A blog of lists. Who doesn't like a list?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Susan Butcher


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Out of the office

Most of you, if you're still checking this at all, have noticed I haven't been posting. I'm out of lists. So I'm shutting down my blog until further notice. Don't hesitate to check back.

Love, Byf

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Underrated actresses

In the spirit of Academy Awards season, I'm presenting my own list of nominees for lifetime achievement in the underrated actresses category. You see them as supporting characters in big-budget films, or as generally uncelebrated character actresses. Perhaps some of them are not beautiful enough to be accepted on the red carpet. At any rate, they're all No. 1 in the Oscars in my head.

• Rusty Schwimmer. The blue-collar woman's actress. You've seen her as minor characters in countless TV and film projects. She invests her characters with no-nonsense sensibilities and non-sentimental sentimentality. This is your Aunt Joan. Don't miss:
The Perfect Storm, as the widow of one of the lost seamen
Six Feet Under, in an episode in which she plays a biker widow
North Country, as one of Charlize Theron's mine co-workers

• Swoosie Kurtz. She can do anything. Her timing and delivery are invariably perfect. And I can't believe she hasn't been nominated for an Oscar yet. Don't miss:
Dangerous Liaisons, as Madame de Volanges, worrywart mother of Uma Thurman's character. Best line, delivered to villainess Glenn Close, who is working to corrupt her daughter: "You're such a very good influence on her."
Cruel Intentions, appearing in yet a second version of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"
Citizen Ruth, as a spy for the pro-choice movement

• Jennifer Coolidge. She's so good at acting dumb that it's hard to believe she can imbue her comic characters with such depth. Don't miss:
Legally Blonde, as Reese Witherspoon's hairdresser. Best line, as she advises Witherspoon's character on how to get her man back from a romantic rival: "What's she got that you don't? Three tits?"
Best in Show, as the heiress-cum-lesbian dog aficionado.
American Pie, in a brief appearance as Stiffler's mom.

• Conchata Ferrell. She talks as if she always has a Milk Dud in her mouth. This helps to make her endearing and sympathetic, yet she also oozes quiet authority. Dont' miss:
Mystic Pizza, as Julia Roberts' boss at Mystic Pizza.
Erin Brockovich, as Julia Roberts' co-worker, nicknamed "Krispy Kreme."

• Martha Plimpton. She's been around for a while, and you've undoubtedly heard of her, but for some reason she doesn't get the respect she deserves. Don't miss:
200 Cigarettes, as an Elvis Costello fan and discombobulated host of a New Year's party who wakes from an alcohol-induced slumber only to find that Costello has visited her party.
Pecker, as a bartender at a gay bar. Signature line: "No teabagging!"
Parenthood, as an ultra-believable teenage mother.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Brokeback Shopping

Somebody sent me this. It gave me a good cackle, even though it's not exccedingly clever. Thought I'd share.

Weekly Grocery Lists for Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Summer 1963




Coffee (espresso grind)
2 tubes K-Y

Fresh Fava beans
Jasmine rice
Prosciutto, approx. 8 ounces, thinly sliced
Medallions of veal
Porcini mushrooms
1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream
1 Cub Scout uniform, size 42 long
5-6 bottles good Chardonnay
1 large bottle Astro-glide

Yukon Gold potatoes
Heavy whipping cream
Asparagus (very thin)
Gruyere cheese (well aged)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
6 yards white silk organdy
6 yards pale ivory taffeta
Case of Chardonnay
Large tin Crisco

Thursday, February 02, 2006


There are certain words and phrases you read only in the newspaper. I hate most of them.

