Saturday, January 31, 2009

This Old Guitar

I bought a new guitar today to replace the one I've had since high school. The old one had become damaged, beyond repair and it was a cheap one in the first place and not worth the cost of repair even if repair could be effective.

I'm going to keep the old guitar, but it's become unplayable, and I feel I've lost an old friend. This is the guitar I got from my parents at Christmas when I has a high school freshman. One of my best friends in college showed me how to play it. It helped me pass many lonely nights, entertained the LTR first, and ultimately his family. The day Ranger died I played and sang for her, to comfort her. I used it to sing lullabyes to my newborn son.

I will miss my old guitar.

Log Cabin Happy with Steele; McConnell Okay with Anti-gay Label

The Log Cabin club of optimists are excited about Michael Steele as the new chair of the GOP. In an email I received today, they say:

"He is the right man at the right time to lead the GOP. Steele is an inclusive leader who will bring a new energy and a new vision to the GOP at a critical time."

Let's hope. Look, I was a Republican once. Back when the GOP was about limited government and fighting Commies. Reagan went after the Commies and the Commies are gone. And today's GOP wants to go after gays.

Sen. Mitch McConnell got some publicity recently for his saying the GOP risks becoming a permanent minority party. In a summation by Politico, McConnell was reported as saying:

"McConnell called on the GOP to push back against labels that have hurt the party in the past — anti-immigrant, anti-union and anti-environment — and to regain taxpayers’ trust that they support limited government spending. "

Well, what about the anti-gay label? Worried about that one, Senator?

Reagan went after the Commies. George W. Bush went after the gays and terrorists and the Constitution. For a whole generation of new voters, the GOP will be seen as anti-freedom and anti-gay (most young people, even Evangelicals, aren't hostile to gay people).

That's your problem, Senator.

But I don't think those religious zealots who run your party will let you change.

That's why I had to.

What NOT to Say To the Hardware Store Guy

"Excuse me, can you show me your nuts?"

Which I had to stop the LTR from doing today.

We were looking for a wingnut....and the Republican National Committee members had already left town.

The Steve Martin Defense

First Geithner, now Daschle?

I agree, they're trying to use the Steve Martin defense.

I have to pay all my taxes. And you think you don't? Well Excuuuuuuuuuusssssseee Meeeee!!!!

Obama should be just as outraged at this as he is about the Wall Street bonuses. Mr. President?

Earl Scruggs and Steve Martin

Here's a little Saturday morning Foggy Mountain Breakdown for you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

They Were Late Because of Traffic?

I heard on WTOP today (can't find the story on the Web site yet) that some gates on Inauguration Day were opened late because the Secret Service staff who were supposed to staff them were stuck in traffic.

Wait. What?

The officials who for weeks have been telling people not to drive into the District on Inauguration Day were, uh, driving? Workers who had to be in the District to work on Tuesday slept at their workplaces on Monday night so they would be there on time, but the workers who made the rules that forced the office sleepovers went about business as usual?

And failed to do their duty?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Secret of the Obamas' Happy Marriage

And the Seagulls Danced

When the John Williams piece began, a flock of seagulls gracefully rose from the pond in front of the Capitol near where I was standing. They rose and circled higher, in perfect choreography with the music. It was if music was bringing nature and man together to celebrate a moment. It was not lost on the crowd as everyone near me marvelled at the sight (and speculating that the gulls were "doves" they had released or "geese." Haven't you people ever been to the beach?)

Ultimately it was the seagulls that made that moment of the ceremony. I doubt anyone will ever hear the Williams piece again.

Rick Warren: Coda

I saw two people -- apparently a husband and wife -- turn their backs on Rick Warren during the invocation. Given the moment, the feeling of hope and togetherness in the crowd (despite the near mob conditions to get in) the act seemed petty. Small. One can deplore some of the thing the man espouses without becoming smaller than he is.

As Obama said in quoting scripture, we must put aside childish things.

The Silver Crush at the Obama Inaugural

For the record, I was one of the many people who was trapped outside the Silver gate on Independence and 3rd...I saw the line collapse and people were generally trapped for more than an hour next to the HHS building. People kept pouring into that block, then tons of people started coming back on to 3rd from the Mall, saying they had closed the gate. It wasn't just crowded. We were squeezed against each other and only moved when the force of the crowd moved one way or another. It was scary, and only the fact that everyone seemed in a jubilant mood kept it from getting ugly. Despite the crowding and the sheer mass of people there was zero police or security presence. Rumors kept swirling that they had closed the Mall. There was no order.

