Sunday, December 31, 2006

My High Points of 2006
Receiving an award from a national nonprofit organization.
Getting a great new Executive Director at work.
Personal training with PD, Squatmeister, and D-Man.
Tinea corporis departs in time for the cruise.
The beer once I reached my hotel in Little Rock.
The return to size 30 waist jeans.
Finding Classical Online Radio in the USA.
Grand Cayman!
Reho and Fort Lauderdale!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Living in DC
December 23. Dupont Circle.
After my soap-buying excursion to Pentagon City, I decided to try and fix a Christmas Gift Problem I was having. And it occurred to me that Beadazzled, a store I never enter, might be able to help me out. Back in August, I bought my nephews some cool lanyards with silver axes and bulls from a shop in Santorini. “On the rim of an extinct volcano, near the fabled Lost City of Atlantis” I would tell them when they would inevitably look at me, puzzled, when they opened the gift. But on this day, when I took them out to look at them, I noticed the string portion was way too short – it wouldn’t fit over anyone’s head. There were two strings on each, which held copper beads and the silver axes or bull’s heads. At first I thought I would have to buy some longer cord and re-string them myself. Until I walked into Beadazzled.

The sales associate behind the counter took one look at them and said “Oh, these are easy to make longer. All you have to do is take each of these knots and pull…”

And somehow, the strings expanded. “Now they’ll fit!” he said.

“You don’t know how long I was tormented by this today,” I laughed. “You’ve definitely done your Christmas Good Deed!”

He laughed as handed me the lanyards, and said, “and you didn’t even have to spend any money!”

Note: the nephews actually liked the lanyards. Still, I included $25 with each. You can never be too careful.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Living in DC
Pentagon City, December 23. Purchasing soap at The Body Shop. One customer in front of me, attempting to contribute a gift certificate or a special percentage deal into her purchase. One “sales associate” at the checkout register. From the associate, a number of comments, the full text of which is unimportant. But the first words of each quote are:

“You need to…”
“You can’t use this…”
“You have to…”
“You don’t want to…”

This goes on for 15 seconds or so (which equals 5 minutes in store-waiting time). Then, a second “sales associate” steps in behind the next register, and joins in the explanation:

“What you need to know is…”
“She’s saying you have to go and pick out…”
“You have to buy $25 dollars worth of…”

We’re up to 30 seconds of this now (which equals 5.3 hours in store waiting time). I take control of my situation and hold out my debit card to this second associate. She looks at it, then takes it from me.

“Sorry,” she says.

I’m surprised the customer in front of me lasted as long as she did, with patience no less. I’m not too amazed that the sale went on and was made. As I walked out of the mall (with my soap), I thought of years ago, when I worked for a short time in retail. It was pretty miserable. The public can be so psychotic. You’re on your feet until your toes are numb. If it’s busy the line never ends. If it’s slow you have to straighten things up so that customers can knock them over once again. Definitely not an activity that’s going to play into the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Then I considered why companies allow their front lines to behave this way. I came up with:

1. These jobs are usually short-term, minimum wage.
2. The company handbook could be too thick, with too many rules and regulations governing what you wear and how the displays should look.
3. No training (or minimal, or ineffective) on “How To Greet The Customer Without Shutting Them Down Completely” and “How To Get The Customer To Do What You Want While Making It Seem That It’s Their Doing All Along.”

Basically, a mix of the dozen or so habits of highly effective people, the Tao Te Ching, and indicating with an open palm is what’s called for. But it was a couple of days before Christmas, and the mall was packed with people who weren’t shopping so much as needing a place to be with other people – more on that later, perhaps. And I’m sure those employees were turning off their brains, hoping that would make the time go by faster.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More on Christmas Decay
Yesterday's post, about the Big Letdown After Christmas (and comparing it to the half-life of an extremely unstable atom) got me to thinking about what it was like for me, as a kid, the days after Christmas. I mainly remember being absolutely, totally bored, since there was no school, it was usually cold out, I was sick of my family and the gifts I received were either already built (car and monster models), read (books), listened to until new grooves were worn (vinyl), or eaten (candy, etc.) The tree in the living room suddenly became the Relative That Wouldn't Depart, its glass ornaments and lights somehow reminiscent of a tacky Vegas side street. My parents, who came of age during WWII (The Big One), were used to a certain level of drudgery, and so when December 26 dawned, all festivities were over. I don't remember doing anything that could have prolonged the celebration of the season, and New Year's Eve usually found me sick from a cold or an ear infection.

Sometimes it snowed, which meant sledding, which was fun - except with packed snow got past your mittens and lodged on the underside of your wrist, which got really really cold. We never went anywhere warm during the winter, but we did go skiing for a number of years, which was also fun. Mainly, though, the departure of Christmas meant at least three months of frigid temperatures, various illnesses, steady darkness, and a creeping exhaustion from too much December activity and empty calories.

This year, one of my nephews said, in the middle of the afternoon on Christmas Eve, "This is the longest day of the year!" His dad (one of my brothers) and I told him all about Christmas 1965, emphasizing and exaggerating various deprivations we experienced (black and white TV, 4 TV stations, no seating at McDonald's, unsharpened pencils in our stockings, zero X-NintendoBox.) We told him how great he's got it, and said we could celebrate Christmas 1965 next year. But my nephew's heard this all before about other things in our past (which I take as my duty to tell him) and is unimpressed. Although I do think he's somewhat concerned we might actually show him what it was like Way Back When.

Things have definitely improved now. While I get 99% less presents on Christmas morning, I have options to survive the winter: Atlantis cruises, Fort Lauderdale, alcohol, money. Still, I think my nephews experience some of the letdown at this time of the year that I experienced. And I don't know if that's good or bad.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Half-Life of the Christmas Atom
If Christmas were on the Periodic Table of the Elements, I'm sure it would have an atomic weight somewhere past Uranium. The element is so unstable that it decays to a fraction of its weight in 1/2512 of a second. Check out this post from The Ripple Effect to see what I mean.

We need to do something about this holiday, which bombards us with all manner of exhortations to purchase, acquire and buy, and sells us on a vision of family and togetherness which is either unattainable by many households or makes others feel left out in the cold when it doesn't coincide with their belief systems. I don't know what to do exactly with this blend ritual and tradition begun over 2000 years ago. But something has to be done.

This year, three television ads drove the point home. They're probably the worst, most egregiously sentimental and ear-splittingly awful commercials ever to air on television:

1. Neighbors gather across street to see woman receive gift car with big red bow on top. I'm having trouble locating this online. But maybe it's better that way. I don't remember what car company it's for. I do know that every time I see this ad I wonder "why the hell would neighbors set up lawn chairs merely to watch somebody walk out their door to see a new car?"

2. Celene Dion Under Your Christmas Tree. This one is wrong on so many levels. Hear's one: I keep hearing, after the commercial's over, the dad say to the son "she's your Christmas present boy - have at her!"

3. BMW's screaming child. Corporate groupthink's finest hour. Who at BMW approved this? Does he or she still have a job? There's a new version airing now, the voiceover almost completely covering that heinous child's "enthusiasm." But it's too late. The damage has been done.

Oh the pain. The pain.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Finally Get That Flu Shot
I get that flu shot - and then I came down with the Mini-Flu. Fever, aches, massive sinus congestion... I thought "at least it didn't get into my chest" and then, it went into my chest. Coughing. The whole thing. I googled "Cold vs. Flu" and found out the main difference between the two: with a cold, you have massive head congestion. So, while I didn't feel like I was going to die, I did feel pretty lousy. I could get out to the store allright. But when I get sick, at any level, my desire to create goes right down the tubes. I'm still fighting congestion at this point, but I am getting better, and I'm sitting here writing this. But for a clue as to how sick I did feel, consider this: on Sunday, I watched all 12 hours of the Lord of the Rings on TNT. From noon to midnight. And it was pretty entertaining. I watched "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" tonight on CBS, and it was, as always, a moving and sublime experience. Up there with the Mahler 2nd Symphony last night on PBS.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Now That's Real Viral Marketing
Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas (the big boat slated to ferry January 2007's Biggest Gay Cruise in History to sun, surf and sand) just experienced an outbreak of Norovirus. I'm guessing Atlantis will be working extra with Royal Caribbean to make sure an outbreak doesn't occur on our cruise. But just in case they aren't, here are some resources to help everyone's upcoming experience a happy one... and it seems that one of the best ways to keep the microbial spiky golfball from spreading and/or not catch it goes way back to our earliest years - see the "Ounce of Prevention" brochure below...

