July 31, 2009

Fun In The Sun

I had only a few days in Sarasota and I didn't have a car this time. So my blog buddy Jeaux kindly drove up to see me for lunch and conversation around the town. I hardly know Sarasota anymore; only the streets themselves are familiar. Most of the buildings continue to change as the city morphs into a patchwork paradise. (Some of those new patches really need to go, but Sarasota remains beautiful.)

Jeaux and I parked on Main Street

and strolled downtown to the bayfront.

We stopped for a drink by the bay, then headed back toward downtown through a small arts district (one of many). We found a restaurant ensconced under a banyan tree—but closed for renovation—that is now on our list to try.

It was time for lunch, so I picked the Columbia Restaurant on St. Armand's Circle.

It is one of the few restaurants that has been around since forever. Sitting in the open dining area, we began to have conversation at which Jeaux excels: one which truly enriches, this time exploring friendship, morality, and life after death. Jeaux has a way of asking questions that stay with me for weeks.

After lunch we took off on foot again around the Circle to North Lido, a stretch of undeveloped beach that is reminiscent of my earliest years here.

Jeaux, you will be saddened to note that, even though we saw a lot, we missed something pretty special. This is an actual copy of a Wikipedia entry for Sarasota:
Sarasota is a city located in Sarasota County on the southwestern coast of the state of Florida in the United States. Its current official limits include Sarasota Bay and several barrier islands between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

These islands separating Sarasota Bay from the Gulf near the city, known as keys, include Lido Key and Siesta Key, which are famous worldwide for the quality of their sandy beaches. In addition to their sandy beaches, Sarasota is known for their homosexual townspeople. These people attract many other homosexuals to the islands for a splendid vacation. Even more, on Lido Key, there is many gay and nude beaches where many tourists meet other homosexuals. Whereas Lido Key is known for their nude beaches, Siesta Key is known for gay marriages. Most gay people get married on this island.*
(The entry has since been edited to read like some dry social studies lesson. Meh. They should have left it alone.)

It was getting late and Jeaux had a long drive back home. Maybe our talks are so good because we are aware of limited time. Wouldn't it be amazing if we all felt like that when we met? Until next time, dear friend.

*From "A Gay Scandal on Sarasota's Wikipedia Entry! " by Robert Plunkett, Sarasota Magazine

All photos courtesy of the Interwebs

July 30, 2009

Today On Bilerico: David

Well, ladies and gents, I have news. I have been asked to become a regular contributor on The Bilerico Project, one of two straight writers now on board. The editor-in-chief said, "Welcome to minority status."

My first official column posted today and you can find it here:

July 29, 2009

Al's Friend

A somber moment came Monday with a call from my friend Al. He is a passionate, intelligent man who is knowledgeable on an impressive amount of subjects. But Al is at a loss over the suicide of his best friend Dan. No one really knows how to deal with being left behind. Please offer your condolences for his grief on his site bluealto.

July 28, 2009


The computer tool bar says it's Tuesday, so it must be true. But I'm on vacation and days, dates and time have no meaning.

I've been in Sarasota, let's see, two days now. I'm here to see friends and family and to drive my parents to the NC mountains on their annual trek to escape the heat. Let me show you around a bit.

The rains have been good for west coast Florida. It's been a long time since our yard was this lush. These are views from the driveway, of the parking apron and through the porte cochere to the neighbor's back yard. Live oaks are part of wild Florida that make outdoor cathedrals with their long branches.

Monday I met up with a dear friend whom I usually see once a year. We have mastered the occasion by cutting to the chase and talking about the important things first, then winding down the hours to the minor but interesting topics. Yesterday we visited for seven hours.

We started our afternoon at Lido Beach, a long stretch of undeveloped beach. Parts are roped off to protect nesting sites. Neither of us knew what this flock of birds is; I don't know if they're migratory or possibly invasive. So many species are showing up where they never have before.

We had dinner at the Dry Dock on the bay side. These two shots were taken at the same time, one toward the city across the bay and the other north to the end of the key. Manatees lolled in the water just offshore.

