Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What price, equality?

I've been thinking a lot lately.

I've been thinking about what we need to do to win this battle for marriage equality come November 3. We're 69 days away from that date. I think that calls for something inspirational. Or inspired. Or maybe just a kick in the ass.

When I talk to people about the marriage vote coming up, I get lots of support. Good luck, they say. I'll donate. And they toss in $20 or $50. At a house party the other night, several people wrote checks for $100. That felt pretty cool, particularly since I gave the pitch and it was my first time doing so.

But now what? We raised $700 from that room. Good for us, certainly, but is that all we can hope for?

I guess the question I need to ask is "how much does this matter to us?"


How much are we willing to give up to achieve marriage equality in Maine?

Fifty bucks? A hundred?

Let's do some math.

Suppose one of the $100 check-writers at that party has an annual income of $30,000. In Maine, that's pretty typical, particularly of retirees and folks not in stuffy offices. Besides, it makes for easy math. $100 is what portion of that total?


one third of one percent.

Not to discredit the donors - I felt pretty good getting those checks for the campaign, but honestly, is that a gift or a bone?

How much should we be willing to give up to achieve this goal?

Is this a cause worth a one-time, feels-kinda-big donation, or is this a cause worth actual work?

Is this a cause worth being uncomfortable for? And what does that kind of discomfort look like?

I am not advocating that people sign over their entire paychecks between now and November 3, but let's consider giving up some portion of that paycheck every week.

How much is appropriate? I guess that depends on a lot of things. How much we make, what our expenses are, and what kind of value we put on being able to get married.

Is it worth 10 percent of my income between now and November 3 (call it 10 weeks) to to be able to get married? What about 10 percent of my income for the year?

My aunt is devout and she tithes to her church. This is the same church, coincidentally, that has pledged $2MILLION to keep Laura and I (and others like us, of course) from getting married.

Years ago, I used to make a donation to Planned Parenthood every time I heard her talk about giving to one right-to-life organization or another. Am I willing to try to counter her effort again?

Is it worth giving up 10 percent of my income for me to be able to get married? Of course it is. Getting married is what I want to do. I want the security of it, I want the dignity of it. I don't want to be a woman in my mid-40s still referring to my partner as my "girlfriend." People either look at me as though I am no more emotionally developed than a teenager or they think I'm talking about someone I get together with each morning to drink coffee and watch The View.

How much of what we get in income each year goes to some group or cause in which we believe? Along that same line, how much of our time is devoted to some effort on behalf of some higher cause? How many of us come home from work, eat dinner, stare at the TV or the computer for four hours and then sulk off to bed? Too many, I'd wager.

So, you and me. How much is this marriage thing worth to us?

We like to compare our effort to that of the civil rights movement. But truly, we don't act much like we value them the same. When the civil rights movement was in full swing, college kids took whole summers and traveled to the south to register black voters. They were harassed, beaten and sometimes even killed. The worst I've heard of our volunteers encountering was a group of construction guys who shouted slurs at a young man doing canvassing in a suburban neighborhood.

Nobody has been pulled over and arrested for no reason. Nobody has been beaten up. Nobody was chased with police dogs or sprayed with fire hoses. Nobody has been killed, or even threatened with death.

But it could be that we are more in tune with the idea that such incidents would be trumpeted in all directions by the media if they occurred, so maybe the haters are laying low because of that. I don't know.

What I do know is that we aren't having marches. (OK, there is one planned for October, but it is not getting a lot of press as yet.) We are not getting arrested at town offices for demanding marriage licenses. We are not blocking traffic or holding sit-ins in courthouses or anything that really marks a big movement.

We write checks for one-third of one percent of our income and feel that we have done our part.

"I already gave," we say when someone passes the basket.

Is that so?

Is that enough?

Is marriage equality just worth one-third of a penny of every dollar you make? That's it?

If that's how we do this, then we don't deserve marriage equality.

To deserve victory at the polls and marriage equality in Maine, we need to be more dedicated than anyone else. We need to dig deeper, work harder, knock on more doors, make more phone calls, and give more people rides to the polls.

Our opponents are dedicated, have no doubt. For them, this is a holy war, and all of Christianity and Western Civilization is at stake. If they do not win, surely the nation will crumble into a seething pit of moral decay. It will be like ancient Greece, they say... life as we know it will fall apart and civilization will be lost.

