zaterdag, februari 26, 2005

Recovered digital photos show tsunami wave

CNN has acquired photographs from the camera of a Canadian couple killed in Asia's tsunami include their final shots of a huge wave as it rushed toward them at their beach resort in Thailand. See the related Gallery after the jump.

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vrijdag, februari 25, 2005

Dutch, Iraq and the U.S.

I've started the next round of Dutch classes. Did I mention, many months ago when I started the first course, that learning Dutch is obligatory for all new residents here? Well, it is. That's probably a good idea. I mean, if you're going to live in a country you should learn the language, right? The classes here are free. Which is a good thing. Weddings are expensive. (I know I keep saying that, but the reason I keep saying that is because it's really, really true.)

I started lessons on Monday and go 4 days a week, 3 hours a day.

There are about 17 or 18 people in this class. Several speak English, but I'm the only native speaker. The home countries of my classmates are: Colombia, Estonia, Russia, Spain, Iraq, Canada (French Quebec),Turkey, Brazil, Italy, Burundi, Greece, Iran, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia. The class is even more diverse than my last class. In that one, almost everyone spoke English. Here, most do not.

We are slowly getting to know each other. I have a CD that goes along with the lessons we're studying, so I burned a copy for a couple of people in the class that asked for it. The guy from Iraq is having particular difficulty with the class, so he asked for a copy. I gave it to him at the beginning of the class yesterday. He's probably in his mid-fifties, and speaks French, but no English.

He came up to me during the break and thanked me for the cd. I told him it was no problem.

He then started telling me that his family decided to leave Iraq for awhile because they knew they were in danger there. Fighting had broken out all around them. On the night they left their city (very close to Baghdad) for the airport and finally the safety of The Netherlands, American forces came from out of nowhere and gunned down the majority of his family, as well as several close friends who were seeing them off. He looked straight at me and said that his family was Christian and wasn't involved in politics. He also said, more quietly, that his city was mostly Christian.

He then, just as quietly, asked me how my country could do this to someone who didn't care about politics.

He didn't cry, and didn't appear to be as angry as I sometimes get when I'm cut off in traffic. He was resigned; searching. Searching for some kind of an understanding.

My French is a little rusty, but I wouldn't have known what to say to him even if we had been talking in English. I was on my way to get a cup of coffee, and was completely unprepared. Trying very hard to focus on the reality of what he was asking me, I said the only true thing I could hold on to, which was that I could find no answer to his question. Twenty-four hours later, I still don't have an answer.

I wanted to continue on as though we were having a perfectly normal conversation; maybe compassionately ask him about what his family had been like, or his life, or . . . anything. Anything at all. Alternatively, I desperately wanted to leave and go get a cup of coffee that was just the right temperature, with just the right amount of sugar and cream. But instead we just stood there next to each other for several minutes. I heard only the silence between us, there in the crowded hall with students all around who weren't paying any attention to us at all; laughing and shouting to each other about boyfriends and dates and caught up in their own gezellegheid.

This man who had been a relative stranger just moments before eventually looked at me with the smallest of smiles and said he was très fatigué all the time, so learning a new language was difficult just now. Eventually, he thanked me again for the cd and we walked back into class.

Last night, I told Ian about this while we were taking a lesson for our wedding dance (life is stranger than fiction). At first, I remembered the Iraqi classmate being more hostile than I do now. I didn't think he blamed me personally, but last night I still stung from the violence his words evoked. My initial response was to feel guilt and defensiveness about what my country had done/is doing in Iraq. Until yesterday, I hadn't felt that guilt as a physical force.

Today, I remember my classmate's pain and quiet despair.

His pain did not feel the same to me as the pain I see displayed by others on the nightly news. Today, I remember that TV does not capture the actual, continuing, human cost of violence and war. I sometimes forget this. On TV, bad things happen to actors I will never know or meet in this play called life. Yet, when I'm unexpectedly confronted with one of these actors in person, I can't convince myself that there is any real difference between me and the stranger.

I imagine going to an airport with my luggage and my family, watching in terror as an invading uniformed army guns down my family and friends, then listening to those in uniform explain their actions on television as being necessary in order to keep the world safe from terror.

In my mind, I can see and understand this. But except in nightmares, what part of it makes any kind of sense at all?

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donderdag, februari 24, 2005

Leftovers

I can't speak for the other locations, but Wagamama had good eats in London.

The Universal Currency Converter is a fast and easy way to find out exactly how much a meal at Wagamama (or anything else) costs in US dollars (or Euros, or Japanese Yen, or . . .)

Opodo sometimes has good fares for flights in Europe.

And the next two are honeymoon possibilities. Greece and
Cyprus. Add them to Costa Rica, Peru, Surinam, Thailand, and St.Maarten.

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Suits and Politics

We picked up wedding suits while we were in London. It seems very odd that 7 time zones away, a constitutional amendment is being put to popular vote that may well ban anything that looks like a marriage to people who are of the same gender.

My outlook from over here is a little more objective than it was when I lived in Kansas. From my vantage point, it looks like those who are currently in the popular majority there (and possibly all over the US) have some advantages over those who are in the minority. The majority - those who propose and pass legislation such as this constitutional amendment, obtain their strength through hating minorities more than they hate each other.
I don't suggest that we learn to hate those who are against us, but I think it would be a step in the right direction for those of us in the minority to learn to respectfully agree to disagree with each other. I didn't always believe this, but I now think there is almost always more than one way to skin a cat.

