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.
“Yes…is Tyler there”?
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.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about”
“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.
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…
Valentine’s Day – All In All It’s Just Another Heart In The Wall…
If I were ever to write a book about my love life, reaching from that first teenage crush to tired old man despair, I’d be tempted to titled it A Series of Unfortunate Events, but Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) has taken that one.
I’m on Facebook (aren’t we all!) and recently a certain postcard company has been tormenting me with advertisements for this…
You have to appreciate how something like this hits me. Or maybe you can’t because you had the love life, or at least a memory of having had one, that I don’t and never will. But I am nothing but not resilient (otherwise I’d probably be dead by now). I buy myself birthday cakes…why not valentine’s day cards and flowers too! So yesterday I went onto their web site to order up one for myself.
They were sold out.
And a more perfect celebration of Valentine’s day for Bruce I cannot even imagine. So this year I won’t be doing the Valentine’s Day Poster Contest again. I’m over it. I’ve moved on…
But I’ll be reposting the stories I’ve told previously on the lead up to previous Valentine’s Days, and maybe add one or two more, and not just because it gets it out of my system in the least self destructive way.
Maybe someday, maybe, give it some thought anyway, Valentine’s day will be a time when we all try to help the lonely find their other half, instead of merely congratulating ourselves for finding ours. How better to celebrate the joy of loving, and being loved, than by dedicating ourselves toward bringing more of that into this poor lonely angry world?
You reposted one of those Facebook chain post things…this one was where you ask people to post something they remember most about you and then repost it to see what people remember most about them. But I can’t post this to your page because…well…you know. So I’m posting it here. It’s actually something I posted back in the Usenet days, on alt.romance. Some moron wrote in there that gays don’t really love so there couldn’t be any such thing as gay romance, and in a way of fighting back at that crude prejudice I posted this. It’s been a while so I’ve edited it a tad.
It’s as close as I ever came to it, for a while I believed I was living it…finally, so the memory is very heavily tinged with sorrow and regret. But you gave me a chance to revisit it tonight and for that I am grateful….
In the mid-90s I began dating a guy I’d known since we were both boys growing up in a suburb of Washington D.C. He came from a very anti-Gay fundamentalist family and things he’d experienced had wounded him deeply. But he had a kind and gentle heart and he was a survivor. We’d dated briefly some years before but after coming out to his family he felt he had to break it off. I still vividly remember the hurt, but also my determination to let him go his way without playing the angry jilted lover. Whatever else happened between us, I was not going to become another leash on his collar. I loved him, and I wanted him to have at least one person in his life, willing to let him be free. But god it hurt.
Eventually I moved from the Washington D.C. suburbs where we’d both grown up to the Baltimore suburbs where I’d found work as a software engineer. During that time he went to chef’s school and moved shortly afterwards to Hilton Head where he’d done an internship at a big restaurant. He said later he found he liked the island and that it was good to be living at least one day’s drive away from his parents. One day several years after he’d broken off the relationship with me he called me up, and then later that year came up to visit me. Almost at once we began to rekindle the affair where we’d left off. Two weeks later I went down to Hilton Head to visit him.
We’d known for years that we had a lot in common, both in experience and temperament. We grew up Baptists, I in a more traditional Baptist church, and he in a southern Baptist church. Religion permeated our lives while growing up and we had both had our share of family pressures. We knew what it was like to have to fight every second you were around certain family members, to protect our self identities. We knew how rare and how important it was, to have someone in your lives who loved you who trusted you, and could be trusted unconditionally.
We lived in separate professional worlds; he was working as a cook, trying to make his way to chef, and I had stumbled into a career as a software engineer from teaching myself how to build my own personal computers and then teaching myself how to make them do tricks. He was still struggling to earn a living, and I was making a pretty good one. But as we would talk about our professional lives it became clear to us both that our attitudes about work and the art of what we both did, fitting the process cleanly and elegantly to the job at hand and leaving your mark on everything you do by how well you do it, were just about identical. We were birds of a feather.
When I walked into his apartment on that first visit we discovered a common interest in things 30s and 40s. Big band music, old radios and radio shows, deco and such. As it turned out, he had some friends who owned their own bar and restaurant, which they’d fashioned into a WWII Pacific GI hangout. That evening he took me to their place and we had dinner. It was situated near one of the main public entrances to the beach. Just outside the door a speaker played big band music from the times. Stepping inside was like stepping back in time. Behind the bar was a picture of FDR flanked by two 48 star flags, newspapers from the times, and an old refrigerator. Mounted on the wall was an period black bakelite telephone and below it on a stand stood a period radio which was hooked up to a CD player stashed under the counter playing the music I’d heard outside the door.