St. Petersburg Times article "Viruses Board with Passengers"
CDC's FAQ on enteroviruses
CDC's "Ounce of Prevention Brochure"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Been reading all about Citizen Marketers, Viral Marketing, Word of Mouth Marketing - and I've been wondering: what brand/product/company am I so passionate about that I go out of my way to promote? I looked over a previous post in which I listed a bunch of brands in my life and see only one that's turned me into a blathering WOMM -bat.

As in Atlantis Events.

Some background. For years, friends would go to Provincetown and return with suitcases full of good things to say about the destination at the end of Cape Cod, almost likening it to a gay Disneyland. Friendly people, tons of guys, a whole different world, lots of fun. And so, a couple of years ago, I went there. It was quaint. I bought some clothes. The beach was huge. The Boatslip made these awesome Planter's Punches with 151 poured down the straw - you got blitzed just holding the cup. I ran into a board member from work. Somewhat inebriated, I chatted with John Waters. And I had... just an ok time. We had two days of cold rain. All the bars had cover charges. They closed at 2am. The people? Just kind of friendly.

Last year, I went on my first Atlantis cruise. The Eastern Caribbean, in January. Two nights out, I start throwing up. I collapse. My cabin mate somehow gets me to the infirmary. The doctor sticks IVs in my arms. I'm yelling because I'm in so much pain. Drugs drip in, along with saline. It hurts. I spend the night down there, on deck one, drifting in and out of lucidity. Blanketed, shivering, I pass out into very strange dreams. And it didn't stop there - diagnosed with a stomach virus and severe dehydration, I'm quarantined for three days. I wasn't until the day quarantine lifted that I started feeling better.

I flew home afterward and immediately signed up for the same cruise, scheduled to depart a year later. Then I signed up for another Atlantis cruise, to the Mediterranean.


Part of me was thinking "I'm getting it right this time." But I also responded to what I was able to enjoy on that unfortunate maiden voyage. Incredible weather. Ports sailing past my balcony. Room service - for free. Even if it was soup and crackers for a couple of days. Tons of friendly guys. And two sets of committed staff (Atlantis and Royal Caribbean) determined to make me feel welcome and eager for me to have fun. Oh, and the infirmary staff was awesome too. One of the nurses was so excited when I was able to get off the boat in Labadee.

Now I've been on three, with the second light years beyond the first and the third even better. But I not only signed up for more cruises - I talked friends into going.

I'll admit to feeling a bit ridiculous, marketing Atlantis cruises like an unpaid ambassador. And here I go, doing it again. Of course, the whole experience isn't all THAT perfect. Meeting a ton of people, one is sure to meet some absolute jerks. But I've only really met one, and I can't blame the companies on that. And while there are all ages and kinds of guys on the boat, the high percentage of stunning hunks can make one feel somewhat inadequate. But Atlantis takes care to address some of these issues on their Web site, and sends out a top ten list of ways to get the most out of the experience. My favorite: "Smile. Say hi to everyone. Be friendly. Go ahead, talk to that cutie who you think would never give you the time of day. You may be pleasantly surprised!"

Maybe it's unfair to compare two radically different vacations. On one, the accomodations stay still, on the other, they move. Or maybe not, considering that neither was a monetary bargain. Sure, there was a ton of acceptance in P-Town - how could there not be, with Commercial Street crawling with us? But on the cruise, I felt as if the world were gay. I've talked up the awesome times I've had with just about anyone who would listen, and I'm wondering how the hell am I going to cope with only one sailing in 2007.

There is one problem, though, that the Atlantis Web site doesn't do a great job of addressing: at the end of the cruise, you have to go home.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Who's the Real Innovator Here?
If you're like me, you've seen that commercial about a hundred too many times. You know the one I'm talking about. The two guys are presenting their ideas on how to improve the Vehix customer experience to their boss. The Geeky Nerdy Unpopular Unattractive (or GNUU) guy comes up with these ridiculous ideas, like supplying a computer screen washing (complete with hunky window cleaning dude rappelling down to squeegee the GNUU's laptop), and replacing the mouse with a steering wheel so the Vehix customers can simulate driving while surfing the site. The co-worker, Mainstream Cute Company Guy Dude (or MCCGD) comes up with online videos showing the cars in action. And to which of them does their boss, Mr. I'm All Muscley Under My Suit, give the approving nod? MCCGD of course. And why shouldn't he?

But there's a big problem here. After seeing these ads a number of times, I'm thinking GNUU is much more creative, willing to go with a new idea even if it isn't immediately applicable or even manageable in the long run. MCCGD just comes up with the same idea, over and over (and over.) He's playing it safe. He wants his bonus, or his raise, or the opportunity to see his boss naked. And it's all too clear that Mr. I'm All Muscley Under My Suit likes MCCGD's one idea because MCCGD is better looking than GNUU. But for my money, I'd pay more attention to GNUU. He's an idea factory. What other ideas does he have jotted down on his yellow legal pad? There's gotta be something that works. And who knows - MCCGD probably stole his one idea from GNUU's thousand.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Living In DC: You Have To
How many times a day, a week, or a month do I hear "you have to..." from store employees and other customer-service front line people as they're about to guide me to what I'm asking for? Much too frequently, I'm finding. Today's incident happened at Kaiser Permanente, where I went for my flu shot.

The guard at the front desk did start promisingly by asking "may I help you?"

"Which floor are the flu shots on?"

"Oh no, they're not doing that anymore. It stopped on the 20th. You have to call your doctor for an appointment."

I'll attempt to be somewhat positive about this, and consider some other responses he could have given me, responses not placing everything on my shoulders, which I feel "You Have To" does.

How about:
"I'm sorry to say the walk-in flu shot clinics are no longer given on the weekends. However, your primary care physician will be glad to make sure you get one. Just call for an appointment. I can give you the phone number if you'd like."

"Unfortunately, the last weekend clinic was on the 20th. But if you'd like to wait, I can call upstairs and see if there's anyone who can help you."

Or even:
"The last walk-in clinic was on the 20th. But if you go to after-hours care on the third floor, they may be able to help you schedule one for the near future."

Heck, I'd even settle for a "sorry you had to come all this way for nothing" after the original "you have to blah blah blah."

"You have to" says to me "Whatever it is you want, you can't get it here, and even if you can, I'm not going to give more than a bare minimum of help for it, because it's just not my job to help you more than that."

Last week, I got "you have to" at the post office, where I was told "you have to stand over there and put these stamps on the envelopes." I heard it in an office building lobby, when a security guard said "you can't sign in all those people under your name. They have to sign in themselves." And I get it when I'm swiping my debit card at the doctor's office, and the receptionist says "you have to wait until I pull up the program. Try it again."

I'd be glad to. Could you also try again?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Official Krooz Holiday Wish List
In the spirit of angering a barrista, here is my Official Krooz Holiday Wish List...

This Christmas, I wish:

the earth would receive a message from outer space confirming there's intelligent life elsewhere in the universe...

DC stores, bars, and other services would extend me the same stratospheric level of customer service that I receive from the front desk guys in my office building...

gym memberships and personal training were tax deductible...

for no more Ben Stiller movies...

The HO-HO-HOliday didn't have the stranglehold on the media and the economy it enjoys right now...

classical music would return to WETA-FM...

Kickass Zombie Movie's fourth draft were finished...

Chris Meloni, John Cena, Jason Cameron, or their lookalikes, would chase me down, grab me by the shoulders, and ask me out to dinner (or Starbucks)...

for 27-inch biceps...

there were more cavemen in DC.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not with a boom, but with a fizzle...
Lately I've had this feeling I'm aging out of the system, and today I read that I'm not the only one. As reported on Five Blogs Before Lunch, a Harris poll found:

...nearly two-thirds of Americans say they believe that most TV programming and advertising is targeted toward people under 40. The study, whose results have been summarized in an AP article, say that more than 80 percent of adults over 40 say they have a hard time finding TV shows that reflect their lives. Thirty-seven percent of baby boomers who responded to the study say they aren't happy with what's on television.

