken doll. Perry and I had "forgot" to put a tag on our gift, but somehow Nick, and everybody else, figured out who gave him the Ken doll.

We met most of Nick's brothers and sisters. I had a couple of memorable and delightful conversations with a brother, a sister, an aunt, and a sister-in-law. Nick comes from one of those quintessential American Families. The kind that's initial capped. The kind that Barack Obama and John McCain claimed to speak for. The kind that gives me infinite hope for America's future.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Somber Thanksgiving Tale

The siege in Mumbai is over. The 15 terrorists have been killed or captured. 145 or more people died, and over 350 people were injured. We can expect more terrorist attacks will occur. More people will be killed, if not in India, then in Pakistan, Iraq, Algeria, Spain, the United States. Pick a place.

In the coming days, the security experts will theorize about the group or mind behind the plot. Governments around the world will condemn the attacks and several will rattle some sabers. Mumbai will bury the dead. I don't understand the religious, social, and political thought behind these attacks. I don't understand why anyone would want to kill and maim people who just happened to be in the wrong places at the wrong time.

Oh, I know the terrorist claimed to be targeting Britons, Americans, and Jews, but tell that to the families of the hotel workers, or the widow of the police commander. These terrorists shot and bombed indiscriminately whoever was in range, whoever was in front of them.

The analysts say that the terrorists act out to disrupt economic growth, to sow fear, to stoke religious intolerance, to wreck tourism and development, to inflame xenophobia. And the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack may accomplish all of that and more.

Very soon when the numbness caused by the attack turns to anger, the anger turns to action, and then there's Hell to pay. Tit for tat, eye for an eye, 10,000 times over, payback is always demanded. Where is Jesus' other cheek? Where are Gandhi's sandals? Where is Martin's pen writing in the Birmingham jail?

One of the Indian survivors remarked that the men carrying out the assaults in Mumbai looked so ordinary, young guys in t-shirts and jeans. Maybe this current wave of terrorism started as a religious jihad, but now it's ordinary guys, killing for what?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's Up?

I ran into an old flame of sorts today in the gym. He's a guy that I was seeing a couple of years ago. We sometimes run into each other, and today was one of those times. He's 29, and worried about turning 30. I told him that it only goes down hill from here. I enjoyed seeing him, and talking with him. I always enjoy running into my past.

This afternoon, I went over to Tim's for a romp. He played a DVD to keep me company while he prepped himself. It was almost too much excitement, or maybe it's that the older I get, the less it takes to impress. I'm not sure. I'm certainly of a certain age these days, and it becomes more apparent every day. I think I'm still in recovery from visiting my Mom....

And it's so good to be back on my turf. I went square dancing last night. I was the resident dunce, but it didn't seem to matter, and I'm very good at following directions. The routine of the gym (and the "online" experiences) remind me that I'm home doing the things I love to do. The perfect poached egg this morning fortified those sentiments. When you are retired, the little things aren't nearly so little anymore.

Ron and I are headed out to a Mug Muck restaurant social in a few minutes. We're going to Crisfield's, a top-rated local seafood restaurant that remains legendary. Having dinner with Ron at the end of the day is just the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Maryland, My Maryland

I'm back home in Maryland. I had a quick but very nice trip to Moscow, Idaho, but I'm very happy to be back in Maryland. Over the years, I've put my roots down here. Idaho is a nice place to visit - the place of my birth, the home of really famous potatoes, but Maryland is now my home.

It hasn't always been that way. When I first moved to this area, I had thought that I'd be moving back West in a few years, but that just didn't happen. I quickly put down some roots, and before long, I found myself with a partner, a job, and lots of friends. I discovered I could be a gay guy without having to watch my back. I've grown to enjoy this place and the life I have here.

I still get misty eyed when I see the beauty and splendor of Idaho, and I truly love that place, but my home is here in Maryland, my Maryland.

Monday, November 17, 2008

All Is Quiet on the Western Front

My hometown is Moscow, Idaho, which is a long ways away from anywhere. I'm here visiting my Mom, and helping her take care of a number of errands that she doesn't want to load onto my sister. I have a sister, Katherine, who lives here in Moscow, and helps Mom out all the time, so I'm glad to pitch in and do some things around the house.

We've had a refrigerator and another oxygen machine delivered. We visited Mom's attorney, and tomorrow, I'm talking with her finance guy. Katherine had an art show at the university, so I went up to that, too, and it was very good. Yesterday, Mom and I went up to St. Maries to see Uncle Harry and Aunt Virgie. She made a wonderful chicken noodle soup, and Dutch apple pie. I truly enjoyed the stories and the card game. Last night, Katherine and I went to a new cocktail lounge, Mix, here in Moscow and had a nice long talk about life. I'm happy to be a part of this family.

