Over Dose

The state of Michigan legalized pot a couple of years ago--sort of anyways. If you have a note from a doctor and pay a licensing fee, you can grow and consume mary jane legally. With a graduated sort of license you can grow for others as well. Dispensaries for 411 popped up like morels after May rains soon after. A few weeks ago, the legal system of the State ruled that dispensaries are illegal; you may grow for a friend, but you may not sell to them, nor may you sell to those carrying a license; they must grow for themselves (at least that's the way that I understand it). I don't really have a problem with marijuana; I feel that it should be controlled in a way similar to alcohol: if you are operating under the influence, there should be consequences; if you are high at work, there should be consequences; if you can't pass a urine test, there will be consequences; let's tax the substance like we do alcohol and tobacco products and be done with it. I don't have a problem with my friends that smoke marijuana--some use the drug to counteract MS or to assist with chronic pain, others to dull the world and relax. I don't have a problem with my friends that grow marijuana--most do so for their own personal use, a few do so to provide for others (which is still legal, provided they have necessary paperwork). With all this build-up I'm sure you're wondering what I do have a problem with, and I'm getting there, I promise. I just need to make the point that on the bulk of the "issues" that are thrown around by the media and lawmakers, I do not have an issue.
What I do have an issue with is the convicted felon that is unable to maintain a business, yet is able to sell and grow pot: it's more convenient to look the other way than for the local fuzz to open that can of worms. I take issue with city governments thinking that local ordinances trump state law; if you'd like to re-criminalize 411 within your locale, put an ordinance to a vote of your citizens; I think you might be surprised at the outcome. I take issue with the state; your citizenry has done its job, now do yours--our proposals need to be briefly written and concise in their language, the content needs to be construed in such a way as to be universally legally binding (period!) and possessing clarity of intent and purpose. I take issue at the money that is wasted in litigation on laws which have already been passed; we are lacking funding for education, health care and myriad other things, but the petty bullshit squabbles of DC must be mirrored in Lansing.
What would I like to do? I'd like there to be an immediate moratorium on all 411-related legislation at the state level; those issues which are currently in existence are to be evaluated solely by the court system of the state; there are to be no fact-finding panels headed by representative Smith, nor are there to be motions made by representative Doe. I'd like the state to enforce its laws; if the city of Big Rapids bans the growing of marijuana within its boundaries, let's let the state remind them there is a higher power, one that can and will act in its citizens' interests. Most of all, I'd like the people in power to mind their own damn business.


