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March 8th, 2022

And In Addition…

A certain someone once told me to stop living in the past. The present he said, is a gift, that’s why it’s called the “present”. Ha, ha…yes. I’ve often wondered where he heard that one. But I know what he was trying to tell me.

It’s just the geek in me has to consider these hory old bromides seriously. The past is the foundation of the present,. We are where we are, because of how we got here. For better or worse, our past is what we have to build all our tomorrows on.

But a house without a foundation at all can never be stable. It’ll get blown away at the slightest bit of wind.

I revisit my past often, to better understand the person I am. I’d advise A Certain Someone to do the same, but I suspect he had it pretty bad back there, whereas bad as mine sometimes was, in retrospect I had it golden compared to other gay kids of our generation.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on And In Addition…


I Suppose This Has Something To Do With My Having Retired

I had a dream about my high school early this morning. It was very painful. Not to start with though…

In this dream I am a young adult. I’m bicycling around the old neighborhoods. I find myself in front of the main entrance of my high school, Woodward, across the service road where the school buses park. There is some sort of event going on…lots of people of all ages going inside, tables and banners and colorful flags out in front of the doors and the auditorium.

I have an urge to go inside and look around, but I feel as though I’m not allowed inside and everyone would know that. But I want to look around, and maybe take a few reference photos for A Coming Out Story. So I walk my bike across the street to a nearby bike rack.

I realize I don’t have a bicycle lock on me. But then I notice there is one, in a holder in the bike frame. It’s an odd type I’ve never seen or experienced before but in the dream it all makes sense. It’s just a small chrome plated block of metal that rests in a holder in the frame. There is a key lock at one end and I pull a key for it out of my pocket, and remove it from its holder. It fits into a slot in the front wheel yoke when the wheel is turned all the way to the left, and blocks the front wheel from turning. The theory seems to be that a thief can’t ride off with the bike if the front wheel is stuck to the hard left. Of course one could always just throw the bike in the back of a car or truck, but in this dream I don’t think about that. I’m in a hurry to get inside.

My dreams often geek out like this.

I figure if I just act like I belong there nobody will notice me. It’s behavior that has served me well as a photographer. I walk inside and see that people are gathering in the cafeteria. There are also a lot of people walking around in the hallway leading to the cafeteria. Just like outside, there are tables inside, colorful flags and banners. It looks like the tables are selling or giving away souvenirs and keepsakes for whatever event is happening today. There is no text on any of the banners, just splashes of color everywhere. Everyone is happy. Everyone is having a good time. Smiles and happy conversation all around.

Inside the cafeteria it looks like a catering company is providing the food, as the kitchen area is empty. There are tables of food and various juice and soft drinks. It’s all high quality stuff. I’ve done wedding photography where it was like this at the reception. The dress code today seems to be everyday casual, so it’s not a very formal event whatever it is. People are sitting at the tables or standing or milling around. Everyone is chatting amicably with someone near them. This is a happy crowd.

The hallway outside, I notice, is much Much bigger than I remembered. Wider and taller. It’s become a grand hallway, but still keeping that 60s modernist flavor. I will always love that architecture. I step out into it, and walk toward the classrooms. I want to see the art rooms again. Every hallway, every staircase, has been greatly enlarged, made grand, but here there are no people and all is quiet. As I go up the stairs I can see sunlight from outside shining in and creating huge spaces of beautiful light and shadow. I reach for my cellphone to take some photos, and realize I left it back in my car.

Yes, somehow, and dreams do this to me all the time, the bicycle has become a car. My little green Geo Prism specifically this time. I’ve no idea why that car specifically, but it might have some dream connection with the fact that it was my first new bought car when I started making good money as a contract software developer, and I could live on my own for the first time in my life, and not in anyone’s basement. The Prism (I named it Aya) is a touchstone, a marker at point where my life took a turn for the massively better. The life I have now is nothing like the life I was expecting to have. I run out to the car, see the cell phone on the passenger seat, grab it, and run back inside.

But now all those grand spaces around the classrooms are full of people wandering about. The event, whatever it is that’s happening here, has grown in size.

