Be a Better Lover, Learn to Cook

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

Cooking in the kitchen, cooking in the bedroom

Men, if you want to impress a future lover (or your current one), and I mean really impress them then do this one simple thing.

Learn to cook.

I mean learn to cook, not just microwave hot pockets or make spaghetti. Learn how to cook an egg, learn about how to make a roux, learn what mirepoix is. Invest in this most basic education — how to properly feed and sustain yourself so that you can sustain another human.

Why? Because there’s something primal about feeding your love interest. The time, the focus, and effort you put into the food you make, the wine you select, and the experience you create speak unsaid volumes.

Be a gentleman, have your shit together.

It communicates to your love interest that she/he/they are special to you that you want to break bread with them. It’s a circle for two, intimate and bonding.

I’m reminded of this level of intimacy shared between lovers because of Mysterious Witt’s posted. There was a passage from her article Post-Divorce and Desiring Casual Sex, I Still Wanted the “Boyfriend Experience” where she wrote about a lover that prepared a meal for her.

I left a short comment about how in my experience cooking for a potential lover always ended up with me and her between the sheets.

My comment was this:

Speaking from personal experience, whenever I cooked a meal for a prospective sex partner we always ended up between the sheets that night.

I’d like to think that it was my cooking skills but there’s something primal about the focus and time you give to someone when you give them sustenance. (via link)

Of course, I’m grossly simplifying this. If a potential lover agreed to come to your apartment or house for a home-cooked meal then you already have built up a rapport that makes them feel safe and secure. The adage of “don’t be a creep” still applies here. Be a gentleman, have your shit together.

I first learned this truth when I was living on my own, living a single professional life in New Mexico. I had my first crappy apartment with a small kitchen and pull-out bed. I don’t remember how I met my girlfriend but I think it was at some group function. We got to chatting and hit it off.

We started to “hang out” one on one and there was a growing romantic interest between us. I went grocery shopping one day and returned home to see a message from her on my answering machine (yes, I’m old. This was before mobile phones). I called her back and we made plans to go somewhere but in the meantime, I invited her to come over as I was cooking chicken soup.

In my single life, I used to meal prep and freeze my lunches and dinners for a few days. When she came over I asked her if she wanted a bowl of soup. It wasn’t anything special, just some vegetables, some elbow noodles, and bits of chicken. We sat down together and ate the soup.

If you know how to make delicious sauces that drizzle over the food with care, what else can you “drizzle” on her body with care?

We chatted and I went to clean up after we finished our soup. She followed me into the kitchen and pounced. I went from single to having a girlfriend that evening.

Another time I prepared a picnic for a different love interest that ended up with a steamy evening between us. What did I pack? A few sandwiches, some snacks, a bottle of wine, and a blanket.


Author + team making a molten chocolate lava cake in a bake off contest. Yes, we won.

Gentlemen invest in an online cooking class. If you live in a large city, go check out a cooking class. They even have singles cooking classes! Learn how to chop an onion without crying. Learn how to make pasta, it’s so easy! You might even meet someone you might want to cook for!

Why makes cooking so seductive?

Simple.

As a cook you need to be creative, you need to figure out ways to tantalize the taste buds of your lover. It communicates that you can spice things up and you pay attention to things. In other words, you might be adventurous in the bedroom.

As a cook, you know how to make things boil or bring them to the right temperature. If you can do that in the kitchen, imagine what you can bring to a boil in the bedroom. If you know how to make delicious sauces that drizzle over the food with care, what else can you “drizzle” on her body with care?

You know how to bake a decadent dessert, a delight for her lips. You can prepare a feast that the both of you can ravenously devour, as you would each other in the bedroom.

There is such a sensual aspect to this that every single man out there needs to internalize.

If you want to “cook” in the bedroom, you have to learn how to cook in the kitchen.

Fuck Money

Photo by Ricardo Díaz on Unsplash

Stop being exploited

I so love Twitter. I follow so many cool and interesting people there that share with the universe their wit, expertise, and their kindness.

The other day I came across @Rowenadances’s tweet about alternate currency.

I love this because it highlights that money isn’t everything, rather your time is everything. The old saying that “time is money” is correct but we’re so conditioned to get those bits of paper with funny faces on them instead of seeing how valuable our time really is.

You have Jeff Bozo joy riding in space as the world burns…

Yes, I know it takes cold hard cash to pay your rent, mortgage, and gas. These are realities of our capitalistic society, we can’t escape them, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.

But what frightens me is the glaring wealth inequities and the “fuck it” attitude of environmental destruction that the ultra-wealthy have.

You have Jeff Bozo joy riding in space as the world burns, gleefully making working conditions for his Amazon employees atrocious. Monitoring their every move, their toilet breaks, and their menstrual cycles.

The ultra-wealthy trap you into a cycle of servitude and continue to condition you that money is the be-all and end-all to your life. You need to make more and then consume. You need to put yourself in debt just to live.

