Tag Archive | personal

Looking forward to/hoping for some trick or treaters…

Squad ghoulsThis is our second Halloween in the new place. Last year we didn’t get any trick or treaters at all, but then last year there were only two other places in addition to ours with any Halloween decorations up, so I suspect our apartment building didn’t look like it was worth stopping at. Several more of our neighbors have lights and jack o’lanterns and such visible, so maybe we will get some this year. The magical-thinker in me also points out that we bought less candy this year than last, so maybe that will cause us to get swamped. We can hope. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

I had planned several more blog posts last week and this week leading up to this, my second favorite holiday, but things have been really weirdly busy. It also feels as if fewer people are doing Halloween stuff. I thought maybe I was just being busy and distracting, but I saw a few posts floating around tumblr where a lot of people were feeling as if there is a lot less Halloween enthusiasm in their social circles, and so forth. A few posts specifically noted that the silly Pumpkin Dance video had not showed up in their social media stream. Which made me realize I hadn’t seen it being posted and shared, either.

I’m planning to stay up a bit after midnight to make at least a symbolic start on NaNoWriMo (since I have to get up and go to work in the morning). Usually long before this we discuss what spooky movies we’re going to watch while hoping for trick-or-treaters. Last year was watched Hocus Pocus and Witches of Eastwick.

It’s been a number of years since we watched Ghost and Mr. Chicken and I can’t remember when we last watched Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; for that matter, I can’t remember how many years it’s been since we watched any of the classic Universal monsters, such as the 1931 Frankenstein, and we have all of those in the collected. On the other hand, I should look through our movie database and see if there is anything spooky that we’ve bought in the last couple of years. I don’t know. Our usual Halloween fair isn’t slasher movies and the like, and tends toward comedies… and this year I’m feeling much more like a good laugh than typical. I suspect we all know why that is…

Anyway, I hope you have wonder Eve of All Hallows!

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What’s spooky for me may not be spooky for you

“If you've got it, Haunt it!”

(click to embiggen)

Many years ago the gaming group I was in rotated who was running the game and which system/world we were playing in, and most of us gave our scenarios titles, which sometimes we told the players in advance. One time I had titled a sci-fi adventure where the players eventually found themselves in a dark, twisty location being pursued by something which they weren’t sure what the something was, just that it had killed some other people, “Welcome to Your Standard Nightmare.” I didn’t mention the title up front, it was after we were finished that I identified the scenario, and suddenly we were having a debate on what, really, a standard (or universal) nightmare ought to be.

I was reminded of this incident by two different events recently. First, after a few weeks of working on my Halloween playlist, I took a dip into a couple of music streaming services to see what they were serving up on various Halloween channels. The other was a series of disturbing dreams I had in the wee small hours of a recent morning.

Quick digression: the psychological definition of a nightmare is an unpleasant dream evoking an emotional response which disturbs the sleep cycle. It doesn’t necessarily have to be scary to be a nightmare as far as psychologists are concerned, but it does have to actually make you wake up to qualify as a nightmare. So while colloquially we usually think of nightmares as bad dreams, usually invoking fear or despair, other kinds of emotions can be involved.

So, I’ve more than once had a nightmare where I woke up extremely angry. And that was very disturbing, especially during those initial moments of waking up where you don’t quite realize it was only a dream. I had a new one, this time, I woke up extremely annoyed. Three times in one night. The first two didn’t really have any element most people would think of a spooky: I was trying to set up some sound equipment for some kind of party or concert, and someone kept moving my toolbox full of patch cables. There were a number of people in the dream, most of whom I haven’t seen in person in many years. And they were all being uncharacteristically unhelpful. The second one involved someone I didn’t recognize who kept trying to make me go to this place I also didn’t recognize and pack up things that had been left behind by someone. Oddly, once I gave in, I recognized all of the blankets and towels (which were only a subset of the items) as ones that had belonged to my family when I was a child and a teen-ager. The third one was like a combination: I was walking somewhere intending to retrieve something I needed, and I noticed an open door of an apartment, I think, and inside I saw scattered around clothes that belong to me. When I was checking out the place and gathering things, people kept wandering in to try to take stuff from me—and they people each had these weird glowing eyes and I was absolutely convinced that they were undead or something similar.

Even then, when I woke up, I wasn’t feeling fear, but extreme annoyance that I had to deal with weird creatures and someone stealing my clothes when I really just wanted to go get the thing—whatever it was—that I had started out looking for. (And no, I don’t need any dream analysis. My subconscious is never subtle. I know what I’m feeling anxiety about right now.)

The thing was, even though my feeling at each awakening was annoyance—neither anger nor fear—there were still moments while I was waking up where I felt that disturbing confusion about what was real and what wasn’t. Which is its own kind of spooky.