Which reminds me, we're looking for a cat to adopt. We were told by a Russian colleague of Ian's that we should use her cat fuckery.
I'm not sure, but I'm almost certain that in her English translation of the Dutch translation of her Russian thought, something was lost.

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woensdag, februari 23, 2005

London . . .

was great.

The night before we left, Ian's new teaching and research position with the University Utrecht was announced at a dinner for his section. He doesn't go on about it, but it's a big deal. I'm really proud of and happy for him.

We would have taken pictures of the evening, but the trusty digital camera I've had for almost ten years ago has apparently died. I've missed it tremendously - especially on our trip to see Eddie in London.

We took the train from Utrecht to Rotterdam, then transfered to Brussels, then hopped on board the Eurostar train to London. It took about as long as it would have taken us to fly into London, but I liked it better than flying. The actual flight time is much faster, but there's a lot of waiting around when you fly, and it's difficult to be productive during that wait. The train is slower, but customs is a breeze and you travel with your luggage next to you. Also, with the train you get off right in the heart of London (Warerloo), so it's very easy to get to your final destination.

We stayed in West Hampstead with some of Ian's friends. The location was great, as were they. There are several people in Ian's life that I really look forward to getting to know better, and Alyssa and Arieh are two of them. They're going to have a baby a couple of weeks before our wedding, so we were happy we were able to spend time with them now.

We made the trip because I wanted to see Eddie dance. Finally. He's been with Pina Bausch's (amazing) company for quite some time, but I've not seen them before. The show we saw, "Palermo Palermo", was incredible. Eddie was, too. It's one of those things you just have to see to understand, but this review paints a relatively accurate picture. I wish I had been able to see him dance before now.

Nicola might be in London dancing next month. I'm not sure exactly the where and when of it, but I think this she might be there with this.
I'll try to write a little more tomorrow. Dutch classes have started up again, so I've been a litle busy since we got home.

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dinsdag, februari 15, 2005

The Shoe Blog

For Jancy, Natalie, Bente, Jean and Pamela: Shoewawa.com.

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Suits

Ian and I are going to London tomorrow. Eddie is going to be in a show, and Ian and I are both ready for a little trip. Aside from those two reasons, we're hoping to find suits for the wedding; we're not having much luck here. While researching how to buy suits, I came across this blog, written by a "bespoke Savile Row tailor," which proves that there really is a blog out there on EVERYTHING. At any rate, he provides good information for anyone who is considering buying a good suit.

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maandag, februari 14, 2005

Piglet . . .






Happy Valentine's Day.


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zondag, februari 13, 2005

Left overs

These people really should have eloped...

A must-read before visiting France: How to play the French service game ... and win.

The Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager is a fun way to waste ten minutes.

A Joan Crawford Mega Mix. Need I say more?

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vrijdag, februari 11, 2005

Education, poverty, arms, evolution and marriage.

On my way to look up something else (keep reading) I learned that the US spends more on cosmetics (8 billion) than the WORLD spends on education (6 billion).

I researched this because Ian and a friend at work were talking yesterday about how much the US spent on the military. Ian thought it was in the hundreds of millions, and commented on the problems that money could solve if it were spent differently. I told him I thought hundreds of millions was way low.

It turns out the U.S. military budget request for Fiscal Year 2005 is actually $420.7 billion.

I was still thinking about education, though, and specifically about how little we spend on education, which I strongly believe holds our only hope for long term survival as a species. In Kansas (my home state), education is so underfunded that there is a real crisis; so great that the Kansas Supreme Court has given Kansas legislators an April 12, 2005 deadline to fix the school finance law because they failed to fulfill their Constitutional obligation to adequately fund Kansas schools.

Aside from not having enough, it's interesting how the money on education is being spent. We all know that there are lots of different religions out there. And we know that a minority of these many religions claim that theirs is the RIGHT one. Amongst these various religions, there are differing beliefs about the origin of life.

Although there is divergence amongst these beliefs, Kansas has decided to revisit evolution in the classroom this year, and, given the make up of the school board, it appears Kansas will most likely spend its (far too little) money to draft, insert and distribute textbooks with their new "faith based" messages concerning evolution and creationism. This issue is apparently more important than the fact that there is not enough money in the budget to teach children the current curriculum.

Apparently recognizing this reality, Kansas schools have begun to mull cuts. That foresight showed the school's keen understanding of the current Kansas legislature. On Sunday January 30th, the Wichita Eagle reported that “Key Republican lawmakers involved in school funding discussions predict they will miss the Kansas Supreme Court's April 12 deadline to fix all the problems the court identified in the current law.”

What was more pressing to the legislators than obeying their Constitutional charge to fund schools? An economic disaster? A natural disaster? A terrorist attack?

No.

It was this: Introducing a Constitutional Amendment to prevent specific persons from marrying. (yes, yes. Technically it was already against the law for people of the same gender to marry in Kansas - but the legislators were frightened that the Constitution just might have been interpreted to mean that lesbians and gays had rights that were equal to heterosexuals - and if this happened, the legislators apparently thought this would make their own marriages mean less. Somehow.)

It's acknowledged that the political agenda of the US, and particularly the Bible-belt - those states such as Kansas that are in the center of the country - is increasingly driven by the beliefs of conservative Christians. If that is true, here is my question: Assuming the legislative leaders in charge of the agenda really are, as they say, following the word of God, can anyone please explain to me what any of the actions above have to do with the following commandments from their highest, primary authority on religion?