I begin snapping some shots of the grand spaces inside. Like downstairs the hallways have tables and colorful banners and flags and people either selling or giving out keepsakes. I don’t look closely at what they are, I am focused on getting my shots.

I wander into the art rooms. Inside instead of all the art tables and stools, there is a big merchandise counter with friendly looking youngsters selling or giving out I can’t say which, more keepsakes and souvenirs. There are people of all ages looking the stuff over, and also milling about enjoying themselves.

I take a few shots and mutter to myself, “Well I guess that’s enough.”

An older man nearby gives me an odd look (I’m still a young adult in this dream). I suppose without context what I just said is strange, so I explain. “I just wanted to get some reference photos for a cartoon I’m working on…”

…and then I realize.

“…because this place doesn’t exist anymore. They tore it down.”

Now the man is looking at me like I’m crazy. But a younger man standing next to me speaks up.

“He’s right. They tore this place down. It’s not here anymore.”

And then it all fades away around me, and I’m standing in the middle of a field of wrecking ball art. Concrete blocks and bricks and twisted steel beams scattered all around me, none of it recognizable as having been anything in particular.

And I begin to cry. And cry. And cry. Like my heart is breaking.

And I wake up. It always surprises me when I wake up from dreams that do that to me, that my eyes are perfectly dry. I’m breathing pretty heavily though.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Suppose This Has Something To Do With My Having Retired

November 25th, 2021

Smacking Down The Little Art Kids

Because they bring a measure of unselfconscious joy and beauty into the world…and we can’t be having that.

I’ve written before about how many years ago Montgomery County allowed you to go read your school records…basically everything your teachers wrote about you for the other teachers and administrators to see. So I went and looked and there wasn’t much there I didn’t expect to see. But what did tickle me was my first grade teacher who Did Not like me or mom one little bit wrote that little Bruce “takes excessive interest in personal art projects.

I had two art teachers who got me, and they encouraged me and that really helped a lot. But some teachers when they see the slightest hint of artistic interest have some sort of allergic reaction and do their damnedest to kill it in a kid. I suppose so they don’t have to see how stone cold and dead their soul is.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Smacking Down The Little Art Kids

October 18th, 2021

The Dancer And The Dance

It can cut you like a knife, if the gift becomes the fire… 
-“
Maniac”, Michael Sembello

This came across my Facebook page the other day: Excerpts of a letter Rudolf Nureyev wrote to the dance community about his own life as a dancer, while dying of AIDS. He’s writing about dance, but it’s how it is for anyone who pursues an art form.

I can see so much of my life in this. But I never had the one single passion. It’s always been a tug of war between modes I had to learn just to let the seasons come and go as they pleased. One day it’s the cameras calling me, other times it’s the drafting table. I can’t force one or the other. It just has to be what it is in the moment.

Sometimes I just want to walk alone with my thoughts and listen to the earth around me, or the city. N.C. Wyeth said to walk in the world and soak it all in, but don’t forget to squeeze it back out every now and then. Yes.

But I never had that maniacal single minded focus that gets you the spotlight. It doesn’t matter. Read this and you know without doubt that Nureyev would have danced had he never got the spotlight and that’s how it is.

We don’t always get to earn a living doing the thing. Very few get the spotlight. So it goes. You work in the fields because that’s life. You dance because your heart must.

It was the smell of my skin changing, it was getting ready before class, it was running away from school and after working in the fields with my dad because we were ten brothers, walking those two kilometers to dance school.

I would never have been a dancer, I couldn’t afford this dream, but I was there, with my shoes worn on my feet, with my body opening to music, with the breath taking me above the clouds. It was the sense I gave to my being, it was standing there and making my muscles words and poetry, it was the wind in my arms, it was the other guys like me that were there and maybe wouldn’t be dancers, but we swapped the sweat, silences, barely.

For thirteen years I studied and worked, no auditions, nothing, because I needed my arms to work in the fields. But I didn’t care: I learned to dance and dance because it was impossible for me not to do it, it was impossible for me to think I was elsewhere, not to feel the earth transforming under my feet, impossible not to get lost in music, impossible not not to get lost in music using my eyes to look in the mirror, to try new steps.

