Missed Connection – Connected!

Exactly one month ago today, I wrote about a missed connection I had on the El.

Exactly one month later…

…Oh hell, you’ll never believe it. I hardly believe it. It’s too bizarre for words.

But I’ll try my best.

Today after work, I went up to Rogers Park (the far north side of Chicago) to help with the cover photo shoot for the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus’s new CD, “I Will Be Loved Tonight.”

My participation in this process is fairly minimal. While I do a lot of the layout and design work for the chorus in other areas, I’m not going to be working on this project. And that’s just fine with me. I have enough to do as it is.

However, the concept for the cover of the CD involved a shirtless man standing in a bathroom mirror, getting ready for a date. Simple enough. Certainly sexy.

And to accomplish this concept, a search went out for an appropriate bathroom that this provocative photo could be taken in. Ideally it had to be one with a pedestal sink and an old-fashioned type mirror. And enough room so that the photographer could take the photo.

I gave a few recommendations. While this may sound odd, and you might think I seem to have a knack for pointing out bathrooms, it’s not that at all. I just knew the concept they had in mind and knew of one that would suit the need.

So they set up the photo shoot and, since I am on the Marketing committee, and I recommended the locale, the chair of the committee asked me to come along to shoot some “background photos” for the publications I do work on; namely the member newsletter, subscriber newsletter and possibly for the website. No problem. I’ll be there.

So I arrive for the shoot, and others start to arrive as well.

In walks Steve, one of the models who I knew.

And with him was this really cute guy.

Of course at first, I looked at him curiously, and he did the same to me, as if we recognized each other but couldn’t figure out how or why.

“You look VERY familiar,” I said, when we were introduced.

“Yeah, I was thinking the same about you,” he replied. “I think I met you in the train station…”

It hit me… holy fucking shit. It was him!!!!!!

“Oh my God! Yes! I do remember!” (Duh!) “I’m Rick,” I said.

“I’m Chris,” he replied.

As it turns out, Chris is the one who is doing the layout of the CD cover. He was there to observe the shoot so he could know how to design the cover.

Ahhh and here’s the kicker…

He also works with a fellow blogger. (ahem… someone needs to clue me in on someone. 🙂

So we talked for a bit and it was all cool. I didn’t want to seem like some giddy kid or anything, but I couldn’t help but think how strange of a coincidence it all was.

And the photo shoot was pretty sexy. I can’t wait to show you the finished results. In the meantime, here’s a few shots that I took at the shoot itself.

Damn my crazy luck. Stay tuned. 🙂

That’s Chris. Cutie, isn’t he?

Chris, Steve (another cover model) and Rich.

One concept for the cover. Hot ain’t it? 🙂

The models posing for the back jacket of the CD.

Holy Halloween, Batman!

The high holy days have begun.

OK, I’m not a pagan, but it’s widely known in gay circles that Halloween is considered one of the most festive times of the year. If you’re gay. And you like to dress up.

Which I don’t.

I’ve never been into the whole costume… thing.

Oh sure, when I was a kid, I relished the idea. I couldn’t wait to put on those plastic-mask deals that looked like Popeye or Superman or some other cartoon character, with the eye holes so small you could barely see out of them and the mouth holes so tiny you nearly suffocated yourself. Fun times!

And when I was a kid, Trick-or-Treating was COOL. It was dark outside and we got to wander out amongst the other kids and freaks. Yeah it was a great time. People would jump out of the dark and scare us shitless and kids would be screaming all over the place. We’d tell scary stories and try to freak each other out.

The search was always on for the house that gave the best candy. Word would spread throughout the neighborhood. Snickers at 1406! Five Twizzlers at 2201! A FULL-SIZE Peanut Butter Cups at 1908! Of course, by the time you got to those houses, all the other kids had been there and they were all out. So it was SweetTarts and Dubble Bubble for the rest of us. Oh swell.

And each year, we couldn’t help but wonder what the creepy old lady three doors down would give us that year. One year she gave us five pennies. (Remember UNICEF boxes?) Yeah those were put to good use… not! Another year it was one tiny Tootsie Roll. Oh wow, thanks, glad you went all out this year, ya creepy old hag.

My favorite Halloween candy were the Smarties that fizzed. I can’t find them anymore, anywhere. I don’t even remember what they were called, but they weren’t Smarties. Oh I liked Smarties too, but the fizzy ones were my favorite. Next were cherry Twizzlers. Not the licorice flavored kind, either, ONLY cherry. And of course, anything chocolate. We’d have half the stuff gobbled up by the time we got home, so our parents couldn’t weed anything out that was “bad for us.” We knew better.

