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September 25th, 2022

Fear Of Dating, Fear Of Intimacy

For some reason so I’m told, Jeffrey Dahmer was trending on commercial social media, which prompted a repost of this powerful essay by Dan Savage from 2018…

You should go read it. This, among other things (that “worse was yet to come” he mentions), is a reason why so many of us had trouble dating, finding and holding on to love. Where most heterosexuals could have that usual coming of age experience in adolescence, and dating and going to the prom and that first wonderful life affirming sweet romance…

“Once upon a time, there was a girl I knew, who lived across the street. Brown hair, brown eyes. When she smiled, I smiled. When she cried, I cried. Every single thing that ever happened to me that mattered, in some way had to do with her. That day, Winnie and I promised each other that no matter what, that we’d always be together. It was a promise full of passion and truth and wisdom. It was the kind of promise that can only come from the hearts of the very young.” -Narrator, The Wonder Years

…what we came of age into was a world where reaching out to another might likely get you killed.

I’m almost ashamed to say that while I get how scared he was, reading this essay I’m also very envious of the adolescence he had. I’m sure he doesn’t think it was all that wonderful.  But he was out to himself at 14. He could be out to himself at 14. Terrifying as it probably was. When I was 14 Stonewall hadn’t happened yet and only one state, Illinois had repealed its sodomy law, and that almost by accident. I came of age in total ignorance of what was happening with me as my body developed and I started having sex dreams about other guys at school. It made no sense given what the pop culture told me about homosexuals. So I just never really looked at it, just shoved it into a back corner of my mind and didn’t think too deeply about it. I wasn’t out to myself until December of 1971 and I had just turned 18.

But what really makes me envious here is he had a bunch of gay friends he could talk to and socialize with. Oh dear god almighty how I wish I’d had that! That didn’t happen until I got connected with a gay BBS back in the mid 1980s and I was in my thirties. From my teens to my mid thirties I was completely isolated. And partly that was due to the fears Savage speaks of. But also, the world I was living in didn’t exactly offer gay guys any spaces to socialize, and maybe find a date, other than seedy bars I never felt completely at ease inside of.

I was looking for romance, not a hook-up. As I wrote previously…

…what I was always looking for was that nice boy…someone in a better world that I might have met at a church social or youth coffeehouse like The Lost and Found was. Someone I could take home to mom and she’d be pleased to meet them and invite them to stay for dinner. Someone I’d take to the prom. Someone I could make a life together with.

But I came of age in the late 60s/early 70s, and back then all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want their friends turning on them. They were terrified of getting those looks of disgust. And it’s all the negative crap we were dumped on back then that’s a big part of why…

But simply because I wasn’t looking for the casual hookup does not mean I wasn’t afraid, and constantly on the alert for trouble. So I’m not questioning his fears at all. I had many of the same ones, just a bit different only in the social context and my own life history. In 9th grade I had this horrible sex ed class taught by homophobic gym teachers who said that homosexuals were psychotic and usually killed their sex partners, and that most unsolved murders were committed by homosexuals. (I wished ever since that I’d had the presence of mind to ask if they’re unsolved how to you know they were committed by homosexuals?)

When I fell in love and came out to myself I brushed all that away as rubbish, but the overwhelming hatred and loathing of gay people I grew up with made me skittish for decades about expressing an interest in the random guys that caught my fancy, even in the gayborhood. How do you negotiate flirting in a world where you might get a baseball bat over the head for it? Guys that seemed to be flirting with me made me nervous because I never knew if they were serious or just waiting for me to come out to them so they could gay bash me. 

She said in a level voice yes, Jack was pumping up a flat on the truck out on a back road when the tire blew up. The bead was damaged somehow and the force of the explosion slammed the rim into his face, broke his nose and jaw and knocked him unconscious on his back. By the time someone came along he had drowned in his own blood.

No, he thought, they got him with the tire iron.

-Annie Proulx – Brokeback Mountain

They didn’t have to be serial killers. I’d be just as dead.

