Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May I Have Your Intention Please

I'm off to the beach tomorrow for a long weekend.

One of the reasons I really wanted to move back to Portland was the ease with which one can just hop in a car and go somewhere beautiful and interesting, as compared to New York. Of course, New York has lots that is both beautiful and interesting, but you'll be waiting in line to see it. A personal goal I made for myself upon arrival in Oregon was going somewhere and doing something out of the ordinary at least one weekend a month.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

Whether it was due to scheduling, inclement weather, an unreliable car, cash shortage or some combination of the above, I haven't managed to take a little weekend trip by myself since the week before I started my new job -- in October. Admittedly, over President's Day Weekend I did travel to the coast with pal Glenn for a couple of days, but as much fun as that was, it doesn't quite count, because, introvert that I am, I really prize going off by myself to recharge.

Recently my mind has been heavily preoccupied with ideas about what to do with my life. I designed this weekend with the thought that I would devote many hours to prayer and meditation in the hope of some enlightenment, while I continue to ponder exactly what it is I think I want to do and brainstorm some concrete steps toward getting there.

The last part is what has flummoxed me. What I'm thinking about is relatively ambitious. (No; just to put rumors to rest, I am not joining the priesthood -- for now -- nor am I running for office.) I've been wondering, just how do I make this happen?

Then yesterday my parish newsletter arrived. The rector is currently on sabbatical, traveling around the world pursuing some of his many various interests. In his letter home to us, he related the adventures he is having on his journey and the surprising ways in which they relate to his ministry goals. "But that's the wonderful thing about being intentional about things," he writes. "Once we decide to do something, the opportunities start presenting themselves."

Hmm. Hmm.

That phrase just leaped off the page at me. I just had a sense that was something I was meant to hear just in that moment. Is it true, I wonder?

Then I thought back on things that have happened to me recently. There was my selection as a committee co-chair on the GLBT association at work, the profile in the local gay newspaper, my election to the vestry, the youth mentoring opportunity, the pride organizing at church, my unlikely opportunity to represent the company at the BRO luncheon, the brand new invitation to join a committee working with the Diocese and, of course, that totally random spot on the radio talkshow. All of these things relate quite directly to the goals I am forming for myself.


So I'm off to stare at the ocean, formulate some ideas, make some plans, and dream some dreams. I'll have no internet access. I should be back Sunday mid-afternoon.

* * * * * *

As I was packing tonight, the associate rector -- who has become a good friend -- called to wish me a safe journey and to update me on some parish business before I left. Then he added, "I've been hearing a lot recently from people who were out at the coast and had sudden 'God-moments.' So, don't be surprised if you have an epiphany or two."

I'm counting on it.

Snarky Jesus and Andy the Pansy

I happened to be reading the Gospel of Mark last night.

Now, I've read it before, of course. Recently, as part of my confirmation class homework, I read it straight through in a single sitting. Still, I had never quite noticed this hilarious passage.

Jesus is coming back down the mountain after the Transfiguration. He sees the disciples arguing with the locals. A father says, "Jesus, my son has been afflicted by a terrible demon. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not. If you are able to do anything, have pity on us, and help us."

"If you are able!" exclaims an exasperated Jesus. "All things can be done for the one who believes." So Jesus says to the demon, "Yo, scram." The boy convulses violently, cries out in anguish, and lies still, as if dead. Then Jesus helps him to his feet, and he's fine.

Afterwards the disciples come to Jesus and say, "Hey...umm, we don't get it. How come you got the demon to come out, and we could not?"

"Oh, well, this kind of demon," says Jesus with a wink and a sympathetic tone of voice, "can only come out through prayer."

Ouch. (Mark 9:14-29, New Revised Andy Translation)

* * * * * * * *

At my parish I am stirring up some trouble by forming a discrete, fledgling LGBT + Allies group. I was thinking of calling it The 7:20 Club, a jab at the Pat Robertson show and referring to Matthew 7:20. That verse is, in the KJV, "By their fruits shall ye know them."

Too awful? Be honest.

* * * * * * * *

It hasn't anything to do with religion, really, but I wanted to chime in on North Carolina Governor Mike Easley's endorsement of Hillary Clinton, where he said, "This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy."


Senator Clinton just let that fly right by, smiling and chuckling. I'm sorry, that's not acceptable. "Pansy" may not have been the most vulgar word he could have chosen, but the sentiment is ugly all the same. Senator Clinton, endorsed by the purportedly pro-gay Human Rights Campaign, has called on Barack Obama to "denounce and reject" all kinds of ridiculous, offensive statements made by people unaffiliated with his campaign at times when Senator Obama was not present. Now she's going to accept -- with a smile and a laugh -- an endorsement that comes with a homophobic slur meant as a compliment to her?

The silence -- from both HRC's -- is pretty deafening right now.

Governor Easley, I can think of many gay people who could kick Rocky Balboa's ass. And those are just the lesbians. As for me, I think I could take you. Want to step outside and settle this, governor to pansy?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Photo Blogging: Meh.

