Monday, June 26, 2006

Ecce homos!

I marched in the San Francisco Pride Parade today. Well, to be precise, I participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade today, but my contingent had a big yellow school bus as its float, and I rode in the bus. And despite years and years of instruction about not sticking body parts out the bus windows, I happily exercised my adult right to stick my head and arms out the window so as to smile cutely and wave at folks on the sidewalk.

I must have been smiling and waving awfully cutely, because there were all kinds of official video and still cameras pointed right at me as I was hanging out the window. There was one video guy who was not very subtle about this. He trained his big ol' camera at me and walked sideways for a bit, matching his pace exactly to the bus. But after about a minute and a half, I got very uncomfortable with this arrangement; and so I pretended to get distracted by something inside the bus. He lost interest in my cuteness immediately.

This year marked my first San Francisco Pride experience, and my second Pride ever. My first Pride was in Cleveland in 2004. Yes, they do have Pride in Cleveland, just on a smaller scale than San Francisco and with far more protesters. I remember there being a whole throng of protesters around E. 9th, just before the end of the parade. Said throng brandished a variety of decidedly un-Christian signs, along the lines of "Jesus hates you... and your little dog too!" I didn't see a single protester along the parade route here in San Francisco. I did, however, see tons of happy heterosexual couples encouraging their toddlers to wave (or outright flapping their little arms for them) at the leather daddies, topless women, and drag divas.

After the parade, my wife, my friend, and I headed toward the Castro, in hot pursuit of food. A slightly disheveled man observed my wife and me holding hands and said, "If this is the future, I don't want to see it!"

My first impulse was to shoot back, "I hope you die young, then!" But I was with my fine church-going wife (who'd just finished marching with her fine church), and I was embarrassed to say something so mean in front of her.

By the time I'd thought of something better--"Go crawl back under your rock until Pride's over!"--he had taken his slight disheveledness somewhere else.

But dude. Not only were we holding hands in the gayest city on Earth; not only were we were holding hands in the gayest section of the gayest city on Earth; but we were holding hands in the gayest section of the gayest city on Earth during the gayest weekend of the year. And he was surprised--nay, horrified--to see two chicks holding hands during his walk? Serves him right!

P.S. My wife had also wanted to express her best wishes for his early demise; but she didn't want to say something so mean in front of me. Great minds self-inhibit alike.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Wordsmithing (or, A semi-serious entry)

I like words.

I like to do silly things with words. One of the first inside jokes my wife and I developed was a strategic mispronunciation of "gnocchi," such that the "g" was no longer silent and the whole thing rhymed with "rocky." Thus we could rap on a door and giggle, "gnocchi-gnocchi!" and it was all very cute and fun.

For a while we signed letters to each other using words that almost rhyme with "love," such as "mauve," "larva," "knave," and "locomotive." This was all very fun and cute, until we ran out of words that almost rhyme with "love." So we moved on to words that almost rhyme with words that almost rhyme with "love," and then it just got plain silly.

I used to be a star on vocabulary tests in high school. I can still spell all the words I learned, but in the decade or so since the era of vocabulary quizzes, I've forgotten what many of them mean. Every so often I will come across one, like "raconteur" or "impecunious" or "refulgent," and I'll have a vague idea of what it means but have to sneak off to the dictionary for a consult anyway.

Yes, indeedy, words are wonderful.

It pains me to realize that there are certain words which are in themselves totally wonderful but have acquired totally un-wonderful connotations. I'm talking about words like "traditional," "family," "values," and "morals." I have grown to despise these words, for they have begun to invoke in me a panic reaction.

Some awful, hideous person out there is probably tittering with delight because these words have begun to strike fear into my heart.

But that awful, hideous person hasn't quite accomplished his/her aim. Oh, verily, the T-word, the V-word, the M-word, and the F-word strike fear into my heart, but not because I see any inherent conflict between any of them and my fabulously gay, fabulously committed life. No, I panic because my first thought upon reading these words is oh, shit, who hates us now?

And here's the thing. Most of the time these words occur in contexts that have nothing to do with sexuality. I am addicted to counted cross-stitch, a traditional yet decidedly unsexy pastime. Safeway often has the best values on basic food items, but sometimes I want to spend a little more for organic products elsewhere. You can't talk about Aesop's fables without mentioning morals. And the next person who tries to insist that a family can only consist of an opposite-sex couple and their descendents really ought to brush up on biological nomenclature.

So here it is, Pride Month and the eve of San Francisco Pride Weekend (I ask you, isn't every weekend Pride Weekend in San Francisco?), and my excitement is tempered by the fact that completely innocuous, positive little words have somehow become weapons of mass destruction.

By the way, and this is pretty disgusting, "Karl Rove" almost rhymes with "love."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Public transit story #8: No keyboard detected. Press F1 to continue.

On Wednesday I pulled an 11-hour day at work.

Well, to be precise, I pulled a 12-hour day at work, but I took an hour and a half for dinner between my actual work day (which ended at 5:00) and my stupid late meeting at another agency (which started at 6:30). Since I didn't take a lunch break, I decided that half an hour of my dinner break ought to be on the clock.

Most of us at the late meeting had to be back at the same location twelve hours later for another meeting. That totally sucked, and not just because the late meeting was two and a half hours long and the morning meeting was three hours long and none of us was very happy about any of these arrangements. We should've had a slumber party. Giggling into the night might just have made us slightly more productive the next day.

But alas, no slumber party for us.

Thankfully, these monthly three-hour meetings come with starch, fruit, and caffeine. I was able to get up a little later than usual, roll into some clothes, roll out the door, and roll onto the train without having to make coffee or breakfast, and still have both coffee and food before having to say vaguely intelligible things.

So there I was, having rolled onto the train that was rolling toward the Caldecott Tunnel, when I heard the conductor come on the PA system.

