Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Coming soon, to a government office near you

Miss Thornberry, have a seat.  Alright, according to our records you are 32 years and 1 month old as of today. 

Your medical records indicate you have never given birth or even attempted to have a baby.

I’m sure you’re aware that all women are required to have been pregnant at least once by age 32.  Can you provide any proof our information about you is incorrect? 

We have a physician on site who can perform an examination right now in the adjoining room, if you deny these findings.

That won’t be necessary.  I’ve never had a child or been pregnant. 

But in my defense, I have a defective heart valve that more than doubles the risk of mortality for someone like myself carrying a baby to term.  My personal physician will attest to this.

Miss Thornberry, we--

It’s not Miss Thornberry.  It’s Dr. Thornberry.  I too am a medical physician.

Fine then.  Doctor Thornberry, we’re fully aware of your defective heart valve.  But your mortality isn’t what is at stake here.  Your future baby’s mortality is.

This is preposterous.  Not that it should matter, but I am an integral part of a government think tank devoted to the research and eradication of women’s cancers.  Even if I met someone suitable, and was healthy enough to become pregnant, a baby couldn’t possibly fit into the equation. 

Dr. Thornberry, surely you’re aware of President Mastriano’s “NO EXCEPTION” Federal abortion ban of 2027, even in cases of rape & incest.  This law mandating all women become impregnated by 32 also comes with no exceptions.  Frankly I don’t care if you’re the blessed Melania Superior.  You ARE going to become pregnant.

And YOU can talk to my attorney.  What the—I’m unable to lift my arms off this chair—I can’t move my feet!

Your chair and the floor below it are wired with sensors and magnetic alloys that can detect when a woman is ovulating.  I suggest you stop trying to free yourself, a woman broke her wrist there recently.

I demand you let me go!

Here’s what’s going to happen.  You’ll be taken to a private room on this floor where your legs will be put into stirrups.  From there, you’ll be given two options:  insemination via a sterile medical apparatus resembling a turkey baster, containing a purely randomized sperm sample from one of thousands of male donors.  Doctors, serial killers, pacifists, hunchbacks—it could be any one of them, as this is America, equal rights for all.

I refuse!

Then your other option is to select one of our on-site male volunteers who can inseminate you first-hand, as God intended.  Your choices here are limited, but you’ll be allowed to choose from a line-up of men in another room.

Either way, it’s your choice.

(Psst—I’m not trying to be funny here.  When we FORCE pregnancies on women it’s only a matter of time before we begin using them for breeding—like cattle.  And we WILL get there, as long as we allow fascists—I mean, Conservatives—to remain in control.)

Friday, June 24, 2022

My first gay encounter: It’s a different world now than where we come from

NOTE:  I am an older man out of step with the times, so this may contain language or memories you find offensive!

Yesterday afternoon when I was outside in front of the Tiffany, two young men were headed my way from the opposite direction.

They looked around 16-17 years old, were both around 5’7”, slender, one had a goatee.  Both were wearing ski caps (in summer) on the back of their heads like Mike Nesmith from the Monkees.  And they were holding hands.

I tried not to do a double-take, but this isn’t something you see a lot in Pittsburgh.  Well, not in my neighborhood anyway.  I’m aware there’s a lot of gay people out there, I’ve been lucky to know a few and seen plenty at the Pittsburgh Pride parades every year when I worked downtown.

I’ve just never seen anyone this young and so casual about it.

I know gays have been pretty open for awhile.  Ten years ago, when my older niece Drew was going to her senior prom, I was curious about her date and looked him up on Facebook.  On his profile page he’d written he was afraid of ghosts, milk & frogs, “not necessarily in that order”.   When I contacted my sister Donda and said “Hey—about this young man…” she told me to relax, he was Drew’s best friend, gay & everyone knew it.  Wow, okay!   

This sure isn’t the world I grew up in.  When I was their age, being branded a “queer” or “faggot” was a death sentence.  I remember getting cornered at least a dozen times in the locker room before or after gym class, in 7th & 8th grades.  Always the same guys who looked like 13 year old versions of the hillbillies in the movie Deliverance, Vernon Smitley, Jerry Eaton & Alan Bradshaw.  Always demanding to know if I was queer-bait, while Donald Bates, a creepy possum-faced redneck stood behind them making kissy lips at me.  

