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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Enema

Bless her heart.  Grandma is more than 90 years old.  She lived alone until just the last year or two.  By herself in a home where she'd lived for many years.  She drove an old car.....for years, the same old car.  And she'd come to the Oakland Hilton Airport hotel to pick up her granddaughter Nicole and whichever crew members wanted to go to grandma's house for the day.  Nicole is a crewmember with me.  And we've both been around for nearly 20 years.  Nicole is a conservative Christian woman.  And so is her grandmother.  Church-going, no drinking, no swearing.  And whoever wanted to go to grandma's house was welcome to on Oakland layovers.  Until she ended up in a retirement home recently.   Nicole visits her as often as she can.  She is a very good granddaughter. 

Nicole was visiting just two weeks ago when grandma broke the news.  The pipes were clogged up and she needed an enema.  Things weren't quite right.  "Oh wow, okay," Nicole said as she stood in the drug store in front of what seemed like 100 or more choices for enemas.  She had no idea......this was all new territory for her.  A first.  She selected what seemed like the appropriate bottle to plunge into grandma's bum.  She returned to grandma, rolled up her sleeves, donned her gloves, and prepared the enema for insertion into grandma's you-know-what.  "Okay grandma, time to drop your drawers."  Grandma obliged.  

Now grandma has one of those walkers that seem to be all the rage nowadays.  All of the cool kids have one.   The kind with the comfortable sitting bench built into it.  So you can sit down if necessary.  Grandma bent over the walker and held on with her hands to the top handrails.   "Bend over as far as you can, grandma," Nicole instructed.  And grandma did.  Trousers dropped, bum bared, gloved hands ushering the enema bottle into grandma's, ummmm, rectum.  And no sooner had things begun, grandma uttered the words that began a rapidly disintegrating situation.  "Nicole!  I'm not so sure how long my hands can hold on....I feel like they're going to give way!"   And they did. 

Grandma's old hands could not hold on any longer and let go of the top handrails which dropped her bent-over head to the sitting bench on the walker.  Bang!  Her head hit the bench seat and slipped backwards in the walker wedging her head in between the seat and the metal rails on the walker.  She was stuck.  Ass up.  Nicole administering the goods.  And grandma, for the very first time in her life, uttered the words that no one was even aware that grandma knew:  "Oh shit."  Nicole dropped the enema bottle and helped grandma dislodge her head from the walker.  Grandma stood up semi-straight as the enema apparently began to do some sort of good.   And grandma repeated her earlier swear words -- only this time with further embellishment:  "Oh shit, I'm standing in my shit!"  And she was.

I don't think I've laughed as hard as I did when Nicole shared grandma's story with me.  Tears were running down my face.  I think the funniest part is that it happened to Nicole and her grandmother -- the conservative, Bible-toting, straight-laced women that they are.

Apparently grandma has learned a few new words in the retirement home.  Oh and for the record, grandma is back to normal.  Things are functioning properly now.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"I Hate No One"

"I hate no one."  Those stinging words are included in one of my latest Facebook messages from a nice guy that I traveled with far back in 1982.  We traveled the entirety of the United States from Los Angeles to New York and back.  We ventured to England, The Netherlands, Belgium and what was then West Germany (any youngsters here have no idea what West Germany is?).  You may remember my traveling and singing days with a Christian group called The Continental Singers.  And this guy was one of our sound or lighting technicians on my very first tour. 

As my life has continued to mature and evolve, I have indeed received friend requests from a variety of folks over the years.  It is always those from my church past that concern me.  I've been defriended.  I have defriended some.  I've had messages and chats, I've had emails.  And without a doubt they always include some version of the "I don't hate you even though I may disagree with your choices" phrase.  It is the new buzz phrase of the very old and tired, "I hate the sin but love the sinner" phrase. 

And so yesterday it wasn't all that much of a surprise to hear from.   I always send a message back first before approving the friend request just to double check and be positive sure that they know what they are getting in to.  I want them fully aware of my politics, my beliefs, and my inability to keep my mouth shut if they get going on silliness or idiotic comments or thoughts.  I simply won't listen to antiquated 1975 thoughts in the year 2014.  I want them fully on board with my marriage.  And I certainly don't want them to be my friend "Even though I may disagree with your choices."  Ummm, no thanks.  That was in a prior life. 

So here is his response to my disclaimer

"........ let me give you a little background on me. I hate no one and even though we may disagree on some big and important things it doesn't mean we can't still be friends. I married my wife 2 years ago and let me describe my "modern family". Her ex left her after 20 years of marriage and 2 sons because he decided that he loved a young man 20 years younger than him more than the family he created with her. _____ and _____ have now adopted a 3 year old and _____ and I are the God parents. We celebrate birthdays and holidays together and while I don't agree with the choices they make it doesn't keep us from being what we are, a family.   A long time ago for a very intense short time we walked, talked and lived with 35 others and experienced many wonderful times. I probably don't agree with you on many things and you won't agree with me on some things but I hope that we can agree that friendships formed in our life's journeys deserve to be respected and cherished. No hate ever here. Disagree at times, probably but that doesn't make me disrespect you as a person any more than I hope it doesn't make you disrespect me. Thanks for listening to my rambles as well!!"

