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October 26th, 2021

Mad Kings And Commoners…

This came across the LGBTQ Heritage/Memorial Project page this morning…

 

…and it reminded me to go dig into this man’s story a little more. Because last Disney trip I took while we were still talking to each other, I discovered that a certain someone kept a photo of this King of Bavaria in his wallet, and I don’t think that was entirely out of Bavarian pride.

They still call him the “Mad King”, but it doesn’t look to me like he was actually mad, but simply different in the way many gay men are. That view of him seems to be changing. He wasn’t a warrior king. He liked his artistic pursuits, was a big fan of Richard Wagner, brought the best of European theater to Munich, and built amazing castles. He looked to the French for the way they glorified their culture in the arts, architecture, and music, and saw how lacking Bavaria was by comparison. He used his own money to build his castles, not by raiding the state treasury as is sometimes claimed. And those castles have paid for themselves many times over in tourist money. He made Bavaria rich in the arts and architecture.

But…Bavaria. To bring the arts to Bavaria was perhaps amusing, but to have a gay King was intolerable. So I think when his only engagement fell through then were plans to depose and, yes, murder him put into motion; because as Emerson said, if you strike at the king you must kill him. In exile he might have felt even freer to be the man he was. Bavaria. They weren’t having it. The official version puts it as suicide by drowning, but you look at the conflicting stories and it’s probably he was shot trying to escape.

You wonder how many gay Bavarians see something of their own stories in his.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
October 18th, 2021

Weekend Of Nostalgia, Ten Minutes Of Terror

Well…serious doubt. I have a bunch of undeveloped film I need to get to, but which I’ve been putting off because Kodak mucked with the formula for HC-110, my go-to developer ever since I was a teenager. I know this developer. I get exactly what I want out of every film I commonly use, and I am comfortable enough with it that I don’t worry about using it with a new film I’m trying out. I adore this product. So when Kodak fucked with it I was pissed off. Then I worried.

Allegedly they made the change to make producing it more environmentally friendly. And it just happened to take away another virtue of the developer some of us loved: the nearly limitless lifespan of the concentrate. For decades we ignored the expiration date on the bottles of concentrate because we knew it would probably still be good for years afterward. From now on we would have to pay attention to that date.

And there was more. You use HC-110 by first making a “stock” solution from the concentrate. Then to develop, you dilute the stock further. Dilution ‘A’ is one part stock to three parts water. ‘B’ is one part stock to seven parts water. The more it is diluted, the longer the processing time, which works better for some films. Dilution ‘A’ gives you a very rapid development time. I always use ‘B’ as a “one-shot” developer. That is, use it once and discard it. That gives you consistent results over re-use which slowly exhausts a developer.

Kodak insisted that nothing regarding dilutions and processing times had changed with the new formulation. But the chatter on the photographer forums was full of doubts about that, especially when you actually mixed up some of it, because whereas the original formulation was syrupy and with an amber tint and a very distinctive (and unpleasant) odor, the new formulation seemed just to be water.

But from the photographer forums I heard that it was all good as far as dilutions and processing times. So I bought a bottle and for months it just sat in my basement darkroom while I worked up the nerve to try it. And thus, my backlog of undeveloped film grew.

And I dawdled. This happens to me when I have to shift gears because something’s changed that I didn’t expect to change and now I have to adapt to this sudden change, but first I need to overthink how. 

Then one day on a Facebook group dedicated to memories of growing up in Rockville, someone posted a shot he’d taken of a train wreck that had happened in the early 1970s on the main line out of DC. I’d covered that wreck with my Mamiya Press Camera for a local county newspaper. It took 120 roll film and had swappable film backs which came in handy when you’re in the middle of something. Plus, it gave me large 6×7 negatives which provided lots of detail with very little grain, even if I was using a fast film like Tri-X Pan.

So I remembered working that train wreck. And there, in that guy’s photo, to my delight, was I, walking back up the tracks and presumably to my car after getting some close in shots of the wreck, the Mamiya slung over a shoulder. 


Photo by Tom Lockard
From the Facebook Group “You know you grew up in Rockville if you…”

It was like seeing a window into my past, into a happier time…when that great big beautiful tomorrow really was in front of me…or so I thought…

I still have that Mamiya Press Camera. It is one of only two cameras I still have from back in my teenage days when I was aspiring to be a newspaper photographer, the other being the Canon F-1 I bought after a summer flipping burgers at a local fast food joint. The lens on it had frozen up and so I’d consigned it to the top of my camera cabinet, along with my first camera, the little Kodak Brownie Fiesta. But it had nostalgia value to me. I took photos with it that got into the local newspapers. We’d worked together back in the day. So even if it was no longer functional, I was keeping it.

