Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Plan

Frank and I had a nice talk tonight. ABOUT THE MOVE. He had a rotten day at work, which spurred him on. But we’ve talked about it a lot lately. I spent my morning researching TESOL classes so we can teach English overseas. I’ve been listening to an audiobook called, “Retiring Overseas on a Budget.” I’ve looked into health insurance costs, apartments in San Pedro, Placencia, southern Portugal, Spain and even Malta! We’re ready to put this into motion. Within two years - we’ll be out of here!

So many thoughts. So many decisions to make. But we’ve set a date. That’s so important! When I was toying with the idea of moving to Spain at the end of my month in Europe in the summer of 1991, I knew I had to tell everyone immediately upon my return, that I was planning to move to Europe. I had to put it into motion. Not “I’m thinking about….,” but rather, “I’m going to…” I talked about it so much that my coworker finally asked me to give her an idea of when I’d been leaving so they could start thinking about a replacement for me. So I did. This was in TK October and I made a commitment to leave by the end of January. Now I had a schedule. A timetable. A PLAN. That’s what we get to work on now. OUR PLAN! Where we want to be in two years - financially and psychologically, as well as geographically. 

We started gearing up for this in earnest on Election Night. While we were watching the returns, and I was saying that “it’s early” and “those states aren’t important anyway,” I was already on my laptop looking at property in Belize. Saw a couple great potentials. We realized that night that it had to happen. The question was when. I submitted a retirement estimate request the next morning. I have an appointment with a CalPERS retirement specialist in two weeks. We have set this into motion!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Election 2016

I still can’t deal with it. I’m seriously still in the denial stage. I’m avoiding it. Not watching the news. Couldn’t even THINK of watching his acceptance speech or even her concession speech. What I want to hear is her ACCEPTANCE speech. I would LOVE to hear that right now. I know it wouldn’t change the outcome, but hearing about the momentous success of how far this country has come and how it will continue on a positive, progressive path. I need to hear HER. I need to hear about the accomplishments past and future. The thanks to a pioneering president who has brought us so far in social justice issues these past eight years. (Remember he was elected the same night Prop 8 was voted in to stop marriage equality in California.) You know Lily Ledbetter, health care for millions and marriage equality are in that speech. I need that reassurance. That hope for the future. Because that’s not the path I see ahead. I see women, people of color, LGBT youth facing the overt oppression that has been somewhat veiled in the past. I see what has already happened in the past two days continuing unabated because it’s been sanctioned by their leader.

I finally started reaching out tonight. Frank and I shared the wrenching experience Election Night (so glad he didn’t have rehearsal), but I really only talked to one friend at work yesterday. I was avoiding it. Still in denial. Tonight after work I talked to my neighbor about it. It helped to talk it a out a bit more. We talked about how fortunately isolated we are in California. But it’s the young woman in Oklahoma, the gay kid in Michigan, the Muslim family in Kentucky. Those are the ones I’m worried about. She’s ready to march in the streets. And I will be there some day. But not right now. I can’t even get behind Michael Moore right now. In denial. I was texting with some (more politically-inclined) friends in Michigan. I had to reach out. I remember calling (was that even a thing?) my best friend in 2000 when it looked like Al Gore was going to pull it out. How exciting, yet, tenuous it was. Then…. 

I just want to shut it out. Denial. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Time to Hit the Road??

Watching the US Presidential results coming in. Checking out properties in San Pedro, Belize. Might be time to pull the trigger.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Marianne in San Diego from Mike Wasinski on Vimeo.
Welcome to San Diego to my sister Marianne!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Frank and I really enjoyed hosting our first couch surfers these past few days. Sophie and Viktor from Copenhagen are traveling through the Western US for two months this summer. They were a great introductoi to the world of couchsurfing.org. I signed us up as potential hosts several months ago and just recently we started getting several requests.  I've had a few requests from people wanting to stay with us. Some didn't work out due to timing and some I just didn't feel comfortable with, but Sophie and Victor seemed like a good match. They have been traveling in California for several weeks coming down from San Francisco. I read their reviews and the reviews of those they stayed with on couch surfing.org and they were all positive. It gets me excited about travel, about meeting new people, about exploring new cultures, how about creating new stories.

I think we were a little to old to share a lot of common interests, but Sophie has my love of travel.. I wish them well in the remainder of their travels and I hope to meet up with them in Las Vegas in a couple weeks!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Frank and I had a wonderful weekend of wine tasting in Temecula with Bill, Kathy and Ken! The five of us rented a limo and visited four wineries Saturday afternoon and spent the night in Old Town Temecula.  Those guys are really good traveling companions. That's important! Frank and I are good traveling companions. Sure we get crabby once in a while due to lack of sleep and the double emotions of excitement and anxiety of exploring a new place. I think the worst was in London after leaving Mary Poppins and I was sure I still knew my way around London after twenty-some years. I insisted I knew which was to go and we walked all over the West End in the rain looking for a bar I wanted to go to. Frank was none too happy then. But mostly, we're a good road duo. Crosby and Hope. Jesse and Celine. That reminds me, Before Midnight is coming out soon. It's the third in the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset series with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Can't wait! Before Sunset is one of my all time favorites!

