Justin's Life...

~ December 1999 ~
~ December 21st - 31st ~

December 21, 1999 - Holidays Day 1
12:21AM Eastern Standard Time

This morning I woke at 4:30AM. A 6:45AM flight to Chicago, a 2PM connection to Kentucky, and presto, I'm back in the land of rattails and "doesn't"'s non-existence. And contrary to what you might have seen on "The Beverly Hillbillies", there's no degree of "class" to most of the folks around here. There's no gang warfare or drive-by violence, but someone still stole my brother's four wheeler during his trip to California and his wallet turned up missing this past week. It ain't Mayberry. Aunt Bea, Andy, Opie, and even Barney had an heir of class to them that simply doesn't exists much anymore, in the South or elsewhere. Our cultural icon here is Wal-Mart. Indeed, the writer in me was wondering what it'd be like to write a book from the perspective of a Wal-Mart employee. It'd have one of those HBO documentary styles to it, where virtually nothing "happened," but where the characters were interesting because they so didn't represent mainstream representations of life.

I find myself flinching at my dad's style of ordering at a restaurant, but the waiter thinks nothing of it. It's how things are done here. A $5 tip for a $50 check is more than average. It's laid back, but a different laid back than San Diego. It's Kentucky... and while the desire to "get out" seems nearly universal no matter where you live(d), it's amazing how many places there are from which to leave. The "big city" is not as uniform as the "big city" implies, and "the country" isn't nearly as simple as it's big city antonym would suppose.

Anyway, besides these deep thoughts, my first day home for Christmas has been exhausting. Larry never left the Kentucky airport but instead went on to New York for the opening of his coffee store to return here tomorrow. That, in turn, left me in charge of the kids and I've nearly pulled my hair out trying to keep them under control. Whining, crying, and urine have permeated my day. Spencer's pee has been on no less than five people, not including himself, and the entire time spent on the planes was spent placating and holding him. Forget the magazines, forget the gameboy, forget the laptop.

Only now, in the solitude of my room, at 12:55AM, am I able to take a moment for myself.


December 22, 1999 - Holidays Day 2
12:32AM Eastern Standard Time

This afternoon I went to the neighboring city of Lexington to go Christmas shopping for Larry, but I never made it out of the car. As I was driving the thirty minute drive, I tried my best to think of something I could buy Larry to put under the tree for Christmas, but I could think of nothing... and he and I are both sick of junk. The presents of yesterChristmases are still in their boxes at the house in LA. Tadpole growing kits, Little Mermaid figurines, record players, and Mary Poppins games are stored out of sight and hardly opened. Why clutter the world with yet another meaningless present. Sure, it was meant to be something enjoyed by the other, but in some cases, it really is the thought that counts. And having spoken about it earlier, I knew I didn't have to buy Larry anything. We're both aware of the yesterChristmases phenomenon and he told me explicitly not to buy anything, but I wanted to have that perfect gift under the tree to surprise him.

I drove to Lexington, got to Best Buy, and even pulled into a parking space... before deciding to head back home. Partly I didn't want to wake the baby, who was riding in the back seat, but mostly, I simply saw no point trolling the aisles trying to find something Larry never heard of but couldn't do without. A credit card sized electronic phone number keeper sounds like a good idea when you're looking at it in the store, but does anyone ever really use one? Right now, a piece of paper printed out from the computer is quicker, easier, and takes up less space. Why spend money to "de-improve"?

12:52AM Eastern Standard Time

Tonight, Mom, Katie, Spencer and I headed back to Lexington to go Christmas shopping once again. After purchasing a stroller at Sear's (because we left the original one at home), we walked through the mall and I became keenly aware that Kentucky suffers from the same facade as Hollywood. In LA, it's just much harder to see that you're living in the world of facades. The city is full of wannabe actors and having left their small towns, they're arguably more upwardly mobile than average. Except for the few extremes, it just seems normal... but a hick in Abercrombie and Fitch still looks like a hick. He can wear the clothes and try to act the part, but it just comes out wrong, which in turn causes the facade part of it to be obvious. There's grouping and cliquing and perceptions of superiority/inferiority just as there are in LA: It only works under a different set of rules and through a different series of "networking." One could even argue that in LA, the process is more real because it's more obvious. "It's not what you know, but who you know" is so much more associated with LA than... Kentucky.


