I’ve posted this photo of Ray and me visiting NYC before. The location is the State of Liberty. It’s one of the oldest photos I have of the two of us together and it perfectly represents the dynamic of our relationship. I’m the outgoing crazy person and Ray is the calm grounded gentleman (who seems to appreciate my antics).

Today marks seventeen years of togetherness for the two of us.

I am the luckiest man on the planet! Sorry other Luckiest Man in the World, it’s me, I’m at the top — or at least for today.

Some people meet, fall in love and kinda morph into a state of just…loving their other half. Not me. I am amazed at how much more in love I get with each passing year.

There are a lot of people who read my blog (all tens of them) and only know Ray from what I say about him. I’m confident the people in my life who know Ray or have at least met him, will back me up on this one: He’s probably one of the nicest guys you’ve ever met. Not to mention helpful, smart, fantastic, handsome, confident, gush, gush gush…

People frequently comment about our relationship. It’s nice to hear their kind words but I do have to point out that it’s hard work. The only reason we get along so well is because we both put a lot of effort into it. As we all know, if you put a lot of effort into something it starts to look effortless. Also, I do have to say, it isn’t always perfect. We both have our little idiosyncrasies.

Ray is the kind of man that makes me wish we could live forever. I was very immature when we first got together. Through the years, he’s been a friend, mentor, lover, partner and in many ways a father. I owe a lot to him. He’s always been there and helped shape me into the person I am today and that’s what makes a relationship. We both say, “I love you” about ten times a day.

I used to say that it didn’t matter that the laws governing the USA would not allow us to marry because we really are technically married. I’ve changed my mind. It does matter. After almost two decades together, we should be allowed the same benefits as that young couple who marry after a short courtship. In the seventeen years that we’ve been together, I’ve seen the people who enforce these rules of marriage, divorce and remarry like a wash-and-wear shirt or even better, get caught with their pants down while wife (or husband) is home taking care of the kids. But who am I to judge being the sinner that I am?

I love you Ray. That’s all that matters to me. Everyday I radiate thanks and gratitude for having you as my partner.

Since moving into my first apartment in 1990, I’ve had this rickety hand-me-down stereo cabinet that my friend gave me. It was one of those things that I appreciated (since I had no furniture whatsoever) but over time, and numerous types of stereo components & televisions sets, I grew dissatisfied with it but Ray and I are kind of utilitarian when it comes to functional furniture. It served its purpose. Why replace it?

Over the years, I just ignored the ugly entertainment center. It was that 80’s cheap black lacquer with fake gold piping that just screamed to have a Nagel print hung over it.  One day, it really began to bother me.  That’s when Ray and I got a 42 inch plasma television. It was way too big to fit in the unit so we sat it on top. All you could see behind it was wires!

This past year, I ditched most of my components for a Mac Mini — basically turning the TV into a computer/media center. We ditched cable/satellite when we left Chicago. We recently got rid of XM/Sirius and started using Pandora and all the free iTunes streaming stations. I also ripped our entire CD collection into iTunes which is stored on an external 1 terabyte drive (actually, I’m still in the process of that task).

It’s so funny, I used to want to show off my stereo system. I had amps, tuners, turntables, reel-to-reel and cassette decks, CD & DVD players, VHS and S-VHS as well as other assorted components. I also had ginormous speakers. It was all about the components.

On New Year’s Day, Ray and I made a stop at Ikea after seeing our friends Chuck and Jeff’s new stereo cabinet. The series is called BESTÅ/FRAMSTÅ. It’s a bunch of modular pieces that you choose to make a custom entertainment center. All in all, we spent less than $300 for a total overhaul of our entertainment system. Now we just have a cabinet, TV and a wireless keyboard & mouse. All the “guts” are hidden behind the cabinet doors. Funny, we did keep the turntable. Even though we have tons of CDs, we still have a lot of albums that get spun now and again.

Now it’s like having a kick-ass jukebox. Just open a web browser and watch Netflix, YouTube or Hulu (in full screen). Pop in a DVD and the Mac Mini will play it. The mini has an optical Dobly 5.1 surround sound ouput. Switch from the media room speakers to the house speakers and play a CD from the library or listen to Pandora or ITunes radio. Play a record if you want to! There’s also a Wii system! Suddenly (and cheaply), the TV room just got a whole lot cooler.

Here are some photos (presented in order) of our media center project. Kudos to Ray for adding the cabinet door handles. We’re going to buy one more panel for the top and raise the TV a little bit.

