Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting up to speed

The state of the bathroom
The shower is finally grouted and double-caulked, the fancy waffle-knit spa-like shower curtain (with matching liner! just like in an adult bathroom!) is hung, a few pieces of decorative crap have been attached to the walls, and from the looks of things the bathroom renovation is done:
But! There’s still no water in the sink. Because I still can’t bring myself to admit defeat over some leaky water supply hoses that can’t be replaced without epic levels of runaround from random Home Depot employees and the faucet manufacturer. So I continue to sit and stew. And then I go wash my hands in the other bathroom.

But I’ve posted reviews of the products I bought on And somewhere along the line I must have responded to a satisfaction survey from the site because this week I got an email from a representative offering me financial compensation for my frustration. Without me even asking! It’s only $75—and of course it’s in Home Depot gift cards, which are pretty worthless after I’m done spending $2,500 on the bathroom—but the fact remains that they asked and they listened and they responded. And, of course, there will always be another reason to go to Home Depot.

Speaking of gift cards …
The dramatic black-and-red-and-slightly-Southwest-inspired ceramic dishes that I’d brought into the marriage but the domestic partner had never truly loved the way he should as a stepfather had grown chipped and broken and it was about time to buy replacement pieces or scrap everything and start over.

And while I loved my dishes when I bought them for my old condo, they had a rustic heaviness that never really worked in our ultra-sleek, space-needle-like kitchen or our French-blue-exact-replica-of-Versailles-if-you-squint-and-you’ve-never-actually-been-to-Versailles dining room. Plus so many plates and bowls were cracked that we could only host dinner parties for five, assuming we could find five people who thought dramatic black-and-red-and-slightly-Southwest-inspired ceramic dishes actually looked good—chipped or not—in a French-blue-exact-replica-of-Versailles-if-you-squint-and-you’ve-never-actually-been-to-Versailles dining room.

Plus the plates were so big that they interfered with the little spinning water jet thingie mounted on the underside of our top dishwasher rack.

So we decided to pull the trigger and buy all new dishes that were small enough to fit in the dishwasher, durable enough not to get cracked by our clumsy kitchen help, and classically beautiful enough to look at home in our ultra-sleek, space-needle-like kitchen, the charming French bistro we’re opening in our living room and all the formal state dinners we host in our French-blue-exact-replica-of-Versailles-if-you-squint-and-you’ve-never-actually-been-to-Versailles dining room.

Plus! As I was digging around in our junk drawer last month for my trusty see-through ruler so I could more easily tape off the stripes I stenciled in our Art Nouveau/Art Deco old-timey apothecary-themed bathroom, I found four long-forgotten Crate&Barrel gift cards … and they were worth $160!

So I trolled through the dinnerware section of and found these reasonably sized, reasonably priced classic beauties:
And after stopping by the store to discover that I loved them in person as much as I loved them online, I placed my order Sunday night. And by last night, I had my first ceremonial peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my first reasonably sized, reasonably priced classic beauty of a salad plate:

While we had our credit cards out …
Like many vintage Chicago courtyard-building condos, ours has an impossible-to-decorate length of hallway that just cries out for some kind of drama. But I have no interest in installing vaulted ceilings or a soothing water feature. So we planned to do the next best thing: install four-way dimmers on the lights. Of course, we talked about it for four years but never did anything about it. But a couple months ago our friend Rob heard us mention it and he recommended installing spotlight bulbs as well so we could cast dramatic pools of light down our runway. And last weekend, I finally did:
Of course, no project in our condo is without its dramatic setbacks, and last Saturday night found me on the 24-hour helpline with the dimmer manufacturer trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the lights to work. Turns out—and are you ready for this?—the developer of our condo labeled the wiring wrong. I know! Crazy! And they’ve been so spot-on with all their other efforts to burn down our building. But the dude on the phone—after repeated expressions of amazement at the clusterfuck of mislabeled wires I found spurting out of my junction boxes—managed to help me figure out what went where … and how to label it all correctly for the next person who goes digging around in our walls. And now we have a dramatic hallway runway fit for a couple dramatic queens. Ahem.

