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04 April  2005 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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I get my hair cut in a tiny, one-chair barbershop owned by an aged barber.  The barber does not take appointments and he only cuts hair for men.  Five seats line one wall of the shop, a stack of soft porn is available to speed your wait, and a television in the corner barks baseball, football or news depending on the day and season.  The customers of this all-male shop share an endless stream of odd stories and off color humor. 

Friday afternoon the aging barber, a Catholic, was midway through a joke about a nun and a priest which began:  "My priest really gets annoyed when I tell him this one..."  Suddenly, CNN flashed "Special Announcement" and talking heads sporting fake hair and practiced looks of worry announced the Pope was dead.

Unfortunately for CNN, and fortunately for the Pope, or maybe vice versa depending on your view, the Pope was not dead.  CNN, like a wizened fortune teller, reported the Pope's death based on the lights visible from the Papal apartment. 

It would be easy and obvious to remark on the various and numerous failings of the news media.  CNN is just another cable channel fighting for advertising dollars.  CNN wants to be first to tell the world when someone is dead so more people will watch the commercial for hair coloring that follows.  If our news media functioned well, my investment banking friends wouldn't be surprised when I remark the dollar is nearing collapse.  (Oh, this is news to you, too? Turn to page two, you'll find out what I mean.)

It may also be easy and obvious to remark on the way the Catholic Church verifies the Pope is dead:  a trusted assistant calls the Pope's name three time and then bangs on his forehead with a silver hammer.  CNN desperately wanted to cover this ritual but had to settle for interviewing a nun who once read about it.

So why were the lights on in the Papal apartments?  A police officer, also Catholic, waiting his turn in the barber chair said:  "After 85 years of celibacy, he was probably ready for a little UH HUH UH HUH UH HUH.  He sent for some local girls and told them to leave the lights on 'cuz he wanted to see it!"  Everyone laughed.

The barber retorted:  "How do you say virgin in German?  Ga-zun-TIGHT!"

Another patron laughed and said:  "How does a German woman ask for oral sex?  Ach-TONGUE!"

CNN became background noise to life and the droning of clippers.

Stairways of San Francisco has a new look.  Click here for more.

11 April  2005 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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I left the Navy with an honorable discharge, a row of medals, and a form stamped in big letters: "HOMOSEXUAL".

If you never served in the military, you probably don't know what a DD-214 is.  For veterans, a DD-214 becomes a worn document demanded by government agencies, requested by employers, required by funeral directors when we die.  This piece of onion skin documents how, and why, a veteran left the service.

My DD-214 rests in a safe deposit box with my birth certificate, passport and two Russian watches.  I rarely look at it and read it less frequently, but I know it by heart.  Two inches below my commendations, notes about serving in Southwest Asia and Kuwait, just to the left side of the page and slightly beyond the word "Honorable" is a single line reading:  "Reason for Discharge:  HOMOSEXUAL."

If I have shame about being gay it is that I still cannot decorate a house and I often dress with questionable color coordination.  And yet I still cringe when I have to hand this form to some official and wait for the inevitable reaction that follows.

On Friday I surrendered my California license plates for Maine Veteran plates.  The DMV examiner took my documents and then asked for the dreaded DD-214.  His eyes wandered across the page and then stopped at the last line.  I could hear the digital clock on the wall ticking. 

There are moments in life when I  enjoy being abnormally large.  Few people argue with someone who is 6'7" and 230 pounds.  As the examiner looked up and the comment began to form on his lips, I drew myself up and towered over the glass partition designed to protect state employees from normal size folk.  With the glass reaching just to my nipples I leaned forward and waited.  The DMV examiner paused, looked upward at my face high above him, shook his head, and handed me my new license plates.

I think only expensive chocolates and oral sex without stray pubic hairs getting stuck in my molars are as satisfying as being able to intimidate state employees.

Later that afternoon, I watched as Maine welcomed its National Guard troops home with a parade through Portland.  Thirty thousand people lined the parade route - which is no small number in a city with only 60,000 residents.  As the columns of sailors and Marines marched by, I noticed a few faces I recognize from  How many of these will end up with similarly stenciled DD-214s?  Honorable or not, the world often assigns us second-class status when our discharge papers read "HOMOSEXUAL".

Maybe someday I'll tell you about straight Marines and the three-hole outhouse.

Crazy Helga Update: Crazy Helga appears regularly as the weather improves.  Yesterday, she came outside and screamed "Wa.. wa.. wooo!  Wa... waa... WOOOO!" while flapping her arms like a chicken and dancing on her lawn. 

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My 15GB iPod lasted nine months.   Now it is dead.  The battery is fine, the disk utility says all is well, but the iPod will not play music. 

So, what do I do with a dead iPod?  What toxic substances lurk within?  Will tossing it in the trash add to the clouds of mercury over Maine?

What should I do with this broken piece of gear?  Apple won't helpLet me know what you think.


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