Wednesday, December 01, 2010


In early November, my buddy Mark G. proposed that we head up to Ogunquit, Maine for the weekend. I hadn't seen the ocean for about a half decade so I figured it would be cool. We had an awesome weekend, having visited the Philbrick-Cricenti Bog in New London, NH on the way up and The Fells (aka John Hay Estate) in Sunapee on the way back, neither of which I had been to for a while and both of which Mark had never been to before. We both enjoyed the entire trip. This is a picture of Pepper and I at the bog, courtesy of Mark.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Update on Life

There isn't much of anything terribly interesting happening in my life right now. I recently turned 31, having noticed that the adages about time passing more quickly as you get older and how birthdays just don't hold a lot of significance anymore when you get a lot of them under your belt, woohoo I guess. Not that I mind getting older. It has it's gifts as well as it's down-side. The three decades I've spent on this earth have helped me grow, mellowed me out and given me a deeper sense of what really matters. I just hope that I can maintain the grace to keep on growing throughout my life and not be some crusty old bastard who thinks he knows everything and is immune to new ideas in his old age.

I love the Forester but am still acclimating to the way it drives. Handles well like the Impreza but the transmission is geared differently and there isn't as much play in the gears. The Impreza's gearing was spaced a pretty evenly. Every upshift ensured that it would bring the tachometer down 500 rpm. The Forester seems to have random/odd spacing. 1st to 2nd brings it down 500, 2nd to 3rd brings it down 700, 3rd to 4th brings it down 800, 4th to 5th brings it down 1,000.

Life has tossed me another lesson about learning when it is appropriate to keep trying and when one's effort is wasted and it would be better to pack it in and move on to more fruitful pursuits. In short, I've given up on the idea of fixing my house up and reconditioning it. It just needs way too much major work to be worth it and I am sick of living in a hovel which is badly designed and highly inefficient, always having something breaking down. My intention at this point is to live in it and keep it functioning as a home for a couple years or so while I amass money and resources, then I will completely rebuild it from the ground up, including the pouring of a proper floating slab for it to rest on. I am thankful for what I have currently but I don't perceive that this place will meet my needs indefinitely in it's current state. I have a rough draft for a new home design in my head but have yet to put it down on paper. Maybe I'll post it when I get it worked out.

Regardless of having given up on the house refurbishing I don't intend to sell or give up my location as one really can't ask for a better place: on a dead-end road yet close to the main road, babbling brooks on the property, babbling creek nearby, facing south, lots of space, huge conservation easement surrounding my property, central to 3 major towns without being close enough for urban life to disrupt the rural microcosm, clean ground water, decent neighbors, abundant wildlife and mature fruit trees. One really can't complain about having such treasures.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pneu Karr

Well, I said I was going to do it and I did it. I loved 'Matilda' dearly, we certainly had some good times together and went through a lot in our short engagement but I changed and she was no longer able to meet my needs. I was desiring a vehicle with more cargo space and one which was capable of towing. Almost every expert and non-expert told me that Imprezas are NOT meant to tow anything and that I'd be best off getting a beater truck on the side. Two vehicles would have been impractical for me, so I traded Matilda in for this '07 Forester, henceforth to be called "The Smurfmobile" as a sibling to my sister's "Frogmobile" (also a Forester, green in case you didn't guess). We are in the process of attempting to convert the rest of our family over to the religion of Subarism. I'll be taking her in to get the tow hitch and wiring harness for trailer lights put on next week.

As one of my friends pointed out, this vehicle will do nothing to counter the running joke that I'm a butch dyke trapped in a gay guy's body.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Religious Proselytizer

This post is a little raw, it is not happy or fun. Hell of a way to kick-start the blog again after a long hiatus.

I was working my usual shift yesterday and a customer who was a representative of a local church came in. This particular church buys a hundred goldfish every year to use in some sort of object lesson which relates to the Bible & Christianity from what I gathered, I didn't ask for details. The man was quite friendly and pleasant as we made small-talk while I bagged up his fish. Then, obviously with purpose, he railroaded the conversation onto things he has done in the way of missionary work with children and my blood started to cool rapidly. I listened quietly, maintaining a friendly but somewhat deferential composure yet still felt that old, familiar pang of discomfort which comes with dealing with folks who are always attempting to inject their religious sensibilities into conversations and I knew what question was coming and knew that I had to be truthful.

