31.12.10

Clear Air and a Clearer Head.........

I ventured down to camp today for a little while to check on things since it's been since my last real visit was at the end of October for Halloween.  At first, I really wasn't into making the two hour trek down and the grueling 45 minute drive up the car sickness inducing road to get to the top of the mountain on which Roseland is perched.  I left Pittsburgh at around 10 am, and it was still cloudy and about 45 degrees.  By the time that I got to the exit, the sky had cleared and the temperature shot up to 65 degrees.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day, especially for one in the middle of winter.  I spent some time in the hot tub and chatted with some friends.  Scott, the manager, said that they were expecting over a hundred people for the big New Year's Eve party tonight.  

I had forgotten about exactly how much I miss the place.  During the summer it's pretty much an every weekend thing for me...spending time on the mountain top.  Roseland is sort of a special place for a lot of people and most outsider's don't really have a sense of what it is all about.  Roseland sits atop a mountain ridge and is quite isolated from the world.  It's  250 acres are surrounded by mostly forest although a mining company has started to encroach upon us but that is another whole issue.  I suppose that there isn't anything that we can do about that at the moment unfortunately. After two or three days there most people don't want to leave the confines of the camp.  Its almost like a gay shangri la.  I think the appeal is that you can go there and forget about what the rest of the world is doing and just be yourself.  If you want to be left alone, no one bothers you.  If you want to join in the comraudery there is plenty to be had.  On weekends there is always a party at the main hall with some sort of theme event going on.  Usually, most of us end up on each other's decks throwing some kind of food and cocktail party.  There are over a 100 seasonals who are there full time and most weekend's during peak season there are another two or three hundred tenters, cabin renters, or people who stay primarily in the guest houses.  The pool is the main center of attraction during the summer and it gets quite busy.  It's great for sunbathing and taking in all the sights.  You see a little bit of everything there.  Big guys, skinny twinks, older, younger, married, bi, couples, singles, and every sort of swimsuit or lack of swimsuit that could possibly be found! It can pour down rain and some of these guys show up at a party wearing designer clothes.  I said only a bunch of gay men in the woods could crawl up out of the mud and look like they are ready to hit the runway.

The best part, for me anyway, is the fact that so many people really do care about each other.  It is almost like a commune mentality in some sense.  If you need help with your camper, SOMEONE always has a tool that you can borrow, or will help you fix your crisis du jour, or will at least lend a cocktail or a helping hand.  We all manage to help each other.  Its a very nice feeling.  The other thing that I love is the fact that you are truly out in the middle of nowhere. If you want to run naked through the camp ground no one cares! No one is there to judge you. It is a very liberating experience.

I sat outside for most of the day soaking up the sun and enjoying the conversation with people who I hadn't seen in months.  It reminded me of how much I missed the feeling of companionship and male bonding.  When I am home in Pittsburgh I don't really go out much.  In my 20's and early 30's I went out most weekends and had a very large set of friends.  Some close, some not so close, but we always had a great time. Now that I am approaching 40 the need for the bar and club scene has diminished for me.  What I miss most is the feeling of community. During the winter months I feel very isolated and I miss the feeling of friends being around. I tend to be a very social person.  I know that some people enjoy solitude,  which can be good sometimes, but for me friends and loved ones are very important. There is something to be said about having good friends.

I left today feeling good.  The mountain air cleared my head, just like it always does.  My spirits were lifted from feeling a little glimmer of spring.  Soon the pool will open and life will once again return to the mountain top.

29.12.10

About A Recent Article in the Post Gazette.....

 How would you like to face the images above?  Disturbing right?  Make you feel not so nice?  Welcome to being gay.....
I recently read an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette which talked about being opposed to gay marriage and how this person was accused of being a hate monger.  The article began by citing several examples of people opposed to gay rights and went on to point out what happened to them.  One example was of a provost in a mid western university who was opposed to a gay film festival being held on campus.  He was forced to resign.  Another was about a professor who tried to "rationally explain to his students why the catholic church was correct in being against gays and lesbians" who was supposedly then suspended and investigated.  The third example was about a religious group who was ostracized when they put their anti gay views out in public on a college campus.  

The author then went on to rationalize his own views about how gay marriage was wrong and complained that he is viewed as promoting hatred toward gays and lesbians.  The more I read the angrier I became!

First of all, everyone is entitled to their own religious views about things.  I am not denying that, however the examples that he cited earlier in the article had nothing to do with gay marriage and everything to do with treating gay people as something less than human.  Yes, the provost had no right to deny a film festival because it was gay oriented.  Yes, the professor had no right to start spouting his own personal views about being anti gay and using the church as support, while teaching on a public campus to students who pay money to be there and to get an education.  I am not permitted to spout my views at work about things that may offend others, nor would I want to .  Why? Work is not the place to do that! Yes, the anti-gay religious group should have been shunned from doing things like that on a college campus.  It is 2010! Why not break out the white sheets or start throwing rocks at the Amish while you are at it! It's not ok because it's no longer acceptable to discriminate because of the color of ones skin, a person's ethnic or religious views, or because of their sexual orientation.  I am glad that those people sited as examples had to answer for what they did.  They should have! 

If a professor had stated anti Semitic, or anti black views on a college campus what would have happened?  There was a radio host who made an anti black remark once about a woman's basketball team and was forced to resign.  People were in an outrage.  Why is that different than saying anti gay remarks?  The point is that it is NOT any different.  
I also love the people who start with the whole "sanctity of marriage" thing.  First of all, marriage, as far as I am concerned is a straight convention.  All that we as gays and lesbians want is to be treated with equal rights.  We want to be able to not worry about getting fired at a job for being gay.  We want to be able to have children and families and we want to be treated equally financially.  Why should I have no say over what happens to a loved one if they are in the hospital?  Why should I have to pay taxes on inheritance because I am gay?.  Why should I have to worry about being beaten up or have to listen to slurs on the radio and television everyday?  You can keep the straight marriage idea.  Just treat us as human beings. 




The Past is the Past and Cannot be Rewritten.....


 I decieded to get out of the house today and take the new laptop to Crazy Mocha, in Shadyside and take advantage of their free wireless.....and to also slog down a few coffee drinks and a biscotti.  David met me for coffee on his walk home after work.  As always, it was great to see him.  We have been spending lots of time togeather and I love it and I think that we are both becoming more comfortable with each other. I am VERY happy about that and much less stressed in general.

