All About Trey

Life, Travel, Adventure

Anchor Windlass vs The Captain’s Gig . . . . . and the Conservative Void

One of my least favorite duty assignments in the Navy was when I was First Lieutenant on the USS Reeves. For those not in the Navy, First Lieutenant is a position, not a rank. I was in charge of how the ship looked, the small boats, the lines (ropes) that were used to tie the ship to the pier and the anchor windlass amongst other things. The anchor windlass is the machine that is used to pull the anchor off the sea floor when the anchor is used. I hated the job because my CO, who I affectionally referred to as the Anti-Christ, only cared about two things: how the ship looked and how it communicated. It could all be going to hell inside the ship, but as long as no one could see it (from the outside) or hear it, then we would look good compared to other ships. Sure Jan. My daily beatings were fun and my boss, the Operations Officer, was kind of useless. Nice guy, but he just had a warped perspective. He couldn’t see the bigger picture. What was important and what wasn’t.

I specifically remember coming to see him one day when we were in port in Pearl Harbor. The ship was coming off a major overhaul and we were out of dry dock but trying to get the ship ready for sea trials. And I had a problem. Well two of them really. So I went to the OPSO and said, “Um we’ve got problems: the anchor windlass is broke and the radio on the Captain’s Gig is broken.” And he went off on the Capt’s Gig radio. What were we doing to fix it? How long has it been down, etc? Sure, with the Anti-Christ as the CO, the Captain’t Gig is important. I’m not saying it’s not. But we had two other small boats. The real issue was the anchor windlass. At the time (and no clue if it’s the same way today), an inoperative anchor windlass meant that we couldn’t get underway. We had to submit a CASREP (Casualty Report) up our chain of command letting them know we were not able to support any operational missions or even continue our sea trials which were kind of important. After answering all of the questions about the Captain’s Gig, I finally got the OPSO to understand and acknowledge the problem with the anchor windlass was more important but yikes it shouldn’t have been that hard.

So why am I telling this sea story now? Well because in the past two years, it seems like conservatives have lost their bearing (to continue the Navy analogy) and their sense of what is really important.

Why are you mad about a professional football player kneeling during the national anthem to protest the killing of black men, but you aren’t really upset that black men are being killed in record numbers?

Why are you mad that so many people don’t pay taxes, but aren’t upset that the reason so many people pay no taxes is because they are living at or below the poverty line?

Why are you so mad about the national debt, but aren’t upset about the ginormous, and unneeded, tax cut where 90% of the benefits went to 1% of the richest in America?

And it’s not just their anger that’s dis-enheartening. It’s their silence.

Why are you silent when the President engages in trade wars and withdraws from free trade agreements?

Why are you silent when the President treats our allies like the enemy?

Why are you silent when the President lies? Repeatedly?

Why are you silent when the President kowtows to Putin or the Saudis?

Why are you silent when the President claims to be the “biggest” support of the troops, but has never visited troops in a war zone, or even gone to Arlington Cemetary?

I remember when conservatives believed in fiscal responsibility, free trade, strong national security, and personal responsibility. What has happened?

Where are the conservatives who would speak for conservative values and against the clearly not conservative President?

Head to Hood . . . .

There’s a second part of that saying and I’ll get to it in a minute.

When all of the recent sexual harassment and assault claims began a couple of months ago, I had a conversation with a friend where I just couldn’t understand how these men (and for the most part it is men) could be doing these things. I just don’t know how to sexually harass someone. Like, where did you learn that skill set to use your power, fame, or wealth as tool to harass women? Yes I’m gay, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it if I wanted to. My deputy is attractive in the hipster kind of way and while he’s straight I guess I could harass him. But I’m just not sure how. I can’t even imagine the bad gay porn version of how such a scene would play out where I tried to sexually harass him. It would be laughable. First of all, I know it’s wrong. Second, I like him. He’s a good guy. Third, I know his wife! They are annoyingly cute together and have three children. I just can’t even imagine doing anything to make him even vaguely uncomfortable.

And I don’t bring this up to say what a goodie two-shoes I am. I like a good cocktail as much as the next gay. Or three. I’ve drunk too much. Prayed to the porcelain god. Done stupid things. But I also know that men are pigs. And no, not all of them. But some of them. And yes, even some gay ones (thanks Kevin Spacey).

So when the Cavanaugh accusations came out, I didn’t instantly dismiss them like so many did. A young man from a wealthy family, drunk, and trying to sexually assault a young woman at a high school party? Yeah, this isn’t a stretch at all. And then when reading/listening about Dr. Ford’s story, I felt like she was credible.

I think my opinion on this issue is shaped by three different factors. First, my best friend works for a national victims rights organization. So while I’m no expert, I’m familiar with sexual abuse/assaults, sexual harassments, and how many victims wait years to come forward. Just by supporting my friend and going to various victims right’s events, I’ve seen the long lasting impact these experiences can have on their victims. Second, my sister slept with a bat in her dorm at the Air Force Academy. Yes, a bat. So I know even some fine young men who attend service academies can do bad things. And thirdly, I went to the Naval Academy in the 1980s and I saw first hand how alcohol and sex mixed in a bad way that could have easily lead to something like Dr. Ford experienced.

Head to Hood . . . . for Head. That was the saying. Classy, right? Hood College was an all-girls school near-by and a frequent destination for some of my classmates. And I’ve heard the stories of the alcohol fueled sexual exploits from some of those trips. Let me be clear, I am *not* accusing any of my classmates of assaulting any women. But to provide a little bit of context, one of the uniforms we wore was called “Working Uniform Blue Alpha” or WUBA, but the term WUBA was also used as a slur against some female classmates, “Women Used By All.” So needless to say there was a bit of inherent misogyny at the Naval Academy (and West Point as well though to a lesser extent at the Air Force Academy I think). Combine that misogyny, with normal hormonal urges of young men, and reduced inhibitions from alcohol and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an incident of sexual assault or two.

So I’m not so willing to casually dismiss the allegations of Dr. Ford as compared to some. There needs to be a full FBI investigation and if the allegations are deemed credible, then Cavanaugh should step down. There was list of judges the Federalist Society gave to President Trump. Just pick another one. The Democrats didn’t make up sexual assault allegations against Gorsuch even after the Republicans gave him the seat that should have been Garland’s. So maybe if you pick someone who doesn’t have a shady past (to put it nicely), then they should be confirmed.

It’s funny (and I keep using that word in the wrong sense and need to find a better adjective), but there’s been a shitstorm over the Nike ad with Colin Kaepernick. I almost think that Dr. Ford would be a better spokesperson for Nike even though she’s not an athlete. I think their slogan is more appropriate, especially for sexual assault victims, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” She’s believed in herself and her civic duty to step forward and has sacrificed a nice life of quiet dignity for death threats and accusations of lying and political motivation in order to tell her truth.

Two Apologies

So it’s been a weird couple of month. Lots of travel.  For fun.  For work.  To visit Mom.  And I’ve had two unusual experiences.  Two apologies.

I went to the Naval Academy and my time there was not fun.  There’s a joke that the Naval Academy is a good place to be from.  I.e. in the past.  And it’s true.  And for the most part, my time at the Academy is a thing of the past.  I never quite fit in (shocking I know) and I only had a few close friends after I graduated.  And over time, most of those friendships have slipped away.  Time moved on.  I came out.  They had families.  People grow apart and I consider them still friends, but we aren’t close.  However in the age of Facebook, it’s possible to reconnect with people from your past and I’m not necessarily sure if that’s a good thing.  I’ve “friended” some of my USNA classmates and I think I’ve done a good job of picking those who I’ve “friended” (though there are some exceptions).  I really don’t have a lot in common with a lot of my classmates so I’m not sure it makes sense to accept every friend request.  One of my classmates, and former roommate actually, is someone I’ve “friend accepted” and it’s been fascinating getting a glimpse into his life via FB.  Well he reached out to me and said he wanted to chat and I was like, sure.  It was about something else entirely, but as the phone call conversation wandered he said he wanted to apologize to me.  He realizes now how hard the Naval Academy must have been for someone who was gay (even though at that point I was deep in denial) and he wanted to apologize if he had ever done anything to belittle me or make me feel uncomfortable.  And I was a little stunned by the apology.  First, I’ve never had an apology like that.  Second, I really couldn’t ever think of anything he had done that made me feel bad.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a very hard time at USNA in general and whether it was because people suspected I was gay or not, I’ve had a very estranged relationship with my alma mater ever since.  A lot of my time at the Naval Academy has started to blur but there are still people, my former classmates, who I don’t like, who treated me poorly, who said bad things about me, etc.  I remember them.  I remember what they did.  What they said.  And I’m not sure if an apology from them would make me feel better or not.  I like to think it would, but I’m honestly not sure.   I told my friend that I didn’t need an apology from him since I couldn’t remember anything he had done or said that warranted an apology, but he insisted.  So I accepted his apology.

