GoatsbeardI headed out west for business and pleasure at the end of July. It was both my high school and family reunions. And I also wanted to help out with mom’s house.

My middle brother is the executor and lives next door. I discovered not much had been done since January, including the food in the cupboards, which I cleaned out first. There were bugs in it, and a stick of butter was still on the counter. Then I worked on getting rid of old books, salvaging what I could. Most of them were paperbacks from the 70s which not even the used book store wanted. Going through mom’s stuff was an exercise in learning what is suddenly useless when you pass away. Stuff is just stuff that someone else has to move when you’re gone.

I think my brother and his wife are not quite processed yet, nor ready to sell the house. I made a dent in clearing some stuff out, but there is still a lot to do. I think the only thing I can do is be patient.

I went on a bike ride on a former railbed now turned into a bike path going along the Mississippi River bottomlands. Due to state budget cutbacks from Wisconsin’s wonderful Republican governor, the trail is woefully in disrepair. Along the way I stopped at an old train depot, where there has always been a honeybee colony:
Bees at the depot
There have been bees in this building since I was a kid when there wasn’t even a bike trail. I hope they stay there for a while.

On the way to meet a high school friend, I discovered the high school track where I ran the 400m, mile relay, 1600m and pole vault events was being torn up. Admittedly it was old and crumbling, but I remember being in these lanes:
high school track
The class reunion was fun, but only about 8 people showed up. It was for our 27th, which they decided to hold due to the success of the 25th. But I think we will stick to one every 5 years from now on.

On the way back home from the reunion at the Legion Hall, I stopped by the public library to try to take the Pokémon gym there. While I was preparing for battle, this hot guy in riding leathers pulls up. Turns out he was on my same Pokémon team (Mystic) and we took control of the gym together. Like many people in Western Wisconsin, he looked like Alexander Skarsgård, but in black riding leathers. He was so hot it was unsettling, even hotter because he was a Pokémon nerd too:
PokemonBro
I walk to the park in nearby LaCrosse revealed a lot more Pokémon players getting their exercise. Hate it or not, it is getting people outside who would otherwise be indoors with their computer or game consoles.

Then I went to Minneapolis to hang out with Woolgatherer, and also go to Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota. People are still leaving tributes along the fence, some of them from as far away as New Zealand. It was quite touching:
Adore
In the tunnel that approaches the studios, someone made a Prince petroglyph amid the graffiti:
Prince Petroglyph
I think they will eventually turn it into a Prince museum.

Then I went to L.A. to hang out with Dingo. The smog wasn’t so bad this time, and I went to the La Brea Tar Pits again, and also to the The Los Angeles County Museum of Art Guillermo del Toro exhibit “At Home With Monsters.” It featured the directors influences, themes, and models from his movies:
Pan’s Labyrinth
BrettCajun joined me but we had to leave when he kept asking me to take his picture:
Kaiju Parasite
We then went to Ginger (Will) Rogers Beach in Santa Monica. I had picked out a Speedo before the trip and it recieved wide acclaim. I thought it fit nicely on a 45 year-old man:
summer speedo
I barely escaped LA because on the day of my departure, Delta’s flight computers blacked out all over the world. I was fortunate to make it as far as Raleigh, where I rented a car to drive back to DC (4 hours). But I got tired by Richmond, so I stayed in the 2nd grossest motel I’ve ever stayed in. Didn’t get much sleep, but made it back to DC in time for a phone interview, which resulted in an in-person interview next week. I also have another one for a different job as well. I have a new suit and my hair is done, so I’m ready for either interview.

Pidgey & Chris

Remember Chris from the Boys Briefs blog? Here he is trying to attract a Pidgey Pokémon with a cocktail. Nothing has changed.

Back in 1998 I was playing Pokémon Red/BlueYellow on the Gameboy. In the game you could travel to different places and catch critters, which would evolve into more powerful forms. Sort of like Dungeons & Dragons but with critters instead of swords & sorcery. You could trade your critters with other friends who had the same game. It was fun and a little addicting.

Later on Pokémon Stadium came out and you could bring your critters that you found on the Gameboy and export them to the Nintendo 64 game console, then fight them against your friends and in-game opponents. It made all your collecting efforts even more fun. Then Pokémon Snap came out on the N64, where you would travel on a golf cart safari-style and take pictures of the things you saw. Better pictures with more Pokémon in your frame got you more points. Being a birdwatcher, I loved that one too. In fact the whole Pokémon concept is merely a virtual version of birdwatching as far as I’m concerned. If you haven’t seen “The Big Year” yet, it’s a fun movie about birdwatching that will also help you understand all this Pokémon business.

