Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Altruism and Vanity

This weekend’s It Gets Better Project video-making marathon is full … less than 24 hours after I sent the first invitation looking for volunteers to share their stories on camera. All 24 taping slots were grabbed up in rapid succession on Tuesday … thanks in part to the free plugs we got on Joe.My.God and AfterElton and The Best of Gay Chicago and Chicagoist. And at this writing I have a growing waiting list of 17 people who still want to be a part of it.

I’m sorry I can’t accommodate everyone, but we’re staffing the entire day with volunteers and filming people in a donated room and I think a six-hour marathon of taping is more than we can fairly ask of anyone. But what an awesome problem to have.

And we’re already toying with the idea of setting up a second video-making marathon … after the real Chicago Marathon is over in two weeks. And after the damn bathroom renovation is behind me.


I emailed our video marathon idea to Dan Savage, and he’s actually coming up to help out! So all our fabulous volunteers will get to meet him when they tell their stories … and together we’ll take another step forward helping bullied gay kids across the world understand that if they can just survive the homophobic abuse they’re currently trapped in, their lives can indeed get better.

My trainer is still beating the crap out of me three days a week in my increasingly transparent efforts to stay physically relevant in today’s youth-obsessed culture.

He’s also been faithfully updating his training blog, which often features brutal workouts he’s guinea-pigged on me the day before.

And now he’s made some videos demonstrating the no-excuses form he demands from me even when I’m exhausted to the point of sobbing into my lace workout ascot and peeing (accidentally!) into my cool new hybrid workout/work shoes. Even though I’m the one paying him. Man, what a sweet gig this guy has going.

Anyway, here he is demonstrating the rotator cuff exercises he makes me do more often than Sarah Palin spells a word correctly since I’m getting old and my rotator cuffs are so weak that they’re starting to undermine my form on my arm and chest workouts and they make my shoulders burn even when they shouldn’t be burning because I have weak rotator cuffs and oh my gosh I am trying really really hard not to call them masturbator cuffs here even though that would be funny, at least to an 11-year-old boy. But where was I? Oh yeah: My trainer has arms that look like Volkswagons:

You can see more of the muscle cars he stores in his garage in his growing library of training videos.

And to create a handy link between the two halves of this blog post—something the 1980s business world called synergy—his training videos were filmed by my super-awesome friend Michael, who is also going to be the videographer for this weekend’s six-hour It Gets Better Project video-making marathon. And what is a gay blog post without a super-awesome motif?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Be a part of the It Gets Better Project!

15 minutes of your time could make a lifetime of difference.

Dan Savage and his husband Terry, frustrated and horrified over the growing epidemic of gay teens who have attempted or committed suicide to escape brutal bullying at school and home, have created a brilliant way to reach out and give hope to gay kids.

The It Gets Better Project is a library of YouTube videos featuring happy, proud gay adults talking about how the bullying will eventually end and life eventually gets better. You can see the clips he's collected so far HERE and you can read a article about the project HERE.

The library is growing every day. But Dan has asked for more clips—particularly clips of couples and families ready to share the joy of their lives as gay adults—so we are working with the Center on Halsted to host a free six-hour videotaping marathon. And we want you to participate!

Date: Sunday, October 3, 2010
Time: 15-minute sessions between 1:00 and 7:00 pm
Location: Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted
Room: Polk Brothers Foundation Youth Space, Second Floor

Here’s all you have to do:

1. Forward this information to all your Chicago-area adult gay friends.

2. Email nofo jake at gmail dot com to schedule your 15-minute shoot. Please include your name, phone number and a range of times you’re available, and we’ll do our best to fit everyone in.

3. Bring a photo of you as a kid if you want. We’ll scan it while you have your shoot and give it back to you.

That’s it! We’ll edit your video, add your photo and submit it to Dan to post on the It Gets Better Project page.

Thanks in advance for your participation. See you Sunday!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Renovation porn

So I took Friday off and spent a full three days (minus a 12-mile run, a trip to Home Depot, an hour drooling over Pat Tillman’s foul-mouthed brother on Bill Maher and an hour finally catching up on Glee, which also involved drooling over the new blond dude) working on our bathroom.

