Monday, May 21, 2012

facebook and friendship ...

The recent IPO of Facebook has me thinking about friendships. Facebook has revolutionized how people stay connected, get connected, communicate with others.

I absolutely, one hundred percent, LOVE Facebook. It's awesome. I spend a lot of time on it and I enjoy it. When Timeline came out, I did not hesitate. I was an early adopter, watched the provided tutorials, learned the new security and privacy features, and learned how to best navigate the new set up.

I love Facebook's "connection factor." I have reconnected with lost friends, those missing in action, their whereabouts unknown. I am able to stay in immediate contact with close friends, those who I speak to on the phone, email often, text frequently, and even see in person.

WHAT?! See people in person?! That is strange.

*     *     *     *     *

Facebook gave me several friendship surprises and brought new and interesting people into my life.

For example, there's a group called The Upstart Crow (a coffee shop / cafe / bookstore in Campbell where the "alternative" kids hung out during my high school heyday in the 1980s). I loved "The Crow." You could buy one cup of tea or coffee and sit with friends for five ... six ... eight ... or ten hours ... and talk, play cards, gossip, fall in love, find out where the night's party was. The best part was that I could be a freaky, hyper, nerdy, new wave, gay kid without question. They also had awesome apricot pie.

Anyhow, I joined this group and began reconnecting with kids -- now adults with their own kids -- from my past. Names that existed only in my journals, until Facebook came around.

Fast forward to a few years ago: Darcy, who I met back in those days and reconnected with via this group, Facebook-messaged me that someone she worked with was moving to New York. She asked if I could friend him so he could ask me questions about living here.

Of course, I said yes.

Brian and I connected on Facebook on a Wednesday. The email conversation went like this:

SCOTT: Hi Brian! Darcy told me that you are planning to move to NYC. How exciting! She mentioned that you have some questions. I would be pleased to answer them for you.

BRIAN: Hi Scott! That's awesome! I can't wait to move there!
SCOTT: When do you plan on moving here?
(This was asked since I assumed he wanted to know about neighborhoods to move to, rent prices, transportation, weather patterns for the time he was planning to move, etc.)

Two days later, we met, bar hopped, and became fast friends. He comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, house sits my dog Victor while I travel, and has integrated into my existing group of friends perfectly. His friend Jeff, who lives here, is now a good friend. Chances of meeting either of them without Facebook are slim to none.

*     *     *     *     *

Another surprise is that I have met "friends of friends" who I now consider my friends ... people that I look forward to reading up on, who laugh at my status updates and enjoy my comments, and who I appreciate. I tried to retrace the degrees of separation to determine how I came to know them. Most times, I can't tell or remember. I review friends we have in common and still can't tell. We now have too many friends in common!

There's Anne, Dan, Kal, Randy, Jeff, Robert, Steve, Cal, Eric, Greg, Levi -- just to name a few. People I have "met" virtually, but never seen in person. They are funny, talented, smart, witty, deep, pensive, kind, supportive, and plain ol' good people. They are also all a definite source of entertainment. I wonder about their days or their week. I like seeing their life through their photos (like Anne's awesome red kitchen!). I am genuinely glad I have met them. I have met a few of them in person, gone to dinners and movies, and such. Maybe someday I'll meet all of them in person.

*     *     *     *     *

Once, I saw an old high school friend posting on another friend's page. He was now living in Canada. How great! What took him from California to Toronto? How long has he been there? Is he happy?

I was excited to reconnect and I sent a Facebook message with a lengthy update of the last twenty-something years of my life. I asked him to do the same. He responded, "I think you have me confused with someone else," or something similar. (He'll most likely correct me on the exact exchange.)

This guy was someone I didn't know, but he did have the exact same name as someone I went to high school with. This guy was someone I didn't know, but we started chatting on Facebook. This guy was someone I didn't know, but we have become friends. We even were able to meet in person during one of trips to NYC. We comment on each other's updates and posts and make each other laugh. He is an integral part of the award show commentary that goes on and we have a weekly battle for "R E V E N G E ! ! ! ! !" every Wednesday. We both like Turner Classic Movies and update each other on films that are programmed. And ... most kindly ... he has become my biggest blog fan. At least that's what I call him.

