Monday, January 31, 2005

Up! Up! And Away!

These antibiotics are kicking my ass! I've never been more drained or lethargic in my life. (Okay, there was that one time in college when I shotgunned a full bottle of peppermint Schnapps and woke up in a washing machine on Monday morning with a throbbing hangover. But that's not quite the same thing.) Both meds are 500mg per pill, and I received 10-days worh of each. What's even worse, the one I have to take 4 times a day leaves a dirty drainpipe aftertaste in my mouth and throat, making even water horrific to swallow.

I told myself that I would take it easy this weekend, but opportunity called and on Saturday, CS and I saw Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. All the hype surrounding the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cate Blanchett's remarkable portrayal of Katherine Hepburn are true! Especially the hype surrounding Blanchett. She's not a look-alike, but the nuances of voice, stance, personality, the way she carries herself are so much like Katherine Hepburn that you believe they are one in the same. Folks, this is acting!

My only gripe concerned the color in the film - and I think this had more to do with the theater than the film itself. At times, I thought Scorsese was trying to re-create the technicolor look of the day: costumes, set decoration, etc. However, when Hepburn and Hughes were golfing, the grass looked decidedly teal. And, when a steak with 12 peas was presented on a plate to Hughes, the peas resembled tiny blue gum balls rather than the minutely rotund green legume I knew and sort of liked. Perhaps the projector was running on its last legs. Or my drugs were playing games with my eyesight. Who knows, but it did affect my enjoyment of the film. But only a smidge. Maybe a fraction of a smidge. A smidgette.

Once I returned home, I actually did rest - if you call shredding old payroll and financial documents for a few hours resting. I tried laying out on the couch, stretching and yawning, but never quite falling asleep. Crawling into bed didn't help, either, and I stared at the ceiling listening to the sounds of the house settling. My eyes did shut eventually, but - dammit - I left the alarm on and woke up at 6:40 Sunday morning. Argh!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Whole Lotta Gurglin' Goin' On

My brother drove me to my appointment this morning. My folks offered to, but I think he was just as scared as I was with the possibility of hospitalization and that he wanted to be there in case anything happened. Growing up, we constantly fought. Yelling, screaming, hitting - you name it, we probably traumatized each other with it. During college, things softened between us until I came out to him. We didn't speak for a few years after that unless it was the typical hello's at family functions. Then, in recent years, he's seen me in a committed realtionship as well as met a wonderful woman who has profoundly affected his attitude. All for the better, I might add. We've been on good terms for quite a while now, but I admit to still being nonplussed when he offered to take me to see the doctor.

We didn't wait long at the office as the nurse called me back within minutes. I didn't ask my brother if he wanted to come with me; I'm sure he would have, but it was enought that he was at the office with me. The nurse took my vitals, and then my doctor walked in with some good news. My urinalysis was clear, but the blood tests had a very slightly elevated white count which meant an infection. He had me stretch on the table and pressed my abdomen as he did yesterday. The tenderness was still present but definitely much diminished. He re-did the hand/reverse punch press, and I felt no pain this time. Things looked good so far, but the CT would give a clearer picture. He called upstairs to the imaging center to squeeze me in immediately.

After about 45 minutes of waiting in the imaging center's lobby, the nurse called me up to her desk. In front of her were three bottles of what she called a barium smoothie: a 450 mL bottle containing barium sulfate (the one on the left in the picture). She vigorously shook the first bottle, removed the child-proof seal, and told me to drink it then come back for the remaining two bottles. I guzzled the first bottle of that chalky, slightly orange-tasting stuff with no problems. I sipped the second one, trying to stifle the urge to vomit and barely made it through the third. I sat uncomfortably in my chair, trying to stifle the borborygmus by crossing my arms over my stomach. (Never EVER thought I would get to use that word in a sentence!) That didn't really help as I'm sure the tennants in the next building over could hear it - at least that's what my brother joked later. I caught him stifling a grin a few times while he was reading. The CT technologist showed a few moments later and lead me to the scanning area.