I was never pretty enough or brazen enough to attract the sort of predators that haunted Dan Savage’s adolescence, and I wasn’t out to myself for most of mine anyway. In my childhood I heard lots of news accounts of boys being abducted by strangers and so I had a more generalized fear of strange men approaching me and I would always flinch away if I got a look that made me uncomfortable. Back then I had no idea Why they wanted to kidnap boys (I am serious here), just that it was a thing to watch out for. That probably segued into my post out of the closet mindset in some way. So I never got over being nervous when some guy started flirting with me. Half of it was “Okay now what do I do?” and half if it was “Is this guy a gay basher…or worse?” Reading crime stories like the one about the Last Call murders didn’t do anything to help.

Yes, I was afraid too. But…oh dear god how envious I am that Savage had gay friends his own age he could hang out with. Dan I am so sorry you were afraid. I was too. We all were. And it cut into us so very deep. But you had something good back then too. Something life saving even.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 19th, 2022

Another Reason To Be Out

Everyone has their type. In retrospect what I was always looking for was that nice boy…someone in a better world that I might have met at a church social or youth coffeehouse like The Lost and Found was. Someone I could take home to mom and she’d be pleased to meet them and invite them to stay for dinner. Someone I’d take to the prom. Someone I could make a life together with.

But I came of age in the late 60s/early 70s, and back then all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want their friends turning on them. They were terrified of getting those looks of disgust. And it’s all the negative crap we were dumped on back then that’s a big part of why…

From A Coming Out Story – Intermission – What I Learned About Homosexuality. . . And Myself (Part 2)

 

So I struggled to find romance and for me at least it just didn’t work. But I’ve seen it work for others, so at least I know it could have. But it was a real long shot given the time I was a gay teenager, and I missed. 

Another reason I am out with it: So what happened to me doesn’t have to happen to other gay kids.

by Bruce | Link | React!


Why I Am Out

This came across my Facebook feed this morning…

Facebook user, JD Doyle kindly scanned its contents and posted on the LGBTQ Heritage/Memorial Project page with a link to a PDF of his scans Here, via the Houston LGBT History website. I browsed through some of it for a while, until it became too irritating to continue. As Doyle says, it is Not an amusing book.

A few days before our 50th class reunion, I had dinner with a classmate who had retired to Florida. He is class of ’73. I mentioned the 50th for ’72 and that I was on the reunion committee and so far the only one in my class willing to be out with it. He looked surprised. Our class size was comparatively small, but not so small there wouldn’t have been anyone else. You can’t possibly be the only one, he says to me. I told him either I’m the only one willing to be out with it, or (thinking of all the times I walked among the Names Project quilts) I’m the only one still alive.

But there was always crap like this book. Mind you, this is apparently published by a gay focused print house, supposedly for a gay audience. “ALL about the gay world! Promising much fun for Fruits, faggots, frumps and their friends – in short – nearly EVERYONE!”

“Pre-Liberation” as one commenter put it. Perhaps it’s what might be better understood as “Gaysploitation”. Someone said, Hey, the Gays will go for this! And so it went to print.

What you see in these pages was the world I came of age in. On TV and in the movies we were either dangerous psychopaths or we were pathetic faggots. When we didn’t get hate we got a rancid pity. It was why I spent my last grade school years in denial, even though I was crushing madly on a classmate. I kept thinking well that isn’t me, therefore I am not a homosexual. It’s something I’ve been documenting in A Coming Out Story.

I am certain it was crap like this that screwed up so many gay teenagers of my generation who still, so many years later, can’t bring themselves to live openly and proudly.

I joke often that I’m geek tribe gay, not fabulous peacock tribe. That I’m not stage I’m stage crew. The fact is we come in all shapes and sizes and colors of the rainbow. We are dazzling peacocks, we are socially awkward computer nerds, we are religious we are agnostics we are atheists, we are athletes we are Harry Homeowners tending our lawns, we are doctors, lawyers, clerks, homebodies. We Are.

And every time push abruptly comes to shove and I have to suddenly decide whether to be out with it or duck, it’s the pre-liberation stereotypes in this book that are tapping me on the shoulder. I know what my generation was taught to think of people like me. And so I dig in my heels one more time…

Yes I am. Whatever you might have been thinking that means, you probably need to think again.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 9th, 2022

Disney Pride

I took my morning walk here in Disney Springs. I wanted to check out the Disney stores here just to see if any Pride stuff was still being sold. I began to wonder if Disney wasn’t pulling back on that a bit after I looked in the pin traders store and didn’t see any rainbows.

