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September 19th, 2013
by Bruce |
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Grief comes in waves, and those relatively peaceful times when you think it’s past and you’re finally done with it are only the troughs between them. You get yourself through it by letting it happen and eventually you find the waves do get smaller. Or you’ve just become use to it being there.
August 20th, 2013
by Bruce |
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In friendship you want your reflection, but in love you want your complement. This came across my Facebook stream the other day…
When arguing for the legitimacy of homosexual relationships and same-sex marriage you hear a lot of talk from the other side about the complementary nature of the sexes. But there’s the gender you’re attracted to sexually and the one you are emotionally comfortable with and in the best of all possible worlds those two are the same, because that is where the soulmate and wholeness are.
It isn’t always precise, lots of people are completely comfortable in the company of both men and women, and some people fit more in the middle of the Kinsey scale than at its extremes. But sometimes there is a disjointedness. You see the heterosexual male who is sexually attracted to women but dislikes them emotionally, prefers the company of his buds and treats women as nothing more than sex objects. And I’ve encountered gay males who are more emotionally secure in the company of women and do the same thing to other gay men.
I feel sorry for those. Life is so much sweeter when your emotional needs can be met by your attractive sex too. There is wholeness. And because heterosexuals mate to their opposite sex, it’s very easy for them to mistake the complementary nature of their relationships for gender. But the complement isn’t gender. The complement is the person.
So sometimes you see a same-sex couple and one seems very masculine and the other very feminine and you think ‘a-ha…this one’s the man and that one’s the woman..’ But then you see a pair and you can’t rightly tell and it’s confusing.
Forget about gender. See how they, as individual people, complement each other. That is how it always works.
[Edited a tad for clarity…]
March 28th, 2013
Better…Like A Fever Broken…
by Bruce |
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As I have said many times here, this is a life blog. Nothing more or less. And sometimes life gets a little heavy. Not to scare anyone…I’m fine now…really…but this first quarter was about the worst I have ever had. Every winter it seems the period between Valentine’s Day and April just gets worse and worse. But I think that’s over now. As they say, what has been seen cannot be unseen.
I was in that chilly gray sky of the mind state all morning long yesterday. I’d been that way for weeks and it just kept getting worse and worse. Things went badly at work. Things I should have been able to shrug off that I took to heart. My co-workers were noticing, which only made it worse. It fed on itself. And it wasn’t about nothing either. I’m 59 years old and never had a boyfriend. You can’t walk that far in a life without time spent in the arms of an intimate other and not be damaged by it. We were not made to be solitaries. And I have been betrayed by people I trusted deeply. Or maybe it was my congenital naivety. People who look like that…
So it was deep in that feedback loop that I randomly chanced across that Hemingway quote in my Facebook stream and naturally the first thing that came to mind was a kind of despair that, no this isn’t why I feel the way I do because I have no courage. I do not take risks, I run away from them. Just ask Tico. I am not a good man wounded, I was damaged goods to begin with. Unworthy. The child who was never meant to be. And right then it was as if something tapped me on the shoulder and showed me something about myself that I’d never really looked at before, that through it all I have lived an honest life, because I never thought doing that was something to pat yourself on the back for.
A feeling for beauty…the courage to take risks… Yeah…actually I’ve taken a few haven’t I? And so it goes. I felt right then as though a terrible fever was breaking. Seriously, it was like a smothering curtain had been pulled off me and I felt alive again. Life was good again. The road forward clearer, and…enticing. Then I remembered what had happened to Hemingway. You try to be rational about things, but for a moment I felt like I’d been given a lift up, from a hand that would have known the need.
March 27th, 2013
Courage And Self Esteem
by Bruce |
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The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers.
But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.
You get into these depressive ruts and you start being critical of your every fault, real or perceived. Nothing within you is good enough. Everything is rotten. Yesterday I was tearing myself up inside for not having the nerve to just go ahead and go down to Washington and with my cameras bear witness to history being made. So just for good measure I took stock of every failure of nerve I ever had in my life, starting with the biggest one of all, that of not being able to tell a certain someone back in 1971 that he had made my heart skip a beat. By the end of the day I knew exactly what a sniveling coward I had been my entire life.
This came across my Facebook feed this morning…
…and I could see in it everything about me, except the courage part. Hemingway wasn’t talking about me. I have the feeling for beauty…it drives me mad sometimes. The truth telling part, yes. Just ask anyone who knows me. The capacity for sacrifice, yes. I can do that. I have done that. I have all of that within me. And I know how vulnerable it makes me. There are times it still surprises me how vulnerable. That is me. I have all of that. But not the courage. I have no courage.