Everyday I woke up thinking about the moment I would put my feet inside my slippers and do everything by tasting that moment. And when I was there, with the smell of camphor, wood, tights, I was an eagle on the rooftop of the world, I was the poet among poets, I was everywhere and I was everything.

I remember a ballerina Elèna Vadislowa, rich family, well taken care of, beautiful. She wanted to dance as much as I did, but later I realized it wasn’t like that. She danced for all the auditions, for the end of the course show, for the teachers watching her, to pay tribute to her beauty.

Two years I prepared for the Djenko contest. The expectations were all about her. Two years she sacrificed part of her life. She didn’t win the contest. She stopped dancing, forever. She didn’t resist. That was the difference between me and her.

I used to dance because it was my creed, my need, my words that I didn’t speak, my struggle, my poverty, my crying. I used to dance because only there my being broke the limits of my social condition, my shyness, my shame. I used to dance and I was with the universe on my hands, and while I was at school, I was studying, arraising the fields at six am, my mind endured because it was drunk with my body capturing the air.

I was poor, and they paraded in front of me guys performing for pageants, they had new clothes, they made trips. I didn’t suffer from it, my suffering would have been stopping me from entering the hall and feeling my sweat coming out of the pores of my face. My suffering would have been not being there, not being there, surrounded by that poetry that only the sublimation of art can give. I was a painter, poet, sculptor.

The first dancer of the year-end show got hurt. I was the only one who knew every move because I sucked, quietly, every step. They made me wear his new, shiny clothes and dictated to me, after thirteen years, the responsibility to demonstrate. Nothing was different in those moments I danced on stage, I was like in the hall with my clothes off. I was and I used to perform, but it was dancing that I cared about.

The applause reached me far away. Behind the scenes, all I wanted was to take off the uncomfortable tights, but everyone’s compliments and I had to wait. My sleep wasn’t different from other nights. I had danced and whoever was watching me was just a cloud far away on the horizon.

From that moment my life changed, but not my passion and need to dance. I kept helping my dad in the fields even though my name was on everyone’s mouth. I became one of the brightest stars in dance.

Now I know I’m going to die, because this disease doesn’t forgive, and my body is trapped in a pram, blood doesn’t circulate, I lose weight. But the only thing that goes with me is my dance, my freedom to be.

I’m here, but I dance with my mind, fly beyond my words and my pain. I dance my being with the wealth I know I have and will follow me everywhere: that I have given myself the chance to exist above effort and have learned that if you experience tiredness and effort dancing…if we pity our bleeding feet, if we chase only the aim and don’t understand the full and unique pleasure of moving, we don’t understand the deep essence of life, where the meaning is in its becoming and not in appearing.

Every man should dance, for life. Not being a dancer, but dancing.

Who will never know the pleasure of walking into a hall with wooden bars and mirrors, who stops because they don’t get results, who always needs stimulus to love or live, hasn’t entered the depths of life, and will abandon every time life won’t give him what he wants.

It’s the law of love: you love because you feel the need to do it, not to get something or to be reciprocated, otherwise you’re destined for unhappiness.

I’m dying, and I thank God for giving me a body to dance so that I wouldn’t waste a moment of the wonderful gift of life.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Dancer And The Dance

August 14th, 2021

Incels

This from Lawyers, Guns & Money, came across my blog reader, Feedly’s feed the other day. (If you aren’t using a blog reader like Feedly you should really give it a try. Think of blog readers as freedom from big social media…)…

A FEW MORE PEOPLE MURDERED BY RIGHT WING MEDIA

A Trump-worshiping Incel murdered five people, including a very young child, in Plymouth England…

“Incel”, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, refers to a male subset of the human gutter that believes they’ve been consigned to “Involuntary Celibacy” because women think they can just pick and chose their men. Or as this complete failure noted on his YouTube channel…

In disturbing YouTube videos posted just weeks before the shooting, Davison appears to be deeply unhappy about his life. Under the username “Professor Waffle,” he refers to people like him as “blackpillers,” incels who believe unattractive men will never be romantically successful regardless of how much effort they put into how they look. In one comment under his video, he wrote that he’d been “consuming the blackpill overdose.”

In one video, he grabs his belly fat and bemoans his lack of motivation to get fit, complains about women being “simple-minded,” and justifies sexual assault by saying women ignore “average men and below average.”