As predicted, he suddenly asked ,"Are you a Christian?" Without pause I answered him ,"Used to be." A slightly confused look came over his face and after a brief delay he asked me why I don't consider myself to be so any longer and I told him that a majority of the people I've known over the years who called themselves followers of Christ were some of the biggest hypocrites I've ever known and that Christianity was responsible for me having to leave my home upon coming out of the closet, as well as being alienated from most of my family for many years, this in addition to a lot of religion-based strife in my family and life. He did not address this point but went on to ask me what church I went to when I was younger. I told him that my family had attended a mix of Baptist & Evangelical churches. Then he launched into what seemed to be a well-rehearsed diatribe about how if I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart that none of that mattered, that I was still saved, blah blah blah... My blood went from freezing cold to boiling in a split second, I began to shake a little and realized that I needed to end this interaction before I said something which could get me in trouble so I cut across him a bit tersely and told him that I did not wish to continue this conversation and asked if he needed anything else today. He stopped, looking a little surprised, thanked me for my service and the extras I always throw in for customers and left my department.

Could I have been more polite? Probably, and I felt badly that I did not handle this interaction better. Could I have engaged him in a deeper conversation about all of the hows & whys of my story? Maybe, but he really didn't seem to notice (or was just choosing to ignore) the elephant in the room: Christian hypocrisy and the destruction it brings into people's lives as well as the religion as a whole. The modern, Evangelical Christian collective, no matter how bright and progressive some of them attempt to portray themselves as, have a dark side and lots of skeletons in it's closet. It bothers me deeply because I have personally suffered a lot because of people like this, who choose to abandon critical thinking and instead follow a set script without regard for the inconveniences & contradictions which exist within that script as well as the fact that if they want to understand weighty matters pertinent to our times, they need to first listen and fully understand these matters and adapt their message to modern times. This is why I choose not to wear the label of 'Christian' any more. I have no desire to be identified with this group.

Do I hate Christians? No, I don't. While I don't have an abundance of faith and I do not take the Bible literally, could probably be considered more of an agnostic; I love the example and story of Jesus put forth in the Bible and I agree with a fair amount of what the modern incarnation of Christianity claims to stand for. I just have issues with those who claim to follow him and his example but much of the time act nothing like him; those who are in love with the violence and vindictive anger in the Old Testament as well as the image of angry Jesus kicking the money-changers out of the temple and waging war on everyone whom he disagrees with while completely ignoring that most accounts of his life put him forth as primarily a man of peace and deep wisdom who fought off his opponents gently with words, truth and logic. Are there self-titled 'Christians' out there who really do act like this? Of course, but sadly they are an increasingly silent minority from what I've seen.

As collected and calm as I may pretend to be at times, this run-in with an outspoken evangelical shook my foundations and caused me to realize that I am still very angry. Angry with what has happened to me, angry that I will probably never be fully accepted as I am by my parents, angry that if I again find someone to share my life with that my parents will always regard him as an unwelcome interloper and outsider, angry that my Mom and Dad are sweet, loving, incredibly giving individuals who, in their need for significance and fulfillment, are being blinded and used by a political religious movement which is not held accountable and has very little regard for the damage it is doing to some of the families influenced by them. Most of all I am angry and sad that I had so much innocence and happiness before dogma corrupted my life. Did I make my own share of mistakes in the process? Damn straight, I take responsibility for that. Still, part of moving on from this means that I just need to stop wondering how it might have been had I not been brought up in a conservative, religious household. It had it's upsides too and the 'what ifs' and 'might have beens' are not pertinent except when using the image of them to direct one's self where to go and how to improve things so that others may benefit.

