Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rescuing Stanley

I grew up with birds. My father and I were both allergic to dogs and cats so we got birds instead. Yes, I do have dogs now, but that was because I was still in the infancy of my relationship and the assimilation of real estate had not yet occurred. A dog is one of the many sacrifices one makes early on to later establish being the dominant spouse. The 2nd dog was just a moment of weakness.

When our pups pass, we’ve realized that it would not be fair to purchase new dogs since we will be most likely out & about involved in soccer, clubs, etc. Not wanting to have a stage without pets, I slipped the idea of birds to Larry much the same way one would their spouse a valium in their wine. (Hey, I didn’t say I did it, just that it’s similar.)

So leaving out many of the details, I asked and he agreed that we could eventually get birds. A week later, I brought home a parakeet that I brought on Craigslist. She was blue and we named her Dory, in honor of the little blue fish in our son’s favorite movie. After seeing a picture of the bird, my mother informed us that Dory was indeed a boy. Rather than deal with gender identification issues, we dropped the name Dory immediately.

While we struggled through replacement names, I decided to look into getting the former-Dory, a friend. The cage was big enough and birds are naturally social creatures. I decided the sensible thing was to rescue a bird from an animal shelter.

One Thursday evening, I drove to the Arlington Animal Welfare League. After finding Honey, who I thought would be a good match to not-yet-named-bird-at-home, I inquired about the adoption process. Keep in mind that many people here are volunteers and on the volunteer ladder, these folks are about one notch below volunteer librarians. Paperwork then needed to be filled out and it was so heavily focus on dogs & cats that I left much of it blank.

The blank responses puzzled Tom, my young volunteer. He had to ask other volunteers (imagine the collective intelligence at work) if I needed to bring in my other animals to meet this bird. He was unsure whether a home visit was required or not. (FYI-it doesn’t however you need to bring in a picture of the cage.) And most importantly, have the other family members had a chance to meet Honey?

I laughed out loud but Tom didn’t smile back. I said, “You want Larry to come meet Honey? Tom, it’s a bird.” Tom consulted his paperwork and indicated that the rules said all family members must meet the animals. I cursed myself at being so accurate on these forms.

My explanation went like this; “Tom, there are some people who view birds as pets and others who view them as accessories. A gay man’s programming is to view EVERYTHING as his accessory. Larry is such a man. I promise he will not intentionally kill the bird, but you need to understand he’s earning spousal points by indulging me.”

“I can do this over the phone if that’s easier,” he says. So in the middle of National Airport, my partner moved us one step closer to adopting Honey.

At this point, Tom informs me that I need to interview with a counselor. “Didn’t I just do that with you?” I ask. Tom says, “I’m a dog & cat counselor. You need to meet with a critter counselor and none of them are here.” Wow, who new counseling had such specialties.

The next morning, I’m back again meeting with John or Joe or whoever. He’s about 150 years old and knows birds. I regale him with my knowledge and experience, using buzz words like Millet Seeds, Cuttle Bones and Blood Feathers, that only a bird owner would know. I mention having had four birds that all lived past 10 years of age. The Geezer nods and proceeds to read about bird care from a 25-page manual.

My patience snaps when he covers giving the bird fresh water each day. I say, “(Name), if I had four birds live as long as they did, don’t you think I changed the water daily?” Critter-man looked at me as though he hadn’t really understood my point.

As I left, I thanked him and said I’d be back at the end of the day to pick up Honey. He inquired about the cage and I replied, “Little Tom said I could borrow a critter-carrier to get the bird home.” I was then informed that the birds could not be put into the same cage for at least two weeks due to territorial issues. Of course, Larry & I had the same issue when we had to share our first closet.

A trip to Petco and 24 hours later, I’m back for my third and final visit. Honey gets put into the cage and Rhonda (or whatever), another volunteer says I need to sign my contract. It reads like this: Do I promise to take the animal to a vet in the first two weeks? Um, Rhonda, birds don’t go for annual check-ups? “Really?” she asks? “Yep, the critter dude told me,” I lied. Do I promise to give up any babies should the animal become pregnant? Huh? Etc, etc.

Here I was, able to bring a child in to the world with two lesbians and it required less effort than adopting this freaking bird.

It’s hard to do the right thing. Three days of hell buying a bird that cost $7 more than Petco plus a major amount of spousal points.

