Friday, December 20, 2013

Health Care for the Holidays

There is no reason not to be insured. I am struggling with a number of health issues as this year comes to an end. All of them were a surprise with no symptoms. I am very grateful that I have a great medical plan and doctors (Kaiser Permanente).

Enjoy this sexy video and signup for insurance if you need it.

Out2Enroll is a coalition of organizations who want to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people stay healthy by making sure that one of the major benefits of the Affordable Care Act -- access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage -- reaches LGBT communities. Get Enrolled is a holiday parody, produced by our friends at Full Frontal Freedom, which aims to bring awareness to the final week of health marketplace enrollment. For more information, go to
or on Facebook at

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The War on Christmas 2013

TMI Questions Meme:
1. Which religion or faith do you belong to, if any?
As a kid, I was brought up in the Christian faith.  Every time my parents moved they joined a different Protestant denomination. I have been Congregationalist (UCC), Methodist, American Baptist, and Presbyterian. When I came out and met my husband, I decided to convert to his faith, Judaism (Reform).  I no longer celebrate Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. At first, my family wasn’t too happy about it but either they have resigned themselves to it or have accepted it.

2. What is your opinion of Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays?
This is a manufactured/made up seasonal controversy contrived by conservative talk radio and FOX News. The whole point is to draw in listeners and viewers in order to sell more advertising. The phrase “Happy Holidays” is an attempt to be more inclusive to include non-Christians such as Jews.

3. Holiday music on the radio? When and how much?
I love holiday music especially Christmas music. There are not very many good Hanukkah songs but there are a ton of great Christmas songs, many of them written by Jews.
Some of the best Jewish written Christmas songs are: Silver Bells, Winter Wonderland, Santa Baby, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, A Holly Jolly Christmas, Let It Snow, (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Run Rudolph Run, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, and White Christmas.
I like it when holiday music on the radio starts after Thanksgiving and goes through the end of the year.

4. When do you start decorating? Do you?
I no longer decorate. We travel instead and are not home.

5. White lights or multi colored?
I like both. It is nice to have a change once and a while. Alternate every year.
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I always had a string of colored lights hung around the ceiling of the living room or den. I would plug them in and turn them on when ever I wanted to create a cheery or festive mood. You could say it was my way of being gay while still closeted (I didn’t come out until I was 40).

6. Gift cards, cash or actually shopped-for presents?
I passionately dislike gift cards. I prefer cash or shopped-for presents. Gift Cards are poor and lazy choice of a gift and in many cases a waste of money. A number of surveys estimate that nearly 1 in 4 Americans don’t even use their gift cards. They also have a plethora of other problems: fees, bank charges, expiration dates, wasted balances, and bankrupt/out of business retailers. I would rather someone make a donation to a charity in my name than give me a gift card.

7. Christmas cards and or family update letters are...
…greatly appreciated, especially the older I get. In some cases, it is the only time in the year I hear from old friends and distant family members. Not everyone is on Facebook.

8. Snow is...
…over rated. I am glad I live in an area where I don’t have to deal with it. It was fun when I was a small kid but I would hate to deal with it as an adult.

9. Have you been a good little boy or girl this year?
As Mae West said, “When I'm good, I'm very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better. ”

10. Rapid Fire Favorites:
     1. Food: my husband’s latkes for Hanukkah
     2. Dessert: fancy Christmas cookies
     3. Drink: spiked eggnog, Cosmopolitans, and Champagne
     4. Holiday movie: all the new Oscar potential movies released during the holiday season.
     5. Holiday music: The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (300 men!) holiday show.
     6. Holiday tradition: Spending the holiday vacation at a gay men’s resort. Our favorite place is Pineapple Point Guesthouse and Resort in Fort Lauderdale. We also enjoyed our stay at Island House in Key West.


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Paris yet again

We spent Thanksgiving holiday in Paris again. But not the Paris we vacationed in August and I have written about here and here.
No, this was my husband’s hometown of Paris, Tennessee, located in the northwest corner of the state.  We primarily went back to see his ailing mother that is convalescing in a rehab nursing facility. His mother’s younger sister traveled back with us from California. We had Thanksgiving dinner with his brother's family (steak and lobster tails, an annual tradition).

Here are some pictures of Paris:

Paris, TN was in the news recently because of a horrible hate crime. A week before we traveled there, the owner of a health food store was beaten unconscious by three masked men who used anti-gay slurs before robbing him, writing “fag” on his forehead and finishing by trying to torch his store with gasoline.

Scene of the hate crime in Paris

Did you know that Paris, Tennessee has a winery too? For the last three out of four years, my husband has hosted a party there to catch up with all his grade school and high school friends he has reconnected with on Facebook. We had an enjoyable evening there.

We spent one afternoon visiting antique stores in nearby Murray, KY.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Memories of the Kennedy Assassination

One of my earliest memories I have as a child was President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. I was 5 years old and in kindergarten in Johnson City, NY. I can distinctly remember sitting around tables in the classroom after lunch recess when the intercom speaker above the blackboard at the front of the room crackled with some incomprehensible announcement that no one could understand. I remember my teacher shrugging off the intrusion and continuing on with her lesson plan. Shortly thereafter, another teacher burst into the room crying and both teachers went out into the hall. I could feel that there was an electric, emotional tension in the air. That’s when I knew something big had happened.

For the next four days, every one was glued to the wall-to-wall TV coverage on all three channels: ABC, CBS, and NBC. All regular programing was preempted. My mother says I sat in my kid-size rocking chair in front of our black and white TV set taking it all in. She saved this drawing I did of the President’s funeral procession.

The only earlier memory I have is of my sister being born and coming home from the hospital the year before in November 1962. This picture of me pushing my year old sister in a stroller was taken a few weeks before the Kennedy assassination.

I was born in January 1958. I have not met anyone younger then me that remembers the vivid details of this national tragedy.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Will Religion Change Its Stance on Gays?

Recently I attended an event at the Hillel center on campus. It featured two gay, spiritual leaders. It was called “ God Believes in Love: Shifting the Conversation with Bishop Gene Robinson and Rabbi Steve Greenberg.”