Many Halloween playlists I see on various streaming services or that people post often contain songs that I don’t think are spooky at all. Many seem to be chosen because the title of the song has a tenuous connection to some spooky concepts, while the lyrics of the song are often just standard pop fare.
I happen to believe that a Halloween playlist should consist of tracks where the content of the track has some connection to ideas, moods, et cetera, that people associate with Halloween, trick or treating, monsters, and so forth. I make exceptions for instrumental tracks from movies and such that I personally find spooky. I realize that most of those don’t seem spooky if you don’t recognize where they are from (but some are very eery and really set a spooky mood even when you don’t recognize their source). Anyway, here is my 2018 Halloween playlist:

1. “It’s alive!” From the Young Frankenstein soundtrack. This isn’t a song, it’s the dialog for one of the funniest scenes in the movie, when Dr Frahnk-in-steen finds out that he put an abnormal brain in the body of his creation.
2. “Monster Mash” A blue grass cover of the classic Halloween song by a band called Hayseed Dixie. It’s quite fun.
3. “Science Fiction Double Feature” From the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the campy lyrics describe several classic sci fi thriller movies.
4. “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” by Julie Brown. “Everybody run! The Homecoming Queen’s got a gun!” and “…it’s like the whole school was totally coked or something!”
5. “Anything Can Happen On Halloween” by Tim Curry from the movie The Worse Witch. A fun song.
6. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (with narration in the middle by Vincent Price). A classic for Halloween. And you can dance to it!
7. “GhostBusters (I’m Not Afraid” by Fallout Boy. An interesting cover/re-imagining of the original Ghostbusters them recorded for the new GhostBusters movie.
8. “Rest in Peace” from Once More, With Feeling, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode. “Whisper in a dead man’s ear doesn’t make it real.”
9. “Bad Moon Rising” by Mourning Ritual. A very creepy re-imagining of the old Creedence Clearwater Revival hit that I first heard in one of the spookiest, creepiest episodes of the Teen Wolf TV series. I can’t hear this song without reliving the scenes where Void Stiles was doing various horrific things.
10. “Monster Mash (featuring Black Magic” by Halloween FX Productions. A cute cover of the Halloween classic.
11. “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space” from Little Shop of Horrors just fun!
12. “Haunted Honeymoon Main Title” by John Morris. A spooky instrumental from one of my favorite comedies ever. Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, and Dom DeLuis in a hilarious send-up of 30s mystery radio shows and spooky forties movies.
13. “Teen Wolf Main Theme” by Dino Meneghin & Bloody Beetroots. The theme for the Teen Wolf series is just some really dramatic music.
14. “Theme from the Ghost and Mr. Chicken” – if you aren’t familiar with this comedy send up of various Hitchcock-esque movie tropes starring Don Knotts, you really need to Netflix it or something. And the organ music is suitably spooky and silly, at the same time.
15. “”Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” Yes, the theme song from the original cartoon series.
16. “Dark Shadows” the original eerie, spooky, haunting theme song from the ’60s gothic horror soap opera.
17. “Funeral March of a Marionette” an orchestral piece which was used as the theme for the old Alfred Hitchcock show.
18. “The Munster’s Theme” by Jack Marshall. A tiki-fied cover of the them song for the 1960s horror comedy series.
19. “Mamushka” by Raul Julia and Marc Shaiman. The silly show-stopper song from the theatrical Addams Family movie.
20. “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers. The original, classic Halloween Novelty song.

Transforming Otters and Traveling Trees

The terra cotta otter planter that survived many winters in Ballard didn't do so well at our new place, so now she's garden art.

The terra cotta otter planter that survived many winters in Ballard didn’t do so well at our new place, so now she’s garden art.

As autumn settles in, I’ve been taking care of winterizing tasks, which included transplanting some thing from our planters to other locations. Living in an apartment, we don’t have quite as much winterizing to do as some people, but there is still work to do. Fans and the a/c unit get taken down and put away, for instance. I put away some of the summer clothes and pull out warmer clothes. Our wooden folding table out on the veranda (our third-story deck) needs to be rubbed down with oil (I used butcher block oil and butcher block conditioner) to keep it waterproof for another year. The grill needs to be cleaned and covered. Things like that.

This year that also meant that a tree need to be transported. Not long after we moved to this place last year, I noticed an unfamiliar plant growing in the very smallest of the flower pots that used to sit on our porch at the old place. Once the leaves reached full size, I identified it as a Turkish Filbert (also know as a Eurasian Hazel), which is a relative of the American Hazel from which we get hazelnuts. In our old neighborhood one house up the street from us had a Turkish Filbert in the front yard, and I was used to seeing the distinctive filbert seed pods on the sidewalk each fall. I realized that the neighborhood squirrel had buried one of those seeds in my flowerpot.

