Spring Break

Crabapple Blossoms closeupSpring is here, and things are once again getting hectic in the life of your friendly neighborhood RcktMan.  So I’m going to be taking an indefinite “Spring Break” from the blog until things die down a bit.  Of course, if something life-changing happens, you’ll hear from me… but at least I don’t have to pull the rest of the teeth out of my mouth just to come up with a post to make sure you don’t think I’ve jumped off of a cliff or anything.  That is, if I haven’t actually jumped off of a cliff.  Which I wouldn’t. 

You get what I mean.

Anyway… I’ll be around, reading blogs as often as I can. 

BTW if you live in the Chicago area or are traveling here in mid-April, make sure you get tickets for CGMC’s Sidetrack V: Sidetrack With A Twist!  I don’t have any big solos or numbers in the show or anything, but it’s going to be a really great show, and I’d love it if you could come and see it.

Happy Spring, everyone!

The beauty of Ugly

America Ferrera as “Ugly Betty”I have a new favorite TV show. Ugly Betty.

I’ve been entranced by this campy TV jewel ever since it started. Sure, the one-liners are saucy and the sets are completely over-the-top and the costumes are downright stunning. Anyone can see that right from the start.

But there’s something about this show that tugs at the very strings of my cold cold heart every time I watch it. And the effect it’s having on everyone else around me is nothing short of inspiring.

This past weekend I drove up to Kenosha to visit my mom and to go to my sister’s house for dinner and to celebrate her and her husband’s birthdays, which were just last week.

One of the great things about spending time with my mom is that we never have a shortage of things to talk about. If it isn’t the sad state of affairs in Washington, it’s about “The Shows.” So on the way to Round Lake from Kenosha, we got around to talking about our favorite TV shows: Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty.

When Mom and I talk about “The Shows,” I am often reminded of going to my Grandma’s place in Antioch when I was a kid.  While my sister and I would play in the living room or in the spare bedroom, Mom and Grandma would sit in the kitchen over cups of coffee and discuss the latest goings-on in Salem on “Days of Our Lives” and Bay City on “Another World.”  I used to wonder why they were so fascinated with these TV shows all the time.

As I grew older and started to watch the “Soaps,” I understood.  Suddenly I was talking to Mom and Dad about “The Shows” during dinner, at bedtime, or whenever we had a free moment.  As time went on, and some of our favorite shows were cancelled, we stopped watching the “Soaps,” and turned our attention to some of the better shows on nighttime TV.

When Ugly Betty started, I distinctly remember my mom saying she couldn’t get into the show. “It’s too weird,” she said. “Too flashy… too different.  I just don’t get it.” I remember her saying such things about Moulin Rouge when she saw it on DVD, so I figured the fast pace, the odd camera angles and the zippy timing of the show was too much for her.  Plus, I figured the show was a bit “too gay” for her.  It is, after all, about the gayest show on TV– EVER.

A couple of months ago, we were discussing “The Shows” as we often do, and she suddenly blurted out, “And that Ugly Betty! I LOVE that show!” I was awestruck. I had no idea she watched it, let alone liked it. “Really!?” I said. “I love it too! It’s so much fun and it has such a great heart to it.” “That’s exactly why I like it,” my mom said. I was beaming from across the telephone line.

So on our way to my sister’s this weekend, we found ourselves discussing last Thursday’s episode, in which Marc, the conniving assistant to the fabulously bitchy Wilhemena Slater (played with absolute brilliance by the gorgeous Vanessa Williams) convinced Betty to play his girlfriend so he could continue to dupe his mother into believing he’s not gay. Which, when you consider the scenario from any angle, seems absolutely preposterous: Marc is the gayest character on TV… EVER. Anyone who can’t tell that is as blind as a bat and then some.

And to top it all off, his mom is played by Patti LuPone. HELLO!?

But this is fiction, and campy fiction at that.

In the episode, (and if you haven’t seen it yet, you might just want to skip this part) Marc ends up at Betty’s house for dinner with his Mom, Betty’s dad, Ignacio, and her sister, Hilda.  The night is not going very well at all, and Betty pulls Marc aside and tries to convince him that he must tell his mom that he is gay, once and for all.  Marc explains to Betty that his mom is nothing like her family.  She would never understand, and would be completely crushed.  Betty tells Marc that he has to try– if anything for his sake alone.  Marc refuses.

Later in the evening, Betty’s nephew Justin comes home and  joins the “festivities.”  And if you know about Justin, you know how he is.  One of the greatest things about this show is how it portrays this very important character.  Justin exhibits every possible stereotypical trait of a gay boy, but the family never, EVER makes light of it.  They accept and love Justin for who he is and how he is, unconditionally, and if anyone tries to change him, they fight for him, saying that to change him would be to take away the things he loves in life.  What a wonderful, and inspiring way to portray such a vital character in the eyes of the general American public.

At the end of the evening, Marc tries to come out to his mother but instead says he is breaking up with Betty.  His mom replies “Thank GOD!” to which Marc asks why she says that, when Betty’s family has been nothing but nice to them.  After she disparages each member of Betty’s family, she starts in on Justin, calling him “swishy.”  Marc has had enough– he tells her to shut up, and tells her “You want to talk about swishy?  Open your eyes, mom, and look at your own swishy son.”

She insists he is confused, and Marc says if she wants to get to know him, she has to know the real Marc.  To which she responds “If this is the life you’ve chosen, I have no interest in knowing the real you,” and leaves.