For All the World to Know

My friend Jean is an avid facebooker; iPhone in hand, she's a flurry of activity wherever she happens to be. Sometimes its a little window of insight into happenings in Chicago or Detroit or any other locale she finds herself in; sometimes it's a random stream of unrelated mildly banal postings--cute puppies on city sidewalks or music clips from once smoke-filled city blues haunts. You never really know what you are going to get from Jean, just that her multiple streams will whack you in the head at least twice an hour. Funny thing though, for all the banter that we her friends are forced to endure, she's very uptight about comments popping up in and around her posts. She's as judicious with the delete and untag buttons as she is with the camera and post buttons on her phone--anything that fails to meet her idea of proper will face the chopping block.
There's a story about Jean, an errant jar of Jiff and a boyfriend; it started out rather innocent in nature, but over the years has gained lacquered layers of untruth and vivid sexual overtone, rather like the giant bass that Uncle Pete caught using nothing more than a shoelace, a hook from one of Aunt Rita's (the one with the 42EEE bust) bras and a wad of cherry chewing gum. As I heard the story a few years after its original telling, I'm not sure what's fact or fiction, but the words" Jean" and "trip" are seldom mentioned without either the terms "peanut butter "or "Jiff". It's gotten to the point where it's become fair game to mention peanut butter, PB or Jiff at any point in any conversation one is having with Jean. Most times it will either earn you a smirk or smile; occasionally it will get either mild rise or flush of red cheeks. Mentions may not be made on facebook though; any reference will disappear seconds after being posted. Perplexing.
I posted a note on Jean's wall early last week asking her if I should make no-bake cookies for our euchre game this weekend. I've never seen someone demolish a plate of no-bakes as fast as Jean, I'm pretty sure she even set her phone down to accomplish it, but I was trying not to stare. She likes her no-bakes. She wrote back, asking for verification about the time for cards. "Sunday," I posted back; as an aside I told her that she was responsible for bringing a bottle of red wine and a jar of Jiff too. My post disappeared about 2 seconds after I'd pushed it her way. 3 seconds and a chirp from my Mac more, there was an email reminding me that all comments of a sexual nature would be removed from any of her pages, "My boss and coworkers read this stuff, some of my clients too." How's that for a guilty conscious? My fingers were aching to zip back a mildly acidic note, but as I typed, I knew that I'd not hit the send button on conclusion...
-I'd thought about asking how her boss and co-workers and clients had gained insight into the trumped-up protein-packed tale that never was.
-I'd thought about asking why it was irrational for me to be candid in my postings when turn-about has been more than fair play in a reversal of roles.
-I'd thought about asking what possessed her to add those with prying eyes to her legion of facebook friends.
-I'd thought about asking her why she didn't just click the box to make the conversation private.
-I'd figured that anyone who happened across our thread would make a logical jump from no-bake cookies, card game prep chatter and asking a friend to bring supplies to said card game to the red wine and peanut butter that I'd asked the bearer to um...bear; difficult to make no-bakes sans PB.
I typed all of it up, verbose as it was, and paused: why overstate the obvious (really?), why go someplace in electronic mail land that I'd much rather go in person (wink!), why do this solo when my minions have yet to be clued in (BRILLIANT!)?
Mid-week I sent a text message to a friend, who, it turns out, was also facebook jilted for posting an inappropriate comment to our euchre game thread. He let me know that he'd posted something in the same vein as I, a comment that spontaneously combusted seconds after his hitting the "post" key. My return text to him was simple: This. Is. War.
Jean: I know you probably don't read my blog. You probably never will. I just had to get this off my chest. Please don't take offense, I love so much about you. You are an awesome euchre partner. You are always in-line (and spot-on) with snarky comments and witty comebacks laced with sarcasm. You post amazing shots of off-the-beaten-path places. Should random photo-edited pictures of you appear on my homepage--say high-diving into a water tower-sized pool of peanut buttery goodness or sporting a nifty Jiff jaresque handbag--I can assure you that I had help with my photo-editing. I hope that can see the humor in this, everyone is already talking about it (yourself included); it just seems wrong to not crack open the jar and spread the goodness on the everyday bread of all of our lives. As I wrote, this is war. It's also a heck of a lot of fun...


It's All Edible (Isn't It?)