We are exploited. Our time is exploited, debased, and manipulated so that we get hooked in a cycle of dependence.

Well, fuck that. Break free is what I say.

What if you can lessen your dependence on that? What if you can use an alternate form of currency, and stop playing this game so much?

No matter what alternate form of currency you want to give, they all come down to time.

That’s what her tweet was all about, alternate forms of currency.

Alternate Forms of Currency

Alternate forms of currency remind me a lot of bartering, the original way to trade. You have something I want and I have something you want. We’d talk about a fair and equitable value for each item and then trade.

You don’t need cold hard cash, Bitcoin, or Paypal for that. You can trade your time, cook meals for someone or bake bread, make and send art (one of my favorites), share your knowledge, do yard work, have sex (legally), etc.

Exploitation is how this inequitable game continues to trap you.

There are an infinite amount of ways where you can share your time, brains, or physical power as an alternate currency, and you don’t have to do any of that if you feel that you’d be exploited.


For someone like me, I value time, art, and favors as an alternate form of currency. No matter what alternate form of currency you want to give, they all come down to time.

I’ve written about this before but time is the most precious thing in the universe. The time you spend with or on someone (your love, partner, children, writing, etc) is the most valuable thing you can give to them.

Never forget, you have something they want.

As I type these words for you those seconds are gone forever. The thoughts in my head, that took hours to form are gone forever. Yet the words on this page are me giving you my time.

We all know that quality time spent together is life-changing and whether you’re doing a favor, making an art piece for someone, or even showing your boobs, that time investment on your part can be life-changing for them. That’s why it’s so valuable.

We trade our time for money all the time. We go to work, give 8 hours a day in exchange for bits of paper. The people that run the system end up manipulating it so that they extract more time from you in exchange for less money.

Exploitation is how this inequitable game continues to trap you.

They want your time and they’re willing to cheat you to get it.

Stop the madness and take back your power!

Trade your time for things you want. Are you good at landscaping but need your house painted? Work out a deal with a painter to landscape his/her yard in exchange for painting your house.

Do you love making art but need your kitchen sink fixed? Make something and trade it for a neighbor’s time to fix your sink.

Trade your time for someone else’s time instead of bits of manipulated paper.

Once you realize that your time is valuable you’ll understand that another person’s time is valuable too.

Just that simple recognition can help end the exploitation and profiteering by the corporations, and the ultra-wealthy that only see you as dirty peasants.

Never forget, you have something they want. Know that you have the most precious thing in the universe.

Your time.

I’m So Happy for You

Photo by Denise Jones on Unsplash

Taking joy in your partner’s life

Relationships are interesting. Friendships, parent-child, sexual, work ones all take on different meanings and with different boundaries. Some are deeper than others and some are more playful.

The key is that whatever relationship you form with another person (or more) you need to make sure that it’s one with happiness at its core.

Why am I happy for happiness? All because of a book recommendation.

Elle Beau recommended the book “Opening Up: A Guide To Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships” by Tristan Taormino. The main thrust of the book is about polyamory and how to open up a “closed” relationship to one that’s more “open” when all parties involved want to.

She remarked that it’s quite good for monogamous relationships as well and that intrigued me. I’m still in the middle of reading it but the two main points that resonated with me were nonviolent communication and compersion.

Maybe I’m just a well-groomed hippie?

I didn’t even know what compersion was until I came across it in the book and looked it up. Compersion is defined as “the feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one love another; contrasted with jealousy. (via Wordnik)”

My partner and I are in a monogamous relationship and even broaching the topic of “opening up” is met by fierce resistance. I have no desire to open up and neither does my partner. We’re happy just the way things are right now but that doesn’t mean I’m curious to learn more about it.

I have a constant need to feed my head and I love learning about alternative structures, ideas, and counter-culture that revels in all the glorious colors of life.

Maybe I’m just a well-groomed hippie? Or was it too much LDS?

Nonviolent Communication

Life in my house tends to be volatile. I have two wonderful but pain-in-the-ass teenagers that I love very much.

I get it, I went through puberty too and started the arduous task of figuring out who I am at their ages. My son loves to challenge me now and my daughter loves to argue with my partner. There’s can be a lot of yelling, posturing, and arguing at random times.

I feel bad when this happens.”

It’s something that’s bothered me for a long time. I prefer harmony, not pay lip service to it, but it’s hard to put into practice. I succumb to the arguing as well. What can I say? I’m human, but I want to be better.

Enter nonviolent communication.

Nonviolent communication is defined as:

is an approach to communication based on principles of nonviolence. It is not a technique to end disagreements, but rather a method designed to increase empathy and improve the quality of life of those who utilize the method and the people around them. (via Wikipedia)

Easier said than done? Right?

Well not so fast, it’s quite easy to do if you reframe how you feel at the moment.

That’s the trick, reframing how you feel at the very moment and that can be hard. You just have to catch yourself and express your feelings in a way that isn’t an attack.