Over the years we’d lived there, I was used to finding rotted peanuts and the occasional chestnut in the flowerpots whenever I put in new spot color flowers. This was the first time, as far as I know, that the squirrel gave us a filbert. And it was the first time one of the nuts buried in our flowerpots sprouted.

I took it as a sign that a squirrel god wanted us to grow the tree, and had thought I might be able to keep it going in a planter for a few years before needing to find it a forever home. It only grew to about 8 inches tall during our first summer, after all. Of course, it was also in the tiniest flowerpot I owned at the time.

A final time measuring the height of the filbert before send it to its new home.

A final time measuring the height of the filbert before send it to its new home.

After it’s 9 leaves turned yellow and fell off last year, I transplanted the entire contents of the pot into a larger planter–one of four large ones I got to grow the irises I had salvaged from the flower bed we’d been allowed to use at the old place. I should have realized that the bigger planter, having a lot more room for roots, would mean that the tree would grow a lot faster in its second summer.

The filbert in its new home.

The filbert in its new home.

Fortunately, our friend Jeri Lynn was amenable to trying the filbert in her new yard, so we had planned this fall to move it.

Before we got to that point, I had other work to do with the planters. Another of the pots that had come with us from the old place was this very cute terra cotta planter int he shape of a sea otter. I’d been growing pansies and violas and dianthus and similar annual flowers in it for years sitting either on our concrete porch at the old place, or sometimes on the concrete walkway or sitting in one of the flower beds.

Since the structure I call our veranda is a deck sticking out the side of an apartment building, and there are neighbors with their own decks below us, all of my flower pots and such are either completely contained, or they have catch basins under them, to prevent overflow from watering sending muddy water down on the neighbors. I’d found a gorgeous, ocean-colored glazed dish that was big enough for the otter and left the otter in the dish over the winter. I didn’t think about how, during the rainiest part of the winter, this meant that the otter was sitting in at least an inch of water. Which means that the potting soil inside the otter was constantly 100% waterlogged. So when temperatures dropped below freezing, the otter was broken. Badly broken. So broken that in the spring I couldn’t get water to stay in the potting soil long enough to sustain the flowers.

My husband found me a new otter planter, which I have now placed in the glazed dish on little lifts that keep the pot above any water in the dish.

But what to do with the old otter? I couldn’t bring myself to putting it in the trash. So I suggested to my husband (who is slightly less sentimental than me) that he should wait until sometime I was gone, and he could dispose of the otter, and I could pretend she has swum away.

When I mentioned this on line, our friend Katrina asked why I couldn’t transform the otter into art by burying it in a large planter, so the otters head and forepaws (which are still mostly intact) was visible above the soil, and plant a bunch more of the irises around it, so it looked like the otter was in a bed of seaweed.

Which was absolutely brilliant.

I finally found a planter that would work, and I did exactly that a couple of weeks ago. The irises you can see in the photo above came out of the planter with the filbert. I planted 9 iris rhizomes in that planter with the tree, and by the end of summer I had 18 iris plants in the planter (the other three planters didn’t double, but all of the planters had at least some new irises by the fall). So I dug up about of third of them from the end furthest from the tree (figuring their roots were less likely to be tangled with the tree’s root), and put them in the new planter.

Saturday night, after our monthly writers’ meeting, we carried the planter down to our friend Matt’s truck, and he transported it to Jeri Lynn’s. Then on Sunday I drove up, helped them transplant the filbert and the remaining irises, then took the planter back home.

There, I filled the planter with all the remaining unplanted rhizomes (there were a lot of irises at the old place), and covered them with potting soil. It’s a lot denser that I’d packed them in any of the planters last year, but I figure they’ve been sitting in a box for two growing seasons, and a lot of them probably aren’t viable.

Don’t get me wrong, every one of them might sprout and I have dozens of irises coming up in that planter next year. And I won’t mind a bit!

I just hope that some of the irises in the other planters actually bloom next year. I assumed that this year they were in a recovery mode from being dug up in the spring, rather than fall as you’re supposed to, and so on.

Wish me luck!

It’s October again!

Once again as autumn settles in I find myself feeling like a new door has opened. I mostly blame school. Between grammar school, middle school, high school, five years attending community college part time while working, then three years at university, for 21 years the end of summer meant a new year beginning. And then I had a few years where I was just working full time without that fall reset until I joined the newly formed Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus, and for the next eight years fall meant the beginning of a new chorus season. It was a lot like school: we’d have our Pride concerts and march in the Pride Parade in June, then have a couple months off until rehearsals resumed at the end of August/beginning of September.

