My maternal grandmother suffered a stroke yesterday morning – just over 12 years since another stroke left her with short-term memory loss. She was transported to a local hospital and given a drug that will hopefully lessen the effects of the stroke, but so far things aren’t looking very good. She is having a hard time communicating (sometimes not at all), and the right side of her body has been affected.
Yesterday afternoon, after sitting in two different hospitals all day, my nerves were frazzled. I was also starving, since the call came early in the morning before I had a chance to eat anything. Several family members were gathered in the CCU waiting room, and to say there was a wide range of individuals would be an understatement. There were young and old, Pentecostals and Baptists, blacks and whites, married and divorced, straight and gay, smokers and nonsmokers.
Although things are always a little awkward around my extended family because of the whole religion/gay thing, you can imagine my surprise when one of the women I thought was the least judgmental struck up the following conversation with me after a brief group discussion about Obama.
Her: I am very conservative.
Me: No! You are probably the least conservative person in this room.
Her: No, really. I am very conservative.
Me: What makes you conservative?
Her: I don’t believe in abortion.
Me: I consider myself to be pro-choice, but I would never have one if I were female. However, I believe a woman should have access to a safe abortion if she wants one.
Her: I also don’t agree with all the gay marriage stuff.
Her: Because I think we need to follow God’s plan.
Me: Do you think people are born gay?
Me: Then why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry if God made them that way?
Her: We are all born into sin. There are many different sins, but the Bible says men will leave the natural use of a woman and turn to other men.
Me: But I didn’t do that. I wasn’t attracted to women before I was gay, so I didn’t leave women and turn to men.
Her: I know, but the Bible also says he will turn people over to a reprobate mind in the end times. Brian, I believe that if you would truly get saved, Jesus would change your mind.
Me: You actually think I would become attracted to women?
Her: I believe Jesus would change your mind.
And with that, I simply stopped talking. I also declined her invitation to join several of them for dinner.
Many years ago, Maya Angelou gave some excellent advice for people who feel like they are being attacked. She said people who cut you down are trying to “kill” you by tearing you apart bit by bit. She recommends that whenever you encounter a person trying to tear you down, you simply look at them and say “Stop it.” I think there could be great power in that, and I intend to start putting it to use.
There is a story in the news almost every day about homophobia. People deny tips based solely on the assumption that the person serving them is gay. Homosexuals are beaten and killed in Russia and around the world. Protestors chant “God hates fags!” outside funeral services for members of our nation’s military.
Less news-worthy instances of homophobia affect me personally. After eight years together, there is still no legal recognition of my relationship. And after eight years, most of my family members still don’t acknowledge my partner. My immediate family, in many ways, is fractured.
What’s the common denominator? Religion.
I haven’t been to church in around nine months. While discussing that fact with a friend recently, I was finally able to verbalize my feelings on the matter. What it boils down to is that almost everything negative in my life is a result of religion.
Religion separates my family. Religious zealots threaten my safety and security. Religion makes my world a less welcoming place.
While I still believe in God, I have no desire to associate myself with a denomination. My church might preach equality for everyone, but the people driving by don’t automatically realize that. If I say, “I’m a Christian” or “I go to church,” I worry that many will assume I am just like the other bigots who go around bashing those who are different.
I don’t need religion to be moral. I don’t need church in order to go to heaven (if there is one.) What I need is for people who call themselves “Christian” to at least make an effort to live up to the name. Don’t pretend you love everyone when you are so clearly filled with hate.
Yesterday evening around 6 pm, a friend and I arrived at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville to see Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. To say we were excited would be a huge understatement. After many months of waiting, we were finally in line (and a rather long one) to see one of the hardest-working women in show business.
After standing for around an hour, the doors finally opened and the long line began to snake its way forward. I had purchased two tickets through StubHub (a peer-to-peer ticket portal owned by TicketMaster) the day they went on sale several months ago. Although I was on TicketMaster’s website before tickets even went on sale to the general public, I was unable to get the page to load or order tickets. A check on Twitter confirmed many others were having the same problem. The concert was sold out within 20 minutes, so after reading some reviews and their guarantee, I decided to give StubHub a try.
The two tickets I purchased were for the floor – which was general admission and standing-room only – and they had been marked up from their original price of $85/each to $200/each. I have been to enough concerts to know how this kind of thing works, so I wasn’t surprised at the inflated pricing for a sold out event. I quickly received the tickets via email and printed them.
