This is our last dance

Because I haven’t had enough to do while I’ve been sick (is there a font called “sarcasm?”), I decided to foster a sweet little girl dog. It was supposed to be for only a few days until she traveled. But as things have a way of going awry, we realized after we picked her up that she wasn’t simply trying to recover from her spay surgery, something was wrong. She wasn’t thriving, and on the second day we had her, I learned she also had a brother in RPM’s program. Long story short, after getting her good medical treatment from RPM’s clinic and reuniting the siblings, we ended up with two fosters who’ll be with us until mid-April.

This is Shannon.

And this is her brother Richie.

They are six months old and both now in great health and full of mischief. I have to keep a close watch on them, because there is no predicting what trouble they’ll get up to next. For example, I have a small wooden child’s chair with a woven seat that became a tasty, tasty toy. While I was sweeping that up, I realized Anime was on the couch chewing on something. I assumed it was a piece of the same little chair, but no. She’d taken a magazine off the bottom shelf of a table and was eating it. This is the other problem with having two bad toddlers–they lead our teenagers Anime and Delta into misadventures. I keep finding things they’ve pulled from various shelves to hide in dog beds and other places.

Tom’s first question about the magazine Anime was eating was who was on the cover. Chris Martin.

I get crap at Houndstooth Hall for liking Coldplay; apparently cheeky little Anime is on their side.

Mostly I was glad it wasn’t this magazine, because I’d been planning for a while to use it for a photograph and some musing during this insane political year.

There are maybe a handful of songs in our lives that we can remember exactly where we were and who we were with the first time we heard them. “Under Pressure” is one of those songs for me. I lived in Tuscaloosa, two doors down from a friend who’s still my friend, in a big but characterless apartment with a guy who–on the rare times I think of him–I’m so grateful is not still in my life. He and I were listening to the radio one night when I heard this song for the first time. I liked Queen, and I liked David Bowie; the pairing on this song was a little bit of magic. I had almost no money then, but I went down the hill the next day to Albertson’s grocery store, where you could still buy a 45 record, and brought this one home with me. I have no turntable now, but I’m sure it’s full of lots of snap, crackle, and pop from being overplayed.

Freddie Mercury and David Bowie: two amazing artists, lost 25 years apart, and what a legacy they left with all they created, including this song. Since that long-ago day, “Under Pressure” has been covered, sampled, part of movie and television soundtracks, and used to sell products. To me, it still has the same purity as the first time I heard it. I’m still affected by the lines, Love’s such an old fashioned word, and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night, and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves, this is our last dance…this is ourselves…under pressure.

Despite the terror of knowing what this world is about, may I always give love…give love…give love…give love…”

Sometimes it’s so much easier to love dogs than people, but I try.

What I Did For Love

Have you ever known people who seem to lose their identities to a new love interest in their lives? The friend who thinks that roughing it means having to budget an entire month without a mani/pedi then suddenly goes rock climbing because that’s what the new Mr/Ms Right likes doing? Who becomes a vegetarian just to please a potential romantic partner? Who’ll take a ballroom dance class when his idea of a fun night is throwing darts down at the pub with his buddies?

There’s a fine line between finding activities you can enjoy together and faking interest in something. In my younger years, I was guilty of plenty of what I now call “trivial pursuits” just to please or be compatible with someone I was dating. When–if–we grow up, we realize Mr/Ms Right is one who not only likes you for who you are, but who, rather than causing you to pretend to be someone you’re not, inspires you to be the best person you can be.

I was reminded of that by the first story in Best Gay Romance 2014, Eric Gober’s “Strange Propositions.” It’s set during the election season of 2008, when Prop 8 was on the ballot to eliminate Californians’ right to marriage equality at the same time Prop 2 would provide safer living conditions to farm animals. The narrator, Kenny, now living in L.A., has lost himself in a relationship with Trevor, a guy back home in Kansas. Then he meets Nate. After a shaky beginning, they go out on a first date just after both propositions pass.

Our trek had started on Beachwood Drive, with the HOLLYWOOD sign sitting on the mountain ahead, grinning at us. We’d wound through a land of storybook cottages and castles and hiked up steep green slopes. Now we were atop the mountain, grinning at the sign’s backside.

“L.A. looks like a giant chessboard from here,” I said. “That tall skyscraper downtown is a queen.”

