The Powerbear Press

A peek into a perhaps non-typical California mind


Mother’s Day

May 13th, 2012

This is my first Mother’s Day without my mother. A few years ago she had a stroke & for a while (including Mother’s Day I think) she didn’t know who I was, but she was still there. It’s not like the first Father’s Day after my father died – we were still helping mom get through the loss and since he was in a coma the previous Father’s Day, it was almost as if I was done processing it by that June.

It’s not that I’m doing anything different this year. I usually tune out the ads for last minute gifts this time of year, having made my decisions & purchases a few weeks earlier. I am still aware that we can’t go out to a restaurant today because everything will be jammed with families taking their mothers out.

But the last few days I’ve been wondering what I should/can/must change now that both parents are gone. Or to put it another way, what have I done or not done because they were around that would have been different if they weren’t? I certainly don’t run everything through that filter – they were opposed to all kinds of things that I did, from moving to DC to growing a beard. The pierced ears and tattoos were a source of irritation for years. They didn’t know about the other piercings.

I was raised in a culture that was a combination of MidWest/German frugality and Southern social order. Appearances counted, but ostentatiousness was frowned upon. We were never without the basics, and often had luxuries, but they tended to be small – we would go on vacation to Texas or Ohio or DC while my friends would go to Colorado or Europe. Any hardships just weren’t discussed especially outside the family. I know there was some drama during my siblings’ teen years, but I never got details.

I really didn’t expect to be feeling all this at this point. It’s probably a good thing that I’m going to Austin for a week. Some quiet meditation time is in order.

Bucket List

January 22nd, 2012

This was written on Jan 1, but just now posting it….

In the late 1990s I created a file on my computer called “100 Things” – basically what is now called a “bucket list”. I decided to throw it away today. No, I didn’t finish everything on it; instead, I realized a list is about the goal rather than the journey. It really doesn’t matter whether I do all the things on my list or not. What matters is the process of trying to do them, who I meet along the way, and how we are both changed by it. The list itself can easily begin to look like the mile markers on a race course and life is not a race.

A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

November 27th, 2011

Yes, I know it’s been over three months since my last post (boy does that sound like going to confession). I could give a litany of reasons, but it comes down to not sitting down and taking the time to do it.

So let’s travel by montage from the last post to this one: Burning Man, Global 360 bought by OpenText, the San Diego County power blackout, two small parts in the melodrama at PowPac, square dance weekend in Denver, Frank and Kevin staying with us, San Diego Burning Man Decompression weekend, square dance caller class, square dance Fiesta weekend in San Diego, motorhome purchase, Silver Strand Half Marathon, LA Auto show….and it’s Thanksgiving weekend.

The thing I left out of that list is John getting a diagnosis of prostate cancer. We’ve been watching his PSA levels for a while and this year his doctor said he should have a biopsy. The bad news is that is came back positive. The good news is that it looks pretty much contained. The hope is that after surgery he will be cured.

I’ve been putting off writing that paragraph. First, I didn’t want to write anything before he had a chance to tell people himself. Then I didn’t want to write it until we knew the date of the surgery. Then I guess I didn’t want to write it because I didn’t like having it on paper (or the net equivalent).

I suggested that he talk with our friend Martha who survived breast cancer. He thought that was a good idea, so we decided to spend this weekend apart. He gets some alone time on the drive to and from the Bay Area, as well as some time with her. He’s also getting to spend some time showing Jim from Chico around San Francisco and he’s staying with Cal & Richard, who are taking him to the Disney Family Museum.

As luck would have it, I found a motorhome I liked last month, so I’m taking the weekend to do a shakedown cruise on the motorhome. On the way into town I stopped to do something I’ve never done in Palm Springs – I rode the Tramway. They were having a special “Ride & Dine”, so my Thanksgiving dinner was at the top of the mountain.

We’re both back on Sunday. We have three weekends together that we’re intending to be a little busy before John’s surgery. We’re hoping our real Thanksgiving is when we get the results of that.

