On the periphery of poetry...

~Sunday~  Tongue & Groove Open Mic came out of hiatus tonight in its new digs at VAE in downtown Raleigh.

About Tongue & Groove:

Cohosts Anna Weaver and Ben Molini welcome poets, musicians, jugglers, mimes, whatever... anything but comedy (which is not say you can't be funny, just that comics have their own open mic nights).

Covers welcome. Originals encouraged!

Second Sundays at the VAE Gallery (309 W Martin St) in our beloved downtown Raleigh. List opens at 7, show starts at 7:30. Slots are 6 minutes (2 songs max, musicians).

In addition to the opportunity to share my writing (which, arguably, is poetry), I was excited to be there, because I helped connect my poet friend Anna Weaver (one of the co-organizers and co-hosts) with Brandon Cordrey (the husband of a friend of mine and executive director of VAE) to negotiate this venue for tonight's—and future—synergistic Tongue & Groove events.

Now to tonight's performance. I introduced myself:

"Hi, I'm John.

If you're a veteran of Tongue & Groove, you might remember me as “The Haiku Guy.”

Or, for a little while, I was the “Punku Guy,” after several of my haiku employed puns.

With a kicked-up-a-notch Tongue & Groove—in this great new venue—I felt compelled to step up my own game.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to become a part of the world premier of, either the: Haikiddle® or the Riddlku®.

I haven't yet decided which portmanteau best describes what I have for you tonight, which is four 8-haiku sets, each of which comprises a riddle.

So, sit back and just enjoy the cadence of haiku. Or, listen to connect the group of 8 to identify the object of its discourse." (Note: The "answers" are at the bottom of this entry, behind the cut.)

It has helped mark time
For the past 26 years
My how the time flies

Although it's unique
It is not the only thing
Doing what it does

Shape does play a part
In the thing and where it goes
Both oval and square

It's larger than life
By 250 times
A regular one

Composed of copper
David Benson saw to it
All twelve-hundred pounds

HOGS have brought it in
And a 7-foot squirrel
To its place downtown

A city not far
Uses a 3-foot pickle
To do the same thing

Glasses and hopes raised
As it does its thing marking
Days of Auld Lang Syne

My friend, (thank you for being there) Matt, recorded my reading of this one. Apparently, I'm a "swayer." Ugh. I loved how the person in the audience who guessed what this Haikiddle® or Riddlku® was about answered in the form of a question, as if we were playing Jeopardy®.

1000 B.C.
Made from honey flavored with
Citrus, herbs, and spice

19th century
Morphine and heroin ones
Worked upon the brain

Risk of addiction
Opioid dependence fears
Changed them once again

A form of rhombus
Was their original shape
Now they're called this, too

At the opera
Or a play or symphony
Also a concert

Help suppress the urge
Pop one in before it starts
Avoid crinkling

Lubricates and soothes
Irritated throat tissues
Slowly it dissolves

Small and often sweet
Menthol or eucalyptus
Silencing hacking

I'm an editor
More than just a word-smith-er
I live and breathe words

I am a purist
So I don't participate
Just on principle

Both two-twenty-five (225)
Most are not; but others are

This one has four more
When you've got it “in the bag”:
One-hundred and four

This one has 16
While the one I like has 12
Three times face value

Now to frequency:
One more D, E, S, & T
Two times more Hs.

When you use them all
35 vs. 50
Added to your score

This one's name's three words
The one I like, just one word
And is a classic

Seven years ago today
Now you know the time

Named the premiere one
By a famous magazine
Now you know the place

Unfettered and free
Like Mae West and Jane Austen
Now you know the thing

Ebony diva
Fulfilling her destiny
Now you know the source

Partying alone
A female protagonist
Now you know the plot

Don't be angry please
Lips, hips, and Dereon jeans
All that got away

Encircle digit
If you were that fond of it
You really should have

Every one of them
They're divorced or unmarried
Noble-titled girls

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First half of December's addition and remodeling progress...

We're finally able to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and we're pretty sure it's not a train coming back at us. We're in the stage now where everything is very exciting.

