Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Above: Nathan celebrates his 3rd birthday in 1981 (center), I am to his right.

My brother, Nathan, is 29 years old today, his last year before he hits the big 3-0! Happy Birthday Nathan! Nathan is probably one of the most inspirational people I ever met in my life and whether he knows it or not, he changed my life in so many ways.

Above: Nathan and me in the fall of 1979.

Nathan was born in 1978 extremely premature; he weighted just under 2 pounds! I remember my mother walking up the stairs of our apartment at the time and her water broke, she was only 5 months pregnant, we thought for sure she had a miscarriage. My grandfather was with us at the time and we all went to the hospital and I remember everyone was crying in the waiting room. My brother Nathan was alive even though the doctor’s were not very optimistic that he would survive. I remember looking through the window in the hospital of this little baby that fit in the doctor’s hand. He was in an incubator with all these tubes running through him. I was scared for this little baby but the doctor said, “This baby is a strong, he’s a fighter!”

Above: Me at one of the many hospital visits in 1978 to see Nathan.

For the next three months, Nathan lived at the hospital. He had survived the odds and was well enough to go home. Although Nathan had survived the pre-mature birth he would suffer side effects from being born early. After Nathan was home from the hospital, everything seemed fine and that he would grow into a healthy child but as he began to grow we noticed something was not right. Nathan was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and we were told he would probably never walk. My mom and my stepfather at the time were heart broken. I cannot imagine what it’s like to have a child and be told that your child will never walk, never have a healthy “normal” life. But there was something about Nathan, as he grew older and developed, he had this spirit, this energy and something special about him that made him stand out — a confidence that I have never seen before.

Above: Nathan finally comes home, that's me holding him.
Look how small he was at 3 months old! (1978)

As Nathan grew, we realized the Cerebral Palsy only had affected his legs and motor skills. He was able to talk and was just like me in ways, but his legs were disfigured. Although the doctor’s said Nathan would not walk, my mom was determined to see him walk and he underwent many surgeries on his legs and had to wear braces on his legs and walk with assistance or be pushed in a wheelchair. The thing about all this was Nathan was 3-4 years old at this time and he never stopped smiling, he never complained, he never stopped believing in himself. He kept on going and going until the day where the braces were taken off and he was walking on his own. He had done it. He defied the odds once again and was walking on his own. Although Nathan could walk, he walked with a noticeable limp as he would for the rest of his life.

Above: (left to right) Noah, Me, Nathan and Meme.
You can see in this picture Nathan's right leg and how it's "differnt." (1983)

As we grew older Nathan stood out not only for his energetic and magnetic personality but his great sense of humor as well. Nathan was extremely short when he was going to school so he stood out, but he used that in a positive way and strutted his stuff in school as if he were 6 feet tall. He had more friends then I ever did in school. By the time Nathan reached 6th grade his legs were getting worse as he was growing and he needed to have more surgery, this time he would be wheelchair bound for many months. Being the older brother, I would push Nathan around in the wheelchair and help him get in and out and do what I could to make his life easier. I would drive him up and down the street we lived on and pop wheelies with the wheelchair and we would laugh. I always felt a sense of sadness for him that he couldn’t do certain things like play most spots, run a marathon or dance the night away. Although I was thinking all the things he couldn’t do, Nathan was thinking about the things he was going to do that people thiought he couldn't. He did try to play sports, run and dance and although he was not the best at those things, he still proved he could do it and all with a smile on his face.

Above: Even thought Nathan couldn't ice skae, I held him on the ice and skated with him.
That's me holding Nathan up while I ice skate with him in 1982.

Above: Nathan really was "Superman!" (1984)

As Nathan grew into his teen years he started to get self-conscious about his disability. This was really the first time I had ever seen it bother him. Being a teenager, developing and changing has many effects on everyone but when you are the slightest bit “different” in high-school kids can be cruel. Nathan did experience some of that “cruelty” but he stood up for himself and still held his head high. When he graduated from high-school I have to say I felt like a proud parent myself, seeing him walk up the stairs to get his diploma and throw his hat in the air was a victory for him. He had survived so much and beat the odd—A true inspiration to anyone.

Above: Nathan graduating in 1996.

Now that we are all grown and I don’t see him as much as I would like to. I realized how much strength he gave me as a person. Whenever I feel I cannot do something or I want to give up or I don’t like how I look…I think of my brother Nathan and remember all he overcame and how strong he was as a child. Nathan’s life made me realize that you are dealt a certain hand of cards in life and it’s up to us to make of it what we can. We can lie down and “die” or we can beat the odds and isn’t that all the more rewarding when you beat the odds?