It sat for a couple decades up on top of my camera cabinet, reminding me of a happier time. Now I had to see if I could get it working again. 

I looked online to see if I could buy another lens for it, since I doubted anyone would repair the one I had. As it turned out, someone had a nearly mint condition lens for it and I snapped it up.

So I had my Press Camera working again, now I needed to run some film through it to see if everything was still working. And also admittedly, to revisit the feeling of being a teenager again, working with that camera and imagining that someday I would be a professional newspaper photographer. As it turned out what I revisited is it’s actually somewhat difficult camera to work with since the viewfinder really doesn’t give you a good idea of where the frame is, and the rangefinder is very dim, which makes focusing it something you have to be careful about. But having those swappable film backs, like the Hasselblad has, is very nice when you’re in the middle of something. 

The trip to York turned into a two day affair. I went back with the Hasselblad and the Canon F-1N, and I knew I had stuff I really wanted to get developed and scanned. So now I had more film to develop, and today I dug into it with the new HC-110. Almost immediately I began to worry. The stuff really did look like it was just water.

Worse, although allegedly the concentrate didn’t expire until late 2023, some small amount of something had crystalized out of it while the bottle had been sitting there, and I didn’t notice until I’d emptied the bottle into a mixing bucket and felt something rattling inside. I tried adding water to get whatever it was back into solution but it wouldn’t budge.

Now I was really concerned it was a bad batch. But I pressed on and decided to test it with the two 120 rolls of Tri-x Pan I ran through the Press Camera, which were themselves a test of the camera. I had images on them I didn’t want to lose, but which I wasn’t entirely happy with either because it’s difficult for me to compose to a “normal” focal length lens and that’s all that camera has. I reckoned that if nothing came out of the tank I could always run another couple test rolls through the camera and try a different developer. After venting to Kodak about what they did to my go-to film developer.

So I mixed up my chemicals and did the thing I’ve done so often I probably do it in my dreams too and just don’t notice that its dreaming. I have a nice Weston thermometer and the old Kodak Darkroom Dataguide and it looked to be five minutes of developer, followed by a splash in stop bath, and four minutes of Rapid Fixer. As I poured developer into the tank I was nearly convinced I would only see blank film when I opened the tank up again.

But when it was time to pour the developer back out of the tank it came out a dark rose red. Not exactly what the old formulation did, but close and I was encouraged. It meant Something was going on in there.

After the fixer I took the tank to my utility sink where I had the film washer going, and opened it. Success. Exactly the density the negatives were supposed to have.

Whew!

Now I can get to the other stuff. I have some good ones in those rolls. Post some of it maybe this weekend after I’ve got some of it scanned.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Sie…du…dich…dir…I Have No Idea Which You It Is…

Maybe instead of blaming the cultural homophobia he grew up in, I should consider the language he was born to…

Also…

 

Communication between us was probably doomed from the start.

Now if he was reading this, which I know he isn’t because he told me straight up once that he never reads my blog or looks at my cartoons, he’d probably be getting all ticked off now. For as big a tease as he is he has a really thin skin and hated being teased back. And speaking of language barriers…I think it was sometime during one of my 2014 visits I began to see with clarity that we are just not very compatible personalities.

I was struggling with basic beginner level German and bought a t-shirt at the Epcot Germany gift shop that said “Ich Bin”, which in English is “I am”.  Now, I’m the kid who grew up under the icy cold glare of a bitter Baptist grandmother who despised my dad (and his entire family I later learned) with a venomous passion, and there I was bearing his face and handy for taking it out on because he was clear on the other side of the country and I was right there in arm’s reach. So by the time I started my walk into puberty and had that moment of realization that I’m gay, I already knew there would be people in my life who would hate my guts over something I had no choice about and no control over. So that Ich Bin t-shirt tickled a part of me that’s fiercely defensive of my own unique human identity. I Am. But it did it in a kinda fun way. Or so I thought. I am. No, not German. Not my dad. Not your favorite homosexual stereotype. I am Bruce Garrett. Deal with it. Ich Bin.

And…he could not. I wore the shirt into his restaurant and when we met up I pointed to it and said “Ich Bin…I am”, because I was proud to show him that I knew at least two German words and could put them together. German grammar would later kick me in the teeth and I gave it up, but that was to come later.

