Friday, September 27, 2013

September 27th

To understand what this blog entry is all about, click here.

2012 - We hold the "Wishy Awards" ceremony at work; an award show I created that promotes a strong culture and celebrates individual contributions to the success of the mission.

2011 - Get a cortisone shot in my right shoulder from my orthopedist; visit dermatologist to have wart removed from foot.

2009 - Run my first 5K; have lunch with Jenni at Gio's; make homemade vegetable soup.

2008 - Pick up bike following tuneup at Uptown Bikes on Broadway.

2006 - Tour Mt. Vernon and Fort Washington during visit to DC.

2005 - Paint bedroom in new apartment in Chicago, where I just moved 2 days before.

2004 - Drive Ex#5 to work; have pizza for dinner then go with him to Tom-Tom in Adams Morgan.

2002 - World Bank protests in DC; visit the Museums of Natural and American Histories.

2001 - Have dinner with Ashley at (ironically) Hamburger Mary's in DC.

1999 - Nurse hangover from drinking all night at JR's the night before, following the AIDS Walk that afternoon.

1998 - Fly back to DC from Cancun, following a 4-day vacation with Ex#3.

1997 - Shopping, see "Face Off", and dinner at Dupont Italian Kitchen with Ex#3

1995 - Work at The Gap, 12:30-9:30.

1993 - Drive back to ShenU from home and my aunt and uncle's 25th anniversary party.

1992 - Dinner at Bonanza with Ex#2, Leigh and Scott.  Watch "Victor/Victoria" for movie night on campus.

1991 - Drive from DC to see Ex#2 at school.  Party at Corey's house.

1989 - Go to Gunter Sport's Bar with friend Jim K.

1988 - Interview at Accessory Lady after work.

1986 - Work 9-5 as desk clerk hotel.

1985 - Work 4-9:45 at Camelot Music in the mall.

1984 - Take English Early Bird Exam in Dunkle Hall, Room 218.  (Pass, 'natch.)

1983 - Beall High School Thespian Society Induction Dinner at Giuseppe's.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

HuffPost Miami. Why?

Every day, I look to Huffington Post as one of my news resources.  Along with CNN, Uptown Update, and Cumberland Times-News, I read HuffPo daily, covering sections like politics, business, media, gay voices, arts & culture, and the local sections for DC, Chicago, and Miami.  For these cities (the three in which I have lived), here are some top headlines from last week:

  • DC Lawmaker: Stop Shackling Pregnant Inmates
  • Why Is It That Guns Are The One Danger We Cannot Seem To Do Anything About
  • Government Shutdown 2013: Here's The Truth About What Will Happen

  • Will CPD Ever Really Regain City's Trust Post-Berge?
  • Shuttered Woodlawn Clinic Revamped To Dispatch Mental Health Workers
  • Rahm Defends $24 Million In CPS School Upgrades Amid Pension Crisis

And now, (sigh) Miami:
  • You've Never Seen A Mai Tai Like This!
  • Angela Simmons Celebrates Her Birthday In A Bikini
  • LeBron Shares Honeymoon Photos

HuffPost - if these are the most hard-hitting headlines and stories you can come up with for Miami, perhaps you should rethink having it listed as a specific section.  Replace it with perhaps another liberal city such as Boston, Philly, Seattle or even Cleveland.  Or if you're looking for a major metropolitan city that is conservative, try Houston, Dallas, or Omaha.

Anyway, my point is that if the best you can do for Miami is stories about athletes weddings and what "celebrities" look like in swimwear, it might be time to focus elsewhere for the news and leave the fluff to Entertainment Tonight.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Greatest Generation

Technologically speaking, I am of the belief that mine is the greatest generation; perhaps the last one.  My generation, Generations X, is able to comfortably adapt and work with the latest technology while still being educated in the basics, such as multiplication and cursive writing.

I say this because my parents' generation, the Baby Boomers, has not been as adaptable to technology like mine has.  Even though my parents have had a computer for at least 10 years, my Dad never got beyond solitaire and my mother still doesn't know how to attach photos to emails or even delete items from the computer.  And its not that my folks are stupid; I hear stories from my friends all the time about how their parents grapple with things like emails, Facebook, and the more advanced Skype.

