Monday, April 29, 2013

Jason Collins - A Profile In Courage

Jason Collins, an NBA professional athlete for twelve years, came out today as a gay man.  Why his action is so unique is that he is still an active player.  He did not wait until he retired to come out as a gay man. 

Let me venture to say that Jason's courageous act in publicly identifying himself as a gay man is the most significant development in the public awareness of gay men and women in our society since it was revealed that Rock Hudson was gay.

Even though this country has made amazing advances towards the public acceptance of gay men and women in the past ten years, there is still a hard core undercurrent of homophobia and intolerance in our society.  This was brought to my attention all to painfully last week when I was on vacation in North Carolina when I came face to face with danger and hatefulness of homophobia from a cousin of mine who threatened me if I "stepped foot" on his parent's property.  He said I would have to "deal with him" if I did.  All this took place in one of the hollers of the western North Carolina mountains where my father was born and raised until he was ten years old at which time his family moved to southeastern Pennsylvania.  My cousin said he had heard "a rumor that I practice the gay lifestyle" and wanted to know if that was true.  I answered him "If you're asking if I'm gay, I am."  That's when he delivered his hate filled, threatening diatribe to me.  Welcome family indeed.  Well, I guess up there in "Deliverence" country they can still indulge themselves in some good old fashion homophobia but the rest of the world is passing them by.  

Jason Collins, by coming out as a gay man while he is still playing professional basketball takes some.....well I have to say it....BALLS.  This is one courageous man.  I don't know if I could have done what he did.  Sure, most of his fellow ball players (no pun intended) know that it is now politically incorrect but I'm sure there are more than a few of them who will feel uncomfortable knowing at a gay man may look at their behind in the shower.  That's their usual excuse for their homophobia.  Oh give me a break!  How many times have I gone to the doctor (my urologist especially) this past year and been in those stirrups with my family jewels hanging out for the office help (always female) to ogle.  These big tough guys who play professional sports have to get over themselves and stop worrying about who is going to see their butt cheeks.  Just remember guys what Mr. White, my gym teacher said when I entered seventh grade and was facing my first public showers with other guys  and being embarrassed about being naked with those other guys.  Mr. White said "Don't worry about it, they all look alike."   Well, Mr. White, they didn't actually all look alike but no matter.  I didn't attack anyone because I was suddenly overcome with a sexual urge by googling a hunky classmate who had it all hanging out.  In fact, quite the opposite, I couldn't wait to get out of the shower.  Besides, ever smell a shower room full of a bunch of guys?  Not the most romantic setting for sure.

Kudos to Jason Collins.  I never heard of him before not do I suspect most other folks, but they will now.  Jason Collins, yet another hero on the road to freedom and acceptance of ALL our citizens.  

Back to the Regular Routine (or something like it)

Well folks, we're home and I'm trying to slip back into my regular routine.  Of course there is that "small item" that I have to get through this Thursday, my prostate "procedure" (seed implants).  Have to get through THAT folks before I can resume anything like a regular life.  I just hope there are no complications.

Yesterday I spent hours on the phone trying to straighten out a double billing (and over billing) by a faux reservation company called "".  When I made reservations for our hotel rooms at the Hampton Inn in Marion, North Carolina I thought I was calling the central reservations desk of the Hampton Inn.  When I checked in the Hampton Inn in Marion the front desk clerk told me my reservations were made by "one of those sites that looks like our site."  Uh huh.  Me, the longtime hotel front desk clerk, savvy guy, got snookered by one of those fake reservation scams.  Not to bore you with the details but when I got home I found two charges for $251.00 each on my Discover Card and one charge for $199.87.  So much for the "guaranteed best price" that the fake reservation site promised me.  After an hour or so of trying to straighten this out I found that the Hampton Inn had charged my credit card for one room two night for $199.87.  The phony Hampton Inn reservation site had paid for my other room (Bill's) also $199.87 but charged my credit card $251.00.  Nice little mark-up wouldn't you say for the "guaranteed best price"?  So here's what I did folks, I told Discover card only to pay them the $199.87 for the one room they did reimburse the Hampton Inn for.  I'm not paying anything else to "" or whatever there name is.  I called them yesterday, trying to resolve this situation but they gave me the run around and finally hung up on me.  That's what they do folks.  Be forewarned when you make any future hotel reservations.  Make sure you call the hotel directly because this is the new scam.  I am embarrassed that I got caught up in it.

Since I've been home I've been sleeping like a hibernating bear.  Man oh man, am I knocked out at night.  Last night I worked at the hotel.  I was fairly busy, mainly with TV issues.  We have Comcast and you all know how difficult they are.  By the way, Comcast monitors anything said about them so I will probably get an e-mail from one of their customer representatives.  Hey Comcast, here's the problem - your remote controls are too complicated.  They're not user friendly.  They confuse our hotel guests with what button to push. Is it the "All On" button for the "TV" button or the "Power" button?  Comcast, take some lessons from Apple, make it simple and USER FRIENDLY.

Well folks, as you can tell by reading this posting I'm sort of in a bitchy mood today.  To counter my negativity I'm posting another short video from our fabulous visit to Tallulah Gorge and Falls last week.  Enjoy!

Me with some wall art in Helen, Georgia last week

Saturday, April 27, 2013

We're Home!

Just arrived home this morning about 9 am

Yes folks, we are back home! And glad of it.

Early this morning Bill was knocking at my door at the Hampton Inn in Chesapeake, Virginia (in Suffolk, near Norfolk).  The time was 3:30 a.m.  Bill wanted to get an early start.  Man oh man.

