Monday, July 30, 2007

Hey, J. Alfred,* What Are You Doin' This Summer?

After much deliberation, I've decided to take a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, next weekend for the 50th-birthday party of a friend who moved out there a year ago. We once worked together, after a fashion -- not on a day-to-day basis but in a freelance relationship (she was the freelancer). On the handful of occasions that we've gotten together in the last 14 years -- and it has been no more than one handful -- our connection has been unusually deep and warm.

So I was flattered that she invited me to this and was drawn to the idea of going -- I've been to Madison twice, when another friend lived there back in the '80s, and loved it -- but I wondered for the longest time if it would be . . . weird to go all that way this time. Would I be the only out-of-towner at the party? Would people think we were closer than we were? Or would they wonder why this person she barely knew had come all this way? Could I afford it? Would I regret it?

like the first time I went to a college reunion -- with none of my friends planning to attend and no history as a "reunion person," I rented a car, drove up, and had a memorable time -- something was telling me to go. So as I've written here before on other matters, I decided there was a reason the idea was pulling at me and decided to go. I had some credit-card miles I'd never used, and I found a room in relatively reasonable and charming-looking bed-and-breakfast (I couldn't see going all that way and staying in a Motel 6; too depressing). I plan to have some ice cream here. Walk along the lakes. Maybe hear some music. And, of course, go to the party. She says she's thrilled that I'm coming.

* . . . And indeed there will be time

To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair --

[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin --

[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. . . .

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Come On Down!

I don't know about you, but I love that America is finally ready for a Price Is Right host with pierced nipples.

Not that I know for a fact that Bob Barker doesn't have them . . .

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm Still Standing

I got a random e-mail today from T.B., a guy I went to junior high and high school with. Back then he was a thuggish little fuck who used to bully and torment me in seventh and eighth grades. (It was an all-boys school, not that that made a difference.) I remember that he also got good grades, which was unusual for a "bad" boy. Another thing: He was a huge Elton John fan.

Some of my older readers might remember that in 1976, Elton John gave a much-publicized interview to Rolling Stone magazine in which he came out as "bisexual." It was quite the huge story at the time. This was long before he came out as gay, became an AIDS philanthropist, and married a man.

I remember how devastated T.B. was to hear this news. I don't recall him making any blatantly homophobic comments about Elton John, calling him a faggot or anything, though he was certainly capable of it. I just remember him walking around in a kind of I-can't-believe-it daze for what seemed like weeks.

Younger readers might find it incredible that anyone could miss the fact that Elton John was gay, but in those days he was just considered outrageous and flamboyant. And his music was so much better than it is today; it was good. That's how he was known first and foremost: as a musician.

Anyway, by senior year, T.B. and I were friendly (though not quite friends). My class was so small (23 people) that by the time we were in our final year, hanging out in the senior lounge, doing stuff together on weekends, we had almost all bonded. There were very few rivalries and cliques left. It was nice. With one or two exceptions, we all kind of respected each other.

So today T.B. e-mails me to ask if I'm the same "Billy" he remembers; he came across my name in the publication I work for: "I started my own ____________ firm a little over two years ago and have learned a great deal working with clients and [about?] human behavior. . . . I have my own newsletter and enjoy writing. Would you like to have lunch sometime?"

I said sure.

I once wrote a really bitter and vengeful -- and not very good -- short story about a guy who runs into a former classmate who used to bully him. I don't feel bitterness or vengeance toward T.B. It will just be interesting to see him. He's one of only a couple of guys whom I'm pretty sure I haven't seen even once since the summer after graduation 28 years ago.

Tonight I looked through my old diary from seventh and eighth grades to see if there was anything about him. This is all I found:

November 14, 1973: "T.B. stapled his finger by accident this morning. It didn't bleed much but it made me sick to think about it."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

For Uncle Jack, and for His Brother and Sister (My Mother)

Let Evening Come
By Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dinner With Friends

Friday evening, a very pleasant dinner with R, J, and K.