And then it was like I swear a little voice inside said wait just a minute… You’ve been living as an out gay man nearly all your life. You came out to yourself when you were 17 years old, accepted yourself for what you are, two years before the shrinks decided homosexuals weren’t mentally ill after all. You kept it low key for most of the 70s but you never dodged a direct question and never lied to anyone about it, back in a time when you could be, and were, multiple times, fired for being a homosexual. Remember that day when you were still a teenage boy and you stood in front of the bathroom mirror and said to your reflection “I Am A Homosexual” after you read some crackpot who said admitting it was the worst thing a man could do? That day forty-seven states still had sodomy laws on their books. You have spent the past few days…no, weeks…digging up every failure of nerve you ever had. Now remember all those times when you were blind-sided by a question and you had to make a sudden snap decision about being closeted or not. Remember how afraid you were? And you never held back. What the hell is that if it isn’t courage?
Fear. Maybe that’s what’s always at the heart of a depression. Fear of being alone all my life. Fear of dying alone. Fear of walking through my one life never knowing a lover’s embrace. Friends With Benefits is the cheap shelf booze. Once you’ve tasted the real thing you never settle for faking it. The best or nothing, as Gottlieb Daimler once said. Courage. I’m depressed because I am afraid. That doesn’t make me a coward. Anyone with that discipline to tell the truth, and capacity for sacrifice, and feeling for beauty, cannot also be a coward. It just doesn’t compute. I forgot lately, all those times when I did what I had to do even though I was scared shitless. I forgot something I began telling myself in later years when I began looking back on those moments. T.E. Lawrence once said, “The trick is not minding that it hurts.” For me the trick was always not minding that I’m afraid.
And…a bit bonkers…in the way the best people generally are.
March 26th, 2013
Second Thoughts That Tend To Come A Bit Too Late
by Bruce |
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Today is going to be murder to get through, but it’s my own doing. I let my depressed state screw me over. I should have planned to go down to the Supreme Court marriage Proposition 8 protests/counter protests regardless. I actually took the days off well in advance. But then I cancelled because I have been down ever since Valentine’s Day and I just didn’t want to deal with that part of me. Ironically, that not wanting to deal with the emotional creative part of me is what got me into computers, and making the very nice living I am making now. But there was a big drawback to all of that. This path I chose, has led me to a cliff. Now that the day is here I really want to be down there with my cameras photographing it but management wants not. Ever have one of those conversations with your boss, where the boss looks at you, smiles and says “It’s your call” and you know goddamn well what the call is supposed to be? It was one of those.
Maybe that would have been the reality anyway. So many things are happening at work now. Launch is in 2018 and while that seems like a long way off, there is a lot of up front work that needs to be done. A lot. Probably, it’s no fooling, I really have to be here and stay on top of my work. Maybe making it up on the weekend really just doesn’t cut it. Maybe it wasn’t a question of my boss telling me I could not have divided loyalties in his workspace. Put that artsy fartsy stuff away, you’re an adult now, live in the real world… But this is really stabbing me in the heart now.
Sometimes I wish I could just surgically remove that emotional creative part of me that keeps wanting to make imagery. I hear this thing inside of us drives other artists insane too and it’s been this way all my life, particularly as it’s become lonelier and lonelier and because of that, sometimes I really don’t want to look at what comes out of me. And while it’s had its rewards it cuts me to ribbons too. It is right now. I could have done without it. Life as an emotionless cog in the machinery wouldn’t be so bad.
So now, at fifty-nine, I think I know why the stereotype of the starving artist exists. It isn’t because they can’t find decent work, it’s because they know what will happen when they do, so they stay in their little slumtown lofts and hovels because any work that pulls them away from the creative urge makes their inner lives a complete mess. Well…more mess then what would be normal for them anyway. In the end the choice isn’t live a very low budget life but get to do your work whenever you want to, verses get a good job and appease the creative urge in your spare time…it’s follow your heart or slowly go mad, pick one.
Wish I’d been brave enough to take the poor scrappy starving artist path. Who knows, maybe the boyfriend would have been somewhere along that way. But nerve was always something I had trouble with having enough of. Just ask Tico.
Anyway…to those confronting the haters today and tomorrow…be proud. You are writing new lines in the history books. Wish I could be there with my cameras to get some shots of it happening.
August 23rd, 2012
Even Nice People Have Limits…
by Bruce |
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…and I am not the nicest person I have ever met. That would be mom. Mom loved everyone, tried to see the best in everyone and everything, and was a ray of sunshine everywhere she went. My Baptist grandma was another story, and proof that the fruit actually does fall very far from the tree every now and then. Misanthropy was her hobby. She frowned at racists not because they were racist but because they thought their own race made them something. She didn’t think black people were good for nothing because they were black. Black people were good for nothing because they were people. And I was especially good for nothing because I was dad’s son. Dad didn’t give a good goddamn what anyone thought. Mom loved him until the day she died, but often said he couldn’t walk past a mirror without looking in. Sometimes I think grandma loathed dad more for that then that he was a crook. If homosexuality is the biggest sin of all in some Fundamentalist circles, vanity was the unforgivable sin in grandma’s. Not knowing you were good for nothing was wicked in the eyes of the Lord.
I like thinking of myself as having all their genes.
