Saturday, April 28, 2012
According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, (the "CDC"):
- 1.2 million people in the United States (U.S.) are living with HIV infection.
- One in five (20%) of those people – or about one-quarter million people are unaware of their infection. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of Jersey City, New Jersey; Orlando, Florida; or Buffalo New York living with an infectious disease and not knowing it.
- 50,000 new cases of HIV infection every year in the United States since the epidemic began.
- An estimated 17,774 people with AIDS died in 2009, and nearly 619,400 people with AIDS in the U.S. have died since the epidemic began.
The scientific and medical communities are united in their belief that one of the most effective ways to control the spread of HIV is through early detection (testing) and early treatment (Anti retroviral drugs that reduce the viral load to undetectable levels).
And so, the fact that a rapid-test to detect HIV has been available for over a decade, but is still illegal to sell over-the-counter in drug stores, is nothing short of criminal.
On November 3, 2005, (six and a half years ago) the Blood Products Advisory Committee of the FDA wrote:
Over the past four years, FDA has approved a number of rapid HIV tests of low complexity, which are simple to use, require no special storage conditions and provide a highly accurate test result within 20 minutes for the detection of antibodies to HIV. Two of these tests were found to be simple enough to perform that they received a CLIA waiver, expanding the availability of testing.
But here’s the kicker. The FDA continued:
Since 2002, all rapid HIV tests were approved as restricted devices, with sales and use restrictions in place. Sale is restricted to clinical laboratories …and [t]he test is approved for use only by an agent of a clinical laboratory...[The] FDA has discussed HIV home-use test kits and home-use collection kits over the past 10 years in various forums…In the course of these discussions, appropriate regulatory criteria were identified for home-use specimen collection kits for HIV testing, but not for home-use HIV test kits. With improved test kit technology (ease of use, freedom from biohazards, and excellent performance characteristics), we believe it may be feasible to identify regulatory criteria for home-use HIV test kit.
Yesterday, while walking through my local pharmacy, I saw at-home pregnancy tests; tests to detect cocaine, marijuana, and a list of other drugs in one’s system; and of course, the blood glucose tests that many diabetics use on a daily basis. But in spite of the available technology, no home tests for HIV…even though the FDA itself concluded in 2005:
“Benefits of HIV home-use test kits include anonymous testing potentially leading to more people knowing their HIV status, empowerment of consumers in healthcare decisions, earlier diagnosis of HIV infection and therefore earlier intervention.”
And yet, in the decade that has passed since the rapid tests were denied for private home use, 500,000 new HIV cases have occurred. Of those, 100,000 people do not even realize they are infected.
Why does this continue?
The FDA is concerned that “Risks of HIV home-use test kits include inappropriate use of the test or test result, including misinterpretation,” “obtaining a test result without live counseling,” and “and use by minors.”
Yeah? And so what? Aren’t those the possibilities with any of the above mentioned at-home tests sold in a drug store? Would we rather that minors who are uncomfortable in a clinic simply walk around with HIV and infect others as their own health deteriorates for unknown reasons? Are they suggesting that pregnancy is a condition that does not require a support system?
Thousands of individuals would use a test at home rather than go to a clinic. People in rural communities who are reluctant to show their faces in a clinic where everybody-knows-everybody; men or women who have cheated on a partner; young people still ill-at-ease with discussing their activities; those for whom English is not a first language and for whom clinical translations are not readily available; those who are high-profile members of their communities; and those who were raised with a fear or stigma of HIV and AIDs - would all be more likely to test at home than walk into a clinic.
The reasons for denying the public access to these tests are entirely unacceptable.
In a perverse reversal of roles, it is the HIV clinics themselves who have been partly responsible for the delay in releasing these tests to the public. The very clinics and “AIDS Service Organizations” or “ASOs” who exist to help HIV positive persons navigate complex legal and medical support systems have a vested interest in keeping these tests out of public hands. Annually these agencies report the number of people to whom they provided services to private donors, government agencies who fund them on a ‘per-person-served’ basis, and to United Way Charities, which requires a “Number Served” figure as part of their funding formula. Thus, some of those agencies that are most vocal about “supporting” the HIV community are actually the very agencies that have given life to the idea that the FDA should prohibit private, at-home testing because it wouldn't be accompanied by “live counseling.”
A recent survey of over 1,500 people by "Who's Positive" revealed the gap in support between persons living with HIV and those with a clinic-based livelihood or agency role. The survey found:
"The survey gathered responses from 1,569 participants, 74% of which said that they would support an OTC rapid, oral swab HIV test that could be purchased in a retail store, if approved by the FDA. Other key findings include:
66% of the respondents who identify as a HIV-positive consumer support an OTC HIV test
80% of those aged to 30 support an OTC HIV test"
But then went on to show lower support by those with a vested interest in maintaining clinic control"
"A majority or nearly 52% of those who identified as a paid member of an HIV/AIDS organization support an OTC HIV test
47% of those who identify as one who performs HIV testing support an HIV OTC test"
It is hypocritical, self-serving, and dangerous.
And once again, the issue is scheduled to be discussed before the FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee. OraSure has applied – again - for the approval of its OraQuick(R) Rapid HIV-1/2 test for sale in the U.S. consumer or over-the-counter market at a meeting scheduled for May 15, 2012.
The Company will be presenting its findings from a study of 5,800 subjects who believed they were HIV negative. When enrolled in a test-phase using their at-home testing product across 20 sites nationwide, more than 100 of them tested HIV positive.
The FDA has issued the following public notice, permitting public comment in person or in writing. You know what to do:
On May 15, 2012, the FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee will meet from 8:30 a.m. to approximately 5:00 p.m. to discuss the evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test.
The meeting will take place at the Hilton Washington DC/North, 620 Perry Pkwy., Gaithersburg, MD, Tel: 1-301-977-8900.
Interested persons may present data, information, or views, orally or in writing, on issues pending before the committee.
Written submissions may be made on or before May 8, 2012 by submitting them to:
Bryan Emery or Rosanna Harvey
1401 Rockville Pike, HFM-71, Rockville, MD 20852
or via e-mail: Bryan.Emery@fda.hhs.gov or email: Rosanna.Harvey@fda.hhs.gov
Oral presentations at the meeting from the public will be scheduled between approximately 1:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Those individuals interested in making formal oral presentations should notify Bryan Emery or Rosanna Harvey on or before April 30, 2012, and submit a brief statement of the general nature of the evidence or arguments they wish to present, the names and addresses of proposed participants, and an indication of the approximate time requested to make their presentation.
Time allotted for each presentation may be limited. If the number of registrants requesting to speak is greater than can be reasonably accommodated during the scheduled open public hearing session, FDA may conduct a lottery to determine the speakers for the scheduled open public hearing session. Those making a request to speak will be notified regarding their request by May 1, 2012.
The notice and complete description of the May 15 and May 16 meetings (as well as the link to the webcast for the hearings) is available on the FDA Website
[pictures: thanks to Tom Donohue of "Who's Positive"]
Thursday, April 26, 2012
In 1969, the vaunted Gallup Polling organization asked Americans about their attitudes towards legalizing marijuana. At that time, a mere 12% of Americans favored it, while 84% were opposed.
Today, support for legalizing marijuana has surpassed the 50% mark, with more Americans in favor than opposed. When asked about marijuana for medical use, support jumps to over 70%.
The advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws claims that marijuana is the third-most-popular recreational drug in America, behind only alcohol and tobacco. Some states have decriminalized marijuana's use, and some have made it legal for medicinal use. A growing crowd of Law Enforcement officials, as well as former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, have called for legalization.
So why are Democrats like Governor John Lynch (NH) and President Barack Obama digging their heels in on an issue that has become a no-brainer for most Americans?
Yesterday, the Republican-dominated legislature of New Hampshire passed a sweeping measure legalizing medical marijuana. . It would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions or the patient's designated caretaker to cultivate and possess up to six ounces of marijuana, four mature plants and 12 seedlings at a registered location.
But as he did in 2009, Gov. John Lynch declared he will veto the bill once again.
The NH House clearly has the votes to override his veto: the measure passed by a lopsided 236-96. However, the margin in the Senate was only 13-11 last month, short of the 15 votes needed for override in that chamber. The prime Senate sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe, (R-Strafford), said he was not giving up.