It's official, the local rag did a weighted study and concluded that due to rising food costs, less time to cook & the excess of quick cheap fast food, we are all in trouble. We're getting fat, we have no money for healthy food, our children will never know the joy of a bowl of watermelon on the porch or PB&J with chewy homemade bread crust. Meat costs more, milk costs more, the corn to feed the cows that provide the latter costs more--whatever will we do? Children, as we all know, must have meat and cheese and bread and twinkies at every meal; how else will they grow? They must have all the essentials to fatten them up, make them well rounded little copies of the rest of society. Mom and Dad are finding that they can't afford the mortgage, the Escalade payments, the boat insurance, the MC, Discover and Amex bill & the weekly food bill. We can't not go to McDonalds with all Jimmy's friends after soccer every Saturday. We can't not stop at Starbucks on the way home from school each afternoon--what would the other moms say? Child cruelty you'd think, to deprive your tot of chicken nuggets, no-coffee coffee drinks and super-processed fruit shapes held together with sugar and guar gum.
I'm perplexed by the entire "healthy food is too expensive", "cooking takes too much time" & "it's hard for me to exercise" trio of mantras that I read every day in print or hear uttered by friend and stranger alike.
1. Healthy food is not inherently expensive.
Have meat and dairy become more expensive? Yes. But... We eat too much meat, the recommended serving of red meat is 4-5 ounces. That package of sirloin steak that you just winced at buying--all $27 dollars and 4 pounds of it--would feed your family of four over a series of meals. No, everyone does not need a full steak, nor even half a steak. Dairy too is more expensive, but read the label please: Jimmy really does not need 6 8oz. glasses of milk per day, nor does Jane need 7 slices of Kraft cheese every night with her dinner; yes, the calcium is good for little bones, ditto too the minerals and vitamins, but what of the calories and fat? There is nothing wrong with telling Jimmy that he can have one glass of milk at each meal, nor with telling Jane she's limited to 2 slices of cheese. You are an adult after all, be a parent.
What of other foods? Where are the vegetables and whole grains, leafy greens and chunks of watermelon, pretzels and M&Ms? Waxing a bit, I remember times when I was told that not eating certain foods meant I'd sit at the table all night (for me this was usually brussels sprouts or peas, two things I ironically now really like); I wasn't expected to eat all of the offensive food, I just had to try a few bites. Few bites finished, I was free to excuse myself to play or read or call a friend. Growing up snack foods and candy were luxuries of a sort, things that were earned or consumed only at certain times of the day or under "set" circumstances. Watching movies on Sunday night usually insured my brother and I pizza, sometimes homemade sometimes not, with chips and pretzels to follow. If we were really good (I think that was the criteria anyway), mom or dad would make us milkshakes. The point is, mom and dad used some discipline to get us to eat "what was good for us" and rewarded us with what was sometimes not. Sure, those foods that we loathed reappeared on our plates a few weeks later, but by then we knew the drill. Some foods we even came to like and crave after a while. Ask my brother about spinach and mustard.
2. Cooking takes too much time.
I am a single guy. Contrary to what television and Hollywood will have us believe, I can cook. If it's available in a restaurant somewhere, I can usually fabricate it at home. I have a rule about eating out that I won't buy something that I can easily make at home. This usually means that I either eat meat when I'm out (I almost never buy meat to prepare at home) or food with multiple preparation steps (think gnocci, moussaka, paella). As to the time variable, it takes about 2 minutes to dice up a tomato, open & drain a can of chick peas and throw together a vinaigrette. If I really need more, 10 minutes will add couscous, seared tuna and steamed vegetables to the table. 15 minutes and the meal is ready. Seriously, cooking takes too much time?
3. It's hard for me to exercise.
We burn calories from the time that we get up in the morning until the time that we go to bed. We burn calories in our sleep. Sneeze? You just burned a few calories. Fart? Ditto. On average, we burn about 2k calories each and every day, just doing the things that we do throughout the day. Need to burn more calories? That's where exercise comes into play, but it doesn't have to be going for a run or swimming or doing high-impact aerobics. Take the stairs up to the office (and back down, yes I know it's 10 flights), walk 16 blocks to the bank, weed the flower beds, do something. Anything. It all adds up, exercise is cumulative. Want even more bang for your buck? Track your calories, make sure that you are only consuming 2k, if you consume less, that's good, you're further ahead at the end of the day. Eat more? Do more. Period.
I'm off for coffee now, but a few words of wisdom before I go: if you think you're fat, head to Walmart...it's sort of self explanatory.


You've Got Nothing to Show

My friend is getting ready to host her mother's estate auction. For the past 3 weeks she's been organizing things around the house, putting things into lots and clearing out rooms full of nostalgia. The end is near we keep assuring her, soon the house will be empty for the next family that gets to call it home, soon the clutter of the past will be out of your life, soon you can again blaze your path. My friend's mom has, well, had, a lot of stuff. Odd, how at the end we are reduced to what sits upon the shelves that we've left behind. Odder still some of the things that we chose to put upon those shelves--sure there's the collection of pottery and complete series of Nancy Drew mysteries. There's the field of african violets in tidy clay pots that bloom at every window and the collection of porcelain doll heads and the mason jars full of tiny Petoskey stones found on countless trips to Lake Michigan over forty-some odd summers. Oddest of all, the collections we keep private, perhaps feeling that they are too mundane, inane or obscene to share with even those few who are our closest friends.
Arriving at a sort of metaphorical cross roads in my own life, I find myself examining what fills my shelves. I find myself literally dusting off tomes that I'd long forgotten I had, trying to figure out why I have them and how best to dispose of them. I shake my head in bewilderment when I enter the jungle that is my collection of all things green and growing, perversely amused in a way at the amounts of time, money and energy that I have devoted oddball plants and fickly-filled pots that remind me once a year only through gaudy blooms and heady scents why I bought them. I chuckle while trying to figure out where exactly I am going to put my art, not ready to wrap figural clay forms and folly pots in sheaths of paper, to sleep for indeterminate amounts of time, waiting to again see light of day. Jam-packed as my shelves are, what is not there is as telling as what is; I have few photos of friends or family, preferring instead to remember them the way I last saw them. Absent too are the objects one finds in most every house in this day and age--sans television and cable box and remote control and iPod-docked stereo system--aside from a blank power-starved computer screen and silent shrouded CPU.
My friend says she hopes to just get rid of everything; she hopes to just put a few suitcases in the car, pack her cat in a crate and settle down somewhere new. If you'd made this comment to me half a year ago, I'd have rolled my eyes, smirked and articulated an opinion to the contrary. Set on my own similar course, I've got to admit that her plan sounds quite nice. I used to think that being successful meant owning nice things, meant being able to enter the store of one's choosing to purchase whatever one might need. I used to think that I had to have all this stuff--car, house, greenhouse, you name it. The funny thing though, once you have stuff, you need to acquire more stuff, things for the inside of the house and the outside; seat covers for the car and personalized license plates; two pound watches and David Yurman cufflinks. You end up with everything you ever wanted, but nothing you really need. Want does not equal need; to paraphrase a line I once heard: Having more is not better; it's just having more.