When we arrived at the door to have our tickets scanned by the attendant, we were informed that they were marked “Refunded” and that we should visit the box office for more information. I immediately understood that this was a very bad sign, so we quickly made our way to the box office inside the arena.
After showing our printed tickets to a rather nice lady inside, she motioned for her manager to come over, pointed to the name printed on the tickets (the original buyer), and the manager donned a headset to explain through the safety glass that our tickets were counterfeit and we were the third group of people to have already been declined entry for this event. She said the money should have already been refunded to my card, but I should contact StubHub for more information. She marked VOID across both tickets several times before handing them back to us.
Needless to say, we were both devastated. I asked about other tickets, and we were told there were only three tickets available – two for $509 near the stage and another one in a section much further away. I was stunned at the price, so shook my head and walked away to call Honey for his opinion.
After reassuring him of StubHub’s guarantee and being fairly certain I could get my money back, we went back to buy tickets. The lady motioned for us to wait a moment, watched another lady typing like mad into a computer, then turned back and said they now had front row seats in the side section nearest the stage available for the same price she had quoted me earlier. I know tickets are often held back by the performer for family, friends, and business associates only to be released to the public at the last minute if they aren’t filled, but I figured “front row” meant something completely different to these box office people than it did to me. Anyway, I bought them and scurried off to find a quiet place to call StubHub.
Because finding a quiet place in an arena filled with thousands of people is next to impossible, I instead called Honey again and asked him to contact StubHub for me. I gave him all of the information I thought he would need before hanging up to find a restroom. We now had assigned seats instead of having to worry about literally standing in a crowded “pen” for the entire evening, so we hung out in the lobby a few minutes before heading inside to see what kind of vantage point we had.
Much to my surprise, our seats were actually on the front row of our section. We were on the left side of the stage, but in line with the people who were at the front of the floor section. Where they were literally penned in, barely able to move, and unable to exit the area for restrooms or drinks, we were elevated, right on the aisle, and able to see the stage much better than many of them. If I was going to have to worry about whether I was getting a refund from StubHub the entire show, at least this would be the silver lining.
A few minutes into the opening act, Honey sent me a text saying StubHub was refunding the full purchase price of my original tickets and they might even offer me extra compensation for my trouble. I was beyond relieved and finally able to relax and enjoy the show.
And what a show it was! The opening act, Luke James, was very good. I had never heard of him, but he had an excellent voice and stage presence. After a 30 minute or so set, the house lights came up and rap music began blaring from the speakers. This combined with the anticipation of Beyonce threw most of the audience into party mode, and we spent the next hour dancing, laughing, and doing the wave. It was simply too much fun.
Beyonce was late getting to the stage, but she was definitely worth waiting for. You simply cannot imagine how loud the crowd screamed when she took the stage (and we pretty much never stopped screaming for the remainder of the evening.) She looked beyond fabulous; just as pretty in person as she is on television. She never stopped singing and dancing for nearly two hours. I don’t know where she finds the energy, but wow.
All in all, this was one of the most enjoyable concerts I have been to so far. Despite the fact that my voice is gone and my ears are still ringing, what could have went so horribly wrong turned out to be almost perfect.
UPDATE: I have absolutely nothing bad to say about StubHub. They were extremely courteous and professional throughout this entire experience, and went above and beyond to make sure I was satisfied. They refunded the full purchase price of the counterfeit tickets and gave me a $200 coupon to use toward a future purchase.
One of the main worries I have had over not having children is that there very well might not be anyone to take care of me when I’m old. Most of us rely on our children or grandchildren to make important decisions regarding our health and well being when we are physically or mentally unable to do it ourselves. This is the best case scenario, and like everything else in life, things don’t always go as planned.
I have written about Mrs. J’s son a couple of times over the past few years. He wasn’t exactly my favorite person when he moved in with her several years ago, but I have learned to like the old fart over time. He’s grouchy, selfish, and lazy, but he also has an excellent sense of humor and good math skills. Surely that counts for something!
My cell phone rang last Friday afternoon, but I didn’t answer since I didn’t recognize the number. I googled it a few minutes later to see if it was someone familiar. It turned out to be some medical alert company, so we immediately suspected Tommy was in trouble. Honey started trying to get him on the phone to no avail, so we jumped in the car and sped towards his home, which is only a few miles away. I called the alert company back and confirmed that they were indeed calling because Tommy had pressed the button on his necklace, and soon Honey and I were flying down the highway at over 80 mph with our flashers on.