I shouldn’t have worried…

There was a Pride Collection stand in the Disney Store, right where everyone could see it, and it had customers. I have a card with money on it from points I’ve accumulated and just now I used up a little over half of my Disney Money. 

That mug especially gets to me. This isn’t cheap marketing. I was here a month after the Pulse murders. I saw the shock in everyone’s faces here and in the surrounding community of Orlando. It changed the mindset here.

Yes we are a market. Disney leaves no money on the table. But what happened at Pulse woke everyone up. 49 dead, 53 wounded. I saw how shocked Orlando was. I saw the shock in the Disney cast members. Some, seeing my rainbow Mickey pin (which back then was the Peace Rainbow, not the Pride rainbow…but it was close enough) had stories they told me about friends and co-workers who were either there that night, or knew someone who was. Everyone seemed shell shocked by it. There’s woke for you. After that, the Pride merchandise began appearing. No more take our money and look the other way. Now we are embraced.

We see you Ron DeSantis. We see you MAGA. Our families see you too. And all our friends. We are embraced. We are family. We Belong. You will never change that.

I was strolling around the Disney Springs Marketplace Co-Op and saw they’re busy with celebrating the Walt Disney World 50th with all sorts of call backs to the 70s. It just brought it all back again…that time in my life. I’d forgotten until I started coming back here again how much Disney’s vision of the future had been wired into me back then.

I complain about the changes going on around here, and Chapek’s seemingly bottomless need to squeeze the guests. But tell you what…as long I can walk into the parks knowing I’m with (mostly) other Disney kids, and it’s still a small world after all, and there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day, I reckon I’ll keep coming back.

My inner Mouseketeer, geeky, socially awkward, gay, knows he belongs here. It’s a small world after all.

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 31st, 2022

Lyrics That Stab

Someone posted this to one of the “social media” things I still regrettably frequent.

Greatest ONE LINE in a song ever. Not verse, chorus or bridge. Just one line.

Here’s mine:

Today…I feel like pleasing you, more than before.

I am on the cusp of 69 and I remember vividly the moment I understood this song, more than before. It was a punch in the gut.

He was beautiful, and I was head over heels. But it was 1971.

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 19th, 2022

When The People Pictures Stopped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on When The People Pictures Stopped

August 12th, 2022

Walt Disney’s Conservatism – Not What The Kook Pews Think

I’m bellyaching about all the ways Chapek is trashing the Disney parks, and remark offhandedly that I’m basically still going for my birthday vacation in part to give the middle finger to DeSatan and all the batshit crazy Florida republicans. A friend remarks that it’s ironic since Walt Disney himself wasn’t very accepting. True enough. While he lived.

Walt Disney died in 1966. Stonewall would not happen for another three years. 

Walt while he lived was no friend of the gay community for sure. He fired Tommy Kirk after he found out Tommy was gay. And there’s a story that occasionally makes the rounds of the time animator Art Babbitt, who did the dancing mushrooms in Fantasia, told Walt he was taking piano lessons to better understand music and Walt snapped at him “What are you some kind of fag or something?” He was probably having a bad day that day. He was known for his temper. And…his cigarette habit.

But something people forget about Disney…yes he was a conservative man, he hated his unions, he was friends with Reagan, Linkletter, that conservative Hollywood gang…but conservatives back then were a much different from the lunatics we have today. And Walt was fairly typical of the breed. He had one foot in Main Street USA, but he had the other in Tomorrowland. He was a man of science, he believed in progress. E.P.C.O.T. was supposed to be his Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

In all of Disney’s educational nature films, in all of his science films, in his movies, I do not recall Any mention of God. There’s evolution. There’s science and physics. There’s “The American Way”. Yes, they’re all “Family” movies (There’s a story about how appalled he was when Annette started appearing on screen in a bikini in all those teen beach movies). Maybe I just missed a few God references, but that would be because they were never front and center. Science was. The American Way was. Family was. Yes Disney was a conservative, but he was also a man of science. Once upon a time that was unremarkable. And he believed in progress.