My friend Mark and I occasionally go junking (his term for visiting flea markets and second-hand stores and the ilk), looking at things that are cast off or left over from estate sales or donated or perhaps wound up where they now are compliments of great aunt Ethel's demise. Mark commented that it's getting harder and harder to find "good" stuff while you're out these days, compliments of smartphones and eBay and instant Internet access. He told me this while googling a pair of bookends we'd found--oh the irony.
As most of you know, I've been cleaning house pre-move, trying to figure out what goes (the bulk of it) and what stays (almost none of it); I wish that I had more time to whip out my phone (hypothetically, I ditched my smartphone) and pour over the history of every item I own. What would go off to eBay? What would return to the Salvation Arm store or Second Chance? What would I squirrel away for later banishment to eBay? What would rest inside a box for later discovery? What, what, what...
I'm amazed at some of the stuff that is bought while junking, I'm more amazed that there is a market for it. I admit that I have a penchant for vintage western shirts and crazy (Mark says "interesting", but I know he means ugly) amateur pottery. Vintage western shirts sell well on eBay, especially if they're made in the USA, free of wear and have all their pearlies intact. Ugly pottery, not so much (though I've no intention of parting with my uglies); beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What's gone well on eBay? Most of my orchids have sold well, I tend to buy the bizarre ones (the ones I figured no one else would want), go figure what no one else wanted is no longer available...and now is being looked for. Most of my cacti have sold very well as well; those cuttings that I bought for $2 each a few years ago are now giant plants that bloom profusely each spring--and nobody else sells mature plants (I wish a had more of them in the greenhouse and fewer orchids...alas they're almost gone). Crazy plants in general, as it seems that everyone out there sells tiny seedlings, but nary anything more than a 2" pot.
What goes not so well? Books. I am a voracious reader, but with the advent of my iPad, I've decided not to purchase any more printed media (orchid books aside) & I have stacks and stacks of paperback and hard-bound books from the pre-pad days. Books on eBay (unless they're signed first editions or such), sell about as well as okra sells in northern Michigan. I'd take the lot of them to the local used bookstore, but they don't do hardcovers. Softcovers to be banished next week (I need to put a friend or a dozen on the account, I'm not going to be here...), hardcovers off to the library I think (book sale or stacks, they decide...).
I'm betting you're wondering what I'm doing with the rest of my stuff, but the truth is there really isn't all that much more.



