Gym Class Heroes


Bennett Junior High School, 1976

I stood there alone staring at the slats of the huge hardwood floor.  I was aware of the others in the room but I was trying desperately to be invisible.

I knew that there were two groups of people staring at me.  It was dead quiet, except for the far-off sounds of other kids doing whatever kids do in the quad of a junior high school.

As I stood in the gymnasium, a hulking brick building that made up one side of the quad, I wished I was out there.  I wouldn’t feel any more welcomed or part of something out there than I did right here, but at least I wouldn’t be trying desperately not to cry and end up making this situation far worse than it already was.   In my mind I was pleading with some unknown force to save me.  I don’t know who because I knew nobody would help me.  I tried to believe in a god who, even if I believed existed, had betrayed me over and over again, so my hopes weren’t high.

The two groups of boys in their regulation blue gym shorts and white T-Shirts started to stir and mumble.  The gym teacher, Mr. Freeman, was a big, tall, hearty, white-haired man.  He had two personalities – gruff or laughing.  Most of the time he was gruff – all business, but when he laughed, he did so with his whole body.  He had capped teeth and a smoker’s laugh, which, at the time, I thought odd for a gym teacher.  But this was in the 1970’s.  You could still smoke inside parts of hospitals. On this day, like most, he was in a gruff mood.

I wasn’t afraid of Mr. Freeman.  He always treated me with respect, although I have no idea why.  In fact, most teachers treated me with a great deal of respect.  I was never really afraid of adults that I wasn’t related to.  In fact, I felt more comfortable with adults than with kids my own age; or any age.  I related more to adults.  Most of the time I felt like an adult trapped in a kid’s body.

In those last moments of studying knots in the wood grain of the hardwood floor. I heard Mr. Freeman clear his throat, and then I heard him say, “Do you ‘captains” have any clue what you are doing’?.  The two teams of boys who had been picked by the aforementioned captains, and the captains themselves, shifted uncomfortably.  I don’t recall how the two team captains were selected.  I don’t recall getting a vote.  But two had been chosen and the age-old, archaic ceremony of picking whom each wanted on their basketball team for this gym period, went on as they always do. The pecking order was well established.  The athletic kids and buddies of the captains were picked first. Then that middle group, who were not so popular but in some way acceptable in the school’s hierarchy, was selected for a team.  And then, in the final, gut-wrenching moments, as the “remainders” were scoffed at, and as the captains begrudgingly pointed and waved over a few to his respective team, the remainders weren’t staring at the captains or at the floor anymore.

We were staring at each other.  We were pleading with each other.  We were imploring someone in this group of misfits to honorably accept being the last one picked.  We had sympathy and empathy for each other.  It was also an intellectual fight to the death. We were terrified.

I was one of those remainders.  And on this day it turned out that there were an uneven number of boys.  So when the picking got slim, the remainders all knew that someone would be the final one standing with no hope of having an obvious home among the two teams of boys.

That’s where I stood in that moment – fixated on the hardwood floor, when I heard Mr. Freeman clear his throat and ask the team captains if they knew what they were doing.

I didn’t know what Mr. Freeman meant and I don’t think the captains did either.  As Mr. Freeman waited those few seconds after his question, I don’t think he really expected an answer.  And I stood there, trying desperately to block out who I was, and where I was, and what was going on around me.  I fought desperately to hold back tears.  I ran through different scenarios in my head at lightning speed as to how I could flee, and hide.  I accepted my fate, once again, and the humiliation and abject terror on not being wanted by anyone.  I tried to make my eyes and my soul as dead as possible, hoping that nobody would see the fear.

Then, I heard Mr. Freeman’s voice again.  “If I were you, I would have picked Steven first, and do you know why?”

Silence.

What the hell was he talking about?  I lifted my eyes from the floor, up toward him and he was looking back and forth between the two team captains.  Mr. Freeman continued:

“Before we picked the captains and picked the teams, what did we do?  We practiced shooting baskets, dribbling the ball, passing the ball, just a little warm-up, right?  Well, did any of you notice that Steven here has one of the best senses of rhythm and timing I’ve seen in a long time?  Did you watch him run down the court while dribbling the ball in front of him, or at his side?  Did any of you, and especially you team captains, take an honest look at the field of players, or had you already decided which of your buddies you wanted on your team.  Timing and rhythm is an essential part of being a good basketball player and if I were you, I would want him on my team.  He should not be standing there because nobody picked him.”

No. No. No. Oh God. No.  Please don’t look at me.  What was he talking about?  Was that true?  I don’t know what he’s talking about.  I’m not good at sports.  I’m not good at anything.  Why is everyone looking at me? I don’t have anything special about me, or anything someone should take notice of.  Nobody has ever said anything like that before.  I’m just the overweight, non-athletic 12-year-old, trying to get through the 7th grade without anybody seeing me.  I don’t know what he’s talking about.  PLEASE don’t involve me.

I looked back and forth between the two team captains, yeah, two “fellow seventh graders”, and I implored them silently not to believe Mr. Freeman and without words, gave them permission to continue looking down on me.  I was nothing.  Nothing to see here.  Go about your business.  I can handle the humiliation.  I’m used to it.  I’m comfortable here.  Let’s just forget all of this and go about our business, separately.