And my response to him:

"..... And you see ___, I want you to agree on the "big and important things." The rest of it is crap. But it's the big and important things like admiring and affirming and 100% agreeing with my choice to marry my husband of 17 years that I require you to be on board with. I don't care what choice you make for your ice cream or color of car. But if you don't join me in my marriage and relationship and friendship to my husband, then I'm afraid that you're not on board at all. How would you like it if I told you I wanted to be your friend but I'm not on board with your choice to marry a female. It would put quite a damper on things, right? I have quite clearly learned that there are many folks from my past who make it quite clear that they don't "hate" me. They tell me that they "tolerate" me. My wisdom has proved that the difference between tolerance and hatred is nothing more than a thin, wobbly thread. I don't want to be tolerated. In fact, I refuse to be. I'm worth far more than that. I love your family's story. I love that it has taken a turn that you probably could not have ever dreamed up. I love that. I hope you're open to your story changing even more. Thanks for listening."

As of this morning, I've heard nothing.  Nada.  Not a word.  I refuse to be tolerated.  I refuse to be friends with those who don't like me because I've married a man.  Those are no friends at all.  
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

20 Years -- Time Flies By

Twenty years tomorrow.  I know I'm getting old because I find myself saying, "Wow, time sure flies by" frequently.  That's a sure-fire way to know you're gettin' up there. 

My father passed away twenty years ago tomorrow.....on March 19, 1994.  You know those things in your life that seem as alive and fresh today as they were in your distant past?    This is one of them.  The struggle, the decisions, the horribleness of Lou Gehrig's Disease.  And learned lessons.  He was most certainly one of a kind in many respects.  He was uneducated and didn't graduate high school.  He worked for more than twenty years without taking a single sick day.  His life was shaped by his love for the mountains of Idaho and by a fairly rough and sort of small-town way about him.  He didn't demand money, jewelry, stocks, fame or fortune.  He knew none of that.  But he loved.  He loved everyone and would do anything necessary to make someone else's life an easier place to be.  He gave of himself at home, work, church and anywhere else that he spotted a need.  To a fault sometimes.  He loved his family and being around kids brought an instant spark to his face.  And he never knew me as a gay man.  And he never made it past 62 years of age.  I could go on and on.  But I'd rather you spent a few minutes reading about his life.  I promise you inspiration from the words that I bring to you.  Take the time if you would.  Learn something today from the pages of this man's life.  Oh and one more thing, he was kind.  People tell me from time to time that I'm a lot like him.  And perhaps I am in some respects.  But I know myself better than anyone.  And I can assure you that I have a long way to go on the journey.  I am frequently reminded of the impact he made on others.  I'm still working on it.  (Read the series below in order.) 

Part 1 -- Impact of Childhood Lessons -- "He took us camping nearly every weekend all summer long. We had nothing fancy like a trailer. But we had a huge old sheepherder’s tent."

Part 2 -- It's a Great Day -- "I told him how much I loved him and what a good time I was having on my concert tour. I told him that I missed him. And, of course, I said “Happy Birthday.” All I could hear was his grunting….trying his best to formulate a word or two. But, it didn’t happen….ever again."

Part 3 -- Finale, The Curtain Must Close --  "My heart was broken already, I knew what message was waiting."



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Back to The Mat.

Regret.  Ever had it?  Quite honestly, I haven't had too much of it.  I'm just not that kind of guy.  If I choose to do something, or not to do something, I typically do it after a well-thought-out planning session in my head.  First born.  Type A.  I do it with intention knowing full well that I may, or may not, wish I hadn't later on.  I know it ahead of time.  I don't usually look backwards except with fond memories and points of learning.  I rarely look back and say, "I wish I had......" 

Except there is this one little thing.  The gym.  Yoga.  And I'm clearly not alone.  I don't know what it is in our heads and hearts that allows us to ignore what is good for us.  I don't think I suffer from a lack of education or knowing precisely what is the best choice.  It is simply the act of making it happen.  It's not like I'm not paying for it every single month already.  Or that it is a three-day trip from my house to get to it -- it's less than a mile.  It's not that I don't like it once I get there because I do.  And there is no doubt at all that the endorphins created by being there make my life a decidedly better place to be.  Motivation is a strange bedfellow indeed. 

I went to yoga for several years.  And enjoyed every minute of it (well, nearly every minute, truth be told).  Gained flexibility.  Allowing my physical body to do things that it had never done before.  Learning something new that I knew nothing about before.  Exploring thoughts that I hadn't before.  Examining my own mind and heart and the good and bad that lies within.  Challenging myself to not look at that damned clock that they have up on the wall in the room -- but rather make my mind focus, demand that it retain certain thoughts and rid itself of others.  The yoga mat I have today is my original one.  And it lies in the far back reaches of the Kia Sportage.  Not really hidden.  But ignored.  At least I think it is still there. 

Last week, I received an issue of Yoga Journal in the mail.  By accident.  I've read the magazine before but really have no idea why this one particular issue arrived in the mailbox.  And the headline on the front could not have been more appropriate:  "10 Tips to Get You Back On Your Mat."  How did they know!  If you have practiced yoga, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you haven't, you should. 