With going back to work looming ahead I am working to keep myself at a low stress level.  I am going to try to approach things a little differently this time. Let's just hope that it works.

Some recent events have come up...post holiday stuff.  Without going into great detail, lets just say that it has to do with past family issues.  I feel like I am always being held accountable for all the stuff that happened in the past and quite frankly, I want to forget about what happened in the past. For a large percentage of it, I had absolutley no choice in the matter yet I always seem to be dealing with it. I am always feeling like I am supposed to go back somehow and make everything ok and re-write myself out of it. Its, unfortunalty not that easy. I know that you cant run from problems, but these are issues that I have no control over and reliving the pain over and over and over again is senseless.

Part of my recent therapy dealt with past family issues and the goal was to try to figure out what would put me at peace with things.  I have decided that what would put me at peace is to live my life and not worry about what other people did in the past.  I have my own life now, in Pittsburgh, and what I have made of my life IS what I have control over....I don't have control over other people's issues!

27.12.10

Just Some of my Artwork




Memories...Snowmageddon 2010

For those of you who forgot about how bad last winter sucked.....a reminder....

This used to be a road in Sq. Hill?

The view from my old back window.

A car parked in front of my house....

I drove up this in the Jeep right after I took this picture.

Hours and hours of shoveling.

EVERYONE walked that day...

Shady ave.



26.12.10

Fat Girl Shopping Day!


David and spent the weekend together and decided to do a little post Christmas shopping today on Walnut St. to see if there were any good deals.  We hit up Banana Republic and the Gap.  For those of you who are not familiar with Pittsburgh, Walnut St. is located in Shadyside, which is sort of the gay area of the city.  Not that we really have a centralized gay area, but Shadyside has a higher than normal population.  Walnut street is the trendy street to shop on and has several retail chains.  It's not as bohemian as it used to be when I moved here ten years ago but that's another story.

We go into Banana and everything was on sale....half off till noon....and all the queens were abuzz about it. Twink city!  Now David, mind you, is a size medium even though we are about the same stature and wear the same pants and shoe size. I think my shoulders are wider than his....Yah..that's it...I'm blaming it all on my shoulders!  LOL   I admit, that I could drop five pounds but I am by no means large. In the straight realm I get told that I need to put on weight.  As we all know in the gay world, straight skinny is NOT gay skinny so in the gay world I get "oooh gurl...you need to cut back!"  What a way to drive a person crazy....you're too skinny...you're too fat...you're too skinny...you're too fat! (and David Pezzula...I just KNOW that you are going to have some witty and sarcastic comment to leave after this blog!)

David managed to get deal after deal on some really cool stuff.  Big Bertha here, didn't find a damned thing.  We both laughed about it because EVERYTHING I touched was a size small.  David walked out with a large bag full, and a big smile plastered on his face,  and yours truly didn't find a thing! Yours truly, just puffed on a cigarette and contemplated her fatness.  I said to David, "this place is not fat girl friendly!"  As an aside, the very cute African American sales guy came gyrating up to us and told David that he just loved his shoes.....he was of course, the perfect size small! I had my Lee Press on's ready....this fat girl can throw down if need be.  LOL

Off to the Gap we went.  Same deal at the Gap....small, small , and smaller!  David again, found bags and bags of bargains.  No deals for this fat girl! I did find a really cool jacket which was guess what size?  MEDIUM.  David said, "maybe you can squeeze into it".  I said, " baby, there isn't enough duct tape in the world that will make me fit in this jacket!"  I got a chuckle from the petite retail queen manager.  The same guy who was commenting on David's shoes showed up at the Gap.   How ironic! I kept one eye on twinkzilla (aka the African American guy from Banana) while the other eye, still desperate for big girl clothes, patrolled the sales racks hoping that some little off the rack number would jump out at me. Actually, it was flattering....David is adorable and its nice to see that other people notice him too.  I'm not the jealous type....well...to a point.  Certainly I would have ripped Twinkzillas weave right out of her head if needed...  :)

The funny thing was that we ended up going to Macy's.  Straight people shop there right?  Big hairy straight guys find deals there all of the time! I finally found a very nice Calvin Klein black winter jacket.  No price tag to be found.  At this point, David and I had been joking about my day of finding no clothes to fit me.  The sales girl found the price.......full price...no sale!  I swear it was the only item in the store NOT on sale.  We both had a good laugh about it and David was sweet and bought me the jacket as a gift! 

This fat girl is happy as is....fat girls rule   LOL

25.12.10

Old Love Letters in a Box ...Glimpses into History and a Soul

I spent most of the day at my parent's house today to celebrate the holiday.  It was good to see that my father is doing so well after his pacemaker implant.  My Mother seemed to be in good spirits and was happy to see me as always.

This years Christmas gift from the two of them was a total surprise.  My mother pulled out a very well worn brown paper box that had that tanned look of age to it and instructed me to look inside.  After opening it I saw a ton of news paper clippings on top and a small book inside.  It turns out that it was news paper clippings from World War II that my grandmother had clipped and saved along with my Father's army book with one of his medals, photographs from Saipan and personal notes that he had written while over there.  Further under this treasure were some old letters neatly folded and two pieces of tissue paper with lipstick prints on them.  The love letters were written by my Grandmother during the war, and along with them were several poems and sketches that she had done.  She used to want to be an artist when she was in her 20's and was quite good at charcoal sketches.  Back then they had no money so she used brown paper from grocery bags and would sketch all sorts of scenes. Women in fancy dresses, men in uniform, scenes from history, and all sorts of interesting things would be sketched out in lead pencil or charcoal. One letter had a man and a woman about to kiss and she had written a love poem at the bottom of it. The lip prints, as it turns, out, were hears and were included in the love letters.

Still, further down in the pile, were photos of Japanese soldiers and a group picture of a Japanese family.  My father told me that they had been taken from a dead soldiers body in Saipan.  There was also and old Japanese Yen and some coins in the bottom of the box.

I started to tear up.  To see my Grandmothers thoughts spilled out on paper and to see prints of her lips was a very powerful thing for me.  I sat and imagined what it was like to have someone away for that long and not know if they were dead or alive.  It must have been a horrible and anxiety ridden existence for many years.  She faithfully wrote letters and mailed them to keep in touch.  There were a few from my Father and he also had made a few sketches.  I wasn't even aware that my father could draw!