Which probably explains why I keep Turner Classic Movies on all the time.

But this has even deeper ramifications when it comes to the subject of the Aging Gay Man. We're all used to finding the universal (i.e., "somewhat gay") in most television and movies. And we flock approvingly to the few crumbs Hollywood throws our way. But try to find something that speaks to those of us balanced on the pinnacle between 40 and 50, and you come up way way short. Not even our own media helps us, as it's plastered with the young, smooth and nonfat. Where's the big budget movie or weekly TV show featuring GMEA (gay men eating alone), the difficulties with dating after 45, or the pursuit of bodily perfection in the middle age years? It's not that advertisers don't think there's a market for it... it's just that we don't fit into their long-range plans for selling soda.

(I'd even settle, at this point, for a gay character on Jericho, someone who would have to defend being gay in a town that's still doesn't know if there's any civilization left...)

Monday, November 27, 2006

What Story Am I Telling?
Back in 1997, Tom Peters wrote: To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. Well, that's stuck in my head now for 9 years... and only today did I get a full understanding of what he meant (ok, so I'm kind of dumb.) I had an awakening after reading this post by Seth Godin on, of all things, JetBlue and the TSA. In a nutshell, I started asking myself "what story am I telling about myself through my words and actions?" It's the story that enters the room before I do (but doesn't order drinks for both of us.) And whatever story it is, well, that may very well be Brand Mike. Now, after a full day of work (following a full four days off), my brain isn't up to ferreting out all the meanings and examples contained in the statements above. But this combination of ideas is bringing an interesting focus to my thinking, especially about guys. And I'm considering "what kind of image am I projecting" instead of "how can I make myself more attractive?" The second question has lead me to an answer having to do with spending thousands on personal training and hundreds on clothes, protein, and cocktails (alcohol, as we all know, being very beneficial in any thinking process.) I'm not sure what this all means in the long run. I'll have to give it more thought.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Best Was Yet Last Night
In reviewing Tuesday night's NBC special "Tony Bennett: An American Classic," The Hollywood Reporter quipped: "Bottom Line: The best thing of its sort that you will ever see." And I have to agree. The birthday salute to the 80-year-old "grand old man of pop" was an hour of breeze, on-the-spot and dead-right orchestrations, cool dancing... and an hour too short. My favorite parts: the sixties television studio variety show re-creation (for the song "The Best Is Yet To Come"), and the duet "Just In Time." It was all perfect - and totally devoid of pretension. Just how perfect it was became immensely clear during the Target commercials, which were exceedingly ugly - black and white plus glaring red, featuring all of the singers in the special as if they were photographed by bad pararazzi. Hopefully, NBC will show this again, soon.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Living in DC
I was in Cosi recently, around 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon. I don't frequent the place much, since I take my lunch to work, but I do know they get the customers in and out quickly...if you happen to get there at noon. I had just gotten my Turkey Light with Carrots instead of Chips and went to pay for it. I stood there, in front of the cash register, while four employees behind the counter not only ignored me, they looked at me a couple of times AND THEN went on to ignore me some more. It was like I was traveling at light speed, and the employees were standing still.

A woman walked up beside me, holding a salad, ready to pay. Now there were two of us in the holding pattern.
"This must mean our food is free," said the woman to me.
"I was just thinking the same thing," I said.

Since I had just come from the gym and was hungry and cranky, I took it upon myself to get some service.

I said, in my loudest, reach-to-the-back-of-the-theater voice (trained through singing, radio announcing, and being generally obnoxious):


My words echoed off the hard tile surfaces.
An employee looked at me.
"I'm sorry sir, but she's counting out the register and leaving and I'm just now coming on."
"So does that mean," I asked, "we have to pay for the food?"
"I said I'm sorry sir, but she's counting out and I'm coming on."
"But does that mean we have to pay?"
Finally, another employee advanced to the cash register.
"May I help you?" he asked.
The woman with the salad looked at me.
"Thank you for doing that," she said.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

About his high school days, a DC-based blogger wrote:

I remember sitting at a lunch table with the "cool" people one day. One of the "cool" guys leans over to me and says, "Why are you here? No one wants you here." I didn't say anything back. No one else said a word.

I think that concisely describes what many of us in DC still feel, although now we term it "attitude" and somewhat proudly proclaim that DC is filled with it. But how to combat this fear that continues on from our earliest days?

"The Nametag Guy" has an interesting method, and a whole web site on "how maximize personal and professional approachability." Now, I don't intend to start wearing a name tag everywhere. But after last Saturday night's experience at Blowoff, I feel I need to get back on the horse, and I've been online for ideas on bolstering confidence. I've started listing "101 Goals" for 2007, a strategy on The Nametag Guy's site. I've only got 26 so far, and they all seem to be about spending money and... spending money.

Another blogger wrote something about "often, the most interesting person in the room is not the one with the big name," in a post that summarized that we should treat a person as a "who" and not a "what." I wanted to include the actual quote here, but I can't find the page it's on.

More on all of this later, maybe after dinner...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Is It Too Early or Too Late To Be Talking About This?
Is it just me, or is there anyone else out there who has been less-than-satisfied with the DC Gay Pride Parade over the past few years? The June 2006 parade was, for me, a definite case-in-point. A number of gay/lesbian etc etc organizations, strolling down 17th street in loose bunches, some throwing candy, others handing out stickers. A couple of floats. Long stretches of dead street. Those floats, especially, were a big problem for me. How is it that gay men, famous the world over for style, created floats that were not only half-thought, but falling apart as they travelled down the street? And where were the symbols of what there is to be "prideful" about? Maybe we've gone past the time in which merely showing up in public made a powerful political statement. Some may say that the sheer pedestrian-ness of this year's parade shows how far we've come - that we're so mainstream we're boring. I think it's time to re-imagine this whole pride day thing, starting with the parade, and begin thinking about exactly what message we want to send with the event. There's certainly room for a whole spectrum of participant styles. One thing I do know: Dykes on Bykes is just not doing it for me anymore.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

PBK Recap
After almost a year of personal training, I've concluded:
1. I have made gains, although they are modest.
2. I would like to continue, but unless I get a better paying job, I'll have to work out on my own starting in 2007.
3. I don't fall in love with every trainer assigned to me.
4. 50-rep squats (no, not all the way) are the most painful exercise ever.
5. Unless I reconfigure my dna, develop a taste for steroids, and work out a stupid number of hours, I'm probably never going to look like JC.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Content Is King
That's what I keep thinking, as I daily avoid writing anything for this blog. But then I consider it like getting up in the morning, and I plug on.

It's Saturday night. This work week has been rough. But I now know what the problem is, after speaking with my co-workers. The problem in noise. Everybody's let their own problems and prejudices grow to deafening decibels. While we each have honest and fair gripes, we all need to realize we are the ones who are going to make it work.

My own difficulties spring from the realization this week that I spend more time having to figure out ways of getting people to give me what I ask for, want and need, which leaves me with zero energy to actually do something concrete (that is, if I have the necessary ingredients to start with, which I don't.)

Enough of that "talking pretty" as Dr. Shrink says. I've told myself that I would go out tonite instead of sitting at home, watching "Little People Big World" and justifying my hermetic existence as genuinely relaxing. I have an event and a location picked out, but it takes a cab to reach and starts very late. Last week I had two, count them, two parties to attend, which were both very fun and filled with people I like. Tonite's location and event is a crapshoot.

I went to Halo last night, and after the second pinappletini did not tell myself that a third would be a good idea. I was alone for half of the first drink, and I thought to myself "DC is no longer working for me" as I waited for the alcohol to produce transcending numbness. Then someone took the enormous chance of talking to me, and I was engaged in conversation with him and a host of others for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Living in DC
I go to take my prescription medication two nights ago (hours after picking it up from my health plan's pharmacy) and I notice: the tablets that are normally LARGE and ORANGE are tiny and blue. Last night, after work, I go back to the pharmacy and show them what they gave me. The woman behind the counter shakes her head and gives me a sideways grin that says "boy do we have some winners working here." Probably the wrong image they want to portrary. She goes back into the stacks of drugs and two minutes later returns with the head pharmacist. He hands me a bottle of the correct medication, then asks "you have receipt?"
"I want to give you something for your trouble. Look. You take Tylenol?"
"You take Tylenol?"
I look down at his hand, and he's holding out a bottle filled with some type of analgesic. He's showing it to me like a drug dealer shows a kilo*.
"No, I don't want Tylenol."
"Then how about lotion?"
He reaches behind and pulls a tube off the shelf.
"Maybe some hand cream?" he asks, with the same drug-dealer confidence.
"No. I don't want anything. I just want to go home."
"I want to give you something."
"Just tell your people back there to pay attention to what their doing!"
What I want to know is, can I sue them? And, if I can, and I collect, can I then retire?

