Justin's Life...

~ April 2000 ~
~ April 6th - 23rd ~

April 6, 2000 - Thursday

I'm so bored and aggrevated and stir crazy that I could rip the heads off chickens. My business venture seems to be an endless money pit, and I simply can't find anything that interests me anymore. I've purchased all the possible playthings that I could ever want, short of big ticket items like air hockey tables and Pepsi vending machines, but even then I have no idea where I'd put them.

I'm restless and agitated. I want something exciting to happen. I want some change in my monotony. I want to have my business succeed and then do something else. For nearly the entire day, I've been in a bad mood, and for the last half hour straight, I've done nothing but try to think of something exciting I could do to change that. Larry's in New York City, or rather on a plane back from New York City, and I can't think of anything other to do with Katie than go to Chuck E. Cheese. But I don't want to go to Chuck E. Cheese and play the stupid games. I want something fun, something to take my mind off my company's initial floundering.

And what really pisses me off is that if everything had gone on schedule, if those dickweed programmers hadn't wasted my time, the company would have been up and running over a year ago. Competition would have been way less and things might have been better. I mean, taking a step back, it's not that bad. It's paying its own bills and turning a profit, and we've only been fully operational for just over two months, but I want something more. I want it to be something, something known as being the best in its field... instead of being unknown.

So, I'm angry and restless and wishing I had something to do. I'm really so angry that I could destruct something, but I know it won't help and there's nothing readily available for me to destruct. ARGHH!


April 10, 2000 - Monday

Needless to say, I'm in a much better mood than when I last wrote, but things have still been aggravating me lately. The latest aggravation: credit card disputes.

Long story short, I ordered custom printed checks for my business. The check company online didn't ask what software I was using to print the checks and I didn't realize that it would be helpful to state such a thing. So when I faxed them in the check (from my handwritten checkbook), they printed the computer checks at the exact same dimensions. I assumed the FAX was for number verification, just like when you order personal checks from a new place, but I guess it was for that and for determining the layout.

Anyway, the place printed them incorrectly (including a typo in the company's name), but I didn't feel they were completely responsible for the error. After all, had I used computer checks before, I would have realized that they needed the dimensions or software specifications. I e-mailed, FAX'd, then called to see what could be done, then the guy answering the phone agreed to reprint the checks for half the cost (as he saw my point and agreed to take some of the blame). He said he had to get his manager's approval, but that if there was a problem, he would call the next day. He also said that he didn't think it would be a problem, and he never called... so I waited patiently for the new checks to arrive.

A month later, I still hadn't received the replacements and I needed the checks, so I ordered them elsewhere and wrote the credit card company to dispute the $81 charge. It wasn't so much the money really, but I just couldn't stand the idea of a company lying to me and getting away with it.

So, I sent off my paperwork, complete with copies of all the correspondence and my FAXes to the check printers, and then today I found this letter from the credit card company:

You recently asked about the $81.31 charge from Best Quality Computer.

To help you with your inquiry, we need additional information. Please send us a letter detailing how the merchandise or service you ordered was described to you over the telephone. Include a description of what you did receive and how it differed from what you expected. Also, please note any attempts you have made to resolve this directly with the merchant. If you have not already done so, please return any merchandise to the merchant with a return receipt requested. Send a copy of the return receipt along with the information requested above.

Because of the strict time limits for resolving billing disputes, it is important that you respond within three weeks of the date of this letter; otherwise, we will consider your inquiry resolved. An envelope is enclosed for your convenience.

We value your business and look forward to serving you in the future.

I sent them all that crap the first time. Indeed, my original letter to the credit card company read:

Transaction: Feb 7 - Best Quality. Computer Monroe NY $81.31

Dear Sir Or Madam:

The transaction referenced above was for custom printed computer checks. Long story short, they printed the checks incorrectly then agreed to reprint them. It's now a full month later and I never received the reprints. My further inquiries via phone, FAX, and e-mail have gone unanswered.

