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Archive for August, 2014

August 26th, 2014

Message In A Bottle…

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that coffin – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.

It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  –C.S. Lewis

Real, that.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Message In A Bottle…

August 19th, 2014

You Should Wonder About This From Time To Time…

Walking in to work this morning, I came across a small and very old woman trying hard to push her loaded grocery cart across the street before the light changed. She didn’t make it, so I stood out in the street and waved oncoming traffic around her. She looked to be going from the big new Giant into the rowhouse neighborhood just down the street from that intersection which wasn’t too far for her to go. But at that age nobody moves very fast either.

She began struggling to get her grocery cart up over the curb and onto the sidewalk and I walked over to help her.  It took me back years.

I was raised by a single working mother, and grew up in a household that couldn’t afford a car until I was well into my teens.  One of my duties as the “man of the house” was pushing the loaded grocery cart back home from the store a couple miles away. It wasn’t difficult, not even for a young boy. If you balanced the load just right on the wheels once you got it moving it was pretty much easy to keep it moving.

foldable_shopping_cart

When I was 7 or 8 and I would look down at the wheels and pretend I was driving a car.

Nowadays the grocery carts have four wheels on them.  I suppose that’s for older people like the lady I was helping just then, who couldn’t always keep a two wheeled cart balanced. We struggled together getting her cart up off the road and onto the sidewalk, she had the thing pretty well full. I’m guessing it was her food for the next couple weeks. But we got it up and she thanked me and went on her way, happy I hope to see a little politeness still left in the world.

I looked up. The light had turned red again and a city police car was stopped right there at the crosswalk. The cop inside was looking at me, smiled and nodded and I smiled back and went on my way. I suppose it does the police good to see people actually helping each other out from time to time too.

…and then I wondered what would have happened had I been a young black male and he saw me and that old woman struggling there with that grocery cart.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on You Should Wonder About This From Time To Time…

August 13th, 2014

The Gutter Speaks…

“He had it all, but he had nothing. He made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside. I mean, it fits a certain picture, or a certain image that the left has. Talk about low expectations and general happiness and so forth…”  – Rush Limbaugh on the death of Robin Williams.

I would rather suffer the burden Robin Williams had and let it beat me down like it did him, than endure that empty void Limbaugh has where a conscience ought to be and let it put a smile on my face while it tells me I’m so much better than all those bleeding hearts.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Gutter Speaks…

August 12th, 2014

Depression, Madness, And Those Of Us Who Slip Between The Fingers Of Concern

It’s not often another story of celebrity death makes me feel like the floor went out from under me, but that’s what news of Robin William’s death by suicide did.  I was heartbroken in that instant, as were a lot of people. The word “celebrity” demeans someone like him. He was an artist, an actor, a tremendous creative talent. He could be the gifted stage comic, the manic genie in Disney’s Aladdin, and then you look and he’s the evil Walter Finch in Insomnia, and then you look again and he’s John Keating in Dead Poets Society, and then you look again and he’s Peter Pan.

Williams it seems, was battling depression.  I follow a bunch of very talented and creative people on Facebook and Twitter who are also battling depression. That’s, the clinical depression, which is a thing unlike those bouts of sadness and loneliness and loss we all face at one time or another in our lives. It’s a thing, a real medical clinical thing. People who experience it speak of it as a gray cloud that hangs over everything and never goes away. They say it sucks the energy and joy out of everything.  I have had my moments of grief, I’ve had it so bad I’ve stood at the threshold of suicide myself many times. But it’s never been like that. And what comforts me as I walk into old age and I find myself standing at that threshold once again is I’ve seen the darkness come and go over and over and over again and I know from experience that sooner or later It Will Go Away, and I just have to keep walking through it.  So I am told, it’s not like that when you have clinical depression.  For those folks, that gray cloud never goes away, at least not without medication. I know I can always count on time making mine go away.  But I also know how easy it is for people like me to lose our balance, and fall into a pit we may or may not get back out of in time.

The writer David Gerrold wrote this on Facebook the other day…

I don’t know the details of what Robin Williams was dealing with and I won’t speculate.