They believe it.

What do we believe?

Do we believe that this is right? Do we believe that this is the next right step toward true, honest, at-all-levels freedom and equality? Do we believe that marriage equality in Maine MUST be won, or there will be tragic and horrible consequences for the glbt movement?

Because if we don't believe that way, it will show in our actions and it will bite us in the ass come election day.

How much are we willing to give for civil rights?

In the past, civil rights have been earned with blood and abuse and non-violence and martyrs.

I'm not asking anyone to bleed or die for this. But I am asking us to give more than one-third of one percent of our income. How much do our opponents give? How often do they give?

Is it difficult to see them giving substantially, every week? Not at all.

If we want to win, we need to give substantially, and we need to give often. We need to give until it hurts. We need to sacrifice for this or it won't mean a thing.

You know the financial situation I'm in. It was pretty grim there for a while, and it's not all better yet, not by a long shot. I haven't got a lot of money coming in, and most of it is going to pay bills and catch us up on stuff we owe to a variety of sources. But still. Am I giving enough?

While I was working today, I made a decision. I pledge to donate 10 percent of all that I make between now and November 3 to the campaign. AND I pledge to donate 4 hours of each day to the campaign - making calls, coordinating house parties. And that's 7 days a week. I can give 28 hours of my life each week to this cause. Marriage is worth that to me.

That's 25% of my waking hours each week AND 10 percent of my pay that I am pledging. And still, it's not more than I can handle. One way or another, this thing will be over (for a while) in 69 days. I am willing to lose an hour's sleep here and there to make this happen. I am willing to forgo a meal out so that we can be married.

What are you willing to give? To let us get married? To maybe get married yourself? To make it so that others can be married? To grant us the dignity and respect and security that other couples have? What are you willing to give to do that? Are you willing to be inconvenienced? Are you willing to sacrifice? What is it worth to you?

Is it worth more than .003 of your income?

Now here's where to click to make that happen.

Now do it.

Because you know marriage equality is worth more than one-third of one percent of your income. You know it.

My heart aches for him and them and us all...

The last one has died. Ted Kennedy died during the night at his family home in Hiyannisport, Mass. The last of the brothers that shaped a generation of politics in America is gone.

I am so terribly sad. Remember this from last year? I wrote about it when it happened, and my feelings are still the same. We watched a swan song, and a glorious one it was.

I saw that speech on television and cried through it all. I knew, as did we all, that we were watching Ted's last big show. I cried hardest at the end, though. Ted had finished speaking, he could her the roar of the crowd in the Denver Convention Center, but he could not see where he needed to go and he was lost. For the briefest of seconds, his face showed not TED KENNEDY, Lion of the Senate, but an old, ill, frail man, frightened and confused. Then Caroline was at his elbow, whispering reassurance in his ear and the electric smile was back on, beaming at 1,000 watts as he walked with assurance (and his niece) around the stage, acknowledging friends and supporters and allies that he probably could not see. It was at once the most heartwarming and heartbreaking of moments.

My heart goes out to Caroline, who must now help to bury her father's last brother, and to the whole family, who by now, is sadly accustomed to dealing with death of lions.

Today I will go work and mourn quietly. My heart is heavy indeed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I tried

I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt.

But seems that the people hurt and swept into the ocean Sunday near Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park had indeed ignored Rangers' warnings to stay back from the edge of the cliffs. How tragic that a little girl died because the people around her (and in charge of her) did not listen to the authorities whose job it is to keep visitors safe.

Seven rangers were stationed to keep people from getting into unsafe areas. They'd move the crowd back from the edge, and it would comply for a brief while before surging back again to the danger zone. I don't know if this is a perfect example of Americans simply thinking the rules apply to someone else, or a case of "they're close to the edge, so I want to see, too," or some perverse expectation that park services people would erect barricades to keep people away from the danger.

Somehow, I can feel a lawsuit coming on. "If they really meant for us to stay back, they should have put up a barricade. The only thing we saw was a park ranger who told us to keep back. How were we supposed to take that seriously?"

