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February 3rd, 2018

Moving On…Letting Go…

When it began to look like I could never get the watch I’d worn all the way back to grade school fixed and ticking again…probably because the high end watch shops really don’t want to bother with the mass market watches the hoi polloi used to wear…I reluctantly began looking for a new one.

This…go ahead and laugh…was very difficult. Oh yes…at different points in my life I’ve worn other watches, the most recent of those being a “skeleton” watch I bought online, only to discover when I got it that it was actually very hard to read: unlike in the catalogue photograph, the small blue tinted hour and minute hands just get lost in the background of the watch gears. Lately I’ve been wearing a Soviet Tank Commander’s watch I bought at a flea market ages ago from a gentleman who’d apparently fled the country with a bunch of watches. But that grade school wristwatch, an inexpensive Kingsmark, had a long history with me…more even than my Canon F1 and me…and I get attached to things that have traveled the earth with me for most of my life. But the Kingsmark came back from the last watch repair shop in even worse condition than when it went in, even allowing for the fact that the repairman actually did fix the time setting mechanism. It was like losing a long time friend. 

But I started looking. Is this how people feel when a long term relationship fails and they have to start dating again I wondered. The other two watches I had were okay, but neither one was Mr Right. I started with various Google image searches because what was important to me was the face. Some clock faces are too piss elegant for me, some way too artsy, some just off putting for reasons I can’t explain. When I saw a likely candidate I looked to see if it was a mechanical wind it up watch. That was equally important.

The only electronic watch I ever desired was the Pulsar [Edit…no the Accutron] way back when. But that watch was, of course, way beyond the means of young adult, let alone teenage me, even if the nerd in me thought its mechanism was so very cool. When the first digital display watches came out I bought one because I am of the techno geek tribe and I just had to have one. And it was kinda cool to have that empty black glass on my wrist that magically told me the time when I pressed a button. I even had a Casio calculator watch at one point. But they didn’t last. Setting the date on them at the start of a new month was an even more irritating procedure than setting it on a mechanical watch. And something about that nightly ritual of winding the Kingsmark before going to bed felt right deep down inside. I am not a daily ritual kinda guy by any means…which is why gym memberships never worked for me. But the nightly watch winding ritual feels grounding somehow.

So it had to be a wind up watch, and preferably not a self winding one either. A self winding watch just strikes me somehow as a lazy person’s thing, or something for people who can’t be bothered with the humdrum of life. Some years ago wandering through the web I chanced on a place selling on of those watch stands for self winding watches that slowly rotate and wind the self winding watch for you. It reminded me of an old family joke about one particularly lazy relative whose self winding watch was always stopping.

Eventually Google showed me one that seemed likely. It was a German make and had an odd layout with the minutes predominant and the hours subdued, which immediately attracted my attention. I’d never seen a design like it before and yet it seemed so right. When I read a watch most of the time I’m not wondering what the hour is but the part of the hour it is. Time and I have a tenuous relationship…just ask any of my managers at work. When I’m paying attention to time at all it’s the minutes that matter to me. How many minutes until that 2 o’clock meeting. The light rail comes every 20 minutes…is now a good time to catch one? Is it time to take the french fries out of the deep fryer? There’s a reason why the minute hand is bigger than the hour hand. This watch took that to the next logical step. There was no date window in it, another plus. The Kingsmark had a day window and if you’ve ever had to fuss with one of those on a mechanical watch you know why I just stopped setting mine and ignored what it was telling me. Comrade Soviet Watch also had one of those. I’d rather a watch not have that. And there was something non-verbal about the artwork, the beauty of the face, that just appealed to me.

So I did a little more digging. It was a Laco…a German make. I discovered that what I was looking at was a replica of ones the same company started making in 1925 for the German air force…a pilot’s watch. The company sold several variants of the watch at different price points. The least expensive was, of course, the one with the quartz movement. But they also sold several all mechanical versions. I immediately gravitated to the one that was made in a “distressed” finish to appear vintage…only to discover that one was 2300 bucks. Not nearly as bad as a Rolex I suppose, but still a bit too pricey. I could afford it, but I couldn’t justify the additional cost just for the vintage appearance. And seriously that was a thousand bucks over the same exact model with the German innards. Plus…there was the association, delicately omitted from the sales pitch. 

I had to give it some thought. Actually I had to give the entire line of watches some thought. That “vintage” aged watch looked absolutely lovely…but it was probably worn by pilots bombing the hell out of Poland, France and Britain. Once a friend of a friend I was driving to our weekly happy hour referred to my ‘C’ class as a Hitler Mobile and I almost told him to get out and walk. But that was more about the German someone I’d crushed on madly back in high school who I’d found again after years of searching for him, and probably I over reacted. German cameras, German lenses, beautiful mahogany German cabinet Hi Fi-stereo equipment, German automobiles…back in the 60s and 70s you knew they were high quality items. To buy something specifically for its association with the German air force in WWII seemed morally wrong. But I wasn’t buying it for that. Still…who buys a watch specifically aged to look like it was worn by the luftwaffe? So…a thousand bucks just to make it look vintage, plus the fact that it’s vintage fascist. Even More reason to give it a pass. But I gave it one more longing look anyway as I clicked off it. 