Before I begin unpacking some of this, I want to say emphatically that nobody is involuntarily celibate unless they’ve got a medical condition. Otherwise there is always a way if just having sex is all you want. Go avail yourself of a perfectly legal Nevada brothel. Not classy enough for you? There are high end sex workers who will make your wet dreams come to life. Just expect to pay dearly because those don’t sell their time cheap. A decade ago founding board member of the Family Research Council George Rekers was caught travelling with a stunningly beautiful 20 year old he’d connected with on RentBoy dot com, who as I recall charged a thousand dollars an hour for his time (I like to think some of Dan Cathy’s Chick-fil-A money made it into the kid’s bank account via FRC donations).

The point being, you can find a way if it’s just you’re not getting any sex. But what if it’s something else you’re looking for, something a little more substantial like a girl or boyfriend. I know that kind of loneliness way too intimately. There are times it’s almost killed me. I’m about to turn 68 having lived an entire adult life without having had the kind of soul fulfilling sex life I wanted after I came out to myself, and I don’t consider myself involuntarily celibate though I suppose in a stretch I could. I’m what the kids these days call a demisexual. I’m a gay male and I can sit at a restaurant window and watch the beautiful guys walk past all day long, but the romantic attachment has to be there for the sex to work for me. And romance has been difficult for this boomer child to come by. And because of that, so has sex.

At the end of Paul Campos’ blog post, this caught my attention…

The relationship between incels and right wing media is a subject that needs more attention. As I noted a few months ago, one of the more disturbing ways the Internet radicalizes people is by getting sexually frustrated young men to transform their extremely common experience into the endlessly insidious consequence of a global conspiracy to victimize them.

…and I’m reading this thinking yeah, actually, gay people like me Have been victimized by a vast global conspiracy. But not a secret one, and it’s more of a culture war really than any sort of conspiracy. But when it hasn’t taken our lives outright it’s driven a knife into our hearts and our search for love and that peaceful contented life together heterosexuals regard as a birthright. Every Valentine’s day for years I’ve reposted links to the blog articles here remembering how so many righteous people in my past managed to screw things up for me and whoever it was I was trying to date, because if gay hearts don’t bleed then how could Jesus possibly know that they love him. Yeah we were victimized. 

This hatred of the homosexual Other, fanned by religious passions, cultivated by authoritarian tyrants, took my love life away, and in doing that it also took my sex life away, and so many of the things that are joyful and wonderful about being human and being alive. But no, I am not involuntarily celibate, merely disinclined to lay down with someone I’m not in love with. And I sure don’t want to kill anybody over that. What kind of lover would that make me? What kind of person? I want love. I still believe in love. I think I’ve accepted now that it will never be, but I still want to be worthy of it. Because loving someone made me a better man.

It does that to you, even if it is never fulfilled. Even if they didn’t love you back. Even if you get your face slapped. The fact is, you still loved, and it changed you. You reached for something higher in yourself. Your fire burned brighter. It gave you courage. It gave you vision. It made you grow. You might burn your bridges…I’ve burned a few of mine and danced in the ashes. But anger is chaotic and exhausts itself eventually, and…when it’s over….you see love is still there. And maybe that torments you to see it still there because it will never be, but eventually you see how your life is better for its having been, how you are better person for it, even so. Even so.

Why did these men never learn that? I think it was because they weren’t looking for love to begin with, and not even sex actually. They wanted power, and love is giving not taking. We are no longer our own and in that we become more than we once were. Love is not greedy, not envious, it is generous and joyful and kind. It is life itself. I have honestly tied to listen to some of these men and I have never once heard in them a longing for any of that. What I hear, is that women won’t give themselves to them and so they hate them. I hear nothing about giving of themselves. Love would have grown them inside. Hate made them smaller. Because when you let hate in where love should have been, and leave it there long enough, soon there is nothing in you anymore to give but hate. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Incels

August 7th, 2021

I Once Was Lost, But Now I’ve Found…Coffee…

Well…and friendships. Serious good if not untroubled friendships that I still hold dear.

