Monday, March 24, 2008

Letter of Comment
    — “Trapped in the Closet”

This letter was sent to the Seattle Weekly, in response to this February 27, 2008 article (titled “Seattle, You Love Your Mainstream Country Music” inside the issue, but “Trapped in the Closet” on the cover).  It was published in the March 19, 2008 edition, but the online  version only carries a portion of the letters.  (Which makes no sense: online is where you can easily print them all.)  The letter was edited slightly (which is fine); original content removed is [blue in brackets].  Special thanks to Spencer for letting me know the letter was published.
Brian Barr and the Weekly’s editor must be wearing their Wranglers a size too tight.   How else do you cover feature a story with a blurb like “Trapped in the Closet” without making any mention of the gay and lesbian side of things?

GLBTQ country-western dancing and music is alive and kicking [(up its heels)] in the Seattle area.   The non-profit, volunteer-run Rain Country Dance Association currently produces dance nights at the Cuff Complex on Capitol Hill every Friday night and alternate Wednesdays, providing both dance instruction and all your favorite country-western dance music.   Rain Country is also in an expansion mode this month: we are adding a classic country music night at the Seattle Eagle, and Monday lessons and dancing at Swank in Kent.  (Kudos to the Weekly for your recent story on gay life in Kent!)   We also produce a monthly non-bar dance night at a Seattle church.

[Rain Country’s biggest news, of course, is the upcoming Emerald City Hoedown on April 25-27, with a whole weekend of dancing and dance workshops, including guest instructors from San Francisco.]

And [since someone will be thinking the question,] no, you don’t have to show your “gay card” at any of our dances.   Everyone is welcome.   [We don’t care who you sleep with, so long as you like to dance!  Check us out online at]

-- Jim Drew
   [President, Rain Country]

Where were you when the lights went out?

Me, I was driving up Rainier Avenue.

It’s always a bit freaky to be walking or driving underneath a streetlight just as it decides to go out.   (Did I cause that?)    For years, I used to clap twice after that would happen (it happened at least once a week to me, I swear), claiming that it was a “psychic clap-on/clap-off light”.   The light would go off because I was about to clap.  Prove that it wasn’t!


The weird feeling of a streetlight gong off is nothing quite like driving through an intersection and the lights suddenly going off for blocks in every direction.  (Shit!   Did I cause that?)   That’s what happened last night, at around 11:30 pm, on Rainier near 23rd.   Bright flash and then dark.   Then about a block further, another flash as everything came back on, and then immediately off again, and then a couple more repeats of that in the next few seconds.   It started to look like a scene from a horror film.

Another half mile along and the power was on in that neighborhood, although when I cam back down Rainier an hour later, the power was still off in the zone I had been driving through.   I assume it’s back on this morning.  I don’t see anything on the Seattle Times website today, so I assume it was nothing big enough to mention.   No semi plowing into a transformer station to destroy a time-traveling killer robot or anything.<

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ireland: Amsterdam to Seattle, er, make that to Minneapolis and then to Seattle (Sunday, March 2)

Written Sunday, March 2 at 1:04 pm (Minneapolis time), somewhere over the Atlantic

No such luck with a long layover in Amsterdam

We apparently made up some of the time lost on the ground during our flight  We were supposed to arrive at 12:15 and we were on the ground at 1:00.  Still, my flight to Seattle was to leave at 1:15.  The KLM agent told me they had already booked me onto a replacement flight and sent me to the T4 transfer station.  (Amsterdam has so much international traffic that they have several staffed stations set up specifically to deal with hundreds of rebookings and reroutings.  In the states, you generally have to work with just your airline.)

When I got there, I had to wait for a couple people, and then the agent said if I ran I would still make my Seattle flight, but the gate was… yes, you guessed it, the furthest one from where we were.  I would have to cover 2 blocks of terminal in 8 minutes, with two carry-ons.  Like Hell.  (The last time I tried that, for a redeye flight to Chicago a year ago, 7 of us made it – only because the flight was 15 minutes late leaving – but they had given away all but 3 of the seats, and two solo travelers snapped up two of them, leaving me and my boyfriend and a family of three with no solution.)  So I walked as fast as I could manage, and an agent met me about 100 feet from the gate saying she had just turned away another traveller.  Could I have made it if I had actually ran?  Maybe, but I think karma would have said “No” and left me just a sweaty upset mess.