So I drop folks from my Facebook “friends” list advisedly. Who am I, a stinking rotten good for nothing Garrett just like my pap, to set myself above all the other good for nothings in this wicked sinful world? It isn’t exactly a list of friends…there are friends in there, but there are also family members, co-workers, fellow travelers in the Militant Homosexual Conspiracy, and folks who’ve stumbled onto this blog, or my cartoons and friended me on Facebook because of that. It’s all good. But every now and then someone in there will piss me off and I have to let go. I love all the good for nothings in this life that is but a mere vale of tears but I will not endure cheapshit prejudices for very long, especially when they’re flung at people who get kicked around a lot as it is. All us good for nothings need to be rays of sunshine for each other, and if you can’t be that at least try not to spit in the other guy’s mirror.
July 2nd, 2012
Sometimes You Get To Do One Worthwhile Thing
by Bruce |
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A friend from back in the BBS days recently posted a photo of the Names Quilt panel of his very dear and still very deeply missed friend. It reminded me of something I need to keep close to my heart whenever I wonder if my art work matters much at all in the grand scheme of things, and why should I even bother. I was given the task of designing that panel, after the passing away of the one it was to be in tribute to. His name was Chip.
I was not as close to Chip as the friend who brought me the work, and I was deeply honored he even thought I would be up to the task. His friend made a few suggestions as to how to proceed, gave me some needed pieces to start with. I thought about it, about the person it was for, and about all his friends, and their love. What I was being asked to create was a pretty simple design, but I was afraid of getting it all wrong. Chip was much beloved in his circle of family and friends and I wanted more then anything to give them something that let them remember and heal.
There is an utterly non-verbal place inside where there are only feelings, and images that are feelings. I have no words to describe it…it’s just how that most creative part of the work happens. There are no words. I don’t even try to find words in there anymore. But there are images.
I drew a rough sketch and presented it for approval and the friend was so taken with it he insisted that was it and no more needed doing. He organized a gathering of Chip’s friends and the sketch was projected onto a canvas sheet and we all worked on it. I’d included a spot organic to the design where friends could sign their names, and perhaps leave their own memories, thereby completing it…making it the perfect tribute I alone never could. Basically all I did was create the setting. But it had to be something that put them instantly in mind of their friend, so all those feelings would come out of them, and they could do the rest, and make it their own. It worked. They put their own hands on it, and made it their tribute to their friend.
It’s part of the larger Names Project Quilt now. Time passes, the universe expands, and decades later that panel is still very much a place of remembrance and healing for Chip’s friends. It was a small enough task, but I will never feel as though I’ve ever done anything more worthwhile with my talents, such as they are. All artists want recognition. But even more what we want is to touch hearts, and maybe, if we’re good enough, lift them up a little. I can go to my own grave knowing my art was able to do it that one time when it was needed. Just a little sketch, but it did its work.
“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”
-Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me
June 15th, 2012
Visit The Sins Of My Parents On Me If You Like, But I’ll Be Dammed If I’ll Accept Punishment For The Sins Of Yours Too
by Bruce |
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This New Yorker Profile of Bryan Fischer explains much…
Fischer’s political activism, however, began years before the advent of same-sex-marriage laws. In fact, his preoccupation with family dysfunction seems to have started with his own…
Fischer didn’t volunteer anything about his mother, but, when pressed, said, “My parents divorced when I was about twenty. It just rocked my world.” His mother, who worked as an interior decorator at a furniture store, was “chronically late,” and the bus driver on her route to work would always hold the bus for her. Eventually, he said, “my mom fell for the bus driver,” deserting him, his father, and his younger sister. “I don’t want to go into it,” Fischer said…
A former leader of the religious right in Boise who was friends with Fischer for twenty years before Fischer cut him off…a common theme in Fischer’s friendships apparently…said that Fischer, “had a deep-rooted disappointment in his father, for not being strong enough”, which Fischer denies. But over the years Fischer has been relentless in his belief that women should have no power or even a voice in church matters, time and again either leaving a church or being forced out over issues of gender and women’s role in religious life. It may seem too pat to lay all of this on Fischer’s inability to let go of what his mom did, but the obvious connection isn’t always wrong either.
I could sympathize with Fischer…after all I’m also the product of a “broken home”…except that he’s made a career out of punishing other people’s families for the sins of his own. I made peace with dad long ago. He was not the best of examples but mom loved him all the same and she did her level best to raise me as well as any kid ever got raised despite the scorn and contempt self righteous moral scolds like Fischer heaped on her. All in all I am very glad it was mom who raised me and not dad after the split. But for all his faults and crimes I loved him and only wished he would let mom show him a better way to live after all. But mom did her best for me, not just telling me that better way but living it in front of me every day, and everything I am today I owe to that.
Still, let me say absolutely that if I had to choose between being raised by dad or by the likes of Bryan Fischer I would without hesitation choose to be raised by the thief rather then the bully.
May 13th, 2012
Cold Feet, Warm Heart
by Bruce |
If my mother’s rule was right I was already thinking pretty well. But she also said, “Cold feet – warm heart” and that’s a different matter. -John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley.
