Hey there – it’s been a while. I’ve been hangin’ out with my beardy bros from the Washington Nationals baseball team.
bearditude
That’s Jayson Werth on the left and Bryce Harper on the right.

In June I went on a hike with a bud to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. It was where lots of ironwork machinery was made during the Civil War. Today lots of people like to go tubing in the summer:
Harper's Ferry
My latest contract ended, the work on a website migration complete. I had no jobs set up so I said “fuck it” and went to Provincetown for 9 days. Normally I’m ready to go home after about 5 days, but the plane ticket price was cheapest for that range of days and my housing was free, so I was there for quite a while. I hit the tail end of the “circuit week” theme days, and my roomates tended to not eat much during that time. But then we segued into “Bear Week” and the fridge was suddenly packed with food.

There were lots of beards. I was partial to the one on the left, for he made good quiche and wore only briefs for much of the time around the house:
Bear Week attendees
I did a lot of sunning on the beach, a nice bike ride, and lots of cocktails at the Boatslip. Bear Week was kind of crazy, and in the future should I go again I will choose a less popular week, despite the amount of fur.

My next trip at the end of July will be to head back to Wisconsin for my 25th class reunion. My brother will have a new garage built and it will be interesting to see what’s been done.

1990 was a scary time to come out. I gotta hand it to my younger self: Jimmy you had balls at 20 years of age. It was in the midst of time when people were still dying in droves, and you came out in a somewhat rural campus environment where people had hunting rifles in their dorm rooms. Now I understand a bit better why my mom and friends were freaking out so much after I came out.

I took a student study trip to Germany and Poland then, and went to the gay Pride festival in Cologne, Germany while I was there. I didn’t understand then why the gay Germans didn’t want to have anything to do with me, for it was predominantly an American plague at the time.

I’ve been catching parts of HBO’s “The Normal Heart” here and there and it’s been a good reminder of how scary things were back then. Today we know a lot more, with surviving gays of my age and older somewhat befuddled by the attitudes about HIV with younger gays. To them it seems like a manageable disease where you can just take some pills to deal with it. To us it was a death sentence at the time, and we have a hard time comprehending how some can be so relaxed about the disease.

That’s why it’s been so hard to get my head around the idea of PrEP and changing attitudes about prevention. This whole idea of discussing HIV status and whether or not one is on PrEP before you get down to business is a big change from the times when condom use was pounded into our heads from every angle for so long. I was a die-hard proponent of condom use no matter what, and even in my foggiest states I still stuck with that regimen.

Now they are recommending changed approaches to sexual encounters. It’s a new set of ideas and approaches, but I have reservations about the whole idea of being completely dependent on the pharmaceutical industry and my personal health. Open up any gay publication and you’ll see a four-page full-color advertisement for this or that drug, which essentially pays for that publication. Our lives are dependent on a set of drugs to maintain our lifestyles. Sponsorship from the pharmaceutical industry hovers around us like a pleasant specter. I don’t see a whole lot written on that angle so far.

I’m getting the feeling this huge push for PrEP is mainly targeted at 20somethings. The people pushing this program don’t seem to see that this is a big change for older gays and may require a little bit more than “you should take this drug now and change all your habits.”

Things change and our understanding of the disease is a lot better than it was then. But having experienced a string of un- and underemployment since 2012 I also have some perspective as a person without health insurance. Pharmaceuticals are available for low income patients, but I don’t and often can’t depend on regular doctor and pharmacy visits for a steady stream of drugs. And they are expensive. Condoms are still the cheaper and easier option for me for those I don’t know. I’ve hedged my bets with those I know and trust but that still seems like a big investment for me at this time. There seems to be a lot of hype and enthusiasm for PrEP but I suspect our discussions about it and the gay community’s growing dependence on prescription drug treatments isn’t and shouldn’t be over.

Hello again. Been workin’ hard but have adjusted to the new job, just in time for it to end by the close of June. It is a contract position, and while it’s been good revisiting web content management and managing people (I think I’m good at it!) I am told we will likely be done with the web migration by the end of June.

While I have been looking for and applying to jobs this whole time, the push begins again in earnest. Still looking for long-term/permanent public affairs/communications employment, preferably for the government, preferably for a science- natural resources- or ag-based organization. So your help is appreciated dear readers – leads are always received graciously. It has been a rocky and fruitless job situation since September 2012 and I could really use some good news and developments.

Last month I actually had a phone interview for a job I was genetically engineered for: performing public affairs work for a sage grouse conservation program in Oregon. But despite two follow-up emails I have not heard anything back from them. As I recall Portlanders avoid conflict, so bad news is probably not going to be received at all.

