Friday, February 27, 2009

Condemning the clueless: gym edition

The Center of the Universe. My gym (well, one of my gyms … I’m one of those self-obsessed homos with two gym memberships) pumps Non-Threatening Techno into the locker room. It’s a weird conflation of thump-thump house music and easy listenin’ jazz, and it seems to be the perfect mood-setting middle ground for gym members of all ages and sexual orientations. They even play it in the toilet area, and any gym that drowns out pooping sounds with a heavy bass beat is a gym I can respect. To add to the aural clutter, though, the locker room also features a huge flat-screen TV locked permanently on CNBC so all us high-powered businessmen can brush up on our Nikkei averages before we head to work in the morning. But we can’t always hear the Asian financial report. Or the techno. Because The Center of the Universe always brings his radio, which he hooks up to two powerful speakers that he’s hung apparently permanently on his locker door. And it’s not like he listens to anything of consequence like NPR or The Colgate Tap-Dance Hour or Karl Rove being boiled alive. His morning entertainment of choice—and, by his decree, everyone else’s—is one of those Butt And Hole In The Morning call-in shows where people feel compelled to tell insulting stories about their girlfriends and regale listeners with details about that thing that happened that one time they were like totally drunk. Which makes The Center of the Universe guilty of one count of arrogance for thinking he is, in fact, the center of the universe, one count of bad taste for listening to moron radio, and one misdemeanor count of shutthefuckupalready for causing me to miss hot insider tips for my investment portfolio.

The Ululator. I’ll say it up front: This poor guy has a funny voice. As in Minnie Mouse funny. But that’s not why I’m condemning him. I’m condemning him because he comes to the gym with one very specific goal: to talk on his phone. Loudly. He uses one of those earbud things with a microphone attached to the cord, and the cord swings to and fro as he’s lifting and curling and squatting and moving plates around. Since those microphones are pretty crappy anyway, he’s forced to yell shriek so the people he’s talking to can hear him … and then he has to yell shriek even louder when the microphone is at the far point of its swinging arc. Which makes The Ululator guilty of one count of assholism for forcing everyone to listen to every word of every conversation he has the entire time he’s in the gym, one count of aggravated assholism for using shitty technology that makes him even louder and more disruptive, and one misdemeanor count of false advertising for talking like Treat Williams in The Ritz without looking anything like Treat Williams in The Ritz.

Bob the Builder. After their workouts, most guys just pad to the showers in their bare feet while a random few guys prefer to shower in flip-flops. I’ve taken at least three barefoot showers a week for almost 20 years in gyms both clean and questionable and I’ve never gotten athlete’s foot or any other disease you could blame on a shower floor, so I don’t understand the need for flip-flops. (In fact, the only time I’ve ever gotten athlete’s foot was at Boy Scout camp when I was in junior high school. Which is to be expected given the Boy Scouts of America’s stated mission to hate faggots, kick puppies and poison children.) But wearing flip-flops in the gym shower is not the issue here. It’s what happens afterward. Most flip-flop wearers discreetly dry off their shoes and make them disappear with little or no fanfare as they’re getting dressed. But not Bob the Builder! He wears the flip-flops with little vertical fingers that ostensibly massage your feet as you walk in them … and apparently trap gallons of water when you wear them in the shower. So as soon as he sloshes from the shower back to his locker, he spreads a towel on the floor, gets down on his hands and knees and beats the water out of his shoes as though he were pounding spikes in a railroad line. Which makes him guilty of one count of doofusism for looking stupid, one count of arrogance for taking up valuable floor space in a crowded locker room, and one misdemeanor count of oldwhiteguyism for not keeping beat with the Non-Threatening Techno.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Hustle photos!

The official Hustle up the Hancock photos are finally posted. They're available to purchase for a modest sum or to crop ’n’ steal for the cost of a command+shift+4. Guess which option I chose.

I certainly look dewy and energetic as I approach the first floor here. Want to know know why I'm marching like a Muppet? Because Muppets get the CHICKS.

My secret to getting all the way to the 95th floor: I have magical powers of flight.

Flailing limbs notwithstanding, this year's pictures are a whole lot more flattering than last year's fluffy-haired monstrosities. Though I still see no reason to give them validation by throwing money at them. So I'll just continue on my selfish crop ’n’ steal journey to copyright infringement hell. At least until the Hustle comes with a hair and makeup crew.

