Tuesday, December 21, 2010

22 years ago today

I'd finished my classes for the semester and my dad had come to pick me up from college for the holiday break. 1988 had been an emotional roller coaster for our family. We'd lost four family friends in a small plane crash Easter morning, my mom had undergone a radical mastectomy in October and she was just starting her first rounds of chemo before Christmas. I was in the middle of my junior year in college, and I'd finally found a major I was willing to stick with: English. But since I'd waited a full two years to admit to myself I always should have been an English major, I had a lot of catching up to do. And my first-semester courseload had been heavy.

December 21 is the winter solstice–the day of the year with the shortest amount of sunlight—but it was nevertheless beautiful and sunny in Eastern Iowa that afternoon in 1988. And Dad and I had a nice chat over the 40-minute drive home. My family has always been close, so when we saw Mom standing in the driveway as we pulled up to the house, I figured she was just excited to see me.

But she was sobbing.

I assumed she'd gotten some bad news about her cancer while Dad was gone, so I jumped out of the car before it even came to a stop and I ran up to hug her. But the bad news was something entirely different: Miriam’s plane had gone down.

Miriam was a friend of mine who had spent the semester in London studying under the auspices of Syracuse University. I’d gone to visit her over the Thanksgiving break, and we’d had an awesome time seeing the sights, exploring the museums and taking in all the shows we could afford on our college-student budgets. Among the four we saw were Les Misérables and the extraordinary revival of Stephen Sondheim's extraordinary Follies. Sondheim was just starting to appear on our collective radar, and we both agreed that seeing Follies together was a mountaintop experience for us to have shared over our magical week together in London.

But by December 21, I'd come home, a whole month had passed and I’d been so caught up in my finals and holiday preparations that I’d had no idea Miriam was flying back to the States that day—much less what flight she was on. Neither had my mom. But our friend Jody in Ohio did. And when the initial reports that Pan Am flight 103 had disappeared out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, started washing over the newswires, Jody had called everyone she could think of.

Mom and Dad and I raced to the family room and crowded around the TV that crisp, sunny Iowa afternoon to see what we could find out about Miriam’s plane. It was the early days of CNN and 24-hour news, so we were able to get (spotty) information right away about the mysterious crash, along with grainy images of the wreckage shining dimly in the emergency lights that were working so hard to pierce the solstice blackness six time zones away.

Over the next few months and weeks, the world came to learn about the bomb, the Libyans, the retribution, the embargoes, the bankruptcies. We cautiously wrapped our brains around the unthinkable efficiencies of global terrorism at the dawn of the Information Age. And the friends and families of the victims of the 103 bombing started experiencing the bizarre dichotomy of watching our personal tragedy play itself out on the world stage.

In the years since Miriam's murder, I've befriended her parents and friends. I've gotten in touch with the roommates she lived with in London, none of whom had been on her plane with her that day. I've written pieces about my relatively removed perspective on the bombing that were published in newspapers and scholarly journals and read on NPR. And since I had been in London and had hung out with a lot of the Syracuse students a month before the bombing, I've actually been interviewed by the FBI.

And as I've grieved and matured over the last 22 years, I've discovered that I now tend to be efficiently emotionless when I hear about epic tragedies like the 9/11 bombings ... but I'll still burst into tears over emotional pablum like Kodak commercials.

Twenty-two years ago today, the world learned what a volatile mix misanthropy and religion and blind nationalism can be in a global melting pot.

Twenty-two years ago today, Miriam and her fellow passengers and their families and friends learned violently and unwillingly about harsh brutalities that the rest of the world got the relative luxury of absorbing over time.

Twenty-two years ago today, I learned that the distant tragedies that so often happen to “other people” should never be observed as abstractions. I discovered that news of plane crashes and acts of terrorism that play endlessly in 24-hour newscycles can be both disturbing and strangely comforting. I learned that life is precious, that there are no guarantees, that people who waste your time are just robbing you, that small gestures can make heroic impressions, that your pain and suffering and anguish and heartbreak do not make you special, that no matter how bad it gets you should find solace in the fact that it will probably get better, or at least easier.

Twenty-two years is enough time for someone to raise a child and send him or her off into the world. Enough time for five presidential elections and four new Sondheim musicals. (Six, if you count Saturday Night and The Frogs.)

It’s enough time for a gangly, unsure college boy to cycle through four cars and five houses and six jobs and three cities and one engagement as he grows into a successful, confident (more or less) man.

It’s enough time for him to realize that the world is not fair. That bad things happen to good people. That the bad people who did them don’t always get punished. That horrible tragedy gets easier to accept over time, though it remains impossible to forget.

I often wonder what Miriam would be if she were alive today. Famous actress? Influential journalist? Stay-at-home mom? She was among those people you just knew were going somewhere big with their lives. I’m sure that wherever the fates would have taken her, she’d be someone people knew about.

I also wonder if we would still be friends. We'd met that summer when we were singing and dancing in the shows at Darien Lake amusement park just outside Buffalo, New York. Our friendship lasted only seven months until she was murdered. I’m only barely in touch with the other friends I made at the theme park that summer. Though we still email, I haven’t actually talked to Miriam's family in years. Would she and I have drifted apart as well?

Since at this point I’m pretty much in control of our story, I choose to believe that by now I’d have sung in her wedding and helped her decorate her baby's room and given her a prominent link on my blogroll and kept her on my speed dial from the moment I got my first cell phone.

And I’m pretty sure she’d have written the same story for me if our fates had been reversed.

Twenty-two years ago today was the last, devastating act in a year that had shaken my family to its core. It was the day my worldview changed from naive to guarded, from optimistic to cynical, from insular to secular. It was the day my friend Miriam was murdered.

And it was just another day for most people.

And though the world continues to spin forward—as it should—and people's memories continue to fade—as they do—I will never forget.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Litany of complaints

There’s never enough time
Wow. 17 days since my last post. And yet it seems like just yesterday I was waxing rhapsodic in this very space about the life-affirming benefits of my digital toaster.

In that time I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in Iowa, seen Million Dollar Quartet, planned and canceled a holiday pie party that nobody could come to, written a freelance article about gay men and social media for Zeus magazine, worked an alarming number of 12-hour days, and just this week formally launched my period of boundless holiday cheer (or at the very least less-dour-than-I-am-the-other-11-months-of-the-year holiday cheer) with my annual pilgrimage to hear Chanticleer sing in the mighty Fourth Presbyterian Church on the Magnificent Mile.

But I didn’t get any blog posts written. Which is probably why my daily readership hovers in the tens. (Hi, everyone!)

People are morons
The first thing you have to do—the first thing—when you enter our office building—or almost any office building in the Loop—is tap your ID badge against an electronic reader to prove that you’re a … well, I’m not entirely sure what tapping your ID badge proves, but apparently it keeps the entire building safe from disgruntled ex-employees. And Senate Republicans.

This ID-badge-tapping-obligation is there every day. EVERY. DAY. It’s not randomly enforced as some once-a-month safety drill. And the electronic reader never moves to a different part of the building on some days. So there is no chance any reasonably functional building employee could rationally greet his or her morning tapping obligation as some sort of never-anticipated-in-a-million-years surprise.

And yet.

