The Art of Not Caring

Rhetorically, does this sound like you? I used to think that the world would be a much better place if we all took the time to help each other more; there'd be more peace out there and more piece of mind in our communities. We'd all be working toward a common goal or all on the same page for the future or all sharing a united idea about where we wanted to be five, ten or twenty years from any given moment. I try to pay attention to the community attitude proffered in places that I visit, be it the sense of awareness for the immediate environment that I saw all around the streets of Lima, Peru, the dedication to public green-space found throughout the city of Auckland or the attention paid to recycling wherever one sets foot in Japan. Each of these communities have instilled an ideal in their citizens to uphold practices both for the benefit of society as a whole and the individual. It's social norm in these places that public spaces are clean, parks are open and available to all, batteries get sent to a reclamation factory in lieu of an incinerator. I think it goes beyond social norm in these places now though, its simply an ingrained part of how these societies work; sort of like washing your clothes, you separate lights from darks as a matter of course, not a matter of conscious. I'm not saying that this is wrong, I'm just curious what happened to the activists and fundamental change-mavens that brought their respective societies to this point? I don't think the entire population of Japan got up one morning and said, in unison, "Today is the day that we all will recycle. Everything."Nor do I think that the citizenry of Lima, Peru--from barrio dweller to bourgeois-- simultaneously took to the streets, broom in one hand and bag in the other, to dispel streets of rubbish, strewn leaves and whatever other unsavory there was to be found. These kinds of things take time to accomplish, there are minds to change and media to involve; there must be movers and shakers to light the fire, to see that things, once started, continue to be done. What happens, though, when what "needed to be done" takes on a life of its own? Where have the idealists that nurtured these ideas to completion gone? Ask most anyone and they will tell you a brief history of why they recycle, why they clean the streets or why there is so much green-space; prod deeper and you might get more of a history lesson; try to dig deeper though, and most people will shrug their shoulders and simply state that this is the way that it's always been, will always be. I've never been on the leading edge of any social or environmental movement; I shy from the light of anything political as a general rule, I'd rather watch from the edge of the forest as others assert their will over bulldozer and savage beast alike--I'm cautious that way I guess. It's not that I don't care, quite the contrary; it's just that what I truly care about, the hows and whys seem to get swept to the side, lacquered over and forgotten. I know that our forests are in peril, that we should be concerned about mercury in our fish, that too many plastic items are ending up in our landfills; I know the science and the reasoning, but what of the people that are involved, what of the process to this point? I ask a question, expecting a common, concise answer, but instead am given some sort of information about how things are progressing, what little amount of time we have to make a change or where we all went wrong; it's the equivalent, to me, of the collective shoulder shrug and the notion that it's just the way that it always was. The culture of caring is complete only when one masters the art of not caring I'd say. Very zen, more than a little true.


A Hell of a Trip (So Far...)