This is the infamous parish directory photo.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Worst Print Ad in the History of the Universe

The May issue of National Geographic, devoted entirely to China, features a visually arresting full-color double-page ad from The Hartford. It's a shot of what appears to be the entrance to a subterranean romanesque hall -- which in reality, I'm pretty sure, is actually the arcade at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Dead leaves are scattered around, the place is deserted, and the sun appears to be setting. All in all, a beautiful, if somewhat ominous image, literally littered with symbols of death.

At the top of the staircase stands a lone proud stag, The Hartford's mascot, gazing off into the horizon away from the sunset, toward the onset of darkness (actually, he'd be looking at the Boat Pond).

All that is well and good, if a bit morbid for an insurance ad. But forget that. Let's skip to the slogan:

The question isn't how do you reach your goal, it's who do you follow?

Oh, my God.

Seriously? Where shall I start? Um, how about with PUNCTUATION and GRAMMAR?

Whom. Whom, people.

As it's written, it looks like the speaker is asking for clarification. "So," you might wonder, "the question isn't how do you reach your goal, it's who [sic] do you follow?" See, now their punctuation makes sense. But that's not, I presume, what they are trying to convey.

The phrase sounds better than it's ever going to look on paper.

The question isn't, "How do you reach your goal?" It's, "Whom do you follow?"

Technically that's correct, but it is admittedly ungainly. They could, of course, have avoided this whole conundrum if they'd stopped to notice the appalling vapidity of the sentiment.

This is supposed to sound wise? It's counterintuitive at best; foolish, and even dangerous, at worst. It seems to presuppose that all the great American virtues -- self-reliance, independence, stubbornness, vision, courage -- are secondary, or perhaps counterproductive. What we really need is to gamble on someone else and hope they'll take us where we want to go. It sounds less -- much less -- like a tried and true proverb than the mantra of some cult of mind-control.

Now let's paste this idiotic notion back onto the ad. Basically it reads like this: in a post-apocalyptic world, when you're the last human alive, cowering for shelter in the ruins of Manhattan as night approaches, follow the deer. He knows what to do.

Because if there's one thing you can trust, it's an insurance company.

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's For Medicinal Purposes

If it's good for you, it can't be a sin, right?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Sirius Conversation

Boy, that is the pun that just keeps on giving.

So today was my satellite radio debut, as a guest on the political talkshow The Blog Bunker on Sirius Channel 110, "IndieTalk." It was fun!

The producer emailed to ask me what I would like to talk about, and I rather bravely gambled that I could handle a discussion of which Democratic candidate had the better gay rights record. I was all set to nail Hillary on DOMA, but we never quite got around to that. I did say, diplomatically, that whether our next president was Hillary or Barack, either way the LGBT community is going to be in better stead than we have been for the past seven and a half years, but that all the same I thought Obama was our better hope. I didn't really get a follow up on that. Dang. I was all set to get wonky on the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution. Oh well.

We talked a little bit about the political landscape in Oregon, but thankfully did not dwell much on local politics, because I have no idea what's going on here. (Umm, because the local media sucks big huge hairy orangutan balls, and not in a good way. I gave up and went back to The New York Times.) The host, Joe, added that Congressman David Wu of Portland was the most recent superdelegate to endorse Obama (which I confess I hadn't known) and asked me if I knew anything about him. "Um, if memory serves," I said tentatively, praying I wasn't wrong, and hoping I wasn't called upon to know anything else about this guy, "he's the one who gave a speech on the floor of the House last year or the year before warning us about Klingons in the White House." Fortunately, I was right on that piece of trivia. Unfortunately Joe thought Klingons were from StarWars.

He asked me about Clinton's claim yesterday that she is ahead in the popular vote, and I deftly knocked that one out of the ballpark. Thank you, Keith Olbermann.

Then...I had to take a caller. Okay, hold on. I didn't know I'd be fielding questions from random people. I didn't really hear the question because I was too busy panicking, but I think the gist of it was, "Hey, several states haven't voted yet, it's not fair to call the race before it's over and if Barack can't win the Pennsylvania primary, he can't win the general." I said simply that well, no, primaries don't really work like that. First off, almost all of the Republican candidates dropped out well before McCain was the certain nominee, because they looked at the math and knew they couldn't get there. Or, they were broke. Both of which statements currently apply to Clinton. And as far as Pennsylvania, I noted that there is no correlation that a candidate has to win the primary in order to carry the state in the fall. That just doesn't even make any sense on its face. I also pointed out that Hillary was always going to win Pennsylvania, that the state's demographics are her core constituents, and that despite all that, even post Reverend Wright and Bitter-Gate and all that other crap, her lead over Obama fell from 20 to 9 points. He didn't win Pennsylvania, true; but the numbers are clear. Hillary Clinton is bleeding support. She won't win North Carolina, she won't win Oregon and even if she wins Indiana, it won't be by much. She'll have a big win in Kentucky, but it won't matter. She is set to be creamed in North Carolina and Oregon. So, yeah, I think it's over. Except, unfortunately, it's not. Alas.

