Saturday, February 26, 2005


Okay. I'm back at the Seattle Public Libarary. In fact I've been back three times. Today is my last day in Seattle so I'm happy to be able to spend part of it writing here again.

This place is so full of surprises. I went down a staircase to find a restroom that was on the conference room floor. The entire floor is red. Not just the floor actually, the walls and the ceilings, the doors, the stairs--all of it glossy fire engine red--like it has been coated with shiny red patent leather. Even the recessed lighting is red. There are no straight walls. The doors to the conference rooms are numbered, but the numbers are actually huge seven-foot blocks of text in the shape of numbers. The text is poetry.

Then, as I came up the 10-story escalator to the upstairs reading room I kept noticing texture again. The long narrow escalator, which is lit from within with a yellow light, is coated in that same shiny surface as that of the red floor. It is like riding up an enormous number two pencil. As you near the top, the view of glossy, luminescent yellow is joined by a bank of the fun and fluffy acoustic ceiling pillows and the glass and aluminum curtain wall that makes up the wall of the building's exterior with the blue sky outside.

I wish I could take the Seattle Public Library home with me.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Rem's Kool Library

I'm in Seattle now. I had the day free to write reports for the clients I'm working with. I did my writing across the street from my hotel at the fairly new Seattle Public Library by architect Rem Koolhaas (worth the click I promise). The exterior is handsomely bizarre, but I have not been so into a building's interior since I visited Tadao Ando's Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, Texas. But the FW MOMA overwhelmed me. Koolhaas' library inspires me. It is like a slick and smart game. The kind that makes you feel more intelligent after you play it. It embodies what libraries should represent for people, but often don't--a spirit of creative curiosity.

It is sculptural on the inside but not so much that you forget that you are a library patron. The variety of materials that surround you keep you conscious of your environment without making oppressive demands on your attention. Design decisions are literally everywhere. No visual stone was left unturned, but none of it seems too self-conscious.

It's like Studio 54 married the Library of Congress. Do not come to Seattle without seeing this building.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Breakfast Trouble

I find that when traveling, breakfast, especially on the weekends, is always a little bit of a challenge for me. I'd prefer to eat in my room but find it impossible to justify paying 20.00 for coffee, juice, yogurt, toast and a tablespoon of fruit, even if someone else is picking up the tab.

Leaving the hotel is tricky. For some reason I'm not comfortable taking a shower before breakfast. I have no idea why. But the result is that I'm forced to put clothes over my unwashed body, which also does not thrill me. Then there is the hair thing. You might think that not having much hair would eliminate worries on this subject. However, unless I keep my hair cut short (and I was not able to work in a haircut before I left Indy), it kind of sticks out in the morning. If I've had a restless night's sleep I can wake up looking like Crusty the Clown, as I did this morning. I have to spend time figuring out a way to flatten it all down again while talking myself into not caring how I'm going to look to the 25 unknown British Columbians that I'm likely to see on the street at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

Finding a place is even more difficult. I don't want fancy, but after all I've gone through before even leaving my room I do want tasty. I feel guilty about asking Doug, the perpetually cheery concierge about where I should eat because I'm afraid he'll think I think there is something wrong with the hotel restaurant, which I do, but I don't want him to know that. Yes, I know that is what concierges do for a living, but Doug looks like his feelings might be fragile. Instead, I compliment him on his new glasses, which he says he got to make him look smarter.

So I set off on my own. I feel okay about having to trek block after block looking for a place since I need the exercise to walk off the great Indian food we ate last night. While I'm walking around, a woman on the street asks me for money. I obviously have not figured out Canadian coinage yet. When I handed her what I thought was a dollar she looked at it and asked for more. After about 25 minutes of walking I start to get a little impatient.

Up until this time I've ignored the fifty Starbucks I've passed. Have you ever seen the movie Best in Show? There is a point where a consumerism-choked couple who own a trendy Weimaraner are describing how they met. She was sitting in one Starbucks and spotted her future husband sitting in the window of the Starbucks across the street. I've always gotten a chuckle out of that line because I thought it was a satirical jab at how ubiquitous Starbucks is. Yesterday as my friend Colleen and I were walking down the street I actually saw two Starbucks across the street from each other. That kind of scared me so this morning I decide not to give into the temptation of predictability.

