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August 22nd, 2016

Mercedes Love

…still in it.

mercedes_love-8-16-sm

 

Took a wee day trip into Pennsylvania to wander around a bit with my cameras, finish off the roll of color film I started on the road trip last June, and hopefully clear my head so I can get back to work on A Coming Out Story. On the way home I saw a signpost advertising a scenic overlook beside the Susquehanna river and I turned off and started climbing. You really notice how nicely a diesel engine’s torque helps navigating a little twisty state park road when the switchback curves don’t even bother trying to smooth out the elevation gain. The car simply did not care how steep it got. 

The view at the top was lovely. In retrospect I should have brought out the color film camera, and I did consider it, but then I thought of the millions of other photos everyone had probably taken at that same spot and I figured I couldn’t add anything to it so I didn’t. But I did snap off a few with the iPhone for memory’s sake that I might post later. Then as I turned back to the car I saw the sky doodling all over Spirit and I had to snap a shot of it.

by Bruce | Link | React!
August 17th, 2016

Oh Microsoft…How I Love Your Pretty Little Lies…

Mostly, I do business software. That may seem surprising since I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute and we not only operate Hubble for NASA but we’re also working on the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the project I’m deeply involved in at the moment. So you might think the work I do here is all sciencey and stuff and it mostly is, but not in the flight engineering sense of it. I do business software, and science like everything else has to account for its money and time. So as it turns out, a lot of my work still revolves around Microsoft products, and doing traditional business client-database applications.  The other day I was tweaking something I’d done in Excel VBA (Visual Basic for Applications…a product Microsoft hasn’t upgraded in decades, probably because there is so much legacy stuff out there in their business user base). It was your basic fetch some data from a backend database server and feed it to Excel and let Excel make tables and charts out of it for management to ponder. And I needed to do something that I figured I could use a custom document property for. Which I could, but not exactly in the way Microsoft’s documentation said I could.

You run into this phenomena quickly in this trade:  The Documentation Lies. Or more charitably, it is out of date. The documentation is buggy. The documentation is written by people who write software and hate writing documentation. If religious fundamentalists had to actually use passages in the bible like we software developers have to use the documentation and example code snippets we’re provided with maybe they’d stop waving that thing at everyone, and try a little figuring things out for themselves like we’re always doing…desperately at times. Oh you’re worried about the second coming are you? Let me show you my project’s Gantt chart…

See…I hate using Magic Numbers…

In programming, a “magic number” is a value that should be given a symbolic name, but was instead slipped into the code as a literal, usually in more than one place.

It makes the code hard to understand, which makes it hard to maintain. This is something a programmer is wise to avoid, even if it’s code you are nearly certain only you will be maintaining. Time passes, the universe expands, and you open a code file you haven’t touched in years to make a small change and you’ve forgotten what ThisWorkSheet.CustomProperties.Item(1).Value referred to.  Better to write it ThisWorkSheet.CustomProperties.Item(“GetsGraph”).Value. And lo and behold the documentation says I can call that property with either a numeric value (the property index) or a string value (the property name). But it does not actually work that way.

Let it be said Microsoft is hardly the only culprit here. My first experience with this sort of thing happened right at the starting gate of my career as a software developer many many moons ago, when I was a youngster doing volunteer work for a gay BBS system (before the Internet Tubes came along) and I was asked to write a system for a local gay activists organization to generate welcome letters and membership funding letters and mailouts and so forth. They had a licensed copy of Ashton-Tate’s dBase IV which back then was the powerhouse database system for PCs. It was working my way through the dBase documentation while trying out their code snippets I had the displeasure of finding out that computer documentation will lie though its teeth at you and laugh at your pain and suffering. In those days I hurled many a programming book across the room. Nowadays I glance at the time and do a quick rough calculation of how many minutes until Happy Hour. 

So I got through my little difficulty the other day by creating a sensibly named numeric constant that I can pass in lieu of actually passing the value of the name of the custom property whose value I want to check. That’s what we call in the business a kludge, because I’m not certain the property I want will have that index value Every Time. I think it’s likely since I’m the only one maintaining this code, for now, and I only have that one custom property in there. But what happens when someone else gets into this code? Okay…I’ve commented my useage of the property. But maybe the next update to Excel changes the starting index from 1 to 0? Surprise! 

