Straight edge life

Decompression Session

02/01/2005 01:03
Gotta chill. I have a strange restlessness in me. Sure, I’m overdue on a few bills, I’m waiting for a paycheck. That always drives me nuts. But this is more than that. I’m physically restless. I guess the point just came when I realised that I haven’t done shit to make my mark on the world for the last few years. I mean I’ve actually been enjoying the obscurity of programming. The subtle zen sense of invisible glory… of a job well done but unknown. There are beautiful things about teaching yourself to do something that almost nobody understands, fewer appreciate, even fewer respect, and almost none find beautiful.

It’s one way to live. But one thing it does lack is beauty. Beauty is meant to be shared. It is bursting to be shared. The “beauty” of code is very odd. No matter how much I love or appreciate the code I write, it’s never going to inspire someone. It’s far to practical for that. It’s not beautiful in that way. It may do a beautiful job of making something happen. But in it’s own right it’s not beautiful to anyone besides the person who wrote it.

I will make beautiful things again. In their own right. Beautiful in that they change people, or make them think, or make them cry or just make them smile. I can’t live in this cocoon anymore. My feet have to walk, my hands have to work. My body has to move. The things I make… I want them to bring me closer to people. To help me understand them and to help them understand me.

Photographer?

01/31/2005 00:29
I think I’m lucky. I was chillin’ with my dad the other day and he encouraged me to quit my job and do full-time photography again. What kind of cool dad tells you to quit your stable, respectable job as a programmer and go be an artist?

I think if I did it I would have to spend a year or so building my portfolio up first. Cool thing is that it will take me about a year to get out of debt.

Racist Pig

01/27/2005 21:06
I had a phone conversation yesterday with a man who tried to excuse an anti-asian comment with an anti-semitic analogy.

I never know what to do when stuff like this happens. I was totally stunned that this fucker would say something like that. I was angry. Furiously so. This is a guy I work with (sort of) and it was supposed to be a professional conversation, it caught me completely off guard. I was so stunned for a moment I just didn’t say anything. The next time I see him I’ll probably hit the guy. I’m more mischievous than that so maybe I’ll just cut his break lines or something. Just kiddin’. But I’ll think about doing that. I mean what the hell do you do when you run into racist pigs just walking around on the street?

Bordering Straight Edge

01/25/2005 23:52
There’s a light in the corner of my office. The office which is my studio. The studio which is my apartment. It’s small and bright and the glow is orange. These old incandescent lights are my favourites. Nothing else feels so warm.

Tonight it’s pissing me off. It’s the mortal enemy in a very small war. It provides an ambient feeling that fits with my mood and is totally getting in the way of putting that mood into words. I’ve got three monitors glowing in front of me and this damn little light is causing a reflection in all the wrong places. I squint, I shuffle from left to right in my comfy office chair, nothing helps.

I’m in between choice and obligation. The transition hasn’t exactly begun yet, but it’s coming. The obligation of paying off debt and the choice of what to do with my life when the debts are gone.

I never think that much about accountability but it has been a rigidly defining element in my life. Especially in the last few years. It’s like this… If you fuck up. If you make the wrong choice you should deal with it. Don’t hide. Don’t deny the error. Fess up to the mistake and do what you can to fix it. Until it is fixed. Do not stop until it is fixed. This is generally how I am compelled to live my life. Sometimes it feels like a sickness. Sometimes it feels like brilliance. I won’t get into that now. Let’s just say it’s just me.

The bitch about accountability is that if the error is tricky enough to fix it can take a hell of a lot of time to fix it. Take this debt for example. It’s pretty easy to get into debt. Greed, necessity, ambition, catastrophe, you name it. I’ve been stiffed by clients, I’ve spent too much money, I’ve budgeted and I’ve failed to budged. For too many reasons I’ve ended up in debt. And getting out of debt is a ferocious bitch.

