Archive for August, 2008

Greedy Gustav

August 29, 2008

So this once-and-future Hurricane Gustav has just swept over Jamaica and now is menacing Cuba and the Caymans.  They say it’ll head on into the Gulf and may reach Lousiana or Texas next week as a Category 2 or 3 storm.

Duly noted, at the gas station.

I was driving by just now on my way home from the Post Office, and I saw that Buc-ee’s price had risen thirteen cents from yesterday to today.  Buc-ee’s is known for their beaver mascot, naturally leading to the billboards that say, “You’ve seen a beaver before, haven’t you?”  It’s an ideal marketing campaign for those who, shall we say, like (or are the target of) Jeff Foxworthy jokes.  I prefer to just look at Jeff Foxworthy, but that’s another story.

I get the fact that the oil platforms in the Gulf are shutting down and evacuating now.  I get the fact that these facilities and others onshore may be damaged if the storm strikes the wrong locations.  What I don’t get is this…

The gasoline in Buc-ee’s underground tanks, and in the tanks of their distributor, and coming on down the pipeline from wherever, etc, is the same gas that was there yesterday.  It doesn’t come directly from the wellhead to the gas pump.  The four percent overnight price hike seems, well, let’s just say wierd.

I don’t know who to “blame” for this, not even that I’m looking for someone to blame.  Too many people spend their energy looking for scapegoats instead of looking for solutions.  The price comes from “market forces,” just like everything else in our economy.  Sellers raise prices because they can and reduce prices because they must.  This particular market, though, seems a little out of whack, and the old rules of supply and demand seem to require some perplexing corollaries.

Anyhow, I’m glad I don’t have to drive very much anymore.



August 27, 2008

I always used to watch the political conventions every four years. Gavel-to-gavel coverage. Floor demonstrations, and fights. Intrigue. Talking heads. The pageantry of democracy.

The best one, for me, since I don’t remember the ones just prior, was the Democratic Convention of 1972. I recall a floor fight over seating the California delegation, which had been selected by the state’s winner-take-all rules instead of the party’s proportional rules. Shirley Chisholm, among many others, saw her name placed in nomination for President, and Frances Farenthold later for Vice-President. McGovern allowed the convention to consider anyone they wanted for VP, and although his ill-fated choice of Senator Eagleton was selected, the process went on so long that the acceptance speech — “Come Home, America!” — ended up being given in the wee hours of the morning. Poor George. No “silver foot in his mouth,” as Anne Richards would say at another convention, but no brass ring either.

I was eleven years old that summer, and I doubt that I stayed up that late.

I recall the other grand conventions I saw on TV. In 1976, Ford and Reagan took their contest virtually down to the wire. In 1980, Kennedy tried to convince his party to repudiate Carter, a sitting President. That same year, Reagan fended off a media-driven buzz to select Ford for VP by appearing in the convention hall — unprecedented at that time — to announce his choice of George H. W. Bush.

Fast forward to 2008. By then, election and convention coverage had changed, relegated to cable news, C-SPAN, and PBS, while the major commercial networks broadcast only a limited made-for-TV version of the conclave. The convention itself changed, too, and continues to change more and more. No longer a deliberative body, it has almost become no longer newsworthy except in the sense of who says what about whom.

In that respect, it’s not any more interesting than the endless stream of opinion, sound bites, and speechifying that we’re subjected to every day. And quite frankly, with just the exception of a few exceptional moments, I’m no longer watching. I haven’t for several election cycles, although the local “color coverage” of the 1996 Republican Convention was fun. All of us living in San Diego then, that was when my ex’s cousin had in an apartment overlooking the convention center. She put a sign in her window that said, for the benefit of Bob Dole, “Bob, Don’t Give Up Your Day Job.”

Anyway. The worst let-down of all was to discover that the Democrats’ roll-call vote was taking place during the daytime today. That was always the highlight of the whole week for me. The old lady would call out: “Alabama!” “Alaska!” And on down the list… In response, someone speaking for the state would say something on the lines of, “Madam Chair, the proud state of Alabama, the Heart of Dixie, the Land of Cotton, the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, is thrilled to cast…” and then give the tally.

