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September 23rd, 2020

Make The Chili

Some years ago, a dear friend died suddenly, and at least among some of us, unexpectedly. We knew he had health problems, but he always managed to pull through. When the end came it was a shock to all of us, and especially to his lover of many years.

At the funeral I resisted visiting the open casket. Years later I would dig in my heels and flatly refuse to look into mom’s open casket. I didn’t want to remember her that way. But lover of many years nudged me over. And I looked. I just don’t understand why people find comfort in that. But many do and I won’t begrudge it of them. Just don’t ask me to. I want to remember life.

Maybe lover of many years saw the look on my face. He was in the depths of grief and I know what that’s like, if not over a lover because I’ve never had one. When mom passed away I went out of my mind for weeks. I was glad the man in the casket and the one left behind looking at it had so many friends, so the left behind would not be lost and alone in grief. He looked sideways at me looking at the dead, and said something to me that almost reached a place of grief inside of me that I have lived with nearly all my life. All my life since one summer in 1973, when I discovered my first love had moved away and I had no idea where he’d gone. He said that perhaps someone like me who had been lonely all his life would also understand how it was, if not to lose the one you had loved, to have to deal with grief. Decades later he would let a chance to introduce me to a possibly Very compatible someone drop on the floor because, as he told me, he needed an excuse to do the work of arranging it, and my loneliness wasn’t it.

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…

This is good advice, and it isn’t just the recently bereaved who can say it from that empty knowing wasteland. I know what unrequited love is like. I know what being seen as a second best sex toy for heterosexuals who aren’t getting any is like. I know what it’s like to have my ass admired by random passing strangers.  I know what it’s like to have someone’s crotch shoved into my car window and ask me if I “want some”, all because they saw the lambda sticker on my car and figured a homosexual is as good a sperm dumb as any. I know what being called friends with benefits is like when I was in love and thought the other guy was too, and it turned out I was just a between serious relationships snack. I know what it’s like to have a gay friend tell me to my face that people who look like that want people who look like that. And I am going to go from one end of an adult life to another without knowing how it feels to be embraced by someone I loved and desired, who loved and desired me back. I turned 67 a few days ago. I really don’t see anything to look forward to now but the same existential aloneness I felt for the first time that summer of 1973, when I walked past the home of my first love and saw it was empty and for sale. For a moment I wondered if that was how the house felt too.

Make the chili. And if you have lost the love of your life, listen to this man who knows how much and how deeply that hurts…

There will come a day, I promise you, when the thought of your son, or daughter, or your wife or your husband, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen. My prayer for you is that day will come sooner than later.  –Joe Biden

I will never tell you this, but I envy you your grief. I envy you your memories. Staring into that casket decades ago, I envied his. 

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 12th, 2020

What Bigotry And Hate Did To So Many Hearts

This man’s story came across my Facebook page last month, and I’ve been meaning to write something here about it since but as you can tell by the dates on the posts here I’ve been a little absent. I blame the lockdown…it’s really screwing with my head…

Anyway…here’s a more recent Washington Post version…

Why this 90-year-old man decided to come out as gay during the pandemic

Kenneth Felts spent his entire life in the closet. But at 90 years old, he felt ready to come out.

Since the age of 12, when he first knew he was gay, Felts said, he had been living a double life, battling between dueling identities. There was Ken, his outward-facing straight self, and then there was his alter ego, whom he referred to internally as Larry, a gay man he spent nearly eight decades stifling.

It’s a common story among the before Stonewall generation. Myself, I straddle the divide. When Stonewall happened I was 14…too young to really appreciate it or even know much about it. At that age, had I looked at myself more carefully I’d have seen all the signs. But in 1969 gay people were a dirty secret not talking about in family newspapers or magazines or on TV. And you certainly didn’t tell 14 year old boys anything about homosexuals except that they were dangerous and to keep away. It wasn’t until I was 17, and crushing madly on a classmate, that I finally came out to myself.

But amid the pandemic and the isolation that ensued, Felts started writing about his life to pass the time.

While penning his memoir, Felts said, he “awakened many soul-searing memories of my early life.” Mostly, he wrote about his one true love, Phillip.

Here’s the part of his story that got to me. And it speaks to the pre/post Stonewall divide I have lived with all my life. I came out to myself at the same time I fell in love. But it was 1971 and you couldn’t just declare it to a guy you were crushing on, even if he was gay too. The gay rights movement was suddenly on full blast, but it would be decades before it reached down to the school kids having that first magical crush. In the meantime gay people were being more visible, and that meant gay kids living in unsafe parts of the country, or in homes too risky to even drop a single hairpin in, had to keep their closet doors even more tightly closed.

Despite only recently coming out as gay, Felts said, he’s been searching for Phillip since his divorce 40 years ago.

This was me, but I had no divorce. Love came to me as a revelation. I was like Jack in Titanic, I’d have told him he was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was twitterpated. It was wonderful. I never doubted afterward that there was nothing wrong with me, nothing wrong with being gay. Even so, it wasn’t so simple to just walk up and ask him for a date, let alone to the Prom. And before I could find a way to tell him, get us to some quiet private place were we could at least talk about it, my first crush suddenly moved away. I spent 35 years searching for him before I finally found him.