Saying Goodbye

August 14th, 2011

The usual assortment of classes, rehearsals, and weekend plans over the last few weeks have has again reduced my online literary presence to short posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. This time another there was another factor as well. Around the middle of last month, my mother’s health took a turn for the worse – worse enough that I made a trip to Florida, possibly to say goodbye. Then last Friday, not wholly unexpectedly, she passed on.

When my father passed away 15 years ago, they were living in Largo, and were both active: volunteering, going on trips, visiting friends, etc. He walked two miles a day up until he fell off a ladder resulting in a lengthy hospital stay and eventually his death. Friends and family said goodbye with all the usual elements. There was a viewing at the funeral home, a Mass in their parish church, the procession to the cemetery, and a graveside service.

After my father died, my mother did OK for a while. Then she could no longer drive, and her world shrank considerably and her mood darkened. When she moved to the retirement home in Bradenton, things improved a lot. Suddenly there were new friends and lots of organized activities. She seemed like her old self again; it was like saying ‘hello’ al over again. On my visits, we would take excursions all over Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota. Still, her “range” decreased gradually – first Largo was too long a trip to make comfortably, then she didn’t want to cross the Skyway at all, then Sarasota became too far. The last few years I would visit in her apartment, with possibly a trip to my brother’s place.

As the medical issues piled up, the options for treatment diminished. At 95 years old, some treatments are riskier than the disease. So this most recent time she was admitted to the hospital, we knew it could be the last. In one of her more lucid moments, we had all three kids in her room at once. Most visits I took a picture of her; I didn’t on this trip. I didn’t want to remember her that frail.

She had lived in Bradenton for ten years. She had outlived her friends at the retirement home. She never wanted people to make a fuss over her. So, we had a simple graveside service, just the kids and our spouses, a deacon to lead it,and a soloist. Very dignified, very beautiful, very touching. Then, just as the soloist was finishing “Ode to Joy”, we heard a thud – a opossum fell out of the tree nearby, looked at us, then scampered back up the trunk. I could help but think that while we were saying goodbye, my father sent it to tell her hello.

Spring (& Summer) Cleaning

June 16th, 2011

Yup another month. Just the usual stuff happening – every weekend in May busy with the show, then a weekend in San Franciso catching up with friends and seeing “Tales of the City”, starting an acting class (& finishing another), auditioning for (& not getting) a few shows, seeing a few shows, a professional conference, some meetings for SD Pride, some friends visiting, John had his gall bladder out, our annual summer party, square dancing, starting a square dance calling class, and writing an article for a friend’s new online magazine. Tired yet?

As you can imagine, the question for the month is “how did I get so overcommitted?” the answer is basically I’m way too interested in too many things. Winemaking? Done that. Clay sculpture? Got a statue around somewhere. Bicycling? The helmet is in the living room closet. I have a file on my computer with a program I was modifying in 1988.

Then there is the “waste not, want not” factor. I have been recycling and repurposing since the last time it was fashionable. That bicycle helmet? Oh it might make a good base for a Halloween headress some day. That computer file? There’s some good algorithms in there. Ok, really, it’s not about the thing, it’s about admitting that a part of your life is past, that the relationships forged over that activity are past as well. But putting that down on (virtual) paper makes it obvious how important regular “cleanup” is.

I have told many people this story. When I was in high school and took that battery of tests that are supposed to tell you what career to choose, the teachers told me I could choose pretty much anything I wanted (except agriculture, but that’s another story). The irony is that I sort of fell into the career that I’ve had effectively my entire adult life, but I guess I’ve made up for it with all these other activities.

The calendar is nearly as full the rest of the summer, but I’m adding one more thing – to let go of at least two activities between now and leaving for Burning Man in August. Hmm, anyone want to buy some winemaking gear?

April Adventures

May 6th, 2011

Wow another month already!

My first thought on sitting down to write this was that it was a month with more than normal share of… excitement.