This past Sunday he posted to my wall "Sunday is almost over. Just saying' ..." This was a nudge to get me to do what I set out to do: post something brilliant and life changing each Sunday. He likes to start his Monday at the office with my blog. Isn't that nice? I love it.

I love his interest in what I have to say. I love that Facebook has brought us together as friends. I love that we live in an age where friendship can happen on this magical messaging machine known as the Internet. It's totally awesome. It reminds me of having a pen pal.

So ... Mark Zuckerburg ... If you are reading this, you're probably reading it from your magical mobile messaging machine, but I trust that you are not reading this. However, I want to thank you for making Facebook a place to connect. You deserve the money. If you want to throw a few shares my way ....

So ... Mike Elliot ... whether you are reading this at home or at the office, I trust that you are reading.

And ... "You're so vain. I bet you think this post is about you. Don't you? Don't you? Don't you?"

*     *     *     *     *

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

lions and tigers and bears … oh my !

Next week at this time, I will start on a backpacking excursion through the Smokey Mountain range of the Appalachian Trail. I have never been backpacking, but I am to do this! I am going with my friend, Kirk, who also has never done this. It will be – and we know this – a major challenge.

We will backpack for seven days, from Fontana, North Carolina to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We will travel roughly seventy miles and from an elevation of 1800 feet to a peak of 6600 feet.

The preparation has taken us under 60 days from the point of conversation to the point of us leaving next week. That’s pretty quick when you consider we knew nothing of what we were getting ourselves into at the time we said, “Let’s do it."

We now know a little more. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be work. It’s going to be sweaty. It’s going to be stinky. It’s going to be heavy. It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be mind-expanding. It’s going to be an experience, adventure, challenge, and reward all rolled into one.

This last week of “real life” before becoming a mountain man, will be stressful. Not stressful because of the “Oh shit! I need to buy this or that” factor, but stressful from “Oh shit! This is really happening!” factor.

I had a moment tonight, that was like the latter of the two factors. I put my packed-up backpack. DAMN! That thing was heavy. Granted, I had more stuff in it than I will actually carry, since we are splitting the load, but still … it was insanely heavy. If I were going alone I would be changing my mind right about now.

We have purchased everything needed to sustain us during this trip. We have our food, shelter, clothes, and essentials. Here’s a little view into the big items that had to be purchased. There are smaller things that have been bought, but I won’t bore you with the entire list.

  • Backpack
  • Tent, Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad
  • Tarp, Rope, Compass
  • Knife, First Aid Kit, Trowel
  • Bear Bell, Bear Spray
  • Solar Powered / Crank Radio (this also charges cell phones)
  • Shower (butt) Wipes, Sunscreen Wipes, Bug Repellent Wipes

  • Boots, Boot Socks
  • Base Layer (tee shirt and leggings)
  • Convertible Pants (you know, the ones that unzip at the knee)
  • Lightweight Rain Jacket
  • Lightweight “sweater” (it’s like the lightest down jacket you have ever seen … and so warm!)
  • Lightweight End of Day Shoes
  • Bear Spray Holster

Food / Cooking
  • Freeze Dried Meals in Pouches (like pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, scrambled eggs, chicken and rice, green beans, chocolate moose, etc.)
  • MREs (poppy seed cake, cheese squeeze tubes, peanut butter squeeze tubes, etc.)
  • Trail Mix, Dried Fruit, Drink Mixes
  • Backpacking Stove and Cook Set (includes two pots, two plates, two mugs, and a burner)
  • Propane canisters
  • Waterproof /Windproof Matches
  • Bear Bag

We have to be very careful to not leave anything behind. We will of course, “Give a Hoot and Don’t Pollute.” We will pack out all garbage and our TP. No, we cannot leave it behind. Yes, we have to take it out with us. We will put it in bags and keep it with us until we can throw it out. The earliest opportunity to do this is when we reach Clingman’s Dome at 6600 feet. It’s a tourist area with roads that lead to the observation tower, so there will be garbage cans. We will offload 5 days of eaten food and snack pouches; used up sunscreen, repellent, shower wipes; and (ugh) dirty TP. We will be sight to behold, neither easy on the eyes or the nose.

