Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I'll probably be working late tonight, so I won't be handing out treats or going to any of your parties. Even if you'd asked me to come to any of your parties. Harumph.

We haven't done much decorating for the holidays this year—our combined Halloween decoration collection could fill half a shoebox—but we did manage to find my old vampire Mickey pumpkin thingy and put it in our window. I hope it's not too frightening for any of you.
Actually, what's frightening is that even though my cheap camera can't get a good zoom closeup or take a high-resolution picture in the dark, it can penetrate the dark from the sidewalk through a window half a flight up and reach the far end of the living room well enough to capture the ghetto ceiling fan the developer installed. We're working to find a replacement, but we can't reach a consensus on a ceiling fan that speaks for both of us. In the mean time, please just focus on vampire Mickey.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My dad is 68 today

And I was born in 1968. Which totally proves he's my real father.

Just in case there was any confusion.

My niece and nephew called him this morning to warble the happy birthday song over the phone. After they were done singing, my niece helpfully identified herself. Just in case he couldn't differentiate them from all the other under-10 singing duos who called. She can be proactive that way.

Now it's my turn: Happy birthday, Dad! I hope you enjoy many, many more.

(This is Jake.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

ChicagoRound: Graceland Cemetery

We took the Chicago Architecture Foundation's two-hour walking tour of Chicago's pastoral Graceland Cemetery on Sunday afternoon. The tour is only ten bucks for non-members, and it gives you a sweeping overview of Chicago history, politics, architecture and society. The cemetery, founded in 1860, was designed by landscape architects H.W.S. Cleveland and Ossian Simonds in the Victorian park style, with winding roads, lush native foliage and man-made lakes that work to create a serene, inviting space for visitors. Everyone who's anyone in Chicago history is buried at Graceland, and many of the monuments and mausolea are architectural icons designed by the city's most famous architects. Here's a mere sample of the architecture and the stories the cemetery contains:

This heavenward-facing angel welcomes visitors to the cemetery. In true Victorian fashion, she's the embodiment of lyric Romanticism, and she becomes so entangled in vines that she has to be hacked free at least once a year.

Lorado Taft's iconic "Eternal Silence" is perhaps the cemetery's most famous monument. Built in 1909 for the family of Chicago pioneer, hotelier and spooky-boneyard-name titleholder Dexter Graves, it features a hooded figure whose dark receded face stands in arresting contrast to the bright patina of its robes. The monument was recently cleaned and restored, but the face was left dark, presumably to freak out little children who wander too close:

Taft's 1931 "Crusader" was erected to honor newspaper publisher and philanthropist Victor Lawson. The figure is as solitary and heroic as "Eternal Silence," but it features the smoother surfaces and sleeker lines of the Art Deco movement, in contrast to the overwrought turn-of-the-century emotion of "Eternal Silence."

Potter Palmer, proprietor of Chicago's iconic Palmer House hotel, is entombed next to his wife, Bertha Honoré Palmer, in a pair of sarcophagi under an austere 1902 Greek revival temple featuring a stately colonnade of pillars. The Honoré family monument, in a Gothic splendor reminiscent of Notre Dame Cathedral, sits just below the Palmer monument. But apparently I forgot to take a picture of it.

Marshall Field's 1906 family plot features a seated figure holding oak leaves, a traditional symbol of strength, in front of a private reflecting pool in a grotto of foliage. The twin caducei on the front of the base are the traditional symbol of the medical profession, but our docent on Sunday said they're also a traditional symbol of commerce. My attempts to confirm this via and only confuse the matter further.

I'm afraid I can't remember whom this monument—featuring the traditional Victorian figures of faith, hope and charity—was built for. But what struck me (and everyone else in our group) was a line of five small headstones at its base marking the remains of an entire family—two parents and three children—who were killed in the Iroquois Theater fire on December 30, 1903. The fire, which started when a lighting fixture ignited a curtain and quickly exploded into a giant fireball, killed 602 people during a matinée of the popular musical Mr. Bluebeard, starring Eddie Foy. The deaths were attributed to corrupt fire inspectors in combination with fire exits that opened inward, trapping everyone inside as bodies piled up against them. This disaster is the reason that all fire doors open outward to this day.

