Gay Games

(reprinted from Up Front, the newsletter of the East Bay Frontrunners and Walkers)

COLOGNE, Germany — At the Gay Games, August 2010. I was enjoying the warm summer night and the company of the Los Angeles Frontrunners, as we enjoyed an outdoor table at the Ristorante Grande Milano (in Germany, as here, the Italians make the best food). Just as our glasses of Koelsch arrived, my L.A. buddies called out to a passer-by they knew. He was reluctant to join us at first, still being dressed in his racing gear while we had all changed into street clothes, but we convinced him to sit down to a plate of pasta with us. I noticed some handwriting on his race number. “We started writing names of departed friends on our numbers back in the 80s, running each race in their honor,” he said, and he showed me his number. I was surprised because the number he showed me had names of celebrities — Keith Haring, artist and AIDS activist; Tom Waddell, Olympian and founder of the Gay Games. Some friends, I thought. As dinner conversation unrolled, I realized that I was dining with Brent Earle — one of the founding members of the Federation of Gay Games. He indeed counted these celebrities as personal friends, and honored them with each race he ran. He had seen the Games, from their beginnings in San Francisco in 1982, grow to international stature as they were hosted by such cities as New York, Vancouver, and Sydney, through to this year’s event in Cologne.

Cologne refused to be outdone by the larger cities that have hosted the Games in years past. The whole city welcomed us with open arms — every thoroughfare was lined with flags bearing this year’s slogan, “Be part of it!”, alternated with national flags of participating countries from all over the world. Every neighborhood had a poster, billboard or sign welcoming us. And I was, in fact “part of it.” Along with Brent and some 500 other runners, I completed the 5K road race on a beautiful course through a park a few miles from the center of town. I had been worried about my injuries for this race — just three weeks earlier, I was unable to walk normally, and had not managed to run a step. This changed only a week before the Games, when I was able to start training just a few miles at a time.

But the weather was perfect, and spirits were high — I turned in a quite respectable 20:40 for 5K. I felt so good that I set my sights on Saturday’s half marathon.

The Gay Games’ marathon and half were combined with the local community’s yearly half marathon, but this year’s races took their styling from the Gay Games. Volunteers wore the distinctive Gay Games volunteer shirts and supporters waved rainbow flags in encouragement. The finisher medallions sported a gay rainbow colored ribbon — worn cheerfully by all finishers, regardless of affiliation to the Games.

Having a good race already under my belt, I approached the Half Marathon as a long training run, putting finishing injury-free as my top priority. As such, I chose a conservative 5 min/km pace, with the intention of keeping that pace from the start. Imagine my surprise to find at 3 km (the first distance marker I saw) that I was 30 seconds ahead of that pace! My injuries didn’t make their presence known until around 15 km, but using hydration and meditation, I managed to hold them at bay until the end of the race, finishing in 1:42:12. Continued post-race hydration and rest have resulted in a quick recovery; my legs are sore but not injured.

Later the same day, the athletes marched into an outdoor theater on the banks of the Rhine for the closing ceremonies. The Deputy Mayor of Cologne gave an inspirational keynote, in which she took well-deserved pride in her city’s reputation for welcoming acceptance. She concluded by exhorting each of us to take a message from the Gay Games and from the City of Cologne — a message of love, tolerance and acceptance of all people — and deliver it to our homes, all across the world.

Another story from the archives

Back in 1987, I made a bicycle trip across northern Italy and into Yugoslavia. At a village called Montagnola, I met an Englishman and his wife ("Mike" and "Mel") who were bicycling from London to Peking. They were writing short articles for a magazine in the UK about their trip, in a way that would have been done by blog nowadays.

When I returned to the US, I wrote to the publisher, asking if I could see the back issues of the magazines in which Mike and Mel's articles appeared. This was the 80's, so when I say "wrote" I really mean that I took a piece of paper, wrote a letter on it in ink, and sent it in an envelope to England.

Many weeks passed without response; no magazines, no letters. But then one day, the postman brought me an envelope from the publishers of Celebrity Magazine, including a check for £25.00. I was a bit puzzled, and not so very delighted, since it isn't very easy to cash a check for £25.00 in the US. So I sent the check back, asking that they might donate it to Mike and Mel's trip, but also asking them if they might see fit to actually send me the magazines I had requested.

Many weeks later, I received a letter, along with an envelope filled with half a dozen magazines. The cover letter explained, "I've enclosed a copy of Celebrity, dated March 3rd - the issue which contained your letter about those intrepid cyclists, Mel and Mike!"