It was wonderful for about five years. And then it wasn’t. I won’t go into detail about why here, except to say as it turned out, we really weren’t all that compatible to start with. What anti-gay hatred and bigotry took away from my generation…and Felt’s before mine…wasn’t just the ability to have that first magical romance, but more critically the ability to date. That’s how you find out who is good for you, and who is not. Two people can both be good, decent, wonderful persons and still not quite right for specifically each other. Dating is how you find out. 

I found out 40 years later and it was devastating after all that time, all that searching, all that remembering, all those what-ifs. I wanted to reach out to Felt and scream Don’t Do It… But that wouldn’t be fair. Sometimes it probably works out for the best. Sometimes, maybe, you get the happy Disney ever after. But the risks are huge. I did it to myself not once, but twice.

Felt finally found out what happened to his first love…

One of the loving and wonderful people who has been reading my messages on my coming out and search for Phillip undertook to locate him for me. She spent many hours and finally had a report for me. I have summarized that report below.

Phillip Allen Jones was the love of my life. I have a very sad and lonely heart today. My first and greatest love has passed away. He lived a full and happy life I am told by his niece. His partner of many years passed just a few years ago and Phillip remained alone for the rest of his life. I feel I shared with him the best years of his youth and he certainly made mine memorable and I will always remember and appreciate that. I loved him in my heart so much over the years and now he is gone.

It is so terribly frustrating to be so close to and yet not reach my lost love and horribly painful to not be able to say good-by. But the whole world now knows what a loving man he was with me and to me while we were together. My heart has turned to stone and I need my tears to wash away my sorrow. Rest in Peace Phillip.

I feel for him. It’s almost not worth looking for that first love, or any of the other might have beens from back in the day. But I can see why gay people of my generation and before do it despite the risks. Something was taken from us when we were young, some deep and essential part of our humanity was cut out of our lives. So offhandedly. So thoughtlessly. So very righteously. So other people could make their stepping stones to heaven out of the broken pieces of our hearts. It is only natural that we try to reclaim it. All the vocalizing about politics and discrimination in jobs and security in the workplace and in our homes and on the streets and even the right to marry, flows like a bottomless sorrow from the one central fact of our struggle: we were not allowed to love.

Not even to imagine it. Others got the happily ever after. We got the gutter. Other kids got Prom Night, school dances, boy meets girl stories, love songs on the radio, in books and magazines. We got every filthy lie that could be imagined hurled at us, at our deepest most tender feelings of love and desire and hope, and taught to believe them. The part of our lives that makes everything worthwhile was reduced to dirty jokes and sneering obscenities, so they could point at us and call us broken. 

It’s only natural now, so many years after Stonewall, now that we can marry, now that we can be people, that we try to reclaim the parts of our lives we lost to that mindless hate. Even if it means getting cut even more deeply. I don’t think any of us can stop ourselves. We’ve won so many of the battles we never thought we’d live to see won. There is hope. But beneath it, for so many of our generation there is a bottomless sadness that never goes away. Never.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What Bigotry And Hate Did To So Many Hearts

June 15th, 2020

Why Are You Still Single? It Has To Be You Fucked Up Somehow.

This came across my Feedly feed today…from George Takei’s blog…

People Confess Why They Are Still Single

“Why are you single?” –– And just like that, Redditor Uninfectedl got to the point, asking a question that hits a sore point for so many of us.

The poster, Alan Jude Ryland says they’re single because they’re enjoying singleness. Lots of people do. But lots of us feel trapped and beaten down, especially as the usual thinking is you’re just not doing it right and it’s your own damn fault. You looser.

Here are my reasons…

1) I’m gay. We’re a minority. I had a Much smaller pool of potential dates to start with. Strike one.

2) I came of age during a period when gay folk were almost universally hated. So no socializing among gay teens and young adults as arranged by helpful caring adults. No dances, no proms, no anything to help guide us into making the right choices, finding the one that’s right for you. Strike two.

3) No stories about same sex romances, no songs on the radio, no movies or TV, no examples of how to grow up and find love. We were invisible at best, at worst we were dangerous deviants, sissyboy weaklings, psychopaths and predators. Straight kids got the happily ever after, we got the gutter. Strike three.

4) Too many people in my world when I was coming of age, all the way through my twenties and thirties, felt it was their sacred moral duty to break up any budding same sex romances and keep young lovers far, far apart for their own good. That happened to me over and over. Strike four.

5) The sort of guys I was attracted to, the nice boys, the ones I might have met in a better world at a church social or coffee house, were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want god to hate them. Strike five.

6) People who look like that want people who look like that. Strike six and game over.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why Are You Still Single? It Has To Be You Fucked Up Somehow.

