Testing…does the BLINK tag still work in HTML 5?

I guess not. Those were the good ‘ol days…

The job is going well so far. Just training in the new content management system we’ll be using to migrate the site.

Interesting observation: when you wear a tie, people open the doors for you. Not just at work but elsewhere as well. Since I have to wear a tie I’ve noticed people treat you differently while out and about. And this change in behavior cannot be attributed to the possibility that people in downtown DC happen to be overly polite. Because that can’t be possible.

It has been a while since I’ve worked downtown. I’d previously been working out in Maryland for over 8 years. I’d forgotten how downtown DC gets lousy with tourists milling about. I will have to learn patience…and by the way Shake Shack is a ripoff! $6 for a milkshake? I will avoid it in the future – it’s a tourist trap.

The recent ugly flurry of proposed laws that could allow businesses to deny service to gays (and many others) based on their religious convictions got me thinking of the time such a denial happened to me. It’s something I haven’t written about yet on this blog, but perhaps it’s time to share.

I think it was the summer of 1992 when I was notified I would work in an intern position as a park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Rock Island, Illinois. I was just finishing up a summer as a naturalist at a bible camp in southwest Wisconsin. One of the counselors was going to college in Rock Island, and had room in their house I could live in while I interned. There was another roommate who I would be sharing the house with as well, and would meet her the next summer.

The bible camp I worked at was primarily ELCA Lutheran, one of the more progressive “synods” within the Lutheran church. I was confirmed as ELCA Lutheran, and never heard a bad word spoken about gays then nor at the bible camp where I worked and also went as a camper when I was younger. The other synods – usually named after a state like Missouri or Wisconsin – aren’t so progressive. Maybe things have changed with those last two synods. I don’t know though, I haven’t been a practicing Lutheran in a long time. But saying you’re “Lutheran” could mean you’re progressive or quite the opposite. I would learn about these differences later.

I was out of the closet by 1992, and the fellow counselor knew I was gay. The other roommate – whose name was Bridget – did not know I was gay. I think I discussed the issue with my fellow counselor and we may have decided to keep it on the down-low at first. I can’t recall those details, but Bridget would eventually find out.

Park Ranger Jimbo

Lock and Dam #15 on the Mississippi River in Rock Island, IL. I worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interpretive park ranger.

The next summer came around and I moved in the house and started the internship. I mostly worked at a visitor center that overlooked Lock & Dam #15 on the Mississippi River. I often sat at the front desk answering visitor’s questions, giving talks about why there are dams on the river, and led nature programs. In the winter bald eagles would gather around the base of the dam which made for good birdwatching. And things got pretty exciting there during the Flood of ‘93 when I got deployed to Des Moines to ensure emergency sources of water were potable after their water treatment plant got flooded.

The roommate situation seemed to be going all right at first. Bridget was tidy, if not a bit icy. Back then we didn’t have the Internet or cell phones, and communicating with potential dates was done with the shared house phone. I think Bridget must have overheard a conversation I was having with a potential date or something, and talked to the other roommate about it. She brought it up and said that Bridget didn’t want to have me as a housemate because I was gay. As I recall the basis for her problem with me was her religion.

I was 23 at the time, didn’t know my rights, or whether or not I even had any. Plus the icy silence in the house was becoming uncomfortable. I think I tried to talk to Bridget about it, and she started crying. So I moved out, mostly to keep good relations with my original counselor friend. And I didn’t want to live where I wasn’t liked. The first place I moved to was a stark and lonely apartment complex with noisy neighbors where I didn’t get a lot of sleep. Then I moved to a somewhat better shared housing situation with a friend of the (nicer) roommate until the end of my internship.

Throughout my time in Rock Island I didn’t meet many other people and I think it was an overall lonely time in my life. And the experience of getting iced out of my first housing situation for being gay gave me some lasting anxiety about living where there are few other gays. It’s probably a basis of my initial evaluation for moving to DC – a larger city with a sizable gay population where people are more tolerant of gays. My experience wasn’t unique, which is a big reason why most gays flock to larger cities. Things are changing fast, but in some parts of the country attitudes haven’t changed much.