I finally find a non-chain where I can get a decent scone and a cappuccino. While there I read in a local paper about another place two blocks from my hotel (not on the route I walked of course) that offers a toasted brioche with Nutella and raspberries. Case closed. I know where I'll be having breakfast tomorrow.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

My Phone Face-Off with a Texas Republican

I have not blogged in awhile because I've been getting ready for a long trip to Seattle, Canada, and then Boston (with a short stop back in Indy for two days along the way).

I'm in Vancouver now, an international city, good restaurants and well worth a visit. Mountains and a coastline, now that's topographical interest. The international part is very positive I imagine, but I didn't think so when I had to stand in line for two hours at the airport's Immigration Center behind a recently deplaned (and large) group of Japanese exchange students. The students were all so polite though that I couldn't bring myself to express my impatience as I might normally--through the annoyed huffs and eye rolls that I inherited from my father.

Oh, and for those who read the entry about my passport application, it indeed arrived at the very last minute. I had to pick it up at the post office (back door) at 5:00 p.m. the night before my flight left (at 8:00 a.m. the next morning). All I can say is that God is faithful.

Canadians in British Columbia seem to be so nice. The concierge at my hotel, Doug, has a perpetual smile on his face and always asks how my day has been when he sees me in the elevator. The woman who cleans the rooms on my floor rang my doorbell yesterday afternoon to ask me how I liked my room and if I needed anything.

It is strange being in a country where it is legal for me to be married. Funny story though, the battle for equal marriage rights followed me right up here. After breakfast yesterday, Glenda, one of the consultants I'm working alongside, and I were talking about what our spouses did for a living. I've known Glenda for awhile, and I love working with her. Our conversation went something like this.

"Troy, please don't hate me when I tell you what Scott does."

"Glenda, I would never hate anyone for what their husband does, but I am awfully curious."

"He works for the Republican Party in Texas."

"You are kidding me. How does he sleep at night?"

"I don'ty know but it gets worse. He helped create the redistricting maps that gave the Republican party more power in Texas a few years back. He works very closely with Tom Delay."

"Good heavens! That's awful. Well, I'm sure he must have some good qualities if you love him. When you see him, ask him why he wants to deny my family civil rights. "

She said she would and that was the end of the conversation until her husband called her while we were in a car driving to our first stop.

As she talked to him a new conversation began.

"Hey, my friend Troy wants to know why you want to deny his family civil rights. Here talk to him." She handed me the phone. Not knowing what to do, I asked him.

"Hi Scott. Why do you want to deny my family their civil rights?"

"What?" I could tell he was surprised. I repeated the question.

"Well, your relationship will never result in procreation and that is the foundation of marriage."

"But I know older couples who marry who can't have children, and also those who are infertile. But they can all still get married." I even mentioned Joni Erickson, a Christian singer/writer who is paralyzed from the waste down, married without children.

"Why would you want all the hassles of marriage we have?" he asked.

"Because I have same-sex couple friends who have adopted children and I want their families to have the same rights that your family does. And John and I are trying to adopt and we will want them, too. The hassles of marriage are nothing compared to the hassles of not having the rights that go along with them, especially when it comes to inheritence taxes."

"Well, it's like Prohibition. If the majority of the country thinks its a good idea we have to do what they say, even if 14 years later we decide that it is the dumbest idea we ever heard."

"Scott, I don't care what the majority of Americans think. I care about what you think."

"If you care what I think, please make sure my wife it taken care of up there." An understandable attempt to change the subject, which I allowed.

"I will. It was good to talk to you. Here's Glenda."

Glenda and I laughed about it when she hung up. "I try to tell him," she said. I was actually grateful to tell a far right-wing conservative what I think even if it probably did not change his mind. At least his arguments will have to be less abstract in the future. I'm in Texas at least once a year. I plan to make a point of meeting him on my next trip.

