Dialing for Democracy

I’ve had over 700 conversations with voters over the last month while phone banking for Progressive Project Turnout. That’s about 699 more than I thought I would have when my team was pulled out of the field in early August because of COVID-19 and transitioned from door knocking to phone calling. I mean who answers a number they don’t recognize these days? Well, as it turns out, a pandemic is a damn good time to call people. They’re at home and a lot of them are bored silly and talking to a friendly stranger like me is a nice diversion.

Now, not to paint too rosy of a picture, I’ve probably had twice that number of hang-ups, but I expected that. And then there are the Trumpers, but I’ll save that for later. For the most part, I’ve been deeply moved, honored – and often amused – listening to voters’ thoughts about this election. And best of all, I am very hopeful about November 3rd. No, really, I am. Joe Biden might not have been a lot of folks first choice, but today he is a LOT of folks only choice. Whatever gets us there.

Joe Biden. I say his name a hundred times of day – think Rain Man and substitute Joe Biden for Judge Wapner – that’s me. I recite parts of the script in my dreams sometimes. My dear wife can even do an amusing impersonation of me since she’s heard me on duty from my home office. Besides politely thanking the Trump voters for their time (grr), making the script sound fresh each time is the most challenging aspect of the gig. By the end of my shift, I’m exhausted from the sound of my own voice, but I go to bed hopeful that our democracy will prevail.

We follow a brief script – I identify myself and who I am representing and slide into the main question – “Do you plan on voting for Joe Biden on November 3rd?” And that’s when things get interesting. The good – yes – the bad – no – and the ugly – Trumpers who yell at me. There’s a half a second of suspense after the question exits my mouth and hangs there as I wait for the answer. I can almost predict the answer by the sound of someone’s voice, but that’s not foolproof. One of my early calls was to crusty old woman in rural Pennsylvania. I popped the question and there was an awkward pause and she said in a very bold voice, “I…most…certainly… (here it comes, I thought) AM!” She proceeded to tell me that the only monument that Trump’s head should be on is a statue of Larry, Curly and Moe. Lesson learned – you can’t always judge a voter by their address. See 2016.

Our call list is weighted to registered Democrats, but no data is perfect. Almost all the Dems are happy to speak with me – like hearing from an old friend. Here are just a few of my favorite answers to the first question.

  1. I would crawl over broken glass to vote for Joe Biden.
  2. FUCK YEAH! Like my very life depends on it. (I really liked that woman.)
  3. I would vote for a bag of rotten vegetables over Donald Trump.

We then ask if people plan on voting by mail or in person and this has been a disgusting indictment (there will be many more) of Donald Trump’s assault on mail-in voting. People don’t trust the United States Postal System. I spoke to a woman in Warren, MI who told me, “I work for the post office and no way am I mailing my ballot in.” And I talked to a 36-year retiree of the post office in Raleigh who lamented that she can’t trust the mail because of Trump. She said, “I’ve got a mask, a shield and some gloves – I’m voting in person.”

That said – a LOT of people are voting by mail – and many are delivering their ballots in person to a drop-box or their local Board of Elections. But the most encouraging takeaway from this question is that so many people have a plan for voting – they’ve thought it through in advance because they want to protect themselves and their vote. Americans are afraid their vote will not be counted. So much winning.

The last question I ask folks is the one that has evoked answers that have sometimes moved me to tears. What would you say is the primary issue that concerns you the most in the upcoming election? The number one answer by far is getting rid of Donald Trump. Here are just a few of the most memorable responses.

  • Donald Trump is a doofus and a danger to the whole world.
  • You don’t let someone in your house who will hurt you. He’s in our house.
  • Stopping the descent into Fascism.
  • He’s not even human. (Fascinating new birther conspiracy!)

