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February 19th, 2024

Repost…Once Upon A Time…

I’m still decompressing a bit from Valentine’s Day, which isn’t helped any by it coming in the dead of winter here in central Maryland. So I thought I’d just repost a little something I’d blogged about many years ago…

This is from an old Polaroid a friend probably snapped of me while I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment in Rockville (now North Bethesda!) mom and I lived in during the 60s/70s/80s. I would have been in my twenties. I would have still had the Pinto and probably was working at the Best Products just on the other side of the fence between them and the apartments.

I can tell a lot about the timeframe that this was taken because it has to be sometime in the mid 70s, before that awful couple years I wrote about yesterday. It’s in my face. I look at this and see someone still comfortable in the life he has, confident that even better times are just around the corner. A boyfriend. A good job that paid well (I was going to be a newspaper photographer). A place of my own. Everything was still possible.

As to why I had it taken…I’m not sure. This would have been before the microcomputer days, let alone the Internet, so it wouldn’t have been to post to an online profile. This is a Polaroid, I had no scanner then, and getting copies off a Polaroid wasn’t simple. So this was a one-off. I think I had it taken just to have a couple of me that I actually liked. There are a few other poses in the set but I liked this one best. Which explains why it’s a Polaroid: I could look over each one and decide if I needed another.

The problem was always that I didn’t have many of myself that I liked. By then I was well aware that I wasn’t very good looking, but every now and then I saw a good photo of me so I wasn’t overly concerned about my looks at that age. My teeth were very crooked though, and I was extremely self conscious about that. In every photo of me from that period I’m always smiling with my mouth closed. You almost can’t see the smile here, but it’s there in the corner of my mouth. That problem wouldn’t get fixed until I was in my thirties when a friend kindly financed some dental work for me and pointed me to a super good dentist.

This image is from a time before the Internet, personal computers, cable TV, and cell phones let alone smartphones. I’m pretty sure this was before 1977 and Anita Bryant’s rampage on gay civil rights in Dade County Florida. I had listen to my shortwave radio to get the result of the vote in Dade County because none of the mainstream network news companies bothered to cover it until much later. News for and about gay Americans was not fit to print in those days. If I wanted that news, and I didn’t want to drive into DC to the Lambda Rising bookstore, I had to go to a seedy adult bookstore in Wheaton and walk past racks of pretty hard core heterosexual pornography to get a copy of the Washington Blade and The Advocate. The subway wouldn’t be built out beyond the beltway in Montgomery County until 1978 when the station at Silver Spring opened. After that I could drive into Silver Spring and hop on the Metro to get to DuPont Circle and Lambda Rising. When the Twinbook Metro station opened in 1984 I could just walk from the apartment to the subway and it was a straight shot down the red line to DuPont Circle and back.

I was so happy not to have to go past those heterosexual porn magazines ever again. I mean…okay…whatever floats your boat. But…jeeze… And yet, in many quarters of American culture, not just the pulpit thumping churches, but also mainstream news media, TV, movies, and magazines, the youngster you see in this photo was regarded as a deviant threat to American society, family values, and civilization itself.

That is the world you are seeing in this image. TVs still had vacuum tubes, telephones had a wire connecting them to the wall, you got your news from the morning or afternoon newspaper, or the nightly network news broadcasts around dinnertime. Am radio played mostly music or sports, music came on vinyl LPs or cassettes, big box department stores were still a thing, and bookstores and newstands were everywhere, but you couldn’t get any gay publications in them because gay people like the kid in this photo were almost universally regarded with contempt and loathing. But the kid you see there was still pretty confident of his future. Bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to meet tomorrow. He never found a boyfriend.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 26th, 2023

Approaching 70

Facebook memories this morning brings me back to a Pearls Before Swine cartoon I riffed on briefly a couple years ago. Rat is harassing Stephan about how old he is, asking him if he was alive during World War 2, and Stephan says he wasn’t born until 23 years after that war ended, at which point Rat brings up the fact that his prom was 34 years ago.

Ha ha. Yeah…

My prom would have been 52 years ago now. I’ll be 70 shortly. Oddly enough, still regretting I didn’t get my prom. Or those first dates. Gay teens didn’t exist back in 1971.