Greetings et al from the northern tip of Oregon! Up until Friday afternoon, the drive here was more or less uneventful in an eventful sort of way... Last Friday morning I pulled out of the driveway of the home that I grew up in, pointed my car west and drove to meet the car ferry for a dull trip across Lake Michigan; I read the four hours that it took, my thoughts only punctuated by the barrage of Law & Order SVU that played endlessly in our hold; docked in Manitowoc, mine was the last car to emerge from the ship. I fired up my new Garmin (molto molto buene y'all!), keyed in an address and set off; about three hours and a scenic drive later I was pulling up in front of my brother's farm just outside of LaX, WI. The weather was very nice, not too warm, sunny and a bit of a breeze. I spent a few days hanging out on the farm, helping my sister-in-law make applesauce, playing with my nephews and relaxing for the trip ahead. Monday morning I hit the road and proceeded to Sioux Falls, SD, had lunch and then hit the road again for Rapid City. It was another great day for a drive, mid 70's and sunny; the hills of South Dakota flew by. I took in panoramic views along the way, stopping at a few turn-abouts to take in the hills in the distance and rivers in valleys. I'd thought that I would camp for the night in Rapid City, but the weather had other things in mind; the NWS was forecasting 55mph sustained winds and heavy rain for the overnight, with more gusty winds the following morning. I stopped at a McDonald's for a milkshake and some free wireless and logged on to Cheaptickets.com to scout out my available boarding options. There are quite a number of hotels, motels and inns in Rapid City; most were renting in the $50-70 range, so I decided to look for one that was near the historic downtown district, figuring that I might be able to go out for some local color (it was only about 8pm and all); if you are ever in Rapid City, hit up the Hotel Alex Johnson, an old (well-maintained) classic downtown. At $69+tax, they beat out any of the chain hotels in the city, are the tallest structure downtown (great views!) and was a great find. Sadly, there is very little which is open in Rapid City on a Monday night; I did find a small bar that caters to the college crowd though, it was a dive of a place, just around the corner from the hotel, with hip music and a crowd of mostly just 20-somethings; I drank 3 Jim Beam Manhattans for the steep price of $8 (yes Virginia, EIGHT dollars) including the tip. I asked the bar tender what they sold the most of, she told me PBR (and at 75c), a $20 bill goes a long way. I left the next morning, well rested and raring to get to Bozeman, MT. I was meeting a friend there, going to dinner and beer and back to her house for the night. The drive was uneventful, more rolling hills and sweeping views, at least until I left I-90, directed by my Garmin to Route 212. If you've never driven this road, let me tell you, the bit that makes its way through Wyoming is the very definition of boredom; I imagine this is what the steppes of Argentina look like, flat with minor ridges, cattle and sheep appearing on occasion. I could have pulled the car over, sat in the middle of the road buck naked and not have worried about offending anyone, I think I saw about 3 cars on my drive. Coming into Montana, I thought I'd pull off and get gas, but the first town had no gas station, ditto the next three...with a quarter of a tank left and 41 miles to the next town, I was getting worried. Thankfully, there was gas in the next berg, at the sole filling station cum grocery store cum gun shop cum motel. I hit town at 7pm, gave her a call and left a message. I sent her a text about a half an hour later to tell her I was going for beer. At 8pm, I'd still not heard anything, so I gave her husband a ring, he told me she was downtown to meet me, to try her cell again; I did. At 8.30 her husband called me, told me he could not get ahold of her, wondering if I did...at 9pm she called me--her phone had died. We met, proceeded to a local bar, got a drink and chatted with some of her friends. All went well, until she decided to order shots...tequila shots...I begged out, someone else got mine. Post shots, we went to another bar, I ordered a plate of food and a cocktail, more drinks were poured, and my hostess disappeared. I was handed car keys and asked to get her home...hmmm....I'm visiting, I've never been to Bozeman in my adult life, my car is parked on the main drag, my friend is ripped.... I dropped her in her car, asked if there was an overnight lot for my car, moved it, went back and proceeded to get very lost at midnight in Bozeman. We finally made it back to her house, woke her hubby up & I got to bed...sleep was blissful, until her daughter woke me at 6am with a barrage of questions. Thankfully I had not been tanked the night before, just tired, so I answered her questions to satisfaction and went back to bed. My friend slept super late, leaving me to the ministrations of her kids, house cat and dog (we all got along grand); we stopped early afternoon to get my car and move it uphill to her house. She asked me to hang out another night, see a bit of the town. I was a bit tired still, but read a book in the sun that afternoon, hung out downtown, drank some local brew and had a mini pizza, I picked up some local beer and brought it up the hill to her husband and we sat and chatted for a while. Early to bed, I was up the next morning and off to Spokane to meet another friend. I hit Spokane early in the day, about 2pm, and gave my friend a call. No answer. I sent a text, no reply. I sent a note on FB, nada. I thought that maybe she was at work or outside enjoying the gorgeous weather, so I grabbed a glass of wine at a downtown wine bar, checked my mail and waited a bit. Still nothing. Googling, I discovered that there was a park in the city (People's Park) with a ton of trails, so I switched out shoes, changed into shorts and hit the green space. I had a great afternoon, the park was a series of hills and trails running along the river, the weather was perfect. At 6.30 I decided to return to the car, check my messages and refill my water bottle. Still nothing from my friend; I was worried and sort of off-put. I tried to both text and call her again, I got a voicemail response. I paged her just for good measure. By 7.30 I'd still not heard anything, so I ate a bite and climbed back into my car...and headed out for Yakima. I spent an uneventful night in Yakima, hit the road early Friday morning and drove to Astoria, OR; 3 miles outside of town my Subaru hiccuped; the check engine light flashed on and then off. I pulled over, checked the oil and transmission and coolant--all fine. I looked under the body for any drips; all clear. I drove the last few miles into town, with one more hiccup. I called my dad (the "expert"); he told me it sounded like perhaps I had water in the gas tank, to top the tank with premium gas and call back. I did. Still hiccuping, but just at an idle and randomly while driving. "Add dry gas too," he said. I did. I drove the short drive to the campground (my destination), with hiccups all the way. I need to hit a service station, but all are closed until Monday morning...so here I sit, typing, drinking coffee and enjoying the nothingness all around. At least it's nice nothingness: the Pacific is an easy walk, as too is the Columbia River, there are dunes and abandoned military bunkers to explore, the forest is green and gorgeous (with giant slugs!) and the state park is super nice. I walked down the hill to the tiny town of Hammond this morning for breakfast, about .75 miles, it was cool, with mist hanging in the air, a pleasant walk. I had an omelet and a glass of Oregon pinot gris; on the wall next to my table there was a sign; Keep Calm and Move Forward... An omen of sorts, it's been mentioned here before. The walk back up the hill got me thinking: I've been walking everywhere, thinking I really need a bike (like most everyone here); it's one of the reasons that I chose to move to Oregon after all, great running and biking trails... I'm sitting here at the top of the hill in a minuscule Internet coffee shop, sipping a $2 cafe au lait with an extra shot (seriously, $2, including tax...), nibbling on a giant pumpkin streusel muffin ($1 more), moving forward. The trip has been sorta hellish, but it's doing wonders for evoking my calm.