But the old-timey marble vanity top I ordered seven days ago has been sitting in a fucking warehouse in fucking Tennessee for six fucking days:

And without a vanity top, there’s a ripple effect on all the things I still can’t accomplish:
• I don’t want to buy the backsplash tile until I can match it to the marble in the vanity top.
• I can’t install the backsplash tile anyway until I have the vanity top installed.
• I can’t install the medicine cabinet until the backsplash tile is installed.
• I can’t install the medicine cabinet lighting until the medicine cabinet is installed.
• BONUS FRUSTRATION! The vanity top purportedly has an 8" spread for a faucet, which is a relatively uncommon faucet size for a bathroom … especially on a vanity top that’s only 31" wide. Since I bought the towel bar and toilet paper holder that match the 8" faucet I found (which is mega-cool in an old-timey French apothecary kind of way so I’m actually excited about it) I don’t want to install them until I see the actual holes in the vanity top to confirm that the specs on the Home Depot web site aren’t a bunch of hooey.


I did get a lot of other important bathroom stuff accomplished in my 72-hour bathroom-renovation marathon, though most of it was the non-sexy important bathroom stuff like patching holes and waterproofing the window in the shower and squirting endless ropes of painter’s caulk in corners and cracks and crevices to make the walls and the moldings as smooth and professional-looking as the exact opposite of Bristol Palin’s dancing.


I got a shit-ton of painting done, including the mega-hella-awesome semi-opaque silver-and-snow-white stencil that anchors our weirdly proportioned bathroom with an Art Deco sense of color and structure and moxie (which is Art Deco-era slang for mega-hella-awesomeness). The stencil is an inch-wide stripe that runs up the edge of each wall, across the ceiling and back down the opposite wall, intersecting in the ceiling corners to create a frame of silver that adds elegance, sophistication and a shiny distraction from my not-amazingly-professional-looking repairs to the bubbly ceiling drywall.

And of course I took pictures. Lots of pictures. Too many pictures, in fact, to get the idea across. But I’m going to post them anyway.

Here are our newly painted ceiling (in Sherwin-Williams “ancient marble”) and walls (in Sherwin-Williams “svelte sage,” which in a freakishly random coincidence is the same color my sister painted her front hallway and my mom painted her guest bedroom) taped off after hours and hours of painstaking measuring and swearing so it’s ready for stenciling:
Even though it’s just a blue-taped-off negative of the eventual stencil at this point, I got totally excited about the relentless Art Deco verticalness of it all when the taping was finally done.

Here’s the corner with the door, which blocks most of one of the wall stripes, which means less stenciling for me:

Here’s one of the corners of the shower (see what I mean about too many pictures?), which blocks off most of two of the wall stripes, which means even less stenciling for me:

Here’s part of the stencil finished and un-taped because I was too excited to wait to do all the stenciling before pulling off the tape:
Little-known fact: Stenciling a ceiling is a bodybuilder-grade deltoid workout. At this writing, it’s been about 30 hours since I finished stenciling—which, for the non-crafty among you, involves distrubuting a thick, oily, uncooperative paste of color onto a wall or ceiling using a stiff, short-bristled brush using an aggressive swirling motion—and my damn shoulder is still twitching.

And here’s one corner completely done:
The stripes look pretty straight in this picture, but since they follow the shoddy edges of the shoddily installed drywall by the shoddy contractors who did the shoddy rehab of the condo before we bought it, the stripes are as straight as a mega-church pastor who campaigns against marriage equality. But since they’re a muted silver, they’re not even half as faggy.

As you may recall, the water supply for the toilet wouldn’t shut completely off when I removed the toilet so I could repair all the cracked grout from the shoddy floor tile installation, so I was forced to rig an improvised bridge-and-funnel connection between the drippy wall plumbing and the poop hole in the floor.

