Down in the Upper Valley*

Yesterday, I had to drive down to White River Junction, Vermont, on the New Hampshire border for an appointment to get fitted for a new type of CPAP mask, since the one I have is aggravating my trigeminal neuralgia. I did get a new mask, and I just have to see how it works. There weren’t a lot of options that don’t put pressure on the right side of my head. I just can’t continue with the old mask which was causing me to go to sleep in pain and wake up in pain. I hope this helps, but there are other options if it doesn’t. I was told by my sleep doctor that I had to try the new masks before we could move onto other solutions.

While I was in that part of the state, I decided to go to the King Arthur Baking Store in Norwich, Vermont. They have a really nice kitchen store that sells much more than just King Arthur Flour. It’s expensive , but it’s fun to look. However, I got there and it was so crowded with people, I decided not to even go in to have a look around. Instead, I decided to drive across the border to Hanover, New Hampshire. Hanover, you may know, is the home of Dartmouth College. The college makes up most of the town, but it’s a beautiful little New England town. I had wanted to check out where a few restaurants I’d heard about were and see what the parking situation was, which turned out to be basically nonexistent. All I saw was a few street side metered parking spaces. Nowhere seems to have their own parking lot.

While the buildings on the campus and in the town are beautiful, the better view is of the male students. Basically, they all look like J. Crew models, and there’s a good reason for that. One of the largest retailers near the campus is J. Crew. Not only do all of the guys dress preppy, they are all pretty cute too. The women on the other hand seem to all dress like hippies. None of them look to take particular care of their appearance, but I’d venture to guess, they work really hard to have the appearance of not working hard on their appearance. In Vermont, unshaven men and women seem to be the norm, and most clothing appears to be from either vintage clothing store or if they want to dress up, L.L. Bean and their flannel collection. I am only exaggerating slightly. However, seeing Dartmouth students walking around Hanover, it’s refreshing to see guys clean shaven and dressed nicely.

In other news, my coworkers and I at the museum have been strategizing on how to best deal with the issue over the current exhibit. I’ll make sure that I update y’all tomorrow. I am not looking forward to today, but at some point we have to make a stand. I just pray, this isn’t our version of Custer’s Last Stand. All we can do is make our case and hope for the best. If it goes against us, there are back-up contingencies. I just hope we don’t have to go that route. I am looking forward to my phone interview tomorrow, and I’m going on a date Saturday afternoon. He’s a professor in Burlington, and we’re going to meet at a museum up there. Then the plan is to go back to his house for an early dinner. I’ve enjoyed my chats with him so far, and I hope it’s a pleasant experience Saturday afternoon.

*The Upper Valley straddles the Connecticut River between New Hampshire and Vermont which includes the towns of Hanover and Lebanon in New Hampshire, and White River Junction and Norwich in Vermont.


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Work Problems

Work is a mess right now. We are having a problem with a donor who wants to dictate what the museum exhibits. It’s not something I can go into too much detail about, but basically, the Office of Development (the fundraising wing) of the university’s administration wants this donor’s money and is trying to force the museum to cave to the pressure he is putting on us. If they force us to yield, we will not only alienate a large section of our student and alumni population, but we will most assuredly lose the other curator at the museum. Also, the museum will have to face a public relations nightmare that Development won’t have to deal with immediately. However, in the long run, it will be a disaster for fundraising efforts to the group of students and alumni they will piss off by doing this.

There are numerous reasons why we have to do our best to stop them from forcing us to change the current exhibit. One of those reasons is the main reason we did this exhibit: public health concerns. We needed an exhibition that would allow the gallery to be a more open space. We needed to have an exhibit where people would continue to social distance. If we cram more into this gallery like this donor wants us to do, the gallery will become a public health hazard. This will be even more of an issue at homecoming when we have many more people on campus and the museum sees heavy traffic during this time. The nation, and the northeast included, is already seeing cities begin to reinstitute mask mandates because the variants of COVID are spreading even to the vaccinated. While the vaccinated don’t seem to be dying from the variants, I don’t think the university wants to be seen as a hotbed of an outbreak because we had people crammed into an enclosed area during homecoming.

I am not directly involved in this as my director and the other curator did not include me in most of the planning or execution of our current exhibit. Usually, I am much more involved, and I write many of the interpretive labels. This exhibit, however, did not need interpretive labels, so I wasn’t very involved. However, once the exhibit is up, that’s when I get involved in creating innovative and engaging programs highlighting the exhibit. I have been working on several programs that I do not know what will happen to if they make the changes to the exhibit they are discussing. My plans for public programs for the museum will fall apart if changes are made.

