Sunday, November 30, 2008

So the drive home to Chicago today was fun.

And by “fun” I mean “so snowy and treacherous that my shoulders still hurt from hunching them up for six hours as I stressed about dying in a horrible car crash.”

To pass the time and to distract me from our impending death, the domestic partner and I listened to these CDs in this order: the new Gypsy, the new A Chorus Line, the original Big River, the original (the only, actually) La Cage Aux Folles. Plus we finally compared notes on our prom dates’ dresses. (Mine wore magenta; his wore red. Mine had ruffles; his had beading. Mine went home without a kiss; his … well, we don’t want to talk about that right now.)

The normally 4.5-hour drive took us six hours, but that included a stop at a small-town convenience store for a Diet Coke that ended up taking 20 minutes because the CO2 canister needed to be changed and the rheumy lady behind the counter was struggling so much with the mechanics of it that we changed it for her.

But we made it to Chicago in one piece, and by the time we got to the east end of Lower Wacker Drive—where the street is four lanes wide and protected from the elements by Upper Wacker Drive—the horrible snow had become a slight drizzle. We were thrilled to finally be safely in downtown Chicago, and we were greatly looking forward to getting home and peeing … when the car ahead of us and one lane to our left suddenly fishtailed, did a powerful 270, skidded across the lane to its left and slammed violently into a support beam. It’s amazing that it missed hitting all the cars around it. And it’s revolting that only one of those cars stopped to help.

By the time we pulled over and ran to the car, the domestic partner had a 911 operator on his cell phone and the people from the car behind us had started yanking the doors open and helping the dazed people out. The car had hit the support beam squarely on the rear passenger’s side door and crushed into it the depth of a human body, but miraculously nobody was killed. The front of the car had bucket seats, so we were able to extricate the driver and passengers—totaling four adults and a baby—pretty easily.

Nobody looked hurt beyond some minor cuts, but the driver was in some state of catatonic shock and the front-seat passenger was in the kind of shock that made her hyperactive. They were both unstable to the point of collapsing every few minutes, but they wouldn’t let go of the baby. So I spent my time holding them up and keeping my arms around the kid to make sure they didn’t send the poor thing crashing to the glassy pavement as they swayed and staggered and babbled out of their bloody mouths.

By the time the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars arrived, I was sure the crashed car wasn’t going to explode and everyone we’d gotten out of it was in pretty good shape. But one preliminary police report I found online says all five people are in “serious to critical” condition at various hospitals, though another says the injuries aren’t life-threatening.

A police officer took witness information from me and the driver of the one other car that stopped, who it turns out was also driving home to Chicago from Cedar Rapids. We didn’t exchange information ourselves because it seemed to be an inappropriate place to make a new friend connection. The officer thanked us and then kind of implied that at this point we were just in the way and we should leave. So we got back in the car and headed home … and finally peed.

On our drive home from the accident scene, the domestic partner and I compared our memories of what we’d seen, and we both came up with matching stories and details about stuff … which makes me think we’d be reliable witnesses if we get called. I love that in this day of the Internets I can go online within hours of something like this and get some semblance of an ending to the story. But am I weird to be kind of disappointed that the officer has yet to call me with any questions? (Potential sample questions: Who is that tall hunky man in your car with you? What color dress did his date wear to prom? Does Patti LuPone chew on all her vowels in the new Gypsy cast recording?)

If he does call, though, I’m ready with all my answers.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving thanks

Thanksgiving with children in their craft-making phase often involves pipe cleaners and rolls of toilet paper. On the plus side, you always know where you sit:

The domestic partner and I are spending the Thanksgiving weekend in Iowa with my folks and my sister's family. And we shared our Thanksgiving feast with some old family friends and their kids and grandchildren, so with 14 people at the table, the toilet paper turkeys proved to be very helpful.