A friend of mine quipped the other day that the best thing about a move across the country to a place sans friends is the ability to completely reinvent yourself. I've been pondering this, trying to decide what sort of story I want to spin about my life. I thought that maybe I'd say that I was heading west to pursue graduate school; thinking on this though, I'm not sure I can settle on one subject area to pursue. I'm also not sure that I can manage to sound educated and knowledgeable about any given subject, unless I pick something super esoteric, say cultivation of cymbidium orchids by the indigenous hill peoples of central China. I thought that maybe I'd say I was I leaving a life of sex, drugs and alcohol for the simplicity of the Northwest; but moving to a university town in South Oregon/North California--pot-growing capitol of the US; with more micro-breweries per square mile than anywhere else & the noted "hippie flair" of the area are all subjugators of that idea. I thought that maybe I'd say that I'd never been out small-town America, that I wanted to experience life somewhere larger. I somehow think that the first time any of my new friends checked out my FB profile and discussions, they'd sense betrayal at that comment.
All this pondering made me think about the index cards that I often carry in my back pocket. For those of you that don't know about me and my index cards, I'll digress...I compose lists of what I have to do today, this week, this month and carry them around with me. There's usually a blank card or two as well, in case I need to reorganize things. Sometimes I write a quote or important thought on the cards as well, something inspiring or funny (shouts to Amy F. on this one...). I tried doing something similar to this on my iPad, and before that, my phone, but peeking at an index card is much less obtrusive than whipping out PED at random and not-so-random times.
To my list of to-do's I'm adding a list of goals. I'm not saying that these goals have to be big, they can be small--smile more perhaps or brush your teeth 5 times a day instead of 4 or run an extra mile this week--those kind of things. I'll put a big goal on the card at some point I know, something like hike Volcano National Park or live in Melbourne for a year or bake birthday cakes for all your friends, and I'll carry it over from card to card as I meet goals, checking them off or crossing them out as I go. I'm not sure why I didn't think of adding goals to my list before; looking at the cards is positive reinforcement of sorts; it keeps my priorities fresh and centered. I can see what I need to accomplish and what I have accomplished. Now I can also see where I want to go and what I want to do. It's a tiny tweak, but a substantial one.
I don't need to reinvent myself, I just need to tweak what's already there. I'm aware that I need to add to my like skill set, break it down to the ground and rebuild it? No. A resounding no. But, add to it, make renovations and redo the facade? Yes. A resounding yes. The best thing about a move across the country to a place sans friends is the ability to be completely and totally honest about who and what you are and why you're doing what you are doing. You've got nothing to lose, the only way to go is up. It is fact that you've been given a blank canvas, free to decide what mark upon it you will make: will you paint a picture of the way that you used to be or a picture of the way that you want to become? If you're like me, you'll cut down the canvas into a stack of little canvases and put them into your back pocket.


Just the Beginning

I heard an interview the other day with Al Styron; she was talking about the writing of a memoir about the life of her father. She told a story about how, at age 12, she picked up his just published novel, Sophie's Choice, and gave it a go. All was well until she hit a very graphic sex scene, horrified, she closed the book and didn't pick it up again for some years. No one wants to conjure images of their parents having sex, much less read about it in graphic detail. Al went on to say that her father was haunted after the birth of his last novel, slipping ever more into depression and wandering aimlessly through one uncompleted novel after the next. He never seemed able to finish what was started, jumping on the next, only to wander more. All of this struck me, at what age do we as gay youth imagine sex? Are our fantasies and ponderings any different than those of our heterosexual counterparts? Michael Stipe once said that at the age of 15 he knew that he enjoyed having sex with both men and women. It wasn't that he was bisexual, just that he enjoyed that he could have sex (NPR 26 May 2011) with “anyone”; later in his life he settled down with a man.
It often seems that it is ok, status quo even for young men and women to be attracted to older members of the opposite sex at a young age; toddler girls are referred to as being “cute” when they flirt with adult men, little boys will often stare aimlessly at buxom women, being referred to as a chip of the old block. What of little gay boys and munchkin lesbians; if at age 5 I'd been caught openly flirting with the adult father of a friend I'm sure that I would have been ostracized and spoken sternly to. But why? Am I not merely developing the skills that I will later use in my life? If by age 5 I knew that I liked cock, why let myself be pushed into a closet not of my own making? And shouldn't Mr. Johnson be flattered if a teen or tween of either sex thinks that he has it going on? If the line of physicality is not crossed, then what is the harm? I think that the fantasy of seeing Mr. Johnson nude was enough of a turn on, never mind actually seeing him nude. Who is being hurt by my tweenage fantasy; I'm sure that Mr. Johnson searches the internet for porn, I know a lot of adult males that do, I know I do...