Well, I'm going shopping with my friend Colleen now. I miss John. Shopping and good food are my only consolation.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Hope in the Indiana Senate

John, Linda (John's mom) and I attended the Senate hearing of the proposed Indiana constitutional marriage amendment yesterday. Our friend Duane and his two kids, Daniel (4) and Mari (3) joined us. Todd had to work.

The committee of seven senators listened to an hour of arguments for the amendment and then another hour of opposition to it before voting on whether or not to send it to the legislature.

The usual suspects were there, a few conservative black preachers who were indignant that gay people dare to compare their struggle for equality with theirs. One guy called homosexuality a "learned perversion." (I must have been a natural because there was no one around to teach me how to be gay.) There was the ex-gay ministry alum who declared his complete heterosexual turnaround, citing his wife and two kids as proof. (The guy had fabulous highlights by the way. I'm glad the sublimation of his attraction to men doesn't preclude a decent haircut and dye job.) And, of course, the Focus on the Family rep and the teary-eyed soccer mom, blah, blah, blah...

Get used to the line up. It is coming soon to a statehouse near you if it hasn't already. A smoothly packaged deal, every speech tied up with the predictable "but we love homosexuals" bow.

These folks have their reasons for believing as they do. The ones they typically reveal are those rooted in the inability to see that the Bible does not require society to be stagnant. They are disturbed by the changes happening all around them, and the only way they know to act is to fearfully and frantically seek a scapegoat (this time they call it the "gay agenda" a few years back it was "mixing the races.") If they would relax and have some faith, they might remember that even by the time Jesus was walking the Earth marriage had changed quite a bit from King David's day--radically and for the better. With the world as crowded is as it is now, our country could use a few more non-procreative couples to provide homes for all of the kids we have in the world.

But who can think clearly when they are scared?

I didn't smile much during the four hour session. I wasn't, however, as angry as I thought I would be. I have genuine compassion for the ex-gay guy. I've been through that whole deal (thankfully I didn't get married and have two kids before I figured some things out). What else would I expect him to say? What would it mean for his life if he had said, "I've decided to take this route, but I want people to have the freedom to choose otherwise. And I want their kids and spouses to have the same support that mine do." Actually that sounds like a good idea to me, but I'm sure there are a lot of things related to the self he has created that would go away if he did that.

At one point, a slender and attractive woman speaking against equal marriage rights approached the podium. With an understandbly nervous stutter and a nicely tailored chocolate-colored pant suit, she smiled and said, "I come to you as a mom." She then proceeded to announce that gay marriage would cause the end of civilization. She even asked the committee who would be around to fill their seats after they were gone if same sex couples were allowed to marry. Now I'm no expert on heterosexuality, but I'm pretty sure straight people are not going to stop having sex with other straight people once John and I get married. And if hetero couples' sex lives are really that slow, I'm not taking the rap for it. I've got enough on my plate. Her comments were so ridiculous that I'm not sure the Republican members of the committee even took her seriously.

There were many times during the hearing when I felt misrepresented, kindly despised, even invisible, but there were only a few times when I was truly angry. Almost without fail, opponents of equal marriage rights stated that allowing gay marriage would destroy future generations of children. I should tell you that throughout nearly the entire four hour session I was holding Duane and Todd's son Daniel on my lap.

I've known Daniel since the day Duane and Todd brought him home. Every time I hear a statement about how bad for children gay marriage is I think about what I know of his life--how smart he is, how loving he is, how self-possessed he is. He's not afraid of people. He doesn't demand the kind of needy attention that comes with permissive or neglectful parenting. He uses words like "predicament." He can tell one kind of train engine from another.

As I heard dire predictions for the children of gay couples in the senate chamber (No one took the trouble to cite any basis for their fears besides the useless phrase, "as we all know...") I caught myself wondering, "are they right?" Could Daniel just be a fluke? (Sorry Duane and Todd, but it was an emotional day.) But sitting next to me in Linda's lap (also for four hours!) was a three old who never spoke above a whisper during the entire hearing. Mari, who as we left Duane and the kids at their car thanked Linda for holding her hand.