While my eyes shifted back and forth between the captains, and occasionally back down to study the grain in the hardwood floor, there was mumbling, and whispers that I couldn’t make out.  And Mr. Freeman may have said more things but I had tuned him out, too.  And then my internal turmoil was interrupted by Mr. Freeman nudging me from behind, gently, not forcefully.  It was more like an encouragement.  I came out of my haze and the two team captains were saying “I’ll take him” and the other one said “No you had the last pick, I’ll take him”. And they went back and forth a few times until Mr. Freeman nudged me far enough along and he decided which team I would play on.

I don’t remember a single thing that happened after that.  I don’t remember whose team I was on.  I don’t remember a single name of any of the kids that were there.  But as I sit here 35 years later, I still remember the smile on Mr. Freeman’s face when I stood with my “team”.  He looked at me.  And I looked at him.  We never spoke about it.  Not during that day in gym, or ever again.  And from that day on, I do remember that every day in gym class when it was “basketball” day, I wasn’t picked last anymore.

Some kids were afraid of Mr. Freeman, many simply didn’t like him.  He had some measure of silent joy in being able to intimidate kids.  He was loud and unrelenting.

I wasn’t one of those kids.  I understood him.  What I didn’t realize is that he understood me.  Because of that day 35 years ago, and for every day since that I am reminded of him and what he did for me, he is my hero.

BlackberryandBeyond.com web site gay bashes staff


Many “BlackBerry-centric” web sites exist on the Internet.  These aren’t sites owned by Research in Motion (RIM – makers of BlackBerry), but rather third parties who run Forums which double as “news” sites.   There is a lot of competition among these sites and when one of them get’s a scoop, the others immediately jump into action, trying NOT to be the very last site to post the scoop.  The goal of these sites is to make money, obviously. The income can be generated from advertising dollars if they get enough traffic or, if they are lucky, from an online store where they might sell BlackBerry Applications, BlackBerry Accessories, etc.

The list of these sites goes on and on:  They include, but are not limited to, BlackberryForums.com, Driphter.com, BlackberryOS.com, EverythingBerry.com, PinStack.com, Berryreview.com, BBGeeks.com, and the grand daddy of them all – Crackberry.com.  And trust me, this is a short list.

BlackBerryandBeyond.com is a new web site created recently and owned by Tom Evans, John Hodges, a guy named “Jeff” who goes by the call sign “Shimmyshine”, and one other individual who goes by the name “wraithwatcher”.  To demonstrate how these sites rise up, seemingly overnight  – the “owners” of BlackberryandBeyond.com used to be contributors to BlackberryOS.com.  There were personality clashes and accusations of poor management, so the 4 horsemen decided to go off on their own.   The site’s official opening isn’t until late February/early March, but they are well under way now.

A few months back, BlackberryOS.com was looking for contributors.  I showed interest in writing for a Blackberry web site because I had spent so much time on My.BlackBerry.Com (a user forum site run by RIM), and had worked with users to solve technical problems as a fellow BlackBerry user.  My experience comes from running a BlackBerry Enterprise as part of my job.  I noticed that many visitors who submitted questions to My.BlackBerry.Com were asking the same questions over and over and over again.  So I wanted a change of pace.  I’m a decent writer had developed some standard wording in plain language to answer common BlackBerry questions.   When I approached Tom Evans, he was familiar with my work at My.BlackBerry.Com.   In two months I posted almost two thousand responses to forum visitors who requested help with a Blackberry Issue or Problem.  Mr. Evans told me he knew of my work and wanted me to write for BlackberryOS.com.  The problem at the time was that they wanted me to commit to posting one article every day on their site.  I did not feel I could meet their expectations and did not want to promise something I could not live up to.  So in the end, I did not take the “position”.

I use the term “position” loosely.  These sites don’t actually pay people like me to write.  You have to be an owner, and insider, or work you way up.   I wasn’t getting paid to write, although I would have been called a “staff” writer of some sort.

I heard through the grapevine that several people from BlackberryOS.com had left to start their own site – BlackberryandBeyond.com.  I approached Mr. Evans again and asked if there was a place for me in his organization either in Moderating or Writing.  I actually wanted to do both.  I like working with the end-users, but also enjoyed writing; focusing on “How-To” type articles.   Mr. Evans and I had one discussion about where I might fit in.  I was clear that I wanted to play both roles; a moderator and a writer.  Mr. Evans was eager to get me on board.  I had the chops, and the talent, and he knew I would be a good “get”.  He suggested I start as a writer.  I thought that was acceptable.  I had no experience or knowledge in contributing to a web site before.  I immediately began contributing articles to BlackBerryandBeyond.com.  I didn’t sign anything or agree to anything specific number of articles – I just wrote when I could.

When I became a “member” of the group, I was added to their BlackBerry Messenger group.  For those that don’t use BBM or the group function, it’s like Instant Messaging but in group format.  There were about 12 individuals in the B and B group.  Anyone who posted a message into the BBM group had it read by all other members of the group.  It’s an effective way to communicate with everyone at once, especially when big news is breaking, like a new Operating System release, or our web site is down – stuff like that.  Again, the primary players of BlackberryandBeyond.com spend a great deal of time monitoring all of the other BlackBerry forum sites to see what they are posting, so they also spend time trying to get the “staff” to write similar articles so we don’t look like we’re not on top of things.  To me, it’s a strange way to run a “business” – no direct news sources of your own – always playing catch up with what others are posting. 

