It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time

I said so myself…  I might have been wrong.

This idea of using the daily photo prompts to take pictures and write blog posts, seemed like a thing.  It really did.  Clearly, though, it was not a thing I could keep up with.  And I’m so bad at letting these things go and moving on from them that when the first time I didn’t get it done, I thought, “Well, shit.  But that’s ok.  I’ll just double up tomorrow.”  And of course, “tomorrow” came and went and no pictures were taken and no posts were written, and before I knew it, I had a backlog of pictures to take and post and I didn’t know how I was going to make that happen and suddenly, it’s been, what? two weeks since I wrote anything.

But really?  I mean, really!

Let’s take a look at the prompts I did not fulfill, shall we?

January 8th:  “Lucky Number”

Okay.  So I actually had (or rather have) a decent way to accommodate this.  I don’t really believe in “luck” per se, and as such, I don’t really have a lucky number.  I do have a favorite number, 23, which comes up in my life frequently and without reason, but I wouldn’t call it a lucky number and I couldn’t give you a discernible reason for its prominence if you asked.  On January 9th, K and I went back to the tattoo shop where I got my latest tattoo done.  She got a new tattoo, adding on to one she’s had for several years.  (In fact she got it at the same shop where, and within a few weeks when, I got my first one.)  We went together, and when he was finished with her new tattoo, he cleaned up, set up fresh equipment and did my touch up/repair/augmentation work that I alluded to.  As it happens, I incorporated the number 23 into the additional art and could have taken a picture of that for the photo prompt…  Except it didn’t happen until the day after the prompt and wasn’t really ready for photographing for many days after that.  In fact, the tattoo as a whole, still isn’t.  It’s been two weeks today and much to my surprise, and displeasure, it still isn’t healed.  The sun rays done in the colors of the pride flag, were touched up and extended farther onto my shoulder, which, can I just tell you, was not a pleasant experience!  For some reason, those blocks of solid color have taken a long time to heal.  They’re much better now, but there are still dry and scaly patches that are bothersome and difficult to resist the urge to pick and scratch – which is disaster for a tattoo.

It’s already evident that I will have to go back for at least one more touch-up, but that most likely won’t happen until May.  My swim class starts up again tonight, and while I don’t expect our instructor will actually have us get in the water tonight (he didn’t the first class last semester), I wouldn’t be able to anyway, because it’s not smart to get into a public pool, while a tattoo is still in this scaly stage.  I think I’ll be okay by Monday, but I don’t know for sure.  Fortunately, it’s the first night of instruction and it’s about getting comfortable being in the water and floating, ducking under the surface and kicking against the wall.  If I have to sit that out, it will not be a big loss.  Strangely, I am equal parts excited and trepidatious about class starting up again.  I really enjoyed the class last semester (and will again) but I also haven’t been in a pool since the last class I attended last semester.  I’m sure whatever endurance I’ve built up has been lost.  I just hope I haven’t taken too many steps backwards in terms of technique…

January 9th: “Natural”

The instruction was to take a picture of something natural or created naturally.  The possibilities for this are endless, and yet, with what was available to me, fairly boring.  The same goes for the follow-up prompt the next day…

January 10th: “Man-Made”

Take a photo of something made by man.  In a lot of ways, this would have been even easier, because everywhere you look you can see things that are made by man.  But that almost makes the prompt uninteresting, because I could easily have taken a picture of my television, or my furniture, or my computer, or…  Well, pretty much anything in my house that was not fresh produce.  And since I didn’t leave the house that day, the photo would have been something in my house.  It quickly becomes uninspiring.

But you see, this is an ongoing problem in the realm of photo challenge photo taking.  If I don’t leave the house, then the opportunities for the photos are greatly reduced.  If I do leave the house, do I really want to lug my camera around with me everywhere I go?  The answer to that is two-fold, because yes, I do want to take it with me everywhere I go.  And, NO!  I don’t want to have to carry it around and keep track of it and make sure it doesn’t come to any harm everyday, everywhere.  Anyway, while I’m unemployed and have limited reasons to leave the house, I spend days at a time inside my home and therefore have far fewer options for creative photos that meet the challenge and don’t become redundant.

January 11th: “Looking Down”

Once again, without leaving the house my options were limited to looking over the railing of the stairs leading up to my front door, which would be…  concrete sidewalk, or very poorly maintained grass in the side yard, or looking out a window.  Which wouldn’t really be “down” so much as “out”.  Of course, I could have taken one of those ubiquitous pictures of my feet, or of my shoes on my feet (which I don’t wear in the house), but that’s not particularly interesting in my mind.  Pass.

January 12th: “Something colorful”

I didn’t leave the house.  Like the song says, “Second verse.  Same as the first!”

January 13th: “Makes me Smile”

This one I actually could have done, with only the smallest bit of cheating.  I always figure that the point of the Photo-A-Day challenges, is to take a photo that day that goes with the prompt, however, I was actually with K when she took the photo she posted for “natural”, only it was “lucky number” day.  Maybe it’s the thought that counts?

Anyway, I took this picture of Lil’B a couple of weekends prior while we were on an outing to the Hyde Street Pier and exploring some of the ships that are moored there.  Lil’B always makes me smile.  So if you don’t worry about the fact that I already posted this picture once, or about meeting the date, then it’s all good.  🙂

Taking a picture of Lil'B, taking a picture of me.

Taking a picture of Lil’B, taking a picture of me.

January 14th: “Three Things” 

This one might actually have been pretty interesting.  The instruction was to take a picture of three things.  “They might belong together, or they might be totally random”.  But of course, by this time, I was a week behind on this endeavor, and in my mind, I couldn’t have participated in this one without having done all the ones that came before.  This leads to my new challenge for myself to be further discussed at the end of this post.

