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

Monday, May 26, 2008


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


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.