Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reclaiming Pure Yang Energy

I found this presentation of male and female powers arrayed within the individual person to be very captivating. If I take Ian's framework and apply it to my life, before I was sick, my major problem was that I was overbalanced in pure yang. I approached the world with too much power, too much coerciveness. I was overly willful, so willful that the force of that will warped my perception of the world and its violence created very active resistance to my presence. I had rather little of the female aspect of the yang. I was indeed impatient and unstable. After MS, I lost almost all capacity for the purely male part of the yang. I have been aimless, wandering, indecisive and scattered. In my disability, I have, however, developed the female aspect of the yang. I am able to hold a safer, non-judgmental space for myself and for others. I have an energy within me that makes me worthy of life, without tasks and feats to prove that worth. My male yang sensibility was never able to rest long enough for the female aspect of the yang to get any practice. I loved the male aspect of the yang. I still do.

The queer likes cock. Now there's a surprise.

If I was to learn to develop the female aspect of the yang, the male aspect had to be taken off the table. It's my favorite tool (hardy-har-har). I'll use it if I can. So God gave me a decade without it. The restriction worked. The female yang is what allows me to be a good teacher. It grew. But it doesn't do a goddamned thing for writing my dissertation. And because I was so willful and the restrictions had to be so strict to get me to develop the female aspect of the yang, I'm now frightened to try. It took every failure of the male yang that my eviscerated frontal lobes could muster to keep me on task in learning the female yang. The illness was the tool that I needed to overcome the defects in my nature. Such is the economy of God that illness can be a blessing. But my stubbornness is now once more my undoing. Before, I was too stubborn to learn to develop the female yang. It took every single failure to teach me to use a different tool. Now I am afraid to try to use the male yang energy again, for fear that I will fail once more. The price of vanquishing my stubbornness was this fear, which now I must learn to master.

Writing was once an ecstatic experience of creative power for me. It can never be that again. I have to learn to write again without feeling this loss so keenly. I relied on the ecstasy to keep me motivated through all of the hardships of the task. I now have to draw on the patience of the female yang to bear with the plodding, for I will certainly plod. But I need to take charge and start shaping the world around me. I will never do it as well as I once did. But I need to start doing it again.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Happy Gay Day, everybody! Craig and I are celebrating by going to the gym (we've been very good gay men lately) and then to the parade. This year, I really actually feel it. Pride was exciting my first time. But this year, I really, really feel the pride. I'm proud to be a queer and wouldn't be anything else.

One of my students, a lovely young woman named Clara Kang, was writing a paper on homosexuality and Christianity and asked to interview me for the paper. I'd never before been the subject of research—it was quite an honor. In fact, she's sent it to me and I really need to sit down and read it. I gave her a few letters I'd written, but sadly, I got them to her late and she was unable to use them in her paper. But when she read a letter that I wrote to my Aunt Charlotte (who passed away last year, God rest her soul), she asked if she could give it to a friend who was struggling both with her Christian belief and her homosexuality. I was more than happy to do this. I thought that maybe I ought to put it out there. It might help someone. Moreover, it's probably one of the more respectable faces that I show the world. I remember when I interviewed for Junior Fellows back in college. Dave Prindle, my first political science teacher, told me, "I barely recognized you in there. You were almost respectable." I've taken that phrase as a badge of honor ever since. This piece is probably one of the few instances of me getting just a little beyond my "almost respectable" limit.

* * *

August 25, 2005

Dear Auntie Char,

There are some letters that are just a little more difficult to write than others, letters in which one must measure one’s words carefully. I’m afraid that this is that sort of letter, so I beg your indulgence if I’m clumsy; I’m trying very hard.

I know that Mom has already told you that I’m gay and that Craig is my partner. I can only imagine that came as something of a shock, especially given its timing. I haven’t said anything to you myself; with Gramma’s passing, it was clearly not the time. I didn’t want you, however, to think that I’ve been off leading some sort of surreptitious life while trying to deceive my closest relations. I thought if I told you the context of how things have happened, you would see that I didn’t intend any disrespect.

I first became very aware of my sexuality in 2001. I’d just received the diagnosis of MS, which had come after two very difficult years in Washington with USAID and in Cincinnati with Mom and Dad. I was effectively derailed. I realized at that point that I had, since I was a teenager, propelled myself forward into my career with as much momentum and force as I could. Moving very quickly tends to warp one’s vision. Being derailed means sitting by the tracks for a time, gathering one’s wits. The end result was that, for the first time in many years, I actually stopped and looked around.

Well, one thing I saw was other people. The first and most blatant thing I saw was that guys did something for me that girls didn’t. I don’t think I’d ever thought consciously about that before. I’d always assumed (in my mind) that I would eventually meet and marry a woman. That was “normal,” that was “natural.” I’d never really spent any time with either my heart or my body when thinking about the subject. I came to realize that when I was about 12, I had started off where all the other boys were, but that over the years, they’d all gone off into relationships with women and I was now standing alone. When I asked my other friends how it had happened, it sounded like it was something that they didn’t try at—they felt attraction and went up to girls and asked them out. Yes, they worried about making fools of themselves, but the attraction they felt won out over those fears, they followed their instincts and they got into relationships. I’d never really done that. I’d fallen in love with a girl in high school, but nothing after. I’d dated less than a handful of women and never made it past the first date with any of them. If I was interested, they weren’t and vice versa. Suddenly, the pattern made sense.