Monday, November 26, 2012


Had a great time on our Long Beach-Catalina-Ensenada cruise. Definitely not the best cruise we've been on, but we managed to have fun - as we always do! Our room was in steerage, lowest deck T the front of the ship. But at least we had two portholes and a window seat. We had dinner in the main dining room. Every night at a table of 10. Met some wonderful people!

David and Lis - newly weds living in San Ysidro. She's from TJ, he's from Quito, Ecuador.  
Roland and Julie - childhood friends in the Philipines. He looked for her for years, from Philipines to London to Maryland. Finally found her and started a long distance relationship. He lives in Fairfield, CA
Kunan and his new wife (never really got her name) - born in different parts of India, they speak different native languages. They now live in Sunnyvale. He works for Apple.
Joe (Pepe) and Esther - dated when they were 17. She's from  Columbia and lives in Oxnard. He is a dentist  in Mexico City. She was quite tipsy the first night and told us everything about them, including that they were getting married, though not yet engaged. We had drinks with them before dinner the last night and when they arrived at dinner, he had proposed. She invited us to their wedding next year in Acapulco. And he wants us to visit him in Mexico City. That's one of the best things about cruising. You get the chance to meet so many varied and fascinating people. Frank and I were the only ones at our table of 10 who were born in the US! And we were the old married couple. Everyone else were newlyweds or newly dating. 

The ship itself wasn't spectacular. There was a lot of noise as they were making repairs and painting the entire time. The spa was small. The entertainment wasn't very good either. And the kicker was that the confiscated our liquor! We did manage to sneak some on board in Catalina. The service was good and the food was great, although I expected more of a to do on Thanksgiving.

Catalina was great. Loved just walking around Avalon. The Casino is a great piece of Hollywood history. Ensenada was fun - cheap drinks and entertaining people.  Oh well. it was a nice quick getaway!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Waz gucci

I am so fucking in love with Sa Diego right now.  Just started my Thanksgiving Break with a visit to Ocean Beach - my first home in San Diego. It was a beauTiful fall afternoon with full sunshine on the beach. A trio of hippie boys were playing songs on the boardwalk. An older throwback couple sitting on the cement in front of them keeping the beat.  Then a couple of the ubiquitous circle drummers from down the way joined in and they really started jamming. Lots,of Pink Floyd (would have preferred Bob Marley or Jack Johnson), but they played well. Their singing was another matter. But no matter, because I was fully enjoying the mixture of people in OB. There was a guy on the sand in front of me with Indian prayer cards, chanting softly to himself. A trio of thirty something's played hockey sack (really? That's not too cliche?) A hot lifeguard spraying down the trucks at the lifeguard station.  A too obviously Scandinavian couple walking barefoot with backpacks. Two dudes sitting on the seawall suddenly explode into fits of coughing and hacking. Wonder what could have brought that on? A guy who looked too much like me with his juggling stix.  Yes, I said juggling stix!

I really need to spend more time at the beach. I love the funkiness of OB. Not that I'd like to live there again. Too much baggage in that place. Not mine, but just in general. I guess it reminds me of Spain, too. People living in the streets, as Annelies and I used to say. 

But I have the best of both worlds. Going cruising with my honey next week. and In Spain I didn't have a hot tub to hop into in the evening. And the stars are beautiful tonight. Brazilian music playing.  Ahhhh.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thank Goodness

Thanksgiving Break has begun! I'm looking forward to a nice break, but also to some time to plan some lessons for my classes. Down time is something that has been extremely rare lately! I have a lot to do this week - clean garage, Vegas, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas decorations. Some rest! But it's all good. Started off with a great evening at home tonight.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ran into several more former students at Club Day at lunch today. It felt good to actually get out of my room at lunch and get out among the students. Three girls who were in my Media class at Marshall stopped and talked to me. And another who was in my East Coast group 4 years ago! An ECT student from 4 years ago is in my CORE class and is editing his football videos for his college recruiters. It's great to reconnect, but I was also reminded that yesterday was the first East Coast Trip meeting at Marshall. Bittersweet.

