Monday, June 29, 2015

Historic day

Well, needless to say I was very pleased with last Friday's Supreme Court ruling that State same sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, effectively creating marriage equality in all 50 states.  Immediately following the announcement couples began streaming to local court houses requesting marriage licenses.  June 26, 2015 became a historical date:  the date love won.

I was at work when the announcement was made but my aunt (who is straight) called me to share the good news.  A couple of my straight colleagues in the office and 2 of my neighbors also shared their concurrence with the Court's decision, which was a nice surprise to me.  I decided to take those congratulatory conversations just a step forward by saying the following (paraphrased):

"I hope the general public really understands how important this is.  You know, its not just about the right to walk down the isle and have a fabulous wedding.  There are so many legal rights and benefits that come along with the right to be married... visiting a spouse in the hospital, making medical decisions for a spouse, inheritance of jointly owned property, receipt of pensions, the ability to be covered by a spouse's medical insurance.  These and many more are things that were not legally available to same sex couples in states where same sex marriage bans were in place.  This ruling eliminates different treatment based on the gender of your spouse and creates real marriage equality, something all Americans deserve."

Some understood this already and simply agreed, while others' eyes widened and they said "Oh wow, I never thought of it that way."

It was a happy day for nearly everyone except the conservatives and right-wingers.  They of course began predicting the end of civilization as we know it due to these new unions which have absolutely no real affect on them.  

The White House celebrated the decision by projecting lights in the rainbow colors across its facade.  Facebook responded by providing a rainbow filter under which users' profile picture could be displayed.

I also liked that the timing of this decision occurred in June, the unofficial GLBT Pride month, and just 2 days prior to the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the unofficial beginning of the gay rights movement.

On my facebook page I posted this photo and caption:
Married in all 50 states now.  Thanks SCOTUS!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Days of Anna Madrigal

So I finally read this book.

'Hasn't that book been out a while now', you may be asking yourself.  Yes.  I pre-ordered it on Amazon in Oct of 2013, with the knowledge it would be shipped in Jan 2014 when the novel was released.  I received mine as expected, but didn't begin reading it until last week - a year and a half later.

You see, this is the 9th and supposedly final book in the Tales of the City series, which began as a continuing newspaper serial in the 1970s, and was the inspiration for this blog's title.  All the former residents of 28 Barbary Ln are in their 60s now, except the matriarch herself, Anna Madrigal, who is in her 90s.  As long as I didn't read this book, the characters would remain and I would have something to anticipate.  Once I read the book, it would be the end of my time with them.

After successfully putting it off for 18 months, I decided I was finally ready to begin the final chapters of Maryann Singleton, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, Brian Hawkins, and Anna Madrigal.  I told myself that I'd ration my reading, and only read a couple chapters at a time.  This would help me delay the eventual end of the book.  But despite my best intentions I found myself engrossed in stories and would up reading the entire book in 3 settings.

I won't ruin it for anyone who's planning to read it, but I will say that I loved that the ending was joyful and not as sad as I anticipated.  

While Armistead Maupin won't be writing anymore books in the Tales of the City series, I'm hoping he'll continue writing other novels.  I enjoyed both of his non-Tales novels called Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener; the latter of which was made into a film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette. I love the way he paints a picture with his words and transports me to a different time and place.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Walter update

A few days ago Walter turned 11 months old and still wouldn't go down the stairs.

Walter zooms up the stairs like a bullet, but wouldn't come down.  Spouse says that several months ago Walter fell down the stairs and has been afraid to go down them since.

For a while this seemed a little bit charming, carrying Walter down the stairs.  Later it became less convenient, especially when I had an armful of stuff to bring down stairs. And occasionally Walter would go up to the 3rd floor to sit on the arm of the sofa and look out the large window, requiring me to go up to the 3rd floor to retrieve him, and then come back down 2 flights of stairs. 

For a couple weeks I'd been suggesting to Spouse that we use treats to try and train Walter to come down the stairs.  I wanted Spouse to sit at the middle of the staircase to block Walter from going up as he'd down before, while I coaxed him down with treats.  Unfortunately Spouse didn't think this was a worthwhile pursuit.  So last Thurs as I contemplated Walter turning 11 months old, I was carrying him down the stairs and just decided to stop 1/2 way and put him on the stairs.  Previous attempts at this resulted in him scooting past me and running up to the top of the stairs.  But this time, he just scampered down the stairs!  I joined him at the bottom and gave him lots of verbal praise and head scratches.  Then we repeated the exercise, to make sure it wasn't just a fluke.  Again he scampered down the stairs with no coaxing and no lure of a treat.

