Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Doldrums

What's wrong with this picture?



This just ain't right. The upside is that it's supposed to be sunny and warm this weekend. (In both locations, although it looks like things get dicey for my Denver friends Sunday night.)

Plus I get a little more breathing room to prepare for pool season. There's a thought... Should I commit to posting swimsuit pics? That will definitely provide extra motivation to stay on track... or possibly get me expunged from blogrolls.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Random Wednesday

I've invented a new game and you're welcome to join in. As I browse my blogroll and leave comments, I write down the verification words I'm asked to enter. I then string them together to form a glamorous drag name. Today my drag name is:

Jewera Banglo

I like it... makes me feel like a princess.

~~~

As I was setting up my Lose It account I was asked to enter a goal. Based on the web form, all they want for a goal is a number. (Presumably my ideal weight.) The form simply won't accept "My goal is to someday flick my right love handle without having my left moob issue tsunami warnings."

What? Too soon?

~~~

I haven't been complaining about our chilly, wet weather over the last week. Mostly because I know my friends in other parts of the country would have less than zero sympathy for me. But while out on a walk during a break in the rain I noticed that -- despite our un-springlike weather -- Spring is proceeding nonetheless. The buds are bursting into green and the dogwoods are starting to blossom. Which means the annual Dogwood Festival is right around the corner.




~~~

Finally, a humble thank you to BosGuy for including me in his Men of Twitter feature this week. I'm quite flattered. I debated even mentioning it, but since I definitely don't want my family following my "naughty" profile (@pacspad) y'all are the only ones I can share this with. Do you like how I invented "Random Wednesdays" and threw this nonchalantly at the end, as if by afterthought? Subtle and smooth.

Thanks again BosGuy!


~~~

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Halfway Point

I've been officially doing the Lent thing for three weeks now. Not a drop of alcohol and I've been good about sticking to my diet plan. I've also been getting adventurous and adding some variety to my exercise routine.

As nature abhors a vacuum, a couple new vices have stepped up to the plate. First is my coffee. I can't imagine giving that up right now. Second is something I haven't enjoyed since I was a kid... Root Beer. Diet A&W Root Beer to be precise. When I ever get a craving for a snack and/or cocktail, I pour myself a Root Beer instead.

I've been using Lose It to track my calories in and out. (Thanks for the tip StevieB, Lose It is a great app/website!) Another nice Lose It feature is that it integrates with my Withings Wi-Fi scale. All I need to do is step on in the morning and my weight and daily calorie budget are updated in Lose It.

I'm very happy with my new scale. I was concerned at first that it was a bit extravagant and tech-gimmicky. But along with apps for the iPhone and iPad, it integrates with Lose It and also RunKeeper. It even tries to automatically recognize the various household members. But since JB has been dropping pounds faster than me, we're getting close to the same weight which makes it hard for the scale to tell us apart. So now when I weigh myself, the display shows a picture of two feet. The left foot says "PAC" and the right foot says "JB". It doesn't take a rocket scientist... but I'm not a rocket scientist and it took me a while to realize what I needed to do. I shift my weight to my left foot to tell the scale, "It's me, Pac!"

The only down-side I've noticed so far (other than having my current weight tweeted to the world before I even step off) is that you have to be careful where you keep it as it turns invisible in the dark. Twice now I've sent it skittering across the room while wondering how many toes I've broken. As it looks like it's made completely from glass, I thought it was a goner. But it's obviously built to handle more than my fat ass.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Good In-Box News

I just got an e-mail this morning confirming that my lottery entry for the 2011 Peachtree Road Race was selected and I'll be getting a race number for the July 4th 10K event.

Historically, the race registration forms came out in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in one of the Sunday editions in March. Race numbers were issued based on application postmark until the limit of 60,000 registrants was reached. Surprisingly, this happened quickly.

We'd get up early to pick up a paper, fill out the applications and drive them to a post office by the airport which would be open that Sunday for the occasion. These past few years they began offering online registration, but since it was still first-come-first-served, the servers would crash and even if you could successfully register, it could take hours.

This year they did it differently. Registration was open for 10 days with all applications submitted during that time getting an equal shot at a race number. It was a necessary and welcome change, but I wasn't sure how a lottery would affect my chances of getting a number. They started e-mailing the confirmations this morning and both JB and myself lucked out. Bonus!

I guess I need to get serious about training.

Inreda vs Grundtal

Note: If the title of this post led you to believe you were about to enjoy an epic tale from Norse mythology, I'll warn you right now you're about to be sadly disappointed.

I accomplished my weekend plan to pick up some under-cabinet lighting at IKEA and get it installed in the kitchen. It helped that the weather was cool and rainy all weekend, removing the usual temptation to blow off household chores.

Instead of the GRUNDTAL halogen pucks I decided to get some new INREDA strip lights. They were a bit more expensive but I like the idea of using less energy while never having to replace burnt out bulbs. LED lighting is getting better and more affordable all the time. JB didn't think they'd be bright enough but after installation, he really likes them. Eventually I'll replace the existing halogen pucks with LEDs.


Installation was easier than expected due to a fortunate gap between the cabinets which allowed me to fish the wires up to the top of the cabinets without having to drill any holes.