Life Through the Bottom of an Ale Glass

Often when I make the drive North to "civilization" from where I live, I stop at one of the local microbreweries; it's a place that those who like funky, well-crafted beer know of and just hitting the blips of the local alcohol distribution network. You see their brews occasionally on taps throughout the North here, but they don't bottle (yet?) and the selection, while huge at the brewery, is extremely limited in restaurants and bars. This is a brewery with character: funky art from hipster artists for sale on the walls, eclectic iPod-fueled audio, polished concrete floors holding mismatched chairs, DIY beer steins, Vogue magazines with Sharpie-stylized mustachioed cover girls & a schedule of beers, ales and porters that change entirely too often. It's a great place to watch people, eavesdrop on townie conversations or meet friends old and new for a pint or two or four. There's an ever-changing parade of patrons, you never really develop a feel for who will be there at any given time--it runs the gamut from local university students to au courant post-bubble pseduoyuppies to guys in moon boots and $400 sunglasses. I've never had a truly bad brew there, I was not crazy about their barley wine (judging by the half-finished glasses I was not alone), but the flexibility and creativity of the unseen brewers is the stuff of legend up here. Say you want to try something brewed with asparagus, bacon, cherry pie, basil, dill or myriad other arcane or esoteric ingredients--they'll have you covered. I, for one, did not try the asparagus beer; I know how my body processes beer and I know how my body processes asparagus, I'm not quite ready to combine the two...perhaps they'd negate each other, but I have the feeling that you'd not want to be standing down wind of me at the urinal a couple of hours later. The bacon porter is excellent, there's a glass in front of me as I type, I'm dreaming up all sorts of things that you could pair it with, though a PBJ on bacon toast from Respite Coffee would put me in heaven I think... (*shameless plug...my blog host has given me all these nifty new ways to imbed items in my postings, a little time off gives me time to fun them out...) and the honey-basil ale is awesome when they have it in the late fall. I'm going to miss this place when I head west, but moving to the highest density of microbreweries in the US, I'm sure to find somewhere just as quirky.


Sweet, Sweet Music

I went for a run yesterday afternoon, the weather was warm, but just about perfect. I met few people on the trail, mostly nature held sway, evidenced by the bullfrogs and snapping turtle that I veered around. Run complete, I started my drive home, taking note of the trace of early fall that was in the air, the scent of goldenrods and drying leaves. Yielding to traffic before a merge onto one of the main roads in town, my ears were assaulted by a souped-up 4x4 truck with what sounded like twin glasspacked mufflers. The roar definitely turns heads, sometimes makes you roll up your windows and crank your music or, if you are like me, induces a rolling of the eyes and the urge to chuck a cabbage or two at the offender. The guy in the rusty Chrysler next to me got a chubby from those pipes I think, true penis...er...muffler envy. An hour later, freshly showered and again in the 'Ru, I headed off for java before meeting friends. I went to one of the coffee shops that sets out tables on the sidewalk, intent on enjoying the rest of a sunny afternoon, hoping to check my email and enjoy the post-run high. Ass planted in chair, Mac powered on, I logged in and thought I'd play catch up. Glancing up, I noted that the same souped-up 4x4 was pausing at the traffic light in front of me, its idle producing a muted roar. A Wrangler on what must have been 40" rims coasted to a stop just behind the truck, its music drowning out the exhaust ahead--temporarily. Loud music must have been an affront to the driver of said truck, who revved the engine, producing a sudden whining roar from his mufflers. The Wrangler, not to be outdone, revved his engine as well, adding an annoying off-key whining layer to the Jay-Z coming from his speakers. People stared. A guy smoking a cigarette and driving a beater pumped his stereo system, the bass dropping out, the back window rattling. Bravado? I wonder what makes people decide that they need to over-accessorize their rides? Is there some sort of unspoken rule that a decent stereo system can negate the shitty appearance of a rusted-out sedan? Is a purposely-installed loud muffler system considered a must-have item on a tricked-out 4x4? What is the gas bill like on a recreational vehicle with a super-giant lift kit? All these questions and no hope of answers; I was half tempted to stroll over and pose them to the idlers.