Bishop Robinson is a retired Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire and is the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. He is the author of “God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage.” The film, “Love Free or Die,” a Sundance Film Festival 2012 award winner, tells his compelling story and parallels the conversation underway in many American churches about whether gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of God and equal under the law.  Bishop Robinson is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC. He lives with his husband, Mark Andrew, who is employed by the State of New Hampshire ’s Department of Safety.

Rabbi Greenberg is the winner of the Koret Book Award for Philosophy and Thought and the author of the groundbreaking book “Wrestling with God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition” which explores homosexuality and Jewish tradition. He was featured in the acclaimed 2001 film "Trembling Before G-d." For over 20 years Rabbi Greenberg has been a Senior Teaching Fellow at CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership and is also the Director of the CLAL Diversity Project. Steve is a founder and co-director of Eshel, an Orthodox LGBT community support and education organization and serves on the faculty of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Rabbi Greenberg lives with his partner Steven Goldstein and his daughter Amalia in Boston.

Both men, who have known each other for 10 years, shared their personal coming out stories and then their professional/religious coming out. They then took questions from students and the general public.

The question I raised was why are the anti-gay religious voices so loud and dominant today and straight ally voices are nearly non-existent? When will you think this will change?

They spent about twenty minutes answering the question. The most interesting revelation I got was from Bishop Robinson. He referenced a study done a number of years ago by the pro-Christian Barna Group. The research found that Americans age 16-29 found that “anti-homosexual” was the dominant perception of modern Christians. 91 percent of non-Christians and 80 percent of Christians in this group used this word to describe Christians. (The study can be found here: This has leaders inside the major religious dominations scared. They are losing the youth. Almost 60 percent of young people who grow up attending their parents’ church abandon their faith in adulthood. One of the major reasons is the gay rights issue. The leadership needs to come up with a strategy to get out of this mess or risk becoming irrelevant. Robinson said he expects to see changes soon. It is why we are now seeing just the slightest movement in the ways the new Pope is speaking about gays. Even more change from the Mormon Church has made changes.

Fred Karger, LGBT activist and critic of the LDS Church says, "It seems like the [Mormon] hierarchy has pulled the plug and is no longer taking the lead in the fight to stop same-sex marriage. The Mormon Church has lost so many members and suffered such a black eye because of all its anti-gay activities that they really had no choice. I am hopeful that the Catholic Church cannot be far behind."

In a recent interview the Pope said that the church had grown “obsessed” with gay marriage, abortion, and contraception. “We have to find a new balance,” said the Pope, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.” While the doctrine and polices have not changed, the tone certainly has.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Paris or Palo Alto?

I am still enjoying and reminiscing about our vacation holiday in France. While walking down our main street, University Avenue, here in Palo Alto, California, I am reminded and taken back to France and especially the nearly two weeks we spent in Paris.
Greeting cards from University Art Annex on Hamilton Avenue.

Bon Vivant Café recalls the charm of a Parisian brasserie on Bryant Street.

Croissants and French Toast at Café Epi on University Avenue.

Chantal Guillon Macarons and Tea on University Avenue.

La Boulange Bakery on University Avenue.
The French flag flies during "happy hour" at La Boulange.
The chain is now owned by Starbucks Coffee.
BTW, Starbucks is found on every other Parisian corner.

Les Petits Cadeaux boutique on University Avenue.

Paris Baguette, a Korean owned company, on University Avenue.
Fact: there are 2,900 stores in Korea, 50 in China and 15 in the USA.

Peninsula Optical on University Avenue with a French Boz eyewear poster
with Eiffel Tower design.

A JCDecaux Public Toilet, the maker of French self-cleaning commodes, at Hamilton and Waverley.

8-foot-tall architectural model of the Eiffel Tower in Restoration Hardware
on University Avenue.
The historic City of Paris Dyeing and Cleaning Works building on Homer Ave.
Originally built in the 1920's, it is now an office building.
When we travel in Europe, we are constantly amazed how many American companies have a large presence there.  A French or British or Dutch or German shopping district or mall looks just like an American one. Some of the American companies we saw in France include: Abercrombie & Fitch, American Apparel, Apple Inc., Burger King, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Domino’s Pizza, Gap, Hard Rock Café, Harley-Davidson, Hyatt Hotels, KFC, Marriott Hotel, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Ralph Lauren, Starbucks Coffee, Subway, UPS, Walt Disney Company.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

“I Am Harvey Milk” recording

Just released this week and already in the top 10 iTunes Classical List! Download your copy today. You won't be disappointed.
If you prefer, order your CD at

 Here is a synopsis my husband, Eddie, has written of what you will hear:

A Synopsis of “I Am Harvey Milk

The curtain opens as a young boy (Harvey at about age 9 in 1942) stands mid-stage, listening to an opera diva’s aria over the radio. He begins singing “An Operatic Masterpiece” of how he wants to his life to be like an opera. Along the way, the Chorus joins him in song; and as the young Harvey ends by telling us that his name is Harvey Milk, the adult Harvey reveals in the last moment of the song the name he is often called: “And they call me ‘Faggot’!”

From near the beginning of Harvey’s all-too-short life to the end, we now jump to November 1978 as we hear from the closest witness of his death, “I Am the Bullet.”

Going back from that tragic moment in late ’78 to January, we hear Harvey and Chorus triumphantly declare “You Are Here” as he becomes the first gay (who is also a Jew) to become elected to a public office in America.


The scene is May 1978 in San Francisco. The weather is warming. The tank tops and short shorts are donned. The time is a Friday night. The Chorus rocks the house with “Friday Night in the Castro.”


Harvey’s Mother In February 1978 reflects on the worries, questions, and doubts she has had in the past about her gay son in a hauntingly beautiful “Was I Wrong?

Harvey saw the world as basically good and one that could even be better. Deep-down, he and we want to believe that Society ‘believes in you, believes in me.’ He places his bets on “A Decent Society,” as told by the Chorus.

But that same decent society throws its verbal barbs at any one different, any one representing ‘the other’ in our world. The Chorus reminds us all of those difficult, hurtful times when we have all been ‘the other’ in “Sticks and Stones.”

