According to Google, today is Teacher’s Day. I want to thank a few. Not the ones whose class I sat in though the ones who took an interest and kept the fire burning within me have my eternal gratitude. Frank Moran…my art teacher in high school, and one of the best teachers a kid could have. Marvin Watts, my college English teacher who encouraged me to write because he said I did it well if I put my mind to it. Don Poole, my jr. high science teacher, who encouraged my curiosity about the mechanical universe. I have the life I do today in large measure because of the interest they took in me when I was a kid. But today I want to also thank others, who lit the fire within from a distance.
…and…I hesitate to say this because her work is so relentlessly dark, but…Diane Arbus.
These were the ones who showed me what the camera could do. Plowden is the one probably closest to my heart, but the others are pretty close too. There are other masters of the art whose work I have loved very much, and found inspiring…Ansel Adams being probably the grand master of the form. But those four, Plowden, Frank, Bourke-White and Arbus, shone a light within which I could see myself. Which is what teachers do.
The article is about an Ambien user who crashed her car, she says while sleep driving on Ambien. It’s not a difficult defence for some of us who have encountered Ambien’s little side effect to accept. The comments on this article wherever it is shared, by folks who have had the experience of sleep walking under it, are very very creepy, even if nothing serious came of it. Or maybe especially so.
There are so many stories about this drug’s sleep walking side effect I think it really needs to be taken off the market until that’s understood better. Not everyone sleep walks under it. But the stories of people who have are so widespread it’s disturbing that the drug is still being widely prescribed for sleep problems. I have my own story, and it’s the only time in my life I’ve been petrified scared.
I was having really bad trouble sleeping…it later turned out to be diet related…and I was prescribed Ambien. The doctor I was seeing at the time assured me it wasn’t addictive. Well it was addictive as all hell but that’s another matter. What scared me was the time I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of ice tea.
I’ve made my own sweet ice tea the same way ever since I was a young teenager. The process starts with boiling water in the kettle and then pouring the boiling water into a container that already has a measured amount of sweetener in it. The sweetener is dissolved immediately. Then several tea bags are dipped into the water to steep. The trick is to let the tea cool down at room temperature, to room temperature, before putting it into the fridge to chill. If you put it in too soon it turns bitter.
So one day I’m walking into the kitchen to get a glass of ice tea. I’m still having trouble sleeping well despite the Ambien, and what is more my head is staying a bit fuzzy all day long which is worrying me. I’m getting forgetful (more than usual) and I’m starting to seriously worry if there is something wrong with my head. So this is my state of mind when I open the fridge to get some ice tea…and I see the kettle in there.
I freaked. I thought, oh god I’m losing my mind, had to take the kettle out, set it down in the stove where it usually sits, walk into the living room and sit down on the sofa and wait until I stopped shaking.
For the next several weeks I watched my behavior closely to see if anything like it happened again. But I also did this: I started weaning myself off Ambien. It took about a month of my shaving the pills smaller and smaller until I could finally sleep without dropping one. Later…when I reconnected with a certain someone from my past, I started paying more attention to my weight and what I was eating and that solved the sleep problems. And shortly after that I started hearing stories about people on Ambien sleepwalking and made the connection to the kettle in the fridge.
I will Never touch sleeping pills again. Ever. No matter how bad the insomnia gets.
Of all the commercial tributes to Prince, this IMO is the best…
Note that they didn’t put one of their current models in it, as if it were nothing more than cheap advertising. Look closely at that back window. Only one year had that split rear window and it was the first year of the new Stingray body style. That 1963 Corvette is legendary and highly prized by collectors. Check the prices they fetch when in good condition.
A neighbor in an apartment complex mom and I lived in bought a ’63 Vette…but not the coupe. His was a yellow convertible with chrome side exhaust (“lake”) pipes and mag wheels and I lusted after that car, as only a tween-age boy whose bedroom was full of model cars and hot rod magazines could. I knew the sound of it, and every time I heard that engine come to life I was out on the balcony like a shot, just to stand and watch it pull away, and arrogantly take charge of the the road.
The pleasures of adulthood are richer, but in their complexity not as pure. Little Red Corvette expresses it perfectly. I guess I should’ve closed my eyes, when you drove me to the place where your horses run free, ’cause I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures of the jockeys that were there before me… I was much too young to have understood what Prince was singing about back in those days. But every time I hear that song it takes me back to that first early boyhood thrill at the sight of power and beauty combined.
My sleep/waking pattern is all hosed up. I’m getting up way, Way too early these days, taking brief brutal naps when I come home from work…brutal in the sense that they don’t bring any rest at all…then doing nothing around the house for a bit or taking a walk maybe and then back to bed way, Way too early. I think I see the problem. It’s interesting how a pall of existential gloom can settle in and rust your innards away all the while telling you that its not even there.