“Opening Up” has made me realize that my partner and I have a fairly large and varied friend network.

Instead of attacking someone by saying something like “Why do you always do this? Don’t you get it!”

You can say something like this, “I feel bad when this happens.”

Just that little change suddenly makes the altercation more empathetic because you’ve been there too. You’ve been attacked and felt bad, you see the other person as a fellow human being and not an adversary.

We started to consciously use this technique in our house over the past month and there’s been a big change. There is less yelling and more talking now. Do we still have big blowups, yes, but it takes time to change learned behavior.

Compersion

One of the most interesting words I learned was compersion. Simply put it’s the opposite of jealousy and it’s something the both of us have been doing unknowingly for years. Not only in our relationship to each other and our children, but with our friends as well.

We have friends that fill a need we have that we can’t give to each other.

“Opening Up” has made me realize that my partner and I have a fairly large and varied friend network.

I have my karate friends whereas my partner has her pickleball friends. She has her FB gardening friends and I have my Twitter friends. She loves to visit her friend on a farm and I love to do photo walks with my photography friends.

We have different groups of friends that fill a certain need for us.

That’s when it dawned on me, friendships are a lot like a polyamorous structure. We might not share a sexual bond with these friends but for some, it is an emotional one. We have friends that fill a need we have that we can’t give to each other.

And that’s OK.

When my partner heads down to her friend’s farm for a few days or organizes a potluck for her gardening friends, I’m happy. I can either join or spend the time doing something else.

When I’m off on a photo walk or photoshoot my partner can go play pickleball or just take a nap on the couch.

There is no jealousy. There’s just happiness and joy.

There is no need for me or her to monopolize each other’s time. We may be fluid bonded but we support each other to become better. Better happy human beings.

We can choose to take joy in our partner’s life…

I’m happy for her, I’m happy for us, and I’m happy for me.

I’m So Happy for You!

When I write or say “I’m happy for you,” I mean it. I truly am happy for you.

You might be working toward a hard-earned goal, or you had something wonderful happen to you that’s worth noting.

You can start small.

Sharing a bit of happiness, even its mere acknowledgment of an event or something important in their life is such a wonderful positive sentiment to give to someone.

I do it because your happiness brings happiness to me.

It’s weird how that works but it does.

We need to practice being happy for others as a way to find happiness ourselves. There’s only so much time we in this world, why focus on the negative when we can choose to be happy.

We can choose to take joy in our partner’s life, in our children’s lives, and our professional life.

It’s a choice.

I’ve written about how love is a renewable resource and how time is not. They are the raw ingredients for happiness, you just have to take love and consciously mix it with time you have together! It’s a conscious choice you have to make.

And the best part?

You can start small.

Start by saying, “I’m happy for you.

Love Like You Mean It

Say it, feel it, make it.

My partner tells me the news Wednesday morning. Our neighbor collapsed dead with a massive heart attack the night before. She was 53 and leaves behind two children and a loving husband. Sunday afternoon we’re at her house along with 100’s of people, dressed up and in her backyard. We’re there to honor her life.

My partner and I admired all the photo collages of her life. She was smiling or laughing in every single image. There were ones of her on her wedding day, holding her first child, and her in the arms of her husband.

Her life was cut short but she lived every minute of it.

Those photos captured just a small part of what a giant this woman was in her life. There were tears in everyone’s eyes as we told stories about her.

You can tell that she was loved by all and we all felt her love around us.

Her life was cut short but she lived every minute of it. She lived it full of joy, and love. What more could she have asked for? What more can we ask for?

After all what else is there for us but love and joy?

The briefcase

I was 25 years old and working late, it was 11 PM. I was the last one out of the office and walked down to the parking lot and toward my car. I saw a big black briefcase bag sitting in the middle of the parking lot. I picked it up and noticed it had a laptop in it.

This was 25 years ago so the laptop was this big clunky thing, but there was a business card inside with a name a number.

Someone dropped this bag by accident so I took it home with me. I called the number and left a message for the owner.

The next morning I got a callback. The laptop belonged to a clinical psychologist that worked in my building with high-risk people and she put the briefcase on top of her car when loading other things, forgot about it, and drove off. She was so happy that I found it and offered to pay me a reward.

They had the time to process out all the feelings of sorrow, guilt, and pain with their child before they died.

I said no to the reward and agreed to meet so I can give her the bag and laptop back.

She was so grateful, her entire life was on that laptop and all the sensitive client data was unencrypted. She offered to take me out to dinner as a way to say thank you. I agreed to that.

We went out to dinner a few days later and had a great time. The conversation was wonderful and she asked about my work and I asked about her work. She told me about her thesis work, about parent/survivor guilt and recovery when a child dies.

Look them in the eye and tell them how much they matter to you. How much they light up your life. How lucky you are to have them in your life.

Her research showed that parents who had a sick child, like one dying of cancer or some other illness, tended to cope and recover with the loss of their child better over time than the ones who lost a child suddenly and tragically.

