Marriage, affairs, cities, etc.

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Once again beating to death that metaphor of cities as romance partners: While Toronto has long been the city I could see myself married to, I’ve decided that Montréal is the city I would most like to have an affair with.

From what I’ve bee am able to determine, many actual Canadians (not just “pretend” Canadians like me) have this relationship with the two cities as well.

I think a big part of what I like about Montréal is that it seems a little more scruffy and a little less”orderly” than Toronto, which makes it much more sexy but perhaps much less appealing as a long-term partner. Not, mind you, that either is really an option for me. But Montréal is just a not quite as clean, not quite as orderly, and a whole lot cheaper. It’s also an older city that grew large much earlier than Toronto did, even though it’s quite obvious that much of its growth was in the 1950s and 1960s as well.

Random encounters with nice people in Montréal:

  • The nice old gentleman who struck up a conversation with me at breakfast the other day, he with his tentalive English and me with my (very) tentative French. He complimented my language skills (he was being polite, I think) and said I looked “shy” when I spoke French.
  • The antique shop owner who, when I told him I collected old supermarket merchandise and did a website on their histories, produced a 30-year-old bag for Steinberg’s, an iconic and defunct Montreal chain I was very familiar with, and proceeded to give it to me free.
  • The lady at the Indian restaurant in an outlying neighborhood who asked me if a certain dish might be “too spicy” for me and was surprised towards that I make my own version of it at home. She gave me free pakoras.

Contrary to what I’ve heard, people are actually really nice and polite here and usually smiling. I think I was a little reserved last time I was here and didn’t interact with too many people because of it. That was probably kind of a mistake.

Canada, eh?

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I’m pretty much booked for the annual Thanksgiving road trip the first two weeks in October. I’m starting with four nights in Montréal, following that with two unstructured nights, and finishing up with four nights in Toronto. Specific itinerary upon request if anyone wants to meet up along the way.

I’m looking forward to being back in the old homeland…

Double confession

They say confession is good for the soul.

For years I’ve considered McDonald’s the fast food of last resort–just generally kind of gross and unappetizing–and all in all I still do, especially now that I’m even less inclined to eat crap as a matter of course.

But I really like the simple and cheap Jalapeño Double.

Please don’t judge me.

Or do.

Doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other.

The wedding march

Understanding as I do that the rush toward same-sex marriage is the single most important issue facing American homosexuals today–far more important than, say, fighting AIDS or ending the employment and housing discrimination that is legal in a surprisingly high proportion of US cities and states–I will once again ask a question that I think I’ve asked before: Why is government in the “marriage” business at all?

Would it not be much simpler for cities and states to sanction and register only civic partnerships–consensual agreements that address the legal rights and responsibilities of the partners involved, regardless of their sex or sexual orientation? Once registered, the partners would then be free to engage (or not) in whatever religious, spiritual,or cultural ceremonies they might choose, completely separate from the legal proceedings? This would seem to address many of the issues on both sides. All couples would be treated equally in the eyes of the law, there would be no question of the government “redefining marriage”, and churches would be free to confer religious rites to whomever they chose.

The civil partnership would, again, address all the legal issues currently involved in marriage, such as child support, estate issues, survivor benefits, healthcare issues, and taxation. The religious ceremony, if invoked, would cover spiritual issues only and have no legal authority. And no church would be forced to perform such a ceremony in violation of its beliefs, just as churches are not currently compelled to bless the unions of people outside the faith, divorcees, etc.

Unfortunately, it won’t happen. Why not?

Mainly because most of the folks who insist they have “no problem with gay rights” are by and large (maybe even unconsciously) lying when they say that their only concern is the use of the term “marriage”. My gut feeling is that they very specifically want a legal definition that separates heterosexual partnerships from any other type, regardless of what they say or what either is called. Opponents of same-sex marriage who stress that it is an institution defined by their own version of “God” are terrified that people of different faiths will begin to assert that their own beliefs actually permit same-sex marriage and would begin calling their own services “marriage”. This would be unacceptable to a certain population even if the religious ceremony carried no legal weight whatsoever.

If marriage is indeed a spiritual institution that should only be defined by the church or the culture, why not let it be just that? Everyone wins: Government institutions are freed from the constraints of discrimination that is clearly unconstitutional, and churches retain control of an institution they consider holy. The legal aspect “lives” where it should as does the spiritual aspect.

