An updated version of a childhood classic? I’m not convinced…

Listen, I known I am an old fuddy-duddy. I typically like things to stay “…the way they are.”

I am resistant to change. I have a certain nostalgic attachment to things; I mean, I cried when I traded in my 1990 Saturn SL1 and I didn’t have a chance to really tell it “Goodbye.” I like most things to remain the way I remember them in my head. But, I have come to accept that life marches on and things change – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the NOT so better.

Case in point – the world’s current preoccupation with fairy tales from our childhood and the updating and re-imagining of these classic stories/tales from our youth. Just look at the TV shows “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm.”  Both of these series take inspiration from revered children’s stories and update and twist them for today’s audience.  I personally like both of these series.  I watch every episode.  I think “Once Upon a Time” may win the award for plot invention and costuming, but I give “Grimm” high marks for a sophisticated, contemporary interpretation of age old conflicts and superior character development.  But now I am rambling…

My original intention when beginning this post was to remind everyone why (I feel) we are so drawn to these new versions of old classics – it’s because we LOVED the originals!

Sometimes the originals cannot be improved upon; case in Point, Hansel and Gretel.  Here is what comes to MY mind when I remember the story of Hansel and Gretel:

Image(I think I may have even owned this record as a child – “non-break-able in normal use!”)

And here is the Hansel and Gretel my sweet Martin and I just met, in Extreme 3-D no less:

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Now, while the updated version has a strong basis in the original story, well, I guess this isn’t my Hansel and Gretel, the sweet children that burned a witch after she tried to eat Hansel.  I guess I don’t want my Gretel to be some buxom, leather-clad assassin or my Hansel some buff-but-diabetic hired killer.  The movie was entertaining but, in a way, it made me a little sad.

I really think we need to leave most classics alone, let them remain always as they were/are.  They give us a point of reference in life, they take us back to (hopefully) wonderful memories of childhood and growing up. They let us be kids again and leave adulthood behind for a while.  Maybe I am overly sentimental but I want my fairy tales to remain as they were created; they don’t need any updating.

I mean, no one would re-paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to “give it a fresh, new look,” right?

“For technical support press 3, followed by the #…”

Our computer at work is broken.

It has been broken since Sunday, 20 January 2013.

Help…

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Our beloved Dell needs a “power supply unit.” Unfortunately, our Dell work horse is 5.5 years old – that’s like 225 in people years. Anyway, my business partner ran our tower to a computer doctor within two days of its breaking, had the problem diagnosed and immediately ordered the needed part from Dell. The delivery date has since been pushed back twice and, as of today, our “parts order” had been cancelled. Why, you ask? Good question.

As near as we – Dell, my business partner and I – can figure out, it was a clerical “oops,” a miss-key that resulted in our order being cancelled. It “just happens” sometimes, a mistake like that. And a new part – with ANOTHER two-week lead time – is supposedly on its way. (BTW – for whatever reason, this part cannot be shipped out overnight, I assume because it is coming from some faraway, exotic locale like China, where ancient computer replacement parts are kept).

I want our computer back. I miss it.

It holds all our business “stuff”” and no, it isn’t all backed-up on the Cloud or whatever. I am kinda’ old skool that way, which really means I don’t know how to do all that. (Honestly? Were it not for my beloved Martin, my iPhone would never be updated. Hell, I barely know how to dial out on the stupid thing. I am a techno-phobe.)

The new part will come but I anticipate another 7-10 business days for the part to arrive. That translates into almost a month without our computer at work. Sure, we have laptops and we can “limp along” but I miss our regular computer. I miss a real, life-size mouse and a real keyboard with a numeric pad to the right. I miss looking at a big screen and scrolling through window after window of open sales receipts, purchase orders, client proposals and regular old emails – try reading a three page proposal on an iPhone screen!

I don’t want to “Press 3 for technical support.” I need to know which number to press so my old work mate will come back to life – and soon!

Come back to me, Dell, come back to me…

 

hope…

Today, I have hope again.

