Friday, October 10, 2014

I really wanted to be early to work this morning...

I really wanted to be early to work this morning... but then the sky exploded.

Since moving to the city, I've learned to love streetlights.
... and one more from right outside my office on the Kurf├╝rstendamm.
Making me even later, Mimi decided to stop off and visit with some friends. 
Actually Mimi has quite a crush on this big fella.
Truth be told, so do I.

When Mimi gets tired of enjoying the Berlin streets with me,
I think it will be a guy just like this...
or at least a close relative.
I mean, look at that behind... Supergeil!
Oh well, I was only 20 minutes early this morning,
not the hour that I had hoped for. 
As the saying goes, "the journey is the reward".

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Casey Kasem, the creator and voice of the long-running radio show "American Top 40" has died... another mentor of a generation of radio jocks who changed the way we listened to music. 

People ask me why I wanted to go into radio way back when. Perhaps it was the idea of living like Dr. Johnny Fever or any one of the other crazy folks from WKRP in Cinncinatti.

But most likely it was deeper than that. Guys like Casey Kasem reached into our everyday lives and taught us so much.

The man who taught American kids to count to 40... Backwards. 

Every Sunday morning at 10:00 my local station would play the four hour countdown of the most popular hits on American charts that week. "Counting down the hits from coast to coast". Beyond playing the music, he always weaved a bit of a story between the songs. Never was it some tidbit about which musician was sleeping with whom - he was more gentle and classy than that - but more of an informational feeling. 

I'll never forget the day he taught me (ahem, and of course anyone else listening... but it felt like he was talking to me) about some Police lyrics. In the song "Wrapped Around Your Finger", there is a phrase which was always confusing; 'You consider me the young apprentice, caught between the Scylla and Charybdis'. That sunny Sunday morning Casey explained that was a "fancy-schmancy" way of saying "between a rock and a hard place". Of course he gave me more of the story; something to do with Greeky mythology and a narrow passage of sea if I remember correctly.

I also enjoyed the “long-distance dedications,”, even if it was just to put a smile on my face while hearing this soppy stuff. In this schmaltzy segment Casey would read a tearjerker letter from a sad, lovelorn soul hoping to reconnect with another person far away by dedicating a favorite song. Lovesick stuff generally, but as a former boss of mine would say, "It is certainly shit, but it is good radio shit".

Read more here:

His distinctive voice, the feeling that he was taking just to us, the smile that came through the microphone... years before I knew what he looked like, in my mind's eye, he was beautiful. He had me at number 40.

Now that I look back I realize that it wasn't so much the music which kept me listening; it was Casey. It was the comforting velvet warmth in his voice, and genuine interest in the charts and pop music he played which made me a life-long fan.

Radio was better for having known you, Casey. Keep reaching for those stars.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Do you remember the day you chose to be straight?

Do you remember the day you chose to be straight?

No, I suppose that you don't.

Just like I don't remember the day I chose to be a lesbian.

The reason?
Because we didn't choose.
Simple as that.

However, I do remember the day I realised that I was different, also the day I understood that I liked girls the same way all my friends liked boys, and I will never forget the day it was hammered home that all of these feelings were best kept under wraps... each one of these days happened before my 7th birthday.

Today I was in a friendly conversation with an older man who lives in my neighborhood. We wave on sight, and if we are near to each other we take a few moments out for a bit of conversation. 

We were talking about the hot weather and how Berlin really doesn't see so much of this kind of heat. We talked about our last towns... his in Bavaria, and mine in Kansas. He said that he missed snow, and I said that I missed exciting weather (I have a thing about thunderstorms, and European weather just doesn't have enough to suit me). 

After this he asked the question which so many come to eventually, "Why did you come to Berlin?". 

Since it has always been important for me to be open about these things, I gave him my stock answer, "I fell in love with a wonderful lady Berliner". 

Like many people who do not know me well, he was taken aback. His gaze intensified as the wheels started turning. After all had been put to rights in his brain, he popped out with one of the more creative responses I've heard, "Soon you will realise that you want children, and another woman cannot give you this; then you will choose a nice man and settle down". 

You need to know that I'm 46 years old, which puts me out of the child-bearing years... but to an octagenarian, I'm just one of those "kids", I'm sure.