We had a brief, fruitless discussion over whether religion had any merit and then pretty much we were done.

As soon as it was over, I raced to my Sitemeter to check out my traffic. During the hour before the segment, I had seven visits. But during the show, my hits skyrockted to ten. The following hour they fell back to four. Hardly the Colbert Bump. I guess I needn't have been so nervous.

I want to give a big shout-out to my boss, who insisted that I use his office for the interview. I was all set to hang out in my car in the parking lot, but when I told him why I needed to disappear for an hour in the middle of the afternoon and not be interrupted (he often calls me on my cell when I'm at lunch...or, anywhere else, for that matter) he was so excited that he wouldn't let me go to my car. He sat at my desk while I paced around his office pointing out things like: the Republicans also had a primary in Pennsylvania this week; 26% of the people who showed up to vote voted against John McCain, even though he's the nominee already. 15% voted for Ron Paul, and 11% voted for Huckabee. I gotta tell 'ya, if 15% of Pennsylvania Republicans are casting their lot in with a guy who argues we should never have gone to Iraq in the first place, I don't see how McCain has a shot. But, stranger things have happened, like me getting invited to talk on a radio show.

In Which Andy Sits Next to the Governor of Oregon

Yesterday I was privileged to attend the Basic Rights Education Fund’s 15th Annual Oregonians Against Discrimination Business Leaders Luncheon held at the Oregon Convention Center. The event recognized the truly heroic efforts of local businesses, professional associations and elected representatives to support two historic pieces of legislation last year, a comprehensive non-discrimination bill and the establishment of a statewide domestic partnership law for same-sex couples.

Of course, I am hardly a "business leader," but I work for a supremely influential local company and leaped at the opportunity to attend this networking extravaganza. (Note to self: next year do not bum a ride off of a lesbian, no matter how fabulous she is, who has a meeting immediately following the lunch and has to return to work. Take the afternoon off and stay. Wear tight pants.)

You couldn't swing a feather boa in that room without hitting a politician, including the two top-tier candidates in the mayoral race (businessman Sho Dozono and Sam Adams -- not the Founding Father, the hot gay City Commissioner who was actually sued by the owners of Sam Adams beer for trademark infringement), Oregon Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley (poised to unseat incumbent Republican senator Gordon Smith, if he wins the hotly contested Democratic primary), former Governor Barbara Roberts and current Governor Ted Kulongoski.

Given how many states have governors who wouldn't touch a gay rights event with a 10-foot cross wrapped in a flag, it was rather nice to have two show up.

Did I mention that I work for a supremely influential company? Yeah, so, our table was down front and just off-center. Two of the award recipients were current or former employees at my firm. And then, well, I guess I just hadn't been paying very much attention (bad networker!), but when Gov. Kulongoski was introduced, I was a little surprised to see that the man sitting right next to me at the next table over stood up and took the podium. Eek.

I wish I'd been able to stay afterward and schmooze. Hotties in suits. Drool.

* Shout-out to intrepid JustOut reporter (and friend) SMB, who also attended.

** Updating my post from yesterday: thankfully no one remembered National Secretaries Day.

*** Updating my post from two days ago: today I saw a Clinton bumpersticker. On -- wait for it -- a red pick-up truck.

**** Don't forget, today is my satellite radio debut! Tune in to Sirius Channel 110 "IndieTalk" at 5 p.m. Eastern, when I will be a guest on the political talkshow The Blog Bunker. Listen as I try to refrain from calling Hillary Clinton the c-word. ("Crazy.")

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy...Administrative Professional's Day?

I guess it's Career Week here at The Last Debate.

Today is National Administrative Professional's Day. Whee. Truly, it is lovely that the corporate world and Hallmark have progressed to the level (or, had, by 1952, when National Secretaries Day began) of awareness that admins are sufficiently under-appreciated to merit a holiday.

Mind you, this is not one of the good holidays. You know, the ones where you get to stay home and sleep in? No, no, essentially today is just like every other day, except some of us get flowers and a card. Maybe we get taken out to lunch by the boss.

I won't be around for lunch today; I'm representing the company at an event for "local business leaders" held by Basic Rights Oregon. (If you're wondering why a secretary is representing a Fortune 500 company at a lunch for "business leaders," then you must understand that in the gay world, hotness frequently (usually?) trumps or approximates accomplishment; hotness is its own status. And by hot, I mean single and under 50. I am going in the hopes of meeting an actual business leader, not just some other proxy secretary, who will want to marry me and turn me into the charity-boardmember trophy husband I was born to be.)

Personally, I am hoping no one in my department even realizes today is National Secretaries' Day. This is professional purgatory for me; I'm just hanging out earning a paycheck, paying down the student loans, trying to figure out where to go next. Give me flowers and a card when I resign and move on; don't remind me I'm still there.