The reason why? Because the parents with a child dying from a long illness had time to express their love for them. They had the time to process out all the feelings of sorrow, guilt, and pain with their child before they died.

The parents whose child skated away and was killed in a car accident or was shot in school never had a chance to tell them “I love you” that one last time. Those parents suffered and some never recovered from that loss, often turning to substance abuse to cope.

A simple statement as saying “I Love You” and making it a point that it’s felt between parent and child made all the difference to the survivors. That love, that tacit and emotional communication between them, was enough to sustain the survivors during their grief and loss.

That love was a seed. It was that single blooming flower in a fire-scorched wilderness, and it was a reminder of the beauty that was before.

Would you have made them feel the love you had for them before they left, never to return?

This realization hit me hard. I went home that night and thought about it. I still think about it to this day. I thought about it during the memorial.

How many of us just say, “I love you! Have a nice day!” perfunctorily and watch our loved ones run out the door to work or to school. We do it all the time and then a handful of us get that phone call, the one you never want to get.

Would you have said something different to your lover, child, parent, partner, or friend then? Would you have given them an extra hug or another kiss? Perhaps looked deeper into their eyes? Would you have made them feel the love you had for them before they left, never to return?

I know I would have wanted to.

I Love You

There is always time to say it. There’s always time to manifest it. There is always time to renew it.

That’s the wonderful thing about Love, it’s a renewable resource. It’s always there and it can grow from the tiniest seed, planted in the harshest conditions.

Say it now. Turn to the people that you hold dear in your life and make them feel it. There are so many ways you can do it.

Look them in the eye and tell them how much they matter to you. How much they light up your life. How lucky you are to have them in your life.

Realize how much they matter to you because you matter to them too.

The only thing we can take with us, as that last breath is drawn, is knowing we are loved.

Because the greatest gift we can receive is someone’s love and the greatest thing we can give them is our love.

When death comes for us, whether it comes quickly or took its time, the only thing we can leave behind is our love. The only thing we can take with us, as that last breath is drawn, is knowing we are loved.


PS

I sat in my office after the memorial and read through the news. Another killing, another tragedy, and life just seem to go on. People being shits to one another and so much turmoil. I just sighed.

My daughter was sitting behind me drawing her artwork when she just blurted out, “Dad? I love you.”

I smiled, stood up, and kissed her on the top of her head.

“I love you too.”

Missives on Erotic Photography

Creation vs exploitation

There’s nothing more controversial in the photography world than erotic photography. It’s right up there with the Canon vs Nikon flame wars and film vs digital “debates.”

Why is it so controversial? Because it can be easily exploited and perverted. There’s a fine line between an erotic photo that’s artistic and one of exploitation. One is quality and the other is just plain yuck.

You can argue that we all consume photography, just as we do with writing on Medium. We create works of any kind and hope that we get enough eyeballs on them to earn some money or build a name for ourselves, but do we ever come back to the main question? Why do we do this?

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Breaking Free from a Creative Rut

Photography is a muscle, the more you use it the better you become AND if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Lucy Magdalene — © 2021, Thomas Ott

Warning: The following images below the fold are NSFW. Not because they’re porn, but because they show the female nipple and partially covered pubic hair.


I’m stuck in a creative rut and I need to break free. I felt like an anchor has weighed me down for many years and I’m cutting it loose. Finally!

There was a time when photography liberated me and I made wonderful photos but somewhere along the way, I became an iPhone snapper. I stopped “making” photos and started “taking” photos.

I don’t know where I went wrong or how it happened. Perhaps it was life or something more sinister, but after my existential crisis, I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to get out of this rut.

I need to break free and start shooting again, not for others but for me.

The sad thing is that I feel like I’m starting all over again, and that’s OK. Photography is a muscle, the more you use it the better you become AND if you don’t use it, you lose it.

When my friend Lee asked me to come down and help fill out a model’s time he booked, I said “Ok.” This was in May of this year, just over a year into this pandemic, and two years since I shot anything of quality.

Lee was running a “Lighting the Nude” workshop and he wanted to make it worth her while to be there. So instead of hiring her for 2 hours, he asked our friend Harold and me to come down and work with her for two more hours.

Modeling is a tough gig and nude models’ fees range from $80-$150 an hour. While $150 sounds like a lot of money, it isn’t when you consider their travel time, prep time, and all the other time a model spends before the first photo is made.

On top of that, there were two more reasons why I wanted to do this, see my friends again and work with the talented and wonderful model and photographer Lucy Magdalene.

So I packed up my gear, bought some film, and drove down to Pennsylvania with my trusty medium format camera and my DSLR.

The Shoot

Before the pandemic shutdown, I shot mostly street photography. It was a safe way to repress a lot of my desires and I wanted to explore what the mean streets of NYC and other places had to offer. While that was fun, it never really connected with me over the past decade as much as I wanted it to. What did connect with me and what I actively suppressed was erotic photography.

