Monday, September 25, 2006

The Tour of Doodie

This weekend, I was in Chicago unpacking Pods. On a promotional level, these things freaking rock. You get five days to pack as much stuff in them as possible and then the pod people come and take it away. They'll hold it for $100/month until your stupid kid flies back into town to unpack it you are ready to load it in your new home.

Now, I packed Pod #1 so everything inside didn’t come as a surprise. I knew all the crap in it. Pod #2 was like receiving a giant birthday present and finding Mattel’s Barbie Enema Kit when you unwrapped it. Holy crap. The highlight item from this Pod was 72 bricks and paving stones. Uh huh—rocks. I moved rocks. It was painful as my brother and I unpacked each item, but the good news is that all this stuff is out of the old house. The movers will handle everything else.

My brother’s wife had us come over for lunch. They only live a mile from my parent’s new house, so it was easy to break and have a nice home-cooked meal waiting. My brother has two kids; a son who is 4 and a daughter who is 1. The son and I get along well. He’s a bit on the hyper/excited side, but he’s a great kid.

After lunch, we all played a bit before heading back to the Pods. My nephew announced that he had to go to the bathroom and took off. We all chatted for another 5 minutes until he began shouting from the toilet. My brother got up to check on him and then a loud voice echoed through the house. “I want Unka Steve!”

I lifted my aching body from the floor and headed over to the bathroom door. My brother was smiling. “What’s up?” I asked.

My nephew looked up. “You’re my favorite. I want you to wipe my butt.”

Don’t Let Go

“Don’t let go.”

The other week, the three of us had gone swimming. Our son has not wanted to be in the baby pool any longer so we’ve graduated to the big pool. In order to give him more stability, we bought a pair of water wings, inflatable plastic devices that go around his arms, to hold him up. However, on our last visit, the lifeguard said these weren’t allowed and he had to take them off. Reluctantly, we removed them and gave him fair warning that he wouldn’t automatically stay above water. He didn’t like moving away from the edge of the pool.

“Don’t let go, Daddy.”

“Buddy, I’ll never let you go,”

This weekend, I was back at my parents still helping them with this insane move. During one of our breaks, I relayed the swimming story to my folks. My mom did her standard grandma response; “Oh that is so cute. What a darling little boy.” My dad just nodded, smiled and continued moving boxes.

After my mom left to go direct other move ‘volunteers’, my dad looked over and responded as if the conversation were now continuing since my mom wouldn’t control it. “Not much more time left for that, you know.”

“For what?” I asked.

“Hanging on. Independence comes quick.” My dad is an amazingly wise man when not in the company of his wife.

“In a year or two, he’ll be learning to ride a bike without training wheels. You’ll be running along side, balancing the bike to make sure he doesn’t fall. Then all of sudden, he tell you to ‘Let go’. It happens just like that. One minute, you’re support; the next you just watch.”

At once, I saw my own life changing. My son growing up and learning to make decisions on his own; realizing both the joy and sadness of child discovering how to live for himself. Childhood replaced by choice and consequences.

My father and I continued to move boxes; from the house where he’d been the dad of two little boys to the house where he’s a granddad to two little boys. I couldn’t help but feel the twinge of sadness as I realized this old house was where my brother and I ‘let go’ of many things to become the men we are now.

Sunday afternoon, I was dropped off at the airport. My body was in sheer agony from twelve hours of climbing stairs with heavy boxes, but a trip well spent…for many reasons. I kissed my mom and told her what a great housed they purchased. It’s been an agonizing choice for her to move, so she really needed the validation.

Then I went to other side of the car. My dad always puts out his hand, though we’ve hugged for as long as I can remember. I just hugged him and then as he started pulling away, I said quietly, “Promise me, you won’t ever let go.”

He held on a little longer and was smiling as we released.

My son and I will go swimming again this week. We’ll paddle around together. We’ll practice putting our face in the water. We’ll keep learning how to kick. And he’ll tell me not to ‘let go’.

“I won’t let go…not until you need me to, buddy.”


PS Thanks to M&Co from My Own Circle of Confusion who nominated me for a Sept. Perfect Post.