I also got the food scale I ordered from Woot last week for $20. I love Woot. Part of my morning routine is checking the day's sale item. On more than one occasion I've been persuaded to purchase something silly just because I found the description hilarious. I once bought an electric salad spinner for $15 because the article describing the sheer laziness of it had my coworkers and me in stitches. Ironically (or maybe not) that thing gets used in our kitchen almost every single day.

My new scale not only displays the weight, it also calculates the calories and nutritional breakdown for me. (Hmmm. There seems to be a theme to my Woot purchases.) It requires me to look up the food and enter its 4-digit code, but it seems accurate.

I know, but blue was the only color left. Notice the festive
Vegas-like sparkle imparted by the new LED light strips.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Cleaning

GRUNDTAL
After learning that StevieB has been anxiously awaiting his local IKEA store to open for nearly three years,  I'm feeling even more compelled to tease him about it. (I'm not proud of myself for that, really I'm not.) I'm actually planning a trip to our Atlanta IKEA this weekend. (Hey, when one gives up partying for Lent, one has to find excitement where one can.)

Several months ago I replaced the fluorescent tubes in the kitchen with a futuristically stylish halogen track gizmo I found in the lighting section of IKEA. I also installed some under-cabinet lighting to replace another fluorescent fixture. It definitely looks better and more natural in the kitchen, but I find I'm needed more task lighting so I'm going back for more GRUNDTAL under-cabinet pucks.

Last Sunday in a fit of spring cleaning I went through my IKEA closet and put the winter clothes in IKEA storage boxes, filled a bag with clothes to donate and dusted everything. I also polished the silver...

See how IKEA makes organizing easy?