I have had friends get frustrated with me when I get sharp and scold them for wandering off trails in areas where they are not familiar. I used to work in a newsroom on this island. People get hurt, and badly, in National Parks. Sometimes they even die. The whole point of a park is to get people into nature. This is not Disneyland - you do not ride through passively in a safe little tram. This is nature, and the rocks hurt and the waves can kill you. There are no nets along the cliff trails. We're lucky there are even hand-holds. Not all have that.

If the park ranger comes along and says "Don't go there, it's dangerous," BELIEVE IT.

It is the duty of rangers to warn visitors about hazards. It is not the duty of the rangers to make visitors smart enough to heed those warnings. And this weekend, lots of people paid for their ignorance with broken bones, and one little girl paid with her life. Her parents are still in the hospital recovering, but my guess is they will never fully recover from the stupidity of their actions.

here's the news reports about the incident:

CNN story
Bangor Daily News
Portland Press Herald

Oh, and before I go, don't forget to mark your calendar for the Yes to Chocolate, No on 1 event September 10 from 7-9 p.m. at the Otter Creek Hall!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sometimes, Nature's a real mother...

Photo by Glenn Tucker
A crew of rescue workers aboard a U.S. Coast Guard boat rescue a man from the ocean about 1/8th of a mile from where he was swept in near Thunder Hole as seen from Ocean Drive in Acadia National Park. Officials say a large wave in Maine's Acadia National Park swept people into the sea.

Bangor Daily News photo by Bill Trotter
Bryan Daigle of the Acadia National Park Fire Department uses a telescope Sunday to keep an eye on the turbulent water off Thunder Hole for anyone who might be in the water. A powerful wave from the storm surge created by Hurricane Bill crashed onto sightseers around noon Sunday, dragging at least three people into the water and injuring nearly a dozen others.

Lots of news in our neck of the woods lately. Hurricane Bill went by our coast and whipped the ocean here into a frenzy. We're just coming off a new moon, which means higher tides than normal, and then Bill brought some pretty rough winds and hugely high seas. The roads in some areas of Mount Desert Island were closed to traffic, and a group of people got smacked pretty hard by a rogue wave. Three were swept into the ocean, and one of them, a little girl from New York, died. It was a rough day for my ranger friends in Acadia National Park. Even three hours later, the road near Thunder Hole was still closed. Thunder Hole is about a mile and a half from our home.

Normally I have a pretty harsh opinion about people who get too close to nature and become her victims. Darwin in action, I say. But from what I can gather, this crowd was not where it shouldn't be - instead, one big-ass rogue wave crashed up onto the shore and soaked them, knocking many down and into the very solid rocks and smashing their bones. And a little girl died. That can't have been her fault. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

Nature here can be beautiful and brutal, and that was certainly the case Sunday. Those waves were spectacular, which is why thousands of people went to check them out. Only sometimes nature is unpredictable and tragedies happen. Nature can indeed be a real mother.

Here is the Portland Press Herald story on the weather.
Here is the Bangor Daily News story on the Acadia tragedy.
Here is the CNN link to the story.
Even the Boston Globe ran a story, and with some canned video of Thunder Hole and live shots of the surf near Portland (about 150 miles from here).

Today didn't so much dawn as it just became light. Rain fell all night and it is still pretty cloudy and damp and drizzly out there. And humid. Lawns are beautiful and green with this weather, but wooden structures are rotting where they stand. Jeez. Some days it seems you can't win for losing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


The weather broke. It is actually cool this evening. We are not sweltering. Hurray.

And because everyone else is posting it and talking about it, here is that great clip of Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank giving a righteous smack-down to some mouth-breathing idiot at a recent town meeting. If Designing Women's Virginia Sugarbaker were a snarky gay Congressman, she'd be Barney Frank. No shit.

I only wish I was that quick on my feet. Damn.

For the record, if you have the knowledge and tools to cure people of their suffering, you should do that.

If you withhold those tools and knowledge until you are paid exorbitant amounts of money, you should be prosecuted for extortion.


My opinion on health care. You got a different one? Write about it in your blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

so it's finally July here

and hot as hell.

I mean hot.

Really hot.

Like we don't get but three or four days like this a year hot. And they usually come in July.

