Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Few Quick Observations

If you haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire, you should. This is a deeply moving film about hope and love against a backdrop of violence and unimaginable poverty. It's a fable and a metaphor for our time.

Late-breaking Square Dance Bulletin - Tim and I went to the DC Lambda Squares' community dance last night. It's theme was 50th Birthday Party. So I wore some original 50s gear that I acquired when the club danced at the Hillwood Museum and Gardens. I looked pretty good, and those fifty-year-old clothes were pretty spiffy.

Tim and I went to the Corcoran today, the last day of the Richard Avedon show. You missed it, if you missed it. Avedon captured the souls of the great ones for a couple of generations. Their ghosts come to life in this exhibition. As Tim said, "Beware of cameramen who want to take your portrait." The result isn't always a pretty picture. Why didn't Avedon ever take a picture of Annie Liebovitz? And if he did, why wasn't it hanging on the wall of the Corcoran... life's little mysteries? And why wasn't Avedon's image of Rudolph Nureyev's jewels pictured in the exhibit's catalogue? And why was Yeoman 3rd Class B. Murphy Stovie absent from the same book with his fabulous grin and his happy right hand? Does the Corcoran host a vast right-wing conspiracy that is out to censor homoerotic or gay-themed content from exhibition catalogues? Hmmmm.

Then it was on to the OAS to see an exhibition of art about the Desaparecidos. These were victims of the military dictatorships of Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, and El Salavador. The words somber and depressing pretty much sum it up, but the bones, the images, the stories are a grim reminder that when the state has absolute power, freedom is extinguished in violent and ugly ways. These regimes were not attempting to rehabilitate their critics. They were exterminating them. Of course, it makes me wonder who has disappeared in our own war on terror?

Finally, we ended up at the Katzen Arts Center at American University. We saw a disturbing exhibition of the work of Evri Kwong, Just Pretend Everything is Okay. Kwong's work is a polemic about our drugged out, consumerist, racist, mysogynist, violent culture. His paintings, his Sharpie doodles, are biting and satirical indictments of cultural values gone bad.

Well, after that downer, we headed back to Rockville for some hot sex, a nap, and two episodes of The Office. That was this month's attempt at culture.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Now the Real Work Begins

I'm listening to NPR thinking about yesterday's events. As Senator Feinstein said, it is a day that is "etched in the stone of history." President Obama told us that we were all in it together, and the real work begins.

We have put such a weight on our President's shoulders, and somehow we need to take some of that burden back. I want to get past my cynicism of the last 40 years and do exactly that. I need to believe that what I do will make an important difference, no matter how small that effort or difference may seem to me. 300,000,000 people each doing a small thing adds up to a very big thing. Small gestures add up to real substance. A dream, a thought, a purpose becomes real amplified through a personal commitment to change multiplied in the lives of millions of people.

I'm excited by the prospect of change. Scared that America's economy is going to get much worse before it gets better. Worried about the bad guys, foreign and domestic. Heartened by the change in national tone. Yes we can rebuild America one small act at a time. We'll get through this, too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Got Holes

Tim and I were in York, Pennsylvania for a Challenge-1 Square Dance Concepts weekend. We ate at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. It was a gay man's paradise.

We Specialize in Holes
"We Specialize in Holes" Photo by Tim Walton,
©2008 by Tim Walton, All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 9, 2009

My Dream House

Sometimes I wake up from a dream, and it is so vivid that it doesn't rapidly fade with consciousness. Early this morning, I dreamed of the house that I lived in as a child. It is an old remodeled farmhouse, and when I lived there was right at the edge of Moscow, Idaho. Today, that house sits well inside the town, next to the junior high school.

In my dream, the house's rear fa├žade is covered with a thick blue-green stucco that's similar in color to the painted wood shake exterior of the house of my youth. The stucco rounds the angles of the house. I walk to the side. The stucco doesn't extend to this side of the house, and the clapboard siding has been painted white. I sit down on the grass and peer through an open door.

A child is running through the house. A woman follows the child, and they cross a short distance to an older farmhouse, the house the woman lives in. The child is one of my grandchildren, although I have no idea which one. The woman is my mother-in-law, but in my dream looks very different than I remember, but I know who she is. I'm well within the range of vision of the child and the woman, but they don't see me, and I remain sitting, taking in the scene.

Another woman comes bounding along the side of the house, on her way to the older farmhouse. She is vibrant, smiling, and happy, skipping down a path. She is my former wife. She, too, doesn't see me, although I'm clearly in the scene. I take all of this in, and I'm also happy and moved by this domestic picture.