This is where I often find myself in surprisingly deep conversations with some voters as they share their despair for the state of our union and their hopes for the future. A woman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania said, “Oh, now you’re going to make me cry. I pray for the welfare of our nation and the heart of our country. My husband and I are voting by mail and going fishing on election day. We’ll fish and pray all day that we’ll get our country back.” Gulp. Many people tell me that they fear for the future of our democracy if Biden is not elected. One man called the last four years “the vandalism of our democracy.” These people aren’t all yellow dog Democrats like me. Some of them tell me that they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary, but they will vote for Biden. A few even confess that they are Republicans, but they can’t support Trump. It is no small thing to hear a stranger tell you how much they love our country.

We’ve been calling into battleground states except for two days of calling into Kentucky. Wow. I can’t imagine anything lonelier than being a Democrat in Kentucky. Our time calling there was as a longshot that Mitch McConnell might be defeated. Not to be a buzzkill, but we can call that race right now. The Kentucky Dems were so happy to hear from a kindred soul that it was sometimes hard to get them off the phone. It was a little heartbreaking. I felt like I was leaving behind those sweet residents of The Island of Misfit Toys. I promised them that Joe Biden would come back for them.

The other primary concern on most voters’ minds is COVID-19. I spoke with an essential worker in PA who just returned to work after being out for almost four months recovering from COVID. She is what we call a highly motivated voter. People know that this pandemic is far from over and they want to put an adult in charge. I’ve heard touching stories from older people who haven’t seen their grandchildren in six months. I can hear the weariness in their voices. I probably stay on those calls longer than I should.

I learned quickly that each state has its own personality. Maine and New Hampshire don’t suffer fools or unknown callers gladly. I got a lot of, “It’s none of your damn business who I’m voting for.” Yep. Live free or die. Both of those states are looking good for Joe, but Susan Collins’ karma ticket is about to be punched. I imagine she is deeply troubled. On the bright side, she’ll have more time for brewskies with Brett Kavanaugh. What? I LIKE BEER.

And now for the Trumpers. I’ll give them this – they are faithful parrots of their fearful leader. I’ve heard things like Joe Biden is a pedophile and Kamala Harris is a Muslim. That’s when my superpower of lip biting comes in handy. My absolute favorite response/insult from a Trump voter came from a young, white man (surprise!) in rural North Carolina. He said/yelled at me, “I DON’T VOTE FOR DEMOCRATS. CNN IS BULLSHIT. FUCK YOUR FEELINGS.” I desperately wanted to respond, “So, that’s a hard no on Joe?” Honestly, the Trumpers inspire me because they are a visceral reminder of how toxic Trump’s presidency has been for our country.

Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep after my shift. There are always a few conversations that I replay and can’t quite let go of – like the young black woman in Detroit. When I asked her what her primary concern was in this election she sighed – a heavy sigh much older than her years – as I waited for her answer. She said in a flat emotionless voice, “I’m a black person, so who I vote for doesn’t really matter because nothing ever changes for us. I hope things will get better this time, but we’ll see.” Damn. I doubt I’ll ever let go of that conversation.

I’ve been surprised and deeply touched by the voters who have thanked me for what I am doing. Hearing a “Take care, girl” at the end of a call can really lift your spirits. The truth is that I love my job. Every day feels important – like when I talked a 93-year-old disabled woman through the process of requesting an absentee ballot. Dear Lord, I hope she mails it in early.

The bad news is that I’ll get the pink slip on November 3rd. The good news is that Donald Trump will, too.

Go to VotingMatters.org/NC to update your registration, request a mail-in ballot, or find your voting location.

Democracy at the door

Donald Trump has been President of the United States for 1,294 years – I mean days – and I have bitched and moaned and cried and cussed about it almost EVERY single one of those days. And yet, he remains president. So, I came to a realization in early June that I needed a new strategy for getting rid of him and I applied to be a Field Representative for Progressive Turnout Project – a grassroots-funded organization with the sole mission of getting Democrats to the polls.

I do not want to go to bed on November 3rd with the devastating thought that I did not do everything I could possibly do to prevent Trump from being re-elected. I know that feeling. November 8, 2016. The mere mention of that date makes me experience COVID-19 symptoms.