Our last update for the October and November progress was quite recent, so you probably don't need a refresher.

And, if you're interested, you can see all of my blog entries about the project, which started back in June.

The executive summary of the progress for these first 2 weeks of December is:
  • Shower walls and tile
  • Appliances "ready to go"
  • Deck poles and flooring
  • Cabinets
  • Mud sink
  • Countertops
  • Wet bar
  • Porch and deck railings

December 1, 2016 — Master shower walled in
Master shower walled in

December 1, 2016 — New kitchen sink, microwave, range, and dishwasher
waiting in the garage (amidst a good portion of the rest of our house
that's been "stored away" during this renovation and addition)

Kitchen sink, microwave, range, and dishwasher waiting the garage

December 5, 2016 — New deck poled and flooring started
Deck poles in and surface started

December 6, 2016 — Tiled-in master shower
Master shower tiled

December 9, 2016 — The first of the cabinets installation
Kitchen cabinets installed

December 15, 2016 — Deck and porch railings being installed
Deck and porch railings being installed

December 15, 2016 — Mud sink installed in laundry room
Mud sink installed in laundry room

December 16, 2016 — Countertops on the "fridge side" of our new galley kitchen
Counter tops on fridge side of galley kitchen

December 16, 2016 — Countertops on the "range/microwave/sink/dishwasher side"
of our new galley kitchen

Counter tops on range side of galley kitchen

December 16, 2016 — Eight 4-ft. tall by 2-ft. wide by 1-ft. deep pantry cabinets
with adjustable shelves

Pantry cabinets with adjustable shelves

December 16, 2016 — And we have a wet bar! (Well, it'll be wet after
the sink and faucet are installed. Bar fridge coming, too.)

Wet bar

December 16, 2016 — The rest of the railings on the (soon-to-be) screened-in porch
Screened in porch and deck railing completed

Coming soon: Back splashes, floors, appliances, and interior walls painting...

October's & November's addition and remodeling progress...

It's been a very productive month, about which we couldn't be more pleased and excited. If you need a refresher of where we last left our heroes, you can skim through the pictures in the September's update.

As a reminder, we're expanding from 1,000 square feet to 1,500 square feet and you can review the plans to see the entire dream.

The executive summary of the progress for these 2 months is:

  • Insulation installed

  • Interior walls up and drywalled

  • Laundry room mud sink plumbing installed

  • Master bathroom shower started

  • Siding on the exterior of the added rooms

  • Expanded storage shed

  • New deck started

October 24, 2016 — Insulation installation, starting
in the master bedroom

Insulation installation, starting in the master bedroom

November 4, 2016 — Kitchen interior walls
Kitchen interior walls

November 4, 2016 — Laundry room mud sink plumbing
Laundry room mud sink plumbing

November 4, 2016 — Master suite interior walls
Master suite interior walls

November 4, 2016 — Master bedroom drywall and doggy door
Master bedroom drywall and doggy door

November 5, 2016 — Master shower taking shape
Master shower taking shape

November 16, 2016 — Siding on the addition
Siding on the addition

November 23, 2016 — The new, expanded storage shed with siding
The new, expanded storage shed with siding

November 30, 2016 — The beginnings of the new deck
The beginnings of the new deck

Coming soon: Wall primer, bathroom tile, and kitchen cabinets...

Happy 1st Anniversary! I love you on so many levels.

~Monday~ A year ago today, I married Robert Anthony McVeigh. About a month ago, I learned about this website LoveBook Online, by seeing a book made on it by the husband of a friend, and I checked it out.

Between its incredibly intuitive user interface, and the many endearing sayings that come out of Bob's mouth year-round, it was a no-brainer that this would be the first book I "wrote" and published.

Things get more interesting starting on the "I love being special to you" page.

Happy 1st Anniversary! I love you on so many levels.

Backstory: There are several "inside jokes" in these pages, starting with the "on so many levels" on the cover. We both roll our eyes a little whenever some people say "on so many levels" after they've said something as if it's so deep! LOL.