Every morning—every morning—some mouth-breathing cretin who’s more than likely just spent the last 30-plus minutes sitting on a train or a bus with the express purpose of coming to work in our ID-tapping-required building walks through the door, stumbles on the presence of the electronic reader, and only then commences searching through pockets and briefcases and purses to find his or her ID badge.

And guess where this mouth-breathing cretin stands to do his or her belabored searching? Right in front of the goddamned reader, that’s where. So the rest of us who possess more foresight than the average dead mosquito and who have our ID badges ready to tap the moment we walk through the building’s doors have to stand and wait while the mouth-breathing cretin proves to us beyond any hunch of a doubt that he or she needs to be trotted out to the sidewalk and shot in the head.

Go ahead. Ask anyone—at least anyone who’s reasonably functional—in our building if sidewalk head-shooting has never been contemplated in close vicinity to the electronic ID badge reader.

There are too many ruls
My nephew hand-lettered this sign years ago and taped it to his bedroom door after an unfortunate incident (which will not be described in any level of detail here to protect the reputation of an anonymous little girl) involving his younger sister peeing on his bedroom floor.

To what I assume will be his everlasting embarrassment, his mother—once she caught her breath after laughing like a deranged hyena … and presumably also after she cleaned the pee up from the floor—framed the sign and posted it in the powder room, where it shares space to this day with a framed (but not nearly as contextual) note hand-lettered by my niece, who had triumphantly catalogued the members of her family using her name, her brother’s name, “mom” and “bob,” which is not her dad’s name but we choose to think “bob” is more a product of her then lack of ability to distinguish between her b’s and her d’s, along with the totally unacceptable little-girl way she printed her a’s.

Or else she knows something we don’t.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things that separate us from the animals

Digital toasters. With the numbers in blue. Because blue goes well with our eyes:

Nice dishes. In neutral colors so as not to frighten the food. And a coordinated Barbra-themed mug to keep everything classy:

Bathroom magazine racks. So we don't trip over our bathroom reading like they do in prison:

Clever, relevant, thoughtful advertising. Exactly like this ad is not:
A model is supposed to do one of three things in an ad: Be someone you relate to, be someone you aspire to be, or be someone you want to get to know better. Ahem.

This chick is wearing semi-opaque pantyhose with a shorty-short romper. Who wears pantyhose with a romper? Who wears pantyhose? She's dressed too much like a slutty church secretary to be someone any thinking person can relate to. She's dressed too clownlike to be someone any self-respecting person could aspire to be. And unless you like your archy-backed porn starlets encased in tight nylon so you can't get to the good china, she's dressed too cluelessly to be someone any desperate person could want to get to know better.

And how exactly is she supposed to make me want to get an Android? Or even help me make the mental connection between her archy-backed pantyhoseness and the post-industrial aesthetic of all the rest of the Android advertising in the world?

With all the checks and balances my agency has in place to prevent bad ideas from seeing the light of day even for lowly billing inserts, how on earth did an agency with an obviously massive budget and a contract with a highly visible national brand get the corporate approval to stick this shitty stock photo into an enormous outdoor campaign? And why do I have to look at this stupid ad in every fucking bus stop in Chicago?

Advertising FAIL.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Many marathon musings!

The New York City Marathon cost me around $2,000, which includes the entry fee, airfare, hotel, cabs, food, a commemorative shirt and three pair of shoes for training during the summer. Plus maybe one Broadway show. Which might have been La Bête. Which I actually didn’t like. But I was a little excited about finally running the New York City Marathon so I had a hard time focusing on things like theater the whole weekend. Add to that the $2,500 we just spent on the bathroom renovation. And the roughly $12,000 I spend a year on my addiction to working out with a personal trainer.

So my disposable income and I decided that the elfin photos I stole off the NYC Marathon website are just as good as the huge, high-resolution images I’d get if I forked over $99 plus the inevitable handling fees even though I’d be doing the downloading so handling fees my ass.


I do have an actual photo to start my marathon photoblog. It features me and a dear family friend who flew in from Iowa to stay with her son and daughter-in-law in Brooklyn and cheer me on in the marathon. And also to take me out to dinner on Friday.

We ate at the up-to-the-minute trendy restaurant The Breslin in the hipster-cool lobby of the hipster-cool Ace Hotel. And our waitress, who was a little too perky to be plausibly human, took this lovely picture of us as we were busy digesting our warm olive-oily beer bread and lamburgers:

To welcome me to New York, The New Yorker also ran a commemorative cover that clearly shows me leading the pack of runners on my way to victory in the 2010 New York City Marathon:
(Again, since you read that I was the winner of the NYC Marathon here on my blog, there’s no need for you to waste time reading any of the official results. You’re welcome.)

So on to the marathon.

The NYC Marathon had a staggered start, and I don’t know how I got so lucky but I got the primo starting time. While other marathons send everyone over the start line at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, I didn’t even have to be at the Staten Island Ferry to be shuttled to my starting gate until 8:00. So I got to have a leisurely shower and a big, hearty, unrushed breakfast on my way to the ferry. And with the whole country falling back that morning, I got even more sleep!

My marathon wave took off from Staten Island at 10:40 am, once the sun was up and the sky was clear and the beautiful brisk day was as warm as its 50º would ever get. We ran the first mile up the soaring Verrazano Bridge and the second mile down it. Which was exhilarating and beautiful, but two miles of hills right off the bat? Ouch.

Anyway, this is what we looked like from the sky:

And here we are in closeup:

And here we are spreading out as we leave Staten Island and enter Brooklyn. If I’m in this picture, I’m somewhere on your left in a white disposable coat and sunglasses that reflect reds and yellows in pictures:

Can you stand one more picture of runners on a bridge? Here’s what we looked like flooding our way into Brooklyn:
Notice the throng of runners on the ramp coming from under the bridge. Those poor souls had to run their first two miles on the lower deck of the bridge, which may have been less hilly but it was also certainly less glorious.

I don’t know shit about the boroughs of New York, but this picture looks like what I remember Brooklyn looking like as we ran our first 12 miles through it. So we’ll say it’s Brooklyn:
Brooklyn, aside from being open and roomy enough for lots of runners and packed with screaming fans (aside from the mile-long-stretch of funeral-like quiet where it ran through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood), is also the only place I had to focus on finding people I knew in the crowd. My dinner companions from Friday were there to scream and cheer me on around mile 5, and it was a fabulous emotional boost to launch me into an even more fabulous emotional day.

The rest of the marathon is a blur of excitement, hills, screaming fans, hills, bridges, hills, brisk sunny weather, hills and the occasional hill. And aside from hills, the key word in that last sentence is blur. So I have no idea if these photos are in order. Except the first one, because I’m still wearing my disposable gloves, which I ditched around mile 6. Though I don’t remember walking in the first six miles, so this photo must be a hack Photoshop job designed to undermine my macho street cred:

The other hack Photoshop jobs on the marathon photo site include making me look fat with matronly legs:

And making me look fat with a rabid-dog face:

Thankfully, one photo actually makes me look kind of macho:

And after blurring my way through five boroughs (and right alongside the Citi corporate office building in Long Island City where I used to make endless business trips long before it occurred to me that I’d even ever want to run the NYC Marathon), huge always-curiously-uphill swaths of northern Manhattan, endless throngs of screaming fans, and three painful but beautiful final miles in Central Park (where Jared of Subway weight-loss fame actually passed me, surrounded by his retinue of hunky trainers), I finally crossed my last marathon finish line with my head held high and my freshly reactivated stress fractures in my feet screaming unflattering expletives at me:
See that woman in the black zip-up and white shirt in the bottom left corner? I met her on the Staten Island Ferry and chatted with her for a bit as we sailed our way (past the Statue of Liberty! which I gawked at like a tourist!) to the runners’ starting village. We parted ways when we docked but then randomly reconnected in one of the village warming tents. And as we walked to the starting line we decided at the last minute to do one final pre-emptive pee as we passed a bank of port-a-potties. Which made us quite literally the last two people to cross the starting line in the last heat of the marathon. And we ended up running pretty much the entire marathon together (and never needing to stop to pee). I, a veteran of six marathons, helped calm her apprehensions about running her first marathon, and she, a New York City native, told me all kinds of great stories about the boroughs and neighborhoods we ran through. She was an awesome running partner and a delightful addition to an already super-mega-fabulous-glorious day.


