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I’ve been getting more involved with the local Burning Man community in Portland, and for the first time I went to the area regional burn, named SOAK.

Gosh, how to describe it? Imagine if 1200 of your friends went camping together far out in the sticks. With outrageous costumes, fabulous lights, music everywhere, an excess of amazing and sublime artwork. And each night some of the most massive and amazing pieces of art are burning in an unbelievable bonfire. And at the end of the four days, every trace of it is cleaned like we were never there. (You can read more about it here.)



This is my favorite story from SOAK:

Early one morning I’m sitting cross legged outside my tent, tending a campstove. The campground is quiet and still, with only a few people beginning to stir. Down the trail come two girls, and one of them pauses at our camp and looks at me curiously. She says cautiously, “Did I see your taint yesterday?”

I think for a moment. Oh, right. I participated in a “Kilt Walk” the prior day, an event where a collection of kilt-clad men walk over a line of reclining women. “Heh. Yeah, probably. At the kilt walk.”

The other girl looks at me for a second longer and says, “Is your name Robert?”

“Uhh, yeah.”

“You taught me Calculus this Fall!”

Her friend turns towards her with a grin. “I saw your teacher’s taint.”


And that’s how SOAK went for me. 🙂

Lying and Hiding

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I’ve been spending a lot of time lately, thinking about deceit in relationships. If you’ve read my previous post, you know why.

Lying was a significant part of my parent’s marriage. My mom was really big on hiding things from my dad. From childhood through my teens, I can remember occasions where I would come home from school and mom would call me from work. “Hey hon, can you do me a favor? Bring in the mail and see if there’s a letter from WhateverCorp. If there is, put it in the top desk drawer and I’ll take care of it. I don’t want your father getting upset.” I can’t even remember where the letters might have been from. I assume it was a past due bill or a credit card charge she wanted to hide or some such. I didn’t ask, she never volunteered.

Which was also a pattern of my family; unasked and unanswered questions. For instance, my dad’s father was just never talked about. I had three grandparents, everyone else had four, and I never asked why. I have a hard time explaining why I never asked. It’s not like I agonized over whether to ask about it or not. It just didn’t seem like an option. It was like some elephant in the corner of the room that no one ever talked about. That’s just how my family was. (And let’s not even talk about the child mom put up for adoption before I was born, that I never found out about until I was 30.)


I never thought lying or hiding was an issue in my relationship with my ex. Until we were splitting up and I discovered the smoldering shambles that was our shared finances. By the time she moved out, I found myself with no car, no assets, and $40K of credit card debt. And support payments, naturally. I slept on the floor for months, because I didn’t even have a bed to sleep in. It took me years to dig out from under that debt. And it left me with anxieties and distrust around money that I struggle with to this day.


There’s a quote that is allegedly from Nietzsche, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” (For what it’s worth, that’s not really what Fred said. His real quote was, “Not that you lied to me but that I no longer believe you has shaken me.” from Beyond Good and Evil. *)

And that’s where I’m stuck right now. I can’t help but think, “This time, when you tell me you’ll never lie to me or hide things from me again, why should I believe you? What makes this time different from the last time? (Or the time before that?)” I haven’t heard an answer to that yet.

Crying Monkey

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My name is browse. (Hi, browse!) And I am struggling with my relationship with an alcoholic.

For a long time, it never would have occurred to me that this person was an alcoholic. And in hindsight I feel pretty stupid about that. There was a history of alcoholism in their family. A large portion of their family … enjoys alcohol very thoroughly. I know this person drank in a very significant fashion in college and after. Multiple times I’ve had to pull over the car so they could throw up on the side of the road the morning after “a little too much”. Multiple times I’ve had them fail to meet me or pick me up the morning after “a little too much”.