The first page of that first magazine explained the £25.00 - have a look:

There's a £25.00 award each week for the best letter to the editor, an award that it seems my inquiry about back issues of the magazine won for that week! If you see the other letters to the editor (you can see a few on this page), you can come to understand how this could be.

Now turn your attention to the letter itself - attributed to one Dean Armstrong, from Ohio, United States. If you know my last name, you might be as confused as I was - who is Dean Armstrong, and what does his letter have to do with mine? Apparently "Allemang" was just a bit too, oh, I don't know, French maybe, to use, so they butched it up and made me "Armstrong". Also, the text of the letter was changed considerably - I regret that I don't have the original letter, but certainly I would not have expressed the sentiment, "Rather them than me!" (rather something about just the opposite). My roommate at the time even suggested that I might complain about how I was misrepresented by this statement. Until I reminded him that it was Mr. Armstrong, not me, to whom this statement was attributed.

In case you were wondering just what sort of magazine Celebrity is, I think that the cover of this issue might give you some idea:

I still have the other issues with Mike and Mel's articles, but I hadn't thought of them in years.

It's not insurance!

I decided to change my insurance strategy to high-deductible and a Health Savings Account. So now, wherever I go, the doc or pharmacist says, "it says high-deductible ..." with a slight look of horror on their faces.

At the pharmacist, I have a sort of club card - $100 per year to get club discounts. "THIS IS NOT INSURANCE" is written in bold print in the terms and conditions. I get about $20 off each prescription of Viagra, so I figure I can make up $100/year.

Last summer, I needed some antibiotics for a topical staff infection. I don't know how much I saved, but the price was, basically, free. Two weeks of antibiotics for less than $10.

Yesterday, I finally filled a prescription for insomnia / jet lag. I got that same horrified look; the pills would cost $109. I asked her if that included the club card. "Oh!" she exclaimed. Then she rung it up again. $29. That's the whole year's subscription, in one purchase.

Okay, so it IS NOT INSURANCE. I think they say that just so that they can get around the regulations that would govern this sort of thing.

It's the best health care purchase I've made in ages.

(no subject)

Thanks to everyone who offered wired money etc. to help my cash crisis. X-Dad-In-Law sorted it out in a wink of an eye. So I won't be needing any emergency funds. But it is great to know one has friends one can count on in times like that!


The Netherlands isn't big on credit cards, and even less on American credit cards where you swipe your card somewhere and then sign a piece of paper. So I usually use a lot of cash when I come here.

But my ATM card was a bit the worse for wear - I should have replaced it before the trip, but that just isn't the sort of thing one thinks about. So I got a couple hundred euros out at the airport, and the card crinkled a bit, but worked fine. Second try, the card got stuck in the machine, which, according to good banking practice, seized it and destroyed it. So I have been trying to get cash ever since.

American Express gave me an emergency, one-use-only PIN for my AMEX card. That ATM machine would only give 200 Euros at a time, so that's what I've got for my remaining 9 days.

I went out to eat with my work colleagues on Thursday night - great! I'll pay with a credit card, and they can give me cash. Except the restaurant didn't take credit cards. None at all, of any kind. So I paid cash.

My bank says that I can go into any banking center, with two forms of ID, and get a cash advance from a credit card. Except that Dutch banks no longer have cashiers; everything happens through ATM machines. So not in a Dutch bank. The Postbank has cashiers, but they aren't a bank.

So let's try Western Union. I tried to wire myself money over the web. But the security questions they ask involved transactions that happened in some cases seven years and two household moves ago - I don't remember the details. I also think they might have had one of them wrong. Once you miss the security questions, you have to walk into a Western Union branch (in the US, of course), to establish your identity.

AMEX can still help me; they can get emergency cash to one of their centers. The nearest one is somewhere out past Oosterpark. Not so very far away, but a trek that I don't want to have to do.

I'll see just how far these 200 will take me. Maybe I'll take to buying things from shops and selling them to passers-by for cash.
Home in LA

Recursion R Us

This afternoon, I stood in my apartment, looking for signs of the production of the movie that was shot there. The scene in particular that I was thinking of was one where the protagonist in the film is standing in his apartment - which was filmed in my apartment - looking for signs of a movie that was shot there (here).

He found them; I didn't. Good thing, too, if you know how the movie (either one) ends.