Louis Sullivan is often credited as the creator of the modern skyscraper. The development of cheap, available steel in the last half of the 19th century suddenly allowed buildings to rise higher than architects had ever imagined. And since their outside walls didn't have to bear the weight of the extra floors, they were suddenly free to be ornamental. Sullivan helped define a graceful visual vocabulary for buildings that soared into the outer reaches of perspective, and the mighty skyscraper was born. While Sullivan coined the phrase "form follows function"—meaning a building's practical use should trump superfluous aesthetics—he often gave his buildings lush Art Nouveau or Celtic Revival ornamentation ... like the intricate cast-iron latticework that graces his Carson, Pirie, Scott Building in Chicago and the terra cotta detailing on the Peoples Savings Bank in my hometown. Despite Sullivan's epic achievements in architecture—including some of the most notable monuments at Graceland Cemetery—he died penniless and alone due to his alcoholism and his uneven temperament. And his gravestone is little more than a rock with an ornament bearing his silhouette.

Architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham was the director of works for the 1893 World's Fair (read all about it in Devil in the White City) and the architect of such notable structures as Chicago's Reliance Building, Washington D.C.'s Union Station and New York City's Flatiron Building. He also created the great 1909 Chicago Plan, the first comprehensive blueprint for controlled growth of an American city. Despite his vast, ornate architectural oeuvre, his grave marker is a simple plaque on a rough-hewn stone. But his family plot occupies a private island in the cemetery's Lake Willowmere. Interesting fact: When Lincoln Park Cemetery was deconsecrated in the 1800s and its bodies were reinterred at Graceland, the broken headstones were used to line Lake Willowmere. You can still see etchings on the stones that border the lake.

Ruth Page, the first American ballerina to dance with Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, was also the first American choreographer to employ Rudolf Nureyev after his defection from the Kirov Ballet. She helped bring modern dance to the masses, and she worked with some of the early 20th century's most influential artists, including Irving Berlin, Aaron Copland and Anna Pavlova. She's interred in a grotto surrounded by some of Graceland Cemetery's most avant-garde and unusual grave markers, an apt tribute to her life and her work.

Architect Mies van der Rohe founded the International Style, the fabled "less is more" school that eschewed ornament over sleek dark facades and pure functionality. Dirk Lohan's polished granite slab marking his grave echoes the austere aesthetic of van der Rohe's architecture, which includes Chicago's IBM Building and New York City's Seagram Building.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Adventures in home improvement

Summer's over, so it's getting dark before I get home from work during the week—which lately has never been before 9:00 pm. Which leaves only the weekends for painting if I want to do it by daylight. And daylight is the secret for making your painting look like it wasn't done by a box full of chemically dependent kittens. We got the dining room walls painted last weekend, and this morning we got up bright and early so we could tape off and paint the first coat on the baseboards and windowsills. After watching two episodes of CSI from the snuggly comfort of our bed, of course.

Our dining room looks onto a gated courtyard that nobody uses except to walk from the sidewalk to their doors. But as I was painting the dining room windowsill this afternoon, four hopelessly straight guys hauled a couple coolers, two beanbag boards and a bunch of beanbags into the courtyard and started playing beanbags. And even though they were doing it while swigging cheapo longneck beers and wearing sports-team-logo-emblazoned clothing, they were playing beanbags. Which—I'm sorry—is just totally gay. And even though they were the ones being all gay in the courtyard, I got all paranoid they were going to see me painting in the window with my shirt off and suspect me of spying on them with my gay spying powers. Which I kind of was, because one of them was totally cute. But I was doing home improvements while they were playing beanbags, so who's gay now?

Speaking of, we're planning on making the dining room gayer than an Exodus Ministries intramural beanbag league, so we're installing moldings that look like giant frames on the walls. And we're going to paint them in a subtly contrasting color. So after we cleaned up from painting, we headed to our not-so-nearby Lowe's (because we always go to our nearby Home Depot and we wanted to shake things up a bit because we are nothing if not impulsive and exciting) to buy moldings, finishing nails, liquid adhesive and a miter box. We found the first three things right away, but we couldn't find the miter boxes. I was pretty sure Lowe's would stock miter boxes among the basic tools, but the tool department was pretty well hidden at this Lowe's. After wandering around for a bit I finally broke down and asked a friendly Lowe's employee where I could find the miter boxes. His response: "What's a miter box?" Seriously.

Now, I know the term miter box probably doesn't come up very often in day-to-day conversation, so there's a good chance most of the world doesn't even know what a miter box is. (It's something that helps you cut accurate 45° angles when you install things that need square corners, like gay wall moldings.) But for a home improvement superstore employee, miter box should rank right up there with hammer and shopping cart and dude as basic, rudimentary vocabulary. And I'm afraid my shock over his home-improvement-superstore-employee incompetence took over before my polite-customer instincts could kick in because my response to his question was a look of condescension and "Um … you seriously don't know what a miter box is?"