So Dory & Honey have now become Stanley & Floyd. They argue and bicker like old ladies. They snuggle and chatter like best friends. A lot like their canine siblings and their crazy dads.

And as my friend Jenni likes to point out so eloquently, “You guys are racists against women!! There isn't a vagina in sight over there!”

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Diaper Geni-us

Corey is now 2½ and on the verge of being potty trained. I cannot tell you what a blessing is. Now, I certainly change a tenth of the diapers that his moms change, but let’s face it, diapers suck.

During our parenting experiences so far, Larry has managed to escape the diaper-changing process. In all fairness, he has put one diaper on Corey. I felt it important that he learn how the system works. “Do these Velcro things go in the front or back?” he asked. Then he attempted to wrap the ties so tight it resembled an 18th century corset.

Larry does help with the poopies. He won’t acknowledge them, mind you. Corey can enter a room, loaded for business and Larry will just pretend he doesn’t smell a thing. Or worse, he’ll say something noncommittal like, “I think the dogs have some gas.”

We’ve made a game of the poopy diapers; the turd shot-put. After removing the offending undergarment, it’s double wrapped in a plastic grocery sack and taken to the back porch. Where the driveway and alley meet, reside our garbage cans. From the porch above, Larry lofts the diaper and attempts to land it on one of the cans. No points are earned or prizes awarded; just the satisfaction of a job well done and a smell distanced.

For those attempting this at home, we recommend double bagging the excrement. One too many times we’ve learned that a heavy cargo combined with a lofted trajectory brings about disastrous consequences. And you think picking up after your dog is nasty?

This past weekend was again more learning opportunities in the toilet world. Capacity and water displacement are key issues that play games with the distracted parent. We hosted a BBQ on Saturday for about 20 people. By nature, our people are born entertainers and it is challenging to balance the aura of plate presentation with the responsibilities of fatherhood. There is not a parent out there who will not understand the phrase: “10 lb. diaper.”

For those unfamiliar with the concept, let’s just say that Huggies are so absorbent that urine will leak out the sides before getting the child wet. And nine hours of worrying more about pulled pork and cream puffs creates a diaper the size of a small ham. As you watch your child struggle to walk as this growth begins to take over his shorts, you realize that you won’t be chosen for the “Gay Daddy of the Year” award.

However my biggest dilemma came from those wonderful training devices called “pull-ups.” Day care has begun the process of potty training. (This to my mother’s chagrin since she often refers to Corey as a “Day-care baby” … as if was the equivalent being a Thalidomide child.) After picking Corey up from day-care on Friday, his ‘daily report card’ said he’d wore only his Blue Clues underwear and stayed dry for 4.5 hours. (This will lead into a later column on why adults can’t have characters on their underwear. Personally, I would choose the plumber from Desperate Housewives.)

Anyway, I was so proud of Corey that I changed his pull-up at home and instead of substituting it for a diaper, exchanged it for another one. He also insisted on having the Blue Clues underwear returned, so I crammed the pull-up into the underwear.

As if shit seeks out a fresh location, the pull-up was filled in 15 minutes. Carefully, I removed the pants and underwear to begin the changing process. Theoretically, these pull-ups are supposed to rip right off. Emphasize the word THEORETICALLY! UMM, they didn’t this time. Seriously, I’m not stupid, but these wouldn’t rip. And with this deposit, let’s just say you wouldn’t want a lot of fabric movement going on.

Without going into graphic detail, daddy got the pull-up off. It wasn’t pretty and I once again was reminded of the balance between too many fruits and not enough cheese.

The kid was happy five minutes later and this time the diaper went on for good. I have a new found respect for day-care workers because I once again could never get through this aspect of child-rearing.

I hear stories of kids who learn this potty process in like two days. I’m guessing that’s done separately from dinner party weekends.


Friday, May 06, 2005

It's the cheesiest!

Like everyone else, we’ve been trying to eat healthier these days. Increased fish and produce; less cookies and fast foods. Larry serves more vegetables at our dinners (yes, he cooks) and I continue experimenting with completely radical food choices. We are now eating Pad Thai with Tofu every other week.

Although its packaging resembles a silicon breast implant, Tofu is a pretty decent food. Honestly, it’s all about the marinating. If done right and served with enough complimentary foods, you can barely tell you’re eating something that didn’t breathe.

