Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Aye, there's the Rub

I had a massage after work tonight. But first, let me tell you about my day.

It started off well. I had a busy but very productive weekend, and the the apartment is almost finished. I have one more print to get back from the framer's, and then I can call it done. Yesterday I unpacked the last box. I think it looks great. Pics to of these days.

I had a wonderful night's sleep, and woke up feeling refreshed and excited for the week ahead. The first half of the day went fine, but things fell apart a bit after lunch. We had a consultant come in to make a presentation to the team, but the guest user password I'd obtained for her didn't work, the a/v guy never showed to hook up the projector, and the handouts she'd FedExed me arrived an hour after she started. Then at 4:58 -- I swear! -- someone else I support called and said, "Hey, do you remember those documents I had you fax to the attorney in L.A.? I gave you the wrong fax number, can you re-send them?" Okay, so back to the files to pull them all out, unstaple, fax, re-staple, re-sort, and re-file. Meanwhile, 32 pages of confidential financial information have gone...God knows where.

So, yeah, I was feeling pretty excited about this massage. I had a gift certificate from the place I temped all summer long as a thank-you for my many devoted hours of patiently not surfing the internet. (Wink-wink.) It was about to expire so I had to cash it in.

As I was racing to the clinic, an awful thought occurred to me: what if the therapist was a woman? Not that it should really make much difference, but I'm just more comfortable with men. (Go figure.) Why hadn't I called to make a request? So as I pulled into the parking space, I said a quick prayer. "God, throw me a bone, here." (In truth, that's what I said...though as soon as the words escaped my lips I cringed.)

Inside the clinic there was a short, squat young woman sitting at the reception desk, and next to her, a young man in a blue medical outfit. He was about 6'3, olive skin, green eyes, black hair, and had arms like tree-trunks. Oh, mercy, I thought.

Yeah, my appointment was with the woman.

I think this was the first time a woman has seen me naked since my hernia operation in 1994. (Oh, well...Robin Byrd on the beach at Fire Island, but that doesn't count.) Yes, there was a strategically draped sheet, but I'm pretty sure that during the careful arranging she saw more than she needed to. I don't care; I'm not exactly bashful, but still it felt odd. I guess society has programmed me to be nervous while naked around women. (Good thing I'm gay!)

"Wow, it's the size of a softball!" she exclaimed, referring to a knot in my right thigh.

The massage was actually pretty good. I mean, it wasn't life-changing, oh, God, please don't stop, I need someone to carry me back to my car kind of thing, but I definitely felt better afterward.

Now that I'm home, the red wine is finishing where she left off. Ahhhhh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fan Mail!

Mr. Andy, soumds like to me you need to get born-again, saved, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. Your comments about Hal. Lindsey are was out of line, and I sure dont appreciate them at all. I think he is one of the most God led men in the last days that we are living that the Lord has called out to help mankind understand the Bible and prophecy. You sir are a jerk. I will not allow you s--- th go any further on my computer ever again, I dont like you, however I will pray for your soul, you just might get left behind as Mr. L, and the rest of us are raptures out of this wicked and sinful peoples world. GoodbyS.S

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

To Hell With All Your Mercy!

Yesterday I spoke on the phone with someone actually named Peter Grimes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The 200 Gram Spleen is Grossly Unremarkable

Have you ever read a coroner's report?

I hadn't, until Slacktivist linked to one. Recently he's been exploring the roots of anti-gayness among conservative Christians, with a special post devoted to the astonishing frequency of gay and/or kinky conservative Christian gay-bashers. (See Haggard, Ted; Craig, Larry; Foley, Mark, et al.)

There was one whose sad recent demise had passed below my radar: one Reverend Gary Aldridge of Alabama, a former aide to Jerry Falwell. Rev. Aldridge died of asphyxiation. Specifically, an autoerotic asphyxia mishap.

Aldridge "was found hogtied and wearing two complete wet suits, including a face mask, diving gloves and slippers, rubberized underwear, and a head mask, according to an autopsy report." Whatever happened to slipping into something more comfortable?

Oh, and, incidentally, according to the coroner, "There [was] a dildo in the anus covered with a condom." Well, you know, kudos to him for playing safe.