In March of 1978, Harvey tells us of his delight that Mayor Moscone is signing a bill outlawing discrimination within San Francisco based on sexual orientation and is signing it with a “Lavender Pen.”

Young Harvey, a non-identified female, and Adult Harvey thank those teachers who taught them and helped them become who they are in “Thank You, Mrs. Rosenblat.

The summer of 1978 sees more and more gays and lesbians seeking the refuge of San Francisco to escape the troubles of other towns and states where being openly out is impossible. The Chorus in “San Francisco” reminds everyone listening of how beautiful it is to seek and find a refuge when it is so desperately needed.

Harvey was one just to do the things that needed to be done, no matter the odds, and he was also the one to encourage the others to do the same. His Mother encourages him to take chances worth taking in life, and the Chorus joins her in telling us all just to “Leap.”

It is June 1978, and Harvey is making one of his all-time important and inspiring messages during the Pride season of San Francisco. His message of ‘Come Out’ booms from all the rafters as the Chorus, Young Harvey, and the Mother/Female Vocalist joins him in “Tired of the Silence.”

"The world-premiere cast recording of Andrew Lippa's I Am Harvey Milk, which features composer-lyricist Lippa as the late gay rights pioneer alongside Tony Award winner Laura Benanti and San Francisco's Gay Men's Chorus, is now available for download.

Lippa (Big Fish, The Wild Party, The Addams Family, jon & jen) penned original music and lyrics for the oratorio that premiered June 26 in San Francisco. It utilizes some of Milk's actual words for the text.

Lippa portrayed Milk, the first openly-gay man to hold public office in California, along with Tony Award winner Benanti (Gypsy, Women on the Verge) as the soprano soloist and Noah Marlowe as young Harvey Milk. They were joined by the 300-member SFGMC. Dr. Timothy Seelig conducted the oratorio that has orchestrations by August Erksmoen and accompaniment by the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony.

The live recording was mixed and mastered by multi-Grammy Award winner Leslie Ann Jones at Skywalker Ranch. I Am Harvey Milk is available now at and is also available on iTunes."

Friday, October 11, 2013

National Coming Out Day 2013

In celebration of National Coming Out Day, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus released today the CD of the world premiere "I Am Harvey Milk" by Broadway composer Andrew Lippa. This live recording is from the world-premiere performance by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and features Andrew Lippa, Tony award-winner Laura Benanti, and Noah Marlowe.
Please listen/watch this incredible finale from that show, and order your CD at

I Am Harvey Milk Original Cast Recording


My husband, Eddie, sings on this recording. He has been a member of SFGMC for several years. I am especially proud that he helped to bring this work to fruition by volunteering to be the project manager for this production for almost two years. He facilitated meetings, raised money, promoted it in the Bay Area and generally helped to keep things on track. He put in countless hours into this amazing project.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

More notes on France and Paris

While in France and particularly in Paris, we learned some things that might prove helpful to others planning such a trip in the future:

- Number One, above all, the French SMOKE way too much. All ages. Everywhere. Whole family groups: kids, parents, grandparents, great grandparents. In ALL outdoor cafes and plazas. On sidewalks, doorways, under windows. In restaurants they leave the table multiple times to go smoke outside the front door. This was our #1 issue in France. And, oh, cigarette butts everywhere.
- In addition, all waiters, bar tenders, and store clerks have to rush outside from time to time (often in mid-service) to smoke; and no one seems to question the practice or the timing.
- Many toilets, even in the nicest settings, have no seats -- including in unisex toilets. Don't expect to find soap, paper towels or hand driers either.
- Entres are starters or appetizers, not the main dish. (Evidently, we are the only country in the world where an entree is often called the main dish. I guess Americans did not translate correctly the original French word.)
- French, like many Europeans, like their beer mixed with other things, usually something very sweet. In Paris, the happy-hour drink of choice was called a Monaco: half beer + lemonade (which is really a lemon-lime soda) + Grenadine.
- Cafes only serve drinks, no food. Brasseries serve food.
- Motorcycles rule the day in Paris. They are everywhere, parked by the scores on every street.
- Good luck figuring out what street you are on. Street signs at intersections and corners are random and optional. When they are posted, they are on the sides of buildings above the ground floor.
- Parisians love Nutella. It is everywhere and on every thing. Of course, they in general just love anything chocolate. In the grocery store, the breakfast cereal shelves are full of brands of cereal that include bits of chocolate in them. Even the “healthy” and “nutritious” choices. It is difficult to find cereal without chocolate. Interestingly, they don't like peanut butter.

And three American stereotypes that were totally destroyed for us:

- It is much easier to find healthier eating choices in Paris and in France than we expected. In fact, rarely did we get a dish than seemed to be dripping or overly laden in butter or full-fat cream. This was a big concern for us since we don't like dishes heavily drenched in butter, cheeses, creams and sauces. We also don’t eat beef or pork. What we found (with a little looking) were many wonderful fish, seafood, chicken and vegetarian dishes.
- The French are VERY friendly, in the cities and in the towns and countryside. We loved every one we met. People even stopped on the sidewalks to help us find our way.
- Speaking only English is not a crime in France, and people will easily and readily accommodate. (They do appreciate a 'bonjour' and respond cheerfully after such, in whatever language one uses with them.)

On our trip we took three popular histories of Paris. All three were excellent and made our experience in France richer and more appreciative. We highly recommend them.
Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne. “This highly readable uses an admittedly idiosyncratic organizational scheme to trace the history of Paris through seven periods, beginning in the 12th century and ending with the death of Charles de Gaulle in 1969. His "ages" focus on medieval and Renaissance Paris; the era of King Henry IV; the 18th century and Louis XIV; revolutionary and Napoleonic Paris; the 19th century, culminating in the Bloody Week of the Commune; the Belle poque; and the age of war and occupation. Each section includes fascinating insights into the social and cultural life of the age, fashions in clothing, architectural developments, leading personalities, and lifestyles of rich and poor alike.”
Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb. “This is the Paris you never knew. From the Revolution to the present, Graham Robb has distilled a series of astonishing true narratives, all stranger than fiction, of the lives of the great, the near-great, and the forgotten.”
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough. “Between 1830 and 1900, hundreds of Americans--many of them future household names like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Samuel Morse, and Harriet Beecher Stowe--migrated to Paris. McCullough shows first how the City of Light affected each of them in turn, and how they helped shape American art, medicine, writing, science, and politics in profound ways when they came back to the United States.”

