Gays Banned From Celebrating National Event in Ohio

Closely following the wake of gay and lesbian groups being banned from marching in the New York City and Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade, gays have faced another setback: they are not allowed to participate in Brunson, Ohio’s annual celebration of National Welding Month.

“Everyone knows that April is National Welding Month, and here in Brunson, Ohio, this is a celebratory event. It is also a family affair,” Hester Oleger, chair organizer for the National Welding Month festivities, stated. “And here in Brunson, we have traditional values.”

Activities at the National Welding Month Celebration include the opportunity to try your hand at welding (it’s B.Y.O.W.G. – Bring Your Own Welding Gear), an aggressive game of musical chairs, as well as a contest original to Brunson: The Miss Weldie Beauty Pageant, where young Brunson gals strut around in flame proof skull caps with safety shields and fire resistant aprons, and are voted who is the most attractive. (The winner receives a pair of safety goggles.) While munching on refreshments of graham crackers and sipping apple juice, guests will enjoy music performed by a harmonica quartet called “Harmonicas in Harmony.” Lastly, a riveting sock puppet show educates party goers on the history of welding. (Socks catching on fire is not uncommon during the welding reenactment and has been rumored to be the main reason people attend the celebration in the first place.)

Traditionally, the turnout to Brunson’s National Welding Day extravaganza is minimal. While the gay population isn’t known for attending this celebration for welding, Oleger and others want to be on the offensive.

“We wanted to make a public statement that just like the St. Patty’s Day Parade – if you’re openly gay – don’t come. This is a day to celebrate welding, not draw attention to being gay. You can be quietly gay – just not loud about it,” said Oleger.

And what exactly is quietly gay?

“You know, just like, walk far away from each other … or don’t act like you love each other or anything. And God forbid! Don’t bring your children! We don’t want their children here having fun! Again, we’re about traditional family values.”

As expected, the National Welding Month celebration’s ban on openly gay couples has caused outrage.

“Everyone should be invited to everything,” said Jessica Bright, chief spokeswoman for Everyone Is Invited Union, an offshoot of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s outrageous that openly gay couples can not participate in Brunson’s celebration of welding. Completely unacceptable! They miss out on the Weldie Beauty Pageant! And sock puppet show! All because they’re gay?”

Bright is working toward a civil lawsuit – after she has finished organizing protests and picket lines outside of the Brunson’s American Legion Building, where the welding celebration will be held.

When gay couples were interviewed about the ban on their attending Brunson’s welding festivities, the response was unanimous.

“Like I would ever want go to that,” Mark Holdsburg said when interviewed, “a welding contest? Are they for real?”

“Welding? Can it get any more boring?” said his partner, Adam London, “please. Thank you for banning us!”

– Underground Writer Reporting

Hot Date. Dream Vacation. Perfect House. What Happened?!

We’ve all experienced it. A situation or upcoming event we have imagined would be particular a way, only to have it turn out drastically different than we planned. Our dreamy anticipation vaporizes once reality dawns.

Blind dates are a perfect example. Men – you discovered her through an online dating site. Her picture was unavailable, but this only added to her mystique. Her line of work is listed as ‘entertainment’. You’re not quite sure what that is, but you suspect it involves dancing. Her age? Experienced. Well! As you approach the park where you agreed to meet, you can’t stop your mind from envisioning someone who looks like this:

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Well, hello there!

But your expectations are quickly dashed when you see your date. That line of entertainment she works in? Not dancing, but playing the synthesizer at the local senior center. She’s experienced all right! Experienced at whipping out the tissues she keeps stashed in her sweater sleeves in case she has a sneezing fit.

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“Maybe my dentures fell in this bag. I hope I find them before my date arrives!”

Ladies – you have experienced the same. Your friend swears she has the perfect guy for you. She promises he’s not fat, but “stocky.” He’s a doctor and such a “sweetie.” Why is he still single? He was married to his career, but now he’s ready to settle down and start a family. When you meet this gent, you find he resembles Quasimodo. He confesses your friend did stretch the truth – he’s not really a doctor, but he does work in a hospital. In the cafeteria, to be precise. He proceeds to spend the rest of the evening telling you – in minute detail – his responsibilities in the bustling hospital kitchen. You realize one thing your friend was right about: he really is married to his job.