January 15th: “Black and White”

This prompt is much like the “upside down” prompt in that, with modern technology, any picture can be black and white with just the press of a few buttons.  I could have made a picture black and white using settings on my camera, or using iPhoto to edit it that way.  There’s no real challenge in that, and once again, I only left the house to work.  Irony being what it is, I could have taken a “selfie” at work and posted that, since my uniform for most bar tending jobs is a white shirt with black pants, tie and vest.  But again, I didn’t want to bring my camera along to work.

January 16th: “Sun”

The instruction was to take a picture of the sun.  Of course this was totally doable, even without having left the house.  But again.  I was too far behind.

January 17th: “Tiny”

Does this really need any explanation?

January 18th: “Happy Place”

I wouldn’t even know where to start with this one.  (Plus I worked again, that day.)

January 19th: “Breakfast”

“Take a photo of your breakfast, or where you were for breakfast time.”  This was a Lil’B Sunday.  I picked him up earlier than usual so we could go to the Oakland, Zoo.  I slept through breakfast, and well?  Really?  Does anyone really want a photograph of my bed?  I don’t think so.  I took lots of pictures at the zoo, though I haven’t yet had time to edit them.  But those photographs had nothing to do with the prompt.

January 20th: “To Do List”

I suppose there might be something interesting in this.  The instruction was to take a picture of the actual list, or a series of pictures of things I did.  At the moment, my to do list, is only in my head, and it’s so long that it’s actually debilitating and nothing gets done.  Something I absolutely must work on.  But anyway, this photo prompt wasn’t doable either for many reasons.

January 21st:  “Blue”

Sometimes they’re just too easy, which I guess I shouldn’t complain about.  While I am not consciously aware of having a favorite color, or a strong preference toward any one color, until recently, a quick glance at my closet would have told you that blue is unequivocally my favorite color.  Finding a blue thing to take a picture of would not have been difficult.  Then of course, there’s always this:

Me and my new car, taken outside the dealership, Half Moon Bay, CA

Me and my new car, taken outside the dealership, Half Moon Bay, CA

Heck, even the blue Honda over my left shoulder was mine.  That’s the car I traded in for the Mustang.  (Don’t talk to me about the monumental difference in gas mileage.  I will cut you!)

And that leads us to today, January 22nd: “Nice!”.  The instruction just says, “take a picture of something nice”, which, again, could be anything.  Hell, I could even just direct you to scroll up an inch or so.  There’s something pretty nice!  Maybe I’ll take some additional pictures today, maybe I won’t.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, my new challenge for my self, as alluded to with January 14th: “Three Things” is to not get so caught up in the idea that I have to post one thing before I can post something else.  Especially when that one thing is something that I am avoiding doing for whatever reason.  Maybe that thing will get posted, maybe it won’t.  But I shouldn’t let that thing prevent me from posting other things.  I have, in the past, had a problem with holding back on those thoughts because I hadn’t posted the other thing yet, and then I end up losing lots of ideas that I wanted to convey.  Probably this won’t lead to anything earth shattering, but at least it should help me keep my writing muscle exercised…  Lord knows it’s the only one that’s getting any exercise.

 


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Upside-Down… Whatever

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, today’s Fat Mum Slim Photo-A-Day prompt is “upside-down”.  And as I mentioned, I could easily take any old picture and use iPhoto to turn it upside down and meet today’s objective.  But that’s too easy and would really mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.

But the truth is, “upside-down” is a good prompt.  It’s not a great photo prompt, but it’s a good prompt.  You see, it’s more applicable to my life.  My life is upside-down right now.

Don’t worry.  This is not a “woe is me,” “I’m so depressed” kind of post.  I’m really not, which, honestly, probably ought to worry me.  It’s more of an introspective, “wow my life is… ‘upside down'” kind of post.

You see, I’ve been “underemployed” since mid-October.  Honestly?  It’s been lovely!  I absolutely love not having to get up at 6:30 in the morning to go to work!  I love not having to listen to people snivel about the temperature in the building, because honestly?  I’m hard pressed to give a damn that you’re cold, while you’re wearing Capri pants, sandals, and a silk, sleeveless shirt during winter and you’re the only person around who’s cold.  You expect me to turn up the heat?  Why don’t you try putting on a fucking sweater!  And don’t give me a song and dance about it being too cold and that’s why you need an illegal space heater, which you just happened to think was best placed on top of a bunch of cardboard boxes!!!

Yeah.  It’s been a while since I had a full-time job.  From a financial perspective, that’s not a good thing.  I’m living on fumes.  I just put in a request to liquidate my very meager retirement account just so I’ll have money to live on for the next six months or so.   Of course I want to spend as little of that money as possible but the fact remains that unless I want to move back to a red state suburbia, I must find a way to support myself, even if I have to find a way to make myself comfortable in a less…  comfortable lifestyle than that to which I am currently accustomed.

I still need to look for a full-time job in my chosen profession of Facility Management which will hopefully sustain my life and provide an opportunity for advancement that will result in more money and more of a comfortable lifestyle.

In the meantime I have to bring in some money, and so today I went to two separate restaurants, in two very separate parts of the bay area to apply for bar tending jobs.  I happened across two posts yesterday on Craigslist for bartenders at specific locations of chain restaurants.  One is seven miles from my house in the midst of a fairly business, but slightly residential area that might provide me with a decent opportunity to make money in tips and gain some convenient restaurant experience.  The other is 30 miles from my house and is in the midst of an almost entirely business district.  Naturally, at the close restaurant the hiring manager is on vacation until Monday.  The hostess recommended that I call in the morning on Monday and then plan to come by around 2:30 in the afternoon to see the hiring manager for a potential interview.  She even told me, “I think he’ll like you.  You look a lot alike.