On Friday, February 4, 2011, RIM announced a new BlackBerry trade-up program.  It was announced by RIM and every single BlackBerry Forum site wrote the same basic article.  I was asked to get something up a quickly as possible.  We didn’t want to be the last ones with the same news as everybody else.  God forbid. 

On Sunday morning, February 6, 2011, I was at home.  I could hear my BlackBerry “pinging” away.  I have a tone set to make a sound when people are posting to the BlackBerry Messenger Group for BlackBerry and Beyond.   What I saw was a bit disturbing to me.  I had become accustomed to this group of “guys” making crude sexual comments and grammar school “jokes” about sex, and women.  It was so unprofessional to me, but I tried to let it just roll of my back.  But on the Sunday morning in question I had enough when I saw them making “gay” jokes.  I didn’t want to be “that guy” who causes problem when they don’t exist.  But I couldn’t stand by any longer and keep my mouth shut.  Here is the conversation I watched go by.  The initials indicate the person “speaking”:

FM – “Steelers. +1”

R – “Packers here….by 14”

JSS – “I can’t vote for gaybay. Lol”

R – Lmao

FM –  Steelers. 24-21 I think. I can’t root for the packers. Ever. I’m a bears fan. Hey shimmy, you a lions fan by any chance?

JSS –  Nah, I’m a tampa bay shittyeers fan..

JSS –  They both suck sadly.

FM –  Lol. Bucs had a chance this year…

FM –  Hodges is probably still sleeping. But since he is gay he’ll probably root for the packers

I saw where this was going, or had already gone.  After watching them talk about wives and girlfriends and “cialis” earlier, I was not about to let this conversation go where it could easily go.  In 2011, the “innocent” gay slur or misogynistic comment just isn’t cool, it isn’t acceptable, and it isn’t appropriate for a “business” conversation.  After all, BlackberryandBeyond.com is a business.  They may act like it’s a junior high locker room, but it’s a business.

So I spoke up – and this is what I said:

“I really didn’t think I would have to say this in 2011, but I don’t appreciate the gay slurs. If you want to act like 12-year-olds in private messages, that your prerogative.. But in a group chat?  You should be ashamed of yourselves. I am gay. If that’s a problem for anyone, then you let me know right now, and we’ll take it from there.  This is not an LOL or LMAO or any of the other terms this group overuses. This is for real.”

The reason I said the part about LOL and LMAO is because in the 14 days or so that I was a member of this group, I watched as comment after comment after comment is posted the BBM group about all kinds of things, and everyone ends or begins their comment with LOL, ROFL, LMAO, as if EVERYTHING is so damned funny that their all rolling on the floor in stitches.  It’s childish and nothing more than verbal filler because these people have nothing important to say to each other.  I should have seen the writing on the wall then.

After my comment I got a few responses.  The first was this:

R –  ….no one meant any offense at all. Everyone in this group except a few, yourself included, have been friends for quite some time. As such we tend to lose sight to the new people in the group.  I’m sure it won’t happen again.

That was the right answer.  Just acknowledge that things got out of hand, that  no offense were meant, and let’s move on.  I had absolutely no problem with that at all. 

But then, THIS, from one of the “owners” – verbatim:

H –  I was driving when this msg came in (name redacted) I’m glad u commented  to play off what you said.  Yes (name redacted)  you are correct this is 2011 and as fucked up as the world is its unfortunate that there are still people in this world that feed of society.. However on the other side of the  coin I myself am not a homosexual but I am half black half puertorican and I have been called every racial name under the sun.. At times it  was meant towards me and at times it was in a joking manner.. You have to know when to be able to decipher the two.. Its obvious these guys weren’t talking negativatly towards you or anyone in the gay community.. As rick said we are all friends my friends call me a nigger all the time but its funny and in a joking manner just sayin”

This above is a comment from John Hodges – Owner of BlackberryandBeyond.com.  Instead of acting like an “owner” and responding with “hey no offense – and guys, he’s got a point, let’s keep our conversations a bit more elevated”, John Hodges basically said – “I’m called a nigger and it doesn’t bother me – so don’t be so sensitive”.

Is that any way for the Owner of a company to respond??  Not to mention that Tom Evans, another Owners, who is NEVER not listening to what’s going on in the group conversation, was in complete radio silence.  Nor did any of the other “Owners” weigh in on the subject. 

We had one female member of our group when I joined.  She resigned unexpectedly and nobody would tell me why except that it was personal.  I can only glean that if she reacted to the misogynistic “talk” the way I reacted to the gay slurs, she had way more reason to be pissed off than I had.  What they said about gays, in comparison to what they’ve said about women, is tame.  And I admit, I don’t think anyone was intentionally trying to gay bash, I just decided to speak up before anyone took it any further.

For the Owner of an organization to defend the actions of the group by saying he’s OK with being called a “nigger” once in a while, is repulsive.  And for the other owners to not say a word about what happened is indefensible.

I deleted all of the articles I wrote for BlackberryandBeyond.com.  They are my intellectual property and I didn’t sign any agreement with them.

I am now looking for somewhere else where I can write – with and for adults.

Toyota recall conspiracy removes Connecticut from New England


In a recent press release Toyota announced it was recalling 1.5 million vehicles, this time for a break fluid leak – or so they say.