This, via Sullivan…
Male libido is assumed to be a constant, quivering thrum. For some men, maybe it is. But for me, as much as I enjoy the old in-n-out, the rubba-dub-dubba, the squeak-n-bubble, I have never craved it the way our culture has led me to believe I should, not even during my fabled Horny Years from ’91 to ’95. Except for those moments when I was in the first throes of a new love, sex has never subsumed me. Yet every cultural message I receive has led me to believe it should. Consequently, my lack of nymphomaniacal tendencies has always left me feeling embarrassed and emasculated.
That’s me. When I was a teenager, and still had not admitted to myself that I’m gay, I was mostly turned off by what I regarded as the oversexed conversations of my friends. On the one hand I was too polite to say anything negative about their preoccupation with girls. On the other, I understood perfectly well that if I didn’t at least make some effort at joining in I would be regarded as a weirdo. I decided to just go with the weirdo thing and make friends with other weirdos. Problem was, they were, or at least seemed to be, just as horny as everyone else with a Y chromosome.
Then I came out to myself as gay. Fine. Okay. This explains why I wasn’t all about tits and ass. Well…at least female ass. But it wasn’t long before I came to realize I still wasn’t all that horny compared to my fellow gay males either. Yes, yes…I liked the look of comely guys. And there were times when the very thought of having sex with some of them would drive me completely nuts. But those were mostly guys I was crushing on. Random pretty bods would turn me on after a fashion, yes, but quite soon after coming out it became clear to me that my sexual thermostat was set several degrees below that of my gay male peers.
And even in the gay community, or perhaps especially in the gay community, if you aren’t 100 percent horny, 100 percent of the time, people think there is something wrong with you. Something, of course, that getting laid will cure.
I remember way back in the BBS days, the Gay bulletin board I frequented, and did volunteer work for, GLIB (for Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau) had a guest columnist on sexual health. Questions posted to the doctor’s forum were anonymous. One day a fellow glibber, male, wrote that he was concerned that his libido was too weak. He needed he said, lots and lots of gentle foreplay just to get a head of steam up for it. The doctor assured him basically what this heterosexual columnist is saying here: human males aren’t all as sexually charged as the stereotype says we are. There’s nothing wrong with you, find a boyfriend who understands your sexual needs, relax and enjoy the extended foreplay. Reading this exchange, I was tremendously relieved. It was, I am not kidding, one of those Wow…I’m not the only one after all moments gay boys are supposed to have when growing up, but for an entirely different reason.
To me, sex isn’t even about sex. Fundamentally, it’s about acceptance, having somebody desire you enough to allow you to envelop them and wanting that person to envelop you in return.
This. What Steinbeck’s mom said, presumably about women, is true of a lot of men too. It’s true of me. You could never get me into the sack at a moment’s notice. But I could be coaxed. Perhaps this was always for the best anyway. A guy who thinks coaxing is superfluous would obviously not be dating material either.
May 10th, 2012
Freedom To Not Be Angry All The Time
by Bruce |
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I do political cartoons for my local gay paper, Baltimore OUTLoud. Being published regularly allowed me to gain membership in The Associate Of American Editorial Cartoonists…a dream come true. Cartooning was the first love and political cartooning, what was called the Ungentlemanly Art, is a form of expression that I’ve been attracted to since I was a teenager, growing up in the Washington D.C. suburbs with Herblock and Gib Crockett in my daily newspapers. In high school my cartoons were in the student newspaper and on the walls of a few select social studies classrooms.
Jacob Bronowski once said that great art doesn’t set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of good and evil are “are seen in fearful sharpness of outline.” The best political cartoons are like that. It’s very easy, and most fall into that rut of being preachy. But the best ones shine that light.
I try to do that with my cartoons. When I see myself getting too preachy on the drawing board I start over. But I get angry too and sometimes I just let the anger out and my viewers can take it or leave it. Like this one I did after California Proposition 8 passed…
That’s all done on the paper by the way, only the lettering is done in the computer. I still draw my cartoons with “traditional media” and scan it in, not so much because I am a throwback as I just work intuitively with those tools better then with a digitizer pad.
That angry metaphor of the severed ring finger works for me artistically, and at some deep level it gets out of me something that just needs getting out. I hate saying this about myself because it sounds so pretentious but I am an artist. The way I know that about myself isn’t that I like to draw or that I like it very much when my drawings get looked at, it’s if you put me on a desert island with no tools to make imagery with I would cut me some sticks and twigs and draw in the sand because I just have to get it out of me from time to time whether it makes any sense to anyone or not and even if nobody else ever sees it but me. I have to do this from time to time or I will go nuts. It’s just something I am. And maybe I’m not really that good at it either. Lots of times I will look at my stuff and think I really stink at it. But I know I can’t stop doing it. Drawing…painting…photography….it’s all about the image. It’s a language I need to communicate in…much of the time just to think my world and my life through.
