Going Quiet – in Memoriam

When I get bad news, I mean really, really bad news, I “go quiet.” I want to sit, to think, and prepare my resolve for what lies ahead.

I’m in that frame of mind right now. Someone I knew well (pictured above in happier times, seated in my Harley for a photo op), just died today. I worked hard for him, cared a lot about him, and extended my caring to his family and larger loyal legion. This gentleman is a man whose political campaign I worked on to be elected to our County Council during a special election that had to be held after his wife, my mentor and dear friend, died — eerily, one year ago today.

I am exploring my feelings through my faith. If you send me an email and I don’t reply, don’t take it personally. I just need some space, some time, and some cuddle time with my partner. He knows how to show that he cares, just to sit with me by my side, hold my hand, and love me. Let me cry, let me scream, let me express myself. And just listen. My partner is the world’s #1 listener. What a treasure he is to me.

I kindly ask my loyal blog readers to be patient as I work through what will be difficult days ahead with emotions, and build my strength to help my friend’s family during their time of need. This whole situation is so very sad, and I’m heartbroken. But I’ll be back; I’ll just be less on-line for a while.

Neither Rain Nor Sleet

This is the oath or motto of the U.S. Postal Service: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But it is a bunch of bull.

We had 2″ of snow on Tuesday. We got our mail that day, albeit at 7:30pm. But it’s usually late, often arriving between 4:30 and 6:00pm.

Tuesday night through Wednesday, we had sleet and rain. Yep, it made the streets slick, but OPM didn’t close the Federal Government, and my partner and I were able to our respective places of employment in Washington, DC. Yet we did not get any mail delivery on Wednesday.

Perhaps I could understand that because it was icy. We made it, but my truck has 4-wheel drive. Those trucks used by the postal carriers have very poor traction. Okay, I’ll give ’em a break.

Yesterday, Thursday, it was bright and sunny. The temperature climbed so that much of the icy roadways melted. By afternoon, our street cleared itself. I worked at home, and took some time out to take advantage of the sun’s help to fully clear my driveway and sidewalks from accumulated ice. I also noticed while I was working outside that deliveries were made to neighbors by UPS, DHL, and FedEx. But… once again… no U.S. mail.

Two days in a row… no mail. This is absurd. Especially since schools re-opened on Thursday (though two hours late.)

And don’t try to find the name of your local Postmaster or the telephone number of your local post office on-line. They’re very good at hiding this information from you. I happen to know the contact information for my local P.O., but only because I persisted in finding it out a few months ago when they lost a piece of certified mail and blamed me for not returning the notification card on time (which I did, but they lost the card in addition to losing the mail which eventually showed up, but that’s another story.)

It was all over the news that the President was astounded that his daughters’ school was closed for two days. He was incredulous because they never close schools due to weather in Chicago where he lived prior to moving to DC.

All I can say, Mr. O, is “welcome to the Cone of Dumbness.” Yep, DC is composed of a bunch of weather wimps. And if I hear one more person interviewed on the news who says, “our winter weather in the DC area is worse than Chicago’s because we get ice” (emphasis on the “i-word”), I’ll scream. Face it, there are more attorneys per square centimeter in the DC area than in Chicago, so the schools close because of fear of legal action. I even heard one local school superintendent interviewed on the news stating pretty much the same concern.

Meanwhile, I’ll be lookin’ for my mail. Wish me luck!

A Chance Encounter

One of the things that is sort of magic about working in Washington, DC, is the potential for chance encounters with well-known people.

The best time to go see tourist sites in DC is in January through early March, before Spring break when the throngs of tourists start to arrive, and keep coming through summer. Except for the occasional group of school kids on a field trip, you usually find the museums, monuments, and other attractions uncrowded in the bleak winter months. You can take your time to stroll around and not get jostled by others, or be asked to “move along” by building guards because you’re holding up the line.

On Tuesday, a colleague from work and I decided to go explore the new Capitol Visitor’s Center, which was built underneath the U.S. Capitol Building. This monumental behemoth, which cost $621M ($440M over budget) to build and took three years longer than planned to open, now serves as the gathering place for tourists wishing to see the Capitol Building, and for visitors who have business with Congress in the actual Capitol Building. (Most visitors who have business with Members of Congress meet with them in their respective offices, which are in nearby Senate or House office buildings).