And so, today, after a more than one-year hiatus, I do believe that I'm going back to the mat.  I'm expecting a hour of pushing things in my body to places they haven't been in a while.  The health concerns of my last year are in the forefront of my mind -- I'll need to skip any neck extensions or poses -- but you see, that is how yoga works.....it allows you to honor your own body and do what is right for you, today.  And that is enough. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The $46,000 Question



Which of these Cardiovascular Surgical Suites looks to you like it is worth a $46,000 bill?  They all look remarkably like the room where I recently underwent a Dynamic Cerebral Angiogram to take 3D pictures of my carotid arteries and the associated pseudo aneurisms.  Less than an hour for the procedure.  Seven people working on me -- from the neurosurgeon to the several nurses to the technicians to the radiologists taking the pictures.


I have to be honest, I was petrified a few days before the procedure.  Which is not really like me.  I was extremely anxious and had a hard time taking deep breaths.  You see, the procedure has to be done while you're awake.  They provide some amount of sedation but because of the high risk for stroke or damage to the arteries, the neurosurgeon has to be able to communicate with you during the procedure to be sure that he hasn't done anything neurologically damaging to you.  
Day of the procedure?  I was in a much better place.  In spite of the fact that they began the procedure 4.5 hours late.  I maintained with the help of LoverBoy and our good friend Alan who stayed all of the 12 hours at the hospital with me -- plus our buddies Scott and Robert who are both medical professionals and stopped by to check in on me.  I found the whole thing quite intriguing.  And the pain?  Next to none.  I couldn't believe it.  They poke a hole in your groin, run a catheter up inside your carotid arteries of your neck and you don't feel a thing.  Wow.  This is a great day and age that we live in.  But back to my original question -- $46,000?  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  And remember, this was simply to take the 3D pictures.  This was not to actually fix the issue .... which is coming up within the next few weeks.  And the neurosurgeon tells me that I can expect to have these sorts of procedures off and on for the remainder of my life.  May I leave you with the statement that I'm quite thankful for my insurance coverage. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day is Pissing Me Off

It is the holiday, you know.  Memorial Day.  The unofficial start to summertime.  But it's raining here today -- 100% chance of it.  I've pulled the BBQ grill in underneath the roofline to dry out before we grill corn on the cob and veggie burgers later on.  But the rain is the least of my worries today.  Unexpectedly so.  

Why is it that I make a far better nurse than I do a patient?  When I'm the one playing nurse, I can get the job done -- promptly, efficiently, with clarity and speed.  When I'm the patient facing invasive tests, I'm the one worrying.  Lying awake at nights.  Thinking about it 90% of the day.  Processing, planning, organizing.  And I don't like it.  It's making me anxious and irritated. 

In spite of the fact that we had hoped my Carotid Artery Dissection would heal over the seven months that I've been on Warfarin/Coumadin blood thinners, it has not.  The left side shows some positive change.  The right side shows no change at all.  In addition, there are slight pseudoaneurysms on both sides.  And those must be dealt with.  They are little slight bulbous areas on the carotid artery that have the potential to turn into an aneurysm if left unchecked.  The only good news from my visit with the Neurosurgeon last Friday was that he recommended I end my time with the blood thinners.  Which is excellent news considering that they are nothing but low doses of rat poison.  That is true, you know.  Rat poison.  So now I'm free to go back to eating spinach, kale and all of the other vitamin K products that I choose to. 

This all started last October with my neurologist diagnosing me with Horner's Syndrome.  Continued on with three more CT scans, a weekend in the hospital, and continued over the next seven months with routine INR blood level checks to be sure that my blood was thin enough to prevent clotting.  Everything has been fine, my original Horner's Syndrome symptoms have all but completely disappeared.  And that is why my latest fantastic news from the Neurosurgeon was more than I wanted to hear.  And why I've been able to do nothing but think about it nonstop all weekend long. 

I'll be having a Dynamic Cerebral Angiogram within a few weeks.  That will apparently provide amazing 3D images of the insides of my carotids and the dissections and pseudoaneurysms.  The pseudos must be filled in to reduce the risk of filling up, or clotting, with unwanted blood clots.  Which is why I'm sort of anticipating the follow-up surgery after the angiogram.  They actually fill up the pseudos with teeny-tiny little platinum coils.  It's called Endovascular Coiling.  And they do it the same way as the angiogram -- a small incision in the femoral artery in the groin and threading a catheter, scope, and camera all of the way up into the neck.  Amazing stuff.  I'm thankful that I live in the day and age that I do.  If they don't opt for the coiling procedure, they also have an option to clip it -- like a potato chip bag clip.  Or a stent in the artery to reduce the amount of blood from entering the bulbous area.  Honestly, it's all very routine.  Procedure is a day stay.  The follow-up surgery is a one-night stay, apparently. 

But when it's being done on ME ....... on MY carotid arteries ...... it makes one anxious.  The men in my family don't live as long as the women do.  I've already outlived many of them.  And that's unsettling.  Like I said, I'm a far better nurse than patient.  Oh, one more bit of good news -- the Cardiovascular Surgeon said that there shouldn't be any problem with me going back to the gym -- with reasonable accommodation, of course.  And that is good news.  Perhaps I should go there now.  They say that exercise helps reduce stress. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

May Madness

Holy smokes people.  It's been busy busy busy.  You'll recall the debacle of getting bids for painting and what an ordeal that was.  We wanted to lighten up our entire condominium and have it repainted.  We've been here nearly five years and occasionally the grey of Portland winters need some lighter colors to relieve it.  Neither of us are given to Seasonal Affective Disorder -- neither the rain nor grey really bother us.  But the new paint is completely amazing.  So pretty.  Lighter.  With a couple of accent walls which really spruce it up.   We absolutely have to give a shout out to Pacific Coat Painting of Portland, Oregon.  They were so far above what I could have imagined.  Professional, on time, polite, cleaned up after themselves, did what they promised at the time they promised it, and the painting job is perfect. We lived at a hotel over by the airport where we got a fantastic airline rate for two nights.  It's a place that we've driven by for 15 years now -- so it was sort of weird to be spending the night there.  Today will be spent cleaning, returning everything in the entire condo to its perfect spot.  It is only 850 square feet but may as well be Downton Abbey as much stuff as we have. 

