Seven-Year Blogoversary (For Real)

Back in March, I wrote a nice little post about how I was celebrating my Seven-Year-Blogoversary.  I wrote it, checked it, and posted it.  I even got a few comments.

And then I did something I thought was silly at the time– I checked back on my blog to the very first post, and something occurred to me.

I was wrong.  My Blogoversary wasn’t until July.

Oops!

Down came the post, and into the drafts folder (with the hundred or so other drafts I either started and never finished, or wrote and thought were not good enough for posting) it went.

Well that day has finally come.  Seven years ago, I fired up the old Compaq, found my way to Blogger, and started a blog.  It wasn’t much then, and truth be told, it isn’t much now– but it was, and is, mine.

I actually forgot that I had started my blog in 2004, when blogging was just starting to gain popularity.  Back then, even Perez Hilton, Andy Towle and Arianna Huffington were mere blips on the blogosphere.  Feast of Fools/Fun had not even begun to podcast (and podcasting had not even been invented).  JoeMyGod was just another up-and-coming gay blogger.

Some of my favorite bloggers are still around, like Tuna Girl, Pua, Scott and Jake (my true-blue Blog Daddy).  Others who have left their blogs behind I have reconnected with on Facebook.  A few have disappeared into thin air.  While we’re still in touch for the most part, I can’t help but have sentimental thoughts about those days on Tribe, (yes, it’s still there!) when the community was really starting to take off.  Those were magical, exciting times.  I’m proud to have been a part of it.

I’m glad I’m still here, too.  It’s nice to have a place where I can look back and remember things I did, people I met, and places I went.

You never know, someday I may need those reminders.

Prepping for the Party

Every year for the last 10 years, I have had a combination Holiday/Birthday party at my apartment, wherever it was at the time.  And every year it’s one of the most exciting and stressful times in my life, because I have to consider one very important thing:

What will I make to eat?

You see, I’m Italian (in case you haven’t guessed), and us Italians like to do one thing, and we do it very well.  We make food for our friends and family.  And when we make food, we make enough to feed an army.

For me, it goes back to my childhood, when my Nana and my Aunt Rita would prepare Sunday dinner for the family.  Nana would never serve store-bought, dry pasta… for shame!  Nana made pasta from scratch!  And she’d make a TON of it.

On those Sundays we’d arrive and on my Uncle John’s bed (he was a priest, and he had a bedroom for when he would come to visit Nana) there would be a huge white sheet with rows and rows of that evening’s pasta laid upon it.  Some days it was spaghetti or linguini; others it was stuffed ravioli.  Some days it was gnocchi.  Whatever it was, it was all homemade and, we knew from experience, incredibly delicious.

That tradition also carried through to our family Christmas Eve dinners, where we observed our own version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  There was, of course, the Italian staple, baccala, served both fried and in sauce; an anchovy-bread crumb-walnut pasta; numerous breaded and fried fish (croppi was one I remember liking a lot); as well as the standard calimari and, for starters, shrimp cocktail.  Add to that the amazing fried potato rolls with the name I can never spell, and a plethora of delicious dessert items, and you had yourself one heck of a feast.

So as I got older and moved out on my own, I kept the traditions of feeding the world alive.  My first official party was actually a New Year’s Eve party in my very first apartment in Wicker Park.  I don’t think I did a pasta dish, but I do recall making Italian Beef for the very first time.  At my first Holiday/Birthday party, however, I did make some pasta… probably Mostaciolli.  I didn’t have that many people there, because my apartment at the time was very small; but it did mark the first of many to come.

The next party was with my roommates in Andersonville – Chad, Jason and I.  Our last names started with A, B and C; so we called it the “House of ABC Holiday Party.”  I went pretty nuts for this one, as I recall.  I made stuffed shells… at least 3-4 huge pans of them.  It took FOREVER, and I was so exhausted by the time the party started… but everyone loved them.  That was the party that really started the tradition.  From there, in subsequent years, I made lasagna (again), mostaccioli, Italian beef (again), meatball bombers, and then chili.

Chili was always the favorite.  It was easy to make, comparatively inexpensive, and still had a place in my family history– the recipe was my Dad’s.  So for the last few years, I’ve been making chili, and everyone comes expecting it.

