Broadway Cares.

Earl and I attended “Wicked” last night at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, the second to last performance of this tour in the Salt City. The show was magnificent. Honestly, we both enjoyed the show more than when we saw it on Broadway back in 2011. The cast, the lighting, the energy, the sound, the entire performance was top notch and worth every penny we spent on tickets.

After the curtain calls and the standing ovation, the cast came back on stage, asked everyone to settle down and explained about Broadway Cares.

The Mission Statement of Broadway Cares (courtesy of their website).

  • To mobilize the unique abilities within the entertainment industry to mitigate the suffering of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS;
  • To ensure direct support specifically through the social services and programs of The Actors Fund to all individuals in the entertainment industry affected by critical health issues, including but not limited to HIV/AIDS;
  • To support organizations across the country which provide treatment or services for people specifically affected by HIV/AIDS and their families;
  • To promote and encourage public support for national and international programs and services which benefit people with HIV/AIDS;
  • To increase public awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS through the creation and dissemination of educational materials;
  • To support efforts by the entertainment industry to address other critical health issues or respond to an emergency, in each case as approved by the Board of Trustees;
  • To support efforts by the entertainment industry in other charitable or educational endeavors, in each case as approved by the Board of Trustees.

The leads announced that if each attendee in the audience gave just $3 on their way out of the theatre last night, they would raise $8,000 for this worthy cause from that one performance alone.

To me, that’s quite awesome. You see, as a gay man in my late 40s I’ve been to too many funerals of those that have died for AIDS and other HIV related illnesses. I have a concern that today’s generation doesn’t realize the impact that AIDS and HIV had on the world, let alone the gay community, 25-30 years ago. Many think that they pop a pill once a day and they’re impervious to HIV. While there are thousands of people that live their lives with HIV, it’s still not something that should be taken lightly. We’ve made amazing strides in treatments and keeping things manageable, but with the turmoil in health care funding currently taking place in the United States, things could get much uglier, really fast.

As the cast talked about Broadway Cares and encouraged the audience to donate on their way out of the theatre, there was talk about some swag with certain contribution amounts. Earl and I spoke briefly and decided that we would make a contribution, we weren’t really concerned with the swag, we just wanted to make the world a better place and this was a really good avenue.

On our way out, as we stopped to make our contribution with a costumed cast member, we were asked if we wanted to join the backstage tour of the Landmark Theatre and the behind the scenes magic of the show. The tour was led by Kristen Martin, the talented actress that plays NessaRose, who becomes “The Wicked Witch of the East”. We learned all about her special wheelchair that she uses for the majority of the production and a bunch of other abracadabra to make Oz seem so magical.

The backstage tour was longer and more in-depth than I expected. Pictures were forbidden outside of two specific locations along the tour, in the middle of the stage looking out on the seating area and in front of the great Wizard of Oz.

The Landmark Theatre is a relatively small theater and the touring company was barely able to squeeze everything necessary into the backstage area to make things happen. As productions get bigger, some of the older theaters require some creativity to make all of that magic you see on stage.

We really enjoyed the tour and seeing some of the backstage magic. But more importantly, Earl and I agreed that we were two lucky guys to be able to contribute to “Broadway Cares”.

Seeing is Believing.

This may be a “TMI” post for some as it relates to my latest surgery, so if you’re a little hesitant about reading TMI stuff, please feel free to move on to my next post. I think there’s some interesting information in this blog entry but it’s up to you as to whether you want to read it or not.

Because I’ve had a catheter hanging off of my parts since the 28th of January, I’ve been able to monitor what comes out as a result of what goes in. If all goes as planned, I will no longer have a catheter as of Tuesday afternoon. Cross your fingers. I’ve crossed mine.

I’ve been eating healthier and trying to see how clear I can get my urine to be in the catheter bag. Last night Earl and I had a small date night, we went to the movie to see “Beauty and the Beast” (which was wonderful) and then we went out for dinner afterwards. Since I’m trying to be healthy, I had a vodka and cranberry at the bar instead of drinking a beer like I normally would. At the movies I had a popcorn and diet pop. No butter on the popcorn but still empty-ish calories and a heck of a lot of salt.

Since I can measure my overnight urine output with this little bag of fun hanging out of my junk, I noticed this morning that instead of my usual 800-1200 ml of output I was down to 600 ml and it was much darker yellower in color. I felt like I slept well last night but I’m still feeling tired this morning. So it’s true that what you put in your body definitely affects what your body is doing.

