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Seething Cakes of Hatred

Making pancakes, as I learned at AP's birthday bash at the beach this weekend, is an unbelievably tedious chore. I don't know why I...

Friday, July 28, 2006

We are Huge

Photo by Windy City Times for Gay Games VII

When I left Chicago on Sunday, I brought with me a feeling of enormousness. Not from the Chicago stuffed pizza that took me two days to finish, but from the enormity of our community. We have hearts that are huge, and we have power that is unbelievable.

Being part of a community that is considered a "minority" can be challenging and, sometimes, discouraging. We watch our friends plan weddings knowing that we can't have the same right. We hear that our lives are an abomination, and that our love is nothing more than uncontrollable lust. We are sometimes tempted to hide our truth, or at least water it down.

At Gay Games VII, I often felt overwhelmed by emotion. Thousands of athletes and fans from all over the world assembled for the opening and closing ceremonies. No picture, sound recording or video could ever truly capture the power of those events. You had to be there. You had to feel the energy.

We face heartbreaking setbacks, but we endure. Anti-gay protestors shout condemnation and rant about our alleged sins, but we remain strong. We should be proud of ourselves.

Sometimes we do things to each other that are shameful. We divide ourselves into subcategories of gays, lesbians, transexuals, bisexuals. The muscularity of our bodies or beauty of our faces or number of wrinkles on our skin are brought into focus, or, worse, cause us to be completely ignored by others in our community. We fight amongst ourselves and belittle one another. It's sad when we act just like everybody else.

We're not like everybody else. Never have been. It is time for us to seize our power, and the only way to do that is become unified. Stop feeling alone, because you're not. Instead, reach out and find your family. We're here, and we're huge.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The People in My Neighborhood

In case you've been wondering about them....

1. Auburn Pisces is alive and well (and happy). She's taking a break from blogging, but I know she'll eventually be back. I made sure she knows people are asking about her!

2. The Handsome Prince and The Math Whiz are still together. In fact, they are getting married next spring! We still hang out, and we adore each other. It's just that I don't have as many stories about them since I no longer live with them.

3. My boyfriend is being incredibly elusive. I've been single for almost a year, which is a record for me. I don't know who he is or where he is or when he is showing up, but I seem to be doing fine without him. Pony told me the other day that he likes me better "this way". Whatever that means!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pride and Spirit

Photo by John Faier

Gay Games VII was life-changing and powerful. I wish that everyone could experience the spirit of the event at least once in his or her life. I have so many wonderful memories. And I came home with some medals:

I won a Gold medal for Surreptitious Drinking. Drinks were expensive in Chicago so I had to come up with some clever ideas for smuggling my cocktails.

I also won a Gold medal in New Friendships. Rick and Debbi and the Evil Gay Lawyer were so much fun. Thank you all for making my trip so great. All of you wrote such nice things about me, and I thank you for telling lies and making me sound way cooler than I am. None of you wrote about what a flake I am, and I truly appreciate it.

Rick and I went to see Margaret Cho together as well as a Sondheim in the Park concert. We browsed at Virgin Records (since we are both virgins) and talked each other out of spending any money. We ate a fantastic dinner and also had drinks at Sidetrack (Rick wanted me to experience the awesomeness of Show Tune Night).

Evil Gay Lawyer accompanied me to the Physique competition where my friend Muscle Chick won a bronze medal! EGL has a much different style than Rick. While Rick stroked my ego and made me feel special, EGL teased me and harassed me at every step. So, naturally, I fell for him. The best way to win me over is to give me a hard time, and EGL was a master at this. He made fun of me for losing my ticket stub. Then he gave me his ticket stub so I could get back into the arena after I went to the men's room. Then I lost his ticket stub, so he had to sneak back in when it was his turn to visit the men's room. EGL is currently being swept off his feet by a guy in Chicago, so I only got to see him that one day, but I had a great time with him. I thought he would be more evil than he was. He's actually a nice guy. As I told him when he exited the train Tuesday night, I'm glad he had a chance to meet me. He is lucky.

Debbi and her daughter came into the city to meet me for dinner, and we had a great meal and a fun time getting to know each other better. She took me to one of her favorite restaurants, where I had yet another wonderful meal. I almost never go out to eat in Portland, so I really enjoyed dining out while I was in Chicago. Debbi reminds me of another wonderful Deb who loves her gays. Just being in Debbi's presence made me feel proud! She rocks.