This is the light and life of home for me, in spite of living landlocked in the Midwest for more than two decades. It's where I want to retire, but Abe isn't so sure. I'm really going to miss him.

July 25, 2009

Number 32,739

That's the current status of my list of Stupid Things I Have Done. I haven't really tried to count them until today. I figure after tonight's stunt, I needed some perspective. So tonight's STIHD is just .00003125% of all the idiot things I have done*. That's better.

What did I do? I nearly set the kitchen on fire.

We've decided that the bad ingredients in coconut oil are better than the bad ingredients in microwave popcorn, so we've gone back to the good old days of making our own stovetop popcorn. (Those of you old enough to remember will understand; it tastes like movie popcorn used to taste until the food police caused coconut oil to be taken off most shelves.)

I melted the oil in the pan and set it on the heat to pop the test kernels. Once those pop, you put in the rest, shake, and you get the best popcorn in the world. Needs no butter.

But tonight I was distracted and left the oil to heat. After too many minutes, I rushed into the kitchen to see smoke just starting to lift from under the lid. I took off the lid—second mistake—and turned to put the pan in the sink. WHOOMP! The pan filled with flames. I managed to still put the pan safely into the sink where the flames quickly extinguished themselves—I knew not to use water—but the house very shortly filled with smoke and fumes. We could hardly breathe. Abe and I had to leave the house several times as we struggled to open windows and mount fans. My throat still hurts. And no smoke was visible at all after less than a minute.

Finally, after twenty minutes or so, we could sit down again. Abe's throat hurt, but he rallied.

"So, are you not going to make more popcorn?"

I did. It was great.

*Formula: One mistake each day lived minus four years to learn right from wrong, plus one mistake each day each child has been alive. That's lowballing it.

July 23, 2009

Blind Trust

Meet Opie, our 20-year-old cat. He is the son of KC (Kitty Cat), who found us 21 years ago on Thanksgiving weekend. She helped with the leaves in the yard and then moved in. We didn't realize how friendly KC was getting with the neighbor's cat until she started to get really fat. Uh oh. We gave away five kittens and kept Opie to give her company, much to her everlasting regret.

KC died last December. She was also 20 years old at the time. Opie has reached the same age in better shape, but he has been deaf for about a year and went blind a couple of months ago.

Since this house is the only world he's known, he has memorized the layout. He does pretty well, utilizing his whiskers whenever he encounters an obstacle.

We moved his food up from the basement. He's having a harder time with the stairs these days, although he still goes up to his perch at the top of the stairs. When he is there he's in the middle of the action, and he can feel our footfalls as we approach.

When he wants a drink, he climbs into the tub and sings loud and long. We turn on a dribble and pat him twice. That's the code for "Water's on, Your Highness."

He's getting thinner. We know his time with us is very limited now, so he gets lots of petting when he wanders near. Sophie will miss this small, odd dog that clearly does not know the first thing about playing.

July 19, 2009

Today On Bilerico

The Bilerico Project is a national blog which hosts dozens of contributors who offer opinion on matters related to the LGBT community. I have enjoyed reading and commenting there for a couple of years now. I am thrilled that I was asked to contribute a guest column, which will be posted sometime today. (It's called "What On Earth Am I Doing Here?") Go pay a visit to Bilerico and its offshoots in DC, Florida, and Indiana and check out some fascinating and provocative writing.

It's up. Those of you who've been here a while will find it familiar. You can read it here.

July 17, 2009

Overheard: Teaching Moment

Abe was channel surfing earlier today and stopped on a sports channel. He realized in an instant he had a teaching moment at hand and bid me to look at the TV. A hurdles race was about to begin at a track meet.

“See those women, how they’re setting up for the start? That’s how I want you to be, waiting for when you hear my call."

“I see. Coiled and ready to spring into action when you want me.”


The starting pistol rang out. “Birdie!” He demonstrated his call and pointed to the leader of the race.