When I heard a location-based app version of this game franchise was coming out for play on your handheld device I knew it was going to be big. The company producing the game had enjoyed success with the similar Ingress app. I never played Ingress but had a few friends who did. It encourages real travel to locations to check-in and compete against other factions. It’s clear Pokémon GO borrows a lot of concepts from Ingress. But this time you not only check-in but you collect critters along the way, just like in Pokémon Red/Blue back in the day.

Busy locations have been drawing a lot of app users since the game came out. You can even plant lures that attract Pokémon to your location for easy catching. While I was fishing for Pokémon at a lure hotspot at DuPont Circle today there was a dude there cruising like it was 1998. Back in the 80s and 90s that area was a popular cruising spot where you’d also try to find your own critter to take home. But with the advent of cruising apps like Grindr and Scruff, and the shift of the gay ghettoes in the city, few find much success at DuPont Circle anymore. But just like in the 90s, this guy didn’t have a handheld device, but he also didn’t seem to know what was going on with all the people looking into their phones trying to catch Pokémon.

He was trying to look for men to hit on who weren’t there, without the aid of a handheld device. Instead there were people there trying to catch imaginary creatures that weren’t there, using a handheld device. The contrast was fascinating and sad for everyone.

Shiner1It took a couple days to unpack and launder all my sweaty clothes after the Bingham Cup in Nashville. It was a good trip and our teams did well, one of them bringing home some hardware. My side (old people and new players) almost won our bracket but for a loss at the last game. It was quite warm there. I didn’t have much time to see Nashville but I managed to get some local barbecue. However I still favor Kansas City barbecue over Texas and Tennessee.

As you can see in the photo, I got a shiner that even looks prettier today. There’s a big bruise on my arm too, and I don’t know how I got either of them. Somebody probably stepped on me, but during the heat of battle you don’t feel much.

Back to serious job searching now. Only upcoming trips are back to Wisconsin for my 30th class reunion and also a family reunion in late July. May try to help out with mom’s house, which we need to prepare for sale.

I met a new friend near Benson. I named him snuggles.

I met a new friend near Benson. I named him snuggles.

It had been raining most of May, and thankfully I had scheduled a trip to Arizona to visit Homer just in time. More pictures of my trip by Homer on the link.

In fact it’s still raining, my garden is a withered, rotten mess and even the toilet paper inside the house is turning to mush. If this keeps up I may have to buy a dehumidifier. Basements are damp on a good day.

Anyhow, pure sunshine was just what the doctor ordered, and I got a lot of birding done and caught up with many friends down there, and made a few new ones too. This time I stayed at the lovely Adobe Guest House which was lovely and I highly recommend it.

Homer had mentioned going to see the bats under the bridge on previous visits, but those visits were in spring and the bats weren’t there yet. But on a May visit they were out in force and really cool to watch – fyi it’s my first video posted on this here blog! You can see them in the summer in Tucson at the Rillito River Bridge at Campbell Avenue.
Bridge Bats
I had also visited previously during spring bird migration, where you could see certain birds that were flying through Arizona but many of the summer residents had not arrived yet. So this time I was able to see a rare elegant trogon, and several other new species:
Elegant Trogon
Other new species included rock wrens, painted redstarts, yellow-eyed juncos, gray-breasted jays, and black-headed grosbeaks. Most of them are more commonly seen in Mexico. I saw them at Madera Canyon in the Coronado National Forest, almost to Mexico. Thankfully a wall won’t keep the birds from visiting the US. I only covered a single trail since I was so focused on seeing new birds, but I hope to get there again to do the other trails. The non-bird views were amazing:
Elephant Head
Next weekend I’m going to the Bingham Cup in Nashville. I think it’ll be my last big gay rugby tournament. I’ve been to all of them except for the ones in London and Sydney, and they’ve all been a blast. But rugby takes a lot of time during the season, and my beaten body just doesn’t heal as fast as it used to. At 45, rugby is hard on the body, but I really like the fitness it gives me. Bowling or darts just aren’t the same. Still thinking about what to do next that’s both social and active, but easier on the body.

Partyman

In 2012 I did a photoshoot with photographer Paul Specht. I happened to have a 12″ single of Prince’s “Partyman” from the Batman soundtrack handy and used it as a prop.

2016 you already suck quite a lot. Last night’s news about Prince’s demise was pretty bad. The 1999 double lp was the 2nd record I ever got. I couldn’t quite get into all the tracks but they grew on me, and I ended up buying all the albums before and most of them after. To be honest his recent work wasn’t my favorite, but I’ve always been a fan.

I grew up about two hours south of Minneapolis, where he lived until the end. You couldn’t ignore his regional influence – he was the local who made it big and never left (aside from a short stint in Los Angeles for a while). But he stuck it through the winters and stayed despite his fame.