Only six more months, Stevie!




~~~

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Morning Pics

I've been leading training sessions at the office all week while trying to break my bad habit of choosing to work late over meeting Eddie at the gym at 6PM. Thank God tomorrow is Friday! Here are some quick Thursday morning pics...

Yesterday I noticed the wonderful smell of wisteria
blooming in our condo's courtyard. The Spring pollen
makes a mess and causes a lot of people allergy grief,
but to me it's always a welcome sign that Winter is
officially over.

This morning's breakfast. I love french toast! The dip
is a yummy blueberry sauce. The turkey bacon is rather
chewy but I like jerky so that's okay.

I went out with Eddie to our local watering hole last night for the first time since
giving up alcohol for Lent. It was a nice time and I didn't mind drinking club
soda, but there wasn't much of a crowd. Last time I tried this shirt on it was too
tight, so I was happy and thought it was a photographic moment.
And no, I don't have a lazy eye. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Run Pac, Run!

There was a news story the other morning on NPR about the "autocorrect" feature of the iPhone and other smart phones. Texting in a hurry without proofreading can sometimes make for hilarious and/or embarrassing results. Once while lining up a job interview, I told my potential future boss, "I look forward to meeting you in prison!" I didn't get an offer.

A more recent example is this exchange from last weekend when I was showing off my new shoes to a famous Puma aficionado.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Go Julie!

My good friend Julie posted today how she's starting Good Measure Meals, the same meal plan I'm currently using. Reading it, I was a bit surprised to learn of her fear and self-doubt when setting goals for herself. Julie's always the one who inspires me to try new things, and I watch the races and physical activities she participates in with admiration and a dull jab of inadequacy. That's why when I saw she signed up to climb one of the downtown office towers -- twice -- I decided to throw caution to the wind and sign up too. (This would be climbing the stairs, not Spiderman-ing up the outside.)

I hope you like doing the meal plan, Julie, and I think you will considering your goals. You just have to accept that you won't necessarily like every single meal. For me it's like when I was growing up, I ate what Mom cooked whether I liked it or not because -- as I was reminded repeatedly -- she was not a short-order cook.

But most meals are quite good and the quality seems improved this year. I have the 1700 calorie plan which satisfies me for the most part. I've tried lower calorie plans before and found I couldn't stand to watch television. I normally never notice how many food commercials there are. Either I was satisfied and ignored them or I let them subliminally guide me into foolish eating habits. But when your stomach is growling and you can't get through a half-hour show without being teased by burgers, pizza and tacos... you notice. I found I did a lot more reading before going to bed at 8pm.

Good luck Julie!

Oh, and thanks for ruining yogurt for me.

~

Monday, March 21, 2011

Super Moon

To make matters worse,
our condo lies in an AT&T
wireless dark spot.
Otherwise I could live
without a land line.
Just after posting to the blog Friday morning, our phone and Internet when out. As several of our condo neighbors were affected, I'm sure it had something to do with the ongoing street-scaping project on 14th Street. I found what appeared to be one of the foremen (he looked the least busy) and asked if they just cut some lines. He assured me they most certainly did not. As I was leaving for work I saw an AT&T truck joined the team.

Surprisingly, service was still out when I got home Friday night. A call to AT&T let us know it would be out until Saturday afternoon. I was surprised how dependent I've become on having a constant Internet connection. My iPad was mostly useless and I couldn't rent any movies. Our digital photo frame which normally displays random photos posted by our Facebook friends was stuck on "Can't access web media!". JB was disappointed because he dropped two pounds and our wi-fi scale wasn't tweeting his achievement to the world.

Since my pledge to give up drinking for lent is still somewhat fragile, I didn't want to hang out with my friends Friday night at the bars. So I decided to go for a walk and enjoy the rare Perigee Moon. The moon and beautiful weather brought Midtown residents outside and everyone seemed happy.



On Saturday I went shopping for new running shoes. I first checked out a sporting goods store that has three levels and a rock-climbing wall. They have a decent selection of running shoes, but not enough staff to help people. So I decided to brave the mall and check out the Puma store. I'm glad I did, they were having a sale with most shoes 40 to 50% off. I bought three pair for $149.

When I got home the phone still didn't work. Calling AT&T we were told our ticket got "accidentally" closed and we should expect a repair by Wednesday. Unacceptable. I told them to have it fixed Sunday or close our account as I could have service from Comcast or Clear by Wednesday. (I even considered eating my own dog food since I work for a phone/Internet service provider. However I knew that would probably still depend on the same copper as my current AT&T connection and would take more than a week to provision.)

On Sunday a technician showed up. What a goofnut. He tried to tell me I had my DSL modem improperly connected. I unplugged everything to remove any doubt there was no phone service coming into my house. Then he started explaining how my surround-sound speakers were improperly positioned. I reminded him he was there to fix my phone. He asked for a cup of coffee. Fine, maybe it'll help him focus. When he told me he personally didn't own a computer or a cell phone, I wondered where they find these people.

Finally around noon Sunday we had phone and Internet again and my iPad was happy.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Good Bunny, Bad Bunny

For the second day we're without home phone or Internet service. I volunteered to give up drinking for lent, but nobody said anything about giving up porn.

So here's a pic of my shirt. I'm about to go all devil-bunny on AT&T.




Friday, March 18, 2011

Nemeses

nem•e•sis |ˈneməsis|
noun ( pl. -ses |-ˌsēz|) (usu. one's nemesis)
the inescapable or implacable agent of someone's or something's downfall

A few years ago I had a membership at a gym in an office building down the block from my house. I chose that gym because it was close and each machine had it's own television screen. I quickly learned not to get there too late in the mornings because the only elliptical machines left would be the squeaky ones with their TVs stuck on Fox News. My favorite machine was on the far end of the room. I don't know why it was my favorite, it just was. It was her favorite too.

For all I knew, she she knitted mittens for eskimo orphans and baked cookies for her cherubic grandchildren who each thought they had the bestest grandma in the whole wide world. I didn't care. In the gym we were rivals. I called her "Nemesis".

We never spoke, we only exchanged acknowledging glances when entering the gym. If she got to my machine before I did, I was in a fowl mood the rest of the day. When I got there first, I felt victorious. (Enjoy your Sean Hannity, you old bat!) I started setting my alarm earlier and earlier. I think she did too. Toward the end we would both be waiting at 6am for the gym doors to open.