• Tout. A headline writer's favorite. "Bush touts oil independence," etc.
• Vigil. Not necessarily restricted to newspapers, but this is what I hate about it: Whenever people get together to hold some candles, they call it a vigil. Newspapers generally follow and call it that. But a vigil is a matter of keeping watch. If they're not waiting for something, like Coretta Scott King's soul to rise to heaven, it's not a vigil. It's a whole bunch of people standing around holding candles.
• Massive. I hate it when I read about a "massive" protest or some other "massive" effort. How can it be massive? It has no mass.
• Tony, Posh. How often are these words, used to describe something upscale, used in ordinary conversation? (By the way, the word posh is an acronym for "port out, starboard home" and refers to the best passenger cabins on a ship.)
• He/she/it/they is/are not alone. A lazy writer's transition. An example from The New York Times: "Digital photos, of course, never have to see paper to be shared, or even tossed out. Mr. Beacham notes that he prints only about one of every 20 pictures he takes. He is not alone. About 80 percent of digital pictures taken are never developed, Mr. Lesley of Hewlett-Packard said."
• Local hospital. How often do you read about an accident and someone was taken to a "local hospital"? As if they're going to be taken to a remote or out-of-the-way hospital.
• Halt. What's wrong with the word stop? How often do people say "halt"?

I could go on and on, and probably will at some other point.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Newspaper names

A quick newspaper lesson: The federal Newspaper Preservation Act established the joint operating agreement, or JOA, in which competing newspapers in the same market are allowed to combine business operations while maintaining separate newsrooms. Examples would be the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, and The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News. The act may not be doing a lot for news quality, but it did manage to slow the pace at which newspapers are merging altogether. Those full-on mergers are why many of your newspapers have hyphenated names. They can result in some interesting mastheads. Not all of the names that follow are the result of mergers, but some of the juxtapositions are interesting. It must be an art in itself deciding which newspaper name goes first. So here are my favorite newspaper names, in no particular order. This is all off the top of my head. Call me a newsnerd.

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
The Daily Dunklin Democrat (Kennett, Mo.)
St. Paul Pioneer Press
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Hungry Horse News (Columbia Falls, Mont.)
Austin American-Statesman
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Jackson Citizen Patriot (Michigan)
Newsday (Long Island)
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
The Trail-Gazette (Estes Park, Colo.)
The Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.)
Tulsa World (Oklahoma)
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, Mich.)
The Mining Journal (Marquette, Mich.)

Any favorites out there, domestic or otherwise?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

To do this year

Hi, I'm back.

I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions, mostly because I can never keep them, but I have resolved one thing this year: to see more of New York. I live in one of the world's great cities, and all I do is go to the bar and see an occasional movie. So this year I'm going to get out and do shit:

• Visit Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx and take pictures of the graves of famous people, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Miles Davis and Gertrude Ederle. (Extra points for the person who can, without consulting Google, say why Gertrude Ederle is famous. Don't cheat; I'll know.)

• Go to Coney Island. The closest I've ever gotten is watching Cyndi Lauper's "Twelve Deadly Cyns" video collection, in which she narrates from atop the Ferris wheel.

• Go to gay bars in the Bronx and Staten Island (are there any on SI?). Then I will have visited gay bars in all five boroughs. Also, one in Jersey. I have a weakness for beefy Italians. Any recommendations?

• Visit Poe's cottage.

• Go to the Statue of Liberty.

• If I weren't a cripple, I'd go skating at Rockefeller Center. But I can't, so my friend El said she would and I could watch her fall on her ass.

• Visit Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan's last remaining forest, and perhaps see a falcon.

• Visit Ellis Island.

• Go horseback riding in Central Park. I'm not married to this idea, but it might be nice. Though I haven't been on a horse since I was 8 and nearly got bucked off one at a real-live ranch in a Wyoming valley.

Anything else I should do? Any ideas?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ole and Lena jokes

A couple of posts back, I mentioned something about Ole and Lena jokes. In Minnesota, there's this fictional old Norwegian couple we tell jokes about. Ole and Lena. (Sometimes Ole's friend Sven is involved, too.) Anyone who listens to "A Prairie Home Companion" is familiar with Ole and Lena. Some of them are dirty, but for the most part it's just good, clean, quirky fun. I love these jokes. Unfortunately, when I tell them in New York, I'm often met with an uncomprehensive stare. Please humor me and laugh.


