Adventures in Hollywood

Jul 21, 2014 / Filed in Life / 2 Comments

Winston, Daniel, Nathan
Winston, Daniel, Nathan; sunset at Griffith Observatory in front of the Hollywood sign

Daniel and I recently took a vacation to Hollywood to see my friend Winston.

Winston was the first friend I could be honest with when I was coming to terms with being gay. We met online in 1997 when I was 15.

Over the years Winston has become like a big brother to me. He offered support when I first came out, made me laugh when I had my heart broken by a boy for the first time, and he’s been a part of every milestone in my adult life.

Since he lives in Berlin, we don’t see each other often. Actually it had been 10 years since I saw him last, so when I found out he’d be staying in the L.A. area for awhile, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to go visit. Daniel had never met Winston, and had never been to Los Angeles. I was there once before, but it was a quick trip and I didn’t feel like I really had the chance to explore.

Downtown Los Angeles

We took a trip to Griffith Observatory for a gorgeous panoramic view of the Hollywood hills and downtown Los Angeles at sunset.

Daniel and Nathan

Mmm… wheat-free deliciousness

We visited some wonderful bakeries and enjoyed dinner from a gluten-free pizzeria. Yum! Los Angeles has an abundance of gluten-free food options, which made my stomach very happy.

Universal Studios Hollywood

The trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Universal Studios.

Despicable Me minion

We even got to spend some time with the minions from Despicable Me.

Daniel, Nathan, Winston

Los Angeles was good to us. We had a lot of fun with Winston, explored some beautiful scenery and architecture, and ate some wonderful food. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.

Gluten-Free Update

Dec 20, 2013 / Filed in Life / 3 Comments

It’s been nearly two weeks since I gave up gluten in my diet and the results have been amazing! I can’t say for certain whether or not it was directly related to my Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or if it was just a secondary food sensitivity. And quite frankly, I don’t care to analyze it.

I’ve spent years analyzing my health, feeling broken and hopeless as I went from doctor to doctor without any long-term cures. None of the specialists even considered removing gluten from my diet. Some of them even praised me for consuming a diet that was rich in wheat. “Good, keep doing that, it’s healthy for you,” they’d say. What has happened to our doctors?!

All I know is that since I stopped eating food that was high in gluten, I don’t run to the toilet anymore. I don’t eat Pepto tablets like candy. I have more energy and feel great. That’s all I really need to know, isn’t it?

Gluten-Free Food for IBS

Dec 10, 2013 / Filed in Life / 0 Comments

Over the years I’ve discussed my struggles with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s a digestive problem that apparently affects at least 15% of the population, maybe even more. Food and stress are the biggest triggers for the symptoms, although sometimes you just get explosive diarrhea for no good reason at all.

I’ve worked with doctors to reduce my symptoms. That’s all you really can do since IBS is incurable. I maintain a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and try to avoid these foods, which are usually triggers: Onions, garlic, spicy foods, fried foods, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, dairy… Basically, all the tasty stuff!

That used to be enough for me. If I did all of those things, I had a generally happy stomach with only occasional flare-ups. But something has changed in my 30s. Even the “healthy” food isn’t tolerable for my stomach anymore. I met with a specialist and we did a series of tests, just to confirm there wasn’t anything else going on. He also prescribed me with an antibiotic to clear up a very specific strain of my stomach’s bacteria. We did more tests after that and everything was “fine” as far as fine goes.

But recently I read that people with IBS can mimic the symptoms of Celiac disease (people who can’t eat wheat). True Celiac disease requires a strict gluten-free diet, as gluten can permanently damage the lining of the stomach if you have it! I do not have Celiac disease, so I am not at risk.

The Story of Mouse, the Cat

Jul 18, 2013 / Filed in Life / 7 Comments

On June 24, a hungry little cat showed up at our home begging for some grub to fill his belly. He was a very talkative kitty and loved to cuddle. I could hold him like a baby and he reveled in the attention. He was the friendliest cat I’d ever met. He even liked to give hugs like a human. When I leaned down to talk to him, he’d put his front paws on my shoulders and lean in to kiss me.

I decided to feed him, against my better judgement, and he was so appreciative. Eventually I set up a little house made of plastic bins for him to sleep in the shade of our back yard. We became very attached and he stayed on the deck 24/7. Sometimes I’d just take a break from my work day and go cuddle with him for a few minutes. That made everything better.