Could have been worse I suppose. I could have been born right after the war instead of eight years after and had to be a gay teenager in the late 1950s/early 60s. I’m trying to slug through “Hoover’s War On Gays” by Douglas M. Charles. It’s a Very difficult read. My generation, just barely post Stonewall, had it pretty good all things considered. One of my high school teachers, Bill Ochse, actually brought a group of gay activists to his class to talk to his students, and the mob didn’t burn the school down.

I had him for a class but I wasn’t in that particular class that day. So I watched from a distance as they left his classroom, still talking to Bill and a few of the other kids. How I wished I could have sat in and listened to them. I’ve ached at the memory ever since. But at least I could know back in 1971 that there was such things as gay activists. I could at least know that I wasn’t alone, even if it felt like it.

I didn’t get my prom. It was 1971. Not even Woodward would have been ready for gay teens stepping out onto the dance floor back in 1971. Are you kidding? And even in a better world I probably wouldn’t have been able to take the guy I was crushing on to the prom. He was a catch, stunningly beautiful, smart, decent, lived in the nice neighborhood, and I was a weird kid from across the tracks, unhandsome, crooked teeth, unruly hair, living with a single divorced mother, preoccupied with his artwork and photography. Didn’t get my prom. Didn’t get a boyfriend either.

I’ll be 70 soon. I’ll die having walked from one end of an adult life to the other single. And the fact is there was more stacked against me than the treachery of a few I believed to be my friends (We’ve seen the guys you look at. People who look like that want people who look like that.). Back in 1971 even Mad Magazine thought our claim to having a common humanity with out neighbors was ridiculous (You shout that you are victimized by bigoted attacks. Forgive us if we’re more concerned with Indians and Blacks). The scale of what was taken from us so righteous people could build their stepping stones to heaven out of pieces of our hearts is nearly impossible to grasp. And the teenager I was stopped hoping long ago.

70. It isn’t quite the milestone I was thinking it would be. I really don’t want any more birthdays. But I need to get A Coming Out Story finished.

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 25th, 2023

Stare Into My Abyss…(continued)

“But too much love is poison, especially when that love is not returned”

-Rick Riordan (author), The Blood of Olympus

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 1st, 2023

Winter (in) Summerland…The Dark Side

Facebook gives me memories. Today’s remind me that I was seeing trouble ahead just a couple years after I reconnected with him…

 

I remember this. We’d fallen into a pattern where I’d hang out for a bit after closing and he’d come over to my table and we’d chat for a bit. Some years later I worked up the courage to ask him why we couldn’t just hang out maybe on one of his days off and he told me straight up that wouldn’t happen because he’d made his allegiances and he had to stay inside his comfort zone. So those little after hours chats were all I ever had with him. And almost right away I began to see a darkness within that stunned me. In my hopelessly twitterpated state that was the last thing I expected to see.

It really shook me…

All those years after high school I’d put him up on a pedestal in my memories, and then thirty years later, with that much more life under my belt, I saw the person. And I saw what the world had done to him. And it wasn’t as if I hadn’t seen that before. By that time I’d already been years working with others in my tribe fighting against ex-gay therapy cults like Love In Action and Exodus and I’d listened to the stories of people who’d been put through all that firsthand. It made me angry and it made me determined, but it was easy for me to keep the hurt tucked safely in a place far away from my own personal life. I had escaped all that through luck and my innate stubbornness. But I hadn’t really. I glimpsed it that day and it stunned me and there it was, tapping me on the shoulder, letting me know that none of us escaped being damaged by that torrent of hate we all had to live under. There I was, out and proud and unashamed and willing to take the hits I had to take to live an honest life. And in that moment I saw how much, really, all that mattered. It didn’t. If the world can’t cut us directly, it’ll cut the ones we love and that does the job equally well. None of us escaped it. Not a one.

After high school he vanished from my life and I went on to have a few major crushes, and fell deeply in love two more times. Once disastrously to a straight guy and once more to a gay who mostly just needed someone to fuss over him for a while. I was serious and he was casual and he told me we were just friends with benefits, and that was the end of my quest for love and joy. And the only one among all these who wasn’t damaged in some way by the climate of hate was the straight guy.

I try so hard not to hate the world back. I see all the expressions of love and support during Pride month this year and it helps a lot. I was basking in it a few weeks ago in Walt Disney World, and its surrounding communities. It made me feel fully human and recognised, in a way I just couldn’t when I was a teenager. 

But then I remember what happened… 

by Bruce | Link | React!

