Monday, November 30, 2009
I assumed that there was a defect in the player that I bought, a loose connection, but for $20 it did hold hundreds of songs, adding music to the player was ridiculously simple, and quite frankly, I'm not a hard-core music-type person anyway. I rarely wear headphones when I'm traveling in the subway, and even rarer still when I walk down the street. I have always held the position that, especially here in NYC, there is always so much going on, so many hidden surprises, so often the opportunity to experience the unexpected (both good and horrifically bad), wearing headphones and listening to music all the time increases the chances you might miss something. I'm not the first person to notice that many New Yorkers opt to be outside but completely retreated in to their own personal space. Portable video games, DVD players and various Apple gadgets make the people that choose to be very insular. I prefer to mix it all up with the great unwashed.
So my MP3 player use is pretty much limited to the gym and when I am feeling particularly bored on the PATH back and forth to New Jersey. For the most part I found the loose headphone connection to be a minor annoyance, and one I would just put up with.
Flash forward to today, finding me at the gym, where I have been almost every day this week. I have decided that I've become woefully out of shape, I am still about 10 lbs heavier than I want to be, and since my bike is currently down awaiting parts that I can't afford, I have rededicated myself to getting back in to shape before next summer. I had just come near the end of a tough abdominal workout, and I had been frustrated the whole time as the music kept cutting out and the headphones seemed to be popping loose every couple of minutes. I seriously considered taking out the MP3 player and smashing it against the wall. Note to self: Explore out-sized aggression issues.
As I was pacing about between lower ab leg-lifts I had finally become so frustrated, constantly jiggling the headphone jack to find the sweet spot where the music played, that I finally violently jammed the headphone jack in to the MP3 player.
...... Which is when I realized that the headphone jack was never fully inserted in to the connector. As it needed to be. Which made the music, that I had always complained to myself was a tad "tinny", noticeably louder. And fuller. And the headphones weren't loose at all. And no matter which way I twisted and turned they weren't coming undone. And if this story sounds at all familiar it's because I went through a similar situation with a Verizon Chocolate phone a couple of years ago. Apparently, these new-fangled electronics that the kids are using these days plug in differently than I am used to.
So the end of this story is that after almost 6 months of owning the Sansa Clip, I am just now getting around to actually using it the way it was intended. I also need to remind myself on occasion that it has a perfectly good FM radio built in as well. I'm sure it does other things but let's face it, I'll probably never know what they are.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
BBC News ran a story about four people getting arrested in Peru on charges of luring chunky folk out to desolate areas for the purpose of murdering them to harvest their fat. The "donated" fat was then re-sold to European pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies and used in anti-wrinkle treatments. The fat was reported to be worth $15,000 a liter, and some of the suspects were carrying soda bottles filled with human fat when arrested.
So if you happen to be walking along a desolate road after gorging yourself on Thanksgiving goodies, do not, I repeat DO NOT go in to a cave marked "Free Money" lest you be murdered and end up in a jar of Oil of Olay Extract of Cletus, and then slathered all over the face of some snooty old French lady.
Also, I will happily donate several liters of my personal fat, a bargain at $10,000, as long as I don't need to go to Peru and get bludgeoned to do it.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I don't have a driver's license. I live in NYC and when my license expired after I had been here close to five years I sort of let it happen. At the time, I was militant in believing that I would never leave New York City and would never need a license. Besides, I always hated driving. I thought it was a necessary evil that was no longer necessary and was happy to let my license lapse.
And Pet Airways does not fly to Buffalo. Nobody flies to Buffalo unless they really have to. Sorry Buffalo, I couldn't resist.