And that is how I found myself interviewing for a young person’s job at my seasoned age. The pandemic mandated that the interview process be virtual – on an app called HireVue. The first interview consisted of answering five questions recorded by different people – no live interactions. It was weird, but fortunately my bestie Carla had introduced me to the Marco Polo app earlier in the pandemic, so I was used to talking to myself.

The second interview was with two live women young enough to be my daughters – that I had at 40. They were both bright and energetic and didn’t seem horrified that I was a mature applicant. Our conversation went well, and they offered me the position the following week. Yikes! I was really doing this.

Project Turnout is headquartered in Chicago and my training was three days on Zoom with about 75 folks from other battleground states. The trainer was perky and had a good sense of humor. I found him amusing until he started explaining who the organization’s core donors are and said, “You know your liberal aunt who watches way too much MSNBC? That’s our base.” Wait, that’s me! I felt like the other 74 people were staring right at me in my Zoom box.

I met some nice folks in the breakout rooms during training. They were all so young, but I found that exciting – they were smart and so politically engaged. I only felt old during the ice breaker on our third day. We broke out into smaller groups and were asked what our walk on song would be if we were running for president. I thought that was a fun question until the trainer started calling on people for their answers. OMG. I had NEVER heard of the first half dozen songs. I thought I was safe with my answer – Lizzo’s “Like a Girl” – until the person before me used it. I panicked knowing I was up next and before I knew it, “Girl from Ipanema” fell out of my mouth. Shut up. I know I choked. NO ONE in my group had any idea what I was talking about. Thankfully, the trainer moved quickly to the next person and I could melt from mortification in the privacy of my own square.

My first day in the field – we call it Turf because we’re hip like that – coincided with a heat wave. A certifiable “feels like 104” heat wave. If you have known me for more than five minutes, you know that I loathe summer with a passion. I hate the heat and fear the sun. I’m a fair skinned Irish girl who adheres to the schedule of a vampire during the summer months, so I was filled with high anxiety as I hit the steamy streets.

I left my house with enough water to float a pontoon. All kinds of water – tap, seltzer, Vitamin Water. All the waters. And ice. And frozen washcloths. That’s a trick I learned years ago. Put a wet washcloth in the freezer overnight and pack it in a cooler for your day in the sun. Pull it out when you start to melt and put it on top of your head under your hat. Trust me – it can save your life.

I was so afraid of dying from heat stroke on the streets of a foreign neighborhood that I really had no fear of knocking on the doors of strangers. I was armed with my iPad that contained the scripted questions we are to ask the registered voters we speak with. Oh, and, of course, we are following strict COVID protocols – wearing a mask and stepping back six feet after we knock on a door. So, do not whine to me about a mask making you hot, okay?

The first day went well except for our iPads overheating. Note: iPads will do that when exposed to the Seventh Layer of Hell. We were encouraged to take breaks as needed and our supervisors delivered ice packs later in the afternoon. There is simply no way to adapt to that kind of heat and I have even more respect for folks who work outside in the elements. It is damn hard, and I am damn old.

I had worried about bathroom breaks while in the field – especially in this pandemic. Not to worry – I sweated so much those first two weeks that I NEVER had to pee at work. And I was slurping up liquids like Tom Hanks when he cracks open that coconut in Castaway. It was the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done and when those two weeks were over I felt like I had won Survivor: Forsyth County – especially when some of my much younger teammates were complaining about how tired they were.

The other thing that got me through those sultry first weeks was some of the great interactions I had with voters. I am amazed that anyone would open their door to a stranger these days – during a global pandemic. I wouldn’t – unless it was a 12-year-old girl holding a stack of Thin Mints. But so many people have opened theirs and engaged with me in substantive conversations about their voting habits and their concerns for the upcoming election.

People have been so kind to me. Some have invited me inside – we are not allowed to do that. Many have offered me cold water and lots of them have told me to “keep cool” or “be careful” – one very elderly man even offered to walk me to my car because he was concerned about a neighbor’s crazy dog.

