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May Day, 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

“We must bear in mind that imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism...Our share, the responsibility of the exploited and underdeveloped of the world, is to eliminate the foundations of imperialism: our oppressed nations, from where they extract capital, raw materials, technicians, and cheap labor, and to which they export new capital – instruments of dominations – arms and all kinds of articles, thus submerging us in an absolute dependence.”  - Che Guevara
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“ impoverish the earth now to support outward greatness appears to be injury to the succeeding age.”  - John Woolman

“For us there is not valid definition of socialism other than abolition of the exploitation of man by man.” – Che Guevara

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone” - John Maynard Keynes

"The crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career." – Albert Einstein

Happy May Day!

2 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Bingo is tonight.  No webcast this month, unfortunately.  If you’re in San Francisco, you may still be able to attend!
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I struggled yesterday to write a decent piece about capitalism and democracy before I gave up and resorted to quotes.  The religion of economic growth surpasses the enthusiasm of any fanatical religious sect in the world, and its devotees hold sway over a great deal of power.  It is a science that accepts theory as reality and accepts no data that could possibly contradict the ragged belief that all of societies ills can be solved by increasing corporate profits.  Grounded neither in reality, nor rational thinking, nor vision logic, it presents a front that is nearly impenetrable.

While I often comment on the successes of socialism, I’m not so naive to believe socialism is a cure for capitalism, or that either system is the highest order of human economic development.  Rather, I believe both systems hold both benefit and danger and a third alternative is needed.  Unchecked capitalism, however, is clearly leading our planet to the edge of destruction, leaving our humanity in tatters and our land and water irrevocably damaged.  We need to step back and consider alternatives that place the success of the group at least on par with the success of the individual. 

Being human is about experiencing life, not consuming it.  Capitalism promises an escape from our mortality through a steady stream of consumer goods and pharmaceuticals.  The promise is empty.  The disconnection, the sadness, the emptiness we feel cannot be filled at Wal-Mart, the Ford dealership or by a trip to Cancun.  Our souls can only grow when filled with connections to other humans and the divine.  Our challenge then is to recreate society, building a system that places importance on establishing connection rather than credit.

Building a new society is a difficult challenge.  For many of us, our current system offers certain comforts we are hesitant to place at risk.  Unless we, or someone we care about falls from the upper rungs of the system, or until our emptiness becomes overwhelming, we have little reason to encourage change.  Then again, when we turn our faces to the future and see the faces of generations who will come after us, we begin to understand our responsibility.  When we turn our faces to the divine, we understand our accountability.

3 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

We issue a new Sister Trading Card each month at Bingo.  I didn’t inspect the latest shipment before handing them out last night.  It seems that the printer made a mistake and printed half the run with the Sister Trading Card on the front, and an ad for a conservative, Marin-county, Jewish summer camp on the back.  I can’t help but wonder if Jewish kids in the East Bay are getting cards advertising drag-nun bingo.
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For those readers who aren’t in San Francisco, if you’d like to see the Sister Trading Cards to date, click here.

This month was the Sister Betty trading card.  I have some left, if you’d like one mailed to you, contact me with your address.  I also have a few of the misprinted cards, which seem to be somewhat of a collector’s item in the Castro.  Let me know if you’d like one of them.

Next month marks the third anniversary of Ba-da-Bingo.  When I started this event three years ago, I hoped for 40 or 50 people to show up.  Our crowds number in the hundreds now and we have to turn people away for lack of space.  I also never conceived that camera crews from National Geographic, Belgium or Japan would come, but they have.  This success results from many people donating many hours of their time.  I’m immensely thankful and blessed to be in the company of such people.

Money from Ba-da-Bingo funds the Social and Economic Justice Scholarship fund, information on which is available here

Sometimes I wake up in my apartment and I’m not certain where I am.  It takes me a few seconds to realize I’m not somewhere else entirely.  Life feels like this from time to time.  I look around and think, “How did I end up here?”  I sometimes think I’ve stolen someone else’s life, while they are living out mine in a rusty mobile home in a sweaty, gritty, trailer park somewhere in the deep South. 