Getting kicked out of a house, losing a job, or being denied any kind of service for who you are is a shitty feeling. There are all kinds of religions, and even more types of convictions depending on what branch of religion you’re involved with. So these laws being proposed in several states open the door for legally denying many kinds of people for many reasons. I’m aware that they probably won’t be successful, but for those who could be turned away in these states I know from experience that it’s an unpleasant feeling at best.

Been busy lately going to workshops on career mapping, optimizing federal resumes and of course, job hunting. I’m just about trained to the brim on how to conduct a job search every which way possible. Fortunately, I’ve landed a six-month assignment at a prestigious nonprofit mentioned frequently on NPR. The interiors of the place sort of look like scenes from the film Gattica, and I expect my DNA to get scrubbed every time I check in to work:
Just another day at work.
I landed the job through a creative temp agency, which was about as challenging as landing a job on your own. These days you apply for temp jobs through the temp agency website, rather than get interviewed and placed by an agency. It took me a while to get my head around this idea, as things have changed on how you do it. When you go through a temp agency – at least at my career level – it’s more like a headhunter service. In fact I think the lines have blurred between the two. Anyway, they’re hectic at the temp agency and you have to keep in touch with your agent, pestering them when things get slow. I wonder if I had known this if things would have been different in Portland, considering I was using the same temp agency there. Anyway, you live and learn, and here I am.

I will be serving as a senior web content producer for this nonprofit, helping them with a major website redesign and migration. They want to hire like a dozen more people at the associate level, but as I recall it didn’t take that many people to redesign and migrate pages. We’ll see what’s up. From my experience you can move a site with hundreds of pages with a few people. I guess I’ll have to show them I can do that, and save them money!

Career-wise, web content work is something I did a few jobs ago, and my career has moved on more towards public affairs. But web content (blogs, social media, website presence) is still an outward-facing aspect of public affairs.

Anyway, the workplace is very businesslike, and I was a little intimidated by the interiors. And they dress conservatively, even for DC. But the pay is good and I will dress well and keep my beard presentable to do the work. I start a week from today. After a year and 5 months without long-term employment I am excited to get back to work.

Sadly the snowy owl in DC was hit by a bus. He’s doing well in raptor rehab, and to their credit, the DC police trailed the owl for hours before it was captured after injury. Snowy owls prefer wide open spaces, and there isn’t a whole lot of that in downtown DC. He gave it a good try though.

I am only just starting to feel better from being sick for a month. An especially snotty cold that started on New Year’s Eve turned into sinus congestion and then an infection there and in the lungs. Between the flooding, cold weather, and sinus/chest congestion I’ll have to say January sucked. On the bright side, my renter’s insurance covered a replacement for my computer desk, the funds more likely to go to rent and food.

The contracting job that got me through the holidays is now over, and I’m now just looking for any kind of cash flow. I’ve been exploring temp agencies and am noticing hourly wages are lower than they used to be. I think advertised annual salaries are lower too. I didn’t realize what a good salary I had with my previous job that I left. Of course rent and overall cost of living has not dropped. If I don’t get a decent source of income soon, I have about a month or two before rent and food start to become a struggle. I don’t know what I am going to do at that point.

It looks like the job I interviewed for at the institute of higher learning where I used to work is not going to pan out. My sources in that office say they seem to be on the next round of interviews, which I have not been invited to. I understand that my experience may have eclipsed a more junior level position. It’s clear that I have done the work they’re asking for, but I suspect they’re looking for someone younger or with less experience. That’s the conundrum I’ve been experiencing lately. I think I’m ready for a more senior-level position, and have been targeting those kinds of jobs for the long run.

Recent polar surges have pushed snowy owls southward in the last month. The mammals they feed on burrow in and enter a torpid state when it’s freezing out, so snowy owls are forced to fly to where they can find food. A few snowy owls have been spotted in the DC area the past few weeks, and I was finally able to see one downtown at 15th & L Streets NW:
Snowy Owl
He was there for a few hours, not 30′ above the street. He seemed unfazed by the crowds watching him. I was glad city folk got to see this unusual sighting. It’s interesting that I saw a whole parliament of snowy owls almost a year ago in Oregon.