There was also a clipping of her sister's husband and beneath it was a notice that he was being held as a prisoner of war by the German army.  I am sure that it was a relief because he was presumed dead for many months prior to that. I remember my Grandmother telling me that he was kept in a cage and tortured and looked like a skeleton when he was finally released after the war.

Her love letter gave me a glimpse, not only into history, but it allowed a view deep into her soul.  My Grandmother was a very stoic woman when I knew her.  She could come across as being somewhat cold at times and had a rather unique way of looking at things.  I remember when her own Mother died, when I was a young boy.  She never shed a tear that I saw.  She said that her Mother was in a better place and it was a time to rejoice, not to be sad.  At the time, being young, I didn't understand at all. Her letter allowed me to see that very scared, very heart sick, young 20 something girl who was terrified that any given day she would receive a telegram or a post saying that her husband was dead or missing in action.  How heart breaking it must have been for a  young bride to go through this.  Day after day, wondering, longing for the touch of someone she loved who could be killed at any given moment. She kept hope, it never wavered.  I would have lost my mind.  She deserved a medal for being a war bride. 

My Grandmother suffered a lot of heart ache in her life and I think was hurt pretty badly.  At some point that 20 something scared girl changed and became tough as nails. This letter spoke volumes about her life.  That she had a soft romantic side to her that she rarely ever showed, except in private.  It also told me how much she loved my Father. Letters like these are something that cannot come from anywhere else but from deep down inside.

Again, this is what Christmas is supposed to be about.....gifts from the heart! I cant say it enough, if you have someone you love dearly, hold them tight tonight and enjoy the holiday for what it truly was meant to be, about love and memories, and giving from the heart.



A transcription of her exact letter follows.


Dated Jan 16th (circa 1940)

"I leaned across ten thousand miles and kissed you
and held you in my arms just once again
and as we kissed, I whispered how I miss you
and brushed away the tears that fell like rain.

Although I am far away from you tonight dear,
and many many miles are in between,
I leaned across ten thousand miles and kissed you
for there's no miles between us in my dreams."

Marjorie Aline Anderson


The letter that followed....


"Sweetheart Mine:


How is my dear one tonight? I sure hope OK as you were in your letter. 
Your wife is just fine you may be sure, and thinking of you and loving you so very 
much Sweets.  I do kiss  you honey, in my dreams. Even the miles between us cant
keep us apart, can they, because we have our love and our dreams.  Its so nice to know that
you are dreaming of me Sweets."


_________________________________________________________________________________

Grandma...


I miss you dearly and you deserved a war medal back then too.  Thanks for helping me become the person that I am.  For your love of nature, for your love of art, and most of all....just for your love for me.

May you rest in peace and eternal light,

Your Grandson

24.12.10

I've Got Grand Marnier Shots in My Purse!





I just returned from a Christmas Eve party at my friend Laurie's house.  Prior to going I wasn't really feeling very Christmas-like.  The party went well and I think a good time was had by all.  It was sort of ironic when I got there because everyone seemed to be in the same foul mood over the holidays. Laurie's Mother was commenting on what a weird day it was and how it didn't really seem like a holiday.

Laurie's Mom is a very spry 72 year old.  The funniest moment of the night is when she leaned in close to me and said "honey, I have mini bottles of Grand Marnier in my purse....wanna do shots with me?."  Laurie's 72 year old mother was packin shots in her purse.  I loved it! She said, "well, I wasn't sure how the party was going to go so I brought a little backup!."  That just made my night......

Gifts from the Heart

I received an early xmas present yesterday.  A refund check from the insurance company.  Apparently I had forgot to cash a three hundred dollar check from five years ago?  I didn't ask questions!  I just ran to the bank and shoved it in the ATM as fast as my ever growing thighs would carry me (that's another story...I think I have a tapeworm lately...all I do is eat.)

I did some last minute Christmas shopping today even though I swore that this year I was not going to participate in all of the xmas madness and overspending.  I am going to my parents house tomorrow morning to do the big gift exchange.  I also bought something special for David.  Even though I know that he will protest because we said NO GIFTS, I still want him to have this.  To me, its more of a "thank you for being in my life and thank you for caring enough about me to do all of the nice things you do" gift.  It is what xmas and gift giving is supposed to be about.  A gift from the heart, with meaning behind it.  Not some piece of plastic that you picked up because you felt like you had to.  I don't want to give away what it is just yet....but its something from me that will have meaning....something that he will be able to keep and remember me by. 

David keeps telling me that its just another day and has chosen to spend xmas eve by himself.  I agree it is a way over hyped holiday but I do think that it is, and was meant to bring people together. That was the meaning.  A holiday to celebrate family and the people who you love. I am sitting here alone on xmas eve day and I guess I am ok with it.  Dan had to go to work to deal with some paperwork (and quite frankly I think it was just an excuse to avoid the whole holiday.) I have been invited over to my friend Laurie's house for xmas eve dinner and I am still NOT feeling the spirit.  Quite honestly, I would rather be curled up on the couch with the dog....who am I kidding...Id rather be curled up on the couch with David under our blanket.  The best Christmas present in the world is being close with someone who loves you back.  There is no feeling like it in the world and its the most unique gift that you can share.....human touch.  It goes way beyond sex....actually it has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with love.

 I hope that my friends and loved ones get to curl up under a blanket tonight with someone special....enjoy it and consider it the best gift ever....the gift of someones heart...you can't buy that kind of stuff in any store and you cant put a price on it.. 

23.12.10

The Final Countdown.....and a Long Journey.

As of January 3rd it will have been three months since I worked and my leave of absence will be coming to an end. The last three months have been quite a journey for me.  I am very happy that I took the time off to work on many things.  My dizziness seems to be under control at the moment which is a good thing and I am feeling somewhat better.


Although it has been nice not having to get up and go to work, part of me misses the structure of it all.  I feel like I need something back....I need a routine.  Its so easy just to drift listlessly for a while, but then it too begins to wear on you.  I am not looking forward to returning to all of the craziness and bullshit that goes on at work, and I am definitely going to consider other options.  The last thing that I want to do is return to the same state that I was in before I started my quest. I think that it will be different this time....I feel like a part of me has changed. I will no longer let it consume me.

