Monday, June 30, 2008

Work Boots And Basketball Shorts

If you're as old as I am, you know what the word "cathect" means. The author M. Scott Peck taught us all about cathecting in his book "The Road Less Travel," which was mandatory reading back in the 'Eighties, suggested reading by friends and strangers alike. At the time, coming off having spent four years reading philosophy, theology, and american literature in college, I found the book problematic: I liked the people Peck described in his book better before they were "cured" by his ministrations than afterwards.

But back to "cathecting." It means to invest emotions or feelings in someone or something. To have something start to matter to you. Peck felt that the ability to cathect was the basis for a loving relationship, necessary for that Holy Grail of the 1980s, True Intimacy.

So now, back here in Bucks County, I'm feeling myself de-cathecting my present life, and beginning to cathect a future life for myself, one that will unfold at the edge of the californian desert.

The business of my life remains much the same. I get up, go to work, come home, make myself dinner, daydream in the hammock on the porch, go to bed. Work has become a wee bit more stressful than it was when I left it. There's a new assistant manager at my Ho(t)me(n) Depot. Although initially we got on pretty well, I can almost pinpoint the moment when that turned, and now he doesn't like me at all. As far as I can tell, I haven't done anything to prompt this turnaround, and I'm detecting a few whiffs of the stench of homophobia in the air. I think what happened is he figured out I was gay. So where previously work was either tedious or fairly enjoyable, now there's some stress running through it like an electric current. Nothing too serious, mind you. Just enough to be annoying.

The odd thing is that never before in my entire life have I encountered this. In every job I've ever had since I was sixteen, I've never been The Only Homosexual in the workplace, and even among straights I worked with, me being queer has never been an issue.

Of course, work still offers me the opportunity for fantasizing that gives me a hardon underneath my orange apron. Yesterday, an particularly well built bearish man with a nice beer gut--one of those solid round beachballs--was shopping with his wife and infant daughter. He was wearing a Miller Light tshirt, and that got me thinking. As in, thinking about him tied up and me pouring bottle after bottle of beer into him, growling in his ear, "I hope you can handle it, Boss, because when you pass out drunk, I'm gonna bend you over and fuck you till you bleed. I'm gonna wreck your whole so bad you'll have to wear a diaper from now on." *sigh* Ah, reverie.

Yesterday morning before work, I put my brother on a plane back to Florida. His visit up here was to show the house to those folks at the yard sale who had expressed interest in buying. We hosted an open house, even placing an ad in the paper. And no one showed. Which I was expecting. My brother and his wife see us as competing on the market with the mcmansions and capecodders in subdivisions in the area. And because we don't have Granite Countertops! and All New Fixtures! and a Spectacular Master Bedroom Suite!, they'd like to lower the price to bargain basement levels for a quick sale.

I'm opposed to that.

This is not a house for everyone, but it's a house that some people could fall in love with. The woods out back are beautiful this time of year, the fireplace from locally quarried stone, the open floor plan, the little house on the property that's close enough for friends or family or long-term guests but far enough away to rent out and get some extra income... It all adds up to a pretty nice piece of property. Particularly for a couple from NYC (which is less than two hours drive away) to get away to on the weekends, and later maybe live here full time. That's my strategy. It's not a house for everybody, but it's a house that some people out there could totally fall in love with when they pull in the driveway. But my strategy doesn't add up to a quick sale. Patience is required. And I'm teaching my brother and his wife to be patient.

But of course, more and more, I'm thinking of the Coachella Valley.

I've rented a storage space, 10x15, and I'm packing up the stuff that I'll be taking with me and putting it in there. As longtime readers know, I'm a sucker for the kind of examen du conscience that such a process entails. My values and my identity are reflected in those few possessions I choose to own, and so it's all about the editing thereof.