But as the years passed, the paranoia about Halloween set in, and the fun started to disappear. Reports of razor blades in apples started to come out. Then poisoned candies. Then people snatching children during the dark hours. And, of course, car accidents with children in dark clothing.

So the hours changed to daylight hours, parents had candy scanned at hospital X-ray rooms, and the selections dwindled down to a few handfuls of over-sugared junk.

And we got older. Trick-or-Treating just wasn’t fun anymore. If we wanted candy, we could ride our bikes to the store. Why bother putting on a stupid costume and walking around the neighborhood? That’s for little kids.

As a teenager, I had more fun handing out candy to little kids. They would come up to the door, so cute in their tiny costumes. But I felt bad for them, because the excitement of Halloween that I remembered had changed. It used to be fun to run around after dark like a hooligan. Now the sun shone bright and didn’t set until the hours for Trick-or-Treating were over. The adventure had gone out of Halloween. It just wasn’t fun anymore.

Today, as a gay man, I know that Halloween is popular because it gives the boys an excuse to dress up in the most outlandish outfits and try to outdo each other. Bars hold costume contests and give cash prizes. Drag queens flaunt their newest creations, from the beautiful to the sublime. And for those who dare to bare, you can catch some skin if you’re looking at just the right moments.

But I just can’t get into the dressing up thing. I like to consider myself creative-minded, but I just don’t have the energy, time or money to spend on a costume that I might wear only once.

So I go to Halloween parties, but as “The Boy Next Door” or “Your Co-Worker.” Or if there’s a theme, such as Superheros, I might go as “Clark Kent” and don a pair of old glasses. Simplicity is the key. OK so maybe I’m being boring, but hey, it’s my choice.

So Happy Halloween to you all. May your costumes be clever, your candy be razor-free, and your heels stay intact. I’ll be over here, enjoying my Snickers bar and Peanut Butter Cups.

Dear Google

en homage de Hot Toddy….

Dearest Google:

I love your search engine. I use it daily. Often. Constantly, even. I even like all your little doodad add-ons to my browser and I especially love the Google Toolbar. Great stuff. Keep up the good work.

I just don’t get the Gmail thing.

Everyone’s raving about it, saying how it is the best thing since sliced pumpernickel bread. I’ve tried Gmail. I have an account.

I don’t see what the big deal is.

You’re telling me that I can categorize stuff and sort Emails and do things I can’t do with Outlook or Eudora. Well that’s great, but I need to get some Emails sent to me first before I can actually do all that. Which means I have to transfer all my addresses to the account, hope they all translate, then set them all up again, write the obligatory “Hey I changed Email accounts” Email and then hope that everyone switches their Email address-on-file for me to correspond to it.

Sorry, I’m not gonna do it. It’s just another bother that I don’t want to deal with right now.

And now you give me 6 accounts to give to all my friends, as if to bring them “into the fold.” I really can’t do that. Sorry. (If you’re reading this, and you really want one of them, you can have them. But don’t expect me to give you the hard-sell spiel about how great it is. I just really don’t care that much.)

Don’t get me wrong, Google. There’s a lot of great stuff that you have put out recently. Hell, you even own Blogger. I can’t argue with that. But sometimes I think too much is too much. Revolutionizing Email? Great, wonderful, love the concept, but I’ll read it when it comes out in paperback. I’ve switched Email accounts so many times over the years that people started to ask me when the next switch was going to occur, as if they were expecting it. The fact that I’ve now had the same Email account for nearly 3 years is a record. I kind of like it. Familiarity is nice. Comforting, even.

So, Google, thank you for developing this wonderful new Email system that everyone is talking about. I applaud you for your efforts, and think you are doing a great job. And congrats on going public, I heard your stock prices went up $20 a share the other day. (Of course, did I buy into it? Nooooo…)

But just leave me be with my silly old-fashioned Email account whose name is linked to a company that doesn’t even exist anymore. If I need you, should I need you, I’ll let you know.


Snausages, Pup-peronis and Jerky Treats

Inspired by God’s Undies.

Before I had my cats, my family was a dog family.

When I was born, my mom and dad had a dog that they adopted right after they got married. His name was Peanut.

Peanut was a terrier mix, all black except for a white stripe down his chest. He was a small dog, extremely agile and active, and would tear around the backyard, or out the driveway gate if it was left open, which it rarely ever was. Peanut was incredibly loyal and loving. I remember many a time when I would be crying about something, and Peanut would be right there with a gentle lick and a wag of the tail.

Peanut was aptly named, because when my parents got him, they said he was so tiny that he resembled a peanut. In fact, my dad said, it was cold when they got him, so he carried him out of the shelter under his jacket. Of course, I can only envision this, as Peanut arrived in my parents’ house five years before I even existed.