In the meantime, I've had a squirm, or itch, I guess you'd call it.  Well, I can't even say that I was actively looking or squirming.  These things just happen this way in my life.  If you've been reading the Spirit of Saint Lewis for a while, then you'll recall my need for an intervention.  Or perhaps just a meeting.  I'm a Car-Aholic.  This week brought us our third (yes, I said third....don't judge...) Kia Sportage.  We had a horrible one in the year 2000.  And a cute little brown one in -- oh, I can't remember -- and now we have a 2013 Kia Sportage EX AWD.  The fanciest car I've ever had.  Loaded.  Loaded.  Loaded.  My butt was getting cold while I was driving it the other day.  LoverBoy had turned on my seat cooler!  (And did I mention that even the glove box is air conditioned???)  Who would have ever thought.  I can't tell you how many cars I've owned in my life.  But it's a lot.  I love them.  I love the new, the latest and greatest technology.  In fact, I told the salesperson that I could probably sell cars for a living.  (And quite frankly, I knew a lot more about the Sportage than he did....ha!). 

And if all of that isn't enough, my eyes have been wandering.  Yes, in that way.  The fruit in my pocket just isn't giving me the latest and greatest.  My Apple iPhone, that is.  I like it.  It's okay, nothing wrong with it.  But compared to the cutting-edge features and screen of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One......humm.  I like new.  I like the latest.  I like toys and technology.  And all of that gets me into trouble as evidenced by my confessions in paragraph two, above.  I've been at the Samsung Experience Shop at Best Buy (did you know there was such a shop??) looking and looking.  I've been to the AT&T store asking questions.  Doing my research.  It's sort of all hinging on whatever Apple may, or may not, do with the next version of iPhone.  My biggest concern is the syncing and connectivity with my iPad and Macbook.  We'll just have to see.  But I don't want any of you to be surprised when.........


Plans are underway for Portland Pride next month and our fifth year at Bear Week in Provincetown in July.  I wonder if this will be the year that the entire storage locker of camping gear that we have will get put to good use -- or if this will be yet another year of wishing that we'd gone camping but didn't.  Who knows. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Painter and His Madness

Good morning my lads and lasses. You'll recall last week's mess with regard to receiving estimates for the painting of our condominium -- and Michael Knight and Performance Plus Painting of Gresham, Oregon's failure to provide the written estimate he promised to.  I had emailed three times asking for the estimate.  And finally wrote to him asking if his lack of an estimate was in any way with regard to our being ummm, shall we say, homosexual.  Still heard nothing ...... until yesterday.  At the outset, may I just say how pleased I am that we did not select Michael Knight and his esteemed Performance Plus Painting in Gresham, Oregon.  It feels a bit like one of the daytime soap operas that I have never been a fan of.  And without further adieu ..........
 
"I completely understand your frustration for my lack of follow through. I am so very sorry in every way. I meant no disrespect and had every intention to provide you with a detailed estimate. I was looking forward to the possibility of working with you to bring your project to completion. The fact that you and your partner are gay was in no way a problem for me. I enjoyed our brief interaction and thought you guys were great.
 
It has been very difficult for me lately. Especially to talk about what happened to me and why I haven't made myself available to anyone but a few family members. I wanted to keep this private. But, I feel I owe you an explanation for my lack of communication. It seems you were greatly affected by my actions or rather no actions and Im sorry for that. I have had some difficult times with a women who I am in love with. I am also trying to make it through a divorce after 23 years of marriage. The women Im in love with has had some severe insecurities and trust issues with me over my dealings with my wife. Someone told my girlfriend that I had met my wife for cocktails last November at a place where I only go to with my girlfriend. My girlfriend ended up getting very drunk and went into a rage over what she was told. I was at home asleep in my apartment lying in bed. My girlfriend came in and while I was sleeping attacked and assulted me first by hitting me with a metal chair across my neck, shoulder and back. Then jumped on top of me pulling my hair out and punching me in the face several times then bit through my cheek.  It all happened so fast I was barely awake. I thought I had been shot or stabbed from the impact of the chair. She took off running out of the apartment. I tried to follow her and made it out the door and down the stairs before passing out. I came to and then called police. I ended up going by ambulance to the hospital where I was treated and released after about 4 hours. My sister picked me up and took me home to my apartment where I barracaded myself in for several days. It has been a very emotional and traumatic experience. I didn't want to see anyone or talk to anyone. I was left with bloody teeth marks and bruises on my face and a severely injured shoulder and back. I couldn't move or lift my arm and my body felt like I got hit by a truck. I have been on pain medicine and have been a mess both physically and emotionally. Their is more to this incident as you might have guessed but hoefully this explanation of why I never responed to your emails will help you to understand that it was nothing you had done or that you are gay. Please except my sincere apology. Thank you."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hating the Gays....Or at Least Their Money

It has happened before.  And it's happened again.  Yes sir, in the year 2013.  Over the years, we've had a variety of unknown people come into our house.  For bids and estimates, to look at projects, whatever the need is.  And if you're gay, you'll know precisely what I'm talking about when I say that it can be a bit uncomfortable from time to time.  You just never know what is going to happen until the person is there and you're saying, "Thanks for coming over.  I'd like you to meet my partner....."  The unknown.  I always scour websites and advertisements for little Christian fish or crosses.  Or references to "The Lord" or "Church" or what have you.  It's best simply to avoid it right from the beginning if possible.