Still, I don’t think I really woke up to “this person really has a problem with alcohol” until they became very loud, irrational, manic, and verbally abusive after a long day of drinking. That was the event that really opened my eyes and led me to start piecing together the pattern of behavior. And that realization helped me understand other events that, in hindsight, were largely driven by this person’s drinking.

Thankfully, very soon after that, this person stopped drinking of their own volition. Cold turkey, they stopped for a solid year. And from my external perspective, it was an unquestioned positive change. The manic mood swings smoothed out. The irrational belligerence and confrontations went away. Their physical health improved as well, in a fairly dramatic fashion.

And then, to my profound heart break, this year they started drinking again. There have been some significant external stressors that contributed to their craving for alcohol, for that perceived comfort and numbness that alcohol provides. But it’s been scary. I’ve seen them with a bottle of booze in the car. Drinking in the morning. Drinking on a longish drive. Behavior that scared the hell out of me.

I (foolishly) thought I could help control it. I thought I could say “No more”, and that this person would trust me enough, respect me enough to listen. They swore they would stop, done, no more. And a month later I caught them with alcohol on their breath, drinking behind my back. There was anger and shame and tears and heartfelt apologies and solemn vows that it would never happen again. And then it did happen again. More tears, more shame. But also more drinking, always very carefully out of my sight.

I’m at my breaking point, and I really have no idea what to do. This person continues to be in deep denial that there is a problem. They even bristle and argue when I characterize it as “lying” about their drinking or “hiding” their drinking. For my own emotional well-being, I have all but ended my relationship with them. And that’s killing me. I love them and care about them so very deeply. It’s so hard for me to imagine my life and my future without this person in it. Part of me wonders if I’ve made a huge mistake. I wonder if it would be better if I kept them close, so I could help care for them when they inevitably crash and burn (and crash and burn, and crash and burn). Part of me desperately wants to hear renewed heartfelt apologies and promises it’ll never happen again. But when I’ve been lied to repeatedly before… I don’t know how to get past that, and how to trust them again.


I went to my first Al-Anon meeting this morning. It was a mixed bag, at best. The incessant references to god and “put it into god’s hands” and… it really doesn’t work for this staunch atheist. I’m going to look for a meeting that is minimally religious, but I’m not exactly filled with optimism.

And it’s not like I’m a big believer in Alcoholics Anonymous at all. Other models of treatment seem to have similar or better success rates. I think it’s steeped in dogma, platitudes and religion.

And it’s not like I’m a crusader for sobriety. Certainly, I do not abstain. I drink occasionally, and when I do it’s with the definite intention of feeling some amount of intoxication from it. I don’t see anything wrong with responsibly enjoying alcohol (or marijuana, for that matter).

But I don’t drink alone. I don’t hide it. I don’t think it makes me argumentative or belligerent. I haven’t gotten sick from it or felt ill the next day in… 20 years or more? I don’t drink daily, and in fact often go weeks without a drink without particularly thinking about it.


What really kills me more than the drinking is the lying and the hiding. I look back at various arguments and conflicts we’ve had this year and I can’t help but wonder “Huh, was that a real issue, or was that the booze talking?” And if they are willing to lie to me about drinking, how much else are they lying to me about?


So that’s where I’m at. There has been unfathomable amounts of crying this week. I feel like I have a hole in my chest about a mile wide. I am overflowing with fear and doubt and worry and second guessing and uncertainty.

Bicycling is inherently sexy

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Bicycling is inherently sexy.

This occurred to me as I was commuting home from campus this week. A cyclist was ahead of me, and I found myself mesmerized by the side-to-side rocking of their ass. Okay sure, pedestrians have asses too. But they’re often hidden under a coat or an untucked shirt, sort of flat and just… there. A bicyclist’s ass is on display. It’s lifted up, pushed back, often clad in lycra or spandex, swaying, rocking back and forth. And if they’ve been biking long, their ass probably looks pretty damn good.

The person in the car up there? Hell, I don’t even know if they have an ass. All I can see are torso and arms. For all I know, they lost their ass in a horrible farming accident.