In the the last three months a lot has happened, and I learned a lot on my journey to fix myself ,so I cant say that all this free time has been a waste.  Quite the opposite.  I have gone through therapy and have tried to come up with ways to control my anxiety.  I have learned a ton about meditation and found a whole new philosophy on life, one that had been staring me in the face for years, Buddhism. I learned who my true friends are and have grown closer to some people who I had overlooked before.  I thought a lot about love and what it means to really love someone.  I met someone wonderful who has become a very big part of my life and who has made me feel things that I haven't felt in a very very long time.  I went on a spiritual retreat and met a large group of wonderful guys and had one of the most mind blowing spiritual experiences of my life.  I learned that sometimes all of the bullshit that happens to you happens for a reason and that you can use that as a gift to relate to others who need support.  The list goes on....

I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have been so supportive.  Thank you to my boss, Jim, who was so understanding about everything.  Thank you to Janice for dealing with all the extra work during my absence and for checking in on me. Thank you to my coworkers who have shown constant concern.  Thank you to Dan for dealing with the rough financial issues and for trying to understand. Thank you to David Pezzula for being the voice in the dark.  Thank you to Alan for being a wonderful friend and listening to me even though he had his own sadness to deal with. Thank you to David for loving me so much and for making me feel alive again. Thank you to Steve and Marlon for being my mentors. Thank you to my brothers at Body Electric for helping me find my way.  I owe all of you a lot!
.
This  chapter of my journey has come to an end but there are still many more chapters to be written.....

P!nk - Raise Your Glass

Pink's new video called "Raise Your Glass" is sort of an f. you to you society.  I think the women hooked up to the milker machine feeding the cow is weird, but I get her point. I also love the two men kissing right in the middle of one frame! 

22.12.10

The Longest Night of the Year



Winter solstice.....the longest night of the year, is the cause for celebration in many cultures.  It symbolizes a rebirth.  A balance to positive and negative or light and dark. 


Happy Winter Solstice

Hairdressers, Ballerinas, and Interior Designers We All Are Not!

Vintage Photo Circa 1940's


I was just looking at an interesting web page called "Famous Homosexuals in History."  Why, you may ask, was I looking at this?  Actually I started out looking at gay photographic art from the 1800's and early 1900's since I have a great interest in photography.  Two of my favorites are Horst P Horst, who did a lot of portraits of famous people in fashion, like Coco Chanel, and the other is Durieu.  Durieu did a lot of work with homoerotic photographs and Delacroix used his work to paint from in the late 1800's.  This search made me think about how many famous gay people there have been in history.  Great writers, Kings, conquerors, scientists, singers, painters, philosophers, and the list goes on.  If you have an interest in some of these references please check out the links at the end of this blog entry....
Vintage Photo Circa 1950's

It also made me think about a few comments from straight friends and coworkers over the years.  Thinks like, "he doesn't look gay," and "I cant believe that he has that kind of job and is gay?" and even "do your people celebrate Christmas?"  It amazes me that people subscribe to so many stereotypes! It would be like me saying ...."you don't look straight" or "I can't believe that a woman is a doctor."  How stupid is that? Exactly how is a gay person supposed to look?  Are we supposed to be wearing effeminate clothing, and talk with a lisp?  Are we supposed to have highlighted hair, and wear designer clothes and walk with a swish?  It all seems so ludicrous to me..

I am a homosexual.  I have known that I was gay since I was probably ten years old.  When most of you were figuring out that you liked the opposite sex I was figuring out that I liked other guys.  Coming out was a very difficult process for me and it took me many years to complete it.  I came out to most of my friends and coworkers when I was in my very early 20's.  I didn't come out to my immediate family until I was 30.  The thing was that they already knew!  My parents already knew anyway. My Mother was more upset when I told her that I was smoking!  I was very fortunate to have support from a lot of great friends and also from my parents and grandmother who never even flinched when I told them.  They have never ever made it an issue for me and accept me for who I am.  I have been very lucky....others have not.  I have heard stories of people coming out and losing their family...their kids...their friends...and even their jobs!  
Vintage Photograph Circa 1940's


Let me give you a few facts about being gay or lesbian:

1. Not all gay people are effeminate....in fact some of us are athletes or even body builders.
2. Not all gay people are hairdressers, ballerinas, florists, flight attendants, or interior decorators
3. Just because we are gay doesn't mean that we don't like being men. 
4. We don't all know each other.....there isn't some master list!
5. We really do have families, and lasting relationships just like straight people do!
6. The word "fag" is offensive and a slur and its not ok to use it!
7. Being gay isn't some choice....any more than you chose to be straight.
8. There is no gay agenda!  Trust me ....we aren't out converting people!
9. We don't hate women!
10. Love is love....my love for a boyfriend doesn't feel any different than love in a straight relationship!  Its two humans loving each other.
11.  The pink triangle  was the symbol sewn into concentration camp uniforms and given to homosexuals in the camps.  We didn't chose it..it was given to us.

12.  The whole slang thing....the "that's so GAYYYY" really is offensive, and saying..."oh, I didn't mean it that way" is not a good excuse.
13.10% of the worlds population is gay..that's a HUGE number.
14. Coming out...or admitting to our families and friends and coworkers is never an easy thing.  Some of us are not lucky, and may lose our families, children, and friends in the process.
15. Gay people do NOT have the same rights that straight people take for granted. If my boyfriend were on his death bed in a hospital...I would have no say over what happens to him.  If he died, I would have to pay tax on a house that I may already have owned. 
16. 50,000 gays and lesbians were placed in concentration camps during the war and were not released even after the war was over....they were sent to prisons. 
17.  Gay and lesbian kids face bullying everyday...and many are scarred for the rest of their lives because of something that they have no choice over.
18. Many companies still discriminate and many places don't have laws protecting us from it.
19. You can not say racial slurs on the television or radio but you can use slurs against gays and lesbians without repercussion. 
20. Saying "I am ok with gay people as long as they aren't too flamboyant or open about their sexuality" is not Ok.  Do we ask you to hide being straight or ask you to deny being who you are?



Its going to be 2011 soon.  Lets all try to be a little more understanding toward each and open our eyes to the many different aspects and cultures that surround us. 

Euro-Pride- Stockholm, Sweden 2010 By: Michael Bell 
300,000 people attended the parade in Stockholm that day.  The parade was 3 hours long and bisected the city of Stockholm.  Its time that the silence ends....