I’ve uncovered some classified company information that sheds light on the real issues.  Toyota is rewriting history, and the history books themselves.   On October 20, 2010, I saw a television commercial for “New England Toyota Dealers”.  The commercial featured that guy who used to do the Toyota commercials back in the 90’s.  Toyota started using him again in an attempt to gin up customer confidence in Toyota after the recent  “uncontrolled acceleration” disasters.   To my surprise, the map of New England used in that commercial did not include the State of  Connecticut.  Yes, only Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are “New England” states according to Toyota.  I figured it had to be an honest mistake, right?  – until I did a little more digging.

I scoured the Internet for the video of this commercial but could not find it.  I thought it was odd that I could not find the video since every commercial in the world makes it to YouTube.  I theorized that Toyota was involved in a conspiracy:  I scoured further.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a web site that Toyota forgot to hide.   This forgotten page proves that the company does not consider Connecticut to be part of New England.  Here is a screen shot from the web site in question.  It has not been altered.  Please – only read further at your own risk, since once you see this, you will be part of the select few who know where the roots of this conspiracy reside.


Notice that next to “Locate a Dealer”, Connecticut is not listed.  Further, the URL for this page is:

http://www.newenglandtoyota.com/dealerLocator/dealerLocatorStart.aspx.

I know for a fact that Connecticut is part of New England.  Check any source you can find – other than Toyota – and you will see that I am correct on this point.  Only 4 States were considered to be “New England” when our country was formed by the original 13 colonies.  Those 4 States are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and CONNECTICUT.  Vermont was not yet a State and Maine was owned by Massachusetts at the time.  Maine didn’t even become a State until 1821.

And how does all of this relate to Toyota’s recent recall?  There are approximately 1.5 million Toyota vehicles registered in the State of Connecticut.  Toyota’s most recent recall is 1.5 million vehicles.  So one can deduce that Toyota is trying to remove Connecticut from New England and remove all of Connecticut’s Toyotas so that no proof is left behind.  This recall is one big conspiracy in Toyota’s evil plan to eliminate Connecticut from New England.  They’ve already done it in their advertising.  Toyota knows that America has become so stupid and complacent, that if Toyota tells them that Connecticut is not part of New England, Americans will believe them.  All Toyota has to do is say it over and over and over again until fiction becomes fact.

Don’t let them do it, I BEG YOU!  I may live in Maine now, but in my heart, I will always be a Connecticutter (yes that’s the real name for people from Connecticut).  Don’t let Toyota rewrite history, or our maps.

PLEASE CALL TOYOTA’S “CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE CENTER”
AT 800-331-4331.

Ask them to put Connecticut BACK ON THE NEW ENGLAND MAP.

This is not a political issue, nor is it a partisan issue.  This is an American Issue.

Be strong.  Take New England Back!

Why this country is turning to shit


I wrote a restaurant review about a little place in my neighborhood.  I wrote that first piece about a year and a half ago; June 2009.  Since that first review, and the two subsequent reviews (I’m not a journalist but even I know you have to experience something more than once to write a credible review) the comments have come flying in.  Most of them trying to belittle me for not liking this restaurant.

People seem to have a problem distinguishing what an “opinion” is.  Moreover, they seem to have a problem with individuals expressing their opinion.  Just about every comment had direct, or indirect, language that insinuated I don’t have a right to my own opinion.   Yet no one saw the ludicrous nature of these comments.  A comment from a dissenting point of view is fine, but when you comment on the quality of the “chicken fingers” at a self-titled  authentic” Italian restaurant, I think we’ve veered off track, just a bit.

I simply gave my opinion about a restaurant that I think is sub-standard. If other people think differently, and accept the food from this place as “good” then that is THEIR opinion.  If people wish to tout the wonders of Stugazzi’s, they should start their own blog rather than taking shots at me for my opinion.  We have something called the U.S. Constitution that guarantees my right to free speech.  You should read it sometime.

The reaction to these posts is reflective of the bigger picture.   After my 3 posts about the restaurant,  I wrote an article on Tyler Clementi, the 18 year old college freshman who committed suicide because two very mean classmates “outed” him in a live online video.  Nobody commented on that article.  But when I had the audacity to question the authenticity of Chicken Fingers being authentic Italian cuisine, the public was OUTRAGED.

I don’t know if the public is distracted or stupid.  Do they simply WANT to be distracted so as not to deal with the realities of the world?  Or are they so dumb, and so self-centered, that the most important thing to them is sticking up for their local pizza joint.  In my opinion, you have a personal and moral responsibility to right social wrongs before wasting time commenting on the wait staff at the local “choke and puke”.

So why is this country turning to shit?  Because no matter what, it’s all about ME, ME, ME.  This country is filled with selfish, self-centered, dumb people who care only for what’s in it for them, and how they can vent their rage.

I know what it is like to feel beaten down.  I lost my job and was out of work for 18 months.  I was alone, meaning I don’t have a partner in life to help me through the tough times.  My car was repossessed and I was within days of being evicted from my apartment.  I was refused food stamps because I had not proven that my car was repossessed.  When I finally proved it, there was a hearing.  In that hearing it was decided that I took too long and I must have been hiding something.  So I was denied assistance.  Do you now how difficult it is to prove that you DON’T own something.

But I’m still here.  I”m still writing.  I’m still helping the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by sending them packages of things they need that the government won’t provide.  I don’t earn much money anymore, because there are so few jobs where I live.  I would relocate in a minute if I could come up with the money to do it.  I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.  I’m falling behind, and falling through the cracks, but I’m still here.