And why wouldn’t I treat my body with with respect that it deserves? Hedonism? Trying to fit in? Ardently following social norms?

I have a few more days of catheter time (hopefully) to finish up this latest round of science experiment. Having calmed down on my food due to the healing graft donation site in my mouth, I’ve lost 10 pounds. In that respect I’m feeling great. I’m not going to be able to ride a bike this summer so I’m trying to come up with other ways to get lots of cardio exercise, my options being walking, jogging and swimming, with the latter being my exercise of choice. I just need to find a gym that has a pool.

I’m reading a book by Mel Robbins called the “The 5-Second Rule”; the really short version is you need to react to a thought within five seconds of having that thought in order to make change in the habits of your life. A test of that this morning was to cancel my Noble Brewer subscription as a way to stop putting beer in my body. As an aside, if you like craft beer and being one of those beardy guys that enjoy a homemade brewski, Noble Brewer has some excellent offerings on a subscription plan. I don’t think you have to be beardy to enjoy it either.

Making the decision to cancel that subscription made me feel pretty good. I also drank an extra glass of water as a toast this morning. I feel more energized. I feel more alive.

I don’t know if you can turn a 48 year old man into a superhero, I mean, I’d look pretty funny running around in spandex with this dad bod of mine, but you can turn your mindset into that of a superhero by thinking like one.

Sometimes you just need determination, guidance and in my case, some physical evidence, to make a change in your mindset.

Links to what I talked about in this blog entry:
The 5 Second Rule – Mel Robbins
Noble Brewer

Movie Chat.

Last week Earl and I went to see the movie “Logan” at the Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA. Once destined to be the largest shopping mall in the United States, I think Destiny USA now comes in fourth. It’s nice enough, it’s plenty big and there’s a lot of entertainment value in the sprawling complex but the theaters are a little outdated. They’re pretty much original from the mall when it was built as Carousel Center in 1990.

The theatre had a seating capacity of under 100, there were four rows on the lower tier and four rows in a stadium arrangement. There was a single aisle up just one side of the theatre.

Behind us was a couple that insisted on talking about the movie during the entire movie. It was like we were sitting in their living room and due to the smaller size of the theater I felt like I was intruding on their private space. This is kind of weird when you think about it because we were, after all, in public movie theatre in which we had swiped a considerable chunk of change onto our credit card for admittance.

I’ve noticed that in the past decade or so people think nothing of chatting during a movie. Despite repeated warnings and funny scenes and occasional spurts of ominous music in an ominous font between the commercials and upcoming attractions, people still chat on their phones, text at a retina-searing display lighting level and talk to each other like they’re sitting in the Lazy-Boys in their living room.

I think it goes hand in hand with folks that think nothing of playing their electronic device in public (music, movie, news, porn, whatever) in the middle of a Starbucks or similar setting. There’s a reason that every phone maker gives you a set of free headphones with your phone. Use them!

Look, I want to enjoy the movie just as much as any other average American that enjoys going to the movies, but being one that is easily distracted in certain situations, I want to be able to concentrate on the movie on the screen and not have to listen to Buffy and Muffy discussing their boyfriends in the row behind me.

When you’re at the movie, please sit down, shut up, face the screen and enjoy the show. You dropped a chunk of change to get into the place but it doesn’t make you own it.

And a tip to movie theater companies: I would pay DOUBLE the going rate for movie tickets to the company that builds their theatres in Faraday cages, preventing any cell or wi-fi signals from entering or leaving the theatre. Post some large signs advising of such a thing and perhaps we could enjoy movies the old fashioned way.

In silence (or laughter if it’s a comedy).

Adjustment.

I still haven’t adjusted to Daylight Saving Time. I try to go to bed earlier but I just lay in bed awake. I try to get up early and I end up sleeping late.

I need to give it a couple of more weeks. Maybe after the surgery recovery I’ll feel more assimilated to those around me.

Nah, that’s quite doubtful.

Conversation.


Earl and I have always had an open and honest relationship. For the last nearly 21 years we’ve had thousands of discussions. A small minority of them have been heated, the vast majority of them were peppered with laughter and once in a while I’m good from a really good spit take. For example, we were talking about taking a vacation to Disneyland Paris sometime in the future. I mentioned that I needed to brush up on my French and should look into Berlitz or something. He said that I don’t have the attention span to listen to Rosemary’s Baby. 

It took me a few moments and lots of laughter for us to both realize that he meant Rosetta Stone. 

