Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Michael Vick? may have served his debt, but an award for courage? hell no!

You see this girl? She used to work security for a drug house in Baltimore. When the house got busted, she was taken to the city shelter where she lived for three months, then a lovely woman took her home and fostered her. Now she lives with me. Her name is Bella Jane.

And when she came home she was fucked up. She shook all the time. She didn't know that standing on the dining room table was inappropriate behavior. She shied if I stamped my feet. She got aggressive if I yelled. And she cuddled like she was starved.

That was a bit more than a year ago. Now she has learned a lot and taught me and S more. She only shakes some of the time. She's been through two obedience classes and private training. She plays well with some dogs. Not well with others. I never yell at her. And she loves us madly.

She's a pit bull (as are the other two dogs that live with me). A pit bull that had been abused, neglected, encouraged to be aggressive, but never fought. And she was a mess.

I have a soft spot for pit bulls.

Which means I have a deep well of rage for people that torture and fight them.

Michael Vick, a QB for the Philadelphia Eagles, served 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring. A ring in which he personally, with his bare hands, strangled at least one dog. Others were tortured, many were killed in other non-medical ways.

He's a reasonably talented football player, so as soon as he finished serving his sentence, he was signed by the Eagles. He has since apologized for his choices and is working with the Humane Society to educate young people about the horrors of dog fighting.

Personally, I don't believe his remorse for a second. He's sorry he got caught. he;s sorry he went to jail. But really sorry for what he did? Judge for yourself:

The Eagles players chose Michael Vick to receive the annual Ed Block Courage Awared. Because apparently they believe that he:
symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication. He is also a community role model. With this honor, he enters into an association which contrasts his fierce profession by becoming a major component of the Courage House National Support Network for Kids. He becomes an Ambassador of Courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect.


The man electrocuted and beat dogs to death. He perpetrated abuse, violence and neglect of animals. Not once or twice. But repeatedly. For years.

And he is now a role model for children?

18 months in prison didn't erase what he did. Or what kind of person he had to be to beat an animal to death.

Perhaps he has learned from his past. Perhaps his heart is in the right place now. It's possible. But rewarding him as a role model less than a year after prison? It's absurd and deeply offensive. People who break the law and get caught go to prison. They don't deserve an award for serving their time. People who have public personas who've done something horrible sometimes do things in public to try and rehabilitate themselves. If Mr. Vick is still on the straight and narrow in a few years, and still volunteering his time with the humane society, if his rehabilitation stands the test of time, if it's truely heartfelt, if he's really a man that has come out the other side a great person, reward him then. But now? No.

It's a slap in the face to all people who really have gone through difficult times. To the people who have made poor choices and manged to learn from their errors and create good.

And it sets a terrible example.

So what can you do about it? Well, I have some suggestions.

First, read what the foundation has to say (I'll withhold my hyperbole).

What the Ed Block Foundation has to say about Michael Vick

Then, if you want to contact the foundation and let them know what you think, send an email to:

Sam Lamantia Jr., CEO/Chairman of the Board sam@edblock.org

Want more? Contact the foundation's funders:

Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Rachel Garbow Monroe, Chief Operating Officer
Phone: 410-654-8500, ext. 220
Email: rmonroe@hjweinberg.org

Want still more? Support the folks who are taking care of the dogs Michael Vick hurt.

The most traumatized are living at an amazing place called Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, in a place called Pittie City. They are calling them the Vicktory Dogs.

Thanks to Colten for the pic of Bella.

Thanks to Lauren from B-More Charming School For Dogs for all of her work with us over the past year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Last Friday: or in which i prove once again that someone should follow me with a video camera

How was your Friday?

Oh, was someone asking me that?

Because last Friday pretty much sucked. I mean it could have be worse. I've definitely had worse. But, let's just say it could be better.

That's Minnesotan for, "RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!!"

It started Thursday.

I work from home on Thursdays. This is supposed to ensure that I get all that pesky paper work done. Uh huh. It does usually mean the web site gets updated and email gets answered. But I also have yoga on Thursdays, so I left the house (this was the mistake), went to yoga, went to the store, ordered some stuff, and went back home. I was gone for, oh, about 3.5 hours. Not much time, right?

