Archive for December, 2008


Big Sis, Mom, and I went and saw the movie “Milk” together last night.

Before last night, I thought Heath Ledger might be a good pick for Best Actor Oscar this year. Now, I think it would be a shame if the award went to anyone other than Sean Penn.  Nice job Mr. Penn. 

My father spent most of his life in San Francisco.  We lived briefly in the Bay Area before settling into the Central Valley.  I spent my childhood (and adulthood) visiting my family in San Francisco.  I knew about Harvey Milk.  But of course, I didn’t really know Harvey Milk.  Just the public story of (really, I guess I’m giving away a spoiler here but I suspect that anyone who knows Harvey Milk knows what happened to him and people who would never go see this movie may not give a damn)…….

anyway—- the public story of the openly gay man who was elected to public office in San Francisco and then assassinated by a former fellow Supervisor.  Assassinated along with San Francisco Mayor Moscone.  Ever been to the Moscone Center in San Francisco?  That is who is it named after.

I want to write a thoughtful, coherent blog.  I thought and wrote and tried to write a coherent piece.  But really, why do I need to?  Why can’t I just express the things I am thinking?  This means I am going to spend more time blabbing about how I feel about the issue of gay rights in this country than blabbing about the movie or Harvey Milk.  Sorry to people who want to know about the movie or Harvey Milk.  I do support and suggest reading up a little – it is a pretty significant piece of history. 

Why not?  Can I just freewrite a little, of a sort?

I guess they had to start with Milk in his 40s (oops – 39) if they were going to use Sean Penn for the whole movie.  I’ll have to rent the documentary to learn more about his earlier years. 

What a tragedy.

What a loss.

How hard was it for gay men to come out of the closet in 1978?  Bold for Milk to ask that, but probably too much to expect. 

Why doesn’t someone in France pass a stronger law (do they even have one?) against dog shit on the streets?  I know – totally random thought.  But there it is. 

Why is a consensual relationship between two people who love each other wrong?  Even withstanding every word in the Bible. 

Why can’t people who never ever ever go to church but who have argued with me using quotes from the Bible just admit “I don’t like homosexuality.  It wigs me out.  I think it’s wrong.”  Why do non-Christians suddenly start to lecture me about what God wants? It was bad enough coming from my southern Baptist ex-boyfriend.  It’s worse coming from an atheist. 

Speaking of the Bible, what about the 10 Commandments?  I went to Catholic cathecism for a few years.  We were required to learn the 10 Commandments.  It requires that the Sabbath day be kept holy.  How many Christians work any day of the week when they need to?  Don’t priests and pastors get paid for preaching on Sunday?  Isn’t that working?  (ok- technically, the Sabbath is not Sunday, but many priests and pastors I know work 7 days a week sometimes).  How many Christians are disrespectful of their parents?  They may honor them in some ways but disrespect them in others.  Isn’t that God’s law?   Why aren’t there campaigns and initiatives on the ballot to make disrespecting a parent against the law?  Why don’t we outlaw work on the Sabbath?  Shouldn’t Christians get these laws to be obeyed universally before picking and picking and picking and picking and picking and attacking and attacking and attacking homosexuality?  I don’t get it.  Why don’t we tell people who are jealous of other people that they are breaking God’s law about coveting? 

Have you ever held and hugged a man who tried to commit suicide, mostly because of massive internal conflict and struggle due to his sexuality?  Someone who tried to live a life as a heterosexual?  Someone who had enough self-inflicted agony that he doesn’t ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever need someone else in this world to tell him his way of life is Wrong?  You go stand next to that man and try to tell him you can “cure” him.  That his homosexuality is a bad choice.  That he can be fixed.  Easy as pie.  1, 2, 3.  Should I have said “yes” to him when he suggested that he just marry me and maybe it would all be ok?  Hell no (and he knew it).  He deserves an ecstatically happy life with a partner of his choosing in a world that accepts him the way he is.

