View from the Suburbs: Spring Blooms and Washington Protests

"We made it through the winter!"

It’s great to have a free day, especially when it’s a beautiful, bright early spring one.  I’ve already mowed the back yard and weeded where it was needed.  Snapdragons and yellow lilies are already blooming.  These were in some of the pots that I dragged back and forth into the garage over the past few months, when we had such an unusual number of nights (and days) below freezing.  These bright beauties seemed determined to show off even after just a short period of days of warmer weather.

Since I moved out into my house a few months ago, I have become much mellower.  The yardwork and other household tasks keep my hands and mind busy.  Of course, work itself, along with the commute that gets me there, takes up a good portion of my week days.  That’s why I haven’t been writing here as much as when I lived in my apartment much closer to work.

I still keep up with what’s going on in “my world”.  I’m sure a lot of people who hit on my blog are interested in the same topics as I am.  If you like what you see, you can click onto what’s happening in the gay news, local Houston news and weather, and news about my home state, Kansas.  Just slide down to the side bars and you’ll find what I’m reading.  My favorites are: Towleroad, The Advocate, Pink News, and dosmanzanas (if you read Spanish).  I also take a look at chron.com and Kansas.com for local news in Houston and Kansas, and cnn.com and msnbc.com for U.S.  For world news, I often read abc.es and latercera.cl (again both are in Spanish). ( I mentioned before that I had been an Arab linguist in the Air Force. That was a long time ago, and the vocabulary I used most of the time was pretty specific, so through disuse over the years, I’ve pretty much lost my Arabic, but I studied Spanish in high school, college, and elsewhere, so even though my speaking is rusty, I still read most of what’s in the newspaper fairly well.)

And don’t let me forget, it’s March Madness, and I definitely have to keep up with the games, especially since both K-State and KU are in it.  (Both won in the first round.  I’m doing pretty lousy with my picks in the pool at outsports.

So speaking of linguists, Air Force, and gay news, even with all my yardwork and other tasks, I’ve been trying to keep up with what’s been happening to Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, who were arrested during a protest against DADT (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) yesterday, after they handcuffed themselves to the White House fence.  At the moment, it seems that nobody even knows their whereabouts, even though it was reported that they were to be arraigned today in a court in Washington, D.C.  Check Americablog and Towleroad for updates.  That’s what I’ll be doing.

Now, it looks like the sun is gone, and it might rain, so I’d better head out and put the lawnmower and extension cords back into garage.

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A Bit of Culture Shock in the Suburbs or “I Want My Barnes & Gay-ble”

From the most recent issue of "The Advocate," contained in an article about some of the young organizers of the National Equality March. (If you're someone who doesn't agree that this about one of the most tender images you've ever seen, you'd probably better click right back to the site you were on before.)

Last night another go at the turkey I had baked over the weekend wasn’t going to be my supper, so after getting home and walking Annie, I decided to head up the road to Stripcenterolandia.

One of the benefits of living in my new (new to me) house is that I’m actually closer to all kinds of shopping than I had when I lived close to downtown.  Before, I had to drive at least 3 miles to the super market and about 10 if I wanted a megastore like Walmart or Home Depot.  Now, even though I live more than 20 miles from downtown, I have, within “spittin’ distance” at the corner of Highway 6 and 529, more shopping opportunities than I really need.  I don’t even have to cross the main intersection to get to both Home Depot and Lowe’s, and if I do decide to wait at the never-changing light to make that journey across all those lanes of traffic, there’s Target and Walmart and almost every other smaller chain retail store that one might think of.  Without crossing the corner, I can get treats for Annie at PetSmart, a new camera at Best Buy, or something to read at Barnes & Noble.

Even with all the great shopping nearby, every time I go out to buy groceries or just check out the other stores, I almost go into culture shock.  Yes, the demographics of 77084 are not the same as those of 77007.  77007 is the land of the singles and couples.  Whether straight or gay, young or old, people either come “one to a package” or at most two.  And while the two might be married, or not, kids are not usually part of the deal, even if they have some.  Most of the time the couples are young, so no kids yet, or older, empty-nesters, with the kids happily off to college or now married with offlings of their own.

