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February 16th, 2020

A Coming Out Story…Intermission 2…(continued)

Continuing with the Intermission, wherein I’ve sought answers about my sexual orientation in the bookstore, and purchased Doctor Pompous J. Fraudquack’s The TRUTH About Homosexuality…and I begin to read…

Intermission – What I Learned About Homosexuality. . . And Myself (Part 2)

I’m going to interleave this little story arc with the one I’m currently presenting, so if it gets a tad confusing blame my poorly developed storytelling skills. But this is where it’s all been building to. The subtitle of the cartoon is after all, The first person you come out to, is yourself. For some gay kids that isn’t easy, and it especially was not back in 1971.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story…Intermission 2…(continued)

February 8th, 2020

Here Comes Valentine’s Day Again

This is for all the Valentine’s Days I missed out on. Because it’s hard to date when you’re growing up in a world that throws a torrent of abuse at people like you. Because all the nice boys I was attracted to were too terrified to be out, let alone proud. Because righteous people needed our hopes and dreams for their stepping stones to heaven. And because “people who look like that want people who look like that.”

My entire purpose in doing A Coming Out Story is it’s a message in a bottle to whom it may concern, that gay kids need a break. Let them have that magical first crush. Let them have their prom nights. Be the one who tells them “you’re alright kid.”

—-
“No, Mama, I wasn’t “recruited.” No seasoned homosexual ever served as my mentor. But you know what? I wish someone had. I wish someone older than me and wiser than the people in Orlando had taken me aside and said, “You’re all right, kid. You can grow up to be a doctor or a teacher just like anyone else. You’re not crazy or sick or evil. You can succeed and be happy and find peace with friends — all kinds of friends — who don’t give a damn who you go to bed with. Most of all, though, you can love and be loved, without hating yourself for it.”

“But no one ever said that to me, Mama. I had to find it out on my own, with the help of the city that has become my home. I know this may be hard for you to believe, but San Francisco is full of men and women, both straight and gay, who don’t consider sexuality in measuring the worth of another human being.

“These aren’t radicals or weirdos, Mama. They are shop clerks and bankers and little old ladies and people who nod and smile to you when you meet them on the bus. Their attitude is neither patronizing nor pitying. And their message is so simple: Yes, you are a person. Yes, I like you. Yes, it’s all right for you to like me, too…”

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Here Comes Valentine’s Day Again

February 5th, 2020

A Coming Out Story – Episode 29. . .

In which our hero discovers zipper anxiety…

A Coming Out Story…Episode 29 “Are You Serious?”

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story – Episode 29. . .

February 3rd, 2020

A Coming Out Story…Please Stand By…

A Coming Out Story, episode 29, is…er…coming out slowly. So I’ve been putting up the strips as I’ve finished them, if you want to take a pre-release peak. This is why I’ve been a bit lax in posted to the blog here. I’ve been spending all my free time in the art room.

I have the last two panels up now, but they’re unfinished as yet. As I add details and such I’ll update them. When it’s all finished I’ll post a link, but anyone who’s been following this story already knows where to go.

I don’t know if I’ll continue doing this posting the unfinished strips as I go along. This particular episode is where the story takes an important turn, and soon the kid I once was will have to deal with a wee bit of self discovery…or more specifically the end of denial. After the heart attack last October I’m feeling some pressure to get this thing finished while I still have time to finish it. And there is still a lot of it left to go. This one has been so time consuming. I’m gonna try to make the episodes a bit smaller in size from now on. This one I could have easily split into two separate ones.

The last two strips in episode 29 involve…boots. 60s, early 70s boots guys wore, with a zipper down the side for getting in and out of them. The ones in question were black leather, and before I started work on this episode I had an idea of how to do them in the monochrome/cross hatching technique I’ve been using throughout the series, but I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Getting a three dimensional lighting effect off a material that’s dark and unreflective to begin with isn’t something I was sure I could do.

