Tuesday, July 29, 2008

by hed id tuft wit peanudbudda

Gah. My head is stuffed up like it has not been since a cold I had this winter. I feel like it is filled with peanut butter. Bleah.

It all started with a little job I was doing for an elderly lady in Seal Harbor. She wants to sell her home, but it needed a cosmetic fix of sorts. The upstairs bedroom where her husband spent his final days has remained pretty much untouched since his passing some 12 years ago. Only he used a humidifier in there. A lot. So great expanses of ceiling paint was peeling and hanging down in a most unattractive way. So she wanted it cleaned up so the real estate lady can add another zero to the asking price, and could I get to that right away?

Well, I've got some fairly expensive rental scaffolding presently in the shrubbery in front of another elderly lady's house, and she's paying for it whether I'm there to climb on it or not. Naturally, she'd like to see me up there as much and as often as possible so I can finish soon and get the damned things out of her yard.

So I told the first lady that I could do some work for her if it rained and I was unable to work on the scaffold. Fine. We got a couple of really wet days, so I went over and scraped the paint (nasty job!) and then applied drywall joint compound (nastier job) to the cracks and holes.

Then the sun came out. And scaffold lady wants me at work on her house. But ceiling lady wants me there to finish up.

So today I went to scaffold lady's house early, did what I could and left after applying some oil-based paint. Can't do anything until it dries, I said as I sped off. I got to the ceiling lady's house to find the room buttoned up tight (it was 80 degrees and 95% humidity - ga!) and waiting for me to sand it. What a nasty friggin' job that is! There is nothing, well, let me rephrase that. There are very few things nastier than sanding drywall mud on a ceiling in a stuffy upstairs bedroom on a day when it is hot and humid and there is no breeze. I got dust in my hair, in my eyes, in my nose, in my ears, it ran in rivulets of sweat off my body and formed a kind of slurry. It was nasty.

Well, I got it sanded. It doesn't look great, but at this point she just wants me out of there, so I slapped a coat of primer on and bailed for the day. I'll go back tomorrow early to apply ceiling paint and then get out of Dodge with my check.

As I finished up the sanding, I began to sneeze. Well that was really no surprise, I thought. It is utterly reasonable to sneeze when you are surrounded by that much dust. So I went home and cleaned up. Showered, washed my hair, got rid of every bit of that nasty drywall dust that there was. Only I kept sneezing. And now it seems to have evolved into a full-blown, all-out sinus-packed, drippy nose allergy fit. Damn. It really hit me tonight during my meeting. It was like somebody pulled a switch and my head filled up with fluid. Nasty shit.

So now I am home, sniffing and typing. I have eaten spicy soup, to no avail, (although I am nicely full) and taken my Claritin quick-dissolve stuff. I am waiting for it to kick in. It's been nearly two hours. I am not impressed. My gut tells me that I will sleep on my back tonight and my sinuses will drain of their own accord. I may or may not suffer like this again tomorrow. In the meantime, I sound upsettingly like the Swedish chef on the Muppet Show. Bleah.

Interesting job tomorrow. I hope to take pictures of what I am working on and what I have to do to actually get up there to do it. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Somehow, this morning I don't have anything gripping to write about. I may still be wiped out from last weekend's Big Gay Event, and coupled with the pedophile story I posted Thursday, I could just possibly be emotionally exhausted. Just maybe.

Today seems like a good stay in and read a book kind of day. I've got a particularly nerdy book that I am reading: Life in Newburyport 1900-1950 by Jean Foley Doyle. I have the distinct benefit of being from a town with a very rich cultural and political history. Much of what I know of my town is mostly passed down legends of larger-than-life characters who populate the place when my parents were kids.

This book is a chronological compilation of newspaper notes, mayoral speeches, police and court reports and personal recollections. Far from being a dry, dull recitation of facts and dates, it gives character to the places I have known for a lifetime, and depth to my understanding of how and why they came to be who and what they are today. I expect I will mow the lawn at some point today, but that is all I plan to do that is actually work-like.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


There is nothing quite like a rip-snorter of a thunderstorm to reaffirm one’s place in the natural order of things. Two storm fronts moved through overnight – one at around midnight and the other at around four o’clock. Both were spectacular. The cat headed for parts unknown (under the bed) and the dog slept through it all, curled in a ball at our feet, tucked under the blankets and sheets, safe and secure. I awoke to the crash-bangs, but went back to sleep. There was nothing to do about them, really, and I was too tired to enjoy the show.

Then it was quiet. My first job this morning doesn’t start until ten, so I re-set the alarm and slept an extra hour. Only at half-past seven, when the world was quiet and the wind had stopped, the power went out. Go figure. Laura went to the store next door to make a phone call and came back reporting that the whole island is out. That means something happened up in Trenton or somewhere near the head of the island. This could be a while.

Well, the laptop is charged, and while I don’t have any internet, I do have word processing and movie capabilities. I also have camp coffee. Undaunted by any silly little thing like a lack of electricity, I’m going to have my morning coffee. I opened the windows so we don’t die (besides, it’s hot as hell and the ac is out with the power), dug out the little screw-it-into-the-top-of-a-bottle-of-gas-camping-burner-stove and my camp coffee pot, and set ‘er up on the counter by the sink (full of dishes we can’t do because of the power being out). I took a couple bottles of water, filled it to the line and set the flame on low. It is now bubbling cheerfully as I type. I have no idea when I will have electricity, but I know for sure that in about five minutes I’ll have coffee and that works for me.

We finally got to a phone. Laura reports that the power outage is as far as Bangor. That bodes ill for our situation. This may be a while longer than we previously thought. Coffee is good though. Chewy, but good.

I have had a moral dilemma of sorts lately. I recently discovered that a guy whom I know is a convicted molester is on a listserve that I belong to. He did not announce who he was or that he was registered on the state site. He used his first name only, but he mentioned a thing that was very specific to his town and I put two and two together and came up with a pervert. I did some research and found out that this guy is who I thought he was and then I got creeped out.

See, many years ago I was a rookie newspaper reporter in a small central Maine town. I was insecure as hell, and I wanted desperately to be liked. I wanted to be good at what I did, and I really did not have a clue. I knew this guy tripped some triggers for me, but there was nothing concrete to go with. He ran a comic book store and was always surrounded by kids, boys to be specific. The boys hinted that his interest in them was not pure, but I didn’t want to believe it. In a blunder that has haunted me for years, I tipped him about the rumors and advised him to be careful lest he be accused of something bad.

Only a year later he was arrested and charged with something bad, and then put in prison for over a year for that same something. He molested a boy at his family camp. The boy told someone, and this guy went to jail. Good.

Only I have felt pretty bad for nearly 15 years. The whole situation back then made me incredibly uncomfortable. I did not want to think that a gay man would be a molester. After all, FBI statistics show that over 90 percent of molesters are heterosexual. I did not want to deal with it. I did not want to think that someone I knew could do such a thing.