Several things stand out in this dream. The first striking element is the stucco wall. It's presented to me in the dream from a low angle against a deep blue sky. The wall extends above the lower edge of the roof. Between the utility room and the shed, the roof has a curious cupola, for what purpose I don't know. The wall is solid and stolid, a protection against the outside. Curiously, it's only in the back of the house.

I see the child through an open door in the side of the house, which has angles and walls that don't exist when the dreaming ends. Yet, I clearly recognize this dream house as my own. The light plays in the shadows of the doorway and hall, and I can feel the life in this house. That life is also in the shadows, not unhappy, but full of concerns.

My mother-in-law represents those concerns as she follows the running child. She's dressed in black, and her face is strained with a weary anxiety. She is tired. Her house, Grandma's House, is a pure figment of my dream. I don't see all of it, only a corner along a path between the two houses. Her house remains hidden by a small grove of tall bushes, maybe lilacs or mountain ash.

My former wife skips along a path, happy. I hope so, from the fullness of my heart. She's an antidote to the shadows. Maybe she's rushing to catch up with the other two. I don't know. But she's radiantly happy, and her smile fills her face, as I have rarely seen it.

Finally, I sit quietly on the grass in the midst of this scene. It only lasts a moment, then it's gone and I wake up. Nobody sees me. I'm invisible to all.

This dream has so much going on. The stucco wall is on the side of the house facing Grandma's house. The wall sets the two structures apart. In the waking world, the path went to a pasture, and a barn across the draw. Where Grandma's house stands was a vegetable garden.

The child (my mother-in-law's great-grandchild) is innocence in the shadows, then running free in the sunlight. My mother-in-law, who in life always had a smile and a love for even me, the black sheep in the family, is troubled and vexed in her own dream home. She died two years ago about this time, and is buried in the Freeze Cemetery. She and my former wife were at odds with each other shortly before her death, and maybe her face reflects that sadness and weight.

My former wife is happy again. She's rediscovered herself. When we were married she was sad. When we divorced she was angry, and the anger simmered for a long time. But now, she's happy again, skipping after her grandchild, on her way to her mother's house, and I sit there, marveling, taking in this holy transformation of a family life so close to me, but untouchable, and invisible. This is my dream house.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Flurry of Activity!

The New Year has picked up its pace, although the old year never really slowed down that much, either. Perry and I went shopping on Friday morning. We first went to the Container Store, because he wanted some magnets. Neodymium magnets. Really strong magnets. These magnets have an exceedingly strong magnetic force. They can cause irreparable damage to floppy disks.

From the Container Store, we ventured to Borders in White Flint. Oh, I love the joys and sights of Rockville Pike! Perry was looking for a calendar. I picked up a "calendar" that contains a recipe for every day of the year. Ron is already thumbing through it.

Saturday night, I made one of those recipes, Spanish Tortilla, for the Montgomery County Gay Men's Community potluck. It was held at a friend of Ron's, so we decided to go. Well, the house was about 7500 square feet or more, and fitted by what appeared to be a decorator from hell. The theme upstairs was Victorian, and downstairs an American diner. Let's say it was over the top, and not one personal touch in any part of the house that I could see: prints, no originals. I guessed no one lived here, they were just part of the display.

The food was good, although Ron and I disagree on how good. Ron's and my contributions were both finished by the boys. One of the hosts, John, made a meat and bean dish that was very tasty, and a cake from cornmeal that was very good, although Ron thought the icing was too sweet. Honey, I hate to break the news, but icing is supposed to be too sweet!

I also enjoyed the company. I had a nice conversation with Duane. I really need to be more social. I get shy (I know that's hard to believe) and stand around without talking to anyone. This time, I struck up a very "deep" conversation with Duane about the nature of belief. Duane wondered why one needs to believe anything. And my lame answer is because it provides a purpose-driven life. I'll have to think about that.

In the meantime, I've been working on my contact database throughout. It's not very exciting, but it contributes to my purpose-driven existence. Yeah, right!

On Sunday, January 4, Ron and I attended a party. It was a nudist event. Great food, and for once an occasion where I was not seeing iceberg-sized behemoths of jiggly flesh. Most of the men, while not gym-toned, had not gone completely to the dinner buffet for refills, year after year. What a relief for my sore eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed the company, and all that encompassed, as well as the buffet the host had set out.

