Category Archives: Friends

Why not me?

I’m 42, soon to be 43, and I’m HIV-. I’m a gay male in the United State who grew up with the warning that if I had gay sex I would get AIDS and die. It hasn’t happened to me.

But why not? Luck. That’s all it can be.

I’m not particularly promiscuous, nor am I a prude, and nothing near a virgin. Sex can be amazing, and why not enjoy it?

I look at my friends, so many of whom are dealing with the disease in their lives. In their bodies. Living with it. Owning it. Not letting it control or destroy them.

Undetectable.

Alive.

Living, loving, and wildly still out there creating and changing the world. Fighting for a better place. Standing tall and proud and not backing down, not for the disease and not for the world, either.

Inspiring. That’s what they are.

I find that, on this day when we yell from the roof tops that AIDS is still here, still very real, and still very bad, that these amazing people stand on the front lines and fight to remove a stigma and that inspires me. I stand with them, beside them, hold their hands and shedding tears at losses just like them.

And because of dumb luck, I’m not on the front lines. I don’t have HIV, that I know, and I need to get tested today as it’s that day, and I’m pretty sure I know how it will come back, but it’s something we do.

I remember my first HIV test. It had to be a blood draw. In a doctors office. And sent away, like a macabre cereal box-top prize that would arrive in a few weeks. And it did. In a plain white envelop, with my name typed on the outside, with a single sheet inside it, and I had to steel myself to open it. I sat in the huge windows of my apartment in Bozeman that overlooked Main street and I cried as I opened the letter, sure that my world was about to crash to nothing.

But it didn’t. I was spared.

I move to Portland not long after, and met amazing, wonderful, talented people. And after a short few months, I got to go to my first funeral for one of those amazing, talented, wonderful people I’d just met. That was weird. It also started a pattern that I’ve kept for nearly 23 years of getting tested every 6 months. Not everyone died, but too many did. I still miss them, even though I can’t recall their real names, only faces or drag names or nick names or something they once said that was so funny I laughed until I cried, and it still brings a touch of joy with a soupçon of melancholy when I do remember it.

I moved to Phoenix, and met more amazing people. I was there when some found out they’d seroconverted. Most are still alive, but not all. Medical science has changed the world, but not eradicated this plague. It’s amazing what we can do, and it’s more amazing what people faced with this choose to do. Inspiring doesn’t really cover it.

I moved to Caribou, and met amazing people, who couldn’t wait to get out of The County and move to a city. I spoke about condoms and caring for yourself, and saw them leave and it was good. And things happen, and it’s not always good things.  But they stand and they fight and life continues for most of them.

I moved to Houston and got a taste of a truly metropolitan city, and worked at a nightclub of outstanding proportions. And I met many who were positive, and knew many who seroconverted and I know they face the challenges head-on and don’t shirk away from the fight. And they are awesome. And still, life continues for many, but not all.

I moved home to Montana. I met a group of gays, and found a life I love, and a community that accepts me for the bombastic asshole I am, knowing that my passion and my inability to shut up can work to make a difference in our lives. I thought maybe I could hold the virus at bay, stop it from creeping into my life here, but I was the first person called when a friend seroconverted, and we got together and I made sure he was ok and wouldn’t do anything to harm himself, and I was pissed at the virus that it was back and I couldn’t stop it. But I wasn’t going to sit down and stop fighting.

So I stand. I fight. For equality. Against the stigma. And when people ask me if I’m HIV+ I have to tell them, no, I’m not. But it’s simple luck, and I still get tested. In fact, I’m getting tested tonight, at 5:30, and while I don’t know the results, and I’m supremely lucky, I get tested with a pall of dread covering my mind because it can happen to anyone. It can happen at any time. It’s still here. It’s still deadly. And it’s not cured.

On this World AIDS Day, I stand with my friends who have been directly afflicted or affected by this scourge and miss so many of you. I want one more time to hold you, to tell you I love you, to give you warmth and a moment of safety, fleeting and imaginary that it may be. I don’t know why it got you. I don’t know why I’m so fucking insanely lucky.

I just know I want it to go away, and never bother anyone again. And I wish those it took were never taken, and that tears at my heart with sharpened claws and bloodied talons. I never want to lose another, but it seems I will because we have no cure.

Except knowledge.