I was on my way to the community clinic to get my nasty sinuses taken care of. I got a cold around New Year’s Eve which persisted and turned into a sinus infection and possibly bronchitis. Having no income nor health insurance, I avoided getting it taken care of as long as possible. But it got so painful and just malingering I finally broke down and went to the community clinic. Turns out the experience wasn’t so bad, nor expensive and I got some antibiotics. I’m also signed up for “Obamacare,” we’ll see how affordable that actually is. Anyway, I got a snowy owl selfie pic taken of me. I am grimacing because my molars and sinuses hurt:
Snowy Owl Selfie
It was also really cold out so that might account for some of the grimace as well.

Trimming the beard for the job interview earlier this week was somewhat of a relief. I was getting tired of the overgrown ’stache doubling as a coffee/soup strainer. That and this sinus cold I’ve had since NYE made boogers and beards problematic:

That said, I still love having a fur-bearing mammal attached to my face. I’ll admit the shorter beard looks better, but as y’all know, I like big beards and I cannot lie. It will grow back again.

The interview went well. It was a basic first-round interview at an institute of higher learning where I worked many years ago. I recognized many of the people on the 7-person interview committee, and recognized the questions since I had been on several similar committees. And by now I know how to answer them the best I can. We’ll see how it goes. There’s a few other irons in the fire, and things have picked up in the job department as I expected they would now that the holidays are over. And with the government passing some budget, more opportunities may come up as organizations become confident they can afford to hire.

My room has dried up from the flood for the most part but I think the cold snap broke the heat exchanger outside. I’m not quite sure what it is for, but it doesn’t always work now and the house seems colder than usual. Anyway my cheap-ass computer desk did get some water damage, and my renter’s insurance is paying for a replacement. I put the soaked rugs outside in the two days of rain that followed, dried them out and put some carpet freshener on them and they seem fine. They may rot later, we’ll see. But like I said before most of it is crap anyway and is no great loss.

So the polar vortex was lots of fun. It caused the pipes to burst in both neighbor’s houses. With the neighbor to the north of my house, pipes burst on their 3rd floor, causing water to flow between our houses and bubbled up one one side of my bedroom. That didn’t explain the water leaking through the walls on the other side of my bedroom. That was caused by a leak in the house to the south of mine. So I spent much of yesterday mopping and wringing out things in my room. Luckily the water was not very deep – less than 1/4″. So only my cheap-ass old computer desk got wet. We shall see how the mold progresses in the spring, however. Basement units suck and are nothing but drama. But it was the best I could do upon my quick arrival in DC. To add to it all, for some reason our water heater capacity has dropped, making for only about 3 minutes of hot water for a shower. The landlord is on it and I’m in touch with my renter’s insurance agency for a desk replacement. Fortunately my furniture is crap so there wasn’t much of value lost.

In better news, I have an interview with the institute of higher learning where I worked about 6 years ago. It’s a lot of the same of what I used to do there – communications for an academic department – and wouldn’t be a step up in my career path. But after a year and three months out of the job market I need to take what comes in this bad economy. I also have an acquaintance who has pushed my resume aggressively in another organization downtown. We’ll see how this develops. Sadly, I’ll have to trim down my big lumberjack beard I’ve grown out for the winter. I’ll try to get a decent photo of befur and after for documentation.

China Wall Sunset2013 was great in terms of the travels and hikes I went on. My trip to the island of Oahu, Hawaii was most memorable. I am grateful for the exciting adventures I had and I hope to one day get back to that volume of travel and sightseeing again. I really love to travel and get outdoors.

But in terms of meeting goals and, well, getting a job, 2013 sucked. My timing could have been better – I saw the writing on the wall with an economic downturn on the way, and knew I was moving to a more depressed region in terms of employment. But I thought my credentials were robust enough to thrive and had finances to fall back on in case things didn’t turn out. And they didn’t and I retreated back to familiarity and a better promise of employment.

Despite my contracting job that got me through the holiday months, I am still looking for long-term employment. What I am doing right now for work may or may not work out, and it’s best to keep looking, and I have been. Things have been slow as expected over the holidays. As a former government worker I’m aware that not much gets done between Thanksgiving and January. Let’s hope our government gets going again so people have the confidence in the economy to hire again.

In 2013 I went to Seattle, saw snowy owls and Jinkx Monsoon. I made cute beet cupcakes. I had a snowboarding ’stache. I saw Prince in Portland and was disappointed by the audience. Hiking, lots and lots of glorious hiking. Interview with an out, gay NASCAR driver. Lampreys at Bonneville Dam. I got stopped at the Canadian border because I’m unemployed. I caught up on the entire season of Game of Thrones and True Blood. I moved back to Washington, DC.