June 8th, 2020

Memories Of Standing On The Outside Of The Comfort Zone Looking In

Facebook tossed this memory from today, 2015 in my face just now. I was visiting Walt Disney World and I had to vent…

Some days I visit he’s being a jerk and doesn’t want to talk to me. Others, like last night, he’s all warm smiles and cheerful eyes and just can’t stop talking and we stay long past park closing time and I’m walking on air all the way back to my room. But then it’s always why can’t we spend some time together outside the park and his comfort zone won’t allow it.

So either way I have to struggle to get my vacation started back up again. If he’s grouchy then I’m miserable and just want to go home. I’ve called vacations off early when it’s been that. If he’s full of sunshine and smiles then I feel like I’ve hit the high point of my trip and why bother staying. There’s that back to the reality of things after the visit let-down to climb back out of somehow. I have to remind myself I need the break regardless.

This morning I’ll hit the grocery store for some perishables I couldn’t bring down with me, and more ice tea, and maybe something from the liquor store so I’m not always paying Disney prices for alcohol. Then spend the rest of the week chilling out, maybe working some more on A Coming Out Story (I brought my drawing things). But I’m in a state now I really have no words for, or at any rate words I’m willing to speak. He said something to me that lifted me out of myself in a way only someone who really gets you can. And it took a load off my psyche certain other gay someone’s I know weighed me down with for years.

It was all about how I don’t interact well with people. Too shy, too self absorbed, blah, blah, blah, your photography has no people in it, blah, blah, blah… Biergarten is “Octoberfest” seating, which means you get seated at a table with other random guests and you’re expected to talk and share a good time together. This time I was seated with a group that seemed really stand-offish. They just gave off chilly vibes. But after a while I got them talking about where they’re from and what they do, and of course when they found out I work at Space Telescope and on Hubble and James Webb they got all interested in that. And by the end of the night we were all chatting happily.

And after they left he and I were chatting and he noticed too how chilly that group was initially. He’s worked this line of business for so long now he can probably read a table the second he walks up to it. Then he said he’d always seen me open people up and that I was good at it and that I was always getting everyone talking and having a good time no matter how chilly the table seemed at first.

Well…yeah… One thing is you always know you’re with other Disney people here…so that’s something. It’s not like you’re in some random bar with bad mood people. We’re all Disney people here. And that Disney kid just comes out of me here. It’s a kind of freedom to be that kid I once was I never really appreciated I was missing before I started coming here. But I’m not the hopelessly detached single certain other people somehow managed to convince me I am either. I’m not that…so how did I get to thinking of myself like that? He just pulled that out of me with a few words and the look on his face when he said it.

He does that. It’s when someone shows you things about yourself you didn’t know, but should have known, that makes it serious. And…it’s been like that since we were teenagers. When he’s not in a touchy mood, it’s still like that.

But we never got the chance other kids did. And now he has his comfort zone, and I need to get on with my vacation. Somehow.

It was around this time that I’d figured out that if I told him in advance I was coming down he wouldn’t have anything to do with me, but if I just showed up it was all smiles and happy face and good times. Something just less than a year later we had nuclear war…I’d told him I was coming down and he lied about being on a ski trip and I shouldn’t bother and I came down anyway and he was so stand-offish even the new servers there noticed something was wrong with him. Afterward he sent me a nastygram telling me never to speak to him again and I blew up because I hadn’t done anything wrong or said anything to him I hadn’t said dozens of times before…and it was all over, and with it every memory I ever had about it being good…wonderful even. It’s amazing what tricks memory can play on you. If it wasn’t for these occasional Facebook memories I wouldn’t remember it ever being good with him now, not even back in high school. But it was. I wasn’t twitterpated for no reason. He felt it too. But whereas it lifted me out of myself, erased every shred of guilt or shame I might have had, it must have done the opposite to him.

…which set a pattern for the rest of my life. Because I would always fall for the nice boys…the ones I might have met in a better world at a church social, or coffee house. But in the world I grew up in all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them, they didn’t want God to hate them.

I’ve made my allegiances, I have to stay in my comfort zone…

So it goes. I reckon. I should get back to work on A Coming Out Story now that Facebook gave me that. But everything from back in the day is bad now. I finally found the guy I wrote about in this blog post (link) and he didn’t win his race. His life took a really bad turn through no fault of his and discovering that is really heartbreaking. And now this Facebook memory is something else to tap me on the shoulder, and whisper in my ear that everything is pointless.

In my senior years I’m basically just walking forward on auto pilot, going through the motions because what else is there to do…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Memories Of Standing On The Outside Of The Comfort Zone Looking In

May 2nd, 2020

Gay Country Music Is Finally A Thing…

…and it’s cutting me to ribbons.

 

 

No offence to the singer here, Ty Herndon, who came out last year and changed the pronouns of this song, which was a hit in its previous incarnation. It’s wonderful in so many ways. That he found the courage to come out and live an honest life. That he updated this song with the pronouns that reflect how his heart saw the song when it first came to him. That gay kids and adults can hear music that speaks directly to us. So long have I mentally flipped a pronoun or two while listening to pop music, to at least imagine it speaking to me.

