Monday, March 30, 2009

Sleepover with Lori

Yesterday I had a sleepover at Lori's apartment in Staten Island - she lives with her boyfriend in a high-rise about five miles from Polina's place. Her boyfriend is in Israel for a week so she's been feeling a bit lonely and I thought I might cheer her up.

I picked her up from a train station in New Jersey where she was coming from visiting some friends down in Central Jersey and we drove over the bridge to SI. They have a very nice apartment, but small compared to mine, especially for two people. We went out to the grocery store to buy some vegetables and eggs for our cooking adventures - Lori has a fledgling catering business so I was helping her prepare her meals for the week.

In her tiny kitchen we managed not to bump into each other too much while preparing a vegetarian menu of coconut and red lentil soup, red pepper and fire-roasted tomato chili with beans, green lentil and egg curry, baby sweet peas and shredded cabbage with toasted spices, and pasta with mushroom sauce. It took us less than two hours, even though we burned the spices on the cabbage dish and had to start over once - felt very Iron Chef-like. She said having me as the sous chef cut her cooking time in half, and I was welcome to come back anytime to help. We packed the food for the catering customers and then ate the extra portions for dinner, which was delicious. Appropriately after dinner, we watched Iron Chef America on the Food Network.

Lori was exhausted after her weekend of visiting friends and cooking, so we took turns showering and I gave her a back and shoulder massage before we turned in for the night. As usual in a new bed, I didn't sleep all that well, especially since we turned out the lights before midnight and I'm used to sleeping at around 3 a.m., but she had to get up at 7 a.m. this morning to go to work. Also, when you're used to sleeping on a $3,000 Simmons mattress, it's pretty hard to get used to anything else for one night, although I find the beds at Marriott Residence Inns to be quite comfy.

This morning I drove Lori to the bus stop and came home at around 8:30 a.m., not quite knowing what to do with myself. I ate breakfast, watched some TV off my DVR, and got a call from a recruiter asking me to come into the city on Wednesday for a writing test for a PR agency one block north of my old office on Third Avenue. I took the opportunity to make an appointment for a haircut and coloring at my salon for later in the day. Then I retired to my big, familiar bed and took a two-hour nap in the middle of the day.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Birthday trip to Pennsylvania

We went down to New Hope, PA for some sightseeing and shopping for Tara's birthday today. We had car trouble on the way down that was a little worrisome, but luckily it turned out to be a minor delay.

We parked in Lambertville and walked across the bridge over the Delaware River into New Hope. Both communities are full of small independent shops full of antiques and unusual pop culture items. Tara got a handmade wooden xylophone at Sojourn, a store that specializes in handmade imports from India and the Far East. I got a lovely red silk scarf made in India and a pair of blue glass bead earrings that reminded me of Murano glass from Italy.

We also visited a tchotchke store with all kinds of pop culture stuff, where I got some Hostess Twinkie-flavored lip gloss. Tara got some Charles De Lint books at her favorite bookstore, Farley's, and we saw a store that specializes in antique weapons that had replicas of all the swords in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Here's a photo of me on the bridge over the Delaware river, which connects New Hope and Lambertville:


We came back and stopped at Harold's Deli for dinner, then back home for presents and ice cream cake. Birthdays are always fun, but it seems like it's been a long time since we had such a nice, relaxed family outing like this. Even with the car hiccup, it was quite a marvelous day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dreams, job hunting and poker

I was up late last night until about 4:30 a.m. setting up equipment on my computer to enable me to convert audio from DVDs to mp3 files. This allows me to capture songs from my large catalog of concerts on DVD and put them in iTunes, on my iPod or on CD eventually.

I'm using my portable DVD player sitting on top of my printer with a 7-inch diagonal screen as the source, and an ADS Tech Instant Music USB converter for A2D processing. This also requires me to set up a second pair of speakers on the desk for audio monitoring and a lot of cables. As I mentioned in a previous post ("Movies and music" - Feb. 25, 2009) this is something I've been meaning to do for a while, and now that it's all set up, I can start capturing individual songs, which is a bit time-consuming doing it track by track. But if it's one thing I have right now, it's time on my hands.

I had a really intense and lucid dream last night where I was being recruited to become the station manager for KUHF, the Public Broadcasting System radio station in Houston, based on the campus of my alma mater, the University of Houston. My old boss from my PR agency in Houston had recommended me for the job and he was going with me to meet the station's management. I was very apprehensive because I have no experience in radio and don't have the first clue on what a station manager does, but it sounded like too good a job opportunity to pass up. And of course I was thinking about everything and everyone I would be leaving behind in the northeast, plus all the emotional baggage I'd be stepping into if I went back to Houston.