For my political cartoons, unlike a lot of cartoonists, I don’t do many rough sketches first. I do the drawing first in my head, and when I can see it clearly in there, then I sit down at the drafting table. Yesterday I had one ready to go, concerning the vote against same-sex marriage in North Carolina. I’d been drawing it in my mind the moment I laid eyes on the advertisement Billy Graham placed in a bunch of North Carolina newspapers. Where there any chance of that amendment not passing, Graham effectively killed it with those ads and I was angry. And immediately when I saw the ad the image for a cartoon about the likely outcome of the vote came immediately to my mind. I thought about it for days and it changed very little in my visualization of it. I was angry. The image was angry.
Yesterday morning I read the news and even though I had been completely expecting the outcome, it hit me hard. Every fucking time one of these votes happens it feels like a kick in the stomach. And you know that’s exactly the purpose of having these votes…to make gay people hurt. Because if we don’t bleed they aren’t righteous. And I did hurt. I walked around all morning long carrying this lump of grief like a stone in my gut. Reading the streams on Facebook and Twitter I could see others did too. But I did notice something that lifted my spirits even so. This time…This Time…that stone in the gut was being carried by a lot of heterosexuals too. This was what I knew would eventually win this thing: when enough of our heterosexual neighbors began to see this struggle as theirs too…feel it in their gut the same way we feel it in ours. Even as I grieved I could see we were winning this thing. But it felt so painful…so very very painful. But I had my outlet. I was going to go home from work that day, and right to my drafting table, and out would come the cartoon I had visualized so clearly in my mind’s eye for days.
…and all of a sudden Billy Graham didn’t matter anymore. And something happened to me that made me realize how much anger I have been carrying with me all these years. I stopped being angry. It almost literally felt like a weight had been taken off me.
I don’t know if I’ll do that cartoon now. I might…it’s still something I think needs being said about him, about the people who put so much hard work into kicking their gay neighbors in the face. You can shine Bronowski’s fearful sharp light at evil, but you can also shine it at the good, and I am not so very angry anymore. Life is good. Hard sometimes, but good.
Time was the haters could make us hate ourselves as much as they hated us. Then that time was over, and they could no longer make us hate ourselves and that made them angry. It made them angry and so they had to make us angry too. And being angry all the time can be a stone around your neck too. Not as big a one as hating yourself, but big enough all the same to keep you from having a decent life. Perhaps anger, unlike self hate, is a necessary thing. Perhaps without that righteous anger we would not have worked so hard, and come so far, so fast. But the day is coming when we don’t have to be angry anymore.
April 30th, 2012
Turning Kisses Into Pornography
by Bruce |
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Jim Burroway over at Box Turtle Bulletin quotes a little Michael Heath…
During my lifetime I have witnessed the descent from Playboy into the abyss of online porn…
Okay…That’s about all I need to read. If you think the human, let alone the American fascination with pornography started with Playboy Michael, and the mass consumption therein, then you have been very grievously misinformed. Google Tijuana Bible Mike. No…that’s not a translation for Spanish speaking Christians.
My own fascination with pornography ended pretty soon after it began, when I eventually figured out (don’t laugh) that there is very little romance in it. The few porn magazines I bought back in the day all had images of guys being affectionate as well as sexual. That was my turn on. No matter how hot I thought the guys were, if it was just sex I got bored if not a tad turned off. There had to be affection on display too. The more affection the better. But affection of that sort between males was a pretty radical thing to portray in any form back then, back room magazine rack or mainstream movie house. In some ways, and in some venues, it still is.
I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating because it really says it all. Back in the day an old high school friend of mine told me about taking a college course on human sexuality. The course, he said, included a number of films which you might expect to find in an Adult Entertainment store rather then in a university classroom. And so naturally most of the college students who signed up for that course did so, according to my friend who probably did also, just to see those films. What they didn’t bargain for was also having to watch a bunch of sex they didn’t much like. This was after all, a course on human sexuality, not a course on pornography. In addition to the hot young babes there was also footage of folks old enough to be their own parents having sex. Then there were the sections on geriatric sex. You can imagine how well that went over with a bunch of college students. But it was the section on gay male sex that bothered some the audience most of all. And it wasn’t the sex specifically that offended them. In fact, the sex really didn’t bother that group much at all. According to my friend, when the gay male sex scenes came on screen the ignorant jock types in the class burst out laughing and mocked the couple.
But then images of that couple being affectionate with each other came on screen and the jock’s attitude changed. Those scenes of that male couple being affectionate, kissing, holding hands, being in love, completely offended the jocks my friend said…far more, far, Far more, then watching them have sex did.
What pornography is, to my mind at least, is it just pushes your sexual buttons and nothing else. That’s all it’s for. That’s all it does. Empty button pushing. But that’s all some folks want it to be. Oh well for them I guess. What I discovered about myself, and had I not the freedom to at least look the stuff over I might not have figured this out about myself, is that I am about romance, affection, playful fun, when it comes to sex. I like to be teased. I like the friendly smile and the longing look. And the kiss. Especially the kiss. I am not much about just having my buttons pushed for the sake of pushing them. There has to be more. There has to be love. There has to be the kiss. So what my little private collection of erotic art began to consist mostly of as I grew older, is that. Sex yes, but not always that specifically and always in the context of romance. Body and soul together. I love that. It turns me on.
