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Archive for October, 2017

October 30th, 2017

Seeing Events Through That Other Planet You Were Raised On

I’ve been pretty open about being raised in a Baptist household. Sometimes I even joke about it. But those are my roots and there are times, like now as I’m reading the story of Kevin Spacey and Anthony Rapp, that I find myself more than a little glad it was what it was when I was a boy, and wishing it left me with better eyes for understanding this world better than it did.

Mom, to her dying day, never once swore in my presence, never drank while I was growing up, and never once touched tobacco, let alone anything else. I remember going to a friends apartment for the first time and seeing his mom walk into the dining room and light up a cigarette and the shock of it, go ahead and laugh, is still something I can recall vividly. I didn’t know moms smoked, and there right in my presence was the living proof that some did. I felt uncomfortable being in his apartment after that. Later in her life, retired, content in her little southern Virginia apartment, surrounded by family and friends, I came to understand that mom would happily have a glass or two of wine every now and then. Amused, I often wondered if she did it knowing full well her mother was rolling in her grave. To her dying day, she never touched a drop of alcohol in front of her son. And even back in the day, those early 70s teenage days of parties with all sorts of things being passed around, I never let myself get drunk or stoned in front of her. At 17 I was beginning to see how lucky I’d had it, even accounting for our low budget lifestyle, and the fact that so many of my grade school teachers just assumed I would be a problem child because I was the Product Of Divorce. Behave in front of your kid, the way you want them to behave in front of others. And she did. Always. 

That upbringing put something into me…not only a sense of how I as an adult needed to behave, but also how adults behave around kids. Not so much out of a cheap sense of propriety and decorum but because one of the line items at the very top of the job description of ADULT is you keep the next generation healthy, safe, and prepared for their own adult lives. And what I’ve learned, from mom, and from walking through my adult life with my eyes wide open, is you do that almost exclusively by becoming the adult you want them to grow up to be. Preach all you want and it just goes in one ear and out the other. But they watch. You live it, and that will take. How much of all the crap we wade through in the news every day lately, is the end effect of adults saying one thing to kids and doing another.

So I’m reading all this about Kevin Spacey and how fourteen year old Anthony Rapp was there at a cast party, watching TV in a bedroom, and Spacey walks in drunk, hits the bathroom then comes out and picks the kid up, plops him down on the bed and lays on top of him. And the kid squirms away, runs into the bathroom, then after a while comes back out and gets the hell out of there. I appreciate that Spacey has apologised and said he was drunk at the time and doesn’t remember it. Spacey needs to appreciate something the ancients knew: in vino veritas.  

As I’ve grown older, and sat down in my share of bars, and downed a good amount of alcohol, I’ve come to find the I Was Drunk defense a bit puzzling…because if alcohol did anything to you it was to pull the curtain aside and let the inner you out. Maybe that was the person you were always hard wired to be. Maybe you let yourself become that person. But…whatever…in vino veritas. It wasn’t the drink. It was you. Spacey needs to ask himself how he became someone, some Adult, who could do those things, and especially to a kid at the age where sexual urges are just beginning to emerge.

Starting with…how could you just walk stinking drunk into a room with a teenager in it and not be deeply embarrassed? How do you even get that drunk at a party where there are kids. I’m sure a cast party can involve a lot of uncorking and letting go of stress and that’s fine. But that obligation to set an example never goes away just because it is inconvenient. Welcome to Adulthood! Arrange some adults-only get together for later, celebrate with the kids in the cast now, make it a memorable experience for them, send them off with visions of the future…and then retire to the grownup club and get it all off your chest There

If it seems like I’m fixating on the drunkenness over the sexual abuse it’s because it’s one of those telling little details that, at least for me, snaps the rest of the picture into place. He didn’t care there was a kid in front of him…and all the tomorrows that will ever be so long as there are kids to behold them. The way we treat children is our verdict on the human race. And…ourselves. As nice as it would have been to just let go and drink himself into John Barleycorn bliss at that cast party the instant Spacey walked into it and saw kids there he needed to be an adult and he couldn’t be bothered. There’s the problem. The rest of it was all of a piece.

But then, I grew up on another planet…

by Bruce | Link | React!

October 27th, 2017

Dreams Stitching Together Random Parts Of Your Life

I was having an odd dream about Woodward, my old high school, last night. I was in a Greenbelt hotel staging myself close to Goddard Space Flight Center because I had to be there bright eyed and bushy tailed first thing the following morning to get my fingers printed for a security clearance level change. The significance of that being that I wasn’t in my usual bed in my little Baltimore rowhouse, and that not being where my sleeping body expects to be often provokes strange, vivid dreams.

I actually have pretty regular dreams about Woodward and they’re always pleasant, as opposed to the dreams about my Jr High Schools. But even the high school dreams can drift into strange territory, particularly if I’m dreaming that I’m a teenager again. That strangeness will manifest itself in how images of the life I have now as an adult merge…weirdly…with memories of the past. For example: bits a pieces of the neighborhood I’m living in now, or places I’ve visited since high school, showing up in the neighborhood around the school. At this stage of my life I often have dreams where I’m back at the apartment complex I lived in during high school, but it has bits and pieces of every other apartment complex I’ve ever lived in added to it. While you’re in the dream this does not seem strange, but then you wake up and it’s a bit mind bending. 

Last night was like that. I was wandering around the hallways, and it seemed as if Woodward was being emptied of everything inside of it. But it was also full of elementary school kids and their teachers who seemed to be having some sort of community event in the old school building. It made me sad to see almost all the furniture gone, as if the building was about to be torn down, which was very odd in retrospect because news from Rockville lately is they want/need to expand Woodward, not close it, because of enrollment figures that the larger school down the street, Walt Whitman can’t handle. Further adding to the effect was the floor tiles seemed to have been taken up and I was walking over old wooden planks. The dream was so vivid I could feel the old wooden plank creaking a bit under my feet as I stepped on them.

Okay…I know where that one came from. I moved out of a storage unit I’d rented for the summer and that building, cobbled together from one very old city warehouse and a newer more modern building attached to it, had those exact same old wooden floors.This is how my vivid dreams weirdly mix and match details from out of my memories. So Woodward got the floors from my storage room. The part about how it was full of kids and teachers celebrating something I’m still thinking over. There were also all kinds of artwork on the walls of the sort you see in elementary school hallways…paintings paper mache art, paper collages. It was all bright and cheerful but set against a dark background of a place I dearly loved being vacated.

In my dream I wandered about the hallways, slightly afraid that one of the adults there would challenge my presence. What are you doing here? Whenever I passed someone in the hall I just acted like I belonged there, that I had some purpose I was attending to, and nobody bothered me. Eventually I passed a classroom where a certain someone used to sit at the end of a day, during the tail end of my junior year. If I passed by and he was still there I’d peek apprehensively in as I walked by. If you’ve ever watched that wonderful little animated short In A Heartbeat…I was Sherwin…

 

…beguiled, utterly clueless, unsure and more than a little afraid to acknowledge what I was feeling then…only that the sight of him made me smile, made the sun shine brighter, made the stresses of my day rest lighter on me…

Now the classroom was mostly empty. I walked in to stand where the desk he sat at was. Inside were a few objects of the kind you get at the very end of moving out…little odds and ends that for one reason or another didn’t make it into a box or the moving van until the very end. The last remnants of what was once there. If the heart is a house… A few small boxes sat in corner, next to a board leaning up against a wall that might have been part of a bookshelf. I wanted to see what he saw out the window while he sat there…for some reason in the dream that seemed important. So I looked and what I saw was a stunning view of one of the tall narrow rock walls in Arches National Park…I’d once hiked to a spot where they were visible…again, something out of my past. But it wasn’t in Arches, it was here just outside of Woodward, and surrounded by a lush forest around its base and flowering bushes. The sun was low on the horizon hitting it, casting it in a lovely reddish glow.

My jaw dropped. It was stunningly beautiful. And…because in dreams your mind isn’t quite all there…I thought to myself, Is that Sugarloaf Mountain? No…can’t be…that’s all the way out in Comus…

…and then I woke up, and I was in Greenbelt, and it was nearly morning and I had to go get my fingers printed…

by Bruce | Link | React!

October 9th, 2017

The Power Of Stories

I posted a short cartoon below about how it was being a gay teenager growing up in the late 60s to early 70s. How, no matter which direction you turned, the message was you don’t exist, or if you did, you should not. At best you were invisible…something not spoken of in polite company. At worst…well…you probably don’t want to hear it here.

Now at least we are visable. We can’t be arrested simply for being visible. Before Stonewall that was a fact of life. The riot happened you may recall, when the police came to raid one of our few bars in New York City. Now we can live our lives openly. Now we can tell our stories in our own words. And now we are, tentatively, becoming part of the audience. Stories are being told, not just about us, but To us.