This is our cat. Her name is Parker. Even though she’s kind of butch, she’s not a male. People always think she’s a boy kitty. She has short stubby bow legs and her eyes are too close. They’re kinda crossed as well.

She’s quite fat and shaped like a bloated football.

We love Parker. Found her in a box with two other kittens. They were oh so tiny! We found homes for the other kittens and ended up keeping her.

Ms. Parker lives in a comfy home with a clean kitty box. She gets lots of snuggle time, fresh water and has full reign of the house. Sometimes we feel as if Parker is gracing us with her presence. It’s almost like she’s letting us stay there. Such a typical cat.

My favorite Parker-ism is the fact that she snorts like a bull. She does it when she’s dissatisfied with something.

Let’s say she jumps on the kitchen table (a little trick she knows she’s not supposed to do). I run in to shoo her off. She whips around with a “Who the hell are you?” look, lets out a big snort and jumps off the table. Not to get all anthropomorphic but…my cat is a bitch.

Here’s the part that’s distressing; she’s fat.

People come to visit, and Parker comes wobbling out prompting our visitors to say, “Oh my, what a big kitty!” and then shoot us that look. It’s the same look we get when we take her to the vet and they’ve just put her on the scale — the look of, “My GOD, just how much do you feed this animal??”

I’m here to set the record straight. She’s fat – deal with it.

Last time I took her to the vet, they kept going on and on about her weight and the potential for health risks as she gets older. I tried to explain that we’ve tried special foods and portion control. The vet insisted that a high-protein/low carb diet would be beneficial to our kitty. Naturally they had some expensive special diet kitty food right there. So, we bought the special food and basically put our cat on the Atkins Diet.

Or, as I like to say, the Catkins Diet.

Well, it’s been months now and Ms. Parker is still ginormous. She’s never going to lose weight, and I’ll tell you why. She doesn’t move. Why should she? She lives in a beautiful house with two manservants who dote on her. There’s no hunting or running from predators. The only threat to her environment is the vacuum cleaner. The cat does not engage in any type of physical activity.

One time while she was asleep, sprawled out on the floor. A little bug went skittering past. She lifted her stubby head, opened one eye to inspect the disturbance and then, uninterested, rolled over and returned to slumber land. To hell with the bug.

Why should she care about being so zaftig? There are no other cats around. It’s not like she’s trying to impress any other cat.

Speaking of other cats: No, our cat would not like a companion. She is the ultimate alpha kitty and doesn’t care for other animals — hell, she hardly likes people. Most of the time, when we have house guests, Parker is AWOL. She likes some men and rarely likes women. For the most part, our kitty is happy when it’s just us with the fireplace going and a warm lap to curl up on. Parker is a spoiled brat who communicates her disapproval by snorting.

I swear, if reincarnation is real and mankind could find a way to manipulate time, I want to come back as a cat — my cat.

It’s that week. You know the one I’m talking about. The week between Christmas and New Year’s where you just unplug from all your stringent routines, throw caution to the wind and just let your hair down.

OK, so maybe you don’t do that — but I do.

Screw the workouts, forget the calorie counting, I’m going to eat everything and have seconds. Yeah, there’s stuff to be done but it can wait until next week. Right now, I have a plate of Christmas cookies to concentrate on. Stay up late. Sleep in longer. That’s what I say.

As luck would have it, in this week of unabashed gluttony, our local Safeway started carrying Maker’s 46. It was locked up in a glass case! At 35 to 40 bucks a bottle, this is the ultimate act of pampering myself for the holidays. Did I mention it’s 94 proof? This shit’s flammable and after a few shots, I’m flammable!

I can’t wait to get home and try a sample. Naturally, I’m going to start out with a small taste — neat of course and then I’ll have a Manhattan. Shaken, up, dry with a teeny-tiny splash of maraschino cherry juice. Go easy on the bitters.

Next Monday, I’ll drink my protein shake at 5:45 AM and start pushing the weights again. No more cookies, no more excessive cocktailing, no more second helpings and no more putting stuff off. I’ll be back to my disciplined self — running, working out and passing on the French fries dipped in mayonnaise.

But that’s next Monday…

Happy New Year blog peeps! Hope everyone finds their Slice O’ Heaven in 2011. It’s all good.