I watched a little bit of Hillary’s speech last night. After “The Cleaner” ended on A&E, we switched over to see the local news and the convention coverage was still going on, with Hillary speaking live. Good speech; she did what she had to do. Some blogs are complaining about her enthusiam, body language, or some supposed hidden agenda, and some silly PUMAs are still up in arms What more is she supposed to say: “Simon says, ‘Vote for Barack”

But the days of drama and story are gone now, lost in the sea of talk, talk, endless talk. At least they managed to arrange to have the call to nominate Obama by acclamation — by Hillary, no less — placed live during the NBC Nightly News. Otherwise I’d have missed it.

“How Long Will Your Luck Hold Out?”

August 17, 2008

Back in 2007 I filed a change of address for Mom’s apartment to send the mail from there to my house. Since then, I’ve been receiving Mom and Dad’s mail, plus the occasional stray pieces for Mike and even one for Liz. Now that it’s been a year since Dad’s death and almost that amount of time since Mom’s, the stream has dwindled down to a trickle, nearly all junk mail. Nearly all of that is charitable solicitations.

For a time, I had printed a sheet of labels with this message:

Deceased 2007
Return To Sender
Please Remove From Mailing List

These would be stuck on the front of the envelopes and dropped back into the mail. The junk mail kept coming, but slowly became less. After those labels ran out, I started writing the same message on the enevlope with a big black Sharpie marker, being sure to cross out my address and the bar code printed below. Every week I still receive a few pieces of this mail, and if there is a return address, I send it back.

Last week, a Macular Degeneration charity sent an envelope and I duly wrote the message on it and got ready to mail it back, and then I noticed this message from them printed in big, big letters above Mom’s name on the envelope: “How Long Will Your Luck Hold Out?”

I know any normal person would have been offended, but I just started to chuckle, and then I laughed out loud, all the while drawing an arrow on the envelope from their question to my answer, “Deceased 2007.” I think Mom would have laughed, too.

Then I showed it to Freddie, we both laughed, and I took it to the mailbox.

Finally, A Gay Topic

August 10, 2008

I’ve been writing here several months now.  Most of my words have been about my parents, going through memories and emotions after their deaths last year.  Some has been politics, some the garden (which is also tied back to my mother), and some just daily life.  Like that actor on Grey’s Anatomy, I suppose that I can say that being gay is not the most interesting thing about me.  It’s not what I think about or write about most, although it is central to my identity.

I read a number of gay blogs.  There was one post Friday on Joe. My. God. which has had a long comment thread.  He had displayed this image from a condom ad in Argentina and invited discussion on their take on a safer sex promotion:

Argentine Condom Ad Evokes Dia de Los Muertos

Naturally, the comments have been animated.

After seeing there some comparison and contrast of the situation of persons who have HIV with those who have diabetes, I was moved to post the following.  It was at a moment when Freddie was taking a nap, having worn himself out trying to fix the lawn mower.  He naps, almost every afternoon, and sleeps eleven or more hours a night.  He is very weak and fatigued these days.  Anyhow, here’s what I wrote, albeit with minor editing for grammar.  The link puts in context.

…here’s a different perspective on your discussion of HIV and diabetes: My partner has both. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1970 at age 12. He tested positive in 1984 when the HIV test first came out. Now at age 50, he is a long-term survivor of both diseases.

The following is just his own personal experience. It’s not meant to be an opinion for anyone else nor to provide guidance, but perhaps it will help you to understand better the “manageability” of both diseases.

In his case, the diabetes is much worse than the HIV. He has always told me that his HIV will not kill him, but the diabetes will. We met in 2000 when he had been on the cocktail for awhile. He also takes insulin and checks his blood glucose level constantly. His diabetes is very “brittle” and he has low blood sugar reactions several times a week.

He has diabetic retinopathy and has had numerous laser eye surgeries over the years; he is, at this time, legally blind. He can see fairly well most of the time, but there have been episodes when he lost his vision completely.

