Monday, October 31, 2011

October; or why I don't really bother with Halloween

The best part of Halloween in my opinion is that it means October is over.  Since I was little, I have always just had bad memories that are associated with October, and because of it, I wanted to move onto something happier.  This week specifically, I'd like to move on to something a little better just because my back hurts insanely, because of a sciatic nerve problem I've had since I started working jobs that required 8 hours of sitting a day.  Seriously, I went to go get groceries today at Carrefour, and I felt like I was walking like an old man.  Ridiculous.

There's no better place to start than with my time back when I was a kid as to why I am slightly bitter about Halloween.  As they say, you attract more flies with sugar than honey.  My mother never really knew what to do for Halloween costumes for boys.  When I was a little kid, my options were pumpkin or dragon.  These were hand me down costumes from my older brother.  One of the most fun parts about Halloween is supposed to be choosing what you want to be.  For me, the choice was already made.  My sisters could always do something with what we had, like wearing one of my mother's old bridesmaid's dresses and be a Southern Belle, or wear a lot of jean material and be a hippie.  For boys, it always seemed like it was harder.

As I've mentioned before, we lived in Cornfield Central.  Because of that, our nearest neighbors were a ways away, and walking at night was scary.  Our other option was to take my mother's old car.  It was a really nice muscle car back in the day.  She had a 68 Firebird that she drove off the showroom floor in Defiance.  Now; however, it was 1987 and no one had rebuilt the transmission since it was bought.  So when you'd be driving the transmission bands might slip, and you'd drop from 60 to 0 in less than a second.  If the transmission didn't kick back in, you'd be pushing the car home.  We only used it for short trips, like to church and back.

We did it one year in the Firebird, and that was kind of disastrous.  There weren't a lot of young families in our neighborhood, so some of the families didn't have candy.  So we had to figure out which houses to go to.  Another problem was space.  A Firebird isn't designed to hold 6 people, regardless of age.  It also had no heat, and no radio.  Those were stolen when a cousin had the car on the local college campus.  On top of that, my youngest brother was all of 2 years old, and really didn't want to be out that long without making a fuss.  So between a young child, and nearly getting pushed off steps by one of my siblings for a snickers bar, that was the first and last year we did trick or treating.

That's not to say that my mother never tried to have fun on Halloween.  When we were younger, we actually had a really fun party among the 6 of us.  Since my dad worked second shift, we only had one car with a dependable transmission until 1996.  So instead of feeling sad about not being able to go trick or treating, we each got a sack of candy, dressed up in our costumes, and had pizza.  It was pretty fun.  I guess I just never really got into the spirit.

One of the worst parts about October was that my mother always used to get really depressed during the month.  She just seemed like she didn't want to do anything, and most of the time we'd just be curled under blankets watching Must See TV, hoping that no one would bother coming over begging for candy.  I never really understood why until I remembered that my grandmother died on October 21st.

My parents moved in with my grandmother back in 1981 to take care of her, and because the rent would be free.  My grandmother was getting to an age where it was hard for her to get around, and she would forget things sometimes.  My mother was a stay at home mom at the time, and she already had three kids.  It was pretty ideal.  After she had me in 1983 and my younger brother in 1985, it started to get more complicated for her.  My grandmother's condition was worsening.  She started to get more and more confused, and angry.  Finally in 1987, my grandmother passed away.

It took a good 10 years for my mother to really move on from the death of my grandmother.  I think much of it had to do with living in the house and seeing all of her clothes and possessions around her 24 hours a day. My parents even moved into my grandmother's room a few months after her passing.  On top of that, there were some problems with family because of the will.  My grandmother wasn't insanely rich or anything, but she had more than enough to live comfortably.  It was so bad, one  uncle and aunt wouldn't come into the house for the wake.  They were that ashamed of what they had done to the rest of their family.

Growing up with all this bad stuff happening in October, it seems like it's when bad stuff happens to me.  I always tend to have health problems in October.  I think the first breakdown I had was in October.  My sophomore year of college I got a sinus infection for the first time in my life and guess which month it happened?  The first time I had really bad sciatic nerve problems was in October.  I'm also pretty sure I just lost out on another job today.  It gets me coming and going.

So you'll have to understand that none of this is blaming, or whining, even though it may sound like it, but statements of fact all.  I don't actually mean to sound as crotchety as I probably do.  If I'm invited to a Halloween Party, I'll try and find a costume and go.  I'll smile and say Happy Halloween to people, but after I'm done, just let me go home and curl up on the couch or if it's been a particularly bad day, in the shower with the hottest water I can stand either running over my head or against my lower back.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Queerest of Birds

While finishing the cleaning today, as I clean every Saturday to get it the hell out of the way, I was thinking about a lot of things, and I finally had a stroke of inspiration for writing, so I think I'll try and turn it into a full length book.  If you do National Novel Writing Month, I'll probably work on it there.  If you're around, I'm also Tamayn there.

I plan to try and make it similar to an Agatha Christie style story.  There will be an overarching murder plot, but a focus on the relationship of a long lost brother whom the family despises at worst, or wants nothing to do with at best.  The only grandchild will be the other focus character.

Lord knows that I read them enough, and have been watching them often enough here.  I still have more research to do on a certain aspect of the interesting part of the story line, but well, I'll leave that to be found out later.  If people want to see it, I'll post what results.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

La Pilule Amère

So I'll start slow with this because basically all I wanted to do yesterday, and I still kind of feel like it today, is curl up in the bathtub with some cake mix.  As I mentioned, I started applying for jobs here in France.  I knew this would be a bit of a complicated situation.  I guess I never expected to get even a response.

I should really mention a problem I have.  The best way I've found to describe it is that I go up like a rocket, and come down like a stick.  Outwardly, I am a bit cynical about things, but secretly I'm already counting on success on everything I do.  So when I got a response from one of the first places I applied to, I was floored!

The schedule would have been 12 hours a week.  It wouldn't have been a terrible amount, but it would have been a start.  They asked me if the hours worked for me, and wanted me to respond as soon as possible.  So I called the number I had been left at the bottom, and set up an appointment to speak with the people necessary.  I was really excited, because this meant that I wouldn't feel so useless here.  I could contribute real money to the situation here, and we wouldn't have to worry about next year.  I was really excited.

I called my sister in law and mother in law to ask them how I should approach this.  I've never been terribly confident in my actual French level, so I always feel like I'm at a disadvantage.  They said to try and keep it simple.  Don't get in over your head.  Explain the situation exactly as it is. They said that given the level of the job, and that I wouldn't be speaking with people all that much, so I should relax on that front.  The one thing they said though was that this job isn't something that would appeal to a lot of French people.  Frankly people who are already on chomage make more than this job would give a month, so it's not to their advantage to take it.  I had maybe a bit more confidence with that.

They said for a job like this, the most important thing was to present myself well.  I just got a hair cut last week, so that was fine.  I needed to shave, which I did (even shaving against the grain with a new blade to make sure it was smooth.)  I wore dress pants and a dress shirt.  I even put a sweater over the top of it, one to look even more French, and number two so that no one would notice the shirt was off white.  Since the sweater was tan, the shirt looked really nice and white.  I even took one of those chemises with me and a pen and paper.  I don't think I ever tried to look that French in all my life.  ( I should just mention I hate shaving and never wear a sweater with a collared shirt because I get really warm easily, and I think it just looks so ridiculously Ned Flanders that I want to beat myself up. )

Digressing, I got there with about 15 minutes to spare.  I had always heard it was a good idea to arrive between 10 to 15 minutes before the appointment.  I spoke with the person at the Acceuil and was told that the person I was supposed to meet with was in a meeting, but someone else would be down to receive me.  In a few minutes I see a person in a suit come to the desk.  I assume that it's him.  He comes over and asks if he should know me.....?  It's not the right person and I'm turning about a thousand shades of red.  But I smile, excuse myself, and the woman at the acceuil explains that I'm waiting for someone and that he's fine.  She tells me that the person I'm going to meet with will be down in just a few minutes.

The guy arrives just a little bit after, now that I'm really embarrassed and even more nervous, it's a match made in heaven.  He's a young guy, probably younger than me in truth, and he asks me how I'm doing.  I reply that I'm doing fine, and we walk to the back.  He asks me if I had ever worked in a store like this before, I say yes, and explain a bit.  I'm so nervous I really don't know what to say.  So I try to explain a bit, but it's not going so great.  So. Damn. Nervous.....