One of the Facebook groups I follow is titled You Know You Grew Up In Rockville Maryland If You… It’s a nostalgia group for Boomers such as myself who remember what Rockville used to look like prior to the 80s/90s. A piece of that history, for me, is looking like a smile with its front teeth knocked out. A church actually, that mom and I used to attend back when I was a little Baptist boy. But by the time The Lost And Found opened it’s church basement doors, I was already pretty far down the path toward agnosticism. 

These photos were probably taken sometime in the summer of 1972…

The Lost and Found was a Jesus Kids coffee shop and hangout in the basement of the old First Baptist Church in Rockville on Jefferson Street, a short distance from the old post office. In 1971 the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar was released, and along with Godspell spawned a movement of mostly nice, sincere, longhaired counter culture Christianity. Mom and I were members of that Baptist Church, and I often hung out there back in the day with my camera. In retrospect I should have documented more of it when I had the chance. It was a scene that didn’t last very long in it’s most innocent and pure form. 

The Lost And Found is important in my personal history because of two friends that I first met there, one of whom I still keep in regular contact with, the other, who lived on South Washington Street, I desperately wish I had. (If you ever read this…please say ‘Hi’…)

The Lost and Found was in a strange bit of architecture that connected the old chapel to the newer Sunday School rooms and church offices. There were dressing rooms for the choir and a passageway from there to doors on either side of the choir loft. The basement The Lost and Found settled into seemed a mostly abandoned space. There was an old Coke machine, a small Formica and chrome dining table and what must have been a first of its kind back in the day, electric “monitor top” refrigerators there. Also good people. Very good people. Better often, than the ones sitting in the pews upstairs.

That part of the church is now a driveway…

I don’t know if you can appreciate the shock I felt when I first laid eyes on what had happened to it. But as I said before, Rockville does this to itself. A driveway was probably the least obnoxious thing they could have done to it.

The chapel was torn down sometime ago. The red brick building you see on the right there was built in its place, and is currently up for sale. Maybe they’ll tear it down and build something else there. The only thing left of what once was is the Sunday School building, there on the left, that was converted to offices and given something of a face lift. If you look at the stonework by the entrance stairs and compare you can see where they cleaved it from the part The Lost And Found was in. How they managed that was probably a pretty good trick because there were hallways and stairwells connecting the parts together. Some shoring up had to have happened before they built that wall.

For several years after I met him there, the parking lot across the street served us as a rendezvous. The day they build something there I may never set foot in Rockville again. But that at least looks pretty safe. For now.

A Facebook friend remarked upon finding himself in a town that seemed to be populated with nothing but earnest young Jesus kids, that he’d feel uncomfortable settling there because he could reckon how they would treat him as a gay man. I commented that I could see myself living in a town full of 1971 Jesus kids, except I remembered how it all went down after it became co-opted by the worst humans imaginable…people like Moses David…and I’d be afraid that I’d have to watch it all happen again. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Once Was Lost, But Now I’ve Found…Coffee…

September 9th, 2020

Wreckage

Yesterday afternoon I took a wee excursion to a point in time

I had to go see it. I’m staying at Boardwalk for my birthday week, and it’s close enough I could go and see it for myself. He’s not living there in that city anymore, but somewhere further down the coast, and that’s okay because I don’t even know if he wants to see me anymore anyway and I don’t want to freak him out by suddenly appearing on his doorstep. Or rather, that unsettling halfway/shelter home he’s been put into. For a period of time he had a life of his own and a little one bedroom here that looks like it was nice back in its day.

Now it’s a derelict shell of concrete block emptiness and economic despair nestled in a corner of wealth, beach vacation dreams, and Trump 2020 billboards. And my heart is broken. But I knew it would be and I did it anyway. On the way back I pulled over and had a good cry. It’s not that life is unfair…the universe doesn’t hate us, it’s just indifferent…the dice don’t care how they fall. Life is coldly fair…coldly, indifferently fair. It’s that there is way too much darkness here, and so very little light.

You deserved better guy. Maybe if we hadn’t drifted apart I could have made sure it didn’t come to this. I just never thought back when I was a teenager, that this could happen to someone like you. I was the ugly weird kid they heaped low expectations onto. This shouldn’t have happened to you. I don’t think I care about anything now anymore. It all just seems so pointless.