So now, all the errands are pretty much wrapped up. Katherine, Mom, and I are going out to dinner tonight. All is quiet on the western front.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I stood at the corner of Third and Washington Streets today, in Moscow, Idaho, waving my sign, "Invalidate H8." I was here at City Hall with about 60 or more other people demonstrating my anger over Proposition 8. A surprising number of cars honked as they drove past, and the occupants were giving us thumbs up. A couple of lone counter protesters were on the other corner of the intersection waving two signs, "Don't Target the Mormons" and "Don't Send Us Anthrax." At 11:00 a.m. we had a moment of silence, during which the two people across the street chanted slogans.

When Californians passed Proposition 8, I realized how tired I was about being constantly stigmatized, constantly demeaned. And it isn't that my friends and neighbors are treating me badly. It's bigger than that. A whole society is treating me and other lesbians and gay men badly. And I finally got exquisitely tired of that. I'm shocked that Californians could so blithely snatch away the rights of gay people. I'm shocked that gay people have put up with this crap for so long.

The reason that same-sex marriage is so important is not so that gay people can have certain property rights or tax deductions. Marriage is important to gay people because it strikes directly at the stigma attached to homosexuality. A society that grants me and my partner marriage respects our relationship officially and emphatically. This is no half measure or winking nod. It's none of this remarking that just because he and I have lived together for 25 years, we aren't really married; so somehow, our relationship doesn't count as much and by inference we don't count as much. No, our relationship has a protected and honored status, just like every other married person's relationship.

Stigma can't abide honor or respect. The stigma of homosexuality will only be overcome when our society decides that all of its citizens deserve honor and respect. If you don't respect my relationship, you don't respect me. The message is that simple.

I have a word for the Mormons and the other concerned religious people who are animated about this issue. All of us, you and me, want strong, loving families. Indeed, they are the bedrock of our society. I am angry that you attack the moral and legal substance of my family. Your stand for Proposition 8 is immoral and hypocritical, because it attacks other families just like yours. You should rethink your stance, especially if you believe that we are all God's children.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marriage, Anyone?

Today, same-sex couples in Connecticut can get state marriage licenses and tie the knot. This is in stark contrast to what happened in California on Election Day, where voters passed Proposition 8 (a.k.a. H8), which limits marriage to only a man and a woman.

This is a very personal issue for me, because I am in a same-sex relationship. My children are LDS, and the LDS Church played a major role in passing Proposition 8, and indeed some of my children supported it. I understand their position, but I disagree with their church's stand, and I will continue to disagree.

My question is simple: how does same-sex marriage undermine "traditional" marriage? In fact, it seems to me that when gay men marry each other, they won't be marrying straight women. I was in that kind of marriage, and it failed. And the reason I married my wife is because that was the only way I knew to make a family. In the midst of the love we had for each other, we also had a lot of heartache, pain, and anger, which undermined and finally broke our marriage.

The claim is made that God doesn't sanction same-sex marriages or that same-sex marriage is not part of our Judeo-Christian heritage. The claim may be true, but it is irrelevant in considering this question, because public policy about marriage should not be decided on the basis of religious belief. It should be decided on what's best for society, and what's best for the parties in a marriage.

Gay men and lesbians still bear a stigma about their sexual orientation. The affect of that stigma was clearly apparent in the California campaign. And that stigma is also very present in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The stigma is present in the coded language that our families use about our relationships. The stigma is present in how our society negatively perceives our relationships. The stigma was present when California voters decided to enshrine homophobic stigma in their constitution.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mental Slips

As I get older, I notice mental slip ups. The most common is calling Ron "Tim," which is embarrassing, but at least I know who Ron and Tim are, and I can quickly correct myself. Another slip up is to forget a word, and then talk around its definition, hoping that the word will come back. This is a lot like "The word's on the tip of my tongue...." That phenomenon is more common to me than it used to be, but I usually can either come up with the word, or at least make myself understood.

The strangest one for me, and the one that causes the most trouble is recalling names, either of people or places. In this instance, I recognize the person or the place, but I'm totally clueless about the name. I can access the information in my brain about the person or place, but I can't put any name on the person or place at all. The name is also beyond my own recall. It's like I've never know the name in my memory, I can only remember that at one time, I knew the name.

If I hear or read the "forgotten" name, I immediately recognize it, and it is once again connected to the "nameless" information with which it was once associated in my memory. My brain's grasp on those names appears weak, because I can easily forget those names again, and have no way to recall them. I compensate for that by replaying those names over and over in my head whenever I recover them.

Most names that I forget are in my long term memory, but within the last 10 or 20 years. I don't have any trouble with names from my childhood through high school or so. The most difficult names for me to remember are co-workers, some of whom I worked with for years. I can tell you where they sat at work, what projects they worked on, all kinds of things, except their names.

