Sunday, October 31, 2010

Houses in Bellingham where I lived

On a recent trip back to the homeland (Bellingham, WA) I took a few minutes to drive past the houses I lived in when I lived in that city.

This is the first place I lived, on West North Street.
My mom used to say we were a stone's throw from a neighboring church because once, a kid threw a rock from the church parking lot and it broke a window on our house.

It looks quite a bit different than when I lived there. On the left side of the front yard used to be a huge tree/shrub. I used to climb inside it and hide. Of course since I ALWAYS hid in there, it wasn't a very good hiding spot. An even worse spot to hide was inside the toy box in the carport as anyone could figure out you were in there, sit on top of it and trap you. Leaving you only one recourse: SCREAM until an adult finds you and chases off the neighboring children. Uh, yeah that happened there.

For a child who was having just the slightest trouble with pronouncing the "s" and "th" sounds, living on "weSt norTH Street" was a cruel, cruel address.

Luckily, when I was five, we moved to this house on West Maplewood.

and now.

Uh, it hasn't really changed much. My parents still live there. The driveway is big enough to come up one side and swing around to a full turn, ready to head back out the other side.

The stump in the front part of the yard is from a tree I got for free at a home show when I was around 7. I planted my pine tree sapling in a coffee can and left it on the kitchen window sill for two years. We decided it was getting too big to live indoors (I thought it was going to be my Christmas tree one day) and it needed to be planted outside. I chose that location at the front corner of the yard by the driveway so I could see it every day. And it grew, and grew, and grew up into the power lines and it finally had to be cut down because it was too big to be near the power lines and it was blocking the view for getting out of the driveway. So instead of having "my tree" in the front yard, now I have "my stump".

I moved away. I moved back. Away. Back. Away... Back... and then Lyle and I met and we moved to Bellingham and found this tiny house to live in on Logan Street.
When I say "tiny" I mean, one small bedroom, a bathroom and a living room/kitchen. So basically two rooms with a minuscule bathroom attached. All of it, resplendent in wood paneling.

We took this house because it had an enormous yard for out first little dog, Sophia, to run around in. We discovered, the larger the yard, the more she could go out and get in trouble and the more mowing and upkeep it required. Smaller yard was preferred after that.
Besides, she could have fun anywhere, even on the hood of the car in the driveway.

We lived there in "the cabin" for a year (so named due to the wood paneling inside) and then we moved to this house on State Street.
Of course back then it was a house. Just one floor with a full basement. You can still see the original bones of the old house inside this condo complex. The basement is the lowest row of windows, the main floor is now the middle row of windows in the front structure. The old garage at street level is gone and the driveway, though still steep and curvy, is less steep and less curvy than when we lived here. Also the giant structure in the back used to be an overgrown hillside of blackberry bushes.

I'm pleased to say that both our wardrobe and decorating style have both evolved quite a bit from that year on State Street.
This house was perched on a hill with an amazing unobstructed bay view (I guess that's why they built all those condos onto it) and we lived here for the last year before we moved to California. What a shock it was to give up a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, with full basement house overlooking the water to move into a one bedroom, one bathroom house across the street from a school... for $200 more a month. Of course the weather did vastly improve.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pt Roberts

Spent the day today in Point Roberts, Washington. It's about 4 square miles of America accessible by land only through Canada.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Off and running

I grabbed my blue bag and hit the road this morning.

I went from LA to Seattle where I paused long enough to buy my favorite chocolates.

Then from Seattle to Bellingham (with a great view of Mount Baker) where I will see family and a squeeze in a few friends as well.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday night special

Dinner on Saturday:
Champagne we bought from the producer on our tour of the Champagne region, from our last trip to France.
Duck confit, skin extra crispy.
Tomato, avocado and orange slice salad with Parmesan cheese.
Mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms.

I looked across the table, only slightly drunk on champagne, and said to Lyle, "I really love our life."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy 21st Anniversary (to us)!