I’ve tried to put together all the times I’ve seen Prince or his affiliates live, I think it started with the Lovesexy tour in 1988 in Minneapolis, then me and a high school friend went to the world premiere of the sequel to Purple Rain (Grafitti Bridge) in Minneapolis. We tried to sneak into his club Glam Slam but it was closed (and we were underage). Long break as I was poor, in college or in Peace Corps. Then when I moved to DC I saw him at the Capitol Ballroom with George Clinton and Larry Graham – Shaka Kahn was supposed to be there too but she was held up at the airport. That show was followed by a late-night after-party show at the 930 Club. Then I think I saw a show at an arena in Virginia somewhere and the acoustics were bad. One live show in Portland with his band 3rdEyeGirl. Meshell Ndegeocello’s stunning covers of his B-sides and wierdo tracks. I flew to Minneapolis to see the reunion of the Revolution at First Avenue with Sean, and then its follow up show a year later featuring Princess, Questlove and Andre Cymone. And also Sheila E, The Time, and The Family (fDeluxe) at several shows at the Howard Theatre a few blocks from my house.

Yesterday I counted at least 40 Prince tracks on my iPod, and I listen to at least one of them once a day. I still pop in the cassettes that are still viable into my boombox.

During the meeting I put her name in quotation marks on my notepad after witnessing her hostile response to a simple question from another coworker. It wasn’t the first unusual reaction I’d seen from her since I’d started the new job.

I understand frustration in a fast-paced contracting environment. But with no training, no mentors and an immediate need for a perfect product, it happened a lot. I’m pretty good with picking up new content management systems and email marketing tools. I’ve been doing it for three years now. But some degree of patience is required if you’re not going to train, or don’t have time to manage or answer questions. I’ve managed staff before, and you simply have to accept taking time out to help people. And if your requirements are exacting without a standards document, be prepared for questions.

For those reasons, the first time she yelled at me I let it pass. I know yelling, running, slamming doors and dropping the f-word at work are unacceptable. But I needed to work and swallowed my pride and continued to do the best I could.

I’d gotten good progress on the e-newsletter last week, but a few stories were missing from the news agenda, most of the last bits of information I needed were from her. But running up to the deadline was commonplace so I prepared for patience. There were still questions to be asked, mostly to cover my ass and make sure her needs were met before submitting it to the client.

Although her office was four doors down, she preferred to communicate on Skype. OK, I’ll learn Skype and communicate that way, even though I prefer face-to-face communication. Her responses to my questions were curt and then she used all-caps. At the end of the exchange I replied, “All caps isn’t necessary when I’m reaching out for help and trying to fix things.”

In under a minute I heard a slam, and shouting from next door office where my boss sat: “I’M GONNA FUCKING KILL HIM!!! I CAN’T GET MY WORK DONE!” And another slam, then dead silence throughout the office. I tapped away at my task, intent on getting the newsletter done by deadline. Then my brain started to scramble and all my text and apps made no sense. I got up and went to my manager’s office and said, “I’m sorry that just happened to you, I don’t think this job is working out.” My manager assured me quitting wasn’t necessary at that moment and that we would talk later.

I later learned that the operations lead was also in that room where “Joy” made her case so emotionally to my manager. Bad move for “Joy”. She had been quickly escorted out of the building and hasn’t been seen since. If that action hadn’t been taken I surely would have left that morning too. I would later learn she had a history of outbursts and anger management issues. Her outburst that day was beyond inappropriate, and although I only heard the outburst through the wall, apparently it was downright frightening in person.

It hadn’t really sunk in how bad the outburst was until this morning. I certainly didn’t want to work with her again. Although I was well-liked by most other coworkers, things hadn’t been going well there across the board. It really wasn’t working out, even with Joy’s help.

I started the job right after returning from dealing with my mother’s funeral affairs. I had interviewed for the job the day after my mom died. The immediate pace of the work didn’t leave much time for me to deal with mental stuff I really need to deal with. So there’s gonna be a break from work stress for a while, no immediate hurry to get another job, no immediate hurry for anything for that matter. And I am in no condition to deal with any more “Joy” in the immediate future.

We had a good day for rugby yesterday vs. the Georgetown Law school team. We won! While my fitness level and body kept up, my head was not in the game. I seem to play much better on Thursday practices when I’m full of angst and rage from the work week. By Saturday I seem to lose that focus. Or maybe I just play better at night than in the day.
vs Georgetown Law
I’ll try to work on bringing the rage to the weekends. Georgetown was short on players so I played hooker for them for a while and got to hug a ginger in the game:
Georgetown Law
Away match up in Pennsylvania next weekend. The night before is a Duran Duran concert in DC, featuring super-producer Nile Rodgers. I don’t want to miss that, but would be tired for a long road trip the next day. Plus it’s good to give this old body a break for a bit. Still a few months of rugby to go.

seeds of springDandelions are in bloom, there’s a mosquito in the house, and the purple grackles have returned. In the DC area, robins aren’t the best indicators of spring’s arrival since many stay here over the winter.

