Friday, June 26, 2009

Evanesced ...

I rise from trumpets and roses
Escape the embrace of imagined
solitary comfort
To join the living, the fully alive,
if unaware, beyond
I enter, my eyes wide open
A world where beginnings sometime
have ends or linger or grow
until they are unaware they
have begun and simply are
My life, full and round and good

One evening, years ago, those words decided to make themselves known to me, and so I wrote them down.

Some moments in our lives are fleeting. Others linger at length. Months. Years.

And while all moments connect to one another and shape-shiftingly form themselves into what we call a life, some are superficial while others burrow deep into our souls.

Some aspects of our lives are so indelible, so inherent, that it simply seems impossible that they will ever go away.

Take any other pound of flesh, but spare the heart. Even battered, it beats and holds dear that which we cannot bear to leave behind.

But nature abhors the status quo. Love arrives as a vapor and one day burns away. And while there may be private tears, the moments tick past, silently, and the day arrives when it's done.

No fanfare. No drama. No tearful goodbye.

Just the gradual fade of a bittersweet melody as a new song begins to swell.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

To My Art's Content ...

Art and me, we have a funny relationship. And I don't mean "ha-ha" funny.

My definition of art is: "If I can do it, it's not art."

Except that I'm not so useless with pencil. I can sketch OK. Depending. Not everything comes out looking like the scrawl of a serial killer.

When I first moved into my house, I was sitting, oh, about where I'm sitting right now – I've moved in the meantime, I promise – and looking at a little palm my mom had bought for me for my first apartment, which was now sitting in my first (and to date, only) house.

And so I started to draw it. On off-white construction paper. I've since bought an acid-free sketch pad, but I'm rarely overcome with the urge to sketch these days.

Anyhoo, I started to draw my little palm but then thought, "Well, the palm needs to be, you know, like, in something. I can't just have a levitating palm." So, I figured rocks made sense. River rocks. Pretty, smooth river rocks. So I drew some of those, too. Played around with shading. Whatever.

Sometime after I was done with it, mom saw it and – as moms are wont to do – really liked it, so for the next Mother's Day that rolled around, I framed it very crudely, figuring it was only a temporary thing, and gave it to her.

Mom, who isn't at all fussy, liked that I'd used kraft paper as the backing instead of getting a mat cut, and so it's been hanging in her house, as is, ever since.

Here's a not-altogether-awful image of it, as captured by my camera phone. You can see mom's reflection in the glass. I believe she was making us sandwiches for lunch!

And then there's one of my all-time favorite paintings, "The Lovers" by Rene Magritte. I love how realistically he paints the folds in the fabric covering their faces.

And then there's this.

Henri Matisse had talent, I grant you. Many of his paintings are very vivid and evocative. But I'm sorry. Give me a pair of safety scissors and some construction paper and I can knock this out for you, too. I've had Matisse lovers glare at me for suggesting that he was anything short of a genius, but first of all, art is subjective. We don't all have to like the same things. And second of all, c'mon. Sorry. In my view, this is not the work of an artistic genius. This is the work of a kindergartner. Well, OK, maybe a first-grader. Those "stars" might be a little tricky to cut out with safety scissors. Some more-developed manual dexterity might be called for there.

Art in my house runs toward "muted." I don't like lots of color.

I wrote this blog post a couple years ago about creativity (and I read it a little while ago and I must say, I was having a lot of fun, penning that piece) and included a picture of the art that hangs in my dining area.

It's huge, about 60 inches wide. It's not worth a lot, but it's worth about 10 times what I paid for it. Heh. I love an art bargain!

Which leads me to the point of this post. Yes, all the way down here.

Today, at long, long, long last, I took a piece in to get framed that I bought, oh, seven years ago? Maybe longer? I dunno. The point is, I saw it, I loved it, I bought it, I meant to get it framed properly, and then, well, I didn't. I found it in a cheesy antique store in a frame that Walgreens would be embarrassed to sell. But I loved it instantly and it was, if memory serves, around $25. This is it.

The day I bought it, I brought it home, did a little poking around online, and found that another copy of it is part of the collection of the National Gallery of Art. Cool.

And then, tonight, I found another copy of it, a pencil-signed copy, like mine, for sale online for $1,250! Woo hoo! Art bargain, part deux!

It will be ready next Tuesday, my pretty little signed drypoint etching. I opted for the museum glass. And an aged-looking frame (that almost looks dirty) with egg-and-dart carving, and a mat that matches the "dusty" effect in the frame's detail. I think it'll look really spectacular when it's all put together.