On the flip, my nieces and nephews (late Generation Y and Millennials) don't know how to multiply numbers or read/write cursive script.  Again, not because of stupidity - even worse:  they've never been taught!  With this texting generation that mostly lets computers and phones figure everything out for them, they apparently no longer need to know how to perform basic math or communicate in any written form except print or text.  Once, I got into an argument with a 20-something cashier who could not understand how my giving her $.02 cents after she entered my $20 in the register would not screw up the change she was supposed to give me on my $14.77 order:
Me:  Here you go.
Cashier:  What's that for?
Me:  So I don't get all that change back.
Cashier:  I can't take that.  It will screw up my register.
Me: No, it won't.  
(I pause here to see if she will understand.  She doesn't.  She looks at me blankly.) 
Me:  I'm giving you this so you can give me a quarter back along with my $5.
Cashier:  No, I have to give you back what this says. (pointing to register showing $5.23)
Me: No, you can give me back $5.25, because this $.02 cents makes up the difference between $5.25 and $5.23.
Cashier:  No, I can't do that.
Me:  You CAN do it and I promise you it won't screw anything up.
Cashier:  It will make my drawer like 2 cents short! (like, duh!)
Me (exasporated):  Oh my god, fine.  Give me the $5.23.
While it's easy to understand my parents' generation wanting to stick to the old ways, it's hard for me to fathom how my nieces and nephews' generation is going to be successful in anything without the need to rely on a computer to tell them what to do.

I seriously wonder how businesses are going to survive.  With people staying in the workforce longer, there are now 4 generations of people in today's workforce - all of whom communicate and work differently.  This is a concern for ANY human resource professional, specifically because the generations on either end (Boomers and Millennials) may not be able to work together amiably.

It's going to get very interesting.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Parent Card

I don't have many regrets in my life.  I can probably count on one hand the number of events that have taken place during my 47 years that I wish I could do over.  One of those events is this:

I was laying on a gurney in George Washington University Hospital in DC the night of August 13, 2005. I went in complaining of chest tightness, a sore arm and lack of breath (gee, what could I have been experiencing?) After a few tests, they told me that I had a heart attack and that I may need surgery. These are tough words to hear when you are laying on a gurney in a hospital all alone. I called my brother Matt so that at least someone back home knew what was going on, but instructed him not to tell anyone else about it, especially our parents.  (That wasn't very fair of me to do, but that's not the regret.)  GW admitted me and I underwent a stress test, which I failed miserably.  The doctor then planned a heart catheterization for the following morning, which is when a small camera is inserted into an artery in your groin and fished up through your body to take pictures of your heart. Amazingly, you are awake for the whole process, and you can even watch it on a monitor.  

It was at that point, prior to the heart cath, that I felt it was time to loop in my parents.  So I called my Mom on the phone to bring her up to speed.  Her immediate response was, "We're on our way."  It's at this point that I did the regrettable thing: I insisted they not come.  I felt my reasons for telling her to stay home (which was a 3  hour drive from DC) were valid:
  1. We didn't know at that point if I needed surgery or if I would be released with medication.
  2. I didn't want my folks shelling out money for a hotel, meals, parking, etc. in DC.
  3. My parents know nothing about DC and how to get around.  Hell, it's hard for people who live in Northern Virginia. I would have been worried sick about them the entire time.
I thought those were very unselfish things for me to say to her.  But what I didn't understand until much later in life is the one thing that trumps everything else: The Parent Card.  I may never understand how it feels to have a child, but what I do understand now is that if you are a parent and your child is sick, injured or even just hurting, it's your natural instinct if not your burning need to be as near your child as you can get - regardless of how old that child is.  All my parents wanted to do was be near me, and it wouldn't have mattered to them what they would have had to go through to make that happen.  I thought I was being benevolent.  But I must have put my parents through hell for those 3 days between the time I told them the news to when I was transferred from GW to the hospital in my parents' town to have my surgery.

A local ambulance company from my hometown came to get me in DC and drive me back home.  When I got to the hospital, my mother was in the parking lot.  Heaven only knows how long she had been there - perhaps all day.  When the EMTs opened the back doors of the ambulance to pull me out on the gurney, my mother kissed the bottom of my foot because that was the first part of me she saw.

As I go through my life, there will be hours if not even a day perhaps that I won't necessarily think about my folks and what they are doing at that moment.  But I guarantee not 30 minutes pass without me popping into their heads.  They can't help it.  They're parents.  All they know is to love, think, worry, wonder, and dote on me from the time I was born. 

