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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…


Posted In: Life
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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.
 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
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.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
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.


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
September 5th, 2021

Sacred Ground. Well…Kinda Sorta…

 

I was hoping someone on one of the memories pages would post a shot of this particular Radio Shack before it became a Radio Shack, because it has many fond memories for me.  Apparently it was a small grocery store, with an even smaller gas station next to it. They said this shot was probably taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s. If so, then if you looked across the street (which was named “East Montgomery Avenue until the late 1960s when it was renamed Rockville Pike) from there you would have seen a largish grassy field airport, instead of a shopping center.

Here’s what it looked like back in my kidhood time…

 

 

It was one of my go-to places for parts, back when Radio Shack was a parts store (as in capacitors, resistors, diodes…that stuff things used to be made out of before everything became integrated circuits) as well as a place to get stereo equipment and…well…radios.

It was also where I sat down in a daze next to the curb on a day in December 1971 (the 15th to be exact), staring at the sunset over Congressional Plaza across the street, and realized I was in love…and…well…yeah….gay.

Now I have a reference photo for that episode of A Coming Out Story.

You can almost see what looks alley on the left of the building. Here’s another old photo where you can see it better…

 

 

 

That was the beginnings of what would become Fishers Lane. Once upon a time you could walk it from the apartments I lived in, across the railroad tracks, and to the Shack or Congressional. Before mom moved us to the apartments back there, a railroad crossing existed that allowed cars to cross the tracks and proceed up Fishers Lane. That crossing was removed before we lived there, but you could still walk across the tracks. It was my direct route, either to the Shack or to the Plaza, depending on what I was looking for. On the night of December 15, 1971 I walked across them in a happy drunk on a teenage crush daze, all the way to the Pike where I sat next to a curb and watched the sunset. It’s all gone now. I eventually reconnected with the guy I was crushing on back then, only to discover we really aren’t very compatible. So that’s gone too. But I still have the memories. Unlike a lot of gay kids of my generation, I had it pretty good by comparison. I fell in love. It was wonderful. I was twitterpated. It saved my life. Because after that I just could not believe there was anything wrong with me.

When they built the Metro red line it blocked off pedestrian traffic across the railroad tracks. Eventually that entire corner including the Radio Shack and the Penn-Jersey next to it (where I used to get my auto parts) was bulldozed and turned into more strip shopping (haha including a Hooters), and now it’s been bulldozed again. Rockville does that to itself. Some days I wish I could too. But that’s just old man regrets. No matter how painful it ends up being, you can’t help but know that love saved you, made you a better stronger person in some deep down way. I wouldn’t erase any of it. Not even what he did to me in March 2016.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
August 30th, 2021

Washington Irving Told Us All About Them

One of the many problems with Facebook is how helpfully it shows me what my friends are doing there. This is usually okay…my friends and I share a lot of common interests, but sometimes it gets annoying. Like when they’re slumming in the kook gutters…

This is a shot posted by Purple Parents for Indiana of a billboard campaign they’ve begun. Two of my facebook friends apparently thought it might be helpful to point out to these folks, on their page, that they’ve no clue as to what Critical Race Theory even is. I have to assume they didn’t bother to dig deeper. But I’m a geek and I did anyway, and really…they should have too. It’s a good rule of thumb to check out the pages, and the previous posts, of people and groups like these before you engage. You might come across things like this…

This is a screencap of just one entry a bit further down their page. Dig it…New World Order…Kinsey…Rockefeller…CIA. Wait…where’s Communism? They missed Communism. I smell a Pinko. If only Lyndon LaRouche were still alive to show them what’s Really going on that They don’t want you to know about!

I appreciate that it can be doing the lord’s work to engage right wingers online, but you go down deep enough into Nietzsche’s abyss and all you’re doing is talking to the darkness and it isn’t even looking back at you because down there it’s busy contemplating its navel.