In the end his assertion that I would change my mind later is just a variation on the "you're just in a phase", idea... which has always bugged me.

I'm so sick and tired of the old ideas that homosexuality is a phase, a choice, and/or a sickness which can be cured. The same goes for the idea of 'gay recruiting'. If you are really straight... do you think you can be 'turned' gay?

Were heterosexuals born that way, or did they choose it? I have been known to ask them what they think. Often they are agasp! "Boh! Well, I never chose to be straight, I am just this way". Why should my answer be any different?

If it were simply a matter of conditioning, then everyone would be straight. Mom and Pop are just the beginning.Try and imagine the world in topsy-turvey mode. Imagine every TV show, book, magazine and movie tells you that you should be GAY. You know you aren't, you know that you won't be happy that way... but everyone and everything is telling you that is your path. How would you handle it?

All of this conditioning, all of this peer pressure to be straight, every indication around you telling you to be one way... yet you are most decidedly headed in a different direction. This is what it is like to grow up homosexual in a heterosexual environment.

Turns out there is substantial evidence of genetic and prenatal components involved in sexual orientation, not to mention the hundreds of species which exhibit same-sex behaviors. In the end it has been proven time and again that a combination of genetic, hormonal and social factors determine sexual orientation and that the only "choice" made by people like me is whether to ignore the way we are and conform to society's expectations; or to live our lives as we feel most comfortable.

Rather than try to explain all of these factors to this nice man who was still wearing his customary smile, I told him that with two women in the relationship, there are twice as many possibilities for babies... if we were so inclined. We laughed it off, and went on to discuss his grandchildren who had come for a visit on the previous long weekend.

To my mind, being gay is no more of a "choice" than being left-handed and has many similarities.  

What do you think?
What day did you choose your sexual preferences?

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's Official! June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month in America.

American President Barack Obama has taken an inclusive move forward by releasing a proclamation declaring June to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.

I've watched two administrations in the 80's and early 90's which managed to blame us AND ignore us during an epidemic, then in the middle 90's when a supposedly gay-inclusive president signed both Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), and Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA). On to the 2000's as another administration called for a Constitutional amendment denying human rights for gays. 

It is nice to feel that in the White House sits a man who acknowledges and understands our humanity and basic civil rights.

Perhaps I should take a moment to reflect on what has just happened. Consider how unlikely this event would have been even five or ten years ago. It would have seemed like some kind of science fiction theme fifteen or twenty years ago, Gene Roddenberry could have written this. 

Look back and consider how much progress we have made over the last few years with the fall of DADT, the steady march of marriage equality, immigration benefits, federal changes in transgender related policy regarding gender marker changes, the striking down of DOMA, as well as the recent rulings around veteran's benefits for same-sex spouses.

Now the so-called Leader of the Free World has taken this step in the most public way possible. He has asserted that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals are full and equal human beings who are worthy of dignity, respect, and the full protection of the law.

Once again I am very proud of President Barack Obama. I am also incredibly proud of my gay, lesbian and trans brothers & sisters. So many have stood up and proclaimed that they won't take second-class citizen status any more, and thankfully people are listening. 

Here is his statement in full.
As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect -- our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.

Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits -- from immigration benefits to military family benefits -- to legally married same-sex couples.

My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights. Here at home, we have strengthened laws against violence toward LGBT Americans, taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals. Despite this progress, LGBT workers in too many States can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And in the years ahead, we will remain dedicated to addressing health disparities within the LGBT community by implementing the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy -- which focuses on improving care while decreasing HIV transmission rates among communities most at risk.

Our commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community extends far beyond our borders. In many places around the globe, LGBT people face persecution, arrest, or even state-sponsored execution. This is unacceptable. The United States calls on every nation to join us in defending the universal human rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example, let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity -- because if hearts and minds continue to change over time, laws will too.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

Want to read a bit of my "Why I came to Berlin" story?
Here is a blogpost which has most of the 411.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

And Still I Rise

Because I loved her
Because she was my spiritual Mother
Because she opened my eyes to oppression and how to peacefully resist it
Because she showed me what a human being can overcome
Because she opened the door for me to better understand humankind
Because I love her books, her voice, her philosophy, and her spirit...

For all these reasons and so many more; I will mourn Maya Angelou.
I am saddened by her passing, but her words dance still in my heart.