She asked after I had changed into my little green gown if I needed to "take a dump." I said that I did but thought the barium would - you know.... She assured me that it wouldn't and pointed to the bathroom. A few minutes later, and I was on the table, arms over my head, legs resting on a triangular cushion to keep the knees in the air. She started the scanning procedure and, after a minute or two, returned to the room with a grave expression on her face. I'm in deep shit were the first words that crossed my mind. She took me back to her computer to show me the scan. First of all, it was odd, looking at a three-dimensional image of my abdomen. There were the intestines appearing as so much black tubing along the sides and disappearing behind the stomach. The kidneys and spleen displayed as varying shades of gray. I could make out all the different internal organs and was somewhat mesmerized at the sight. She directed my attention to the intestines. "These are your intestines." Then, moving her finger to the vertebra, "and this is your spine." They were a bright white outlined in sharp black detail. "Your intestines should look like that after all that barium. So, we have two options. And I strongly suggest you take the first one. Option one: I have a more of those barium smoothies. Drink two right now, and we hop you back on the table and get the test over with. Option two:" - I already knew what she was going to say - "barium enema." No one needed to ask me twice. I forced myself to gulp down two more bottles of the chalky crap, held back the nausea, and crawled back onto the table.

15 minutes later, my brother and I headed downstairs to my doctor with the CT results. The nurse motioned me back to one of the waiting rooms, and the doctor quickly followed. The results were very good. They showed diverticulitis but not an acute or severe case. No signs of any blockage or hemorrhaging only a slight thickening of the intestinal wall and edema in a small section. I told him about having to take the barium a second time which made him smile because that definitely was a good sign of no blockage or threat of blockage. This meant no surgery!!!! The course of antibiotics should be enough. I sank back into the chair, relieved. "I still want you to see gastro-enterologist, though," he said. "I'll see you next week for a follow up, and then we'll get you to a specialist so we can figure out how to prevent this from recurring."

I told my brother the news as we left the office. I think he was even more relieved than I was.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Exam

The doctor walked in, and I told him the entire history of the stomach problem. He told me to lie back on the exam table and began to press around my stomach. I winced when he pressed the lower left side, and then he did a strange thing: he placed his hand on the right side of my stomach, pressed down hard and quickly pulled back his hand, similar to a reverse punch. OH. MY. GAWD. My legs flew into the air, I grabbed my stomach and cried out because the pain was so awful!! He then had me roll onto my left side, and I could hear the snap of latex gloves and the squirt of KY.

Sitting back up, he told me that I didn't have appendicitis because the pain and tenderness would have shown on the right side of my abdomen. It might be diverticulitis because of the location on the lower left abdomen. It could also be a blockage or an abcess because he did feel something hard when pressing on my stomach. He wouldn't know for sure until I had a CT scan which needed to be performed as soon as possible.

Tomorrow morning, I return for the scan, get the results of my urinalysis and blood test, and to learn what the next step will be: either treatment by a specialist or a trip to the hospital. For now, I'm sitting at home, taking two very powerful antibiotics: Metronidazole and Levaquin. The pain is almost negligible, but should it flare up to the point of tears or my pounding the walls, get thee immediately to the hopsital.

So I may not be posting for a while depending upon what happens tomorrow morning. Keep your fingers crossed!


I almost decided against posting this.

I told a close friend of mine that I wasn't feeling well, and his response was, "What is it this time?" And it made me stop and think....

Whenever I have a medical problem which I don't understand, I tend to go nuts scouring the web and sites such as WebMD in an effort to self-diagnose. Stupid, yes. I blame the internet. This is the Information Glut Age where anything and everything is just a click away. I research the hell out of my supposed symptoms and then tell everyone about what I found on-line, what I think I might have, etc. etc. I suppose that I could simply shut off my computer and wait for what my doctor says, but where's the fun in that?