Oh well. So I get things working to a close approximation of my satisfaction. Then I sit back and I ponder the Five Stages of Software Development…

Denial: Oh I probably just forgot to close a parenthesis somewhere.

Anger: Oh F*ck Me…that is a COMPLETELY LEGAL FUNCTION CALL!!!

Bargaining: Maybe if I use single quotes instead of double quotes…

Depression: I should have gone to art school…

Acceptance: My software tools are buggy, the vendor is shady, the next upgrade cycle will probably depreciate my entire code base, but the bar at Rocket To Venus is open late.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Oh Microsoft…How I Love Your Pretty Little Lies…
August 9th, 2016

Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Selves

A co-worker is back after several months recuperating from surgery for a torn rotator cuff.  As the link to WebMD says, it is “…one of the darkest fears of pitchers, tennis players, and many other athletes.”  Tennis players. Yes. And also probably anyone whose work requires constant lifting and moving things around. My co-worker said she’ll be in physical therapy for months more to come. Possibly years. That’s how it is with major injuries like that. Four months and she can still barely raise her arm now. But she was all smiles to be able to finally leave the house and be out and about. She’ll still have to be careful though…very careful…not to re-injure it.  Luckily for us, our jobs are all mostly low impact desk jobs. But those also have their risks. I’m wearing a Fitbit now, to attend to one of those risks, which is the opposite of having a job that requires a lot of physical activity. As it turns out, the physically cushy job might even be a bigger hazard to your health.

So…good thing my co-worker doesn’t have to come back to a job like…oh say…working in a restaurant all day long slugging around great big platters of beer and dirty dishes. You just don’t go right back to work with just three months of recovery from surgery after something like that. So when you see factory workers or other folk who do heavy physical labor all day long striking for or just generally agitating for better health care, or getting workman’s comp for some injury you could work around at your desk job, don’t be pointing a finger at them and calling them moochers.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Selves
August 8th, 2016

Some Of Us Will Always Be Living In A Time Of AIDS

Time passes, the universe expands, science does its thing, and where once a diagnosis of AIDS was a death sentence, now it is a largely manageable illness. Treatments are out there that can reduce a person’s viral load to undetectable levels. And there is even PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis…a little blue pill that us HIV negative folk can take if we’re still sexually active, that can reduce the risk of HIV infection by over 90 percent. 

But AIDS still has the power to make me cry, even now, so many years after it first began taking people away from me, so many years after the worst of it. Friends I’d made on the GLIB BBS (the Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau), gay folk I’d come to know in other settings, artists, musicians, people who made life beautiful. I used to have nightmares of walking among the Names Project quilt panels and suddenly coming upon a name I really, really didn’t want to see there. It seemed like it would never stop. And it hasn’t really. Just yesterday I learned a classmate from high school, Rocky, had been taken, back in the late ’80s.

I’d had no idea. We weren’t friends back in Class of 1971-72, but he was in the Drama Seminar and as student newspaper photographer I got to watch him in rehearsals, and capture something of him on stage. And Rocky just came to life on the stage. I still vividly recall a moment when, during a rehearsal of “Beggar on Horseback”, after one of the characters delivered a dark, melodramatic line, Rocky suddenly ad libbed running across the stage laughing maniacally, flapping his cape behind him. Everyone laughed. The director said, “Keep it.” And that was how they performed that scene.

When I got my film developed I showed him some of the shots and he asked for copies. These two of him on stage below, are my favorites of him. And all these years later I’m still kinda proud he liked them. He was really something special on stage, and when another artist like that gives your art some respect it lifts you up.

In retrospect I should have seen it, but it’s testimony to how naive and clueless I was back then (years later at a class reunion I was clued into some student gossip of who was doing who back then and you should have seen my jaw dropping). I was posting to the Woodward 1970s Alumni Facebook group the other day, I began to remember, and wonder, and I asked if anyone knew what had become of him. And yes, I asked with a touch of apprehension. You had to have lived through it to understand how reflexive that flinch is. And…I was told.