Happy Anniversary to us! It's official, at 21 years, we've been together half our lives!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know, you're sitting there saying to yourself, "Thanksgiving? What happened to October and November? How drunk did I get on Halloween?" Don't worry, it's still October, and if you are one of those lucky enough to live in a multicultural household like ours, you get to have TWO Thanksgivings! One for Canada and one for the United States.

We weren't really planning anything for this weekend. Well probably working, but then my mother sent an email wishing us "Happy Thanksgiving!" and asked, "Do you have any special plans?"

Before I was out of bed on Saturday morning, Lyle had already phoned three people inviting them over for dinner on Sunday. Yikes! We needed to start food shopping!

The first thing we were surprised by was the lack of places that had turkeys available that weren't frozen. Third phone call was the charm and we found one. Then it was off to markets and gathering of harvest delights.

Saturday night saw the cooking of the pumpkin pie.
Lyle does not eat pumpkin pie, but I do. Lots of it! And I will confess, I want the pumpkin pie of my childhood which is Libby's canned pumpkin and the recipe from the Libby's label. Yes, parts of my childhood came canned.

Lyle made two pies (good thing, I'm already on the second pie) and he generally reconfigures the spices from the label recipe. More cinnamon. Always a little more cinnamon. A less nutmeg. Although to be fair, he did freshly grate the nutmeg he used. Canned, but lovingly made.
Then there is the decorating of the pie to be considered. Note the maple leaves.

On Sunday morning we went to the local farmer's market and got as many ingredients fresh as we could. This included the "pink lady" apples. I told Lyle that I think the Pink Lady apples taste like champagne inside the pie. About noon, Lyle started making the apple pies.
From this, to....


I am in charge of the stuffing. The funny part is, the recipe is from Lyle's family but Lyle is no longer in charge of it. Now it is my recipe.
A pound of bacon, one chopped onion, A yellow, red or orange pepper (never green), celery, mushrooms, corn (fresh from the cob if possible) and handful of dried cranberries. I also use pineapple sage to give a sweet and savory flavor. Once it's all cooked together it gets mixed with the toasted bread cubes.

Then there is the turkey. We picked up the turkey on Saturday and Lyle brined it overnight in the refrigerator. On Sunday it went into the smoker about 11 am. By 4:30, it was ready.
It's the most amazing turkey recipe. So moist (due to brining) and then slowly smoked to perfection. TASTY!!!!

The table was set with our turkey plates (we get to use them at least twice every year).

Then it was time for food, friends and wine.

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 08, 2010


Dennis Hensley is a favorite writer of mine. I recently saw this short film of his and loved it.

You can watch it at or hopefully embedded right below.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It Gets Better

I've had this "on deck" ready to go, a few times already and pulled it. At times this feels a little too much to share. Also I do not want any one of my friends or family to feel that they have in any way failed me. So I am adding this disclaimer: We all did the best we could with the information we had. Today we have more information and we do better. I am the person I am today because the experiences of my past have molded who I am today. And I am pretty fucking awesome today.

There have been recent stories in the media about gay youth who have taken their lives. It's great that finally some light is being shone on this issue. It's something that has been going on for some time, and will continue after the media spotlight has moved on. There is a great organization called The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) that is there for anyone having trouble 24 hours a day.

Dan Savage recently started an online youtube channel called "It Get's Better Project" where he has invited people who have survived bullying in school to share their stories of how life gets better once you leave school and start your adult life.

I'm not one for recording myself on camera so I may be skipping out on that task. But let me tell you some of my story.

I was a fun kid. I was popular in grade school. I had a lot of friends and we played all over the neighborhood.
That's me happy and popular in grade 4.

But grade school ends, suddenly you are sent to middle school where five different grade schools are mixed together and new friendships are made and new cliques are formed. Everyone is jockeying for social position and where there is a top of the heap, there is always a bottom.

Some of my old friends from grade school fell away and I had fewer friends. Older kids saw me as perhaps weak and tried to pick on me. I broke my arm at my best friend's house and we stopped hanging out after that. A 6th grade bully tried to pick on me when I had my arm in a cast and in a moment of fight or flight I took my elbow cast and knocked the wind out of him, sending him to the ground and told him I was gonna kick him in the nuts if he didn't swear to leave me alone for the rest of my life. It worked. I gained some breathing space.
This is me in grade 6. Looking at it today, I think I look kinda dead in the eyes.