We had a great time and afterwards we went back to his house and settled in for the evening. As he was flipping channels he found one that was showing Jimmy Stewart in The Glenn Miller Story. He said that was a good one to watch so we settled in and almost instantly discovered another little bit of common ground: we both liked watching movies on TV while sitting on the floor, backs up against the sofa, snacks placed strategically around us.
It turned out to be a tear jerker at the end. I’d forgotten that Miller died in a plane crash before the end of WWII. The film focused on his struggle to make a living as a musician and the deep bond of love between him and his wife. There’s a running gag about the song “little brown jug”, which she loved and he hated, that runs throughout the film and I won’t give away what happens at the end in case anyone here hasn’t seen it, but it had us both crying, and he’d had already seen it several times. Another piece of common ground: we both like tear jerking romances from Hollywood’s golden age. After the film we talked about our favorites. Mine is Casablanca which to my amazement I found out he hadn’t yet seen. I resolved that when I went to visit him again I’d bring down a copy for us to watch together.
It was getting late and instead of turning in we decided to take a walk to the beach knowing there was a good chance at that hour that we’d have it to ourselves. It was the end of December but all we needed were light jackets. Hilton Head is nearly a tropical paradise but tourist season was still a few months away and the streets were nearly empty. We walked past his friend’s restaurant, the speakers mounted outside the door playing the White Cliffs of Dover as we walked from the pavement to the sand. Apt, I thought, since I felt at the time like I was trying to conduct a romance in a war zone. South Carolina isn’t exactly gay friendly territory.
There was no moon, and the beach was almost pitch black. It was low tide, and at low tide the beaches at Hilton Head become huge. There were no clouds in the sky though, and the night was bright with stars. Not as intense as I’ve seen out west, where the sky fairly blazes with them, but it was a denser field of stars then I usually get here in the Baltimore suburbs. To the east a calm sea seemed to stretch forever toward the bright flickering stars on the horizon.
We walked down to the water’s edge, and turned south. At some point I put my hand in his, something we could never have done there in broad daylight, without risking assault, and possibly even arrest. No love story I’ve read so far has quite fully captured the feeling of how that simple, beautiful, elegant gesture of taking your boyfriend’s hand in yours can be both deeply soul satisfying, and fraught with danger.
But on that shore the night not only sheltered us from hostile eyes, it made us a little paradise. There were no tourists. The locals were all home and we were alone. To the many condos crowding the edge of the dunes we would be two vague figures walking along the beach. The air was cool but not cold and a gentle breeze came ashore with the waves breaking one after the other it seemed as if to the beat of our hearts. We walked for a mile or so down the shore, turned, and started walking back, not speaking a single word, rapt in the simple company of one another like two strings spanning a single instrument vibrating in harmony. I am a fast walker and all my life friends have complained at me to slow down a tad when we’re walking together. I have to think to walk at everyone else’s pace and it’s work. That night he and I kept a slow easy pace with each other that just happened like breathing, and in the back of my mind a slow, easy big band song began to play itself over and over as we walked together.
Eventually we approached the public beach entrance again and we stopped not wanting to return to the real world just yet. We stood on the shore and I put my arm around his waist and he put his head on my shoulder and we looked up at the stars. I love star gazing and began pointing out this and that constellation to him. Orion was high in the sky, his sword pointing toward the sea. I was pointing out the three blue giants that made up the belt when a meteor shot across it. He shivered, and I think I did too, and for a while all we did was stand there silently watching the heavens and listening to the waves breaking nearby.
In the parking lot on the other side of the dunes a car radio briefly blared out some loud music and drove away. When it was quiet again I remarked that I’d had a big band tune dancing in my thoughts all that time, and he just nodded his head, “Moonlight serenade…right? Me too.” I like to think that even if it had been broad daylight in that moment I would have still drawn him to me and kissed him.
We stood there in each other’s embrace for the longest time. Eventually we slowly walked back to the public walkway. The little bars and restaurants nearby were all closing and there were people in the parking area. As we walked onto the pavement our hands parted. We were back in the world. Somebody beside one of the parked cars was having a loud argument with his companions about who should drive. He looked drunk and I hoped he didn’t end up winning the argument. In the distance I heard somebody’s car alarm start warbling for a moment. We crossed the parking lot, and walked around the traffic circle to the road leading back to his apartment. On the way we passed his friend’s restaurant. It was closed, but the outdoor radio was still turned on and it was playing Moonlight Serenade.