Still I Rise
Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
For the tiny minority still reading, here are some favorite quotes:
  • Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.
  • If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.
  • There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story.
  • I do not trust people who don't love themselves and yet tell me, 'I love you.' There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.
  • We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
  • You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
  • My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
  • I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
  • I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass.
  • The love of the family, the love of the person can heal. It heals the scars left by a larger society. A massive, powerful society.
  • Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.
  • Nothing will work unless you do.
  • It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
  • I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
  • Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

You don't have to be a brain to be boss, just an Asshole.

When the Body was First Made,
All Its Parts Wanted to be Boss... 

THE BRAIN SAID : Since I control everything and do all the work I should be boss. 

THE FEET SAID: Since I carry man where he wants to go and get him to do what the Brain wants, I should be boss. 

THE HANDS SAID: Since I must do all the work and earn all the money to keep all the rest of you going, I should be boss. 

THE EYES SAID: Since I must look out for all of you and tell you where danger lurks, I should be boss. 

And so it went with the Heart, the Ears, and the Lungs. 

Finally the Asshole spoke up and demanded that he be boss. All the other parts laughed and laughed at the idea of an asshole being boss. 

The Asshole was so angered that he blocked himself off and refused to function. Soon the Brain was feverish, the Eyes crossed and ached, the Feet were too weak to walk, the Hands hung limply at his side, the Heart and Lungs struggled to keep going. 

All pleaded with the Brain to relent and let the Asshole be boss, and so it happened. All parts did the work and the Asshole just bossed and passed out a lot of shit. 

MORAL: You don't have to be a brain to be boss, just an Asshole.

Years ago I saw this text on a poster in Spencer's Gifts (ya'll Americans remember Spencer's, don't ya?). Every once in a while it pops into my head in daily life. It is oh. so. true.
P.S. This isn't about my boss, just about anyone who is in control simply because they are an asshole.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Because sometimes you just need
a little celebration!

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lady B

This building (and in particular, this lobby) is one of my favorite places in the whole world. Unfortunately the powers that be try their very best to keep me out. 

"Lady B" was my first urbex* experience. Sadly enough, it seems to be one of the best in Europe. They say when you start from the top... the only place to go is down.

*Definition of urbex = Urban exploration is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. 
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Monday, March 17, 2014

I Have Anger Issues About Fred Phelps

It is not actually in my nature to hate people. In general I try to find at least one redeeming quality about a person, and hang on to that. But a huge exception in my life has been hate monger Fred Phelps and his freaky lawyer family. 

Recently Fred's estranged son has let the word out that his father is on his deathbed and has been recently excommunicated from the family church. Such lovely news which has stirred some interesting thoughts in my head of late... mainly how I will celebrate his being wiped from the earth. 

Hate isn’t always simply an emotion or some abstract state of mind. In my reckoning, hate even has an address. In this case, it resides at 3701 SW12th Street in Topeka, Kansas, where it lives with the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) community and its leader, the Reverend Fred Phelps who, along with his (mostly family) congregation, has made headlines around the world for hostile public declarations and incendiary protests against people and causes he considers to be sinful in the eyes of God.

These people have tried my patience in the name of abusing free speech since the late 80's. He first came into my world as he picketed the funerals of friends of mine who were victims of AIDS. His scary group is from Topeka, Kansas and I was living in Wichita, just two hours away... So I was an early witness to his special brand of ape shit crazy. 

In the late 80's and early 90's the gay men who had been smart enough to leave Wichita for gayer pastures were coming home to die. Unknowingly they were the first warriors in the AIDS Crisis. 

After coming back to the homeland with this terrible disease which no one seemed to understand - and Ronnie Regan wouldn't even acknowledge - many of them were shunned by their families and the local hospice care wouldn't even take them in. A group attached to one of the local gay churches started a hospice house and I volunteered. I answered phones, brought food, and gave general assistance to the medical staff who would come by periodically. 

These men were dropping like flies, with most of the scant research money available going to finding easier ways to diagnose and prevent the disease rather than treat it, a diagnosis of HIV-AIDS was a quick death sentence. Many didn't last more than six months after diagnosis. 

I went to more funerals than I care to talk about. Sweet young men taken out in the prime of their lives... and then there was the Phelps clan to remind me again of how many people actually hated us just for being ourselves.  

