Friday, January 11, 2013

2012: My Year in Review

As I was waiting for my flight in the San Francisco airport on New Years Eve I reflected on my year and all of the adventures I had along the way. 2012 was easily my most adventurous and the changes in me and my life are palpable and symbolic of a regeneration. 

In 2010 - 2011 the transitions in my life were painful and difficult. My 15-year relationship ended. I seemingly moved from one bad decision to another with no ability to learn or stop the roller coaster ride.

As 2012 opened I vowed a different approach. I celebrated New Years Day in my first love, Montana. We had celebrated the night before at my family's ranch and then rung in the New Year at the Two Dot Bar.

Along the way, I ran half marathons in NYC and Seattle. I skied outdoors in Montana and indoors in Dubai. I rode a camel... and I ate camel. I flew Emirates and the all new 787 Dreamliner. I revisited Charleston and ate rounded out my foodie experience there with dinners at Husk and Macintosh. I went to Harlem and ate at Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster. Twice. I spent the night at The Bedford Post in New Bedford, New York and ate one of the best cassoulets I have ever had. I ran my first full marathon and I celebrated Pride in Seattle, Vancouver and Palm Springs. I celebrated marriage equality and watched proudly as several friends got engaged and a few married.

I met Kevin and embarked on many adventures with him. 

I met a lot of new people, I believe I strengthened friendships, I drank a lot of wine, I hiked the Grand Canyon for the first time. I celebrated Christmas with my closest friends and family and I again celebrated the New Year in Montana.

It was an amazing year and 2013 promises to be even better.

Happy New Year!

Friday, October 28, 2011


It is full-on fall in Seattle with leaves rapidly meeting the ground, being helped by the rain that has been falling all day. It's the beginning of our longest season. Fall blends into winter, winter into spring.

It's not all that bleak, at least not yet. Fall sparks nostalgia in me; the ghosts of my past emerge in subtle ways. Last night I dreamed of my childhood. Specifically filling the wood box in our kitchen, which was one of my daily jobs. At the time, I hated it. Today, the slightest smell of wood burning in the crisp fall air brings me back thirty years to the ranch in Montana.

Nostalgia, like fall, for me, is good and bad. I like the chill that permeates air, the angled light from a sun that doesn't ever quite make it all the way into the sky. Ranch work was hardest in the fall and winter. Bone-chilling wind and temperatures and all the work was outside. Today, I avoid that kind of work if possible... and when I do it its simple; just the ritual cleaning up of the yard. Today, I spent the afternoon prowling fruit stands and markets looking for fall goodies. Delecata squash, pears, apples and yams all made it into my basket at Carpenito Brothers in Kent.

I went to Kent because I thought it might be my best chance to find crab apples. As a child, one of my favorite treats was my grandmother's pickled spiced crab apples. The aroma of them being prepared in her kitchen is a central memory for me; another haunting from a time that I cannot escape and that I often want to revisit. I decided that I would make them myself from her recipe; I believe it will be the first time in at least twenty years that anyone has made these apples.

Turns out, crab apples are difficult to find. From the produce people at three different markets: "Crab apples? Really? You may need to find a tree..." Undeterred, I went home and logged onto the world's biggest market: Google. There, in about twenty-five seconds I found my crab apples. $50 for 10 pounds including shipping. It kind of defeats the purpose. Back in the day crab apples were cheap, cheap cheap. That's why they were canning and pickling fruit. Today, they are exotic.

The crab apples are a symbol of a simpler time; I'll make them and probably find out that they aren't what I have built them up to be. For me, it's the apples. For someone else, it's some other symbol. Last month I was looking on and found brand-new vintage Star Wars action figures from the 1970s. They were selling in the range of $75 - $200 each. The people who are buying them? Middle-aged Gen Xers who are desperately trying to revisit their youth. Just like the Baby Boomers before them. And the Millenials after. Every generation does this; ghosts drive every generation and everyone wants to exorcise them. 

Today fall is ushered in for me by the rain, the smell of wet wood smoke and the longing for my pickled spiced crab apples. The older I get, the more I am removed from my youth, and the ghosts emerge more frequently. It's not that you can ever stop the emergence; it's how you manage the visits.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

South of Broad

Broad Street was historically the widest street in Charleston, SC. It was also a social dividing line. The neighborhood south of Broad Street is made up of an amazing collection of beautiful, historic homes in Georgian, Adams, Romanesque, Classical and even Victorian styles. Famous Americans such as Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and more stayed in these homes. Ghosts are prevalent.

North of Broad, home to the French Quarter, is still a nice neighborhood but more commercial and less glamorous. Certainly, it is far less prestigious. Today, a collection of some of the South's best restaurants are north of Broad Street. But all in all, the folks living south of the dividing line socialize in a different sphere than those who live north of Broad.

It's impossible to live in Charleston without making peace with the dead. Cemeteries, grave yards, ancient headstones along the walls of buildings are everywhere. Homes are haunted; most of the homes in the historic district have been occupied since the 1700s. Some before that. It's easy to walk the brick and cobblestone streets and imagine the life of the city 200 plus years ago.