So…back to the base model. Do I spend 1300 bucks for the 100 percent German one or just less than 500 for the visibly identical model made with Japanese made mechanics (über alles!)? But the Japanese innards were self winding, which I didn’t want because it just strikes me as laziness. Then I saw that it could also be hand wound, though I wondered if doing that at the end of every day might not lead to over tightening the mainspring since it’s theoretically also winding itself throughout the day as I’m wearing it. But was just under 500 bucks and as I said, I’m at a stage in my life where frugality is becoming more important.

But also, I am not interested in a watch as a status symbol either. I needed a friend, not a trophy. So I decided to go with one made in Germany, from Japanese gears. If they make their watch parts in Japan like they make their automobiles and cameras I reckon we should walk together for a long time.

I’ve put the watch I wore in grade school away. It’s broken again…I’m pretty sure the last guy who worked on it damaged it, even though he did repair the broken time set mechanism. But setting its time was noticeably less smooth, almost as if the mechanism had grit in it now, and I wondered if he’d done something to further damage the timekeeping mechanism which was what he finally said he couldn’t repair. Shaking it to get it to tick caused it to run for almost a day, but when I wound it again it simply refused to tick at all no matter which way I shook it, and tapping it against my hand caused the second hand to come right off. I was heartbroken, but truth be told it also felt like something telling me to move on.

I like having solid things in my life, and even when I was living a severely low budget life I bought things on the basis of was it built to last. But even the Canon F1 I had in high school, though it still works mechanically, now has an intermittent light meter and I’m afraid to take it in for repairs because all the old skill sets are dying out and I don’t want anybody touching that camera if they don’t actually know how to fix one.

So I have a new watch now, which I’m wearing now. I had to take it to the shoe and leather repair shop down the street from me to get a couple more holes punched into the strap so it would fit on my scrawny little wrist. It feels exactly right being there on my wrist which is a good sign. 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Moving On…Letting Go…
February 2nd, 2018

Mine!

December 20, 2011, I took delivery of the car I’d wanted since the summer of 1971 and I was a teenage boy, bedazzled by my uncle’s Mercedes-Benz 220D. Just this moment I finally paid it off. They say I’ll get the new title papers in the mail in a couple weeks, because for some reason even though the bank funds can transfer at the speed of electricity nowadays they still take a couple weeks to complete the process. So it won’t be officially mine until the Maryland DMV says it is, but I’ve made my last payment, and that’s a big chunk of money off my monthly budget now.

A Mecedes-Benz ‘E’ class was more expensive, and truth be told more car than I really wanted to take on. What I wanted was one of the little ‘C’ class diesels. That would have been the right size car for a single guy and it would have got amazing fuel economy. But Daimler wasn’t importing those (and as of last summer and the Germany diesel emissions scandal they’ve stopped importing their diesels altogether) and I figured I had a chance to finally own my dream come true car and so I went for it, and now I’m glad I did. You get one life. If all your dreams can’t come true, at least some of them can.

It’ll feel real when I get the new title. But it feels pretty real now. I want to go somewhere and celebrate tonight.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Mine!
January 31st, 2018

When Your Brain Tells You That You Have No Life So Just Die Already

Yesterday I posted a link to a Salt Lake City Tribune article about a Mormon straight/gay couple who are divorcing. A Facebook friend linked me to their own blog post on the matter. It is stunning

Five-and-a-half years ago my wife, Lolly, and I sat together at a hotel in Las Vegas, nervously composing a coming out post that would, unbeknownst to us, change our lives in nearly every way imaginable. We were so, so nervous. But we were sweet and earnest, and we had been feeling the cosmic drive to do this for months . . . we knew, without a doubt, that it was what we were supposed to do, even though it felt totally out of left field, and we had no idea why. Our post went massively viral, and we were featured on shows and newspapers around the globe.

That act of authenticity brought many of you who will read this into our lives. Finally, we were able to live authentically, instead of this life of quiet struggle we had existed in for a decade. Finally we were able to be honest with our community, our friends, our colleagues, our families about our marriage, and about me—that I am a gay man, and that Lolly and I had gotten married knowing this about me. That I always have been gay. That it was not something I had chosen—it just was— but that I loved my wife and my life.

Finally, Lolly and I were out of the closet.

What is especially stunning for me, a gay man, raised in a Yankee Baptist (there is a difference) household, now an athiest, out to myself since I was 17, out to most everyone else by age 30, proud, and single his entire life, is that I see so much of my own internal struggle in this man’s story…

For me, though, it all came down to the people I met with–the actual human beings who were coming to my office. They would come and sit down with me, and they would tell me their stories. These were good people, former pastors, youth leaders, relief society presidents, missionaries, bishops, Elder’s Quorum presidents, and they were . . . there’s no other way to say this. They were dying. They were dying before my eyes. And they would weep in desperation—after years, decades, of trying to do just as they had been instructed: be obedient, live in faith, have hope. They would weep with me, and ask where the Lord was. They would sob. They would wonder where joy was. As a practitioner, it became increasingly obvious: the way the church handled this issue was not just inconvenient. It didn’t make things hard for LGBTQIA people. It became more and more clear to me that it was actually hurting them. It was killing them.

