Monday, April 29, 2013

"What was the weirdest thing about moving from New York to Tennessee?"

After Day 28, I figured Day 29 could stay light, so I've been saving this topic all month. My friend Shannon would like to know:

"What was the weirdest thing about moving from New York to Tennessee?"

This is a good question, because there's a lot of weird stuff here. This, for example, belonged to one of my neighbors when I moved in:

big orange army

and this was parked next to it:

ground force

I moved here during the election year when Tennessee voted to ban gay marriage:

election signs

and discovered that there are anti-gay, anti-abortion Democratic politicians.

No, really.

They are farther to the right than New York Republicans. Discovering that they existed was also weird.

None of this, though, was actually the weirdest thing. The thing that freaked me out the most, and kept catching me off guard for weeks after I moved here, was that total strangers talk to you in the grocery store if you happen to look up and make eye contact.

And it's hard not to make eye contact when you're steering a cart.

Every time I came around a corner, someone would look up, smile, and say hi. Sometimes they even added a "How are you?", and for weeks I was constantly offering a tentative, "....Hello....?" while internally thinking, "I DON'T KNOW YOU!" I was from New York, and in New York you don't make eye contact with strangers unless you're trying to intimidate them. And if strangers talk to you, you certainly don't engage in conversation. They might be trying to rob you or get you to join their cult or something.

That was then, of course.

Now I carry on entire conversations with the cashier at Kroger and don't bat an eye. Southern hospitality may be something worth having after all.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"I don't know your coming out story..."

27 days into 30 Days of Blogging, I have failed.

I didn't write a blog yesterday because I was out doing stuff in the afternoon and then I took a nap and then we were out skating last night and then we went to a bar and there was a band and I didn't get home until after midnight and I was tired so I have failed to blog for 30 days in a row. Rather than give up, I will soldier on in the face of my failure and continue writing for the last three days of the project, despite the sad, gaping hole at Day 27.

So, on Day 28 of 30 Days of Blogging, I've come to a topic that my friend QH suggested:

I don't know your coming out story, especially the parental part. I'd love to know about that about you.

It's not that exciting. Like most actors of my stature I had a cover story on "People" magazine and a string of guest appearances on daytime talk shows, Piers Morgan, and "The Daily Show". Isn't that how everybody does it?

Seriously, though, some of my friends know this, my family knows some of this, some random strangers that I've talked to on educational panels know this, but I'm not sure if I've ever laid the whole thing out from start to finish, so we'll start at high school, when I was completely, deeply in the closet. Oh, sure, I knew that I didn't like girls, but I'd spent a really long time and a lot of mental effort convincing myself that I didn't like boys, either, and was instead operating under the firmly set (yet incredibly fragile) view that I just didn't like anyone. I went away to college pretty virginal (I'd been to a couple bases with a girl or two, but nothing serious and no boys), and spent most of college that way. I tried getting interested in girls a few times, and managed to cash in my V-card, but that just convinced me that no, I still didn't like girls.

Then my senior year of college there was this boy. We're going to leave his name out of the story, but we'd known each other for a while, but senior year we really started hanging out a lot, and did pretty much everything together. And then a month or so into senior year we were drunk, and we were in my room, and we did some other stuff together, and it was kind of fun but it was also kind of drunk and the whole thing was kind of weird and awkward and we didn't talk to each other for like two days. I wasn't sure what to do, so I called my friend Donna and her first husband, Anthony. Donna was busy, so I explained the whole thing to Anthony.

"Well, did you like it?"

"I think so, but we were really drunk."

"Well... maybe you guys should talk, and see if you feel like trying it again when you're sober, and then if you do, see if you still like it."

This seemed kind of reasonable, and when Donna finished whatever she was doing she got on and said pretty much the same thing, so after I talked to them I went and talked to the boy and then we stopped talking and did some other things and then we started doing those things a lot. One thing the boy and I didn't talk about, at all, was whether we were gay or not.

I had that discussion with myself a few weeks later, when the boy and I were out driving in the country. He knew this place in the hills above town where you could park the car and see the whole town spread out below you (I have no idea where this place was, and never tried to find it again, but it's up there above Cortland somewhere), and he liked to go there to think and wanted to show it to me, so some night after dinner we went for a drive in his car in the dark and actually found this place. It sounds way more romantic than it was, but there we were, sitting on the hood of the car, holding hands, looking at all the lights in the city of Cortland, and the sky was clear, and the moon was out, and there was a breeze, and I thought he was perfect, and he wanted to drive out there with me, nobody else, just me. Then we drove back to campus and parked the car, and we were walking back to the residence hall all alone in the middle of the night, and all of a sudden I thought that I might be in love with him, and the next thought followed immediately after:

"Oh, shit, I think I'm gay."