This is where my utter lack of formal training really bites me. But I’ve been working with this stuff for decades now, and I had a hunch about how to go about representing it. Plus, and this was a big help, I had a photograph of the incident in question to work from for reference. So I could see what the end result was that I had to get to, I just wasn’t sure I knew how to get there. But I just now gave it a shot and I’m really happy with the outcome. Looks better than I’d hoped. This is how untrained hunt and peck artists get their self respect points.

I’m done with Photoshop and anything basically to do with Adobe. I paid full price for a Windows copy of Photoshop so I could run it on my Windows laptop if my art room Mac crapped out on me in the middle of something I was working on. Some months ago Adobe bricked my copy on the basis that I’d bought a bulk license copy from the reseller and that license had expired…several months before I bought the copy. This despite the fact that Adobe went ahead and activated my copy anyway, and let me keep on using it for two more years. So one morning I start Photoshop and instead if getting my desktop I got a HUGE popup telling me my copy was invalid and demanding I fix the problem. And of course the fix would have been to start renting the product instead of buying a new perpetual license since they don’t sell those anymore. Now it’s all rental software. And I am not the only one by far who isn’t taking that bait. But that’s obviously why they bricked my copy.  It wasn’t a problem when I activated it, and I’ve spent thousands over the years on Adobe software and before now considered myself a loyal customer. But their software rental policy isn’t working out very well for them, judging by the static they’re constantly getting on the social media forums, so they started looking for excuses to turn off anyone’s copies they could, to try and force those of us who were standing pat on CS6, the last perpetual license they sold, to become renters. 

When I called support and complained that I’d paid full price for that copy the corporate droid at the other end told me to feel sorry for all the money Adobe has lost to piracy. At some point I need to make a Sorry For Your Loss sympathy card to send to Adobe for all the money they’ve lost to artists who’ve gone elsewhere due to their software rental scheme. I’ll make it with GIMP.

The current version of GIMP is working out very nicely for my online artwork. In some ways it’s even better than Photoshop. At some point I need to find alternatives to Lightroom. mark my words, sooner or later they will turn off everyone’s perpetual licensed copies because they can. Somewhere buried in all those license agreements you have to agree to, is a clause allowing Adobe to unilaterally change the terms of the agreement whenever they want. When you buy software that can be turned off remotely whenever the maker wants you have bought nothing.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story…Please Stand By…

December 5th, 2019

The Other Side Of The Door Is A Place Called Freedom

“It felt like a dirty little secret, it felt like I had chains wrapped around me, I couldn’t be who I was, I felt alone and trapped. Just telling one person made me feel so much better, just that one person took a weight off my shoulder. I told Sophie my best friend first as I knew she’d be really accepting of it. She’s been so supportive and there for me. Now that everyone knows, I have nothing to hide, those chains that I felt wrapped around me are gone and I can carry on with my life as normal and be happy. I felt like there was something wrong with me, I didn’t know other people out there felt that way, I felt so alone, so locked away and couldn’t say anything. Tell one person. Tell your story, how you feel. Everything is all pretty new so I don’t see any point in putting a label on it – gay, bi, straight, any of those kind of labels. All that I feel happy about at the moment is that I’m dating a guy and couldn’t be happier, it shouldn’t matter who I’m dating and I hope people can be happy for me.”

-British Olympic diver Tom Daley.

What makes me sad reading this: it was 2013 when he told the world this during an interview. I could see reading this as a message in a bottle from someone back in 1971 when I came out to myself. But…2013. Why was this still happening to young people in love in 2013?
 
Why is it still happening? To any of us in love?
 
 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Other Side Of The Door Is A Place Called Freedom

November 27th, 2019

Howard Cruse Has Passed The Torch…Pick It Up…Carry On…

Last September I posted a link to the most recent episode of A Coming Out Story, that I’d managed to get out while vacationing at Walt Disney World. It’s part of a story arc I’m interleaving with the point in the story where I finally, Finally, come out to myself. The last frame has a shout-out to Howard Cruse in it…something I’d remembered from a one off cartoon he did for The Village Voice titled “Sometimes I get so mad…” It’s about all the static gay folk get from all directions in American culture and how that makes you blow your stack from time to time. You just want to live your life and people who don’t know you from Adam feel free to harass you and it takes its toll. At the end of it is a young Howard, sensing his emerging sexuality, trying desperately to find some facts about homosexuality, nervously looking through the pages of a paperback titled “A Pocket Guide To Loathsome Diseases” by one Doctor Pompous J. Fraudquack, and thinking maybe he’d finally get some facts there.