After that talk with my friend, I kind of kept quiet about what I was feeling. Now that I'm seeing a doctor today, I want to note what my body has been going through for the past week and a half. Two Fridays ago, my abdomen started hurting as if someone were running a serrated knife along that side of my stomach and pelvis. It was quick, sharp and disappeared in mere seconds. It happened a few more times that day, and each time it felt more and more like a giant bruise had formed and my sitting, scrunching into my chair, was pressing on it. After all, I may have overdone it a bit with the back press at the gym on Wednesday. Maybe I just needed to take a break to let my innards re-adjust to my workout routine. I went about as I normally do, going to movies, driving, Disneyland, and the sharpness would creep in, make itself known then quickly disappear. On Tuesday next, when the discomfort started to worsen and the left side of my abdomen became tender and felt as though a rock were sitting in my intestines, I started checking on-line. I read about appendicitis, diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, stomach cancer. I checked my symptoms against the varying sites, ruled out one diease, bookmarked another as a possiblity, and so on, getting myself into a dither worrying about it.

Now I understand what my friend meant with his comment. I repeatedly worry myself only to have it be nothing. Such as the dermatofibroma "trauma" of last year. I can look back now and see how much of an idiot I was. So this time, I noticed myself falling into the same pattern and stopped myself from checking anymore such sites. I deleted them from the history and cache, cleaned my bookmarks, and decided that if this stomach thing were really bothering me, I would call my doctor and allow someone knowledgeable to handle things. And, I kept quiet about it. I also decided to try a few things from when I had a similar problem back in high school. I won't go into detail about it, but there is a case file at the UCLA Medical Center, complete with footage of a tiny balloon being shoved up my rectum by the treating physician. (Nice, huh?) On the way home from work, I stopped by the store and bought a giant container of TUMS® and a cylinder of Metamucil. They actually worked for a while - until Tuesday of this week, when the cramping came back in full force, along with stabbing pains to both sides of my stomach. I called my doctor and set up an appointment for today and am now just waiting through the discomfort until I can leave the office.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Extreme Makeover: Eduardo Edition

On a lighter note, I watched the Sears family move into their new home last night on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. And yes, I cried my eyes out as I usually do when watching the show. What the crew does for those families just keeps the feeling alive that there is a lot of good still out there in the world. And then, they added a new hottie crew member: former entertainer turned landscape designer: Eduardo Xol. Yet another reason to drool watch the show.


Hotel Rwanda tells the story of Paul Rusesabagina, Hotel Manager at the rich Hotel des Milles Collines in Kigali, Rwanda. Tensions abound throught the city and country as U.N. peacekeeping forces try to stem off a conflict between the two larger groups in Rwanda: the Hutu government and the Tutsi - whom they despised. At the beginning of the conflict, Paul holds to his belief that the peace agreement that is to be reached can only bring good things to his country, but when the attrocities begin - families being dragged from their homes at gunpoint, houses and cars being burned, people being shot in the streets - he realizes that he needs to get his family to safety. Through bribery, he manages to bring them to the Hotel where they are trapped until someone from outside Rwanda comes to get them. But, at least they are safe from the genocide taking place outside the walls of the hotel.

Paul maintains the dignity and decorum of a hotel manager, striving to keep the Hotel as "an oasis in the dessert." But the Tutsi refugees - families, the wounded, orphans - keep pouring in. The U.N. finally does arrive, but only to evacuate the white guests who are staying at the hotel. Paul then realizes that no one is coming to help them, and through his bravery and determination, through all the explosions, gunfire and body-filled roads, he manages to keep over 1,200 people alive in the semi-safety of the hotel and sees them to safety.

Don Cheadle's performance as Paul Rusesabagina is simply remarkable and heartbreaking. He gives Paul much dignity and strength in the face of such attrocities happening around him. In one scene, he tumbles out of a van's passenger door onto what he believes to be a rutted, bumpy street and Cheadle's horrified expression says so much that as a viewer, I could feel his disgust. Sophie Okonedo also gives a strong and emotional performance as Paul's wife Tatianna. All this coupled with Terry George's direction make for one of the srongest films of the past year.