This is how I’ve felt almost my entire life since puberty. I have had my share of life’s joys, especially now in my later years, working for the space program; a dream I would not have dared to dream when I was a young boy. I have had a Good life. And yet I have always felt like I was dying inside. Slowly…bit by bit. A flower becoming a seed. This passage especially, hit me very, very hard the first time I read  it… 

Guys, my life was beautiful in every way. My children, my wife, my career, my friends. It was filled with so much joy. The things I talked about in my coming out post in 2012 weren’t false. The joy I felt was real! The love I felt was real, but something in me wanted to die.

It’s the thing that wants to die in all of us when we don’t have hope for attachment to a person we are oriented towards. It’s actually a standard part of human attachment: when we don’t have attachment—and have no hope of attachment–our brain tells us we need to die.

My suicidality was not connected to depression. That’s how my mind could hide it from me. With no context and no warning, I would occasionally be brushing my teeth or some such mundane task and then be broadsided with a gut-wrenching, vast emptiness I can’t put into words, that felt as deep as my marrow–and I would think in a panic “I’m only 37. I’m only 37. How can I last five more decades?” That thought—the thought of having to live five more decades, would fill me with terror. It was inconceivable for a few moments. And then it would pass.

That’s been me. Almost my entire life. The hopelessness would overwhelm me…and then it would pass and I’d go on with my life. As time passed, and I grew older and older, still never finding that Significant Other, waiting for those sudden bottomless pits of hopelessness to pass became a reflex. I knew they would, because they always did. But I also knew that there was probably one time waiting for me out there, when it would not pass, and I would simply fall in and not come back out again.

Go read the whole thing. These were two deeply devout people, who did everything they thought they had to do to stay right with their maker, and began to realize that they had to stop, for the sake of their lives.

In the end, the correct choice is obvious. We choose the option that makes sure people stay alive.

We should always choose the option that makes sure people stay alive.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on When Your Brain Tells You That You Have No Life So Just Die Already
January 30th, 2018

The Sterile Lonely Temple Of Righteousness And Its Hollowed Out Worshipers

For some reason, it didn’t work out as planned…

Yearning for a ‘romantic attachment’ they never had — gay Mormon Josh Weed and his wife of 15 years are divorcing

A Mormon couple did whatever their church told them to for fifteen years, both knowing that the man was gay and the woman straight. They thought they could make it work. They believed. But the human identity isn’t a blackboard powerful men can simply erase and scribble their will on. There is a higher power: the hundreds of millions of years of the history of life on Earth we bear within us every moment of our lives. It will not be denied. And it should not.

Internalized homophobia and self-loathing at the core of Josh’s identity began to unravel at about the same time as Lolly’s need to be loved by someone who desired her began to expand…The husband and wife realized what they were missing: yearning, craving, longing, passion.

This is our heritage. It is the birthright of every human who ever walked this good earth. To be mean and selfish and cruel is wrong, is corrosive to family, neighborhood, and nation. See it now in the daily headlines ever since the last election. To love and desire and cherish is our nature, our birthright. Desire is not sin if there is love and kindness and trust in it. More than that, without love, without kindness and trust there is no civilization possible. Sex is not just for making babies. It is also for making adults.

But there are those who have no use for a world populated by fully functional, whole adults…

Unlike Winston, she had grasped the inner meaning of the Party’s sexual puritanism. It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party’s control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leader-worship. The way she put it was: “When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?”

-George Orwell, “1984”


Posted In: Thumping My Pulpit

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Sterile Lonely Temple Of Righteousness And Its Hollowed Out Worshipers
January 29th, 2018

It Isn’t Spam Just Because Your Nazi Users Say It Is.

Apparently the neo nazi swamp thinks it can stifle discussion on Facebook by mass tagging posts it doesn’t like as spam, at which point some mindless algorithm takes over and removes the post. This is an endemic problem with both Facebook and Twitter that neither platform seems interested in fixing. 

Recently a friend on Facebook found his link to this People For The American Way article tagged as spam and removed. 

Separating Immigrant Families is Fundamentally Un-American

While we work hard to keep permanent protection for Dreamers at the top of Congress’s to-do list, immigration advocates are also keeping a watchful eye on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). On December 21, The New York Times reported that DHS is considering separating immigrant families who face deportation. Right now families in custody are held together, but children and their parents would be sent to different detention facilities under the potential new policy.

 

God forbid Americans know what their government is doing in their name. Go read the whole thing at the People For The American Way website blog.

Blog. That space people once made for themselves on the Internet. Like this one for example. Where you could speak your mind about any damn thing at all and put it out there for the world to see, and no letters page editor, let alone a mindless social media algorithm could decide whether it got published or not. This is why blogs…real actual personal blogs created and maintained by real actual personal persons are important. The friend who posted this isn’t the only one in my friends list who has had a recent posts containing a poem, a book review and a notice about an upcoming writer’s workshop marked as spam. And those posts simply vanished into the Orwellian mist. Once upon a time having your own blog was a thing. And there were “blogrolls” people shared among their visitors, and blog reader software that aggregated all your favorite blogs. Funny how that all just seemed to…disappear….