He looked at me scornfully, like I was somehow making fun of him, and said, “And what’s funny is you trying to teach me German.”

I must have looked at him like he was a total stranger I’d just run into who happened to look like the guy I’d crushed on madly in high school and it was confusing me. What the fuck man…are you Serious? Did you really think that’s what I was doing? 

Wow…where the hell did That come from? You’re not really the person I thought you were…

Most people experience that moment with their first teenage crush back when they’re teenagers, not when they’re in their 60s. You have a good cry over it, take his picture out of your class notebook, and move on. But while my generation was allowed to see the promise land, most of us could not walk into it. We will always live in a time before Stonewall. So geht es… Looking back on it, and the torrent of abuse we all got thrown at us from every direction, I’m surprised any of us found their other half. No…it wasn’t a language barrier. We were just a couple of gay teens who, in a better world, would have figured it out, gone our separate ways and kept looking. But that was not the world we came of age in.

I still have that t-shirt. And I still wear it proudly.

What I am is what I am
You’re what you are or what?


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

The Dancer And The Dance

It can cut you like a knife, if the gift becomes the fire… 
-“
Maniac”, Michael Sembello

This came across my Facebook page the other day: Excerpts of a letter Rudolf Nureyev wrote to the dance community about his own life as a dancer, while dying of AIDS. He’s writing about dance, but it’s how it is for anyone who pursues an art form.

I can see so much of my life in this. But I never had the one single passion. It’s always been a tug of war between modes I had to learn just to let the seasons come and go as they pleased. One day it’s the cameras calling me, other times it’s the drafting table. I can’t force one or the other. It just has to be what it is in the moment.

Sometimes I just want to walk alone with my thoughts and listen to the earth around me, or the city. N.C. Wyeth said to walk in the world and soak it all in, but don’t forget to squeeze it back out every now and then. Yes.

But I never had that maniacal single minded focus that gets you the spotlight. It doesn’t matter. Read this and you know without doubt that Nureyev would have danced had he never got the spotlight and that’s how it is.

We don’t always get to earn a living doing the thing. Very few get the spotlight. So it goes. You work in the fields because that’s life. You dance because your heart must.

It was the smell of my skin changing, it was getting ready before class, it was running away from school and after working in the fields with my dad because we were ten brothers, walking those two kilometers to dance school.

I would never have been a dancer, I couldn’t afford this dream, but I was there, with my shoes worn on my feet, with my body opening to music, with the breath taking me above the clouds. It was the sense I gave to my being, it was standing there and making my muscles words and poetry, it was the wind in my arms, it was the other guys like me that were there and maybe wouldn’t be dancers, but we swapped the sweat, silences, barely.

For thirteen years I studied and worked, no auditions, nothing, because I needed my arms to work in the fields. But I didn’t care: I learned to dance and dance because it was impossible for me not to do it, it was impossible for me to think I was elsewhere, not to feel the earth transforming under my feet, impossible not to get lost in music, impossible not not to get lost in music using my eyes to look in the mirror, to try new steps.

Everyday I woke up thinking about the moment I would put my feet inside my slippers and do everything by tasting that moment. And when I was there, with the smell of camphor, wood, tights, I was an eagle on the rooftop of the world, I was the poet among poets, I was everywhere and I was everything.

I remember a ballerina Elèna Vadislowa, rich family, well taken care of, beautiful. She wanted to dance as much as I did, but later I realized it wasn’t like that. She danced for all the auditions, for the end of the course show, for the teachers watching her, to pay tribute to her beauty.

Two years I prepared for the Djenko contest. The expectations were all about her. Two years she sacrificed part of her life. She didn’t win the contest. She stopped dancing, forever. She didn’t resist. That was the difference between me and her.

I used to dance because it was my creed, my need, my words that I didn’t speak, my struggle, my poverty, my crying. I used to dance because only there my being broke the limits of my social condition, my shyness, my shame. I used to dance and I was with the universe on my hands, and while I was at school, I was studying, arraising the fields at six am, my mind endured because it was drunk with my body capturing the air.

I was poor, and they paraded in front of me guys performing for pageants, they had new clothes, they made trips. I didn’t suffer from it, my suffering would have been stopping me from entering the hall and feeling my sweat coming out of the pores of my face. My suffering would have been not being there, not being there, surrounded by that poetry that only the sublimation of art can give. I was a painter, poet, sculptor.