I still hate Thursdays! No prep means it's a long day. Then I had to go down to HR and fill out the remaining paperwork to finally make me official. Found out I have to get a THIRD set of fingerprints done. Isn't this a little extreme, people?? I should get a nice payout from my vacation balance though, and by staying in PERS instead of STRS I can still retire at 50 instead of 55. Hmmmmmm.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Brazilian Waxing

One of my football players today comes in during my prep asking what other assignments he needs to catch up on before this week's end-of-grading-period. I showed him the two assignments he was missing - a camera shot activity and an introductory letter the substitute had asked students to write to introduce themselves and state why they were in the class, what they hoped to get out of it, etc. So I'm reading through his letter and it states how he might have trouble in class with the language because he's an exchange student from Brazil. I said, "Jeff, did you happen to copy this from Pedro (the exchange student from Brazil)??" Oy! Try a little harder with the plagiarism, kid!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Start of a New Career

I wish I had more time to sit and reflect on my first week teaching high school. I just finished 30 minutes in the hot tub and am finally soothed from the week.

I love the atmosphere. It was Homecoming Week, so things were probably a little more pumped up than usual, but there was tremendous energy! Reconnecting with former Marshall students was great! It helped ease the transition. I've seen many of my past Media students - and encouraged them to take my class next year. I haven't gotten to know many staff members yet. The front office staff is great, and I've met a few teachers whose names I can't remember, but not much more than that. I chatted a while with the Career Counselor who shares an office down the hall. Other than her, there's only the Copy Room further down the hall. I LOVE having my own wing! My classroom is on one side with the studio, control room and two audio rooms on the other. Unfortunately, the latter 4 are mostly storage rooms for dead or decrepit equipment. The classroom has 24 recent-model iMacs with Final Cut Pro and Adobe CS3. There are also 8-10 old eMacs that aren't even hooked up - a way-in-the future project. There are lots of those. Like going through the 17-year-old studio equipment and seeing what works, if anything. I've assigned some students to test some of it and that will help. I've stayed until 5 or 6 every day this week, but there are still so many projects to do! I got the studio lights going the other day. Still haven't figured out the dimmer panel though.

We shot the sports anchors on Thursday and it looks good. We'll do the studio anchors on Monday. I managed to find an old multimedia desk that will serve as our news desk for now and the students helped get it in shape. That's what's so great about high school students. They can stay after school to do things! No scurrying for the bus or carpool. I also put up a background for the anchors yesterday. As soon as I get the lights set today, I think we'll be ready for taping on Monday!

Yesterday was Homecoming. I knew there was a rally in the stadium during the school day, but nobody told me about the events before school. When I arrived (late, due to CRAZY traffic) the Seniors in their blue class colors were on the second floor above the quad taunting the Juniors in red down below. I had worn my Michigan State sweatshirt to root on my team this weekend, but also found out green was the Freshman class color. Perfect. I fit right in! At the rally, my students joined their respective classes in the stands and I headed up to the top to watch the activities. It's unusual for me to be able to do that. I had two students taping the events, so I only took cellphone video and pictures to send to Frank. And I didn't have to set up the audio system or worry about it when the mics went dead halfway through the rally. Not my problem!

Putting together lesson plans still seems daunting, but overall it was a good first week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Treat People Like Dogs

By Karen Oberthaler, V.M.D. | NEWSWEEK

When I say I'm a veterinary oncologist, I am usually met with a bemused, slightly incredulous reaction. I'm often asked, "Do people really treat their pets for cancer?" As a matter of fact, they do. Not only do I administer radiation and chemotherapy to cats and dogs (not to mention the occasional ferret and hedgehog) on a daily basis, but I work in one of the most sophisticated veterinary hospitals in the country, with a neurosurgeon, a dermatologist, an ophthalmologist, and a host of other specialists. Pet owners routinely rack up $10,000 bills to save the life of an animal that they consider a beloved member of the family.

This may seem extreme, but it's not even close to what many Americans do for their (human) relatives. A breathtaking $66.8 billion each year—almost a third of all Medicare dollars—is spent treating patients in the last two years of their lives. Too often, expensive procedures are tried simply so medical providers can cover themselves against potential lawsuits from bereaved family members who want to make sure everything possible was done. The fact that insurance generally covers all of this makes it more likely that doctors and patients pile on excessive and nonessential tests and procedures.

About 90 percent of my animal patients are geriatric—and, as odd as this sounds, the veterinary world may hold lessons for the broader health-care system. While pet insurance exists, only roughly 3 percent of owners carry it; even then, clients pay a substantial portion of costs themselves. That means they usually want to know the rationale behind each test. I explain what I think is going on, what I want to look for, and which tests I need to perform to find it. I rank the diagnostics from most to least essential and lay out approximate costs. My clients then choose what they want done, with an understanding of the relative importance, risk, and cost of each option. This step-by-step approach may seem time-consuming, but it dramatically reduces the number of expensive, unnecessary tests. And the process is more gratifying.