Get tested. Know your status. Get on PrEP. Change the world. Love your friends.

AIDS-Ribbon

Honda does the Right Thing

It’s been a stressful week. It’s the 2nd anniversary of Richard’s death, and it’s the first time that I’ve been able to spend it with Janna basically attached to her hip. During the first year of grieving she couldn’t handle being around me too much as she would attempt to convince herself it was 2005 and my being there was normal because we had lived together in 2005 while Richard was in Iraq. When he returned at the end of 2005, a new chapter of their lives started, and I helped to smooth that transition for them both since the Army hasn’t figured out how.

And then, bam! Gone.

Now, Janna, The Cheerleader, has had to deal with this loss for two years. Day in and day out she’s worked to get her life back, get her sensibilities back, and to get as well as she can. Not easy, not fast, and certainly not painless. But still, moving forward in big ways. And hanging out with her 24/7 is a lot of fun even when she’s screaming. Sometimes, because she is.

That being said, the little extra stressors in her life are not much fun. They suck. Like, transmission needs to be replaced at a cost of several grand and lots of without car time. Not making her happy.

Consider as well that the car got it’s original transmission changed at approx. 78k miles in October 2005, the second swapped out after only 25k miles and 18 months, and now the third is being swapped out for the fourth after a mere 20k miles and 12 months. Not pretty.

Worse, the car is now out of the extended warranty, so the transmission isn’t covered in any way. And as we all know, they aren’t cheap either.

But we called Honda USA and went over the events, and asked. What could hurt if we asked for help, the worst thing they could do is say no, and then we were no worse off for asking. They said they would review the case and get back to us in few days. Usually, this is corporate speak for “Let me get a social normative graph because it’s something to refer to and will take time, tricking one to think we’re making the effort, when we’re just stalling” but not this time.

After considering all that Janna has had to deal with this, it’s been sucky. Just fucking sucky. Having the car issues to deal with all throughout the Anniversary day did some good in distracting from the insanity inherent in a 32 year old widow’s life. It seemed like a good thing to me, but Janna felt that she didn’t get anything accomplished on thursday, even tho she spent the day reconnecting with various parts of her family, both the family she was born into and the family that she was married into. None of it was easy.

Honda has decided to pay all but 10% of the bill to replace the transmission. It will therefore have a 3 year/36,000 mile warranty for the transmission itself. So the little people can play their game again. And we whole-heartedly thank them.

YAY!

Southern Comfort

I’ve been offline since late last week, which was when I had a last-minute deal appear in my lap and proceed to shred my thursday and friday like a demon-possessed wood chipper. Oh so much fun.

And let’s not forget the random weather in Montana that included a blizzard that appeared at 2 am Saturday and brought along the wind from a hurricane and a couple of lightening bolts left over from last spring. It seems that the weather was being run by the same windows machine that did the fireworks for Seattle. Heavy, wet, sticky snow that was piling up sideways as I needed to depart to drive to Bozeman for a flight. Rapture.

Anyway, it ended up being a non-issue, as the new PT drives excellently (more on that lovely bit later) and the storm and I parted ways after 32 miles. I made my flight, although when I landed in Denver to switch planes, I got a voice mail from United that if I missed my flight, I could get right on the next one out of Bozeman. Nice service, really, as it had to arrive right about when I checked in, since I turned my phone off after calling home to say the snow hadn’t killed me.

Now I’m in Houston for the Second Anniversary of Hell. Mostly, it’s been pretty good. I’m not looking forward to some of the events we have to do for this, but I am glad to be here. I want to know what the word would be that means ‘an obligation that honors me to undertake, that creates happiness out of misery, and that helps all involved in different ways, but that still sucks bilgewater’. I’m sure there is a German word for it, along the lines of schadenfraude, but it’s not been made into a song yet.

Anyway, back in Houston with the Cheerleader. Back dealing with emotional wounds that blacken the sun and destroy souls, an ongoing battle that seems to finally be going our way. I wouldn’t walk away for anything, but I wish no one would ever go through this.

Army National Guard Training

Yeah. Read that title again and then think of all that you know about me. So yeah, there’s a bit of a twist. I was training them. In how to wear pink. No really.

Actually I was training them on how to use Final Cut Pro. I’m pretty damn good at using that software, which is kinda surprising to me considering I use it for such specific projects and never have used some features of the software whatsoever. Literally. And yet, I was asked to train them.