In the last five years I haven’t had a single day when I didn’t think about my debt and how to get rid of it. For the last three years I’ve been working my ass off to get out of it.

Tonight I am finishing up a contract for work that will bring me damn close to being completely out of it. It’s going to take another 1000 hours of work and probably 8 months of my time, but it will be done. And it makes me smile. I can’t walk away from this responsibility. I can’t. I have to finish it up or I won’t be the person I need to be. So I work, and delay the other things I could be doing. But tonight is different. Tonight I know I will soon be able to choose something different.

I think that’s what straight edge is all about for me. It’s about accountability and choice. You’re accountable for everything you do and this accountability gives you the ability to arguably defend your choices. No excuses for mistakes. No bullshit. You just learn from what you do or fail to do and move on. You admit mistakes. No pride. No ego. Just fucking do what you can to make this world better. Or yourself better. Or to help your friends. To once and for all do the things that I want to do and to defend my choice to do it. Nothing is fun if I have a burden on my shoulders. Mental, financial, physical, chemical, whatever. I’m accountable for my own life so I might as well make it what I want it to be. Straight edge.

Pleasantries

01/24/2005 01:57
Woke up this morning snuggled up with my girl on her totally cool new couch bed thing. I might just have to get one of those myself. I don’t sleep on my bed, I sleep on my couch. I don’t like my bed and her couch is vastly superior to mine. On my couch I wake up alternately with tweaked neck muscles, tweaked back muscles or hilarious imprints from the fabric of the couch on my entire body. Sometimes all three.

But that’s not my point. It was nice to wake up snuggled with someone. You know the feeling… a cold winter night and a warm arm thrown over your ribs and around your belly. A warm leg over yours. 2 am tug-o-war for the blankets. Getting anchored by cats, an 80 lb rottweiler puppy, or whatever fuzzy pet you might have in the house. Yeah, you know the feeling. Makes a guy want to clean up his apartment and get himself a comfortable mattress.

Foehn

01/18/2005 00:33
My window is open and I’m sitting shirtless in a breeze of midnight air (sorry ladies, no photo ;-). This is unusual for January in Eugene. It’s 58 degrees according to the thermometer in my car. After more than a week in the 30s it feels like 85.

I’m restless. I’m going just a little bit bonkers. I never know how to figure restlessness out. Is there genuinely something wrong, something that needs to be fixed? Is it all in my head? Is it just chemical? The confusing result of a chemical imbalance from stress? Too much work? Too little sleep? Sometimes I’m just too bored of this feeling to do anything about it. I seek distraction or purpose and motivation. It never seems to fix the problem though. I always end up right back here. Restless. Restless and clueless. I don’t know what’s missing. I have no idea. It’s a weird aching feeling that’s probably going to get worse until I take the time to figure it out.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s some sort of condition that describe me. Some medical term of “ariism” or some shit like that. Ariism: the condition of being a hopeless basket case who suffers from a strangely partial sense of self awareness, a lack of motivation, and a tendency to over-engineer his порно life.

Ug. I’m going to sleep. This fresh air is too nice though. Maybe I’ll just sit here for a while staring at the ceiling, trying to catch my cat, Josie, and pet her for a bit. She’s pretty shy. Really shy actually.

New Ride

01/14/2005 23:52
So… I traded my green Jetta for a grey Jetta. I’m much happier with the grey one. No seat heaters but it’s got an extra gear. And that’s nice. I’ll be paying for it until the end of time and that’s ok. It’s the one of the last of the Jetta GLIs with the MK4 body style and I’ve wanted one for a long time. The new jetta body style (the mk5) is coming out soon and they aren’t pretty. Looks just like any other car.

Maintenance

01/14/2005 23:34
Some things can’t be fixed by a good fast drive on the back roads of Eugene. Most things can’t be actually. There’s got to be maintenance. I think that’s the key. You have to do a little bit every day to keep shit from falling apart.