The weekend of NYC Pride, I ran into a high school classmate.  Someone I friended on FB only within the last couple of years.  He was part of the Smart Kids Clique in HS.  I was in several classes with him.  But I moved to Colorado Springs at the beginning of my junior year, so I was new to the school and never fell into any of the pre-established cliques.  I was sort of Smart Kid Clique “adjacent.”  It’s funny, I’ve never quite fit in anywhere and have always felt “adjacent” in some fashion.  Anyways, the morning after the Pier Dance we met up at Penn Station since I had to go back to DC for that pesky day job.  But we had about 45 minutes to chat and exchange life stories.  It has been 33 years since we had seen each other.  He had graduated, went to college, gotten married, had four children, had been super religious, and then just maybe 2 years ago accepted that he was gay.  I thought coming out in my early 30s was late, I can’t imagine have the strength it took to finally come out at close to 50.  We talked some more about some of our classmates who are gay and as the conversation wandered, he said that he wanted to apologize to me.  And I said for what?  And he said he wanted to apologize for treating me the way he did in high school.  Again, I’m not sure if that’s because people thought I was gay, because I was new and an outsider, because I was fat, or just because I’ve had a “pick on Trey” sign on my back for my entire life.  And I reassured him that he didn’t need to apologize.  I had no ill will or bad memories of our time in high school.  Oh, I do remember the kids who picked on me.  Kids can be mean for someone who is new, an outsider, etc.  I know that.  And again, for the most part those memories have started to blur.  I accepted his apology and we continued to chat about other stuff until my train left.

They say apologizing is a sign of strength.  That recognizing you’ve done something wrong or hurt someone and trying to make amends is sign that you understand that your words and actions impact other people.  Accepting an apology, forgiving someone, really forgiving them deep in your heart and soul requires strength as well.  These apologies were easy to accept.  However, I hope someday that if someone who has really hurt me apologizes, that I’ll have the strength to accept their apology.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

I love Ptown.  It’s a magical place that just makes me smile as I walk down the street.  And one of my foavorties things to do in Ptown is go to the Tea Dance.  Seven days a week during the season, and on the weekends in the off season, the Boatslip hosts the Tea Dance.  Most people go there to listen to the music, to drink, to socialize, etc.  Not me.  I go to dance.  I’ve been going to the Tea Dance for years.  Since I first came to Ptown in 2003?  I love DJ Mary Alice.  She plays the best music.  Pop music remixes.  So familiar songs with big vocals.  I will openly admit that I’m a bit of an anthem queen.  I love the songs that are like anthems.  Pink’s “What About Us?” and “This is Me!!” from The Greatest Showman are just a couple of the recent anthem songs that I know by heart and sing as the beat from the latet remix drives the words from some where deep in my body out into the crowded dance floor and the universe.  

“Oh, I wanna dance with somebody
I wanna feel the heat with somebody
Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody
With somebody who loves me
Oh, I wanna dance with somebody
I wanna feel the heat with somebody
Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody
With somebody who loves me”

It was Monday night.  So “I Love the 90s” at the Boatslip for Tea Dance.  And who doesn’t love the 90s?  In the 90s I wasn’t even in the closet.  I was in denial. In the Navy and yet I would go to the clubs and listen to Whitney sing.  But on this Monday night in Ptown, the dance floor took this song and owned it.  Packed with big burly men (Bear Week after all) and their admirers, the refrain would just echo across the small (ish) dance floor and resonate with hundreds of gay men.  “I want to dance with somebody” we sang loudly, “I wanna feel the heat with somebody” we declared.  “Yeah I wanna dance with someobody, With somebody who loves me!” we shouted at the top of our lungs defiantly!  We’ve been defied that for so long and we weren’t going to take it anymore! If you have a gay friend, he knows the words to this song like a promise we’ve kept to ourselves for far too long.    

Tueaday night.  I’ve been to the pool, a party, and Tea.  Always Tea.  And a bit drunk.  Let’s be honest.  But I have tickets to see Matt Alber perform.  One of my favorite artists that I’m sure you’ve never heard of.  But he’s good.  And he does an amazing set including an acapalla version of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”  Imagine it, stripped of the beats, without Whitney’s amazing voice but with a deeper manly voice,  and a little slower tempo , , 

 https://youtu.be/hlo_oLMGVqo 

And now this song, this anthem, that I’ve sung a thousand times become something else.  Not a dirge, but maybe a ballad?  A bitter sweet love song to a hope that is almost gone?  To a dream that is slowly fading from my grasp?   And I start to cry.  I’m sure it’s the alcohol, but it’s also me.     

 And I think of John.  And “The End of the World” by Matt Alber:

Don't you want to fall, don't you want to fly 

Don't you want to be dangled over
The edge of this aching romance
If it's gonna end, then I wanna know
That we squeezed out every moment
But if there's nothing left can you tell me why
That it is you're holding onto me
Like it's the end of the world

https://youtu.be/3ZRygAf-m-g 

Grief Tremors

In the weeks and months (and even years) after John died, I would have what I would call grief aftershocks.  Something would happen or I would watch or read something that made me think of John and I would lose it for a little bit.  A quick cry and then I would recover.  I would move on.  That's what living is all about.  

Now I'm experiencing grief tremors.  Like the tremors that you feel before a big earthquake, I'm having these little grief tremors.  With Mom's diagnosis, I know she's dying.  I know that.  But when I go home to see her, she looks fine.  Sure a little skinny and frail.  But she's fine.  And while I think we are all in a little bit of denial about that, sometimes reality breaks through.  We'll have lunch and be talking about something normal and then all of a sudden we're taking about what hymns she wants played at her funeral.  It's all a bit surreal.  

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email that said Pink was releasing a second round of tour dates.  I had missed her in DC and really wanted to go.  She wasn't coming back to DC, but one of the tour dates was in Denver next April and I thought it would be a great gift for my niece, sister, and BNL.  And then I sort of lost it thinking that Mom will probably be gone by then.  And then more depressing thought, will she make it to Christmas?  A little grief tremor, shaking me with sadness and sometimes a few tears, but then it passes and I'm back to normal.

But am I?

    

"Hell No! I Don't Want to Be The COO!"

So about six or so years ago, the COO at my company decided that he wanted to move to Blacksburg.  He was a VT grad, his wife was a VT grad, they spent most weekends in the fall at VT.  You get the picture.  And I guess he just decided that he want to move to VT full time, raise his daughter there, etc.  I was the VP of a small department at the time and worked directly for him.  So when he told me, I was like, "Good for you."  I'm all for people having the right work/life balance.  He was young and had been with the company for a long time, so he wasn't going to have any financial hardship.  Why not leave the rat race and live a bit?  

My CEO came to talk with me later.  He told me that he was not going to pick a new COO right away.  He laughed saying that he already had two people volunteer.  I said, oh I can guess.  He said guess and I was right.  Neither were qualified to be COO.  He laughed and asked if I wanted the job and I said "Hell No!  I don't want to be the COO."  And he asked why.  And I was honest.  I wasn't qualified either.  Sure I was doing well running a small department, but I didn't have any insight into the corporate staff, contracting, accounting, etc.  And then I said, "It's also doesn't sound like fun at all.  I like trying to solve problem for our customers, I like to travel (I know, LOL!), and being COO doesn't sound fun at all."  And needless to say, I never became COO.  And I'm still good with that.