So when I woke up this morning I was determined to crank up my job search another gear and subscribed to TheLadders, a job board that specializes in positions over $100K in compensation. One of my old bosses at Agent K suggested that I try it out, and it does seem to have several positions that I would qualify for. I submitted eight applications today for several well-known companies, and some to recruiters for law firms, since I have a specialty in that area. So we'll see if my investment pays off with some interviews.

My family came over last night to watch Heroes and Saturday Night Live off my DVR, and play some poker, which we haven't done for a couple weeks since watching our Lord of the Rings cycle. I took the opportunity to teach them stud poker, the game made famous by Steve McQueen and Edward G. Robinson in The Cincinnati Kid. We are slowly getting up to the proficiency when I used to play once or twice a month with Pearl, Amy and other friends from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. One year I codified all our poker rules and games and put them in a binder that I still have for reference. The difference is with little kids, they like to play with a lot of wild cards, and things start getting a little ridiculous. For adults, a few wild cards can be helpful to stimulate action since we're a small group of players, but we generally limit them to four or fewer.

I saw the Nicolas Cage movie Knowing this week, directed by Alex Proyas, who did one of my favorite sci-fi noir movies Dark City. Unfortunately, his new movie, while certainly interesting, was just a little too dark for me. I don't want to give away anything by explaining why, but this is not exactly an uplifting movie, so don't expect a happy ending.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I've been battling a cold the last few days that has really hit me pretty hard. Fortunately, I've been able to push my way through my job interviews without too much difficulty.

Wednesday was pretty exhausting, with my interview at 1:30, then hanging out at a library for a few hours until meeting up with Lori at 5:15, shopping at Trader Joe's, eating some vegan pizza and browsing the farmer's market at Union Square, then the PolyNYC meeting at 8:00. Then I had a day to recover, and then my interview with a PR firm in Hackensack on Friday at 2 p.m. Friday was Ostara (Spring Equinox) so maybe that's a good sign that something will come of it.

Tonight my family is coming over the complete our Lord of the Rings cycle with a showing of Return of the King. I'm feeling a little woozy, but hopefully I'll be able to make it through.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Reader

Things are picking up (finally!) on the job search. I have two interviews this week - one with a recruiter in the city for a job in Chelsea, and the other at a PR firm in Hackensack, NJ. So it's time to shake off the cobwebs and start acting like a professional PR executive again. Bleh.

I went out today and saw The Reader at our free movie theater. It was okay, but not as good as the hype made it out to be. I thought the ending was a little weak - I was expecting more from all the emotion building throughout the movie and it fell a little flat. I thought Wall-E was better than any of the Best Picture-nominated films I've seen so far, especially in terms of an emotional payoff.

I did enjoy watching some of my favorite actors - Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes and Lena Olin. It also made me realize that producers Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, who both died during the making of the movie, will never make any more movies, which is really sad.

I've been watching episodes of MTV's The Real World-Brooklyn for something I'm working on for PolyNYC, and I have to say: drama overload! I know it's television, but are 20-somethings really this annoying? Sheesh! More to the point, why does anyone want to watch this? It's like a horrible car wreck, you just can't help it, I guess.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How it feels to be sawed in half

In the category of stuff that only I would care about, I came across this video on my dear friend Pearl's blog. As longtime readers know, I've known Pearl since before she was born ("Pearl the pop star" - Sept. 11, 2008) and today she is an aspiring pop singer in Taiwan under her professional name Ivy. This video is an appearance she made recently on a Taiwanese talk show where a magician does the old "saw the lady in half" trick on her, after first making her sign a disclaimer of sorts with a thumbprint. Then she does this little sexy dance getting into the box, which made me laugh, since most of my memories of her are from when she was a child and pre-adolescent girl.

The whole scene to me is rather surreal, like the Japanese talk show that Bill Murray finds himself on in the movie Lost in Translation. I'm looking at this 25-year-old woman that I've known for so long and had a profound impact on my life, and she's become a celebrity in a foreign country. Life is so weird sometimes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lessons learned from Anita Blake

I just finished reading the most recent Anita Blake novel, Blood Noir, by Laurell K. Hamilton, the 15th straight I've read in the series since starting back in December. Yes, unemployment has left me with a lot of free time. The newest book, Skin Trade, comes out in June.

