Saturday, August 19, 2006

Read any good books lately?

I am currently re-reading “The Wind in the Willows”. It is one of my favorite books from childhood and every time I read it I just seem to love it more, always for different reasons. I am doling it out one chapter a night like a bedtime story and get to travel to a distant time and place that only ever existed in Kenneth Grahame’s lyrical and elegant prose.

My friend Bev is an avid reader, but once she has read a book, she is done with it and never goes back to the book. Once when I mentioned that I was re-reading something she asked my why. At the time I couldn’t give her an answer other than “I like the book.”

Last night after I had seen Ratty and Mole safely off to bed, and I was turning out the light, it came to me. It’s because of my Gramma Brown.

Gramma taught me a number of things over the years of my childhood and one of them was that a good book, like a good friend and is always worth visiting. She loved Shakespeare and Dickens, but she also loved Zane Grey and any gory murder mystery that the library had in stock.

We saw Gramma year round, mowing her lawn in the summer and shoveling snow for her in the winter, but now when I think of her it’s always summer. Long sunny days, having tea and homemade molasses cookies with Grandma in the cool of her kitchen, or in the darkened parlor reading out of an old anthology of poetry to her. Out in the sun, helping Gramma in her garden. I learned a lot of the practicalities of gardening from my father, with my brothers in the thankless task of helping the old man keep up with his garden, but I learned to love growing things from Gramma. She was still in awe at the wonder of a plant growing from a tiny seed, and she was able to convey that wonder to a child.

There was always something good to eat, always a cup of tea. Always a safe place with someone to listen, or to tell me about what it was like to be a child in rural Vermont at the turn of the century.

She had had a hard life, with more than her share of tragedy. She raised 4 children alone in the depression, in a house with no plumbing or electricity. She saw both of her sons go off to the Second World War, which seems to have been the catalyst for a long and difficult mental illness, which ultimately institutionalized her for 14 years. Like all of the other difficulties in her life she overcame that as well.

This happened before I knew her. So the person I knew was someone who was the one reliable safe place I had in my own difficult childhood. She was the one who showed me that books could be another safe place for me to hide when things got to be too much, and that like an old friend, a well loved book can be a safe harbor. That the miraculous is around us every day and we need look no further than a small dried seed, which can grow into a beautiful plant, to appreciate the wonder that surrounds us on a daily basis. I don’t remember this every day. I live in a larger, busier, world than Gramma, or Kenneth Grahame did. But like an old friend, occasionally Gramma comes and reminds me. I just wish she could bring the molasses cookies and the tea.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hair today

When did it become chic to be bald? As someone who now sports a shiny dome, rather than a heavy thatch of curls I haven’t been able to help but notice there are a lot more bald guys around. I admit there are a lot of guys who just shave their heads, but I am noticing that more men, and more young men are loosing their hair.

While both of my brothers have classic male pattern baldness, I have overall thinning hair. What this means is that if I didn’t shave in the morning what I would wind up with is the type of hair that regardless of length would give the most casual observer a slightly obscured view of my scalp. It lacks the pathetic nature of the comb over, but really isn’t any more attractive. So every morning I get out the Norelco and do my hair. It’s a pragmatic approach to dealing with the problem and fortunately I don’t have a misshapen head, so it doesn’t look that bad.

What puzzles me is why all of the escapees from Hair Club for Men? Come on, there has always been a small portion of the gay population who’ve sported a gleaming pate, and it works. But until the past few years there has been a much larger population of men out there that has been willing to do anything, no matter how humiliating, to have a “natural looking” head of hair. They were fooling no one but themselves, but it was pretty harmless and allowed me and some of my friends to play such fun games as spot the worst toupee of the day or how much has he spent so far on hair plugs? It's not just me thinking this either. I did a quick poll among friends and they all remarked after I pointed out the chrome dome phenomena to them that they are not seeing as much advertisement for weaves or hair transplants.

The death of the rug shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. I think that a good toupee is an oxymoron. However it’s amazing what people can convince themselves of. SUV’s are safe and standardized testing in schools improves the quality of education are just a couple. If someone wants to think that no one can tell that the dead raccoon they have tied to their head isn't their own hair, there is no way they are going to be convinced otherwise. So why the sudden group urge to go natural?

I am leaning towards the idea that it was Capt. Picard. Let’s face it, if anyone could convince you that some short, bald, older man can be a hotty, Patrick Stewart is that man.

The problem with this theory is that the show has been off the air for 10 years. Did it take that long for the idea to trickle down, or is it that a new generation of men had to see Jean-Luc in syndication before they threw off the shackles of the personal care industry and decided to bare it all. I’m going to have to do some more research into the phenomena and get back to you.

In the mean time I’m going to head down the street to my favorite taqueria, El Pelon. You know, they really should give discounts to us baldies.

Gay fat

In the afternoons we have an undergradute that comes in to help out with the office. He's a nice straight kid, who has come from a fairly conservative, and sheltered background. Buttermonkey and I consequently are treating him to insights into what goes on in other parts of the culture.

The other day we got into a discussion about weight. Finally, the student said to Buttermonkey,
"Your just one of those skinny guys who thinks their fat."

Buttermonkey: "You don't get it. I'm gay fat!"

Me: After a moment, "Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm gay fat too."

Buttermonkey: "OMG! That means I'm really gay obese. Maybe gay morbidly obese.... no wait that's like one step below being a bear."

It makes me feel all warm inside to know I'm helping, in my small way, to form the minds of the young and impressionable.