I put them in an awful position 8 years ago and I have apologized to them for it.  I know better now.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Desire To Be Nicer

In 1995, I was working at The Gap on Connecticut Avenue in NW, DC.  This store drew mostly business folks, diplomats, Dupont residents, and tourists staying at the Mayflower Hotel across the street.  These were our usual clientele.  But one day, a man walked into the store, the likes of whom I had never dealt with.  He was tall and husky and looked to be in his late 50s.  His clothes might have been any color once, but now they were blackish and filthy.  He was unshaven by several weeks estimate and smelled as bad as you might imagine.  No one on staff would wait on him; in fact, they asked me to tell him to leave.  I don't doubt for a second that if this situation were to happen today, I would quickly ask the man to leave.  But back in 1995, I was not the jaded person I am today.  So I approached the man, introduced myself, and asked him if I could be his personal shopper for today.  I felt that if I could control him in the store, it might make for a more pleasant experience for everyone.

He and I walked around the store for several minutes.  He pointed to but never touched anything.  He wanted some khakis, some flannel shirts, some tee shirts and lots of socks.  Every time I added something to his growing pile, my manager would look at me with a "you are the one who will be putting all this stuff away, you know" look.

When the man said he was finished, I leaned as close to him as my nose would allow and in a low voice said, "I can't let you try any of this stuff on.  If you want it, you'll have to buy it.  I hope you can understand."  He said he understood and proceeded to take out the largest wad of cash I had ever seen in my life.  I rang up his purchase, which totaled over $400.  He paid, thanked me very much while admitting that he was aware of his appearance and appreciated my seeing past that.  He told me I was a good man, then walked out of the store, seemingly 6 inches taller than when he came in.

Lately I have undertaken a very non-Dop activity:  talking to panhandlers/homeless/crazy people who try to engage me in conversation.  For the most part, over the past many years of being a city-dweller, I have adopted the practice that I think a majority of people have also adopted - ignoring these individuals completely.  Sometimes we are in a hurry; sometimes we just don't want to be bothered.  Sometimes we don't appreciate being asked for what we work so hard to get. We see these people as some lower form of mammal, ne'er-do-wells who have allowed themselves to fall into such despair, embarrassments to society.  I'm totally guilty of this.  I see these people, not as possible victims of circumstance, but as "things" to avoid.  I used to not be like this.

I want to adopt the belief that these people just want to have a civil conversation with someone as much as/if not more than they want a handout.  I've never been so destitute that I had to beg on the street.  But if I had been, I think people would have quickly picked up on the fact that I am an articulate, intelligent, educated man who, for some reason, was in the situation I was in.  But they would have to actually talk to me first to realize that.

You just never know someone else's story.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bring Me Men

Some of you might recall the first four lines of this poem from the song "Empires" by Lamya.  "Empires" is based on the poem, The Coming American, by American librarian and poet Samuel Walter Foss commemorating the 75th anniversary of the American acquisition of the state of California from Mexico in 1848.

A remix of the song version reached #1 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in 2002.  The first time I heard the song, I was dancing at DJ Victor Calderone's "Provocateur" Dance at Hammerstein Ballroom  with my friends Poodle (whom I've mentioned many times over the history of this here blog), Diarmaid and Kevin (no, another one) during 2002's New York Pride Weekend.  Ms. Lamya herself was on hand to do the honors while banging on drums with hair out to there.  She was introduced to the crowd by Alan Cumming.  

It was all very magical.

But back to the poem.  There is, admittedly, something oddly homoerotic about it.   I don't think any of my friends, myself included, knew that it was based on a literary piece of work.  Here is that poem, in all it's glory:

    Bring me men to match my mountains;
    Bring me men to match my plains, --
    Men with empires in their purpose,
    And new eras in their brains.

    Bring me men to match my prairies,
    Men to match my inland seas,
    Men whose thought shall pave a highway
    Up to ampler destinies;

    Pioneers to clear Thought's marshlands,
    And to cleanse old Error's fen;
    Bring me men to match my mountains --
    Bring me men!

    Bring me men to match my forests,
    Strong to fight the storm and blast,
    Branching toward the sky future,
    Rooted in the fertile past.

    Bring me men to match my valleys,
    Tolerant of sun and snow,
    Men within whose fruitful purpose
    Time's consummate blooms shall grow.

    Men to tame the tigerish instincts
    Of the lair and cave and den,
    Cleans the dragon slime of Nature --
    Bring me men!