Eventually we found the miter boxes using our gay spying powers, and in our search we wandered through the lighting department, where we stumbled on some pretty fabulous lampshades. I have a favorite lamp that looks like it was stolen by a Republican senator from a Victorian bordello, but the cheap shade I've had on it 1) totally didn't go and 2) totally made the fiancé want to leave me for someone who at least had the common sense to put appropriately hideous lampshades on his hideous lamps. We'd been half-assedly looking for a new shade since we moved in together, and tonight—right there at the halfway point between the miter boxes and the home improvement superstore employee who didn't know what a miter box is—was the shade we've been looking for: blood-red satin with gold brocade and a rusty-pink lining and dangly glass beads. What could be more Victorian bordello? What could be more fabulously hideous? What could be more tacky than a table decorated for Halloween with a mommy ghost candle and her three baby ghost candles? What could finally pull all the holy-shit-are-you-gay attention away from Larry Craig? None other than the pole-dancing new star of our otherwise well-appointed living room:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nobody puts Betty in a coma

I was pretty excited last night when we were scrolling through Law & Order: SVU episodes on our TiVo and we came across the plot description where Judy Kuhn stars as a beating victim whose mentally disabled but emotionally resilient daughter is the only witness to her attack.

Judy Kuhn—for those of you who have to ask and are therefore never going to win any money on Broadway Edition Jeopardy!—is the powerhouse singer with multiple Tony nominations who created Broadway’s original Cosette in Les Misérables and Florence in Chess. Her career has also taken her from the ill-fated (two performances!) Rags to the charming She Loves Me to The Mystery of Edwin Drood—not to mention the title singing role in Disney’s Pocahontas. She’s back on Broadway (starting this week, in fact) playing Cosette’s doomed mother Fantine in the Les Misérables revival. And she played plucky Betty Schaefer in the Los Angeles pre-Broadway production of Sunset Boulevard, though she got pregnant and had to hand the role over to the talented Alice Ripley when it went to Broadway.

Judy’s a diva in the best sense of the word. And I have secretly acted out her “Someone Else’s Story” in front of countless bedroom mirrors since I first stumbled on the Broadway Chess cast album when I was in college. So you can see how excited we were last night at the prospect of watching her struggle valiantly through a brutal attack and the long, slow road to recovery as she fights her own demons and shepherds her mentally disabled but emotionally resilient daughter through the cold, hard brutality of the New York City court system.

So we snuggled back and waited for her first appearance. After her bloodied body had been discovered and whisked off to the hospital, of course.

We waited patiently while her husband set up their family’s backstory to Christopher Meloni and the lesser cops.

We waited patiently while none other than the FBI mysteriously intervened on the husband’s behalf.

We waited patiently while the mentally disabled but emotionally resilient daughter smiled through her prosthetic teeth and finished every clue-bearing monologue with “The end.”

We waited patiently while Christopher Meloni steadfastly remained in his shirt although there were literally thousands of places in the script where he could have logically taken it off.

And eventually Judy made her tragic post-attack appearance. In a freakin’ coma. And even though she eventually came out of the coma, the script ended up giving her only five lines and one post-apocalyptic crying jag and not one show-stopping ballad.

This woman lost her mother to prostitution in 1820s France. She dated a Cold War metaphor professional chess player who thought James Joyce was her college roommate. The love of her life was gunned down by a delusional screen diva in a turban. A turban! She deserves better than a coma.

Sigh. But since Christopher Meloni never gets to hone his acting chops in a Speedo, I guess we can’t expect the Law & Order: SVU producers to let someone like Judy Kuhn do something equally artistic. Like maybe sell her locket and her hair and her body and then die a long, slow tragic death to the strains of a haunting yet catchy song about tigers and lost dreams.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

One year ago today

I rejoined the ranks of the employed after spending five weeks on the public dole.

And my employer, cool as he is, handed me a crisp $100 bill at this morning’s staff meeting to help me celebrate.

If I don’t invest it in hookers and cocaine on my way home tonight, I’ll probably spend it on dining room sconces. Or a fancy dinner for the fiancé and me. Or the new Sweeney Todd soundtrack.

Um … hold on a sec …






I’m back. And I no longer have $100.

Because I just pre-ordered the new Sweeney Todd soundtrack.

And the book that goes with it.

And because I’d already qualified for free shipping, I got the two-disc collector’s editions of the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

And just to prove I’m not on a Johnny Depp bender, I also got the Da Vinci Code DVD.

And I pre-ordered the Ratatouille DVD. Because the movie was totally cute.

And all it’s gonna cost me is $12 of my own money. Along with a two-month wait since most of what I ordered hasn’t been released yet.

But I’m a patient man.

Just like Benjamin Barker.

At last! My DVD collection is complete again!

