Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I appreciate this woman's gumption

Woman who lost home says ‘humbug’

The woman at the center of a national battle over property rights sent a less-than-joyous holiday card to officials who used the power of eminent domain to take her home. Susette Kelo’s card shows a snowy image of her house in New London, CT, and reads:

“Your houses, your homes, your family, your friends. May they live in misery that never ends. I curse you all. May you rot in hell. To each of you, I send this spell.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that New London had the right to take homes in Kelo’s Fort Trumbull neighborhood to make way for a private riverfront project that will include condominiums, a hotel and office space. New London Development Corp. member Reid Burdick put the card on his mantel. “The things she’s angry about were not done to be mean-spirited toward her personally,” Burdick said.

USA Today December 21, 2006 p. 3A

Email from Michelle

Michelle wrote:
"Steve, last night at Michael's I almost bought you a big Gwen Stefani poster that is on sale for $5. They have 2 or 3 of them left in the art work section. But then I figured you would never hang it up."

True - I would hang such a poster in my condo. The thought, however, is a nice one.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lehigh University

I earned my B.A. degree from Marquette. As a history major, the possibility of gainful employment in the mid-90s was remote, even though I graduated magna cum laude. When I was finishing up at Marquette, my undergraduate adviser encouraged me to apply to graduate school. Since I had no real idea what I wanted to do with my life, I figured I'd give it a shot. When deciding which schools to apply to, my adviser recommended Lehigh University, which is where he earned his M.A. degree. I had never heard of Lehigh at the time. Most people in the Midwest haven't heard of Lehigh, even though its current U.S. News & World Report ranking is number 33 in the nation, ahead of both Boston College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In spite of its high academic quality, people in the Midwest give you a blank stare if you mention Lehigh.

Lehigh is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Bethlehem is part of the Lehigh Valley which includes Allentown (of Billy Joel song fame) and Easton. It's about 50 miles north of Philadelphia and 75 miles west of New York City.

In any event, I applied to Lehigh and eight other schools. Lehigh came through with the best offer, including a full-tuition fellowship and teaching responsibilities after the first semester. So I decided to head east.

Going to Lehigh was probably the scariest thing I've ever done. My family and friends were all in the Midwest. I didn't know one living soul in Pennsylvania. As a fairly extroverted person, that was incredibly difficult. I was one of four new M.A. candidates in the history program that fall. After one of our first classes, I suggested that we eat lunch together. All three of the other new graduate students said no. So I ate lunch alone at Subway. With time, I did get to know my fellow graduate students. The three other new students ended up being friends, and I'm still in touch with one of them today. A year or so after their snub of my lunch invitation, we laughed and joked about it. I also got to be friends with some of the other people in my program and became fast friends with Craig since he was also from Wisconsin.

Graduate school was intimidating at first, particularly since there were Ph.D. students in my classes. I quickly learned that if I did the assigned readings, I could easily hold my own in class discussions. Before long, the straight guys in my Civil War causation readings course were asking me to join them at the Tally-Ho Tavern for a beer after class.

I ended up enjoying living in the Lehigh Valley and being a graduate student. I have moments when I wish I could return to those days of sitting at a study carrel in Fairchild-Martindale Library reading some history book, looking out the window at South Mountain, and teaching sixth grade reading at Broughal Middle School.

I earned my M.A. degree in 1998. I could have stayed at Lehigh and gone on for my Ph.D., but after two years, I was ready to return to the Midwest and be closer to my family and friends. I've been back in Milwaukee ever since, but am grateful for the education I received at Lehigh.