So what stirs this random memory?  The new nominee for VA Secretary.  Look, I totally believe you lied about Trumps weight.  I know my height.  I know my weight.  Trump is like 6in taller than me.  He doesn't weight 239 pounds.  Amazingly 1 pound below the threshold for being obese.  And at the time I was mad that Trump had managed to convince/coerce you, a Naval Officer, to lie.  But I let it go. Everyone lies about their weight.  And outrage fatigue is real these days folks.  But now you've accepted the nomination to be VA Secretary?  Seriously?  You are NOT qualified.  You've never been the CO of a hospital!  What do you know about running the second largest department in the federal government?  At what point do you have the self awareness to know these are my strengths, these are my weaknesses, and there are some things I'm not qualified to do?

And of course this is just another example of where the Trump administration is lowering the bar for every position in the government.  How low does the bar go?  Like any bureacracy, the government is dysfunctional at best without it being led by people who either are supremely unqualified or who are put in place to actively sabotage their department from within.  And do all of the illegal/unethical/inappropriate things these "senior" leaders do without any pushback from Congress (currently controlled by Republicans) become the new standard of acceptable behavior?  Is that the future we have to look forward to?

And isn't that sad?  

"I'LL BE OUT OF YOUR LIFE FOREVER!"

He said.  And he clearly wasn't using his inside voice.  But let me back up first. 

It's 2005 (?) and I'm on my second BGC.  It headed south from San Diego to hit the western Mexican rivera ports (Cabo, PV, Mazatlan, etc).  The first day at sea the weather is awful.  All of the LA pretty boys are wearing their super small little speedos, wrapped up like mummies in pool towels because it's so cold.  But hey, those bois brought a different swimsuit for everyday, so it's got to be worn!  That night the weather clears up and the first big dance of the cruise is happening.  No clue on the theme.  Around 130AM, I wander off the dance floor, perhaps a bit tipsy, and make my way to the OceanView cafe (the 24 hour buffet on the ship) to grab some pizza.  As one does at 130 in the morning.  I grab a couple of slices, sit down, and then that's where I hear them, just a couple of tables away.

"IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?"   Again, not an inside voice.

"DO YOU WANT TO FUCK HIM?"   Now at this point, I've slowly turned to see the source of the discussion.  Two LA A Listers.

"BECAUSE IF THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT, YOU CAN FUCK HIM!  AND THEN I'LL BE OUT OF YOUR LIFE FOREVER.  I'LL GET OFF THIS SHIP TOMORROW AND YOU'LL NEVER SEE ME AGAIN."

Sigh, it's clear that these two didn't have "The Talk" before the cruise.  There are lots of couples who go on the cruise and are monogamous.  To be honest, there are more who are in open relationships.  And there are even some who have some sort of Don't Ask, Don't Tell type rule.  Hey, whatever works for you and I'm throwing no shade at all.  I've got partnered/married friends who fit into each of those different categories.  Whatever works for them I think is what is important.  

Now flash forward to 2015 (ish) and I'm on another BGC (shocking I know).  I meet this super cute muscle bear from Oz (OzBear let's call him).  And he's like a gay unicorn.  He doesn't realize how attractive he is and he's still very nice and friendly.  If I were 15 years younger and 30 pounds lighter, I would have totally hit on him.  But instead we became just friends.  And we exchanged FaceBook info so I would see his posts from time to time.  And via FB, I watched him meet, fall in love, and travel a lot with an American Bear (AmBear) from NYC.  So there were longs flights to visit each other or joint vacations, etc.  While I was a little jealous (young muscle bears in love), it was cute.  And finally AmBear decided that he was going to move to Australia so they could live together.  It was like a fairy tale!  And it was all good for awhile, but then there was the breakup.  Of course on Facebook.  And it was ugly.  Accusations of infidelity, cheating etc.  

I don't know why, but this breakup got me thinking.  Is it unrealistic for two people (and this isn't just for the gays) who are super attractive to remain monogamous?  When are you so attractive that you can have sex whenever and with whoever you want when you are single, even if your partner is super attractive, can you stay monogamous?  I mean, just look at Hollywood and the super hot actors/actresses who get together and then one of them cheats and then it implodes in a spectacular fashion, and usually with video on TMZ.  

I know infidelity and cheating isn't confined to very attractive people.  It happens to everyone across the board.  Gay, straight, ugly, hot, married, single, etc.  But I do think it's easier to mentally accept when they are both very attractive.  Is that the hollywood programming that's seeped into our minds?  I don't know.  

When I think about the future relationship that I want to have, I think I would like it to be monogamous, at least initially, though I'm not so naive that I don't think that an open relationship might be part of the long term solution.  I don't know.  Considering my lack of boyfriend, it's not a discussion I need to have anytime soon.  

Carpe Diem

In the United Global First lounge in SFO, I saw an older guy with an Atlantis bag.  And I did something I normally wouldn’t do.  I sat down next to him and introduced myself.  One of the many things I like about the Big Gay Cruises (BGCs) is that everyone is smiling and very welcoming.  Saying hello to someone with a smile is just a greeting.  Not necessarily a come on.  It’s just a warm welcome and a reminder of how lucky we are to be surrounded by people just like us, a big gay bubble.  And even thought I had a thirteen hour flight ahead of me, I was already smiling.  And I thought, why should I wait to be on the ship to be friendly, to be in the bubble?  Why not start now.  So I did.  

In addition to being on my flight, he was staying at the same hotel as I was (the host hotel for the cruise) in Auckland so I was like, let’s share a cab from the airport into the city.  On the cab ride, we started chatting and apparently he’s a “veteran” gay cruiser as well (I like to use the word veteran instead of slut 😀).  And traveling alone.  Like me.  He lives up in the Pacific Northwest and was an engineer before he retired.  It was an interesting conversation and I thought about the things he said and the things he didn’t say.

He’s traveling alone and has done lots of BGCs.  But it was clear that he wasn’t a big party type.  I mentioned the apps and he said he wasn’t on them, so he wasn’t on the prowl (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  I started to fill in his back story in my head.  How he worked for 30 years, probably in the closet for most if not all of those.  And how he probably doesn’t easily fit into any specific stereotype on a BGC (and trust me, there are a lot of those).  But he likes to go on the cruises, he can dip his toe into a variety of scenes and makes the cruise what he wants it to be.  And isn’t that the beauty of the BGC?  If you want to be up all night dancing till dawn.  Knock yourself out.  If you want to see the shows, or do the fine dining, you can do that as well.  There’s a little bit of everything for everyone and you can do what you want.  Live your life.  Proudly.  To quote Auntie Mame, “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Sodomite!

It’s been awhile since I’ve been attacked in church.  I sat there and listened to the preacher spit the word “sodomite” from the pulpit, over and over again, like a spear being hurled directly at me, and I bit my tongue.  I’m a good Episcopalian and we don’t cause a scene in church.  Looking back, I think I’m a bit grateful for the experience.  It’s a reminder of the real world.  An ugly reminder.  

I live in my little blue bubble.  I’ve got a loving, open, and welcoming church in DC.  My company, while very conservative in nature, has never been anything but supportive.  John and I went to the company holiday parties and everyone was welcoming, or atleast had the decency/civility to keep any ugly comments to themselves.  My family met John and loved him.  Between Ptown and my Big Gay Cruises, I even vacation in a little blue bubble.  I’m not subjected to hate, or bigotry, directly.  Not that I’m not aware of it in the world.  I am.  But I’m lucky enough to be able to wrap a nice big blue blanket around me to insulate me from the hate and bigotry.  Most of the time.