Monday, October 22, 2007


Somewhere over the weekend, a complete stranger named Cedric made a $21 donation on my AIDS Marathon page. And his contribution took my personal sponsorship tally over the $3,000 mark. Which was my unofficial goal way back in April when I set up the page. (My official goal—established by the AIDS Marathon organizers—was $1,400, which friends and strangers alike helped me reach sometime in June.)

I'll check back in the next few days to see if any other post-race donations have trickled in, and then I'll take down the link.

But again, thanks to Cedric and everyone else who sponsored me, my fiancé, other AIDS Marathon runners and any runner training on behalf of any charitable cause this summer. Your contributions are changing lives in ways you may never see or even know about.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's supposed to balance out

At family reunions, I mean. You gorge yourselves on every kind of food that's not good for you and/or not nailed down. Then you chase after the kids and do goofy uncle things. And you burn off all the calories.

So why do I still feel so unpurgeably full?

Our Dayton visit with the fiancé's grandmother and extended family was lovely, exploding tummies notwithstanding. Everyone has welcomed me—the gay boyfriend of the tallest grandson—as though I've been a member of the family since Justin and I both were suffering through our child-nobody-could-love phases. (Did I mention we went through some old photo albums while we were there? Did I mention the fiancé and I are now joining the local chapter of Survivors of Childhood Haircuts that Involved Tape to keep our Bangs Straight (SCHIT–BS)?)

Here are some memories of our trip home this afternoon, starting with a taken-from-a-moving-vehicle shot of the Warm Glow Candle Outlet, which is shaped like an actual candle:
Then the freakishly huge cloud of smoke we drove through on the Indianapolis beltway:

Then the bathroom stall of the BP Amoco in Frankfort, IN, where we didn't see Larry Craig, but we did learn valuable lessons about Jesus and following the rules:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Letter from Indianapolis

It's Saturday morning and we're STILL full from last night.

Bill took us to Santorini Greek Kitchen for dinner, and we each ordered the chef's combo platter. Which the menu failed to note contained enough food to feed seven deadly sinners and a professional football team. But it didn't stop us from ordering dessert. Something called galaktabouriko. Which was possibly the most delicious custard I've ever eaten. And the serving was the size of my head. Urp.

Afterward we headed back in time to the 1950s where we could pretend we'd never eaten the entire country of Greece AND we could engage in a couple wholesome games of duckpin bowling in a nuclear-age-themed setting. I'd never heard of duckpin bowling, but rest assured it doesn't involve the wounding of any ducks. But it does involve cute little bowling balls, cute little pins on invisible strings that yank the pins up into the heavens after you knock them down, and apparently the need for Bill and Justin to kick my ass.

This morning, Bill took us to a gay brunch place (is there any other kind?) and a walk along the scenic Indianapolis canal. And since the boys spent the morning being decidedly insensitive about my wounded bowling pride, I'm totally posting this goofy, unfocused picture of them in retribution:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Vacation Day #2

We had so much fun yesterday painting the dining room (whee!) that we woke up early today and slapped up a second coat.

But now that it's up, we're not loving it. We're liking it enough not to start over, but the elegant Wedgwood blue shade we were hoping for has more of a periwinkle baby's-room hue to it. We're going to install those big rectangular frames of molding on the walls that can transform a gay dining room into a totally faggy dining room, so the color might recede behind the façade of gracious living. Time will tell.

But there's nothing we can do about it now; we're taking off in a few minutes to visit my friend Bill in Indianapolis tonight and then we're spending the rest of the weekend with the fiancé's grandmother in Ohio.

Be good while we're gone!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I am thirty-nine and a half today

I even took the day off to celebrate.

And by "celebrate" I mean "burn off the last of my unused vacation days before I lose them on my job anniversary this Wednesday."

The fiancé took the day off today as well. We're painting the dining room. And by "we're painting the dining room" I mean "I'm painting the dining room while he hands me brushes and stands around all cute and says funny things and throws paint at me and I throw paint back and we get in a huge paint fight and we have to have the floors re-sanded but it's totally OK because it was all done in a spirit of love."

Or something like that.

And then I begin my long, slow, painful six-month descent to this:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Miles and miles of thanks

It seems I've accumulated a few post-mortem marathon sponsorships, so I owe a few more thank-yous.

As an addendum to the donor list I posted before the marathon, I want to add the names of the following generous people:

Rick A.
Jeff S.
David P.
David W.
Yomi O.

Your sponsorships have raised my personal AIDS Marathon fundraising total to a whopping $2,980—and they've helped take this year's cumulative AIDS Marathon revenues to over a million dollars.

