Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tidings of comfort & Glee

The producers of Glee have evidently gone global with the show:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bravery, your name is Ruth.

Same Sex Marriage went down to defeat in the New York Senate this evening. Not before one one Senator made the bravest, most moral speeches I've ever heard.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shadows & Relections

One year ago today, I married the man of my dreams. Reflecting back on it, I'd do it all over again, only sooner. Twenty years was too long to wait for this day. Friends and family from all over the country joined us as we celebrated our commitment to each other.

It's one year on, Steve & I love you more each day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who's got a gay face?

I ask you, who's got the gay face?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Megan's Christening

Megan's Christening 047
Originally uploaded by jimskater
It's done. Megan Samantha Gallagher has been baptized.

The proud god-fodders were there, as was my camera. I can't guarantee the quality of the pix, but I've thrown all 81 photos up into a set on my flickr account

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Go Barney!

Are you as sick of the "uproar" over health care going on at town hall meetings as I am? Tonight, an Obama = Hitler anti-health care wingnut got on Barney Frank's last nerve with this result:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How gay am I?

This gay:

I just discovered Glee. I can't wait for it to start airing next month. I'm even willing to watch Fox to see this. Best of all? Jane Lynch is in it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cold comfort

That's what I'm feeling. Prop 8 is valid in the eyes of the law, but the 18,000 couples who got married between June & November are still legally married. Does anyone else see the contradiction there?

"At least I've got mine" is cold, cruel comfort.

Back from England

The title should take you to some of my pics over on facebook.

Meanwhile, your erstwhile & intrepid reporter got himself smuggled into a restricted area of the Silverstone race course, and managed to get about 2 minutes of video of the last lap of the MINI Challenge race. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't have audio capabilities.

I had an amazing time catching up with the English & Irish crews. Special thanks go out to Sham for hosting me for the few days prior to MINI United and the Manchester United stadium tour.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Off to England

Apologies for the absence. Steve had shoulder surgery a few weeks back, and it's kept him from using his right arm, so I've been a little busy.

Meanwhile, I'm off to old Blighty tomorrow for MINI United, a gathering of MINI fans from around the world. Click the title to see more. There have been two of these festivals before, but this one is special because it celebrates the 50th anniversary of MINI, in the home of the Mini.

Meanwhile, the travel frustration mounts. My trip tomorrow will be my 4th time traveling outside of the US.

  • In 1996, I traveled to Germany with no problem. I presented my luggage, passport, ticket & driver's license and was sent on my way.
  • In 2005, I traveled to Ireland. Outbound, I had trouble getting a boarding pass. On the return, the same problem. I had to go through an extra level of security check. Both times, the res agent's eyes got big & a supervisor was summoned, in order to verify that it's safe to allow me on the plane.
  • In 2007, I traveled to Ireland and the UK. Once again, on both the outbound and return legs, I had to go through the "OMG his name is on a list" routine. Traveling between the UK & Ireland, I had no problem.
  • My father, who shares my first and last name (or do I share his? ), has gone through the same hassles. Since his retirement. my Dad is now able to travel, and he's had delays getting on three or four different cruise ships and a flight to Turkey. This includes his most recent cruise (three weeks ago) from Florida, through the Panama Canal, and back to San Francisco, where my parents live. Note: my mother has never had any problems.
  • This morning, I attempted to print my boarding pass for my flight to the UK tomorrow. Continental Airlines even sent me an e-mail reminder to do so. I dutifully entered my passport information, number of bags, etc. and was informed that Continental is unable to print my boarding passes, and that I would have to go through the check-in procedures tomorrow.
Evidently, my father & I share a name with someone on a watch list somewhere. Both of us have had issues getting on domestic flights, as well.

Just to make it clear to everyone over at TSA: I am not a danger to my fellow passengers. Nor is my 73 year old father.

Thank you.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Improv Everywhere Style

Via joemygod, Improv Everywhere style dance fest filmed in the Antwerp train station. Evidently it was produced by a Belgian TV channel.

Watch it. It's priceless.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's real

I'm home from work today, with either a reaction to a medication or man-flu. Temp of 102 last night, nausea, aches, gastro-intestinal upset (at both ends, no less).

Maybe I'm sharing too much.

Anyway, Stacey from Steve's doctor's office just called. I went looking for him, having forgotten he'd gone across the street to talk with one of the neighbors.

"Just a second, let me see if I can find him."

I looked the house and out into the back yard, then asked Mom if she'd seen Steve. No luck. I asked Stacey why she was calling, she responded with "Who am I speaking to?"

