Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eff-Bee Ennui

I've always had an up/down relationship with Facebook. I started using it earlier than most of my friends, during which time I sent out a ton of invitations and sometimes cajoled my friends in person to join.

Met with limited success, I must have gotten bored of that and stayed away for a while. In the meantime Facebook became more popular and many of my friends joined and started posting Mafia Wars and Farmville crap on my wall.

Then when I started to use Facebook again some more, my friends acted like they invented it and it was they who invited me. Saying stuff like "about time you joined Facebook" and "I see you finally got around to posting photos from two Christmases ago." To which I'd comment, "I posted those photos two years ago and I'm just getting around to back-tagging the friends who joined Facebook since then."

Each time Facebook made a minor change to anything, there'd be a collective wave of bitching I couldn't muster the care to participate in.

Then my family started friending me, creating an alarming spike of crappy "cousin Jill sent you a teddy-bear hug" and "what Harry Potter character are you?" spams on my wall. While I appreciated the new way of keeping in contact with my family, I didn't appreciate the new avenue for chain letters and political ramblings. I found myself wondering why I'm friending the same people on Facebook I'd long ago added to my e-mail spam filter.

At one point I started experimenting with Twitter and linked my tweets to my Facebook status. That ended in disaster when I'd tweet something like "Spending a relaxing Sunday afternoon at Joe's pool." These would start an inevitable string of passive-aggressive responses like, "Glad to see you're having fun. I guess that explains why you couldn't drive 600 miles to attend Kimmy's flute recital. You missed an awesome show, but hey, nice tan."

My interest in spending time watching my Facebook news feed has always seemed to wax and wane. Lately Facebook has taken to e-mailing to tell me it misses me, and is getting worried. "Hi Pac, I haven't seen you in a few days, and a lot happened while you're away." Like I didn't already know that.

This latest bout of eff-bee ennui was prompted by a rash of family drama which, thanks to the miracle of social networking, was able to spill from the private underbelly of suburban America and play itself out publicly on my news feed and wall.

Don't get me wrong. I love my brother. But it was his choice to mate with a controlling, emasculating shrew. It's not like we all didn't see that slow-motion train wreck before it even left the station. I love my niece, but she's growing up to be quite the disrespectful teenage bitch. I'm sorry her parents are divorcing, but splashing misdirected virtual bile on her aunts and uncles for it isn't endearing at all. Not one bit. And no, I'm not really sorry. I'm happy. Now run along and play some Therapyville.

If I'm going to be "friends" with children, I reserve the right to slap them when necessary. And oh, it is. Until Facebook provides an app for that, I'm keeping my distance.

I'll be spreading my sunshine on Twitter if you need me. And venting on my blog, of course. ;^) Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Walk of Shane

I'm going to call him "Shane". It's not that I'm protecting his anonymity. That's assured by my short-term memory, or lack thereof. I'm terrible with names and other small, crucial details.

Shane was so hot. Visiting town on business, he was staying at one of the local hotels. I noticed him looking at me. More than a glance, this was full-on eye contact. I assumed there must be someone directly behind me who caught his eye. I looked around, then back at Shane. He seemed to find that amusing. I guess it was kind of funny, because I started laughing too.

The bar is my local watering hole, run by a friend of mine. A place I feel comfortable coming straight from the gym. I was there to meet a buddy who was running late, I wasn't there to cruise. When it comes to meeting guys, it only seems to happens when I'm not trying.

I introduced myself and immediately forgot Shane's name. But our conversation must have looked as intense as it felt, because my buddy watched us from a distance deciding not to interrupt us. I didn't even know he'd finally showed up. Shane invited me to his hotel room.

Texting my buddy to cancel our date, I found my phone was dead. I left feeling a twinge of guilt for standing up my friend, but I knew he'd understand when I explained it to him. Things like this happen just rarely enough to make a good story over beers.

Still in my gym clothes, I asked Shane if I could use the shower in his room. He joined me. Morning came way too soon. I needed to get to work and I didn't want to overstay my welcome. It was clear this was a one-time thing, and there was no reason to exchange numbers; no need for a prolonged goodbye. Not exactly true, I prolonged it 20 minutes more then got dressed. As I tied my shoes, I looked at the sun rising outside the window. I started to mention I could see my place, but Shane was already drifting to sleep. Quietly I left.