Prior to this we had been in line for three hours. The much advertised port-a-potty shortage was evident, there were none for those of us in line, they were all inside the secure zone. This caused a member of my party to, uh, take the matter into his own hands.

Finally, something gave...the crowd poured across Independence...and then a security barrier went down and we rushed out onto the Mall. I saw no police. No checkpoint. No effort by security to stop hundreds of unscreened people from getting on the Mall several hundred yards from where the most heavily protected man on the planet was standing.

Everything the police has said about why people couldn't get on the Mall doesn't make sense to me. There was room, as satellite pictures show. We were clearly barred from getting on the Mall, and then security just vanished and the unscreened masses ran onto the "secure" zone.

The fact that there were no injuries is somewhat a miracle (though my bladder may be permanently stretched, I held it for four hours). But it wasn't the smooth operation they are spinning it to be.

It was not crowd control we could believe in.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Moment

The moment I will remember most profound will be the firing of the cannon after the was at that moment an old era passed and a new one began. An era where we don't win political victories by appealing to our baser natures, an era when it is possible to be of a racial minority and be democratically elected to the highest office in the land.

It was an exclamation point in time. One moment, George W. Bush was president. Boom. Now Barack Hussein Obama is president. We didn't get to that moment by magic, but it felt magical.

Yes, yes, I know Obama became president at noon, before the 21 gun salute even started, before he and the chief justice stumbled over the words of the presidential oath.

It's just that, in that moment, change arrived. And announced itself with unyielding certainty.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Washington Post Alerts

I signed up for "INAUGURATION & NEWS" alerts (all caps the Post's) to my phone, but so far, other than the confirmation text the only thing I've gotten from them is text asking me for information.

How Many Times Will I Stand in Line for Obama?

I stood in line to see him in Las Vegas, in line to vote for him in Columbia Heights, stood in line at the Rayburn House Office building to pick up my tickets today (pictured) so I can stand in line tomorrow so I can stand up next to a gazillion other people to watch it on a giant outdoor TV screen while being careful to not drink anything so I won't have to stand in line to go pee.

You'd think this was an historic event, or something.

The line down 1st St, SE, around the Cannon House Office Building.

Meet Dixie

The newest addition to our little family. She's a chocolate lab and, well, pit-bull mix. Supposedly only 1/4 pit but her face is clearly pit bullish. The Goldenish eyes are quite stunning.

She is also quite timid but welcomes attention and is starting to come when called.

The Pet rescue people called not two hours after we got her home and said "whoops, we just noticed in her medical records, she's got heartworm." I'd smell a rat if it weren't for the fact they are going to pay for her treatment, making me accept it as an oversight and not deception. Rescue dogs come with issues and Ranger had hers and Buster did too. Heartworm treatment is no picnic and it's not going to help her calm down and get acclimated.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Big Paws

Tomorrow we get a new companion, a new dog. I will of course fill you in on that, but tonight I am full of reflection of the friend we leave behind, Ranger, 1993 -2008.

It's been just over 5 months.

I found Ranger at the animal shelter on the west side of Jacksonville, Fl. The LTR and I were split up, he was living on his family's farm in eastern Ohio and I had just moved to Florida to start a new aspect of my career with corporate America.

(The LTR and I would of course reunite in Jacksonville, but that's a story for another post).

I was lonely, did some desperate things, then decided to get a dog so I would have someone to care for.

Of the three dogs I have had as an adult, Ranger was the most destructive initially but ultimately the most obedient. She loved to chew. Pens, especially. She turned my apartment carpet into a Rorschach test. My kitchen pantry didn't have a door, and once she pulled out an entire bag of instant mashed potatoes and went running through the apartment making it look like it had snowed. If I had had a leaky pipe that day I could have set a world record for the largest mashed potato.

She loved to run and jump. She stood about half a foot high and could jump as high as my shoulders. In Florida, there is a weed that grows in grass that produces a sharp spur. It hurts when stepped on by human or canine. When she would step on it she would levitate straight up in the air, all four legs pressed together. I'm sure it was painful to her, but it sure was funny to see.

She always had to be a part of everything. The LTR would say, "you've got a nose problem, girl" because she was always sticking her nose into everything, be it a social gathering or those two hornet's nests she found during our hikes (and we all got stung. Both times).

Of Golden Retriever mix, she played against type and hated the water. We almost lost her to water, twice. Once, on our boat, I saw her walking the gunwale as we were leaving the dock. I looked back a second later and she was gone. I jumped down from the bridge, and she was in the water, panicked, and I quickly fished her out. I have shuddered many times thinking what would have happened had I not looked back that second time as we were leaving the dock.