On Sunday, I went to church with my Mom.  It’s a very conservative Anglican Church aligned to the Anglican Church of Nigeria.  They don’t like The Gays.  The preacher had an interesting sermon about what the end of times means for Christians.  Interesting, but not something I agreed with.  But other than the random slight to Islam and the weird digs against Baptists and 7th Day Adventists, it was fine.  Just a comment.  In the 13 years I’ve been going to my church, I’ve never heard a preacher denigrate or disparage another religion or church.  Anyways, I’m not sure what happened, but he sort of went off the rails.  I truly believe his ad hominem attack on gays (and women) was not planned at all.  But there he was blaming sodomites for the reason why he can’t celebrate in the Episcopal Church.  Now, the term sodomites is such a good biblical term and as he said the word, repeatedly, you could hear the hate behind his use of the word.  It’s like when people use the word “homosexual” instead of gay because they mean it to be disparaging, degrading, or insulting.  In his mind and according to his sermon, priests need to be fighters.  And that’s why women and effeminate men (I don’t need to translate that for you, right?) shouldn’t be priests.  Priests need to be manly men who will fight to make the church pure and ready for the return of Jesus.  Right.  Because Jesus was such a fighter.  It’s WWJF, right?  Who Would Jesus Fight?

I still went up to take communion.  Regardless of the hateful speech that preacher used, I was in a house of God and I know that God loves me.  After the service, the Rector (head Priest in Charge) came to our pew to apologize.  So props to him for doing the right thing.  Oh, I totally believe that he agrees with the preacher’s sentiments, but not the language used.  He’s a friend of the family and I truly think he was appalled by the language that was used.  I thanked him for his apology and told him that I really appreciate it.  My mother, apparently zoned out during the sermon and was oblivious to the situation.  So that’s a blessing.  

Mom does altar guild after the service and I politely declined to help her and said I would meet her in the courtyard.  I walked by the preacher who gave the sermon and didn’t look at him, didn’t shake his hand.  Just walked on by.  

I had too many thoughts in my head to be able to say anything to him.  Of course, in his sermon he also mentioned that he didn’t want to debate this issue.  He was right.  Anything else was wrong.  It was against the Bible.  So having a discussion wouldn’t have worked anyways.  He’s pure of heart of course.  

All of this happened the day after Charlottesville.  The caustic bubble of Alt-Right, Nazism, hate and bigotry that has been hidden/submerged in our American politics for long finally burst out of the sewer and onto the streets in a disgusting display of intolerance, fear, and hate.  

All of this happened the day after a Alt-Right supporter whose twisted thoughts and beliefs led him to drive his car into a group of protestors killing one and injuring 19.

If I had the chance to say something to that preacher, I think I would say something like this:  

Yesterday, hundreds of Alt-Right/Nazi supporters marched in Charlottesville chanting “Blood and Soil”, “Jew Will Not Replace Us”, and “Fuck the Faggots.”  You used the word Sodomite today in your sermon.  But you meant Faggot.  And that’s not the love of God you are preaching.  You are teaching people to hate the “others”.  And one day your teaching will lead to the death of a child of Christ by someone who you’ve taught to hate.  What would Jesus say about that?      

 

P.S.  A light, fun, non-political, non-religous, blog post soon!  I promise!

I Won't Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve always been a big reader of fantasy and science fiction and when I was younger I really enjoyed those books about the earth after some sort of apocalypse.  A meteor hits the earth, nuclear war, even alien invasions.  I always imagined myself as a survivor.  Somehow I escaped the tidal wave that washed across America and I would help rebuild society.  I’m an engineer.  And a planner.  I’ve got some skills.  And I wouldn’t be one of those people who would take advantage of the breakdown of society.  I wouldn’t try to rob or kill people.  I’d fight for truth, justice, and you know, the American way. :-)

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s all a bit of fantasy.  Not the end of the world stuff.  That part’s real.  Today’s apocalypse will be a pandemic plague, or a dirty bomb, or an EMP that fries all of our electronics and brings us crashing back into the middle ages.  I’m fairly certain that it won’t be a zombie apocalypse though.

Having said that, I won’t be the scrappy survivor that I imagined I would be.  I won’t be part of that small noble group of survivors sticking to our moral code while we try to rebuild society.  No, I’ll be part of the millions and billions of people around the world whose decaying bodies will be strewn across the countryside. 

In today’s politically focused language I have what is referred to as a “pre-existing condition”.  Several actually.  Some are minor (gout) and some are not.  I’m can proudly say that I’m a cancer survivor going on 10 years now.  But when they removed my thyroid, it made me dependant upon a daily dose of thyroid hormone.  Without my daily pill, I’ll start to get tired in about a week.  In two weeks I’ll be exhausted.  In three weeks I’ll be dead.

So when the pandemic, dirty bomb, or EMP finally happens and the factory that makes my pills doesn’t have power, ingredients, or people to run it, or trucks to bring it to my local CVS, I’ll basically be out of luck.  So even if I somehow manage to survive the apocalypse (and living 6 blocks from the White House I should assume means I probably won’t), I won’t survive for much longer.

Okay, so that’s the worst case scenario, right?  We can hopefully avoid the apocalypse for while.  But the end result is the same if I lose my health insurance, right?  Sure I’ve got financial resources that will help me for while.  But for how long?  Will Medicare and Medicaid be around when I need it?  If I need it?  Right now one of my pills treats my acid reflux which if untreated can cause esophageal cancer.  What do I do then? 

It’s true, when you are young you think you are invincible.  Nothing can harm you and insurance is for old folks.  And now that I’m (*ahem*) older, I do think of insurance. A lot.  While the ACA isn’t perfect, it’s better than almost anything else we’ve seen here in America in a long time.  I’m hoping people are finally realizing that and figuring out that fixing it is better than any of the alternatives proposed so far.  But we shall see.    

From Russia With Love (for Trump)

When did I first think there was something to the allegations about the Trump campaign and Russia?  In July 2016.  That's when the Trump campaign softened the RNC platform on supporting Ukraine in their fight against the aggressive and hostile actions of Russia in Crimea and northern Ukraine.  The Republicans have always hated Russia, so why give them some love now?  It just smelled wrong.  

Now we are almost a year later and we've had the DNC emails hacked by Russia and leaked to Wikileaks, we've had Russian trolls carpet bombing the internet with fake gnus to spread lies and disinformation against Hilary, and we're up to like a dozen Trump campaign or administration officials who have LIED about meetings with the Russians.  Look, the news may say that they "omitted", "forgot", or "failed to disclose" these meetings on their forms.  I'll be straight with you if you'll  pardon the pun.  They LIED.  I'm a little bit familiar with the clearance process and having to report foreign contacts.  They didn't omit, forget, or fail to disclose.  They LIED ABOUT IT ON AN OFFICIAL DOCUMENT.  There is no way in this (or any other universe) that the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency "forgot" to disclose these contacts.  He omitted them intentionally.  

So what's the motive?  And I'm speculating, but I think it comes down to good old fashion greed, power, and revenge.  Flynn, Lendowsky, Manafort?  Flynn hated Obama after he was fired from the DIA, so revenge makes sense.  They all made bank off their work with Russia and other foreign governments where they sold their knowledge and access to officials still in the US government to help them get lucrative consulting contracts.  The problem I suspect, is that the money came to easily.  And once they were "bought", it was time to turn this relationship into a two way street.  The Russians want the sanctions lifted against them.  And they thought if they could get their agents inside the campaign and administration to pressure, coerce, or convince Trump to do that, then it was money well spent.  A couple of million in bribes, I mean consulting fees, as compared to the hundreds of millions they can make when the sanctions are lifted is a pretty good investment.  

Today there's a report that the CIA knew that Putin had specifically authorized the attack on our election with the intent to help get Trump elected.  I mean, it was clear that Hilary would not be a friend of Putin.  And Trump was . . . malleable I think is the word I want to use.  Once your agents have infiltrated the organization you are targeting, then you need to work on setting up the right conditions to make the most of your investment.  So you spend a little bit of money on internet trolls and hackers to help push the election in Russia (and Trump's) favor.  The fact that you are undermining the basic foundation of our democracy is just a bonus for Putin.  

