Monday, April 28, 2008

Goodbye And Hello

I've been hinting at this for about a month or so, but yesterday, The BF and I finally moved in together. After two-and-a-half years or traipsing back and forth to each other's apartments (he traipsed more than I, mostly because I was the one with cable), we purged some things and he made room for me in his cute little one-bedroom. The plan is for him to sell his place sometime over the summer, and the two of us get a larger loft where we can both spread out . . . and up (more details on THAT later, too).

All of this has churned up some bittersweet emotions in me. This is the first time since 1988 I have lived with someone who was more than just a roommate. Ex#1 and I moved in together exactly 20 years ago, when I was 22 and he was 23 (coincidentally enough, it was also the end of April). We had been dating for 2.5 months, and living 140 miles apart. Moving in together was more convenience than anything else. Ex#1 and I are still in touch with each other and I get a card or email from him every year around my birthday - mostly because he remembers that I share the same birthday as his mother.

God, I was so young back then! Moving in with someone when you are 22 and 23 is nothing more than just playing house. Not to mention, it was my first gay relationship. I had no idea what I was doing, and within 8 months, we split up. And back in 1989, I swore I would never live with another boyfriend again.

And I haven't . . . until now.

My move-in was pretty simple, with only a few minor adjustments needing to be made. At first I thought I had done so well at purging things I really didn't need. But looking back, it's more to The BF's credit that he made so much room for my stuff. He's sacrificing alot (space, privacy, a bed to himself now and then) just to be around me more often. It's a bit overwhelming. I've never had anyone this "into" me before. But then, I totally deserve it!

As exciting as this new chapter of my life will be, starting a new chapter means ending another one. After 8 years, Ashley and I will no longer be roommates. He's been a constant presence in my life while so many other things have come and gone: he's seen me through Ex#3, 4, 5 and all the men in-between; almost all of my health issues; 3 jobs; 3 apartments and 1 house; 2 remodels; 2 major cities; 2 jeeps (mine and his); countless shopping trips; 3 trips to Provincetown, 1 trip to New Orleans; and nights filled with karaoke, boys, shots, showtunes, dancing, booze, drag shows, dinner parties, and the million talks we've had over the years that were our equivalent to sitting around the kitchen table and eating a cheesecake.

And now we both live in the city we first visited together back in 2001 for Market Days. He's running a successful business and dating a great guy. We probably could have gone on being roommates for life, I guess. But love trumps everything. And I would take one year of living with The BF over a lifetime of living with anyone else.

It's all very exciting . . . and scary . . . and fun . . . and strange . . . and wonderful. I never thought I would get to this point in my life, yet I've arrived, seemingly without even trying. In a way, I feel 22 again - only this time I've got 20 years more experience.

Friday, April 25, 2008

No XXL At Gap

The other night after a long day at work, I walked into my longtime favorite store, Gap, and decided to remedy my solemn mood with some retail therapy. I found some polos in some colors I liked and began rummaging to find my size, XXL. Sadly, I couldn't find it in the blue. So then I looked at the pale blue. Not there either. Charcoal? Not there. Green? Not there.

Not thinking much of it, I walked over to ask an associate to look in the back for me. Some stores, like American Apparel for example, keep their XXL sizes in the back, I guess to save room on the sales floor. All you have to do is ask for an XXL. In a way, it's kinda fun, like a secret no one else knows. So when I asked a Gap Associate for my size, I was told that Gap was no longer carrying XXL in the stores and I would have to order everything online from now on.

I'm not sure what I felt at that moment, but part of it was embarrassment. Regardless of the words the associate used, all I heard was, "we're not serving your kind anymore". I felt discounted and almost ashamed for some reason. Basically, Gap hurt my feelings. But as I turned to leave the store, my feelings of inadequacy quickly turned to anger. On my way out, a different associate approached me with, "find everything ok?" to which I could only muster a boisterous "NO!" and walked out.