I’ll be honest, our current exhibit is not my cup of tea. I would have never organized this exhibit, but now that it is installed, we can’t just take it down when we have had an opening reception for it, and all of the publicity for the exhibit says it is scheduled to run through December. Also, as I said before, if they force us to make changes, our other curator will quit. If that happens, who do you think will have to help take up the slack: yours truly. My director and I will be forced to try to retool the exhibit to this donor’s liking without the expertise to do it. Neither of us is an exhibit planner, which takes a unique skill set.

We have a meeting tomorrow morning with the powers that be to discuss these issues. While I am not the main person this will affect, it will most certainly make my job more difficult. We will only have a matter of a few short weeks to make the somewhat drastic changes they are requesting, something that usually takes months of planning, preparation, and execution. The higher-ups are not looking at the long-term picture. They are only looking at a few immediate things, and they are not considering the number of donations they will lose because of this fiasco one donor is causing.

To be prepared for tomorrow’s meeting, I have made a list of eight essential points that I want to bring up. I am not a particularly forceful person, but when attacked, I can bite back. I feel like I have to be assertive but rational in this situation. My director is a very weak leader, and he is a nice guy but not a great director. He has already given up as being defeated in this battle, and I am not sure how much he will muster to fight for the museum. If ever there was a time, this is it. If he caves to the pressure, we will always have to cave to their demands from here on out. I also know that our other curator is going to be emotional and irrational. She will not be able to argue effectively. She has faced some personal tragedies and is a bit unstable at the moment. I honestly believe that if they listen to me, as they say they are coming down to do, then I can rationally layout why dictating changes to this exhibit will be a major mistake and have dire consequences in the future, not only for the museum but for the university as a whole.

While I may sound like I am being dramatic, I am not exaggerating the issues a decision like this from the administration will cause. It will affect our chances of accreditation. It will affect donor and alumni relations, not only for the museum but for the university. There will be a backlash from a small but very vocal group of alumni and friends of the museum. The university is not prepared for that backlash. They may even immediately lose some promised funding they desperately need. The one thing I don’t want to do is sound like I am threatening the administration. I will not be the one causing the external issues that will arise, but I know these museum supporters, and they will not let go of this. They will cause a massive amount of embarrassment to the university.

When I learned about all of this on Monday, I made up my mind to apply for a job in Chicago, which I did yesterday morning. It is a job for which I am highly qualified without being overqualified. The last time I felt this way about a job I applied for was the job that moved me to Vermont. I believe I am their perfect candidate, and my resume apparently drew their interest because they emailed me yesterday afternoon to set up a phone interview.

If the administration forces the changes they want to make onto us, the museum will cease to be the same place I have worked at for the past six years. There are other changes that they want to make which will not be good for the museum. I honestly love my job, and I love many of the people I work with. Since they created my current position and hired me for it, I have felt like I found my calling. I love the flexibility I have had working for my current director, as he understands my health issues. I have established a life in Vermont, and I honestly don’t want that to change. A few minor improvements wouldn’t hurt, but overall, I am where I want to be and doing what I love to do. I am praying that they won’t ruin any of this.


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Boston

Boston
By Aaron Smith

I’ve been meaning to tell
you how the sky is pink
here sometimes like the roof
of a mouth that’s about to chomp
down on the crooked steel teeth
of the city,

I remember the desperate
things we did

    and that I stumble
down sidewalks listening
to the buzz of street lamps
at dusk and the crush
of leaves on the pavement,

Without you here I’m viciously lonely

and I can’t remember
the last time I felt holy,
the last time I offered
myself as sanctuary

*

I watched two men
press hard into
each other, their bodies
caught in the club’s
bass drum swell,
and I couldn’t remember
when I knew I’d never
be beautiful, but it must
have been quick
and subtle, the way
the holy ghost can pass
in and out of a room.
I want so desperately
to be finished with desire,
the rushing wind, the still
small voice.

About the Poem

“Boston” shows loneliness and a yearning for someone that is no longer there. The poem is about how empty and lost we can feel when we are missing someone and no longer able to find comfort in them. During these times, the world seems too big and vast and it feels as though we cannot find ourself. The speaker of the poem remembers back to how he used to feel and how what he used to do now only adds to how deserted he feels. In the poem, the speaker has lost a sense for who he is, saying how he “couldn’t remember when [he] knew [he’d] never be beautiful, but it must have been quick and subtle, the way the holy ghost can pass in and out of a room.” He doesn’t even feel like he’s living because the person he loves is no longer with him. The speaker is trying to find strength around him, but the city he’s in is not providing him with any solace. 