Then one day the gym went 24-hours, putting no limit on the escalation of our cold war. I realized how silly that would be, but acknowledged how my rivalry with Nemesis (which was probably all in my head) pushed me in a way I probably wouldn't have pushed myself. After this shift, whenever I ran into Nemesis in the gym we'd smile and nod hello. I imagined the respect was mutual.

These past few weeks I've been trying to get back into running. It's been a while since I ran regularly and I want to take advantage of the nicer weather and the momentum provided by Lent. The past few years I'd run an occasional 5K or 10K race, but without properly training for it I'd be slow and miserable and usually in pain for several days afterward. As I'm starting to get some races and events lined up this Spring and Summer, I want to do it right this year and be prepared.

I'm recognizing some familiar hurdles that have always affected my running. My toenails bleed. (Just on my left foot, how odd is that?) My feet start tingling around mile 2 and are numb by mile 3. They feel like wooden stumps when I go any further. Then there's the hill. It's my own fault for picking that route, but because it's familiar to me and exactly 5K, it's a good measure of my current conditioning. Which right now is not very good.

This hill starts just after mile 2 and over the next half mile climbs almost 150 feet. It always kicks my ass but I know that once I reach the peak I'm home free. As I started the hill last night, I realized this was my new Nemesis. Around half way up, I conceded defeat. This time. As I walked up the rest of the hill, I felt more determined then ever to conquer Nemesis.

Out of imagined mutual respect, Nemesis offered me this Spring consolation prize. I realized this wasn't such a bad place to take it slow.

Piedmont Avenue (aka "Nemesis") in bloom, March 17, 2011.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Morning Pics

I forgot it was Saint Patrick's day. Since I'm usually on some sort of health kick this time of year, I haven't partaken of green beer in years. But the holiday has meaning to me because of my mom's folk-wisdom. Her theory was that Winter usually has one last gasp after March 17th, then gives up the ghost until next Winter.

Fat Cat has a shoe fetish. He prefers Pumas (naturally) but
Nikes do in a pinch. His real passion though is ladies evening
sandals, but he doesn't often get a chance to indulge.

Thursday's breakfast. It's 580 calories, but I've saved the
granola bar and fruit for snacking later.  The croissant was not
a synthetic whole-grain nonfat imitation judging from the
butter spot it left behind. Yum! It seems to work
for the French.

That's where my JB is right now, on his way back
from Brussels. I'm glad the weather will be much
better than when he left on Tuesday.
The forecast calls for sunny and 75º today.

Super-Psyllius

My neurotic friend Eddie's cupboard.
No food, just this. For a guy with a
debilitating fear of public restrooms, this
must be his way of living on the edge.





One of my dietary goals over Lent is getting my cholesterol down. I had a physical in December and Dr. Dilf wants to start me on statins if I don't show improvement by April. Once you start that stuff, you're on it for life. Maybe statins really do help some people, and maybe Dr. Dilf is right when he says my reluctance is unwarranted. I think my reluctance is perfectly warranted.

One tip he gave me was to supplement my diet with soluble fiber. (I'm officially old now. Go ahead, laugh it up.) So after stirring up a half a glass of the tangy-but-not-Tang drink this morning I was distracted by a text message. While scrolling through my tweets I absent-mindedly reached for the glass, tipped it back and... nothing. My half-full glass of liquid was now a full glass of thick orange pudding.

As I threatened to overwhelm the garbage disposal with the quart of sludge and stirred up another glass I thought, so that's how this stuff works.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Milestone

I woke up this morning all giddy. My cat was sleeping on me and I felt bad I had to disturb him to get out of bed. Fortunately it wasn't my fat cat, so I still had complete use of my arm. (Although I can type with one hand if I have to.) I made a cup of coffee and sat at my trusty iMac. And drew a blank.

What do I write? I thought about what inspired me in the first place. I know, I'll check out StevieB's archives! I remember him a few months back celebrating his six-hundred-and-fifteth post. Surely number one hundred was memorialized. I counted, and counted again to make sure I counted right the first time. It was a post about getting a gym locker next to a big hairy guy and how they squealed like sorority sisters upon discovering they had matching gym bags.

I scratched my head. Surely StevieB must have realized he'd hit a magic number. I bet he was playing it cool. I scanned forward to see if his milestone even got a passing mention. Holy shit, he's been waiting for that fucking IKEA for three years? I watched a video of StevieB opening a can of corn. It was more compelling than 99% of network television and made me want to buy tupperware. StevieB waving a pork loin and chasing Fuzzy around the grocery store.

An hour later I realized I've been totally sidetracked and my abs tingled from laughing. Well, don't I feel silly. I guess I was conflating an arbitrary milestone with the journey.

So before I'm too late for work, I'd like to thank StevieB for encouraging me to start this trip. And for the renewed inspiration he didn't know he gave me this morning to have fun with it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Toast

In the late 80's, a group of people began cooking meals for their friends and neighbors who were too sick to properly care for themselves. This act of love and kindness became the nucleus of Project Open Hand, surely one of the better legacies of the early AIDS epidemic. Today Open Hand Atlanta serves the entire community with this mission statement:

Open Hand helps people prevent or better manage chronic disease through comprehensive nutrition care, which combines home-delivered meals and nutrition education as a means to reinforce the connection between informed food choices and improved quality of life.

The immediate beneficiaries of this effort are people with critical, chronic and terminal illness; homebound senior citizens; low-income people with medical conditions such as diabetes and dependent children at risk for malnutrition in their formative years.

I spoke about the meal service I'm currently using to get my diet back on track. Good Measure Meals is a subsidiary of Open Hand and 100% of the net proceeds go back into the organisation. The actual cost to me (for the 1700 calorie plan) is about $22.50 per day. When I add up what I normally spend on groceries and eating out, this isn't too bad. If I add in the time saved by not having to shop, cook and clean, it's a bargain. And I like that any profit made goes to such a great cause.

The food is all locally prepared fresh, never frozen and delivered (or, as I do, picked up) twice weekly. The meals are designed and labeled to be eaten on schedule (Monday breakfast, Monday lunch, etc.) in order to be nutritionally balanced overall day-to-day and week-to-week. Not every meal is a home run, but that's to be expected. In fact it's just like when Mom used to cook. ("If you don't like it, tough!") It's by always satisfying every craving when I have it where I get into trouble, both from a nutrition and cost perspective.

My favorite part is the breakfasts. On my own I tend to be a horrible breakfast-skipper. I could go to bed starving, but in the morning to find I'm just not that hungry. And I'm usually running late. Yet I've never lost weight while skipping breakfast. I really believe that's key, not just to a successful diet plan but to proper nutrition.