We go to an office, and he explains a bit about the job.  We go over the hours, the days I'd work, how many people would be on the team I'd be working with, and just a few general things.  I get the feeling he's killing time until I can speak with the person I need to talk to.  He asked me if the schedule would work.  I say yes, not a problem.  We talk a bit more, and he asks me if I can take on more hours sometimes.  I say it's fine.  I try to explain the situation but I'm still a bit tongue tied.  Someone comes in and tells him that the woman I was supposed to speak with is now available.  So we get up, and walk to her office.

She says hello, we shake hands and she has me take a seat.  She asks me how high my level of French is, and I try to stammer out a response until the guy says "small," and she says, "oh, small."  That was it!  At that point, something just snapped in my head.  Now it was a challenge.  I responded with, "J'aime penser que je peux parler très bien Française, mais j'n sais pas."  She blinked and opened her eyes a bit wider.  She smiled a bit and said, "Ah bon, je trouve que vous parlez très bien!"  I felt vindicated!  We talked a bit more.  I'd be on a CDI, but for students, at which point I had to explain about visas and such.  She said that would be worked out with the person who handled that.  Of course, I was to speak with her next.

So I meet with her, we talk, and she says that she doesn't know how it would work to hire me, because with my visas, it becomes more complicated.  So she calls the prefecture.  Of course, no one's there until tomorrow morning, as the person who handles it only works two days per week apparently, so she'll have to call back tomorrow, get word back, and speak with him then.  I figure, ok so she'll do that, and I'll be working next week ok.

I'm pretty happy, I'm telling everyone on the phone that I don't know what will happen, but everyone seems pretty confident that it'll work out.  So I'm pretty happy, talking with partner.  He's happy for me, and we're a little relieved.  He has to go back in for his afternoon class that day, so I walk out with him.  I come back upstairs and see that I missed a call.  It's the woman who needed to call the prefecture for confirmation to let me know that with the visas I have, it would be IMPOSSIBLE!  No real explanation other than that.  She said to call back if I had any questions.  So just.....whatever......

So I was really pissed, and just annoyed with the whole situation.  I took a walk and called a few people...  The search continues only now, I'm just slightly less enthusiastic about the search.  France is a tangle of bureaucracy, so I'm not completely saddened by it, but I'm just, yeah....  If I could just marry my partner like in the majority of European countries, I wouldn't need 2000 euros per month with 400 dollar a month health insurance.  So I'm just done for a bit.

Where's that cake mix.......?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Elle est ma cousine!

I remember one of the first things I asked partner was " so since you're from Bretagne, do you speak Breton?" His response, naturally, was no.  He told me that people don't really speak Breton anymore.  There are older people who know it or knew it.  Such was the case with his grandmother.  She knew and could speak Breton until she had a stroke back in the late nineties.  Unfortunately neither of her children had studied the language, like I said earlier, this is a cyclical thing where people care about it and then don't, or her grandchildren.  This is how languages die out.

However; there will always be some vestiges of Breton culture.  People speak a few snippets of the language, and most people know basic phrases like degemer mat for welcome, or that the Breton word for Breton is actually Breizh.  These are things that people see on signs, not normally something that's shared among family members though.  The actual nuts and bolts of the language are only maintained through songs or in the names of dances, or the occasional song.

This song here, for example, was popular a while back in France.  The band, Matmatah, was formed in Brest, the westernmost city in Bretagne.  The song itself is Lambe an dro is actually in French, but it has that very Celtic rock edge to it.  You can find the lyrics here.  If anything, this song actually reminds me a lot of that song "500 Miles" by the Proclaimers or to a lesser extent "Jump Around" by House of Pain.  It doesn't have all that much to do with actual Celtic culture, but it's more than happy to borrow from it. 

Breton in Brittany is more of a cultural thing now than an actual language.  You will see the black and white flag and coat of arms all over the place.  Also there's a certain symbol called the triskelion in English, know as la triskell in Brittany.  It's the regional symbol, and you will see it everywhere they can stick it up.  Originally, it was a sacred symbol, but now, you'll see it on everything from a taxi service to pizza places.  

Another interesting thing that I remember seeing long before partner and I moved was a character called Bécassine.  It's a stereotypical creation of the old fashioned Breton woman.  Her name is also used in French as slang for a fool.  She was created as a caricature of Bretons in general, showing her as old fashioned.  She still wears a lace coif and clogs, and usually is not drawn with a mouth.  She's kind of a classic plouc.  It's an old joke, but a lot of people say, "Bécassine; c'est ma cousine."  It's actually a song written by Chantal Goya.  

The language still exists and there are always attempts to maintain the level of the language, but like any language, it will only stay alive so long as people speak it.  I can't say I've ever heard it spoken, but it's amazing to think about how this language has lasted all these years.  Of course, like any language, it's changed with the times.  For example, most signs are in Breton and French in the Rennes subway system.  That's the sign of a language that can stand the test of time honestly.  It has to be able to stay current with the times.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I've seen things....

I'll make a list of things lately, and we'll vote as to the order I talk about them.

1.  I saw a man lick a woman's face, and yes, in a romantic way.  This will actually be more of a rant organized to appear like a serious article.  Just to let you know.

2.  I saw more Breton that I ever planned to today, and it still fascinates me, much like all Brythoic-Godelic Languages.  It would be one thing if it were just at the Brittany Museum, but we're talking about in the Subway.  I. love. Rennes. so. much!

3.  I saw a beautiful old map of Bretagne, which I will show soon when I get a chance.  It has a lot of old place names on it, and well, it's just beautiful!

4.  The Brittany Museum is incredible.  All I can say.  I'll be keeping an eye on what else they're showing at the Champs Libre.

5.  Apparently some French CV's require a photo.  Go figure.

6.  I am totally inspired to write the rest of chapter 2, because of the Brittany Museum.

More to come soon.  Let me know what you guys want to see!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The 35 hebdomadaire

The original reason why I didn't know what and if I'd be able to post was because I spent the week on the job hunt.  Monday was all about getting my CV in order.  Tuesday was getting help with my lettre de motivation, and then Wednesday was getting the word out.  Thursday my mother in law came for a visit, and to leave a few things next week for when she goes to see her daughter for Toussaints, my sister in law's family.  Friday would be a bit more relaxed.  On the docket that day was just a hair cut.  Saturday and Sunday promised to be more relaxing though.

Having never before written a CV, this was going to be an adventure.  A resume, I could write in my sleep.  I had modified my own three times in the US.  I had my form for Academic use, another for sales use, and a third for clerical/office work.  Each I had tuned over the years for the correct case and application, highlighting specific skills necessary for whatever I was applying.  With a CV, nothing doing.  You have to put everything on one form, and in less than one page.  So it becomes a matter of sorting out what is necessary and not, and how to present oneself overall.  There's the additional fun of having to write it all in French.  Of course in French, there is certain jargon and expressions that one uses in French, much like in English.  I wrote it out as best I could in French first, and showed it to partner, who corrected it.  After that, I sent it to my mother in law, who used to work in HR,  and sister in law, who works in online retail.  They ripped it to shreds and then told me how to do it right.  Step one, complete.

Tuesday I didn't feel like fooling around, because I got the feeling that trying to translate my cover letter wasn't going to cut it in France.  There are two things that displease me about the lettre de motivation in france.  The lettre de motivation has nothing to do with your skills.  It's about explaining why you were sending them the letter.  I was joking with my mother in law about explaining that since I was a child and I used to play grocery store, I dreamed of working at Carrefour and arranging cans in a supermarket.  The other fun comes in when you find out that if it's not formatted exactly to French standards, they will take one look at it, assume you have no idea what you're doing, and throw it the hell out.  My mother in law showed me exactly how to write it and what needed to be included, and then sister in law tinkered with it to make it exactly what I needed.  Now I just had to get up the courage to pass it out.