Ahhh, Christmas has come and gone. We spent the morning with Ray’s sister in Tucson. Family, friends, food and mimosas. Then we drove out to Gleeson (the ultimate middle of nowhere, AZ, not in a bad way) to attend a little soirée at our friends Joe & Greg’s house. More friends, dirty martinis and lots of food.

It’s hard eating and drinking all day!

But not impossible. Ray and I had a great time and went straight to bed when we returned home. I must’ve slept over ten hours — talk about the most awesome present, sleep! If only we could give sleep for Christmas.

So next up is New Year’s Eve. This year, we’re going to spend New Year’s in Phoenix with our friends Chuck & Jeff. I’m really looking forward to it. We have spent New Year’s in Bisbee every year since we moved here. I’m in the mood to do something different…like go to a bar with a lot of hot men, get drunk and dance. Bit I digress…

This is the zenith of my “Eat, drink and don’t worry about calories” holiday period.

I don’t care, I’m having french fries! Dipped in mayonnaise! Uhhmmm! Cookies! Gimme the cookies! More booze! hic Another martini? Well…it is the holidays…

But, come Monday, January 3rd (You don’t really expect this in the 1st do you?), it’s back to full-on gym and cardio. Neck doc says it’s OK to workout again. Looking forward to getting back on track but for now, this wonderful 2010 Holiday Season, I’m gonna sleep late, eat too much, drink too much, laugh with friends and stay up past my bedtime — going light on the three-and-a-half days I have to work this week of course.

One of my resolutions for the solstice/new year, is to push myself back into my creative endeavors. I really want to incorporate more music and video into my blog so…several nights ago, with the aid of a laptop, I shot hundreds of images in sequential increments. Every 6 seconds, the camera would take a two-second long exposure. It did this for several hours. By the end of the shooting sequence, I had shot over 900 images. Using Picasa, I was able to take my photographs and fuse them together in a movie. I was very excited because, since upgrading my studio, I was able to compose my own music for the piece. There was one little hitch. The video piece was about 32 seconds. When I wrote the music, I made some stupid mistake and composed something that was over a minute in length. I guess I was having so much fun…I just didn’t know where my head was. I didn’t want to redo the music and had no additional footage (I had other footage but it sucked), so I compromised with frame rate. Most video is played at 30 frames per second, I rendered this out at 17 FPS and it slowed down. It’s not as fast and fluid as it should be but it works. I may even consider…vlogging.

For your viewing pleasure:

Winter solstice is like the ultimate hump day. I absolutely loathe winter. I know, I know…we need it. If it were summer all the time, we’d all get sick of it. But seriously, once we get past the shortest day of the year, my whole mood changes.

I tend to celebrate the solstice more than any religious holiday. For me it’s a period of reflection and direction. Reflection in the sense of contemplating the past year and processing the events that occurred and direction in the sense of wondering, “What’s next?”

This year was great. It really was. Highlights include:

  • My father’s estate paid out funds. (Thanks Dad)
  • Spent a week in Miami in January.
  • Took on the lead role in an original play — British accent and all.
  • I revamped my multimedia equipment. (Thanks Dad)
  • Plumped up my investments. (Thanks Dad)
  • Traveled through Spain, France and Italy for three weeks. (Thanks Dad)
  • Performed an original monologue for Bisbee Obscure Productions Comedy Showcase.
  • Got that neck thing taken care of finally. (Thanks Dad)
  • Had a great summer full of travel and visitors.
  • Achieved some more fitness goals and hired a personal trainer.
  • Met some wonderful new friends and caught up with old ones.
  • Saw the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  • Spent most of my time surrounded by positive energy.

That last one was a doozy. Even though I was dealing with my father’s death;  two of my favorite people at work moving out of the area — one of them being my boss; my neck surgery jacking up my whole system, taking a long time to heal; Jan Brewer winning the election for Arizona’s governor and some other political issues, I am choosing to remain positive about life. It’s all good. It really is.

The coolest thing about this solstice was the lunar eclipse that happened in the wee hours of the day. It’s like the moon came out and then ducked behind the Earth’s shadow for a quick rinse on my new year. A sign to tell me to let go of things. Be positive and realize that every day is a new beginning. I just happened to have my camera out and shot a little movie. The eclipse part is at the end.

I hope everyone has a kick-ass holiday season. Eat, drink and be merry! Meanwhile, I am going to finish out the month reflecting on the good things and giving thanks for Ray, my friends and family (including my kitty) and the longer, sunnier days that are just around the corner.