Friday, April 11, 2014

Because sometimes you just need
a little celebration!

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lady B

This building (and in particular, this lobby) is one of my favorite places in the whole world. Unfortunately the powers that be try their very best to keep me out. 

"Lady B" was my first urbex* experience. Sadly enough, it seems to be one of the best in Europe. They say when you start from the top... the only place to go is down.

*Definition of urbex = Urban exploration is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. 
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Monday, March 17, 2014

I Have Anger Issues About Fred Phelps

It is not actually in my nature to hate people. In general I try to find at least one redeeming quality about a person, and hang on to that. But a huge exception in my life has been hate monger Fred Phelps and his freaky lawyer family. 

Recently Fred's estranged son has let the word out that his father is on his deathbed and has been recently excommunicated from the family church. Such lovely news which has stirred some interesting thoughts in my head of late... mainly how I will celebrate his being wiped from the earth. 

Hate isn’t always simply an emotion or some abstract state of mind. In my reckoning, hate even has an address. In this case, it resides at 3701 SW12th Street in Topeka, Kansas, where it lives with the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) community and its leader, the Reverend Fred Phelps who, along with his (mostly family) congregation, has made headlines around the world for hostile public declarations and incendiary protests against people and causes he considers to be sinful in the eyes of God.

These people have tried my patience in the name of abusing free speech since the late 80's. He first came into my world as he picketed the funerals of friends of mine who were victims of AIDS. His scary group is from Topeka, Kansas and I was living in Wichita, just two hours away... So I was an early witness to his special brand of ape shit crazy. 

In the late 80's and early 90's the gay men who had been smart enough to leave Wichita for gayer pastures were coming home to die. Unknowingly they were the first warriors in the AIDS Crisis. 

After coming back to the homeland with this terrible disease which no one seemed to understand - and Ronnie Regan wouldn't even acknowledge - many of them were shunned by their families and the local hospice care wouldn't even take them in. A group attached to one of the local gay churches started a hospice house and I volunteered. I answered phones, brought food, and gave general assistance to the medical staff who would come by periodically. 

These men were dropping like flies, with most of the scant research money available going to finding easier ways to diagnose and prevent the disease rather than treat it, a diagnosis of HIV-AIDS was a quick death sentence. Many didn't last more than six months after diagnosis. 

I went to more funerals than I care to talk about. Sweet young men taken out in the prime of their lives... and then there was the Phelps clan to remind me again of how many people actually hated us just for being ourselves.  

During those times I took my own vengeance in small ways, some of them we won't talk about here. One moment of inspirational genius came to me in the back pages of the local gay and lesbian magazine. Free samples of mfm porn sent to your home! ;) I even went to the library to get their address (this was a long time before the Internet, kiddies). The irony of the Phelps compound's postal code starting with 666 was not lost on me. 

In those days it was just the gays... Gage City Park in Topeka had been known as a place for gays and lesbians to be together outside of the bars - OK, and some cruising, of course. Phelps and his 13 kids had been picketing that park for years. This hit me personally. When I was underage, I would spend a lot of time hanging out in Wichita's "gay park". It was one place that my friends and I could just be ourselves. I remember very well reading about the picketing in Gage Park and thinking that if the Phelps brand of crazy came near my Oak Park, I could not be responsible for my actions.

But of course they didn't really receive media attention until their protests at Matthew Shepard's funeral. Matthew was the homosexual college student from Laramie, Wyoming who was tortured, beaten and left for dead on a fenceline in rural Wyoming. His death sparked local and national hate crime legislation, but it also brought the Phelps family into the spotlight as the Phelps children picketed Matthew's funeral next to adults holding signs which proclaimed "Thank GOD for AIDS" and other lovely epitaths.  

Since that time they've become infamous for their special brand of crazy protests. Saying that America is doomed, that the wars are GOD's wrath for America's increased acceptance of homosexuals, picketing the funerals of anyone who seems to support gay rights, and yes, even the Jewish community is a target for these silly assholes.