But this year I think I’m going to try something really different.  I have my ideas, but I won’t reveal them just yet.  Just suffice it to say that those who taste this will WANT the recipe.  And it’s so easy, too.

Yes, the holidays are fun and planning the party is a lot of work, but the end result is always a good time.  No matter how decorated my place is (and it will be QUITE decorated), if I don’t have some yummy treats for everyone to enjoy, the evening just won’t seem complete.

Maybe someday I’ll feel inspired (and have the money) to make 9 pans of lasagna again.  But for now, as long as it’s delicious and everyone likes it, I’ll make it easy on myself.

Rick has avoidance issues…

OK so I’ve been avoiding my blog.

It’s not because I dislike it or anything… I don’t.  I just dread writing lately.  I worry that I may start a post and never finish it (because that’s NEVER happened before.  Ha ha.)  I worry that I may write too much and nobody would want to read it.  And I worry that I really have nothing to say, after all.

Well, that’s a lie.  I have plenty to say.  In fact, there have been numerous subjects on which I could have said volumes, including Proposition 8, Obama asking Rick Warren to do the invocation at the Inaguration, the holidays, New Year’s Eve and much, much more.  But as time wore on, those subjects either got old or compounded upon each other, and were relegated to the column of “old news.”  

So I’ve decided to sum up some of those things here, and maybe — just maybe — I can start 2009 with a clean slate and go on from here.  So here we go….

Proposition 8 – Clearly, this was a disappointment, and clearly, the GLBT community spoke up and spoke up loudly.  I was touched and moved by the uprising, but I did not participate in any of the protests.  Why?  Well, I missed the first one in Chicago because I already had plans to see my mom that day.  And the second one (which protested the Cinemark theatre in Evanston for its CEO’s contribution to the Yes on 8 fund) was right after the funeral of a dear friend and I just wasn’t up for it.  But the real reason is because, in my heart of hearts, I just didn’t feel the same.  All this clamoring for the title of “marriage” to be used across the board doesn’t sit well with me.  Yes, I want the same rights for all people, and yes I want that equality whether I’m gay, straight or anything… but I feel like we are so focused on the word “Marriage” that we can’t see any other possibilities.  I’m hoping that something good comes of all this in the future … and the possibility that Prop 8 (and the other props in Florida and Arizona) is overturned is still out there — but until then, I wish we could regroup and really think about what we want… and do it right this time.  

Rick Warren – No sooner than this announcement was made, GLBT people were shouting “FOUL” and “BETRAYED” and calling Obama a traitor, worrying that he would do to us what Clinton did with “Dont’ Ask, Don’t Tell.”  I, however, looked at it as a positive.  Yes, the man is evil and has said some terrible things about our community… but the fact that he is there, among Democrats who believe and want everything he doesn’t… is significant.  I truly think his presence there will not have such a profound effect on anything at all.  It is merely a presence.  It actually speaks louder to his ability to see other views than anything else.  Obama isn’t going to alienate what he believes in because of who he asks to give an invocation.  So I kept silent on the issue– until now.  I know my view is not popular amongst my peers… but that’s just how I feel.  

And now on to more fun things…

The Holidays were a joy.  Christmas Day with the twins was full of laughter and love, and the girls were absolutely adorable.  They’ve reached the age where they can actually laugh and enjoy the holiday… and to see them with their toys was so much fun.  For those of you on Facebook, I have pictures up of them opening their gifts and playing with them, here and here.  

And finally, New Year’s Eve was a great time.  I went to my friend Ricardo’s for dinner, and we all shared our goals for 2009 and what we learned in 2008… it was an emotional and sweet moment when each of us professed our love for each other, as friends and as family.  I’ve said it before – I have some of the most wonderful friends a guy could ask for.  I love them dearly.  Afterwards we proceeded to Sidetrack to ring in the new year — the first time I had been to a bar for New Year’s Eve in many years.  I had a great time, and I think 2009 will be a really wonderful year for all of us.

So that’s about it.  Here we are, the first Monday of 2009.  Everyone is back to work, and life continues on from this point.  I’m grateful to be employed, and thankful to be alive and well.  In this day and age, what more can you ask for?

So to all of you, a happy and healthy new year.  It’ll be DIVINE in 2009! 🙂

The weather outside is spiteful, but the year was fairly delightful.