We have one outfit to wear for the entire week. Proper hikers do not change in clothes. Extra clothes take valuable pack weight. Instead, they wear the same thing over again each day. We are going to be gross. Today, I got a manni and pedi since I won’t be able to get one at campsite 113, and since the extra weight of nail clippers is unnecessary.

You may notice that the word “bear” appears in all three of the above lists. Ummm, yes, there are bears in the Smokey Mountains. Black bears. Lots of them. They say that this year the population has increased. When we secured our hiking permit we were told that one of the campsites we wanted to be at was closed because of “aggressive bear activity.” Great.

I am not a fan of bears, unless it’s a Bear Claw from Dunkin’ Donuts. I am deathly afraid of bears. But, we have a plan.

When Kirk and I started talking about this hike, we read up on how to manage a bear attack. OK, maybe it just said “bear sighting,” but in my mind the damn thing is attacking. The steps as outlined were very clear, but did not include “scream like a girl and shit your pants.” Because of this omission, I know I won’t handle the situation properly. So … our plan is that Kirk will keep his wits about him in the event we encounter a bear. That, I feel, is a very good thing. With my luck, I’ll spray the bear spray in my face instead of the bear’s.

We even have to hang our food up in the trees each night when we make camp. This keeps it away from the bear’s reach. That’s why we have rope in the essential list. It’s not to hang someone when we get on each other’s nerves, or to create a snare to catch squirrels. It’s there to hang food from bear’s. There’s this whole technique and process that needs to be done to hang it. It’s rather crafty.

Kirk found some lovely photographs of these great beasts of murder and mayhem. He occasionally posts them on my facebook page to taunt and haunt me. They are quiet funny. I included my original comments with the photos.

" holy shit ! they can fly ? ! ? ! "
"ewwwwwwww ..."
" not only can they fly , but they can climb trees ? ! "
" at least this one looks polite ... "

I will keep a thorough journal and take many photographs in an attempt to document this excursion. I am not sure if I will have the time or capability to post while I am backpacking. If I can’t post while on the trek, there will be updates and details once I return to New York City in early June.

Wish me luck! And wish the bears luck … Kirk has one mean high kick.

Monday, May 7, 2012

beauty day ...

I especially like Sundays when they are considered "Beauty Day." It's the day that I like to be restful, calm, relaxed, and take care of myself.

Beauty Day started when I was a young twenty-something who moved into a house with four gay men. Beauty Day was the day after hell broke loose and it was a definite need after the weekend of fun we all had.

I lived in a three-bedroom house with three other guys: Tim, Marshall, and Mike. Tim and I shared a bedroom and my rent was $125 a month. My roommate, Tim, and I looked very much alike, so I used to use his ID to get into Club St. John in downtown San Jose.

260 Richfield was a "known address" in the San Jose bar scene, by the gays and the cops. We were the hosts of many after hour’s parties. I was only 20, but that didn't stop me from the fun of being young, cute, and gay!

We'd go to the bar, dance and drink, and soon you'd hear other people say, "260 Richfield After Hours!" Tim had started spreading the word. There were times when I would be home in bed when the phone would ring. I would sleepily answer it knowing it would be Tim calling from the bar's payphone to tell me that we were having an afterhour’s party. I'd get up, clean up the kitchen and bathroom, vacuum the living room, and hide things that could easily be stolen.

Guys would pour into the house as easily as vodka poured into glasses. There was music, there was laughter, there was lots of drinking, and there was always a hook up opportunity. If I had to work my retail store job the next morning, I wouldn't join the fun. I would go back to bed. Many times, I'd be beckoned awake by Tim, who would sit beside my twin bed and tell me about how fun the bar was, how many cute guys were at the house, and hand me a drink. Naturally, I would sit up, hear the stories, and sip the drink until I was feeling warm, buzzed, and ready to hit the living room.