I won a Silver Medal for Walking My Ass off in Chicago. My pedometer logged 213,698 steps. I'm wearing the silly thing for a contest we're having at work. Let me tell you, nothing attracts the boys like wearing a pedometer. I don't want to talk about it.

I took the Bronze in Friend Juggling. I didn't do as great in that event. See, I was trying to coordinate my time with the aforementioned Chicago bloggers as well as hanging out with Muscle Chick, her girlfriend, Wonder Woman, and my friend The Professor (also in Chicago for a visit last week) and his boyfriend (who I haven't yet come up with a name for). I kept having to call people and change plans at the last minute. I stood people up, arrived late, forgot to return calls and annoyed everyone like crazy. I don't know why people put up with me.

I have a ton of stories about the week, and I'll do my best to recount them here. Tomorrow I'll have to tell you about a very special benefit concert I performed for pigeons. If you don't think you can wait, you could always check out the story on last week's Todd & Pony Show.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Now Will You Listen to Todd & Pony Show?

This is The Golden Boy, who often sits on my lap while wearing nothing but a towel on Tuesdays when I go to Happy Five Hours. Aren't I lucky? He's our special guest for this week's Todd & Pony Show podcast.

Our show this week is all about drinking. As you can imagine, I had a really hard time thinking of anything to say. On the podcast, I shared my special drink recipe for the Maker's Mark Old Fashioned.

If you are wondering why I'm doing a podcast with Pony, it's because I need more attention. Yes, even more attention than I'm already getting from Hot Toddy's Toaster Oven.

Sometimes when I am standing in the middle of the street singing the soundtrack from Rent and tapdancing, strangers ask me why I need so much attention. Then I hand them a bullhorn and ask them to please repeat the question so more people on the street will notice our conversation. When the cops finally show up to remove me from the middle of the road, I always pray that they will be filming a Portland episode of Cops, but so far that hasn't happened. If I got arrested on the television show Cops it would be a great way to get attention and to also plug my blog. The thing is, once somebody is arrested on that show you never see or hear from them again. I wouldn't like that. I would like the cameras to follow me and document my life in the slammer. Or I would want to at least be on a Cops reunion show where they bring back all the arrested people for a panel discussion. Maybe we could have a Cops All-Stars competition where we hardened criminals compete for cash and prizes on a desert island. Or we all have to live in a house together and have our lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.

Anyway, the point is, I think you should listen to our Todd & Pony Show, otherwise I might wither and die from lack of attention.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Reward Challenge

This isn't about me. It's about you.

My favorite thing about survivor, besides hunks, is the reward challenge.

Every week the survivors compete for rewards like food and letters from home and blankets. Sometimes the winners are flown to a resort for massages, food, wine and a nice warm bed to sleep in.

A year ago I began a reward challenge that led me through quicksand and required that I swing across vines over crocodile infested waters. I sustained bruises and abrasions, fell down, passed out, sprained my muscles and broke bones.

I was lied to, stabbed in the back, lied to again, mocked, ridiculed and humiliated. He said he'd be back, but he never planned on coming back to me. He was sick, very sick, and never told me. He made promises of a future together and a house together and even children of our own, and all the while he knew he couldn't keep any of those promises. I no longer know what was true and what wasn't.

During the challenge I cried many tears and experienced deep sorrow and depression. Then came medication. Then more tears.

This isn't about me. It's about you. Let it out. Cry and rage and scream.

Friends surrounded me, and yet I've never felt more alone. At times, I just wanted to end it all. I wanted to be voted off this island called Life. But nobody voted me off, so I had to keep competing. I didn't believe there would even be a reward at the end of the challenge. I thought I was fighting for nothing, which really makes it hard to hang onto the vine as the crocodiles snap at you.

In December last year when life felt hopeless, I made a decision to fight, even though I really didn't want to. My friends, too many to list, held my hand and told me not to seek answers in bottles of booze. They encouraged me and stuck by me. But I needed more than encouragement from friends. I had to believe there was a point to it all. I had to believe it for myself. For motivation, I placed a reward at the finish line so it would seem worthwhile to keep running.