*Not that I have practical knowledge regarding those sorts of transactions.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Bland Health People

I hate the Bland Health People. You know who I'm talking about. The people frolicking in prescription drug commercials and bouncing around the pages of your medical plan's quarterly magazine. They're all ages and all races and all sexes (well maybe not ALL sexes) and all so very very... bland. They wear sweaters and ride bikes in their golden years through the perfect autumn woods, they cavort in perfectly turquoise pools, they throw daisies about and sit down to healthy and uncontroversial dinners. You never see any of them actually USING the medications they're representing - they're never standing in their boxers, in the kitchen, rinsing out a glass and measuring out the one or two horse pills they have to swallow. They never throw up, or sneeze, or bleed, or roll around in agony after being thrown from a horse. They never sit uncomfortably on the edge of the examination table, shifting their weight on the crinkly paper, trying to relieve the cramping in their knees as they wait for the physician's assistant or nurse practitioner. And they're never, EVER in the hospital. Not like the real people you see on House or E.R.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sport, that wrinkled care derides...
So this HHS, employee knocks on my door - she's canvassing the neighborhood for a survey on drug and alcohol use the Feds are doing, which will decide how much muh-nay will be spent around these parts on abuse and prevention programs. She just had a couple of questions for me, and entered the answers into a Blackberry that would instantly let her know if I would be selected for the actual survey (which would also net me $30.)

When she got to the question “How old are you?” I answered “49.”
She stopped.
“No,” she said. “You’re lying.”
I laughed. “I’m really 49.”
“You so look like you’re 35.”
“And I hate you.”

I get that often. Not the “I hate you” (which I probably get, just not out loud.) The age thing. I’ll turn 50 halfway through 2007. Hopefully that passage will be easier than 49. There don’t seem to be a whole lot of resources out there for the Aging Gay Man – at least, resources that are easily identifiable. I did a quick Google search on the phrase “gay men aging” and came up with some articles, but a quick scan of their contents threw me into a panic and I stopped reading. Too much to deal with. Especially if you’re single.

“Looks like the survey program kicked you out,” said the HHS woman. "Probably because you're not Hispanic."
Or maybe I'm just too old.
No $30 for me.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Final DC Five
My last five ideas for DC:

16. Fire GSI as the downtown tourist food and souvenir vendor and hire Disney to make it over and provide better customer service.

17. Televise the 17th Street "Drag" Race on Bravo.

18. Take big chunks out of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials to make them more like ruins.

19. Knock down any public monument or sculpture that A) does not commemorate and immediately recognizable event or person; B) is the same size or smaller than the temperance fountain; and C) is, or has in it, a horse.

20. Do not market the 3 minute and 17 second Cherry Blossom Festival to anyone but locals.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New York, Paris, Rome, and... Washington?
Some more ideas to kick DC's butt in gear:

11. Have architecture graduate students from across the country redesign every street vendor van in the city using recycled materials. Allow only three to sell Georgetown University sweatshirts. Then have the students go to work re-facing K Street.

12. Create (or appropriate) an indigenous, unhealthy, and therefore highly admired and much-in-demand food item. Allow only two establishments to serve it. Invent a long-standing conflict between the proprietors.

13. Plan a major world's fair for Anacostia waterfront, not for the crowds, but for the buildings that it will leave behind.

14. Turn DC’s current characteristics and icons (bureaucratic red tape, political sex scandals, hot and humid summers, The Exorcist) into marketing opportunities along the lines of Las Vegas's "What Happens Here Stays Here" campaign. Use humor if possible. If not, import it.

15. Re-imagine the Washington Coliseum as a semi open air farmer's market.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

DC is Brand X
More ideas of improving DC's image to the world...

6. Hire a young, vibrant, charismatic conductor for the national symphony, and have him or her re-program the Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day concerts held on the Capital lawn – and ban Barry Bostwick, Charles Durning and the Solid Gold 1940’s dancers from ever showing up at these concerts again.

7. Stop mistaking the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Navy and Marine band concerts for home grown cultural entertainment.

8. Resurrect the trolley car system on the weekends as an alternative to the constantly single-tracking Metro.

9. Give city residents a tax break on owning and operating Smart Cars, and create low-cost underground and/or above ground parking for the vehicles.

10. Create a city-wide campaign to help the people of this city become either more A) friendly, well-mannered, beautiful, creative, and relaxed, or B) dynamically and colorfully rude.

...stay tuned for more tomorrow...

Monday, October 09, 2006

DC, DC, a ________ of a town...
You know, as a brand, DC rots. I just does. As a native who's lived here most of my life, I've seen attempts to get this city standing with the big boys, but most of them fell flat and disappeared. Once there was a song composed extolling the city's virtues – but it went nowhere. Union Station was refurbished for the bicentennial as the National Visitors Center, but attracted mainly the homeless. The city’s constantly making excuses for its lame image – "well, the monuments are pretty;" "no, there's not that much crime, if you stay in the right neighborhood…" "it's basically safe... in northwest... during the daytime;" and "what do you expect, when nobody's from here and everybody else just stays until the administration changes?"

It's time DC had an Xtreme Makeover. For the next few days, I'll be printing some of my ideas for what DC needs to do, after it does whatever it takes to eradicate poverty, crime and the homeless within its borders, and hires a kick-ass design and marketing firm and gives them free reign to imagine the city into the next twenty years. So, the first five (and they are all in no particular order):

1. Develop a significant and Macy’s-competitive parade for one of the following: Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, or Inauguration Day.

2. Pump some money into the gay pride parade and make it bigger than New York's. Stop relying on the gays to gentrify neighborhoods.

3. Create a major outdoor festival around a significant artistic individual who lived and/or worked here in the past (John Philip Sousa, Duke Ellington, Helen Hayes, or…?) Create and finance: a National Sousa Band with a yearly national patriotic march competition (with high school, college, postgraduate, and adult composer categories), a Helen Hayes center for the dramatic arts (with a Washington-DC artists theatre festival), and a Duke Ellington conservatory (post-high school) for music and performing arts.

4. Move the presidential inauguration into another season. Hold the actual ceremony indoors if you must for security reasons, but televise it live throughout the mall. Wait until Bush is out of office to do this so he is not president for a second longer than he has to be. Augment the inaugural balls with the 3-day national mall barbecue.

5. Have the president give weekly audiences, like the Pope.

Tomorrow – 5 more…

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Living in DC - A Snapshot
So there's this attractive guy who lives in my building, just a few doors down from me on the fourth floor. He's been there for about a year or so. His blond hair seems to be thinning and he speaks with traces of an English accent. He's also got two little barky dogs, which he's always taking for walks. But they're really not too noisy. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, we both get on the elevator. He pushes the button marked 4. The elevator door closes and he asks: "What floor?"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things
I watched an episode of Jericho Wednesday night on CBS, after reading a number of reviews for Cormac Mccarthy’s recently published novel The Road, which led me to fondly remember my favorite (and not so favorite) stories of global apocalypse and societal breakdown…

La Jetee
It's short. Made in 1962. 99+44/100% of it is still pictures. All about time travel after a nuclear war. And it’s in French. It just shouldn’t work at all. I just saw it a couple of weeks ago for the first time in 30 years. And it’s much more shattering than "12 Monkeys" - the remake.

Night of the Living Dead
Simple, basic, frightening. When the eating starts, even the background music is destroyed.

On the Beach
In Australia, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins wait out the last days of humanity after a nuclear war. That’s right, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred… oh, never mind.

Sounds like rapture claptrap - NOT! Simple tale of a small California town dying off after a nuclear war. Do we see a pattern here? Jane Alexander’s presence makes it all too… artsy and political. But it’s got Kevin Costner, years before he’d try much the same thing in the uber-ridiculous “The Postman.” Guaranteed to kill any party.