“Oh?” I said, smiling.

“Yeah,” she said, “he wears glasses.  Has a shaved head…”   I hoped she’d make a comment about how he was a snappy dresser, or maybe how I was exactly his type romantically…  but whatever.  I’ll call on Monday morning and hope I can interview with him on Monday afternoon.  The problem is, restaurants tend to prefer to promote from within, for bar tenders and they like to hire servers with the potential hope of getting promoted to bar tenders.  I’m not interested in serving.  In fact, I really suck at it.  I want to be a bar tender.  That’s what I took a class to learn, and that’s why I respond to ads that say they’re hiring bar tenders, not “servers who might eventually become bar tenders.”

From there, I went to the second restaurant.  It was 32 miles from the restaurant I had visited first, and at that time of day, 2:45 pm, it was supposed to take me 32 minutes to get there.  That was about right.  In keeping with the idea that my life is upside down right now, they seemed interested in hiring me.  They really pushed the fact that it is “a long drive” from my house.  And it is.  It’s about 25 miles, which legitimately may be too far for me to drive for a shift that isn’t going to garner me nearly as much money as I had hoped for, but at least it gets my foot in the door for the industry.  Hopefully by having a little restaurant experience under my belt I will be more attractive to places that I can expect to make better tip money, closer to home. They also made a big point of telling me that because they’re in a business district, their biggest days are end of the work week and not so much week-ends (as is the case in most restaurants) and they pushed the fact that they like to promote from within and are really looking for servers (even though their ad said, bartenders).

I spoke with the general manager today and she suggested that they could hire me as a “cocktail server” to work in the bar during happy hours and that depending on how quickly I learned and picked up on the “important details of their menu” I could move on to bar tender from there.  I played along as though I understood that serving would be a necessary part of the job (and I really did, though I don’t like it) and the end result was that I will go back for a “final” interview on Thursday before a final decision was made, but based on the conversations with the two people I did talk with, they seemed interested, if I was.  They just put a lot of emphasis on the desire for longevity.  I told them I believe in keeping my commitments and so if something came up with one of my other employers when I was already scheduled with this restaurant, I would not ditch the restaurant for the job.  I also told them I was looking for a full-time job in my “chosen career,” as the manager kept putting it, and so, of course, my availability would change depending on where and when I found full-time employment.

Meanwhile, the best prospect I’ve had, since before I got “released during probation” from my last full-time job, is offering me about three shifts a week, not behind a bar, at approximately $100 (or less) per shift in tips, and I’ll have to drive 25-30 miles each way, in my 18 miles to the gallon, gas guzzling, albeit sexy as hell, automobile to get there.

On the one hand, I’m excited at the prospect of being wanted for a job, anywhere at all.  On the other hand, this job can’t possibly sustain me and I must keep looking.  The question suddenly becomes, is it enough to put me off unemployment insurance, and is there anything to be gained by accepting a job that will reduce my available time to search for a job, while not making enough to eliminate the free money that is unemployment insurance…

What to do…  What to do?

Anyway, just for the hell of it…  Here.  Mostly just ’cause I think it’s funny.  A Cosmopolitan I made at home the other night, using Hanger One Mandarine Blossom Vodka, #upside-down.

An upside-down picture of a cosmopolitan made with Hangar One Mandarine Blossom Vodka.  Notice how it doesn't spill. ;)

An upside-down picture of a cosmopolitan made with Hangar One Mandarine Blossom Vodka. Notice how it doesn’t spill. 😉

I’m Cheating and It Happens Every Day

Okay, so the title isn’t entirely a statement of fact, and it is definitely a play on words, but it helps accomplish two goals for today.

The Fat Mum Slim Photo-a-Day prompt for today is “Happens Everyday”.  As I tried to think of something to photograph that fits this description I realized that, while I could think of dozens of things that happen everyday, brushing teeth, taking a shower, using the toilet, preparing and eating meals, getting out of bed, getting into bed, playing on Facebook, reading, writing, ‘rithmetic– Oh…  not that one, not if I can help it…  I realized, that there wasn’t anything particularly exciting, and more importantly, not maybe just a little inappropriate to share on this forum, to photograph and share with the world.  Then it hit me.  There is something that I do everyday, something that I could share with the world, but more importantly something that leads into a story I’m supposed to tell and have not yet done.  Every day I put lotion on my tattoos, particularly the newest one, to moisturize the skin where they have been implanted and to bring out the color that is otherwise masked by the paleness of dried out skin.  While in the strictest of terms, I’m not sharing any photographs that were taken today, what I am sharing is all original photography, either taken by me, or taken of me, and with my camera.  That will make sense in a minute, but suffice it to say that it would’ve been really difficult for me to have taken all of the pictures that will be shared here.  With that said, here is the not so long-awaited story, as promised, of my fourth tattoo; the one with the sentimentality to surpass all others (on my body at least).