“We’ve gone from having one Senate Republican in support of this issue a few years ago to now having at least eight Senate Republicans ... I believe three additional Senate votes are very possible, and it’s a goal we’ll be working very hard to achieve in the coming weeks,” Forsythe said in a statement.
If Lynch’s position is frustrating, President Obama’s can only be described as an infuriating betrayal.
When he was running in 2008, Obama said he supported the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs” and that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws.” In fact, a Justice Department memo in March 2009 from Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal government raids on medical marijuana distributors who were in compliance with state and local law would end.
And yet, precisely the opposite has occurred.
During 2011, federal forces from several agencies raided 26 dispensaries across 13 Montana cities where medical marijuana is legal under state law. Other dispensaries were raided in California, Washington, Michigan, and Colorado. All told, the federal government has raided more than 100 dispensaries. All of the old Bush administration anti-medical marijuana appointees in key administration positions have been retained.
“I’m very disappointed,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), recently said. “They look more like the Bush administration than the Clinton administration...Obama now lags Pat Robertson in a sensible approach to marijuana.”
President Obama attempted to clarify his position on medical marijuana in an interview with Rolling Stone, telling publisher Jann Wenner that he can't "nullify congressional law."
"What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it's against federal law. I can't nullify congressional law," Obama said. "I can't ask the Justice Department to say, 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books.'
Of course, he can, and he has, quite recently:
The Executive Branch of government is a co-equal branch of government; in order to maintain the checks and balances that our system envisions, the Executive must exercise its own judgment. When Obama declared that the Executive branch would not defend legal actions against DOMA, (the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress) that is precisely what he did. He chose not to permit the Attorney General to act. When Harry Truman ordered the integration of the military in defiance of Congressional policy, that is exactly what he did as well.
His actions are in direct contradiction to his original campaign promises, and make no sense in the larger legal, moral or political environment.
If Obama loses progressive support on his left flank in his re-election bid, it is his own fault.
Blogger's Note: Before my father died of esophagal cancer, he expressed to me how he thought that Marijuana ought to be legalized - a strong turn of events for a man who was otherwise viewed as a conservative Republican. In his last days, medical cannabis was not available to him, so his pain was relieved by morphine, which put him into a state of near-sleep and confusion almost 24 hours a day. It was that experience that made Medical Marijuana an important issue for me.]
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Sharon Ann Palmer and Eugenie Victoria Bloch of Healthy Family Farms, LCC, were also arrested along with Stewart. Palmer was charged with producing milk without a license or permit since 2007 and selling as a vendor at community farmers markets.
Now, Obama has the Dept. of Justice going after small farmers under the guise of the post-911 “Bank Secrecy Act” which makes it a crime to deposit less than $10,000 if someone earns more than that.
“The level we deposited was what it was and it was about the same every week,” Randy Sowers told Frederick News. The Sowers own and run South Mountain Creamery in Middletown, Maryland.
Admittedly, when the Sowers earned over $10,000 in February, and learned they’d have to fill out paperwork at the bank to justify such large deposits, they simply rolled the deposits over to the next day to keep them below the none-of-your-fucking-business amount, rather than waste time on bureaucratic red tape aimed at flagging terrorism or other illegal activities.
Unfortunately, the Feds call this “Structuring,” which is the federal criminal offense of splitting up bank deposits so as to keep them under a threshold such as $10,000 above which banks have to report transactions to the government.
While being questioned, the Sowers were presented with a seizure order. In fact, the feds had already emptied their bank account of $70,000. The Dept. of Justice has since sued to keep $63,000 of the Sowers’ money, though they have been convicted of no crime.
Without funds, they will be unable to make purchases for the spring planting.
When a similar action was taken against Taylor’s Produce Stand last year, the feds seized $90,000, dropped the charges, and kept $45,000 of Taylor’s money.
Knowing that most farms operate on a razor-thin thin margin, such abuse of power wipes out a family’s income, and for a bonus, the feds enhance the monopoly power of Monsanto and corporate agribusiness. Nationally, the numbers of federal bank seizures and prosecutions are up 8.8 percent from last year, and up 57.1 percent from five years ago.
Of course, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and other criminal banksters are still in operation, despite committing millions of acts of fraud during mortgage games. But the DOJ prioritizes squashing family farmers since it’s easier to pick the low-hanging fruit than do battle with well-financed criminals who’ve illegally seized the homes of millions of US citizens.
Former Maryland assistant U.S. attorney Steven Levin told the Frederick News, “The emphasis is on basically seizing money, whether it is legally or illegally earned. It can lead to financial ruin for business owners, and there’s a potential for abuse here by the government.”
Sunday, April 22, 2012
As President, Roosevelt lobbied Congress hard for conservation and protection of American lands and resources. He signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 (An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities), which gave the President authority by executive order to restrict the uses of public lands owned by the federal government. The Act resulted from concerns about protecting Native American ruins and artifacts on federal lands in the West. The Act permits immediate protection while Congress goes through the sometimes lengthy process of creating a National Park. Roosevelt first used the Act to protect the Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Later, when Congress refused his pleas to create the Grand Canyon National Park, Roosevelt used the Act to provide immediate protection to the area until a more conservation-minded Congress could agree on National Park status for the area. The Act continues to be used today; On November 1, 2011, President Barack Obama used it to establish the Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia.
In addition to creating 18 National Monuments under the Antiquities Act, Roosevelt signed into law the creation of five National Parks, the nations’ first 51 Bird Reserves, four Game Preserves, and 150 National Forests. Over 230,000,000 acres of American soil was placed into some form of protection by Roosevelt. No President before, or since, has so expanded the protection of America’s wild and fragile lands and habitats.
Silent Spring is named as #5 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Nonfiction, and as one of the 25 greatest science books of all time by the editors of Discover Magazine.
Salatin's grandfather had been an avid gardener and beekeeper and a follower of J. I. Rodale, the author who pioneered Rodale Press and Prevention Magazine. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Salatin began his own business selling rabbits, eggs, butter and chickens from his family farm at the Staunton Curb Market while he was still in high school. Today, Salatin raises livestock using entirely holistic methods of animal husbandry, free of potentially harmful chemicals, on his Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. His 550-acre farm is featured prominently in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006) and the documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh. Meat from the farm is sold by direct-marketing to consumers and restaurants, and is restricted to a four-hour radius, which Salatin calls his “foodshed.” "We want [prospective customers] to find farms in their areas and keep the money in their own community," says Salatin. "We think there is strength in decentralization and spreading out rather than in being concentrated and centralized.”
A self-described "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer," Salatin has popularized the notion of both “chicken tractors” (portable coops) and grass-fed beef, and is highly critical the increasingly regulatory and heavy-handed approach taken by the federal government agencies towards small farming operations. He spends a hundred days a year lecturing at colleges and to environmental groups and is one of the nations’ strongest voices for local, “beyond organic,” sustainable food production networks.
The field of environmental economics is often dominated by two extreme: at one end is the notion that human beings will plunder ‘free’ resources, as evidenced by the destruction of fisheries, whales, and the near-extinction of buffalo on the American plains in the late 1880s. Known as the “Tragedy of the Commons” (the name of a seminal 1968 essay by Garrett Hardin), it is often thought to be redressed through strong, top-down government regulations or prohibitions. At the polar opposite extreme is a body of work influenced by Ronald Coase (himself a Nobel Prize winning economist), which emphasizes the benefits possible through the privatization of the ownership sensitive resources (whether by Non-Profit groups such as the Sierra Club, or by profit-seeking corporations).
Ostroms’ work emphasized a different model, a ‘third’ way that results in both environmental sustainability and economic efficiency in the management of what she calls “Common Pool Resources” (CPRs). By using hundreds of examples around the world, Ostrom showed that when groups of local residents are empowered with authority to make decisions about local resources – unhindered by top-down laws and “one-size-fits-all” national policies - healthier environmental systems result. Her work lays down principles for the decentralization of environmental regulations and empowerment of local communities.