Now, I’ve taken classes from Apple Certified Trainers and learned a ton. I mostly learned that what I do and what a film crew does are two totally different things. I’m not part of a crew of several or hundreds or thousands, I’m the entire crew. I film, I edit, I produce, I foley, I author, I script, I do it all. I even deal with set building and lighting. That stands in direct conflict with the roles that most editors fill for Film and TV production. And that’s ok.

This gig required that I put together a syllabus. Which I did. And then the class started and it was nearly 4 hours into the class before I realized I hadn’t opened the stupid thing and had no idea if I was following it or not.

The class, however, was going great and learning tons. Why? Because I didn’t need to know what Apple thinks the students should be learning to teach them. In fact, if I’d done the syllabus’ route, the class would have ended up learning about a third of what they learned. After three days, each student had learned the interface, navigation, common pitfalls, how to adjust settings, controls, timing, in and out points, how to deal with still images, build pieces in Photoshop, the whys and wherefores of pixel sizing, the basic insanity of television resolutions and display methods, and had actually produced a very slick, fully personalized and completely useable video to show their Commanding Officers.

Do the students know how to work in a Film Production? Well, probably not. Can they create great videos for the National Guard? Yes. And since that’s their job, my training and the fact that I catered the learning to both their current level of knowledge and a specific goal means that I was hugely successful. Would Apple approve? Don’t know, but I suspect they would.

For the last part of Day 3 we had a quick session on how to export to DVD Studio Pro, re-use of documents in the production for the DVD and then presented each DVD to the C.O. on the big screen and had a discussion with said C.O. on how things worked, looked and the next steps. All of which is to say that it was a resounding success!

To the point that they wanted to recruit me. Which is, perhaps, the best compliment this big ol’ homo could ever get from people in the military. Because when it all boils down to it, substance matters. And I’ve proved that I have at least enough of the right stuff.

Plus, my students rocked! I really did enjoy my time out there, and if we get to do some more training I’m stoked about it.

More Thinking on Accessibility

Jeff’s follow-on to his previous post is another must-read. And doubly-thanks for the shout out, Jeff, that’s always appreciated.

I have something else to add to this, and it’s part of the discussion that I don’t see defined well, and, the back of my head being the meandering/simmering kind, this took a skosh more time to finish, but it was another epiphanal moments for me:

When working to make something accessible, you have the core audience, the first marginal audience, second marginal, third marginal, etc., ad nauseum. However, those units most likely follow a half-life scale, getting below 10% by the 4th marginal, but never actually reaching zero. Very ‘radial gradient’ if you can visualize it.

Alas the world doesn’t work this way, and what works this member of the core isn’t what she’s used to because her child is deaf. Or his wife is blind. And so core people deliberately choose different ways in, to both share in the emotional side of life, granted, but to also try something new. Don’t think it’s happened? You’ve probably done it yourself by activating the built-in reader for a web-page to hear your structure, I have. (It wasn’t bad, just felt like I was on hold a lot.)

I can think of no site-design situation where I’ve sat down and heard anyone say “let’s define this in terms of the 5 senses.” (Insert your own lame ‘stink’ or ‘del.icio.us’ joke here.)

I could be wrong on this, but I just can’t imagine a group saying “our primary goal is to grant access to Group-Y” if only because, for example, having a site for the blind that is inaccessible to the deaf would raise too many hackles, and cut away the core of humanity. I would be very surprised if even the American Society for the Blind, or for the Deaf, think about how their sites are going to be used for the disability, but instead think about how it’s going to be used by ability.

Subtle? Yes. Too subtle? Just wait, there’s more!

You can’t plan for everyone who will reach your site, the potential audience is billions of people. You can plan for groups, but you’ll never know Person X. (unless your name is Dave, apparently, and then Ye Shall Be Known And Smote!. And that’s a good thing, too.

Why on earth would I think it’s a good thing to not know who is at your site? Because accessibility isn’t just about the ways we’ve delivered equal-access to members those of our society who need it. After all, that’s past-tense, in most ways. But we need to keep being creative, keep analyzing the problem, keep pushing the envelope and thinking up new ways. We need to keep learning to help others in our every day lives, keep building new tools and developing new ideas, because each one of those ideas is a building block for another, and another, and, again, ad nauseum. No one should get upset at altruism, but that’s not why it’s important. Society’s growth and continued semblance of well-being are at stake.