But I wanted to take a little longer Christmas holiday this year since I am not working full time and I am just a lowly cog in the great machine. I thought it would be nice to take an entire week and spend some quality time with the family. I last visited home during the summer for my brother's 50th Birthday, and while I found everyone seemingly hale and hearty, I am mindful that both mom and dad are now 78 years old. Knock wood, they both seem to be doing just swell. Mom still holds down a part time job, working a cash register at a discount department chain store. Dad was working part time up until recently, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he found another part time job in the next couple of months. I personally wish they would work less and travel more, but they have their reasons for why that doesn't happen and I respect their right to make that call. Besides, I seem to be the only family member that developed wander-lust. And even though I've been in the same New York City apartment for 20 years, If I could afford it I would travel all over the world. Well, except India. And the Middle East. And Alaska would be the very last state after I visited all the rest.
In any case, what I really wanted to do was visit home and bring Riley with me. First, if I was going to be gone a week, I didn't want to spend all that time, particularly Christmas, without my dog. Second, my mom loves dogs. And she hasn't had one in the house for many many years. They have Cat now, and I can't describe how unexpected that development was, but mom is a dog person. I thought bringing Riley might give her a much needed fix, and Riley could spend a week being spoiled and fussed over by someone other than me. Also, as much as I try to deny it, Riley really is about the cutest most loving dog I've ever seen. When he's not destroying your bed linens.
So I set about making inquiries as to which airline, or really any mode of travel, would be the best and cheapest to get me and Riley from New York City to Buffalo. Turns out, you can't get there from here.
The train was out straight away. Amtrak doesn't allow animals, even as cargo. Period. Some of the major air carriers don't take pets, and the ones that do are talking about small animals that can fit in carriers and slide under the seat in front of you.
Some, like Delta, will in fact take your pet as checked baggage, but unfortunately the only direct Delta flights to Buffalo I could find are on their commuter partner, and those are much smaller planes that can't take medium to large dog crates. Continental was my last hope, as it seemed on their web site that they had some sort of pets as cargo shipping service. But when I called them originally they flat out refused to take Riley because I described him as a Pit mix, and they "only fly Pit Bulls as puppies". Fucking bigots.
And when I called back two weeks later and made another inquiry, the reservation agent helping me first claimed that it would cost $250.00 EACH WAY to fly Riley as cargo, and then backtracked and claimed that they didn't fly Staffordshire Terriers, which is what Riley's breed is, kind of, unless they were under 20 lbs. Which sounded suspiciously like Pit Bull racial profiling if you ask me. And at that point, there was no way I could afford a ticket for me, at around $325 and then add another $500 for Riley. Not counting what it would cost to buy him an "airline approved" plastic kennel as well as a veterinary visit so that he could have a doctor's note clearing him to fly. It all became far too expensive for a week in Buffalo.
This being New York City, AKA Scams R Us, I got some information about where I could secure the documentation and a harness to try and pass Riley off as a service dog, but 5 minutes in to the flight that bit of subterfuge would surely disintegrate when Riley would likely jump up on the service cart and gorge himself on bags of blue tortilla chips.
So as it stands now, my week in Buffalo has been cut to 4 1/2 days. And Riley will be spending four nights in a local kennel, which kills me every time I have to leave him there. Not that they don't take good care of him, or that I have any doubts he will be fed and walked. But the kennel cage he sleeps in has a concrete floor, and Riley sleeps in a bed. My bed. With me.
I'm going out this week to get him a big fuzzy blanket, which I will stink up real good between now and Christmas. And then it's going in the cage with him, so at least it will be soft and smell like home.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
And while we're posting humorous video, did you happen to see this bit of hilarity from the Miss Gay Brazil pageant? Right after she is crowned and giving her post-pageant interview, an obviously unhappy losing cunt-testant sneaks up and snatches her weave! LIVE on camera!! And check out the look on her face. Bitch IS NOT playin'!
