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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 | React!

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

May 27th, 2019

Boomer

Normally on Memorial Day I simply give a silent nod of thanks to those who served and died for their country and for the American Dream. When I bought the house my nextdoor neighbor was a man named Joe who had served during WWII in the merchant marines. We would somedays find ourselves out on our front porches (Baltimore rowhouse front porches are where you really get to experience what a neighborhood is) and he would tell me stories about the war, often insisting that he was no hero, just some guy who moved supplies back and forth across the ocean because it was his job.

Me: So tell us again Joe about that time your ship got itself into a minefield and you looked over the side and saw a mine almost right up against it…

Joe: (slightly amazed voice even after all these years…) Oh yeah…that was a Big one too…

Through him I came to realize that the heroes to those guys were the ones that didn’t come back. So I usually refrain from calling them heroes or saying rote thank-you-for-your-service because I never know whether I’m making someone who was there feel better or digging at old and terrible wounds.

My generation’s war was Vietnam. I came close to getting drafted but failed the pre-induction physical, and before they could call me back in for another go at it Nixon had turned off the draft and I was spared the Vietnam experience so many of my generation were thrown into. So when Memorial Day comes along I don’t feel as though I have the requisite life experiences other do, to get too enthusiastic about this holiday.  And considering what it is we’re memorializing (our war dead) it strikes me as offensive to make it a celebration. It’s a solemn day of remembrance. People, young kids mostly, died in our wars. Some of them were unavoidable and there was no other way. But not all of them, and perhaps this is not the day to be bringing that up. But there’s one other thing I think that needs some discussion, especially today, while the veterans of the Vietnam war are still with us. When you use the word ‘Boomer’ as a curse, who is it you think you’re spitting on?

This was posted on a Facebook memory group I follow. The group is focused on memories of growing up in Montgomery County Maryland, which was my stomping ground for much of my kidhood in the 60s and 70s. Those are times we remember fondly, most of us. Boomers, as we are called nowadays…usually by much younger people who have no idea what a Boomer actually is. Lately I’ve begun to feel like I don’t know what it is and I’ve always been one. This man is 70. I am 65. The difference between us is he was drafted, and had no choice but to go, and I just barely escaped it. But we both had to walk into our local draft board office the instant we turned 18, we both had to carry our draft cards with us at all times, and I was called and went for my pre-induction physical. He must have passed his. Then this happened to him…

WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SHARE IS A VERY PERSONAL STORY.IT HAPPEND 51 YRS AGO IN VIETNAM WHEN I WAS JUST A 18YR OLD FROM WHEATON MD. AND I ALWAYS CONSIDERED MONTGOMERY COUNTY HOME…I NEVER TOLD THIS BECAUSE COMMING HOME NO ONE WANTED TO HEAR ABOUT NAM OR THEY JUST WOULDNT BELIEVE.I WAS DRAFTED IN JULY OF 67 AND WENT TO NAM IN JANUARY 68 JUST BEFORE THE 68 TET OFFENSIVE.AFTER DOING SOME RESEARCH I HAVE FOUND THE GRAVE SITE OF MY GOOD FRIEND GENE COLLIER WHO IS BURIED IN A GRAVE YARD IN EASTON MD..I PLAN TO GO THIS WED. AND PLACE A QUARTER ON HIS GRAVE WHICH MEANS THE PERSON WHO PLACED THE QUARTER ON THE HEAD STONE WAS WITH THE SOLDIER WHEN HE DIED.GENE WAS THE FIRST GOOD FRIEND THAT I LOST AND THE FIRST MAN I EVER SAW DIE..IT WAS PRETTY DRAMATIC FOR THIS 18YR OLD…I REMEMBER FEELING SO HELPLESS AND CRYING LIKE A NEW BORNE…I STARTED CUSSING GOD AND CALLED HIM EVERY VILE NAME I COULD EVEN THROWING HAND FULL OF DIRT AT THE SKY..AND I DIDNT CRY AGAIN UNTIL ALMOST 40 YRS LATTER.GENE WAS THE FIRST I SAW DIE BUT NOT THE LAST.I TURN HARD AND COLD HEARTED .ONE TIME OUR COMMO BUNKER BLEW AND KILLED 3 GUYS INSIDE.WE WERE MADE TO GET DOUBLE ARM INTERVALS AND HANDED A EMPTY SAND BAG AND TOLD TO GO THROUGH THE COMPANY AREA AND LOOK FOR PEICES OF THE THREE..I SAW PEICES ON TOP OF THE SUPPLY TENT AND THEN I LOOKED DOWN AND SAW A BABY FINGER AND RING FINGER ATTACHED TOGETHER.AS I WENT TO PICK UP THE FINGERS A STRAY DOG RAN UP AND SNATCH THEM UP AND RAN OFF.IF I HAD MY RIFLE OR PSTOL I WOULD HAVE SHOT THE DOG BUT I THOUGHT HOW DO YOU TELL A MOTHER OR WIFE THAT A DOG RAN OFF WITH PART OF THERE LOVED ONE.THERE WERE OTHERS CHICO AND BOB WETZEL JHONNY AYERS AND MEDAL OF HONOR WINNER TERRY KAWAMURAI NEW TERRY AND HE WAS KILLED AFTER I WAS HOME BRAVE MEN ALL.BUT GENE WAS THE HARTEST.YOU SEE HE GOT A LETTER FROM HIS WIFE THAT HE WAS THE FATHER OF A LITTLE NEWBORNE BABY GIRL.SOME HOW WE FOUND A 1/2 BOTTLE OF SEGRAMS TO CELEBRATE.A MONTH LATTER GENE WAS DEAD..THIS IS WHY MEMORIAL DAY IS AND ALWAYS WAS SPECIAL TO ME..I AM 70 YRS OLD NOW AND HAVE THOUGT OF ALL WHO I SERVED WITH THROUGH THE YRS.I HAVE CRIED AND MADE PEACE WITH MY PAST AND WITH GOD..I WAS JUST A YOUNG PARRATROOPER FROM WHEATON MD WHO HAD TO GROW UP FAST..WAR IS SUCH A WASTE..FIRST TIME I EVER TOLD THIS BUT HELL I’M AN OLD MAN NOW AND JUST HELD ON TO THEM ALL THESE YRS…STAY SAFE THIS WEEK END..AND NEVER FORGET WHY YOU ARE STILL FREE..P.S. VERY APPREHENSIVE ABOUT SHARING AND POSTING THIS AND I THINK I KNOW WHY…FROM ALL THE NEGETIVE CRITICISM OVER THE YRS ABOUT SERVING AND THE WAR…BUT HERE IT GOES

How about on Memorial Day we rededicate ourselves to fighting right wing war mongering, and the leaders, pundits, and classless morons who never served, let alone actually saw combat, that cheer us on into the next splendid little war? How about we rededicate ourselves to not letting this happen to our teenage sons and daughters for no reason other than realpolitik, or national pride, or the sick vanities of celebrity politicians and pundits? And next time you hear someone say Boomer with contempt remember this man and consider there are thousands like him. ‘Boomer’ is too general a word to describe a generation just over half of which had the draft and Vietnam haunting them then…and now…and just under half who never had to carry a draft card in their wallets on threat of arrest and imprisonment if they didn’t always have it on them. I am on the cusp of that divide, and I see across it. They are more different landscapes than ‘Boomer’ can embrace with a shred of meaning, let alone understanding.

And there was more going on back then besides the war. There was the civil rights movement. The struggle to integrate the public schools. There was women’s liberation. There was the fight against censorship (After Grove Press published Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” in 1961 obscenity lawsuits were brought in 21 states against booksellers that sold it. Also in 1961 Lenny Bruce was arrested for using the word ‘c*cksucker’ in a comedy routine on stage. This was even before the underground comics started rattling cages everywhere.). There was the gay rights movement. And yes, there were people in our generation on both sides of those fights…which is partially my point here. But mostly it’s this…

…AND THEN I LOOKED DOWN AND SAW A BABY FINGER AND RING FINGER ATTACHED TOGETHER.AS I WENT TO PICK UP THE FINGERS A STRAY DOG RAN UP AND SNATCH THEM UP AND RAN OFF…