Not so in the land of 77084.  Can you say f-a-m-l-i-e-s?  So it’s kids dancing in the canned goods aisles of the HEB, kids punching at Dad outside the McDonald’s, kids begging for something they want anywhere and everywhere.

OK.  It’s not that I didn’t expect that.  I just didn’t expect it in such a big way.  I just miss all my single people and my coupled people, my without-kids people, who had some sense of my existence and my space when waiting in the check-out line, who, even though they may not have spoken a word to me, make me feel that I wasn’t  alone.  (However, I love my house, and living in 77084, I can afford this house.  If this house were in 77007, I couldn’t touch it.  I’m just whining to be whining on a cold night.)

Last night, after polishing off my Angus burger, I decided to hit the strip with PetSmart, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble.  At least, at PetSmart, there’s a bit of kinship with the other petlovers.  The Best Buy is typical, stocked with all the electronic gadgets.I thought it would be great to have a Barnes & Noble Bookstore down the road.  Finally, I stopped in at Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble has always been a retreat for me, no matter whether it was the store near where I lived or one in a city that I was just passing through.  Last night, I thought I’d buy a 50% calendar with the gift card I had been given for Christmas.  I remembered looking at the selection when everything was full price and hadn’t been tempted by anything, and the reduced price didn’t help with the selection. I browsed through the books, but nothing lured me either.  What does this store have the biggest selections of? All kinds of stuff for home schooling and aisle after aisle of religious stuff.  The gay and lesbian section is housed on two bottom shelves, but as I looked closely there were fewer than ten gay books, the rest were definitely lesbian.  I faired no better in the magazine section.  The really don’t want people to browse the magazines in this store; their selection is all stuffed together on four stands directly at the front of the store, and whoever is in charge of the magazines needs a short course in organization.  I couldn’t find any gay magazines; likewise, there were hardly any of the typical soft-core skin magazines for straight men like other bookstores usually have.  Maybe the person who decides on which magazines this store will stock is the same person who fills half the store with religious materials.  This is beyond culture shock!

My little evening outing reminded me that I still hadn’t changed my address for my Advocate and Out subscriptions.  Today I found out that it’s very hard to do online.  After much searching, I changed tactics and found the numbers in the magazines themselves.  It’s easy to do.  A real person answers the phone, and because they are published by the same company, if you change your address for one, your address is automatically changed for the other (as I found out with my second call).  So for anyone who wants to change your address for The Advocate or Out magazines, call one of these numbers: (800) 792-2760 or (800) 827-0561.

I’ll probably go back to this Barnes & Noble.  Maybe ordering some gay books and picking them up at the store will get them to add to their selection.  Maybe I can shock their culture a little bit.

New Matthew Mitcham Story Hits the Stands: Olympic Win and Life After the Olympics

matthewmitcham122It seems like there’s an Aussie invasion, with at least five “down-under” friends at our little dog park most evenings and a new hire at work. That “shrimp on the barbe (or is it “Barbie”?) accent is everywhere.

As you can see (as if you’re actually reading this), there’s set to be another Aussie invasion of sorts as Olympic gold-medal winner, Matthew Mitcham, is featured on the cover of the next of issue of The Advocate. (Thanks to Towleroad for this heads-up.) The article, written by Nicholas Fonseca, gives readers an insight into the young Australian’s story, both growing up as a self-aware gay boy and his current rigorous routine as an dedicated athlete, who still follows a strict training regimen. Says Mitcham, remembering being the subject of taunts as a schoolboy, “We all got it . . . I was just so open . . . . It was like it was no fun to call somebody a homo who really is a homo.” Other great photos of Mitcham by Adam Pretty accompany the article.

newmitcham000111The Advocate should be getting lots of extra print runs on this issue. This guy has been popular all over the world since his gold-winning dive in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. No doubt The Advocate will be pulling in more subscriptions from all over the world thanks to just this cover.