7 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I spent the last two evenings after work eating pizza and ice cream and watching DVDs.  Monday night I picked up the first disc in a three-part series, got hooked and rented the other two tonight.  I skipped the gym this morning and I’ll probably skip it tomorrow, too.  From time to time I take a vacation from life.  It generally involves fatty foods, questionable films, sleeping in past 6 am and avoiding any thinking beyond deciding what to have for breakfast.  When time or funds prevent a vacation of any real merit, fat, sugar and celluloid make for a passable temporary substitute.
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Yesterday, on my way to the video store, I noticed a power line had blown down and crossed the MUNI wires.  The next bus down the street might tangle with the downed line, which, at a minimum, would have wrapped itself around the catenary poles.  The person who answered the telephone at MUNI was mildly concerned.  Twenty minutes later, units of the fire and police department arrived with sirens blaring to dispatch the offending wire with long poles and bolt cutters.  MUNI has a special truck equipped to deal with such situations, but in San Francisco, we like to do things a little differently. 

There is a joke I hear often in queer circles:

Q:  What does a lesbian bring on a second date?
A:  A U-haul.

Q: What does a gay man bring on a second date?
A: What second date?

This joke would be funnier if it didn’t closely resemble my dating life for the past year.  Sex is easy to come by in this life, affection isn’t.  When I was young, I had a long list of requirements for a suitor.  As I grew older, I pared the list down to three things:  breathing, not currently incarcerated, and no pending felony charges.  I eventually dropped the last requirement, too.  (Just once I waived the second requirement, but my inmate dating story will have to wait for another time.)  Somewhere along the way, I raised my expectations again.  The downside of high expectations is a greatly reduced pool of potential candidates. 

This is the reason I rarely mention dates or interests here.  You’ll know someone is quality if they get a mention in this space.

7 May 2002 - Minutes Later

I nearly forgot something very important:

Today is the birthday of one of my oldest and most influential friends.  Eric was one of the people who helped me come out and we worked together at a nuclear power plant in Idaho.  Through twists and turns, a war, four nuclear reactors, five major moves, and two name changes, we've managed to land in the same city. 

Happy Birthday, old friend.  Wherever life takes you, my love follows.  You are a genius who influenced my life in ways you may never fully understand. 

8 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Here is a bit of good news:  you’re going to die. 

Nope, you don’t get out of it that easy.  Really sit and think about it for a moment.  You, the person you believe yourself to be, is going to die.  That means you turn to dust and, what you experience as you, will cease to exist.  Forever.  Gone.  Done.  Over.  Finished.  Everything you have done will be swept away and forgotten; all that you are will be left behind in a generation.  You, like billions before you and billions after, will enter the faceless mass of humanity from which we derive skulls for our museums.  Yep, those skulls were people.  But they’re dead now.
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Having someone you love die sucks.  But that isn’t what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about you - the person staring back in the mirror every morning and getting older day by day.  Each breath you take being one less you’ll take before you turn to dust.  You.

Your life is meaningless.  This is not to say that it means nothing to you.  It’s all you have, so of course it means something to you.  In the overall scheme of the cosmos your existence, however, is relatively unremarkable.  The planets continue to rotate, the size of the universe contracts and expands, waves wash over shores and continents collide.  You’re being here has no impact on any of this.

You have on average 66 years of life to do whatever you choose.  You can spend those years doing whatever you wish, whatever you can.  When the timer sounds, it’s over, and time will wash away all evidence of your existence in this place. 

So, when you’re staring in that mirror, dragging that razor across the stubble or rubbing lipstick across your mouth or simply staring, do you see someone who fully realizes the finite measure of their existence?  Or are you simply avoiding the question of your mortality until a more convenient time, say, retirement?  What fills your finite moments?  Are you simply killing time until there is no more time to kill?

Mortality is not a handsome creature.  It scares the part of us that wants to live forever.  And yet, in that frightening face, rests the key to our freedom.  Stare long enough and you’ll see it.