I’ve been looking at my life in retrospect tonight. The last few years have been positive and negative. Black and white. Honestly I know that a good amount of the trouble I was having a while ago was made much worse by the fact that I wasn’t taking time to maintain even the most baseline level of health. Mental or physical. Given, I was pretty damn overwhelmed with the hellstorm of crap happening around and to me. But I am convinced that today isn’t any easier in terms of funky stuff happening, it just feels easier because I’m actually taking care of myself physically and mentally.

The funny bit though, is that this whole healthy thing is completely foreign to me. My past has been governed by luck, strength and endurance. Not health, intelligence or planning. I feel like I’m growing up in some pretty fundamental and tangible ways. It’s odd. Very odd.

Trade In

01/10/2005 10:23
So I’m trading in my car today. I’m not totally sure that it’s all going to work out financially but I am totally sure that I do want to do it. I spent most of the weekend sort of pondering whether or not I wanted to do it, but the fact is that this one item is the only thing in my life that still has my ex-wife’s name attached to it. Yup, shared title. And that’s something I want to change. Plus, it’s green and it’s got a leather interior. Both of which I despise. It was her choice of cars. So that will be cool. I figure it’s a good way to start the week.

I got all of my smaller projects done this weekend. I wanted to clear all of that stuff out so that I could focus on my new job. This new project is going to be pretty committing. I’m excited about it. But I don’t want a damn thing to get in the way. Cool enough…. More later.

Bisexual, a conflictive word

No one, bisexuals included, loves the word. It sounds divisive when it means inclusive. It has a laboratory ring to it. What it means to me and to the many bisexual people I know is simply the ability to find emotional and sexual satisfaction in people of both genders. This broadly based sexuality, one enjoying but not bound by gender, explains much.

I am concerned with the sudden visibility of the conversion movement because I think homophobia should interest everyone. But I’m especially concerned that the response of the gay community not be one of increasing rigidity inside itself. Misunderstanding isn’t the special province of the conservatives and the converters.

Many gay activists see any talk of bisexuality as diluting the coherence of the community, particularly damaging in a time of attack. James Collard, editor of OUT, recently tried to start a discussion of what he calls “post-gay” sensibility — a community identity not based entirely in sexual orientation — and was met with anger. We have met the enemy, and it could be us if we’re not careful.

Others simply don’t believe in bisexuality, seeing through the lens of their own difficult coming-out experience. To those who’ve claimed their own sexuality the hard way, bisexuality sometimes looks like internalized homophobia, confusion, shame — or sexual opportunism. Bisexuals hear the same things from straights and gays, friends, lovers and perfect strangers: You can’t be both. You can’t be neither. You just haven’t faced the truth. You’re secretly wishing for A or B. Insert gay, insert straight, and it comes out the same — something essential is denied.

It is normal to me to have a flowing and unpredictable sexual orientation, although in my case it hasn’t been entirely unpredictable — there are patterns of who and when and how I am attracted to people, of who populates my dreams, and there are patterns in what I’ve chosen to do and not to do about those patterns. But my experience of attraction is nothing like a fence between opposing camps. My sexual self feels more like a winding river, going only vaguely in one direction, with gentle curves here and there, fast water and slow, occasional storms.

I have often wished to be another way, to “convert” fully and completely into a person whose community would be obvious — and welcoming. But there is something wonderful in this, too. The only limit is how tiny the word “bi” sounds, as though I lived in a world of two and not billions. What I live in is a world where sexual attraction can surprise me in the middle of doing the laundry, where I have discovered myself drawn to a person who didn’t meet a single one of the multiple criteria by which I had previously judged partners, where sexual attraction can disappear without notice and reappear where it is least expected, where in the course of the many decades of my life I have come to expect a library of possibility. I don’t know where the converters would even begin.

Letter from the Allegheny County HIV advisory committee

Friends and colleagues,

I am sending this email to those of you who may be involved in county or state elections this year particularly for executive positions. I know that I don’t have all the names of those representing our interests so feel free to circulate this if you see any merit in it.