One must remember that all of this seems to have been simply a business to Fred and his family of lawyers and paralegals who used their pretend family church of hate to sue anyone who obstructed their right to free speech.  They twisted the law to their own financial benefit in more ways than can be counted. They were the thorn in the side of the legal world in Topeka and Kansas, spreading into the federal realm as well. It seemed that their modus operandi was to sue a person or a company in the hopes that they would just settle... and many did. 

Although he was eventually disbarred from the legal profession, he caused lots of trouble along the way. Fred even sued a local legal university insisting that it admit his children so that they could study law... on the basis that they were a minority because of his civil rights movement. They sued Sears for $50,000 because of a late TV delivery (they lost). They sued a court reporter who they insisted came late with an important document.  Religion and Christianity had nothing to do with their lawsuit business, it was just a way to finance their own brand of hate.

A FABULOUS moment for the gays was when a house across the street from the WBC compound was taken over and painted with rainbow colors... The Equality House was born. Ah... a constant rainbow presense in their lives, I hope they enjoy it.  

I've had to evaluate how I feel about all of this. Since the story has broken about him being on his death bed I've had mixed emotions. The first one was to picket his damn funeral and dance with gay glee on his grave. OK, so that probably won't happen. I understand that I certainly wouldn't be alone. Think about it, how sad is your life when hordes of people are celebrating your impending death? 

My next thought is that I hope he rots in hell. Funny statement from an Atheist. But if there really is a God and a heaven and hell, I hope this guy gets everything which is coming to him. If NOTHING else, that whole "taking the Lord's name in vain" stuff should get him in hot water. 

In the end what do I really feel? Relief. 
Soon this appaling excuse for a man will be in the ground. 
Also hope that his legacy will simply wither away to nothing now that the figurehead of the family is gone. 

Something else niggling around in my head is the interesting side note that Fred Phelps was excommunicated from his own church in August of 2013, moved into a different house and placed on a suicide watch. Right now I am wondering why. What could he have done to get kicked out? Maybe in the end he finally admitted that the base of his disgusting homophobia is rooted deeply in his own homosexual feelings.

NKP - Never Know Peace Fred Phelps. I hope your hate dies with you. I know that I will breathe easier knowing that you no longer walk this same earth.

Edit 20 March, 2014

Phelps has died. While it pains me to say it, I am happy that this sad little man who has spread hate in so many ways... is worm food. My prediction; the family he leaves behind which has been steeped in hate, will turn on each other. The "church" will change direction. They will go another way in order to remain tax free and continue to use the law to their benefit. His daughter who was the most vocal other than Fred, has already been pushed aside and several male members have taken over. Hopefully they decide to stop spreading their hate so widely and just turn everything within and let it stay there. NKP Fred Phelps.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Douglas Adams was absolutely right...

“I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dear BVG

I don't mean to complain, and while I admit to a general laziness ... stairs don't scare me ... but this is silly. 

A major stop on your U7 subway line has two access points to the trains. Both sides have stairs going up and down. In addition one side has an escalator going UP, the other side has an escalator going DOWN. This is very nice and extremely efficient for a subway stop with no elevator.

Good public sector workers, bonus points.

The problem I see this past week is what happens when one of those staircases closes. The UP escalator has obviously broken and needs extensive work which I'm certain you are doing something about... even though I have yet to see anyone working on it. Surely you're waiting on parts, or that ONE guy in the whole city who knows how to fix this horrific problem, I get it.

What I don't get is why the one remaining escalator has not been switched to be an UP escalator... Today is the 2nd time I've helped a very thankful mother carry her stroller and precious cargo up the stairs, climbing right along an escalator going DOWN.

Ahem... Did anyone even consider to flip the switch which makes the remaining DOWN escalator go UP?

(editor's note)
Photo was shamelessly stolen from the Interwebs... I have been too busy helping mothers up the stairs to take a photo. The actual stop I am complaining about is Adenauerplatz.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Morning Light at the Aquarium

Spending my morning watching the underwater world come to life is one of my favorite experiences. The age old question of, "Do fish sleep?" Is not so easily answered. Let's just say that many tropical fish slow down at night, while others become more active. Watching the exchange as the nocturnal species find their hidey-holes, and the daylight fishes wake up is my first thought as the alarm goes off. 