All these people have at least one thing in common besides their kindness – they do not want Trump to be re-elected. They are deeply passionate about getting rid of him. These are my people. Funny thing – I bet I was in the field three days before I even heard someone say Joe Biden’s name. There might not be a lot of enthusiasm for Uncle Joe, but there is a freaking ton of enthusiasm for giving Trump the boot. Whatever gets us there.

My favorite moments have been the conversations with first time voters. I spoke with Victor – a sweet Latinx man in his 30’s who just became an American citizen and will be voting for the first time in November. He is concerned about immigration and education – he has two children. And I’ve talked to several 18-year olds who are excited about their first vote. They want to make a difference. These people give me hope.

Our lists of contacts are highly data driven – focusing on inconsistent Democratic voters so I have only run into two Trumpers so far. Once the mark of the MAGA is revealed, we are instructed to say thanks for your time and move on. I listened, no doubt with glazed eyes, to a woman who told me that Hillary believes in abortion in the ninth month and that Joe Biden is a pedophile. My inside voice was screaming “FAKE NEWS” but I managed a wan smile as I bid her good evening. And then I remembered the grizzled veteran I met who usually votes Republican but is voting for Biden in November. My pace always picks up with those thoughts.

This work has also been a humbling reminder of my white privilege at times. I ended one evening speaking to three young black women in a row – all single moms with children. It was after eight in the evening and they were weary from their day, but they opened their doors and talked to me about their voting habits. One of the questions we ask is how likely you are to vote in November – on a scale of one to five – five being very likely. One of the women said to me, “I don’t really know. I’m not even sure who is running.” She seemed embarrassed and almost apologized. I told her who was running and that she had nothing to feel bad about. This woman wasn’t stupid – she was worn out – from the day, from yesterday, from tomorrow. I could feel her fatigue – she had gotten her kids fed and would soon be putting them to bed – and yet she took the time to talk to me – the liberal aunt who watches too much MSNBC.

On the drive home that night, I thought about what a luxury my obsession with politics is. I grew up with parents who instilled in me that voting is a precious right and that every vote counts. As an adult, I have had the time and sometimes the means to work for and support candidates that embraced issues important to me. I have been to endless fundraisers and sipped cheap white wine while someone droned on and on about what they were going to do for me. I have been inspired and I have suffered painful defeats. I have been afforded the invitation to participate and the arrogance to believe that my presence can make a difference.

Our field canvassing has been suspended because of COVID concerns and we are now phone banking, texting, and letter writing. When I got the news, I thought of Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, “When the Gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.” Yes, I am out of the heat, but I miss seeing the faces of the folks I’m talking to. There is no more effective communication with a voter than an in-depth conversation in person. And besides, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat a mature masked white woman in a bucket hat on a hot day.

I hope I’ll be out there knocking doors again soon. It is by far the hardest work I’ve ever done. And, without a doubt, the most important.

One nation under carbs

justice kennedy

Last week was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. If a root canal and the Norovirus got together and produced an offspring – it would look like last week. I can make some tepid jokes about it now, but there was nothing funny about last week – it was the worst many of us had felt since the wee early hours of November 9, 2016.

While we were still reeling from the coverage of immigrant children being separated from their parents and held in cages, came the staggeringly sober news that Justice Anthony Kennedy was resigning from the Supreme Court. When I got the BREAKING NEWS alert on my phone I prayed it really was FAKE NEWS.

It felt like the time years ago when I hit the wrong button on my first iPhone and accidentally did a factory reset – losing all my never backed up photos and contacts. That slow motion feeling of not being in control mixed with deep sadness for what might be permanently erased.

I don’t care if we knew it “might” be coming. I’m a proud reality denier and I had put that particular item far down on my To Worry About List. Once I caught my breath, I cried. I did. It was just too much to process after EVERYTHING else. Fortunately, I was at home by myself, so my cat was the only eyewitness to my breakdown and her silence can be bought with a few extra treats.

I’ve spent much of my adult life working for LGBT civil rights – including devoting a sizable chunk of my professional life to advocating for people living with AIDS. I suddenly saw the past 25 years or so like a montage – all the meetings, all the marches, all the fundraising, all the stinging defeats, all the friends – some dead now – all the years of incremental progress – then the rush of huge advancements. I could feel it all slipping through my hands like sand. I felt hopeless.