One part of the film I found disconcerting - among the graphic depictions of the rebellion-ravaged country - was how the U.N., the United States, Europe and the rest of the world seemed to turn their backs on what was happening in Rwanda. They knew what was happening, thanks to the reporters and other news sources, but chose not to do anything about it - with the exception of getting their own people out. I sat there in the audience watching, disgusted, horrified, angry that no one would step in to help. I wondered what would they have been able to do if they could have stepped in? Would the genocide have stopped? Would outside forces have made any kind of impact?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

In Hot Water...Finally!

For the past few days, my hot water heater has been working sporadically. The water began cooling on Monday with me waking to a freezing shower on Wednesday. I stepped into the shower and could feel my manparts shriveling and drawing back into my body, the water was so cold. I called my brother from work to see if they were having any problems in their house. As it turns out, the pilot on mine had blown out so he - bless his heart - called The Gas Company at 7:30 in the morning. The perky phone operator told him that someone was already in the area and would be at the house between 8 AM and 8 PM. Yep, you read that right: a 12-hour window. My brother had the day off so he told me he didn't mind waiting, but, c'mon. That's a ridiculous span of time. The tech from The Gas Company arrived close to 3 PM and re-lit the water heater as well as repaired a few tiny pinhole leaks in the water valve.

The next morning, I had a lukewarm shower, which wasn't too bad. I thought maybe the water temp hadn't been set high enough and that I would fix it when I returned home. Which wasn't until after 8:30 PM because we took my folks out for their birthdays. Instead of checking, I watched some TV, IMd a few people and fell asleep.

Well...this morning, I stepped into the shower and nearly froze my manparts off again! The cold water struck my face, and it was as if all the air had been vacuumed from my lungs. I washed quickly, cleaned up, threw on some clothes and then checked the water heater. Sure enough, the pilot was out again. Luckily, my friend CS was on his way over for lunch, and once he arrived, we managed to re-light that piece of junk.

So I have hot water yet again. I just hope it's for longer than a day this time.

Image from

Friday, January 21, 2005

Name Changes

I just don't understand the reasoning behind this name change. The Angels have already gone through a few name changes - The Los Angeles Angels (when the team was based in LA), the California Angels (after moving to Anaheim), and the more recent Anaheim Angels. Plus, they recently won a World Championship. So why? Why, I ask you? First of all, neither Anaheim nor the team is in LA County; they're in Orange County which is SOUTH of Los Angeles. Second, what's with the two city names: Los Angeles and Anaheim? Can you imagine another team doing that: the Tacoma Mariners of Seattle or the Pittsburgh Steelers of Allentown? I didn't think so. Third, Los Angeles already means The Angels so why have it twice? That works okay with music groups, such as The The and Talk Talk. But a sports team?

Why not leave well enough alone?

Okay! I admit it! I had nothing else to blog about and was going through withdrawals!!! I had to blog something....

"Hi. My name is Greg, and I'm a blogging addict."

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A JibJab Inauguration

Well, four more years of depression and homophobia officially begins today. In hopes of cracking the dark, dismal days ahead with some comforting light, I present this link to JibJab's latest movie: Second Term.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Couldn't Sleep Last Night

So I stayed up playing roulette with the remote. Not looking for anything in particular. Late night TV can be fairly dull, which I was hoping would force me to nod off. Instead, I managed to find a few hunky men flashing across the screen and had to stop for a few moments with each one.

Like Evan Farmer, the host of TLC's While You Were Out. He's quite the hottie, in a goofy hunky sort of way. Beauftiful eyes, great arms - which he enjoys showing off at all times - can act and sing, great sense of humor and he's good with power tools. His carpenter-in-crime was Andrew Dan-Jumbo. Nice and tall, just the way I like them. Gotta love that British* accent of his, too. And the arms. And the chest. Watching the two of them work certainly didn't help my campaign to fall asleep.

I happened upon The Surreal Life 4 on VH1 and was shocked at seeing Christopher Knight shirtless and pumped. Little Peter Brady all grown up and with muscles to boot!!! He was standing alongside model Marcus Schenkenberg, and I seriously didn't recognize him at first. I mean, he had a great six-pack, nice chest and arms! When I realized who it was, I was almost embarrassed that I was getting a woody admiring his physique. I've since learned that he lives in Manhattan Beach which isn't too far from here. But, I'm not the stalking type....