When facing the death of a loved one—human or animal—the real challenge is coming to grips with the reality of the situation. Since my approach draws me closer to families, it's easier to suggest that the best course of treatment may be relieving pain rather than fighting a disease. Owners are less likely to fear that you're giving up on their beloved pet if they trust you. When I'm asked about performing tests, and I know the results won't change the outcome, I say so. If your golden retriever's cancer is too far advanced for surgery, getting a biopsy may be a pricey—and superfluous—exercise.

No family wants to subject its already sick pet to uncomfortable tests or dump thousands of dollars into dead-end diagnostics. So why do we do that to our grandparents? Clearly the stakes are different: we're talking about the people who brought us into the world. Vets, also, are not saddled with the threat of career-ending malpractice lawsuits. While most pets are treated like children, legally animals are property—I can't be sued for more than their face value. We're also not buried under paperwork, which accounts for our ability to spend more time with clients

I'm not advocating that people and their families be allowed to dictate their care entirely. But there is something to be said for inviting them deeper into the process. In some ways, veterinary practice today is not that different from the practice of human medicine before insurance companies dictated policy and the threat of lawsuits guided decisions. Which might explain why the question I'm asked with the second-most frequency is "Do you think I could be treated in this hospital?"

Oberthaler is on staff at NYC Veterinary Specialists.

© 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Michael Moore's Take on Health Care Vote

Michael Moore, filmmaker:
Thanks to last night's vote, that child of yours who has had asthma since birth will now be covered after suffering for her first nine years as an American child with a pre-existing condition.

Thanks to last night's vote, that 23-year-old of yours who will be hit one day by a drunk driver and spend six months recovering in the hospital will now not go bankrupt because you will be able to keep him on your insurance policy.

Thanks to last night's vote, after your cancer returns for the third time -- racking up another $200,000 in costs to keep you alive -- your insurance company will have to commit a criminal act if they even think of dropping you from their rolls.

Yes, my Republican friends, even though you have opposed this health care bill, we've made sure it is going to cover you, too, in your time of need. I know you're upset right now. I know you probably think that if you did get wiped out by an illness, or thrown out of your home because of a medical bankruptcy, that you would somehow pull yourself up by your bootstraps and survive. I know that's a comforting story to tell yourself, and if John Wayne were still alive I'm sure he could make that into a movie for you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Care Reform

Defeat for insurance corporations and victory for the little guy. Finally, Congress is doing what the American people elected them to do. They are listening the people who VOTED FOR them and not the special interests who CONTRIBUTED TO them. That's change I can believe in!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Congressman Hunter is an Embarrassment

Congressman Duncan D. Hunter is following in his father’s footsteps, and he’s really stepped in it this time.

Hunter claims that allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military will open it up to “transgenders and hermaphrodites.” Really? Hermaphrodites will be storming the recruitment centers?

Foolish remarks like that are great for a politician’s media exposure, but they distract from the issue at hand.

During his father’s thankfully short presidential run in 2007, Duncan L. Hunter stated, “I think it’s only because we have been able to resist that particular attempt (at allowing gays in the military) that we have the very best military in the world today.” Do these politicians even believe what they’re saying?

Gays and lesbians have always proudly served in the military, albeit closeted. Allowing them to affirm who they are will not destroy the mightiest military in the world. Those who think it would don’t seem to have much respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us. At a time when we are fighting two wars and facing new potential threats every day, we can’t afford to dismiss hard-working, dependable soldiers who wish to serve their country.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Top UK Footballers Refuse to Participate in Anti-homophobia Campaign for Fear of Humiliation.

And I thought American sports players and fans were homophobic. I can't believe these British footballers are so afraid of being called names. Feeble.

From Towleroad:

Top football players in the UK refused to take part in an anti-homophobia campaign for fear of humiliation by fellow players: "The PFA was hopeful that some of the Premier League's stars would put their names and faces forward to support the campaign. But the Independent claims that the PFA have been unable to persuade anyone to take part. The newspaper reports that players feared being ridiculed by both opposition players and supporters for appearing in the video, and being subjected to taunts and chants. The Football Association eventually produced a generic 'viral' anti-homophobic video at the start of this week but now that has been pulled pending a full review of the entire campaign."

Pretty pathetic.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Sorry State of our Union

What is the state of the union? Well, for one thing, it's more polarized than ever before. That was made obvious when a traditionally politics-neutral Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito, muttered his disgust with the President during his speech. It wasn't quite, "You lie!" but it was quite striking all the same. Obama mentioned the court's campaign finance decision that gives corporations nearly free rein in influencing elections - including judicial elections. So much for non-partisanship.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nepal Next to Legalize Gay Marriage?

From bigpondnews.com:

Nepal will play host to a royal wedding with a difference when an openly gay Indian prince marries his partner at a Hindu temple in Kathmandu.

The ceremony is the start of what Nepalese lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant hopes will become a lucrative business for his country, whose once thriving tourist industry is still reeling from a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006.

