Last weekend we went to the Water Lily & Lotus Cultural Festival at the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. It’s a neat hidden gem in the city, and if you go at the right time, you’ll see the lilies and lotus in full bloom:
The aquatic gardens are also my “territory” in the annual winter bird counts in December. It’s actually easier to see birds there in the winter, since there’s no leaves concealing them.
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
The taller, more dramatic lotus plants were almost done with their blossoms, but a few stragglers aimed to please:
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
And yesterday on my bike ride I got to see a polo match. There is a polo field just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. I had never seen horses on it until yesterday! They say they play every Thursday.
Polo Field
It was a busy week otherwise. Had a phone interview with a major wildlife federation that I’d really like to work for. Another in-person interview next week with an oceans-related organization that also sounds like a good fit. Cross yer fingers!

Thank you so much for the donations so far! I’m flabbergasted. Even the most stingy southern swamp creatures (YOU KNOW WHO) have lent a helping hand and contributed. Here’s our interaction:

Suzanne Sugarbakker: “Those of us who are fortunate enough to be in relationships, should always show kindness and generosity to quirky single peoples who always make us feel blessed. :) Don’t do crack with this money. No, seriously! Eat something.”

Me: “You are always such a ray of joy in my life. And for your bitchy comments, I’m going to burn your money and snort the ashes. Even though I won’t get a buzz from it or any value from the donation, the satisfaction will be intoxicating enough. XXXOOO, KISSES.”

I’ve set up a GoFundMe account if you’d like to support over 15 years of without ads or pop-ups. I could use the support in this time of job instability, and here’s your opportunity to say thanks! There are some job opportunities coming up but the first interview isn’t until the 21st, so August might be tough.

Knowing the week of the Fourth of July would be slow on the job front, I scheduled a trip to Portland to visit the friends I made there, and my brother. I planned it during a hot week, thinking there would be respite in the Pacific Northwest. Not so – they’ve been experiencing record temperatures and drought, and it’s really dry there:
Dry Oregon
Brittle lawns would crunch under your footsteps, and the locals were cranky. It was hot, but at least it wasn’t humid. They could use some rain badly though.

I got to go on a nice hike that ended in a dip in a pond, and it was good to be back hiking on the mountain trails:
The views were fantastic of course:
Mt. Hood
I left Portland about a year and a half ago, and my mind has been kept busy just getting by in DC. I don’t think I thought back on my time in Oregon – I haven’t had the time to think about it. As the plane landed a lot of feelings flooded in that I had been ignoring. It was a lot like visiting an ex that you liked a lot, but it didn’t work out. That said, my friends there say the job market has been improving. It seems I picked the absolute worst time to pack up and move in 2012.

On the fourth I went to the local beach, and made some furry friends:
Furry Friends
Didn’t do much with fireworks. There was a ban on them as it was so dry.

At the end of my trip I visited my brother, who lives up the Columbia Gorge in a small town. We took a hike in Oneota Gorge, which is more of a stream than a trail. It was good to be in the cool stream that hot week:
Oneota Gorge
It was a great trip, and I’m still keeping my eye on the Pacific Northwest.

What a month! It was a busy Pride weekend earlier this month, and then Friday happened with the Supreme Court ruling. The mood was festive throughout the weekend.

All that said, life is good in our urban bubbles of tolerance, or so it seems. There are still workplaces out there that are hostile to LGBT employees, and you can still get fired directly or indirectly for it. A few more laws and rulings need to happen to fully protect LGBT citizens. It’s been amazing progress so far, but we still have a ways to go.

For example, I had to unfriend a cousin on Facebook. I really try to keep those with opposing viewpoints visible, as I think it helps me understand how they think. For example, I have a former coworker who is a vehement anti-vaxxer. Her posts drive me crazy, but I think it’s important to know what they think, even if the facts show they’re wrong.

But this cousin’s posts were just too much. The final straw was his post likening gays as sex offenders. If he wants to remain ignorant and scared of people who want to be open and happy, I don’t want to see that crap anymore. The lesson is that they’re still out there, and they still think stupid things.