Reading the report, however, I am really relieved that I will not be around to read my own. I think this is just further evidence of the American Idolization of our culture, that we think it's okay to go around evaluating people according to our own shallow preferences and then pontificating ad nauseum about it. I mean, seriously: "The normocephalic head is covered by brown hair. There is frontal balding." Really? I mean, the man was found dead inside two diving suits with a dildo in his butt, as if that isn't mortifying enough, and you have to go pointing out his "frontal balding"?

"The genitalia are normal adult male external genitalia." Well, at least they're not grossly unremarkable.

Just remember, you can't take it with you: "Personal Effects: One yellow metal ring intact on left ring finger; one dildo."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gone West

Last night as I was pumping away on the elliptical before dinner, my iPod landed on "Go West," by the Village People, and it occurred to me that today marks six months since I handed over the keys to my apartment, hopped in a van and left New York. (Re-live the magic: The Cats Across America Tour.)

While there have definitely been some moments of anxiety and frustration over the past months, as I reach this milestone I am drawing a deep breath of satisfaction.

Though I am somewhat surprised that professionally I wound up back in corporate finance, I am really excited about my new job; it has everything I was looking for. I found an apartment that was exactly what I wanted, in the area I wanted to live, and it's really starting to come together. I have furniture and everything now. I found a neighborhood church, and while I miss the formality and grandeur of my churches in New York, I've found a place that is filled with truly nice people, a small but dedicated, eager community for whom my orientation is a non-issue.

I am re-connecting with old friends (having lunch with Quinn, KR and Scott today) and making new ones.

Last week after the movie, this new friend and I went for cocktails at a swanky place in Portland's trendy Northwest district. We were discussing the implosion of my opera career (which conversation happens only over a martini) and my reasons for wanting to move to Portland. I talked about the frustration of my last years in New York, not knowing what to do with my life, struggling with my anxiety and panic attacks and wanting things that New York didn't offer. "I wanted to be able to live like this," I said, as I waved the hand that wasn't holding the Grey Goose gayly around the bar.

It may sound implausible, but in the weeks before I abandoned Manhattan, I would burst into tears every time I heard "Go West." It became the official theme song of my cross-country drive. It still makes me cry, but for a different reason: I did it.

Together we will go our way, together we will leave some day.
Together your paw in my hand, together we will make the plans.
Together we will fly so high, together tell our friends goodbye.
Together we will start life new, together this is what we'll do.

Go west, life is peaceful there.
Go west, lots of open air.
Go west to begin life new.
Go west, this is what we'll do.
Go west, sun in winter time.*
Go west, we will do just fine.
Go wes t where the skies are blue .
Go west, this and more we'll do.

Together we will love the beach, together we will learn and teach.
Together change our pace of life, together we will work and strive.
I love you, I know you love me; I want you happy and carefree.
So that's why I have no protest when you meow you want to go west.

Go west, life is peaceful there.
Go west, lots of open air.
Go west to begin life new.
Go west, this is what we'll do .
Go west, sun in winter time .
Go west, we will do just fine.
Go west where the skies are blue.
Go west, this and more we'll do.

I know that there are many ways to live there in the sun or shade.
Together we will find a place to settle down and live with the space
without the busy pace back east, the hustling, rustling of the feet,
I know I'm ready to leave too, so this is what we're going to do,

Go west, life is peaceful there.
Go west, lots of open air.
Go west to begin life new.
Go west, this is what we'll do.
Go west, sun in winter time.
Go west, we will do just fine.
Go west where the skies are blue.
Go west, this and more we'll do .

* Winter sun not available in all west-coast locations.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Film Review: For the Bible Tells Me So

This past Wednesday, a friend and I headed down to the Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival to see a new documentary, For the Bible Tells Me So, an examination of the effect conservative Christian teaching on homosexuality has on families with a gay member and the basis for those beliefs.

It's a wonderful, moving, painful yet entertaining 90 minutes, but it fails almost completely in its anointed mission to "reconcile homosexuality and Biblical scripture." True, the roughly six Biblical passages used to condemn gay people are each pointed out, but they are rather casually dismissed. The two nearly identical passages from Leviticus where homosexual activity is labeled an "abomination" are made to seem silly, like the prohibitions on eating shrimp or wearing linen and wool together, which are similarly called "abominations."