During those times I took my own vengeance in small ways, some of them we won't talk about here. One moment of inspirational genius came to me in the back pages of the local gay and lesbian magazine. Free samples of mfm porn sent to your home! ;) I even went to the library to get their address (this was a long time before the Internet, kiddies). The irony of the Phelps compound's postal code starting with 666 was not lost on me. 

In those days it was just the gays... Gage City Park in Topeka had been known as a place for gays and lesbians to be together outside of the bars - OK, and some cruising, of course. Phelps and his 13 kids had been picketing that park for years. This hit me personally. When I was underage, I would spend a lot of time hanging out in Wichita's "gay park". It was one place that my friends and I could just be ourselves. I remember very well reading about the picketing in Gage Park and thinking that if the Phelps brand of crazy came near my Oak Park, I could not be responsible for my actions.

But of course they didn't really receive media attention until their protests at Matthew Shepard's funeral. Matthew was the homosexual college student from Laramie, Wyoming who was tortured, beaten and left for dead on a fenceline in rural Wyoming. His death sparked local and national hate crime legislation, but it also brought the Phelps family into the spotlight as the Phelps children picketed Matthew's funeral next to adults holding signs which proclaimed "Thank GOD for AIDS" and other lovely epitaths.  

Since that time they've become infamous for their special brand of crazy protests. Saying that America is doomed, that the wars are GOD's wrath for America's increased acceptance of homosexuals, picketing the funerals of anyone who seems to support gay rights, and yes, even the Jewish community is a target for these silly assholes.

One must remember that all of this seems to have been simply a business to Fred and his family of lawyers and paralegals who used their pretend family church of hate to sue anyone who obstructed their right to free speech.  They twisted the law to their own financial benefit in more ways than can be counted. They were the thorn in the side of the legal world in Topeka and Kansas, spreading into the federal realm as well. It seemed that their modus operandi was to sue a person or a company in the hopes that they would just settle... and many did. 

Although he was eventually disbarred from the legal profession, he caused lots of trouble along the way. Fred even sued a local legal university insisting that it admit his children so that they could study law... on the basis that they were a minority because of his civil rights movement. They sued Sears for $50,000 because of a late TV delivery (they lost). They sued a court reporter who they insisted came late with an important document.  Religion and Christianity had nothing to do with their lawsuit business, it was just a way to finance their own brand of hate.

A FABULOUS moment for the gays was when a house across the street from the WBC compound was taken over and painted with rainbow colors... The Equality House was born. Ah... a constant rainbow presense in their lives, I hope they enjoy it.  

I've had to evaluate how I feel about all of this. Since the story has broken about him being on his death bed I've had mixed emotions. The first one was to picket his damn funeral and dance with gay glee on his grave. OK, so that probably won't happen. I understand that I certainly wouldn't be alone. Think about it, how sad is your life when hordes of people are celebrating your impending death? 

My next thought is that I hope he rots in hell. Funny statement from an Atheist. But if there really is a God and a heaven and hell, I hope this guy gets everything which is coming to him. If NOTHING else, that whole "taking the Lord's name in vain" stuff should get him in hot water. 

In the end what do I really feel? Relief. 
Soon this appaling excuse for a man will be in the ground. 
Also hope that his legacy will simply wither away to nothing now that the figurehead of the family is gone. 

Something else niggling around in my head is the interesting side note that Fred Phelps was excommunicated from his own church in August of 2013, moved into a different house and placed on a suicide watch. Right now I am wondering why. What could he have done to get kicked out? Maybe in the end he finally admitted that the base of his disgusting homophobia is rooted deeply in his own homosexual feelings.

NKP - Never Know Peace Fred Phelps. I hope your hate dies with you. I know that I will breathe easier knowing that you no longer walk this same earth.

Edit 20 March, 2014

Phelps has died. While it pains me to say it, I am happy that this sad little man who has spread hate in so many ways... is worm food. My prediction; the family he leaves behind which has been steeped in hate, will turn on each other. The "church" will change direction. They will go another way in order to remain tax free and continue to use the law to their benefit. His daughter who was the most vocal other than Fred, has already been pushed aside and several male members have taken over. Hopefully they decide to stop spreading their hate so widely and just turn everything within and let it stay there. NKP Fred Phelps.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Douglas Adams was absolutely right...

“I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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