The first dancer of the year-end show got hurt. I was the only one who knew every move because I sucked, quietly, every step. They made me wear his new, shiny clothes and dictated to me, after thirteen years, the responsibility to demonstrate. Nothing was different in those moments I danced on stage, I was like in the hall with my clothes off. I was and I used to perform, but it was dancing that I cared about.

The applause reached me far away. Behind the scenes, all I wanted was to take off the uncomfortable tights, but everyone’s compliments and I had to wait. My sleep wasn’t different from other nights. I had danced and whoever was watching me was just a cloud far away on the horizon.

From that moment my life changed, but not my passion and need to dance. I kept helping my dad in the fields even though my name was on everyone’s mouth. I became one of the brightest stars in dance.

Now I know I’m going to die, because this disease doesn’t forgive, and my body is trapped in a pram, blood doesn’t circulate, I lose weight. But the only thing that goes with me is my dance, my freedom to be.

I’m here, but I dance with my mind, fly beyond my words and my pain. I dance my being with the wealth I know I have and will follow me everywhere: that I have given myself the chance to exist above effort and have learned that if you experience tiredness and effort dancing…if we pity our bleeding feet, if we chase only the aim and don’t understand the full and unique pleasure of moving, we don’t understand the deep essence of life, where the meaning is in its becoming and not in appearing.

Every man should dance, for life. Not being a dancer, but dancing.

Who will never know the pleasure of walking into a hall with wooden bars and mirrors, who stops because they don’t get results, who always needs stimulus to love or live, hasn’t entered the depths of life, and will abandon every time life won’t give him what he wants.

It’s the law of love: you love because you feel the need to do it, not to get something or to be reciprocated, otherwise you’re destined for unhappiness.

I’m dying, and I thank God for giving me a body to dance so that I wouldn’t waste a moment of the wonderful gift of life.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
October 17th, 2021

Living With My Picky Libido And Empty House

I wrote this several years ago, about a bartender I just couldn’t stop gawking at. He was straight, had a nice girlfriend, but he took kindly to the roving eyes and dropping jaw of a lonely old gay man, and some days when he wasn’t too busy, we’d chat for hours across the bar about this and that…life…music…Disneyworld…

Something about the face…those beautiful eyes, that lovely smile that appears spontaneously and lights up his face…Something about the way his hair flows easily down the back of his neck to his shoulders. Something about the shape of the hips, the lovely curve of the glutes under skin tight black low rise jeans, the occasional peek of black bikini brief just a tad above the belt line against bare skin, and the way that cute blue bandanna hangs down from his left back pocket…

My libido is picky. Very Very picky. But when it alerts…

Gay male sexuality. Every single guy I’ve ever taken a fancy to…Every One…could fit this pattern in a general way. My libido may not be very energetic, but it isn’t dead yet either…

At the time I wrote this I was well into my sixties and afraid of losing interest altogether. Now I’m a heart patient, and on beta blockers, which can be fairly described as antimatter Viagra. That, and a libido that seldom alerts on anything keeps me worried that someday I’ll just forget what it was that ever interested me in the first place about sex. 

But I’m not dead yet. Just…old…and looking at an entire lifetime spent on the outside of love and desire and romance looking in. That knife in my heart has so many names on it, and not just the names of bigots and bible thumpers. Shockingly there are gay names there who I trusted to lend a hand to an awkward gay kid who didn’t have the first clue about flirting, and who might as well have been bigots and bible thumpers too. The damage to my love life aren’t any different that I can see.

But a beautiful guy can still make my heart beat. So there’s that anyway. Joy and torment all wrapped up in one!


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
October 15th, 2021

I’m Not High Maintenance, You’re High Maintenance…

I am almost tempted today to do a chart, something like that Good/Evil Lawful/Chaotic chart you see sometimes filled out with various characters from movies and comics. It’s regarding a cynical trope I’ve heard, probably we’ve all heard, a bazillion times about how beauty usually comes with high maintenance. So my chart would have the rows from Chill to High Maintenance, and the columns from Beautiful to Plain. It could be hours of cheap fun filling it out. But on reflection, cynics notwithstanding, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and high maintenance is probably just a matter of mismatched expectations.

I know this about beauty because my ideal of male beauty isn’t that of most of my fellow American gay males, who get all hot and bothered over something I wouldn’t even notice. What gets my heart beating is usually disrespected as pretty, and along with that, stereotyped as weak and vain and probably conniving. But that stereotype I’m convinced, is as much about straight male homophobia as it is about gay male sour grapes.