My guy, Jeff. I guess you could say he wears his heart on his T-shirt.

And then my phone started blowing up. First one in was my gay boyfriend, Jeff. We’ve said for years that we would be the perfect couple except for the little detail of sexual orientation. He’s the gay man version of me – cranky with a wicked sense of humor. I adore him, and we have shared many hours stuffing envelopes, canvassing neighborhoods, hosting fundraisers and kvetching about the current state of affairs. Side note: We narrowly avoided a tragic accident years ago while delivering a Porta Potty to a special event. It almost tipped over in Jeff’s truck while we were placing it in a friend’s backyard. If the Porta Potty hadn’t crushed us to death, we would have most certainly died from humiliation.

Jeff basically expressed the same things I was feeling – that everything we had worked so long and hard for could be eradicated as the balance of the Court shifted. And then he texted a few minutes later to say he had gone to the men’s room to throw up. The thought of losing some of your civil rights can make you toss your lunch. My crying didn’t seem so bad then. Jeff always makes me feel better.

Then I got a Facebook message from my friend, Bo, in Wilmington. We served on the

Bo is rather shy and retiring. Said no one ever.

board of Equality NC for several years and have stayed in touch. He wrote, “I share your fear and I want to walk with you in our next right thing. You taught me that all is not lost. We have to keep teaching each other.” Damn. I was crying again – only this time the tears were sweeter.

And then I got a phone call – old school – from my mentor/Jewish mother/friend/sage, Phyllis, in DC. I worked for her years ago and we became family. She and her husband hosted my wedding to my dear wife in 2014. Phyllis is fearless and is always the first to call – in good times and in tough times. When I answered the phone, I said, “Please tell me we are moving to Norway.” She said, “Addy, I feel like someone in my family has died.” Just hearing her voice made me feel safer.


Phyllis always calls. Always.


I turned off the TV. I couldn’t bear to hear the talking heads start to circle the body like vultures, speculating on who Trump would select. I’ve barely watched any news since then. Thank God for BBC crime dramas – I find them oddly comforting. Nothing like a good grisly murder or two set against a gray London backdrop to lift your spirits.

My wife and I had dinner plans that evening with a friend from our church. She’s a delightful and smart retired woman who has hosted us for supper in her home a few times. I’m a vegetarian and she’s kind enough to even prepare some fabulous tofu dishes for us – nobody ever does that. We usually bring a bottle of wine – that night we brought two. Just in case.

We had a surprisingly lovely evening sitting around her dining room table as the sun went down. I love that time of day and the light cast a peaceful balm over us as we talked. We came home feeling a bit better.

dinner with carol.jpg

Breaking bread with a kindred spirit was just what we needed.

I had one more Facebook message waiting for me – from my good friend Megan. We worked together for years around HIV/AIDS issues and she and her husband are two people who always seem to be on the right – as in fair and just – side of everything. She oozes integrity and her support has always meant a great deal to me. She wrote, “Holding you and many others in my heart… don’t lose hope.” I felt like I had a logjam of life rafts available when I finally fell into bed that night.

megan meme
This is a typical Facebook post from Megan. All the feels.

But do you want to know what lifted my spirits the most amidst the angst of last week? I could give you a gazillion guesses, and you wouldn’t come close. Ready? A chocolate éclair. And, no, I wasn’t self-medicating. It wasn’t even my éclair. On Friday, I met my bestie, Carla, at a local coffee shop. Carla is in grad school and we’ve been taking advantage of her summer off by meeting every other Friday for a three-hour coffee date. Seriously. We always meet at 9 AM and we’re never done before noon. That’s a lot of coffee and conversation.


Coffee with Carla. The best part of summer.

Our croissants and cappuccinos were long gone by the time a smiling young Asian man put down his paper plate on the table right next to us. We both started staring – lusting really – at the scrumptious looking chocolate éclair on his plate. Clearly, we were not as smooth about it as we thought we were because he looked at us sweetly and said, “Would you like a bite?” We both giggled with embarrassment and I think I fumbled a bit and said, “Oh, no, sorry, that éclair just looks so good.”