“The one in front, that’s you.”

“Nothing gets in my way to reach you when you call me.”

“That’s right. That's how to be a good wife. Well, that’s all for now.”

I love my husband. He’s always thinking of me.

July 13, 2009

The Beauty Of Growing Older

An article and a picture from Father Tony got me thinking about the benefits of growing older. Most in that group of handsome men are close to my own age. No doubt they have a wealth of knowledge between them about many diverse subjects. More than that, they have wisdom that most often comes only with time.

Wisdom, if you choose to heed the outcome of knowledge, is the great payoff for aging. Knowledge and time are on a inverse continuum; one increases as the other decreases. You can beat the odds if you are willing to learn from others’ mistakes. It takes a lot longer if, like I did, you insist on making those mistakes on your own. Youth has all the time in the world to make use of its limited knowledge; age has great knowledge but limited time in which to apply it. It’s why we see people in midlife suddenly change their circumstances, jobs, etc., and re-establish their commitments to the core philosophies which may have lain dormant in the busyness of life.

It’s usually around age fifty that most people in Western civilization have a wake-up call and realize their mortality is looming on the visible horizon. (I have to wonder if the same is true in other societies that value the aged.) A midlife awakening need not be a crisis unless you make it one. And rather than bemoan the regrets, rejoice in what gift of days you have remaining, to use them wisely and with love.

It is evident in the picture that the men are enjoying the company of good friends who share their culture, their hopes, their experiences and their fears. Most have reached the age where foolishness falls away and the clarity of what is real and important is a jewel without price. Mistakes are an accepted part of life and easily forgiven. One great thing about growing older is that each mistake is statistically less significant; what’s one more in that ever-growing list?

You can reach that midlife awakening any time you wish. The sooner you choose to take control of your life and its outcome, the more time you will have to see its fulfillment. Take the knowledge and wisdom you have and find a purpose. What circumstances in your life right now are an arena for your influence? Share your wisdom and its resultant peace with as many as will hear. Some will not listen; they are not your audience. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

The Power Of The Internet

You know that annoying word verification process that makes it harder for spambots to plant their evil ads? A young professor at Carnegie Mellon has decided to use it for the common good, taking the original Captcha program and retooling it into "reCaptcha."

Whenever you log onto Twitter, Craiglist, Ticketmaster, Facebook and more, you are now faced with two words instead of one. The first is the original Captcha word, twisted so that machines cannot recognize it and mimic it. The second word will look like very old text—because that's exactly what it is. reCaptcha is using the power of the Internet to translate old text that scanners are unable to recognize. The New York Times and the Internet Archive are slowly being digitized, and we're helping by translating words that computers can't read.

The Optical Recognition Program cannot always translate what it sees, and humans are far more capable at recognizing patterns in letter shapes and word forms. So as a public service, which is free for anyone to use on their website, reCaptcha is archiving the past. This opens the door for all archived materials to eventually be digitized and thus available for public access via the Internet. Awesome potential, don't you think, for three seconds of your time.

July 12, 2009

Overheard: Guacamole

My husband Abe recently spent some time in southern California. He was enjoying the homemade feast his hostess had made. In case this conversation doesn't make it clear, she is a native Californian. She's sweet and brilliant, but living in California has its drawbacks.

Abe: "This is amazing guacamole!"

Hostess: "Do they have guacamole in Indiana?"

July 11, 2009

Steven's Father

Steven of "Sooo-this-is-me" is grieving the loss of his father this past week. If you know him, please stop by and offer your condolences.

July 8, 2009

Stranger On A Plane

He was in his 30s I’d guess, fit and tall, wearing jeans and a plain T-shirt. By the time I took the aisle seat next to his window seat, he was already plugged in to his iPod with his eyes closed. We were on our way to Indiana from the Denver airport.

I had attended a church conference in Denver, staying a few extra days to visit with friends. The conference had really struck a chord with me and challenged me to act on what I already knew my purpose to be. I was overwhelmed with the sense of mission about bringing my church into line with the loving God I knew, to welcome the LGBT community with genuine grace.