9 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I had dinner last night with a Southern Baptist woman visiting from Atlanta.  Aside from her impeccable dinner manner, she possessed a solid and compassionate faith that presented an opportunity for an enjoyable conversation. 
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When I reflect on those people in my life that I experience to have an exceptionally profound connection to God, with the exception of two men, women top the list.  Sister Margarita Jimenez, my mother, several Quaker women I know and one Quaker woman in particular, and Reverend Penny Nixon. 

Listening to the Southern Baptist woman last night, I was reminded of how much denominations lose by excluding the talents of the women in their midst.  The absence of women from the pulpits,  from Catholic to Baptist, is a loss to those beyond the doors of those churches.  In my experience, women often bring a perspective that moderates and challenges the established role of religion in society.  I suspect there is something in the experience of being a woman that, when combined with a connection with God, provides for the larger society a perspective of the divine which is both inspiring and useful.  While men can observe it, we cannot replicate it.

Perhaps it will be some time before women occupy leadership roles in the larger denominations.  In the meantime, I find it wonderful that a gay, Quaker man can sit at a table for dinner with a heterosexual, Southern Baptist woman and openly discuss our understanding of God.

15 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I just finished updating the most recent road trip, this one to the Sierra Railroad in the Central Valley.  You can see the entire piece here.
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It's late and time for dinner, so instead of a long entry, a short summary of thoughts:

- Applause for Jimmy Carter.  I was too young to remember your presidency, but I'm impressed by what I see now.

- Arms control isn't the same thing as putting weapons in storage.  Bush must be using the same accounting philosophy that has so many corporations in hot water.

- Maybe John Walker Lindh's lawyers can beat these ridiculous charges.  (Has anyone else noted how attractive JWL is with a shave and a haircut?)

- I really dislike seasonal allergies.

16 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I was buying cat litter last night when I saw the most recent picture of John Walker Lindh on the television at the pet store.  It was the first picture I'd seen of him since the early photographs from Afghanistan. 

John Walker Lindh went from looking like this:

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To looking like this:
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(The second photo is his mug shot from the Alexandria, Virginia, Sheriff's Department.) 

I noted my skepticism about the charges against John in January and February (long before I knew he was attractive). I still suspect this prosecution is more about revenge on the most convenient target, as the United States seems unable to arrest those who might reasonably be the people responsible for the hijackings of September 11th. 

Changing subjects, if you missed yesterday's entry, there is a new road trip for your viewing pleasure.

Changing subjects one more time, thanks to those who wrote and asked if I'm okay.  No need for concern, the six-day break in entries resulted from allergies, exhaustion and two back-to-back dates with the same person.  No need for excitement, the situation is much the same as I mentioned earlier.

17 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

One of the leftover props from Ba-da-Bingo is a disco ball motor and I used it to install a mirror ball in my living room tonight.  The cats vacillate between the living room and the bedroom, chirping at the thousands of moving objects and then retreating when it all becomes too much.  I love mirror balls.  It seems rather decadent to have one in my living room.  Churches should have mirror balls.

I have more to write, but the words aren’t flowing tonight.  The paragraph that would have occupied this space was erased, rewritten and erased at least twenty times now.  Even finishing this paragraph seems difficult.  So, I surrender for tonight.

19 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

"I admired the beauty 
While I was human, now I am part of the beauty. 
I wander in the air, 
Being mostly gas and water, and flow in the ocean, 
Touch you and Asia 
At the same moment, have a hand in the sunrises 
And the glow of this grass. 
I left the light precipitate of ashes to earth 
For a love-token."

-Robinson Jeffers – Inscription for a Gravestone.

Over dinner last night, an acquaintance remarked that wherever he goes in San Francisco, places evoke memories of men who’ve died in the past twenty years.  Every restaurant, every street corner, every apartment building, every office speaks of someone who died of AIDS.
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When I lived in San Diego, I knew a few people who had HIV and some people who died from AIDS.  San Francisco, however, is filled with ghosts.  You see their reflections in picture frames in nearly every apartment, their fingerprints in artwork in galleries and stores, their casings in thrift stores and costume shops.  From time to time, I am caught by a sense of enormous loss that drifts through the city with the fog. 

