Quote of the week:

“They'd have to shoot me to get me back to Illnois."

~Abraham Lincoln upon going to WDC to become president

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Meme

I’m self responding to a meme from Mark at http://mouseasthma.blogspot.com/ He tagged me a long time ago for a 6 word autobiography which I never completed, as I found the 6 word limitation much more difficult that I realized, and I’ve felt somewhat guilty (well, as much-or little as I allow myself to felt guilty—giving up religion is so liberating! So, here goes. I’m not certain if there’s significance to the number 8.

Shows I Watch
1. Prison Break
2. Eli Stone
3. Survivor
4. 30 Rock (People YOU really need to watch this show!)
5. ER
6. Project Runway (or Bravo show in the timeslot---currently Top Chef)
7. Daily Show/Colbert Report (They count as one in my book)
8. Supernatural
There are many more—I watch too much TV

8 Favorite Restaurants, in no particular order
1. Calo {Italian} (Chicago)
2. Le Bouchon {French} (Chicago)
3. Ann Sather {Andersonville location] (Chicago) (great comfort food
4. Tavern on the Green (NYC)
5. Joe Allen (NYC)
6. K Paul (New Orleans)
7. E.A.T. {Deli} (NYC)
8. Summer {great Asian between my El stop and my co op)

Things that happened today (over the past 24 hours roughly 9:00 – 9:00; 12/6) (It’s a very atypical Saturday, since I’m still sickly.)

1. Woke up-slowly (the slow part is typical)
2. Made mocha latte & cinnamon toast
3. Trimmed beard, showered
4. Listened to the Saturday morning NPR run (Car Talk, Wait, Wait, This American Life [and the Rock Show-can’t remember the title]
(A trip to the gym would normally have occurred somewhere here)
5. Spent time on the computer
6. Walked to the grocery store, Came home wiped out.
7. Changed the bed sheets and napped
8. Fixed some dinner/ateWatched TV & time on pc (& doing this meme.)

I will follow Mark's lead and invite any of my throng of regular readers (alll three of you) as well as any one else who stumbled along here to take up this meme for themselves. I won't be doing any formal tagging.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not Hypochondria

Sometimes I wish the illnesses were JUST in my head—that I was somehow imagining it. After 3 days in bed, vacillating between chills and sweats, soaking the sheets, I saw my dr. today. (I called Monday morning, this was the first opening and I didn’t call the nurse to bump me in this time). I have fucking strep throat—AGAIN! Second time this year. This isn’t on the list of approved illnesses for CVID. WTF?! Seriously, WTF!? I’m so pissed with myself that this one didn’t enter my radar as a possibility, and I didn’t figure this one out. Two weeks ago at my last infusion, my throat was scratchy. He did a strep test then. It came back negative. So, instead of being top of mind, my dyslexic brain erased it from the possible options.
This time, my tongue scrape solution barely hit the blotter before showing the + sign. Strep tests are now like pregnancy tests (not that I have any experience with those), Plus you don’t piss on the test strip. Other than that, they’re similar. But, they take a swab from the back of your tongue, mix in a little tube of solution, pour the tube onto the little holder and wait to see if the + sign shows up. Instead of being knocked up, you have strep…and it doesn’t last for nine months.
So, I was right. I’m really sick again. Sometimes being right sucks shit. I prefer my sick when it's combined with twisted.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Second Annual World AIDS Day Post

Preface: “The road of good intentions is paved with”—what’s the rest of that saying? My intent was to have this posted for the 20th Annual World AIDS Day commemoration and my 2nd Annual on December 1. I started writing it last week. Then the universe intervened and I’ve been in bed the past two days feeling like shit with a fever vacillating between 99 – 102. It’s currently at the lower side. But it messed up my plans for a timely post. So here it is, a gay late and a dollar short, typed in bed on my laptop between the sweats and chills and naps.

Since I wrote my first post last year ( http://randomthawghts.blogspot.com/2007/11/world-aids-day-december-1_28.html ) I now can call this my “Second Annual World AIDS Day Post”. With some frequency, I will have someone come to me a work with a proposal for a new educational program with the proposed title, “First Annual…” I’m continually trying to explain to physicians that you can’t have a “First Annual “ anything. For something to be an annual event, it has to have occurred AT LEAST once, the year previously. But I digress.
I’m hopeful that the new administration will see the HIV/AIDS epidemic as the public health issue that it is and NOT a moral issue. Yes, W has acknowledged the world wide catastrophe that AIDS is. Yet on the national front, HIV prevention and education funding still lapses.
Needle exchange IS a proven HIV prevention method.
Safe sex and condom use is essential for prevention of disease transmission.
Making condoms available in prisons prevents disease transmission.
News flash: telling prisoners not to have sex is just as effective is was for Sarah Palin’s daughter.
A pointy hat, satin robe, and ruby Prada shoes are not qualifications for making pronouncements about public health and convincing people to not practice safe sex out of some archaic and arcane obligation. The question these people really need to ask, seriously, “WWJD”? Then they need to step back and let people who know public health do their jobs without religion.
The thing that is still increasingly disturbing (and increasing in incidence) is the rate raising rate of new HIV infections among young gay men. Earlier this Fall, I attended an luncheon lecture as part of GLTB week surrounding National Coming Out Day. At the end, the presenters took questions. I raised the question, “What has our generation done wrong, in that the safe sex message did not transfer down to the new generation of gay men?” While the advent of the drug cocktails have been some of the best things to happen, I think we became complacent with the original safe sex message. It lost some of its importance. The message somehow became, “It doesn’t matter if you get infected, you just go on the cocktail.” The thing I just can’t wrap my brain around is how some view becoming HIV positive as a ‘right of passage’ in the progression of fully becoming a gay man. My generation really has fucked up, when we’ve allowed this to become one of the prevailing messages that we bequeathed to the current generations. We have to leave a better legacy.

©wtf/rle
Post Script
Any portion of this that doesn’t make sense, I blame on the fever and apologize.
Any portion of this that you may find offensive, I attribute to my abrasive nature and make no apologies.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

TRADITION!

Tradition

The opening number of Fiddler on the Roof, is “Tradition”. Without benefit of the audio, to give appropriate emphasis it should be “TRADITION!”. (I’m still too technologically retarded to put in the one word link that would take you to the You Tube video.) My first Thanksgiving in Chicago, back in 1995 started a new tradition. I had Thanksgiving with my then landlords and friends, Susan, Sam and their son Graham. Graham was five or six and was the greatest kid. (Now he’s a great young man.) They always have a good ‘family’ sized crowd of a dozen people plus, any given year. They had already dubbed me as “The Upstairs Chef”, as I’d bake and leave goodies for them in the foyer table when I lived there. I offered to make pies. The pies were a hit. After dessert was served, Susan feigned incredulity and jealousy and said, “I used to be the ‘pie queen’ of this building!” My TG role was solidified, and a new tradition was created. My subsequent TG plans were set, even after I moved two years later when I bought my first condo. They were part of my ‘family of choice’, and their extended family and friends became mine by extension. Susan’s Mom, especially took to me. Unfortunately she and her partner were not able to make it this year.
For the past two years, family of origin obligations took me ‘Bumblefuck’ for Thanksgiving. This year, I stayed home in Chicago and was able to regenerate our Thanksgiving Tradition. Of course I brought pies—only two this time (Shredded Apple [another TG tradition of mine], and Caramel Pecan) as other guests were bringing a version of Pumpkin pie. Sam’s sister, when she and her family arrived, generously and genuinely said, “It’s so good to see you again! I’ve been anxiously waiting for your pies.” The sentiment was echoed by Paula and Howard, other friends of SS&G who have become TG “regulars”.
I love this Thanksgiving gathering. It’s comfortable, relaxing, and there’s NEVER any drama. There’s laughter. There’s gratitude. There’s love and affection for old friends and new. I’m able to be myself. They ask questions of me without being intrusive. More importantly, they don’t ignore me or aspects of who I am. There’s never any pretense.
We have some beers beforehand, while noshing on hors d’oeuvres, wine with dinner, and since I’ve turned Sam on to single malt scotches, he usually has new one to try with dessert. (My parents are teetotalers—so there’s no imbibing in Bumblefuck.)
After a two year hiatus, I am thankful for the revival of "TRADITION!". I’ll lift a glass of Scotch to that.

©wtf/rle

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Perception Part Deux: Subjectively objective

Back in late September , as my weekends on the beach were coming to an end for the season, I asked my friend Louie to take some candid pics of/for me, while I still had some summer color/tan, as it was the first time in many years I possessed a hue other than ‘pastey white boy’. Also, I wanted some pics of me since I’ve lost the weight and am trying to get more tone. I’ve made progress, but “Joe six pack abs” I’m not. While I don’t feel fat anymore, I’m not willing to go so far as to say I feel skinny. The last remains of the damned belly won’t go away.

All my life I’ve been self conscious of my body. I was an overweight child—not obese, but overweight. I had a belly. I had boy boobs. The first time I lost a good deal of weight was my sophomore year of HS when I got sick with a really bad ear infection. For the first time, I had a smaller waste than my older “hot” brother. (In 8th grade I was once introduced to someone as ‘the one with the cute, hot brother’. It’s something I’ve never forgotten).
When the SFm* told me he was leaving me, one of the reasons was, “I am no longer attracted to you.” If he was trying to find the way to cut me the deepest, and inflict the most pain and hurt with lasting effects, he found it.

After Louie took the pics, we went to his computer to view and select. I was looking at the pics with some amazement. “God, is that really me?” Subjectively speaking while objectifying the person in the pics, I said, “Wow, I have a nice ass! Who knew?” I haven’t lost touch with reality. I know I’ll never be posing for any calendars. My goal is to be able to be shirtless in the summer without feeling self-conscious.

Looking at photos is a lot different than looking at yourself in the mirror. The experience was a very affirming. The photos went far beyond their intended purpose.