How dare they do this to ME? Me, who's been a faithful shopper to that company for the past 20+ years. Me, who worked for the company in both full and part-time positions for a period spanning 8 years. Me, who stuck by Gap even back in the late 90's when they had their identity crisis and then subsequently apologized to an abandoning public. Me, who has mentioned that I love Gap on this blog about a dozen or more times.

Being my size, my choices are already limited. I can't buy stuff at the mens' boutique shops because nothing is above a large. Another favorite store, Club Monaco, usually only stocks one XXL in everything and there seems to be someone beating me to it all the time (and CM doesn't have online shopping). My choices have been pretty much reduced to Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy. And since all of those stores are the same company, it's a pretty good bet that Banana and Old Navy will follow Gap's lead if they haven't already. Which basically reduces me to zero options.

I sent a letter of complaint to Gap and asked for the reasoning behind this situation, but all I got back was a canned apology, thanking me for my correspondence and telling me how important my feedback is.

Eventually, I guess, I'll get used to this. I just won't be able to run in and pick up a new shirt for a party or trip or even just to make myself feel better. I would think that in today's economy, no retail company would want to disclude any type of shopper, let alone make the process more difficult.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The BF's Hidden Talent #2,439,741

In yet another one of his attempts to prove to me that he can do everything, The BF has taken to making cartoons using Photoshop. He admits to it being rudimentary in comparison to what my friend Dave is able to create. But then again, Dave is a graphic artist who has been doing these signature caricatures of people (like my profile picture on the far left) for many years; The BF began last Thursday. As he experiments with shading and layering, I completely expect The BF's artistry to improve in a short time. But the mere fact that he could create this in a first attempt without any previous knowledge is pretty . . . well . . . impressive.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cell Phone On Planes

I was reading USA Today yesterday and in the Op/Ed page is a letter from Etta Trammell from Cincinnati who believes that since Europe is allowing the use of cell phones on planes in-flight in the next year, America should follow suit. She cites, what she believes are, the many benefits of this program: children flying alone and business travelers making the most of their workdays topping the list.

Clearly, Etta hasn't flown on an airplane or used any form of public transportation in, say, ever. She clearly has no idea what an airplane would sound like if anyone, let alone a gabby 13-year old, could use a cell phone. Has she lost her mind?

I just flew this past weekend - traveled home to see the family. Behind me sat three Asian women speaking in their native language. I'm sure it's a lovely language, but at 30,000 feet and engines blaring in my ear, the sound emanating from these women was pure annoyance. In front of me was an 18-month old crying for her mother during the entire trip. Funny thing was, momma was right next to her, completely oblivious to the child's cries. How does this happen? The mother did nothing. NOTHING! The father walked the child once or twice - when he wasn't on one of his 14 (yes, I counted them) trips to the rest room during the 90-minute flight.

I lost about 2 million brain cells during this flight, and Etta wants to add cellphones to this mess. This policy should never come to fruition. If it does, the car rental industry will be getting a lot more of my business.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Grape Lady

This probably makes me a really bad person, but this makes me laugh every time:



I'm sure it hurt, and I hope she's okay. I can't help myself, but it just makes me laugh. Only this makes me laugh even more:


Thursday, April 17, 2008

The REAL Dream Ticket

I think it's really a shame that Americans have to actually choose between the two best presidential candidates who have come along in the last almost 20 years. Until the primary, I'm personally supporting Hillary Clinton. But if Barack Obama get the democratic nomination, I will vote for him as well. I realize that a dream ticket of either being president/vice president is nothing more than that - a dream. But if there was any possibility of just combining the two so we don't have to choose at all - that would be the ultimate ideal.


You think?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A New Low - "W" At 28%

So "W" has now dropped in his approval rating to 28% - only the second U.S. President in history to drop below 30%. And I predict it will drop even lower considering the economy has tanked and "W", just last week, announced staying the course in Iraq. He's on a mission to be our first three-war president in the event he starts a conflict with Iran.