For a second, I might have actually said this to him. The words were in my mouth, and right at that moment he started bitching that leaves from some weed had gotten onto his jacket when we got out of the car and now they were all over his coat, so I just shut up and agreed that it was terrible. There was a moment there, but I was the only one having it.

In the spring semester the boy met a girl, and decided that he liked her more, but didn't really seem to know how to actually break up with me and I didn't really understand why he didn't love me like I loved him and it got really messy and that was it with boys for a while. I graduated, spent the summer working as a custodian while I tried to put myself back together, turned down a hall director job at a small school in North Carolina whose name I can't remember and who hired me after a phone interview, moved back home, worked at a reform school/children's home for a semester, and then in the spring after my senior year I returned to Cortland as a hall director.

While I was there again, there was a lot of drinking, and a few guys. I had a full head of hair and was a lot thinner then. The second Easter that I was there I was home for the weekend, and my mom and I were out driving somewhere, and my mom casually asked, "Do you like boys more than you like girls?"

I figured if she was asking then she was ok with the answer, so I said, "Yes."

There was a definite swerving of the car, but to mom's credit, she did not run off the road. We had a long, long discussion (which really can't have been more than twenty minutes because there aren't that many places we could have been going and the whole discussion took place in the car, but in my head I remember it as FOREVER) which basically amounted to mom wanting to be sure that I was sure (not an unfair question, given that I'd recently ended my college career with an obvious mental issue and depression problem) and warning me not to tell dad until I was sure, and that was the last time that we discussed it for a year or two. I kept doing what I was doing, mom and dad kept doing what they were doing, and I built up a neat little wall between campus life and home life where some topics were just never discussed and that was it.

Then I moved to Albany in 2000, and in October my parents and I went on a road trip and discussed the car that they were planning to buy for me. I was having some trouble with the idea that I should take a car from people that I wasn't fully honest with, and while I was on that trip I happened to buy and read the trade paperback of The Kingdom. As I explained a while ago in another blog entry, reading that comic made me decide to go ahead and come out to both parents, because I was sure and I was tired of having two lives. Mom and I avoided mentioning that we'd had this discussion once before, and that was it.

And that was my coming out story.

Looking over it now, it seems shockingly devoid of drama, but I think I've just smoothed over all the rough spots in writing it down.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Most and Least

A few weeks ago a student was asking me how I got from my degree to where I am now, and what career path brought me from entering college with the idea that I would be a high school English teacher to working in the UT Housing office. While we were discussing the somewhat meandering road I followed (which started with "All of my friends were applying for staff positions, so I figured I would, too..." because I was such a unique and independent thinker my freshman year) the student asked me a question that I thought I would file away for this month's 30 Days of Blogging:

"What do you like most and least about your job?"

Most: I like that I help people. Living arrangements can be stressful, and I like that I can help to relieve that stress a little bit so that our students can focus on more important things. Am I saving the world? No. I'm not curing cancer here, but I making life the slightest bit easier when I walk a student through the process for requesting a single room or I help put them together with their roommate. Does it mean that I can help every student that I work with? No, not directly. The most requested freshmen hall on campus only has 500 beds and we have 4300 freshmen, so everybody can't have what they want. However, I try to treat all students fairly, and I try to always offer an alternative solution, and I like to think that being treated with respect and having someone listen to your complaint even if they can't do anything to fix it helps in some way, too.

And it helps some people to hear the word "no" once or twice in their lives, so there's that, too.

Least: Sometimes I feel old.

In the fall semester I teach, and a couple years ago on the first day of class we were talking about what it means to be a college freshman, why you're here, what's different in college, what's the same, etc., and one of the students asked what it was like when I was a freshman. For just a second before answering I realized that the kids in my class were born during my freshman year of college. What was it like? It was like you weren't alive yet, kid in the front row. Most of the time working with college students energizes me, but every once in a while I just feel terribly disconnected and worlds away from them, and it makes me a little sad.