[Update…] Our little fling didn’t last long. It was a long distance relationship when we started it up again, with me in Baltimore and he in Hilton Head, and he eventually dumped me for a guy he’d met on AOL messenger, who I guess he just liked better than me. They’ve been together 17 years now. I was a contract software developer back then and my company had offices close to Hilton Head and I was making plans to move closer to him when I got told. We were chatting on AOL messenger when I asked him straight up if he was seeing someone else and he said finally that he was. So I stayed here in Baltimore and eventually got the job at Space Telescope and a house of my own, which he actually visited once, so I could say it all worked out I suppose. But like that character in Heinlein’s Job – A Comedy of Justice, I’d have washed dishes forever to have had him to come home to. So it didn’t work out, it just happened the way it did.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on A Memory of Love And Romance
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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June 8th, 2016
Taking a wee stroll through my blog archives, I found this I posted, in a cloud of euphoria, on April 27, 2008…
True Friends A couple of very dear friends tried to do something for me over the weekend that I’ve tried to do a time or two for other friends, mostly straight, but which nobody has ever bothered to do for me before. I can’t go into detail now…maybe some day soon…but I’ve never felt so loved. And even though they didn’t quite manage to pull it off just the fact that they did it it made me feel more alive now, more connected with the life I have, and the things I’ve managed to accomplish for myself, then I have since I was in my twenties. Seriously. I’ve been a sleep walker for most of the last half of my life it seems. I feel somewhat awakened now. More…real.
Life is sweet.
It lasted until I finally realized they didn’t actually give a shit at all…which took six months because even in my fifties I still had a hard time really understanding how cruel people can be when it’s the easier path for them to take. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well…the Joker said it makes you Stranger, but then you find yourself wondering at the end of that movie if he didn’t carve that smile into his face himself because he knew at some point in his life he’d never wear a smile again otherwise.
You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell you that gay kids are still being thrown into ex-gay therapy against their will, or a gay guy will get the crap beaten out of him by a car full of drunken fratboys the night after some republican goes on a TV rant about Religious Freedom, or that tomorrow a preacher will tell his congregation that gays should be executed and someone in the pews will go shoot up a pride day parade the next day, nobody panics, because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one lonely old gay man just might find somebody to love, well then everyone loses their minds!
“Oh…and you know the thing about indifference Harvey? It’s Fair.
My sleep/waking pattern is all hosed up. I’m getting up way, Way too early these days, taking brief brutal naps when I come home from work…brutal in the sense that they don’t bring any rest at all…then doing nothing around the house for a bit or taking a walk maybe and then back to bed way, Way too early. I think I see the problem. It’s interesting how a pall of existential gloom can settle in and rust your innards away all the while telling you that its not even there.
It’s not like I have a clinical depression…it’s never been nearly that bad. I follow people, some famous, who are open about enduring that and from everything I’ve learned from them I’m not even close to being in that category. But the stresses of life can still take their toll all the same. It’s worse I think, on creative minds like mine, because our thoughts get so distracted by that creative need, the insistent muse, that we forget to look elsewhere in our lives, and see how miserable we’ve allowed ourselves to become, strangely enough without even being aware of it. But the physical body still pays the price.
I have an amazingly good life all things considering. I did Not expect to have the life I do now when I was younger. And when an important piece of spirit gets yanked out from under me intellectually I just shrug it off. I’m not even trying to be brave about it, I really believe in all logic and reason that by now it doesn’t matter. But it does. It always does. My mind ignores it. It really does. My body feels it nonetheless.
So I’m down here in the art room of Casa del Garrett working on the next episode of A Coming Out Story, so early in the morning because that’s when my out of whack sleep patterns are now insisting I get up, and I know that if I don’t get Something done in the art room now when I have reserves of concentration for sure I won’t when I get home from work, because by then my concentration reserves for the day will be completely exhausted. I’ve done some sketching I needed to do. Fine. Something’s been accomplished. The process moves forward a tad. That’ll do for now. I’ll go back upstairs in a bit and make some sandwiches for work and then take a serene early morning stroll into the office. I love these early morning walks. It’s a pure pleasure of city life I can walk from home to my job. I have some tasks waiting for me that I am already anticipating the pleasure of working on. I love my job. That’s a rare and extremely lucky thing to be able to say in this or any age. I’ll get things done at the office, play my part in moving JWST forward a tad, and take an early lovely walk home. I have a Good life. Then I’ll get home and all my energy will simply evaporate. That isn’t normal. Logically I know this. But I know also that I will just spin my wheels thinking about it. So I don’t.