But this was good because it finally allowed my brain to make a connection that it’s probably been struggling to make for ages.  Here…let me show you a passage from a great American yarn written in 1819 by Washington Irving, and see if you see anything familier…

Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or Galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were half the time topsy-turvy!

-Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

And actually, the connection my brain made was to the Classics Illustrated version of the story. Big applause to the artist, whoever it was, who got the characterizations pitch perfect…

I want to think about this some more. For one thing ever since Ghostbusters made techno ghost hunting a thing it’s not the same as it was in Sleepy Hollow. There’s a subset of paranormal enthusiasts who just want to have fun chasing ghosts, and maybe get a few happy scares out of it. But there are others who seriously believe in the ever present occult powers and principalities, ghosts, demons, and devils, and I don’t think that deep down inside they are very much different at all from the New World Order multiculturalism is a communist plot conspiracy kooks.

Some days you just wish you had a pumpkin to throw at them.


Posted In: Gently Tapping My Pulpit Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
August 27th, 2021

My Safe Space

Yesterday I joined up with some co-workers for an after hours get-together at a local place I hadn’t been too, largely because it’s a nitch brewery and I am not a beer person. In fact, every time I see one of those online things that asks, “What is something everyone loves that you can’t stand?” the first thing that pops to my mind is beer. But this place was easy to get to from Casa del Garrett and I was curious if they served food and snacks too (which they do…pizza mostly) and so I went. Luckily, they also served some very nice non-alcoholic boutique soda.

It went well until as often happens with this particular group of co-workers, mostly youngsters compared to approaching my 70s me, they began to ignore me whenever I attempted to contribute to the conversation. Not subtilly either. So I got up and left. This let’s just ignore weird old aging hippy Bruce effect from these particular co workers is a Big contributing reason why I’m retiring from Space Telescope at the end of this year.

But it happens in other context too, and for years I’ve just let it happen and blamed myself for being, at least in person, a boring old fart. But this time I looked at what was happening critically. They were drinking, and I was not, and what I saw was an older man, politely trying to hold up his end of the conversation, listening to what the others were saying (they all had interesting things to say, interesting perspectives coming from mostly younger folks some of which were new to living in Baltimore), and waiting my turn before speaking up. And what was happening is that one person in particular would just jump right in and start talking over me, and the rest would follow. 

I allowed this sort of thing to happen for ages…I’ve never been very socially confident to begin with. When you’re raised by two Baptist ladies, one of which hates your guts because you have your father’s face, you don’t enter adult life equipped with a whole lot in the way of social skills. Coming of age during a period when gay teenagers had to hide for their own safety added another layer to that. So whenever I get talked over, I usually just shut up.

One nice effect of growing old and finally admitting it is that you stop caring about a lot of things you used to. It becomes easier to shed baggage the closer you get to the end of the road. You finally start to see that you just don’t need to keep hanging around places don’t respect you. This time, I just got up and left. But I left with a dark cloud hanging over me.

Luckily, I’ve planned a quick trip with my cameras to somewhere else for the weekend. I’ll be boarding the train to Richmond soon, taking the F1N and the Leica and some film and a few filters. I’ve made reservations at the place near the old train station, where I was hanging out with my cameras last weekend, and discovered a fantastic restaurant/bar/cigar bar called Havana59. The entire area gave my cameras something to love and I expect having more time to explore it will do the same.

I’ll be alone with my camera. Somewhere I can be alone with my feelings, and I can hear myself thinking, and explore the world I see with my cameras, and get my feelings out of me, and I am not being silenced.


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

Time To Let Go

Deleted my Instagram account just now…or at least I Think I did…after it punched me in the gut this morning. This could be the start of something. I’m at a stage in my life where I need to start letting go of things. Like having any hope for a love life for example. Like looking reverently at beautiful guys and thinking life is good after all. People who look like that want people who look like that. 

I need less social media in my life. Really all I need is my blog and my website here. It’s getting too painful to look out at the world through social media. I grew up in a time that didn’t even have personal computers, let alone smartphones. I can deal better with the life I have now, by re-introducing myself to some of that. I could pretend I’m living again back in a time when I was happy and looking forward to the next day, and all the days after that. 