A colleague and I were discussing this in the fall, and I think she said it best when she said, "It feels that way because every fall when classes start we're a year older, but every fall the freshmen are always eighteen."

I love what I do, though, and I love where I work, so even though there are things that I like and dislike and days when I'm excited to go to work and days when I have no desire to get out of bed and drive to the office, I am overall happy.

And that's what a job should do for you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some Topics I'm Not Going to Write About.

30 Days of Blogging is almost over, and today I got home a little later than usual because we had an event on campus, so I'm tired but still have to do something for Day 25. I still have topics left to cover, and ideas on how to do so, but I'm not going to use some of the topics, for various reasons.

For example, my friend Dee asked if I could explain why 30 is considered "the gay death". I can't answer that because I don't believe it. It's something stupid that a youth-obsessed (and usually youthful) portion of gay culture babbles about while they're still too shallow to know any better. Ask them again at 35, and they will have hopefully moved on to something besides going out every night and wearing dress shoes without socks while they attempt to rock some age-inappropriate Bieber hair. Dee asked about this because she wanted a better understanding of why people say it, but I can't answer because I don't really understand it, either. It's just always sounded like bullshit to me.

Dee also jokingly suggested that I write about porn. I'm not going to write about that because I don't really have any particular feelings about it. It exists, it serves its purpose, people like different kinds and there seems to be a kind for everybody, and some people like it more than other people.

"What I enjoyed most/least about being in HS marching band" was a suggestion from my friend Melisa. I remember marching band as fun, but that's all I remember. It's just kind of a blur of fun busrides and hot uniforms. I don't have a clear enough memory of it to say that there was anything in particular that I did or didn't like.

Finally, looking over my list, there's one question that I just can't answer. From my friend Sandy:

Who is the worst Real Housewife and why!

This is the "Sophie's Choice" of blog topics.

How can I pick one, and cast the others aside?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Your comics posts are awesome. More of those, please."

Tonight, on Day 24 of 30 Days of Blogging (which I think we need to just go ahead and make a thing for every April from now on; this could be the next NaNoWriMo, people), I've come to a topic suggested by my friend Dee:

Your comics posts are awesome. More of those, please.

I'm happy to oblige, and was inspired by a discussion a friend and I were having about sexism and comics earlier this week. I can't even argue that comics are not sexist since I've written about it before, like that entry I wrote a few years ago where all the girls in the Legion of Superheroes caught a crimson plague and the boys decided that they were unclean and sent them away or pretty much any entry about Lois Lane. Although the "crimson plague" story is a masterpiece of unsubtle symbolism, there's a Legion story that is just as bad, if not worse.

I give you, ladies and gentlemen, "Adventure Comics" #326:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (1)

The Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires.

Our story opens with Saturn Girl, Legion leader, calling all of the female members to a secret meeting. The girls are out doing the kinds of things that girl superheroes do, like signing autographs and... uh... dieting.

"Adventure Comics" #326 (2)

Nothing sexist there. Nope. I bet one of the boys just got done using that thing. Anyway, once she gets the girls there, Saturn Girl sets a diabolical plan in motion:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (3)

She sends away almost all of the powerful male members, and also for some reason Matter-Eater Lad. Once the boys are gone on their space cruise to nowhere, the girls divide up the remaining male members and mark them for destruction:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (4)

Shrinking Violet, for some reason, doesn't get a boy of her own to destroy. Maybe they already knew that by the mid 1990's she would be an out lesbian? Whatever the reason, the girls put their plan into motion immediately, starting with Light Lass:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (5)

Even her thoughts are evil.

With Element Lad confused and trusting, she strikes!

"Adventure Comics" #326 (6)

Element Lad is, apparently, a moron. Rather than just taking his boots off and escaping the mountaintop, he stays up there to die. Part of me thinks that he might even deserve it, just for being an idiot.

Meanwhile, Triplicate Girl splits herself up and prepares to destroy three men at once:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (7)

"Adventure Comics" #326 (8)

She gives them her rings... OF DEATH!

"Adventure Comics" #326 (9)

The shrinking chemical on the rings was provided by Shrinking Violet, a helpful fact that the girls gloat over after Triplicate Girl boxes them in forever and doesn't poke holes in the lid:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (10)

And now I have a question: This comic takes place in the year 2964. Why do safetly matches in wooden boxes still exist? There's no time to answer me because Saturn Girl is busy taking care of Superboy:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (11)

"Adventure Comics" #326 (12)

"Adventure Comics" #326 (13)

and Supergirl is destroying Chameleon Boy:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (14)

which didn't take long at all. That only leaves Star Boy running around free, but Phantom Girl is about to handily solve that problem:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (15)

"Adventure Comics" #326 (16)

"Adventure Comics" #326 (17)

"So long, chump!" might be the best line in this comic.