It’s not like I have a clinical depression…it’s never been nearly that bad. I follow people, some famous, who are open about enduring that and from everything I’ve learned from them I’m not even close to being in that category. But the stresses of life can still take their toll all the same. It’s worse I think, on creative minds like mine, because our thoughts get so distracted by that creative need, the insistent muse, that we forget to look elsewhere in our lives, and see how miserable we’ve allowed ourselves to become, strangely enough without even being aware of it. But the physical body still pays the price.
I have an amazingly good life all things considering. I did Not expect to have the life I do now when I was younger. And when an important piece of spirit gets yanked out from under me intellectually I just shrug it off. I’m not even trying to be brave about it, I really believe in all logic and reason that by now it doesn’t matter. But it does. It always does. My mind ignores it. It really does. My body feels it nonetheless.
So I’m down here in the art room of Casa del Garrett working on the next episode of A Coming Out Story, so early in the morning because that’s when my out of whack sleep patterns are now insisting I get up, and I know that if I don’t get Something done in the art room now when I have reserves of concentration for sure I won’t when I get home from work, because by then my concentration reserves for the day will be completely exhausted. I’ve done some sketching I needed to do. Fine. Something’s been accomplished. The process moves forward a tad. That’ll do for now. I’ll go back upstairs in a bit and make some sandwiches for work and then take a serene early morning stroll into the office. I love these early morning walks. It’s a pure pleasure of city life I can walk from home to my job. I have some tasks waiting for me that I am already anticipating the pleasure of working on. I love my job. That’s a rare and extremely lucky thing to be able to say in this or any age. I’ll get things done at the office, play my part in moving JWST forward a tad, and take an early lovely walk home. I have a Good life. Then I’ll get home and all my energy will simply evaporate. That isn’t normal. Logically I know this. But I know also that I will just spin my wheels thinking about it. So I don’t.
Something is terribly wrong deep down inside. I know what it is. I’ve known for decades now. I just have no idea how to fix it. I tell myself I’ve finally become use to the idea that this is how it will always be. It’s a new mantra. But there is no stable point in the spiral into the night. You just keep going. Not even being aware most of the time, where it is that you’re going.
Sketching in preparation for work on A Coming Out Story, episode 20. It begins another short story arc with me having been tasked by the student newspaper to cover one of our home games…and then I stumble into the object of my thoroughly confused affections and try to strike up a conversation. Little teenage geeks don’t do conversation well however, and especially while the butterflies in their stomach are fluttering up a storm…
I’ve been posing myself a bunch lately to get the posture of my figures right. I do that with the digital SLR on a tripod, and a remote shutter release with a long extension cable. Then I scroll through the images on the camera’s lcd display to find a good pose and work from there. It doesn’t matter that I’m no longer that lithe (scrawny) teenage boy I once was, all I need is to see how the anatomy works, how the hands and arms reach around to the camera, how the body stands while I’m busy with the camera, legs, torso, head, how the camera bag hangs off the shoulder. Once I can see it I can draw something that gets the look right.
I still have the camera I did most of my student newspaper and yearbook stuff with, but as it turns out I also still have that camera bag from back in the day. I’d almost forgotten how it was to have both the camera and that “gadget bag” with spare film, filters, flash, batteries, light meter, and several lenses, hoods and lens cleaner in it slung around me. It was Heavy! Nowadays when I’m a working photographer I have a smaller, lighter bag that just holds a few essential things because with the new DSLRs and modern zoom lenses you don’t really need much extra.
This next story arc is a lot funner than the last one…
A Coming Out Story: Intermission – The Business of Tacos
Finished (finally!) another installment of A Coming Out Story. This is an Intermission to separate the first part of the story, which I finished with Episode 19, and what’s to come.Some of you may have already seen this one when I posted a link to the finished inks last Thanksgiving. I’ve since added the texturing and shading, and tweaked the dialogue balloons a tad. The shading really makes the artwork pop out I think.
The next part coming up is where the object of my affections and I actually begin talking to each other, and circling around each other in an age when gay kids were getting fed horrible lies about themselves from every direction. First crushes are hard enough for kids to deal with. For gay kids back when me and “T.K.” (not his real name) it was especially difficult. The worst of it was in 1971-72 there was no way you could talk about it with anyone. So you pretty much had to stumble your way around, trying to figure out what was going on inside of you, and then what to you do about this crush you’re having. How can you tell if the object of your affections is feeling the same way. One false move could be a disaster…for both of you.