A Perfect Post


Hanging on for as long as you can

Friday, September 22, 2006

Random Nothings

Sorry for the absence of entries this week. I've had a huge project at work this week and now I'm flying out to Chicago again in a few hours.

If you remember from this post six weeks ago, my folks are moving from their house of 31 years. The problem is... they freaking haven't even listed the old house. Instead, they've taken possession of the new one, but haven't yet moved. However, they've hired the new lawn boy, they've met the neighbors, and they've dug up the plants from their current yard and transplanted them in the new house (don't ask).

And this weekend, two giant pods of shit valuable, sentimental items are being dropped off at the new house this weekend. I'm being the dutiful, non-complaining (blogs don't count) son and flying out there to unload it all.

Wish me luck. And I promise, better posts to come.

Some Questions You Never Want Asked

Monday, September 18, 2006

Where For Art Thou: A Web Site Review

There’s a new site online that I was asked to review, which highlights outdoorsy places: everything from national parks to state parks to city parks. Sponsored by Nature Valley, it allows users to post reviews, ratings and photos of the location. Each place is categorized by up to 20 types of activities and the web site allows you to select locations matching the specific activities.

The best part about it is that it really is user driven. The registration is simple and reviews are pretty straightforward, similar to other opinion driven web sites, but this focuses on the outdoors. The search aspect is highly intelligent and the most recently added or viewed is a great way to begin going through some of what the site has to offer.

What the site lacks is a basic tutorial or instruction page covering the options. If you stumble into this web site, there is nothing describing what you should do or how you should or could use it. I also was disappointed it didn’t connect to actual national park web sites. Obviously, that’s due to the individuals posting, but still a huge component that I thought was missing.

The map feature allows for some great ways to connect into camping or hiking locations if you’re on a road trip. There is also a great mouse-over feature that allows you to see the location without having to connect to the specific posting.

Over a neat site, but I’d recommend the opportunity to either map out the directions or actually connect to the individual parks.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

The World Gets a Little Smaller

Yesterday was a milestone for us. We reached out to a world of our own.

There is a group in DC called Rainbow Families and Saturday afternoon was their annual picnic. About 150 gay families all got together for the afternoon and celebrated being families.

Like the straight world, there are so many different types of people; people can enjoy NASCAR, bird watching, theater, sports, bingo or gambling. You can watch Murder She Wrote, Grey’s Anatomy or Discovery Channel. So many different things for many different types of people.

We don’t know a lot of others in our situation. Most of our gay friends go to clubs, to Rehoboth or to the ballet. We can certainly enjoy some of those activities (well, not ballet) but it’s not really the core of who we are.

But yesterday we joined gay men who were looking for sippy cups, grabbing for diaper wipes and cutting grapes into quarters. We were with lesbians who were putting on bibs, fixing Elmo Band-Aids and wiping noses. Families like ours. Over fifty children who had either two dads or two moms.

Between chasing the kids on the playgrounds, introductions between the adults would occur and the story of how each came about being a father or mother would follow. The stories were varied and endless. Adoptions, surrogates, invitro; each person had a different beginning with the same ending.

There was a sense of community and validation we had not experienced in a long time. Here were people who didn’t care about clubs. They knew the words to Finding Nemo and had diaper bags. They were called “daddy, papa, papi or mama, mimi, and mommy.” They were like us.

The best benefit of all was that I finally got to meet Brian of Story of the Turtle. We’ve corresponded and commented on each other’s blogs for months and yesterday we met for the first time.

In cyberspace, a person becomes what you want them to be. You know their words and emotions, but you really don’t know the person. Meeting for the first time is always an interesting experience. My biggest worry always is, “Gosh, will I be as funny in person as I am online?” My guess is that I fail in that arena, but it really doesn’t matter. The cable modem seems to disappear as you begin to know someone outside of his or her blog.

So Brian and I met for the first time. We met each other’s partners and sons. And for those few moments we didn’t have to chase the boys, we actually got to chat as dads. Nice to finally meet another blog friend.

Three hours went fast but we never enjoyed ourselves more. We joined a group of people like us and we decided to do more things with them. For us. For our son.