Wednesday is partner's long day in courses, so we had decided that I would leave with him the afternoon, pass out my CV and letter of motivation, and meet him that night by the car.  That meant that I would need to take the metro.  I hadn't taken it much, mostly out of fear of getting lost.  I don't usually get lost, as I do believe myself to have an excellent sense of direction, but I didn't want to risk anything happening.  I figured maybe it would be wiser to start the morning off with the places I could walk to.  So that meant that I was applying to the Netto on the corner, the Super U a little further down, and the Lidl that was just down the street a bit further.  Later that afternoon, if all went well, I'd get a day pass for the transit system and take the bus to Alma to drop off applications there, then take the bus back home.  That night I'd take the metro over to the school, trying to complete the impossible task that partner and I screwed up last time: how to get to the car from the metro.

I spent the morning finding the routes I'd need to take, and after breakfast and a shower, I was ready to drop off my CV and letter of motivation.  I hit the ones close by quick, and even got my shopping done along the way.  The only concern was Lidl.  I'd never actually been there, and it was supposed to be really close by.  I'd never gone though just because there were closer, and what I found to be cheaper, options.  I walked up the length of the boulevard, and came to the same road the metro was on.  I knew I had gone too far.  So I asked someone nearby if they knew where the Lidl was, and they said that I would need to take the metro to get there.  I could walk but it was a good 30 minutes then.  So I decided that I'd save that application for the afternoon before taking the bus to Alma.

I come back to the house, put away the groceries, and relax a little before partner arrives for lunch.  He and I eat a bit, we talk, and he goes to study.  I kill a bit of time before he has to go and we leave the building together, around 5.  I headed to the metro and went two stations north, and I start asking people where the nearest Lidl is.  No one knows.  I finally give up and look on a map, because I had to put it in an envelope with the address on the front.  I found the road, and it turns out that this particular road goes on for a while.  I have no idea what to do at this point.  I can go north where the road starts, or I can go south where it veers off and I have no idea how to get there.  I decide I'll go north first and see.  So I go two more stations north and look around a bit.  No one seems to know where the road is when I ask.  I even randomly ended up asking a Russian woman.  We spoke English as it was less complicated.  She said she had no idea where the road was, but wished me luck.  I walked a bit further down, and found the road, but no indication it was nearby.  So I looked around a bit more and headed south.  I went back down to the station where I started, and asked someone.  He said just turn right at the real estate office, and keep going.  It's about 500 feet from the station.  I gave them my CV, walked back to the metro, and caught the bus to Alma.

I dropped off my CV at the different locations, but I'm not going to get too excited about it.  The market is hard, especially for those people who have some education, but not tons.  Of course, right now it seems like it's hard for everyone.  I did the tour of the restaurants there.  I had to be careful about which clothing stores I applied to, because some of them require a special formation after high school.  They told me that they were full up, but they'd keep my CV all the same in case.  I applied to a few more places, one of which was a video game shop, and that made me very happy.  They were even looking.  So like I said, no getting my hopes up, but oh damn, that would be sweet.  Of course, I'd probably never have a check at the end of the month, because I'd spend it all there.  But damn, that'd be sweet.

I still had some time before I'd go meet partner.  I decided to bum around the center of town and see where might be interesting to apply there.  I always like the idea of applying at Fnac, but apparently there's some sort of formation you have to have, but well....who knows.  Anyway, I figured I'd try at Saturn and Virgin.  If no one hires me, no one can say I didn't try.  So I keep going.  I look around for an hour or two, and then take the metro further north to Villejean.

I should probably talk a little about the disaster it was trying to find the way to get from Pontchaillou to the medical campus.  That day, we thought it would be a cinch to find, so partner and I had just bought the hour long metro cards.  So we got the cards at about 4:30, expecting to have this wrapped up in about 20 minutes tops.  We wondered down past the Cardiology center, and back along the side towards town, but the buildings all started to become residential.  So we found a map posted, and looked around.  We couldn't really find where we wanted to go, since it was a map of the hospital, not the medical school included.  We figured if we kept going though, we'd find it, eventually.  So we came back and tried the other way.  Even worse mistake, as we were almost in Villejean.  So we try one more time, can't find it, get pissed, and make it back to the metro with 3 minutes to spare on our card. Partner is now determined that he will never EVER take the metro into school.  I time it all the same, and it's about 12 minutes by metro.  Truthfully, that's about how long it takes him in the car anyway, and he only has to fill up the tank for 20 per month, so it's less than a monthly pass anyway.

This time though, I came prepared.  I found out that we had taken the wrong way around.  We should have gotten off at Villjean-Université, and then it's just 800 meters to the parking lot.  I find the first road I need to take, and keep on going.  I am doing just fine, as we weren't supposed to meet for another half an hour, and I didn't want to get there too early.  It's a really nice night for a walk.  The campus is beautiful all lit up, and the buildings are almost enough to make me think of when we used to take the bus back to partner's place from campus.  It's just nice to feel independent and do what I want.  I make the turn, exactly where it said it would be.  The buildings are getting familiar, and I am right next to the car.  I wait a few minutes and then decide I'll surprise him and meet him a little closer up.  So I move closer up by the parking entrance, wait a few more minutes and inevitably get bored.  I decided I'd meet him in front of the school.  So as I'm walking up, someone is walking down.  It's partner.  He had finished early and was waiting on me.  We walked back to the car and decided since it was late we'd just get Dell'Arte.  It was bliss!

I guess the most important thing is that I have conquered the Rennes transport system.  I am confident I could go wherever necessary now with minimal preparation.  This Wednesday I'll head back to the center of town and drop off more CVs, Thursday mother in law will be staying the night before she catches her train south for Toussaints, so it will be good to see her again.  I have to meet her at the Autogare downtown, and we'll take the metro/bus system back.  So this week should be quiet.  Who knows, I may even get an extra day with partner for Toussaints!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Outing in Two Acts: Act II

I run upstairs and take the portable phone off the charger and shut myself in the sun porch, a room that used to be an open air porch that was closed in but never heated.  No one came out there unless they wanted to put more pop in the refrigerator.  Since it was around 10 at night, that was unlikely enough.  Finally the phone rang.

Just hearing his voice was enough to make my heart race.  It was exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.  He was sweet, and funny, and everything I imagined.  We talked about how strange it was to put a voice with the words.  I don't think we'd even seen pictures of each other at that point.  He was an absolute sweetheart though.  That's when my mother opened the door.

She asked what I was doing out here.  I told her that I was talking with someone.  She looked a little confused, and asked who I was talking to.  I said a friend.  She said, which one.  I said another time with a stern look on my face, a friend.  She got the message and left. That should have been a hint right there.

So we kept talking until the phone started to beep, which meant the battery was almost dead.  I didn't want the phone call to end.  This was the happiest I'd been in 19 years, and I wasn't about to let it end because of an old portable phone. I took the phone from the living room and ran the cord across the living room and into the den, running the cord under the crack in the door.  I took the phone of the switch hook and put the now dead portable phone back on the receiver in my parent's room.  

I came back downstairs and we talked for another hour or so.  He told me all about his life, and I about mine.  I told him about hopes, fears, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I just felt so at ease with him.  I had never had the chance to talk with anyone else like this, ever.  He was interested in me, and what I did and what I was doing.  Finally, we talked about him coming to visit.  I told him that it wouldn't be a problem for me, and I could just tell my mother that he was a friend from the college where I was going, so she wouldn't even know.  He would have to stay in a hotel in town though.  He and I talked more about it, but now that we could talk, we figured it might be better to wait for the planning until later, like around spring break or something.  We said our goodbyes and hung up. 

Another thing I should mention was that the phone I had chosen was supposed to have a security function on it, where if anyone picked up the phone, the light for the line would dim.  It had always worked before, and it's specifically why I chose that phone. I even told my friend about it when he asked me if I was worried about anyone listening in.  I told him I wasn't too concerned. 

I was absolutely thrilled that night.  I felt like I could do anything.  Since I lived in the middle of nowhere, I ended up watching TV with my brothers.  My mother came upstairs to say goodnight, and she made a point to tell us all that she loved us and kiss all three of us.  That should have been a sign that something was up, but it was maybe just a coincidence.  She also stayed up to see my dad when he came home.  My mother was usually in bed by 9:30.  My father usually never got back from work until midnight.  Hint number 2 annoyed.  It should have been pretty obvious when she whispered something to Dad with a panicked look on her face before she went upstairs, but I was still partially in denial, and still partially just too happy to care.  I do remember telling myself before I went to bed that if she did know, it was too late to worry about it now.