And speaking of bitch fights, it appears by this post that the Senior Smackdown I was promised and was so looking forward to will have to be postponed until sometime in the new year. Note to self: Go for the throat.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Project Inform held a September forum in which the aging HIV population and their ongoing medical issues were discussed. Here's what they said about HIV patients with undetectable viral loads, which up until now, has been the unofficial "touchdown" in HIV treatment:
"Even low-level so-called undetectable virus in people on effective treatment – which in fact can almost always be detected using ultrasensitive tests – can trigger persistent immune activation. In addition, HIV damages the gut lining during early infection, allowing bacteria to leak out and ignite system-wide inflammation. Antiretroviral therapy dramatically reduces immune activation and inflammation, but does not bring back the normal pre-HIV state.
...Chronic low-grade inflammation appears to be the common denominator underlying all these conditions, according to Dr Stephen Deeks at San Fransisco General. It is also increasingly implicated in age-related disease among HIV-negative people, demonstrating that long-term viral infection is only part of the puzzle."
I can tell you that I have experienced what's been characterized as "low-grade" (HA!) inflammation starting sometime after I began taking HIV meds. There are several blog posts dealing with the pain I was experiencing in my hand and wrist, and as soon as that cleared up, I experienced similar symptoms in my ankles and feet. I have been suffering from other forms of foot and knee pain so severe that I have often considered quitting my job as standing and walking both have become extremely difficult. I originally chalked this up to my ever-faster rush to the never-ending dirt nap, but I now feel that the sudden onset of symptoms coupled with the severity of the pain (I went from minor "wear and tear" discomfort to almost crippling joint and tendon pain) probably has an HIV connection. Whether it's cause is the underlying infection or the meds I have no idea. And apparently neither do the doctors.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
There's a pretty heartbreaking piece about LGBT homeless youth that ran in The Indypendent several weeks ago. A social worker from Sylvia's Place, one of the few shelters available to LBGT homeless youth in NYC, took extreme exception to the bleak portrait painted of the organization and some client profiles. You can read the comments below the article to get his valid perspective. Still, there's no getting around the fact that conservative estimates are that there are close to 20,000 homeless queer youth in this country, and less than 250 beds nationwide to house them and help keep them safe. You can read the full story here.
"Across the room Damien Corallo slouched in a chair, looking grim. Somebody had stolen his iPod. “Things are always getting stolen here,” he said. I sat down next to him and, just as Collazo had said, once I got him talking, he did not want to stop. When he was a kid, his father was sent to jail and his mother sent him and his two siblings from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to New York City to live with his aunt. His brother was gay and Damien, who is transgender, had been dressing like a boy as long as he could remember.
“One day our aunt told us she didn’t want any faggots in the house. And we figured out that she had given our rights over to the state. So we left,” Corallo said. “I’ve lived in 32 group homes or foster homes. I’ve lived in shelters, halfway houses, safety houses. I’ve been into lock-up, stuck in residentials. I have been in every kind of home. I went to juvie for drugs. I used to inject drugs and snort coke. I was in for about a year. It was not friendly. It was a Missouri state jail and then I went to rehab.”
Corallo said he stayed in a group home on Long Island. Three years ago he moved to Sylvia’s, where he’s been ever since. On three occasions, he’s been beaten in what he described as “gay bashings.” He’s been called a faggot and a freak more times than he would like to remember. Somewhere along the line he contracted HIV, which has since turned into AIDS. He has attempted suicide more than once, and he relapsed, too — he’s got track marks up and down his arms and a chronic twitch. He is using crystal methamphetamines and heroin again. He said he wants to break the habit, but “I could never stay clean in this situation.” Corallo is 18 years old."
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I'm dying because I have to work some dickhead's wedding or some such nonsense on Saturday and I would much rather be going to the first ball being hosted by The House of Extravganza in over five years. There will be competitions in 26 different categories, among them; Realness, Natural Beauty, Butch Queen-Vogue Fem, Battle Kat, Cha Cha Ruffle Bitch, and Butch Trans and His Bitch: A Night on the Town. I'm gagging. If you don't have to work, you should definitely head down to check out what promises to be an unparalleled night of entertainment.