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Day in London, A Month in France: August 2013

We spent the month of August in France and have accumulated a lifetime of memories. There were so many unexpected moments. We have seen the most beautiful men and museums in the world. We took over three thousand digital pictures. And we have met new friends for life. France was everything and more the artists, poets, and composers espoused!

It all started when we flew out of San Francisco on Friday, August 2 and arrived August 3 in London where we stayed one day. During that time we saw both the 2013 Best New Musical ("Top Hat") and the Best New Play ("The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time"). Both were Olivier Award winners.
"Top Hat" is the new stage version of the 1938 movie with Astaire & Rogers that is a tap-dancing and singing dream. Irving Berlin's songs, hilarious character actors, and two leads who are so like the original make for a great show.
Also saw "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," a very challenging and engrossing play based on the novel by Mark Haddon about Christopher, a 16-yr.-old boy with Asperger Syndrome. The lead and the entire ensemble give performances beyond great. The play is often like a dance of the exacting, yet jumbled thoughts going through Christopher's mind. Many difficult family & society issues are raised while still allowing room for heart and humor.

On Sunday, August 4, we took the 'Chunnel' train to Paris and spent two days getting our bearings for later as well as touring the Pantheon and Latin Quarter (and Eddie having the best mussels he ever had!).

DAY 4.  Monday, August 5:
- Took 3-hour bus tour arranged by Brand g Vacations (our cruise company).  Tour via an enclosed bus was not very good, but we did get some 'lay of the land' and some initial pictures of Notre Dame and Eiffel Tower.
- Visited in 6e the vast, old Montparnasse Cemetery, full of famous Parisians of old and with a large Jewish section.
- Toured the Panthéon, built by Louis XV in 1744 after a 'miraculous' cure from a mysterious disease.  Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Marie Curie, Louis Braille.
- Walked through the beautiful (and again 'vast') Luxembourg Gardens with its Palais du Luxembourg built in 1612 by widow of Henry IV.
- Visited St-Germain-des-Pres, one of Paris' oldest churches from the 6th century. Romanesque in style.
- Visited the immense St. Sulpice (built between 1646 and 1745) and the 1844 fountain and square in front of it.  Has one of the world's largest organs of 6700 pipes.  Has huge, beautiful frescoes by Delacroix.

DAY 5.  Tuesday, August 6:
- Left hotel lobby 8 a.m. for 4-hour trip to go to ship (the Avalon).
- Stopped for a couple of hours in Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy.
- We did a wine tasting and toured the historical Hotel-Dieu, a charity hospital founded 1443.
- Spent a couple hours wandering the wonderful, winding streets of the little town of Beaune.
- Arrived in Chalon-sur-Saone and boarded our 150-passenger river boat.

DAY 6.  Wednesday, Aug. 7:
- Arrived over night in Tournus in southeast corner of Burgundy.
- Several-hour, guided walking tour in morning.  Toured Abbey of St. Philibert, where Christianity first arrived in the second century, CE and one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture.
- Sailed short distance to Mâcon, Burgundy with its 14th century bridge (Pont St.-Laurent). Walked through town to see the remains of a 13th century church with its ancient sculptures (former Cathedral of St. Vincent).  Also toured the Church of St. Pierre and walked through fascinating streets, both in day and again in the night.

DAY 7.  Thursday, Aug. 8:
- Cruised on the Rhône in the morning, arriving on the Saône and traversing to the Rhône past amazing unusual, new modern buildings along river's edge as we arrived at Lyon, France's second (or 3rd if you believe Marseille) largest city, founded by Romans in 43 BCE.
- Afternoon coach tour of Lyon, including extended tour up the hill of Fourvière and the cathedral on top (Notre-Dame de Fourvière) and a walking tour of the Old Town (a UNESCO world heritage site) and its maze of medieval alleyways and beautiful Place des Terreaux and Place Bellecour.  Saw amazing murals on buildings on the edge of the old town. Lyon is considered the French capital of "tromp l'oeil" (eye deceiving public murals).

DAY 8.  Friday, Aug. 9:
- Continued to tour Lyon all day.
- Visited the Centre for the History of the Resistance and Deportation, housed in the former Military School and occupied by the Gestapo during the Occupation.  Exhibits provide the history and feeling of the Occupation of France, details of the deportation of Jews, and heroes of the resistance. During WWII the city was a stronghold for the Resistance.
- Walked a long distance to visit the Lumière Museum, home to the extraordinary late 19th and early 20th century inventions of the Lumière brothers in their former chateau that was the very birthplace of cinematography in 1895.  The museum is full of the first-ever still and movie cameras, 3-D photographs, movie posters, pictures from the first movie houses, and the earliest movies themselves.
- Revisited the wonderful and intriguing Old Town, including the Cathedral of St. John.

DAY 9.  Saturday, Aug. 10:
- Day time sail to Viviers, a small walled city.
- Walking tour of medieval Viviers and organ concert in the Romanesque Cathedral of St. Vincent, consecrated in 1119.

DAY 10.  Sunday, Aug. 11:
- Arrived in Avignon, fortified capital of the Vaucluse region and referred to as "The City of Popes."  Served as center of the Catholic Church in the 14th Century (home of 7 Popes and 2 anti- or schismatic-Popes), with the walled-in city (2.5 miles of 14th century ramparts) dominated by the Palace of the Popes and the adjoining Cathedrale Notre-Dame-des Doms.
- Walking tour in the morning, including a tour of the Palace of the Popes, one of the largest medieval Gothic buildings in Europe.
- Went to the Musée Calvet that started with the private collection of an 18th-century doctor with works by Manet, Daumier, David, Courot, Soutine, Brueghel the Younger, and others.
- Visited Musée Angladon-Dubrujeaud, a museum opened in 1995 containing the magnificent collection of Jacques Doucet, a Paris dandy & dilettante.  He collected a number of young artists early in their careers: Picasso, Braque, Max Jacobs, Duchamp, etc. and then continued to collect them and more.  Set in his former abode and with canvasses also of Cezanne, Sisley, Degas, and Modigliano, this collection was kept secret by his heirs until only recently.
- Climbed to the Rock of the Domes Park above the Palais, with its jaw-dropping views of the Rhône, the surrounding countryside, and the UNESCO Pont St- Benezet (a 12th century bridge with only half remaining after generations of war and flooding).