Recently I sat down to lunch with a priest and shared "Worst. Date. Ever." stories. (I've been dying to write that sentence.) It was a tie, if you must know. At any rate, I related the story of the hot, jocky Jewish Columbia Law student that I had chatted with a couple of times online. We swapped pictures and agreed to meet at the Starbucks on Broadway at 111th. He walked in: perfect. Exactly my type. He smiled, looked me up and down and said, "Andy?" I smiled back and said "Yep!" He looked at me again, grimaced a little bit and said, "I'm sorry, it's not going to happen," and turned around and walked right back out. Points for honesty?

So as I was standing there, dumbstruck, wishing I could instantly transport myself home, but waiting to give him enough time to cross the street and get far enough away that I could go back to the subway without running into him, a young woman on a laptop at a nearby table said supportively, "That was ridiculous! I don't know you, but I'm sure it's his loss." But I didn't feel supported. "Don't acknowledge my humiliation!!!!" was what I was thinking.

That's kinda how I feel about Secretaries' Day.

Fortunately, the reason bosses have secretaries is because they can't remember stuff like this. So I'm probably in the clear.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Now That's a Swing Voter

Tonight on my commute home from work I found myself driving along behind a red pickup with a "W '04" bumpersticker.

Just above it was an "Obama 2008" bumpersticker.

For what it's worth, on my drive this evening I passed four Obama yardsigns and saw three Obama bumperstickers, not counting the one on my own car. I have yet to see a Clinton yardsign or bumpersticker in Portland.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Two Signs it's Time for a Career Change

1. I am an administrative assistant. We have a list-serve for all the admins in the company. On Friday I got an email that said, "Hello ladies, this is just a reminder to sign up for the advanced PowerPoint class." Ahem.

2. On Thursday a consultant from one of the powerhouse accounting firms was in for a meeting. A real networking type. He stopped by my desk and said, "Hi there, I'm ________ with _________, I don't think I've met you before, are you new?" "Oh, I've been here about six months." "Oh, okay, awesome. Nice to meet you. So, what's your specialty...are you the new international guy?" "Umm. No, I'm the department admin." [pause] "Oh. Okay, well, right, great to meet you."

One Year Gone

The date was actually April 22, but it seems right to observe it on the closest Sunday, since my last day in New York City began with one final visit to my beloved St. Bart's before loading the car and heading off into the sunset.

I wrote a long, rather melancholy piece reflecting on the past year, but then realized I'm not entirely ready to share all of those thoughts. All things considered, it has been a very good year, and leaving Manhattan behind has given me the emotional space to start to wrestle with The Big Question: what am I going to do with my life?

The answer is starting to take shape. Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

BSG Confession


I never liked Cally. I was glad to see her go.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stupidity All Around

So, check this out.

On Wednesday an Orthodox Jewish man delayed a United Airlines flight from New York's JFK airport to San Francisco, when shortly before departure he rose, went to the back of the plane and began praying. Flight attendants tried to get his attention to tell him that he needed to be in his seat, but he ignored them and continued praying. Friends of the passenger explained to the crew "that once the prayer is started, it must be finished without interruption."

Okay. Look. Y'all know I'm a religious person and while I follow the Christian faith, I try to respect all of the various ways in which humanity reaches toward the divine. But I have trouble understanding why anyone would worship a god who is so petty, rigid and inflexible that s/he would take offense at the notion that a prayer be temporarily interrupted for pretty darn practical reasons. I don't mean to mock or belittle tradition; as a high-church Anglican, I've got plenty of rituals of my own that are important to me. Still, I am careful not to confuse physical rituals with faith itself. It's lovely that Orthodox Jews pray at certain times, that they stand and face toward Jerusalem and chant words that go back for centuries. All of that is wonderful; it's important to value the traditions that link us to our heritage.

But for Pete's sake, the plane is about to depart! There are perfectly pragmatic safety rules in place. Does someone honestly think that God is going to be mad if your prayer is delayed a few minutes until your physical safety and that of your fellow passengers is no longer an issue? You don't think if you silently prayed, "God, I'm sorry...I know I'm supposed to be praying right now, but can it wait a few minutes? Or, just this once, would you mind terribly if I prayed sitting down?" Or, "Boy, I'm sorry, I know this prayer isn't supposed to be interrupted, but I'm holding up several hundred people and causing a traffic jam on the tarmac at one of the world's busiest airports, I'll have to finish this in a sec, 'kay?" Why would you bother with a supposedly loving, omniscient, compassionate, forgiving god who is as uptight and arbitrary as some hissy-fit-throwing celebrity suffering from massive self-entitlement?

But wait, it gets worse.

So the friends of the passenger explain to the crew that the prayer takes about two and a half minutes. When he's done, the passenger sits down and buckles up.

Too late, they've already called security. They're kicking the dude off the plane. And of course, according to FAA regulations, if you take a passenger off a plane, for security reasons you must also remove their checked luggage.