My point is (and if I wrote this piece properly I would’t have to tell you what my point is) that even through hardships, the way to stay sane is to give of yourself to something or someone else.   America is supposed to be a charitable nation.  I just don’t see it.  That’s not to say there aren’t good Americans doing good things with their time and money.  But charity is not pervasive in our culture.

And I can prove it.  Again, I’ve written hundreds of posts on this blog but I will focus on two:

Restaurant Review for Stugazzi’s in Springvale, Maine – 27 Comments and over 1300 viewers

Tyler Clementi – A personal memorial –  Zero comments and 5 viewers.

That’s America.  We’ll stick up for our fried chicken fingers before we’ll stick up for gay people who are so isolated they feel the only way out is to kill themselves.

And that, my friends, is why the Tea Party candidates will probably win in many elections across the country on November 2.  The Tea Party knows how to distract Americans.  All the Tea Party has to do is shake the shiney keys in front of the babies.  The shiney keys are fear, hate, and lies.  The shiney keys are “nobody in Washington cares about you” and “they’re gong to raise your taxes” and “big government” and “spending”.  And the babies are you.

Americans will eat this shit up because they are too dumb to think for themselves.  And nobody wants to make tough decisions.  They’d rather defend their chicken nuggets than their neighbors.  And that’s why this country is turning to shit.

What is this “hoarding” bullsh*%


I’m tired enough of having to skip over reality shows.  I can’t believe the mindless, unintelligent, blather that TV viewers watch.  For the past 10 years we’ve been bombarded by fake “reality”.  Starting with “Survivor”.  Do you really care about these people?  Really?!

But the worst of these shows has to be “Hoarders” and all of the shows out now with the word “Hoarder” in it.  It’s quite pathetic actually.  When one network gets so many million viewers to watch a show about “hoarding”, other networks run like crazy people to the drawing board to do a show about “hoarding”.  Apparently, “hoarding” is IN this year.

While channel surfing, I listened to a “hoarding” woman cry because during her whole life, she wanted people to like her, and she wanted everything to be perfect hoping that people liked her. And this was the reason behind her hoarding.

When you want people to like you, you don’t have possums living in your spare bed room where you have old pizza boxes and crocheted toaster cozies piled to the rafters and you refer to these items as  “keepsakes”.

You have family members who refuse to visit you because they literally can’t walk into your house because of the shit (sometimes literally) they have to scrape through with their feet like you used to do with piles of leaves when you were a kid.  Except back them, the leaves weren’t toxic waste.

I’ve heard all of the excuses.  If your father was distant or even abusive; verbally, physically, or sexually, you don’t need to pick through your neighbors trash for old buttons.

I understand that these people need help.  But sending a team in to help them organize their 600 pairs of tube socks and an old fondue pot with the rotting cheese still in it,  doesn’t seem to be the way to go.  If you read the “notes” that flash on the screen during the show to give you updates and back stories, you will see that barely one or two of these people have made positive changes to their life after the show.

Instead of  the city health department evicting these people from their own homes because the home is not fit for human use, just send them to an inpatient facility, strip the house or apartment, burn what you can, boil what’s left or just torch it all.   They will either be well enough to appreciate that the mess is gone, or they won’t be cured and shouldn’t be released.  I put the word “hoarder” in quotes throughout this post because I don’t believe “hoarding” is a disease.  It’s a symptom.

I try to have compassion for my fellow humans, but I don’t buy this hoarding bullshit as some “syndrome” or “condition”.  These people are wing nuts!!  They are not qualified to make decisions about their lives, let alone make decisions about whether or not they should throw out that dirty cookie sheet you found under the dog bed.

Check yourselves in, people.  You need in-patient,  LONG-TERM, psychiatric care.  And you’ve got plenty of stuff, so pack heavy;  you’re going to be there a while.

Ass Wipe Nation


When I was a kid, and even when I was a younger adult, the words “ass wipe” were used as a derogatory slang expression that meant “a real asshole” – nay, you were worse than that, you were the toilet paper that wiped the dirty asses.  Don’t you remember referring to someone as an “ass wipe”?  “Oh my god, that guy is such an ass wipe.”

Oh, how times have changed.   Today, the definition of “ass wipe” is not derogatory, ass wipes are a requirement in the American household.  I don’t recall when it started, but I do recall being one of the first people I knew to buy ass wipes, also called “moist wipes”.  They are a derivation of “baby wipes” except you can’t flush baby wipes like you can ass wipes.  I remember having visitors to my home, close friends usually, who said “what are those things sitting on the back of your toilet tank in that plastic box”.  And I would explain to them that they are “moist wipes”.  When they still didn’t get it, I said “they’re ass wipes – they’re slightly wet and you use them to clean you ass”.  For christ sake do I have to spell it out??  Do you really not know what these things are?  Were we, as a nation, so naive, or blind to a fact that Europeans and their bidets have known for years:  Skid marks aren’t pretty. 

Maybe as a gay man it all seemed so natural to me to have these cleansing gadgets.  I won’t go into details – you’re welcome.  But American bathrooms, for the most part, are bidet-free.  Sure there are high-end homes with super high-end bathrooms that have bidets.  Many wouldn’t recognize what it is and would probably ask why there is a water fountain in your bathroom.  And now the “must have” bathroom fixture is the thousand dollar Japanese toilet that basically washes, blow dries, and puts your ass through a spin cycle before sending you on your merry way.