The NYC Marathon was my best friend from the moment I received my “I’M IN!” welcome kit in the mail last summer all the way through the NYC packet pickup, the shuttle to the start line, every thoughtfully organized point along the marathon route, the finish line, and the delivery of our goodie bags and finisher medals:

But then suddenly the hospitality was over. I was forced to shuffle along with thousands of freezing, exhausted finishers on a death march past at least a mile of trucks lined up with our checked bags and then dumped out into a barricaded street with no place to sit down, no shuttles to transportation, no cabs and enough of a traffic clusterfuck that I ended up walking what I estimate to be at least three miles to my hotel. It was a disappointing way to end a fabulous experience, but it is really my only quibble about the entire day.

Except for the next day at the airport, where I saw a good hundred people in their marathon shirts—which is cool—and a good 10 people sporting their marathon medals—which is not. Maybe it’s the stoic Norwegian in me talking here, but wearing your medal the day after a marathon is as garish and desperate-looking as wearing your homecoming queen tiara to your 10-year reunion.

My medal was tucked quietly in my carry-on where nobody needed to see it. And as soon as I got home I hung it on my sturdy Gargoyle o’ Medals Plus a Few Disco Ball Necklaces … which holds court discreetly on the inside of my closet:

I may be done with marathons, but I’m already signed up for the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago next summer. And I kinda want to do the Disneyland Half Marathon in Anaheim next fall. But traveling for another race involves money, and I’m currently on a spending hiatus … just in time to navigate my personal budget through the upcoming holidays.

In any case, I finally got to run the New York City Marathon and it was every bit as awesome as I’d hoped it would be. And looking back at it through grainy, elfin pictures actually matches the blurry memories I have of running past cheering fans through neighborhoods I'll probably never traverse again. My marathon phase was a fabulous part of my life, but it's done and I'm more than happy now to enjoy it through my memories and my blog archives and my grainy elfin pictures. And my Gargoyle o' Medals.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The marathon photos are in!

And as soon as I have a moment to download and comb through the high-res images from the official NYC Marathon photography site, I'll post some (flattering) pictures that are bigger than the Barbie® shoe above. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 08, 2010

I totally won the marathon!

They gave me a medal and everything to prove it:
So there's no need for you to read the finish times in the papers. Because you got your information here.

Actually, the marathon was brutal and cold and hilly (seriously, New York: What's with the hills?) but the spectators were an almost endless sea of screaming encouragement and the views across the bridges were breathtaking and I totally choked up when we finally entered the home stretch in Central Park ... but I finally tipped over into the world of this is hard work and I actually kind of hate it as I was running the last half. So at this time I see no more marathons in my future.

Don't get me wrong: The New York City Marathon was everything I'd hoped and dreamed and planned it to be. I choked up quite a few times from the sheer awesomeness of being a part of it. It was a great experience, but it was also a great last experience running a marathon.

Since I was in NYC on my own and the marathon photographers haven't posted their photos yet, I have no actual pictures of me to post. But don't think I won't be posting the (good) ones once the marathon folks get them online.

Oh. And I finished almost an hour slower than my best time. 05:14:35. And if that isn't a sign to hang up the marathon shoes and find a new hobby, I don't know what is.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

If you can read this ...

I'm running the New York City Marathon! Woot!

I set this blog post to go live the moment my wave starts. It's like magic!

Unless Blogger doesn't automatically adjust for Daylight Savings Time the way my iPhone is rumored to not do. Which makes me nervous as I write this at 10 pm Saturday night because my iPhone is my alarm. And my hotel room doesn't have an alarm clock so I'll have to call the front desk for a wake-up call. And I hate to be a bother.

But! By the time you read this it will all be figured out. And I'll be running through the streets of New York in my festive Genuine New Yorker™ colors: black and gray:

That garishly colorful white coat you see on the left is a $10 disposable one designed to keep me warm until I reach my running body temperature and then be thrown away, so it won't last past mile 3 or 4. So don't think I'm getting all sunny and Midwestern in my running-gear color palette. That would just be touristy of me. Kinda like the cheap-hotel bedspread in the background.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Jake's Wild World of Macho

By Sunday night I’ll have my seventh and last marathon behind me, a long road of limping ahead of me … and my own emotional permission to get another commemorative tattoo.

But for now I’m just so damn excited about finally running the New York City Marathon that I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl in a pair of kitten panties. I peaked in my training on a 22.5-mile run two weeks ago, I’ve had two (actually kind of rough) tapering runs the last two weekends, I treated myself to a pre-emptive sports massage on Saturday and a fresh pair of cushy new running socks, which has become my little pre-marathon gift-to-myself ritual every year … and I’m entering my final stretch with no injuries, no headcolds, no lurking tummy issues and no threats of freakish New York heat spikes on Sunday.

And no family.

My folks, who were so excited about cheering me on in New York that they booked their hotel last February before I even had a chance to book my own, will be staying in Iowa this weekend. My poor mother fell on a chunk of broken sidewalk in the dark last weekend and cracked three ribs and her patella, so she’s now locked helplessly in a knee immobilizer and a crushing pain around her lungs. She was hoping she could go anyway, but her doctors kind of laughed at her … and once she started thinking about the logistics of trains and bridges and staircases and distracted crowds and port-a-potties, she realized she had no hope of surviving the New York City Marathon spectator gauntlet.


I’m actually kind of glad. I told my whole family not to come back in February when I got official word that I was in. Marathons, for as much as I enjoy running them, are stressful. Aside from the obvious physical challenges, you have to worry about hydration and nutrition and peeing and pooping and friction and sunscreen and layering and weather and waking up in time and nail trimming and gear check and bibs and pins and shoe tags and not getting trampled in the first few miles before the runners can finally spread out … so wondering whether my family said they’d meet me at mile 16 or 18 when I’m already foggy at 15 and then further wondering what side of the street they said they’d be on is more than I sometimes feel equipped to handle. Plus I don’t know jack about the NYC subway system or the marathon course so I’d worry even more about my folks trying to navigate them without my help.

And on a selfish note, marathons for me are a very internal, personal thing. I’ve found over the years I kinda don’t like sharing them. I like going to the packet pickup and browsing among all the vendor booths and taking too long to decide which commemorative T-shirt I’m going to buy without feeling like I’m being rushed. I like knowing I can set my marathon-morning schedule and nobody’s gonna slow me down by oversleeping or needing to pee or dawdling at breakfast. I like sleeping alone the night before without the worry of being awakened by another body, no matter how much I love the man in that body. I like having my pre-marathon poop without worrying that the domestic partner is gonna hear me in the next room. I like entering the runners’ area on my own, just me against the 26.2 miles stretching ahead of me. And I like running in my own little zone, without an obligation to anyone but myself … and my plummeting electrolyte levels.