May 16th, 2023

Troll

The last time I felt like pouring my heart out on Facebook, when I was feeling like this, I got told basically to shut up. And back when I vented/brain dumped here on this life blog after my high school crush spit in my face I probably lost a few readers. I know a really nice guy who used to give me pingbacks stopped doing that then. Oh well. I reckon I’ll keep wearing my heart on my blog, if not Facebook, because otherwise I’ll just…well…nobody wants to hear that.

The Royal Farms on The Avenue plays what they assume is music to keep the local drug dealers and their customers from loitering. I object to classical music being used in this way, since it’s a favorite musical form, and I wouldn’t mind having it piped all along The Avenue. But apparently it works. Lately though, they’ve begun playing “easy listening” tunes.

My head is a mess…I probably won’t go to Howard’s memorial after all because I can barely motivate myself to leave the house to get the daily steps in my cardiologist wants. At the moment, I just don’t care. But on the theory that a good walk has always been good for my head, I go out. I try to stay out of my favorite bars when it’s like this because even my fondest cocktails would only drag my body down (it’s getting worse the older I get) and do nothing for my head.

So I walk. And walking past Royal Farms I hear this…

The summer wind came blowin’ in
From across the sea
It lingered there so warm and fair
To walk with me…

…and I knew I had it in my iTunes library because I’d bought when I heard it on Pandora long long ago in a gloom far far away. So I called it up and walked home with it playing.

And I had a memory flash of that really embarrassing gay bar scene in Advise and Consent. Vito Russo described it thusly:

The screen’s first official gay bar, overloaded to create the desired effect of otherworldliness in a previously hidden subculture, is nevertheless quite tame compared to the more flamboyant versions of later films. As Anderson enters the dimly lit bar, he is confronted by three glaring decidedly “arch” men, one of whom holds a cigarette grandly aloft. He walks past the three men, down a narrow hallway and into a room in which colored spotlights punctuate the darkness, revealing scenes of men sitting together ay candlelit tables. The music coming from the juke box, features the voice of Frank Sinatra.

Love alone…
I have sung a loser’s song alone.
Let me hear a voice
A secret voice
A voice that will say
Come to me
And be what I need you to be…

Anderson, visibly shaken, backs away and runs for the door…

Ever since I read The Celluloid Closet and even more later when I worked myself up to watching that movie, I’ve always felt it a cheap ready made Hollywood stereotype that gay bars had to have a lot of “arch” men with cigarettes held grandly aloft listening to Frank Sinatra. I figured “arch cigarette smoker” was a job listing for extras. “Must know how to hold a cigarette like a homosexual.” I had a mental image of studio property managers getting a script that required a gay bar scene, dragging out of the warehouse a juke box with several dozen copies of that same single Sinatra song listed in the menu. The sound men would have a copy in their library next to The Wilhelm scream.


Wait…don’t go…maybe the juke box has some Village People too!

And there I was, at night, in Baltimore, miserable, alone walking home listening to Sinatra. I’m the lonely old gay troll I swore I’d never become. All that was missing was the cigarette. But I was never able to get one of those into my lungs. Maybe all I need is to learn how to hold one. Archly.

And guess who sighs his lullabies
Through nights that never end…

by Bruce | Link | React!

December 22nd, 2022

Fear Of Dating…Let Us Scare You Even More!

The New Yorker posted a link to one of their humor essays this morning and against my better judgement I clicked on it. I’ve been a happy subscriber to the magazine for a while now, but humor is in the eye of the beholder, and I could see this one coming a mile away…

Come On to My House
By Jenny Allen
August 1, 2022

Calling all cute guys! Guess what? I’m ready to have a new man in my life! I’ve been on my own for a while now, but I feel totally ready for a relationship.

You just know what’s coming next in her list of new man requirements. The essay ends with an ironic slam at the downstairs neighbors for only thinking of themselves. Those of you reading this blog in a happily married or coupled household should go ahead and read this New Yorker piece anyway. Maybe it gives you a little sympathy for the rest of us stragglers. 

When I was a younger man I tried three different gay dating services (this was before smartphones and dating apps), paid them thousands, and got dates like this.

The cosmic joke is I know people who went through ex-gay therapy, left all that and ended up with wonderful fulfilling love lives. These days I joke (halfway) that maybe I should have tried ex-gay therapy instead. I think in retrospect those gay dating services frightened me about dating more than anything Exodus could have done to me.