"His husband," I replied.

"Is this James? I can leave the message with you. Tell Steve his prescription has been phoned in."

Sometimes it's the little things that tell you it's real.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And now Vermont

One step at a time, baby. One step at a time.

The Vermont House Debate & Vote can be seen here.

Now let's hope the California Supreme Court is paying attention.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa, where rights are protected and maintained

Iowa's Supreme Court released their unanimous ruling in the Varnum v Brien case this morning. Repeat: this was a unanimous decision. Iowans seem to be possessed of an uncommon amount of common sense.

The Court held that Iowa's statute banning same sex marriages violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Iowa State Constitution. The court further ordered that all marriage legislation in Iowa must be interpreted to allow and include same sex married couples. Beginning in 21 days, barring a re-hearing motion, Iowa will allow same sex marriages to take place. See the video below to understand why it'll be at least two years before this can be overturned via a constitutional amendment, a la Prop 8. Iowa, like California, doesn't require residency for marriage.

The opinion can be found here. Evidently some 350,000 people tried to access the Iowa Court's server this morning as the decision was about to be released, causing the server to crash. It's back up now.

What a good way to start a morning.

A message from Iowa State Senator Matt McCoy:

Unfortunately, other than public opinion, I don't think the Iowa case will have any affect on the forthcoming Prop 8 decision. Varnum v Brien is analogous to the Prop 22 cases that led to the In re Marriages decision--both dealt with statutory provisions, rather than the constitutional nature of Prop 8.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Going away ...

Heading to Las Vegas tomorrow for A MINI Vacation in Vegas

I'm at the 4:13 mark in the video in the GP, my sister is in her convertible two cars behind me.

I've been to 4 of these, this will be my fifth.

400 or so Minis & MINIs, terrorizing the streets and inhabitants of Vegas.

Friday night we'll all be on the strip.

Epic coolness.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fred's First Pictures

This is Fred. He came home with me last night, so I took him out for some pictures today.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Laying a "Whoopsie" on their asses

On the eve of the Prop 8 court hearings, a New York Times op-ed offered a compromise that would grant relationship rights to gays and lesbians via Federal recognition of civil unions, while carving out a state by state religious exemption that reserves the term marriage to heterosexual relationships unless the state provides a religious exemption that explicitly protects churches from having to recognize gay marriage.

This quote, I think, is a key part of the article:

Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

Earlier this week a group of lawyers stood in front of seven judges debating whether 18,000 same sex marriages, including my own, will continue to exist as legal entities. As a result, I'm not in much of compromising mood. I think I've made it clear how important getting married has been to me.

Had this compromise been on the table prior to Prop 8 hitting the ballot, I'd probably have been amenable to it. Especially if all states would have been providing at least a basic level of same sex relationship protections. Then I look back on the Prop 8 campaign & wonder, who do I trust? The folks that flat out lied about my life and the lives of thousands of people like me, just to make a political point?

I'm tempted to say go ahead, carve out the religious exemption.

Then take away all governmental funding of religious/faith based programs. Emergency assistance, alcohol & drug programs, pre-school/headstart, etc.

That's the compromise. Churches get to discriminate, but they don't get another damn dime of governmental money. I'll even support letting the churches maintain their tax exemptions for their sanctuaries. But no more tax breaks for commercial activities. No more tax exempt 700 Club, CBN, syndicated radio shows, christian amusement parks, etc.

Because, otherwise, the "religious exemption" folks aren't compromising--that particular exemption already exists in the constitution. A compromise means both sides give up something.
In my calmer moments, I know that what I propose as a compromise is not that at all. Then I reflect on the fate of the proposed relationship protections recently dismissed out of hand by the Utah legislature and realize that in some cases, even a religious exemption isn't going to guarantee that gay and lesbian families receive the most basic of civil protections. Ultimately, however, removing those tax exemptions and federal dollars will do more harm than good. Too many people would lose assistance that is provided via religious organizations that allows them to get by on a day by day basis.

When asked if a fundamental inalienable right like free speech could be voted away by a simple majority of Californians, Ken Starr said today that the voters have that right. He went further to say that the court wouldn't and shouldn't be able to do anything about it. Ken Starr is lead counsel for the pro-Prop 8 side, dean of a law school and a supposed constitutional scholar, and we're supposed to accept his judgment that fundamental constitutional rights can be tossed aside by the whim of a slim majority? That's errant arrogance of the highest order (or as my father refers to it, bull****). Despite protestations to the contrary, the people Ken Starr is representing would like nothing more than to see all ss relationship protections and rights removed, e.g. the fate of the Utah bills.