The Day After
Supposedly, ABC cut this down to two hours in a panic when, as I remember it, the zeitgeist surrounding it got too hot. And that was before it aired. After the bombs drop, it’s a long slow slog with Steve Gutenberg to the end of the world. Not to be confused with the long slow slog with Steve Gutenberg that is “Cocoon.”

The World, the Flesh and the Devil
Mel Ferrer (aka Mr. Audrey Hepburn), Harry Belafonte, and Inger Stevens (who?) are the last three people in New York City. How they all got there and where the other bodies went is anyone’s guess. Not nearly as good as…

The Quiet Earth
A man, a woman, and a Maori tribesman (uh, ok) are the only three people left in New Zealand, probably the whole world. Works up to an interesting finish.

Kiss Me Deadly
“Blood Red Kisses! White Hot Thrills” goes its tagline. How does a Mickey Spillane adaptation fit with this list? Well, if you happen to see it sometime on Turner Classic Movies, just keep watching…

The Stand
Steven King’s phone-book sized tale of a superflu virus and the devastation it brings was an ABC miniseries with more gore than "The Day After." Still, the book was better.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Don Siegel’s model-of-economy black and white flick scared the heck out of us when we were kids (we were all ready to laugh at it, with that goofy title.) The plot, lean and mean with absolutely no fats or oils that add calories, still works its charms after all these years.

The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man
Two adaptations of Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend,” the first with Vincent Price, the second with Charlton Heston. "Omega" is nutty. "The Last Man" approaches zombie gold.

The Day the World Ended
Roger Corman quickie about, uh, let’s see, what is it about… oh yeah, the end of the world! Black and white, cheesy sets, bad acting… DC’s Channel 20 used to show this all the time, after which you always felt... somehow… dirty…

Panic in the Year Zero
Ray Milland directed this, about… oh you know. A family escapes Los Angeles just as the Bright White Flash takes over. Depressing but a smidgen of hope at the end.


Chant Sous la Pluie
Another bomb drops in Los Angeles, and the fallout is, well, interesting. In “Jericho” everybody stayed out of the possibly-irradiated rain. In this movie, the main character demands: “Bring It On!”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From Bucks to Bodybuilding
I've been hemorrhaging money this year. But for the first time in my life, it’s not because of the outside world and society’s pressures siphoning bucks from my bank account. I’m spending the money on myself, mainly personal training and three vacation cruises in the space of a year. I’m in probably the best shape of my life, I’ve been to places I’ve heretofore only seen, and the only problem is, next year, the spigot will have to be turned off! So I’m trying to prepare myself now for when I can no longer afford expensive vacations six months apart and a monitored workout. However, a small creature at the back of my skull keeps chanting “get a better paying job… get a better paying job, and you can continue to do all these things” in a high, nasal, tweedy tone, kind of like a tension headache. The front part of my skull actually considers this communique and states: “He’s got a point.” So, since I’m not focusing any outward energy on beginning the fourth draft of Kickass Zombie Movie, I need to update my resume, start perusing the job web sites I’ve perused in the past, go for coffee with more people who have connections, and visit Ask the Headhunter every day. After I take my multivitamin and make my lunch.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

You Do The Math
Comparing two products that do essentially the same thing.

TODAY: Moleskine vs. Spiral Notebook

Used for: Jotting Things Down

Moleskine: $15
Spiral Notebook: $3.89

Moleskine: yellowish-brown
Spiral Notebook: bright white

Moleskine: narrow
Spiral Notebook: medium

Used by celebrities?
Moleskine: Picasso, Hemingway, Chatwick
Spiral Notebook: Who knows? Probably.

Where to find:
Moleskine: Barnes and Noble in Georgetown
Spiral Notebook: Staples, Office Depot, CVS, etc.

If lost:
Moleskine: You’re out $15
Spiral Notebook: Pickup another one for around $5

Brand Image
Moleskine: Pretentious
Spiral Notebook: School work

Lays flat:
Moleskine: Only if you bend the binding back and forth a number of times.
Spiral Notebook: Upon opening.

Magically transforms your notes into amazing artistic money-making products:
Moleskine: No.
Spiral Notebook: Maybe.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Tale of Three Trainers
A couple of weeks before I went on my Awesome End Of August Vacation, my trainer PD was transferred to another gym. That was tough - we'd been together since February. But I marched on. PD handed me to Squatmeister TM, so named (by me) because he believed that in the Squat lay the secrets of the universe and the saving of the world. "He believes everybody should squat," said PD. "Women, teenagers, babies...everybody."

Squatmeister also believed in worshiping a holy trinity of workout moves: the afore-mentioned squat, the deadlift, and the bench-press. "What about bicep curls?" I asked. "Well," he began...

I was with him for about two weeks before I went on The Awesome Vacation. When I returned I found this email:

Hey Mike,
Hope your vacation is going well. I am writing to let you know that I moved this weekend out to R-- I have been asked to transfer to that gym. As such I will not be able to continue training at M-- for a bit. I have been pairing up clients with people I think work well together and I believe that you would work best with [D-Man]. I gave him your contact info so he will contact you about scheduling when you get back from your trip.
So, now I'm with D-Man, and he's producing the required effect of soreness that makes me believe I'm achieving something. The funniest part of all of this is the whole issue of diet. In July, PD suggested I bump my protein intake up to 200 g's per day. And, he counseled me to "go all out" on my cheat day, midnight to midnight. "Eat as much of whatever it is you want!" he challenged me. Well, after a McDonald's Big Breakfast, it's hard to eat anything the rest of the day. Now, D-Man is saying "PD told you that? No no no, man, you only get 1 cheat meal per week."

Anybody need a frozen cheesecake?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This Passion Thing is Way Overrated
Kickass Zombie Movie script has been lying dormant for months now, sleeping in its third draft, awaiting the dexterity of the handsome prince to awaken it to its fourth incarnation. Also known as EM:ZD, the screenplay was very popular last fall among the scribes at the Writer's Center screenplay seminar. "You got zombies!" they said, eyes aglow with interest, minds afire with "why didn't I think of that?" I've even figured out a kickass opening scene, which I was told it needed. So, why don't I get to it?

It's not like I haven't had success in these sorts of endeavors.

My shrink thinks it's because I'm not getting my emotional needs met. At this point, I'm inclined to agree with him.

But a bigger question haunts me. Do I want to continue chasing this dream all the way to the Best Screenplay Oscar? Or have I finally accepted that I've been doing all this largely to:
a. make myself more interesting
b. find a hunky boyfriend
c. make lots of mo-nay.

When I look at the movies that are out nowadays, and all of them starring Ben Stiller, I don't get excited. At all. Kickass Zombie Movie will most likely never get made, and that's just something that has to be said and accepted. The whole "why don't you produce art just for art's sake?" no longer works for me, especially since I don't know anyone named Art, much less anyone named Art with lots and lots of money.

And while I find the whole screenwriting thing fascinating, I ask myself: Do I really want to live in LA?

But there's another question, which might just cancel out everything: What if I finished the fourth draft, and the picture got made?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Does Anybody Really Like CVS?
CVS is what I would call one of my "forced brands." As in "I'm forced to go there for toothpaste, shampoo, tylenol, ibuprofin, chapstick, etc." When I think of CVS, I think of dingy aisles, far too much merchandise, demonic fluorescent lighting, and bored, surly staff. CVS is the store that you enter and can't wait to exit. No wonder the staff is surly. They're stuck there. And what about the uniforms they're made to wear? Bad colors, bad polyester, bad bad bad. The checkout counters are cluttered with... stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. None of which I need. I read somewhere that CVS's HQ requires each store to stock an overabundance of... stuff. CVS doesn't give a damn what kind of experience I have when I'm there. Oh, the commercials may say they do. But they don't. They really don't. If they did, maybe they'd do something about their stores. Like have Project Runway redesign those uniforms.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Building Brand You
I've been thinking and reading alot lately about Brands (in my role as communications director for a nonprofit organization), and I decided to make a list of all the brands I come into contact with... those I'm devoted to, those I can take or leave, those I'm forced to accept, and those I really hate but I must face anyway. And they are, in no particular order:

Crate & Barrel
Pump Daddy
DC's Metro system
Rehoboth Beach
Pottery Barn
Clif Bars
Sligo Computer Services
Gold's Gym
Abercrombie and Fitch
American Eagle
Whole Foods
Dupont Circle
Turner Classic Movies
Fort Lauderdale
Kaiser Permanente
Washington, DC
Elephant Theatreworks
Mt. Washington
Fast Company

Now I'm looking at each one and asking myself, who likes it? who hates it? what's wrong with it? what's right with it? what can they do to make my experience better? what are they doing that makes my experience great? And maybe, if I ask myself enough questions and come up with enough stuff, I'll have something to add to this blog about them...
From the top - Five Six Seven Eight...
I thought up a bunch of reasons why I wasn't contributing to this blog. I even wrote them down, they were so intelligent. Then I misplaced that piece of paper. But it doesn't matter, because there's one primary and simple reason I left this blog idle for the summer: contributing to it felt too much like work.