So the domestic partner isn’t coming either. Which makes me both sad and selfishly happy. It will be weird to do New York and Broadway without him next to me before the run, but I’m already in my happy Zen place thinking about how I’ll be running my last marathon the way I did my first: completely, utterly on my own.

Seven years ago I didn’t know any other runners and I didn’t really know what I was doing but I found a training program online and taped it to the fridge and ran every step from my first spring training run to my exhausted stumble across the finish line completely on my own. Since then I’ve run one more on my own, three with my AIDS Marathon pace groups, one with an ad hoc training group that quickly dissolved into no group at all and then this year, where I ran all but six runs alone. And while I love running with a buddy, I kind of love even more having I-did-it-myself bragging rights.

So I take off Friday morning for my last adventure in pushing through personal limitations. With a few yet-to-be-determined Broadway shows as an appetizer. And a slow, careful stumble from the finish line to my thoughtfully selected hotel room only half a mile away. All blissfully alone.

Now that my marathon phase is (almost) behind me, I need another physical outlet. Aside from my six-days-a-week gym habit that, quite frankly, is all about vanity and not even a little bit about health or physical well-being. Fortunately, some buddies just formed a volleyball team and invited me to join them. We’re playing in the lowest-skill-level league, which I think is officially classified as Z, which stands for Zygotes on Zantac. And we had our first Z-league skills camp on Saturday, where the facts were reinforced that 1) I suck at volleyball and 2) I’m in the exactly right league for my skill sets.

The other guys on our team seem nice, but I think we were all emphasizing our pleasant personalities on Saturday to distract each other from our marginal abilities to hit a ball without squealing. Our team captain promised me that he picked players based on their coolness in the face of failure, though, so I think I can safely look forward to five months of nice-guy bonding periodically interrupted by shocked squeals and bleacher searches for runaway balls.

The team captain also sent out a request for team name ideas. I, of course, suggested quite a few awesome ones … including The Bumpits, which would be simultaneously kick-ass, kitchy, memorable, punningly relevant, undeniably gay and the inspiration for a freaking cool T-shirt design. I also suggested—unfortunately—Princess Sparklepony and the Pretty Little Glitter Kittens. Which—also unfortunately—kind of won. I say “kind of” because it—fortunately—got truncated. So our T-shirts will, no doubt in some kind of sparkly fabric, eventually feature this logo, no doubt in some kind of sparkly iron-on:
I am so sorry, guys.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting up to speed

The state of the bathroom
The shower is finally grouted and double-caulked, the fancy waffle-knit spa-like shower curtain (with matching liner! just like in an adult bathroom!) is hung, a few pieces of decorative crap have been attached to the walls, and from the looks of things the bathroom renovation is done:
But! There’s still no water in the sink. Because I still can’t bring myself to admit defeat over some leaky water supply hoses that can’t be replaced without epic levels of runaround from random Home Depot employees and the faucet manufacturer. So I continue to sit and stew. And then I go wash my hands in the other bathroom.

But I’ve posted reviews of the products I bought on homedepot.com. And somewhere along the line I must have responded to a satisfaction survey from the site because this week I got an email from a homedepot.com representative offering me financial compensation for my frustration. Without me even asking! It’s only $75—and of course it’s in Home Depot gift cards, which are pretty worthless after I’m done spending $2,500 on the bathroom—but the fact remains that they asked and they listened and they responded. And, of course, there will always be another reason to go to Home Depot.

Speaking of gift cards …
The dramatic black-and-red-and-slightly-Southwest-inspired ceramic dishes that I’d brought into the marriage but the domestic partner had never truly loved the way he should as a stepfather had grown chipped and broken and it was about time to buy replacement pieces or scrap everything and start over.

And while I loved my dishes when I bought them for my old condo, they had a rustic heaviness that never really worked in our ultra-sleek, space-needle-like kitchen or our French-blue-exact-replica-of-Versailles-if-you-squint-and-you’ve-never-actually-been-to-Versailles dining room. Plus so many plates and bowls were cracked that we could only host dinner parties for five, assuming we could find five people who thought dramatic black-and-red-and-slightly-Southwest-inspired ceramic dishes actually looked good—chipped or not—in a French-blue-exact-replica-of-Versailles-if-you-squint-and-you’ve-never-actually-been-to-Versailles dining room.

Plus the plates were so big that they interfered with the little spinning water jet thingie mounted on the underside of our top dishwasher rack.

So we decided to pull the trigger and buy all new dishes that were small enough to fit in the dishwasher, durable enough not to get cracked by our clumsy kitchen help, and classically beautiful enough to look at home in our ultra-sleek, space-needle-like kitchen, the charming French bistro we’re opening in our living room and all the formal state dinners we host in our French-blue-exact-replica-of-Versailles-if-you-squint-and-you’ve-never-actually-been-to-Versailles dining room.

Plus! As I was digging around in our junk drawer last month for my trusty see-through ruler so I could more easily tape off the stripes I stenciled in our Art Nouveau/Art Deco old-timey apothecary-themed bathroom, I found four long-forgotten Crate&Barrel gift cards … and they were worth $160!

So I trolled through the dinnerware section of crateandbarrel.com and found these reasonably sized, reasonably priced classic beauties:
And after stopping by the store to discover that I loved them in person as much as I loved them online, I placed my order Sunday night. And by last night, I had my first ceremonial peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my first reasonably sized, reasonably priced classic beauty of a salad plate:

While we had our credit cards out …
Like many vintage Chicago courtyard-building condos, ours has an impossible-to-decorate length of hallway that just cries out for some kind of drama. But I have no interest in installing vaulted ceilings or a soothing water feature. So we planned to do the next best thing: install four-way dimmers on the lights. Of course, we talked about it for four years but never did anything about it. But a couple months ago our friend Rob heard us mention it and he recommended installing spotlight bulbs as well so we could cast dramatic pools of light down our runway. And last weekend, I finally did:
Of course, no project in our condo is without its dramatic setbacks, and last Saturday night found me on the 24-hour helpline with the dimmer manufacturer trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the lights to work. Turns out—and are you ready for this?—the developer of our condo labeled the wiring wrong. I know! Crazy! And they’ve been so spot-on with all their other efforts to burn down our building. But the dude on the phone—after repeated expressions of amazement at the clusterfuck of mislabeled wires I found spurting out of my junction boxes—managed to help me figure out what went where … and how to label it all correctly for the next person who goes digging around in our walls. And now we have a dramatic hallway runway fit for a couple dramatic queens. Ahem.

It Gets Better Project
While four of the 26 tapes we made in our epic taping marathon on October 3 got edited and posted online within a week, the company that volunteered to edit everything else overestimated the availability of its resources and nothing else has been edited or posted since then. But! They’ve found me someone else who says she can finish everything for me. (Those lesbians can fix anything.) And! The Chicago Tribune ran a pretty spectacular piece on us in its prominent Page 2 location on Monday. You can read it HERE.