I was all set to tell you the amusing story of how I'd convinced my nephew that one of my mom's way-better-than-your-mom's homemade pies was not her famous banana cream pie but was, in fact, hamster cream pie. But that story got trumped exponentially by my dad between dinner and dessert. We'd cleared the table and agreed that we were way too full to enjoy any pie just yet, so my sister got out some electronic game that you pass around. When the thing comes to you, you have to describe the word it flashes on its little screen and make your teammates guess what the word is before its buzzer goes off. My dad is slowly losing his sight to macular degeneration, so he was struggling to see what the little screen said when it was his turn to play. But--according to his seat neighbors, who were sometimes whispering the words to him when he couldn't read them--he was seeing stuff pretty well. He did have one amusing misunderstanding when he mistook quilt for built and invoked images of Suzanne Somers as he tried to make us guess the word. His seat neighbors looked confused as he described a quilt as a buxom blonde who lived with two roommates, but there was really no harm done. A few rounds later, he looked down at the electronic thingie, triumphantly looked up and said: "the stuff on Mom's banana cream pie." We all shouted out meringue and he passed the electronic thing on to his very flummoxed seat neighbor. After the round was over, the helpful seat neighbor, who happened to be my fabulous domestic partner, felt compelled to announce that he wasn't having any pie. Because the word on the electronic thingie had actually been ... manure.

The pies did have a robust flavor, and they certainly made our tummies grow. And I made a pig of myself when it came time for seconds. I'd also tell you we were pooped by the time we went to bed last night, but I'm way too classy for that. In any case, here's what the pies looked like before Mom's ugly little secret got out:


After every bit of pie had been choked down, every dish had been washed and every dinner guest had waddled home, we were sitting around feeling all thankful when we suddenly heard two gunshots. Now, gunfire is not uncommon in the Chicago 'hood where the domestic partner and I live. But it happens only in the summer. Because apparently gang members are delicate little creatures who don't like to conduct turf wars with cold fingers. Or in mittens. But gunfire in Cedar Rapids? I was worried that maybe one of the dead gang members we keep in our trunk had gotten out, but then I remembered: November. Too cold. Plus, we packed only one gang member, so whom would he have to shoot?

The third shot went off as we were cautiously spreading around the house, looking for the source. My sister was in the kitchen at the time, and she realized the shot came from inside her freezer. And I know damn well that her freezer was too packed full of leftovers to accommodate the dead gang member in our trunk. But she opened the door extra-cautiously, just to be safe. And nobody was prepared for the carnage inside: Three cans of pop (we say pop in Iowa) had exploded with the force of Bill O'Reilly's head when talks to someone smarter or gayer than he is. It didn't occur to me to get a picture of the carbonated brains all over the drawers, shelves and freezer bags, but after the CSI team left, I did manage to snap this remarkable shot showing what frozen pop can do to an aluminum can:

And if manure cream pie and eviscerated Coke Zero carcasses aren't the hallmarks of a happy Thanksgiving, I don't want to be considered an American.
I hope your Thanksgivings were just as memorable. But with less cleanup.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Working out with my trainer is like crack to me

I get exponentially better workouts when he’s kicking my ass. My muscles hurt longer and more profoundly. I feel sick to my stomach for a good four hours after he’s done with me. And no matter how much I eat, I’m constantly, gnawingly hungry as I recover.

It takes about 48 hours after a workout for me to feel normal again. And when I do, I also feel deflated and sluggish. And pretty much all I can think about is when I’ll get my next sweaty, excruciating endorphin fix.

My name’s Jake. And I’m addicted to getting my ass kicked.

Which means I should be extremely pleasant to be around by Sunday, when I’ve gone all soft and couch-potatoey after four days of forced leisure with my family in Iowa. If you feel the earth shake, it will probably just be me fidgeting and pacing as I count down the minutes until I can get back in the gym. And all the pie flab in my thighs probably won’t help matters much.

But before we can get all the excitement started, we have some driving to do. And then some eating to accomplish. And then a niece and nephew to entertain. Possibly by bench pressing them.

I hope your Thanksgiving is as fulfilling as mine promises to be!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I couldn't wait

I spent the afternoon belting along to my two-disc Messiah CD and putting up our Christmas shit. Because I love our Christmas shit. And our thousands of tiny little tree lights. Because nothing is more romantic (or flattering) than their glow when you're snuggled up on the couch with the domestic partner.

