Sunday, October 30, 2005

Surprise - the furniture is ready

It was Friday, my catch-up day at work, and I'm thinking about the fact that we didn't hear from the furniture store about the furniture we ordered. We bought it at a very reasonably priced furniture store up at the beach. Although not so convenient for delivery, the price was right AND there is no sales tax in DE. They had said 2-3 weeks, but thought it might be 2 weeks. I was hoping it would be 2 weeks, as we'd be able to pick it up right away. If it were going to be ready in 3 weeks, we'd have to wait another week after that, as we already had plans to be out of town the 3rd weekend.

So since it appeared we weren't going to be tied up with the furniture, I emailed our friends Liz & Robert, with whom we had 'back-up' plans for dinner on Sat, in case the furniture wasn't ready. But Liz & Robert decided to go to Williamsburg for the weekend. They invited us to go, but we really have no interest in visiting Williamsburg so we politely declined. Besides, we didn't have any arrangements for our dog.

So then I began trolling my friends via email to see who was doing what this weekend. Since Halloween is on Mon, I figured some of our friends may want to go downtown on Sat night to the clubs and bars and see all the boys in their costumes. But everyone I contacted either had other plans or didn't respond to my email.

I began to think 'Man, we really are losers. Here it is, Halloween weekend, and we have absolutely NO plans what-so-ever.' So I called Joe and asked him how he felt about just going downtown the two of us and checking out the Halloween costumes. He didn't want to. So I braced myself for a truly uneventful weekend.

When I got home from work on Fri, Joe said "Surprise - the furniture is ready." The store had called and left a message saying the furniture had just come in. Suddenly I was kind of glad that none of my attempts to make plans for the weekend had worked out! We began to make our new plans.

Our existing TV room sofa was going to Joe's brother's house in Bowie. We had hoped he could come and pick it up, but with such short notice, that wasn't going to happen. Fortunately, his house is on the way to the beach, so we put the sofa in our Suburban and dropped it off on the way. The love seat was going to Joe's sister in Alexandria, but we didn't have time to deliver it on Fri, so we left it in the TV room for some future delivery date.

We were both dreading getting the existing sofa and love seat out of the house, as we remembered how hard it was to get in. We couldn't use the front door because the furniture was too big to go around the corner to get into the TV room. We had to bring the furniture in through the exterior door to the TV room, which is not as wide as the front door. It just barely squeezed through - only after totally removing the door off of its hinge. So with great strain tempered with excitement, we finally extracted the old furniture to make way for the new stuff.

When we went to pick up the new furniture we really didn't think they'd be able to get both pieces inside the Suburban. We planned to take one piece home Sat morning, drive back to the beach Sat night, and take the second piece home on Sun. But we'd removed the 3rd row seat and flipped down the 2nd row seats, creating an impressive amount of space, so the loading guys were optimistic. It took a couple tries and several configurations, but amazingly they got both pieces into our truck!

With both pieces of furniture snugly in the truck and the weather forecast at the beach being good, we thought we'd stay up there for the weekend, and then unload the furniture on Sun evening. But after driving around at the beach with that load of furniture for about 20 minutes, we both agreed to just go home. We were excited to transform our TV room.

We got home around 4pm on Sat and unloaded the furniture, took all the protective plastic and cardboard off, and screwed on the feet. Then we placed the furniture on the wall where the TV/VCR/DVD had been, moved the area rugs, and decided to call it quits. It was 7pm and we were both ready for a shower and some food.

This morning we made a quick trip to our local hardware/variety store to pick up a few necessities and got back to work. Since we wanted to turn the room around and put the furniture where the TV had been, we needed to get the cable over to the other wall where the furniture had been. Fortunately I could pull the cable from the basement and poke it up threw a pre-drilled hole in exactly the right place. Then we put the TV/VCR/DVD onto the new entertainment center we'd bought last weekend from the scratch-n-dent area at Ikea (you can't even find the flaw) and placed it on the wall where the furniture had been. We replaced the lightbulbs in the overhead light that were too bright with some more appropriate lower watt bulbs, and slipped some rubber anti-skid discs under the eight feet of our new furniture, threw the ottoman back in and voila! It looks fabulous!