So, while Spring may be what most people think of as the time of renewal for the natural world, for me it’s autumn.

For various reasons, for the last 20 years, the day after my birthday (which is in the last week of September) feels like the big turning point. I start thinking of it as being October on the day after my birthday, which is kind of funny.

I had hoped that this weekend would be a nice, relaxing time when I could finish some chores related to getting the plants in my huge collection of pots and planters on the veranda ready for winter, re-assess my goals, and maybe make some progress on long lingering projects. But I would up working until almost midnight Friday, and still had to put in a few more hours during the weekend. Then there was some construction happening on our building: some work on the roof, and because one of the access points to the roof is a hatch right outside out door, for a big chunk of the weekend there was a ladder braced out there. It didn’t technically block us in, but it was awkward getting in and out of the house. So the weekend was a lot less relaxing than I would have liked.

And I missed two tasks that I’d really meant to get done during the weekend.

But!

Fall is here. Decorating season has begun. We don’t have much in the way of Halloween or Harvest decorations up, yet, but we’ve made a start. And once again I’m re-assessing goals. One thing that has become clear this year is that I have to stop thinking of the long work hours and associated stress as a temporary thing. It’s just a reality of our economy, now. I need to find a new way to keep making progress on personal projects including by not limited to writing, without feeling resentment when I don’t have the energy and time that I used to. That includes both attitude adjustment for me, at the least.

But this is the perfect time of year for me to do that, because it’s my personal time of renewal.

What did you expect would happen? Or, Why I didn’t report

“1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.”

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With all that has been in the news lately, it should come as no surprise that I have been thinking of the many ways that we are all socialized to accept, excuse, and even enable a lot of socially aggressive behavior from guys. And also how we, as guys, are socialized to aggressively pursue what we want. So, when what a guy wants is sex, well, having been told your whole life never to take no for an answer, well, a lot of those guys are going to do some bad things to get it. And many of the rest of us will deflect, deny, or minimize the severity of what they have done, sometimes even when we witness is.

And yes, even when we are the victim.

There have been many times over the last 28 years that I have tried to write about my experience being sexually assaulted. I have stopped myself from publishing it many times. Because even now, 28 years later, I’m still ashamed. There is a part of me that still believes it was my fault. I was a grown up man, and men are supposed to be able to take care of themselves, right?

Looking at the way people talk about the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, I see that millions of people still blame the victims in these cases. They often insist that it isn’t blame, it’s disbelief. Why didn’t she say something sooner? Why didn’t she report it? They are completely unaware that this refusal to disbelieve is exactly way when one is a victim of sexual assault, we don’t say anything.

So, it’s time to share my story, including why I didn’t report it. Obvious content warning: alcohol, queer men dating, and sexual assault. Don’t click on the link unless you’re prepared…

Read More…

More confessions of an aging homo devil

“I'm not playing a role. I'm being myself, whatever the hell that is.” —Bea Arthur

“I’m not playing a role. I’m being myself, whatever the hell that is.”
—Bea Arthur

When I was a kid, I was always being told to stop acting “like that.” It wasn’t usually that I was hurting someone or playing with with something that they thought I would break. It was usually because of things like the time my dad caught me singing along to the “My Own Home” song from Disney’s animated Jungle Book—I had a towel or blanket wrapped around me, like the girl in the movie was wearing, and an empty milk jug balanced on my head. I know, now, that the reason I was so into that song was because 5-year-old me had a crush on the cartoon version of Mowgli. And clearly Dad suspected the same thing.

Admonishments about me acting in a manner inappropriate for my gender and/or age came from Dad and certain other relatives, plus teachers, and of course classmates. Such admonitions were often accompanied with more than just verbal abuse. They kept coming even after my parents divorced and I moved 1200 miles away from Dad. Grade-school and middle-school kids can tease and bully cruelly, but it’s nothing compared to the lengths teen-age boys will go. Just like the teachers who had told my parents earlier that there was nothing they could do about the bullying as long as I “talked like that and acted like that,” the guys who targeted me in my teens and twenties would tell me it was my own fault. If I just would stop “acting like that” they’d leave me alone.

It wasn’t just me this happened to. I still remember a news commentary show that I used to love watching on PBS, when they covered the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. If you look at historical pictures of the immense crowd, you will see huge numbers of men and women dressed in polo shirts and slacks or t-shirts and blue jeans. There wasn’t a lot of people in glitter or marching nearly naked. But the only footage this news show included in their coverage were shots of the very few individuals (and it was a tiny minority—this wasn’t a Pride Parade, this was a coordinated activist event that thousands of people traveled cross country to participate in) who were dressed very flamboyantly. And one of the pundits on the panel said something along the line of, “if the homosexual community wants civil rights, they should stop acting like that.”