Never going back to using a telephone attached to a wall with a wire though. Nope. 

Wandered around Sunbury the other day, all alone with my cameras. First the Canon F1N loaded with some Tri-X Pan, then the new 6D mark II. It’s like the only time I ever feel alive anymore is when I’m taking a camera walk, or doing anything in the art room. Otherwise I’m just a walking corpse, putting one foot in front of the other to get through the day.


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by Bruce | Link | React!

There Are Pluses And Minuses…

The thing about having to wear a mask in some situations…say, at the office when moving about the building, or in meetings…is nobody can see how wreaked you are inside by the empty dead corpse look on you face. The eyes don’t tell the whole story.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
August 14th, 2021

Incels

This from Lawyers, Guns & Money, came across my blog reader, Feedly’s feed the other day. (If you aren’t using a blog reader like Feedly you should really give it a try. Think of blog readers as freedom from big social media…)…

A FEW MORE PEOPLE MURDERED BY RIGHT WING MEDIA

A Trump-worshiping Incel murdered five people, including a very young child, in Plymouth England…

“Incel”, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, refers to a male subset of the human gutter that believes they’ve been consigned to “Involuntary Celibacy” because women think they can just pick and chose their men. Or as this complete failure noted on his YouTube channel…

In disturbing YouTube videos posted just weeks before the shooting, Davison appears to be deeply unhappy about his life. Under the username “Professor Waffle,” he refers to people like him as “blackpillers,” incels who believe unattractive men will never be romantically successful regardless of how much effort they put into how they look. In one comment under his video, he wrote that he’d been “consuming the blackpill overdose.”

In one video, he grabs his belly fat and bemoans his lack of motivation to get fit, complains about women being “simple-minded,” and justifies sexual assault by saying women ignore “average men and below average.”

Before I begin unpacking some of this, I want to say emphatically that nobody is involuntarily celibate unless they’ve got a medical condition. Otherwise there is always a way if just having sex is all you want. Go avail yourself of a perfectly legal Nevada brothel. Not classy enough for you? There are high end sex workers who will make your wet dreams come to life. Just expect to pay dearly because those don’t sell their time cheap. A decade ago founding board member of the Family Research Council George Rekers was caught travelling with a stunningly beautiful 20 year old he’d connected with on RentBoy dot com, who as I recall charged a thousand dollars an hour for his time (I like to think some of Dan Cathy’s Chick-fil-A money made it into the kid’s bank account via FRC donations).

The point being, you can find a way if it’s just you’re not getting any sex. But what if it’s something else you’re looking for, something a little more substantial like a girl or boyfriend. I know that kind of loneliness way too intimately. There are times it’s almost killed me. I’m about to turn 68 having lived an entire adult life without having had the kind of soul fulfilling sex life I wanted after I came out to myself, and I don’t consider myself involuntarily celibate though I suppose in a stretch I could. I’m what the kids these days call a demisexual. I’m a gay male and I can sit at a restaurant window and watch the beautiful guys walk past all day long, but the romantic attachment has to be there for the sex to work for me. And romance has been difficult for this boomer child to come by. And because of that, so has sex.

At the end of Paul Campos’ blog post, this caught my attention…

The relationship between incels and right wing media is a subject that needs more attention. As I noted a few months ago, one of the more disturbing ways the Internet radicalizes people is by getting sexually frustrated young men to transform their extremely common experience into the endlessly insidious consequence of a global conspiracy to victimize them.

…and I’m reading this thinking yeah, actually, gay people like me Have been victimized by a vast global conspiracy. But not a secret one, and it’s more of a culture war really than any sort of conspiracy. But when it hasn’t taken our lives outright it’s driven a knife into our hearts and our search for love and that peaceful contented life together heterosexuals regard as a birthright. Every Valentine’s day for years I’ve reposted links to the blog articles here remembering how so many righteous people in my past managed to screw things up for me and whoever it was I was trying to date, because if gay hearts don’t bleed then how could Jesus possibly know that they love him. Yeah we were victimized. 