Yesterday it was 116° in Palm Springs. The kind of heat where you have to be careful where you park your motorcycle or the kickstand will sink into the all but liquified asphalt and your bike will topple over. It seems to me that this is another reason why there's nothing to do in Palm Springs. During half the year, you do your best not to be outside between Noon and 7 p.m. Unless you're sitting in the shade at Koffi drinking an iced tea and reading the paper. And about forty percent of the population is gay. And the cost of living is mostly affordable. (I saw apartments listed with rents of less than $1000.) I will go to Palm Springs and get a degree in Construction Management and learn to weld and get my California contractor's license and become a study up on the ins and outs of LEED certification. And then we'll see what happens.

But in the meantime, here I am in Bucks County. Today is a day off. The painters are putting paint on the outside of the house. I'm a wee bit disappointed that the crew working for my painter, Gus, consists entirely of young women in their early twenties, his daughters and nieces mostly, but they seem to be doing good work. The colors I picked out for the exterior were a deep blue-green and a sort of cranberry red. The red is going on today, and it's less cranberry and more a kind of mexican red. In other words, a shade of orange. I am not at all displeased since I love orange. I don't work at Ho(t)me(n) Depot today, so I'm doing some stuff here around the house, packing up books and winter clothes and such to take to my storage place. For the past week, there's been a "chance of severe thundershowers" and I feel cheated that we haven't gotten a drop of rain out of it. The lawn and gardens sure could use it and there's only so much I can do with my sprinkler and the hose.

And it's Summer. My favorite season. Time for eating peaches and grilling steak. And today in Doylestown, I want to get a boat launch license for my kayak.

And go to the gym today.

I found a new gym. And it's a great gym. It's a gym right out of gay porn. If there are spinning or aerobics classes and such, I'm unaware of them. There are, however, a few competitive bodybuilders, and all these hot young boys who come in for a workout after their construction jobs to show off the new tattoos they got down at the Jersey Shore. And these hot heavily tattooed men who park their Harleys on the sidewalk out front. It's that kind of a gym. It makes me slap the side of my head with wonder that I stuck it out all these years with the dads and grads as I used to call them at the always-crowded-with-people-not-working-out Cornerstone Health And Fitness in Furlong, PA.

Oh! And the Fashion Phenomenon of the Summer of 2008: basketball shorts and workboots. Totally hot. Totally totally hot. And I'm seeing it more and more. If'n you live in some fashion backwater like NYC or LA or SF, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but here in Bucks County, men have figured out a way to show off their hot asses by draping them in shiny acetate and still wear boots. And that's just making my Summer special in so many ways.

So during this interstitial period of my life, after dad, before the desert, I'm enjoying it all. In weak moments I fall into the trap of "Life Is Elsewhere," but not too much. It's too peaceful and beautiful and I have it way too good to get sour.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Home Again.

Love JetBlue, but not the red eye from Ontario to JFK. Man oh man. It leaves at 11:59 p.m. and gets into NYC at 8:30 a.m., a wee five and a half hours later. It had been my foolish hope to get some sleep on the plane, but these hopes were dashed when I got the middle seat. And, on TBS they were showing back-to-back X Files episodes, so that distracted me for three of the five-and-a-half-hours. I spent two sort of trying out different positions and praying for sleep, and I think I might have actually managed to go unconscious for a minute or two. But then there we were, coming in to Terminal Six. I retrieved my Jeep from Long Term Parking, and headed home, down the Belt Parkway, across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, across Staten Island, 287 to 78, 78 to CR-513, and soon enough, my bleary eyes were taking in the lush greenery of Bucks County, such a huge change from the golden hills of California that had been awing me so recently.

Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, this was an amazing trip. It would be wrong to call it a "vacation," because there was nothing, certainly, that was being vacated. Just the opposite. Dark and airless crevices were filled with air and sunshine. During the past two weeks, despite circumstances and that painful, terrible loss back here in Pennsylvania, I came back to life.