I have hope that a long-desired and much-needed legislative intervention may finally put one area of my life at peace, and give closure and finality to an open-ended state of existence that has been my shared reality for almost half a decade now.

Out of curiosity, I entered “hope” into an image search engine – this image returned to me:

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I’d like to thank the unknown photographer that captured this image because, at least for me, this IS how hope “looks” – bright and shining in the darkness, illuminating the path to an end long dreamed of… I mean, the very definition of hope is “…the feeling or belief that something you want to happen is likely to happen.” This is not only the definition of hope, it is the essence of hope, the manifestation of feeling and belief.

I HOPE my hope has finally come to be – only the future knows for now. Until then, the day when my hope transforms into my reality, I will continue to keep it close in my heart and pray The Universe will fulfill its promise to me.

Why are days only twenty-four hours long?

I find I am constantly challenged by time, and time management  It is a daily struggle for me, and I think I have finally figured out why – every day is too “short.”

I mean, who decided days should only be twenty-four hours long? At the end of every day, I find myself wondering what I could have done differently to have made the day more “productive” – how could I have been more efficient? Then I got to thinking and actually analyzing the whole “day” thing and came to the realization/conclusion that it’s not me, it is the length of the day itself – it’s just too short!!! Let me elaborate…

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Every day is twenty-four hours long (twenty-four hours and a few minutes, I think, technically). Anyway, if I do “everything I should” and try to “be my personal best,” every day should look something like this for me:

Sleep – Dr. Oz says we all need at least seven (7) hours of sleep every day. Minus seven…

Exercise – Dr. H of The Biggest Loser fame says we should all “be active” (exercise) at least sixty minutes a day, or one hour. That makes eight hours of every day gone already…

Work – I typically work between seven and nine hours a day, when one factors in blogging, Facebook-ing and and managing the business I co-own. Let’s use eight (8) hours as an average. Sixteen hours have been allocated; now I am left with only eight hours a day.

Travel – On the days I work, I have approximately a 30 minute commute each way. That deducts another hour from my day. Now I am down to seven.

Personal Hygiene – Without going into any details, I figure I spend about an hour a day with “bathroom-related” activities. Bathing, other stuff – I know, but it’s true… Only six hours left.

Eating – If I eat the way I should according to Weight Watchers, I need to budget about 30 minutes per meal for planning, tracking, preparing and actually consuming my food. That’s another 90 minutes gone. I am down to only four and half hours left…

Mental Wellness and Spirituality – According to my therapist Jessie, I should try and spend about some time every day “…being with myself, alone in my thoughts.” It helps me lead a spiritually-balanced and mentally-healthy life. I try and schedule about an hour a day, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes before bedtime. Three and a half hours left.

Family – I call my Dad every night before bedtime. This is a routine I have followed since my Mom passed away a few years ago. Most nights, the call averages about ten minutes (we talk a lot about the weather) but sometimes my Dad gets an a jag about gun reform or medicare reform or penal reform (he is big to discussing reform) and he can go for maybe thirty minutes. I’ll budget a quarter hour here. Three hours and fifteen minutes left.

Activism – I am involved with a few political and social causes, but immigration reform is one area I am particularly involved in. To make it easy, let’s say I just average fifteen minutes a day in this category. Three hours left per day…

Now, in the three hours I have left every day, I need to schedule in paying bills, doing laundry, buying groceries, stopping for gas, my weekly Weight Watchers weigh-ins/meetings (every Saturday at 8AM for thirty minutes!) and maybe catching a movie  or watching some TV. By the time I factor in all the wild card variables, every day I am in the red… Then I think about Martin.

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Martin. My beloved partner, the man that makes every day worth getting up for. Martin, who never asks me for any time; in fact, he is watching TV quietly in another room while I am hammering out this blog post. He never says “I feel ignored” or “I wish you would pay more attention to me.” He is happy when we spend three or four hours together, taking down the Christmas tree or doing laundry and housework (some dates, huh?)

Martin supports all I do, sweetly and completely, and is honestly and unquestionably the best person I have ever known. I am lucky to have him in my life.