When you get to the Visitor’s Center, of course you have to go through a magnetometer. I even had to “get wanded” since my Chippewa Firefighter Boots I was wearing set off the alarm. I just rolled my eyes and endured it, and tried not to remember the happy-go-lucky days of my youth when you could walk right into the Capitol Building and wander around on your own.

You make your way to a ticket desk. The clerk was delighted to tell me that they had “a few walk-up tickets available.” Yeah, right… “a few.” The place was fairly empty. We decided to pick a time for our tour a little later, so we could walk around and have lunch, too. The restaurant in the Visitor’s Center is nice, but it is pricey. Even the Smithsonian eateries are less expensive than this place. Perhaps they’re trying to make up their cost over-runs on the backs of visitors. But I digress….

When we queued up for our tour, we were escorted into a large theater, where we were shown a movie about the Capitol and Congress. As one would expect, the Capitol’s history is as storied as it is magnificent. And Congress thinks the world of itself. But I digress….

After the movie, you exit the rear of the theater and are given a wireless headset. A tour guide briskly walks you around and you end up in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building. The Guide explains the art and frescos, and some of the history of the building. Even though perhaps I’m jaded about Congress, I still remain in awe and stare with wonder at the Capitol, especially from the inside. It is indeed magnificent.

As I was staring gape-jawed upward at the art within the Rotunda, I heard a Capitol Police Officer say rather loudly, “stay here, don’t move!” I looked around, and saw that my little tour group was being herded against a wall. We were told, “just wait here a minute.” I thought that perhaps the Vice President, who is the President of the Senate, might be walking by.

Well, yes, he did… and so did the President! I actually got to see and wave at President Obama. The President had come to the Capitol that day to plead his case for the Economic Stimulus package. It is not common for the President to come to the Capitol to press for passage of legislation. But this legislation is the biggest thing that Congress has considered in quite some time, and is very important to the President, and to our country.

So here I am, standing there, gape-jawed again. The President really looks like he does on TV. His smile is warm and gracious, he seemed quite friendly and affable. He reached over to shake hands with a couple kids who were in the front row of our group. Then he quickly walked down the hall into the Office of the Speaker of the House, which is right off of the Rotunda area.

Wow… cool, huh? This doesn’t happen every day to us commoners.

The Capitol Visitor’s Center is nice. However, except for some statues and large paintings, the place is rather barren. The movie is nice. The tour, however, is really short. You don’t get to see much. But heck, it’s free, and it’s our Capitol, where the people’s work is done. If you visit, live, or work in DC, go see it. Your visit should take about an hour to 90 minutes. You can even get tour tickets for free on-line in advance at this link. I strongly recommend that after you tour the Capitol through the Visitor’s Center, to use the tunnel and go visit the Library of Congress, just across the street. Now that is an amazing place. Enjoy!

Bedrock of Our Relationship

Earlier, I blogged about my relationship with my partner, and that it’s not all based on sex, as some straight guys think. I also described several differences between my partner and me. That caused my best friend to ask me about it… so let me elaborate further about the “good stuff” besides sex.

I am describing what forms the bedrock, or foundation, of our relationship. Our differences are there, but what we have in common is greater than our differences.

Ultimately, the foundation of what caused each of us to say to ourselves, “he’s someone I want to spend my life with” is based on these shared values:

  • Trust. First and foremost, we trust each other. We never do anything that would compromise that trust. We both get highly irritated by gay guys who play around behind their partner’s backs, have profiles on Recon, GearFetish, or GayRomeo that the other doesn’t know about and who use those profiles to meet other guys, and on and on. My partner knows where I am on the ‘net and where I am when I am not at home. For example, if I go on a business trip and meet someone who I have met on the ‘net, I tell my partner about the planned visit in advance and then I tell him all about it after we’ve met. My website, this blog, and my other internet profiles all state clearly that I’m in a monogamous relationship and while I enjoy making friends, that’s IT. I have never given my partner reason to doubt my honesty, nor has he done that either. Trust is a value that is maintained throughout a relationship by constant work. We both communicate with each other so that the trust remains solid and strong.
  • Honesty. Being honest with one another is what maintains the trust we have in each other. We never lie to each other. If we make a mistake, we own up to it and fix it.
  • Financial Matters. We are two peas in a pod when it comes to money. We don’t spend money that we don’t have. We don’t borrow. We pay our bills in full and on time. We have no interest in buying or having the next new toy, “thing,” or gadget, just because it’s there or other people have it. We sit down with each other every month and review our combined household budget, bills, and our checking and savings accounts. Each of us knows where our money is, where it went, and what our priorities are for future spending. Our financial priorities are intuitively the same. It’s often quoted that some of the biggest fights that couples have is over money matters. I am delighted to say that in our case, that is never an issue.
  • Respect. Man, we’re different, but we respect our differences. We respect that each of us has his own thoughts and insights that he brings to the discussion and to the relationship. We respect that we do different things in our respective professional lives. My partner respects that I have a strong interest in politics and civic affairs, and supports my activities as the man behind the scenes. This value, respect, forms the foundation for how we communicate with each other. Even when we disagree, we discuss what factors or issues we disagree with, and not make the disagreement personal. This is how we show respect for one another even if we’re not in agreement.
  • Family. While one may not think that family has anything to do with a relationship, where I am going here is that we both treasure family in our own ways. We appreciate that we care for others. My partner works hard to help his mother, and I care for my elderly aunt regularly. We each value that we spend time and energy extending our care to those we love. We think that is important.
  • Love. I almost said, “this goes without saying,” but you really have to express it in words and in actions, each and every day. From a hug and a kiss, to a smile and an embrace, to saying each time we greet or part, “I love you.” This is incredibly important. And each of us never forgets to tell and show his mate that he loves him.
  • Who Is Number One. I said this in my earlier post today, but wish to reaffirm, that to each of us, the other is Number One, numero uno, il primo. Whenever we do anything, we’re always asking ourselves, “how would he feel about that?” or “what would he think?” or “how would this help him?” or things like that. We keep our priorities straight (… the only straight thing about us) that our first and foremost person is our mate.

So, that’s that. Everything listed above is a description of core values. Our relationship, our partnership, is based on sharing these values. It is pretty simple, but somewhat complex at the same time. Maintaining a healthy relationship is work. Some people try to make a relationship work and when it doesn’t, it is because some of the basic values on which the relationship was built were compromised. That’s why I consider myself richly blessed, because my man works as hard as I do in order to ensure that our relationship, our partnership endures through the tests on which we are challenged each day.

It’s Not All Sex

I get amused by the straight guys who react with a bit of fear and some curiosity about how us “gay guys” live. There seems to be an ongoing thought among the straight world that sex is the only thing that gay men “do” or that keeps them together.

Sorry to burst your bubble, straight guys, but just like you, what attracts us gay guys to our mates is more than physical attributes.

So for my 300th post here on Blogger, I thought I would talk a bit about the relationship I have with my man, and while sex is part of it, it’s not the only thing.

As with all couples, we have our ups and downs, our good times and our bad. We think differently, and react to what goes on in our lives differently. My partner is a wonderful man in many respects; he is honest, intelligent, trustworthy, and romantic. But we’re not always in sync and despite what some may think, we have our share of “challenges.” After all, we’re human.

Here’s where we’re different:

  • I enjoy people and socializing while my partner is a recluse. He strongly dislikes socializing.
  • I am a visionary, and tend to talk through what I’m thinking about before having a concrete plan. My partner is like Joe Friday, “just the facts, sir” and that’s it.
  • I am a conversationalist. I believe in talking through disagreements, finding common ground, and achieving consensus. My partner becomes highly annoyed when I talk too much and don’t get to the point soon enough.
  • When something comes to my partner’s attention that has to be done, such as refilling the napkin container or paying a bill for his mother, he drops everything and does it — even if it’s right in the middle of dinner. I make lists and plan ahead, and organize each of my actions in logical order. I’m not saying my partner is illogical; his methods of organization and prioritizing are vastly different from mine.
  • When my partner is in pain, which due to his disability is frequent, he reacts with emotion and says things that he doesn’t mean. He can get ugly and difficult, and there’s no reasoning with una mente testadura molta. I can’t relate to his medical condition because I have no idea what it’s like to live with chronic, severe pain. I just suck it up and let him rant.
  • When I get busy with things going on at work, meetings in the community, and helping my “elder buds” and family, I sometimes have trouble saying “no” and offer to do more, or spend more time away from home. My partner gets somewhat irritated when I do that. I have to remember that he’s my #1, and devote time to “just us.”