Sooo the job as a contractor for a federal agency didn’t work out. In the end it was a mutual decision. There were weeks I thought I was going to be fired, and there were weeks I wanted to quit. A bad combination of ambiguous tasks and micromanagement was working my every nerve every day. It was telling that I was in a very good mood on my last day. Most people there liked me and were sad to see me go, but understood the reasons very well.

I may have another job lined up, this time more in tune with my environmental background. A potential temp job may also come available, which would help with the bills since I don’t get unemployment compensation. It’s a waiting game at this point, and the past few weeks have been driving me crazy.

So I booked a week’s vacation in Portland to visit the friends I made when I lived there and to visit my brother. I booked the flight during a heat wave here in DC, but it turns out the weather will be very hot when I go there this week. Go figure. Hopefully I will have a job lined up by the time I get back.

If not, July is gonna be tight. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I was considering something like GoFundMe. I’ve seen more ridiculous requests on Facebook, like funding someone’s trip to Antarctica. Since I’ve never had ads on this blog since its inception, I was thinking about some kind of donation box. Help a guy out who’s been giving you something to read at work for 15 years. What do you think? Tacky and desperate? The latter, I sort of am at this point…

I had a work trip to New Orleans last week, my first for this new job. They kept me busy, and the hotel was good but this traveling thing isn’t as easy as it used to be. I’ve noticed between backpacking and sleeping in tents, and hotel stays, that I just don’t sleep well outside my own bed anymore. I think next time I will look into some sleep aids or something.

I got the weekend free there and for some masochistic reason visited Mémère BrettCajun, who has aged considerably. I couldn’t find the box of Just For Men in her medicine cabinet, as it was either all used up or hidden well. Here I am about to throw up in her presence:
totally grossed out
We visited one of the old cemeteries, where I considered bricking her into one of these handy mausoleums:
When that didn’t work, I considered the dark arts, but she already had her own ideas and started twirling around like Stevie Nicks as soon as we got to the American Horror Story: Coven house:
thinks she's Stevie Nicks
Then at the Aquarium of the Americas I was going to feed her to the big albino alligator but the reptile didn’t bite (too squishy). And the pretty budgerigars didn’t attack her a la Tippi Hedren:
And she was tired and cranky the whole time, and always needed a nap, shower and costume change at every turn:
tired ol cow
We tried to perk her up at Cafe du Monde with some chicory brew, but all she did was wharf down 52 beignets in one sitting, which of course made her tired and cranky again.

On a brighter note, long-time blogger Sturtle came out to visit. We had not yet met in person despite knowing each others’ blogs for almost a decade.

It wasn’t too swampy when I got there but got more humid as the week progressed. It got me prepared for the humidity in DC, which appears to be back in force.

With same-sex marriage up for debate in the Supreme Court and Ireland, there’s been a lot of news and Facebook rants about the subject. We hope for the best, and it’s been an amazing change in public attitudes.

And yet there are those gays who vote against, remain silent, or otherwise host anti-gay presidential candidates in their homes. It’s always Schocking how they could support such candidates, or otherwise remain neutral on the issue.

Of course same-sex marriage is about equality, but I’ve always argued that finances and economics are at the core of the issue. The ability to build up (or legally divide) equity, protect your property in the event one spouse dies, and tax benefits for couples is centric to a civil arrangement.

Rich gays have the finances to make legal arrangements in the absence of same-sex marriage laws. They can hire a lawyer to protect their assets, but it still won’t help them with visitation rights in hospitals and other details. But in the end the legal aspects aren’t a big concern for power couples. They’ll just call their lawyer about it.

Gays with low- and middle-incomes don’t have this option, or it would be very expensive for them to get legal support. They’re essentially powerless in the eyes of the state if the relationship goes downhill or one partner dies. That’s why marriage equality is more important for the rest of us.

That’s about all I have to write about lately. Sorry I missed a whole month! I write a lot at work and when I get home my fingers have nothing to contribute to the keyboard. 4 months into the new job and when I get home I’m often drooling and staring at the wall.