Carla got up to use the restroom and our new pal returned to his table with his coffee and settled in to enjoy his treat. He caught my eye as he held his plastic fork and knife in his hands and said, “Really, are you sure you wouldn’t like to try this?” Seriously, I really DID want to, but honestly, I could feel my throat closing with emotion. There was something so incredibly moving about his simple but genuine kindness in that moment. I wanted to hug him, but I was afraid he might think I was going to nab that big ass éclair.


The object of our affection.

Carla returned to our table and as we headed towards the door, I told him that we would not have been so generous with our éclairs and he laughed and told us to have a nice day. I could almost hear Won’t You Be My Neighbor playing in the background.

Let’s make the most of this beautiful day

Since we’re together, might as well say

Would you be my, could you be my

Won’t you be my neighbor?

I know it’s a gross simplification to imply that good pastries make good neighbors. I just know that a random exchange with a perfect stranger in my local coffee shop made me feel like somehow, we will make it through to the other side of this darkness. Together.

When I got home I reread the last part of Megan’s message:

“You just need to know you’re not alone in this. I come from a perspective, forged from coming of age in the 70’s, that we’re smart enough and tough enough to outmaneuver the bastards if we just work together.”

Mr. Rogers couldn’t have said it any better himself.


Can you say outmaneuver the bastards?



Carbs will keep us together.


ruth meme

This tweet saved me last Wednesday. Long live Ruth!



Making waves


January 20th, 2017. What could go wrong?

The Impossible is an absolutely gripping film from 2012 about one family’s experience in the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. One minute they are enjoying a Christmas vacation at a lush resort, the next they are literally swept away into total chaos and destruction.

I thought about this film in the middle of the night when I could not sleep – 24 hours before Donald Trump’s inauguration. Probably just a coincidence.


Last night as I was stone cold awake, I had a physical sensation that felt very familiar to me but I couldn’t quite nail it. Then it came to me – that feeling you have in the middle of the night before you or a loved one are having surgery. You know – that anxious feeling where you tell yourself that there is nothing to worry about and everything will be okay. And then somehow it is 4 AM and you still haven’t gone to sleep.

The devastation of November 8th feels far away from me today. It is no longer unfathomable to me that Hillary Clinton was not elected president. You’ve all seen the various autopsies and any combination of causes – FBI Director Comey, Russian hacking, fake news, misogyny, patriarchy, a flawed campaign and high unfavorability ratings – can explain her defeat.

Don’t get me wrong – I will mourn Hillary’s loss for the rest of my life but today it’s a fresh pink scar and not an open wound as it was for those first awful weeks. A fearful dread now hangs over me (and approximately 65,844,953 others) as we feel the rumbles of the electoral tsunami creeping ever closer.

I started watching some news again the first of the year. My dear wife likes to watch the Today show as she’s getting ready for work. We have developed some new safety protocols – the main one being that if Kellyanne Conway appears on-screen, she is to hit the off button immediately. For the record, we have that same rule in effect when Sarah McLachlan’s  Arms of the Angels PSA comes on, too. No Kellyanne. No sick kittens. The human spirit can only absorb so much pain.


Just say no!

I find myself crying more easily and more often these days. The Obamas, damn them, certainly haven’t helped matters. It seems as if every day one of them gives us another reason to weep but their grace, humanity and humility have helped make me believe for a little while that everything really will be okay.

My biggest breakdown to date came right before Thanksgiving when I was still deep in the throes of my election depression and avoiding all media. I just happened to be surfing for Sex and the City reruns (they always make me feel better) when I caught the White House ceremony when President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 21 recipients, including Ellen DeGeneres.


Twitter continues to save me on a daily basis.