And it all comes back…all the misery. It just keeps on happening. He was a sweetheart, and so very talented and alive. Way more than I ever was or could be. Here’s to you Rocky…and to everyone who loved and was loved by you. If I could have one hour of time to go back to, I would spend it back then on the Woodward stage with my camera, being the student newspaper photographer, watching you and all my other classmates in the Drama Seminar. We had so much fun and we didn’t even know how much.

 

rocky-1

 

rocky-2

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Some Of Us Will Always Be Living In A Time Of AIDS
August 3rd, 2016

The Best Exercise Machine Is Your Own Body

So if you read a previous post here, you know I bought a Fitbit. It’s one of the new Alta models. I like it’s slim profile; it rests easily on my wrist and I don’t even notice it’s there until it vibrates to get my attention. But I bought it for two features I figured would help me out. On thing is it monitors my sleep patterns so I can have a record of how well I’m sleeping…or not as the case may be.  But more importantly, it monitors my periods of inactivity and alerts me when it figures I need to get up and move around. I have a desk job. Worse, I’m a software engineer. Hours can go by and I’m in a kind of trance like state working on computer software, or working out some configuration problem or design issue, or I’m writing documentation, and I don’t even notice the time going by. Then when I do finally get up out of my chair I’m stiff all over. I’m 62 years old, going on 63, and this is not a good lifestyle for someone my age.  

The Fitbit wants at least 250 steps an hour. The daily goal is 10k steps, which isn’t all that hard for a walker like myself. Recall, I grew up in a household that didn’t have a car until I was 15. Walking as part of my daily life is so hardwired into me that the first thing I did when I got the job at Space Telescope was look for a place to live within walking distance. This has been my main form of exercise and activity lately. When I can walk to work I feel better and my weight stays consistently in what I regard as the good zone. But it’s not every day the weather is that good and when we get a string of rainy or excessively hot days I drive in and my energy levels go in the tank. And it’s because I almost never get out of my chair while I’m at work. I fall into that programmer’s trance and next thing I know several hours have passed and I haven’t moved.

Until now. Every day I’ve worn the Fitbit so far I’ve been able to easily get to 10k, and I usually go a few thousand beyond that. It’s easy walking around the neighborhood, to get groceries or go to The Avenue for dinner and drinks and back. Today for the first time since I got it, the weather forecast was good enough I could walk to work and already I’m almost halfway to 10k and I haven’t even taken my lunchtime walk around campus yet. But most importantly, it alerts me when I’ve sat for too long, asks me to take 250 steps and congratulates me when I make it. That I am convinced now, is the single most important thing it’s doing for me, and it’s made a big difference in my overall energy levels.

When you first set up the Fitbit it asks you your age, your sex, height and weight. So I’m guessing the default goals it sets for you are related to all that. They’re adjustable, but I’m going to stick with the defaults and wait and see if the Fitbit decides to ask more of me later on. I’m already noticing a big difference. For the first time in months I’m not going home after work, and the first thing I want to do is go to bed and nap for a few hours. Those naps never were refreshing and I felt like I was physically spiraling downward. I’m active now all day long and that’s a big improvement. I’ve tried this and that to stay active at work and this little Fitbit is the only thing that’s worked, but it is working magnificently. I feel noticeably better throughout the day and it’s only been two weeks.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

A Coming Out Story #20…Please Stand By…

Actually managing now to get some work done on ACOS #20 and the start of its next chapter. Here’s the first row of panels in progress…

acos_20_in_progress

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story #20…Please Stand By…
August 2nd, 2016

That Feeling You’ve Done All This Before…But Differently…

Facebook has this memories thing where it shows you all the posts you’ve made on this day, running back to the beginning of your Facebook account. Here’s what came up in mine today…

my_life_as_a_tolkien_story

It was prescient…I watched Gollum fall in with it last spring. But he was happy at last, so there’s that.