The new furniture is an ivory chenile, two-piece sectional. There is a sofa with a left arm, and a chaise with a right arm. Put them together and add the toss pillows with a graphic red & ivory design and add our existing red ottoman and you get a stunning designer look. (Michael: this is WAY better than the furniture you remember!) We even had time to deliver the old love seat to Joe's sister, and have an early dinner with his mom.

So much for weekends with no plans!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lovin' my Logo

We got a postcard from our cable company alerting us to the fact that they were adding 4 new channels to the digital cable channel line-up on Sept 26th. One of them was Logo, the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender cable network. That’s all I needed to hear (read). I made a note on my mental calendar for Sept 26th. I save the postcard.

Sept 26th finally arrives and I anxiously attempt to tune in to channel 163 for Logo. Nothing. Hmmm… I go back to the postcard and read it again, this time a bit more carefully, and notice the key word I’d missed before: digital. The 4 new channels (including Logo) were being added to the digital cable service. We have analog.

I’d never switched from analog to digital cable (despite the repeated attempts by the cable company’s marketing department) because I had no incentive. At the time, the only gain for upgrading was getting music channels, which I don’t need on my TV since I have a CD player and CDs. Oh yeah, and there’s the higher price of digital.

But knowing there was a GLBT cable channel out there that I couldn’t watch made me call the cable company and inquire about the cost differential and any other added channels. I found that by subscribing to a particular upgrade package, combined with the rep’s ability to remove other a la carte charges that would be included in the package, I’d only have to pay about $7. more per month. “Okay – sign me up” I told him. Within about 20 minutes, I had my new, expanded digital cable programming, including Logo!

Logo shows movies with gay themes, and original series and programs. I was thrilled to watch my favorite movie of all time “Torch Song Trilogy”. They also have an interesting show called “Noah’s Arc”, which is kind of like the black gay man’s ‘Sex and the City’. They also have a stand up comedy show called Wisecrack that I’ve enjoyed a few times, and “Roundtrip Ticket”, a travel show with a pink passport.

Not all the programming is wonderful and satisfying, although it is all gay related in some way. One of the less enjoyable films was called “Our Sons”, starring Julie Andrews and Ann Margaret, who play the mothers of two gay men who are in a relationship. One of them is dying of AIDS… you know the rest of the story. But like I told Joe, that film was made during that dark period in gay cinema when all films included a gay man dying of AIDS. Not to minimize that real-life experience at all, but it seemed that during the late 80s/early 90s every movie with a gay character also had one dying of AIDS. Gratefully we’ve moved on to some other pertinent topics in gay cinema.

I found that my upgrade to digital cable also brought me even MORE home improvement shows, as well as several channels of Encore and Sundance, which often have non-mainstream selections I enjoy. Sundance even has a series called “TransGeneration” which chronicles the lives of 4 transgender college students, in various stages of transition. Very interesting and enlightening.

All in all, I’d say the additional $7. a month is worth it for all the new GLBT and non-mainstream entertainment I’m receiving. So if you call or email and I don’t respond, I’m probably watching TV.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dinner with Lauren

A few weeks ago I had a ‘cyber reunion’ with my niece Lauren (see my entry on Sept 27), and since then we have been IM’ing and emailing each other. She seems to be adjusting well to life outside the JW religion, and outside the watchful eye of her parents. She’s 18, living with some friends, and working for a temp agency.

Although she didn’t say so directly, I could tell she was eager to see me in person. I was excited about the idea, but also a bit nervous. I hadn’t seen or spoken to Lauren in 12 years, due to our family’s religion’s prohibition of associating with former members. She was a 6 year old little girl the last time I saw her. The idea of meeting up with her in person seemed about the same to me as meeting a stranger – only we have all kinds of stuff in common that strangers usually do not.

I really didn’t know anything about the kind of person Lauren is. My aunt Mary hasn’t seen Lauren in over 3 years. My cousin Nez has seen her several times at family picnics, but she really couldn’t offer too much in the way of Lauren’s personality, other than that she was outgoing and seemed independent. Then there’s her age. What do I know about 18 year olds? Although Joe has a niece and a nephew around that age, they live in MD and we only see them at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I can’t say that I really ‘know’ them, or that I know what 18 year olds are like or what they do nowadays. Then there’s the whole gay thing. From our conversations I knew that Lauren’s best male friend is gay and that she is totally cool about it. But I was concerned that it might be different for her friend to be gay and not be dating anyone (more of the idea of being gay), then for her uncle to be gay and living with his partner, (it ain’t just an idea anymore, Dorothy).