For the next several days we repeated this from higher points of the staircase, all with success.  On Sat I encouraged Walter to come down the stairs from the top, without me placing him on the staircase, but he wouldn't come down from the top landing. So I picked him up, went down 1 stair, and placed him on the stair below me.  He scampered down.

Yesterday I came home from work and Spouse and both dogs were upstairs.  They heard me come in and Marvin came down the stairs to greet me.  The next thing I know Walter came down the stairs to greet me too.  I could hear the water on in the bathroom upstairs so I knew Spouse had NOT placed Walter on the stairs - he had finally decided to go down the stairs from the top landing on his own!  I think his fear that Marvin would get all the lovin' from Daddy was stronger than his fear to get down that top stair.  Once he'd done that, its almost as if a light went off in his head.  "I can do this."  He'd figured it out.

Since then Walter has gone down the stairs on his own several times.  He's gained his freedom, and our "little boy" is now a big boy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Frank's visit

Fri night Spouse's eldest brother Frank arrived with his girlfriend-du-jour, Anya.

I've mentioned Frank many times here, and usually not in a flattering way.  (Click on the 'Frank' tag at the bottom of this post to see some of the posts.)  I don't dislike Frank as a person; I just dislike the results of his lifetime of bad choices.  Years of chain-smoking, abuse of alcohol, lying, borrowing money without repaying, just to name a few.  To my knowledge Frank has never had a checking account.  For the last 10+ years he's not been able to keep a job for more than a few months at a time.  He would have been homeless on several occasions if not for his mother allowing him to move back in.  Everyone in the family has tried on multiple occasions to reason with him and try to get him to behave differently, but in 60 years none have been successful.

You may be wondering why on earth we invited him to stay at our home.  Well, we didn't.  He invited himself, and his current girlfriend.  But we agreed to the visit because we feel bad for him.  Frank is dying of cancer.

His symptoms began a few years ago but because he's Frank, he didn't go to the doctor.  Instead he would drink the pain away.  Eventually that no longer worked, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Frank finally had insurance and went to the doctor.  Over the last year he's had chemotherapy and radiation and surprisingly didn't loose his beautiful, wavy, salt and pepper hair.  But he's lost a lot of weight and can't escape the pain, despite all known measures. 

He's already outlived his original prognosis but no one is foolish enough to think he's okay.  When pressed he told Spouse he's "on borrowed time", yet he still smokes cigarettes and still drinks alcohol even though his doctors directed him to discontinue both.

So when Frank and Anya arrived at 9pm (their original ETA was 6pm but Spouse & I knew better than to wait for him for dinner) we accompanied them to a cute little pub where they both really enjoyed their meals and we had polite conversation.  Sat they visited an arts and crafts show nearby, had brunch, and went to the beach for a few hours on their own.  That night Spouse brought them to see me perform as Elton John in the LEGENDS show, which they both really seemed to enjoy.  They picked up a pizza to enjoy at home for a late night snack.  Sun morning we all had coffee and said our goodbyes.  I had to go to work and they wanted to head back home before the traffic got too heavy.

Their visit was actually more pleasant and less dramatic than I expected.  We had lots of short, topical but not controversial conversations here and there, and of course memories of funny family situations are always good for a few laughs.  But I feel bad mostly for Spouse because I know he is conflicted.  He's mad at Frank for causing so much grief and emotional pain for himself and his family for so many years, including their 85-year old mother.  But Frank is also his brother, his family, and he's dying.  Its a tough spot to be in.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Car trouble, part 2

In my original Car Trouble post I talked about the problems the BMW dealership was having trying to diagnose the source of the illuminated "check engine soon" light in my 2006 BMW X5. 

After believing they had finally fixed the issue, the service tech drove my car over the weekend to make sure the light didn't come back on.  I expected get a call on Mon to coordinate the swap of my car and the loaner, but I didn't hear anything on Mon.  Or Tues.  Finally on Wed they called and said that they had tried everything the fault codes indicated by the light was still on.  They said a similar situation had been resolved by replacing the catalytic converter, even though the fault codes didn't not suggest that, and the light went off in that vehicle.  So they only thing they could think to do at this point for my car was to replace the catalytic converter, but since it would cost over $4,000. they wanted to discuss it with me.

Keep in mind the car wasn't giving me any problems or exhibiting any symptoms at all.  I love my car and plan to keep it, so normally I would be open to repairing it versus replacing it.  But the service advisor offered no guarantee that the $4,000. catalytic converter replacement would solve the problem, so after giving it some thought, I thanked them for their efforts and got my car back, with the "check engine soon" light on.  I decided I would just try and ignore the light since the professionals couldn't seem to get it to turn off.

