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December 2006

On Location

I had a hunch that the setting for Shortbus was based on an actual party space somewhere in DUMBO, but I was never sure until now. In fact, the space itself was used to film a lot of the scenes in the film, which explains how they got the feeling so spot-on. The last of the residents are leaving so it can be turned converted to some more luxurious use, naturally, but at least I wasn't imagining the whole connection altogether.

Last Night's Sleep

I was intrigued by a mention of this software called Dream Recorder, which monitors you while you sleep, trying to identify the best possible moment to wake you up so you record yourself describing your dream before you forget. It didn't take long to figure out that I’d only get pissed off by my computer trying to wake me up in the middle of the night, but I liked the idea of making a time-lapse movie during the night. Luckily, that’s easy enough to do with stuff I already have:

The verdict? Just what I suspected: I twist around a lot, I’m a mouth-breather, and video editing gets on my nerves. But at least I clean up well afterward:

Shave and a haircut

Daring Though Skies Be Dark

Newsflash: Regis guys are nerds. Sometimes they're the kind of nerds that do things that you think might be interesting but discard when you really think through the details, but nerds nevertheless. See what I mean? The funny part is that when I saw that picture it started all my Regian-detector bells a-ringin', even before I realized that’s where they all came from.

Update: They did it, too. And made graphs, of course.


I really like it over here. I mean, I like it a lot. Part of it is still the novelty and part of it is how much I like what I’m studying, but there's also a million little things and big things that have conspired to make these last few months the happiest few in a row I can ever recall having. Life here is good for me — very good, and better than I’d expected — and if any of my contingency plans pan out I'll be able to make a go of staying over here for a while longer.

The catch, of course, is that is kuh-ray-zay expensive here, even when you stop constantly calculating exchange rates in your head. And I say that as someone living in a relatively cheap town in the UK, and who is used to living in an obscenely expensive city in the US. Perhaps this little sample from a "quiz" urging British tourists to rape and pillage their way across New York will illustrate this point:

Everything in America Is Now Half-Off

Now when you look at that, please remember that a pound is also worth about 2 dollars. So remember to double all those numbers when you do the exchange in your head, and then when your brain shuts down from the horror of it like mine does every day, just try to relax and breathe deeply until the sensation passes.

Luckily, my modest day-to-day life in Reading doesn't really include any of those expenses. I actually spend next to nothing aside from rent a food when I’m here, but any trips into London immediately make up for the monastic simplicity of the rest of my time. I’ve always joked about how New York you pay a twenty-dollar penalty just for going out your front door, but the joke is a lot less funny when it's in pounds.

Still, I have so much more to learn before I’m done. And the candy they have here is really, really good.

Twice a Day

Every day I have at least two moments when I long to be carefree and untethered by responsibilities. Most days, of course, have a thousand little obligations, responsibilities, deadlines, or other duties scattered around, but there's a depressing inevitability about at least two of them that always grinds me down just a little bit, no matter how content I’m feeling otherwise.

Every morning, I worry about breakfast. I don't particularly like breakfast, and would prefer to just eat whenever I first get hungry on any given day, but I have to eat at least a bowl of cereal or a couple of pieces of toast by 11:00 at the very, very latest so that I have a full stomach before I take my morning medicine. I have to take two pills every morning, and I usually throw in a multivitamin just to be on the safe side. One of those pills is really easy on my system, but one will give me a crampy, acid stomach for the rest of the day if I haven't eaten anything first. For a while I took that one pill at night instead, but bed-time was usually too long after dinner, and I eventually develop a minor ulcer and an ongoing case of indigestion that just wouldn't quit. Switching to a morning schedule pretty much cleared up those troubles, so I stick with it.

Every night, I take a second dose of the other pill, the easier one. That one doesn't really affect my stomach very much, but I need to try and take it about twelve hours after the morning one, just to spread out the dosage as evenly as possible. I’m lucky that today's drugs give you some wiggle room with the timing, but I still need to do my duty within a certain window of opportunity.