Do you think that maybe delayed the flight more than the 2.5 minute prayer?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Please Let That Be "The Last Debate"


I watched tonight's "debate" (I use that term loosely) on ABC between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as study prep for my radio debut next week.

First, if I had to call a "winner" tonight, it would be Hillary. She just looked better, for one thing; healthier, more relaxed and yet more animated, more concise and more interesting. Barack looked pretty damn tired, and he got off to a terrible start. Charlie Gibson threw his "bitter" quote from last week back at him and said, okay, you've said now you chose your words poorly. What did you really mean to say? Barack's response tonight frankly made less sense than it did the first time around.

Honestly, though, who cares? This was the 21st debate for the Democratic nomination. We know Barack can debate. We know he can speak eloquently and concisely and be inspiring. He can be funny and substantive. Tonight just wasn't his night. I don't think that changes the game.

I wish he'd been more on, and could have given a more forceful rejection and indictment of the idiotic "questions" thrown by George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson; they exemplified the politics of distraction which has disenchanted -- indeed, embittered -- voters across the country and the political spectrum. No wonder he looked exhausted: here he is campaigning to take over the White House from the criminal idiocy of the Bushies, and he has to keep swatting away these manufactured scandals.

I mean, my God, people. We kidnapped people from around the world, spirited them away to secret jails, never charged them with a crime, never granted them access to an attorney, gave them no opportunity to speak in their defense or see any evidence against them, we tortured them and some of them have died. And you want to ask, again, why Barack Obama isn't wearing a flag lapel pin?

Andrew Sullivan
encapsulated my despair during his live-blogging coverage of the debate: "9.32 pm. No questions on the environment, none on terror, none on interrogation, none on torture, none on education, none on spending, none on healthcare, none on Iran ... but four separate questions in the first hour about a lapel-pin, Bitter-gate, Wright-gate and Ayers."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

If I Could be Sirius for a Moment

A wise man once said, "It's better to stay silent and let people think you're a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

In that spirit, please tune in next Thursday, April 24, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time to Sirius Radio Channel 110 "Indie Talk," when I will be a guest (!) on their political talk-show The Blog Bunker. Speaking to you live on a cellphone from my car in the parking lot at work on my lunch break, you'll hear me crash and burn as I attempt to improvise plausible-sounding answers to questions I've never pondered.

Will I be hapless and adorable, like Scottie McClellan? Or bloodless and boring like Dana Perino? Tune in and find out!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Photo Blogging: Red, White and Gay

For an explanation, click here.

UPDATE: See, I told you. Everybody goes to this.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Riding the Hood River Railroad

This past Wednesday, our department traveled to Hood River, Oregon, for a day to celebrate the completion of a major project. Hood River, a small, funky little town in the Columbia River Gorge, has some neat little shops and a couple of good restaurants. Our main activity for the day was to ride the historic Hood River Railroad.

Being a Wednesday in the off-season, we basically had the entire car to ourselves, which was nice, and I found the change of pace and the beautiful scenery relaxing. The train used to wind itself up the hill through evergreen forests and fruit orchards -- the Hood River Valley is famous for its apples -- to the small town of Parkdale, but a flood at the end of 2006 caused more than $1 million in damage to the tracks, so for the time being the train only goes as far as Odell.

Now, I grew up in Oregon, but I had never heard of Odell. And now I know why.

There is so little of interest in Odell that as we disembarked, the conductor encouraged us to visit the Chevron to see its collection of antique toys. So, there being nothing else to do for the 30 minutes in which we were deposited in this backwater, we dutifully trudged over to the gas station and gazed politely at a few shelves covered haphazardly with rusty, dusty junk. I did manage to find one highlight.

Truly, we agreed, this had been the longest half-hour of our lives, as we stood in a parking lot petting a random black lab that had appeared from nowhere.

Once back in Hood River, we had a delicious lunch at a restaurant whose name I forgot to notice. The service was good, but our waitress had some issues with pronunciation. When I asked about the red wine options, she said they had a merlot (correct) and a sangiovese, which she pronounced san-JEE-oh-VESS-ee. Close enough, I guess.

Then as she was describing the specials, she mentioned that one dish came with "nokey." What the hell is "nokey", I wondered; but not wanting to appear ignorant in front of my co-workers, I refrained from asking. Fortunately, someone else took the leap for me: "What is nokey?" "Oh, nokey are small Italian potato dumplings."

Ah. Gnocchi.

For dessert she offered us pot de creme, which, truthfully, she called paht-duh-cream. I'm told it was delicious, but I opted for the cream broolee.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Let's Go for a Ride

Via Andrew Sullivan, here is an amazing web ad for the Zurich Chamber Orchestra:

I love this. You see, this is actually how I experience classical music. Not so much visually, but when I close my eyes, I feel this happening inside my body; I actually have the sensation of going up and plunging down, and of physically moving at different speeds. One of the most incredible feelings is the rallentando, a brief slowing or stretching of the beat which often heralds a leap into a faster tempo. I have frequently described it as being just like a roller coaster; the slowing isn't a loss of momentum, but rather a powerful buildup of potential energy about to burst into kinetic joy. Just sitting and listening to certain pieces causes me to break out in a sweat; I can feel my heart pound.

