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Friday, March 30, 2007

Obsessive-Compulsive Mormon Anal-Retentive Bitch

You'd think I was a Mormon or something (no offense here, boys...I don't want any hate mail). Our house is filled with enough extras of everything we'd need to survive for a very long time. I think I've got a little OCD thing going on....okay, maybe not a little...but a lot. No, maybe it's not OCD....but maybe it's just because I'm an anal-retentive, organized, don't-ever-want-to-be-caught-off-guard bitch. That could definitely be it. Nothing ever completely runs out or is gone before I replace it. I absolutely hate running out of, say, olive oil when it's dinner time and I'm slaving in front of a hot stove....and I discover that there is no olive oil. Or when you're sick and it's then that you discover that you have no cold medicine. Nope, we're loaded. Nearly at supermarket inventory levels. Check out the list below. It's not pretty:

2 little bears of Honey, almost done with one
6 cans Glade or Lysol, a girl's house has to smell good
10 rolls paper towels...Brawny, they were on sale
About 50 candles of various sorts and types
I couldn't tell you how many AA, AAA, C, D-cell batteries
2 Tilex shower spray
Charmin freshmates adult-size flushable wipes (don't ask)
64 ounces liquid hand soap
2 nighttime liquid cold medicines (non-Meth-making quality)
2 daytime liquid cold medicines
3 Afrin, or similar, nasal sprays (this is strictly for the nose)
10 small toothpastes for travel
Econosizes of aspirin, Tylenol, Aleve, and Ibuprofin
Cough drops, cough gels, liquid cough medicine
Mucinex DM cough/expectorant tablets
2 300-count bags cotton balls (for Chrismas craft projects)
Large liquid Maalox
Large Maalox tablets
Small Maalox tablets
Generic sore throat spray
Chloraseptic sore throat spray
Generic sore throat tablets
4 boxes bandages (various sorts and types)
3 Gillette shaving gel
4 Mitchum clear gel deodorants
10 bars Lever 2000 soap with Vaseline (for smooth skin)
30 rolls Great Northern ass-wiping paper
Daytime cough/cold pills
Nighttime cough/cold pills
3 toothpastes (I can't decide)
15 cans soup
10 bottles wine
7 partial bags of coffee
8 boxes Rice-a-Roni (it's the San Francisco treat!)
3 bottles Grape juice
2 types allergy nose spray
3 types allergy pills (two prescription, one generic)
2 200-ounce "All" clothes detergent (we do a lot of laundry)
1 300-ounce "All" clothes detergent (this one has the spout attached)
600 party napkins (various designs and sizes)
100 various styrofoam picnic cold/hot cups
10 rolls wrapping paper
50 boxes for wrapping gifts in
20 gift bags
30 wine glasses
20 kitchen towels
50 Tupperware containers
20 yogurts (vanilla, lemon, lime)

My fingers are going numb at this point......I could continue but I really have to get something else done today. I promise you, none of this is an exaggeration. It's an obsession, apparently. Maybe there's a medication to help it.....Now, if I could just find room to put that one more bottle of medication.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rites and Rituals

I got to thinking yesterday about my life together with S. He is such a great man. And we're coming up on ten years in December. We spent the first seven years virtually joined at the hip together -- work, home, days off, vacations, layovers. All together. We have developed some crazy routines, as I supposed all people do. But it's just funny to stand back, outside yourself, as if a camera were making a movie of your life. And then watch it with a bowl of popcorn and a Diet Lime Coke:

Along about 8-9pm, you'd see us having migrated away from our laptops and toward the TV for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. One of us would get up during a commercial and go get both of our toothbrushes for us complete with applied toothpaste. We'd sit through the next segment brushing our teeth. Next commercial, we're off to spit and rinse. I apply liberal amounts of eye cream, take a pee, check the doors to be sure no boogie men (or women) can get in, turn down the heat, make sure the lights are out. He: Sets up the coffee for the ungodly hour of 4am....it goes off automatically (I would brew it fresh when I got up....I like it fresh better than having sat on the burner for a while). And this is the fun part: He gets out one Ambien and lays it out for me to come and split in half. We each get 50%. Sometimes we use my Lunesta instead....I like butterflies. We're half-pill poppers, I tell you. Then he usually does a last-minute check of his emails. And, we're off...up the stairs. The whole upstairs is our bedroom...500 square feet. Sometimes the TV goes on just to finish up The Colbert Report or American Idol or Andy Griffith on TV Land. Sometimes, we're zonked....the Ambien does work quickly. The neighbor's dogs are barking outside our bedroom window and sometimes we don't even hear them anymore. Vick's Vapo-Rub under our noses, a little bantering about this or that, lights out, and the spooning begins. Cozied up as close as I can get on the cold winter nights.....bare feet intertwined....he in his t-shirt and boxers...me in nothing. And always with an "I love you and appreciate you." Always.

PS: We'll repeat this performance nearly every night of the week. (Oops, I almost forgot....we turn on the "White Noise" machine too....keeps the car noises and dogs barking to a minimum -- and if we're sick or have colds, there's a whole other layer of Nyquil, Allegra, nasal decongestants, etc.). It's something else, I tell you.