Oh, and that’s their real names.  I’d love for them to see this and reach out to me.

Mom, the Beauty Parlor and my first Gay Man

When I was 11-12 years old, and Mom was still getting her hair done weekly at Mary Jane’s Beauty Salon, Dad would drop my sister Shawn & myself off in town on Saturday mornings and we’d ride home with Mom from her beauty appointment.  One Saturday in the spring of 1972, as we sat there in the shop eating our candy and reading comics and waiting for Mom to finish, a man walked in wearing a fur stole and sporting a platinum blonde beehive. 

He was short, pasty, on the chubby side.  His name was Conrad Perry.  (Conrad was NOT a transsexual, a straight man who dressed as a woman.  He was a gay man who liked wearing fur stoles and women’s hairdos.)  I’m pretty sure he was harmless.

He was clearly in a dither, gesturing at his head and saying something to the shop’s owner.  Mary Jane told him to come back in an hour and she’d try to fit him in.

When he left the salon, Shawn & I went back to Mom’s chair and asked “Was that a homosexual?” 

Mary Jane and a couple of the other ladies laughed, and poor Mom looked like a deer caught in someone’s headlights.  She said “Do you even know what one is?  Where did you hear that!”

I said “When we were at your mom’s house for Thanksgiving, she dropped a National Examiner in your lap and said ‘Here, I told you these two were married.’  It had Rock Hudson & Jim Nabors on the cover.  So is Conrad Perry one too?”

Mom said “How the hell do you kids even know him!”  My sister said “We see him on Main Street on his bike all the time and I said “Yeah, and he always wears red satin hot-pants.”

Mom said “The next time you see him headed in your direction, I want you to cross the street.”  I said “But he zig-zags.  Won’t that look funny if we’re always zig-zagging when he is?” 

The ladies in the shop were now laughing it up pretty hard, while Mom shook her head and said “You damn kids, go sit down!”

I want to add that Mom did change with the times, and 10 years later she’d take up disco skating and become good friends with Ronnie A, an out-of-the-closet gay man and former classmate of mine who’s been with his partner 40+ years.

Here’s my funny, beautiful mom from the early 80s, wearing her gay pride rainbow top.  Sure do love & miss you, Mom—and I miss seeing you get riled up! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

So what if I lose everything—I think I’ve found the perfect chair

Have you ever seen something and knew instantly you must have it?   For myself, it’s a rare thing.  I’m usually on the fence about most things, especially when it involves furniture or spending money. 

But since moving into my apartment in April 2017, I’ve been on the lookout for a particular leather chair.  And I’m pretty sure I found it, at the worst possible time.

There would be no compromises.  It HAD to be full grain, none of this “genuine leather” or bonded leather stuff.  Camel or tan only, no black or browns or burgundy.  No rivets, no highback-Wingbacks.  I didn’t want one of those overstuffed recliners with a kangaroo pouch sewn into it’s side for books and remotes either. 

(Yes I know they’re comfortable, but I wanted something more compact, stylish, fitting a city apartment.) 

I found something close at Pottery Barn, and requested leather samples.  But they were all too dark or cowpokey, and I would soon discover PB had an awful reputation with their leather chairs being outsourced (taking 3-4 months), doubled in price and having shoddy workmanship.


So I stopped looking.  A couple years passed, and then I came across this chair a month ago and knew it was the one.  I checked the depth, heighth, width, weight capacity, manufacturer, everything.  It’s a full grain, soft Italian leather with 31 customer reviews, half of them containing pictures, all of them praising it’s quality.  But there was one problem:

It was priced at $1,399.99.   I couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for a chair.

Then a couple weeks ago, I saw the chair had gone on sale for $200 off, $1199.99.  I sent the photo at the top to 3 people I knew I could trust their opinion.

My sister Shawn said “It looks exactly like the chair you’ve been looking for a long time.  I hope you don’t talk yourself out of buying it!”

My blog-friend Margaret said “It’s gorgeous and will go perfectly with your navy blue sofa.”

My friend Danielle said “It’s beautiful but peta!”

All 3 of their responses (even Danielle and her hippie squawk) was actually quite helpful.  I just needed some kind of… I dunno, sign to tell me to go for it.

Then I’m watching the evening news a couple nights ago, and they did another one of those “your average 401K investor” alerts because of the bear market we’ve fallen into, and stock portfolios losing 25% in value since January.