We have had some heavy rains in the Mid-Atlantic, and the Potomac has been swollen:flotsam and jetsam
A few weeks ago “ten million ‘real’ Americans” gathered on the National Mall to protest Obama/Benghazi/buttsex or something. I only counted about ten teabagger loons. And for the record I’m tired of hearing these people dictate who “real” Americans are. Teabaggers STFU and go home.
TenMillionMurcans
On the Saturday before Memorial Day, we went for a bike ride along the Potomac River. The shad were running, and we observed herons eating them from this platform (which I think is a flow measurement station):
Flow Station
Under a nearby bridge, me and Bubbles contemplated the meaning of ‘BE’ and the flag of the District of Columbia:
DC Flag, and BE
I celebrated Memoral Day by sleeping in, going to the gym, and another bike ride. I took a picture of John S. Logan in Logan Circle. The dude founded Memorial Day:

I’m going to a Nationals baseball game tomorrow. Sadly woofy Bryce Harper is not playing these days, but super-beardy Jayson Werth will be playing.

Suddenly spring arrived. I went for a hike with friends on the Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls in Virginia. There was a gun show:

I spotted a bald eagle and a baby snapping turtle.

Later that month, we went to the National Arboretum to see the azaleas in bloom:

Bubbles and me. Photo by GURL.


This weekend, a friend with a vineyard asked us to help plant vines:
I dig alone. Photo by GURL.
I carried the vines on my head:

I did not plant the vines as the Overseer preferred, so I soon changed to watering the plants rather than planting them:

As the sun set and we completed the project, we squinted in unison:

There were cute Jack Russel terriers present:

Been busy! Managing is mentally draining, and most of the time when I get home I just stare at the wall as I drool. Plus I may have been avoiding blogging because my current work involves massaging and moving web pages. So the last thing I want to do when I get home is work on more web stuff.

But anyway I’ve been managing people, and I think I kind of like it. This is good because I have a Master’s degree in management, so I’d better like it. But like I said it is mentally draining and keeps me fairly worn out. When most Fridays come around I do not feel like going out. I previously thought I had no previous experience actually managing people, but I’ve found this to be untrue. My experience on the board of the Renegades rugby team had me making decisions, managing a budget, and occasionally approaching difficult club members. This is management.

And don’t laugh, but dungeon mastering (game facilitation) for years has me practiced in quick decision making under pressure, facilitating our “meetings” and understanding different types of people and how they can fit and work better. So I’m not as inexperienced as I thought.

The new stuff that’s challenging me is finding tasks and assigning them out. This is a big part of managing a website redesign and page migration, and takes a lot of time and thought. Especially to do it in an organized fashion.

Other than that I haven’t been doing much else, but am looking forward to a trip to West Virginia in early may.

I don’t know what it is about spring that makes me remember things, particular things so clearly. Maybe it’s because the fog from the winter blahs lifts, or maybe it’s some chemical change in my head. But I always remember things in spring and often catch myself staring off while I reminisce.

Even though Portland is already having its spring and we aren’t (we just had 48 hours of rain/sleet snow – I do not exaggerate this) I remember riding my bike to my volunteer job in Portland last spring, and looking at that one house with all the beautiful tulips and grape hyacinths near Vancouver Avenue. I think an exceptionally shitty winter here in DC has not helped my state of mind thinking the grass was greener over there. It literally was greener over there, but I’m still not sure from the figurative sense. It was exciting to meet new people there and explore new places, but the job instability I was experiencing there made me crave familiarity. From it all I know I gained an appreciation for DC and my friends here.

Anyway enough navel-gazing. My job is going well and it’s good to have income. I get along with my coworkers. I’m a manager of four associates there. This is funny because despite having an M.S. in management, I’ve never actually managed people before. I think I’m doing all right at it, but it feels very awkward having me as the one assigning tasks to others. The idea of me as a manger seems odd. But so far it’s not been a bad experience. Other thoughts on managing:

- It takes time to consider and assign tasks to people. This may cut in on time you need to finish your work.
- People will ask you for guidance. Make a confident decision or otherwise have the balls to say “I don’t know but I will look it up and get back to you.” Then follow up with that promise.
- Every worker has different needs. Some need more work, others may need reassurance.
- Every worker has their strengths. So far I have identified my four associates as The Workhorse, Eagle Eye, Troubleshooter and Meticulous.
- A manager needs a level of self-awareness to watch what he says and how he says it. I have to remind myself that people can be sensitive and may be in a state of anxiety.

Blogosphere hivemind: any suggestions for shade- and excessive-heat tolerant flowers?
Our back deck doesn’t get much direct sun, but at least I have space to plant stuff.

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.