[Update…] Now Facebook is saying my friend’s post possibly violates “community standards”. I’m guessing that’s their fascist community they’re referring to.


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on It Isn’t Spam Just Because Your Nazi Users Say It Is.
January 23rd, 2018

That Is Now, This Was Then…

The Boys in the Band stars Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer on bringing play to Broadway

Put this down, I reckon, in the same category as I’m trying to get used to hearing the word “queer” as something other than a homophobic slur. I absolutely detested this play. And yet, seeing this group of proud out gay actors taking it on and making it theirs made me want to go watch them do it. I hated everything about this play, and especially its overall tone that so it goes for such as us. “If only we could learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.”

And here we are, decades later, and we can marry the one we love, and gay kids can grow up not hating themselves, and seeing happy and whole lives ahead of them. But that is now, this was then…

“What I like so much about Boys in the Band is how the play right now reads so much as, ‘Look at how things have changed and look at how they haven’t,’” Parsons, 44, explains in the above behind-the-scenes video.

“We’ve come so far in the last 5 years, just legislatively. And yet there’s been this explosion of backward thinking and harmful thinking and political ideology that swept our country,” says Quinto, 40. “We are responsible for standing up and being acknowledged and celebrating ourselves and celebrating our community in a way that shows these people that are trying to undo the progress that we’ve made that we are not going anywhere.”

Adds Crowley: “You just have to be reminded of how our freedom didn’t exist. We can’t lose it. We can’t go back. There is no good time to tell it except all times.”

I’ll accept that, and go watch this play not as an historical document so much as in full agreement with Crowley’s warning. This is what will happen to us all over again, if things go back, if the Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkins of the world have their way. Yes…now I can see the play in a different light, now I can see how important it is to keep this play alive.

I bought tickets for the May 12 afternoon performance. Get train tickets and a hotel room within walking distance of it later…make a New York City weekend of it and take one of my good film cameras because they love Manhattan island very much.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Is Now, This Was Then…
January 21st, 2018

How To Fake A Smile Until The Day After Valentine’s Day

So what’s a lonely old gay guy supposed to do when another painful Valentine’s day approaches? A little whishful sexy drawing of course.

Many years ago I did a series of charcoal and ink drawings on a theme of first love, which I’m still really proud of…

…and which I probably need to get properly framed…and would if I had any wall space left in my little Baltimore rowhouse that wasn’t being occupied by my bookshelves. I’ve been contemplating since I got back from California of doing another series, only this time a little more of a follow up into the passionate stage of that first romance thing.

Oh yes, sadly enough these are going to be mostly wistful daydreams about something I missed out on. Luckily, I can draw my dreams and make them real on paper anyway. This is how I survive.

I don’t do pornography…pornography is obvious. This is about my speed when it comes to all that…

So yesterday afternoon I popped down to a favorite art supply store in the city and bought some good Strathmore 2 ply and I made an enlargement of this one that I’m going to spend the next several days copying it onto the board. I’m still deciding whether to stick to my charcoal and ink technique or try it just in graphite and charcoal. I have a storyline…but maybe it’s best I leave that imagining up to the viewer.

I need to find a good background image for this to work from. Something perhaps with a window glimpse of some lovely Key West scenery. When I’m done, which might take me weeks, I’ll find a place on my walls for it. If this kind of artwork bothers you I am not in the least bit sorry. This is a gay man’s life blog. Nobody says you have to come here.

 

[Edited a tad…]


Posted In: Art
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How To Fake A Smile Until The Day After Valentine’s Day
January 17th, 2018

I Could Stop Living In The Past If The Past Could Stop Living In Me…

The past is never completely put to rest within us. It taps us on the shoulder from time to time, often when we least expect or want it to. I was participating in a diversity workshop last week at the 2018 American Astronomical Society conference, bringing to it my experiences growing up gay in 1970s America, sharing what I’d learned since then about the culture that shaped me. I have my moments of nostalgia for certain things…favorite TV shows…the music of my times…even some of the technology: after all, we did go to the moon back then. But don’t ask me if I ever want to go back to those days when forty-six out of fifty states still had their sodomy laws on the books, and the pop culture screamed it’s disgust at your very existence at you from every direction. No…that is not hyperbole.

Favorite TV shows. In November 1972, some months after I graduated from high school, still grieving deeply over the sudden disappearance of my first crush and his family for parts unknown (I wouldn’t set eyes on him again for 33 years…), CBS network aired the second episode in a two part Hawaii Five-O story, V for Vashon. I’ve no idea what I was doing that night but it wasn’t watching Hawaii Five-O or I’d have remembered this one. Even then the show was in the category of Good, but not Must Watch. I liked the combination of action and detective work, as opposed to the plodding cadence of the Dragnet episodes. I picked up a copy of the Five-O soundtrack LP at one point, as I did with many TV shows and movies I watched back then. It’s interesting how the passing of years somehow distills away everything you hated about the times reflected in the TV shows you used to watch, and leaves only a pleasant sense of enjoyment.