Another thing I’ve been doing to improve our health is switching out the normal supermarket foods for healthier versions from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. We substituted Trader Joe’s Spanish rice for the old Rice-a-Roni. Whole Foods veggie chips reside in our pantry instead of Tostitos.

Two weeks ago, I ventured in the world oxy-moronic quest of finding healthier Mac & Cheese. Now I love this shit; seriously it’s my chocolate, my porn, my Vicodin (just trying to cover all possible obsessions). In aisle 2 of Trader Joes (there are only 4 aisles) you can now find All Natural Macaroni & Cheese. One would think that just by the name, I should be worried. And yet as a Director of Marketing, I fell for their creative advertising and took the box home.

For the record, there are two camps in the Mac & Cheese; powdered cheese or Velveeta. I am in the second camp. I love that it already is a cheese (as much as Velvetta is) as opposed to having to “create” your cheese by adding milk & butter. How can cheese be created that easily? Plus, the powder always coagulates and never blends the way it should. Unfortunately, my new All Natural Cheese is powdered based. I sigh and overcome my general disappointment.

As I’m boiling the noodles and creating my cauldron, I read box back of my new healthy alternative in cheese-based side dishes. I stand there mystified. There are TWO Nutrition Facts charts.

TWO? How can there be freaking two?

Trader Joe’s has put nutrition information based on whether the product is served cooked ... OR DRY? Yes seriously ... Dry!

Is it just me or would people ACTUALLY eat this food dry? I’m puzzled as I begin creating my cheese.

Can you honestly serve this to your two kids and saying that Bobby can crack his teeth on dried pasta while Susie sucks down some cheese powder? Eat up kids, because you are getting 10% of the recommended daily allowance of Calcium.

(And by the way, the scariest fact is that adding the milk and butter to the sauce only increases the calcium by another 5%!)

I curse as the powder congeals and my saturated fat level increased 27% because I chose the other method of eating this product: Cooked!

I’m going back to my Velveeta.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

My Ass is Smokin'

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Larry & I enjoy having things done for us. By nature, our people prefer being catered to. So who are we to mess with the evolutionary process?

We recently bought a new SUV and went for all the bells & whistles. At a time when a gallon of gas is rivaling a pack of cigarettes, only the two of us would purchase a car that runs solely on premium gas. No hybrids for us; give us something with seven seats and ten cup holders.

With this new vehicle come special features that like many new owners, we learn the hard way. See gay men don’t read manuals; we play with every button and knob until it either works … or breaks. And thus was the education with our new MDX.

The MDX is a lazy man’s dream car. Somewhere embedded among all the things that don’t really matter to me like alternators, break pads and timing belts, there exists a vehicular intellect. Something so innate, the car reacts to outside forces before the synapses in our brains tell us an action needs to occur.

Drive into a parking garage, and the lights automatically illuminate. Is there something following you with their brights on? Not a problem, the rear-view mirror will dim the reflection to make it easier on your eyes. As you put the car into reverse, the right side mirror angles down so that you can see how close you are to the curb.

And most impressive, the windshield knows when it’s wet. Seriously! My son’s diapers are not this advanced. The freaking windshield wipers will turn on when they sense moisture. They’ve gone on when the car in front of us washes its windows and spray from their car lands on ours. It’s a technology I adore. This is what gay men live for!

And yet with all this expertise, there lies one flaw. Like the perfect lover who somewhere in the relationship fails your expectations.

As we drove home from Charlottesville this past weekend, from a visit with our dear friends, Grace & Bob, we were enjoying a leisurely ride home. The sun was shining on this gorgeous spring day and wind was lightly dancing through the open car as we propelled through the countryside. The sun was in the west, so it shone onto the driver side.

At first, the wind helped keep me cool, but as time progressed, the heat became unbearable. We shut the windows and turned on the air. Sweat began trickling down my forehead as I continued increasing the cold and downing bottled water. I grew more and more uncomfortable. Finally, I pulled over to remove my soaked long-sleeve shirt and change into a tee shirt.

Larry looks over and says, “Babe, you had the seat warmer on high for the past 45 minutes.”

It seems that moisture can only be detected on windshield and not on my back or neck. My vehicular soul mate has finally made known its weakness. SIGH.