So here's the gig -- we were collecting bids for repainting our entire condominium.  A big job and we wanted it done right.  I had three estimates set up for last Friday.  10am, 1pm, 2pm.  1pm guy scared me to death because I couldn't communicate with him or ask him any questions....and his bid seemed far under what it should have been.  He walked in, walked out, and put an erroneous weird low-ball figure on a piece of paper.  The 2pm guy was  Michael Knight from Performance Plus Painting in Gresham, Oregon.  I had emailed with Michael Knight a time or two before the bid -- he wanted inside pictures of the condo before arriving.  He seemed pleasant.  In fact, he seemed highly knowledgeable and super smart on the whole thing.  He left around 2:30pm Friday and promised us a bid "Before the end of the day or first thing tomorrow morning."  To put it bluntly, no bid ever arrived.

I did a bit of investigation and found Michael Knight's Facebook page.  Nothing overly telling except for his "Likes" of The Bible and Jesus Christ.  And a comment from someone else on his page about "The Heavenly Father."  Now believe me, I grew up in those circles and know them backwards and forwards. 

I emailed him Saturday afternoon asking about it.   No response.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought that his weekend got busy and he needed the first workday back and work to finish it.  So on Tuesday I emailed again.  No response.  And on Thursday my final not-so-pleasant email.  No response.  My Yelp review of Performance Plus Painting followed.

If you're going to not do what you tell me you're going to, you aren't cut out for the job.  And if you're going to do it because I'm gay, I don't want you here anyway.  But for god's sake, be an honest man and say so.  Nothing Jesus hates worse than a lying sack of poo poo calling himself a Jesus lovin' Christian.  I don't think that gay money is as valuable as straight money anyway.

By the way, we hired the most amazing guy in the world to do our painting.  Professional, us being gay not an issue, super prompt, knowledgeable, it's all set up and will be done next week.  So there Michael Knight at Performance Plus Painting in Gresham, Oregon.  Take your straight dollars and shove 'em right up your........oh, look at me....stooping to levels where I shouldn't be........

UPDATE:  After this post was written, I received a response....you can read that post and update HERE.....


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stewardess School

Stewardess.  Air Hostess.  Flight Attendant.  Whatever you call it, it's my life.  18 years now.  I have the great opportunity to assist others along the path toward a professional career as a flight attendant about every five weeks or so.  I assist one day in each of our new FA classes.  It's called "Services Day," the one particular day where we learn how to set up carts, pour drinks, serve from a tray, sell food products from the Northern Bites cart, operate our point of sale devices.  We talk about which FA does what, which one stands where, who is responsible for what items, who picks up trash and recycling, how to mix drinks in First Class, how to avoid spilling, how to roll carts around safely and carefully in a skinny airplane aisle (a fully loaded beverage cart weighs 197 pounds), if we are permitted to serve First Class champagne in the main cabin or not, when we can offer a complimentary beverage and when we cannot, what to do with drunks, how to brew coffee on board, what kinds of wine we have, where the emergency water shut-off valve is in the galleys, how to ensure that all latches are locked for takeoff and landing, when and how to place a napkin on a tray table, when and how to make service announcements, how to properly offer and plate First Class meals, how to lift and move soda drawers (they are our single heaviest drawers and weight 19.5 pounds), what to do if they do spill on a customer, how many services are required on which flights, the extra things that are required to be done on flights to Hawaii and the East Coast, how to distribute our Inflight Entertainment Systems, which line on the cup to pour the wine up to, the differences between working with a 3-person versus a 4-person crew and and and and and and.  The learning never stops. 

It's a great day.  One of the most exciting and fun days of the entire five weeks of flight attendant training.  And yes, it is only one day.  That is far more services training than I had 18 years ago.  We like to say that we spend one day training for what we actually do 95% of our lives.  And 95% of the time training for what we may never have to do -- emergencies and such. 