This is why I actually prefer to work out to classical music when I'm doing aerobic stuff. I like pop music, sure, but it just doesn't send me over the top in the way that some classical stuff does. For me, pop is good for keeping a relatively constant pace over a long period of time, but a lot of my favorite classical pieces build steadily to a frantic climax. My heart races, my skin tingles, and I can effortlessly pound away on the elliptical or the stationary bike with a feeling of complete exhilaration. It seems to just uncork my adrenaline. And just like with a roller coaster, certain pieces make me dizzy and give me temporary sensations of weightlessness.

It would be interesting to hook me up to a cardiograph or one of those brain-wave thingies and monitor my physical response to a piece like the overture to Don Pasquale (which is all over the place, tempo-wise, but ends frenetically) or Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave. I think my heart probably actually stops every time I hear Renee Fleming's high E-flat in the finale from Lucrezia Borgia.

Now if I can just find a boyfriend who's equally into the Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kids These Days

Today my company hosted a couple hundred GLBTQ? + Friends teenagers from regional high schools for its annual Queer Youth Forum. Since I coincidentally am an alum of the nearest high school, they asked if I would serve as a "mentor" during lunch, which involved sitting at a table with some kids, talking to them, and doing my best to make Company X sound like a great place to work and to be an example of a well-adjusted gay adult functioning openly in the business world.

Of course, it is a great place to work, as exemplified by the fact that they even conduct such an event. For a global corporate behemoth, Company X ranks at the very top in terms of corporate responsibility, and we make an excellent product. That's the easy part; I would be on less-sure footing if we got around to the fact that I only work there because my life's dream fell apart and that I'm currently in the professional equivalent of water-treading while I figure out what to do next and how to get there. There was also a minor risk that someone might ask me a sports-related question, but fortunately all the lesbians at my table were of the chubby goth variety, not the LPGA types. Phew.

We got off to a depressing start. One of the boys is actually a current student at my old high school. "When did you graduate?" he asked. "Oh...1992," I said, dreading what was coming next:

"Ohmagawd, I was born in 1992!"


To my right was an awfully cute blond twink who reminded me a lot of myself at 16, not least because on his t-shirt -- which we had provided, printed with the statement "Proud to Be ______" -- he had written, in katakana, "homosekusharu." I turned to him and said, "Brian-san,* gakkoh de Nihongo o benkyoh shimasu ka?" Which is a totally easy question with an obvious answer, but with my Japanese lying dormant all these years, it was the best I could come up with. Still, it successfully disarmed him.

He spent most of his lunch groping and pecking at the adorable, reticent, chubby boy next to him, who was proud to be a "musician." I asked him what he played (bass) and told him I studied at Manhattan School of Music, which impressed him but was meaningless to the rest of the group. "What did you play?" he asked. "Oh, I used to be an opera singer," I confessed.

"No way," said Charles. Charles was my favorite. Charles came in full drag.

"Sing something!" commanded Charles, pointing a finger at me imperiously. I obliged with a couple of bars from Puccini's Edgar. "Oh my God, you should try for American Idol!" he squealed. "Yeah...I'm too old to qualify." "Oh," he said, not sounding particularly disappointed.

"So, do you do drag a lot?" I inquired of Charles.

"Yes! I do a weekly show at the queer youth center, and I rule," he said. And I believed him. I told him about my upcoming public debut in a dress and confessed to being nervous. "I'm not going to be nearly as glamorous or as pretty as you," I said.

"Oh, I don't know," he replied, looking me up and down. "I sense a lot of potential."

And there it was. Here I am, supposedly mentoring these impressionable young people, and yet my self-esteem got an enormous boost from a sixteen year-old boy in a dress who sensed potential.

Most of the kids at my table were from the GSA at an east-side high school. "How many kids are in your group?" "Oh, 20, or 25," said one rather serious young girl. "I'm the President," said Charles. "It's more like a benevolent dictatorship than a democracy," said Brian.

"And what about ___________?" I asked of the boy who goes to my old school. "Oh, well, we have about 40 altogether, but there was drama and our president quit and now there's only like five people who participate."

Wow. Forty. I remember when our Gay/Bi/Questioning support group used to meet every couple of weeks; I think we were about five altogether. It was kind of scary just showing up. I always worried that someone from the class I was supposed to be in would see me heading in the opposite direction. What would be my excuse if they asked? And now here we are, sixteen years later, and my school has forty self-identified GLBTQ? students; moreover, they get an official, school-sanctioned day to visit a local business with other area GLBTQ? youth. How times change!

But not only that; here I was, the supposed "role model for a day," and honestly, these kids were more comfortable in their own skin than I am now.