Ostrom is on the faculty of both Indiana University and Arizona State University. She holds a Distinguished Professor at Indiana University and is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University in Bloomington, as well as Research Professor and the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in Tempe. Ostrom also serves as a lead researcher for the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Tech and funded by USAID.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
One of the most significant areas of research in recent years for this agency has been the effect of Hydraulic Fracturing (or, more simply, “Fracking”). In spite of a “gag order” thrown up as an obstacle to the scientists' work in 2006 under President George W. Bush, the agency has finally weighed in on the public debate about fracking. A new USGS Abstract presented this week at a meeting of the Seismological Society of America concluded that since 2001, the average number of 3.0-or-greater earthquakes each year in the US has spiked significantly, resulting in a six-fold increase in 2011 over 20th century levels…and that these earthquakes are “almost certainly” man-made, the result of fracking.
Hydraulic Fracturing is the widening of fractures in underground layers of rock caused by the high-pressure injection of chemicals with water. This process is used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction by petrochemical companies. High-volume hydraulic fracturing can force as much as 2 to 3 million gallons of fluid per well. It is a growing method of energy extraction, as it is estimated by the International Energy Agency that the global use of natural gas will rise by more than 50% by 2035, and energy companies around the world scramble to locate gas in geological formations conducive to fracking.
Scientists first tied the disposal of resource-extraction wastewater with setting off earthquakes in Colorado more than 50 years ago. Wastewater injections from 1962 to 1966 at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal well near Denve were found to have triggered earthquakes, as the removal of huge volumes of oil, gas and water significantly changed underground pressures and stresses in the rock.
USGS scientists report that from 1970 until 2000, the middle of the country averaged 21 quakes In 2009 this jumped to 50, and then in 2011 it jumped again to 134 in 2011, occurring precisely in the locations where hundreds of fracking operations were taking place.
“In preliminary findings, our scientists cite a series of examples for which an uptick in seismic activity is observed in areas where the disposal of wastewater through deep-well injection increased significantly. These areas tend to be in the middle of the country – mostly in Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio,” David Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior (which oversees the USGS), wrote that these quakes were big enough to be felt by a great number of people.
The characteristially guarded laguage reflects the fact that in December 2006, the Bush Administration announced a revision in rules for USGS publications, requiring that USGS leadership and communications staff be notified "of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.”
In other words, scientists were told to submit their findings to political appointees who could sanitize and censor reports that might harm the energy industry. The release of the Abstract this week, then, is even more remarkable given those restrictions.
It was perhaps precipitated by an independent report issued by seismologists at Columbia University, who also concluded that a series of earthquakes that hit the Youngstown, Ohio area throughout 2011 (including a magnitude 4.0 quake on New Year's Eve)were linked to a hydraulic fracking disposal well. High-volume fracking has also been suspected in a string of earthquakes and massive fish and bird kills in Arkansas last year.
In addition to the problems associated with making severe changes to subsurface pressures, detractors have identified other environmental impacts of fracking, including contamination of ground water, and the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface with their concurrent health effects. In 2010, “Gasland,” a film directed by Josh Fox, won the award for Best US Documentary Feature at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010.
A trailer from that documentary appears below, including a clip showing flammable gas coming out of a residential sink faucet:
Published USGS ABstract (with required sanitized language):
Are Seismicity Rate Changes in the Midcontinent Natural or Manmade?
ELLSWORTH, W. L., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; HICKMAN, S. H., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; LLEONS, A. L., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; MCGARR, A., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; MICHAEL, A. J., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; RUBINSTEIN, J. L., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA,
A remarkable increase in the rate of M 3 and greater earthquakes is currently in progress in the US midcontinent. The average number of M >= 3 earthquakes/year increased starting in 2001, culminating in a six-fold increase over 20th century levels in 2011. Is this increase natural or manmade? To address this question, we take a regional approach to explore changes in the rate of earthquake occurrence in the midcontinent (defined here as 85° to 108° West, 25° to 50° North) using the USGS Preliminary Determination of Epicenters and National Seismic Hazard Map catalogs. These catalogs appear to be complete for M >= 3 since 1970. From 1970 through 2000, the rate of M >= 3 events averaged 21 +- 7.6/year in the entire region. This rate increased to 29 +- 3.5 from 2001 through 2008. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, 50, 87 and 134 events occurred, respectively. The modest increase that began in 2001 is due to increased seismicity in the coal bed methane field of the Raton Basin along the Colorado-New Mexico border west of Trinidad, CO. The acceleration in activity that began in 2009 appears to involve a combination of source regions of oil and gas production, including the Guy, Arkansas region, and in central and southern Oklahoma. Horton, et al. (2012) provided strong evidence linking the Guy, AR activity to deep waste water injection wells. In Oklahoma, the rate of M >= 3 events abruptly increased in 2009 from 1.2/year in the previous half-century to over 25/year. This rate increase is exclusive of the November 2011 M 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks. A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region. While the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade, it remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
(Guest post submitted by Candace Michele)
"I am usually not one to get into the politics of people’s opinions of law enforcement. I know there are good and bad people in every walk of life, but I always try to give the benefit of the doubt to those that are in a position to “protect and serve”. But yesterday, a harsh reality was “served” when I received a phone call from a very near and dear person to me. The words I heard coming through my phone were nothing I would have expected in a million years—a very distraught voice saying, “The cops just shot and killed Cisco! They killed my best friend!” In shock, I asked what had happened. At the time, I only got a very brief description, as Michael Paxton was in shock and traumatized over the horrific loss of his dog. I immediately drove to his place (which is about 30 minutes away). When I arrived, I found him clutching Cisco’s body, crying and trying to understand what had just transpired.
Apparently, unbeknown to Mike, there was a domestic disturbance between a male and a female in his neighborhood, and the Austin Police Dept was called in. Unfortunately (seems like such an understatement), Mike found out quickly about the call when he walked into his driveway from his back yard where he and Cisco, his Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Healer), had been playing frisbee. Police officer T. Griffin, Badge #6778, was standing behind Mike’s vehicle, in his driveway. Before Mike even realized Officer Griffin was there, the officer had pulled his gun on Mike, yelling at him to freeze and put his hands up. In a panic, Mike stated to the officer that he lives there, and asked what and why this was happening.
Hearing the commotion, Cisco came from the back yard and into the driveway, barking at the officer, as any dog would do. Mike’s hands in the air, a gun pointed at him, he was afraid for his life, and therefore could not move or attempt to quiet or restrain Cisco. He told the officer that Cisco would not bite him, to please not shoot his dog. Almost immediately, a bullet was put into Cisco’s chest, killing him instantly. Mike still leaned against his truck, unable to move, was not allowed to even hold his best friend as he took the last breath of his abruptly-shortened life.
As was realized after this horrific event had transpired, THE COP WAS AT THE WRONG ADDRESS!!! An innocent man was traumatized by not only having a gun pulled on him by someone that is supposed to be there “to protect and to serve”, but his best friend of seven-and-a-half years was wrongly shot and killed. FOR WHAT?! Because Officer Griffin did not confirm where he was supposed to be before these events transpired!
Nothing will likely happen to Officer Griffin for any of this, as his supervisor arrived after everything took place, and she defended his actions. Mike was given the officers’ information, as well as a phone number to call, if desired. No apologies, no sympathy. Nothing. The officer even told Mike that Cisco should have been on a leash! IN HIS OWN YARD?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!
We ended up taking Cisco’s body to be buried at a friend’s house, out in the country. Four of us spent two hours digging and breaking through limestone-filled ground, to make a hole large enough to lay to rest this man’s best friend and companion.
There are so many things wrong with this situation, that I just can’t even express it in words. My heart aches for you Mike. I know how much you love Cisco, and how much Cisco loved you. Although I am not sure what justice can or will be served in this case, your story will not go unheard. Along with many of your friends, in an effort to gain some sort of justice for you and Cisco, I am tagging all of our local news media here to get the word out.
This type of excessive force has GOT to be stopped. There needs to be consequences for behaviors such as this. There needs to be a system of “checks and balances” used, to be certain this type of thing doesn’t happen anymore—none of this would have occurred, had the officer just VERIFIED THE CORRECT ADDRESS before pulling a gun on Mike and his dog. I urge anyone and everyone that reads this, to please share this story, and let it be known that these happenings aren’t just things we read about going on in some “other city”, but right here, seriously affecting people we know and love.
If you want further information, please feel free to contact Mike Paxton directly. [He is HERE on Facebook] He is looking for any help he can get in seeking justice for his dog’s unwarranted killing."