It was odd. The whole town suspected, but until a boy came forth and made an accusation in court, nobody could do much about it. Everyone watched as boys came and went from his store, wondering at his easy manner with them. Everyone wanted him to be a mentor figure, I think, for him to be a good guy and not the pervert that people feared lurked beneath.

Luckily for me, I was transferred to another bureau before he was arrested. I did not have to cover that story. But it still itched under my skin. It still chafed. It still gave me the creeps. I tipped him. I hold some responsibility. It made me sick.

In the past two days, I have had several conversations with a friend of mine whose opinion I value very highly. He is a gay man, and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. He assured me that any abuse that happened was not my fault, that I got duped and played and that I was probably not the only one who was fooled. That made me feel a lot better.

My dilemma now is a little complicated. I know this guy is out there. He has done nothing to get himself thrown off the list. It is a list for adults, and trolling for sex is prohibited. He has done nothing untoward. I am still creeped out by the thought of him being around. My gut tells me he’s still dangerous. I’d love to see him gone. Hell, I’d love to see him… well, never mind. Let’s just say he’s not on my list to get a holiday card. But it is not my place to kick anybody off, nor do I have that kind of authority. I am not sure I ought to expose him, either. What purpose would it serve? What good would come of it? According to the law, he has paid his debt to society through jail time and fines, and he carries the scarlet letter stigma of a permanent place on the state sex offender website. What business is it of mine to further punish him if the state says he’s paid in full? Perhaps he has changed his ways. Perhaps he got help and is no longer a threat to society. I don’t buy it for a minute. But it is possible, I suppose.

For now I wait and watch. I am not in control of the situation. It is neither my job nor my responsibility to take action here. But it is uncomfortable to know that he is in the room, as it were. It colors what I say and what I do. And I don’t like it.

Monday, July 21, 2008


After this weekend, I thought I would finally post my favorite recipe for spicy noodles. These can be eaten hot or cold, mixed with vegetables or not, topped with sesame seeds and scallions or not, and in general, any darned way you feel like. I bet even Darlene could make them. She might learn that butch girls who can cook, even one or two things, are highly prized as date material. No femme wants in on a relationship where she's going to have to become a scullery maid. Screw that. Learn to cook, darlin'. Here's an easy thing to start with:

You make the sauce separate, then cook the pasta and toss together. That's it.

There are a couple of ingredients that might be tricky to find, but in the great metropolis that is Portland, I am sure that these things can be found at any Asian Marketplace. I get the vinegar at the natural foods store in Bangor, but the rest is available at Hannaford's.

Szechuan Noodles

Boil 1 pound of spaghetti in a pot of water. I use regular thin spaghetti, store brand, nothing fancy.

In a non-reactive bowl (translation: not metal!) mix the following ingredients together:

6 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 Tablespoons Chinese Black Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sri Racha (or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root (paste from a jar is OK)
2 Tablespoons minced garlic (from a jar is fine)

Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce. Top with sesame seeds and chopped scallions if desired. I sometimes will serve with hot stir-fried vegetables, or cold with cooked chicken for a cool lunch on a hot day.

For many years, these noodles were available only at the Common Ground Fair, back when it was in Windsor. There was a booth called "Oodles of Noodles" and they served these things highly spiced and nicely chilled. Then one year, the booth was not at the fair. I went into deep mourning, and a funky haze fell down upon my soul until a few years ago when the fine people at MOFGA printed the recipe in the annual fair booklet. Rejoicing began and has continued steadily. I do not think we have gone more than a month without having these noodles in some form since that recipe was published. It is fantastic. And super-easy, and super-versatile. The hot sauce stuff can be adjusted to allow for wimpy palates or amped up for a sinus-blistering, endorphin-producing blast. The amounts I listed here are pretty mild.

And it's fun to show off.


The Big Gay Weekend is over, and it seems like everyone had a good time.

Friday night was spectacular - we had maybe two dozen people at the ice cream social, which was hosted by the fearless and funny Lib. Our Quing said a few words of welcome and also performed a song with Sue and Ruth (I think - I was hot flashing out on the porch). Swimmer sang acapella in amazing style, and lots of people told stories. One of our most sane and sensible members told a story of (nearly) robbing a bank with the granddaughter of Pretty Boy Floyd. Even Lib's pantyhose story and my Amos got shot story couldn't touch that one. We were in awe. And such storytelling talent. I was amazed. There is an art to telling stories - there is skill involved in the timing and reading the audience and getting the delivery to work, and this crowd had it in spades. The tellers were very good and the audience was appreciative. I was mightily impressed. It could not have worked out any better.

Here are Betsy, Daphne, Sue and Ruth. I treasure them all.

Lib (blonde) and Nanci (yellow shirt) were the evening's hosts:

Ponies like Rusty are easily amused, it seems.

Here are my favorite people and tireless volunteers/draftees: Deborah, Laura, and Mike. I would be lost without them. (Before anyone gets excited and wants a date, Deborah is decidedly straight. Bless her heart for volunteering for this event on her Friday night off!)

Scott, Toby and Shaun enjoyed the program as well.

And when it was done, six or eight of the folks stayed to clean up and put the place right again. How blessed we were to have such wonderful last-minute volunteers. I was so grateful!

There were lots more pictures, but I think I'll save them for the gaynet CD of memories that the Quing is threatening to produce. That and the process to paste them here is tedious as hell.

Saturday morning had me up early and getting ready. I made my sczechuan noodles to bring to the picnic and went early to get things set up. There was some communication lapses between L and me that resulted in some grumpiness, but it all worked out in the end. We had over 30 people at the picnic, and burgers and hot dogs enough for everyone. Someone even brought SPAM, which I dutifully sliced and grilled. It was horrifying, but I did it. What's worse, people ate it. I did not watch.

I have no pictures of the picnic, but gaynet member Pat took these and has graciously allowed me to link to them. And to think I live a mere five miles from this picnic spot! We do truly live in paradise! The views of the water are of a thing called Somes Sound, which some argue is the only fijord on the eastern side of North America. Some say it is not a true fjiord (something to do with the methods used by the glaciers to carve it) but I say what the hell, until someone comes up with a better one, we'll claim it as the only one on this side of the continent. The views are facing west toward Flying Mountain, Acadia Mountain and St. Sauveur Mountain and sort of south-west toward the mouth of the Sound. This is the same picnic area where I had my 40th birthday party. It is one of the nicest places in the world.

Saturday afternoon had a batch of people wandering around Northeast Harbor on a tour of historical lesbian places and then there was a reading of some kind. Not being artistically inclined, I have no idea now exactly what it was about, but it got good reviews.

Saturday evening had a gaggle of us attending the Theater of Marvels show in Otter Creek. Rusty and Mike got to chain up a guy and secure him with bunches of padlocks from which he escaped. I think we must have had close to 20 of our people there, and the tiny little hall was packed. Rusty/Geoff is a marvel with the Chinese linking rings and he did a particularly fun (and campy) series of tricks involving what looked like miles of silk scarves and bunches of parasols. In the humidity, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to get that stuff to behave.