This hatred of the homosexual Other, fanned by religious passions, cultivated by authoritarian tyrants, took my love life away, and in doing that it also took my sex life away, and so many of the things that are joyful and wonderful about being human and being alive. But no, I am not involuntarily celibate, merely disinclined to lay down with someone I’m not in love with. And I sure don’t want to kill anybody over that. What kind of lover would that make me? What kind of person? I want love. I still believe in love. I think I’ve accepted now that it will never be, but I still want to be worthy of it. Because loving someone made me a better man.

It does that to you, even if it is never fulfilled. Even if they didn’t love you back. Even if you get your face slapped. The fact is, you still loved, and it changed you. You reached for something higher in yourself. Your fire burned brighter. It gave you courage. It gave you vision. It made you grow. You might burn your bridges…I’ve burned a few of mine and danced in the ashes. But anger is chaotic and exhausts itself eventually, and…when it’s over….you see love is still there. And maybe that torments you to see it still there because it will never be, but eventually you see how your life is better for its having been, how you are better person for it, even so. Even so.

Why did these men never learn that? I think it was because they weren’t looking for love to begin with, and not even sex actually. They wanted power, and love is giving not taking. We are no longer our own and in that we become more than we once were. Love is not greedy, not envious, it is generous and joyful and kind. It is life itself. I have honestly tied to listen to some of these men and I have never once heard in them a longing for any of that. What I hear, is that women won’t give themselves to them and so they hate them. I hear nothing about giving of themselves. Love would have grown them inside. Hate made them smaller. Because when you let hate in where love should have been, and leave it there long enough, soon there is nothing in you anymore to give but hate. 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
August 10th, 2021

Survivor’s Reactions To “Pray Away”

I’m seeing some reactions to the documentary “Pray Away” now from survivors of conversion therapy. The main criticism looks to be the film’s focus on the leaders of the various groups showcased. There’s a lot of hurt here, wounds deeper I think than any of us who didn’t go through it will ever know, even those of us gay folk who grew up under the cold icy glare of cultural hate that came at us from all directions back in the 60s, 70s, 80s… We need to listen to them because this is their story. Because these wounds aren’t healed simply because the doors to some of these places have since closed, and their operators have renounced the practices.

The following was posted by a friend on Facebook, Jeff Harwood. I would strongly suggest that anyone who watches that film, also take time to seek out and listen to the other voices of those who were there.

Thoughts on Pray Away:

I just finished watching the documentary Pray Away. I want to document just a few of my thoughts.

1) Seeing myself on screen was painful. I completely remember that occasion. 20/20 had come to Love in Action to film interviews with some of the clients. The piece they aired was promoting and humanizing conversion therapy. At the time, we all believed we were doing the right thing. Looking at us now, all I see is a group of men who are fucking miserable. There were plenty of times while watching that I was unable to look at the screen and had to struggle to even just listen to what was being said.

2) The entire ex-gay movement, then and now, is a cult. I am disappointed that the documentary didn’t make this clearer. I am not surprised that Ricky Chelette and Anne Paulk refused to be interviewed. They are cult leaders, and they must control their narrative and how they are perceived by the members of the cult. Since they weren’t interviewed, they can now continue to play the victim and further reinforce their elitism to their followers.

3) Several times throughout the documentary individuals refer to their brokenness. I place the blame of the this squarely on the teachings of the Church Universal. You are taught from an early age that who you are at your core is sinful and heinous. (I can still quote the verses verbatim. The one that sticks with me the most is, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9) You are taught that you cannot trust yourself and that you must be circumspect of all your intentions and feelings. That teaching warps your heart and your psyche. It prepares you to fully accept that your only hope lies outside of yourself. It leaves you vulnerable and exposed. If you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, it leaves you susceptible to these cult leaders.