One thing I like so much about the Anita Blake series is the extraordinary development of the central character from book to book. This is what makes her different from the fictional characters such as MI-6 agent James Bond, implacable crusader Batman, or the lovesick characters in the Twilight Saga.

The Anita Blake we see in her debut novel, Guilty Pleasures, looks at the world in black and white, good and evil, alive and dead. She also starts out with a very puritanical view of sex, nudity and monogamy, but over the course of her adventures becomes exposed to many different viewpoints, both human and non-human alike. Some of her choices are forced, but others are the result of getting comfortable with the people in her life. Eventually, she arrives at a place where she can honestly say that her life works, that she has people close to her who "get" her, and she feels as much at peace as anyone in her line of work has a right to feel.

Of course one might argue that Anita falls victim to corruption through her association with vampires, witches and shapeshifters, and the fact that her moral compass and value system changes so much is a flaw in her character, not an asset. On one hand, you can say that values and morals should remain constant and unwavering. On the other hand, you can argue that your circumstances should dictate your values and morality - otherwise, it's very easy to impose your own values on others arbitrarily, just as Javert persecutes a starving Jean Valjean in Les Miserables mercilessly for stealing a loaf of bread.

Of course if you are a reader of this blog, you know that I fall into the latter category. My personal development has been nearly as dramatic as Anita's, and perhaps I've embraced change more easily because I wasn't raised with such a black and white view of the world that usually comes from an orthodox religious upbringing. All my well-documented beliefs about polyamory, pansexualism, living in the present and unconditional love have been shaped by my unique life experiences, not by what I've been formally taught, and certainly not by accepting the commonly held viewpoints and status quo.

Some might view these changes in belief as akin to compromise, and I don't care to argue the semantics. Call it what you will, but I don't believe in absolutes and sticking to the hard line policies. I believe that life is about being open and honest about your choices so that you won't have regrets. I can say that, like Anita, I've created a life that makes sense for me. But even more importantly, I know that if my circumstances change, I can find a way to create a new reality within myself if necessary.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One of the best of 2008

One of my favorite movies from 2008 just came out yesterday on DVD - the Swedish vampire coming-of-age film Let The Right One In. This was the movie I saw on the weekend that Twilight opened in theaters ("The other vampire movie" - Nov. 24, 2008) and frankly, it's ten times more original than Catherine Hardwicke's film. Unfortunately, the rumor mill has it that an American version is being made by Mat Reeves, director of Cloverfield. I am not at all optimistic that I will enjoy the remake as much as the original, but at least I'll have it on DVD.

As I said back in November, this is the most original vampire movie I've seen in a long time, and based on some of these overwhelmingly positive comments from Amazon readers, I'd say I'm not alone. Highly recommended viewing.

"Let the Right One In left an impression on me that no horror film has since perhaps The Exorcist and it is probably, along with Hertzog's Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht, the most compelling portrayal of the vampire myth that I've ever seen in film. This is an amazing movie and I cannot recommend it highly enough."

"It's no great exaggeration to say that "Let the Right One In" is undoubtedly the best vampire movie made in many years. . . "Let the Right One In" is a hauntingly beautiful story of children's friendship and love, wrapped in the most unique vampire stories in many years. A must-see."

"Besides Murnau's historic "Nosferatu" and Herzog's romantic remake of same, I've never had much use for the vampire film. This is a very special film -- one you'll think about for days after seeing it. You might not be scared, but you will be haunted."

"Let the Right One In can be considered what an adult take on Twilight could be, with brilliant performances, a dark and poetic tone, and an actually thought provoking screenplay."

"The film is grisly, grotesque, unnervingly beautiful and gentle, and is a welcome installment in vampire lore. It features the concerns of pre-teens mixing it in with waiflike atmosphere. It is one dishearteningly stupendous art house horror film!"

Monday, March 09, 2009

Cool music

"Love's hard to come by, Edward; you should never throw
it away just because it's a bad idea."
vampire executioner
Anita Blake in The Harlequin

Is it any wonder that with opinions like these, Anita Blake has become my new favorite fictional character? And love is hard to come by, at least for me.

Anyway, it's my second month of true unemployment (where I'm not receiving my salary) and the pressure is starting to wear on me a bit. Unemployment benefits help pay the bills, but I'm finding the job market a lot tougher than it was back in 2006. I just hope something turns up soon. On that note, Bug also lost her job last week, so we are all feeling the pinch together.