I can pick up MeTV on the household antenna and tonight, since the weather is still too damn cold for a nightly walk, I lounged on the sofa and watched Hawaii Five-O again, and for the first time viewed V for Vashon – The Patriarch. Even though I was walking in on the middle of the story it caught my interest. In it, a crime family boss works a clever plot to frame McGarrett for putting his son in jail and killing his grandson. They arrange a hit on McGarrett in a parking garage. But unbeknownst to the hit man his gun only has blanks and when McGarrett returns fire the hit man is killed, but no gun is found and McGarrett is prosecuted for murder 2. His only witness who could verify the hit man fired a gun is the most respected attorney in the state (so we are told), an absolutely unimpeachable witness. But on the witness stand he mysteriously recants. So McGarrett is convicted and stripped of his police powers while the case goes on appeal.

So the search is on, for the missing gun, but also to solve the mystery of why this eminently respected attorney would give false testimony in what had all the signs of a setup orchestrated by the crime family boss as revenge. Clearly the boss had some sort of blackmail to hold over the attorney. But what could it have been?

Oh…oh…I Know…I Know…! Or I should have known. But time passes, and sometimes you forget how it was. Mysterious phone calls made to the attorney’s office that were uncharacteristically not returned, tweak the attention of one of the Five-O team. They trace it to a young man convicted of buying pot and sentenced to a prison term. Are we getting warmer? It seemed he was trying to get the eminently respectable attorney to represent him at his trial. Now he’s in the same prison block as the son of the crime family boss. Perhaps he was passing messages from the crime boss’s son to the attorney. But why would they use him to get to the eminently respectable attorney? What could Possibly have been the connection between such an eminently respectable attorney, a crime family, and a young guy whose only conviction was a pot offence? Getting warmer? They go to his last known place of residence to look for clues. It turns out to be a Very Upscale apartment…something this young guy could not possibly afford on his own. Warmer? It was being rented by the attorney. Getting hot are we?

Yes, yes…the big reveal at the end was that the eminently respectable attorney was having a homosexual affair, which of course led to his being blackmailed by the crime boss, because homosexuality and blackmail go together like apple and pie! 

The producers trotted out this Very Good Looking (to my eyes anyway) longhaired blond guy…

 

…who I swear they must have voice coached for hours to get that faggoty voice down Just Right: not too campy, but just enough for the audience to catch on to what is going on even before he calls the eminently respectable attorney an old queen. Because that’s how the homos talk to each other, just ask Joe Leland (aka Frank Sinatra) in The Detective. And of course everyone knew back then that those longhaired hippy freaks were all homos too because what Real Man would wear his hair like a girl. Do you know, says beautiful young gay guy, what happens to people Like Me inside? You need friends, protection…I had to do it. What, audition for the part? Cue the actor playing the district attorney to say “Get Him Out Of Here” with just the right amount of masculine disgust on his face and in his voice. And of course the words Gay, let alone Homosexual, were never actually uttered. This is family friendly TV. Emmys For Everyone!

Well thank You for taking me back to the happier simpler days of my youth MeTV. Or at least reminding me to be more careful what I watch on the temporally displaced airwaves. Not everything on MeTV is memorable.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Could Stop Living In The Past If The Past Could Stop Living In Me…
December 20th, 2017

“A Generation Of Sociopaths”…And Other Lazy Ignorant Stereotypes…

I was raised, as I’ve said often, by a single divorced mother. I’m not relating this to wear it like a badge, but offering it as explanation. The attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors we express in our everyday lives may well have their biological roots…as in for example the fact that I’m gay…but they’re almost certainly flavored by our life experiences. Different metals behave differently in the fire, but still the fire changes us.

It makes throwing labels around at people problematic. I understand the human need to identify, categorize, sort, put a name on things the better to understand them. But what you must always keep in mind, what Jacob Bronowski clarified for me in his Science and Human Values essays, is the concepts by which we understand nature are always imprecise and imperfect. You have to treat them with humility. What is a planet?

By this stage of my life I suppose I should be used to having labels slapped on me, and all the baggage that comes with them. In grade school I got the problem child label simply for being raised in a “broken home”. Among various family members I was granted the label of being my father’s son, and dad having died robbing a bank that label came with its own lovely baggage set. My maternal grandmother’s favorite name for me (when mom couldn’t hear it) was Stinking Rotten Good For Nothing Garrett Just Like Your Pap…not exactly something that’ll fit on checks or credit cards.

For being a slight somewhat girlish kid in grade school I received a variety of labels. Mom and I lived a very low budget life…another set of labels. In my senior year I came out to myself and earned the gay label, and all the ancillary labels that came with it that Facebook would probably censor if I posted them here. Ever since I can remember I’ve had the urge, the need, to express myself in various forms of art and Artist is the only label I’d willingly apply to myself except it feels so damn pretentious. But there are others: Cartoonist, Painter, Photographer. Sometimes I wear one of those. I took up building my own computers and programming them…another set of labels. I read a lot. I pay attention to political events. I like to travel. I like to explore. Nerd. Geek. Tourist. Wonk. I’m in my 60s. There’s geezer. Old man. Computers have allowed me to suddenly, late in my life, earn a good income. There’s Yuppy. I drive a Mercedes-Benz. There’s Bourgeois. It’s a diesel. There’s nerd again. I should be used to it by now. But it’s not the labels, it’s the baggage that comes with them. You want me to stick the Ignorant label on you, apply a label to me and then expect me to wear the baggage that comes with it. Especially this one: Boomer.

