Archive for November, 2011

The Amazon Trail

The Amazon Trail

Choosing an Effing Cell Phone

            Hoo boy,
all I want to do is get a new cell phone. Our contract is up and our old phones
keep their battery charges about as long as a gay bartender gets to stand still.
For a week now, instead of disassembling the patriarchy or doing something
equally useful, I have spent my evenings researching this little purchase.

What I really want is to sign on with CREDO, which donates to progressive causes. I was with them for years, but when I went all-cell-all-the-time, they didn’t have coverage for my area. Now they do. It’s too late, though, as everyone I know is on Verizon, which means no charges for talk time.  Verizon is said to be the undisputed king of coverage, another factor I deem important. It’s unfortunate that for Verizon customers not in the market for a smartphone, the pickings are sparse.

Is choosing a phone this hard for everyone? In the recent olden days, I’d get a free Nokia and be thrilled. Verizon doesn’t even carry Nokias anymore, although I’ve read they are the most reliable phones. Hmmm – connection there? Last time we got the very adequate Samsung Alias. A friend has the Alias 2 and loves it. Samsung has replaced it with the Zeal.

The names they give phones are unreal. Well, except for the Samsung Reality. But, no, really, the Fascinate? Intensity? Octane? Gravity, Citrus, Flipout, Charm? Who exactly would buy a phone because it’s called Eternity? Maybe it’s got a speed dial to someone’s Galaxy?

Here’s what I want in a phone. First, no required data pak! I’d rather send the  $30.00 a month to Credo to help fight the Defense of Marriage Act. Second, a QWERTY keyboard; texting has become the communication mode of choice for enough people that I, gritting my teeth, have begun to text. Unless a phone has a cute little slide-out, touch screen or dual-hinges, texting is an onerous task.

But why pay to, essentially, e-mail someone? One answer is that not everyone is wired into a computer, smart phone or tablet 24/7. Or maybe I jst lke the txtng language, with its short-cuts and appealing, Twitter-like brevity.

I texted my niece, an enthusiast of the medium, and asked what kind of phone she has. I expected her, as a Gen Xer, to be somewhat of an expert. “I forget,” she tapped back. How could someone forget? I study major purchases like a little boy with baseball stats.  I may never forget the specs for the Kin Two “m” which started as a smart phone and has been downgraded to a feature phone – with benefits, like Wi-Fi.

I posted a friend at work, also a Gen Xer.  “I have an LG with a keyboard,” she e-mailed back. OK, maybe, I thought, her husband picked out her phone. She said she really liked it, so I was interested enough to send her a list of LG feature phones to see if any sounded familiar. “It just says LG,” she replied. Maybe I should ask a Millennial, like Wonderboi, but I’m pretty sure Millennials all have iPhones.

My third, and final, requirement for this new baby, is that it doesn’t call people from my pocket. I stash so many objects in there that the phone keys have to be covered. My sweetheart carries her phone in a back pocket or else leaves it lying around the house never to be found again, but it never calls me by mistake.

I’d be concerned about battery strength if it wasn’t a lost cause. It’d be logical that strong, clear sound would be a priority for  telecommunications manufacturers. It’s not, but you can’t get that kind of information from reading the company web sites.
You have to wade through consumer reviews that rave or rant or curse or ramble. If I’m lucky, I get a pretty rounded picture of the pros and cons of a specific phone. Sometimes the reviews warn me off, sometimes they give me both a problem and a fix, but mostly, they just confuse me. Techie reviews are even worse. There is much tossing around of undecipherable concepts like dumb phones, sim cards, removable memory, GSM and jailbreaking.

Next to an iPhone,the gadget I most admire is the Samsung Convoy, a ruggedized hone built to military specifications and oh so butch. Apparently butches don’t text as it has no usable keyboard. I’m stuck with a scrap pile of poorly reviewed devices that Verizon offers in an obvious ploy to force customers to choose smart phones and pay higher monthly fees.

Maybe it’s time to build a better mousetrap. A rugged little machine with fabulous
voice clarity and easy texting that we could dub the Gayphone. It would come in lavender or lavender camouflage and the default ringtone would, of course, be Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way.”

Prfts wd go 2 gay orgs.



Copyright Lee Lynch 2011

April 2011

Martha [lesbian] Living: The Traveling Writer

by Martha Miller 

While I love to travel, I suck at it. I get tired and cranky and usually constipated. About a year ago, for our first time, Girlfriend and I made the trip to P-town for Women’s Week, but it was hard to get there and get around once we got there. On the Ferry, going across from Boston, the water was choppy and I decided to get up and walk around (all right, I’m from the Midwest!). The floor seemed to rise up and then disappear. I fell on my back and hit my head so hard it rattled my teeth. I didn’t notice until later how hard I’d hit my tail bone. So while we were in P-town, I limped around with my cane. Then we learned about nor’easters. The wind blew and blew and the temperature dropped. I bought a purple wool scarf (that I love) just to put over my head and ears. All I’d brought with me was a denim jacket and all Girlfriend had was a sweater. Despite it all, we had a great time. I met Rad and other BSB writers. Everyone was nice and my reading went well.