The Moda La Envida Xtravaganza Ball is this Saturday, November 14, at Irving Plaza (17 Irving Place/cor. of 15th St) from 8pm.
I also want to give a huge shout out for the launch party taking place at Splash bar this Monday, November 16th at 11PM.
"Gaylifenyc.org is a non-profit AIDS Health Resources website with Entertainment News and On The Town updates. It's also dedicated to helping people getting around, get through and get over the system that hinders timely assistance for the newly diagnosed & people living with HIV/AIDS. And it's dedicated to entertaining you, and keeping your spirits up where they should be."
I have had the chance to go through the site and there are many very important, valuable and current links to financial and medical assistance available for HIV/AIDS patients in and around New York City. I'm hoping maybe as the site expands they will be able to provide the occasional cheap ticket to a Broadway show or maybe discounts to some of the cities better cabaret rooms.
As it is now it's a great effort and I hope that a lot of people turn out to see the show on Monday and support the web site.
Friday, November 13, 2009
To be sure, not every edict he issues is wrong or misdirected, and some are just common sense items that every restaurant should make an effort to enforce, but some of them just scream for a response. If for no other reason than they have generated a huge response from hundreds and hundreds of commenters wherever they were re-posted or discussed.
Here’s my take on the First 50:
#3. Has absolutely nothing to do with the waiter or waitress. They do not decide when or where a table is sat, and seating an incomplete party is not even at the discretion of the host or hostess. This is a management policy, and the reason for it has to do with maximizing the number of covers (read: dollars) you can do in the peak hours. I can start here because if the imaginary “tip meter” that so many diners claim they possess has begun ticking lower; you are already blaming the wrong person.
#4. Again, this is not something most waiters can decide to do, nor can most door hosts. Not sure about a Maitre d’. If you are kept waiting for your reservation, something has gone wrong at the front door or with the reservation booker. Not with the waiter.
#6. Just silly. The restaurant (and the waiter) is trying to sell you things. THAT’S THEIR JOB. It’s a simple, and very common, technique to try subtle “tricks” to get you to buy, and that includes making tap water “seem” like the “poor” choice. This is exactly like the grocery store putting the least expensive items on the bottom shelf. The eye-level is reserved for maximum profit. IT’S BUSINESS, you’re not being insulted and you are an adult. Get over it.
#7-9. Here’s where we go off the rails. While I agree, I don’t need to get the waiter’s name; some people (see all the comments) really like it. Some people are in no mood for “cuteness and jokes” and some are quite friendly and up for a good time. And how is the waiter supposed to be cold and efficient (no jokes, no flirting) and then not be “robotic” reciting the specials? You either want the show or you don’t want the show, but the waiter can’t be expected to turn it on and off line by line whatever the mood of the diners (keep in mind there’s a good chance we could be talking about 6 or more tables with near 40 or more individual people) or wherever we happen to be in the eating out process. And jumping in to a conversation to get even a drink order is like successfully executing Double Dutch, it is enormously difficult and multiplied by several tables over the course of a busy night, it’s amazing it gets done at all. And I won’t even discuss the times when the waiter is COMPLETELY IGNORED by a table that (for whatever reason) refuses to respond when approached. What in the world does one do with that?
#17. This elicited probably the biggest response in the comments. And I will say on paper, I agree. Restaurant meals were usually more elaborate, consisting of (basically) an appetizer, salad, main and dessert course. Usually, everyone was served all the courses, even if they opted not to eat every one. That was when it was desirable and appropriate to serve and clear a course all at once, getting the table and diners prepared for the next one. Today, dinner is more of a mix and match, where appetizers are rarer and not everyone orders a salad. Many times it’s a glass of wine and an entrée. So courses, and the collective clearing of them, are becoming a lost art. Also, when the plates are cleared is again sometimes a management decision and not in the hands of the waiters. I managed a well-known (not fine dining) restaurant where I was instructed by the GM and the owners to get the plates cleared as soon as people were done eating. So that’s what I encouraged the staff to do, even though I disagreed. And if you read the comments attached to the original column, there are more than a few people who want their plate gone after they are done. They HATE having to sit and look at their cold dirty plate while others are finishing. Do we enforce the rule and let them fume? What if that’s the guy (or girl) that will pay the bill and tip? THAT’S the customer that is always right in my book.