Your mileage may vary. That’s fine. I’m pretty sure in any case that your definition of pornography Michael is almost certainly a lot broader then mine. Anything having to do with same-sex couples even if it’s just a kiss probably counts as pornography in your book. No…Especially if it’s just a kiss. Because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. But here’s the thing Michael…most of us just look the other way when we’re grossed out or disinterested. When I found out there wasn’t much in pornography that interested me, at least of the hard core sort, I stopped looking. But you can’t for some reason.
Don’t you think that puts you in the same ugly peep show stall that the people you’re railing against are stuck in? Well…except they seem to be enjoying themselves and you’re not. And what is offending you most of all Michael, isn’t the sex gay couples are having. It’s the affection. It’s their joy. It’s the kiss…isn’t it Michael. You’re calling it “sodomy based marriage” now…it’s your new slogan that you seem to honestly think is a winner but it’s merely your way of turning kisses into pornography. Because that’s how they seem to you.
You begin your email to supporters with a little rant about pornography, but it’s all about same-sex marriage with you, not pornography, not sexual decadence. And that’s because it’s the kiss that offends you, not the sodomy. Marriage is about love and devotion, about body and soul together as one, and same sex couples are fighting for access to marriage, because they love, because they are devoted, because they are one in body and soul. And you see it don’t you. Yes…yes you do. And it bothers you massively doesn’t it. And you can’t look away. Why is that Michael?
Some might suggest that it’s because you’re a closet case yourself. I honestly doubt that you are in that particular sort of closet. There’s another, darker, colder one your sort lives their lives in. There is a marvelous scene in Mary Renault’s The Fire From Heaven, where Alexander’s father Philip, punishing his son and his son’s lover for a transgression, knowing that the punishment of his lover will hurt Alexander more then his own punishment, thinks, “…between contempt and a deep secret envy…The man does not live that I could feel that for, or the woman either.” There you are Michael. There’s why you can’t look away. There’s why you need their kisses to be empty. There’s why you hate them.
[Update…] After I cross posted this over to Truth Wins Out I checked out some of the other posts there and found This One from Evan Hurst concerning Peter LaBarbra’s post also referencing the rant of Coach Dave Daubenmire that I riffed on a few posts back. Remarkably, it contained this image from an episode of Glee, tastefully censored to prevent cases of the vapors in the kook pews. I’ve captured the full context from Pete’s site….just look at this would you…
…blocked for decency’s sake… Oh make my case for me why don’t you? Christ almighty…Pete…listen…there is something seriously wrong with you. If the image of two guys in love kissing is enough to motivate you to start up the image editor of your choice, load that image into it, and take the time to carefully black out (white out?) those two dear little pairs of lips locked like they were mashing genitals instead of kissing, you have problems. Seriously…get help.
April 23rd, 2012
Some Days I Really Regret Not Going To Art School. And…Not Ever Having Had A Boyfriend…
by Bruce |
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As I often do, I posted the last couple sketches here onto my Facebook page with a brief explanation…
I’m finding suddenly that technical pencil and a graphite stick work pretty well for me on these sorts of sketches. If I tweak the contrast up in Photoshop they almost look inked but they aren’t. Just pencil and graphite drawn on layout paper, then scanned in.
The models for these are mostly taken from fashion spreads I find here and there online and in magazines, like Out, Details and GQ. I have a filing cabinet folder full of poses I tore out of magazines I use as a reference. When I get in the mood to do one of these sorts of sketches I dig up a pose I like, do a rough sketch of the body, then just add whatever face, hair and clothes to it that come to mind.
It’s probably not as good as sketching from life would be but it’s the best I can manage. If I had it to do all over again I’d move mountains to be able to afford art school.
A friend there responded that I could always hire a model. But that doesn’t fit into how I work on these. When I do a political cartoon I do almost the entire thing in my head before I even touch pencil to paper. I know with a pretty good certainly what I want to see on the paper when I begin drawing it out. But these drawings of beautiful guys are more like daydreams. As I said in the previous post, the wistful daydreams of a single guy, who has been single just about all his life.
I wouldn’t know where to even begin with a professional, or even an amateur model. What I have are file cabinet folder full of pages I’ve torn over the years from fashion spreads in magazines like Out, Details and GQ. I use those as a reference when I sit down to a little sexy sketching. I do a rough of the body in the photo, and then I work on it, firming up the lines, moving them a tad here and there to get the body shape I want. I add face, hairstyle and clothes purely from my imagination. I have done this for so long now I have no idea how I would work with a model.