Even though I was deeply closeted at the time, I wondered why queer people needed to earn their rights. The definition of a civil right is that you are entitled to it regardless.

At some point during the process of coming out I had the epiphany that they did genuinely believe that it was an act. I mean, I had one relative angrily yell at me after I came out that I was just “doing it for attention.” Right? Why would anyone want to be publicly known as being a member of a group that is regularly targeted for violence just for fun?

I still don’t know all the little behaviors and verbal ticks about me that set some people off. Given how many times since I came out, even during my Big Earring Phase, other people would mistake a woman friend as my wife, I know that the I’m not that gender nonconforming. Regardless, it isn’t an act. It has never been an act. It’s me being me. Yeah, I like to sing along to songs that I like. I like to dance, even though I know I’m not good at it and even if I’m just by my self. I like wear bright colors—including pink and purple. I love purple anything. I get excited and nerdy as f—k about things I love. I cry out loud at sad or poignant scenes in books, movies, or television episodes I watch (heck, I cry at some commercials!). I don’t often wear makeup, but I know how to put on mascara and eye-liner and I’m not ashamed of it. I grow flowers. I make my own flower arrangements for the house.

And yeah, I’m a guy who likes men. I have fallen love with a couple them over the years. And that isn’t an act either. That’s just me being me.

One of the reasons I’m thinking about this right now is because an old friend who has moved back to the town where we went to high school together, ran into one of my cousins that still lives back there, and was a little appalled when said cousin mentioned being glad I don’t visit often because “he just acts gayer and gayer every time I see him.” Probably a good thing I wasn’t there. Because I probably would have said, “Honey, I ain’t acting!”

The only time I was acting was back when I was trying to avoid more bullying or ridicule, trying to force myself not to do the few things I had figured out qualified as “acting like that.” When I was closeted and scared to death to be myself, that’s when I was acting.

This post is going up late because today is my birthday. I took the day off from work. I slept in. I spent much of the day reading or just watching the birds at the feeder, and the larger jays and squirrel rummage threw the spillage on the deck under the feeder. My husband left a bunch of gift bags scattered around the house, and a couple of packages from my mom were here, so every now and then I would open one. It was a fun way to spend the day. My husband took me to dinner at one of my favorite local eateries. He made me a martini (he makes the best—when we first started dating he was working as a bartender, but oddly enough, he doesn’t like to drink himself).

It has been a good birthday.

I’ve written before of how the AIDS crisis (which began when I was a closeted 20-something and was still ravaging the community by the time I was out in my thirties) had made me feel I was unlikely to live into my fifties. When you go to 16 funerals over the course of a few months, mourning guys who are dying in their twenties, thirties, and forties—it just feels as if the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head. It really did seem that it wasn’t a matter of whether one would get sick, just when.

And so I find myself a bit surprised and a lot grateful to celebrate this birthday. I’m getting close to 60, and I honestly didn’t believe back then I would make it to 50.

So I am happy and thankful. Especially this year and this week. Yesterday morning at work we all learned that a guy we all work with (and a guy who is a couple of years younger than I) suffered a fatal cardiac arrest on Sunday. I usually close my birthday posts with some bit of wisdom or advice. This year, I’m going to quote one of my other co-workers while we were all processing the news together: “It reminds us to treat everyone with kindness and respect, because we never know which conversation will be our last.”

Monday Update 9/24/2018: Just keep driving

This is not how a tunnel boring machine works…

A few years ago Michael and I were driving to NorWesCon. We were running late getting the car packed and was more than a bit worn out from very long days at work leading up to the mini-vacation. We had skipped the cons for two years, for various reasons. We’re finally on the road, though, and chatting about something when I realize that out of old habit I’m driving down the arterial that will take us through downtown. “Oh, wait,” I said, “I’m heading toward the viaduct.”

To explain why this is an issue, I need to explain that in 2001 we had a strong earthquake in Seattle. It happened in the middle of a workday. A lot of older buildings were damaged badly enough that they were condemned and eventually torn down. But one of the more worrying things was the damage done to the Alaska Way Viaduct, which is a big double-decking elevated highway that cuts through downtown. An elevated highway that is nearly the same design of the one that collapsed during an earthquake in Oakland, California in 1989.