And since that forced me to leave the poop hole unplugged, sewer gasses were escaping into the house. And the lonely candle I left burning next to the hole wasn’t enough to burn off the smell, so I was in an understandable hurry to get the stripes stenciled in the toilet corner so I could re-install the toilet—taking a moment to savor the almost-never-in-a-lifetime thrill of squishing a toilet down on a fresh wax ring—and get the house back to its usual eau de sweaty gym clothes and wet running socks. I have never been so happy to see a toilet installed on its poop hole in my life:
Note the white square on the wall next to the toilet. Since the new white vanity doesn’t have a back on it, I taped off and whitewashed the wall that will be the back of the vanity cupboard when you open the doors. It’s details like that that separate the humans from the McCains.


I also installed my new favorite part of our soon-to be-awesomist-bathroom-on-the-planet bathroom: a crystal-beaded, bordello-inspired, patina-distressed bathroom chandelier:

And the only thing gayer than a crystal-beaded, bordello-inspired, patina-distressed bathroom chandelier is a crystal-beaded, bordello-inspired, patina-distressed bathroom chandelier on a dimmer. Seriously. How much do you love this chandelier? It has crystals and beads. It has olde-worlde charm. It has swirly S shapes and faux-melty candle bases for the bulbs. Its leaden patina nicely complements the semi-opaque silver-and-snow-white stencil in the background. Its leaden patina probably also leaches lead into the atmosphere. And I put it on a dimmer, giving our bathroom infinite levels of dramatic lighting opportunities for all the dramatic teeth-brushing and showering and pooping we do.

And we gays can’t do anything without drama. Just ask the fucking vanity top that’s been sitting in a warehouse in fucking Tennessee for six fucking days and fucking up my entire renovation schedule.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guy Stuff

Cubs game!
So the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus sang the National Anthem at the Cubs game on Tuesday … after more than an hour of delays and false starts as a monsoon worked its way across Chicago. Naturally, the game was against San Francisco. GET IT? And naturally, they had us wait by a Wrigley Field side entrance labeled Gate Q. GET IT?

But once we got the all-clear, we walked onto the field (taking great care not to step on the chalk lines, which are apparently more delicate than the lingering gossamer vestiges of John McCain’s integrity) and then smiled into the crashing waves of cheers when we were introduced. The chorus is now positioning itself as Chicago’s Most Colorful Chorus (don’t get me started) so we all wore black pants and randomly distributed jewel-tone polo shirts as we proudly thundered our way through the National Anthem of a country that still won’t allow us to serve and defend it honestly and openly. But judging by the cheers and whoops and high-fives we got both before and after we sang, the stubborn, irrational bigotry that still dominates the opinions and actions of our public servants will wither, dry up and die when they finally summon the decency to do the same.

Home renovation!
Because of the Cubs game on Tuesday and our tickets to a bloated-but-potentially-charming-if-they-do-some-serious-editing production of Candide at the Goodman Theatre on Wednesday, I’ve made little progress on the bathroom this week. But! I did manage to scrape out all the cracked, discolored floor grout and replace it with fresh, monochromatic grout on Monday (which the domestic partner got flattered into cleaning up when he was home all day on Tuesday):

And if you think living with only one functioning bathroom isn’t enough to make me devote this entire weekend to assembling our fabulous new Art-Nouveau-glam-meets-Craftsman-practical-meets-New-Orleans-shabby-fabulous-meets-French-fin-de-siècle-apothecary master bath, having a living room ripped straight from an episode of Hoarders puts me way over the top:

Gym shoes!
For those of you dying to see more of my new hella-awesome-for-the-gym-and-mega-cool-for-the-office shoe wardrobe, here you go … and you’re welcome:

If there is one benefit to taking a 6:00 bus to the gym every morning, it’s that I can take pictures of my shoes without 1) looking eccentric, 2) causing suspicion, 3) irritating strangers or 4) ruining my composition with errant bus riders in the background. Plus, it allows me to make my blog posts even longer … giving you more value for your blog dollar. It’s the free market at work, and it all starts with a trip to the shoe store.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oh say, can you see?

I am on your tee vee!

Well, I might be. I'll be singing the National Anthem at tonight's Cubs game (7:05 pm CT) with the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus. We've sung every year, but we've been televised only once. So far. So if you're the type to tune into sports on television—or even go to an actual Cubs game—be sure to tune in/get there early enough to watch us tonight. Can I get a HELL YEAH?