In October of 2012, I went one Sunday afternoon to pick up Lil’B from his house for our regular outing.  Lil’B and I had been matched for a little over three years at that point.  We had grown close.  The days of yesteryear, with the long silences and the uncertainty of our connection were past and I was confident, indeed certain of our closeness.  On this particular Sunday afternoon in early October, Lil’B presented me with a drawing that he had done for me.  Lil’B has always been a good artist and it’s something he enjoys.  In fact, our very first get together, I came over and we hung out in his bedroom as he showed me his toys and games and got to know what hanging out with me would be like in the relative comfort and safety of his own home, with his mother in the next room.  After showing me his toys and games and playing with them for a little while, he pulled out his art supplies and we began to draw pictures.  His pictures were much better than mine.  As I said, he’s always been a good artist.  Me?  Not so much.  I still have the drawings he did for me that day hanging on my refrigerator.  Unfortunately, in the present state of financial lack the state of California has been experiencing, arts classes of all kinds have been the first to go in the curriculum, in the interest of saving money.  It’s a tragedy in my mind that the powers that be, don’t see the value in exercising that part of a child’s mind and in fact the detriment that such deprivation inflicts on a child’s education.  Nonetheless, art classes are a thing of the past in Lil’B’s schools and the fact that he drew this picture for me was particularly special and moving for me, because he was not prompted by anyone to do it.  It was entirely of his own volition and on his own time that he drew this picture that so clearly, at least to me, depicts the meaning our relationship holds for him, but just as importantly illustrates that he is paying attention when we interact and he knows me and what I like (at least as much as is reasonable for a then 10-year-old to know.)

Lil’B drew this picture for me, purely because he was thinking of me, and he wanted to do it.

Drawing from Lil'B, Depicting Some Super Things

Drawing from Lil’B, Depicting Some Super Things

For the sake of his privacy I have covered up our names on the drawing, but you can see in the top right corner, he drew himself and me.  He also drew a picture of Superman and a Superman logo.  Then, though his spelling is wrong, he drew a “Supermisha logo” and a picture of Supermischa, a grey cat in Superman costume.  I thought it was adorable, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Sleeping Beauty.  Mischa Asleep on my lap... Just where he believed he belonged.

Sleeping Beauty. Mischa Asleep on my lap… Just where he believed he belonged.

Purely by chance, Lil’B gave me this drawing approximately two weeks before my little buddy, Mischa fell too seriously ill to go on and I had to make the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.  Mischa wandered into my life when he was just about ten weeks old and with the exception of a few months here and there when I lived in places he couldn’t, he was with me for his entire life, which in the end, was a few months longer than 20 years.  He had a long and good life, being well protected and taken care of and when his time came, he went peacefully, in my arms, and knowing that he was loved to the very end.  It was, without a doubt, the worst day of my life.  I still miss him terribly.

Anyway, with Mischa gone, Lil’B’s picture became that much more special to me.  As these things go, I began to formulate an idea.  As with tattoo number 5, the idea morphed and grew and began to take shape.  In June of 2013, after several months of contemplation and communication with my tattoo artist, I finally had a plan and an appointment.

While the idea for the tattoo was, in no small part directly inspired by Lil’B’s drawing, it was still a ten-year-old’s art work.  As special as Lil’B is, and as important as he is to me, I did not want the artwork of a ten-year-old permanently affixed to my body.  I made it clear to Lil’B that he had inspired the design and that it was special to me for that reason.  I don’t think he really got it until he saw the finished product, but he seemed to really like it once he saw it and he understood the significance of the components.

There are three components that make up the significance of this tattoo, the obvious component is the part that memorializes Mischa’s life and his place in my heart.  This component is inspired by Lil’B’s drawing, though it is significantly cleaned up and made into something I would be happy to have as a permanent part of my body.

Supermischa, without the yellow filled in on the belt and logo.

Supermischa, without the yellow filled in on the belt and logo.

The next component Is actually the Superman logo as used in the 1993 television series, Lois and Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman. While I had seen and enjoyed the Christopher Reeve Superman movies when I was a kid, it really wasn’t until Lois and Clark came along that I became a big fan of Superman.  It may or may not have had something to do with my attraction to Asian men and the fact that Dean Cain is half Japanese.  Regardless, I became a fan of the character and what he stands for while enjoying that series.

Superman Logo as it appeared in the 1993-1997 series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

Superman Logo as it appeared in the 1993-1997 series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

The third component of the tattoo is the logo from the 2006 movie Superman Returns.  Lil’B was born in 2001 but the last movie before Superman Returns came out in 1987.  The image here is distorted due to location and the angle of the original, unedited photograph.

Distorted view of Superman logo as seen in 2006 movie, Superman Returns.

Distorted view of Superman logo as seen in 2006 movie, Superman Returns.

Admittedly, this is a tiny bit of a stretch in terms of matching up dates, but the idea is that component number one represents Mischa, component number two represents me, component number three represents Lil’B.  When put together to form the completed tattoo, it both memorializes Mischa and commemorates my relationship with Lil’B, both by representing him with the newer logo and by incorporating the artwork he inspired into the piece.  He thinks it’s pretty cool.

It’s a subtle detail, but the components are arranged in the finished tattoo, in birth order with my logo at the top, Mischa in the middle, and Lil’B’s logo at the bottom.

Here we see a selection of “in progress” photos taken by my good friend and tattoo guru, K (with my camera), to show the progress of the tattoo from beginning to end.

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By the way, you might have noticed the “6/13” at the bottom of Lil’B’s logo.  This was my fourth tattoo.  On countless occasions, I have had people ask, of the first three, “How long have you had that?” and I never knew the answer.  As I was preparing to have this tattoo done, I looked back through various records (*cough* paper journals *cough*) and found out the month and year that I had each of the previous three tattoos done and as part of the process for tattoo number four, I had dates added to each of my tattoos so that when people asked me how long I’ve had them, I could refer to the date on the artwork and answer the question.  If you refer back to the pictures of tattoo number five, you’ll see that there is a date added to that tattoo as well.  This will be something I will keep up with going forward as I continue to get more tattoos…  And I will be getting more tattoos.

So there you have it.  Two birds, one stone.  It happens everyday that I put lotion on my tattoos including tattoo number four, the previously untold tattoo…  heh!