While that subject is for another post and story altogether, there was a time when I did single/couples boudoir photography and made erotic work with fantastic models.

Note: Most of that work isn’t online and I can’t share it as I’m very discreet and respectful of my client’s privacy.

For this gig, I wanted to shoot mostly with medium format film and experiment with double exposures. Making double and triple exposures is easy on my Mamiya RZ but I never did it before. I thought working with Lucy would be a great way to try it out.

The top two images in the photo gallery (below) are on film and the rest is digital.

Lucy Magdalene — © 2021, Thomas Ott
Lucy Magdalene — © 2021, Thomas Ott
Lucy Magdalene — © 2021, Thomas Ott
Lucy Magdalene — © 2021, Thomas Ott

The result is that film is always visually appealing to me. There’s nothing like the color rendering of Portra 400, it remains one of my favorite negative films ever, BUT, and this is a big but, it’s too damn expensive now. Each frame of film cost me $3 for film, development, and scan. Add in the model’s time, the drive down there, and it turned into an expensive get-together.

Still, there’s nothing like the look of Lucy on film. She just rocks it.

Where do we go from here?

What do I want to do with my photography going forward? I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out but I need to just step up and start shooting again.

The hardest part is coming out of that cave I’ve been hiding in and making the switch from an iPhone snapper back to a maker of photos.

Wish me luck.

The Joy of Letter Writing

Why #happymail is so wonderful

When I was in grade school my teacher taught us how to address an envelope, write a letter, and put it in the envelope. Once we mastered that, we were given a list of names of students in a mid-western state to pick from as our new pen pal. Each name on the list had a topic they were interested in. Since I liked science, I picked a boy’s name that liked science too.

We all got busy writing a letter to our pen pal the next day. After writing a standard greeting and introduction, I asked what my future pen pal’s interest in science was.

I’m not sure if this was the moment that I fell in love with writing but this moment sure was a big one for me.

We finished our letters and our teacher collected them. She mailed them to her counterpart in another school the next day.

A few weeks later we got our responses. I remember how excited I was watching her walk down the rows of desks handing out envelopes to all the students.

“Thomas, here’s your letter!” I grabbed it excitedly from her hands, ripped off the top, and read carefully written cursive script.

I’m not sure if this was the moment that I fell in love with writing but this moment sure was a big one for me.

I read his letter with zeal. Travis wrote about how he liked geology and rock hunting. He liked science and space and thought Carl Sagan was cool. At the bottom of his letter was his home address, he wanted to continue to write after we finished this assignment.

Where else can you join or form a community of like-minded people from around the world?

I rushed home, wrote my reply and asked my mother for an envelope and stamp. I carefully wrote down his name and address and then asked her to mail it out for me.

Then, I waited.

And waited.

Then waited some more.

Nothing.

I never received a reply.

My first thought was that the letter got lost in the mail, so I wrote him another one and waited. Still no response. I was devastated.

The Pre-Internet World

For all the problems the Internet has, it sure is wonderful sometimes. Where else can you join or form a community of like-minded people from around the world?

In the pre-Internet world, I grew up in a standard suburban town where no one shared the same interests I did. I wanted to talk about science, space, physics, and topics bigger than me.

I played in a punk rock band, did punk rock stuff, and studied Civil Engineering.

When I found a pen pal from halfway across the country that shared the same interests as me, I felt so connected. I felt like I wasn’t alone and that my ‘tribe’ is out there.

When the Internet came on the scene and communities sprang up, it was the first time we could connect quickly to each other. It was wonderful and today I have more friends online than I do offline.

Yet, getting a letter in the mail from a pen pal far away is always a treasure. Although I never heard from my first pen pal ever again, I was intrigued and excited to try writing to pen pals again.

I wouldn’t do that again until I was in college.

College was a fun and weird time for me. I went from having long hair and playing in a speed metal band to being a pagan and punk rocker. I played in a punk rock band, did punk rock stuff, and studied Civil Engineering.

I’m not very crafty but I do add a bit of Washi tape…

I also loved reading Maximum Rock and Roll, a fanzine out of California for Punk Rockers. In their classified section that I found my next pen pal. Her name was Barbara lived in New York City and ran in the same circles I did. Unfortunately, we never met but we corresponded about music, life, and everything in between. It was wonderful.

I never forgot the joy of getting her letter in the mail, it was the cheapest thrill!

Then my life changed. I graduated, cleaned myself up, traded love for money, and moved to New Mexico. She got busy with life and moved in with her boyfriend and we stopped writing.

Pen Pals Come and Go

Many years passed and I didn’t write to anyone, I just worked and raised a family. Then, pre-Covid, I was on a cruise with my family in 2019. On a whim, I picked up a few postcards and decided to write to my parents and my sister.

It was only a few sentences, the standard, “ having a great time, wish you were here” postcard, but it felt so good to mail them. I know that my parents loved getting the postcard from us and it brought them a little smile and it made me feel good too.