But for reasons I won’t go into now…or maybe ever…this particular song is both wonderful and devastating. Now I need a drink…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gay Country Music Is Finally A Thing…

May 24th, 2019

Getting Tired Of It

Out for a cigar walk this evening, after drinks and dinner at Rocket To Venus. Thinking over things. I came home and the feral calico cat I’ve been feeding and providing shelter and food for, came up to the porch looking for an evening meal. I brought the dish out for her and, as usual, tried to keep her a tad away from the bowl as I put it down. She’ll swat at me if my hand gets too close, which it will if she gets too close to the bowl as I put it down. Usually, this involves me putting my foot between her and the bowl until I get it situated on the concrete porch floor. This time accidentally, I managed to step on he paw and she yelped and now I’m the enemy and she won’t come close. I called and called and apologised profusely. But of course cats don’t understand any of that. So she’s gone. For now. Eventually I suppose she’ll come back. There is food and water here after all. But I’ve just about had enough.

Enough of all these one-way relationships in my life. I let myself put my heart into these relationships that never give much if anything back and I’m tired of it. She’s a feral, granted. I knew that when I first started putting food out for her, but it’s like a recurring thread in my life I am getting really tired of. She won’t let me touch her, she’s so skittish. but I’ve grown fond of her nonetheless and I get almost nothing back out of it but her occasional rub up against my door or my foot if she’s feeling safe enough. I didn’t mean to step on her paw but she’ll swat at me and draw blood if I get too close. If she doesn’t come back I will be heartbroken but such is what it is. My other neighbors feed her too so she won’t go hungry. I’ve become accustomed to this sort of heartbreak.

I don’t need these sorts of relationships in my life anymore, where I put my heart into it and I get nothing back. It’s how my life has gone for…well…mostly all of it. And I’m tired of it. Crushes, attempted boyfriends, putting my artwork out there and getting silence back, wearing my heart on my sleeve and getting battered, so it goes. I need to assert some degree of self respect in these things. I know…cats. Especially the feral ones. They’re not domesticated. They don’t trust humans and they’re skittish and they have to be to survive. Some gay guys too. Especially ones of my generation. But I’m tired of it. I need to be loved back. At least a little. She can go somewhere else and that would be good. I’d actually like to be able to sit on my front porch again and enjoy the evenings. Alone I suppose, but at least not loving someone that won’t love me back.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Getting Tired Of It

March 6th, 2019

Life As A Sequence Of Fine Dining And Lots Of Tequila

I’m going to start a gallery of foodie shots of every nice dinner I’ve had on March 6 since 2016…

…but first…

Afternoon of March 6, 2016.  One of the shots I took inside one of my favorite watering places in Walt Disney World (the other two are Tune-In Lounge and Jock Lindey’s Hanger Bar). The margarita before the storm. Plus chips and jalapeno and cheese dip. Hot? Ohhh Dios mío…the day is about to get hotter…

The Kobe beef steak I was having at the Brown Derby when I got scolded. In retrospect it would have sounded better in the original German…

Rocket to Venus 2017…their absolutely decadent pork steaks and garlic mashed potatoes. I’ve been mourning the loss of this item on their entrée menu for a long time…

Rocket to Venus 2018 (noticing a pattern here?). I forget what this one was but it was amazingly good, as always. I can’t recommend this Hampden, near The Avenue eatery enough.

And here I am drinking my margaritas every march 6 since 2016.

Probably heading out to Rocket to Venus again for dinner tonight. Because the food is great, the staff are nice, and one of the bartenders is very nice on the eyes, doesn’t mind my gawking at him in disbelief, and I can get drunk enough I can appreciate the sight of a beautiful guy and not feel any pain. Plus I can walk home stinking drunk and not be a hazard to everyone else on the highway. 

Prost!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Life As A Sequence Of Fine Dining And Lots Of Tequila

July 29th, 2018

The Loneliness Of Older Gay Men

This came across my Facebook news stream yesterday…

Study shows gay men over the age of 45 are more likely to be single

There’s an obvious take on this…that the gay club scene, much like the general pop culture scene, is mostly youth oriented and there are few opportunities for older gay men to have fun and socialize.

But there is a less obvious, until you look at the history of the gay civil rights struggle, reason for this. Probably the biggest reason. Us older gay men lived out most of our young adult lives in a climate of nearly pure unadulterated hate. When our peers could begin taking their own tentative steps into the dating and mating cycle, our hopes and dreams of love were routinely dashed on other people’s fear and loathing. We couldn’t date. Our love lives had to be paced out in the shadows. While the other kids got their proms, we got a few seedy bars and hookup spots. While the other kids got their songs and stories of love and romance and happily ever afters, we got every filthy lie people could think up about homosexuality.

By the time gay liberation made enough difference that a gay kid could ask his first crush to the prom, and dream a realistic dream of going steady, and even marriage, we were middle aged, weighed down and heart weary from all the wounds dug into us when we were young, many of us still too afraid to peek out of the closet for enough time to find a boyfriend. Even those of us who managed to avoid being trapped in a cycle of self loathing and bitterness, still had to find partners from the same peer group that had suffered so much damage.