Up to this point, the comic doesn't seem incredibly sexist. If anything, it's almost empowering for women. The girls have outsmarted every male on their team, defeated them, and taken over the clubhouse. Those guys ARE chumps. Element Lad isn't even smart enough to take his own boots off, for God's sake. What could possibly be horribly sexist about this comic?

Maybe the shocking twist.

The girls are busy celebrating their victory with an all-girls dance party when someone buzzes in on the video screen, demanding their attention:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (18)

Who's that?

"Adventure Comics" #326 (19)

Oh. It's the Queen of Femnaz, a planet without men. While they don't come right out and call the lady from Femnaz a feminazi, they do mention that she brainwashed the female Legionnaires into destroying the males because she hates men, and banished them from her own planet.


A Femnazian convinced the girls to hate boys. Hi, sexist plot twist. We've been expecting you.

The Queen of Femnaz is calling now to reverse the brainwashing, which she can somehow do over the transmission even though she had to have the girls on her planet to brainwash them the first time. Once she does, the female Legionnaires immediately regret their actions in a flurry of tears:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (20)

And why the change of heart?

Oh, they had some trouble on Femnaz:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (21)

Wait, they worshipped the moon goddess by firing rockets at the moon? I feel like there might be some incredibly subtle symbolism there.

Invisible Kid speaks (1)

Invisible Kid? I thought you were stuck in a matchbox. Anyway, you can help me figure out what the moon rocket thing reminds me of?

Invisible Kid speaks (2)

Go on...

Invisible Kid speaks (3)


The Femnazians worshipped their moon goddess by acting out a fertilization ritual that their men refused to participate in, fully emasculating them, and then sent the men away entirely. Yeah, this comic is subtle, all right. So what happened, then?

"Adventure Comics" #326 (22)

They broke their moon in half, and the pieces started falling down to crush them.

Invisible Kid speaks (4)

Not now, Invisible Kid. It's time for some boys to swoop in and teach these independent man-haters the error of their ways:

"Adventure Comics" #326 (23)

"Adventure Comics" #326 (24)

and they all lived happily ever after.

Until the violent revolt of the Legion of Superpets.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Free Yo' Bacon Marrrrr-ma-laaaaaaaade!

On this, Day 23 of 30 Days of Blogging, we are going off topic, because I have to tell you what I'm eating.

I don't have a man, but let's pretend that someday I might, and someday he might sleep over, and we'll assume that he didn't kick me or steal the covers or leave the closet door open (because OH MY GOD, HOW CAN I SLEEP WITH CLOSET MONSTER STARING AT ME?)or do anything else to make me wish slow death upon him, and instead we will imagine that I wake up first and want to prepare a special breakfast that says, "I want you to live and I want to do something really nice for you."

This is the breakfast that I would prepare:

bacon marmalade (2)

Pancakes with bacon marmalade.

Yes, bacon marmalade is a thing that exists, and I made it tonight from a recipe in a "Southern comfort food" magazine.

To start, I needed a cup of sorghum syrup. For those unfamiliar, sorghum is a grass kind of like sugar cane, and sorghum syrup is produced from it. I had a bottle in my refrigerator that I'd already used some of for homemade barbecue sauce, so I was a little short of the cup this recipe called for:


I filled in the rest of the cup with molasses, which is not a perfect solution, but it's not like I keep extra sorghum in the pantry. It's really, really sweet.

Next I had to dice half a cup of bacon. Dicing bacon is a pain, because it is slimy and slips around when you're trying to slice, so I just cut it up with kitchen scissors:

diced bacon

After that I had to cook the bacon in a skillet. I usually do mine in the oven, but the recipe said skillet, so I cooked away:

cooking bacon (1)

cooking bacon (2)

cooking bacon (3)

Then I had to drain the bacon, wipe out the skillet, return the bacon to the skillet, add the sorghum, and cook it down a little, stirring frequently:

bacon and sorghum

After that I had to add cider vinegar, which smells good but which you should not lean over while cooking:

added cider vinegar

cook until it reduced by half, then add chicken broth:

added broth

and reduce it down again:

bacon marmalade (1)

And there it was.