While the overall goal of accessibility is to grant everyone access, each person only needs one way. Once it’s found, it’s nirvana, but who finds it the first try? No one. And who stays with that tool for more than a few years? I don’t, and I don’t know anyone who does, either.

Usually because we found a better way, or designed one ourselves.

The devolution of this much-needed discussion to a flame-war is so sad. I don’t want to have to care for someone else’s disability, I want to create for their ability. I don’t want to think in terms of “these can and those can’t” when, by being creative and having a moment to think instead of hearing all the whining over and over about all the sad things in everyone else’s life and I should be grateful and… and … and I am. And if you’ll give me a moment, I may be able to find a common situation so ‘these’ and ‘those’ can all use ‘this’.

Personally I’m falling behind on my surfing as I’m eye-ball deep in django syntax (MODELS, and URLS, and VIEWS! OH MY!) that I’ve not been out on the rest of the web all day. Perhaps I’ll use another access tool and just dump the text into the vocalizer and let the sultry digital tones of the descendants of Maxx Headroom tell you about the day. Or just crank out some BT.

Ah to be young and gay on the stage at Carnegie Hall

Let’s not forget, especially since this is Pride Month here in the lusty U.S. of A., that so many of the things that we adore about the gays are tied inextricably to Judy Garland. She gave us fashion, she gave us music, she gave us hope. And her final act on this earth, her funeral, occurred in the summer of 1969. It was hot, it was a horribly sad day as many had lost their idol and were watching the last performance she’d ever give (C.S.I. wasn’t around then. I know it seems like they were, but no.) When the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn, the drag queens and street boys were gathered inside to watch the funeral, to weep with Liza, and to click their heels three times and wish that she’d come back from Over the Rainbow. Instead of not-resisting, they stood up, stood tall, and fought back. Stonewall is the beginning of the modern GLBT movement, and one great lady was the catalyst. So it seems only right that a big queen from 2006, Miss Rufus Wainwright, would pay tribute in the only appropriate way for any gay man – by singing the entire concert to everyone he can get to listen!

Wainwright’s reverence for Garland aside, the concert was as much as about Wainwright and his own aspirations. Of course, there was the symbolic importance of a gay performer saluting a pivotal gay icon. Yet this wasn’t an evening of reinvention, but rather heartfelt homage, right down to Wainwright forgetting some of the words (as Garland did) on “You Go to My Head” and resurrecting some of her original stage banter.

Wainwright performs a soaring tribute to Garland – The Boston Globe

I shall one day be that gay, too.

technorati tags:, , , , , , , ,

Miss Manners’ Guide to Mourning

For all the well-meaning people of the world who have been so extremely lucky as to not have ever lost someone they unconditionally love, this is for you. Not because you’re asshats, no, it’s because you’re paving the road to hell with some fantastically insane good intentions by opening your mouths. I would like to point out two things before we get too far into this:

  1. You aren’t being attacked, you’re being counseled, with humor and wit (because grace and patience have failed), and;
  2. If you truly are hurt by something in this post, you are extremely guilty of being a bad friend. You aren’t thinking about what Janna needs, you’re thinking about what you want out of her suffering. She’s not a diamond mine, so stop digging!

I have to put it this way, it’s the truth, and some of you out there need to hear it. AGAIN. And so… without further ado, here’s what Miss Manners’ Springtime Substitute had to say:

Hey there. Just an FYI, Janna called me yesterday and I went over there and then to the cemetery with her. Spent the evening with her. There is nothing for us to worry about…she is going to cope…just gonna take a while. However, we discussed some things and I did clarify that SHE….