She was finicky when it came to food and was not a dog who begged. But one time on the boat the LTR was about to grill and set a huge steak out. She was able to reach it and the LTR caught her with the raw steak in her mouth, weighing almost half her weight and she had a "oh, I don't have a steak in my mouth" look to her. Ignore the dog behind the curtain.

She had a stage debut in Florida...she played Max, the Grinch's dog. The LTR was the Grinch. She looked like Max, and was brilliant in the role.

There's much more I could tell you about my friend Ranger. She was a loving, loyal companion. I don't expect the new dog to fill her paws. The new dog will create her own space in my heart.

It's just hard not to feel the absence of those beloved paws as we eagerly await the sound of new ones in our home.

Goodnight, girl. We miss you.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Directions to the Kennedy Center

A woman in an SUV calls to me (on my bike) on 14th and Penn by the Treasury building on my way home from work.

"Which way to the Kennedy Center?" she asks.

My first thought was "hell if I know, I play it by ear each time I drive there, do you think I can give you directions?"

My second thought was "why didn't you say, 'how do I get to the Kennedy Center?' so I could say, 'practice, practice, practice'."

What I said was, "go to K Street, turn left and look for a sign." (It's actually pretty well marked off K Street. After that, though, well, good luck!

The lady and her companion had no clue where in the City Kennedy Center is. In fact, at one point she asked me if the Treasury Dept. was the Kennedy Center.

Which leads to the final thought: In this age of Google Maps and Mapquest you came into Washington on a Friday night on Inaugural weekend during rush hour with no friggin' clue where you were going?

Do we think she made show time?

Maybe I should have told her the Treasury Building was the Ken Cen and let the Secret Service sort it out...

What They Really Meant Was..

So, it was like 9 this morning, with a stiff wind out of the North-northwest. Perfect day for biking to work! Which I did.

Normally I remove my helmet and other gear before coming inside but I had so much headgear on and it was, well, 9, I decided to remove said gear in the warmth of my office.

Walking in, bedecked in bike helmet, two different co-workers asked me, "Oh, did you ride your bike today." To which I wanted to say, "No, I was afraid I'd bump my head so I decided to wear this bike helmet all day."

Upon reflection, I have decided that when they saw me in my bike helmet, they didn't mean to ask, "Did you ride your bike today?" What they really meant was, "Are you really so stupid to ride your bike to work when it's so freakin' cold?"

That question makes sense.

Help and Compassion: US Airways in the Hudson River

Once in a while, it seems like humanity might have a fighting chance. And actually deserve to survive:

Ferry, tour boat and tugboat crews tossed life vests to the stranded passengers and began hoisting them up ladders. Soaked and shivering, Schugel had to plunge back into the river and swim a few feet to reach the first arriving boat. On deck, she then turned her attention to a fellow passenger who had suffered a deep gash in her leg and was bleeding heavily.
Grabbing a belt from one of the men, she recalled: "I tied it as tightly as I could, and we elevated her leg to stop the bleeding. The most amazing part was, I saw no pushing, no shoving. I saw nothing but help and compassion."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Closing the On-Ramps to the Beltway on I-Day

BTW, I'm getting tired of trying how to remember to spell "Inauguration."

This in, courtesy of WTOP:

"[MD State Highway Admin. Spokesperson] says it may be necessary to temporarily close ramps on the Beltway.

'If [traffic] starts backing up onto the Beltway, that's a safety issue,' Edgar says. "

Wait. What? Traffic backs up every day on the Beltway. Now it's a safety issue?

Gays in Obama's Inaugural

You can look for LGBT musical organizations in the Obama Inaugural.

Gay Band to March in Inaugural Parade

The Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA), a musical organization comprising marching and concert bands from across the United States and around the world, is proud to announce the five musical selections it will perform during the parade for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009. LGBA is the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender group in history to be invited to march in a President’s Inaugural Parade.
More info here.

Gay Men's Chorus of Washington to Perform at Opening Concert

The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington (GMCW) will perform at the Opening Celebration for the 56th Presidential Inaugural, on Sunday, January 18, 2009. The event will take place from 2:00-4:00 pm with an exclusive broadcast on HBO the same day (7:00-9:00 pm ET/PT). The event is free and open to the public, kicking off the most open and accessible Inauguration in history.
More info here.

I have friends in both organizations and am proud of them all.

(Living in DC and watching the Secret Service putting a vice grip on things to shut the city down, I would have to quibble with "Most open and accessible...")