With these reservations in mind, I suggested we meet for a casual dinner on Tuesday evening at Fuddruckers. It’s near where she lives now, and is very casual. I asked Joe to join me, since we do all social things together, and because I value his professional evaluation of Lauren, he being a social worker and therapist. Lauren and I exchanged photos via email so we’d be able to recognize each other at the restaurant.

Joe & I arrived first and waited near the door. When Lauren came in and saw me she got a huge smile on her face, threw open her arms and gave me a great big hug. “I’ll never let you go again” she said. I introduced her to Joe, we ordered our food, and sat down at a table. The conversation began to flow without effort.

Lauren was rather talkative, which I was happy about, as I was really more interested in listening to her than in talking myself. She opened up rather quickly, and we learned that she drives too fast, enjoys going to frat parties, and has several good and loyal friends. I found myself becoming concerned when she mentioned drinking beer at parties, but I resisted the urge to tell her so – not wanting to sound like a parent. When the time is right I’m sure I’ll find a way to voice my concerns about underage drinking and all the bad that can come from it. But for now, I just needed to be the uncle she was meeting for the first time.

We had lots of good, hearty laughs! Lauren reminded me of family nicknames and comical habits I’d forgotten about. She did an imitation of my mother that really cracked me up. She was also able to update me on some of my other relatives I’ve not been able to see or hear from in 12 years. It was like a walk down memory lane to hear her refer to our relatives by their nicknames.

Something I wasn’t prepared for was the difficulty I had in knowing how to refer to our family members. Do I say ‘my sister’ or ‘your mother’? Do I say ‘my parents’ or ‘your grandparents’? The first couple of times I said both. But then I decided to speak of these people in the relationship that she has with them, rather than the relationship I once had with them.

I was curious to find out if Lauren was still in contact with the family. When I left the religion I made it clear that I no longer wanted to be a member of the religion, that I was gay, and that I was now living as a gay man. There was no negotiation – it was a done deal. I was 29, had my own place, and was supporting myself. Lauren’s situation is a bit different. Although she also announced that she didn’t want to be a member of the religion anymore, she did not have a new lifestyle to announce. She had just turned 18, was living at home with her family, and was not self-sufficient. Although it is not clear to me whether Lauren was actually kicked out by her parents or she felt forced to move out in order to be happy, Lauren did say that she is still in contact with her parents for now, and that they allowed her to keep the car she was driving when living with them. They also gave her some money to tide her over until she could find a job and become self-sufficient. Lauren did say that she is not hiding her behavior anymore, so she expects that one day her family will tell her they can no longer associate with her, as they told me 12 years ago.

When that happens I think Lauren will be in a far better position that I was at that point. For quite some time she has had friends outside her family’s religion, and has been doing things her family’s religion prohibits. She’s already built up a social and support network that can help take care of her when the final shoe drops and she is finally cut off from her family. I’m happy that her transition to ‘civilian life’ will be smoother than mine, so she can get on with her life.

When talking about the upcoming holidays, Joe mentioned that we host Thanksgiving for “our family” which consists of Joe’s family and my aunt Mary. He kindly invited Lauren to join us for Thanksgiving, since she is family too. Her eyes brightened, she smiled and excitedly replied “YES, Thanksgiving with family!”

Sunday, October 23, 2005


I guess this is the time of the year for changes. Currently the weather is changing from long, warm Indian summer days to shorter, cooler autumn days. The leaves are just beginning to change from green to red, yellow, orange, and brown. Last week I wore long pants to work for the first time since May. That was not a welcome change, as I love warm weather and wearing shorts.

At work there is change, too. Just recently we gave up our second office suite, which housed 3 offices, a cubicle, and some storage space. Since I was located in one of these offices, I experienced a change in my office space. My new office space was vacated by one of the former principals of the old company that was acquired by our new company. He will be gone as of Nov 1, so he is currently working out of the old production area, located in the suite we are keeping. My new office is the same size as my old office, but the new one has a vaulted ceiling, two skylights, and sliding glass doors onto a deck that faces the woods. Not to shabby. I guess you could call this a change for the good.