All of that said, I am one of the fortunate ones. My upbringing could have been worse. At least my siblings and I were loved and my parents truly cared about what happened in our lives. Despite mistakes (all parents make them), they at least cared and tried. My family has become closer again over the years and I can say in truth that none of us are the people whom we once were. We've learned where each others' boundaries are and for the most part we do not push them. At least in my case I was allowed to finish trade school before I had to leave my home. There are a lot of folks out there, many of them young or underage who are kicked out of their homes and their entire families' lives completely after it is discovered that they are homosexual. Even worse, some of them are packed up and sent off to 'Ex-gay' programs where they are subjected to all manner of confusion and pseudoscientific 'treatment' which ultimately causes more harm than good.

This experience simply brought to mind that as skilled as I've become at dancing around these issues, I can't any more. I have to roll up my sleeves and dive in. The only way I can progress further in this struggle is to engage myself in theological/religious matters again. I needed the vacation I was on, no doubt, but vacations need to end sooner or later. My head has been restless and needs to get back to doing The Work it was intended to do.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Divine Quest For A Better Walrus-Flavored Panopticon... apropos of nothing but I thought it amusing and had a compulsive need to use it as the title of this post. There is nothing terribly deep to share right now, just a general life update.

Winter has been wearing on my nerves but it won't be around for much longer. I noticed that my metabolism is slowing down a bit and my 32-waist jeans were getting tight. So I resurrected my exercise regimen: lifting weights and a lot of late-night hikes with Pepper. My jeans fit again, might even go down an inch or two within a month, already feeling better, more positive and more energetic but whenever I am pushing myself hard and gaining muscle/strength, I start coming down with random insomnia. Have lost count of the amount of times I find myself bumbling around the house at 3 a.m. busy but not accomplishing much. Maybe it is the blood-flow to the brain? My head is flooded with ideas for my home/property in the coming warm-weather months.

I'll be using part of my tax return to purchase a sawmill conversion kit for my chainsaw so that I can put some of the large yellow pines on my property to use as lumber for fixing up my home. This will be the year when I wade right into the thick of hardcore demolition on the interior and remodeling. The most tedious part will be in jacking up the back half of it, slowly, carefully so as not to damage the building or have it come apart at the joints where the additions are attached, I'll be needing to purchase several more large bottle jacks to serve in this effort. Maybe easier said than done. While tearing crumbling, old drywall off the back wall of the living room a few months ago I found out that this place actually used to be two separate cabins which had the living room built as a connecting part between the two, having found remnants of exterior tar shingles underneath the drywall. Good Lord, this place was built by crazy people (no, really... there is back-story told by locals to support this). Aside from that I am harvesting as much firewood as possible right now so that I don't have to mess around with it during summer, when I plan on being busy with gardening and home-building concerns.

After several years of self-imposed isolation I'm gradually slipping back into the dating pool. As rough as the last relationship was, it made me stronger, more secure in who I am and I feel like I learned definitively what is and is not right for my life. The last few years have helped me to clear my head and develop a better direction for my life. I've done a lot of self-examination and cut out a lot of what was not good for me or those around me. For those of you not in the know about such things, it's a bit difficult for a gay guy like me to meet others of the same ilk in an area like this but regardless, there seem to be a few seemingly nice, available gents and mutual interest from some of them. We'll see where this leads. Whichever way I go, I'm taking it slow and not diving into anything too quick.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mowr Pheauxteaxs

"Lucy" was an African Grey parrot who was left with me by my late, former partner. She was an awesome bird but I am just not a bird person, never wanted one. So I held on to her until I found a really good home to send her to. I miss her quirky 'animalality' that was close to the personality of a loud, jolly, attention-seeking three-year old but I don't miss the constant noise and high-maintenance attention that intelligent critters like these require.

Cocoa was a "tweener" (sized half-way between mini & standard) dachshund. I miss him.