We all went to Hartford, Connecticut last Friday for Tara's gig held at a club that used to be a Spaghetti Warehouse. It brought back memories of the one I used to go to in downtown Houston that was in a real, authentic historical building. It was a smaller crowd that I think we were expecting, but the music was good. A girl came up to me while I was watching the band and said it was the first time she'd heard them and she absolutely loved the music. She wanted to know if I followed the band, and I explained that I was a friend of the drummer. Here's a picture of me at the gig, just because I don't often expose cleavage in photos!


Oh, and by Colleen's request, here's a closeup picture of my new ear piercing and my new glasses that I took when I got home that night:

Blue piercing

Speaking of catching up on things, I wanted to share my list of cool music that I started building at Imbolc ("Imbolc" - Feb. 3, 2009). I was waiting for Tara to hear it so it would be a surprise, and I got to play it for her on one of our trips to Hartford, so here is the track listing:

  1. Everyone Deserves Music - Michael Franti & Spearhead
  2. Three of a Perfect Pair - King Crimson
  3. It Will Be A Good Day (The River) - Yes
  4. Settling - Tara MacLean
  5. Dream Brother - Jeff Buckley
  6. Day for Night - Spock's Beard
  7. Let Me Live - Queen
  8. Sleeps With Butterflies - Tori Amos
  9. Between the Wheels - Rush
  10. Between You and Me - Marillion
  11. Growing Up - Peter Gabriel
  12. Remember - Roine Stolt
  13. Bad - U2
  14. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Diana Adams on TV

I wanted to share this clip of Diana Adams on Current TV, which you can also find on her Web site Web site. Diana is a poly/kink/GLBT sexual rights activist lawyer who has helped many people in alternative communities with divorces and child custody cases, something I know about as well. She's one of the most "out" poly people I know, having volunteered for the New York Times story I worked on back in October.

Even though we've been in Polyamorous NYC together for more than a year, Diana and I are only just getting to know each other on a personal level. We both are passionate about generating more positive media coverage of polyamory, and I expect at some point we will work together closely to do that.

But mostly I want to share this clip of her story because I think it's a wonderful example of how polyamory can work, and a glimpse into how much fun it can be. True, it's not for everyone, but it is possible to be happy in situations that some people might find impossible.

Poly Leadership Summit 2009

So it was a very busy weekend for me, with a lot of driving through four different states - which is a big deal for someone from Texas. To put things in perspective for non-Texans, it takes approximately 18 hours to drive from Houston to El Paso, which is further than the distance from El Paso to Los Angeles. I should know because I made that drive by myself in 2005.

Saturday I took Tara to her final band rehearsal in Hartford, Connecticut. I spent part of the day at the local mall, just window-shopping and killing time. I came back when they had their lunch break and stayed to read my book and listen to them run through their entire two-set show once more. Their gig is at a Hartford performance venue this Friday, so we'll all be going back then.

Sunday I drove down to Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, to help out at the Second Annual Polyamory Leadership Summit. This gathering of about 45 poly leaders from all over the country, including several dialing in on a Webinar interface called DimDim, was a pretty massive undertaking. The purpose was to sharpen the focus of the polyamory movement and create teams that would undertake specific tasks and initiatives to serve the overall goal of effecting cultural change that will make polyamory a mainstream relationship option, along with heterosexual and homosexual monogamy.

I was given one of the most demanding volunteer posts for the event - moderating the Webinar audience by phone and Internet chat box and white board. This meant I worked closely with the in-room facilitator, as well as the tech team, getting documents uploaded, handling microphones, talking and chatting with online participants and getting their needs met. I had one ear hooked up to the phone line and the other ear open for what was happening in the room. One eye was on my computer screen monitoring the chat box, and the other eye was watching the activity so I could type in who was speaking and what was happening. So it was like being a combination court reporter and UN translator.

The hardest part was when online people wanted to address the group. We worked out a tech solution where we could broadcast their phone voices over the PA, but without two-way communication, so I would raise my hand on their behalf and introduce them to the room. We also had to have split-second coordination between me, David (who worked the mixing board) and another volunteer who handled the phones. We worked out a complicated series of hand signals so we could communicate efficiently in switching audio without causing feedback. All that activity, along with our intense and frantic pace of work keeping up with the moderator, impressed everybody in the room, and we got so many kudos during breaks it was almost embarrassing. But I'm so proud of the energy and dedication everyone put into making the event successful, and I'm glad I got to do my part.