I knew the feeling all too well, even though I was nine years younger and in 1971 coming out to myself in a theoretically post Stonewall world. It would be decades before the effects of Stonewall and the first ever Pride march a year later would make themselves felt much beyond the confines of the big urban gay zones. For years after I came out to myself, everything I knew about homosexuality and what it was to be homosexual were things I’d been taught by the heterosexual majority. A lot of it was hostile and damaging to a gay teen’s self image. It wouldn’t be until the advent of the personal computer and those first amature computer bulletin boards that we didn’t have to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes anymore and liberation came to the suburbs and the rural zones.

The main theme of A Coming Out Story isn’t so much about what happened to me back then, or the guy I was crushing on at the time, and what happened to us both, but the context in which it happened. I’m trying to tell it in a humorous way, because looking back on it there is a lot there that I can laugh about, thankfully, with an older man’s perspective. But it wasn’t funny then while it was happening to me, and if I’m trying to say anything with this story it’s that the world needs to give sexual minority kids a break. It’s difficult enough at that age to navigate your way through the dating thing with all those emerging hormones percolating through your body. Being the outliers in that dance is harder still. Beating up on the gay kids, damaging their ability to love and accept love from another, only serves the hate filled worst among us…all the little Dr. Fraudquacks who taught us to hate ourselves, or at minimum, distrust our hearts, believe ourselves to be damaged goods, unworthy, never to be loved. It snowballs, all the love that could have been given, and now will never be, on and on and on. And so the world gets smaller, and angrier, and darker. That is what the Dr. Fraudquacks are doing to all of us.

I posted a link to the episode when I finished it and got it out on my website. Then in a comment, I gave Howard a shout-out, as to say Thank You…I remember this little one off you did and it spoke to me and I just want you to know you made a difference. Over the years I’d told him this often. But you can’t thank people like him enough. Trying to make a living at art is a hard, hard path. Doubly so if you dare to be an out and proud gay cartoonist. He never got the commercial success and respect he deserved and I’m convinced that was why, because as a storyteller and draftsman he had very few peers. Seriously…look at his lines. They’re perfect. Every one. Compare his draftsmanship to Any commercial cartoonist you like. The polish he put into everything he did, no matter how small or trivial, is intense.

He was at the top of the art form. And as a storyteller he was among the best. There’s his magnum opus, Stuck Rubber Baby, of course. But look at some of the amazing work he did in Gay Comix. Billy Goes Out for instance. At its surface it’s the story of a young gay man hitting the backrooms for some quick anonymous sex. But look deeper and there’s a heartbreaking story of love found, and lost to hate, and the struggle to go on with life, somehow, after the worst has happened. There’s one panel in it that is I think quintessential Howard Cruse in its surreality while looking life’s bad moments right in the eye and not flinching. Earlier on in the story we’ve seen one of Billy’s older relatives instructing him to keep the gay thing in the closet for the sake of his career, and in another panel telling him off handedly that homosexual love was just mutual masturbation. Billy explodes on him while his boyfriend Brad tries to calm him down. Who are You to tell us how we feel!  Then toward the end of the story we find ourselves looking down on that older relative’s grave site from above, the coffin in the ground being shovelled over by a graveyard worker. But the coffin is open and the relative is looking back up at us as his grave is being filled in, saying that his married life was horrible and he hated every moment of it but at least he has someone to cry over his grave. And, one supposes, he knows Billy won’t. Because homosexual love is just mutual masturbation, and his marriage however much he hated it, was more real than Billy’s love for Brad. The scene creeps you out. Howard gave the chillingly heartless mindset of the bigot its perfect representation in that one single amazingly and meticulously drawn panel.  

