Monday, January 25, 2010

Awesome news!

I installed new windshield wipers blades on my car yesterday! You don’t realize just how shameful and empty your life is when you drive around with wiper blades that leave wide, semi-opaque streaks right where you want to see. Probably because your blades fail slowly, so the growth of that shameful emptiness is like a gradually building storm cloud over your cold, dead soul. But the moment you install new blades that wipe your windshield bright and clean, you find yourself following semi trailer trucks on the highway so they’ll spray you with their backwash just so you can wipe it clean with one flick of your fancy new blades …all the while finding reasons to sing “I can see clearly now the rain is gone” to everyone who will listen.

I bench pressed 90-pound dumbbells this morning!
Eight reps! Three sets! More loud grunts than I care to admit making! Before I started with my trainer, I struggled to get ten full reps with 60-pound dumbbells. Now I’m routinely pressing an entire grunge band (because it’s the ’90s! get it?) over my face without much worry about crushing my head or dislocating my shoulder. Though I doubt I’ll ever be able to tone down the grunting. So I hope the grunge band plays extra-loud.

I’M GOING TO NEW YORK, BABY! After three years of always-the-bridesmaid rejection, I’m finally gonna be rocking the New York City Marathon this November!
Since it’s a month later than the Chicago Marathon, I don’t have to start training until June. So I can have a leisurely spring … and I can finally enjoy the Chicago Marathon this year without actually running the damn thing. Of course, the 2010 Chicago Marathon will probably happen in perfect weather now that I won’t be there tempting the weather gods to make it stifling hot or tundra cold. But who cares! NYC! Marathon! Me! Finally!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Singing Reading Drinking Mocking

I’ve been invited to sing in a brand new all-male a cappella ensemble called Voices 12. It’s the pet project of a friend of a friend, and yesterday he hosted an open rehearsal/audition, which was a great way to test people for sight-reading and blending skills on some pretty challenging music. We didn’t quite have a quorum of singers—at least not if we’re shooting for 12 total—but the guys who were there were all outstanding musicians, except for one who kind of freaked after the first page of the first song and packed up his stuff and left before we could hear what he could do. But the rest of us proved our mettle enough that we were all invited to be in the group. Woot! I’d gone to the rehearsal actually hoping I wouldn’t enjoy the group because I’ve pretty much given myself emotional permission to leave the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus after six years and I was just starting to enjoy a life free of weekend obligations. And now it looks like I’ll be spending my Sunday afternoons singing barbershop and early music and ’60s guy-group staples and (I hope!) all the fun stuff from the Chanticleer and Straight No Chaser catalogs … only this time I’ll be in a tiny ensemble, which means I can’t be lazy and assume that the 23 basses standing around me know their music and I can just coast along because I decided to watch Law & Order reruns all week instead of learning my music. Not that I would ever do such a thing.

Our Big Gay Book Club meets on Thursday. It’s been six weeks since our last meeting, so of course by yesterday I was a whopping three chapters into our book. Instead of going home to read the book where I could easily be distracted by a DVR full of Bones (my new obsession!) reruns and an Internet full of … um … articles, I headed right from rehearsal to my friendly gayborhood Caribou Coffee, ordered a chi tea latte and a chocolate-chip cookie, settled into the leather club chair by the fireplace (location score!) and finished reading my book. The moment I sat down, though, two guys who were what I’m going to go out on a limb and describe as clearly on an Internet first date sat at a table in front of me and started their awkward look-as-impressive-in-person-as-they-did-online dance. But! They kept discreetly looking over at me. Like 25 times each. And one kept smiling when he’d catch my eye. It didn’t help that my book (The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World) was not really holding my attention and the Coffee and Impossible-to-Maintain Eye Contact Date was. Eventually, the boys ended their date, stole a couple last glances at me and at least one other dude in room and left out separate doors, I managed to dribble tepid tea down the front of my shirt, the girl sitting opposite me who was equally not engrossed in The Lovely Bones gave me her napkin … and that’s pretty much the end of my story.

Until! I went right from Caribou to meet the domestic partner at a fabulous little couples’ cocktail party at some friends’ house. They’re selling their place, and once they purged and staged to optimize their showings they realized they had way more room than they’d thought … which of course brought them to one conclusion: cocktail party! So we spent a lovely couple hours chatting and hors d’oeuvre-ing and making catty comments about how fat all the women looked on the Golden Globes until we realized the aspect ratio on the TV had been set to slightly widen the images to fit the screen.