Links:

19.12.10

Bigger, Better, Faster, Cheaper, and Most of all MORE!







Being flat broke for the last several weeks I have quickly learned the value of a dollar.  In the past I have been very guilty of impulse buying and now I always question myself as to if I really need the overpriced can of gourmet whatever at the grocery store or if I REALLY need the 90 dollar sweater at Banana.  Most of the time the answer is NO.  Everyone needs a little retail therapy now and then though! 

When I was a kid my Grandmother would always do her grocery shopping at the A&P every Wednesday.  It was like clockwork.  My Grandmother was Scot's Irish and held true to the stereotype of being very tight with money and could pinch the proverbial penny until it screamed.  She used to take me grocery shopping with her when I was a kid.  I remember she would spend $50.00 and would come out with a cart stuffed full of food.  In those days things were somewhat cheaper but most of it had to do with her finding a deal.  It wasn't unusual to see her snag a whole flat of generic (remember the black and white label stuff) canned goods to keep in the pantry for later use.

I, after enough shopping trips with her, was banned from future trips to the A&P!  I used to sneak stuff into the shopping cart without her looking.  The five dollar box of cereal, or the overpriced jar of something got slid into the cart and went unnoticed until she got home and read the receipt! She quickly caught on and suddenly my shopping cart embezzlement was quickly halted! 

My Grandmother was a product of her generation. She grew up during the Great Depression.  Her husband was shipped to Saipan during World War II and was there for several years.  She saw the gas shortages during the 70's. She lived during a time where you had to watch every penny.  I can remember stories of flour sack dresses and feed sacks used for shoes because she had no money then. I always thought that it was odd that she saved things like used tin foil, or washed out zip lock bags and reused them, or saved plastic forks and knives.  I thought how weird...isn't that the point of disposable stuff?



I think that young people now have no idea about what it means to live without excess.  Think about it.  Even my own generation has lost touch.  We live during a time where more is better.  Everything is disposable! If it breaks throw it away and buy new.  If your DVD, TV, or Microwave break you don't get them repaired, you throw them away and add them to the voracious landfills that are growing larger and larger by the day. Nothing is made to last.  Clothes don't last, even though you pay through the nose for anything decent or original looking. Electronics don't last. Your average laptop is obsolete after five years, if it makes it that long.  Televisions don't last anymore.  The old hulking sets that used to last for 30 years have been replaced by the new plasma with a lifespan of six or seven years and then off to the landfill they go along with billions of pounds of non biodegradable plastic that will outlive future generations.

Bigger, better, faster, cheaper, and most of all MORE.  LOTS of it!  Think about the whole concept of Christmas, Valentines, and Easter these days.  Its not about religion, or about family and loved ones anymore.  Its about how much stuff can I buy to outdo everyone else.   How many gifts can I accumulate that will sadly end up in a landfill in about a year?  How much candy can I stuff my already overweight kids face with for Easter?  How much money can I spend on that big fat diamond for my girlfriend that someone in Africa got paid next to nothing to dig out of  the earth?  (yeah, if you want to see how nice the diamond industry is watch "Blood Diamond." Entire villages chopped with machetes and murdered because some greedy bimbo somewhere in the world needs a sparkly for her finger)

If you don't believe me look at the news to see where our ideals have gone.  A few weeks ago I saw a video of people being trampled and injured in a Target store on Black Friday.  People will trample you to get the bargain on that toaster! When did it happen that human lives are of less value than a fucking piece of plastic that will be soon forgotten after the gift is opened? Work faster, harder, because we need MORE stuff! Don't spend time with your kids because you have to work 24/7 to support your lifestyle. Shove some fast food garbage down their throat and ship them off to the mall-b-sitter. It's very very sad.....

I think my Grandmother had the right idea.  I used to make fun of her but at least she realized that it isn't about more and it isn't about worrying what the neighbor has that you don't.  (for all of you supposed Christians out there, need I remind you of "thou shall not covet"....hmmmm...guess that gets forgotten about this time of year!) It is about being there for the people who love you. 

Lets all take time to think about what the holidays are supposed to be about....and actually spend time with the people we love for the right reasons, because we love them! I feel very blessed to have some very great people in my life right now...and someone who cares very much about me, and to me...they are worth more than any big screen television or diamond could ever be!

16.12.10

A New Day....

Well, I woke up this morning and the same ugly gray clouds are still hanging around.  I hate to think this, but I am sure that they will hang around until April.  UGH!  I need sun.  I think I will go to the fake bake today and soak up some toxic UV rays in the tanning bed. Nothing like a little cancer inducing radiation to brighten your day. 

I am meeting a coworker and friend for lunch this afternoon to get out of the house for a while. Hopefully that will elevate my mood a bit. Even my dog doesn't want to come out from under his blanket! 

15.12.10

Complicated Disaster



Today, several people called me to ask me why I haven't written in my blog for a few days.  I thought about it myself. I sat in my office for a while, on the floor, staring up at the candle sculpture with the large Buddha statue silhouetted by the flickering candle light, staring down at me intently from the shelf, and I felt empty.  More empty than I have felt in quite a while.  I sat and thought about what was going on in my head just as "Complicated Disaster" came on the stereo. Some days I feel like my life is a complicated disaster.  I know that I am not alone, but some days is sure does feel like it.

The last few days have been rough for me.  I haven't been paid for the leave that I took and my resources are stretched beyond thin and it has added a huge amount of stress for me.  Dan has been in a terrible mood and I think we are feeding off from each other which is not good. Part of me feels like I made a huge mistake by even going on leave but the other part tells me that it was something that I needed to do. I needed to take care of me for once.

I think that the biggest thing for me right now is feeling like I am letting people down and letting myself down.  I hate my job at UPMC, I can honestly say that, but feeling like a total loser with no money is not fun either.  I feel like I am letting someone who I care a lot about down.  I want them to be proud to be with me and right now I don't even feel proud of myself. I know that this situation wont last forever, this no money thing, but it is starting to feel that way.  I want out.  I want a new job more than anything. I want my life to be normal more than anything.  I don't know when it became so complicated...actually I do....it was complicated before I even came into being. 