So what about Trump?  Is he the master mind in all of this?  A Putin puppet? Or a clueless ego maniac with a huge narcissistic disorder?  I'm not sure.  I think he got into the election to prove he could win after being made fun of after so many years.  And to make money of course.  It's always about the benjamins for him.  But I think there were people around him who help maneuver him, guide him, and coerce him into making the decisions that they/Russia wanted him to make.  To convince him that Russia is our friend, that we need to work with them, to share our intelligence, and to, of course, lift the sanctions against them.

Why did Trump wait almost 3 weeks before firing Flynn after the acting AG told him that Flynn had been compromised?  Why did he fire James Comey?  Why did he share classified information with Russia?  Why does he still deny that Russia hacked into our election?  There are so many unanswered questions so I'm sure my speculation may be a bit off.  

But there is something rotten at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and I hope we figure it out quickly before it eats away at the basic core of our country, our democracy.       

 

 

  

Pride 2017

So there are certain dates that people remember where they were when something specific happened.  The Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, the Challenger explosion.  My dates are a little bit different.

June 26, 2003.  I’m sitting my office in Rosslyn overlooking the courtyard where the beauty school students would soon gather for their lunch break.  I’m constantly re-freshing my browser when I see it.  The Supreme Court has ruled against Texas’ sodomy law in Lawrence vs. Texas.  It’s hard to quantify or describe the impact of that ruling on me.  Despite (or maybe because) being born and raised in a religious environment (Episcopalian thank God!), I’ve always believed that God loved me.  But hearing the Supreme Court ruling makes me start to cry.  I close the door to my office and I text my best friend and former boyfriend to share the news.  It’s like a door to a whole new, unexpected, future just opened before me. 

November 8, 2008.  I’m in Puerta Vallarta on a gay vacation.  I’m in the hotel bar with my laptop and a cocktail.  As one does.  I settle in for a long night of election watching.  The US makes history in electing our first African-American president.  But the people of CA vote against same sex marriage.  It’s like a weird sucker punch.  If we can’t have marriage in CA, where can we have it?

May  24, 2012.  John and I are sitting on the beach at the Four Seasons Resort on Nevis in the Caribbean.    As the sun sets, we are sipping some bad champagne given to us by the gay couple we met on Antigua.  We talk about out future.  John’s new job.  Getting married.  Moving to Arlington.  It’s all good.  And yet not to be.

June 26th, 2013.  I’m in San Diego for work.  I hear that the Supreme Court has overturned Prop 8.  Marriage equality is the law of the land in CA.  I go to Hillcrest, the gayborhood in SD, and march with the masses to celebrate.  I drink too much.  I start to cry.  That’s normal, right?

June 26th 2015.  At work again.  I know the ruling is coming and while I know, I hope, I believe, that the Supreme Court will make the right decision, I’m still on the edge.  And then I see it on the internet.  The Supreme Court has ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples.   I say “yes!” probably a bit too loud and then go close more door.  I read the legal reviews as the tears run down my face. 

Tomorrow I will march in the National Equality March for Unity and Pride.  I’m not a marcher.  That’s not my style.  But I’ll do it.  Our President, while not authorizing outright discrimination against LGBT contractors, has relaxed the regulation requiring federal contractors to provide documentation about their workplace policies.  It’s like a bizzaro version of DADT.  And we know how well that worked.    The President has also signed a “religious liberty” executive order that will allow organizations to discriminate against the LGBT community.  As Jesus would want them to do, one assumes.  But these policies are wrong and un-American.  So I’ll march.  To stand up for what I believe.  To make sure that those who come after me have all of the rights and responsibilities that most Americans take for granted. 

Happy Pride Everyone!

Alternate Timelines and Life Plan Version X.X

So I've been in my head quite a bit more than usual.  And a bit depressed as well.  John passed away 5 years ago yesterday.  Which always gets me thinking about the path not taken.

In comic books, they have the alternate timeline, it's how they reinvent the characters every 5 years or so and create a new universe for them.  I've been thinking about the alternate timeline for my storyline if John hadn't passed away.  We would probably be living in north Arlington in a nice house with a big yard for the dogs.  He would be a partner at a law firm in DC where hopefully he wasn't working 80 hours a week.  I would probably still be at my company.  We would be going on fabulous vacations together (two incomes = Four Seasons resorts!) and hosting fun dinner parties.  That's the pretty version of my alternate timeline.  But I know that it wouldn't be the complete version.  Relationships are hard.  We would have our fights, our arguments, our challenges.  But in my utopian version of my alternate timeline, I don't want to think about that.  As we say at work, that's a problem I want to have.  And I would gladly take all of those problems and more to have him back.  But that alternate timeline is not meant to be.

I'm a planner.  It's what I do.  Personally, professionally, I have to have a plan.  And yes I know life if what happens while I'm making plans, but it's just how I live.  I have to have a plan.  Life plan 2.2 was where I was going to graduate from USNA with my BS in Naval Architecture and become a Naval Flight Officer.  I was going to fly for 8 years (required commitment for flight school training) and then stay in if I like flying.  If not, I was going to move to Europe to build ships since we don't really build a lot of ships here in the US.  That life plan sort of fell apart when I had to change my major. And when I ended up a SWO, not a NFO.

Life plan 3.1 was where I stayed in the Navy even though I was gay (hey, Don't Ask, Don't Tell could have worked!) and changed career fields to do IT stuff.  And that plan sort of worked.  Obviously not the DADT part.  And when I got passed over for LCDR, well the staying in the Navy part didn't work either, but the moving into IT was the right call.

Life plan 3.5 was where I was going to be a defense contractor for 2-3 years just to get used to working in the civilian world and then I was going to do real IT stuff.  Like for a commercial IT company like Apple or Google.

Life plan 4.6 was where John and I were going to get married.

Current life plan?  Life plan 5.0 is still a bit of a work in progress.  I'm on a 5 year plan for retirement and I'm going to start taking classes to become a traveling ASL interpreter.  But we'll see.  I suspect something will happen to turn my plan on it's head.  It would be nice if whatever changes my plans does so in a good way.  Maybe I'll meet someone special who makes me change all of my plans.  Wouldn't that be nice?  

Pet Peeve - Trey Addition!

So I'm in a mood.  Fair warning.

I've decided to get another personal trainer at my #SelfEsteemCrushingGym.  I've had several trainers there and one has been good, one has been okay, and one sort of sucked.  And when I hurt my shoulder back in late 2015, I sort of stopped with the trainer.  In late 2016, after the surgery, I started with some light lifting and then built up a bit before I went on my sabbatical.  So I'm back from my sabbatical and I'm </Fatty McFatterson> a little bit larger that I want to be and so I decide to get a new personal trainer.

So I contact the personal trainer manager.  A week goes by and I email her again.  Cindy (let’s call her Cindy) apologizes.  And then we begin an email exchange that I kid you not goes back and forth like over a dozen times.  I explain what I’m looking for and when I want to train.  And she wants to meet with me.  But our schedules don’t match up.  And finally I’m like, do we really need to meet?  Can’t you just assign me a trainer?  Which she does, for a day when I’m in San Diego for work.  When I specifically said I wanted to start training the first week of May since I was in San Diego the previous week.  And this is all symptomatic of that fact that while she’s reading my emails, she’s not really understanding them.  I sign ALL of my email “Trey”.  Yes my archaic hotmail account says the L word, but I don’t go by that.  And if you READ and COMPREHENDED my email, you would figure that out.  It’s not rocket science.  So at the end of this drill, I’ve got a training session scheduled with Jay (not his real name obvs!)