Things to notice in this photo, if you're really hard up for legitimate entertainment:
  1. There's a cheap little gold-sparkled papier-mâché deer family holding court under our tree. I think the three deer cost all of $20. And in direct light, they totally look like it. But under the tree lights (see "flattering," paragraph 1) they look like classy Christmas decorations. And we're nothing if not classy.
  2. The top of the tree got cut off in this picture, but you're not missing anything; we still haven't found the perfect tree topper. And you can't enjoy the true meaning of Christmas without the perfect tree topper. So we're still hunting.
  3. We had to hang our Mickey Mouse stockings from our window hardware because we still don't have a mantle over our fireplace. And we still have a TV in front of the fireplace. So it's not like we're using the fireplace anyway. The stockings are from Mickey's Sorcerer's Apprentice days, and they feature him holding his blue sorcerer's hat in his hands to collect all the presents that come from whatever secular gift-giving holiday figure is in the habit of filling Disney souvenirs that hang from window hardware on Christmas eve.
  4. That gold tablecloth is totally the same gold tablecloth from the post below.

Sheesh!

You spend seven dollars on a pair of weightlifting gloves somewhere around 1995 and you subject them to extreme wear and tear—not to mention copious amounts of hand sweat—up to five days a week and you'd think you could count on them not to shred like Newt Gingrich's integrity:

But! I'm nothing if not a willing shopper. So today I hauled out my credit card and ushered in an exciting new era in my personal fitness story arc: The Era Of $15 Weightlifting Gloves:

And just so you don't think I have dainty little doll hands or something, I should point out that weightlifting gloves need breaking in. So they're a little snug right out of the box. I just wanted to mention that so the sight of my bound hands wouldn't make you question my masculinity or anything.

Speaking of, don't you just love our gold brocade Christmas tablecloth?

Friday, November 21, 2008

The perfect storm

Sometimes my pre-workout shake gives me what we will euphemistically call a jumpy tummy. Like today.

Sometimes my trainer pushes me so hard I feel like I could hurl. Like today.

I’m a naturally warm person, and when the heat in my office is turned up too high I get sleepy. Like today.

And to top it off, I wore crew socks to the gym this morning. For some reason, I noticed that nobody else in the gym was wearing crew socks. So today I am a barfy, sleepy, iffy-tummied fashion disaster. And it’s not even 8:30 yet.

But tomorrow I’m putting up all our Christmas crap—Thanksgiving be damned!—and when you’re a barfy, sleepy, iffy-tummied fashion disaster, it helps to have something to live for.

Also! One of my co-workers showed up today with his shirt caught in his coat zipper, and so far six people haven’t been able to free him. So at least I’m not barfy, sleepy, iffy-tummied and stuck wearing a puffy coat all day at work. I may be a fashion disaster, but at least I have my dignity.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Confessions from a Toronto business trip

What mouth-breather designs a hotel bathroom with the mirror hung across from the toilet so you can't avoid watching yourself poop? Our hotel in Toronto was nice and all—it even had heated bathroom floors—but there are just some things you shouldn't accidentally look up and see.

And while I'm venting, how much do you think I paid to park my car in the Loop for an hour and a half starting at 6:45 on Tuesday morning while I worked out with my trainer before rushing off to the airport to escape the country? If you guessed $25, you are freaking me out because that's how much it cost. If I weren't so pathologically vain and desperate to get huge for no useful reason whatsoever, I might think that $25 is a bit much to borrow a slab of concrete the size of a mattress while I worked out and took a shower for the length of time it would take to watch three reruns of any television show that ever featured Scott Baio.

Whew! Where was I? Oh, yes: How long do you think I had to fake my way through conversations about sports with my colleagues and our Canadian clients on Tuesday? If you guessed four hours, you're freaking me out again. You're good at this game!

On the bright side, our whole trip was made freakishly pleasant by a relentless parade of fabulous customer service workers: TSA agents, flight attendants, hotel employees, waiters ... and one dreamy-hawt customs agent who totally wanted me.

In fact, the only bad part of the whole trip—aside from the Poop Action™ hotel mirrors, the $25 parking, the awkward sports conversation and the customs agent who wouldn't give me his number–was the smooshed dead bird in one of our airport jetways. The poor thing had clearly been crushed to death when the jetway had been telescoped between flights and its bloody body had been smeared in an impressively straight line down the center of the carpet when it reopened. And we passengers got to stare at it for quite a bit of time as we waited for some holdup with our plane.

But at least we didn't have to watch it poop.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Enjoy this post

Because you probably won't be getting another one until Thursday. So you may want to pace yourselves on this one and make it last. In any case, I leave early Tuesday morning for two days of client meetings in Toronto. And while I'll probably bring my laptop, it will function mostly as ballast as I traipse through airports and client hallways and foreign restaurants for the next two days.