That said, it’s not like it was a complete and total nightmare for me either. Mostly it was a lot of confusion. I can look back on most of it now with a sense of humor. Hopefully I can put some of that into the story going forward. What’s coming next is a short story arc wherein I finally break the ice with the object of my affections, after being tagged by the student newspaper to cover one of our football games.
But first, I figured I’d toss out here a little intermission of sorts…just to give anyone who’s still hanging on to this tale a wee taste of what’s to come in the second part. Enjoy. And thanks so much for staying tuned!
Despite, or perhaps even Because of recent events, I am more determined than ever to continue and finish A Coming Out Story. So never fear if the installments keep coming at irregular intervals. I have a paying job that needs my attention too. Plus many other things in my life. But this story is important, not just for my own satisfaction of getting it out, but because as I said some time ago, it’s a story of my generation. Not the only one certainly, but mine nonetheless, and worth getting out there. Because while gay kids have it better in many ways now then we did then, they still catch shit about what ought to be one of the most wonderful times in life…that moment when you discover love and desire. It’s a crime against humanity that it is turned into a nightmare for some of us, so that others can build their stepping stones to heaven out of our hopes and dreams. It is a crime against humanity to put a knife into a kid’s heart, just at that very moment they are discovering what love and desire is all about.
So I’m going to keep working on this. And for what it’s worth, I feel now as if I’ve been given permission to tell the whole story, without censoring myself.
Still working on finishing up the Intermission. Here’s a sample panel. When the whole thing is complete I’ll put a link up to it here and on the main ACOS page. Then I get to start on a more funner mini story arc.
The Baltimore Oriole is the state bird of Maryland. I’ve only seen one in my entire life. Until just a few moments ago.
I was walking across campus to go get lunch. I was crossing a pedestrian bridge over San Martin Drive when I heard something moving in the undergrowth below me. I looked down and saw something move. It was a bird. At first I thought it was a robin, but something didn’t look right. It was a close match for a robin, but noticeably smaller, and with bright white blazes on wings that were much Much darker than a robin. Then I saw two more. They were digging through patches of old dead leaf on the ground by the university president’s house, looking for their own lunch I suppose.
No..it can’t be, thinks I. So I watch carefully. There could be no mistake. Oh my God, thinks I, three Baltimore Orioles! Those are three Baltimore Orioles! I’m looking at three Baltimore Orioles! In Baltimore!
by Bruce |
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March 22nd, 2016
Left Brain, Right Brain, Silicon Brain…
Browsing through my local network folders I stumbled on some old BBS message files and an associated log file that made me realize I had written my own NNTP client way, Way back in the day. I had completely forgotten this. So I went looking through my old source code tree for the source. It was a program I’d named TRILOBYTE. Back then I was into naming my programs after obscure critters.
I finally found it and looked over the code to see if it jogged any memories. It’s kinda disturbing I didn’t remember this one At All. But there it was. It was a riff off something I’d written in another modem program’s scripting language that basically just logged onto a service, downloaded all the new messages on the boards I was interested in, uploaded any replies I’d previously placed in an upload folder, and then logged off.
I’d written it in VB1 it seems, but I think looking at the main source file I had a DOS version I’d worked on first. It contains my first ever state machine code to process the NNTP transactions. I know it worked because I have folders with USENET news articles in them this thing downloaded, and reply files it successfully uploaded according to the log files. Writing my own NNTP state machine, with nothing more than the protocol documentation to guide me, was actually a pretty big accomplishment for back then. I’m a little concerned now that it completely dropped out of my memory.
I can still recall coding my first PIM software (I called it “Beetle”)…and “Owl”, which was going to be my own weird client/server take on BBS-ing. I’d developed an entire system based around the concept of a message board warehouse where instead of logging on and reading and writing online you would run a program that quickly connected, downloaded all your new messages and email, upload your replies, and then disconnected. You would then read and write offline. It was a solution for the days when long distance phone charges were high and most amateur BBSs were single line and if someone was hogging the line nobody else got in. I figured if I could create a BBS system that reduced connection time to a bare minimum it would make connecting to out of state, maybe even out of country BBSs cost effective and feasible. The Internet pretty much wiped all that away by the time I finished developing my new system. So it never really got much past the early prototype stage. Such is life.