Matthew 22:35:
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.


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donderdag, februari 10, 2005

Love

Love is a strange thing. I have a really good friend here in Utrecht who has asked me many times what love actually means. I always find it so difficult to answer. I know exactly what it means to me, but then to put that into words and say what that means for someone else or even to explain to someone else what that means to me is so difficult. That was until I met Scott (by the way, as I’m writing this (my third post!) Scott is already in bed and I’ve just come back from swimming).

When I met Nancy Maxwell in Italy in June 2002, it was my first conference with a gay theme. I was really excited. I had kind of given up trying to find my “soulmate” in Utrecht. I know that I didn’t exactly look all that hard, but still. My standards were quite high and I was looking in the wrong places. I’m not at all a snob, and I think that many of my friends would agree (at least I hope they would, especially since the majority of them make fun of me for coming from Liverpool!), but I just wasn’t finding someone who I could interact with on an intellectual level. It’s not that I need someone who I can discuss the intricacies of my PhD with, but I do need someone whose opinion I respect for being well-rounded, rational and substantiated. I need someone who I can ask questions and expect answers. I need someone who I can work with on the same level. Anyway, I’d given up, not entirely, but for the meantime.

Well, back to the story. I went to Turin, Italy on my first gay conference full of expectations. If there is anywhere in the world where I will meet the man of dreams it will be here. Unfortunately I didn’t, but I did meet the woman of my dreams – Nancy! I talked to her long and hard about my position and also the fact that I had begun to give up on ever finding someone who I could spend the rest of my life with. Maybe I was still so indoctrinated with the idea of a stable “heterosexual family life” that I was living in a dream world. It was Nancy who brought me back down to reality. Of course, I wasn’t living in a dream world, I just hadn’t found the right man yet. All nice and easy to say, but where do you find such a man. Well, through Nancy!

When I first clapped eyes on Scott, my heart skipped a beat. I know that is such a corny saying, but it’s true. I remember it as though it were yesterday. I was sitting at the bar in Nancy’s kitchen with my back to the wall and face to the door. Scott walked through the door and I thought, oh my God, this is him. This is the man I have been waiting for. This is the man for me. But then my rationality kicked in and I started to think (very quickly!) of all sorts of reasons why this wasn’t even worth wasting a second of time on.

Anyway, we talked all night and I was a gonna. I could have spent all night talking to him, and in fact we did spend a large portion of the night talking. He was so easy to talk to and so easy to listen to. He had so much to tell and yet so much time to listen. His honesty, calmness and sincerity blew me away. The next day we had to teach and as I listened to him talk about his practice I realised that I was thinking about things which I really shouldn’t be thinking about: “I wonder if he’s single?”, “I wonder if he’s interested?”, “I wonder how old he is?”.

Well, after he had given his class and I had given mine, he had to leave. I was really disappointed and decided straight away that I wanted to stay in touch with him. But how? This was my first ever academic trip and I very aware of every move I made. Not exactly very stylish to ask one of the best friends of your host professor out on a date! So I decided to try and find his e-mail on line and send him a e-mail saying that I needed his help to find a gift for Nancy and Terry. True, but a total lie (or a smoes as we would say here!) to get talking to him. Within minutes I had a reply and we were talking. Since that moment in time, there has been less than five days when we haven’t talked, and every single one of them was in the summer of 2003 when I was in Russia on holiday.

So, why am I telling you all of this? I’m not sure. What I actually wanted to talk about was what I feel. But this was the story which ended up coming out. Since that meeting, my life has taken on new shape and life. I’m 26 and I cannot begin to express in words how lucky I feel. I am getting married to a man who means more to me than I can ever begin to express in words. I had never truly understood the expression “words fail” until I met Scott. But it’s simply true. The feelings which I have for him run so deep and are so complex that I cannot even begin to describe them. Maybe that’s an easy way out of trying to pinpoint what I do feel, but I don’t think so. When I think about a time without Scott, I find it difficult to breathe. The idea that he would not be here is too difficult to even comprehend.

When I first came out and I told my mum that I was gay, she cried. That was 6th December 1998. After we had both stopped crying, she asked me what I thought about children and marriage. I told her that they were now forbidden topics for me. The manner in which I had been raised was, in that respect, very traditional. When you grow up, you get married you have children (and as was the case in my family, normally get divorced! But this wasn’t compulsory!). The idea that by saying the words “Mum, I’m gay”, I was somehow leaving all that behind, was too difficult to deal with. I said “One step at a time mum. I’ll get to that some day”. Well, that day has arrived. And has brought a whole host of new feelings and emotions. What I cannot understand, and have the feeling that I will never understand, is that the feeling which I experienced when telling my mum and dad that I was gay, that feeling of being overwhelmed from all directions and having no more control of your body, is exactly the same feeling I have when I think of a life without Scott. It’s just too difficult.

I am, but a half of a person without him. I learn every day more about myself, by interacting with him. He’s not only my boyfriend, but my mentor, my guide, my love, my spiritual conscience and my support. Sometimes I wonder whether there is such a thing as fate, as destiny. If someone would have said to me that I would find in a 48 year old American born gay lawyer, the man of my dreams, I probably would have laughed, and yet there he is. The man of my dreams. The man of dreams that I have yet to experience, because my imagination is not ripe enough in order to imagine them yet. A man with whom I do want to spend the rest of my days with. To me that is what marriage is about. That statement: I want to be with you until I die. There is nothing that I will allow to separate us and I will work through every obstacle in order to try and make our relationship work. To me that is what love is. Marriage is simply the public expression of that love.