And because of that, I think he would, had he lived (which would take a Lot of pixie dust and magic since he’d be well over 100 now) he would have eventually accepted the science that’s been saying since the 1950s that there is nothing wrong with us. I do believe he would have eventually come to see gay people as part of the human family too. Which would be good, because there are much Much worse examples to be setting for gay kids than the ones Disney would.

They say Disney would be appalled at all the Pride merchandise you see now at his Parks. What I think is he’d be spitting nails to see a man like Donald Trump in his Hall Of The Presidents. He’d have closed it down first, and made it like his Lincoln one man show in Disneyland California. If Trump is ever dragged into court over his keeping and probably sharing this country’s nuclear secrets with other countries, we’ll see how they handle that in Florida.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Walt Disney’s Conservatism – Not What The Kook Pews Think

May 9th, 2022

Foxy Gay Hustler Posters That Weren’t…But Anyway…

Finding a copy of this poster in a flea market shop in Cambria, even though it’s only a smaller sized reproduction, just thrilled me to my bones a few moments ago. I have been wanting a copy of this since I was a young guy.

The first time I laid eyes on it, in the window of a head shop in College Park sometime in the mid 70s, I thought the model was the sexyist long haired guy I’d ever seen. I was working for a department store driving returns for repair to various shops around Washington, and every time I passed by that head shop I made a mental note to go in there sometime when I was off the clock, and ask if the poster was for sale.

Alas, I put it off too long. One day I drove past and the shop was closed down, the insides emptied and the poster gone. I never got a good enough look at it to see what band it was for. The psychedelic lettering was impossible for me to read sitting in my delivery truck at a stop light a half block away. But the image of that sexy naked long haired guy was forever burned into my young gay adult brain.

Some years later I chanced upon a book, a very large trade paperback…I’m not at home now so I can’t be sure, but I think it was “The Art of Rock”, that had in its pages a history of rock posters, one reprint to a page along with commentary. And there it was…The James Cotton Band at the Grand Ballroom in Detroit. The book’s author seemed to think the poster began the decline of the art of the poster, as it represented, in his words, a gay hustler motif. But by then I was used to that sort of disrespect, even from the Summer of Love alumni.

So I kept searching. And searching. Eventually along comes the Internet. And search engines. Finally I see a reproduction of the poster I can download and add to my graphics library. And this is where I find out the model in the poster was…Vanessa Redgrave.

Oh.

Decades later I would joke about it in the second episode of A Coming Out Story

I have this theory that our libidoes glom onto whatever fashions and styles were in vogue when we came of age and our hormones began to percolate. Mine happened in a time of long hair and low rise blue jeans. But my gay libido never strayed into hunk territory, and there’s probably a whole ‘nother post I should do about that, and all the disrespect gay men who love lithe and handsome and very very cute males get from other gay males who are all about hunk.

So now I know my foxy long haired gay hustler is actually a foxy long haired woman. Fine. I still wanted that damn poster. A lifetime of growing up in a culture that at best wouldn’t acknowledge the existence of such as me, if not wipe us out of existence altogether, gave me lots of practise in mental gender switching…usually with flipping the pronouns in the lyrics to songs I heard on the radio, but occasionally in advertising, where I would mentally redraw some of the fashion models I saw as guys, a skillset that would get a lot of work in later years as I pursued my art…


The original model for this was a young women I saw in a google image search…

 

..which made it easy for me to look at that James Cotton Band poster and still see a sexy long haired guy. Let’s hear it for gay hustler motif!

There’s a shop just down Falls Road from my house where classic rock posters from a bygone era are auctioned off. Once I asked the guy running it about this one. Oh…the James Cotton Vanessa Redgrave one….yes…that one is very popular…if you can find one in good condition it’ll go for about six grand now…

Oh.

This afternoon I took a long leisurely drive up the California coast to a cute little coastal town named Cambria. I wanted to wander around the shops for a bit, and wandered into one with some poster reproductions in the window. I have this stubborn streak that is in constant conflict with my inner pessimism. In the back were racks like the old LP racks with what looked like hundreds of reproductions of various posters all neatly sleeved like classic comic books for sale. I reckoned it might take me a half hour to flip through them all with no guarantee of success. But I got down to it.

Flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… oh, a Rick Griffin classic… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… another Griffin… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… Doctor Strangelove… so there are 60s movie posters in here too… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… I wonder if there are any Victor Moscoso posters in here… flip… flip… flip… Failsafe… I think I’d rather have the Doctor Strangelove one…flip… flip… flip… Jefferson Airplane… flip… flip… flip… flip… if I see that Hendrix poster Bob had over the fireplace I’m buying it… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… THERE IT IS!!!!!!

Finally. Along with that one I bought a couple Rick Griffin ones and the Doctor Strangelove one. They’ll go up in my art room…but the foxy gay hustler that wasn’t, but still is whenever I look at it, gets pride of place right above my drafting table.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Foxy Gay Hustler Posters That Weren’t…But Anyway…

April 16th, 2022

Tease

Facebook sends me memories…

April 2012…about when I began to suspect that the guy I’d put up on a pedestal back when we were both teenagers wasn’t all that after all. And also, that everything is crap.

But it was all so Wonderful back in the day…as the next episode of A Coming Out Story will show…if only I can drag it out of me. As I say in the story notes, I started that comic strip story many years ago, as a way of trying to make sense of what happened to me back then. And I’m Still trying to make sense of it…

So it goes…as the Tralfamadorians would say…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Tease

February 16th, 2022

Stepping From One Life Into Another

Step by step…

Got my first Social Security payment today, and it’s a tad better than expected because of the cost of living adjustment they made in January.

I applied back in September, two years after my official full retirement year, so the payment is bigger. The plan was to wait it out until 70 when you have to take it. My work isn’t physically strenuous and I love my job so I figured that would be a piece of cake. The heart attack two years ago (a month after I’d reached my full Social Security age) convinced me otherwise, and I adjusted the plan to retiring after James Webb launch. I’m getting Social Security at the same time I’m still drawing a paycheck because they kept moving the launch date back.

I was afraid some bureaucratic screw up would happen and I’d not see a payment today and have to wade through the bureaucracy to get it fixed. I’m still struggling to get Medicare plan B going. But I checked just now and there it is.

They say Social Security should not be more than a small part of your retirement income, but I did not have the wherewithal to save for retirement until late in life. That factoid you may have heard about gay men having so much discretionary income…? It’s total bullshit! A lifestyle magazine did a survey and got that result which they then pitched to advertisers. But all it meant is having lots of money in the 1990s made it easier for some gay guys to be out of the closet. Most of us had to struggle and it was even worse for lesbians. I had first hand experience with that doing volunteer work for a local gay BBS run by a non-profit, those times of year when we sent out letters asking for donations. I have a string of jobs in my past I got fired or laid off of the instant they figured out what a lavender boy I am…usually because I refused to make up stories about girlfriends I didn’t have.

Something I’ve said often enough is that a militant homosexual is a homosexual who doesn’t think there is anything wrong with being a homosexual, and a militant homosexual activist is a homosexual who acts like there isn’t anything wrong with being a homosexual. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to march in Pride Day parades, you don’t have to do Gay Days every year at Walt Disney World, you don’t have to festoon your car with Pride decals. All it takes is you are fine with being gay, and unwilling to hide that fact whenever those unplanned, unexpected out of the closet moments suddenly tap you on the shoulder. Eventually life teaches you that being truthful is better in the long run, even if it stings at the moment. You get one chance in this life to keep your good name, and the trust of your neighbors. But for us gay folk, maintaining that is a constant struggle against the pressure from every direction to duck the question, to hide. to lie, to put on a mask for the comfort of others, and never mind that it will slowly strangle the person you could have been. 

They tell us to just not “flaunt it” and we’ll be fine, but that’s a lie. You had to bury yourself deep and fake it and lie and lie and lie and lie about every part of your life and just let it corrode your soul and and drive you deeper into self hatred. I refused. I’d fallen in love when I was 17 and it made me stubborn. I saw what the closet did, And Still Does, to so many, and apart from knowing that I had to be careful (I read stories about gay bashings nearly every week, even these days) I wasn’t going there, I was not going to act like I thought there was anything wrong with me when I damn well knew there wasn’t. All I had to do was remember how seeing him smile made me feel back when we were teenagers, and the world was new.