As we turned into Tommy’s driveway in the quiet little subdivision that we moved out of a few years ago and jumped out of the car, I was startled to hear, “Keep your hands where I can see them! And, you, come here!” I glanced over my shoulder to see a state police car sitting behind us in the driveway, and a uniformed officer glaring at us with one hand on his gun.
It only took a split second for me to get angry. They say no good deed goes unpunished, but it should have been pretty clear that someone up to mischief wouldn’t be driving around with their hazard lights on. I yelled back that we had a medical emergency, while Honey tried to explain why we were there.
“What are you, a medical professional?” the cop sneered. “No,” Honey explained, “but for all we know, there could be a dead man inside this house right now.”
It finally seemed to register with the police officer that we needed to go inside, so he followed us through the door where we found Tommy slumped in the floor, bleeding and incoherent. Honey picked him up, then we carefully walked him to his recliner where he collapsed like dead weight. The officer went outside to call an ambulance while we tried to assess the situation.
When paramedics finally arrived, they checked his blood sugar. It was high. They checked his blood pressure and couldn’t even get a reading it was so low. His mouth was drooping on one side and his speech was slurred, so they began having him raise his arms and legs. It was very evident that something was wrong with the left side of his body.
Because none of Tommy’s four sons live in this part of the country, his wife is dead, and his mother is in the nursing home, there was no one to go with him to the hospital except us. We drove to the emergency room and sat for the next several hours while they ran a multitude of tests. When they finally got him into a room upstairs, it was nearing 10 o’clock and we were tired and hungry. I was also still fuming over our incident with the cop, even though he did apologize to Honey before he left, explaining that we “exited the vehicle in a manner consistent with suspicious behavior.” Whatever the hell that means.
I had called two of Tommy’s sons on the way to the hospital. One didn’t answer, so I informed the one who did of the situation with their father and asked him to call his other brothers to let them know. Another son called my phone for an update while we were in the emergency room. I explained that he was very sick with poor vital signs and was exhibiting symptoms of a stroke. He said he would call back the next day.
Although Tommy’s blood pressure and oxygen levels improved over the weekend, by Sunday evening he was moved into the Cardiac Care Unit due to a very fast heart rate. The doctors also think there is a blood clot in his left leg, and because he is having problems with mobility, they want to send him to the same nursing home his mother entered last year. Despite all of this, all four of his sons are still nowhere around.
So, what I have learned from this whole experience is that having children is no guarantee you won’t be left to the kindness of strangers in your old age. And I’m sure when I’m old and decrepit, cops will still be assholes.
Eight years ago today, I met Honey for the first time. We had connected through an online dating service, chatted for several nights, and finally agreed to meet in person. After spending the evening eating dinner and watching a movie with a very polite and quiet young man, I assumed he didn’t like me. You know what they say about assumptions…
This is now the longest relationship I have ever been in. I don’t want to jinx things, but I am happy, contented, and fulfilled. I consider him to be my greatest friend, and there can’t be anything much better than getting to spend your life with your best friend.
Weekend before last, we journeyed to Chattanooga, TN. We managed to pack several activities into our two-day trip, including a visit to Rock City, Ruby Falls, the saltwater and freshwater aquariums, and IMAX theater. Although I had toured Rock City before, the other experiences were new to both of us.
Chattanooga was warm and sunny when we arrived Friday afternoon. We parked and headed straight for the aquariums. Although they were very nice, we both decided the aquarium in Newport, KY, is much better. Of course Newport wasn’t as crowded and had the added benefit of Mighty Mike.
After a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant, we watched a 3D film at the IMAX theater titled Cities Under The Sea, which was about coral reefs and their important role in keeping our planet healthy.
We arrived at Rock City early Saturday morning to find conditions very foggy and overcast. I was really disappointed that the view from the top wasn’t as good as it would be on a clear day, but the sun began peeking out and conditions improved quickly. I love the outdoor part of Rock City, but I find the cave section of the tour very disturbing. I’m not exactly sure what neon-colored fairy tale characters have to do with nature, and the whole things makes me feel like I’m on a bad acid trip.
After touring Rock City, we arrived at Ruby Falls to find throngs of tourist waiting in line. We waited for close to an hour before riding an elevator down into the cave below. From there, we walked half a mile through narrow, slippery passageways to catch a short glimpse of the waterfall. It was beautiful, but we felt like we were being herded around like cattle. Very little time was allowed for photographs, although I did manage to capture a few.
All in all it was a nice trip, and I would highly recommend Chattanooga for anyone looking for a nice vacation with plenty to do.