This company is a joke. When calling their phone number (877) 586-6377, I've gotten "Hello" as the answer, not "Best Computer Checks". Indeed, I believe it's one guy in his house, completely disinterested in customer satisfaction. You can verify the phone number via their web page at http://www.bestcomputerchecks.com/info.html

Please reverse this charge. As is, I'm left with a box of unusable checks. I even agreed to pay part of the reprint fee, but I still don't have the checks which I desperately need for my business. As such, I've reordered them with another company.

Justin Clouse

I should have known better than to think that the credit card company could actually look at the documentation and make sense of it... so, anyway, I just re-copied all the paperwork, highlighted the important parts, and pointed out the fact that BestComputerChecks.com's web page now loads no usable information. Oh, and get this, the credit card company's letter said I needed to respond within three weeks from the date of the letter. It's dated March 31, 2000, but it's not postmarked until April 4th, and I didn't get it until today.

I swear, I'm never going to get anywhere playing fair.


April 13, 2000 - Thursday

I have little bouts of obsessive compulsive behavior. I think we all do.

Case in point, I was in the Express Lane at the grocery the other day. I must have counted the number of items I had five times before making it through the checkout. I knew I was being neurotic when I was doing it, but I still did it... even after I'd counted eight items three times. Did I think three more were going to magically appear and make me go over the ten items or less limit? Would the penalty for such an infraction be that horrible? Why do I always count the number of items repeatedly? I think it has something to do with my unfounded fear of unduly imposing or breaking the rules.

Yet, two nights ago, Larry, Katie, and I were at K-Mart and just as we were finishing up our shopping trip, a guy came on the public address system to announce that the cash registers were down. When we got to the checkout, they were going once again, but the lines were terrible. Moreover, we had the luck of getting in the line of a checker who obviously didn't know the speed at which barcodes can be read. He carefully found each bar code and put it directly on the scanner before moving to the next. It was painful to watch.

Fifteen minutes or so later, after Larry had gone to stand in the line next to the one Katie and I were in, the cash registers all went offline once again. We waited for a while and nothing was happening. The employees were all standing around and the managers didn't seem to have a clue as to how to fix the situation.

Finally, I covertly started smashing Kit Kats in a passive aggressive display of protest until Larry and I eventually agreed to leave when it looked like we weren't checking out any time soon. Katie, of course, had her four dollars worth of candy and coloring books. She didn't want to go without them, and I understood. So while not wanting to expressly say that she could walk out with them without paying, I did my best to indicate that she could while Larry said that that would be stealing. The time K-Mart caused me to waste was worth $4 compensatory damages, and while the Kit Kat thing would have been much harder to explain had someone questioned me, I was ready to fight about Katie's candy and books. We would have happily paid had the opportunity been available, but it was not and our entire trip had been wasted.

So, yes, the smashing of the Kit Kats was childish, but how does someone worried about going over the Express Lane limit switch into the "let's take the stuff without paying and if anyone asks, I'm ready to fight about it" personality? I would have to suppose that it has something to do with justification. I have no justification for going over the Express Lane limit; how could I possibly explain it without lying. But I did have justification for taking the $4 worth of junk. You may not agree with that justification; neither did Larry, but I felt my time was definitely worth $4.


April 17, 2000 - Monday

Last Friday, Larry and I left for San Francisco to attend the Specialty Coffee Association of America's annual convention, and during the course of the weekend, Friday to be more exact, we met Mark, a long time fan of the diary who first wrote me back in 1995 and who has more recently written with regularity.

Yet, perhaps even more important to note than the length at which he's written is the fact that he first wrote because he is a red head and had found my Search For My Red Headed Knight (which existed in 1995).

And so, some five years later, I was finally going to be in San Francisco when he was aware of it and we'd made plans to meet for dinner Friday night with he and his husband of 12 years.

-- Of course, it's also important to note that in response to one of my playful contests in the newsletter, Mark had sent nude pictures of himself. I think the requirement to enter the contest was to send me a picture of a red head I hadn't seen before, so he sent himself. From then on, we had a playful thing going. He was my honorary naked red head friend and from time to time, he'd send me random photos of himself, which I very much appreciated.