I drove my car around the next day and everything was fine.  The following day I started it up and noticed the "check engine soon" light was NOT on!  Before celebrating too much I figured I'd better give it some more time.  That was a week ago.  I've been joyfully driving my car for a week now with no warning lights illuminated on the dash!  As you can imagine, I'm really REALLY glad I passed on the $4,000. catalytic converter replacement. 

I don't blame the dealership or the manufacturer, BMW.  Cars are so full of electronic sensors and gadgetry I find it amazing they don't malfunction and turn themselves upside down now and then.  I'm just happy my car's performance wasn't affected and its back to not having any warning lights illuminated on the dash.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Shades of blue

On Sun Spouse & I went to the beach.  It was 1 of those 'perfect' beach days:  warm, sunny, moderate humidity, and a gentle breeze.  Its not always like this.  Some days we sweat our asses off, and other days the wind threatens to turn our umbrellas into missiles.  On Sun thought it was pretty scrumptious.

I couldn't help but capture the day:
I love the way the blue of my chair, the blue of my sunglasses, and the blue of the ocean and sky as reflected in my sunglasses all came together in this photo.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wank for health

Did you hear that a seminal study found that the more often men ejaculated, the less likely they were to get prostate cancer?  The original study done in 2004 was confirmed by a recent study with the same findings.  And it doesn't matter if you're accompanied or solo, the more ejaculations the better for your health! Check out the complete article HERE.

I don't know about you, but I do NOT want prostate cancer.  Fortunately now I know what to do to reduce my risk!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cucumber & Banana

A few months ago I began watching "Cucumber" and "Banana", 2 new series on the Logo network, written by Russell T Davies who wrote the original/UK version of "Queer As Folk".  I was happy to see some actual GLBT programming on Logo, the alleged GLBT cable network.

Cucumber is a serial program which follows a UK couple Henry Best and his 9-year partner Lance Sullivan as they deal with relationship issues, aging, and other life situations.  I would describe it as a dramedy, part drama and part comedy.  I thought the 1st couple episodes were 'okay' but am really glad I stuck with it because the longer I watched, the more I liked it.  In particular I thought the final 3 episodes of the 1st season were especially well written and acted.  

Banana is NOT a serial program, so each episode has its own 'self-contained' storyline and characters.  However, most of the characters are lightly intertwined with Henry and the Cucumber regulars.  Banana does a great job of including women and trans folks in leading roles, which is rare for GLBT programming.

Watch the trailer to see where the names Cucumber and Banana come from.

I would encourage everyone to check out both of these programs.  While the 1st season has wrapped up and is no longer airing on Logo, you can watch the episodes online

If you've watched Cucumber and Banana, what did you think?

Monday, June 08, 2015

Weekend recap

This past weekend I was scheduled off work, didn't have any particular plans, and didn't get any client or work calls.  It was nice to have the 2 days in a row off work with Spouse.  We didn't go to the beach because it was cool and overcast on Sat and cool and sunny on Sun; too cool to sit on the beach.  But we did a few little things around the house, did a little shopping, took the dogs for a couple walks, sat on the screened porch, and had a relaxed weekend.

Sat I performed as Neil Sedaka in the LEGENDS show at the Blue Moon.  Its a fun medley of songs (Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do, Laughter In The Rain, Happy Birthday Sweet 16, Calendar Girl) and the audience enjoyed the show.

After the show's finale song, the LEGENDS come out into the audience to meet and greet with the audience.  I had my photo taken with a couple of strangers, as well as with a couple of friends.
Lisa, me, and Joanne

Fellow LEGEND star Brian, Rick, and me
After changing out of my finale costume I met up with my old friend Chris.  
Me and Chris
We met about 10 years ago and discovered we went to the same high school and had many common friends, although neither of us recalled meeting each other while in school.  He usually touches base with me on the weekends he spends here at the beach.  We hung out together for a while after the show and laughed at the drunk girls from a large bachelorette party.  The next morning Chris joined me & Spouse and Steven and Joe P for breakfast at the Crystal.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Car troubles

About 2 months ago Spouse had an issue with his car, a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser.  It stalled on him and all the lights and gages on the dash lit up.  He started the car again and drove on, but found that a couple of unrelated dash lights stayed on:  the parking break light, the airbag light, and the check engine soon light.  I also noticed that the turn signals light up each time you apply the brakes.  We took the car to our mechanic who reported that all the seemingly unrelated items were indeed related... to the computer.  He said the computer needed to either be reset or replaced, but it would need to be plugged into the diagnostic machinery at a Chrysler dealership to know for sure which one.

