Hello from the cold outside. Actually when I arrived in Wisconsin it was warmer here than it was in DC. You had all better have your sidewalks shoveled when I get back. And guess what? You don’t get a badge or a prize for shoveling your sidewalk. It’s just something you have to do.

Been processing here and there, and it’s good to be with family and family friends. Looking back I was in a bit of a haze when I left DC. I can’t believe I made it through an interview, but I think delayed grief played a big part. I was pretty lucky to get out of DC ahead of the storm.

I went on a road trip to my alma mater in Central Wisconsin for a day to meet up with some old D&D gaming buddies. I stopped at a few landmarks, including the cranberry marsh where I had my first romance after coming out.

At one gas station along the way, an older gentleman was stooped over, his hands on his knees as if he was catching his breath. I asked him if he was OK, and that he should have it looked at since pneumonia is nothing to laugh at. I didn’t tell him that my mom had died because of it a week before.

Then at one mall where I had stopped to have lunch, there was a frail old woman with a walker who looked lost. I asked if she was OK, and she said her husband was down the hall at the senior center in the mall, probably reading. I looked down the hall but didn’t see a senior center, but could see that she was probably having a hard time with the ramp on the way there. So I went to the senior center in the mall and found a nurse who could help out and told her the story, then brought her back to the woman. She eventually got to the senior center with help.

So I guess I got to help in different ways, even though I did not arrive in time.

Thanks for all your kind words, people. Sadly, my mom has passed, peacefully in the early hours this morning. It’s sort of a relief as she was struggling so hard, whether conscious or in a sedated state. Imagine not having enough air to breathe and that’s what she was going through. I wasn’t able to be there in her final hours but I’m expecting funeral arrangements will be underway by this weekend or next. The only problem now is me getting there with this Snowstorm Of The Decade expected to hit on Friday when I fly out of DC to Wisconsin. My plane leaves early in the morning so I hope to get out before the snow hits.

From mom's visit in April, 2006My mother is dying. After an ill-advised trip out west she contracted both pneumonia and an intestinal bug, and lost weight she didn’t have to lose. She’s been struggling with COPD for many years due to lifelong chain smoking and had a pacemaker installed to slow her heart that has been struggling to get oxygen to her system from decreased lung capacity. The pneumonia took breath away that she couldn’t afford to lose as well.

The impact of those illnesses has caused a cascade of new conditions, and lately she’s been in and out of consciousness. I couldn’t go home to see her over the holidays due to being dead broke, but one of my brothers has come through with a ticket and I’ll be there by Friday. I hope it won’t be too late. Of course I hope she gets better, but new conditions keep popping up every day and I think her time is coming soon. She’s been struggling the last month so hard, but she keeps losing weight, losing more breath and getting sicker.

My two older brothers are dealing with this in different ways, and as far as I can tell I’m dealing with it as I do. As a child of the anti-smoking propaganda of the 80s, I knew this was coming. But it still doesn’t curb the impact of the situation. My dad died a few months before I was born, so all my life I’ve known that death hangs around and will always be there. I think I deal with it from a morbidly practical point of view, to the point where I feel awkward around others who are dealing with their own mortality issues. I try to say the most comforting things I can but in the back of my head I know it is always there. I’m not the only person in the world without parents at my age but I’m sure it won’t be easy.

Add to the stress of being let go from my last job right before the holiday break, leaving a long period of silence from potential employer calls due to the holidays until recently. I had a good interview this week, and will have another next week, but that’s just another uncertainty on my horizon. At least I get unemployment compensation, but it’s been a tough, uncertain time.

The last job I had (which I liked) didn’t pay very well. I was on a temp hourly salary far lower than what you need to survive in DC. You need to be earning at least $40/hr to pay the bills in this town – especially when you have bills built up for 3 years of un- or underemployment. Anyway, before I lost this job, I had already been exploring ways to earn extra cash on the side. Stripping is out of the question, as I am now old and fat like BrettCajun, who no one wants to see rolling, undulating layers of beef on a stage. Turning tricks is actually hard work, and you have no control of your schedule. Being on call is always a pain in the ass. So catering seemed like a good idea. I had heard the pay was pretty good and the busy DC holiday work party season was fast approaching.

However my only experience in a serving situation was at Dairy Queen in high school and serving beer for rugby team fundraisers. Fortunately I’m cute and made it through the catering interview with Igor. But I needed a tuxedo, which cost money that I don’t have. It was clear that catering wasn’t going to meet my immediate needs to pay the rent since buying a tux would negate any holiday earnings.

So I put out an all-points bulletin out on Facebook which is the only thing Facebook is good for these days. My network did not disappoint, and I was able to put together a passable catering tuxedo for free that ended up being quite comfortable. Thanks y’all!