The Hampton Inn Suffolk, VA early this morning while we were loading up the van to get out of Dodge

This is the problem with Bill, he can't sleep at night (usually gets up at 2 or 2:30 after going to bed at 7 pm). Then when we go away on vacation like this he gets all worked up on the last day that we're not going to get the rented van back in time. Enterprise closes at 12 noon on Saturday. Don't ask me why they don't stay open all day on Saturday since that's when most people bring their rental cars back.

Bill walking pushing the cart into the hotel early this morning even before the birds were up

I would have like to have had breakfast at the Hampton Inn (which starts at 6) but decided it was just as well we didn't because the hotel was invaded by a horde of Golden Oldies (one of those giant tour buses for senior citizens) last night.  I can just imagine what breakfast would have been like this morning at the Hampton Inn.  All those old folks doddering around (not that I'm not one of them of course).  

Front desk checkout this morning - apparently we weren't the only ones up before the birds
So we take off early in the dark.  Rev up our new Garmin GPS and we're off on the darkened Norfolk roads real early in the morning.  We always have trouble getting through Norfolk but this morning, other than on missed turn (Bill turned too early as he is wont to do)we got out fairly easy with our new GPS and we were on our way to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  Even though we left early, there were still LOTS of cars out on the road.  More than I expected.  We have always found traffic very heavy in the Norfolk area.  Must be all that government Defense Department largess poured into the Norfolk Naval Station.

We enter the tunnel.  By the way, the fascination of driving underneath the Chesapeake Bay has long since left me.  I don't like it.  No, not one bit. I am so glad when we come up out of that tunnel....twice.

Driving through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, not for the faint of heart
Eventually we arrived on land on the other side of the bay bridge tunnel.  We were now on the Delmarva peninsula which we would travel the length of, approximately 2 1/2 hours.  The sun was finally beginning to rise.  I told Bill "Can you imagine what that breakfast area looks like now at the Hampton Inn with all those old gray and white haired people doddering about looking for sugar packets an coffee stirrers?"  When I worked at the Hampton Inn in Lionville, PA we used to get those busloads of seniors.  I dreaded it.  Where I work now, we don't have that many rooms.  I can handle a couple or more seniors but not a busload.  They change when they get together in a hoard like that.
But I digress.

Early morning on U.S. 13 in Virginia on the Delmarva peninsula

Shortly in on the sparsely populated lower Delmarva peninsula we see an Arby's glowing in the morning darkness.  Bill says "Want some breakfast?"  Well....yeah.  So we stopped in the cold (they must have just opened it) Arby's which already had a few local farmers parked at a couple tables.  For the first time on our vacation, we as two men, did not elicit That Stare.  You know the one I'm talking about.  The star two men get when walking together in one of the "family resorts".  That star that says "Do you think they are gay?  They don't look gay.  I hope the gays aren't planning on taking over our 'family friendly'  (like gays don't have families) resort." You all know what I'm talking about .  That Stare that says "Uh oh, they're coming!"  Hey folks, Disney is the only family resort I know now that has a "Gay Days" and I don't recall God turning the Disney folks into pillars of salt because some gay people were having fun at DisneyWorld. Well, anyway, it was nice not to get That Stare. We were entering friendly territory.  Those farmers that were in Arby's know we're not going to threatened the "sanctity" of their marriage or turn their kids gay.  But again, I digress.

Arby's - somewhere in the lower Delmarva peninsula right after the bay bridge tunnel

Bill and I had one of those biscuit and egg sandwiches with smoked sausage.  Each biscuit probably contained about 1,200 calories, 850 fat calories.  They tasted yummy though.  Probably because I was HUNGRY.

I slept most of the way back.  We arrive at "the house" (Bill refuses to call where we live "home". He says "home" will always be our former house in Pennsylvania.  He never misses an opportunity to express his dislike of living in Delaware which does become tiresome after awhile but he is not to be deterred).  

We arrive home. Now for the "fun" part, unloading the van.  

We unload the van and I follow Bill down in my Subaru to Enterprise to return the van.  I had to wait awhile once in the office.  The Enterprise folks were dealing with a couple of customers who were in accidents and were returning damaged vehicles.  While standing in like I thought "I am SOOO glad that's not me."  I'm a good little boy, I return my rentals clean and undamaged.  You know where this is going don't you?  Uh huh.  

Now it's my turn.  I hand the keys over to the Enterprise clerk.  He takes them and says "I'll be right back."  He goes out to check the van.  Just a mere formality folks, a MERE formality. Then, as I am standing there in my smugness, he reenters the office and says "Mr. Tipton, could you step out here a moment?"  Uh.....what is this?  You guessed it.  My rear bumper was damaged.  WTF?  I didn't see that before.  Must have happened last night in the Hampton Inn parking lot.  I was mortified, my "good little boy" image slowly fading into nostalgic memory.  

Well, the good news folks is that I'm one of those people who take the max insurance out that Enterprise offers.  Sure, it's expensive ($15.99 a day) but well worth it this time.  Phew!  No contacting my insurance company, no deductible, no nothing.  Dodged a bullet there folks.  And there is someone Out There, and they know who they are, who obviously backed into our van last night in the Hampton Inn parking lot.

I finish up that bit of unpleasantness and we both head back home.  Bill to mow the grass and me to put our things away.  Cameras, chargers, dirty underwear, the five short sleeve shirts that I didn't wear once, the polished pebbles I got from the Tallulah Gorge souvenir gift shop.  

So we're back folks.  I took a nice long nap this afternoon, a really deep sleep.  It was one of those sleeps that when you wake up momentarily you don't know what time of day it is or where you are.

Nice to be home.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Annual Road Trip Day Seven

Is it the seventh day of our annual road trip?  Hard to believe.  I think I missed a number somewhere along the way.  Oh well.