I do know that when you have a mind that works that fast and makes that kind of connections, flashing from moment to moment, assembling new pieces out of fragments of old experiences, it’s exhausting.

Sometimes my mind does that, all the circuits firing at once, and it shows up in stories — and leaves me emotionally drained, sometimes for days. It’s hard to live inside a brain that active. (And no, I’m not comparing myself to Williams, I’m only noticing my own experiences and extrapolating from there.)

He gets it. Whenever someone so creative and talented kills themselves, you will always hear a bunch of people saying, to the effect, that madness and genius go hand in hand.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate hearing that.  I’m not about to wrap myself in the robes of ‘genius’ by any means.  I don’t even like the concept of a single measure of intelligence.  I think there are a lot of different kinds of intelligence.  And I always flinch at calling myself an artist.  But I am.  There are many kinds of artist too.  Some of us paint and draw.  Some of us do photography, or music, or act.  We are writers and poets.  Some of us pursue the engineering arts. And it isn’t madness we have, it’s brains that contain a whirlwind…flashes of insight, connections, moment to moment, all firing at once.  Constantly.  Someone on Facebook I follow posted a graphic with the message on it that, (recalling it from memory) to understand how having a creative mind feels, imagine you’re a browser and you have 2,868 tabs open all at once.

Williams had that.  He had to given that amazing, wonderful ability he had to mentally jump from one random connection to the next on stage So Quickly.  He had to have that whirlwind going on inside. You could see it. It just delighted you.  And you could see it delighting him even as he was doing it.  It’s not madness, it’s art. I don’t know that this necessarily makes you unstable, but I know from my own experience how vulnerable it can leave you if you don’t have something to anchor you, something…someone…to always bring you back home.

For the artist depression has to be an even bigger hazard, one that multiplies the risk you already have of losing your balance if you’ve already got those 2,868 tabs open. I’ve never had that overarching clinical depression, so I wouldn’t know. All I’ve ever been is sad. Just…very very sad. But I know what it’s like living with a furious mental cascade that just won’t stop unless you apply some chemical brakes and getting lost in it is oh so easy and losing your balance…maybe it was sadness, maybe it was some sudden crisis that came out of nowhere…and then the whirlwind in your mind throws you into a place you may or may not make it back out of.

This is why a lot of us end up not as suicides but as overdoses. The lucky ones have that anchor. Others, too afraid of the overdose or blessed like me with bodies too timid to handle a lot of drugs without getting violently sick long before the overdose can even get close, dive into their work as a substitute for the anchor, the home, the place of rest. I know how that is too. But when work becomes less a passion and more a crutch then it can have the same effect as drugs in that it allows you to deny and ignore the central problem in your life until that one moment when the crutch can’t bear the weight and it snaps and there you are and you’re on your way to the bottom of a pit and you can’t stop falling.

Bunch of highly talented and creative people I follow who’ve been open about their fight with clinical depression, are feeling very sad now for Williams, but also afraid for themselves. If he lost the fight, then what chance do I have?  They need to be told the are loved, and cherished, and not alone in their fight.  I’m afraid of a different thing. I don’t have a fight with depression. I have a fight with a hoary old stereotype about artists and madness that I am convinced is getting  a lot of us killed too. You can call what our brains do to us madness I suppose, but it adds a little something to the world, and the thing is, we don’t have to get lost in it.  We just don’t.  The problem is people seem to think we’re supposed to. It’s part of the deal.

The shooting star. The one who lived so miserably and died so tragically, but oh look at all the wonderful things they left behind for the rest of us to enjoy!  We don’t all suffer from depression, but we could all use a little sympathy too, and a little help.  Because that inner whirlwind makes it hard to find that anchor, that intimate other, or others, who can see what the others can’t because they’re used to you behaving like you’re not quite all there, that that can see that you’re losing your balance, and seeing it, can take you by the hand to that place of peace and quiet you need to be in to get it back.