So, anyway, we met Friday night, at the restaurant, and he; Danny, Larry's friend from childhood; Oren, Larry's straight business partner/friend; Larry, and I had dinner. He was nice, looked amazingly similar to his pictures (which is a rarity in and of itself), and I had a fun time harassing him in front of Danny and Oren about his naked pictures and his crimson colored crotch.

An expensive dinner later, there were too many of us to fit into one car, so Larry suggested that Mark and I go out for coffee while the rest of them headed back to their respective places. I declined, as I didn't really see the cause for going out to coffee as Mark was nice but we hadn't especially clicked... and I honestly figured that we'd end up back at the hotel anyway so that I could verify that Mark really did have a crimson colored crotch.

So, after a bit of trying to figure everything out, Mark and I got into a cab and Larry went with the guys. When we arrived at the hotel ten minutes or so later, we went into the room and I gave him a hug then commented about how he'd said his butt had white fuzz on it. I needed to feel to verify that, too... but when I did, no fuzz was to be found.

A few seconds later, I was verifying the color of the hair in front and he'd checked to see that I was a brunette as well... and that was about as far as things needed to go for me. I closed up shop and said that I was going to get ice for a Pepsi.

When I got back, Mark was again raring to go, but I'd really done most of what I wanted to do. Sure, more touching and staring would have been fun, but I was content with the looks I'd gotten and Mark was coming on too strong for me. I became increasingly nervous, so much so that my teeth started chattering. I for sure didn't want to do anything without Larry there, but Mark was pinching my nipples and saying that he wanted to kiss me. I didn't want to kiss him: that was reserved for really special people, and while he may have felt like he knew me exquisitely because of the diary, I knew relatively little about him. I didn't want to kiss and said something to that effect, about how I wasn't really a kissy person.

Before long, he was literally pulling me up onto the bed and I was really uncomfortable with the situation. I mean, I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere that I didn't want it to go, but he was coming on WAY too strong. It had an air of falseness to it, too, like a hooker telling me what he thought I wanted to hear. Yet I was not paying him and the possibility of an ulterior motive was near moot. It was sultry and Jessica Rabbit come-hither that just doesn't work for me at all. It just seemed too pressured, too wanting of the experience... or perhaps too experienced altogether. It had none of the charm of newness or apprehension in it. It was just there, unabashed and unashamed, in all it's come-fuck-me-glory... and it was for sure more of a turn off than a turn on.

Then, as I lay fully clothed on the bed next to Mark, the door opened and in walked Larry. He made some joke about how underwear was flying and before long, he'd brushed his teeth and come over to the bed as well. With him there, I knew I had nothing to fear. A kinda strange yet great thought when I think about it. I knew whatever happened, he'd be there to protect me and that I was sharing the experience with him. Mark would come and go, quite literally, and Larry would still be there, still mine to hold and love.

The three of us got naked or near naked and played around a bit, but it was comfortable with Larry there. (And this is probably as good a place as any to say that when I leave out the "juicy details" the most that EVER happens is a blow job... but with Mark, it didn't even go that far. No one even went down on anyone.)

Around one o'clock, Mark left and I took a shower. The next morning, my germaphobic personality had overtaken my rational thoughts and Mark's answer of "Yes" to "Do you have an open relationship" with your husband was quite scary. In THE gay city, what could he have possibly picked up over the years? I wondered, I replayed. Nope, nothing to worry about. I had had my face down in his crotch, but I didn't go down on him. He had kissed me and jammed his tongue in my mouth, but I had no mouth abrasions; nothing to worry about there either. Hands in each other's underwear is nothing to worry about and even his ball in my mouth had no possibility of bodily fluid transfer.

Yet, the high pressure of the night before left a bad, figurative, aftertaste. When Mark called on Saturday, less than two minutes after I left Larry, Oren, and Peter (Larry's assistant) on the convention floor, I really just wanted to be by myself for a bit. Between the airplane ride, dinner, and the convention, I was ready for some alone time. I told Mark that, and tried to make sure that he understood that it wasn't him, but I'm sure had things gone differently the night before I would have been much more inclined to see a movie or have dinner Saturday night as well.