Monday, March 26, 2007

My Name is Lewis and I'm a Car-aholic

So, what car do you drive? Ours is above. I say ours because we just have one. It's perfect. But we've gone through cars like water, I must say. I think it's an addiction. Maybe we should look for a CA (Cars Anonymous) meeting. Or would it be more appropriate to say SUVA? Nonetheless, we love what we have now. Great size, hauls plenty, 4x4 for those occasionally icy roads here in Portland, nice stereo, leathered out, moon/sun roof (what is the difference??), and....one our favorite features....heated seats. Do you remember the days when a heater installed in a car was an option and would cost you dearly? You could by a new bright yellow Datsun Honey Bee for around $2,995 but it had nothing on it. Here's what I've owned in my life (some of the details escape me):

1970 Plymouth Gold Duster (complete with 8 track and black plastic seats)
1977 Datsun 200SX (this is the one that I outran the cops in)
1986 Honda Accord
1990 Pontiac Grand Am--white 4-door (for the family that never was)
1995 Toyota Tacoma Pickup (loved this thing, gave it up in the divorce)
1992 Pontiac Grand Am--2 door (said I'd never buy US-made after this one)
1999 Kia Sephia (terrible, horrible choice)
2000 Kia Sportage 4x4
2002 Hyundai Santa Fe (this one was great)
2006 Kia Sportage (very nifty except for the noises in it's engine)
2006 Kia Sorento--the one we have now...it's loaded and perfect.

As you can see, there's a terrible trend. And it's not good unless you're on the car salesperson end of the deal. I always try to drive a hard bargain with the trade-in value, cost of the new one, interest rate, and all of that. I never accept the first deal. Sometimes, usually on Saturdays when the newspaper publishes those special car buying sections, I find myself gravitating toward them...just to look. But I've stopped. I had to. Maybe I should take up drinking.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name

News from small-town Alaska. Heather Lende has done a beautiful job of summing up the ins and outs of living in Haines, Alaska. Cut off from many modern technological advances, Lende paints an incredible picture as we venture with her on the wooded trails, across the water, and up the side of mountains in search for how she fits into this environment. The mother of five children, she also writes for the local newspaper. She has made me tear up a couple of times as she describes learning how to exist in this modern world -- tucked in between the Tlingit Indians and the conveniences of 2007. She will take you on journeys from hunting sheep, writing obituaries, and fishing ships sinking to church potlucks, love of her family, and coexisting with those who believe differently than she does. It made me feel good inside to know that there are those such as Lende that blend in seamlessly to our society and, yet, play such an important role in their homes, towns, and neighborhoods. She'll renew your, perhaps waning, faith in bringing two opposing sides together and what it feels like to stand up for something you believe in...even in small-town America. Her spirit and writing seems fresh and alive -- just exactly what we need to rejuvenate us with an afternoon cup of hot tea. You'll be glad you took the time to check this one out.
*** "A life spent working and living in a small town with people I may disagree with has taught me a lot about humility and forgiveness. And when to keep my mouth shut. Some lessons have been more painful than others, but my days and my life are richer because of them."
*** "We cried because we were happy, and because people we loved were happy, and because we were all happy in love together. Only adults weep with joy. Children don't. They haven't learned how rare moments of true happiness are."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Peanut Butter Cups + Red Wine + Hot Tub = ????

Numerous long years ago, hubby and I ended up in Spokane, Washington, one night with a coworker of ours. It was early winter, November or so, and there was a bit of snow on the ground. It seemed to be a fairly quiet evening at the hotel we were assigned to stay in. We scooted next door and made our obligatory trip up and down the aisles of the Rolling-Back-Prices-Screw-Your-Employees-And-Don't-Provide-Any-Benefits-And-Ask-Them-To-Work-Overtime-Without-Paying-For-It. (Those wretched days are past, with thanks in my heart.) We loaded ourselves down with cheap products from China and tossed in a bag of peanut butter cups also. Somewhere along the line, we absconded with a bottle of wine....red (and this was before I drank the red stuff). Our buddy twisted our arms and made us join him in the hotel's hot tub. It was freezing cold out, severe shrinkage factor involved (as if I can afford that), and the steam was rising in perfect little wisps from the outdoor hot tub. We dropped our jeans and sunk our back ends under the warm water ASAP. Ahh. Now, someone, please....pass me a handful of peanut butter cups (do you know how much happier I'd be if they came in dark chocolate??) and a plastic hotel cup full of vino. There's nothing like it. I think that our undies came off somewhere along the line.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring Has Sprung....Time for New Beginnings

I cannot begin to explain how much running the series on my father meant to me....and, apparently, to you, my dear readers. I received an unbelievable number of comments, emails, and, text messages. It is apparent that I struck a nerve with many and reminded yet others that life is short. Your messages were all horribly poignant and meaningful for me. Thank you for taking your time and for sending along your encouragement. Yesterday was a tough day for me...and I have very few tough days. I was alone in a hotel room in San Diego last night, and not doing too badly at that point, when I realized that it was coming up to the hour at which my father died. I noticed that Nathan had sent me an email so I fired one back at him and mentioned the specific time. Precisely 12 minutes later, at exactly the time my father passed away, my good friend Nathan text messaged me. He knew, he remembered, and there I was in San Diego with tears in my eyes again. Nathan also commented on something that, truthfully, I had never really seriously considered. He said: "Now I get it.....the Spirit of Saint Lewis." You know, the blog name never started out to be about my father at all. Lewis is my middle name, my father's first name, and of a sudden it's taken on a whole new meaning for me. I'm through talking about it now. I hope you enjoyed the series. He was truly an amazing man in his own way....as each of us are in ours.