And just to complicate things, I've decided I'm not missing my workout with my trainer tomorrow morning. So I'll leave the house at six, hope to goodness I find affordable hour-and-a-half parking in the Loop at that hour, get my arms or chest or legs or whatever is on the agenda for tomorrow ripped off my body and handed to me in a blender, try to shower, try to dress, and then race to O'Hare in rush hour in time to catch a 10:18 flight. Whee!

And all the while I'll have my pre- and post-workout shakes–the ones that make me pee at least six times in the first few hours after my workouts—coursing through my body. So if you see me, you are advised to help maintain a clear path between me and any nearby bathrooms.

I hate to leave you all alone for the next two days, though, so I've enlisted the help of my parents' cat, Lena. She's not much of a lap kitty and she'll scratch you if you try to hold her. But she makes a mean vodka tonic, she knows all the words to the Union Label song and she looks awfully cute in a basket:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I stand corrected

My niece's seventh birthday was not, as I had earlier reported, Hannah Montana-themed. But my niece lives and breathes Hannah Montana, has decorated her room with Hannah Montana posters, dressed as Hannah Montana for Halloween and now lives a secret double life as an international pop star with tragically overprocessed hair ... so you can see how I might have accidentally jumped to conclusions on the birthday theme. NoFo regrets the error.

Instead, the party was cheerleader-themed, complete with actual cheerleaders from my old high school who taught my niece and her friends actual cheers:

After the cheerleaders left and we sent the little girls home to dream big cheerleader dreams, the domestic partner and I both admitted we avoided watching the cheerleaders work with the girls out of fear that they'd think we were ogling them. But then I realized these girls hadn't even been born–hell, there's a good chance their parents hadn't even yet met–when I was attending their high school. And I quickly decided I didn't care if they thought I was straight.

Once we'd cleared out all that proto-estrogen, we scrubbed the house, hauled out the dress-up (meaning not plastic cheerleader-themed) tablecloth and got the house ready for our Mom's pink-themed, 20-year breast-cancer-survivor party. We'd spent the day before making cookies and other pink foods, but the only picture I took was of the sugar cookies whose pinkness doesn't really translate well on my camera phone:

We had toyed with the idea of making boob-shaped cookies and limiting each guest to only one, but in the end we decided that might come off as indelicate. So we went with the hearts. Which are always a safe option. Except maybe for a divorce party. In any case, we rounded out our pink-food collection with salmon, shrimp, pink-chocolate-covered strawberries, and the best reason ever to survive cancer: a pink punch made of Sprite, pink lemonade concentrate and raspberry sherbet. I think I chugged a whole gallon of the stuff. And now I'm growing what looks to be a third breast right in the area where my abs used to be.

My family also all wore pink shirts for the party. And when I get ahold of the pictures, I'll show you how we looked as the Osmonds. In the mean time, we're just thankful that my mom is still alive and healthy 20 years after what scared the living crap out of us. And that raspberry sherbet tastes so darn good melting in a punch bowl of Sprite and pink lemonade concentrate.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Red is dead. Blue is through.

The domestic partner and I are road-tripping to Iowa tonight for a bipartisan* weekend.

* And by bipartisan I mean, of course, two-party. We’re going to two parties!

The first party on our dance card is my niece’s Hannah Montana-themed, sugar-and-screaming-fueled seventh-birthday blowout on Saturday morning. In theory, we can’t wait to jump and dance around and be goofy uncles with a roomful of seven-year-olds. But in all honesty, it’s already giving us a headache.

Once we’ve sent my niece’s little friends home to burn off their residual party energy on their unsuspecting parents, we’re boiling the house, digging out the china and having a second, more sedate, party to celebrate my mom’s 20th cancer-free year.

Mom survived a pretty brutal bout of breast cancer in 1988, and she’s had a few scares but had no relapses since she kicked it. To reflect the breast cancer survivors’ pink-ribbon theme, my sister and I thought it would be fun to have pink food at the party: shrimp, pinkish-reddish fruits, and even kringle—a sweet, soft Norwegian pretzel—dyed pink and baked in a ribbon shape.

Unfortunately, Mom so loved the pink idea that she wanted the whole family to wear pink. Even though Dior says black and rust. And those of you who know me or who have seen pictures of me no doubt have noticed I’m pretty much a black/blue/brown/gray kind of guy. So I had to go buy a pink shirt last night. The only one I could find in my size is actually “dusty rose,” but it fits nicely and I can totally wear it again.