I find myself in a position where my basic rights as a citizen of this country are negotiable. At this moment, I'm left with nothing but spite. People ask "At what cost should we provide marriage rights to gays and lesbians?" and right now I can only reply, not at the cost of my rights. Maybe I'll mellow after a couple more day's worth of distance from the court arguments.

I'm disappointed to see that Jerry Brown bailed on the oral arguments, and sent up his bumbling assistant to make the state's case to overturn Prop 8. It's like sending Barney Fife in to resolve the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. Damn it, if you're going to propose a precedent setting reading of the constitution, get your A-team ass in there to defend the proposal.

Meanwhile, I can't help but lose sleep over this. Until DOMA and Baker v. Nelson are overturned, federal recognition of my marriage is extremely unlikely. I'm not too optimistic about Prop 8 being overturned in the next sixty or ninety days, either. The first attempts at gay marriage took place at least 39 years ago, as demonstrated by Baker v. Nelson. I can't wait that long for full marriage rights on both the federal and state level, I may not be here 39 years from now. I'd be 85 years old, Steve would be 88. How many 88 year old diabetics do you know?

The court might uphold both the existing marriages and the validity of Prop 8. It just seems so nonsensical and self-contradictory. Maybe it's selfish. We didn't want to be marked out for special treatment, we just wanted to get married. Now, if existing gay marriages are upheld and future gay marriages are barred, we're going to be treated differently under state law than 99% of the rest of the gay community.

"Well, at least I got mine" is not a very pleasant or satisfying emotion.

I'm feeling depressed and anxious, and I don't like it. Nor am I looking forward to the rage I know I will feel if my marriage gets tossed by the court. My respect for the rule of law and the constitutional process only adds to the confusing welter of thoughts, feelings and emotions that are running through me right now.

But what if the judges throw out Prop 8 in its entirety? Wouldn't we be paying a steep a price to ensure marriage rights for gay couples? Judicial tyranny would be overriding the constitutionally valid will of the people. I realize that isn't a price I'm willing to pay. Amending the constitution in California is ridiculously easy. I didn't know how easy until the Chief Justice explained that the California Constitution had been amended 550+ times (a little research indicates that that number is since 1911). During the oral arguments, the justices noted that]Initiative amendments are a derived legislative power. I feel that Prop 8 is an example of that power having been abused, but I also respect that the justices must follow the constitution as it is written. So I see exactly why Prop 8 will most likely be upheld as a valid amendment. I may not like that decision, but I will respect it.

On the other hand, there's more than a little irony in the fact that 18,000 same-sex marriages will most likely remain valid because Prop 8 was written so ambiguously. At the time I got married, same sex marriage was legal. Same sex marriage was allowed in California, because the court overturned Prop 22 as a statutory provision, rather than a constitutional provision. That's well within the purview of the court. With the passage of Prop 8, a constitutional bar to same sex marriage now exists. This means that the court must follow the constitution as it is written. Now we're in a situation where new same sex marriages won't be legal, but those performed prior to Nov 4th 2008 will most likely retain their validity. This bizarre situation arises because Prop 8 is fuzzily written.

These fourteen words are the entire text of Prop 8:

"Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

It seems pretty clear, doesn't it? Only heterosexual marriage is to be allowed in California. Yet one of the questions the court considered this week is whether existing gay marriages will continue to be valid. This questions arises because the court made same sex marriage legal in California last May. 18,000 odd couples counted upon the courts decision to get legally married. One interpretation of Prop 8 could be that these marriages are no longer valid. However there is a significant amount of case law that holds that in order to be retroactive, an amendment to the California constitution must clearly demonstrate that retroactivity. The court seems to be leaning towards concluding that Prop 8 did not have a retroactive component, therefore the existing marriages must remain valid.

Here's one way Prop 8 could have been written to meet the retroactivity test:

"Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California, including those performed prior to the passage of this amendment."


"Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California, regardless of when or where performed."