Oh, and there was a belly dancer. That was really cool. It is a little upsetting to see the human body bend in such a manner, but I think more than one set of eyebrows went up in not-terribly-pure consideration of the possibilities such a person could present. Huh. Most interesting indeed.

Sunday morning we all (mostly) met early for breakfast at my favorite place in Bar Harbor, Cafe This Way. We ended up with 15 people from the weekend in attendance, not bad considering that some had to leave for very long drives home.

Here is a link
to a slide show of more pictures from Saturday afternoon's picnic and Sunday morning's brunch.

Laura, Mike and I came back to the house where we then had coffee and bagels (we had coffee, they had bagels) with Karen and Deb (who were late and missed breakfast) and after everyone left, I crashed on the sofa and slept for a couple hours while pretending to watch golf. I haven't fallen asleep on the couch in years, but yesterday I was too tired to even sit at the kitchen table.

We had macaroni and cheese from a box for supper. No shit. We were tired.

Today is wet and threatening thunderstorms, so I have opted not to go play with aluminum gutters while standing on scaffolding. I may burrow into my basement workshop and try to get a couple projects finished. I have horseshoes to modify for my favorite pony, and a bridge squisher to finish up for an engineering friend. Pictures may ensue, but don't count on it just yet. I'm still moving pretty slow.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Comin' together

So the Big Gay Weekend is underway.

Friday night's open mic/coffee house/ice cream and dessert and coffee social went remarkably well. Especially after every one of our performers dropped out. The host even called early in the afternoon to report that she had a migraine and could not make it. Well shit.

So Lib, dear, wonderful, spectacular Lib, stepped up to host the event. She welcomed people and encouraged them to tell stories and sing and they did and a marvelous time was had by all. We must have had around 25 people there, maybe more. I was pretty pleased. A bigger crowd is expected today.

The ice cream was great and the hot fudge sauce was very popular. I think I may be able to sell some today at the picnic to help defray costs.

We've got the big picnic potluck thing happening in a few hours now, and the sky is overcast and not particularly cheery-looking. The weather map says any rain will likely track away from us, but it still is not the sunny July day I had requested. Oh well. I'll give it time and see what develops.

In the meantime, I have pasta salad made, eggs pickled and pink (the recipe included a can of sliced beets, so the eggs are a vibrant, if alarming, shade of neon pink. If they taste anything like good, I'll post the recipe) a pot of beans is in the slow-cooker for supper, and I am the sole awake person in the house. It is a nice feeling, sitting here in the quiet of the kitchen, sipping my coffee, looking out at the birds at the feeders and listening to L snooze quietly in the bedroom and Mike snore softly in the living room on the fold-out couch. The dog is still asleep at L's feet, and the cat was awake for a while but gave up and went back to bed after he realized I was not going to produce canned food.

It is a peaceful morning on MDI. There is a bit of a breeze blowing out there -- I can see the tree branches and leaves and stuff moving around, but it does not look like the wind that comes with rain, just the wind that comes with living on the coast. We got a good downpour last night and even some rumbles of thunder, so everything is damp and smells green and sweet. Fishing is probably going to stink pretty bad, and since nobody was too anxious to do it, I have no hostessing obligations this morning beyond my coffee and then getting breakfast. It is nice just to sit and enjoy this little moment of tranquility.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Because it's fun, right?

Yeah. I have to remember that. I volunteered for this. And today is D-day.

Today is the day when people start arriving for the MDI Big Gay Weekend thing that I am coordinating. Tonight is the coffehouse/open mic/storytelling thing with ice cream, hot fudge sauce, desserts and coffee. Tomorrow is the big potluck picnic. I have forbidden the skies to rain, so we'll see how that goes.

This morning I was up at 6 preparing two kinds of baklava. I jokingly refer to them as "male" and "female" baklava. The female version is made with dried cranberries, spiced apples and raisins. The male version is a traditional recipe. You figure it out.

I've got eight million things to do today, so this is all we get for brilliant prose this morning. I shall have a full report later. Now I've got to decorate the hall for tonight. What it will look like with two butch girls decorating is anyone's guess. We really need a gay man for this, but we're fresh out. Maybe we'll draft one of our straight girl friends to supervise. Otherwise it will be done in duct tape, two-by-fours and sixteen-penny nails. I am building the flagpole out of 1 1/4 inch metal conduit. Anyone who doesn't like it can volunteer to do all this shit next year.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


In July 1965, my mother was 23 years old. I was her sixth baby born alive.

She did not have a high school diploma, I don't think. She had no training to speak of in the world of commerce or business, and in the 1960s in Massachusetts, a woman had very limited options. Many did not work outside of the home. Certainly not while the children were little, unless they were in the care of a grandmother or old auntie. I know of no such support system for my mother back then.

My mother was married, but her husband had left for parts unknown after presenting her with three daughters. Divorce, like birth control, was illegal back then.

After he had left, she met another man, probably someone she thought would take care of her and her babies. But then he left, too, after giving her a daughter and a son.

Before too long, my dad came into the picture. Tall, handsome, fresh from the Navy with funny and wild stories, he and she were one day apart in age. My dad was a good-time guy who seemed good with her kids. She tells stories of him and her and the kids all piling into his Jeep and tearing through the sand dunes down on Plum Island. Today it is a wildlife refuge and nature preserve. Oops.

So in 1965, they were together, as much as a young not-quite-married-but-certainly-not-divorced woman with kids and a young peacetime veteran could be. And on the 16th of July, I was born. I do not know if there were celebrations or not. For my mother, I cannot guess. Would a sixth baby in her world at that time be seen as a blessing? I don't know.

My father was probably proud to some degree, but I am sure his parents were not. My grandmother was very conscious of what people thought and how others judged. Such a birth was shameful, scandalous even. But she would have pursed her lips and remained silent, denying its existence and thereby denying the shame that accompanied my diapered little bottom into this world. My grandfather was probably at sea and did not know of this development until much later. I have never met my mother's parents and know nothing of them, so I cannot guess what their reaction to my arrival was.

I don't know at what time my father and mother split up, but I know it was after I was born and before I was a year old. When I was eight months old, I came to live with my father, his sister and his parents. Primarily, my aunt and grandmother were my caregivers. I saw little of my father in those early years, and I think we both preferred it that way. But that is another post.

I think of my mother on this day each year. We did not meet again after our early separation until 1995, the year I turned 30. We are still not really close. It is awkward with us, bound by biology, but separated by decades of absence in each other's lives. I wonder what it must have been like for her, sweating in the July heat to deliver a baby into the world, unsure of so much, and with such odds stacked against us all. She had very few choices back then. I do not envy her that situation.

But I am grateful to be here. Even through the long, weird, circuitous path that my life has taken, I am glad to be here, to see what I have seen, to learn what I know, and to have felt what I have felt.