After we finished up our lunch and the kids prepared to go off to the afternoon activities while I went back to my desk, I silently said a little prayer for them and wished them all success, safety and happiness. Charles extended a hand in friendship and said, "It was nice to meet you."

"It was nice to meet you, too," I said. "Good luck with your show tomorrow."

"Thank you!" he smiled. "Um, are you on MySpace?" he asked.

"No, " I said.

"Okay then. Well, see ya!"

* Names have been altered to protect the fabulous.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Our Photo Session Comes with a Free Insult!

Who was the evil liar who told me that I would stop getting zits once I became an "adult"? I'm two months shy of 34. Argh.

So, tonight I had to have my picture taken. I hate having my picture taken. (My mom can vouch for that.) However, the parish is updating its photo directory, and being on the Vestry, I felt obligated to participate. They hired a "professional" photographer who would do ten minute sittings with us., first off he says, "Just you? No family members tonight?" Uhh...nope, guess not. Guess I'm just a lonely old spinster homo. Thanks for pointing that out.

Barbra Streisand was famous for only wanting to be photographed from the left. Me, I only want it from the right. So he took two photos from the right and then spun me around. I didn't care enough to protest, I figured I could just reject the picture. Then he wheels out this little padded shelf and has me put one arm on it and then curl my hand under my chin, and rest my head on it with a quarter-tilt and a slight turn. I thought, "Oh, my GAWD, you are NOT doing this! Don't you know we make fun of this pose now?" But I didn't feel like objecting.

Photos being all digital now, they can show you the proofs right then and there. First, though, they wanted to talk to me about "package options." You know, look, I was open to the possibility that if one of the pictures was accidentally really good, I might order a couple, sure. But the problem with pictures of me is that they tend to look just like me, but worse.

So he shows me all these horrible options. A copy of the directory and an 8 x 10 came free, but I could choose to add a diptych with two oval photos taken from different angles. I imagined my caption might read, "Evil Andy" and "Good Andy." I smiled and nodded without saying anything. They also showed me another oval photo in a gaudy gold frame that was printed on some kind of special paper that supposedly makes it look "like a quality oil painting." Gross, I thought. And what's with the ovals? I was tempted to say, "Hey, I'm a Battlestar Galactica fan, don't you have any octagons?"

Now we're ready to look at my actual photographs. They come up on the computer two at a time, side by side. "Which of these do you prefer, the left or the right?" choice, here. On the left, I must have been talking when he snapped the shutter because I've got one eye closed and it looks like my tongue is sticking out. It reminded me of this. On the right...not amazing, but acceptable. So I said, "Erm, the right one, obviously."

Those were the two photos we took from my good side. Now came a succession of three photos from my Quasimodo side, two of them with the tilted head resting on my hand under my chin. "Okay, now, which do you prefer: the left or the right?" "Erm...gonna have to go with the right." We get to the last picture and I'm thinking, "Good Lord, no wonder I'm single!" and he says, "Now which of these do you -" and I just said, "Dude, the right. Okay? That's the only one that's any good." "You don't like this one here?" "Uhm, no." "Really? I think it's very striking." Yes, but you like oval photographs of grown men posing like awkward high school girls circa 1992.

"Okay then, so, we're going to go with the photo on the right?" "Yes, please." "Okay then, which package option would you like this evening?" "Oh, I think just the freebie will be fine." "Are you sure? It's really a wonderful photograph, you don't even want any wallet-size prints for friends and family?" By now I'm ready to take my "striking" photograph and strike him. It's a completely okay picture. It's fine for a church directory. It is not worth spending a lot of money on. I don't know anyone who wants a picture of me for their wallet (!) -- and hey, if you do, I've got better ones I can send you that you can print out, okay?; or, I'll just post them to the blog -- and the 8 x 10, well...I'll probably just give it to mom to put on the piano with the 400 other family pictures.

"All righty then," he says, his odiferous obsequiousness curdling my blood, "did you want to have any re-touch done?"

"Uh...hmm," I say, as I squint and lean in closer to take a better look. "No, I think that's pretty much fine."

Now, wait for it...

"Are you sure? For just $19.95 we can get rid of that blemish for you."

Oh yes, he said that.

Look, I almost always have a zit somewhere. Right now, my complexion is about as good as it gets. I have one fading pimple on my left cheek that popped yesterday and you can barely see it. And that's it. It looks fine. I was like, "Gee, for $39.95 can you give me hair?"

Monday, April 07, 2008

Just Close Your Eyes, and Think of McDonald's

As I approach the first anniversary of the day I left New York (two weeks from tomorrow!), my thoughts turn frequently to the city -- and the friends, most especially -- I left behind. I have a pretty good memory for images, so sometimes I just close my eyes and try to visualize a favorite place in Manhattan and just "be" there for awhile.