I'm firmly convinced that Prop 8 was fuzzily written because the writers felt that clearly retroactive language wouldn't be supported by California voters. So the writers settled for preventing future same sex marriages. The method may seem underhanded, but it's legally valid. More importantly, it's constitutionally valid. So we're left with the situation where the future exercise of a legitimately judicially declared liberty/equal access right of a protected class has been removed by a slim majority of California citizens. That the majority was driven by an ineffective anti-Prop 8 campaign and an effective, but demonstrably deceitful, pro-Prop 8 campaign only adds salt to the wound. The slim majority issue can be fixed in the future by changing the CA constitution to require a super majority (60, 66 or 75%) to pass an amendment. This is already being done in regards to certain tax increases. Why not have the same requirement for all amendments? Granted, I hope that change doesn't happen until after Prop 8 is repealed--but before a replacement anti-same sex marriage initiative can be placed on the ballot.

Meanwhile, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of out of state couples who came to get married in California. Their marriages are going to remain legally valid in California, too.
The writers of Prop 8 have made a fatal mistake with their fuzzy writing by going for the short term gain of blocking most recognition of gay marriages in California. That's where we've got 'em. The gay community is going to be able to clutch our collective beads to our breasts and we're gonna lay a "whoopsie" on their asses. It's going to take a while, but it's going to be worth it.

nevitably, some of those legally married non-Californian couples are going to be suing in their home states for legal recognition of their married status. As a result, DOMA is going down in the next four or eight years, whether or not President Obama and the Congress get around to repealing it; Baker v. Nelson will go down with it. Federal recognition will come, and will be preceded by the reversal of Prop 8 by Californa voters.

Prop 8 is an attempt to force gay marriage back into the closet. But the writers of Prop 8 have left the closet door just that little bit open. That door will eventually get kicked off it's hinges, probably by a fierce queen in a pair of amazing sequined pumps. Or maybe by a lipstick lesbian who dons a pair of doc martens just for the occassion. More likely, it'll be the average gay folks who do it: we're done waiting and are taking action, and we're determined to be the ones who lay a big old gay "Whoopsie" on the asses of Messrs. Pugno, Starr & Dobson, et al.

Edward Everett Horton and Franklin Pangborn, wherever they are, are going to be so proud of us.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Two Days

The California Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on the Prop 8 cases this Thursday at 9:00 am. If your local cable provider carries the California Channel, you can watch it live on Cox Channel 23 in South San Diego County, Cox Channel 18 in North County. It's also going to be webcast on the California Channel, but expect that to be very busy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A question

Over on the political board I haunt, I was asked a question:

"May I ask if instead of marriage you decided to live together under a civil contract if you could feel the same way and if not why?"

I wasn't quite sure how to answer. So I started writing, this is what came out.

Steven & I lived as "ummers" for a dozen years before we registered as domestic partners. (As in, let me introduce you to my um, er...) Eight years after that, we got married. So we've experienced both the civil contract and the civil ceremony. There's a world of difference between them. We registered as domestic partners just in case--just in case we needed to put Steven on my insurance, or needed to go to the hospital. It was easy, we downloaded a form off of the internet, filled it out, had it notarized and mailed it off with a $10 check. Two weeks later, we received a copy of the form stamped "FILED." Bingo, we were now registered domestic partners.

We got married because we had to get married. I can't really explain it otherwise. It's what both of us were raised to do: you meet someone, you fall in love, you get married. We'd been together almost exactly 20 years when, suddenly, that option opened up for us. We were so ready to get married that we had half the ceremony planned and booked before we'd proposed to each other.

Each of us has a list of moments so special, they're forever engraved in our memories. These are a few of mine:

* I've written here about the moment when the Prop 22 court decision came down:

You hear of a court decision, and as you read it, tears fall down your face, unbidden. And you let out a cry from deep in your soul, so deep you don't know where that sound came from. You've never heard it before, it's a sound of joy, and sorrow that it's taken so long, and celebration, and the release of a pain, a burden you didn't know you were carrying.
That's what I mean by we had to get married.

* This is the complete text of my niece's maid of honor toast as I remember it:

"Uncle Steve & Uncle Jim. You've made my dreams come true. When I was five years old, I danced with my Uncle Jim at my Aunt Eileen's wedding. I remember promising myself that I would dance with my uncle at his wedding. And today I finally did. I love you both. Congratulations."

That's it. She sat down & I realized that if she had said another word, I'd have been a puddle.

* Two days after the court decision, I sat down in our living room with Steve and his mom and asked her for permission to marry her son. I've never heard the word "yes" spoken with more love, conviction and authority.

* I almost lost it when Steve & I exchanged our vows:

I, Steven Clair, take thee, James Michael, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto do I give thee my pledge.
* I did lose it when we exchanged rings:

Steven, I give you this ring in token of our marriage vows. From this moment forward, may it ever be a symbol of the unbroken bond of my love for you, given to you eternally. With this ring, I thee wed.
My hand shook so much, Steven had to hold it still so that I could place the ring on his finger. Those last six words slayed me. They are the words that meant everything. They meant that all that we'd been through and all that we have yet to endure had been and would be worth it.