It would have been ten years this October 6. Now I just wait for the boat to take me to The Undying Lands

 

happy_gollum

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Feeling You’ve Done All This Before…But Differently…
July 31st, 2016

Meanwhile…Back In The Darkness Within…

“Loving can cost a lot but not loving always costs more,
and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness
that robs the joy from life.”
-Merle Shain

 

“It was not the feeling of completeness I so needed, but the feeling of not being empty.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer

 

“I said nothing for a time, just ran my fingertips along the edge of the
human-shaped emptiness that had been left inside me.”
― Haruki Murakami

 

“There’s just something obvious about emptiness, even when you try to convince yourself otherwise. ”
― Sarah Dessen

 

“Nothing has an unlikely quality. It is heavy.”
― Jeanette Winterson

 

“Grief … gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything.
I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time.
Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”
― C.S. Lewis

 

“To me, you were more than just a person. You were a place where I finally felt at home.”
― Denice Envall

Except it was all fake. Teenagers in love put each other up on pedestals all the time. That’s okay. Teenagers can do that. Just know that when you grow up you’ll have to accept that not everyone actually belonged there. Prince Charming isn’t someone you find. He’s someone you awaken inside of another. If he’s in there. They’re not always in there. That doesn’t make you the fool. What was inside of you was real, even if what you thought you saw inside of him wasn’t.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Meanwhile…Back In The Darkness Within…
July 30th, 2016

Flashback: Topeka Car Wash Voguing

I didn’t buy Spirit, my Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan because I wanted a status symbol. What I wanted was a Mercedes-Benz, because I believe them to be the best built, best engineered cars made, and I like having solid things in my life. It’s a pattern that runs all through my life. When I was a teenager and I needed a new tool I bought Craftsman. I couldn’t afford the entire sets so I bought the individual tools one at a time. When I turned 40 and I finally was able to afford an apartment of my own and I needed a vacuum cleaner, I bought a Kirby. That was back in 1993 and I still have it, it still does its job without complaint, and all I’ve ever needed to replace on it besides the bags is the roller brush and some belts.

When I was a teenager, the saying was the first hundred-thousand miles on a Mercedes diesel is just for breaking it in. I was looking at a news article a couple months back about a man somewhere on the Mediterranean coast, a taxi cab driver, still plying his trade with the Mercedes diesel sedan he bought new in the 1970s, that had nearly two million miles on it. And it was no junker; there was a photo of the proud owner standing next to it, and from the look of the car and with the old Mediterranean buildings behind them you’d have thought it was taken in the 70s. Building a car, building anything, to that level of quality and durability (provided you take care of it) costs money, which is why they’re expensive.

The essential idea behind the Mercedes-Benz philosophy is this: if the car is properly cared for, it will work out to be cheaper in the long run. While Mercedes-Benz is rightly associated with luxury, its cars are also built to stay on the road for as long as you care to drive them. -From the article, Why Does Mercedes-Benz Require OEM?

I appreciate that the purchase price makes them status symbols in the eyes of some. They have no art in their souls.

I posted this to my Facebook page while on the road last month…

mercedes_love_topeka

Gave Spirit a run through the best car wash in town. They did an excellent job inside and out. Because while the driver may accumulate road dust as the miles go by, the car must always look its best.

And so it did. The car wash wasn’t all that far from my motel, and when I got there I could see it was as popular with the locals as the Auto Spa is here. And like Auto Spa, the run through the wash was only a first step. After the cars came out, they were parked out front and attended to by a bunch of energetic youngsters, with portable vacuums, electric buffing tools, spray on tire treatment, and so forth. People brought their cars there to give them the works. I didn’t see a single car while I was there just roll out of the wash and drive off. Nobody was getting the budget wash, at least not that day.