Two buck Chuck

Michelle told me that she bought two cases of Charles Shaw wine at Trader Joe's. And why not, particularly since you can buy a bottle for $2.99. It's not bad stuff, either. I love imagining Michelle coming home from work, busting out her corkscrew, and drinking directly from the bottle. I bet she can down an entire bottle in 30 minutes. She has enough of a stash that she can do it whenver the mood strikes her. Plus she is known to get pickled with some frequency, so it's a fun image. Cheers!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday fun with Lesley

My fantastic friend Lesley from Los Angeles is visiting Milwaukee. Yesterday we met for lunch, did some shopping at Bayshore, and had coffee. It's always a real treat to spend time with Lesley. She is an incredibly caring and supportive friend; I don't know what I'd do without her. Fortunately, we have the kind of relationship where no topic is taboo and there's mutual care and understanding. As usual, we hashed over all sorts of issues. I talked with her about why no guys respond to my Yahoo or Match profiles. She's going to take a look and give me some suggestions. She also recommended keeping my responses to other guys short and to the point. It's possible that I reveal too much upfront. I'm willing to listen to any advice that might help me find a boyfriend.
Our general response to people or things that trouble us is for me to say, "it's because you're Jewish and I'm gay." Or Lesley says, "it's because I'm Jewish and you're gay." That is the reason why we were not selected to be the honorary marshals of the Parade of Dreams at Disneyland.
I'm quite pleased with these photos of us. Lesley, we look FAN-TASTIC! Love you, honey.

Annual Christmas greeting from City of Milwaukee

My annual Christmas greeting from Wayne F. Whittow, City Treasurer of Milwaukee, arrived today. It's public record available to anyone on the City of Milwaukee web site, so it's no secret that my bill this year is $5,442.32. All for the privilege of living in my condo. I try to remember the benefits of living on the Lower East Side of Milwaukee: only 2.7 miles to work, I can walk to at least 30 restaurants and to the movies at the Oriental Theatre, and I'm only two blocks from Lake Michigan and my favorite running route. Plus I live in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Wisconsin. I think I would go crazy if I had to live in Brookfield where almost everyone is white, straight, and Republican. Shudder the thought.

I do wish that the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) had higher academic quality; if that were the case I wouldn't mind paying my tax bill. I'm a proponent of public education and am proud to say that I went to public schools K-12. (I did earn my B.A. and M.A. degrees at private universities.) MPS needs more dedicated and capable teachers such as my friend Brad who teaches middle school English. Unfortunately, the political leaders here lack the will to do anything serious about improving academic quality across the board in MPS.

In any event, I'll mail in my full payment tomorrow. I hope they use it well.

Little Cancun

Ruben, Mark, and I went to Little Cancun on Saturday night for dinner. Little Cancun is a dive Mexican restaurant on the South Side of Milwaukee. It was great fun, and we managed to down two pitchers of margaritas between the three of us. I'm a notorious cheap date when it comes to alcohol, and I have a much lower tolerance than most of my friends. As a result, I was rather lit up by the end of the evening. We called Jennifer E. in our tipsy condition and gave her some good laughs. It was good because the experience helped remedy my sour mood. What was not good, however, was the next morning when the cheap tequila caused my head to pound. Salud!

My celebrity look-a-likes

Friday, December 08, 2006

'Tis the Season to Be Jolly

Other than work-related events, I haven't been invited to even one Christmas party this year. That's rather depressing. I'd like to host a party the week after Christmas for three of my friends with Capricorn birthdays. However, I've already hosted two major parties at my condo in 2006, one in May when Nate visited and other for my birthday in September. I don't mind the preparation for a party nor do I mind the expense of buying liquor and food. Being a Virgo, I do mind the extensive cleanup the following day, particularly having to scrub the floors. Other than Barbie, it's hard for me to remember the last time I attended a party at anyone else's house. Maybe I should just suck it up and sent out an Evite for a party, but I'm still mulling it over. I know that my attitude needs improvement, but this year's Christmas season has me a bit down.

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Last Saturday I had almost no desire to deal with decorating my condo for Christmas. Nevertheless, I went down to my storage locker and lugged the decorations upstairs. I assembled my 7' artificial tree only to discover that only about 20 percent of the pre-lit lights were functioning. After trying for about 10 minutes to find a quick fix, I disassembled the tree, dragged it downstairs, and threw it in the dumpster. For the sake of my sanity, I didn't want to get stuck monkeying around with those lights all day. I calculated it, and it only cost me $30 per year for the years I used that tree, so I definitely got my money's worth. I then proceeded to get in my car, drove to Target, and bought a new 4.5' artificial pre-lit tree. It's smaller, but all of my ornaments fit, so I'm rather pleased. My mood improved considerably once I had the new tree and was decorating it while listening to Andy's special Christmas CD.