It is a good day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tag, I'm it. Crap.

Well, Mike over at the file cabinet tagged me for one of these silly answer-a-bunch-of-oddball-questions kind of things, so what the hell. I skipped the last one like this he did - I was having some kind of bad week or something, I think.

Problem is, I don't know that I know enough other bloggers out there to name at the end. I'm still kinda new at this. Oh well. I'll do what I can do.

1) What is your favorite quotable line from a Movie.
"We're gonna need a bigger boat" Roy Sheider in JAWS. Sums up how I go through life.

2) Who is the most famous person you have spoken to?
Jeez. I don't know. I think I'm probably on some kind of list that prevents me from getting close to the really big shots (W, etc.) My list of big names is decidedly Maine-centric. I've met Susan Collins and didn't think much of her especially. I met Olympia! and was impressed. I met then United States Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and found him nice enough, but shorter than I expected. I met John McKernan and went away feeling like I wanted a shower. I was a reporter at a literacy event once where Barbara Bush took press questions, and I was thinking of lots of things to ask before she verbally disemboweled the reporter who had indelicately asked about the latest hi-jinks of her granddaughters (they kept getting drunk and not-quite-arrested at about that time). After that, I was too terrified to do more than take notes.

I knew to talk to lots and lots of state-level politicians and have conversed with both Tom Allen and Mike Michaud. I have been mere feet from Ann Richards and Maxine Waters but never got to speak to either.

I said hello to Willie Nelson (tiny little guy!) chatted with Dar Williams (very cool), said hello to B.B. King and met and got the autographs of all of the members of Solas when they toured with Mary Chapin Carpenter many years ago. I got her autograph, too, but did not get to meet her.

This next bit hardly counts as involving a famous person, but it is fun to tell, and this is my blog, so deal.

In a particularly funny episode, I met Mike Heath once. He was knocking on doors in advance of elections in a house race back before he staged a coup at the Un-Christian Un-Civic League of Maine and sleazed his way into Jack Wyman's old job. I was pulling up tomatoes in my garden as he approached, warily eyeing the stickers on the back of my car. "Can I help you?" I asked. "Well," he said, "I was just wondering what I could say to you that would get you to vote for me in November."

I asked him my two trigger questions: How does he stand on a woman's right to choose abortion if she needs or wants one? Wrong answer. How does he feel about discrimination protection for gay men and lesbians? Wrong answer again.

"Come in the house," I said to him. "I want you to meet someone."

We went inside and I introduced him to my partner. I explained that she had been fired just a few weeks earlier, solely because she was gay.

"Are you sure that's why?" Heath stammered.

They were very specific, he was told. In fact, that was the only reason for her dismissal. We were facing a cold winter ahead with only one of us employed because of bigotry.

He stammered and fussed and blushed red and finally made his escape. I have no idea if he ever thought twice about that day, but I have remembered it fondly for years.

3) How many bags/boxes of Potato Chips are consumed at your place in a month?
It goes in fits and starts. Sometimes one or two bags a month, sometimes as many as six.

4) Who is your all time favorite Cartoon Character?
Opus. And Bill the Cat. God I miss that strip.

5) What foreign food Dish do you prepare from scratch and Serve?
Any one I feel like, mostly. Egg rolls, fried dumplings, fried tofu, stir-fried almost everything, lo mein, stuffed grape leaves (with lamb, rice and mint), lasagna, stuffed shells, corned beef and cabbage, kabobs, baklava, you get the idea. Mostly Asian, Italian and Greek influences.

6) What is your favorite section of the Supermarket?
Everything but the cleaning stuff, cat foot and paper products aisles.

7) What was your high school teams mascot and what were the school's colors?
Eagles, colors were blue and white. Trimmed with gold, I think. The cheerleaders used to take turns in "the chicken suit" for basketball games. Only one that I know of actually liked it. Weird.

Ok, so those are my responses. Who do I tag for this? Hard telling. I'd love to hear what Rusty says, and J, perhaps, and of course Jen, but her internet connection is iffy, so we'll see what happens. Queah would be cool, too, but this is a little out of form for what she usually does. If this had come from somewhere else, I'd have tagged Darlene and Mike and rounded out my five, but like I said before, I am a newbie lacking in blog-world friends.


I am trying very hard not to freak out.

I have this Big Gay Weekend coming up and nobody is behaving like they should.

My volunteers are bailing out for a variety of reasons, all legitimate, I just started a pretty big job that could keep me busy for a few weeks and make me some fair money, and the party starts Friday and I have next to no time to get everything done.

Tomorrow is my birthday, which means I don't work, and try to take the day to enjoy life, but I have so much bearing down on my I don't know if that is possible. I am scheduled for a massage at 10 a.m. and dinner with friends at 6:30, but so far the in-between time is pretty open. And I have the urge to fill it with crap.

I am worried that this weekend thing will be one of two things: A) a huge flop, with me and four friends sitting there next to a pile of fifty burgers that we eventually feed to the seagulls, or B) a huge success and we run out of burgers and water and hot dogs and there are traffic and parking problems and and and....

We created a list of things we thought people would like to do here on MDI. Hell, they're things we like to do, so why not? We sent out the list, tried to organize times and events and schedules, and only one or two people actually signed up. I have a gut feeling that everyone else is just going to show up unannounced. This is panic-inducing for someone like me. I am not entirely sure why, but it certainly induces panic.

So I have been trying to not panic. I am trying to stay calm, to remember that the less I try to force this thing, the better off we'll all be. I got a great note from a friend today, an on-line buddy whom I will meet for the first time at this weekend party, and she told me, "These cats won't be herded."

OK, deep breath in. And exhale. Good.

Right. I have to remember to look at it that way. Herding cats. It will be what it will be. People will come and have fun. Some will love it, some will bitch, and a few will probably even offer to help. I'll do my best and let go of the rest. I'll make hot fudge sauce and order the ice cream and cook the burgers and the rest will pretty much take care of itself. Anybody who complains will be given something to do to help out.

And I will have a good time meeting everyone.

Off to work. Stay cool, world.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Recipe Sunday

So it's been a long-ish week in my life. Lots of excitement followed by some actual hard work that was much less fun than I had hoped it would be, and now I am staring down the big gay event with less volunteers than I had anticipated. Well, shit.

Sounds like time for some recipe-sharing. Earlier this year, a local caterer named Cas fell and broke her leg and was out of commission for quite a while. After several weeks, she was able to hobble around on crutches, but sill could not stand for hours at her work station and cook. So she hired me to help out. Just a little bit, nothing much, a few hours here and there. In the process, I learned how to make bagels, a gift I will treasure forever. I did not understand how wonderful a bagel could be until I ate one fresh from the oven, spread with cream cheese that then gets all gooey and melty and wonderful. It is truly a wonderful thing to experience.

So, I know how to make plain bagels and put stuff on them - poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc. But then I went home and began to experiment. I have historically been afraid of recipes that call for yeast. I remember hearing tales of meals gone terribly awry because the yeast did not behave as it was supposed. But this bagel thing seemed to be pretty easy.

