Going from pot

I’ve purchased marijuana exactly one time in my life. It was some years ago (note to law enforcement officials: the statute of limitations applies) that a friend of mine, who I knew to be fairly staunchly opposed to ever smoking pot himself, asked me if I knew where to buy some. His uncle had glaucoma, and the scientific research of the time suggested that marijuana could relieve the uncle’s extreme discomfort. He also had some other ailments, and the nephew had hoped that the pot would stir his meager appetite.
So I asked the one person I knew would likely know where to find some marijuana. He sold it to me, I passed it on to my friend (at the same price), and I heard later that the uncle did seem to respond well to the “treatment.”

The interesting thing about Supreme Court rulings (well, interesting to a political science major, which I was) is that their rulings are not phrased as about the issue that gets played in the press (“Court Knocks Pot”) but about more arcane matters. So, in the case decided by the Court on Monday, it’s not so much about medical marijuana, it’s a states’ rights issue, whether Congress had exceeded its authority vis a vis the states regarding medical marijuana.

The old poli sci major finds the federal government’s argument to be strong: state law is generally subservient to federal law, “even as applied to the troubling facts of this case,” as Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, put it. But I find the position stated in Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s dissenting opinion that a state has a right to take care of its citizens even more compelling. If you’ve seen the videos of Angel McClary Raich before treatment, when she could barely move, and after treatment, when she appeared as a normally functioning person, you’d find her, at bare minimum, a sympathetic respondent. And I do believe there is sufficient science to suggest that there are real medical benefits of marijuana.

Which begs the question: if I had it to do over again, would I purchase marijuana for someone in medical need? Let’s put it this way: Montel Williams indicated that he’ll still be using marijuana for his multiple sclerosis, but knows that by saying so, he makes himself a target for prosecution. I wouldn’t SAY that I’d buy it, but…

End hunger

One of the other things I do (beside family, library, church and blog), is serve as web person for the FOCUS Churches of the Capital District. The FOCUS community minister, Deb Jameson, sent me an electronic package of material this week about legislation designed to END HUNGER BY 2015. I’m a bit too much of a cynic to necessarily believe that will succeed, but I DO believe that NOT taking action will have its own (negative) consequences. So, if you want, check out the “End Hunger Legislation-June 2005” button at the left column of the FOCUS page. Some of the information is specific to the Albany area, but unless there’s no hunger in YOUR neighborhood, some of it could be modified to meet your community’s needs.

Another thing you might do is check out the article and website below:

Hunger Basics from Bread for the World

More than 800 million people in the world go hungry.
In developing countries, 6 million children die each year, mostly from hunger-related causes.
In the United States, 13 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet. That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.
But we CAN end hunger.
We have the means. The financial costs to end hunger are relatively slight. The United Nations Development Program estimates that the basic health and nutrition needs of the world’s poorest people could be met for an additional $13 billion a year. Animal lovers in the United States and Europe spend more than that on pet food each year.
What makes the difference between millions of hungry people and a world where all are fed?
Only a change in priorities. Only the will to end hunger.
Want to learn more? Bread for the World Institute collects facts on domestic and global hunger. It also generates answers to frequently asked questions about hunger. Or you can learn about what issues Bread for the World members are working on right now to bring an end to hunger in the U.S. and around the world. You can also get involved or write a letter to your member of Congress.