You know that feeling you get walking home in the morning? Where you feel everyone you pass knows exactly what you've been up to? Of course you do. The maids pushing carts. The workmen installing new carpeting in the hallway. People in the elevator. Hotel guests hurrying to breakfast or carrying laptops to conference rooms. The people working the reception desk. The concierge. Joggers on the sidewalk. The first couple rows of cars stopped at the crosswalk. They were all looking at me, judging me. I know it's mostly my imagination. Mostly. And why should I care? I had a great time and was on a bit of a high. The sun was shining.

When I got to the front door of my building and reached in my pocket, it hit me. I'm wearing my gym clothes... I don't have any pockets. Yet I wasn't carrying anything. Not my keys. Not my wallet. Not my phone. Where's my gym bag? Lord, what an idiot.

I spun around and walked the block back to the hotel. Past the cars. Past the joggers. Past the concierge. Past the reception desk. Past the hotel guests scurrying through the lobby. As I waited for the elevator, my stomach sank. I don't even know Shane's room number. It got worse when I stepped into the elevator. I didn't even remember the floor. I followed this guy to his room last night like a happy puppy. I didn't think to take notes or leave a trail of bread crumbs.

Think, Pac, think. Maybe if I called my phone, Shane would answer it. Shit, that's right, the battery's dead. Could I ask the front desk? I didn't even remember this dude's name, so yeah, good luck with that.

Come on, Pac! What do you remember? Well, I know he's on the side of the hotel facing East. That narrows it down to 233 rooms. And it was high enough to see the roof of my building. That eliminates the bottom 5 floors at least. That leaves twenty-some floors. On the East side.

Then I remembered something else. The men laying new carpeting in the hall...

If the folks on the elevator weren't judging me on the way down, they surely must have been on the way up when they stepped on to find every button from 6 to 32 lit. At each stop I'd take two steps out, glance down the hall and step back on.

Finally somewhere around 18 I found the carpet layers. Now for the hard part. "Excuse me. I came out of a room around here a few minutes ago. I was wondering if you remember which one?" One of them pointed to a door. "Thanks!" That confirmed my suspicions... they all knew.

I knocked. Please be the right room! Waited. Knocked again. Prayed again. Finally Shane sleepily answered the door. The look on his face said, "Are you still here?"


~

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gay Pactivist

I enjoyed watching the coverage of the New York State Senate vote Friday night to pass the Marriage Equality Act. It had the feeling of watching something historic, and was one of those few occasions which warranted the spontaneous opening of one of the champagne bottles stashed in the vegetable crisper.

You may have noticed I'm not much of a political activist. I used to be obsessively so, but that was back when I was freshly out of the closet and spent much of my time fretting about what other people thought of me. During that time I had friends and family members who obviously struggled adapting to the disruption of reality I selfishly interjected onto their conservative mindsets. I wanted to make it easier for them by assuring them I was perfectly normal and well-adjusted. Ironically, the harder I tried, the more obvious it became that I was neither.

I now recognize that period as my gay adolescence phase. I've since settled into a more pragmatic existence of living my life and conducting my relationships in a way that reflects my own values, not somebody else's. And in a way, I think that's my contribution to the cause. This is my activism.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Solstices

Six months ago I wrote about the shortest day of the year. I don't know if I really have Seasonal Affective Disorder (or as it's known in my house, SAD Cow Disease) but sometimes in the depth of Winter it sure feels that way. I celebrate the Winter Solstice anyway. (I should probably call it "December Solstice" out of respect for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, now that I actually have some of those.)

I'm passive-aggressive enough not to pass up an opportunity to remind Christians of their pagan roots, and the December Solstice's proximity to Christmas is always an easy target. But I also celebrate the shortest day of the year for the same reason our ancestors did, as a turning point. The worst Winter has to offer may not be past, but at least there's a measurable progression toward spring as the cold dark nights get shorter.

Now the pendulum swings the other way and we've reached the longest day. I'm not about to be pessimistic about this. Summer is just beginning, and some of the best times are had when the Sun is down...



Friday night I had to work a software deployment. It figured that just when JB was going to be out of town all weekend I'd have to stay home and work. As the deployment window was closing around 3:00am Saturday morning, I got a text message. "Are you home? Can I stop by?" That was not what I was expecting.