When I was a lot younger…about the age of the guys you see me drawing here, I had a small group of friends I would hang out with and I would snap photos of them. But I don’t have anyone that age in my local group of friends now, for pretty obvious reasons, and even if I did, they’d be of their own time and place and I strongly doubt I could talk any of them into dressing like they’d just stepped out of the 1970s. So those days are gone to me and with them I guess pretty much the last opportunities I would ever have to draw from life in a way that would be both helpful and inspiring. I might see spontaneous things and snap away with my camera, or if someone was patient enough, I’d ask them to pose. But that isn’t the life I have. If I’d had a boyfriend I’d have probably driven him nuts by now with all my sudden requests to pose while we were out and about. But that wasn’t the life I had.
My art sketches, as you can plainly see, are mostly young twenty-somethings. If you look closely what you see is they’re from a time when I was that age too. I’m stuck. I think this is what happens when you don’t connect, miss out on that chance for first love. You get stuck in a passage of life you were always meant to move on from. That dating and mating thing is part of the maturity process and when you fail at it a part of you gets stuck in that younger mindset, that once upon a time frame. Yes, a part of you does go on to some sort of maturity. You get a job, you enter the workforce, you start earning a living on your own, and accumulate responsibilities in the normal course of life. And you learn to fulfill those responsibilities, be dependable, because others at your workplace depend on you. You earn trust, you manage your finances, you gain various kinds of life experience and it grows you inside. All but one life experience. All but one so very vital life experience. And so a part of you does not get that chance to grow.
And yes, it’s not a completely dire fate. Keeping that youthful mindset keeps a part of you inside awake that too many adults let go to sleep. You ask questions the middle age guy might shrug off. You stay curious, open to new ideas, willing to turn the box upside down, never mind think outside of it, just to see what happens when you do that. So many of my generational peers are still afraid of computers and the Internet and the new technologies, so afraid of being left behind, and to me the fact that the world is constantly changing before my eyes, growing, getting bigger, is the same feeling it always was back in grade school. Something I have learned from being stuck, is that there is no such thing as growing up…there is only growing.
And if you’ve gotten on with the business of life with your eyes open, both to the inner and outer world, then you know well that a younger lover would not get you unstuck. What I need is someone my own age, or nearby. Someone who remembers what the world was like when John Lennon was still alive, before personal computers, cell phones and the Internet. Before cable TV and twenty-four hour cable TV news and over the horizon line was a beautiful tempting mysterious other world only expensive long distance phone calls could penetrate before the six o:clock news or the morning newspaper. Back when cars had lots of chrome and the teachers passed out assignment papers that smelled of mimeograph fluid and Jimi Hendrx played on the radio, not Rush Limbaugh. I could be a kid again with that guy. I could find my way to the rest of growing up that I missed out on.
Maybe then my artwork would grow up a little too. Or go in some different direction that I would have never known or suspected was even there had I not, finally, found my lover, and had my eyes opened to things I’d only imagined before, but never really knew anything about.
[Edited a tad for clarity in a few spots…]
April 22nd, 2012
And Now, For Something Completely Sexy…
by Bruce |
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Here’s a little something for the (according to my server logs) fans of my sketches of cute guys in cutoffs. They’re just wistful daydreaming on my part…I had no idea anyone really liked these. But while I was on vacation my web site got Google hits from people specifically looking for my name and cutoffs. Wow. I may be no Tom of Finland (whose males I never found attractive but I was in awe of his skill with a pencil) but I could do worse then be known for drawing beautiful guys in cutoffs.
Normally you Google for images of nice looking guys in cutoffs and what you get are a lot of pictures of guys who really shouldn’t be wearing these at all, which people post as a way of ridiculing cutoffs…or at any rate, cutoffs on guys. Yes, yes…you need the physique for it…but lotsa guys have that and in any case the ridicule isn’t about guys who have no fashion common sense, it’s about reenforcing the male fear of looking too sexy below the waste because that’s teh gay.
When I was a young adult this look wasn’t uncommon even on straight guys (though admittedly straight guys didn’t usually wear them quite This short…) and I guess my emerging libido just glommed onto it. But damn I like this look and I reckon I’ll just keep drawing it…
If this means I’m stuck in the past so be it. As I said, these are just the random wistful daydreams of a single guy. If you like them then I’m happy. If you think they’re ridiculous then go away.
January 28th, 2012
Marriage Is Not The Issue…
by Bruce |
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[Cross posted over at Truth Wins Out…]
This post is going to repeat a lot of verbiage from a post I made here nearly two years ago, but it’s about a recurring theme I see in our struggle. That theme raised it’s head and laughed at me this morning, while reading a post over at Box Turtle Bulletin. There, poster Rob Tisinai writes about an email he got from Maggie Gallagher…
I got a fundraising email from Maggie Gallagher the other day. It’s unbelievably long (as in, I can’t believe she expects people to read this whole thing). One sentence jumped out at me before I gave up on the piece.
Are two men pledged in a sexual union really a marriage?
Personally I’d answer, No.
Which would be the correct answer from Gallagher’s point of view. Tisinai goes on to rephrase the question in terms that acknowledge same-sex couples might actually be in love, and avers that this is something she knows she cannot admit because it undercuts her entire argument against same-sex marriage.