Boys in the Band

I had dropped out of the State University College at New Paltz and was working as a janitor in Binghamton City Hall in the spring of 1975 while my sister Leslie was performing in “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum” for the Binghamton Civic Theater. After the short run ended, Charlie, who was the lead in “Forum”, decided to direct a play called Boys in the Band, which had played on Broadway in 1968, and was made into a movie in 1970. If you’ve looked at either hyperlink, you’d know that this was a play featuring seven (or eight?) gay men at a dinner party.
Charlie had a casting call, and given my need for greater mental stimulation, I decided to try out. As it turns out there was a specifically black character in the play, and that I was the only black person to try out. (Though Charlie said that I would have been cast regardless.)
We started rehearsals. Some of the cast (at least five) were in fact gay, but at least two of us (a guy named Bill, who played the lead, and myself) were not. So Charlie thought that we all ought to go to a gay bar, as some sort of bonding experience. I did not know there WAS a gay bar in Binghamton, but there it be, a couple blocks from my old high school. It was an interesting experience having a guy (or two) hit on me.
We also went to at least one party at either Charlie’s or cast member Jeffrey’s house, and it was a fascinating mix of the banal (pretty normal conversations about weather and whatnot) with the stereotypical (music by Barbra and Judy).
Bill used to give me a ride home after rehearsals and we’d talk about the experience of working on the play, what surprised us, what preconceived notions we might have had and how they had been challenged.
One of the things that the script required was for me to kiss my “lover” – it was a peck on the lips- played by a guy named Mickey. It was difficult for about 3/4s of the rehearsal time, but finally, I decided, “I am an actor, I can do this.” (Though, in fact, I hadn’t been in a play since 1970, when I was in high school.) In any case, in the last week of rehearsal, I finally managed to do the kiss.
Near the end of the play, Bill had a lengthy monologue which he was having a hard time learning. Charlie got impatient with him during the later rehearsals. My character is “passed out” on the floor for about 10 minutes during this time, and I found that I was learning Bill’s lines. So during the rehearsals (but not during the actual performance), I’d whisper lines to him, which I believe helped.
The play was performed for a couple weekends. Another of the things the script called for was for Jeffrey’s character to take a shower. So, he took off his clothes and feigned taking a shower. I never saw the scene until the play opened (my character had not yet arrived at the party), but it garnered audible gasps each time. (I thought it was a bit gratuitous.)
The review in the newspaper never even reviewed the performances, but instead noted the play as a “statement” of some sort.
My high school friend Carol (not to be confused with my-now wife Carol) later tells me about this dialogue with our mutual HS friend.
Lois: It’s too bad about Roger.
Carol: What ABOUT Roger?
Lois: That he’s gay.
Carol: He’s not gay!
And apparently, the pastor at a church I used to attend thought so, too, as he gave me definite vibes.

That was the first time that I was aware that some people thought I was gay. It was definitely a learning experience in being “the other” from a different perspective.

I remember there were some (presumably) straight actors in that same period who were stereotyped for their orientation in a movie or play. So other performers were wary of taking on such roles. Someone from Martin Sheen’s high school recently told me that Sheen came back some years later, and the faculty adviser said that Sheen could be asked about almost anything…except about that highly rated mid-1970s TV movie called, “That Certain Summer,” in which he played a gay man. I often wonder just how much progress we’ve made since then.

And, coincidentally: For all you baseball fans, watch Carson, Jai, Kyan, Ted, and Thom kick off the start of a fabulous new season of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, when the Fab Five visit the World Champion Boston Red Sox. Tuesday (tomorrow) at 10 p.m. on Bravo.

Blogspot, we have a problem

I was working on my blog at home a few nights ago when I tried to get to my Blogger Dashboard. (That is the place from which one can post documents and change settings on the Blogger.com site.) Somehow, I got to somebody else’s Dashboard! And not only once, but two or three times, to the same Dashboard that was NOT mine! This was upsetting for a couple reasons: I didn’t want to mess up his site, and if I could get to his, theoretically, someone could get to mine.

This particular person had about a dozen different commercial sites. I COULD have written material on the sites, added links, or even deleted all of his work. One of his sites was not yet published, so I did write a note in a post – but did not publish it – letting him know that I inadvertently (and inexplicably) breached his security. He WILL see it next time he goes there. I let him know I was not a hacker; I don’t know HOW to be a hacker. I suggested that he makes sure that he has backed up everything he posts.

And then, I went and did the same.

While I was at it, I made a few other changes. I re-spell-checked everything from May (and also yesterday and today) and found some egregious errors that I have fixed – sorry about that. I decided that I wanted 10 days of posts to be immediately visible, rather than 7. Also, since I had trouble reading my blog at home (though not at work), I put the last 10 days of posts in BOLD and will do likewise for future posts; the retrospective stuff will come eventually.

All of this is being to enhance YOUR reading pleasure and to maintain MY sanity.

JEOPARDY! Part 2

Continued from Saturday, May 28.