Christmas in my Living Room

It’s December 23.  Christmas Eve Eve.  And it’s only one day into meterological winter.  

But you’d never know it with the way things have been in Chicago lately.  

No dreaming about a White Christmas this year.  We’re gonna have one.  Plain and simple.  We’ve had more snow and cold already… pre-winter… than in any year I can remember.  It’s caused tons of accidents, a few cold-related deaths, and lot of bursted pipes and radiators throughout the city. 

But thankfully, around here it’s been pretty nice.  The radiators work great, the hot water flows freely, and everything is warm and cozy.  

I guess there isn’t too much to complain about then, is there?

Truly, this winter – and the year that preceded it, has been pretty good.  Oh sure it had its rough spots (as all years do), but for the most part I look back on 2008 with a sense of happiness and fondness.  

As the year started, I decided it was time to concentrate on friendships.  I felt that I had not been a good friend to the ones I had, and did not open myself up to new friendships nearly enough.  As the year closes, I feel closer to my friends than ever before, and am proud to include a new group of people in my life as friends.  I have also reconnected with a lot of old friends (thanks mainly to Facebook), and have rekindled some friendships that never really died in the first place– but were just on hold for the past 10 or 15 years.  

Family has become even more important as well.  With the birth of my twin nieces, Abby and Emily, in February, my family has found a new reason to celebrate and love.  Their presence in our lives has given us such great joy, and watching them grow has already been so much fun.  As a result, my family is closer than ever, and it’s been incredibly rewarding.  

With the collapsing economy, I have become ever more thankful for the presence of work in my life.  I am thankful I am employed, and by such a good company.  I am treated fairly and paid well.  I can’t complain about that at all.  It’s a blessing to be employed.  

Money, however, has been my one major shortfall this year, and that is of my own doing.  In the next year, I need to trim the fat and live leaner and more within my means.  It’s going to be hard, and may require a lot of sacrifices, but I absolutely need to do this in order to survive into the next year with my head above water.  

All along, this blog has been there.  And while I haven’t been writing as much as I used to, it’s been a comfort to know that I can put my thoughts here and share them with you.  Thank you for all of your kind words and encouragement over the years.  I really appreciate you, too.

So with that, I am signing off for 2008.  There’s lots of things going on between now and the New Year, so I don’t anticipate that I will post again until 2009.  

I wish you and your families and your friends a safe and wonderful holiday season, and a delightful new year.  Salute!


I was a witness to Change

**UPDATED** with a new video from my friend Paul (see below!)

The day started early.  I got up, got dressed, and walked to my polling place to vote.

A Walk for History

It was a beautiful Autumn day. It was warm and the sun was shining. It had to be 70 degrees already at 9:30 in the morning. Perfect day to vote.  There was something special in the air.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I just knew that this was going to be an historic, amazing day.

Walking to vote

When I got to the polling place, as expected, there was quite a long line. I figured I’d wait an hour, maybe an an hour and a half. So I put on the iPod and waited.

In Line

After a few minutes, one of the judges came out and asked if there was anyone there voting for Precinct 14. I wasn’t sure, so I gave her my address and she went to check. When she came back, she informed me that I was in Precinct 14 and that my line was inside. INSIDE! That meant a short line. So I followed her in, and sure enough, I walked right up to the table. Sweet!

I got my ballot and filled it out, making sure to be extra careful when I drew in the arrow for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. I completed the ballot, gave it to the judge, got my receipt and I was on my way.

I was going to go with a friend to a bar to watch the election results, but just before I left for work, I found out that he got a chance to go to the Obama Rally with someone else, so I was feeling left out. I had registered for a ticket over a week ago, but I never heard anything, so I figured I wasn’t going to get one. So I made a tentative plan to go to the overflow rally — or, as I called it, the “steerage section,” after work. It was better than nothing, and I’d still get the experience of being there.

As I left for work, I decided not to bring my camera with me.  I wasn’t sure what was going to happen that night, and I didn’t want to lug my camera around if I had no reason to use it.  

Work was pretty slow – everyone had the election on their minds, but we still had work to do. I was feeling kind of bummed because I had no plans for that night to watch the election results. 