So when I posted a link to my newest ACOS episode I waved at Howard, because his example is a big part of why I keep working on it. And as he always did, because he had a big heart, he waved back, and encouraged me to keep at it, that I was making a difference too, just by putting my story out there. You get encouragement from one of your heroes and it really lifts you up.

And now I am more determined than ever. I’m going to miss him. But looking through the tributes he’s getting from the community…cartoonists, activists, family and friends…it does my heart good to know he Was successful at the most important thing of all. By coming out and telling his stories, he made a difference, a real substantial difference, in people’s lives. He was loved. He touched so many lives. And he showed us that we could make a difference too…all of us…whether by art or activism or however…by being our authentic selves, and telling our stories. That is how you defeat hate.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Howard Cruse Has Passed The Torch…Pick It Up…Carry On…

October 30th, 2019

Throwback Thursday Only Wednesday

Facebook tossed this memory back at me earlier today…

This is the winter of 1971. I’m 17. The artist at work. 

I love this one, unruly hair, oversized canvas jacket that I thought was oh so stylish, and mismatched shirt collar though it is. It was taken by a friend with my camera for possible inclusion into the yearbook. In my senior year I was staff cartoonist for the student newspaper (The Advocate…really) and was also made staff photographer after the previous one had a tiff with the editors and quit. What I like about this shot is my friend actually managed a snap when, for an instant, I got into the drawing I was working on and was actually concentrating on it there for a moment. It’s not often I get to see my concentration face.

I’m posing at one of the art room desks, not pretending to draw but actually drawing one of my newspaper cartoons. Even though the shot had to be posed I insisted I would be working on something for real, not faking it. That has always been my photographic style. In this shot you can’t see my hand with the pen in it, but that’s the drawing on the board and paper in front of me. The tackle box also in front of me is typical. The artist’s tool boxes they sold in art stores were Expensive and I noticed they looked a lot like the tackle boxes they sold in the sporting goods section of most department stores, which were a lot cheaper. To this day I have a tackle box full of drawing stuff on my drafting table.

And this by the way is why to this day I draw on a horizontal surface and not with the drafting table top tilted at an angle like I see a lot of other artists do. All my grade school art rooms had tables like these and I just got used to drawing that way. And see the board I have the paper on. I still cut Masonite boards to use for drawing and tape the paper on them. Then I have the paper on a nice smooth solid surface I can turn this way and that while I’m working on it and even tilt if I really need to.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Throwback Thursday Only Wednesday

October 24th, 2019

Dear Night Brain…

Dear night brain… I really do appreciate the vivid dream I had just now, of being back in the apartment with mom when I was a teenage boy and she overhears me thinking out loud about the guy I was crushing on in school and tells me it’s okay and she understands how it is to be seventeen and falling in love because she’d been there too. But these vivid dreams about mom are disturbing. Please stop. I miss her a lot. But she died almost two decades ago after the stent they put in her slipped.

Sigh. It wasn’t until just a couple months before she died she finally accepted it, and wished me the happiness I needed, if not the one she would have liked. I wish we could have talked more. She would have liked any one of the three I crushed madly on. I could have brought them all home to her in a better world. Mom…this is my boyfriend… They’d have got along great. But that didn’t happen. I couldn’t tell her anything back then. She knew, but didn’t want me to say it. I have her diaries. She agonized over it. Two months before she died she told me it was okay.

It took a lot for her to get there. We both missed so much because of the homophobia of her religion and upbringing. I’m sure that’s what these dreams are about. I suppose deep down inside all this will never be settled. That was a very nice dream but I wish they would stop.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Dear Night Brain…

June 9th, 2019

Well I Guess That Wasn’t Shining Armor After All…

I tell myself that in a better world I’d have figured this out back in high school, had a good cry over it and moved on. But even in a better world back then I’d have still been a thoroughly twitterpated teenager with no life experience and no common sense, so probably not.

 

Sometimes, what the lover perceives as shining armor is actually a carefully woven, pretty little cocoon around a soul that never learned to love itself enough to laugh back at prejudice. And then one day you find yourself stunned, wondering how that could possibly really be fear and shame because loving them swept all yours away.