There’s a lot more about Mitcham at advocate.com, including a video of Mitcham taken during the interview.

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Check out more posts and photos of Matthew Mitcham: (A), (B), (C),(D), and (E).

Matthew Mitcham–Now There’s a Picture I Would Hang in My Locker

On Saturday, when I first saw the results of the 10-meter platform dive, I decided to post the results here because I was excited about it, but I thought only the few people who read my blog would see it. Then ka-boom. I see the counter showing all these hits. At first, they were just mostly from Australia, then some from the US. By Sunday, the counter started spinning off its wheels (my blog’s wheels usually turn pretty slowly). I was getting hits from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Panama, Turkey, Russia, even the Congo! I couldn’t believe it.

Then I started to realize that there were lots of people excited about Matthew’s win. I’d read the article in the Advocate about him earlier, and was hoping he’d get some kind of medal. However, knowing about the prowess of the Chinese in diving and the fact that the Olympics were being held in Beijing, I didn’t figure that anyone really had much of a chance against them–for sure, not the gold. Then there on Saturday morning (at least Saturday morning Houston time), here’s this young gay guy from Australia standing on the podium receiving the gold medal!

I had my own emotional moment, and proceeded to write the results here.

Mitcham receives congratulations from his boyfriend Lachlan Fletcher after receiving his gold medal in Beijing.

Unfortunately, we here in the US (I don’t know about other places) didn’t get to see him give his honorary roses to his boyfriend Lachlan Fletcher in the stands, nor did we see the interview after his win with his mother and Lachlan at his side. Nor did we get to see one of the nicest moments, when he rested his head on Lachlan’s shoulder for a moment. Not that any of this was out of the ordinary, for a winning athlete to have his loved ones at his side after the victory. But rare, indeed, and truly wonderful for a gay athlete to be able to acknowledge and be acknowledged by his loved ones on camera. For me, it was one those great moments.

I hope it’s going to be one of those pivotal events that makes changes–changes for a lot of people, especially young people. It’s time for them to have a hero–these kids in school who catch all the flack because they’re gay, or even just presumed to be gay.

Yes, there have been out gay athletes in the Olympics before. And, yes, there were a number of other out gay medal winners this year in Beijing–all in team sports and all women, and they are to be congratulated and greatly supported, as well they should be. However, this is a situation comparable to the one in show business. It’s great that Ellen Degeneres can dance across the stage on her award-winning talk show and get married to her girlfriend and have the whole world smitten. When Anderson Cooper or someone of the same ilk has the “cojones” to do the same, the other half of the gay population will have its day too.

I’m sure there are those out there who will say, “I don’t need a ‘gay hero’; I don’t need anyone famous to be “out” because I’m fine with myself. Anyway, it’s something private.”

Well, I admit I need it, and I’m sure I’m not alone. (I’m sure of that because of all the interest shown not only on this blog, but because of all of the articles about Matthew’s win published everywhere in the past couple of days.)

But even more so, kids need it. These kids that get called names, pushed around, or much worse–they need it. They need to see that it’s OK to be who you are, that it’s not weird to have the support of your boyfriend when you do something great or not so great, that you can be gay and have your parents be openly proud of what you do and who you are. I’m sure there are lots of gay kids with great supportive parents, but there are many who are searching for something positive–something that shows being gay is just one part of a person, and everybody can make goals and reach them, and still be a whole person, without hiding any part.

Because of that, Matthew Mitcham’s win has a greater importance than just that of his own personal success. I don’t know how many more athletes there will be coming out in the near future, but I’m sure his victory and example will be an inspiration to help open that door, not just for athletes but any kid.

I know if I were 16 again and still in high school, I’d stick a picture of Matthew Mitcham’s winning dive on the inside of my locker door.

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Read more about this Olympian: Matthew Mitcham Story About To Hit the Newstands: Olympic Win and Life After the Olympics

Check here if you’re looking for a photo of Matthew and Lachlan.