Posts By: Mark Alexander

In Other Words, Keep It In Your Own Damn Pants

“Look, if you believe in God, that’s a-ok with me, and the way in which you choose to believe doesn’t concern me in the least, unless you try and make your faith the law of the land for others, too. If your faith gives you comfort, and it helps you in your efforts to become the best possible version of yourself, then I have no issue with that. Some of you just need to remember on occasion that your neighbor is just as deeply attached to his faith as you are to yours, and that your chance to convert him is about as good as his chance to convert you. Religion is an intensely private matter, and if you want to enjoy your religious freedom, you have to grant it to others as well, regardless of how much you disagree with their theology, or how much you’d like to see them saved. In the end, if you believe there’s a judgment due, let God make it, and don’t assume that the Creator and Mover of the Universe needs your help.” ~ The Munchkin Wrangler

I’ve never seen my own beliefs so eloquently put into words. Bravo!

Regurgitating a Meme

Funny how so many of my answers have changed from the last time I did this.

  1. What is in the back seat of your car right now? The driver’s side floor mat and the windshield sun screen.
  2. When was the last time you threw up? Too many years ago to remember.
  3. What’s your favorite curse word? Jeeezus Christ!
  4. Name 3 people who made you smile today. Ben. He’s the only person I’ve really had any real interaction with.
  5. What were you doing at 8 a.m. this morning? Trying in vain to go back to sleep.
  6. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? At Walgreens picking up some stuff.
  7. Have you ever been to a strip club? No.
  8. What is the last thing you said aloud? Black tea…and a chocolate chip muffin, please.
  9. What is the best ice cream flavor? I really don’t eat ice cream much anymore.
  10. What was the last thing you had to drink? See #8 above.
  11. What are you wearing right now? My “Incredibelchers” T-shirt and jeans.
  12. What was the last thing you ate? See #8 above.
  13. Have you bought any new clothes this week? No.
  14. Where were you last? See #6 above.
  15. What’s the last sporting event you watched? Sporting event? Hahaha!
  16. Who won? See #16.
  17. Who is the last person you sent a comment/message to? John.
  18. Ever go camping? Only when I was a child.
  19. What song are you listening to? Something being played by an awful live band at the coffee house. And I wouldn’t call it listening; it’s more like trying desperately to ignore.
  20. Do you drink your soda from a straw? Don’t drink soda.
  21. What did your last text message say? Maybe you’ll share?
  22. Who’re your best friends? I don’t have any friends who stand out more than others. They’re all my best friends.
  23. What are you doing tomorrow? Starting a new job.
  24. Where is your mom right now? Her ashes are in an underground vault in Appleton, Wiscosin.
  25. Look to your right, what do you see? Ben working on his laptop.
  26. What color is your watch? Don’t wear a watch.
  27. What do you think of when you think of Australia? The old Bear Scans Brisbane website and the two owners who “visited” me in San Francisco.
  28. Ever ridden on a roller coaster? Nope.
  29. Do you go in at a fast-food place or just hit the drive through? Go in.
  30. What is your favorite number? Favorite number? Are you serious?
  31. Do you have a dog? Yes.
  32. Last person you talked to on the phone? My recruiter.
  33. Have you met anyone famous? No, but I swear to the FSM that Mark Hamill once flirted with me on the F-Train in SF.
  34. Any plans today? Grocery shopping, dinner with Ben and one of Ben’s colleagues.
  35. How many states have you lived in? 3.
  36. Ever go to college? Yes.
  37. Where are you right now? In a state of disbelief that I’m actually doing this. Physically? Copperstar Coffee.
  38. Biggest annoyance in your life right now? See #19 above.
  39. Are you in love with someone right now? Yes, and for the last seven wonderful years.
  40. Are you allergic to anything? Lotsa stuff.
  41. Favorite pair of shoes? No.
  42. Are you jealous of anyone? No
  43. Is anyone jealous of you? Not that I know of…
  44. Do any of your friends have children? Yes, but seriously…who the fuck cares?
  45. Do you eat healthy? I try. Except when I don’t.
  46. What do you usually do during the day? The last six months have been spent online looking for work/blogging/goofing off, watching television, listening to music, playing with the dogs, mopping up dog pee, and running errands. Occasionally I get out to make photos.
  47. Do you hate anyone right now? Hate is such a strong word, but the Donald Trump comes to mind.
  48. Do you use the word ‘hello’ daily? I prefer “hi” or “hey.”
  49. How old will you be turning on your next birthday? No doubt older than you.
  50. Have you ever been to Six Flags? No.
  51. How did you get one of your scars (if you have any)? The one on my leg is from ripping my thigh open with a staple on an upholstered rocking chair as a kid. The crater over my right eyebrow is from a chicken pox blister that I picked off when I was six. The one on my left index finger resulted from attempting to use an X-acto blade incorrectly as an adult.