I used to wear it without too much discomfort. That nerd label…I saw it as merely a statistical description. I was born in 1953, therefor I am part of the post war baby boom, therefor I am a boomer. My generation was the reason so many new schools had to be built. So far, so good. But where once I was a trailing edge boomer, benefiting from the struggles of the older kids ahead of me that allowed me to wear blue jeans and long hair in school, suddenly one day I realized I was being lumped in with kids born in the 60s as though we all had the same culture, the same life experiences. Boomer. Never mind the political baggage. Anyone with half a brain who walks through life with their eyes wide open and their mind still curious cannot help but see how generational labels are as superficial and misleading as any other. There’s a history here that separates us Kennedy era boomers from the Reagan era ones, and I can sum it up with the name of a country: Viet Nam.

Some years ago I’m quietly standing at the balcony rail of the outdoor smoker’s lounge of one of D.C.’s gay bars, puffing on one a mini-cigar. A cute young guy walks over to me and gives me a look…

Me: Hi.

He: Are you a throwback?

Me: Sorry?

He: You lived through the sixties?  You know…the hippies and that stuff…?

Me: Yeah…but I wasn’t a Hippy.  There were a lot of different things going on back then.  Most of us were just along for the ride.

He: I know…I’ve read all the books.

Me: Throwback?

He: You know…from back then…

Me: I don’t understand your use of the term.

He: You’re about my mother’s age…

Well I hope “all the books” weren’t published by the same people who make biology textbooks for Liberty University.

Perhaps Ezra Klein and Sean Illing read the same ones. Klein this morning retweeted gleefully this Vox article: “How the baby boomers — not millennials — screwed America” Subtitled: “The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it.”

So I go to look and right there at the top of the page is…Oh Goodness There They Are…


Screen cap of Klein’s tweet…this is the photo that leads the article

…The Dirty F*cking Hippies “…dancing during an anti-war demonstration staged by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam at Golden Gate Park’s Kezar Stadium on April 15, 1967.” I’ll just bet they’re all smoking acid too. You two have read all the books…right? I haven’t seen such lazy cheapshit stereotyping since the last time I read an article on The Federalist about Teh Gay.

Illing’s article promotes A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Gibney. “The boomers, according to Gibney, have committed “generational plunder,” pillaging the nation’s economy, repeatedly cutting their own taxes, financing two wars with deficits, ignoring climate change, presiding over the death of America’s manufacturing core, and leaving future generations to clean up the mess they created.”

The boomers. The boomers. The boomers. I was raised by a divorced single working mother. My dad died trying to rob a bank. I grew up in a series of small apartments, wearing mostly second-hand clothes and going to public school, where in the 1960s, because I was the product of a “broken home” I was treated like a problem child even though I was pretty well behaved. That didn’t change until high school. I was the first male in dad’s side of the family to finish grade school and get a diploma. I did three semesters of community college and then had to go to work to support mom and me. For most of my life I had no idea how I was going to earn a living and resigned myself to a low income life lived in rooms rented in other people’s houses. Before I started earning a good living as a software developer I had no car, and no prospects. Seen from within, the life I am living now seems an absolute miracle to me. And I look at what the republicans and their billionaire money teats are doing to All Of Us let alone the next generation with a dull horror, Because I Led That Life, I can imagine perfectly well what it could easily have become had I not had the lucky break that allowed me to escape it, and I don’t want it happening to Anyone Else.

But no…I’m a boomer. And a Dirty F*cking Hippy. Who was doing Manpower temp jobs and living with mom when I was the age Klein and Illing are now, and I am a sociopath who doesn’t care who he’s screwing out of a future.

Whatever. If playing Wall Street’s game of Blame The Other Guy We’re Screwing Too works for Vox, Klein, Illing et. al. then fine. Enjoy the cheap thrills of the blame game while I watch people who wish to bury the past, and people who’ve read all the books, keep on grimly repeating it. And…pay attention now…I don’t particularly care if people who don’t know me from Adam hate me for being something I can’t help being. I was fine with that even before I knew that I am gay. I learned how not to give a flying f*ck about that even before my grade school teachers told me I was a problem child because my mother was divorced. I learned how not to care long before all that, while being hated, or at best patronized, by members of my own family for being my father’s son. And I will not wear your goddamned labels, and I will not carry your goddamned baggage. Go to hell.

 


Posted In: Life Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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December 10th, 2017

Train Ride!

All my life I’ve wanted to do the big cross-country train ride to California and back. This holiday season I’m finally doing it and I can’t begin to describe how thrilled I am. Last July you may recall, I did Amtrak to Orlando and Walt-Disney World. I booked a roomette there and back on the Silver Meteor and loved Every Minute of it. So I gave some serious thought to doing the Christmas/New Year holiday trip to California by train instead of making it a road trip as I usually do. Comparing the cost of a round trip ticket to past trips to the west coast I found them nearly identical, and the time spent just a tad shorter since the train is always moving even when I’m sleeping. So shortly after I returned from Florida I bought my tickets.

The itinerary is thus: Northeast Regional from Baltimore Penn Station to Washington D.C. Union Station. From there I catch The Capital Limited to Chicago Union Station. One day later in Chicago Union Station I catch The Southwest Chief (which runs the route of the legendary Santa Fe Super Chief) to Los Angeles Union Station. That last leg is two nights and two days. So three nights total, and maybe three and a half days. The drive has usually taken me four and a half days and more, but I stop frequently for stuff and a road trip is for exploring. A big reason why I’m more in favor of the train these days is my vacations give me less time to explore the road. Things are coming to a head on the James Webb Space Telescope and even though launch has been moved back to (possibly) spring of 2019, there is still a tight schedule and a lot of work ahead of us. So when I take time off it’s limited to windows I can be away, and usually it’s only a week of time I can be spared. So I mostly use those windows for Walt Disney World trips. Christmas/New Year is another window where I can take more time, but that’s for family holiday stuff and once again it’s just a matter of going from here to there, not exploring roads I’ve not been down before. But I still want that disconnect from my work life for a spell, and if I can’t get it on the road I’ve discovered, to my delight, I can still get it from the train.

The fact that a train ride is slower than riding jet airplane to anyplace is a feature, not a bug! Every vacation, every time away from the office, needs a gateway into and out of your normal everyday world. The road can be all that. So can the train. As I’ve written before, you can get your own room on a train and the food in the dining car is Much better than air fair and you get to chat with your fellow passengers and hang out in the lounge or stroll around which you can’t do on an airplane which is relentlessly made for getting you from point to point and for nothing else. A road trip is a journey. A long distance train ride is a voyage. Either one can be your portal into a different mode of life for a while, where you can find your inner bearings again, look around, consult the compass and chart a course.

As of today I am pretty much all packed and ready to go and it’s only Sunday. I’ve been working it for two weeks now and it’s been a challenge because this trip I really need to travel light and yet there’s a bunch of stuff I will need for two weeks plus in California.

I divided things into two groups…that which I can mail to my brother in California prior to the trip, and that which I either need for the train ride or things I don’t want to risk going through the mail. Turned out most of the first group were clothes and shoes. Two small boxes went to California.

I decided on one backpack and one mid sized carry-on suitcase, both Briggs & Riley made. These take the clothes I need for the train ride, my toiletries kit (I’ve never showered on a train before so this will be an experience…), a small first aid kit, penlight, two books to read, the Leica M3, 50 & 24mm lenses, Gossen Pilot light meter and ten rolls of B&W film, the Sony-Hasselblad (for color photography), assorted travel snacks and a flask of Grand Marnier because Amtrak lounge car liquor menus are pitiful, a small power block with USB charger ports, assorted cables, three nice cigars in tubes (for when I’m in California), my Garmin for navigating the rental car in LA, and watching my train’s progress as I travel, locking cables to keep my luggage secure in my roomette, and my travel folder with my tickets and rental car agreement. The backpack and suitcase will also hold one of my household laptops, the office laptop and charger block.

Plus travel pillow.

The backpack holds mostly clothes and snacks. The suitcase everything else.I’ve already test hoisted the suitcase and it is Heavy but will roll smoothly: Briggs & Riley make them with oversized wheels. It seems a lot to describe here but it’s actually a pretty small luggage set compared to what I generally see on the train and in the stations. My goal was to not have to store any luggage in the central luggage area of my Superliner Sleeper cars, but keep it all in my roomette. Basically all I am taking with me is a backpack and a suitcase that maybe ten years ago would have qualified as airline carry-on. I’m almost expecting someone to ask me where the rest of it is. I’ll tell them it went by UPS and it’s already there.

A friend has kindly agreed to house sit for me (in exchange for food and money). I still need to tell the alarm company about him, and show him around to the neighbors when he gets here so they won’t think I’ve got a squatter.  I will also be posting about my adventures as I go along. This is going to be so very cool…I have never done the long distance train ride cross-country before and I am so much looking forward to it starting this coming Thursday.

 


The Southwest Chief


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December 9th, 2017

A Coming Out Story, Episode 23: Consulting The Oracle

…in which our hero consults with a world renown and highly respected seer to learn what the F*** is going on with him!

Episode 23 of A Coming Out Story…Here.

A Coming Out Story – Main Page…Here.

 


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December 4th, 2017

A Coming Out Story, Episode 23 On The Way!

ETA Sunday, December 10…

One of the cool things about doing A Coming Out Story is I get to bring back to life for a bit my beloved Rockville as it used to be when I was a kid. This episode takes place in the Congressional Plaza that once was. I used to burn off tons of nervous energy walking from the apartments at Village Square West to Congressional and then to the Super Giant and Korvettes and back down Randolph Road to home. But even before then, when mom and I lived in Courthouse Square, the Plaza was a center of gravity. And to this day I have a fondness for that 1950s-60s stack stone treatment on the facades of the storefronts. It will always take me back whenever I see it.