DAY 11.  Monday, Aug. 12:
- Arrived in Arles, capital of the Provence region and at the northern tip of the Carmargue.  Founded by the Greeks, favorite of Julius Caesar, and home for a time to Vincent Van Gogh, Arles is a gem to visit.  (This is where Van Gogh painted many now-familiar works, where he invited his fellow painter and then-friend Paul Gauguin to join him, and where he cut off part of his ear after having a falling-out with that friend over such issues as whether better to paint out-of-doors or in the studio.)
- 3-hour, guided walking tour in the morning, including a tour of the Roman Amphitheatre, built in the 1st century, seating 25,000, and still in use today for bull fights/contests and concerts.  Stopped by several sites where Van Gogh painted famous pictures.
- Visited the Musée de l'Arles Antique, erected at the site of an enormous Roman circus and full of ancient sculptures, boats, mosaic floors, sarcophagi, jewelry, etc. of the Roman and early Christian times of Arles.  Includes the only know bust of Julius Caesar still existing that was created during his life.
- Visited the Romanesque, UNESCO St. Trophime with its front portal adorned with scores of sculptures (including the only know Mary lying in a bed with the Baby Jesus and the 3 wise men lying together in the same bed).
- Walked underground in the Cryptoportiques, ancient underground galleries dating to 30-20 BCE and used as a refuge for the Resistance members of WWII.
- Went inside the Roman theatre, also of the 1st century and also still used for production although only a few of the original Corinthian columns still exist.

DAY 12.  Tuesday, Aug. 13:
- Disembark from the cruise boat.
- Took train to Montpellier for a 4-day stay at the beautiful, gay-owned B&B, Les 4 Etoiles.  Montpellier is capital of the Landuedoc and an ancient university city of 380,000 founded in the 1160.  The walled-in upper old city flanked by its 18th-century, 9-mile-long, triple-layered Saint Clément Aqueduct is full of winding streets, with outdoor settings for cafes and restaurants around every hidden corner of its alleys.  Montpellier is now considered the 'second gayest French city" after Paris and the fastest growing city in the country.
- Walked through the old town to explore its streets, promenades, and tree-lined boulevards of outdoor cafes.  Each time we left our B&B within a few blocks of the walled city, we walked under the aqueduct and climbed several levels to the Promenade du Peyrou, a terraced park overlooking the city with a Roman-like temple, an Arc de Triomphe built in 1691 by Louis XIV to celebrate various victories and a vast statue of the man himself on his horse.
- Explored the gay scene and found what was to be our bar of choice for each afternoon.

DAY 13.  Wednesday, Aug. 14
- Spent most of the day visiting the vast Musée Fabre, one of France's best art museums that began when Napoleon sent to the City an exhibition in 1803.  Francois Fabre contributed his vast collection in 1825, with more contributions coming through the years.  The museum was hosting a most impressive visiting exhibit of Paul Signac's works, a contemporary and friend of Seurat. Together they helped develop the pointillist style.
- Visited the Hotel Sabatier, a museum of decorative arts of the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Walked past the immense Place de la Comédie (a vast plaza called Montpellier's own living room), through a major shopping center of several levels to arrive at the lower, very modern city recently constructed of immense hotels and condominiums, built in Las Vegas dimensions but in keeping with the columns and style of the old City and with several, ever-more-modern Arcs de Triomphe.  We ended  at the River Lez.

DAY 14.  Thursday, Aug. 15
- Walked round trip of about 18 miles along a path on the River Lez to the Mediterranean beach town of Palavas-les-Flots that was packed with holiday tourists.  We had lunch at a fun bistro called Nexxt and then walked back.  (Took bathing suits, but we did not have time to dip or lay out.  LOL.)

DAY 15.  Friday, Aug. 16
- We visited in the home of a new friend, Yann Golgevit, a classically-trained counter-tenor who now sings professionally throughout Europe as a jazz and contemporary music performer.
- Walked more streets and shopped. Sat in more cafes for beer drinking and watching people.
- Eddie walked into the Cathedrale St-Pierre to hear a 15-piece woodwind group give an afternoon concert.

DAY 16.  Saturday, Aug. 17:
- Took train from Montpellier to Nîmes and Nîmes (BTW, denim is the French words "de Nimes", indicating a fabric which was first made in the southern French town of Nîmes.) to Aigues-Mortes.  Arrived in the 'city of the dead waters.'  It is France's most perfectly preserved walled-in city.  Once a port city (and France's first port in the 13th century), it is now 4 miles from the sea.  In 791, Charlemagne erected the Matafère tower amid the swamps for the safety of fishermen and salt workers. Louis IX (later Saint Louis) started his two Crusades from this town.
- Walked on top of the entire ramparts that surround the town.  Constructed between 1272 and 1300, they look out over salt marshes.
- Toured the Tower of Constance, a castle of the Middle Ages.
- Visited Notre-Dame des Sablons, completed in 1246.
- Walked through rest of town and its quaint streets and many shops and cafes.
- Boarded our 22-passenger boat, the Soleo, at 6 p.m. for our next cruise and adventure, a Provence Bike and Boat Tour.

DAY 17.  Sunday, Aug. 18:
- Biked a total of 27 miles in the Camargue, crossing the village of Le Grau-du-Roi and discovering the west coast and small villages on the seafront.  We passed the hundreds of yachts in the immense Port Camargue and reached the beaches of Espiguette, where we stopped for a couple of hours for lunch and watching tourists and ocean.  The sun was very hot, and we sat on the beach under our umbrellas like the old men we are.)  On the way back, we visited the salt marshes (Salins du Midi), taking a train ride through them and learning their history.
- Stayed in Aigues-Mortes on boat that night.