And even though I didn't get to finish this year's run, your donations will still help people with problems far worse than mine live their lives with the food, housing, medical care and basic dignity they might not otherwise have.

So thank you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

How was your weekend?

I sang at the gay wedding of a guy I used to date.

And by “used to date” I technically mean “went on two dates with many years ago after harboring a secret crush on him for years and finally working up the courage to ask him out and being elated when he said yes and actually being nervous about our first evening together only to find out that while he was just as delightful a person as I’d imagined he’d be, we really didn’t have a lot in common and it was quickly obvious to both of us that romance wasn’t really in the picture but we still went on a second date just to be sure and it turns out we were right the first time.”

And by “I sang” I technically mean “I sang with 15 other representatives of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, none of whom to my knowledge also ‘used to date’ either of the grooms.”

But still. How many of you sang at the gay weddings of guys you “used to date” this weekend?

The wedding was lovely, by the way. And the grooms looked radiant. And happy. And like they belonged together.

And I totally took notes. Our wedding could quite possibly end up looking like Their Wedding: The Sequel.

Except: We will not have an outdoor ceremony on a cold night in October and we will not have the singers wedged in so close to one of those tall gas space heaters that the one singer who “used to date” the groom on the left spends the ceremony worrying that his hair might catch on fire and he’ll totally Michael Jackson the whole ceremony.

Also: There will be way more cake. What is the point of having a wedding if there isn’t cake everywhere you look?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We just had our first dinner party

The place is coming along well enough that we decided it's finally safe to invite people over. So we invited everyone who helped us in our five-month moving adventure to come over tonight for a blowout thank-you dinner.

Unfortunately, not everyone could come tonight. Including the fiancé, who forgot it was on our calendar and booked himself on a trip and ended up in another city for the evening. Sigh. At least he's pretty.

But the brave few who did show up were treated to clean bathrooms, strategically hidden clutter, four fully painted rooms, a dining room painted in little test splotches of colors we're considering, and a menu I made up all by myself:
Hearty vegetable-bean soup
Cheesy garlic bread
Baked chicken breasts stuffed with spinach, basil and onion
Steamed green beans
Individual glazed chocolate Bundt cakes
Notice there was no mention of appetizers on that list. Or drinks. That's because in my preparing-a-dinner-party-all-by-myselfedness I totally forgot about them. Fortunately, I had some fussy crackers on hand. And the guests brought wine. And everyone had a good time despite all the unpainted walls and frat-house hors d'oeuvres.

And to make the fiancé jealous, I sent him a picture of the glazed chocolate Bundt cakes. I accidentally made too much glaze (damn! gotta lick the spoon again!) so they ended up looking like Dunkin' Donuts instead of faux-fussy desserts. But nobody complained, and everyone left full and happy, and it's now almost 1:00 in the morning so instead of signing off with something clever, I'll just show you my Bundt cakes. If you know what I mean.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The marathon of broken dreams

My lowest point was in mile 16. I’d been alternating between running, walking and staggering since somewhere after mile 7. I’d passed at least three waterless water stations. My head was light. My mouth was sticky and dry. I was about to cross the bridge where my mom and sister had cheered me on in earlier marathons when I looked down and saw an ice cube sitting right there in the street. I looked behind me to make sure there were no runners about to plow into me, and then I squatted down and I picked it up. And I put it in my mouth.

* * * * *

So the 30th annual Chicago Marathon wasn’t the triumph everyone had hoped for. And while all but a handful of runners are out of the hospital and many runners are still angry and I genuinely feel sorry for the first-timers who trained an entire summer without getting to cross the finish line—which is a thrill that’s hard to equal—I think the race organizers did the right thing by canceling it. Though I don’t for a second buy their story that they ran out of water because they hadn’t anticipated runners pouring it on their heads. I’ve run probably 40 races in my life, and unless it’s cold out, everyone pours water on their own heads.

The marathon was canceled at 11:30, but I didn’t get word until well after 12:30. I was struggling along at mile 18 at the time, and we were told to keep moving along the course, which was taking us farther and farther away from the finish line. I limp-walked almost to mile 20, along the way chatting up a guy from New Zealand who decided to keep on running and a woman from Paris who stuck with me until we finally saw a bunch of runners exit the race course en masse against the instructions of a couple of cops and we decided to follow them. We’d walked at least a mile past little clusters of collapsed runners when a school bus pulled up and offered to drive us to the finish area. I had my camera phone with me, but instead of taking a picture of my new French friend and me on the school bus, I for some reason took a far more boring picture of the space over the driver’s head. But now that I look at it, I see that our angel of a driver had a name: Mrs. Lewis
* * * * *

Truth be told, I was thrilled when I heard the race had been canceled. I’d spent the previous two painful hours working up the courage to convince myself it was OK to quit. I weighed the benefits of getting out of the sun and quenching my undying thirst vs. the thought of having to tell people I couldn’t finish. I thought about all the people who’d paid a lot of money to sponsor me. I thought about sick and injured people who would give anything to be able to get up and walk, much less run a marathon. I wondered what it would feel like to collapse of heat stroke. If it would hurt. If I’d even know what was happening. I worried about not getting my medal.