I think the challenge I have with names is that they are arbitrary. On the other hand, the information they represent isn't arbitrary at all, and the connection between the arbitrary name and its information can be lost. The information, itself, remains in my brain, but that pesky pointer to that information is missing in action.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Better Late Than Never

While fall is still around, I thought I'd show the world a slideshow of the pumpkin-carving contest. This is a very orange slideshow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Huge Basket

Okay, Tim, this one's for you! Tim's been demanding a picture of my basket.

Happy's Huge Basket

Happy's Huge Basket

This basket is a shameless promotion for Starbuck's, with a side plug for Bed Bath and Beyond. Special thanks goes to Perry, who went shopping with me at the Woodmoor Starbucks. I don't know what I was thinking when I went with the theme, "For the Morning After, There's Starbuck's." I mean, how lame can I get? I was probably having a bad ManHunt day, or maybe I was thinking of melancholy John McCain supporters. On the other hand, a nice cup of coffee from freshly ground beans isn't the worst way to start the Morning After.

The basket will be raffled away this weekend in Shepherdstown, WV at the HFH XIV! square dance fly-in. It will be one of many huge baskets, donated by hunky, chunky, and lanky guys and gals looking for all kinds of fun and all kinds of square dance programs, as well as contra and country western. Maybe you should head up to Shepherdstown, and my huge basket could be yours, and not just for the evening, either..., but for the morning after!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Can See across the Great Divide

For the second or third time in my life, I had a conversation about race with an African American. She and I were waiting in our dematologist's office. I broke the ice with, "That was quite an evening last night," and the conversation went on from there. Truly, something has changed. My African American grand-niece really can become President of the United States. America thought the unthinkable, and voted for a new way.

Importantly, white Americans recognized the moment, too, because they voted for Barack Obama. But clearly, Obama won because he reached out to all of us, whoever, whatever, or wherever.

The women at the Dr.'s office were pinching themselves. This is a defining moment in their lives, and in the lives of the rest of us. We have a lot of hard work to do. But we can do it. We woke up this morning to a changed world; I believe a profoundly changed world. This is not about the Democrats. This is not about President-Elect Obama, this is about you and me. I believe that. This is a new day.


I know this sounds a little weird, but I hear some stories on NPR about the election victory of Barack Obama, and my eyes tear up. I read a newspaper article, and I get the shivers. It really happened. We elected Barack Obama. I will remember this election a long time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

An Awesome Moment

Tuesday can be a historic moment. We can elect Barack Obama President of the United States.

I apologize to all of my regular readers, all four of you. I haven't been particularly faithful in my musings here for the last month or so. I'll try to do better in November.

I don't bite my nails, but if I did, I would be chewing between now and Wednesday morning. Every day, I go to and check out its electoral maps. Today, it's giving 311 electoral votes to Obama and 132 to McCain, with 95 tossups. I rework the numbers every day trying to figure out the combinations that Obama needs to win at the polls. It's still a cliffhanger in the College, a College that Maryland would like to change. Go Terps! or something like that.

I don't want the Presidential Electors of Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Florida to elect the President. I want the American people (no matter how deluded or stupid we may be) to elect the President. I'm really tired of this "Swing State" phenomenon, and think that all the states should be swing states. Maryland has a solution, and maybe within my lifetime, it will be working.

I'm holding my breath for Barack Obama. Although he's ahead in the polls and looks like he's headed for victory on Tuesday, the campaign isn't over yet. He is a transformational leader. John McCain is correct, Barack Obama will lead our country in a new direction - a change in economic policies, a change in health care policies, a change in international relations, a change in our war policies. America needs Barack Obama.

We stand at a crossroads. This election really is a choice. Do the American people continue with the failed policies of a bankrupt, neo-conservative philosophy that has taken us to war and wrecked our economy? Or do the American people vote for pragmatic policies that will restore our financial and economic soundness, provide universal health care coverage, and get us out of the Iraqi quagmire? McCain is not a maverick. He's a retread.

I'm also holding my breath about the outcome of Proposition 8 in California. All people should have the right to marriage. Shame on the backers of Proposition 8 for wanting to deny basic human rights to a class of people, and wanting to make that denial a constitutional ban. The campaign for the ban is mainly being financed by members of the Mormon Church. It appears that the church has been pressuring church members to contribute a lot of money (about $18 million or 77% of the total contributions) to the campaign. This campaign has the proponents spreading all kinds of lies about same-sex marriage, about education, about free speech, but very little about love, respect for human rights, or strengthening the family. Religious activists are attempting to force their views on the rest of us through deception and fear.

I'll continue to hold my breath until Tuesday.

By the way, the pumpkin carving party was fabulous. I now know the competition. These carvers are good! And scary! The Halloween Party afterwards, at the Lost River Grill was also a hoot. Ron and I went as Clark Kent and Wonder Woman - Over-the-Hill Superheroes. We looked good!