Happily, we met with Roddey last year and he promised us needle exchange and he actually did it. I believe that at the county and state level we have more opportunity to garner support than we ever did.

Over the years, I have observed that we often (rightly) ask about legislation but seldom ask candidates such as governor or county executive or the old county commissioners about what they will do in the executive branch.

Because of my work, I have often seen the most vulnerable of our community receiving no or poor services. About a third of homeless youth are gay but there are few programs for them and little training for professionals dealing with them (the Whale’s Tale here is an exception but the problem is state-wide). We all know that our schools do not have adequate anti-bullying programs or adequate HIV education. The same is true in mental health, drug and alcohol and other services. For example, routinely, lgbt people going into treatment in D and A treatment centers are told not to mention their homosexuality or gender differences. We all know that if treatment is to work addicts and alcoholics have to deal with their social life, their families including chosen families, self-esteem etc. You can’t do that in a therapy group if you are hiding who you are.

I can give many other examples as I am sure that Randy and others of you can. My point is that candidates for governor and county executive appoint the people who run STD, HIV, children and youth, education, corrections, mental health, drug and alcohol, human relations and other services.

I think our community would benefit enormously if politicians are willing to appoint cabinet officials who pledge to work with our community to identify needed policies and programs and to implement them.

In addition, all state and county workers need to be trained on cultural competency including us, of course.

There may be other things that we can ask for in this regard such as the appointment of a top level staff person responsible for ensuring equitable services for lgbt people. Others may have other ideas.

I just hope that we can urge the candidates to remember our most vulnerable community members and to begin to address the problems that they live with.

Take care,
Tony

Opinion Piece: What GSPCGP Identifies as an LGBT Issue (May 2003)

The Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh (GSPCGP) is a multipartisan organization working in electoral politics for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. Each election, the Club endorses a slate of candidates who are pro-gay, pro-choice, and anti-racist. Just this past election, questions came up from the community as to what the Club identifies as an lgbt issue. As a long-time Club member and former chair, I offer the following as my understanding of the members’ rationale in choosing candidates and issues to support.

GSPCGP recognizes the right to autonomy over our own bodies as a core lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender issue. Examples include whom we choose for sex partners; what reproductive decisions we make, from birth control and artificial insemination to abortion; and how we transform our bodies to fit our true genders.

Members of the lgbt community all share some of the same specific needs such as the right to a civil union, adoption and child custody, and safe school or work environments. In some of our other seemingly common issues such as anti-discrimination laws, women and racial minorities within the lgbt community may require additional legislation such as affirmative action for the anti-discrimination laws to be effective.

GSPCGP, an all-volunteer political organization, has steadfastly supported candidates and legislation that support all of the needs of the lgbt community. When the Pennsylvania state legislature showed a chance to pass hate crime legislation last year provided that “gender identity” be removed, the Stein Club lobbied state congress to pass legislation without any changes. This means that the Stein Club stood behind the trans members of the community to ensure that the hate crime legislation specifically protected them as well as the rest of the lgbt community. And the Hate Crime Bill passed intact.

The Stein Club believes that its work over the past 20 years has contributed to the growth of a broad pool of supportive candidates. In recent years, two or three and sometimes eight or nine candidates for the same office have been endorsable. These candidates have supported all of the issues GSPCGP has presented to them regarding the diverse needs of the full community. With this track record, the Club resists endorsing candidates who have proven themselves to parts of the community while not the full community. Candidates who have supported domestic partnership, funding for AIDS, and affirmative action but did not support reproductive rights tend to not receive the Stein Club’s support. Candidates who support all of those rights but not health care coverage for sexual reassignment surgery also tend to not receive endorsement. However, candidates who seek further education on lgbt issues are met.

The Stein Club believes that if it sacrifices the needs of some of the community members, then all of the community will eventually suffer for it. On the other hand, when the Club insists on full support, more and more candidates will rise to the occasion, and these are the ones the Club wants to see succeed.

