Never Judge a Book by Its Tattoos

I was reading a post on LinkedIn this morning about a manager that requires his team to wear business attire – even if they’re traveling on a domestic flight. The idea behind this  “you never know who you’ll run into and you’re representing the company” makes sense I guess. They say something similar in AA – “you could be the only example of recovery that person will see” so act as if.

For years though I’ve heard the old adage “never judge a book by its cover” – you have no idea what the story is inside the jacket and you might find, by turning a few pages, you rather enjoy the trip down into the looking glass. Continue reading

Donnell and Superman

From 2000 – 2005 I worked at Children’s National Medical Center in a few departments that focused on HIV/AIDS. I don’t do hospitals well, I’m squeamish (see this story) but working behind a computer is easy regardless of where the computer is so it wasn’t an issue as long as I didn’t have to look at tubes and blood and stuff… ewww.

One of the nurses I worked with, Christy, had been working with one particular kid since he was born. His name was Donnell and he was born with HIV. Donnell was around 7 years old the first time I met him. He had come up to our floor with the purpose of seeing Christy and peeked his head around the corner of my cubicle shyly and then ran away, he was soon back and played with the Superman toys I had on my desk, but he was very shy. At that time I still had some hair – I know hard to believe – and I was wearing thick framed glasses in a Clark Kent style. Donnell convinced himself that I was really Superman. I think back then he honestly believed it and who was I to deny a kid a dream.

Every time Donnell came to the hospital he would ask his nurse, Ms Campbell, if he could see Superman and I would drop whatever I was doing and spend hours with that little boy. We’d run up and down the hallways and visit strange areas and he’s always ask me when I would take him flying. I… sorry it’s hard to think about. He was always so happy to see me and he became a bright spot in my every day life.

Donnell called me Superman and other people started to call me Superman and that’s why I decided on the Superman tattoo I had done when I turned 10 years sober in 2004. Donnell thought it was pretty cool when I showed it too him and it still is today when I look at it.

He invited me a few years later to his graduation from elementary school (I think) and I was a little wary about going to Anacostia but I did anyway. He ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug that day and it was so cool to see him all dressed up and progressing. I was always asking him about school and trying to encourage him to study and try harder – emphasizing the importance of a good education, even if it was boring.

I usually go to Ft Lauderdale for my birthday in December but the year I didn’t I was in the hospital when Donnell came to the emergency room. I went to spend the day with him while they tried to figure out what was wrong. Turns out he had a brain tumor the size of a small orange in his head and they had to operate. I was with him and his family up until they took him into surgery. It was so scary, I remember being a big teary mess that day too. In spite of my squeamishness I visited him in his room every day until he was released, I even came in on a Saturday.

When I left Childrens I lost touch with Donnell, I would hear once in a while from friends that they had seen him at the hospital, but I myself hadn’t seen him since then. I often wondered how he was doing and if he had gotten into college yet.

Today he suffered a stroke, his mom found him and they resuscitated him twice before letting him go. I hear he had been doing really well on his medications and the future looked bright.

I’ve cried a few times tonight about this, a lot about time lost because I was too busy to stay in touch. A lot because he was such a good kid and he loved so many people with such a big heart.

Mostly today I wish I had been able to fly and give him that one thing – maybe now he can fly. Maybe now he has wings – if you believe that type of thing, and I”m not sure I do – if there is one man who deserves to fly it’s him… I’ll miss you Donnell, thank you for loving me .

Deep Thought and the Ultimate Answer

Today we are officially 42 days away from my 42nd birthday – that’s the more important birthday a person could have… well a person who loves the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and I certainly do.

42, as you may or may not know, is the answer to Life the Universe and Everything. See when a group of pan-dimensional beings created a computer named Deep Thought which takes 7 1/2 million years to compute the answer they got exactly what they asked for the answer said Deep Thought: 42. Obviously they were a bit confused by this answer and their planet was patiently waiting for an answer with festivities and awe… Fortunately for them Deep Thought knew they wouldn’t be satisfied with the answer and told them of a great computer that could give them the question that would fit the answer to Life the Universe and Everything. Deep Thought even helped them design that computer and that computer is called “Earth”.