I have a couple of cookbooks for my bread machine, and they have lots of good recipes. I particularly like the ones for pumpernickel bread. I love the tangy bite of the rye flour, the cider vinegar, the caraway, and the secret ingredients (cocoa powder and instant coffee) that give it the rich, dark color. Yum.

Well, says I, why can't I take the pumpernickel recipe from the book and make bagels with it? Why not indeed. I fiddled with the math a little bit, made some adjustments to the ingredients to work with the right proportions to get the right results, and voila! I have to-die-for-pumpernickel bagels. Here's the scoop:

Pumpernickel Bagels

2 cups hot (from the tap, not boiling)water
4 teaspoons dry yeast

3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 1/2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks

1 1/2 cup rye flour
4 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons brown sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant coffee (I use decaf)
4 Tablespoons caraway seeds

1 egg, slightly scrambled (for a wash)

Put the yeast into the hot water, stir gently and let get acquainted for 5 minutes.

Mix the vinegar, corn syrup and butter in a small dish and set aside.

Put the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a bread hook and mix gently.

After five minutes and when the yeast and water are doing their thing (bubbles going up, stuff cascading down, not unlike Guinness, but in a very anemic color), start the mixer on a slow speed and pour in the water and yeast, followed by the vinegar, corn syrup and butter, and mix around until the dough forms into a single ball around the bread hook. I sometimes have to add a little extra water to make this happen.

Turn out into an OILED bowl, wrap loosely in a plastic grocery bag and let rise for an hour in a warm (but not hot) space.

While you are waiting, fill a four-quart pan with tap water and set on the stove to warm. About 5 minutes before the hour is up, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

After the timer dings, turn the water up to make it boil and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Form the dough into a roll and cut into fourths, and then cut the fourths into thirds. Roll each of the little lumps of dough into a snake about 8 to 10 inches long, form into a circle, dab one of the ends with water and stick them together to form a ring. Set aside.

Once the bagels are all formed, turn your attention to the stove. Gently place the bagels, three or four at a time, into the boiling water. (A gentle boil is the goal here, not rolling, and not a simmer or poach.) poke gently with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking to the bottom. After they rise to the surface, wait 30 to 60 seconds and gently turn them over to cook for another 30 to 60 seconds. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack to dry. Repeat until all the bagels have had their baths.

Next, take two cookie sheets and line with parchment (or grease them). Place six bagels on each and brush with the scrambled egg.

Place in the oven and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes depending on your oven and the usual variables. You're looking for a shiny, brown (but not burned) top that feels hard and sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container. They freeze really well, too.

Makes 12 5 =/- ounce bagels.

Now I am off to mow the yard.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Who would have thunk that the events of the past week, what with Darlene jumping on furniture and screaming at mice and me sewing her lace-hemmed pants as a kind of joke gift would lead to such serious thoughts as those currently swirling over there at the Slant.

At issue is Darlene's dilemma: should she leave the white lace ruffle on the hem or her cat-and-mouse pajamas or should she remove it. Initially, I had given my consent for her to remove the lace so that she would be more comfortable in the pants, but then a conversation ensued about comfort zones, expanding paradigms and breaking down stereotypes. All from a pair of pants with mousies on them. Good grief.

So here is the thing. Darlene and I are both what is considered butch in the queer world, which means a variety of things depending upon the person and the community. When I hear the term butch, it brings to mind a certain set of descriptors that are pretty cut and dried: masculine in appearance and attitude, certainly no make-up, perfume is more likely to be a men's cologne or not at all, a harsher, brasher demeanor than our more feminine sisters, and in some cases, less open to emotional expression. It all sounds very much like my dad.

Now, I identify as butch. OK. To me this evokes a lot of what I just mentioned. But, I do lots of things that are considered to be among the "feminine arts" like cooking and sewing. I have a little side business selling cookies to a local coffee shop that keeps me in pin money through the summer. Somehow people don't have a huge problem with the idea that I might cook. Women cook all the time, but it is not unusual for men to cook either. In fact, look at the Food Network sometime and see how many shows there are hosted by men. Scads of 'em! To the point where volumes have been written about women chefs trying to break into the business. So people are ok with a butch woman like me cooking.

But then they learn that I know how to sew, and that I make some kind of neat things when I do sew, it gets stuck sideways in their brains. It is true, though. I make all my own Hawaiian shirts, for example, and all of L's and my pajamas, for summer and winter. I make aprons to use in the kitchen, and i have even sold a few. I also do easy stuff like little rice pillows to stick in the microwave and use as heating pads - utterly wonderful!

Usually by this time, people's eyes start to glaze over, or they begin to look for an escape. Because nobody wants to deal with the apparent contradiction that is me. I am a butch woman who likes to weld and build things and cook and sew things. Why is that weird? Why is that upsetting to what people understand of the world?

Because I straddle the realms of what are classically considered to be men's and women's roles and behaviors. I challenge people's perceptions of what is appropriate and acceptable.

To the straight world, I am a woman who behaves and dresses often in very mannish ways, and who is a contractor who builds things and welds things and generally gets along at the hardware store like one of the boys. The fact that I sew and cook does not seem that unusual to them because they see me first as a woman who is rebelling in this other realm, but behaving like I am "supposed to" over here with the kitchen and the sewing machine.

To the lesbian world, I am a big butch gal who drives a truck and uses tools and generally does all kinds of butchly things and then I throw a wrench into the works by announcing that I can sew and cook. The queer community sees me first as butch, then as a woman, never considering that I might be comfortable in some areas of both.

I have to say that I generally get more grief from lesbians, particularly butch ones, for my sewing and cooking than I ever get from the straight world for welding and carpentry.

And I find that to be both fascinating and sad.

Did not our forbears in this movement march and die for our right to express ourselves in whatever way makes us happy? How is it then that the queer community wants so desperately (broad brush, blanket statements, I know - work with me here) to pigeonhole us all into little categories from which we cannot escape. An effeminate man is destined forever to be labeled as a sissy boy or queen, or as he ages, as an old auntie. Perhaps he is comfortable in those roles and within that set of behaviors and circumstances, but woe to him if he is not. If he decides to take a beginning carpentry class at the local adult ed program, he's going to get grief from his community for "trying to be all butch. Do you think he can get a hammer in pink?"

Why is this? I think it has to do with pecking order, with power, and with insecurities. Gay men are emasculated by the straight world for being queer and then again by the queer world for being "too queer" which in my mind really translates into "too female" which brings us into our own internalized sexism.

We (and this goes for many gay men as well as lesbians) don't want to be weak, so we cast aside all of the vestiges of femininity. We avoid the kitchen save for trips in for pizza and beer. We eschew skirts and dresses and lace and frilly things because they remind us of our place and role in society as second-class citizens. We loathe that stuff with the passion of a sixteen-year-old-boy. We become the sexist pigs we fought so long and hard against.