Over the years, GSPCGP has seen its endorsed candidates climb the political ladder while maintaining their strong advocacy of lgbt rights. Among them are Jim Ferlo, from City Council to Pennsylvania State Senate; Barbara Burns, from the Pittsburgh Board of Education to City Council; and Valerie McDonald Roberts, from the School Board, to City Council, to Recorder of Deeds. Barbara Hafer has moved from Allegheny County Board of Commissioners to state Auditor General to PA Treasurer. Shelley Friedman and Max Baer, from their positions as attorneys to judges, have better enabled the lgbt community to achieve justice.

These candidates are within both the Democratic and Republican parties. When the strongest advocate is in a third party such as the Greens or Libertarians, GSPCGP will support that candidate, sending a message to politicians that lgbt needs are essential and not to be relegated to the back burner. Some of these candidates join the major parties in future elections and some remain in the third party as they continue lobbying for lgbt rights.

GSPCGP welcomes new members, new ideas, and new directions to continue its endorsement and lobbying of candidates and legislation to enhance the lives of all who make up the lgbt community.

US Campaigns supporting the LGTB human and civil rights

On March 4, the Ed Rendell for PA Governor campaign held a luncheon in the Rivers Club at One Oxford Center for the lgbt community. Nine members of the community and four campaign staff attended the lunch. Richard Meritzer, who represented GSPC, said that the other lgbt organizations represented included the Marriage Coalition, League of Gay and Lesbian Voters, and Persad. While the organizations were predominantly political ones, Meritzer also noted that the community was represented predominantly by white men.

In his introductory speech, Rendell talked about his support for the right of hospital visitation for lgbt people and his support for reversing the law that forbids Pitt to offer domestic partnership rights. He said that, as governor, he would support domestic partnership for state employees.

The luncheon was then opened for discussion, in which Rendell expressed the following: He supports hate crime legislation and employment non-discrimination legislation. He supports adoption reform. He said he would enforce the executive order protecting state employees from discrimination. He was unfamiliar with the recent issue Pittsburgh had over people with AIDS confidentiality. He said that protecting anonymity of people was very important and no amount of research should compromise this protection. He said that his campaign would provide assistance to lgbt groups but only if they provided a good business plan. He promised that during his administration there would be regular relations with the Governor’s office.

GSPCGP Endorses Rendell for PA Governor, Kukovich for Lt. Governor

The Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh (GSPC) has endorsed Ed Rendell (Dem) for Pennsylvania governor in the Primary Election scheduled for May 21. Rendell supports covering the lgbt community in the state’s Hate Crime legislation. Allen G. Kukovich (Dem), who has been endorsed for Lt. Governor of PA, was instrumental in passing the hate crime legislation in the PA Senate. This legislation will soon be up for a vote by the representatives in the General Assembly. In choosing candidates to support in the General Assembly, the Stein Club especially looked for incumbents dedicated to passing the bill.

Of the incumbents, GSPCGP endorsed Dan B. Frankel (Dem) in district 23 and Joseph Preston, Jr. (Dem) in district 24. Jake Wheatley (Dem) in district 19 and Mike Crossey (Dem) in district 42 have also been endorsed for representatives in the General Assembly. GSPCGP recognizes Patrick Dowd of the Democratic party with Honorable Mention. Dowd is running against Preston to represent district 24.

Two viable candidates in the Democratic party are running to fill the PA Senate seat in district 38: Jim Ferlo, who received the Stein Club endorsement, and Bonnie DiCarlo, who received Honorable Mention by the Club. The Club also endorsed the following candidates for Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee: Brenda Frazier and Sandra Roberts in district 38; Robert V. Frank in district 42; Barbara Danko, Richard Fitzgerald, Marvin Leibowitz, Michael McGeever, and Scott Safier in district 43; and Carmella Mullen in district 45.