By the way, tomorrow’s photo-a-day prompt is “upside down”.  I’m not the least bit sure how I’m going to manage a picture for that, that is not just using editing tools to turn a right side up picture, upside down.  The recommendation on Fat Mum Slim’s list is, if nothing else, “turn your phone upside down” to take a picture.  Apparently Chantelle doesn’t have an iPhone, or she’d know that turning the phone upside down does no good.  The accelerometer in the phone just turns the picture right side up for you…  I suppose that’s not any less cheating than using editing tools to turn something upside down.  We’ll have to see what I can come up with.

Found

I spent Sunday afternoon with my Little Brother.  We ended up going to the Maritime Museum at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.  Well, technically we went to the Hyde Street Pier and not the Maritime Museum.  The Museum was only open for about 45 more minutes when we got there.  There are four or five historical ships permanently moored at the Hyde Street Pier and they sell tickets to board the boats for $5.00 for adults, “kids” under 16 get in free, which was kind of amazing!  What’s more amazing is that the $5.00 ticket for me is good for seven days!

The Fat Mum Slim Photo-A-Day Prompt for Sunday, January 5th is “Found”.  I took a bunch of pictures, not all of which are included here.  I found a few surprises when I uploaded and edited these pictures.  It’s always a treat viewing the photos on a larger than 3.5″ screen.

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But the big surprise is what I found, when I returned to my car:

I was certain I knew that there was no parking enforcement on Sundays.  I intend to contest them of course, but I have enough experience with the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority to know that they will not excuse the tickets.

My Town

I have always had a habit of thinking about “today” or “yesterday” or “tomorrow” in relation to when I sleep and wake up again, rather than by the traditional means of following the clock.  In the strictest sense, it is already Saturday and as with all the other’s so far, this post is “late” because it’s for Friday’s prompt.  I say, however, that it’s the thought, the intent, that matters and not the very “letter of the law”, so, whatever.  Here it is.

The Fat Mum Slim Photo-A-Day prompt for Friday, January 3, 2013 is “My Town”, which is actually kind of a neat coincidence, given that the town I live in, Oakland, California, is known as “town” or “the town” because of its geographic location across the bay from San Francisco, commonly referred to by the locals as “the City”.

*Quick side note:  I’ve always held the philosophy that there are hundreds of “the city”s in existence.  When I was attending my one semester of University in 1993, I was attending a relatively small school about 40 minutes east of Oklahoma City and many of the students at this university referred to Oklahoma City as “the city”.  I always thought that was kind of funny, quaint even, because I had often heard people on television refer to New York City as “the city”.  Then I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and heard the locals talking about “the City”.  It didn’t take long for me to adopt the vernacular and begin referring to “the City” myself.

I finally arrived at the inescapable conclusion that it is all accurate, but in its own way; it just depends on how you spell it.  Observe:  Living outside Oklahoma City when my friends and I wanted to go to the nearest metropolis, Oklahoma City, we made plans to go to “the city”.  I suspect that anyone living near a metropolis, could, and many do, refer to that metropolis as “the city”.  I now live in a significant town with a population of over 400,000 people.  With a large downtown business district and new housing and arts and shopping areas popping up all the time, Oakland is a metropolis in it’s own right, however, it is overshadowed by the specter that is its sister city across the bay, San Francisco.  Therefore Oakland isn’t “the city” because there is a larger city within a reasonable distance.  San Francisco is “the City” (notice the capital C).  New York City, however, is the city with the highest population in the country at nearly nine million people.  With the nations financial center and the east coast hub of the entertainment industry, it is easy to see how New York City would be “The City” (also written as THE City).

Anyway, for the part of the country where I live, San Francisco is “the City” and that makes Oakland “the Town”.  (I’m not making this up.  I actually read this recently in a local paper.)  Since today’s prompt was “my town” I decided to go out into “the Town” to get some shots of a few local iconic sites.  There are literally dozens, if not hundreds of things I could have taken pictures of, but I decided to limit myself to three basic concepts.

On the southwest edge of Downtown Oakland, near the Lake Merritt BART station (a name that has always amused me, given it’s distance from Lake Merritt) is a smallish community college campus, which happens to be the location of my swimming classes.  The main, most identifiable building on the campus is a three sided structure, roughly nine or ten stories tall.  Tall enough, that with an unobstructed view it is visible from quite a distance.  If I had been out late enough, I would have attempted some evening shots as well.  The script sign at the top of the building is repeated on all three sides and created out of green neon lights, making the building distinctive, and distinguishable even after the sun has gone down.

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Arguably the most notable and iconic sight in the Downtown Oakland skyline is the Oakland Tribune building’s clock tower.  It’s visible from all directions, again if your view is unobstructed.  Also created using neon lights, this time in red, the Tribune sign at the top of the tower is visible day and night.  There’s a long, rich history, I’m sure, but unfortunately, I don’t personally know anything notable other than the fact that one Sunday afternoon a few years ago, an employee of the paper climbed up to the clock tower and jumped to her death and since that’s not an uplifting story, we’ll just move on to the pictures.

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Next I made my way to the Port of Oakland where there were lots of things to take pictures of.  The iconic view that I wanted to capture was that of the cranes used to off load the shipping containers when the cargo ships come into port.  The entire area is surprisingly bustling with 18 wheeler tractor/trailer trucks rumbling around constantly.  I was standing on one street corner with my camera at my eye, positioned just so and ready to take a crucial picture when a truck pulled up along the curb in front of me completely blocking my view.  The driver got out, detached the trailer from his rig, then climbed right back in the cab and drove away.  That shot was not to be had.  But that’s okay because it forced me to walk a little further down the street and ended up with a better vantage point of what I wanted.