Let’s move on to vacations. How often do we imagine our vacation will be tranquil, secluded and relaxing?

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Paradise Found

But when we arrive, we learn the beach is a popular destination for cruise ships and it’s filled with screaming children, hollering parents and loud music?

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Paradise Lost

Children. You daydream for months about the upcoming birth of your baby: her little fingers gripping yours, holding her while you glide back and forth in the rocking chair. Perhaps you contemplate learning how to knit baby booties after she is born.

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What you thought you’d get

Yet, when your bundle of screaming joy arrives, you find you’re pacing the floors deep into the night, trying to calm Baby Evil. The only thing you can imagine doing with knitting needles is jamming them into your ears to block out the crying.

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What you got.

House hunting. Your Realtor tells you she has the perfect home in your price range. You follow the winding path to the house, your stomach fluttering. You have already envisioned what color you’ll paint your bedroom. Your neighbor’s house only fuels your excitement:

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This neighborhood is starting to look good!

Yet, the house you can afford – the house your Realtor is excited to show you – looks like this:

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Oh, that’s right. I forgot about our budget.

Lastly, your kids have finally convinced you to get a dog. They vow to walk and pick up after it. One even promises to vacuum for you. You relent, but you tell them it must be calm and small. Your children spend hours online, searching local animal rescue sites. Your husband contacts breeders. You fill out yards of paper work. At one point you’re not certain if you’re adopting a dog or a child, the process  is so rigorous. The night before you pick up Fido, your thoughts drift to the little dog that has managed to wiggle its way into your heart already. You haven’t seen him yet – your kids and husband who have met him tell you he’s brown and lovable. You picture him spending his last night in the shelter:

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Sweet, docile family dog you expect to see

The next afternoon, you hear the family car pull into the driveway. You open the front door, only to see a large beast running towards you. Drool is flying from his mouth and his eyes look crazed. “Yeah, about the ‘being small and calm’ part” your husband says right before Cujo leaps up on you with muddy paws.

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The actual family dog

Bill Watterson, the author/creator, of Calvin and Hobbes, said it best, “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.”

Photo Credits: 

Attractive Date: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/andre-batista/3548312095/”>André-Batista</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Disappointment Date: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingiber/3672189301/”>gingiber</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt; 

Paradise Found Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jsmoral/3278536843/”>jsmoral</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Paradise Lost Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/otimo/182432305/”>Man with no name</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Sleeping Baby Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/diathesis/2383571187/”>diathesis</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Money Pit Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/reallyboring/6307845575/”>reallyboring</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Sweet Dog: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/williammarlow/5976796676/”>WilliamMarlow</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Crazy Dog: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thekellyscope/4627967858/”>thekellyscope</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

A TV Evangelist and A Woodchuck

Everything was yellow: the exterior vinyl siding, the front door, the walls in every room, the furniture and even the shag rug on the living room floor. For a moment I suspected a humongous bottle of French’s Yellow Mustard had exploded, drenching the 1950s Cape with its contents. But no – it was simply the house of my most recent Hospice patient.

Her name was Connie and she was in her seventies. I knew her terminal disease was a slow going one, unlike some of the illnesses that stole the lives of our patients before we even had an opportunity to form a relationship with them. I also knew I could not – under any circumstance – visit Connie between the hours of eight and ten in the morning, and two and four in the afternoon. Those four hours were strictly off limits to any Hospice workers.

“What’s going on between eight and ten, and two and four?” I asked Connie’s Hospice nurse before my first visit.

She laughed and shook her head, “That’s when Steve is on.”

“Steve?”

“Steve Brock.”

“Who’s he?”

“Some TV evangelist.”

“No way! Really?”

“Really. She’s like, crazy about him. Everything stops when he comes on. Once she made me go home and I wasn’t even finished with my evaluation.”