Now I really need to do something with that watercolor that looks like a portrait of Leonardo DaVinci ...

Coarse Correction ...

As John Lennon so sagely said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

I'm a planner. I like plans. I like plotting. I like to-do lists. I like crossing things off of to-do lists.

I'm also a very detail-minded person. Big pictures are nice 'n' all, but little touches are big with me. I love it when someone notices a detail I've put into place.

Of course, we can plan all we want. Cosmically, plans mean bupkus. Some come to pass. Many others do not. Life often gets in the way.

Life, I recognize, is exactly what's supposed to happen, whether or not it follows the plans we've made. And eventually, the day comes when we see events in a larger context and the reasons for everything become clear.

But in the moment? Not so much.

And so I recently made some plans and they were really good plans. And I had a really good time executing the foundation plans on which the experiential plans were to rest.

I am a wiz at concocting visions of what should be and then manifesting those visions.

I am not a wiz at making the universe bend to my will to ensure that my vision is realized by everyone else involved.

So my recent plans went unrealized, unfulfilled.

And I was disappointed, to be sure, by the circumstances but also grateful for the reminder that while there is a lot I can control, there is also a lot I cannot.

"Everything is going to happen the way it's supposed to," I told myself last night, trying to drift off to sleep.

And then my brain pulled that phrase into an acronym: EIGTHTWIST. "Eight twist!" I thought, and turned on the light and fetched the bound book I keep on my bedside table for jotting late-night thoughts or dreams before they vanish into the waking world. "No, Beth," I said, looking at the page. "That's not how 'eight' is spelled."

Hey, I was trying to fall asleep. Cut my brain some slack.

But the notion of "eight twist" led me to draw the infinity symbol in my book.

Everything is going to happen exactly the way it's supposed to, indeed.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On The Heels Of 100,000 ...

Sometime before the 4th of July, my blog's odometer will click past 100,000.

I've had more than 100,000 visitors since I began blathering in March 2005 and 1,395 posts ago. (This is post 1,396.) I didn't have a counter on this blog for quite some time, so I actually passed 100,000 some time ago, I'm sure. But the numbers that count are the numbers you can see.

So here I am, still prattling on after all these years. More than four years. Years that have contained a few sage moments, I suppose, but for the most part have been full of banalities. Does the world really need to know how much I hated "Nacho Libre"? Probably not.

Of course, 100,000 is a precious number, precious as in "adorable." Plenty of sites garner that much traffic in a few hours, not a few years. But I don't advertise my blog anywhere. I'm not a prolific commenter, so people aren't linking back to my site that way. It would be interesting, though, to know how many people have found my blog by entering "mike rowe gay" into search engines. Mike and his "Is he or isn't he?"-ness remain the most popular reason people arrive at Finding My Voice.

And now that I've mentioned him again, this blog will turn up as yet another search result.

So let's give Mike a hand, shall we? And a little love, because he's pretty. (L.A. Dave interviewed Mike a year or two ago and told Mike about my blog's Mike-centric hits. So in the event that Mike runs across this post in a vanity search: Hi, Mike! I hope to run into you in a bar someday. I know what I'm supposed to say. But I don't drink beer, so here's hoping you'll bend the rules.)

My posts are becoming slightly less frequent. I'm off my pace of posting once a day. I have friends with blogs who only post when they feel they have something truly blog-worthy to say. But me, I've always felt like this site was a bit like my kitchen, and if people are stopping by, well, it's just not hospitable to not have something to offer them. If you stopped by my actual kitchen, I'd at least offer coffee. And if I had a freshly baked good on hand, I'd offer that to you, too.

So perhaps I'll up the ante on posting and resume my blathering. Or maybe the time is nigh to craft a farewell post and say so long to this little corner of cyberspace.

But I'd leave the site up, for all those Internet travelers who need a place to land when they search for the truth about Mike Rowe.

Psst! He's not gay.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Moody ...

The morning light is moody, diffuse, as though the day has retreated under the covers.

I like damp, grey days. Perhaps not as many as we've been having of late, but in general, I like them.

I like the increased vibrancy of the greenery outside. My view is very verdant.

I like the motion of the trees and the way my curtains billow with the breeze.

I like the persistent sleepyheadedness that encourages me to set down my book and close my eyes.

And, for breakfast, I like the prospect of the toast made with the bread I baked yesterday, on a morning very much like today's.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

15 Books ...

This is one of many lists I've created on Facebook. I suspect that most of my readers here are also friends there, so this may be information duplication for many of you, but for those who haven't seen it before ...