Brian Cory
My first job out of college—aside from waiting tables at an Italian restaurant with fabulous breadsticks and even fabulouser gilded crown moldings—was crunching marketing numbers at Telecom*USA, a now-defunct Iowa phone book publisher that was a direct descendant of the epic 1984 Ma Bell divestiture. I worked there from 1991 until I found my first advertising job in 1992, and the only people I remember from the company are two fun young newlyweds who soon moved to Nebraska and disappeared off the grid and continue to elude my periodic Google and Facebook attempts to search for any sign of them.

And apparently there was also some dude there named Brian Cory. I have no recollection of ever working with someone named Brian Cory. And since it was my first job out of college and my first step up the ladder to international fame and fortune, I certainly have no recollection of developing any level of feel-free-to-joke-with-each-other-inappropriately relationship with any coworker from that company.

And yet this Brian Cory dude recently found me on LinkedIn and sent me THIS little gem of a note to mark our first communication in almost 20 years (assuming I had any memory of him):
His Palinesque command of English honestly makes it impossible for me to tell whether he’s a douchebag homophobe or just an epic loser with the judgment and sense of humor of a nine-year-old. Either way, I can't think of anyone I haven't seen for 20 years I would address this way as my first attempt at re-initiating communication. LinkedIn doesn’t offer an option for me to flag his note to me as offensive, so I’m doing the next best thing: posting it on my blog with his name repeated in the HTML text enough times that it might rise to the top of any Google search a future employer or potential boyfriend might do of his name. Brian Cory!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Renovation Porn: The Saga Continues

At the conclusion of our last breathtaking cliffhanger, the bathroom stripes were stenciled, the chandelier was hung and the toilet was re-installed, if for no other reason than to put an end to the constant stream of water running out of the supply valve that wouldn’t completely shut off.

But the vanity top hadn’t yet arrived. So the sink and the plumbing and the backsplash and the medicine cabinet and the new wall lighting were all waiting in limbo.

The vanity top had been promised to be delivered in 3-5 business days. But it ended up sitting 8 days in a Tennessee warehouse—where it was no doubt thoroughly indoctrinated in the cerebral political theories of Sarah Palin—before it finally showed up at our door.

And I was so excited to see its awesome white-marble-with-old-timey-veins-of-gray awesomeness that I ripped the packaging open to gaze upon its … endless, relentless diaper-gruel beigeness.

Which means that once again, homedepot.com had shipped me a huge box of frustration and disappointment.

But I’d put the bathroom on hold—and held the entire house hostage to its renovation clutter—for way too long. So goodbye, gray-marble-and-polished-chrome-old-timey-apothecary-themed bathroom dream! And hello, diaper-gruel-colored-1986-suburban-Holiday-Inn-employee-breakroom bathroom depression!

But just like a parent who discovers his child prefers Webber over Sondheim, I stoically shifted gears, embraced my new diaper-gruel color story and set about making my new not-white-and-gray-marble-themed bathroom the best little bathroom it could be.

But not until I’d fake-assembled my new multi-drawered-storage-addict's-dream vanity and diaper-gruel vanity top and shiny polished chrome faucet in the living room just to get an idea what it would all eventually look like:

We’d planned to use cool frosted-green glass tile for our backsplash, but I couldn’t even find a clear glass option at the tile store that went with diaper gruel. But I did find a cool onyx mosaic tile that included the greens of the walls, the grays and whites of the vanity top we thought we were buying, and the diaper gruels of the vanity top we’re stuck with. And once I got it up, I was actually pretty happy with it:

And a creamy filling of snow-white grout made its colors kinda shimmer and dance with each other, but never in a vulgar way. Though the setting sun sure gives it a theatrical sense of drama here, no?

Once the grout was cleaned up, I was a little more at peace with my diaper-gruel color story. Dramatic little tiles can improve any grueling (ahem) setback:
See that notch in the top row of tiles? That’s for the brace that holds up the medicine cabinet. It’s off center so the screw holes in the brace can line up with the wall studs. Normally I can find these studs just by knocking along the wall with my knuckle and listening for what I think is a pretty obvious change in sound when I’m knocking on drywall with a stud behind it. The change in sound in this wall was almost imperceptible, though. And when I cut a hole in the drywall to fish the electrical wires up to their new escape hole over the new medicine cabinet, I discovered why: THERE ARE NO STUDS. The drywall is just attached to thin strips of lathe.

And that’s just one of many appalling surprises I’ve found as I’ve renovated our condo. The original grout was installed by squirrels. The drywall joints are as straight—and attractive—as a televangelist. There are rarely junction boxes for the lights. The electrical wires are only sometimes encased in conduit. I opened one junction box for an electrical outlet to discover that all its wires were sheathed in yellow. (Usually one wire is white and one wire is black or yellow or red or some other non-white color so you know which wire is hot and which wire is neutral—and what the gauge is if that’s important to know for a specific fixture—so your wire connections don’t burn your fucking house down.)

Where was I? Oh, yes: diaper gruel. And there’s no better way to wash it away than with a fabulous polished chrome Victorian/Art Nouveau faucet, which would look extra-fabulous on a white and gray marble vanity top, but what can you do:

And what makes a faucet even better? When you hook up the plumbing and you make water come out of it!

And what would make you suddenly hate your faucet more than you hate the thought that Christine O’Donnell has even one follower who isn’t a toddler with a drinking problem? Water supply lines that drip and drip and drip and never fucking stop dripping:

Unlike most faucets that come in one solid hunk of metal, the one I bought (unbeknownst to me) comes as two separate handles and one separate spout that are all connected by flexible hoses. Unfortunately, those hoses don’t have that “watertight” quality that the kids are all into these days … even when you take them apart and re-assemble them seven fucking times with seven fucking ways of incorporating or not incorporating plumbers’ tape to see if that makes a difference, which it doesn’t. Even more unfortunately, you can’t buy replacement hoses at your friendly neighborhood Home Depot. No! You have to special order them from the faucet manufacturer. Which is the exact opposite of what you want to do when you’d rather rip the faucet out of the sink and throw its drippy worthlessness at the nearest Home Depot employee. Even more unfortunately, buying a whole new style of non-dripping faucet would be even more work than you care to think about because you’ve already bought and installed the matching toilet paper holder:

So as of this writing, the sink and faucet are completely installed, but the water supply lines are shut off until I can calm down and decide what the fuck to do about them.