But while my lips were dry and numb and my vision was sometimes blurry and I was light-headed and unable to keep a linear thought going in my head, I kept soldiering on. I also decided that if I did quit, I’d wait for the fiancé around mile 22 and run/walk him in. And if he looked like he was on the verge of collapse, I wasn’t going to tell him that I had quit so he wouldn’t think quitting was an option.

* * * * *

Heat exhaustion does funny things to you. You get light-headed. You get wobbly. You get goosebumpy and shivery. You get irrational about how miserable you are. And when your bladder gets too full and you finally find a bank of porta-potties and you reach in your running shorts to pull out your usually man-sized penis—and this is going to be waaaaaaaaaaay too much information for a lot of you (Hi, Mom!)—you discover that it has gotten cold and pale and it’s shrunk to the size of the last bone in your pinky. And you actually have to stretch it out to give you enough flesh to hold onto so you can pee with some rudimentary semblance of aim.

Since I’ve already broken down the pee wall, I’ll take the topic even one more level in the direction of inappropriate. Our trainers have reminded us all summer to monitor our urine to make sure we were properly hydrated. Urine that was too dark or too pungent was just as worrisome as urine that was too watery. But when the fiancé and I got home from the marathon and I dug in my shorts for my now-normal-sized penis (whew!) and I went to empty my bladder, I discovered that I was so dehydrated that my pee felt like pudding on the way out. And there was precious little of it. And more than 72 hours later, I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m thirsty. Though I’m peeing like normal. In case you were worried.

* * * * *

This was supposed to be my easiest marathon ever. I wasn’t injured. I was pooping normally. We weren’t running in last year’s crippling cold. I had just gotten a really good haircut. I was finally going to beat four hours. Matthew and Justin and I were all smiles at the packet pickup on Saturday:

And when we woke up Sunday to cooler weather than we’d been bracing ourselves for, the AIDS Marathoners were giddy with anticipation as we gathered in the charity village before the race:

My pace group was all smiles as we waited to take off in the marathon crowd. Even cute little Ryan was all confident and smiley, though for some reason he decided to spray his hair orange before a long, sweaty run in a hot, sweaty marathon:

The crowd of runners was thick, and we collectively raised the ambient temperature before the race with our tightly packed bodies:

If you look to the vanishing point of the crowd in front of us, you still can’t see the start line from where we waited:

By the time we reached the starting line—21:45 after the gun sounded—the winners were probably already at mile 4 and the temperature had gotten decidedly muggy:

I lost Matthew (and his camera) around mile 7 when I hit my wall. But not before I accidentally knocked an old lady to the ground at mile 5 as she stupidly tried to cross the street when the runners were at our thickest. Matthew and the heartier among us eventually crossed the finish line intact—though much slower than our collective 4:00 goal. I started doing more walking than running around mile 8, and by mile 15, when the heat was definitely at its peak, almost everyone around me had stopped running altogether. In fact, the pictures of me posted on don’t show anyone around me running. I don’t intend to buy any professional photos this year, and keeps the thumbnails so small and grainy that they’re not even worth screen-capturing to post here.

After the old lady incident and the ice cube incident and the cold gray little elf-penis incident and the heat and the exhaustion and the relief over the race cancellation and my bus ride with my new Parisian friend, I eventually met up with everyone back at the charity village. I feel terrible that the fiancé and everyone else who had invested so much time didn’t get to cross their first marathon finish line, but Justin and I are young(ish) and able and already excited about trying again next summer.

And I am deeply touched by all the emails and calls and blog comments from friends and strangers alike expressing worry about me. Thank you all for both your well-wishes and your concern.

To top the day off, my hair looks the best in this picture of Matthew and Justin and me with our medals. So in a way, I totally won the marathon:

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mile 7, meet wall

Usually I hit my marathon wall around mile 18. Today's heat changed that, along with a lot of other things. If you haven't heard, the heat was felling runners at such a rate that for the first time in its 30-year history, the Chicago Marathon was canceled three and a half hours after it started. And so far, one runner has died.