I love Scott more than I ever thought I could love someone. Sometimes, when I’m at work and I get a message from him, I get a ball in my throat and it’s hard to breathe. I know it might sound strange, stupid or sentimental, but it’s true. The idea of losing him is simply unbearable. I never thought that I “truly” believed in the vows of marriage, but I have changed my mind. I believe in them now more than I have ever done so. I am more than ready to say “I do”/”ja” on the 23rd April.

I simply cannot believe how luckily I am.

I love you.

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woensdag, februari 09, 2005

Good new tools

It's click-and-drag Google Maps! New! Better than MapQuest, better than ... well, any other map service I've seen.

And Answers.com - Online Dictionary, Encyclopedia and much more, has replaced a whole host of my bookmarked research tools - including Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com and Babelfish.com. Very cool.

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dinsdag, februari 08, 2005

Doug.

Doug's been on my mind for the past week and a half. Mostly, I haven't even been aware that he has been on my mind; I've just felt a little uneasy about . . . something. Suddenly, it's obvious what that something is. Two years ago today, Doug died.

I don't talk about Doug very much, mostly because my life is so different now than it was two years ago and the people who are around me now didn't know him.

I used to worry that talking about Doug would make Ian uncomfortable, but he assures me that nothing could be further from the truth. And I now know that Ian does understand. I think most of the people around me here in The Netherlands know about Doug, but don't ask questions because they aren't sure if it's ok to ask.

It is ok.

I guess this post is kind of for them. And it's also for me. But it's also, somehow, for Doug.

Doug Glaze, my Doug, was a remarkable man. We met in 1990 and were together for almost ten years. (Although he always thought we met earlier and were together longer than that. And maybe we were. I've never been good with dates.)

The things that attracted me most to Doug were his honesty and personal integrity, even when it cost him.

The very first time we met he told me that he was HIV positive. This, in Kansas, in 1990, was remarkable. Until I met Doug, I had never met anyone in Kansas who had revealed their HIV status to me, unless their status was negative. I was immediately drawn to Doug - not because he was positive, but because he was honest. In a state filled with people who hid that they were gay, well, it was easy to see what a remarkable human being Doug was. Weighing the fact he had a disease against the rest of the qualities he possessed made his HIV status seem inconsequential in comparison.

And I thought we would live forever and that there would be enough time to do everything we wanted to do.

We met because Doug worked for an AIDS Service Organization. I wanted to become more involved with the fight against AIDS, so I went to the place Doug worked, and he interviewed me for a position there. As it turned out, they had no openings at the organization he worked at, so he couldn't hire me.

I had a little crush on him, though, so I called him the next day and invited him to go to the zoo with me. He was a little confused because he thought I was lobbying for a job. At first, he didn't know we were dating. He only figured it out after we went to a drive-in movie on our second date. After our second date he moved in with me, without knowing he had moved in.

Later, after we were living together, his organization did hire me and we worked together managing a house for People with AIDS.

We were a great team. We changed the way the house operated. It was difficult, because the organization was run by Catholic nuns. We would obtain condoms from the Health Department and the nuns would throw them away or hide them, apparently to prevent sinful behavior.

Eventually, Doug and I had major philosophical disagreements with the hospice-run "owners" of the organization. They became very irritated when those who lived in the house didn't die on time. They wanted more people through the doors, but they couldn't up their numbers if the people who came to the house lived longer than they were supposed to. And they all did.

Doug and I had a very simple philosophy to our management style. Our philosophy was that happy people live longer. Every decision we made was weighed against that philosophy. Because of this, we didn't control the house. We saw the house as someplace that belonged to the people who lived there. What we tried to do was provide those who lived there with the tools they needed to help them live the way they wanted. We discovered that the people who lived there invariably made good decisions if they were properly informed about all the variables and options available to them. And I think the fact that they controlled the decisions they made prolonged their lives.

At the final meeting I attended, right before I quit, I was asked by our boss why we couldn't just lay down the law to our "clients" and make them follow the rules. Why did we have to give the clients the right to make decisions? Management could foresee this making things very complicated and messy, although it hadn't thus far. What, they wanted to know, were we trying to do?

It was clear to us what we were doing, and we couldn't understand why they didn't understand: We wanted the house to be a place that we would have wanted to live in if we had a terminal illness and had no place else to live.
They said we were idealistic. They didn't think it would work, even though it had been working for many months, even though it was working.

In the end, I had to leave because I couldn't bear to see what we had built destroyed. My disillusionment would have poisoned the guys who had to continue living there. I continued to visit them, but it was hard. And soon, the guys started dying "on time." Control had been returned to management; management was happy.

Right after this, Doug and I applied for a grant from Wichita State University to go to San Francisco and protest with ACT-UP National. It was in the early 90's, and we wanted to protest the International AIDS Conference through direct action and demonstrations. Astoundingly, the student body underwrote the organization we started, ACT-UP Wichita State, and sent us to San Francisco to protest. That was the first trip of many Doug and I took together.

Later, Doug and I were arrested with ACT-UP in Kansas City, but that's another story for another time. I will say, though, that in the couple of hours we were in the holding cell with the rest of the protesters, I learned more about hair care products than I ever knew existed.