[Blogger's note: There is a Facebook Page named Justice for Cisco. But in addition, express your outrage to the Austin Police Department at 512-974-5030]
In all this time, I have learned that the most cost-effective way to stay right in Manhattan is to locate a good student hostel. Hostels are budget accommodations without many frills, and you share bathrooms with others on your floor. But they allow you to spend your money enjoying New York, rather than funding pricey real estate.
But I have also learned that some hostels are absolutely perfect for the budget traveler – and some are absolute horror stories. There are a number of websites that offer information about budget accommodations n New York, and even some that permit comments by visitors. Unfortunately, many of those comments are left by people who have only visited a location once, or who were unfamiliar with the concept of hostelling to begin with. Based on multiple trips to each of these hostels, I offer you my opinion of the absolute *best* - and *worst* - that New York City has to offer in accommodations.
The BEST – The Chelsea Highline Hotel (Link) at 184 11th Avenue, on the corner of West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood. Owned by Jazz Hostels, which has multiple locations, this has become my number one choice anytime I am staying in New York City. It is located across from Hudson River Park,
The Hostel itself appears to be just another undifferentiated grey-ish white apartment building from outside. But inside, one realizes one has found the best hostel in New York. The front desk staff are always attentive and as diverse as New York City itself. They are always pleasant and helpful. The small lobby has free wireless access if you bring your laptop, and in the mornings the hostel provides bagels and coffee gratis. (OK, I have to admit, the bagels were not classic NY bagels, and there was no cream cheese, and they offered powdered creamer instead of milk, so I didn’t really partake – but it is an amenity that most hostels do not offer at all.)
The rooms are located on the second, third, and fourth floors; I have been in nine of them on all three floors (picture at the top of this post).
The rooms are the largest I have ever experienced in a NYC hostel. The paint is fresh and neutral-colored. Each room has a sink/vanity/mirror, and new furniture that includes beds, night stands, rugs, a stool or chair, and some paintings. And amazingly, they all match, as if someone actually put some thought into making the guests’ stay pleasant. Double rooms (for couples) feature single, low platform beds or twin beds; “Family” rooms feature one queen bed and a bunk bed. The so-called “Family Rooms” are as roomy as a hostel gets; I have brought student groups to this hostel and four people can actually live in one room without tripping over each other. Doors close soundly and lock securely with no ‘gaps’ that characterize other hostels, and the rooms are pretty much soundproof. I have never been awakened by noise from other rooms.
The bathrooms are small “one-seaters,” located three to a floor. They are bright, clean, and newly-tiled, with efficient shelves to hold soap or shampoo, and hot water that actually works.
And unique to the Chelsea Highline: there is actually housekeeping service! Yes, someone comes in and makes your bed and empties your trash.
What would you pay for a night in NYC like this? If you like to be pampered at a hotel, a couple will easily spend between $200 and $400/night. The Chelsea Highline? Try $100 per night for a private double, or as little as $135 for a family room that sleeps four. And since the charges are based on the room, not the number of people, that means 4 friends can share a Family Room for about $35/night (plus NYC room taxes.)
As I said, I have *never* had a bad experience at the Chelsea (and I promise, the fact that my two favorite NYC nightspots – the Rawhide and the Eagle – are both within an easy 5 minute walking distance had nothing to do with my positive review. But of course, it doesn’t hurt either!)
The WORST – The Bowery’s Whitehouse Hotel, at 340 Bowery, between East 2nd (also called “Bond Street”) and East 3rd Street (also known as “Great Jones Street”). I will not even give you their web address: I do not want to be responsible for ever sending anyone to this house of horrors.
I will say this: if you are looking for the excitement, nightlife, and bohemian atmosphere of the East Village, the location of this hostel is unbeatable. The website makes it look like a pleasant stay, with subway access, on the funky east side. I beg of you – do not be deceived. It is beyond comprehension that the City of New York – which comes down hard on hostels – allows this place to exist.
I have stayed here on multiple occasions for a few reasons: first, the location really is fantastic; I can never believe that it could actually be so horrible every time, so I try it again; and, most often, I have stayed here because every other hostel in NYC was booked full. I will never do that again.
The Whitehouse is designed more like a homeless shelter than a hostel.
You may not take your key when you leave the hostel – it must be handed back in to the staff at the front desk. The staff may or may not be there when you return, or may be arguing with someone on the phone, and you may have to wait to get into your “room.”
I wrote “room” in quotes, because in actuality, there are no rooms. They have simply erected ‘partitions’ to divide each floor into units, slapping lime green and other cast-off paint colors on them. The partitions do not reach the ceiling: your ‘ceiling’ is a lattice work (with spaces large enough for you to stick your head – or entire body – through). That means that there is no quiet at all, because there is no ceiling blocking noise form the next unit. On multiple occasions we were awake for hours because we could hear every conversation taking place on the floor – even when people whispered.
The units are literally only large enough to fit a bed: you open your door, and there is about 10 square feet of floor space, and a bed fit into the unit and surrounded by partition walls on three sides. There are no sinks, no electric outlets (although there were exposed and capped wires dangling in the last unit I stayed in). The doors do not close completely flush: there are cracks and holes through which any passer-by can peer in.
Like the rooming units, the shower doors are broken and gaping. The first time I turned on a shower, the handle was improperly fitted against the broken tiling and I sliced open my knuckles. Long hair was wound around the shower curtain holders, and the water drained away from the drain flooding the floor and making it slimy.
The pipes are in need of serious repair. Hot water in the shower is a luxury; but as it courses through the building’s heating system, it bangs so loudly that the floor literally vibrates throughout the building. On my last night there, one toilet on the floor above us clogged and overflowed continuously; it completely drenched one neighboring unit, as the toilet water splashed on several more of us.
There is no wifi, breakfast, or amenities. Instead, the Whitehouse actually scams guests to hold on to funds. All guests are required to not only pay, but to put additional charges (an extra night) on their credit card as a “hold” against damages (how in the WORLD they would ever know how a room was damaged is beyond me, given their poor condition). When I checked out, I was told that the “hold” would take 10 days to clear, which is total nonsense. The desk clerk rolled her eyes at me when I objected, and insisted that this is their bank’s procedure and they couldn't change it. That, of course, is absolutely bogus. I launched into a speech about how I had paid several hundred dollars and was unable to sleep at all for two nights in a row and that the City Consumer Affairs Office was going to hear about this scam of my debit card. The ten-day hold (which was supposedly their ‘bank’s procedure”) on my debt card was suddenly lifted by the next day.
The Bowery’s Whitehouse entices unsuspecting travelers with nice pictures, a good website, a fantastic location, and available ‘rooms’ (for good reason!) – and then traps people in units with no room, no amenities, no ability to engage in peaceful sleep, and additional charges that normally stay on your card for 10 days.
If you’re thinking of staying here – don’t. Run. Far. Quickly.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
During last year’s Christmas season, we took a shopping trip to Fifth Avenue in New York City. Somewhere on the upper floors of the high-quality Bergdorf Goodman store, I rounded a corner and came “face to face” with a beautiful Portuguese Water Dog. Being a dog lover, I know I broke out in a smile from ear to ear as I dropped to my knees and greeted him.
This incident marks a growing trend I have noticed whereby dogs are being accepted more and more readily into the normal, daily human environment, and it is a trend I strongly support and enjoy. In the past, there was an assumption of “No Dogs Allowed!” in many business places, often justified by scientifically unsupportable fears about hygiene. And yet, when I walked into Home Depot and then a supermarket few years ago with a rejected baby lamb wrapped in a towel, no one uttered a negative word (after all, little lambs are cute…) A growing number of nursing homes and hospitals have recognized the therapeutic nature of animals, and have permitted access to pets by residents.
Much of the credit for this growing acceptance goes to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which was enacted in an effort to remove obstacles and improve access to services, offices, and business places that the non-disabled take for granted. Under the law, places of public accommodation – including office buildings, college campuses, supermarkets, apartment buildings, and just about any place that opens its doors to the public to conduct business – must have modified practices and procedures to permit the use of service animals by disabled people.