I know from experience that when I get lost in a whirlwind of grief or loneliness or sadness I can just wait it out.  But I also know that it’s not a sure thing.  I have come so very close to it.  One of these days you might find yourself reading right here about the one time I couldn’t walk myself out of it.  I told my brother once that if I died alone and especially if it was by my own hand, I wanted him to burn everything…all the artwork, all the photography.  I was at a point in my life where it sickened me to think of people enjoying the artistic spoils of my miserable life.  He flat out refused, and I’ve moved on to a place where I don’t care anymore.

what-is-a-human-being

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

August 11th, 2014

Life’s Little Ironies Only A Gay Person Of A Certain Age Will Fully Appreciate…

#1: Having “Dude, Get Real!” hurled at you by someone who will probably be buried in his closet because not even the Grim Reaper will be able to pry him out of it.

you wish

…collect the entire series!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Life’s Little Ironies Only A Gay Person Of A Certain Age Will Fully Appreciate…

August 5th, 2014

One Person’s Fountain Of Youth Is Another’s Fountain Of Old

I follow I Facebook group devoted to “classic” TV shows.  This photo came across that stream this morning…

goodnight chet-sm

Techno geek that I am, the first thing I latched onto was the TV camera. Just look at it. It’s friggin’ Huge. And it was probably only capable of capturing video in black & white. That gatling gun lens mount is what they used to adjust the field of view before zoom lenses became a thing. The tripod it’s on gives a hint of how heavy it was.

I should feel so terribly old looking at this but I don’t. What I feel is Ha! I can record better video from the little hand held device in my pocket than that hulking monstrosity could and transmit it to the entire world from just about anywhere I happen to be standing.  I’m sixty years old now, and something I’ve noticed is that progress makes some people feel old while it leaves others always feeling young…

…because you’re always having to learn new sh*t! All this time I’ve been attributing that constant twenty-ish mindset I have to a state of arrested development and that’s not it. It isn’t that I never grew up, it’s that I never got tired of growing up.

And that’s the way it is.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on One Person’s Fountain Of Youth Is Another’s Fountain Of Old

August 4th, 2014

The Militant Homosexual I Became Was Nurtured By Hollywood’s Homosexual

A friend on Facebook turned me onto this…

vito_documentary

I have both editions of “The Celluloid Closet” published while he was still with us. If any one thing could have been said to have radicalized my attitudes toward gay equality it was this one, even more so than “And The Band Played On”.  The book opens with a story about how a gay friend of his was telling another gay friend about a new movie that had a gay character in it, and the other friend immediately asks how the character dies. In a nutshell, that’s how it was.

I ordered the DVD of Vito and it came Friday and I had housework to do so it just sat for a while. Last night before bed I watched the first two thirds of it. It filled in a lot of blanks for me because I only knew of Vito Russo from his groundbreaking film history The Celluloid Closet. I didn’t know, but I should have guessed, how the activist predated the historian. The part showing him struggling to pull together all the hidden threads of our presence in the movies really brought back home to me that sense of isolation and cultural invisibility I hadn’t felt in decades.

Back in the 1970s, that homosexual characters were occasionally included in movies, either for laughs if they were flaming sissies or as the embodiment of unnatural evil, was something probably everyone knew. Russo was the first person to actually gather all the pieces together, all the little walk on toss off parts along with the major roles, all the sissies, all the evil psychos, all the tragically dammed, and look at all critically.  And the book he produced hit gay people everywhere who read it like a ton of bricks, because you knew the scapegoating and stereotyping weren’t just how your heterosexual neighbors were taught to look at you, but also how you were taught to see yourself.  Heterosexuals could dream of the happily ever after, could see that dream on the silver screen, could picture themselves there, having that life, or something like it.  Hollywood flushed our dreams into the sewer from the moment we first walked into a movie house.  We weren’t lovers, we were sissies, we were dangerous sexual psychopaths, we were the butt of dirty jokes, we were the personification of unnatural evil, we were pathetic, we were terrifying, we were not human. But you really didn’t see it all that clearly because the one thing we were most of all was something not to be discussed in public among decent normal people.

Then Vito Russo gathered it all together and put it in front of us.  And it just took your breath away…to see it all there, laid out in front of you.

And it made you angry…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Militant Homosexual I Became Was Nurtured By Hollywood’s Homosexual

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