I’d completely forgotten I wrote Trilobyte. And it had some pretty nifty code in it too. Some of it probably came from the client part of Owl. There’s the Twit filters and Scud Topic filters which were things I’d implemented in LOGMOP, a PDS Basic program I’d written to clean my BBS message file downloads of flame wars and idiots. It was lost to the grey matter, but there in the silicon. I wonder if this is some sort of new evolutionary path we’re all going down now…
by Bruce |
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March 19th, 2016
Love Them…Even If They’re Not Loving You Back Right At This Moment…
I looked out my bedroom window this morning to see a beat up car parked in the alley behind the house with a pressure washer hanging out of the trunk. The car looked abandoned so I went to check. Two older men were in the alley further up and the younger of the two (he looked to be in his forties) was cursing up a storm. These two and several others were working on a neighbor’s house further up the alley. She’s doing a big home remodeling job and these were her contractors.
Okay…fine…the car isn’t an abandoned junker, it’s just some guys doing work on one of the houses here. As I walk back to my backyard the younger guy follows me a short distance away, still cursing up a storm. He’s angry at the older man, who is apparently his father. So this is a father-son home improvement team. There seems to be discord in the company.
So he’s following me back to what I assume is his car, all the while complaining that dad doesn’t know crap, dad isn’t treating him right, dad never takes his side in an argument. Dad is old and cranky and set in his ways, he says to nobody in particular, and he doesn’t know crap and he never takes my side. I’m his son, he’s supposed to take my side every time.
Yes…he really says that. No, he’s not some entitled youngster he’s a middle aged guy and from the look of him life has been a long stretch of bad road. You would think by now he knows it doesn’t always work that way. I get back to my backyard gate and he looks at me and says, “Right? That’s how it’s suppose to work…right?”
And I look him in the eye and say, “My dad died robbing a bank.”
And immediately his tone changes. Hey I’m sorry mister…yeah we’ve had bad times too. Well maybe dad isn’t so bad after all, even if he is old and cranky and set in his ways. We part amicably, I wish him well.
Love your dad, even if he is old and cranky and set in his ways. You never know how its going to end.
by Bruce |
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March 16th, 2016
Madam Calico on my front porch steps, in the afternoon, after work…
I’ve had a few head butts lately, and some body rubs, if I just sit there and don’t attempt to reach a hand out to her. I’ve been letting her dictate the level of proximity, rather than trying to get closer myself. I don’t think she’ll ever let me actually touch her. But she’s reached a point now where she’s willing to sit very close and occasionally slide up against me as she passes by. Up to this point its been rubbing up against every object on the porch, the chairs, the railings and the door when I open it, but never me.
Still won’t stay inside the house for very long. She’ll come in on cat curiosity and look around…she’s even wandered upstairs once. She investigates the furniture and anything new I’ve brought into the living room, like a bag of groceries for instance. But pretty quickly she gets a look on her face like Oh Dear God What Am I Doing??? And then she bolts. I’m trying to get her to understand that I will always open the door for her. But that lesson might never take. She’s afraid. That’s probably a good thing for a street cat to be in the city.
I was hanging out on the front steps smoking a cigar and saw something laying in the street that looked like a neighbor’s cat had been run over and I panicked and ran to it. It was just a black plastic bag of some sort. My aging geezer eyes decoded it wrong. And a fear I have now that never goes away probably added to the illusion. I’m never getting over it I suppose…
This is a part of me I know some folks may find disturbing, but so be it. I like to shoot guns. I have a few of my own. It’s not like I have an arsenal or anything, just a few handguns and rifles. It’s never been that big an interest with me that I spend tons of money on it, and it was more a thing when I was a younger man who couldn’t get enough of things that go bang. And that’s really the essence of it with me, and I suspect, with a bunch of us. It’s not about Dirty Harry fantasizing or anything like it. It’s about another elemental part of the human psyche. Fire.
Fire. I was the kid who turned off the lights in his bedroom, threw open the blinds and raptly watched every thunder and lightning storm that passed by. The louder and closer the bangs the better. It drove mom crazy. But I knew as so long as I watched from safely inside it was okay. I was that teenage boy at the quarter mile racetrack watching the fuelers blast down to the finish line in a glory of fire and smoke. Nighttime races were the best because you could see the fire coming out of their pipes as they idled at the starting line, and then leaping into the sky as they raced down track. I was the kid who smuggled in out of state firecrackers and set them gleefully off on the fourth while my friends kept an eye out for approaching adults. I was the one who built and carefully tended the camp fires at the end of a day’s backpacking, or in the fireplace of our winter break ski shack, then watched it raptly through the night.
But I’m a geek child, not a psycho. And the geek dives into their interest with an intensity of spirit that, yes I know, can be off putting to others. But sometimes that’s exactly what is called for, especially if what lights your fire, is fire. You learn the nature of the fires you wield, and how to keep yourself and the people around you safe. I don’t want anyone getting hurt. I don’t want to get hurt. It’s no fun if anyone gets hurt. Those people who, they say, go to races hoping to see a crash mystify and appall me. What I want to see is mastery of excessively powerful engines and Newtonian forces. I want to see them surfing the fire. Likewise, I am disgusted by nearly everything I hear nowadays from the so-called gun lobby. By now I suppose a lot of people who enjoy this sport are. We’re not all Ted Nugent.