I’ve witnessed all three of my major life crushes get old, and they’re all still beautiful in my opinion, but only one of them is someone I’d classify as high maintenance, and that in retrospect I think is a good example of that also being in the eye of the beholder.

A German chat BBS I tuned into once had a “You Know You’re German When” thread and one of the entries was “Spontaneity is at two weeks notice.” Tell me about it. It’s a German stereotype that they’re all about order and process and being on time but it’s really they’re terrified of chaos and I’m somewhere in the chaotic good section of those charts. So when I crushed massively on a German guy it was probably doomed from the start, even if we had been living in a better world. Expectations. Decades later we reconnected and almost right away, with all that life experience under my belt, I saw it was not going to be easy just managing a long distance friendship. He was probably never late for work a day in his life, and the invention of flextime was a godsend for me. His idea of a good vacation was a trip to a ski resort and mine is jump in the car and find some new roads to drive and see what’s there. Detailed plans quickly make me feel confined and suffocated, and they probably make him feel safe and secure. But I don’t think either one of us were high maintenance. Just tragically out of phase. Lawful Good does not match well with Chaotic Good, even though both are Good.

He called me “a piece of work” once, and a drama queen another time. Well I’ve met real drama queens, people who could summon a spectacle of Wagnerian scale with a mere raised eyebrow. You could hear the thunder in Valhalla whenever they walked into a room and frowned. I am not worthy. But I guess what he was trying to tell me with all that was I was stressing him out just being me, and never mind the elephant in the room with us. But I can’t not be me. I’ve seen what happens to people like this, creatives with, as David Gerrold once said, minds like a web browser with a thousand tabs opened all at once, who try to stifle themselves in exchange for acceptance. Often they end up dead. Best I can do is try to manage it, and not take it to heart when I start getting those blank stares. A little sympathy every now and then would be helpful. 

I am not beautiful…so I’ve been told…and not very chill either. Unless I’ve got a drink in my hands. But that’s okay. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so as it turns out is chill. What matters I think, is how well matched you are. I’ve crossed paths with couples, gay and straight, both of whom were so high maintenance you’d think they’d be at each other’s throats all the time. But they were on the same page and in phase with each other and they got along. It was everyone else they drove nuts.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
October 9th, 2021

The Axe Forgets…

To whom it may concern…

(Note, this does not include anyone whose peace and quiet began March 6, 2016…)

I heard you. Now hear this.

If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.  -Malcolm X

I’ll put it behind me, when it is behind me.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
October 4th, 2021

What The Headline Should Have Said

Via James Fallows on Twitter…

Thread “Sociology of a headline, in three acts” Here.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Hello Again!

Back at ‘cha…


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
September 26th, 2021

The Double Edged Knife Of The Mind’s Eye

Some weeks ago this Times Article came across my news stream and provoked some thoughts…even some visualizations…

Many People Have a Vivid ‘Mind’s Eye,’ While Others Have None at All

Scientists are finding new ways to probe two not-so-rare conditions to better understand the links between vision, perception and memory.

Dr. Adam Zeman didn’t give much thought to the mind’s eye until he met someone who didn’t have one. In 2005, the British neurologist saw a patient who said that a minor surgical procedure had taken away his ability to conjure images.

Over the 16 years since that first patient, Dr. Zeman and his colleagues have heard from more than 12,000 people who say they don’t have any such mental camera. The scientists estimate that tens of millions of people share the condition, which they’ve named aphantasia, and millions more experience extraordinarily strong mental imagery, called hyperphantasia.

I would probably fit pretty well in the latter category. I can almost completely zone out into a daydream that’s almost like a vivid dream in its detail. And I can do that at will. It’s a two edged knife. And I think I’ve met people who have no mind’s eye at all. They’re the ones that mystify me when they tell me that they don’t dream.

When working on a cartoon, be it a political cartoon or an episode of A Coming Out Story, I do next to no preliminary drawings. I might draw out a figure just to make sure I can actually draw it the way I want it on paper, but I already know how I want it to look on paper. I can visualize it clearly, in detail. I think out a cartoon or a painting, sometimes off and on for days. I can see it vividly in my head. By the time I sit down at the drafting table to actually start drawing it I know exactly what I want to put down on the paper. It’s very rare that I have to change direction once I begin to see it on paper.