Our dog, Mrs. Anna Madrigal (named after the character in Tales of the City), was quite fond of the cat too. Anna always enjoyed giving him a lick on the forehead when she went out back to do her business.

We knew a cat this special must have an owner missing him. We checked online ads for posts about missing cats and didn’t find any leads. We even posted our own ad several times, but didn’t receive any responses. I finally decided that his owner must be nearby, so I drove around the local streets and neighborhoods near our home looking for notices about the cat. There were none. I decided that wasn’t good enough so I headed out on foot and walked a little over a mile and a half through the surrounding areas to see if I’d missed a sign. Nope. Lastly, we had him checked for a microchip, which he didn’t have.

Daniel diligently called 30 animal shelters in our area. Thirty! They were all full and would not accept an adult cat. The only option was to euthanize him and I just couldn’t stand the thought of that. So we took care of him while we could.

Billy Elliot, “Expressing Yourself”

Daniel and I have been pursuing the adoption of a particular boy for the last 4 months. We came very close this time (we were one of the top 3 families chosen) and it was a difficult decision for the agency. But they ultimately went with a different family.

It hurts deeply but it’s part of the process. Every couple who pursues adoption goes through this difficult journey. And I guess that means there’s another couple out there, who was in the top 3, who is also feeling sad and disappointed tonight.

We’ll move on, but Daniel and I will still need to do a little healing. This young man was very special to us. He was part of a unique situation. Although he’s young, he’s already learning to express himself. He knows he likes boys, but he thinks he might be bisexual. No matter what he is, we were prepared to help him figure it out and support him every step of the way. He also loves to dress in women’s clothing, wear wigs and makeup, and he is very interested in fashion and cosmetology.

Now I need to say goodbye to the dreams I had of him being our child. I’m going to write a letter below, which I’ll obviously never send, and I’m going to say the things I feel in my heart, and then let go of it. He just wasn’t meant to be our son, and that’s okay because now he’s going to be someone else’s.


Again, as a reminder, I’m not sending this letter. It’s just my way of venting.

Dear M,

Over the last four months, we’ve had the privilege of learning all kinds of fun things about you. You are creative, and colorful, and you enjoy helping others. In some ways, I think you remind me a little bit of myself when I was your age.

I know that you have a birthday coming up, and I’m so happy that you will be getting a family for your birthday. Who could ask for a better gift, right? I hope you have a great celebration and get to be surrounded by the support and love you deserve.

I also want to say how incredibly brave you are, and how your story has inspired us. You’re so young, yet you’re honest enough to admit you like boys. I certainly never felt strong enough to admit that when I was your age. And you like to dress up, and create fun characters for yourself with clothing and wigs. And although you’ve endured abuse and cruelty from strangers, you still continue to be yourself.

That really takes a lot of guts. I hope you hold on to that bravery, because the world needs people like you, especially in the LGBT community. The fact that you’re young and already know yourself is a great inspiration to other kids your age, who secretly know how they feel, but are ashamed to say it out loud. Or they’re scared their parents will stop loving them. Or they’ll be bullied in school.

Don’t ever let the mean things people say get you down, and don’t ever let them change you. There’s a place in this world for you. There are lots of other boys like you who like to throw on some blush, mascara, and a fierce pair of high-heels. And that’s just fine. You go on and do that and keep paving your own way.

You’re a really special young man, and I know you’re going to do great things with your life. Whenever I’m feeling down about something, or feel unable to face the world, I will think of you and borrow some of your sparkle. If someone your age is strong enough to be himself, I know I can be too.

Good luck in this journey of life. And never, ever stop being yourself.

Swamp Pits

May 10, 2013 / Filed in Life / 0 Comments

This is one of those posts that’s only relevant if you can relate to the problem. For anyone else, it’s too much information and you should probably avert your eyes.

Something changed when I entered my 30s. I became really hot-natured and sweat under my arms all the time. Crazy, right? It’s like some twisted male version of menopause that happened 20 years early.

I open my sunroof when it’s 50 outside. That’s a warm day to me. It’s gross. I don’t like it, obviously.

I’ve tried all kinds of “extra strength” and “clinical” formulas. My armpits just laughed and said, “You are no match for me, weakling!” (Apparently my armpits speak too.)

I found out about something called Certain Dri Anti-Perspirant. The average rating is 4.5 stars out of 5 and most people seem to love it. How had I never heard of this stuff?