So was it worth it - all you republicans who voted him back into office in 2004? Here is a list of historically recent presidents and their approval ratings upon leaving office:


In just seven years, Bush turned a record budget surplus into a record deficit.

He took our national reputation from an unprecedented high after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to an unprecedented low, a downward slide that has been mirrored by his approval ratings.

He has repeatedly asserted the authority to operate without oversight and ignore laws and judicial rulings with wild abandon.

He has conducted domestic surveillance of American citizens without warrants, in violation of federal law and the Constitution. He has repeatedly admitted this crime, even bragged about it, on national television.

He facilitated the use of torture in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, in violation of both American and international law. His administration regards the Geneva Conventions as "quaint."

He has waged a reckless and expensive war in Iraq that has killed hundreds of thousands and breeded a new generation of terrorists on the basis of deliberately misleading and fabricated intelligence.

Perhaps the scariest thing of all is that he still has another 9 months in office. Imagine what else could possibly go wrong.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tudor Hall

Today marks the 143rd anniversary of Lincoln's death. He died at 7:22AM on the morning of April 15, 1865, from a gun shot wound to the head inflicted by John Wilkes Booth. This entire event (the assassination and its 14-day aftermath) fascinates me. True I find Lincoln to be a complex man, but I also find Booth to be much more intriguing. When people ask that question of what person, living or dead, would you invite to dinner, my answer is always John Wilkes Booth.

I've been to Ford's Theatre (the site of the murder) many times; I've biked Booth's escape route out of DC; visited the Surratt Tavern where he picked up supplies and carbines after fleeing DC; visited Samuel Mudd's house where Booth had Dr. Mudd set his broken leg; and even visited Booth's grave in Baltimore and his Gothic revival childhood home, Tudor Hall, in Bel Air, MD.

The latter is dichotomous in American History: on one hand it was the dwelling of man who committed the first Presidential assassination in America and changed the course of history forever. On the other hand, it was also home to the two greatest Shakespearean tragedians of the American stage: Junius Brutus Booth and his even more talented son, Edwin Booth. And while the house was more or less spared demolition because of Edwin, the true source of wonder is Wilkes.

I visited the house (now an office for Harford County's Center of the Arts) one Saturday last June when it was closed, roped off, and generally off limits. I went anyway. And much like the initial feeling I had when I entered Ford's Theatre for the first time, as I walked down the long driveway to the house, I couldn't help but get the feeling I had been here before. As I slowly neared the house, it all seemed familiar -- it could have been the numerous websites I've read about the place and even the details I garnered from the 15 or so books I've read about Wilkes and the Booth Family.

Once I arrived at the porch of the house, I turned around to see the driveway I had just walked. So many pictures are taken of the front of the house, but none are taken from the vantage point of the porch - the same vantage point the Booth's would have had when expecting visitors during the good times, and government soldiers during the bad times. If anything has remained untouched on the property for the last 143 years, it is the road leading to the house. Except for being paved (a few added trees), the path is the same.

The house was closed and no one was around so I had free range of the grounds but couldn't go in. Not sure how many renovations the inside of the house has experienced. I tried to get some pictures of the inside, but the bubbled glass in the windows made it impossible to get a clear shot. The weird thing was that even though I was alone on the 8 acres of land, I still got the feeling I was being watched. So I didn't dare climb too close or be too aggressive near the house.

I walked around the side of the house and spotted the balcony where its been said Wilkes and his sister, Asia, would rehearse scenes from "Romeo & Juliet". It is also suspected that this is the window into which Wilkes carved his initials, JWB (Wilkes apparently loved his initials so much he even had them tattooed in the crux of his right hand between his thumb and forefinger - this tattoo was later used to identify his body after being shot himself on Garrett's Farm near Port Royal, VA on April 26th). But that window has been long removed and it is uncertain where on the house that window originally belonged. Still, there is something a little haunting about the balcony.