Speaking of mocking people, a series of bus-stop ads has popped up all over Chicago that appears as though it’s trying to humanize the probably-perceived-to-be-impersonal online University of Phoenix. The campaign uses giant pictures of what I assume are real students over the service-marked tagline “I am a Phoenix.” But the dude (I think it’s a dude) in the ad on the bus stop by our condo seems to be a weird choice if the goal of the campaign is to make people say Hey! That person is just like me! I should totally enroll at the University of Phoenix! The dude (I think it’s a dude) is markedly androgynous with kind of a football guy’s build and kind of dykey lesbian hair … and what appears to be some serious drag-queen lipstick, which looks exponentially lipstickier when it’s backlit in a six-foot ad. (It's so lipsticky, in fact, that it shows up pretty clearly in the camera phone photo I took at 6:00 on a dark January morning. Click on the picture below to embiggen!) I stare at the ad every morning when I wait for my bus and I still can’t decide if the problem is really bad makeup at the photo shoot or really bad color correction in post production. Either way, by my reckoning neither a football guy nor a dykey lesbian would wear even a hit of lipstick—especially in such a ruby shade of coral—so every morning when I see this ad I think Hey! I’m neither an androgynous football guy who buys his makeup in the clearance bin at Walgreens nor an androgynous dykey lesbian who failed lipstick training! That person is nothing like me! I will totally not enroll at the University of Phoenix!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Adventures in personal health

Being a responsible global citizen involves taking care of one’s health. I am a responsible global citizen. I floss. I take my vitamins. I got my flu shot and my H1N1 shot. I use the Ped Egg®.

And I made an appointment this week for my annual physical. Which is never a bad thing—I’m in relatively excellent health and my company gives me embarrassingly good insurance—but when you have a physical the doctor drains gallons of blood out of you to make sure things like your kidneys and liver and HDL and LDL and VCR and prostate are working properly. (Which is WAY better than the old way they used to check your prostate … though they still haven’t found a way to check for testicular issues without squishing your balls.) And the doctor doesn’t want the information he extracts from all that blood to be altered by a gutload of fresh nutrients. So you have to fast for eight excruciatingly long hours before your appointment.

Now, a smart person would schedule a physical first thing in the morning so he could roll out of bed, put on some clean underwear, head to the doctor, get leeched and then run right to the nearest IHOP for breakfast.

But! A vain person wouldn’t want to miss his morning leg workout with his alarmingly muscular trainer. So he would schedule his physical for late in the afternoon after he could gorge himself on eggs, toast, pre- and post-workout shakes, two bananas, a bowl of oatmeal, two Greek yogurts, a chicken breast, and a ton of steamed broccoli and then struggle mightily to stave off an afternoon of ravenous hunger emanating from his two freaked-out, food-demanding quads.

Completely out of character, I took the vain-person option on Wednesday. Though I did my own math and decided that fasting from noon until my 3:45 appointment was equal to eight hours. I survived the afternoon and got my grumbly tumbly and my rubbery legs to the doctor’s office without eating anyone on the train … only to learn that my doctor’s office had lost power two hours earlier and I had to reschedule my physical. For Thursday night. Which meant another morning of pre- and post-workout gorging, another afternoon of fasting (this time from noon until 6:30), another grumbly tumbly/throbbing delts train ride … and eventually a physical. Followed by a staggering loss of blood. Followed immediately by the Normandy turkey burger with a side of steamed vegetables and a Diet Coke at Nookies. Followed immediately by two giant, delicious cookies at a Project Runway party. (Don’t you just love the cryer? I haven’t learned her name yet, but she’s gonna make for some quality television. And apparently some puckered pleating.)

I also left with a referral to an otolaryngologist to determine whether there’s anything I can do about my glacially gradual but increasingly frustrating hearing issues. I’ve discovered over the last few years that I just can’t hear people talk when there’s a lot of ambient noise. And I’m not talking about deafening bar noise (which causes the same issues but I never go to deafening bars so who cares?). I’m talking about the background din you’d find at a small party. Or the noise of tires on pavement when you’re having a conversation on a sidewalk. Or the hum an aging DVR or laptop makes when it’s busy spinning its little innards. With these noises in the way, I can hear that people are talking. I can hear that other people can understand them and respond to them. I just can’t understand a damn thing anyone’s saying. And I can’t participate when all I hear is aaeuuiiyyaiinooeeeouu.

So I called the otolaryngologist this morning to make an appointment. And while I expected to be routed through a whole maze of number pushing, I was a little alarmed to discover that the instructions in their voicemail system are set cruelly at the “death whisper” level on their volume control. With a layer of static on top of them. So it’s a very good thing I wasn’t calling from a bar or party or sidewalk. And that I’d eaten so my rumbly tumbly wouldn’t drown out the fact that the scheduler asked me if I wanted the hearing test or the whole hearing test but couldn’t really tell me the difference between the two or how I should pick the best option for me. So it’s a good thing I hadn’t let all my blood grow back. Because it might have started to boil.

Friday, January 08, 2010

New year's resolution: Stop spending money

Especially on stuff. We have plenty of stuff. Too much stuff. We don’t need more stuff. Besides, our addiction to gym memberships and personal trainers is quickly slimming down our financial reserves while it slowly (oh, so slowly) bulks up our vanity muscles. But we’re not about to abandon our dreams of being huge, so we’re gonna slash the budgets for our other household departments. Like our bloated Department of Stuff.

Corollary: Drink up all the half-finished buckets of protein shake powder in our Cupboard of Delusions before we buy any more:
I’m amazed how quickly we’ve managed to accumulate so many not-quite-empty buckets of protein shake powder. You’d think we’d finish one, then buy another, finish it, then buy another, etc. ad nauseam. But you’d be wrong. Because ad nauseam is not just a hard-to-spell-correctly Latin expression. No matter how delicious (or revolting) we find a certain flavor or brand of protein shake, it eventually makes us gag. So we move on to something different for a while. Etc. Ad nauseam. And all that nausea eventually leads us to ad more buckets of half-finished protein shake powder to our collection. Ad! Nauseam!