Spring officially began a couple of hours ago here in Portland. If you were here, you'd know that it's right on time: Flowering cherries, plums, daffodils, crocus, flowering quince, forsythia, buds on many trees, and the tulips are trying their best to bud. The top of my refrigerator is a gathering spot for dust, delicious chocolates that our good friends brought to us, an extra bottle of white wine (Riesling from Idaho), and numerous seed packets. It's time to get them planted. Maybe in the next day or two....right after having my blood taken first thing in the morning (cholesterol and liver enzyme check).

I've also found out that I probably will be visiting Orlando again TWICE in April. I wonder if the boys will have me back for a repeat dinner? Maybe not after this little doo-dah.

Monday, March 19, 2007

My Dad Part 3 -- Finale, The Curtain Must Close

Part 1 -- Impact of Childhood Lessons

Part 2 -- It's a Great Day

It was March 19, 1994.…13 years ago today….and my alarm went off at 6:45am. I was in Liverpool, England, directly on the cold, dark Irish Sea, and beginning day three of our Rehearsal Camp for the British Continentals,a group that I was going to be directing on a musical tour through England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. As I lay there trying to get every minute of sleep possible, there was a knock at my door. A telephone message had been received during the night by the camp operator. I was supposed to call my sister. My heart was broken already, I knew what message was waiting. I was exhausted. Physically but also turning like a butter churn internally. I knew I should be in a hurry to return the call but I wasn’t. I had left Boise only four days earlier after throwing myself across my father’s lap as he sat in his wheelchair at the airport -- his oxygen pumping away. And me on my hands and knees in the boarding area, bawling like a child, my luggage tossed aside. I got up from his lap and went around behind him. I put my face against his cool, old skin and bones and held him as he grunted, groaned, and tried to wave me toward the airplane. I knew the inevitable was soon coming. My god, it couldn’t be….could it? Never again would I see the life in his eyes.

As I made my way out into the early Sunday morning, I remember thinking how warm it felt especially being, literally, just across the road from the sea. I breathed deeply and heavily, trying as nearly as I could, to propel myself into calmness. The phone was ringing thousands of miles away. Her shaky, monotone, and dark voice said that “Dad passed away two hours ago.” The doctors had wanted him to stay in the Portland VA Hospital for his dehydration. But he wrote “Boise” on his notebook. He wanted to go home. A place of comfort, respite, if any were to be found. The doctor finally agreed to let my mom drive him the 450 miles to the VA Hospital in Boise and check him in. She drove through the drenching rain having to stop repeatedly to fix the windshield wipers. My amazing parents spent the last night of their 33 years together in an old roadside motel just west of Pendleton, Oregon. You just never know where the road you’re traveling is going to end up. Dad couldn’t breathe while laying down any longer so he slept in a recliner, upright. I still have the handwritten notes he wrote to the doctors and family that last afternoon. It is incredible to trace his journey by reading scribbled notes. That evening ,carbon dioxide began building up in his body. “Your husband is in critical condition and probably won’t live through the night” the nurse told my mom in the hallway outside his room. “Call your family together.” How could this be? Can’t we just put in a feeding tube…that should take care of it. Did he actually hear them saying that he wouldn’t make it through the night? His last words on paper: “I have to go to the bathroom….pee….it’s hot.” My brother and my mom were on either side of the recliner that my father was resting in. They sort of “looked at each other” at 10pm and their tired eyes told each other that he wasn’t breathing any longer. Lewis was gone. Damn that wretched Lou Gehrig’s Disease….it would never haunt him again. I walked back to my room in the warm wind just as the sun was making it’s way up over England. I’m glad it wasn’t raining that morning. I returned home the very next day. All of the way back across the globe to where I’d just come from a few days earlier.

He lay in his Navy uniform, glasses in place, and hands folded just so. You wouldn’t have believed the red, white, and blue flowers that were jam-packed into the small viewing room. The morning of his funeral, I took the car to get it washed….well, at least that’s what I used as my excuse to go, by myself, for one last visit with my father. I slipped into the Alden-Waggoner Funeral Home, turned left, and down the hall where he and I had a chat. I kissed his cold hands that had worked so hard for 62 years. And I leaned into the wooden box as far as I dared and hugged his face as tightly as I could. I thought it may break….no, wait, that’s my heart. That blip in history, my friends, will wring water from my eyes forever. The rest of the day was spent with 500 of his dearest friends at his completely overwhelming funeral--45 minutes for their long, wan faces to file past his casket. The moment or two before the lid was closed permanently is one moment of time that etches itself in my memory. “Wait,“ I wanted to shout. I would never see him again. Never. And, that was it. The lid closed and locked. His essential life lessons to me were over. Class was dismissed. There were so many of his fellow Navy men and women who volunteered to salute him that day that they had to turn them down. His impact on the people of this earth was dramatic in a horribly simplistic way. As the seven rifles cracked three times with their 21-gun salute, we jumped…but in silence…on the hillside above Boise that spring afternoon with the wind blowing. It still blows there today. The flag was folded with precision by the Navy and rested gently on my mother’s lap. As we drove away, my determined and self-assured mom staring, almost glaring, in silence--her voice broke, the wind seemingly sucked out of her lungs, and she sobbed. “I told him to wait for me but he couldn’t.”