But! The fabulous mirrored (even on the inside!) medicine cabinet is installed with super-gay under-cabinet lighting to give my dancing backsplash tiles even more drama … even though I made the backsplash probably a bit too high in an attempt to make sure my freakishly tall husband can see all of his handsome mug when he looks in the mirror. Plus in this picture (where I’m sitting on a stool so don’t think I made the backsplash like six miles too high or anything) you can totally see how abso-freaking awesome our chandelier looks … along with the tape marks reminding me to touch up the paint on the door frame:

For some reason, my trusty iPhone was blinded by our ultra-mega-awesome Art Nouveau/Art Deco dramatic-upsweep wall light that doesn’t make you have to look at bare lightbulbs (and everyone knows how much I hate to see bare lightbulbs) so I had to turn it off to take a picture of it for you, which also includes a reflection of parts of my tall handsome husband in the doorway:

Which brings us to the reason we started the bathroom renovation in the first place: The grout in our bathtub/shower had started to crack this summer and I was worried that since it’s on an outside wall the cracks would lead to water damage as the wall contracted this winter. So even though I started the renovation project merely by scraping cracked old grout, I waited until I’d done seven million other things in the bathroom before I filled my scrapings with fresh new grout:

Those of you who’ve worked with grout know that it cures in stages. You mix it. You wait 10 minutes. You mix it again. You wait again. You apply it to the walls. You wait. You squeegee it flat. You … probably see the pattern by now. But all that waiting is the perfect opportunity to take everything out of your nearby closet, get rid of the embarrassing stuff and reassemble everything in orderly stacks:
(middle shelf, left to right: solid T-shirts, casual T-shirts, more casual T-shirts, sleeveless shirts for the gym, tank tops, nicer T-shirts, patterned polo shirts, solid polo shirts (not shown))

And what porn-labeled blog post would be complete without a discussion of how I purged my unwanted shoes (which is like getting rid of your unwanted children … but harder)? But one giant bag of 18 forlorn, destined-for-a-lifetime-of-abandonment-issues-and-therapy shoes later, I can finally say that each pair of my wanted and loved and worthy shoes now has its own home:

And that’s all any proud parent could ever want … aside from children who prefer Sondheim over Webber … and alcohol poisoning over Christine O’Donnell.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm wearing purple today

Look around you today. There are (or should be) purple shirts everywhere in tribute to bullied gay kids who have committed suicide ... and in a show of of solidarity and support for bullied gay kids who need to see they have allies all around them.

I don't own a lot of purple, but I'm sporting all I have today: my purple T-shirt and my purple-ish shoes and even my purple protein shaker. There's a low probability I'll encounter any bullied kids in the course of my day, but it was heartening to see so much purple on the sidewalks in the Loop this morning. And even as we purple-clad adults sit safely in our adult offices across the country, we are at the very least thinking about you kids and hoping you're finding the strength to rise above whatever abuse you're suffering.

And remember: "Bullying" is just a perversely nicer-sounding word for "assault." If you're being physically harmed at school or even at home, call the police and press charges. You do NOT have to put up with physical abuse from anyone.

And think twice before you do anything to hurt yourself. Because the moment you do, the people assaulting you have gotten even more of what they want. Don't give them that satisfaction.

For more proof that you have allies across the world, visit the It Gets Better Project.

And if you need to talk to someone, you'll find all kinds of help at The Trevor Project.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Don’t give up! You can finish!

So Sunday was the first Chicago Marathon I didn’t run in seven years.

Except I actually kinda ran it. Well, half of it. Sort of.

Matthew, who intercepted me last year at mile 21 when I was as close to death as Bristol Palin is to a dancer (or a star) and propelled me somehow to the finish through my fog of pain and delirium and stab-me-in-the-neck-and-kill-me-nowium, asked me to return the favor this year for him and our friend Taz. Except he asked me to meet them at the halfway point.

So on Saturday night I carb-loaded at a touristy Italian place with Matthew’s family and then made what was supposed to be a brief appearance at a joint birthday party where I only semi-socially know the birthday boys and their slowly-becoming-friendly-to-me circle of friends. I figured the party would be nothing but a sea of panic-attack triggers and I’d be cowering in my own bed an hour after I arrived. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a nice time. The guests were nice, the snacks were carby, the hours flew by … and I was a groggy mess when my alarm went off at 5:30 the next morning.

Stupid panic attacks. They never work when you schedule them to.


I got up, donned my running togs, loaded up on what ended up being not nearly enough food to get me through half a marathon, and joined Matthew’s family to cheer for the runners at the start and in Boystown and then I raced ahead to meet up with Matthew and Taz at the base of the Willis (née Sears) Tower, which is the last close-to-the-Red-Line location before the halfway point, where the marathon shoots straight west for a couple long, shade-free miles.

I was kinda pissed that the weather had been so gorgeous that morning; I’ve run the last six marathons in either extreme heat or extreme cold so of course the weather was perfect the year I didn’t officially run it.

And then of course the temperature spiked the moment I jumped in.

I was actually looking forward to running (and enjoying and even simply noticing) the second half of the marathon route this year. Normally by mile 17 I’m in my just-stay-focused-straight-ahead-and-run mode, so I miss out on all the festivities in the Mexican, Italian and Chinese neighborhoods the second half of the marathon snakes through. And since I was starting fresh at mile 13, I’d planned on enjoying a fabulous running tour of Chicago’s southside neighborhoods as I propelled my fabulous friends to the finish line.


Matthew and Taz were already hurting by the time I met up with them. And the spiking heat just undermined their motivation. So we ended up doing a lot of walking. Which was fine; it was their marathon and I was just there for moral support when they needed me. Unfortunately, there’s tons of photographic evidence that we not only walked parts of the marathon but we were walked parts of the marathon proudly:

We’re not completely shameless, though; we mustered up the strength to run—and even smile—when the photo ops were especially photo-oppy, like when they included Chicago Marathon-branded flooring:

But the fact remained that I’m still training for the New York City Marathon in November, and I was scheduled to run 12 miles the weekend of the Chicago Marathon. So at mile 23 when Matthew and Taz announced they were going to walk the rest of the way to the finish line, I asked if they’d mind if I abandoned them and ran ahead just to get some miles in, since they didn’t need me to help them walk.

They didn’t mind, and I took off running … and it suddenly dawned on me that I was kind of sprinting through the hardest miles of the marathon, possibly making the other struggling (and legitimate) runners around me feel bad about themselves. But there was only one way back, so I kept going, planning to jump off at mile 26, right before the course veers over a half a block to the finishers’ chute.

To my horror, though, I discovered that the last half mile was barricaded to keep the spectators away from the runners. And unless I ran backward down the course, I was kind of stuck on my road to runner prevarication. And when I got to the 26-mile marker where the runners turned toward the finish chute, I stopped and tried to find a way to sneak through the barricades.

And that's when it happened.

Someone yelled at me. Someone yelled something encouraging:

Don’t give up! You can finish!

And the goodwill of that stranger, a byproduct of my original goodwill to help my friends, suddenly made me feel as fraudulent as Christine O’Donnell writing a résumé. Except I’d actually accomplished something. Plus I know “I’m you” is code for “I’m too stupid and lazy to understand the issues too” and not the endearing term of solidarity she hopes her stupid and lazy voter base interprets it to be. Plus I had my shirt off.

Plus I’m obviously capable of feeling shame.

Fortunately, I found a break in the barricade (the barricade-erecting people obviously didn’t plan for people running friends in and needing a quick escape at mile 26) and there were thousands of legitimate runners on hand to distract the well-meaning crowd from taunting me with their encouragement.

And now that all the Chicago Marathon mania has died down—and all the volunteers who man the free Gatorade tables along the lakefront trail every Saturday in summer have packed up for the fall—I still have to train. All alone. For another month.

And I can’t wait!

I run 22 miles this Saturday then taper down to 15 and 8 the next two weekends.

And then—after four years of waiting—I’m finally going to be running the celebrated New York City Marathon. With no injuries (so far) and no worries about November temperature spikes (I hope) and a glorious 26.2 mile course to keep me entertained.

And I won't give up.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus meets the It Gets Better Project!