It's a starting point, of course, to highlight other Hebrew laws we ignore, but the reason that dog won't hunt is that restrictions on food and clothing aren't seen as significant moral issues; they're not in the same arena with sexual behavior. The bans on eating certain foods were also explicitly overturned by Jesus and Peter. The better strategy is to look at passages of Biblical law dealing with moral issues that even self-proclaimed literalists today would be forced to concede are not moral. (Examples here and here.) The answer to the conservative insistence on trotting out Leviticus is not to say, "Hey, here are some other passages we ignore," but rather, "Here are some passages we both reject." I'd be interested in James Dobson's explanation for why a rape victim is bound by God's law to marry her assailant. Even his strict guidelines for parenting don't go this far.

Paul's letter to the Romans is similarly mishandled, with a lame claim that the original Greek that has been translated as "unnatural" really just means "uncustomary." The filmmakers ignore the crucial context that Paul's letter is a specific response to an inquiry from the Roman Christian community about some of the worship practices of the popular cult of Cybele. Like the conservatives who use the passage as a cudgel, the filmmakers, too, fail to turn the page to Chapter 2, where Paul makes it explicitly clear that there is no hierarchy of sin; sexual immorality is no worse than gossip. (Or, to put it another way, gossip is as bad as sexual immorality.)

As to the question of whether homosexuality could possibly be seen as Biblically compatible, somehow they manage to not point out a single gay-affirming passage. (Here, here, here, here, and here, for starters.) The scant effort at exegesis in the film was so glaring that even my non-religious friend who accompanied me remarked, "They didn't really talk about the Bible all that much."

That's not to say the film is bad or even remotely disappointing, just that the marketing's main claim is grossly exaggerated. Its value lies in the power of the honesty and naked emotion of the families it portrays and the stories of their journeys toward reconciliation. Whether it's the Reitans - a classically amiable, blond, all-American Pepsi and Wonderbread sort of Lutheran family from Minnesota, who go from trying to get their son Jacob in to "reparative" therapy to being arrested, arm in arm, for civil disobedience on the grounds of Focus on the Family's headquarters - or the Robinsons - an evangelical family from rural Kentucky who end up attending the consecration of their son Gene as the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop (to roars of approval from the crowd in attendance, amid death threats to Gene and his partner) - one gets a profound sense of what Bp. Robinson meant when he told Beliefnet a few years ago that God is doing "a new thing." It's not that God has changed His mind on sexuality, but rather that, having confronted us with our historical failures with regard to race and gender, the Spirit is still at work in our religious communities, continuing to inspire us to heed the radical welcome of Jesus' teachings and to throw open the doors and hearts of our churches to all whom God calls.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Athletic Ability

What I said at work today, in response to the comment, "You look pretty athletic":

"Nah. The only thing I can throw is a tantrum."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh. That's Why She Watches FOX.

Behold the glory that is Chad Carter, news anchor for the local FOX affiliate. Move over, Anderson Cooper, let's make room for Chad. (Speaking of Anderson Cooper, did you know he's doing a CNN special on climate change with Jeff Corwin? Is it hot in here, or is that just global warming?)

I was laboring away on the stationary bike this morning, feeling particularly uninspired, when in came sourpuss with her iPod, magazine and trash-bin-destined bottle of water. She predictably flipped on FOX, and then...suddenly my heart rate got right into the zone.

Because I was listening to my Bon Jovi/U2/Pat Benatar/Götterdämmerung work-out mix, I couldn't really hear what Chad was saying. Despite my preternatural aversion to FOX, I was overcome by his hotness. I no longer care. Fill me with GOP talking points, smear me with propaganda, and let me lick it up. Make me get down on the floor and beg for a tax cut. Yes sir, I love it sir, oh, give me that free market!

Actually, it didn't seem particularly biased. I like to think of myself as being fairly savvy, but I'm not sure there's a hidden political agenda behind the stories on the costume sale at Goodwill and the latest update on the Vancouver Flasher. (Side note: doesn't it seem ironic that the police description of a repeat flasher includes what he's wearing? Unless the "orange hoodie" refers to something else?)

So, count me in as a FOX-watcher. I'll just turn the sound off.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Job

So, I've officially started at the new job. I'm still in the "overwhelmed" phase, but I am optimistic and eager to really get in there and start doing some work.

Though many of you know where I now work (and for the rest, it shouldn't be hard to figure out), I do want to be careful to maintain my employer's anonymity, so that this blog won't come up on any searches related to the company. Please refrain from making any direct references in comments.