As we discussed this episode in the car, the first words out of my Mom’s mouth were, “I felt so bad for Marc. How could his mother treat him that way? What an awful way to treat your own son.”

If I wasn’t driving, I would have given her a huge hug and a big wet kiss.

And in the next breath, she said “I hope a lot of people saw that episode and realized that is NOT the way a parent should deal with their kids when they come out to them. I mean, she’s going off on Justin being ‘swishy’ and she can’t even see that her own son is as swishy as Justin? She’s blind as a bat.”

My mom gets it. I guess I never really noticed this about her before… but she truly does get it. She understands what it means to a child to hear the words “I love you” from a parent and know that he or she means it, completely.  She knows that a parent’s love is unconditional, and that means any and all conditions DO NOT EXIST.  A parent’s love knows no bounds.  And I know that my mom’s love is equal to that love.

Ugly Betty, as campy and as crazy as it can be, is showing the world that each of us has beauty in our own special ways. Whether you’re straight, gay, transsexual, gorgeous, homely, thin, fat, nerdy, slutty, black, white, latino, pretty or ugly, we each have a beauty that transcends what others may see.  And each of us comes from somewhere– no matter how good or how bad that place is.   The important thing is that we understand that about each other, and accept the fact that everyone is different.

Ugly is the new beautiful.  Pass it on.

The kids are alright

Pippin and ScreechUnless you’ve been living in a vaccuum, you’ve heard about the huge pet food recall that has made hundreds of pets sick throughout North America, with 10 pets that have died of renal failure.

I’m happy to report that Pippin and Screech are alive and well. Their food, Purina One, is thankfully not affected by the recall whatsoever. And no, this is not a commercial– it’s just me being eternally grateful I switched to this brand, because I used to feed them one of the affected brands.

If this is the first you’ve heard about the recall, and you are a pet owner, please visit the Menu Foods website for a list of brands that are affected. The recall affects mostly wet foods, particularly “cuts and gravy” style foods in pouches and cans. So if you feed your pets dry food, you are most likely safe. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I don’t know what I’d do if I lost these guys to something like this. They’re my babies… my kids. I’m so thankful they’re alright.

The Elusive Shut-Eye

Sleep and I have never been friends.

From as far back as I can remember, I was up late– later than most kids I knew growing up. I know that doctors have always said that 8 hours of sleep is essential to good living, but if I could average out all the hours I have slept in my lifetime to the number of days I have lived on this planet, I have probably slept about 5 hours at most per night.

I hate to blame my family for this, but they do harbor some of it. Mom always worked nights, so she wouldn’t even leave to go to work until after 10:00 PM. And Dad always watched TV until the wee hours of the morning before finally getting his necessary 5 hours or so of sleep.

As my parents grew older, they stayed up later. And since they both retired while I still lived at home; and I lived at home until I was 26 years old; the pattern got even worse.

So I, too, never got enough sleep, and became the Night Owl I am today.

So what keeps me up, now that I live on my own? Distractions. My mind begins to race and wander from this to that to the other thing. I either find myself in the kitchen, whipping up a late night snack (which I know I shouldn’t be doing, but I do it anyway); or I plant myself in front of the TV to knock off a few recorded shows from my DVR; or I sit in front of the computer and crank out a blog post at 4 in the morning. All of these things could– and probably should– be done at much earlier times in the day, but for some reason I find myself compelled to accomplish them when the rest of the world is asleep.

And when I don’t have anything to accomplish, other things get in the way. Sometimes it’s the cats being especially rambunctious. Sometimes it’s the weather– a howling wind or a violent thunderstorm can keep me awake for hours. Sometimes it’s airplanes flying overhead, since my neighborhood is direcly under a flight traffic area for O’Hare Airport. Sometimes it’s the moon. Sometimes it’s my alarm clock. And sometimes I’m just plain not tired at all.

I have sleep aids, and I use them on occasion in small doses– and they work. But when it gets to be this late, it’s TOO late to take them.

So what do you do to avoid being an insomniac, if you have ever been in this situation before? What helps you relax and shut out the world so you can get to sleep at night? And if you take sleep aids (I take Lunesta), which ones do you take, and how do they work for you?

The sweetest thing

About 4 hours into my shift at work on Thursday I had to leave for a dentist appointment.  The dentist’s office is only a few blocks from work, so I just walk there and take the time as my lunch break.  No big deal.

I got on the elevator, which had a few people on it already.  It stopped a couple floors below mine to allow one of the younger partners in the firm on.  He was dressed simply in a black turtleneck and khakis, with his Treo in hand.  He didn’t say a word, and started pecking at the Treo as we descended in silence to the first floor.

As the elevator opened to the lobby, everyone filed out and the partner stayed back, letting everyone else go before him.  I said hi to someone I knew waiting to get on,  and the partner exited after me.

As we rounded the corner, I saw an attractive woman with two adorable little girls.  They looked up at the partner behind me, and their eyes grew as big as saucers and their faces lit up brighter than sunshine.  They shrieked “PAPA!” with all the might their tiny little voices could muster and began jumping up and down; then ran up to him and gave him an enormous hug.

My paternal instincts kicked in 100 fold.  For a moment I wondered what it must feel like to have these tiny little beings– more a part of me than anything else in this world– showering me with such unconditional love.

It absolutely must be the sweetest thing in the world.