But kids are really intuitive and whatever was different about me was apparent. I felt very isolated and alone. I hated my life. I hated school. I was twelve and I was going to be stuck with these assholes and this bullshit for another 7 years. 7 years was more than half my life so far! To a 12 year old that looked insurmountable. And I thought why bother?

I never had a plan to kill myself, but I thought about ways to do it. Where to do it. When to do it. And then one day I stopped and thought, "If I killed myself, the bullies win and I lose. I lose everything and they just go on." And I decided I wanted to win more than I wanted to lose. So at 12 years old I promised myself that I would NEVER commit suicide. NEVER. I made an oath to myself and since I am typing this right now, clearly it stuck.

My mom and I have talked about this in the last year. I had a few years back called my parents when I had a nephew visiting. He had been a handful. I knew I was even worse as a kid. I called my parents and told them "Thanks for letting me live. I know you probably wanted to kill me." To may parents credit, they very honestly replied, "Oh yes, you were terrible! But look how nice you turned out!" Then just last year, my mother called after attending a funeral of someone who had taken his life and said to me, "Do you remember when you called to thank us for letting you live? Well, I called to thank you for staying alive. I used to worry about you so much and I know you went though a lot of tough times. Thank you. Thank you for staying alive."

People think some kids are too young to know about sex or drugs or death at such a young age. I can tell you that at 12 a kid already knows those things exist. It becomes a question of do you fill the void with correct information, or let the child's imagination fill in the blanks? I didn't know how how to say what was happening to me. I didn't understand it. All my questions went inward and stayed there.

I missed a lot of school the last year of middle school (grade 8) it was too much for me to bear. I hated it so much. I remember when I had to fill out my proposed schedule for Freshman year in high school, while still in grade 8 in middle school. I put down that I wanted to take French. My school counselor literally laughed in my face and said, "How can you possibly take French when you are currently failing English?"

I'm pretty certain I made a smart ass comment about being able to speak English better than she could and how would she know anything about me other than my attendance record, which is clearly what I was being graded on and not my skills." Then I was sent to detention and my mother was called in.

God bless my mother. She arrived in armor ready to do battle. I remember sitting outside the office and hearing snippets of the conversation that ensued. I remember my mother taking my side 110% and (in my mind) putting that counselor bitch in her place. Looking back, I'm probably a little far off. My mother is indeed a warrior for her children, but she knows how to say things in the nicest way. I do know that when we left the office, my mother had reorganized the rest of my school year to attend English class for half periods and work in the school office the other half of the period to keep my mind engaged. Apparently I had been placed in the "slow skills" English class for 8th grade because I had missed the placement test day in Grade 7. (I would have skipped that day because I hated all the bullies at school). I also had my Freshmen year schedule all worked out and I would be taking French. Once again, THANKS MOM! (Or should I say MERCI!)

I made it through middle school and high school looked like a great opportunity to start fresh. I made new friends in the first week. I actually attended school and I had a 3.4 GPA. By senior year I would have a 1.5 GPA and have missed one third of that school year.

I was trying to come up with one great incident that would sum up how mush it sucked to be "other" in school. Here's a funny thing, with time, it's all faded. There is a general feeling of "high school sucked" and people were definitely shitty. But I had a great circle of friends and though I never defined what made me different, they were never less than supportive.

The pecking order sucks. Being different sucks (of course now, being different and creative is how I make a lot of money). I sank into a deep depression where I watched TV all night and slept all day. I would see my friends from school when I would pick them up and drive them to school to drop them off to start their day, then drive home and sleep claiming I had a stomach ache. I did not graduate from high school.

My mom came to my rescue and had meetings with the superintendent of schools and the president of the school board. She challenged them to explain how I could take a Shakespeare class at the community college and pass with a B, but fail remedial English. She went to bat for me and encouraged me to get into college based on entrance exam scores and not my high school transcripts.