There are changes at home, too. We decided to get new furniture for our TV room. The current furniture was very inexpensive, and was selected because it could easily be wiped off in the event of an unauthorized nap by our dog, Jordan. We've had the furniture for 5 years, and feel we've gotten our money's worth out of it. We sit on it every night to watch TV, and its not very comfortable anymore. It was time for a change. So last weekend while we were at the beach, we ordered a sofa with a chaise lounge that butts up to it. They said it would be ready in 2-3 weeks. It's ivory chenille, with throw pillows in a graphic red, black, and ivory pattern.

We've also decided to change the orientation of the TV room when the new furniture comes. We're going to put the new furniture on the opposite wall, where the TV currently is, and put the TV where the old furniture currently is. That way when you enter the room from the hall, the first thing you'll see is the new furniture, rather than the TV.

Speaking of the TV, it is currently sitting on a metal stand that is barely big enough to hold it. We've never liked the look of the TV on that stand, so today we went to the "As Is" room at Ikea to look for a 'scratch-n-dent' deal. We found one. It's a wooden entertainment stand, in a light stain, that's about 4 feet wide. It is plenty big enough for our existing 19 inch TV, and a much larger one we'll get some day.

It seems that even old habits are changing around here. Joe and I both did a little housecleaning today, without the usual prodding and complaining. Joe even went through all of the laundry baskets and hampers of clothes (containing clean, dirty, out-of-season, and no-longer-fits items) and organized them appropriately. Next weekend he will go through the items that no longer fit and decide which ones to keep and which to give to charity. This is real progress, people!

And if that wasn't enough, we both felt so good about our accomplishments today, we vowed to adopt this change in attitude and continue doing a little bit every weekend, to keep our house tidy and our minds peaceful.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wedding in the Berkshires, Part II

In my 9/18 post called 'Wedding in the Berkshires' I talked about attending the wedding of our friends Michael and Jamie. In my recounting I neglected to mention that a reporter was there, collecting information for an article he was writing about gay weddings. He wrote a very insightful piece I thought I'd share. It's not long, and worth the read. Check it out.

At A Same-Sex Wedding, The New Is Made Old Again
Jonathan Rauch, National Journal© National Journal Group Inc.
Friday, Oct. 14, 2005

A cloudy afternoon on a recent Saturday in western Massachusetts. Rain sprinkles the Berkshire hills. Strolling in twos and threes along paths between broad lawns, 80 or so wedding guests make their way to a performance barn on the grounds of Jacob's Pillow. Rustling, cheerful, curious, they take their seats. Gray light filters through high windows and casts soft shadows among the rafters. The barn is not a sanctuary, but it feels like one today.

A violinist, one of the relatives, begins a Corelli prelude, and the wedding party enters. Both grooms wear tuxedos and boutonnieres. The minister, a young seminarian in the United Church of Christ, tall in his robes, begins. Under order of the state Supreme Court, same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, and today the minister will marry Jamie Beckland and Michael Pope.

"Every relationship of love is holy, sacred, and worthy of public affirmation and celebration," he says, with a touch of emphasis, slight but sufficient, on the word every. "We pray that this couple will fulfill God's purpose for the whole of their lives." Emphasis again, this time on the word whole. Not everyone in the hall picks up the inflection, but the grooms do.

Jamie is 27, originally from Wisconsin, now a development officer at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Michael, also 27, works at a private research company. They plan to move to Massachusetts, the place where Jamie lived when they met and the only state where their marriage has legal force. Jamie is taller, blond, bespectacled, thin, with the bearing of the former dancer that he is. Michael is dark, heavyset, as reserved as Jamie can be bubbly, a product not of the liberal Upper Midwest but of conservative southwestern Virginia, a state notorious for its gratuitously anti-gay legislation.

For all the differences, Jamie and Michael and their families have this in common: divorce. The newlyweds' immediate families count eight divorces between them, four on each side. Michael's parents divorced when he was 6, Jamie's when he was 10. "I think there's a whole generation of kids from broken homes who only want to be married once," Michael says. This marriage of two men, so radical by some lights, aspires to reconsecrate the deepest of marital traditions.

A few weeks before the wedding, over coffee at Starbucks, I asked Jamie why he wanted to marry. For my generation of gay men (I am 45), legal marriage was unthinkable, and emerging into the gay world often meant entering a cultural ghetto and a sexual underworld. Jamie, who could just about be my son, replies with an answer that turns the world of the 1970s and 1980s upside down. Once he realized he was gay, he says, he simply expected to marry.