I could tell you my stories, in fact I have. Most years around Valentine’s Day I repost them here on my blog. Stories of guys I met when I was younger, who made my heart skip a beat.  And they either broke it off with me because they were afraid their families would hate them, or that god would hate them, or hostile heterosexuals would see what was developing between us and sabotaged it because our hopes and dreams had to be their stepping stones to heaven.

So I’m single. I’ve never so much as had a steady boyfriend in my entire life. And I reckon now I’m done with it. I accept it. I will die a solitary gay male. I think I could have been good for somebody, but I will never know. I don’t blame youth culture. I blame the cloud of fear and loathing we all had to live under back then, and which many of my generational peers are still living under.

Below are few links to some of those Valentine’s Day stories I’ve posted here about being a young gay man in the 1970s and 80s looking for love. Read them and don’t wonder why so many older gay males are single.

Do You Believe In Love?

No Rescue For The Rescuers…

The Boy I Met In Church…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Loneliness Of Older Gay Men

April 18th, 2018

What A Wonderful World I Missed Being A Teenager In…

In my newsfeed this morning…

Story Here.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What A Wonderful World I Missed Being A Teenager In…

April 6th, 2018

Facebook Is To Socializing As McDonald’s Is To Food

Reposted from my Facebook page…which is going silent for a while…

Just a note to say thanks to everyone who reached out to me when I was having a bad time. I haven’t read everything yet but it is all very much appreciated.

I’m still not completely back together, and for now I’m taking a wee sabbatical from Facebook to spend more time on my blog to write more generally about my life and what I see like I used to before “social media” ate all the blogs up, and focus on other areas of my website where I have my artwork. So don’t take it wrong if you don’t see me here for quite a while. I’m not deactivating my account so people can still contact me here if you don’t want to bother visiting me elsewhere.

At some point, on the blog most likely, I’ll write more about what’s been going on with me that made a bad day at work seem like everything was coming apart. Basically the job has been all that’s been holding me together now for well over a decade. I know that isn’t healthy, but it’s the way it is. You can’t spend an entire adult life without finding that significant other, even if just for a while, without beginning to think there is just something fundamentally wrong with you. Logically I know it isn’t that simple. But there it is. I need to see if I can find it in me to see hope in my life again as the individual singular me, apart from the work I do that is for a greater good. Being a part of that has lifted me so much, but there has to be more, and right now there is not. So I’m going to go try and find it now.

Hopefully I won’t be away long, but in the end I really want to put Facebook in the background of my online presence and not the foreground as it has been. This place isn’t all that good for us either. There’s a world out there we should live in more. It’s so easy to socialize on these social media things and it now seems to me so dangerous for those of us who have precious little, if any, human intimacy in our lives. It’s real in that our friends are real and we’re all here, but this world we’re interacting in isn’t real and it’s all text and maybe a few videos and in actuality every interaction we make here is in a sense at arm’s length. That can’t be good. It’s to socializing as McDonald’s is to food. A steady diet of it might just kill you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Facebook Is To Socializing As McDonald’s Is To Food

March 15th, 2018

Please…No More Doomed Gay Couples…Okay?

Call Me By Your Name DVDs are for sale now, and I’m not at all sure anymore that I want to see this movie. So, like Brokeback Mountain I may end up giving it a pass.

Like Brokeback, and frustratingly, once again we have the tragically doomed homosexual relationship. A tale as old as time you might say. Or as old as Hollywood at any rate. As far as we’ve come and we still get told our love affairs are doomed. But that’s not the worst of it, at least for me. Spoiler Ahead for those who haven’t already seen the movie or read any of the reviews that go into Timothée Chalamet’s stunning performance, particularly in the final scene.

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Time has passed, and Oliver has told Elio over the phone that he’s getting married. To a woman (the story is set in 1983). So the last scene is the poor kid sitting in front of the household fireplace crying but still trying to keep his shit together while the rest of the family goes on about their business behind him. His first love dumped him, not so much for a woman as for respectability. So really…what was he to Oliver?

Just…a little too close to the bone. I just can’t watch this.

I don’t know that I can ever get to the point where I can watch this movie. I haven’t watched Brokeback either, though I did read the Annie Proulx short story. That was difficult enough. I’m not wanting some superficial junk food romance. I don’t want to be told sweet lies about the inevitability of love, or True Romance Comics stories of how perfect it is. It’s just as false. Heterosexuals get their tragedies, but also their triumphs, because their relationships are seen as legitimate, complex, multifaceted. Ours, as Vito Russo once said, are just about sex. What I’m seeing here is that even when Hollywood grasps that it’s more than that, it still can’t fathom it being more than a summer affair. Well at least it’s not the tire iron.

I have gay friends whose couplehood made it possible for most of my adult life to believe that it is even possible to have that kind of deeply felt, body and soul relationship, not just something I read once in a Mary Renault novel. But I’m in my middle 60s now and all I have to look back on is one strikeout after another after another after another, usually via the agency of some hostile third party that needed a righteousness boost. But I can at least live it vicariously in art, if not in life. It gives me a reason to keep getting out of bed and contributing, in a small way, to the work I do at Space Telescope. It allows me to keep pursuing my little efforts at art while sitting at the drafting table, or walking about with my cameras. But the suspicion keeps nagging at me: what does it really matter? Was I really the kid that was never meant to be born? Is this why I always feel like I’m on the outside of life looking in? I don’t need to be told love fails, my entire life keeps telling me that every waking moment of my day. I need art that reminds me the struggle is worth it, even so.