Our viaduct was closed to traffic for inspection. The support pillars were confirmed to all be damaged. Reinforcement were installed and a long drawn out political battle ensued on what to do about it. The viaduct itself is state property, part of a state highway, and besides getting people from from one end of the city to another, serves as a conduit for a huge amount of freight traffic related to two airports and a huge seaport facility. But the highway runs through the city, which has legal authority to issue (or withhold) permits for the construction project within the city. The Port Authority, which is also involved, is government entity answerable to all of the voters of the county.

There were many differences of options. There were voter initiatives and demands for referendums. Eventually, the previous governor signed a state law which represented the compromise that had been reached, and at the ceremony she had promised that no matter what else happened, the Viaduct would be closed and taken down no later than 2012. That date was picked based on the guesses from engineers as to how long the damaged structure (part of which, by the way, is built on a section of town that used to be swamp and has been filled in… and the support pillars at that end of the structure have been slowly but measurably sinking since the quake).

Anyway, at some point during the two years that Michael and I skipped NorWesCon, I had decided to stop driving on the Viaduct at all. So, when I realized I was taking the old route we were nearly there, and getting to the other highway would involve some backtracking. Michael said, “It’s okay, let’s keep going.”

So we went back to chatting about whatever it was. Not long after we got on the Viaduct (and because we were going south, we were on the lower deck — you know, the place where everyone in every car would be crushed to death if there was another earthquake?), Michael suddenly went quiet. I could almost feeling the unhappy vibes coming off of him. I glanced over and he looked very upset. “What’s wrong?”

“Just keep driving,” he answered, in a very clipped voice.

So I did. After we got off the Viaduct he said, “We are never driving on that again!” And proceeded to tell me just how much bigger and more pronounced the cracks in all the support pillars were, which I hadn’t looked at because traffic was very heavy and I was paying attention to the cars around us the whole time.

The Viaduct was supposed to come down no later than six years ago. About eight years ago, the state engineers who inspect the bridge every few months and then brief the various government authorities about it, refused to answer a question from city councilmembers: “What is the criteria for deciding that it isn’t safe?” Which made it clear to a whole bunch of us following that that the engineers didn’t really think it was safe any more, but had been told by their superiors not to say.

This is what the tunnel boring machine actually looked like during the second big delay, when they had to dig a big pit down to it to replace the big broken rotary head in 2015. (photo © WSDOT)

This is what the tunnel boring machine actually looked like during the second big delay, when they had to dig a big pit down to it to replace the big broken rotary head in 2015. (photo © WSDOT)

So, imagine my reaction when I saw this headline: Highway 99 Tunnel Opening Delayed (Again), This Time Until 2019. Please note the word “again.” I think that they could have used about four agains in the headline. Now, I’ve never been much of a fan of the final tunnel project that was settled upon. Nothing on this scale had ever been attempted with a bored tunnel, so no one with any sense was really surprised at all of the things that went wrong (damaged water pipes and buildings as the earth shifted more than expected at greater distances from the tunnel than anticipated, the damaged machine, the problems when dirt and debris was accidentally dumped into the bay…).

There are also all the traffic studies that show how since the tunnel will be tolled, a lot of traffic that used to go on the Viaduct is going to divert to the surface streets, anyway. Not to mention that as people have been switching from cars to various transit options (including new light rail routes), the amount of traffic on the Viaduct has been steadily decreasing every year. If we’d bitten the bullet when we were supposed to, taken the Viaduct down, traffic would have been painful for a few months. But people figure out better options. There’s been a project on the other freeway that goes through Seattle, Interstate 5, where for a few weeks each summer the last few years many lanes are closed while refurbishing work is done. The first time? Horrible traffic snarls everywhere. All of the subsequent times, not nearly so much. Because people figured out alternate routes and so forth.

Commuters are flexible and will find a way to get where they’re going in the least time. And more people are using the trains and buses than ever before. So maybe spending billions on this tunnel wasn’t the most forward thinking idea. But like Michael and I in that car once we’d gone up that onramp, we’re stuck and have to just keep driving.

More confessions of a guy who likes the rain

Picture of a person under an umbrella in heavy rain, labeled Tourists. Below, a man stands in the rain, head tilted up, eyes closed, labeled True Washingtonians.

(Click to embiggen)

Thursday evening, as I was turning out lights and otherwise getting ready to climb into bed, rain started pounding the roof, hard. It had probably been raining for awhile, but I hadn’t noticed the sound until then. We’ve been getting a lot of drizzly days the last couple of weeks, but this was the first time in a long, long time that I’d heard that kind of really hard rain. So I pulled on my slippers and a shirt (since I was just wearing my fleece Seahawks shorts and ankle socks), went out on the veranda, stepped up to the rail, and held out my arms to let the rain fall on my for a few minutes.

It was the first time that evening that I had felt good.