Again, in this situation, I have to force my self to talk with the other guys. They proved very friendly. Two men from Alabama struck up a conversation with me, and I felt a lot like Scarlett O'Hara (even though, I know [rolling my eyes] that she's from Georgia). One of the guys roots for Auburn, and the other for University of Alabama. Seriously, gay men talking about football! Frankly, my geography gets mixed up anywhere South of the Mason-Dixon Line. I think I could grow to enjoy the company of some Southern Gentlemen.

So yesterday, I went to the doctor to clear up a nagging sinus infection that has dogged me since Portugal, and to figure out what's causing the really annoying pain in my right knee that has dogged me since Christmas. Some days have been miserable, and that's saying a lot from me.

I like my doctor. He's a DO who has been a very good doctor for me. His assistant cleaned the wax out of my ears. I've been very stuffed up, and my ears had clogged when I tried to clean them a week ago. I had been walking around in an echoey fog. The tinnitus is still pretty loud, but I can hear better; the fog is gone. She got a lot of gunk out! The doctor came in and gave me a pep talk. He's kind of hot with curly hair and a two-day growth with that lab coat! He told me to get off the Sudafed® and start the Nasonex®. He also prescribed some clarithromycin for the sinuses and meloxicam for the knee. Better living through chemistry, although NSAIDs do scare me.

In the afternoon, I went over to Tim's house. He had a plumbing emergency going on. I provided him with some plumber information, but I think he went with someone else. He had some lame, vague reason about wanting this plumber or that plumber. I hugely enjoy Tim's company, even if he is preoccupied with plumbing. (I'll do some plumbing!)

Last night, Ron and I enjoyed a PBS special about India. Like the nation, the special is a production, and will continue for many nights hence. I don't care much for the narrator (the story sometimes seems all about him), but the scope of the story and the images of a great and enduring nation are compelling.

At the end, I went to bed.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Scan It!

Ron and I were in Giant Foods during rush hour, and Ron was flying through the place, wanting to get to checkout before the hordes descended. I, on the other hand was dawdling, with a hand-held scanner, zapping each item Ron put in the cart. Wow! A new toy! I was having fun!

Here's the drill. When you enter the store, you scan your shopping card at the scanner stand and pick up a scanner. Then, as you shop, you scan the UPC code on each item you put in your cart. I was bagging as we went along. For produce, you weigh the item, print out a label, stick the label on your bag of produce, and scan the label. It sounds a little complicated, but it really isn't.

And it's fun to use that scanner gun, shooting up those UPC codes, and watching the cost of your purchases mount up on its bright and happy screen. The scanner also contains store specials that you can look through, then purchase. Nothing like advertising right at your fingertips, right when you are most likely to make a purchase!

At checkout, a "checkout" UPC code is displayed where you normally would unload your groceries. You zap the checkout code and scan your shopper card, and voila, your itemized list appears on the checkout screen. At that point, you simply pay and leave the store. Our wait in the checkout line lasted all of 45 seconds.

I think as I continue to use the hand-held scanner, the process will go a lot faster. The scanner is actually much more sensitive about picking up UPC codes than the scanner at the checkout counters. And think of all the labor costs this is going to save Giant shareholders! Giant can probably lay off some checkers, oh, the perils of technology.

Of course, the new technology does nothing for the lamentable quality and diversity in the Giant grocery offerings. For some reason, yesterday, the produce was completely sucky. Produce bags were hard to find. The parsley was limp (kind of like me without my blue pill). Parsnips were not to be found. Some of the bliss potatoes were rotting in their boxes.

Technology, like the hand-held scanner, may be a shining jewel in Giant's crown, but the crown is otherwise rapidly losing its luster.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 Is Not So Bad

Other than I have a sinus infection and a strained ligament, not too bad at all. It could be much worse. I might be living in the Gaza Strip, for example, or shoveling snow in Moscow, Idaho. Indeed, a sinus infection and a gimp leg seem like small peanuts compared to the $6.9 trillion meltdown on Wall Street. The fallout wasn't quite so bad on Bucknell Terrace, only one foreclosure so far. Not bad, indeed.

And I'm not being snarky, either. Believe me, I'm grateful that I'm only dealing with the small things, and I hope the Big Things never get around to arriving in my neighborhood. But that's probably hoping for too much. The economic wrecking ball is in full swing, and one of these days it will land in Wheaton with a very unwelcome thud, probably atop a couple of chicken restaurants and several clothing boutiques that were just hanging on, and then... no credit, no customers, just the ugly wreckage of bankruptcy and unemployment. But for now, it's not so bad.

My hope for 2009 is that we can all hang on, somehow. Whatever we have to do, we'll do it, and hang on, and maybe 2009 won't be so bad after all. Check back here for updates....