*Stupid Fucking mormon
©wtf/rle

Sunday, October 26, 2008

PERCEPTION: First in a Series in non-chronological order

I’ve started this post 3 different times. What I’ve finally realized I’m trying say too much/have too many thoughts for one entry. Brevity of word has rarely been an issue with me.
I’m in between trips for work—professional conferences. The one I just returned from was very productive for me-professionally as well as personally. I made some good networking connections, and had some meetings that will be beneficial to my institution, as well as a professional organization that I serve on the Board of Directors. I also was told that I’m going to be invited to serve on a committee with an international professional organization, a precursor to being asked to be on the Board of Directors of this organization. I was smoking—on fire!
A friend & former vendor(P) whom I’ve known for 8 years—in fact it was at this same conference that we met in 2008, commented, “You look great/healthy. You’ve lost more weight. You have a different ‘aura’ about you. You are exuding a confidence that I haven’t seen for a long time. You are once again the Randy I first met. It’s great to see you this way again.”
P has always been good about keeping in touch during the interims, when I was no longer her client, when I was out on medical leave.
It’s GREAT to feel this way again--to be seen this way again. After being beat down at the 5th Ring of Hell for 3.5 years, from Dr. “Throw me under the bus”, being appreciated and acknowledge is still something I’m getting used to. Part of my best revenge is that a person I hired at 5RH who is still there, takes every opportunity she can to tell my former boss how of my successes, and brightly I'm shining in this job. I’m glad others can see the good changes in me.
The next conference will have some overlap people, but it’s an organization that I am new to as a result of the job I now have. It’s a sub-set or specialty area within my profession. The worst part is that I’ll be away the night of the election. ©wtf/rle

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Taking the Plunge


Given that my last post may lead one to belief that I am one of a delicate or frail nature, I thought I should write a post to validate my ‘butch’ factor to show that I’m not just some wussy fag.
The picture here is framed and sits on my desk in my office as a reminder to me (and anyone who may question my testicle fortitude) that I’m not a wuss. This is from over 10 years ago, when I had much more hair on my head (in volume and length) , and none of the hair on my head (or body) had begun to migrate to white. That’s me in the hole in the ice. I did the Polar Bear Plunge. This was in a the Boundary Waters (between Minnesota and Canada). I was with a group of close friends that I met/knew when I was grad school. They all remain among my closest and best friends in my life. I had been in said Boundary Waters with some combination of all of these people on a number of times, on (with the exception of Amy’s then husband) on various canoeing/camping trips with the campus church group I was a part of (before I became a godless heathen). In fact, in was in some of these trips that most of us in the group solidified or deepened our friendships. Amy was actually the last woman that I dated (or attempted to date) before finally coming out of the closet. But those are a volume of stories in and of themselves. The fact that she remained (remains) a great friend says a lot about the kind of person she is.
This trip was our (my) only winter trip as a group. We stayed in a cabin, not tents this time, as the actual temp of minus 15° F was beyond our parameters of ‘roughing it’.
The day we arrived, we found the owner of the lodge out on the lake, with this plywood framed ‘box lid’ to one side, and he was re-cutting/punching the hole in the ice, in case anyone wanted to do the “PBP”. I was intrigued. It took a few days to work up my courage. I had questions. He supplied answers:
“What’s the procedure?”
“You stay in the sauna for a while to get your body
temperature good and hot. You run from the sauna, down the path (50
yards?) to the hole. You jump in.”
“How do you get yourself out? Isn’t it difficult?"
“You have someone holding on to each hand/arm when you go
in, to make sure you don’t go down below the water level. They help pull
you out.”
(this is the day I learned the difference between ‘buck naked’ and
stark naked’.)
“I highly recommend you do this buck naked, which means you
wear socks—only socks. This is to keep your feet from getting cut on rocks or sharp ice pieces in the water and from freezing and sticking to the ice when you come out."

Getting out of the hole was my biggest concern. Once that issue was resolved, I was ready. I was going to do it that night when we did our nightly sauna ritual after dinner. I also decided that if I was going to do this, I wanted photographic evidence, as nobody would ever believe I did it by verbal recitation alone. Lynette would take the pic. She was the photographer of the group. Jeff and Amy would each have ‘arm duty’, and Joel would be the stand by in case a third pair of hands was needed to get me out of the hole, and to serve as towel boy when I came out of the water. We all were in the sauna. After our usual amount of time, all of the others with the exception of Joel went to the cabin to get dressed and prepared for my plunge. Joel stayed with me to keep me from losing my nerve. People were in place. The ‘lid’ had been removed by Jeff. Lynette was in position half way down the trail to get a shot of me running down the trail. I start my ‘buck naked’ sprint from the sauna. Lynette clicks the shutter. “OH SHIT,Randy. That was the last picture on this roll of film! “
I couldn’t stop at that point. I had to keep going. And, I did. Let me state for the record, I have never done any hard core hallucinogenic, mild altering drugs. This experience was transcendental. Because my body temp was hot from the sauna, when I jumped into the (literally) icey water, my body did not get cold in this ice water. It was a shock to my body/system. My heart raced. When I came out, steam emanates from every pore of my body. It was bizarre! Additionally, because it was minus 15° F, my socks turned immediately to ice upon exit. I’ll just say this one thing on this issue—there was shrinkage like I didn’t know was possible. I think my nuts ascended up to my clavicle(s). Because it was such a wild (and not unpleasant) experience, I told Lynette, “Go load the camera. I’m doing it again for the photo! I have to have the photographic evidence.”
I did. The picture above is the result, and the proof.
People can (and do often) say a lot of things about me. But they can’t say I back or turn away from challenges. If there’s something I really want to do, I can most of the time find a way to do it. I’ve often been told in my life, “You can’t do that.” If someone tells me that I ‘can’t’ do something or don’t have what it takes, that pretty much is all the incentive I need to do it, if for no other reason than to prove the naysayer wrong, out of my own sense of obstinance . So I can be able to come back and say “fuck you-I did it”. I did the Polar Bear Plunge. Given the chance, I’ll do it again in a heartbeat.
©rle/wtf

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

At least I was having fun when it happened this time

At least I was having fun when it happened this time

I have written about various WASTHTR events in the blog, especially in the health arena. Though, I’ve not written about breaking my arm while walking my neighbor’s dog 3 years ago, nor how my physical therapist broke my ribs once in a therapeutic intervention gone awry, nor the breaking of my ribs in a car accident when I was in grad school. Suffice it to say, in all of these events , I was NOT having fun prior to the bone snapping activities.
I now have a WASTHTR in which merriment was being made.
Friday night I went over to the apartment of a new date for the evening. We were having a few beers, talking, watching TV. The evening progressed to a more amorous level. At one point, he was standing behind me, and gave me a big bear hug. I should note here that I am not a man of large stature. I’m 5’5”. I’ve lost over 50 pounds over the past few years and weighed in at 134 last week. He is not a large man, either. He’s under 6’, (and 160-180, I’d guess.) But he is built solid, and strong. HE gave me the vice grip bear hug, and I felt the rib(s)—mine, not his pop. He misconstrued my groan as one of pre-orgasmic ecstasy and not one of pain. Not wanting to ruin the moment, nor freak him out, I allowed him to continue with this misperception. Besides that, I was having a really good time. I thought it was probably a minor dislocation. We continued our play. I won’t go into detail.
I woke up Saturday morning, hurting a bit. I went to the gym—I did my cardio. I went to the butterfly press machine. OUCH. My left rib cage really hurt. I dropped the amount of weight and persevered. I went to the free weights. I lie down on the bench, dumb bell in each hand in an outstretched cross formation. I try to lift the weights up in the air. OMG, the pain was sharp and shooting. FUCK! I could not raise the barbell. FUCKFUCKFUCK!
I shower, leave and call Louie, my massage & physical therapist.
“Lou, I need to see you. I think I’ve popped a couple of ribs.”
“WHAT?!”
I think I’ve popped a couple of ribs.”
“How?”
“Let’s just say I was having a good time when it happened.”
He’s out of town for the weekend. He can see me Monday night. I go over. The lightest touch to my left ribs nearly sends me through the ceiling. He confirms that it’s real. That it’s not in my head—that I’ve popped and/or bruised 2- 3 ribs. I am to take it easy—and wait it out. There’s really nothing to be done for rib injuries other than wait it out. I've discovered one disadvantage to losing a lot of weight. You also lose the cushion and padding that adds a layer of protection. At least I had fun getting injured this time. ©wtf/rle

Monday, September 22, 2008

D-Day

Some anniversaries are celebrated. Some are mourned. Some are acknowledged or commemorated for the importance of the anniversarizing event. (Yes, I made up/verbicized a word (actually 2, I guess.)
September 23, 1989 is known as Denial Day or “D-Day" or more appropriately, the END of Denial Day. It’s the day I said for the first time, “I’m gay.” This momentous event occurred in a shrink’s office at the Student Counseling Center on Campus. I was scared shitless uttering the words out loud. Although John (my then shrink) would argue that it was hardly out loud. Getting there was a long arduous road, and the path that was ahead of me, following this utterance was equally as long and arduous, if not more so, although at the time, I thought the worst was over.
I had many years of self-loathing and hatred to overcome, indoctrinated by a church and religion purporting to be of “God’s love.” The message I received was that God loves everybody BUT me. I spent years praying for God to change me and “make me ‘right’”. While this wasn’t the solidifying event that led me to, as REM so perfectly sings, “Losing My Religion”, it was the solidifying event that caused me to rethink the concept of ‘prayer’ and the crock of shit that it is, used a bargaining chit to some favor doling entity (IMO) as proselytized by current day religions. I’ve had trouble with the “P” word ever since. The mere mention of it can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, depending on who may be saying it.
I spent many years as an activist for GLTB issues in the church. This was in large part because the suicide rate for GLTB teens/young adults is at least 30% higher than for others in the same age co-hort. I wanted to effect change, make a difference, as I was nearly one of that statistic. The letters were written. The pills stockpiled. A friend unwittingly stopped me before I followed through with the plan. While never an easy topic of discussion, the passage of time makes it (the topic, not the action) less frightening. I fought within the church to keep other teens/young adults from being part of that statistic. Oddly enough, it wasn’t GLTB issues that eventually brought me to my current beliefs (or absence thereof) to Atheism. But that’s another story.
This story is about burning down everything which was the essence of who I thought I was or tried to be, and the Phoenix that arose from the ashes. I have a love/hate relationship with Autumn. As is fitting with my morbid sense of humor and nature, I like the endings--the death that autumn brings, the senescense. Halloween is one of the “High Holy Days” in the Fagdom Calendar. I’m one of few gay men who does not like Halloween. I spent so many years wearing my ‘masks’, that the last thing I want to do is pretend I’m something I’m not. I’m sure that the Autumn of ’89, plays heavily upon this irrational disdain of Halloween. But, it’s part of who I am in 2008—an out, proud gay man, with few regrets. ©wtf/rle

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Song of Purple Summer

I have taken a bit of a blog writing hiatus, for a number of reasons. This Summer has been my best Chicago Summer in my memory, and I would have to say ranks up in one of the top Summers ever. As I’ve pondered on this, I at first thought, “This is interesting, as I’ve not been involved in any serious relationship or even serious dating this Summer.” I’ve come to realize that this may be one of the contributing factors to the ‘bestness’ of the Summer. (It’s not bitter and cynical when it’s the truth.) Some of the previous best Summers included a relationship. This time around, there won’t be the ending of a relationship that could tarnish the otherwise good memories.
After about six years in which my life was one big rolling shitfest after another. This has been a welcome respite. Last year, was my ‘transition’ year—with a new job, which was a good move. I’m settled in there. I think I finally started shaking some of the bad shit, much of which was tied to the former job. This Summer:

* I got to see a lot of family (family of origin and family of choice) members that I hadn’t seen in a long time—a few years in some cases.
* I went to my first country concert in an outdoor stadium. This was the beginning of the good Summer, and seemed to be the demarcation of the end of the crappy Winter and Spring.
* I got to the beach nearly every weekend. Being fifty pounds lighter than I was a few years ago, I actually got looks other than, “who is that beached whale?” There
was one guy who wanted to ‘manscape’ me. My goal for next summer is to be
rid of the last bit of belly, that seems to be clinging for dear life. I
have no delusions of a six pack. My goal is flat tummy, and be able to
walk through Market Days shirtless, without embarrassment. And speaking of
the beach. The gay beach was packed this year! The eye candy was
sweet, good and plenty.