One thing I've learned about Joey over the years: planning anything will only lead to disappointment and frustration. Life is too short for that kind of drama. And when I finally accepted that and let it all go, look who shows up on my doorstep. How Zen.



Sunday night my buddy, Gil, and I went to dinner at a local restaurant that offers karaoke as, ironically, a form of entertainment. No, I don't sing karaoke. But that doesn't stop me from making fun of those who do. I started talking to a guy at the next table who was waiting his turn to perform.

I forgot what song he chose to slaughter, but he mentioned choosing it because it was released the year of his birth. That made him considerably younger than I estimated, as I assumed he was around my age. It might have been the grey beard. I expressed my surprise by saying, "Wow, you're a kid!"

"Why, how old are you?"

"I got eight years on ya," I said.

And I'll never forget his response: "Wow! Do you sleep in a jar of formaldehyde??"

I took that as a compliment.

~

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pad Snap Friday

Here's a screen-snap from my iPad this morning that made me smile. If you like this, you should see the total package at Nice to see StevieB!

Click the pic to view full-size. No, seriously, click it.


July 8, 2011
Update - Since this seems to be my most popular post -- ever -- I feel the need to add a little background. Back in June Stevie B spent several consecutive days adding a wake-up photo to his blog posts. Each pic was taken in the same spot after pouring his morning coffee. (Click here to see what I'm gushing on about.)

Because his fancy Wordpress blog automatically defaults to a special 5-day abstract template when viewed on the iPad, this was the presentation upon launching his blog Friday morning. Since Stevie doesn't use an iPad, I know for certain the pectoral focus was unplanned and unintentional.

Just one more reason you need an iPad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Control Theory

Thanks for the comments and tweets of concern on yesterday's post. I should have clarified that I define a "funk" as the mildest form of melancholy. I've never experienced true, clinical depression for which I'm very, very grateful.

Speaking for myself, my funks are the emotional, semi-conscious awareness of a dissonance between the place my recent actions and choices have taken me, compared to where my life plan and personal value system wants me to be. The engineer in me wants to be a little more logical and technical than that, so he would say funks are the error signal in the closed-loop control of my life.

I don't get to use my degree in control theory very much any more so humor me here. The classic example of a closed-loop controller is the cruise control in your car. You set your desired speed (reference signal) and the controller indirectly inputs that to the engine (system). The actual speed of the car (output signal) is measured by the speedometer (sensor feedback signal) which is compared with the set speed using simple mathematical subtraction. It's this subtraction which defines this as "negative feedback" loop.


The result is the error signal. Your set speed minus actual speed in this case. It's this error signal which is the actual input to the controller. This is an important point: Your cruise control doesn't really know or care how fast you want to go, it only cares about the current difference. The error. The amount of +/- error determines the amount of +/- acceleration to apply to the engine. And if everything works right, the value of the error signal should eventually hover around zero. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less, but it should average out to zero.

In casual usage, negative feedback sounds bad. We'd all prefer positive feedback, wouldn't we? But in practical reality, negative feedback is much more useful.

To take this analogy home, my reference signal is where I want to be in life, or where my value system tells me I should be. My output signal is the reality in which I find myself. My perception, self-awareness, analysis and reflection provide my feedback signal. This gets compared with my reference and the difference is my error signal.

And when the error signal strays substantially far from zero, I get in a funk. And this funk is the feedback I need to pull my geek ass back on track.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Funk

After hitting somewhat of a low point yesterday, this morning I'm committing myself to my new "funk extraction project". Interesting word, funk. It's fun to say; the monosyllabic fricative, vowel, plosive combination is vaguely dirty. Funk can have both positive and negative connotations. It can even be musical.

In this case, funk is a state of being. I'm not sure why I'm in a funk, but I'm tired of it. I'm all about visiting the dark side occasionally, as it's easier to appreciate the highs with some contrasting lows under my belt. It's that pitch black emptiness between 3 and 4 am which makes the dawn so amazing.

But like visiting family, I can only stay three days -- max -- before beginning the inevitable transition from "guest" to "get your feet off the coffee table, here's a list of chores."

It gives me incredible sympathy for those who don't have the option of turning their back on the darkness, facing the light, and taking a step forward.