Tux in hand, the next step would be to wait for a gig. You’re on call and whoever responds to the call first gets to work. Since I’m on the Internets 24/7, I got my first gig offer which was a work party held at a prominent Smithsonian museum on a Saturday.

Now this was the Saturday after my last day at my last job, so I was already pretty much emotionally drained and not ready for greeting guests. But I need the money so I took it.

The first challenge was to find out where the caterers enter the building. Because we are “The Help” we are not to be seen as humans or at all by the party guests. So we must enter through alternate means. But the alternate entry was not shared by the team leader, so it was an issue of walking around the perimeter of said museum in my white polo and black pants – the required setup uniform for caterers before you change into your tux when the guests arrive.

Did you know if you are cute and Caucasian and arrive at a museum or government building at dusk during the holiday season, you can get in anywhere you want? I flexed my White Privilege and got in through the loading dock without an ID and made it to the orientation on time. It was clear when I burst into the room I was pretty much the only speaker of English as a first language.

Sorting took place, much like in Harry Potter where they put the sorting hat on your head to figure out which House you are in. Since I most resembled the hot Bulgarian bartenders, I was put on the bartender crew. I was flattered. They were all hot and probably would get a lot of tips – at least at a gay bar. If I had to fake it, Russian sounds a lot like Bulgarian and I could pretend to be a Bo-Hunk for more tips. In fact when I was in Kazakstan I was mistaken for a crazy person from the Caucasus – my coworkers would later tell me I was basically called a “Wild Caucasian Mountain Brute” by people on the train who I had pissed off trying to disembark.

So anyway my crew leader was Victor, a cute scruffy Bulgarian who clearly had a grip on the situation. The logistics for catering is bewildering and incredibly complex. I was seriously impressed by the pre-party planning involved in throwing a holiday party for a thousand people at a museum. And my respect for those people vilified by current G.O.P. candidates and that party has increased. If you are afraid they are coming to take your job, you should be. Because they bust their ass harder than anyone at a Trump rally could.

One of my initial tasks was to cut lime and lemon wedges for the bar, which I did furiously. I asked the bar lead Atilla if there was anything else I could do for him, and he curtly dismissed me. Atilla was MEAN.

Later I was assigned to serve drinks on a plate. Which was fun the first hour, but after that my bicep started quivering from fatigue. Those glasses are heavy, but I was good at describing the evening’s unique signature drink, the “Jingle All The Way” featuring vodka, lime juice, champagne and a sprig of oregano. Honestly I thought the drink was gross but the guests loved it. Because vodka.

And the guests were quite fabulous for an established internet company. One of the employees had a straight orange silk gown with a cherry blossom sprig and I wanted to tell her she was fucking fabulous but I couldn’t because The Help must not speak to the clients. But she was fucking fabulous let me tell you and she won the evening. Props to that young hipster in the fabulous orange silk gown. You. Won.

Salvadoran women worked the hors d’oeuvre table. The men brought in more food. Bulgarians and other Eastern European laborers served drinks. The racial and gender segregation of tasks was downright blatant. As the evening went on it was time to clear tables, which is like doing laps in an Olympic stadium. Round an ’round you go picking up plates and glasses. I had helped some guests get extra Jingle All The Way drinks earlier on, and they remembered me and kept asking me for more. I tried to help them but we ran out of oregano.

As the evening wore on the laps took a toll on my lower back. I could tell it was wearing on the other caterers too. That shit is hard work and those fucking Mexicans and bohunks are working hard to get your fucking food to you, so you should show some respect in the next election and not vote for Trump, because he’s a fucking racist yo.

Anyway, soon it was Midnight and the guests were leaving. I hadn’t gotten any feedback so I went up to the mean bar leader Atilla and asked him how the lemon and lime wedges worked for him. “They were great,” he said dryly. “I knew there was something special about them when I served the drinks.” Thanks Attila.

It had been years since I’d been to New York City. Too long, in fact. So it was nice to get up there and catch up with friends and catch a good show with Joe.My.God. Cyndi Lauper is always fun and this time it was for a good cause. She sang “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” with Boy George:

Boy George still has a good voice! Also peforming were Natasha Beddingfield, Patty Smyth, and Valerie Simpson peforming “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”!

I saw the Highline, holiday decorations and had a short walk through Central Park:
Husky

Sadly, I didn’t have a whole lot of cash for Christmas shopping. It turns out my current gig where I’m temping is having a financial crisis. I was expecting to work until January with potential to go permanent. My immediate boss just retired, with two others having moved to a new department. But that was just rats leaving a sinking ship. I was warned about the financials being bad when I started – I just didn’t think it would come to a head so soon. So by Friday I’ll be on the job hunt AGAIN. It’s been 3 years now of job instability and I’m about at the end of my rope.