Rereading the question, the key part seems to be "...if you could feel the same way." But that's a might big "if." A year ago, I might have settled for the civil contract, and probably not have known what I was missing. Six months ago, I might have wondered what I might be missing. Now, I won't settle for anything less than the whole enchilada. With chipotle sauce and sour cream on top.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Not that I'm superstitious or anything, but I'm staying away from ladders today.

Yesterday marked four months of marriage for Steve & I. Happy 1/3 Anniversary to us.

Yesterday, I also received a semi-official (via e-mail) invitation to a wedding in Belfast, N. Ireland at the end of May. I'm planning on going, in combination with a trip to England/Ireland for the 50th anniversary celebrations of Mini Coopers.

It's a car geek thing, you might not understand.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Woulda, shoulda, coulda

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Courage Campaign is getting it. Please sign the petition in the link.

Madonna getting buff?

From Sports Illustrated online:

In 2003, when he won the American League home run title and the AL Most Valuable Player award as a shortstop for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two anabolic steroids, four sources have independently told Sports Illustrated.

Madonna's gotten rather buff these days. I'm beginning to wonder how.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

They didn't do it

From an article re: the $83 MILLION spent on Prop 8:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put about $190,000 worth of in-kind donations toward passing the measure by providing paid staffers and other resources to Yes on 8 as well as subsidizing travel costs of church officials. The Mormon Church initially said that it had only spent $2,000 on the campaign.

Why am I not surprised?

So much for the "we didn't do it" defense pushed forward by the Mormon hierarchy.

We have a date

From the California Supreme Court Website:

The Supreme Court has announced that an oral argument will be held in the Prop. 8 cases on Thursday, March 5, 2009, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The court will issue a written opinion in the cases within 90 days of oral argument. To increase public access to the court session, the Supreme Court has designated the California Channel, a public affairs cable network, to provide a live TV broadcast of the session. See news release.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pat Buchanan love poem to Obama?

Now I'm not a big fan of Pat Buchanan, and I have a long memory. He gave one of the most hateful speeches of the modern era back at the 1992 Republican National Convention.

But... In an opinion piece entitled A Neo-Reaganite Inaugural?, Pat favorably reviews Obama's inaugural address, aligning some of Obama's calls to action with the ideals of Ronald Reagan and 1980's neo-conservatism.

So, is the Obama's progressivism a return to the conservatism of a generation ago?

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it's simply a call for common sense and common cause.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

And they're up...

The rest of the Prop 8 briefs.

Now to see which of them will enlighten, and which will just piss me off.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Amicus Briefs

No, they're not tighty-whities. Nor would you share them with a friend, unless he's an attorney or she's a constitutional law junkie.

The amicus curiae briefs have been filed in the Prop 8 cases. The usual suspects have weighed in on the throw it out side: Labor, Lawyers, the National Organization for Women, even the California Council of Churches. In their amicus briefs, the various groups weigh in on separation of powers; the difference between an amendment and a revision; and how Prop 8 unconstitutionally limits a fundamental right.

The weird stuff starts with the briefs filed in support of Prop 8. There are only two of them, and they're out in cloud cuckoo land. Michael J. McDermott goes off on a 20-odd page rant on the Supremely Privileged Homosexual class, the supremacy of XX & XY, and how radical lesbians are not only out to destroy the world, but are waging a personal vendetta against the minority of truly masculine men left in this world, with himself as their chief target. His diatribe is linked on the Supreme Court site as "Supporting Declaration in Support of Prop 8."

The second amicus brief in favor of Proposition 8 is entitled "The Church of the Messiah in Support of Prop 8" and was filed by "The Most Reverend Messiah" of Marina del Rey, California. This one's really out there and includes the use of sparkly-star fonts for the 40-odd biblical quotes from Corinthians, Leviticus, Romans and Proverbs that make up the Rev's "legal" justification for supporting Proposition 8.

The Council of Churches brief in opposition to Prop 8 is particularly interesting in that it makes the point that, for churches that perform or support gay marriage, Prop 8 unconstitutionally violates the religious freedom rights of those churches. The Council also points out that if marriage rights can be swept away by a simple majority vote, so can religious rights. Which is a can of worms that no church in this country wants to open.