While I’m sure this is anything but common knowledge around the country, it is commonly held lore around these parts that some of these cranes were George Lucas’ inspiration for the design of the AT-AT Walkers seen in Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back.  (I am a bit disappointed to have just read this article which seems to definitively debunk that theory.)

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Of course, my town wouldn’t be my town without the equally iconic views looking out.  From my vantage point at a public park located in the midst of all the activity at the Port of Oakland, I was able to get some nice shots of “the City” (my City – or so I wish!).

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One last shot worth sharing.  This sign was posted at every pedestrian and mobile entrance to the park.  Guess what I spent the entire time avoiding walking in…

No Dogs Allowed posted at every entrance to the park.  Spent the entire time dodging petrified dog poop.

No Dogs Allowed posted at every entrance to the park. Spent the entire time dodging petrified dog poop.

2014 New Year’s Resolution… Failed Already

I guess it’s good to get these things out of the way early.  Heh!

I had a plan.  It was a good plan.  A great plan even.  If I do say so myself.  And I do.  Because if I don’t…  who will?

As demanded by my nephew, age 2 1/2.

As demanded by my nephew, age 2 1/2. My sister has a strict rule against pictures of her children appearing on the internet, but I’m pretty sure a photo of the indistinguishable knees of her only male child would be considered harmless enough to not cause offense, if she even knew this website existed.

You see, it’s like this.  Back in April, after I was offered the short-lived disaster of a job I had this year, and negotiated a start date that would allow me to take a much over-due trip to visit my sister and her family, including four children (my nieces and nephew), two of whom I had never seen in person, I decided that it was the opportunity and excuse I needed to invest in a fancy new 35 mm digital camera.  I’ve always been interested in photography and wanted to learn more about it and with a digital camera I’d be able to see the immediate results of my attempts to improve on technique and composition.  I bought the camera and took it with me on the trip, and of course, as soon as I took the camera out on the first day, the children started being children and wanted to take pictures themselves, and tell me what pictures I should take (my nephew kept saying, “take a picture of mine’s knees”), and insisted on seeing the pictures the instant they were taken.  Very few pictures were actually taken on that trip because the camera posed such a distraction and any hope of getting some candid, true life photos was dashed on the first day.

Over the summer, I decided to take a photography class at the local community college.  I knew from other’s experiences that this class would teach me not only how to compose a good quality, artistic photograph, but also, how to use editing software to make the picture look even better.  A few days after I registered for the photography class, I decided to register for the first level, beginning swimming class and soon after decided that both classes were too much to do all at once, at the time.  Ultimately, I decided that the swimming class was a higher priority because I wanted to be able to find a place to go to swim for exercise and once I had that covered I could be swimming for exercise while I learned to take and edit good quality photographs in a later semester.  That is still the plan, although when classes start up again in a couple of weeks, I’ll be taking the next swimming class with the hope of getting more effective and confident in that skill.  Photography will wait until Summer or Fall Semesters.  The camera sits in its case for weeks or months at a time without getting used and I’ve never finished reading the owner’s manual, or the “Photography for Dummies” book that I purchased and lugged all the way to New York and back with me, without ever cracking the spine.

During my most recent previous stint of unemployment, I began participating in a “photo-a-day” program run by the author of another blog, using just my iPhone and an Instagram account I haven’t even looked at in months.  When I started working, I found myself far too busy and far to pre-occupied to keep up with it and I let it drop.

Recently, my urge to learn to properly use my camera has returned, as has my desire to practice and build my skill.  I have also wanted to get back to more regular posting here on this site, and not have everything be all gloom and doom and woe is me as the last several months have been.

And then it hit me!  The great idea!  The perfect “solution”!  “Photo-A-Day” meets “posting 365” (or whatever the hell they called it) meets new inspiration for both more and better photography AND more and more cheerful writing…  I decided I would pull out the photography books and read a little bit of them each day, and I would combine that with the photo-a-day prompts from Fat Mum Slim and everyday, I would take a picture that is prompted by the Photo-A-Day prompt and post it on this here bloggy thingy.  I would write a post about the photo if the spirit moved me, or I would just post the picture with a minimal explanation/caption and let it stand on its own.  Every day.  For 365 days.

I’ve already failed.

I wasn’t going to get too bogged down in the details of actually starting the plan on January 1st.  It’s already 2:00 in the morning on January 2nd, so you see how well that worked out.  But I was going to do a post for every picture and a picture for every day…

I worked last night.  For the first time in more years than I can remember, I worked on New Year’s Eve.  I would far rather have been out celebrating somewhere, preferably somewhere far away, like Las Vegas, or Sidney Harbor, but I need the money, and New Year’s Eve seemed like a good opportunity to earn a lot of tips.  (It could have been a lot better than it was, but the whole experience is a separate story for another post.)  I didn’t get off work until 1:45 AM.  One of the other bar tenders who happens to live right down the street from me and I rode BART home from the city together and I gave her a ride from the station to her house.  She invited me in and we had a two plus hours over-due celebratory glass of champagne and chatted for a little while before I went home.  I arrived at home around 4:00 AM at which time I took a shower.  I’ve never been able to go straight to bed after either arriving home, or taking a shower.  I need time to settle in first.  Plus, I had “nerd things” to do with my tip money.  I briefly entertained the idea that I just wouldn’t sleep until bedtime on January 1st, because I knew that what happened, would happen…  By 6:00 AM I was exhausted, could barely keep my eyes open and had no idea what I was seeing on the Netflix DVD I was watching.  I gave up and went to bed, slept until noon and have not had the slightest inclination to sleep again.  This is a scenario I do not want to make into a habit

When I woke up I was hungry and didn’t have time for “what should I cook for lunch”.  I needed to eat immediately, so failing all other options (or rational consideration thereof) I ended up eating a couple of Eggo toaster waffles.  Once the waffles were gone and the dish was washed off and in the sink (the dishwasher is full of clean dishes and I haven’t put forth the effort to put them away yet) I went to the living room and sat down.  It was only then that I pulled up the schedule of prompts for the photo-a-day program and saw today’s prompt:  lunch.  I couldn’t even think of a viable and reasonable way to cheat.