Since the beginning of this surgical journey back at the end of January, my diet has had to hover in the bland zone, especially since the latest surgery at the beginning of the month. With Earl retired, he’s been experimenting in the kitchen a lot more. We’ve started supper in the dining room again instead of eating a fast paced meal at the kitchen table or in front of the television. The meals have been wonderful and I’m lucky man to be married to a man that was able to retire at his age.

The best part of sitting in the dining room eating supper is the after dinner conversation. After we’ve both finished eating we actually sit and talk for a good 10-15 minutes before getting up and clearing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. I know it’s a really small thing, but it’s small part of what I’ve always dreamed of having in my perfect world. Growing up we had pleasant enough family meals, sometimes in the dining room, sometimes in the kitchen, but my Dad would hastily depart the table when he was done eating. My mom would ask him to sit down and talk but that wasn’t really his thing. He wasn’t mean about it or anything, it’s just that my Dad would rather be sitting in his chair reading a book or magazine or something. Couple the rule of “no politics, no religion, no sex” discussion at the dinner table with the quick exit by my Dad and it’s small wonder that I didn’t really know how the world worked until I was out on my own.

Since the election fiasco of 2000 I’ve tried really hard to be aware of what’s going on in the world of American politics and the world in general. I know just enough to be loud and not sound like a complete fool when I go on one of my rants and a lot of that can be attributed to conversations that Earl and I enjoy after dinner. When Jamie is home, he sits and chats as well.  The conversation occasionally goes off the rails but it’s good to sit down and have family dinner time, whether it’s the two of us or the three of us.

Perhaps more folks should get back in the habit of sitting down for dinner time and having a conversation. Maybe folks would be more interested in what’s going on around them if they talked to the folks around them.

Memories.


I think it’s been around 10 years since my grandmother’s piano made its way to our home. As a kid I always loved it when she played the piano and would let me (and/or my cousins) play the piano from time to time. Once when my sister and I were staying at my grandparents’ house while my mom and dad were on vacation, I was playing the piano rather loudly. My grandfather came over, put his hands on the piano and said in his typical voice, “Do you know what the word ‘refrain’ means?” He then closed the lid over the keys and that was that for the rest of the evening.

Beyond my love for music and my amateurish abilities at being able to play piano, one of the things I love about having the piano is that it still smells as it did when I was a kid. I don’t know if the piano smells like the 1959 mid-century house it used to live in or if the house smelled like the piano, but the scent lingers on and it makes me smile from time to time. 

The piano is a 1949 Gulbransen, so I’m assuming it was in the original farm house that my grandfather tore down to build the mid-century modern house he had custom designed and then built in 1958-1959. There was a special spot designed for the piano in the living room. As the estate was being settled after his passing, I couldn’t bring myself to go into the house with the piano (and other things) missing. I didn’t want to put dents in my memories of that house and that home. My sister and I were the lucky grandchildren that lived next door; I would visit Grandma Wing every day after elementary school and watch “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie” after she watched her stories while baking or cooking or doing other housework. She sometimes saved the ironing so she could iron while watching TV with me.

I tell Earl that if we had the money we would build a mid-century style home based on those custom plans, with a couple of modifications (vault the living room ceiling, make the dining room bigger). To this day I am absolutely in love with the design of that house. 

But in the meanwhile, I’ll make music and revel in the memories.

Frictionless.

I have never made it a secret that I look up to Steve Jobs. Yeah, he was a bit crass and he might have improved on ideas that he got from others, but the man had a vision, more importantly he had a set of standards and expectations but most importantly, he did everything in his power to make all of those things come together.

This is one of the reason that I am an Apple fanboy. In a way I can’t believe that I am saying this, because I’ve toyed with many operating systems over the years. I was a Linux evangelist for a while. At one point I had used every iteration of Windows starting with Windows/286 in the mid 1980s right up until Windows 8.1. (I’ve toyed with Windows 10 a bit, it’s good but it still underwhelms me).

I could never get into Mac OS before Mac OS X (later MacOS came around), but ever since that day I bought Earl one of those pedestal iMacs, I’ve been hooked.

It just works. Notice that I didn’t say “It just works, most of the time” or “It just works some of the time.” Because even though some later iterations of MacOS and iOS have undergone some speed bumps in the quality control department, when you boil out the BS you’ll find that the offerings from Apple are still top in class.

People like to complain about the specs of new computers and how underpowered they are. Since the vast majority of computer users are using a web browser, a mail program, possibly a calendar and maybe a chat program of some sort, how much power do they really need? Do we need to fleece a 65 year old senior of their life savings for a computer with enough specs to render an animated film? No!