Pant, the only openly gay member of Nepal's parliament, has set up a travel agency catering specifically for homosexual tourists, who he says face severe discrimination in many Asian countries.

He believes Nepal, which has made large strides forward on gay rights issues in recent years thanks largely to his own efforts, is well placed to cash in on an industry worth an estimated US$670 million (AUS$743.12 million) worldwide.

'If we brought even one per cent of that market to Nepal it would be big. But I'm hoping we can attract 10 per cent,' said Pant, who was selected in May 2008 to represent a small communist party in Nepal's parliament.

'The choices (for gay tourists) in this region are very limited, and there is really no competition from China or India. Nepal is one of the few places where adventure tourism is available to people,' he said.

Pant said he has been overwhelmed with enquiries since setting up his travel agency, Pink Mountain. The company will offer gay-themed tours of Nepal's major tourist sites - including Hindu temples that feature carvings of the god Shiva depicted as half man, half woman - as well as organise wedding ceremonies. Pant's plans have won the support of the tourism ministry in Nepal, a deeply conservative, mainly Hindu country that nonetheless has some of the most progressive policies on homosexuality in Asia.

Two years ago, the country's Supreme Court ordered the government to enact laws to guarantee the rights of gays and lesbians after the Blue Diamond Society, a pressure group run by Pant, filed a petition.

The country's new constitution, currently being drafted by MPs, is expected to define marriage as a union between two adult individuals, regardless of gender, and to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Laxman Bhattarai, joint secretary in Nepal's Tourism Ministry, said the government had no specific policies on gay tourism, but would support Pant's enterprise.

'The government has declared its ambition of attracting a million tourists to Nepal in 2011 which is a big increase,' he said.

Around 500,000 foreign tourists travelled to Nepal in 2009.

'Nepal is a safe place to come now. We want to develop new tourist destinations and get people coming back after the civil war. If he can help us in any way, we are happy.'

The wedding of Indian prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, scion of the family that once ruled Rajpipla in the western state of Gujarat, looks likely to create the kind of publicity Nepal's tourism business so desperately needs.

Pant believes it will be followed by many more such ceremonies, and is already organising a wedding for a lesbian couple from Massachusetts who want to hold their nuptials in Mustang, high in the Himalayas.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

By Ted Olson:

Together with my good friend and occasional courtroom adversary David Boies, I am attempting to persuade a federal court to invalidate California's Proposition 8—the voter-approved measure that overturned California's constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex.

My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the "traditional" definition of marriage and press for an "activist" interpretation of the Constitution to create another "new" constitutional right?

My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation.

This bedrock American principle of equality is central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike. The dream that became America began with the revolutionary concept expressed in the Declaration of Independence in words that are among the most noble and elegant ever written: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Sadly, our nation has taken a long time to live up to the promise of equality. In 1857, the Supreme Court held that an African-American could not be a citizen. During the ensuing Civil War, Abraham Lincoln eloquently reminded the nation of its found-ing principle: "our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

At the end of the Civil War, to make the elusive promise of equality a reality, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution added the command that "no State É shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person É the equal protection of the laws."

Subsequent laws and court decisions have made clear that equality under the law extends to persons of all races, religions, and places of origin. What better way to make this national aspiration complete than to apply the same protection to men and women who differ from others only on the basis of their sexual orientation? I cannot think of a single reason—and have not heard one since I undertook this venture—for continued discrimination against decent, hardworking members of our society on that basis.

Various federal and state laws have accorded certain rights and privileges to gay and lesbian couples, but these protections vary dramatically at the state level, and nearly universally deny true equality to gays and lesbians who wish to marry. The very idea of marriage is basic to recognition as equals in our society; any status short of that is inferior, unjust, and unconstitutional.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that marriage is one of the most fundamental rights that we have as Americans under our Constitution. It is an expression of our desire to create a social partnership, to live and share life's joys and burdens with the person we love, and to form a lasting bond and a social identity. The Supreme Court has said that marriage is a part of the Constitution's protections of liberty, privacy, freedom of association, and spiritual identification. In short, the right to marry helps us to define ourselves and our place in a community. Without it, there can be no true equality under the law.

It is true that marriage in this nation traditionally has been regarded as a relationship exclusively between a man and a woman, and many of our nation's multiple religions define marriage in precisely those terms. But while the Supreme Court has always previously considered marriage in that context, the underlying rights and liberties that marriage embodies are not in any way confined to heterosexuals.

Marriage is a civil bond in this country as well as, in some (but hardly all) cases, a religious sacrament. It is a relationship recognized by governments as providing a privileged and respected status, entitled to the state's support and benefits. The California Supreme Court described marriage as a "union unreservedly approved and favored by the community." Where the state has accorded official sanction to a relationship and provided special benefits to those who enter into that relationship, our courts have insisted that withholding that status requires powerful justifications and may not be arbitrarily denied.