    Bring me men to match my rivers,
    Continent cleavers, flowing free,
    Drawn by the eternal madness
    To be mingled with the sea;

    Men of oceanic impulse,
    Men whose moral currents sweep
    Toward the wide-enfolding ocean
    Of an undiscovered deep;

    Men who feel the strong pulsation
    Of the Central Sea, and then
    Time their currents to its earth throb --
    Bring me men!

That last stanza is really something.  Bring them, indeed. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Twelve Years Ago

I was living in DC at the time, working for a graphic design firm. I was walking to the office and stopped in the little corner store to get my then-usual quart of milk that I was drinking every morning. The news was on a small TV but the sound was off. So I wasn't really sure what I was watching. I watched for a few minutes, as the building was burning and smoke was filling the sky.  I asked the guy behind the counter what it was all about.  He said he has just turned the TV on and wasn't sure himself.  It seemed too fake to be real.

I entered the office and sat down at my desk. Nancy, the Production Manager, frantically came in the office and asked, "Have you heard?" We started receiving phone calls as rumors began to fly around DC. At first we heard that a plane had landed on the steps of the Capitol Building. And then we heard it had landed on the Mall. And then we heard another was headed towards the White House, just 10 blocks away.

My boss, the principal designer, brought a small television from her home upstairs (the business was in the combined basement apartments of two townhouses). We watched as the first building collapsed, and then the second. And we were told a plane had crashed in rural Pennsylvania (40 miles from my parents' house) and another had crashed into the Pentagon.

The TV news was telling America that the Pentagon was located in DC. My parents, not knowing exactly where I was working in relation to the Pentagon (which is actually in Virginia), called me at work, frantic. The phone lines had been jammed, and it took them a few hours to get through to me. I can't imagine how panicked they must have felt.

Outside the window, people in suits were walking home. Some seemed to be strolling casually, others were running. This was about 11:00AM. All of us at the design studio wanted to go home as well. No one knew if it was over, if it was just the first wave, if there was more to come. I lived and worked 10 blocks from the White House. Anything seemed possible.

I wanted to go home, pack a bag, and drive to my parents' house. We heard rumors of streets being blocked, so that no one could get out of the city. Was it worth the effort? Was it even safe to go outside or travel? Were there gases or poisons in the air? Would I get stuck if I tried to drive anywhere?

My boss wouldn't let us leave. "Nancy's husband is out of town, Dop and Chris both live alone. I don't see the point". So we stayed at work all day, but didn't actually do any work. I think my boss - an unmarried woman in her 40's - just didn't want to be alone either.

I left work at 6:00 and walked home. I turned on the television and watched the same scenes over and over and over and over. Each time, it sunk in a little deeper, made me a little sadder.

That night, a group of friends and I all sat outside on the sidewalk in a big circle with candles. We held hands, we cried, and we prayed. The world as we had come to know it was now changed forever. We figured nothing would ever be like it was.

And it still isn't.  But we'll get there.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The "Noodle Under The Fingernail" Story

I used to tell this story in bars, asking a group of men to each put in $5 and that if they cringed or flinched in any way before the end of my story, their $5 was mine.  If they didn't react at all, I'd pay them $5.  And I am proud to say that I never once paid a single person.  The story goes like this:

I never would have guessed that something as mundane as doing the dishes could result in minor surgery (but leave it to me to find a way).  I was living in a house with two roommates during college.  One of the roommates had boiled pasta a few nights before and left the pot on the stove containing a few now-dried noodle stragglers.  I couldn't take looking at it any longer so I decided to just wash it and put it away.

Looking back, what I should have done was just reboil some water in the pot to loosen the noodles.  But I didn't think that far ahead, so I set forth to scrubbing them out.  Stuck they were, so I tried scraping them out with my fingers.  Well, as I was scraping, one of the hard noodles broke off and slid  . . . wait for it . . . under the index fingernail on my right hand!  (This is usually where most people cringe.It hurt like HEEEELLLLLLLLLLLL.  It ended up breaking off under the nail so that I couldn't even get to it.  I tried soaking my finger in salt water, then peroxide, then just plain old hot water, hoping to soften the noodle up, somehow hoping it might just slide out on its own.  Alas, it wouldn't soften or budge.   

After the pain eventually became unbearable (12 hours later when I hadn't been able to sleep because my finger felt like the size of a light bulb), I drove myself to the emergency room of the local hospital.  The ER staff was amazed.  While I laid waiting for my physician, the entire ER staff - one or two at a time - would come in just to look at my finger.  Apparently, it was amazing!  Somehow, they had all gone their entire professional careers and never once had a patient who had a broken piece of spaghetti stuck under his fingernail.  Imagine that!  