Oh well. Maybe LonerNoMore can post a comment here about how I’m still living in the past and that today is a gift and that’s why it’s called the present.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Well I Guess That Wasn’t Shining Armor After All…

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

February 19th, 2019

Oh We’re Not Getting You Wrong Mr. Wayne…

The day Brokeback Mountain got an Oscar nomination, and the stately senior members of the Screen Actors Guild, appalled, said that John Wayne was rolling in his grave, they knew who it was they were talking about…

John Wayne’s Racist and Homophobic Playboy Interview Resurfaces, Twitter Reacts

At the top of the interview, the then 63-year-old is complaining about the “perverted” movies currently being produced, when the interviewer asks him which films he means.

“Oh, ‘Easy Rider,’ ‘Midnight Cowboy’ — that kind of thing,” he horrifyingly replies. “Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ a story about two f–s, qualifies?

“But don’t get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman is concerned, I’m awfully happy there’s a thing called sex. It’s an extra something God gave us. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be in pictures. Healthy, lusty sex is wonderful.”…

Go read all of it. None of this would have surprised anyone the day that Playboy interview was published. Wayne’s hard core right wing kookery was an public joke even back then. Except of course among his fellow Hollywood nutcases like Reagan, Linkletter, DeMille and various studio heads to the right of McCarthy and Nixon. Scratch a homophobe, find a racist…

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

None of this would have been surprising or controversial to Wayne’s associates in the industry. They would have been nodding their heads in agreement reading it, and telling themselves it was the communists, the New York Jews and all those dirty fucking hippies who were causing trouble with the coloreds. And outside of there, everyone just about knew where Wayne stood. He never made any bones about it. 

None of that registered on me when I was a kid watching raptly whatever was playing in the theaters that week. Back then movie theaters were Palaces where a schoolboy’s dreams and adventures came to life. I used to make a bee line for every new John Wayne flick that hit the theaters. They were Fun. Lots of things were back in those days.

Then I got a bit older, puberty switched on my hormones, and one day I found myself completely twitterpated by a classmate, a junior with long hair, dark eyes to drown in, a smile that made my knees weak, and long legs that moved his hips in ways that made me shiver every time we crossed paths. One day as we walked together out of school he put an arm around my shoulders and I didn’t come back to earth for hours, and when I did I knew something about myself. And also that movie stars I watched raptly on the silver screen, and Science-Fiction writers whose books I devoured, and rockers whose albums I bought and listened to over and over until I wore the groves out…all of them probably thought I was disgusting human garbage.

But I was in teenage love, and nothing had ever felt so healthy and thrilling and wonderful. And if you asked me to trade the good graces of the entire fucking world for just one smile from the guy I was crushing on, I’d have done it in an instant. And perhaps I did, the moment I realized it.

I am in my middle sixties and looking back on that summer crush I am magnitudes more likely to make that trade now. Nothing I ever felt before or since was more pure. I would do it all again. Roll in your fucking graves…all of you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Oh We’re Not Getting You Wrong Mr. Wayne…

February 10th, 2019

The Love That Dared To Speak Its Name

Sad news crosses my Facebook news stream just now…

Patricia Nell Warren, The Front Runner Author, Dies at 82

The novelist, activist, and longtime editor at Reader’s Digest is best known for her 1974 book, The Front Runner, which centered on the relationship between a closeted coach, Harlan Brown, and an out gay track star, Billy Sive.