Walking home with a friend last week, we found ourselves blocked by two elderly women making their way slowly down the sidewalk.  My friend snorted a bit and I said to him, “Oh, we’ll probably move at the same pace when we’re that age.”  He turned to me and said, “You might.  I’ll be dead long before then.”  My heart stopped and I knew he was right.  It’s an odd thing to acknowledge I that I am likely to outlive a large portion of those who are close to me. 

George died over a year ago.  He was a character who loved his motorcycle, coffeehouses and sex with men in alleys.  Twice since then I’ve sworn I’ve seen him.  Both times he was standing on the same corner where I often ran into him.  Both times he turned the corner and disappeared before I arrived.  This is how San Francisco feels at times – I’ve caught a glimmer of some of the greatest characters imaginable only to have them disappear before I arrive.

The best description of grief I’ve discovered is a line from Torch Song Trilogy, which I attempt to quote from memory:  “It’s like learning to wear a ring or a pair of get used to it with time, but you never forget it’s there.”

20 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Is it possible that any rational person could fail to see George Bush’s speech on Cuba as anything more than a stump speech for his brother?  Jeb is facing reelection in a state populated heavily by anti-Castro Cubans, and heavy-handed rhetoric by his Presidential sibling can only serve to help his cause. 
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Any moderately educated, reasonable person can see through the assertions made by Bush.  Free markets have nothing to do with free people.  Democracy and capitalism are not the same, one is political and the other economic.  Cuba may have won independence 100 years ago, but the United States maintained a puppet government and direct control over the country through constitutional manipulation until Castro overthrew Batista.  While we criticize Fidel Castro for being a dictator, we prop up the dictator of Turkey and the illegitimate governments of countries around the globe.

The proper functioning of democracy requires an educated electorate.  In the United States this is something we simply do not have.  Americans in general lack an understanding of world history and events.  As a society we are insular and narcissistic, taking into account little of the world outside of our borders.  We reward irrational, overly emotional outbursts with increased attention, while ignoring the voices of reason that require us to think beyond the small shells of ourselves.  We refuse to acknowledge or even consider the shortcomings of our own political, social and economic systems in a rigid manner that infuriates and confounds the rest of the world.

While George Bush pushes for voting rights for all Cubans, I would put forth the idea it’s time to begin restricting voting rights in the United States.  Simply being of age to vote is not sufficient to uphold the requirements of citizenship in a mature democracy and George Bush as President is ample evidence to support this assertion.  Citizenship should require a greater level of civic dialogue, discourse and education than simply sitting in front of a television and then punching a key to select the candidate with the best campaign ads.  It’s time to restrict the right to vote to those who posses the ability to learn, consider and understand the consequences of being a citizen not only of this country but of the world that exists beyond the small-minded borders drawn by long-dead leaders of the past.

21 May 2002  (Comment)

I spent the past five hours attempting to make shopping cart software function properly.  It doesn’t.  Nor does the documentation help.  I surrender.  I will hire someone else to do this project.  If you have experience setting up shopping cart software, contact me.  I may have a job for you.

I'm going next door to have a drink with a neighbor.

22 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

San Francisco is one of the few cities in the country where we keep our yards behind our houses.  Front yards are almost unheard of here; unless you count rare and tiny scraps of land with a single tree or a few blades of grass that form a border between sidewalk and building.
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The beauty of backyards is, that when put side by side, they form hidden parks, accessible only to the neighbors who share them.  I have the amazingly good fortune to live above a garden in one of these hidden parks.  I have the additional blessing of having fun and interesting neighbors who like to stand on their balconies and talk.  With the warming weather, you’ll often find us leaning over railings and talking across the fences.

Directly across my garden is Steve, a programmer who is remodeling his house and has a Jacuzzi famous for it’s clothing-optional crowd.  I met Steve when he offered advice with my battle with the blackberries.  Steve has roommates I’ve seen but never met.