Then I turned 50 and made a conscious point to start doing the things that brought me joy. Writing letters and sending postcards brings me joy and if I could send a bit of happy mail to someone, then it was well worth it.

So I started writing my Facebook friends’ letters. We’d correspond back and forth for a bit but then they’d stop writing. Instead, we chat by Messenger now and that’s ok too.

You sent them your smile from 1,000 miles away, and that is wonderful.

So I did the next best thing, I joined a Penpal group on FB and put up my profile. I just asked for penpals from around the world and I ended getting about 14 of them.

Today I have about 10 active pen pals and we write to each other every few months. Some of my penpals are very crafty and make personalized envelopes. I’m not very crafty but I do add a bit of Washi tape here and there to send a bit of joy to them. We call it #happymail.

There is a time commitment to writing to your penpals but it’s really small when compared to everything else that goes on in your life. Granted you could email them faster but at what cost?

Sitting down and writing a simple letter requires dedication and focus, and that’s why it’s so wonderful to get a letter in the mail. Someone took the time to write to you.

Think of it in the context of a new lover. Don’t you enjoy all the focus and time they dedicate to you? It’s the same way when you write a letter, you’re giving someone something precious and that’s felt in your words.

PS

The next time you go away on vacation somewhere, stop and get a few postcard stamps at the Post Office. When you walk around the shops at your vacation destination find a postcard and pick it up. Then write a few sentences to someone you care about, put their address on it with the stamp, and mail it out.

You just sent someone a deeper message than a mere text. You sent them your smile from 1,000 miles away, and that is wonderful.

You mailed joy.

Why I Would Retire to an LGBTQ+ Community

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

It’s all about the acceptance

My family took a trip up to Provincetown earlier this summer. We were camping just outside in the town of Truro and spent days biking around the beautiful seashore. It was a glorious week except for one big sad event but we love it up there.

We ride around all day, then head into town for lunch or dinner, and do some shopping. We’d all been vaccinated by this time and the streets of P-town were full. Our trip up to the Cape coincided with “Family Week,” a week dedicated to couples with children. There were games for the kids and fun things to do for the families.

I loved it. My partner and I were there with our kids and we saw so many LGBTQ+ couples with children in town. None of us batted an eye or recoiled in horror, to us it was just normal.

As it should be. Love is love and families are what you make them be.

But I didn’t think that way in my younger years, my understanding and compassion have evolved over the years, thankfully.

When I was a teenager I was told that LGBTQ+ was immoral and against God’s laws. I was in the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult but I heard this from other friends who were Evangelicals, Catholics, or any other crazy Christian flavor. Everyone “hated the gays.”

My friends in school weren’t any better. They hated the ‘fags’ and we were always teasing each other about being a ‘fag.’ I never thought about it and just went along with it.

It wasn’t until I went to college that my thoughts on this subject started to change.

“I would bash them all if I had the chance!”

I was in an environment that had people of color, different clubs, and events, and lots of new people. Granted, it was an Engineering college and by that extension fairly conservative but it was liberal enough to explore things you were never allowed to do.

A year after I started there a few students and a female friend of mine formed a club called BGLAD. The acronyms stood for “Bi, Gay, Lesbian, and Defenders.”

My friend and I were in the same environmental defense club and we hit it off since we first met. We weren’t romantically linked, just good friends. Since this was an engineering school, any female friend you had made you a stud in the eyes of the other geeks and nerds. After all, I wasn’t one of them! Or was I?

We’d spend an inordinate amount of time playing pinball between classes. One day we were playing with another group of classmates when the subject of BGLAD came up. One guy said, “I would bash them all if I had the chance!” To which my female friend hauled off and screamed, “I have so many good friends that are gay or lesbian, how dare you!

I stood there, shocked, not understanding the interchange between them. I never realized that there are people, some of them friends that had gay and lesbian friends, and other people want to physically assault them.

This was a gay bar and quite a popular one too.

That seemed so unfair and not right. Just because I was straight I get a pass from violence but if you were gay or lesbian you deserved violence? How did that make sense?

It didn’t.

That day was a pivotal moment for me.


My partner and I were in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware over the Labor Day weekend. It was a weekend for us to reconnect as a couple and do the things we love to do, together. The best part, we did it without the kids.

We biked to the beach and enjoyed the ocean and beautiful weather. As the sun went down we met up with another couple for dinner and drinks. After a delicious meal, we all decided to find the best ice cream store on the boardwalk.

The boardwalk was packed that evening. People of all walks of life were meeting up, standing in line, and being out and about. Then I saw two women holding hands and kissing.

You are accepted. Period.

While that wasn’t shocking for me, I just wasn’t expecting it here. Rehoboth had a slight redneck feel to it. After ice cream, we walked back to our car and passed the only bar open on the strip. There were long lines to get into this place and I spied what appeared to be many same-sex couples. This was a gay bar and quite a popular one too.

Once again, this didn’t shock me. I just wasn’t expecting it.