Idiot tax: $64

Because I’m a morning person in the same way marriage-equality opponents are decent human beings, I always take the time to pack my protein shakes and my sucker-born-every-minute weightlifting supplements and my lunch and my gym clothes and my work clothes the night before my 7:00 am sessions with my trainer. And to the domestic partner’s endless irritation amusement, I also recite everything out loud to myself as I pack so I don’t forget anything. And so far, my system has worked flawlessly.

Until this morning. Once I was stripped to my fancy new 2(x)ist square-cut briefs (electric blue!) in the locker room at 6:45 am today, I discovered that I’d forgotten to pack my gym shorts. Fortunately, I’d caught an earlier bus so I had a little cushion of time to figure out how to fix this little setback. Fortunately, my gym has a fancy little clothing boutique right by the check-in desk. Fortunately, I had a $100 gift card I’d gotten for using eight training sessions in a month (a promotion that doesn’t make a lot of business sense to me, but I got $100 out of it so what do I care?). Unfortunately, the boutique wasn’t open when I got redressed and went down to cash in my gift card.

But the front desk clerk—who has a preternatural ability to remember people’s names and I stand in awe of him for that skill every morning when I don’t even have to dig my membership card out of my wallet—found a boutique employee in some back room and she opened the store for me and I got some brand new shorts and made it to my training session only one minute late. Whew.

I bought the cheapest shorts I could find at their little boutique. And they were still $64. Which still technically leaves me $36 in the black, but if I’d had to fork over real money this would have been a financially frustrating learning experience … albeit a financially frustrating learning experience that netted me some pretty fabulous new gym shorts. Apparently $64 buys you an extra dose of sexy because the shorts look really good on my butt. And just wait until tomorrow when I pack a shirt that actually goes with the shorts. I’ll have the $64 color-coordinated butt of death. Assuming I remember to bring my butt.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

If you don't get faster, are you still Hustling?

I survived my second Hustle up the Hancock today. And even though it felt significantly easier and faster than last year's climb, my time was still 19:09 ... just like last year. Sigh. But I guess I should be proud I didn't do it slower. Speaking of just like last year, the climb and all the dust it kicked up gave me another rust-flavored hacking cough. So I am currently the sexiest man on earth to sit next to. Take a number and you could be next!

Here's my team—The Social Climbers—all freshly scrubbed and decked out in our cool team shirts and ready to scale the mighty John Hancock Center this morning:

Here's the pre-climb chaos in the Hancock's subterranean staging area. The John Hancock Center, for all its famous height, doesn't sit on a very big footprint. So launching over 4,000 climbers and who knows how many volunteers through a day of exertion involves a lot of unavoidable crowdage:

My fancy new Canon Powershot (metallic blue!) made its debut at the Hustle this this morning. And while we waited in the basement to begin our climb, we all grabbed our cameras and took pictures:

And mugged for each other:

And took disturbing self-portraits:

And mugged some more in the hallway outside the stairs:

Hustle up the Hancock isn't just a local mountain to climb. It's also a fund-raiser for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. My team raised $2,171 of the million-plus dollars the event raised today. (I personally raised $1,201 of that through 30 donors. Which means I have a shit-ton of thank-you notes to write.) To thank—and motivate–all the climbers, the RHA posted inspirational signs about victims and survivors of lung diseases along with details of successful RHA programs all over the waiting area, the stairs and the 94th floor deck where we all celebrated our victory. You can see a few of those signs along the line here, taken when we were only about 20 people away from starting our climb:

This being Chicago, you can't even climb 94 flights with 4,000 strangers without running into someone you know. Here I am with my marathon-training buddy George after we ran into each other all sweaty and victorious at the top of the Hancock. Note to self: The new camera doesn't take good directly-into-sunlight pictures:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Newsweek didn’t print my letter

Fortunately, I still have the Internets at my disposal.

Richard Mouw, an evangelical who states emphatically that he is not a religious fundamentalist, wrote a Newsweek “My Turn” column on February 9 proclaiming that he voted against marriage equality in California’s Proposition Hate … and then expressing shock and sadness—and tears!—over gay people’s angry reaction after he helped strip us of our equality.

Mouw is a solipsist and an asshole. He reduces our highly justifiable anger to mere “worry” and “anxiety” and thinks that if we all sit down and have a talk—ostensibly to agree that his mythology-driven opinions trump our right to equal representation under the law—we can all live happily together in a “flourishing pluralistic society.”