I'm curious, how do you beat the blues? What do you do when you find yourself in a funk? As always, your comments are appreciated.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Meeting BosGuy

It's been a slow week at work, which is a nice change. After getting home on Wednesday, I walked across the street to the W Hotel bar to meet BosGuy who was in town for a quick business trip. While I wasn't sure what to expect, I never imagined I wouldn't be getting back home until 2am!

When I got to the hotel lobby, I found it busy with business travelers and started to scan for familiar faces. I'd seen BosGuy's photos on Twitter and his blog, but I suddenly wasn't sure if I'd recognize him. I even started listening for Boston accents. Fortunately BosGuy found me. Tall, handsome and friendly, we took a seat at the bar in immediately fell into easy conversation.

It turns out we have a lot in common in that we're around the same age and have similar coming out stories. We were joined by another Twitter acquaintance, @AtlantaStud, who certainly lives up to his handle. Although BosGuy had spent some time in Atlanta several years ago, he'd never experienced the Midtown nightlife and after a few drinks at the hotel bar, I felt a duty to rectify that.

The three of us walked to Blake's on the Park where we were joined by my buddy, Gil. The four of us had a great time, and Gil told me the next day that he enjoyed meeting my friends but that he had trouble getting a word in edgewise. I took that as a compliment. After catching a bit of the drag show we grabbed a late bite to eat and said goodnight.

When I got home, I was amazed how quickly the night passed. And my face was sore from laughing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Loose Ends

During my last visit with Dr. Bow Tie nearly a year ago, he didn't look well. He moved slowly and it looked to me as though he'd aged ten years in the one since our previous visit. He explained he'd been ill for several months and was just beginning to return to his normal routine. Like my grandmother, Dr. Bow Tie suffered a painful myopathic reaction to the cholesterol drug his doctor put him on. Fortunately, the problem was recognized and the statin was discontinued before he met the same demise. Unfortunately, the medication that was intended to protect him nearly ruined his life.

Dr. Bow Tie was now the second person I personally knew to be harmed by this stuff. Don't think this hasn't been in the back of my mind all this whole time I'm being persuaded statins are perfectly safe.

So when Dr. Dilf suggested I and seek counseling for my "statin phobia", I readily agreed.

As he continued typing away on my file I said, "Okay, sure. Tell you what... I've got my annual appointment coming up with my psychiatrist, Dr. Bow Tie. Would you mind briefing him for me?"

Dr. Dilf stopped typing. He didn't turn away from the computer, he just kind of froze.

You see, Dr. Dilf was the one who referred me to Dr. Bow Tie eight years ago. And I also happened to know he was Dr. Bow Tie's primary care physician.

I told Dr. Dilf that I appreciate that he's trying to help me. I'm definitely not anti-drug and I don't harbor wild conspiracy theories about the pharmaceutical industry. It's quite probable I could continue taking the simvistatin indefinitely with no trouble at all. But the placebo effect works both ways. As long as I have negative feelings about this pill I'm swallowing, I shouldn't be surprised if my body reacts accordingly. And as long as I'm taking it, it'll take the rap for every ache, pain, bout of irregularity and failed kidney. I don't mean to be difficult, but I'm going to need to find a different way.

It's easy to say I need to find another doctor, but Dr. Dilf doesn't seem so unreasonable compared to what's out there. JB's fat doctor told him that taking statins will allow him to eat whatever he wanted. How irresponsible is that? She thinks statins should be added to our drinking water. I'm not sure if she expects pregnant women to drink beer, or if a few birth defects are simply the price to be paid to finally get everyone on this stuff.

So when my friend Gil told me I need to find another doctor, I said, "Maybe, but... do you know how long it took to break this one?"

Monday, June 6, 2011

Doctor Bow Tie

I realize I've been somewhat scattered in telling my story about my latest visit with Dr. Dilf. It's been nearly two weeks and I haven't gotten to my point yet. Would it make sense to explain I have ADD? It's not something I talk a lot about, mostly because a lack of understanding of this condition doesn't seem to stop people from forming their own opinions and judgements. And I don't want anyone to think I ever use my ADD as an excuse for anything. Which... I guess I just did.

I realize now I come by it honestly. One of the smartest people I know, Dad didn't finish high school until later in life when he earned his G.E.D. He'd spend hours, days or weeks on projects which rarely ever saw completion. Mom would often follow up with finishing touches, such as sewing curtains in lieu of doors on Dad's "custom" kitchen cabinets. He even built three-quarters of a sailboat which dominated the garage for a couple years before finally ending up as a spring bonfire. I don't know if the fire was Mom's idea, but I don't think she was upset to get her indoor parking space back.

