Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bay Bridge Collapses

SAN FRANCISCO -- A gasoline tanker truck crashed and exploded in a ball of flames early today, causing a 250-foot stretch of a major Bay Area freeway interchange to melt and collapse on a roadway below, authorities said.

Officials said the damage to the freeway maze east of the Bay Bridge, which carries 270,000 vehicles to and from San Francisco each day, is being assessed by engineers, but repairs are expected to disrupt traffic this week and probably longer.

After the truck carrying 8,600 gallons of gasoline overturned, the fuel ignited and witnesses reported seeing flames shoot more than 250 feet in the air, the California Highway Patrol said

The driver escaped with moderate burns, and there were no other reported injuries in the accident, which occurred in light traffic at about 3:45 a.m., a CHP spokeswoman said. The CHP said the initial investigation revealed that unsafe speed was a factor in the accident.

The accident occurred within several miles of two of the Bay Area's most well-known disasters. During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a portion of the Bay Bridge buckled and collapsed, killing a motorist. And in 1982, seven people were killed in the Caldecott Tunnel after a stalled car, a bus and a gasoline tanker were involved in a fiery crash.

Sunday's crash and freeway collapse "had elements of both of those accidents," said California Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Haus.

The CHP said the truck crashed on the interchange from westbound Interstate 80 to southbound Interstate 880, which carries traffic from Berkeley and Vallejo south toward San Jose. The CHP said intense flames and heat from the fire caused the overhead connector from eastbound Interstate 80 to eastbound 580, which carries traffic from San Francisco into East Bay, to fall onto the interchange.

Officials encouraged motorists to carpool, find alternative routes around the closure and take public transportation. The Bay Area Rapid Transit District announced that it would be running longer trains Monday and increase its capacity by 50% to help relieve increased traffic congestion.

By Tim Reiterman, Times Staff Writer
1:29 PM PDT, April 29, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

25 Years Ago….

Above: Madonna in 1982

I was eight years old 25 years ago in 1982. I remember hearing this song on the radio called “Everybody” and loved it. I thought the young woman singing was African American and loved her upbeat dance song. I was very much into music by the age of six and by this time I was listening to the radio on a daily basis. The song “Everybody” was a mediocre hit and the artist singing the song was Madonna. When I finally saw who Madonna was in 1983 in her first MTV music video, “Burning Up,” I was shocked to see she was a “blonde” blue-eyed white girl. She was cute and stylish, I didn’t think she was he most attractive woman in the world but she had this energy and magnetism that I was drawn to. I bought, with my own money, her first album simply titled “Madonna.” I remember playing the album quite a bit, the songs that really stood out to me and became favorites were, “Holiday,” “Borderline” and “Lucky Star.” The public and I were not totally sold on this artist just yet, but we all soon would be.

Above: One her way to being the biggest female star in the world.

Shortly after wearing out the debut album, a new Madonna album was in the works and the first single was “Like a Virgin.” I was introduced to this song on the MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 and saw Madonna live on television for the first time. I was 10 years old at this time and was glued to the television with my family also watching. Madonna appeared on MTV wearing a wedding dress and standing atop a wedding cake singing the new single ”Like a Virgin.” This was the moment Madonna “sold” me so to say. Her performance was so “out there,” provocative and trashy that I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was like a train wreck and I was glued to what was going to happen next. As the now historical performance ended, with Madonna slithering around the stage in a wedding dress exposing her chunky thighs and ass, I heard my mother and stepfather gasping and commenting on about how "this slut" was just a “flash in the pan” and “who was this woman.” I on the other-hand was grinning ear-to ear and disagreeing with them, I was dancing around and totally fixated on this wonderful woman who exuded sex appeal all over the television and in her music. I just looked at my family and said, “She is going to the best ever!”

Above: Like a Virgin?

This is one of the few times I can actually say to my mother and stepfather that I was indeed right about something in my youth. I can admit I was wrong about many childhood and teen year decisions I made, but predicting Madonna’s success is one of my only “I told you so’s!” Madonna has proved herself over the past 25 years to be not only the most successful female recording artist in the world but one of the most influential women in history.

Above: Madonna, voguing in 1990, at the pinnacle of her career. Stunning!

My height of my Madonna-mania was when I was 15 years old in 1989. I had posters wallpapering my room of her, books, magazines and yes even a Madonna doll! I was fixated on her and infatuated with her by 1989. In 1990 my mother took me to see Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour. It was the most, and still is, the most amazing concert I have seen. Shortly after that concert, I came out to my mother that I was gay, this should not have been a shock to my mother BUT her words are and I quote, “How can you be gay, you love Madonna!” Sigh tsk tsk, c’mon mom!!!!