I started gardening today, planting elephant ears out back and red okra, castor beans, dwarf red sorghum and sunflowers there and also in our neighborhood tree boxes. We’ll see if they remain over the summer out in the tree boxes or if they get removed by city crews or do-gooders. It should be an explosion of reddish hues come fall if they are allowed to grow. They’re all drought-resistant species so they shouldn’t need much watering.

Entering the second month of my job and it’s going all right. There’s been a steep learning curve with new apps and processes but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Lots of writing and editing all over the place.

Also passing through The Week of Pain with rugby. It’s that week after your first real match where your body is adjusting to the new workout and tackling on a dirt field, fitness-wise and with muscle-building. It’s a big time commitment though, which is my biggest complaint about it. I like how it gets me in shape though. We have a big gay rugby tournament in Nashville over Memorial Day weekend. We’ll see how it goes and decide to continue rugby after that. But what would I do? Bowling?

During this time of turmoil we have so many other things on our plate to worry about: what brand of Greek yogurt to buy, choosing our next dictator, or where to park your car. But I want to share with you a little-known crisis that affects almost all of us: our potting soil is in danger!

Here’s why: the potting soil you buy at most garden centers or hardware depots is merely ground up wood product. It contains no mineral content. It’s great for the potting soil industry because that lousy fluff is light and cheaper to ship. But for you, it sucks. I don’t know exactly when real soil stopped being sold, but it happened right under our noses. I hope the following information will help you nurture your plants in pots.

soil pyramid

What is your soil type? Sandy clay or silt loam?

Real soil (esteemed soil scientists don’t call it “dirt”) is comprised of mineral content – a mixture of sand, silt or clay, and organic content like dead plants and stuff. And don’t forget water and air. These two are vital, especially when you consider the importance of the space between mineral particles and neighboring organic matter.

A pot that contains only ground bark product will dry out faster but harbor a wet core. This is because there isn’t a lot of air circulation to the middle of the soil mass since it’s so compact, so basically the soil doesn’t breathe. And a wet core means root rot. Add to it you have to water bark product more frequently, it’s just too much to ask a backyard gardener.

So here’s what you do: get some sand, and some clayey soil and mix it in with the shitty bark product to condition it. I’ll often haul a bucket of beach sand from Rehoboth or Assateauge, or from the creek bed of Rock Creek Park. If it’s from an oceanside beach rinse it out with fresh water first. If you come across a construction site, grab a bucket of our lovely old Appalachian clay-heavy soil. Mix that sand and clayey soil in with your bark fluff and you have a nice environment for healthy roots and happy plants.

That’s all I got for a blog post today. Clearly I’m running out of things to write about.

This morning before I even got out of bed I see a horrid text from BrettCajun and his boyfriend wishing me a Happy Valentine’s Day. I threw up in bed when I saw their pic:
dark_crystal_2
Thankfully there’s only about 3 1/2 hours left of this holiday.

In other news, grievin’ and processin’ as you might imagine. It’s weird, and sad. Thinking back on the funeral weekend, there’s not much to remember – a lot of it was haze. When you’re working to coordinate a funeral with your two brothers you just put your head down and organize. But ironically it doesn’t leave a lot of time for self-processing. But here are some things I learned:

  • Old emotional issues you long thought buried bubble up like hot lava. Sibling issues, longtime grief from previous deaths, and even unexpected surprise issues. Good times.
  • In the south, everyone bakes stuff for the grieving family. Not so much in the north, but we got some hot dish and lefse delivered. It helps a lot when you just don’t feel like cooking.
  • Funerals, markers and urns are expensive! When you only have a week to organize a funeral, you don’t have a lot of time to haggle – and don’t feel like it either. Gifts from family and friends helped, and so does life insurance of course.
  • It was surprising which relatives and friends stepped up. The Irish side of the family really loves a funeral, the Scandinavians not so much.
  • The memorial service was exhausting. As a close family member of the deceased you have to greet everyone and chat, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to process.

I may get a car out of it all – no one else wants mom’s car, and it’s a Subaru Forester, which I’ve always liked. But then again cashing it in could help relieve the debt I’ve accumulated in the past 3 years of unstable job situations. On the other hand, getting out of DC more often to hike or be outdoors would be good too. Still thinking about that…

In better news, I accepted a job offer last week, and start on Tuesday. It’s content management stuff for international agriculture development. Being off work was sort of convenient as I was back home in Wisconsin for so long, but it’ll be good to be back to work after being unemployed since before Christmas. And income!