Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks to a stranger of the giving kind

A woman I had never met, who's name I do not know, gave me an early holiday gift this evening. She demonstrated the spirit of generosity, sharing and selflessness that the holidays are supposed to be all about.

I don't want to be overly dramatic or make a bigger deal out of it than it deserves. We aren't talking about an organ donation here. But she game me something new to be thankful for and made me smile.

I went to the local Fred Meyer store to pick up a pie for tomorrow's family Thanksgiving feast. I was asked to bring a pumpkin pie, but I didn't know if one would be enough. I didn't want to take two of the same pies. You have to have a little variety and give people some options. Besides, I don't eat pumpkin pie. I'm not a big dessert eater ever and pies in general are not my favorite dessert. But on those occasions I do eat pie I mostly stick to apple pie and cheesecake. Cheesecake is my favorite, but when I think of Thanksgiving desert, I think of apple pie.

So when I walked in the grocery store this evening, I checked out the large display of pies at the front of the store. There were plenty of pumpkin pies and a few peach pies, and a bunch of other berry pies. But there was no sign of an apple pie.

While looking through the selection of baked goods, I noticed another woman who also seemed to be having trouble finding whatever it was she seeking. Pretty soon she walked away and I was left to examine the display more thoroughly. But soon I gave up and headed for the back of the store to the bakery section.

When I got there, I found another big display of pies, including pumpkin pie in two different sizes. So I grabbed a pumpkin pie and kept looking.

"Are you looking for apple?" a woman standing near the display asks. I recognized her as the woman I had seen a few minutes earlier at the other pie display.

"Kinda," I said. "I'm under orders to get pumpkin, but I like apple."

"There were only two left," she said. "Here, take this one. I already have one." And with that she places the pie she is holding back on the top of the display."

I tried to say no thank you, but she said she didn't need two and that I was welcome to it. "Take it," she said. She smiled and went on her way.

I smiled too. That simple act of sharing, that display of generosity, was a great way to start the holiday season. I have been looking forward to Thanksgiving because it will give me a chance to spend time with people I love. But now, thanks to a random act of kindness, I'm looking a little more forward to the holiday season in general. I had been worried about finances and not being able to buy as many or as expensive of gifts as I would like to buy for loved ones. But a stranger in a grocery story demonstrated what I already should have known --it's acts of caring and kindness that make this season special, not the price tag or label on a gift.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is my work following me home or is my home following me to work?

The lines in my online life are getting blurred. I started a Facebook page for work, in order to create a page for my employer, and ended up finding a lot of friends. So I have a mixture of work colleagues and personal friends in my contacts.

I started a Twitter account, also for work, and tied it to my Facebook account, so my Twitter updates seem to amuse some of my friends because they update people on stories about farm animals and crop reports.

I like more tidiness in my life. More separation between my work life and personal life.

The irony is, once upon a time I used to tell people that what I do is who I am. I hope that's no longer the case. I hope that who I am is more complex and distinct that my merely stating my chosen vocation.

Sometimes work helps the personal life. Sometimes my personal interests inform my professional life. But I'm not sure how comfortable I am in having the lines of my online digital pursuits at home and work overlapping so much. Maybe it's just a sign of the new media environment, but it gets a little creepy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Leave already, or I will

Dead Denny not only returned on Grey's Anatomy again this week, apparently dead people are amazing lovers. And even when Izzie spurned her ghostly lover, he still frickin' won't leave.

I may have to leave. The shark is in the process of being jumped. The concept was creative the first time I saw it, which Patrick Swayze's spirit used Whoopi Goldberg's body to ring Demi Moore's chimes. Now it's just tired.

We single men have enough pressure to deal with in trying to make women happy. Do we really need to compete with the screwed up notion of a love so true and powerful that a lover can come back from the dead to curl a woman's toes? What a stupid story line.

But I was recovering and feeling better when afterward I'm enjoying the show Life on Mars. I told myself that at least I have that to look forward to on Thursday nights, only to learn during the previews of the next new episode that the next new episode will not be on until Wednesday, Jan. 28. So, I get to wait two months and tune in a different night. Two months from now, I may have found something else to do with my time on Wednesday nights.

Network TV executives need to be shot. I'm more outraged by TV executives' decisions than people are about the big three from the Big Three automakers taking their private jets to Washington to beg Congress for a bailout. Those idiots make my credit card debt look like chump change.

But the morons running the networks -- canceling shows after only a few episodes, or only showing a few episodes of a show before taking an extended break --are going to wonder why their ad rates drop through the floor because no one is watching anymore.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday minutia

I broke down this evening and turned on the heat out in the living room for the first time this evening. I've turned on the heat a few nights back in the bedroom this season, and I've been turning on the space heater in the morning to heat up the bathroom for a while now. But I've been holding out on heating the main room But I'm tired of having to wrap up in a blanket and wear a sweatshirt just to watch TV or work on the computer.