No, I haven’t been despondent, I’ve just been adjusting to the new job. I’m 2 1/2 months into it and I’m in that phase of a new job where all the new info is frying my brain and when I get home all I wanna do is stare at the wall and drool. But hey, at least I’m busy, gettin’ paid, and have responsibility at work.

Winter was forever this year. It started freezing much earlier in November, and didn’t quit until this week. Even the birds are late. When I heard woodcock could be spotted at Kenilworth Park in DC I didn’t believe it. I thought the bird was more of a northern species. But yesterday when I was walking to work this guy just landed right in front of me:
I think he was just taking a break. They’re not used to being seen, as their camouflage is so good in their usual environment. And they are generally of the wrong shape to be flying such long distances. It’s hard out there for a woodcock. Anyway, it’s funny because me and Dana had planned on going to Kenilworth to hear their peent and watch their sky dance that evening. Our timing was perfect. We heard at least 6 birds doing their unique spring mating call after sunset.
Anacostia Front
Rugby had started weeks ago when it was still snowing. I wasn’t up for it and now I’m a bit behind. Plus I never know when I’m going to get out of work, and am simply mentally not up for it after a mentally trying day. I’m getting my exercise in, but I think I’m out for the spring. I need some me time at this point with my new job.

So I just amicably ended a somewhat long (for me) relationship with someone who was “significantly younger.” It was working for me, but in the end he made another choice, which was not a surprise. Still, it was good while it lasted. We’d been seeing each other regularly since 4th of July. We got along well, which was a shock for my friends to hear. I don’t always say that about people I’ve dated, and it’s a big deal for me to say that. I actually wanted to spend more time with him, which is unusual for me to say. Maintaining the relationship while I was in job flux was nothing short of a miracle. And the fact that I not only survived – but enjoyed – a three-day wilderness camping trip with him was telling and a good sign. No regrets through, and it showed me there was still some capacity for intimacy in my cold, dead heart. We will still be friends.

I can now see the appeal of dating younger guys. They’re fearless, without so much history to make them cautious and bolt at the first sign of a flaw. But of course there’s a risk as they often don’t know what they want and are easily distracted. Especially in this age of apps that allow for instant selection of another partner.

I’ve been getting far more attention from 20somethings now than I did when I was actually 20. Part of it seems to be that “Daddies” are in fashion nowadays. Back in the 90s the reverse was the case, where everyone wanted to be, date or look like a hairless fetus. Now that I have some grey in my chin they’re all up in my kitchen. Which is funny because I certainly don’t feel “mature.”

It made me think about relationships between older and younger guys. I never saw myself as that older guy dating younger guys. In fact, I usually try to shoot for guys my age. I’ve always been attracted to men in their late 30s or 40s. But it’s tough in DC which has a lot of 20 to 30 something gays. As you approach your 40s, I’ve noticed it’s harder to date guys your age. They’re either partnered up and disappear to Virginia and Maryland, or are prickly and rife with trigger warnings that make them risk-averse. And/or they’re just comfortable in their singlehood and don’t feel like reaching out. I see how you can get that way. Regardless, I’ll continue to consider the younger pups but am still focused on other Daddies like me.
>; )

In July of 2007 I went up to see Xanadu on Broadway with Aaron during the show’s preview period. The jukebox musical was clever and the music was great, as expected. It featured Cheyenne Jackson, who had been the understudy until the main male lead had a tragic rollerskating accident during rehearsals. 30 Rock’s other star Jane Krakowski was in the workshop productions in its early stages.

After the show a Bear in a trenchcoat approached me just outside the theater doors and asked, “So, what did you think of the show?” His question was so pointed it was clear he wasn’t hitting on me. This guy was looking for feedback. I wished I had a more eloquent response, but all I could say on the spot was, “It was a lot of fun, I liked it.” It turns out the Bear was a producer of the show and was surveying the crowd for feedback.

That encounter stuck with me years later. My only musical theater experience was in high school with time-tested scripts like Annie and Oklahoma. It seems obvious now, but I had no idea the production of a new show was an evolving thing. The script, musical numbers and blocking change over time. You long-time musical fans may say “well duh” but I thought the fact that a producer might change a show based on feedback on the street fascinated me.