In equally butch news, I've ripped apart the last room in our Two Bedroomed Two Bathroomed One Fireplaced Barbie Dream Condo®. The last of the builder's special monstrosities that came with the condo are about to disappear forever, this time from the master bathroom. For now, though, the stuff we're replacing is currently heaped in our living room in its cheap particleboard and lucite-handled plumbing shame.

So as of now, this is what our bathroom looks like:

Note the disposable paint tray where the toilet usually sits. It's not there because I'm about to paint. It's there because the damn water supply won't completely shut off. And it's leaking at the rate of one oversized plastic souvenir college-logoed drinking cup per hour. (Never mind that it's from the college where I went to ... um ... show choir camp when I was in junior high school. Because that detail would totally undermine the unmistakable machismo of this post.)

Since we're not in the habit of getting up every hour to empty a damn cup, I had to think of a better plan to keep the water from getting all over the floor between now and this weekend when the painting should be done and the classy-fixture installation will commence. Thankfully, I'm a clever man. And thankfully, when I was searching the kitchen for something huge and flat to catch water, I noticed the used paint tray waiting patiently in our recycling bin. And with a crude hole cut out of one corner, it made the perfect bridge-and-funnel between the drippy water supply and the poop chute in the floor that the toilet sits over:

It's held in place by hope and the residual goo from the wax ring around the poop chute. So it should stay in place. It will be hard to work around as we replace the cracked grout between the floor tiles and paint the baseboards, but I guess it's better than waterlogged floor joists and no renovation glitches to bitch about in a blog post.

And stay tuned for the pictures of what I intend to be our Victorian/Art Nouveau/French bistro/Big Easy-inspired bathroom getaway.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Steppin’ up my game

I know. Me using a sports metaphor is like Newt Gingrich promoting so-called “traditional marriage.” But I’m down with the kids, yo. So I’m sticking with my bad-ass sports-talkin’ instincts here.

But I’m really just talking about dressing for work. I’ve been lucky in this department for a long time; in my industry I can wear jeans and T-shirts and tennis shoes, and as long as I don’t look like I’m about to clean the garage or hide the bodies I can pass as “professional.” But in my advancing years, I’m starting to feel that my faded Levi’s and my retired Brooks Adrenalines make me look more like an aging frat boy than an appropriately dressed copywriter.

But I hate dressing up.

I hate dress pants more than I hate Sarah Palin. They’re stupid and uncomfortable. They bunch up your ass. They provide no warmth in the winter and they wrinkle and trap sweat in the summer. And they give low-information citizens the emotional permission they’re looking for to stay uneducated, hostile and solipsistic. (Wait. That last sentence was just about Sarah Palin.)

And dress shoes? Don’t get me started. No support. No useful cushioning. No breathing. No flexibility. And they make your feet smell like old pantyhose and processed leather. They’re like Rush Limbaugh on his wedding nights. Except with tongue. And a sole.


I will never be more than a jeans-and-gym-shoes kinda guy. I love the way jeans breathe and feel soft and provide a sturdy platform for my saggy old-man butt. I love the way gym shoes have cushioning and arch support and the occasional splashes of color. I also love the way the right gym shoes can work in the actual gym and still be appropriate for the office. And when you rely on public transportation and you have to carry your whole day with you when you leave the house in the morning, an all-purpose shoe is a great way to keep your gym bag from exploding like a Teabagger’s head at a not-everyone-is-white-and-stupid rally.

So I’ve been on a shopping mission to find fitted jeans in non-jeans fabrics like poplin and age-appropriate non-jeans colors like dark khaki and dark gray and dark blue. And to find gym shoes that are not too foo-foo trendy to look ridiculous in the gym and not too gym-rat gymmy to look slackerous in the office.

I’ve been on this mission since early spring. And I’ve been in every store on the planet (except Lane Bryant … and Chico’s … and maybe Caché), with no success in the jeans department and only minor success in the shoe department.

Until now.