I was reeling from the news of the situation with Faithful Companion in San Diego. The only thing I could do was Not Think About It. Or rather, plunge into it, let the grief wash over me, then climb out, dry myself off, and fill up time and attention with other things. It was startling to me how well this strategy worked. I spent an hour curled on the guest bed in Alpha's well appointed condo sobbing, then got up, went shopping, and made meatloaf and scalloped potatoes for Alpha and his beau, which we ate while we watched Barak Obama give his amazing speech in Minneapolis. And, whilst my meatloaf and scalloped potatoes were in the oven, I ran down the street to meet up with 'bastian for coffee! Such a great guy, and I'm not just writing that because I know he's a devoted reader. That brief hour was one of the highlights of my trip. (And maybe next time we meet I'll be wearing my big ol' Wesco harness boots for 'bastian to enjoy.)

And then, we were off to LA for the Dwell On Design conference, Alpha and I. We stayed at this newish boutique hotel called the Grafton On Sunset. Nice rooms, great pool. It reminded me a bit of what the Grammercy Park Hotel used to be, offering reasonable rates for its then-unrenovated rooms, mostly to music industry types.

The Dwell thing was great. I had the opportunity to quiz a couple of developer guys and architect guys about my ideas on pursuing a career in Construction Management. What I heard was helpful, but not particularly encouraging, along the lines of, "because of the economy, I just laid off fifteen people." Yikes. I've sort of had my fill of insecurities around unemployment.

But then the real blow came when I drove over to USC to have a sit down with the guy who ran their Masters in Construction Management program. He got right to the point: "What was your GPA?" Mine--2.8, I think--sure doesn't cut it with USC. He didn't ask about my work and my life in the twenty years since I earned those grades (Executive Director of a non-profit organization with a budget of $1.8 million, Chief-Of-Staff to a member of the New York State Senate), it was all about me missing my Probability And Statistics final exam when I was nineteen years old.

Go figure.

So basically, to get into USC, I'd have to come in with some really impressive GRE scores, particularly on the math portions.

Like, Eeeeeeeew.

That was not the answer I was looking for.

So I mulled this for a bit, then forgot about it all completely on Saturday, losing myself in touring contemporary residential architecture on LA's West Side.

Oh! Wait!

Gotta tell you about Friday night.

So awhile ago, I ran across this profile on Recon. This guy had made the intriguing selection in his screen name of picking the name of the model and actor who was murdered by New York City art dealer Andrew Crispo back in the '80s. That got my attention. And it got his attention that I was able to identify the reference in his screen name right off the bat. Y'see, the Crispo murder was quite fascinating to fifteen year old me, and I have a good memory for detail. So he was in LA, and I was going to be in LA, so we agreed to meet up when I was in town.

And meet we did.

And it seems that this guy's artistic endeavors (he's a photographer and runs a gallery devoted to fetish art) and my obsessions dovetail quite closely. He's taken a lot of photographs--some of them downright iconic--of Mr. Tony Ward. When I saw the penultimate episode of Project Runway wherein Tim Gunn visits with Santino Rice in LA and Santino takes him to dinner with his friend Tony and Mr. Tony Ward opens the door to greet them, I think I actually did fall off my chair onto the floor. As far as I'm concerned, they don't come sexier than Tony Ward. At the gallery, I was shown the Tony Ward Toilet, the bathroom curated by Mr. Tony Ward himself, lined with candles and photographs of--and a couple of sketches by--Mr. Tony Ward. And I ended up buying two of them. I couldn't resist. Signed by the artist even.

So anyway, gallery owner guy expressed an interest in photographing me. To be sure, I was all in, exhibitionist ham that I am. And we were talking about my other obsession with nooses when he proposed that those be worked into the photos he takes of me, and I was cool with that. And it sort of grew and grew, so now, I'm going to make a point of being in LA in October, when he's going to have me as a model for a monthly sketch thing that that he does, and as a model of a monthly fetish photography thing that he does, and photograph me, and have me whip somebody at his October opening.