After a while, I finally had to shut off the TV as I was more awake than before.

Evan Farmer's pic from; Christopher Kinght's pic from

* Thanks the Chance for the correction.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Long, Hot Weekend

I'm sure many of you out there are enjoying the three-day weekend. As opposed to me, who is sitting in the office hard at work making sure the payroll is correct. I don't mind, though. I love the company for which I've been working the past 6-1/2 years. Great benefits, great people, plenty of opportunities for travel. So I don't get as many holiays. Big deal.

The only real downside is that I have to cram all the fun of three days into two. My friend CS and I had planned on visiting Disneyland on Sunday with a sidetrek to view The Phantom of the Opera. I know, I know.... I've already seen it and was less than thrilled, but CS is my best firend, and he loves the stage musical so I decided to set my dislike (of the film) aside. For my friend. However, when I checked the theater's schedule on Saturday, said movie was not playing at all. I quickly called CS to ask if he wanted to see the film today, and, lo' and behold, he was at Disneyland driving around the parking structure searching for a spot.

Before continuing, I should probably mention a little about the fixation with Disneyland. I was born and raised here in Orange County, CA. The house in which I grew up was only 10 minutes from the park, and during the summer, my borhter and I would sneak into our parents' room each night around 9:20 to watch the fireworks from their window. We'd celebrate birthdays in the park, take visiting relatives for their first-time trips, and it was the one place other than school in which our parents didn't mind letting us roam around unsupervised all day. I grew up around Disneyland and knew my way around its paths and lands better than my own neighborhood. Plus, it's a fun place for a date. I remember one time a date and I were making out on the Haunted Mansion, and as we were leaving our Doom Buggies, a few of the cast members were waiting for us, applauding. Forgot about those video cameras.... Now that I'm older, I enjoy it as a way to escape the mania of everyday life.


I told CS the movie situation, and he suggested that I meet him at the parks, we see Aladdin: The Musical, maybe go on a few rides, and then take in the movie at another theater. So we did, and I must say that I enjoyed Phantom much better the second time. I still think that Gerard Butler was miscast as the Phantom and the '80s synthesizers bugged me to no end, but I was caught up the story this time, enjoying Minnie Driver and Emmy Rossum's performances.

Sunday, CS and I met again at Disneyland, this time without a set plan. We just wandered around, enjoying the warm, beautiful day, and the many men in shorts and tight t-shirts. I saw a few who, if they didn't have wives, girlfriends and/or children, I would have ogled for more than the few minutes.... In California Adventure, we discovered the Mickey Statue Tour scattered throughout the park, with statues designed by the likes of Sir Elton John, Kelly Ripa, Ben Affleck, Dave Koz, etc. and all to be auctioned off for charities. I took a whole roll of film but, not having a digital camera really sucks. I'll post the pics once I have them.

We dined that night at The Vineyard Room, which used to be sponsored by Robert Mondavi. Disney took over after he dropped out, but they still specialize in his wines. The restaurant itself sits above the crowds on the second floor of the winery building. You neither see nor hear the crowds, which was quite a treat. The restaurant gives you the option of a 3 or a 4 course meal, nothing à la carte. We each chose the 3-course meal, and I feasted on Tuscan flat bread (baked like a pizza and spread with garlic pesto drizzled with melted gorgonzola cheese), pan roasted fresh King Salmon, and the most mouthwatering bread pudding topped with amaretto gelatto I've ever had the pleasure to eat. CS started with a pear salad (with D'Anjou pears in gastric sauce alongside a chunk of bleu cheese), veal that fell off the bone, and a banana panna cotta for dessert. Not to mention the 1-1/2 liters of San Pellegrino I polished off by myself. Needless to say, we were stuffed. We sat at the table for a good half hour after finishing just to let all that wonderful food digest. Even so, we still managed to close the park by waiting in line for The Tower of Terror. Disney has a policy that if you are in a line when the park closes, they will still allow you to ride that attraction, so at 9:20 PM, we finished the ride and waddled back to the parking structure.