Today was spent driving through four states:  

  1. Georgia
  2. South Carolina
  3. North Carolina
  4. Virginia

We stopped at two very nice rest stops:  one in North Carolina and one in Virginia.

North Carolina rest stop

We're in Virginia now.  Just arrived about an hour ago.  We left Helen, Georgia early this morning (about 7 am) We arrived here in Suffolk, Virginia; near the naval base (where on the eastern coast of Virginia aren't you near a naval base?)  about 6 pm, thoroughly stressed.  Our GPS was a big help but downtown Suffolk is about as traffic heavy and crazy as Norfolk.  

Hampton Inn, Suffolk, VA

After checking into our rooms we went out for a bit to eat.  We didn't want to drive so we walked to the Golden Corral, a buffet style restaurant two blocks down the street.  A BIG MISTAKE.

The Madhouse Golden Corral
This is Friday night and the place was packed.  Kids?  OMG!  Forget about it.  

I got our Senior Buffet ticket (total cost for the both of us $29.65 - wow!) and dived into the morass of people.  These buffets really don't work for me and Bill.  We just don't eat that much.  My mistake for going there. Bill said to me "Why did you do this to me?"  So I said "Lesson learned."  

One good thing, we're not too far from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel so we can skeedaddle out of here pretty early tomorrow and make it back home in Delaware (four hours away) in time to turn in our rental van to Enterprise (they close at noon).  

Romano's Restaurant

We did have a good lunch at an Italian Restaurant in a town whose name I forgot now, called "Romano's".  I had a Chicken Caesar Wrap with a wonderful pasta salad.  $7.99.  Bill had a bowl of fresh vegetable soup, $2.99.  Great prices, great food!  Hit or miss folks.  That's what is so interesting about these vacation/road trips.  Just like Forrest Gump said about a box of chocolates:

"You never know what you're gonna get."  

Ain't that the truth!


Annual Road Trip South - Day Six

Today Bill and I "did" Tallulah Gorge.  Such a beautiful day with clear blue skies and a mild crisp temperatures, how could we not?

We left early this morning from the hotel after a breakfast of normal waffles (the regular breakfast hostess was back) and cheese omelet and sausage.  No orange juice though, still had that rusty tin can in the container.

We're only about thirty miles from the Tallulah State park.  By the way, the famous actress Tallulah Bankhead was named after her great-grandmother who was named after the Tallulah Falls.  Tallulah Gorge was NOT named after Tallulah Bankhead, regardless of how often she told that story.

Bill and I visited Tallulah Falls a couple of years ago but we didn't descend the stairs to the suspended bridge.  We did that this morning.  What a thrill!  Just fabulous.  

However, I have to admit I have developed a minor case of fear of heights in my advanced years.  Today was a good test of that fear.  Another problem I had was descending those stairs.  I'm afraid my knees are weaker than I thought.  No video will be shown of me struggling like an old man climbing those stairs.

It's late now and Bill and I want to get off to an early start tomorrow morning.  We're twelve hours from home base in Milton, Delaware.  We're not going to make the trip in one day but split it up in two days.  We hope to make eight hours tomorrow and reach the Hampton in in Suffolk, Virginia.  That way on Saturday we only have to travel up the Delmarva peninsula and thus deliver our rental van back to Enterprise before they close at 12 pm.

This has been quite a vacation.  From starting out bad when my distant cousin threatened me and banned me from "stepping foot" on his parent's property (to interview them for my genealogy records and to introduce them to my cousin Bob T. and his wife Marie) to today where Bill and I had a truly delightful time.  We also were able to go into Toccoa for lunch again.  Bill does so enjoy visiting his hometown.  I am glad we had the opportunity to do so several times.  We've done it so often now it is beginning to feel like his home again.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Annual Road Trip South - Day Five

The Family of Four headed back to the hotel

Every day is an adventure!  Today was no exception.  I was going to write about our excellent day in the dying town of Toccoa, the town in Georgia where Bill grew up.  Instead this blog is about one of those "Why is this happening to me?"  

First of all, the day didn't start out too great.  Breakfast at the Hampton Inn is usually very good.  Not this morning.  My waffle batter was sour.  Yep, sour waffle batter. I noticed that the waffles didn't have that "waffle" smell when they were cooking.  Then when I flipped the waffle grill over, the waffles had a pale and undercooked look.  I peeled the waffle out of the waffle iron and it was like elastic.  I buttered it up and poured syrup and proceed to saw cut the waffle with my little plastic knife on my styrofoam plate.  All I did was stretch the waffle.  Hmmmm.  Then I lifted the uncut waffle to my mouth and tore off a piece.  Sour.  The waffle was sour.  Uh huh.

Not wanting to cause any unpleasantness, I tossed this waffle and made another.  Same result.  Still reluctant to become a Complaining Guest, I made yet another waffle.  Yep, same result.

I looked for the breakfast hostess.  She was nowhere to be found.  I went out to the front desk and there she was hunched over reading a newspaper.  Nice.  I told her that the waffle batter was sour.  She immediately said "Oh, I'll put some fresh batter in now."  Uh....okay.  So it was old batter.  Nice.  No apology, just "I'll put some fresh batter in."  God knows how old that batter was.

I was waffled out so I got a glass of orange juice.  It tasted like someone had left an old rusty tin can in the orange juice container.  Bill said when he tried to get orange juice this morning, only cloudy water came out.  He said the hostess brought out a pitcher with orange juice and ice cubes.  Wonder where she got that orange juice.

Well, the usual dependable Hampton Inn breakfast wasn't going well.  I decided to have a couple (or three) of those "who knows how old they are" sausage patties.  They were spicy enough to cover any age related issues.