Anyway…I’m 69 and that part of my life is in the rear view mirror. Such as it was.

It’s over.

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 3rd, 2022

Baggage

There’s the baggage you carry that’s yours, that got dumped onto you at some point in your life, and then there’s the baggage you carry that belongs to others. Oftentimes you will be told that you don’t have to carry someone else’s baggage too. But letting go of theirs is not always easy, let alone possible. More often than not it’s easier to let go of your own, because that’s something you have control over. 

I retired last February, spent some time with my brother out in California, then came back to my little Baltimore rowhouse and began the work of integrating what was in my office at the Institute into my house. In my previous post, Walking Through Hell To Get To Heaven I mentioned that after working for 23 years and a few weeks for the Space Telescope Science Institute I’d managed to get a few awards and recognition for the work I did, along with some photos with the astronauts, and that now I was trying to find a place for it all on my den walls.

It’s been going through all that, seeing for myself the evidence of work I did on Hubble, James Webb, and Roman, over the course of nearly half my adult working life, that I think I’ve finally shaken off the low expectations laid on me when I was a kid. I’ll be 69 in a few days. It’s taken that long, and seeing that I might not have enough room on my den walls for all my awards and certificates.

I’m still the weird art kid I always was, still the techno nerd, still the guy in the conversation who can pull out all sorts of strange references out at a moment’s notice because he sees a connection others probably just find…you know…Weird. It’s taken me this long to allow myself to be that and not let that Weird Geek Kid baggage attach to me anymore. I’m retired. I don’t care. You get this close to the end of the road and it improves your perspective about things like that.

Homophobia for example. For most of my adult life I believed that I avoided a lot of internalized homophobia because it was falling in love with a classmate that woke me up to the reality of my sexual nature. But while I never hated myself, never felt the least bit of shame about it, the cultural hatred and contempt still left its mark. You get the boot from one workplace after another when they find out they hired a faggot and eventually you come to expect it. Low expectations again. And I have met lots of gay men who were smart, kind hearted, hard working, thoroughly decent people living well below their potential because striving for something better just hurt too much. 

All my adult life I searched for someone to love and cherish and make a life together with.  Someone decent, honest, responsible. Someone that in a better world I might have met at a church social or youth retreat or a coffee house like The Lost And Found. But the good boys of my generation were terrified. They didn’t want their parents to hate them, the didn’t want God to hate them. And should their parents have found out anyway, and told them to pack themselves off to a therapist or a nice ex-gay ministry, they’d pack their bags and dutifully headed to the nearest one. Yes mom, yes dad, I will put my heart and my soul and whatever fulfilled and contented love life I might have had, put them in this little coffin and bury it. Because I am your good son.

They talk about sin. I don’t think they really get the concept. Sin is telling a kid they’re worthless and making them believe it. Sin is poisoning a kid’s ability to love and accept love from another right at the cusp of their adulthood. 

We all carried that baggage to some degree back then. And still do. For many in my generation it will always be a time before Stonewall. But the painful thing to realize is we carry each other’s baggage too. I carry your baggage, as well as mine. In our solitude. In our loneliness.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 22nd, 2022

Wait…What About Strike One??

Those of you keeping track of the timeline of my love life fail from my ruminations about it here (oh you poor lost souls…) might recall that about the time of Strike Three’s visit I had also reconnected with Strike One and had begun visiting him a time or two. I could drive down I-95 and visit both. In retrospect I think the fates were trying to slam something into my head that I wasn’t ready to admit just then.

Why don’t you give up? How many more times do you need to be kicked in the face?

by Bruce | Link | React!


The Last One

Ah…Facebook memories…

This was about the one and only time Keith came to visit me in Baltimore. Before that, way before that, when I assumed we were a couple…long distance though it was…he used to live on Hilton Head and I was living in a Baltimore suburb. He came to visit my apartment there in the suburbs several times. That was before he cut it off. But that one visit to Baltimore was when he said he just wanted to be away from the boyfriend for a while and travel around for a bit. I figured they might have been going though a bad patch and not to presume on it. But it was nice having him there with me. Despite myself I fell in love all over again.

I got static repeatedly from the gay happy hour gang I used to hang out with, about how I just needed to go out more and meet people. Which is to say, just go get yourself laid and it’ll be all good. I’ve written about this previously

 For romantics like myself, the social opportunities at this late stage in life are mostly with other singles who are just fine in the singles scene and that’s why they’re still there, not why you’re still there.