Happy Birthday Nathan! You were the brightest light in my childhood and I will never forget all you gave me. I love you. Your Brother, Neil

Friday, July 27, 2007

What I Want to be When I Grow Up...

Above: Click on the image above to see what I wanted to be, when I grew up!

Watching Zachary grow up has been a great experience. It always amazes me how much they know at such a young age and how fast they grow! Zachary these days is obsessed with firemen, policeman and pilots. I think if he had to pick one to be when he grows up, it would be a fireman. He loves seeing the trucks and waving at the fireman when we see them on the streets. He also loves the movies where they show fire. Fireman Zachary Johnson has a nice ring to it.

Above: Zach at the firehouse last year in Boston, ready to put out a fire!

It’s funny to think about what we all wanted to be when we were little kids. I was going through some old photos and paperwork of mine and I found some information that I would never remember about myself at such a young age. My mother used to keep a journal on me when I was in elementary school and I am fortunate to still have this. When I was in Kindergarten I found out I wanted to be a policeman! Good Lord, I never would have imagined I would choose that. In the picture above they have options that you can choose from or write in and you can see the policeman box checked, if I had to guess the one I think I would have chosen out of those at 5 years old, I probably would have picked the Cowboy! Yee HAW! I love how “Mother” is an option and a flight attendant is referred to as “Airline Hostess.” I love it! After reading through the journal/scrapbook I do realize now what I wanted to be, an actor. I remember our school was having a huge play called “Peter Rabbit” and I wanted the lead part! I remember telling my mom I wanted to star in it and she bought the book and we read it etc.. it was all over the top. So a bunch of kids tried out and I got the part! HA! My mother even made the Peter Rabbit costume.

Above: That's me to the far left in the Peter Rabbit costume in 1980.

Above: The entire cast of Peter Rabbit, I am in the first row,
3rd from the left. Look at those rabbit ears!

As for my other half, Paul. I would think he would have also wanted to be a policeman, fireman or a pilot…..but I found out what Paul wanted to be!!! When Paul was just barley 2 years old he had his first taste of stardom! He modeled. Paul was a supermodel for Hedstrom strollers back in 1974 and he even graced the cover of the magazine!

Above: Paul graces the cover of the magazine, oh wait...
he's sleeping on the job!

I think it's a great idea to save all the little pictures and papers of your children so they can look back one day and reminisce on their youth. I started a box of memorabilia for Zachary when he was under two years old and I am going to continue to add to it. Someday I'll give it to him when he is an adult and I hope he has fun exploring and remembering!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I think I’ll go to Boston...

Above (left to right) Josh, Kevin, Paul, Jon and me!

Ah yes, that song by Augustana "Boston" makes so much sense to me now!

After six months of living in San Francisco it was time to revisit my home state of Massachusetts. I was pretty excited about going back “home” and even more excited about taking some time off of work! Our journey started out on this past Wednesday night as Paul, Zachary and I headed for the airport to catch a red-eye to Boston. Red eye flights are brutal because I have a hard time sleeping on the plane and it usually puts me out of commission for the following day. Zachary was great; he was excited to get on the plane and was very patient waiting in his pajamas at the airport. While we were waiting to board the flight, Zachary wanted to read Paul and I a book, Peter Pan. Zach was doing a great job telling the story and all of a sudden he turned the page, made a weird face, pointed to something in the book and yelled, “What the fuck is this?” Oh boy!! Zach drops the F-Bomb at 3 ½ years old!! The people waiting near us in the airport were chuckling. Paul and I asked him what he said and told him that it’s no a nice thing to say, but we could not help to snicker a bit.

Above: Minutes before dropping the "F"-bomb.

Once on the plane, one of our seats was in the opposite row and we were hoping that the guy in the third seat in the same row would kindly switch seats so we could all sit together. Nope. The guy was a jerk and basically said no way so we could not all sit together on the plane. I was pissed and was hoping Zach would take a big dump on the plane so he would have to smell it. Even better, Zach fell asleep on the plane and ended up kicking the guy several times during the plane ride. Good boy Zach!

We arrived in Boston early Thursday morning and headed to Ruthie's! It was great to see Ruthie, Scott and Hailey. Scott turned 40 years old the day before we came out so we had a small celebration and Hailey was so good with Zachary and turned 10 years old in June! Hailey is Paul's niece and she is a beautiful young girl, she is going to be a knockout when she grows into a women. We were all still pretty tired and adjusting to the time change so we all just chilled, took naps and later had a great home cooked meal and watched the Red Sox. The Sox lost that game but the losing streak would soon turn around.

Above: Paul's niece, Hailey.