And if I remember to haul out my camera phone at some point on Saturday, I’m sure I’ll post grainy pictures of all the festivities.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't tell my niece ...

But I just had to look up last year's blog post to figure out how old she turns today. Which is seven, judging by all the sixness I mentioned here a year ago. Part of me thinks I should feel horrified that I can't remember exactly how old she is, but part of me can't remember what I had for breakfast today. And that last sentence just made me hungry. Great.

In any case, happy seventh birthday to my little niece! It seems like just yesterday you were turning ... um ... six. Ahem.

As is our family's custom, I'll be calling her in a few minutes and warbling Happy Birthday through my stupid cold. Well, technically the cold isn't part of the custom, but the early-morning warbling is. Because everyone sounds good at 7:00 am. Stupid custom.

And we'll all be celebrating together in person this weekend in Iowa. The theme this year: Hannah Montana. Or maybe High School Musical. Again, I'm not entirely sure. But I can tell you with almost complete certainty that the theme isn't Electoral College. Thankfully, she outgrew that phase a couple years ago.

You'll have to excuse me, though. I need to go do some vocal warmups. I have a command performance to give in a few moments.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Despite what the last two posts may imply ...

Living with Thomas is not all about burning "Christians" in effigy. Sometimes we make voodoo dolls too.

The fact is, until he moved in with us, I'd never spent much time at all with developmentally disabled people. Our family's burdens had been limited to cancer, strokes and friends dying in plane crashes. So I had a learning curve with Thomas. But I decided early on just to treat him like a peer ... though that decision came mostly from the attitude that acting like a parent sounded like way too much work.

And once he realized that he was safe in our house—and that he really could watch anything he wanted on TV, any time he wanted–he stopped acting like a terrified child and started treating us like his peers in return.

And he's proven to be a delightfully conscientious houseguest. His chores are pretty much limited to taking out the garbage and keeping his room clean, but he also regularly runs and empties the dishwasher and vacuums the entire house for us. Which is awesome.

He's also unfailingly polite. But every time he calls me "sir," which he does pretty much every time he talks to me, I find myself wondering if it's an affectation or a surprisingly developed sense of irony ... or maybe it's a remnant of something darker. Like a habit beaten into him by his mother over 15 years of abuse. But he seems to be blessed with the capacity to compartmentalize past transgressions and live only in the present, so I don't dare ask him about his habit's provenance.

Thomas is also thoughtful enough that he's already bought us our Christmas presents ... which he unceremoniously handed to us unwrapped this weekend. His emotional expressions run a pretty limited gamut, so when I looked in his eyes to thank him I couldn't tell if the expression I saw was one of magnanimity, pride, childlike holiday excitement or just relief that he had his shopping and his gift-giving done for the year.

Speaking of gifts, my favorite Thomas story involves the domestic partner's birthday last June. Thomas came to me excitedly (I think) a week before the actual birthday and told me that he'd bought the domestic partner a ready-made cake at the grocery store. But I didn't have to worry about the domestic partner finding it; Thomas was going to hide it under his bed for the week. And in his very next breath—before I could even assemble a that's-probably-not-a-very-good-idea face—he asked me if maybe I thought he should take it back to the store instead. I never asked what happened to the cake (and it's not currently under his bed) so I assume grocery stores do indeed let you return unchewed bakery cakes.

There are just as many heartwarming Thomas stories as there are heartbreaking ones. And I'm sure more will pop up in the future as I search for interesting blog fodder. But I've already given poor Thomas more exposure than his little pseudonymed self probably bargained for. So we'll let him sink back into the background for a while.

But I'm glad you-all have finally gotten to meet him.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Wow

I wrote my last post to express my white-hot anger over not just Proposition Hate, but the very notion that marriage equality is somehow up for any kind of discussion ... or that it is dependent on the opinions of voters who clearly lack the intellectual qualifications to vote.

Imagine my surprise, then, when it went whizzing virally around the Internets in a matter of hours, generating exponentially more comments and linkbacks than I've ever received in more than five years of blogging.

Once I saw how it had taken off, I steeled myself for the inevitable hostile religious backlash. But it has yet to come ... though I've gotten hate mail in the past for the most benign posts. I figure either this post hasn't yet fallen into the hands of the people who most need to see it, or they just realize they can't win an argument with me on this topic and for once they are wisely keeping their indefensible opinions to themselves.