So there I am, in Hollywood, about a block off of Hollywood Boulevard, and there's this guy saying to me, "Baby, I'm gonna make you a star!"

It was my Lana Turner moment!

(Well, kind of.)

Beyond all the strokes to my ego, what a supercool way to get to know and be known by the BDSM community there in LA. October is a long ways away, and who knows what might go down between now and then, but I'm gonna do my best to make this happen.


So back to contemporary residential architecture.

Oh. And Alpha.

Y'know, Alpha and I spent a solid week together, and he seemed to enjoy my company as much as I enjoyed his. For the entire time! Now how often does that happen that I run across someone who not only can put up with me and all my stuff ("I'm taking a bath now. Be with you again in about an hour.") but who I can put up with, too!

And Alpha was just great as a companion on the Dwell Home Tour. We both found some of the design decisions in some of the homes to be a little questionable ("that window can only open four inches because it knocks up against the downspout"). One exception was a house designed by a firm that was something like 3W or W3 or WWW. It was absolutely flawless. And the architect was a great guy. And so was the landscape architect, who was also on-hand. We spent a good two hours going over that place. Just amazing.

And the last house of the day was pretty special, too. It was the Kappe House, designed by Ray Kappe and built in 1967, that is often described as the pinacle of "nature-friendly modernism." It was just too fukken amazing to be believed. I walked through it in a trance. Everything was just so perfect. Although there were all these sort of hideaway places. Like in one of the bathroom, there were what seemed to be a stack of towel bars going up the wall. But wait, those weren't towel bars, that was a ladder, leading up to a little platform under the skylight. Ray Kappe's kids clearly had a blast growing up in that house. And Alpha found it interesting that there were all these sort of built in day beds all over the place. "Clearly there were a lot of orgies that went on in this house. This would be perfect for orgies." And I thought I detected whiffs of that musty marijuana smell coming up from the green shag carpets. Pretty quickly, our minds went to the same same place. "So this past weekend, I went over to Ray Kappe's place. Joan Didion and Mick Jagger and Neal Cassidy and Joni Mitchell were there. We all smoked a lot of pot. And then we fucked." It was the Seventies, after all! What else did people do for fun? Especially if you were in the beautiful surroundings of the Kappe house.

Sunday, Alpha and I were feeling pretty lazy in the morning, so we decided to forgo the Dwell Home tour of loft spaces in Downtown LA. Instead, we headed down the hill to watch LA's Gay Pride Parade on Santa Monica. Our favorite float was by the medical marijuana people, featuring a drag queen with a watering can and a joint as big as a baseball bat. Alpha and I wondered if this was perhaps the Controlled Substances contingent of the parade, and eagerly awaited the Crystal Meth float--millions of pieces of glitter individually glued in place by hand!--but no, other narcotic indulgences went uncelebrated.

We had to cut out early because I was eager to get on with the third leg of my trip, heading off to Palm Springs, even though that would mean parting company with Alpha. As we walked back to the car, I noticed some interesting things about cruising while wearing sunglasses. If you're cruised by some guy wearing sunglasses and you're not wearing sunglasses, it's a little unnerving, because you're not really sure if you're being cruised or not. But if you're wearing sunglasses and you're cruising someone whose not, that can make things awfully interesting, particularly if the guy you're cruising is a cop on duty at the LA Gay Pride Parade. But what's really cool is two guys wearing sunglasses cruising each other, because there's that moment when both of you just know that you're cruising each other, even without being able to see one another's eyes. That totally rocks.

Alpha drove me to Ontario Airport where I rented a car, a silver Jeep Laredo. It was enormous, and with the crappy site-lines I remember from the Jeep Grand Cherokee that I used to drive. Alpha and I said our fond farewells, and I got back on the 10 heading towards Palm Springs.

Ah, Palm Springs. No matter how you enter the Coachella Valley, it's always magical. Either coming over the mountains on that windy road from San Diego with all the little switchbacks and hairpin turns, or on the 10, which takes you right through the wind farm and all those way out of proportion huge turbines. But there it is, an oasis in the middle of the desert, green and glimmering.