Eventually, I would end up back in my bed. Either alone, or with someone else (I mean, c'mon, I was 20 after all). Sometimes, Tim and I would spoon and talk afterward and tell stories and laugh about the evening's antics. A few times, we'd have sex. It was a "roommate with benefits" relationship.

One time, I got so stoned and paranoid that I thought I was going to die. I imagined that people were at my bedroom window telling me how much they would miss me, what a good friend I was, how they would always remember me. I called my boyfriend, John, and he understandably freaked out. He drove his scooter all the way from San Francisco to San Jose in the middle of the night to "rescue" me. By the time he got there, my paranoia had faded into giggles. What a mess!

Most times, these afterhours’ parties would go until the wee hours of the morning. Bars in California close at 2:00am, and we go until 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. If I weren’t working, I would sleep until 11:00 or noon the next day, at which point we'd all get up and clean the house. Gather bottles, deep clean the bathroom, mop the stick off the kitchen floor, take out the trash, change sheets, etc. And all this with some of the worst hangovers ever!

That's when Beauty Day started. Head pounding, house clean and KKSF on the radio. A long, hot shower and many different kinds of hair and skin products to use. A house of gay men in the early nineties was like living in the Clinique and Halston counters at Macy's. There were always new soaps, shampoos, creams, toners, or elixirs to try. And when I say "try" I mean try to cover the bags, the hangover skin, the smell of booze emanating from pores, the bloodshot and weary eyes, the beard burn (if it was a lucky night).

Fast forward to today, and most parts of Beauty Day remain intact. Many elements are long gone, kind of like my virginity. First, the hangovers no longer exist since I don't drink or drug anymore. I am typically awake no later than 8:30am on a weekend day, and I can barely stay awake to watch Saturday Night Live, let alone be out dancing or fucking until 6:00am.

Now Beauty Day is time to regroup and take care of myself. I always have clean sheets on the bed on Beauty Day, and I prefer that my dog be clean and bathed either on or before Beauty Day. I like the house to be clean and the rugs to be vacuumed.

I take a long, hot bath. Bubbles, Epsom salts, sometimes dried lavender crushed in. I soak for at least an hour and keep filling the tub with hot water once it starts draining on its own. I pumice my feet within an inch of their life. I dunk my head under the sudsy water. I shampoo my hair and dip into the water to rinse it. I loofah my entire body. I wash my face with my glycolic face scrub at least twice to exfoliate and open my pores. I manscape when needed, which entails shaving off the five or six hairs that grow on my chest. Sometimes, I get a little more "industrious," if you know what I mean....

Then, I drain the tub and take a shower. I rinse any residue off and re-wash my entire body. I dry off and Beauty Day continues. I towel dry my hair and leave it clean and natural, no product. I clip my fingernails and toenails. I trim my nose hair, pluck errant hairs growing from my ears, trim my eyebrows and facial hair. I slather lotion on my feet, my legs, my torso, my ass, my arms, and my hands. I layer on glycolic face cream in a vain attempt to rid myself of the fine lines that appear around my eyes. I floss hard and deep and enjoy brushing my teeth for a longer-than-normal time. I brush them twice in row on Beauty Day, "once for clean and once for polish." I apply a generous amount of lip balm, because without it, I feel completely naked.

I put on boxers and a t-shirt, crawl into the clean sheets of my bed and heave a sigh of relief.

It's my treat for me. It's my time for me. I am clean. I am refreshed. I am relaxed. I am beautiful. And, while the errant hairs on my ears increase, the fine lines deepen, and Madonna's hands sometimes appear at the end of my wrists, Beauty Day always makes me feel better inside and out, even if it can't make me 20 again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

pink lemonade for one dollar !

Recently, my mind has been filled with odd stories from when I was young, most likely because a friend had asked me to tell him about favorite childhood memories. My niece and nephew often ask me to tell stories of my past. It makes me happy to see their eyes light up and hear their laughter and to share a little bit of “me” with them.