Although this poem is depressing, the audience is meant to be able to relate to it. Smith writes in a way that makes the reader feel the emptiness of both Boston and the space around the speaker without the person he loves by his side. The poem does not portray loneliness as a negative thing, instead, the audience feels the pain of the speaker and, if they have ever experienced a similar situation, is able to empathize with him.

We’ve all felt lonely in our lives. When I went to Italy for my dissertation research, I was alone and I remember how lonely I felt, even though I was surrounded by people. Ironically, I also went on a research trip to Boston, but I had a friend with me, so that was not somewhere I felt lonely. In fact, I had a constant companion on that research trip, but in Italy, I was all alone and knew no one. The loneliest I think I ever felt was when I first moved to Vermont, especially after a close friend died. I felt as if my life had fallen apart and no one could relate. Susan helped me through that period more than anyone. Even so, I felt a void in my life from the loss of my friend. The poem paints the feeling of missing someone in a beautiful way, so that while reading it, you can connect to the speaker’s pain and, for me, share in the speakers feelings of loneliness.

About the Poet

Aaron Smith is the author of two collections of poetry both published by the Pitt Poetry Series: Appetite, finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Thom Gunn Award, and Blue on Blue Ground, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett prize. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Ploughshares and The Best American Poetry 2013. He is assistant professor in creative writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Pic of the Day


Being “Real” for a Moment


Will you allow me to be “real” for a moment? 

I know it can seem vapid and self-serving to be slutty on the internet, but truthfully it’s a lot bigger than that.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world I’ve ever done. In fact, two years ago I would have never even posted a shirtless picture of myself online because I didn’t believe I had a body worth sharing.

It’s taken a lot of work to get to where I am now and I am so proud of myself. I never thought I would be strong enough to be this open. While getting called “hot” will always feel good, that has never been the reason behind any this.

But it is also really hard sometimes, because whether you intend to or not, you are giving other people a lot of power over you. It can sometimes hurt my confidence doing this, but I recognize that as an inherent part of it. It’s important to keep my chin up.

What bothers me the most is that sometimes I feel like my true self gets lost in this. What I put out here is only one side of myself, and truthfully not always a very genuine one either. It’s fun to put on an act and be slutty, but sometimes it can be work.

Still, I recognize that this is all part of it and remain adamant that what we’re doing is important. Whether you realize it or not, because it is easy to become desensitized to it, what we’re doing here is extreme. But that’s a good thing.

By sharing ourselves, we are not only celebrating different types of bodies but also normalizing them. By sharing our kinks and fetishes and the way we have sex, we are dismantling the systems that say that they are wrong or taboo.

We are creating an environment that is conducive to safer, freer sex. We are creating a world where you don’t have to look like a Sean Cody model to feel good and sexy.

It feels awesome to be active in a community that welcomes and accepts everyone. It’s all of you who have inspired and guided me to this point, and I hope I am doing the same for other people.

So we shouldn’t undervalue what we’re doing here. It’s fun and sexy but it’s also creating the foundation for a new world where we all feel beautiful and sexy and worthy.

 

Warning: None of the links in this post are SFW.

Often, when I come across an attractive guy on Twitter, especially those with an Only Fans (OF) account, they often do seem seem vapid and self-serving. There are any number of reasons why a guy shows off on the internet and has an OF. Sometimes it’s simply because they need the money, and they have a body (or a particular physical attribute, i.e. 🍆 or 🍑) which can be used to make that money. Others use it because they like to show off their bodies, and they get aroused by performing for others. Then there are some who are simply vapid and self-serving, but there are also those who use Twitter or OF because it boosts their self-esteem and confidence.

The above series of tweets is from a handsome young guy from Alabama named Samuel, a.k.a. @galactaqueer. I think the most important thing he says here is: 

By sharing ourselves, we are not only celebrating different types of bodies but also normalizing them. By sharing our kinks and fetishes and the way we have sex, we are dismantling the systems that say that they are wrong or taboo. We are creating an environment that is conducive to safer, freer sex. We are creating a world where you don’t have to look like a Sean Cody model to feel good and sexy. It feels awesome to be active in a community that welcomes and accepts everyone. It’s all of you who have inspired and guided me to this point, and I hope I am doing the same for other people. So we shouldn’t undervalue what we’re doing here. It’s fun and sexy but it’s also creating the foundation for a new world where we all feel beautiful and sexy and worthy.