A telling fact about my life in the last four years is that I met each of these men online, in one fashion or another. I've known R the longest, almost four years. I made J's acquaintance several months later. Those two eventually met through me and became friendly. I chatted with K off and on for a couple of years before we finally met face to face a year or so ago. Somewhere in there, R and I realized that -- unbeknownst to either of us until then -- we both were online buddies of K. So not long after I met K in the brick-and-mortar world, he and R and I got together. Friday night was the first time J had met K, but they seemed to get along well. Many laughs and fun stories -- the kind of evening I haven't had enough of lately.

I have almost nothing but good things to say about the ability of the Internet to bring people together socially -- in fact, speaking from my own post-LTR experience, to essentially create a new social life for me.

In addition to the circle I just mentioned, there's B, whom I met online and who got me back into two-stepping a year and a half ago ("back into" because I'd tried it before, but he made it stick). B and I haven't seen a lot of each other lately, but I consider him a friend . . . and should give him a call this week, come to think of it. Next Sunday, I'm having brunch with D -- whom I met online and dated for several months in 2005 -- and his current boyfriend, whom he just moved in with.

These are all witty, interesting, engaged, kind men I feel lucky to know. And this isn't even counting the friends and acquaintances I've met through them.

I used to meet people without the help of the Internet . . . but I can barely remember how.

The middle-aged (and above) married people I work with* will sometimes make a comment along the lines of "So I guess the Internet has replaced personal ads for young people today, huh?" or (addressing a young person) "So do you and your friends instant-message each other a lot?" or "Why in the world would anyone want to share his personal life with complete strangers the way bloggers do?" And everyone will kind of shake their heads or half-smile in the middle-aged equivalent of "What-ever!"

Meanwhile I sit there, my life a mystery to them, I'm sure. They have no idea that a 45-year-old man in their midst makes use of the Internet to meet people, to chat, to blog -- to create many kinds of joyful, stimulating, life-affirming relationships, both virtual and in the flesh.

I kind of like the mystery. It makes me feel young.
* By the way, despite my slight snarkiness here, my attitude toward my workplace has undergone a sea change since I started my new job a few weeks ago. For the first time in years, I don't dread going into the office. I'm busy and often under stress, but it's task-related stress, not the psychological kind that I bring home with me and that takes up residence in both my muscles and my self-esteem. I'm more relaxed at work, more involved, more sociable -- happier by miles. Why didn't I do this ages ago?

Monday, July 09, 2007

How Do You Feel About Sputum? Take Our Poll!

"[Katie] Couric seems determined not to let anyone see her suffer, but according to several people familiar with the situation, she is privately frustrated. . . . The stress has caused her to blow up at her staff for small infractions on the set. During the tuberculosis story in June, Couric got angry with news editor Jerry Cipriano for using a word she detested -- 'sputum' -- and the staff grew tense when she began slapping him 'over and over and over again' on the arm, according to a source familiar with the scene. It had seemed like a joke at first, but it quickly became clear that she wasn’t kidding.

" 'I sort of slapped him around,' Couric admits. 'I got mad at him and said, "You can’t do this to me. You have to tell me when you’re going to use a word like that." I was aggravated, there’s no question about that.' But she says she has a good relationship with Cipriano. 'We did ban the word sputum from all future broadcasts. It became kind of a joke.' "

-- "Alas, Poor Couric," New York magazine

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Charmless Billy

Barely a week into the new job and I already lost my temper with a coworker over the phone today. I felt he was being patronizing and unhelpful over an issue we were both responsible for -- and he was a little, but not intentionally. I was out of line, and the fact that I was under stress was no excuse. I apologized by e-mail later, but I still feel terrible. I guess I'll talk to him next time he's in.

I'm not known for losing my cool on the job, and I hate it when it happens. Moments after the confrontation occurred, I started imagining that the entire office had heard it. A strange silence descended upon the place for the rest of the afternoon, it seemed. Colleagues rolling their eyes perhaps, thinking, Shit, what have we gotten ourselves into?

I prefer to be known as the coworker who spent his Oscar-pool winnings on cookies for the office. Now, that was a good move.