I was feeling so heat-strokey by mile 7 that I started actively looking for a medic tent so I could drop out. I still hadn't found one by mile 18 (yes, I retardedly kept going for 11 more miles) when I first got word of the cancellation. I had to slog on another mile and a half, though, before the marathon people finally routed us back toward the finish line. On the plus side, I was able to quit without technically being a quitter.

But I'm home and incredibly sleepy and still warm to the touch and I have a headache that won't go away and a big gross rash on my tummy area. The fiancé made it to mile 17.5 on a very bum ankle before he got routed back along a different path.

But we're home and doing well, and though we're disappointed and in pain, our sunscreen didn't give out on us so we're not burned and we got to snuggle in bed the moment we scrubbed the stink off us.

I'll have my full report when I get a moment to shake off this stupid headache. And gather some photos from Matthew. Stay tuned.

Carbo loading: An adventure in words and pictures

7:15am Friday
Raisin toast
Our kitchen

10:00am Friday
Grapes, strawberries and a banana
My desk

2:00pm Friday
Fusilli with tomato, spinach and chicken
Lou Malnati's sidewalk café
Guest marathoners: Ken, Jennifer

7:00pm Friday
Chocolate/raspberry birthday cake for Todd and Skip
Matthew's house
Guest marathoners: Justin, Matthew
Bonus guests: Todd, Jim, John, Skip

8:00pm Friday
Lasagna with meat sauce
Mario's Gold Coast Ristorante
Guest marathoners: Justin, Matthew
Bonus guests: Todd, Jim, John, Skip

9:00am Saturday
Big bowl o' granola with frozen fruit
Our kitchen

7:00pm Saturday
Cheesy garlic bread
Tedino's Pizzeria
Guest marathoners: Justin, Matthew
Bonus guests: Deb, Barb, Jerry, little Rachel

7:30pm Saturday
Baked ravioli in meat sauce
Tedino's Pizzeria
Guest marathoners: Justin, Matthew
Bonus guests: Deb, Barb, Jerry, little Rachel

5:00 am Sunday
Raisin toast with cinnamon and honey
Our kitchen

5:15am Sunday
Banana with peanut butter
Our kitchen

Friday, October 05, 2007

Nothing left but the running

And the carbo-loading. And the hydrating. And the packet pickuping. And the nail trimming. And the sunscreen slathering. And the pre-emptive pooping. And the outfit picking. And the hair cutting (so I don’t look like a fluffy bunny in my marathon pictures).

In case you haven’t picked up on the hidden subtext of almost every freaking post I’ve made since April, I’m running my fourth marathon this Sunday. This is the second marathon I’ve run on behalf of the AIDS Marathon organization, and as I make my final preparations, I need to add one more gerund to the list above: The thanking.

People all over the country have given (to date) a total of $2,805 to sponsor me. Most of you I know. And if I have your addresses and you haven’t received your thank-you notes from me, they should be in your mailboxes today.

But there are about 10 names on my donor list I don’t recognize. Which I assume are some of the generous readers of this here blog thing. And since the AIDS Marathon web site gives me only names and donation amounts for my sponsors, the only way I can thank you strangers is through a blog post. So thank you. Your generosity both to me and to the countless people living with HIV and AIDS is touching. I will carry all your names—along with the stories some of you have shared—with me as I run this Sunday.

You-all can continue (ahem) sponsoring me for a couple more months if you want. But in the mean time, I want to list everyone who’s made donations to date. You people truly rock:

JaneAnne P.
David L.
Bill L.
Jerry G.
Jennifer D.
Craig N.
Gare U.
Jane H.
Hope M.
Stephanie G.
Catherine Y.
Stephen M.
Brandon V.
Rad S.
Danelle F.
Lou D.
Peter S.
Frankie M.
Nick & Kay G.
Mikey T.
Eric W.
Julia D.
Amy M.
Richard N.
Pat M.
Gingie H.
Sue A.
Sonelius K-S.
Andy T.
Jay H.
Jeffrey R.
Tamina P.
Chad R-P.
Dominic G.
John D.
Dan B.

After a summer of relatively mild training weather, we are now supposed to have demoralizingly hot, muggy weather for the marathon. But once in a while changes its mind and says we’ll have rain. Whee. In any case, I’m still psyched, and I can’t wait to share 26.2 glorious miles with 45,000 runners and a million cheering spectators.

Think of me this Sunday from about 8:10 am CT (when I should have slogged through the crowd to cross the start line) and 12:10 pm CT (when I hope hope hope hope hope to cross the finish line and finally beat my 4-hour marathon goal).

And think of my awesome fiancé as he pounds out his first marathon. He runs at a slower pace, so we won’t be marathoning together. But I’ll be waiting to celebrate with him as he crosses the finish line.