I crashed when I finally made it home. Too bad I had to work the next day.

Friday, January 14, 2005

We're the Bomb!

Pentagon Sought "Gay" Bomb

Does that make us WMDs? I'd prefer to think of myself as a WMF - Weapon of Mass Fabulosity.

In other news, thank you all for the comments and tips regarding personals ads and wading back into the dating pool. That first toe in is always the coldest, but then you adjust and soon you're in up to your neck. I just need to get myself out there and see what happens. Thank you!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Testing the Waters

Well, it's been a few months and the first of the year has rolled around so I've decided to try getting back into the Dating Pool. Yesterday I posted a personals ad on Yahoo! and will probably try a one month subscription so I can actually receive emails from potential dates. I met my last partner through those personals and that lasted 4 years. I don't know if I'm ready for a full on, long-term relationship, but it would be nice to get back to meeting people, making new friends, etc.

My only trepidation is how looks-oriented everything is. The men who've come up on my first search are, for the most part, gorgeous. Then, reading through their profiles, they all want fit, athletic guys with model looks and waists no larger than a 28. I feel like a fish out of water, wondering if I even have a ghost of a chance with them. It even intimidates me into not emailing/IMing them. Those two in the pic are a good case in point. I wonder if either of them, or guys who looked like them, would even bother with a 34-year-old, slightly overweight man who doesn't resemble a model. Would they talk or flirt with me? If I approached them, would they give me the brush off? Much of the gay community seems to implant that perfect look into our heads, whther it's in magazine ads, TV shows, films, or marketing in general. Everyone has the hot, gym body.

Maybe I'm just too jaded. Or scared. Ugh!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Break in the Weather

Saturday turned out surprisingly rain free after every weather report on-line, in print and on TV commented on the coming deluge. A few light sprinkles accompanied by gusty winds were all that Mother Nature decided to throw at us - which is a dramatic change from the downpours and flooded streets and snowed-in vehicles we'd been living through for the much of the past few weeks. I took advantage of this lull in the weather to catch a movie at one of my favorite theaters in Long Beach. It's a bit of a drive up the coast, but I had earned a free movie pass and needed to use it beofre the January 10th expiration date. So I found a 1 PM showing of House of Flying Daggers and hopped in the car.

I turned from Goldenwest Blvd. onto PCH, amazed that some brave souls were still biking or jogging in the winds. A few surfers tried their luck at catching some of the big waves. Clouds of every shade of gray filled the sky, but I could still barely the outlines of the Spruce Goose Dome and the Queen Mary parked in the Port of Long Beach. The waves pounded against the sand, and looking out across the ocean, I could for once make out where the sand drops off into deeper waters. On a clear day, the whole of the ocean appears blue. But the storms change that, churning the sands and making the water closer to shore a murky green; about 100 or more feet out, the color abruptly returns to a deep blue creating an imaginary line in the water.

PCH curved along the coast through Seal Beach and Sunset Beach and on into the southern end of Long Beach. The drive lasted only 20 mintues even though I slowed often to bypass the flooded gutters. One smaller car behind me seemed to enjoy swerving into those pools, spraying the dirty water onto the sidewalks and the pedestrains who quickly scattered. (I've noticed lately that the rain really brings out the idiotic tendancies in many drivers - no lights, speeding, purposely driving in puddles.) I silently called the driver an ass and smiled, imagining his car stalling in the next big puddle he approaches. He turned at the next corner, sending up a tall wave of water onto the sidewalk, as I waited for the light to change so I could pull into the Marina Pacific parking lot.