I truly believe that some people are predestined to have a complicated life and I think that we are given that for a reason.   As much as I have hated parts of my life I still wouldn't trade it in.  My life has allowed me to be able to feel, to be able to be empathetic, to be fully awake.  I look at others and sometimes I see empty shells.  People who are dead on the inside.  Unable to feel.  Unable to experience love, or pain, or anything for that matter. People who have no compassion for anyone or anything.  If having a complicated life is the only way for me to see life and to feel life then I am glad for it. 



The Phoenix

My yesterdays were burned by Phoenix fire
Yet in the death’s ash, embers of hope remain
New dreams given birth in despair
Covered with ash, I mourn what was
To remember what will be no more
Then like the Phoenix I’ll rise
With renewed passion glowing red, yellow, orange
Ash will give way to flame
Like the Phoenix I’ll soar again

The Dead Muse

Mind numbing silence, attacks again.

Maybe I should just lose the pen.

Hush sweet poet, for you are now mine.

Cease now with your words, and drop quickly your pen.

I command you, add not another line.

For verse has left you again,

 and this time it shall never return.

So do as I say and weep not,

for your muse has left you and is dead.

Oh but you say, why must I intrude,

Why must I interfere?

Why be so rude?

You know and I know that I am every poet’s dread,

and how dare you say, yet even ask,

what is my name?

You and others like you know it well.

It is sad but oh so true ,

and with dreamers it's always the same.

Oh yes..My name,

I am known as the reality of life.

Reality oh reality I cried,

I shall never hearken to what you say.

I shall never surrender, nor believe your lies.

I will strike my prose again,

and wield yet a mightier pen,

so beware for there is a light at the end


11.12.10

More on Buddhism

I found a site for a gay Buddhist group that meets in Pittsburgh.  I thought that their definition of what Buddhism  is was very well written.....


"Buddhism is a religion that has a special attraction for members of the l/g/b/t community in that its bedrock principles are tolerance, kindness and compassion, and homosexuality is not considered inherently wrong or sinful. Instead, the rules on sexual conduct apply to all equally, without regard to orientation. In Buddhism, especially as practiced in the West, there is no controversy about the role gay and lesbian people play in the religion.

Buddhist communities, known as sanghas, are generally welcoming of l/g/b/t persons and make no distinctions about them. For many in our community, this is a refreshing change from the attitudes frequently encountered in other religions. In other ways, Buddhism is also a different sort of religion than those in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Buddhists do not worship a creator God; the Buddha himself is not worshipped, but rather is considered an historical human being to be emulated. The Buddha also taught that followers of his philosophy should examine his teachings for themselves, and not take them on faith. For this reason, Buddhism is not a dogmatic religion but rather encourages re-evaluation of the teachings based on current conditions.
This allows the religion to be pragmatic and adaptable, while continuing to rest on the foundation of kindness, compassion and wisdom. It is also perfectly acceptable for members of other religions to maintain their original faiths while also participating in Buddhist philosophy and meditation practices.

The Rainbow Buddhists of Pittsburgh are a group of lesbians, gay and bisexual men and women who are active in the various schools and traditions of Buddhism in this region. We support each other and celebrate our fellowship, and can also act as a welcoming entry point for those interested in learning more about our religion. At our monthly meetings we usually have a talk on the dharma (Buddhist teachings), join together in a meditation practice, and also socialize and have refreshments. Anyone is welcome to join us, whether you are curious and want to learn more about Buddhism or already have an established practice.

Buddhism is about reaching a deep understanding of life, and having great compassion for all sentient beings. It sounds simple, but to actually put these principles to action in our lives takes discipline and training of the mind. To this end, many methods have been developed over the centuries. These may include sitting and walking meditations to improve mindful awareness of every moment, or the use of koans- a type of word riddle favored by some Zen practitioners. Tibetan Buddhists may use chanting with visualizations to purify their negative emotions and increase their capacity for positive ones. All of these practices are ultimately about increasing our focus in every moment, seeing the big picture around us rather than being self-centered, and then acting out in a way that is kind and compassionate. Since there are no hard and fast rules for us to blindly follow, we are charged with the responsibility in every moment of assessing a situation and figuring out what is the most compassionate thing to do. For this reason, training the mind to be aware of the moment, rather than anticipating the future or rehashing the past, is especially important to all Buddhists.

The Rainbow Buddhists present an opportunity for people in our community to learn more about Buddhism and the various meditation practices in a friendly, affirming atmosphere. Whether you have studied Buddhist philosophy and have a meditation practice, or are just curious and like to be around people who hold these spiritual values, you are welcome to join us at our monthly meetings."

Taken from the "Rainbow Buddhist Group" site. 
 

Agnes - On And On [Offical Video]

10.12.10

How Kitty Got Her Groove Back

How I managed to get the nickname Kitty is beyond me.  Its a camp thing that seems to have stuck.  One day walking up the lane at camp David P. yelled "hey kitty, whats up?"  From that point forward, I was and probably will forever be known as Kitty. 

Yours truly has spent a whole lot of time during my leave to think about life, love, and my personal state of affairs.  In fact, I have thought and thought until I have become blue in the face thinking about it! Kitty lost her groove a while back and didn't realize it until recently.

I watched Sex and the City 2 tonight and it was sort of ironic because some of the story line sort of parallels a lot of the things that I have been thinking about in my own life.  Yes, I know it is a sappy chick flick but the whole series really did deal with a lot of  issues about life and love. 

One of the characters, Miranda,  was sick of her job and never having any time with her family and friends so she ends up leaving her job and making her life a priority.  Another character, Carrie, was married for two years and her husband decided that it would be great if they spent two nights a week away from each other.  She struggles to deal with this issue and asks herself,  is a relationship supposed to be 24/7 or is it ok to be alone for a while? 

It all felt very familiar.  Dealing with my job which, until recently. was sucking the very life force out of me.  Worrying about my relationship with David and what he meant by needing time to himself.  I, at first, felt like it was something that I was doing wrong, but then realized that it is not so abnormal after all.  People are different, and we all need different things.  When I am upset or sad, I need to be social and to surround myself by people who care.  Some people need the solitude to work though issues and, its ok.  It just took me a while to realize it. I feel more secure about things, and its nice to know that someone loves me that I can trust and not have to worry about. David cares about me for who I am, and I care about him for who he is. It's a great feeling.  Of course, I will still worry...its just my nature and my anxiety.  At least it all makes more sense to me now. I also think that its a function of me not feeling comfortable with myself.  When you are alone, you are the only person that you have to deal with.  If you are not happy with yourself it can be uncomfortable.  Looking in the mirror is the hardest thing for people to do sometimes. 