"Why does anybody get married?" he asks. "I wanted the stability, I wanted the companionship, I wanted to have a sex life that was accepted, I wanted to have kids. For me, it's not a choice. A marriage evens you out."

The couple met on May 18, 2002. The next day, they exchanged telephone numbers at church (both are Christian). Within weeks, they knew it was serious. In February of this year they took a trip to Massachusetts and went snowshoeing on the grounds of Jacob's Pillow, a dance center where Jamie had worked when they met. There, on an outdoor stage, Jamie got down on one knee. "Which was hard, because we were in snowshoes."

He gave Michael a compass inscribed, "May we always find our way together," and launched into his carefully planned proposal, doing fine for about a minute before starting to cry. Michael began laughing, Jamie pulled himself together long enough to propose, and the two kissed, their faces stung by freezing tears.

Most weddings occasion unambiguous joy, but at this one, reactions run the gamut from delight to incredulity. Jamie's mother, Laura, freely confesses to having been a "monster mom" when Jamie first told her he was gay, seven years ago. He recalls her blaming a demon that might have possessed him one day while he was using a Ouija board. Today, however, she is fighting a losing battle with her false eyelashes as the tears flow, and the tears are happy ones. "It's amazingly wonderful and appropriate," she says of the marriage, "and it breaks my heart" -- not that Jamie is gay or is marrying a man, but that he is making this final transition out of childhood.

Laura's parents, Lee and Ludene, both in their early 70s, have shown up at their grandson's wedding on the advice of their priest, who counseled support for their family even if they could not condone a same-sex marriage. They say they are open-minded Catholics, but today's event has pushed them to their limit. "I feel that it's wrong," Lee volunteers. "I don't think it's real. I kind of wish it hadn't happened." He loves his grandson, no doubt about it. But "this is hard for me, to see it happen." Ludene, who believes that marriage is for procreation, struggles to find a more conciliatory note. "We're living in a different age," she says.

Jamie's two younger brothers are enthusiastic about the marriage. It never occurs to them to regard a same-sex marriage as anything but real. His father, Kim, has been supportive all along. But his paternal grandparents, Jim and Carol, are guarded as they sit on a bench awaiting the ceremony's start. "We love Jamie, and I'm not going to drive a wedge in the family," Jim says. Carol mentions that both are Christians who are close to the Bible. "This will be interesting," she says. "I'm not the judge."

Opponents of gay marriage have argued that same-sex couples, especially men, will undermine marriage by regarding it merely as a path to legal benefits, rather than as a moral and spiritual commitment. Gay couples may get married, goes the criticism, but will not act married. To judge by Jamie and Michael, there is little cause for worry on that score.

For their part, gay couples have had reason to worry that their marriages, however valid in the law's eyes, might be regarded as less than authentic in the eyes of family, friends, religious institutions, employers. After all, a marriage is a marriage not just because the law certifies it but because the community accepts and underwrites it.

Jamie's and Michael's relatives will face a question that never comes up after a straight wedding: whether to inform their friends, neighbors, and colleagues that their son or grandson or brother or nephew is married to a man. Among the parents' and grandparents' generations, most people said they would share this information selectively, or they would play it by ear, or they just didn't know what they would do. The marriage is no secret, but neither does it bask in the social sunlight that straight spouses take for granted.

Yet marriage has its own dynamic, one that deepens bonds between spouses and forges links to kin and community. From time immemorial, parents have expressed ambivalence, even dismay, over their children's choice of spouse, yet have been won over, if not to the choice, then to the marriage and the stability it provides. Michael's mother, Kathy, is from the town of Buena Vista, Va. She was raised in a strict Brethren Church but now considers herself "spiritual." She has been married and divorced twice. "This is truly not what I expected to see in his marriage," she says of Michael, her only son. But she adds: "I hope this is going to be a stabilizing factor in his life, because he's been at loose ends for a long time."

Marriage creates kin, a process in evidence today. Laura, Jamie's onetime "monster mom," toasts the couple with the words, "I'm so happy to have a fourth son." Jamie's father says, "I've seen these two together enough to know that this is the kind of relationship that marriage is about." Times may change, and marriage may change, but parents are ever parents.