In episode 19 of A Coming Out Story, I made reference to my ability to disappear into my own alternate worlds…

My daydreaming really is this vivid…

I used to think everyone can do this. And there are times it’s helpful in a practical way. Like when I’m thinking out a home repair job, or something I want to build for myself. But it can also be a trap. As I point out at the end of episode 19.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Storyboarding Flirting That Isn’t Flirting Because We’re Not Gay Really We’re Not

 

For the first time ever I’m pretty sure, I’m going to have to storyboard this next episode before I begin working on it. I have a clear idea of what happens in it, and a clear idea of how I want to do it. What I don’t have, unusually for me, is a clear idea of how it will look when it’s finished.

I posted a link a while ago to an article about people who either have, or don’t have, a “mind’s eye”. That is, the ability to visualize something entirely in your head. I have a good one…maybe too good for my own good because ever since I was a kid I could just disappear into it whenever the world was making me hurt, or boring me. I joke that tuning out the world was a trick I learned in Vacation Bible School, but actually while I may have perfected it there, I was already doing it by the time I had to attend.

So I almost never do preliminary drawings of anything. I think about it and by the time I begin to work I can see it so clearly there are actually times when I haven’t bothered producing something because after I’d drawn it in my mind I didn’t like it.

The extent of preliminary work on A Coming Out Story has been my scripting it. I’ve had to do that to make sense of a story so big (33 episodes plus intermissions so far and I’ve still got a long way to go). While I’m scripting I’m visualizing it. I don’t really need to storyboard.

But this time I do because I want to try something a bit clever with it. The new title is Flirting In Denialville. How do you get across visually, in cartoon form, two teenagers struggling with how to get it across that they’re attracted to each other, while at the same time in denial that they are exactly that?

I think I know. But it took a Lot of thinking it out…trying this scenario and that. And I still need to storyboard it to convince myself that it’s going to work. This Isn’t Asking For Advice. I’m just saying this is why I’m doing the storyboard. It’s something I’ve never had to do before which is why I’m talking about it here. Often I blog just to get my thoughts in order. Or something approximating order.

Notice the panels are separate little squares of drafting paper. I may need to move things around a bit before I have it to my satisfaction.

What I’m looking forward to in retirement is having more time to do this sort of thing. Tomorrow it’s back to the office.

PS… The mushroom is an incense burner. It puts me in a 70s mood…


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by Bruce | Link | React!
September 17th, 2021

All Things Must Pass. . .

And so, the last paid vacation I will probably ever have ends. It wasn’t exactly spectacular, but it couldn’t be due to staff vacation restrictions for the soon to come launch of JWST. Plus there’s a plague going on right now. Which is why I’ve been staying out of the Disney parks this trip. Paid vacation was an absolute rarity in my working life, and I would have liked to have made this last paid vacation I’ll ever get a big blow out. But it was not to be. Such is life. So it goes.

Yeah, yeah…I’m retiring soon. Life will be a vacation every day! Also, I won’t have nearly the kind of money for it that it takes to do really nice ones like I’ve been doing, unless I want to blow through my four oh something somethings in just a decade or so.

(So if you hear me laughing my butt off if my heart gives out in five, that’ll be why. Oh…you mean I could have done Disney five or six times a year…and California too!? Ah…but that assumes this plague ever ends)

Heading for the Autotrain in the morning. And from there to the last few months of my working life…and to whatever comes after. I really don’t care. Just so long as I can finish my cartoon story, and maybe take a few more good photos. Write some stories…


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by Bruce | Link | React!
September 15th, 2021

Home Away From Home

Really enjoying what is essentially a one bedroom apartment here in Saratoga Springs, especially the fully equipped kitchen. And it’s reminding me of the guest house apartments mom used to get us when we went to the beach, back when I was a kid. Those would be two bedroom things, also with fully equipped kitchens. I guess I’d forgotten this.

They would usually be a block behind the hotels stacked along the boardwalks and beachfronts. Large structures that looked like very big old houses, but were divided up into apartments that families could rent for their stay at the beach. Often much, Much more affordable than the nice beachfront hotels, they provided plenty of space for mom, dad and the kids. Ours usually had nice front porches to hang out on in the evenings. The equipment in them was usually old like the buildings themselves….bathtubs with legs, sinks with separate faucets for hot and cold, stoves you had to light…all seemingly from the 1930s or 40s. But they gave you a good close approximation of a home away from home while you were at the beach for a week or two.