Old Ole was in bed dying. Downstairs he could hear Lena rattling pots and pans. Pretty soon he could smell the sweet smell of potato lefse wafting up from downstairs. And Ole thought, "Oh, my darling Lena, she's making me potato lefse for my last meal before I pass on."

Ole could hardly wait as the smell kept getting stronger and stronger. But Lena, she never came upstairs, even though Ole thought the lefse should be ready by now. So, with the last of his strength, old Ole rolled outta bed. He crawled across the bedroom floor. He crawled down the stairs, real careful. He crawled across the parlor floor. He could see Lena's skirt swishin' by the stove.

Old Ole was nearly delirious by now, so he made his way across the kitchen floor and started clawing his way up the stove. But Lena slapped his hand with a spoon and said:

"Ole! That's for the funeral!"

(Thanks to Catherine Jensen)


So old Ole finally died. Lena had to go to the newspaper office to get his obituary written. She went up to the lady behind the desk and said she needed an obituary for Ole. The lady said, "What should it say?" So Lena, worrying about how much it might cost, said simply, "Ole died."

But the lady behind the desk said, "Well, Lena, you know, you get five words for free." So Lena sat down to think. And she thought and thought and thought. Finally she went back up to the desk and said:

"Ole died. Boat for sale."

(Thanks to Holly Collier)


One day Lena says to Ole, "Ole, I think I'm gonna get me some of them breast implants." Ole says to Lena, "Well, Lena, why would you do that? You don't need 'em." Lena says, "Oh, Ole, you're very nice, but just the same, I been saving me some money from the household fund, and I'm gonna get those breast implants." Ole says, "Well, Lena, you sound like you've made up your mind. But I know a cheaper way to do it." And Lena says, "Oh, Ole? How's that?" And Ole says, "Well, Lena, you take some toilet paper and you rub it up and down on your breasteses, and in the morning when you wake up, they'll be bigger." And Lena says, "Oh, Ole, that does sound cheaper, but I don't understand how it works." And Ole says:

"I don't either, Lena, but it seems to have done wonders for your behind."

(Thanks to Catherine Jensen)

Can't get enough Ole and Lena? Go here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mis palabras favoritas

My recent post about limpiaparabrisas made me think about my favorite Spanish words. I'm far from fluent, but I've had enough instruction that I love the language and its quirks of pronunciation (of which there are few). My favorite words in Spanish:

• Limpiaparabrisas (windshield wipers)
• Flebitís (Phlebitis)
• Gastroenterología (Gastroenterology)
• Diptongo (Diphthong)
• Hamburguesa (Hamburger)
• Los blue jeans (Blue jeans)
• Reloj (Clock)
• Equipaje (Luggage)
• Putería (Queeny slang for gay bar; literally, whore store)
• Encebollado (With onions; literally, onioned, which I think should be an English word)
• Ganaría (I/he/she/it would win/earn; say it and you'll see why it amuses me)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

As Cool As I Am

Why I am cool:

1. I am a Teamster.
2. My father was a gravedigger. For some reason this impresses people.
3. I have had cancer. For some reason this also impresses people.
4. I am gay, and gay is cooler than straight.
5. My husband is an award-winning rugby player. This makes me cool by association.
6. I drive a Jeep Wrangler.
7. I have a biker jacket.
8. I've lived in Minnesota, so I can walk down the street barely dressed while mere mortals shiver in their down jackets.

Why I am not cool:

1. I belong to the communication wing of the Teamsters and am not even allowed a jacket.
2. My father was a gravedigger.
3. I have had cancer, yet continue to smoke.
4. I am really, really gay.
5. I couldn't play rugby if my life depended on it.
6. I can barely afford my Jeep Wrangler.
7. Among non-bikers, biker jackets went out sometime in the late '80s.
8. I've lived in Minnesota, so I'm prone to telling Ole and Lena jokes, which only a handful of people outside Minnesota find hilarious — or even get.