After breakfast Bill and I drove into his old hometown of Toccoa.  I followed him around while he visited his old haunts and stomping ground, reliving fond memories.  I even made a five minute video which is below.  We also visited Toccoa Falls, our very own "Niagra Falls" right here in Georgia.

When we got back to the hotel we agreed to meet at 5 for dinner.  In the meantime I called the Old Time photo place and made an appointment to get yet another (are you sensing obsession here?) old time photo of me as a cowboy.  This grizzled, wrinkled, old, tire face works well as a cowboy.  RuPaul I am not but a cowboy?  It works.

After my photo session (which turned out very well, I'll share the fabulous photos later) I met Bill for dinner.  We (I) decided to go to a Mexican restaurant.  I was hoping to duplicate my success of finding hidden, wonderful Mexican restaurants as I did in Marion, North Carolina.

We go into the restaurant. The only other table taken was occupied by the proverbial Family of Four.  Mom and pop and two Little Darlings, a boy of 3 and a girl of 4.  And yes they were whining, screaming and generally making a mess and a huge nuisance of themselves.  Mom and pop seemed numbed by all the fidgetiness.  I could read Bill's eyes which said "Why did you bring me here?  I don't even like Mexican food."  However, I decided that since we were already there I would ignore the Little Darlings (who were making quite the racket and mess) and forge ahead with our meal.  And yes, there were sitting at the table right next to us.

Me at the Mexican restaurant
We got through the dinner with the background of whining, screaming and even a little crying as is wont with little darlings like this when they really get worked up.  With most of their burritos now on the floor the Family of Four left.  Bill and I watched with bemusement as the Mexican proprietors of the restaurant were again cleaning up after a white, blonde haired American family.  Rodolfo, the owner looked resigned and had a weak smile on his face when we made eye contact.  The two old guys didn't leave such a mess.

We left the restaurant and wandered around the main street of the town, noting how many store and restaurants were still closed.  I sense they all open when school gets out and all the Families of Four (or more) descend like a horde of locusts on poor Helen (the town).  

About 20 minutes later, as we were walking down the street back to our hotel we noticed.....wait for it....THE FAMILY OF FOUR WALKING IN THE SAME DIRECTION!  I said to Bill "Do you actually think they are staying at the SAME hotel as we are?"  And as I said this I noticed that they went into the hotel.  How about that?  I couldn't believe it. 

We waited until they took the elevator.  We didn't feel like sharing the elevator with them and that whining and screaming and (possible) crying when little Junior or the Princess didn't get their way.

Bill and I decided to walk around the town some more.  This town is beautiful with plenty of walking paths.  They even have sidewalks!  I'm used to staying in hotels right next to the Interstate.  This one is a treat.

About and hour later we take the same elevator to our rooms. As I'm getting ready for my shower I hear a familiar sound.  What was that sound?  It sounded so familiar.  I couldn't quite place it other than it was SO FAMILIAR.  Then I realized what it was, it was the same sound of Junior and the Princess whining and screaming.  "Where was it coming from?" I thought. Oh dear God, don't tell me what I'm thinking right now.  This just can't be possible.

I get my room key.  I leave my room.  I follow the muffled sounds of whining and screaming (and jumping now) to the - are you ready? - to the ROOM RIGHT NEXT TO ME!  Yes folks, the Family of Four is right next to my room!  

I cannot believe this.   This hotel has 67 rooms and  the one room they're in is RIGHT NEXT TO ME? Am I being punked?

So I'm thinking....what do I do now? I hate to complain and thus have another family mad at me.  But the "sounds" were coming through the loudest from the wall behind the headboard of my king sized bed.  Can you believe this?  

"Does this dirndl make me look fat?

I had no other choice but to go down to the front desk and tell her my tale of woe.  She was sympathetic and offered to move me to another room.  However there was one "small" problem.  The only rooms left were not king sized studies like the one I'm in now and LOVE.  That was one of the reasons I extended my stay today.  I asked her when they check out.  She said "Tomorrow." Well, I think I can get through one night.  I told her that if they're making a racket past 10 o'clock I would ask her to call them and quiet those kids down.

The good news is that it is ALL QUIET now.  Do you think that silence will last the night?  No, I don't either.  But I have hope.

Now I ask you, what are the odds of that happening?  I'm just lucky I guess.

Below is a video that I took of our foolishness today in downtown Toccoa.

Annual Road Trip South - Day Four

Hampton Inn, Helen, Georgia
What a difference a day makes.  Today was wonderful.  

We left Marion, North Carolina this morning.  Bill and I said our "goodbye's" to my good cousin Bob and his wife Marie.  They just made our two days in Marion so enjoyable.  They were the perfect antidote to the hateful remarks that my other distant cousin (his great grandmother and my grandmother were brother and sister) made to me on Sunday.  I think I've gone through the five stages of grief over that incident:  


I'm at the "acceptance" stage now.  I knew he will never change as many won't in this country.  They will go to their grave believing that it is their God given right to discriminate, harass and threaten gay  people.  I have to tell you though, I was shocked and a chill went through my whole body when he said those hateful words to me.  But we left that area of the country this morning and I doubt if I'll ever be back.

Now for the good news.  It was a fairly short drive to Greenville, South Carolina where my brother lives.  I wanted to leave my Mother's jewelry with my brother's wife to distribute to her daughters and granddaughters.  

Me and my "baby brother" in front of his garage in Greenville, SC

Bill and I had a short visit with my brother and his wife.  We went out to lunch with John (my brother) at the Golden Corral.  One thing I notice about the south, they sure do eat good.  Lots of buffets with LOTS of food, and GOOD food.  The only buffets we have in Delaware is the one Chinese food place and who knows how old that food is.  

Will in Greenville I purchased a Garmin 3565 GPS, Voice Activated device.  My cousin Bob suggested that we get one and am I ever glad.  All the stress just disappeared for our road trip.  Bill and I usually end up fighting when turns are missed.  With this fancy, dancy GPS device, those mishaps are now going to be few and far in between.  Thank God.  

After our visit to my brother and his wife, Bill headed towards Toccoa to visit his old boyhood haunts.  Unfortunately, his old neighborhood has gone downhill drastically.  And I mean BIG TIME DOWN HILL.  The lady who now lives in Bill's old family house invited him in to look around.  That was very gracious of her.  Of course the inside of the house looks nothing like it did when Bill lived there.  And it looks a lot smaller, but doesn't everything when you go back to it as an adult remembering what it was like when you were a kid?

Bill's old home on Alexandra Street in Toccoa, Georgia

Now here is the really good part of the day.  We planned to stay in the area for two days until we head back home.  But there aren't any decent hotels in or around Toccoa.  So I put a search in my new fancy fancy GPS and asked for a Hampton Inn.  The Lady in the GPS came up with a Hampton Inn in Helen, Georgia; about 34 miles away.  Okay.  That was a too awful distance to travel.

Bill on the street outside of his old home - he says it "has changed a lot."
So we follow the GPS instruction and we're taken to a beautiful little theme town for tourist.  This town is called "Helen" and is build like a Bavarian village.  Bill loves Germany!  He was stationed there while he was in the Army.  And here is a replica right here only 34 short miles from Toccoa!

Now the story gets even better.  The Hampton Inn we're staying at is also built like a Bavarian house. And our rooms!  Wow!  The best I've ever had, ever!  I actually have a suite for under $100.00 a night.  Bill and I both have suites (we sleep not only in separate beds but separate rooms).  My suite (as well as Bill's) has a fireplace, a living room, a kitchenette, a big whirlpool in the bathroom, a king size bed, two flat screened TV's (one in the living room and one in the bedroom) and a beautiful view of the mountains right outside our windows.  And even better.......we can walk out of the hotel down a real sidewalk to all the shops and restaurants.  No getting in our car and figuring out how to get across the interstate and those butterfly turn roads just to get something to eat.  This town even has an Old Time Photo shop! Yes, I am going down tomorrow and get my photo taken.  This evening I had my photo taken in one of those old time photo booths from the Fifties. What great fun!  

Street scene in Helen, Georgia

After dinner at the Heidleburg House (a tasteless hamburger but great french fries; I opted not to get a big traditional German dinner because I had already made a pig out of myself for lunch at the Golden Corral).  However, I did get the apple strudel and yes, I ATE THE WHOLE THING even though it looked like it was a family serving. 
Memo to Ron: eat less tomorrow.  

It's late now.  I was on the phone with Apple Support.  I was in a Catch-22 with my passwords.  don't ask.  It's straightened out now.

Oh, one more thing.  I took a long soak in the Jacuzzi tonight.  Wow.  Was that ever relaxing but after I got out I kept sweating and sweating.  I had to take another shower and I was still sweating.  And I think I'm down to my last set of underwear. I may have to get some quarters and use the hotel's laundry facilities.

I'm already planning on coming back here next year.  Bill can visit his hometown again and I can "get away from it all" by staying in this lovely suite of rooms nestled in the Georgia mountains.  Too much of our vacation is spent driving on the road.  When we leave here Friday we're faced with a 12 hour drive of about 645 miles.  We can't make that in one day so we'll have to stay over somewhere halfway in between.  But we're definitely coming back here next year.  I like this place!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Annual Road Trip South - Day Three

The view from Fairview Cemetery
Today turned out surprisingly well.  Bill and I spent the day with my cousin Bob and his wife Marie in the area of the western North Carolina mountains where our fathers were born.  Our father's left North Carolina with their seven brothers (two more were born in Pennsylvania) in the late 1920's with their parents to work on their uncle's farm in southeastern Pennsylvania.

My cousin Bob and his wife Marie today in the mountains

Bob and I still have cousins in the area (which I will not specifically mention for reasons which will become obvious later on in this post) that we had planned to visit.  In previous visits I had made contract with the husband of my cousin (my grandfather and her grandmother were brother and sister) that we were coming down for a visit.  Monday night, while I was having dinner at a local Mexican restaurant (I posted a video of that dinner in my last post) I called my cousin's house just to confirm that we were coming over tomorrow (today).  The son answered the phone.  I asked him if it was alright if we visited them tomorrow.  He said "I have a question to ask you." I said "Alright." He said "There is a rumor that you practice a gay lifestyle.  Is that true?" I said "If you're asking if I am gay, yes I am." He said "Listen and listen good, I don't want you ever to step foot on my our property and if you do you'll have me to deal with.  You got that bud?" 

I'll be honest with you folks, I got that old sick feeling in my stomach.  No matter how many times I have encountered this homophobia with the veiled threats in my lifetime, it never gets any easier.  In fact a chill went through my whole body.  Again, I felt "less than."  This timing of this latest homophobia thrown at me was ironic because I just testified last week before the Delaware state legislature about enduring discrimination, harassment, intimidation and threats of physical violence just for who I am.  Not because of any so called chosen "lifestyle" but simply because of who I am.  It never goes away.  

Even as I type these words now it makes me feel sick to my stomach.  I am so tired, just tired of this hate.  What did I ever do to those people?  

I hung up my iPhone and told my cousin and his wife what happened.  I told them that we wouldn't be visiting my cousin.  A cousin that Bob and his wife drove five hours to see. A cousin that Bill and I drove 12 hours to see.  Because of my "lifestyle" I am not to set foot on this man's property.  

My cousin told me "We can still go to the road, he doesn't own the road or that area."  I had also wanted to show my cousin where our great-great grandfather John Tipton, who was killed in the civil war, was buried.  My cousin told me "Put him out of your mind, we're going to visit that cemetery anyway."  And we did that today.  

I called my brother John, who has rented a cabin just up the road from said cousin who just told me to never set foot on his property.  John told me the same thing.  He said "They're very clannish up there (and indeed they are ) and just put him out of your mind and enjoy your day." John said he probably wouldn't be going back.  I apologized to him for "tainting" him.  He said "Don't worry about it Ronnie, I wasn't feeling too comfortable the last time (Christmas) that we were up there."

 Bill was very upset when I told him about the phone conversation.  Bill hates confrontations like this.  I do to but I'm not going to lie or go into the closet about who I am.  I don't wave the rainbow flag in anyone's face but I don't lie about who I am.  When something like this happens to me, as it has so often in my life, Bill says "See the trouble you caused?"  But folks I just can't lie.  I am not ashamed of who I am.  It is the other people who have the problem.  

I know when I was giving my testimony at the Delaware State Legislature there were more than a few who probably thought I was exaggerating about living a life of fear.  Well folks, I wasn't exaggerating and it still happens, even in this "enlightened" day and age.  There is a lot I can say about where it happened but I'm not going to go there.  But what I can say, is that we did go up there today.  We had perfect weather.  We enjoyed ourselves by visiting a local general store, a beautiful cemetery on the top of a high hill with a beautiful view of the far off mountains, and just a good ride around the area of those beautiful mountains where our fathers were born and spent the first few years of their lives.  What saddens me is that in such a beautiful area of the country there is still this unbridled well of hate and ignorance.  

Bill and me today

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Annual Road Trip South - Day Two

Hampton Inn Marion North Carolina

We made it!  After a LONG trip from Emporia, VA to our present destination, Marion, NC.  I am exhausted.  I'll sleep good again tonight.

Me with a serious case of bed hair trying to cut a waffle with a plastic knife and fork on a styrofoam plate

I've done all the driving so far.  I wasn't expecting this but be that as it may.  Today's trip wasn't as bad as going through Norfolk with all it's twisty, hilly road but still pretty hairy.  I traveled almost the entire length of the state from the east to the western border.  I used US40.  The only nerve wracking parts was where I had to drive around the major North Carolina cities like Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.  All those extra roads and exits and mergers right and left and traffic.  I had to really concentrate that I was in the right lane and unfortunately I couldn't spend a lot of time chatting with Bill.  He got his feelings hurt and now isn't talking (much) too me.  And of course one time he told me to turn, I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway (it said "East" and I knew we were going west).  He really felt bad about that and I probably wasn't too kind to him.  I apologized to him.  This is usually what happens when we're driving too long.  I get stressed out and Bill get angry and we end up fighting.  

We stopped at a beautiful rest stop at Catawba. I thought that would sooth down Bill.  He does so love being in the mountains and today was one of those clear, blue days with the crispness of early spring in the air.  The redbud trees are in bloom and the leaves are just starting to pop out on the trees. I chatted with an elderly gentleman about his electric blue 2002 Corvette.  And he's driving that beauty on US40 with those ten wheelers?  That takes courage that I don't have.

One snazzy Corvette encountered at a rest stop off of U.S. 40 today

We got to our destination, the Hampton Inn in Marion.  We were only here about a half an hour when my cousin Bob and his wife Marie drove up.  We were to meet and I was going to show him the paternal ancesteral homeland tomorrow.  We got settled in and then went out for an early dinner.  I hadn't eaten all day and was famished.  

My cousin Bob and his wife Marie at the Jalapenos Fast Grill this afternoon before the onslaught of food
The front desk clerk at the hotel strongly advised a small Mexican restaurant nearby called Jalapenos Fast Grill.  At 4 pm we were the first dinner guests.  We took a look at the menu and wow!  The Agave restaurant in Lewes would be impressed by the selection and the prices.  I don't think anything was over $10.00 I've posted a video below of the food being brought out and presented.  I've never had anything like this before.  Truly, truly impressed.  Unfortunately we just could not eat all this food.  One more thing, the tortilla chips and salsa at the beginning?  Magnifique!

Tomorrow we visit old family cemeteries up in those mountains.  This will probably be my last trip. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Annual Road Trip South - Day One

The Hampton Inn Emporia Virginia

Okey dokey folks, here I am in a Hampton Inn hotel room in Emporia Virginia, calling the end to Day One of our Annual Road Trip South.

For the last several years Bill and I have been making this trek south to visit my father's birthplace in the mountains (Pigeon Roost - hillbilly county) of western North Carolina, my brother and his wife in Greenville, South Carolina and Bill's birthplace and where he grew up in Toccoa Georgia.  Yep, we make that big loop.  

We make the trip down the Delmarva Peninsula, through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (which both of us hate), then through that mess of roads that is Norfolk, Virginia then to open country.  The hardest part about the trip is always getting through Norfolk.  We messed up again today.  I always drive through Norfolk and have used my GPS and made it through.  Hairy and scary but I did make it through.  This time Bill "drew a map."  He says his maps are always better.  Uh huh.  Well, we "took the tour" today.  Nuff said.  Now at least he won't holler and scream at me when I make a wrong turn here and there whilst traffic is coming at me from all directions.

But let me back up a bit here.  We always rent a van from Enterprise.  This morning we show up at the door at 8:30 am.  They open at 9:00.  Well, it seems this morning there was a little problem.  The manager if the Enterprise store in Millsboro lost his/her keys and needed the manager of the Rehoboth Enterprise to open up for him/her.  Thus we stood out in the 50 degree temps with the wind whipping around us until about 9:20. Once the manager go there apologies spewed forth and promises of a discount (which we got).  