4) I wish that the documentary had touched more on the damage that conversion therapy does. I am disappointed that it continues the narrative of trying to humanize those who are still in leadership of the ex-gay movement. I have only seen two films that truly touch on the damage of conversion therapy, Save Me (2007) and Kidnapped for Christ (2014).

5) I am disappointed that the damage done by conversion therapy was couched in terms of spirituality. The majority of survivors are struggling with mental and emotional trauma. Many of us don’t give one flying flip-fuck about the spirituality of it all.

I am certain that I will have more thoughts in the days to come. However, this is all I have right now.


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

The End Game

Atrios this morning:

Lots of talk about white guy confidence and entitlement these days, but the amazing thing, to me, is the kind of entitlement that leads people to believe that when they throw out democracy and institute their preferred theocratic fascist dictatorship (Rod Dreher’s vision, which he will admit, Ross Douthat’s, which he won’t), that the illiberal forces they’ve unleashed won’t quickly bayonet them in the gut.

A reasonable thing for the billionaires to believe. Not their lickspittles who will have to keep pleasing their fickle insane masters.

Lots of talk about theocratic fascist dictatorships these days too which, yes, Dreher especially would dearly love to see happen here. But the genuine fascists among us are making the same mistake the fascists of the 1930s made about American white supremacists. Hitler’s people, so I’m told, tried to cultivated them, and were surprised at how rapidly they turned on the Nazis once the war actually broke out.

The American far right definitely approved of Hitler’s social policies naturally, but they had zero interest in living in a fascist dictatorship. Especially one obliged to a foreign dictator. What they wanted was a white democracy.

There are models for them in other countries, but the absolute dictatorships aren’t it. Viktor Orban’s Hungary, a democracy in name only, is closest. Which is what makes Tucker Carlson and Fox News sucking up to Orban so troubling. But remember how enthusiastically they used to love South African apartheid? It was a police state for everyone but elite and middle class white people. That’s the model they want here.


Posted In: Life Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The End Game
August 7th, 2021

I Once Was Lost, But Now I’ve Found…Coffee…

Well…and friendships. Serious good if not untroubled friendships that I still hold dear.

One of the Facebook groups I follow is titled You Know You Grew Up In Rockville Maryland If You… It’s a nostalgia group for Boomers such as myself who remember what Rockville used to look like prior to the 80s/90s. A piece of that history, for me, is looking like a smile with its front teeth knocked out. A church actually, that mom and I used to attend back when I was a little Baptist boy. But by the time The Lost And Found opened it’s church basement doors, I was already pretty far down the path toward agnosticism. 

These photos were probably taken sometime in the summer of 1972…

The Lost and Found was a Jesus Kids coffee shop and hangout in the basement of the old First Baptist Church in Rockville on Jefferson Street, a short distance from the old post office. In 1971 the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar was released, and along with Godspell spawned a movement of mostly nice, sincere, longhaired counter culture Christianity. Mom and I were members of that Baptist Church, and I often hung out there back in the day with my camera. In retrospect I should have documented more of it when I had the chance. It was a scene that didn’t last very long in it’s most innocent and pure form. 

The Lost And Found is important in my personal history because of two friends that I first met there, one of whom I still keep in regular contact with, the other, who lived on South Washington Street, I desperately wish I had. (If you ever read this…please say ‘Hi’…)

The Lost and Found was in a strange bit of architecture that connected the old chapel to the newer Sunday School rooms and church offices. There were dressing rooms for the choir and a passageway from there to doors on either side of the choir loft. The basement The Lost and Found settled into seemed a mostly abandoned space. There was an old Coke machine, a small Formica and chrome dining table and what must have been a first of its kind back in the day, electric “monitor top” refrigerators there. Also good people. Very good people. Better often, than the ones sitting in the pews upstairs.

That part of the church is now a driveway…

I don’t know if you can appreciate the shock I felt when I first laid eyes on what had happened to it. But as I said before, Rockville does this to itself. A driveway was probably the least obnoxious thing they could have done to it.