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a Chromebook and storing all my stuff in the cloud. The NSA, the CIA and probably a whole bunch of other organizational alphabet soups are monitoring my behavior on the Internet at any given moment, why should I encourage them anymore by storing anything and everything I do in a web browser? There’s a certain amount of comfort in using a quality built laptop with a robust operating system to store my files. It’s taken me a little while to warm up to my latest MacBook Pro (which I purchased in July 2016 to replace its stolen older brother) but I love it. It works the way I want it to, it does what I want it to do and most importantly, it doesn’t create friction in my computing experience.

Working on a computer should be frictionless.

Folks at work are often surprised when I add features to the software that I write and maintain because I don’t provide documentation. I design and build software that doesn’t require a manual to operate it. If you need to refer to documentation to run a software program there’s a couple of things happening, namely, the software is poorly written and/or designed or the user is not educated enough to be embarking on the task to begin with. I believe in computer education. I believe in educating people to use computers safely. But more importantly I believe in making that education immersive. People learn best by doing, and a person should learn something every time they use a computer.

For much of his adult life, Steve Jobs asked himself one question on a regular basis: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer was “no” for too many days in a row, Steve knew that he had to change something about his life. I ask myself that question a lot. Am I happy guy? Am I happy with what I’m doing? Am I happy with where we live, with our opportunities?

My answers are almost always positive. I have the love of my life in my life and I have some extra love on top of that. I have a great group of friends. I fly airplanes, something that I’ve always dreamed of doing. And I love my job. I enjoy what I do, I work for what I believe is a great company and I believe that I am making a great contribution to the company I work for. There’s one sticking point that’s been bothering me but I’ll work through it.

My former manager sought me out for my position. When I accepted the position I insisted that I be able to use a Mac as my work computer. The company is a solid Microsoft shop. Working with Mac, and I’m not the only one in the company doing so, results in occasional shunning from new collaborate features the company is rolling out to its users. I work around them, I work through them, but that’s the part of me that doesn’t always get a positive answer when I ask myself if I’m completely happy. There’s too much friction in my computing experience at work and as I said before, I believe the working with tech should be as frictionless as possible. I know it’s of my own doing, using a Mac in a company that loves Microsoft, but nevertheless, I’m not alone and I believe that the powers that be should broaden their horizons and look at the entire wall, not just one picture.

Ever since my last surgery a couple of weeks ago I’ve decided to keep my blood pressure low by unbottling my feelings. Earl and I have had some lively discussions, mostly about politics. Some of the liveliness has been fueled by the good meds they had me on for a week or so, but it’s been good to feel engaged. Earl teaches me a lot. He’s the smarter man in the room. I learn from him every day. And the learning is frictionless. Except when I’m yelling with passion (not in anger).

I’m focused on living in the moment. Living for today. Unplugging and listening from time to time. Plugging in and sharing. Life is best when we know it’s finite for then when try to do as much as we can in the time that we have.

And we try to do it with as little friction as possible. Don’t be friction. Help the world glide and grow.

Advocacy.

As I grow older and the current presidential administration dumpster fire grows stronger, I find that I’m asking myself everyday what I can do to make the world a better place, specifically when it comes to equal rights for all. I need to find sure footing on that path because right now it feels like American society is literally all over the map when it comes to beliefs, rights, religion, health care and honestly, common sense.  This “us versus them” mentality, much like two warring tribes on an episode of “Survivor”, is going to lead our nation further into chaos. Without strong leadership, which we absolutely do not have anywhere in Washington at this time, the chaos is just going to get worse.

What can I do to accentuate the compassion in our people again? Throwing pot loads of money to political parties is futile. The GOP is a bunch of spineless, worthless people. The Democrats are in such disarray that I don’t believe in them nor do I believe they even have a clear path to the bathroom, let alone scoring any sort of hits in 2018.

I want to move us from a bad place to a good place, or at least help the effort in giving the movement a good shove, but I don’t know where to even begin. Rant on Twitter? It’s an echo chamber. Rant on Facebook? Please, people just want to forget the outside world and see pictures of people smiling and posing to convey having a great time. Write on my blog? It’ll get easier once I’m off my surgery recovery meds, but it’s a start. I started writing for the Medium platform a couple of months ago but there’s so many voices screaming on that platform, and so many people joining in the predictable endless crusade of self promotion, I had no idea on how to get my voice heard in there.