We moved to the country shortly after this and lived in a house on ten acres of beautiful prairie land, along with Doug's mom and Natalie (the Grace to my Will). We had a couple of cantankerous horses and more dogs and cats than I could count. Although we didn't have much money, in retrospect, it was a magical time. We went on a cruise to the Bahamas together with my family, and I think that was one of the best trips of my life. It was something Doug never imagined he would be able to do, and yet, there he was, doing it.

Later, we moved back to town and bought a turn of the century house that had a great yard. We completely renovated it.

And I thought we would live forever and that there was time.

We started to look for ways to legally protect our relationship and found that there were no lawyers in Kansas who knew a thing about how to do this. We found lawyers who knew how to draft Wills, but they didn't know about what, specifically, we needed, nor were they clear about how the law would interpret anything we came up with in order to look after our needs.

Faced with this, I decided it was time I learend a little something about the law. So, I went to law school.

I chose a Kansas school (Washburn) because I wanted to practice specifically in Kansas. Where else could I possibly be as needed? I was honest on my application about wanting to study law because I was gay and wanted to help others who were lesbian or gay. I was offered a full scholarship through law school, which I graciously accepted.

We moved to Topeka (coincidentally about 5 blocks from the Fred Phelps compund), and Doug finished his undergraduate degree as I got my law degree.

It was about then that Doug started drinking. Apparently, Doug drank -- a lot -- before I met him. He didn't while we were together until we moved to Topeka. I didn't know how much he drank until much later.

While studying, Doug became the editor of the Washburn University yearbook. He was always a great editor and writer; his history of Wichita in the late 70's - the first city in the nation to have a gay rights ordinance, and the second to repeal it - won a statewide history writer's award and scholarship. He was an incredible force of good and light.

After graduating, we moved back to our house in Wichita and I opened a law office. And Doug began to drink more and more. And although I still didn't now he was drinking, it was obvious that something was very different. Our life together was awful.

I don't know if law school was the catalyst to the dissolution of our relationship or if maybe Doug would have started drinking again anyway. Or maybe we would have lost our way even without the alcohol. I don't know. I used to think it was the drinking and that law school didn't have anything at all to do with it. I'm not so sure now.

But we did break up. And both of our lives changed, for the worse.

We weren't happy people anymore. Doug, little by little, became ill, and I became a recluse.

I tried to date other people, but I wasn't very good at it.

Doug and I never expected to break up. We both saw ourselves as always being together. Others saw us as always being together. Yet, we had both changed drastically, and neither of us knew how to bridge the gap. It hurt all the more because we loved each other so much.

For the record, although I didn't try to stop him, it was Doug who left me. I try to feel good about it being his decision, that I had nothing to do with it and that his leaving was what he wanted because I promised I would never leave him and so now I can say that I didn't ever leave him.
But that's not reality.
In reality, I forced him out because it was just too damn painful living with him.

Now I see that he had become frightened and alone and on the verge of becoming ill. I did not know that then because I didn't look hard enough. And in all honesty, I don't know how I could have done it differently.

I've learned that sometimes in life, our very tiny, little decisions add up. None of them alone mean anything, but each one is a step that leads to another, and pretty soon you look up and you're somewhere very different from where you thought you would be.

So. There we were. Somewhere very different from where we thought we would be.

But I still thought he would live forever and that there was time.

I discovered a lot in the next couple of years. Much about Doug; more about me. As I said, he did not really date much, and neither did I.

We slowly started to make peace. As is often the case after people lose their way with each other, although others didn't know what we still meant to each other, we did. We both saw that we were less than whole without each other. I think everyone who knew us saw that, even if they didn't see how much we still loved each other.

And I still thought he would live forever and there was time.

Anyway, a couple of months later, I got a call from his Mom. Doug had been asleep for too long, they couldn't wake him and he was unresponsive. She didn't know what to do. Could I come over?

So I did. And I got down next to him and said softly, "Doug?"

His eyes opened and he looked up at me. Quietly, he asked, "What the fuck is going on? What are you doing here?"

I explained to him that he was dehydrated. (He was - severely.) I let him know that he had some choices: he could drink some water right now, he could go to the hospital, or he could die. He asked for water. Within a couple of hours he was fine.

A couple of weeks later, he rode his bike to my house, drunk (he lost his glasses on the way, after he somehow mistakenly rode his bike into a HUGE drainage canal underneath a major highway that bisects Wichita). He asked me to help him dry out, so we spent an intense week together as he detoxed in my bedroom.

He worked in a bar, and needed the money that came from this job because he wasn't able to get on disability even though they should have allowed him to be on disability. He ended up back at the bar a week after he dried out, and started drinking again.

We saw each other a little more frequently, and I saw that his health was failing. I was gearing up for his first illness, as was he. We both knew that his first illness wouldn't kill him, but it would signal a change in his status.

And for the first time, I started to wonder if he would live forever and if there was enough time.

I started to call more frequently.

And finally, we made peace.

I discovered I was still pretty crazy about him. We went to see "The Lord of the Rings" - the second one. He bought a big pickle, and ate it and drank a coke during the movie. He said it was more than he had eaten in a week. He said afterwards that he didn't think he would make it through the movie without having diarrhea, but he did. When I took him home, he was wiped out.

A couple of days later, I got another call from his mother. He was in the hospital. Severe dehydration. He had been there for hours and nothing had happened. Could I come? So this was it. His first illness.

The hospital was only blocks from my house. I went immediately.