Here's a photo of me and my tech co-pilot David "Slacker" Trask, who is the son of Robyn Trask, the managing director of Loving More, a Colorado-based poly non-profit:


Here's one of me and my friend Lyndell, who I've mentioned in the past. She's going to be the lead in charge of putting on the next poly leadership summit, and I signed up to be on her committee to help with that. Lyndell and her ex-boyfriend Simon were the first poly friends I met at my first Cuddle Party at PolyPride 2007:


Here's a picture of Birgitte, past president of Polyamorous NYC (right), talking with Morpheus, a leader in the Pleasure Positive Movement and BDSM activist (and another member of our tech team):

Morpheus and Birgitte

And here's a photo of me with Diana Adams, Esq., an activist lawyer for sexual civil rights and former vice president of Polyamorous NYC:

Diana Adams, Esq.

There were so many nationally known poly leaders in attendance - Polyamory Weekly podcaster Cunning Minx from Chicago, Beki "Miss Polyamory" Rosenthal from Florida, Jim Fleckenstein of Washington DC, Boston-area poly news blogger Alan M., Baltimore activist and blogger Anita Wagner, Kenneth Haslam of the Kinsey Institute, Cuddle Party founder Reid Mihalko, Woodhull Freedom Foundation executive director Ricci Levy, and Shara "Miss Poly Manners" Smith were just some of the many leaders present. And most of the others have started or lead regional poly networks in their own right. It was pretty inspiring being in a room with so many dedicated and intelligent activists.

After the summit broke up Sunday night, we had a quick PolyNYC leadership meeting, even though it was past 11 p.m. and we were all exhausted. I think it's pretty telling that almost every PolyNYC leader was present at the summit except for the three present Board members. It was at this meeting where we decided to form a new group apart from Polyamorous NYC.

Kyle and I shared a room at a nearby Marriott Residence Inn, although we only got about five hours of sleep before heading back in the snow for the Monday session. We got about six to eight inches overnight, which made things a little treacherous on the roads, but we managed. Here's what it looked like Monday afternoon in the hotel parking lot:

Snowy Fort Washington

Fortunately, by the time I left in the evening, the snow had stopped and all the roads were clear for the two-hour drive back home. Today I saw Milk in the movie theater (we have free movies on Tuesdays sponsored by our local cable company) and it was just the right cap on my leadership summit experience, although it made me very sad. When I see the opposition to gay marriage across the country right now, it makes me realize, along with my own experiences with Tara, that we are in for a long fight to change our culture so that polyamory will be viewed as a legitimate and sustainable relationship choice.

But as Harvey Milk said, you gotta give them hope, and I have hope. Hope that someday people will be able to choose non-monogamy as an option without legal and social persecution. Hope that someday love without limits will be the norm. And I believe, with all my heart, that in the end, love will triumph over hate and bigotry.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Happy Birthday Christine!

Today is the 20th birthday of one of my oldest friends, Christine. Longtime readers might know her as Chris, and really, really longtime readers might remember her as Sean. For most of her high school years she lived her life as a boy, but has now come into her adulthood as a young woman.

I met Christine online back in 2004, in the transition period between my old life and my new life, before Tara came into my life in later part of the same year. We used to IM each other all the time, at all hours of the day and night, since she used to be online a lot. Maybe she still is, but I stopped using IM programs years ago. We were both going through a lot of pain in our lives with difficult relationships and our own inner conflicts, and we supported each other as best we could, given that I was in Houston and she lives in Pennsylvania.

I think when two people go through the kind of trauma and life-changing events that we did together, it forms a bond between them. I sometimes compare it to being war buddies, but on a lesser scale, although there were definitely times when I worried about her hurting herself. I even made her promise me certain concessions if the worst were ever to happen, but thankfully, we never got to that point.

If nothing else, Christine has a singular distinction in my life. She was the first person in my life whom I met on the Internet who progressed to the point where we talked on the phone, yet surprisingly, we've never actually met in person. I still remember our first phone call, the first time we heard each others' voices. I remember the times she called me when she was upset because she had been fighting with her now-ex boyfriend, and I would try to comfort her. She wrote me a lovely letter on her old Web site once for Christmas, telling me how much I helped her deal with stuff. I think helping her actually helped me in turn to have a better perspective on my own problems.

Christine has had a difficult life so far, certainly, but I think she's a survivor, and she's a much stronger person than even she knows. She's now writing about her life on a blog, which is linked to my public blog, if you care to read it. With all the crap she has been through so far in her young life (and some of it is truly tragic) she deserves all the happiness in the world. I hope she finds it.

Happy Birthday, dear Christine! I'm so glad we crossed paths when we did. I hope that someday I will be able to say all these things to you in person.