At about 1:45PM I checked my home Email, and I saw a letter from “Democratic Party” that was titled, “Your Printable Election Night Ticket.” I jumped out of my chair. “OH MY GOD! I got a ticket!” I started singing “I Got A Golden Ticket” from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I couldn’t help it. I was so excited! I clicked on the Email, printed it out, and from there the day went super-fast.

The boys at the RallyI Emailed some friends and found that they, too, were going to the rally, so I planned to meet up with them and we’d all walk over.

We met up, ate at Jimmy John’s, and walked to Grant Park en masse.  Along the way we met up with other friends and they joined us.  It felt like this impromptu parade through downtown Chicago.  All along the way we met other Obama supporters in T-shirts, buttons and other paraphenalia, and we grew more and more excited.  

USAAs we neared Michigan Ave. and Congress Parkway, the official entrance to the rally, we could see how huge the crowds were growing.  We had no idea just how huge it really was.

There were numerous security checkpoints.  The first was at the entrance, where they checked tickets and IDs.  The next was, I guess, and Electronics checkpoint.  All electronics had to be turned on and visible.  Once through there, we were herded into holding areas, and kept in groups of maybe 200 or so at a time.  Finally, after 3 or 4 checkpoints, we made it to the metal detectors.

Waiting to get inOnce past the detectors, we were in.  And we high-tailed it to the rally area.  We picked our spot on one of the softball diamonds and stood firm.  We guessed we were about a football field’s length away from the stage or more.  We could clearly see the actual stage when we got there, but surely that would change as time went on.

JumbotronThe crowd kept filtering in, and a palpable sense of excitement was in the air.  Straight ahead, next to the stage, was a massive Jumbotron screen, where coverage from CNN was playing.  As states were announced, the crowd erupted in cheers or loud boos.  But clearly we could tell that Obama was already well in the lead.

Amanda and GarrettSuddenly I heard a woman’s voice shout, “RICK! RICK!”  I turned, and I saw my friend Amanda approaching me.  How she found me in that enormous crowd I will NEVER know, but I was SO happy to see her!  We hugged and she told me she was there alone, so she stayed with the rest of our group throughout the night.  I had invited my friend Garrett to come along with me as my “plus one.”  Garrett recently moved to Chicago to go to Architectural school at IIT, so I figured this would be a wonderful chance of a lifetime for him to enjoy this historic moment.

Behind usThe crowd grew even more enormous.  There were people as far as the eye could see.  And we were all there to witness history- together.  We struck up conversations with complete strangers, trading stories and expressing our excitement over what was to come hopefully very soon.

And then, it came.  At 10:00 PM Central time, Wolf Blitzer was on the screen, counting down the seconds before the West coast polls closed.  And when they did, it was announced that Barack Obama was elected President.

The pandemonium was amazing.  Cheering, crying, hugging, screaming, jumping, clapping, fist-jabbing and chanting “YES WE DID!” and “O-BA-MA!”  It was the most exhilirating experience of my life.  

This video is from my friend, Paul Mumberger. Watch it… and live that moment with us. It was AMAZING:

President ObamaThen, of course, it came time to hear from Obama himself.  When he arrived it was just amazing.  And his speech was so wonderful.  And as I looked around the field, I could see people hugging, crying, and holding their heads in amazement.  We all had to be thinking the same thing: This is HISTORY.  This is a life-changing, WORLD-changing moment, and we are HERE to witness it.  Nothing like this has ever happened before, and nothing will ever happen like it again.  It was hard to contain the tears of joy.  

Leaving the RallyAfter the speech, we began to file out of Grant Park. But the excitement of the crowd never diminished.  We walked toward Michigan Avenue, which had been closed off completely to traffic, so everyone walked down the street.  It was a parade of joy.  Black, white, hispanic, and all colors.  Walking Down Michigan AvenueFamilies, men, women, gay, straight, lesbian, bi and trans.  Young and old.  Some in wheelchairs.  Some with babies and small children.  Every single person was cheering and smiling.  The noise echoed from the ground to the buildings above us.  And as they went down side streets to catch trains and buses, the canyons reflected the cheers and chants.  It was the biggest, loudest, most amazing parade, and everyone was featured.  This was our time and our celebration.  And celebrate, we did.

Chicago witnessed an historic moment that night.  We were witnesses to Change.  And change is a powerful and beautiful thing.  O Happy Day!