Everywhere you go you see the color black. Or at least what you think is black. Homes have shutters and doors painted this color. Long rocking-benches are prevalent and painted the same color. The color, extremely dark, is actually called "Charleston Green". Legends say that the color was provided to the city by the occupying northern forces after the Civil War. It was the only color available so they made the most of it. There are other explanations but regardless, it is now  synonymous with the city.

There are many museums and historical in and around the city. You can visit the Hunley, a Confederate submarine that sunk in 1864 and you can visit Fort Sumpter; the flash point of the Civil War. You can also visit Fort Moultrie, a significant battleground of the Revolutionary War. History in Charleston is complex and spans centuries.

This week, parents are visiting The Citadel and there are uniformed cadets all over town. The Citadel is a military college but not of the military. Its cadets played a significant role in the firing on Fort Sumpter. Today the presence of uniformed military students downtown is an extension of the close relationship between the city and its uniformed soldiers. In the 1700s, it was Cornwallis' British soldiers in town. Then it was South Carolina's soldiers (The first president of South Carolina lived here). Then, federal soldiers followed by the grey coats of the Confederacy. Then a significant U.S. Naval presence and now its home to Joint Base Charleston and one of the largest fleets of C-17s in the United States.

Restaurants are amazing here. S.N.O.B., High Cotton, Muse and Magnolia's all specialize in Low Country cooking; fresh seafood and meats cooked with southern ingredients and more than a hint of French influences. FIG (Food Is Good) is a local-ingredient restaurant owned by James Beard awarding-winning chef Mike Lata. Check out the current menu here:  Charleston is also home to Husk. Named Bon Appetit's best new restaurant in America this year, it is mobbed with food tourists most every night. The earliest reservation I could get was at 10:15 on a Tuesday night. Sean Brock, its chef, is also a James Beard award winner and a regular on the Food Network. His restaurant is supplied by his own heirloom vegetables; grown on his farm outside the city. Among restaurant cities in America, Charleston has more must-eat places than most. Napa included. It's incredibly easy to eat local in Charleston. Wine lists are excellent but focused on European labels. Northwest wines are hard to find here.

I'm writing this while sitting at the bar in Squeeze. The narrowest bar I have ever seen, it is billed as Charleston's tightest bar. Its sits on East Bay street near many of the best restaurants. It's known for its handcrafted cocktails. Bowls piled high with fresh blueberries, raspberries, ginger and mint are sitting on the bar along with traditional ingredients like olives and limes. The bourbon menu is extensive. You can get Basil Hayden, Woodford Reserve and less common brands like Buffalo Trace, Pappy Van Winkle and Russell's Rye.

Beer has a place in the culture here too. Local brew Palmetto is served in most bars and restaurants and can be had as a lager, a pale ale, amber and porter. All are sold in bottles; all are excellent!

While there are a lot of great bars here, if you try to stick to Gay bars you'll be disappointed. The two bars in downtown Charleston, Dudley's and Club Pantheon are unremarkable. Unless you want to talk about the drag show that I saw on Friday night. That was pretty good... The two other bars, Deja Vu II and Patrick's are out of town.

To visit Charleston is to visit history. It's nearly the epicenter of American struggle, power, high-culture, racial division, wealth and glamour. It's a city that knows who it is, that has played on its strengths and struggled through the devastating tragedy of war and economic disaster and has come through...tested and strong. It's a city worth visiting but make sure you come hungry!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Five perfect days (eating) in Maui

 I know the title sounds like a cliche and I'll do my best to not have this sound like a travel guide but I had such a great time in Maui this week that I want to share my activities.

I'm back in Seattle now. Winter seems to have hit; rainy and I had to turn my heat up when I got to the house. My phone hadn't updated yet and the weather on it said: Paia, Sunny and 85 degrees. So reality is a cold splash of water in the face ...

I landed at Kahului airport and was getting my rental car by 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. Even though I'm not a morning person and would rather do just about anything to avoid getting up before the sun does, when you are already in Hawaii before lunch time a little suffering is worth it!

By 1:00 p.m. I had met my friends and we were enjoying lunch at Hail'imaile, an amazing restaurant surrounded by pineapple fields out in the countryside near Makawao. Bev Gannon, the owner and chef is a James Beard award winner and her menu is excellent! I had an oyster and rock shrimp po-boy sandwich. You can learn more about the restaurant here:

After lunch we drove across the island to Kaanapali and I settled in to Tony and Kelly's new home overlooking the beach. We all changed into swim suits and headed down to the beach to watch the sunset and drink some Kona Longboards. Later that night we had dinner at home; Poke, grilled Opah and caesar salad.

On Friday I gave most of my attention to the pool and the beach. Oh, and had some fish and chips and mai tais at Castaways. Late in the afternoon I had to snap back to reality and help get ready for a dinner party at the house.