Next door to Steve is James.  James is famous for his large endowment that he shows off in late-night, backlit sessions in front of his large windows.  I met James on the street when I recognized him with his clothes on.  He works out at the same gym I do.

Adjacent to me is a friendly couple whose names always escape me.  They tend a manicured garden that is the envy of the neighborhood.  One is cute and somewhat flirtatious.  The other is somewhat less cute and I suspect a bit jealous of the first. 

A somewhat unfriendly guy lives above the friendly couple, but he doesn’t talk to anyone.

Just beyond the friendly couple is Mark’s apartment.  Mark just moved west for love, only to have the love not live up to expectations.  Mark has two cats – Mame and Gooch, both of which weigh at least 25 pounds each.  Mark has an adorable new beau named Scott.

Downstairs from Mark is John, who believed I was having a pot-smoking party when I was testing the fog-generator for Bingo.  Since then John has offered valuable advice in the blackberry struggle.  John is most often seen early in the morning on his balcony in a bathrobe with a cup of coffee and a cigarette.

Upstairs from me is Greg the bodybuilder.  Greg broke up with his lover of ten years and moved in above me.  His lover still comes around frequently, blocking the front door of our building with his Porsche.  Others stop by to see Greg, too, but I don’t think they have cars.

Che is the small brown cat that wanders through all the yards and stares for hours at my cats.  She seems well fed but has no apparent caretaker.

Oh, and then there is the guy who lives with the two cats, has a mirror ball in his living room, and forgets from time to time to close the blinds when he’s playing.  I have no idea what the neighbors say about him.

28 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Three events this weekend:

One, the garden is now clear.  A large pile of debris awaits the arrival of my landlord’s children who have been given the task of hauling the dead vegetation to the dump.  Shortly afterwards I’ll be required to move to the next phase of this project – planting something.  I don’t know what I’ll plant quite yet.
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Two, I installed a Digital Light Projector this weekend and debuted it to a living room packed with people.  I invited four people, who invited four people, and suddenly there were more people than chairs.  Fortunately some people were kind enough not to complain about the floor.  Digital Light Projection isn’t ready for the theatre, but it certainly is a step up from conventional television.  To tell the truth, I actually debuted the projector the night before the official debut – by projecting pornographic movies on to the back of a building nearby.  I live in a neighborhood where everyone seemed to like this and the balconies were packed with people for the free show.   If you don’t live in San Francisco, projecting pornographic material on a neighbor’s house might seem rather shocking.  Then again, a government-sponsored, seven-mile, cross-city marathon of mostly naked people might seem shocking, but we do that, too.  Yes, really.

Three, I was reminded in two different ways that I am woefully behind on writing about forgiveness.  The first reminder was yesterday during the weekly Quaker meeting, the second was in the mail today. 

I often look at the server logs for this site, and I sometimes wonder whom the people are who visit.  (I especially wonder about the daily visit from the Department of Justice server and the semi-weekly visit from the FAA.  No, I’m not making this up.)  In any case, it’s nearing time for my annual birthday celebration.  If you live in or near San Francisco and would like to attend, let me know.  (I hire security for this event, so you gotta be on the invitation list to get in.  And no, I’m not kidding here either.)

For as long as I can remember, my father has thrown a giant surprise birthday party for my mother.  Every year, my father schemes and plans how to surprise my mother, attempting to make her think that just this one year he’s not planning anything.  They’ve been married five decades and he’s managed to pull it off every year I know of.   Having watched this for so long, I’m convinced it’s one of the most loving and romantic things a person can do.  I’ll know I’ve found my perfect match when he surprises me with a birthday party (without my prompting).  In the interim, I throw them myself.  At least that way I control the guest list!

29 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I have very little time to write tonight. 
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I mentioned yesterday I look through the server logs from time to time.  Here are a few of the search engines queries from the past 24 hours that led people to this site:

  • navy covers up humming sound
  • lilac tree myth
  • christianity and spanking
  • history of scratching
  • betty air chair
  • water return pool masturbating
I hope the information they found here was useful.