Above: Madonna on her Blond Ambition Tour. Those cone bras!!!

Present day, I still have love for Madonna and always will. I am not in anyway as much of a crazed fan as I was when I was a teenager, but I still call her my favorite entertainer. I love her music and her career. I feel I grew up with the person and learned a lot from her. She helped me xpress myself and justify my love in oh so many ways. Congrats Madonna on the last 25years, here’s to 25 more!

Above: Present day Madonna, still beautiful.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Russian River

Last weekend Paul and I went on a nice mini-vacation in northern California, a place called Russian River. We left Friday night after work and ventured through scenic Sonoma into Russian River. The drive was amazing, many farms, Redwood trees and endless miles of vineyards. We arrived at a cute little inn called West Sonoma Inn; its currently off-season so all was quiet and the pool was closed. We did see some older men with beards down to their knees walking around the grounds. The Inn was absolutely beautiful with a stylish lobby with a stone fireplace, very rustic. Our room was even better, one of the most spacious rooms we have stayed in. The room had a fireplace, a full kitchen and a hot tub on the deck. Ooooh la la!

The inn we were staying at was located in a place called Guernville and it seemed like a small depressed town with very little to offer but nice inns and gay bars. It almost seemed like this town was so depressed and run down that they decided to try to attract the "gays" in hopes of turning the town around. As we walked through the small town their was a redneck/country bar having a pig roast in between two gay bars, what a sight! We wondered into a bar called "RRR" had a few drinks and played this addictive video game called "Chip-Away."

The next day we ventured out on a beautiful drive to the wine country in Sonoma. It was so much better than Napa!! Napa has many beautiful places to taste wine and the views are breathtaking but they charge for wine tasting, Sonoma wine tasting is free!! So we ventured to many well-known places to taste the juice. such as Korbel and Belvedere. All the places we amazing. Check out some of the pictures below. Of course by the time you reach the four wine tasting your buzz kicks and your stumbling around the vineyards!

After a long day on the road we headed home and had a great dinner at this place called the Roadhouse. The beautiful restaurant was an old cabin with high ceilings and stone fireplaces and the food was delicious. We were all stuffed and ready to check out the Saturday nightlife in Guerneville. We ended up back at the RRR and we played some pool and had a few drinks when we ran into some other San Francisco boys who struck up some conversation with us. We all decided to go to a different place called the Branding Iron...this is where the fun began.

The Branding Iron was like any typical bar, dark, tacky and filled with an odd assortment of characters. Two of the odd cats we ran into were two drag queens, "Debbie Derringer" and "Juanita Maria Lupita Fajita." Give me props for still remembering that name! They were both hilarious and we shared some laughs and several drinks with the. Debbie was actually the most attractive drag queen I have ever seen, pulled it off well. We all ended up going back to the "RRR" and danced to bad Karaoke.

Sunday came and we left the West Sonoma Inn and headed to a really nice town called Healdsburg. It was so beautiful with little shops, many of them massive antique stores and really nice parks. We ate lunch in one of the parks and then headed back home BUT before we could get home, I noticed Petaluma Factory outlets. UGH. We ended up stopping there and shopped like it was Christmas, ended up buying Zachary a ton of toys. We were excited to go home and se Zachary! All in all it was a great weekend to explore northern California!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

American "Idle"

Above: A caricature of the judges: Randy, Paula & Simon.

I have been watching American Idol since the first season; I have not missed a season. I really have enjoyed the majority of the seasons, but this season is by far the worst in the history of American Idol. How much longer will the show last? In the past Idol seasons you could envision a few of the contestants being really big pop stars. Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Clay Aiken, Kimberley Locke, Jennifer Hudson, Katharine McPhee and so on. This season I really cannot picture anyone being a huge star; no one is marketable enough to sell a boatload of records like Clarkson or Underwood. Kelly Clarkson has sold 20+ million albums worldwide and won two Grammy Awards in 2006. Carrie Underwood has sold 10+million albums worldwide, has 4 number one country hits, a slew of Country Music Awards and two Grammy Awards. Let’s not forget the biggest prize of them all went to Jennifer Hudson earlier this year, an Oscar for Best-Supporting Actress in “Dreamgirls.”

Above: Carrie Underwood vs Kelly Clarkson who is better?
Which one will be the most successful?