There have been jobs applied to and temp agencies activated, but every time I get to this point it’s another financial setback, a gap in health care coverage, and another adjustment period to a new commute, new workplace and new personalities. Thankfully I’m pretty nimble with learning new skills, but my luck may run out some day. I’m worried I’m one of those chronically unemployed people they write about. And don’t believe what you hear about job prospects improving. There may be new jobs, but they aren’t permanent, and the salaries are lower.

According to one of my long time anonymous readers and commenters, I “need to grow up.” That means buying a house, having a boyfriend, and getting a job. And probably do things like go to the HRC gala in a matching tux with my boyfriend so I can get my photo posted in MetroWeekly. Because THEN you’re a real, grown-up gay.

And of course I have total control over all of these things. I just choose not to do them, right?

roselnylundSo in order to please my anonymous commenter, I occasionally try to date. This time it was supposed to be a lunch date with OlafDave on Scruff. Dave is from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, and has lived in DC for about 8 years. He went to St. Olaf, which is a real university.

Many people on the East coast think St. Olaf is fictional because the Golden Girls character Rose attended St. Olaf. I know it’s real because my high school friends went there. That’s where the good Lutheran kids go. Evil Satanist or pagan children go to the state universities like I did. Anyway, the people who went to St. Olaf are usually good midwestern kids, and I extended that presumption to OlafDave. We were to have a casual nonsexual lunch date.

Dave never showed up. Then he disappeared on Scruff. Possibly cancelled his account. He either didn’t have the balls to tell me he couldn’t make it, and/or his partner came back into town. His profile says ‘single’, but you know how it goes with partnered gays in DC.

It’s been a while since I’ve been stood up. It still smarts, and it still colors my opinion of people. People are shitty, deceptive and weak. I think I had learned to filter out the flakes and have gotten better at recognizing good people. OlafDave slipped through the cracks, and I’ll be sure to remember that when making assumptions about Minnesotans.

And if I see OlafDave with his partner at a party or in a bar, I’ll be sure to go up to Dave and have a very forward chat for a long time. I won’t leave and the situation will be very awkward and uncomfortable. So you’d better not go out, OlafDave, unless you’re prepared for a very awkward and uncomfortable conversation for a long time with a very obnoxious person.

Or maybe I just got catfished, and someone used his pic to front a fake profile. I kind of doubt that though, because OlafDave’s details were pretty thorough.

So commenter and long-time reader OldFartDC, that’s how it goes, and that’s one reason how I’m still not as grown up as you’d like me to be.

Brett PrejeanHere’s a really good foreign policy article about the realities of terrorism today. You are far more likely to die of sheer boredom from lack of drama now that BrettCajun has retired from blogging. You see, now that he’s married, he’s far too emotionally advanced to stoop so low as to blog. There is so much more to do, like brunches on Sunday, or trips to CostCo.

She always pictures herself as a Sith, but I always thought of her as the love child of these two characters:
Jabba the Hutt

Anyway, I currently work close to a big target for terrorists. I was near the Pentagon on 9/11, and lost a neighbor and rugby acquaintance in the attacks. But I am far, far more likely to be horribly mutilated by a motorist with Maryland plates on my bike ride to work than I am of being blown up by a terrorist. I ain’t skeered of no ISIS.

It happened again. We met at a party. We chatted online via Facebook. I did my due diligence and did a background check. All signs indicated he was single. Again, I should have just asked. I should know better and just ask upfront. But he wanted to hang out, go on a date.

But after all that chatting, texting, and 2 hours into a date, he didn’t mention any of these three useful pronouns:

US, WE or BF.

It’s that simple. Pronouns are easy, and can be helpful. Try these phrases to help drop a hint:

We went grocery shopping the other day.”
“I saw that movie with my boyfriend.”

I’m not slut shaming. I’ve given up being upset about the prevalence of open relationships in the gay community. I think I lean towards monogamy, but I’ve been known to play* with partnered guys. It’s just that partnered guys are not always upfront about their relationship status, to the point of being shady.

It’s just when I don’t know the whole story I get pissed off. I like to have all the cards on the table before proceeding. I think it’s a polite thing to do, to let the other guy know you’re in a relationship. If I don’t know you’re partnered, I assume you’re single and available.

I think it’s some kind of east coast Victorian propriety thing. It was much simpler in Portland. Those boys were very upfront and honest:

“Hi I have a boyfriend wanna fuck?” I am not kidding that’s how it went. It was refreshing, communicative and simple. I knew what was up and could make informed decisions accordingly. And I never got pissed off when they were upfront and honest about their relationship status.

Here in DC there are those ruled by perceptions of propriety, or something. I don’t know what the fuck it is here. I guess they think I won’t find out** or they think they will be perceived as slutty***.

Either way, next time I need to simply ask because I cannot assume they will disclose their relationship status.