It is almost 5 p.m. The minister has given his blessing, invoking Solomon's song that many waters cannot quench love. "Remember this," he says, "remember this, remember this. Amen."
Then: "Before God and all present, do you, Michael, enter into this marriage with an open mind and heart and promise to love Jamie as long as you both shall live?" Michael firmly answers yes, and then Jamie, less steadily, gives the same answer, wiping away tears as he says, "Most importantly, I will work every day at loving you better." The minister calls for the rings, and laughter relieves sniffles as Jamie, flustered, offers his right hand.

That mistake corrected, the minister makes a pronouncement that I never thought I would live to hear. "By the authority vested in me by the state of Massachusetts, I declare that you, Jamie and Michael, are joined in the covenant of marriage, with the blessing of Christ's church. You may kiss."

They do. It is done.

-- Jonathan Rauch is a senior writer for National Journal magazine. His e-mail address is

And speaking of gay weddings, I became privvy to one of the cutest things - I simply must pass on. Accompanied by her parents, a second grader attended the wedding of her uncle. Afterward, back at school she wrote this (spelling left in tact):

"I went to Portland and I went to a wedding and two boys got married and kissed and huged. At the reception there was danceing and cake and pizza and sald. And it was fun."

I bet you're smiling right now.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

This 'n that

Last weekend we went to the beach with our friends Greg & Gerry. We knew the weather wasn't supposed to be great, but I thought it would just be overcast the whole time. I was wrong.

After an entire summer of less-than-average rainfall, Friday it poured all day, and all night as we drove up to the beach. We stayed up late talking, so we slept late on Sat morning. It was raining when we got up. Joe made a delicious breakfast of banana walnut pancakes with bacon, orange juice, and coffee. We lingered over breakfast, hoping the rain would stop so we could go out.

Finally we decided to go out anyway. We showed Greg & Gerry the town of Lewes, the bay beach, the ferry depot, then went to a furniture store on Rt 1. We drove into the town of Rehoboth, but it was raining too hard for us to get out and walk around, so we went to lunch at a spot on Rt 1 and then picked up two movies from the video store.

Once back at the house Joe and Greg took naps, while Gerry and I chatted some more. When everyone was awake we watched the first of our two movies 'Crash'. You may remember from a previous blog post that I had seen this film before, but none of the others had seen it, and I liked it enough to see it again. We all enjoyed it.

We were going to go out for dinner, but the rain just wouldn't quit and we didn't feel like going out in it again, so we ordered a Grottos pizza to be delivered and watched our second film 'Beauty Shop'. Queen Latifa plays this gifted hair stylist who is taken for granted by the salon owner. She opens her own beauty shop but finds that she must be able to do more than hair. It was a fun movie.

Sunday we had brunch at Partners Bistro, then strolled around Rehoboth. The rain had finally stopped. We had a nice time peeking into many of the stores in town, then headed back to the house to get ready to leave.

After arriving home I talked with my friend Dave regarding his invitation to Sunday dinner. He makes dinner for his friends on most Sundays, and the group's attendance changes a bit from week to week. We confirmed we were coming and headed on over.

Dave and I met in the spring of 1993, as we were both coming out. He lived near me and we met at a casual social event for GLBT folks in the community. We got along quickly and became good friends. That summer we went to Ft Lauderdale and Key West on vacation. Some years later, we both moved away and didn't stay in touch. A few months ago I saw Dave in the John Waters film 'A Dirty Shame', so I dug out his email address and we reconnected. It was great to see him again on Sunday, and to meet his partner and several friends.

Tuesday evening we met Kerry & Hugh and George for dinner. Joe's mom came with us. We chatted about Kerry & Hugh's planned house addition, as well as other upcoming events. We had a fun time, as we always do with them.

Wednesday I got up before the sun (aarrgg...) in order to catch a 7:59am flight to Chicago. My boss (who is leaving the company in 2 weeks) and one of the sales guys who is taking over some of my boss' accounts and I planned a quick trip to Chicago to introduce the sales guy to some clients, take them to lunch, and talk about upcoming business. The weather was cool and overcast in Chicago, but it was fun to be there. I returned home from the airport at 10pm and was exhausted. I had a little ice cream and talked to Joe, then went to bed.