Friday, December 02, 2005


I actually got up at a decent hour today. Working late hours as I do, I rarely get a chance to see New York in the morning. It's splendid. Plus, it's amazing how much one can get done when one has a whole day to work with. Here are my plans:

1. Pay bills online. Done.
2. Pay rent. Check is waiting on the table.
3. Mail out car insurance renewal form. Stamped envelope is on the table.
4. Buy windshield wiper blades. Not done. I went to an auto parts store here in Jackson Heights, and after a cursory exchange in Spanish discovered I have "special" blades and will have to go to a store in the ghetto that is Corona or order them online. I did get to say my favorite Spanish word, "limpiaparabrisas."
5. Order limpiaparabrisas online. Not done.
6. Ask my friend P. if I can take him to happy hour in celebration of his new job. Awaiting reply.
7. Scrub the toilet. Looking forward to it.
8. Cleanse hands and arms thoroughly.
9. Do some Christmas shopping in Manhattan.
10. Drink.
11. Eat.
12. Drink some more.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

What's on the menu?

I'm cooking for a few Thanksgiving orphans today. So I gotta run. Briefly, here's what I'm making. Some of this shouldn't come as much of a surprise:

Mediterranean pumpkin-carrot soup
Turkey breast, brined and honey-basted
Mashed potatoes
Sage and onion stuffing
Buttermilk-mashed rutabaga

What friends are bringing:
Beans we like (green bean casserole)
Pumpkin cheesecake

I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Women of the world

Now that Angela Merkel has officially taken over as chancellor of Germany, I thought it would be appropriate to visit some other women who rule. (I'm not talking monarchy here, either.) We like to think the United States is years ahead in progress for women, but places like Pakistan, Nicaragua and the Philippines have beaten us to the punch.

Corazon Aquino
President of the Philippines, 1986-92, and Time's Woman of the Year for 1986.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
President of the Philippines, 2001-present.

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro
The western hemisphere's first elected female president. Nicaragua, 1990-97.

Benazir Bhutto
Prime minister of Pakistan, 1988-90 and 1993-96. Also the first world leader to give birth while in office.

Gro Harlem Brundtland
Prime minister of Norway, 1986-89 and 1990-96.

Mary Eugenia Charles
"Iron Lady of the Caribbean." Prime minister of Dominica, 1980-95.

Helen Clark
Prime minister of New Zealand, 1999-present.

Igdis Finnbogadottir
Iceland, 1980-96. The world's first popularly elected female president.

Indira Gandhi
India, 1966-77 and 1980-84. Known as Mataji, or "respected mother."

Tarja Kaarina Halonen
President of Finland, 2000-present.

Mary McAleese
President of Ireland, 1997-present.

Golda Meir
From Milwaukee to the Middle East. Prime minister of Israel, 1969-74.

Mary Robinson
President of Ireland, 1990-97.

Margaret Thatcher
Prime minister of England, 1980-91. To quote from "Absolutely Fabulous": "Margaret Thatcher was prime minister for A) 900 years, B) 3,000 years, C) 11 years. ... Well, that's a trick question. ... It was a very long time."

Do Videos Divulge? (DVD?)

I remain convinced that one's DVD collection tells tomes. What do these selections tell you?

Absolutely Fabulous, Seasons 1-3
Absolutely Fabulous Season 4
Absolutely Fabulous Season 5
Absolutely Fabulous: The Last Shout
Adventures in Babysitting
All About Eve
American Beauty
Beavis and Butt-Head, The Best of
Bend It Like Beckham
Best In Show
Erin Brockovich
Everybody's All-American
Feeling Minnesota
A Fish Called Wanda
Fried Green Tomatoes
The Golden Girls, Season 1
The Goonies
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
A Home at the End of the World
Cyndi Lauper: At Last, Live
Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink)
Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)
Muriel's Wedding
The Outsiders
The Princess Bride
Show Me Love
The Simpsons, Season 1
Steel Magnolias
True Lies
The Wedding Banquet
Winged Migration
Wonder Woman, Season 1