When I opened the door, fresh with plans to eat my burrito, get started on some long postponed stuff and meet with the guy about our roof, only to be confronted with a smell that could kill small children.

Amazingly enough, it was not poo. It was puke. Really pungeunt puke. Zach had vomitted all over his kennel, and worn a bare patch on his nose in a futile attempt to bury the extremely odifereous stuff in his blanket. Poor guy.

He then proceeded to vomit about every ten minutes.

I would like you to know that I still managed to eat my burrito. In between cleaning the most awful puke I've ever encountered and calling the vet. The little guy was getting dehydrated.

In the mean time, helicopters were circling overhead. When the roof guy showed up he said streets were closed everywhere. I wondered about that for a minute, looked at the roof with the roof guy, threw Zach in the car and ran off to the vet.

IV fluids and a shot later we were back home and he was doing better. And the puking had miraculously stopped.

So, the rest of the evening was spent keeping a close eye on Puke Boy, and withholding food from both him and Piper. The vet's best guess was that we were dealing with doggie stomach flu. Bella had been sick earlier in the week, so it made sense to me that Piper was next.

It was around then, that I heard that a blizzard was expected. For Saturday. You know, the biggest retail shopping day of the year? Yep. That day. I grumbled and stomped and fed myself some wine. And went to bed.

Piper woke up puking in the middle of the night. But, she had nothing to throw up. Put one in the win column for the Jones/Z household! Good catch.

We were up early, cooking rice, baking chicken, walking dogs, tidying the house and retrieving the snow shovel from the garage. When I got an idea in my head. This should have been accompanied with blinking lights and sirens.

In our back yard we have a sweet little fountain. S and I had been meaning to dump it out and wrestle it into the garage, but she's been working out of town and we just hadn't gotten to it on one of her weekends home. She was coming home, but she had contracted the creeping crud and was coughing up small children and I knew she was going to think she needed to tackle the fountain before the blizzard. I decided to cut this off at the pass. I would take care of it before she got home!

So there I was in the back yard, wearing flannel sock monkey pajamas, red shiny shoes, a black parka and one of those fleece Raven's hats that always kind of look elvin and pointy no matter what. With a pick ax. There was some ice in the damn thing and I needed to get it out before I flipped the base over.

I pick axed out the ice, everything was going well, removed the main part of the fountain, and crouched down to lift and dump. The base of the fountain is heavy as shit. I'm reasonably strong, but it was extra heavy because of the ice. I got it mostly dumped. Then I decided to go for the flip. Just a little bit more umph would do it. And I'd be the best partner EVER. So I pushed with my legs.

And my red shiny shoes slipped on the frost. I dropped the fountain and landed in it. On my face, my nose making direct, hard contact with the pokey end of the fountain pump.

Then I was sitting in a lump of sock monkey pajamas sobbing with blood running out my nose. And all I was thinking was, "God damnit, my nose was already big enough!" Followed by a lot of feeling sorry for myself. And stupid. So I hiccupped and shuffled my way into the house, where Zach stared at me with that special, slightly bug eyed pit bull stare as I put the leftover frozen corn on my face and tried to arrange the corn so that I could watch the soothing patter of a West Wing re-run.

A bit later after I had showered, and reassured myself that my nose had not acquired a new direction, I took off to work, with both Piper and Zach in the car (see aforementioned puke fest). I shortly discovered that Zach was not ready to work in the store yet. Too much happening that scared him, so, after spending enough puke free time in the car that i was reasonably certain he wasn't going to repeat the previous day's kennel experience, back home he went.

By then I was a bit tired.

And overwhelmed.

And sore.

But we had some really lovely customers. And sold a lot of stuff.

I ended the day with a 9:15 pm trip to the grocery store for blizzard provisions.

And settled in with S for a long winter's night.

The black eyes were very, very minor by the way. More a suggestion of black eyes. S decided it was fun to call me Rickey.

She was right. That was fun. But I don't think I'm going to miss them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

in which i talk about sex at Morgan State

Last night I went to Morgan State and did a Hot Safer Sex class with the Rainbow Soul (Morgan's Gay/Straight Alliance).

It was a blast.