Tonight is the opening night of Reel Affirmations, the gay and lesbian film festival in Washington DC. Joe and I had planned to go to tonight's opening film, but Joe's back has been hurting for a few days, and since it was raining all day/evening, we decided not to go. (The fact that tonight's film was $15./person instead of $9./person like all the other nights had a little something to do with it, too.) So we stayed in this evening, had a dinner of warm chicken pot pies, and he is currently watching 'Muriel's Wedding' on cable while I read/wrote email and updated this blog.

We're heading to the beach again this coming weekend. Rehoboth Beach is having its annual Jazz Festival AND the weather is supposed to be sunny. YAY!!!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Summer I Got A Tan

It was 1987. I remember it clearly because I had been laid off from my job (which I hated and wanted to leave anyway) right after Memorial Day weekend. It was the same summer all three of my sisters were pregnant. 1987. At first I was pissed, but later took comfort in the fact that the pool at my apartment complex opens on Memorial Day weekend. J

Now getting a tan might not sound like much to most people… who’ve never seen me. I have a very fair complexion and do not tan easily. If I go out with no sunscreen for more than 30 minutes, I will get sunburned. Spending a week’s vacation at the beach does not result in me getting a tan because I just get too hot, baking in the sun, so I don’t stay out very long. Except in 1987.

This was, of course, before the internet, which now makes job searching so much easier. No, back in 1987 someone looking for a job had to mull over the ‘want ads’ in the newspaper and then mail a hard copy of their resume to the street address printed in the ad. Sounds archaic now, huh? But that’s what I did. Of course, there were only one or two daily newspapers, and after the first couple days of scouring them for suitable jobs, it didn’t take long to find the one or two I’d actually apply for. My job searching would be done by 10:30 am.

So, after carefully folding my resume, placing it inside the envelope, hand-writing the address on the envelope (this was also before anyone had a computer at home), and putting the stamp on the envelope… I’d go to the pool for a couple hours.

I could go to the pool for a couple of hours because those hours weren’t in succession. I’d go from 11-12, then go back to my apartment and have lunch, throw a load of laundry in the coin-operated washer, then go back to the pool from 1:30-2:30, go back to my apartment for a soda, then toss the laundry into the coin-operated dryer, then go back to the pool from 3-4.

I repeated this routine every day for a couple of weeks, until I got a call about one of the jobs. I was interviewed and then accepted a job at a grocery store. While not my ideal career move, I had no money in savings so I had to take the job in order to keep from getting behind in my rent and bills. But alas – since I was the ‘low man on the totem pole’ at the grocery store, I got the hours that nobody else wanted: shifts like 5-11pm, 6-midnight. These hours were perfect for me, as I could continue my morning job search, followed by middays at the pool.

Finally, near the middle of August, I got a permanent full-time job that was more of a career move for me. But by mid August, I’d had 10 weeks of gradual sun exposure and I had a gorgeous, golden tan. Pair that with the fact that my hair was blonde and I weighed about 50 pounds less than I do now, I was a stunning vision of youth and vitality! (I know those of you who’ve actually seen me in person are having a difficult time envisioning the person I just described… don’t be jealous!)

After 1987 I never really tried to get a good tan. I mean, working full-time during the day just didn’t leave me with the kind of schedule I needed to get a tan. Plus, it seemed every other minute there was something on the radio or TV about people getting skin cancer from tanning, so that kind of put a damper on my desire to once again transform myself into the bronze god I was in 1987.

But then came our beach house, which we bought in Dec of last year. We love going to the beach and just being near the water, even when its not ‘beach season’. We consistently spend weekends at the beach even in the winter; all year round. So when we got the beach house and began writing those checks to pay for it every month, I told Joe that we should really try to spend a lot of time at the beach this summer, and he agreed.

Even though the traffic getting across the Bay Bridge to the beach can be harrowing during the season, we found a way around that, too. We’d leave our house on Friday nights at 8:30 or 9:00. By the time we’d get to the bridge an hour later, there was no back up. We’d sail right on to the beach; taking the same amount of time it would take us off-season. On Sundays we’d do the same. We’d leave at 6:30 or 7:00, after all the majority of the beach exodus had occurred.

Some weekends we’d go by ourselves, and other weekends we’d invite friends to join us. In May we spent 3 out of 4 weekends at the beach. In June we spent 3 out of 4 weekends at the beach. In July we spent 4 out of 5 weekends at the beach, including an entire week of vacation there. In August we spent 2 out of 4 weekends at the beach. In September we only spent 1 weekend at the beach because we were in Las Vegas another weekend and Massachusetts another weekend.