I know there is little I can do to make days longer but, in the future, I think I shall try and use each day to its best advantage. And I know that for sure, the best way to make every day worthwhile and memorable is to be sure to “budget” more time with my SBF, Martin…

The Evolution of Man – Facial Hair Edition

Yesterday was a very long day for me. The highlight, however, was dinner with my SBF at the home of our friends Joe and Scott, two of our dearest friends in the world. They are two of the greatest guys I know, and are AMAZING hosts and cooks – more on that another time. Anyhow, over the course of the evening, conversation wandered over a variety of topics. One of the topics we touched on was men and facial hair.

Joe and Scott both sport manly swaths of facial hair, as do I. The fact is that I recently broke my Gillette Atra Razor, a razor I loved and have quite literally owned/used for probably two decades. So we joked about re-learning to use a new razor and laughed about techniques and grooming tips. See, the thing is, I have had a “well-manicured beard” for all of my adult life. I pride myself on its (I like to think) impeccable appearance and hairy perfection as it is parked on my face. And then, for whatever reason, this image popped into my head:

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Actor Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane from “The Hunger Games”

My mind left the conversation at hand for a moment and a bunch of fragmented thoughts floated through my head: The line from GQ or Details Magazine that said, “The over-groomed and hyper-detailed beard of the 80’s is dead” and the article in Instinct Magazine stating that “Men like beards that are more natural in appearance.” Heck, the List of The Seven Deadly Sins even flashed through my mind – PRIDE. Oops. I pride myself on my beard. YIKES!!!

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My head got back into the conversation, rejoining the guys as we discussed the merits of three, four and five blade razors and floating heads versus pivoting heads. Then – just for a second – I thought of my friend Per and his recommendation that I switch to a straight razor. O.M.G. Like, yeah, right… The only people I have ever even seen with straight razors are serial killers in slasher films and convicts breaking out of prison in old black and white movies…

Anyway, soon the conversation shifted and we were off and discussing Mob Wives and American Idol. But that moment did make me realize that women really are no more vain than me – they are maybe just a little more vocal about it. To hear the four of us discuss razor blades and shaving products, well, you would have thought we were discussing the merits of Creme de le Mer Moisturizing Cream. It made me laugh and it made me realize I am blessed to have such close friends I can share anything with…

As for my own facial hair, I have resolved to begin “…naturalizing the top edges, trimming only my throat and lower neck” (meaning my beard will grow as it grows on my face and I will shave my neck so I don’t look like Lon Chaney in the old Wolf-man movies). It is always hard for me to make a change, and I am still not sure it will stick. It may turn out that I will always be an overly-manicured type of guy but, hey, at least I am willing to try something new.

Plus, I still have six other “deadly sins” to work with…

A lick and a promise

When I was a little kid, my Mom used to always kinda’ hate housework, saying she’d give the floor “A lick and a promise” to hold it over till the day she could really clean. I feel that way about my blog entry today; I cannot find/make the time I normally devote to my posts.

I have been up since 6:15AM. I had Weight Watchers this morning (down 1.8 pounds this week — HOORAY!), then I drove through the bank to grab some dough, came home, posted to my business’ Facebook page, grabbed my SBF and was off to work. I work 11A till 6P today. Work has been an annoying challenge this week as our computer “bit the dust” and every transaction has to be recorded by hand (At the moment, I am on my beloved’s laptop – borrowed for a few minutes – to crank out this feeble post). The computer will live again after “3-5 business days” for the part to get here.

After work, Martin and I are going to our friends Scott and Joe’s house for dinner. They are RIDICULOUSLY great cooks (chefs, really!) and time just flies by when we are all together. Add to the mix their dog, Xander, an uber-chill giant schnauzer that Martin LOVES and it is easy to predict that we won’t get home till probably close to midnight.

So I cannot figure out a window for proper posting today. I hope you understand and enjoy this insanely cute picture of a kitten licking his paw. I leave you with this lick – and my promise to be back tomorrow, time better managed, with another witty, insightful and/or inspiring post. Thanks for understanding!