House of Flying Daggers is another beautiful film from director Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise the Red Lantern) and stars Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero) as Mei, a blind dancer who is suspected of having ties to an underground movement - the House of Flying Daggers - in China that threatens the Emperor. Two police captains devise a plot to trick her into leading them into the lair of the House of Flying Daggers. One of the captains, who calls himself Wind, finds himself falling for Mei as she leads him North. But nothing is as it seems on the surface, and the captain soon finds himself torn between his duties as a police captain and the woman he loves. The film has great cinematography, filled with intricate and colorful scenes of China. The special effects are similar to those of Hero with the warriors able to swiftly climb trees and almost fly through the air as they combat their foes. The effects also include some unique shots of following daggers and arrows as they sail through the air, giving the impression that you are flying along with them. Ziyi Zhang gives a great performance as Mei, and she's coming into her own as an actress and not just a martial arts figure.

Feeling energized, I made my way home and finally took care of a few things which I've been putting off and putting off. My house is now free of Christmas decorations; I shredded stacks of old financial documents that I no longer needed; I cleaned the heating unit in the house and now have waves of heat wafting through my rooms. It's strange how a movie can put you in the mood to get things done. I even managed to get to bed at a decent time and enjoyed a long sleep, something I haven't experienced in many weeks.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Rainy Day Reading

Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story
by Christopher Moore

After being attacked the night before, Jody wakes up beneath a dumpster. Her hand is burned and, surprsingly, she finds herself endowed with incredible strength and the ability to sense people's auras which leads her to the grim discovery that she is now a vampire. Determined to find out who did this to her and why, she seeks out the help of a lonely young writer named C. Thomas Flood, newly arrived to San Francisco and trying to fend off the charms of his new Chinese roommates. Together, Flood and his new love Jody scour the city to find the root of her problems before more bodies start to pile up.

From start to finish, I could not put this book down even while I was laughing out loud. Strong, funny characters; a biting (no pun) wit; and an incredible story with great pacing make this one incredible read. Author Christopher Moore re-works the traditional vampire story with a wonderful twist of two people falling in love and trying to understand how they fit into the world. He also peppers the story with gay characters: some stereotypical, like the waiter and the attendant at the pefume counter; others more mainstream, such as one of the two detectives who is also hunting down the killers. I did some research on Moore's site, and apparently he employs gay characters in many of his books, though he himself is not gay.

All that you know about vampires is put to the test, examined, re-examined and re-worked into a very readable and enjoyable tale. Perfect for a rainy day.

And, if you're sitting at your computer and really want something to read but don't have the time to find a library or bookstore, check out Project Gutenberg which is a listing of free ebooks that you can download.

picture from

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Favorite Movies of 2004

Unlike Ebert & Roeper who are able to view almost every single film that is released within a year, I am not as fortunate. Movies cost anywhere from $8 - $10 per screening, depending upon the theater. And that's without stopping at the concession stand for a $4 drink and $3.50 bag of popcorn. Also, many of the more obscure titles aren't shown where I live, and I rarely am motivated to drive the 52 miles into Los Angeles just to see a movie that is only showing on one screen throughout the entire West Coast. So I pick and choose what I see, and usually, the choices are good. Usually. Christmas with the Kranks was a fluke. I swear!

Without any further ado, I proudly present: Greg's Top 10 Movies of 2004!!

  1. The Motorcycle Diaries
  2. The Incredibles
  3. A Very Long Engagement
  4. Finding Neverland
  5. La Mala Educación
  6. Shaun of the Dead
  7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  8. Shrek 2
  9. National Treasure
  10. Super Size Me

I'm not going into why I enjoyed these films; I probably did much of that when writing my blog throughout the year. Many may disagree with some titles on the list, but hey, it's my list. Deal with it.

Monday, January 03, 2005

In with the New

My New Year's Eve celebrations tend to be more sedate than most. During high school, it was endless, mind-numbing board games while listening to my "friends" babble on about how difficult their teachers were or how demanding a baton class of twenty pre-teens could be. I've experienced one too many NYEs at Disneyland, crammed in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle freezing my ass off with thousands of others to watch the countdown clock and the subsequent fireworks display. I don't drink so bar hopping and clubbing don't hold much appeal.