I still love the show and have my favorites. Melinda Doolittle is by far one of the best vocalists ever on Idol but is she marketable to the public? I would by her CD in a minute but the public views the image of the performer these days over the voice. I thought Melinda was going to be a sure win this season until one contestant really started to shine through; Jordin Sparks. By far, Jordin is the most improved singer and in my opinion the most marketable of the bunch. Her voice is amazing for a 17 year old. Blake Lewis by far the best male on this season, but he’s painful to watch when he is singing, that mouth. It’s kind of like trying to watch John Mayer sing, it’s not appealing. So my prediction for the top 3 will be: Melinda Doolittle, Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis. I will go out on a limb and say Jordin Sparks will be the next American Idol.

Above: My prediction, Jordin Sparks will be the next American Idol.

As far as the rest go, Chris Richardson, Phil Stacey, Sanjaya Malakar and Lakisha Jones they will all be going home in that order, possibly an upset, with Sanjaya making it into the final four over Lakisha.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dance like no one is watching you

Sunday night, Paul and I got back from a mini-vacation in northern California and we just lounged around the house, went to bed pretty late. (More on the mini-vacation in an upcoming post.) We were lying in bed when we heard a loud crash; it was so loud we both jumped out of bed. Paul ran out of the apartment to go see what it was. I was lying in bed listening to the sounds of sirens and people, looking out the window to see what I could see.

After several minutes Paul came back in the house and told me that there was a major car accident. Apparently, an 18-year-old kid was trying to rob a nearby camera shop and someone caught him and they called the cops. The cops arrived while the 18-year-old was still in the process of robbing the store and the kid ended up jumping in his car and a high-speed chase began with the kid and the cops. The kid was going down the street in back of our apartment about 100mph and lost control of the car and crashed into two parked cars and one car that was driving down the street. The car driving down the street has a 50-year-old man in it on his way home.

The 18-year old kid ran off and many officers were running around the streets with their guns looking for this kid. The man that was struck ended up on the ground outside his car bleeding all over. The man ended up dying before they got him to the hospital.

Paul and I were both in shock that night. The sound of the car crash we heard was the sound of someone dying. It made us both realize you never know when it can all be taken away; you never know when your life could be over. One of us could have been driving that car - in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Live everyday like it's your last, treat others as you'd like to be treated and as Morrie said, "Dance like no one is watching you."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thanks Easter Bunny!

Above: Helping Zach find the Easter eggs.
(Click on image to see larger view)

This past Easter Sunday was one of the best Easter’s I have had in years. Paul and I were invited to Carrie and Iggy’s house for an Easter dinner with many other friends and co-workers of theirs. It was really nice for all of us to get together and spend Easter with Zachary.

Above: The sea of people on Easter day at Dolores Park.
(Click on image to see larger view)

On our way to Easter dinner, we ran into a few interesting sites. Dolores Park was littered with hundreds of people for a yearly event hosted by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. At this event families of all walks of life come together to celebrate Easter at Dolores Park. Many of the people at the park were dressed in costumes, had painted faces and some shocking and revealing outfits. Many were wearing Easter bonnets for one of the two contests they host. The "Easter Bonnet" contest gives a prize to the person wearing the best Easter bonnet; many men were wearing some impressive bonnets! The second contest is called the "Hunky Jesus" contest. Top prize goes to the “hunk” that looks most like Jesus. Leave it to the gays to turn Jesus into a “gay” contest. See some of the snapshots below from The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Dolores Park.

Above: Winner of the "Hunky Jesus" contest.
(Click on image to see larger view, photo taken by Darwin Bell.)

Above: "She" was standing by Paul's car, I think she wanted a ride.
(Click on image to see larger view)

Above: Bizarre photo of people in bear costumes, notice the sea of people in the background.
(Click on image to see larger view)

Above: Even the Easter bunny made an appearance at Dolores Park.
(Click on image to see larger view)

Once we arrived at Carrie and Iggy’s, Zachary was waiting to show us what the Easter Bunny had left for him. A large basket of candy and gifts were left for him and he was grinning from ear to ear. Easter is a great holiday for a kid to get to eat extra candy that they would not normally be allowed to eat. If any of Zach’s teeth rot out of his head, let’s hope it’s the front tooth with the chip in it☺

Above: A Beautiful Easter dinner spread.
(Click on image to see larger view)

Above: Iggy and Carrie, hosts of the wonderful Easter dinner gathering.
(Click on image to see larger view)

After a delicious Easter buffet and meeting many friendly people, we all headed across the street to the palace of Fine Arts for an Easter egg hunt. It was a bit brisk, but the kids were running everywhere gathering candy filled plastic eggs. Zachary’s basket became full in a matter of minutes and he was having a hard time harvesting all of his prized eggs. At one point Zach dropped his Easter basket and all of the prized candy went everywhere. Luckily all was saved!