Financial excitement – We got down to the wire on taxes this year – literally finding out the amount we owed on he day they were due, then scrambling to figure out how to pay it. This was particularly frustrating for me since I am always about being ahead of the game, and this year my appointment with our CPA was in February. Next was a struggle with a financial institution website to transfer funds; I finally gave up and had them send a check so this little saga isn’t quite over.

Medical excitement – John ate too much on Easter and had gall bladder issues. The symptoms mimicked a heart attack, so we had a trip to the emergency room and John stayed in the hospital for two days. They didn’t do anything but tests, and in the end all they said was he should consider getting the gall bladder removed. I try to err on the side of caution with these incidents (e.g. another hospital stay two years ago) without being a worry wart, but I’m never sure where the line is. It’s frustrating sometimes.

Artistic excitement – During much of this, I was in rehearsal four nights a week for a show. As noted before, I only have three lines, but I have some offstage duties and I was reading lines for actors that couldn’t make specific rehearsals. We’re well into production now – that means weekends are pretty booked for a few more weeks. Last week John and some friends (including Frank who was visiting from Denver) came to the show. They all seemed to enjoy it, but of course asked the question I’ve been asking – why did the author write in this part anyway? Still, I’m seriously loving doing it; I’m energized the entire evening. The cast has been great putting up with my naivety regarding theatrical traditions.

And a bit of relaxation – Before the show opened, we took a weekend, well really just a night, camping. There was some minor drama at check-in because we arrived later than originally reserved and I didn’t understand the policies. Our friend Bob gave me a new tent, so this was the chance to try it out. It’s big. And requires two people to set up. But I like having lots of room for gear, so I’m going to use it at Burning Man. We camped at Palomar State Park, so we went to the telescope; I’m always impressed. And for some reason, it makes me feel good about having a Physics degree, even though I never actually used it.

When we first stared dating, I told John that life would be an adventure. I guess this was one of the months that demonstrate it.

Perspective

April 3rd, 2011

I actually had to put “update blog” on my calendar. Earlier this week I realized it had been a few weeks since my last update and a lot of “stuff” has happened – John finished his first massage class (100 hours), nearly acing all the tests; we’re hosting another visiting actor for Diversionary Theatre, and we saw his show on opening night (“And then I Wrote a Song About It” – through next weekend); we got serious about shopping for a hot tub; I had jury duty (2 days – it was a long jury selection) but didn’t get a case; we bought iPads; John went on a multi city trip for taxes and birthdays; I got a small (3 lines, literally) part in comedy at a small community theater; and I was cast in a play reading at my church. As usual, reporting everything falls to bottom of the heap. I put an entry on my calendar so I wouldn’t let too many more things happen without an update.

Still, it doesn’t feel “over scheduled” like January did. Yes, being at the theater 3-4 nights a week is a lot, but I’m watching the magic of a show coming together. Of course there are some minor adjustments having another person in the house, but it’s no trouble at all. Setting up the iPad takes time, but it’s also about discovering what it can do. Hot tub shopping was fun. Getting to jury duty was an exercise in learning the transit options from our neighborhood. This weekend I went to a friend’s 60th birthday party, a big bear dance, brunch, and dinner with friends & still had time for reading and blogging.

When I started this entry I thought the common theme would be theater, between hosting Nick, my part in the comedy, and the reading at church. I see now that the theme is perspective – looking at what I’m getting out of each item on the calendar rather than the commitment it extracts. I wish I could say that I always see it that way. I don’t, but it is a worthwhile goal. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Fantasylands Converging

March 8th, 2011

The most interesting events are those that bring together people from very different worlds, so when someone posted a “Burning Man Day at Disneyland” on Facebook, I knew I had to reply. More than that, I went on Socializr and set up a local bears day at Disneyland the same day. When my friend Chuck (a big Disney fan who used to live in SoCal but moved to ATL for work) heard about it, he planned a weekend trip. Chuck is also a square dancer, so we had that base covered. All we needed was a powerlifting competition to complete the intersection of my worlds (No, that never happened).