The chapel was torn down sometime ago. The red brick building you see on the right there was built in its place, and is currently up for sale. Maybe they’ll tear it down and build something else there. The only thing left of what once was is the Sunday School building, there on the left, that was converted to offices and given something of a face lift. If you look at the stonework by the entrance stairs and compare you can see where they cleaved it from the part The Lost And Found was in. How they managed that was probably a pretty good trick because there were hallways and stairwells connecting the parts together. Some shoring up had to have happened before they built that wall.

For several years after I met him there, the parking lot across the street served us as a rendezvous. The day they build something there I may never set foot in Rockville again. But that at least looks pretty safe. For now.

A Facebook friend remarked upon finding himself in a town that seemed to be populated with nothing but earnest young Jesus kids, that he’d feel uncomfortable settling there because he could reckon how they would treat him as a gay man. I commented that I could see myself living in a town full of 1971 Jesus kids, except I remembered how it all went down after it became co-opted by the worst humans imaginable…people like Moses David…and I’d be afraid that I’d have to watch it all happen again. 


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Once Was Lost, But Now I’ve Found…Coffee…
August 5th, 2021

Guess Which Headline Is Fox

My morning Google News page. Can you spot the difference between how these various news sources are covering this story?


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Guess Which Headline Is Fox
August 4th, 2021

Vanyel’s Promise

Great scary wonderful news! This has been ricocheting around my newsfeeds today…

Fantasy’s First Openly Queer Hero Is Getting the TV Adaptation He Deserves

I have been waiting all my life—or at least since sixth grade—for an adaptation of bestselling author Mercedes Lackey’s wildly popular Valdemar fantasy novels. Now comes the news that Radar Pictures has secured the rights to the Valdemar literary universe, and they are developing an ongoing TV series.

The initial season is set to adapt Lackey’s Lambda Award-winning “Last Herald-Mage” trilogy, which features a young man named Vanyel Ashkevron who eventually becomes one of the most powerful magic-users in history. Radar’s press release describes Van as “the first openly gay heroic protagonist in the fantasy genre.”

I’m probably a bit older than the typical fan of this series…in 1989 I was in my late 30s, but just as hungry as the others for gay positive representation in fiction. Previously there was only Mary Renault’s historical fiction, and a few random one off novels I found at Deacon Maccubbin’s Lambda Rising bookstore. Here was a gay protagonist, center stage, in an already fully developed fantasy universe and I devoured each book as it came out, and then bought signed prints of the Jody Lee cover art.

I think it was around this time I began to insist on finding fiction to read with fully realized gay characters as central to the story, passing over a lot of popular favorites that I felt, just didn’t speak to me, getting irritated, and then vocal, about authors that played gay vague at us, but couldn’t actually make us visible in their works.

I got into an online argument with Richard Pini, co-author of the Elfquest series of comics, about his insistence to the readership that their elves were sexually liberated on the one hand, and on the other that same sex couplings (soulmates/lifemates were the terms used in the stories for the pair bonds) were just not possible. It had to be an opposite sex coupling because only those could produce children. (Where have I heard that before?) A shape-shifting alien “old one” turning into and mating with a wolf in order to insure the viability of her people on the planet they’d crash landed on…yeah that’s do-able. But not same sex pair bonds. Years later when we crossed paths online again he remembered and curtly said he would not discuss it anymore with Me. About then I was noticing that their spin-off series would suddenly find themselves cancelled if they strayed too closely toward affirming same sex relationships. I still check in every now and then and they’re Still doing it.

But let it be said they weren’t/aren’t the only ones. That’s how it went back in those days, and to a large degree that is how it Still Goes in pop culture media, though it is getting better. Slowly. I was tired of being invisible before I picked up books about Vanyel in the late 1980s. Now I knew I didn’t have to accept it.

God almighty I hope they do this right. It’s a good sign they went for a TV series and not a one-off movie where they’d have to compress/delete a lot of the story to make it fit.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Vanyel’s Promise
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