So she sent me back to the T6 transfer station.  Unlike the T4 one, this one had people in line.  Lots of people.  It took me just under two hours to get through the line (and by then, the number of people in the line had almost doubled; poor people in the line at that point!).  At which point they couldn’t find me in the system.  They eventually did: I had been rebooked after all, as the original agent said, on a flight to Minneapolis and then to Seattle.  Which was scheduled to leave… wait for it… 2 hours 10 minutes after my original one.  Also known as “in about 10 minutes”. Also known as “if you run, you can make it.”  Also known as… you guessed it, back to the same gate, the farthest one away!  Argh!

So I hustled (a little running, but not much) back to gate E22, and got on.  The flight was still boarding 10 minutes after it was supposed to take off.  I think a bunch of people got shuttled onto it late like me.  But at least I’m on the flight.  Unfortunately, that also means another layover in Minneapolis before the next Seattle flight.  Best guess is as much as 4 hours.  I was originally supposed to be back in Seattle at 2:35 pm, now it’s going to be close to 11:30 pm.

So much for any hopes of either a pleasant Sunday or staving off reverse jetlag.

Watched Chicken Little on the flight so far.  Useless waste of an animated film, almost nothing to recommend it.  Will probably watch Cars and Juno, too, unless I can sleep some.

The baby on the Amsterdam flight shut up once we were finally in the air, and then started up again after we landed.  This flight has one of the same sort: wailing until we were in the air, fortunately sleeping now.

Updated on January 14, 2010

Ireland: Dublin to Amsterdam (Sunday, March 2)

Written Sunday, March 2 at 11:09 am (Dublin time), somewhere over England

Boy, it doesn’t take but one experience to show you how much airports suck.

Make that how much American airports suck.

With a 9:40 am flight to Amsterdam, I caught the 7:55 bus to the airport from the City Centre.  I know, that’s less that a two-hour window, and in the States they always recommend a minimum two hours, three if you’re flying international.  (Which is utter bullshit, of course.  The only time you need two hours is if you’re flying a hub airline before 8:00 am on a business day.  And I’ve not seen any reason to need an hour beyond that for international flights, since there’s nothing extra you usually need to do.)

I would guess (based on the number of terminals and the number of posted flights for a Sunday morning) that Dublin’s airport is 1/2 to 2/3 the size of SeaTac, with of course vastly more traffic going International.  At the Dublin airport, they don’t have separate ticket counters for checking in for each airline, which in the States leaves some deserted and some utterly mobbed.  Instead, in Dublin they have check-in areas allocating different departing flights to different areas.  Load balancing!  Efficiency!  Imagine!  And thus my wait for a check-in machine: zero people.  My wait for checking my bags: zero people.  My wait to have the security person check my boarding pass and passport: two people.  My wait to go through security: zero people.  (And they didn’t make me remove my shoes, either!)

In other words, the absolute best check in and security experience you can imagine in today’s environment.  Less than 10 minutes from arriving at the check-in area to being through security, at 8:20 am.

On the other had, Aer Lingus still sucks.  Same lousy legroom, same hawking of perfume and charging for beverages.  And let’s add in that the seats in front of the exit rows don’t recline, so I’m having to uncomfortably turn sideways just to type this.  And the various regular announcements are spoken in English but from a tape in Irish (with a big increase in volume levels), and the speaker is right over my head, so I have to plug my ears every time an Irish announcement comes on, or go deaf.

But that’s not the worst of it.  There’s some sort of a threatened Aer Lingus strike in the air, and that apparently has taken the effect of either a slowdown or a sick out for the baggage handlers.  Which means we boarded on time… and sat on the tarmack.  40 minutes after we were scheduled to take off, they finally fired up the engines… and we sat for another 25 minutes before we finally left.

(And yes, there was the requisite crying baby, wailing the entire time.)

You’ll recall that coming through Amsterdam, we had a two-hour scheduled layover that turned into five hours.  Going back (me today, Mom and Grandma on Tuesday), we’re only scheduled for a one-hour layover.