I began to think about why I wasn’t expecting to see this? After all, we had passed a gun store on our bike ride and we’d see rednecks driving around with the American flag flying from their truck beds during the day.

While I don’t begrudge a person’s patriotism, I do mind the presentation and the obvious ‘in your face’ attitude of some people that wave their flags around.

There was an interesting dichotomy between the rednecks and the LGBTQ+ community in Rehoboth and if I had to choose what side I’d be on, it would be the LGBTQ+ community.

Why? Because that community inherently feels safer and accepting of anyone. Whatever your gender identity, you are accepted. How you choose to love and be loved is accepted. You are accepted. Period.

This is not a “let your freak flag fly” statement, but rather one of living your true authentic self. A place where you can be just yourself.

And that, my friends, is the key.

In the redneck community, you need to conform. You need to take your uniqueness and crush it into a set of norms that someone else dictated for you. You are told who to love and how. You are told what’s right and wrong and not to question it. You are told how to live your life, whether you agree with what is dictated or not.

This, to me, is death.


The next day we rode again, this time along another beautiful trail next to the Delaware Bay. I replayed the events from the night before in my head and smiled.

I thought to myself how wonderful it would be to retire to a beach town one day. One with bike trails and one with an LGBTQ+ community.

How wonderful would it be to spend the last days of my life in a place where I can ride my bike along trails, hear the roar of the ocean, and live in a community where love and diversity are celebrated.

How wonderful would it be?

I think it would be grand.


Note: I use the term redneck to denote an intolerant individual or community.

The Ghosts of 9/11

Photo by Olga Subach on Unsplash

When will they rest?

Saturday marks a somber anniversary for many Americans, myself included. It will be the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York City.

I don’t want to do a minute-by-minute timeline of when the first plane hit to when the towers fell, there’s so much of that out there. Instead, I want to share my story.

That day started like any ordinary day for me. I was working in Newark, NJ in the Gateway Center complex. I was on the 18th floor of Gateway Center 2 and we had a beautiful view of the New York skyline.

I would listen to classical music as I worked, mostly to keep myself calm, and that sunny day was no exception.

Just shortly after the first plane hit the radio announcer made a special announcement about a plane hitting the tower. There was no mention of what type of plane or the extent of casualties just that a plane hit a Tower.

The weather was beautiful that day so I couldn’t understand why a plane would fly into the World Trade Center. My thought was that it was a small aircraft on a sightseeing trip that got too close to the Towers and crashed.

At 9:59 AM I watched as Tower 2 collapsed.

I stood up from my cubicle to see a few of my coworkers looking out the window. A huge plume of smoke was climbing high from Tower 1.

I walked over and asked what was going on, no one knew but we all speculated. In a company filled with civil engineers we tried to analyze what was happening and the extent of the structural damage.

Then a coworker said, “Hey here comes another plane!” Someone else joked that it was going to hit the other tower.

The entire floor went silent when the second plane hit.

Tears are welling up in my eyes just thinking about what happened next.

I grabbed my things and got the hell out of there.

Someone had a small portable television in their office and turned it on. My next-door cubicle mate tried calling his fiancé frantically, she was in Tower 1.

At 9:59 AM I watched as Tower 2 collapsed.

Then news reports came out that the pentagon was hit and then another hijacked airplane was en route to DC.

America was under attack.

I went down to my town’s park and ride and saw 6 cars that were there overnight. 6 people that never came home.

Chaos reigned. The phone lines were jammed. No one knew what was going on and panic started to set in.

My cubicle mate got through to his fiancé and just screamed, “I love you.” She had just gotten out right before the first tower collapsed.

Another coworker of mine was traveling to the WTC for a doctor’s appointment, we didn’t know if he was alive or dead.

Then the second tower came down. We were all stunned.

I can still hear my colleagues crying. Adult men and women, crying, knowing that some loved one of theirs was in those towers.

I grabbed my things and got the hell out of there.

The next day everything was shut down. I went down to my town’s park and ride and saw six cars that stayed there overnight. Six people that never came home.

My neighbor was on the phone with his Cantor Fitzgerald counterpart when the first plane hit. He said he’d call him back, but that was the last time he ever heard from him.

My future partner just arrived in New York City for a work meeting and was trapped for hours until she managed to get back home to New Jersey.

Another friend who worked in IT was wondering why there was massive backup traffic happening in his data center. He saw data being replicated as the last gasps of computer systems died.

For months afterward I had bad dreams. I got angry. I was confused. I was depressed. Then I remembered we had tickets to a moe. show in Boston. We bought the tickets before the terrorist attack and the show wasn’t canceled. We decided to go, just to get some normalcy back into our lives.

I can never forget that day, the screams, the cries, the panic, and the chaos.

The show was great but there was tension in the air. We all needed to jam out to music if only to forget for a few hours. Reality hit when they played their encore.

For their encore, they played their song “New York.” A beautiful upbeat song about the energy of New York City but that evening it took on a somber feeling.