What, then, are the justifications for California's decision in Proposition 8 to withdraw access to the institution of marriage for some of its citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? The reasons I have heard are not very persuasive.

The explanation mentioned most often is tradition. But simply because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it must always remain that way. Otherwise we would still have segregated schools and debtors' prisons. Gays and lesbians have always been among us, forming a part of our society, and they have lived as couples in our neighborhoods and communities. For a long time, they have experienced discrimination and even persecution; but we, as a society, are starting to become more tolerant, accepting, and understanding. California and many other states have allowed gays and lesbians to form domestic partnerships (or civil unions) with most of the rights of married heterosexuals. Thus, gay and lesbian individuals are now permitted to live together in state-sanctioned relationships. It therefore seems anomalous to cite "tradition" as a justification for withholding the status of marriage and thus to continue to label those relationships as less worthy, less sanctioned, or less legitimate.

The second argument I often hear is that traditional marriage furthers the state's interest in procreation—and that opening marriage to same-sex couples would dilute, diminish, and devalue this goal. But that is plainly not the case. Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex. How, then, would allowing same-sex marriages reduce the number of children that heterosexual couples conceive?

This procreation argument cannot be taken seriously. We do not inquire whether heterosexual couples intend to bear children, or have the capacity to have children, before we allow them to marry. We permit marriage by the elderly, by prison inmates, and by persons who have no intention of having children. What's more, it is pernicious to think marriage should be limited to heterosexuals because of the state's desire to promote procreation. We would surely not accept as constitutional a ban on marriage if a state were to decide, as China has done, to discourage procreation.

Another argument, vaguer and even less persuasive, is that gay marriage somehow does harm to heterosexual marriage. I have yet to meet anyone who can explain to me what this means. In what way would allowing same-sex partners to marry diminish the marriages of heterosexual couples? Tellingly, when the judge in our case asked our opponent to identify the ways in which same-sex marriage would harm heterosexual marriage, to his credit he answered honestly: he could not think of any.

The simple fact is that there is no good reason why we should deny marriage to same-sex partners. On the other hand, there are many reasons why we should formally recognize these relationships and embrace the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and become full and equal members of our society.

No matter what you think of homosexuality, it is a fact that gays and lesbians are members of our families, clubs, and workplaces. They are our doctors, our teachers, our soldiers (whether we admit it or not), and our friends. They yearn for acceptance, stable relationships, and success in their lives, just like the rest of us.

Conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another. Confining some of our neighbors and friends who share these same values to an outlaw or second-class status undermines their sense of belonging and weakens their ties with the rest of us and what should be our common aspirations. Even those whose religious convictions preclude endorsement of what they may perceive as an unacceptable "lifestyle" should recognize that disapproval should not warrant stigmatization and unequal treatment.

When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.

I understand, but reject, certain religious teachings that denounce homosexuality as morally wrong, illegitimate, or unnatural; and I take strong exception to those who argue that same-sex relationships should be discouraged by society and law. Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual. To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed. And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others. I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

If we are born heterosexual, it is not unusual for us to perceive those who are born homosexual as aberrational and threatening. Many religions and much of our social culture have reinforced those impulses. Too often, that has led to prejudice, hostility, and discrimination. The antidote is understanding, and reason. We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. California's Supreme Court was the first to find that discrimination unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed 20 years later, in 1967, in a case called Loving v. Virginia. It seems inconceivable today that only 40 years ago there were places in this country where a black woman could not legally marry a white man. And it was only 50 years ago that 17 states mandated segregated public education—until the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that practice in Brown v. Board of Education. Most Americans are proud of these decisions and the fact that the discriminatory state laws that spawned them have been discredited. I am convinced that Americans will be equally proud when we no longer discriminate against gays and lesbians and welcome them into our society.

Reactions to our lawsuit have reinforced for me these essential truths. I have certainly heard anger, resentment, and hostility, and words like "betrayal" and other pointedly graphic criticism. But mostly I have been overwhelmed by expressions of gratitude and good will from persons in all walks of life, including, I might add, from many conservatives and libertarians whose names might surprise. I have been particularly moved by many personal renditions of how lonely and personally destructive it is to be treated as an outcast and how meaningful it will be to be respected by our laws and civil institutions as an American, entitled to equality and dignity. I have no doubt that we are on the right side of this battle, the right side of the law, and the right side of history.

Some have suggested that we have brought this case too soon, and that neither the country nor the courts are "ready" to tackle this issue and remove this stigma. We disagree. We represent real clients—two wonderful couples in California who have longtime relationships. Our lesbian clients are raising four fine children who could not ask for better parents. Our clients wish to be married. They believe that they have that constitutional right. They wish to be represented in court to seek vindication of that right by mounting a challenge under the United States Constitution to the validity of Proposition 8 under the equal-protection and due-process clauses of the 14th Amendment. In fact, the California attorney general has conceded the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8, and the city of San Francisco has joined our case to defend the rights of gays and lesbians to be married. We do not tell persons who have a legitimate claim to wait until the time is "right" and the populace is "ready" to recognize their equality and equal dignity under the law.