I haven’t looked at my own investments since January 10, when I sold some shares to keep my 2-year safe bucket full.  So I opened my account…

My portfolio is down $171,000.00 since January.  I’d estimated the loss would be half that amount.  I felt dizzy, this was scary.

Unlike most of the other bloggers I know, I do NOT have a partner, pension, annuity, equity, insurance or social security to fall back on.  (I’m not even eligible to claim social security for another 16 months.)  What if I lost that amount again, a couple times over?  My goose would be cooked.

I have my safe-bucket.  If I stick to a budget, I should have enough to carry me thru this bear market (if they last on average two years).  As for the chair… that’s the LAST thing I needed right now.

So this past Saturday I went on their website to have a final look and see if it was still on sale.  It was, and even lower in price—the chair was now $919.00, down $480 since the first time I saw it!   I couldn’t move my fingers fast enough.

The chair will arrive sometime between June 28 and July 4—I’m glad I didn’t wait, the sale ended yesterday and is now back at regular price. 

If I lose the rest of my money and wind up homeless, I’ll move into the alley behind the Tiffany (my apartment building) and appoint myself King of Cherry Alley—and this chair will become my throne!      

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Watching TV in the future (well, in the 21st century): is it good for you too?

Spock prepares to do battle on Vulcan, on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

I pay $13.00 a month to watch tv.  That includes 70 over-the-air channels (using my Mohu Bookshelf antenna, the white square below my tv), free movie channels like Tubi, 190 streaming channels courtesy of Pluto & LG TV, and premium streaming services HBO Max, Paramount Plus, Hulu & Peacock Premium.

I even have 24 hour news again as ABC, NBC & CBS all have (free) streaming news channels now. 

I’m sorry but this blows my mind.  A year ago, I was paying $150 a month for ‘Expanded Basic’ cable and Netflix.  And it seemed like I could never find anything I wanted to watch.  

Have you cut the (cable) cord yet?  If you’re unable to get your local stations with an antenna like I do, and you don’t want to give up cable, you should look into YouTube TV.  $65.00 a month gets you local stations, 85 cable channels & unlimited “cloud service DVR”.

(As for myself, I will never pay more than $20.00 a month again.)

I think what my cable company (Xfinity) did was pretty smart.  When I canceled my cable/internet/phone bundle, they offered me Peacock Premium for free if I kept my internet—and sent me a Flex box & voice remote for free, no monthly fee, no strings attached.

(It’s like a Roku, but with the Xfinity brand to keep a leash on you.) 

I tossed it in my closet, but as time went on I learned how useful it could be.  Sometimes these premium services like Paramount Plus would freeze on my tv, and the only way to unfreeze them was to restart everything, internet included. 

I discovered if I stream shows from HBO Max & Paramount thru the Flex box, it buffers what I watch perfectly.  No spinning wheels, zero glitches.

I never trusted this Flex completely though, until recently.  Every once in awhile, using the voice remote, I’d say “The World According to Garp.” 

(It’s an old favorite of mine, from 1982.)  Flex would come back with “Available to rent from Xfinity for $3.99.” 

That meant it wasn’t available for streaming anywhere else. 

Then in late May, I learned the movie was coming to HBO Max June 1.  (Flex knows what services you subscribe to, so you don’t have to re-enter passwords.)  On June 1, when I said Garp into the remote, it said “Available to watch now on HBO Max.”   It didn’t even give me the option to rent it from Xfinity.  I was impressed.

But good things seldom last forever, and I’ll need to make some decisions soon: 

1)  I currently pay $7.50 a month for ad-free HBO Max, thanks to a 1 year promotion I got last September.  It runs out in 2 months.  Do I want to pay $15.00 a month to keep this?  Or $10.00 a month for the version with ads?  Or drop it altogether?

I just learned if I pay another year in advance, I’ll get a 16% discount.  Still… Eye rolling smile

2)  I currently pay 99 cents a month for Hulu.  (This was another year-long deal I got last November, on Black Friday.)  This November, my monthly price will increase to $6.99.  Do I want to pay this? 

Yes, I do.  Because Hulu is such a great mix of movies and tv shows, this is the only service I really want or need for enjoying tv. 

3)  I pay $4.00 a month for Paramount Plus (it’s $4.99, but discounted if you pay a year in advance) pretty much for 3 shows only:  Star Trek Discovery, Star Trek Picard & Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.  Do I want to continue this?  I’m not sure.