Now Earth, according to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy a truly wonderful, totally amazing piece of technology – at first with the following description: “Harmless”. But after Ford Prefect had visited the planet he managed to add to the description, thankfully, and it now says “Mostly Harmless” (obviously the writers had seen the US Congress in action).

Well as it turns out the day before Earth was to finally release the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything it is destroyed to make way for a hyper-space bypass – if you’re not expecting these kinds of things to happen, you’re really not prepared to live in the universe with the rest of us.

Now there really were really only two instances that anyone actually said they knew what the Question was… one was Marvin the depressed robot, one of the most wonderful characters in all literature, who said he could see the answer imprinted on Arthur’s brain (see Arthur was on the planet/computer Earth seconds before it was destroyed, fortunately for him he got to listen to Vogon poetry instead of dying horribly… well I guess that’s really a matter of taste, like any poetry really. And in the book Life the Universe and Everything Prak, a man who knows all that is true, confirms that 42 is indeed the answer and one would assume that if Prak knows all that is true he would also know for certain what the question was.

Anyway, back to my birthday which as I mentioned earlier is 42 days from now, I plan to celebrate in style. I’m flying to Las Vegas for a conference about the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. (You should note that the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, references the number 42 in the chapter There is a Solution – coincidence? I think not. I have tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show Ka at the MGM Grand and  reservations at  Craftsteak and a date local guy there.

I will have a freshly inked tattoo from my friend Matt at Jinx Proof tattoos in Georgetown – Matt is designing it and is fully aware of the importance of 42 and it’s significance  to the universe so it might incorporate a lot of things including, but not limited to: two white mice, at towel, the words “Don’t Panic” (which are written on the cover of each Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy)… well, we’ll see what he comes up with in a few days.

So happy start to my birthday celebration to one and all, I know you’ve all been waiting for this day all your lives and I thank you for being so patient. If we don’t make it through the end of the year (perhaps they’ll come and destroy our planet to make way for a hyper-space bypass) I hope to see you all at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe if not before then.

Below you’ll find a few cultural references to the number 42 (from wikipedia):

On the Internet

The number 42 and the phrase, “Life, the universe, and everything” have attained cult status on the Internet. “Life, the Universe, and Everything” is a common name for the off-topic section of an Internet forum and the phrase is invoked in similar ways to mean “anything at all”. Many chatbots, when asked about the meaning of life, will answer “42”. Several online calculators are also programmed with the Question. If you type the answer to life the universe and everything into Google (without quotes or capitalising the small words), the Google Calculator will give you 42, as will Wolfram’s Computational Knowledge Engine.[18] Similarly, if you type the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything into DuckDuckGo, the 0-click box will read “42”.[19] In the online community Second Life, there is a section on a sim called “42nd Life.” It is devoted to this concept in the book series, and several attempts at recreating Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, were made. In Facebook Chat there is an emoticon for 42 created by typing :42: .

Shortly after Adams died in 2001, the Darwin Awards Forums announced that, in his honour, the number of posts required for a member to get out of “newbie” status would henceforth be decreased from 50 to 42.

In the OpenOffice.org software, if you type into any cell of a spreadsheet =ANTWORT(“Das Leben, das Universum und der ganze Rest”), which means the answer to life, the universe and everything, the result is 42.[20]

ISO/IEC 14519-2001/ IEEE Std 1003.5-1999, IEEE Standard for Information Technology – POSIX(R) Ada Language Interfaces – Part 1: Binding for System Application Program Interface (API), uses the number ’42’ as the required return value from a process that terminates due to an unhandled exception. The Rationale says “the choice of the value 42 is arbitrary” and cites the Adams book as the source of the value.