I sent Jay an email and SPECIFICALLY say that while L is my legal name, I go by Trey.  I prefer Trey.  Call my Trey.   I explain my age (*cough*), weight (ugh), what I’m looking for in a trainer, etc.  I do cardio and lift by myself.  So I want help with balance, flexibility, and core.  Stuff I won’t do by myself.  I tell him that I’m looking forward to seeing him at 6AM!  A lie, but a small white lie.  He responds saying that he’ll see me the next AM.  So I’m there at 0550 AM.  I do the treadmill to warm up and then I go to meet him.  He looks at me and goes, “Oh, L.”  And I’m like “No.  Trey.”  Seriously?  Did you even read my email?  So not starting off on the right foot with me.  So we go through the paperwork drill when I really just want to work out but I’m biting my tongue.  I explain again about my current workout routine.  I do cardio mainly on the elliptical, stairmill, or bike.  I’m not a big runner and since I’m carrying some extra weight I don’t want to put too much stress on my knees.  We get through the paperwork and he’s like, “So what do you want to do?”  Are you f&$king kidding me?  I hired you to train me.  In theory you have some sort of education and background in physical training to be able to tailor a program for me to help me attain my goals.  I tell him that I’m looking to him for the plan and he thinks for a moment and he’s like, okay here’s what we’re going to do.  He explains how his program all about using body weight (fine) to build strength (umm, okay) and lose weight (fine).  The first exercise is long jumps.  Which I haven’t done in probably 30 years and not really that great for my knees.  It didn’t hurt so much as it felt so unnatural.  But after expressing my concern about my knees, this is the first exercise?  So needless to say I just suffered through the first sessions. 

So today, I get an email from Cindy.  I had filled out one of the “three minute” surveys from the gym and apparently my response got sent to her.  I had complained about how hard it was to get a simple training session scheduled and I recommended that they replace the ancient wall clocks (some of which don’t have second hands) with digital clocks.  When I’m lifting, I like to rest for 45 seconds and can’t figure out when that is with the current old clocks.  Anyways, Cindy apologizes for how hard it was to schedule the trainer but she wanted to make sure she put me with the “right” trainer.  Right.  And then she asked me how the first session went.  She also mentioned that she would ask about the clocks but it may take some time before those get updated.  So . . . . big digital clocks on Amazon are like $70.  You buy three for the weightlifting area.  And done.  But whatevs.  It’s never going to happen.  Most of the treadmills don’t have racks to hold books, magazines, or iPads while you are working out, so you have to look down and it’s bad for your posture.  I submitted a recommendation for that and nothing happened.  So I don’t have my hopes up for new clocks.  But the main question is what do I say, if anything, about Jay.  Right now my thought is to wait to have a second session and see if it’s any better.  Plus, I’m in a funk right now so I’m not sure if my constructive criticism would be really welcome.

On the plus side, my month of sobriety is over and I’m enjoying a nice New Zeland Pinot Gris.  So I’ve got that going for me.        

Three Churches

So in three weeks, I've been to three different churches.  

Two Sundays ago, I went to my church.  St. Thomas.  We are currently in the process of building a new church so we are temporarily worshipping at another church at 1230 on Sundays.  Not ideal, but I can deal.  Not a fan of the other church, the acoustics are weird and I was having a hard time hearing everything.  But after my sabbatical it was good to be back with my church family.  Our new church will be built on the grounds to the St. Thomas' church that was burned by an arsonist in 1970. During the civil unrest of those times, a lot of folks left St. Thomas and the church went through a transformation focusing more on the local community and became one of the few places of worship in DC that supported LGBT christians.  St. Thomas help many funerals for AIDS victims who either didn't have churches, or whose churches wouldn't hold their funerals.  St. Thomas has a strong social justice ministry and is very inclusive and supportive of the LGBT community those are the things that drew me to St. Thomas'.    

Last Sunday I was in COS, so I went to church with Mom at St. George's.  St. G's is an Anglican church.  Or as I like to call it, a Nigerian-Anglican church.  They left the Episcopal Church because it was too liberal (i.e. allowed gay priests/bishops, supported marriage equality) and aligned themselves with the very conservative Anglican church in Nigeria.  It was Palm Sunday so no sermon.  Just a reading of the Passions.  My sister told me that the week before the sermon had been about "christian marriage."  So glad I wasn't there for that.  I'll do almost anything for my mother, but I won't sit in a house of worship and be discriminated against.  Nope.  I would not have caused a scene, because I'm an Episcopalian and we don't do that.  But I would have gotten up and left.  It was during the Prayers for the People that I saw something funny.  They use the 1928 Prayer Book, not the 1972 Prayer book most Episcopalians uses, because the 1972 prayer book is too liberal and takes a lot of the fire and brimstone out of the liturgy.  Plus it allows for more welcoming, easier, and modern language.  Fewer thees, thous, and wherefores.  Anyways, I noticed that when we did the Prayers for the People we prayed for "Christian Rulers" around the world.  Hmm.  Just Christian ones?  Don't we want to pray for them all?  Don't we want all of the rulers to be kind, merciful and maintain justice for all their people?  The 1972 prayer book says we pray for all the rulers of the world.  God loves us.  All of us.  Not just the Christians.  

For Easter Sunday, I ended up going to St. Lukes.  I had accepted a birthday invite from an old friend for 1230 before I knew St. Thomas would be worshiping then.  So I went to the 1030 service at St. Lukes.  St. Lukes is a historically black church just one block away from me.  Apparently it was an offshoot of St. Thomas' back when churches were segregated (legally, not culturally as they are today).  I was not the only caucasian in the church, there were about a 10 of us in a 100 person church.  I felt very welcomed there, but it was definitely different.  St. Thomas is more low church (i.e. casual) and St. Luke's is a bit more high church.  They had incense.  Their thurifer (the guy who swings the incense around) was doing full overhead loops!  It was impressive.  And a little bit dangerous if you aren't careful.  They had a wonderful gospel choir dressed up in robes.  And the sermon was good, but a little bit more engaging/participatory than I'm used to.  For the most part, you won't hear "Can I get an Ah-men!" at St. Thomas'.  But their church is lovely and I was glad I went to Easter service.  Oh, somethings are the same wherever you go.  There was a teenager in the pew in front of me on his phone the whole service.  :-)

I'll be back at St. Thomas' next week.  Looking forward to it!

 

 

It's the Hypocrisy, Stupid!

One of the things that pushes me to the breaking point these days is the just the rampant political hypocrisy that seems to just defy belief.  The Alabama governor who cheats on his wife and yet claims the “sanctity of marriage” is why he’s against marriage equality.  The Oklahoma State senator busted for hiring a 17 year old boy for sex while voting against transgender and gay rights.  Of course, these are mostly Republican politicians.  Right?  And note I did say most, but certainly not all.  It happens on the Democratic side as well.  Did I think Anthony Weiner was an idiot for sexting?  Yes, the first, second, and third time he got caught.  Apparently the stupid is strong with him.  But he’s not a hypocrite.  The Democrats aren’t the one beating the Bible yelling about “family values” and using it was a weapon against other people.  To be honest, I have no interest in anyone else’s sex life.  Who you sleep with, regardless of your marital status, is up to you.  But you don’t get to use the Bible as a weapon or spout “sanctity of marriage” and “family values” and then get busted for having a little something on the side without me calling it like it is:  Hypocrisy. 

And it’s not just about sex.  It’s basically everything these days.  How many times did we hear the Republicans complain about Obama’s golf trips or vacations?  And yet not one peep about the almost weekly trips to Mar-A-Lago.  How many times did we hear the Republicans complain about the costs of Michelle Obama trips overseas with her daughters and Mom?  And yet nothing about the costs of the Trump children jetting around the world requiring Secret Service protection.  If the Obamas were making money off his trips to Hawaii then the fury from the right would be overwhelming. I can’t even begin to imagine the nuclear meltdown from the right if Hillary had become President and hired Chelsea into any kind of position at all.  Or if she had lied on her clearance form about meeting with Russians.  Or if Obama or Hillary had anyone remotely close to their campaign who had ties to the Russians or we registered (or should have been registered) as foreign agents.    

On progressive blogs, there’s an acronym for this all too common occurrence. IOKIYAR.  It’s OK If You Are Republican.  Saying one thing and doing another has become just a fact of life for most Republicans.  Basically they are living out the saying:  Don’t Do What I Do, Do What I Say.  Which basically means they don’t have to follow the rules.  They are above the rules.  Talk about elitism!