This had all happened on a Friday, so on Saturday morning my father was the first awake.  It took about a half an hour for him to ask me about it.  He explained that yes, my mother had listened in on my phone call last night.  I spent probably about an hour denying it before I finally just said, you know what.  I am.  I still don't know why I spent so long denying it.  I felt better afterwards though.  My father had two things to say about it.  First and foremost, I needed to be careful.  Not only were there physical dangers, but more so there were a lot of diseased out there.  (He's a nurse, go figure that would be his first concern.)  Second, he thought that maybe we shouldn't say anything to Mom about it, and just say that everything was resolved.

The day was pretty calm, and I was up on the computer as usual when the phone rings.  "So I hear you're gay, and you're running away to Minnesota, never to see any of us again!"  It's my sister.  My mother had called her apparently last night, in a panic.  My sister was calling back to find out how much of it my mother had embellished, she has a tendency to do that.  I explained the situation as it was, and she said she figured that it was more reasonable than what my mother had decided.  So everything was fine there.  She said she was happy for me, and that she loved me.  

The last great hurdle that day was my mother.  She and I talked about it though, and her biggest concern was that I was going to run away and she'd never see me again.  Just for some perspective, after living through 15 years of schooling, she thought I was going to drop out of high school a half a year before I finished to run away with some guy I'd never met.  I had already been accepted into college, so come on.  Seriously.  She said she loved me though, and my being gay didn't matter to her in the least.  So that's now everything resolved nicely for me.  

Things haven't been easy all the time, but I wouldn't trade my life now for anything else.  There's more to the story, but I'll talk about that another time.  I also have some stories about subway fun, but I guess I'll talk about that later.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Outing in Two Acts: Act I

I thought it would be important to explain exactly where I came from to get to this point.  The two most important times I came out where forced.  I never got the chance to choose my moment.  Frankly, I thought that one day, my parents would show up at my dorm unannounced and I'd be in bed with a guy.  Then we'd find out everything.  I guess though, things don't always go as planned.  They just kind of happen.  So, here we go.

After I had come out to my friend, I started to get more comfortable with who I was.  I guess it took the first time for it to become a reality.  Before it had always been something I had written, or something I whispered, but never anything I said out loud.  Slowly though, it was all becoming a reality.  Online I had developed my own life.  I had a couple of very close friends, with whom I passed much of my time online.  At that time, ICQ was my life line.  

The first was a young man from near by.  He lived in Dayton and said he was in high school.  He was a nice enough guy, but I always found him a little confusing.  He was very progressive, which I loved, but I was always a bit thrown off by him.  The pictures he sent were always a little too posed.  I talked with him all throughout high school, but we just lost track of each other when I graduated, and that was the end of him.

I spent a lot of time talking with another really nice guy, but he was in at Georgia Tech.  He and I never talked about anything very sexual but he was there for support a lot.  He was an absolute sweetheart of a guy.  I always thought about what a nice guy he would be.  For a long time, I wanted to emulate him.  He had gone through a lot in his life, but he always seemed so open to things.  I always hoped I would be able to be like him.  One day we stopped talking, and I never talked with him again after my junior year of high school.

There was one guy though, whom I fell absolutely in love with.  He was from Minnesota.  I randomly found him on an ICQ chat group, and sent him a message.  He struck me as a bit cold at first, but well, having a random guy message you with, "Are you really gay?" must be slightly off putting.  I got a chance to explain myself a bit more, and we talked, and it turned out we really enjoyed and appreciated each other.  He made me laugh, and vice versa.  We got to be pretty good friends, but he would often disappear for months at a time, and show up again with all sorts of new things to talk about.

I think what really sold me on him was how direct he was.  He was gay and refused to be anything other than himself for anyone.  I enjoy people who are that honest about themselves and their lives.  He told me all about his life in a small town, but he moved to Minneapolis for high school and college.  I was absolutely enamored with him.  His life was so exciting, and he did so much stuff.  It was so much unlike my own life.  I wanted to experience it, even if it were indirectly.

As I said, he would disappear for long spans of time.  In fact, we stopped talking around the end of my sophomore year, and I got an email from him every now and again, but he pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth after that.  I continued along wondering how he was for a while, but eventually I just let it go.  That was until the fall of my senior year, when he and I started talking again.

We picked up right where we left off and as time went by, we started taking the relationship further.  He and I would talk for hours, and I could finally tell him about how things had improved, and about how I was finally going to get some independence soon.  I was just so excited about everything and ready to get on with everything.  I finally was feeling comfortable with who I was, and as though I didn't have to live up to other people's standards.

One night we started talking, just about the usual stuff, nothing too impressive.  While we were talking he told me that he'd like to give me a call.  He said he had a cell phone and he'd really like to hear my voice.  I thought about half a second on it and said yes.  I signed off the computer, and ran to get things around for him to call.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Part 4: He Said It....

I have actually never told this story.  The one I tell everyone is the story of my coming out to my family, which I consider to be the most important.  However, this story is actually based on the person to whom I first came out.  She was a very close friend, not the same that I mentioned earlier though.  I always just tell the story as it is, but I've never actually tried to see it from her point of view.  This is my attempt, and I thought it might be more interesting as a story.

The night had been very exciting as everyone piled back onto the bus after the band concert.  Most of the larger bands from the area had been invited, and everyone was exhausted.  This was the first time the band had been invited in probably about 10 years.  Most likely it was a good will gesture.  It was a relatively large band for the area.  The only problem was there were much larger schools competing.  Some even combined their Junior High and High School bands.  Basically the whole night had been kind of a wash.

The buses started up and pulled away, to make the short trip north.  The times on the buses usually were the best.  Sometimes there'd be sing alongs to Bohemian Rhapsody, or someone might have an air horn handy, but no one was in a festive mood.  Most people in the front were talking across the aisles to friends, discussing the disaster that was the performance.  Others in the middle had started a game of euchre, hoping to at least cheer themselves up by taking a few hands solo.  Further in the back, most people were curled up in blankets to protect from the November weather.

"So," Paula exhaled, shifting her position on the seat, "that was kind of a disaster."  She leaned sideways, her head coming to rest against the window.

"You're telling me," John laughed.  He pulled off his coat and let his hair out from the ponytail.  "Damn uniform regulations."

Paula smiled, looking at John.  They had been friends now for a while.  He was not exactly a great looking guy, but they had so much in common.  It had started with a few jokes after they had mentioned they both watched those Brit-coms they ran late at night on the local public TV station.  It had been so long, neither could remember who had started it.  Every time they passed one another in the hall though, they'd smile at one another, the joke shared without saying a word.

In the four years they had been together, they had always sent each other valentines.  Never had a year gone by that they couldn't think of a joke between them to send to each other.  Often people would wonder why either one was laughing instead of getting choked up by what was sent.  That was how their love worked though.  They liked to make the other one laugh.

Paula had been planning how to handle this for a while.  The trip home would take longer than normal, since the bus couldn't take the interstate back.  John played quads, and he had a tendency to hunch forward after playing.  It was impossible for John to rest completely flat against the bus seat, so he would need to lean forward against the seat.  That's when she would make her move.

"So do you want to play some Diablo tonight?" Paul asked, yawning.  He was trying to get comfortable against the hard bus seat, but that was unlikely at best.

"We can if you want," Paula responded.

"I didn't ask what I wanted to do.  I asked what you wanted to do."

Paul changed positions again, "This goddamn bus seat."  I need something to support my back."

He brought his head to rest against the back of the seat in front of him, folding his arms to support his forehead.  John exhaled deeply and tried to stretch out his back.  Paula brought her hand to rest on his shoulder.

"You know," said Paula, "if it hurts that bad, I could rub it for you."

"Thanks, but no," John responded curtly.

She was losing him fast.  He was going to get more and more surly as he couldn't find a comfortable position.  Paula watched him as he breathed.  Four years she had waited for this moment.  She thought about all the times that they had spent at each other's houses, all of the times they had hung out for pep band, and how great it would be from then on.  She imagined they'd both go to the same college.  She'd already been accepted at Bowling Green, and he to Ohio State.  It was less than 2 hours between them, and practically a straight shot on 23.  Anyway, she could transfer to be with him.

Paula took a deep breath and moved closer to him, her head now resting next to his elbow.  He lowered them for her so they could talk.  John turned his head and smiled, and as he did, Paula moved in for a kiss.