Happy Anniversary, dear.

I love that you're my other half.

I love that you're my best friend.

I love being special to you.

Backstory: From the day I first met Vincent (and Frances, at the time), I always knew my place in the pecking order. And I'm good with that.

I love that you love and accept me just how I am.

Backstory: He really is this generous when I'm having the occasional pity party.

I love going out to dinner with you.

Backstory: He really does say this, and it cracks me up every time. And not just about food. If I'm going to do something and I ask him if he'd like to do it, he sometimes answers, "Yes, I want to be just like you."

I love hearing you tell jokes.

Backstory: "And everything" is a filler phrase Bob uses when telling stories. I think it's a family thing, as I noticed his sister said it this weekend when telling us about her recent trip out west to visit family and sight-see. Also, when he starts telling a story, and I finally realize it's a joke, I'll interject, "True story!" and he'll say back, "True story!"

I love that you believe in me.

Backstory: He usually says this when I fix something on his computer or his iPhone, even if it's the simplest of things. Cracks me up.

I love that you accommodate my food needs and desires however large or small they may be.

Backstory: Bob packs my breakfast and lunch for work every day, and when I'm counting calories, he'll have a little piece of paper in it with notes like, "Bread = 70, Lunch meat = 60, Mayo (1 tbsp) = 35." And, all I have to do is text him, "On my way home. Happy hour on the porch?" and he'll have my glass of ice, the bourbon bottle, and my seltzer water waiting... along with snacks!

I love that you are punctual.

Backstory: I absolutely love this retort. (Could be the editor in me.) If you say this phrase to him, I guarantee you'll get this response.

I love that you are ambitious.

Backstory: Bob actually did all of the things in that first paragraph during our renovations. He also reads articles and takes tests toward continuing competence requirements to keep his RN license active even though he is retired. He takes Vincent on two walks a day (without fail) and once a month or so he attends his Greater Raleigh Area Chapter (GRAC) of of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) meeting.

I love that you are accomplished.

Backstory: Ever since I went back to work, Bob does everything around the house, and I mean everything—inside the house and in the yard. And I am so very thankful for it.

I love that you are adventurous.

Backstory: This conversation actually happened once. You would never in a million years hear me say, "Surprise me!" with regards to picking out food for me. I remember just being incredulous when he said this.

I love that you are kind.

Backstory: This is an actual conversation with Vincent I've heard many times. And he waits. Personally, I ask Vincent once, and then touch his body ever so gently with the door as I open it, and he moves... without complaint. Such a sweet boy. (Both of them.)

I love the 'gay-sounding' paint colors you choose for our house.

Backstory: These are actual paint colors Bob has painted his kitchen with over the years. (I think they're ridiculously frou-frou.) In his defense, he doesn't make up these names, he's just a victim of them.

I love your job as mayor of Mordecai.

Backstory: Bob has lived in his house for 28 years, so he's seen a lot come and go during that time. He knows a lot about a lot of people in the neighborhood, too, and after sitting on the front porch for sometimes an hour before I get out there in the morning, he'll catch me up on what I've missed.

I love playing with words with you.

Backstory: We play this word game where we'll start with a word and then do a rhyming riff on it. It goes as the one above, and this one was about what if we share seeing Cher at the state fair in what turns out to only be a fair performance.

You're the most caring person in the world.

Backstory: This is classic Bob. He's just so darn nice. I'll say something like, "I just don't like her. She never smiles." And he'll respond, "She's been through a lot."

You're such a great listener.

Backstory: This, too, is classic Bob—whenever I get home from work. I'll respond, "Well, I edited. And then I edited another piece. And then I edited some more." But he always asks.

I love occasionally watching TV with you.

Backstory: Every once in a while, we'll watch TV together (usually I'm either reading, writing, or online wasting time or playing hearts). And Vincent jumps up with us for his belly rub.

I love taking road trips with you.

Backstory: Bob loves to play games, or make some up, when we're traveling. It's his helpful way of keeping me awake, as I do all of the driving. Catch Phrase is one of our favorite games, and he just keeps giving me clues to guess the answers, since I can't look at the game to take my turn giving the clues.