And don’t even get me started on drop bars and cleavage.

Bicyclists. Hell yeah.

Mountain Biking in Forest Park

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Yesterday, Michelle and I went mountain biking up in Forest Park. I’d never been before and didn’t quite know what to expect, but I got the bikes ready and away we went. We started at the Thurman Gate and rode Leif Erikson as far back as the junction with Saltzman Road (about six miles) before turning back.

By the time we were even two miles into the ride, my chest and face were freckled with mud and my backside had a solid coat of spackling. At about mile five, we saw a girl who was riding the same trail. She was wearing an ivory-colored jacket, completely unblemished. What the…? Oh, look. She has fenders. What a concept! I keep my mountain bike pretty bare; never having ridden in damp or muddy conditions before, it’s never occurred to me that fenders belong on a mountain bike. *snort*


I found that I could only ride so hard, because if I pushed hard enough that I had to breathe through my mouth, I started eating a fair bit of grit. I was wearing glasses, but still managed to get dirt thrown in my eyes fairly often.

But still we had big fun. I felt strong and rode reasonably hard. Despite the muddy conditions, I didn’t spin out or slide. And bombing back down the slope on the return to the parking lot was a thrill ride. There’s a brief span where the road is paved, and when I hit that at speed, that’s probably as close to flying as I’ll ever feel. The fierce vibration of the gravel road vanished and I floated along with no friction, head first down the trail. It was grand.

Once home I hosed down the bikes, then hosed down myself, then showered, then soaked in the tub, then showered again. And I still had little traces of mud on me. Clothes have been washed twice and definitely need another trip through the machine. Oh yeah, and I need to shop for clip-on fenders.

Our family of instruments

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With no particular planning, we now have an array of three stringed instruments hanging in the living room.

A ukulele, guitar and cigar box guitar, hanging on the wall


It started with me. I took a few guitar lessons two Springs ago. Then “real life” intervened, as it so often does. I got busy with the house hunting, then the house buying, then the renovations, then milking the last bit of Summer, then school started in the Fall, then… Anyway, the guitar sat idle for a while, until last month when I picked it up and started fooling with it again. I soon decided I’d play a lot more if the guitar was out and on display, easy to get to, easy to remember. And so I decided to hang it on the wall in the living room. Why not; it’s not unattractive to look at.

Two Summers ago, Michelle saw a cigar box guitar at the Oregon Country Fair and was pretty immediately smitten by them. She’s never played a guitar of any sort before, but she was captivated and seemed to really want one of her own. I decided to buy her one as a Christmas present this year, and it went up on the wall next.

Last year at Burning Man, mags camped with the very musical Acaplaya camp, and several of her fellow campers had guitars and ukuleles. She expressed interest in participating in a ukulele performance at next year’s Burn, and so a pair of her closest campmates bought her a ukulele. Now it hangs on the wall as well.

It’s been nice, our little family of instruments on the wall. Homey, in the best sense of the word. And yes, it has definitely meant we get them down and play them more often, almost nightly. My calluses are coming in nicely, thank you very much.


Last weekend, Michelle was out of town. Mags and I had a few folks over, including Taj, someone I’ve been seeing quite a bit the past month. One of our guests figured out pretty quickly we were poly, and asked if mags, Taj and I were a “triad”. Mags explained that no we weren’t, that she and I were with Michelle, who just happened to be out of town. I chimed in, “Taj has a guitar, it just doesn’t hang in this house.”

I was pretty happy with myself over that one.

Pinball Wizard

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A couple of days ago, I played a little pinball at a local bar. One of the games was themed after a recent Batman movie, the one with Heath Ledger as Batman. Yawn. We haven’t had a pinball game that paid tribute to a really subversive movie since… well, since the Tommy homage in the old Pinball Wizard game.