My father never met a stranger. His infectious smile broke across the deepest of divides. I have no idea whether he knew about my sexuality or not. I have no regrets. None. I do wish that I’d done more to open myself up to him…not only in the last few short years…but throughout my whole fleeting lifetime. I wish I’d allowed him to see me for who I truly am. Time is short, my friends. Very. Don’t waste it. I wish that he’d been able to know me as a gay man….his gay son. The man that I know I am today. His spirit lives on in me, that I know. I find myself thinking like him, acting like him, even, possibly, looking like him. And, in the greatest of honors, I now use his name for my own when I can. He would be proud, I know he would. I can see his smile, his crooked teeth, hear his bright laughing voice, and feel his positive energy even today. I loved him dearly. My world isn’t the same without him in it. But in some crazy, unexplainable way, it is. He lives on in me….and that, my dear comrades, makes my journey on this earth complete.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My Dad Part 2 -- It's a Great Day

Part 1 -- Impact of Childhood Lessons

"Mommie told me in her letter today that you cryed because daddy was gone. Son that makes daddy sad & yet happy to know that you miss me, because I also miss you very much. I even got a few tears in my eyes when I read it. Anyway I do love you." (See pic at left.)
My dad had two heart attacks in his early 50s. So, when his unexplainable crying and laughing started, we thought it was unusual…but attributed it to something with his health and heart. I remember one night as we all were watching some funny movie as a family and he started crying. He couldn't explain it and we all looked at him like he was crazy. There were two things that happened to his physical body that made us know that something was up: Uncontrolled fasciculations (muscle twitching) and loss of muscle (like the little muscle that is in your hand between your thumb and first finger….his disappeared). Doctors tried for more than a year to try and figure out what was happening. Test after test. Go see this doctor, go see that one. It was in the summertime when my mom called me from the VA Hospital in Portland. “It’s not good news,” she said. After one final test where they stick needles in every single one of your nerves, they all came out “negative”….there was no nerve activity in any of the places they tested. “He has a motor neuron disease,” or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Now, I don’t know if you’ve known anyone with LGD or not; but I don’t think, in fact I know, that we had no idea what horrible, wild times were yet to come. It is a disease that destroys all muscles in your body. But your mind stays intact. His arms became nothing but the skinniest pieces of flesh you’ve ever seen. The muscles in his neck…the ones that you use to hold up your head….disappeared. His head rested as low as it could, all fallen over to the side. He couldn’t hold his head up. And his tongue (don’t forget, it’s a muscle too) stopped working. He couldn’t speak the last nine months or so and he couldn’t eat the last few months either. It took him, literally, hours to force a bowl of applesauce down. And it was always done with choking, spitting up, and gagging. He would get the most scared look deep in his eyes. And we all stood around, trying not to stare, as he gagged and couldn’t breathe….day after day. We finally had to get a suction device to get the food and excess saliva out of his throat. I spent many an hour, as did my mom, holding his head up with my left hand while I ran the suction tube down his throat….trying to help him….desperate in our attempts to make him comfortable. One day, I watched him struggle to use his electric razor. I asked him if I could help him and he nodded “yes.” So, just like the suction device, I held his head up with one hand and ran the razor across his sagging, gray face with the other. This became an afternoon ritual….I would come home from work and the razor would be waiting. He would hold it up to me, smile, and I would kneel down next to his chair until he said to stop. Sometimes, many times in fact, it’s the smallest of gestures that bring the greatest rewards.

And I’ll never forget the first time that he was not able to speak to me on the telephone. I was traveling the summer of 1993.….in New Jersey that particular day…..at a Ramada Inn just outside of New York City. I had finished an evening concert on the 4th of July, his birthday. I called home that humid evening from my hotel room. Everyone in Idaho was having a picnic as we always did for his birthday. I knew that there would be cake, home made ice cream, balloons….the whole lot. But this night, my mom said, “Your dad isn’t able to speak any longer.” It had been coming on for a while now. It had begun with him sounding like he was drunk….slurring his speech. In fact, a customer of his had mistakenly thought that he had been drunk in the grocery store where he worked. And she had reported him to the store management saying that “You’ve got a drunk man working in the meat department.” So, he retired. To this day, I try not to cast judgment at situations I know little about. So, back to my phone call from New Jersey: My mom held the phone to his ear and told me to start talking. And I did. I told him how much I loved him and what a good time I was having on my concert tour. I told him that I missed him. And, of course, I said “Happy Birthday.” All I could hear was his grunting….trying his best to formulate a word or two. But, it didn’t happen….ever again. From then on, he wrote everything down. And I still have those journals today. All of his day-to-day conversations. I cried and cried that night….as I am today as I write. It was one of the most horrible nights of my life. I would never hear his voice again. Except in the recesses of my heart and mind.