Last weekend, I stumbled into a fantastic(ally loud) and wondrous(ly crowded) clothing emporium called H&M—which I think stands for Homosexuals and Metrosexuals—and I stumbled out with seven pair of exactly the kind of jeans I was looking for: fitted, respectably dark, comfortable, office-appropriate and butt-lifting. Except when I got them home and tried them on again, I decided two pair were a little shiny and a little skin-huggy and a little low-waisted and more than a little age-inappropriate, so I took them back last night.

And after I took them back, I decided to poke my head in the Nordstrom Rack next door, which I knew had racks and racks of shoes in every shape and color and style. And I stumbled out with three new pair of shoes that are both gymmy and worky … and totally go-y with my new fitted, respectably dark, comfortable, office-appropriate and butt-lifting new jeans.

Gay as I am, I almost couldn’t sleep last night knowing I got to wear my new shoes in the morning. Plus I was still loving the little Cabaret outfit Mondo wore to the runway show on Project Runway. So I was already a little giddy.

Naturally, the moment I got on the bus this morning at 6:00 to head to the gym, I took a picture of my kickin’ new kicks, though I swear what look like cankles in this picture are just morning water weight. Or something:

See? Hella-awesome for the gym and mega-cool for the office. Everybody wins! Especially once I hid those cankles in my new fitted, respectably dark, comfortable, office-appropriate and butt-lifting jeans:

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

$500 breakage

Fulfillment is a retail industry term for delivering rewards and rebates to customers. When your paid magazine subscription comes with a free tote bag, when your rewards card offers bonus points at specific types of stores, when your certain-dollar-level purchase enters you to win round-trip airline tickets … someone somewhere has to make sure that you meet the qualifications to receive the thing that was promised to you and then fulfill on that promise.

Breakage is the industry term for the actual unspoken goal of fulfillment: that consumers will make an initial purchase and then be too lazy or confused or disorganized or frustrated with the artificial hoops they have to jump through to get their free thing that they’ll miss a deadline or overlook a step or lose a receipt or just get angry and give up. It’s why you have to request your $25 check when you reach 25,000 points on your cash-back card. It’s why you have to supply original receipts and cut out bar codes and fill out an official form to get your $10 rebate on light bulbs. It’s why merchandise returns after 30 days get you store credit that’s issued on a plastic card or slip of paper you can put in a drawer and forget about. It’s why your points expire and the fine print is on a separate website and there’s no number you can call if you have questions.

And I—the 20-plus-year advertising copywriter who writes promotional stuff every day for retail clients and who actually knows how to survive the system—recently racked up $500 in breakage losses.

$100 gone
I bought matching flight suits for the domestic partner and me a couple Halloweens ago at Belmont Army Surplus, whose website sucks so much I’m linking you to a google search instead so you can hate them from lots of links. But the domestic partner is freakishly tall and even the biggest flight suit they carried wasn’t long enough for him. So I took our flight suits back. But Belmont Army Surplus has a Draconian returns-for-store-credit-only policy. They told me they keep all the store credits in a database organized by email address so I didn’t even need to worry about a receipt. Of course, when I went to cash in my store credit for something else, there was no record of my return or even my email address in their database. Since I was dumb enough to believe their database story, my receipt was long gone. And when I asked the guy behind the counter what my options were, he treated me like I was trying to rob him. Moral of the story: NEVER shop at Belmont Army Surplus.

$400 gone
I changed a return American Airlines flight from a business trip last year so I could stick around and have a weekend vacation. Since the ticket was non-refundable, I was given a $400 credit that I had to use for a new flight within a year. Fine. Whatever. But six months later when I went to redeem my credit over the phone, American Airlines informed me that I had to schedule my replacement fight in fucking person at a fucking O’Hare ticket desk. And since I never fly out of O’Hare, it took me (what I thought was less than) a year to finally book a regular O’Hare flight so I’d have a reason to make the trek out there and book my replacement flight. Of course, by the time I got there I’d missed the deadline by three fucking days. When I complained to the desk agent about their stupid schlep-out-to-O’Hare policy, she said I might be able to bypass the rule and book my replacement flight with a supervisor … over the fucking phone. Fucking seriously. And when I called … wait for it … the supervisor told me I’d missed the deadline and I should basically go $400 myself. I fucking hate you, American Airlines.