I love our Sunday morning ritual.

Backstory: Every Sunday morning we do the USA Today Crossword puzzle online.

I love when we play cards together.

Backstory: I really do enjoy the social aspect, and the passing-of-time aspect, of playing cards. Bob, on the other hand, likes to win.

I love taking pictures with you.

Backstory: We'll often take 5-10 shots of pictures of him, or us in them together, and then he often takes 5-10 minutes choosing and cropping the one that makes everything (read: him) look just so.

I love how you indicate that you don't like someone the rest of the world seems to love.

Backstory: This is another thing that I just can't not smile about when I witness it. He just rarely says negative things about people, and this is one of the most endearing ways he gets around that. He really doesn't like Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

I love that I found you.

I love that we got married and how we did it.

Backstory: We said these things as our vows to each other. And then the wedding attendees "married" us along with Blake, our officiant, by saying their part out loud in unison.

I love us wanting to be with each other every second of every day... except for when we don't.

Backstory: We both abide by the notion that, "You're my everything, but you're not my every minute."

I love that you have changed my world for the better.

The end.

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September's addition and remodeling progress...

It's been a very productive month, about which we couldn't be more pleased and excited. If you need a refresher of where we last left our heroes, you can skim through the pictures in the September 5 update.

People kept asking us how many square feet we were adding on, and we finally got tired of answering, "We don't know," so we contacted the architects who informed us that we're going from 1000 square feet to 1,500 square feet.

The executive summary of this month's progress is:

  • Framing of new areas (porch, master bathroom, master bedroom closet, storage areas) completed

  • Water heater moved

  • Existing kitchen demolished

  • New plumbing roughed in

  • New electrical wiring roughed in

September 2, 2016 — Screened-in porch framing
Porch framing

September 4, 2016 — Kitchen, master bathroom, and master bedroom framing
Kitchen, master bathroom, master bedroom framing

September 6, 2016 — Porch roof framing
Porch framing

September 8, 2016 — Porch roof
Porch roofing

September 15, 2016 — Skylights / solar tubes arrive
Skylights and solar tubes

September 16, 2016 — Kitchen and master bathroom skylights
Kitchen and master bathroom skylights

September 16, 2016 — New roof over back storage shed, porch, and master bedroom
(as seen from our neighbor's yard)
New roof and side view from neighboring yard

September 17, 2016 — Fridge and microwave moved into the living room
in advance of the kitchen demolition

Fridge and microwave now in living room

September 17, 2016 — Bob removed cabinets, counters, and the stove!
Stove, cupboards, and counters gone

September 17, 2016 — Bob also removed the island that was in the kitchen!
Kitchen island gone

September 19, 2016 — Kitchen back wall, sink, window, and cabinets demolished
Gutted kitchen

September 19, 2016 — View from old kitchen opening into
new galley kitchen area replacing it

Kitchen sink, window, and wall gone

September 19, 2016 — Diana and Rollo at work
Dianna and Rolo working

September 26, 2016 — View from existing TV room into new master suite
(hallway in middle, closet to the right, master bathroom to the left, bedroom in the back)
View into new master suite

September 26, 2016 — New storage area in the hallway
that leads to existing bathroom

New hallway storage area

September 29, 2016 — Back of house (master bedroom, porch, and shed) walled and roofed
Back view of master suite, porch, and storage shed

September 30, 2016 — Exhaust fan and canned lighting in new master bathroom
Canned lighting

September 30, 2016 — Electrical work roughed in
Electrical wiring rough-in

September 30, 2016 — Plumbing work roughed in
Washer and dryer plumbing

September 30, 2016 — New air intake facing the master suite hallway
Air intake

Coming soon: Insulation, sheetrock, floors, and cabinets...

Some books I recommend

This entry is specifically for Leigh Day, but it's a public entry for all who might be interested.

I don't think I can present these in an order that suggests I liked any one more than any other; I obviously liked them all (for different reasons, though) if they're on the list.