He had been there for over 8 hours. And although he had been admitted with severe dehydration and had been given a room, he had not been allowed anything to drink since he had arrived, and there was not yet an IV drip. Why not? The doctor hadn't had time to see him yet and there were no orders and they couldn't give him anything until there were orders.

I politely asked them to call the doctor.

Forty-five minutes later and a couple more polite visits to the nurses' station, and still nothing. They said they had relayed the messages.

No. NO!

This couldn't be happening now, could it? I mean, I knew this used to happen in 1987, but not now, did it?

I quit being polite. I asked the nurse, in my firmest lawyer's voice, to get on the phone right fucking now and inform the doctor that the patient's lawyer was asking why the Doctor was not allowing fluids to a man who had been admitted 8 hours earlier with severe dehydration. "Tell him," I said, "that I was wondering if they were trying to kill him."

He had a drip within 5 minutes, and I calmed down within 6. All I really cared about was that Doug was ok. That even outweighed my earlier anger at his treatment. If he was ok, nothing else really mattered.

Doug and I still held powers of attorney for each other, even after we broke up. We had talked about it, and although we both had reservations, in the end we decided not to change them. When he was admitted, he was asked if he had a power of attorney, and he answered that his lawyer held it for him. (I had to laugh a little when his mother told me that.)

I gave the hospital Doug's power of attorney, which named me as his legal representative. Although I watched them put it in his file, when I checked the next day (as I tell all my clients to do), it had mysteriously disappeared. I provided them with another copy. This one did not disappear.

I spent every night and as much time during the days with him as I could during his hospital stay. I was teaching, so I left for classes, but came back as soon after class as I could. His mom was there sometimes, and so was his brother. His Dad flew in from the East coast, and eventually so did his younger brother.

His mom talked about how tired she was, and if I wasn't there she called me every night to ask me to please come stay with him. I would have been there even without the calls, but it was nice to get them.

Doug was not doing well - he wanted to go home. When the Dr. came in, I let her know that Doug wanted to go home. I asked her to explain to him what would happen if he went home. She said, "Doug, if you go home you will die." I asked if he would die if he stayed. She said she thought they had a good chance at getting this under control.

After she left, I asked him if he wanted to go home, and let him know that I would stand behind him if he did. He said "Hell no!" He had several times mentioned that he didn't want to go back to his Mom's house. He loved her, but she lived with his grandparents and they just didn't know how to take care of him. They had no idea of what kinds of foods he could tolerate. He didn't want to hurt their feelings, but he didn't feel like he had options once he got out of the hospital.

His mom and I talked in the hall, and I let her know that I would be happy to have him stay at my house once he left, but that I would need some help taking care of him. She said we would talk about it more as it got closer to the time for him to leave.

The next morning, on February 7, after I spent the night with Doug at the hospital, Doug's mom and his brother showed up before I left to go teach. They were kind of quiet and wouldn't look at me. It seemed like something was going on, but I dismissed it. It was a stressful time, so it could have been anything.

I went home, showered, put on a suit and went to teach a business law class. It was the longest day of my life. After it was over, I went back to the hospital.

Doug's room was empty.

I walked to the nurses' station and asked where Doug was. They said he had been removed.

"Removed? Why? To where?"

"His family took him home."

I was absolutely gutted. Although I held his power of attorney, his family had somehow removed Doug from the hospital without telling me while I was teaching.

My mind reeled. How did this happen? This was exactly the scenario I had gone to law school to prevent. And in learning how to legally prevent this exact worst case scenario, which I had, in the end, of course not prevented, Doug and I had somehow lost our way, and in losing our way had also lost each other.

Although the irony was lost on me at the time, I've spent some time becoming comfortable with it.

But at the time, I was furious. Doug had, just the night before, told me that he did not want to be taken home. He wanted to live.

I called and his brother said Doug was asleep. I probably wouldn't have gone to see him at his mom's house right away anyway. I was far too pissed off.

Later that night, I got a call and it was his brother, asking me to please come over and sleep with Doug as I had done in the hospital. I wanted to, but I was still too angry. I knew that if I got into bed next to Doug, he would have felt my anger towards his family instead of my love for him, and I didn't want that. I decided instead to wait until the morning and talk with him then. Surely when his family heard him say that he wanted to live, they would honor his wishes.

Early the next morning when I went to see him, Doug was in a coma. His family had removed the IV drips sometime the day before. They had placed a couple of rows of chairs around his bed, and the house was filled with people. Most I had never seen before.

I was horrified. This was exactly everything that Doug did not want. I was livid. I asked his mother, too loudly, how she could have done this. His brother told me to get the fuck out of the house.

There was no longer anything helpful I could do, and anything else I tried to do would only have made things worse. It was too late.

I was too late.

I said a very quick, tearful goodbye to Doug, and I left.

And I never saw or spoke to Doug, my Doug, again.

I got the call later that night.

He did not live forever, and our time had run out.

I waited until my anger was at a reasonable level, then called and asked his mom if I could speak at the funeral. She said she was tired and didn'’t want to discuss it.

It took a minute for the words to sink in. "You don't want me at the funeral, do you?"

"No," she said. "I don't."

I was devastated.

I talked with Rachael. She asked what I was going to do.

I told her I didn't think I would go his funeral because I didn't want my being there to create a scene, and I didn't know what Doug's family would do, and I didn't know what I would do.

She said, "Scott, this is a big one. There are no do-overs."