But I was never of the fabulous peacock tribe. I was, and to some degree still am, a kind of scrawny geeky kind of guy, without very much of a fashion sense, and thus I made it past a lot of job interviews, only to later be shown the door for being insufficiently low on the Kinsey scale. I never had a boyfriend, was always single, and thus had no love life to brag about like everyone else in the office. Lots of people mistook that for my being discrete but if challenged on it I would dig in my heels and tell the truth. Yes I am…what of it? And that’s what usually got me fired. I never really saw myself as being brave or having courage, just stubborn. 

So I didn’t have much to save for retirement, until I got the job I have now, with an employer that actually took pains to make me feel safe and valued there, and matched ten percent of my salary and put it right into a 403b (they’re for non-profits). Twenty-two years of that, plus my own contributions now that I had a good income for it, gave me enough of a nest egg that I can retire comfortably, if not fabulously. But Social Security is going to have to be a big part of that, which is why I waited to apply. That, and buying my little Baltimore rowhouse when I did, makes it possible. Oh…and the car is paid for. In ten years so is the house.

I’ll do okay. But for the life of me I just don’t get why so many old people vote republican. They’ve been trying to kill Social Security since FDR created it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Stepping From One Life Into Another

December 20th, 2021

Yes, It Was Like That

Facebook has this “Memories” feature that will show you all your posts on this day, all the way back to when you first signed on. So today I got all the posts I ever made on December 20. Among them are my posts from ten years ago about buying a Mercedes diesel ‘E’ class sedan. So my car is now 10 years old. It had six miles on the odometer when I took delivery on it, I’ve put almost 160k on it since, and it’s still a champ. A Mercedes diesel is a much better road trip car than I imagined it would be. It’s the car I want to drive to the end of the road with.

A few more years back on this date…was this…from a better time after my reunion with a certain someone…

It was a weapon that served me well for about another few years. These Facebook memories can stab you right in the heart sometimes. But they’re good for inoculating you against gaslighting. He was signing his emails to me ‘T’.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Yes, It Was Like That

November 3rd, 2021

1971

From a memories group I follow…

Ah yes…1971…a year to remember. Even more so than the following year when I graduated.

In 1971 Canon of Japan began making the Canon F-1. Up to then it was the Nikon F that was the iconic pro 35mm SLR camera. But it was a late 1950s design that was only by virtue of the camera body’s bombproof build quality and the ability to stay current with new attachments, like a Kirby vacuum, that enable it to stay on top. I was dissatisfied, too much of it seemed to be retrofitted and not organic to its design. Nowadays I’d call it a kludge camera, but I have more respect for it because it really was (apart from the photomic metering prisms) a workhorse, and I even own one myself now. When I saw the first ads for the Canon F-1 in the photography magazines they hit me like a lightning bolt. Everything about it was state of the art and completely organic to its design. And it was a beautiful camera. I knew instantly, that was My Camera. But it was expensive, and hard to find in the states for a long long time. That summer break I worked my first W2 job in the kitchen of a fast food joint making a tad over that minimum wage. That, plus selling my Miranda Sensorex allowed me to buy an F-1 in time for my senior year of high school.

 

 

When I got it home and unboxed it and held it in my hands for the first time I knew I had My Camera. I still have it.  

In 1971 my cartoons would see print for the first time in the student newspaper. Later I would also become its photographer. For the first time in my life my artistic talents were being appreciated and nurtured (my first grade teacher wrote in my school record that I took “excessive interest in personal art projects”). The bullying and low expectations of my early childhood began to slough away. I began to really believe in myself. It was different from believing that I believed in myself. I could see a future for a kid like me. Maybe.

The summer of 1971 was when I got my driver’s license. Mom would let me drive her car, a basic 1968 Plymouth Valiant, and I began my love affair with the open road. But another love affair was percolating in my teenage hormones.

The year would end with me finally coming out to myself December 15. First love. It was wonderful, I was completely twitterpated. It changed everything.

And couldn’t tell anyone. 1971 was not the time for a gay teenager to be out about it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on 1971

October 18th, 2021

Sie…du…dich…dir…I Have No Idea Which You It Is…

Maybe instead of blaming the cultural homophobia he grew up in, I should consider the language he was born to…

Also…

 

Communication between us was probably doomed from the start.