Friday, we headed to Fenway Park to watch the Sox. Before the game Paul and I went to “Game On” a huge sports bar outside of Fenway Park to wait for two of our friends, Kevin and Mike. While we waited at the bar, I could not help but notice how disgusting the men and most of the women were at this bar. Not so much physically disgusting but just their demeanor. It was like these people had never been out in public in their lives and were still learning how to function, talk and walk for that matter. It’s funny when you live in one state all your life and see a certain way of life, you think it’s normal and just “the way it is.” I have been to several games at Fenway Park and been to many bars but the vibe and energy was just ignorant.

Above: Mike and Paul at Game On.

While Paul and I were there they were showing videos on the televisions and spoofs. One of the spoofs was a take on "Brokeback Mountain" but it was not a funny spoof it was more along the lines of, if your gay you suck. It portrayed Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees as being gay lovers. I think it’s a great idea! I would love to see them both “come out” and celebrate their sexuality and be positive role models in the gay community. It would be great. This spoof basically was saying that if your gay you suck like the Yankees, being gay sucks. Boston mentality!! You would never see this in San Francisco and even worse the crowd was laughing and raising their glasses. Sigh. Finally we met up with Mike who looked great and we were both happy to see him and catch up. Kevin made a brief appearance as well and talked shit for a bit before going to watch the game. Great game! Sox won and they would go one to win all three games that Paul attended! Paul was officially the Red Sox’s new lucky charm!

Saturday we were meeting many of our friends at a party hosted by Josh and Jon at Paul’s old Boston apartment. We were really looking forward to seeing our old friends again. Earlier that day, I was primping myself throughout the day, just what I do, and had this stray hair between my eyes that I went into the bathroom to pluck, I grabbed he tweezers and tried to get the sucker but my hand slipped and I stabbed myself in the eye with the tweezers. OUCH! Very painful. So here I am on the floor clutching my eye, crying thinking “ Fuck, am I now blind out of my right eye!?” Luckily no damage just spent all day resting my eye so I could go out later that night. Classic Neil!! Zachary also headed out and was off to the compound on the Cape to enjoy fun in the sun, playing with his cousins and spending quality time with his family. See you in a few weeks Zach!! Rumor has it that Zachary could be potty trained before he comes back to San Francisco, how exciting!!!

Later that night we made our way to the South End to see our old pals. Everyone looked great and it was great to catch up. It was kind of surreal being back in Paul’s old apartment. Paul and I have known each other almost three years and we had our first ‘date” so to speak watching a Red Sox game and playing video games in that apartment. So it was nostalgic to think that all this time has past and we are still going strong and have a great life. Good Times! After the house party most everyone headed to Club CafĂ©, one of the few gay bars left in Boston. We eventually made our way to Fritz, then the Eagle. The gay nightlife in Boston is almost non-existent and we saw that things have not changed much in three of the most popular bars in the city.

Above: James and me having a blast, we were reciting lines from "The Color Purple."

Above: Paul, me and Cody a Club Cafe.

Sunday morning, we met up with Jon, Kevin and Charlie for brunch at this really yummy new place called Bacco. It was delicious! We said our goodbyes and headed to Fenway to enjoy another Red Sox victory. By now Paul and I were both ready to go “home” and relaxed on our final day in Boston.

Above: (left to right) Kevin, Charlie, Paul, Me and Jon at Bacco in the South End.

All in all, it was great to see everyone. I miss the many people that we know in Boston. I do have to say that I was not excited to be in Boston as much as I thought I would be. Overall I felt like I was going backwards in a way. Going back to a place where I had spent a lot of time and accomplished so much. Being in San Francisco is like another chapter and a learning experience. I love San Francisco, never thought I would feel that way but I do. It’s funny that six months ago I was fighting NOT to leave Boston and move to San Fran, now I am fighting time to stay in San Francisco as along as I can.

Above: An artsy photo I took while walking in Boston.

Please Don't Stop the Music!

My favorite CD/Album this summer is "Good Girl Gone Bad" by the gorgeous Barbados singer Rihanna. Rihanna first hit the scene in 2005 with the upbeat club smash "Pon de Replay" in 2005. Great song, went to #2 on the charts but I really thought she was going to be a one hit wonder. Her next hit single was "SOS" which sampled the 80s hit "Tainted Love," the song went number one but I was not crazy about the song. Earlier this year Rihanna released her third album in three years call "Good Girl Gone Bad" and it's a breakout for this future diva. Her first hit off her CD is "Umbrella" it spent seven weeks at number one and it still currently the number one song in the UK for 10 weeks! This song is so catchy and when you first here it you can’t help but hate the chorus line that goes, "Under my Umbrella, ella ella, eh eh eh eh." It's so bad it's good! Rihanna's upcoming single is called "Please Don't Stop the Music!" and it's going to be another huge hit, hopefully her third number one. Please Rihanna don't stop the music.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Beggars of Life

The 12th annual Silent Film Festival was in town this weekend at the Castro Theatre. I was able to make it to one of the films that they were showing out of over a dozen. The one film I managed to get to was called "Beggars of Life." I love old movies and I am very intrigued by silent films. I find the acting to be REAL acting, if an actor can convey a story and emotions with only their facial expressions and body gestures and make you feel something then that's true acting.