What a bizarre parallel that this movie was released the year that California voters approved Proposition 8.  The movie depicts the battle in California against Proposition 6 – which would have required the mandatory firing in California of any teacher who was gay AND any public school employee who supported gay rights.  The whole “they will teach my children to grow up gay” argument which I think was a last-minute tactic that the supporters of Prop 8 used in 2008 to help it pass and rescind the right of same-sex couples to marry.  Which just makes me ask – ????????….uhhhhhh…..where did all the gay people come from if we’ve been living in a man-woman-marriage world for so many years?  Could it be because it is natural and not because it was taught to young people by conspiring, sneaky gay people??

I’d hate for viewers of this movie to walk away and think that all Christians are like Anita Bryant.  Look her up if you need to.  We are not all like Anita Bryant.  I could explain and explain the theology and the reasons why many Christians don’t oppose same-sex marriage and why we try to focus on things like not killing other people and not sleeping with someone else’s spouse.  But I don’t think it should be that hard to understand.  Not all Christians oppose the fundamental right of two human beings to love each other if they want to.   Those of you who think all Christians are like this – KNOCK IT OFF.  It hurts my feelings. 

Rhetoric is powerful.  Many people who oppose gay rights honestly think they are doing what is right and best.  But the rhetoric of the argument can incite vicious people who are filled with such bigotry and hate that they will advocate violence.  The motives behind Milk’s and Moscone’s assassinations were more complex.  There was a job at stake – the provision of family – obvious serious mental collapse.  But how many gay men in San Francisco were beaten in the 70s?  The 80s?  How many Matthew Shepards are there across the country in this century?  Harvey Milk was shot five times, including twice in the head.  Does any human being deserve to die like that? 

Did ANYONE who saw the movie hear a piece of music that was exactly from the movie “And the Band Played On?”  There was a scene – Harvey was talking to Scott and we only see Scott and there is music in the background.  And I swear – with the cello part and all – it was exactly from “And the Band Played On.”  Coincidence?  Or Danny Elfman’s homage to that great movie?  My sister was amazed I recognized it.  I told her I re-watch that movie almost every year.  And not just because Phil Collins is in it. 

I’ve written before about miscegenation laws in the United States.  All these people who oppose same-sex marriage.  Do they understand that it wasn’t until 1967 and the Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia that the Supreme Court finally said – oh yeah – all you states that have laws against interracial marriage – those are unconstitutional.  You can’t do that.  I know that people who make the religious argument don’t understand or agree with the comparison.  But what if you wanted to marry someone of another race – with no qualms or worries – and a bunch of people told you “You are wrong.”  And then the laws of your state said “We won’t recognize your marriage.”  Whether or not you agree with the reasons – what if it was against the law?  You have no say.  You love someone of a different race.  You can’t get married.  1967 – just TWO YEARS before my parents of two different races were married.  Granted, they didn’t plan their wedding in a state with a miscegenation law on the books.  But what if they wanted to a couple years earlier?  They could have been arrested. 

As a happily married heterosexual, I sometimes think – well, in another generation this battle will be won and we’ll be looking back at anti-same-sex-marriage laws with the same sense of history.  But that is not good enough for good people who want to be married now – or who want their existing marriages to be legally recognized.  For that reason, I think, I cannot stop myself from going on and on about the subject.  Again I ask – why aren’t we passing tougher laws against real crime?  Why aren’t we focusing on real issues?  Why are people afraid for the future of America because two people who love each other want to live their lives in peace?  If we have to change everyone to be a certain way or live a certain life, why don’t we spend more time focused on our own shortcomings and sins? 

We all deserve better.   All people deserve the same basic civil rights.  We all should have come much farther (should that be further?) by now. 

It’s late and suddenly it is Christmas Eve.  I’ve been absent from blogging and now I write about something not related to Christmas.  Or maybe it is.  Maybe it is about the spirit of hope and love.  Harvey Milk spoke of hope.  What better time to look forward in hope?

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We had a day scheduled with Aunt C. (mom’s oldest sister) and Uncle P.  Aunty R. picked us up and she spent the day with us on our travels.  Truth be told, I had no idea where we were going.  None whatsoever.  But our day was in Aunt C.’s hands and that was good enough for me. 

We drove through a thick fog to Aunt C. and Uncle P.’s apartment building where we transferred to their car.  They live next to a lake – Sempachersee.  Though we couldn’t see it through the fog.  We headed back through Luzern and kept driving south.  And driving.  And driving.  Since I had no idea where we were going, I didn’t know how long it was going to take.  We were in the car for a couple of hours before we stopped for some pictures.  And what a stop!  It was the end of the morning and look at how calm the water was.