I don’t think anybody who knows me knows how badly I need those reminders. 

Maybe when I’m ready to watch Brokeback I’ll watch this one. In the meantime what I’ve read of the father’s speech was good. I’ll keep that much of it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Please…No More Doomed Gay Couples…Okay?

March 9th, 2018

The Walking Wounded In The Garden Of Paradise

Political cartoonist I follow (including following him to the same web host his site is on, on the theory that if they were willing to host him they should be cool with me too), tweeted out something the other day about it being four months since his life came apart. So I went looking on his profile for all his previous tweets for the last four months and it’s looking like he suffered a breakup. To the point that he’s had to go find another place to live.

I don’t know much about his personal life. But for one recent post selling t-shirts his website has no posts since last October. And he’s been vague booking what happened, but it’s not hard to read between the lines. I don’t know if he was married or not. He was on tour in Europe promoting one of his books and apparently came back home only to be blindsided by whatever it was. But if it was a relationship breakup I wonder how blindsided it could have been. When Keith dumped me for some guy he met on AOL Instant Messenger it was a shock, but deep down inside not an entirely unexpected one.

I’m learning all this just a couple days after I had my nuclear war with my first crush remembrance and dinner. I was eating the premium Kobe Beef dinner at the WDW Hollywood Brown Derby when I got the Hey, Let’s Both Burn Our Bridges And Dance In The Ashes email from him, so I’ve tried to buy myself the best dinner I can afford at a nice local restaurant on that day every year since. But it’s somehow more depressing to see it happen to other people than to me. Maybe that’s because as a barely post-stonewall generation gay guy my expectations were low to begin with. Maybe it’s because after a lifetime of singlehood I’m inured to my own experience. Keith never actually said the magic three words to me, which is probably why I saw it coming deep down inside. He was strike three and by that time walking alone back to the dougout was almost a relief. But seeing the hurt in others can still get to me.

Some folks in my life have suggested that I’ve been better off single because then I never had to deal with this kind of loss. From the inside though it seems to me like I’ve been fighting a two front war all my adult life, not to hate myself, and not to hate the world. Somehow, I’ve really no idea how, I’m still winning that war. But the internal cost…you’ve no idea, and I wouldn’t want you to.

I wish that cartoonist healing and peace. I wish it to all the lonely. We deserved better. Life is good, even so. But goddamn it can cut you just as deep as how high it can lift. So we walk. So it goes.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Walking Wounded In The Garden Of Paradise

July 17th, 2017

Having The Prom You Never Had

Wow…so many conflicting feelings about this…

At prom for gay adults, a second chance at a night worth remembering

Leland Gray, a 30-year-old manager at a local HVAC company, dreamed up the event and organized it in his spare time. So many of his gay friends had shared similar stories of regretting prom, just like he had. They’d been scared or confused or trying to be something they weren’t to please their parents.

“Doing it our way this time around.” That’s what Leland had written on the online page he created to promote the event a couple months ago.

He’d expected a few dozen people to come.

He had to cut off ticket sales at 250.

I’m not conflicted for the grownups still aching for their inner teenager to finally have their prom night. I’m happy for them. But who would I have asked…who would have gone with me…those are deep waters I might not want to disturb.

Had I lived in a time when gay kids could be open about it and figure out amongst ourselves who was a good match for whom, the dates we would have actually taken to a prom might surprise the adults we later became. But we did not grow up in that world, and my school was a small one. We had to hide, often even from ourselves because knowing could be fatal. It was survival. And that meant you couldn’t date, couldn’t even talk about it among your friends let alone your family, and couldn’t tell who was right for you, and who was not.

In a different world it might more likely have been some kid from another school that I met at the church Coffee Shop in Rockville, or elsewhere…maybe some gay teen social event organized by some caring supervising adults who just want to make sure that every kid gets a chance at that first magical romance. When you are few you have to network in ways others don’t. And it’s something else that grieves me to think about, so I try not to very much, that in that other imaginary better world I might have met that one special teenage heart that I never got a chance to meet in the world I that did grow up in, and now will never know.

There was no prom for me, and I don’t think there ever will be. But it’s good that some of us are reclaiming that ground now, while there is still time left. If you lucked out and settled in with The One, and the two of you didn’t have your prom, you should go organize one. It’s never too late to dance that one magical night.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Having The Prom You Never Had

February 13th, 2017

The Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown – Spoiler Alert…it didn’t end well…

SPOILER ALERT!  That comic story I’ve been telling for the past decade or so…it didn’t end well.

You know how the game is played in grade school…right?  First base, second base, et al. These days I think of it more along the lines of Kurt Vonnegut’s three strike rule. Well…he didn’t exactly call them strikes. What he said according to his daughter was…

“I think you’re allowed to be in love three times in your life.”  