*Another side effect of this is that this pastey white boy was in the sun enough to actually get some color/tan. I don't think I've had this much tan since I worked in the corn fields of the South Farms as an undergrad.
* Since getting rid of Gary MINI Cooper and acquiring Gary Fisher the Bike, I’ve
done a good deal of bike riding (for transportation and pleasure/exercise). Being at the beach, I reconnected with some old friends and met some new ones.
* I managed to take off nearly ever other Friday, to give me some long weekends, in which to enjoy the Chicago Summer.
* After finally knocking out the sinus infection from hell, I’ve maintained some
level of decent health status (for me).
* I canceled my land line phone service and got an iPhone. Since I’ve never even had an iPod, the learning curve is still very high. This tiny little machine can make
me feel really stupid.

There are the Chicagoans who have their Summer homes in Michigan or Wisconsin. This I don’t understand. Summers in Chicago are the best! It’s why you put up with the incredibly shitty Winters, here. I don’t want to go away in the Summer.
Last Summer, when I went to NYC, one of the highlights was seeing the Broadway show Spring Awakening, (book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, based on the 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind) the night after it won all of the Tony awards. The finale of the show is “The Song of Purple Summer”. I left the Eugene O’Neil Theatre deciding that this was my ultimate theme song and would be sung someday at my funeral. “...The earth will wave with corn... I will sing the song of Purple Summer”. This was one of my purple Summers. If my blogging skills have improved enough, there is a YouTube link of the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CMh3HKnRyg
This is an expanded version of what I saw over a year ago, and of what’s on the OBCR (Original Broadway Cast Recording). The harmonies are stellar.

©wtf/rle

Thursday, August 14, 2008

FLASHBACK: Bamboo Shoot ( Corn) Finger (Thumb)Nail Torture

As I referred to it in the last post, I thought I’d write about the time in undergrad (which falls into the WASTHTR* listing) of when I got corn stalk rind shoved under my thumb nail. I worked in Corn Pathology at the University. The grad student (Brian) I was working with was studying corn diseases (d’oh) . In early summer when the corn was tall, but no ears of corn yet, we went with huge ass syringe guns, (sort of like squirt guns with needles) and buckets of a fungus solution and inoculated the corn with the fungus above the third node from the bottom. Then in August, we went back to check the level of disease/infection. The way we did this was by cutting the top of the corn stalks about chest high with a machete, and then spit the remaining stalk down the center, to see how far the disease progressed.
I must say, I got very proficient pretty quickly and had my rhythm established until I did my swoosh down with the machete, getting my bent thumb a bit too close to the edge of the corn stalk and ran corn stalk rind under my thumb nail, to about the first knuckle of my thumb. I screamed obsecenities like a banshee, which, given that I had just had a machete in my hand (until I dropped it when the thumb thing happened) seems appropriate.
Brian ran over, looked at my hand/thumb, now dripping blood like a river water fall (and throbbing). He wants to take me back. I want to finish the field. It was getting close to lunch anyway. Against his better judgment, he acquiesced. We put a band-aid over the thumb and we continue. Although my rhythm was now completely out of synch. The thumb was still throbbing.
When we go back to the lab, I want to keep it on the DL. He mentions it to the Prof who says that we have to fill out an accident report, and that I should go to the Dr. The Student Health Service at the University was named for our 25th President. When I was a student there, it did not have the best of reputations and was dis-affectionately known as “Mc KILL-Me”. I really did NOT want to go there, but I was over-ruled, outranked.
I go. There’s no one at the front desk. I go looking for someone and find them all in the lunch/break room. I explain the situation of having corn stalk rind jammed under my thumb nail (will blood soaked dripping band-aid and blood running down my upraised arm as evidence). In what was the beginning of what’s become a recurring theme in my experiences in healthcare, someone says to me, “We’re all on lunch right now, can’t you wait?” Even though I wasn’t as ballsy then as I am now, I was incredulous enough to say, “NO! I’m on lunch too, and I have to get back to work!”
I am taken back to an exam room were peroxide is poured over the wound area. They want to try and extract the corn rind. To do this, they are going to anesthetize the area. They have my hand resting on the arm of a chair, and start coming at me with a syringe—UNDER the thumbnail. I retract my arm quickly. They start again. I repeat.
“You’re going to have to keep your hand in place!”
“You are NOT going UNDER my thumb nail with a syringe while I’m still conscious!”
They then decide they will extract it with tweezers. This was as unsuccessful as it sounds. I left, McKILL-Me with all of the corn stalk rind still under my thumb, and the student health service living up to its moniker. It took about 9 months for the rind to completely grow out. There was still a bit of remnant when I graduated the next Spring.
In the workman’s comp/accident report, I was admonished for not wearing work gloves. But trust me, I learned my lesson. I fully understand how this was an effective method of torture. You can call me a lot of things, but wuss isn’t one of them.
*Weird Ass Shit That Happens To Randy

©wtf/rle

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How Do You Like Them Apples?

I was reading over on one of my favorite bloggers Dr. Mark, {http://mouseasthma.blogspot.com/2008/08/growing-tails-so-far-so-good.html } about his triumphs with his green thumbery. It reminded me of one of my successes from undergrad days in the pomology (tree fruits) class. One of our class exercises was to graft buds from ‘flavorful’ apples to a good root stock. The apple is in the Rosaceae (rose) family. One of the genetic traits for this plant family is that the ‘beautiful’ or favored flowers/fruit often have poor root stocks or systems that are highly susceptible to diseases and other injurious pests. (Kind of like inbred Royalty families). So, to remedy this, you get a good root (which usually has less favorable flowers/fruit) and you graft a stem/twig/bud from the desirable flower fruit onto that stock. Something else most people don’t know, apples are ambisexual, meaning that the plant contains both male and female components, but they cannot self pollinate. i.e. you must have two trees of different varieties to get fruit.
So, I grafted a bud from a yellow delicious and a bud from a red delicious trees to my ‘good & hardy’ root stock. The damn thing actually survived, and both buds were viable. At the end of the semester, I took my sapling home to Mom & Dad’s and planted it, in an unprotected (yes---unprotected) area of the yard. Again, against all odds, the tree survived and in a few years began to bear fruit—red delicious on one side, yellow on the other. It always caused people to do a double take in late summer- fall when the fruit turned colors , and if nothing else, was a conversation starter. (If only I could have carried it around with me to the gay bars, I might have had better luck at picking up guys. I’ve never been a good ‘barfly’-but I digress.) Making this bi-varietal (ambisexual) tree is one of my better memories from those years. I felt like I’d done something significant or lasting (relatively speaking—I know it’s nothing earth shattering).
For reasons I don’t even remember, that semester was a tough one for me. This was all PGR (Pre-Gay Randy). I completely tanked my first exam and think I ended up getting a C in the class, even though it was one of my favorite horticulture classes. It was the same semester I took “Plant Pathology”, and that class I anticipated being difficult so I took it Pass/Fail which was on option as a non requirement. Early on in that semester, the Professor of this class had an opening for a student worker. One stipulation was that you had to maintain at least a “B” average in his class. By the time this all happened, it was too late to switch P/F classes with polmology, so I had to study harder to keep the higher grade in the class I’d elected as P/F. Such is the story of my life. I ended up working almost 2 years in Corn Pathology. I spent the summers inoculating and infecting corn with various diseases and fungi, and then surveying the results, among other things. In a future post, I’ll write about the time I had corn stalk rind jammed under my thumbnail. Let’s just say that really sucked poorly and hurt like a MF. ©wtf/rle

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Anniversary

July 28, 1997 (which was also a Monday) was the day I brought home Euckie the Wonder Dog. I had found her, and she selected me on the Saturday, when I went to Anti-Cruelty Society. I had been going on Saturdays for a number of weeks. Every time I went, it seemed that the dogs had already been ‘reserved’ or adopted by someone else.
That weekend, a friend from downstate was coming up to visit me. Rebecca (or Reb) was actually from my hometown, Bumblefuck. But that’s not how & where we became friends. She was a number of years behind me in school. Her older sister was a freshman when I was a Senior. But she worked at the hospital that I worked at—my first CME job. She worked in PR. Different things at work had us crossing paths, and we became friends.
Anyway, Reb came up to visit. She went with me early on Saturday morning to Anti-Cruelty. We took then otherly named Euckie out to the play area. She was very timid, but longing for affection. She had the longest tongue. Reb commented, “Lesbians would love her.” We seemed to be compatible. I went to the volunteer/staff person. Told her I wanted this dog. IN all of the previous times I’d been there, there was not mention of ‘necessary’ items for adoption, one of which was a copy of one’s condo’s by-laws providing evidence that one’s building allows dogs. Also, they wouldn’t ‘hold’ her while I went back to get a copy of my building’s by-laws. Reb said she would stay with the dog while I went back. I do so. I return. There’s a different volunteer to complete the paper work this time. She NEVER asked for the freaking by-laws! Had Reb not been with me, I likely would have lost the chance to get Euckie. Reb helped me come up with her name. As I used to be a florist, I determined that my dogs would always be named after plants. Now I worked in healthcare. The dog was part Australian Shepherd. Eucalyptus is a plant with healing properties, native to Australia. So, Eucalyptus it would be, but shortened to Euckie.
I have been watching that new dog show on CBS about Dogs and their human companions. It's very bittersweet for me to watch. Euckie was very possessive of me. She did not like sharing me or my attention with others, especially other dogs. While we would not have gotten far in that contest, she was “America’s Greatest Dog” in my book and always will be. I was recently talking with another dog person, who was talking about one of his 3 dogs. He said, “He’s the one in a lifetime—you know, that perfect dog, who just ‘fits’ with you. You know that you’ll not ever have another dog like this—this perfect.” Yes, I did know. I had my ‘dog of a lifetime’. She was the best. She was Euckie. She was my protector and companion for almost 11 years. Happy Anniversary, Euckie.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ass Whuppin'

I now have 3 (or at least parts of) posts written, that I’ll probably not post. This is primarily because they are too whiney and bitchy, upon re-reading. And, quite frankly, when I see shades of the less pleasant traits (or words) of my mother glaring back at me written in my own hand, it scares the bejesus out of me—the things I vowed I’d never do nor be like ‘when I grew up’.

