A blogger I gained some measure of unexpected respect for, when he turned around from being a supporter of forcing teenagers into ex-gay therapy to being in opposition when confronted by the evidence of what it was actually doing to those kids, wrote a brief-ish blog post critical of this new paper (he called it a study that isn’t a study and you may notice I’m not calling it a study either because it isn’t) asserting that there is no scientific evidence that gay folk are born not made, but seemingly agreeing, or at least he quotes someone who agrees with, the conclusion that “social stigma” is an insufficient cause for the higher than average mental health issues gay people in general experience.
I would like anyone who thinks you can bundle the stresses imposed on gay people, and in particular on gay kids, into a tidy little package labeled “social stigma” to take a step back and appreciate just how hard it is to grow up gay, even these days, let alone try to live a whole and happy life as a gay adult. It isn’t just “social”, it’s “family”. The stories I’ve heard from other gay people about growing up in a unsupportive family environment, let alone a hostile one, would make a brick cry, if not a fundamentalist. Here’s one from my own past I’ve posted about before…
Perhaps we were just not right for each other after all. The hard lesson to learn about love is you can find someone who is just right for you, who seems to complete you in all the places you never even knew were empty, until you met that one person, saw them smile into your eyes. And yet even so you may not be right for them. They may have a completely opposite feeling about you. Ask me how I know this. Perhaps we were not right for each other.
Or perhaps it was something he told me one night as we lay together, in a very quiet, emotionless voice. About the day he came out to his parents. About how the next morning before dawn his father had gone into the household office, fired up the computer, and created a brochure filled with verses condemning homosexuality and what God does to nations that tolerate that which is an abomination in His eyes. About how his father printed up dozens and dozens of copies of the brochure and as the sun rose, walked around their neighborhood and put one in every door of every house, for blocks around. Then he told his son what he had done.
I ended that one with these words…please pay attention: What gay people know is this: strangers can beat you, can take your life away from you, but only family can chew your heart up, and spit it back out.
You can’t write “social stigma” on that knife to the heart and say you understand anything about how deeply it cuts.
Anti-equality organizations are enthusiastically promoting a new study on sexual orientation and gender, hoping it will be new culture war ammunition.
The study by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh appears in “The New Atlantis,” a journal co-published by the right-wing Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Center for the Study of Technology and Science, which shares an address with EPPC. The New Atlantis is not a peer-reviewed journal, and has critiqued peer review, widely considered the gold standard in scientific publishing.
I first caught wind of this from a headline on a religious right website that appeared in my Google news page. I did a search to see what I could find out about it. There wasn’t much at that point, and I got less than a page of hits back. But Every Single One was to a religious right website, or a political website deeply aligned with the religious right.
That’s telling. A real science paper will appear first in the science journals and then percolate out from there into the commercial press depending on the popular interest in its topic. But for some time now what we’ve seen is that junk science from the anti-gay industrial complex first hits some right wing vanity publication with a sciencey sounding name, or a small journal easily compromised by a big right wing foundation with buckets of money, and at the same exact time it also hits one or more of the big players in the religious right echo chamber, and from there it spreads; first via the usual suspects like World News Daily, and talk radio, and then into the commercial press when it smells a controversy. That was the pattern with the Mark Regnerus paper on children (allegedly but actually not) raised by same sex couples. What this is telling you is that the paper is part of an orchestrated campaign. Real science doesn’t work like that. Religious right junk science only works like that.
I haven’t read the paper yet, but the press releases say it makes two basic points. You need to understand that both of these points are actually long standing religious right anti-gay tropes: First, that there is no evidence that a homosexual orientation is innate at birth…Second, that social stigma does not account for how mentally unstable homosexuals are. These have both been a part of the homophobe chorus since at least the 1970s.
The first simply digs in its heels and refuses to accept any of the mountains of evidence that sexual orientation is innate, at least in part if not wholly genetically determined, and cannot be changed through any kind of therapy. And that, as I read the first wave of reviews, is what this paper does, although it seems to acknowledge that the twins study does indicate a genetic “predisposition”, but that is homophobe doublespeak. The dogma is homosexuality is a perverse sexual addiction that people are either lured into or fall into through godlessness, bad habits and low morals, and which they can always choose to not act on. These arguments quickly start sounding like arguments about creationism versus evolution, and that is no coincidence. It is the same exact mindset.