So that one time Keith came to visit I brought him with me to one of our happy hour gatherings to show them I actually had a dating history, brief and pointless though it was. Of course it had no effect…see the above link. They seemed to like him. And when he went back to his home and his boyfriend a few days later, it struck none of them to be sad for me. It was the last time Keith and I spent any time together at my place, or I at his.

Today Facebook tells me it’s been 13 years since that visit. Before then, as I said, he lived on Hilton Head and I in the suburbs, and I would go visit him, or he would come up to Maryland and visit me. But it wasn’t those visits Facebook reminded me of seeing this. It was how in between visits we would spend hours on the phone just chatting away about this and that. It was a time before cell phones, when the first affordable cordless telephones began to appear. We would wander around our houses doing housework, imagining we were together for a while. We would chat for hours until the batteries in our phones died, often picking up the conversation again on the wired line.

It’s remembering all those hours at a time we spent chatting about this and that until the batteries died that brings it all back. I was in love. I thought he was too. It was wonderful. I would go visit and it was like a dream. I’d come back home and we’d start the long phone chats again.

Then they suddenly started tapering off, and one day while we were chatting on AOL messenger he told me he was seeing someone else. He told me later that my starting to talk about moving down there made him decide to cut it off.

Strike three. He was the last one.

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 19th, 2022

When The People Pictures Stopped

Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it – that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, – a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, – I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun. –Stephen Fry

Wise words that helped clarify something within me. I have always resisted the prison of being a thing, despite wanting to be a thing. There were times in my life I wanted to be a cartoonist, a painter, a photographer. Somehow it never worked. I became a computer programmer, a software systems engineer. It made me a very good living, and I am retiring comfortably on what I made, proud to look back on my time with the teams that worked on Hubble, James Webb, and for a brief period, Roman. But I was always bouncing back to one or more of those other things, telling myself that they were what I really wanted to be.

Eventually, as I grew older, I accepted that I just could not focus on any one of them for very long. I began to think of it as seasonal. Now is the season of drawing, now the season of cameras…the season of computers was when I was as preoccupied with computer work at home as I was at work. There was also a season of writing. There was a season of the open road, which often coexisted with the season of cameras. I came to see myself as hopelessly unfocused, unable to bring to any one of my creative arts the kind of fanatical single minded pursuit that would have got me a career in it. I blamed my cluttered mind. I would never have the large body of works other successful artists did. Randomly wandering between my arts and accomplishing very little would forever be my fate. But maybe it was that cluttered mind that was telling me something all along, that I never listened to: I am not a noun.

And now I’m old and retired, and looking back on all of it, I can see that I actually have accomplished a lot, if I take it all together instead of just looking at the nouns. My artwork has continued to improve, my photographic voice is purer, surer. I understand what I’m doing better. I’m happy with the life I had, random and bewildering though it often was. And lonely…so very lonely. But that’s another story for another time. Or not. Let me leave a small piece of that here, because it’s something I’m still wondering about.

He wasn’t the last guy I took a fancy to. I guess that would be the cute 30-something bartender at a place near The Avenue. It was hopeless of course, but not any more hopeless than all the others really. People who look like that… His name was Eddie. I met him on the gay BBS we both frequented back in the day. He was beautiful and for a time I was all about him. But he was not about me. So I played my trump card. He said he hated pictures of himself. I’m a photographer I told him. I can make you see how beautiful you are. Years later I was primed to play that card one more time, but people far wiser than I in matters of the heart decided not to allow it. People who look like that want people who look like that…

So Eddie and I went on trips into the country, and into the city, and he let my camera give him some love. The more I showed him how beautiful I saw him, the more comfortable he became with my camera. I did some of my best beautiful guy photography with him. And it was the last I ever did.

Eventually he started dating someone else and we went our separate ways.

Time passes, the universe expands, and a day came when I began revisiting the photography I did back in those gay BBS days. I posted a bunch of it on Facebook for the friends I made on that BBS, who I have stayed in touch with. Eddie wasn’t one of them…he simply disappeared, but for one time I saw him managing a booth at one of the gay marches on Washington. I asked him if he was seeing anyone, and he just sighed and told me relationships are So much work. I guess it all gets tiresome when you are so beautiful. I’ve never seen him since. That was before Facebook. So I when I posted a bunch of my gay BBS photography on Facebook, I probably only included one or two of Eddie.