I’m now more convinced than ever that these things are written by pre-teen girls who own pink cell phones and whose rooms are decorated with stuffed unicorns.

Some Sunday Fun

An oldie but a goodie.

You are in a band. Your band is about to release their first album. Follow these directions to build it.

1. Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random.
The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. Go to http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3.
The tail (last three or four words) of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. Go to http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/.
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. Use the graphics program of your choice to put them together into your first album.

5. Go to the random title generator site and come up with the names of the 12 tracks! (I added a bonus track because that’s just the way I am.)

Tracklist:

Stripped Search
The Captured Sky
Boyfriend of Memory
The Secret of Fire
Crying in the Streams
Obsession of the Servant
Green Rings
The Kissing Storms
World of Search
The Flames’s Gate
The Soul of the Barmaid
Evil in the Child
Red Hunter
The Playful Eyes

And the fabulous, never before released bonus track:

Luck in the Winter

Cars I Have Owned

Unlike some friends who change cars the way I change socks, I haven’t owned that many vehicles over the course of my life.

My first car was a used truck; a 1976 Chevy LUV to be precise. I don’t think I ever named it. My mom had the interior reupholstered for my birthday the year after I got it. Twelve months later, after I’d moved out of my folks’ house, it was parked outside my apartment with the windows rolled down one evening (you could actually do that at one time) and a cat jumped in and sprayed all over the seat. I never did get the smell out.

Dorothy, a 1984 Toyota Corolla SR5, was my first new car, and the one that still shows up most often in my dreams. By far it was one of the best running and most reliable vehicles I’ve owned. It moved to San Francisco with me and I reluctantly sold it in 1989—shortly before the Loma Prieta earthquake—stupidly thinking that I could get around San Francisco without a car.

Jezebel, the car from hell, was a 1990 Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo I bought from a friend. Lesson learned: never buy cars from friends. Corollary lesson: never buy turbos. ‘Nuff said.

Baraka, a.k.a. “Red,” was a 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse; it was the second car I bought new. It wasn’t the exact model I’d wanted (it was a RS; I really preferred the GS but couldn’t afford it), so we never really bonded completely, but without a doubt, this car had the best damn gas mileage of any car I’ve owned evah. I could drive from San Francisco to San Diego (540 miles) on a single tank of gas. Yeah, I’d be arriving on fumes, but I’d still make it all the way. After about 80,000 miles I was able to ignore the small things falling apart, but when the poor thing started having major transmission issues, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

Skittles was a brand new 2001 Volkswagen Beetle. I’d been jonesing for a New Beetle even before Red started falling apart, but couldn’t justify getting one. The Beetle was the first, and—as the Flying Spaghetti Monster is my witness—the last car I will ever own with an automatic transmission. I never had any issues with the transmission; it just wasn’t as fun to drive. A few minor problems with the cooling system at about 70,000 miles, replacing the battery twice and having to slap on a new set of tires was about the extent of problems/repairs. All in all, a very well made car and fun to drive, but ultimately it was too gay. Even for me.

And of course, there’s Anderson—the 2006 MINI Cooper I bought almost ten years ago. The honeymoon never ended, although he is definitely starting to show his age. Anderson is the first car I bought new and racked up 100K miles on. It’s also the first car I’ve really bonded with. The repairs haven’t been horrendous for a ten-year-old car: multiple replacement of leaking power steering lines, clutch at 60K (covered under extended warranty), three—maybe four—sets of tires (I forget),  front and rear brake pad replacements x3, engine mount replacement, passenger side strut replacement, control arm bushing replacement, battery x2, passenger seat airbag sensor replacement (once under warranty, and most recently under recall) and lastly, a starter replacement (because I ignored a power steering line leak that had been dripping on it). We’ve had some incredible adventures together and even though the knowledge that he now needs $3500 worth of “non critical” repairs that are never going to happen (the poor thing is only worth $3000 according to KBB) takes away some of the sting of saying goodbye, it’s still going to be hard for us to part ways when that inevitable day arrives.

Politics in America

Someone recently described the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress as the pets of the Corporatocracy. They said the Republicans were the dogs and the Democrats were the cats.

The dogs did tricks on command, would slavishly follow their masters everywhere, and would even die to protect their masters. The cats pretended to be aloof and ignore their masters, but still always came running when they heard the can opener.

That about sums it up.

Bernie Sanders, however, seems to be the exception.

Nine Years Ago

Something I wrote almost ten years ago. Sometimes I need to be reminded…

Several years ago, emotionally adrift after being forced to relocate to Phoenix and only months thereafter receiving a cancer diagnosis, I was beginning to feel that—if not literally (because even then I wasn’t going to cede my body over to a clump of cells less than half the size of a pencil eraser), then at least symbolically—my life was coming to an end. Everything had a “been there, done that” quality to it, and while I still had my long term support groups in both San Francisco and Tucson, I’d yet to make any new friends in Phoenix. I was beginning to wonder if was even worth the effort to try because at the time my long term prognosis—while good—was still not guaranteed. And furthermore, exactly how I was going to pull off meeting anyone with a plastic tube in my throat and a badly mangled self-image shadowing me everywhere I went was totally beyond my comprehension.

Fortunately, time does heal all wounds, and after a year or so I’d finally made peace with the plastic tube and everything it represented. My self-image was still pretty much in the toilet, but at least my hand wasn’t resting on the flusher any longer.

After receiving another year or so of positive reports from my doctor, I started realizing that yes, maybe my life reallywas going to continue, and that—coupled with a permanent job offer—started me thinking that maybe I could return to the land of the living and start making plans again.

As I began to end that self-imposed exile, it became abundantly clear that in many ways, my old life had ended in 2003. I look back on the Mark who existed prior to those events, and I scarcely recognize him. I know it’s me, but it’s like peering back through a past life regression—and to be honest, a whole lot of it wasn’t pretty. But still Iam thankful for the Alexander who came through that crucible and has grown from it.

Now that I was actually able to think about the future—about having a real, viable future—I started wondering what I still had to accomplish; what I still wanted to accomplish. And I also started wondering who were the still nameless, faceless souls that would unexpectedly come into my life and accompany me on this strange journey.

Out of nowhere, Cindy—one of those souls—entered stage right about a year ago, and until tonight over shared Mexican food, I’d all but forgotten what an absolute joy it was to cross paths with someone and suddenly realize you’re not meeting a stranger for the first time but actually reconnecting with a long lost friend.

Some Light Reading

“Dear Aunt Sylvia,

First, thank you for the birthday card. Not that I’m admitting to being thirty-one, but if I hide the thing carefully (perhaps in the vegetable bin) maybe nobody will notice. I think twenty-eight is a much nicer age to be, and I have every intention of being twenty-eight for several more years. So you and I know the truth—so do we have to talk about it?

Now, as to the book. I’ve read it, and frankly, I’m not impressed. All right, so the poor broad is my age and not married. What does she expect, being a fat, ugly Jewish girl? She thinks maybe men grow on trees? Believe me, they don’t. I may be Jewish, but I’m not fat or ugly, and I know: men do not grow on trees. But am I going to kill myself over it? Am I going to stick my head in an oven? Am I going to slit my wrists? No, Aunt Sylvia, I’m not. I’m going to go right on doing what I’ve been doing. I’m going to pull myself together, put on a nice sweater, pretend it’s still 1965 and go out and find a man.

A man, you say? My nephew is going to go out and find himself a man? What have I raised? What kind of pervert did I nourish at my bosom?

That’s right, Aunt Sylvia, you got yourself a queer nephew. Now, before you go running off to make Uncle Hymie rip the buttons off his vest, stop and think. It could be a lot worse. I could be a child molester. Or I could be an exhibitionist, and spend my time flashing my schwantz at Haddasah ladies and making them choke on their chicken liver. How would you like that, Aunt Sylvia? So settle down, sew the buttons back on Uncle Hymie’s vest, and listen.”

And so begins A Fairy Tale, written under the pseudonym S. Steinberg by John Saul.

I stumbled upon this bit of hilarity while I was coming out back in the mid 70s. While the book itself hadn’t yet been published, a excerpt appeared several years prior to publication in Christopher Street, a magazine I’d serendipitously discovered in the periodical racks in the basement of the University of Arizona library. I can’t tell you how much my grades suffered as a result of spending too many evenings at the library—not studying, or even partaking in, um…other diversions (which I actually didn’t discover there until years later)—but rather spent pouring over back issues of Christopher Street and After Dark, tentatively taking my first hesitant steps into that dark, seductive world of the love that dare not speak its name.

When I found the book itself, several years later after moving to San Francisco, it was like meeting up with an old friend. I’d kept a xerox of the Christopher Street piece (in fact, I still have it), but here was the entire novel, fleshed out in full. It wasn’t called Tinkerbell is Alive and Hanging Kelp in San Francisco as the Christopher Street excerpt had indicated, and it wasn’t written by John Saul (or so I’d originally thought), but the minute I cracked the spine and started reading, I knew it was the same story and the same author.

Much like any piece of gay fiction from the era, it’s a little dated in places, and obviously written before AIDS changed the world, but so many aspects of our so-called lifestyle seem timeless. The difference between my first exposure to the prose in 1977 and now is that I’ve lived a lot of what’s in the book, or know people who have.

It was out of print for the longest time (I found my copy used), but it’s actually available again—as an e-book, no less. So if you’ve got a few dollars to throw away, it’s worth it to check it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Repost

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

  • 1/4 cup of popping corn (generally $0.99 for a pound bag. This is enough to make at least 50 bags of microwave corn)
  • 1 Teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Popcorn salt to taste (it has finer granules than table salt with the same taste)
  • And the following tools:
  • A stapler
  • A teaspoon
  • A measuring cup
  • A brown paper bag, and—of course
  • A microwave

Step One:

Measure out the popcorn and dump it into the paper bag. Carefully add salt and any additional seasonings you might want. Shake gently. Now add the teaspoon of olive oil.

Step Two:

Close the bag, folding it over twice. Secure with one stable in the middle of the fold. (Contrary to popular belief, staples will not arc in the microwave.) Shake the bag to evenly distribute the corn/oil/salt mixture. Place the bag, side down, in your microwave and nuke it until you hear the popping occurring at roughly 3-5 second intervals. (My microwave has a “popcorn” setting on the control panel. I find that is about fifteen seconds too long.) You might want to put a folded paper towel under the bag to soak up the oil that will seep through the bag.

Step Three:

Open the bag with care because steam will escape and you can get scalded. Pour into a bowl, serve and enjoy the taste and the knowledge that this heaping bag of microwave popcorn cost less than ten cents and isn’t full of unnecessary added chemicals and preservatives!

Then And Now

Top: 1960-something. Bottom: 2016. Central Avenue just south of Monterey Way looking north.

Top: Late 1960s/early 1970s. Bottom: 2016. Indian School Road just east of Central Avenue looking west.

Top: Late 1960s. Bottom: 2016. Indian School Road east of Central Avenue (about 100′ further east than the picture above) looking west.

Top: 1950s. Bottom: 2016. Van Buren and Central Avenue looking southeast.

Top: 1960-something. Bottom: 2016. Central Avenue at Polk looking north.

Top: Early 1970s. Bottom 2016. Indian School Road at Central Avenue looking south.

Top: 1960-something. Left: 2016. West side of 7th Avenue just north of Heatherbrae looking north.

Left: 1960-something. Right: 2016. The Professional Building at Central Avenue and Monroe. The building sat empty for many, many years, but was recently renovated and is now the Hilton Garden Inn.

R.I.P. Edgar Mitchell






Edgar Mitchell, one of just 12 human beings who walked on the moon, has died. He was 85.

“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my condolences to the family and friends of NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “He believed in exploration, having been drawn to NASA by President Kennedy’s call to send humans to the moon. He is one of the pioneers in space exploration on whose shoulders we now stand.”

Mitchell died Thursday in West Palm Beach, Florida, according to NASA. His death occurred on the eve of the 45th anniversary of his lunar landing, which took place on February 5, 1971.

Mitchell, Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa were the crew of Apollo 14, which launched on January 31, 1971. Mitchell became the sixth man to walk on the lunar surface.

He and Shepard set foot on the moon two separate times during their mission, spending more than nine hours collecting rocks, taking measurements and (in Shepard’s case) hitting a pair of golf balls. Mitchell also took a famous photograph of Shepard standing next to an American flag. All told, the two spent 33 hours on the moon.

Mitchell, who was the lunar module pilot, found the trip to be a profound experience, telling the UK Telegraph in 2014, “Looking at Earth from space and seeing it was a planet in isolation…that was an experience of ecstasy, realizing that every molecule in our bodies is a system of matter created from a star hanging in space. The experience I had was called Samadhi in the ancient Sanskrit, a feeling of overwhelming joy at seeing the Earth from that perspective.”

Fascinated and frustrated by the relationship between religion and science, he was very public about seeking links between the known and unknown, being a firm believer in extraterrestrial activity, and was convinced UFOs had visited Earth.

In one interview, he told Bloomberg Business that the 1947 Roswell incident, which to some people is evidence of an extraterrestrial crash landing, was covered up, saying, “It’s not just military. It’s a cabal of organizations primarily for a profit motive.”