I went to college and found out there was a whole different world waiting out there. I met my first boyfriend in college. At that nice Quaker college both of us nice christian boys attended.

I came out to my siblings and friends when I was 21 (can you say "late bloomer?) It would take me little longer to come out to my mom (26), and I was about 38 before I said "the words" to my dad.
The only way you'll ever see me picking up chicks.

I was out (ish), proud and popular. I found the 4th grader that I had left behind and realized that I was in charge of my life. Which by the way, is quite a scary concept.

I've watched a few of the "It Get's Better Project" videos and many of them mention how exciting and glamorous their lives have become and let me say up front, MY LIFE IS GLAMOROUS TOO. But when I stop to think about what makes my life so much better than it ever was and better than I ever thought it could be, it is my friends, my family and my husband.
On our wedding day.

When Lyle and I got married 6 years ago, this is what I wrote for the program we had at the wedding:
It's had to explain to some people what you go through when you come out as gay to your friends and family. For me it was agonizing. Trying to deny so many feelings because they didn't go with the picture of my future that I had in my head. Ultimately I had to change the picture in my head to match my feelings.

One of the things I told myself I would never be able to have is the perfect house with the picket fence, children, a spouse or a wedding.

Well I've got a house with a picket fence.

I get phone calls on Father's Day AND Mother's Day from my "children".

Lyle and I have been together fifteen years (21 now).

And today I finally get my wedding.

Thank you to the government of Canada. Thank you to our friends who make our lives so much richer than I could imagine. Thank you to Lyle's family who make me so very welcome and comfortable. Thank you to my family who return the favor to Lyle.

And thank you to Lyle, because among so many other things, you built the picket fence.

It's not the trips, it's not the celebrities, it's not the shopping or how fabulous I look compared to some of my former classmates. What makes my life "better" is the boring day to day stuff. Sitting at home with our dogs. Looking froward to Lyle coming home and having dinner together. It's knowing in my heart that I am loved by my family, friends and husband for EXACTLY who I am because I have been honest with them and showed the real me. It's knowing at my core that I am the best person I can be and that I have an amazing future ahead of me.

There is a moment from our wedding that still makes me cry when I think about it. My dad called me over and asked me if that piece of paper in my had (the wedding license) was the piece of paper that I thought I needed so damn badly that I dragged him all the way to Vancouver for it? I told him, yes it was. And he said, "Well, are you finally happy?" And I said, yes I was. And he pulled me into a big hug and said, "Well that's all I ever wanted for you." And we both cried.

What would I say to my 12 year old self? Would I say it gets better? Hell yes I would. I would also tell him to do exactly what he is about to do because he makes an amazing me in the future. That whatever he is about to go through, I can't spare him the pain, but that pain will make him a person with empathy. A person who strives to see more than one side of an issue. A person who will love and be loved. Stay the course, younger me, and you will get everything that you are dreaming of and more, especially Paris.

Monday, October 04, 2010


Look what I found in a box! Old collages I made, or perhaps I should more aptly call them "Time Capsules". (This post is inspired by Cheryl over at Mystic Missive)

This first one is from our ten day tour of Amsterdam for the Gay Games in August of 1998. We went over for work and since work was paying, we spent A LOT of MONEY. It was a blast!

The collage includes ticket stubs from the opening and closing ceremonies, flyers for the artists that performed and brochures of tours and parties we attended. There's a map of the city center where we spent most or our time, hotel key, restaurant receipts... Wow, it's freaky to remember all this.

This one is representing a trip we took to Manhattan.
I think this was the first trip Lyle and I had taken to NYC together. It was after I had been unjustly let go from my job at Nordstrom and we took my 401k money and blew it on a trip to New York. The ticket stubs say 1997 so I guess we can place this time capsule. I remember exactly what I said after we saw the Broadway Musical "Titanic".