This morning's breakfast was Greek quiche with feta, spinach and sundried tomatoes. There was also a citrus salad which I ate while my bread was toasting. Also while my bread was toasting, I remembered my toaster pic.

I was going to post this a couple of weeks ago but got pre-empted by StevieB's toaster-porn which, let's face it, is way more compelling. In fact, I'm still craving Pop-Tarts.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Good Measures

Mmm. Chicken sausage and
whole wheat pancakes with
cinnamon, flaxseed, pecans
and fruit compote.
I mentioned I started a diet last week. About six years ago I tipped the scales at 230 pounds and was out of shape. I guess I'd entered that complacent phase where I was happy in a relationship and focussed on things other than obsessing in the gym and/or mirror.

The turning point came when my mom passed away after a long series of complications of diabetes, a disease that also took her father, Grandpa Bill. It didn't help when my doctor (who happens to be a hot gay dilf) said "Look at me. I'm 50 and in way better shape than you." He was right. Right there I made it my goal to never let him be able to say that again.

So at Dr. B's advice, I placed an order with Good Measure Meals. I didn't really know what it was, I just knew it was like Nutri-Systems or Jenny Craig. (I was wrong.) The first delivery did not go over well at Casa Midtown.

I've since learned Mexicans have a culturally different relationship with food than I grew up learning. Meals are every bit as much about family communion as they are about nutrition or simply feeding a hunger pang. My JB reacted to my bringing food prepared by someone else into our house as if I were cheating on him.

Even as I dropped 25 pounds, JB pouted and fought me every step of the way. I offered to include him but he refused. I offered to hire a nutritionist to teach both of us how to prepare similarly balanced meals, and he said he wasn't going to pay anyone to tell him what to eat. Even JB knew he was being unreasonable, but he couldn't help how he was feeling and he couldn't help expressing those feelings.

"I feel like anymore we're just roommates," became a common refrain. "Roommates who love each other and have sex?" I'd ask. It didn't make sense to me, but I did my best to try to understand where he was coming from. His upbringing, his drive to be a family care-taker and provider, his control issues, his insecurities about my losing weight and how that made him feel about himself. But ultimately this was about myself and my right to choose what I put in my body. I wasn't going to relent for the sake of domestic tranquility.

Things settled down after Lent was over and I stopped the meal plan. Even JB had to admit the progress I'd made and seemed happy that I looked and felt better. When I decided the following year to do Good Measure again for Lent, I sat JB down and went through the motions of asking his permission. Again, I offered to include him. He declined to participate but gave the go-ahead, yet once I started the meals the drama resumed.

This issue threatened to end our relationship. I loved JB and in every other way he seemed loving and supportive of me. Why would he fight me with this? I explained it was temporary and begged him to be patient and support my decision. While I feel compromise is an important part of any relationship, I didn't feel my health should be a bargaining chip on the table. If I don't have the right to eat they way I want to eat while in this relationship, then this relationship wasn't good for me. Eventually it took its toll and was the major factor behind JB and I splitting up for several months.

Fast forward through months of counseling and three years of health issues and scares on JB's part. This year JB is doing Good Measure with me for the first time. After the first week he's lost 5 pounds and his blood pressure is the best its ever been. He mentioned he's feeling great and enjoying the free time he's not spending in the kitchen.

Yesterday he hugged me and thanked me for getting him started. And for not giving up on him.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lent

For the past several years I've observed Lent. It's not that I'm particularly religious, the only reason I'm not an atheist is because I don't want JB's family praying for me. Since becoming part of his family, I've discovered Mexi-Catholics are very different from the Midwest Catholics I grew up with. For one thing, they express their emotions. Freely. Makes me suspect there may be some sort of voodoo involved.

I find the annual exercise of reigning in my excesses to be healthy, and not just physically. Again this year I'm dieting and abstaining from alcohol. As someone who lives for the weekends, this is a substantial sacrifice.

The first weekend of Lent consisted of house cleaning, file organization and outdoor activities. One weekend down, six more weekends to go.

That's 560 calories, up and down.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Five Degrees: Secret Love

This post concludes the week of StevieB's Five Degree themes.

As far as the people I love are concerned, I always try to make it known to them how I feel. It's keeping them from knowing about each other where things get complicated.

I kid, mostly.

While thinking about this assignment, I realized I don't have a lot of secrets anymore since I started blogging. My biggest secret is the blog. Only a few of my close friends know about it and only one actually reads it. (I love you Julie!) But I haven't told anyone else about it, not even my partner. Why is that?

I've always loved writing, but never took it seriously. A few times I've tried to start journals, but a couple of things kept me from following through. One was my perfectionism. It was hard for me to write something and let it go without the need to continuously fix and improve it. It still is. (But I'm working on that.) Even when I decided to start this blog, it took me several weeks just to come up with a title. I had to force myself just to come up with something so I could get past that block and actually start writing. Pac is my Scruff nickname and Pad comes from the fact I was on my iPad at the time. Even then I expected it to be temporary until I thought of something better. (Why does it seem it's my half-assed creations that are the most enduring?)

The other thing that stopped me was the thought of someone else reading my journals. That idea mortified me. But back then I had a lot of stuff bottled up inside that I didn't necessarily want anyone to know about, all the while growing up in an environment with no concept of privacy. But I still longed for an outlet. A journal seemed logical, but if it was for my eyes only, the risk seemed greater than the reward.

Today I find I'm enjoying this exercise. It's both relaxing and stimulating, like a gym workout for my brain. I can work on improving my writing skills in an arena that has nothing to do with technical specs or implementation plans. It's only been fairly recently that I started thinking about the point of it. At first, I had the journal mentality; I was writing for myself as an outlet without much consideration of the reader's experience. That's been changing as I've been meeting people and making friends through blogging.

The idea of keeping it secret was to allow me to express myself freely without having to self-censor based on how the people in my life might think or react. (Especially if they were the subject.) The idea was never to publicly poke fun of anyone behind their back. I'm sure if any of them were to read it, they might be offended here and shocked there, but find no surprises overall about how I feel about them. If anything, they'll get to know me better.