Something is terribly wrong deep down inside. I know what it is. I’ve known for decades now. I just have no idea how to fix it. I tell myself I’ve finally become use to the idea that this is how it will always be. It’s a new mantra. But there is no stable point in the spiral into the night. You just keep going. Not even being aware most of the time, where it is that you’re going.
by Bruce |
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February 22nd, 2016
A Small Awakening After A Long Winter
Put my bird feeders back up over the weekend. After I’d finished I noticed I seemed more awake, more aware of…everything…than I had in a long time.
I’d stopped feeding a couple winters ago (counting this one) because the mess was getting more annoying than I wanted to deal with. Birds are messy eaters and the shells get tossed every friggin’ where. Plus the additional cost of stocking up on big sacks of seed before winter set it was more one year that I wanted to bear.
But there was more to it, and even back then I knew it in that just-barely-aware space where you put things you flinch away from looking at too closely. Somehow I’d just lost interest. It’s weird, but looking back on it now I think I know why. The front yard was Claudia’s hangout and when she died, counter intuitively, I lost interest in the bird feeders.
I think it was the feeders were something I enjoyed looking out at. Watching birds at the feeders is one of those little joys I’ve indulged ever since kidhood. I’d have them out on the apartment balconies everywhere mom and I lived. One of the big deals of having a house of my own was I could really indulge it if I had a nice yard and space to put up different kinds of feeders for different kinds of birds. Then it happened and afterward I didn’t much care about the front yard anymore. Or more specifically, looking out the front window.
It’s odd and interesting how emotions can seem to be about one thing when they’re really about something else. I had no noticeable aversion to looking out the front window at the front yard and the street. I did it often if only to check on the weather and my car from time to time. My house being an middle-group rowhouse doesn’t have side windows, so the front, which faces the south, is my main source of sunlight. So it always got its blinds opened first thing in the morning. Had there been something making me actually flinch away from the window I’d have noticed it and walked it back to the source. But it was only disinterest in feeding the birds starting that winter. That little joy didn’t matter much anymore for some reason. So I took the feeders down. And without the feeders I never bothered looking out that window much, except to check on the weather, and the car. It’s been years since it happened and I still sometimes get flashbacks of glancing out that window and seeing Claudia thrashing on the street, and knowing in that instant she’d been run over.
Last Friday while telecommuting I saw a chickadee hopping around on my Japanese maple looking for the feeders that used to be out there and I thought I should go dig out one of the small sunflower seed feeders. It was a chore because all the feeders were in a storage container under the backyard deck and the outside door to it was still blocked by the huge pile of snow I’d shovelled off the deck. I could get to it from the basement door but I just knew it would be covered in funnel spider condos which I just didn’t want to get near without a lot of de-spider spray. Plus it was blocked off with workshop items like the table saw and ironically, the storage cans where I keep the wild bird seed.
But I got into it anyway and cleared out the spider encampment (I swear this spring I’m hiring an exterminator to de-spider the space under my deck) and worked my way to the container with the bird feeders in it. I ended up taking most of the stuff in it out. As I began setting things back up in the front yard something apparently awakened inside. I found myself trekking to the Wild Birds Unlimited out in Cockeysville and buying some new feeders and mounting poles, and some fresh suet cakes for the woodpeckers. And when I’d finished I looked at my front yard it seemed with fresh eyes, like as though for the past couple years I’d not really been seeing it right there in front of me.
Figured it might take me months to get my old customers back. They were all there by the end of that day.
by Bruce |
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January 22nd, 2016
To Whom It May Concern…
I guess the thing that really surprised me is I always thought you’d be the braver one. I never considered myself brave, just stubborn.