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OMG – I’m humming Astro Boy?

For some unknown reason, I found myself humming this tune recently:

Now, for those of you under a “certain age,” Astro Boy was (I believe) the first anime -style cartoon serial imported to the United States in the early 60’s. The clip above is dated 1963, although the trailer has a copyright date of 1957. I would have been five years old in 1963 – Astro Boy is the first cartoon I remember.

And yes, cartoon. An imported, slightly-ahead-of-its-time, black and white anime-style cartoon. Cartoons originally came in black and white; color was an upgrade a few years later. I don’t remember a lot of the episode plots but I do remember wishing I could be Astro Boy. Astro Boy could fly. He was “good.” He ran around in hot pants and never seemed obsessed with body image. He was nearly naked all the time and yet, even when he flew close to the sun, never sunburned. Finally, he had a cool sound he made when he “had feet” and was walking like any other human. “Wockah wockah wockah.” Astro Boy was the man. Oh yeah, and that hair:

Astro Boy

Astro Boy had amazing hair; I envied it even as a child. He has a pronounced widow’s peak supporting a hairline that totally and completely frames his face. And those points – is it product, is it the cut, is it a combination of both? Many years later I would see New Age musicians sporting similar looks.

Astro Boy was light years ahead of his time. For me, he was a style icon.

So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise his theme song is still stuck somewhere in my mind, resurfacing from time to time.

Astro Boy was everything I wanted to be as a child – someone good, someone special (he could fly!) and someone with great hair. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be him?

As I left childhood behind, Astro Boy faded from my mind. In a way, my life has mirrored Astro Boy’s a bit. I always felt a little different growing up and I had to face a few of my own “monsters” along the way.  I am happy to say that, so far, I have won every battle, just like my childhood hero. My own hair continues to recede a tiny bit more with each passing year, so I still envy him that hair. I guess no product or haircut will ever give me that hair. But, as I continue to grow and evolve as a person, I realize now that I AM special, and that maybe I have learned to fly – I just don’t have tiny, retractable jets in my feet. Thanks, Astro Boy, for inspiring me…

Joy Fall-Out

I like to think I have a pretty awesome circle of friends – they support me and my beloved, they endure my craziness, they are (for the most part) socially conscious and engaged and they, by and large, make the world a better place simply by being themselves. I am pretty blessed. I seem to gravitate to “art-sy” types, maybe because I work in the design field, maybe because I am gay, who knows? My friends all seem to be somehow gifted in the arts department – writers, artists, designers and the like.

One of my dearest friends, Chris, would probably deny that he even is an artist, although he owns and manages an amazing and highly successful fine arts framing company in San Francisco. I have known Chris and his partner for just about five years but have gotten very close to them in the past couple of years. They are two very special people, in all the BEST definitions of the word. Kind. Loving. Generous. Giving. Selfless. Worldly. Responsible.

Anyhow, like most of my friends, Chris is a part of my online “social network” and while he is not a mad-poster like other friends, he does pop-up in my feed with reasonable frequency. Chris is one of my most political friends so typically his posts reflect current events or ways to better the world. They always make me smile but recently he posted this image, which made me stop and grin from ear to ear:

ImagePhoto courtesy of CB Fine Art Photography. Used with permission; all rights reserved.

The caption attached to the pic was simply this: “Growing shade outside of Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco.” I am guessing it was an image captured by my friend with his iPhone as he was walking outside the market. Speaking from a scholarly place, the composition is visually interesting, the balance and juxtaposition of colors is engaging. The artist plays with shadows of leaves contrasted against reflections of leaves in the glass. It clearly displays the sometimes hard to grasp concept of the “quality of light.”

In a nutshell, it is simply a kick ass photo.