Nearly every one of those weekends at the beach we would spend 2-3 hours (Sat and Sun) enjoying the sun and the water. Then in Las Vegas I spent a couple hours each day at the pool, too. So without really trying, I once again got a really great tan. I kind of surprised myself, but it is really noticeable. Friends and co-workers have noticed and commented about my tan.

Recently if Joe and I get into some kind of a little argument or something, I say “Don’t be jealous of my tan…” as if that were the real reason behind the argument.

So now if I recall ‘The Summer I Got A Tan’, I’ll have to pick between the TWO!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Our Old House

In October of 2000, we sold our old house. It was a light gray Cape Cod, built in 1941 on a nice lot on a street that was not a through street. It was very charming, and had lots of its original character.

The previous owners had popped the attic with a shed dormer on the back, which really expanded the upstairs space. It already had two regular dormers on the front. They’d also enclosed the back porch, creating a sunroom, and had built an enormous multi-level deck in the back yard. It was our first house, and we loved it.

But despite all the painting and decorating we did to make it even more charming and inviting, it was just too small. Realtors like to use the word “cozy”. It was just too small. We used to entertain small groups of church friends for dinner, but could barely fit 6 people in our dining room. We could sit 6 in the living room if we pulled one of the dining room chairs in. And when Joe’s family came over for Thanksgiving – forget about it! We had people eating in 3 different rooms, and there just wasn’t enough space when the kids started getting bigger.

At first we thought about adding on. An architect came for a look, and told us that adding on a family room would cost at least $100,000 (back in the late 90s), and even then we would be left with one decent-sized room stuck onto the rest of our cramped rooms. Plus, there were many other things that needed to be done, like replacing the original 60-year old windows and kitchen) in addition to the addition. All we could see were dollar bills floating out of our wallets in a constant stream. So we decided to move up.

We found a wonderful brick Cape Cod with generous rooms and simply fell in love. That’s where we live now. A young couple bought our first house, and seemed excited about the prospects of first-time home ownership and putting their own touches on the place. We were sure that in time they would do the things we’d not done, like replace those old windows and kitchen.

Fast-forward 4 ½ years and it’s the spring of 2005. We saw a real estate ad in the local paper that looked an awful lot like our old house, so we drove by to check it out. Indeed, it was our old house in that ad, and the sign indicated they’d be having an open house the next day. We knew we’d be there!

We tried to imagine what they would have done. We could see they had not replaced the windows, so we guessed they’d redone the kitchen and possibly one or both of the bathrooms.

We couldn’t have been more shocked and disappointed. Our charming little house looked terrible. First off, it was dirty. Second, they had not redone the kitchen, except for the flooring and countertops, both of which were so ugly it’s amazing anyone would have selected them. Having been built in 1941, the house had real plaster walls. The owners after us had painted the dining room a deep wine color, and used semi-gloss paint. It showed every flaw and imperfection in the plaster. In one of the 3 bedrooms they’d tried a faux paint treatment on the walls that resembled a quick clean up at a bloody crime scene. Red smears all over the cream colored walls. It was horrific. In another bedroom they’d apparently kept a dog or two, because there were gouges and scratches from the dogs nails in the wood door. Upstairs in the master suite they’d painted over the ‘Candlelight’ walls with stark white and navy blue. We both felt like we’d been run over by a bus when we left the house. It was so disappointing.

Later in the summer, we swung by the old house and were encouraged to see the ‘For Sale’ sign was gone, and the exterior of the house had been painted a quaint pale lilac, and the windows had been replaced. We saw our old next-door neighbor, Terri, working in her yard so we parked and got out to talk to her. She told us that a very nice man named Evan had bought the house and was remodeling the entire thing. We commented on the new windows and paint. She told us we should see the new kitchen and bathrooms. Our hearts leapt for joy!! Finally, someone was taking care of this lovely, charming house.
When Evan came outside Terri introduced us and asked if we could come inside and look around. He agreed, so we got to see the completely new kitchen, bathrooms, refinished hardwood floors, beautiful faux treatment on the brick fireplace, and all the new lighting and fixtures. He apparently had enough money to not only undo all the ugly the previous owners had done, but also to redo all the things we never had the cash to improve. Although not yet completed, the house looked gorgeous. We were so happy! And the old house seemed happy, too.