On Friday, it was up around 80 degrees, then Saturday and Sunday were both in the 90s, and then Monday was in the 90s again and today was in the upper 80s.


Yeah. Mid-July in late August. Go figure.

And I'm really sorry for not having written in forever. We're 77 days from the election right now and things are getting down toward critical. We have to get lots and lots of people to the polls in November to Vote No On 1 so that Laura and I can get married.

Only I have to pay the rent and electric and all that other stuff, too, so I have been scrambling around to find work. I have a couple of estimates out there, but no big money-makers are on the horizon. Eight weeks of rain really screwed things up. The economy is making noises that sound suspiciously like a death gurgle, and nobody is hiring me to do anything.

OK, that's not entirely true. I have been finishing a hardwood floor this week, and that's nice to watch come around. It started off as a hardwood floor on a screened in three-season porch, and it got weathered pretty solid. It got dinged up and weathered gray and some stuff spilled on it through the years, so the women who own the house asked if I could sand it down a bit and put some kind of varnish on it to protect it. Sure thing. After six hours on my knees (YES, I was wearing knee pads) in Monday's 90+ heat and 90%+ humidity, grinding off that silver patina with an orbital sander, I nearly cried. It felt like there was molten metal behind my kneecaps. Oh man, that was bad. And my back was not really happy about the whole situation either, but the knees were complaining loudest, so it really sort of kept quiet so as not to appear a wimp. Urk.

I went through a whole box of 60-grit sanding disks grinding that stuff off, but I got down to the good wood, then dusted and swept and wiped it all down with a damp towel before applying marine grade polyurethane with a long-handled roller. That stuff sucked into that wood so fast I think the first board was nearly dry by the time I got to the last one. And the room is approximately 12 by 12 feet.

The wood looked great today when I showed up to apply the second coat of poly, and if it is dry enough, I'll go back tomorrow to put on the third and final coat. Friday I'll go move the furniture and upright freezer back out there after it has a couple days to dry and harden properly.

All of this is provided that the weather cooperates. We'll have to see.

Last week we got to meet Robin over at Around the Island and her tall and handsome husband Jay when they were in town for a little mini-vacation. They were delightful people and they treated us (and our friend L) to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and then we treated them to the best ice cream shop on the island and then we wandered downtown looking in shop window for a little while. But we local folks were pooped, so we barely made it to 9 p.m. before we were all yawning and we had to make our apologies and head off to our respective homes.

Food report: The chef sent us a complimentary starter tray of melted cheese, roasted garlic, soft bread and roasted peppers which we shared, then we also shared an order of marinated mushrooms on a seaweed salad with vegan caviar (I have no idea what vegan caviar is, but the others liked it. I found it a bit odd.). For dinner, Robin got the lobster penne, which looked divine, Jay got some crunchy-crusted fried tofu that also looked fantastic, Laura got the pecan-crusted chicken, I got the duck (medium rare) with spiced pears and L got the tempura ahi with shoestring sweet potatoes. For dessert, Jay and I both got vanilla ice cream (the woman who makes it scrapes the vanilla beans by hand!) Robin got Thai chili ice cream, which she described as peanutbuttery with a chili kick, and Laura got something called "Dude" which she describes as an ice cream version of a White Russian. L skipped dessert.

Funny thing? Robin's shorter than I expected. What the hell I expected, I do not know. We are blog buddies. We'd never met before. She looked just like her head shot, just it was closer to the ground than I had expected. Maybe she writes tall and that's what threw me. Who knows. It was an odd, odd thing to have that expectation somehow come up. I have no idea where it came from. And Jay? Really tall. And THAT threw me. My brain is a very strange place, I have decided. I imagine I was heavier, grayer and quieter than she anticipated. The quiet part was just tired - I had hiked AND worked that day and was wiped out.

But really - neat, neat folks. We traded hiking stories and good ideas and food challenges (no fresh berries or shellfish in TelAviv, and how to eat lobster 21 meals a week while on vacation here) and I got to hear how her kids' names are pronounced. What fun it was to hear the live, up-to-date version of their growing process! It's neat to see it on the internet, but to hear that stuff from a parent is just very cool. It seems they are making progress every day. Almost enough to make me want one. Note that I said almost. Almost is not wanting one, almost is almost.