Sometimes it’s good to set the bar low right up front so you only have one way to go from there…

The Words Will Come

Just start writing….  The words will come…  Just start writing…

That’s what the great and powerful “they” always say, right?  Just start writing, the words will come.  And the truth is, the great and powerful “they” are not wrong.  This strategy has worked for me many times before.  It’s just that, there’s a lot of stuff going on and swirling around in my brain, and I haven’t quite figured out how to sort it all out yet.  How much of it to share and how much of it to keep to myself.

Despite my best efforts I’m still inclined to worry a bit about what readers of this site will think of what I put here, and yet, I’m actually quite proud of my last post.  Yes, I discussed some “mature themes” and yes I admitted to some activities that, in the past, I would have completely kept to myself, as much out of embarrassment, as anything else, but I think it’s a good thing that I posted that.  I spend a lot of time in this sort of “in-between” stage of life where I feel like, I shouldn’t do anything I’m ashamed of and therefore I don’t do anything I’m ashamed of…  Yet I’m ashamed of things I really shouldn’t be, and therefore, this philosophy holds me back.

There is an excellent chance that I’m confusing shame with fear, or shame with unfounded guilt which causes fear, or some other tremendously deep and impressive introspection that I’m not quite clear about and obviously can’t manage to articulate…

I’ve come a long way in the last several years of blogging, and even before that.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, I’ve gained a considerable amount of emotional and mental independence (not to be confused with the physical and financial independence that I’ve had since I was 22).  But “a considerable amount” can be just a drop in the bucket when you’re coming from a place of such dependence…  Or co-dependence.  There are still a good many subjects and issues about which I can hear my mother’s voice, or more to the point, her judgmental, disappointed noises.  Tsking and groaning and sighing (oh my!).  And it’s not like she even needs to know about my behavior and my activities, but it doesn’t matter if the physical being knows anything because the non-corporial manifestation of her that exists in my subconscious is ever-present and equally judgmental.  And, of course, I think I’m inclined to project that judgement and condemnation onto other people both local and afar.  I imagine the gasps and the shaking heads of the people who might read my words, the disappointment that might come from having the image of me, which they have created, sullied by the revelation of the things I don’t dare say.

I am aware, as I write these words, that I’m creating a proverbial mountain out of what many would see as an equally proverbial mole hill.  I am also aware that, while I do value the regular readers of this blog and would hate to put anyone off, concealing things about myself and allowing the fears of other’s opinions to hold me back is not only destructive and hurts me more than it does anyone else, it is potentially more destructive and hurtful than not acting because of the fear.

I’m human.  I’m alive.  I’m male (stereotype).  And like everyone else, I have needs, both physical and emotional that need to be fulfilled, one way or another. The truth is, while I’m over here hiding from that fact, all of you are probably reading this blog and assuming it; assuming that I take measures to have my needs fulfilled (trust me, I do), you just don’t necessarily want to know what those measures are.  Certainly, there is a fine line between open and honest sharing, not leaving out pertinent details, and this turning into a very different kind of blog from what it has ever been before.  

Prior to the vague implications and poorly shrouded subliminal information in my last post, I believe I have discussed specific sexual activity on my part, exactly one time on this blog.  One time in five and a half years.  Meanwhile, any regular readers probably haven’t given my sexual endeavors much conscious thought, but have unconsciously assumed that I have not lived as a eunuch.  Society, as a whole, tends to frown on free and open discussions of sex, or so I have generally believed.  Yet as I write that I realize it happens far more frequently than I am comfortable with, and I have to question why that is.

Why am I so uncomfortable with it?  Why is it so hard for me to discuss it?

Certainly, it is, in part, due to my lack of experience and a fear that engaging in such conversations will result in any number of uncomfortable situations where I can not contribute as much to the conversation as people might expect me to; something I generally prefer to avoid.  But part of it is because of that non-corporial manifestation of my mother that exists in my subconscious, which is ever-present and tremendously judgmental.  It comes from a  damaged place within my psyche that is influenced by my mother’s constant over-vilification of sex during my childhood to the point that sex scares me.

There.  I’ve said it.  Sex scares me.  It doesn’t just make me nervous or uncomfortable because it’s “new”, it scares the ever-loving shit out of me in a way I don’t even know how to combat.

Logically, I know it shouldn’t.  Intellectually, I know that sex is a perfectly natural, and healthy thing.  Through the power of study, meditation and independent thought, I have even arrived at the conclusion that I believe pre-marital sex is not only not wrong, it’s important and healthy.  Reasonable, not overly graphic discussions of sex in general, are not something to be afraid of and shy away from, particularly when they lay the groundwork for a further story…

Yet any discussion of my own sexuality (not my sexual orientation, but my sexuality) makes me very uncomfortable and self conscious.

…..

I have a date tomorrow night, and I have mixed feelings about it.  I think it’s a date.  I didn’t really think it was a date when it was discussed, but it seems that it is a date.

Everything I have said here that leads up to that revelation does not, in any way, mean I think there’s an expectation or obligation for sex tomorrow.  In fact quite to the contrary, I think it’s clearly understood that sex will not be happening.  Rather, it’s about how this date came about, and how my shame, prevented me from writing about it before now.