But it was more than a simple pic/post for me. For one thing, I kinda’ joke with my friends about being affected with mild S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder – Google it) and this image, bright and saturated with sunlight, made me forget all the gray nothingness that is Ohio at the moment. I smiled, too, as I remembered being at Rainbow Grocery with my beloved Martin and Chris and his beloved guy during our trip to San Francisco last year. The visit to Rainbow Grocery was a big deal/no big deal, you know? Just four friends, having fun doing nothing, laughing and talking as we walked aisles of soy, bamboo and “free-range” products. The memory of that happy time made me smile.

In an effortless moment, simply by innocently posting a photograph, my friend lifted my spirits and reminded me of some awesome memories. I am sure it was not his original intention but he really made my day great by sharing that picture. It is moments like this, moments that I like to call “collateral joy happenings” that I wish would happen more often, not only for me but for everyone.

I’d like to publicly thank all my friends for being in my life. As I said, I am blessed with many great friends – I look forward to making many more memories/having many more adventures with all of you. As each new event and chapter in my life unfolds, I promise to savor every moment and open myself up to joy. And I promise to do my best to share that joy with you.

Movies. Magic. Memories…

Last weekend, Martin and I had the chance to visit my sister and her family in Columbus for a very overdue Christmas celebration.

I saw my sister-in-law and my niece and nephew, as well as my sister and her partner and their three daughters, the nieces I refer to as my “Three Graces.” It was fun – food and presents and laughter and just good times in general. But, maybe the highlight of the visit was the viewing of  “Frogs.”  Yes, that’s correct – “Frogs,” the 1972 horror cinema classic starring Sam Elliott and Joan Van Ark, he “pre-Lifeguard” and she “pre-Knot’s Landing.” We settled into my younger sister’s home theater room (it’s pretty laid out, actually) and spent a little over 90 minutes watching what could well be one of the most pathetic movies ever made…

Frogs

As we watched scene after scene of one character after another being “off-ed” by snakes, birds, tarantulas, lizards, leeches, alligators — jeesh, just about every animal except frogs (they come into their own in the final scene with Ray Milland), it was fun but my mind wandered a bit. My mind wandered back to 1972 and The Springmill Drive-In Theatre in Mansfield, Ohio, the theater where I probably could have seen “Frogs” as part of an exciting double bill.

My beloved and I love movies – we probably see at least two movies a week. Often we see one of those movies in a giant, twenty-four screen multiplex with reclining seats, hi-def sound and cup holders in the armrests. In 1972, I was fourteen years old and, even then, LOVED movies. But in 1972, my “multiplex” was The Springmill Drive-In. I always looked old for my age so I often got in to see “R” movies there. The drive-in was exciting – on “Carload Night,” four or five of us would pack in the car and each chip in one dollar towards the $5/car admission price.  Once inside, we would find a parking space with a speaker that worked, walk to the snack bar to get a cola, a hot dog and some popcorn and then go back to the car to sit in the dark with friends for sometimes more than three hours. We would forget for a time that we were all from a town of 7000 people and be transported to wherever the film would take us. I saw the world on that big screen. I loved it at The Springmill.

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These photos of The Springmill Drive-In were taken by me in  April 2009.

Those evenings at The Springmill – in 1972 and for a few more years beyond – allowed me to escape into the fantasy world of films. That drive-in was magic for me…

Then life happened; I grew up and moved away, away from my hometown and away from The Springmill Drive-In.  I had almost forgotten about it all together when a family gathering in 2009 allowed me to return to the drive-in. It was a viewing of “Monsters vs. Aliens” with my Three Graces (along with another film I forget). It was like seeing an old friend again after many years apart – comfortable and familiar, but different from what you expected and remembered…

The five-buck-a-car price I remembered was now $5/person.

The parking lot was still gravel but the speakers were much newer – not any louder, but newer.

The snack bar was still in the same place, still with the same staples, but the prices now made a decision necessary between hot dogs OR a popcorn, not both.

The cash register was still in the same place, but an ATM machine stood in the space to its right.

I love The Springmill Drive-In. I loved it in 1972, I loved it in 2009 and I loved being there in my memory last weekend, as Joan Van Ark suffered a horrible death by reptiles. It felt good to realize that in some places – some physical and other spiritual – time does stand still.