We all sat in the Please Wait Here section, outfitted with vending machines and places to set and watch the finish work being done on our cars. It was an impressive operation. I glanced around at the faces among us, all watching the process raptly, even as they were chatting with their neighbors. Every one of those cars was its owner’s baby. I chatted briefly with a young lady who’s mini SUV came out just before mine. She’d just bought it and was the happy new car owner. A new model Mustang convertible came out after mine and I glanced around to see which face lit up. It was a middle aged guy who had more the serious minded businessman’s look about him than a Mustang owner. It’s not unconditionally true, but if you see a car that’s being meticulously taken care of, it’s the owner’s inner self. Yes, I am a Mercedes diesel sedan kind of guy…

“The Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered mid-size sedan is as durable a notion as you’ll find in autodom. Mercedes created the world’s first production diesel-powered passenger car in 1935 and began putting oil burners in its mid-sizers (a.k.a. Pontons) in 1955. The very words “Mercedes diesel” conjure all kinds of associations, from college professors who have forsaken their Peugeots, to wiry German mechanics, to cab drivers in Kabul. It’s an archetype; a 911 Turbo for meerschaum-smoking squares, a Shelby Mustang for people who got beat up in high school…” –Eddie Alterman, Car and Driver.

Just before they finished with Spirit, an absolutely huge pimped out pickup truck came out of the wash. I was surprised it even fit. Jacked up, oversize tires, painted in a gaudy two-tone orange and red, spotlights on the front, on the top, blue sideboard running lights…you get the picture. I looked around. Next to me a thirty-something young guy in khakis and a polo shirt smiles at me. “You like it?” he asks. “It’s mine.”

“Impressive” says I, smiling back, trying to be polite. Insulting someone’s car is on a par with insulting their mother. And really, whatever floats your boat is fine with me if I can see you’re really into taking care of it.

“It’s for sale.” he says.  Ah, thinks I, this is why he’s here…to make it look nice for the classifieds. For a moment I feel sad for the pickup. It’s one of the big GMCs. Under all that makeup there’s probably a pretty solid American made truck in there. But he’s found another love and needs some money. But I am not a potential sale.

I point to the lovely metallic blue four door Mercedes-Benz in the lot. “That’s mine” says I. Mr. Pimped Out Pickup’s smile kinda freezes on his face.

“It’s got just over ninety-four thousand on it,” I add. “Almost broken in.”

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Flashback: Topeka Car Wash Voguing
July 28th, 2016

The Past Is Prologue. Prologue Is A Cold Hearted Mother.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, in relation to A Coming Out Story, is how the unique window of time my generation of gay kids grew up in…a time when you could see a better world was possible, and accept yourself just as you are without shame, but still a time when it was very very dangerous to be openly gay…really screwed with us in its own horrible way. You could fall in love with another guy, and feel absolutely wonderful about it. And yet you were living in a world where you couldn’t tell anyone.

Try to imagine how that is. The most wonderful thing ever has happened to you, and you can’t tell a soul. You can’t talk it out with someone you trust, because there is no one you can trust with it. You are walking through a potential minefield of emotions all by yourself. And when something blows up in your face, you still can’t tell anyone.

I inherited mom’s diaries after she passed away. Hardest parts to read are the pages where, years after I graduated, she would write sadly about how her sweet cheerful boy had turned all sullen and angry and how she wished she had the sweet cheerful boy back.

I have an outline of this worked out in the script (if you can call it that) for ACOS. It’s something I’ll go into thoroughly at the end of this next chapter. But I haven’t even begun this next chapter yet and I really need to get there and tell this part of it.

Because I can see a little better now how that past where I had to keep everything inside and I couldn’t talk it out with anyone…not mom, not my friends, not any of my classmates, no one, really really left its mark on me. You can feel absolutely wonderful about that first love, and not even notice how having to deal with it in a world that hates you is cutting you up inside.

And later on in life, when that past comes up and taps you on the shoulder, and maybe throws a pie in your face, you still really can’t talk to anyone about it, because there isn’t anybody you know who remembers that part of your past, and how deeply it affected you, because you kept it hidden. Nobody knew.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Past Is Prologue. Prologue Is A Cold Hearted Mother.

Good Morning!

I wake up this morning from what my Fitbit confirms was a really lousy night’s sleep. Ten hours, but sprinkled within that two periods of wakefulness and 23 (!) periods of restlessness. I turn on my morning Pandora station, a generic “Relaxation Radio” channel. It starts playing a lovely, relaxing piano melody. Now I’m beginning to feel a tad better. So I look to see what it is that’s playing.