But barring that, Americans have their “ass wipes”.  Currently it’s almost unheard of to walk into someone’s bathroom and not find a box of moist wipes sitting on the toilet tank.  Mothers are happy.  Their kids and their husbands don’t leave so many skid marks in their underwear; making their laundry chore far less disgusting.  Husbands are happy because now maybe their wives won’t mind giving them head somuch because it doesn’t smell so bad.  As for gay men, we’re just happy.  Happy that we spread the word about ass-wipes and it took off.  I’m disappointed that Spell Check in America rarely get’s “bidet” correct.   To summarize, clean asses are in our thoughts, but not in our dictionaries.

My only counterpoint to this?  Dick Cheney is still an old-fashioned ass wipe. (Sorry, I had to slip that in somewhere).  I’m not sure, exactly, why America has become obsessed with cleaning their butts.  But I’m glad they did.  It makes sitting in a crowded room so much more pleasant.

It should be legal to shoot at people driving loud motorcycles


This is mostly directed at those who choose to drive Harleys, and especially to those who modify their bikes to make them louder, Harley or not.  If these people don’t care about my health and well-being, not to mention my right to live in peace and quiet, then why should I care about theirs.  If they are intentionally going to ride a loud motorcycle, knowing full well that they are pissing people off with the noise, and truly don’t give a shit, then why can’t I take a BB Gun or a 12-Gage shotgun and take target practice.  I don’t want them to die from the gunshot any more than they want me to die from the noise.  But they don’t care if they disrupt my day, or night, so why am I not allowed to disrupt theirs.

I live in Maine.  I don’t really understand the motorcycle culture here but it’s something I never experienced until I moved here.  Recently I wrote a letter to my State Senator and State Representative because I heard that some group was trying to get a law passed to crack down on loud motorcycles.  My story, and my letter, goes as follows:

I live in Springvale, Maine in an apartment, set back from the road a bit, but in the center of town.

 As a result of excessive motorcycle noise, I literally cannot live my life in my home with my windows open.

 It’s winter now, so not much of an issue.  But as soon as the weather turns warmer just a bit, or even if we have one warm winter day, the motorcycles appear like moths to a flame.  By April and right through to November, I cannot open the windows in my home.  No fresh air, no sleeping with a cool breeze coming in the windows, it is literally impossible.

 Why?  Loud motorcycles.  Not only do they get some thrill out of making their motorcycles as loud as possible, the will sit at the traffic light and rev their already loud engines.  When they take off, it’s as if a drill-bit is being jammed into my temple.   I cannot fall asleep, nor stay asleep during the night with my windows open and god forbid if I want to take a nap on a Saturday afternoon with the window open.

It is absolutely ridiculous, uncalled for, and as far as I am concerned, it is selfish on the part of the motorcycle owner, not to mention criminal in how they think they own the road. 

 Along with the noise is the attitude.  Why are motorcyclists allowed to travel in packs of sometimes hundreds?  There was one occasion last summer where I was trying to pull out of a side street onto Pleasant Street in Springvale.  I was trying to get to the doctor as I was dealing with an urgent medical issue.  I sat there as hundreds of motorcycles went by, one after the other, mile after mile, for 32 minutes.  Thirty-two minutes.  That is how long I waited trying to pull out on to the main road so I could get to an urgent doctor visit.  I tried inching my way out hoping somebody would have the smarts to know to let me out.  But no.  Not one single cyclist had the foresight to say “hey other people might need to get somewhere”.   I do not care if it was a joyride or a charity ride.  Groups of motorcycles do not need to travel in unending packs of obnoxious noise and a sense of entitlement.

 But my biggest issue is the noise.  Can they not tell how loud the bike is?  Are they deaf from the noise or do they just not care?  I see how they behave, revving up their engines at traffic lights.  If I’m next to one at a light, I have to close the windows in my car because I can’t hear the radio.  Or my passenger.  That’s just plain wrong.

I will do ANYTHING to help your cause.  I will call whomever you need me to call.  I will write to whomever you need me to write.  I will go to the State House and stand in front of a committee.  You just let me know.

 I have a blog that I can put to work on this topic.  And I will contact media outlets if need be.

 I was so shocked, and excited, that somebody is finally doing something about this.  I had no idea your organization even existed until I saw a news piece on WMTW and then did some Internet searches based on that. 

 Please sign me up to help.

Obviously, I am not serious about taking pot shots at bikers.  I don’t believe in violence.  Especially violence to fight stupidity.  However, there are many days that I think about it when a Harley goes SCREAMING by my home.  Being exposed to loud noises has been proven to cause sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue, anxiety, hostility, depression and hypertension.  At a recent doctor visit for a regular checkup, the thing withwhich my doctor was most concerned was my lack of sleep.

I feel like the old guy in the neighborhood who says “you kids get off my lawn” (said in an old man voice, of course) .  I am only in my early forties but have been bothered by loud noises like this for most of my life.  I hate loud TV’s and loud radios, too.  I honesty wouldn’t care so much about this if the root cause was not based in the bike owner’s sense of entitlement.  The U.S. Constitution says we have a right to live our lives freely, but it can’t be at the expense of other citizens right to the same.