I was expecting this little song to be a slightly cheesy but completely heartfelt alternative to all the personal-history stories on ItGetsBetterProject.com. But once the chorus started singing it ... wow. When 150 voices rise together—even to sing simple lyrics to a public-domain melody (to sidestep any copyright issues)—there is a confluence of magic. The robust sound, the earnest faces, the emotional momentum the singers create once they catapult themselves into the canon ... let's just say the domestic partner and I were blubbering messes before they finished the first runthrough.

The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus is all about making music and having fun (and occasionally coaxing me into a wig and heels), but it's ultimately about showing the world—and any abused gay kids who need to see that there's something to look forward to—that gay adults can and DO live incredibly wonderful lives. It really can get better!

The videos from our October 3 taping marathon are still being edited, but you can see more and more of them every day on my brand spankin' new YouTube channel.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The new Gap logo: a theory

The new Gap logo will look positively awesome embroidered above the saggy breast pockets of 3,500 two-sizes-too-big khaki button-downs at a corporate team-building event in a Kansas Sheraton ballroom this winter. But what's the story behind the new look? How did Gap land on a corporate identity that takes us back to the heady design days of Quark 4.0 and the endless debate over Helvetica vs. Stone Serif (vs. Tekton if we're thinking outside the box)?

Here's one theory from deep within the agency trenches:

1) Gap focus-grouped its brand to come up with an "emotional map" of key words like "timeless," "reliable," "unpretentious" and "true blue."

2) Then it RFP'd six design agencies to submit 37 logos each based on these meaningless words.

3) After 1,942 internal meetings gathering invaluable branding input from textile buyers, franchise attorneys and vice presidents of finance, Gap narrowed the choices down to their favorite elements of 16 different logos and asked two of the agencies to create some hybrid logos incorporating these elements for a second round of feedback-gathering, this time in a series of mood boards and adlobs to provide "end-user context."

4) Four days before the scheduled launch of their new brand, Gap decided the new hybrid logos weren't completely following their emotional map, so they panicked and called in a favor from their old agency ... the one they were planning to fire after the new logo was chosen.

5) The call came in at 3:47 pm on a Friday, and all the art directors at the old agency were forced to cancel their weekend plans to come up with a shit-ton more logo ideas by 9:00 am Monday.

6) Gap sat on these new ideas for 17 days while they had an internal reorg.

7) The new vice president of camisoles, inspired by a burst of creativity he felt in a senior staff off-site, came up with the current logo at his dining room table on a Thursday night using the stencils his probably gay son bought to decorate his bedroom walls in Mies van der Rohe quotes and presented it to the board of directors the very next morning ... shrewdly keeping the new vice president of denim and the chief underwear officer—who would just try to sabotage his idea—out of the loop.

8) The board of directors—wisely making branding decisions by committee—voted eleven times and approved the new logo after it was modified to give it a weird footprint that will look clumsy in almost any layout.

9) This dining-room-table story will be enshrined in the annual report and repeated at shareholder meetings for the next 12 years as proof that Gap knows its best ideas come from its most important asset: its people.

(Gap corporate brand guys: Am I close?)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

We taped 25 gay people and families today!

Our video-making marathon for the It Gets Better Project could not have gone better today. Everything fell magically into place—from the donated shooting space to the fabulous friends who volunteered to shoot the videos, coach the people in front of the camera and even bring us food (bless you!) to Dan Savage himself flying in to add moral support and super-awesome celebrity cred to the event—which made the entire day a breeze. Plus everyone showed up on time!

And when we were done taping all our volunteers in the donated room at the Center on Halsted, the GLBT community center in the heart of Boystown, we carried our equipment a few blocks down the street to a Chicago Gay Men's Chorus rehearsal, where 100+ voices sang some slightly cheesy but heartfelt alternate lyrics (if you think they're really cheesy, then I totally did not write them) to Frere Jacques for a delightfully unique take on an It Gets Better video. And cheesy or not, I teared up like a leaky garden hose the first time I heard the chorus sing it for the camera. Somehow the confluence of my simple lyrics, the earnestness of the singers, the contrapuntal harmonies and the relentless forward motion of the canon transformed my cute little idea into something profoundly moving.

Plus, I randomly ran into WGN-TV entertainment critic/reporter Dean Richards this week, and I randomly floated the idea of maybe getting some media coverage for the event. Tons of adult gay people know about the It Gets Better Project, but we're not its intended audience. I hoped that if a mainstream news station like WGN could cover us, then little bullied suburban and rural gay kids who may feel terrified, alone and despondent would know there's a place to turn for hope. Which isn't going to end the bullying, but hope is a step in the right direction ... and often all we as gay adults can offer these poor kids. Dean asked for a press release, which I promptly wrote and passed off to him … and when we got to the taping location today, a whole WGN news team showed up. And even though they didn't use my interview in the segment (ahem) we got a big fat piece on the 9:00 news tonight! Woot!

Didja see me? I'm in a purple shirt for a tenth of a second in the background of one scene early in the segment. Which means I'm the star!

We got a ton of work done today, but we still have a ton of work ahead of us editing six-plus hours of video … which yet another fabulous (and Emmy-winning!) friend has volunteered to do. And you can bet I'll be promoting the hell out of our videos right here on my blog when they're all edited and ready to be seen. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Altruism and Vanity

This weekend’s It Gets Better Project video-making marathon is full … less than 24 hours after I sent the first invitation looking for volunteers to share their stories on camera. All 24 taping slots were grabbed up in rapid succession on Tuesday … thanks in part to the free plugs we got on Joe.My.God and AfterElton and The Best of Gay Chicago and Chicagoist. And at this writing I have a growing waiting list of 17 people who still want to be a part of it.

I’m sorry I can’t accommodate everyone, but we’re staffing the entire day with volunteers and filming people in a donated room and I think a six-hour marathon of taping is more than we can fairly ask of anyone. But what an awesome problem to have.

And we’re already toying with the idea of setting up a second video-making marathon … after the real Chicago Marathon is over in two weeks. And after the damn bathroom renovation is behind me.


I emailed our video marathon idea to Dan Savage, and he’s actually coming up to help out! So all our fabulous volunteers will get to meet him when they tell their stories … and together we’ll take another step forward helping bullied gay kids across the world understand that if they can just survive the homophobic abuse they’re currently trapped in, their lives can indeed get better.

My trainer is still beating the crap out of me three days a week in my increasingly transparent efforts to stay physically relevant in today’s youth-obsessed culture.

He’s also been faithfully updating his training blog, which often features brutal workouts he’s guinea-pigged on me the day before.

And now he’s made some videos demonstrating the no-excuses form he demands from me even when I’m exhausted to the point of sobbing into my lace workout ascot and peeing (accidentally!) into my cool new hybrid workout/work shoes. Even though I’m the one paying him. Man, what a sweet gig this guy has going.

Anyway, here he is demonstrating the rotator cuff exercises he makes me do more often than Sarah Palin spells a word correctly since I’m getting old and my rotator cuffs are so weak that they’re starting to undermine my form on my arm and chest workouts and they make my shoulders burn even when they shouldn’t be burning because I have weak rotator cuffs and oh my gosh I am trying really really hard not to call them masturbator cuffs here even though that would be funny, at least to an 11-year-old boy. But where was I? Oh yeah: My trainer has arms that look like Volkswagons:

You can see more of the muscle cars he stores in his garage in his growing library of training videos.