But I'm only guessing at this point. Only a professional can diagnose and treat a condition like Adult ADD. That's why I see Dr. Bow Tie.

I shudder when I think that I almost chickened out of calling for an appointment when I was originally referred to him eight years ago. I consider taking that step of swallowing my pride and acknowledging I needed help as one of the smartest and strongest thing's I've ever done for myself. Dr. Bow Tie helped me make sense of a lifelong pattern of frustration, starting even before my kindergarten teacher told Mom that I'd never make it though school. (Fortunately this was balanced by other teachers who were more or less understanding and accommodating at helping me realize my potential.)

At Dr. Bow Tie's request, I had my sister send all my old report cards. Read in chronological order, I never realized the story they told. But Dr. Bow Tie wasn't surprised. He explained there's not a "cure" for ADD, but there are ways of accommodating. I learned how to play to my strengths and understand my weaknesses. I truly look as this experience as a turning point. I still see Dr. Bow Tie once a year. He calls me his "poster child" and, with my permission, he says he uses my story to help others.

Dr. Bow Tie is a cute older gentleman, his tidy office and fastidious dress is at odds with his wild white hair that calls to mind a gay Einstein. He's pretty much what you'd expect a psychiatrist to look like.

Okay, I do have a reason for telling this story. It's because I left Dr. Dilf's office last week with another newly diagnosed psychiatric condition added to my file. As I sat on the examination table, Dr. Dilf slowly and passive-aggressivley spoke what he was typing as he keyed it into his computer:
"Patient has a phobia of statin medications and is advised to seek counseling."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sophie

In the late Winter of 2000, I flew home to Upper Michigan to visit my family and to see how Mom was doing in her new nursing home. She'd been on a few waiting lists to get her into a facility closer to home to save Dad the hour drive. This new place was conveniently next to the hospital and right across the street from my grandmother.

Grandma Sophie moved into her assisted-living condo after Grandpa Bill passed. She'd been taking care of him for the years he'd been ill, having suffered a stroke brought on by his diabetes. Now Grandma was helping taking care of her daughter who was struggling with the same illness and the same complications.

It surprised me when Grandma sold the old house. She'd obviously been planning for the time she knew she'd be on her own. It made sense and she impressed me with her strength and independence. Now eighty, she was still active and vital and funny as ever.

Grandma just didn't feel eighty to me. Sixty maybe but not eighty. I found it ironic she chose to live in an assisted living facility when she was still always the one doing all the assisting. Or maybe that was her way of continuing to fulfill her nurturing instinct and feel useful. I stopped at the condo on the way to visit Mom.

Grandma was typically cooking when she was at home, if not for herself then for Dad or a friend or a neighbor who would surely appreciate it. She was an awesome cook and I used to spend hours in the kitchen with her, especially as I got older and realized I needed to learn as much from her as possible in the time we had together. So it was unusual to see her lying down. She got up when I arrived and tried to resume cooking my favorite meal, but it was obvious she wasn't feeling well. She was having a heart attack.

Fortunately the hospital was next door and the damage was minor. It wasn't long before she was back on her feet, back to taking care of my mom and and anyone else who needed her. A few months later I got a call from Dad. Grandma was sick. She'd been feeling pain in her back and legs and was no longer able to push a wheelchair. Dad said it wasn't her heart, and her doctors were still running tests. By the time I got up there, things had gotten worse and it appeared that her kidneys were failing. She died the next day.

It turned out that after her heart attack, my uncle called in a favor and took Grandma to the University of Michigan to see an eminent cardiologist. The cardiologist placed her on a standard regimen of medications intended to prevent her from having another heart attack. One of these medications was Lipitor. Grandma's local doctors either didn't know she was taking Lipitor or failed to recognize she was experiencing a well-known side-effect of statin drugs. They didn't stop the Lipitor before it was too late.

At the time, I never heard of Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor or any of the other statin drugs. Since then it's been impossible to avoid the advertisements for them. I can almost recite the warnings from memory. (Change to  low, concerned voice.) "Tell your doctor if you experience unusual muscle pain or weakness, as this can be a sign of a serious side-effect..."