The love story became the first gay novel in modern times to achieve commercial success and rank in The New York Times bestseller list. To date, it has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into multiple languages…

I still have my copy of that first 1974 book, The Front Runner, which has within it one of the best scenes of any novel to take same-sex love and romance seriously: the scene where one of the main characters, coach Harlan Brown, lover of athlete Billy Sive, learns from a couple of straight friends in the newspaper business about the rumors being spread about him and Billy, and sees clearly for the first time the cesspool of the bigot mind. As I wrote in a previous blog post

…Harlan Brown, the coach and lover of out gay Olympian Billy Sive, is having a chat with some old friends who work as sports reporters. They confront him on the rumors about his having a sexual relationship with Sive, and while Brown tries to stand up for the honor and the dignity of their love, the reporters, old friends, try to make Brown understand that in the mass media, honor and dignity won’t even buy you a cup of coffee. Which only makes Brown angrier…

“Did it ever occur to them that maybe Billy and I don’t merely go to bed together? That we love each other?” I was really getting mad now. “That neither of us wants anybody else? Do they know so little about human nature?”

“You’re the one’s a dummy about human nature,” said Aldo. “They want to think the worse…”

Finally one of the reporters, Bruce, suggests that they do an interview with the two of them which would hopefully allow the readers to see them as human beings apart from the ugly stereotypes of homosexuals common in those days.

Brown agrees, thinking it a great idea. Aldo pointedly asks if they can dispel the other rumors too…

“What other rumors?” I said.

“You really want to know?” Aldo asked. He was furiously tearing up a piece of bread.

He started to tell me. When he’d finished I’d had one more sociological revelation. Society had tried to teach me that the gay mind was an open sewer. Now I knew, beyond any doubt, that it was the straight mind that was the sewer…

But no, it’s the mind of the bigot that is the open sewer. It was something I’d intuited well before I’d read The Front Runner, just listening to all the gross rhetoric about homosexual sex, always told in such exquisite, breathless even, detail by bigots like Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell had been throwing at us.  The fact is sexual corruption is something they throw at all the hated Others, be they gays or Jews or Blacks or Mexicans. Think Donald Trump and Mexicans and duct tape. It’s their own ids they’re telling us about. Warren was the first novelist I’d ever read to finally bat that one out into the open.

Her later novels didn’t really catch on with me, though I still bought copies out of loyalty. I still haven’t read Billy’s Boy yet. But that first novel was gold, even allowing (spoiler) its Kill Your Gays ending.

After her success, for a period of time there came a torrent of Great American Gay novels, hoping to cash in on this new gay market thing. One Christopher Street cartoon from the period is of the inside of a gay bar where all the patrons are busy with paper and pen, a few have typewriters, and the caption is This bar used to be fun, until everyone decided to write a gay novel. Most of them were gawd awful books I could not get through more than a few pages reading. But that’s just Sturgeon’s Law at work, and the ten percent that wasn’t crap was very good indeed. I could finally see myself and the possibility of love and a life lived openly and proudly in books, if not yet on the silver screen or the tube. Isn’t it always the written word that strikes deepest into your soul.

Mary Renault will always be the gold standard for me, but Patricia Nell Warren’s first book gets a place on my top shelf along with her. She, and others who dared to name the love that dare not speak its name, and then celebrate it without any taint whatever of shame or sadness, gave me a vision of life and love and joy and decency when I needed it most.

Rest in peace Mrs. Warren. Well done.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Love That Dared To Speak Its Name

February 3rd, 2019

Rainbow Mouseketeers Still Not Part Of The Show…

…at least not here, not yet. This came across my Facebook news stream last week…

…and I was overjoyed. The parade was to happen on June 1, to mark the start of Pride Month, and I immediately put in for vacation time for the first days of June so I could be there. But in my delight I wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was reading.

I thought they meant Disney Paris in Epcot at World Showcase Lagoon, which is a completely natural reaction if you’ve ever been there. I’d been to Gay Days at Walt Disney World and Gay Days is a very big deal there. A certain someone (Hi There!) who works there once told me it was one of their biggest money making weeks. So I just assumed we were finally official there now, and I put in for vacation time at work and was seated at one of my household computers just about to make my hotel reservations, when I looked up the article above again to verify the date and realized it was going to be at DisneyLand, not Disney World.