If you would like to support MECALM , and would like to support the few Maine Legislators that are backing this bill (LD-1675), or if you simply would like more information, please go to www.mecalm.org

Don’t turn your back on Haiti


One of my  local TV stations has a “Question of the day”.  Today’s question was “Are you planning to help with the relief effort in Haiti?” – Pretty straight forward question, right?  I mean, most people aren’t hopping on planes and aren’t certified relief workers so the questions becomes “Are you giving money or not?”

One person said emphatically “NO Help your fellow American’s first”.

Another said “being on ss i have all i can do to provide heat and food for my family. its about time OTHER countries helped ot not always the good old USA!”

Add this to what Rush Limbaugh said, turning this into an Obama/Race issue, and Pat Robertson saying the Haitians brought this upon themselves because years ago they made a deal with the devil.

I sit here aghast, mouth agape, in shock and disbelief.  First, there are between 40,000 to 45,000 AMERICANS living in Haiti.  There are an untold number (possibly tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands) dying in the streets, dying under collapsed buildings, dying from an instant lack of medical care for conditions they had before the earthquake.  We are talking about human pain and suffering at a level that even the most cynical among us can’t even begin to imagine, even though they claim to. 

Imagine if you can that in a mere few seconds your house is gone, you don’t know where your family and friends are, you are injured and bleeding, it looks like you are in a war zone, every building around you, including the hospitals, are gone.  There are no building or roads and you can scream all you want for help – nobody is coming to help you.

In this country we do have people suffering.  Some have no work, and therefore no money, some are losing their homes, some have no health care.  So are these cynics saying that NOW they think we should take care of all Americans and give them health care?  And for the person who is suffering on Social Security – Haitians don’t have social security, at least you have that.  And where did you get it?  From the U.S. government who, at the time that law was passed, thought that all Americans were entitled to it, just like healthcare should be today.  But I digress.

It’s not the United States that runs to the rescue of the world, it is Americans.  It is people.  People like you and me who know what it is like to suffer through what life has served, who should know better than anyone else how much a helping hand can help.  Give $10, it’s not going to kill you.  But if the surviving Haitian people don’t get money,  it will kill them.

Get outside of your own head and your own self-pity, stop being so fucking selfish and help the Haitian people who are living a hell you can’t imagine.   Giving in times of need; rallying together and getting the job done; that’s what AMERICANS do.  We don’t care what other countries are doing.  And we don’t care who else might be  responsibility to help.  Out of all industrialized nations in this hemisphere, we are the most equiped to offer help.  And so we do.

December ’09 is a slow news month


We seem to by in a news cycle where there is a lot going on, yet none of it is important enough to write about.  And so the bloggers, and the main stream media, begin to fill up the pages and the TV screen with something that can only be called “stuff”.

Does anyone really care about Tiger Woods personal problems?  I don’t.  And neither should you.  All of the wasted file server space used up by people writing articles and opinions about who Tiger slept with or had an affair with; it’s a crying shame.  Who cares?  Let him live his life and handle his problems on his own,  just like the rest of us.

Amanda Knox, did she, didn’t she.  Who cares???  Her family, yes, and friends, of course, but the rest of us have no say in the matter and will never know the truth.  I don’t care if the Italian court works like the American system.  I don’t care if Italians are prejudicial in their court judgements against outsiders; because I don’t plan on going to Italy to kill anyone.  Who the hell cares?  It’s just another murder trial.

Obama took a while to decide what to do about Afghanistan.  He did what any smart person should do – think long and hard about his options and then make a decision and stick to it.  Done.  Do we need to debate it to fill air time?  I don’t think so.

And even I am guilty.  I just wasted how much electricity, and file server space, to write this post about how there truly is nothing to write about that isn’t already being said, or thought.  I’m glad I don’t own a cable news network.  I’m glad I don’t have to fill 24 hours each and every day with noise, so that the advertisers have some place to show their products.

Here’s what I think is going on in the world that we should be thinking about:  We all have friends, and/or family, who are hurting, and to some degree, suffering.  Maybe it’s the kind of hurt caused by personal crisis:  sickness, abusive relationships, or love that seems to be dying.  Maybe it’s the kind of hurt that is financial: mothers and fathers who can’t feed their kids, or people wondering how they will avoid eviction or foreclosure.

We should be writing about, and watching TV that deals with, taking care of each other.   Random acts of kindness are under-rated.  Whether it’s holding the door for someone or helping a woman in the parking lot clean the snow off her car.  Now we’re talking about stuff that matters.  Lend an ear, lend a hand, lend a dollar.  Listen to what people around you are saying.  Some of them have a difficult time asking for help.  But if you really listen, and watch, it’s not hard to figure out what someone needs.  It might just be a hug, as corny as that sounds.  What if a big, smothering, maternal or paternal hug is all someone needs today.  What will that cost you.  Or maybe it’s money, or food, or a ride, or a job.  Just do it.  And do it thanklessly.  You shouldn’t do it for recognition, or glory, you should do it because you are human.

I’m not saying all of this simply because it is the holiday season.  As far as I am concerned, even Christmas is not worthy of writing about.  Unless someday (in my wildest dreams) Christmas is no longer about buying presents and instead is about helping each other.   Unless Christmas is no longer about gifts for the sake of buying gifts, then Christmas is not worth wasting more space on a file server somewhere; and it’s not worth filling up the airwaves.