I let it cool, made pancakes while it was doing so, and oh my God was this totally worth spending over an hour on dinner for. It tastes sweet, cidery, and bacony all at the same time, and then you bite into pieces of candied bacon while chewing and that's kind of indescribable.

Other than "delicious", I mean.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"What did you want to be...?"

On Day 22 of 30 Days of Blogging, coming into the home stretch, I'm turning my attention to a topic suggested by Kristin. I actually kind of forgot she suggested this (people suggested through multiple avenues, and I didn't think to consolidate them into a list, which would have been smart), but she reminded me while we were skating the other night:

What did you want to be when you were growing up and if you could have any career in the world right now what would it be?

Other than a superhero or an assassin?

Seriously, though, there have been a few ideas over the years that stuck around longer than a few days or weeks.

FBI Agent: This one popped up in high school, and I can point to one thing that directly influenced this: Twin Peaks. I love this show, even if it did fall apart in the second season, and it made being an FBI agent look like the best job in the world. You got to travel, meet strange and unusual people, shoot people, stay in hotels, and bill your coffee and cherry pie back to the agency. You even got to have a nemesis!

When "Twin Peaks" went off the air, The X-Files came along right behind it, and being in the FBI still looked fun. You got to shoot creepy monsters, chase UFO's, travel, stay in hotels, bill your snacks to the agency, and your own bosses might be your shadowy nemesis! Sure, there were downsides: You could die horribly, or just have something implanted in you, but being in the FBI still looked fun.

Except that I wore glasses, and read somewhere that you had to have 20/20 vision. And I was never going to be in the kind of physical shape that the FBI requires, so somewhere along the way that career idea kind of fizzled out.

Journalist: I took a journalism class in the seventh grade, and it seemed fine. I worked on the school paper all the way through high school, and was the editor my senior year. Journalist seemed like an interesting job, and somewhat respectable: Spider-Man and Superman both worked for newspapers, after all. Granted, so did Lois Lane, but every professional attracts the occasional oddball. Working for the paper meant that you got to write, and also to decide what was and was not important for other people to read about. Sometimes you even got to take pictures, too.

Unfortunately my experience on my college newspaper freshman year with a sloppy drunken editor who actually told me not to correct articles while typing them ("You're a typist, not a copy editor." "Your copy editor should have corrected this." "SHUT UP AND TYPE FASTER!") turned me off to the whole idea. I did spend the next three years of college correcting each issue of the paper with a highlighter and tossing it in the editor's box in the student government office, though, without signing my name to it.

Teacher: I kind of wandered into this idea because I was out of other ideas. I knew that I wanted an English degree, and that I wanted to work with words and writing and maybe someday become a writer, but I also knew that after college I needed a job, and I was told by a number of counselors, parents, and other well-meaning adults that I wasn't getting a job with just an English degree. Fearful of a lifetime of unemployment and recognizing that I might never write a novel (which turned out not to be the case) or that I might finish one but nobody would buy it (which did happen, although now that I think of it I might have just been too early; I wrote a novel about superheroes, which is now a recognized subgenre of sci fi/fantasy, and an agent optioned it for a year, but no one was interested in publishing it), I went for a double major in English and education.

Unfortunately, my program didn't put us into the classroom for more than a few hours a semester until our senior year, and my semester of student teaching taught me that I hated teaching. A lot of the problem was that the students were only two years younger than me. Also I was drinking a bit, and under an intense level of personal stress due to being in my first gay relationship and figuring out that I might actually be gay. I like teaching now, but it's definitely something that I had to grow into.

As for my ideal job...

Is independently wealthy a job?

Seriously, though, I would like to do something that let me write, even if it's just blogging. I would like for it to also include some travel, and maybe some photography. I have no idea what this fantasy job would be in any actual sense, but I know that's what I would do if I won the lottery: settle down in my imaginary loft, read comic books, go on a trip every couple of months, cook, read, and write.

If anyone would like to finance that, by all means, send me a message.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Saturday Night Skate

On Day 21 of 30 Days of Blogging, I'm not going to use a suggested topic, and will instead talk about a tiny adventure last night: Kristin and I went to the skating rink.