These are the instructions that came with the list: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

1. "Bread and Jam for Frances" by Russell Hoban – My favorite children's book.

2. "Winnie-The-Pooh" by A. A. Milne – "Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin." My Aunt Chick (and the rest of her family) gave me a slipcased set of Pooh books for my birthday one year. I still have them.

3. "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White – I promise that this list will not be solely children's books.

4. "The Tiny One" by Eliza MInot – Minot's debut novel. I was completely captivated by her power of description. Sometimes I read it out loud. I love the cadence in the language she uses. She tells the whole story from the perspective of a young girl and the voice is just perfect, exactly the way I think a child would perceive the events unfolding around her.

5. "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden – I remember not wanting it to end. I would have read the end papers if there had been anything on them. Or an index. I would have read an index.

6. "Animal Dreams" by Barbara Kingsolver – This should probably be the first book on the list, as it's the one I cite most often as my favorite book. It contains my all-time favorite sentence in a work of fiction. No, I won't tell you what it is. Read the book and see if you can guess it.

7. "The Power of One" by Bryce Courtenay – I cite this as my second-favorite book. Again, masterful powers of description. Don't see the movie first.

8. "On Writing" by Stephen King – [Just in case he runs across this list whilst vanity Googling: Hi, Uncle Stevie!] Second only to "The Elements of Style" when it comes to books on writing. But so different from "The Elements of Style" that it stands alone.

9. "The Seat of the Soul" – I read the entire book out loud to myself, a highlighter in one hand, a pen in the other. I highlighted and underlined and wrote notes to myself in the margins. I really should read it again. I'm sure I'd take away entirely new messages today.

10. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho – I don't think I've ever heard anyone tell me that they read it and didn't love it. The ultimate parable.

11. "Ernest Hemingway" by Kenneth Lynn – The best biography I've ever read.

12. "Never Come Morning" by Nelson Algren – Nelson figures very prominently in my life, but this novel figures most prominently of all. He had a way with words that still stuns me.

13. "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis – Just popped into my head. I love it. I pull it off the shelf and read it from time to time.

14. "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky – C'mon, get happy! But seriously, I read it in high school and was blown away. Definitely one I need to read again as an adult.

15. "The Fourth K" by Mario Puzo – To date, the worst book I've ever read. So I felt compelled to put it on the list. But now I feel like I've wasted a slot. So I'm going to add a No. 16.

16. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" by Mark Haddon – Utterly charming. I devoured it and then regretted not taking more time to savor it.

I'm sure there are a zillion more I could add to the list, but I'll (kind of) stick to the limit. But 15 minutes from now, I'd probably revise this.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Healing Power Of Toast ...

On Saturday, my cousin Patty, in town from New York, presented me with these:

Bandages shaped like toast! (Matt, Pat, are you ordering some yet?!)

I put one on, despite having no injury. It's better than a temporary tattoo! Hell, it's better than a permanent tattoo! The color is very lifelike, golden-brown and buttery.

Patty suggested that I wear it on my upper arm, like a nicotine patch, and if anyone asks, I can tell them I'm trying to cut back on toast.

As the package reveals, a toy surprise is included. Mine is a tiny non-posable, non-action figure of a dude wearing grey pants, a white shirt, a skinny tie, and glasses. He looks a bit like Harry Potter, without the scar. But he's very fun. As I exclaimed to Patty, "Now I have a man in my life!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The 3-Day: Just Breathe ...

This morning, I read this post by fellow 3-Day Ambassador Dawn Rennert. Dawn regularly posts about the 3-Day, which is very helpful of her. First-time walkers want to arm themselves with as much information as possible before the event.

In her post, Dawn mentions that the friend who was going to walk with her has opted out of the event. This isn't uncommon. Right about now, about six weeks out from the beginning of the walking season, people begin to question whether they'll be able to raise enough funds or whether they've trained sufficiently and many arrive at the decision to not walk.

I posted a comment in which I said that while I'm sorry her friend won't be walking, I'm willing to wager that one of the people Dawn finds herself standing next to at Opening Ceremonies will end up being the person she walks with for the entire weekend, and odds are good that they'll stay good friends.

Forming friendships is a big part of the 3-Day.

As I wrote that comment, I found myself welling up. It's a pretty good bet that if I'm writing about the 3-Day, I'm crying, too. It's such an emotional experience that I can't help but remember all the feelings I feel every year and the tears start to flow.

Oh, also: I'm a total sap.

Many of you might be able to retain your composure with much more ease.

But writing that comment to Dawn made me think about all the other walkers who might be getting nervous, who might be thinking, "Oh, man, what did I get myself into?!"