Citizens who have been denied equality are invariably told to "wait their turn" and to "be patient." Yet veterans of past civil-rights battles found that it was the act of insisting on equal rights that ultimately sped acceptance of those rights. As to whether the courts are "ready" for this case, just a few years ago, in Romer v. Evans, the United States Supreme Court struck down a popularly adopted Colorado constitutional amendment that withdrew the rights of gays and lesbians in that state to the protection of anti-discrimination laws. And seven years ago, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down, as lacking any rational basis, Texas laws prohibiting private, intimate sexual practices between persons of the same sex, overruling a contrary decision just 20 years earlier.

These decisions have generated controversy, of course, but they are decisions of the nation's highest court on which our clients are entitled to rely. If all citizens have a constitutional right to marry, if state laws that withdraw legal protections of gays and lesbians as a class are unconstitutional, and if private, intimate sexual conduct between persons of the same sex is protected by the Constitution, there is very little left on which opponents of same-sex marriage can rely. As Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented in the Lawrence case, pointed out, "[W]hat [remaining] justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising '[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution'?" He is right, of course. One might agree or not with these decisions, but even Justice Scalia has acknowledged that they lead in only one direction.

California's Proposition 8 is particularly vulnerable to constitutional challenge, because that state has now enacted a crazy-quilt of marriage regulation that makes no sense to anyone. California recognizes marriage between men and women, including persons on death row, child abusers, and wife beaters. At the same time, California prohibits marriage by loving, caring, stable partners of the same sex, but tries to make up for it by giving them the alternative of "domestic partnerships" with virtually all of the rights of married persons except the official, state-approved status of marriage. Finally, California recognizes 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the months between the state Supreme Court's ruling that upheld gay-marriage rights and the decision of California's citizens to withdraw those rights by enacting Proposition 8.

So there are now three classes of Californians: heterosexual couples who can get married, divorced, and remarried, if they wish; same-sex couples who cannot get married but can live together in domestic partnerships; and same-sex couples who are now married but who, if they divorce, cannot remarry. This is an irrational system, it is discriminatory, and it cannot stand.

Americans who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and equal dignity before the law cannot sit by while this wrong continues. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one, and it is time that we, as Americans, embraced it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Adios 2009

Back in the day when I used to write almost daily in a journal, at the end of the year I would read through my entries and contemplate on the year. I don't have the journal as a guide these days, but here goes:

First, I gotta say how much I love living in Southern California, especially in winter. I had 28 years of wintry winter weather and I'm so glad I'm not in it anymore. On Wednesday, we went up to the mountains to play in the snow with Jake for the first time. He loved it! We sledded, threw snowballs. Oh what fun! We talked of going back to the mountains again this winter. It's there just waiting for me whenever I want it. But there's also something to be said about enjoying a 70 degree New Year's Eve. I love relaxing in the hot tub, watching the birds, or the trees, or the stars. It's not a bad place to be. Of course, I still want to have another "foreign living experience," but if it doesn't happen, this is a nice consolation!

At the start of 2009, we were spending a lot of time with Marla and Daniel. Those were great times - either at home or at Betty's or Bourbon Street. We saw a couple of comedy shows too. We've really enjoyed spending time with them.

It was nice having Frank at Marshall often for auditions and rehearsals of Once Upon A Mattress. He loved working with that show and those kids. As for me, my job was the same as ever. Mid-year is always tough. The kids in the Media class get bored. I'm numbed by doing the same crap over and over again. It gets to be like Groundhog Day. But I was very involved in the NS&MST group as it's chair and reached out a little bit beyond my Marshall cocoon.

We made it out to Arizona to see Pam and Roger and the boys. That's always a fun get-away. But on the way back home - speaking of wintry weather - we slid off the road in the blizzard-like conditions in the Laguna Mountains. Again, what a variation in weather we have around here!

We went up to Big Bear with the guys to enjoy another bout of winter. It was fantastic! It had just snowed - a lot - and it was a winter wonderland. We sledded behind the B&B and tubed all day at the tubing park. We really have to do that once a year!

In March and April, we enjoyed birthday celebrations downtown for Bill's, Ari's and Debbie's birthdays. It's fun to go there or Hillcrest once in a while, but it's so darn far away!! Frank and I went up to South Coast Winery in Temecula for a night over Spring Break. Another tradition we need to keep going!

At work, I worried about my job being on the line with the district's cutbacks and reorganization. I also started ramping up for the annual East Coast Trip. This year's trip was fun. Marla and Beulah and I hung out together often. There was the usual drama (mostly with the chaperones!) but overall, an uneventful trip compared to 2008.