Lyle: "What did you think?"
Me: It was kinda' sad.
"Of course it was sad. It was the TITANIC! You do know that nearly everyone dies, right?"
Yeah, but I thought maybe they would have focused on the ones that survived...

The next night we saw "Jekyll & Hyde".
Lyle: "What did you think?"
Me: It was kinda' sad.
"Oh my god. Weren't you forced to read this story in school? Everyone knows how this ends!"
Um, I skipped a lot of high school...

And here we have Los Angeles:
This has all our "Staff" backstage passes to the events we used to volunteer for at APLA (Aids Project Los Angeles). We met EVERYONE and I was always too shy to speak or get a photo. Lauren Bacall, Gore Vidal, Calvin Klein, Todd Oldham, Naomi Campbell, Jackie Collins, Liza Minelli, and on, and on, and on... It's funny, looking back, I remember meeting those famous people, but what I recall even more is how much fun we had with the other volunteers, our friends and just hanging out with each other.

I made these collages about 10 or more years ago and when I was done, I didn't even hang them up. Everything was a little too fresh in my mind and they seemed so cluttered. Now, they are going up on the wall. I need to remember more of these things and remember the joy of fresh experiences and the wonder of newness.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

So quiet around here...

Sometimes this blog is quiet because I'm busy. Sometimes I don't have anything to say. And sometimes I just don't want to talk about it.

Though I have been busy, the over arching plot of my life right now is something I just don't want to talk about. But I will.
Lola isn't well. There I wrote it, and I also started to cry.

At the end of August we took her in to see the vet because she had a cough that would not go away. And he told us it was congestive heart failure. What I didn't recall was that he had told us she had this last December. But she was okay last December. Just a "head's up" of something looming ahead.

He wanted to keep her overnight because he thought she may not make it through the night and Lyle's response was "Hell no, if she's gonna die tonight, she gonna die in my arms." So she came home.

About 6 years ago, Lola went through MAJOR medical issues involving her kidneys. She was a goner for certain and instead of buying a house, we put that house down payment into Lola. She survived, but only has about 20% use of her kidneys. This current health issue she has can be somewhat treated, but the treatment usually places a strain on the dog's kidneys, of which she doesn't really have any room to put a strain. But we are doing that anyway. AS our vet says, we are going to walk a very fine razor's edge.

Our vet specialist who treated her for the kidney issue loves our little Lola. After he spent that summer with her off and on, six years ago, he adopted his own female Dalmatian. It is sad to see him have to tell us all these diagnoses.

As he sent us home a month ago, he gave us a new pill regime for Lola and said we'd have maybe a week, maybe less. "Then again", he said, "she outwitted me once before, let's hope she will again."

And she has. She gets around 8 pills, twice a day, with another booster pill in the middle of the day.

My new mantra is 9-3-9 because those are the times she gets her pills. Wherever I am in my day or the city, I have to be home at 9-3-9 or have someone else cover that shift. The regime is working. She's still here.

I tend to be the glass half full kind of guy and fully expect her to be with us next Spring. Then she will have a bad night and cough and cough and cough. This is when I want to hold her and tell her it's okay, for her to go if it's too much pain for her. She coughs because there is fluid in her lungs. The fluid is there because her heart isn't pumping enough to get the fluid out. You can feel the entire house take a deep breath and hold it until she is done coughing. (Note to self: keep breathing)

We've canceled some travel, we've been ordering in food instead of going out. We're just hanging out with our dogs and appreciating what we've got. But it takes a toll and I guess that's why I haven't sat down here and told anyone. We're sad. But we're mindful of how very lucky we've been to have had her this long.

I re-read this today and think it comes off as perhaps too maudlin. Yes, we're are devasted by what we have found out, but she is still the same dog now with a bonus cough and pill needs. She is still full of energy, begs for food ALL DAY, pulls on her nightly walk and spoons on afternoon naps. The vet did say things could happen "suddenly" but I know this dog, and she is in great spirits. Since she gets extra pills at night, we've started giving her a "third meal" to help absorb those pills. The joke around here goes, now that she is finally getting all the food she wants, she is NEVER going to leave!