And then be sure to come back next week to relive the whole adventure in stories and pictures with me.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The beeping has stopped.

It was the dishwasher. Which we had checked and checked again over the last five days and found nothing on its control panel that seemed beepworthy.

Apparently I had emptied the dishwasher before it was finished drying the dishes.

And apparently the genius engineers at GE decided that a half-finished drying cycle was something consumers would want to know about. And that tiny beeps spaced one minute apart with no flashing lights or other visual tie-in cues would be a valuable component of this valuable alert feature.

Apparently the genius engineers at GE suck ass. But only when it’s completely dry.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The turkey’s done.

Or maybe the pacemaker battery needs to be replaced in the guy who somehow accidentally got sealed in our wall. Accidentally.

In either case, something’s beeping in our kitchen. Every minute. Like clockwork. For four whole days now. Did I mention it’s every minute? Like clockwork? For four whole days?

In those four days, we have torn everything out of the cupboards and inspected every electronic thing we can remember owning. It’s not the smoke detector. It’s not the carbon monoxide detector. It’s not the microwave. It’s not the stove. It’s not the oven. It’s not the fridge. It’s not the icemaker. It’s not the dishwasher. It’s not the toaster. Because I bought that toaster before beeping had been invented. We don’t have a disposal. We don’t own naughty toys. And we certainly wouldn’t keep them in the kitchen if we did, you unhygienic perverts. I can’t imagine it’s any of the lights. Because who would make lights that beep?

We thought it might be the cordless phone because its battery can hold a charge for about as long as Larry Craig can stick to a story. But we took the battery out of the phone and we still had beeping. Every minute. Like clockwork.

Everything else electronic in the kitchen is stored unplugged or de-batteried: The waffle maker. The coffee maker. The digital cooking thermometer. The dirty-word censor. The truck that we keep in a constant state of backing up.

If I were the type of person who lived in a Poe story, I could blame the beeping on the dismembered Vulture Eye™ Barbie® I buried under the kitchen floorboards. But the kitchen has a tile floor. And I could never hurt Barbie®. Besides, you can’t prove anything.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I could blame the beeping on the aliens. Or the Warren Commission. Or the 100% heterosexual fundies who nevertheless can’t stop talking about gay sex as though maybe they really really really want to know what goes on in our gay household.

If I were a Luddite, I could throw all our appliances to the curb in the hope that they would take their beeping with them.

But I’m a creature-comfort-loving denizen of the 21st century who firmly believes that troglodytes have yet to learn how to use electronic monitoring devices. So we just keep on beepin’ on in our little slice of heck.

And beepin’.

And beepin’.

And beepin’.

And beepin’.

And beepin’.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The tip of a stay. Right under the tit.

Why is it OK for women to show the space between their boobs at work?

I’m not asking this as a gay man who finds boobs to be distracting only because they’re funny-looking. I’m asking as a man who is expected to keep anything below the top of my sternum hidden under clothing if I want to be taken seriously as a responsible, mature, focused professional. Who doesn’t work in porn.

And I’m not singling out any woman I work with; I’m talking about professional women in general. This morning on the bus I sat next to a woman whose blouse neckline was cut so low I could see both the top and bottom of the front of her bra … and the tops and bottoms of the insides of her boobs. And you know I wasn’t even trying. Other than her porn-o-rama décolletage, this woman was dressed for court: dark power suit, sensible pumps, briefcase, modest makeup, wash ’n’ go hair. But her two-for-one produce display made her look like she was headed to a bachelor party instead of a corporate merger.

Across the aisle sat another rack-and-bra combo exploding out of an unbuttoned sweater-and-tailored-slacks ensemble. Standing in the aisle hung a pair of well-fed prisoners clamoring to escape from the minimum-security prison of a barely buttoned silk blouse. All three displays included full xiphoid process at no extra charge.

I’m not crying double standard here. I seriously couldn’t care less if a woman wants to bring her daughters to work. It’s just that if I showed up for work in a shirt that scooped down to show the hair between my pecs, I’d probably hear about it. And not in a wow-you-sure-have-nice-pec-hair kind of way. And in all my 16 years of seeing boob crack in my professional life, only once has anyone said anything … and only then because the boobkeeper professed to be a fundamentalist Christian and we all found it deliciously ironic that she dressed to ensure a second coming and more than once made reference to the bright pink “baboon butt” on her chest.

I know: My straight male readers (all two of you) are totally jealous that I rode the mammary express to work this morning. But my life isn’t all tits ’n’ jiggles. Since I’m always the first on my bus and I always get a seat, sometimes women in miniskirts end up standing next to me and they have to reach up to hold onto the bars. And that’s a cat out of a totally different bag.