And to create a handy link between the two halves of this blog post—something the 1980s business world called synergy—his training videos were filmed by my super-awesome friend Michael, who is also going to be the videographer for this weekend’s six-hour It Gets Better Project video-making marathon. And what is a gay blog post without a super-awesome motif?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Be a part of the It Gets Better Project!

15 minutes of your time could make a lifetime of difference.

Dan Savage and his husband Terry, frustrated and horrified over the growing epidemic of gay teens who have attempted or committed suicide to escape brutal bullying at school and home, have created a brilliant way to reach out and give hope to gay kids.

The It Gets Better Project is a library of YouTube videos featuring happy, proud gay adults talking about how the bullying will eventually end and life eventually gets better. You can see the clips he's collected so far HERE and you can read a time.com article about the project HERE.

The library is growing every day. But Dan has asked for more clips—particularly clips of couples and families ready to share the joy of their lives as gay adults—so we are working with the Center on Halsted to host a free six-hour videotaping marathon. And we want you to participate!

Date: Sunday, October 3, 2010
Time: 15-minute sessions between 1:00 and 7:00 pm
Location: Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted
Room: Polk Brothers Foundation Youth Space, Second Floor

Here’s all you have to do:

1. Forward this information to all your Chicago-area adult gay friends.

2. Email nofo jake at gmail dot com to schedule your 15-minute shoot. Please include your name, phone number and a range of times you’re available, and we’ll do our best to fit everyone in.

3. Bring a photo of you as a kid if you want. We’ll scan it while you have your shoot and give it back to you.

That’s it! We’ll edit your video, add your photo and submit it to Dan to post on the It Gets Better Project page.

Thanks in advance for your participation. See you Sunday!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Renovation porn

So I took Friday off and spent a full three days (minus a 12-mile run, a trip to Home Depot, an hour drooling over Pat Tillman’s foul-mouthed brother on Bill Maher and an hour finally catching up on Glee, which also involved drooling over the new blond dude) working on our bathroom.

But the old-timey marble vanity top I ordered seven days ago has been sitting in a fucking warehouse in fucking Tennessee for six fucking days:

And without a vanity top, there’s a ripple effect on all the things I still can’t accomplish:
• I don’t want to buy the backsplash tile until I can match it to the marble in the vanity top.
• I can’t install the backsplash tile anyway until I have the vanity top installed.
• I can’t install the medicine cabinet until the backsplash tile is installed.
• I can’t install the medicine cabinet lighting until the medicine cabinet is installed.
• BONUS FRUSTRATION! The vanity top purportedly has an 8" spread for a faucet, which is a relatively uncommon faucet size for a bathroom … especially on a vanity top that’s only 31" wide. Since I bought the towel bar and toilet paper holder that match the 8" faucet I found (which is mega-cool in an old-timey French apothecary kind of way so I’m actually excited about it) I don’t want to install them until I see the actual holes in the vanity top to confirm that the specs on the Home Depot web site aren’t a bunch of hooey.


I did get a lot of other important bathroom stuff accomplished in my 72-hour bathroom-renovation marathon, though most of it was the non-sexy important bathroom stuff like patching holes and waterproofing the window in the shower and squirting endless ropes of painter’s caulk in corners and cracks and crevices to make the walls and the moldings as smooth and professional-looking as the exact opposite of Bristol Palin’s dancing.


I got a shit-ton of painting done, including the mega-hella-awesome semi-opaque silver-and-snow-white stencil that anchors our weirdly proportioned bathroom with an Art Deco sense of color and structure and moxie (which is Art Deco-era slang for mega-hella-awesomeness). The stencil is an inch-wide stripe that runs up the edge of each wall, across the ceiling and back down the opposite wall, intersecting in the ceiling corners to create a frame of silver that adds elegance, sophistication and a shiny distraction from my not-amazingly-professional-looking repairs to the bubbly ceiling drywall.

And of course I took pictures. Lots of pictures. Too many pictures, in fact, to get the idea across. But I’m going to post them anyway.

Here are our newly painted ceiling (in Sherwin-Williams “ancient marble”) and walls (in Sherwin-Williams “svelte sage,” which in a freakishly random coincidence is the same color my sister painted her front hallway and my mom painted her guest bedroom) taped off after hours and hours of painstaking measuring and swearing so it’s ready for stenciling:
Even though it’s just a blue-taped-off negative of the eventual stencil at this point, I got totally excited about the relentless Art Deco verticalness of it all when the taping was finally done.

Here’s the corner with the door, which blocks most of one of the wall stripes, which means less stenciling for me:

Here’s one of the corners of the shower (see what I mean about too many pictures?), which blocks off most of two of the wall stripes, which means even less stenciling for me:

Here’s part of the stencil finished and un-taped because I was too excited to wait to do all the stenciling before pulling off the tape:
Little-known fact: Stenciling a ceiling is a bodybuilder-grade deltoid workout. At this writing, it’s been about 30 hours since I finished stenciling—which, for the non-crafty among you, involves distrubuting a thick, oily, uncooperative paste of color onto a wall or ceiling using a stiff, short-bristled brush using an aggressive swirling motion—and my damn shoulder is still twitching.

And here’s one corner completely done:
The stripes look pretty straight in this picture, but since they follow the shoddy edges of the shoddily installed drywall by the shoddy contractors who did the shoddy rehab of the condo before we bought it, the stripes are as straight as a mega-church pastor who campaigns against marriage equality. But since they’re a muted silver, they’re not even half as faggy.

As you may recall, the water supply for the toilet wouldn’t shut completely off when I removed the toilet so I could repair all the cracked grout from the shoddy floor tile installation, so I was forced to rig an improvised bridge-and-funnel connection between the drippy wall plumbing and the poop hole in the floor.

And since that forced me to leave the poop hole unplugged, sewer gasses were escaping into the house. And the lonely candle I left burning next to the hole wasn’t enough to burn off the smell, so I was in an understandable hurry to get the stripes stenciled in the toilet corner so I could re-install the toilet—taking a moment to savor the almost-never-in-a-lifetime thrill of squishing a toilet down on a fresh wax ring—and get the house back to its usual eau de sweaty gym clothes and wet running socks. I have never been so happy to see a toilet installed on its poop hole in my life:
Note the white square on the wall next to the toilet. Since the new white vanity doesn’t have a back on it, I taped off and whitewashed the wall that will be the back of the vanity cupboard when you open the doors. It’s details like that that separate the humans from the McCains.


I also installed my new favorite part of our soon-to be-awesomist-bathroom-on-the-planet bathroom: a crystal-beaded, bordello-inspired, patina-distressed bathroom chandelier:

And the only thing gayer than a crystal-beaded, bordello-inspired, patina-distressed bathroom chandelier is a crystal-beaded, bordello-inspired, patina-distressed bathroom chandelier on a dimmer. Seriously. How much do you love this chandelier? It has crystals and beads. It has olde-worlde charm. It has swirly S shapes and faux-melty candle bases for the bulbs. Its leaden patina nicely complements the semi-opaque silver-and-snow-white stencil in the background. Its leaden patina probably also leaches lead into the atmosphere. And I put it on a dimmer, giving our bathroom infinite levels of dramatic lighting opportunities for all the dramatic teeth-brushing and showering and pooping we do.

And we gays can’t do anything without drama. Just ask the fucking vanity top that’s been sitting in a warehouse in fucking Tennessee for six fucking days and fucking up my entire renovation schedule.