I’ll pause to let you do the probability math…

Yup.  My flight to Amsterdam is now scheduled to arrive after my connection home departs.  (Even at the 40-minutes late mark, I doubt they could have transferred my luggage in time.)  Which leaves me at a loss for how long my delay will be in Amsterdam; depends on how often Northwest and KLM leave for Seattle (not sure which I’m taking back; check-in in terminal said KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines – but boarding pass says Northwest, which we flew to Amsterdam last week; they are partners, obviously).

Mom did buy Trip Insurance, so that will be my first thing to check when I get there.  I think it doesn’t kick in until there’s a 6-hour delay or some such, though.  (And whether it gets me anything, or just reimburses her, I don’t know.)

The cynical yet hopeful side of me says “Maybe they’ll bump me by 12 or 24 hours, and I’ll have to (get to) go into Amsterdam for a period of time, maybe even having them put me up for the night.”  Damn, I’d hate that.

I’m reminded that the guys I was originally in the row with on the flight to Amsterdam last week expressed that they couldn’t imagine having to get on another flight after the long one to Seattle, implying too much stress and annoyance to handle.  I think I get what they meant, now.

Updated on January 14, 2010

Ireland: Dublin (Saturday, March 1) — Part 6 (night)

Written Sunday, March 2 at 2:25 pm, Dublin (at the hotel)

I noticed that some of the crossing lights on O’Connell count down the seconds until the signal turns green for you, as opposed to the stateside method some use of counting down how much time is left.  I suppose that has its value, in getting people to wait a few more seconds rather than stepping out into traffic because they’re in a hurry.

There’s a store just around the corner on Henry Street (the big pedestrian shopping mall) that is truly putrid smelling.  It’s some sort of a hand-made cosmetics place, but there is an odor from it which wafts down onto O’Connell, even at 2:30 am, hours after closing.  It smells like a huge vat of Palmolive; fine as a passing whiff, maybe, but totally turns my stomach in this volume.

My goal for the evening is to stay up later tonight/this morning, and only get a few hours sleep.  That will prompt me to sleep early on the flight back, and hopefully get back closer to my typical weekend schedule (waking up late morning) to ease myself back through the jetlag faster.  We’ll see if it works.

I have to catch a bus to the airport at about 7:30 am tomorrow, for a 9:50 flight to Amsterdam.  Then it’s a one-hour layover there (cross fingers!) and back to Seattle, in at 2:35 in the afternoon.  I’ll have to take the bus back home, but that’s fine.  (If it isn’t raining, of course.  Weather report doesn’t predict that for Seattle right now.)

Updated on January 13, 2010

Updated on April 30, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ireland: Dublin (Saturday, March 1) — Part 5 (dinner)

Written Saturday, March 1 at 7:17 pm, Dublin (at the hotel)

The Irish Stew was mediocre — underseasoned and soupy — but the side salad, a mix of green salad and slaw, was pretty good.  And the bread & butter pudding with hot custard was quite yummy.

I’ve taken over 120 video snippets so far on the trip, amounting to 20 MB of space, somewhere around 90 minutes of video, I suspect, ranging from 3-4 seconds up to 8 minutes.  I’m going to be editing this stuff forever!  (Actually, I’ll try to do minimal editing, just chopping useless seconds from the start and end.  I’ll stitch a bunch of the short pieces together into longer bits, with interstitial headings, probably ending up mostly 30 second to 2 minutes each, which will make for better YouTube viewing and will keep me from embedding 100 videos in my blog.)

Ireland: Dublin (Saturday, March 1) — Part 4 (afternoon)

Written Saturday, March 1 at 5:48 pm, Dublin (at the hotel)

It took me a while to find the Archaeolgical wing of the museum, down on Kildare Street.  I had to wander around the Trinity College area a while, before I found it with the National Library and Leinster House (where Parliament and the Irish Senate meet).  Since it faces the square of Leinster House and that square is all fenced in for security, the museum gets short shrift; you can’t see much of its front.

I did get to pass by the statue of Molly Malone, the fishmonger (or perhaps prostitute) from the song of the same name (also know as “Cockles and Mussels”), the unofficial anthem of Dublin.