It was a very cool visit. Very, very cool indeed. I think she might have the picture up over on her site - she's been waaaaaaayyyyy better about blogging than I have lately. Go check.

Also brewing in my world is a little painting job on a house just yards from the ocean and nestled in a shady little corner. That damned thing does NOT want to dry out enough for me to scrape and paint, it just doesn't. Damned thing. Going to try this week if I can get a day that does not rain when I am not putting on varnish.

Ah yes, and then there is this referendum campaign thing we're doing. Good god. It seems like every spare moment not spent working is eaten up by the volunteer effort. I am in charge of coordinating house parties to raise money and lining up speaking engagements to the animal groups and funny hat clubs in the area (you know... the Moose, the Elks, Lions, Masons, Rotarians, etc.). I have no idea how receptive these groups might be to our pitch, but I think we can offer some very sane and understandable reasons why each of their members ought to support marriage equality at the polls this year. We'll see if they can just let us have an audience.

We have three house parties this week, two of which I have to be at to do the pitch. This means I may have to wear grown-up clothes and not swear. We'll see how that goes.

Last weekend we went up to Machias for the annual Machias Wild Blueberry Festival, where we helped staff a table collecting pledges of support. Between the booth and the volunteers circulating with clipboards, we amassed 301 signatures. For rural Washington County, Maine (look it up on a map, folks - it has around 34,000 people in the whole county!) that was simply fantastic. We had a good time and met some neat people and Quinn got to play with her friend Emma. A good time was had by all.

We did get shouted at a couple times, and a couple volunteers were called hateful names (one was even prayed at - loudly - in the middle of the street fair), but overall people were pretty decent. A couple vignettes worth sharing:

elderly couple passes by our booth, gentleman in the lead, hunched back and shuffling slowly, followed by lady with wheely-walker-with-flip-down-seat and fancy locking hand brakes. He looks at our sign ("Support same-sex marriage? SIGN HERE!") and says something to the missus. She looks up, reads the sign, locks down the walker and shuffles six or eight steps uphill to where we are.

"Where do I sign?" she asks. We ascertain that she is indeed a registered Maine voter and that she supports same-sex marriage, and she begins to fill out the paper, painfully slowly, hands gnarled with arthritis. Her husband ambles up and stands beside her. Would he care to sign? No, he already did with that nice young man over there. Great, thanks. Mrs. finishes up and asks her husband if he found what he was looking for at the last booth.

"They didn't have an extra small" he told her as he reached into his trousers pocket, pulling out an infant's t-shirt. It was emblazoned with the Machias Blueberry Festival logo. He held it up so she could see.

"That's for our grandbaby in California," the woman explained. "Our son and his partner just adopted him."

Four jaws dropped and eight eyes welled up on the inside of that booth. Love makes all the difference. We wished them well, offered them cookies, and sent them on their way.

And I said a little prayer of gratitude.

Earlier that day, our intrepid volunteer C was out gathering names of supporters and he found himself for one reason or another inside the church hall where the bathrooms and lunch areas were. An irate person stormed up to him, pointed to the clipboard in his hands and said "How DARE you! How dare you bring THAT (finger jab in direction of clipboard) into a HOUSE OF THE LORD?!"

Our young friend did not have time to answer before a member of the church (Congregational, I think) came over to the scene.

"This is an Open and Affirming church," the man told the offended visitor." He is welcome here. If that makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps YOU should leave."

If this shit is happening in Machias-freakin'-Maine, we might just win this thing. Wow.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Holy crap.

This is so much more powerful than anything I could write here. (Christine Lavin gets a mention in the credits, and I am not surprised.) Take a look. And then write a letter.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

rested and ready for whatever heads my way.

Great weekend everyone!

Attended a memorial service for a dear AA friend and cried like mad. At first I fought it, but then I figured no, that's what these things are for, and just let the tears come. It was exhausting, but good. Cleansing, cathartic, maybe. My eyes burned for hours afterward, but that was OK.

Went to the Great Pittsfield Art Bra Auction in the afternoon and ended up auctioneering the thing. So, I have never auctioned anything before, but so what? I've been to auctions, how hard can it be? Holy shit. It's tricky. Trying to remember the last bid, trying to remember where hands went up, who bid what, and then getting names after each item was sold. Crazy stuff.