Truer Love

Last night I met (I guess I should say "remet") a guy who is a friend of a friend. There was a connection, and I'm sure that I'll see more of him over the next few weeks. Last night I started to reminisce about the men I've met throughout my life, interesting how patterns appear in retrospective moments. One of the first guys that I had feelings for I met while living in Japan; he too was a friend of a friend; I never really got to know him too well, there was a language barrier to contend with, he worked all day and I was at university, so we didn't have much free time to spend together and, just when I thought that things were taking off, he told me that he was leaving for the States. It was great to get to know him, great to go out to a bar or two, to laugh while trying to have a conversation over okonomiyaki, to hold hands and slow dance and make-out on the steps of the shrine across the street from my apartment. And then he was gone.
I met a guy my next year at university, Mike, he was my RA. He walked up to me in the cafeteria one day and told me that he wanted to get to know me because he thought that I was boyfriend material. We dated for almost a year, staring into each other's eyes over coffee, annoyingly completing each other's sentences at meals with friends, having sex at the drop of a hat. He told me one afternoon that his parents were coming to visit and he wanted us to meet. I told him I wasn't comfortable with that and it created a rift. And then it was over.
I met Jay my junior year at university, we went out a couple of times, but didn't really start to see each other until my senior year. He was working on his MFA in music composition and we had almost nothing in common. His dad was a minister, he loved classical music, I'm not sure he ever owned a pair of tennis shoes. That we were polar opposites in many ways was what drew us together; each could show the other something that neither had ever seen. He would play the piano for me and I would make up lyrics, we had not-so-discreet public sex, went for long walks in the rain under our giant umbrellas and drank more dark beer than I ever knew was possible. Jay told me he was taking a break from university to attend a writing workshop in Chicago; I'm not sure if it was an invitation or statement of finality. I never knew.
Matt and I met just as I was graduating; back in the fledgling days of internet chat rooms. We started a random conversation one afternoon on ICQ and kept in touch for months after I'd graduated. I finally asked him one day where he lived and found out he was in Petoskey. We switched to cell phone calls after that and finally met up one weekend. Matt's a tall lanky guy. He has a thing for show tunes and broadcast radio. We both love to run and eat dessert and have amazing sex in a hot shower. I'm not sure why we drifted apart; one day he was there, the next he was gone.
Shortly after this I was on a trip to Toronto for a job interview; I'd received a call from an ESL firm in Japan and needed to do an interview. I made a mini-vacation out of the trip, taking some time to see the "big city"; the interview went ok, but there were a lot of loopholes to the contract and I decided that I needed something more concrete. I met Mark the following day, the connection was immediate, there were sparks I'm sure. It's funny how 24 hours of time spent with someone can leave you utterly content, not really wanting more, yet unable to consider being sated with anything less. Mark thought that we'd be able to get me a work visa for Canada, if I wanted to stay. Reality started to seep in as I considered actually leaving home to be with a guy that I'd known for three days. I needed to think on it. I went back to Michigan, kept in touch, never saw him again.
I met Brian the first time I was in Portland. We met at a bar called the Silverado. I was at the bar drinking a bourbon and watching the go-go strip dancers; he sidled over and asked me if I'd ever seen the sun rise over Mt. Adams. I'm sure I laughed and either gave him the finger or walked away; he was not easily dissuaded. No sex he told me, he just wanted to get to know me better, plus the sunrise was pretty awesome from his apartment he told me. He was right, there was no sex, just a lot of conversation and soul baring and one hell of a sunrise. I think we slept until the sun was low in the sky that afternoon. I spent the bulk of the rest of my trip with him, checked out of my hotel and moved in to his guest bedroom. A few days later I moved into his room. We went to the coast and hiked and ran and ate and drank. We had sex as a storm roiled across the Pacific and rain beat on the windows of our hotel room, we popped jellyfish carcasses on a morning run and drank PBR while playing pool at an off the track bar. We cried at the airport when I had to leave and cried again when I came back a few months later. I tried to make the move, but at the base of my being I was conflicted: was I making the move to be with this amazing guy that I met? Was I making the move because this was where I wanted to be? What was I leaving behind? What was I gaining? A night of beer and pizza brought more questions than answers as I drifted off from Brian and old friends that he'd reconnected with; unable to and unwelcome in contributing to the conversation, I volunteered to navigate the crowded bar for another pitcher of beer. I struck up a conversation with a pair of lesbians, returned with the pitcher of beer, excused myself from the conversation I was never a part of. I was told I was an embarrassment; never mind that I was unable to contribute to the flow, never mind that I was unable to insert a thought or idea, just never mind. If something so insignificant as this could cause feelings so negative, what would our first real fight be like? I never found out.
Doug and I were sort of off and on. We met at the restaurant where I work. He was a patron that liked to drink wine and ask for particular entrees and socialize with the staff. He is the type of guy that everyone likes, even if they don't really understand why. We had a good time together, we could laugh and eat and drink. We got on well with each other's friends. We both liked to travel. We both liked to stay in too. We could watch cartoons together or go to the movies. We had fun together. I told him I loved him. That might have been the end.