The second point the paper makes neatly dovetails with the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness and removing it from the list of known mental illnesses only happened because militant homosexuals pressured the psychiatric profession into it. This knife in the back mythology as to how the understanding of homosexuality and sexual orientation evolved and changed among social scientists and professionals has a long, long history, and it is a foundational belief among the few still practicing reparative therapy like Joseph Nicolosi and his organization NARTH.
Which makes the smarmy dedication Lawrence Mayer places at the beginning of the paper he co-authored all the more loathsome…
In his preface, co-author Mayer dedicates his work to the LGBT community, “which bears a disproportionate rate of mental health problems compared the population as a whole,” and to “scholars doing impartial research on topics of public controversy.” He declares himself a supporter of equality and opponent of anti-LGBT discrimination.
You have never had spit flung in your face so sweetly. This bullshit about being an LGBT supporter is also one with a long pedigree, going back to every 1950s movie with a sick and pathetic faggot character and a plea for sympathy for the mentally ill…
“And here I was and I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t stop. I thought if I could have just one night, I could get it out of my system. Just one more time…”
We should not be cruel to these poor sick creatures, they can’t help themselves… But to say you disagree with abusing the mentally ill is not to say you are supportive of LGBT people, let alone our civil rights, let alone the pursuit of science. There is nothing wrong with us. The science has been demonstrating that for decades now. If you can’t see that it’s because you are not interested in the science.
Which the two men who wrote this paper manifestly are not. They did not publish in a respected peer reviewed journal but in a right wing vanity publication in tandem with what was clearly a prepublication publicity campaign in the religious right echo chamber. That is not how science works.
But it’s how the kultar kampf is waged in the kook pews. There is a pattern to this that is becoming routine. A new paper is published in some science publication nobody has ever heard of before, that refutes the last 50 years of research on homosexuality and sexual orientation. The echo chamber picks up on it and next thing you know the entire religious right is trumpeting this new research that proves homosexuality is a cancer on society, or at the very least a tragic mental illness a civilized society should find a cure for, but certainly not grant special rights to. From there it moves into the popular press, and suddenly it’s in all the papers and news broadcasts.
Now it starts getting the critical attention it had been avoiding in the vanity press. But no matter that: critical attention always lags behind that first exuberant wave of publicity. Debunking takes time, and usually demands the attention of the reader more than the initial sound bite headlines the paper has already generated. So several news cycles, maybe even a year can go by before the debunking takes hold. In the meantime the homophobes have the stage practically all to themselves. This is what happened with the Regnerus study.
And then…it stops. The sails lose their wind. The curtain is drawn back. The lies are exposed. The commercial press moves on. Gay folk and our allies learn how to debunk the latest round of religious right junk science. The public conversation turns away from the latest faux controversy…
…and the haters duck back into the shadows…back into the echo chamber…repeating the same lies to themselves over and over…embellishing them even…holding onto them as long established truths that no amount of fact checking can touch…because in the gutter the only facts that matter are the ones prejudice and hate tell them that matter…
Soon there will be a new study…another paper…another round of it to go with the human gutter. Ask the Jews how long they’ve been dealing with it. Ask your black neighbors. Ask any hated minority. They say love always wins. Perhaps. But hate never gives up. Because it has nothing else.
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.
“Politics like sex is only a by-product of what the essential person is. If you are mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your sex life and it will come out in your politics when what really matters is that you are the sort of person who won’t behave like that.”
-Mary Renault, as quoted in Mary Renault: A Biography by David Sweetman
I keep coming back to this quote because it really gets to the heart of it, and to which I would only add Religion. If you are mean and selfish and cruel it will absolutely come out in your religious beliefs and practices too, though I concede some might say religion is just another kind of politics.
Someone I follow on Facebook posted a link to an article about this. Rather than copy the link here, since it goes into the theology of it, I’ll just cut to the chase…
Daley was deeply upset over his performance…so I’m told he was in tears afterward. And it does my heart good to see the static on Twitter Christian Voice is getting about this. But you need to see how prejudice works in a person, how that moment of weakness in the hated other amounts to the perfect time to stick the knife in. And of course, it didn’t stop there…
…because why on earth would they want to stop at all? If prejudice is good at doing anything it’s taking away your brakes. That crack about Black seducing Daley is par for the course and just never you mind that the two of them saw it differently. The mindset is homosexuals don’t reproduce, they recruit. The thought that maybe love and desire work their way on gay folk the same as they do heterosexuals is never entertained. The notion that Daley saw something he liked that first time he beheld Black precisely because he was a gay man can’t be considered….