I love the energy, the newness and freshness of those who have been through our very difficult selection process and have finally made it into training.  Some have big attitude and already "know it all," some have actually been FAs for other airlines in the past, but most are open to learning and ready for the challenge.  Tomorrow is that day again.  I will go up to Seattle this afternoon.  Then our team arrives at our Flight Operations building at 6:15am tomorrow, the carts (picture above) are delivered to us by our airport kitchen at 6:30am and class begins at 8am sharp.  We finish with the students at 5pm, clean up, return the carts for pickup, and then I am on the 7pm flight back to Portland.  It's an exhausting day.  But so much fun to be a part of ushering new Stewardesses into the next part of their lives in the Friendly Skies.  Be nice to your flight attendant next time you see one.  Take them a treat -- we love chocolates or other fun things and, oh, tell them I sent you.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

19 Years Ago Today

I've been thinking crazy thoughts lately.  I mean, nothing dark or horrible or wrong.  But about life.  And about death.  My own mortality, actually.  How at age 51 that my life is more than half over.  And about the fact that no men in my family have lived past 70.  And about my most recent health issues which I hope are under control.  And that brings me to my own amazing father.  My Dad.  Tomorrow will mark the 19th anniversary of his passing way back on March 19, 1994.  It wasn't pretty.  But he sure was.  You'll find this link to Part 3 (or you can simply read it below) of the three-part series I wrote about him a number of years ago.  In this particular link, you can find Part 1 and Part 2 links if you care to recount it along with me.  I will read through the whole series as I always do on March 19.  I've said it before, I think I miss him more now that I'm an adult than I did in my younger years.  Some days, you just need a father around. 

Part 3 -- It was March 19, 1994.…13 years ago today….and my alarm went off at 6:45am. I was in Liverpool, England, directly on the cold, dark Irish Sea, and beginning day three of our Rehearsal Camp for the British Continentals,a group that I was going to be directing on a musical tour through England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. As I lay there trying to get every minute of sleep possible, there was a knock at my door. A telephone message had been received during the night by the camp operator. I was supposed to call my sister. My heart was broken already, I knew what message was waiting. I was exhausted. Physically but also turning like a butter churn internally. I knew I should be in a hurry to return the call but I wasn’t. I had left Boise only four days earlier after throwing myself across my father’s lap as he sat in his wheelchair at the airport -- his oxygen pumping away. And me on my hands and knees in the boarding area, bawling like a child, my luggage tossed aside. I got up from his lap and went around behind him. I put my face against his cool, old skin and bones and held him as he grunted, groaned, and tried to wave me toward the airplane. I knew the inevitable was soon coming. My god, it couldn’t be….could it? Never again would I see the life in his eyes.

As I made my way out into the early Sunday morning, I remember thinking how warm it felt especially being, literally, just across the road from the sea. I breathed deeply and heavily, trying as nearly as I could, to propel myself into calmness. The phone was ringing thousands of miles away. Her shaky, monotone, and dark voice said that “Dad passed away two hours ago.” The doctors had wanted him to stay in the Portland VA Hospital for his dehydration. But he wrote “Boise” on his notebook. He wanted to go home. A place of comfort, respite, if any were to be found. The doctor finally agreed to let my mom drive him the 450 miles to the VA Hospital in Boise and check him in. She drove through the drenching rain having to stop repeatedly to fix the windshield wipers. My amazing parents spent the last night of their 33 years together in an old roadside motel just west of Pendleton, Oregon. You just never know where the road you’re traveling is going to end up. Dad couldn’t breathe while laying down any longer so he slept in a recliner, upright. I still have the handwritten notes he wrote to the doctors and family that last afternoon. It is incredible to trace his journey by reading scribbled notes. That evening ,carbon dioxide began building up in his body. “Your husband is in critical condition and probably won’t live through the night” the nurse told my mom in the hallway outside his room. “Call your family together.” How could this be? Can’t we just put in a feeding tube…that should take care of it. Did he actually hear them saying that he wouldn’t make it through the night? His last words on paper: “I have to go to the bathroom….pee….it’s hot.” My brother and my mom were on either side of the recliner that my father was resting in. They sort of “looked at each other” at 10pm and their tired eyes told each other that he wasn’t breathing any longer. Lewis was gone. Damn that wretched Lou Gehrig’s Disease….it would never haunt him again. I walked back to my room in the warm wind just as the sun was making it’s way up over England. I’m glad it wasn’t raining that morning. I returned home the very next day. All of the way back across the globe to where I’d just come from a few days earlier.

He lay in his Navy uniform, glasses in place, and hands folded just so. You wouldn’t have believed the red, white, and blue flowers that were jam-packed into the small viewing room. The morning of his funeral, I took the car to get it washed….well, at least that’s what I used as my excuse to go, by myself, for one last visit with my father. I slipped into the Alden-Waggoner Funeral Home, turned left, and down the hall where he and I had a chat. I kissed his cold hands that had worked so hard for 62 years. And I leaned into the wooden box as far as I dared and hugged his face as tightly as I could. I thought it may break….no, wait, that’s my heart. That blip in history, my friends, will wring water from my eyes forever. The rest of the day was spent with 500 of his dearest friends at his completely overwhelming funeral--45 minutes for their long, wan faces to file past his casket. The moment or two before the lid was closed permanently is one moment of time that etches itself in my memory. “Wait,“ I wanted to shout. I would never see him again. Never. And, that was it. The lid closed and locked. His essential life lessons to me were over. Class was dismissed. There were so many of his fellow Navy men and women who volunteered to salute him that day that they had to turn them down. His impact on the people of this earth was dramatic in a horribly simplistic way. As the seven rifles cracked three times with their 21-gun salute, we jumped…but in silence…on the hillside above Boise that spring afternoon with the wind blowing. It still blows there today. The flag was folded with precision by the Navy and rested gently on my mother’s lap. As we drove away, my determined and self-assured mom staring, almost glaring, in silence--her voice broke, the wind seemingly sucked out of her lungs, and she sobbed. “I told him to wait for me but he couldn’t.”