I joined the gay rugby team here in Seattle because while I was pretty sure I was queer, I wasn’t all that keen on “swishy” guys. And on the gay rugby team, I met all sorts of guys from drag queens to hyper-masculine guys who were good at auto repair, only drink whiskey and only drive trucks. I realized that when you don’t fit into society’s narrative about masculinity and you know it, you simply don’t internalize it without question. You get creative. You can do anything from reject it completely, to still internalizing it virtually completely, to anything in between. I realized that being queer didn’t mean liking Barbara Streisand, sashaying about and shopping at Ikea. It could mean that or it could mean anything. It’s what you make of it.

I realized that the fear of rejection that I felt when I tried dating women was disproportionate. After it first registered on me that I was attracted to men, and I’d mulled over the disturbing fact enough to become open to it (this took about two years) I discovered something: everything my friends told me about “not thinking too much” and “trusting my instincts” worked! The catch for me was that it just didn’t work with girls. When I started dating guys, I turned out to be obscenely good at it. I had instincts that I never even knew about. Unlike when dealing with girls, with guys, I instinctively knew the right things to say next, when to make the next move, etc. Indeed, I knew these things before I knew them and found my conscious mind amazed at the fact that I knew what to say and do even before I thought about it.

During the two years of mulling things over, I spent a great deal of time reading about human sexuality. I wanted to know how it was that I am this way. I certainly never intended this. What I learned is that the evidence is now fairly good that differences in human sexuality are, for the most part genetically determined. First, studies show that (just like multiple sclerosis, ironically) that if one identical twin is gay, the other will be as well at a rate of about 66%. Now, like most genetically determined conditions, this means that some environmental factor plays a role, as two people with identical genetic make-up will not necessarily develop the same condition. Now, environmental conditioning could be anything from the presence of certain chemicals in the mother’s womb, to anti-bodies, to upbringing, to anything. Scientists still don’t have a full explanation for this phenomenon (just like MS).

Nonetheless, while scientists have not yet isolated a specific gene that determines whether a person is homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual, they have narrowed this down to a gene cluster that seems to differ in homosexual and heterosexual individuals. They have gone further with simpler life-forms and can now genetically engineer homosexual fruit flies who, with high degrees of predictability, initiate mating with other flies of the same sex. This feat is use to support the notion that not only is homosexuality genetically determined in non-engineered flies who engage in such sex (and homosexual contact exists between sexed animals of virtually every species on the planet) but we know the cause so precisely that we can replicate it in a laboratory.

That said, in no way does the cause of homosexuality being rooted in an individual’s genes mean that certain behaviors are ipso facto acceptable. Scientists may well discover that the impulse of sexual attraction that pederasts feel toward children may be the result of genetics; in no way does that mean molesting a child is moral or should be tolerated. Likewise, addiction has already been very clearly shown to have a genetic basis: someone with the proper genetic basis experiences a far greater high than a normal person and a far worse crash, encouraging further use. In no way does this condition justify remaining an addict; it simply explains the phenomenon’s empirical existence. The moral meaning of the action is up for debate. The Church’s response to homosexuality as of the 1994 catechism is as follows:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are gravely disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

I spent a good deal of time reflecting on that, trying to sort out what homosexuality meant morally. Knowing how well you know the Bible, I know you must be thinking of Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination,” and Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.” I admit that these injunctions are severe. The contemporary Church is kinder; it acknowledges that I may not be able to help my sexuality, but cannot permit me to act on it.

Obviously, I wouldn’t be writing you this letter had I accepted the Church’s teaching. I did want you to know that I did not disregard it lightly, however, nor without reflection. I thought if I showed you how I came to the conclusion that I did, while you might not agree with it, you would at least see that I had not been callous. I don’t want you to think that I did this with any malice or that I intended any disrespect to my family in doing it.

For what it is worth, I think Christ complicates the sort of injunctions contained in Leviticus when He teaches in the following vein:

Then some Pharisees came up and as a test began to ask him whether it was permissible for a husband to divorce his wife. In reply, he said, “What command did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses permitted divorce and the writing of a decree of divorce.” But Jesus told them: “He wrote that commandment for you because of your stubbornness. At the beginning of creation God made them male and female; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother. They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined.” Back in the house again, the disciples began to question him again. He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery (Mark 10:2-12).

Once on a sabbath, Jesus was walking through the standing grain. His disciples were pulling off grain-heads, shelling them with their hands and eating them. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is prohibited on the sabbath?” Jesus said to them: “Have you not read what David did when he and his men were hungry—how he entered God’s house and took and ate the holy bread and gave it to his men, even though only priests are allowed to eat it?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath.”

On another sabbath he came to teach in a synagogue where there was a man whose right hand was withered. The Scribes and the Pharisees were on the watch to see if he would perform a cure on the sabbath so that they could find a charge against him. He knew their thoughts, however, and said to the man whose hand was withered, “Get up and stand here in front.” The man rose and remained standing. Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath, or evil? To preserve life or destroy it?” He looked around at them all and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” The man did so and his hand was perfectly restored.

