Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Tomorrow morning I take the train to New York City on a rare two-day boondoggle for work. I'll be staying here.

I'll have lunch upon arrival with an
old magician pal from college. I'll have dinner and see a show with my theater-loving* friend K., also from those days.

And even though these lamps are way too expensive, I'm going to try to stop in
here. I need more lighting for my solo bachelor-guy dinners with the New Yorker. If nothing else, this place might be an inspiration.

* That post reminds me that I need to do another thing-I've-always-wanted-to-do this year.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Jokey Intro Followed by a Boring Description of My Day and Ending With the Note of Reflection You've Come to Expect From Me

In response to my recent solicitation, Nell asked: "What question would you most liked to be asked, and how would you answer it?"

It would be: "Would you like help finishing up painting your condo?"

Here's how I would answer: "Oh, no, thank you. I'm fine. Really. No, really -- I wouldn't dream of it. That's nice of you to ask, but there's not that much left to do . . ."


Today I finally got back to painting. I did one coat on the front windows and trim and one coat on the washer/dryer closet door and trim. It pretty much took all day except for a visit to my parents. Still left (after the second coat on the aforementioned): kitchen, bathroom (including hallway-side trim), bedroom door and trim (both sides), bedroom clothes- and linen-closet doors and trim, patio door and two windows on either side of it (the door and the two windows have 15 panes of glass each).

While I was painting the front window, I listened to this and this and this. If only it had taken the length of just three CDs to finish! I listened to the radio too.


Tonight while I painted, I watched the National Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol. I don't think I'd ever seen it before. It was filled with the expected musical (and other) notes of patriotism (to which I can be surprisingly susceptible), some schlocky tunes sung by Natalie Cole, some high-minded sentimentality, a nice version of "You Were Always on My Mind" by deep-voiced country hunk Josh Turner, and a number of genuinely moving spoken passages, such as when Dianne Wiest read a long letter from a mother to her deceased son, killed in Iraq; the letter had been written while the mother sat at his grave site in Arlington National Cemetery.

What struck me most about the show was the deep loss, pain, and grief that infused it. It wasn't just a flag-waving concert. While the tone wasn't anti-Bush in any way, there was such unrelenting anguish in the personal stories of soldiers wounded in Iraq and surviving loved ones of those killed. My own overriding feeling when the show was over was anger. Not what I imagine the producers had intended to invoke. Then again, who knows?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thanksgiving in May

While looking up an essay today in Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies, I was reminded of this wonderful poem by W.S. Merwin, which serves as the epigraph for Lamott's book. The poem is from Merwin's The Rain in the Trees. In searching for the text of the poem online, I see I'm far from the first blogger to reprint it. (I also see there are slightly different versions online, and since I don't have his book, I can't tell if sloppy blogging is at fault or if there actually are different versions by Merwin. I'm printing it as it appears in Lamott's book.)

By W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping o­n the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a country up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings o­n stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Coming Together

Last weekend when my old friend L. was visiting from San Francisco, we went to the Georgetown Flea Market (which oddly enough is now located in Arlington, Virginia, but still called the Georgetown Flea Market). I wanted to see if I could find a vintage tablecloth or runner for my new table.

No luck there, but I was stopped in my tracks by a very unusual -- and unusually compact -- rocking chair in very good condition. I wasn't positive I had a spot for it in my still-evolving living room, but I was strangely taken with it. I thought about the chair more when I got home, but L. -- though she is in every other way the most supportive friend anyone could ask for* -- was not too encouraging in seeing a place for it.

Well, I found myself thinking about the chair all week -- and there's usually a reason something like that won't let me go.
So I went back to the flea market today and bought it, having decided that with a little nudging and rearranging of other furnishings, I would probably have room for it. There was a possibility it might look cramped, but I took a chance.

Verdict: It's beautiful, it goes great in the space, and I couldn't be happier. It's a Colonial Revival platform rocker, probably from sometime between the turn of the century and the mid-twentieth century, according to woman who sold it to me.

Usually, at flea and antique markets I'm overwhelmed with the wares and don't know how anyone sees through the mass of merchandise to pick out a gem. But this was one of those times a voice spoke to me, and I listened. I needed another seating element opposite my sofa, and this is just the ticket. It's comfortable and sturdy.