My dad took my brother and I fishing several times in the last year or so. We would pile in the Jeep and leave town early, stopping for breakfast an old dirty diner alongside the freeway. After breakfast, we continued on, north of Weiser, Idaho, along the Snake River to his favorite spot. I hated fishing. But it didn’t really matter. The Union Pacific trains would roar by us at more than 70 MPH as we sat along the river, lines in the water, waiting. I remember my dad slipping and falling as he made his way down to the river -- his legs and arms had begun to lose their tone and strength. Stumbling became a normal part of daily life. So, here we sat. Me watching while my brother and dad fished. The ugliest catfish you’ve ever seen coming up out of that river hooked on the end of the line. My dad would unhook them and hold them up for the whole world to see and a smile from ear to ear on his face. He was totally content. The day was complete. The rain began and we piled back into the Jeep and drove down the dirt road a ways. No boats today. Too cold and windy. We sat there in the rain, running the Jeep to keep the heater going. To this day, one of my most favorite of life’s moments was about to happen, and I didn’t even know it. You know, they can come out of anywhere. At moments of least expectancy. Dad reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled out two identical light blue envelopes. One with my brother’s name on it and one with mine. They were identical cards….and they were birthday cards. Neither one of our birthdays were close. Dad had crossed off all of the birthday references and had hand written in “great day.” The card went like this:

“Love on your great day and always. Though you’ve always known we’re interested in everything you do, maybe you don’t realize, Son, how proud we are of you. So, this seems like a fine chance to combine a little praise with these loving great day wishes for the happiest of days.”

And then, in his own handwriting, he had written: “This is just for you because you are such a great Son and you mean so much to me. I love you. Your Dad.” He had enclosed $200 in each of our cards. We left the river that day with tears in our eyes and “great day” cards in our pockets. I still have mine. You'll see it in the picture below. And, you know what, my dad was right. It was a great day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Dad Part 1 -- Impact of Childhood Lessons

My father always took care of our family and its needs. He was caring, kind, and worked very hard all of his life as a meat cutter. His education ended at the 8th grade. He took us camping nearly every weekend all summer long. We had nothing fancy like a trailer. But we had a huge old sheepherder’s tent. We spent many a summer night in that tent. I remember the last thing at night as he would make sure we were all tucked in our sleeping bags and then he would blow out the lantern. The flame would linger momentarily in the mantle and then, pop….it would be gone. Dark and just the sound of the water in the river. I also remember waking up in the cold mornings to the smell of coffee in the old beat-up coffee pot on the camp stove and my parents getting ready to fix us breakfast.

On some Saturdays, I would go to work with him at the grocery store and help out in the meat department (it’s no wonder I’m nearly a vegetarian today). I would stand on an upside-down milk crate so I was tall enough to wrap the packages of meat. I stocked the meat counter, put the price labels on each package, and took great care to make the coffee in the break room just right for the store employees. The more I think about it, not much has changed. He thought the world of me and was so proud when I was with him. I’ll never, ever, forget his smile….ear to ear….and consistent.

When I was close to 14, he said to me one day: “I’d like to take you to dinner. You pick the place and we’ll go.” He said later that he knew there was a problem when I got out the Idaho state road map and started looking….not in town, but for another city! I guess the travel bug had bitten me early in my life. I put my finger on a town I’d never been to: Twin Falls. And we went….just the two of us. A two-and-one-half hour drive from Boise. We had dinner at George K’s Chinese restaurant. I think it’s still there. On the way home, it was late and dark. He pulled the car over to the side of the freeway and said, “I think I’d like for you to drive us home tonight.” What? I don’t even have a license yet? But he knew that I’d already been sneaking in a drive or two when he and mom would leave the house. So, I drove 120 miles to Boise, in the dark, just he and I. You know, there are things that come and go in your life, or those that you’d just as soon forget. But this isn't one of them. I call those mile markers. Places to mark every long and happy mile of our lives.

I tell you, we had a ball growing up. I’ll never know for sure, but I think that my father wished, in some ways, that I was more “manly” and that I took a bigger interest in the things he was involved in. I remember helping him build a large shed behind our house -- roofing it, nailing what seemed like a thousand nails. It felt like a million bucks being with him and helping. He never gave me any indication that he questioned my sexual identity. But, that was the way he was with everyone. It just plain old didn't matter what you did or who you were. He was always your friend and would drop all he was doing to help you out. There were no limits or conditions attached. I can only hope that I’m half the man he was. Able to smile in any storm -- give of myself to help out anyone who needs it -- and have the energy and determination to make this life something special.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Orlando That Disney Forgot

UPDATE: Here's the Video Evidence of the Evening.....