I’m glad you’re still hanging in there. I’m glad you’re staying drug free. I wonder if the people who put you there really understand why people take drugs, or drink themselves into stupors like I did last night.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Wreckage

June 5th, 2020

The Path With Heart In A Time Of Darkness

There are moments lately I feel like a prisoner in my own house; not the one I’m paying a fixed mortgage on, but the house within, the one with the endless mortgage. It’s been quite a year so far, if I start counting from the month of my heart attack. The doctor who wheeled me into the operating room for my angioplasty said I seemed very calm for someone who’d just been told he was having a heart attack. I said that now at least I knew what was happening. The thing of it is, knowledge doesn’t always make you feel better, but at least it brings an inward steadiness. Now you have a reference point. An island of calm in a landscape of uncertainty.

I apologize to friends who may be thinking that I’m withdrawing lately. I’m probably still in a state of shock. Finding out what happened to a friend from my teen years has knocked me for a loop in a way even mom’s death did not. In the normal course of life you expect to outlive your parents, deep dark grief though it is when it comes. To loose track of a friend, carefree, smart, good hearted, beautiful, for decades, only to find them lost to mental illness, and homelessness shakes the few certainties you managed to hold on to in your old age. Something taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, “Everything is pointless.”

Yes it is. But no it isn’t. Don Juan said, “All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.” The subtle truth you learn is that while the path with heart can be a joyful journey, joy does not erase the darkness any more than knowledge does. But at least there is calm.

I have managed to be one with all the paths I’ve followed since I was a teenage boy. I am still. I have my art. I have my tools. I am one with my path. But paths don’t always make it plain where they go. You hope for the best, you walk forward expectantly, always with your eyes wide open. But it’s the path you follow because that is the path with heart. You try to keep in mind that it goes nowhere. Even so, you are somewhere. Eric Sevareid said Hillary climbed the mountain not because it was there, but because he was.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Path With Heart In A Time Of Darkness

May 27th, 2020

Larry Kramer

This came in the news today…

Larry Kramer, Playwright and Outspoken AIDS Activist, Dies at 84

He worked hard to shock the country into dealing with AIDS as a public-health emergency. But his confrontational approach could sometimes overshadow his achievements.

Larry Kramer got a lot of static for his novel, Faggots, first published in 1978, but the line in it about how “The fucking we’re getting’s not worth the fucking we’re getting” is one I treasure for it’s righteous anger. Sexual liberation was good and necessary, but insufficient while politicians and the media continued to vilify us, and the system continued it’s relentless persecution of us. We were consigned to the gutter, the poetry of our lives and loves erased as though everything about us was perversion and pornography. Heterosexuals got prom night, the happily ever after story. We got the public toilets and bathhouses. Heterosexuals got an ideal to strive for in love and in life. We got a relentless torrent of vitriol and hate, so that we should hate ourselves at least as much if not more than they hated us. When Kramer wrote Faggots, too many people were too willing to accept sexual liberation as enough. But the fucking we were getting was not worth the fucking we were getting. 

Our struggle was for wholeness. Activist and media critic Vito Russo once said it was, “…an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.” And it was a common complaint back then, that by simply living our lives openly we were flaunting “it”. If I heard it once I heard it hundreds of times in the media, in letters to the editor, to my face that they didn’t care what we did in the bedroom as long as we didn’t flaunt “it” in public. But it wasn’t what we did in the bedroom that mattered to any of them, because obviously we weren’t actually having sex in public.

“It” was the holding of hands, the public declaration of love and romance, that our essential humanity, and our human needs of companionship and the longing for more than simply sexual intimacy, but body and soul communion…”It” was the public visibility that our desires and needs were little different from anyone else’s…that we did exist and that we were human beings that outraged the bigots. Because of course it did. The hated other cannot be allowed to be human. We had to be monsters, so that sticking their knives in our hearts could not be a crime against humanity.