It Gets Better Project
While four of the 26 tapes we made in our epic taping marathon on October 3 got edited and posted online within a week, the company that volunteered to edit everything else overestimated the availability of its resources and nothing else has been edited or posted since then. But! They’ve found me someone else who says she can finish everything for me. (Those lesbians can fix anything.) And! The Chicago Tribune ran a pretty spectacular piece on us in its prominent Page 2 location on Monday. You can read it HERE.

Brian Cory
My first job out of college—aside from waiting tables at an Italian restaurant with fabulous breadsticks and even fabulouser gilded crown moldings—was crunching marketing numbers at Telecom*USA, a now-defunct Iowa phone book publisher that was a direct descendant of the epic 1984 Ma Bell divestiture. I worked there from 1991 until I found my first advertising job in 1992, and the only people I remember from the company are two fun young newlyweds who soon moved to Nebraska and disappeared off the grid and continue to elude my periodic Google and Facebook attempts to search for any sign of them.

And apparently there was also some dude there named Brian Cory. I have no recollection of ever working with someone named Brian Cory. And since it was my first job out of college and my first step up the ladder to international fame and fortune, I certainly have no recollection of developing any level of feel-free-to-joke-with-each-other-inappropriately relationship with any coworker from that company.

And yet this Brian Cory dude recently found me on LinkedIn and sent me THIS little gem of a note to mark our first communication in almost 20 years (assuming I had any memory of him):
His Palinesque command of English honestly makes it impossible for me to tell whether he’s a douchebag homophobe or just an epic loser with the judgment and sense of humor of a nine-year-old. Either way, I can't think of anyone I haven't seen for 20 years I would address this way as my first attempt at re-initiating communication. LinkedIn doesn’t offer an option for me to flag his note to me as offensive, so I’m doing the next best thing: posting it on my blog with his name repeated in the HTML text enough times that it might rise to the top of any Google search a future employer or potential boyfriend might do of his name. Brian Cory!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Renovation Porn: The Saga Continues

At the conclusion of our last breathtaking cliffhanger, the bathroom stripes were stenciled, the chandelier was hung and the toilet was re-installed, if for no other reason than to put an end to the constant stream of water running out of the supply valve that wouldn’t completely shut off.

But the vanity top hadn’t yet arrived. So the sink and the plumbing and the backsplash and the medicine cabinet and the new wall lighting were all waiting in limbo.

The vanity top had been promised to be delivered in 3-5 business days. But it ended up sitting 8 days in a Tennessee warehouse—where it was no doubt thoroughly indoctrinated in the cerebral political theories of Sarah Palin—before it finally showed up at our door.

And I was so excited to see its awesome white-marble-with-old-timey-veins-of-gray awesomeness that I ripped the packaging open to gaze upon its … endless, relentless diaper-gruel beigeness.

Which means that once again, had shipped me a huge box of frustration and disappointment.

But I’d put the bathroom on hold—and held the entire house hostage to its renovation clutter—for way too long. So goodbye, gray-marble-and-polished-chrome-old-timey-apothecary-themed bathroom dream! And hello, diaper-gruel-colored-1986-suburban-Holiday-Inn-employee-breakroom bathroom depression!

But just like a parent who discovers his child prefers Webber over Sondheim, I stoically shifted gears, embraced my new diaper-gruel color story and set about making my new not-white-and-gray-marble-themed bathroom the best little bathroom it could be.

But not until I’d fake-assembled my new multi-drawered-storage-addict's-dream vanity and diaper-gruel vanity top and shiny polished chrome faucet in the living room just to get an idea what it would all eventually look like:

We’d planned to use cool frosted-green glass tile for our backsplash, but I couldn’t even find a clear glass option at the tile store that went with diaper gruel. But I did find a cool onyx mosaic tile that included the greens of the walls, the grays and whites of the vanity top we thought we were buying, and the diaper gruels of the vanity top we’re stuck with. And once I got it up, I was actually pretty happy with it:

And a creamy filling of snow-white grout made its colors kinda shimmer and dance with each other, but never in a vulgar way. Though the setting sun sure gives it a theatrical sense of drama here, no?