Now none of this is particularly earth shattering.  Nor sadly new really.  It’s been going on for a while now.  But it seems to have increased exponentially with the emergence of our current President.  So many Republicans have abandoned their principles in exchange for money or power. Or both.  It would be easy to laugh about all of this if it weren’t so sad. 

A Harsh Reality

So coming back to reality has definitely sucked.  Let's break it down.

The jetlag.  Not that I sleep well anyways, but needless to say getting back on a regular sleep cycle has not been easy.  Mistake number one.  Getting drunk on champagne on Saturday and then proceeding to take a 4 hour "nap".  Yeah, that's didn't help.  I think I finally got to sleep around 4AM on Sunday.  Mistake number two:  Getting up at 3AM on Monday to catch a flight to CO Springs.  So yes, I'm a bit messed up sleep wise.  And no, I don't get cranky at all when I'm exhausted.  Never.

Work.  So I went into work on Friday.  Most people were glad to see me.  My boss is like, "Oh, I lost the bet.  I didn't think you were going to come back."  Gee thanks?  I did see my CEO and he made some random comment that I think was relatively benign.  He's an odd character and he was none too please when I asked for the time off.  And that's putting it nicely.  And the first thing I do is go on a work trip.  So I'm gradually easing back into my work life.

So I'm officially Fatty McFatterson.  I got on the scale and it was not pretty.  Two months of eating and drinking my way around SE Asia and Oceania has taken a toll.  And even though I was walking an average of 6-7 miles a day, yeah, no.  Not enough.  So I'm taking a drinking sabbatical until the beginning of May.  Until I go to Ptown.  Not drinking in Ptown?  That's just crazy talk.  I am looking forward to getting back to my gym though. 

So I'm in CO Springs which is good because I get to see SB and Mom.  Mom had a nice honey-do list for me.  I mean, I walk through the door and not even before I grab a glass of ice tea she wants me to fix the phone.  I'm reading the user manual and then I go online to look for troubleshooting help.  And I'm like, this phone is a POS and it's old.  Mom, how old is this phone?  We got it in 2006.  Okay, I'm not spending hours on the phone with tech support to get an 11 year old crappy phone to work.  Let's just buy a new one.  Oh, and the smoke detector was so old that it didn't have a button you could use to test it once the battery was replaced.  The instructions say to blow smoke at the detector to test it.  Umm, no.  Let's go crazy and spend $25 on a new smoke detector.  So good times.

I fly back to DC late on Sunday and then reality definitely kicks in.  On the plus side, the Nats have started playing, so I've got lots of games to go to!

 

Blue Mountains, Bondi, and Beyond!

FullSizeRender.jpg

On Monday I took a tour to the Blue Mountains.  Every time I've been to Sydney, the locals have told me that I *have* to go out to see them and get out of the city for a bit.  And so I decided to do it.  Sadly I went with a big tour bus, but it still was a good trip.  Got up early, popped some cold medicine (oh yes, sick again, I'm sure it wasn't the 16th plane ride of this trip), and took the bus down to the Aquarium to pick up the  tour bus.  It was a double decker.  Lovely.  And I was sitting next to a lovely woman from South Africa who was a bit large.  And I'm not exactly a skinny Minnie myself, so it was a fun trip.  After a short stop at a small little town for coffee and bathroom breaks, we arrived at Scenic World.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Yes.  Scenic World.  *WORST NAME EVER*.  It sounds like some super generic tourist site that you would see in a Jurassic Park movie parody.  Now, to get to Scenic World proper, you take a cable car from one cliff to another.  But the line to get on the cable car was long and I really wanted to stretch my legs.  So I ditched the tour and headed off on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk.  Which was definitely a good call.  The sun was out and the view from the trail was awesome.  Stopped several times to take pics.  The Blue Mountains are sort of like the Grand Canyon.  Except green.  Lots of green.  There's still the stark canyon walls, but there's actually a tropical rainforest at the bottom of the canyon.  So amazingly pretty.   And I think even Sarah Beth would be impressed by the speed walking I was doing.  The walk was supposed to be 45 minutes and I only had two hours here, so I needed to step it up to see the rest of "Scenic World."

IMG_2526.JPG
IMG_2535.JPG

Now it's sunny and I'm sweaty AF, but loving it.  I get back to the cable car and there's still a queue.  Another tour bus has just dumped their folks into the line.  But I finally get on board and its a short, but impressive trip between two sides of the canyons.  Once I get to the main Scenic World building, I head immediately to the railway car.  They'd turned an old mining railway, one that is super steep, into passenger rail that takes your about half way down into the canyon.  You can adjust the seat and I set it for the super steep option and it's definitely an E ticket ride as you go down through a short tunnel and then down through a crevice and down into the rain forest.  I walked around the rain forest for a bit and it was cool, but I was running short of time.  So back up the train.  Grabbed a bite of lunch.  And then headed for a short walk to see the Katoomba Falls.  Very cool.

IMG_2513.JPG

After Scenic World, we headed to the Featherdale Wildlife Center.  So Kangaroos, wallabies, dingos, ostriches, crocodiles, you name it.  It was pretty cool.  But I was feeling the sun at this point, so I went to the cafe to grab an ice tea and suck up some wifi.  From the wildlife center, we headed to Homebush which is where the Sydney Olympics were held to catch a river cruise back into downtown Sydney.  We made it back to the main harbor area just at sunset so the Opera House was glowing in the light.  Very cool.

IMG_2500.JPG
IMG_2586.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg

My last full day in Sydney and it's overcast.  Of course.  My original plan was to go to Bondi and lay out and swim.  Now, with my nearly radioactive skin at this point, I'm thinking laying out isn't a good call.  But I've heard the cliff walk from Bondi to Coogee is really nice, so that's my new plan.  I catch the bus out to Bondi and while it's overcast, the waves are pretty nice and there are surfers and swimmers in the water.  I had brought my swim trunks just in case and I'm like sure, why not.  So I do the towel change on the beach and jump into the water.  Hmm.  A bit colder than the water in Fiji.  But it's all good.  I swim for a bit and even do some body surfing, then it's time to start walking.

IMG_2589.JPG
IMG_2580.JPG

The walking is good.  Great views along the cliff walk and I totally understand why 80% of Australia lives within 100 miles of the coast.  The scenery is just spectacular as you walk from one cove and sandy little bay to another.  Now, while it's overcast, it's also humid, so even without the sun, I'm sweating.  Lovely.  I make it to Bronte Bay with no problem.  But the section of the trail from Bronte to Coogee has been damaged so there are detours, and the walk is more steep and not really as pretty.  And my toes have started to hurt.  So I'm ready for this walk to be over.  But I make it to Coogee just as my bus is arriving back to the city, so I hop on and am glad to be off my feet.  I ended up having dinner with a nice bear I had met and then called it a night.

FullSizeRender.jpg

My great 50th birthday trip is almost over.  Just the long, long, long flight back to DC and the real world.  Which is a bit sad.  But it's time.

My Disco Needs Kylie!!!

So I think it's a law or something here that every bar must play at least one Kylie song a night.  And that's a government regulation that I could really support!

IMG_2572.JPG

So I've been sampling the night life here in Syndey. In addition to the beaches. I did meet a cute Aussie Bear who is a DJ so he's been giving me some tips on where to go. So that helps. Oxford St, which is just a block away from my new, and fab, AirBnB flat, is the main party strip and there are probably a dozen clubs within a 6 block stretch. Gay and straight. So the sidewalk is packed with the youts (as my sister would call them) as they party hard. And yes, I'm feeling very old here, but still having a good time.