In any case, I am touched and encouraged by all of you who have taken the time to link this post on blogs and newsgroups, email it to your friends, leave your own stories and comments, and just let me know that I am not alone in my frustration, anger and sucker-punch pain over being repeatedly codified as something less than equal by legions of voters I can no longer look at as compassionate, human or even American.

Many of you have asked for more information about Thomas and the things we have done to protect ourselves and him. I didn't include granular details in my post because it was supposed to be primarily about Proposition Hate ... and because I tend to ramble anyway and the post was already longer than the average novel. But here are some more pieces to the story:

Thomas
First of all, I should clarify that he's 38, so we're not raising a physical child. He and the domestic partner share the same parents, though they have not lived together since the domestic partner was 10. When Thomas moved in with us last October, I decided to keep him and everything he'd been through out of my blog, especially as I was struggling to wrap my brain around the horrors he'd endured. Once in a while he popped into a narrative that involved him, but the domestic partner wasn't really keen on sharing with the world the embarrassing details of his family, so I continued to keep the blog focused on its usual topic: me. But over the last year, every time the struggle for marriage equality appeared in the news, I knew our story could silence every retarded (and I'm using that word on purpose) argument made by the American Taliban. So after the election, and with the blessings of both the domestic partner and Thomas, I laid everything out here.

The mom
On the surface, she's an attractive, bubbly, pleasantly kooky woman. And when I first met her I was excited to have Mame as a mother-in-law. What gay man wouldn't? The domestic partner had warned me that she was probably not the woman she portrayed herself to be, but since he has seen or talked to her only a couple times a year for the last 10 years, it never occurred to us to find out what his mom had really become.

How nobody knew what was going on
Again, there are a lot of family details that the domestic partner just doesn't want splashed all over the Internets. But here's some context: His parents went through an acrimonious divorce when the domestic partner was 5, and over the years the domestic partner, two of his brothers and his father ended up in Illinois and Wisconsin and his mother and Thomas ended up living in a gated community in Florida. The guard at the gate ensured nobody could get in without her permission, she let all her calls go to voicemail, and she and Thomas made only rare appearances at family gatherings. And when they did show up, she never let Thomas out of her sight. The few times I'd met him, he was skittish around people and completely uncommunicative, but I just figured that was part of his disability. It was only when a cousin who happened to be in Florida on business managed to talk his way past the guard that Thomas, whose mother had left him alone while she was on a cruise, felt emboldened to ask for help.

Thomas' stay with us was supposed to be for just a few months until we could find him permanent housing suitable to someone with his disability. But as far as we know, his parents had never bothered to diagnose his condition or get him in the social services system, and we've found roadblock after roadblock as we've tried to find him a caseworker and understand what we should and shouldn't be doing for him. The domestic partner is so wracked with guilt over having not seen what was going on that he views keeping Thomas with us where at least we know he's safe as some sort of penance. And Thomas is such a low-maintenance houseguest—he does his chores without fail, he keeps his bathroom freakishly clean, and for some reason he's taken it upon himself to make sure we never run out of milk or bananas—that having him in our guest room is absolutely no trouble ... except whenever we have guests.

Insurance
Thomas is ineligible for Medicaid because his mother and her second husband listed him as a phony employee at the second husband's company so they could lease a car (and do who knows what else) in his name. So on paper, he's earned too much income to qualify for federal assistance. At least that's what we've been told by Social Security. But we've gotten him a part-time job that will qualify him for health insurance after he's worked there for a year. Which will be in February. My insurance provider told me point-blank that they would never insure him, which I didn't even realize was a possibility. Remember how John McCain and Sarah Palin ranted incoherently about the horrifying threat of socialized medicine? This is what they apparently want: for developmentally disabled, unskilled people like Thomas to go without insurance—and, by extension, medical care that they could possibly afford–all in the interest of saving a few bucks in taxes.

Legal protection
The domestic partner and I went to what was promoted to us as the best gay attorney in Chicago to make sure we had all the legal protections of marriage. He drew up a thousand dollars in wills and powers of attorney and related documents, and we thought we were all set. But since then we've learned from our financial planner and some other attorney friends that mere wills—especially the wills of gay domestic partners—are easily contested by blood relatives and we need to fork over thousands more to have trusts and who knows what else drawn up to protect ourselves. So we're looking for a better attorney who will give us the legal protections we asked for in the first place.