He was my dad’s dog, no doubt. He was his buddy. Dad would take him to “Potty Park,” which was actually Southport Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Peanut would run free and wild through the open expanse of fields along the lakefront. I remember trips to “Potty Park” fondly. They were Sundy morning excursions, usually after Mass. We’d load up the station wagon and spend the afternoon at “Potty Park,” taking in the lakefront view and letting Peanut run free and enjoy the fresh air.

Peanut ate table scraps. Sure we tried to feed him Alpo, but he mostly turned his nose up at it. He loved his Jerky Treats though. Ate em like candy.

Peanut lived a long life. He was 16 years old when we finally put him to sleep. He was very sick, and probably should have been put down much earlier. But my sister, who was only 11 at the time, didn’t understand any of this, and wouldn’t let my father put him down. By then Peanut was living in the basement, and had lost control of many of his abilities. It was awful. I will never let that happen to an animal again, ever.

When Peanut died, I saw my dad cry for the first time. Ever. I’ll never forget it, and still remember it vividly. I thought we would never get another pet.

But then came Cubby.

Three years after Peanut died, my sister and I got the itch to have another dog. We bugged our parents about it incessantly. Finally, after hearing our pleas one too many times, we began our exploration. First we visited the Humane Society. There were only a few pups there, and most of them were of breeds that would grow to be huge dogs. We didn’t want a huge dog. So we kept looking.

So we searched the newspaper. There we found an ad for Cocker Mix puppies. (The mix was with a Poodle. They were Cockapoos.) We called and visited the breeder. There, in the front yard of their home, was a huge cage with five black cocker mix puppies. They were absolutely adorable. I picked out one and my sister picked up another. They were tiny. Wriggly. Cute as all get-out. And the puppy breath was to die for. My puppy was all black except for a very faint white chest, just like Peanut. My sister’s puppy was black with white paws. We chose my puppy.
We had nothing to take him home in, since we didn’t expect to take a puppy home right away. So we went home, got a box out of the basement, got an old (clean) rug, and then went to the pet store and got some supplies. Food, collar, leash, toys. And we went to get the puppy.

The first day home, the puppy immediately took a liking to my dad. And his toes. And his shoes. He was so tiny, he fit (and slept) in my dad’s old Army hat. We have pictures of that somewhere.
I named Cubby. We sat in our living room and had a family meeting on what to name him. Oreo was close to being a winner. But then I saw a Chicago Cubs newsletter in my dad’s magazine rack and I said, matter-of-factly, “How about ‘Cubby?'” The discussion was over.

Cubby was an absolute joy. Just the sweetest, most lovable dog I have ever known. He would cry when we would leave and go absolutely insane when we came home. I loved when we would pull into the driveway and his little head would appear between the drapes in the living room. He’d yelp and screech and run to the door and run circles around us when we’d open the door. What a way to be greeted home.

We had so many fun games that we played with Cubby. We taught him to crawl across the room, roll over, and turn a circle. That was probably the funniest of all. You would hold a treat high in the air, and by golly, the dog would spin around in a circle to catch the treat. He was such an acrobat.

Cubby got first place in Obedience School. But you’d never know it the way he’d selectively listen to you when you told him to come here, or get off the sofa. But nobody ever minded. He was so darn cute, you didn’t care.

His favorite treats were Pup-peronis. You could just say the word “Pup-peroni” and he would flip out. Other words like “Go for a walk?” and “Go for a ride?” would also induce a frenzied reaction.

He loved snow, and would play “Snowplow” all the time. His fur was so long and kinky that he would just be encased in snow on really snowy days. It would take a good dry towel to get him clean again.

We got Cubby in the summer of 1986. I was 15 years old.

I moved out in 1997. I was 26. Cubby was 11.

In 1999, Cubby started to show signs of age. His scruff started to show gray. He wasn’t so limber anymore. He was still lovable and sweet, but his eyes were gray. He could still see, but not as well anymore. He would still greet you at the door with a wagging tail and an occasional jump for joy, but then he would sleep and sleep.

In late 1999, Cubby started to have mild seizures. This worried my mom and dad, who took him the vet. She declared that he was just getting old, and if they worsened, they should consider putting him down.

In May of 2000, Cubby had a terrible seizure during the night. My mom called my sister, who still lived in Kenosha, over to the house. The brought him down to the vet in the morning, and all stood by him and petted him gently as they administered the shot. In moments, Cubby was gone.

Dad called me with the news. He was sobbing. I never heard him cry so hard– not even when his own mother died.

Mom and Dad thought about getting another dog, but they quickly decided they couldn’t go through the pain of losing another one. And in their own advanced ages, they just couldn’t keep up with one anymore. So Cubby was the last.