That being said, I’m not currently feeling bright and cheery—not that these adjectives are frequently attributed to me. I’m in a slump. I’m discouraged. I’m frustrated. I’m pissed. I just finished week # 4 of being on anti-biotics, and just got a ‘script for a new one—for 3more weeks. This fucking sinus infection is still kicking my ass—or kicking the snot out of me to be more literal. I am reminded of one of my favorite books that I read a few summers ago. I bought this book for the title alone, and was NOT disappointed. The title: “Another Bullshit Night In Suck City: A Memoir” by Nick Flynn. I laughed, I cried. It was a good—make that GREAT read. I recommend it. It’d be a good summer beach read.

I DO try to be mindful that it could be worse. There are people in much more dire straits than I. I remind myself of that. It’s sometimes hard to keep that in focus when the back of my right eyeball feels like a punching bag. Chronically feeling like shit just sucks. It sucks poorly. I just turned down an invitation from my friend Mark, to a cookout, because his out of town guest is HIV positive, and I don’t want to risk exposing this sinus infection from hell on to someone else who is immune compromised. Mentally, being in a social setting would, I’m sure do me good. But feeling like the carrier of the black plague at the cookout would not. So, to try to be less like the me in the first paragraph, I’m listing things I’m looking forward to:
The new season of Project Runway
Massage scheduled for Saturday (legit-not the ‘happy ending’ variety, from my friend Louie, who is an exceptional MT—he’s like a PT/MT
I’m seriously thinking about another tattoo—I just have to figure out what I want this one to be—I know I want another Latin quote, to follow suit with the first one. I have to decide which one from my list—maybe I’ll post the options here for vote and/or comment.
Of course there’s more, but it’s a start.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Everything but the Kitchen Sink



In lieu of the kitchen sink, I’m including a pic of my kitchen floor. Why? It’s photographic evidence for my Mom, that I do indeed know how to clean my apartment and mop a floor. Not only did I mop, but I stripped off the old wax and re-waxed the floor. This is an event that does NOT occur with great regularity. I even took apart the range top and scrubbed it, and cleaned/polished the stainless steel a few weekends ago. I designed my kitchen and even the pattern of the floor. As a narrow, galley kitchen, placing the floor tiles on the diagonal with the room, gives the illusion that the room is wider and longer than it is. The ceiling I installed (which you can't see, obviously) is a pressed tin ceiling. I tried to meld the old 'feel' of the building/apartment with creating a new, functional kitchen .
The only good thing that occurred from my various surgeries, broken bones, etc., was that when my parents came up to help me out, my Mom would clean my apartment from front to back (with the exception of my bedroom, which was an unspoken mutual agreement that she did not want to be rummaging around in my bedroom. My Mom is generally appalled with my housekeeping (or absence there of) attributes. My apartment isn’t so much dirty as it is messy. Enough so at times, that my gay card could be revoked. When you have chronic health problems, mopping the kitchen floor every week isn’t at the top of the list. I’m a packrat. In that aspect, I am so much my Father’s son. Sometimes I feel like I got all of the negative traits from both each parent, and few of the good.

The view from this pic: I am standing in the back door, off my apartment, looking in. You will note the documentation of my predilection for the shades, tones and hues of purple in the floor and walls. I did the gut rehab of my kitchen BPC*. I have the chef’s kitchen (as much as one can have in a galley kitchen in a turn of the last century classic Chicago building), that my Mom and my Aunt Alice always should have had. Once I had my new kitchen, I had all these plans for throwing fabulous dinner parties and entertaining guests. The Universe had other plans. If I were doing it over today, given the same circumstances and limitations, there are very few things I'd do differently.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Word du Jour: Trochanteric

As in bursitis. It’s also the diagnosis of the day. Or, GDad, quite literally a PITA.
Thursday was my monthly IgG infusion day. Given the history of the past few weeks and new infirmities, I wrote out my list for things to go over with Dr. K. Tuesday, my R hip (the ‘good’ leg) started hurting—badly. On the pain scale, it progressed to a 6/7 by Thursday. Unlike the pain in my L (bad leg), I knew this was NOT nerve related. It was joint related. I suspicioned that it might be related to my two big bike rides over the 4th weekend.
When the nurse comes to get me to set up my infusion, he takes me to an exam room that is freezing. It could have doubled for the morgue. Once he got the needle in (one stab!), I ordered my own blood tests. I told him to take a blood draw before setting up the IV, that I wanted to get trough levels of my IgG and sub-classes. (thanks, M). He got the vials and the equipment for the blood draw, then set up the IV. I asked him to get me a blanket, as I knew that once that ice cold saline and IgG started coursing through my veins, I’d be freezing in the morgue room.
Later, Dr. K. comes in. “How are you today?”
“Shitty. Neck glands are still swollen. The ear is no longer hurting, but I still feel like shit, and now my R hip hurts like hell. I’ve ramped up my oxy after months of weaning down. I’m NOT happy about that. It’s screwing with my sleep. I’m cranky and bitchy—more so than my usual...”
He checks different things, and comes up with the diagnosis of trochanteric bursitis. And, it is due to the bike riding. God f#cking dammit!! He prescribes a NSAID, and tells me not to ride the bike until it clears up, and then take it easy and not do long rides. So, I finally find something that isn’t mind numbing and makes me want to jam dull rusty needles in my eyeballs like the freaking elliptical or treadmill at the gym and it causes new infirmities. So, no bike rides along the lake this weekend.
I did go to the beach this afternoon, and rode my bike there. It’s not far. We’ll see how I fare with that. It’s late. I’m tired. I’m outta here. Hopefully, I’ll get to the focus group update tomorrow or early in the week.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Greener Grass

It’s long been on my mind, but something I’ve been reticent to verbalize or ‘writerize’ about my diagnosis. My guess is that other people with chronic illnesses/conditions/diagnoses think similarly in regards to their own situations, when thinking about or talking to “the great magician in the sky”, as George Carlin used to say in reference to a god.

I wonder what it would be like if I could ‘exchange’ my CVID for something else. When I play this fantasy game in my own mind, I’m usually trading it for HIV—hence my reticence to talk/write about. Let me state for the record, I’m NOT a ‘bug chaser’.* (see first footnote.) Nor, do I advocate the practice.

My thoughts tend more to the philosophic ideals. How would my life be different? Do diabetics dream about trading their insulin injections for something they deem less intrusive? (This is all conjecture, and since it’s my health fantasy, I get to romanticize it the way I want.) In this scenario, my overall health is actually better, because my doc(s) treat a lot more cases of HIV than CVID, and know how to manage it (the disease) better. This is confirmed by the knowledge that my friends with HIV have a better overall health than I do. The other thing, (and this is the one that makes me envious) is that I’d have an already built in community of people like me, with more commonalities that the disease itself. There are plenty of services, support and social groups for my HIV friends. This ties in to a recurrent theme of my life of feeling like I’m always on the outside, looking in. It’s something that is a very common theme among gay people. From our earliest memories, we (or I) always knew that I was somehow different from my brothers, from my classmates, from everybody. And, even though I couldn’t articulate what that difference was for a long time, I somehow knew it had to be kept “secret”. It falls in line with the sense of the “Imposter Syndrome”. Or to analogize this to another group, my friends who are in AA, have that built in community of people like them. Again, I have no intention of abusing ETOH to get a membership card. Given my preponderance of constant anti-biotic use, I would not be able to over drink with any consistency, anyway . But then, if I had that particular disease, adherence to abstinence while on antibiotics would most likely not be in the forefront of my mind.

An additional aspect that frustrates me is that I used to do my share of volunteer work for HIV/AIDS education and prevention & services to people with HIV. That all stopped when I had my first shoulder surgery, which I believe was the catapulting event that was the beginning of my overall health decline. That was followed by the chronic pain problems (which is a completely different chapter). Aside from lacking the energy to be able to commit long term, I’ve re-focused my energies to learning about and working on causes related to CVID. While important and a necessary move on my part, what I do in these regards, impacts fewer people than did my HIV work. It also somehow feels ‘less pure’, as now my motives are now more self-serving.

When I’m able to joke about it, which is most of the time, I say this is just another aspect of how dyslexia has permeated every aspect of my life.** (see second footnote.) Even my body/blood got the letters mixed up. Gay men are supposed to get HIV, not CVID. But then, I've never been one to follow convention. The ironic part being all the years of worrying about HIV, and doing my semi-annual HIV tests (out of habit, not necessarily activity), it didn't occur to me or my various healthcare providers to look at other possibilities, until two and a half years ago. Well, that's partly untrue. For nearly 13 years, I kept saying, "There's something you're not figuring out. Something's not right. I shouldn't be getting sick all the time." And, after all those years, it was the PA who finally diagnosed me correctly.

I close with no answers to my contemplative fantasy disease exchange, but more questions, which is frustrating. As the Baker’s son, sings in the finale of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, “No more questions—please. No more tests... No more curses you can’t undo…No more questions, please. Close the door.—Just No More.” Just no more—those three words speak volumes. I believe that most of life’s ponderings can be summed up by and/or found in one of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals/songs. I would say Into the Woods is my favorite Sondheim, but I can’t. That’s like parents choosing a favorite child (although mine did, --shocker! It wasn’t me). All of his shows provide a new/usually skewed—in a good way—outlook. (I wish they would do a revival of this show on Broadway. I’ve only seen this one by smaller non-equity companies in smaller venues. I’d really like to see it on the Big White Way. Although I didn’t get there this year to see Sunday in the Park With George (another Great Sondheim show). But I digress.