Since I’m suffering from blogger’s block lately I decided to dig back into the archives to find some of my better posts. In the spirit of the season of giving, here’s one reposted from November 19, 2002:

SupermodelTokien pointed to the cassette case with a long, polished fingernail. “Who is that?” he asked in Russian, referring to the androgyne with the massive jheri curls on the tape cover.

“That’s RuPaul. He is a man,” I answered. Tokien’s almond-shaped eyes widened in surprise. Transvestites were unheard of in Kazakstan, although I suspected Tokien had more than enough potential for dragdom. He was a lithe and graceful classical dance instructor in the small mill town, famed to have been the Soviet Union’s largest metallurgical production facility. Today the factories are obsolete and empty. There’s nothing much to do there anymore, and teens fill their time shooting up cheap local heroin with shared family needles and ogling the new Daewoo stereos they will never afford but could some day steal. Widowed babuska pensioners stuggled to get by, often only with the potatoes grown at their summer dachas.

My RuPaul cassette was one of the few things that kept me in Peace Corps for as long as I was. On particularly cold and grey days, I would liven things up by putting in the Supermodel of the World album, especially the title track, Supermodel. The phrase “You better WORK, bitch!” had special meaning to me, and often was the only thing goading me to work in the morning. I didn’t want to be there, I needed to be living elsewhere at that time. So the music took me where I needed to be, if only for a few minutes.

Every so often I would travel by bus from my coal mining city to the nearby metallurgical town to visit other volunteers. Most of them were English teachers in the public school system. Fellow volunteers Joel and Petra had met Tokien in their school. He was a refreshing change from the usual dour Kazak student or faculty member. Creative, and good in his craft, he was best described as fey. His swish was so wide that even Joel and Petra’s gaydar shot to red alert status. They knew I had few companions or other gays to relate to, so they made a point of inviting him to their party.

With the advance notice I packed my gay disco compilations and favorite RuPaul album for the trip, thinking Tokien would relate to the music. I should have known that he had received no exposure to such things. The RuPaul tape was a total shock to him.

“This man is famous in America?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes, fairly so,” I replied in Russian. “He’s had two hits so far.” I could see Tokien was about to ask for the cassette. In Kazakstan, loaning something to a friend meant that you basically gave it up. Nothing ever came back to you. However, I could always get another Supermodel of the World cassette, or even upgrade to CD. Tokien may never have another opportunity to find the album.

“Do you want to borrow it?” I asked Token. Speechless and glowing with glee, he accepted my sole source of sanity with graciousness. I never saw the cassette again, but I’m sure it went to a good cause. Perhaps today there’s a drag cabaret in some small Kazak mill town where an almond-eyed drag queen with massive Jheri curls encourages the metalworkers with the shout out, “You better WORK!”

Hey, I’m doing OK. Just haven’t had much to blog about lately. My short-term contracting gig has kept me busy at odd hours. It’s sort of on-demand and hourly, but the pay is good and it beats temping. It’s work on proposal development, and I work when a draft is done and I then have to add/edit stuff. It’s a good team to work with for the most part, and it will get me through the holidays. If we win the contract, I will be very busy, but won’t know how that will go until at least January, if not later.

So I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for longer-term opportunities. I got a screening call from one organization but haven’t heard back from them since before Thanksgiving. There have been a couple of jobs open with a higher ed institution I’ve applied to, and several federal jobs as well. I don’t know what’s up with the federal jobs lately – they post announcements, I’m qualified for them and apply to them, but then never hear a thing back from any I’ve applied to. I can’t help but wonder if they’re jobs that are called for already.

My roomate moved in and now there is no space left for anything. There wasn’t a lot of storage space to begin with. I’m looking around for storage options but am loathe to rent storage space. The prices in DC are ridiculous, and I don’t have that much stuff to put away. So I’m asking around to see if anyone has space for a table and two boxes.

I dogsat for a friend recently. The dog was quite furry and dander-y, and discovered after a couple of days with her that I’m now allergic to dogs. Areas where she laid down now congest me and make my eyes burn. So I guess it’s just goldfish for me here on out, which is OK since I like goldfish.