If I can't get any breakfast, or I forget to take my medicines at the right time, or if I’m away from home and I’ve forgotten to bring my pills with me, it's better if I skip a dose altogether than start taking my medicine erratically. I’ve never asked how often I could miss a dose before I have reason to worry, because I’m better off worrying every day, just to be safe.

So every day, at least twice a day, I worry how long I can keep this up. All things considered, I’m pretty lucky that such a relatively easy regimen has kept me in such good shape these past six (well, it's almost six — WOW, it's almost six) years, and I have no idea when or if I'll need to switch to something else. Every three months or so I have at least six vials of blood drawn for some tests, and a week or so after that I go for a check-up so my doctor and I can make sure everything is still ship-shape.

If my test results start showing a pattern of changes for the worse, I'll need to switch medicines until some other combination gets things back on track. My doctor in the UK isn't used to seeing patients take the combination I’ve been on for the last five years or so, so he's been pressuring me a bit to switch to something he's more familiar with. I trust my doctor in New York, though, who has gotten me this far with a minimum of fuss, and he and I both think that if the current treatment has been so successful for me for so long, it doesn't make much sense to monkey with it. Once you've used any one antiviral medicine for a while, you can't ever go back to it (so I’m told), so I feel a certain pressure to keep as many options open for as long as possible.

So I get up and forage for food every day, whether I want to or not, so I can take my morning pills without any discomfort. Every night I take my evening pill as promptly as I can, to, so I can maintain a regular barrage of medication into my system that will keep my unwelcome tenants from getting used to the regimen and finding new ways to cause trouble.

Every time I take my medicine, I give a passing though to how lucky I am, all things considered. I responded to treatment quickly, and have actually been healthier than ever before in my life once things settled down. I live in a prosperous western society with easy access to the medicines that keep me going. In the UK I’m even luckier, because I don't pay a thing for my medicines, while in the US I was paying over 850 bucks a month in insurance premiums and copayments to support my habit. Even those prices were a bargain: the retail value of the pills I take is somewhere in the vicinity of 2,000 dollars a month.

So at least twice a day I think about how my situation is a drain on someone else's resources, since I’m getting such a good deal (financially speaking). At least twice a day I think about how the clock keeps ticking inside me, wondering when I'll have to give up the security of a comfortable, predictable treatment plan. At least twice a day I try to think if there's any likelihood of me needing to have my medicine with me in the next twelve hours, instead of leaving it on the shelf in my room where I always know where to find it. At least twice a day I wish I could just forget about it, and then I remember that there was at least one time when I forgot about vigilance and then ended up in this whole mess in the first place. So at least twice a day I feel a little sorry for myself, and then think it's my own fault anyway so I should stop whining about it and just count my blessings. Then I sip some water, swallow, and get on with my day.

And that’s at least twice, but usually other things will come up in the course of a day that makes me think about the same things. Granted, I spend a lot more time thinking about comic books and typography and people I love and other things that make me happy, but at least twice a day I wish things were a little easier.

Buffy and The Vampire Slayers

Buffy and the Slayers

The first good news for the new year is that Joss Whedon is finally going to continue the story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, bringing the "Season 8" story out as a comic book that picks up where the show left off with its final episode.

Whedon won't be writing all the issues himself, just the first and last batch, and maybe a few in the middle. that’s a bit of a shame, since I really adore his work in comics, but it's probably good for the overall publishing schedule if he shares the load with a few other folks. He'll oversee the execution of an overall story arc, though, as he did on the show, so we should get a lot of fidelity to the characters he developed so lovingly over the years.

The last season of Buffy wasn't actually that great, but it was brimming with material that could have worked better with a little more money and lot more time to develop. Overall, it had a sense of cramming things in before an inevitable end, so it makes me very happy to see that some of those threads of stories and characters will be gathered together and made into something again.

Cross your fingers that it turns into something good.

Christmas Stories

Now that my Christmas-killing cold has settled down into a manageable case of congestion, I’m lucid enough to string a few sentences together without needing a nap to recover.