*term in the gay community for an HIV negative man who seeks out and has unprotected sex with an HIV positive man with the sole intent of contracting the virus. Some view it as a ‘right of passage’ to becoming a MOTT (Member Of The Tribe). There’s an alarming amount of data indicating the widespread practice of this, especially among younger gay men who never have had to witness the decline and gruesome deaths of their friends who died from AIDS complications, before the advent of Protease Inhibitors and all the subsequent HIV meds.

**the other aspect being that I did not come out of the closet until I quit being a florist. I got that backwards too.

©wtf/rle

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Meet Gary Fisher


Pre-script: This post was written July 5. I didn't get the pic until today (July 13), and thus didn't post until now..

I have a new “Gary” in my life. Back in May, I wrote my good-by message to Gary MINI Cooper – here--> http://randomthawghts.blogspot.com/2008/04/so-long-gary-with-some-regrets.html.
Meet Gary Fisher. He is my new set of wheels/transportation. One of the things I planned to do with the sale of Gary Cooper was to purchase a new bicycle. The brand happens to be “Gary Fisher”. Having the complete non-sports gay gene, I don’t know, but I think Gary Fisher (the person) was/is some famous bicyclist. Between traveling, and being sick, I hadn’t had much opportunity to ride Gary. Last weekend, I finally got out and rode the Lake Shore Drive bike trail. (Over the 4th of July weekend, I took two good size rides.) My hope is that it will provide the additional cardio needed to lose the last of the gut. The LSD bike trail is another one of the many reasons I HEART Chicago. The current Mayor Daley has done a lot to make Chicago a bike friendly city. In addition to abundant bike trail, the buses of CTA have bike racks on front of the bus, and you can take them on the el to travel to other bikeable destinations--even more reasons to HEART Chicago.


Serious Chronic Illness* pays off, Once Again!

Last December, I wrote a post about being asked to be part of a focus group regarding CVID, (the illness/ diagnosis I have).
*–sidebar—I never quite know what to call it. Disease doesn’t seem to fit, as it’s not something communicable, and not something I caught from someone else (other than possible in utero); ‘condition’ doesn’t really fit either; which leaves me with illness, but that doesn’t seem to fit either, because it’s actually other illnesses I get (bronch, sinus, (and now apparently ear infections). So, I end up calling it ‘my diagnosis’. What do I call it? Any recommendations, Dr. Mark?
Anyway, I had an email from the Primary Immune Deficiency Foundation, that there was going to be another focus group for Immune Deficiency (non-HIV) patients who receive infusions of IgG. Once again, it pays an honorarium and mileage. However, there was no mention of snacks this time. If I could get one of these gigs every month, I could start breaking even on my monthly meds co-pays at Walgreen’s!
The focus group is next Saturday. I’ll give a report after it occurs.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Seriously Universe, WTF?!

As noted in the previous post, I was back at my Dr.’s office and got a shot and put on oral antibiotics for the 4th sinus infection of the year. A week into this course of meds, my right neck lymph gland is swollen, and right ear begins to hurt. Tuesday night, I went to bed at 7:30, because I was exhausted and felt like shit. I NEVER go to bed that early (to sleep). I go back yesterday (Wednesday) to my Dr. I’ve now got a fucking otitis (outer ear infection). Onset occurs AFTER a week of being on antibiotics. WTF? So, it’s another shot (on the right ass cheek this time), and extension of the oral antibiotics. Unbelievable. So, I ask if these two infections are related—did the sinus infection migrate to the ear. No. Should I make an appointment with an Otolaryngologist (ENT-Ear Nose Throat) doc? Yes, we should consider it, but not until I’m off the antibiotics. HE wants to monitor this, and see if it (sinus infection) will stay away—or see how long before it strikes again. I ask Dr. K, “ WTF? —I thought these monthly infusions of IgG were supposed to keep from getting these infections so frequently. It doesn’t seem to be working. It seems like I’m getting sick as frequently if not more so since I started them over two years ago.” He says we might try going to every 3 weeks, instead of 4-5 weeks. He’s done that with another patient, and it seems to have helped him. I ask how they determined the IgG dosage? Is it a guess? Should he take blood and see where my antibody level is to monitor it? It seems now would be a good time, as it’s midway point between infusions. “Good question”, he replies. He’s not sure, but will go do a search to find out. He returns 15-20 minutes later. He can’t find any research or data doing a quick internet search, but he’s going to investigate more. He quizzes me about being depressed. “I’m not depressed, I’m pissed off.”
“About what?”
“About being sick all the goddamn time.”
I know the signs of depression. I know the signs in me. When I’m clinically depressed, I have low to no libido. Without going into details, this is currently not an issue. It’s definitely not an issue at this time. I’m just over feeling like shit so often.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gay Pride

Today was the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. It’s my third favorite weekend in Chicago (followed by IML & Halsted Market Days, which I wrote about here: { http://randomthawghts.blogspot.com/2008/05/i-heart-chicago.html }
I had originally planned to go out to some of the bars this weekend. However, my sinuses had other plans, as I’ve been hit with another sinus infection. The only good part of this is, that when I went to my Dr., in addition to oral antibiotics (which prevented an plans of drinking), he also ordered a shot. My favorite, hot patient tech came in to give me my shot. If someone’s going to come in and tell me to ‘drop trou’, I’d prefer it be him. (Hey, we take small victories where we can get them.) Anyway, sleeping little and sleeping poorly for the past week, combined with the feeling that there’s a tiny man inside my head, using the back of my right eyeball as a punching bag. I wasn’t up for nights on the town. Saturday, I called Mike, the friend I recently reconnected with (that I wrote about here: { http://randomthawghts.blogspot.com/2008/05/two-unexpected-things-happened-this.html } , to see if he had plans with anyone for the Parade and if he’d like to hang out together to watch the parade. He had plans, but invited me to come along with him/them. I accepted. Mike and I share the same acerbic, dry sense of humor, mixed with a good amount of bitter cynicism. We also lust after the same types of men, so watching hot guys go by is a lot of fun with Mike…”11:00 O’clock-hairy chest, pencil eraser nips; 2:00 O’clock- scruffy beard, solid pecs…” and so on.
I first met up with Mike at Starbucks. From there we went to meet up with his other friends, who Mike knows because they are all friends of Bill. He sees Fred and introduces us. Fred tells us the other guys are a few yards away. We go over, and Mike introduces me to Frankie, Fred’s boyfriend (I’m using pseudonyms to protect the guilty and the innocent). “Umm, uh, hi Frankie, nice to uh meet you.” The others get a few yards ahead of us, out of earshot and I lean over to Mike and say, “I tricked with Frankie before.” AWWKKWARD!! This was not recent, 2 or 3 years ago, but still awkward. What would Miss Manners say is the appropriate way to handle this situation? Do you pretend you’ve never met? Do you acknowledge meeting, but not the circumstances? Mike laughed and said, “Let’s keep that info under wraps.” Not a problem. Mike and I stayed together in one spot back against a building under an awning , and the other guys went 10-15 feet up the sidewalk, at the curb, and we didn’t really mingle.
The Parade was really slow this year. There was about a 20-30 minute stretch where there was a stop in the procession. Rumor is that someone got sick/had an accident earlier in the route, which held up all of the floats behind. Then it got cloudy and dark, and started raining. I was glad Mike chose the awning spot earlier. Guys rushed to us and squeezed in. I love people watching. One of the humorous things to witness is the straight guys, who are trying really hard to be cool, and OK around us gays, but they haven't quite fully crossed to the other side of that bridge. As they are walking through the crowd--the sea of fags and dykes, they hold on to their girlfriends' hands as if they were super glued together, for fear that a momentary body separation will cause us gays to descend upon them and try to bring them play for 'our team'.
The clouds finally passed, and it quit raining. There seemed to be another lapse. It was getting dark again, so Mike and I opted to leave before the next cloudburst. I got to the El station just before the next downpour. It was a fun day, and good to spend time with Mike again.
Now my monologue about “Why Pride?” Every so often the occasional uniformed person utters, “Why do you need to have a parade? We don’t have ‘straight pride. Where’s our parade.” There’s no straight pride parade, because EVERY DAY is straight pride day. Until GLTB people are granted the right to marry, to file joint tax return, to not be prohibited from being with their partners in hospitals, to not worry about being fired for being gay, for not getting tied to a fence and pistol whipped and left to die, or getting bashed for walking down the sidewalk, holding hands, showing (appropriate) affection in public, until we no longer have a government (and president) who tries to be the first ever to make a constitutional amendment to specifically DENY civil rights to GLTB people, as long as people use the bible and religion as a weapon with which to persecute us, we will continue to have pride parades one day every year. The other 364 days we will remain a people who are proud and grateful being who we are. We aren’t going away.

Travel Logue in Reverse, Part 2-Redacted

I've written the next installment of my Travel Logue in reverse, and have read and re-read it. I've had to redact much of my own writing. In it I write about getting confirmation of my fears that my sister-in-law is a homophobe. Even though my relatives do not read this, I don't think I want those thoughts in a public forum until/unless I can tone it down. Because, I'm extremely pissed and not sure how I want to handle it. Perhaps I'll continue editting and post the re-write.

Monday, June 23, 2008

JOLT & A Weekend of Firsts

This is a two-fer posting, as I seem to have difficulty in my desired regularity in daily or multiple times a week in posting. I still haven’t continued the travelogue.

This post falls in line with the I Heart Chicago posting a month ago.

I took off Friday. My plan is to take every other Friday off during the summer to give myself some long weekends to do things like catch up on my blog. I obviously failed.

JOLT
Friday night I had plans with my friend Mark to go to the free concert in Millenium Park. Chicago does this wonderful thing of providing free concerts and movies in Millenium Park during the summer. Before Millenium, it was Grant Park. There is the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, who play (and sing) classical music. They also get big names to perform. After Taste of Chicago in July, they will start up with Tuesday night movies. People bring picnic dinners, their lawn chairs and blankets and settle in for a night of entertainment under the Chicago sky. (I’d say ‘under the stars’, but you really can’t see them in Chicago).
It’s great, because you have the melting pot that is Chicago at these events, from the white collar ‘suits’ of Michigan Avenue, to poor students from the Art Institute School, to the laborers, and immigrant families.