A year ago, the definition of “service animal” was revised in ADA regulations specifically to “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” Years ago, many people equated a service dog only with a “Seeing Eye Dog” for the blind, but the definitions of “disability“ – and thus the roles that service dogs perform – have greatly expanded. Service dogs” include dogs trained to provide support for a wide variety of disabilities, including sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, mental and physical disabilities. These dogs ‘sense’ and alert their owners of seizure onsets, open doors, pull wheelchairs, pick up and carry items, and prevent loss of emotional control. Unfortunately, one of the most confusing areas of the law is that the ADA does not protect an animal whose primary role is to provide “emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship,” or those animals normally classified as ‘therapy dogs.’ The difference is blurry: therapy dogs are also often trained to perform tasks that parallel “service dogs,” which are covered by the law.
A business owner who questions whether or not a dog is a service animal or “just” a pet is permitted under the ADA to ask only two questions:
“ Is the animal required because of a disability?”
“What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”
If it is obvious to a casual observer what the animal is trained to do, even these two questions should not be asked. They are intimidating intrusions into the life of a disabled person who is seeking to gain access, and overcome obstacles, and they should not be made to defend or fight for their rights in each business.
In addition, businesses are prohibited from asking certain questions. They may not inquire about the nature or extent of the person’s disability. And they may not require proof of the service animal’s documentation, certification or training.
Nonetheless, a growing number of college campuses – particularly in Massachusetts – are doing just that. Similar to the Milton Hershey School’s (Pennsylvania) claim that they can refuse admittance to an HIV positive student (who is protected by the ADA) because ‘schools are different,’ a number of community colleges in Massachusetts have begun to cobble together ‘service dog policies’ that go far beyond what the law permits: they request that visitors “register” their animals with numerous offices; they request proof of certification and training; they request written confirmation of the animals vaccinations – none of which can be required by any place of public accommodation under the ADA.
In at least one college, a draft version of a policy which had been proposed by the administration actually required that the disabled answer inquiries posed not only by faculty and staff, but by fellow students as well: a full-scale invasion of privacy of the disabled using a service animal. This is precsiely the intimidation that the ADA was meant to curtail.
In addition, in spite of the constant use of rhetoric proclaiming that public colleges ‘provide access to higher education,’ these policies attempt to comply with only the absolute minimal ADA requirements by refusing to cover even trained, certified therapy dogs in their access policies.
These colleges - who so often see themselves as bastions of progressive thought - would do better to join the growing societal consensus that dogs in a ‘human’ environment provide more benefits than danger, and that the movement towards increasing access to public facilities for all people requires a less reactionary approach.
Sunday, April 08, 2012
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Luke 4:18-19
With those words, Jesus proclaims the Christian message.
To care for the poor, the hurting, the prisoner, the sick and disabled. Other passages include specific concerns for widows, aliens, and orphans.
The “Christian” message has gotten a bad rap. Many of my liberal and gay friends have an almost knee-jerk, visceral reaction against “The Church.” Their reaction is understandable: the American Christian image is often limited to either the anti-scientific, academically deficient rantings of protestant fundamentalism on one hand, or the corporate and wildly-out-of-touch Roman Catholic hierarchy on the other. But anti-Christian jokes and comments still hurt, because as an educated, gay Christian, my faith is not the same as the caricature they so often see parading as Christianity.
The harsh, controlling, oppressive fundamentalist approach they see does not reflect the first several hundred years of the Christian Church. In fact, American fundamentalism is unique to the United States, and to the last one hundred and fifty years. It is a gross aberration.
In fact, American Evangelicalism is nothing short of an academically dishonest Cult.
For its first 400 years, the Church managed to operate without a single, agreed-upon set of Biblical texts. Rather than quote the Bible verse by verse, using excruciating hair-splitting exegetical methods, leaders in the early church quoted and misquoted from the Bible and other sources, loosely and freely, adding important ideas and drawing from multiple writers. Even Jesus himself does this: the quote at the top of this blog from Luke is such an example. Jesus is loosely quoting from two different earlier versions of Isaiah 61, and actually ends up stating a third version that is yet different from both.
The point is that for the early Church, a literal word for word dissection was never part of the program. Using the “Bible Only” as a Rule book for life was never part of the program either. And understanding everything written as “literal” was unknown to early Christian scholars.
Instead, in real Christianity, there is something much more holistic going on: it involves an understanding of the concepts and the ideas and the spirit that underlies the ancient writings and teachings. More important, it embraces a living, breathing, and growing understanding of man’s relationship with the spiritual and with each other that invites a constant re-discovery and better understanding of truths for each generation.
And overall, it is about love and caring for the entirety of the common creation. I think these passages bear out this thought:
Matthew 25:37-40 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
This is my Christianity. It is the Christianity I celebrate in my home and in my Episcopal parish. It is real and alive today. It is a Christianity that rejects Ayn Rand’s selfishness. It rejects a desire to ship immigrants home. It rejects the belief that making the poor ‘stand on their own two feet’ is proper. It rejects hoarding land and wealth as one’s own. It rejects a punitive attitude towards prisoners. It rejects the condemnation of single mothers. And it rejects the notion that America is the new Promised Land.
And it is in that spirit that I wish even my skeptical agnostic friends a Happy Easter…because that is the message of my Christian faith.
Christos Anesti! Tha Crìosd air èiridh! Christus is opgestaan! Le Christ est Resurrecté! Kristus Vstal A Mrtvych! Pikhirstof aftonf!
(“Christ is Risen” in liturgical Greek, Scots Gaelic, Dutch, French, Czech, and Coptic Egyptian)
Friday, April 06, 2012
[Traduction dans le Français ci-dessous]
If you are unaware of the term, Bears are a subculture of gay men. I’m a Bear. I will never appear on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine, or be featured on an advertisement for male exotic dancers: I have a belly, and there’s not a hard abdominal muscle in sight. Rather than shave my face (or my neck or my chest or my belly), I allow my body hair to grow naturally wherever it sprouts. However they are defined, "Bears" represent a decidedly masculine side of gay culture; we are often mistaken as straight men, because we most often appear like "regular guys." We also tend to like our beer and our bourbon, and parties, and are a fairly tolerant, live-and-let-live lot. And we tend to be pack animals: there are Bear ‘events’ (called “Bear Runs”) all over the world, every weekend, enabling us choose any weekend and get away to have a party with old and new friends.
In 2005, a small group of Montréal Bears decided to share their French-Canadian Bear culture with the International Bear Community, and the very first "SugarBear Weekend" took place. With hundreds of participants each year, SugarBear Weekend has now become the largest bear event in Canada, promoted with a trademark “big furry lumberjack.” The event is held at various locations throughout the Gay Village of Montréal, a compact, walkable section of Montreal that is the epicenter of gay life. Like Greenwich Village in New York City or the Castro in San Francisco, “Le Village Gay” (or simply, “The Village”) is the heartbeat of Montréal’s gay culture. It is French enough to remind visitors that they are in a land as closely related to Europe as to North America, but “Anglophone” enough to insure that American visitors can navigate the nightlife and order a beer in a nightclub without a problem.
Of the eight SugarBear Weekends that have occurred since 2005, I have attended the last six (2007 – 2012) and, hopefully, will continue to attend for years to come. Based on my six SugarBear experiences, all of which took place during the last weekend of March, I offer the following diary from 2012 as a typical gay man’s foray into Montréal.
Day 1 (Thursday): There are usually no events planned on Thursday, but that’s just more of an excuse to arrive early: It gives you a day to get settled and go anywhere without a schedule. This past year, we arrived early – 1:00 pm – and enjoyed a full day before the planned activities began.
If you’re going to Montréal, don’t look to book a hotel. There are no large traditional hotels in the middle of the Gay Village – but there are more than a dozen Bed and Breakfasts, all catering to gay men, that put you within a few blocks walk of everywhere you want to be. I have stayed at several (such as Absolument Montréal and Sir Montcalm), and have visited others. The Conciergerie, perhaps the largest, always seems to bring smiles to guests’ faces – but it is located on Rue St. Hubert, at the far western edge of the Village, and after a while its distance from the center of the Village can get annoying. La Maison DesJardins, located a mere two blocks from the center of everything on Rue Logan. Beautifully appointed rooms, a friendly staff, a home-like feeling, delicious breakfasts, a reasonable cost and the perfect location is hard to beat….but they go further. In the backyard of this guesthouse is a hot tub available for guest’s use, and upon arrival at our B&B, our first stop was the hot tub, wine in hand.