At this they became frenzied and began asking one another what could be done about Jesus (Luke 6:1-11).

The Pharisees and some of the experts in the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. They had observed a few of his disciples eating meals without having purified—that is to say, washed—their hands. The Pharisees, and in fact all Jews, cling to the custom of their ancestors and never eat without scrupulously washing their hands. Moreover, they never eat anything from the market without first sprinkling it. There are many other traditions they observe—for example the washing of cups and jugs and kettles. So the Pharisees and the scribes questioned him: “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of our ancestors, but instead take food without purifying their hands?” He said to them: “How accurately Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites when he wrote
“This people pays me lip service
but their heart is far from me.
Empty is the reverence they do me
because they teach as dogmas
mere human precepts.”
You disregard God’s commandment and cling to what is human tradition.”

He went on to say: “You have made a fine art of setting aside God’s commandment in the interest of keeping your traditions! For example, Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother”; and in another place, ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.’ Yet you declare, “If a person says to his father or mother, Any support you might have had from me is korban’ (that is, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. That is the way you nullify God’s word in favor of the traditions you have handed on. And you have many other such practices besides.” He summoned the crowd again and said to them: “Hear me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure; that which comes out of him, and only that, constitutes impurity. Let everyone heed what the hears!”

When he got home, away from the crowd. His disciples questioned him about the proverb. “Are you, too, incapable of understanding?” he asked them. “Do you not see that nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure? It does not penetrate his being, but enters his stomach only and passes into the latrine.” Thus did he render all foods clean. He went on: “What emerges from within a man, that and nothing else is what makes him impure.”

Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart; acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and obtuse spirit. All these evils come within and render a man impure.” (Mark 7:1-23).

It seems to me that in all of these passages, Jesus challenges us as interpreters of scripture. He dichotomizes a legalistic interpretation of text with a more meaningful interpretation, an interpretation dealing with treating other human beings with love. It seems to me that Christ is more concerned with us being fully thinking and feeling human beings who reflect on the meaning of our action in terms of the lives of others than with us being excellent lawyers who do only what is legal. He is certainly not interested in us being clever lawyers who find loopholes to further our self-interested agendas. However, the thing that I note is that Christ believes in this type of interpretation to such an extent that he is willing to nullify whole passages of the Old Testament in support of his view, arguing that Moses relented and gave in to the stubborn in his law regarding divorce, or that the Pharisees’ greed has nullified the meaning of the law with regard to how one must treat one’s parents. Certainly, he seems far more interested in how we treat one another than in what we eat or how many paces away from our tents we go when we relieve ourselves.

The Jesus of the Gospels does not address homosexuality. Indeed, the concept did not yet exist, even if the actual sexual act itself is ancient. He does however address sexuality in more general terms. In the passages above, he does not permit divorce and lists fornication first on his list of evil designs. He tells those who would stone Mary Magdalene for adultery that only he who is without sin should cast the first stone. When her accusers abandon her, Christ tells her that He also does not condemn her. Nonetheless, He calls on her to avoid this sin. (John 8:1-11). Moreover, the very passages I have quoted here condemn fornication and refer to marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. If that means fornication means “sex outside of marriage” and marriage is only a relationship between a man and a woman, I haven’t a leg to stand on.

The most conservative possible interpretation of Christianity can run something like this: “Jesus was God and changed the rules. The old rules had been corrupted by men and Christ came and set us straight. Anything he changed we accept as changed and we should assume the rest is still the same.” This type of interpretation is reassuring in the sense that we cover our bases. It reduces the room for error. Those among us who wish to be justified by our actions can make recourse to not violating the law. This is the essence of conservative fear, but it seems to me that Jesus rejects that conservative fear. Fear of God may be the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) but it does not seem to be its end. I think we have good evidence to the contrary. Jesus goes to great pains to make people think about their actions. This choice is seen in the most pronounced way in his technique of teaching. Rather than speaking plainly, he speaks in parables that even his disciples need help to interpret (e.g. Matthew 13:36-43, Mark 4:10-19). I can only imagine that he does this because he wants us to think about morality in the context in which it occurs and not as an abstract set of rules. Indeed, Jesus was famous for “going to see.” He did not hang out with the Pharisees and Sadducees, but with sinners. He didn’t read about them in a book; he lived with them and knew them as they were.

Until I started having these feelings, I hadn’t even done that much. When I was young, I’d never known anyone who was openly gay. At the time, I guess I must have assumed that someone who would have sex with someone of the same sex was doing it to be iconoclastic. When I was older, I began to meet (a very few) openly gay people. I got along with them well. I’ve always believed in political and social toleration, but I didn’t really reconcile the existence of these people who seemed remarkably normal to me with that image. The contradiction was blatant, but when one is uncomfortable, one tends to edge away from a problem, not to look at it. And I didn’t look at it. And no one had ever called me on it.