"Paula," John said coldly, "Don't."

She retreated quickly and looked at him with a mixture of anger and shock.  "What's that supposed to mean?"

"What do you mean, what does that mean?  It mean's don't."

John returned his head to it's original position and looked down at the floor.  Paula wasn't really sure what to do at this point.  She thought of all her plans, and everything she had dreamed about.  She thought about finally being able to have her and her mother's suspicions confirmed.  She thought about all the times she'd imagined them sitting together watching a movie, or just TV downstairs.  She had imagined what the first kiss would be like, and how it would be.  Now, it all just vanished in smoke.  Tears filled her eyes as she watched everything vanish before her eyes. John squirmed a bit next to her.

"Good," she thought.  "I hope you're uncomfortable.  It wasn't supposed to be like this.  You were supposed to love me.  We were supposed to be together forever.  You never cared about me. It was all just a cruel act!"

Paula cried harder, all the bitterness coming out at once.  If he refused to be with her, he should feel uncomfortable.  She wondered what the last four years had been for him.  Why had he even bothered to be nice to her if this was how he was going to treat her now?  She'd seen his other girlfriends.  They weren't exactly fashion models.

John turned towards her, "What's wrong now?"

"Why don't you want to be with me?  Is it that I'm not pretty enough?"

"No, it's not that."

John was sitting straight in the seat now.  "Among other things, I'm going to be college in Columbus and you'll be in Bowling Green.  I couldn't even make the last relationship I had work, and we were only 20 minutes apart."

"Oh, that's an excuse and you know it.  You think I'm ugly.  Ugly and stupid."

"No," John said rubbing his eyes, "No, I don't."

"Well, then there has to be some reason."

"It's just that --"

"It's just that you never cared about me, and have just been doing this to hurt me."

"No, if you'll let me finish it's that--"

"I don't even know why I bothered with you."

"Ok," John said.  "You want to know why I don't want to date you?  It's because, I think.....I think....I think I like guys...."

John rubbed his temples and tried to hold back tears, and lowering his head.  His forehead came to rest against the seat once again.  He ran his hands through his hair and down along his neck and sighed.  Paula had not been prepared for this eventuality.  He had always been so open in flirting with girls, and never even showed the slightest interest in anything very feminine.  He loved video games.  He used to do sword fighting with his friends, and played dungeons and dragons.   He had a horrible sense of style.  None of this made sense.

Paula put a hand on John's shoulder, "Oh my God!  So how long have you known?"

"I guess I've really known forever," John said," but I didn't really admit it to myself until I started high school. Since then, I've really just been trying to appear as normal as possible and get through this to college."

"So have you told anyone else?"

"You're the first..."

He had just been pretending all these years back in school. Paul explained that it was not that he didn't have some feelings for girls, but never sexual feelings.  It wasn't a choice he had made, and if it were it was the worse choice to make.  People weren't exactly kind at their school to people who didn't fit in already, but gay was something far too controversial.  People might call someone gay, but no one ever seriously meant it.  It was just an insult after all, like saying someone was dumb.

When they arrived back at the school, they decided it would be best for each of them to go home and rest a bit.  They had originally made plans to do something at Paula's house, but neither of them felt much like doing anything.  They hugged one last time in the band room when they said goodbye, and each went their separate ways.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Part 3: The Buildup

I was still unsure of how to handle things myself, but after making it through my sophomore and junior year, I was headed into my senior year, and I was ready to go.  I had become more comfortable with myself, thank you internet for that, and I was almost done with the one thing that was holding me back from a real life; high school. I knew that I was going to college, and after the research I had done, it was down to three schools. 

 My first choice was Penn State.  It was a more selective school, and it was right next door in Pennsylvania.  It was going to cost some, since I wasn't a resident, but all of my other family members had taken on massive debt for school, why not me?  I had to take the SAT to try and get in, instead of just the ACT.  I applied in September to get in for early admissions.  

School number two was Ohio State in Columbus.  It was my safety school.  It was still open enrollment and it was in a city 50 times larger than the nearest town to me.  Just to mention it, because it amuses me, Columbus is also around 2000 times larger than the village in which I grew up.  It may be even larger, given that 500 is being generous in terms of population.  I applied in September all the same, just to make sure I was in somewhere. 

The last one was just a wild shot in the dark; NYU.  I had always thought it would be fun to just have a radical change, but well, much like the idea of going in as an army linguist, it stayed just that.  I liked the idea of a huge city, but I had read somewhere that it was easily over 30,000 a year.  I also just didn't think I was mature enough to really live in a huge city, much less that I could afford it.  I had never been on a public bus before I went to college. I could just see it ending badly.  So I didn't even bother applying.  

In any case, I got word back from Penn State that I was deferred to a satellite campus, but Ohio State did everything but take me in 2001.  So my choices were to be in a pretty large town with from what I had seen on the internet, a very active gay community, or go out into the middle of nowhere for a year or two, and maybe if I were lucky go to the central campus.  I was a buckeye by November.  

Another great shot of relief in my life was that I had an awesome guidance counselor.  She checked up on everything for me, and was always asking me questions about thing.  She was the gym teacher as well, and although I had my suspicions about her being a lesbian, I cannot say if it's the case. If she was, I think I pinged her gaydar.  If not, I think she just realized how miserable I was.  She also helped me with all the paperwork, and convincing my mother, to let me do Post-Secondary Enrollment.

Yes, that year was awesome, and nothing was better than finally living my dream.  I came in for my morning German class at 8:30, and I got to leave at 9:15. I took college courses for the rest of the morning, until I came back for English class at 1pm.  (Truthfully, it was a waste of time and I should have just taken a college level English course.  I learned nothing in that class.)  I went from there to Government (another waste of time mandated by the state of Ohio, and finally band for the end of the day at 3:15.  

I had also been working up the courage to talk with other guys.  Now, we had gotten internet when I was 14, but I had been terrified to talk with other guys.  I was always worried that someday, my big secret would be revealed.  I was living a double life in Defiance.  During the day I was majorly geeky straight guy.  But the afternoons and nights that I didn't have band, I was majorly geeky gay guy.  Quelle différence, non?  So before, I used to talk with a few guys on ICQ and I had a PlanetOut account since I was 15.  I never had a picture up, and didn't start talking with guys on there until 2001.  It was great to talk though, and know I wasn't the only one.  Finally, spending a majority of my day at college, I could possibly meet other guys. 

So I set up to meet this guy who had graduated the year before me from a nearby high school and he was currently a student at the same college.  He and I got along, we were both computer science majors, and he was alive.  Three excellent arguments for meeting him.  We said we'd meet in the main atrium around 11, and we'd go have breakfast together.  I was all excited, and I was nervous.  11 came, and went.  No guy showed up....  So I guess we live and learn.  I never met any other guys in person before starting college.  I did make a few attempts.  Nothing ever became of it.  

I had finally come to accept myself for who I was.  However, I'd never said it out loud.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Part 2: Everything During

Continuing from the previous post, I was in my freshman year of high school when I came to the realization and knowledge that I was going to put my life on hold until I could actually be who I wanted to be.  I decided that I'd try to enjoy myself and see where it led.  If I were going to make it through, I'd have to find ways to amuse myself.  After a few more years of trying to fit in with the same group of friends I had forever, I gave up and started hanging out with others who were more into video games and music.  I was only about a million times happier!

 I was also what we called at my school, a bandie.  I played drums starting in the 5th grade, all through Junior High, finishing on snare drum my senior year.  In 5th and 6th grade, I was the best drummer.  Even in junior high I was in the top 3.  Once I hit high school though, it was very different.  I was still good, and could have learned the rhythms, but drummers don't play from sheet music.  You memorize everything.  The problem is, none of the upperclassmen wanted to teach me how to play.  Since I wasn't cool, there was no chance of learning from them unless they were forced to do so.  The other people who played drum were not bad people I'm sure, they were just dicks.  They could play really well, but they just did everything they could to make me feel like I was less of a person than them.    I wouldn't finally enjoy myself in band until my junior year.