As I followed Connie’s voice through the house, I found her sitting in a recliner chair that was positioned in front of a huge television. Her hair was a mess of white curls and she was wearing make-up. For a Hospice patient, she looked pretty spry. Her eyes narrowed when I entered the room.

“Which one are you?” she barked.

I sighed. Typically, social workers were the duds of the Hospice team. Unlike the nurses who brought comforting medicines, the volunteers who provided respite for the caregivers, or the aides who cleaned and cooked, the social workers were the “talkers” and, generally, our services were deemed unimportant and intrusive to most patients.

“I’m the social work intern.”

Now it was my turn to narrow my eyes. I had noticed the excessive number of picture frames scattered around the room, and they all seemed to contain pictures of the same man. Connie followed my gaze.

“Go ahead,” she said, her voice instantly warming.

I reached and took one of the frames, and then another. They were all Polaroid photographs, and it appeared the pictures were of … Connie’s television screen. Or a man on Connie’s television screen. I blinked. She had taken a Polaroid picture of a man on her TV screen and framed it. And not just one, but dozens.

“That’s Steve,” Connie explained.

“Steve Brock.”

“Yes! You know of him?” Connie sat up straighter in her chair.

“Yes, actually.”

I put the picture frames back in their place and pulled a chair next to Connie. Her eyes were closed, reminding me of a teenage girl swooning over the music of a rock band.

“Tell me about Steve.” I prompted.

Connie’s eyes fluttered open. “He’s so strong and handsome! And you should hear his voice. When he sings I get chills. That’s why I send him money every time he asks … and he writes back!”

Before I could respond, Connie reached into a basket that was half hidden under a folded blanket next to her recliner. She handed me a pile of papers.

“Read them,” she urged.

Carefully, I unfolded the first letter. It was a standard “thank-you-for-your-contribution” letter with Steve Brock’s signature stamped at the bottom. When I raised my eyes to Connie’s she was looking at me expectantly. To her, these were personal communications. She thought this TV evangelist had thanked her personally – many times – for her money.

“These are … lovely,” I stammered.

My freshly minted social work brain knew I was supposed to be doing something social worky. I should ask her about her husband! That’s it! Maybe there was some link between her deceased husband and this intense infatuation with a man on television. Or perhaps her father! What about him? What would make this dying woman latch onto – and give her money away to – some lounge singer sounding, dyed brown haired TV evangelist?

“I have a pet woodchuck,” Connie said, suddenly.

“Excuse me?”

Quickly, I shifted gears from the TV evangelist/dead spouse/father link to a pet woodchuck. I looked around the yellow room, expecting to see the rodent lumber in and sit by my feet.

“I have a pet woodchuck,” Connie repeated, somewhat exasperated, as though she were growing annoyed. “His name is Chucky.”

“I … I’ve never heard of having a woodchuck as a pet,” I stammered.

Connie raised an eyebrow. Clearly, she deemed me a moron.

“He doesn’t live in the house. He lives outside.”

“Oh!”

“Aren’t you going to ask me how I know Chucky is male?” Connie asked.

This visit was not going as planned. I hadn’t even approached the topic of her illness. I could envision my supervisor, shaking her head in disappointment. When would I learn?

“Um … how do you know Chucky is male?”

“I checked and saw Chucky didn’t have nipples.”

Whoa! What have we here? Connie was checking woodchucks for nipples, after giving her money away to a TV evangelist whom she believed was writing her personal thank you notes in return. Either her disease was affecting her brain or she had a history of mental illness – but her medical history didn’t state either. She was simply quirky.

I sat back in my chair and smiled. 

“Tell me about Chucky.”

And she did.

Eventually Connie was discharged from Hospice because her illness stopped progressing. She seemed indifferent to the news she wasn’t going to die within six months, and relieved Hospice would no longer be traipsing through her home several times a week. We left her exactly as we found her: swooning over her TV evangelist, with a pet woodchuck named Chucky.

For all I know, she is still sending Steve Brock her money, cherishing his letters, and checking woodchucks for their gender.

How to Have Fun with Telemarketers.