Mortgage Rates, Bank Loans and Other Money Matters

I read an article in the local paper this morning about how mortgage interest rates are at a new low; the print went on to say that this was a good thing for homeowners wishing to refinance, giving them another option to consider in efforts to save money. Further on in the article a mention was made that most homeowners, unfortunately, would not be able to qualify for refinancing, due to the banks' insistence on sterling credit approval ratings, the need for substantial up-front payment of loan origination fees and plethora of other hoops that the banking industry is making potential refinancers jump through. Again it seems that the very people who can most benefit from lower interest rates or more money in their pockets at the end of the work day are victim to corporate greed; correct my simple reasoning if it's wrong, but did not the taxpayers of this country all contribute to bailing out our floundering banking industry? It's stories like this that make me wish our banks would extend the same faith now that the shoe is on the other foot. I went to a lecture given by a local entrepreneur a few months ago, a guy that built a few businesses and sold them, only to go on and start the cycle again. The gentleman was adamant that the business model in this country has changed: no longer does the banking industry care about what property you can leverage against a loan, no longer do they care about the ramifications of your ideas or the sustainability of your business plan; the bank cares solely about the liquid assets that you bring with you to the table, how deep the pockets are of your silent partners, how much money you have in the bank. I sat down with a loan officer at a local bank one afternoon to run some numbers; I'd figured out what I would need to outfit a small restaurant, what I'd need to purchase and retrofit a small building, what I'd need to pay for china and glasswares and flatware. I figured that between my mutual fund, my meager savings and a large credit line on my personal credit card I could reasonably put 15-20% down on the 250K that I'd need to get my business off the ground. I was naive in assuming that a business loan would work roughly the same as a mortgage. The bank told me that I would need at least 40% down in cash, that they would not underwrite a loan for a restaurant, nor would they SBA. My loan officer stressed that the restaurant industry was too high risk, but oddly told me that now was a great time to start a business as bank loan rates are so low. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I guess, but it made me wonder why the bank wouldn't simply tell me that the current low rate of 7.5% was unavailable to "high risk" businesses, but they'd be able to offer financing at 17%...to simply say that they are unable to offer financing, period, is unacceptable. I can call citibank and have $35,000 put in my account overnight sans questions (at a hefty rate of interest), but the people that are supposed to be providing help to business are far from helpful. Big business it seems takes care of only its own. I'd like to see the bank change it's motto from "I can do that" to "Most likely, the answer will be no".