Scrap gold, precious memories

It will be five years this November since my Mother passed away. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of her and smile. My Mom’s name is Betty and, while she may not have been a perfect Mom in the textbook sense, she was perfect for me. I won’t lie – we had more than a few struggles in our relationship but when she passed, she was like my best friend. I spoke with her almost every other day and we were very close. I loved her. I still love her.

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One of my favorite photos of my Mom, seen here with Yan the Wonder Dog, a black pug that was one of her favorite “grand-dogs.”.

Even though so much time has passed since my Mom’s death, my family still has some uncompleted tasks. My younger sister and I started one this past weekend – going through shoe boxes full of my Mother’s jewelry, one woman’s lifetime accumulation of earrings and bracelets and pins and rings and watches. Shortly after my Mom’s passing, my Dad scooped all/most of Mom’s jewelry into small fabric travel cases or jewelry boxes and asked my younger sister to take it all away. Maybe it was too much for my Dad to see it on Mom’s vanity; maybe he really just didn’t know what to do with it. Anyway, all these months and years later, my sister, my sister-in-law and I sat down and started to go through the boxes…

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It was an interesting emotional journey to review and re-experience my Mom’s life by holding all these things she had loved. We found her school class ring from Everett High School, Class of 1956. Another box held what seemed like dozens of heavy serpentine necklaces, some silver but most gold, from what we children fondly term my Mom’s “Mr. T Period.” Another box yielded a carved, painted wooden flower pin, a piece of jewelry that probably cost $3.00 or less, yet my Mom loved it as much as diamonds. I found a pendant I had designed for her, crafted with stones taken from a ring I had purchased impulsively for myself in my youth. Here was the tiny Italian Horn I had given her, after wearing it for a few years myself (I was younger then, and it was “disco”). I didn’t find the two bracelets she is wearing in the photo above, bracelets I had given her for a birthday and one Christmas. And one ring is still AWOL, but I think it may still be at my Dad’s house, somewhere with the missing bracelets.

All these memories, all these objects were like beautiful, shining pieces of my Mom. I looked at each piece over and over, remembering when and where should had worn them, and smiling. My Mom did that for me – she may have “busted my chops” on a regular basis but she always made me smile…

So, the day before I arrived at my sister’s house, she and her partner had taken a few “good pieces” from Mom’s treasure chest to a place in Columbus that purchases estate jewelry, just to get an idea of the value of my Mother’s things. Among those items was a beautiful blue topaz ring, with a large emerald-cut stone in a four-prong white gold setting. I’m guessing the stone is at least “double-digits” in the carats department (the stone alone is twice as big as my thumbnail). That ring always held a place of honor on Mom’s vanity, housed in its own, special “Somebody-Jewelers-Knoxville-Tennessee” box. The ring sat there where she could see it, I imagine as a reminder to my Mom of her success in achieving a goal, or maybe as a reminder that she was glamorous and beautiful. My Mom told stories about how she had gone without lunch for a few months when she got her first job, just so she could buy that ring. Even as a little boy, I knew that ring was worth millions…

It’s hard to relate the disappointment and disillusionment I felt when the estate buyer told my sister that the ring would probably retail for less than $200.00. He explained to my sister that the stone was beautiful and near-perfect but not a sought-after stone. In fact, he said the “scrap gold” had more value than the actual gemstone.

Scrap gold. The elegant, beautiful ring that had come to symbolize my Mom was scrap gold.

I am well aware of the mark-up in jewelry so I was not too surprised that the ring wasn’t worth “millions’ – in fact, I could actually care less what each piece is worth. I am, however, thankful for having gone through the appraisal process as it has taught me the real value of my Mother’s things. Without much discussion, the group decided to keep our Mom’s collection intact for now, a tangled mess of (mostly) costume necklaces, watches and bracelets. The thing is, each piece sparkles in its own way, just like my Mom did.

Often, the real value of an item is not in dollars but in memories and emotions…