Mouw also—curiously—implies that he and gay people have an “intimate relationship” and “care deeply about each other” … right before he launches lockstep into the standard litany of laughable arguments against marriage equality: we shouldn’t change the definition of a word, homosexuality is not “normal,” children shouldn’t know about gay people, Christians are the true victims here. He even takes a stab at a couple slippery-slope arguments, the hallmark of intellectual laziness and logical desperation. (Here’s one for you, Richard: If we follow biblical mandates on marriage, then we’ll have to follow biblical mandates on adultery, divorce, reproduction and the subjugation of wives.)

Most impressively, Mouw actually states: “Gays and lesbians have a right to ask me what my sincerely held convictions mean for how they pursue their way of lives.” While I give him points for balls-out impudence, his chosen mythology—sorry, “sincerely held convictions”—have nothing to do with the real world, my life or how I live it. And that “right to ask” goes both ways. Which is why I wrote this response to Newsweek:
If Richard Mouw doesn’t think we deserve the legal and social protections of marriage, that’s his choice. But he can’t rationally expect us to sit down and have a friendly chat with him about it. The dialogue that Mouw purports to want with gay people isn’t like a spirited debate over the existence of a god or the best candidate for a Senate seat. The active denial of marriage equality has real consequences for real families.

We have invested thousands of dollars to approximate the legal protections heterosexual couples take for granted when they get married. And our lawyer informs us there are still uncloseable loopholes in everything we’ve done to protect our home, our relationship and the developmentally disabled adult we’re raising.

Arguments about redefining words and protecting children and silencing Christians are nothing more than misleading distractions thrown into the discussion by people like Mouw who are unwilling to own up to their own prejudices. If Mouw wants a “gentle” dialogue with us, he can start by apologizing for playing the victim after voting to strip gay people of our equality.

Jake and Justin

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

They came!

Our team shirts are here! A few days early! And they turned out ... blue!

I actually like the blue better than the purple that was on the logo file I sent to cafepress, but the color shift is still a weird thing to have happened. I'm glad our team name isn't something like The Purple People or Rhymes With Smurple or We Hate Blue So We Made Sure Our Logo Was Purple And Not Blue. But then again, who really hates blue? It's the color of the sky, some types of mold and even my matinée-idol eyes.

Speaking of, I'm wearing a blue shirt today. Well, blue-and-white plaid. And it's brand new. I went shopping over the weekend for swimwear and little toothpastes and gay-fabulous party costumes and other assorted must-haves for our upcoming cruise. But instead I kept stumbling on big (as in 80%-off big) sales on everyday stuff. And I came home with five new dress shirts, six new T-shirts and about 10 new pairs of gay-fancy underwear in reds and blues and grays. So I have a new shirt to wear every day this week! And every day next week! And a few more days into the week after that! It's a rainbow of uncharted sartorial opportunity! How financially irresponsible fabulous!

Of course, since our closets are about as big as a kitten sneeze, I had to do some purging over the weekend to make room for my new duds. And now our piano bench (the purgatory between our closet and the Brown Elephant) is filled to overflowing with ill-fitting embarrassments from County Seat and J. Riggins and other Mall-of-America-type places I haven't even been to in over 10 years. The purging also gave the clothes I actually wear some much-needed breathing room. Plus it freed up some hangers. Which is important when you insist that all your hangers match. Which I do. Because matching hangars are the hallmark of a civilized society. Especially when they're blue.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crap I have bought

A garlic press. One of the side benefits of being burgled is you find stuff you forgot you had. Last month’s burglar had torn through all the drawers in our kitchen, and as we cleaned up the mess we found a $50 gift card for the Chopping Block that said it expired in February 2009. So I put it in my wallet and forgot about it all over again … until last night when I was finally leaving the office at 8:00 and a co-worker said she had to run to the Chopping Block before it closed. I tagged along with her and learned two things when I walked in the door: Contrary to what they might say, Chopping Block gift cards never expire. And contrary to what mine very clearly said, it was actually worth $150. So I ended the day in a gleeful little shopping spree, and I stumbled out of the store with the abovementioned garlic press (I've always wanted a garlic press!), a cheese slicer, a new cutting board (the same kind they use on Top Chef! not that I ever watch that show! but still!), a Silicone pastry brush, a set of magnetic tongs (they stay shut!), a bottle of premium olive oil and an ultra-sharp cheese grater that promises to create pillows of fine cheese shavings … and wicked damage to the face of any future burglar I find in my kitchen.