Freshman year, I met the best friend that I have ever had.  We both were kind of in the same boat, and we still have a great time today when we hang out.  Usually after a football game or pep band, she'd pick us up and we'd all hang out over at her place.  Our first time over, we played Final Fantasy VII.  It was the first time I'd ever touched the game and I never looked back after.  It was so much of what I wanted, and there was Aerith.  Later that same year, Final Fantasy VIII came out, and I found one Sir Laguna Loire, with whom I fell madly, yet secretly, in love.  That's pretty much when I knew there was no going back to girls.

She also started my interest in all things anime and manga.  Although I had watched Sailor Moon and Megaman growing up, I had never really known much about the world of anime and manga.  I had watched a few episodes of Ronin Warriors too, but never understood it of course.  Finally, it all came together when I saw Record of Lodoss War.  Well, to be more specific, after I saw Karla and especially Orson.  I started watching lots of series through another mutual friend who had a higher speed connection, and downloaded lots and lots of series for us.  She and I also stood in line from 5:30 until midnight waiting for the release of the PS2.  We clutched them in our arms after we paid and ran out like nutcases.

My best friend also inspired me to start writing my own series.  If she and her boyfriend hadn't been as big of fans of Dungeons and Dragons, and working on their own stories, I never would have gotten into it as much.  Of course, part of that had to do with playing some really fun games with awesomely bad story lines.  So the more I thought about it, I began writing. This was my sophomore year of high school.  Without her, I don't think I would have made it through high school.

Meanwhile, school became more and more unpleasant.  My best friend graduated, and went to the local college.  We'd still hang out, but it meant I would only see her the weekends from then on.  If I could have just done the work and not had to deal with all of the morons, I would have been more than happy.  My sophomore year of high school was a ridiculous farce as to what education should have been.  That whole year of school was enough to make me want to have taken my GED, and left early.  Of course, my parents had no idea what was going on, and just kept telling me the same thing; just finish up at your high school and then you can get on with your life.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Part 1: Everything Before

So I'm going to do something a little different than what I usually do for National Coming Out Day.  I usually just tell the story that's the most controversial and gets the most laughs, because well, it was just ridiculous how it all went down.  This time, I figured I'd break it into a few parts.  This first section is everything that happened before I admitted that I was gay to myself.  I'll include a little bit of an explanation at the beginning before I get into it.  I've found that I have some time in the morning to really check things, we're talking like between 7 and 9:30 am here, so I'll try and keep up, but well, who knows.  The next few posts are going to be pretty reflective.

I grew up in a very small town in Northwest Ohio called Defiance.  As a result of this, I came to have a lot of very specific ideas about things.  Later I'd find out it's a problem a lot of people from small towns have.  I grew up with a  Catholic mother  and a Methodist father.  My mother was more concerned about burning in hell as a result of not raising us in her religious tradition than my father, so as a result, all five of us were baptized, did first confession, made our first communions, and were confirmed Catholic.  My mother always used to say that we could be anything we wanted after we were confirmed, but until then, we were Catholic if anyone asked.

I ran around like an idiot and had a great time.  We lived with  my grandmother, but she passed away when I was 4.  We were pretty much spoiled rotten up until then.  We had more toys than we knew what to do with.  We never wanted for anything.  Even after the death of my grandmother, my parents saw to it that everything was taken care of.  We never went hungry, we always had clothes, and we knew we were loved and wanted.

In school, I was smart, and that's apparently all I was.  Part of that was because of  the coke bottle glasses I wore because of an eye problem I inherited from my mother's side of the family, and the other was my natural clumsiness.  If any of  you ever read the Babysitter's club, in my family I was known as "the Walking Disaster Area."  Because of my inability to play sports, I started to read a lot more, and play a lot of video games.  I got a Game Boy and never looked back.

But as time went by, I started to feel like I wasn't like the other guys.  I could pretend to think that girls were hot, but well, nothing would ever come as natural as the guys I saw in the hustlers that my father had in the locked cabinet in the basement.  I probably started to realize my feelings around 7, but I had no idea what they were.  I still liked talking with girls, and we actually had a lot more in common.  I was actually better friends with a lot of girls than guys.  Of course, I still stayed with the same group of friends I had since first grade, as we all lived in the same area and went to the same church.  So that meant we were at school together the whole day, and then Sunday for CCD.  It used to be on Wednesday, but they switched it for simplicity's sake.

Probably when  I was about 10, I really couldn't take my old friends anymore.  It's not that we argued, but they all played sports and were dating.  I tried to have girlfriends, but I found that I really just wanted to be friends, and nothing more.  There had always been rumors about me being gay, but it was all passive aggressive bullshit.  Then again, most schooling is passive aggressive bullshit.

That's pretty much what 8th grade became unbearable.  I was just tired of going to school, and dealing with the same bullshit.  The same people who would smile and you really couldn't stand.  I started noticing that once per quarter I would just have one weekend where I would basically have a complete breakdown.  When the first one happened, I was just so confused.  I actually found one of my father's guns.  It wasn't loaded and I had no idea what kind of bullets the revolver took, but frankly that day, it felt like that was what stopped me from ending it all right there.  I went to sleep that Friday night, and I came to a realization:  Why do I care so much about what these people think?

I should also mention that there's something that we speak of in my family that we refer to as "the quality."  It's something about the 5 of us that makes it possible to kind of fit in, but still remain outsiders, try as we might.  We've discussed it at length but we've never been able to really figure it out.  For each of us, it happened a little different, but in general, none of the five of us really could make sense of any of it.

Being the second youngest in the family, I had the advantage of watching brothers and sisters escape from our high school, and move onto colleges.  After just a few short weeks, it was as if their entire life had changed.  They had great friends.  They were about a million times happier.  It was just as if someone had flicked a switch.  So I vowed that I too would have this life.  This escape into a better place.

From that point in, I began to laugh at the horror that was my high school and to embrace its madness.  I learned to take the entirety of my hometown with a grain of salt.  After all, I'd serve my time, get my sad little diploma and get on with the rest of my life, somewhere among the beautiful people.  So starting around  freshman year, I gradually gave less of a damn about what people who drove their tractors to school thought about me, and I was all the better for it!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Parade of Surprises

It's been like pulling teeth getting this out!  Seriously, I've just been so lethargic lately, and well, life goes on.  Hope you enjoy.  I've got a lot going on this week, so I don't now how I'll be doing, but well, it all works out in the end.  Je vais me debrouiller bien, comme toujours!

Word came down that the senior members of the Sorcerei, better known as the Chemat, would be required to stay behind to assure the efficacity of the reagents. The Chemat was displeased to say the least. The Volntiers, junior Sorcerei, wasted no time pounding the final nails into the crates to be taken to the square, much to the irritation of the Chemat. In addition, with the new effects necessary for this performance, it became necessary that the Chemat would have to send the juniors to the square with the preparations and hope for the best. For the Volntiers, this would be not only the first test towards the Chemat, but also it meant less competition that evening.

The Sorcerei found the preparations particularly difficult as the Maesters were also above deck. The Taillers, junior Maesters, had insisted that the Forge Maesters take their work above decks, as the uniforms were becoming covered in ash and dust. Normally, only the Sorcerei made a point to clean off the armor and weapons before applying reagents, much to the annoyance of the Forge Maesters. While the Elders were always willing to accept the imprecise excuses of the Sorcerei, the explanations of the Maesters normally fell on deaf ears. The Forge Maesters often had enough problems between inept initiates and inferior materials, but today that was the least of their problems.

Regrdless of how much work might be required, Maesters and Sorcerei were always thankful they were not forced to endure the hours of repetition of the Underprenne. They would spend days learning lines, repeating the same words to the point where they became meaningless. Often one could see freshman members, Chora, sleepwalking through the motions of a dance or singing songs in their sleep. Eventually, the Synima, sophomore members, would gather the Chora together and drill them in the songs for the next perfromance. Meanwhile, all Synima available were being drilled by the Traga, juniors in the Underprenne. Lines needed to be assured as all cycles of plays would be covered today. Three stops along the route meant that each group would be active today. The Elders had to trust that all groups would work together. For below deck, the elite Underprenne better known the Draema, were beginning preparations for the evening.

Andor could not hear riotus atmosphere above. All sound died away upon entering the silence of the bowels of the ship. The air grew denser and warmer. At the very lowest level of the ship, Andor was seated in the Seal Chamber. The other Draema had already passed. He watched their eyes go white, and eventually fade to black. Some were seated while others were already overtaken. He watched as they traced motions with imaginary blades, and shouted in the dimly lit room. Some moaned in agony, living through the pain of the death they would experience in agonizing detail in this performance. As the Elder approached with the Toramu he cleared his head as best he could. The most dangerous of all was to take a Toramu with a full mind.