#19. Again, not up to the waiter. That is a policy set by the manager/owners. P.S. If you don’t get automatic seconds on the bread without asking that is usually a management decision as well.
#23. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Aside from the ridiculous idea of a busy waiter on a Saturday night having the time to STEAM THE LABEL off a bottle of wine, how exactly would he accomplish this? Hold it over a boiling soup pot in the kitchen? You want to see a chef kick a waiter’s ass? Here’s an idea, how about these supposed high-end customers in this supposed fine dining restaurant do something with their fancy new IPhones besides text message during dinner (or worse, take a call at the table) and try something wacky. like making a note about the bottle of wine they just enjoyed. Are these grown-ups we are waiting on or helpless little kids?
#24. Many many scotch drinkers would completely go insane if I didn’t refill the glass they are using
#26. Your white wine is going to be kept chilled in a bucket. If you don’t want that, say so.
#31. There is any number of reasons why a diner didn’t eat all or even half of his or her food. Calling undue attention to this could be potentially rude and/or embarrassing. A simple question such as, “was everything all right?” is much much better than the confrontational “what went wrong?”
#32. Ridiculous. Sometimes a simple touch on the shoulder is preferable to getting someone to move out of the way rather than dumping a tray of food or drinks on them. I have had people back right up in to me and if I didn’t use my hand to stop them it would have been a disaster.
#42. Ridiculous (Part 2!) I have complemented women on a fabulous outfit or a gravity defying pair of pumps on many many occasions. As a gay man I will defend with my life the right to do so! And besides, most women in
#46. See #42. If Victoria Beckham parks her skinny and perfectly outfitted ass down at my table she is most certainly not equal to everyone else. If David Beckham sits next to her it’s “
Coming up, the next 50.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 09, 2009
In the rest of the states disclosure laws and criminal behavior vary and are wide open to a host of interpretations, many times based on a lack of good medical information, fearful or over-zealous prosecutors or judges that seem to be woefully uninformed about the realities of HIV transmission. In many states, it is considered criminal behavior to have sex with someone without informing him or her of your HIV status, regardless of the sexual activity that ensues and with no regard to the use of condoms.
In Iowa, you can be prosecuted for kissing without disclosure. In Missouri, a person could receive a death sentence for transmitting the virus without disclosure.
Most HIV transmission "laws" were written in the early to late 1980's, and they were never amended or updated as reliable transmission data was finally understood as fact by the medical community.
Unfortunately, a very informative article was absolutely ruined at the end when the authors began discussing what HIV+ people could do to protect themselves from prosecution for having sexual relations? Here's what they suggested:
What can HIV-positive Americans do to protect themselves? In theory, one defense is “informed consent.” If you can get a person to indicate that you have made it perfectly clear that you have HIV, and do so in front of a witness, such proof of disclosure may hold up in court. But unfortunately, many states do not define what constitutes “informed consent.”
You could ask the people to whom you disclose to sign a letter stating that they have been told—and acknowledge— that you’re HIV positive. It will need to be notarized (stamped by a notary public at the time of signing) to be effective. Another method is to tape record (or videotape, say, with your cell phone or a digital camera) your disclosure. Remember: For an audio or video file to be admissible evidence in court, you must state, on the file, that you request permission for the conversation to be recorded and the other person must verbally agree and state his or her full name.