People bled. Inside and out. People are Still bleeding from what happened to them back then. I see it all the time. I don’t have the horrific memories some do (I have my own struggle with things that happened to me as a gay teenager and young adult), but I walk among my generational peers and I see this stuff and it makes me angry, livid at times, to hear ‘Boomer’ thrown around like a spitball. If you can offhandedly lump everyone born between 1946 and 1964 together with a single word spoken like a curse then you have no clue about that period in your own country’s history, let alone the threads in this one that have their origins in that one. Read this man’s testimony. And maybe understand why, when I hear anyone use the word Boomer with contempt (Hi Ezra Klein and VOX!) I block them. Instantly. You have nothing to say to me. Or to anyone else, really.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Boomer

April 9th, 2018

The Healing Power Of Love…At Least If You’re Gay…

This comes across my Google news feed today…

How romance can protect gay and lesbian youths from emotional distress

A recent study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that being in a romantic relationship can help gay and lesbian youth like Pegues feel less mental distress — even more so if they are black or Latino. This contrasts with the fact that, in heterosexual teens’ lives, romance is generally found to cause distress rather than alleviate it.

In fact the study seems to suggest that being in a romantic relationship causes stress for Everyone but gay folk. I’ve no idea why that would be so, unless it’s we have to work harder for it and cherish it more because so many people want to take it away from us.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. -Lao Tzu

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Healing Power Of Love…At Least If You’re Gay…

April 8th, 2018

Funny How Shadows On A Silver Screen Can Thoroughly Destroy You…And Yet Lift You Up…

Also on Twitter the other day…

Bright Wall/Dark Room? @BWDRFollowFollow
What’s the very first movie that broke your heart?

Oh gosh…not even slightly hard to recall. For lots of folks my age it’s Old Yeller. But my first serious movie heartbreak was The Yearling. I was maybe 9 or 10 when I watched it on TV.

Broke my heart twice it did…

 

…but then I went and read the novel anyway and got my heart broken all over again. But that was the book that gave me the insight into how multi-layered stories can be. I was in elementary school and pulling books from the big kid’s side of the library where I was told I was too young to really appreciate them. I nabbed a copy of the novel with the amazing N.C. Wyeth illustrations and devoured it. As I read that tragic end I suddenly realized that the title of the book referred to the boy, not the deer, and it felt like a revelation. Suddenly the world of books became larger, infinite even. 

So when it came time to write my book report on it I put all that into it, and the demented bully of a teacher I had for that class accused me of having my mom write the report for me and gave me an F, because how could a boy my age possibly understand that. Mom was furious and brought to a teacher-parent meeting the radio I had just built from parts to show her I was smarter than she thought. But no…I was the child of a single divorced mother and that made me by definition a problem child and both of us had to be punished for it.

Third heartbreak then. But I never gave up the joy of reading. That epiphany was too much to let go of. I’m 64 years old and my house is full of books.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

April 6th, 2018

Not DTF, But DTL

This came across my Twitter feed just a few moments ago. I think he meant “only” there and just fat fingered the keystroke…

Every single time I’ve been lectured about how sex is overrated, it’s been someone trying to convince me that my sexual orientation is more of an addiction than a just a simple uncomplicated variation on human sexual desire. And it comes from that dehumanizing stereotype about gay males that says Homosexuals Don’t Love, They Just Have Sex. The activist and author Vito Russo put it succinctly when he wrote in The Celluloid Closet that “It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.” Everyone who ever talked at me as I’ve defended the normalcy of my sexual orientation about how sex is overrated has been coming from the perspective of that ignorant prejudice. The only time it’s ever stung was when I heard it from my high school crush, by way of defending his own life choices.

GQ Magazine has an article this month that I encourage you to read. Luckily it’s online…

Not Every Gay Man Is DTF

The idea that all gay men fuck like rabbits? That’s a myth.