  1. does NOT like pop-ins (people just showing up unannounced…if you didn’t do it before, don’t do it now).
  2. prefers emails (so she can answer and read at her leisure…or not)
  3. may or may not return voice mails (depends on how many she gets)
  4. usually leaves her cell phone off or on vibrate cuz just too many calls…her bill is outrageous!!
  5. is eating…McD’s everyday all day…and looks the same to me…great
  6. does not like making plans, but if she does, please give her the right to cancel and/or forget about them at any time
  7. does not like people telling her she will be OK, it will get better, he is in a better place, GOD needed him, or asking her how she feels….how do they think she feels?, SHE needs him more than God does, he is not in a better place…his place is with her…and she will not be OK, only surviving day by day.
  8. will go to therapy when she is ready, but I did see several books on her coffee table about grief
  9. knows we are here and she loves us
  10. needs people to understand that if you didn’t do something before (like pop in, or baby her, or call 10x per day) that doing that now only makes her realize something is wrong and different. Act like you used to with her.
  11. hates people smothering her or being “needy” with her.
  12. needs people to realize that YES she is depressed, she is a widow for goodness sake!!
  13. HATES people saying were, was, should have, anything in the past. Just because he is in “escrow” doesn’t mean they aren’t still an incredible couple!

I believe she really is going to manage and cope, she just needs time…and then 5 years from now…she WILL STILL need time…
Alicia

I have first-hand knowledge of this conversation as I was also there, with Janna & Alicia, and I don’t know what was harder – hearing about all the foolish things people had said, or finding out that I like and know most of the fools.

But wait, there’s more!

Alicia sent this email out to a group of friends, many of whom were not sure what to do and needed the guidance, but couldn’t ‘hear’ the wit that came with it. And then Julie sent the email out as well, and I know of even more people who got all flamed up about it! Apparently some people have a guilty conscious because some of the most bent weren’t doing any of the aforementioned idiocy.

So, that’s why I’m posting this on my blog. I want to see how many more ass clowns there are out there.

Kidding. I wanted to post this for clarification – if you have done any of the list above, just stop and it’s all good. Don’t worry too much about the past right now, just ease off a bit and let her seek you out when it’s the right time for her – and that’s the hardest part of friendship: knowing when to just stand ready, off to the side, without making a noise, so that when you’re needed, you’re there, but not a moment too soon.

However, if you continue doing these foolish activities, you risk getting a lashing by a verbally adept and editorially challenged woman whom you love – and believe me, bad idea. I’ve known her since 4th grade, I know what she’s capable of, and we’re talking ‘Hiroshima’ here – but she’ll do it with love, of course.

Since the responses to the emails have been less than stellar, I have a few suggestions of my own to add, too:

  • Don’t think that this list is a generalized ‘how-to’ for friendship, it’s a ‘how Janna needs you to be’ list, a very specific thing.
  • Don’t think that Alicia or I came up with this, it was the result of a conversation that Alicia and I had with Janna as we drove from her house out to visit Richard. The list is very neatly distilled from that conversation, and given that it was a 4 hour chat, I’m exceedingly impressed by Alicia’s memory and articulateness.
  • Don’t be hurt if a friend calls you on your own insanity – learn from it. After all, enemies may call you on it, but they suck as people, that’s why you don’t like them, so why would you listen to them?
  • Don’t get needy, greedy, or bent out of shape if you aren’t ‘invited’ to something by her. Most of the time any ‘something’ that she’s at is impromptu and invitations weren’t sent out. Deal. We are supposed to support her, and that includes being patient and not always up in her grill.
  • There will be times she won’t want to talk to you – specifically you. Cope.
  • If you are ‘disappointed in her’ for any reason, you need to check yourself right fucking quick. I can’t imagine what sort of fool would say something like that, but it’s a very good way to end a friendship. I would suggest getting a card with a big fuck-all “sorry” on the front sent to her house by you before you chat with her again. You know who you are.

There are times she doesn’t want to talk to me. Yeah, yeah, shut it. It’s usually when I’m out of booze, weepy, working and can’t focus for shit, or when she’s just had it and needs one of her Other Gays instead. It’s not easier for me to have to back off, not call, not email, not text, not pop-in, not drive-by, not string soup cans to her house for us to chitchat over, but I have to be patient. Because it’s Janna, and she needs me near or just available, and that’s her call, not mine.

Realize that the entire situation sucks. We all have to grow up a bit and be those people we admire for their quiet wisdom and serenity while facing the emotional wreckage heaped upon loved ones. They are wise because they are silent. People say things in an attempt to magically heal a wound. People cling so they can be the hero who catches them the next time they fall. People do new things, like drop in unannounced or call 1,000 times a day, because they want to change the world, and it wasn’t like this before, so it’s change.

We’re all wise enough to shut the hell up, back off, sit down, and just be. Trust that she’ll get you when she’s ready to just be.