I confess I do not know much about femme politics, but I am learning a little bit here and there. I understand that the girly girls have as much trouble within the gay community as nearly any other sub-set because they seem to assimilate in straight culture by day and sleep with women by night. But I understand that assimilation is not the idea here. They are as comfortable in skirts and heels as I am in work jeans and boots. And who am I to tell them they're selling out or "passing" when to do so would be to judge them with the same sexist brush that so many men use to paint women as inferior.

So all of this came about as a result of an inch of lace and satin at the bottom of a pair of pajama pants that I sewed for another butch girl. Which is funny, because I added the lace as a dig, an attack, if you will, upon her butch status. As if by adding a thing generally associated with femininity it could reduce her status somehow. It was a joke, but it has raised some very serious thoughts.

So now, to keep it or leave it? Well, I have argued for leaving it. I think it would be good to reach a little outside of our comfort zones, to expand a paradigm or put a few chinks into the old stereotype. How insecure are we if an inch of lace hem is going to threaten the integrity of our inner most identifying features. I have not asked her to march down Congress Street in the things, merely to wear them around the house and maybe listen to what her inner self has to say about the whole experience. They were made with affection and care, and I think that might counter some of the weirdness associated with the image they offer. If the inner self really chafes that much at the lace, then take it off. It's only single-stitched and the rest of the garment is double-stitched. But for a while, why not try on something to challenge us and to see what we can learn from the experience. If this butch girl can cook and sew without jeopardizing my status, then certainly another can wear the products of my labors without doing so either.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Of mousies and skirts

With apologies to Steinbeck.

Some have been following this story for a while. My friend and fellow blogger Darlene has been doing (a rather passive and Bhuddist-like) battle with a mouse that has taken up residence in her apartment. For the complete story, read this, paying attention to the comments, then this, again reading the comments, and then this.

So we met last night at Clewly Farm Restaurant in Eddington, Maine for a volunteer-thank-you-dinner. Our host Bob was most awesome and the food was plentiful and superb! By all means, I encourage everyone who finds themselves on the airline (that's Route 9 for those of you from away) east of Bangor to stop in for a meal. They will be treated well (in a manner of speaking) and fed well (no question), they will support good people working hard and they will be better for the experience.

One of the highlights of the evening came when it was time for me to present a special gift to Darlene. Keep in mind, now, that Darlene is a very powerful woman in political circles. She's a big shot with Equality Maine and does important things all day. She is fearless. Well, almost.

For those who follow Darlene's blog, you are aware that she has had an unwelcome visitor in her home in the form of a mouse (for her sanity, we are using the singular here). Said unwelcome visitor prompted Darlene to leap shrieking onto the furniture in a very non-power-dyke kind of way. Enjoying this image immensely, I offered to sew her a skirt so that she could have a hem to clutch to her as she danced upon the sofa. I even offered to make it a lace hem so she could clutch it like a proper lady.

For all of my efforts and offers, I was heaped with abuse and refusals. Who could think she would be so ungrateful?

Undeterred, I went shopping and found some fabric. A nice, decent, fairly thin cotton fabric. With cute little mousies on it. And cats. Of course the cats are not catching the mice, much like it happens in Darlene's apartment. I also found some nice lace trim. White satin with some of that frilly lace stuff underneath. Heh. I'll fix her wagon! I said to myself.

I sent her a quiz, saying that Laura and I were arguing about how tall she was and could she settle the bet. From that I learned that she was 5'6" or thereabouts. She asked what the prize was for our bet. A hem that doesn't drag on the floor, I told her. She was not impressed.

I spent two days trying to find out an inseam measurement. She had stopped offering any kind of personal information by now, so I had to go to others who might have an idea. I got an estimate from someone and went with it. Inseam: 28 inches or thereabouts.

All this while I am getting angry refusals and denials and "don't you even think it" messages from Darlene.

So I sent her a picture of the lace, only to get a vulgar reply. Hmph.

Now what she did not know is that I have no desire to make something that will never be used. This process has been fun and is truly its own reward, but if I present her with a garment knowing she's going to chuck it as soon as she gets home, that's just no fun.

Besides, I did not have a pattern for a skirt (did she really think I might?!). So I went with a thing I call "lounge pants" which really translates into "men's pajama bottoms."

Mind you, I made them in the 2X size that I am currently wearing as I type, and these have extra room when I wear them, so they're plenty big for Darlene. Only she was thinking "skirt - oh shit" through this whole thing.

I finished them up Tuesday night, lace hem and all (I HATE lace, by the way!) and my beloved L washed and dried them on Wednesday to soften up the fabric. We wrapped them up so they looked like a bouquet of lace atop a roll of fabric and put them in a shimmery pink gift bag with lacy pink tissue. It is only by a sad twist of fate that we did not actually find a Victoria's Secret bag in time for the party. All our girly-girl friends had just cleaned out and had none to offer.

So, the buildup was tremendous. Four days of emphatic and sarcastic e-mail notes. Darlene alone had more messages in my folder than I got from all of my favorite list-serve in one day. That's a lot. She was positively terrified as I handed her the bag.

By then I had the whole place cheering for her to MODEL the garment (her believing it was a skirt, mind you). I had contacted several folks who were leaders of sorts to ask their cooperation in this thing, so they had primed their respective tables and were leading the cheers. Darlene was grim-faced as she unwrapped the cloth bundle. And then huge relief flooded her face as she realized that what she held was a pair of PANTS! OK, they still had the scary lace trim, but at least they were PANTS! Hurrahs all around!

And yes, she did try them on. And yes, they were huge. But they were also the perfect length (thanks to my spies) and nice and soft and ready to wear (thanks to L). And they have a nice lace hem that can be clutched and held up when next a mouse appears in her apartment.

And Darlene was really a sport through all of it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Four days a year

Here on the coast of Maine, we don't get a lot of heat waves. Our waves tend to be of the ocean variety, and the water hovers around 50 degrees. In the winter it really gets cold. The cool breezes that come in off that chilly water tend to moderate things and it is not uncommon for it to be 20 degrees warmer just 50 miles away in Bangor, which is still, technically speaking, a seaport. It is on the Penobscot River and cargo ships can come and go. But it is buried upriver far enough that it does not have the benefit of our ocean air.

That said, we do get some heat now and then. Maybe four days a year it is actually brutally hot here, like up over 80 and humid as hell. Yesterday was one of those days. It was too hot to work and so hazy and humid that it was like trying to breathe through a wet wool blanket. My lungs ached. I checked the weather and it seems like we're in for a few more days of this before we're done, and we might get some more next week.

So I gave in and went out to the back hall and dragged out the air conditioners. We have two units, and once fits in the living room window and the other in the bedroom. A box fan then circulates the wonderful coolness around the house. It is heavenly.