I walked around the back of the house and tried to imagine, based on the books I've read, where the barn would have been located. In 1973, Tudor Hall was included in the National Register of Historic Places with a historical boundary of 136.5 acres to maintain the rural surroundings and distant views since Tudor Hall had been a farm during the Booth period. In 1982, the State of Maryland reduced the protective boundaries to the 8.33 acres, despite the oppositional pleas of historical experts.
As I walked around to the other side of the house, I noticed a window - nothing special about it - but there just seemed to be something to it. Could this be where the original JWB window had been cased? Was this the bedroom window young Wilkes would look out of when planning his future of following in his father's and two older brothers' footsteps on the American stage?

Wilkes would leave this place finally in 1857 at the age of 19 to join the Arch Street Theater Company in Philadelphia.
At his request he was billed as "J.B. Wilkes", a pseudonym meant to divert attention away from his famous family. In 1858 he was accepted as a member of the Richmond Theatre, Virginia, stock company, and became increasingly popular, called "the handsomest man in America" by reviewers. He stood 5 feet, 8 inches tall, had jet-black hair, and was lean and athletic. His performances were often characterized by his contemporaries as acrobatic and intensely physical. Eerily prophetic to his "final performance" on the stage at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Love And Acceptance

Coming off of a pretty great weekend. On Saturday, The BF and I joined his parents who were in town for the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) held at McCormick Place. The BF is listing his place to sell (more info to follow), so it was fun for us to walk around and look at cabinets, whirlpools and bathrooms. There were some pretty interesting things for us to see - among them being a tiny child-sized toilet, which I assume could also be used by some folks at the Roloff Farms. A picture of large me standing beside it may or may not appear on Apartment Therapy-Chicago.

Also impressive are the shows put on by Kohler. Yes, there are actual performances at KBIS. Kohler partnered with MOMIX to put on a show at the top of every hour. The performances were very fluid and water . . . ish - a lot of flowing materials and movements and quite captivating. And the dancers were hot.

Aside from looking at all the chic cabinetry and spying on design diva Candice Olson, The BF and I spent time running around trying to find out which company was giving away all the delicious looking cupcakes. No such luck.

After spending some time at KBIS, The BF and his parents and I had dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery. I've only been around his parents twice (his mom, three times), but it all seemed to be a pretty comfortable situation. I believe I am the first boyfriend they've met, knowing exactly who I was when they met me. There didn't seem to be any tension or ill-ease whatsoever. It all looks pretty good.

Sunday, The BF and I attended a 10th Anniversary Brunch for friends Neil and Bob. It's truly wonderful that two people - gay or not - can commit to each other for 10 years without there being any legal recourse. They made a decision 10 years ago and have honored and respected their decision and each other ever since. So admirable! What made the event even more impressive was that there were two other gay couples who have been together over ten years. In sitting with buddy Jessica for an early dinner after the event, she stated that it's sometimes difficult for her to believe The BF and I have NOT been together for 10 years. I told her that perhaps in another year or so, The BF and I will host a small get-together and call it our "It Just Seems Like Our 10th Anniversary" Party.

In just under three years, he has really become the biggest and best part of my life. It's almost difficult to remember my life before him - it couldn't have been this fulfilling. And it's only going to get more so - again, more on that later.

This was a weekend filled with love and acceptance - neither did I ask for nor expect. But I got it in spades from some very special people.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Autism

It's been all over the news lately; I overheard some Chads on the bus saying it was the "disease du jour". But my family has been dealing with this problem for almost 20 years. My nephew was originally diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder when he was about 7 years old. So for the following 6 or 7 years, he spent his adolescence doped up on Ritalin, which only seemed to make him more reclusive. After years of trying to get a true diagnosis of her son's condition, my sister took him to a specialist in Pittsburgh who diagnosed him with something we had never heard of before - Asperger's Disorder, an Austism variant.

In Asperger's Disorder, affected individuals are characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood. There are impairments in two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication. Though grammatical, their speech may sound peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a repetitive pattern. Clumsiness may be prominent both in their articulation and gross motor behavior. They usually have a circumscribed area of interest which usually leaves no space for more age appropriate, common interests. Some examples are cars, trains, French Literature, door knobs, hinges, cappucino, meteorology, astronomy or history. In my nephew's case, it's medieval history.

John is aware of his condition. And he's taken it upon himself to host a group in the AutismSpeaks Walk-A-Thon back home this weekend. His fundraising goal is just $1,000. If he could meet or even surpass the goal, it would give him a sense of accomplishment that he doesn't get a chance to feel very often. If you can donate anything - $20, $25 or more - it would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today I turn 42 (one's existence could be questioned when Time Magazine comes out with a cover like this on the same day one is born).

I share my birthday with Patricia Arquette, Julian Lennon, John Schneider, Barbara Kingsolver, Gary Carter, Michael Bennett, Vivienne Westwood, Fred Ebb, Betty Ford (who turns 90 today), and Buddha - with whom lately I seem to share so many physical traits.

But I share the actual birth DATE with sexy British racing driver, Mark Blundell; accomplished Brazilian footballer, Mazinho; mean-looking Nigerian K1 fighter, Bobby Ologun; and beautiful American actress, Robin Wright Penn. Today, we all turn 42.

Aside from my birth, here are some other noteworthy things that happened on April 8th:

1994 - The lead singer of rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, commits suicide by shooting himself.

1990 - AIDS activist Ryan White dies at the age of 19.

1986 - American actor Clint Eastwood is elected Mayor of Carmel in California.

1967 - Bare-foot English singer Sandie Shaw wins the Eurovision Song Contest for the United Kingdom with 'Puppet On A String'.

1953 - Future Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta is convicted in Kenya of involvement with the terrorist Mau Mau organization.

1940 - World War II: Germany invades Norway.

1925 - The Australian Government and the British Colonial Office offer low-interest loans to encourage Britons borrow the money to emigrate to Australia.

1908 - King Edward VII appoints Liberal politician Herbert Asquith as British Prime Minister following the death of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.

1907 - Britain and France confirm the independence of Siam (now Thailand).

1904 - Britain and France settle the foreign affairs differences under the auspices of a newly negotiated 'Entente Cordiale'. Britain recognizes the Suez Canal Convention and surrenders its claim to Madagascar.

1838 - Brunel's 236 foot steamship Great Western leaves Bristol for New York on her maiden voyage.

1513 - Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovers Florida.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dirty Names In Sports

I just discovered Flumesday.com's list of the Top 10 Dirtiest Names in Sports:

10. De'Cody Fagg
9. Homer Bush
8. Albert Pujols
7. Irina Slutskaya
6. Ron Tugnutt
5. Assol Slivets
4. Dick Butkus
3. Johnny Dickshot
2. Dick Trickle
1. Chubby Cox

Flumesday followed this list, inevitably, with Top 10 Dirtiest Names in Sports: The Sequel.

10. Gregor Fucka
9. B.J. Johnson
8. Pete LaCock
7. Danny Shittu
6. Harry Colon
5. Lucious Pusey
4. Dick Pole
3. Dean Windass
2. Misty Hyman
1. Rusty Kuntz

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bus Bitch, Part II

I seriously think I could just host an entire blog on my love/hate relationship with public transportation - specifically, the #156 bus, or as I like to call it, The Trixie Tram or The Chad Express. But more on that later.

The #156 bus route (formally called the LaSalle Bus) is supposed to terminate at Harrison and Des Plaines Streets on the south end, and Belmont and Halsted Streets on the north end. However, for the past several weeks, The Chad Express has only taken me as far north as the intersection of Belmont and Sheridan before kicking all riders off the bus and making a right turn onto Belmont to go - well, I don't know where. Even though the directional sign and the voiced announcement tell me this is the bus to "Belmont and Halsted', the bus still stops 5 busstops short of its announced final destination.

Why is this?

(click image to enlarge)

I'm wondering what powers-that-be make the decision that a bus is not to go to its intended destination. There are no cameras at bus stops, so how would someone at dispatch know there weren't people waiting for the bus? Or how would they know there isn't a busload of people who need to get to that advertised destination? Or how do they know there isn't an elderly or handicapped person who is inconvenienced by this sudden change?

Transfers cost money. My bus ride should cost me $2.00 (which is pretty sad in and of itself). I shouldn't have to pay the extra 25 cents to transfer to another bus. CTA already gets plenty out of me already; I don't need to pay an additional $1.25 a week, or $5.00 a month, or $260.00 a year for no reason.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Nut Bus

It's sometimes difficult to arrive at work in the morning in a good mood. Even if I wake up feeling refreshed and somewhat happy, the trip to work every morning on the #36 Broadway bus runs the risk of being a joysuck. This morning was one of those mornings.

At first I thought my day was starting off well. I walked to the corner bus stop to find the bus actually approaching. This is indeed rare. After boarding the bus, I found it practically empty which meant I would get a single seat instead of having to share a double seat. Being built like I am and having shoulders that are a bit wider than most, sharing a double seat can sometimes get . . . uncomfortable. Especially when my seatmate decides to actually sit on me. But I digress.

So for a few brief seconds, I am sitting in my single seat and thinking that today would actually start out well. And then it all begins:

I hear a woman talking somewhat loudly on her phone. As I turn to give her the "keep your voice down" eye, I realize that she is not on her phone, nor is she talking to another person. I've seen her before on this bus but never this early in the morning. She sounds articulate, and she speaks like she is actually having a conversation. But unless she is speaking to a giant, invisible rabbit named Harvey, she's spouting her theories to no one in particular. Her rants are peppered with terms like "black power", "second class citizens", "african chains", "Jesse Jackson", and "bitch". And she never shuts up. She has every right to ride the bus, I guess. Just not the bus I am on.

As soon as I accept what this ride will be like, the bus pulls over to allow an older woman, walking while pushing an empty wheelchair, onto the bus. This means the extension of the ramp, loading her on, raising seats to accomodate her - which is all fine. But as soon as she boards the bus, she starts commanding the bus driver to not pull out until her wheelchair, which is actually loaded down with bags, is locked in. One warning? Understandable. Two warnings? Maybe. A 4-minute harangue while she shuffles into place all the while yelling at the driver to not pull out until her wheelchair is locked in? Priceless. And unnecessary.

She finally sits. "Black power" is still sputing out her views on what it is to be her. The bus travels a few more stops, then on boards the freshmen Spanish class of Lincoln High School - all 36 of them - and their three advisors. I hated freshmen, even when I was one. It's that awful age between insufferable child and real person (this is where Justin calls me an "anti-juvenite"). So all 36 climb on the bus, each one talking on his/her cell phone to another student who may or may not be in the group (one kid in the back of the group was actually talking on his phone to another kid in the front of the group). Meanwhile, they are sharing their rudimentary bilingual skills as they continue to pack into the bus like "sardinas". One "chica" decided my left shoulder was the perfect place to rest her backpack, until I asked her to move it. I must have forgotten to remove my red clown nose before leaving the house this morning because for some reason she and her "amigas" thought I was hilarious.

Finally, when I figured my blood pressure couldn't take anymore, I opted to get off the bus at West LaSalle and find another way to get to work. Anything - taxi, rikshaw, being dragged by a horse for the 15 blocks - would be better than this. It took me a solid minute to exit the bus because, apparently, bilingual children can't hear. Who knew? After realizing my "pardon me"s were falling on deaf ears, I invoked my unwritten rights and just powered my way through. I think I still have a kid wrapped around my ankle.

Needless to say, the day did not start off well. But it could have been worse. THEY could have been on the bus, too.