The mortgage
We have now quit-claimed and refinanced the house so everything is in both our names and—as we've been told but I've learned to believe nobody—that the house is safely ours no matter what. But if we had marriage as an option, we wouldn't need to jump through all these goddamned hoops and have all these unanswerable questions.

Why we haven't pressed any charges
It's a family decision.

One final, kinda selfish thought
I figured that a nice little byproduct of all this exposure might be tons of sponsorships for my upcoming Hustle up the Hancock. But it's generated no donations yet. Ahem.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Proposition Hate

Thomas (not his real name) came to live with us on October 13, 2007. Developmentally disabled since birth, Thomas had been essentially abandoned by his father years ago. He’d been living with his mother for the last 15 years in a personal hell he still doesn’t have the skills or even the understanding to describe. From what he’s been able to tell us, she was grotesquely abusive. Instead of merely beating him, she’d make him bring her whatever she was going to beat him with to prolong his terror and humiliation. When she beat him until he bled, she wouldn’t let him clean up the bloodstains on the walls and floor … so he couldn’t escape the reminders of his beatings anywhere he went in the house. When he didn’t make his bed the way she wanted, she made him sleep on the floor next to it. For five years. When a man she was having an affair with committed suicide, she told Thomas she wished he had been the one to kill himself. She clearly had never taken him to a dentist. Or even taught him how to brush his teeth. And while she was constantly dressed in sequins and hats, she dressed him like a retarded, homeless stereotype: pants that were too short, used underwear that was 12 sizes too big and cracked plastic shoes that made him walk with a limp.

Once the domestic partner and I realized what was going on and rescued him (his mother had left him alone for a week while she went on a cruise, telling him he couldn’t go outside or even watch TV while she was gone … and that she’d call the cable company when she got back and beat him severely if they told her he had turned on the TV in her absence) we brought him to live with us. The poor guy was a shell of a man, afraid to talk, assert himself on any level or even make eye contact. And he was clearly terrified that he was going to be punished for causing so much fuss on his behalf. In those first few days in our house, he even apologized to me when I “caught” him using one of our glasses to get a drink of water.

Over the last 13 months in our home, he’s learned to smile and talk to strangers and make terrible jokes and hold a part-time job and be responsible for the simple chores we’ve assigned him and feel safe functioning in a world where he knows his caretakers won’t repeatedly, relentlessly abuse him. In our house, he’s free to watch the shows he loves (which, to our chagrin, involves heavy rotations of WWE), socialize with our friends, sleep in a big comfy bed, and live a life free of the fear of beatings and psychological cruelty. In short, we’ve been the first to give him the responsible, loving parenting that gay-hostile “Christian” conservatives arrogantly declare can come only from straight people. And Thomas’ very existence blows massive holes in the meaningless “every child deserves a mother and father” inanity that these cretins parrot endlessly in their emotionally violent crusades against marriage equality. NO child deserves Thomas’ mother and father, so what these moral charlatans are saying is a grotesque oversimplification of the truth. Rational people call it a lie. Legitimate Christians and their autocratic, jealous god call it “bearing false witness.”

Now consider the fact that Thomas is my domestic partner’s brother.

If the domestic partner dies, their parents have legal access to all our shared property, including our house. The mother who told her other son that Thomas “made her” beat him could share ownership of our home and have every legal right to move in and resume abusing him. The father who has NEVER ONCE contacted us to see how Thomas is doing after surviving 15 years of abuse and then living for more than a year with me, a complete stranger, could assume half ownership of our house and try to sell it, leaving Thomas and me struggling to find a place we could afford to live. And I’d have no legal recourse. Because legally I’m little more than a roommate.

And the blame for all of this falls squarely on the shoulders of “Christian” hatred junkies who are so consumed by their unholy loathing for me and my domestic partner and gay people everywhere that they’ve spent billions of dollars convincing voters across our country to deny us equal access to the legal and financial protection of marriage.