At the end of the street where we always stayed in Ocean City, New Jersey, was a Very Nice upscale six floor hotel right on the boardwalk. I used to envy the people who stayed there…very well to do folks judging by the cars parked there (I became fascinated by cars early in my boyhood…we wouldn’t have a car of our own until I was in my middle teens when mom bought a Plymouth Valiant.) When I returned to Ocean City after decades away, making very good money myself now, I made a beeline to that hotel. Yeah it was pricey, but the view out over the ocean from the upper floors was magnificent. Still…it was a hotel, not a guest house. You didn’t get a kitchen. You didn’t even get a fridge or microwave unless you sprang for one of the deluxe corner units. Those had wet bars and mini food prep areas. It was expected that you would be eating out all the time. Really, the food prep areas were just for after hours hanging out drinking and snacking.

In my adult travels I’ve always hit the hotels and roadside motels. They’re good for the road, but if you use them for a stay you’re depending on restaurants for everything but snacks. You might get a small fridge and a little microwave. There’s usually a coffee maker. Rarely do you get a sink and a food prep area. I’ve been creative with this setup, bringing to it my own travel silverware, dishes and food prep stuff, but you really can’t do much with it. You’re basically planning to eat out all the time or snack in your hotel room. For an extended stay you really need a kitchen. Then you have a home base, from which to go exploring.

Perhaps this is my introvert nature expressing itself, but really feeling like I have a home base this trip is very soothing. A motel room just isn’t that. This one bedroom DVC I got in Saratoga Springs (so I’m told, the very first Disney Vacation Club site) is all that. I’m able to do a week of it here in Saratoga Springs because it isn’t expensive point wise, and I get walking access to Disney Springs. If I’m not doing the parks anymore Boardwalk’s walking distance to my two favorite parks isn’t offering me anything.

It’s easy to fall into a home away from home routine here in a one bedroom. In the mornings I’ll make a mug of ice coffee from the fridge and take it with me for a morning stroll, then come back and make breakfast and think about my day. I might to a laundry…there is a washer and dryer right in the unit. I might just work on A Coming Out Story…I have what I need to get the next episode out…make a lunch and hit the pool here. I’m not doing the parks this trip (thank you Ron DeSantis you insane murderous Trump loving jackass), but I’ve a good set of cameras with me and there are nearby places to explore. Maybe I’ll eat somewhere interesting. Or I can just return to home base and make dinner, and think about what I saw, and maybe write a few things down.

This is what vacations were like when I was a kid. Just hanging out in a fun place with no particular schedule in mind. Mom would spend the afternoons at the beach. I might too, or I might just wander the boardwalk and do some mini golf or some of the rides. Or I might hop on my bicycle and go explore. Now I have a car.
 


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Home Away From Home
September 13th, 2021

Walt Disney World In A Time Of Plague And Crazy Republican Governors

I did Epcot this afternoon. I had a reservation at Biergarten for 7:50, and I wanted to sample some favorites at the food and wine festival, and maybe find a few new ones. But it was not to be.

Last time I was here, back in March, masks were still a requirement and the park reservation system kept the numbers inside the parks down. The only sit down restaurants that were open were ones that had enough space inside to keep everyone apart and maintain plenty of air flow. Biergarten’s buffet was closed, the server brought you the food as well as your drinks, and you were only seated with the party you came in. No more Oktoberfest seating. It made for a somewhat less enjoyable time, since my favorite thing about Biergarten was I could meet people and chat, which you normally can’t do at a sit down restaurant. But I felt safe.

This time, almost immediately upon entering Epcot, I started feeling uneasy about the crowds, and the new mask policy. I don’t know what the park reservation system is buying them now, but it doesn’t seem to be about keeping the numbers down inside the parks anymore. Epcot was as packed as I’ve usually seen it on a September day. Maybe Disney has some numbers to show that it really isn’t as packed as usual, but above a certain point it makes very little difference: walking around World Showcase Lagoon what I experienced was the same human swarm I always have. This is made worse by the new mask policy, which is you only have to wear them indoors. This would actually be okay if the numbers inside the park was about half what they’re letting in. The weather was nice and there was a steady breeze, which I think would have kept everyone safe if there weren’t so many of us. I wore my mask the entire time I was inside Epcot.

I got to Biergarten early, and peeked inside to see how they were handling serving now. It was basically back to normal, except maybe they were seating groups at every other table now. Okay…fine. But the buffet was back open and I looked and nobody, Nobody, was wearing their masks or keeping a safe distance from the others in line.