December 24, 1999 - Holidays Day 4 - Christmas Eve
10:56AM Eastern Standard Time

Between a trip to Lexington with Larry to buy gifts for Mom, Dad, my brother, and the kids, and a trip there with Mom to buy presents for those and others, I spent most of my day yesterday in the car and standing in line. For the third night in a row, I didn't make it to sleep before 1AM (and tonight, as Santa's little helper, it's doubtful I'll be in bed before 3AM).

Anyway, on a more positive note, it's really nice being here. Although I noticed a few weeks ago that Dad was actually talking on the phone when I called home, I found out from Mom that he's made a conscious effort to be more communicative with all his kids. I also got caught up on all the latest happenings, and as it's winter (a slow point in the life of a horse trainer), those happenings finally didn't focus around work, which is a majorly nice change. The house is completely decorated, Jack Frost is nipping at my nose, and all that stuff. Heck, it's even going to be a white Christmas as it snowed last night for the first time this season.

12:21AM Eastern Standard Time

I got an early start on wrapping presents, so I'm almost ready to go to bed, but if I let myself, I'm sure I can get wound up enough to stay awake for hours. See, a few minutes ago, I was walking through the room where the house's computer lives and looked over Larry's shoulder to see a Word document titled with Larry's assistant's name. I read something to the effect of "I don't know what to get you for Christmas" and figured that he was either writing his assistant to say that he'd had no idea what to get him for Christmas, or vice versa.

Yet the printer was having problems and in the course of trying to get it to work, he minimized Word intentionally so that I couldn't read what was on the screen and I saw "Re: Spending my life with you" and something about a cheap ring at Wal-Mart. Earlier today, in Wal-Mart, Larry made me stay on the grocery side of the store while he went to get something on the merchandise side. When he got back, he said they were out of them, and I figured he was telling the truth as most places have been out of most things... but putting the pieces together, it's obvious what you get.


December 26, 1999 - Holidays Day 6
9:39AM Eastern Standard Time

Just as I was finishing that last sentence, I heard Larry walking up the stairs, so I quickly shut down my computer, unsure whether I was going to let him know that I had a strong hunch what he was up to. But before we went to bed, I'd told him what I'd seen and got stonewalled in the answer department. "Knowing" that I was right but having no absolute confirmation, I managed to go to sleep.

A few hours later, around 4:30AM, the phone was ringing. Clark yelled that it was for Larry and a call from ADT to tell us that the alarm at Larry's company went off started the Christmas morning unwrappings.

I unopened the various presents Santa had left, most of which I'd wrapped myself the night before, and then the one from my parents. It was a TiVo personal video recorder and I had wrapped it too, so the element of surprise for the big gifts was low... but sitting there among the pile was a tiny 5"x3"x3" box that I saved for last.

I slowly started opening that box with an eager anxiety. For one, I knew traditionally the proposed-to was supposed to cry at these things, but I wasn't sure I was cryable... yet I wanted the moment to be special for Larry. Yet we'd been living together for three years; this wasn't really going to be a drastic change. Unsure how I was going to react, I started tearing away the wrapping paper when Larry interrupted and said for me to open the letter first.

It read:


RE: The rest of my life with you.

Dear Stinchy-Winchy Michael Clay Justin Clouse,

I thought long and hard about what to get you for Christmas this 1999. I knew you had enough junk this year, you bought it all yourself. I thought about a nice redhead.... But they were fresh out at the mall (but I'll keep my eyes open anyway). So I searched and searched and could only come up with one thing to give you this year. I'm gonna give you something really special...me.

I bought this cheap Wal-Mart ring just as a place holder for the next few days. I want to give you a Cartier rolling ring in platinum or white gold ..but since you can't return the Cartier ring, and there was no way to get you to try one on for size, and still have any kind of surprise, this place-holder Wal-Mart ring will have to do till we get back to LA. Just for the record, I tried to sneak dental floss on your finger when you were sleeping, but it was not gonna happen for sure...I also tried to get you to try on a ring the other day, but you were not interested ..and I knew if I pushed it, you'd be suspicious.

So soon, you'll have that ring you've been asking for..and I'll have one just like it too. You are not just a part of my life, you are my life.

Love you,

I opened the box, found a gold wedding band, and hugged Larry for nearly a minute straight. No tears were shed, but now it's official. He's mine and I'm his and there's no taking us apart.