Anyway, Mark and I were going to picnic and go to the concert. (I don’t even know who was performing. The weather had been dicey most of the day threatening rain and actually raining. We held off until late afternoon, and we decided, yes the weather was going to cooperate. Then it rained a bit, and we opted to go see a movie instead. We have the rest of the summer for picnics and shows in MP. We went to see “The Visitor”—very good flick, I highly recommend it. Mark and I hadn’t see each other, talked in quite a while so we were catching each other up on our lives. In the El, on the way home, Mark says, “And how’s Euckie?” It was like I’d been punched in the stomach—no, it was like he had reaching down into my throat and pulled my intestines back out through my mouth. I stammered out, “Didn’t you get my email in April?! I had to have Euckie put to sleep.” He’d forgotten. He apologized. But it really threw me, because well, it really threw me. Although it’s become ‘routine’ to come home and know that she’s not there to greet me, it’s still difficult on occasion, when I first open the door and for that split second have forgotten that she’s gone, until I open the door and she’s not there. It still sucks shit. But, I was surprised that I had such a visceral reaction almost 3 months after the fact. Fucking grief that lurks around the shadows then sucker punches you when you aren’t expecting it—I loathe you. The times that are difficult, that you would think would be the opposite, are the times when I can be more spontaneous, and not have to worry about getting home right after work, or making plans to go out and be away during the usual walk and feeding times. I mean, I’m now freed up to be more spontaneous, and meet someone after work or go out Saturday afternoon and stay out without coming home in between times. (See story below.) In some ways, that makes her absence all the more profound. Let me repeat. It just sucks shit.

WEEKEND of FIRSTS
Unlike Marc Acito http://marcacito.blogspot.com/ , who has made it a point to do something new every day, I have made no such self-commitment. (Apologies to gdad--I tried making the hyperlink word, and couldn't get it to work--that Turrette's like string of obscenities you heard on Monday night coming from Chicago and me trying to make the freaking thing work.) Saturday morning I woke up early, as my body seems wont to do now that I no longer need to do so for early morning walks. I ate my cereal, drank my mocha latte, and checked things on the computer. I called my friend Bart, who I go with to the gym on Saturdays to see if he wants to go earlier. It’s usually noonish or after when we go. He didn’t answer, must still be in bed. (It was after 8:30 for the record.) I call a bit later and he begs off for the day. So, I get my gym bag, and hop the train. When I’m leaving, I check my phone and there’s a voice mail from my sister*, Karen. She and Brian (her husband) had tickets with friends (another heterosexual couple) for a concert at Soldier Field, and because of all the rain, and crop situation, Brian had to stay and do farm work. Would I like to go in his place. It’s county music—Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Leanne Rimes, and Gary Allen. I’d heard of the first 3. I’m not a country music fan. I’m not anti-country music (mostly), it’s just not something I follow. It was a chance to see Karen, so yeah, why not?! It’ll be great to see Karen, and I’ve never been inside the Stadium at Soldier Field. This would be a first. I know it may be hard to believe, but I don’t have season tickets to the Bears games.

We made the arrangements of where to meet at outside the Stadium. The concert is to begin at 4:00. They’d been waiting 10-15 minutes when I arrived about 4:30. Karen dispenses the tickets, we go through the gate. We cannot take our open bottles of water in. Karen can’t take her umbrella. WTF, are we at the airport?! Are these guys TSA guards? Now, had I had a flask of Vodka in my back pocket, we could have gotten in easily with that.

Now, admittedly, it’s been many, many years since I’ve dated women. But I’ve don’t plenty of social activities with women in the interceding years. I don’t remember this: I think once we get in the stadium, we’re going to find our seats. My mistake. First, the woman friend wants to stop at the T-Shirt vendor to check on Keith Urban shirts. (Karen and her friend have crushes on Keith.) She doesn’t like them. OK, off to find our seats. Oh, no. Now they need to go to the bathroom. We find them one level lower. We get back to our level. Let’s get beer while we’re down here. OK, that’s copacetic. We get the beer. NOW, off to the seats. “Oh, why don’t we get something to eat while we’re down here.” I swear, I think it took us over 45 minutes from entering the gate to actually sitting our butts in the seats! Is this typical heterosexual married life? OMG, I was ready to scream. This is the stuff of sitcoms that are supposed to be parody.

The concert itself hadn’t started yet. The music we’d been hearing was recorded. I leaned over to Karen and said, “I don’t mean to be stupid, but who is this we’re listening to right now?”

The concert begins with the Gary Allen guy. He’s good. Then Leanne Rimes. I’d at least heard of her. She was good. Then comes Keith I liked him a lot. To me, he has more of a 70’s rock vibe, a la Eagles, America, Lennard Skinner. And, he’s really pretty hot. I now understand the crushes on him. Nicole was there. The jumbo tron showed her a couple of times. Friday had been Nic’s birthday, and Keith had the audience of 50,000 people sing Happy Birthday to Nicole, while the screen showed her blushing. And speaking of hot—there were a LOT of hot buff country boys at this concert. Who knew so many hot men liked country music. Damn, I may have to begin expanding my musical horizons. It was like the pretty boy section at the gay bars. In addition to the hot men, there were a lot of overweight women, wearing clothing that did nothing to hide, nor showcase their bodies in a flattering manner. With all of the hot men and fat women, it made me think I was the voyeur at a convention of pretty gay men and their fag hags. But, I digress.

I really enjoyed Keith. He’s an excellent entertainer. He did something I haven’t often seen. After he sang his first few songs, he introduced his band, and highlighted each member individually, giving them a turn in the spot light to play and/or sing. I liked that.

By the time it was Kenny Chesney’s turn, it was getting dark. Midway through his concert, the Saturday night fireworks went of at Navy Pier, and we were in a prime spot in the stadium to see the fireworks display over Lake Michigan. This was another Chicago first for me. It was after 11:00 pm when Kenny ended the show. It was a fun afternoon/evening. I had many firsts: Inside Soldier Field (for an actual event even), my first country music concert, my first outdoor stadium “Big League performer” concert, first time seeing the downtown fireworks from Navy Pier. The other firsts of my weekend are not for public consumption, so we’ll end the story with the concert.

* Karen, and her older sister Chris are the daughters of my Mom’s best friend from High School. Their parents are my Godparents, and who would have been my guardians had something happened to my parents when I was still a minor child. Karen and Chris have been more like siblings to me than my brothers, and for years we’ve introduced each other as sisters/brother when meeting one of the others friends. It’s the thing that gays have done so well in creating ‘family of choice’ when family of origin have not been what we need family to be.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Travel Logue, in Reverse Part 1

Travel log in Reverse, Part 1
I’m way behind. I’ve been back a week now from MD, and still don’t have my travels from Vancouver and MD done. I’m going to write my travel tales in reverse since I have almost two weeks worth to report, and since my blog posts the most recent item first, when all is said and done, it will read chronologically. I started this first entry when, well start reading…

I’m on the train home from downstate (Bumblefuck), back to Chicago. Just after we got in the SUV to go the train station-- (and I use that term loosely, as the depot has no staffed station any longer. It now houses a tanning spa {again, using THAT term loosely}, there is a makeshift ‘shelter’ to apparently protect one from the elements, when waiting for your delayed train, there’s no building or station in which to wait—I had to walk out into the street, and cross the tracks, to enter the car I was to board—the freaking engineer apparently cannot bring the designated car to the actual boarding area—but I digress. We were in the car to the train ‘station’, and my phone rings. It’s an 800 number, and I hesitate answering, but I do. It’s AMTRAK,
“Mr. gayCMEguy, I’m glad I got you, this is Barbara from Amtrak, have you received an update on your 11:27 train from town near BF to Chicago?”
ME: With a hint of reservation in my voice--NO, I’m on my way to the station now.
AMTRAK: There are technical difficulties with your train, it’s still running, but there is no air conditioning on the train. The train is only running a few minutes late. We are also providing bus service and are offering you the option of train or bus w/ A/C. The bus will be running on time. You don’t have to tell me or decide now. Since there’s no station with personnel, you just board whichever. you decide.
I immediately regret, changing out of my shorts and into my jeans.
ME: What’s the arrival time difference?
AMTRAK: They’re on the same schedule, making all the same stops.
I decide that I’ll take whichever arrives first, presuming it will be the bus. At about 11:25, the lights flash and the gates go down on the street crossing. Wow, the train is on time! The train does NOT slow down, does NOT stop, and zooms by. When I arrived, there was what appeared to be a bum sitting/slumping in the shelter. I avoided him. When the train zoomed by, he got on his cell phone, had it on speaker. He was contacting AMTRAK about his train. He was southbound while I’m northbound. He makes small conversation about AMTRAK with me and my Dad. He has one front top snaggle-tooth, with the others appearing to be gnawed down to the gums. It was very distracting.
The Maryland trip:
I ran the gamut of emotions and realizations on this trip. Each time I’ve seen my Dad this year (3 x since Christmas), he is appearing more feeble. This year, for the first time, my parents seem old—seemed to have aged greatly. That’s a hard reality to witness. Now, I realize that I’m fortunate in still having my parents here in which to witness such events. But, it’s still hard. Another realization was that my parents have no business driving long distances. I don’t even want them driving to Chicago to see me. My Dad has always driven like an old man farmer. But his driving scared me. I ended up driving the majority of the trip (15 hours one way). The two short stints that Mom drove, was disconcerting in different ways.
Another emotion that ran high was anger. Since I learned to drive, has always been a terrible back seat driver. The last big driving trip I took with them was when I was college age. We went east to DC, and Gettysburg. This was 25 +/- years ago. I vowed then, I’d never take a trip with my parents again. I had thought that years and time might have mellowed Dad in this aspect. I was mistaken in this thought. I wanted to slap the shit out of him. At one point, gritting my teeth, I literally bit my tongue. I have the ulcered reminder still.