This morning was a fantastic example of such a day. Fins, snorkel and mask in hand I head toward the water with excited expectation. Best for me is to be there about thirty minutes before the sun crests the water's edge. Finding a chair to take in the beginning of sunrise, I note the rain cloud headed my way, pouring fresh water on the distant jungle plants. In the area of the sunrise is a growing storm cloud. The possibilities are good for a lovely sunrise snorkel session. 
With barely a breeze, the reflection off the bay is strangely still. I note by the water level on the beach that I've arrived at high tide. A sea bird lands not far from me, hungrily eyeing an oblivious crab lazily walking along the sea wall. Colorful dragonflies flit about breakfasting on those irritating no-see-um flying bugs. The jungle birds have awakened with first light and are noisily beginning their day. 

Light is slowly increasing, and it is time to get into the water. In to my knees it occurs to me that the bath water temperature of twenty-eight sounds warm, but when the air is thirty-three, it is still really refreshing. Fins, mask, and finally snorkel give me fish powers, so they go on immediately. Now I'm ready to enter their world. 

Each beach is different. Sometimes the reef is far away, often at resorts it is quite close. Other locations don't have a reef at all, just a collection of rocks scattered about, which is what I'm seeing here. Previous experience at this bay tells me the best location is about thirty meters out. Gentle ankle and hip movements propel and steer while arms are held close to the body to reduce resistance.  

The coral munching noises are already loud this morning. Fish who search for small worms within the corals chomp repeatedly hoping to find a few juicy tidbits, all of which makes the strangest crunching noises. For me this is the sound of my morning accented by my steady breathing and an occasional splash from my fins. 

Occasionally I lift my eyes over the water level to check my heading. I'm using two particularly short palm trees at the other end of the bay as my reference point. While I'm up, I take a quick glance of the sunrise, noting that it is just moments away.

Along the way I experience sometimes extreme water temperature differences. Here in this little bay on Savai'i island, Samoa there are countless hot water vents flowing up from who knows how deep. One hundred years ago a mountain volcano caused a lava flow which covered this part of the island, leaving warm rock below that is still cooling down. Unfortunately visibility suffers thanks to the heat waves created where that warm water meets the cool.

Soon I come up on what I call an "aquarium". This is where magic happens. Usually when I arrive there isn't a whole lot of action. Sometimes I spy a sun-shy eel or two slithering back to their daytime hideaway. Mostly I see normally quite active fish just hovering in a protected area, waiting for the light of day. There are usually early risers who lazily float about with what seems like no real direction. 

As I quietly hover I see plenty of groupers, sergeants, damsels, and wrasses slowly becoming more active.  None of these are especially high in color, but they do dart about in interesting ways. Dotted throughout are some bright parrotfish, butterflyfish, and a pair of huge bannerfish. New to me is a small grouping of Saddled Butterflyfish with the characteristic large black spot behind the dorsal fin and extending to the tail. 

After hovering above the rocky fish heaven for a while I take a tour around the outer rim wondering who else might be hiding. My curiosity is rewarded with a Palolo worm. This one is rather long, perhaps close to a meter, but curled up partially hiding under a rock outcropping. He's rather ugly. I've heard it described as a brown "washing machine hose" with a hydra mouth. In a few days he and his family will spawn and set off a yearly Samoan feeding frenzy. The islanders collect the small worms which are produced seven days after the next full moon in October or November. I wave to him, wondering if his progeny will live to see this same date next year. 

A ray of light catches my eye close to the surface. The first sun beams are beginning to dance through the water. Soon slight movements of my fishy friends are accented by a glint of sun hitting colorful scales. It's here! My moment has arrived! This is what I've been waiting for. In my eyes, this is the perfect time to experience the ocean world. 