Cubby was an extremely special dog. Every time I go home, I expect to see him bounding around a corner or jumping on the sofa. I think of him often, and still have his picture at work at my desk.

I love my cats. They are a joy, and they are my companions. But there is something so wonderful and special about a family dog. And my family had two of the most wonderful dogs I have ever known. I’m not exactly sure why I felt the need to share this with you, but I’m glad I did. They were a part of my life, and will always be.

And so, they should be a part of this blog.

Peanut in December of 1968, two years before I was born.

Cubby with his favorite toy

Cubby giving me a “Kissy”

The Shit (Eating Grin) Hits the Fan

I knew it couldn’t last.

In one week, my spirits go from high to low. I went on and on about this cute boy, the great date we had, and how great I felt about it.

Well today I feel… well… like shit.

I hadn’t talked to him in the last few days. In fact, I’d tried calling him one day but he didn’t answer. No big deal. I figured he was busy, or didn’t have his phone with him, or what have you. Besides, it’s not like I was talking to him every day. I wasn’t. It was only one date. No expectations or anything.

This morning one of my friends sends an Email out to a group of us, inviting us to his place for drinks before we hit the bars. I respond and say I’ll be there. The boy was on the list, so I figured I’d see him tonight.

I called him and got him on the phone. He said he was getting ready to go to the auditions for solos for the Chorus show, which I was getting ready to do as well. I told him I’d see him there.

Cut to the auditions. He shows up, we talk a bit and decide to carpool to our friend’s house. He’d stop by to pick me up.

7:30 rolls around. No call from him.

8:00 – nothing.

8:15 – I call him, figuring maybe he took a nap and overslept. I leave a message on his voice mail.

8:30 – I get a call from him. I hear laughter and music in the background.

He forgot about me.

Yep, that’s right, plain forgot about me. Never mind that it was now an hour past when we were supposed to arrive. Never mind that we only talked about it less than 3 hours earlier. Never mind that he said he’d call me before he picked me up. He just plain forgot about me.

Now I can handle taking things slow. I can handle dating someone who’s not ready to commit to anything and just casually dating. I want the same thing right now. I don’t want to jump into anything serious or make any huge plans with someone that I’ve only been on one date with.

All I want is honesty. I demand it. I want someone to think about me once in a while and at least say “hey.” And if you aren’t interested, or have someone else on your mind, tell me. Don’t drag me along and lead me on. Don’t make me think that something is what it really isn’t, and have me find out the hard way that I was wrong, all along.

By just plain forgetting about me, and not even thinking about me until (as I found out later) he had been at the party for nearly an hour; when my friends kept saying “Hmm, I wonder where Rick is… he’s usually late but this is unusual” to give him a CLUE that something was amiss, only to have him NOT GET THE CLUE; by having him call me and say how sorry he was, and then to say “I’d come and get you, but I’d never find parking again…”

That, folks, is just plain rude and just plain hurtful.

Whereas one week ago I felt like I was on top of the world, and I might just have a chance with dating again, not even to mention romance, in one short, fleeting moment, I felt like the dirt on the bottom of someone’s shoe. It hurt.

Now you may think I’m a fool, or you may think I was incredibly brave, but instead of deciding to stay at home and mope, I went to that party. I called a goddamn cab and went. I wasn’t going to let this little twit ruin my night.

But it was hard. And I just couldn’t look him in the eye. If he didn’t get the clue that I was disappointed with him, then he wasn’t worth dating in the first place.

I also got the feeling that he had come with another guy from the Chorus, but I couldn’t be 100% certain. They seemed to be overly chatty, as if they had maybe also been on a date or gotten to know each other fairly well as of late. Under normal circumstances, I may not have read into that as such, but considering what happened this evening, I couldn’t help but notice it.

So my guards were up, I was not feeling festive, and I was not having a good time. We hung around my friend’s place for a while and then headed to the bar. It was packed, and I was not in the mood for a crowd. And to add insult to injury, during one of my “love laps,” I saw the last guy I dated, who I really did NOT want to see tonight.

I left. I had had enough.

And now, here I am.

I’ve been through a lot of bullshit in my life. I have dated some great guys and some real assholes. Nothing ever seems to work out for me. I am sick and tired of getting my hopes up, only to have them squashed to tiny little bits. My heart cannot take any more of these games. I don’t want to go through the rest of my life being bitter and jaded by my life experiences, but the way things are going, I am headed in the direction. I don’t want to go there. I want to figure out how I can change the course of my destiny and find the happiness that I KNOW I DESERVE. How long will it take? I don’t know. But I am tired of shedding tears and mending my broken heart. Something has to give.