But it ain't no delight putting the damned things into the windows, let me tell you. They each weigh as much as a typical 8-year-old, I would guess, only with more corners and sharper edges that really hurt if you drop one on your toes. I had to dig under a pile of winter jackets to get to them, drag them out, figure out which way the cords go and then place them gently in the window without dropping them out onto the ground (not usually good for them) or pinching my fingers in the closing window (not usually good for me).

By the time I was done this cooling-off exercise, I was red-faced and drenched in sweat. Somehow, it all seemed counter-productive. Then I turned the machines on and closed up all the other windows in the house. It was stifling for about an hour. I put the box fan in the bedroom doorway to move the air a bit, and it got a little better. By 8 p.m., I was able to bake pork chops without making the house a sauna, and by the time we went to bed, it was heavenly!

Note in the picture that the temperature is set to 64 degrees. Oh happy day! Not only does the ac unit cool the air, but they seem to remove some of the moisture as well, so the house is not as humid as outdoors. L complains that the ac is on her side of the bed and that the remote lives on my side of the bed with me and my hot flashes. I tell her to cuddle up with the cat if she wants. I want to be cool.

Oh how marvelous it was to sleep in a cool room last night! Oh, how glorious to wake up and be able to breathe! Oh, how I dread going outside!

In a side note, my friend and power-dyke extraordinaire Darlene over at the slant has been having mouse issues in her apartment and has been behaving in a decidedly un-butch kind of way (see of mice and dykes and be sure to read the comments). So in an effort to help D get in touch with her more feminine side, I have sewn her a delightful garment involving fabric with cute little mousies and a white lace hem. I will see her this evening at a semi-official function for her job as the Gay Agenda Coordinator, where I think I might make some kind of formal presentation. Then again, I might keep it semi-private and minimize the humiliation. Until I post the pictures, of course. Stay tuned. Here's a teaser picture of the lace before I attached it to the garment. Not only can butch girls cook, but this one can sew as well!

Monday, July 7, 2008


Every now and again, we are presented with an opportunity to thank someone who made a difference in our lives. I think I have been blessed with many such opportunities. Tonight was another one.

Many years ago, back in the dark ages of my drunken youth, back when I still thought I might be straight, if I could ever get this man thing figured out, I attended a small branch of the state university over in the western foothills of Maine. To say Farmington was small back then would be... accurate. It had less than 5,000 people when college was not in session, and there were lots of cows. There was one traffic light downtown, and it started blinking at 9 p.m. Stores closed at 5. Some would call it idyllic. We students called it a remote outpost in the cultural wilderness. Somebody who cares about such things can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that back then Franklin County had more registered handguns than Democrats. It was not a hotbed of progressive thought.

But college is where young people go to learn things and to drink beer. I mostly drank beer. I drank so much beer, in fact, that the powers that be in the university suggested that I take at least a year off to decide which direction I really wanted to go. I flunked out. Spectacularly, too. I retreated to Massachusetts to live with my aunt while I sobered up.

But back when I was still in school, I was aware of a woman who lived in my dorm. She had a single room (no roommate) and seemed different. Her name was Karen. In my sophmore year, she began an organization called the Gay And Straight People's Alliance (GASP Alliance). I withdrew from her as from a hot flame. She made me very nervous. I was insecure about nearly everything, but especially so about my sexuality. I was worried that this sex with men thing seemed pretty awful, and I feared what that meant for my future dating possibilities. More than anything in this world, I did not want to be a lesbian. I cannot describe the fear and horror and revulsion that roiled in my head at the thought that I might be gay. I drank some more beer and stuffed such thoughts and feelings where they would not be seen or felt.

But Karen kept on. She drew posters and put them up. Vandals took them down. She put them up again and again. The GASP Alliance bulletin board was vandalized and defaced. Anything posted there was torn down within minutes usually, if not hours. And still she kept at it. She didn't quit. Eventually I flunked out and retreated and she graduated. GASP struggled and died within a year without its devoted leader.

Then I came back to school, older, sober, and still closeted, even to myself. The sex with men thing hadn't gotten any better, but I was still trying. I was desperate not to be queer. Three semesters later, I fell in love with my best friend and everything changed. I came out and got active in the same semester. I went to counseling for a while until I decided that I really wasn't having any trouble with my sexuality, even if the rest of the world did, so I stopped. There was a support group on campus at that time and I attended once or twice but left because I did not like the fear it seemed to reinforce with its secret meeting schedule and code words for group and all kinds of stuff that just seemed juvenile to me. I suppose it helped some people who were afraid, but once I figured out I was queer and got a handle on it, I was fine.

But I needed an outlet for my energy. The support group was a wash, and there was no other real option for me that did not involve traveling to Portland periodically.

Then I remembered Karen and GASP. I could do that, I said. I could start a student group like GASP.

So that's what I did. I put up posters and they got torn down. I put them up again. I searched among the faculty and staff whom I knew to be gay, but none would agree to be an adviser to the group. I finally got my straight-but-not-narrow academic adviser to agree, and she gave me carte blanche. God, but we were more dangerous than we knew! I worked with administrators to figure out what I could and couldn't do, I begged money from this fund and that account to get things done. I wrote grants, but didn't know that's what I was doing... I applied for money from a fund and I got it. Later I learned that's what grant-writing was about. Oops. We got plexiglass to cover the bulletin board. I changed the name to the Gay And Straight People's Political Alliance, and some in the student senate had a fit. Too bad for them.

"Every morning I wake up next to a woman, it is a political act," I said at one of their funding meetings. To a person, the young men on the committee squirmed. Most of the women looked at their paperwork in front of them. "So long as I can be fired or evicted for that, everything I do is political." They let the name stand.

I learned a lot by running GASPP. I learned to push for everything, to ignore those who say something cannot be done, to find the money somewhere when it looked like there was none. I learned to be direct, to go up and ask for what I wanted. I learned to talk to people about queer stuff, and sometimes I even learned how to not be hostile and angry all the time. I learned how laws happen and how to lobby for or against a thing. I learned about coalition-building and resource-sharing. I learned how to make my tiny organization look big and how to coordinate huge things on a shoestring budget. I learned how to get people to do stuff for free and I learned how to keep going when I thought I was empty.

I look back now and call those years "my bumble bee years." Bumble bees, you see, are not supposed to fly. They are too fat, too fuzzy, to heavy, their wings are too small, too fragile and do not flap fast enough to keep the bumble aloft. But see, he didn't read that study, so he flies on along his business. I had no idea just what I was accomplishing back then, although I did win a couple of pretty spiffy awards, I just kept on keepin' on. There was work to do, so I stepped up and did it. I didn't think of how or why, only that it needed doing.

I attended UMF for many, many years. When the financial aid ran out and I still didn't have a degree, I dropped back to part-time student and worked two jobs. But we kept GASPP going. More people joined, and by the time I graduated, there were leaders ready to take over. They didn't always do things as I would have done them, but the organization lived on.