The show and the movies do a great job of showing what having great friends can really be like. To support each other and work through life and all of its ups and downs and questions together.  

I sometimes miss a lot of my old life. I used to have a lot of friends and would go out on the weekends and paint the town red, so to speak.  It was about being together and just having a great time.  Granted, several cocktails were usually consumed, but it was still more about the fun than the drinking.  It felt great to get dressed up, look good, and dance for hours on end without even getting tired because you were so caught up in the moment. I miss hopping into the car and driving to somewhere for a weekend just on a whim.  No plans, just get in the car, point it toward a city and GO. I remember driving all night once to Baltimore and seeing the sun come up when we got there.  It was so much fun and we didn't care! I also remember a lot of great times with my friend Helen in Baltimore.  Going to Champagne Tonys and having cocktails or hanging out at the Hilton downtown and just listening to music and again more champagne!  Impromptu trips to the beach, fabulous dinners, trips to the BMA....this is the stuff I miss.  Life seemed like it was so much more fun and so much more focused back then.  I am not sure when it all started to change.  When did I become like some old couch potato afraid to even go out at night?  Don't get me wrong, I am all about cuddling under a blanket on the couch with my sweetie and I do love it....but I just feel like my flame, deep down, has gone out.  My drive, my zest for life, my joi de vivre, has changed. 

I have been pretty miserable in my job for quite some time now, and I think that has a lot to do with it.  Never being able to get job stress out of my head.  My life turned into living for UPMCwasnt even living in Miami at the time. I went down with a positive attitude, with an I am not leaving until I get what I want attitude, and it worked!  I want that old person back.  I want the old me back, the person who used to be so positive, and who loved having friends around and felt happy to feel so alive. 

I have spent so much time focusing on the negatives.  About how my job sucks, and how I feel so trapped and alone.  I need to pick myself up, get the old Michael back, and do something! Its time for a change.  I am very happy to have my close friends and David in my life.  He has made me think about so much stuff and made me feel like a good person, one worth caring about ....and I haven't felt that way in such a very long time. Isnt it funny how life works?  How paths cross at certain times for certain reasons.

I want to work on focusing my energy to making changes in my life rather than convincing myself that life is static and will never change.  Kitty is starting to get her groove back!

Its the little things.....


I went out to lunch with my friend David P. today.which was a nice surprise.  He called me and had wanted to borrow some books that I have before his trip to Florida. I guess I need to specify which David from now on.  I know several! He and I started talking about life and all its issues like we usually do.  David had mentioned that a friend of his gave him a yoga mat and a video about yoga and was commenting on how nice it is when people are thoughtful enough to do meaningful things for you.  I agreed.  We were talking about Christmas and how everyone seems to think that you have to spend a million dollars on gifts which have no meaning behind them which I totally don't agree with and that is part of the reason that I have grown to hate the holidays. I would rather have one gift with thought behind it than 100 meaningless gifts given because the person felt like they had to do it.

It truly is the small stuff that counts! Sometimes its just a kind word, or a hug on a really bad day, or maybe a silly card to cheer you up, a phone call to say "hey, I miss you",  or flowers for no reason other than they took the time to think of you.  Stuff like that means way more to me than a diamond ring or an overpriced present for Christmas.  I don't think that a lot of people get that.  We started talking about friends and how we both have had people in our lives who always seem to want something but never give anything in return. The friend who always wants things from you but never seems to have time when it comes to returning the favor! 

Earlier this morning David R. (as in David, the cute Italian sweetie who I adore ) called me and said to bring my car over to his building and that he would help me tape up my taillight.  Not only did he help me tape it up but he crawled under it and tried to fix my fender too.  I thought what a thoughtful and sweet thing to do for me!  It made me feel good to know that he cared enough to even think about it.  Later this evening I went over for dinner and was greeted at the door with a new heater that he picked up at Home Depot. I had mentioned that mine broke a while back! Again, very sweet!

I guess my point is that this is EXACTLY what we were discussing earlier!  It's the small stuff.  The fact that he thought about me and made time in his day to help me out, was worth more to me than a thousand gifts.  To know that someone out there cares, and loves me enough to make time for me, makes me feel very special!

Sometimes the small stuff....is really the big stuff!

Another Mile Marker

David's Blog


Here is a link to my friends blog....check it out....

9.12.10

A Gnome Plug....REALLY???????

Ok.  Now, I am gay so I have seen a lot of weird shit in my day.  Stuff that I have seen and wondered what the hell you do with it and WHY anyone would want to do something with it.  Metal devices that look like they belong on a surgical table and various other things (and NO I don't use them....I have just seen them at clubs and various places).  What would EVER posses someone to make a gnome into a sex toy?  I mean really! Who buys this stuff?!?  Gee, Im sorta bored today so I think ill ram a gnome up my ass!  Not even on my most boring of days would I even consider it plus the wide shoulders and beard must be total hell to deal with. 
Is there some underground gnome fettish that I am not aware of?  My friend Paris had this on his Facebook page.  First of all Paris, I don't even WANT to know what site you went on to find this or even WHY you were on the site.  LOL.

8.12.10

The Stuffed Cabbage Debacle



I had a very nice evening and day with someone special today.  David made a great meal for us last night of homemade eggplant parmigiana.  Actually, it was probably the BEST eggplant parmigiana that I have had and if you know me,  you know I LOVE to eat.   I have a feeling that  David, being full blooded Italian has a little to do with it! It feels so nice to have someone take care of you once in a while, and I will admit that David spoils me and makes me feel very special. Not only is he adorable, and one hell of a cook, but he gives those kind of hugs that sort of make you feel like you are in the safest spot in the universe at the moment. (and if he reads this, I am sure I will get a "be quiet.") 
So....a great dinner, fun evening, trip to the eye doctor, a nice lunch,  and everything was going well UNTIL I came home!