I was spending too much time perfecting the wording of each post before I published it... then any changes I made to the text would therefore create additional links, and then the text had to be aligned with the picture illustrating the topic and then a whole hour would go by.

And so, I wrote down another list of intelligent changes I would make... and then I misplaced that piece of paper. Which forced me to come up with three easy to remember ways of combating that work feeling and making this more fun for myself (and therefore, perhaps, the reader):

1. Shorter posts
2. Less photos and graphics
3. Less links in texts.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


PBS, the home of Pretty Bland Stuff, managed to wake up out of its CPB stupor last night and broadcast some brilliance. "South Pacific in Concert" presented the Rodgers and Hammerstein score on Carnegie Hall's enormous stage, and it came across better than the helplessly literal movie version. Reba sang "I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy," one of Rodgers' many infectious waltzes, with a sharp country twang that sold her character as actually hailing from Little Rock ARK (Mitzi Gaynor, in the movie version, never seems less than a showgirl and is totally unbelievable as a WWII nurse.) Brian Stokes Mitchell, in white dinner jacket, gave even the overdone "Some Enchanted Evening" a sexy and masculine quality. There were biceps galore on the Seabees in their two big numbers, and Bloody Mary's rendition of "Happy Talk" was incredibly happy. South Pacific has never been one of my favorite shows, in spite of my family's history (the original cast production on Broadway was my parent's first date.) I've always felt the music was just OK, and the times I've watched the movie I've wondered how they got all that seawater, sand and those airplanes onto the Broadway stage. But stripped down to its basic elements, the music showed its dexterity (by the time Rodgers wrote the score he'd had enough Broadway experience for ten composers nowadays) and the story flowed with charm. PBS showed a similar program early last year - a concert version of Bernstein's "Candide" - that was also incredible and entertaining and just plain wonderful. I love it when theater is shown as theater on television. Opening up plays and musicals, like ABC did with The Music Man , Bye Bye Birdie, and Annie, just does not work! (Well, maybe Annie wasn't so bad, although I HATE that show and anything they did to make it shorter made it better than the stage version and light years beyond John Huston's nightmare movie.) So, in conclusion, WHY DO WE HAVE TO SUFFER THROUGH SO MUCH CRAP ON PUBLIC TELEVISION JUST TO GET ONE OR TWO GOOD PROGRAMS PER YEAR? I mean, "Lighthouses From the Air," "Masterpiece Theatre's Finnegan's Wake," and "What The Hell Do I Have In My Attic That I Can Bore Somebody With" do not make anyone smarter or want to go buy theater tickets or listen to Mahler. And don't even talk to me about the execrable "Blenko Retro."

Monday, April 24, 2006

I went with Feenix to Rehoboth Beach this past weekend. The drive to and from lacked the usual high spirits and joie de vivre since the skies were densely overcast and it rained much of the way there. However, my host D-, of D- and M-, was charming, entertaining, and most hospitable. Foods I accepted from the PD-approved list were fish, green beans, beef, tomatoes, fruit salad and sliced turkey. From the unapproved list, I managed not to pass up bagels, lite cream cheese, peach cobbler, deep-dish french toast, beer, coffeecake, little chocolate donuts, sausage links, tropical fruit juice and rum. Scooter the dog and Kitty the, uh, cat, entertained us with their antics. Feenix jumped each time Kitty meowed near him, most likely due to caffeine intake. While the rain fell and the wind howled and the temperatures stayed close to November, I shopped and actually enjoyed it. We also watched the last hour of Titanic, a movie with a undramatic subplot about a sinking ship and much concerned with Leo and Kate splashing about in frigid waters. Plus something concerning handcuffs. For a much better look at this most famous naval disaster, consult the British version, A Night To Remember, from which whole bits of business were stolen for the hundred-million-dollar remake. As if we didn’t have enough of water that Saturday afternoon, we then ventured out to the restaurant known as Fin (which means “end” in french), where a good time was had by all. As I was putting on my shoes Sunday morning, the sun came out. On arrival in DC, the sky was blue. And today was even better. Yes, we could have used Monday’s weather on Saturday. But D- provided a relaxed, peaceful, yet still quite entertaining weekend.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


PD promised me today that we're moving to an all-new workout on Monday. And that's not a moment too soon. I made the mistake of telling him that the 50-rep squats were the #1 Most Painful Exercise. This was right before the 50-rep calf raises. PD said "Well, we're just gonna have to see if we can move these to the #1 slot." He had me do 10 reps, then hold the weight a few inches off the floor (I was on the seated calf-raise torture machine), then do 10 more reps, hold the weight off the floor while he counted to 3 million (10 actually), repeat repeat repeat. Afterward, when I regained my composure, he asked me what was #1. I told him that 50 rep squats and 50-rep calf raises were both number one. Squats for their whole-body massive ache and burn with sucking O2 tendencies, and calf raises for their intense, focused, extremity-based pain.

Time for a protein shake and bed, so I can get up and do Thursday.

My plans for the weekend include a trip to the country to amuse other people.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

PD just put me through another bruising workout. We're still on the 50 rep thing, where he has me do, well, 50 reps, be it bench press, squats, curls, whatever. 3 sets of them. He promised that this is the final week of that, and next week we go on to something else that isn't so - incredibly painful. Actually, he didn't say it wouldn't be painful. I'm just hoping it isn't. I'm down to 153, and I tried on a swimsuit that didn't fit and wonder of wonders, the velcro closed and I didn't have to suck it in. Now I'm wondering WHEN DO I START PACKING ON THE MUSCLE? And then I calm myself down and realize I've only been buttkicked personnally since February. I had to give up drinking Myoplex for a while, as it's started to screw up my stomach. PD said it'll do that, and gave me a couple of alternatives to try. My workout today was at 5pm, and since I never go at that time, I was amazed at the number of hunky, muscle-y, masculine guys with really awesome biceps.

Feenix said I have this screwed up relationship with my trainer - he said "Mike pays PD to talk to him and kick his butt." I said "And it's the most successful relationship I've had in years."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

in the blogosphere... blogiverse... among the bloggerati... The number of blogs out there is so absolutely huge, I feel adrift sometimes, like Frank Poole in the vastness of space. Who to read? Who to link to? Who is out there? Dropping in on the few I visit everyday is not unlike eavesdropping on one of those tight, inward facing groups in Halo or JR's*, but without the cocktail. Those I've linked to and those I read - the innermost orbits around krooz - are an attractive lot, bearded, bearcubish, rugby-ing. I've detected other bodies, young drink-wielding party-types from Weho, Nebraskan plains-huggers, and the ubiquitous big apple denizens. And it takes a while to ascertain the strings of a blogger's life, the through lines that make up the day-to-day plot of his site. Yet while I've stayed close to the community that brings us all together under the krooz tagline, I haven't quite found those bloggers like me. Perhaps this is a good thing. Most of my days are pretty dull. Still, blog-wise, I feel sometimes like I'm sitting in the middle of Arecibo, listening to quasars while looking for a signal coming back. Whatever the hell that means...

*I haven't been in JR's in over a year, what with the smokeless situation over at Halo. But I will be celebrating Peg Friday there in two nights. Without alcohol. I read in FitnessRX for Men that alcohol inhibits the body's ability to burn fat for fuel. And I have this pound and a half of love handle I need to nuke in time for beach season. Plus PD's been keeping me honest about my diet.

Monday, April 10, 2006

and everything, I've been playing catchup with my life, and while I love it when the sun stays up until 7, 8, 9pm, I hate the week or so of adjustment I have to make to live fully in this new warped day.