So, I'll just make some comments about each:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Non-fiction)
I was introduced to this book by way of NC State's Common Reading Program, which recommends a book each year for incoming freshmen to read before they get to campus. It was the 2011 selection in its history of selections. This is a compelling story about which I'll give you this teaser from Goodreads.com: "HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave." And now, it's an HBO movie.

Born a Crime (Non-fiction)
This was one of my book club's selections, and I know I would not have read it had it not been. I've only seen Trevor Noah in a couple of YouTube clips of short segments of his show, so I wasn't that interested in him. However, this is a well-told story, consisting of a lot of "scenes" of his childhood growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. You'll learn about Apartheid in the best way possible—by it being "shown" to you instead of "told" to you. It's very, very powerful. I can't say enough good things about this book, and now I am a Trevor Noah fan.

Cutting for Stone (Fiction)
You might want to put this one on the back burner after just finishing All the Light We Cannot See, because it's a challenging read, but so worth it in the end. ☺ The only other caveat I'd add for this one is that I get a little impatient with a lot of description at the expense of moving the plot along, and I definitely experienced that in this book—a couple of times to the point of almost abandoning it. But, then I just started skimming over some of the long instances of description, and in the end, I was glad I stuck with it. It's a very compelling story overall.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Fiction)
This is one of the quirkiest books I've ever read, and years and years and years after having read it, I still can't think of it without smiling. This would be a good "break" after All the Light We Cannot See." This line from the Goodreads synopsis resonates with me: "Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity." Caveat: It's quite an old book, but it's still "in print." I recently (11/2016) checked it out from the Wake County Public Library and re-read it.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed (Non-fiction)
This is non-fiction about the motives, inequities, and collateral damage that can result from public shaming. In addition to several case studies, there is a fascinating chapter about the enormity involved in repairing damaged online reputations. While reading this book, I sometimes thought of some of the postings that appear on memo-list or rdu-list (e.g., the "let's-start-a-garage-parking-shaming-list"). I read this for a book club, and we had great discussion about it. It's also our next book, since it was my turn to pick a book, in my Mostly Social Book Club.

South of Broad (Fiction)
I love Pat Conroy's writing, which is what prompted me to read this one. It did not disappoint. I've also read The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini by Conroy and loved those, too. Not unlike Paula McLain's Circling the Sun and The Paris Wife, it's beautifully written and a compelling story, which if you've read any Pat Conroy at all, you'd expect.

The Secret History (Fiction)
Another compelling, deeply involved, story from Donna Tartt of The Goldfinch fame, which I know you read. I read this one, maybe 15 or 20 years ago, and it still haunts me.

The Art of Racing in the Rain (Fiction)
If you're a dog lover, this one will undoubtedly make you boo-hoo, but it's very good. What I loved about this book was that the narrator, who's actually a dog, is the one who made me cry. That's pretty good writing, because in general, the idea of a dog being a narrator is completely ridiculous to me. :-)

The Kite Runner (Fiction)
This one ranks up in my top 5 books of all time. It's another beautifully written (hmmm, I see a theme in the books I like ☺), "sweeping" story with themes that include class, diversity, betrayal, redemption, and the love between a father and his son. This was one of those books I hated to see end.

A Prayer for Owen Meany (Fiction)
In the past, I have called this book "my favorite book of all time." It still ranks right up there, at least in the top 3. What I loved about this book was that it was the quintessential exposition of the notion of fate, and even though I'm more of a "you-create-your-own-destiny-kind-of person" than a "fate person," I was totally into this story the whole way through. I just loved it when we found out how the things Owen had thoughts and visions about all through the book unfolded at the end.

Remodeling and addition...

~Monday~ It's been quite a while since I've posted an update, but not as much as taken place as you might imagine would have since our June 29, 2016 update.

An unanticipated event happened on July 6—our air-conditioner died. We lived over the subsequent couple of days with the door closed to our bedroom with an AC window unit loaned to us by the company we bought our new unit from until they could install the new one. If it was going to happen, it was probably good timing, as we bought a bigger until, which will accommodate our somewhat significant square foot addition.