The real adventure was the trip home. Again we took the ferry across a choppy bay. Being from the Midwest, I thought a Bay was only a couple of miles and a ferry was something that cars drove on. Not that kind of bay. Not that kind of ferry. It was a long bumpy ride. We’d learned about something called a “Water Taxi” and decided that was the quickest way to get to the airport. We were standing waiting to get off the ferry and talking to another BSB writer, and I mentioned that the “Water Taxi” was quicker than any other transportation. Later, Girlfriend fussed at me about my big mouth—this happens a lot. Not the fussing, but the big mouth part. As we got off, I saw this little boat, and it turned out that was the “Water Taxi,” and I’d just gotten the guy about 20 more passengers. With our luggage, we were sitting dangerously low in the water, and I was stressed because I can’t swim. But D Jackson Leigh sat next to me and told me she liked my reading, and then we got to talking about our mutual editor and then the ride was over.

In May, about the time Retirement Plan came out, I went to New Orleans for the “Saints and Sinners” writers’ conference. It was a good long weekend, but it wasn’t without its drama. I started my trip at the local airport. Except that when I read the flight schedule, I read the time that the plane would land instead of the time the plane would leave. But for some reason the plane didn’t take off on time. Good, right? Not really. Girlfriend took me to the airport in her new car, which has a keyless lock and a push button ignition. Girlfriend has a little ‘key fob’ that she carries in her purse. All she has to do is get near the car and it unlocks. So we pulled up to the airport and got out. We walked around to the back of the car to get my suitcase from the hatch back and found it locked. I said, “Where’s your purse?” And she said, “In the seat.” Sure enough the key fob will let you lock yourself out of the car if you leave the fob in the car and the motor running. I missed the plane.

In July I was invited, by another BSB writer, to do a reading at Outword Books, a G&L bookstore in Milwaukee. I’d met C P Rowlands when my book was first announced. I got several welcomes from other BSB writers. One author said she’d read all my books. I’d never heard of anyone who’d read them all, so I contacted her, and we emailed now and then after that.

Girlfriend and I live in Central Illinois and drove to Milwaukee in about five hours. Once there, were met by Rowlands and other writers, plus partners, who took us out to dinner and sightseeing. The next day everyone gathered at our motel in Racine. We planned on carpooling to the bookstore, which was about an hour away in

(L to R) Me, CP Rowlings, Chris Paynter, Anne Laughlin

downtown Milwaukee. We stood out front and visited for a few minutes and then prepared to get in the car, a ten year old (when they still used keys) Ford Explorer. But we were locked out. The car owner said, “This has never happened before.” I eyed Girlfriend and we both wondered if we’d brought some kind of curse with us. Anyway the three of us who were reading took another car and left our partners behind to deal with a locksmith. It seems that something called Summerfest was going on in downtown Milwaukee, so we had to take a route our hostess was less familiar with—yeah, we got lost. We were ½ hour late for our own reading. While stressful, it somehow turned out all right. By getting lost, we arrived only ten minutes before our locked out partners. But our readers were waiting.

My favorite traveling writer story happened years ago on the way to Key West Literary Conference. We were on the Florida Turnpike and I had been sleeping. When I woke, I saw a tractor tire in the road ahead of us. I looked at Girlfriend—who was driving. She didn’t seem to see it. I panicked and grabbed the steering wheel to avoid it and suddenly there were screeching tires all around us. I guess I must have dreamed the tractor tire because the only problem on that road was us suddenly cutting across three lanes of traffic.

Martha Miller

Inspiration, Medication and Lucille

by Gun Brooke

It is entirely possible, for me, to have tons of ideas swimming in my mind along with enough characters to populate half of my home village, and still be unable to write. It’s as if there are too many choices, too many variables, and too many plotlines. It’s not writer’s block, per se, it’s writer’s inundation. Like an engine being flooded, if you will. It happens to me every now and then, usually if I’m already sort of weakened by fatigue. When the neural pain strikes, I can most often use the writing as part of my pain medication system. I write in a frenzy, and enter a fiction-induced realm where I feel, but in a way don’t feel, any discomfort.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I am when my mind can’t seem to sort between the multitudes of ideas. No characters among the crowd of personalities I harbor (does sound like a psychiatric diagnosis, doesn’t it?) step forward to claim the lead, their way into the limelight. I brood, start chapters that only read like utter nonsense, and I try not to panic. I sometimes go through writing exercises to try and jump start that elusive, stuck up and high maintenance muse of mine, let’s call her…Lucille. As in “you picked a bad time to leave me…” A friend of mine put it “just write, Gun, anything—just…puke on paper!” Oh, my God. That’s a vision that will keep me from writing for days, if not more, despite the fact that I understand what she meant.