That jolted me right back to reality. And I knew she was right.

So after the call, I took the phone off the hook and I got very quiet with myself. And with Doug.

And in the end, after thinking it through, I didn't go to his funeral. Instead, I had a private memorial at home, and grieved alone. Later, those very few people who knew me best (and oddly, I learned that these were not the people I thought they would be) came by and let me know they shared my grief.

I thought not going to his big funeral was the right thing at the time, but sometimes, especially when there are no do-overs, it's hard to know until later.

That was then.

Now, even though I missed seeing people at his funeral that I would really have liked to have seen, I know I did the right thing.

All of my memories of Doug are intact, and they're not overshadowed by anything that may have happened had I gone to the funeral.

I saw Doug's mom once more, briefly, before I left Wichita. I gave her Oscar; the wonderful, beautiful Maine Coon cat that Doug and I raised. I went to his mom with the intention of telling her that I understood and that it was ok.

But I couldn't. It was difficult to speak to her at all. My skin crawled and all I wanted was to get away.

I hadn't expected that.

I gave Oscar to Doug's uncle, and tried not to look at Doug's mom until her brother brought Oscar's kitty carrier back to me.

That was not how I wanted it to end. I wanted to make Doug proud of me. And I really wanted to be able to feel good about her again. But I just . . . couldn't.

Still, two years is too long to hold a resentment that serves no purpose. I forgive her; partly because I'm selfish enough to understand that anything else poisons me. But also because Doug was her son. I loved him, but so did she. Hopefully, I will never know how difficult it is to lose a child.

***


Almost a month to the day after Doug died, I met Ian. Although I met him very soon after Doug died, Doug and I were apart for almost three years. Doug said, a couple of months before he died, that he wished I would get on with my life and start dating again.
I remember asking him at the time what he meant.
He said that what he wanted most was for me to be happy.
I know this sounds insane, but on some level that is outside of reason, I believe that Doug was involved in my meeting Ian.

After Doug died, and not too long after I met Ian, I suddenly realized that I would not ever have allowed myself another relationship while Doug was alive. Doug and I were married, although we never had a ceremony and, at the time, we both scoffed at the idea of marriage. Although we broke up, I don't believe either of us ever really gave up on the other.

So that's the story.

In the end, I've learned that:
Although love is all we have, our very tiny, little decisions add up. Even though none of them alone mean anything, each one can lead to another, and unless you pay attention to the little things, you can end up somewhere very different from where you thought you would.
We do not live forever. Our time does run out.
But sometimes, if you're incredibly lucky, you get a second chance at love.

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maandag, februari 07, 2005

Why I love this country, Part 3

Finally, a test I don't have to study for.

Dutch government unveils new integration exam.
Aspiring immigrants will have to know how many wheels a car has and that it is OK to be gay to prove they are capable of adjusting to life in the Netherlands.

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zondag, februari 06, 2005

Barking Quail Fine Art Photos

I grew up on East 13th street in a sleepy little town in Kansas. It was a neighborhood filled with families. The kids in the neighborhood constantly played in the brick streets, which I think must have been less busy back then than they are now. Summers were best. We played "Capture the Flag" when the weather was good - sometimes until long after it was dark. If there were storms, the streets flooded and we waded through them with no thought of electrocution from downed power lines. I remember once during a flood my little sister Molly fell into a sewer access hole that was open becase the metal covering had been removed before the storm. Because of the flooding, you couldn't see there was a hole. I instinctively grabbed her and pulled her out of it seconds before she would have been pulled under by the rushing water. Our biggest concern was what we were going to tell out parents so they wouldn't be mad at us for being all wet. We had no idea at the time how close we were to tragedy.
The best was when the big trucks came around and sprayed to kill mosquitos. I loved it because there was this amazing amount of "fog" (read "poison") that came out of the backs of the trucks. You had to act fast,but if you were quick you could hop on your bike and ride behind the truck surrounded by the fog for blocks.This was exciting because fog was a rare thing in Kansas in the summer. I believe that I was probably (luckily) the only child in Hutchinson with enough imagination (?) to do this on a regular basis. Ah, Good times.

In the winter, we slid on the brick streets when they were covered with ice, and were pulled behing cars on sleds after it had snowed.

Anyway, most of the families we grew up with didn't move throughout our childhoods. I don't keep in touch with many of those childhood friends, but occaissionally hear from or find one.

Rand Partridge grew up on the same block as I did - 6 houses West. In addition to academic work he's involved in, he also has been photographing the city we grew up in, as well as other places he's travelled through.

As a wedding present, he's offered us a framed photo of our choice from his collection. I'm leaning toward this one, of what used to be (is it still?) the longest grain elevator in the world, but it's a tough choice.

Thanks, Rand. It will be nice to have a memory of home on the wall here.

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zaterdag, februari 05, 2005

Wedding Registries 101

As I understand it, when people are married in Europe, their friends and family frequently ask for their bank account number so that they can transfer money into the couple's account as a wedding gift. I had never heard of this tradition, so it struck me as a little odd.

Ian, on the other hand, was amazed that in the US people who are engaged "register" at stores for items they would like to have when they are married. Because of the difficulty finding a place that everyone has access to, we registered at Amazon.com. It was only the next day that I discovered that in Ian's mind, "Wedding Registry" translated into "Wish List." He was very excited about the concept of providing links to socks, underwear, toys and virtually anything else he has thought about owning for the past several years. I finally talked him out of some of it, but there are still a disturbingly large number of DVDs and books that "we" have registered an interest in. Although he understands about the underwear and socks, he reasons that anything we are both able to read or watch qualifies.