Now if he was reading this, which I know he isn’t because he told me straight up once that he never reads my blog or looks at my cartoons, he’d probably be getting all ticked off now. For as big a tease as he is he has a really thin skin and hated being teased back. And speaking of language barriers…I think it was sometime during one of my 2014 visits I began to see with clarity that we are just not very compatible personalities.

I was struggling with basic beginner level German and bought a t-shirt at the Epcot Germany gift shop that said “Ich Bin”, which in English is “I am”.  Now, I’m the kid who grew up under the icy cold glare of a bitter Baptist grandmother who despised my dad (and his entire family I later learned) with a venomous passion, and there I was bearing his face and handy for taking it out on because he was clear on the other side of the country and I was right there in arm’s reach. So by the time I started my walk into puberty and had that moment of realization that I’m gay, I already knew there would be people in my life who would hate my guts over something I had no choice about and no control over. So that Ich Bin t-shirt tickled a part of me that’s fiercely defensive of my own unique human identity. I Am. But it did it in a kinda fun way. Or so I thought. I am. No, not German. Not my dad. Not your favorite homosexual stereotype. I am Bruce Garrett. Deal with it. Ich Bin.

And…he could not. I wore the shirt into his restaurant and when we met up I pointed to it and said “Ich Bin…I am”, because I was proud to show him that I knew at least two German words and could put them together. German grammar would later kick me in the teeth and I gave it up, but that was to come later.

He looked at me scornfully, like I was somehow making fun of him, and said, “And what’s funny is you trying to teach me German.”

I must have looked at him like he was a total stranger I’d just run into who happened to look like the guy I’d crushed on madly in high school and it was confusing me. What the fuck man…are you Serious? Did you really think that’s what I was doing? 

Wow…where the hell did That come from? You’re not really the person I thought you were…

Most people experience that moment with their first teenage crush back when they’re teenagers, not when they’re in their 60s. You have a good cry over it, take his picture out of your class notebook, and move on. But while my generation was allowed to see the promise land, most of us could not walk into it. We will always live in a time before Stonewall. So geht es… Looking back on it, and the torrent of abuse we all got thrown at us from every direction, I’m surprised any of us found their other half. No…it wasn’t a language barrier. We were just a couple of gay teens who, in a better world, would have figured it out, gone our separate ways and kept looking. But that was not the world we came of age in.

I still have that t-shirt. And I still wear it proudly.

What I am is what I am
You’re what you are or what?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sie…du…dich…dir…I Have No Idea Which You It Is…

October 15th, 2021

I’m Not High Maintenance, You’re High Maintenance…

I am almost tempted today to do a chart, something like that Good/Evil Lawful/Chaotic chart you see sometimes filled out with various characters from movies and comics. It’s regarding a cynical trope I’ve heard, probably we’ve all heard, a bazillion times about how beauty usually comes with high maintenance. So my chart would have the rows from Chill to High Maintenance, and the columns from Beautiful to Plain. It could be hours of cheap fun filling it out. But on reflection, cynics notwithstanding, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and high maintenance is probably just a matter of mismatched expectations.

I know this about beauty because my ideal of male beauty isn’t that of most of my fellow American gay males, who get all hot and bothered over something I wouldn’t even notice. What gets my heart beating is usually disrespected as pretty, and along with that, stereotyped as weak and vain and probably conniving. But that stereotype I’m convinced, is as much about straight male homophobia as it is about gay male sour grapes.

I’ve witnessed all three of my major life crushes get old, and they’re all still beautiful in my opinion, but only one of them is someone I’d classify as high maintenance, and that in retrospect I think is a good example of that also being in the eye of the beholder.

A German chat BBS I tuned into once had a “You Know You’re German When” thread and one of the entries was “Spontaneity is at two weeks notice.” Tell me about it. It’s a German stereotype that they’re all about order and process and being on time but it’s really they’re terrified of chaos and I’m somewhere in the chaotic good section of those charts. So when I crushed massively on a German guy it was probably doomed from the start, even if we had been living in a better world. Expectations. Decades later we reconnected and almost right away, with all that life experience under my belt, I saw it was not going to be easy just managing a long distance friendship. He was probably never late for work a day in his life, and the invention of flextime was a godsend for me. His idea of a good vacation was a trip to a ski resort and mine is jump in the car and find some new roads to drive and see what’s there. Detailed plans quickly make me feel confined and suffocated, and they probably make him feel safe and secure. But I don’t think either one of us were high maintenance. Just tragically out of phase. Lawful Good does not match well with Chaotic Good, even though both are Good.