I touched up a photo for a friend a while back. If I recall correctly, it is the only surviving photo she owns of her parents together in the same picture. I don't own photoshop or any other high-end graphics-editing tools but am well pleased with the result after extensive cutting, pasting & blending. It isn't perfect but dang good considering what I had to work with:Before: full scan


This was taken at my workplace. I'm not sure how I feel about doing this to a dog, ok if it doesn't bother or harm the dog I suppose. The guy who owned it said that the animal slept through the entire process. I'll admit the guy has talent and a steady hand with clippers. If this were attempted on Pepper, he'd likely freak out.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Two New Inductions...

into the Sacred Sisterhood of Sacrosanct Cisterns. Don't ask me why I am apparently obsessed with them, I don't even know but have been neglecting to mention new memberships, found these two on another hike in the foothills a few months ago. I spoke to the farmer who maintains the land for the land-owner (also the person who built the enclosure for this one as I found out) and he is hoping to convince the land-owner to have enclosures built for all of the cisterns on the land. I'm not sure how I feel about enclosing all of them. I guess I understand if the intention is to use them all again some day or prevent falling/drowning hazards. Still, they are kind of pretty and almost naturalized to their surroundings when in a state of disrepair.

This one is about 3' X 6'. A few scant remains of it's former enclosure lie around it. It lays hidden in the woods about a hundred yards up the hill from a couple of the others mentioned previously.

This is the biggest one I've ever seen, roughly 5' X 9' and at least eight feet deep. I noticed that several unfortunate critters had fallen into it and drowned so, being careful not to touch them. I fished them out with a tree branch and buried them. Stuck a couple branches in at odd angles so that future clumsy critters would be able to climb back out. I also brought a few of my pond goldfish up on a subsequent hike and put them in there to help control mosquitos.

While I was busy mucking around with the big cistern, my dog disappeared for a few minutes and came back soaked from head to toe. I was curious where he found water deep enough to swim so I followed his tracks backwards to this beautiful woodland bog-pond just up the hill from the cistern. The place is very serene and unspoiled, I think it will be one of my favorite new places to take friends when we are out hiking or on a picnic.

"Maidenhair" Fern grows abundantly in biotopes like this: filtered sunlight, lots of sphagnum moss & still, acidic water with a very thick layer of settled organic matter just below the surface. This is one of those places where if you tread on the mossy areas, the entire ground ripples and one must be careful not to damage the plant life or fall through the moss layer.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Blog Update

Woke up at 4:05 am, brain started churning & chattering with ideas for the coming year, wouldn't let me settle down enough to get back to sleep. So here I am editing my blog format in the wee hours of the morning, organizing the links in the column to the right, with Pepper sighing and huffing occasionally behind me because he doesn't like it when I pay more attention to the computer than to him. In the interest of keeping this post from becoming another rambling, self-indulgent & introspective jumble, it is time to toss up more pictures.

This is what has taken up a large amount of my time between rain storms and other projects. Down-side: lots of hard work felling, chunking, splitting, hauling & stacking. Up-side: boy did it ever keep me in shape, it was free and saves me a load of money without needing to switch to Geico!

I finally got around to reconditioning, painting & putting new seals in the old Scandia 100 wood stove. I am very proud of how it turned out. Interesting story (at least to me): I found this stove for free on the side of the road almost a decade ago while riding with my parents in their van. It appeared to be a rusty, pitted old chunk of scrap-metal, with the reliefs barely visible under all the corrosion and my folks thought I was being ridiculous because I lived in an apartment with oil heat at the time and would never foreseeably need a wood stove. Regardless, they humored me and my Dad helped me to load it into the van. It moved everywhere with me and went into storage for a while. When I bought the cottage it seemed like it would be far more efficient than the cheaply-made "smoke-dragon" that came with the place. Upon further research, this model of stove is a bit hard to come by because it helped with the demise of a Taiwanese subsidiary of the Franklin Stove Company. Apparently this subsidiary was shut down due to a large lawsuit brought by Jøtul because of trademark/design infringements. This model is a direct knock-off of a tul "Black Bear" 118. Hey, if you are going to copy something, may as well copy the best, right? It is relatively efficient, burning up to six hours with a full load of hardwood and a healthy bed of coals still there after 10 hours if the damper is set correctly. By coincidence, it was also manufactured in the year of my birth.
Lovely reliefs of pastoral/woodland scenes & critters.