DAY 18.  Monday, Aug. 19:
- Biked 39 miles again through the Camargue, seeing lots of its famed white horses, a few of its black bulls, and many of its pink flamingoes as well as many fields of wine grapes and of rice.
- Stopped and lunched for a couple of hours at Saintes Maries de la Mar and visited its fortress-like church that often served as a fort against pirates.
- Moored at the village of Gallician.

DAY 19.  Tuesday, Aug. 20:
- Sailed to Saint Gilles and then cycled 13 miles to Arles, stopping along the way to view a bridge where Van Gogh painted a famed masterpiece.
- Spent part of the afternoon with Ed going to doctor for his now plum-sized cyst on his bottom (not the greatest place for biking).  (After the visit and lots of pain pills and antibiotics, Ed dropped out of the rest of the biking the next three days, remaining on the boat to heal and to read about French/Paris history.)
- Walked through the streets of Arles in the afternoon, waiting for the boat to arrive in port.  Shopped and had a beer in an outdoor cafe.

DAY 20.  Wednesday, Aug. 21:
- Eddie biked 37 miles through Provence countryside.
- Stopped first in small village of Fontvielle.
- Climbed the steep road full of magnificent white, rock outcroppings to the medieval town of Les Baux-de-Provence, mounted between calcareous spires in the Alpilles Mountains.
- Visited the immense Chateau des Baux, the remains of a large castle built right into the surrounding mountain and rocks and with acres of grounds over-looking the valleys below.  (The site of the former castle covers more than 5 times the area of the present village itself.)
- Visited the most amazing Carrieres de Lumieres, caves of massively projected paintings of Chagall, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, etc.  An artistic 45-minute journey through the art of the 19th and 20th centuries in a mammoth cave.
- Biked also to St.-Remy, but only had 45 minutes barely to see a few streets.
- Biked past a really huge, impressive, 15th century castle in Tarascon; but did not have time to go inside unfortunately.  We also saw a church where legend says Martha, sister of Lazarus & Mary, arrived with her sister from Palestine by boat in 48 CE and miraculously tamed a sea monster (called a tarasque) that was terrorizing the town.
- Moored in Vallabregues, a small commune known for its wicker baskets and chairs.

DAY 21. Thursday, Aug. 22:
- Eddie biked 37 miles to Avignon.
- Stopped in Meynes at the Place de la Mairie for a short bit of sightseeing of the old town and for refreshments.
- Visited Pont du Gard, a masterpiece of Roman engineering. The ancient aqueduct was built in 19 BCE by Agripa, son-in-law of Augustus and was part of a 30-mile long structure.
- Moored in Villenueve les Avignon, a peaceful village on the right bank of the Rhône from Avignon with its one tower (of Philippe le Bel) left from an earlier fortification, and its castle (Fort Saint-Andre) reached on top of a hill through winding alleys.

DAY 22.  Friday, Aug. 23:
- Sailed in the early morning during breakfast to see the beautiful coast full of colorful boats and the historic Pont St- Benezet near Avignon.
- Eddie biked about 26 miles round trip to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a small village known for many venues for wine tasting, returning to Villenueve les Avignon.
- Stopped in the morning for a quick visit to Sorgues and in the village of Roquemaure in the afternoon.
- Went to a fascinating late-evening 3-D, four-walled performance of Les Luminessences d'Avignon (created by De Bruno Seillier), a 90-minute history of Avignon and of the Papal Palace. Presented inside the immense courtyard of the palace with symphonic-like scores and projections/movies in every direction and on all the many-storied-high walls.  Although in French, there was little need for translation to follow the story and to be totally enthralled.

DAY 23.  Saturday, Aug. 24:
- Departed boat.  Took a high-speed train from Avignon and arrived in Paris at Gare Lyon in two and half hours.
- Checked into our apartment in the Marais, the lively and beautiful gay and Jewish neighborhood of Paris in the 3rd & 4th Arrondissements. A family member recommended using ParisMarais.Com, a travel guide dedicated to the "Art of Living" in the Marais, Paris’ historical center. ParisMarais.Com site provided information and reservation services to selected luxury boutique hotels, guesthouses and guest rooms.
- Did an initial walk-around in the Marais, visiting the National Archives courtyard and the incredible, 19th-century Hotel d'Ville (city hall of Paris), grandly rebuilt after being destroyed in the 1871 Paris Commune uprising.  Its walls are covered in scores of statues of famous Parisians, each done by famous French sculptors.
- Visited the Pompidou Center.  Built in 1977 and described at the time as "the wart on the face of Paris" with its bright-colored, tubular construction and huge size.   It is now a thriving, colorful magnet for all kinds of entertainment and events.
- Began our daily, late-afternoon pattern of spending an hour-to-hour-and-a-half having a beer at Open, a gay cafe on rue de Archives.

DAY 24.  Sunday, August 25
- Visited first the Musée Carnavalet-Histoirie de Paris (History of Paris Museum) inside a Renaissance palace built in 1544 and also inside the adjoining Hotel le Peletier de St-Fargeau (with its Louis XIV furniture and decorative art).
- Toured the Musée d'Art et Historie de Judaism (Jewish History and Art Museum) in the former 1600's Hotel De St-Aignan.  Paris's Jewish history (the good and the bad) is detailed along with an exceptional collection of Judaica art of all types.  The exhibit about the notorious Dreyfus case is particularly exceptional.
- Went to the National Museum of Modern Art (Musée National d'Art Moderne), and its vast collection of 20th and 21st works including those of Calder and Dali.

DAY 25.  Monday, August 26
- Spent the entire day (7 hours) in the Musée du Louvre (the world's largest palace and museum) amidst the works of David, Delacroix, GIllicants, Reubens, Robert, Igres, etc. as well as the extensive collections of ancient art and sculpture.  Reveled in the Napoleon III apartments.
- We also began what became usually a twice-daily walking miles along the quais of the Seine to take in the sights of the boats, the many bridges, and the stalls of the 'les bouquinistes'. These booksellers sell all kind of old books, drawings and prints.