Our struggle was for wholeness. Larry Kramer was a fierce warrior for that wholeness. He will be missed. ACT-UP, the AIDS activist organization Kramer founded, said today, “We are all orphans now.” But we carry on. We persist. For the honor and the dignity of our lives, and our loves.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Larry Kramer

May 18th, 2020

Some Days The Only Way You Know You’re Alive Is By How Much It Hurts…

The more I read about schizophrenia the more I just want to curl up into a ball, cry my eyes out for a few hours, then go retire to some Ted Kaczynski cabin in the deep woods where I have no connection to the rest of the world and I don’t have to know what has happened to anyone I ever knew or felt anything for…in friendship or love…and I can imagine they all have wonderful lives and they’re having that happily ever after.

Don’t even bother asking me why I don’t believe in an almighty god anymore. But I still believe in love. It’s a real thing. I can tell by how badly it hurts.

So many things this human race needs to find a solution to, a cure for… Schizophrenia. Cancer. Cardiovascular disease. HIV. Loneliness. Death… We still have our work cut out for us…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Some Days The Only Way You Know You’re Alive Is By How Much It Hurts…

April 25th, 2020

Sexy Sketching – A Bit More Work On It

More progress at the breakfast table…

Whenever I do one of these I keep thinking about a cartoon R. Crumb did in “XYZ Comics” back in the day, that had a panel in it of him drawing (it looked like he was using an old Rapidograph) one of his sexy ladies (he had a very distinctive type of full figured gal he liked) with a caption to the effect that he drew to get the objects of his desire. But I suppose we all do that. Look at this…

This is the sculptor Luo Li Rong and one of her works. This isn’t just an artistic reverie on the female form. Check out some of her other work. That’s a muse. Those pieces of hers ache with desire struck awe.

I will never be near that good. But I have my muses. They keep me feeling alive.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sexy Sketching – A Bit More Work On It

April 18th, 2020

When The Abyss Looks Back Into You And Speaks A Name

The people I let into my life, become friends with, hang out with, enjoy the company of, get the very rare crush on, are broadly folks who are smart, have big hearts, are curious and imaginative, and…just don’t quite fit in. These tend to take two very different paths through life. I have walked them both.

Some make their way up the economic ladder. They eventually snuggle into some small nitch where they can use their minds in ways they either enjoy or at any rate are very good at, and in which their odd little quirks, as seen from the herd, either don’t matter or add decoration and color to the workplace. Many of my own group of friends eventually found work in Information Technologies where we’re kept safely away from the public, behind our computer screens where we can can geek out to our heart’s content. But some I know are lawyers, musicians, cartoonists, theater people…

For a while I was earning a bare bones living as an architectural modelmaker. It was as basic a lifestyle as could be, but I was enjoying myself. At various points in my life I’ve tried earning a living as a photographer, an illustrator, a political cartoonist. It wasn’t until I got work as a computer programmer that I could breath economically. That’s typically how it goes. The arts kids I know generally don’t make a lot of money, some of them live hand to mouth. But if you’ve ever tried to make a living as an artist you really have to respect anyone who has managed the trick, regardless of how low income their lives are. Most have their “day jobs”. Work they hate but which allows them time and money to do the work they love.

But there’s another, darker path some of these take: they go down the economic rabbit hole. Then they find themselves living on the edge of society. They never get the break they need, never find the good nitch to occupy. They become drifters economically, then eventually if they can’t find their nitch, transients with no fixed roof over their heads.

Invariably these attract the attention of the police, too many of which seem to thoroughly enjoy harassing them. And one minor offense snowballs into another and another and late in life they’re in and out of jails and/or halfway houses. If not sleeping on the streets. 

That is how the economic system in this country works. Oh, you don’t have a bank account? Oh, you haven’t held a job longer than a few months? Oh you don’t have a mailing address? An automobile? A phone? Good people. Smart, decent, big hearted, beautiful souls who could make their contribution to civilization if they could just catch that one lucky break. But not only are they a bit odd, they’re in pain. The kind of pain doctors can’t cure. They may not even know they’re in pain because they’ve just lived with it for so long. Hemingway knew the risks of having that big heart inside of you:

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”

I have seen the system get hold of one of these and grind them down just for the shear pleasure of doing it. Because they can. These are not violent predatory people but they are easy marks for bullies. Because the inner beauty still there within the destitute man in front of them is a rebuke. 