The Toddtender, such a great friend, talked to me about playing softball. That has changed my life. I think that is when I started believing I could win the reward challenge. Then I broke my toe (twice) and thought I couldn't play after all. But I healed and made it to the first game. This weekend, after I caught a fly ball, I heard the Toddtender cheering for me, even though my catch caused his team an out. He's told me many times over the past few weeks that he is proud of me. I'm proud too. God, I'm so proud to have him for a friend.

This isn't about me. It's about you. Who is your friend? Lean on him.

I had two car wrecks in the midst of the reward challenge. I could only shake my head and ask, "why me?". Then I got mad. That helped me fight harder. No way was I going to let that throw me back into depression. I'd survived so much by that point, and I'd be damned if a couple setbacks would stop me.

Somehow, I got to the finish line. I won.

This Friday, one year after I began the challenge, I'll get my reward. I'll board a plane for Chicago to watch thousands of gay athletes from over 70 countries compete in their own challenges at Gay Games VII. I'll bring all of you with me. For all the friends who watched me run the race and cheered for me, I'll toast you from my seat in first class (hey, it's a REWARD - of course I'm flying first class).

As I watch the competitors next week, I'll be thinking a lot about what makes us winners. How do we conquer the seemingly impossible challenges in our lives? How can we overcome debt and heartache? How do we win against disease and depression and loss? How can we keep fighting when we aren't given equal rights, and when we're hated?

The point is, we just do it. We keep fighting. We'll sustain wounds and feel like quitting. We'll feel oppressed and discriminated against and left out. Sometimes it will seem like there's no hope. We'll feel like the pain in our hearts will never ever go away.

I do not think it is coincidental that I'm going to Chicago at this particular time. Rick, who is a friend to me and to many of you, is going through his own challenge right now. My hope is that I can offer him some cheer and encouragement. I want him to know he's not swinging on that vine by himself. Lots of us are with him.

This isn't about me. It's about you. You can survive your challenges. You can overcome your debt. You can move on after your lover lies to you and leaves you with empty promises. You can find peace when you lose a loved one. You may be in the middle of a reward challenge right now, but look ahead to the reward. It's there waiting for you.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Personal. Do Not Read.

One very important thing everyone needs to know is that it is absolutely wrong to write about personal finances on the internet. You should never reveal these highly personal facts to strangers. Write about anything you want, unless it involves money. Keep money matters to yourself!

Now that my public service announcement is out of the way, I'm going to tell you all about my personal finances.

When I was 29 and fresh from the cult, I was broke. Each year that I spent in the International Church of Christ saw my income decline because I kept quitting jobs and moving to new places. I had a decent job when I joined the church, but they fired me because I became an irritating prick who tried to convert everyone in my office. Then I quit another job to move into a different zone of the church so that I could lead the "singles' ministry". Then I quit another job to move to Annapolis, MD and help start up a new "house church". My income in 1995 was about $9,000. And I gave 10 percent of that back to the church.

Needless to say, when CT and I became partners he had to have a very serious talk with me. He told me that he wanted to be with me, but he didn't want to support me. He wanted me to pull my own weight.

CT, who was 27 at the time, had inherited a lot of money, but he paid a terrible price for it. He lost both of his parents within two years of each other. The guy he was with before me felt entitled to CT's money, and he abused CT's kindness. So, when CT and I got together he was finished being a Sugar Daddy. (I know, my timing sucks!)

I did my best to contribute to our household, but CT always wanted to go out for dinner, and he loved shopping. I remember many days at the mall just following him around watching him buy things for himself. I didn't have two nickels to rub together.

One day he said he wanted to go out to eat, and I told him I couldn't. "I'm broke. I have nothing," I told him.

"I'm broke too, but we can splurge, can't we?" he reasoned.

When CT said he was broke, it meant he only had a couple hundred dollars in his checking account. So I tried to explain to him that when I said I was broke, I meant completely lacking in currency.

"Okay, but it isn't like you have no money. I mean, you have an IRA and stuff right?"

The fact that, after at least three years together, my partner thought I had an Individual Retirement Account hidden away somewhere just made me laugh. Why, only a few years earlier he witnessed my filing for bankruptcy!