"Waiting for Godot" at Enterprise Rental in Rehoboth Beach this morning 

We lucked out this time.  Our van rental was a white Chrysler Towne and Country.  Only one "slight problem".......West Virginia license plate.  I don't think I've ever seen a West Virginia license plate in Gayberry Rehoboth Beach.  Oh well, we look like West Virginians anyway (look it up.) 

This year's chariot 

Just a note, if my narrative seems a little stilted on this post it's because I'm typing too high in my Hampton Inn hotel room.  My typing fingers aren't quite flying like they usually do.  I feel like a little kid reaching up on a high table for a cookie.

Back to the trip - we complete the paper work on our van and go back home to pack up.  Oh do we ever (me actually) take a lot of crap along.  I have my Macbook Pro, iPad, iPhone, chargers galore, underwear, toiletries, cameras including my SLR, Flip video, Find a Grave digital camera and those chargers, pads, and shirts and pants and socks and sneakers and loafers....oh well, you get the idea.

One big mistake I made so far this trip is I ate too much.  I had lunch (chicken parmesan hoagie with greasy fries) then dinner at Cracker Barrel and you know how they stuff you.  Of course our dining was accompanied by a screaming kid during more of our culinary repast.  This kid should have received an award, I think she cracked a couple of windows during two ear piercing screams.  Screaming kids and Cracker Barrel, sort of goes together like Republicans and government obstruction.  Just saying.

What next?  We arrived in Emporia, Virginia; our halfway point to Marion, North Carolina which we  plan to spend a few days in the "fatherland."  At the Hampton Inn in Marion I'm meeting up with my cousin Bob Tipton and his wife.  His father and my father were brothers.  Bob's never seen "the homeland."  I'm going to show him around (Pigeon Roost) and introduce him to one of our many cousins who still live up in them thar mountains.  Wanda is her name.  She is the granddaughter of the older sister of our grandfather.  Got that?  I've dug far enough and pretty well linked most of the folk up in those mountains to my family line one way or another.  Wanda and her husband live in our great-grandfather's house on Upper Pigeon Roost Road. His name was Ike Lewis and my father was named after him.  It's always a special treat to "soak up the mountains" when we visit.  Would love to live there but man oh man, nothing but nothing is going on up there except some spectacular scenery.  You won't see any Sea Witch Festivals or Polar Bear Plunges up there in those hollers.  Nice folk though and some fabulous family cemeteries which I hope to record with my camera and post to Find a

Well, I have a terrific case of indigestion right now (those greasy fries and too much food).  Time to take a shower (I'm starting to stink) and make my journal entry and then to bed.  By the way, Bill and I get separate rooms.  Not that we don't love one another, we just can't sleep together.  He goes to bed about 7 and I go much later, sometimes around 11 or 12.  Plus, I like to watch TV (won't be doing that here, this is Fox News all the time territory) or read.

So there you go folks, the end of Day One of Ron and Bill's Fabulous Road Trip to the Homeland.  This will probably be our last annual trip.  We're losing it folks.  Not the confident youngsters we used to be.  Two slightly nervous and increasingly forgetful old men making the trek.  We're not making an appointment at the Brandywine Senior Living Center in Rehoboth yet (like our friends Bob and Jim) but I can see that in another ten years if we're here, just could be.  In the meantime, we're making the most of every day.  Now if I just would have remembered to bring that acid reflex medicine with me.

Me at Cracker Barrel enduring the screaming little darlings

Friday, April 19, 2013

Today's Drama

On my way to the other side of the hospital this afternoon to the "labs" to get my blood work done

No, "today's drama" is not about the terrorist who is hiding out in a boat, bleeding, in a suburban backyard as I type this latest post.  No, "today's drama" is about a phone call I received this morning.  

As regular followers of my blog know, I am scheduled for brachytherapy on May 2nd.  Translated that means I am undergoing a ninety minute surgery where they put me out (the fun part) and insert 80 to 90 radioactive seeds in my scrotum (ouch) to treat my localized prostate cancer.  Prior to the surgery I am to have blood work done.  Okay.  I thought I had that all resolved last week.  I was told I could get the blood work the day Bill and I return from our road trip vacation down south (we leave tomorrow) on April 29th.  Oh no, "Cathy" tells me.  "I can't order the seeds until you get your blood work."  I told her that I'm leaving tomorrow for vacation.  She repeats that she can't order the seeds (I thought they had already ordered the seeds but hey, what do I know, that's what I was told) until I get my blood work.

She asked if I had eaten today.  Well....yes.  I did have breakfast.  Corn Chex with 2% milk and a banana, no sugar.  She said I could get the blood work today but I would have to fast the rest of the day.  Oh joy, just how I want to spend the day I'm in a quandary over what and how many shirts to pack for our week long vacation and I'm fasting.  She told me to go to the lab at Beebe at 5:30.  I asked her what do I have to do. She said "Just go there and tell them you need blood work."  Uh huh.  Why did I think this wasn't going to be this easy?  

I called the number of the lab she gave me and told the woman that I had to have blood work today.  She asked "Are you fasting?"  I said "Yes."  She said "Come on down at 5:30 and get your blood work done."  Why did I think this wasn't going to be this easy?

So I fasted all day.  Let me tell you, fasting during the day is a LOT harder than fasting overnight.

Five o'clock rolls around.  I get in my trust Subaru Forester, Bill in tow.  On the way down I tell Bill "I bet I run into a problem.  I just know it."  

Bill waits in the car.  I go into the hospital.  I get directions to the "labs" which is, of course, at the total other end of the building, next to the Emergency Room.