In addition to “every child deserves a mother and a father,” these self-professed “Christians” use meaningless, grotesquely misleading catchphrases like “sacred institution” and “threat” and “protect” and “redefine” and, when they don’t get their way, “activist judges” to further their loathsome agenda to vilify gay people and teach the nation to hate and fear us. The fact remains that nobody—“Christian” or otherwise—has yet to articulate a plausible or even fact-based justification for denying us marriage equality. “Sacred institution,” “threat,” “redefine” and their ilk are nothing but a lazy, artless code for “religious extremists are consumed by a pathological loathing for gay people.” And whether or not they choose to own up to it, they know in their cold, black hearts that it’s the truth.

And while these cretins spent a staggering $73 million in California alone to scare voters into passing Proposition Hate, the domestic partner and I struggle to pay exorbitant dental bills to undo decades of damage wrought by Thomas’ parents’ neglect. And after 13 months, we’re still searching to find someone who will provide him basic health insurance and a social services caseworker who isn’t too overwhelmed to return our calls and help us understand how to care for him and help him build a network of peers beyond the adult gay men who come to our house for the occasional movie or game night.

This grotesque juxtaposition of robustly funded propaganda vs. cash-strapped social services is the perverse, inexcusable legacy of Proposition Hate and the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” and every related money-wasting act of gay-hostile social, political and emotional terrorism wrought by the American Taliban.

If you have ever used words like “sacred institution” or “redefine marriage” or “threat to family values” without irony or—worse yet—harbored thoughts or cast votes against marriage equality, you are not my friend. You are not welcome in my life. I honestly see you as intellectually compromised. And I don’t care what you think your god tells you to believe. Your mythology does not trump my reality. And if you try to defend your indefensible thoughts or words or actions to me, be prepared to have your vile, repellant opinions reduced to the vile, repellant garbage that they are.

And when I’m done with you, the domestic partner and I will calmly go back to caring for Thomas and working to repair the decades of damage caused by the celebrated heterosexuals who are apparently free to marry and divorce and have affairs and abuse and ignore their own children without generating interest a single constitutional amendment, television ad, campaign platform or even a godfuckingdamned T-shirt by the godfuckingdamned American Taliban.


UPDATE
I'm amazed and humbled that my little post from my little blog has gone so exponentially viral. The original point of this post was mostly to rant about the staggering retardedness (and I use that word on purpose and with more than a little authority on the subject) of Proposition Hate and the vapid arguments against marriage equality. Since this post was getting so long, I left out a lot of the more boring details. If you want more information about the wills, insurance and legal protections we've tried to put in place, you can read probably way more than you want to know here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Movin' movin' movin' right to the top!


Last year’s Hustle up the Hancock was like a dress rehearsal. Or maybe I should use the term warmup since racing up 94 flights of stairs is no Fake your Way to the Top. In any case, we made a weak showing last year. I found only two people to be on my team. We didn’t know we could make our own kick-ass team shirts. We had no idea how we should train, how long the climb would take us or how to celebrate when we got to the top. But I did come up with a pretty cool name: The Social Climbers. (I know! It’s like I’m a creative genius or something!)

But this year’s gonna be different! We just registered for the next Hustle up the Hancock and now we have a six-person team, including a kick-ass art director who’s gonna make the kick-assest team shirts for us. We also know how to train effectively. We know how to do the climb. And we know that we should make some freaking plans to celebrate somewhere when it’s over.

Now all that’s left is the part where we ask you to sponsor us.

Hustle up the Hancock is a race up 94 flights of stairs to raise money for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (formerly the American Lung Association), which works to fight lung diseases including cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the medical consequences of smoking and pollution.

My 19 minutes (that’s how long it took me last year) of gasping for breath on the stairs of the John Hancock Center is nothing compared to the daily pain, exhaustion and panic that stop people in their tracks when they suffer from chronic conditions that prevent them from breathing normally.

What’s more, your sponsorship is tax-deductible. Even better, you can be a part of my race up the John Hancock Center without climbing a single step yourself … unless you discover that your wallet is in your pants pocket upstairs after you click on my sponsorship link. Which is right here:

Sponsor me!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

More Halloween

But not much more. Only one picture, in fact. Of me as a Cub Scout. But not one of those asshole Cub Scouts who tell little kids that there's something wrong with being gay. I was one of those nice Cub Scouts who spent $3 on a used Cub Scout shirt and went to a bar and then to a party:

There were lots of pictures taken of me in my $3 low-effort Halloween costume, but only one was taken by a person I actually know. So I have only one picture to share. But I'm hoping the other pictures end up on Facebook and I somehow get tagged in them and can steal them to post here. Stay tuned!