Much love!

Studio 54 at Rich’s

Perhaps the best part of the night was seeing so many people having such a great time because the music rocked, the dance floor was packed, the people were crazy brilliant and the night was a HUGE FUCKING PARTY!

Studio 54 Party at Rich's Houston

I don’t always know what it takes to get people out to the club, which is a hard thing to admit since it’s my job to market and promote the damn place, so it’s really nice when it all works. I suspect that people just want ‘something’ instead of ‘just a night at the club’ which means some themes will have to be planned.

But that also means every party from here on out will be simply amazing. You gonna be there? I thought so…

Yeah, I write too much. Cope.

First off, I’m talking about the comment spam that ran my hosted server through the roof today. I got home and had a message stating that I had used nearly 100 times my normal daily server cycles, and while that doesn’t put me anywhere near my limit, it does make me want to find out why. I did some searching and it turns out that a new, sneakier, more annoying version of blog comment spam has hit the net, and it attacked several of the sites that I maintain. More on this in a minute. It’s been a day, and I’d like to post about it, if only for me. Feel free to skip bits.

Today was a really long day, even though I really didn’t get going until 10 am. I spent most of it with The Cheerleader as she combed through the wreckage of her dreams – which I have to tell you, is exhausting. I love her with all my heart, and today was really hard to watch. I will miss Richard deeply, but mine is the depth of a tablespoon next to the ocean compared to her. She’s been amazing, really, because while everyone else is either falling apart (like me) or becoming automatons (those who stare blank-faced asking what they should do, which is also sometimes me), she’s chugging along, arranging everything as best she can, and only stopping to break-down when there is no other option. I, however, am a complete mess. I’m supposed to be there for her, to be strong, to be supportive and anchor-like for her, but I haven’t been able to get my wits about me enough to stand for myself, let alone be there for her as much as I’d like.

Hell, today I was scared of my phone, not because it might include a bill that could wipe me out, although that’s always a possibility. No, today my fear came from a phrase that I kept hearing in my head, over and over and over again. A phrase that the so-called ‘helpful’ around me had offered up as a sort of verbal talisman, when instead it was almost an invitation for the universe to stop on by and take another friend. I kept hearing “these things always happen in threes” and, I’m sorry for saying it this way, but SHUT. YOUR. PIEHOLE! Three I cannot take, and I know this because the thought of a third tragedy shut me down for a good portion of the day, and continues to make me dread answering the phone.

Unless I don’t recognize the number, them I’m all sorts of chipper. Like that’s some sort of safety? Yeah, I never said I was sane. Truly.

Anyway, so I have one real task to accomplish and that’s make the DVD of all the pictures of Richard. So I’ve been going through the incredibly-deep-yet-thankfully-digital stack of photographs that I have, some of which I deliberately swiped from The Cheerleader. In doing so, I realized that about 99% of the rest of the world will not have seen these yet, and there is a good portion of you who won’t be able to make it to the funeral to see them there.

So I did two things. I removed the ability for content spam to affect my sites, which didn’t take long, but still was a hateful thing to have to deal with. Spammers suck.

The other thing I did is place a slide show at Richard & Janna’s site, of all the pictures I have of Richard. I figure that even if you get to see the DVD presentation that you might want to see more, maybe pause and really get a good long view of a particular pic. I haven’t really gone through them, so there may be duplicates or blurry ones, but I’ll update the slideshow when I’ve edited down the pics for the DVD. If you have any questions or the slideshow isn’t working for you, please let me know in the comments here.

Honored, again, by those who matter most

I hate writing something like this, but I can’t go into details because it’s not my secret to give away. However, I’ve found out that I was honored in an amazing and profound way by some friends. They waited for my approval, they wanted my blessing, and they never outright asked, and had I not given it, who knows if they might have done it anyway, but regardless, they wanted it. They got it, and then magic things happened. I know of no other honor that could mean as much to me, and I have no way of returning the favor, and never really did anyway. But I guess it’s not so much about me, but it’s about how much they think of me — which, for some reason, is higher than I could ever deserve.

Richard – that’s 2 in 3 days, dammit!