I waffled between, sadness for acknowledging the aging processes, to being extremely pissed off at him. My parents wake up before the ass-crack of dawn. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a morning person. Dad took the opening shift of driving. I’d take over when we stopped for breakfast. Sunday evening, after an extremely long and arduous day, filled with ample amounts of backseat driving, we were in Ohio. I was one raw nerve, and my eyes were starting to go batty, so I turned the keys over to Mom. We got through Columbus. I figure were going to stop soon, and I wanted to be able to search for hotels on the GPS (btw Garmin is a piece of shit—it was only good for locating hotels and restaurants, for directions, it sucks, I’m glad I did Mapquest, otherwise we’d still be circling Indianapolis). WE stop again at a rest area and Dad takes the keys from Mom. FUCK. We’re about 15 miles away from Springfield, roughly 60 from Dayton. Dad says, ‘we’ll just go on to Dayton.” I snapped. I said, “NO, we’re not! I’m done for the day. We are stopping in Springfield. I begin searching on Garmin. Because of my job, I discounted rates off the rack rate for lodging at all the major chains. So, I plan to call different ones to see who will give me the best government rate. I see a Marriott Courtyard. I think good, if the rate’s decent, it will be better than the fleabags we’ve been in the past 3 nights. I call. They have availability, and the state rate is $80. , cheaper than the MD Econolodge, and the same as the divey Red Roof Inn we were in the first night. Dad screeching to me, “HOW MUCH is it?! WHAT’s the AARP rate? I ask. My discount is better. I book the room, get directions, as I don’t trust Garmin to get us there. I hang up. Dad, asking me what hotel it is. I tell him it Courtyard, a Marriott discount franchise. “Well no wonder it’s so expensive!”
OH, NO HE DIDN’T JUST SAY THAT. This may have been when I actually bit my tongue. I simply said in a firm, but not angry voice, “This is NOT an expensive rate. It’s less than we’ve paid anywhere else.” I’ve never told my Dad to fuck off, but I came pretty damn close at that moment. My Dad was insistent that he was paying the expenses for the trip. Because of this, we all slept in one room, w/ 2 double beds. When I went up to the desk to check in, I took out my wallet and gave the man cash. Dad kept trying to put his credit card out. I told him I was taking care of it. (If you’re going to bitch about the choice, I’m not holding you responsible.) For the record, it was the nicest, and cleanest of any of the places we stayed. We check in, go to eat (at Bob Evans for the 5th time in 4 days, and 2nd time that day.) Fortunately, the Courtyard had a small gym and a pool. I definitely needed to work out some aggression, as well as needed some serious down time alone. Even though I was exhausted, and really could have gone to sleep, I knew I could not go back and stay in the room with them and keep that last raw nerve from unraveling. I hit the treadmill, did a few reps on the weight machine, and then went and sat in the whirlpool for a while until I got too shrivel. At this point I went back to the room, showered, grabbed the laptop and went down to the lobby bar to have a beer and check email, blogs, etc. The bar was closed, but I stayed down there for over an hour until my eyes could no longer focus, and I knew they’d be asleep.
I was pissed at him. I was pissed at myself for letting him get to me. I’m pissed that we so quickly fell back into the old patterns. I thought all these years later it would not be history repeating itself. FUCK! It was like I was 17 years old all over again. He pushed the buttons. Hell, he installed a good deal of them. The more he needled, the more obstinate I became in my resistance. As if this in and of itself wasn’t a living version of hell, six meals in 4 days were at Bob Evans. This was the payback for my refusing to eat at Cracker Barrel for their homophobic anti-gay hiring policies. OK, end of rant.

The Reception
The reception itself was a lot of fun. Meagan and Adam live out in the country in BF Maryland, by his parents’ on a plot of their land. They are not farmers, but it was farmland country. It was outdoors. They had a covered building, (as many farms do). The weather was unbearably hot and humid—pushing 100 degrees F. Adam (who trained to be a chef) did pretty much all of the cooking, prepping of the food. Meagan had it decorated in a very simple understated elegant manner for an outdoor reception. In what will go down as one of my favorite memories of my life, toward the end of the evening, the DJ puts on Dancing Queen by ABBA. Meagan had been up dancing with various people throughout the night. I hadn’t. When this came on, I looked at her, she at me. I gave her the “do you want to dance” signal. “Uncle Randy, YOU are my dancing queen!” We cut quite a rug (or slab of cement floor). Some of her girlfriends all came up and joined in with us. (Side note, WHY is it that I can attract a bevy of hot girls/women, but not the hot gay men?) This reminded me of another wedding reception years ago, for my friend Janet. She is the last woman I dated before finally coming out of the closet. At her reception, the DJ started playing “Someday My Prince Will Come”. Janet was clear across the room talking to other guests, and came running to me, and said, “There’s only one person I can dance with to this song!” And, we danced, creating a great life memory. This dance with Meagan takes a special place in the memory bank as well.
Adam knows that Tommy (my brother, Meagan’s Dad) like single malt scotch, so he order a bottle of Glenlivet for us. The two of us polished it off by the end of the night. I was pacing myself with the drinking, as I didn’t want to be driving all day hungover. I started with beer, and as hot and humid as it was, I was sweating it out almost as fast as I was drinking. Dustin (my nephew, Meagan’s older brother) was there with one of his best friends. They verbally arm twisted me into doing shots with them a couple of times.
An additional bonus was that I got to see Lisa, their Mom, my former sister-in-law, whom I adore. I hadn’t seen her for over 15 years. When I first came out, she was the one member of the family who was completely nonplussed by it, and accepted it (and me) without question. It was great fun seeing her (and members of her family) again.
…to be continued.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

On the Road Again

From the far Northwest to the far (sorta) Southeast. It’s Thursday night and I’m en route to Maryland (via automobile) with my parents. Nearly 12 hours on the road today. Hopefully, less than 5 hours tomorrow in the car. I did most of the driving. We hit 6 states today: starting in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, W VA (again) and Maryland. The purpose of the trip is to attend my niece’s marriage reception. The Wedding was in December. I wrote about her here http://randomthawghts.blogspot.com/2008/01/it-is-pretty-great.html.

(Apologies to Gdad--I'm too tired to play with and figure out the link naming thinging, you graciously explained to me.)

I just got back Tuesday from Vancouver, BC CANADA and haven’t even written about that trip yet, and here I am off to the complete opposite end of the continent. VC, BC was GR8, btw! I will write, hopefully this weekend.
My body’s internal clock is so whacked it doesn’t know what time zone I’m in, and whether I should be sleeping, eating or pooping.
One quick tidbit b4 I turn out the lights. After we, stopped, and got in to the motel--This ain't the like Hyatt in VC, BC) I went out to walk around, because I could not immediately go back to sitting. I wander up a road, up a hill, and find a mall. (How incredibly gay of me, I know.) There are no signs of cultural activities such as theatre, music, etc (unless you count Bravo network on the cable TV.) So, I'm wandering JC Penney's, just window shopping. I see a rack of cargo shorts, $40.00, marked down to $14.99, marked down further to $11.99. I can use another pair of shorts (30W), so I figure, I'll bite the bullet. I go to the register. The girl rings it up and says, "$2.11". I say, "WHAT?!", scrunching up my eyebrows. "Yeah, for any purchase over $10.00, you get a $10.00 discount. If you go back and find more, I'll can ring them up separately. I try to help out my customers." There were no more 30W on the rack. But, damn! This was better than a gay garage sale! These are brand new, tags still on, right off the rack. Oh, and the shorts includes a belt! For once a good WASTHTR!

Monday, May 26, 2008

I HEART CHICAGO

There are many reasons why I love living in Chicago. Summers in Chicago make up for Winters in Chicago. Meeting friends for a picnic in the evening for free concerts and movies in Millennium Park, to name but one.
Memorial Day weekend is one of my two favorite weekends of every year in Chicago. It’s IML or International Mr. Leather competition, in which a convergence of Leather men (and women) descend upon Chicago for the crowning of the new winner, who will carry the title and be an ombudsman for the Leather Community. (Think Miss America, except it’s a burly, hairy chested hunk of gay man beefcake.) I’m by no means what one would call a leather queen. (Although, I did buy a pair of leather pants. I made a promise to myself that if I lost enough weight to fit into a 30” waist again, I’d treat myself to black leather jeans. {I topped out at 34” waist} I found a pair, on a sale rack for $50.) Other than IML weekend, I maybe go out to the bars once or twice during the year. I’ve never even attended the competition. But I love going to the “Leather Mart”, in which vendors of every fetish, and kink you could imagine (and some you never before imagined) display their wares, services, toys, accoutrements. I’ll refrain from providing any graphic detail as MUPD (see next post) reads my blog.
Additionally, people are decked out in full regalia of leather, uniforms, and other fetish drag. It’s a great sociological and anthropological observation. This year was the 30th annual IML, and had over 18,000 international attendees. It’s held at one of the larger conference hotels downtown, this year at the Hyatt. One of the things I love about the Mart, the whole weekend, is that it’s the most non-judgmental atmosphere EVER. People feel free to be who they are, and display that publically without guile or shame. One of my favorite years of IML was the year that the main conference hotel for IML, The Palmer House Hilton, was also the main conference hotel for the Promise Keepers. If you aren’t familiar, this is the neo con religious right group of men (i.e. jerry falwell, jimmy swagart dobson, etc). IT was great watching the PK men recoiling on the escalators as they watched big hairy men, in chains, collars, chaps, with their naked asses on display. Another favorite, was the year I was walking around the Leather Mart with my friend B. There was a vendor who had a gay porn star in his booth to hawk his wares, which happened to include glass dildoes. The porn star was bragging about how indestructible they were, and proceeded to demonstrate their durability (NO, NOT THAT WAY!) by banging (no pun intended) the sex toy on the edge of the table, upon which the indestructible glass dildo shattered into a million little pieces on the 3rd hit. All of us in the vicinity broke out into hysterical laughter. I’m not certain whether the porn star stayed on as spokes-model, or whether any of the devices sold that weekend.
My other favorite Chicago weekend is the second weekend of every August, which is North Halsted Market Days. It’s the largest street fest in the Midwest, in the heart of Boystown, where Halsted Street is closed down, restaurants, bars, and vendors set up on the street, and there are 3stages for live performances. It’s the dog days of summer, and the beefy, hot men are often shirtless. It’s like being a diabetic in a candy shop, but it’s still lots of fun, walking the strip, seeing what vendors are there, and what bands/performers are going to be on which stage at what time. To me, it’s a lot more fun than the annual gay pride parade, because you’re not on the sidelines watching the parade go by, but you’re in the middle of the action, participating (or not) to your heart’s content. You see men holding hands with other men, and women with women, without fear of bashing.

Moments of Grace

Two unexpected things happened this weekend, that were really nice surprises. I call them moments of grace, removing any religious connotation to the term. Perhaps moments of Will and Grace.

First moment: Last week, I checked my voice mail on my land line (something I don’t do with any regularity). There was a message from a week before from Mike. Mike and I had been friends. I met him the first year I moved to Chicago, when we both joined the gay chorus. We even have the same birthday. We became fast friends. Just friends, nothing romantic. Eight years ago, something happened the ended the friendship. The details aren’t important for the purposes of this post. And, writing of them would break confidences that need not be broken. At the time it happened, I was deeply saddened. As the metaphor goes, the ball was in his court. I kept somewhat updated on him through a mutual friend. His voice mail indicated he’d just had dinner with said mutual friend, which was his impetus to call. I returned the call. We made plans to meet for coffee on Saturday at 9:00. We met. He opened by referencing said incident. I told him of my perception, the feelings it left me with, and why it upset and hurt me so deeply. He apologized. It’s amazing how the two simple words, “I’m sorry”, when spoken sincerely have the ability to melt away an iceberg 8 years in the making. We sat and talked for over 3 hours, with plans to get together and do Chicago “summer activities”. I truly thought we’d never speak again.