You roll it on before bed, let it dry for 5-10 minutes, and it won’t wash off in the shower the next day. It’s supposed to work for up to 72 hours.

Of course I was skeptical but I read dozens of a sites and independent reviews, and the overwhelming consensus was that it worked. There were certainly a few people who had bad reviews too, but that’s common with any product. Some people had an allergic reaction that caused them to break-out, others said it just didn’t work for them. No product is going to work for 100% of people.

But most people, a surprising majority, have been very happy with it.

I put it on last night and followed the instructions. It did dry pretty quickly, and it’s clear and odorless. There was a mild burning sensation at first, but nothing unbearable. A lot of people report this. It went away and I was fine.

Today I woke up and I’m completely dry under my arms. It’s almost eerie.

So that’s my story. I will continue to use it and see how it goes. But if you suffer from excessive sweating, I highly recommend Certain Dri. I can’t tell you how excited I am to stop worrying about dark circles under my arms when I wear light colored shirts!

*Note: Get the roll-on! A lot of people don’t like the stick version. It has a different formula and only mixed reviews. It’s milder, to avoid burning, but it doesn’t seem to be as effective.

The Gun Post

Dec 17, 2012 / Filed in Life / 3 Comments

Our country has been rocked by the tragedy in Connecticut. It seems to be happening more and more, and my news feeds over the weekend was filled with reports of escalating gun violence. There were even shootings in my local area, threats to attack nearby schools, and a guy walking into a hospital and shot three people in a neighboring state. It feels like everyone has gone insane.

Watching the debates unfold on Facebook and Twitter have been shocking. It seems we will never find peace or common ground. And while there’s so much I feel like saying about this topic and the tragedy that took place in Connecticut, part of me is just tired and doesn’t even feel like talking about it, although I know we must.

There is just one think I want to make abundantly clear…

Saying I think there should be more gun control DOES NOT mean I am anti-gun. That is a wild and exaggerated accusation, and I don’t understand people always jump to that extreme conclusion.

If I say I want more control of carbs in my diet, does that mean I want all carbs to be banned? No. It just means I want to reduce them.

Keeping with that mindset, when people say they want more gun control, we’re just saying we want stricter guidelines. Unless you are in law enforcement or the military, there is no reason for you to be carrying around a semi-automatic. They should have never been legal in the first place! They aren’t legal in many other countries.

“Oh, but the second amendment says…” blah, blah, blah. The second amendment was written at a time where nobody would ever dream we’d invent weapons like the ones we have today.

If you want a handgun, because you feel it makes you safe, fine. If you want a shotgun because you want to go hunting in the woods, fine. But if you want a military-grade weapon, and you are just an average citizen… I don’t think you should have it.

Banning semi-automatic weapons won’t solve all the world’s problems. And yes, it’s true, if you really want to kill someone, you’re going to find a way somehow. But removing semi-automatic weapons drastically reduces the amount of damage that can be done, and also gives the potential victims a greater chance of escaping and surviving.

I believe all serious change must be done in steps. We have to start somewhere, and I think removing semi-automatics is the first step in preventing more mass-killings.

Justified Cruelty

Dec 11, 2012 / Filed in Family, Life / 3 Comments
    “I was able, for the first time in my life to say the exact thing I wanted to say at the exact moment I wanted to say it. And, of course, afterwards, I felt terrible, just as you said I would. I was cruel, and I’m never cruel.”

    — Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly, in the movie You’ve Got Mail

I feel bad about something I did today. It really bothers me, even though I know it was justified.

There’s someone very close to us, who Daniel and I both love and could never replace. But he shares very different views on politics than we do. Daniel and I have had numerous talks with him and tried to find common ground, to no avail. Finally I just gave up and told him I don’t want us to discuss politics around each other, ever. Daniel echoed these sentiments too and kindly asked him to please focus on the things we have in common, and not our differences.

Today we received an inflammatory anti-Obama email from him. It really, really upset me, and worst of all, nothing in it was factually true. Not by a long shot.

The subject line was the dreaded, “Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Obamacare,” and you always know there’s going to be trouble when you receive a message like that. He sent it to a list of his closest friends and family, and made certain to include Daniel and me as well.

I talked with Daniel before replying, and he said it was okay. So I went off the deep end. I didn’t call this person names or anything like that. But I did point him to several facts, including links to references. And I tried my best to separate myths and facts, although I’m sure he won’t take anything I say seriously. And then I clicked “Send.”