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Edmund Fitzgerald

The Edmund Fitzgerald sank off Whitefish Point, Michigan, on Nov. 10, 1975. The crew:

Ernest M. McSorley, 63, Captain, Toledo Ohio
John H. McCarthy, 62, Mate, Bay Village, Ohio
James A. Pratt, 44, second mate, Lakewood, Ohio
Michael E. Armagost, 37, third mate, Iron River, Wisconsin
Thomas Bentsen, 23, oiler, St. Joseph, Michigan
Thomas D. Borgeson, 4l, maintenance man, Duluth, Minnesota
John D. Simmons, 60, wheelsman, Ashland, Wisconsin
Eugene W. O'Brien, 50, wheelsman, Toledo, Ohio
John J. Poviatch, 59, wheelsman, Bradenton, Florida
Ranson E. Cundy, 53, watchman, Superior, Wisconsin
William J. Spengler, 59, watchman, Toledo, Ohio
Karl A. Peckol, 20, watchman, Ashtabula, Ohio
Mark A. Thomas, 2l, deck hand, Richmond Heights, Ohio
Paul M. Rippa, 22, deck hand, Ashtabula, Ohio
Bruce L. Hudson, 22, deck hand, North Olmsted, Ohio
David E. Weiss, 22, cadet, Agoura, California
Robert C. Rafferty, 62, steward, Toledo, Ohio
Allen G. Kalmon, 43, second cook, Washburn, Wisconsin
Frederick J. Beetcher, 56, porter, Superior, Wisconsin
Nolan F. Church, 55, porter, Silver Bay, Minnesota
George Holl, 60, chief engineer, Cabot, Pennsylvania
Edward F. Bindon, 47, first assistant engineer, Fairport Harbor, Ohio
Thomas E. Edwards, 50, second assistant engineer, Oregon, Ohio
Russell G. Haskell, 40, second assistant engineer, Millbury, Ohio
Oliver J. Champeau, 4l, third assistant engineer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Blaine H. Wilhelm, 52, oiler, Moguah, Wisconsin
Ralph G. Walton, 58, oiler, Fremont, Ohio
Joseph W. Mazes, 59, special maintenance man, Ashland, Wisconsin
Gordon F. MacLellan, 30, wiper, Clearwater, Florida

An album to remember

OK, I'm definitely on a Cyndi kick now. Every time a favorite artist of mine comes out with a new album, I have to revisit their old stuff. Same with Cyndi. I was curious about why she didn't include anything on her new CD from her most unsung album, "A Night to Remember." I realized it's because "A Night to Remember" is already perfect. Unfortunately, it didn't get the kudos it deserved, and she had only one hit from it, the Roy Orbison-inspired "I Drove All Night" (later desecrated by Celine Dion). Yet it's her best work: meticulously written, produced to perfection, catchy, creative. Chock full o' her best ballads.

1. Intro. "If you think you're hearing something ..."
2. I Drove All Night. Her pipes have never sounded better. And she won a Grammy for it.
3. Primitive. "I feel the fever in your hands; we feel things we don't even understand ... it's primitive." A pretty accurate description of how attraction works.
4. My First Night Without You. A beautifully Grease-esque take on striking out on your own.
5. Like A Cat. "When you threw me out the window, I landed on my feet; like a, like a, like a cat." As my friend Dillard said, "Only Cyndi could write a song about a cat and actually get away with having a cat actually growling in it."
6. Heading West. "I'm like a letter with no address; just like a book I read, I'm heading west."
7. A Night to Remember. I never understood why this song never went Top 10. It has everything. Listen and you'll see.
8. Unconditional Love. Another winner ballad. Her break-it-down part at the end showcases her voice like no other song.
9. Insecurious. I love puns, and this song captures a great one. When your lover says you're asking too many questions and wonders why, you can say this: "You say I'm insecure, I say I'm just curious ... I guess I'm insecurious."
10. Dancing With a Stranger. A song about dancing. Nothing more, nothing less. And a pretty good dance song.
11. I Don't Want to Be Your Friend. The shock of my life: I was at open mic. night at Mayslack's, a meat pub in northeast Minneapolis, when a girl with buck teeth and a guitar stepped onto the stage and began belting out an acoustic version of this song. She later played "Jolene" by Dolly Parton, and I fell in love with her. She also concurs that this is Cyndi's best album.
12. Kindred Spirit. "If you think you're hearing something ..."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