I expect that he will die years, possibly decades, before I do.

It is hard to say which disease is the cause of some of his symptoms and conditions. Perhaps the diabetes and HIV in combination, along with the long-term use of retrovirals, are also a factor. He has coronary artery disease, peripherial neuropathy, avascular necrosis. His fatigue and weakness are such that he spends most of the day, many days, in bed. His life is that that of someone twenty or thirty years older than his chronological age.

Of course, HIV in itself can be devastating. Both of us have lost dear friends, particularly back in the 1980s. Others are progressing into this “limbo” of premature aging while in their 50s or 60s, but none so deeply or early as my partner. Others with HIV are still doing well, living active lives. I don’t know if it’s a matter of lifestyle, attitude, or luck of the draw.

I’m glad to see the HIV prevention message out there for young people, who seem to be contracting it in increasing rates. I have to keep reminding myself that the message isn’t meant for me (though I am negative) and if it seems presented in a tasteless or over-the-top manner, I’m not going to complain. I’ve heard it before, over and over again, for the last quarter century. If anything, I had to deal with “safer-sex-education-fatigue” years ago. Instead, I can just move on and leave this message for it’s intended audience, wishing them the best.

Hello, Edouard

August 4, 2008

I just got Mom’s hurricane lamps down from the top of the sideboard, cleaned off the dust, and filled them with lamp oil.  A storm is brewing the the Gulf.  We’re battening down the hatches, counting our candles and running off to the store for toilet paper.  I bet for those lamps, it seems like old times.

Mom used to tell stories about the hurricanes of her youth, back when they had no names, just Greek letters: Alpha. Beta. On down the list.  Later there were stories of the big epic storms that hit while we were away, such as Betsy in mid-sixties and Camille which so devastated Gulfport and its neighbors a few years later.  We missed Camille by just a few days, having stopped in Gulfport enroute in an Air Force “Permanent Change of Station” from Japan to Delaware.  Those changes were never “permanent,” but they did allow us the long-distance trips that, with detours, became the vacations of my youth.

Freddie and I will have been living here on the Texas Gulf Coast for six years come the end of this month.  The end of the week we came to Galveston, a tropical storm blew in.  Freddie ran off to Wal-Mart for batteries and supplies while I brought in what few planter pots we had set outside.

The worst experience, deserving at least several posts of their own, was the combined effect of first Katrina and Rita in 2005.  Of course the impact of Katrina on New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mississippi was phenomenal.  It changed Houston, too, and it changed us.  One thing I realized then was that if disaster strikes, we cannot rely on the government to help us.  You can’t wait for FEMA, you can’t wait for the bureaucracy: You have to figure out what needs to be done and start doing it, yourself or with your neighbors.

Both storms also brought on a period of depression, seeing the dead and displaced and then, after Rita, living the next month and a half in a house with boarded-up windows.  It was like living in a mausoleum.  And although Rita spared Galveston after first threatening it head on, two buildings a block away from our home were lost to the storm, to fire started by a resident burning candles when the power went out.  We were very lucky that the flames did not spead through the entire neighborhood.

The great storms of 2005 were a factor in our decision the next year to relocate.  We didn’t ever want to have to evacuate again.  Other factors included the 100-mile round trip to Freddie’s Houston-based doctors; the expense and problems associated with living in a poorly renovated 90-year-old house; the desire to live without a stairway; and more.  After a new round of medical issues, we decided at Thanksgiving, 2006, to sell the Galveston house and look inland.

After a false start or two, we settled in our house in Pearland in February, 2007.  Here, we have a house that is built to withstand 130-mph winds.  We are fifty miles inland, just outside the south side of Houston’s Beltway.  There is almost no circumstance that would lead us to evacuate from here for a hurricane, except for an extended power outage.

It’s now 4:30 and the temperature outside is 96 degrees.  My job, this evening, is to bring in the plants from the patio and find a place for the patio furniture.  I’m going to fill a big plastic tub with water in case the water goes out or gets undrinkable.  The hurricane lamps are ready.  Now I’m off to get the candlesticks and yes, count the candles.