Summertime brought more fun amongst the three weeks I worked. Pam and kids were here for a week and Frank performed his second wedding up at Idyllwild. I managed to sneak in two trips to Vegas where I ALWAYS have a good time. Went kayaking with Francesca several times. My sister, Marianne and her son, Collin, visited in August and we had a great time together.

Back to school was different this year since I was asked to once again teach the Video Class by myself. Since I was able to get a pay increase as a result, I was more than happy to. I have to say that I'm really impressed with this year's class. The trick is keeping them motivated the rest of the school year! I also had our October trip to Florida to keep my mind occupied.

The wedding in Sarasota was a lot of fun and the Caribbean cruise was fantastic. Met Michael and Tony and their friends and just had a wonderful time. the weather could have been better, but the people we met were so much fun. I love cruising!

Then it was our fabulous Halloween party, Thanksgiving, and all of a sudden Christmas. It was a fun holiday season with lots of gatherings and parties and some down time from work. Now I'm refreshed and ready for what 2010 brings me!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vietnam Revisited?

Bill Moyers drew correlations between the factors facing President Johnson in his decision to send more troops to Vietnam, and President Obama's conundrum with respect to the war in Afghanistan.

From his Bill Moyers Journal:

Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

Friday, October 23, 2009

We be Jammin'

We LOVED Jamaica! Sad to say, many of our shipmates did not. Several people we know who just hung around the dock were put off by the obnoxiousness of the vendors and pot pushers. We had booked a day at Bamboo Beach Club with transportation, entertainment, and all-you-can-eat-and-drink. We had a great time. Met lots of fun people, got massages on the beach and finally swam in the Caribbean! It was fantastic. The staff was very friendly and catered to all our needs. Plenty of rum punch and Jamaican jerk chicken! Some other friends went to Dunns River Falls and a Jamaican bobsled run. They enjoyed that, too. I think the key is to get out of the port area as soon as possible.

We met a couple who retired to Panama five years ago.They raved about it. They had looked into Belize but said it was still a little too primitive for them. Apparently, Panama has lots of expatriates, great home prices and good doctors. We got their contact info and may have to make a visit to Panama some day. We also hope to soon visit the good friends we met, Tony and Michael from Dallas - or wait for them to move to San Diego.

Grand Cayman on Wednesday was rainy and we didn't get to go to the beach like we had hoped. We wandered around the shopping district with our shopaholic friends for a while and then I broke off on my own to sightsee on foot. I didn't see much of the island and I hope to get back there some day to really experience it.

Frank and I entered to slot tournament today along with Irv and Theresa. Irv and I got on the leader board, but were bumped off before the finals. Oh, did I mention that Frank won $300 the other night? Might ALMOST pay for our bar bill.

Looking forward to spending some time this weekend in Fort Lauderdale with friends (Lovey and Sweets) who we met in Greece 5 years ago. I don't want the vacation to end, but it's been a great experience!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cruisin' on a Tuesday Afternoon

Got my drink, got my slice of pepperoni and I'm in our cabin's window seat watching the waves slide by. I'm good to go. I'm back in the room after a sudden rain shower scattered us all off the Lido Deck. It's been a cloudy day and Frank and I were in a wind-protected area when I left to get another drink and some fish and chips. Then the storm hit. We retreated to the lunch buffet area and eventually headed to the room. Thank goodness they got the Hairy Chest Contest in before the rain! Frank's at in the casino trying to track down Michael, Tony, Craig and Nancy, who we 've been hanging out with. The six of us, along with their friend, Ellen, spent the day in Key West yesterday trying to find a sandal factory that Ellen had heard of. We wandered down Duvall Street, stopping at various shops along the way, including Coach for some purses (not us). Lunch at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville consisted of a volcano of nachos and Rum Runners for Frank and me. The food was great, the music was loud and the company was delightful. We finally found the sandal factory - back near the dock where we started! It was an enjoyable day of getting to know our new-found friends despite the sore feet and parched throats.

At dinner, we once again saw our table-mates, Jim and Glenn from Paducah, Kentucky and Irv and Theresa from Toronto. The six of us have had such a great time the past two nights at dinner! Some other guys we met at a nearby table were jealous that we were laughing and having so much fun. Irv arranged a special dessert for Theresa to celebrate their 35th anniversary and Theresa and Frank ended up dancing with our waiter, Casa, during the musical interlude. Looking forward to the formal dinner tonight.

Daniel and Bliss's wedding in Sarasota was great. A cold front had just moved through, so the wedding on the beach was cool, but not as humid as the evening before. Frank did an awesome job as officiant. Loved spending time with new and old friends and line-dancing at the reception!

On to Grand Cayman tomorrow...