That’s a problem for some people, who would rather the old rules still applied…

“Black”, “Homo” And “Freaking Females”: Heated Scenes As Retailers Turn On Each Other At Marvel NYCC Q&A

This was about the recent trend in comics to include, or even reimagine characters as women, black and gay. A recent storyline in the X-Men series had younger versions of the team being transported in time to meet their adult selves. One of them, Bobby Drake aka Iceman, is forced to come to terms with his sexual orientation that his adult self relentlessly denied. It made for some amazing and heartfelt drama, of the sort you didn’t use to see in the comics, especially of the super hero kind, and yet which you could have only have found within that genre…

Marvel Comics – Uncanny X-Men #60

This was just amazing, absolutely amazing storytelling. It took the gay generation gap and played it at an angle only this, or a science fiction tale could do, and in doing it made plain the horrible burden the older generation lived under due to the prejudices of their day. What do you do when the kid you once were, comes face to face with you and asks why he should have to live his life in the closet? It’s one thing to tell how it was to the new generation that doesn’t have to live it the way you did, doesn’t have to make the bargains with hate that you did. They need to know this history, if only to keep their watch against it all coming back. But how do you justify it to the kid you once were? What do you say to him?

This is what those retailers, and the readers they speak for, were protesting. And what you reliably hear is something along the lines of hey I don’t have anything against the gays, I just don’t want it shoved in my face. ‘It’ being the fact of our existence. Yes, you don’t have anything against the gays…so long as you don’t have to know we’re there among you. But it’s more than that.

Stories have power. Stories are how we pass down knowledge of what it is to be human. How are we supposed to grow and mature and live our lives as fully realized human beings if we are not allowed to know the stories of the lives of others like us. How are we supposed to grow as decent people if we cannot hear the stories of others who are not like us. How do we see the common human heart we all share. The myths, the legends. The hero’s journey.

The answer of course, is we’re not supposed to grow at all. Black…homo…freaking females. We have to stay where we’re told. In our place.

Marvel Comics – All-New X-Men #17

No we don’t…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Power Of Stories


I Don’t Want To Hate The World…I Really Don’t….

Facebook helpfully sends you these little notices to look back on your Facebook past. You click on the link and get a feed of every post you’ve made on that particular day, going back through the years. Often it’s fun and enlightening. Sometimes it reminds you of things you’d rather forget. Like the day the best cat to ever come into my life got run over by a car in front of my house.

Today it was this, from October 9, 2011…

Of all the life experiences I’ve had that I could absolutely have done without, getting lectured by a guy I loved very much and thought of very fondly for 40 years about how I need to look elsewhere because life in the closet has damaged him too much is probably right at the top of that list.

When I told you that it was falling in love with you when we were both young that freed me forever from any possibility of living in the closet, I thought you’d feel proud. But I was twisting the knife in your heart wasn’t I?

I don’t want to hate the world. I really don’t. But some days I really do.

Further down in Facebook memory lane, there was this on October 9, 2008…

[Bruce Garrett] …is still reeling from a conversation he had yesterday with his first crush…

That would have been the “It’ll happen…things are better than you know…” conversation. Wow…full circle, almost, on October 9.

Here on the blog, but not Facebook, on October 6 2006 it was this

So for years now…34 years to be exact…I’ve been throwing these little messages in a bottle out into the world, where, hopefully, they would eventually find there way to a certain someone.  So what happened between us back when we were both teenagers is pretty central to who I am today.  So I finally got a reply.  After 34 years of searching for him I finally found him.  So we talked.  For just over an hour we talked.  You have to expect that 34 years is a lot of time for things to happen.  And things did happen.  Many things he told me about.  And many things I can only guess at from what he would only allude to.  He sounds just like he always did.  It was like picking up the phone and talking to him back in 1972.  It was eerie.  It was wonderful.  It was thrilling.  It was disturbing.  He’s the same guy he was back then.  And he’s different.  And things have happened in 34 years.  Many things. 

And I feel like…a gently whirling dust devil just suddenly smacked into me and threw parts of me that no one has ever touched or disturbed in 34 years reeling into the air, scattered across the sky, and now I’m just standing here becalmed, watching it all lazily settle back down, and I know it will still be me when it does, but different, and I don’t know what will happen next because those parts of me ran so old and so deep and so still…

It’s all there, gathered by these quick little online notes across the years of October.  It was December of 1971 he first put his arm around me and my heart shot into the stratosphere and later that evening, that I was able to finally come out to myself because of it. It was March of 2016 we spoke our final, angry words at each other. 

Life goes on…you take your hits and you get back up, dust yourself off, move on and get back to work. Because there is no growing up, there is only growing. And the opposite of that is dying. And dying isn’t something you want to waste your life doing. Yeah it hurts. Sometimes it hurts like a sonofabitch. You can let it beat you down, or you can take it as proof that you’re still alive, still growing, still moving forward. Eventually you get use to it. Eventually you move beyond it. Eventually.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Don’t Want To Hate The World…I Really Don’t….


The Rain, The Park, And Other Kids…

Posted to Misc Cartoons.  What it’s like growing up in a world where you don’t exist…

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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