This is our second trip out to Oliver Springs to skate together. Kristin has been out there a bunch of times for derby, but now that she's not active in derby she still wants to skate, so she invites friends to go. There's another rink closer to us somewhere, but Kristin doesn't like the floor at that one, so we've gone to this one instead. The first time, we went by ourselves, but last night we met up with a few of her friends, and both times we've stayed a few hours and it has been generally fun. Kristin brings her own skates (of course, since she has expensive derby skates), but I just use the rental skates:


How can you go wrong for $1.50?

Our two trips (so far) to the skating rink have taught me a few things:

1) Skating is still cheap entertainment. Less than five dollars, including the skate rental. Skating, like bowling, remains popular for kids in high school and junior high because it is cheap and you can have fun even with minimal skill.

While I'm on the topic of skill...

2) I can't remember how to roller skate. I'm a decent ice skater, I think. It's possible that has changed since I haven't gone ice skating since moving to Tennessee, but every other time I haven't ice skated for a few years and then pick it up again I've gotten the knack of it back in under an hour. As for roller skating, I seem to have no muscle memory of this remaining, and spend most of the time hugging the wall or circling very, very slowly around the outside of the rink. When we lived in Alaska I skated all the time, and knew how to roller skate before I learned how to ice skate, but I guess it's been way too long to have retained any of that.

3) The skating rink has not changed since you were twelve.


It doesn't matter when you were twelve. The skating rink is timeless. There are still girls continuously screaming at the top of their lungs, and there are still boys who can do intricate skate dancing moves that you will never be coordinated enough for because they come to the rink every single night. The snack bar still has nachos, candy, and soda, the skates still look the same, and really the only differences are the music and the kids texting while they skate.

4) 12 year olds wear a lot of mascara. Seriously, I don't remember kids wearing nearly this much makeup when I was their age.

On the plus side, I haven't fallen, yet.

Probably because I also haven't done more than three laps in a row.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"I think you should do a blog about stairs. A photo-blog."

Way back on Day 1 of 30 Days of Blogging I talked about my attempt at giving up sloth for Lent. I've put on a lot of weight over the past few years, and recognize that this is unhealthy, so I tried to use Lent to introduce some healthier habits into my life, like taking the stairs. When I posted it, my friend Rod said:

"I think you should do a blog about stairs. A photo-blog."

and that's our topic for today.

Since Lent ended, I've kind of been backsliding a little. I've taken the stairs a few times, but fewer times than I've taken the elevator. Maybe revisiting the whole idea will help me to refocus on the idea that it might be better for me to be less enormous.

This is the outside stairwell on my building:

outside stairwell

It doesn't look so terrible in that photo, because you're still down in the parking lot. It looks like a nice, long, slow ascent. This weird optical illusion is aided by the fact that the stairs are, for some odd reason, only about three inches high:

view from the bottom

and also because the stairwell has a bend in the middle. It totally doesn't look like three stories worth of steps, right?

When you get on the stairwell and start climbing, you don't notice the first step:

first step

because you're wide awake and full of energy and haven't started climbing yet. You will notice something else, though: For some random reason people seem to think the staircase is a perfectly acceptable place to stop and try to carry on a conversation with you. Hi, can't you see I'm wheezing here?

Anyway, the first leg of the stair case isn't terrible. Not only that, but it leads to a big step where the staircase turns and you get to walk on level ground for two or three steps:

halfway landing

but that's only for a second before you have to start the second, worse leg of the stairs:

view from the middle

This is the leg when your legs hurt. You get that slightly trembly in the knee feeling like your legs just want to give out, but you have to keep climbing the stairs because the shame of laying down and dying on them in full view of every coworker who pulls their car into the parking lot all morning long and then being picked apart by vultures and crows is too horrible to contemplate, and yet you somehow manage to contemplate that very thing anyway, and it keeps you climbing until you reach the third floor. Because our building is built on a hill, the third floor is also the first floor on the front of the building.

The third floor also presents you with options:

third floor or ground floor

You can use the stairwell right there to climb to the last floor, or you can walk down to the one closer to your office. I always walk down to the further away one, because there is never anyone on that outside sidewalk between them. It means I can wheeze in peace without having to talk to anyone. The long slow stretch means I can catch my breath before the last staircase, and the outside sidewalk means I can do it without walking past the open doorways of all the neighboring offices along my hallway.

Eventually the sidewalk runs out, though:

last stairwell (1)

and there's more climbing:

last stairwell (2)

last stairwell (3)

and then we're finally out of stairs.