July 8, 2016 — Shiny new air-conditioner

With the team doing our foundation essentially pissing away a month—between them taking vacation one week; showing up to start their day rarely before noon, and then quitting early because it was "so hot"; and canceling because it might rain instead of showing up and working until (if) it did rain—we had a real lull in progress for most of July.

July 25, 2016 — Some equipment finally arrives

July 25, 2016 — And the foundation work begins

It looked good until after I used our bathroom and Bob noticed the water from both my shower and flushing our toilet draining out into that newly-dug trench. Apparently, it didn't occur to the guys digging that a perfectly new-looking PVC pipe might actually be in use. Getting that scheduled and repaired set us back another week.

July 25, 2016 — The drainage pipe was here (see red circle to the right)

July 30, 2016 — Drainage pipe replaced

August 8, 2016 — And we have cement

August 11, 2016 — Concrete footings poured

August 12, 2016 — Cinder blocks at the ready

August 17, 2016 — Foundation in progress

At this point, we were thrilled to be done with that foundation crew. And they had the nerve to ask our contractor if we were pleased with their work. Uh, that would be a resounding, "No!"

August 29, 2016 — Bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen framing started

August 30, 2016 — The screened-in-porch framing started

August 31, 2016 — Master bedroom, bath, and kitchen floor decking

August 31, 2016 — More serious framing materials

September 1, 2016 — Framing and homewrapping begins

September 1, 2016 — Hello walls!

September 1, 2016 —Bedroom and bathroom interior walls

Essentially, it was a long, slow summer, but things have really picked up, and we're excited about that.

Coming up (hopefully this week): A couple of internal walls have to be demolished and/or moved to widen our kitchen area and extend it into a galley kitchen that will open up onto the screened-in porch.

In The Real World (NCGLFF 2016)

~Thursday~ Bob and I attended the second of the four films we're seeing together this year at the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (NCGLFF).

This was another collection of short films with a math problem. Named In the Real World, the collection on the NCGLFF website was advertised as, "Do you love documentaries? Here's a collection of 9 short features for gay, lesbian, and transgender audiences on a variety of intriguing queer subjects." But alas, as you yourself can count, there were only 8 films in the collection. Math is hard.

And, truth be told, I might argue that, technically, there were 7 "films" and one "commercial."

Here are the synopses and my thoughts about them:


Synopsis: A man's experience with depression and homophobia shapes his life for the better, leading him to become an activist for the LGBT community through his YouTube channel.

Thoughts: This was a well-crafted film, with a likable protagonist who was open, thoughtful, hopeful, and entertaining. Themes touched on included childhood bullying, workplace harassment, bad relationships as growth experiences, soul-searching, depression, and becoming a voice for activism. It was interesting enough to make me want to check out McSwiggan's YouTube channel.

What's A Gender?

Synopsis: Whether you are a man, a woman, or both classifications is irrelevant.

Thoughts: This was arguably my favorite film of the collection, but unequivocally, it was the most intellectually interesting one to me. These two sisters so defied gender classification, both knew it, and both were most unapologetic about it. My favorite scene was when they were describing what it's like when they walk down a street together—people stare at them with a "What the fuck?" expression on their faces. Personally, I found them mesmerizing, provocative, and quite thought-provoking.

Alzheimer's: A Love Story

Synopsis: In this sensitive portrait we watch as Michael, Gregory's husband of four decades, struggles to connect with Gregory in the face of this tragic disease and to assure that Gregory's final days are redeemed by an awareness of Michael's undying love.

Thoughts: This film was undeniably touching and sad. The sanguine Michael teared up a lot, but held it together for the most part. The woman sitting in the row in front of us, however, bawled through most of this short documentary.

What was interesting to me about this film being in a Gay & Lesbian film festival was that it was essentially an "Alzheimer's story" and not a "gay story," about which I'm ambivalent. On the one hand, it showed that gay people are "just like everyone else" when it comes to "a non-discriminating disease like Alzheimer's," and what we want for our loved ones.