I'm not looking forward to higher electric bills, but I HATE being cold.


I drove up to Portland last night in the fog. I got spoiled living in Southern California. I don't ever remember having fog there. I realized when I was driving home from Portland in the fog that If I have to drive in the fog I'd rather do it at night than during the day. You can see the taillights further up ahead at night than you can in the day. But still, driving in the ground mist is exhausting.

My eyes ached by the time I got home. By the time I went to bed I had a splitting headache. I'm not sure if driving in the fog contributed or not, but I'll blame it anyway.


I'm not pleased by all the Christmas displays and Christmas commercials on TV already. That stuff shouldn't start until after Thanksgiving. I swear the weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas used to be plenty of a holiday season. My favorite radio station has even started playing the occasional Christmas song and promoting their website where you can get commercial-free Christmas music 24/7. I'm tempted to boycott the station until after the holidays.

But I know the real reason I hate the hard sell is I don't have money for many, if any, Christmas gifts this year. I don't need to be reminded of that every second of the day for the next 6 weeks. I had to by tires and still need an oil change and new brakes for the truck and new eyeglasses.

Merry Frickin' Christmas.


I took the plunge recently. I filled out a profile on an online dating site. I haven't used the site to contact anyone yet and the profile still needs work. But it's a first step. Right? That's progress. Right?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Has Grey's Anatomy jumped the shark?

I think Grey's Anatomy has jumped the shark. What's the deal with the ongoing Izzie and dead Denny storyline? Can't the writers find enough dramatic content in a hospital, complex family, friend and lover relationships? Do they have to keep bringing back a character they killed off? Really?

My opinion may not be universally held (see this post from Daytime Confidential). Hey, I can handle shows with supernatural storylines that are beyond the scope of normal, conventional beliefs. I like the show True Blood for example, with it's vampires and people who can hear people's thoughts or shape shifters, and Life On Mars and its time-traveling cop. But I want to know I'm expected to suspend disbelieve from the outset based on the plot.

I'm not saying I'm completely done watching Grey's Anatomy, but my loyalty to any network TV show is tenuous at best, given writers' strikes and odd-ball, on-again, off-again schedules, I can find something else to do with my time in any hour time slot -- like watching old Happy Days reruns.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

If you can't go home, sometimes home can come to you

Tom Wolfe wrote the book "You Can't go Home Again." I used to think Wolfe's title was right. I left the small town where I grew up 24 years ago for college and have been gone pretty much ever since, except for a couple of years in my mid 2os. The reason I used to think Wolfe was right about not being able to go home is that the home we return to isn't how, or what, we remember. The place changes. We change. Life goes on. But the truth is, there's really no need to try to go back to something that never leaves you. You take home with you wherever you go.

Friday night, home came to visit me.

Actually, we met up in McMinnville, where my alma mater was playing in a state football playoff game. The Echo Cougars vs. the Perrydale Pirates. To give you an idea of how small my town and school was, and still is, they compete in a league that plays 8-man football and many -- most -- of the players play virtually every play, on offense and defense. There was no cheerleading squad, just students and parents, cheering and changing in the stands.

Unfortunately, my old school, the Cougs, didn't win, but I feel like I did. I got to see some old friends, who now have children or nephews playing on the team and get caught up on some of the quarter century of life that's passed since we spent time together. Back then, I couldn't wait to get out of town. I felt trapped. Suffocated. People knew way too much about me and my business. But Friday night if felt good to be feel so at home, if only for a little while.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dream of equality lives, but not yet realized

Television and the Internet can sometimes make the world seem like a very small place. It's easy to get the impression we all have shared experiences. We post our little burbs on our blogs and Facebook and MySpace pages, we Twitter and text and talk incessantly on cell phones. Communication is non-stop.

We share data and details with those near and far. However, that doesn't mean there is true sharing or understanding.

In watching the post-election coverage Tuesday night, so many of the commentators, analysts and pundits were talking about how far we have come as a nation to elect Barack Obama, a bi-racial man, to the highest office in the land. Obama, who was born before the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act became law, is now seen as the hope of a new generation and the embodiment of what so many generations have fought -- and died -- to achieve.

Even Obama's acceptance speech was different than those that came before in its attempt to be inclusive of all of America.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. ... It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red
States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America."

-- Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

In the rush of euphoria, perhaps it seems that the worst is all behind us. That Americans have matured, grown wise and understanding and inclusive and accepting of people and their differences. But on the same night Obama was elected the next president of the United States -- on the night he mentioned homosexuals specifically in his speech-- that very same electorate also voted to exclude others. Voters approved a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexual couples only in California and similar measure in Arizona and Florida -- three of 30 states that have now adopted such measures. And on Tuesday, Arkansas voters passed a measure that keeps gay men and lesbian women from adopting children or serving as foster parents.

The headline on commentary piece by Joseph Galliano on the Guardian website calls Obama a pro-gay president.

Yes, we've come so far, but our nation still has so far to go.

"There's something deeply wrong with putting the rights of a minority up to a majority vote," Evan Wolfson, a gay-rights lawyer who heads a group called Freedom to Marry, was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story. "If this were being done to almost any other minority, people would see how un-American this is."

Fortunately, we have a system that does not merely rely on majority rule. We have a system that offers checks and balances. But we haven't achieved true balance or true equality yet.

Just ask the gay community.

I can't understand it. I'm perplexed why anyone would care that two people who share their lives and responsibilities also share the same gender. But then again, not everyone has had the same life experiences I've had. I am thankful and fortunate to have so many friends and family members who are gay and open about who they are at their core. They don't live a lifestyle, they haven't made a choice to live or love a certain way. Their sexuality is as much part of them as their eye, or skin, color.

I've been fortunate to live in a community with a vibrant and active gay community, gay businesses and gay activists. I've been fortunate to see beyond the flamboyant fringes of gay and lesbian life and beyond the stereotypes. Those I care about have shared their lives -- not just the parts that are different or mysterious or spicy -- to a heterosexual who was naive about such things. I've seen that they have the same boring, vexing problems I have. But if they are fortunate to find someone they want to share their life with, they run into many more roadblocks in trying to take care of each other or share the burdens of responsibility that come with love and true commitment.

My tolerance for intolerance has worn thin. That's undoubtedly due in no small part to having family members who are Latino and gay and friends who are Latino, black, Jewish, gay, Asian, etc., in other words, people who are outwardly different than me, yet who inwardly have proven to me to offer more similarities than differences and whose differences have enriched me personally.

I'll be honest, Obama's election stunned me. I know there is still a lot of bigotry, racism and intolerance in our country. If I look close, I can still see it in myself too. I didn't think we, as a society, were ready to elect a black man as president.

I was wrong. Sometimes it's good to be wrong. But I can't for the life of me figure out how some of the very same people who voted for Obama in California, Arizona and Florida could also oppose gay marriage.

However, I am not without hope. I know interracial marriage was once illegal. I know the voting majority once supported slavery and opposed giving black men and women of all races the right to vote too. I am proud America is the type of nation that it is with the type of government it has and that majority rule is not the only rule of government or law. I am confident that one day we will achieve the freedom and equality espoused in our nation's Declaration of Independence. We are already more equal today than our Founding Fathers ever dared to dream.

But we are just not yet equal enough.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Congrats to the new parents and parents-to-be

I found out from my friend Karly's blog, that a couple of mutual friends and former colleagues had their first baby today. Congrats to Tom and Kara and their new baby girl, Lexi. There are photos on Tom and Kara's blog.

I worked with Jose and Karly and Tom and Kara in Palm Springs. They are among about a billion former colleagues who seem to be expecting lately. Fortunately, I can stay caught up with them through blogs or Facebook, even though we've now scattered all over the country.

It's sort of weird to have so many friends who are starting their young families and having kids because my daughter is getting ready to graduate from high school this year. It doesn't seem that long ago that we were all colleagues, friends and fellow singles. Up until recently I thought maybe someday I would marry and get a chance to be a traditional dad. The marriage part hasn't happened for me yet, but I haven't given up hope. However, I now am thinking that maybe being a parent again won't be in the cards. And I am growing more comfortable with that. I certainly don't feel old, but I am not sure I would have the energy I would want to have to be the parent of a newborn. I do enjoy getting to be Uncle Gary. Small kids are a joy. I think a great part of my interest in them comes from only spending time with my daughter in very small doses quite far apart when she was small. Perhaps it's trying to recapture part of her youth.

I am envious of my friends who are starting their young families. You are in for a great deal of joy, happiness and pride. There is no love like it. Tom's got that figured out already, as evidence by his post in which he describes his beautiful newborn daughter. Tom writes: "As I typed beautiful my eyes teared up. For the first time in my life, I truly understand what beautiful is."

Yea, Tom, you've got it bad. Just wait until you are sitting there watching some sappy commercial on TV that reminds you of your child and you choke up, your eyes fill up with tears. God forbid it's when the guys are all over watching football or something. It's OK, dude. The other dads will understand. They'll flip you no end of crap, but they are just doing that to keep from tearing up themselves.

Photo J: Capturing the Moment