Chimney cleaners. Chronic disease organizations. Electric company suppliers. Cancer societies. Extended automobile warranties. College alumni fundraisers. Companies making vague promises to lower interest rates on loans you don’t even have. They call constantly; often at the most irritating times. Sound familiar?

You hang up as soon as you recognize the crackling pause after saying hello (the telltale indication it’s a telemarketing call). But this does not work. Stubbornly, they will call back the next day … and the next … and the next. Requesting they no longer call your number is laughable. These people are trained in the art of loopholes and tenacity. They have no scruples.

Giving money – no matter how small – to charities seeking donations in hopes the’ll leave you alone only provides respite for a brief period of time. Plus – many of these organizations sell your number to other charities, which means your “please go away” donation just opened up an avalanche of more pesky non-profit calls.

The National Do Not Call List is ineffective. Businesses  have found ways to circumvent the rules. Non-profits are excluded from the Do Not Call List, as well as political surveys.

How do we cope with such intrusiveness? If we can’t beat them, we must join them. In order to protect our sanity, I offer you The Underground Writer’s “How to Have Fun with Telemarketers”:

1. Inform the telemarketer (or charity) they have called just as Family Story Time is starting. You will need to have a children’s book by the phone at all times in order to make this work. Place the phone on speaker before you start reading the book out loud.

“I hope Pete The Cat is okay with you, it’s the book my son chose. Otherwise, we have Frog and Toad or Ferdinand The Bull.

2. Pretend you and your spouse are in the middle of a heated argument and get the caller involved.

“Boy, am I glad YOU called! Listen to this. My husband? He NEVER takes the garbage out. So, like, yesterday I put it on the back porch because I didn’t want it stinking up the kitchen -”

“Um … Mrs -”

“Wait. I’m not finished. So I put it on the back porch and some sort of animal gets into it. Now there’s garbage EVERYWHERE and he’s telling ME I need to clean it up! Since I put the garbage on the porch. But here’s the thing -“

3. Act thrilled that someone has called your home. This requires asking questions about the caller, and diverting their questions.

“Why, hello Maria from The National Protect Indigent Feline Association! Where are you calling from?”

“Indiana. Would you be willing to pledge just twenty-five-”

“Indiana? What part?”

“The middle part. Would you be willing to pledge just -”

“I’ve never been to Indiana. What’s it like?”

“It’s fine. Mrs. Underground Writer, there are thousands of homeless -”

“Know someplace I’ve never been? Alaska. Yup. Never been. Can’t say I necessarily WANT to go since I hate the cold…”

4. Invite the caller for dinner (since they always seem to call during meals). Literally: Put the phone on speaker and plop the receiver in the middle of the table and announce how you never have dinner guests. Then, act as though they are actually present.

“I hope you’re not a vegetarian. We’re having steak.”

or

“We’re so happy you can join us!”

5. Start singing – Broadway show tunes seem to freak telemarketers out quickest.

6. Have a child who plays an instrument? Wonderful! Have them play a song or two.

“Before I answer your question as to whether or not I’m happy with my electric supplier, my daughter wants you to hear her practice Hot Cross Buns on her clarinet.”

7. Ask their opinion on your new curtains. But they can’t see your new curtains? Exactly. Describe in great detail what these curtains look like: color, pattern, how they match the color on your walls. What we’re aiming for here is, boring. Much like their call.

8. Put your toddler on the phone – preferably one who is just learning to imitate animal sounds.

“Mrs. Peters? My name is Jason and I am calling from the Lower Your Credit -”

“Ohhhh, Jason! I am so glad you called. My two year old just learned to make all the sounds on Old McDonald’s farm! Listen…”

“Mooooo! Oink! Oink! Oink! Baaaaa!!!”

“MRS. PETERS??”

“Neigh! Mooooo! Quack!”

9. Seek medical advice. Persistent ache in your lower back? Lump somewhere? Hey, they called you.

10. In all seriousness, be polite. Thank them for calling, and ask that they remove your name and number from their calling list. Then inform them that you trace all calls, and you now know where they live and what kind of car they drive. And you hope they have a very nice day.