On the other hand, there can be some LGBT issues (still, even in 2016) around partners dealing with a healthcare system that isn't always supportive of LGBT people nurturing their loved ones in their final months and days. I guess, there have been no shortage of films exploring that, though.

You can watch a minute-and-a-half trailer of the film, if you're interested.


Synopsis: The world of square dancing is rather traditional, but see how gay square dance clubs in New York and California accept anyone, gay or straight, just as they are.

Thoughts: This film was just strange. It sort of made one point—that anyone is welcome there—over and over, and it just ended so abruptly. As Bob noted, most stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. This one pretty much had a beginning and that was it. The ending was when the screen just went black, and at first I thought the film had broken, because there weren't even any credits at the end. About a half-minute later, Pink Boy started.

Pink Boy

Synopsis: BJ, a butch lesbian, successfully avoided dresses her entire life until she adopted Jeffrey, who starts to dance in gowns and perform for her.

Thoughts: I thought this, too, was a well-done film. I loved that the two women who were raising Jeffrey were so supportive. My favorite line was when BJ said, "I've been a lesbian all of my life..." in the context of having never played with Barbie® dolls but was now, because that's what Jeffrey wanted to do. I don't know why that phrase tickled me so much. I guess it's because it sounded like something she had to work at for so long, instead of it just being who she was.

This story interested me enough that I'd love to see Jeffrey 10 years from now.

In The Hollow

Synopsis: In May 1988, girlfriends Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight were violently attacked while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Hear their story as Claudia returns to the trail for the first time since the incident.

Thoughts: This was my next-to-favorite film of the collection. It was a compelling story that elicited outrage, and its setting was The Appalachian Trail, which I had recently read about in the Bill Bryson book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.

Claudia noted that she wasn't able to attend her girlfriend's funeral at the time, because she was still in the hospital for the wounds she herself had suffered (which were not inconsequential) during the attack. She also said she knew that Rebecca's ashes were buried somewhere in Maine (I think that was where she said), and I was surprised to hear her say she's never seen them. (Some were scattered, but some were buried.) Perhaps said trip will be her next short film, or perhaps she's actually done it now and it's covered in her book.

In checking out the IMDB entry for this short documentary, my interest was piqued by the fact that "Claudia has since written a book titled Eight Bullets about the events that occurred in the forest and the resulting investigation and trial."

A Lifetime of Making Change

Synopsis: Maxine Wolfe, 74, reflects on a lifetime of activism as a coordinator at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brookly, N.Y.

Thoughts: This is the film that, arguably, could have been a commercial. It was so short that I literally thought at its conclusion, "Huh?" immediately followed by, "And the point was?" Ms. Wolfe's very last sentence gave you the impression that the entire 2 or 3 minutes, if it was that, was wholly self-serving. Definitely my least-liked film of the bunch.


Synopsis: Five queer and trans Asian-Americans from New York City explore their relationships with their family and culture.

Thoughts: Mostly, this film made me sad for people who still feel they are unable to live their authentic lives. Having been in the closet for the first 35 years of my life, I have great empathy for them.

Although to a lesser extent, this film also made me think about the "diluting of heritage and culture" in the descendants of immigrant families in the U.S. Being half Portuguese (my dad's parents immigrated here from the Azores Islands, Portugal) and half French-Canadian (my mom's parents immigrated here from Montreal), I'm living proof of such a dilution with the only honoring I do of either of those cultures is eating Portuguese food when my sister makes it.

Have you seen this collection of movies? If so, what did you think of them? See what what other movies I've seen since 2003.

Can't Live Without You (NCGLFF 2016)

~Saturday~ Bob and I attended the second night of the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (NCGLFF), where starting at 11:00 p.m. and running until just short of 12:30 a.m., we watched a collection of short films given the name "Can't Live Without You," presumably by the festival's screening committee.

On the NCGLFF website, this collection was advertised as, "Here's a collection of 7 amazing shorts that the NCGLFF committee just could not live without..." the veracity of which seems plausible on first glance. Until you get to the 6th film and there's not another.