A backpack with a footprint in it. I feel like my body has grown used to the protein shakes and pre-workout energizers and other related vanity potions I’ve been using since I started working with my trainer in July. So when an amateur bodybuilder friend told me about NO2, a supplement program that had given his training a dramatic boost, I spent a week researching it … and then spent a shit-ton of money to buy a cycle of the stuff. And the folks at GNC loaded me down with swag in appreciation. They gave me a huge pile of protein powder samples, a heart-monitor device and a really cool backpack. And when I got the backpack home and started digging through it to admire all its secret compartments, I found a dusty shoe print on the inside of one of its pockets. And while I don’t really care that I got a used free backpack, I am slightly concerned that I can’t get the footprint out of the backpack fabric.

Xanadu. We saw the fabulous Xanadu stage musical on Sunday, and I haven’t stopped singing the theme song all week. Or threatening to leave my husband for the guy playing Sonny Malone. But I hate to ruin a happy marriage, so I did the next best thing: I went on Amazon and bought the Xanadu Broadway cast recording. And since I think it’s a waste to order one thing from Amazon when I could easily order two, I also bought the Xanadu movie soundtrack. And since I think it’s a waste to order two things from Amazon when I could easily order three, I also bought …

A camera. Thanks to all the suggestions and recommendations from you fabulous people, I narrowed down my search and finally bought a shiny new silver-and-blue Canon PowerShot SD1100IS. It’s loaded with features! It fits in my pocket! It actually takes pictures! So now I can finally go on a cruise and come home with more than a sunburn to help me remember it.

Team shirts. I’m racing up the John Hancock Center stairs a week from Sunday. But while Hustle up the Hancock is a pretty cool event, its official shirts are, to put it charitably, lame. The palette is kind of feminine, the design is uninspiring and even the shirts themselves suck. They’re almost as wide as they are tall and they look good on exactly nobody. Luckily, we’re not expected to wear them in the race. Even luckilyier, I’m racing up the building with a team of co-workers. And one of our co-workers is a graphic designer. And he made us a logo. And I just ordered logo shirts for all of us … logo shirts that actually fit. And because our shirts won’t suck, we’re gonna be the kick-assest team next Sunday. See for yourself why all the other climbers will have no choice but to bow down and worship our awesomeness:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I have discovered the tenth circle of hell

It’s the Circle of One-Armed Pull-Ups. And it’s populated by horribly vain gymbunnies with distractingly wide lats. And the searing pain in those lats is the source of all the fires in all the rest of hell.

But while we’re on the subject, I’m still gonna brag that I did three sets of 10 one-armed pull-ups on each side this morning. And I am now reduced to typing this blog post with my nose. And can one of you be a dear and come scratch my elbow for me? Thanks.

I also discovered a new weapon in having kick-ass workouts last night. (Sorry … this post looks like it’s gonna be all about my undying vanity selfless dedication to physical fitness. I probably should have warned you sooner.) My friend Jason just joined my gym, and he asked me if I could work out with him to kick-start his own mission to gain size. And I, easily flattered into anything if you tell me how big I look always willing to spread the gospel of physical fitness, readily agreed. So last night I took him through my favorite chest and triceps workouts. He’d never done any hardcore lifting, and he wisely refrained from trying to look like an asshole a hero by lifting more weight than he could manage.

I, on the other hand, can’t say the same thing about myself. I lifted close to my maximum weight because I had a spotter to show off to my friend how freakin’ macho I am. But vanity wins again! Because I gave myself one of the best chest and triceps workouts I’ve had in a long time. And then this morning my trainer pushed me down the stairs and ran over me with his Zamboni of Destruction pushed me down the stairs into the tenth circle of hell with a back and biceps workout that could kill an actual human. Which means he finally got the pitch that my vanity is way more important to me than my personal comfort!

Now all I need is the feeling to come back in my upper body. And Ryan Seacrest to try and high-five me. And to learn to type faster with my nose. And for one of you to finally come scratch my freakin’ elbow like you promised. It itches like hell.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I have written a play, Mr. Jaffe!

Actually, my friend Michael wrote a play. And after getting feedback from three playwrights and writing three new drafts, he had his first read-through last night. And I got to read!

I’ve never done anything like this, and it was a fascinating experience. Most of the other people there were working actors who were accustomed to creating characters on the spot and refining them as they worked through the script. Two women in particular jumped right in and gave fearless, insightful, performance-worthy readings. I felt like I held my own, though I’ve never really considered myself to be much of an actor. I’ve had tons of voice and dance training and I’m way more confident belting out a show tune or drumming out a paradiddle in my tap shoes. But I seem to be way too uptight to take risks and fall into an unfamiliar character when all I have are lines to read. It didn’t help that my character last night was a romantic supporting lead, which is way harder to make real than the goofy caricatures I’ve played in the past.