It’s called The Dark Night of The Soul.  The artist is Philip Wesley. I had no idea the dark night of the soul was so…relaxing.

Some days you get up on the right side of the bed. Some days you get up on the wrong side of the bed. And some days you get up on the surreal side of the bed.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Good Morning!
July 23rd, 2016

No Known Ties To Terror Groups…Or To Humanity…

Munich Germany…

munich-sm

Heart goes out to Münchner and to Germans everywhere.

I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.
-George Fox

Whoever kills an innocent soul, it is as though he killed all mankind.
And whoever saves one, it is as though he saved all mankind.
-Rumi

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on No Known Ties To Terror Groups…Or To Humanity…
July 12th, 2016

The Rot Is Not At The Top

Here’s the new Hillary Clinton attack ad on Donald Trump. Basically it’s about how The Donald cheated a trusting small businessman out of his fee for designing and building Trump a nice clubhouse for one of his golf courses..

 

 

Is anybody really surprised by this? No, no…not just that it’s Standard Operating Procedure for Trump, not just that the man who could do this to a trusting small businessman is the likely GOP presidential nominee. No. Is anybody really surprised that the GOP grassroots of this day and age in America, really, really love him?

Think about it. They don’t want unskilled service workers to earn a living wage if it means their fast food and WalMart purchases might cost a bit more. They don’t want racial or ethnic minorities, women, gay folk, anyone who isn’t them to have an equal share of the American Dream, but they still want them to do the work of building America. They want their goods and services, but they don’t want to pay a living wage to the people who provide it. They want their job opportunities, but they don’t want their service workers and their kids to have a shot at decent jobs too, because then they might start holding their heads a little higher, and expecting fair treatment. They want their kids to get a good education, but they won’t support the public schools if it means they’re helping the kids from poor families get one too; but they still want those kids to serve them their burgers and pizza and ring up their purchases, preferably for next to nothing.

To call them cheapskates is ennobling. They’re plunderers, just like The Donald, perfectly in tune with the general republican mindset these days, and with the same entitled, grandiose view of themselves Trump and the lot of them have. Of course they like him. They say you take the measure of a nation not in how well it treats its well off, but by how well it treats its poor. Another way of looking at that is, if you’re the sort who would take advantage of someone who is utterly at your mercy, can anyone else really trust you?

Here’s a lesson for all you small business owners who think the republicans are better for business. The man who helps you cheat your employees out of a fair wage, will steal everything from you too and laugh in your surprised face.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Rot Is Not At The Top
July 3rd, 2016

Gunshots That Echo Forever

Wandering the all new Disney Springs today. Almost the entire area that was once Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island has been massively redone. The old maps in my head are half wrong now. But staying at a nearby hotel makes it possible to get it out of my system without having to deal with the new parking garages and street changes. Tuesday I go to my DVC room at Boardwalk for a few days. I reckon I’ll hit the water parks in the morning and the theme parks in the evenings. Maybe. Boardwalk is nice enough I can just hang out there all day too. This makes for a nice respite from travelling the great plains last week, and my cameras being mostly disappointed this trip. But I got a few good ones. Tell you more later.

Disney Springs is crowded this holiday weekend. That’s to be expected. Normally I hate crowds. But every now and then they bring me nice things. Like beautiful young visiting latinos who still wear briefs, out of style though they seem to be in this country, and silken athletic shorts over them that, long and baggy though they may be, make that fact clearly evident, and let you see the seams move as they walk along in front of you…

I made reservations for the dining room at Wolfgang Puck’s tonight since it’s holiday crowded here and I wasn’t sure I could sit at the bar downstairs. Turns out that was no problem, but there was a bar upstairs too so I sat there. It’s not that I have to drink Every Night. But sitting at the bar makes it easier for the single traveler to talk with his fellow diners. And if the bar is empty, as it was this night for some reason, there’s always the bartender.