I’ve had my three strikes. Strike three was the boy I met in church. Strike two was when a very pleasant mutual closeness with a straight friend dropped me into a pit lots of gay kids probably find themselves in when they start crushing on a close but thoroughly straight friend. Decades later I’m still not ready to look back on that time.

Strike one was the boy I met in school…that other place which in a better world I might have hoped to find that magical first crush and first date and…dare I imagine it…going to the prom together and all that magical Disney-esq stuff boy and girl couples get promised as a part of growing up. He’s the Tyler (TK) Anderson in A Coming Out Story and no, that’s not his real name. I’ve changed all the names in that cartoon, in part because I don’t want to tell other people’s stories for them, but mostly because the story isn’t about him and it’s only tangentially about me: it’s about growing up gay in 1971-72 America, and what that did to a lot of us and why grownups need to give gay kids a break. I’m telling it with a sense of humor because I can still manage to look back on all that with a sense of humor, and because even after everything that’s happened to me, or not happened as the case may be, I still feel it deep down inside as a magical Disney-esq period in my life. The stars really did shine a little brighter, the sky was a little more blue, the birds really did sing a little more sweetly, I walked with a lighter step. Life was good…wonderful even. You’re allowed to believe it three times in your life.

My first time began as it had to with a couple gay kids, but with the added layer of us both being somewhat nerdish (me Way more than him). First comes a lot of stunned gawking at each other. Gawking turns to smiles, smiles turn to hellos, hellos become brief chats that turn to longer and longer ones. In our case it was the school library where we often met. Talking shyly turned to touching. First in safe pretense that it was accidental. Then it became a thing. The touch of hand to arm. Then meeting each other at the end of the day and walking together out the school door became a thing. From there we went our separate ways. We lived in different neighborhoods. One day on our walk together he put an arm around my shoulders, gave me a quick little squeeze, and before I could say anything rushed out the door with a see ya later. I swear I lifted off soared into the stratosphere right then. Later that evening I could finally admit to myself that I was in love, and oh by the way, gay.

Things developed from there in that thrilling and terrifying way it was for gay kids in 1972. It’s something I still have to think more about how to talk to in my cartoon. But I’ll give everyone a major spoiler now because, why not: It ended abruptly after I made plans with him to go on a camera hike at Great Falls.

I mean…come on…  I’m old and single and that we didn’t become a Disney happily ever after couple can’t be much of a spoiler. No, it didn’t work out. But happy Disney endings were on short supply for gay kids in 1971-72. In some places here in America they’re still nearly impossible to find. In some places elsewhere you get thrown off a building or honor killed.

I’d talked him into a tentative interest in photography. Looking back on it if I’d had half a brain, which teenagers don’t, I’d have taking an interest in his interests. But he was into things like tennis and skiing and I am not the sporty type. One day he brought one of his father’s nice Leica cameras to school and I told him what I knew of how to use it. We agreed to go on a hike with our cameras the following Saturday along the towpath at Great Falls. I asked for his phone number so I could call to let him know I was coming. Then the plan was we’d take a drive to the Great Falls park and wander the towpath looking for some good shots. This would also allow us to be alone together for a while, and so I was hoping, get a bunch of stuff out in the open between us that by then was getting ridiculous not to openly acknowledge.

You need to understand…this was spring of 1972. The torrent of abuse gay people got from the world around us back then, from Every Direction, is probably hard for some of you to understand today. And what I didn’t appreciate enough was what would happen when his family found out. I…perhaps stupidly…never thought twice about bringing him home to mom because I just knew mom would have loved him. He was bright, hardworking, decent, the kind of guy I might have hoped to meet in church or in school in some other better world. And mom would have loved him too…right up to the point she found out what my interest in him actually was. What I probably didn’t appreciate enough until decades later was how what happened next may have saved me from that major heartbreak way too many gay kids know all too well: what happens when the parents find out.

We’d agreed I would call at 11 on Saturday. So all morning Saturday I was on pins and needles waiting for the appointed time. When the clock struck 11 I jumped on the phone and dialed. I got an answer, but it wasn’t him. It was an older male voice.

“Hello?”

“Yes…is Tyler there”?

“Who’s calling?”

“Bruce”

“Hold on…”

Wait…wait…wait…

Tyler comes on the phone. First words out of his mouth are…and I’m not kidding: “Why are you calling me!?”

His voice was terse, irritated.  For a second I didn’t know what to say.  Like an idiot I began to remind him of our plans for a Saturday morning camera hike.

“I never agreed to that.”  

…but…we agreed…

“I don’t know what you’re talking about”

…but…you said…

“I never said I was going anywhere with you.”  

…but…yes you did…

“I don’t know why you’re calling me.”

That was pretty much how it went.

If I’d had half a brain, which teenagers don’t, I’d have realized something was going on at his end and I just needed to play along…oh sorry…this has all been a terrible mistake, please accept my profuse apologies…  But now in addition to the massive letdown I’m feeling I’m also getting a bit irritated at being called a liar and by him no less. So I stupidly pressed on…yeah we did…we were going to go to Great Falls..