Mari and Daniel argue, but they argue over things like who gets to be Jesus when they play grocery store during Sunday School.

Duane and Todd would tell you that they make mistakes. They would not tell you they are excellent parents. But they are excellent parents. And they are raising outstanding kids, as are all of the other same-sex coupled parents that I see. I have their kids in Sunday School along with everyone else. You can bet I would know otherwise. And if these kids don't become completely annoyed to distraction with people who judge their families before knowing them first, they will become empathetic, sensitive, and thoughtful about issues that face their fellow citizens.

Daniel did not know exactly what was going on during the hearing. Duane had told them that they were coming to the Statehouse to hear about different kinds of families. I'm a little less diplomatic. I told him that the people we were watching were deciding what his Daddy and Papa and Uncle John and Uncle Troy could and couldn't do. I also told him that if he wanted, someday he could help make those decisions. I'm not sure he got my point, but he seemed excited about telling Duane and Todd what to do.

The final vote was 7 to 4 in favor of sending the amendment to the legislature, which is bad news for us. That was the next step in the process of bringing it to a vote in 2008. The clock is now ticking for John and I. We have three years to decide where we will live our future. But I can't be despondent. I gave up hopelessness for Lent. And why shouldn't I? We do have three years to fight this. My mother-in-law took a day off from work to support her son and me. The senate chamber gallery was filled with people like us. And I may have been holding a future senator in my lap.

Monday, February 07, 2005


I walked up to a window at the post office today and gave the clerk there the meticulously organized information required to get a passport, which I need by the time I fly to Vancouver next week. I know--I should have allowed more time. In my defense, a surprise job required my leaving the country and I thought I had my birth certificate here at home until about 3 weeks ago. Turns out I didn't, so I had to order it from a place in Little Rock and have the process "expedited", which I think is latin for "outrageously expensive." But I'd done my homework and found out that if I was willing to take out a second mortgage once I got to the post office I could still have my passport by next week.

Though she gave no visual sign that she intended to do so, the postal clerk asked how she could help me. I put my paperwork on the counter and told her that I needed to apply for a passport. Without looking up, she asked me when I needed it. By February 17 I said, trying to make it sound like the date was many months in the future. She looked up then. In fact, she stared at me for what seemed like a minute. This is why those post office lines are always so long. The clerks are busy staring at their customers in order to communicate how annoyed with them they are. She let out a sigh before she looked down to start handling the paperwork. As she shuffled forms, made check marks and stamped things she shook her head slowly with her eyebrows raised and muttered, "I'm blessed. I am truly blessed."

I suppose I should confess that about 70 percent of the time I'm annoyed when people use the phrase, "I'm blessed." Sometimes people say it as an expression of genuine gratitude, which touches me. But usually one of many other possible shades of meaning glom on to what otherwise would be a perfectly wonderful sentiment.

People Who Use the Expression "I'm Blessed" and What They Often Mean
  • Some atheletes, often accompanied by a finger (index) pointed to the sky : "I'm afraid not to credit God with my atheletic superiority since setting him off could result in an injury that would cause me to lose my multi-million dollar salary, not one dime of which I'm saving at the moment." Or, "This is the best way I know to let people know I'm a Christian without having to demonstrate any strength of character."

  • Some evangelically bent Christians to people they barely know, usually while staring them in the face: "Even though there is no logical way for me to work this into a conversation with you since we've just met, I'd like to let you know that I'm a Christian. I know it's not the best lead in for me to tell you about Christ. A relationship would work much better, but I don't really have time for that. This rarely if ever works, but I keep hoping...besides, if I say it, it is kind of like I get credit for spreading the Gospel. It's not my fault that you aren't interested enough in the state of your soul to ask me what I mean."