Now I feel awful. The tone of the email was overwhelmingly angry and intense. And even though I didn’t really say anything specific that I’d regret, I do regret the overall “meanness” of it.

He pushed my buttons one too many times. He knows, without any amount of uncertainty, how Daniel and I feel. And we’ve asked him to not send us these emails. But he did anyway, and he got a response.

No matter how satisfying you think it’s going to feel to give someone a piece of your mind, it never quite does. More often than not, you end up feeling disappointed in your own actions.

We can justify it any way we want. “He had it coming” or “he should have known to not provoke me.” But in the end, we are responsible for all that we say, and all that we do. And it makes me sad.

Things will be fine and we’ll move on. I suspect this person will delete my message without reading it entirely, and probably won’t ever mention it. That’s fine. I kind of prefer it that way.

But I hate this momentary ugliness. And I just wanted to say that justified cruelty is still cruelty, no matter what verb you put in front of it. I was cruel today, and that’s something I never like to be.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Mar 5, 2012 / Filed in Family, Life / 2 Comments

Last week, my hometown in IL was mowed down by a tornado with 170MPH winds. The house I grew up in, the house my parents lived in for 30 years, was busted to pieces. Thankfully my parents moved out a few years ago and now live in an area that was unaffected. The current owners got lucky and made it out alive with only seconds to spare before the roof came off and chimney collapsed where their 3 year old daughter had just been sleeping. If you look closely, you can see the pink bed in the picture.

A few days later, Daniel and I found ourselves surrounded by danger as dozens of tornadoes swept through our surrounding states. It bypassed our home in Nashville, leaving only minor wind damage to nearby towns.

Tornadoes are nothing new to this area of the country. But in the past 4 years, it’s become an annual event, getting more destructive each time. In 2009, a tornado came up the main road right by my house and struck 4 miles away, demolishing a community. I’ll never forget the terror of hiding in the closet underneath the stairs while the nightmare unfolded outside.

You can say a lot of negative things about where I live. We have homophobic politicians and deadly storms. But that’s not the whole picture. We also have thousands of open minded and forwarded thinking people who love and support us. We have the most beautiful seasons, the most wonderful scenery, and some of the most amazing food. There’s a reason Blanche Devereaux always spoke fondly of the south.

I feel torn and conflicted. I have for many years. My husband and I have built a life here. We own a house, we have jobs and friends and family nearby. Sure, it’s possible to move somewhere else and start over. We can make new friends, get new jobs. Maybe live somewhere with less bad weather and more equality. It’s certainly appealing and it’s certainly been discussed many times.

But then again… You can make all these changes, then walk outside and be hit by a car. It’s true.

I suppose we can never really escape problems. And there is no beginning or end to this rambling. I just felt like saying that I’m scared. I’m worried. Seeing the house I grew up in torn apart was a sobering reminder that we are never safe from harm, no matter where we live. I just wish we could at least have a little less dramatic weather to help us along the way.

I just wanted to take a minute to get something off my chest.

When somebody dies, they deserve our respect. I lost a nephew to a drug overdose several years ago. Burying a 23-year-old with his whole life ahead of him is more painful than I could ever explain.

People had plenty of crude and judgmental things to say about his death. And what good are poison drenched words spit from the acid tongues of strangers? I’m the one who lost him, not you. So shut the fuck up.

The endless stream of hateful commentary about Whitney Houston’s death is nauseating. We built her up so we could tear her down, didn’t we?

Maybe if we’re lucky we can do the same to another celebrity. How about Adele? She’s at the height of her fame and everybody seems to loves her. Maybe in 20 years she’ll develop a drug or alcohol dependency and we can tear her apart until all the seams of her spirit come undone. Oh wouldn’t that be delicious? Another scandal. Another bright star burning out. It would make such a wonderful story on the evening news.

Both my nephew and Whitney Houston had a profound impact on my life. Obviously for different reasons. I’m a better person because of their presence in my life. It makes me sad that they died from drugs but it does no good to say unkind things about them. It certainly doesn’t help their family.

If the things we say don’t bring any good to the world, perhaps it’s best that we sew our mouths shut so we can do no damage, and saw our fingertips down to the bone so we write nothing that harms others.

Just a thought.

About Nathan

I'm a happily married gay man, self employed as a website designer, writing about my life and the world as I see it.
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