You've come a long way, Cyndi

Few things excite me more than a new Cyndi Lauper album. "She's So Unusual" was my first tape, purchased in 1984 at Kmart with babysitting money. Cyndi brought my boy and I together; we bonded upon meeting by complaining that her album "Hat Full of Stars" was going nowhere. A friend of ours in Minnesota once sang "Time After Time" as a duet with Cyndi at the Minnesota State Fair. Cyndi's always been there for me. And now — an acoustic album of Cyndi favorites! This is not "MTV Unplugged," folks. The arrangements are genius. I urge you to purchase/download "The Body Acoustic" at your earliest convenience.

I'm still listening to the album so can't provide a complete review, but so far I'm amazed. The tracks:

1. "Money Changes Everything" with Adam Lazzara
2. "All Through the Night" with Shaggy
3. "Time After Time" with Sarah McLachlan
4. "She Bop"
5. "Above the Clouds" with Jeff Beck
6. "I'll Be Your River" with Vivian Green
7. "Sisters of Avalon" with Ani DiFranco
8. "Shine"
9. "True Colors"
10. "Water's Edge" with Sarah McLachlan
11. "Fearless"
12. "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" with Puffy Ami Yumi

Monday, November 07, 2005


I hear people go on all the time about how they eschew labels. (I hear this most often from bisexuals.) My question is, what's wrong with labels? We live in a time where labels are necessary to form a world view. Moreover, being gay, I'm proud of that particular label. When people say they don't believe in labels, they're essentially invalidating my own sense of identity. However, within the gay "community," there are many labels. I used to be a twink — a young, thin gay man. However, now that I'm firmly entrenched in my 30s, I don't think I qualify as a twink anymore. Trouble is, I can't find a label that fits, and I'm flailing about in a gay vacuum. Here's a list of some gay labels (I didn't include lesbian ones). If you see one that fits me, or if you have one to add, let me know. I might be off on some of the definitions; also, I tried not to include some of the more pejorative or offensive ones, especially the racially charged ones.

Twink: We've been through this one.
Bear: A large, usually older, hairy gay man.
Muscle bear: Add muscles.
Cub: A bear-to-be.
Daddy: An older gay man, usually with authority issues.
Muscle daddy: Add muscles.
(OK, let's just say you can put "muscle" before any moniker. Ditto "leather.")
Otter: A tall, lithe, hairy gay man.
Chicken: A young gay man.
Chicken hawk: An older gay man who seeks out chicken.
Tandoori chicken: A South Asian twink.
Troll: An older, usually unattractive, gay man. Pejorative.
Wolf: A gay man who mingles with bears but who lacks the weight to be one.
Aberzombie: A guy who primarily dresses in Abercrombie & Fitch.
Chub: An overweight gay man.
Chubby chaser: One who seeks out chubs.
Fug: A gay thug or homo hip-hopster.
Gaysian: An Asian gay man.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture ... I'm definitely not a Gaysian. Not hairy enough to be an otter. Who am I?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Also born on this day

Alas, because President Bush has new plans for daylight-saving time, this is the last time my birthday will be 25 hours long.