Samuel is right. We need to normalize all kinds of sex as long as it is not harming someone else. We often are made to feel bad about ourselves for our innermost fantasies, but just because others might see us as kinky, doesn’t mean that our desires are wrong. We also need to be more body positive. Few people look like porn models, and very few have the physical attributes that porn models have. We need to learn how to feel sexy on our own. It’s been many years since I felt beautiful or sexy, and I wasn’t even fully happy with myself back then. Even when I had a better physique and more hair, I still had vitiligo. During puberty, I began to lose the pigment in the skin my hands and in more intimate areas. People notice it and ask about it all the time, much to my embarrassment. I’ve been asked if I burned my fingers or if parts of me were dirty because of the darker patches that can also happen with vitiligo. Sometimes people are very sensitive about the issue when they ask; others are very blunt to the point of rudeness.

Recently, I came across another guy on Twitter who also has an OF, Jay Mason, a.k.a. @homoblanket. Like me, Jay has vitiligo, yet he’s a bit more fair-skinned and hairier than I am, so it’s not always as noticeable. Jay’s vitiligo also isn’t on his hands or face where it would be be noticeable when he’s not naked. Mine began appearing on my hands early on and most recently, it has spread to my face, though it is not as noticeable on my face as it is on my hands. The point of this is that Jay doesn’t hide his vitiligo and shows how his confidence makes it basically not an issue. I’m sure there are those who make negative or ignorant comments, but if they bother Jay, he doesn’t let it show. He uses his OF to fund his dream of becoming a songwriter in Nashville.

Another guy that I enjoy following on Twitter is Lucas, a.k.a. @LucasCashXXX. Lucas is a 21 year old personal trainer from Alabama who just enjoys showing off. Personal trainers have been hit hard by the pandemic. Often, they are self-employed and when gyms closed, they were no longer able to see their clients. Many did virtual training for those who had access to fitness equipment at home, but they often still took a hit to their finances. Single, self-employed individuals did not get the same benefits of many others who were affected by the pandemic. I find Lucas to be probably the sexiest of them all, and he certainly has those physical attributes that come in very handy with an OF account.

Not only do all of these guys have a Twitter and OF, they also have one other thing in common, they are all from Alabama. Recently, Alabama ranked as the worst state to be LGBTQ+, and I agree with that assessment. There are a few places in Alabama, such as Birmingham or Mobile, that make it somewhat easier to be LGBTQ+, but the rest of the state can make it very difficult. I’m glad that all of these guys have found an outlet for their sexuality and that they feel confident enough to show their beauty to the world. From what I have seen from Samuel, Jay, and Lucas, they are all beautiful people inside and out. If you are so inclined, I hope you’ll go follow them, and if you subscribe to any OF, maybe you’ll check them out there as well. From the previews on their Twitter feeds, I’d say it would be well worth it. See one of those previews below:


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Love Unconditionally

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35

Believers are to be the embodiment of God’s love here on Earth. God desires we extend love to every person, no matter their background. We are to love each others because God loves us. We must show unconditional love today and every day.

All too often people only love conditionally. Some people are stingy with their love and they only claim to love us if we follow their rules. The problem is that their rules are not always God’s rules. By putting demands on others before giving your love is not following God’s rules. God wants us to love unconditionally. If conditions are put on love, then it is not love. If someone tell you they can’t love you if you’re gay, then they will never love you and never have.

The Greatest Commandment is found in the New Testament to describe the first of two commandments cited by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40:

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

and in Mark 12:28-34:

Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

But after that no one dared question Him.

Most Christian denominations consider these two commandments to be the core of correct Christian lifestyle. However, many of those denominations put conditions on their love. Some churches don’t allow gay people to be members of their congregation and other preach hatred for those who do not conform to their narrow twisted beliefs. Matthew 23 addresses this issue when Jesus calls out the scribes and the Pharisees, which is summed up in verse 14 of that chapter:

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

The Great Commandment that Jesus quoted is derived from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” It is also in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

I’ve always had a hard time understanding how people who call themselves Christians can put conditions on love and even claim that They are doing so because God commands them to put conditions on love, when the opposite is true. God forbids us from putting conditions on love. He commands for us to love unconditionally. There are no exceptions; there are no caveats. God commands us simply to “love one another.”


Pic of the Day