Great. I pass the mini-test for JEOPARDY!, but I can’t go on the bus to Boston because I had made previous plans. Swell.

I told the person who informed me that I had gotten an acceptable score of my problem, and she suggested that I call WTEN, the local affiliate that carries the show, the next day.

So, I called the station, and spoke with a sympathetic woman about my situation. She indicated that there would be tryouts in Boston on May 15, the day after the bus trip, but that didn’t address the issue, as I would still be away in the Midwest. She then recommended that I talk with another person, a guy, who was then in a meeting.

Later in the day, I called this second WTEN employee and retold my tale of woe. He told me that I should talk with a woman at SONY in California, and gave me her number.

Susanne Thurber is the “talent coordinator” for JEOPARDY!, in Los Angeles. I called her and told her my plight. She informed me about tests in Washington, DC the following week (May 17-21), and THAT was helpful. (Coincidentally, the son of a friend of mine was also trying out in DC that week, but I never heard the results.)

I had planned to take two weeks off from work for vacation. The first week would be traveling in the Midwest. The second week, I would stay home and take care of reading, paperwork, stuff around the house. The heck with that: the second week I’m going to our nation’s capital! Subsequently, I received a letter informing me of my test that turned out to be May 20 at 9 a.m.

I took the train out to Detroit and see some sites (more about that another time). The only JEOPARDY!-related story is this: my friend Sarah and her boyfriend and I are watching the show one night. The Final comes on, and immediately, the boyfriend comes up with an answer. Then he derides the show as too easy. He also mocks the fact that I would be trying out the following week. I didn’t know the answer to the Final, but I knew enough to know that HIS response was WRONG, and I told him, “No, I don’t think so.” Sure enough, his answer WAS wrong, and he muttered something unintelligible. I took some pleasure in that.

After Cleveland (also, more later), I went back to Albany, then went down on another train, this time to DC. My old colleague Jennifer, with whom I used to work, had been nagging me to visit for some time, so it became the perfect opportunity to go see her, and take the REAL JEOPARDY! test. The night before the test, I ate fish for dinner; “brain food,” said the mother of a friend of mine.

The next day, I went to some hotel conference room, where 45 or 50 people were seated the test. I decided to wear a suit, something I almost never do voluntarily, because it seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

First, we saw a film clip of Alex Trebek. I don’t remember it much, except that I thought it was supposed to be inspirational. Then, on a blue screen, much like the individualized version of the JEOPARDY! board (and in the same font), the answers would appear for eight seconds, then disappear. We wrote the responses (no, they didn’t have to be in a form of a question) on a sheet of paper. There would be 50 questions in 50 categories.

At first, the test seemed easy, almost too easy. Then, the questions were getting tougher. Or was I just getting jittery? Even the things I knew, I didn’t know. At one point in the test I said to myself, “I don’t know ANYTHING!” One clue about a movie (question 23 or so), and I said, “Mel Gibson. Blue face. Scotland. But what’s the NAME of the film?” I had even SEEN this film at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady, on a wide screen. I drew an asterisk and went on; at about question 35, suddenly it came to me: “Braveheart!”

One question I got wrong didn’t bother me that much. It was about a Playboy Playmate and an older man. I was actually PLEASED that I couldn’t remember Anna Nicole Smith.

The last question was in the Before and After category. After the test was over, someone asked me, on behalf of a few test takers, “What was the last one – Woodrow Wilson?” No, it was Woodrow Wilson Phillips. Had they not watched the show? Or at least Wheel of Fortune, where this category is also quite popular?

There were eight of us who passed the test. One of the talent people complimented me on my apparel, and chastised some of those who had come in jeans. It seems as though they treated this activity like one would treat a job interview and they were the job interviewers.

Then we played a few mock games, complete with buzzer. Someone said that I wasn’t buzzing in correctly. You don’t click once, you click repeatedly until someone’s name is called. I missed some questions, got some right. All of this is being videotaped. And at the end, we were told that there were only a few hundred slots open each year, so we may be called in a few months, or up to a year later, or we MIGHT NOT BE CALLED AT ALL.

Continued on Saturday, June 11