I think of everything we've done for the wedding, registering has made me the most uncomfortable. Still, I'm reminded of that episode of "Sex in the City" when Sarah Jessica Parker's character registers as a person who is marrying herself so that she can get reimbursed for a pair of shoes she lost. (Yes, I know that makes no sense unless you've watched it. And yes, Ian has put "Sex in the City" DVDs on his our wish list wedding registry.) Natalie tells me that this is a part of getting married and everyone is used to it and does it, so I should get over myself and enjoy the benefits. So OK. I'll try.

Oh, and by the way, I prefer boxers to briefs.

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Man pees his way out of avalanche

Now that I have some time to spend surfing, I though I'd start posting links to some of the places I happen by during the day. Some are just bizarre (like the first), others make me think and still others I think may interest specific people.

So here you go:
Man pees his way out of an avalanche.

The art of seeing without sight. This is pretty cool, about how some people who have never seen can still draw.

The next couple are mainly for Jancy, but also good for all travelers:
Off to London (kottke.org travel tips, pt. 1)
Get on the bus (kottke.org travel tips, pt. 2)
Back from London (kottke.org travel tips, pt. 3)

Although the next two are written for NYC, they have relevance here too, and probably for most major cities all over the world as well.
Jason's rules for the NYC subway
How to not get your bike stolen in New York City This one is particularly appropriate to those of us who live in The Netherlands.

Especially for Ian, Nancy, Karen, Natalie, and all writers and researchers everywhere.
stevenberlinjohnson.com: Tool For Thought

And finally, two having to do with marriages between two people of the same gender.
Judge strikes down New York's ban on same-sex marriage
Ohio's Gay Wedding Ban tested


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vrijdag, februari 04, 2005

Getting around - Guides to Amsterdam, Paris and London

For those of you traveling here and around Europe, I've put some links here so that I don't lose them next time my computer crashes. You might want bookmark these, too - it can prevent some stress to get an idea of the geography of a city before you go. If you've got a guidebook, you can refer to these maps and figure out how close or far everything is, and how to get from one place to another. This is especially helpful for when you're traveling to someplace where everything is in a different language. (For newcomers, this is where you click "Continue reading", below, to get to the actual links.)
This is the Amsterdam site, in English.

The London Transport Homepage. This is for everything, including timetables for the tube, buses and rail.

The Real Underground has some very cool information. It shows a somewhat more realistic geographic representation of the London Underground. You can also click and superimpose the city streets onto the tube map, which is pretty cool.

Here are the London Tube Maps.

The Paris Metro (subway) System.

And finally, the mother lode of transit systems everywhere - the Metro Planet Subway travel information site. You have to look around a bit to figure out what to click on to get where you want to go, but once you figure it out, it is an excellent reference.

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dinsdag, februari 01, 2005

Janine and Chris move!

Sometime before Christmas, Janine and Chris moved in together. We helped move Janine first, then Chris. As if this wasn't enough work, Janine thought she would use the downtime in between trips to get a little work out in.


There wasn't room in the cars and vans for all their stuff and us too, so we went back and forth on our bikes.



We only got lost once...



But eventually found our way. Janine was happy to see we hadn't deserted her.



Before long, we got everything in.



Chris wasted no time laying claim to his favorite new piece of furniture...

We're done!


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Happy New Year

We spent New Year's Eve with Chris and Janine.
This is Thomas brewing some mulled wine made from a recipe he brought with him from East Germany, while Chris looks on and wonders if it's too soon to ask again how long it will be before it's ready.



It was a good group of people from a variety of different backgrounds - four from The Netherlands, two from South Africa, one from East Germany, one from England and one from the US.




I wish I had pictures of the fireworks - I'd never seen anything like it. Almost everyone took their massive collections of fireworks and set them off in the streets. I'm not talking just firecrackers, snakes, roman candles and bottle rockets. These were displays! It lasted for hours. Finally, the everyone started to go back inside, and at around 2 in the morning we felt like it was safe enough to get on our bikes and go home.


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Christmas

Yes, this is a little late. And you can expect your Christmas cards sometime in mid-July.

I took some pictures of a hotel here for my sister Jancy, and when I downloaded them I found all these shots taken around Christmas and New Year's that I had forgotten about. So...

I've mentioned that we do almost everything by bike, right? Well, that includes getting the Christmas tree.





So we go it home and up the three flights of stairs. It took about a week to get it decorated, but we finally did.


What you can't see from the picture is the base of the tree. The trunk is basically still just nailed to two pieces of wood to hold it upright. The guy we bought the tree from said it was a special type of tree. He guaranteed us that it would keep its needles until January 8, without watering.
By Dec. 24, he left the Church plaza where we had bought the tree from him. By December 25th, when the tree was completely dead and dried out and the needles started falling, he was nowhere to be found.
Still, it was a good first tree.



Ian's parents came and spent the week with us. This is them after Christmas dinner, walking along the deserted Oudegracht canal with the Dom in the background. I had never seen this area so deserted. It was really beautiful.



We also went to a park, which inexplicably has hundreds of chickens and roosters roaming freely around. There is nothing keeping them in the park, yet they see to stay there.

This was taken of us all just before they left.


And finally, Ian, contemplating how we were going to get rid of the tree.

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