Never one to shy away from telling a good story, I willingly share them. Most are random thoughts that arrive while eating dinner, watching TV, or walking down the street. Sometimes they are triggered by a smell or sound or a bit of conversation, which creates a spark. Many of them center around food, which I think is interesting on its own, but each story – each memory – has its own warmth that spreads on my soul.

*     *     *     *     *
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Perry, was kind, warm, and appropriately stern. Kindergarten memories include how much I liked to play house, take naptime on a towel that I brought from home, and eat graham crackers and milk for snack. I remember that Mrs. Perry played the piano. She was also missing a portion of one of her thumbs. It was a little creepy, and you rarely got a glimpse of it, but when you did, it was like seeing something you should not. It was electric.

The kindergarten playground was fenced in and separate from the “big kids” playground. It had its own grass, tarmac, and sand box. On the last day of school, we ran through the sprinklers and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

As a first grader, we had more freedom to roam the campus. Outside the teacher’s lounge, and adjacent to the first grade classrooms and cafeteria, was a large planter with several fragrant gardenia bushes. I was near this bush once when Mrs. Perry exited the teacher’s lounge holding something very interesting, a fruit that I had never seen.

She removed a section and explained how to eat it. I was mesmerized.
“You carefully peel this away,” she said as she removed the white, velum-like pith and exposed the jewel-toned fruit.
“You eat these little seeds, but must be very careful to keep the juice from staining your clothes,” she continued in her kind voice, and popped a few seeds into her mouth.

She handed me a section and a napkin and watched as I showed her what I learned. I put some seeds in my mouth and was surprised at how juicy, sweet and tart they were.
“What is this called?” I asked.
“A pomegranate,” she said and started my lifelong adoration for Persephone’s fruit.

She once joined my mom and me for lunch at Whataburger. I remember sitting across from her in the booth’s hard bench, watching her open the silver and orange wrapper from the burger, raise it to her mouth, and take a bite.

I remember thinking to myself, in amazement, “Wow. Mrs. Perry eats hamburgers.”

*     *     *     *     *

The garage in my house on Antonio Lane had a ping-pong table, a washer and dryer, my dad’s workbench and tools, and a second refrigerator/freezer. It also had shelves of mason jars filled with jams, jellies, and pickles that my mom canned; “the rafters” where all sorts of things were stored, like camping equipment and Christmas decorations; and other clutter that one expects in a garage.

Once, my friend Jerry and I were in the garage having a burping contest. We would take turns gulping 7-Up straight out of a two-liter bottle, burping as loud and long as we could, and laughing at each other’s accomplishment. We would try to burp the alphabet, our friend’s names, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and anything else we could say to make each other hysterical. At the time, this was great fun.

Jerry was sitting on the washing machine when he gulped an excessive amount of soda and began what would have been an Olympic medal-winning belch. As the burp came, so did the soda and he threw up into his cupped hands. Frightened by what just happened, he screamed, “Help me!” opened his hands and dropped it all over him, the floor, and the washing machine.

My mom ran from the kitchen to assess the commotion. I remember her exclaiming, “Jesus Christ! What on earth?” and I think she included her patented “Lord love a duck!” She helped clean up Jerry, but we had to clean the washing machine and the floor.

*     *     *     *     *

My family camped often, either just us or with other families, like the Sharps and the McCarthy’s. Camping memories have been top of mind while planning my upcoming backpacking excursion. The smell of bacon and coffee in the morning, wandering in the trees until late afternoon, fishing in lakes and playing in streams, and roasting marshmallows after dinner. Listening to the adults talk and laugh while drifting off to sleep in my mom’s lap, smelling of burnt wood when crawling into my sleeping bag, unzipping the tent in the middle of the night and walking in the cold with a flashlight to find a place to pee, and gazing up at the many stars in the sky.

One time, we stumbled upon a field of Brussels sprouts. Our campsite may have been adjacent to a farm or they may have been growing wild. Regardless, we all picked some and had Brussels sprouts with butter and salt and pepper for dinner. They were delicious! Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables to this day.