PD put me through an intense and tortured workout, consisting primarily of 50-rep sets. Bench press, squats, triceps. 3 of each. 150 repetitions. "When you can't complete the motion anymore, then just lower the weight a couple of inches, but lock it out at the top!" he said, during the bench press nightmare. "That's looking a little easy, I'm not even breaking a sweat" he said after I howled through 48, 49 50... and then he'd load on some more weight. Sometimes he'd yawn, as if to say "your non-intensity is putting me to sleep!" He promised me more on Wednesday, and EVEN MORE fun next week. Oh Joy. Rapture.

I had an "I'm so very sick of Brokeback" moment last week when I saw the commercial for the DVD. Funny how they ONLY SHOWED SCENES OF THE GUYS HOLDING ONTO AND DANCING WITH THE GIRLS. Then I just had to laugh, when I saw the TBS promos for the Lord of the Rings, which they're showing next weekend. TBS did a Brokeback parody using Frodo and Sam, the ring, them hugging, you get the idea. That's just messed up: a movie about two cowboys in love is sold through images of heterosexuality, and a fantasy about little creatures saving a mythical land is sold through homo subtext. Granted, the LOTR promo makes fun of the myriad Brokeback parody previews. But it's some messed-up zeitgeist all the same!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

PD and I chatted about The Dreaded Steroids today during my workout. He ran through all the sports figures who have done them (the usual suspects, plus a few I hadn't heard of, since I don't follow sports), and he said that personal buttkicking school told him "don't promise a client size like you see in the magazines... only steroids can achieve that." PD's true to this - he's never guaranteed I'd look like Zeb, and I've never demanded it. But the conversation definitely got me thinking more about what exactly I want to achieve out of these sessions (and the $$$ I'm spending on them.) Sure, I've joked with feenix and said "we are SO doing steroids before next year's krooz." Trouble is, I don't really want SIZE. And needles - I hate the needles. I want... I want... what do I want? Walking home from work, it came to me. In layman's terms, I guess you could say I want to look sexy, I want to be comfortable on the beach, I want to turn heads. That's boring though - everybody says that - commercials sell it - as a set of images its ubiquitous and invisible. What I really want is presence, balance, heft. And this means... it's really, when I come right down to it, all about... all about the SPACE I TAKE UP. I've always taken up space that's sinewy, angular, faceted. I want to take up space that's dense, curved, primed for energy. Getting there has always been a challenge: trying to gain weight, lifting weights according to no one's program but my own, going to the gym, then going to the gym again, then going to the gym AGAIN ---- and staying the same. Now I'm seeing it in very Seurat terms, realizing it's the millions of tiny cellular changes that bring about the "building up the image" of the look I'm after. Plus having my personal buttkicked a couple of days a week by someone who really knows.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The sun was out all day today and maybe, just maybe, spring is gonna get here.

GOOD NEWS on the money front: I didn't lock myself out of my bank account (see previous entry). I remembered my pin number and got in and was able to get CA$H.

I NEED NEED NEED NEED NEED to start on draft #4 of my zombie movie, "EM:ZD" if I'm ever going to send it to my cousin (hollywood bob) and enter contests. But in true writerly fashion I am PROCRASTINATING. Although I call it "formative imaging." Well, not really. I just made that up.

OTHER BLOGGERS I've perused post references to music they're into at the moment. But since I'm a level IV Music Gaygeeknerd, all I can post is that right now I've got Gerald Finzi's Intimations of Immortality issuing forth from my computer speakers. Somehow, I don't think it's on the turntables at Nation or Remington's or Cobalt. I'm finding it's good blog posting music, as it kind of burbles along in that early/middle 20th Century British oratorio way (quite like Arthur Benjamin's "Cantata - The Storm Clouds" but without Doris Day's scream.) And by the time I'm finished, Immortality's over and Finzi's Grand Fantasia and Toccata for piano and orchestra is up to bat, a piece of music that is the exact opposite of sitting at a desk all day in front of a computer.

MORE PAIN from PD today. He's currently ingesting only oatmeal, protein meal replacements, and steamed broccoli in preparation for his big bodybuilding competition in July. I didn't tell him about the martini-and-a-half I ingested Friday night.

I WAS ABLE to purchase a box of 36 Myoplex Deluxe packets, 12 Myoplex Deluxe Bars and the same number of Labrada Lean-something bars through for the price of 1 36-packet box of Myoplex at GNC. The online source has better prices than GNC (even with their gold discounts), plus you get your choice of a free water bottle, shaker bottle or t-shirt with every order over $75 or some such ridiculously enormous amount of money. PD said he usually gets the shirts. I asked, "Do you wear them?" He answered: "Nope."


Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Dull Weekend in March

Not real cold, but not springlike. I sat on the Dupont Circle fountain this afternoon after the gym. The temperature at the bank showed 56F, but there was a cold breeze bringing a chill. I'm not a big fan of these early spring Saturdays, as they bring out the extreme dullness in me. And I am just a bit bored.

The weekend started on a bad note, as I completely blanked out on my debit card pin number as I was getting cash to buy a drink at Halo last night. In my panic, I tried a couple of number combinations, forgetting that if I entered three or more improper pin numbers the bank would shut down access to my money. I think I exceeded the maximum number, because the giant steel teeth at the ATM quickly closed and I had to snap my hands back quickly so my arms would not be bitten off.

In reality, it wasn't that exciting. My card just didn't work. That's all. And now I have to go through all kinds of rigamarole to get the thing working again. I'm wondering if I can get through a week without any cash at all. I still have my credit card.

I think the reason I blanked out was: for a couple of weeks now I've been setting usernames and passwords both at work and here at home. All kinds of letter/number/character configurations have been forming in my head and I think my brain is just tired of Qz**&blotto.$RPM-zert. And why hasn't anyone figured out a method of keeping all these codes straight? We've got this entire information superhighway, and vehicles to move us through it, but nobody's figured out what the keychains look like.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Living in DC
I just attempted to file my DC taxes online, through their Electronic Taxpayer Service Center. After I entered my itemized deductions and clicked "save and continue," the deductions screen re-appeared with this note: "Please verify your DC deductions." However, there was no button with "verify" on it, no link to what this sentence means, no identifiable way to move the process forward. I called the DC tax office, and was given a phone number of the ONE person who can help in these online matters. I said "You mean you only have ONE PERSON who can answer questions on the web site's tax form?" "Unfortunately, yes, that is the case," the person on the end of the line said. "You'll have to leave a message and have her call you back." I told the tax office I wouldn't even bother to call. Doesn't DC realize that, when you're offering an online service like this, that there will most likely be THOUSANDS of people with THOUSANDS of questions, who don't want to wait around for someone to call them back? Oh, yeah, right. I forgot. I'm in DC.

In the end, I did call the number I was given, and got voicemail. I didn't leave a message. DC needs to learn a lesson from about effectively building an online system of forms and customer service.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

PD took me through a workout today that was notable for the level of
I experience during the 90lb calf raises.

Screaming, searing, apocalyptic pain.
Pain that flowed like lava up from my ankles
shot along my shins
and gathered, spinning
like hot gas at the beginning of the universe
right there in my gastrocnemius.
And that was during the rest phase of the superset.
PD saw that I was letting the weight touch the floor,
taking off some tension.
"Oh, no," he said. "Don't let it rest!
Guess I gotta watch you like a hawk!"
So he started counting down from 30, again,
and the big bang started, again,
and whole galaxies must have been forming in my lower legs,
that's how much pain I felt.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It’s Leave it to Beaver gone all wrong.
It’s Dr. Seuss’s only live-action movie (that he actually wrote.)
It’s on TCM TONIGHT! (Thursday):

The 5,000 Fingers of
Dr. T

When I was a kid, my elementary school would show movies on Saturday afternoons. For a dime, plus a couple of nickels for candy (which they sold right in the open in those days), we were treated to a string of grade-C westerns, grade-Z 3 Stooges flicks, and once, a Hammer-produced pirate flick which I remember mostly being about piranhas eating wenches, mostly. Only two movies they showed stand out in my memory as being any good – The Incredible Shrinking Man, featuring 50’s hunk Grant Williams, and "The 5K Fingers"...