In this wonderful, 21st century world in which we live, there is an iPhone app for absolutely everything.  Seriously.  According to one source in October, 2013 there were approximately 1,000,000 apps in the Apple App Store and that number just keeps going up.  If you can realistically conceive of it, there is probably an app out there for it, already.  And society (and men – stereotype) being what it is, there is more than one app for on-line dating and people-meeting available that uses the GPS signal in phones to show you the profiles of any number of people within a certain distance of where you happen to be holding your phone and looking at that app’s screen.  The first time I ever heard of one of these apps, I downloaded it on my phone, because it was free, and I was curious to see how it worked.  I never had any delusions that I would use the app as it was intended.  I still don’t.  That’s not my style.  But because I have discovered that my, once thought to be impeccable, gaydar is, in actually, completely for shit, I thought it might be interesting to see the faces of other gay men in the area, see if there was anyone I recognized and might, therefore, meet organically and get to know, in real life.  Of course, I wasn’t about to post my own face, because I would be mortified if anyone knew I had even heard of the app, let alone actually downloaded it and look at it once in a while.  I rarely initiated conversations with anyone, and even more rarely did anyone initiate conversations with, or respond to, me.  When they did, it was, without exception, overtures toward having anonymous sex.

The block button is my friend.

Through all the bullshit that went down with The Guy this summer, one good thing did come out of it.  Well–  He doesn’t, by any means deserve all of the credit, it was the whole unfortunate experience with that short-lived job.  From the day I walked in the door, I was determined not to hide who I was or try to keep secret the details of my existence that have been so hard for me to freely share, verbally, in the past.  It was a fresh start in a new place, with a new group of people, and I was determined to start things on the right foot.  The Guy figured it out, or believed he did, from the very first day.  So, apparently, did my boss, though she couldn’t say so until I revealed it to her.  All she said was “I knew you were ‘family’.  Well, I was pretty sure, anyway.”  I learned to be more open about myself.  I learned not to fear people’s reactions.  (To this day, I have not had one person outside of my family react badly to learning that I am gay.)  I learned to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may, because these people were all new in my life and if they learned the truth up front and they didn’t like it, well, there was no loss.

Thanks to The Guy, I started to feel better about myself, physically.  Again, he doesn’t get all the credit.  Over the last two and a half years, I have lost approximately 70 pounds.  The man I see in the mirror today, is definitely not the man I saw back then.  That man’s clothes don’t fit me anymore.  I still have a long way to go, but I’ll gladly take what I can get.  I’ve learned to appreciate my body in its current form, to take control over the things I can, and not obsess over the things I can’t.  But at least for a little while there, I believed that, not only did someone find me attractive, but someone who I was attracted to, found me attractive.  Due to the nature and circumstances of our involvement and the end thereof, I temper any excitement at that fact with a healthy dose of he-was-full-of-shit, but at the very least, I learned what it feels like to appreciate having someone pursue me due to physical attraction.

I posted a face picture on the app, and filled in a simple profile telling people what I was about, and what I was and, more importantly, what I was not looking for.  I tried to put the hurt and shame of my experience with The Guy behind me and see what came next.  Suddenly, out of the blue, people started initiating chats with me.  Talking to me.  Having real conversations with me.  Much of the time, those conversations end with “so when can we hook up?”.

The block button is still my friend.

Early this week, I crossed paths with a guy we’ll call “No. 1” (not for any reason you’re likely to think of, just go with it) who was deemed to be a “likely match” by some inexplicable algorithm the site uses to suggest people you might like, based on your reactions to their previous suggestions.  No. 1 had a very relatable profile, with a statement about relationships, fidelity, and where he stands on the subject that I happened to like quite a bit.  As it happened, he hit the little “like” button on my picture and I hit the little “like” button on his, and the app was kind enough to let us each know that the other “liked” us and suggested we chat.  So we did.  And he was a nice guy.  And he appealed to me.  And we exchanged phone numbers and I suggested that we should talk again.  I even considered asking him if we could meet for coffee or something sometime, but I decided against it.  The next morning, he sent me a text message and asked if I might be free on Saturday after he gets off work at 8:00.  I am and said as much, and we set up what I thought of as “meeting and getting to know each other better, face to face.”  I know. I know.  That’s pretty much what a date is.   Only, I didn’t think of it that way.  I didn’t think of it as a prelude to anything.  I thought of it as meeting a potentially nice person and getting to know him.  (Again, pretty much what a date is.)

My mind is reeling with this.  Really, it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if it is a date.  It wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if I enjoyed our date.  It’s just…  I admit it.  I’m terribly skittish.  And it pisses me off.  It’s not fair, that this one experience with this one, completely fucked up guy, has done such lasting damage in me.  I want to move past it.  I want to put it out of my head and forget about The Guy entirely.  I sure as shit don’t want to let him affect how I handle dating going forward.

But I’m so afraid of taking another chance.

I’m not sure I’m open to a relationship right now.  I’m not sure I’m ready to date right now.  When I agreed to meet No. 1 and we settled on a time and place, I thought, “Great!  That’s that.  I’ll see him on Saturday and we’ll have lots to talk about,” and I’m sure we will, only, he continued to text and talk to me after we settled the plans.  He has texted me every day since then, and I can’t quite explain why that bothers me.  It just does.  He has made some fairly innocent comments here and there that really have me on edge.  I’m probably reading too much into it, but he has made some comments which elude to the prospect of a relationship with me and I’m so not in that place.  I mean, we haven’t even met yet.

And all I can think is, “Oh my God!  I’m The Guy!”