Once the grout was cleaned up, I was a little more at peace with my diaper-gruel color story. Dramatic little tiles can improve any grueling (ahem) setback:
See that notch in the top row of tiles? That’s for the brace that holds up the medicine cabinet. It’s off center so the screw holes in the brace can line up with the wall studs. Normally I can find these studs just by knocking along the wall with my knuckle and listening for what I think is a pretty obvious change in sound when I’m knocking on drywall with a stud behind it. The change in sound in this wall was almost imperceptible, though. And when I cut a hole in the drywall to fish the electrical wires up to their new escape hole over the new medicine cabinet, I discovered why: THERE ARE NO STUDS. The drywall is just attached to thin strips of lathe.

And that’s just one of many appalling surprises I’ve found as I’ve renovated our condo. The original grout was installed by squirrels. The drywall joints are as straight—and attractive—as a televangelist. There are rarely junction boxes for the lights. The electrical wires are only sometimes encased in conduit. I opened one junction box for an electrical outlet to discover that all its wires were sheathed in yellow. (Usually one wire is white and one wire is black or yellow or red or some other non-white color so you know which wire is hot and which wire is neutral—and what the gauge is if that’s important to know for a specific fixture—so your wire connections don’t burn your fucking house down.)

Where was I? Oh, yes: diaper gruel. And there’s no better way to wash it away than with a fabulous polished chrome Victorian/Art Nouveau faucet, which would look extra-fabulous on a white and gray marble vanity top, but what can you do:

And what makes a faucet even better? When you hook up the plumbing and you make water come out of it!

And what would make you suddenly hate your faucet more than you hate the thought that Christine O’Donnell has even one follower who isn’t a toddler with a drinking problem? Water supply lines that drip and drip and drip and never fucking stop dripping:

Unlike most faucets that come in one solid hunk of metal, the one I bought (unbeknownst to me) comes as two separate handles and one separate spout that are all connected by flexible hoses. Unfortunately, those hoses don’t have that “watertight” quality that the kids are all into these days … even when you take them apart and re-assemble them seven fucking times with seven fucking ways of incorporating or not incorporating plumbers’ tape to see if that makes a difference, which it doesn’t. Even more unfortunately, you can’t buy replacement hoses at your friendly neighborhood Home Depot. No! You have to special order them from the faucet manufacturer. Which is the exact opposite of what you want to do when you’d rather rip the faucet out of the sink and throw its drippy worthlessness at the nearest Home Depot employee. Even more unfortunately, buying a whole new style of non-dripping faucet would be even more work than you care to think about because you’ve already bought and installed the matching toilet paper holder:

So as of this writing, the sink and faucet are completely installed, but the water supply lines are shut off until I can calm down and decide what the fuck to do about them.

But! The fabulous mirrored (even on the inside!) medicine cabinet is installed with super-gay under-cabinet lighting to give my dancing backsplash tiles even more drama … even though I made the backsplash probably a bit too high in an attempt to make sure my freakishly tall husband can see all of his handsome mug when he looks in the mirror. Plus in this picture (where I’m sitting on a stool so don’t think I made the backsplash like six miles too high or anything) you can totally see how abso-freaking awesome our chandelier looks … along with the tape marks reminding me to touch up the paint on the door frame:

For some reason, my trusty iPhone was blinded by our ultra-mega-awesome Art Nouveau/Art Deco dramatic-upsweep wall light that doesn’t make you have to look at bare lightbulbs (and everyone knows how much I hate to see bare lightbulbs) so I had to turn it off to take a picture of it for you, which also includes a reflection of parts of my tall handsome husband in the doorway:

Which brings us to the reason we started the bathroom renovation in the first place: The grout in our bathtub/shower had started to crack this summer and I was worried that since it’s on an outside wall the cracks would lead to water damage as the wall contracted this winter. So even though I started the renovation project merely by scraping cracked old grout, I waited until I’d done seven million other things in the bathroom before I filled my scrapings with fresh new grout:

Those of you who’ve worked with grout know that it cures in stages. You mix it. You wait 10 minutes. You mix it again. You wait again. You apply it to the walls. You wait. You squeegee it flat. You … probably see the pattern by now. But all that waiting is the perfect opportunity to take everything out of your nearby closet, get rid of the embarrassing stuff and reassemble everything in orderly stacks:
(middle shelf, left to right: solid T-shirts, casual T-shirts, more casual T-shirts, sleeveless shirts for the gym, tank tops, nicer T-shirts, patterned polo shirts, solid polo shirts (not shown))

And what porn-labeled blog post would be complete without a discussion of how I purged my unwanted shoes (which is like getting rid of your unwanted children … but harder)? But one giant bag of 18 forlorn, destined-for-a-lifetime-of-abandonment-issues-and-therapy shoes later, I can finally say that each pair of my wanted and loved and worthy shoes now has its own home:

And that’s all any proud parent could ever want … aside from children who prefer Sondheim over Webber … and alcohol poisoning over Christine O’Donnell.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm wearing purple today

Look around you today. There are (or should be) purple shirts everywhere in tribute to bullied gay kids who have committed suicide ... and in a show of of solidarity and support for bullied gay kids who need to see they have allies all around them.

I don't own a lot of purple, but I'm sporting all I have today: my purple T-shirt and my purple-ish shoes and even my purple protein shaker. There's a low probability I'll encounter any bullied kids in the course of my day, but it was heartening to see so much purple on the sidewalks in the Loop this morning. And even as we purple-clad adults sit safely in our adult offices across the country, we are at the very least thinking about you kids and hoping you're finding the strength to rise above whatever abuse you're suffering.

And remember: "Bullying" is just a perversely nicer-sounding word for "assault." If you're being physically harmed at school or even at home, call the police and press charges. You do NOT have to put up with physical abuse from anyone.

And think twice before you do anything to hurt yourself. Because the moment you do, the people assaulting you have gotten even more of what they want. Don't give them that satisfaction.

For more proof that you have allies across the world, visit the It Gets Better Project.

And if you need to talk to someone, you'll find all kinds of help at The Trevor Project.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Don’t give up! You can finish!

So Sunday was the first Chicago Marathon I didn’t run in seven years.

Except I actually kinda ran it. Well, half of it. Sort of.

Matthew, who intercepted me last year at mile 21 when I was as close to death as Bristol Palin is to a dancer (or a star) and propelled me somehow to the finish through my fog of pain and delirium and stab-me-in-the-neck-and-kill-me-nowium, asked me to return the favor this year for him and our friend Taz. Except he asked me to meet them at the halfway point.

So on Saturday night I carb-loaded at a touristy Italian place with Matthew’s family and then made what was supposed to be a brief appearance at a joint birthday party where I only semi-socially know the birthday boys and their slowly-becoming-friendly-to-me circle of friends. I figured the party would be nothing but a sea of panic-attack triggers and I’d be cowering in my own bed an hour after I arrived. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a nice time. The guests were nice, the snacks were carby, the hours flew by … and I was a groggy mess when my alarm went off at 5:30 the next morning.

Stupid panic attacks. They never work when you schedule them to.


I got up, donned my running togs, loaded up on what ended up being not nearly enough food to get me through half a marathon, and joined Matthew’s family to cheer for the runners at the start and in Boystown and then I raced ahead to meet up with Matthew and Taz at the base of the Willis (née Sears) Tower, which is the last close-to-the-Red-Line location before the halfway point, where the marathon shoots straight west for a couple long, shade-free miles.

I was kinda pissed that the weather had been so gorgeous that morning; I’ve run the last six marathons in either extreme heat or extreme cold so of course the weather was perfect the year I didn’t officially run it.

And then of course the temperature spiked the moment I jumped in.

I was actually looking forward to running (and enjoying and even simply noticing) the second half of the marathon route this year. Normally by mile 17 I’m in my just-stay-focused-straight-ahead-and-run mode, so I miss out on all the festivities in the Mexican, Italian and Chinese neighborhoods the second half of the marathon snakes through. And since I was starting fresh at mile 13, I’d planned on enjoying a fabulous running tour of Chicago’s southside neighborhoods as I propelled my fabulous friends to the finish line.