After flying all night and a fitful little nap, Keith from Sorted Lives picked me up for a very nice lunch at the City Market...we sat outside, took in lots of eye candy, and it was like we'd been friends forever. We both had Brett from Spider's Web on our minds--and we still do. The walk around the lake was excellent (despite him trying to get me into either (1) the bushes or (2) to lay horizontally on a park bench (see the pics). We dusted ourselves off, reapplied our makup, and went on a driving tour of the great neighborhoods of old Orlando. We did do drive-bys of the five or six gay bars that Orlando has to offer. (He wanted to go in....I said "No, I'm not that kind of girl.") We joined MiKell from I Deal With It at my hotel and then headed to dinner at TuTu Tango with Kevin from Actorschmactor, Eric from Mid-Afternoon Snack, and Mike from .alt>Mike. (You can see each of their pictures and stories from that night on their sites....I hope you'll check them out....the rest of my pictures are HERE. Keith happened to know Gigi who ended up being our waitress....and Kevin got himself into a little trouble with her, as the pics will quite clearly identify. The place was filled with Flamenco dancers and the loudest music you've ever heard. We also called and left a voice message for the Jimmi and Dan Variety Cast which I'm sure will come back to haunt us. These guys all treated me so perfectly...like friends who'd known each other for years. I felt like a real southern girl who was having the red carpet rolled out for her. They did everything except open the carriage door for me. I really appreciated the chance to meet each of them. They were not half as bad as I'd read about in the Orlando Correctional Facility Work Release Program publication. Thank you guys for making me feel so welcome and for taking the time out of your busy schedules to have dinner together. You're all awesome and I believe a repeat performance is definitely mandatory (provided they'll allow us to all be in the same location at the same time again). By the way, explain to me again how we drank $87 worth of margaritas? I'm still confused. I also shot some pics on the way home of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams in Washington state and took some kind of cool night shots of the flower cherry trees.

I'm Trying!......Stay Tuned

Hi Kids....I'm trying desperately to get all of my pictures uploaded from my whirlwind trip to Orlando (got a new uploader....and it's given me fits). I've also got house guests and we're getting ready for a huge weekend too. Plus, I'm getting the series ready to run on my Dad. On top of all of that, I'm TIRED. Up for 20 hours yesterday after going with only a few hours of sleep in Orlando....those bad boys kept me up all day and night. We had a total blast. Everyone I met was amazing and wonderful and welcomed me with such great warmth, beauty and wisdom (OK, enough of the BS......suffice it to say we had a bitchin' time). I promise a full pic post later today. THANK YOU TO ALL OF MY ORLANDO BUDDIES FOR YOUR TIME AND FRIENDSHIP!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Easy As Riding a Bicycle

Do you remember people saying to you "It's as easy as riding a bicycle"? That's all fine and good if you were coordinated and had all of your brain waves functioning as indicated. But, remember kids, I was from Idaho. While there were plenty of bicycle-riding potato farmers there, there were a few of us who couldn't get the hang of it and would rather have been.....well, I just can't say it here. I tried and tried....up and down the streets and dirt roads of my quiet neighborhood. And here's the really cool, masculine part: I pushed myself along while I sat on the extra passenger seat on the very back. (Do you remember those seats? It's where your cute boy friends (not BOYFRIENDS....."boy" friends) would ride....and you were so happy when they had their arms wrapped around you...and it especially brought a smile to your face when their hands fell lower than they should have). So, there I was happier than a clam. Riding around on the pumper seat, pushing myself along with my feet. That regular seat was just plain old too scary WAY up there.....plus, you had to balance at the same time. (This is where I'll pause for laughter, finger pointing, and snickering.....go ahead, I had a lot of that growing up......I can stand it.) The pic I've posted along with this post is a letter that my dad sent to me while he was away on his two-week Navy assignment in the late 1960s. As you know, I'm preparing a three-part series to run at the end of this week on my father. While I was researching for it, I found several letters including this one. As much as I cried while reading the letters, I laughed when I found this paragraph about learning to ride my bike. I'll never forget the day when it finally happened. I grinned from big-pokey-out ear to the other. Then you just couldn't stop me from riding as fast as I could, wind in my hair, and the little plastic rainbow-colored fringe flapping from my handlebars. Ah, things were so much more simple then.

I'm in the middle of packing for my trip to Orlando: tight-fitting jeans--check; slinky shirt to show off my small, tiny guns--check; no shoes (hey, it's Florida!)--check. I hope they don't all gang up on me (I do crazy things under pressure). I've already been instructed not to ride in the front seat of Sorted's car for some reason....I don't think I want to know. I fly all night tonight, arrive there early Tuesday morning, take a little nap, and then prepare to meet up with all of the boys for dinner: Sorted, Spider, Actorschmactor, I Deal With It, Mid-Afternoon Snack and hopefully even a few more. I will definitely have to find time to apply some Preparation H to my eyes.....it shrinks the tissues, you know....and after being up all night, there will be plenty of shrinking necessary. Seriously, I can hardly wait.....this is going to be an excellent time, I can just feel it. It almost makes me tingle and get goosebumps....oh, wait, that's something else. Anybody else in Orlando tomorrow? Get a hold of us soon for details on joining us!

The series on my father will run starting at the end of the week and over next weekend. The posts will be long--adapted from the book I started a few years back. But I'm pretty excited for you to read them.