Now I knew that the feelings were real. I felt them. I could no more help feeling them than I could sprout wings and fly to the moon. Certainly, as even the Church acknowledges, it was not a matter of choice. Well, many homosexuals are the victims of violence and discrimination. I realized in my ambivalence that I had abetted in the suffering of others. No Christian would willingly do that. A Christian loves the poor and helps the suffering. A Christian loves as Christ loves. The unconscious problems and contradictions had been flushed out into the open. The Christianity that proscribed my sexuality was the Christianity that told me I had to help those who suffered because that sexuality was proscribed. Christianity is a tradition. Tradition works as rhetoric because it is sacred, that is, timeless and, quite literally, in this case having its ultimate source in God. If it is changing, revised, contradictory and subject to radical reinterpretation, it isn’t tradition.

I accepted that tradition as a tenet of faith. That faith had yielded the capacity to love that was, and still is, the meaning of my life. The contradiction was obvious: be queer, you can’t be Christian; be Christian, you can’t be queer. They didn’t fit together, but I was both. I wasn’t able to separate myself from either. I wasn’t capable of resolving the situation. My existence negated the meaning of my life. It was stressful.

St. Paul said that God’s plan is “to be carried out in the fullness of time” (Ephesians 2:10). It seems to me that while God does not change over time, our understanding of our religion does the more we study and experience. It is not that the God of Genesis is vengeful and spiteful and the God of the Gospels is loving and merciful. It’s that our relationship with God and our understanding of God has developed over time. As our understanding changes, so too changes our religion. Our encounter with Scripture must be a living interpretation and not the dead interpretation we give the law. In any case, it seems to me that Jesus is indeed actively interested in human beings developing their own moral judgment, rather than following rules the way a computer program follows code. He gave us good criteria for doing so. He said:

“A good tree does not produce decayed fruit any more than a decayed tree produces good fruit. Each tree is known by its yield. Figs are not taken from thornbushes, nor grapes picked from brambles. A good man produces goodness from the good in his heart; an evil produces evil out of his store of evil. Each man speaks from his heart’s abundance.” (Luke 7:43-45)

Auntie Char, I hope I speak from own heart’s abundance when I tell you that I don’t believe my love for Craig is “depraved” or “gravely disordered.” No one who knows us, right down to our couples’ therapist (who is also a Lutheran minister!) believes that our love does “not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.” We both work very hard at our relationship and I truly believe that most straight couples would envy what we have together.

You are my beloved aunt who has loved me as a mother loves her child. All I can do is ask you to come and judge the fruit our love has born and say whether or not you find it good. I hope you will consider accepting the invitation that Craig and I have enclosed to our commitment ceremony in September. I believe that if you see the life that we live together, you will be satisfied that it is good.



Saturday, June 27, 2009

On The Horizon

This summer is shaping up to be busy. Here’s what’s on the horizon.

Organization and Food Prep

Craig and I both did a whole shitload of shredding this week. Sorting mail has been a weak suit for both of us. Lately, however, in no small part due to Craig’s initiative, we’ve really been keeping up with mail. Almost the whole of the several years of backlog that has amassed have been shredded. In fact, we need a new shredder. The old one is giving up the ghost.

My office is nearly together. All that’s left is the desk. I’m really hoping that I might improve enough to arrive at the “clean desk” policy I had at USAID back when I was a bureaucrat. My desk was spotlessly empty every night. To do it, I need several “current project” folders in the file cabinet. This sounds a good dealer easier than it will actually be. I need a lot of work habit changes. I need to learn to work incrementally. Incrementalism has always been a concept that I despised. Frankly, “slow but steady” offended virtually every one of my childhood sensibilities. I organized my habits around avoiding “slow but steady.” Now, there is no other way that I realistically can work. Of course, not being able to suppress emotions means I can’t just “force” myself to do it. I need to work on becoming “good” with it. Being “good” with anything is invariably a slow process. This is why I preferred suppressing the hell out of my emotions. It’s far more convenient.

Tomorrow has to be a shopping and kitchen day. This is especially important because Sunday is PRIDE, so we won’t have the day to prepare for the week. This year, damn it, we’re going to the parade! Craig is very hesitant about PDAs except on Capitol Hill or in other “gay” spaces, such as the parade route. Goddamn it, I like being touched. I don’t like missing opportunities. Plus, the parade is a lot of fun. My favorite group is still Dykes on Bikes! I love watching them roll in like valkyries in leather! What a fuckin’ entrance!

I gotta admit, I love seeing the Seattle Quake Rugby team, too. I wasn’t able to be a rugger for very long, but just being around those guys really helped me come out. Plus, not only are they hot, but at the few tournaments I attended, I could say with pride that we were definitely hotter looking than the other gay rugby teams. Right now, they’re really good players, too. They’ve closed the gap between us and the SF Fog quite nicely. If I could ever get into a non-pathetic shape, I would love to go out for it again. But the fitness demands for rugger are very rigorous.

Back to kitchen day. The basics for the week have to be made. Craig and I have both been working on keeping up with dishes. This is imperative, as it’s very difficult to but groceries away in a dirty kitchen. So we shop and, thanks to B-12, I’m not dead after the expedition, so I can chop. In my kitchen prep, there are three labor intensive tasks that I need to accomplish.

The first is creating “snack packs” for the week. I do way better on keeping on a healthy food plan if I manage hunger effectively. To do that, I need snacks, especially for while I’m at school. So I make snack packs that include (1) 10 oz of celery, (2) 10 oz of carrots, (3) an apple and (4) a bottle of water. The carrots, fortunately, can be purchased peeled and sliced into “baby carrots” perfect for snacking. All I have to do is bag them. The celery is harder work. I buy two bags of “celery hearts” at Sam’s club. There are three hearts per bag. Sliced, that provides six or so bags of celery. The apples require no work beyond rinsing them off.

The second is making the base salad mix for the week. I’m trying to make sure Craig and I both have a big salad with dinner every night. What can be done in advance, must be. Being a good Levantine Arab (actually, I’m pretty shitty at being a good Levantine Arab, coming out and MS will do it to you) my salad is diced, so the flavors of all the vegetables mix properly. The prep for this is to dice six long English cucumbers (penis length, obviously), eight multi-colored peppers (I try for four red, two green and one yellow and one orange), and a large red onion. Since these are the least “soggy” oriented elements of the salad, you can make them advance and they’ll still be in excellent shape after several days. The key is to store the mix in gallon zip lock bags with two or three paper towels folded at the bottom to absorb excess moisture. The two components that have to be done just before serving are the lettuce and tomatoes. I split a Romaine heart and dice half for Craig and half for me. I also dice us each a Roma tomato. Craig’s favorite dressing is blue cheese and he often throws cottage cheese into his. I put low-cal, fat free Italian on mine. I usually grill chicken breasts or a steak, or serve pot roast with this.

The third major chopping job is making Weight Watchers’ black bean and corn salsa. The chopping is not hideous for this, as the black beans and corn come straight out of cans. The black beans do require rinsing, but that’s all the prep needed there. I just need two cups of diced celery and two cups of diced red onion. Since this is more carby, I try to have this more for lunches.

Damn. As I read this, the healthy living shit reads like a fuckload of work. No wonder no one does it. GOAL: Get a real job so that Craig and I can afford to get a housekeeper who does all this chopping for us.

The Gym Situation

I worked out for the last time at the Renton Bally’s this morning (arms and legs, no cardio). I spoke with Bally’s Corporate a few days ago. It only took an HOUR to get through their customer service queue (no exaggeration for effect here, literally 65 minutes). The guy told me that Craig and I were month to month already and that our initial contract was just for one year. Given that I think Kent is too far away, I cancelled. I can use any Bally’s facility in the city until July 15.

A client of Craig’s told him that he was buddies with the new owner of the former Gold’s gym that’s across the street from the supermarket near our house. He said that the guy is planning on being a lot of new equipment for the gym. And the price is right (roughly $35/month for the two of us and a one-time processing fee of $25), so we signed up today. The way I look at it is that I’m way more likely to lift on campus when I teach. I just need regular access to an ellipsis machine and a convenient back-up for when I’m not going to campus. I’ve got to imagine I won’t have trouble getting on one of those at the ex-Gold’s gym. I’ve promised Craig that if he uses the gym regularly and wants to move in January, we can get a membership at LA Fitness. After all, if he gets on the wagon and does a good job sticking to a routine, by God, he deserves to sweat in splendor with the other fags. I love my Big Bear.

The Trip to Tel Aviv

Thanks to my mom and my Aunt Charlotte (God rest her soul), this is working out really well. My sister-in-law Lisa got us an excellent flight. We also have an apartment. We need to apply for passports. I also need to head to the camera shop and start getting together all the equipment.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Really Good Day

I had an awesome day yesterday. Craig and I have been waking up early to take our walk. I’ve decided to work out at school on Mondays and Wednesdays, so we were both up by 7 am. The B-12 gives me enough energy to be able to handle regular exercise again and the endorphins from the workout have me feeling, well, chipper. As I am renowned for being a grouch, I gotta say I’m pretty pumped about the whole thing.

Craig had an early doctor’s appointment, so we had to skip the walk. Usually, I feel like shit in the morning. Not so these days. We actually had some very, very nice romantic time this morning instead. I was really pumped about that, too. I love my Big Bear!

Working Out at the IMA

I knew the gym at the Intermural Activities Building (IMA) at school was very good. Back before I met Craig when I still lived in the U District, I used to work out there. Sometimes I went myself and sometimes with Simon or Peter. Simon and I were really regular one term. It was a lot of fun. But they redesigned the whole complex a few years ago, and now, as far as I can tell, it is a Temple of Male Beauty! We have the biggest weight room I’ve seen in my life, endless banks of benches of all sorts and eye candy galore. There are tall windows to let in lots of light and spotlessly clean. It’s pretty inspiring.

It’s weird. When I was younger, I don’t think I could have appreciated a place like that. I was too stupid to enjoy looking at the guys, and was intimidated by how in-shape they were. When you’re a young kid and not athletic, you keep away from places likes that. Now, I throw myself into it and enjoy it. I guess it comes from confidence. I know I’m good at things I’m gifted at. It doesn’t bug me anymore that I’m not nearly as good an athlete as a lot of the other guys there. Being there and working out makes me feel good about life. It’s weird, but I feel closer to God at the gym. My upbringing always had me separate body and soul. I don’t do that anymore. I'm a lot happier because of it.

I almost completed all the exercises on my list, but…

I Ran Into Johnny

John Marlow is one of my favorite students. He was in my political theory section in the spring of 2008, did really well, and actually had the guts to sign up for Arab-Israeli last autumn. On the second day of class, he told me what was I think the most inspiring and wonderful thing a student has ever told me. He told me he came out because of me. Seeing me be out in front of my sections let him know that he could be a normal guy and be gay. So he came out to his folks and everyone else.

When he told me that, I knew that I’d been paid back for everything I’d put into teaching. I knew I’d really helped someone. Everything from here on in is cream. It was probably the proudest fucking moment of my life.

But get this, not only did John come out, but there was another really amazing gay guy in that section named Sklyer. Skyler, like John, was an incredible student. I had two of the best sections I ever TA’d for that spring. A guy could never feel down teaching these guys. They really rocked. Well, John and Skyler apparently became a number that term! Guys are finding love in my class! And I’m not even trying. I had no idea that Johnny was gay at all until he told me that fall.

But it’s better than that. See, I did know Skyler was gay because I had bumped into him outside a coffee shop and he’d introduced me to a friend that he kissed goodbye full on the mouth. I may be slow on the uptake, but I put two and two together. Actually, I was really proud of them both for the PDA in an admittedly liberal, but still non-gay neighborhood. It was a memorable moment.

So I ask John, “Didn’t Skyler already have a boyfriend?”

John gets this sorta pissed look on his face and goes, “Yeah, I found out about him a few weeks into the summer. We had to get that settled, but he’s out of the picture now.”

Now Skyler and John are both nice looking guys. Well, the boyfriend was also pretty damned good looking. Plus he looked to be in his early twenties. Now John was 19. Now that gap is a substantial one as far as getting from the “boyish” kind of handsome to the “smoldering” kind of handsome. I think John is safely across the gap now (they cross it so quickly!), but he was pretty boyish that spring. So not only does he come out, but he beats out the more seasoned veteran to land his man.

I’m so fucking proud of him I could burst. I was nowhere near this cool at his age. Just ask Kirk.

OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER: None of these guys hold a candle to my Big Bear. He’s my beautiful one. But still, one can’t help but notice less impressive marks on the ole radar…

So anyway, they’re facing their first romantic hurdle. Skyler is Teaching for America this year. He’s off at an elementary school in Phoenix, where no doubt he rocks. He’s a born teacher; you can tell. But they’re doing the long distance thing. This autumn, John is off to Chile, where he will spend the term abroad speaking Spanish. He wants to get into Arabic though (God help him). We’re getting together for coffee later in the week.

So we yacked a little too much and I didn’t finish my whole workout. I hit the showers and then was off to teach.

My Class Is Beginning to Loosen Up a Little

Sometimes a class starts out a little stiff. First day was like that. Classroom participation is like hockey. You need them to pass the puck. The team dynamic always rests on personality and until they start talking, you don’t know their personality. First day was comparatively shy. But we had a good start today. I start Arab-Israeli with a sort of “theory” upload. In the first part, we try to understand the biological basis for bias by looking at the theory of small groups that has been derived from studying hunter-gatherer groups and comparing them to other primates in our evolutionary sub-group. Then we graft capitalism on to that model of human nature to see how it creates ethnic conflict. They’re beginning to take to it. It’s fun stuff.

I Bumped Into Shawn Lee After Class

Apparently Shawn’s class is in the same classroom as mine. He gave me grief over my Wings 2008 Stanley Cup shirt. We’re scheduled to get beers soon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Gym Search Continues

Yes, I’m blogging more. But this is rapidly becoming “the blog about nothing.” Sorry to be such a bore.

I’ve finally been to Bally’s in Kent. Estimated average door-to-door commute between our house in Renton and this gym: 20 minutes. The commute’s a fuckin’ killer. With an hour and fifteen minutes each way to campus, I don't need to spend more time in the pickup. I have to figure out what the damned terms on my contract are if I want to end my association prior to the new year. The old Bally’s was an average commute time of 3-5 minutes, depending on whether the hordes of children were out of school or not. It’s an okay facility. Not much eye candy there, much like my present Bally’s. Get this—two chicks actually checked me out there. Shockingly, I am apparently the cutest guy at this gym. And when a bear boy like me is the hottest guy at the gym, it’s just sad. Granted, all the other guys were over 50 years old. The only thing that it doesn’t have that my Bally’s here in Renton did was a pool and hot tub. Not a huge deal for me.

New Reader Brad (welcome to the readership of one of the most infrequently updated and dull blogs in the galaxy, by the way) suggested trying to find an independent gym. The only obvious choice is the former Gold’s Gym over near the supermarket that now has some lame name that I don’t remember. It’s priced about the same as our present Bally’s (circa $30 for the two of us). It had only a single staff member working there when I visited. She did everything. But there are ellipsis machines and free weights there, and as that’s what I do, it sounds okay. The last review written for it when it was a Gold’s Gym suggested the equipment broke down regularly. If they can only afford only one employee at a time, I’m not convinced I’m going to have any reliability. I may go see it again. Maybe it will look better the second time. I doubt it, but still. It’s 4-5 minutes from the house. You can’t beat that.

Craig has rather bourgeois tastes. How anyone from Nampa, ID develops bourgeois tastes is beyond me. But he has them, so naturally he likes LA Fitness the best. He’s enchanted by the free classes and let’s face it—all the other fags go there. The guys are a lot hotter there, for sure. Still, $70 is a lot of money every month just for eye candy and swank surroundings. Neither of those things actually do much for getting a guy in shape. Plus, it’s not near to anything but Fry’s Electronics. We can all be sure that I don’t need to go there.

I just want my fucking Bally’s to say it was all a big misunderstanding and that they’re going to stay open. But I have a feeling that I’m going to be trekking to Bally’s in Kent every non-school day. They probably charge up the ass to end the relationship early. I’ll head early to campus for the school days and use the gym there, which is actually free to me.

I need to clean my office really badly. I’m not going to get any real work done unless I can focus. I now own the mother of all filing cabinets. I need to use it. That's next on the agenda.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hey! I Blogged Again! I Must Feel Better!

The weekend is at hand. Here's the latest:

I'm Still Looking for a New Gym

I stopped off at the much vaunted LA Fitness that's opened up over by Coulon Park. They want $70/month for Craig and me. That's way the fuck too much. The place is admittedly swank. Fine oak lockers, pristine pool, yadda, yadda. I was excited because the Boeing Employee's Credit Union is across the street. As I plan to visit this gym every day, I could do shared branch transactions there and save a little time. No can do. BECU is no longer part of the consortium. This whole neigborhood overpromises and underdelivers.

So tomorrow, Craig and I go over to Kent and see what they've got for us at the Bally's.

I'm Trying to Sell Dinur on a Project

I'm trying to sell Dinur to write the definitive piece on fan loyalty and Brett Favre. Here's the pitch:

I was reading this blog where a die-hard fan debunks Favre's entire career, and he's only on part III. And it dawned on me that if you want to get an anatomy of fan love and feel like going back to content analysis as a method, Favre 2005-2009 is a dream case.

There are three papers that cover the Packers--The Green Bay Press-Gazette, The Wisconsin State Journal and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. After each article, they get dozens of posters. Each has an identity, which means you can track their specific changing opinions over time. Moreover, each comment is linked to an article that stimulated the response. You can code the article as well as the response. The variation in stimuli is fantastic. Favre stumbled, fell, looked washed up in 2005. Everyone said he was a has-been. 2006 looked optimistic. 2007 was his renaissance and his godhood was retored. 2008 he became a Jet and the fans hated Ted Thompson for it. This year, he wants to be a Viking and the fans hate Favre instead.

Lots of emotional variation in public opinion over a short time. The project can yield obvious insight into how fans' emotions rapidly change with respect to the inconsistent ability of their hero to play the role they love him for. Trackable fans with written statements, possibly enough to allow for a LARGE-N CROSS-SECTION OVER TIME.

You do the math. Metaphorically first, then if you like the project, literally.

I honestly think it's a good project. This has nothing to do with making my favorite Niners fan write extensively about Brett Favre, the quarterback who dealt his team so many crushing blows... Nah. Nothing at all.

School Starts Up Again on Monday

Arab-Israeli for the UW. Two weeks after that, my oil class at Antioch starts. Real life, real work. But I'm still going to the gym every day, no matter what. I just need to get some writing done.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Bally's Is Closing Down

Going back to the gym has given me a new awareness. Yeah, there's lots of great body-mind stuff. But that's not what I'm talking about. I am now aware that in one week, my particular Bally's is closing down.

This gym is a 2-3 minute car ride from our house. I've been getting Craig back into his walking routine and I've hoped that when he gets enough confidence up, we could just walk to the gym, workout and come back. It's a nice little facility, too. They've got a good cardio room, a good weight room, a pool, a hot tub, a sauna, a mirrored classroom and racquetball courts. Right now we're paying $31.75/month for the two of us. Not much eye candy there, I'll admit (lots of retirees in the mornings), but I'm pretty happy as is.

Well, Craig and I can go to Bally's in Kent, near my dentist. That's about a fifteen minute ride. I'm going to try to head over there tomorrow. Presumably, my billing wouldn't change. About five minutes away, there is a smaller Gold's Gym that just changed ownership and looks to be a non-corporate gym now. I went today and looked around. They'll give Craig and I membership for roughly $37/month, with a $25 fee up front. They have the cardio room and weight room. A small basketball court that doubles as their classroom. No other frills. They only had one woman working the whole place, doing front desk, tours, etc. I have to admit that I was fairly unimpressed. Down over by Boeing, near the lake, a new LA Fitness has opened up. Their opening online reviews from last year were pretty good, but the more recent reviews complain of broken equipment going months without repair. I have no clear concept of their prices. Unlike Kent, however, they're located in the direction of school, instead of further away. If I work out before I go teach, I'd have to shower there and take 405 north and go over the floating bridge. Craig loves the floating bridge. I keep reading news articles that suggest that the 520 bridge needs replacement and may fall into the lake. Blech. Any decision I make is pareto sub-optimal to my current set-up. This sucks.

I've realized that the impact of working out on my energy level is most evident if I work out in the morning. I wake up feeling like shit every morning. Until I start moving, I never know what sort of day I'll have. I've often wondered if I wake up with an endorphin imbalance of some sort. All I know is that if I work out in the morning, I have a better day on average. I don't get the same pick-up if I work out in the afternoon or evening. I'm really enjoying going to the gym every day. Combined with the B-12, I've been feeling a lot better. That means whatever the cost, I need to keep going to the gym every morning. I've got to figure out what facilitates that the best. I'm teaching at noon, Mondays and Wednesdays. With an hour and fifteen minutes of commute and walk to class time, I've got to hit the road by 10:45 am. If I shower at the gym, I have to be there at 9:15 or so. If I'm to take Craig's walk with him, we've got to get up at 7:30 am so we can be out of the house at 8 am. LA Fitness might be the logical choice.

Of course, the school gym is included in the costs of tuition. I want a gym near my house, but maybe I should workout at school on school days. That would make Kent a good choice, if the facility is nice.

I'm getting ahead of myself. I need to see the fuckin' places first and get their costs down.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

To Infinity and Beyond!

I was over at the supermarket an hour ago and they were playing the original Toy Story on the nifty HD TVs. There, on a hypercool screen, they played this song. Now and then, someone writes something that channels a guy's soul. It's embarrassing that the song that does this for me is sung by Buzz Lightyear, a kid's toy. But there I am, brothers and sisters, soul laid bare for the world to see.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Start of Summer

I’ve haven’t blogged in forever. Here’s what’s been going on.

The Wings Didn’t Win the Stanley Cup

Life will be meaningless for the next fourteen weeks until football starts. Of course, Brett Favre will probably be a Viking by then. I want to see the motherfucker ripped apart by our new-fangled defense. Of course, if Sidney Crosby died in a freak motorcycle accident over the summer, I wouldn’t lose any sleep.

The trend has always been that when my teams suck, my life improves. When my teams dominate, my life falls apart. The great news is that I’m going to have an awesome year. As if on cue…

I’ve Just Had A Serious Boost in My Health

There are several anecdotal accounts that suggest MS patients may, for reasons passing understanding, suffer from a serious vitamin B-12 deficiency. I’ve tried supplementing with B-12 before, but I wound up getting the sort of flu-like achiness I associate with the activation of my immune system. As MS is basically caused by a seriously overactive immune system that eviscerates the nervous system for kicks, a more active immune system is something I want no part of it. Besides, Avonex already gives me flu-like symptoms once a week. I don’t want more.

About a month ago, Craig started taking 5-Hour Energy Shots in the morning. While it does contain some caffeine, a good part of the jolt comes from 500 mcg of vitamin B-12. I tried them out for a few days, and enjoyed the extra kick they provided, but eventually the flu-like systems started to kick in. But of course, like most commercial vitamin B-12, the drink contains 40 mg of vitamin B-6. I remembered that I had once read that vitamin B-6 supported the immune system. So I wondered what would happen if I found some B-12 that was just B-12.

I went to Sam’s Club and bought the lozenges pictured above. 2500 mcg of B-12, worth a whopping 41,667 percent of your recommended daily allowance. What happened was after two weeks, I experienced an upsurge in energy. Indeed, I decided last Wednesday to go to the gym. Then I went on Thursday, Friday and today. I did a very light free weights workout that covered every muscle set at pathetic weights. I have learned the hard way that if I don’t take it hyper easy on the first day back, I’ll be miserably sore for days. All the other days, I burned 400 calories on an ellipsis machine. No way I could have worked out that many days in a row before. I feel fuckin’ amazing. Craig and I went to Sam’s Club today. I chopped all the week’s vegetables (eight snack packs—each contains 10 oz celery, 10 oz carrots and an apple) and the peppers, cucumbers and onions for the week’s salads and prepped the ribs and the salmon (lots of slicing, spicing, wrapping in foil and freezing) for the week ('tis the season to start grilling). I couldn't have done all that work in one session two weeks ago. The shopping and the salad prep would have finished me off. I was a little tired afterward today, but not very tired. Hell, I’m blogging tonight.

I’m so pumped that I’ve been able to workout. I’m beginning to feel like a queer ought to feel. Who knows? Give me a while longer if this keeps working and I may work that all-important 3:33-4:10 pm slot back into my homosexual agenda. Gotta admit I’m aiming for more playtime for Craig and me first, though…

Craig and I Are Going to Tel Aviv

Mom and Dad offered, and I accepted. I am very deeply grateful. We’ll be there for the whole month of September. I will spend most of this time in the Arab Press Archive at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, photographing newspapers from Jordan and Lebanon.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Mitch Albom is right:

But if you look at the totality of the series — the fact that once again, on Sunday night, the Wings gave up the puck far more than Pittsburgh (21 giveaways to 12), the fact that Pittsburgh outshot the Wings in Joe Louis Arena (32 to 26), the fact that Pittsburgh won more face-offs than Detroit (27 to 24) and face-offs are Detroit’s signature pride and joy — well, you have to figure this eventually will find its way onto the scoreboard.

We've been luckier than we've been good. Bottom line--they've hit the post twice. And the Penguins are angry. Tuesday and Thursday are going to be intense.

Let's hope the Wings get some rest tonight and have an easy trip to Pittsburgh. This is not going to be easy.