In a way this is a mini-parallel to my coming-out experience. The first step out of the closet was to build a small community of friends I could absolutely be myself with. That community provides all the comfort, support, and constructive criticism of a family. And as I gain experience and confidence, I incorporate what I've learned about myself to take back and share with the people I once thought I had to hide myself from. Over time the double-life becomes congruent.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Five Degrees: Crush/Lust

This post continues the week of StevieB's Five Degree themes.

When I was slowly creeping my way out of the closet in the early '90s, the Internet was still only an embryo of what it is today. I found it fun and interesting, and I knew that someday it was going to be more than a just a hobby to me. I'm sure there were some geeks back then installing winsock and using it for sex, and I'm sure a subset of them were attractive. But for me at that time, all the boys were on AOL and private bulletin board systems.

What the...? Did I dial the right BBS?
How to explain BBSs to the kids? Let's see... Before the Internet... I give up, google it.

For anyone who as a kid ever tried publicly buying gay porn in a book store, the promise of being able to download it at home was compelling enough to drop $400 on a 1200 baud modem. Today when it's common to download entire movies on a whim, it's funny to think how it used to take minutes just to download a single photo. I remember seeing that first naked stud slowly depixelating on my Mac LC and coming before I got to his navel.

If there were any gay bars where I lived at the time, I would have been too chicken to venture anyway. So when I was finally ready to actually hook up with a guy, I started with AOL. My first crush was a nice young dentist over a hundred and fifty miles away who was so closeted he made me park down the street. I was shocked when the sex was over and, knowing how far I came to see him, he ushered me to the door. Did I mention his tiny penis?

When I moved to Atlanta in 1993 I found a local gay BBS and the bits started flying.

The pattern that established itself was making contact, exchanging stats (rarely photos), chatting and maybe a phone conversation or two. By the time we made plans to meet I was in love. Or was it just lust? On one of my first rendezvous I came in my pants in the parking lot between my car and restaurant. Try explaining that to the guy waiting at the restaurant bar matching your date's description. Then, when he finally shows up, to your date. Ugh.

Then there was the one hot guy I did click with. The sex was incredible and afterward we actually cuddled. "He's so sweet and adorable," I thought. "Oh, and sensitive too!" as a tear came to his eye. Then another. An hour-and-a-half later I had to ask him to leave. I was out of kleenex and my neighbors were asking if everything was okay.

I discovered that even though I'd be so into these guys online, when we finally met in person there wasn't chemistry. Shit, Union Carbide couldn't make enough chemicals. Or else they were so uptight about their sexual identity they could only bring themselves to meet guys on a BBS... ouch. A moment of stinging self-realization.

It hit me that my goal wasn't just sex, but to have a real relationship. I wanted a boyfriend. There was a whole gay world out there but, out of fear and shyness, I was limiting my exposure to a tiny, distorted fraction of it. Time to grow a pair, take a risk and start putting myself out there, face to face. On my second trip to a gay bar, I met Joe. (That would be Joe #1.) And the sparks started flying.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Five Degrees: Happiest Moment

This post continues the week of StevieB's Five Degree themes.

This morning's breakfast
makes me happy.
I had to really think about this one. I consider myself a basically happy person, but I don't have a happiest moment ready to relate at the tip of my tongue.

There are plenty of happy memories, for sure. And I have some accomplishments and achievements I could include as happy moments. But the happiest?

I haven't had any children, which I would expect to be the obvious candidate for most people's happiest moments. But I had plenty of experience being a child. (Some would argue I still do.)

My childhood was happy overall, even considering I was a bit confused about what made me different from the other kids. Surely my parents were confused as well about their middle son. I fully realize how fortunate I am, considering. When my brothers got firetrucks and footballs, I was thrilled to get easy-bake ovens and ironing boards. I don't remember asking Santa Claus for these things... where did he get his information? Someone must have been an obvious (and domestic) little queen.

Maybe I didn't get a football, but I
remember one time throwing my toy
sewing machine with a perfect spiral.
My poor brother didn't go wide
enough and it hit him between the
eyes. Yes, he needed stitches.



Surprisingly, most of my childhood memories -- happy or sad -- aren't defined by this. I just remember normal moments...

Mom waking us up early for school on a snowy winter day to the smell of blueberry muffins and, only after digging in and getting us bundled up to go outside, telling us school had been cancelled.

Being pulled out of bed and into the back yard along with my brothers and rubbing my eyes in disbelief at the amazing curtains of light in the night sky, and listening to Dad explain the science behind the spectacle of the aurora borealis.

Staying with my grandparents in town, always a treat, then walking with grandma the two blocks to the nearby hospital where my sister had just been born. Us kids weren't allowed to go in, but Mom made sure we got to visit from the window.

Stuff like that. And those are only moments from my childhood. I had no idea at the time how further blessed I'd be in the years to come.

So, no, right now I'm not able to pin down my happiest moment. But I have a new candidate.

This one.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Five Degrees: Toughest Choice

This post continues the week of StevieB's Five Degree themes.

There's a theory that, at the quantum level, every probability must manifest itself. The inherent paradox is resolved by the creation of multiple realities, one for each probabilistic outcome. Let me help illustrate this concept with a simple example: Say you're reading this post right now and you're board. You could either continue reading (hoping I get to some sort of point soon) or you could click over to some other blog, thereby single-handedly forking the Universe.

If even the smallest of choices irrevocably fractures space-time, what must the big ones do?

I also find the phrasing for this exercise interesting. We're to write about our "toughest choice", not our toughest decision. What's the difference? There can be no decisions without choices. Choices are presented by circumstance; decisions are made by the human heart and mind.

You can have easy choices with tough decisions and vice-versa. Let's say you're painting the kitchen. The paint store offers many choices, all at more or less the same cost. But the decision can be excruciating. If you're a house painter, you'd love working for my friend, Joe. You're guaranteed to double or triple your original estimate as you paint and repaint his kitchen different colors. Then again, you just might be driven mad.