Then came “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway. Before it was even in production comic book nerds were hysterical with rage, including myself. Spider-Man doesn’t sing for one thing. He cracks jokes, but never exhibited any penchant for song in the comics. But the musical wasn’t for comic fans, it was designed to sell very expensive tickets.

It turned out to be the most expensive musical ever produced, with the longest running preview period due to excessive technical difficulties and numerous stunt-related injuries. There’s a fascinating book written by one of the co-writers of the show that is a page-turner and documents the hubris involved with the show. I didn’t see it, but learned that the writers created a new villainess that was never in the comics. Totally unnecessary in a universe rich with existing options. Plus it was just too ambitious. When the stunts worked, they were fantastic. But when they didn’t, it was awkward at best, but too often dangerous to for the cast.


Art by Chris A. Tsuda

Between Xanadu and Spider-Man, I was like, why didn’t they do a musical about Marvel’s answer to disco in the 1980s, the Dazzler? She is a some-time X-Man with the mutant ability to convert sound energy into light. She is still featured in comics today, and was one of the first to publicly come out as a mutant. Stories were one of the first to focus on the personal life of the hero, and the comics were also the first to be released exclusively in comic shops rather than on the magazine racks at the local convenience store. As you might imagine, the character has a gay fan base and is a popular subject for cosplay.

Dazzler wasn’t always a hero. Her first dream was to be a star, but villains and thugs kept interrupting her big breaks. Eventually she had to make a choice – one that we all face on a daily basis: am I a hero or a star?

Now isn’t that a compelling story? Wouldn’t theater gays go nuts over such a theme, that also involves disco and flashy lights? I think so.

So I did some research. One superfan recently did a Dazzler music video. Back in the 80s, Bo Derek was set to play her, with an insane script idea starring Cher as the Witch Queen, Donna Summer as the Queen of Fire, KISS, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and The Village People. I applaud their creativity, but I think we gotta scale it back a bit.

So I started writing a script. Yeah I know I’m not a script writer. The most I do are these here blog posts and achingly dry press releases for the federal government. But I had two years of un- and under-employment and looking for jobs only takes up so much time. Plus I had this idea in my head, an idea that was like a pustulent zit that had to be popped desperately, or else it would just sit there and fester. And the idea wouldn’t go away.

The idea is based on the earliest Dazzler comics where the simple theme was her trying to make it big in spite of interruptions by supervillains. It’s about expectations, or the failure to reach them. It was a theme I was – and am – very familiar with. Perhaps this script is therapy. But I’d also like to see it work, if only on a small stage.

In the fall I learned about a theatrical reading of a Batman graphic novel. A reading is when you read from a script without a lot of props or blocking. They did a great job, and I got in touch with the director. Sadly we haven’t gotten together about it yet, but I think he’s one guy who could help me out, if only for suggestions.

I met with a producer friend of mine for some advice. His main tip was that unless this show is satire, I definitely had to get in touch with Marvel for permission, or it is all for nothing. His other advice was that NYC is filled with aspiring writers, and what was I thinking that I could also do such a thing? That was disappointing from a person I had initially introduced to showbiz. But I had asked for advice and for him to read my script, which I’m not sure he’s done yet. Not many have, although one theater critic and Dazzler fan has and gave me some constructive advice that I plan to implement.

I reached out to Marvel Comics’ licensing team, which was surprisingly easy to do. I got a swift response: “Hi Mr. B: We are not interested in licensing out our character for this musical. Thank you.” At least they got back to me quickly. Not sure what to do about that just yet. The show is definitely not satire, and is in fact is heavily based on the early Dazzler comics. Dazzler wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dazzler was an aspiring disco star, and a show without music wouldn’t be right. So I delved into the music from the year the comic was conceived. Much of that music was played at the roller rink where I spent a lot of time when I was nine years old, and I have an eidedic memory for lyrics, especially from when I was a kid. 1979 was a fantastic year for music, many of the songs having to do with light. Perfect for a musical about a person who can transform sound into light. Many cringe at the thought of a jukebox musical, but these songs are appropriately woven into the plot. I’ve even written one original song for The Eleven O’clock Number.