DAY 26:  Tuesday, August 27
- Walked from the Place de la Republique along various magnificent boulevards and past several Arcs d’Triomphe from various kings' victories.
- Toured the Opera Garnier, the opulent opera house built under Napoleon III in 1875.  Jaw-dropping staircases, ceilings and grand halls, topped off by the domed auditorium with its immense crystal chandelier and a ceiling by Marc Chagall depicting famous ballets.  Today, home to the famous Paris Opera Ballet.
- Visited briefly the massive La Madeleine, a Parthenon-like church built in 1842 to honor Napoleon's armies.
- Visited Musée d'Orsay, recently reopened in the neoclassical Gare d'Orsay (a massive, glass-ceiling, former train station).  Devoted to the watershed French art years of 1848-1914 with 80 galleries of so many monumental art pieces that it is impossible not to be over-whelmed.  Manets, Renoirs, Monets, Matisses, Corots, Millets, Gauguins by the dozens it seems.
- Explored the Tour (Tower) St-Jacques, the only part remaining of a 16th-century church.
- Briefly visited the gothic Church of St. Merri, built between 1500 and 1550.

DAY 27:  Wednesday, August 28
- Walked through the Jardin des Tuilieries, Created by Catherine de Medicis in 1564 as the gardens of the royal Tuileries Palace, the gardens became public park after the 1789 Revolution (and the destruction of the palace itself).  Full of flowers, statuary, fountains, and people.
- Visited Musée de L'Orangerie, a small gem in the Tuileries with massive murals by Monet as well as a donated private collection that includes more than 20 Renoirs, 11 Matisse, works by Rosseau, Picasso, Modigliani, Cezanne, etc.
- Visited Petit Palais, built for the 1900 Universal Exposition (like its larger Grande Palais neighbor, now used as an exhibition and concert center).  This fine-arts museum of Paris of eclectic art from ancient times to WWI is an exceptionally beautiful building, full of light, airiness, vaulted and painted ceilings, long halls, and masters of the arts (Ingres, Delacroix, Monet, Manet, Courbet, Sisley, etc.).  One of our very favorites of the entire trip!!
- Made our first visit to Notre-Dame.  Took pictures all around the 800-year-old center and symbol of Paris and made the obligatory visit inside to see the magnificent rose windows.
- Received a nighttime driving tour of Paris by our apartment owner and host, Pascal.

DAY 28:  Thursday, August 29
- Walked through some more of the Marais and then a lot in the Latin Quarter and 6th Arrondissement. (Bought two pieces of original art to remember our time in France.)
- Waited two hours in line to visit the historic Catacombs (les Catacombes de Paris) which form a labyrinth under Paris and were created in the former stone quarries that could have led to Paris' demise through devastating sink holes if not corrected during the reign of Louis XVI.  Tens of thousands of bones were then transferred from Paris' cemeteries to fight the disease being caused by the mounting graves and poisoned water supply.
- Went to the Zadkine Museum (Ossip Zadkine, 1890-1967), a contemporary of Picasso who created "left-wing" cubist sculptures and then moved later in his career to appreciate more classical works.
- Toured the house of Delacroix (Musée National Eugene Delacroix) to see his art, to learn about his life, and to see his actual tools of the trade.

DAY 29: Friday, August 30
- Visited the Modern Art Museum of Paris (Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) in the eastern wing of the magnificent Tokyo Palace (art center opening in 2002 in a building for the 1937 World's Fair).  A real gem and one of the better modern art museums we have ever attended anywhere.  Works by Chagall, Rothko, Braque, Dufy, Picasso, Utrillo, Modigliani and many others -- all arranged as an evolving history of the various movements of 20th century art.
- Walked through the New Bridges Park along the Seine, a venue resembling in many ways the High Line Park of New York City.
- Toured the Conciergerie, a 14th century castle and stronghold with its landmark two towers on the Seine.  Became the prison where those to be guillotined were housed, including one of its most famous visitors, Marie Antionette.

DAY 30: Saturday, August 31
- Spent the day in Montmartre with our new best friend Lance from Perth, Australia, including doing an extensive walking tour of the entire area and its many famous sites along the way.
- Visited inside the 1876 Roman-Byzantine style Basilica of the Sacré Cœur that can be seen above Paris' skyline.
- Visited Musée Montmartre, a house that many famous artists once lived and worked together (Duffy, van Gogh, Renior, Suzanne Valadon (dance hall girl turned famous artist), Utrillo Valadon (her son). The museum retraces their and the district's history.
- Visited the new Espace Dali, the largest collection of Dali sculpture, etchings and lithographs in France.

DAY 31: Sunday, September 1
- Visited the extensive Sunday outdoor market between the Grenelle and Duplex metro stops near the Eiffel Tower.  Everything from whole chickens and ducks to every kind of seafood imaginable to fruits and vegetables, magnificent baked goods, cheeses, prepared foods, etc.  Also, clothing, household items, plants, etc., etc.  And crowds of happy shoppers.
- Took a 2.5 hour tour of the Eiffel Tower.  Went all the way to the top. Magnificent!!
- Walked and shopped in the Jewish section of the Marais along rue des Rosiers, which is reportedly always crowded and alive on Sunday afternoons, especially this one being three days before Rosh Hashanah.

DAY 32:  Monday, September 2
- Climbed up into the towers of Notre-Dame to see the views and the incredible gargoyles.
- Toured the Hotel des Invalides/Napoleon's Tomb.  Built in 1670 by Louis XIV to house soldiers. Its gilded dome and miles of corridors were completed long after the Sun King was dead.  In the Eglise du Dome (the second tallest monument in Paris next to the Eiffel Tower) is Napoleon's Tomb as well as chapels honoring other great, French military leaders.
- Spent several hours in the adjoining Musée de l'Armee which tells the history of France and all its kings, rulers, wars, and conquests through its extensive collections of armor, weapons, paintings, guns, cannons, and the like.