Yesterday, all we really were a family.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bump & Grind

I hate flavored coffee, always have. Nothing goes in my coffee. No sugar. No milk or cream. It's my heart.

At Starbucks, the most I'll do to alter the coffee is put the 'heat condom' around the cup. (It's made from 90% recycled paper, in case you didn't know.)

Someone once made me sign up for Gevaila so they could receive a free coffee maker. In return, became the proud owner of raspberry-mint coffee, hazelnut-pumpkin coffee and some other nasty-ass crap that even Juan Valdez would have thrown up on.

Nope, nothing in my coffee. That was until we went to Santa Fe with some friends.

For the record, I hated the trip to Santa Fe. We stayed a B&B and that confirmed that I'm totally not a B&B person. 20 people in the kitchen by 7:30 all wanting to be friendly. Not my thing. Plus the entire town had the faux-southwestern theme going on. Everything was Red Chili Pepper theme...and I don't mean the group with Flea. Even our friends had their own agenda of what to see. None of it interested us.

Larry and I were bored shitless there until we went to a small independent coffee place and just hung out there. I mentioned to the woman there how I hated flavored coffee. She nodded and then brought me a cup of something. "Try this," she said. "Most people who like plain coffee seem to like it."

He sipped. And he saw that it was good.

So for this month, I present to you New Mexico Pinon Coffee. This would be where I'd write an incredibly brilliant section about Pinon trees and their seeds, but frankly, why bother when there's a great explanation on the New Mexico Pinon Coffee site. I'd just bore you...worse than an entire article on great coffee.

With a buy 1 & get 1 half price, it's a hard deal to beat. The coffee has a hearty taste and is the perfect fall-weather coffee. It's aromatic and doesn't have that acidic aftertaste. (Oh God, I'm sounding like those International Coffee commercials where they feature a mom & daughter talking about that not-so-fresh feelings, aren't I?)

But the best part, is that by purchasing this coffee, you don't have travel all the way to Santa Fe. (hey, that rhymes.)


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Break Like the Wind

Some days go just like clockwork.

I always leave the office around 4:45. It's a five-minute walk to Metro, 40 minutes of riding with a transfer at Metro Center and then a 15-minute walk home from Silver Spring. I know exactly where to stand on which platform so that as the doors open, I'm in front of the appropriate escalator. Freaking clockwork baby.

Since I transfer trains, I rarely get a seat, but frankly, it's just good to stand. The iPod plays and I can keep in time with the music as my body sways with the train movements. It's like commuter dancing.

When I get on the train at Foggy Bottom, I try to be the last to enter. Then I’m at the correct set of doors when they open three stops away at Metro Center. It’s a carefully orchestrated system. Today went exactly as planned.

Van Halen was playing as I entered. “Dreams” from 5150. I can still remember the video, which featured the Blue Angels. Utter Perfection of a song.

I’m in my own world as I face the doors. Being underground, I can see the reflection over my shoulder as the other passengers fill the train at each station. It’s getting crowed, but the song drowns out the commuters. We’re getting close to Metro Center. I know my routine; to the left, up the escalator, another left and two car lengths down. Seriously, more utter perfection. The train rocks through the tunnels, the passengers all prepare for the mass departure and I….

I fart.

Holy shit, I totally fart.

I feel my ass quiver as the gas releases. For moment, I think it’s my imagination, but no, my ass moved. “Dude,” I say to myself, “You farted.” Omigosh, did they hear it? And I panic because I’m not certain if it was silent. So I do what any man would do…

I ignore it. I scrape my shoes to make flatulent sounds as to confuse the commuters. I cough and hope that mimics a farting sound. (Please dear God, don’t let the fart smell.) A 30-second lifetime later, we pull into the station. I make no eye contact and head out the door. Do I walk as far away from these folks? Damn no, I’d destroy the routine. Do I look back? Are you kidding?!?

I pucker my ass as I run up the escalator, praying not to spray another set of unsuspecting travelers. Hopefully, there is a train just waiting to depart that I can jump into as it pulls away. No luck. Instead there is a delay and I must wait among the gas-guzzlers.

I continue listening to my music, pretending the fart incident never happened. I contemplate the lunch I ate and silently wonder what caused the expulsion.

The only thing that makes me feel better is that I still adhered to the Metro rules: You can not have device that makes noise unless you are using headphones.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Long Ride Home

I got an email from my friend Jennifer last night. We rode home together 5 years old today as we evacuated downtown DC.

She & I, along with our boss Lisa, had started at Imagine a few months earlier. I remember having gotten a voice mail from Larry saying the first tower in New York was hit. It didn’t take long for the staff of 125 to gather around the few TVs scattered throughout the office. Workers balanced the information gathering with little trips back to their desk to answer phones and check emails.

Then second plane hit and all interest in work abandoned. The few people with relatives in NYC began frantically making phone calls.

Then it became real for us. Less than a mile away, smoke began pillaring up from the Pentagon. Outside, buildings forced people out to the streets like a unified fire drill. For all that Imagine wasn’t, it was good evacuations. Management made the speedy decision to close and advised personnel there would be 4 minutes to grab what you needed and leave for the day. We were required to take two pone numbers with us; your supervisor’s and another co-worker’s. A reverse phone tree was created to account for everyone.

Jennifer lived down the street from me so I piled into her car. The status of our metro system was unknown and there were unconfirmed accounts of bombings at the State Dept and planes still heading for DC. The Capitol and White House were still potential targets. Jen & I currently worked one block from the White House.

For 90 minutes, we drove the 6 miles home. Lisa was behind us attempting to drive to Maryland in order to back track to Virginia. Commutes were unheard of that day, but yet no one complained. In fact, more people took in others while traffic dissipated.

Jen frantically called her husband and I put in calls to Larry’s office. Both were futile so we kept leaving messages. We inched along through traffic. When I got home, Larry was there. I had expected him to be locked up in Virginia given they had closed all the bridges linking DC with Virginia. My reputation for not listening continued as he reminded me about his doctor appt. earlier that morning.

Like other cities, DC changed that day. There were Humvees on every corner for weeks with soldiers and M16s in them. We learned that the plane crash in Pennsylvania had been originally targeting a national icon less blocks from where we worked. And people were less trusting, but at the same time, more friendly than they had been.

In a strange twist of fate, my office is moving in May 2007. It has been narrowed down two buildings, their first choice being Vermont Ave… the same building I was in on 9/11.

Imagine, as well as the other tenants, had to leave so the building could be remodeled back in 2005. In the search for new tenants two years later, my current company is most likely signing a lease to fill one of the empty floors.

I will probably be the only person employed in that building who was there five years ago. In some strange way, I will miss not having Jen and Lisa there with me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona...

We spent last weekend in Tucson visiting friends. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. It’s like Phoenix-lite, only better.

Our friends Richard and Steve bought a house there two years ago and tried to convince us to follow. With two careers solidified in DC non-profits, it would have been a tough move for us. But having stayed there for 5 days, I’d say they made a great decision.

Richard and I have known each other for almost 12 years, having survived the dreadful world of Community Theater. Vowing never to step foot there again, we stayed friends through failed romances (his) and anonymous conquest (again his). He is the most brilliant writer I know (after you all, of course) and is the 2nd best Boggle player I know. In 2005, after making me clean out their attic for their move, they rewarded me with 12 rose bushes and various other plants from their garden. (It was late fall and the new owners would be none the wiser that we stole them from the garden.)

We had a great weekend of rest and relaxation on the homestead and were wowed with the assortment of wildlife. Snakes, Javelinas, quail, and rabbits all graced their front yard. A scorpion was found dead under the bath mat in their bedroom, which then encouraged me to wear shoes the remainder of the trip.

We spent much of the five days just exploring and seeing what Tucson has to offer. That included Majestic Bowling Lanes, The Desert Museum and even caught the traveling show of the Lion King . We went to delicious restaurants and met their friends… who Richard thinks are totally hot. (Truthfully, they’re not bad!)

The only downside to the trip was that our luggage was lost…on a direct flight no less. We stopped in Phoenix (without changing planes) and our bag decided to venture onto Denver instead.

So if you happened to be in Tucson last weekend and saw two gay men in matching shirts and shorts, putting on deodorant on the bench in front of Target…umm that wasn’t us.