Look at that gorgeous reflection!

We found out we were heading southwest to the town of Gstaad.  I had never been to Gstaad!  This was a new adventure for both Sweetie and me.  Gstaad is in the canton of Berne (the city of Berne is the capital of Switzerland).  Quite a lovely little town.  Of course, I think I am understating it a bit since I have read that “Gstaad is known for its extremely luxurious hotels and shopping, high-society nightlife, fine dining, excellent service, and international stars. It is also one of the largest ski areas in the Alps.”   Pretty nice, huh?

We ate lunch at a restaurant at a hotel in Gstaad that had been recommended to my aunt and uncle.  I can’t remember the name but that is probably ok since I wouldn’t recommend it.  The food was ok, and the service was less than stellar.  Of course, my family was completely appalled by the service.  My uncle didn’t get his salad.  The waiter and waitresses never paid attention to us.  A couple of other things happened.  And then, when they left the bill, they put it down in the middle of the table instead of handing it to my uncle.  Both aunts were ready to take up arms.  Keep in mind, my mom and aunts had been raised while working with my grandparents in their hotel and restaurant.  That was the family business.  Customer service was the work they had been apprenticed to rather than going to a university in Switzerland.  They had all spent time waiting lots of tables (except maybe Aunt C. who was excused from waitressing due to extreme klutziness).  Being “in the biz,” they have pretty high standards for service.  But even I could tell our service was sub-par.  So much for high-class expensive ritzy towns.    We shook if off and walked up and down the boulevard:


And that was about it.  We got back in the car and headed west, then north. 

Uncle P. told us we were going to Gruyere.  Yes, Gruyere like the cheese.  Did you know there is an actual place/town called Gruyere??  I don’t think I could have told you that.  But there it was!  Tiny little village.  There is a huge parking lot at the bottom of the hill.  Most people can’t drive around the tiny little village.  We parked our car beside the fields of cows and walked up the path to the village.

Here is some information on the village.  For more, check out:



We walked into town and promptly stopped at a hotel to have some drinks (remember what I said about the Swiss and food).  There were many restaurants serving raclette with Gruyere cheese.  We could smell the cheese as we walked by the shops.  Heavenly!  Cheese everywhere.


OK, here is something else I did not know.  Did you know there is an H.R. Giger museum in Gruyere?  He’s the guy who won an Oscar for his design/art/visual effects for Alien.  You can see more about it here:  http://www.la-gruyere.ch/en/navpage-ExcursionsFR-MuseumsFR-120106.html.  We didn’t have time to go through the museum or sit in the bar.  But Sweetie and I did run into the bar to take a couple of pictures.  I’m sure they must be used to people doing that.

Finally, we ran up to the castle to snap a couple of pictures and then hightailed it back down the village and down the hill to the car. 

Aunt C. had planned to prepare dinner for us and we needed to get back to the apartment.  All told, we were probably in the car for about six hours and out of the car about an hour and a half.  The scenery, of course, was gorgeous all along the way.

We shared dinner together and the happiest moments of my day were spending a couple of hours with my cousin who I had not seen since 1989.  It’s been a long time and he was living in Mongolia last time I visited the family.  He was back in Switzerland to work and save up money so he could go back and live a few more years in Mongolia.  He now speaks fluent English since he teaches it in Mongolia.   Some members of the family consider him an odd duck – what with living a simple life and preferring Mongolia to Switzerland.  He was always a nature-lover as a kid, which made us quite compatible running around my grandmother’s house: 

What’s that!  Ants devouring a bee on the sidewalk?  Neato!  Let’s watch it together!  I’ll take pictures!  (I still have that picture somewhere)

All the things the rest of the family may not approve of are just things that somewhat endear him to me – his lack of drive to make a lot of money, his love of the simple life in Mongolia, his disinterest in visiting America, his reluctance to join the military (which doesn’t matter – it’s compulsory in Switzerland and hard to get out of).  He’s a bit of an old soul in a young body, I think.  We talked about Mongolia and Maui and Sweetie’s work and my work and the Dalai Lama.  We only had a short amount of time to catch up with each other, but I was very happy for the time we had.  Who knows when I may see him again.