Day 33: Tuesday, Sept. 3:
- Flew out of Paris from Charles DeGaulle at 1:15 p.m.  2.5-hour layover in Chicago. Arrive back home at SFO at 8:12 p.m.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

On Vacation for August, Holiday in France

We will be traveling around France for the next four weeks.  We were last in France four years ago. At that time we did a two-week hike in the French Alps from Megève to Nice.

This year we fly to London, spend the night and see a play in the in the West End. Then we catch the Chunnal Train to Paris where we meet up with our first tour.

Burgundy and Provence Riverboat Gay Cruise organized by Brand g Vacations.  This tour is described as: “Your all gay adventure begins with two nights and guided sightseeing in Paris, the "City of Light." Travel south to fascinating Beaune for a Burgundy wine tasting; then board your ship in quaint Chalon-sur-Saône and set sail for lovely Tournus, Mâcon, France's gastronomic capital of Lyon, as well as medieval Tournon, charming Viviers, the UNESCO World Herit-age Site of Avignon, before disembarking in Arles, once home to Vincent Van Gogh. This cruise vacation has it all—historic sites, charming towns, world-class wine and cuisine and more!”

At the end of this tour, we spend four days at a gay owned Bed and Breakfast in Montpellier.  We then take a train to Aigues Mortes for the next tour.

Provence Bike and Boat Tour organized by Nichols Expeditions. It begins in Aigues Mortes and continues to Avignone.  The tour is described as: “A wonderful tour through the wild Camargue nature with its bulls and horses: from the medieval fortress of Aigues Mortes to Saintes Maries de la Mer and then gradually by boat towards Arles. After that you visit the most typical Provence landscape, including the Rhone Valley, Van Gogh’s Provence, the Roman France of Pont du Gard and finally toast with the precious wines of Chateauneuf du Pape.”

When this tour is finished in Avignone, we take a train back to Paris. We have rented an apartment in Le Marais district for eleven days. A family member recommended using ParisMarais.Com, a travel guide dedicated to the "Art of Living" in the Marais, Paris’ historical center. ParisMarais.Com site provides information and reservation services to selected luxury boutique hotels, guesthouses and guest rooms. We will be back at the beginning of September. See you then…
See You In September - THE HAPPENINGS


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Underwear Review: Rounderwear

I guess I can now be considered to be a real gay blogger. I have started to receive pitches for stories and promotions. A recent promotion pitch caught my eye. I was offered a free pair of fancy underwear if I wrote a blog review of it. I couldn’t turn it down. You can ask my husband, he will insist that I have an underwear-buying fetish. I insist that I don’t own that many pairs of briefs.

A couple weeks ago I received a pair of Jam Jeans Trunk Blue underwear from Rounderwear.
I had not heard of this brand of underwear before. They have been around for a number of years and it appears they are doing a social media push. Quite a few other blogging sites have already reviewed them.

Rounderwear offers a variety of styles and shapes in a multitude of color and patterned fabrics. They also offer several types of underwear that will enhance your appearance with padded, lift and package technology.  I didn’t go for this any of these cutting-edge, patented design enhancements. I was interested in a fun pair of boxer briefs. Since blue is my favorite color, I thought the pair that is inspired by denim looked the most interesting. My husband would say the picture of the hot model swayed me. Maybe that too. He is a young, sexy looking man. Will the underwear look just as good on a middle-age man with a little extra?

The review: While I liked the light blue color, it didn’t remind me of denim or stone/acid washed jeans once I took it out of the attractive box. It just looked blue. I have come to appreciate a contoured pouch that many new underwear brands now feature. I like the support it offers without feeling like everything is being squished. I ordered a Medium, which seems a little snug for me. Otherwise I liked the fit. Sizing is always a hit or miss with a new brand. Some underwear brands fit me perfect in a Medium size, while others require a Large. I could not find any sizing information on their website to help guide me on choosing the correct size. If I order another Rounderwear item, I will try a Large size next time.

Real Man Underwear Model
I imagine the marketing and promotions people at Rounderwear are going to be appalled and dismayed to see that an average, middle-age dad with hair and scars on his body is modeling their designer brand. In other words, here is what a regular guy, not a fashion model, would look like in fancy, fashion briefs. Oh well, gotta love the intimacy of social media.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Photos of NYC trip

We had an amazingly fun week in New York City this year. You can read the reviews of the 11 shows we saw in 7 days in the previous entry. Here are some pictures during our theatre going.
Eddie loved seeing the closing performance
of "Luck Guy" with Tom Hanks.
Ed can't believe he is on Broadway.

The beautiful exterior of the Lyceum Theatre
We have been going to NYC during the Fourth of July week for ten years. It is one of the few weeks of the year when some show perform on nontraditional days and times such as Monday evenings, Tuesday/Thursday/Friday matinee and Sunday night. 

Show curtain for "Matilda The Musical"
Show curtain for "The Trip to Bountiful"
Set for "The Explorers Club" at Manhattan Theatre Club

We could open our own place!
Dykes Lumber since 1909.

Walking the High Line Park
Site of first PFLAG meeting at the Church of the Village
I found it unbelievable that there are still pay phones on every corner in midtown Manhattan. Many intersections had four pay phones, one at each corner. It is real obvious that their purpose isn’t for the convenience of the cellphone lacking person. They are there for the purpose displaying advertising. 

For the first time we stayed in a neighborhood other than Chelsea. Previously we stayed at a friends place near 15th and 7th Avenue or at the Colonial House Inn at 318 West 22nd St. This year we stayed in Hell’s Kitchen at a new place, The Out NYC at 510 West 42nd St.
My husband’s TripAdvisor review: “The relatively new The Out NYC hotel is a terrific and relatively economical place to stay in the heart of the theatre and mid-town gay scenes. The rooms, while not huge, are more than adequate. The beds are super comfy. Bathrooms and showers are large with good storage areas. The sauna, hot tubs, and steam room are usually full of good-looking guys. While this is a straight-friendly hotel (and there were families there), it is especially a wonderful gay-oriented hotel with gay guests from around the world. The bar and restaurant are nice, although the lobby bar does close a bit early during the week. We will definitely return.”

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