The car is in decent condition otherwise and still drives fine, but it has more than 90K miles on it and we're anticipating that the cost of replacing the faulty computer may be more than the car's actual value.  So we decided we'd trade it in on something else rather than putting the money into fixing it.  We contacted our friend Bryan who owns a used car dealership nearby and told him what Spouse wanted: a Mercedes Benz ML350.  Within a few days Bryan sent us a description and photos of the vehicle and we got excited.  A week later it arrived at the dealership, but several more days went by without Bryan telling us our car was ready for pick-up.  He discovered a 'known issue' with some vehicles this particular year and model, and sure enough - this one had the issue, so he was sending it back.

A week or so later we got another email from Bryan with a description and photos of a similar vehicle.  We were excited as we waited to hear more.  Two weeks later the vehicle finally arrived.  It turns out the vehicle was mistakenly shipped to another dealership with the same name, but in a completely different state!  After several more days of waiting, Bryan informed us that his mechanic found a transmission problem with this vehicle that would be costly to repair, so he was sending this one back too!

Yesterday I got a 3rd email from Bryan with a description and photos of yet another similar vehicle.  We're crossing our fingers this one arrives and checks out clean!  It feels like we've been anticipating a new car for a month now.

While all of this has been going on, I sent my 2006 BMW X5 to the dealership to have a recall item addressed and to diagnose and fix the check engine soon light.  The next day I got my car back and the following day the check engine soon light came back on!  That day I received a follow up email from BMW America regarding my service appointment, so I explained the situation.  They apparently called the dealership who contacted me about getting the car back.  This time I took advantage of the free loaner car.  After all, I'm a real estate agent and can't be without a car for more than a day. The driver arrived with a 2015 BMW X5 for me to use, and drove off in mine car.  Two days later they said the check engine soon code indicated changing something different this time, which they did, and would be delivering my car back to me.  However, on the drive from the dealership to my office, the light came on again so the driver took my car back to the dealership.

A few days later the service advisor admitted that they were having trouble diagnosing the issue and had reached out to the BMW field rep for help, and asked for my patience as they were committed to making it right.  Today I received an update indicating they'd had replaced something else, but instead of returning it to me right away, they wanted to drive it around this weekend to be sure the fix was sufficient.  So I've been driving this brand new gadget-filled BMW for 10 days now, and should get my car back on Mon.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Miss Richfield 1981

Mon night I went to see Miss Richfield 1981 perform her new show "Cone of Silence" at the Blue Moon with Joe P.  It was fantastic!!

I've been a big fan of Miss Richfield 1981 since the 1st time I saw her, and always make a point of seeing her shows when she's in town.  Check out my previous posts and photos HERE, HERE, and HERE.  Her new show "Cone of Silence" is about taboo topics and feelings that people don't talk about.  In a hilarious way Miss Richfield 1981 encourages all to remove their cone of silence and go ahead and talk about those touchy subjects.

A selfie with Miss Richfield 1981 after her show!
Any drag comedienne can spend 6 months writing and memorizing a script for a 'funny' show.  But likely half or more of Miss Richfield's material is spontaneous due to her numerous interactions with the audience.  There's literally no way to prepare for that!  Yet she is constantly quick, clever, and side-splittingly funny.

Want to go see Miss Richfield 1981 yourself?  Check out her calendar HERE!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Visitors, part 2

On Thurs Tornwordo & Serge and I went to Crystal for breakfast, and they got to meet our favorite breakfast server Pau Pau.  Serge agreed to try scrapple for the 1st time and said he liked it.  Scrapple seems to be 1 of those food items you either love or hate.

After breakfast we went for a nice long walk on the boardwalk.  The weather was really nice, as opposed to last year's visit when we had to abort our walk due to the wind and chilly temperature.  Then we ducked into a few beach shops in search of souvenir T-shirts, and Tornwordo got an ice cream cone.  Check out these crazy flavors:

Afterward we did a little 'exploring' near the beach and talked about real estate prices and vacation rental prices, then headed back home.  Again we sat out on the porch with the dogs for a while and talked and looked at facebook.

I organized a small happy hour so Tornwordo & Serge could meet some of our friends.  We met up with Steven, Joe P, Joey, and Spouse (a little later) at Saketumi where we ordered cocktails and various sushi rolls to share.  We had a great time and were there for 3 hours!
Afterward we returned to the screened porch for a final cocktail and lots of good conversations.

The next day my friends from the North packed up their stuff and left after a bit of coffee.  They headed to NJ and I went to work.

We had a great visit and I feel honored to have been included again on their road trip.  Now Spouse & I must come up with a plan to visit Montreal!