So I get there, check in with the woman who was organizing the event, set out my stuff and wait for folks to show up. People came in, laughing and greeting people, taking seats in a huge circle.

When I teach Hot Safer Sex, one thing I always take into account is the audience I'm addressing. Young people in Northern Virginia need to hear slightly different statistics than folks in Baltimore City. And young people at one of Baltimore's two Historically Black Colleges need to hear slightly different statistics than people at an event for white women over 40 in Roland Park.

Because 2/3rds of diagnosed sexually transmitted infections occur in people under 25.

And people who are African American in Maryland are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. 82% of AIDS cases and 75% of HIV cases in Maryland occur in people that are African American. Only 29% of people in Maryland are African American, a huge disparity.

Although the leading cause of HIV transmission in MD is heterosexual intercourse, a 2004 study found that in Baltimore City, among men who have sex with men, 40 % were positive for HIV. Most of them were unaware of their infection. This study tested men who were congregating at or around gay clubs and/or events, so the number likely excludes some of the lower risk men who have sex with men, but it certainly indicates that we have a significant problem.

No matter how you cut it, we have a crisis in this city. Baltimore is fourth in the nation in per capita AIDS cases. Just down the road is Washington, DC. With the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country at around 3% of the population.

What group that is seeing steady increases in numbers of new cases of HIV in Baltimore? It's people under 29. In fact the number of new HIV diagnoses doubled from 2001 to 2007.

This doesn't take into account other sexually transmitted infections. Which are more common, and contracted in the same ways - unprotected sexual contact.

All of these facts were weighing heavily on my mind when I walked into that room. Here was a group of young, smart African American people who were willing to listen while I talked about safer sex. And I had to do it in a way that they could hear.

It's that last part that's challenging.

Usually safer sex ed focuses on the scary numbers, or on frightening pictures of worst case presentations of disease. Frankly, those scary pictures hurt more than they help. If someone has a lesion on their stuff, they may not worry about it until it starts to look like that scary picture. And let me tell you. I've seen a lot of genital warts. They rarely look like those pictures. Second of all, scare tactics instill a fear of sex, not respect. Fear works. For a while. Until it doesn't. And the precautions go by the wayside.

Because at some point the extremity of fear based education doesn't ring true in our lives. No one talks about it when they get diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, so it feels like it doesn't happen in our peer group. And HIV? It is, after all, one of the least common sexually transmitted infection in the US. It's easy to think you don't know anyone with HIV. Or that something scary and deadly isn't going to happen to you. Those things happen to other people. Until it does happen to you.

I walk a very careful line between talking about the hard cold facts, normalizing the facts (seriously - the common cold? that's the most common sexually transmitted infection), and offering means of prevention that are accessible and sexy. Condoms, dental dams, gloves, vibrators.

Yep. Vibrators. Just because sex is safe doesn't mean it can't be sexy. If you use a vibrator on your partner, and that vibrator belongs to them and only them, there's no exchange of body fluid. You just had hot safer sex.

Or strap ons. Talk about safer sex! Use a silicone dildo (or metal or glass - materials that are body safe and won't absorb bacteria or virus). It's sanitizable, it's sexy, it's durable. Use a harness you can actually wash. Once again, smoking hot safer sex.

Or a butt plug that you insert in your partner, after massaging their ass, gently using lube while wearing a nitrile glove. That glove? Not only does it protect your hand from exposure to disease, but it protects your partner's ass from exposure to scratchy skin or hang nails. After you remove the glove, you can safely touch yourself.

Or how you talk about using protection. "It's cause I care about you, unless we've been monogamous for six months, we need to protect each other". Caring protection. That's hot.

So we talked. At first I depressed them a little bit. Because some of the numbers are scary. And we had fun talking about sex toys and safety.

They asked really good questions. We laughed. I think they might have learned something. I hope that they learned that sex is whole. It is hot and dangerous and earth shattering and boring and fascinating and delightful. When we treat sex and our bodies in a manner that is risk aware and respectful sex becomes more fun, more fulfilling and ultimately safer.

Happy World AIDS Day.

Get tested. Know your status. And celebrate the hot opportunities in safer sex. You're only bound by your own creativity!

Blessings to those of you who've dared to be out about your battles with HIV and AIDS. You've changed my life.