No one is at the window.  Figures.  I wander around until I find someone who looks like they work there.  I tell them I'm here to get "my blood done."  She motions me to a window where there is NO ONE.  I amble myself over to the window and viola!  Someone shows up.  I tell her I'm there for my blood work.  She said "Where is your order?  I can't do anything without an order."  

OKAY.....HERE WE GO.  I knew it.  A classic Catch-22.  I'm supposed to get my blood work but I can't get it because I don't have an ORDER but I can't the ORDER because the woman from the surgical unit who told me that I needed the blood work before she could order the seeds was gone for the day.  I knew it, I knew it and I KNEW IT.

Rather than bore you with all the flaming hoops I had to jump through I will sum it up this way, I got her to call my doctor's office (which was closed of course).  She got the "back-up" doctor.  After much back and forth on the phone, he okayed me for a "verbal order."  I got my blood work done, albeit an hour later.  Time I got out of there and to my car in the hospital parking lot where Bill was waiting for me the time was 7 pm.  I had not eaten since 6 am.  Man, was I hungry.  

So here I am now, the lone surviving Boston Marathon terrorist is still holed up in that boat in a suburban back yard and I am exhausted.  I am exhausted from watching the overkill of that situation. Just a thought here folks, we can't spend five minutes on a background check for a gun but we can close down a whole neighborhood of 300,000 people to hunt for one 19 year old terrorist who makes pressure cooker bombs? My pre-trip packing routine was thoroughly destabilized by my medical SNAFU (look it up) today.  I just KNOW I'm going to forget something on this trip tomorrow.  Oh, I'll remember what I forgot by the time we hit Virginia.  

Me at the Delaware State Legislature prior to my testimony Wednesday.  Is that my T-shirt showing?  My God.

Passing the Baton

(Image is of my hand shaking Delaware governor Markell's hand  April 11, 2013)

If there was one lasting image of my testimony in support of marriage equality yesterday at the Delaware State legislature it is the image of the young gay man who was waiting with extended hand to shake mine after my emotional testimony.  This young man, with nary a wrinkle on his fresh, young face; locked his laser stare on me, and a proud yet determined smile on is face that seem to say "Thank you for fighting the good battle against discrimination the last 50 years."  

I had wanted to make a quick exit (thank goodness the door was right behind me) after my emotional testimony because, quite frankly, I was embarrassed.  But this young man's fixed stare and smile said to me "Oh no, I'm going to thank you before you leave."  I hesitated and then shook his hand.  He smiled as I did.  

As I was waiting outside Legislative Hall for Bill to pick me up (we waited outside in the parking lot during my testimony), I thought of the me and that young gay man presented.  It's a shame my friend Mark H. wasn't around to capture "The Moment" but I have captured that moment in my mind forever. I have thus passed on the baton to a younger generation of gay men (and women) who will not have to go through what Bill and I (and thousands of other gay people) did up until this time, when gays are increasingly being afforded the same dignity and legal protections of other Americans.  

  • This young man can join the Army and not have to lie about who he is just in order to serve his county.
  • This young man can get a job anywhere and not have to worry about someday getting a boss who is a homophobe and fires him from his job for no other reason than he is gay.
  • This young man doesn't have to worry about where he can live.  He can live in a neighborhood where the neighbors don't encourage their kids to stand on the border of his property and chant "Fags get out!" as happened to me and Bill when we lived in Pennsylvania.
  • This young man can lay on the beach with his friends and not have to worry about a gang of young toughs threatening to beat them up just because he is on the beach with his friends.
  • This young man doesn't have to worry about drunken teenagers waiting for a gay bar to close so they can taunt the gay men and women coming out of that bar so they would have an excuse to "bash a gay."
  • This young man doesn't have to worry about a gang of young straight guy, fueled by too much beer and testosterone to try and hit him with their car as they yell "Hey you f--cking fag!"
  • This young man won't have to endure having his parents trying to hospitalize him to "cure" him of his "gayness" like I did.
  • This young man won't have to see some of his former friends make fun of him when they have a birthday party and all the candles don't get blown out on the birthday cake and one of them says "Hey, maybe we can get Ron to blow them out, he knows how to blow!" and then everyone laughs.
  • This young man won't have to suffer the embarrassment of having some of his former male co-workers make a visit to his apartment on a Saturday night after they found out he was gay.  

All these things and many more have happened to me, including the disdainful, disgusted looks and expressions from to many of my relatives when they found out I was gay.  Maybe, just maybe he won't have to live through the 71 years of being considered "less than."  Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

I have been very blessed to live the past 49 years of my adult life in a loving and committed relationship with my longtime partner and friend, Bill.   Both of us have had to lie, hide and always structure our life to minimize the danger to us both physically and economically.  We have lived most of our life in fear and lies.  Looking into that young man's determined eyes yesterday, as he shook my hand, I knew that he would not have to live that life.  And that my friends gives me a wonderful feeling.  

I always knew there was a reason why I was born the way I was born.  I never regretted being born gay.  My only concern was how to survive.  Never once did I not want to be what I am.  Many of us have wondered what our purpose in life was.  I've often thought the same thing myself.  I keep coming back to the same answer.  Love.  Yes, folks it is all about love.  And yesterday that is what I saw.  And I am so thankful that a confluence of serendipitous circumstances permitted me to be a part of that change.  

Yesterday with that handshake I passed the baton to the next generation of gay men and women. The phrase that comes to my mind now is "my work here is done."  I wondered where that came from.  First thought was "The Lone Ranger."  And guess what?  I was right!

Here is the quote:

"At the end of every episode, the Lone Ranger would say "my work here is done now" and then he'd slip off and we'd hear the iconic "Hi-ho Silver away!" line as people are left asking who that masked man was."

I can now rest.  I can go home. "My work here is done now."

Caregiver Update

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