But it’s only 4 bucks, I’m paid up thru next spring, and I love Star Trek.  Plus it’s nice having all the CBS shows available at my convenience.

The funny thing is, with everything there is to watch, I was curious to check out Apple TV+.  The app is on my Flex, with an offer for a 7 day free trial.  (After that, it’s $4.99 a month.)  But it stopped me from signing up; you’re required to have an itunes account or apple device and idon’t.  Their loss! 

Just as well, I suppose.  I’d almost forgotten about the free streaming service from Xfinity, Peacock Premium.  Now if I just had one of these cool George Jetson chairs…  


Friday, June 10, 2022

My niece Sophia and the mystery of my sister’s schoolhouse

A couple days ago, my sister Shawn sent me some pictures of my 17 year old niece Sophia and asked “What do you think?  We’ve been shopping around for a photographer for Sophia’s senior pics, but they’re asking $300 an hour.  We thought we’d try taking some ourselves, as other parents are doing the same.”

I told Shawn to save her money, her photos were beautiful and looked like they were taken by a professional.

As long as we’re here…  my niece is sitting in front of their 120+ year old schoolhouse at the bottom of their backyard.  It was Rogersville’s high school at the turn of the century, a one room schoolhouse with a second floor containing a gym of sorts.  An antique chalkboard still hangs up there. 

The mystery of it is that very little is known about the structure.  One of my sister’s coworkers, an amateur historian, is determined to unlock it’s secrets buried in time.  From the inside, it just looks like a large, well built shed.

When Shawn & her husband Jim bought their home 22+ years ago, they did so with the stipulation the owner got to keep this schoolhouse to use as storage (for his boat and tractor, and other junk). 

But my sister was convinced he’d someday sign it over to her, and he finally did.  Shawn wasted no time having it professionally blasted (first photo) and repainted just a couple weeks ago.  She just painted it’s front door, seen in that top photo.

When she showed me the photos, I said “I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is your schoolhouse is haunted.  The good news is, it’s haunted by it’s former school marm, a spinster who died at the ripe old age of 32 from rheumatic fever.”

“However, she likes the work you’ve been putting into the exterior.  Spirits don’t want to be forgotten.  They haunt us because they want to be remembered!”

A couple days later, I sent her the phony image below and said it was the results I got back after having her schoolhouse’s interior spectrascoped.  Shawn laughed and said she was sure Jim & Sophia would find it funny too.

Well!  I hope she takes me seriously about Sophia’s senior photos, at least.  Annoyed

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Painted rocks, orphans & more orphans: let’s have more of one, less of the other

Friday morning I was downstairs in the lobby of my apartment building, feeling a little frustrated as one of the other tenants was trying to engage me in what I considered a silly argument.  I just wanted to add some money to my laundry card.

(We have a laundry vending machine in the package delivery room off the lobby, where you can add money to your National Laundry card.) 

Anyway, Joel is a single man on my floor, he works from home.  (He likes to remind you of that every chance he gets too.)  He’s 53, never married.  He was waiting for a courier, and said my friend Lida was down there earlier, waiting for her mom to pick her up.  Joel said he wished he had a mom.  When I asked him what he meant by that, he said “I’m an orphan.” 

When I expressed sorrow and asked if he grew up in a children’s home, or with relatives or in a foster home, he said “It wasn’t like that at all.  I was raised by both my parents, but my dad died in 1995 and my mother died 7 years ago.  I’m an orphan now.”

I said “Um… I thought to be an orphan you had to lose both parents before the age of 18?”  He said “Untrue, and if I had my phone I’d prove it.  When you go back upstairs, google it.”  I said “I believe you, but I lost my own dad in 2001 and my mom in 2004.  I don’t consider myself an orphan.”  Joel said “I was an only child.  Were you?”   You got me there, Joel. 

(Strangely, the topic of orphans would come up again later.) 

Just then, my friend Lida breezed into the lobby.  I said “Hi Lida, I thought you left with your mom?”  Lida said “Doug, Doug!  I had to go back upstairs I forgot something!  Guess where I’m going today!”  I shrugged my shoulders.  She said “To the park, to plant some rocks!”  I made a confused face and she burst out laughing and grabbed my forearm with both her hands.  She said “Don’t worry I’ll explain!”

I’ve written about Lida before, I met her the first week I was here and we quickly became friends.  She’s 41 years old and cute as a button.  She has amblyopia (what some people refer to as lazy eye, her left one) and the mind of a second grader.  But she has a studio on the floor above mine, lives alone and takes care of herself nicely. 

She has to follow certain rules though, like not leaving the premises on her own or turning on her stove.  She has a microwave, electric kettle and George Foreman grill to do her cooking.  She works 4 days a week at Giant Eagle supermarket as a bagger. 

Lida went on to tell me that her & her mom were going to North Park to put painted rocks under various bushes and around the roots of trees. People who found them were free to admire them or take them home or plant them somewhere else.  Lida fished out a freezer bag of red stones from her Wizard of Oz tote and handed it to me.  She said “Can you guess what these are?”  I said “Um… strawberries?” 

She burst out laughing and said “No, try again!  They’re ladybugs!”  My heart wilted.

Later when I was talking to my friend Danielle, I shared the Lida story and added “I couldn’t help but notice Lida’s pants.  She was wearing those yoga pants that are like a second skin, with little white Snoopys all over them.  She has a really cute figure.  What if some shady character spotted her in the park and sexually assaulted her and got her pregnant?  I just saw Mastriano on the news this morning.”

If you don’t live in the state of Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano recently won the GOP candidates seat for the race for governor this November.  He’s a formidable character, the very definition of frightening right wing extremism.

The faces of good vs awful:  Josh Shapiro, our Democratic nominee on the left & Doug Mastriano on the right. 

Mastriano promises to ban ALL abortions in Pennsylvania if elected, even in cases of rape or incest.  “No exceptions!”

Getting back to my question, Danielle said “She’d be forced to have the baby.” I said “What if you were assaulted?  You mean to tell me Josh is going to sit there and watch his wife’s belly grow with her attacker’s baby for nine months?” 

Danielle said “I have the resources to go to Canada and get an abortion.  Lida will be expected to hand hers over to some nice Christian couple.” 

I said “And what if the baby has a lazy eye and is born a special needs baby like Lida?”  Danielle said “It would probably wind up in an orphanage.  We’ll probably see more of those springing up in the next 20 years.”

My friend is probably right.  And the Democrats will wind up fighting to get funding for them, while the Republcans tell us to take a hike.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Baked orange roughy, just like grandma used to make (well, someone’s grandma)

I know what you’re thinking.  “Doug, another fish blog so soon?”  I hear you, but this couldn’t be helped.  I went to the market yesterday for some boneless chicken thighs and saw Kuhn’s Ice Chest piled high with orange roughy, on sale for $7.99 a pound.

I asked the meat manager if that was a good deal, he said “Very good.  The regular price is $14.99 so you’re getting it half price.”   Well, not quite—but he’s right, still a good deal.

(By the way, if you’d like to visit that last fish post—where I sizzled flounder in olive oil, shredded parmesan & lemon juice, click here.  Forgive my boasting but it was the closest thing to restaurant quality I’ve ever cooked.)

Getting back to the orange roughy, I’ve read you shouldn’t enjoy more than two servings in one week when dining out because restaurants commonly use ‘farmed’ roughy, which may contain high levels of mercury.  It’s much healthier to buy & prepare “Wild Caught”.

(Both the sign above the fish and the back of this package specified wild caught, so I’m safe as houses.)  Now preheat that oven to 425F and let’s get cookin’!

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 9” square glass baking dish.            Add 8 ounces of orange roughy fillet. Drizzle 1/3 cup milk over everything.  (I went with 2%, but you can use whole, 1% or even skim.)The tasty topping mixture:  combine 1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup chopped onion & 1/3 cup chopped (grape) tomatoes.  Oh and add 1 teaspoon of crushed (minced) garlic.Pack it on top of those fillets, and bake in your 425F preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.  Done!  It smells delicious and look at this nice crust.A baked potato with sour cream & chives completes the dish, but the fish was so filling I wish I’d sided it with something lighter and green instead.  (I’ve got both broccoli & roasted brussel sprouts in my freezer too, darn it.) 

But I loved the crunch of onion and the acidic bite of tomato was just right.  No lemon juice needed here.       I enjoyed this while watching Adam’s Rib with Katherine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy.  It just had a sweet, old school taste that went well with a sweet, old school movie.