*     *     *     *     *

As long as I could remember, my parents had a garden. They grew lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, radishes, zucchini, bell peppers – you name it, they grew it. One year, we even had corn! We had two artichoke plants, too. Each year we would rotate which one we ate from; the other one would flower. Artichoke flowers are stunning, gorgeous, deep purple thistles.

We had a screened backyard patio and ate dinner outside most summer nights, many of which included eating artichokes. Dipping the steamed leaves into melted butter or a mustard/mayo dip, scraping the nutty-flavored meat off with my teeth, cutting out the choke and savoring the heart until the last bite was gone. When I eat artichokes, I think of those summer nights.

In our front yard, we had an apricot tree that sprouted from nowhere. Once mature, it bore ample fruit. It was great to eat them right off the tree, nice a warm from the sun. My mom made jams and preserves. Apricot jam is my favorite jam flavors to this day.

I remember there was a woman who did not live on our street, or even near our street, who used to come and pick our apricots. A poacher! I remember my mom being at the kitchen sink, which faced the front year, and cranking open the kitchen window to tell her to stop picking our apricots. “Lord love a duck!”

The window crank is what really captures my attention in this memory. It was a late 1960s and early 1970s tract home window with a metal crank that swung the window open. It took ten or fifteen cranks to open the window. You had to have a fast wrist to open them quickly, especially when trying to curtail poached apricots.

This ethical lesson did not stop me from poaching my favorite fruit, cherries. My friend, Tiffany, lived directly behind a cherry orchard and in the summertime, we hopped her fence, Safeway or Brentwood paper bags in tow, and spent hours picking cherries. We would fill bag upon bag with cherries, like five or six bags each (it seems). I remember when our task was complete we would sit in her backyard, eat cherries and spit out the pits.

I am sure those cherry orchards no longer exist. It is likely they are now homes or a strip mall. But man, those were good days! And, yes, I was very regular then.

*     *     *     *     *

I remember a dessert that my sister Christy invented called “Delights”. Delights were the “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of ice cream sundae.

They included different ice cream flavors, peanut butter, jam, raisins, cereal, bananas, chocolate sauce, and any other topping in the refrigerator. They were … well … delightful. Rich, sweet, sticky, and chewy. Looking back, I do not know why my parents let us have this sugar feast before bedtime, but we didn’t complain. When Christy whipped up the Delights, everyone was happy.

I recently made Delights for dessert. Mine were no match for what she could concoct. I was missing key ingredients and had to improvise with some left over chocolate chip cookies and other things. They were rich, sweet, sticky, and chewy. The essence was there, but it wasn’t like the real thing. It was like craving McDonald’s French fries but settling for Burger King’s. It just wasn’t the same.

Maybe in June, when I am home for my nephew’s high school graduation, she’ll make some Delights.
there is ice cream in there , i promise ...
*     *     *     *     *

I do not recall ever setting up a lemonade stand when I was little. In New York, occasionally kids will set up a table outside their apartment building and hock their wares. One such entrepreneur, just a few buildings down from mine, was selling lemonade quite enthusiastically. He and his little brother were dancing around, happy little kids, while his nanny looked wearily on. He was shouting at the top of his lungs, “Pink lemonade for one dollar!” over and over and over again.

“Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar!”

The lemonade was pink and it did cost one dollar, but it was also watery and not very flavorful. He was so excited about what he was doing it was hard to not buy a cup.

I cannot help but wonder if he will remember this day when he is older. What will he look back on recall? That his mom thought up the idea? That he screamed his throat hoarse? That he bought something special with the money he made?

Will he remember this moment when he tries to convince his children to set up a lemonade stand? Will he tell them about one warm day, when he lived in New York City, he set up a lemonade stand and screamed out to get people to notice?

And will his children laugh as he recalls and reenacts his high-pitched, carnival barker-like sales call “Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar!”? Will his children follow suit and set up their own stand, and create their own memory to tell their kids, or their friends, or to others who happen to read about their childhood memories on their blogs?

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