All-in-all, we have a great relationship, but it is work. Just like straight couples have to work on their relationships. Couples don’t “get along” just because they have good sex (though that’s helpful [smile]); couples endure as a couple because they respect one another, are honest with each other, communicate on an ongoing basis, and pay attention to one another.

And having a good relationship includes a continuous “dose” of romance throughout, from little things like baking him heart-shaped cookies, to snuggling up next to him on the couch, to just holding him and giving him a big hug, to chasing him around the house sometimes, laughing and giggling when he lets me “catch” him. He brings me flowers, scratches my “itchy back,” and frequently is romantic with me in other small but most-noticed ways, as well.

So it’s not all sex. It’s a relationship — love, respect, thought, words, and deeds. My relationship with my partner means the world to me, so despite how crazy-busy I get with other things, there are times when I say, “no, sorry, I can’t attend that function” or “no, sorry, I’m busy” because I’m paying attention to my #1. My one-and-only, my man, my love, my partner.

The Cone of Dumbness

Do you remember the “cone of silence” that never worked in the TV comedy Get Smart? Well in Washington, DC, we have the “Cone of Dumbness.” It sits right over the beltway that surrounds the city. Every time the weather forecasters predict a “snow event,” the cone comes down and without a doubt, everyone inside it goes brain dead.

Today “they” predict two inches (5cm) of snow to fall during the day. Mind you, it’s NOT snowing yet (at 6:30am ET). OMG, you would think the end of the world is here. What’s worse is that later this evening, we may get up to to 2″ of sleet — predicted to fall in the evening. Sure, tomorrow will be bad for commuting, but not today. Though you wouldn’t know it from all the mass hysteria.

Last night, I forgot about the snow prediction, and dropped by the grocery store on my way home from work to get some grated cheese for dinner. Ooops… shouldn’t have done that. The lines were incredibly long and it looked like the store had been decimated. I kid you not, one guy who couldn’t find a cart was standing in line juggling milk, butter, eggs, diapers, and a bunch of other stuff, while cradling a cell phone in his ear, whining to his wife about the store not having whatever he wanted to eat for dinner. I bailed from the store and just came home.

Then at a meeting last night, would you believe one woman even had the temerity to ask the local zoning officials if schools would be closed today. The zoning folks have nothing to do with deciding if and when to close schools. Just what was this woman thinking? (or smoking?)

The TV news isn’t any help at all — they hype it up so much that it’s no wonder everyone goes nuts. And you’d think: a large number of residents of the DC area come from “snow country.” That is, they came here from places that would get lots of snow every winter. They handled it just fine. They dressed properly for it, too. But not those who now live or work within the “cone of dumbness.”

This morning, the SUVs are on the road, in 4-wheel drive mode — and it’s not snowing (yet). This little snippet from a local news source just had me rolling on the floor laughing:

Bill is making plans for getting out and getting to work today. “If it shuts a few things down, it probably won’t shut down that much. And I have four-wheel drive, so it’s about time I got to use it.”

I just betcha he’s the type of guy who gets in his 4WD and tries to drive on ice like it’s a dry road on a sunny day. I’ll see him (or his kind) in a ditch on the side of the road, standing next to his vehicle, out in the snow, yapping on a cell phone. It happens all the time.

Salt trucks are idling in the parking lot, waiting for the “go” signal. Schools closed for the prediction. And at the Metro subway stop were the yuppies in their tassled loafers or dress wingtips, thin socks, suit jacket, no hat, no gloves. I betcha the minute they see a flake of snow in the air, each and every one of them will be trying to rush home before they get snowed in for the rests of the century.

I’m so glad I don’t have a response role any more as I had with previous employers. I can just sit back, watch, and have a good laugh at the “cone of dumbness” doing its thing: causing the yuppies to “lose it” and get hysterical over a dusting of snow. I’ll just wait patiently in my office for the crowds to thin out, then meet my partner and go home. Carefully, but dressed appropriately with tall, warm boots, cord pants and longjohns, several layers on top, a coat with a hood, and mittens (which are warmer than gloves). We’ll be okay.