Schools of Bream are swishing around me, swooping down en masse into the crevasses of the rocks, coming out one after the other in what looks like a choreographed line dance through the water. A trio of large Moorish Idols add a bit of color to the aquarium, displaying their extra long dorsal fins which flow so beautifully over their backs and sometimes tickle their tail fin. A turquoise Rainbow Wrasse with stripes of purple, pink, and blue moves quite close to me, seemingly having accepted me as just another reef creature. I get a smile on my face when a Triggerfish takes an interest in me, cocking his whole body to the side in an attempt to get a better look at this strange creature invading his territory. This one looks like an artist's idea of an abstract of a fish, identifying him as a Picasso Triggerfish. 

The noise is felt before actually being heard. A low rumbling feeling rolling through the water. I pop my head up a bit to check in the direction of the sun and see what is happening shortly before it starts hitting me. A wave of rain is coming my way from a small but dark cloud. Cool droplets begin hitting my head and back, while underneath the aquarium seems completely undisturbed at the quick downpour. Fat drops hit the water surface and bounce back up a few centimeters as though they are trying to avoid becoming part of the ocean once again. 

Twisting around in the water to get a full view of my surroundings, I see  the suspect cloud from earlier has indeed let loose upon the bay, but it is a small one and the rain will soon be over, in fact it is less intense already. The sunrise is simply spectacular with puffy white storm clouds outlined by the sunlight. 

A quick turn toward my home beach and I see a figure with long legs sitting in my sunrise viewing chair. My Sweet No is there, back from her morning jog, signaling me to join her for breakfast. I make my way back to shore, keeping a close eye on the world unfolding under me with occasional looks up to check my position. On one such look up, a bit of color catches my eye in the area opposite the sun. A longer check reveals a huge rainbow. As I arrive at the shoreline, we both silently look up into the sky to take in this magnificent six color beauty which seems to touch down on each side of the bay. A perfect end to a fantastic morning visit to mother ocean. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blackballing the CDU - It's About Time

Berlin CSD 2013
Berlin Christopher Street Day Parade 2013

I'm happy to say that this year's Gay and Lesbian Pride Month "demonstration" felt more like a demo to me than it has in previous years. Most of the time it feels like an excuse to have a party... and perhaps for many people, it really is. 

But this year was the first that made sense to me. Through my time here in Berlin I've always been surprised to see all of the political parties represented at the gay and lesbian events. Not only during the parade, but also the Parkfest at Friedrichshain, and the Stadtfest at Nollendorfplatz have representatives spread throughout.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy the parties understand the power behind the gay voters. What I've never understood was the presence of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union - read, conservative party). These folks have consistently fought against gay rights... why would they even want to be seen at our events? 

Interestingly enough, shortly before the CSD Parade, the parade organising committee let it be known that the CDU would not be welcome. That's right, finally they stood their ground and effectively un-invited the conservatives who have been fighting without fail against LBGT issues. That will teach them, eh? OK, so maybe it won't open their eyes about equal rights for all humans... but I assume that it sent a message. This is the biggest party of the year, and the gays just blackballed the CDU. 

I have to admit it, I'm proud of the CSD Parade for kicking them out.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Berlin Bleibt Dirty

Berlin stays dirty.
You know it baby, and we like it this way!

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

American Love Exiles Take Refuge in Germany

As a way of celebrating Valentine's Day, fellow expat Courtney Tenz interviewed the celebrated Honourable Husband and myself along with several other sources. She then put together a very enjoyable article as a way to expose our "love exile" plight to a wider audience. 

I think it is quite informative, and explains very simply why I am living in Germany and not in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, (you know, where all men are created equal). Why no, of course I'm not bitter. 
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Did the Fox Cross the Road...?

Why Did the Fox Cross the Road...?

 get to the other side.

This sweet foxy creature waited patiently for me to pass then popped out behind me and made his way to the water. 

Berlin has LOTS of these wild foxes running around in the parks. There is a skulk of foxes in the park close to where we live; often as I'm walking about late at night I encounter one or more of them.

Seen at the Britzer Garten.  
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