Now the Shrinking Man was exciting stuff. The 5K Fingers was ... well ... LSD for those of us who weren't removed in the first 15 minutes. I remember thinking “cool!” when some kids started crying and their moms had to take them home. Hopped up on Sweetarts and Junior Mints, my “fragile little mind” eagerly scooped up this Hollywood accident of good intentions and subconscious boyhood trauma.

I wouldn’t see it again for almost thirty a now-defunct U-Street bar, the Andalusian Dog. Flying baguettes all along the ceiling, multiple video monitors throughout. The Washington Psychotronic Film Society programmed it and, along with the $1 Rolling Rocks and the festively attired crowd, I sat on a bar stool and the movie worked on me. Again.

I suspected the Dog’s patrons were ready that night to laugh post-modernly at the onscreen battle between Bart and his prissy piano teacher. They didn’t. They loved it.

The film is now considered “cult.” Some people even believe that the Bart Simpson/Sideshow Bob Terwilliker conflict owes its origins to this movie, although this has been disputed.

I own Dr. T now, and I usually watch it every third Christmas Eve.

Things to look for:
On top of Bart’s piano, at the beginning and end of the movie – notice the two framed pictures - of the roller-skating bearded guys.

Mrs. Collins criticizing the “beanie-makers” for producing a limp-wristed “Happy Fingers” skullcap.

Also her “half and half” outfit in the same scene.

The nonchalance with which the flick introduces its most bizarrely Freudian concoction – the “Lock-Me-Tight.”

The somewhat-shirtless boxing guys in the aforementioned dungeon dance.

The bear-ish guards who need to shave twice each day.

The pre-diva era snap-and-leap Dr. T’s impossibly broad-shouldered valets execute in the “Dress me, Dress Me, Dress Me” number.

Monday, March 20, 2006

But it's still cold.

I found a great recipe for turkey meatballs on Scroll down past the Falafel and the Dal Masala to the "Baked Yam with Turkey Meatball Marinara." Actually, now that I look at it, I didn't follow this recipe. Using it as a rough guide. I procured a pound of ground turkey (from Whole Foods, dark meat, claimed it was 4g fat per serving unless they're lying sacks of circus peanuts), and mixed it with a couple of egg whites, some chopped onion and garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, and the universal ingredient Mrs. Dash. The resulting concoction was a bit sloppy and formed into meatballs rather messily. I baked them at 400 for 20 minutes (got that from the recipe). They stuck a bit to the cookie sheet (note: gotta get more Reynolds Release foil) and they looked like turkey macaroons, but they tasted FANTASTIC. At least to me. My kitchen was a mess afterwards. And now the leftovers are beckoning, sirenlike, which is just fine, since it's time for dinner.

Friday, March 17, 2006


The only way I know? GW students in bright green are bar crawling all along M Street on this one day of the year I'm embarassed about my mostly Irish heritage, mostly. The rest of the year I really don't think about it. On this "holiday," if I'm really bored and so sick of winter that I could kill myself with the handle of a butter knife, I pull out my LETTERBOX copy of Finian's Rainbow and marvel at the breeziness of this 1968 movie musical. The flick was produced at a time when the major studios were smashing themselves over their heads with sledgehammers trying to make money out of a dying art form (just try to watch Dr. Dolittle, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Star!, Hello Dolly! and Camelot to see what I'm talking about). Francis Ford Coppola of all people lensed this 40's property on a relatively small budget and delivered the goods. I remember seeing it, first run, at the Rialto Theatre in New Hampshire over summer vacation, and it added about 2 billion DNA strands into my musical comedy homochromosome. Notice how REAL SINGERS were engaged to play the parts (not like Camelot!) Notice how the whole thing TAKES PLACE OUTDOORS. Notice the not-so-subtle take on RACE RELATIONS through 60's sensibilities. And revel in the BEST 11PM SONG EVER TO GRACE THE BROADWAY STAGE when Tommy Steele's (annoyingly overacted) Og the Leppercon sings to Susan the Silent. And not a mug of green beer in its entire 141 minutes. (Oh yeah, Fred Astaire's there too.) That's entertainment. I'm turning into such an old fart.

Monday, March 13, 2006

PD put me through his workout today, and the amazing thing about it is: he doesn't spend all day throwing weights around! And he's training for a major bodybuilding competition! We worked out each body part once... in massive sets that blew the muscles out. I think it has something to do with the miracle of DYNAMIC mic mic mic TENSION shun shun shun... I mean, Hyperacceleration and Hyperadaptation. He's keeping me on the edge between stagnation (undertraining) and chaos (overtraining). It has something to do with the body's natural inclination to stay at whatever weight and musculature it already is. Although why the body seems naturally inclined to put on massive amounts of adipose tissue and not fast- and slow-twitch muscle in response to even minor amounts of Krispy Kremes is beyond me, since Krispy Kremes take so little effort. But PD is huge, while I don't look like Jason. But it's only been a little over a month. And even Charles Atlas wasn't built in a day.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

So far, the combination of
Protein-enhanced diet (3 meals/3 snacks per day)
PBK (personal butt kicking w/Pump Daddy)
and two (2) vacations in warm climates this year so far
Less television zombie-ness
Less alcohol consumption
Less food cravings
and...More NRG!
(plus I've gone down one belt loop but I'm sticking with my usual weight.)
Let's hope this all continues!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Was denied entry into the Fort Lauderdale Gold's Gym because "you don't have a transfer pass and you can't come in." The front desk guy there could not have been ruder. He mentioned something about "franchises," but did not say anything close to "why don't I give a call to the DC gym and verify that you're a member there. This'll just take a minute." No, he chose to say "If you get your gym to fax you a transfer card, we'll let you in. Otherwise, you can't come in." Checked the Gold's web site and can't find anything that says you need a transfer card to visit any other Gold's. But I keep forgetting the #1 rule of customer service: Make the customer memorize every single detail about your operation, even the ones you don't have written down.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Even though it's Presidents Day (Observed) and I have the day off, that doesn't mean it isn't PERSONAL BUTTKICKING DAY. So, I have a session with Pump Daddy in just a couple of hours. It's low weights/high reps, and I will be reduced to sugar-free Jell-O.

I've been training with PD for a week now, and following the meal plan he gave me. It looks like this:

Meal 1 - Breakfast: Myoplex w/banana
Meal 2 - Whey protein
Meal 3 - Lunch: usual foods, just keep it healthy
Meal 4 - Myoplex or Myoplex bar
Meal 5 - Dinner: see lunch for regulations
Meal 6 - Whey protein or cottage cheese (nonfat)

So far this meal plan has been very effective at reducing my intense food cravings (especially during prime couch potato hours), as well as reducing my overall appetite to normal levels. PD said "if you follow this plan for two weeks I'll give you a day where you can eat whatever you want." I have until Friday of this week.

Also...I haven't had any alcohol since getting back from vacation (oh, allright, I did have a beer a couple of days after I returned but that was before I started PBK.) I've gone out, and ordered nothing strong than diet soda. And I keep telling myself "summer's gonna get here...summer's gonna get here."

Monday, February 13, 2006

TODAY AT THE GYM: It was Day 1 of Personal Buttkicking with Pumpdaddy. I went in thinking "this is gonna be painful," and the session was as I expected. Except for the lightheadedness and nausea, which, if I really think about it, I experienced last year when I started training under Dustin. But I survived, and with good form - so said the trainer himself. The endorphins kicked in about an hour after I got back to work. I was happy.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Didn't get my butt kicked today at the gym. It was merely a consultation. With Jerry. Who used to be a WWF or WWE wrestler. Under the name: Lucian Bagwell. He gave me a diet to follow and briefed me on the kind of workout he'll be leading me through in the next six weeks. I am full of excitement at the possibilities ahead...which I felt last year at this time when I was going into Personal Training with Dustin. After the first workout, however, I was singing a different tune. IT HURTS! One thing I did notice last year - I was having to wash my workout wear more often. Since I was sweating. Buckets. So, in preparation for next week, I'm going to Sports Authoritah this weekend and loading up on inexpensive gym clothes. With my name on them in big block magic marker letters. Just like gym class in 7th grade. With Mr. Menninger. Blond, muscular, tall, tanned Mr. Menninger. More about him later. For now, I will follow Mr. Bagwell's instructions to a T. Even if I lose all my mon-nah and it kills me. First workout: Monday.