  • Disgruntled, perhaps evangelical in persuasion, postal worker, accompanied by wagging head: "What the...Good Lord, why did you let this fool step into my line? Is this about that "rejoice in our suffering" business I heard the preacher talking about on Sunday? Well even if it is, this man is NOT getting out of here without knowing the kind of pain in my ass he's causing. I'm gonna let this boy know just how well I understand what Christian suffering truly is thanks to him, because he has just hauled it in to me on a silver platter."

Ironically, I've been attending a Bible study on Matthew that our pastor is leading in which we've talked at some length about who's blessed as far as Jesus was concerned in the Beatitudes. Turns out all of those people I mentioned aren't just fooling themselves. They really are blessed! To be honest, I don't understand the Beatitudes. Some of them, like "blessed are the peace makers," seem pretty straight forward. Others like, "blessed are those who mourn" make less sense. The more convinced someone seems to be that their interpretation is the correct one, the less convinced I end up being that they are right. I don't know why that is. But I do know I used to be on the "giving" end of right interpretations and I can't even convince myself anymore.

Back to the post office. The woman had a LOT of paperwork to fill out to complete my passport request. I had plenty of time to cool off and eventually work up the grace to tell her I was sorry that my application was stressing her out. I briefly explained my situation. She looked up and gave me a half-smile, a sincere one, the kind you see on people who make a career out of loving the people they torture. At one point, between stamping and checking things and asking me those questions that the federal goverment requires them to ask, she said, "Honey, I give everybody a hard time." When she finally finished all of the processing and collecting the 115.00 bucks(!) required to "expidite" my request she looked at me and said, "You have a good time in Vancouver. When you get home, come back and tell me all about it."

Saturday, February 05, 2005

County Rights

An interesting idea is emerging in New York City. According to Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times, a state judge in Manhattan has ruled that the 1909 laws governing marriage are unconstitutional and that same-sex couples should be granted marriage rights. The issue is far from settled. From the article:

"One city official said yesterday that the decision on whether to appeal yesterday's ruling might depend in part on whether city lawyers concluded that they were professionally bound to challenge a decision that set a different standard for New York City than for other counties.

At first glance such a domestic dual-platform situation may seem like an impossibility. However, I'm from Arkansas where we have dry and wet counties. For those of you who do not know, in dry counties you cannot buy packaged liquor from stores (you are lucky if you can buy a glass of wine at a restaurant).

My point is, if it would be more winnable, could we not make this a county issue instead of a state issue? This would allow a city with a majority of voters who support equal marriage rights to get what they need, while the places that do not support those rights can keep things the way they are. The bad news is that my country friends who live in Noblesville, Greenwood and other rural towns would likely be stuck in places that would not support their right to protect their families. How could we work them into this plan?

Ultimately I think such a county by county option would be good for the state. In states that recently have passed restrictive marriage laws, about 20 to 30 percent of people have voted not to write descrimination into their state's constitution. Where do you think these folks live? Assuming that Indianapolis would be more likely to support family protection (and I could easily be wrong about that), more businesses would be attracted to relocating here since this environment would be attractive to an entire pool of talented employees. In the meantime, Kokomo and Franklin can just keep right on selling their souls to Walmart.

Selfishly speaking it would create more relocation options for us. I kind of hate it that I can't live in Little Rock, Atlanta, or some other nice cities because their state's have such bigoted laws. And John and I refuse to spend money in such places until the laws are changed again, which they inevitably will be decades from now. But I would love to embrace places that embrace us. A county by county vote on the matter might make that a possibilitly.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

We Need You. Come if You Can.

From Out in America:


    OIA Newswire

    INDIANAPOLIS - The proposal to amend Indiana's constitution to ban same-sex marriages, Senate Joint Resolution 7 (Definition of Marriage), is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil
    Matters on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

    The hearing will take place in the Senate Chamber in the State House, 200 W. Washington St. at 9 a.m.

    The public will be permitted to testify. Each "side" will be provided one hour for testimony, starting with those who support passage of the amendment.

    Indiana Equality is urging the public to attend to voice an opposition to an amendment banning same-sex marriage because it would cause more damage to Indiana's economy, impose inappropriate mandates on Indiana's businesses and universities, and won't protect traditional families, but cause harm to all families, gay or straight.