After our dip in the hot tub, we spent the afternoon walking Rue Sainte-Catherine, the main road through the Gay Village. Visiting shops and coffee houses, one is constantly aware of the French love of art, design and form; the architecture of houses, the parks & monuments - even the parking lot designs - all reveal a French appreciating of beauty in the built environment. Le Stud, on the corner of Avenue Papineau and Rue Ste.-Catherine. Le Stud is a nightclub with 4 bars (and a fifth on weekends upstairs), a DJ, and a small dance floor, and is packed with middle-aged Bears on any given weekend night. It is the “headquarters” of SugarBear Weekend, where we register, get our event passes, and run into dozens of men we have seen many times before across the northeast and in Montréal (Bonjour à Nate, Richard, Hank, Volker, Stéfane, Thierry, Gregoire, Marc, Timothé, Tatsu, Rusty, Mikel, Jacques, Jean, Pierre...) As usual, we got too involved in the first night’s party, and don’t get into bed until after 3 o’clock in the morning...
Day 2 (Friday): This is the first official event, a “Beach Party” in March, which, really, is a euphemism for a gathering at a local bathhouse.
Now, a good friend of mine (Chaz) once put together a list of 10 things a gay man should never, ever do. One of those items read, “Do not *ever* try to explain a bathhouse to your straight friends.” And actually, that’s good advice, so I won’t. But I will say this: this year’s “beach party” was a little disappointing. In the past, the party was held at the “Sauna 456,” located, appropriately, at 456 Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, which requires a taxi ride as it is located slightly beyond the Village. But the ride is worth it: the first floor contains an enormous swimming pool, a nice-sized sauna and steam room, a lounge and sitting area for conversations, and an actual bar with food and beer. One can enjoy a very innocent party here, and there was room for funny contests (such as inked butt prints…) Or, one could enjoy the dark labyrinths that exist upstairs.
But this year, the 456 was closed for renovations (we hear it is supposed to open again in November 2012), so the party was held at the Oasis in the Village instead. Unfortunately, the Oasis is smaller and lacks the first floor amenities that 456 has, and proved somewhat boring overall. There is another sauna just a few blocks away, “G I Joe,” but we didn’t have the opportunity to visit this one (although I have only heard positive reports).
Instead, as good Bears, we focused our energies on eating.
Last year, quite by accident, we stumbled, quite by accident, into an incredible Italian restaurant. This year was no different: we took a chance on a restaurant named “Resto-Pub St. André” on the corner of Rue St.-Andre and Rue Ste.-Catherine…and found ourselves having food orgasms.
My partner Danny and I each tried the Fettuccini au Saumon Fumé (Fettuccini with smoked salmon) that was absolutely amazing.
It was one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten, and the price was on the low side of moderate. We are going to try to reproduce it at home for Easter Dinner.
After dinner, we headed down to the corner of Rue St. Hubert and Avenue Viger, to the Auditorium des Archives Nationales du Quebec, where the Image+Nation LGBT Film festival which has been operating for 21 years), entertained us with two movies: The Rescue, 18-minute comedic short comparing the search for a boyfriend to the process of adopting a rescue dog at a shelter; and Boystown, a full-length Spanish-made film that can best be described as zany drama.
In the past, SugarBear organizers have tried multiple events on Friday nights, from fashion shows to dinner theaters, all of which were colossal flops. This time, they got it right – it was probably their best Friday night event so far, and we were glad we attended.
Day 3 (Saturday): This is “The Main Event.” The key gathering during the weekend is a full day of eating and drinking at a local SugarShack, in the finest of Quebeçois lumberjack traditions. We began by gathering once again at Le Stud (which opens at 10 am) for the obligatory Bloody Marys. When the school buses arrived, we men piled in and filled them for the trip to the Handfield Sugar Shack near St.-Marc-sur-Richlieu, some 40 minutes east of Montréal. Again, I have been to several sugar shacks near Montréal, and have always found this one the most welcoming and efficient, and the food ample and delicious.
When we arrived at mid-day, the owners greeted us, as always, with free samples of “Caribou,” a traditional stomach-warming drink. Various publications describe Caribou as a mixture of 3 oz. vodka, 3 oz. brandy, 12.5 oz Canadian sherry, and 12.5 oz Canadian port; or perhaps 3 oz. port, 1.5 vodka, .25 creme de cassis, and a splash maple syrup.
I however, have it on the good authority of a local Québecker who makes it all the time or their sugar shack (and speaking on the condition of anonymity), that Caribou is 4 parts Port, 4 parts Tawny Port (or Sherry), 1 Part Canadian Rye, 1 part Scotch Whisky and a splash of Maple Syrup – and that is how I make it home. Regardless, we drank a lot of Caribou, as we continued to order it once we settled inside for the feast.
In the dining hall, a blazing fire was roaring in the fireplace at one end, where fiddlers played French jigs and reels. Long picnic tables were lined up end to end in three long rows, and a hundred and fifty or Bears settled in with their buckets full of Molson or carafes of Caribou in anticipation of the piles of food which would follow.
REZO, a Canadian organization dedicated to "the health and well-being of gay and bisexual men." This was the first I remembered them raising money for an organization, and I think it's a great addition to the weekend.
Rolling us out the door, we then made our own ‘sugar-on-snow’ by pouring hot syrup over shaved ice and using popsicle sticks to roll the syrup into sticky lollipops.
And many of us slept on the bus ride home….only to catch our second wind for another night at Le Stud, and another nightcap in the hot tub back at La Maison DesJardins.
Day 4 (Sunday): Today we said our goodbyes. First we explored the sale at Priape, Canada’s largest store catering to gay men with fetish wear, leather, and other items of interest to gay men. Unfortunately, as is so often the case at Priape, the merchandise is geared for a younger, slimmer set; I couldn’t find a single pair of jeans with a waist size greater than 34 – and very few of us Bears are going to fit into size 34 pants. We did find some neat leather wrist cuffs with a hidden compartment to hold id and cash, so we picked up a couple. Fortunately, Priape is not the only store for us in The Village….a new store, the Fetish Armada, is located just down the street on the corner of Rue Ste.-Catherine and Rue Montcalm. It’s smaller, but friendly and eager to do business with larger men; much of their business is custom work.
By Noon, it was time for the farewell brunch, held at Le Planète on Rue Ste.-Catherine (if you’re getting the sense that Rue Ste.-Catherine is where everything happens, there’s a reason for that. In the summer, it is closed to automobiles and becomes pedestrian and sidewalk cafe heaven.) Le Planète is a small and cozy food establishment…but I have to admit that its main draw was neither the food nor the modern decor….but a staff of adorable young bears (“Cubs,” as we call them) racing to and fro to take orders, serve Mimosas, pour endless rounds of coffee, and deliver meals.
For those who live locally, the day would end with a late-afternoon Lumberjack Contest at The Stud. For the rest of us who work on Monday morning, an afternoon departure is more in order. In the past, we have always made a quick stop in the Old City of Montréal, a retail district that is the site of the original settlement and characterized by narrow streets and alleys paved in cobblestones and lined with 300-year old stone buildings. While the Old City is home to dozens of T-shirt and tacky knick-knack shops, with a little time one can find unique paintings, artwork, glass lamps, Inuit carvings and other specialty items.
But this time, still full of maple-drenched ham and exhausted from our weekend, we headed home. We hope to return some day in the summer months to see what it’s like in warmer months; but whether we do or not, we will return to Montreal next March for SugarBear Weekend 9 for certain.
Montréal and the Province of Québec are wonderful, enjoyable places right on America’s doorstep; it’s a pity more Americans, gay or straight, don’t cross the border and partake in Montreal’s joie de vivre.