The Beginning of the End of the Road

This afternoon was the first time in the past few weeks that I really started to wish that time would speed up. I still have a ton of stuff that I need to put in order, but I wished that I could have finished my run, taken a shower, changed into comfy clothes and locked the front door of my house for the last time. Throughout the day I met friends and acquaintances around town who said that departing was bittersweet; I met people that bid me safe travels and hoped we'd keep in touch; I met friends that mulled over what they would do now that ways were parting. I felt guilty in a way that I'd turned my face towards new horizons and shown my back to a place that I call home--I never really expected to call here home: I was going to finish university and get the hell out of dodge as it were. I came back after I graduated thinking that I would stay for a while, get my bearings and go out into the world, and then I just sort of never left. I met people, made friends, put down roots. I tried to convince myself that I was happy here, surrounding myself with the things that make me happy: green growing exotic things, books, good food and wine, obscure erratic "art", just to name a few. I tried to look past the things that I want out of life to the things that I already have: a great place for a long run, snow-covered hills to ski on in the winter, rich black dirt to grow tomatoes. I told myself that I was happy with my job and the way my life was shaping up, I told myself that someday I would get back out in the world, that someday I would see things that I wanted to see, someday. I can't pinpoint the time that I realized I put my life on hold, I can't pinpoint the time that I realized that there's more to the world than what I see on the internet every day, I can't pinpoint the time that I realized a hundred million other thoughts that are even now occurring to me. I can sort back through memories though: heartbreak and the feeling of ennui in realizing that someone you are in love with will never love you back; disbelief and hurt in realizing that friendship only manifests so long as it is mutually beneficial; betrayal and disregard in realizing that commonly held values can not exist in the vacuum that is ego. All these things signaled the beginning of the end of the road; each made me pause and consider what to do next. What could I have done differently? Could I have altered some aspect of life to change the outcomes? Would an alteration have been beneficial--and beneficial to whom? I've never had a clear set of goals in my life; I've always figured that life would just happen and I would see where it took me. I was content, I think. Naive and content. What changed? The short answer is me, but I suspect by my tone you've already surmised this. I've been forced to step away from the present and consider what I want out of my life; not out of life in general mind you, but what I want out of my life. I want to bake bread and feed people. I want to grow things and share flowers with friends and strangers. I want to run through the woods and ski on virgin snow. I want to travel to far-flung places and learn to call them home.


Anything Liquid, Fragile or Perishable?

In the midst of clearing out my house and greenhouse, trying to decide what few things I want to take with me, what few things I want to put into a box or two to leave with my parents, in between listing flora on ebay and tracking down friends that I've promised a cutting or seedling or division to, I've been boxing plants up and sending them off via UPS or USPS. Ebay buyers love the USPS' flat-rate boxes, pack just about anything in the provided caskets, with little regard to weight and send them on their way. For shippers too, it's an ideal situation; ebay provides reduced postage rates on flat-rate boxes when you print postage from their site & the post office provides these uniform boxes to shippers free of charge. Win-win for most; just don't try to repurpose an already used flate-rate box for a future shipment...
Yesterday morning I packed up a plant, chose first class postage in lieu of flat-rate (the medium box was too big and the small box was too tiny); my box of choice was an outdated flat-rate box from my stash of "plant mailing boxes"; the size that I was using is no longer available for flat-rate shipments. After packing the box, I removed all wording that stated this was a flat-rate box; I then taped the mailing label to the box and added it to my drop-off stack for the post office later in the day.
Those of you that live here (though I am sure that this is not unique to here alone) have no doubt noticed the lack of service at our local post office. There is one employee that seems genuinely interested in helping patrons and three others that give the distinct impression that they would rather be fondling themselves whilst licking stamps instead of actually assisting with the sending of mail. It is, of course, the play of the Fates that the helpful employee is most often relegated to the bowels of the post office, where he is helpful to no one, and such was the case yesterday when I went to post my mail. As per usual, there was one window staffed, a second open, but not really "open", as the employee there was staring intently at her computer screen so as to avoid the long queue of patrons waiting at the one working window. I'm always sort of amused that the post office doesn't have a window dedicated to mail for which postage has already been bought--sure you can slip your letter into the appropriate slot, but my three boxes and four books just won't fit in the slot; nor would the packages of the three people behind me, all of whom had also already affixed mailing and postage labels. The wait, as it was, was on.
Arriving at the window, I let the guy know that my boxes were postage paid; he took them and asked for the lady behind he to come forward. I then heard a rather brusque, "Excuse me!," turning, it was the guy in the window. "Sir, this is a flat-rate box. You've put first class postage on it. Do you know this?" I assured him that I did know this, that I was reusing the box (Had I been really with my game I should have pointed to the Please Recycle Postage Materials sign next to his window); at this point I was told that flat-rate boxes may only be used at flat-rate fees. Period. I asked for clarification, "So, even though this is a box size that in no longer offered, a box that I have removed all flat-rate markings from, I am not allowed to repurpose it?" "That's correct," was his reply, "Once a flat-rate box, always a flat-rate box."
The last time that I checked, the USPS was losing money far faster than it was making any, patrons are more and more disgruntled by the lackluster service that the post offers, stamp prices keep going up and up & myriad other complaints exist. Hmm, I wonder why that might be. USPS, you might be a necessary evil, but in the age of electronic banking and alternative shipping methods, I'm banishing you where and when I can.