I went to a bench outside of Epcot Germany and gave it some heavy thought. I love Biergarten, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do Disney very much, if at all, after I retire. This might well be my last Disney trip…or at least to the parks. The ticket prices have gone through the roof, the new annual pass system they’re rolling out is horrible, it looks like they’re keeping the park reservation system going forward, COVID or not, and park hopping is only allowed late in the day, and only if there are still reservation slots available where you want to hop to. This, plus all the obnoxious changes they’ve made to the parks since I started going, changes that break the theming, changes that either erase or disrespect what Walt Disney created, have been driving me to an uncomfortable place: I may not want to come back anymore, because it isn’t what I kept coming here for.

Yes, yes…at first it was I wanted to reconnect with my high school crush…that first beautiful guy who made my heart skip a beat. He was the one who encouraged me to come to Walt Disney World when I told him I wasn’t really all that interested in theme parks.

“Come on man…it’s your Heritage! Baseball, Mom, Apple Pie and Mickey Mouse…what’s wrong with you!”

So I came. And when I walked through the park gates into Epcot that first time, it all came back to me.

And now…it isn’t. Well…sometimes it comes back…but it’s like a fading echo. And the cost of admission keeps going up. It’s too much money, and not enough Walt Disney. And now there’s a deadly virus in the air, and there are simple, straightforward practices for keeping yourself and others safe, and they aren’t being followed. I suppose Disney Corp can point their fingers at the insane Florida governor and his helpful crackpots in the statehouse, but now Florida is leading just about the entire planet in new COVID-19 cases and deaths and the biggest employer in the state could, it seems to me, take a stand and I’m not seeing it happening. In fact, the new Disney World COVID-19 warnings they put at the top of their web pages now, basically, at the very end, places the entire responsibility for guest safety from the plague, on the guests:

COVID-19 Warning

An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and Guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable.

By visiting Walt Disney World Resort you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.

An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. So let’s pack more people into the parks and make wearing masks optional in the crowded walkways. Take your chances guest…and have a Magical Day!

There’s a scene in Die Hard with two FBI agents discussing the casualty rate to expect when taking out the terrorists…

“Figure we take out the terrorists. Lose twenty, twenty-five percent of the hostages, tops.”

“I can live with that.”

And I’m wondering how often a similar discussion has occurred in the boardrooms of America. How many Americans do we lose after opening up the bars and restaurants, beaches and theme parks? Twenty-five percent? Tops? Thirty-five? We can live with that…

I simply refuse to believe Walt Disney would. He’d have figured something out, some way of keeping his guests safe while still allowing them to enjoy the parks…he was an innovator who was always thinking about ways to make his parks and rides better. Before he died he was working on his biggest project yet, his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. I think he would have dived into the problem with gusto. Because it was a problem…something to figure out a solution to. No way would he have simply left his guests, let alone his staff, to fend for themselves in an airborne plague. But it’s not Walt Disney’s World anymore…it’s the Disney Corporation’s World.

I opened my iPhone and started my Disney App…but it was too late to cancel the Biergarten reservation, so I reckon I’ll just be a no show for the first time. I try to cancel when I can’t make it, so they can give my seat to someone else. But given the circumstances would I have been doing anyone any favors…really?

I went back to my DVC room…my lovely one bedroom villa…and got onto the Disney website and cancelled all my other reservations for the trip. You can actually have a very nice time just staying at your DVC resort…because they really are their own self contained resorts too. Saratoga Springs like Boardwalk, has three nice pools, and the small ones aren’t crowded at all. There are lovely, really lovely hiking trails, a nice restaurant, snack bar and small grocery. It really is a great place to just hang out and de-stress and that’s the vacation I’ll have now. I’ll hang out on my private balcony with a drink and a snack tray and watch the beautiful Florida skies.

Maybe going forward I’ll keep my DVC points and just do the villas when I come down here, and play music from the old Disney movies on my iPod, and remember what it was like to watch Walt Disney’s TV show when he was still alive, and there was a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Walt Disney World In A Time Of Plague And Crazy Republican Governors
September 6th, 2021

Finally…After Much Procrastination…Episode 33 of A Coming Out Story…

Wherein we finally start talking to each other…while ignoring the elephant in the room…

Episode 33 of A Coming Out StoryHere.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Finally…After Much Procrastination…Episode 33 of A Coming Out Story…
Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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