I’ve decided it’s time to fix that. They are tying pinball to the wrong movies. We need the fine folks at Williams or Bally to start looking at some more innovative pinball-cinema tie-ins.

How about an Apocalypse Now pinball game? Advancing through a series of gates pushes you further up river towards Colonel Kurtz.

Or a Reservoir Dogs video game, where a tilt means the police officer’s ear gets sliced off?

Or my personal favorite, a Fear and Loathing pinball game? Multi-ball is accompanied with a voice over “We can’t stop here; this is bat country!”

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Last night, S and B and I were up at Last Thursday, a monthly street fair in NE Portland. We ran into an acquaintance of S. The acquaintance introduced us to her husband, and S introduced me and B with, “and this is my family.” Obviously, this left a couple of questions in the woman’s head, because after a couple of moments of chit-chat, she said, “Oh! So this is your real family. Your… brother and sister?”

I smiled faintly and said, “No. Sweethearts.” Which earned me a wide-eyed look and an “Oh.” And end of topic.

I’m pretty happy with how I handled that.  🙂

Reading is Fundamental!

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I was chatting with a friend this morning, and we drifted into talking about our very early, formative sexual education and experiences (like ya do). And as the conversation unfolded, I had a bit of a revelation.

I’m old enough that my early sexual education didn’t come from the internet. (Shocking, right?!) Thankfully my dad had a pretty good stash of Playboys and Penthouses and I was crafty enough to hide my frequent perusal of them. Or my parents were generous enough to feign ignorance. Either way, win!

For whatever reason, I gravitated mostly to the text-based smut. Oh sure, I spent plenty of time checking out the various pictorials and centerfold spreads, but given a choice, I would focus on the “letters” in Penthouse Forum every time.

Now, I don’t have any illusions that those letters were any more real, any less faked, than the heavily airbrushed centerfolds. Even as a teen, I was pretty sure the allegedly user-submitted letters were complete fabrications, far divorced from reality.

But in hindsight, I consider myself very fortunate that my early sexuality was focused on the written word. It’s odd that I never thought of it this way before, but there were multiple benefits.

Although I enjoyed the occasional set of naked photos, I never grew obsessed over the much-too-perfect, airbrushed girls with nary a sag or wrinkle. When I finally met a girl kindly enough to shed her knickers for me, I don’t recall mentally comparing her to Miss January. I never had the stage of obsessing over bigger and bigger breasts, or impossibly long legs.


And thanks to text-based porn, it seems like I came to the table with all sorts of very basic, but often missed, information. For instance, I knew (very well) that women had orgasms. I also knew achieving them could be harder than it is for guys. I had a hearty appreciate for the value of lots and lots of foreplay. And as opposed to the stereotype of guys who have a strong aversion to cunnilingus, I was oh so eager to give more head to a girl than she could stand. And frankly, most of those preferences still stick with me today. I continue to be far more interested in my partners’ pleasures than in my own.

And, you know… no complaints so far. 🙂

Hidden Treasure

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We started a major renovation of the basement bathroom today… if you can call a complete gutting and redesign as a “renovation”. In the process of demolishing the old bathroom, we found some hidden treasure behind the sheetrock of one of the walls!

Items found inside the wall of the basement bathroom

Let’s review our find!

On the left is a beer can, Hamm’s, with the tell-tale signs that it has been used as a tool for smoking cannabis. Shocking!

On the right is a paperback book titled “Drugged Nurse”, by Howard Sherman, copyright 1968. Allow me to quote from this bit of literature.

“I’d love to hear it from you, baby,” he smiled, sucking on her right nipple.

I will leave it to the reader to figure out how someone simultaneously speaks, smiles, and sucks on a nipple. Obviously Mr Sherman was deprived of the services of a proper editor.

Stranger still, the owner of the purple prose signed his name inside the front cover! Who does that?! Rest assured, I will be googling this fine fellow. Expect a follow-up post if that yields anything interesting.