On the other hand you may be faced with tough choices, but with an obvious decision. A person may have legal directives stipulating his wish not to be kept alive using extraordinary life support measures. His loved ones have the choice between honoring those wishes or prolonging his life as long as possible. Those choices suck, but the man was responsible and thoughtful enough to make the decision easier on his family.

Why am I over-analyzing this? Why don't I just talk about the time almost exactly three years ago, when I decided to leave my JB and the life we'd spent ten years building together and move to Alabama to be with Joey? Or how I decided three months later to come back home? Or how JB and I decided, after months of counseling, to make things work?

Sometimes, when faced with tough choices and a lack of courage, the easiest decision is to avoid making one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Five Degrees: Dumbest Thing

This week I'm going to try following StevieB's Five Degree themes.

I must admit, this assignment has been a tough one. Not because I don't have any "dumbest" things to write about, but because there are so many.

Some of my dumbest things are humorous and humbling. Like that time in college when I went all out getting ready for a theme party with a really dumb theme. Then waking up in the morning in a strange, empty house 2 miles from home with no vehicle, no keys and not even my ID. There's not quite any walk of shame like walking home at 9am dressed like a "hobo", only having to do the climb of shame to break into your own second-story apartment.

All's well that ends with all charges dropped, I suppose.

Then there are the dumb things that can stick with a person longer than thorn bush scratches.

Not asking for help when you need it. That's dumb. Thinking work always comes before spending quality time with family is dumb. Not listening to advice from a drag queen? Really dumb. Telling your buddies all about your fun Armenian lesbian friend in the back of a Chicago cab without stopping to consider the possibility our cab driver might just be related to her. Painfully dumb.

I'd have to say the top dumbest thing was that phase of my life where I actually believed I had nothing in common with my father. In my mind he was conservative, close-minded and would never accept my homosexuality. Telling him I was gay wasn't an option. Of all my siblings, I had the most adversarial relationship with Dad. It wasn't until later I realized all our head-butting wasn't because we were so different, but because we were so alike.

It was dumb to dismiss my dad because he had a high-school education and a blue-collar job. I dismissed the hundreds, no thousands, of books he read and his wild futuristic ideas. I remember him telling us over 30 years ago that we'd someday buy a television and hang it on the wall like a painting. I looked at our 400-pound Curtis Mathis, casting a glow from behind as bright as the glow from the front, and tried to imagine what that would be like. Now I can't watch TV without thinking about him.

It was dumb to wait so long to realize how amazing this person was. And dumb not to trust him with my real self.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Christinaaa!

Someone's about to get her ass beat...




Time to go drop off a sack of clothes at Goodwill or else to IKEA to buy more matching hangers for my PAX system.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fear And Bloating

Worked from 10pm last night to 3am this morning, mostly babysitting my database buddies. I was able to work from home though, so it wasn't so bad. Of course, the Jumping Bean thought I was just goofing off, since working and goofing off looks about the same for me. I tried to divide my attention evenly, but a couple times I had to ask JB to repeat himself which irritated him.

"You aren't listening."

"I'm sorry. I'm working. What was that again?"

"I said I feel bloated."

"If I had a dollar every time you said that, I wouldn't be working right now." Oops. Another one of those times I wish I had a TiVo remote for my mouth.

"Thanks for your concern," he pouted as he stomped off to bed, muttering something about how I'll be sorry when he's dead. Presumably from whatever is bloating him. He was still throwing attitude this morning. I suspect he'll be fine when I meet him tonight at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Which means at least three more bucks before bedtime.

I should take the MCATs with all I've learned being married to a hypochondriac. Then again, if I felt bloated, I'd probably jump right to clostridium difficile colitis and obsess about it until I had a proper stool.

Actually, the JB's been relatively miserable since returning from Joe's birthday week in Germany. I know the feeling from the few times I've come back from Oktoberfest. The gallons of beer and rich food along with irregular sleep and air travel conspire to accomplish what all of Charlie Sheen's interventionists never could/will. A temporary period of abstinence, self-control and adjustment of priorities.

And just in time for Lent.

Come to think of it, I'm not feeling so
good myself. God, I hope it not my
liver. Or pancreas.

Flirting With A Database Analyst

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pac's Saturday Night

So on Saturday night, Eddie and I took a taxi to the Bearracuda event at the Heretic. Eddie said he had a dream I was going to ditch him there so he made me pay the fare out. He'd pick it up on the way back. Why do I seem to have a lot more fun in other people's dreams than I have in my own, or even in real life?

Eddie installed Scruff once but never created a profile. (He's way too private. Not in a "I'm mysterious and keep to myself" kind of way, but in a paranoid "nobody's going to photoshop my head onto someone else's body" kind of way. Seriously. He won't even use Facebook.) But he's familiar with the app and pointed to the Scruff t-shirt on a handsome guy walking by. The hairy stud responded by trying to bite Eddie's finger. Or maybe just suck it, we'll never know. Eddie pulled back his hand with a look of horror and lust. "Don't feed the bears!" I warned him.

The music was great and the crowd was hairy, friendly and fun. We ran into old friends, made some new ones and in general had a great time. Then around midnight, I felt a hand on my shoulder.  As I turned to look, I felt a sharp punch in the gut. I know it was all in my head, but it still knocked the wind out of me. All I could think to say was "Happy Birthday, Joey." He was impressed I remembered his birthday and told me he was sorry about my dad. He then turned toward the dance floor and disappeared into the crowd. And that was it. Eddie's report from last weekend was accurate. He is looking good. Really good.

"Aren't you going to talk to him?" Eddie asked.

If Joey came all the way to Atlanta to make small talk with me, he'd still be standing here. And I haven't exactly been encouraging him. Plus I didn't want to risk making any of Eddie's dreams come true, not if I could help it.

"Nah," I said. "Let's go get something to eat. I'm hungry." If there wasn't going to be any whoring this weekend, I was damn sure going to cross Chinese food off my list.



An hour later I got home with more than enough leftovers to eat in bed on Sunday. As I put the styrofoam container in the fridge, the phone rang.

Update

While paying for lunch today, this fell out of my wallet...


The fortune from my cookie last Saturday night. I don't think I gave it any significance at the time. But then, why did I feel the need to put it in my wallet?

When I woke up Sunday morning, opportunity was nowhere to be found. Maybe it was just my turn to dream.