“I was in Los Angeles for the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, and a friend organized a dinner, and got there at least 45 minutes late. I’m not going to lie: I had no clue who Dustin Lance Black was, or what he did. I just remember thinking, Oh wow, who’s that? He was wearing a white T-shirt with a thin red hoodie, and a leather jacket over it, and I thought he looked like a swimmer, because he has quite broad shoulders. As the dinner progressed, I kept on looking at him, and he kept catching me, which was awkward at times, because I would always look away.” -Tom Daley, “DLB + TD Forever“, OUT Magazine, May 2016.
…because everything about the hated other must be seen as unnatural and perverse. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.
A brief perusal of the Christian Voice Twitter feed (I’ll not link to it) turns up the usual stuff. They’re very much pro Brexit, they don’t much like Muslims, or Europe, and of course…
But this is enchanting…
The Good News not being good enough for everyone’s ears apparently.
If it saddens or appalls you to see avowed Christians behaving like this, if you’re saying to yourself right now, Oh that’s how these religionists are, that’s because you’re paying too much attention to the religion and not enough to the person.
Politics like sex is only a by-product of what the essential person is. If you are mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your sex life and it will come out in your politics when what really matters is that you are the sort of person who won’t behave like that.
I have met many wonderful, decent, kind hearted Christian people. And likewise I have met a lot of knuckle dragging bigots who’ve called themselves Christian. They have come to me thoughtful and curious, as well as gleefully ignorant and suspicious. And I’ve said this before and I reckon there’ll be disagreement, but I’ll say it again: religion doesn’t matter. I say it to my fellow atheists, who see religion as a corrupting influence on humanity, I’ll say it to the believers out there, who see it as a path to hope and redemption. Religion does not matter. That is what my 62 going on 63 years of life on this good earth has taught me.
What matters is the heart. That is all that matters.
by Bruce |
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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 |
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August 11th, 2016
This came across my Facebook stream just now…
Since the late 1970s, conservative Christian leaders have claimed their political engagement is about morality. They have claimed it is about character. They have claimed it is about values. They have claimed it is about biblical principles. Pious preachers, thunderous televangelists, and moralizing activists have sold America a bill of goods about their pure motivation for decades. But evidence indicates that evangelical political engagement is really about cultural influence, social dominance, and power.
I was raised in a Baptist household. A Yankee Baptist household, as opposed to a Southern Baptist, but let’s not go into that now. The backstory is my dad was…not the best of examples for a young boy and the elders of mom’s side decided that the best thing for his spawn was that he go into the ministry for the sake of the stain on his immortal soul. And also possibly, as a rebuke to the father. Well, it didn’t take. Most of it. But something of the pulpit thumping fire and brimestone tent revivals I attended did. H.L. Mencken once said “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” But for me it’s step up to the pulpit, spit on my hands, wave the Good Book high and start pounding and sweating.
In the USENET days I argued against the bigots from what I regarded as the moral high ground. Once as I began a sermon, one of them shot back at me that I really, Really didn’t want to get into an argument about morality and homosexuality. I told him that was exactly what I wanted. Then I cleaned his clock. Because: what Jonathan Merritt says here. It was all just a fake. A fraud. A pose to sucker in the rubes. To reassure themselves they weren’t just a bunch of bar stool bigots. We are decent moral people who object to your imposing your sinful lifestyle on the rest of us. But no…Al Capon had more moral scruples than any of them ever did.
If I could say just one thing to my people it would be this and I’m stealing now from a certain author who I also despise, but had a few good lines: Reason and morality are the only tools that can deliver us to that better tomorrow. And now we see, in their wholesale support of Trump, finally, unambiguously, that the right has dropped them. Because ultimately their claim to them was false: They were unwilling to pay the price, to walk the walk not just talk the talk. So they just swiped them out from under the rest of us. And we, t the extent we bear any blame at all, let them convince us that reason, and especially morality, were against us. We were unbiblical, unnatural, immoral sexual outlaws. Our sexuality was irrational, a defiance of the natural order, perverted and degenerate. Reason and morality said so. They said. And we listened. But listen to them now. Listen to them venerate Trump.
Reason and morality. They say that men do not change, the reveal themselves. And so they have. Reason and morality. They were the ones who had no right to bear those things.
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 |
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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.
by Bruce |
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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 |
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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 |
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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…
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 |
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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 |
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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.
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