Drag Queens, Latex Toys & Other Erotic Hazards

Coming out of the closet invariably brings a barrage of questions from loved ones and strangers alike; having been out more than half of my life, I am still amazed (and amused) at the ridiculous questions that are posed to me on a regular basis. I lost count of the number of times that I have been asked what's it's like to kiss another man; if the ponderer is of the male persuasion I suggest that they pucker up (there's only been one taker), if they are in possession of other equipment, I usually just tell them it's a bit like kissing their father, except for the tongue that is invariably slipped, the nip on the bottom lip and the occasional brush of something more personal. Likewise, I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked if I simply don't find women attractive; there are a lot of women that I find attractive: Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga & the Chinese lady that makes me spicy tofu at one of the local asian food joints to name three. Finding a female attractive and wanting to be with a female are two different ball games though. There's anatomy that's missing, I'd wonder if she has a twin brother and myriad other reasons prevent me from even venturing down that road, besides, to thine own self be true. Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I'd ever been attracted to a drag queen. Seriously? Attracted as in I want to spend half an hour with cold cream stripping back make-up like refinishing a dresser or attracted like I want to rush and smother those Marliynesque come-fuck-me red lips with my own? Nope, I've never found a drag queen attractive. Amusing, yes. Brave, ditto. Sexy, not so much. A friend of mine asked me if I had any toys. I told him I had a remote control car at my parents house somewhere and the odd puzzle or two. "Latex toys I mean," he said. "I prefer polycarb," I told him, "It's top-shelf dishwasher safe, and you can use it with oil based lubricants. Don't worry though, I don't wash toys and dishes at the same time. Usually anyways." He wasn't sure if I was serious or not, but he avoids helping with the dishes whenever he's around. Another friend of mine asked me if she and her husband could borrow a video from me. "Video?," I asked. "You know, porn," she replied, "My husband is sort of curious." I told her I'd send her one via email. "Email? Don't you have like a dvd or cd or something?" I told her that I could burn her one; I asked if her hubby had any specific requests. "We just want to see two men being intimate." If my friend's husband wants to see two men being intimate, he really needs to rent Philadelphia or Were the World Mine. I told her porn is not intimate; porn is fantasy personified, graphic, in your face (in his face really)--but not intimate. I'm not sure she ever really thought about it. Another friend of mine asked me what the strangest place was I'd ever had sex in, I'll admit I've had sex in some crazy places, the garden, a tool shed, behind the bar in a restaurant (no, it wasn't open, no it's not the one that I worked for) to name a few; my stock answer to this question though usually involves picking a room in the asker's home--let them then choose whether or not to follow up. A woman that I know socially (we're on a first name basis, though I know very little about her, nor she, I) asked me the other day if I had any gay friends. The last three words of her question, any gay friends, were spoken so softly I had to ask her to repeat herself, the third time I took the hint and leaned in so I could hear what she'd said. I asked why we were whispering about this. "We're in public. I'm trying to be discreet." I'm sure the look on my face was priceless, but I asked why she was curious. "There's this friend of mine..." Any gay man will cringe upon hearing those words, "...he and his partner are having trouble meeting people. They moved here last year." Phew! I suggested that he take a look at Facebook, talk to the coordinator of our local GLBT group or get off his butt and go out to the local gay watering hole. I was going to suggest that he also try looking at craigslist, but I'm not sure exactly what sort of friends he and his partner were looking for. One of my co-workers asked me where she and her boyfriend could get a sling; I suggested eBay, but she wanted to know if there was anywhere nearby. I told her that I'd ask a friend of mine; I mentioned that she would need to make sure she had a secure place to hang it. "I thought we'd hang it from the ceiling in the guest room." "Are there exposed beams in your guest bedroom?," I asked. "No, but there are hooks screwed into the studs." For those of you that have never hung a sling, I suggest you make a trip to your local Home Depot. Make sure to ask lots of questions: What gauge chain would support x amount of weight. How much weight are these eye bolts rated for? What's available in stainless steel? Etc. The salesperson will probably either ask if you are building a winch to lower engine blocks or moving hay. Wink at them and tell them it's much more personal. Hooks screwed into the studs? Hopefully my friend wears a helmet (falling drywall) and activity occurs over one of those blue mats they have at the gym (123lbs falling 2.5 feet to Pergo!)