30 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

When I first came out, we commonly referred to queer people as gay or lesbian.  Then, bisexuals were added and the acronym GLB created (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual).  A few years later, GLB expanded to GLBT, incorporating transsexuals.  A couple of years ago the phrase expanded once more to GLBTQ, the Q integrating people who were questioning their sexuality and didn’t quite fit GLBT or heterosexual. 
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It’s not uncommon for people to advocate rearranging the letters to meet some personal agenda.  Most commonly, the L goes before G, since women have suffered at the hands of men and therefore deserve to be placed first (LGBTQ).  Others put T first, since transpeople are the smallest and most mistreated group (TLGBQ).  Some advocate placing B before G, since bisexual people represent a minority more disadvantaged than gay men (TLBGQ).  The questioning lobby doesn’t have enough voice yet to move up in the alphabet soup. 

Since some people still wince at the word “queer”, it’s generally accepted that at any queer event, the acronym LGBTQ must be used, as in “LGBTQ Youth” and “LGBTQ Center”.  Use the word queer too visibly and you can be assured someone will write a letter to the editor.

I dislike the statements on corporate forms stating:  “We don’t discriminate based on age, race, sex, gender...blah, blah, blah.”  By continually creating categories of protected people, we continue to exclude others.  Rather than endlessly expanding the roster of the protected, we need to reduce this statement to something like this: “We hire based on reasonable criteria which we apply to all applicants.”

The same applies in the queer community.  Each time the acronym expands, we force people to categorize and identify or be excluded.  Adding letters or changing the placement order does nothing for anyone.  Should we add an A for androgynous?  Or are they not queer?  Should we consider an X for asexual people who don’t have sex with anyone?  Are they queer? 

In the end, the debate over who is LGBTQ is immaterial.  By pressing forward on an agenda of achieving rights based on yet another minority category, we promulgate the idea that we must belong to a protected class of people in order to be full citizens.  Rather, we need to press for rights that exist without regard to any qualifying factors other than membership in the human race.  Marriage, adoption, inheritance, employment, economic and social equality should exist without any consideration of who I sleep with, where my parents hailed from, what my genitalia look like or whether or not I have one leg or two. 

If the queer moniker doesn’t work as a replacement for LGBTQ, then we need to find something that does.  It’s time to retire our alphabet soup and adopt a word that encapsulates everyone who still lacks equal status or treatment under the law.

31 May 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I’m one year older.  I celebrated by driving a different way to work, eating sushi for lunch and taking a four-hour nap.  I’d hoped that an old friend would call for dinner, but that hasn’t happened yet, so it’s likely I’ll venture out by myself in a few hours. 
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I spent a lot of time at sea when I was in the Navy.  When heading west across the International Date Line, if you cross at just the right time you lose an entire day.  May 30 becomes June 1st and May 31st vanishes.  The sailors never resolved whether or not you were indeed a year older if your birthday never happened.  (When you are at sea with endless hours of watching the horizon, such puzzles are vital to maintaining sanity.)

The USS Long Beach held a monthly birthday party.  Every person whose birthday fell in a given month would gather on the mess decks for steak and lobster or whatever approximation of such could be had, depending on where we were in the world.  It was the only time officers ate with the enlisted and the Captain would be seen outside the Wardroom.  Those of us who were nuclear engineers generally disdained such events, but the call of an edible meal superseded our desire to avoid contact with the officers.  If I was feeling especially nostalgic, there is a restaurant in the Castro that serves steaks as thin and tough as those Navy steaks.  I’m not feeling that nostalgic.

As long as I’m telling Navy stories:  When I was stationed on the USS Long Beach, those mess decks were my repair locker – the place I went when the ship was at General Quarters (battle conditions for those who’ve never been in the Navy).  I was the senior enlisted person in charge of the locker, and part of our responsibilities included securing the sewer drains from the Executive Officer’s (XO) stateroom.  This task generally fell to the lowest enlisted person in the locker.  When General Quarters ended, the sewers had to be reopened.  If you failed to do so, the first flush of a commode sent sewage flooding from the head into the XO’s carpeted office.  He never found this amusing.


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