You could also invite a friend to be present when you disclose to a potential partner. That friend should be willing to stand witness to the disclosure should charges ever be brought against you. Or you could take a potential partner to your doctor to educate him or her about HIV and its potential risks—so you have a witness to his or her awareness of your status.
I kept looking for the smiley face icon to indicate they were joking but sadly, they were not. At what point in the bar or the nightclub or the bath house do you trot out the notary public to sign your AIDS papers? When you are making your cellphone videotape of you and your sex partner stating your names and acknowledging that HIV disclosure has been discussed and agreed to, is it better to do it in your underwear in your dimly lit bedroom? Is authenticity going to come up later? Even if you have a relatively "conservative" sex life, who has an HIV doctor that will be willing to take 3 or 4 appointments a year solely to explain HIV and potential risks to a "prospective sex partner"? And who in the holy hell is that fucking proactive?
It made a good article worth reading in to a complete joke, and did nothing but make HIV+ people hoping for some good information on how to have and maintain some semblance of an adult sex life left to fend for themselves.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Came upon this scene yesterday afternoon while traversing Union Square on the way to work. Turns out it was a promotional stunt for a book signing later on that night. Augusten Burroughs was reading and signing from his latest work, You Better Not Cry, a collection of Christmas themed short stories. Unfortunately my substandard wage job called so I missed it. You did too, but if you want to hear him read an excerpt from the book, go here where there is an MP3 audio snippet of Burroughs reading a passage embedded in the page. Apologies for the so-so quality of my cell phone cam.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
"Some fifteen years into the era of protease inhibitors and drug cocktails, doctors are realizing that the miracles the drugs promised are not necessarily a lasting solution to the disease. Most news accounts today call HIV a chronic, manageable disease. But patients who contracted the virus just a few years back are showing signs of what’s being called premature or accelerated aging. Early senility turns out to be an increasingly common problem, though not nearly as extreme as James’s in every case. One large-scale multi-city study released its latest findings this summer that over half of the HIV-positive population is suffering some form of cognitive impairment. Doctors are also reporting a constellation of ailments in middle-aged patients that are more typically seen at geriatric practices, in patients 80 and older. They range from bone loss to organ failure to arthritis. Making matters worse, HIV patients are registering higher rates of insulin resistance and cholesterol imbalances, and they suffer elevated rates of melanoma and kidney cancers and seven times the rate of other non-HIV-related cancers."
I can personally report that some of the men who regularly attend the HIV+ support group I drop in to have brought up a host of concerns about cognitive impairment and HIV, what it means, whether or not it's real and how to diagnose it. Well before this article came out. Some of them are realizing that something is not right, and are confused about what, if anything, they can do about it.
Also, I wonder if it's just me who noticed this lovely little factoid, which I believe is touched on later in the article:
"Either way, it is now clear that even patients who respond well to medications by today’s standards are not out of the woods. Current life-expectancy charts show that people on HIV medications could live twenty fewer years on average than the general population."
HIV and aging is a topic that I will be exploring with a little more regularity here at From The Ashes. It's a field of research and medicine that far too little is known about, and it's a subject that will take on more and more significance as the first generation of HIV survivors moves in to their 50's and 60's and (hopefully) beyond.
In the meantime, you can read the whole story here.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
"Starting on Tuesday, November 3, the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation will donate its gallery to host, "Art & AIDS: Living for the Moment," an exhibition featuring 50 artists living with HIV/AIDS. Over 130 works of art, utilizing diverse media, will be on display through November 7.
The exhibition is an outcome of work from weekly therapeutic art classes as part of GMHC's Volunteer, Work and Wellness Center. Art teachers donate their time to teach classes for GMHC's clients (consisting of professional and non-professional artists), and assist in curating the annual exhibition. The artists are able to sell their artwork which increases financial independence, particularly for those who live on a limited income." -via Gay Men's Health Crisis
The opening reception is tonight from 6-8, and if you are in NYC you can attend by calling 212-367-1014 to RSVP.