To date, I remember one of the best was spent watching a prodcution of the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman starring Chita Rivera. I managed to purchase an 8th Row, Center seat in the Orchestra section a few hours before the show's start. After a magnificent performance, as everyone in the audience was being given a glass of champagne, the entire cast came out on stage. A large clock dropped from the curtains behind them, and Ms. Rivera lead everyone in the final countdown and a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne. I think it's the only time I've ever "partied" with someone famous.

This year turned out sedate but fun. Having the entire day off from work, I called CS, and we met on Friday at Disneyland for a bite of lunch and a movie before heading to a NYE party at our friends everbear and KL's house in Orange. We saw The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a bizarrely funny movie with great performances from Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson and the entire cast. (If you enjoyed Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums, you will definitely enjoy this movie.) Afterward, CS returned home to get ready for the party, and I wandered around Downtown Disney, killing time because I didn't want to drive the 40 minutes back home only to have to immediately turn around and drive back.

I eventually left, walking as slowly as possible to the car. I didn't want to arrive too early to the party so I sat in my car, changed out of my wet shoes and socks, and pulled out the Thomas Guide to map how to get to their house. When I finally exited the parking structure, the rain slowed traffic down - thankfully - but not enough. I managed to find their house without any problems, arriving 30 minutes early. My GST clock has never worked properly so I never make a fashionably late entrance. It's a weird trait with my family; we each have this unnerving ability to arrive early to anything. Instead of parking and waiting for the half hour to pass, I remembered seeing a grocery store along the way so I doubled back and wandered the aisles looking for homemade chili sauce, a brick of cream cheese and Wheat Thins™ in order to make a tasty hors d'oeuvre. I couldn't find the chili sauce so I made due with some frosted sugar cookies. I drove back to everbear and KL's house, looked at my watch and do you know what? I was still 5 minutes early.

The party turned out to be a blast. Everbear made the most mouthwatering turkey I've ever had the pleasure to eat. The meat literally fell from the bones without having to carve and was so moist and tender.... I think that contributed to my weight gain over the weekend. The homemade fudge may have played a role, too. We watched the movie Nine Dead Gay Guys while we pigged out, then flipped back and forth among the different countdown shows. Come midnight, we set off the confetti poppers and toasted in the New Year. Then, we sat back and watched Jackass: The Movie. Those are some pretty sick straight boys. I find it odd that they will rope walk over a pit of croclodiles with a dead chicken dangling from their jocks, pour chum in their shorts and dive after whale sharks, and shoot bottle rockets from their bums, but try to get one of them to kiss another guy and it's as though you asked them to commit murder.

The next morning turned out to be beautiful. The rain cleared much of the smog and haze from the skies, and though it was still cloudy and threatened rain, I could still see the clear outline of Santa Catalina Island 26 miles away. I walked to the end of the Huntington Beach Pier again, watching the pelicans along the way as they circled and dove around the fishing boats and oil drilling platforms. Ruby's Diner was open this time, and many families had chanced the clearer weather to dine over the Pacific Ocean. I sat at the counter and treated myself to a double bacon cheeseburger. The rain started again just before I made it back to my house.

My cousin called a while later, and we decided to see A Very Long Engagement after he returned from a family get-together. The film is set during World War I, with Audrey Tatou (Amélie) playing a woman whose finacé disappeared during a battle. She'd been told that he was dead, but her heart said otherwise, and she sets out to find her beloved. Beautifully filmed with some magical touches that seem to pepper the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie) and fantastic performances, including Jodie Foster. (My cousin and I were not expecting to see her in a French film.) We both loved the movie, but my cousin joked that he couldn't believe that he came all the way from Spain to the U.S. just to watch a French film. We did some catching up over a late dinner at the Harbor House Café in Sunset Beach, a cool little diner on Pacific Coast Highway with movie posters on the ceilings and walls and a menu thick enough to be checked out of a library. My Hobo Omelet was at least two inches think and seven inches long, and I almost didn't finish it. But, it was so good that I forced myself.

What a way to ring in the New Year: family, friends, movies and gorging on tons of food. I'll start my resolution of hitting the gym on Wednesday. For now, I think I'll just collapse into a coma.