Friday night, after my failed beach day at Manly Beach, I headed to the Shift Bar for a beer. Chatted with some folks. Then head up to the Columbian Hotel Bar which is the next stop on my bar crawl. I'm about to walk in when a security guy stops me. "Hey mate, how are you?" "I'm good", I reply. "How much have you had to drink tonight?" Now it's like 8PM. And I'm very sober at this point so I'm a little shocked by the question. "Um, I had one beer at the Shift and then I thought I would check out the bar here." "Okay mate, have a good night." So their security guys (who all beefy and sadly straight) are really hard core. I guess they are trying to clean up Oxford St to reduce the partying so the security guys have the power to turn folks away if they think they are drunk. I saw it happen on Saturday night. A guy and a girl heading into Stonewall. He was clearly buzzed. But not falling down drunk, rambling, or anything. Just someone who has had a good night. The security guard looks at him and says, "Not tonight mate. I think you should go home." Wow. Okay. In addition, after midnight you can't order doubles or shots. And they have these weird lock out laws. You have to be in a club by 130AM. I guess the bars don't close till 3AM (not that I would know from personal experience), but you can't bar hop at the end of the night. After 130, they won't let anyone else into the club and if you leave you can't get back in. So strange. And yet still Oxford was hopping on the weekend.

Now, I love to dance. The T-dance at Ptown is my favorite thing. Dancing from 4-7PM, to songs with words! I'm in. All in! Getting to a club at midnight to dance to the permo techno beat with no words till 6AM? Pass. Hard pass. But most of the clubs and bars I've been to here have been playing words with songs and I'l admit that when one of my favorite songs is played I'll sing as I dance. Give me a good anthem and I'll belt it out. But wow, the people here aren't just singing along. It's like performance art. They are LIVING the song. Hands in the air, flourishes with the beat, dramatic steps and hand gestures, and they are practically yelling the words to the song to each other. It's like they are all drag queens, over exaggerating everything about the song. And it's not just the gay guys. The straight girls were doing it also. A couple even had the choreography from a video down and were working it to the song. It's just a little bit crazy. And it makes for great people watching.

And now, some classic Kylie:

Say you won't leve me no more, I'll take you back again.

No more excuses, no, no; 'Cause I've heard them all before

A hundred times or more

I'll forgive and forget, If you say you'll never go

'Cause it's true, what they say, It's better the devil you know

It's better the devil you know.  

Hammock Time!

 

So I'm on the plane back to Sydney.  My stay in Fiji was great.  Even if the weather was sort of so -so.  It's the rainy season here, so kind of to be expected.  Let's see where were we?

The last morning at the Octopus Resort, I got up early and went for another beach walk.  As soon as the sun hit the lagoon, I grabbed my snorkel gear and went for a swim.  The reef is literally just yards off the shore and it pretty amazing.  The many different kinds of coral is just spectacular.  And the fish.  Fish are most active at sunrise and sunset, so they were out in force.  It was really just awesome.  After my snorkel, I had time to clean up, have breakfast and then check out and wait for my ride to the next resort.

IMG_2305.JPG

The system they have here is pretty good and they've got the logistics down pat.  My bags were tagged for my next resort, like an airline tag, and then we were got into the smaller boat that would take us out to meet the passenger ferry.  Another at sea transfer and it was kind of cool.  The sun was shining so I went up to the top deck to sit outside and take in the fresh air and see the various islands and resorts go by.  It was two hours to my next resort with plenty of stops to pick up people and to let them off at the various island resorts we passed.  So very cool.

FullSizeRender.jpg

We got to the Blue Lagoon Resort and I think they lied.  I think the lagoon is more the beautiful turquoise color that is so inviting.  Another transfer to a smaller boat and check in to the resort.  My beach front villa is nicer than the Octopus, but it still has the outdoor shower as well as the toilet that's technically outside, though there's a roof over it.  A hammock is just in front of m villa and there's a palapa with a couple of lounge chairs on the beach for me.  So very nice.  I quickly grab lunch and then head off on a snorkel trip.  We take a small boat to two different snorkeling areas including the Blue Lagoon Beach which is a private beach owned by the Blue Lagoon Cruise line.  So sort of like their Labadee.  The water was not as clear as the Octopus reef, but I think it's because we're mored exposed to the ocean, not protected.  But with all of the nutrients being churned up, the fish are everywhere.  Definitely a good snorkelling trip.  Back to the resort in time for happy hour (which is just from 4-5! And they only have one cocktail special.  Boo!).  But it was good to just chill.  I got a pretty good spot to watch sunset and it was just okay.  Or so I thought.  Just after the sun went below the horizon, the whole sky lit up and it was just amazing!  Bright oranges and red.  Just amazing!  After dinner, I crashed early.  There's not much to do at night and that's a good thing.

IMG_2329.JPG
IMG_2338.JPG

The weather the next day is just ish.  Mainly cloudy, but warm.  My agenda?

FullSizeRender.jpg

0600-0700:  Beach Walk.

0700-0745:  Morning Swim

0745-0815:  Shower, clean up.

0815-0900:  Breakfast.

0900-1000:  Read in hammock.

FullSizeRender.jpg

1000-1200:  Snorkel trip.  Again, amazing.

1200-1230:  Shower, clean up.

1230-1315:  Lunch.  Which was delish.

1315-1445:  Read in hammock.

1445-1545:  Massage!

1545-1600:  Hang at bar waiting for happy hour!

1600-1700:  Read while sampling the local rum cocktails.

1700-1800:  Read in hammock (I've forgotten how much I love just relaxing in a hammock!)

1800-1830:  Sunset cocktail and pics.  Again, with the clouds I didn't think the sunset would be much, but it popped out from under the clouds and just lit up the sky with soft purples and pinks.  I ran down to grad a pic and of course it started to sprinkle.  Oh well.

IMG_2443.JPG

1830-1930:  Dinner.

1930-2100:  Read in villa while the rain pounds against the tin roof over head.  It cools down a little bit which helps. 

2100:  Bed time!

So a rough day.

IMG_2461.JPG

My last day at the resort, I had signed up for the cave trip.  So you take a boat (across very rough seas since the weather was not great) over to one of the most farthest out islands.  While most of the islands are volcanic in nature, this one island had some limestone caves that you can swim in.  Kind of like a ceynote in Mexico.  We climbed up and then down into the cave and it was really cool.  And the water was clear, but not that salty since I'm not sure the ocean ever gets into the caves.  The first cave is open to the sky and you can see the limestone cliffs overhead and you look into the cloudy sky above.  So cool!  After swimming a bit, the guide help us go underwater to the second cave.  Which is pretty freaking dark and without a flashlight would be super scary.  But it's still pretty cool.  When it's time to leave, I dive under the guide, going deep under a different part of the cave wall, and back up into the main cave.  From the second cave, you can see the light of the main cave and the submerged cave walls pretty clearly, so I knew exactly where I needed to go.  I'm not sure the guide was happy with me.  But oh well.  We also went into a third cave, but it was much smaller so only three of us when in.  Some of the folks on the trip were a bit clausterphobic I think.  And again, I swam out my shelf by going deep.  :-)

After the cave trip, it was back to clean up and then check out.  The ferry was supposed to pick us up at 1PM, but since the seas were so rough, I knew it was going to be late.  And it was.  Almost an hour late.  The small boat transfer back to the ferry was fun.  And the seas were definitely rough on the way back.  Which slowed things down.  And the overcast skies had start to spit rain.  So not a great way to end my trip to the Yasawa Islands, but still.  A great time.  DIdn't get back to the Raddison until late, only to discover that my reservation had been cancelled.  Lovely.  But they got me a room, I got some dinner, and then re-packed since I had an early flight to Sydney the next day.

IMG_2490.JPG

I'm slowly coming down to the end of my trip and I keep thinking about what's next.  What I'm going to do when I'm back in DC.  Getting back into a gym routine.  Work.  Yikes, what's that going to be like.  I'm a planner by nature so I'm always thinking about what's next.  And I've had to try hard to tell myself to stop it.  To just live in the moment.  To live in the now.  And I'm trying.  Life in DC, gym, work.  It will all be there when I get back.  I've got six days left.  I'm going to make the most of them!

Vinaka Fiji!

 (That's Thank You in Fijian).