by Bruce |
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December 25th, 2015
I’m Missing A Christmas Card This Year…
Met my old lover in the grocery store The snow was falling Christmas Eve I stole behind her in the frozen foods And I touched her on the sleeve
She didn’t recognize the face at first But then her eyes flew open wide She went to hug me and she spilled her purse And we laughed until we cried
We took her groceries to the checkout stand The food was totaled up and bagged We stood there lost in our embarrassment As the conversation dragged
Went to have ourselves a drink or two But couldn’t find an open bar We bought a six-pack at the liquor store And we drank it in her car
We drank a toast to innocence We drank a toast to now And tried to reach beyond the emptiness But neither one knew how
She said she’d married her an architect Who kept her warm and safe and dry She would have liked to say she loved the man But she didn’t like to lie
I said the years had been a friend to her And that her eyes were still as blue But in those eyes I wasn’t sure if I Saw doubt or gratitude
She said she saw me in the record stores And that I must be doing well I said the audience was heavenly But the traveling was hell
We drank a toast to innocence We drank a toast to now And tried to reach beyond the emptiness But neither one knew how
We drank a toast to innocence We drank a toast to time Reliving in our eloquence Another ‘auld lang syne’
The beer was empty and our tongues were tired And running out of things to say She gave a kiss to me as I got out And I watched her drive away
Just for a moment I was back at school And felt that old familiar pain And as I turned to make my way back home The snow turned into rain
-Dan Fogelberg, “Same Old Lang Syne”
by Bruce |
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April 2nd, 2015
A Broken Heart Often Has A Cranky Shell Around It
The misery of a child is interesting to a mother, the misery of a young man is interesting to a young woman,
the misery of an old man is interesting to nobody. –Eric Hoffer
Eric Hoffer for the win again. I’m not cranky, just sad. Just very, very sad. And more alone in this life then anyone near me saying that Bruce has turned into a cranky old man could likely ever withstand.
You have no idea. When all you have left is a faint hope inside that however damaged you’ve become you still have some love within you to give to the world, if not to some specific someone, the last thing you need to hear is the people around you think you’ve become unpleasant and unapproachable. But I reckon even that was unavoidable. There is only so much you can do to mitigate the damage, and eventually it starts to show, and then of course it becomes a self inflicting ever growing wound.
I know where this ends. What I don’t know is how much further I have to go to get there. Reckon I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
by Bruce |
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Plan ‘B‘: Quit my job, sell the house and pay off all the bills, sell the car, sell as much of what’s in the house as I can and trash the rest, go find a low wage job somewhere that will just barely pay for a room in someone’s basement, and go back to the hopeless low income low expectations life I had before October 1991 and that programming job at Baltimore Gas & Electric, because at least that life wasn’t promising me happiness it could not deliver…
Beauty Is Only Heart Deep (To Whom It May Concern)…
This came across my Facebook stream just now…
What is doubly so dehumanizing about “people who look like that want people who look like that”: it not only denies the humanity of the person you are calling ugly, it is denying that humanity to the person you think is more beautiful than they are.
But of course, it depends doesn’t it, on what it is you think people “want”.
by Bruce |
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January 24th, 2015
No porn…porn is obvious and I don’t do obvious…just your basic male nude figure study, plus another in our series of beautiful longhaired guys that wear glasses reading books while naked.
I sketch on layout paper because it’s easier to draw and re-draw over and layer other scraps of layout paper over it and strongarm the lines around until I get them where I think they’re good. I have no college level or above formal training..am a self taught, hunt and peck kinda draftsman. So smudges and foundational pencil lines are all visible. These are just things I’ve been doodling at the drafting table this week…something to keep my mind from gnawing over Valentine’s Day coming soon. Not sure and don’t particularly care whether I’m assuaging grief or wallowing in it.
Maybe I’ll make one of these into a finished work someday. What I’d like to do is get my oil paints back out and start working in that medium again. But I have very little heart in anything I can do creatively this time of year. It hurts too much to look inside. I try to distract myself with simple little sketches but everything keeps coming back to that empty place inside and I have to step away from it.
Adorable little Winnie The Pooh plush toy I’ve had in the house ever since I moved here got placed into one of those donation bins for adoption, hopefully to go to some needy kid who will give it a lot of love.
It was something I’d bought as a gift for Keith over a decade ago. Keith was the closest thing I’d ever had to a boyfriend, but that turned out to be more in my mind and heart than in his. He had a fondness for the characters in the A. A. Milne stories and I’d bought him some little Disney statuettes before. There was one of Tigger teaching Eeyore how to smile he liked. Sixteen years ago I saw the stuffed bear in a Disney gift shop at White Marsh and I knew he’d like it. I brought it back home to give to him on his birthday later that year. Several days after I bought him Keith told me he while we were chatting on AOL Messenger that was seeing someone else he’d met on AOL Messenger, and that other guy was moving from New York to Hilton Head so they could live together.
So Pooh stayed on the top of one of my bookcases ever since, moving eventually from the apartment in Cockeysville to Casa del Garrett here in Baltimore, but never really ever doing much except sitting there waiting for someone to give him some love. Every time I looked up at him I thought I needed to let him go to someplace where he would be loved as he was meant to be, but somehow I couldn’t let him go. Until today. It takes me that long. I hope he finds a good home.
by Bruce |
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