Sunday, November 27, 2005

Passive-Aggressive Relationships 101

I came out to my Dad over a month ago. I know that it's going to take time for him to be able to understand/comprehend it. And maybe I thought he would handle it like my Mom did. Not really denial, but just not addressing it. We've talked for years about things other than my personal life, so I figured that it would just continue that way. We'd talk about the weather, or sports, or work, or whatever, and just avoid the "friction points." (a lovely term I've learned from work).

Instead, my Dad has taken a different, more passive-aggressive route. He doesn't call me any more. I call home and he'll talk to me, but only for a few minutes and then he'll pass the phone to my Mom. And he emails me, but he doesn't mention me. He sends out his SITREPS (it's a military thing) to me and my sister, but he won't mention me. He mentions my sister, my niece, my nephew, but there's no mention of me. I've sent him emails, things that aren't necessarily direction questions, but something that I thought he would atleast respond to me about. But he hasn't.

Despite my temptation to either not call or not email at all, or flat out ask a question that requires an answer, I'm just trying to act like normal. I respond to his emails. I send him emails. I still call home.

I mentioned Dad's behaviour to my sister and while she did have to agree with me, she did note that most of Dad's emails are about Dad. Not really about anyone else. And that's sort of true. But still, it hurts. I'm not sure if he's so afraid to ask me something that he's decided not to ask me anything.

A good friend loves to give me crap about my inability to speak openly about my feelings, my emotions. Needless to say, open and loving communication has never been something we practiced in my family. And if I think the email/phone call game is fun, I just can't wait for Christmas in LA.

Replanting the American Dream (Part II)

It's not enough that we need to make some serious changes to improve the US's reputation around the world. We need to make serious changes to improve the United States itself.

How many people in the United States:
  • are homeless right now?
  • are hungry?
  • have no health insurance?
  • have no job?
  • have more than one job just to make ends meet?
These are just basic questions that characterize life in America. I don't know the exact answers by the way. I'm sure you could look them up somewhere. But the answer is the same. It's too many. Too many people are not living the American dream right now.

President Henry Hoover made the claim, "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." Not a bad standard to measure posperity by. He said that over 70 years ago, and we still aren't there. Sure there have been a lot of improvements in our standard of living as a whole, but not in our standard of living for everyone. This isn't an averages thing. I have three chickens and the next two families have none, so it averages out to a chicken in every pot. That's not the way it works. Tell that to the family who has nothing to eat.

We need to do something, as a nation, to change it. And no I don't think it's the government's responsibility to fix everything, but I do think the government needs to stop pushing tax breaks on oil companies that are making record breaking profits and maybe channel some of the money for health care for children, or for foodstamps, or for job training.

As we march into this season of love, giving, and absolute materialism, we should all try to stop and think about what we can do to help make a change, to make a difference, to help build a better American.

(p.s. I promise a fun, light, posting later this week.)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Replanting the American Dream (Part I)

I like to travel. It's something I picked up from my parents. We did the traditional family trip every summer. You know, the 8 states in three days type of thing. And when my Dad was stationed overseas, we would travel across Europe. I remember taking the train to Berlin (then surrounded by East Germany) and complaining that I couldn't have the top bunk. Or getting lost in France and my Dad asking for directions in his atrocious pseudo french. I was really quite lucky.

As I grew up, I traveled on my own. I did a lot with the Navy, but I did alot on my own. I was also a voracious reader when I was young, so there were so many places I wanted to go to, to see for myself, to experience. And yet as I grew old enough to be able to afford to travel to some of these places, they became less accessible, especially to Americans. I wanted to travel the Silk Road and go to Samarkand. But that was part of Russia and is now part of Uzbekistan. Being a solitary American traveler there is not a good idea. Or the sand/mud cities in Yemen. Or the ancient African capital of Timbuktu. When I went to Morroco in 1995, I felt definitely uneasy, and that was the most modern of African countries and one which the United States had very close ties. I used to joke that to be a real traveler, you needed to be born in the late 1800s and be British. That was when the British Empire ruled the world and a British citizen could travel almost anywhere without fear of getting kidnapped or killed.

Part of the excitement and thrill of traveling for me has not just been experiencing the local culture, but also bringing a little bit of America with me when I travel. With the advent of satellites TV, most people get the Dallas/Jerry Springer/Cops version of Americans. So I like to think of myself as an ambassador for the US. But that's getting harder.