Matthew and Taz were already hurting by the time I met up with them. And the spiking heat just undermined their motivation. So we ended up doing a lot of walking. Which was fine; it was their marathon and I was just there for moral support when they needed me. Unfortunately, there’s tons of photographic evidence that we not only walked parts of the marathon but we were walked parts of the marathon proudly:

We’re not completely shameless, though; we mustered up the strength to run—and even smile—when the photo ops were especially photo-oppy, like when they included Chicago Marathon-branded flooring:

But the fact remained that I’m still training for the New York City Marathon in November, and I was scheduled to run 12 miles the weekend of the Chicago Marathon. So at mile 23 when Matthew and Taz announced they were going to walk the rest of the way to the finish line, I asked if they’d mind if I abandoned them and ran ahead just to get some miles in, since they didn’t need me to help them walk.

They didn’t mind, and I took off running … and it suddenly dawned on me that I was kind of sprinting through the hardest miles of the marathon, possibly making the other struggling (and legitimate) runners around me feel bad about themselves. But there was only one way back, so I kept going, planning to jump off at mile 26, right before the course veers over a half a block to the finishers’ chute.

To my horror, though, I discovered that the last half mile was barricaded to keep the spectators away from the runners. And unless I ran backward down the course, I was kind of stuck on my road to runner prevarication. And when I got to the 26-mile marker where the runners turned toward the finish chute, I stopped and tried to find a way to sneak through the barricades.

And that's when it happened.

Someone yelled at me. Someone yelled something encouraging:

Don’t give up! You can finish!

And the goodwill of that stranger, a byproduct of my original goodwill to help my friends, suddenly made me feel as fraudulent as Christine O’Donnell writing a résumé. Except I’d actually accomplished something. Plus I know “I’m you” is code for “I’m too stupid and lazy to understand the issues too” and not the endearing term of solidarity she hopes her stupid and lazy voter base interprets it to be. Plus I had my shirt off.

Plus I’m obviously capable of feeling shame.

Fortunately, I found a break in the barricade (the barricade-erecting people obviously didn’t plan for people running friends in and needing a quick escape at mile 26) and there were thousands of legitimate runners on hand to distract the well-meaning crowd from taunting me with their encouragement.

And now that all the Chicago Marathon mania has died down—and all the volunteers who man the free Gatorade tables along the lakefront trail every Saturday in summer have packed up for the fall—I still have to train. All alone. For another month.

And I can’t wait!

I run 22 miles this Saturday then taper down to 15 and 8 the next two weekends.

And then—after four years of waiting—I’m finally going to be running the celebrated New York City Marathon. With no injuries (so far) and no worries about November temperature spikes (I hope) and a glorious 26.2 mile course to keep me entertained.

And I won't give up.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus meets the It Gets Better Project!

I was expecting this little song to be a slightly cheesy but completely heartfelt alternative to all the personal-history stories on But once the chorus started singing it ... wow. When 150 voices rise together—even to sing simple lyrics to a public-domain melody (to sidestep any copyright issues)—there is a confluence of magic. The robust sound, the earnest faces, the emotional momentum the singers create once they catapult themselves into the canon ... let's just say the domestic partner and I were blubbering messes before they finished the first runthrough.

The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus is all about making music and having fun (and occasionally coaxing me into a wig and heels), but it's ultimately about showing the world—and any abused gay kids who need to see that there's something to look forward to—that gay adults can and DO live incredibly wonderful lives. It really can get better!

The videos from our October 3 taping marathon are still being edited, but you can see more and more of them every day on my brand spankin' new YouTube channel.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The new Gap logo: a theory

The new Gap logo will look positively awesome embroidered above the saggy breast pockets of 3,500 two-sizes-too-big khaki button-downs at a corporate team-building event in a Kansas Sheraton ballroom this winter. But what's the story behind the new look? How did Gap land on a corporate identity that takes us back to the heady design days of Quark 4.0 and the endless debate over Helvetica vs. Stone Serif (vs. Tekton if we're thinking outside the box)?