"Beggars of Life" starred the late great Wallace Berry, who was phenomenal in his role as a bullying bum named Oklahoma Red. The movie also co-starred Louise Brooks and Richard Arlen. Arlen was fantastic and had "Brad Pitt" good looks in the silent era but the true star of this movie was Louise Brooks. I have never seen a movie with Louise Brooks in it and I was quite impressed. She was not a stunning beauty like Garbo, Taylor or Crawford but she stood out with her ultra-modern looks. Her hairstyle was way ahead of her time and is a style that is actually common and popular in today's times. It was almost odd seeing her in the role because she looks like she walked on the screen from modern times. Paul commented that if they remade "Beggars of Life" that to reflect the times in the 1920s, the role Louise played would be most likely played by a woman that “looked the part” of a woman from the 1920s.

The movie was had a great story line starting off with murder and ending up in love. I won’t spoil the movie for those who have not seen it...this film is available on DVD if you can find it in the right. Anyway, the thought of watching a silent film to many sounds grueling but try it out and I am sure you will be shockingly surprised at how good it really can be!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Zachary's First Baseball Game

Above: Nope! Zach's first baseball game is NOT at Fenway Park!

Zachary went to his first baseball game today, luckily At&T Park has a lot of recreational activities for kids otherwise he would have been home before the 2nd inning. Let's just say he would not have faired well at Fenway Park! Check out Zach's first baseball game pictures below.

Above: One of the few moments Zach was sitting at the game.

Above: Beautiful AT&T park.

Above: Zach and Dad.

Above: Zach throws the bat after he hits the ball!

Introducing The Amazing Spiderman!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Training Wheels

Above: Proud papa watches on as Zach pedals down the street.

I think a memory that most people always remember is when they got their first real bicycle. I remember I was six years old I graduated from the "Big Wheels" that were popular in the eighties which where like a tricycle but where larger and lower to the ground. My first bike was gold and black BMX bike that my grandfather bought me. I thought it was so badass and I hopped on the bike and thought I could just start pedaling and I would be off down the street. Not so. I fell right over and realized this bike was much different it had only two wheels. So, training wheels were purchased and I was tooling around on four wheels now!? I remember feeling defeated and wondering why I had gone from three wheels to four wheels. After having the training wheels on for a very short time I asked my parents to take them off so I could learn how to ride my bike like the "big boys."

I should have realized how much of a determined person I was going to be when I used to come home after school everyday and ride my bike down the sidewalk next to a chain link fence and try to ride my bike without training wheels. I would constantly crash into the fence, fall down, scrap up my body but I always got back up and was so determined to ride that damn bike without the aid of training wheels. Mind you, there were no helmets back then, kids did not wear them and they were not required. After weeks of bashing my body on the chain link fence and falling down on the cement, the day came where I started off next to the fence and started pedaling and took off down the sidewalk. I was riding my bike without training wheels. I remember smiling and cheering for myself that I had finally done it. I rode my bike until the sun went down that day and I remember getting in trouble for staying out way past my bedtime but it was worth it.

Above: I am trying to keep up with Zach as he flies down the hills!

This past weekend, Paul bought Zachary a cool "big boy" bike. Zach was really excited to get this and we took him out around our neighborhood to ride it. We forgot to buy a helmet for him so we made sure we were close by while he rode the bike. Zach had trouble at first peddling but caught on quick and was tooling down 24t Street. He was yelling, "I am driving a racecar!" as the wind whipped through his hair and he took the corners to go down the hilly street. It was a blast watching him graduate to a bigger bike and seeing the joy on his face. I look forward to the day he is able to ride around without the training wheels, but then I'll be a basket case worried about him riding around the streets of San Francisco!

Later in the day we took Zach to the park where they were having a breast cancer march. It was a great event seeing many survivors of breast cancer march and meet at Dolores Park. Zachary proved again that he is growing up by climbing up high ladders and jumping off ships! It’s amazing how fast kids grow!

Pictures from the breast cancer walk below...

Pictures of Zebra at the Park below...

Above: Zach takes the plundge into "the water" off of the pirate ship!

Above: YEE-HAWW!


Above: Want some?