The biggest adjustment for me will be the work culture; I'm kind of wondering if I will ever actually fit in, although I may also relish my role as the eccentric outsider. Hopefully I will inspire people to broaden their horizons, as much as the new job will force me to broaden mine. I've left a universe where "common knowledge" would be something like knowing which film Joan Crawford won her Oscar for and traded it for one where everyone knows who the NFL's leading all-time receiver is. At orientation today we were cautioned that we may see athletic celebrities around, but that we should a) maintain our composure and b) not ask for autographs. This shouldn't be a challenge for someone who astonished his co-workers on his second day by not recognizing a photograph of Michael Jordan. Please, people. You're lucky I know he's a basketball player. If I can maintain composure in the presence of Mirella Freni, then surely I can handle a brush with Tiger Woods.

Speaking of orientation, of the group of 20 new employees being welcomed today, I was the oldest. [*Sheds tear, pours another drink*]

* * * * * *

An Open Letter to My Fellow Oregonians:

Dear Folks,

You know those black and white signs along the side of the road with the numbers on them? Those mean it's okay to go that fast. Come on, people. Let it rip. Go 35 miles per hour. I promise it will be okay.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Workout Buddies

I get up now at the completely indecent hour of 5:00 so that I can work out before I go to work. (That might alter a little bit as I establish my new routine.) And yet I'm often not the first person into the exercise room.

Frequently there is this weird old man who sits there in the total darkness with just the TV on -- tuned to FOX News, of course -- using the weight machine in his bare feet. He sits on the bench and uses the lat bar with a 10 lb weight, and pulls it down over and over again for about half an hour. Then he goes away. The TV is usually on so loud that I can hear it outside the building.

I always ask him if I can turn on a light. I tried to indulge his preference once, but couldn't see well enough to manage the settings on the elliptical. But I only turn on the light I need.

I work out with my iPod. I don't really like TV much; I can't stand TV news or any of the other fluff that most people watch in there: "reality" shows, celebrity "news," blech. I find it highly distracting. (And depressing.) I prefer just to get absorbed in my music and let the rhythms set the tempo for my workouts.

Then there's this lady. She just has the sourest expression on her face. Now, as a proper Al Gore fan, I try to be always conscious of energy usage. I usually only turn on the light in the area of the room that I am using. She comes in and turns on everything.

She's also a FOX News watcher. Does she say, "Do you mind if I turn on the TV?" No. "Do you mind if I change the channel?" No. She just sweeps in and in the same brusque manner as she turns on every light in the room, she turns on FOX, cranks up the volume, then hops on a treadmill (where she goes 2.5 mph for about 20 minutes), turns on her iPod, and then reads a magazine.

She's not even watching the damn TV. It drives me insane.

She brings bottled water with her and when she's done, she throws the bottle in the trash and leaves the TV on. Global warming is entirely her fault.

Sure, I might work out to Götterdämmerung (which is not a heavy metal band), but that just makes me eccentric in a sophisticated way. These people are weird.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oregon Smells

I'm not sure I ever stepped out the door of my apartment in Manhattan and took a long, deep inhale of fragrant air. I don't think that would have been a good idea. What I remember from New York is exhaust, rotting garbage, urine and b.o.

Raleigh Hills is a little different. Every morning when I leave the apartment, I'm struck by these amazing scents in my neighborhood, and I pause to enjoy them. I'm noticing that they change with the seasons: the trees smelled different in summer than they do now.

With fall in full swing, there is a musty, slightly sweet smell of decaying leaves, and in the crisp, cold mornings, it's mixed with wood smoke from the nearby houses with fireplaces.

Other smells I notice regularly are freshly mowed lawns, and the trees by the creek at the end of the block. I'm not sure what they are; their powerful fragrance reminds me of Colorado aspens, but I think these are something else. When it rains here, there is the hearty aroma of earth, not the weird stink of wet concrete.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Irony Watch

Yesterday I found myself driving behind a car with the license plate "DOWN-LO."

Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Gamble Pays Off

So, remember the job opportunity that didn't work out? They came back with a better offer. I start tomorrow.