I recently got a membership at a local pistol range. At 62 I qualified for the geezer level discount which cut the cost of a year’s unlimited range time neatly in half. “Unlimited” in this context could be a tad misleading; time at the range is limited by the cost of ammo, and for one of the large caliber handguns I have, a Smith and Wesson model 25-5 (chambered for the old 45 Long Colt, cartridge. As I said, I like big bangs), it’s Very expensive. A box of 50 rounds cost me 40 bucks the other day. Another box of 50 45 ACP rounds cost 25. It’s a much more widely used cartridge. The Long Colt dates back to the black powder days. It’s the cartridge of the famous Single Action Army Colt of the old west…the one you always saw in the movies. There was actually a nicer 44 Smith and Wesson top break gun sold back then but it’s the Colt that’s the classic western movie gun.
So I had my Model 25-5 and my Colt Officer’s Model at the range this morning. And I’m writing this blog post now for the benefit of everyone who thinks all you gotta do with a gun is point and shoot. No. Just…no. You have to practice. Bunches. And to my shame I hadn’t. Well…not with mine.
Visiting my brother in California, he’s taken me a bunch to ranges he’s a member at, and I’ve shot his guns there and was very pleased with myself at how good my aim was with them. But those weren’t my own guns, and it lulled me into thinking I was still good with my own, even though I hadn’t practiced much with them lately. This morning I took the Smith and the Officer’s Model to the range. I hadn’t shot either one of them in years. A friend of mine used to take me to his pistol range as a guest and back then I shot it and my other guns a bunch. But he got into skeet and I take more pleasure in shooting handguns. So I didn’t follow him into that. And for a long time my guns just sat, and got the occasional cleaning, inspecting and oiling.
So I load the Smith and take aim at a bulls eye target and half my shots initially miss completely. Eventually I figure I’m low and to the left and make some adjustments. The Smith has adjustable sights and I thought they were sighted in for me. Maybe five years ago they were. Not now. Eventually I’m putting most of my shots in the black and I move the target back some. But my groups are all over the place and I’m not happy with myself.
Then comes the Officer’s model. Every friggin shot from my first clip misses the target completely. Mind you, I’m shooting at a target only 15 feet away. Eventually I figure out I’m shooting low and to the left with this gun too and I make adjustments and finally get my shots mostly in the black again and I move the target back some. But I’m even worse with this gun than the revolver.
So I pay my bill and leave the range and in the back of my mind I’m thinking about all the morons I seem to be reading about every day now who shoot themselves or shoot someone else and it’s obvious they think a gun is just another adult toy like a fast car or sex and it’s all so Easy…you just point and shoot…just like John Wayne! No. Just…no. Jim Wright, a writer I follow on Facebook, has wisely said there are no gun accidents. He’s right. Drunk driving isn’t an accident either. You get yourself or others hurt by not following the rules. And treating guns like fetishes in a culture war (I’m using the word in its religious sense) practically guarantees people aren’t going to pay attention to what the gun actually is and that’s how people get hurt.
But I hadn’t been paying as much attention as I thought either. So I had my lesson for the day. If I’m going to keep these things in the house, I need to practice with them regularly. As I said, it’s about fire. The fun is in the mastery of fire. If I’m not going to maintain a level of mastery I might as well sell them and be done with it. Otherwise they’re just dangerous weapons sitting there in the gun safe slowly becoming even more dangerous if their owner can’t even hit what he’s aiming at. I have an alarm system. I have a shotgun. I don’t need more than that for home defense.
Came home to find a letter from the Maryland State Insurance Commissioner’s Office, telling me that they’d convinced State Farm to cancel my car insurance premium hike and refund the money Plus Interest.
I’m stunned. After I mailed off my form protesting the hike, back in October, I heard absolutely zilch back from them and figured it had just been conveniently lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. I would have expected at least a notice that the form and been received. But it was dead silence. Five months later they tell me I won.
Well this is good, but I hope State Farm doesn’t think it means I’m sticking with them. I was in the middle of exploring other options for car and home owner’s insurance when this letter came. There are lots of companies out there offering cheaper rates for the same coverage or better. And I am not at all happy that my local State Farm Agent dropped a clause into my home owner’s policy exempting damage from collapse. I have a flat roof and that is the one thing you absolutely need protection on if you have one of those.
by Bruce |
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