Vendredi 6 avril 2012
Week-end de SugarBear - le guide d'un ours du village gai de Montréal
« Ours ? »
« SugarBears ? »
Si vous êtes ignorant de la limite, les ours sont une culture secondaire des homosexuels. Je suis un ours. Je n'apparaîtrai jamais sur la couverture du magazine de la santé des hommes, ou sois décrit sur une publicité pour les danseurs exotiques masculins : J'ai un ventre, et il n'y a pas un muscle abdominal dur en vue. Plutôt que rasent mon visage (ou mon cou ou mon coffre ou mon ventre), je permettent à mes cheveux de corps de les élever naturellement là où pousse. Toutefois ils sont définis, les « ours » représentent un côté décidément masculin de culture gaie ; nous sommes souvent confondus en tant qu'hommes droits, parce que nous apparaissons le plus souvent comme « les types réguliers. » Nous tendons également à aimer notre bière et notre bourbon, et parties, et sommes un sort assez tolérant et live-and-let-live. Et nous tendons à être des animaux de paquet : il y a des événements de `d'ours (appelés les « courses d'ours ") partout dans le monde, chaque week-end, en nous permettant choisissez n'importe quel week-end et partez pour avoir une partie avec de vieux et nouveaux amis.
En 2005, un petit groupe d'ours de Montréal a décidé de partager leur culture canadienne française d'ours avec la Communauté internationale d'ours, et le tout premier « week-end de SugarBear » a eu lieu. Avec des centaines de participants tous les ans, le week-end de SugarBear est maintenant devenu le plus grand événement d'ours au Canada, favorisé avec une marque déposée « grand bûcheron velu. » L'événement est tenu à de divers endroits dans tout le village gai de Montréal, un contrat, section walkable de Montréal qui est l'épicentre de la vie gaie. Comme le Greenwich Village à New York City ou Castro à San Francisco, « Le Village Gay » (ou simplement, « le village ") est le battement de coeur de la culture gaie de Montréal. Elle est assez française pour rappeler des visiteurs qu'ils sont dans une terre comme étroitement lié à l'Europe quant à l'Amérique du Nord, mais « anglophone » assez de s'assurer que les visiteurs américains peuvent diriger la vie nocturne et commander une bière dans une boîte de nuit sans problème.
Des huit week-ends de SugarBear qui se sont produits depuis 2005, je me suis occupé des six derniers (2007 - 2012) et, si tout va bien, continuerai à s'occuper pendant des années à venir. Basé sur mes six expériences de SugarBear, qui ont eu lieu pendant le dernier week-end de mars, j'offre le journal intime suivant de 2012 en tant qu'incursion d'un homosexuel typique dans Montréal.
Jour 1 (jeudi) : Il n'y a habituellement aucun événement prévu le jeudi, mais c'est juste plus d'une excuse à arriver tôt : Il te donne un jour pour obtenir arrangé et aller n'importe où sans programme. Cette dernière année, nous sommes arrivés tôt - le 1:00 P.M. - et apprécié un jour complet avant que les activités prévues aient commencé.
Si vous allez à Montréal, ne regardez pas pour réserver un hôtel. Il n'y a aucun grand hôtel traditionnel au milieu du village gai - mais il y a plus que des douzaine lits - et - les déjeuners, toute la restauration aux homosexuels, qui vous mettent dans la promenade de quelques blocs partout de vous veulent être. Je suis resté à plusieurs (tel qu'Absolument Montréal et monsieur Montcalm), et ai visité d'autres. Le Conciergerie, peut-être le plus grand, semble toujours apporter des sourires aux visages des invités - mais il est situé sur la rue Hubert de rue, au bord loin occidental du village, et après un moment sa distance du centre du village peut devenir ennuyante.
Quant à moi, mon favori a toujours été La Maison DesJardins, localisé de seuls deux blocs du centre de tout sur la rue Logan. Il est difficile de battre des salles admirablement désignées, un personnel amical, un sentiment intime, les déjeuners délicieux, un coût raisonnable et l'endroit parfait….mais elles vont plus loin. Dans l'arrière-cour de cette dépendance est un baquet chaud disponible pour l'usage de l'invité, et sur l'arrivée à notre B&B, notre premier arrêt était le baquet chaud, wine à disposition.
Pour ceux de nous les types qui aiment les chiens (et chaque ours j'ai jamais rencontré des chiens d'amours), La Maison DesJardins vient avec une bonification supplémentaire : Gaia, un chien de moutons anglais énorme, aimable, amical, qui visitera heureusement avec des invités si permis. Pour notre argent, la La Maison est endroit de *THE* à rester dans Montréal.
Après que notre immersion dans le baquet chaud, nous ait dépensé la rue de marche Sainte-Catherine d'après-midi, la route principale par le village gai. La visite des magasins et des cafés, un se rend constamment compte de l'amour français de l'art, de la conception et de la forme ; tous l'architecture des maisons, les parcs et les monuments - même le parking conçoit - indiquent une appréciation française de la beauté dans l'environnement établi.
Au centre du village, nous nous sommes arrêtés « au sandwich à club de le, » un wagon-restaurant envahi, parce que notre premier moyen traditionnel de nuit : Poutine. Poutine est un repas canadien français se composant de la sauce au jus de boeuf et du fromage de fermiers fondus au-dessus des pommes frites. Je prends les miens « Lyonnaise, » signification que j'également sautéed les oignons et le boeuf réel mélangés dedans au mien. Ce peut être un peu dur sur la taille, mais - juste comme je prends toujours un bagel avec le saumon fumé pour le déjeuner avant de quitter New York City - j'ai toujours Poutine avant de commencer ma première nuit dans Montréal.
Et cette première nuit est toujours appréciée chez Le Stud, sur le coin de l'avenue Papineau et de la chambre de rue. - Catherine. Le Stud est une boîte de nuit avec 4 barres (et un cinquième des week-ends en haut), le DJ, et une petite piste de danse, et est emballé avec entre deux âges concerne n'importe quelle nuit donnée de week-end. Elle est « siège » du week-end de SugarBear, où nous enregistrons, entrons nos passages d'événement, et course dans des douzaines des hommes que nous avons vu beaucoup de fois avant à travers le nord-est. Comme d'habitude, nous devenons trop impliqués dans de la première la partie nuit, et n'entrons pas dans le lit jusqu'à 3 heures le matin.
Jour 2 (vendredi) : C'est le premier événement officiel, une « partie de plage » en mars, qui, vraiment, est un euphémisme pour une réunion à un bain public local.
Maintenant, un bon ami à moi (Chaz) une fois remontés une liste de 10 choses un homosexuel devrait jamais, pour ne jamais faire. Un de ces articles lus, « pas essai de *ever* expliquent un bain public à vos amis droits. » Et réellement, c'est bon conseil, ainsi je pas. Mais je dirai ceci : la « partie de plage » de cette année était peu une décevante. Dans le passé, la partie a été tenue au « sauna 456, » situé, convenablement, à 456 Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, qui exige un tour de taxi pendant qu'il est situé légèrement au delà du village. Mais le tour la vaut : le premier étage contient une énorme piscine, une salle gentil-classée de sauna et de vapeur, un secteur de salon et de séance pour des conversations, et une barre réelle avec la nourriture et la bière. On peut apprécier une partie très innocente ici, et il y avait pièce pour des concours drôles (tels que le bout encré imprime…) Ou, on pourrait apprécier les labyrinthes foncés qui existent en haut.
Mais cette année, les 456 étaient fermés pour des rénovations (nous entendons qu'on le cense s'ouvrir encore en novembre 2012), ainsi la partie a été tenue à l'oasis dans le village à la place. Malheureusement, l'oasis est plus petite et manque des agréments du premier étage que 456 a, et d'ennuyer légèrement prouvé globalement. Il y a un autre sauna juste quelques blocs loin, « G I Joe, » mais nous n'avons pas eu l'occasion de visiter celui-ci (bien que j'ai seulement entendu des rapports positifs).
Au lieu de cela, en tant que bons ours, nous avons concentré nos énergies sur la consommation.
L'année dernière, tout à fait accidentellement, nous avons trébuché, tout à fait accidentellement, dans un restaurant italien incroyable. Cette année n'était aucun différent : nous avons pris des risques sur un restaurant appelé « rue André de Resto-Pub » sur le coin de la rue de rue - André et chambre de rue. - Catherine… et trouvé ayant des orgasmes de nourriture.
Mon associé Danny et I chacun a essayé l'Au Saumon Fumé (Fettuccini de Fettuccini avec les saumons fumés) qui était absolument étonnant.