I can’t believe this. It’s so surreal and strange to me, and the only word to describe it is “fuck”. First, Robinson Loder dies of a heart failure on Thursday at work, and then Richard, the husband of my best friend Janna, a.k.a. The Cheerleader, dies in a car wreck late Saturday night. I keep thinking it’s some cruel-and-late April Fool’s joke, but it’s not. I really can’t quite believe it, and I’m having very little luck keeping it together.

I met Richard in on September 4, 2004 in Tucson, Arizona. He was at the local Army base getting training, and The Cheerleader happened to be visiting him there the same time I was in Phoenix to visit other friends, so I drove down to have dinner and meet the new man in her life. She finally met someone who treated her like the goddess she is, and who seemed to have his shit together. He still had to pass the Inspection by the Friends, which as you all know is the hardest thing for any potential mate.

He not only passed, he surpassed everything. Richard was, honestly, the most charming and wonderful man you could imagine.

Eventually they got married, and while Richard was still deployed to Iraq, and I was still living at The Cheerleader’s house, he became part of my family. When he returned from the war we had a few times of stress, and things weren’t perfect, but they never got worse. It takes time to readjust to civilian life after a year in a warzone, but he’d done it. It was very amazing to see the two of them together.

During the readjustment period, which is also when I moved out of their house, it was very telling to find out that Richard was worried that my opinion of him had soured. He wanted to make sure that I approved of him and liked him and didn’t feel that he was in some way wrong. I’ve never had any doubts about him, and I’ve never been so honored in my life as when I found out that my opinion meant so much to him. He honored all of us with his service in Iraq, as he was the first and perhaps only person who could and did make some semblance of sense out of that mess. He was loving, kind, careful and strong, and in many ways the best you can ask of any person to be.

Richard and Janna the night I met him, Tucson, AZ, 9.4.04The picture here is one I took the night that I met Richard. I remember it well enough to say I knew that they’d be married soon, and that it was a good thing for both of them. I knew then that he was a wonderful guy, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better for my best friend’s husband.

I can’t believe he’s gone. I can’t quite believe that this week has happened.

Richard, I know you’re looking over us and will be watching to keep her safe. I didn’t tell you enough how much you meant to me, and how much I love you – for your strength, your courage, your honor, your humor and your love for Janna and everyone you surrounded yourself with. You are the best, my friend, and you will be remembered that way by all of us. But fuck, you shouldn’t be a memory, you should still be here. Safe journeys, my friend.

Robbed of Rob

Robinson Loder Ah, I probably shouldn’t be clever with the title, but he would have enjoyed it as he was just as clever, and just as likely to say something funny, brilliant, profound or warm. I guess that’s the best way to remember Robinson Loder, a good friend to everyone he met. I worked with Rob on several projects while at ATX, and he is basically the antithesis of my personality. He was quiet, calm, polite, humble, caring, giving and dedicated. He was cool enough to hang with anyone and strong enough in himself to not need to hang with everyone. He was very much one of the cornerstone people for my time at ATX and in Maine. We started right at the same time, although we didn’t meet for a few months because we worked in different buildings. Having chronological employee numbers that are visible to everyone makes it easy to notice that someone you thought just started has been there as long as you. That was a fun lunch, finding out that we’d been toiling away on various projects and just hadn’t crossed paths yet.

Rob was always welcome at my lovely apartment across the street from the main ATX building. My apartment was called Conference Room 6, and although Rob was an almost rare addition to the, *ahem*, meetings, he joined us enough to be a regular regardless. Several of his visits are some of the more memorable CR6 moments for me, and perhaps that’s what sucks the most – knowing that there won’t be another meeting that becomes a night of laughing and hanging out with some of the most amazing people around. Rob was one of those, and we are all better for having known him.

Rob, I wish you safe travels to heaven. And I really wish you were still here, dammit!

The Picture Show

So I’ve been going through my iPhoto library and found that I have tons of pics, and I hated most ways of putting them online. I finally settled on using SlideShowPro and as it’s given me the versatility and the control that I want, plus it keeps from making people navigate all over hell and back, doesn’t spawn windows maniacally like a madman with confetti, and doesn’t require me to go through and hand-code a series of numbers to allow it to be styled correctly. I’ve found that sharing pics has been a pain, but that’s over. So, I’ve posted a page… er, um… a Page of Photo Albums where you can see two of them now, and more will come later.

Now, if there is a way to create a QuickTime multi-player like this… hmmmmm….