Wishing you health and happiness in your journeys today and always.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Boys and Me.....(Shh! Don't Tell.....)

Shh! This is just between us kids, okay? Nobody can know. I'm just going to sneak down the hallway to my sister's room....last room on the right.....but the hallway floor is wood and a little creaky....so it's going to be a little tricky. I don't want mom or dad to know. Here we go.

Step by step, quietly as possible, carefully and calculated. I had to make sure that no one was nearby or expected to come over to this end of the house. Now, where did she put the latest copy of her Teen Beat Magazine? (What an appropriate name.) Ah, there it is. Do you think she'll mind if I slip out with the older copies for a little time in my own room? I promise I'm going to return them. Maybe a little less pretty than they started out. Oh my god, Scott Baio is on the cover this month! What a great smile. Last month was Leif Garrett with those long, curly blond locks of beautiful hair. And I think there's a hot Andy Gibb centerfold in here somewhere. Hum....now I have to get back down the hallway and into my room. Open the door ever so carefully, can't have anyone finding out my little secret. (Now, what was it that my Sunday School teacher was saying this morning about "boys liking boys"????)

I especially like the huge posters she has posted on her walls....with all of the aforementioned on them. Bell bottom trousers, long hair, wide belts, big shoes, sexy and so 1970s-teenage-like. Nearly life size, especially when I was shorter. But I did this so many times that I grew taller and the boys on the poster stayed the same size.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Little Voices in the Elevator

In the elevator at work, on my way to a meeting with several coworkers. I'm in the front of the elevator, up against the doors....just staring at the crack in between the two halves....just thinking about, oh, you know, not much.....like, "how long is this going to take" or "I wonder if they serve cocktails at this meeting." A couple of people I know are behind me.....the elevator is moving between the floors.....when, out of nowhere, I hear:

Voice #1: Whose teddy bear did you get that backpack off of?

Voice #2: It's not very manly, is it?

So, now my thoughts have progressed onto other more essential matters like "Would you like me to slap the right or left side of your head first." Or how about "Do they make a feminine deodorant spray to cover up that smell your're emitting?"

It's a small Eddie Bauer backpack. Not the full-sized one. A small one. Gray with black piping. (The meeting was a total bore. Completely and thoroughly.)

I am in the middle of writing a three-part series on my dad. I'm planning on publishing them in fairly rapid succession between the 15-19th of March. The posts will be longer than usual which I know isn't popular for some readers. I'm hoping that you'll take the time to read them....maybe even print them off for reading at a future point if they are too lengthy to get through online. I also hope you'll share them with those in your lives that may benefit from them.

I'm working all of Friday and will be attending a pretty large blogger get-together on Saturday night here in Portland. Monday night will find me on my way to Orlando for a huge Tuesday rendezvous with the gang in central Florida. I return to a visit from a good friend after the Orlando trip. It's going to be busy. I wish you all wellness, health, and much happiness in your comings and going.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Meeting of the Blogs

It's official! The very first meeting of The Spirit of Saint Lewis with another blogger has occurred! Tonight, my honey and I had dinner with David from Just David! We enjoyed drinks and dinner at LaBuca in Portland. We laughed and talked movies, family, life, and travel all evening. He is an amazing guy with such a great smile and zest for life. Full of positive energy and a good spirit. We drove him on a quick evening tour to show him Portland's beautiful skyline at night. David, it was our pleasure. Seriously....Thank You!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Victim or Volunteer?


"One who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act or circumstance; a person who suffers injury or loss as a result of a voluntary undertaking; a person who is tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of."


"A person who renders aid, performs a service, or assumes an obligation voluntarily in and off his/her own free will."

I've gone through much of my own life using the saying "There are no victims, only volunteers." I can't stand the "victim" mentality -- where we assume no responsibility for our inaction or action (depending on the situation). I believe that each of us should raise our hand and say "Yep, it was me." "I did it." "It's my fault." Gosh, that's a tough thing to do sometimes.

And, please, don't let me mislead you into believing that all of what I do is strictly of the volunteer mentality...because it's not. But I do try not to slip into that frame of mind. Our world is full of people and groups who believe that they've "been taken advantage of" or that "it's someone else's fault" when it's actually as a direct result of their making poor decisions....or even putting off making good decisions. It's created a real mess for our society and social structure and order.

So, which one are you? Victim or Volunteer? Do you enjoy being where you are now? Are you happy being a victim? Happy being a volunteer?

Here's a link to a video I made this morning while crossing the Willamette River in downtown Portland on the Fremont Bridge. Enjoy the tour!

Don't forget that I have an updated audio greeting in the upper left-hand corner for the month of March.