Last weekend was when this all came together. Chuck flew in on Saturday and picked Dan and I up at the park. Then the three of us went out to lunch at a place that specializes in burgers that are half beef and half ground bacon. Yes it is as good as it sounds and as bad for you as it sounds. Back in Anaheim the parks were really crowded because of a cheerleading convention, so we didn’t get on too many rides, but still it was a lot of fun just hanging out and catching up. John drove up after his massage class. We shared Chuck’s room at the Grand Californian, so I finally got to stay at a Disney hotel. It’s very nice and so wonderfully convenient – I could run back to the room to change clothes when the weather changed. A minor complaint – the hot tub was just lukewarm.

We got up early on Sunday so Chuck and I could take advantage of the hotel guest’s early admission to the park. Only one person had replied “yes” to the bear invite, and he was a no-show, so Chuck and I rode some old favorites. He took a nap when it was time for the Burners to meet for a picture.

Although two of us actually showed up at the appointed hour, several other Burners were on Playa Time, and it was about an hour before we actually got the two pictures that I posted back to the Facebook event page. In the mean time, we met a security guard whose name tag said he was from Black Rock City, which we all thought was pretty cool. We split up after that since Chuck and I had some Fast Passes to use. We were supposed to meet up again at ElecTRONica (a dance party at DCA that is a promotion for the new Tron film), but Chuck and I missed everyone but Robert. I brought a bit of the playa to ElecTRONica – I wore pants with El-Wire sewed in some of the seams.

At one point when the Burners were gathered, someone referred to going “From one Fantasyland to another”. That got me thinking…. On the surface, it seems Disneyland and Burning Man couldn’t be more polar opposites: one is an extremely tightly controlled corporate environment and the other is a free for all no-commerce-allowed environment. After all, the Burning Man organization didn’t want to post this event in the e-mail newsletter, presumably because it didn’t want to appear to promote a company. And except for the aforementioned security guard, it’s likely that few Disney corporate types would have anything to do with Burning Man. So why are there some of us who like both? Is it an oxymoron to do so?

I think not. I see similarities. Both have high admission ticket prices. They have similar structured activities – rides, shows, parades, etc. Both are environments that purport to be separate from the “real” world; you are encouraged to leave your normal existence behind and enter a special themed environment for a limited time. Moreover, both are places of imagination – you can be a pirate, have wings, ride a spaceship, glow in the dark, or any other of a multitude of things. Both are highly stimulating worlds with larger than life artwork. Both are idealized visions of urban life, yet neither vision would be sustainable for the long haul.

Are they both primarily an escape from the routine? Yes, but both are also magic places that allow us to look at the world with a new perspective. So, you see, I have no problem being fans of both Fantasylands.

The 16th Minute of Fame (X2)

February 18th, 2011

We’re coming to the home stretch of my overbooked-weekends start to 2011. I still have a weekend at Disneyland and a one day trip to Denver, after which I have a few uncommitted weekends. But first, there is this weekend’s trip to San Francisco. San Francisco is the site of two “15 minutes of fame” moments in my life and this weekend there are follow ups to both.

Way back in 1993, shortly after we helped organize the Front Range Bears, I asked the club if they would allow me to represent them in San Francisco at the second International Mr. Bear contest. It was to be a whirlwind weekend anyway (I was in the middle of a monthlong business trip to Texas with only one weekend “home” and I chose to go to San Francisco), so adding the contestant required appearances wouldn’t be that big a deal. It turned out to be an extremely fun weekend and I met several now-long-term friends then. I was not the crowd favorite in the contest, yet surprisingly they called my name for the “International Mr. Bear” title. Yes, I jumped like a girl. Unfortunately there is video; fortunately there wasn’t youtube back then.