I was also impressed how the other actors took detailed notes as they read and then offered thoughtful, intelligent feedback to Michael about his script when we were done. While they made suggestions about character development and story arcs and natural rhythms, I kept getting caught up on the elements of verisimilitude: If X happens in Act I, would Y really happen two days later in Act II? I’m not sure if that’s the kind of feedback Michael was looking for, but things like that are usually what keep me from enjoying plays and movies, and that’s what I tend to gravitate toward when I’m evaluating something critically. I also suggested that the show needed more dance numbers, but I get the feeling Michael didn’t agree with me.

The play is a noirish murder mystery about a woman stalked by a serial killer, and Michael did a masterful job of making everyone look like a suspect at one point or another. I had the killer narrowed down to two people: the gay next-door neighbor or me, the 30-something (ahem) cop assigned to protect the protagonist. But once I got shot and then stabbed, I quickly eliminated myself as a suspect.

Michael taped everything, and he’s now throwing himself into digesting all our feedback and writing his fourth draft. And as long as I can pass for 30-something (I thank you for keeping your comments to yourselves), I hope to come back next time for another brutal offing. This time with a dramatic tap solo.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

We’ve discovered one more thing that got burgled

Thomas can’t find his earbuds for his CD player. Though the CD player is still in his room. So they must have been stolen last week as well. Poor Thomas. Nobody is immune when your house gets broken into.

And we’re still having moments of I wonder if the burglar also stole THAT long-forgotten thing, but when we check, those long-forgotten things are always where we remember leaving them. I had kind of hoped the burglar had relieved us of the domestic partner’s broken camera that we’ve never brought ourselves to throw away or get repaired. But when we checked this morning, it was still taking up valuable space in the cupboard were we store it. So no such luck.

And as we continue our ongoing mental inventory of the valuables in our house, I can’t decide if it’s a mark of consumer restraint or financial failure that we really don’t have much stuff that would be attractive to a burglar. At least not anymore.

In any case, our insurance company finally called … and the guy on the phone seemed genuinely shocked when he started reading the information on his computer screen to us and he discovered that his company had taken five days to get back to us. So we’re chalking up the delay as an unfortunate oversight. I’ve never filed a burglary claim before, so the whole process has been uncharted territory for me. And I’m pleased to report that most of it has gone as pleasantly as one could expect. The insurance company reimbursed us for everything—including the cash and our last-minute addition of the earbuds—with no questions asked. Unfortunately, some moron bought us insurance with a high deductible, so I’m going to hold off replacing my iPod until everything else is replaced. So with all your helpful camera recommendations, I may be going on an electronics binge sometime next month.

And if any of you burglars try to come steal our new stuff, take the damn broken camera too. And be prepared to endure a grisly, painful death if I catch you in my house.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Baby, it's cold

Like many refrigerators, my folks' is covered with pictures: pictures of family members, pictures of friends, pictures of family members and friends, pictures of mystery black babies:

The mystery is not that we don't have friends with black babies. The mystery is that we're pretty sure we can identify all our friends' babies. And this one is totally not mine. As the curator of the refrigerator, my mom usually knows the provenance of every photo she magnets to its door. So this mystery baby's presence is both a conundrum and a source of amusement. Plus he or she is awfully cute.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Have any of you been burgled? How long did your insurance company take to return your calls? It's been four days now, and after calling our insurance company five times all we've gotten back is a whole lotta nothin'.

We renew in April, and as much as I hate shopping for insurance, I'm thinking we're gonna have to start the whole process over. Burglary is fun!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy birthday to my mom!

Don't tell her, but I got her something she'll never have to dust, trip over, insure or write a thank-you note for. For her birthday, I registered myself for the Chicago Marathon! I am such a giver.

In case you're worried I've turned my mom's birthday into a reason to blog all about myself–and where on earth would you get that idea?—my sister and I have made sure Mom and Dad are celebrating someplace fabulous today. Actually, my sister did all the planning, as usual. I just wrote her a check. But as I said: I'm a giver. It's something in me I just can't not share.

And now I'm giving you people this: If you're running the Chicago Marathon this year, registration opens today. So get a second mortgage (registration fees have gone up!) and click here to get started.

And don't expect a thank-you note from my mom.