Gay Leaders Setting the Bar Too Low

David Mixner asks if in this era of "yes we can" the gay community is setting its sights too low:

We have nothing to lose as a community to carefully and respectfully discuss what makes sense as our agenda this coming year. Just simply to pass a civil rights bill that was written decades ago, while symbolic, might not be the correct course. Clearly Hate Crimes continue to escalate in the country but quite honestly with our margin in the senate and President-elect Obama in the White House, the passage of such legislation should be a slamdunk for the LGBT community. If it isn't, then we have to seriously question our Democratic friends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

LGBT Leaders Meet with Obama Transition

Kudos to the Obama transition for holding this meeting.

But if the repeal of DADT or DOMA was brought up by our community's leaders, it's not in this video.

Obama has promised both; both would be a watershed moment in our quest for full equality that would ultimately have tidal wave pro potion ripple effects on everything. The right sees this, that's why they are so afraid of it.

These are all good people, at that table, and I recognize all they have tried to do for our community. But it absolutely makes me cringe when I hear them asking for "protections." ENDA? Census questions? That's it?

As Andoni on Chris Crain's blog notes, the top LGBT vote-getting question to the Obama transition on the site has to do with our civil marriage rights, not ENDA or Hate Crimes. Marriage rights in top ten issues. ENDA and Hate Crimes, Not. It would be a great lost opportunity if our "leaders" didn't re-enforce that message.

I wish our leaders would stop begging for protections, and start demanding our rights.

The Art of Rock, Paper Scissors

Really, it's an art. You can brush up on your skills and strategic RPSing while you wait in line to get to the National Mall to watch the swearing in on Tuesday.


"Promise." That's the subject line of an bulk e-mail I got from Bill Clinton. Without any hint of irony.

Monday, January 12, 2009

To Republicans: Really? This is Your Guy?

Ken Blackwell, the leading contender for the GOP chairman, is coming under justifiable fire for stating that homosexuality is a "compulsion" that can be "resisted."

Really? You guys take this guy seriously? And do you have any idea how arrogant this is:

"I've never had to make the choice because I've never had the urge to be other than a heterosexual," Blackwell added, "but if in fact I had the urge to be something else I could have in fact suppressed that urge."

Really? You're going to make this Neanderthal your leader? Do you have any idea how dismissive and condescending his attitude is of our lives and our relationships?

And could someone please ask him if he could resist the "urge" to be in a meaningful relationship with someone he desired to spend his life with?

Should anyone really expect to take the Republican Party seriously anymore?

Gibbs: Yes We Can Get Rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell

So says Obama spokesperson Robert Gibbs in responding to popular questions on the Obama transition Web site, Will the new administration get rid of "don't ask don't tell?" is the question. An unequivocal "yes" is the answer. We've got to hold them to this, but it's an encouraging sign.

Policies, not prayers.

The question and answer are about 4:17 into the video.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Good Panties Make Good Neighbors

At first we thought that Bill, our new next door neighbor, was just a repressed homosexual.

Problem is, gay guys who wear drag wear women's clothes to perform in, not get off in.

Bill liked wearing women's panties. And there was definitely something sexual in it for him. His girlfriend left him when she woke up one morning to find him in her G-string.

Later Bill also began painting his toenails. I always thought his choice of colors was a bit garish, I must admit. Even if he did try to coordinate his panty selection with the latest nail color.

Bill also loved pot. And brewing his own beer. Bill's parties were fun.

Bill was bright - a chemical engineer with a highly paying job with the U.S. Patent office. We were all surprised one day when he announced one day he had quit his job to enroll in beauty school. Bill had decided to become a hairdresser.

That didn't last very long, though. A few months later he announced he had quit school -- a beauty school dropout -- because, "it was all too focused on fashion and looks and stuff." I swear that's what he said.

We all wondered what was next for Bill. It turned out to be Jesus. Bill found God, and he renounced pot, beer, panties and, well, us. I said to the LTR, "I liked Bill more when he was a pot-smoking cross-dresser." We rarely saw Bill at this point, he mostly kept to himself, sitting in a small room on his second floor, reading the Bible and staring at a picture of Christ on the wall.

Bill eventually sold his house and bought land in southern Virginia to become an organic least that was the plan. Haven't seen him since.

Our new neighbors are terrific...a typical family. How disappointing.

At least the former stripper still rents the basement apartment next door.

Gay Men's Chorus of Washington to Perform for Obama

At an Inaugural event (according to a little bird I know). Don't know which one, but I doubt Rick Warren will be there.

Obama's Inauguration: New Security Requirement

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is planning on releasing a new security provision for the swearing-in ceremony on January 20th. All persons witnessing the event on the West Front of the Capitol and the National Mall are required to exhale only on even-numbered seconds if their Social Security number ends in an even digit and on the odd-numbered seconds if their SSN ends in an odd digit.