    More information is available by emailing Indiana Equality at or calling (888) 567-0750. [2/3/05]

If anybody wants to meet at our house and go together, just let me know. We'll leave at 8:15 a.m.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Faith and Creativity

I'm surrounded by hard-working people who believe they can do anything. It took awhile for me to realize that this has always been a requirement for me to thrive. Resources, money, time--these have never spurred me towards vision. Looking at them alone always just seems to make me aware of what is not there. Being surrounded by people of faith, the kind that fed five thousand rather than the kind that builds churches for that many, has been the hallmark of my most creative and productive endeavors.

I think I first became aware of this while having dinner with a Texas matriarch. My host was Margaret McDermott, a beautifully grounded native Texas woman with georgeous white hair and a collection of Picassos and Monets that museums covet. She was the sponsor of my internship during my first year at the Dallas Museum of Art. I knew a friend of hers to whom I mentioned in passing that I hoped someday to have the chance to let Margaret know how grateful I was for the opportunity to work there. When Margaret heard this she invited me to her north Texas ranch for dinner in order to meet me.

As we ate dinner on her screened-in back porch a thunderstorm lumbered to the south of her fields, ignoring us as if it was a herd of passing elephants. We talked about what had brought us to the places we were. In museum circles Ms. McDermott was always discussed as the wife of Eugene McDermott, founder of Texas Instruments. That night I learned that she didn't meet her husband until after her career as a journalist and reporter. She worked during the 1940s and 50s in parts of Europe and India, the latter being a place to which she said she still felt a great connection and where she began to develop her passion for art. The moment we talked in grew silently as I listened to her accomplishments. She eventually turned her attention to my history.

"How did you become interested in art?" she asked. I'd never considered the question before. I thought back over what might have spurred me in that direction. No art classes as a child, no museum visits. I was not raised with books on the subject.

After a few moments I told her that when it came to art, I was most interested in looking at it and really seeing it--what was obvious about it and what was not so obvious. And when I stood in front of a work of art, I cared about what relationship I might be supposed to have with it. And the only person I can think of who trained me to look at things that way was my grandmother. She was a flower person, a trait I was to learn later that she shared with Ms. McDermott.

Whenever I visited her as a boy my grandmother would put her bonnet on right before dusk and find me wherever I happened to be. She would say, "Come'on James Troy (James is my first name). Let's go to the garden," in a sweet and demanding way that always convinced me I would miss something if I didn't go with her. We would walk into the dense and randomly planted half-acre thicket of fragrance, color, and bees, brushing up against plants that were so tall and close it was impossible not to be covered with pollen. You never realize poppies have a scent until you are surrounded by hundreds of them as high as your chest.

Once her blooms were fully grown my grandmother never cared if you accidently stepped on a few. They would never be missed in that crowd. But after tromping with abandon through the maze of flowers she'd grown from seeds or bulbs, she would demand that we walk gently through the grass between the gardens--places where she had planted nothing. This is where the wildflowers grew. She would stop and make me get on all fours in order to see the tiniest blue ones. While we were down there she would always say, "Oh James Troy! Aren't these little things pretty? I wonder what they are?" We would look at them awhile longer, frequently too long to my boy's mind. I didn't mention this last part to her (a rare moment of good judgement for which I am now grateful).

I told Margaret that I thought it was looking at flowers both ways over time that caused me to pay attention to art in both ways as well--to enjoy and respect the deliberately created, but to pay especially close attention to the things that may not have been as intentional. I'm still overwhelmed when an artist can combine the two.

Later that night I thought about how alike my grandmother and Ms. McDermott were. Neither of them felt limited by who they were or what they had. Both had rich lives. They created. They valued what they did and saw great beauty in it. They had faith in their work and their abilities. They both made a point of passing these on to me in their own ways. For whatever reason, I find myself surrounded by more and more people like my grandmother and Margaret. I suspect it is this blanket of faith and God's grace that will help me move whatever mountains may show up in my way, or else I'll just make something new out of them.