I need to find a platform where I can speak my peace and be part of something. My husband says I do a lot just by being me, an openly gay middle-aged man living in a really red area of a blue state. It’s a start.

But I’m ready to go further.

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Healing.

The most painful part of this recovery from my surgery is my mouth. The site where they took the skin for the graft is about 6 cm by 2 cm and it’s along the left side of my jaw. I’m happy that it’s only 6 cm long; the doctor told of patients that had 20 or more centimeters of skin harvested from the inside of their mouth. I can’t image what that pain must have been like. 

The site is healing quickly, I can feel changes in every couple of hours, but it just hurts while it is doing so. My urologist said that the hardest days would be days four and five of the recovery and that’s where I am right now.

I was given a prescription for “Radiation Rinse”. I had no idea what that was when they first gave it to me in the hospital; I asked a nurse if that meant I was going to glow and she said yes. She was giving me the rinse at one in the morning and she didn’t seem to have a huge sense of humor. It was the only time I saw this particular nurse, the rest of that evening I was covered by the nurse Melissa. Melissa and I had a very nice chat; she had been working in the One-Day Surgery ward for over a year after 20 years elsewhere in the hospital. She always wanted to work with the patients undergoing surgeries similar to mine because she knew my doctor to be top in his field and she wanted to make sure that his patients were off and running on a good start for recovery. She was the nurse that told me that patients from all over the country sought out my urologist for repairs in that delicate region. She was also the nurse that told me about all of the gender reassignment surgeries that he had performed in the past couple of years. She wanted to be there for those patients as well, to make sure that they were off to a good start.

It turns out that there’s nothing radioactive about my “Radiation Rinse”, it’s actually a mixture of Maalox, Benadryl and Lidocane. It’s called a “Radiation Rinse” because cancer patients that have burned mouths from their chemotherapy treatments use this same mixture to alleviate the sores in their mouths. My graft site in my mouth is of a similar nature so I get to use the same stuff.

As I make my way through this recovery I can’t help but think about how fortunate I am to be going through to fairly well. I find strength from the strength one of my best friends has exhibited through his cancer treatments. I think of the soldiers that come home with missing limbs and other “modifications” to their body from war. Comparatively the healing from my procedure is a walk in the park.

I’m a lucky man. I never lose sight of that.

Recovery.


So I’m in the third day of recovery from my recent surgery and things are coming along. My jaw is still a little swollen and numb from where the doctors took skin from the inside of my mouth to be used for the graft. It’s healing well, it’s just going to take some time.

After the first surgery on January 28th I was told that I could take sponge baths and an infrequent shower, but only if I wrapped myself in Saran Wrap and didn’t let water hit any of the surgical area. When I was discharged from the hospital on Saturday I was told that I could resume regular showers again after 48 hours, so tonight I took my first real shower in over a month. I even took time to shave my head again and that did wonders for starting to feel normal. With the jaw being a little tender still I decided to have some scruff on the face for a few more days. I’m sure there won’t be complaints.

The doctor’s office called to follow up on my progress and to schedule my follow-up appointment, which is for the last week of March. I can go three weeks with having a tube coming out of my parts if in the end things are going to work like it should so I’m not complaining. I’m still on a bunch of meds until then, so driving is a no-no and I’m definitely not in any shape to fly an airplane. I knew this would be the case and that’s why the timing is planned as it is. I’ll be ready to be airborne when the nice weather hits for the year (right now Mother Nature is a little erratic).

Earl is doing a bang-up job as my nurse. I think he’s enjoying cooking bland meals for me to eat (no salty or spicy food while the donor site in my mouth heals) and he’s keeping all these meds on the appropriate schedule. He also tells me to stop running my tongue over the healing area in my mouth on a routine basis. It’s amazing how quickly the skin in your mouth heals. Right now it’s basically like having a 6 cm x 2 cm canker sore in there. I have a little numbness in my lip but that has slowly been subsiding.

This is one of the many occasions where working from home is a wonderful thing. I spent most of the day writing code and I think most of it made sense. It’s rare that I can write a script that works on the first try without any bugs but I was surprised when something worked as planned on the first draft this afternoon. Perhaps I should work under the influence of prescription meds all the time.

The name of the game is relaxation and healing and that’s what I intend on doing. I’m still following the news and catching up on television, but I’ve found myself unplugging from the world and just enjoying quiet and contemplation from time to time. When I was in the hospital they offered me the television on several occasions but I never turned it on, just listening to the world happen around me was enough.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that lend themselves to the best medicine.