I didn't expect it would eventually become difficult to avoid actually taking them myself.

Grandma Sophie and me at my brother's wedding. I'm guessing
this was taken about 20 years ago when she was around seventy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Their House Is A Museum

The prize on which Liz bid highest was a catered dinner for eight at the home of Portland's premier drag queen. At this point I'd been to a few drag shows, which I enjoyed for the novelty but I hadn't yet developed an appreciation of drag as a form of performance art.

I was soon to learn this type of charitable activity is typical for Darcelle and her partner Roxy, who not only opened their home to total strangers for their cause, but also went out of their way to make the experience unforgettable.

Darcelle, who was undoubtably busy putting on her face, was to make a dramatic entrance a little later. In the mean time, Roxy, not in drag but in a dapper suit, took it upon himself to make us feel at home and serve as docent. First stop was the bar in the parlor, staffed with a volunteer bartender. The bar was to be the nexus of our house tour.

For the next hour we were entertained and educated as Roxy told a story for each room, getting so expressive at points that we occasionally had to dodge a slosh of his cocktail. At one point Joe made us laugh by trying to catch Roxy's overflow with his own glass. They'd put an amazing amount of work into their making their home a showcase.

It wasn't a cluttered old house but had more the feel of a historic landmark turned into a museum. A monument to camp and kitsch. There was a "handbag room" dedicated to Darcelle's purse collection. There was a room with a Japanese theme complete with a red circular bed which I suspect rotated. Even the unfinished attic had stories of times past, ghosts present and plans future. As Roxy was telling us about the ghost which resides there, the attic stairs began to creak. It was only one of the "servants" with a message. The Mistress was ready.

Darcelle descended the grand staircase with dramatic flourish and joined us in the parlor as our drinks were freshened. She made introductions with each of us personally and kept us laughing with her naughty humor. We were ushered into the dining room where more volunteers where preparing to serve dinner.

"We only have one rule when we have dinner guests," Darcelle instructed as we approached the large, elegantly appointed dining table. "You can sit wherever you like as long as you are not seated next to anyone with whom you've ever had sex. Oral counts." Good natured confusion ensued as the dinner guests looked for an amenable seat. I found myself sitting on Darcelle's left.

Dinner was excellent, with several courses brought out by pleasant servers. We gave an ovation to the chef when she came out to introduce herself and check on us. The conversation and laughter flowed easily. It's interesting now to think back on it how, at a table of ten, I was able to have such an intimate conversation with our host.

I'm sure I asked questions which showed my ignorance and naivety of the art of drag. But Darcelle was more than happy to share her story only to turn the tables by inquiring about myself. The details are cloudy after all this time, but I remember feeling like I was the most interesting person in the room to her. She was amazingly warm and caring. Maternal even. We talked about the coming-out process, both hers and mine, and I explained how I was still in the closet where I worked. And with my parents.

I don't know exactly how it came to pass, but Darcelle made me promise that evening I was going to be true to myself. Far from idle banter over dessert, this promise had the gravity of a vow to a close friend. And my very first step toward being true was to come out to my family. It was clear this was to be done with a sense of urgency, which I believed came from her own personal experience. "Your parents have the right to know the same person I see here, because I know as a parent myself how proud they'll be." Then she added, "I realize there's an instinctive fear of rejection, but to wait any longer would only be unfair to them. And to yourself."

The next day I nervously called my folks to tell them I'd be making a trip home to see them. As nice as that sounded, they were going to be on vacation in Florida for the next couple weeks. "Okay, I'll see you when you get back." I remember feeling relieved to have a little more time to prepare. The time was finally right. It was in Florida where Mom had her stroke. In the following five years of her life, the time was never right. I now understood why Darcelle was so insistent.

Within a few months of my trip to Portland, I said goodbye to my homophobic, misogynistic work environment and had a new job. On my first Friday there I joined some of my new coworkers for happy hour. I was talking with the VP of Customer Service when another gentleman joined us. The VP introduced me to the company President, who asked right off the bat, "Are you gay?"

The VP looked embarrassed, but I remembered my pact with Darcelle, swallowed my instinctive fear and responded immediately. "Yes, I am."

"Told you!" he grinned as he nudged the red-faced VP in the ribs. "You'll like it here, we have a lot of homos. Right Greg?"

I was myself there for ten years.