But those tweaked my geek side because they were so damn hard to scan, being Kodachrome slides. Kodachrome slides are notorious for having a blue-ish tint in scans that’s very difficult to get rid of. I ended up buying a highly expensive scanning software for its ability to neutralize that tint. It was still a lot of work, and fiddling with those shots, I became re-acquainted with how beautiful Eddie was. And at some point I began to realize that I hadn’t done anything like it since.

Those shots of Eddie are the last shoots I ever did with anyone posing for me. Much, Much later I’d do some enjoyable work for Baltimore OUTloud, photographing some really beautiful guys wearing barely nothing at all (swim suit fashion shows). But those were all taken at public events and I was simply recording what was happening in front of me. But back in the day, when I was a much younger man, I actually did a lot of one-on-one shoots with a few beautiful guys who I could regularly ask out from time to time. We’d go somewhere, maybe to Great Falls, maybe somewhere in the city, and I’d snap away at them. After Eddie, that all just suddenly stopped.

I’ve been trying to understand this. I’ve been told a bunch…laughingly at times…that my photography is noticeable for it’s nearly complete absence of people. But I have the archive of it all right here in the house with me, and that absolutely wasn’t always true. I look back in time in my archives and I see most of what I did back in the day was people photography. Then the people seem to just vanish. The obvious answer is after Eddie I began to despair of ever finding love, and I didn’t want to keep looking into that abyss. 

Sometimes the pat answers are the correct ones after all. There’s a big gap in my photography right after those sessions with Eddie, where I stopped doing art altogether, along with painting and drawing. That was when I took up computer programming as a creative outlet, which led to the life I have now. In writing computer programs I was immersed in a world of pure logic that didn’t have to touch my emotions, my deepest feelings, where there was only despair. I managed to pull myself out of it the year after I got the job at Space Telescope, and found myself one day wandering among the carnival rides being set up for the student spring fair at Hopkins where STScI was located. That awakened something inside of me, and I began creating art again. But something had changed.

So I think of my artwork as having before the dead zone/after the dead zone periods. My catalogue of negatives and slides reflects that break in the numbering. But here’s the thing: There is almost zero creative people photography in the After period. And revisiting that time, I can see that the photo shoots of beautiful guys ended before the dead zone, when I stopped seeing Eddie.

The pat answer is now I’m too old to be asking beautiful young guys to pose for me. I came close to it that one time I was once more ready to throw down my trump card. But instead I was escorted from the table and shown the door, and now it’s all just despair there, in that one dark empty corner.

No more beautiful guys. You can say my art photography is purer now. I accept it. 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

February 14th, 2022

The Day After Valentine’s Day Should Be Ours

Those of us who are single. Those of us who have never found that intimate other. Those of us who crashed and burned on the alter of Love. It’s the day after that is ours. The day when the flowers start to wilt and the candy goes stale. There you will find us. The books holding stories of love that never was, waiting forever on the remainders shelves as a last desperate hope for a buyer. The closest thing I ever had to a boyfriend told me we were but merely friends with benefits. Swell if that sort of thing suits you. Too bad I was in love. Strike Three!

Today is the most miserable of days for those of us who have been single our entire adult lives. This year I have my pending retirement to distract me from it, so there’s that. That, and the fact that I’ve reached an age now where the need is beginning to wane. Let’s hear it for getting old. I tell myself I survived the heart attack because my heart has a lot of experience living with damage.  

But…since I’m seeing so many others sharing their favorite Valentine’s Day poems on Facebook today, let me share a couple of mine. Not really Valentine’s Day poems you say? Oh my goodness…yes…yes they are!

Because I liked you better
Than suits a man to say,
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away.
To put the world between us
We parted, stiff and dry;
‘Good-bye,’ said you, `forget me.’
‘I will, no fear’, said I.
If here, where clover whitens
The dead man’s knoll, you pass,
And no tall flower to meet you
Starts in the trefoiled grass,
Halt by the headstone naming
The heart no longer stirred,
And say the lad that loved you
Was one that kept his word.
-A. E. Housman

I’ll just quote a couple lines from The Man On The Bed by Debora Greger…

If the heart is a house, he thought,
it is rented to strangers
who leave it empty.