The Elder held out the final blue sphere to Andor, and he watched it glow in the dim light of the braizers. He put his hand on Andor's forehead and said, “Remember, whatever happens once you pass: You are here. You exist.”

Andor nodded his head and took the Toramu in his hand and responded, “There is that which is seen, and that which is unseen. My eyes will fail me and my ears will decieve me In conspiracy, mind will acquiesce. Pray give me the courage to fight against it, the will to overcome it, and the spirit to return.” And with that, Andor took the Toramu.

Forge Maesters shouted as an entire set of armor fell directly into a phyrric reagent. Four Maesters desperately pulled at the armor hoping to prevent the reagent from nullifying, but to no avail. The armor reheated as they pulled, and left three with severe burns. Two Chemat had luckily seen the reaction begin and were able to arrive shortly with congelat, but the damage had been done. Two of the less injured Maesters held back the other two who were panicking over the state of the armor. Even a slight setback could throw off the entire process. The congelat had the necessary effect, and the armor cooled rapidly. Unfortunately, this error had cost not only time, but more importantly it also meant another team would have to refinish the armor. The four Maesters were taken below deck to begin treatment for the burns with a few of the Chemat.

Gradually, the world around Andor seemed to shrink inward. The confusion surrounding him grew silent and what little he could see became indiscernable from the envelopping darkness. His heart pounded in his ears but its cadence slowed considerably. As Andor breathed in, he could see flashes pass on all sides. Someone, or something, had found him and refused to take no for an answer. Indistinct shapes gave way to shadows, and shadows became shapes. Slowly the shapes became a forest, but unlike anything he had seen. A monstrously large port opened before him which ushered him into a grand square.

Clouds dissipated as the cold of the night gave way to morning. The last of the armor had been finished and placed on the forms to cure. The Chemat confirmed that each had been correctly cured and that all pieces were of the same set. Natrually, some of the smaller pieces could easily be switched among the different suits. Conferring among themselves, the Chemat had agreed that all the pieces for that evening's performance were excecuted satisfactorily and to the specific needs of the Society. Therefore, the time had come for final packaging preparations for the parade. In the interest of time, the majority of the Volntiers were sent ahead to prepare the square for the evening.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hi Sandra Bernhard!

In English, it seems like things are very concrete in naming, to me anyway.  I would say 90% of all roads were named for the families that lived on them.  Streets tend to be on a grid pattern, so there's 5th avenue, and 4th street, or the lettered streets like in Washington.  Most American cities all tend to have a Main Street, a High Street, and I can't think of a single Ohio city that doesn't have an Euclid Avenue.  Although my hometown of Defiance has an interesting story, the county shares the same name. Of course, one of the stories I remember hearing when I was little was that Pontiac Park was named because it's where Chief Pontiac was born...just like about 15 other places claim.  Most states, like Ohio, are just names in a foreign language.  So the US isn't really good about being clever with names.

France however; they get wild with names, and that's why I love it.  I am pretty sure quite a bit of it has to do with the fact that there's so much more history, that it's more easily done.  I'm sure there's something to it, but there's just such a variety.  France doesn't just honor military heroes or presidents, and as funny as it is they also have streets named after American presidents, but they have all sorts of streets named after famous politicians, dates, places, and even authors and actors.

The other day, I was reading the back of a flyer, and it said that the store was located on the Place Sarah Bernhardt.  Of course, given that I'm gay and American, I was like wow, they named a Place in France after Sandra Bernhard.  After looking at it a little more carefully I realized just how wrong I was.  Sarah Bernhardt was an internationally famous actress around the end of the 19th century and into the 20th.  She did a huge body of work and even worked in the US.  She apparently also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  So here's an example of when you realize that there's a whole lot of culture and history that you don't know.

Even the roads here want to keep history alive.  I have only lived on one road in France that wasn't named after someone famous.  It was in a lotissement where most of the roads were named after places and things in Louisiana.  Other than that, I have lived on a road named after an economist, a duke, and now a country.  All the road signs even tell you who the person was that the road is named after, often with their birth and death years.  I love that they want you to know the history so badly that they will give you a history lesson right on the street like that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hypersensitive much?

I had a whole schedule planned out today.  After partner left in the morning to go to class around 7, I would stay in bed on the computer until around 8:30.  Then I would take a shower.  After that was done, I needed to gather up the trash and recycling, and take it down with me when I left to get the shopping done for the week.  Finally, all I'd have to do is get the laundry done, probably around noon, when partner would be back.  We'd have lunch, which I planned special remembering that Serrano ham and Edam cheese was on sale at Netto.  After that a quick nap with him, as he had been up and going since 6:30, followed by him working the entire night, usually until about 11.  As for me, at 7 pm I'd look for someone running the the iOS announcement online, watch that till it was finished. After that, we'd have a nice dinner, something like Steak Tips Monterey we used to have back in the US.  So very good.  Then maybe watch The Last Airbender and sleep furiously!

So I started on the right foot, but well, I was just so tired.  So I figured that I could sleep a half an hour.  That way I wouldn't be a complete waste to the world.  Also, it's an excuse to steal my partner's pillow.  I am very bad about this.  I am rather a pillow fiend.  Also, if you've never slept under a french couette, I don't know how to explain it.  It's special.  So I finally woke back up...around 8:45.  I turned on the computer around then and spent some time on the internet....until 10:30.  So then I needed to take a shower, and I finally had everything ready to go shopping around 11:15. 

I have the habit of listening to my iPod when I go shopping.  Normally I listen to music and that's pretty much how it works.  However, I have one slight problem.  I have put it in every pocket I could, but the gyroscope/accelerator assumes I'm using the random function.  So I'll be walking around and really like a song, swing a leg out too far, and I will have changed through 6 others.  I should also mention that the shake to random function never works normally.  This only happens when I'm walking.  I think I may be too bouncy. 

So I went into Netto, and buy only the things that are absolutely essential of course.  I skipped over all the fruits and vegetables.  Seriously, they all looked sad.  Also, there were fruits that I just had no idea what they were.  If I had to come home and look up what a fruit is, such as the mirabelle, I don't have an urge to buy it.  I saw waffles dipped in chocolate though.  They mysteriously ended up in my card. I also am madly in love with the chipolatas and merguez they have there.  So much the garlic.  I had to get a little milk of course, and cheese, and kinder pingui.....  Like I said, it's all 100% organic chez moi.  I love that I could buy enough for two for a week, for about 40 dollars.  Perfect.  I headed home after stopping off to buy bread and a little something for me before partner got back. I got the the groceries put away, and was ready to go start the wash.

I stood in front of the elevator for about 5 minutes, but what felt like a half an hour.  Finally, the elevator arrives at my floor, and who's there but Partner!!!!  So I walk back with him, set the laundry down, and did everything else.  I realized that I couldn't exactly eat what I had bought for myself in front of him, so I sneak off and buy him a flan.  Then I'm a hero! 

After that we slept a bit, and then I went down to do the laundry.  There wasn't a huge amount, but it took me about 3 hours to get it all done.  I did it in two loads ad the bed linens needed to be washed too.  However, you can't just set it and forget it.  You can only set the washer for 20 minutes, only three euros, and then one euro for 20 minutes of drying.  Ridiculous, not only because of price, but every 20 minutes I had to stop what I was doing, and go back downstairs and feed the machines more money.  But I finished with just a half an hour before the iOS event!

I love Mac products.  The only problem is that I'm poor and can't afford much from the Mac universe.  Life is unfair like that.  So for now, I bid you Adieu!

Monday, October 3, 2011

All Apologies....

First, I should mention that I have already commented on this on my livejournal a while back.  Here's that if you want to read.  It seems lately as though the entire world is becoming a fan of what I like to call "the conditional apology."  I find this to be completely unacceptable as when you apologize, you are saying what you did was wrong.  You are not saying that it is conditional upon someone being offended.

The most recent example has been in the case of Patty Stanger, perhaps better known as "The Millionaire Matchmaker."  Recently, on an episode of Watch What Happens Live she had the gall to tell one gay man that gay men were incapable of monogamy, that she's tried to make gay people monogamous (the gall of that statement right here) but it didn't work.  Andy Cohen, being gay himself, objects to her comment, to which Stanger responds, "When's the last time you had a boyfriend.  You know this.  You're gay!"

Of course, this all blows up and starts a firestorm of media, at least in the circles I frequent.  Stanger decides that the solution is to go on The Joy Behar Show and attempt to make amends.  Now, I will admit that with her clarifications and in the specific conditions under which she makes it slightly better.  In my opinion, her comments are not enough to solve the problem.  I started to soften and see that maybe she had more of a point.  Maybe I was just being too hard on her.  Sometimes I tend to jump on things.  I realized that I was one hundred percent justified as soon as she said, "I'm sorry if GLAAD was offended, but. . . ."

Then came the famous line of excuses.  My personal favorite is when the offender trots out his or her gay friends.  "Some of my best friends are gay." is the equivalent of someone accused of racism saying they have black friends.  Either his or her friends may never have known how racist they were, or as I assume the most likely case is, he or she is talking out of his or her respective ass.  Later, Stanger referenced that she was against Proposition 8, and all the work she had done for gay rights.  As admirable as that all is, she then comports herself as an expert on how gay culture works.

Stanger proceeds to explain how gays are "the others" from all of the normal people who can couple nicely, like lesbians or straight people.  (Happily, she didn't bother to impart her wisdom on bisexual or transgender relationships for us.)  She regales us with the story of a friend who says that this is the nature of the gay community, apparently confining herself strictly to Los Angeles this time.  As further proof of the impossibility of gay monogamy, she discusses her attempts to "bring civilization to the barbarians" at one of her numerous gay mixers.   After straining herself so severely, shining beacon on a hill that she is, she simply threw in the towel, vanquished by our hedonistic natures. 

I point out the two at the time in the first article, but since then, we have had numerous examples.  One of my personal favorites was Rick Spreading Santorum, who recently spoke about his feelings at Penn State University, where the students basically had a good laugh and went on with their day.  Afterwards, he spoke publicly about his "gay friends."  I personally find it hard to believe that any self-respecting gay man would really be his friend, but well, to each his or her own.  Santorm has already followed up with his own ignorance, so at least we know that things haven't changed.

As if this weren't bad enough, we find examples of adults persecuted for whom they are.  Recently Leisha Hailey, actor in The L Word and currently a singer in Uh Huh Her was removed from a flight on Soutwest Airlines for what was described as "inappropriate behavior."  Normally, I would give the benefit of the doubt, if it weren't for the fact that the phrase "family airline" came into use by the flight attendant.  That makes parts of my mind hurt that I cannot begin to express in language of any kind.

If this were to exist in a vacuum, maybe we could overlook it, but the damage is constantly done.  Every few days seemingly almost a minimum of one per week informs us of the latest attempted suicide, and unfortunately more often than not, those times when they are completed.  As long as we keep allowing these beliefs to be circulated, we do a disservice not only to ourselves but to all members of our society really. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The next part!

The next second half of the first chapter.  I have the second chapter written, but I have to do some editing.  I don't know exactly what the schedule will look like for posting over the next few days.  Maybe the muse will strike, but there's a lot of possibilities. 

I thought downers were supposed to relax you,” he rasped, shaking his head, still cold from the breeze now blowing across the harbor.

Sangyarn moved next to Andor and began cleaning the pills that had been knocked out of his pack. Andor stood up to help him, still a little winded. They righted the small crate that they had used as a table, and put away the balances they had used to measure the dose.

They're not normally used as sleeping pills,” Sangyarn laughed. “You're technically communing with the gods when you take a Torata. We could get in a lot of trouble for using these outside of a sanctioned ceremony.”

They had come up to the crow's nest with their supplies to try and mix a few Toramu and Torata for the performance tomorrow. It was part of basic training, but neither of them had ever been all that good at that alchemy stuff. Usually they would just borrow them off friends. Everyone won that way.

I just wanted to catch a nap quick before my watch shift,” Andor said, handing the remaining downers from his case to Sangyarn. “What happened?”

I don't know,” Sangyarn laughed. “You took one and I thought you went to sleep. I tried and wake you up for your shift, and you're shaking me by the shoulders.”

It all seemed so real.”

It was her again, wasn't it.”

Andor rolled his pack and set it on top of the crate. He could see the celebration still going on in Zaetem. There were cheers a good distance off, and laughter. The fireworks had stopped though, at least the official ones had, anyway. One could still hear the celebrations happening all over the city, and truthfully, the harbor was the best place to watch everything happen.

Andor sighed,”It's always her.”

Sangyarn shook his head and laughed. He scanned the harbor, clapping a hand on Andor's shoulder, “It's gonna be a long night.”

You're telling me. If you want to get some sleep, I should be good for a while.”

Sangyarn pushed his pack into a much of a pillow as he could make. He lay on his back, looking up into the sky, closing one eye. Then he opened his eye and closed the other.

So have you ever talked to anyone about her?” Sangyarn asked, propping himself up on his elbow.

About the mystery woman of my dreams, who I may or may not know the name of?” Andor asked. “Yes, that would go over very well.”

You know you should though. Even if she's not real, she means something.”

She means I need to find a girl, fast.”

Enjoying time with young ladies always seemed to come easy to Andor. He seemed to know just what to say at the right time. Many women would send their ladies in waiting to ask for his company or send a small token of esteem. He knew it was always better to accept the small tokens of esteem. The seats were always filled with some naive damsel, betting that she could win his heart, try as others may have. He would smile all the same and make his usual speeches about how it was hard to be able to have a real relationship with his being constantly moving. That someday he'd meet that right woman, settle down and have a family. The ladies would be satisfied, and maybe he might even go to see the occasional princess or countess. It was good for his image and even better for the Society's coffers. His natural aptitude was beneficial for both him and the Society. They kept getting hired for higher profile events, and it meant that Andor could keep traveling.

Acting came naturally to Andor though. Spending a good deal of his current life going through the motions honed his ability to act an expected way. For the first few months, Andor became adept at simply smiling and nodding. Slowly, he began to regain some idea of what came naturally to people around his same age. The main point of most conversations among men of his own age revolved around one thing: women.

Normally, Andor would have no problem talking about women, but something was different about this one; even more so than the question of her existence. It was the mystery that made her all the more intriguing. He knew if he talked about her with others, the conversation would go one of two ways. He would either be considered insane for fixating this much on a possibly imaginary girl or he would have people pitying him for how distracted he had become by this image in his head. Nothing was worse than pity.

When he first joined the Society, everyone had felt so sorry for him. Poor Andor, unaware of his past, and the life that came with it. People were always friendly, but there was an air of superiority when they spoke. Whenever they saw him coming, other members would end conversations about brothers and sisters, or even worse, parents. Sometimes he thought others knew more about his own life than he did.

The nothingness thickened around him. Reality was something he had started to question after all that had happened in the last years. Andor was the only name he could remember for himself when he woke up on that beach. There was no triumphal return for him, and even if there were; he would need someone to tell him where that may be. He looked up into the sky again.

The wanderer was always the first constellation he could find. The right shoulder star always pointed away from the other constellations, as if he were just walking into the scene. Left of that was the brightest star, which was the crown in the jewel of Dulcinea, the queen of the heavens. She always had one eye on the wanderer, and her hand on the crown. To the left of that, was the king's constellation, Brenhin. He was engaged in deep conversation with his advisor, Altair. There were a few other constellations that he couldn't find, but at the far side was the most important. Telnare, the dragon, appeared on the other side. The whole scene seemed so reassuring. So constant.

There was another loud bang in the distance from the fireworks still going off in the different parts of town. The revelry would probably last the night. Shouts and laughter permeated the air as the distant crowds continued to celebrate. The docks were deserted except for a few workers and the occasional merchant. Most of the warehouses had been emptied the day before. The Zaetem Founders Celebration usually meant profit for the merchants who were fortunate enough to get permission to sell.

Andor braced himself against the cold and shook his head. Nights like this always had this effect on him. He straightened up, looking across the harbor at the distant lights of the square. There was no point in getting lost in thought now. There were only a few more hours before morning. Then he could head back down below decks and get some real sleep. Tomorrow would mean another day of adoring fans, smiling women, and strong alcohol. Andor breathed in deeply and smiled.