Above: Everyone heading over to the Easter egg hunt.
(Click on image to see larger view)

Above: Zach starting to lose his eggs.
(Click on image to see larger view)

Above: And the basket goes everywhere...Easter disaster.
(Click on image to see larger view)

All in all it was a wonderful Easter and I would like to thank Carrie and Iggy for opening up there home to us. It was a pleasure meeting their co-workers and friends, it was very nice to spend Easter with so many nice people. To see more pictures from Easter, click on the link below.

Above: Paul, Zach and me at the Easter egg hunt.
(Click on image to see larger view)

Above: Beautiful Easter view.
(Click on image to see larger view)

Monday, April 9, 2007

California Drivin'

Driving in California the past three months couldn’t be more different than driving in Boston. I had not driven the past three years while I was living in Boston, but when I did drive there, it was always stressful and so aggressive. I actually really grew to love Boston drivers; I loved all the horn honking, cars cutting others cars off on the narrow streets, classic cases of road rage and the diverse mix of drivers on the road. There were unspoken rules to driving in Boston such as: the high-speed aggressiveness of running a red light (the rule in Boston is once the light turns red, two or three more cars can go through the light), the streets would change weekly so never give anyone directions just point to the destination and holding a parking space with a ghetto lawn chair meant you would fuck someone’s car up if they even thought of parking in that spot when you returned.

My favorite story while driving in Boston was when a cab cut me off and I almost lost control of the car. Luckily I had some ammunition with me, I was eating a box of Cheez-its and I sped up and got right next to the cab and he started swearing at me after HE cut me off and he called my a faggot. I love it. So I threw the box of Cheez-it’s at him through the window. The Cheez-it’s went all over him, in his car and while I drove off and looked in my rearview I saw Cheez-its all over the road. I killed two birds with one box of Cheez-its, revenge on the cab driver and feeding the massive amount of pigeons on the Boston streets.

Now driving in San Francisco has been a calming experience for me. When I first started driving here I was all armed and ready to turn on the aggressiveness. I tested the horn on the SUV to make sure it could be heard loud and clear, strapped on my pilot goggles and leather gloves. I was ready for the road rage!! But I noticed that the drivers in San Fran are so relaxed, no horn honking, no cutting people off, no running the red lights. Actually, people are so nice that they let you go first through the stop signs and the other day some lady rolled down her window while I was waiting at a stoplight and struck up a conversation. I almost passed a brick at how friendly she was! This is all fine and good but there are a few things I must vent about. Slamming on your brakes when anticipating the light will turn yellow. I can see slowing down on the yellow light but coming to a complete stop drives me insane. Meandering down the street while driving without a care in the world can be found on every street in San Fran. It blows my mind that people pretty much drive down the street at a snail’s pace and just don’t care. The laid back attitude that people are known for having in San Fran is great and I love the people out here but drive the God dam car! And lastly, the one common link that I also find in San Francisco that is just as dangerous here as it was in Boston; Asian drivers. I will never for the life of me understand why the majority of Asians cannot drive a car. I have come to accept that this is no longer a stereotype but a fact. All cars should come with warning labels like the one below. I am not being racist with this remark, all of us have thought this at one point and it's all in jest. I am not pulling an Imus!:-)

Everyone has there driving faults. I will admit I have my own faults with driving. I have out run a few cop cars in my younger days. My driving record is not the greatest but I can honestly say I have never been in a car accident. I never did like to insure my car or get inspection stickers, register a car; hell I don’t even see the need for a license.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

"Good" Friday

Above: Zach, Paul and I are coloring eggs to kick-off Easter weekend!

After another crazy busy workweek, I was looking forward to the holiday weekend. Easter has never been on of my favorite holidays, but with Zach it brings back good memories from childhood. I remember always being excited to color the eggs and see what creative colors they would turn. Zach was great and very patient coloring the eggs and also creative in his color selection. Blue and green are pretty much what all the eggs turned out to be after Zach dipped the eggs into every bowl of color on the counter. We also wrote on the eggs with the magic wax crayon which never gets old even when you are in your 30's:-) We are all gearing up for a fun-filled weekend for Easter so stay tuned for more...

Above: An Easter present from Grams! Quack! Quack!

The long Easter weekend also kicked off with an Easter gift from Grams. Zachary tore open the box and inside was a really cool dinosaur sketch board and a quacking duck game that has both Paul and I quacking even more than we do now!

Above: Another Easter present from Grams and a big smile and thank you to Grams from Zach!