That’s a hard one to find to read since it’s not been published widely, but it’s there in the November 24, 1974 issue of The New Yorker. If you have a subscription you can read it online. I bought a copy from a place that sells back issues just so I could have the entire thing. I think it’s a perfect Day After Valentine’s Day poem, but that’s probably not what the poet had in mind.

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…


The Old Gate

I was still so sure that I’d find my other half eventually. But that was then, and this is now. Crush #1 and I are not speaking to each other anymore, and crush #3 is living happily with the guy he dumped me for, except you can’t really say you were dumped when all you ever were was a friend who provided benefits when called upon. Age brings wisdom. And…heart attacks. Of the physical sort no less. If I’m still alive next year I might restart this blog’s annual Valentine’s Day Poster Contest.

 

But by then I might be fully across the threshold of old enough not to care anymore. Think of it as being nature’s way of saving the quest for love for younger folks who can take a beating. Or culling the herd of the ones that can’t. Some nights I have no idea why I’m still alive.

by Bruce | Link | React!

October 17th, 2021

Living With My Picky Libido And Empty House

I wrote this several years ago, about a bartender I just couldn’t stop gawking at. He was straight, had a nice girlfriend, but he took kindly to the roving eyes and dropping jaw of a lonely old gay man, and some days when he wasn’t too busy, we’d chat for hours across the bar about this and that…life…music…Disneyworld…

Something about the face…those beautiful eyes, that lovely smile that appears spontaneously and lights up his face…Something about the way his hair flows easily down the back of his neck to his shoulders. Something about the shape of the hips, the lovely curve of the glutes under skin tight black low rise jeans, the occasional peek of black bikini brief just a tad above the belt line against bare skin, and the way that cute blue bandanna hangs down from his left back pocket…

My libido is picky. Very Very picky. But when it alerts…

Gay male sexuality. Every single guy I’ve ever taken a fancy to…Every One…could fit this pattern in a general way. My libido may not be very energetic, but it isn’t dead yet either…

At the time I wrote this I was well into my sixties and afraid of losing interest altogether. Now I’m a heart patient, and on beta blockers, which can be fairly described as antimatter Viagra. That, and a libido that seldom alerts on anything keeps me worried that someday I’ll just forget what it was that ever interested me in the first place about sex. 

But I’m not dead yet. Just…old…and looking at an entire lifetime spent on the outside of love and desire and romance looking in. That knife in my heart has so many names on it, and not just the names of bigots and bible thumpers. Shockingly there are gay names there who I trusted to lend a hand to an awkward gay kid who didn’t have the first clue about flirting, and who might as well have been bigots and bible thumpers too. The damage to my love life aren’t any different that I can see.

But a beautiful guy can still make my heart beat. So there’s that anyway. Joy and torment all wrapped up in one!

by Bruce | Link | React!

October 9th, 2021

The Axe Forgets…

To whom it may concern…

(Note, this does not include anyone whose peace and quiet began March 6, 2016…)

I heard you. Now hear this.

If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.  -Malcolm X

I’ll put it behind me, when it is behind me.

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 17th, 2021

Time To Let Go

Deleted my Instagram account just now…or at least I Think I did…after it punched me in the gut this morning. This could be the start of something. I’m at a stage in my life where I need to start letting go of things. Like having any hope for a love life for example. Like looking reverently at beautiful guys and thinking life is good after all. People who look like that want people who look like that. 

I need less social media in my life. Really all I need is my blog and my website here. It’s getting too painful to look out at the world through social media. I grew up in a time that didn’t even have personal computers, let alone smartphones. I can deal better with the life I have now, by re-introducing myself to some of that. I could pretend I’m living again back in a time when I was happy and looking forward to the next day, and all the days after that. 

Never going back to using a telephone attached to a wall with a wire though. Nope. 

Wandered around Sunbury the other day, all alone with my cameras. First the Canon F1N loaded with some Tri-X Pan, then the new 6D mark II. It’s like the only time I ever feel alive anymore is when I’m taking a camera walk, or doing anything in the art room. Otherwise I’m just a walking corpse, putting one foot in front of the other to get through the day.

by Bruce | Link | React!


There Are Pluses And Minuses…

The thing about having to wear a mask in some situations…say, at the office when moving about the building, or in meetings…is nobody can see how wreaked you are inside by the empty dead corpse look on you face. The eyes don’t tell the whole story.

by Bruce | Link | React!

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


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