Following in the steps of the leather world, the presence of a titleholder at the bear events was a promotional opportunity at the time. I was traveling quite a bit for my work at the time, so I was able to visit events in several cities. While the first Mr. Bear focused on fundraising activities, I found my niche in networking – connecting nascent bear clubs with each other to share ideas, build “brother club” relationships, and create organizational structure. In the Front Range Bears, we joked that I was the Johnny Appleseed of bear clubs, spreading copies of our bylaws around the country.

After my title year, we continued to go the San Francisco bear event annually for several years. Sometimes I would help out behind the scenes and sometimes I would just sit in the audience, but always had a good time. I haven’t been to the event in a few years, so I was considering it for 2011 anyway. When the local club announced that this would be last year they would be doing the event, I decided that I had to go and be a part of it one more time.

The other moment occurred in 2006, when we were living in San Francisco. Anyone who followed my blog about our move to the city in 2004 knows that it was not an easy adjustment for us. Among my efforts at getting more involved in the local culture was a run at the South of Market Bare Chest calendar (www.barechest.org). One of our friends was on the calendar and he said it was both rewarding and a lot of fun. To make a long story short, I was selected for the 2007 calendar (which is of course produced and sold in 2006) and followed our friend Barry in being the September calendar man. It turned out he was right, in spades. I had participated in raising money for the AIDS Marathon program through donations from family and friends the year before, but this was different. Raising money for the AIDS Emergency Fund through the calendar was much more immediate, more personal. It was a matter of explaining the mission to individuals and raising $100,000 twenty dollars at a time. It was also about hearing people who had been directly helped by the Fund tell their stories. And of course, it was about being invited to events I would not have done on my own and having special access at events I would have gone to anyway.

One of the guys from the current calendar (another September man) is organizing a Bare Chest Calendar Alumni group as part of the 25th anniversary of the calendar. One of their first events is a beer bust in the Castro (at the Edge) on Sunday. I am looking forward to seeing some of the guys again and meeting the organizer Darren, with whom I’ve been chatting online for the better part of a year.

Unrelated to San Francisco, but still in the “15 minutes of fame” category, the last few weeks my profile has been in the ‘top 10 most popular’ list on one of the bear social networking sites. I’m still not sure what caused that, as I hadn’t logged on for a week or so prior to that appearance. It’s certainly a timely ego boost, as every time I log on there are dozens of messages from guys I’ve never met. The design of the site requires that you access the messages sequentially, so the minor downside is that I have to view all the messages to see if any of my current friends are sending me any news. That means I can’t hop on and off quickly to chat before I go to something like a dance. Still, I want to thank all the guys who have voted me up there.

So now I’m off to catch my flight and enjoy my 16th minutes.

Post-posting

January 31st, 2011

If you see the first month of 2011, could you tell me where it went?

OK, I saw it when I was juggling parties on New Year’s Eve, then a party and a dance on New Year’s Day. And I think I saw it when we went to LA to see ‘Hair’ (and I danced on stage when they invited the audience up). It was fuzzy when we went to Tucson for both a bear event and a square dance event (and caught up with lots of friends from all over). I sort of lost track of it when I went to the bear dance in LA followed by Universal Studios the next day. So, by last weekend when I went to Disneyland I was already celebrating my birthday and the month was saying its goodbyes.

It’s true, things did not slow down the first part of the year. But a few weeks ago I decided it was OK to not blog quite so often. If you’re following me on any of the social networking sites, you get the play by play (well on the days I post). And when I read back over the old blogs, they seem so…mundane. Yes I do a lot of “things” (see the first paragraph), but I don’t “do” a lot of things.

If I’ve learned anything from this month is that I let myself get too pre-planned. Each individual item on the calendar is there because I want it to be, but the cumulative effect is not what I want. As a reader, you probably noticed this months or years ago, but as the person in the middle of it, it takes a bit longer to see. Still, quitting “cold turkey” is always risky, so I’m not de-scheduling anything in February 🙂 March is looking better.

So I’m not going to try to post every two weeks like I used to. Maybe I’ll find time to make the posts I do a bit more interesting.