But that was okay too because Disneyland was where Gay Days all started back in the 70s, after a same-sex couple started dancing at one of the dance spots there and got thrown out of the park and the Los Angeles gay community came back in numbers too big for security to deal with. Everybody went into the park wearing a red shirt to self identify as being part of the protest. The genius of that was they couldn’t just toss out every guest wearing a red shirt, but with so many of us in there it would have been obvious that red shirt = gay guest. I’m told that as the day went on some straight guys began taking off their red shirts. But it was a success and after that event (they used to call them Zaps) it became a regular thing and eventually it migrated east to the World too.

I went to Gay Days at Walt Disney World a few years ago and it was a lot of fun…


Gay Days Revelers Receiving The Blessing Of The Fairy Godmother

Yes I cut off her head in that shot. I had to hold the camera up over mine to shoot over people’s heads. Otherwise this would have been a great shot.

And we still wear our red shirts…

…though nowadays our shirts bear the trademarks of all the businesses lending their support to the event…

 

…and some of us even make custom designs on them. I thought this was really cool. Someone at Disney must have thought so too because a few years after I took this a Tinkerbell with rainbow wings pin was being sold at the pin traders kiosks. 

And of course I wore my red shirt, but it was one I got at work with a Hubble servicing mission patch on it, to show some space cadet pride too.

So, thinks I, Disneyland is finally making us official. That’s Wonderful! But I wondered where they’d put a Paris pavilion in the Anaheim park.

Then just this morning I see this article…

…and realize, hey, that’s not the castle at Disneyland. Oh wait…they mean Paris France. I keep forgetting there are more of those things around the world now.

And now I’m a bit ticked off. Not at Disney, I know what they’re doing…they’re still afraid to officially acknowledge us here in the land of the free and the home of the brave because our religious right nutcases who probably never set foot in a Disney park anyway (Holyland Experience theme park is just down the Interstate for them…) would raise a shitstorm….as they’d say in Epcot Germany.

And there’s already been one mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando…

And attacks on patrons coming and going near other gay nightclubs and in gay neighborhoods in this country are on the rise…

So it still can’t happen here. But after the Pulse shootings Disney got a lot more gay friendly and it was so gratifying and you can tell they wanted to do something more. But they still can’t do it here. Not in the time of Trump.

So I cancelled my vacation request at work. Gay days is a lot of fun, but not so much when you’re single and none of your hometown gay friends want to go with you because they don’t like all that Mickey Mouse stuff. I have two DVC vacations planned for this year and that’ll be enough pixie dust for 2019.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Rainbow Mouseketeers Still Not Part Of The Show…

February 2nd, 2019

At 65 I’m Only Now Exhibiting My Photography

I got the camera bug when I was an elementary school kid. Mom let me use her camera to take some vacation pictures and after they came back from Kodak I got lots of complements on how good they were. I don’t even recall those shots now, but later that year mom gave me my first camera, a little Kodak Brownie Fiesta, for my birthday. I took it with me on a school trip to the C&O Canal and when those shots came back I even got complements on them from the same teacher who later wrote in my file that I took “excessive interest in personal art projects.”

In High School I was the student newspaper cartoonist, and also became its photographer after the kid who was picked for that roll had an argument with the student editors and walked off the job. It was around that time I started doing my art photography, after my art teacher, Frank Moran, lit a fire for it in me. I’ve had a camera in my hands most places I’ve wandered to ever since.

I’m in my middle sixties now, and I have a long history with the camera. Yet I’ve never had a show. Not even a little thing at a neighborhood gallery. I’m horrible at self promotion and that’s damage from a life lived almost entirely single. You fail often enough at one of life’s most essential tasks and it makes you skittish in more landscapes than socializing and dating. There’s a nagging certainty of failure that haunts every attempt at self assurance, no matter how inviting things appear, and especially when it comes to artistic pride since that’s so close to the heart that has come to expect breakage. It took me the nearly twenty years I’ve been working at the Space Telescope Science institute to work up the nerve to ask if I could show my photos at the Institute gallery.

I wrote about this in a previous blog post…about how the wound your gay neighbors live with every moment of their lives digs in deep, and becomes an …iron ball and chain of low expectations regarding my place in the world, which I would always excuse as my simply a not having a very competitive nature.