“No…I never said anything of the sort..”

…with our cameras…

“I just don’t know why you’re calling me.”

Finally in desperation I said, “You gave me your phone number!”  

And he says… “Well I didn’t think you’d use it!”

Which must have gone over well with whoever was at his end listening in.

After that, he kept me at arm’s length for the rest of the school year. I figured I would just wait it out, whatever it was, and eventually he’d start talking to me again. But it wasn’t long after that the family moved away, and for the next three decades I wondered what had happened, where he’d gone.

I moved on and yet I didn’t. Isn’t that how it goes? But straight kids had the possibility of getting a little closure afterward. Why did this happen? Why did I get dumped? Father doesn’t like you. Mother says you’re a bad influence. You’re from the wrong neighborhood. You have the wrong religion, color of skin, income level. Gay kids get reminded not just of how much their culture hates them, but also of how badly the need is to erase us from existence. The beloved gets hospitalized and the scared and terrified other gets told they don’t belong there with them and security escorts them out the door, while the family that hates them both is allowed the bedside. The beloved dies and the one left behind is denied a place at the funeral while the family that hates them both changes the locks on the doors to their home and removes their belongings to distribute amongst themselves. You have no rights. It isn’t just you don’t belong here. It’s you do not exist.

I kept searching for him. There were other guys, other attempts at just getting a date, strikes two and three came and went. I never stopped trying but I never stopped searching for him either. At first I just wanted to know what had happened and hoped against hope that we could begin again, and maybe this time it would go better. Then came AIDS. I visited the Names Project quilt the day it was first displayed on the Capital Mall, and for years afterward had nightmares of wandering among the panels and finding the one with his name on it. So I kept searching. I had to know.

I eventually found him. I’ll write about it someday. It’s not a happy Walt Disney ending. Those are for the happiest place on earth. But for your gay neighbors of a certain age, that ending is the rare and wonderful exception. We did not exist back in those days. Thank goodness you’re only allowed to learn that three times in your life. I don’t think I could handle a forth.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown – Spoiler Alert…it didn’t end well…

February 9th, 2017

Yet Another Annual Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown…

Hi Kids…why not let’s have another…

Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown!

In just a few days it will be the anniversary of something Jim Burroway first noted  on Box Turtle Bulletin some years back, which always adds some…feeling…to my Valentine’s Day thoughts and reminisces…

New York Times Magazine Publishes “What It Means To Be A Homosexual”: 1971. The Harper’s October 1970 cover screed by Joseph Epstein — the one where he called gay people “an affront to our rationality” and were “condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom among men” — generated an outpouring of anger in the gay community, which resulted in a protest inside the offices of Harper’s (see Oct 27). Gay activists demanded another article to give the gay community equal exposure, but the Harper’s refused the request. Its editors also refused to apologize. The outrageous insults in the piece become something of a second, lesser Stonewall in the way it brought out even more gays and lesbians who decided it was time to become more involved publicly.

Among them was Merle Miller, a former editor at Harper’s who was also a novelist and biographer…

You should go read the whole thing…Jim’s “Today In History” posts are worth reading every day. But this one always helps remind me of the times I grew up and passed through adolescence in.

Ah…adolescence… That magical, wonderful time when we are discovering what desire and love are all about and all that icky holding hands and dating stuff the big kids were always going on about was all about. Well it should have been the most magical, wonderful passage in our lives that is…but for some of us, condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom, it was deliberately made into a nightmare so that others could feel appropriately righteous. That was more the fact for others than for me, thankfully, or I might not even be here now to type all this. But the atmosphere of hatred and contempt I grew up within did its job on me too. In 1971, the year before I graduated from high school, the year I experienced my first crush and fell madly in love, Joseph Epstein wrote, “If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth.” He couldn’t of course, but there was always the next best thing. You could make sure whenever it was in your power to do so, that a gay kid  never had that chance to know what it was to love, and be loved wholeheartedly in return.

Without a doubt Epstein did just that whenever he got the chance.   His howl against the homosexual in that Harper’s article almost certainly became a dagger in the the hopes and dreams of young gay men and women back then, reassuring parents, teachers, clergy that it was no sin to put a knife in the hearts of teenagers in love, that if they were condemned to live their one life in loneliness and heartache that was merely the Curse Of Homosexuality, not their own bar stool arrogance and cheapshit prejudices that did it to them.   Bobby and Johnny are getting just a little too friendly aren’t they…let’s pack them off to the psychiatrist quickly now…or to some nice church camp somewhere far away, where they can pray their unspeakable sin away…

Ah…Valentine’s Day…when all the lonely hearts ponder writing new songs about the one that did them wrong.   I have a different thing in mind.   How about stories of that which might have been, but for the cheapshit prejudices of the world we were thrown into.  

I have a few stories of my own to tell.   Pull up a chair.   Sit a spell.   Love is in the air.   Let me pour you a drink.   There is a box of Valentine’s Day candy over there on the table, pieces like the moon rattling hollowly inside…angry, angry candy…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Yet Another Annual Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown…

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


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