Le saumon fumé était, dans la mesure où nous avons pu dire, une coupe de qualité de saumon fumé, cuite dans des quantités suffisantes à la sauce crème à fettuccini. Le plat a été arrondi dehors avec de petites tomates découpées et étouffé en fromage fondu avec un scallion garnissez. Nous tous les deux sommes tombés amoureux de notre serveur, Raul, pour son efficacité et amitié. Pendant que j'essayais de commander notre dîner dans mon Français cassé, il a assisté la rédaction française correcte et alors répété tout en anglais s'assurer l'ordre était correct. Sur fournir notre dîner, il nous a alors offert le fromage fraîchement râpé et le poivre criqué.
Il était l'un des repas les plus délicieux que j'ai jamais mangés, et le prix était du bas côté du moderate. Nous allons essayer de le reproduire à la maison pour le dîner de Pâques.
Nous avons complimenté notre dîner avec la blonde de Chanvre, une bière blonde rouge-colorée et Chanvre-basée qui était délicieuse et compliquée, commençant par un arome de floral-citron, un goût premier à noix, et a légèrement houblon-comme la finition amère. C'était la première et seulement la bière chanvre-basée que j'avais jamais goûtée, et je l'ai aimée.
Après dîner, nous nous sommes dirigés vers le bas au coin de la rue Hubert de rue et l'avenue Viger, au DES de salle archive Nationales du Québec, où le festival de film d'Image+Nation LGBT qui avait fonctionné pendant 21 années), nous a amusés avec deux films : La délivrance, short 18 comique minute comparant la recherche d'un ami au processus d'adopter un chien de délivrance à un abri ; et Boystown, un film Espagnol-fait intégral qui peut mieux être décrit en tant que drame fou.
Dans le passé, les organisateurs de SugarBear ont essayé des événements multiples le vendredi soirs, des défilés de mode aux théâtres de dîner, qui étaient des effondrements colossaux. Cette fois, ils l'ont obtenu droit - c'était probablement leur meilleur vendredi événement de soir jusqu'ici, et nous étions heureux nous étions présents.
Jour 3 (samedi) : C'est « l'événement principal. » Le rassemblement principal pendant le week-end est un jour complet de la consommation et du boire chez un SugarShack local, dans le plus fin des traditions de bûcheron de Quebeçois. Nous avons commencé en recueillant de nouveau chez Le Stud (qui s'ouvre à 10 AM) pour le Marys sanglant obligatoire. Quand les autobus scolaires sont arrivés, nous des hommes avons empilé dedans et les avons remplis pour le voyage au sucre Shack de Handfield près de la rue - Marc-sur-Richlieu, environ 40 minutes à l'est de Montréal. Encore, j'ai été à plusieurs cabanes de sucre près de Montréal, et ai toujours trouvé celui-ci le accueil et efficace, et la nourriture suffisante et délicieuse.
Quand nous sommes arrivés à midi, les propriétaires nous ont salués, en tant que toujours, avec les échantillons libres de « caribou, » une boisson de estomac-chauffage traditionnelle. Les diverses publications décrivent le caribou comme mélange de 3 onces. vodka, 3 onces. eau-de-vie fine, xérès canadien de 12.5 onces, et porto de Canadien de 12.5 onces ; ou peut-être 3 onces. porto, 1.5 vodka, .25 creme de cassis, et un sirop d'érable d'éclaboussure.
I cependant, l'ont sur la bonne autorité des gens du pays Québecker qui lui font toute l'heure ou leur cabane de sucre (et parler de l'état de l'anonymat), ce caribou est 4 parts de port, 4 parts de porto fauve (ou xérès), 1 part Rye canadien, 1 part de whisky écossais et une éclaboussure de sirop d'érable - et c'est comment je le rends à la maison. Sans se soucier, nous avons bu beaucoup de caribou, car nous avons continué à le commander par le passé que nous avons arrangé à l'intérieur pour le régal.
Dans le réfectoire, un feu de flambage hurlait dans la cheminée à une extrémité, où les violoneurs ont joué les gabarits et les bobines français. Les longues tables de pique-nique étaient extrémité alignée à finir dans trois longues rangées, et cent cinquante ou ours ont arrangé dedans avec leurs seaux pleins de Molson ou de carafes de caribou en prévision des piles de la nourriture qui suivraient.
Porc Pâté pour écarter sur le pain frais. Soupe aux fèves. Écorces frites de porc. Les oeufs brouillés, les pommes de terre cuites au four, et les montagnes du jambon, tous ont sur option étouffé en sirop d'érable. Et plus encore. Et à un certain point, un ours divise en jouer des cuillères à temps avec le violoneur, et quelqu'un d'autre hue, et quelques types commencent à lutter, et le niveau du rire augmente, et plus de nourriture sort….et quand il n'y a finalement aucune pièce de manger plus, elles mettent en évidence le pâté en croûte de sirop d'érable, très probablement la substance la plus douce connue de l'humanité.
Nous roulant dehors la porte, nous avons alors fait notre propre `sucre-sur-snow'par verser le sirop chaud au-dessus de la glace rasée et à l'aide des bâtons de popsicle pour rouler le sirop dans les lucettes collantes.
Et bon nombre d'entre nous ont dormi sur la maison de tour d'autobus….attraper seulement un notre deuxième vent pour une autre nuit chez Le Stud, et un bonnet de nuit différent dans le dos de baquet chaud à la La Maison DesJardins.
Jour 4 (dimanche): Aujourd'hui nous avons dit nos goodbyes. D'abord nous avons exploré la vente chez Priape, le plus grand magasin du Canada approvisionnant aux homosexuels avec l'usage de fétiche, le cuir, et d'autres articles d'intérêt aux homosexuels. Malheureusement, de même que tellement souvent le cas chez Priape, les marchandises sont adaptées pour un plus jeune, plus mince ensemble ; Je ne pourrais pas trouver une seule paire de jeans avec une taille de taille plus grande que 34 - et très peu de nous des ours vont s'insérer dans le pantalon de la taille 34. Nous avons trouvé quelques manchettes en cuir ordonnées de poignet avec un compartiment caché pour tenir l'identification et l'argent comptant, ainsi nous avons pris un couple. Heureusement, Priape n'est pas le seul magasin pour nous dans le village….un nouveau magasin, l'armada de fétiche, est situé juste en bas de la rue sur le coin de la chambre de rue. - Catherine et rue Montcalm. Il est plus petit, mais amical et désireux de faire des affaires avec de plus grands hommes ; beaucoup de leurs affaires est travail fait sur commande.
Par Noon, il était temps pour le brunch d'adieu, tenu chez Le Planète sur la chambre de rue. - Catherine (si vous obtenez au sens cette chambre de rue. - Catherine est où tout se produit, il y a une raison de cela. En été, il est clôturé aux automobiles et devient ciel de café de piéton et de trottoir.) Le Planète est un petit et confortable établissement de nourriture… mais je dois admettre que son aspiration principale n'était ni la nourriture ni le décor moderne….mais un personnel des jeunes adorables soutient (« Cubs, » pendant que nous les appelons) l'emballage en avant et en arrière pour prendre des ordres, sert des mimosas, verse les ronds sans fin du café, et fournit des repas.
Pour ceux qui vivent localement, le jour finirait avec un concours de bûcheron de tard-après-midi au goujon. Pour le reste de nous qui travaillent le lundi matin, un départ d'après-midi est plus dans l'ordre. Dans le passé, nous avons toujours fait un arrêt rapide dans la vieille ville de Montréal, une zone au détail qui est l'emplacement du règlement original et caractérisé par les rues étroites et les ruelles pavées dans des pavés ronds et garnies des bâtiments en pierre datant de 300 ans. Tandis que la vieille ville est à la maison aux douzaines de T-shirt et le bibelot visqueux fait des emplettes, avec du peu de temps un peut trouver les peintures uniques, les lampes de dessin-modèle et en verre, les découpages d'Inuit et d'autres articles de spécialité.
Mais cette fois, encore pleine du jambon érable-trempé et épuisée de notre week-end, nous nous sommes dirigés à la maison. Nous espérons renvoyer un certain jour en mois d'été pour voir ce qu'est il comme en des mois plus chauds ; mais, que nous fassions ou pas, nous reviendrons à Montréal en mars prochain pour le week-end 9 de SugarBear pour certain.
Montréal et la province de Québec sont les endroits merveilleux et agréables juste sur le seuil de l'Amérique ; c'est dommage plus d'Américains, gai ou droit, ne franchissez pas la frontière et ne participez pas à joie de vivre de Montréal.