In years past, I've hosted and co-hosted informational meetings for first-time walkers. Reassurance from someone who has done the walk and who can answer questions about what to expect seems to assuage a lot of anxiety.

And so this is an open post to all first-time walkers who might be wondering whether it was wise to take up this challenge:

Yes, it was.

I am not overstating anything when I say that the 3-Day will change your life in ways you cannot begin to imagine.

If you're nervous, that's perfectly normal. You're embarking on a substantial journey. Sixty miles is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but electing to participate in a 3-Day isn't just about walking from Point A to Point D. It's about stepping well outside your comfort zone, especially if you're doing the walk "alone."

Of course, there's no such thing as doing the walk "alone." From the moment you arrive at Opening Ceremonies, you'll be surrounded by more than 2,000 other walkers. Once you drop your luggage off at your gear truck, take in the sea of pink that you'll see swelling near the stage and know this: One of those people is about to become one of your best friends.

Last year, I met Mary on the coach from the hotel to Opening Ceremonies. She had expected to walk with a friend, but that friend decided against walking. Mary, undaunted, showed up by herself.

As we were chatting, Amy arrived at our sides. Amy, too, was doing the event by herself. And so there we were, three walking Musketeers, sans muskets.

Mary eventually paired up with another walker, who was walking at her same pace. That left Amy and me to walk together. And we did, for the remainder of the weekend.

And we've been in touch ever since. And this August, we'll reunite and do it all over again.

The 3-Day coaches do a great job of doling out information about the events, but talk to veteran walkers, too. (Anyone who's done the event once is a veteran walker in my book. They can provide first-hand accounts of what to expect, which can be an invaluable balm to soothe cases of nerves.)

If anyone has any questions – and no question is silly – feel free to post it in the comments and I'll share my take on it.

This will be my sixth event. At this point, I've seen it all.

And yet, every year, I'm amazed all over again.

Here's a starter tip: Stash a pocket pack of Kleenex in your waistpack and several more in your luggage. If you're anything like me, you'll need Kleenex several times throughout the 3-Day. And when you line up for Closing Ceremonies, hold a pack above your head and watch how fast people ask you for 'em.

Nothing compares to a 3-Day. You're about to experience more love and kindness than you can imagine. As my friend Devereaux says, "I want to live in the 3-Day universe."

See you there.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Mesdames Et Messieurs ...

... Bernard Lachance.

What's that? You haven't heard of him. Oh, you will. Wait five minutes.

On Friday, Doreen forwarded a blurb to me about Bernard, asking if I'd like to go see him Saturday night. My first thought was, "Nope, can't spend the money right now." Then I scrolled down in her note and saw that a friend of hers had extra tickets and wouldn't accept any money for them.

Really? Free tickets? To see the cute French man with hair that makes me want a soft-serve cone? (Doreen, last night, accurately described his hair as "very Bob's Big Boy.")

Well, OK. It's hard to say no to "free."

So I met Doreen and her friends Carol and John and I figured we were headed for the balcony. Oh, no. Main floor. Orchestra pit, in fact. Fourth row from the stage.

I had baked snickerdoodles earlier in the day as a token thank-you for Carol for my ticket. When we sat down, I turned to her and said, "Well, I think I owe you more cookies."

So here's a bit of back story on Bernard and last night's show: He rented The Chicago Theater with his savings – yes, you read that right, he rented The Chicago Theater with his savings – and proceeded to sell the tickets to his show himself. He had a T-shirt made with the seating chart of the venue (he does this for all his concerts, not just last night's) and as he sells the tickets on the street, he marks off the seats with a Sharpie.

Last night, he help up his shirt. The entire main floor of the theater was blacked out, and a good portion of the balcony. There were about 2,500 of us there. (What was the official tally, Doreen? Was it 2,542?)

Oh, and he also made a video that he posted on YouTube for Oprah. Which she saw. And he landed on her show. And last night, on stage, he made another video, for Celine Dion.

Before the show, we heard the usual admonition that photography and the use of audio and video recording devices was strictly prohibited. Uh huh. Because when you're trying to make a name for yourself in America, the last thing you want is video of you going viral. (Check out YouTube for more videos of him.)

Vocally, he's a bit like Andrea Bocelli, but with more range and an inclination to sing pop songs, such as Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever?" His CD, available in the lobby, sold out after the show.

He brought a friend of his onstage, a soprano, to sing some duets with him, but then he very nicely sang soprano on his own. As I said, the man has range. Extraordinary range.