And oh God…you don’t want to see what they did to it now. But that’s okay. I can bring it back to life as it was in my artwork…

In this episode I consult with a world renown and highly respected oracle for some insight as to what the hell is going on with me. Here’s some work-in-progress. I’ve got panel one of the tale pretty much done. The inks and dialogue in panels 2 and 3 are ready for lighting and texturing treatments. I do all my initial artwork in traditional media, but then I scan it in and finish it in Photoshop…

 

 


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November 29th, 2017

The Least of It

That’s the least of what I miss. But yes…that. Also.


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November 25th, 2017

Thanksgiving Family

“Gay Community” is an awkward term, but the language doesn’t seem to give us any other ones. We’re people of a shared sexual orientation, and to a certain extent, a shared history of oppression. But there really isn’t all that much uniting us. Things you would expect such as marriage equality and protections from discrimination in employment, housing, and the marketplace, often generate a surprising amount of static among us. And running beneath it all like a hidden underground stream is how being hated, and being taught to hate ourselves, damages our capacity for sexual intimacy, trust, and love.

And even that is not exactly a shared experience among us. There is, and I am seeing more clearly with the passing of years, a distinct generational difference. Younglings living in a more accepting and affirming culture, having more and better, healthier, opportunities to date and discover love and desire in the ways heterosexual kids have for generations, are starting to look more and more like their heterosexual peers when talking about relationship issues. For a gay guy of my generation it is wonderful to witness. But then, inevitably, like snapping back out of a pleasant daydream, I must return to my own life, my own generation because that is where I am fixed in time and place, and where I reckon I will always belong.

Among them is where I must find companionship, because only they understand me. They know what the world was like when John Lennon was alive, and Hendrix was playing at the Filmore, and Jefferson was Airplane. They know what America was like before Reagan. When music came on vinyl disks and telephones had wires and shopping centers had newsstands and bookstores and we were putting footsteps on the moon. They know me. Or so I would like to believe anyway.

But community is an awkward way of describing us and “family” is even more awkward. Yesterday I had Thanksgiving dinner with as much “family” here on the east coast as I have now and while the host was a good friend with a good heart whose company I thoroughly enjoy, most of the guests were gay guys of my generation, none of whom I really knew very well. A couple of them frequently drove the conversation into territory I found uncomfortable at best and distasteful mostly, and the rest just went gamely along and I kept my mouth shut. A conversation was started about the first gay bar we’d ever been to, a thing I couldn’t specifically recall but I gave it my best shot: a piano bar called Friends, and later Windows. I can’t actually recall the first time I set foot in a gay bar…or any other sort of bar for that matter. When I was a toddler my maternal grandmother would walk me to the grocery store periodically, and every time we passed by a bar she would point at the door and say “the devil lives there.” So never mind working up the nerve to enter a gay bar, my first step ever into a bar probably took a lot of nerve, but I don’t now recall it. I remember Friends though, because it was the only gay bar at the time I felt comfortable in. And there was a reason for that. But the topic quickly took off and others of the group took it and ran with it into the backrooms and toilets. I tried to steer the conversation to When Did You First Come Out To Yourself. That generally went in the same direction. Eventually I made myself a drink and sat some distance from the others and just listened.

Understand…I don’t particularly care what sorts of sexual shenanigans people get themselves into. It’s not that important. In her biography (and I know I’ve quoted this often here on the blog so just bear with me…), the author Mary Renault is quoted as saying that politics like sex, is just a reflection of the person within, and if you’re mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your sex life and it will come out in your politics when what matters is you’re not the sort of person who behaves like that. People who talk at me that there is more to life than sex are missing it profoundly. Life…the life you live…and sex…the sex you have…is a reflection of the person within and it’s the person within that matters. It matters to me that you aren’t mean and selfish and cruel. The rest is detail.

But sometimes the detail can be bothersome all the same. And especially when you are in the company of others who either consistently don’t get yours or regard them as hangups you just need to get over. And that’s one of those generational things I was speaking to earlier. My generation of gay men, post Stonewall, came of age when the gay rights movement was taking to the streets, angrily, loudly, renouncing the suit and tie assimilationist tactics of the Mattachine Society. It went from Michael in The Boys In The Band lamenting “If we could just not hate ourselves so much…” practically overnight to No fuckers we aren’t just like you, and we don’t want any part of your straight sexist sex-negative society! Nuance is for reactionaries. 

When I was a teenager, I fell in love, as teenagers will. It was wonderful. I wanted that feeling to last forever. I thought I’d found the person who could make that happen. But it didn’t. So I kept looking. And looking. And looking. And now I’m 64 and single and never had so much as a boyfriend let alone a spouse to have and to hold, and here I am on Thanksgiving day with a group of other mostly lonely old gay men listening to some of them talking about the time when a certain bathroom at the University of Maryland was a hookup spot, and random sex with strangers at this or that gay bar back in the day. There’s a reason I couldn’t contribute to any of those tales, but I’m broken in a different way, so don’t take any of this to mean I think I’m better than they are because I don’t. Oscar Wilde once said that we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars. No, we are not all in the gutter. But some of us who are looking at the stars cannot help but notice all that darkness surrounding them. And it is from the darkness we behold the stars. Some of us.


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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…


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