And that was the end of a very long day.

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We spent some time in the city.  It was time to spend some time in the country.  My aunt and uncle had planned a day of hiking for the four of us.  I didn’t know where we were going, but it did not matter.  We would be hiking in the mountains!

We drove around Lake Lucerne (aka Vierwaldstattersee).  Lucerne is located at the northwest tip of the lake.  We drove around the west end to the south.  We drove aaaaalll the way around the lake to the southeast tip – near Seedorf.  We drove past Altdorf to (I think) Burglen.  We parked the car next to a cable car station.  But instead of going up the hill at this point, we ran across the street to catch a bus to Brugg (I think – I’m looking at the brochure map here).  We got off the bus and took a cable car up to Biel. 

The cable car station was run by one man.  He would collect money at the tiny window inside the building.  Then, as the cable car was coming down, he would run outside to open the doors and let the next group of people in.  We waited to buy a ticket, then we waited our turn to board.  The cable car came down and I realized it was TINY.  This was a small little thing.  It fit about 7 or 8 people and we had to put our backpacks in little baskets on the outside of the cable car. 

We boarded the cable car and away we go!

I think most of this blog can be explained best in pictures.  Pictures are worth a thousand words, right?

Here are some shots on the way up the mountain:


And up…..

Until we got to the top and started walking:

We passed some homes, a hotel, and lots of cows.  We hiked for about an hour or so and then headed towards a place to eat.

Now, I have to take a break in the pictures to explain something that cannot possibly be emphasized enough by me:  The Swiss love to eat and drink.  And drink.  And drink.  I’m not just talking alcoholic drinks (though there is a majority of that) – any kind of drink.  Maybe it is just my family.  Though maybe not because most places we stopped to eat and drink were pretty well full of other people.  But this is how it has always been when I travel around with family and friends – we cannot do anything for more than a couple of hours without stopping for a drink.  I explained this to Sweetie before our trip.  I explained that it gets a little tiring.  I explained that I can’t possibly drink every single time they want to drink.  As a teen, I would try to refuse.  I would try to explain to my dumbfounded family and the friendly waitress that I just didn’t *want* anything – not bubbly water, not juice, not a soda, nothing.  Last time I tried to do that, my family ordered an ice cream for me behind my back.  

I’ve learned to try and at least drink some water

Now, I appreciate taking leisure time when you can.  I love it.  I love that the Swiss can work as hard as anyone else but still slow down and enjoy good company and good food.  I don’t mind sitting and relaxing.  But I just can’t drink that much! Nor would I want to pay for beverages that often.  

I’ve explained it, but I don’t think you can understand it until you experience it.  Sweetie brushed off my warnings.  But by the end of trip, as he tried to explain to my mom’s cousin that no…..no…..he wasn’t thirsty, and no……he didn’t need anything to drink after drinking all day, she just looked at him and asked “Are you sick??!”  He laughed and laughed when he told me because he finally understood I was not exaggerating. 

Anyway, back to our hike and yummy food.

After we ate, we hiked some more and we passed through fields of cows. 


We hiked up to the top of the hill.

We hiked through a foresty area.  Then we hiked down the hill to anther cable car stop that would take us back down the hill to where we had parked the car. 

We hiked past homes and farms and these guys as they were ?? — not sure – harvesting the grass.  By hand.  With pitchforks!! Nary a leaf-blower in sight in our whole time in Switzerland.  Gotta love a country that appreciates a good rake and pitchfork.

We caught the cable car down the hill and Sweetie snapped this picture – this is the very southern end of the Lake.  By the way – this cable car was much larger.  Much.  We may have had 30 or 40 people in there.  Enough to make some British tourists very nervous as we were going down.  (“We’re almost there” one guy intoned calmly to his companion. “We’re almost there.”)

Finally, one thing to note during this entire hike – whenever we were near any of the cows, you could hear  the infamous Swiss cow bells.  All the cows wear them.  Even in and around the City of Lucerne.  If there is a cow nearby, you will hear it.  It is the melody of the land that accompanies its people wherever they go.

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