Today the GASPP Alliance is called The Alliance, and it is still a viable student organization at UMF. It has officers and members and probably slackers who are just there looking for a date. They get stuff done and put on programs and argue for funding from Student Senate. Their website was sketchy the last time I looked, and needed to be updated, but what else is new for student groups. Students by nature are very busy people. I am not hung up on it, and I doubt they are either.

So I am now organizing this big gay weekend thing. And yesterday I got an e-mail from a woman in Portland named Karen seeking more information about the event. The address showed her very distinct last name. Wow. I e-mailed back, we exchanged phone numbers and tonight we talked on the phone for the first time in probably 20 years. I thanked her for her early work at UMF. Without her example, there would have been no model for me to find some of the most meaningful work of my life.

So yeah, she's coming up for the weekend event, I think. And bringing some friends, probably, and camping out in my yard amongst the others. We'll have coffee and chat some more. It will be cool. And I will be in the company of one of my heroes.

Blessed be.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday brunch

OK, so 9 a.m. hardly feels like "brunch," but when someone offers to treat at Cafe This Way, I roll out and present myself to be fed.

This has got to be about my favorite place to have breakfast on the island. Run by a couple of College of the Atlantic alumnae, it is at once homey and funky and modern and retro. The waitstaff is fun and easygoing, but they're serious about keeping my coffee cup full, and that is how it ought to be when you're out for breakfast.

What you are looking at here is a breakfast special called "The Harney". It is named for a fellow COA alum, one Mary Harney, native of the Emerald Isle and a delightful soul in her own right. The breakfast has corned beef hash fried just so, two poached eggs on top, and homemade Hollandaise Sauce. I get mine with an extra little thing of sauce. Oh, and it comes with toast. All the better to sop up everything.

Oh man, but this is heaven on a plate. I'm hoping to bring a bunch of gaynet folks to Cafe This Way for breakfast on the Sunday morning of the big weekend. We might not get to be at the same table, but I think everybody will have a good time.

What a grand thing breakfast can be.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Two weeks out

Ok, so many years ago I swore I would never get involved in a Gay Pride thing again. I got burned pretty badly, and was voted from leader to outcast on my birthday. By an ex-lover and her new girlfriend. But I'm not bitter.

So anyway, as both of you know, I belong to this thing called Maine Gay Net, which is a thing called a list serve, which I really don't understand, but it is kinda fun. It's like a big (135 members, give or take) chain e-mail club. A member can post something, which ends up in everyone's e-mail in box. Others can reply in public for all to see or off list so the conversation is private. It is kind of like a large cocktail party of people in a completely darkened room. But without the groping. We can hear each other in some conversations, but not in all of them, and we can't see each other's faces. Come to think of it, there might be groping going on, but it's dark, so I can't see it.

So this gaynet thing has been going on for something like 15 years. It was founded by the marvelous and fabulous Paula Stockholm, who turned over the reins last year to the marvelous and fabulous Nanci Little, who now serves as our moderator. So there is this group of people, spread far and wide around the globe (Maine, Florida, California, Ohio, Thailand), who check their e-mail on a kind of regular basis and comment back and forth about issues as broad and weird as politics, sex, religion, economics, recipes and home appliance repair - really all kinds of things. Some members have been corresponding and contributing almost daily for nearly 15 years. And to date, we've never all gotten together. We've shared some really intimate and personal details, but we've never met.

Sure, some of us who live in the same area have met, but never have we had a reunion or a large-scale get-together of any kind. Until now. In two weeks, great hordes of gaynet members will descend upon my little island, filling up campgrounds and hotels and restaurants for a weekend of activities.

And I'm the one coordinating it. Goddess help us every one.

Don't get me wrong, I love this thing and am thrilled to be doing it, but it feels a lot like when I did Pride stuff years ago, and that makes me nervous. Of course this is a committee of one (me) so I am not so likely to get voted off as I was before. But you can never tell. I can be fickle.

Aside from my own insecurities, and they are plenty, this is looking to be a pretty cool thing. We're having a coffeehouse kind of open-mic/music/storyteller ice-cream social kind of thing on Friday night, some activities during the day on Saturday, a big potluck picnic and more activities on Sunday. Oh, and an informal breakfast gathering Sunday morning at a local eatery. With very attractive waitstaff. Not that that matters, of course.

I am doing my best to not over-coordinate things. Events and adventures will come about organically as people meet and decide they'd like to go for a hike or bike ride or whatever. I've got some leaders lined up, and L and I will be offering early morning trout adventures, but really we have no huge, set in stone kind of plans. Aside from the coffeehouse and the picnic, everything is really a catch-as-catch-can sort of thing.

So. Here I am. Two weeks out and starting to get nervous. The souvenirs should be arriving at my house either today or Monday. I had to order a minimum of 72, so let's hope we have some people show up to this thing or else I'll have a bunch of stuff left in my living room.

Oh hell. Speaking of my living room, I think I may have a dozen people fighting over who gets the fold-out couch. My yard is going to look like a homeless encampment with tents everywhere, and every cooler I own (and those are nearly as many as my insecurities) is going to be pressed into service for this adventure. So far, I think I have Mike, Jen and her daughter, Darlene and possibly a friend, and maybe Steph and Rena and their dog. Let us hope it does not rain. Other folks in the area are similarly booked. Some friends in Ellsworth are putting up a member who is flying in from Florida for the occasion!

This whole weekend is really, as one friend put it, not unlike the world's largest blind date. My greatest fear is that at just past noon on Saturday, when the potluck picnic is in full gear, we will all agree on one thing: that we were happier having never met any of these people. I think what will probably happen is that we will all be taller, shorter, fatter thinner, older, younger, and infinitely less clever in person than we are on line. Oh, and our voices will not sound anything like we had imagined they would.

This is sort of like meeting your favorite radio personality and realizing that he's that dweeby guy from sophomore algebra with lots of pimples and who never combed his hair. You just never realized his voice made him sound six feet tall and gorgeous. I think it's going to be a lot like that.

But I am looking forward to it. If we like it and decide we want to do it again next year, then I'll ask for committee volunteers and start taking minutes and stuff like that. But for now, we're flying blind and we'll see how it goes.

Oh, in the interest of promotion, here's the website with the flyer and a paypal thing so you can donate to the burger and hot dog fund.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

I am sure this is a thing done by bloggers all over on this day each year. I don't much care. This is my space, and I am going to use it as I want. And today, we see the full text of the Declaration of Independence, as it was signed and certified on this day 232 years ago.

What I find remarkable is how true it rings today. The circumstances described by the members of the continental congress are very similar to the tyranny pressed upon us today. Read this, if you will, with an eye to the current political situation in America. Thomas Jefferson once said "a little revolution is a good thing." I think he was more right than we ever knew.

For those who wand a neat audio treat, here is a remarkable reading of the text of the declaration by the voices who bring us the news on National Public Radio. It is the one time each year when I really feel patriotic, and it has nothing to do with our country and everything to do with our system of free press. Give a listen and watch the slide show.

The Unanimous Declaration
of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776