Tomorrow, I get to meet David from Just David!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Putting a Face With a Name

**Check out the new audio greeting for March to your left side**

In the next eight days I'm going to be meeting at least six fellow bloggers….and maybe even a couple more. It seems to have all come together….in a really cool way. I love life sometimes…where the individual journeys of many lead to a common place of sensation…..where gut-busting giggles and laughter, smiles from ear to ear, teasing and poking good fun at each other all add up to one of those times in life that just make it worth living. I know you know what I mean. This Wednesday, we're meeting David from Just David (Houston). He's coming to the Northwest to visit friends. And he made the mistake of mentioning it in his post. So, I've commandeered his trip and talked him into a quickie…..quickie trip to Portland, that is. We're having dinner together Wednesday evening with some of our friends (I wonder if he knows what he's in for……I'll be he saw the Margaritaville video on my post a few days back.) I love how this impromptu meeting has come together so beautifully. The spontaneity of the moment got a hold of both he and I…..and now it's all set! We're trying to decide on one of Portland's MANY delicious restaurants in one of our zillion nifty neighborhoods……Irvington, Laurelhurst, Belmont, Hawthorne, Fremont, Beaumont/Wilshire….and the list goes on.

Then, on Saturday March 10th, I'm joining in with LSL and a group of her blogger friends for drinks at the Kennedy School in Northeast Portland. If you're in the Portland area and would like to attend, you'll find an email RSVP in this post.

Then, on Tuesday, March 13, I'm going to be in Orlando on a working trip. I arrive at 07:25am on Tuesday morning (doesn't that sound like a lot of fun). After I catch a few ZZZs and try to conceal the huge bags under my eyes from flying all night and not getting too much sleep (I'll be way too excited to sleep), Keith from Sorted Lives has so graciously offered to pick me up for a little afternoon tour of the area. After that, we're returning to my hotel near Universal Studios to clean up, brush our teeth, reapply the rouge and foundation, and pull out any unsightly chin hairs, before we join Brett a.k.a. Spider, MiKell from I Deal With It, Kevin from Actorschmactor, and Eric from Mid-Afternoon Snack. And, there's a remote possibility that I've talked Ryan and his boyfriend Mike from Boys Are So Ugly But So Cute into driving over from Tampa for a little chow with us. (Do you think that the state of Florida actually allows that many "of our type” together all in the same place at the same time……I ’ll have to write Jeb and find out.....or maybe Katherine Harris....oh, wait, she's been booted out). We're going to a place called Tu Tu Tango for dinner. I can't decide which two I'll sit between…..hum. Maybe we can all get of our butts on the same chair so that we're all cozy. That way, there will be no fighting about who gets to sit by this old goat…..I hate it when girls end up in a cat fight. They are all so good about blogging, emailing, and chatting……and their writing skills are, of course, excellent. You can bet that the cameras will be all charged up and snapping evidence of "Orlando Mardi Gras 2007.” I couldn't be more happy about this whole thing. I mean, I've been blogging since late October and now I'm going to be able to put some funny blogosphere names together with the faces of some wonderful, handsome men. How many times in life does that happen? I'm thankful. I'm grateful. Another of our time on this earth's finest opportunities. To smile with -- and pat on the back -- some of the world's top-notch friends.

Anybody else going to be in Orlando then? Dinner anyone?

Friday, March 02, 2007

My Collision With the Easy Bake Oven

My younger sister and a friend of hers are visiting us for a few days from the throws of southern Idaho. Last night before we indulged ourselves heavily in some of the best Cuban food ever at Pambiche, we were reminiscing about growing up, when I first knew I liked boys (some things never change), and other nutty childhood memories. I reminded her of the Christmas that I took her out to the proverbial hiding spot for all of our presents. I always knew right where they were and never passed up an opportunity take a peek (or six). I found the box with her Easy Bake Oven in it. I think that was one of the earliest points where I knew there was something amiss with me.....I was more fired up than she was about that oven! With my young brown eyes all glazed over with glee and dilating like a snake coming into the daylight, I said "There it is!" I could hardly wait for Christmas morning. Soon as the wrapping paper was dutifully shredded and tossed from one end of the room to the other, we had that thing out of the box and fired her up. Complete with the included 75 watt bulb. Whoo whee! We're cooking now! It came with a couple of little boxes of cookie or cake mix which cooked okay. But for some reason, my creative and twisted (young gay Idaho) mind went to work thinking of how we could kick it up a notch (I was doing it a long time before Emeril was). I dug through the refrigerator and found a pack of Hormel bacon and snuck it back down the hallway to the bedroom where the oven was. We slapped a few pieces of the bacon into the oven and turned it on. And waited...and waited...and waited. Hum. What's wrong? Three and one-half hours later, sis and me staring and staring and staring, with the bacon barely glistening from just being semi heated up, it still lay there....wobbly, flimsy pig fat doing it's best to perform (we've all been there, haven't we??). I still claim to be more into the art of cooking...not the science (science requires education). 75 watts never was going to cut it. I think that someone should have been able to easily identify my SI at that point. They were probably too busy trying to figure out how to make me wear a hunter's vest and get a fishing pole or rifle to look good on me.

So now that you all are getting sassy and thinking you're more masculine that I ever was (you probably are), take this little masculinity test from Old Spice. My score was 58% which Old Spice calls "Atrocious." Can you imagine? Me being called atrocious on the masculinity scale. I can't either. But who knew some of that crap. If they'd had questions about which color pillows to put with which sofa fabric, or how to get a size 34 waist nicely into a pair of size 30 Abercrombie and Fitch jeans, I could have performed marvelously, not atrociously. You'll see what I mean.
SI = Sexual Orientation