This is to prevent the Inaugural Party from being smothered by CO2 from the breathes of millions of people or from being blown off the platform should everyone exhale at once.

(Those of you turning your backs on Rick Warren are exempt from this rule for the duration of the Invocation).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

What They Say and What They Mean

After being in a relationship with someone for more than two decades you really do almost learn to read minds.

For example, I came home tonight and, while changing from my bike clothes, plugged my iPod into the radio alarm next to the bed and turned it on. On random play it was Julie Andrews singing "If I Loved You" from Carousel. The LTR comes in and says, "I need to set the alarm, I'm sleeping in tomorrow...oh I can't set it while that bitch is singing" and walked out.

Actually, he verbalized "while she is singing." The "that bitch" was silent.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Bear Hunting

No, not the kind you'd find wearing chaps and a leather harness at the Eagle that can be lured with a "woof." The four legged, Yogi variety.

The LTR and I witnessed bear hunting during our trip to the mountains, and we were appalled.

Keep in mind, we both come from hunting traditions in our families and are not opposed to hunting. But this type of bear hunting is disgusting.

It's done with dogs. And radios. And hunters sitting in trucks until the game is cornered.

Each hunter sets bait ("breads, cereals, jams, and other sweets" according to one bear hunting Web site).

Then they loose the dogs (up to six per hunter, according to one online source, although I did not witness that many at once and the size of the team may vary state to state).

The dogs root out the bears, then chase it up a tree. The hunter then shoots the bear with a high powered rifle.

And what are the hunters doing while the dogs are ganging up on the bear? Again, according to a bear hunting Web site, the hunters are out in the woods with the dogs...but I didn't see a single bear hunter in the woods...but I did see them sitting in their pickup trucks at the trailheads, monitoring their dogs through the radio collars they have on their necks.

Look, if my family's subsistence depended on my hunting skills, damn straight I'd use dogs and radio technology to bring the food home.

But they call this a "sport."

But in my view, there's no sport in this.

The video below shows dogs treeing a bear. There is no kill shot. It's possible the hunters in this video let the bear, which appears to be a cub, go. But it gives you an idea of the "sport."

Friday, January 02, 2009

"You Will Know We Are Christians By Our _____"

When the LTR and I checked into our cabin here in Love, Virginia, we both saw the Holy Bible on the nightstand in the bedroom. The LTR brought it up later, and it turned out we both had the same gut reaction. As the LTR put it, "I thought, 'I hope I don't meet the mean, intolerant, judgemental person who put it there.' And then I felt sad that I felt that way."

But, given how many Christians behave, it's no wonder we each had that reaction.

A family member who is a devout Christian, teaches Sunday School, leads the family in prayer and regularly spouts bible verses found out about the true nature of the LTR's and my relationship this year. This year, she failed, for the first time, to send a Christmas card.

"And they'll know we are Christians by our love," I used to sing in Vacation Bible School. Either that was a lie or the Christians today running around passing laws and generally foaming at the mouth have no concept of what Jesus actually meant. Like when He said "Love one another as you would yourself."

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's in Love

The LTR and I are in a cabin in Love, Virginia., near the George Washington National Forest and on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We arrived last night around 5 p.m. and spent New Year's at 2500 feet in front of a roaring fire after relaxing in the jacuzzi.

Today we hiked Humpback Mountain, a short warm-up 5 mile hike before tomorrow's 11-miler. We had stunning views from the peak of the mountain, under pristine skies. The trick on the trail today was wading through mounds of leaves on the trail in places. The leaves obscured the path and the roots and rocks on it, causing me to fall -- the first time I've fallen on a trail since, well, I can't remember. The key to not getting lost on the trail covered by leaves is to keep your focus not just on the step in front of you, but on the trail farther ahead so you can get a perspective of where you are going. Sort of like life...if you focus just on the day before you and not see the longer road ahead you can lose sight of where you are going.

And so 2008 ends. It was a good year and a sad year. We mourn the loss of the LTR's father and the loss of our companion of nearly 16 years, Ranger. She is still sorely missed, especially when we can still see her on the trail with us, racing ahead and then racing back to urge us on.

2008 saw some great professional milestones for me; I loved the program I managed and it did great.

2009 promises to be a year of change...for our nation certainly as the candidate who promised change takes office. For us, the LTR and me, I see changes coming in our lives. We will get a new dog this year. And changes are likely for both of us professionally. When 2007 turned into 2008 I had a pretty good sense of the road to come. As 2008 changes to 2009, I know the road is about to turn...but I know not where.

And the adventure continues...I will try and see where the trail leads ahead, obscure though it may be, while keeping my balance over the unseen obstacles that find my feet.