In part, as the article suggests, a lot of this overlaps with stereotypes about male sexuality in general. And it damages both gay and straight men. We hold ourselves to unrealistic standards and when we don’t measure up we stress that there is something wrong with us. The running gag in A Coming Out Story is how the imaginary character representing my libido is always wearing a fig leaf and a slightly apologetic look on his face while he keeps making me notice that how nice a certain classmate looks…


A Coming Out Story, Episode 1 “Meet Your Libido”

For years I thought of myself as a sexual milquetoast because I Just Wasn’t All That. Then one day on a gay BBS System I frequented, a fellow user posted anonymously to its health forum asking the doctor who ran it if there was something physically wrong with him because he wasn’t as interested in sex as the other guys and needed lots of foreplay to get started. He provided the doctor with details I won’t go into here, and the doctor wrote back, reassuring him that his level of sexual interest was actually more typical of adult males than the popular notions would have him believe, and closed by saying he should enjoy all the foreplay. The exchange was a revelation because that user’s experience with his own libido could have been my own. Since then I’ve read other men’s health articles that have had similar things to say about the male libido. But the GQ article I linked to above is the first one that I’ve seen to make the same point about the gay male libido. We Are Not All That

We get doubly hit by the stereotype. One tune I hear regularly in the kook pews is the reason gay males are so sex driven is we have rejected the moderating influence of females…which applies a different sexual stereotype, that of the matronly sexually chaste women…to the stereotype of the wanton gay man to the homophobe’s trope that men and women naturally complement each other. But it is not so simple. The complement in sex is the what your libido says it is. For most of us that’s the opposite sex, but for some of us it isn’t. The complement in love and romance is the person. Or to put it another way, in the marriage vows it’s not do you take a man, but do you take This man.

At the end of what was a long conversation about why he was not right for me and never would be, after assuring me that sex was overrated, and that it was like farting (“It stinks for a little while, and then it’s gone…”) my high school crush, the one who made me realize, never again to doubt, that being a homosexual was not anything to be ashamed of, and that love and desire were wonderful things, he tried to end the discussion by telling me that when I’m on my deathbed it won’t be all the people I’ve had sex with that I’ll be remembering, but those I’ve loved, and who loved me. As if they were mutually exclusive things. And there you see the second, and most destructive thing the stereotype does to gay men. 

It’s a deliberate knife to the heart. What the haters have been telling gay people for ages is that our sexual nature is actually corrosive to love. If we embrace our sexual selves so they tell us, then we can never love. But the human status isn’t a whiteboard anyone can erase and scribble their hatreds over. We embody the living history of hundreds of millions of years of life on earth within us every moment of our day, and those ancient tides will pull and tug at us whether we acknowledge them or not. When you believe deep down in your gut that your homosexuality is the enemy of your need to love and be loved than your sexual desires, when they eventually force their way out of you because you can’t deny an instinct that is older than the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone us, will usually have their way with you in highly self destructive forms. It splits you in half, body from soul, and leaves you little more than a shell, desire and the human need to love and be loved ricocheting around inside, wearing you down from within, when they could have made you strong and whole.

That only serves the interests of bigots and hate. Which is exactly why they work so hard to make us believe we are broken. But we are not broken. They are. Anyone who would poison within a person the joy of sex and their human capacity to love and be loved is deeply, profoundly broken.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not DTF, But DTL

February 12th, 2018

So Much Of My Own Life I See In The Stories Of Other Gay Lives

The Internet Tubes have been singing with Adam Rippon’s bronze medal win. Mostly the stories have been inspiring, uplifting, in ways many of us thought we’d never know back when we were his age, and younger. Adam’s own story of how coming out publicly made it possible for him to find his inner place of strength, unadulterated, which was necessary if he was going to have any chance of getting to the Olympics, let alone winning a medal, is especially soul satisfying.

What I didn’t expect reading these stories, was chancing across one that hit me in the gut, deep down in a place still so late in my life, very raw, very tender. This one…

The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon – How much an out gay Olympian could mean to a kid now—or to a 34-year-old who’s been waiting for it his whole life.

It’s from Vanity Fair, online but not in the current issue. I hope it makes it to the next, because there is something in it heterosexuals need, really need to understand about our lives, and the knife homophobia drives deep into gay hearts. The author, Richard Lawson, writes about his discovery of and fascination about Olympic figure skating with his sister, who was also into it but not in the same passionate way he was. But he had a close friend who was…

We spent what I remember being a whole winter deciding which skater was our favorite (only the women, never the men; even at that age, there was something perhaps too intriguing about them) and gliding around on his hardwood living-room floor in our socks—pretending to do triple axels and salchows, awkwardly mimicking Kerrigan’s beguiling spins—two silly little boys with an appreciation for the graceful things in this rough world.