It was the faces that killed me. Obama’s face – so genuine and respectful – and the faces of the recipients – all of them superstars in their fields – but so absolutely gobsmacked by receiving this award from this president. Tom Hanks, Robert DeNiro, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, Bruce Freaking Springsteen – all of them with enough hardware to fill an armory – all deeply moved by the honor.  Ellen flat-out ugly cried, bless her heart. And I ugly cried right along with her when President Obama told us that we should never forget how much courage was required for her to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago, noting that she “pushed our country in the direction of justice.”

I pray there’s no turning back now.



Ellen’s award-winning ugly cry.

The White House released a YouTube video recently in which many famous and not so famous folks share how they have been inspired by the Obamas.  In the video, noted feminist Gloria Steinem says, “It was the first time in my life when I felt like the White House belonged to everyone.” I know that feeling, too. In 2011, I was invited to the White House for a LGBT reception in celebration of PRIDE month. I don’t care how cool you think you are, being a guest at the White House is a pretty heady experience.


I’ll always regret that the most qualified Clinton never made it to the Oval. That’s me in the White House, 2011.

I remember going to D.C. for the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation in the spring of 1993. It was an empowering and life changing event for me as I heard speaker after speaker talk about taking our place at the table. It was too much for me to imagine back then that table would one day include one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I cried again the week before Christmas when my friend Gina posted a picture of her partner Marco becoming an American citizen. Marco is a handsome and charming Italian (redundant) and my wife and I both fell madly in love with him when we met him at my best friend Carla’s (Gina’s sister) wedding four years ago.

Marco and Gina are both brilliant mathematicians – those rare folks who actually used algebra after high school. They are that groovy couple who do the unimaginable and make math look hot. Anyway, I knew Marco had been studying for his citizenship exam but when I saw his sweet mug on Facebook with Gina’s caption, “One of our newest citizens!” – well, I lost it.

I told her that I wanted our country to be deserving of Marco’s beautiful smile. It’s like that bumper sticker says: I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.


Marco. Making America more beautiful.

His beaming face and the special red, white and blue tie he had purchased for the occasion just gutted me. I thought about so many people joking – sort of – about moving to Canada post-election. Such a disconnect from how gleeful Marco looks in Gina’s photograph. The Obamas made me feel like our country was deserving of that smile.

I’ll be back in our nation’s capital this weekend for another historic march – this time the Women’s March on Washington, the day after the inauguration. A lot has happened in those 24 years since my last march, especially in terms of LGBT rights. I’m legally married to the person I love and entitled to all the rights associated with that piece of paper.

Back then, I was still anxious about being completely out. This march, I’m most anxious about finding a Don’s Johns that isn’t completely gross.

And I’m not just marching for myself this time.

I’m marching for a thousand and one important reasons. Correction – make that 1002, counting Marco.

Ciao, Bellas! Ciao, Obamas!


The First Family. I’ll even miss their dogs.


Feets, don’t fail me now


Can you hear the voice crying in the wilderness? Can you hear the crying?

I’ve heard those voices – my own loudest of all – a lot lately. I have been crying and wandering in the wilderness a great deal since November 8th.  And that’s how I found myself back in church this past Sunday. Sometimes our feet just take us where we need to be. I have no other reasonable explanation for why on a cold, rainy Sunday, I got myself up and dressed and in a pew and found myself listening to Prepare Ye, a calypso style anthem written by Marc Robinson.

Click here to hear it – it has a Lion King vibe and everyone was really feeling it and someone in the choir was even playing bongo drums. It sounded like hope to me and it was a balm to my battered soul.

Can you hear the voice crying in the wilderness? Can you hear the crying? 


Don’t even think about it.

I’m attending a new church, one in the city where I live, instead of driving 40 minutes to my old church where I used to live. I had to get out of my own way to like this new church. For starters, it’s fairly modern and I’m pretty old school when it comes to churches. My new church is sort of like a ranch house. It’s rather dated with not much curb appeal – entirely different from my old church. The Property Brothers could do a lot with it.

Funny thing, though – on this Sunday, the simplicity of my new church seemed quite lovely to me. So my wife and I sat down in our row. We’re Episcopalian and every good Episcopalian sits in the same row no matter what church we’re in – it’s just a thing and I can’t explain it. Our new church has chairs – not pews – which bothered me at first because there’s no kneeling. Episcopalians are known for our Anglican aerobics featuring lots of up and down during our services. And there’s something about your energy when you’re kneeling that opens up your heart – a bit like some yoga poses.