~~~

A Walk In The Park

Over the past two weeks I've taken to going for walks in the park to clear my mind. It hasn't hurt that the weather's been nice and signs of Spring are in the air. Earlier this week I snapped this photo with my iPhone. Most of the time I don't see much improvement from the HDR setting, but this time the difference was dramatic.

Midtown skyline over Lake Clara Meer in Piedmont Park.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pac's Saturday Afternoon

Saturday morning I met my buddy at the gym. I filled him in on my plan to hit the Bearracuda party later that night and he decided he had nothing to wear to a bear party. As if Eddie ever needs an excuse to go shopping.

The Boy Next Door is a small menswear shop catering to a gay clientele. Think Undergear with a bargain bin. Which seems pretty silly... no self respecting gay is going to buy the picked-over crap rejected by last season's gays. Not in public. But since I'm not about to spend $185 on jeans and my self-esteem is decimated by the time I pass the swimwear, I rock that bin.

The staff are all well trained in the subtle art of base flattery to make a sale. As soon as we walked in, the shop keeper told me, "You're wearing one of our shirts! It looks great on you!" I looked down at the sweaty graphic tee I just worked out in and said, "Yeah, thanks." I didn't feel it was my job to remind him he wasn't the exclusive retailer of Lucky Brand casual wear and that I'd found this particular shirt on the close-out rack at Macy's.

$8 for the shirt, $37 for the
salesman to tell you how buff
you look in it.
(I remember that purchase clearly. I picked up my arm load of three-for-one shirts and headed to the counter all pleased with myself. That's when the Macy's clerk looked at me sideways and asked if I tried them on first. When I replied "no" he strongly suggested I do so as "they tend to run small". I took that as code for "you delusional fat ass" and informed him that at eight dollars, it was hardly worth my time to engage in this prolonged transaction let alone visit the changing room since I can always wash my car with them. It was a lie of course, I never wash my car. The shirt fit and the first time I wore it out to meet Eddie for drinks, he was wearing the exact same shirt. Which he bought at Boy Next Door. For $45.)

Recognizing me as a bargain bin gay, the shop keeper turned his attentions to Eddie. "You've lost weight, haven't you? And you're shoulders, they seem wider!" The hook was set. "I've been doing P90X!" I heard Eddie volunteer as I dashed toward the clearance aisle. I stopped in my tracks when I spotted a pair of black pony hair loafers. "Well hello pretty, pretty pony... how much are you? What? A hundred and twenty dollars? If I ever see you in the bin, you're coming home home with me." I realized I was not only talking to shoes, the conversation was sad and disturbing.

As I was putting the loafers down, the perky shop keeper snuck up on me. "Aren't those fun? Not everyone can pull 'em off, but they'd look hot on you!" I wasn't going to kid myself, he was absolutely right.

In the bargain bin I found an assortment of temporary tattoos. I imagined my partner's face when he got back from his trip and I let my new tribal arm band slip ever so slightly from under my t-shirt sleeve. Sold! I walked out with my $5 tattoo and Eddie with two more $45 t-shirts. I made a mental note to hit Macy's soon.

How could you, Pac?! After I hauled your
fat 8-year-old ass around in circles at the
 carnival 'til you blew corn-dogs in my mane.
How do you sleep at night? Shame on you,

Pac! Shame!
When I got home I examined my purchase only to find the tribal design of my arm band tattoo converged in the center to form a graceful butterfly. Oh hell no. I am not wearing that to a bear party! Back to Boy Next Door where I exchanged my tramp-stamp for some manly barbed wire. You know, like Pamela Anderson's. And since I was there, I picked up a few other items.

The tattoo turned out to be a dud since it was 90% rubbed away by the time JB got home on Monday. (Probably too much plan B.) I haven't worked up the nerve to tell him about the pony hair loafers yet.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom

If you look close, you can
see me taking the picture
 of this picture with my
phone. My Sis has so
many family photos...
It was like visiting the
Pacsonian.
It's hard to believe Mom's been gone over eight years now. Even though I miss her every single day, I know she's not really gone.

If you were to ask me to describe my mom, I can only hope you have the pop culture context to understand when I ask you to close your eyes and imagine a cross between Sophia Petrillo, Julia Sugarbaker and Roseanne Barr. Got it?

Now add comedic timing and a huge, scary wooden spoon.

I love you so much Mom! Happy Birthday! Oh, and don't give Dad too hard a time, he's new up there.