The random seed chosen to procedurally create the whole universe including all the regions, constellations, stars, planets, moons and mineral distribution of the online massively multi-player computer game EVE Online was chosen as 42 by its lead game designer in 2002.[21]

Cultural references

The Allen Telescope Array, a radio telescope used by SETI, has 42 dishes in homage to the number.[22]

In the TV show Lost, 42 is the last of the mysterious numbers, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42. In an interview with Lostpedia, producer David Fury confirmed this was a reference to Hitchhiker’s.[23]

The TV show The Kumars at No. 42 is so named because show creator Sanjeev Bhaskar is a Hitchhiker’s fan.[24]

The band Coldplay‘s album Viva la Vida includes a song called “42“. When asked by Q magazine if the song’s title was Hitchhiker’s-related, Chris Martin said, “It is and it isn’t.”[25]

The band Level 42 chose its name in reference to the book.[26]

The episode “42” of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who was named in reference to the Answer. Writer Chris Chibnall acknowledged that “it’s a playful title”.[27]

Ken Jennings, defeated along with Brad Rutter in a Jeopardy match against IBM‘s Watson, writes that Watson’s avatar which appeared on-screen for those games showed 42 “threads of thought,” and that the number was chosen in reference to this meme.[28]

My Tattoos

More than a few men recently have commented on my tattoos (and piercings) and said that having tattoos means your into kinky sex. No really, this is what they keep telling me. This really kind of throws me, I’ve had tattoos much longer than I’ve been having sex. Also I’ve had sex with people who have tattoos and really – a few of those encounters were pretty boring.

In the gay community over the years they established lots of little tells to let other closeted gays know they were there or what they were into. Rainbow stickers are everywhere now, but 10 – 20 years ago and longer people had to be much more discrete about these type of things so they developed these markers for others. There is even a hanky code for what you might or might not be into – I should warn you clicking on that link might be TMI for you.

For me it’s about art, about expressing myself and the things I like. Each and every tattoo I have is based on something I like or something that means a lot to me. Superman, lightning bolts, Greek gods, AA, bear paw prints, old nicknames…

My first tattoo was done by my friend Ted or maybe his brother Tim (I was 14, stoned or drunk and my memory isn’t what it used to be) using a needle, some thread and india ink. That symbol was painfully put on one needle stick at a time and represented the 12 Greek gods. It was crude in comparison to what I have on my body now, but at that age it was pretty cool thing to have.

Since then I’ve gotten more complicated with what I want on my body – my first tattoo as an adult covered up that tattoo that I got when I was young, but I wasn’t very clear about what I wanted it to be and gave the artist too much leeway so it ended up being a question mark that isn’t really very pretty – it looks better now that I’ve surrounded it by a dragon (which was hand drawn on my arm by this guy at Jinx Proof, so cool. The next was the Superman symbol, then the lightning bolt, armband, bear claw print, tramp stamp (Zeus), AA symbol on my leg, and finally the ancient Greek Gods tat on my back.

None of those, well except maybe the tramp stamp and the arm band, says anything about sex. Well not that I know of. Its like when I wear a cross necklace – I don’t wear a cross necklace because I believe in crucifying believers – I just happen to like how cross necklaces look sometimes.

Recently with the Sikh shooter the press has been throwing this statement out there: 

An agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms told ABC News that the shooter had tattoos.

Tattoos don’t make a shooter anymore than sandals make a monk. That’s the motivation behind this post (even though I did have several men express that my tattoos meant I was into kinky sex – which I’m not…. well, what did you have in mind exactly? )

I do sometimes worry about my tattoos and them being misinterpreted by others. Lightning bolts, dragons and Superman can all be associated with the KKK and I keep my head shaved. But really, I’m just an ordinary gay guy that likes tattoos – I have no hidden agendas (well none that I’m ready to share with the world, my manifesto will be on the New York Times Best Seller list – I’m certain) or particular hates of any kind of people. I dislike humans in general, but I don’t target specific groups to hate, really it takes too much effort.

I just really don’t like when we associate bad/stupid/moronic/crazy people with what they wear or how they look. After the Aurora shootings movie theaters banned folks from wearing masks when going to the theater – the guy who shot those people didn’t buy a ticket, he came in through the back door. After Columbine schools across the country banned black trench coats. After the Amish school shooting in PA in 2006, our President expressed his concern of school violence (this last one I’m not sure which was the more bad/stupid/moronic/crazy  – the former President or the shooter).