Last time the writer’s inundation happened, which was particularly worrisome since I had a good story going. I had the characters and the beginning written, and it felt like I was totally out of my league. All sorts of ideas merged, separated, jumbled, and basically scurried around like lemmings on speed. Still I had no clue what should come next in the story, not to mention further down the line. I nearly went bald for tearing at my hair, I kid you not.

Being the born procrastinator, like so many of my breed (authors), I sulked and moped, and surfed the Net. Facebook, hello to everyone, evening paper, nothing interesting, checking my email, again, and on to my Tumblr account, back then a new thing for me. Found a lot of familiar usernames there, people I’ve come across when I was more active with Star Trek Voyager fan fiction, so I browsed some of their dashboards. Stumbled upon someone who stated they wrote Devil Wears Prada fan fiction.

I came to a halt. My mind stopped whirring like a half cranked up old-fashioned alarm clock. I tilted my head, squinted and tried to picture the pairing. Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), editor in chief, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), fresh out of college and working as her assistant. On a whim, I read the story I found – and that was it!

My muse Lucille crossed her legs, assumed the perfect image-of-a-fantasy-secretary position and began to take mental notes with her pink illuminated feather-adorned pen. I hadn’t watched Devil Wears Prada in three-four years, but only two (2!) days later – voilà – Swedish television aired it, I think, for the first time. “A sign!!!” Lucille squealed.

I watched it with some of the stories I read in mind, and I experienced a feeling that is close to falling in love. I get like that when I am enthralled by a story. After reading some ‘MirAndy’ stories that people online recommended were among the must-reads, I knew I had to try my hand at this fandom.

Lucille actually insisted, loudly and in no uncertain terms, that I do. She claimed to be bored out of her leather mini-skirt, and if I didn’t shape up and find her something to work on, she would find a cave and join a family of bears.

The joy of writing, when writing is not a chore, but a lust filled feeling that sends endorphins sizzling along your nerve endings, is like a drug. Which takes me back to the beginning of this blog entry— can writing be used for medicinal purposes? J I don’t mind doing the chore of writing most of the time, as long as I hit this ‘writing-high’ every now and then. It’s what keeps the process new, fresh, and enticing, for me. I mean, if it didn’t bring us writer’s joy why would we put ourselves out there by scribbling page after page?

I can’t say that the fan fiction approach would work for every writer struggling with lack of inspiration, writer’s block, or whatever keeps them from feeling the joy of creating—but it does work for me. When your equivalent of my Lucille sits up, raises her hair to uncover her ear, bends down and presses it to the ground to listen to the stampeding ideas…that’s when you need to chance it. Write anything that tickles your muse, no matter what it is; poetry, fan fiction, letters, short stories, children’s stories, any genre that delights you. I mean, hell, us authors should be able to turn the darn grocery list into a work of art if need be! Chances are that it will not only get you and your muse back on track with each other; it might just alleviate any pain.

Defining moments

By Jeffrey Ricker

What’s the biggest and most defining moment of your life?

A friend asked me this question recently, and my initial response was, Only one? I’m not sure I could point to one particular moment. The question reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother a number of years ago. I can’t remember how we got on the topic—perhaps we were talking about my grandmother, who was an irascible, often unhappy woman for most of the time I knew her. However it started, we got on the subject of my high school and college years, and I asked her a) if she thought people really changed, and b) if she’d thought I’d changed, because I felt like I had. She said, rather, that she didn’t think I’d changed in a fundamental way. I was still the same person I was when I was a kid. Rather, she said, we tend to grow into ourselves as we progress through our life.

I tend to think that’s true. A life is an accumulation of decision points, choices and signposts along the way, and altering any one of them might possibly change the outcome of our life profoundly. So I could point to any number of moments along the way: choosing to go to New Hampshire for college, then choosing a year later to transfer to Missouri. Spending a summer in D.C. instead of going with my parents to London. Turning down a job offer for a copy editor post at an English language daily in Prague (I’m still kicking myself over that). Saying yes to another date with Mike. Buying a house. Selling a house. Forging the friendships that led to my first publication and, eventually, my first novel.

There’s usually a defining moment for a character in a novel, but if you imagined their lives beyond the pages of the book, certainly you could conjure up any number of turning points for them. (And really, it’s good if you get more than one such moment in a book.)

But if we spend our lives becoming more fully who we are, as opposed to truly changing, does that mean our sense of choice is an illusion? When we get to those defining moments, it would mean that really, there’s only one outcome we would choose, one decision we would make.

Is it one or the other? What defines your life?

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