Here's one theory from deep within the agency trenches:

1) Gap focus-grouped its brand to come up with an "emotional map" of key words like "timeless," "reliable," "unpretentious" and "true blue."

2) Then it RFP'd six design agencies to submit 37 logos each based on these meaningless words.

3) After 1,942 internal meetings gathering invaluable branding input from textile buyers, franchise attorneys and vice presidents of finance, Gap narrowed the choices down to their favorite elements of 16 different logos and asked two of the agencies to create some hybrid logos incorporating these elements for a second round of feedback-gathering, this time in a series of mood boards and adlobs to provide "end-user context."

4) Four days before the scheduled launch of their new brand, Gap decided the new hybrid logos weren't completely following their emotional map, so they panicked and called in a favor from their old agency ... the one they were planning to fire after the new logo was chosen.

5) The call came in at 3:47 pm on a Friday, and all the art directors at the old agency were forced to cancel their weekend plans to come up with a shit-ton more logo ideas by 9:00 am Monday.

6) Gap sat on these new ideas for 17 days while they had an internal reorg.

7) The new vice president of camisoles, inspired by a burst of creativity he felt in a senior staff off-site, came up with the current logo at his dining room table on a Thursday night using the stencils his probably gay son bought to decorate his bedroom walls in Mies van der Rohe quotes and presented it to the board of directors the very next morning ... shrewdly keeping the new vice president of denim and the chief underwear officer—who would just try to sabotage his idea—out of the loop.

8) The board of directors—wisely making branding decisions by committee—voted eleven times and approved the new logo after it was modified to give it a weird footprint that will look clumsy in almost any layout.

9) This dining-room-table story will be enshrined in the annual report and repeated at shareholder meetings for the next 12 years as proof that Gap knows its best ideas come from its most important asset: its people.

(Gap corporate brand guys: Am I close?)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

We taped 25 gay people and families today!

Our video-making marathon for the It Gets Better Project could not have gone better today. Everything fell magically into place—from the donated shooting space to the fabulous friends who volunteered to shoot the videos, coach the people in front of the camera and even bring us food (bless you!) to Dan Savage himself flying in to add moral support and super-awesome celebrity cred to the event—which made the entire day a breeze. Plus everyone showed up on time!

And when we were done taping all our volunteers in the donated room at the Center on Halsted, the GLBT community center in the heart of Boystown, we carried our equipment a few blocks down the street to a Chicago Gay Men's Chorus rehearsal, where 100+ voices sang some slightly cheesy but heartfelt alternate lyrics (if you think they're really cheesy, then I totally did not write them) to Frere Jacques for a delightfully unique take on an It Gets Better video. And cheesy or not, I teared up like a leaky garden hose the first time I heard the chorus sing it for the camera. Somehow the confluence of my simple lyrics, the earnestness of the singers, the contrapuntal harmonies and the relentless forward motion of the canon transformed my cute little idea into something profoundly moving.

Plus, I randomly ran into WGN-TV entertainment critic/reporter Dean Richards this week, and I randomly floated the idea of maybe getting some media coverage for the event. Tons of adult gay people know about the It Gets Better Project, but we're not its intended audience. I hoped that if a mainstream news station like WGN could cover us, then little bullied suburban and rural gay kids who may feel terrified, alone and despondent would know there's a place to turn for hope. Which isn't going to end the bullying, but hope is a step in the right direction ... and often all we as gay adults can offer these poor kids. Dean asked for a press release, which I promptly wrote and passed off to him … and when we got to the taping location today, a whole WGN news team showed up. And even though they didn't use my interview in the segment (ahem) we got a big fat piece on the 9:00 news tonight! Woot!

Didja see me? I'm in a purple shirt for a tenth of a second in the background of one scene early in the segment. Which means I'm the star!

We got a ton of work done today, but we still have a ton of work ahead of us editing six-plus hours of video … which yet another fabulous (and Emmy-winning!) friend has volunteered to do. And you can bet I'll be promoting the hell out of our videos right here on my blog when they're all edited and ready to be seen. Stay tuned!