I was wearing my rainbow Mickey pin and the bartender noticed. He began telling me about his friends who were at Pulse the night of the shooting. Three guys, two of which were on the fence about going that night, and the third who really wanted to go, so the others went along with him, and they died and he lived, and now he can’t forgive himself…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gunshots That Echo Forever
June 16th, 2016

The Ball And Chain You Let Them Put On You

This came down my Facebook stream earlier

vanity_fair-orlando_terrorist

Is it hard to picture a troubled gay guy lashing out at his own kind? When you hate the gay, it’s much easier to attack it in other people than to face down your own demons. Craig Ferguson has been repeating a joke for years that goes something like this: What would we do without gays? Who would design all the clothes? Who would arrange all the flowers? Who would pass all the anti-gay legislation? He always gets a big laugh…

I never hated myself. I came out to myself in a rush of first love and it honestly felt like the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me. Like all the silly love songs and poems, the stars seemed to shine a little brighter, the birds in the trees sang a little more sweetly, and I walked with a lighter more carefree step than I ever had before. It was wonderful. But the wound ran deeper than I thought. 

It was the iron ball and chain of low expectations regarding my place in the world, which I would always excuse as my simply a not having a very competitive nature. I never tried very hard to make a place for myself in the realms of my first loves, cartooning, painting and photography. I kept my artwork to myself, and those few times I did venture out to try and market myself, or find work as an illustrator or photographer, I barely knocked on the door, accepting the first rejections I got as final. In retrospect something very deep down inside of me seemed to know I’d never be accepted in the lands of my dreams. I had no clue what I would do for a living, accepted that I would always have a low income life, going from one menial job to another, renting rooms maybe in other people’s homes if I was lucky, but never a place of my own, never a good job that I loved. That was for other people. I never bothered somehow, to examine why I felt that way very closely. I had an assortment of ready excuses. No college degree. Not very good at self marketing. Maybe I just wasn’t as talented as I thought… 

I stumbled into my career as a software developer purely by chance; the PC and dot-com booms created such a booming job market that anyone who could code even a little was fairly dragged into it. I had a knack for logical thinking that enabled me to figure out how to turn requirements into software, even if it never dared look within as to why I felt so unlikely to succeed at a career. Right from the beginning I got praise for the quality of my work, rose in skill and wage level from one job to another, and ending up working at Space Telescope making six figures. It was a dream come true it seemed. Deep down I was completely scared I didn’t deserve any of it. I think it was only when the director of the Institute handed me a special achievement award at a ceremony a couple years ago that I finally began to really believe I belonged there, among those other highly skilled professionals. I was 60. Somehow it’s still harder to acknowledge to myself that I’m one of them than it was to admit to myself that I’m gay. It still feels pretentious. I have a little Baltimore rowhouse now, in a city neighborhood that is on the rise, and a nice car, and a dream come true job. And my first dreams are all buried in the past. I pursue them now in my basement art room in my spare time.

And then of course, there’s how low self esteem impacts your love life. Some folks just write love off altogether and dive into the one night stand no strings no complications scene. Others of us just stand quietly in a corner with a flower in hand and hopeful expression on our faces and the unkept look of people who forget sometimes to take care of themselves because they know somehow it doesn’t matter all that much. Please love us. Please don’t break our hearts. But the heart was already broken even before you came out to yourself, in that first moment when you flinched away from knowing. Gay Pride only goes so far healing the wound. You have to work at it, you have to dig down deep to really get to all the subtle little places where it still exists, still hurts still holds you down.

If you’ve never heard the term internalized homophobia, and it seems slightly odd to you, welcome to our world. It’s second nature to every gay guy, to the extent that few of us ever completely erase it. Vestiges linger, and catch us off guard when they rear up in awkward moments, decades later…

I never hated myself. Never. But deep down I have always felt like I was standing on the outside of life looking in. You really see it in my art sometimes. Internalized homophobia isn’t always a kind of murderous self hate as it apparently was for the author of this piece. I’ve seen that in other gay people. I think we all have. It’s a real thing. Sometimes though, it’s just the ball and chain on your soul that you just got used to, until you stopped even noticing it was there, and how much of the precious joy of life it was taking from you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Ball And Chain You Let Them Put On You
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