To keep these memories sharp, I have developed a bizarre habit that I actually find quite relaxing when I need to take a few moments at work to calm down and re-focus. You see, back in the City, I used to bank at Actors Federal Credit Union, and though they only have one branch in the whole entire world (though, I think they did open one in Los Angeles recently), one of the perks was that you could use the ATM in any McDonald's in New York without a fee. Hence, for the sake of convenience, I carried in my wallet a list provided by the bank of McDonald's in Manhattan that had ATM's. I still have that dumb list, and every once in a while I take it out and try to visualize each specific location. Here are the New York City McDonald's branches I can actually picture:

  1. 207th & Broadway
  2. Dyckman & Broadway
  3. 181st & Broadway
  4. 125th & Broadway
  5. 96th & Broadway
  6. 71st & Broadway
  7. 56th & 8th Avenue
  8. 54th & 1st Avenue
  9. 51st & Broadway
  10. 47th between Madison & 5th
  11. 46th & 7th Avenue
  12. 44th & 8th Avenue
  13. 21st & 6th Avenue
  14. 16th & Union Square West
  15. 8th & 6th Avenue
  16. 8th & Broadway
  17. Houston & Varick
  18. Broadway & Fulton
  19. 6 Water Street
Now, I want to be clear. I never ate at McDonald's. Never. Well, okay, sometimes the one at 56th & 8th, on my way to the subway station from Therapy/Vlada/Posh. But that was it. I swear.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What a Drag

So, a week from tonight, I'm going out in public for the first time wearing a dress. be honest, I'm not super excited. Kinda freaked out.

Drag has not really ever been something I had a particular interest in doing, and don't worry -- I'm not starting. But Portland has an annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser called Red Dress PDX, and apparently it is the party of the year. (Or, so I'm told.) It's a party, just like any other party, except that no one, regardless of gender, gets in without a red dress on. Period.

Now, most guys don't do full drag. (I've seen the pictures from last year.) No wigs, no makeup, no shaved legs or chests or stuffed brassieres. You just go as yourself. In a dress.

Of course I support the mission, but I wasn't really sure I wanted to do this. My friends said, "But you have to go," and I said, "Well, I'll think about it." And then later I said, "You know, I just don't think I can afford it right now."

So, they bought my ticket.

Last weekend we went shopping for our gowns. My rule: I'm not spending more than $20 on a dress that I will never wear again. (Except maybe next year, if this party's any good.) It was harder than I thought it would be.

For one thing, even though Hillary Clinton looks fantastic in red, stores don't seem to be following her lead. There just aren't a lot of red dresses out there. Oh, and then, it turns out, I am what might be termed a big girl. I mean, how many six-foot, 190 pound women do you know?

We hit a couple of stores downtown last Saturday. If you think wearing a dress in public is intimidating, try shopping for one. "Hello, I'd like to try this on," is quite possibly the most difficult sentence I've ever had to utter. But there was hardly anything that was actually red, in my size and in my price range. I found one cute little thing at the Cross Dress for Less on 3rd, and while it fit okay in the waist, my shoulders were too big and we couldn't zip the thing up. "Oh, just go like that, it's fine," said Darren. Yeah, right.

We even went over to Lloyd Center and lived to tell about it. We stopped in at one place that specializes in bridesmaid and prom dresses for women with no taste and the salesgirl was enthusiastic. "Are you going to that party?" she asked. So we knew we had come to the right store. As perfect as some of the gowns might have been (oh, that long strapless number with the sparkly top and the slit up the leg!) and as friendly as the salesgirl was, I had to say, "Honey, I'm sorry, I'm not really in a position to spend $200 on a dress." I struck out.

This morning I decided I would try again. I woke up early, thinking I could get to the stores before most people were out and about, which would minimize the awkwardness, and it was a good call. K-Mart and Target had nothing (WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE HAVE AGAINST THE COLOR RED???), but at Kohl's on Canyon Road I found what I was looking for.

This was $8.

Now, it's hard to tell from this photograph what the proportion is. It looks like it might fit Jane Eaglen, but in fact, no, it is very, very, very, very very short. But it fits where it needs to and is just long enough. Fortunately, I have great legs. : )

I had no intention of accessorizing, but it occurred to me when I got it home that the darn thing doesn't have any pockets. The wallet and car keys have to go somewhere. (No, not there.) So I guess I have to go buy a purse now.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008


You may recall that nearly two months ago I was stopped by a police officer in downtown Portland for having crossed a street against a red light and promptly fined $97 for this egregious breach of civility.

Taking advantage of my superior legal background, I wrote a carefully crafted letter to the judge pleading no contest, but with extenuating circumstances. I submitted a photocopy of my ticket to the opera for the evening, which began at 7:30 p.m., and noted that my citation was marked "7:22 p.m.," which I felt supported the reasonable assertion that I was in a hurry and therefore was somewhat entitled to not have to stand on a street corner and wait for no cars to go by. I asked whether the judge might agree with me that NINETY SEVEN DOLLARS was a tad excessive.

Today I received a refund check in the mail from Multnomah County for $24.

Still, at $73, that was one fucking expensive walk.