Why don’t we all take this opportunity to take advantage of this “inconsequential” news month.  With the exception of families with loved ones overseas fighting in wars that we shouldn’t be fighting, everyone else should start to make a list, and check it twice.  And on that list should be thank you’s, and donations, and meals you made for someone who can’t get out of the house, and packages for troops, and treats for your dog, and all of the things about which writing words on a page are worthy.

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are fired


Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins don’t care about your health.

Mainers think that we have elected these women to represent us, our issues, our needs, and our views in a legislative body that governs our Country.  It would be awfully nice if that were true; that they actually listened to their constituency and spoke on our behalf in Congress.  But that is not at all what is happening. 

Why do certain individuals run for public office?  I would think it would be because the individual believes he or she can offer good ideas, new ideas, to solve the problems of our nation and to better the lives of the people in it, especially the people from the State they represent.  But more often than not, voters are left scratching our heads and thinking “what are these people thinking, that’s not what we want”.

People in Maine are suffering.  They need to see doctors, dentists, specialists, mental health professionals, surgeons, and the list goes on and on.  Maine is no different from any other State but Maine is where I live so that is what I will speak to.  In a million years I never thought I would find myself in a position where I did not get the health care I need because I simply can not afford it.

Senators Snow and Collins earn about $170,000 a year, this year.  They are also entitled to lifetime benefits after serving for just five years, including health insurance and a pension.  Members of Congress are eligible for a pension when they reach the age of 50 if they’ve completed 20 years of service. Members are eligible at any age after completing 25 years of service or after they reach the age of 62.  When they retire, they are eligible to receive an annual salary equal to as much as 80% of the three highest grossing salary years.  So even if their ONLY income was that of their Senator salary they could retire after 5 years in some cases and earn about $136,000 a year, EVERY YEAR, IN RETIREMENT.  They ALSO  have choices in health care too numerous to even begin to explain on this page.

What’s the bottom line?  Senators like Snowe and Collins don’t have to care what happens to you and your family.  They don’t care if you have health care.   They just have to last long enough to retire with a government pension.  And the more years they are a Senator, the bigger their pension will be.  So they do everything they can do to keep the contributors happy so that the Senators can spend lots of money to get re-elected, so that the Senators can continue to amass a fortune.  And if you are interested to see what a Federal Employee’s health insurance plan looks like, click here

So while Maine’s portion of the 47 million uninsured in this country continue to suffer, and while untold numbers of “under-insured” citizens in the State of Maine continue to go bankrupt and live in poverty because of health care costs, Senators Snowe and Collins don’t worry about such trivial things.  They need those campaign contributions from the health care industry, and will do anything to keep those contributions coming, so that each of them can stay in Congress as long as possible, to receive lifetime health benefits and Pension benefits that are a crime when compared to the CITIZENS THAT ARE PAYING FOR THESE BENEFITS.  Yes, it all comes out of your tax dollars.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that our illustrious government representatives get an AUTOMATIC cost of living increase unless they elect NOT to let it happen.  What would you do if every year your salary would be adjusted upward for a “cost of living” increase unless you got all of your co-workers together and “voted” not to accept the increase.  Pretty nice gig, huh?

When the first Continental Congress was formed, Benjamin Franklin proposed that elected officials not be paid for their service.  In the end, that obviously did not happen.  But why do U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives earn more than the national average salary.  That’s what they should make, about $40,000 to $45,000 per year. That’s the average salary of all the workers in the United States.  As for health care and pension benefits, they don’t work harder than anybody else and don’t deserve more than the people they represent.  So they certainly should not get more in benefits that the average U.S. worker.   Congress doesn’t even work a full year like the rest of us.  The MOST number of days that a Senator like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins would work is 153 in 2009.  Subtract from that the trips they take paid by the taxpayers, or trips they take paid for by lobbying firms, and then they get so many days off to campaign if it is an election year; what do we have left.  I don’t even know the answer.  Nobody will tell me the truth.  HOW MANY DAYS TO YOU WORK, MS. SNOWE?…MS. COLLINS?….ANYBODY?

This government was designed to be for the people and by the people.  Right now, “the people” are hurting and struggling.  Yet Senators like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have a gross take home pay of about $3,270 a week.   A WEEK.  But that number only applies if they actually work every week.  They don’t.   Again, the 2009 schedule calls for Senators to work 153 days.

Nothing I am saying here is new information.  I am just saying that something has to change.  If you took all of the money out of politics, you would be left with people who are there because they want to be there, and want to make a difference.  Instead, we are stuck with people who make a lot of money, amass retirement benefits and life long health insurance, and yet the country is suffering.   Don’t you remember reading the book “Animal Farm” in junior high school?

Olympia Snowe has said that she doesn’t trust any “government-run” health care system.  But she sure trusts the government enough to funnel my tax dollars into her paycheck, her pension, and her own health plan.

Like I said, Maine’s so-called “moderate” Senators are probably no different from any other Senators.  But I can only speak about Maine Senators because that’s where I live.  We all wish they were in it for the right reasons.  But when Maine’s Senators don’t want Maine citizens to have universal health care, for all, I have to wonder why they are our Senators.  What do they think they are accomplishing for us, and why are they financially benefiting so much for doing nothing except saying “no”.  I have no idea what these women are “for”.  I only know what they are against.  At this point, they are against me; and you.

Since Snowe and Collins work for me (I help pay for their salary) and they have not fulfilled their obligations to me, I am firing them effective immediately.