The Solid Northeast

May 20th, 2014

You know, K and I aren’t really “pride people.” We’re just not that kind of gay. You won’t find us carrying the sea-to-sea Key West pride flag, or attending the Philly Pride parade, or dancing on a float, or anything like that. We’re totally proud of who we are, and we’re glad that we were “born this way” and quite content with it all, but pride just isn’t our thing. On days like this, though, there is a great deal of pride to be had and plenty of reason to celebrate.

After the anti-DOMA ruling was issued by the Supreme Court last year, gay rights advocates in Pennsylvania immediately went to work. In less than a year since that ruling, no fewer than seven lawsuits have been launched against the state at various levels, for various reasons, contesting some or all of various anti-gay laws. So far, all but one of those is pending. Today, Whitewood v. Wolf, a case lodged in federal court that sought regonition of out-of-state gay marriages and marriage equality for Pennsylvania’s LGBT community, was decided.

The judge, who notably was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002 and recommended by our then-Republican senator (who we later voted out by a record-setting margin just four years later), sided with the gay community and stood for equality. In his ruling, Judge John Jones III writes:

Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. […] Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’

In future generations the label ‘same-sex marriage’ will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by ‘marriage.’ We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

Clearly, I could not agree more. It’s slightly less embarrassing to live in Pennsylvania today, which has long been more progressive than this law would indicate. There’s always a chance of appeal, but I hope that calmer, more rational, more egalitarian heads will prevail. I await eagerly the day that K and I’s marriage license, which will be obtained from neighboring New Jersey in 2016, is fully and equally recognized under the law in Pennsylvania. I imagine — parade or not — that there will be no bigger feeling of (gay) pride than that.

UPDATE: Governor Corbett has declined to petition for a stay or appeal of the ruling, making Pennsylvania officially the 19th state in the USA with marriage equality. This, in turn, creates a “solid northeast” where no state in the region outlaws same-sex marriage — just ten years after Massachusetts led the nation and become the first state to permit it. Incredible.

What a Letdown!

April 11th, 2014

Maybe I watch too much TV and too many movies, but I had expected my life to come to this moment where I proposed to the love my life and there were automatic fireworks, a national holiday, a ticker tape parade…alas, that didn’t happen. So, you know, my gayish tendency toward theatrics was a bit disappointed that the world didn’t appropriately prepare for the moment last weekend when I dragged Korey to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, dazzled him with a smartphone-based slideshow of our best moments and messages from the earliest days of our relationship, and followed it all with the BIG question.

Because he said yes! And that means there should at least have been a parade. I guess it’s true, what they say: If you want it done right, do it yourself.

So anyway, now we’re engaged. And that’s big and important and exciting. Our families are happy, our friends are planning the centerpieces at the wedding, and…ok, our cats don’t care. But I can pretend they do. We’re not planning on actually tying the knot until 2016, so this will be roughly a two-year engagement. Gives us plenty of time to plan and whatnot.

I’m not actually sure where this blog post is going, other than to announce this news officially to the four eskimos who read my blog during the warm season. But I’ve always shared the big milestones with this blog, for nearly 15 years now, and it felt imperative to keep with tradition this time as well. Keep an eye here for more details, as well as our official wedding site. And I promise not to make every new post here about the wedding for the next two years. But some will be. So deal with it.

My Out-of-Delaware Demand

July 20th, 2013

When Korey was looking for jobs in Pennsylvania, I had one requirement above and beyond the Philadelphia-centric geography. No matter the job that eventually, inevitably ended up hiring him, we had to make sure that we lived near a SEPTA regional rail or a PATCO station. As in, close enough for a brisk walk or a sub-5-minute drive. On the cusp of our move to Wayne, Pennsylvania, we’re posed to do just that. Maybe I sound spoiled or demanding, but there are actually a few major reasons that this requirement was central to our relocation.

1. Certainty of Transit-Related Expenditures

It sounds fancy, but it isn’t. Living next to a SEPTA regional rail station means that a trip into the city costs the same amount each and every time. SEPTA raises fares only every three years, and those increases are often between 25 cents and a few dollars. Gas, on the other hand, increases and decreases almost every day. It’s not uncommon for gas to go up by a dollar or more over the course of a few days or a few weeks. This uncertainty takes a major toll on financial planning and recreational pursuits.

2. Easier Commuting into the City

Wayne is centrally located for vehicular transit, with nearby on-ramps for the Schuylkill Expressway, the Blue Route, US-422, and US-202. The one thing that brings these disparate highways together? Congestion hell, spurred by the large and growing nature of Greater Philadelphia. Guess which mode of transit doesn’t get stuck in the left lane, signal on, unable to merge, unable to take the next exit? Rapid transit. SEPTA regional rail. From Wayne to Suburban Station in Center City, the trip averages just 28 minutes. Every single time. And the train shows up at the same time every day.

3. I Actually Care About the Earth

Sure, my parents and gradparents might not be exceedingly concerned about the planet. After all, the worst-case global warming scenarios probably won’t involve them. I, however, plan to be 125 years old when I die along the Pennsylvania coastline. Yes, the Pennsylvania coastline. It’s gonna happen. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take the train, significantly reduce my carbon footprint, and shave a few millimeters off that sea level rise.

4. Unplanned-For Conveniences

The train that stops right by our future apartment also runs right to Downingtown, dropping passengers off less than a mile from the town’s public schools. This actually allows Korey to “reverse commute” to work via train if he so chooses, especially during inclement weather or if gas prices go through the roof for some reason. Furthermore, this same train line can take me right home, and it enables my family and central PA friends to visit without accommodating the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s quirks. Win, win, win.

Departure Announcement: So Long, Delaware

June 14th, 2013

For the past two years, K and I have resided in the state of Delaware. The state variously bills itself as a “small wonder” and the “first state.” The road signs that greet visitors along Delaware’s borders note that “it’s good being first.” The problem, though, is that for the past two years Korey and I have felt that Delaware was not the first, but more the last, place that we wanted to live for a prolonged period of time.

We were both raised in neighboring Pennsylvania, a large, influential, and wealthy state with large urban centers and forward-thinking residents. It was only after we moved to Delaware that we realized this “small wonder” was indeed quite small, but not quite as wonderful as the tourism slogans would have most people believe. We were greeted with small-minded, anti-gay behavior within our first few months here. The math curriculum taught by my significant other gave him fits and virtually prohibited him from using his most impressive educational talents.

On top of it all, my pursuit of a marketing position was hampered by the relatively small size of Delaware and the large commuting distance between this city and Wilmington, in the northern part of the state. The distance between ourselves and our friends made for some very boring times on occasion, and we realized that our interests would best be served by relocating back to the Keystone State that allowed us to become the “arrogant” “snobs” that so many people here perceive us to be.

For the past several months, K has been applying for teaching positions in southeastern Pennsylvania and I have been making the preparations needed to relocate my business back to our native part of the country. It is with a great deal of pride that I can announce K’s hiring at Downingtown School District. We will be departing Delaware in August to be closer to our friends, our families, and our professional goals.

Delaware was never seen as a long-term option for either of us, but our departure from this “first state” is sooner than originally planned. Even so, it’s an exciting time for us both and we can’t wait to settle into our new home in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Embracing the Unthinkable

February 27th, 2013

K and I differ in a number of pretty significant ways, but we are united on at least one front: Both of us set our sights on things outside the borders of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, determined that grass would be greener on the other side of the state line. I fled to North Carolina where, despite their recent gay-hating legislation, I was supremely happy. Numerous factors sent me home, however, and I spent the next near-decade in the Philadelphia region.

K was determined to get out of Pennsylvania following his graduation from Kutztown University, largely in pursuit of a more liberating, more enoyable career in a place that was more tolerant and a bit more relaxed than Pennsylvania has a reputation for being. He was happy until he got to know his destination: Delaware. I moved to Delaware in pursuit of, well, him. And lower tax rates on my self-owned business. Our misery here has at least been shared.

Pennsylvania, Is it You We’re Looking For?

Neither K nor myself underestimates our value to society, and we can both tend toward the arrogant end of the self-confidence spectrum. We came to Delaware believing that it would help us better ourselves. It did not. We spent the next several months believing that we could at least help to better Delaware. We could not. In the past few weeks, we’ve embraced the idea of moving back to our native Commonwealth for a permanent living arrangement.

It is perhaps true that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, or that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. In our case, Delaware didn’t even have grass. It had mud. And sand. While it saves on effort to have mud in lieu of grass, it does also save on happiness and contentment.

It has been our experience here that the education system is systemically bad. People here are “knowledge poor” in all too many cases. They’re also literally poor, which is not some kind of classist rant against low-income individuals as much as it is an acknowledgement that Delaware is not Pennsylvania’s Connecticut like we initially thought it was. We live in a neighborhood and apartment complex that reminds me of the worst of North Philadelphia — all without the great amenities afforded by that wondrous city.

The Announcement: Our Return May Be Imminent

For the past several weeks, I’ve been helping K locate jobs in his field in Pennsylvania, generally within the city of Philadelphia and the western suburbs. This process will be ongoing until success is achieved and, when it is, we will be moving as quickly as possible.

When we moved out of PA, both of us thought that we were headed not just for good things, but for much better things. In this case, we were both quite mistaken. There are many states that do business better than does Pennsylvania. There are liberal bastions where we’d love to live, and high-paying metropolises that we would love to explore. Practically, though, Pennsylvania is urban, rich, close to our families, and values education and success in ways that Delaware, for us, has not.

We’re doing the unthinkable. We’re admitting that, hey, the Keystone State isn’t so bad after all. Who the hell knew?

Philly Christmas Favorites

December 6th, 2012

With the holiday season now firmly in full swing, I thought I’d put together a new post that summarizes why December is my favorite non-summer time of year in Philadelphia. For the holidays, the City of Brotherly Love pulls out all the stops and is a really great destination for everyone in the northeast corridor. From Rittenhouse to LOVE Park and beyond, there are lots of great, exciting things in my city this time of year.

1. The Christmas Village

The Christmas Village, now located in LOVE Park, originated a few years ago on Dilworth Plaza, just outside City Hall. Its location has moved due to construction, but its size has only grown since its inception. The village is modeled after the Christkindlmarkt that spring up throughout Germany during the month of December, and it features German-themed foods, handcrafted ornaments, and goods from around the world.

The most unique gifts in the city surely originate here, as do many pictures with the giant macaroni noodle, the LOVE statue, the giant Philadelphia Christmas tree, and even Santa Claus.

2. The Macy’s Holiday Light Show

It made its debut midway through the 20th century and remains the most iconic Philadelphia holiday celebration today. The Macy’s light show features the narration of Julie Andrews and the musical stylings of the world’s largest pipe organ in Philly’s center city Macy’s store. It’s one of the classiest retail experiences in the world, and the unique characters and shapes illuminated during the show are a fun, retro, and cheesy way to celebrate the season.

3. The Comcast Holiday Spectacular

First shown in 2009, the Comcast Holiday Spectacular takes place on the world’s largest LED-illuminated high definition television screen in the Comcast Center’s lobby. The show features the Pennsylvania Ballet performing the nutcracker, as well as a computer-generated flight through the countryside and through the Philadelphia streets amid the skyline. It’s full of music, quirky humor, and high-def goodness, and it’s a stunning tribute to the Macy’s display.

4. The Holidays at Franklin Square

When I first moved to Philadelphia, Franklin Square was a run-down dump full of homeless people. It has since been remodeled into the premier tourist destination for visitors from around the world in all seasons. During Christmas, the park takes on a more local flair and features holiday-themed mini golf, free hot chocolate, visits from Santa, and rides on the grand carousel located in the park. Visitors can even make their own ornaments! It’s a great way to regress back to being 12 and celebrate Christmas with friends and family.

5. The Little Things

Of course, some of the attractions are much less significant. South Broad Street is illuminated in a colorful LED light show that gives the 200-year-old facades along the street a dash of holiday cheer. The Philadelphia Museum of Art puts its own Christmas tree up, with a dazzling view of the skyline in the distance. 30th Street Station unveils its huge Christmas tree and garland. Corner coffee shops start selling peppermint mochas. People bundle up in peacoats and scarves. The shopping bags of Walnut street are red, white, green, and holiday-themed. Rittenhouse has a tree-lighting with free cookies, beverages, and carols. A giant parade welcomes Santa to town.

If you’re going to celebrate the holidays, make sure Philadelphia is near the top of your list of destinations. It’s always at the top of mine, even with New York just a short distance away. Philadelphia, please!