The collection description also designated two of the films (Away With Me and Parting) as UK films and the other four (Dads, Occupy Me, The Next Stop, and Guidance) as U.S. films, for what that's worth.

Here are the synopses of the films and my thoughts about them:


Synopsis: Scott finds his morning interrupted by an unexpected visit from his father. When Scott's friend-with-benefits Doug also shows up, all three men find themselves in a quietly awkward world of ambiguity and things unsaid.

Thoughts: This was probably my least favorite of the six. It took forever for any of the characters to start speaking, which drives me crazy. It was very slow moving, and it left me with a lot of questions:
  • Did the dad already know his son was gay?
  • What was the picture of Doug doing on the wall, and why did his dad take it down?
  • How did it end up on the floor?
  • Why didn't Doug stop by to see Scott in the laundry room on his way out?
  • Was the dad gay?
The synopsis intimated (to me, at least) that all 3 of them would end up in the same room at the same time, which didn't happen. The synopsis also said that all 3 men find themselves in a "world of ambiguity and things unsaid." I didn't take that to mean the audience would, too. Maybe, in retrospect it was a brilliant film. Just kidding.


Synopsis: Two men whose flirtatious word-spar about sexual positions turns unwittingly into a debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both taking sides against the other.

Thoughts: This film was an intellectual and philosophical inquiry into the implications of "topping" and "bottoming" in the parlance of gay male sex. I'm not so sure the conversation turned into a debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beyond one of them being Arab and the other being Jewish and them using the term "occupying me" as a metaphor for the top being "in" the bottom.

The debate, as I remember it, was initially around what "Yes?" means as a single-word question just before "occupation," which evolved into a discussion about the power dynamics (i.e., taking power and giving up power) associated with being the top vs. the bottom during gay male sex.

This was one of my favorites of the six films, and it didn't help that the guys in it were totally my type.


Synopsis: A forty-something Brooklyn man rebounds from a long-term relationship by hooking up with a 23 year-old rugby player.

Thoughts: This was one of two films, the other being Guidance, that dealt with the trappings of being with a closeted partner. It was interesting enough, but nothing compelling. It had an ambiguous ending, which I'm not crazy about, although I'll take that—any day—over a "Hollywood happy ending."


Synopsis: Charles, a high school psychologist at a parochial school, struggles to keep his personal and professional lives separate and intact.

Thoughts: This film was also one of my favorites, as it wasn't "all gay, all the time," which is kind of ironic and a result of this film festival being in its 21st year, I suppose. In the early years I loved that most of the storylines were gay, gay, gay.

My change in preference probably also has to do with the abundance of gay characters in movies and on TV these days. In the early years of the festival, it was about the only place to see movies where, in the end (double-entendre totally intended), the guy gets the guy."

One of the things I liked about this one was the diversity in the characters' genders and sexuality and their problems.


Synopsis: A spontaneous holiday romance in Nice turns sour when there is a clash of intentions and expectations between the two men.

Thoughts: This storyline was a little weak in that it was hard to believe someone would go away, to what seemed like a fairly far destination, with someone whose last name they didn't even know. There was also a fair amount of ambiguity in this one, which as I've already stated, doesn't work well for me.

The best thing about this film was that I didn't remember that it mentioned Nice in the synopsis, and when they first showed them on the balcony of where they were staying, I thought, "That looks like the Promenade des Anglais," and then when they showed the beach scene, I thought, "Yep, all rocks, no sand, just like Nice." Many, many years ago, I spent 6 glorious weeks in Nice on an IBM business trip and my ($600-a-night) hotel was on the Promenade des Anglais facing the Riviera.


Synopsis: After a lifetime together, time has stopped for an elderly couple as they prepare to say goodbye.

Thoughts: This was a nicely done film that touched on a number of themes such as life-long gay relationships, "in sickness and in health," caregiving, death with dignity, and having some say in your own mortality.

Have you seen this collection of movies? If so, what did you think of them? See what what other movies I've seen since 2003.