During my time, I stayed at the Chaps Inn. I highly recommend the Chaps Inn. Not because of the St. Andrew's Cross standing poolside, not because it's clothing optional, and not because it's walking distance to Koffi, the great coffee place. All those things are important, sure, but what totally blew me away was that of all the clothing-optional gay resorts I've stayed at, and I've been to a few, this one was by far the cleanest. I mean, it was spotless. Scrubbed and polished. With clean soft white sheets on the bed and clean soft fluffy towels hung in the bathroom. And the hosts, Ian and Stewart, are really sweet guys. Just delightful.

As usual, I spent an inordinate amount of time sitting and drinking iced lattes and observing. And thinking things through. Particularly that question of What The Hell Am I Going To Do With The Rest Of My Life? I did make a trip out to a zoo and botanical garden called the Living Desert. And that was pretty special. There were these two roadrunners who were having a good time teasing the coyotes, jumping down from the walls of the enclosure and pretending to be all like "Oh la-di-dah, here I am just minding my own business and not paying any attention at all to the fact that I'm in the middle of the coyote enclosure at the Living Desert. And when one of the poor coyote would take note and come closer, the roadrunners would fly up over the fence.

I swear! Chuck Jones didn't have to look too far for inspiration for that Warner Brothers great. Like, Meeep-meeep! No discarded Acme Explosives Co. boxes were in sight. I think if I worked at the Living Desert I'd have that.

But my days in Palm Springs were pretty blissful. I'd get up without the alarm, go out and sunbathe for a bit, take a swim in the pool, enjoy a nice, long bath, decide where to go for breakfast, plan out my day.

On my second night there, I had this amazing dream. In the dream, I had been given two months to live. Something in my guts. I was working with the Baron to wrap things up in the time I had left to me, dividing the proceeds from the sale of my worldly goods between animal rescue operations and the library of the small, Roman Catholic liberal arts college in Reading, Pennsylvania where I earned that 2.8 GPA way back when. I was leaving them money so they could buy some books on the subject of reconciling Roman Catholic moral theology and homosexuality. The Baron was great about everything. And I was at peace with the situation. Focused and clear-headed. Not taking on too much but just making sure I did all I was able to do in the time I had left to me.

I awoke filled with love and gratitude to the Baron, off in Pennsylvania, minding my house if not my dog, having been relieved of the latter responsibilities by Fortune.

And then an idea took shape.

Not two months, but two years.

Two years.

In two years, I would set out to accomplish the following:

A.) Learn to weld. And get really good at it.
B.) Get LEED certification.
C.) Master AutoCAD.
D.) Get my California Contractor's License (one of the recommendations that I got from a guy I talked to at the Dwell conference).
E.) Get my Construction Management certificate.

And then, two years down the road, when (it is to be hoped), the economy has picked up some, I'll be prepared to go out there and make a living doing something I enjoy doing, whether that be working for someone else, or setting up my own business. And I'm going to tackle those goals living in Palm Springs, California. A place where I'm always happy. A place where I'll pull over to the side of the road and spend a half an hour watching how the sun going down behind the Sandia Mountains turns the whole sky this beautiful pale purple. A place where it's blazing hot but with only five percent humidity. A place where, from my first visit, I thought, "I could move here tomorrow."

And another thing that, thinking back on it, speaks in Palm Springs' favor.

It was my intention while I was there to get laid. And I managed to do that, but just barely on my last night there. But I met up with this really amazing former Marine for breakfast on Monday morning, felt my heart pounding in my chest with desire when I was introduced to this smoking hot russian man visiting from San Francisco and had that desire reciprocated, and finally, spent a night of carnal extravagance with a man who six years ago got off a bus in Palm Springs with no job, no car, and no money, but who quickly felt himself to be welcomed and embraced by the Coachella Valley and has made a home here and can't see himself living anywhere else in the country. (And he had a great dog, too; a beautiful rhodesian ridgeback, the coming of whom into his life was foretold to him in a dream.)

See what I'm saying?

Meeting these great guys. And not in a stupid Omigod!-You're-The-One!-It's-You-And-Me-Forever! kind of way, and not men who were kinda okay but since I don't seem to have any other options I guess I'll settle for, but really solid, mature, grown-up men with wisdom to impart and each with his own story that I want to hear.

Now don't get all excited. I haven't just come back here to pack a bag and head west. I'm unbelievably unencumbered, but I do have Stuff To Take Care Of. Like the sale of this house and all.

But hey, what better place to start a new life for myself than California, a place which exists for the purpose of starting a new life.

Everything will be all right.

And so here I am. Tonight I'll be sleeping in my own little bed. Tomorrow I head up to NYC to play three games of softball. Walking in the door and not having Faithful Companion come out to greet me was the hardest thing. And just now, when I thought, "time to get ready for bed," it dawned on me that for the first time in twelve years, that wouldn't mean heading out into the night to take Faithful Companion for his walk would be the last thing for the day.

So there you have it. Clarity. Mourning. Peace. Hope. All the rich and multifarious complexity of life. Of any life worth living at any rate. And mine is definitely worth living.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Goodbye, Boy-boy

It is so much harder with Faithful Companion than it was with my dad. Awful to say, I know. But when your father dies, there's this whole thing. I'd like Faithful Companion's name to go in the paper, I'd like a thing at church for him, I'd like people I hardly know to stop me and tell me how sorry they are, I want a leave of absence from work.

I want the world to stop for a bit.

This is so tough.

This morning when I got up, I talked to him some, said goodbye, reminisced about the time we had together. Told him how much I'd miss him. When things were really crazy in my life, who was I going to go for a nice long walk with before I went to bed to talk it through and sort it all out? I confessed to him that when I say I love dogs, what I mean is that I love my dog; other people's dogs are just "okay" and not quite as perfect as my dog is.

Oh oh oh. My boy-boy with the big brown eyes.

I closed this morning by sending him off on his wanderings on the astral plane by giving him the Stern Commands I'd leave him with every morning when I left the house. I did it not because I expected his obedience, but just because he would get this serious look on his face, like an Army Air Corps pilot in some World War II movie getting orders for a bombing run over Germany. I'd say, "Okay, let's review. While I'm away, NO up on the furniture, NO pee-pee in the house, and NO barking."

And then, over my shoulder, as I was heading out the door, I'd call, "Love you! Best dog ever!"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In Threes

Where to start?

See, this is the part where I should definitely learn a Life Lesson. Namely, post regularly to your goddamn blog or else...

Or else, you find yourself in the situation your now in.

But there it is. This may turn out to be quite the long post, so settle in, folks.

I am writing from the well appointed comfortably contemporary home of my dear friend Alpha in San Diego, California. It's 4:51 a.m., but not to me and my circadian rhythms, which are totally screwed. I flew in yesterday, landing at just after 2 p.m. local time, Alpha picked me up, we came back here, I had some banana walnut cake and iced tea, and after a series of traumatic revelations, I took a nap.

Which your not supposed to do. When you travel to a new time zone, your supposed to tuff it out and go to bed when everyone else goes to bed, thus resetting your internal clock. I didn't do that, so here I am at 4:54 a.m., wide awake in an otherwise sleeping city and household. I think I hear garbage trucks outside. That's comforting in a way. And if the Starbucks down the block operates by the same hours as the Starbucks in good old Bucks County, Pennsylvania, I'll only have about an hour to wait for them.

Well first the Big News. Or at least, the most recent development: I'll probably never see Faithful Companion again.

I know, right?

Last Tuesday, I noticed that Faithful Companion wasn't wagging his tail. It was just sort of there. Like Eeyore's tail. I did a web search and found out that it wasn't because he just didn't feel like it, but because something was wrong. So I made an appointment at the vet for him, and that's where we went Thursday morning. The vet said it looked to him like spinal degeneration, not uncommon among old dogs, and Faithful Companion is a very old dog at this point. He gave me some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and told me to call if that did or didn't work.

Outside the vet, with Faithful Companion nestled in the back of my jeep, I cast my eyes heavenward and inquired of the Almighty, "Really? I mean, really? This is really going to happen twice in my lifetime? Are you letting John Irving take the controls for a while? Are you serious?"

What did I mean by that?

Well, I'll tell ya.

My sister, Kathy, who was thirteen years my senior, died in 1999. She and I were very close. A year before she died, she had been diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension. It's this strange, poorly understood debilitating disease. The only way of effectively treating it is a heart-lung transplant, and they don't exactly move forty-eight year old childless, single women with life histories of alcohol and drug abuse to the front of the line. At one point, she got a colostomy bag, and she hated that. She once woke up and something had become unattached and she was rolling around in her own shit while she slept. Plus, as she pointed out to me, "No one will date me if I have a bag of my own shit duct taped to my thigh. This is killing my love life, so called." Finally, her doctor felt that she was strong enough to reverse the colostomy and an operation was scheduled. And it was a success. Yay!

I was on vacation in New Mexico when I got the phone call. While waiting to be discharged from the hospital, a blood clot moved to my sister's brain and she died. She probably didn't know what hit her. I cut my trip short by a day and flew home to Brooklyn. First order of business when I got home was feeding the animals. The dogs were chowing down, and I noticed that my dear old cat Ned, who was usually first, wasn't joining them. I hunted for him and found him down in the laundry room, lying on his side looking angry and perplexed. He seemed to be paralyzed from below his shoulders. Off we went to the vet. Ned, it seemed, had a blood clot. He died the next day. From a blood clot.

Coming clear? There I am, reeling from the death of my sister, and my beloved cat Ned dies from the same thing my sister did.

Now let's jump ahead nine years. My father dies, after a lot of pain and misery from spinal stenosis. And within a few months, my dog develops spinal degeneration out of the blue that leaves him crippled and in pain?

Such a thing can really happen to a person twice?

It seems it can.

The Baron is up watching over the Ol' Homestead while I take my trip to Southern California. It was evident to him, as well as to me, that every time we took Faithful Companion for a walk, he seemed to be having more and more trouble. I flew out of JFK at 11:10 on Monday morning. That meant, I had to leave for the airport at around 6 a.m. After being up late packing, I didn't get to bed until just after midnight. An hour later, I was awoken from a deep sleep; Faithful Companion was stumbling around in the room in the dark bumping into things. And he kept at it. I flicked on the light, took him, put him on his little bed, stroked him gently, got back into bed, and turned off the light. In no time, he was up and at it again. On went the light again. "Settle down, Buddy!" I scolded, "Go lie down!" (A command he understands.) Off went the light. More moving around from Faithful Companion. I realized that I was looking at four hours of sleep before I had to drive up to JFK. I got angry.

On went the light.

"Okay, that's it!" I opened the door and shoved Faithful Companion through it and closed it behind him.

Well that was dumb.

Lying there in bed, I felt terrible about that. Really really terrible.

So I got up and went out to find Faithful Companion wandering around in the living room while the Baron was getting lost in the internet. Faithful companion would get himself comfy on his cushion or on one of his Special Spots where he likes to sleep, but then struggle to his feet and go find another spot, circle three times, lie down, get up again...

He was hurting.

I took him for a walk, hoping that would help, or at least exhaust him some, and gave him another treat. Then I stroked him and kissed him when he once again settled himself. Then I went to bed, and got just over two hours sleep before I had to drive up to JFK.


And the drive up to JFK.

My trusty 2002 Jeep Liberty.

On Sunday, the Baron and I went up to NYC so I could meet with my SM/Spirituality Discussion Group and the Baron could erstwhile tool around the city. The drive up was awfully eventful and anxiety producing. While we crept through the Holland Tunnel, my trusty 2002 Jeep Liberty overheated. Luckily we didn't stall, and the engine block didn't fuse or anything. We found a parking spot, went for coffee to let the engine cool down, bought some coolant, filled it up, started it, and the needle didn't more into the danger zone. So I guessed that the problem was that I had just run out of coolant.

But yesterday, driving up to JFK so I could get on a plane and come out here to sunny Southern California, Staten Island was a parking lot, as per usual, and I heard that ominous beeping, checked the temperature gauge, and found that once again, my trusty 2002 Jeep Liberty was muy caliente.


On went the heat, full blast, and this seemed to do the trick. While I was speeding across the upper deck of the Verrazano Bridge (I love speeding across the upper deck of the Verrazano Bridge), the temperature went back to normal. So it seems that all I have to do so my trusty 2002 Jeep Liberty doesn't overheat is to not get stuck in traffic.

Not that that should be a problem.

But I made it to JFK, made my flight, was reminded why many years ago I made a rule for myself that if JetBlue doesn't fly there, then I probably don't want to go there, and managed to get to San Diego where my dear friend Alpha met me at the airport. We drove back to Alpha's new digs at the condos he designed and built, dropped off my luggage, blah-blah-blah about the flight and my car troubles, and then Alpha said, "Well I got this phone call from your friend who is staying at your house while you're out here."

It seems that about five hours after I left, Faithful Companion woke up the Baron, yelping in pain, dragging himself around on the floor, terribly distressed. The Baron called my vet, who is fabulous, and he came out, gave Faithful Companion a sedative and a pain reliever, then bundled him into the back of his white stationwagon and took him back to the clinic. And now, today, I have to call the vet. And I know just what that topic of conversation is going to be.

Oh man.

Twice in my life?


And all this would get filed under the heading of On Top Of Everything Else I'm Dealing With.

What? There's more?

Yes. Yes, there is more.

It has recently become evident that my brother and I, very different men that we are, have very different ideas about dispossessing ourselves of the Ol' Homestead. My thinking has been to fix the place up, enjoy puttering in the garden, and over the course of the summer, while some real estate broker or other occasionally brings potential buyers through, perhaps figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life.

My brother, on the other hand, wants the place sold yesterday. And anything getting in the way of that--for instance me living there and cluttering up the place with those things that I refer to as My Worldly Goods--are but a nuisance.

It seems that during the yard sale, ordeal that that was, several people expressed interest in buying the place. These inquiries have lit quite the fire of urgency under my brother's butt. I know not why. I think it might have something to do with he and his wife wanting urgently to take this deluxe accommodation tour of Hungary and Romania, including a stop at Dracula's Castle. (I shit you not.)

Now as my brother and I jointly own the Ol' Homestead, I am not seriously threatened by all of this. He can do nothing unless I sign my name to an agreement of sale. But still, I'm very fond of my brother, and his wife, and I hate to see our good relationship put through the ringer and perhaps damaged irrevocably all because he and the Missus want to take pictures of themselves faux biting each other on the neck in faraway Transylvania.

So that's what I'm up against.

My dog is dying. My car is dying. My home is being sold out from under me. All I really have that I can call my own is a job selling toilets at Ho(t)Me(n) Depot.

But here in the well appointed comfortable contemporary abode of my dear friend Alpha in San Diego, California, it's light outside. The time is 6:10 a.m. locally, and I suspect that means that Starbucks might be open.

I'm here for just a couple of days, then Alpha and I are heading up to LA for this design conference put on by Dwell Magazine. Then on Sunday, I drive out to Palm Springs where it's my intention to Get Some Clarity, have some smokin hot ManSex, and sit in a goddamn hot tub looking up at goddamn palm trees.


Off to Starbucks.

Say a prayer for Faithful Companion.

And for me, too.