My father never met a stranger. His infectious smile broke across the deepest of divides. I have no idea whether he knew about my sexuality or not. I have no regrets. None. I do wish that I’d done more to open myself up to him…not only in the last few short years…but throughout my whole fleeting lifetime. I wish I’d allowed him to see me for who I truly am. Time is short, my friends. Very. Don’t waste it. I wish that he’d been able to know me as a gay man….his gay son. The man that I know I am today. His spirit lives on in me, that I know. I find myself thinking like him, acting like him, even, possibly, looking like him. And, in the greatest of honors, I now use his name for my own when I can. He would be proud, I know he would. I can see his smile, his crooked teeth, hear his bright laughing voice, and feel his positive energy even today. I loved him dearly. My world isn’t the same without him in it. But in some crazy, unexplainable way, it is. He lives on in me….and that, my dear comrades, makes my journey on this earth complete.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

On The Road

CHICAGO O'HARE AIRPORT HOTEL -- The workout room here is quite nice.  Pool, hot tub, weights, yoga mats with lots of floor space for poses, machines, treadmills, and water!  I'm working away quietly,  no one else around, doing my best to embrace the sweat when Little Missy arrives on the treadmill right next to mine.  I will never understand why someone would bypass every other machine to be right next to mine when there is no one else around.  It's like taking a leak at a urinal.  If someone else is there, proper etiquette calls for at least one urinal's distance from the other guy.  Unless of course, there are ulterior objectives.  In her most Paula Deen southern drawl she begins the following:

ME:  Saying absolutely nothing, eyes straight ahead, walking vigorously.
Little Missy:  Mornin'.  Does the TV work on yours?
ME:  I don't think it has TV. 
Little Missy:  I can't stand this cold.  I'm headed back to the Big D today.
ME:  Oh.
Little Missy:  My husband is from Michigan.  He calls Texas God's Country.
ME:  Oh it's not that cold out.  It's actually warmed up from last night.

At this point she turns on her iTunes and lays it on her treadmill without using ear buds.  I tell myself that this is yet another of life's weird and wonderful moments in spite of the fact that I've never heard anyone in the gym using their music without a headset.

Little Missy:  Will this music bother you?
ME:  Nope.
Little Missy:  The ear buds I have just fall out.
ME:  Oh.
Little Missy:  What kind of music do you like?
ME:  Oh, anything is fine.
Little Missy (Her phone is now ringing and she answers):  Hey girl!
ME:  Silent as a church mouse.
Little Missy:  I'm doin' my three miles yoo-hoo!  I'll call you back.

The remainder of our 30 minutes was silent.  The wild.  The wonderful.  The funny things that happen to one in our lives.  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alaska Airlines Flight 261


It was the 31st of January 2000 and I was working an easy three-leg turn with LoverBoy and our friend Kelly.  We left on an MD-80 and flew Portland up to Seattle.  Then we changed planes and worked a 737-700 from Seattle to San Francisco.  And then we changed planes again and worked a 737-400 from San Francisco to Portland.  Something like 08:30am-17:00pm.  (Wait, did I start out this paragraph above by saying this was an easy three-leg turn???).  Three legs, three different aircraft, with two different sit times....no, that's not easy....ha!

We had left SFO on the last leg to PDX.  One of our passengers was on the on-board telephones that we had built into the backs of the seats at that time.  The flight is pretty short, maybe 1:25 or so.   We had finished our beverage service and the passenger came to the back galley.  She actually pulled the curtain across the galley opening which I thought odd.  And she said, "I just got off of the phone with my boss and I'm not sure if I should tell you this or not -- but one of your airplanes has gone down in the water off the coast of California."

What?  No way!  What are you talking about!?  Which aircraft?  What flight?  Where?  Who was the crew?  Do we tell the pilots of the current flight that we are working or let them simply find out when we arrive in Portland?  I was the "A" flight attendant working in First Class that day.  We made the decision for me to go into the flight deck and actually tell our two pilots.  We had just started to make our gradual descent into Portland when I entered the flight deck and told them.  I also told a crew that we had deadheading with us that day.  And by then, we were well into our approach and had to prepare for landing.

I opened the front-left side L1 door to the face of my brother-in-law Tom.  Tom was a Customer Service Agent in Portland at that time.  I won't soon forget the look on his face.  In his mind, he was wondering if I knew.  And in my mind, I was wondering if he knew.  The jetway was filled with supervisors and a variety of other atypical people for an arriving flight.  We were told to phone our family and friends immediately to tell them that we were not the crew that had gone down.   We gathered upstairs for an hour or more with a roomful of flight attendants and other staff while we watched the Breaking News together.  It wasn't good.

Alaska Airlines flight 261 was enroute from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco when it developed rudder stabilization troubles.  It was having a difficult time staying in a proper flying formation.  It was trying to divert to the Los Angeles airport when it nosedived into the blue waters of the Pacific off the California coast near the Point Mugu Naval Air Station.  At least 35 occupants, including 12 employees, were connected to Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air in some manner, leading many airline employees to mourn for those lost in the crash.  Bouquets of flowers started arriving at our headquarters building, gate areas, staff areas, ticket counters, and given by hand to flight crew members in jetways by not only our own management, but the staff of many other airlines....people that we didn't even know.  I remember flying the very same three-leg turn the following day after the crash.   Oh boy, that was a very difficult day to be back in the air.  I remember arriving from the first PDX-SEA leg at gate D5 in Seattle and being handed a single white rose by a flight attendant from United Airlines.  I walked by gate D5 just two days ago -- and pointed out to my friend Mitch about my memories of that day and gate D5.

So today, I clearly remember.  These are the sorts of days that one won't soon forget.  I had worked that particular aircraft several times in the few weeks prior to its demise.  One of the two coffee makers in the forward First Class galley was out of service.....and it had been for a couple of weeks.  And it still was on the day that Alaska Airlines flight 261 met her date with destiny.  I still see my friend Kelly once in a while -- the flight attendant we were working with on that terrible day.  LoverBoy and I will always have a special place in our lives for her.  We will always share that day.  Sadly.  

Links to News Reports 

Audio Recording that Will Break Your Heart


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shallow! No Diving!

Am I just getting old?  Or are things changing around us?  Have Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest and Scruff and Grindr and Growlr and Loopt all changed the way we do business?  I feel like they are making our lives shallow.  I feel like they have cheapened us.  And like we want nothing more than a quick status update or picture.  And, hey now, that's it.  Nothing beyond that.  30 seconds and I'm done with you. 

I am friends with, shall we say, a lot of people.  Young, old, odd, normal, the whole lot.  What about young people today who are actively engaged in searching out a long-term relationship partner.  Are there any?  I see plenty of status updates, pictures, and chatting but I don't see too many dates with fully engaged intentions of seeking out a relationship.  You know, the kind of relationships that will carry us way out into our 60s, 70s or even 80s.  Dare I go out on a limb here and say that I think we are happy with the way all of the aforementioned websites and apps have allowed us to not have to deal with the actual reality of 10-, 20, 30-plus year relationships.  I'll shoot you a picture but I certainly don't want to have to wake up next to you -- well, more than one or two mornings, anyway.  We don't have to work at anything anymore.  I will simply defriend you if I don't like you.  Well, either that or just "hide" you to avoid an actual, live, in-person conversation or confrontation about an issue. 

I would guess that it is easier to handle the virtual life rather than real life.  It requires little.  It costs me next to nothing.  And I don't have to practice my communication skills.  I can tell you that I'm 40 when I'm actually 50 because the chances of us ever meeting are next to none.  I can say "LOL" or "WTF" because it's fast, easy -- and we all know what they mean nowadays.  I can "like" your status update or make a quick quip or snappy comment about your two sentences.  And leave it at that.  That's it.  The extent of our relations many times now.  Someone said to me a while back that "I'm too scared of real life to actually live it."  Virtual life is much easier. 

What do you think the long-term effect is on our world?  Our families?  Our homes and relationships?  Or work world?  What do you think that the family unit will look like in 50 years?  Or homes?  I think our homes will exist virtually rather than actually.  Humm.  Food for thought. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The (Blood) Pressure Within

I have taken a vow of silence.  For this year.  To have less discussion about my health ills.  The last few months of 2012 were crap.  Utter crap.  Things went to hell in a pretty homemade handbasket in mid-October with my diagnosis of Horner's Syndrome and a dissection of my carotid arteries followed by a hospital stay, blood thinners, an ultrasound, three CT scans, injections into my fat pale white belly, and all of the subsequent grisly details of such.  So for this year, things are looking up so far.  And I have a bit less intention of discussing my health.  Except for this one thing that I'm very happy about.  My blood pressure.

My BP was 100% normal up until a year or two ago.  You see, I track everything.  Every number, cholesterol, blood pressure, thyroid, PSA, liver, kidney, everything.  I want to know.  I like to know.  I visited with a cardiologist a year ago and he suggested that I begin a minimal dose of high blood pressure medications.  My BP had began to creep upwards....from the normal 120/80 up into the 130s and even the 140s.  So I started a 5mg dose of Lisinopril a year ago and voila! the BP went right back down to normal.  Perfect.  Easy.  Whew.

Until I ended up in the hospital November with all of the aforementioned ills.  They check your BP every two hours in the hospital you know.  Everything is tracked, charted and plotted.  "Is your blood pressure always this high," they began to ask.  No, it isn't, thank you.  It was in the 130/140s and into the 150/160s sometime.  And even the diastolic (bottom) number was headed up.....90, 100.  Far too high.  So my normal BP had been hijacked....grrrr, just one more thing to have to deal with.   One of the doctor's suggested that I increase my BP meds to counteract it.  But the cardiovascular surgeon suggested that we actually do not increase the medications.  He explained that since I was on blood thinners for the carotid artery dissection, he was actually happy with a slight elevation of the BP for now -- for increased cerebral profusion, as he put it -- to keep good flow to the brain.  I mentioned that perhaps even my BP was on the rise due to the stress and anxiety of the last few months.  So, I've waited.  And waited.  Right up until two weeks ago.......

Two weeks ago, right after the celebratory welcoming of 2013 had been completed, my BP dropped back to what I call normal of 115-125 over 70-80.  Perfect.  And it has stayed there.  I couldn't be happier.  I have no idea why.  It happened so suddenly.  Maybe it's an indication of some sort of healing taking place inside my carotid arteries.  Maybe it is my determination to be in the gym doing something, no matter how insignificant it may seem, while my arteries heal.  But it has happened.  So, I'm tracking it faithfully as I always do.  But for now the pressure that lies within has become, shall we say, less pressurish.  Smile.