I only got to see the museum for about 30 minutes, so I stayed on the first floor, with the prehistoric exhibits, including the Bog Men (people ritually murdered and buried in the peat bogs, preserved for hundreds and thousands of years), the Hill of Tara, and a artifacts like cauldrons and gold work.  I was especially impressed by the torcs, which I had always assumed were fairly thick stretched bars of gold, but many of them were very fine spirals of gold instead, created by making a three- or four-flanged ingot, heating it, and twisting it while stretching it.

During my last trip to Europe (back in 1984), some photography was doable in museums, so long as it was flashless.  Apparently absolutely none is allowed in the National Museum of Ireland, though, as I got reprimanded for using my non-lit digital video camera.  Oh well, I got a couple bits of video today from in the museums, but I didn’t try to “cheat” after the reprimand.

Dinner soon. Flanagan’s next to the hotel serves Irish Stew, and I haven’t had that all week, so it’s time.  And then a nap before going out, maybe.

Updated on January 12, 2010

Ireland: Dublin (Friday–Saturday, February 29–March 1) — Part 3 (night/morning/afternoon)

Written Saturday, March 1 at 2:28 pm, Dublin (at the hotel)

My hotel room is a top floor garret room, with a single bed tucked into the corner.  A pretty lousy bed, truth be told: thin useless pillow, and a mattress that you can feel all the springs in.  There’s a dedicated bathroom, though, which isn’t too bad, though, and there’s wireless, and ultimately, it’s a room in the City Centre area at not-too-expensive a price.

The view out my tiny window pretty much just shows the top floor of the building across the street, although I can also catch a view of the Spire.  The 120-meter tall Dublin Spire was erected in early 2003 as a replacement for the 138-foot Nelson’s Pillar, which had been blown up by the IRA in 1966 (possibly to commemorate the Easter Uprising of 1916).  It is a silver spike narrowing from about 10 feet at the base to 6 inches at the top.  The top several feet hasve white LED lights at night.

After breakfast, I took the tram back to Collins Barracks and visited the Decorative Arts wing of the National Museum of Ireland.  They have on display a reconstruction of a Viking longboat originally built in the Dublin area around 1042 and sunk (along with several other boats) in a Danish fjord some 50 years later, the Havhingsten fra Glendalough (“Sea Stallion from Glendalough”).  The boat was reconstructed using period tools and techniques, taking 44,000 man hours to complete, and then it was sailed back to Dublin by a crew of 65, with stops at several locations along the way in Denmark and Norway.

The museum also has a display about the Easter Uprising of 1916, which led to Irish independence 6 or 7 years later.  Via other displays at the museum, it’s clear that such uprisings occurred every 20-40 years, going back into the 1700s and before.  Not that this tells modern American audiences anything about what to expect when occupying Iraq, oh, no.  (Basically, the locals always want an occupying force out, and every generation will fight to get rid of the oppressors.)

Other displays include a look at Irish soldiers around the world, going back to 1550.  Much of it centers on Irish brigades in World Wars I and II, of course, but there are large parts about the Irish during English colonial days, the “Wild Geese” Irish expats serving in continental European armies in the 19th century, and the Irish brigades in the Boer War, the Spanish Civil War, and even the American Civil War (mostly on the side of the Union, but there was an Irish regiment out of Tennessee fighting for the South).  Interestingly, one ploy to strive for freedom from British rule in the 1860s was an Irish invasion of Canada (!) through Niagara, New York; the Irish beat the Canadian militia at the Battle of Ridgeway, but fell back to the States on rumor of British troops arriving.

Other exhbits that I saw included Irish silverwork, Irish coins, and a some miscellany from the general collections, including a fabulous dress done by Charles Worth, founder of the first house of couture in Paris.  (I have a friend who studied couture in Paris a few years ago.)

Coming back, I wandered through the large pedestrian shopping mall that runs from Jervis to O’Connell, to the Spire.  Bought some souvenirs: three t-shirts, a mug and a shot glass, and some shortbread and chocolates; some for me, some for others.

I opted to not go to the Guinness Storehouse, when I found out that the tour was €14.  Half that would have been fine, but $20 was too steep for me.  I’ll probably be sorry later, and have to come back to Dublin someday.  <grin>

Shortly, I’m going to head out to the Archeological wing of the National Museum, on the south side of the Liffey.

Updated on January 12, 2010

Updated on April 30, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog: