I Almost Didn’t Recognize This

…which is surprising considering how much tenant improvement work we did in the small, 5-story building at the center of the frame over the span of the 8 years I worked for H&M in San Francisco. And then I realized that I’ve nearly been gone from The City as long as the total number of years I lived there and now I’m wondering how much longer 30 Van Ness is for this world since it’s now being surrounded by newer, shinier neighbors.

Work Update

As I enter my third week of employment, I have to admit that—perhaps surprisingly after all I’ve written about my last job—that for the first time in years, I actually look forward to going to work. Okay, maybe look forward to is a bit of an exaggeration because I can’t say I’ve ever worked at that kind of job, but let’s just say I don’t wake up with that abject sense of dread every morning like I did when I was at DISH…and I don’t actually mind going to work—even though I’m making less money than I was ten years ago.

Also surprisingly, these past weeks have also given me a whole new sense of appreciation for the Enterprise Desktop Management Team at DISH, a group the PC Techs often butted heads with. I knew they built both the infrastructure and the images themselves that we used to prep the machines for deployment, but I never realized just how much work went into getting everything working properly—and consistently, because I’m now on this organization’s version of that team.

While we don’t have a fancy name like EDM, we are the folks who build and—unlike at DISH—apply the software images to each piece of equipment that passes through the organization. Everyone in my group is new at image building using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (including our boss), so it’s a huge learning experience for everyone involved.

And I have to say the most amazing and refreshing thing about all this is that after spending two years in the feculent vat of toxic hellstew that was the PC Techs Department at DISH, at this job everyone treats each other with respect. Every night as he leaves, the boss thanks each of us for our contributions that day—no matter how much or how little we actually got done. And yeah, there’re jokes and off-color remarks tossed around during the day, but the difference from my time at DISH is that here the members of this team are adults. They know limits, know when jokes are appropriate and when they aren’t, and act accordingly.

When I first walked in this morning the boss asked if I was a religious person—because apparently he and one of the other techs and been discussing End Times and implanted microchips as Mark of the Beast. I looked at him and said, “Not at all. I’m an Atheist.”

He didn’t even flinch.

I figured this was as good a time as any, so a couple hours later we were chatting and I said, “Since I came out as an Atheist to you I’d might as well come out the rest of the way.”

He shot a quizzical look.

“I play for the other team.”

Another puzzled look.

“I’m gay.”

Again, not even a flinch—not that I was expecting one. Before he got into I.T., the man (who’s a year or so older than I am) was a full-time musician and has traveled extensively. He’s also a Phoenix native, so we’d already bonded a bit over memories of the city back when we were teenagers so we had that…

While he’s previously hinted that my initial contract could conceivably go much longer (it was originally sold to me as 90-days “with the possibility of extension,” but none of the 1300+ PCs that I was hired to image have even yet arrived; never mind that the image itself hasn’t got the kinks worked out), this afternoon was the first time he outright asked if I thought this gig was something I’d like to go long term. I said, “Yes—so far.”

“So far?”

“Well, I haven’t seen anything that made me want to run screaming from the building.”

“Good. Because you’re an asset we don’t want to lose.”

EXACTLY.

From Homer:

So Justice Scalia died and people are blabbering that we should show his dead corpse some respect because he was reportedly brilliant. At first I didn’t think I should say anything, but then seeing people clamoring about how I am supposed to feel sadness and respect for that narcissistic psychopath, I changed my mind. Someone I have been blogging friends with for over a decade unfriended me on Facebook. I actually didn’t care.

As someone else said, Scalia showed no respect to large numbers of living human beings. He openly hated LGBT people, African-Americans, mentally disabled people, and women (I am sure I am missing a few groups). If you weren’t straight, white, Christian, and male, you were to be despised. Sorry, but I am not interested in respecting someone who feels that way. I didn’t respect him while he was alive (I loathed him), and certainly not going to respect his embalmed body.

I believe people have one life to live. That’s it. I do not go out of my way to make other people miserable. I could care less if you believe in some sky fairy or another. But if you try to force me to live my life following your particular set of myths, I do not feel inclined to be nice to you. Scalia was like that, he wanted everybody to be Catholic like him. He was like a little boy, having tantrums because he often did not get his way (oh his judicial dissents were so wonderful! puke). I’m glad he lived long enough to see gay couples getting happily married.

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 #15.
  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.

Ten 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 really was 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 I am thankful for the Mark 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.