The astronaut was born in Hereford, Texas, in 1930. A Navy pilot, he joined NASA in 1966 as part of the agency’s astronaut corps. He was well-qualified: besides having served as a test pilot and college instructor, he earned a doctorate from MIT in aeronautics and astronautics.

With Mitchell’s death, of the 12 men who have walked on the moon, seven survive: Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, David Scott, John W. Young, Charles Duke, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt.

Many have talked of their missions with joy and wonder. Mitchell went beyond, however: he believed we were all connected—to everything.

“We are not alone in the universe,” he told the Utica Phoenix. “We are just one grain of sand on a huge beach.”

That’s Surprising

So I’m playing around with my iTunes playlists today and I made the surprising/disturbing discovery that of the 16,191 items in my library, 9461—NINE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED SIXTY ONE—supposedly have never been played.

How is this even possible?

Oh yeah…several years ago I inadvertently reset the play counts. But still, that’s a lot of music I haven’t listened to since then (if ever); 28.2 days worth to be exact.

Best Comment Ever

“Disco never died, it just went underground. If this doesn’t get you tapping your feet or moving yo ass, you’re dead inside.”

Doubleplusgood

I’d forgotten what an awesome track this was…

As a reminder, Orwell’s 1984 was written as a cautionary tale…not a How-To Manual.

And since we’re on the subject of Eurythmics and that awesome soundtrack…

If I Don’t Put It Out There It Will Never Happen


As I have lamented on this blog previously, one of the biggest regrets of my life was that I’ve gotten rid of so many things I wish I’d held on to.

The first of those things being the notebooks I’d amassed that were full of audio manufacturer literature from the 70s and 80s. I don’t actually recall at this point if I intentionally threw them out or if they were inadvertently left in a closet when fleeing an unfortunate roommate situation in 1989, but the fact remains at some point they disappeared.

The second of those things were the multiple notebooks of the floor plan/exterior elevation handouts I’d collected from Hallcraft Homes for the duration of my dad’s employment with the company. I believe I left them in Dad’s care when I first moved out of my folks’ house in the early 80s, with the intent of eventually getting them back at some point. Well, life happened and I’d all but forgotten about them (and the dozens of actual construction blueprints in our possession) until some time after he moved to the Bay Area and I inquired as to their whereabouts. “Oh, I threw all that stuff out after the divorce.”

Well fuck me.

My heart sank. Looking back on it now, I think his tenure at the firm (especially the last few years after they’d been bought out by a Canadian company) became increasingly difficult and when the opportunity presented itself for a purge of all physical reminders of his time there, he went for it—something totally out of character for my dad who seemed to hold onto every other thing in the world.

With the advent of the internet, I’d always fantasized what a great resource having all those handouts would be to current owners of the homes—if only for historical reference, and after his death I’d hoped against all odds that my sister would find a hidden cache in his things. Alas, no such cache was found.

Searching online for already published examples of those handouts has been a lesson in futility—until yesterday. With all the Phoenix history swirling through my brain of late, I did a search for “Hallcraft Showcase of Homes.” This led me to—of all places—the Sunburst Farms HOA page. Sunburst Farms was the first of several Hallcraft subdivisions with one- and two-acre lots. (Ben’s grandfather actually still owns a home in one of the east side developments.) On this HOA page there was a link to “Historic Documents” and on that page were links that sent my heart fluttering: Hallcraft Flyer 1, Hallcraft Home Plans 1, Hallcraft Home Plans 2, Home Elevations, Home Prices…

It wasn’t a treasure trove, but considering I’d previously only possessed three floor plans and an equal number of exterior elevation sheets, being able to add three more was like Christmas to me.

This morning, while I lay awake at 4 am again, another thought came to me: Craigslist! and I thought, “Fuck It! If I don’t put it out there, it will never happen.”

So now I have a “wanted” ad on the Phoenix Craigslist seeking these handouts; not to buy, but simply to scan or photograph in hopes of getting them all posted online. In the 1970s alone there were about 45 different single-family floor plans, and probably an equal number of townhouse/fourplex plans. The fact that someone kept a few—that I didn’t have—tells me that somewhere in Phoenix, in boxes at the back of closets and garages, my treasure may be lurking.

The images above are from yesterday’s discovery, and that particular plan was actually one of my favorites even though—god forbid as far as my mother was concerned—it didn’t have a separate dining room. That seems silly now, as I could easily see using the “family room” as a separate dining space since I could never understand the need for having a living room and a family room.