“I’ve always thought that.” Nate pointed out the city’s other skyscrapers. “She’s surrounded by shining knights and rooks. She and her army want to march rightward, capture all those pawns in the middle and take down those two dark bishops by Fox Studios.”

I couldn’t help but smile at him. I was liking the way he saw the world. Unlike Trevor, he had an imagination. Must have come from working… [as] a property master. I’d marveled at his ingenuity when he told me about a sci-fi fantasy production he’d worked on that had almost no budget. He’d created talking books, magic wands, cosmic ray guns, and feathered druid staffs from sale items he’d found at Kmart and Home Depot.

“What are you doing tomorrow evening?” he asked.

“No plans.”

“There’s a demonstration against Prop 8 in Silver Lake. You wanna go with me?”

I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of attending a protest. It seemed so radical. However, I detested Proposition 8. “Okay, sure. I still can’t believe Californians gave rights to chickens and took them away from human beings.”

Now he smiled at me. “I’ve got a wild idea.”

“Uh-oh.”

“C’mon, let’s hit Hollywood Boulevard.”

…[Later, Nate] led me toward a blue-and-gold art deco building with a neon sign blinking HOLLYWOOD TOYS & COSTUMES.

Inside was a prop master’s paradise. Nate slowed to eye cases displaying faux gangsta bling and fake Crown Jewels. I couldn’t believe he was brave enough to be holding my hand in public. Or that I had nerve enough to let him.

“C’mon, the suspense is killing me,” I said. “Are we shopping for a movie shoot?”

“Nope,” he said, resuming his mission through this world of fantasy. He tugged me through an arsenal of plastic weapons and past shelves of outlandish hats, spooky skulls and creepy rubber masks. He guided us around carousels of bright makeup and styled wigs, and we sidestepped bins filled with all sorts of plastic tchotchkes. He finally stopped and let go of my hand near a wall lined with packaged costumes.

“I have a proposal for you.”

“But it’s too soon—and too late—for us to get married,” I joked.

He smiled. “Bud, I like the way your mind works. I think I’m really gonna like getting to know you.”

“Same here.”

“I’ve been thinking about chickens since we were on the mountain. I bet they’re thankful for gays like us who voted to support their rights. I bet they’d support our rights if they could.”

I was thankful Trevor wasn’t here listening to him. He’d say chickens are the stupidest animals on earth and call Nate a fool. I said, “You’re probably right.”

He reached for a package stuffed with fuzzy bright yellow material. Then he grabbed another and handed it to me. I eyed the label. It was a chicken suit.

“What do you say we represent those thankful chickens at the protest in Silver Lake?”

When I tried imagining myself in that big yellow costume, weirdness grabbed hold of me. I wouldn’t blend into the crowd tomorrow. Thousands of staring eyes would be upon me as I marched through Sunset Junction. Suddenly, all the strange things in the costume shop began closing in on me.

From that moment, the decisions Kenny makes show us far more about who he is as a person than as a potential boyfriend. You can read the rest of his story in Best Gay Romance 2014, on sale now in ebook format and soon in trade paperback.

Excerpt reprinted with permission from Cleis Press. All rights reserved.

Aw, SCOTUS, for ME? You SHOULD have.

Seeing a lot of this on your social media networks today? The Human Rights Campaign created it as an alternative to their usual blue and yellow equality logo for people to show support of marriage equality. Because today, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in Hollingsworth v Perry, a case having to do with the legality–or its lack–in California’s Proposition 8. Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

It’s no secret I’m a proponent of marriage equality. To me, it’s a simple matter of civil rights that has nothing to do with religion or social custom, as first, our government is not a theocracy, and no individual or law can compel a religious institution to conduct a wedding ceremony, and second, social custom does not always reflect what is right or fair. Further, the religious and legal (or state, or federal, call it what you will) entities called “marriage” are not the same thing. I believe the beauty of the system we live under is that we protect people’s rights to worship as they choose, and in return, we do not live under a church-sanctioned government, nor can or should a particular religious or social entity infringe on an individual citizen’s freedom to enjoy the same rights and privileges as all other citizens.

But what to me is a no-brainer is to others a hot-button issue, so we have arrived at the Supreme Court hoping for clarity in the law.

The Supreme Court won’t be tallying how many pink and red equality logos are showing up on Twitter and Facebook. This is not “American Idol”; nobody gets to flood the judges with phone calls or texts to influence their votes. Why then, will so many of us share this symbol online and maybe even on our cars and in our businesses? The best reason is summed up in what I read on Cousin Ron’s FB page today: “Nice to see so much red on my wall. I have good friends.”