I didn’t realize that I was sick on Thursday until about an hour after getting home from work, when the cough started. I have hay fever for at least ten months of the year, and weather transition periods are one of the times that my symptoms get really bad. And the previous two weeks, while we had had some drizzle and scattered showers with temperatures in the 60s, we’d also had at least one day each week when clouds all vanished and the temp edged up passed 80. So lots of transitions.

My hay fever almost never includes coughing. Congestion, sinus headache, sometimes achey/itchy eyes, and yes lots of sneezing, but not coughing. And if the hay fever has been severe for a few days in a row, I also start feeling really run down.

So all day Thursday I had felt like I had no energy, I had to work hard to stay focused on tasks at work (it was one of the few times I was glad that I had nearly half the day in meetings). My sinuses were very painful to the point that my throat was feeling it. I was in denial that it was an actual cold right up until that cough.

And a funny thing about when I’m in denial that I’m sick: the moment I admit that maybe it might not be hay fever, I notice that every symptom I have is worse. It’s like the denial sets up a dampener that cuts out half the pain signals coming in? I realized that in addition to the coughing, my throat was more acutely sore than I had thought, and my sinus headache was worse, et cetera.

I took some cold meds right away, but the coughing kept going, and it seemed like each coughing fit made my whole body more miserable.

So that moment of standing in the rain and really, really enjoying it was great.

Friday had already been scheduled as a work from home day, so I hunkered down with coffee and tea and got through it. We had to cancel weekend plans with friends—not just because I was miserable, but also because we don’t want to infect anyone. The two times that I had to leave the house, I wore a mask and did a handwash before leaving the house. I already had a doctor appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning where (along with periodic blood work) I was supposed to get my flu shot, so I figured if the cold hadn’t begun to get better by then, I’d see what the doctor thought.

He doesn’t think I have the flu, but I do have an upper respiratory infection. So! Antibiotics for me!

At several points during the weekend I took comfort in opening the windows so I can hear the rain coming down. I started having the chills on Saturday, so I haven’t been going out on the veranda except briefly to refill the bird feeder, but I can hear the rain just fine with the windows open, and even feel the cool, moist rainy breeze on my face occasionally.

I love Seattle weather when it’s rainy or just cool and overcast.

I love it so much that I get cranky at people complaining about the weather when it arrives in the fall, or when it lingers into June. I try not to say disparaging things to them when it comes up, because I have been know to gripe and whine about the heat during the seven-ish weeks of real summer weather we get most years. But in my head I think of the folks who gripe about our weather as anti-rain trolls—particularly the ones who wax rhapsodic about the great hiking trails or the beautiful mountains that they love to ski or snowboard on.

All that snow? It’s what happens to the rain storms after they pass over us and get to the mountains. All those gorgeous hiking trails? There’s a reason we call most of the forested area of the Olympic Pennisula a rain forest. Yeah, we have pine trees (and other conifers) instead of a tropical plants, but it’s still a rain forest and all those lovely hiking trails wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have all the rain.

So, welcome to one of my favorite times of year! Let me enjoy the rain in peace. I’ll try to whine less about being sick. And I will continue to try to keep my griping about the heat each summer to a minimum. Deal?

It’s not just a word—when I say “Nazi” I mean it

The cover of the very first appearance in any comic of Captain America shows him punching out Adolf Hitler, in case there was any doubt whose side he was on.

The cover of the very first appearance in any comic of Captain America (March 1941) shows him punching out Adolf Hitler, in case there was any doubt whose side he was on. (click to embiggen)

I keep seeing the same retort coming up again and again on line: “You’re just calling everyone who disagrees with you a Nazi!” And while I know a bunch of them saying that are just trolling, I also think a bunch of them actually believe it. So let’s clear some things up. The original Nazis were a Aryan nationalist movement in Germany that rose up amid the social turmoil occurring in the former German Empire during the aftermath of World War I, exacerbated by the world wide Great Depression. Which isn’t to say that the social and economic upheaval justified the movement, just that it made fertile soil for resentment and hatred, right?

The Nazis wanted an ethnically and culturally “pure” society, and were willing to use violence to make it happen. That means they advocated for what would now be called “self-deportation” of anyone who did match their mythical Aryan ideal. In other words: everyone who wasn’t white, who wasn’t culturally Christian, who wasn’t heterosexual (Berlin in the 1930s had a thriving and public homosexual community), and who didn’t agree with them were out. In the early stages the government arrested undesirables under pretexts of other crimes while they turned a blind eye to the actions of their supporters who terrorized people in various ways. The message was clear to people of color, to Jewish people, and queer people: disappear or else.

Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. Even though both of them were from the south and their accents would make anyone think they were “good old boys” they had no patience for racism or sectarian prejudice. And while the image most people have of white guys who were their age in the 1980s, they both despised Reagan. My paternal grandfather said for years that he was going to move to North Carolina (we had relatives there, so he visited a lot) and establish residency just so he would have the pleasure to vote against the notorious racist senator, Jesse Helms.

My dad, on the other hand, was a blatant racist. He regularly used the n-word and other racial slurs. And every time he did within earshot of his own father, Grandpa would tell him not to use that kind of language around him. My maternal grandfather also told Dad not to talk like that.

But it wasn’t just about coarse language. When Dad would say things (about Black people or Jewish people or queer people) like: they should go back where they came form, or they were all lazy/greedy/dishonest/immoral, or they deserved it when bad things happened to them—my grandfathers called him on it.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard my paternal grandfather admonish my dad sternly along the lines of: “I didn’t spend four years of my life fighting in a war just so people could do the same racist hateful stuff here! All people deserve respect and a chance to live their lives, no matter where they were born or what religion they believe or the color of their skin!”

Each time he argued with my dad on those subjects, he mentioned his service in WWII and compared Dad’s beliefs to those of the Nazis.

My maternal grandfather wasn’t around Dad and me at the same time as often as my paternal grandfather was (and after the divorce when more details of how bad Dad’s physical abuse had been, Grandpa absolutely refused to be around him), so I only heard him lecture Dad like that once, but it was a doozy. As I recall, it went something like this: “I spent years fighting Nazis and fascists. I watched a lot of good men die. I saw people who had been starved and beaten and imprisoned just because their skin was the wrong color or they attended the wrong kind of church. And all of that bloodshed happened because people said that kind of B.S. you just said and other people believed it. You have a right to your opinion, but if you try to put THAT opinion into action… well, I for one am not afraid to fight again!”

Both of my grandfathers knew what Nazis and fascists were. They literally fought them. And when Dad spouted off his racist, anti-semetic, and otherwise bigoted opinions, they all but called him a Nazi.

They set the bar, for me. When I hear someone saying that people of color should “go back where they came from” or that every member of a particular religious background is a terrorist, or that the poor or disabled or mentally ill people are burdens on society that need to be “dealt with,” or that whole categories of people should be locked up, or that the economy isn’t working right because of “those people” taking “our jobs” and someone should do something about it, or lump refugees and immigrants together and call them all disparaging names, et cetera, then I’m going to say you’re talking like a Nazi. And you are advocating the policies of Nazis.

I do not call everyone who disagrees with me about some things a Nazi. There are people I disagree with on really important things that I don’t think are talking like Nazis. I have a couple of relatives I could name who are opposed to gay rights in general and marriage equality in particular. They are civil when they talk to me or my husband, and they don’t think they have a bigoted bone in their bodies. They’re wrong on that point. And obviously as an out proud queer man we disagree about a bunch of important things because of their feelings about gay rights. But they don’t believe that we should be herded into “quarantine camps” and they are outraged that border agents have seperated familes and put children in cages and so forth. We disagree on some pretty important things, but they don’t advocate the policies of Nazis. So I don’t call them that.

If you don’t like being called a Nazi, maybe, just maybe, you should take a closer look at the kind of things you’re saying, the people you are supporting or defending, and the policies you’re reporting. Because if you take an honest look, you may finally see a Nazi looking back at you from the mirror.

And like my grandfathers said, those policies aren’t welcome here.

Why I hate hay fever reason #6502

“Wait, I'm going to sneeze.”

“Wait, I’m going to sneeze.”

Some people will be surprised that I’m writing about hay fever when it is practically autumn. Well, this is one of the reasons my hay fever is so annoying. I have a moderate-to-severe allergic reaction to every pollen, spore, and mold that the allergists test for, and in the mild climate west of the Cascade Mountains, that means hay fever season runs from about mid-Febbruary to approximately mid-December every year.

We’ve had a significant shift in the weather this weekend. In the middle of last week we had one day where the temperature creeped above 80º in some places. All this week, the daily highs are forecast to be in the lower to mid-60s, plus rain every day.

I absolutely love this kind of weather.

Unfortunately, one of the “features” of my hay fever is that my sinuses react most harshly to changes. If a new species that hasn’t been the predominant pollen-contributor in a while ramps up production, my sinuses go bananas. If the weather changes, whether from damp and cool to dry and hot or the other direction, then it’s all congestion and running nose and red itchy eyes for a couple of days.

So, while I should be ecstatic that I had to pull the lightweight jacket out of the backpack (where it gets carried most of the summer in case we have rain) to wear for the trip in to work, I am instead sniffly and sneezing and miserable.

Pass me that box of kleenex, please?

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