Too bad it’s just too logical ever to fly here…

The next half century

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So yeah, I’m fifty now.

I get mail from the AARP. I have abandoned the coveted 18-49 demographic. I’m sure there are places that would already extend me a senior citizen discount. And I’m now officially eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means I can finally get tax breaks for any façade restorations that would return me to my original appearance. I’m pretty excited about that last part.

Now, a la Buzzfeed (or High Fidelity) here are my ten most unexpected things about hitting the half-century mark:

1. First and foremost, there have been times I didn’t even expect to be here.
Over the past fifteen years I’ve fought off thyroid disease, cardiac issues related to that thyroid disease, cancer, and a pretty crippling depression. I smoked for twenty-five years before quitting in 2003. I had some pretty significant non-medical stresses as well. I lived through it all and I fully intend to continue doing so.

2. I didn’t expect to be living in Greensboro and really didn’t expect to be living in the house where I grew up.
I didn’t expect still to be living in San Francisco either so at least I got that part right. Would Greensboro be my first choice of residence? Probably not. But I’m pretty happy here. I’ve carved out a good life, I live in a reasonably nice house, I have a job that I love (more later), and my low expenses allow me to travel to places I enjoy pretty frequently. Greensboro works for me on many levels. Related: I also didn’t expect to have become such a neat freak.

3. I didn’t expect to have become one of those people who–without fail–brings my own bags to the grocery store.
Those people used to really annoy me for some reason. But when I (1) started paying close attention to how fucking many bags there were in my house and (2) began shopping at Aldi a lot, which (3) got me in the habit, I didn’t look back. Hint: The trick is to keep them inside your car rather than in the trunk so you don’t forget.

4. I didn’t expect to be making life and death decisions for my parents.
Enough said. When you have to let your dad die naturally and start having the same conversation with doctors about your mom, childhood is pretty much over. The good (or maybe sad) thing is that I’ve already pretty much said goodbye to my mom. That will make it easier when she “really” goes, right?

5. I didn’t expect to be a librarian and tenure-track faculty member at my alma mater.
This one is pretty much a win all the way round. it took me a hell of a long time but I finally found out what I love to do and what I want to be when I grow up. And I found someone to pay me to do it.

6. I didn’t expect to be single.
Yeah, we’ve covered this ground. After years of thinking I didn’t want love, I found it unexpectedly and wound up in what I thought almost right up to the end was the perfect relationship. Turns out I was wrong. I loved him and I don’t regret most of the time we spent together. I do regret getting out of the “habit” of being single because I’m pretty sure I’ll spend the rest of my life that way–and that’s ultimately for the best.

7. I didn’t expect to have reconnected with so many old friends.
That’s a big win too. Being coupled often isolates introverts from their friends as we have only so much ability to be social an the partner gets first (and sometimes the only) crack at that. Some old friends, a surprisingly high proportion of whom live in various corners of the state of New York, have made life much more bearable over the past few years. They may all never know quite how much.

8. I didn’t expect The Simpsons to be in its twenty-fifth season.
Come on. Did you?

9. I didn’t expect to have experienced such a rebirth of my interest in music.
I really got out of that whole indie thing for a lot of years. Strangely enough, I think it was my fascination with all things Canadian that got me interested again, first with francophone Quebecois pop and later with the (mostly anglophone) indie bands on CBC Radio 3 and other places. I’m pretty immersed now, I go to shows, and I find a lot of the more disposable 1980s technopop that used to still be a big part of my life long after its “sell by” date had passed to be virtually unlistenable now.

10. I didn’t expect to have experienced such a rebirth of my interest in cities.
This is a big one that makes me happy too. After thirteen years in San Francisco, I was still fascinated by cities but approached them warily. Turns out that either (1) my hatred of SF was the root of the problem and it was geographically specific, or (2) I like visiting cities a lot more than living in them. Probably a bit of both, but now I do mostly urban destinations where I stay in the city rather than the ‘burbs and use transit or my Adidas instead of the car. And I love east coast cities.

And my three biggest random and pithy observations:

  • I don’t feel fifty. Most people tell me I don’t look it or act it either. I think that’s a good thing. I’m not sure.
  • Sometime over the past few years, I lost my sense of adventure and of wonder at the world. I’ve found it again. I’m glad.
  • Rock and roll is better than sex and drugs, and each can exist independently.

Happy birthday to me. Last week, that is.