“It’s the rhythm of the rain that falls
It’s a cab ride at 5:00 A.M
Manhattan goddess with her Levis and curls
New York City — I’m coming home again” — New York, moe.

Before they began an auditorium of peaceful hippies chanted “Fuck Bin Laden.”

There was anger and there was a focus. We needed payback and for the first time in my entire life, the entire country was waiting to unleash the full might of America on the perpetrators.

It was frightening. I wondered what were we becoming as a country, as a people, as a community.

We all knew what came later, Homeland Security and the erosion of our liberties, a quagmire in Afghanistan, and an illegal war in Iraq.

I will never forget.

I can never forget.

I can never forget that day, the screams, the cries, the panic, and the chaos.

I can never forget because the ghosts of 9/11 haunt me still.

Sun, Saltwater, Sex & Dogs

The most precious thing is time.

I spent Labor Day weekend in Delaware with my partner camping, bike riding, and swimming at different beaches. It was the first time we felt comfortable enough to leave the kids at home, by themselves. Those three days were glorious and much needed for both of us.

Why? For the simple reason of reconnecting with each other.

Reconnection with your partner is a vital necessity to keep your relationship going. It’s the difference between happiness and misery.

So what did a dog have to do with it? Read on.

No distractions, focus on ourselves

We drove down to Delaware on Friday morning and got to the campsite just after lunch. We set up the tent and put out our chairs and gear. We traveled a lot lighter this time, with no kids there was 50% less gear to carry!

We were camping with another couple for the weekend but they were running late so my partner and I headed over to Rehoboth Beach to check things out.

There’s nothing like playing with a dog to make a good day into the best day ever.

The weather was perfect but the ocean was rough, no one was allowed to swim because remnants of tropical storm Ida made it dangerous to do so.

We walked hand in hand in the sunshine up and down the boardwalk, looking at the stores, shops, and arcades. As night fell we watched the setting sun paint the sky and clouds a warm pink color. We had a light dinner and met up with the other couple.

In the morning we set out for our first 15+ mile bike ride. We rode for several hours, enjoying the views, and gorgeous weather, and spending time together. There were so many flowers in bloom and the perfumed scent made the trails a sensory delight.

We rode into an unguarded beach filled with Labor Day weekend beachgoers. It didn’t matter to us, we wanted to place our towels on the sand and go for a swim. We had worked up a good sweat by now and the cool water was inviting.

We alternated swimming and sunbathing for hours. We rubbed sunscreen on each other, fed each other orange slices, and watched the waves crash in front of us. The saltwater and sunshine felt like liberation.

Then we spied her, a good girl. There were several dogs on this beach, some friendlier than others, but this girl was the “goodest”. Her human threw a tennis ball up and down the beach and she raced at top speed to get it. Sand was flying, water was splashing, and she was happily barking.

It was fun to watch her. When the ball got too sandy she’d drop it into the surf to clean up before running it back to start the game all over again.

…the most precious thing you can ever give anyone is your time.

Then she did something different. She walked up to random people, dropped her tennis ball, and nudged them to throw it for her.

Almost every single person she trotted up to threw the ball for her and played with her a few times. She was ecstatic and so were the people. There’s nothing like playing with a dog to make a good day into the best day ever.

I sat there in the sunshine with a dog running thru the surf to catch a ball for a good 30 minutes. Then it dawned on me. I had an epiphany.

Love is renewable, time is not.

The most precious thing

Everyone thinks that having sex is the holy grail of reconnection. While it plays a big part in rekindling desire between lovers, it’s not the most important thing.

Hell, we didn’t have sex on that trip (camping is a bit rough for rolling in the hay), instead, we waited till we were back home in our bed.

The most important thing, dare I say the most precious thing you can ever give anyone is your time.

Time riding bicycles together. Time swimming together. Time playing with a dog together. Time having dinner together. Time holding hands. Time kissing each other under the stars. Time-sharing an ice cream. Time planning together.

You can always rekindle your love and desire for each other if you really want to but you can’t do that if you don’t spend time together.

Love is renewable. It can be if you really want it, but time is fleeting.

Many couples talk about going away together to reconnect but then spend their time not “in the moment” with each other. They do spend time in each other’s proximity but it’s not truly together, it’s not focused, and it’s definitely not in the moment. They miss the entire point of spending time together, it’s not the quantity but the quality.

You don’t need to go to a fancy hotel or jet-set away to an island, reconnection can happen on a walk together. It can be in a kitchen where the both of you cook dinner together. it doesn’t matter because it can happen anywhere you spend quality time together.

Spending focused and in the moment time together is the most precious thing you can give your lover/partner. It is the most important ingredient to reconnection and rekindling your desire for each other.

Love is very renewable if you want it bad enough, but time? That’s ephemeral, fleeting, and will slip through your fingers if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s the most precious thing in the world. Not just for you, but for reconnecting with your partner.