The first time I heard "London Bridge" by Fergie, I was interested in a guilty pleasure sort of way. It immediately reminded me of a more hoochie mama version of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl." While hardly innovative or even intelligent, "London Bridge" has fun bad-girl theme that's hard for this gay boy to resist. Before passing judgment on the song, I consulted Ruben, who is quite often my arbiter of taste and style. On first hearing, Ruben was aghast; he could not believe I was making listen to such trash. But being a good Gemini, it wasn't long before Ruben demanded to hear the song again. Then he said that he needed me to burn it on a CD for him immediately. The next day he blamed me for "London Bridge" being stuck in his head. One final thought: if I were fortunate enough to be dating Josh Duhamel, my London London bridge would most certainly go down every time he came around.

Broadway shows I've seen

1. Gypsy, 1990. St. James Theatre. A revival starring Tyne Daly. I was captivated, especially since I'm always interested in the "American dream" theme.
2. Meet Me in St. Louis, 1990. George Gershwin Theatre. See my prior post about Jason Workman for details. It was cute but certainly not groundbreaking.
3. Show Boat, 1996. George Gershwin Theatre. Quite entertaining and an important show in the history of the American musical.
4. Victor/Victoria, 1997. Marquis Theatre. An absolutely amazing experience since I had the privilege of seeing Ms. Julie Andrews perform live. This was before she lost her ability to sing due to a botched operation on her vocal cords. She was, is, and always will be the best.
5. A Doll's House, 1997. Belasco Theatre. I've been fascinated by this play since the first time I read it in a drama literature class in 1993. Since I'm one-half Norwegian, I have a particular fondness for Henrik Ibsen, a playwright who was most certainly ahead of his time. The performance was captivating.
6. Phantom of the Opera, 1997. Majestic Theatre. Garish and banal. I only went because my travel companion really wanted to see it.
7. Rent, 1997. Nederlander Theatre. Inspirational and relevant. I was singing along with the soundtrack for months after seeing this musical.
8. Take Me Out, 2003. Walter Kerr Theatre. We scored front row seats from TKTS, which was particularly pleasant since the men in the cast spend much of the show fully naked. It was refreshing to see a gay-themed show.
9. Hairspray, 2003. Neil Simon Theatre. The most fun show I've seen to date and the one where the audience had the loudest reaction. Harvey Fierstein was hilarious as Edna Turnblad and Marissa Jaret Winokur sparkled as Tracy Turnblad.
10. Wicked, 2006. George Gershwin Theatre. Much happier and more positive than Gregory Maguire's innovative and original novel. The songs were particularly interesting.
11. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, 2006. Circle in the Square Theatre. A charming story. I have a crush on Barrett Foa who played Leaf Coneybear. Barrett, will you go out with me?
12. Mary Poppins, 2006. New Amsterdam Theatre. A terrific and invigorating take on the classic story by P. L. Travers and the Disney film. The sets were amazing, the dancing was superb, and the kids playing Jane and Michael Banks were charming. Gavin Lee as Burt stole the show.


I went to Chipotle tonight for a vegetarian burrito. I ran into Anne B., a woman who works for the same institution as me. She's also single. We ate our dinner together and had a good conversation. I learned that we're both big fans of Six Feet Under. Anne hasn't seen the final season yet, so I'm going to lend my DVDs to her. It was nice to have someone to share my dinner with. One of the things I dislike the most about being single is not having consistent and reliable people to eat with. If there's a hell, my version would be a place where you always have to eat alone. There are few things I dislike more. I always appreciate being able to share a meal with other people. Tonight I'm grateful for the coincidence of seeing Anne and being able to spend some time in pleasant conversation with her.