Time passes…the universe expands…the friends separate as boyhood friends sometimes do…and the boy who loved figure skating grows into an out and proud gay man. Eventually he tracks down his boyhood friend, only to discover he has also come out and proud. I was surprised, and told him as much. He replied, “Surprised? Richard, we used to do figure-skating routines in my living room.”

Heh. It’s a sweet story, especially so in the context of how gay athletes competing openly as the people they actually are, not only makes them stronger as athletes, but how it changes how we all see ourselves, gives us a vision of the possible that lets us find our own places of inner strength. But there was more to it.

On a visit to his parent’s house with some friends, Lawson finds himself talking with his mom about this and that, and she asks about his boyhood friend, and did he ever get married. Lawson tells her his friend is gay. “You’re kidding,” she said. “He’s gay? And to think his father said you two couldn’t see each other anymore because he thought you were gay.”

So the friends hadn’t just drifted apart after all. They were separated, never knowing exactly why, just assuming it was random happenchance, and it wasn’t. It was deliberate.

I am certain nearly all of us, except for the very very lucky, have similar stories to tell of how homophobia took a wrecking ball to what might have become a beautiful thing if it had been left alone. Every Valentine’s Day week for the past several years, I’ve been telling mine. The boy I met in church. The guy I met working in a catalogue warehouse. The guy who helped me try to rescue an injured cat in Rock Creek Park. There may likely be many more that, like Lawson, I had no way of knowing about at the time…gay guys who passed into and out of my life before I even had a chance to notice them, because some hostile bigot noticed them noticing me first.

Most tormenting of all, the guy who was my first schoolboy crush, a thing that felt so wonderful when I finally admitted it to myself, that it allowed me to come out to myself without fear or shame. It was all so amazing…right up to the day we arranged to go on a photography hike together at Great Falls, and that I would call him that morning before I started over to his house. Someone else answered the phone, asked who was calling, and when he finally came to the phone he made it clear that we weren’t going anywhere together, and after that he kept me at arm’s length for the rest of the school year. Like Lawson and his friend, we drifted apart. At the time I was baffled. What had I done to make him angry? Now I understand it better. 

Someday…someday…the knife will lose its power to cut, and hearts won’t bleed anymore, and won’t be imprisoned by closets and loneliness, but will be free at last to sing out their joy, to each other, and to the world. Someday.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on So Much Of My Own Life I See In The Stories Of Other Gay Lives

January 21st, 2018

How To Fake A Smile Until The Day After Valentine’s Day

So what’s a lonely old gay guy supposed to do when another painful Valentine’s day approaches? A little whishful sexy drawing of course.

Many years ago I did a series of charcoal and ink drawings on a theme of first love, which I’m still really proud of…

…and which I probably need to get properly framed…and would if I had any wall space left in my little Baltimore rowhouse that wasn’t being occupied by my bookshelves. I’ve been contemplating since I got back from California of doing another series, only this time a little more of a follow up into the passionate stage of that first romance thing.

Oh yes, sadly enough these are going to be mostly wistful daydreams about something I missed out on. Luckily, I can draw my dreams and make them real on paper anyway. This is how I survive.

I don’t do pornography…pornography is obvious. This is about my speed when it comes to all that…

So yesterday afternoon I popped down to a favorite art supply store in the city and bought some good Strathmore 2 ply and I made an enlargement of this one that I’m going to spend the next several days copying it onto the board. I’m still deciding whether to stick to my charcoal and ink technique or try it just in graphite and charcoal. I have a storyline…but maybe it’s best I leave that imagining up to the viewer.

I need to find a good background image for this to work from. Something perhaps with a window glimpse of some lovely Key West scenery. When I’m done, which might take me weeks, I’ll find a place on my walls for it. If this kind of artwork bothers you I am not in the least bit sorry. This is a gay man’s life blog. Nobody says you have to come here.

 

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How To Fake A Smile Until The Day After Valentine’s Day

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