Saw a dear old friend at the auction - she was the interim president when I was in my senior year of college. I wrote a paper to present at a Women's Studies conference that nearly got her fired and me expelled, and I had not seen her since she hugged me and handed me my (empty) diploma at graduation in 1993. We shared hugs and smiles and laughter now, and it warmed my heart to see that neither of us has changed all that much. I'm still a bit of a sexual outlaw, pissing people off and marching with signs, and she's still trying to heal and build consensus. Good for us both, I say.

I don't remember how many bras we auctioned off, but there were many. Some were simple, some extravagant, some whimsical and silly, and others ornate. Many had stories, one woman decorated two of her own bras for the auction. She can't wear them any more since her mastectomy last year. To say it was a powerful and moving afternoon is an understatement of the highest kind.

I was thrilled that the Iron Maidenform went for $100, the highest amount paid for any piece there. I think she told me the grand total raised was $1,440.50. Not bad, not bad at all. I was honored to be a part of it.

I am sure Sharon will write about it over at the Queen's Blog - over there on the right, but probably not before Sunday night or Monday after she returns from her weekend visiting old friends and giggling like mad.

And speaking of giggling like mad, here's a video posted by my dear friend Mel over at his knitting blog. It has nothing to do with knitting, but had my in hysterics watching and listening. Apparently, it is a viral hit sweeping the intertubes. I think it might be just the perfect way to start the week, don't you? Now let's go get some shit done!

Saturday, August 1, 2009


It's official: our wedding has been postponed.

We had planned to be married September 19, three days after the law went into effect that would allow us to get married, but now opponents of our civil rights have submitted something like 100,000 signatures, nearly twice the required amount, to force a state-wide public vote on whether we can get married. Here's the link to the AP story.

The courts will now issue an injunction preventing the law from going into effect until after the November 3 vote is cast and counted. That way the law does not go into effect, a bunch of us get married, and then if it get overturned, it would leave those couples married already in some kind of legal limbo, not unlike what happened in California in the wake of Prop. 8.

No, the vote is not just about whether Dawn and Laura can get married, but about whether to let stand a law that the legislature passed saying that people of the same sex can have access to a civil marriage if we so desire.

Conservative churches went bananas on this when it passed, shouting that the world would stop spinning and civilization as we know it would crumble.

What exactly would happen to their marriages if we get hitched, I am not sure. But they're pretty convinced that it would destroy the whole institution. I'm willing to venture that any institution Brittany Spears can enter while drunk at 3 a.m. in Las Vegas in front of an Elvis impersonator is not something likely to suffer much damage if Laura and I speak those same words. Let's not even address what conservative Republican politicians have done to the institution of marriage in recent years, and apparently in the name of "traditional family values" they are so eager to uphold.

So what do we do now? We fight like hell, that's what. We organize, and identify voters and talk to people. We attend public events wearing buttons that say "ask me why marriage equality matters" and "Vote No On 1" and we raise money, buy ads and do all of the campaign stuff we know how to do.

We ask for money. Like now. I'm asking you, my blog readers, to make a donation to help win this fight. The Catholic Diocese has pledged $2 MILLION. We're up against some pretty tough opponents. Your donation now at the No On 1 - Protect Maine Equality site will help us protect the law our legislature passed and governor signed.

We're on the side of justice here. History is bending in our direction, and this is our chance to march on Selma, as it were. On 50 years when historians look back on this, what will we tell the young people of the day? What do we want to say of our role in this historic battle? The nation, indeed the world, it watching Maine. How we handle this is going to be scrutinized and parsed and criticized from all directions.

The best I can do is to take the next step, to do the next right thing. Which for today means going out to the memorial service of a UU and AA friend, a supporter of my humanity and an advocate for justice and peace, and wear my buttons and talk to people if they ask what they're about. Then we'll go to the art auction for the bra project and wear buttons there too. I'll take some pictures and share them here if they're any good.

And we talk and educate and raise money and keep at it. We're down to 94 days before the election is OVER. That means we have less than 100 days before the whole state gets to vote on whether we get married.

To my married readers - how many people did YOU have to ask for permission to get married? We have to ask the whole State of Maine.