And for those of you from snow belt areas, don’t laugh too hard at this. It’s just a part of the local DC culture — forget everything you learned and rush into mass hysteria all for a few flakes of snow.

Life is short: enjoy it, even if it’s about stupid stuff!

What Cop Outfit Are You With?

I wore my black leather jeans with the blue stripe on the side yesterday. I like these jeans; they are very comfortable, and are made of thick high-quality top-grain cowhide. They were made custom for me by Northbound Leather of Toronto, Canada. My partner got them for me as a Christmas present in 2005.

I wore these jeans throughout a busy day, where I prepared some pasta and beef dishes for the week ahead. I also made a home-made apple pie, with a home-made crust and fresh apples that were on sale at the grocery store. (I wonder where they got fresh apples to sell for $0.68/lb this time of year???)

Between cookin’ up stuff in the kitchen, I visited my friends who fell on Saturday. Both are doing fine. (No mention of the leather. It’s no big deal to those who know me.)

Later, my partner and I went to a big-box electronics retailer to get an HD Tivo — not that I really care much, but my partner wants it so he can download movies and watch programs he records in HD. While I was at the store, a guy came up to me and asked, “What cop outfit are you with? Those are Dehner boots, right? You ride? What cops around here wear leather?” He was dead serious, and seemed to be very interested in the leather jeans, the boots, and the guy in them.

My partner stood to the side and watched. I could see out of the corner of my eye that he was quite amused.

I answered the guy’s questions honestly, and said that I’m not a cop, but I do ride a Harley. I also confirmed that despite what both he and I might like to see, no motorcops in the area wear leather breeches or pants — or even leather jackets. Just boots. He said, “oh” and shrugged.

He smiled, thanked me for the info, and then noticed my partner behind me. He asked, “is he with you?” I smiled, and said, “yes he is. He’s my partner!” The guy’s eyes lit up as he said “hi” to my partner. He thanked me for answering his questions, and bid his farewell. The conversation and encounter was kinda fun. It’s nice to enjoy wearing leather when we’re out and about, and have these chance conversations.

It’s Hell Being Old

I tell ‘ya, it’s hell being old. And while it may sound like I am speaking about myself, this time I’m not. I spent the day on Saturday with some older neighbors. I had thought that it might take an hour or two in order to get some small chores done, but … well… one thing led to another.

At first, Mrs. T needed some help moving some boxes out of storage. Fine. I went with her to the storage room, unlocked the door, and got the first box. She picked up a very small, light box, and as she was carrying it up a flight of stairs, she lost her balance and fell because she couldn’t see where she was going. I felt badly that I wasn’t close enough to prevent a fall. Fortunately she didn’t break anything. But the fall shook her up, and made her feel afraid to walk any more. I carefully helped her return to her home.

I brewed her a cup of tea, gave her some acetominophen, and just talked for a while. That made her feel better. (Made me feel better, too, because as she recomposed herself, I was assured that there was no physical injury from a pretty hard fall.)

… two hours elapse …

I’m now at my aunt’s home paying bills and reviewing her meds. She had another new med prescribed by a neurologist yesterday. This new med is designed to work in combination with another med she already takes. I was reading the package insert, and it kept saying that the drug combo is particularly well-suited to treat Alzheimer’s Disease. Oh sheesh… her diagnosis is dementia, but now the doc changed the meds to treat something more frightening. I didn’t have the heart to tell her. But her memory is so bad (thus the drugs), she wouldn’t remember if I did tell her. And I wonder, does it matter at age 94, anyway?

… an hour later …

I’m back home, learning more about the condition of a friend who serves in local elected office and who was very recently diagnosed with colon cancer, and remains hospitalized. Darn! His wife, who was a very dear friend of mine (and also served in that same office for 17 years), died almost a year ago. This is really distressing news.

… then the phone rings …

Mr. S, one of my bocci-playing buds with whom I converse in Italian so I can keep up my language skills, called and asked me to come over but wasn’t very clear about why. I didn’t press; I just hopped in my truck and went over there. I found him on the floor of his bedroom, wedged between the large queen-size bed and the wall. He was stuck! He said that he lost balance while changing the sheets and fell into that position.