As long as I've got the camera out, below is the famous custom-made table that I drove to New York City to pick up. The way the photo is cropped, you can't see how well the proportions -- 25 by 48 inches, with 12-inch extenders on either end (not pictured) -- work in my small living room. But trust me, they do.

* L. and I met 19 years ago in graduate school. She's now married with two little boys. Three-plus years ago, when I e-mailed her that my ex and I had broken up and I'd moved out, she wrote: "I don't know what to say -- except would you like a visit?" And within weeks she was here, having flown across the country, leaving her boys with her wonderful, handsome husband. And she did it once again this time -- though the occasion last weekend was a retirement party for two former professors of ours.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Here, Have Some

One of my favorite advice columnists, Amy Dickinson ("Ask Amy"), once again gave me food for thought today. Actually, the key phrase came from her questioner, but the lightbulb in my head went off when Amy paraphrased the writer's words: "Have fun and see where this relationship goes."

Have fun and see where this relationship goes. A simple sentence that struck me with the force of revelation today. And a notion that I have not been very good at integrating into my consciousness as I enter into a dating relationship (which I am not in now and have not been seeking of late).

Even though I've been in a couple of long-term relationships (one very long) that started out as dating, and even though I have dated, with pleasurable results, in the last few years since I've been single again, I still feel as though I don't know the first thing about dating.

Okay, I suppose I've gotten better at it, but I still get overwhelmed by questions like
What if he's looking to get more serious than I am? What if I fall for him but can't follow through? What if I don't end up liking him as much as I seem to like him now? How could I possibly contemplate a relationship when so many components of my life conspire against that very thing -- my two time-consuming jobs, my crazy dogs, my family obligations, my lingering hurt over my last relationship, my love of solitude and independence, my not-yet-fulfilled creative plans, the fact that I simply like living alone and doing my own thing?

I'm one of those gay men -- by no means all but many -- who had virtually no youthful experience with dating that I could learn from or build on. I took my first dating steps, and missteps, not in my teens but in my late twenties. The entire concept of dating -- that it's a way of getting to know someone to see if you want to work your way toward something more serious (and if you don't, it doesn't mean the dating has been a failure or can't continue), to see if you in fact like each other as much as you seemed to at the start, or to simply enjoy some fun and companionship and physical intimacy -- is something that I continually have to be reminded of, usually by other people or advice columns: that not everyone necessarily enters into a dating relationship -- and here I'm not talking about casual sex or friends with benefits, which have their own honorable place in the cosmos, but dating -- with the hope or expectation that it will grow into a lifetime commitment. And that's okay.

I might have this dating thing down by the time I'm ready for one of the gay- and lesbian-friendly retirement communities starting to proliferate. (An utterly cheering idea, by the way.)

Have fun and see where this relationship goes.
That might almost merit a Stewart Smalley-style spot on my bathroom mirror. Until a relationship -- of whatever kind -- comes along.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I saw a visibly pregnant woman smoking today downtown on 19th Street. It was such a shock that I actually did a (discreet) double take to make sure I'd seen right.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Last night, for the first time in 14 years of teaching where I teach, I completely forgot about a reading assignment I’d given my students. I didn’t do my own homework!

Just as I was moving on to the discussion of their writing, one of them said, “What about ‘Shadow Cities’?” -- the name of the essay I’d given them last week.

Uuuum. Right! Thank you so much for reminding me! Yikes, sor-ry!

I pulled the essay out of my folder and was actually about to open the discussion, knowing full well that I had not prepared. While I have read this essay before (that’s why I chose it in the first place) and have used it in teaching this same class, I have not done so in probably four or five years -- maybe longer. I was actually about to invite someone to open the discussion of an essay that I had only the barest recollection of.

Fortunately, a wiser voice in my head then spoke to me: Are you crazy? You’re going to fake it? Isn’t it hard enough when you’ve actually prepared for a discussion? You are about to create for yourself the classic Bad Dream -- having to take a test you haven’t studied for, standing on stage in a play when you haven’t rehearsed your lines even once.

I put the essay away, red-faced, and said, “You know, can we discuss this next week?”