You know the old saying: don’t judge a book by its cover.

Year in Review – kind of I guess

I feel like I should write something on here. Most of the year I’ve had a minimum of four posts a month, but this month so far it’s only been my birthday trip. The last couple of days I’ve thought about writing something and just couldn’t find anything that really struck out as needing to be wrote about. So after deleting another few sentences I thought I’d say, “Hey, I don’t know what to write about.”

Phew! I feel much better now!

It’s been similar in what I’m reading this year, haven’t really found a book that had me engrossed so much or made me want to spread that I had read it. The notable exception being the latest from George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons. I struggled with the first three chapters of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I think I’m interested now and might finish it before the end of the year – or at least before I see the movie. So many people have raved about it I feel the need to see what the fuss is all about. I’m sure it’s a great book, part of the reason I’m not really into it is comic books. With DC’s new 52 released this summer I have a slew of new comics that I’m reading and some of them are really really good – even though they’ve changed the fundamental parts of what has long been their history. For example, did you know Wonder Woman’s history has changed so that now she was NOT formed out of clay and brought to life by the gods? Yep, now her mother had a torrid affair with Zeus (he gets around) and to hide that from the jealous Hera they made up the story about the clay… so, there I am – reading Wonder Woman. I’m also slowly rereading A New Pair of Glasses – which you should too if you’re in recovery.

For superhero movies this year, I really loved seeing Chris Hemsworth without his shirt multiple times in the movie Thor, but thought Captain America was the best superhero movie of the year. Ironic as each and every preview was unappealing to me. The complete opposite for Green Lantern which I thought had such good previews – turns out those were the only parts of the movie I liked at all.

I’ve personally changed a lot this year – I’ve gotten five new tattoos, a new ear piercing (8 gauge), and been working out at the gym with a personal trainer. I’ve lost a few pounds and firmed up in places that guys have been complimenting me on (chest, abs… whatevs). I’ve also changed my diet up a bit – more fruit, smaller portions, less pizza, more nuts. Seriously an apple a day. As a result of these things (well maybe not the tats or piercing) my cholesterol lowered considerably making my doctor a very happy man.

This year I’ll have three trips to the Midwest, a few trips to San Antonio that I wish I could do over, two trips to Ft Lauderdale and Virginia Beach and a trip to Canada. That’s slowed down from last year with a one or two trips to San Antonio a month, plus Maui, SF, WI, Ft Lauderdale and VA Beach. I travel to much, but I doubt that’ll change any time soon.

I started watching some TV shows this year that I really enjoyed: Dr. Who, Breaking Bad, Son’s of Anarchy, Homeland, Dexter, Louie and more. Seriously these are some kick ass shows and if you haven’t seen them it’s your loss. OK, I’ll admit that I enjoy Son’s of Anarchy for the sexy bikers too – but the story lines are incredible. Most of these shows have been on for a while, pick up the first seasons, you’ll get hooked.

Like most of the rest of the world I fell back in love with Adele with the release of 21 – it was released in January, but really struck home with me after the fiance departed. I’m also enjoying the Green Album a re-imagining of the songs from The Muppet Show. 3 Doors Down new album Time of My Life, Bruno Mars, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, David Nail, John Legend… well a lot of music.

I’ve watched a few of the Republican debates this year – after I couldn’t stomach them anymore I turned to Twitter to watch other peoples funny comments about them. It would be incredibly funny if these crazy people weren’t serious. It’s been an interesting year watching the protests, the news, game playing with lives at stake. I hope we can get through this mess and move past the old guard that is only serving as an obstacle to progress.

It was a good year, it was a bad year… it was a year. Some of the events that happened in my life were pretty hard to get through. I found myself crying more than I wanted to this year – any time I cry is more than I want to. This is another opportunity for me to grow, change and get better. I’ll learn to love again – probably! 😉

Through every trial and tribulation and every moment of jubilation and wonderment I’ve had the best of friends there with me. Really couldn’t ask for anything more could you?