*the verb to play – I loathe the term. I think it devalues the act of sex.
**I will find out. I’ve lived here for 15 years and I know everyone. I will find out.
***Do you think you’re the only slutty person in DC?

It has been a lovely fall in DC. Autumn is the best season in this city: summer is too damn hot, winter is grey and bleak, and spring is filled with pollen. Temperatures this week have been in the 70s, great biking weather:
Bridge Steps
I managed to get out on several hikes this fall, but did not go backpacking in West Virginia like I usually do. I did make it to Sugarloaf Mountain and Old Rag again with friends. Old Rag seems to be getting more and more challenging every time I hike it…

JBackpackSpeaking of hiking, I recently retired my old Jansport backpack and Ridgerest inflatable camping pad. Both were about 25 years old, and had been with me for two summers in Alaska, through my college years, Peace Corps in Kazakstan, Oregon, and the Mid-Atlantic Appalacians. It was sad to see them go, but the pad was full of leaks, and the pack was heavy, outdated and took up too much space. I was mainly using it to store things in, but never brought it out. I put them to rest to disappear out on the magical curb of disappearance.

I think another reason I was saving the old pack was…just in case someone else would need it. I think when I came out, and came to DC, I had this vision of having a rugged hiking boyfriend that never panned out. Either the boyfriend did not hike, or most of the time there was no boyfriend. Acquired wisdom later taught me that a hiking bf is not a requirement, but a nice plus. You have to take what you can get, if you can get it at all. I have a newer pack now, and assume if there is a guy who wants to go camping with me, he will have his own equipment.

There was a woofy beardy guy who went with me this year to Old Rag. But he had just broke up from a long relationship and was clearly a mess, and/or simply not interested in me. Numerous attempts at interest were rebuffed with the usual DC excuse, “I’m busy.” Which was too bad because the sex was really good [the first time] but then the second time was awkward. And like my great uncle Orlow might have said as he was raising coonhounds: “If the old dog barks up a tree and a squirrel doesn’t fall out, she moves on.”

Halloween was meh. My brain was occupied by financial issues over the holiday when I discovered the temp job I’ve been working at isn’t enough to pay my bills. It’s likely to go permanent by January, but until then I need to find a way to earn extra dough. That’s going to be the reality of the modern workforce as salaries continue to drop and costs of living go up I’m afraid. It’s how I saw most people get by in Portland, and unless you are a CEO or Director of a nonprofit or agency in DC, multiple jobs will be the reality in larger cities like DC, NYC and SF. You will have to work all the time just to get by.

But I like my temp job. It’s a nice place to work and they keep me busy doing content management and even some writing and research. It’s nowhere near what I could be doing, nor is it in the natural sciences. But after three years of this job instability shit I am ready to settle down and take what I can get. That and I recognize a good workplace when I see it. It’s the places you _don’t_ see jobs advertised on Idealist and the other job sites that are the good places to work. The ones you see posting frequently are the ones you should avoid. In DC it’s EPA, Nature Conservancy, Discovery, AARP, and Pew Charitable Trusts. Always see job postings with them, never hear good things about them. Anyway, I have to make it through the holidays and I should be good by January if things go well. Until then I need to find an evening or weekend gig to keep me afloat.

Tonight I am going on an age-appropriate date! He is 48 – I am 44. I like Daddies but lately I have been dating guys much younger than me, because these days all the kids like Daddies. I find that hilarious. When I was in my 20s nobody would give me the time of day, and lately I’ve been getting a lot more attention than when I was in my 20s. But I want to check out those around my age too, as we may have more to relate to. He has a beard and is woofy too, of course.

BRETT NEEDS MORE SLEEP CUZ HE LOOKS OLD!I know my neighborhood garbage issues are not the most exciting blog topic, but this one gets better. It’s totally gross – even grosser than BrettCajun!

So I contacted my ANC rep about the dumping and trash issues in the alley who got in touch with the people in charge of dealing with garbage issues. One morning I happened to catch them when they were removing the excess cans and cleaned up the alley. I mentioned the stinky can with unknown goo in it, to which she responded: “You know there’s a funeral home on the other side of the block? And they know they shouldn’t be dumping in public bins!”

Me: “You mean that’s actually happened before?”
Linda: “Oh yeah, and we talked to them about it!”
Me: “So that mystery liquid in that bin could be….”
Linda: “Yep!”

So yeah the smelly acrid liquid in the recycle bin could be necrotic human remains.

Happy Halloween.

In further problematic developments, by that afternoon I saw the alley had been completely cleared of everything – including the new modern bins. I assumed the DPW had relocated them back to their proper homes. But last night my upstairs roomate asked about the bins we use for our address, and noted that ours was missing. Did the DPW take away all the bins? I’ve inquired with our ANC rep to find out…