As was, I didn't see Mark again for fear that things would be too intense again and now I'm wondering just how he'll take this diary entry. I don't want him to disappear back into the ether, but how would I react if the situations were reversed, if I'd been written about as coming on too strong? Is it even fair to expect him not to feel hurt? To hope that he takes it as constructive criticism and sees what the city of San Francisco and semi-random sex has caused him to loose? I don't know... All I do know is that my first boyfriend Adam was my first boyfriend because he was so nervous when I was around. It was adorable, but it didn't work out... but apprehension's opposite has far less potential for success, at least for me.


April 23, 2000 - Easter Sunday

As I do from time to time, earlier this week, I visited the bulletin board section of JustinsLife.com. I wasn't expecting anything too intense, just the come lately topic of right vs. left handed and perhaps someone asking for dating advice.

Instead, I found that I, both directly and indirectly, had become the new hot topic. Topics called "The Hotel Visit" and "open relationship?" were at the top of the list, and I found them as being very critical of me. In turn, I popped back my own new topic of "Enduring relationships..."

I wanted to know how many people were talking based on ideals that they'd been taught as children and how many people were speaking from experience. How many people really had relationships that worked, long term, that were 100% monogamous, both in mind and body? Now, don't get me wrong, I know even writing that sentence that the immediate thought is "How could there be any other type of real relationship?" but that's just my point. How does real world experience compare with those thoughts of story world ideals?

Of all the married couples that I know, admittedly few, that have been married for over a dozen years, the guy has ALWAYS slept around, without exception... except for my parents... and I truly wouldn't be in a position to know that one with 100% accuracy. These are couples that have been married for more years than I've been alive, and I'm fairly certain they're now physically and emotionally monogamous, but they for sure fooled around when they were younger. Perhaps I'll, too, get it out of my system, but at least in my mind, my relationship is "better" because I'm not secretly fooling around, like they were.

But even using that word "better" is a disservice. If I'm married for fifty years, who the hell is anyone else to judge? They should be so lucky. And, again, that's my point. If it works for them and they're happy together, why are the uniquities of their relationship important to anyone else? Mark says that he and his mate have been together for twelve years and that they couldn't imagine life without the other. Larry and I've been together for over four years now and we, too, couldn't imagine life without the other. There's even a guy here in LA who's written to let me know that he's in a three guy relationship that's lasted a dozen years. All those relationships are different, from each other and from the storybook ideal, but they all work. Just because they're not perfect matches to the single world ideal, why should anyone outside of them care?

-- Admittedly, looking back with a more distanced perspective at the topics on the bulletin board, I can see that they weren't directed directly at me, perhaps even more towards Mark, but why do we, myself included, criticize his relationship if it works and they're happy together?


Kinda ironic that today I would write about life as a storybook as this morning Katie had quite the fairy tale experience. She woke up, found plastic Easter eggs leading out of her room, along the hallway, down the stairway, and out to the garage. The Easter Bunny had left a magical trail to the Easter baskets, and Katie had the luck of finding it. A very real human size bunny had come in the middle of the night and left her candy and trinkets. He'd sprinkled the eggs along his path. He'd gotten her the things she likes, like pink marshmallow Peeps and Cheetos. He'd come and left her presents, asking nothing in return, and I have to say that even Larry and I could feel the excitement she would be feeling as we traversed the path of plastic eggs last night.

But, ya know what, I put those plastic eggs from her room to the garage. I went to K-Mart on Friday and bought the candy and little toys. I arranged the items in the basket, and I put them in the garage. Loses it's enchantment, doesn't it?

But, thanks to this thing called empathy, I saw this morning as Katie saw it and it was as storybook fairy tale as life ever gets. It was great and sweet and magical, and there's no way I'd dare tell her that it was I who made it all happen. Life can be a storybook. For Katie, it was nothing less than spectacular... and I'm gonna go to that place where she's at right now... where the only problem is which candy you should eat first.

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© 2000 Justin Clouse
Justin's Life...Justin's