I am very proud of how it turned out, being my first stove-overhaul project ever.

Now it heats my whole house quite comfortably and I do 90% of my cooking on it during the colder months. It saves me several thousand dollars a year on propane.

But OH! and OW! Wood stoves are not all wine, roses and romantic firelight. They bite hard when you aren't careful with them! This is what happens when one is attempting to adjust some of the internal buffer plates before checking to see if it is cooled enough to work on with bare hands & arms.

Thanks to my friend Murph for snapping this pic. Because I burn a fair amount of pine, I have to do this 2-3 times a year. *This tempts me to put on a top hat and black coat tails & sing in a Cockney accent: "Prevent a house fire, schtep in toim, prevent a house fire, schtep in toim! Never need a reason, never need a roim, prevent a house fire schtep in toim!" I dare not dance on this particular roof though. (5 bonus points if you get the reference)

While we are on the subject of singing... on the TENTH day of Christmas (or Thanksgiving?) my true love gave to me, in addition to a bunch of livestock & indentured servants performing various acts like milking, leaping, swimming and perching in fruit trees, TEN TURKEYS PECKING, among the blueberry bushes out in my side yard. They have become so commonplace around here, sometimes as little as a couple or as many as five dozen. They are attracted to the bags of shavings I've been spreading around under the trees as mulch. The shavings come from the animal cages at work so they are loaded with various seeds and food pellets.

A fuzzy, uninvited guest who ended up in my bathroom. It was a little surprising to get out of the shower, glancing once and thinking it was just a large moth, then again and realizing what it really was. He made a hell of a high-pitched racket when I trapped him in a coffee can and turned him loose in a tree outside.

Another uninvited house-guest who somehow got inside over the summer. My cats had him (or her?) trapped behind the wood rack so I caught him and hustled him outdoors too. My sister, and now I, have started calling them "Dreaded Angii" ("Dreaded Angus" as the singular form). She says because they remind her of angry little Scottish men when they are scolding you from up in the trees.

And while we're on the subject, this was yet ANOTHER guest who almost became lunch for my cats. I'm not sure if it's a mole, vole or shrew.

My dog loves corn, but only if it's husked, he seems to enjoy stripping the husks, then eating them.  Reasonable substitute for hunting critters I guess.

Asian Praying Mantis hanging out on the windowsill on the front of the bird-room at work.

In my neighbor's tree: made me do a double-take, thinking it was real at first.

An incredibly effective home-brew directional wifi antenna which I made out of a coaxial connector, a length of coaxial cable, a tuna can, a small copper wire antenna, a discarded metal primestar dish I found behind the wood shed when I bought the place, and picture-hanging wire. I am very proud of this project too. Connected to the router, it gives a very strong signal no matter where I am in my yard, connected to my wireless card via a home-made pig-tail adapter, it can pick up networks from a quarter mile down the road.

This is the trailer which came with the property (I didn't live in this one, it was used primarily for storage).

The town had a bug up their arse about it and ordered me to have it removed, so some good friends of mine threw a "Trailer-Tear-Down Party". Here is one pic of the high-jinks which ensued. I'll post a video of the actual act of tipping it over at some point.

So classy! After a long day of demolition, a couple of beers around the camp-fire are in order. The toilet came from the trailer.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Unpacking & Examining MMIX

Hmm... it went by more quickly than I expected. It was a year of changes and a year of extremes. It found me in the deepest anger I've felt in a long time, yet also the most reassurance and support that I've had in a long time. My method of dealing with said anger wasn't as graceful as it could have been but far more graceful than the person who I was five years ago would've handled it. This was the year that my faith in humanity truly began to gain momentum. There were many acts of Grace and friendship that I had the privilege of witnessing, not least of which was found in a number of friends who came through for me and helped me when I needed it the most. Matt, Murph, Brian, Sean, Meghan... I feel indebted to you for helping me as much as you did. I hope I can return the favor some day.