Which might explain why, unlike last time around with Prop 22, the LDS Church has not filed a brief in opposition to Prop 8. Neither have the fundamentalists over at the Becket Fund.

Anyway, the amicus briefs are linked here and in the title of this post. The parties in the case have until Wednesday to reply to the briefs. Shortly afterwards the California Supreme Court will schedule its hearing in the matter, and a decision will be handed down within 90 days of the hearing.

UPDATE: Thanks, Joey, for the further information.

There's a whole slew of amicus briefs still in process, and unposted to the California Supreme Court website. Here's a link to all of them, via the California Judicial Council. I'm assuming that the rest of the briefs will begin to appear on the Supreme Court site next week.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Indulge me, would you?

My name is Jim, and I am an addict. I don't know for sure what first got me hooked. But 've got an addiction. It's serious, and has cost me thousands of dollars over the last six years. Some of this spending has been to meet daily needs. A guy has to eat and have a place to live.

But I've got it bad. I don't jones for many things, but I've got a problem with one thing in my life that I just can't get enough of.

MINIs: those cute little English cars now made by BMW. I've owned three. I want another. I'm a serially monogamous MINI-whore. Tell me about an event involving MINIs, and I'm there. I travel to MINI events all over California and the West Coast, and last spring, to the East Coast. I've been to Las Vegas, Angeles Crest, Santa Barbara, the Bay Area, Monterey, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona and on every road with more than one curve in San Diego County. All on MINI related trips. I've lost track of the number of times I've driven up and over Mt. Palomar, through Mesa Grande and down to Borrego Springs.

My idea of a good time involves 3 or more MINIs, a long series of curvy roads and a full gas tank. I travel to MINI events 2 or 3 times a year, and have added international events to my gallivanting around. I've been to Ireland & England for MINI events, and will be heading to another over there this spring. For me, the ideal tourist destination is the nearest MINI dealership. I've been to at least 12 MINI dealerships in 4 states and two countries, including the dealership up the road from the Houston hospital where my husband had bypass surgery. (I had permission, honest. Five days after surgery, Steve got sick of staring at four walls, and wanted to go out for dinner. The dealership was right up the street from the restaurant. I only spent 20 minutes there.) I put 1200 miles on my latest MINI in the first 3 days of ownership, while hanging out with 500 or so other like minded fanatics. I've left home on an 80 degree day, only to get lost in a snowstorm--on the same day I single-handedly caused the biggest traffic jam in the history of Idyllwild, CA.

I break MINIs, usually through no fault of my own. My first MINI went through 3 windshields & a driver's side door, it was also a shopping cart magnet, no matter how far away from the store I parked. My second MINI went through 3 more windshields, was rear ended twice--the first time when it was 3 days old--and hit in the side (which was the only time I caused damage, less than a week after I got it back from the second rear-ending). My third MINI is on it's 2nd windshield, and has been dented by a Sunday paper and a Chevy Suburban in separate incidents, and needed a new rear bumper cover 2 weeks after I got it home. I've gone through five sets of rims (six if you count the replacements I've had done on the current car), and 6 sets of tires.

Don't ask me to work on a MINI, though. I can tighten a bolt, change a tire and have assisted in multiple oil changes. I can wash, wax and detail with best. Anything more complicated, I leave to the experts. Electrical tape sticks to my fingers, not to the wiring harness. Cars fall off jacks when I try to help install accessories. Somehow, even with my destructive tendencies, I've made more good friends in the MINI community than I can count. Some of them came to my wedding. They've been there through good times and bad, for which I'm eternally grateful. My sister even loaned me her MINI as the limo for my wedding.

This post was originally meant to be 50 words long, and feature a couple of pictures of the cars, and a couple of snarky comments. Instead, it's turned into something self indulgent. I'd better stop & just post the pictures.

This is Ollie, for Oliver Hardy. I was tall and (thought I was still) skinny, he was English & got me into one fine mess after another.

This was taken after I thought I'd finished customizing Ollie, there were more changes to come.

When you're gay, and living in a very conservative area--never, ever send your mother an e-mail of this pic. Especially if all you tell her is "I painted the car." (It's a photoshop job)

Yes, it snows in Southern California. I found out the hard way. In May. After the traffic jam.

This one's Ollie Jr., leading a group of about 40 MINIs on a run out to 4 or 5 of San Diego County's finest Indian Casinos back in 2006.

Ollie Jr. got a new pair of shoes.

The day Ollie Jr. came home.

This one was taken a four days after I picked up Stanley (on the right), that's Ollie Jr. with his last set of new shoes.