…I never tried very hard to make a place for myself in the realms of my first loves, cartooning, painting and photography. I kept my artwork to myself, and those few times I did venture out to try and market myself, or find work as an illustrator or photographer, I barely knocked on the door, accepting the first rejections I got as final. In retrospect something very deep down inside of me seemed to know I’d never be accepted in the lands of my dreams. I had no clue what I would do for a living, accepted that I would always have a low income life, going from one menial job to another, renting rooms maybe in other people’s homes if I was lucky, but never a place of my own, never a good job that I loved. That was for other people. I never bothered somehow, to examine why I felt that way very closely. I had an assortment of ready excuses. No college degree. Not very good at self marketing. Maybe I just wasn’t as  talented as I thought…  

I stumbled into my career as a software developer purely by chance; the PC and dot-com booms created such a booming job market that anyone who could code even a little was fairly dragged into it. I had a knack for logical thinking that enabled me to figure out how to turn requirements into software, even if it never dared look within as to why I felt so unlikely to succeed at a career. Right from the beginning I got praise for the quality of my work, rose in skill and wage level from one job to another, and ending up working at Space Telescope making six figures. It was a dream come true it seemed. Deep down I was completely scared I didn’t deserve any of it. I think it was only when the director of the Institute handed me a special achievement award at a ceremony a couple years ago that I finally began to really believe I belonged there, among those other highly skilled professionals. I was 60. Somehow it’s still harder to acknowledge to myself that I’m one of them than it was to admit to myself that I’m gay. It still feels pretentious. I have a little Baltimore rowhouse now, in a city neighborhood that is on the rise, and a nice car, and a dream come true job. And my first dreams are all buried in the past. I pursue them now in my basement art room in my spare time.

And then of course, there’s how low self esteem impacts your love life. Some folks just write love off altogether and dive into the one night stand no strings no complications scene. Others of us just stand quietly in a corner with a flower in hand and hopeful expression on our faces and the unkept look of people who forget sometimes to take care of themselves because they know somehow it doesn’t matter all that much. Please love us. Please don’t break our hearts. But the heart was already broken even before you came out to yourself, in that first moment when you flinched away from knowing. Gay Pride only goes so far healing the wound. You have to work at it, you have to dig down deep to really get to all the subtle little places where it still exists, still hurts still holds you down.

The Institute gallery is a hallway leading to the cafeteria. It is open not just to staff but to the entire Johns Hopkins campus, and now all the folks from NASA and Goddard who are working here along with us on the James Webb Space Telescope flight operations center. Until recently it showcased both staff and local talent from the Baltimore area. Photography, paintings and drawings and other pieces of original artwork. But in recent months it’s been scaled back and now it only occupies half the space it used to. I’ve no idea why, other than perhaps its former curator retired.

Last July I had my first show there, which was my first show ever. And I was very apprehensive about it. My art photography has a very dire sense to it, that I don’t much care for, but it is what it is. I considered just showing some nice travel photography, but the previous gallery by the Institute staff photographer showcased his images from the American Southwest and that’s where my best travel photography is also, so I thought I needed to do something different, and the only different I had was the art photography. I fussed for weeks trying to decide which pieces to put up, afraid that the inner strangeness of my photography would creep people out. In the end I selected ten images that were true enough to what I do, but which I judged to be not quite so glaring.

I put them up on a Monday and waited. If nobody had said a word to me about them other than a few polite very nices and very goods I would have counted it a success. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelmingly positive feedback I got, even from some folks in the science staff. And I think it changed some people’s understanding of me. I wasn’t just the old computer geek oddball anymore. There was something more to Bruce people hadn’t expected to see.

Because…well…I hadn’t let them. I have another show starting next week. This time I’m doing some color work. And this time I’m not afraid to let my art photography be seen for what it is. It’s taken this long. The insidious thing about loneliness is it becomes familiar, and eventually…comfortable. Like slowly dying of hypothermia, and you get sleepy and you just want to rest and you don’t notice how it is draining the life out of you.

My first gallery show, July 2018.

 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on At 65 I’m Only Now Exhibiting My Photography

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