This year also took a couple of friends away from me due to drugs. Sad? Yes, but I've learned that it is pointless to beat my head against the wall with people who, so absorbed in their own pain, can't see what it is doing to them or those who care about them and are unwilling to get the professional help they need. Part of me feels a pang of regret for having walked away when they were at their worst, but it is also the part of me which wants to fix everyone and ultimately cripples me. I can't be doing that, it will only burn me out and leave me with little resources for repairing my own mind, body and Spirit when necessary. I've watched many past friends descend into squalor and ruin due to drugs and I just don't have it in me anymore to sit around and watch people commit slow suicide. It hurts too much. "But for the Grace of God", that could have been me at one time. Optimistically, I can say that some of those friends who fell into this dangerous cycle found a measure of strength and Grace, having crawled back out of the pit. Guys/Girls, you know who you are and you have no idea how proud I am of you. It takes a lot of personal strength and painful reduction of ego to seek help and bring yourself back to those who care. If the aforementioned two wake up and get help, I'll be there for them as always.

Though two are gone, I've also made friends with someone whom I'd never have envisioned being friends with and as such, have been reminded to humble myself and stop judging a book by it's cover. This was a person whom I thought lived by a code of survival and preemptive or reactionary punitive action, yet possesses tremendous depth, wisdom and peace. I've learned a lot from him, bettered myself because of him and hope that we can remain friends.

I once read a quote in a book of Quaker Faith & Practice which appropriately describes human history like a mural, when standing up close examining one particular, small section, one may appreciate and learn from it, but it is very difficult to tell what it's purpose is and how it relates to the rest of the picture. We gain much more insight when we back up and examine the whole picture, the farther away it gets from us, the more we see how it all fits together; so it is in human history and so it is in one's own life experience.

How do these things relate to my own life? The various hardships and tragedies which took me out for a few years are now further away. I see how they fit together and what good things they lead to and I am at peace with the outcome. I feel whole, calm again. Confused? This previous post explains it. I've forgiven Tim (called Tom in the previous post for the sake of respect because he was still alive then), still love and fondly remember the good side of him. I am at the point where I don't think about him most of the day, every day; maybe just once a week or less, and it is usually the good memories. Maybe I've mentioned it before and it sounds crazy, but he pops up now and then. I actually see him with my own eyes, always when I least expect it and am not thinking about him. He never says anything but he's always looking at me and smiling, sometimes laughing joyfully. The last time I saw him grinning at me, then disappearing into the trees on an off-trail hike... another time in a fish tank (of all the odd places, he did have a good sense of humor). Will he ever pop up again? Will he say something to me? It is neither here nor there. If it happens it will be interesting, but I am now beyond any need for closure. Yeah, I know for a fact that he's dead and I don't know if these fleeting images are the product of some self-preservationist, subconscious process meant to soothe me or if it's an actual spiritual encounter, whatever it is I can say I am at peace with him. He has rejoined with The Source and has moved on to a better existence, whatever that may be.

While I've lost the need for New Year's Resolutions as a crutch or a way of putting off what I should be doing right now... I still state my intentions for the sake of tradition:

1. Keep trying to be nicer and more understanding with people, having come a long way in this respect since last year there is still a long way to go.

2. Become more involved: with family,
with Meeting,with my friends, with life in general. It feels like it is my time to do so after having a decade-long phase of being aloof and rambling around. I've been walking around inside my head far too much. While it leads to a lot of creative and ingenious ideas/projects, it also causes me to be asocial, neurotic and shifts my focus onto distractions instead of essentials for personal growth.

A man I know and respect once stated that "We begin life on a long arc... as a bundle of Spirit with potential and a path in front of us and our existence fades in the same way, with us as a vital bundle of Spirit, with more to give than when we arrived." It feels like my life is approaching the apex of this arc in the next few years. I no longer fear the rest of the journey or the act of dying, these things all happen as part of the big picture. There will be hardships & heartbreak, yet also joy, renewal and love. None of us knows for certain when our time will be up, so do what we can with what we have and live in a State of Grace, eh?