We display it to show that we support the equal rights of our friends and neighbors. We want them to be treated with legal justice and civil fairness. We value them and their relationships, and if marriage is what they choose for those relationships, we want them to marry.

I love that the Supreme Court began hearing these arguments on my birthday. Their ruling will likely not come until June. Tom’s and my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary is on June 18, and I can think of no greater gift or way to celebrate than for the Supreme Court to say all those I love, and those they love, have relationships that are equally respected under our laws.

What a day

I’ve been enjoying watching all the Inauguration Day activities–spirits in Washington, D.C. seem good and refreshingly bipartisan. Wish it could always be this way.

I’m remembering photos I shot during the inaugural festivities of 2009. Tim was over with Rex and his foster dog Tyson, and I caught Rex playing with his Nylabone while we watched the parade.

Today, Margot is napping through the parade, probably to conserve her energy for the inaugural balls tonight.


I rarely buy Barbies anymore, but because the box was damaged, this one was deeply discounted at Target recently, so I brought her home with me.

She’s part of Mattel’s White House project and has a web site providing ways for Barbie fans to develop leadership qualities.

On the back of the box, we learn the good advice that might be called Barbie’s platform:

On a more serious note about dreams, in a year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech, I’m struck by the symbolic power of Barack Obama taking today’s ceremonial oath of office on both Lincoln’s Bible and MLK’s traveling Bible. Our nation’s history is not without its less than impressive moments, but every step taken in a march toward justice or awareness, in a parade celebrating what is best about us, up a difficult hill, and toward creating a better home, town, city, state, country, or world, is a step each of us takes as an individual on behalf of all of us. Of course, MLK said this more powerfully than I can:

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Associated Press, 1965

Button Sunday

I’m sure these buttons surprise no one who knows me. The only thing that might surprise them is how quiet I’ve been about politics this year on my blog. I have many reasons, but none of them have to do with a change of heart or mind or a reluctance to express what I believe. I haven’t done it here; this doesn’t mean my voice has been silenced.

I had a good time getting these buttons a few days ago. I had great conversations with the two women who were working in the Obama store next to the campaign headquarters. In all that was discussed, not one hateful or even unkind thought or opinion was expressed by any of us toward anyone. I appreciated that.

When I spotted the “Old White Women For Obama” button, I cracked up and said, “You have one for me!” One of the women said that they have a hard time keeping this button in stock, because they have plenty of elderly women who come in and say, “Latinos For Obama, Teachers For Obama, Bowlers For Obama, Moms For Obama, LGBT For Obama, African Americans For Obama, Nurses For Obama, Veterans For Obama, –where’s my Obama button?” And they get such a kick out of being shown this one. I know if my mother were alive, she’d wear it with pride.

However you vote, it does matter. You aren’t voting only for a president or even members of congress–you are voting for people, referendums, and amendments at the local and state level that affect your towns and cities, your school districts, your transportation, your environment, your roads, your courts, and the quality of your daily life. Through the centuries, across the world, people have been willing to struggle and even die for the right to vote. I could never take this freedom for granted.

Legacy Writing 365:275

While I was in graduate school and throughout my twenties, I had a lot of different jobs, sometimes two or three at a time, to pay the bills, keep food on the table, and pay for books and tuition. There was a point when my income was so low that I was even on food stamps for a brief time–because, you know, I’m in that forty-seven percent of people always looking for a handout.

Shockingly, working at a convenience store wasn’t the worst job I ever had, though it was certainly a low-paying one. I did it all one summer, and in spite of the fact that in a one-week period, (1) my apartment was broken into and I lost most of my jewelry and an old stereo, among other things; (2) the guy I was dating who was also employed by that store for the summer was robbed at work at gunpoint; and (3) my purse containing both his and my paychecks and income tax refund checks was stolen when I was on my way to the bank to make a deposit, the customers made that job a constant source of entertainment. The regulars gave me plenty of stories to share with my friends and later to weave into fictitious plots and characters. In fact, even when summer was over and I was back in school, I kept working the early Sunday morning shift for several months because I wanted to.

I missed my regulars when I left. I still remember a lot of them fondly, especially the elderly lady with the white poodle who always reminded me a little of the lonely woman Jimmy Stewart watched in Rear Window. I hope my replacement took good care of her.