"Um, folks, we're having some problems with the PA system in the first car. Those passengers in the first car might want to move into another car in order to hear the PA system."

Huh? Did he just say what I thought he said, or was I asleep and/or hearing things?

Said the conductor, "Again, those passengers in the first car might want to move to another car in order to--"


We had just entered the Caldecott Tunnel. The noise level in BART's tunnels is such that people who turn up their iPods to drown out the sounds of their commutes are at risk for hearing loss. And yet the conductor yammered all the way through the tunnel and then some about how people in the first car might have trouble hearing the malfunctioning PA system.

Suddenly I felt a lot better about showing up at my meeting sticky-eyed and stupid.

Monday, June 05, 2006


I've been Mick Jaggered, been silver daggered
Andy Warhol, won't you please come home?
I've been mother, father, aunt, and uncled
Been Roy Halleyed and Art Garfunkeled
I just discovered somebody's tapped my phone
Simon and Garfunkel, "A Simple Desultory Philippic"

My mother was once accused of being a Communist. By her high school principal. Because she didn't like the topic she had to use for her valedictory address (what the school had done for the class of 1968) and so she shook it up a little (what the class of 1968 had done for the school). The principal was pissed. As the story is told, there was a threat of her diploma being yanked.

When I was in high school, I once said to my mother that I was really sad that I hadn't been around in the 1950s or 1960s.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because it was such a cool time! The music was awesome! I would've been a hippie, maybe, but without all the drugs." This latter part was actually true. Among other things that distinguished me from most of my peers, I had no interest whatsoever in drugs.

My mother got an odd look on her face. "It was a really scary time," she said. "We had bomb drills in elementary school. Duck and cover!"

"We had a few bomb drills in elementary school," I reminded her. "Also tornado drills. And this isn't tornado country." This was also true. Plus, my mother grew up in Indiana, and although she often talked about bomb drills, she'd never mentioned a single tornado drill. So there!

I held onto this idea that the Boomers had it best. Their generation even had a name. Me? I was born in 1980, but by my count I'm not an 80s child because I turned one before Reagan took office. I went to school with Generation X kids and Generation Y kids, but no one seemed to know whether the class of 1997 was Gen X or Gen Y. Plus, most of my school chums were born in 1979, making me a 70s child by proxy.

For a long time I was stuck on this idea that, for any particular era, popular music is an excellent indicator of quality of life. Perhaps this is a result of having come of music-market age just as New Kids on the Block burst onto the scene. (I hated the New Kids on the Block. And yet I can still sing along when they come on the radio. Go figure.) I didn't think much about things like the Cold War or McCarthyism or Vietnam.

And now I'm scared out of my pants by the way that history repeats itself.

At the moment I am greatly unnerved by warrantless wiretapping and telephone data-mining. I doubt anyone's actually tapped my phone, as the only international call I've made in the past 5 years was to Toronto, and I think Canada's probably more afraid of the US than the US is of Canada. But data-mining?

Let me tell you why this scares me.

I would estimate that about 80% of my outgoing calls go either to my wife or to my mother.

My wife's gay.

My mother's apparently a Communist.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Primary sources

I was in Galveston this past weekend for a wedding.

Oh yeah, and the weekend before that, I was in the Land of Cleve for graduation. I left Berkeley as Ms. Gerbil and returned as Dr. Gerbil. A few years ago I thought I might spring for a vanity license plate once I received my Ph.D. I thought I'd apply for one that said GRBLPHD. But then I realized that very few people would be able to parse that one, and vanity plates aren't supposed to be esoteric, you know? You're supposed to be able to figure them out almost immediately, as every millisecond you spend decoding a vanity plate is a millisecond you're not spending paying attention to the road.

Speaking of paying attention to the road, while I was in the Land of Cleve, I was walking up this long hill when these two women in a Subaru Outback passed me on their way down. The one in the passenger seat hung her head out the window and said, in an unmistakeable tone, "Hey there." That pretty much made my day. Usually I get this sort of thing from guys in penis cars sports cars or pick-up trucks. But I got hit on by two chicks in a big gay Subaru with Ohio plates!

Anyway, when I discarded the idea of GRBLPHD, I came up with DRGRBIL instead. Easier to parse, definitely. But also a little, well, unsavory as a vanity plate.

So no vanity plate for me just yet.

The Land of Cleve gave me a rhinovirus as a parting gift, and of course I got bronchitis after the cold. So in addition to a strict inhaler regimen, my doctor also prescribed cough medicine with codeine. I am no stranger to this stuff; I got codeine every time I got bronchitis from the time I was a toddler to when I was finally diagnosed with asthma at 13. It still tastes like ass and makes me stupid and clumsy, but at least I can sleep. So could the two pals with whom I shared a hotel room in Galveston.

Alas, on its final descent into Galveston, my plane had some pressure problems. My head did not explode, as I'd feared; but my precious bottle of controlled substance did. About a third of it soaked through my toiletry kit and sopped around in my bookbag. The novels I brought became a sticky mess. (The wedding was sticky, too, but this was due entirely to the humidity.)

On the way home, I stopped by a cool used bookshop to get some new(ish) reading material. I picked up this novel by Lisa Alther, Other Women. It's a fun (and fast) read about a lesbian nurse with a certain Cluster B personality disorder and her heterosexual therapist, a woman with her own traumatic past. I'm impressed with the therapist-client dialogue, but not so impressed with the vast number of sentences that go "As she [insert mundane task here], she recalled how difficult it was to [insert description of vaguely traumatic life event here]."

I'm also less than impressed with the obligatory reviewer quote on the cover:


Um, which people are these?

(Yes, yes, I know, the magazine. But cut me a break. My snark's not getting enough oxygen these days.)