Episcopalian workout.

Before I lose some of you who are rolling your eyes because I’m writing about church, let me say loud and clear that I know many of  you have been deeply hurt and damaged in the name of religion and I don’t discount those feelings at all. My own dear wife has endured much suffering within her evangelical family. It makes me crazy mad and terribly sad.

I know I have been blessed  to have always felt accepted and loved in the Episcopal Church and that is why I returned there after months of wandering. It feels like home to me and since my parents died 14 years ago, there is really no place I feel closer to them than in the confines of an Episcopal Church – fancy or plain. So there is where my feet often take me, particularly in times of despair.


Do not attempt to adjust the picture.

We welcomed our new interim rector on this Sunday and he processed in with a cane. He’s in his mid-60’s and his hands were visibly trembling as he began the service and he apologized for his legs not working quite right on this morning. I assume he has Parkinson’s or some other neurological condition.

He sat on a stool when he delivered his sermon – a sermon that was surprisingly personal and political. He talked about finally pulling himself up out of bed on November 9th – after checking his iPhone at 3 and 4 and 5 to see if perhaps, an Electoral College Miracle had occurred as he slept. He talked about being able to finally see through his tears later in the day and thinking about where God was in all of this. The very question I asked with rage on that same awful day. I never got to an answer but he did. He said, “God is here with us, the real question is where are we in all of this.”

Sometimes you just have to ask the right questions.

He did not give us false hope – far from it. He said the coming days would be very difficult but that our charge is to “be the grace of God in the world”.  So much for a soft opening.

As he preached, with his trembling hands, the irony was not lost on me that #notmypresident might make fun of this dear man – as he so infamously did the disabled reporter.

And as I looked around the congregation, I realized that we had landed in a truly diverse community of faith. It could make a great holiday commercial for Coke – young, old, black, white, Indian, Asian, wheelchairs, walkers and gays – not necessarily in that order. And I could hardly suppress my glee when the developmentally disabled young man sitting directly behind us let forth some unbridled burps during the sermon. It was all so gloriously human.

And then came the Prayers of the People, one of my favorite parts of an Episcopal service. A lay person serves as an intercessor and leads the congregation in prayers for almost everything and everyone under the sun. There is a refrain that the leader repeats after each petition to God and it is usually different every Sunday. This one was a doozy: Give us grace to engage one another without hatred or bitterness and to work together with mutual respect.

Do you think that includes social media? Crap.

We prayed for the leaders of our church and the leaders of our country – Barrack, our President and Donald, our President-elect – that they make wise decisions for the well-being of our society.

It was at this moment that I wished I had stayed home in my pjs to watch CBS Sunday Morning.


Membership has its privileges.

Thank God, no pun intended, that the passing of The Peace was next because I really needed to hug my wife and shake lots of strangers’ hands after that. Full disclosure: There were audible groans when Donald’s name came up. This isn’t going to be easy.

We prayed for the Standing Rock water protectors and the people of Aleppo and the victims of the warehouse fire in Oakland.

I think we’re going to like it here.

And wouldn’t you know we ended up kneeling (finally) for communion right beside that developmentally disabled man who smiled beatifically at us.

I’m always amused when God is not subtle. It makes her seem all that more accessible.

Yes, God was there in that colorful flock of saints and sinners this past Sunday and I need to remember that as I continue to find my footing in this abnormal normal that we’ve been thrust into to.  Oh, don’t worry, I’ll keep kicking and screaming and ranting and raving but I’m so very weary from crying in the wilderness and it feels good to be with others.

Besides, this coming Sunday is the Christmas pageant. And you know how the gays love a pageant.

So for now, you know where to find me Sundays at 11 – third row from the back on the right hand side, aisle seat.

There’s no place like home.



Always a good show and easier to get tickets to than Hamilton.


I guess two out of three is not an option.