I’ve done a lot of research into script writing, and plan on taking a class once I get my finances back in order. DC has a remarkably thriving theater scene, and there are opportunities for small stage productions. I even have a local 80s cover band I’m in touch with to perform the music. “Glitterlust” seems an appropriate name for a house band doing music for Dazzler.

For the most part I’ve kept this idea to myself for many years. It’s a crazy idea, and putting it out there has been interesting. I’m mostly met with bewilderment and sometimes doubt even from close friends, which has been a little hurtful. But from what I understand rejection and roadblocks are part of the business and I’m going to keep trying. Is it a hobby or a dream? I’m not sure yet. But just like Dazzler it is yet to be determined whether I’m going to be a hero or a star.

The anti-vaccine movement – and other similar questionings of authority and science for that matter – fascinate me as they seem to be a culmination of a number of modern advancements and current issues. Plus it bugs the shit out of me because it’s so stupid.

A Very Concerned ParentWe seem to be in an age where we need to re-learn or re-discover why we have certain nice things. Like public health programs, unions, and consumer advocacy. If there hasn’t been an outreach campaign about something that the public forgets about things in about a generation. Sadly, with the anti-vaxxers, we will apparently have to experience a rash of preventable, tragic deaths before people bother to understand why we have vaccines in the first place.

The last major plague we’ve experienced – AIDS – only affected “those people”: those dirty gays and IV drug users (and they probably deserved it!). It didn’t directly affect the general population, so they don’t understand the impact of public health programs (or lack thereof). It took decades to get definitive research and treatment for AIDS patients after decades of screaming for help. That’s the thing that’s ironic – a group of people had to work hard to get treatment for a new disease, while a population today completely eschews tested and effective treatment for a known set of diseases. They will have to experience the tragedies of what happens when you go without.

I think the Internet is part of the problem too. Anyone can find something on the Internet to bolster their beliefs, and most don’t know how to vet research from an accredited institution versus someone’s “deeply held concerns” and opinions. I do know of one anti-vaxxer friend of mine on Facebook who worked at a university and should know better. But she’s constantly citing blog posts from “concerned parents” and links to science that has been discredited. She seems determined to stick to her beliefs despite nearly a century of medical research and advancements in public health. I don’t know how to convince her otherwise.

This anti-science set of beliefs is linked to an anti-authority movement. I’ll go out on a limb here to say that it’s rooted in anti-Obama. Perhaps since they can’t deal with a black president, and he’s in charge of the government and ultimately public health, therefore everything in authority is untrustworthy. I would go so far as to say that some parents are terrified to vaccinate their children because they are essentially injecting black in their children. Or that sneaky Obama is up to something and it’s probably forced autism.

All of the above makes me very concerned about the next new disease that hits the U.S. We didn’t handle Ebola very well. There was just as much confusion, accusing and fear about ebola as there was about HIV. Include mistrust of public health and the government and we will have a perfect storm of tragedy and death when the next new disease comes around. And most likely it will be preventable.

There seems to be two camps of anti-vaccine kooks: those who are Libertarian (or something) and dislike being “told what to do,” and hippy-dippy naturopathic enthusiasts who distrust western medicine. The latter may be convinced to vaccinate their children if you accuse them of racism. It might work.

Oh, and about autism: I don’t doubt it exists, but I think it’s overly diagnosed in an age where parents are working too much and can’t (or don’t want to) deal with the typical problems children go through. It’s the modern-day boogeyman, today’s Communist that puts the fear of god in mothers. Mothers who will click on anything with mention of it. It’s part of the hook that makes “concerned mothers” so willing to believe in the discredited threats of vaccination. They would much rather dope up their children with behavior-modifying medication than vaccinate their children. It’s easier that way and you don’t have to think about science.

I also wonder if there are parents who just can’t handle the thought of their children experiencing any kind of pain or hardship, like getting a shot in the arm. Seeing their children cry during what was once a rite of passage when I was a kid. Maybe these parents just can’t let their precious snowflakes experience the agony of a vaccination.

I suppose I could back up all of this conjecture with research from accredited institutions, but I’m too busy reading about the Kardashians.