Happy birthday also to the living and the dead:

John Adams
Charles Atlas
Johnny Carson
Christopher Columbus
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Edge, The
Ruth Gordon
Harry Hamlin
Michael Landon
Louis Malle
Andrea Mitchell
Ezra Pound
Gavin Rossdale
Grace Slick
Henry Winkler

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Making headlines

I write headlines for a living. (And that's not all.) Going through some old clips, I realized how inanely fond I am of puns. Here a few gems:

• For a story about a church bell tower empty for 80 years:
It's about chime: Church tower finally gets its bells

• For a story about a woman from a town called Roseville who got to fill Barbara Walters' chair on "The View" for a day:
'The View' through Roseville-colored glasses

• For a story about parts of a T. Rex fossil that had been separated years ago but were about to be reunited:
Fossil followers feel reunion in their bones

• For a story about Garrison Keillor leading a church musical service:
A prairie hymn companion

• For a story about a meeting at Disney World in which scholars were probing American religion's relationship to pop culture:
And an oversized mouse shall lead them

• For a story about a rummage sale held as a fund-raiser for an opera company:
The flotsam of the opera

• And one of my missteps:
Police shoot man with knife

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks

You've probably heard by now that Rosa Parks has died. I once met Rosa Parks at an event I was covering for my college newspaper. It was so fleeting that I wasn't left with much of an impression other than this: What a tiny woman to have done something so important. (There is a picture of Rosa and me buried somewhere; I need to find that.) Rosa Parks and her life and legacy could teach us all a lot, and these are a few of the things they've taught me.

• To begin with a cliche, the power of one.
• The reinforcement that physical stature and courage are not linked, something any gay boy who grew up as a slight teenager has probably wrestled with.
• How much your past can catch up with you. I'm certain that if Rosa Parks had had any sort of criminal record or some other blemish on her record, she wouldn't have been able to -- or rather, given the chance to -- propel the civil rights movement forward. In fact (and I should do my research, but it's late), I believe that one earlier bus rider had done the same thing, but she or he was proven to be an unwed mother or a deadbeat dad or something. Anybody got anything on this?
• Events will warp your memory. Whether Rosa Parks was a plant or not is not important. Even if the NAACP did determine her to be the perfect candidate for kindling the Montgomery bus boycott, that doesn't diminish her courage. Besides, I doubt that she knew what an icon she would become; she had no way of knowing how well-aired her story would be.
• People will try to take advantage of you, illustrated by allegations that her supposed caretakers might have tried to profit on her name by suing Outkast over their song "Rosa Parks." Unfortunate.
• And, lest this appear to be too negative a list, I have learned that humility combined with conviction can be a powerful tool. Now if only I can learn to apply that to myself.

UPDATE: This from the New York Times obit: "Blacks had been arrested, and even killed, for disobeying bus drivers. They had begun to build a case around a 15-year-old girl's arrest for refusing to give up her seat, and Mrs. Parks had been among those raising money for the girl's defense. But when they learned that the girl was pregnant, they decided that she was an unsuitable symbol for their cause."

Friday, October 14, 2005

Remember to floss daily, kids

I didn't, and now I am paying the price. I had some sort of procedure today — I'm still not exactly sure what occurred — involving the extraction of bone from my jaw and its transfer to a spot around the roots of a couple of teeth. I was fully conscious the entire time. Here are some of the sensations and/or emotions I have experienced today:

Getting soaked on the way to the train, as it's been raining nonstop for more than a week.

Amusement, as always, when met by Doris, the receptionist, who wears fake eyelashes that always appear to be on the verge of falling off.

Pain when the dentist hit a nerve (or something) while administering the Lidocaine, to which I am somewhat resistant.

Apprehension when he said, "Now, you won't feel anything, just a lot of pressure and a crunching sound."

Disgust when I heard the sound of scraping (crunching, indeed) against my jawbone.

Further disgust when I heard the squeal of spinning blade against bone and saw pink saliva arcing above my head.

Slight amusement as I heard the doctor and assistant trade stories about fasting for Yom Kippur and Ramadan, respectively, and pictured them passing out from hunger as they worked on me.

Intrigue as I pictured what my glistening jawbone must look like, the gums peeled back like in a horror movie.

Disgust as the silk thread was pulled taut against my lip, my doctor suturing like my mother used to work on her quilts.

Now I am experiencing the beginnings of throbbing as the Lidocaine wears off and I wait for Rite-Aid to fill my prescription for Tylenol 3. I have another hour and a half to wait. Will I make it? Tune in and find out.