Saturday, I ran a 10K run in Lahaina. First time I did any running since Vancouver and my knee injury. Did ok but I am OUT OF SHAPE! Afterward, we all went to Whaler's Village and shopped. Saturday night we took a sunset cruise on a 65' long catamaran. Beautiful views, sunset and excellent food including jumbo tahitian prawns marinated in coconut milk and stuffed new york steaks.

Sunday we drove ALL OVER THE ISLAND and ended up at Maui's only winery at Ulupalakua Ranch. We sampled their wines and ate elk burgers at the ranch store across the street. Maui has several cattle ranches on the slopes of Haleakala and at least one that raises elk along with the cattle! On Sunday night we went to our friends Bud and Daryl's impossibly beautiful home in the hills above Kaanapali. We had cocktails and dinner poolside and then drank several bottles of wine from their cellar.

Today I got up early and drove the 30 miles back to the airport. The views along the way were great; the tide was up and the surf was spraying over the highway. I'd never seen the water so high as this morning. The flight back to Seattle took 5 hours but it seems like a world away.

I've always wondered what the attraction to Hawaii was all about. This was my second visit to Maui this year and I think I get it now.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Telephone call as I was leaving the grocery store:

Me: hello?
Elderly lady (could be my mother) HELLO RICK?
Me: Sorry, you have the wrong number. I don't know Rick.
(in the background: TELL HIM WE NEED FERTILIZER!
Me: I don't know Rick. This is a cell number. I'm in Seattle...
Me: Sure.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to my best friend

Tonight I helped celebrate my best friend's birthday. Already 49 years old, it seems like yesterday that we met. Yesterday was in 1991 and we were both much younger -- in our twenties, actually.

It's easy to take friendship for granted. Friends, the term used loosely, come and go... you have someone in your life for a while then they fade away and disappear. Everyone goes through this. But that hasn't happened in this case and it never will.

I have been through a lot with this guy. Love and loss. Fun and heartbreak. Vacations, too many to count. Periods of time where our friendship was strained and periods when it was intense.

When I was going through a crisis in my mid-twenties, he offered me a place to stay in his home. We barely knew each other at that point. What he did literally changed my life and shaped who I am today. I'll never forget that.

When we had only talked on the phone; never met, but knew that we had a connection. I invited him to my family's home in Montana. That trip was all it took. We have been close ever since.

A few years ago, he went through a life changing experience; one that altered every fabric of his being. I worried for him and for a couple of years he was distant and remote. Depressed and unhealthy. There was little anyone could do other than just be there. I hope that I was there enough for him. It was, and is, hard to tell if anyone did enough for him during that period.

Today, as he starts on the first day of his 5th decade, the sun shines; he is happy, partnered again, entertaining and witty as ever. I am so happy to have seen the transformation and I thank God that he is back and that our friendship endures and thrives.

Happy birthday, David! I can't wait to see what the future decades hold for you. I know it will be good!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vic or Van.

My friends and I were uncomfortably staring at our menus as the word vomit rained down on us from above. We'd been in the restaurant only about five minutes when the waitress had developed a special attraction for us.

Short with blond hair pulled back tightly into a pony tail, she reminded me of a younger, less refined Krstin Chenoweth. If Kristin Chenoweth was lonely, dressed poorly and lived in a small Canadian town.  "I should probably stop talking" she said, "you'll think I'm weird." "Where are you from anyway? I never see you around here. I know everyone around town. You must not be from here.". She didn't stay to find out where we were from. "I'll be right back," she said and then she disappeared back into the bar.

My friend Chad didn't know what to do; she hadn't stopped looking at him the entire time. The other two of us might as well not have existed. She was really into Chad.  Chad's boyfriend was amused. I wanted her to stop talking.

She ran off. A few moments later she returned with waters and said "I forgot to take your orders! I'm sorry! You must think I'm weird!" Then she looked at Chad and said "What do YOU want?" I started laughing ... "You do think I'm weird!" came out of fake-Kristen's mouth. "I'll be right back she said and then shot off across the dining room"

We were talking about this surreal experience when she returned. "Do you like Vic or Van?" she asked. "I prefer Vic" she continued ... much more relaxed and friendly. Van is too high strung...I never know where I stand with Van." We all looked at each other. Who are Vic and Van I wondered.

Chad quietly said, "we don't know either of them. We're not from here." She looked at him and started laughing..."Vic or Van...Victoria or Vancouver. Which city do you prefer? I prefer Vic. Van is too high strung and too diverse," she continued... "Of course both of them are too far away. And too big. We go to Kalispell for Costco and to Spokane for other stuff. Things are cheaper down there."

We laughed...because as gay boys, of course we prefer Van. We had just never heard them referred to that way before. While we were eating, Chad pulled out a note pad and pen and wrote Vic and Van down on his list of strange phrases and situations that we had experienced during the week.

A couple of weeks later, when I was in Vancouver for pride, I felt like an "in the know native" because I knew to call the city Van. If it weren't for that night in Cranbrook, with the crazy waitress, I would never have had that insider's tip.