And he has personality to spare. He'll do very well in our media-obsessed society because he makes for great TV. And his story isn't quite the sequel to Susan Boyle, but he told the story of being "in the nature" a year ago (his English is exceptional, but some cute moments of idiom snuck into his stage patter last night) and feeling depressed, feeling that it was simply too hard to make it in the music business, when he thinks he saw a shooting star – or maybe he didn't, but he wants to believe that he did – and he decided it was a sign that he should go on.

And last night, he made his U.S. debut to a very solid crowd in The Chicago Theater.

The man is the embodiment of "With great risk comes great reward."

Last night must have been like living inside a dream.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

I Need Your Help ...

Hi, friends:

As you know, every year, I participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day, a sixty-mile trek across three days to raise money and awareness.

It's a challenge, to be sure. But before we – me and about 2,000 other walkers (per city x 15 cities) – take our first steps, we have to raise the funds required to participate in the event.

Every walker must commit to raising at least $2,300.

In some ways, that's a small amount, compared to the many millions that are needed every year to fund research.

But in other ways, especially during economic times such as these, raising that amount is quite a feat.

This week, I met my minimum thanks to two very generous contributions from my friends Devereaux and Larry, and my mom and dad.

And while I always want to raise as much as I can, now that my minimum is met, now that my participation in the event is assured, I'm asking those who are planning to contribute to me to contribute to my friend Amy's fundraising effort instead.

Her fundraising has stalled – which is very common – but she's past the halfway point, so we need to build up a little momentum to get her to her goal.

Amy doesn't know that I'm asking this of you. It's a selfish request, really. I love walking with Amy, so I want to be sure that she's on the route with me this year.

And believe me, there's nothing like the feeling of checking your e-mail and learning that someone has contributed to your fundraising.

We're happy to walk – and walk and walk and walk – but we need your help before we can take the first step.

And so I ask this favor of you. Contribute to Amy's fundraising effort here.

We greatly appreciate it.

P.S. At the end of the route, we'll also appreciate if you'll meet us with a Thermos full of margaritas.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

MENS ...

I'm grumpy.

I had a very vivid dream about a very real situation that's been gnawing at me, the resolution to which is bound to come soon in one form or another.

And then I had to get out of my warm, comfy bed to go for a walk on this cold, grey morning.

And I meant to go to the store yesterday, but I didn't, so that meant that I woke up in a household that contained only a couple tablespoons of ground coffee.

So I went to the store when I returned from my walk and now the coffee is done brewing, so hold on a moment, won't you, while I pour a cup and take a few sips in an attempt to become human.

Oh, that's better. I made it extra strong this morning. I'm pretty sure my eyes are even focusing better now.

But today's grumpiness stems not from getting up to go for a walk and not from a lack of caffeine, but from, I'm sorry to say, the stupidity of men.

Not all men, mind you. I won't paint an entire gender with my generalization brush.

But a couple of men.

One of the men has demonstrated very bad judgment in not cherishing a friend of mine and they broke up yesterday. Now, I am well aware that there are at least two sides to every story, but for all the men out there who complain that there are no good women out there, let me assure them that there are. And she is definitely one of them. She's smart, she's funny, she's beautiful, she has kick-ass taste in music, she's an amazing mom and an amazing friend.

She is rare. And the man she was with, who she thought was making her so happy, has just done his gender a great disservice because now she is taking herself off the market for the time being. So, any of you good guys who don't play all these stupid games? If you want to date her? Too bad. She's fed up. She has no interest in you right now.

Of course, Mr. Bad Judgment has done her a favor, really. In cutting her loose, he's allowing her to move one step closer to the man who will cherish her, and I've no doubt that she'll find that man someday.

Still, it'd be nice if she didn't have to wade through this post-breakup hurt and frustration.

And then there's the other guy, the guy who met me online, who told me, very clearly, how much he wanted to be in a relationship, who was eager, eager, eager to talk on the phone, who said he'd call but didn't, who offered excuses for why he didn't call, and who then realized he was dialing the wrong number anyway.

He eventually dialed the right number, and shortly into our conversation that was peppered with awkward pauses, I heard him clacking away on his computer. I told him that I was going to go, that I'd let him chat with whomever he was chatting with.

He apologized, and resumed talking to me. Until he started typing again.

I got off the phone. I didn't hang up on him, but I was very clear and very abrupt.

The phone rang a minute later. He told me he was no longer online.

We resumed talking for a few minutes, a very science-centric conversation, not what I normally chat about before going to bed. And then there was another pause.

And he told me he was watching something on The History Channel.


Game over.