Corollary: Use up all the lotions and soaps and other tools of our ablutions that are accumulating in our little medicine cabinet before we buy any more:
This accumulation is more insidious than the protein shakes. When you’re a gay man of a certain age, people buy you fancy soaps and lotions as gifts. Or you get them free when you make large purchases of soaps and lotions—which we all do—at fancy soaps and lotions stores. Or you simply steal them from hotels. And so the pile grows. But! It’s currently dry skin season, so my dirty, thirsty dermis will be absorbing the stuff in our cupboard with unprecedented levels of greed over the next few months. And I should emerge on the other side of winter with cleaner, softer skin and way more storage in our bathroom.

Caveat: Buy more stuff. I made a list of all the stuff I still intend to buy in the new year. And it’s not pretty. And quite a bit of it is not terribly optional. To wit:
  • Fireplace mantle
  • Gas fireplace insert
  • Living room valances
  • Living room rug
  • Four dimmer switches
  • Front door soundproofing
  • Door knocker that doesn’t look like a dog penis
  • Tattoo that doesn't look like Newt Gingrich*
  • Master bedroom valances
  • Master bedroom dresser
  • Master bathroom renovation
  • Guest bedroom stencils
  • Guest bedroom curtains
  • Guest bedroom nightstand
  • Guest bedroom stripper pole*
  • Dining room curtains
  • Dining room chair upholstery
  • Kitchen sink disposal
  • Kitchen sink water heater
  • MacBook Pro
  • iPhone
  • Your grandma’s underpants*
  • Wiper blades for my car
  • Airfare/hotel for the cruise
  • 13.1 Marathon registration
  • Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon registration
  • Chicago Half Marathon registration
  • New York City Marathon registration
  • Airfare/hotel for New York City Marathon
  • Six gallons of premium cookies ’n’ cream ice cream, one giant spoon and a hammer to beat away anyone who wants to share*
* I just put that in to see if you were still reading

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

This tattoo is SO not my fault

My most recent tattoo was my sixth tattoo. And since six is coincidentally the same number of marathons I’ve run, I’d decided I wouldn’t let myself get another tattoo until I’d earned it by running another marathon. That way I could better control my slow-ish descent into my mother’s nightmare career as a person with more than zero tattoos. Or a member of the notorious Trailer Park Kids street gang.


I subscribe to Runner’s World magazine. Mostly because it’s really cheap. But also because it sometimes has shirtless guys on the cover. And in this day and age, it’s almost impossible to find pictures of shirtless guys. Especially on the Internets.

And since it’s Runner’s World, it’s filled with things of interest to runners. Like stretching exercises. And hydration suggestions. And shoe reviews. And directories of races. And pictures of shirtless guys. Running. With their shirts off.

And, apparently, entire articles devoted to undermining my self-control in the tattoo department. Because this month’s issue features running-inspired tattoos on people across the country. I think most of them are pretty ugly (the tattoos, not the people) … but it takes just one sexy tattoo idea to break my chain of resolve. So of course there’s one tattoo idea in this article that’s so cool I might have run right to my computer to design it for myself.

Here’s the pic of the guilty ink. It’s Roman numerals for 26 with a dot for every marathon this dude has run. And bonus! It’s right on the last little bit of skin on my body where there currently is not a tattoo:

Being a purist about these things, I of course want the full marathon-regulation extra two-tenths of a mile included in my version of the tattoo. But since I have only Microsoft Word at my disposal, my design is limited by the available Word fonts and Word’s frustrating snap-to-grid technology that won’t let me line up the dots exactly where I want them. But this should give you an idea of what I want:

Also! Since this hypothetical tattoo would hypothetically appear on some of the most painful-to-tattoo real estate on my body, I thought it might be a good idea to design an additional option that didn’t require so much ink. Or linguistic translation:

So now I’m left struggling to justify a violation of my self-imposed tattoo statute (tatute?). And to quantify how much more ink on my person that my mother’s heart can handle. And to find a time in my busy schedule to get inked and fully healed before my March cruise. And to write my acceptance speech for my Trailer Park Kids induction ceremony.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

From scratch

I woke up New Year's Day morning with a bloody gash on my forehead and a dead hooker in my bed. And I have no idea where the gash came from. I must have scratched myself in my sleep. Or gotten in a knife fight during the Oklahoma! dream ballet. The gash is way gorier than it photographs, too. I fact, it barely shows up in a photo. It must be a vampire.

I just made my first apple pie! All by myself! I bought myself a pastry blender and a little serrated latticework roller for Christmas and spent this afternoon rolling out dough and coring apples and figuring out how to interlace the latticework and completely forgetting to add the butter. But the pie turned out pretty delicious so who needs butter? Plus I had extra dough left over so I made little leaves to arrange along the edges in what looked to be little pastry-based marijuana plants once it was all baked. Dude. I totally just said baked.