I had no idea how I would do this. I didn’t know where to start. I tried to read the book in front of me, which reinforced with every paragraph that I had to act on what I knew was right. I was reeling with the thoughts racing in my head about this new feeling. I knew what it was. It was a call. My heart was pounding and my eyes were starting to tear.

I had no one with whom to talk. I looked up from my book after staring blankly at the pages for who knows how long. I glanced at the man next to me, who still seemed fully absorbed in his music, eyes closed. But that’s when I noticed that his leg was pressing against mine. Not just touching; gently pressing, thigh and calf. It had happened so gradually that I didn’t notice until then.

This was not a come-on or a mistake. Perhaps he'd glimpsed my distress. His touch felt like reassurance. He stayed still and quiet but continued to press his leg to mine, and he stayed that way for the duration of the trip until the plane landed. That connection calmed me. It was like someone was holding my hand. This stranger gave me comfort that I could easily have rejected, but I needed it.

When we landed, the man gathered his few things together and sat up. Whenever I looked at him, he was looking elsewhere, and he left without speaking when we deplaned. It was an unusual experience, clearly one I’ve never forgotten.

The stranger on a plane is the person to whom we’ll unburden our souls, the one who takes a small part of our worries with him when he leaves. This man did the same, without a single word or glance being exchanged. I have no idea if he intended what I inferred, but he gave me what I needed at the time. I pray that I can be that stranger on a plane for others whenever I travel.

July 6, 2009

July 2, 2009

Poor Sophie Makes Three

We're getting ready to go to St. Louis for the weekend. Today I got most of my work done, but one of the office machines quit working. I'll finish it by hand tonight and take it in tomorrow morning. No problem, huh? That would normally be the case, but now there's another detail to take care of before we leave. I need to take Sophie to the boarding kennel.

I took her there this afternoon. She loves this place and has been attending there for years. They have chaperoned playtime several times a day, and you can watch online with their "doggiecam" (which operates only during daycamp hours). She has a blast.

We arrived amid a number of drop-offs and pick-ups. Sophie squealed and barked her delight. I knew it was going to be quick and easy because I had checked both at the kennel and at the vet to make sure she was current in all her innoculations. After she was taken back to her "dorm," they looked at their records and said she was due for her distemper shot. They verified with the vet that, yes, she was due. She had to come back out and be taken 25 minutes away to the vet for that shot and then returned. Great.

On her way back out to me, another dog was being brought in. They passed in the hallway—both on leashes—and had what the trainer called "an altercation." The other dog apparently really nailed Sophie with puncture wounds in her neck and ear. Now I really needed the vet.

The vet examined her and glued one puncture closed. The other wounds will have to close on their own. She got all of her shots, including painkiller and antibiotic, and they released her in my care with more meds. She's staying home tonight just to avoid more stress, and we'll see how she feels in the morning. This is when I wish I had family in the city to take my pet.

I trust the kennel to watch her carefully. These things happen when dogs meet dogs, and it's our first such occasion in the five years she's gone there. But the Sophmeister shakes her head every so often to try to make it feel better. My poor puppy.

(In case you're thinking "these things come in threes," Sophie's plight is number three. Abe is in CA visiting family before joining us in St. Louis. But most of his time so far has been spent with the dentist and endodontist. His toothache turned out to be a serious infection, and he spent his third day in CA getting a root canal. I'm counting the office mishap as number two, so we're good to go. I'm sure of it.)

Update: Sophie squealed and roorooed her happy bark a quarter mile from the kennel this morning. She was glad to be back! The staff there is so mortified about the whole incident that they practically rolled out a red carpet. They're good guys. So: we're off to St. Louis! Check out doggiecam during the day. I know I will.

Update II: I've been following Sophie's progress on the doggiecam. At first she stayed near the human chaperone when she was in the playroom, but today she was hanging with the gang and holding her own. We pick her up tomorrow morning.