I am blowing off the gym with a clear conscience this morning. I put in a 14 hour day yesterday and being overtired couldn't get to sleep last night. My usual waking hour of 4:30 rolled around and I just kept my eyes closed after a quick deco at the alarm clock, but Alice decided it was time for Dad to get up and started running back and forth across the bed. After about 15 minutes of this I finally dropped the old size 11's on the floor and headed for the catfood bowl.

In cat fashion once she had finished the contents of the bowl, Alice came over to see if there was anymore coming. Once we had gone through the morning ritual of "you're just gonna' have to wait till dinner time", she rolled around on the carpet for a few minutes just to imbed some more hair in it. Happy in the knowledge that her work for the morning was done, she trotted off to my bed, where she curled up dead center and is now happily snoozing.

I am working my way through a pot of coffee and scratching. Skeeter season seems to be in full swing and the lace effect screens in my apartment are letting the little devils in, in droves. I was apparently the buffet for the evening. Naturally, among the top stories in the news this morning are reports of cases of West Nile virus and Eastern Equine encephalitis! If I was awake enough I'm sure I could work my way into a frantic state of hypochondria, but it seems like to much effort right now. Maybe later.

It is time to head off to the shower and work, no doubt with hilarious results.

I'm not sure who's scripting my life but I suspect it's one of those hacks who write teen comedies for Disney. You know, the ones that are are suppose to be hilarious, but are merely lame. I'm going to send off a memo to the script dept. and have the bastard fired. As soon as I can find a pen that doesn't leak.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Change on the way

I have been noticing for the past couple of weeks that the sun is arriving later. A couple of months ago the sun was well up as I headed off to the gym, now I am being greeted by the sunrise. I know it's only the middle of August, but it's a reminder that autumn is on the way. Photo taken at 5:30 this morning. (I'm not sure why, but my entries keep resetting to Pacific time.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I love my job

I was sitting at my desk a few days ago, and my buddy and co-worker Buttermonkey stopped to pass the time of day. I had worn a tight t-shirt into the office and he said, "You must be feeling better about your work out. You're wearing a Red Riding Hood shirt." I just looked at him, and finally, I said, "Okay, I give. What's a Red Riding Hood shirt?" I was treated to the Buttermonkey grin, which usually means there is a good one on the way, "My Grandpa, what big tits you have."

I love this job! Okay, the twins aren't that big, but hell, I love this job!

Change is good

I am trying out a new workout routine. It calls for working out until every muscle in your body aches on one day then taking a day off. Rinse and repeat. As someone who, in the words of H.H. Munro, shall never see 40 again, it is a real challenge to try and make some sort of muscle gain. Not that I am planning on ever getting to the point of being mistaken for a body builder, but I have determined that I would like to, if not defy gravity, at least put up a spirited fight. The fly in the ointment is that I have my routine and it just grates to have to change the way I have been doing things on auto pilot for the past several months. The fact is that, as much as we might complain about being in a rut, we like our ruts. They are a comfortable place, and offer us reassurance that each day is going to be a safe place that is pretty much the same as yesterday was.

The reason I am boring people with the details of my workout is that it is bringing to the fore, for me, how much people are creatures of habit. A good example is that when I walk to the gym in the morning I take a straight shot up Boylston St. Currently, they are constructing the new Mandarin Hotel at the Prudential Center. For months I have been walking up that side of the street. For the past few weeks I have had to cross the street for that block. It just gets on my last gay nerve. It doesn't take any more time, or in any way effect my walk, it's just not "my" route. I mentioned this to one of the professors I work for. He laughed, because he has his own mindless routines and then told me that he is in the habit now of observing his students from day one of class. Apparently, the kids will file in on the first day of class, choose a seat, and from then on, for the rest of the semester, that is "their" seat.

Maybe that is how we make the remarkable normal so that we can keep moving on with our lives. ATM's, cell phones, the internet, home computing, digital cameras are all the type of technological wonders that were, when I was a kid, the pipe dreams of sci-fi. Now, they are the common place. Like I said, reducing these things to the mundane makes them manageable so that we are not overwhelmed and it clears the way for whatever comes next down the pike.

The downside of this is that we are also willing to simply accept more insidious trends that start seeping into our common experience. Allowing the government to invade our privacy to fight the war on terrorism. Electing a president who said the constitution is just a damned piece of paper. Accepting the idea that we have some sort of divine right of kings to impose our ideas on the rest of the world, and if they don't like it too bad about 'em. Will we accept that here in the land of the free that what we will be free to do is, to do as we are told by our government without question?

I am shaking up my routines. I am changing my workout to see if I can make some type of physical change. I am shaking up my walking route, to see if even in a small way I can start looking at my city from a different perspective. Election season is coming up, maybe we should all see if we can shake up the way that those we entrust with our civic and national well being can do things differently, and possibly better for us all. Hey, change is good!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Common knowledge

I was listening to NPR this morning before heading off to the gym. It seems that more Americans can name the 3 Stooges (Larry, Curly and Moe) than can name the 3 branches of government. (Executive, Judicial and Legislative) I felt very ill informed. I thought the stooges were Dick, Don and Dubyah.

Are you a Stoogite or a Marxist? I never got the 3 Stooges, but I've always loved Groucho, Chico and Harpo.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Urban development

I was walking down Boylston Street yesterday and walked by the Pru, where they are putting up the new Mandarin Hotel. As far as I can tell they are being very hush hush about what the new building is going to look like. I only hope it looks better than its neighbor, the Hynes Convention Center. Is it just me or does this building look like some sort of correctional facility?

Hynes Auditorium 2