I had promised David that I would make stuffed cabbage for dinner tomorrow so I decided to run to the grocery store.   As I was pulling out into traffic, I decided to back up into the neighbors driveway to turn around....well, a telephone pole decided otherwise!  I never even saw it.  Apparently it was in my blind spot in the hulking car that I drive.  I drive a jeep commander which has practically no rear view at all. In fact, when I hit the pole I was confused because I still couldn't see it...I thought maybe I hit a trash can or something short.  I got out and saw my ENTIRE back tail light broken out along with my fender hanging crooked.  Plastic fenders are just soooo tough you know.  I think I could blow on it and it would crack.

This could NOT have came at a worse time.  I have been on leave, and have not been paid a dime so money is not exactly plentiful right now.  I just had to cancel my vacation to Miami due to lack of funds which totally sucks since the weather here is comparable to Antarctica right now. I haven't seen the sun in weeks and the highs next week are in the teens.  UGH. I am not sure what is going on with my job when I get back. I had hoped to go part time and go back to school but that has been axed.  I have to pass my vascular boards or I will not have a job soon and they are not easy.  There are no other jobs available in my department so its not looking too pretty.  I am dreading returning back to the stress that got me into my health situation to begin with.  I was supposed to go to Baltimore next week but now with a broken car and no money to get it repaired till January I doubt that that will be happening either.

The big finale was calling Dan and telling him that I backed into a pole.  I heard silence, then anger, then the old "how could you be so stupid, this would have never happened if it were me" routine, followed by being hung up on and told that I had better come up with the money somehow to get it fixed. As if I wasn't feeling stupid enough or bad enough.

I called David, who thankfully, talked me off the ledge by telling me that its just a car and its not like you killed someone!   If you know Dan, and I am sure many of you do, you will know that this will not rest until a large argument ensues followed by blame and more anger until I am made to feel like I ran over a dozen puppies and and hit an old lady with a walker on her way to visit her dying husband or something!

I am so trying to stay positive about stuff but when is some GOOD luck going to come my way?  I am trying to focus on the whole "your life is what you think" idea and am trying not to dwell on this. Its not easy. 

I am looking forward to another great evening with David tomorrow ....and hopefully I don't run anyone down on the way to his house! I would recommend avoiding the rear area of the Jeep Commander if you see it barreling down South Negley.

7.12.10

Unexpected Words of Wisdom

The other day I sat down and wrote a poem about life and how it changes.  I was inspired, unexpectedly, by David when I was over for a visit.  We had a rather heated discussion about things and where our lives stand and I was very upset at the time.  David said something profound that made me think.  I was pressing him.  Asking him what was going to happen to us in the future, with our friendship, with our relationship, with life. He looked into my eyes and said "Michael, people change.  Life changes.  I cant tell you that.  I don't know.  I care about you but I cant promise that I will always be here."  At first I was very hurt.  I felt like he didn't care about me.  Why wouldn't he have given me a resounding, "yes, I will always be there." ?  I thought about it afterward for a very long time.  I felt insecure at first.  Like everything that we had shared with each other was an illusion. 

I thought about some of the Buddhist teachings that I have been reading about.  One main thought in Buddhism is that we are all part of life.  Ourselves, the earth, the trees, the ocean, the animals, the sofa in my living room, the food that I eat, everything is part of life, part of one ever changing, ever evolving, thing. Buddhism says that all things change.  I am sitting on my sofa writing this at this very moment.  This couch that I sit on is made of leather and wood which over time will start to break down and decay with age.  While I am writing this, my body is aging.  Cells are dying, dividing, renewing.  Wrinkles are forming ( no mean comments from some of you please, LOL).  The main point is that EVERYTHING changes.  Life is not static.  It is fluid and forever evolving and without change we would never grow as individuals.  Every experience in life happens for a reason. Sometimes you have to look at things in a different way.  Change is not always a bad thing, or a good thing.  Sometimes, it just happens and its a normal part of life.

In reality , David was being the smart one.  He was telling me that he would do his best to be here but life sometimes does what it wants with you. It made me realize that none of us can predict the future and that its ok to enjoy the moment and not stress so much about the future.  If things are meant to be then they will work out.  I sure plan on doing my best to make things work and that is all that I can do. 

Some of the meditation work that I have been doing focuses on being comfortable with how you feel.  We are so conditioned to react a certain way to a given situation.  Meditation makes you clear your mind and then gradually let feelings and emotions flutter by in your mind.  During the process you examine them for what they are.  Just thoughts.  They are there.  They take up space in  your head but it doesn't mean that you HAVE to react to them.  Sometimes you can just let them be.  Be aware that they are there, but not necessarily dwell on them or react to them.  It is ok to feel sad, or happy, or afraid, but you don't have to react in a way that lets them rule your life. You are what you think and if you let them rule your life then that is how your life will be.

I think back to two years ago when a very close friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I would have fallen apart had it been me and I can admit that I probably would have been very negative about it.  Laurie, on the other hand, was so positive about it.  She never missed work during chemo.  She even went kayaking and stayed active during the whole process. In fact, I called her the day of her surgery and I thought for sure that she would be in a ton of pain and a mess, but she answered the phone and told me that she was up eating a cheeseburger and felt fine!  We used to joke about her bald head and said that it was the good luck head and would rub lottery tickets on it for good luck.  We called it cancer luck. The whole process for her was terrifying and I know for a fact that sometimes it got her down but she always managed to pick herself up and keep moving forward.  I thought, wow, what a great thing! I was very proud of her and it turns out that she is fine.  It goes to show you that sometimes life is what YOU make it.  If you let it shove you down then you are only writing your own fate. Nothing is impossible if you try.

6.12.10

The Tempest





Emotions raging with great force
Lashing, thrashing, digging in deep
Whispering, lulling, soft and sweet this mysterious source
Nagging, gnawing, cutting with an edge so sharp and steep
Warm and comforting dull and aching
What is this emotion that is so strong
This tempest with raging waves that has your soul for the taking
One second it seems so right the next it seems so wrong
Love is the source
Unmerciful in its relentless force

Love and Fluidity






Love and Fluidity


As the ethereal wind impetuously sweeps the sands
It pushes the tiny grains to and fro
As with the use of invisible hands
The sands of life so fluid and slow
Forever changing, the grains shift, never ceasing patterns emerging
Every grain, a symbol of ourselves, shifting, never ending
Our lives sifting together, forever surging
Furrows and ridges, always bending
Love shifting and scattering all that it touches to the winds of time
It's passion can leave you empty, or lift you to the sublime.

M. Bell

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