I was waiting for a touch of cold to hit me. I’d gotten through two changes of season without one, so I was convinced I was in for a whopper. Apparently the climate here suits me. Either that or my seasonal colds really have been psychosomatic all along, and there was no need for one since I’ve been supremely happy ever since I got to the UK.

Captain JackI celebrated the end of term with a brief weekend visit to Bristol to see the good Drs. Paul and Tony, who whisked me off for an afternoon tour of Cardiff to take advantage of the inexplicable burst of sunny weather I’d brought with me. Since I had never seen any episodes of the new Doctor Who series (and I only ever saw a few minutes of the older shows, usually while I waited for Blake's 7 to be broadcast late at night on public television) or its spin-off, Torchwood, I couldn't fully appreciate the thrill of being in locations featured prominently on screen, but I at least did my nerdly duty and took pictures:

Torchwood Tower

The gents kindly indoctrinated me into the ways of the Doctor, Captain Jack, and their cronies later that night, so now I have a new avenue for exploring my not-so-inner geek. It figures the Doctor Who franchise would finally grab me once they figured out that cute leading men might be a good idea. If only I had a television.

The end of the term didn't actually mean the end of work, so it was back for a few more days of productivity after my trip. Hilariously, it seems we're supposed to have a direction for our typeface designs "locked down" by the time the next term starts in January, and I know I’m not the only one in the group who stills feels a total lack of confidence about being that far along. I guess I'll have to think about that, too, in between bursts of work on the huge essay I have due the week after classes resume. (Bear in mind, though, that I am totally digging all this type geekery in which I have become so immersed.)

The flatmates and I threw a lovely shindig so we could celebrate the season with our classmates before everyone scattered for Christmas. (I can safely say "Christmas" because we were all raised with that flavor of midwinter gift-giving holiday.) That party set in motion a lovely string of coincidences that led to me hanging out in London a few nights later with some Brazilian and some Belgian pals at a phenomenal Brand New Heavies reunion show.

The Brand New Heavies

I have been waiting for over a decade for a chance to see these folks play, and I was relieved that this wasn't just some half-assed walk through their back catalogue. They were on fucking fire as they funked their way through old singles, gems off their new album, and even an amazing cover of Seven Nation Army. I have never seen a band coax so many white people into dancing so much. When I went back to crash at my friend Tim's place afterward, he chided me for never mentioning my love of the Heavies when I visited him back in their heyday, because at the time he probably could have arrange for me to meet their drummer via a mutual friend. Sigh.

I was hoping for some quiet down-time in London for the next couple of days, but I wound up walking for hours and hours again, getting to know a bit more of the city. I finally have the bearings to get from certain key locations to others without a map, or without worrying about following a particular route. I also developed magnificent, firm legs and slightly sore arches from all this exploring. The robust condition of my legs was offset by the achey back I developed from sleeping on Tim's teeny couch for three nights in a row, but in a city that’s even more expensive than New York I was happy to have any lodgings I could afford.

I finally dipped my toe into London's gay nightlife, as well, tagging along with my pal Jonathan, who can't go ten feet without running into someone he knows. We spent most of the evening at a pub called the King's Arms where I felt really young and slim, but yet still invisible since neither of those things count for much in a roomful of bears. Since I don't really like drinking, smoking, bears, or crowded rooms it was kind of a long night, despite some very enjoyable company. By the time I left I could feel my cold coming on, so the die was cast for Christmas to cast its usual cloud over my spirits.

After a long, long morning of last-minute errands in London and lots of public transportation filled with lots of holiday travelers, I wanted to crawl under a rock with a bottle of cough syrup and a pillow. I was pretty miserable by the time I got back to Reading, so I was double-extra-happy to discover a long-awaited package from Dave that was filled with three months of comic books. Plus the Super Pets!:

Streaky and Krypto

Streaky is the only cat I can love. I mean that.

Leave it to my bestest pal to find a way to provide me with exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it most. He's spooky like that. As I was passing out from exhaustion and illness, at least I knew I would have Krypto and Yorick to keep me company if and when I woke up.