To file for bankruptcy at the age of 30 is humiliating. I will never forget the way I felt when the judge asked me how I had gotten myself into such a financial mess. I didn't dare mention my affiliation with the church. The wound was too fresh. So I just attempted to use my boyish charm. "I haven't been making as much money as I spend," I giggled. He didn't find it endearing. Not in the least.

Since 1996, I've received the worst credit card offers (Rebuild Your Credit! APPLY NOW for a Visa at 22% APR!!) and took out a car loan at a ridiculous rate. I couldn't get a credit card at Best Buy. I'm pretty sure I would have been declined a Target credit card (not that I wanted one).

I did feel awful about not paying my debts. I mean, I didn't feel guilty enough to go back and repay those credit card companies, but I still felt that what I'd done was wrong. The only thing that made me feel justified was all the huge corporations and airlines declaring bankruptcy ever other week. I figured they should be able to handle money better than I did!

Over the years I got better jobs and started a 401k and opened a savings account. I worked really hard to reduce debt. One year I wrote down every single penny I spent (literally) in a little notebook. At the end of the month, I could account for every cent. One Sunday morning as I tallied my expenditures for the month, my total showed that I should have 34 cents left. I went into the bedroom and counted the money on top of my dresser. I had a quarter and nine pennies.

The only reason I am telling you all of this is so you won't think I am a big baby when I tell you that I cried last week when I checked my credit report. I paid for access to my credit report on line, and I couldn't believe what I found there.

Your credit rating is: Excellent
Your credit score is higher than 55.8% of U.S. consumers

A tear fell down my cheek, and I bit my lip and remembered the day CT told me he wouldn't support me, letting me know I had to pull myself out of the pit with my own strength. The stern face of the bankruptcy court judge looking down at me flashed in my mind, followed by an image of the Exxon card I used to buy groceries one week when I had no money and nothing to eat.

So I read my credit report, and I cried.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why I Love Softball Tournaments

Cascade Cup 2006

I love softball tournaments because...
You can get your picture taken with your team, although, if you're 6'6" you have to stand all the way in the back.

Cubs 2006

Just because it's a competition doesn't mean you have to take yourself seriously.

The groundskeeper for the stadium made sure everything looked beautiful. I watched him the whole day just to make sure he was doing his job.

Trust me. I didn't take my eyes off him.

The drinks at our closing ceremony were very stiff.

Really, really stiff. I'm serious.

My friend Christina won MVP and I think my hair looks really cute in this picture where I'm getting up to hug her.

I'm happy she won, but I'm ecstatic about my hair.

And the number one reason I love softball...


Thanks to Jim for the great photos!

Monday, July 03, 2006

My Favorite Handshake

I have never enjoyed shaking someone's hand more than the softball player I met on Saturday night.

After our tournament games on Saturday, I was talking to the Toddtender at a softball party held at CC Slaughters, and this cute girl walks up to me and reaches out her hand.

"Hi. You caught the ball I hit into right field today. I was so mad at you. It was the first time I've ever been able to place the ball in right field."

That was such a great moment. All those years I spent being afraid of sports - sure that I had no athletic ability whatsoever. Hell, the whole reason I quit playing flag football in elementary school was because I thought I could never get any better at it. I was asked to join the swim team in high school, but I declined because I thought I'd cause our team to lose every swim meet. I never played basketball because I thought I couldn't learn the rules.

All of it was a lie.

Why do we let ourselves be brainwashed when we're young? Kids take in everything they hear. The world tells them who they are, and children believe it. Gay men face this more than most men, since we're programmed to believe we are not normal or that we aren't real men. Anybody, straight or gay, who has the idea that gay men are "less than" just needs to spend a single Sunday afternoon at the ballpark watching Portland gay softball teams play. I saw some of the studliest guys I've ever seen this weekend, and they were serious athletes. VERY tough competition.

My team didn't place in the tournament, and I know that I have lots of room for improvement. However, I did race to home plate in a rather dramatic moment during one of the games and scored a run for our team. (The opposing team was sure I'd stop at third base, but I surprised them!)

I caught a couple pop flies and even had an umpire tell me, "That was a nice catch you made out there today, sir."


Yes, me! Shake my hand!