In 2003, I went to Denmark for a biking trip with my Dad. While in Copenhagen, I went to a bar for a drink and ended up talking with a guy. He kept going on about the US and Iraq and despite my attempts to convince him that I didn't agree with all of the policies of the US Government, he wouldn't let it go. I finally finished my drink and just decided to leave. I politely said good night to the guy, and he responded, "But I don't want you to go, I'm not done talking to you." I was this guys sole chance to communicate his displeasure about the US, and despite the fact that I agreed with him, it wasn't enough.

In today's Washington Post, there is a great op-ed by David Ignatious. It talks about how our American values and ideals have been tarnished and are now seen as fake, or insincere, by most of the world. If you never leave your red state, then you may not see or agree with this, but if you ever want to travel, or even conduct business in a foreign counrty, then this is something you'll need to deal with. Right or wrong, it's the perception that is out there. And we need to do something to fight that perception. And that means making some real concrete changes. And we need to make them now. We need to say no to torture, and no quibbling or dissembling or equivicating on what the definition of torture is. We need to share the bounty of the US with those who are dying and hungry around the world. We need to make the US the leader of the world where people want to follow us, copy us, envy us. We need to lead by example. We need leadership to deal with not only national issues, but global ones as well. We can't solve all of the world's problems, but we should try to help where we can and as an absolute minimum, we shouldn't be making it any worse.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Year In Trey

Hat tip to Joe for the idea.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

In favor of segregation

Last Thursday, in what can only be explained as a sure sign of the rapidly approaching end of world, I went out. Yes, I went out on a Thursday night.

I had heard of this bar in Adams Morgan that does a gay night called Hush and thought I would check it out. I've lived in DC for over a year now and never seem to leave the gay ghetto (and why should I? It *IS* fabulous after all). But a friend and I decided to head up to Hush which was hosting a Madonna CD release party. And as sure as death and taxes, Madonna will bring all of the gay boys out. So we were thinking it would be fun.

We cabbed up to Adams Morgan and as we emerged from the cab, we could hear the music thumping. That was a good sign. However, the music was thumping from a big black van in front of Hush that had "Hot 99.5" on it. 99.5 is one of the radio stations in town and definitely plays to the younger and more urban crowd. Sure you'll hear Madonna on it, but you'll also hear alot of rap and hip-hop. So the appearance of the van and 99.5 was an interesting twist.

We got inside Hush and I avoided the $10 all you can drink option since I did have to work the following day and my friend and I sort of hung out. Hush is held at a restaurant/bar/club called Chloe and it is way cool inside. Very cool space, interesting lighting, just very hip. And the music was pumping in here also. Some good music, but only one in six songs was by Madonna, so it was a bit weird. Especially with the Madonna concert on the video screen in the background.

The crowd inside was definitely very mixed. There were some people who were hold over from dinner, some who had just arrived to start drinking, etc. It was black, white, asian, hispanic. And it was definitely an interesting mix of straight and gay.

Like some sad junior high school dance, at first the two crowds were at opposite ends of the bar. And then as more and more people showed up, it became more mixed.

Despite my lack of buzz on Diet Coke, I was having fun and my friend and I were playing spot the hottie. After a bit, we both turned our attention to one guy. Moderate height, good build, blue sweater with a funky design on it, jeans, short brownish hair, and good shoes. Definitely a candidate. But he was hanging out with a girl who we just assumed was his fag hag. We watched them for a bit and then became concerned when she kept touching him. My friend and I looked at each other and thought, okay, but some people are like that. But our concern turned to horror as they proceeded to hooch like there was no tomorrow. So much for the gay guy and his fag hag. We were looking at a metrosexual and his girlfriend. We quickly went to the bar and got a drink.

We left a little bit after that episode. We were just a little bit depressed. The music still was only okay. The crowd was young and hot, but there was too much girl-boy dirty dancing going on. Please, get a room. I don't see that much hooching and grinding at a circuit party! We left and cabbed back to our gayborhood for a night cap before heading our separate ways.

I think it might be interesting to go back to Hush when it's only a gay night. But it didn't start to get crowded until almost 11PM and that's late for me on a work night.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Prevarications (Part 2)

Half truths and lies. Sounds familiar doesn't it? You can't pick up a paper, or turn on the news, without some sort of distortion going on. The war in Iraq. Price gouging on oil prices. "We don't torture."

I heard Sen. Frist on TV talk about how they are bringing fiscal responsibility to Washington? Umm, hello, remember that Transportation Bill? It had so much pork in it you could go on the Atkins diet for years. How about the $223 million dollar bridge to an island that has FIFTY people on it? How fiscally responsible is that?

Apparently VP Cheney, in 51 separate instances has lied or exaggerated claims about Iraq to justify the war. Check out this report.

I guess all of this stuff just rubs me the wrong way because we should expect honesty, integrity, and accountability from our leaders. That's the Navy in me crying out. I want to believe in my President, I want to support him. And yet every day, more and more lies, half truths, and deceptions come out. And it's not just our leaders these days, it's everyone.

This is the new acceptable behavior. A common mixture of half truths and distorted facts to justify what someone has done, or to justify why it's not their fault.

I actually know someone who has the following in their email signature block:

"I solemnly swear to tell the truth as I know it, the whole truth as I believe it to be, and nothing but what I think you need to know."

Nice. It's his truth, and if pesky little facts don't support his truth, then he's not going to tell you. Now how much would you trust this person?

Sound like anyone you know?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Prevarications (Part 1)

I had several jobs on board USS Reeves. The Main Engines Officer, First Lieutenant, Missile Officer, and Battery Control Officer. As First Lieutenant and as Missile Officer, I saw my fair share of Captain's Mast. If you got a negative score on your ASVABS, you became a seaman and went to First Division as a deck ape. Our motto, "We like them big and stupid." If you were a gunners mate, you had to go through some training and were pretty smart, but I just had a group of guys who liked to bend the rules too much and were stupidly caught way to often. Hence the many trips to Captain's Mast.

Captain's Mast is the Navy's form of Non-Judicial Punishment. A Navy Captain has significant powers on board a ship and when someone does something wrong, a lot of times it is handled via Captain's Mast. Rules of evidence don't apply, it's not really a formal thing. The punishment can range from extra duty to restriction to cut in rank to a reduction in your pay. It can be pretty severe at times depending on the offense.

Coming out of the overhaul, I ran into alot of discipline problems. Alot of the junior Sailors had gotten use to the almost 9-5 aspect of shipboard life during an overhaul and spending their nights out in town. So going back to sea for weeks at a time was a little upsetting to them. It seemed to put a cramp in their social lifes. And yes I know, you're in the Navy, aren't you supposed to go to sea? Well tell that to Seaman T.

Seaman T decided that the whole going out to sea for ship trials wasn't really working for him. So he concocted some story about being sick, missed the ships departure, checked into the hospital, then went AWOL from the hospital, and then was picked up by the shore patrol in Waikiki for being drunk. So when the ship returned, Seaman T was brought on board by the shore patrol and we held Captain's Mast shortly thereafter.

Captain's Mast with the Anti-Christ (see more here) was never fun. He stood on the middle of the ships bridge in front of a podium upon which the Captain would have the disciplinary report. In a single line to his left flanking the podium were the XO, the Chaplain, and the Command Master Chief. In a single line to his right opposite the XO et al were the offender's chain of command. The Department Head, the Division Officer (me), the Division Chief, and the Leading Petty Officer. The accused stood in front of the podium and perpendicular to me. At Captain's Mast, the CO would go into screaming overdrive. It was harsh. I was scared and intimidated and I wasn't even the one in trouble. The Anti-Christ also had this habit of slowly rocking back and forth on the podium, leaning in towards the accused when we wanted to make a point, backing off, and then coming back as he built up to full speed. It was quite impressive. But also scarey since I could see this huge, gigantic eye brow lashes the Anti Christ had that were perpendicular to his head and looked like mini-antennas.

Anyways, soon to be Seaman Apprentice T was feeling the full force of the Anti-Christ and I was listening along to the bombastic speech from the CO when he said, "And I'm sick and tired of your prevarications." He went on, but my mind was frozen. "Prevarications?" What are those? I'm a college graduate (albiet from the Naval Academy, not exactly a liberal arts school) and I don't know what "prevarication" means. And I kept thinking about it. And then I realized that there was little chance that Seaman Apprentice T knew what prevarications were either. I'm sure he felt like Charlie Brown being yelled at by his teacher, "Wahhh, whahh,whaahh, wahh, BAD! Wahh, whaahh, wahh, BAD!"

After Captain's Mast I went back to my stateroom and pulled out my dictionary.

Prevarication: "Half truths and lies."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Annapolis - The Movie

Yes, there is going to be a movie about the Naval Academy called "Annapolis". The scuttlebutt (that's Navy lingo for gossip) is that while it was not filmed at the Naval Academy, everyone is hoping that it will act as a psuedo recruiting effort sort of like what Top Gun did for the Navy in the late 80s.

So since I am a bit of a pop culture junky, I was leafing through the latest edition of Entertainment Weekly and saw where they had reviewed the trailer for "Annapolis":

"I didn't know Abercrombie & Fitch had their own navy. Stirring and patriotic in a totally manufactured, insincere way. C-." Ouch.

Of course, I was going to go see it just to be able to make the snide comments about how completely inaccurage and unrealistic it is. But now I need to go to look at the hotties as well!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Honor Bound to Defend Freedom

The timing of this post is a little bit odd. It's been a long crazy week and this is my first opportunity to write anything and today is Veteran's Day. So it's just an odd combination.

Last week, I went to go see Guantanamo at the Studio Theatre. Other than the subject title, I knew little about the play. I've got some strong feelings on this subject, so I was looking forward to this play. And I guess I should say that the term "play" probably isn't appropriate. Performance art isn't the right term either. On the playbill, they use the term "spoken evidence" and "documentary theatre" that's what it is. Against a back drop to cots and chain linked fences are several detainees and in the fore ground there are six chairs. At the beginning, actors comes to sit in the chair and take turns speaking to the audience. The "play" is a collection of personal stories told from interviews, personal letters, and transcripts from news accounts or press briefings. It focuses on four British detainees captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Gabon who are transported to and detained in Guantanamo.

The whole evening was just amazing in a sort of intense way. We've read of the detainees and the treatment in Cuba. But they are just faceless entities that are beyond our knowledge. It's bad that it's happening, but it's happening to people we don't know, have no connection with. But by using the transcripts, and interviews, and letters (which includes parts where an ominous off screen voice declares "censored" as the actors speak), it humanizes these detainess as real people. And to be honest, hearing these actors speak with a British accent makes it even more real. If the characters had spoken with an arabic accent, it might have been easy to dismiss the stories of their treatment, but it's hard not to believe someone who sounds just like us when they sign their letters, "Love to you and Mum."

The Washington Post did a good review of the play. And I'll admit that Post is right that the play is pretty strong in its positions and that the way the play is performed it doesn't lend itself to presenting any opposing point of view. The arragant, cavalier portrayal of Donald Rumsfeld during one of his many press conferences during the war just seems so callous and cold now. The Post also mentions that the problem with the play is that only people who are pre-disposed to opposing the situation in Guantanamo are the ones who will see this play. Needless to say, I don't think Frist, Hasturt, or Bill O'Rielly are going to see this play.

Earlier this year I sent an email to my USNA 89 mail list to see what my classmates thought of Abu Ghraib, Guanatanamo, and the torture and I got a serious flaming for believing that this was anything more than a small group of bad apples. So I actually started to read up on the subject. The ACLU has reuqested copies of the Army's CID reports via the Freedom of Information Act, and despite the parts that were redacted, a pretty clear picture formed in my head. The different reports told of prisoners, detainess, being held and tortured in safe houses and other facilities all across Iraq. Not just Abu Ghraib. And there were affidavits from medical officers saying that some of the wounds on Iraqi prisoners were not caused by the excuses being offered by some of the authorities. In reading one of the reports I learned that a great way to inflict pain on someone with minimal physical evidence is to stand on someone's head. There is little muscle between the skin and the skull, so no bruising. How sick is that. And the reports from CID were maddingly incomplete. Prisoner A reported this. This piece of evidence (a statement, or medical report, or something) supported this claim. Interviewed suspected soldier who denied claim. Unable to obtain any additional information. Report closed as unsubstantiated. There were hundreds of these types of reports. And with my military background, I could see the "going through the motions" effort that was taking place.