The ER doctor finally showed up, shaking his head in disbelief.  He thought for a second on hot to treat this wound, then said he would have to do a digital block (numb the whole finger from the knuckle down) and then scrape underneath the nail to remove the obstruction.   Needles don't typically scare me, so I said go for it.

After three shots around the knuckle (and the obligatory warning of a sharp pain from the doctor) I laid for fifteen minutes while the Novocaine took effect.  He asked me to tap my finger on the table to see if it was numb and it certainly felt that way to me.  The doctor then attempted to scrape under my fingernail with a small pair of forceps.  But my finger wasn't THAT numb and I could feel it so he immediately stopped.   

He sat back, thought for a minute, then scowled.   

He looked at me.   

He looked at my finger.  

He scowled again.  

Then he said to me, 
"I want to do this with the least amount of pain caused to you as possible."        Me:  Thank you for taking me into consideration.
"We're going to have to numb your finger again."  Okay, that's fine.
"And it's going to be very painful."  Well, I hate to be wimpy about it but this really does hurt. 
"Oh, you're not being wimpy at all.  Remember, things shoved under fingernails was a form of torture during wartime."  No kidding, I can see why.
"What you're not going to like is where we have to inject the Novocaine."  Where?
"We have to inject it next to the injury."  Meaning ... ?
"We have to inject it under the fingernail itself.  And I'm not going to lie to you, it is going to hurt like hell."
OhmygodOhmygodOhmygodOhmygodOhmygod!  A needle going under my fingernail!?!?!  If I could feel those forceps how in the world was a needle going to feel?  After my initial panic, I did what I do every time I am faced with a situation that seems out of my control: I take a deep breath and give the task over to the universe to handle.  I trust that it's just something I have to go through and I may as well just accept it.  

I held onto the bar alongside the bed with my left hand.  He asked me to squeeze his hand with the remaining fingers on my right and I braced myself.  I'll tell you now, even to this day, after 16 hours of tattooing, open heart surgery and a myriad of other health-related quirks, never in the history of my life have I ever voluntarily experienced such physical pain.  I felt so sick to my stomach that I couldn't breath.  The room spun, I got tunnel vision, and I almost fainted from the pain itself.  

After the injection, he lifted my nail and scraped the underside of it with the forceps, then flush out the end of the finger with a syringe.  He then popped my nail back into place and plunged my finger into an iodine mixture.   

Then, I vomited.

I was drenched with sweat at this point.  He then administered a tetanus shot (which I frankly didn't even feel compared to what had just happened), allowed me to rest and sent me to the pharmacy for a prescription of cephalaxin and acetamenophin.  

It was by far the most pain I had ever experienced.  The next day, I advertised for a new roommate.

That'll be $5, please.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Throwing My Life Away

Last week, I began undertaking the task of scanning in every photo in my scrapbooks and storing them digitally on removable drives.  Just photos, not cards or ticket stubs or receipts or all the other accumulated stuff one (read:me) puts in a scrapbook.  And I've decided to only scan photos of people, not pictures of places I've visited because very similar shots can easily be found online these days.

It's a bit of a time-consuming project, so now might be the only chance I have to do this.  The scanning itself isn't necessarily what takes time - it's the recollections:  studying each photo, gingerly prying it out of the sticky glue-hands of the pages, reading each card, fondly recalling each movie from its stub or each play from its program.  It's amazing the memories I have amassed through these books.  And it's not easy to part with them.  My first scrapbook began in 1985 - it's one of my oldest possessions.

I've gone through life  not really collecting things or hoarding items.  Since about '85, if an item didn't fit into the scrapbook, I didn't keep it.  About 10 years ago, I bought a muck box from IKEA in which to store life's important papers like tax stuff, passport, and medical records (Kevin has dubbed it "The Cube of Importance").  I guess my next goal will be to go through that and scan those items as well.  I like the idea of being paperless, be it copy paper or photo paper.

Still, there are emotions involved in this process, some I didn't expect.  It's one thing to see an old picture of yourself, it's quite another to theoretically walk back through your life year after year and relive memories, see old dear faces, and read words from someone that - at the time - were so heartfelt, but now are completely forgotten.

When the time comes, it will be hard for me to put the scrapbooks in a bag and launch them down the trash chute.  In part, I will feel a bit cleansed of clutter, but another part of me can't help feeling that despite all my care to make sure I've scanned every photo, I will be, quite literally, throwing my life away.