It was easy enough for me to pull the bed away and help him get out of his predicament. But he couldn’t do it himself because he no longer had the strength. He told me that he had been stuck that way for about three hours, and finally decided that there just wasn’t any way he could move. He pulled the phone’s cord that was within reach (thank goodness!) and thought to call me. He said that he called me because my phone number is easy to remember, and he didn’t want to call the rescue squad because he really didn’t have that “level” of emergency (so he thought.) Well, anyway, he’s okay.

But it is Hell Being Old!

Driving and Cell Phone Yakkers!

This is a post about my ongoing tirade about those nuts who yak away on their precious cell phones while attempting to operating a 5,000+ pound machine. Hang the f— up and drive!

After witnessing a fellow biker get creamed on a highway five years ago by a cell-phone yapping yuppie who said, “I didn’t see him,” I have been on a tear to get my state’s legislature to adopt a law to ban using a cell phone or texting while driving. Ideally, ban all forms of communication in all ways while driving — and that includes using hands-free devices.

Well, that ain’t gonna work. (The hands-free ban)… but, here I am again facing this year’s legislature where the senator from my district has proposed, once again, a law to prohibit talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. Yeah, Mike, I’ll be there with you, again, to testify on the bill and attempt, once again, to persuade the committee to pass the bill out of committee to the full State Senate and then to the House and get signed by the Governor.

[Oh man, do I feel exactly what the back of the shirt in this photo that I found on the ‘net expresses.]

But again, I remain skeptical. I mean, after all, with a part-time legislature who lives, eats, and breathes on their electronic gizmos to talk, text, and even to write legislation while driving (honestly, you should see the laptop setup in one Delegate’s car!), I just don’t think it’s going to work. But we’ll give it the old college try, once more.

And I still have my doubts after observing what happens when a law is passed, but not enforced. I work in the District of Columbia. DC passed a law two years ago that prohibited use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

I often take walks at lunchtime. For the past several months, I have stood on a busy corner for about 5 minutes and counted the number of drivers who go past and who are yakking on their hand-held cell phones. On average, within five minutes, I count 89 drivers yakking away on hand-held phones. I have never once seen anyone given a ticket for the offense. So I question, why pass a law if it isn’t enforced?

Come on, people! Wake up! We managed to survive quite well in the era before cell phones were invented. I know some of you don’t remember that time, but we didn’t communicate back then by chiseling on stone tablets, either. The world still turned ’round, and business still got done when you couldn’t yak away on your cell 24/7. Just be reasonable: hang up and drive!

Rant ended… for now. Look for me in Annapolis this session, once again, where I’ll continue to bang my head on the proverbial marble wall about this issue.

Thanks for the Money, Now Go Home!

My goodness, my hometown is still a trash heap after the concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, the Presidential Inauguration and Parade on Tuesday, and the right-to-lifers lame protest on Thursday. While one conservative blog is blaming all the trashing of DC on supporters of Obama, what it isn’t blogging about is all the trash left behind by the right-to-lifers on Thursday. Most of them are (R)-people, and are just as messy as anyone else.

Thanks for coming, thanks for spending over US$1,000,000,000 (yeah, that’s right, US$1 Billion) for our local economy. But thanks also for leaving over 90 tons of trash that’s blowing around the city, and thanks for absolutely ruining whatever turf there was on the national Mall. It’s all a big dirt pile now. GO HOME! … and take your trash with you.

This video that I found on YouTube is interesting, and at least shows a positive attitude about cleaning up the mess:

Thanks, also, for breaking all ridership records on our subway. According to Metro, “With hundreds of thousands of people in town for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, Metrorail set a new record for the transit agency’s highest ridership on Tuesday, Jan. 20, when rail rides alone accounted for 1,120,000 trips surpassing the previous Metrorail high of 866,681 trips, which occurred the previous day, on Monday, Jan. 19.”

Our city is trashed, our Metro is limping toward recovery, but the local shops, restaurants, and businesses are enjoying an economic boom from all the food & drink you bought, as well as the trinkets and treasures you took back home with you. (A “snatch” from a post-inaugural “deal” got me a really warm Obama sweatshirt for US$1 this morning — and you lucky visitors paid US$35 for it earlier this week. ha ha!)

Us locals just want some peace and quiet. Sheesh! What a week!