"Honor Bound To Defend Freedom" is the motto of the Joint Task Force in Guantanamo. I just don't think we are living up to the motto. And how sad is that?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Letter

After a couple of email exchanges, we stopped talking about it. I sort of expected that. Denial is just one of the family traits I inherited from my parents. But then I got an email from my Dad saying that he was going to write a letter to discuss the situation.

The good news is that he wanted to make sure I knew that I was still his son and that he still loves me. When I read that first paragraph, I started to shake a bit. It was like a weight being lifted from my shoulders.

The bad news is that he recognizes that he has to accept my "lifestyle" but that he will never condone it. And I understand his point of view. He's not exposed to any gays or lesbians in his every day life, so he had no idea who they are or what they do. He probably has some sort of image stuck in his head from some Pride Parade on TV where they spent 99% of the coverage on the Dykes on Bikes, leather guys, and draq queens. I'm not sure what exactly he thinks my lifestyle is, but I'm sure in his mind it involves dressing up in women's clothing, taking drugs, and having wild crazy sex all the time. And I don't I wish sometimes (the sex part, not the women's clothes part).

I'm one of the million of your run-of-the-mill gay guys. I work, work out, pay taxes, pay bills, give to charities, go to church, like to travel, etc. I'll go out for drinks and dinner with my friends occasionally. Like to go to movies. Do you see anything inherently gay there? No. But Dad doesn't see that, or should I say instead, Dad hasn't seen that. After 30 plus years in the military and then now retired in white bread central, he just hasn't experienced a normal gay person.

He hopes my "lifestyle" won't change me from the good person I am. And I do. I'm hoping that now I'll be a bit happier, be a bit more honest, and one day fall in love. That's all this "new lifestyle" means to me.

I did send an email back to Dad letting him know that I had gotten his letter and to tell him that I loved him, understood his feelings, and that one day he would understand that who I am is nothing to be ashamed of.

I expect we'll settle into the old familiar routine of avoiding any discussion of any real depth. The weather, the job, football. All are safe topics that we can use to communicate with. And that's okay for now. I've made the first step. And in time, I hope there will be more steps.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Well apparently I started blogging a year ago yesterday. How weird. It's really been an interesting experience and a great outlet for me.

My first steps down this path came from Howard Kurts' Media Matters in the Washington Post. I loved reading about how the different media were telling the story of the day. Yes the Post is liberal, the Times conervative, etc. But he looked across the spectrum, from the Wall Street Journal to the LA Times to even some foreign press. And I found it fascinating how the different media were representing "the facts" of a story. What parts they played up and which one's they didn't highlight. At the deli downstairs at work, I always make a point to see what stories make the front page of the Post as compared to what makes the front page of the Times. What news you get these days is so dependent on what news outlet you listen to/read. And once you find a particular news media that appeals to you, you kind of get sucked in and so the news kind of reinforces whatever belief system you have.

In one of Howard Kurtz's columns, he mentioned Andrew Sullivan and that was my first foray into blogs. I used to be a republican (old school, you know smaller government, fiscally conservative) so some of his writings resonated with me. And he's gay too. So that also made him very interesting. So I started reading his blog about the time of the Federal Marriage Ammendment fiasco. His writing was sharp, insightful, and just powerful. I still read Andrew. He's an amazing writer. I agree with him on a lot of issues, but disagree with him on others. But I like the fact that he tries to reflect a consistent, balanced approach to issues. Or atleast that's my opinion.

In one of Andrew's blogs, he mentioned something call a blogjam that was held at a club in DC last October. Since I had just moved to DC, I thought this was would make for a fun Sunday night and it was. One of the thing Andrew's blog didn't mention was the full title of the evening: "Homo Blog Jam." So it was a bunch of gay guys reading from their blogs and it was awesome!

There were about 8 or so different writers/speakers include some of my now favorites: Jimbo, Joe.My.God, and GeekSlut. Some we were funny and irreverent (Sonnet to my Dick, or a poem called, The Bear in the Sling.” Some were heart wrenching (suicide, lovers dying), some were political (Andrew Sullivan read from his blog about gay marriages), some were more social (the growing crystal meth problem in the gay community and the parallel rise in HIV infections).

But they were all so good. So many different perspective. And so I finally decided to take the plunge a couple of days later. And a year later this is where I am. More on that later I think.