Second moment: Upon returning home, I par chance checked my land line voice mail. There was a message from my “MUPM”—My Upper Peninsula Mom. She and “MUPD” –My Upper Peninsula Dad, were visiting their daughter MB, who lives on the south side. I was a ‘bridesman’ in her first wedding. When I was in grad school, I became good friends with both of their daughters. They lived not too far away. MUPD is a retired United Methodist Minister. But, he does not fit the mold of “stodgy, prudish minister”, which often comes to the front of your brain, when you hear “minister or preacher”. MB is best friends with one of my grad school housemates, DJ. DJ, and I by extension got invited annually to what came to be known as “Birthday Fest” for MB’s (and her sister KT’s) respective birthdays. They ‘adopted’ me, and I became “Their Gay Son”, at a time when my relationship with my family of origin was not in a good place, post-coming out. Through various moves they have been MIM/MID (My Iowa Mom/Dad); MIOM/D My Other Illinois Mom/Dad); and now MUPM/D My Upper Peninsula Mom/Dad. I did not get to see them before the last move from Illinois to Michigan last year.
Here was MUPM on my voice mail, saying they were in town at MB’s, and DJ was there too. They would drive (since I no longer have Gary) from the far South side to the far North side and take me to dinner if I was free. I’m So glad I checked the VM. I called back, and the plans were set. The homo gods were looking down upon me, as I had made an extra chocolate pound cake and had it in the freezer from the last time I bake for book group a few weeks ago. So, we could go out for Asian food, and return to my place for dessert. MUPM is a retired Home Ec teacher, so I couldn’t (well I could, but I WOULDN’T) serve something store bought. One of the things I love about this family, is that they are all very quick witted, and zingers and one liners fly from all of us. It’s always a great sparing match of words and wit, and we laugh. Oh how we laugh. They make me feel like I matter--Even now that I’m a godless heathen. MUPD told me once that I was mentioned in one of his sermons when he was guest preaching somewhere.
Aside from the love and affection I hold for this, my ‘other’ family, my “family of choice”. I have the utmost regard and respect. This family’s health travails rival, and surpass my own. MUPD & MUPM are both cancer survivors. MB is a cancer survivor, having just had surgery in December for kidney cancer. KT’s son, is a cancer survivor, having had a rare liver cancer when he was only 2. He’s 11 now, if memory serves. He was truly a miracle child. MUPD just lost a sister to cancer. His Dad had cancer. Through all of these, they maintained their faith, spirit, and belief in a benevolent god, that I relinquished or so long ago. The only thing missing was KT and her family, who are in the UP. In fact, MUPD has written a book, "Now That I Have Cancer, I am Whole" ISBN 978-0-7407-6372-4.
MUPD is the only person who knows me personally that reads my blog. I have intentionally not let other family and friends knowledge of its existence.

After some pretty major losses in the last few months, these were great 'finds'.

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Although, as per the John Denver song, my bags are NOT packed, I'm NOT ready to go... yet.

I’m off to the great North East. I’m going to Vancouver, BC, Canada for a conference for work. I’m even presenting at the conference, which, to quote Little Red Riding Hood from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, “I’m excited AND scared”. Well, OK, maybe scared is a bit too strong. But extremely nervous is not. The dreams will probably start tonight or tomorrow night. You know the ones, where everything than can go wrong does. You DO have those dreams don’t you? My worst ones were back when I had my florist business. I would dream that I somehow forgot Mother’s Day, and didn’t have enough flowers to sell—or that I missed a wedding by a week, or delivered the flowers to the wrong church. (That one actually happened with a florist I once worked for—(not my fault, for the record). Yet, given my penchant for WASTHTR*, there is empirical evidence to support my paranoia.
I’m most excited about going to VC. I’ve never been, and I’ve heard all of these wonderful things about the city. IF anyone has recommendations, of what to see, do, where to eat, please send them to me. I’ll be there through the weekend, and will have all of Sunday to myself to explore, sightsee.


*Weird Ass Shit That Happens To Randy

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bus Ride, Part II

Bus Ride Part II

In the midst of my laughing fits from reading Attack of the Theatre People*, my cell phone rings. Caller ID shows that it’s my brother, Mike, who never calls me for no particular reason. He proceeds to tell me that our Mom is in the hospital, she was taken by ambulance. SHIT!! This is not a phone conversation one wants to have on the bus, especially, the Felini Express. He doesn’t know a lot. Dad, loses/misses a lot of information when transmitting it from one source to another. He’s fully functional and his mental acuity is fine. Communication is just not his strong suit. This is not a judgment nor a value statement, but rather an observation. Add to that the confusion of medical terminology and being flummoxed by the situation, there wasn’t a dearth of information to glean from him, and what Mike did get was even more scant. She apparently was light-headed, almost fainted or actually fainted, then was nauseous. I begin asking Mike about whether she’s been seen by a cardiologist yet. That statement caused the people in close proximity to me, to once again turn and stare at me. Albeit, with different looks on their faces this time. Even in a low voice, this is just not a conversation you want to have on a bus. Had I been out walking, or in a building, I could have at least found a quiet corner or hallway.

Later that night, Dad calls me from home. He doesn’t have a lot more info than what Mike had relayed other than the Cardiologist was going to be by in the morning. I told him that when the Cardiologist, arrived, that Dad was to call me, so I could talk to him.
Sunday morning about 11:00, it’s Dad’s cell phone calling. He gives me the Dr. I tell him where I work, that I’m the Director of CME, and I used to work at the hospital where Mom is (and he works). Without going into detail, there’s no indication of heart attack. They’re doing an Echocardiograph on Monday morning. If everything comes back unremarkable, they’ll send her home.

Last week was such a strange week at work. I may post about that later. It was topped off by a stranger weekend. Was it a full moon?

Post Script--Mom went home Monday evening.

*Marc Acito’s new book

Inspired

Inspired
My blog is mostly the rants and ramblings of a wannabe writer—snippets of my life for anyone who might stubble over here. Often my writings are of a medical nature, as I work in healthcare, and I’m a major consumer of healthcare services. (I write solely for myself and not for, nor do I represent anyone else in my posts.) Imagine my surprise when I popped over to one of my favorite physician blogs http://mouseasthma.blogspot.com/ to see a posting about CVID, http://mouseasthma.blogspot.com/2008/04/common-variable-immune-deficiency-cvid.html my disease. Imagine an even greater surprise to read that I was in part the inspiration for the posting. I’m not usually (read: never before) referenced by a legitimate professional. I’m used to being referenced in vain or in less flattering modes, by non (or lesser) professionals. {nonsequitur: can someone help this techno-challenged man and tell me how to create those one word links in my blog, instead of having to put in the whole url?}
Reading about CVID from a treating physician was great, as it’s not a well known or well publicized disorder. While called Common Variable Immune Deficiency, there’s really nothing common about it. In fact, we often go undiagnosed or mis-diagnosed for years before we get the correct physician who knows of it. It took over 13 years to finally get mine diagnosed correctly. On two different occasions, two different physicians were convinced that I was testing ‘false negatives’ for HIV. I’m a gay man, getting chronic bronchial and sinus infections—gotta be HIV. Let me state for the record, these grasping at straws diagnoses were really effective mind fucks. The possibilities were remote, but not high on the radar. While I’ve not been a chaste monk, I’m not what one would consider a heavy player of the field. I’ve had two previous BFs who were HIV positive. We were always careful. But the remote chance was there.
Having just come back from Washington, DC as ‘Lobbyist for a Day’, it was cool to discover that my writing about that experience prompted a physician to do a scientific/medical post about CVID. Thanks, Dr. Mark: for diagnosing and treating your patients, and for making your medical reading public a bit more knowledgeable. Perhaps we (meaning You) did some CME vicariously.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bus Ride, Part I

It’s all Marc Acito’s Fault

This story requires some set up.

I am told I have a very distinctive laugh. Once, when I was grad school, I went to see a movie. After a particularly funny moment, in a dark theatre, someone yells “(my surname) is that you?!" After I’d’ been in Chicago for a few years, I went to see/hear David Sedaris do a reading. It was a fundraiser for our local Public Radio station. It was also recorder for future listening. Some months after, I get a call from a friend out of the blue, who asked if I’d been at said reading. I replied, “Yes”, somewhat perplexed. “I knew it! I was just listening to it on the radio, and I knew that was your laugh that I heard!” So, apparently my laugh gives me away.

Certain bus and train lines of CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) are known for the patrons who frequent them. A former columnist for one of Chicago’s Gay weekly magazines once referred to the Clark Street #22 bus as “The Felini Express” for the menagerie of freaks and nuts who seemed to always be on every bus. They’re the people who talk to themselves—loudly; or they may look like a close facsimile of the uni-bomber. You get the idea. They are the people you move away from.

This bus is one of the lines that I live close to and use with some frequency. In fact, I was on this bus on Saturday. Friday night, I was at Unabridged Books, (my favorite bookstore in Chicago) and bought Marc Acito’s new book, Attack of the Theatre People”. It’s funny. It’s very funny. I was reading it Saturday on my ride home on the Felini Express. The bus was full—SRO. I manage to score a seat when someone gets off. I pull the book out of my backpack, I read a passage that made a direct hit to my funny bone. I let out resounding chortle. People stared. I buried my face in the book. It happens again. I let loose with a guffaw. The bus is less crowded now. The guy sitting next to me gets up and moves to another seat. I have become one of those people. I have become a Felini Expressite. It’s all Marc’s fault. Laughing has been comodity of short supply for me. I’ve not been laughing much lately. It felt good—even if it's caused me to join the ranks of the Felini Express People.

Don’t ask me what made me laugh so hard. Go buy the book and find out for yourself. Support your independent bookstore and put Marc’s book on the charts.

Post Script--Tonight (Tuesday) I was transferring trains (EL) coming home from work. I get on the crowded train--SRO. I'm standing near the doorway, holding the bar in one hand, and Attack of the Theatre People in the other. A young, hip woman who was next to/behind me notices the book, and asks, "Have you read his first book? IT was hillarious!" I tell her, "No, this is my first. But it's causing me to have outbursts of laughter on the CTA." She tells me she's going to have go get this one, and tells me to get the first book.