The Great Christmas Malady of Aught Six

OK, so that title is a tad melodramatic, but it's the perfect way to begin my annual "I hate Christmas" post. Traditionally, this is a rant about the escalating frustration with errands, crowds, and logistical hassles that overshadows my Christmas spirit every year, but I'll recap those in another post where I detail some terrifically delightful things that also happened this past week to keep me in smiles. When not scowling about Christmas.

The Christmas present I’m currently enjoying seems to be the first wave of the chest cold my friend Tim has been complaining about. You know how the first day or two of a cold can completely knock you on your can for a few days, even when the cold itself turns out not to be so bad? Well, consider me canned. I’m keeping myself on standby for the expats-in-England potluck Christmas feast, because if I still feel this shitty there's little point in leaving the house. I’ve got that weak, muddled, fevery thing happening, which almost made me too stupid to even tie my shoes today. If this keeps up, it will only mean disaster if I go near the oven later. (That is addition to the more easily predicted results of me ever trying to cook anything very ambitious.) Hallelujah! The magic of Christmas!

More later, since I think I'll have a lot of free time on my hands today.

Ten Plagues

I was awakened this morning by a completely insane hailstorm that had me worrying about the large windows with the non-safety glass in our flat. It was good to wake up, though, since I had to get into London to do some research. In London this morning, a freaking tornado demolished a bunch of buildings. An unexpected river of blood also ran out of my nose when I was in the restroom at the library. I fully expect a rainstorm of frogs or a tsunami or something to strike before tomorrow.

If It's Kiki It Must Be Christmas

Miss Kiki DuRain

Now that I’ve been lucky enough to catch Kiki & Herb, it finally feels like Christmas. It was a fantastic show, naturally, but it was interesting to see how the crowd reacted to it. In some ways, it felt like the run they had in the West Village a few years, where a lot of the crowd didn't quite understand what they were getting themselves into. Like then, there were people in the audience this past Friday that seemed to think this would be just another campy drag show for the gays. As I’ve said many times, calling Kiki and Herb a drag act misses the point entirely: they are a dark, cathartic emotional roller-coaster ride. I’m not sure exactly when the first people walked out of the show on Friday night, but it may have been during the big cancer medley (but definitely before the eco-disaster/suicide medley). Obviously, the theater's favorite aging, monstrous, heartbreaking showgirl is still doing something right if she's making people that uncomfortable.

Much to my delight, London felt like a small town this weekend, in a way that New York often did at the times I loved it the most. At Friday night's show and then walking around on Saturday, I saw a bunch of familiar faces (and considering why they looked familiar, it just goes to show that I look for portraits instead of cock shots on the internet) here and there in the crowds. I saw Herb/Kenny Mellman himself strolling at one point, although I didn't get a chance to compliment him on the previous night's success. At the Design Museum on Sunday I ran into my pal Dan from Germany, who I’d also seen earlier int he week when he was in Reading to check out the MATD program for next year. As I learn my way around town, it's very comforting to feel myself becoming a thread in its fabric a bit.

Justin Bond in Shortbus

I also finally got to see Shortbus, and was again surprised to see people walk out in the middle. So are people in London just more squeamish than in New York, or are they just less likely to read about what they're about to see? Seriously. This is supposed to be a challenging movie, but I guess some folks were just there for the sex but not the emotional one-two punch.

Shortbus was fantastic, and reminded me an awful lot of the small-town vibe I often felt in New York, not in the least because it was littered with people I’d met, performers I’d seen, and streets I’d walked along over the years. It was a fantasy version of the Bohemian life in New York, granted, but still one I’d tasted from time to time over the years. The last few years in New York were often frustrating because so much more of my energy had to go toward surviving in New York rather than living in it, so it made me a little sad think about how much community and fun had come to feel like a fantasy for me there, instead of the reality it had once been. But there I was, sitting with old friends in a new place, working on another stage of my eclectic, adventurous life once again. So who knows?

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