He called me “a piece of work” once, and a drama queen another time. Well I’ve met real drama queens, people who could summon a spectacle of Wagnerian scale with a mere raised eyebrow. You could hear the thunder in Valhalla whenever they walked into a room and frowned. I am not worthy. But I guess what he was trying to tell me with all that was I was stressing him out just being me, and never mind the elephant in the room with us. But I can’t not be me. I’ve seen what happens to people like this, creatives with, as David Gerrold once said, minds like a web browser with a thousand tabs opened all at once, who try to stifle themselves in exchange for acceptance. Often they end up dead. Best I can do is try to manage it, and not take it to heart when I start getting those blank stares. A little sympathy every now and then would be helpful. 

I am not beautiful…so I’ve been told…and not very chill either. Unless I’ve got a drink in my hands. But that’s okay. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so as it turns out is chill. What matters I think, is how well matched you are. I’ve crossed paths with couples, gay and straight, both of whom were so high maintenance you’d think they’d be at each other’s throats all the time. But they were on the same page and in phase with each other and they got along. It was everyone else they drove nuts.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I’m Not High Maintenance, You’re High Maintenance…

September 5th, 2021

Sacred Ground. Well…Kinda Sorta…

 

I was hoping someone on one of the memories pages would post a shot of this particular Radio Shack before it became a Radio Shack, because it has many fond memories for me.  Apparently it was a small grocery store, with an even smaller gas station next to it. They said this shot was probably taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s. If so, then if you looked across the street (which was named “East Montgomery Avenue until the late 1960s when it was renamed Rockville Pike) from there you would have seen a largish grassy field airport, instead of a shopping center.

Here’s what it looked like back in my kidhood time…

 

 

It was one of my go-to places for parts, back when Radio Shack was a parts store (as in capacitors, resistors, diodes…that stuff things used to be made out of before everything became integrated circuits) as well as a place to get stereo equipment and…well…radios.

It was also where I sat down in a daze next to the curb on a day in December 1971 (the 15th to be exact), staring at the sunset over Congressional Plaza across the street, and realized I was in love…and…well…yeah….gay.

Now I have a reference photo for that episode of A Coming Out Story.

You can almost see what looks alley on the left of the building. Here’s another old photo where you can see it better…

 

 

 

That was the beginnings of what would become Fishers Lane. Once upon a time you could walk it from the apartments I lived in, across the railroad tracks, and to the Shack or Congressional. Before mom moved us to the apartments back there, a railroad crossing existed that allowed cars to cross the tracks and proceed up Fishers Lane. That crossing was removed before we lived there, but you could still walk across the tracks. It was my direct route, either to the Shack or to the Plaza, depending on what I was looking for. On the night of December 15, 1971 I walked across them in a happy drunk on a teenage crush daze, all the way to the Pike where I sat next to a curb and watched the sunset. It’s all gone now. I eventually reconnected with the guy I was crushing on back then, only to discover we really aren’t very compatible. So that’s gone too. But I still have the memories. Unlike a lot of gay kids of my generation, I had it pretty good by comparison. I fell in love. It was wonderful. I was twitterpated. It saved my life. Because after that I just could not believe there was anything wrong with me.

When they built the Metro red line it blocked off pedestrian traffic across the railroad tracks. Eventually that entire corner including the Radio Shack and the Penn-Jersey next to it (where I used to get my auto parts) was bulldozed and turned into more strip shopping (haha including a Hooters), and now it’s been bulldozed again. Rockville does that to itself. Some days I wish I could too. But that’s just old man regrets. No matter how painful it ends up being, you can’t help but know that love saved you, made you a better stronger person in some deep down way. I wouldn’t erase any of it. Not even what he did to me in March 2016.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sacred Ground. Well…Kinda Sorta…

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


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