As I said, I’ve walked both these paths, though luckily not to the degree I’ve had repeated run-ins with the law, or been homeless. A classmate gave me a place to live when I had nowhere else to go and I was mowing lawns and doing Manpower jobs to make ends meet. Then I got my lucky break and now I’ve a nice little Baltimore rowhouse and a wonderful job and a very good income. But it could have been lots different. Within I am no different from a bunch of people I know, who are living hand to mouth and just couldn’t catch that break. We’re all just a bit odd. If you can’t make your oddness work for you the culture tosses you into the garbage heap without a second thought. Well, he shouldn’t be so odd, he needs to straighten up and make something of himself. But he was something. And now his contribution is lost to all of us.

Straighten up and fly right. Yes. Quite. It’s a double whammy if you not only happen to be a bit…different…but also gay. Particularly my generation, or older, or a bit younger. Maybe you clawed your way out of the closet. Maybe you accept yourself, as the old song goes, just as you are. But growing up under a torrent of social fear, hate and loathing does it’s work on you all the same. And especially so if your own family has abandoned you. You avoid confrontation, stay hunkered down lest you step on yet another social landmine. Risk aversion is wired into you. You accept being less than you could be, because good enough carries with it less personal and emotional risk, then being all you can be does.

It is the ball and chain you wear every moment of your day, and maybe you don’t even know it’s there anymore it feels so familiar. It degrades your economic life, and for certain it impacts your love life. How can damaged goods see themselves, present themselves, as a worthy lover?

Why am I telling you all this? Maybe in a day or two I’ll explain. Or maybe not. It isn’t about me. Mostly. I am however, very much afraid.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

December 16th, 2019

A Christmas Card For Homophobes

Some of you may have been following the fracas over the Hallmark channel censoring an ad from Zola’s, a wedding planner outfit, that showed a lesbian couple getting married. The Zola’s campaign was several ads, only one of which showed a same-sex couple’s marriage, and that one was the only Zola’s ad to be removed, at the behest of One Million Mom’s and other members of the anti-gay industrial complex. The other ads were allowed to continue playing…until Zola’s discovered the censorship and removed all it’s advertising from the channel.

The backlash, not just from the gay community but also the general public not cocooned in the right wing hate machine, was ferocious. Late yesterday Hallmark walked back its decision to censor the ads. But its CEO went even further. This is not your usual boilerplate apology:

“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” Perry said in a statement. “Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused. … Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences.”

This is good, not just that it is an apology but much more critically that it addresses what bigots deny and want to erase about us: that we also make those heartfelt connections, and want to celebrate them. The mindset among the haters is homosexuals don’t love they just have sex. What Hallmark just did, perhaps not in so many words, but by affirming our common humanity, was to say One Million Moms are wrong about gay people, and that Hallmark was wrong to let their prejudices dictate the Hallmark channel’s content.

It’s got to hurt, way, Way more than simply walking it back.

Now…understand something…if this were Putin’s Russia Hallmark executives (and Zola’s) could all be arrested and thrown in jail for this. And that is why the culture war republicans and religious right figures like Franklin Graham have all become Russian sympathisers, happy to let Putin screw with our democracy.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Christmas Card For Homophobes

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…

May 29th, 2019

After Work At The Drafting Table

Just whiling the after work time away on my iPad Pro yesterday…

…in between working on the backyard deck, which is turning into an all-summer project. 

In another Facebook group I follow, dedicated to the underground comix of the 60s and 70s, I recently saw one of R. Crumb’s cartoons where he obsesses over his “ideal” female form and then another where he starts beating himself up over the fact that he just can’t stop his libido from doing that to him and what goddess would want him anyway…and so forth. The running joke in A Coming Out Story is how low key and apologetic my libido is, almost the complete opposite of Crumb’s, and yet still manages to be totally relentless and thoroughly single minded about it. So I thought to try my hand at a cartoon about that while riffing off one or two of Crumb’s. 

Still working on the figure above…I might give him a hat like the one a bartender at a local eatery I favor, who I can’t stop gawking at any better than Crumb could, wears. Also maybe a bandanna hanging out of one of his back pockets. If I manage to get it finished I’ll post it here.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on After Work At The Drafting Table

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