We've talked about it a lot since that 5AM present opening, and we both want to get married with a ceremony somewhere, someday. The rolling rings are our version of "engagement rings," and when we do have the actual ceremony, we'll have more traditional wedding bands. There are legal issues, too. We both want to get married somewhere where it's recognized and where we're not just going through the motions. Larry was thinking Vermont, where the state's supreme court recently ruled that state's constitution required equal status for couples of the same sex (and where gay marriage should first occur in the US), and I was thinking somewhere like Denmark, where marriage between two guys is an everyday occurrence. This isn't going to be something done on a whim, but with all the same responsibility and forethought put into a heterosexual marriage. And for what it's worth, my Wal-Mart ring is just fine.

Moreover, yesterday was just a really nice day in general. As it was Christmas and everywhere was closed, we stayed in the house just relaxing most of the day. I set up the TiVo, and it is nothing short of awesome. It pauses live TV, rewinds it, let's you watch a whatever-second/minute delayed version of what's currently playing, and it records shows internally, labelling them automatically. Even testing it out, I recorded stuff that I would have never bothered recording with a VCR. No blank tapes, no labelling, no waiting until the show is over before watching the beginning. It's amazing. Indeed, in the first day, Larry watched Ernest Saves Christmas, which he liked but wouldn't have watched earlier in the afternoon when it was playing, and when we got back from a short drive around town, we watched the E! True Hollywood Story about Gilligan's Island while the TiVo was recording the end of it. I thought it was too expensive, but it's now obvious that it was worth the money.

Today, I'm writing this and just relaxing once again. Between the family and snow, it's been really nice.


December 31, 1999

Back in L.A., the day before yesterday, Larry and I went to the grocery to buy some items in preparation for the new millennium [sic], and while official reports have said that there's no hoarding, the grocery store was disheveled, nearly out of bottled water, and had only limited bread selection. All the checkstands were open and the lines were still ten to twenty minutes long. Moreover, it was obvious that everyone was buying in anticipation of something Armageddon. Just using the shopping carts in front of us as examples, the lady immediately ahead of us had half a dozen gallons of bottled water among her items and the person in front of her had five gallons of milk. We, too, bought various items that would last us through the clock turnover and for a few days thereafter. Yesterday was spent largely preparing, by filling gas tanks and fixing end of year financial items, and early this morning I went to the U-Haul truck rental place to have the propane tank filled: I had to stand in line. A few hours ago, the grocery store had the longest check out lines I've ever seen there, and we bought even more food in anticipation of the unknown.

Various places around the world have already begun the year 2000 without incidence, but the day seems ripe for some off-kilter-terrorist type action. Indeed, in recent days, a few people were arrested at the Washington/Canadian border for suspicion of terrorism and the Seattle Space Needle New Year's celebration was cancelled.

Me, well, I'm now at the ranch, here with Larry, Katie, Spencer, and Andrew (who flew in on Wednesday night). We bought some champagne and celebration gear in addition to the "Emergency Kit" items, and at the very least, we're stocked up for any possible snow-in which could come here later this year. I've thought a lot about what could happen, which I think is worth recording if for no other reason that the fact that such a transition won't happen for another thousand years.

To that extent, I, of course, hope that nothing happens. I hope the new year starts and everything goes off without a hitch. But, as I told Larry, this is only going to happen once in our lifetimes, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Hopefully, we'll look back and laugh at how much food we stockpiled, but the slim chance that something might happen is big enough that the pros outweigh the cons. If something does happen and we've got the food, we're better off, and if nothing happens and we've got the food, we've just got a surplus of food, but if something does happen and we don't have the food, we could be in trouble.

The logical part of me realizes that it's a mass hysteria. One "looney" starts stockpiling groceries, propane, and gas which gives the next person just enough reinforcement to do the same. It's like a snowball and picks up a momentum all it's own. I realize that, but again the pros outweigh the cons.

I don't know what could happen. I must admit, nuclear bombs permeate my thoughts. "We didn't mean to bomb you. It was a Y2K bug," sounds like the perfect excuse... And I've heard through no identifiable source that the Bible states that something big will happen with the new millennium. I don't normally take too much stock in what the Bible says, but like I said about the food stuff, it's better to be safe than sorry. I am a bit worried. I did buy food stuffs for Mom and Dad a few months ago, and the house is prepared as best as possible... even though I "know" if anything major happened some canned goods wouldn't much help us. I'm logical enough to realize that I'm acting a bit crazy, but emotional enough to nevertheless act that way.

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© 1999 Justin Clouse
Justin's Life...Justin's