[*happy dance*]

I had very specific goals in mind for my new job in Portland, whatever it was to be. Goal #1 was a 20 minute commute. I was tired of wasting two hours a day just getting where I needed to go. Goal #2 was a certain salary range. Goal #3 was to work for a progressive, ethical company with a demonstrated commitment to the local community. Goal #4 was a position that I could obtain with my present skills and experience but which would offer real responsibility and real opportunity for growth. Goal #5 -- my longshot, pipe-dream goal -- was a casual dress environment.






Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to IKEA.

Monday, October 08, 2007

How to Get What the Doctor Ordered

Raise your hand if you love your insurance company.

That’s what I thought.

We have a healthcare crisis in America, and to fix it requires a simple step: eliminate the for-profit insurance industry.

It sounds terrifying, at first, to say that the government has to dismantle an entire industry, but that industry is the very cause of our nation’s crisis; it’s an industry that grows fat off of figuring out how not to provide the services its customers pay for. The success of their business depends on pulling in as much money as they can and then letting go as little of it as possible.

Politicians in Washington like to talk about how people should have choice in healthcare. But the choices people want to make are not about which insurance company to use; they’ll use the one that provides the most coverage at the lowest cost. That’s assuming they have a choice, in the first place. Most Americans get their coverage through their employer. Many that don’t have employer-paid coverage can’t afford their own. (And tax credits won’t help.) The choices that matter to people are which doctors and facilities to go to and which treatments to have. Those are the very choices that are imperiled by the insurance industry. Why should it cost you to go to an “out of network” doctor? If your doctor feels you should have a particular medicine, why should some corporation say, “We won’t pay for that one, but we’ll pay for this one”? If consumer choice is what really mattered to politicians, the insurance industry would have been overhauled years ago.

It’s common knowledge that Americans spend more – much more – on healthcare than any other nation, yet by every measurable standard receive worse care than our industrialized neighbors. Why? Because so many healthcare decisions are made with regard to “the bottom line”: how to get the patient to pay the most for the least care. The bottom line in healthcare should never be profit, but the patient’s best interests. The only way to achieve this is to establish a separate government agency that does one thing: pay your medical bills.

Opponents of this glaring necessity like to call it “government run healthcare” or “socialized medicine.” They like to conjure images of trips to the doctor looking more like trips to the DMV, where your healthcare decisions will be made by bureaucrats. But that’s not the model at all. That’s not what healthcare looks like in Europe. Without the for-profit insurance industry, healthcare decisions will actually be made by the medical professionals. Bureaucrats won’t have a say in it one way or another, they’ll just send the doctor the check. You’ll never see the bill.

Yes, it will require a tax increase. But that increase will be more than offset by savings in current healthcare spending. The current employer-paid coverage model is a disaster. Businesses are crumbling under the weight of paying for insurance executives’ salaries. One of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. is medical debt. A modest tax increase – far less than what businesses and the average American currently pay annually for healthcare – will fund a pool that can pay for the whole program.

Universal healthcare is better care for less money. Anyone who says different is selling something. Probably insurance.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Release Party!

Yesterday was the official publication of the new book, What Pets Do While You're at Work, by my friends Jason Bergund and Bev West, which features my darling Starbuck on page 62. As soon as I got it home, Starbuck tore right into it.

Naturally it called for a huge celebration.

Rocky greeted guests at the door to make sure everyone had a complimentary copy and a bottle of champagne. Everyone who's anyone in Raleigh Hills -- including Rocky, Starbuck and myself -- attended what was definitely the most sophisticated party this place has seen in a long time.

Starbuck discovers the joy of curling up with a good book. Then she discovered that Jason thought she was a boy and wouldn't let me take any more pictures.

Here's Rocky just chilling at the party. (That blue thing is a toy that "grandma" got him, it has a gyroscope inside and it rolls all over the place with cats in tow.)

Unfortunately, the party didn't end too well. Rocky finally got through the whole thing and realized there's no picture of him in there, only Starbuck. He was so depressed, even Mr. Shoelace couldn't cheer him up.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Reasons to be Scared

Yesterday I had the TV on in the exercise room while I was working out. The local weather report on Channel 6 isn't called a "forecast," it's the Raincast. (The prediction is for showers, with a chance of clearing in late May.)

* * * * *

Last night I had this incredibly vivid dream that I was dating Seth Rogen. He took me to the Tony Awards. His favorite drink was grape soda mixed with merlot.