I don’t think her argument is about same-sex marriage. I don’t think any of them really give a good goddamn about marriage. What they’re adamant about is that homosexuals aren’t really human…that Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. It isn’t about marriage at all. What marriage represents to the homophobes is the final barrier to admitting that homosexuals are fully human and capable of experiencing all the higher emotions of love and devotion and commitment that heterosexuals do…that we are not, as Dr. Laura once famously put it, biological errors, or as you can hear thumped from pulpits all over the bible belt, demon possessed hell bound abominations in the eyes of god.
Patrick Wooden Warns that Gay Men Shove Cellphones, Baseball Bats and Animals up their Anuses, Die in Diapers
North Carolina activist Patrick Wooden has become a favorite of groups like the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, and most recently joined Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality at a rally denouncing the Southern Poverty Law Center. On a recent appearance on LaBarbera’s radio show, Wooden called homosexuality a “wicked, deviant, immoral, self-destructive, anti-human sexual behavior” and should make people “literally gag.” Wooden added that gay men have “to wear a diaper or a butt plug just to be able to contain their bowels” by their “40s or 50s” as a result of “what happens to the male anus.”
When you hear them yap, yap, yapping about the sanctity of marriage, what they’re saying is homosexuals are some sort of sub-human…things…that copulate with just about anything handy whether it’s a person or a horse or a cell phone. To lift what homosexuals do to the level of heterosexual love and commitment then, is a profane act of defilement. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. Be it with each other or…cell phones.
Which is to say, we do not love. Love is something fully human individuals experience. The homosexual experiences no such thing. That is an article of belief more central to the faith of modern fundamentalists then the resurrection.
Back in April of 2010, I read this by then newly out Christian musician Jennifer Knapp back in an interview in Christianity Today…
Q: So why come out of the closet, so to speak?
Knapp: I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I’ve been through—and I don’t know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I’ve made to choose to love who I choose to love.
[Emphasis mine…] The problem after all isn’t sex, it’s love. But asking people to acknowledge that same-sex couples love is precisely the problem. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex… People sitting in the pews side-by-side with their gay neighbors aren’t asking them to choose between their love and their faith. When they look at same-sex couples they don’t see love at all…merely sex. They are “struggling with homosexuality”. The bedrock prejudice insists, absolutely insists, that is all there is to same-sex couples. Empty, barren, transient lust.
As NOM board member Orson Scott Card once said, gay couples are just playing dress-up…
“However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were…”
“They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes…”
-Orson Scott Card, Homosexual “Marriage” and Civilization
However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… There’s the problem. Look at it if you have the nerve. This isn’t about sex. That empty barren, perverted lust is not what makes them angry. What makes them angry is any suggestion that homosexuals do, in fact, experience love the same way heterosexuals do. And it makes them absolutely livid.
It’s often argued that gay couples cannot rise to the level of marriage because they don’t produce children, and marriage is mostly about family life. But this argument is a sham. And it mirrors another sham argument often heard in conservative religious communities, that being homosexual is not a sin, only engaging in homosexual acts is. If only the homosexuals just didn’t have sex, they could be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven too…just like the rest of us. But heterosexual couples, medically incapable of having sex, are as welcome to marriage as they are the Kingdom and nobody in either group is saying that same-sex couples can marry as long as they don’t have sex.
The heterosexual couple who stick together even if they are denied a sex life are seen as vindicating the power of love. That is why sterility among heterosexuals is no barrier to marriage. But same-sex couples somehow defile the institute of marriage with their very presence, whether they bring children into it (via adoption) or not, whether they can have sex or not. And that is because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.
It’s not about children. It’s not about family life. It’s not even about heterosexuality. What homosexuals steal from people like Orson Scott Card is the idea that only heterosexuals love. All arguments to the contrary, what this fight is about, Exactly, is love, and who can be allowed to love and be loved, and who cannot. Marriage is love’s sanctuary, a sacred place where lovers can find shelter, protection, support. Letting homosexuals, who are incapable of love, into it defiles that sanctuary, turning it from a sacred place into a brothel.
However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… In 1983, Sharon Kowalski suffered severe brain injuries in a motorcycle accident leaving her unable to care for herself. Her lover, Karen Thompson, with whom she had exchanged wedding bands and shared a house, had to fight a long and bitter legal battle with Kowalski’s parents, who refused to allow Thompson any contact at all with their daughter. When Sharon, with difficulty, typed her wishes to go back home with Karen on a keyboard provided by a doctor, her parents took the keyboard away. At one point, Donald Kowalski, Sharon’s father, asked a reporter in exasperated frustration “What does that woman want with my daughter…she’s in diapers!” For almost nine years Thompson fought it out in court with Kowalski’s parents, refusing to let the woman she loved be condemned to life in a nursing home where she would be kept isolated from the world outside and denied any therapy that would have allowed her to communicate her wishes to be taken back home to Karen. When she finally won, Donald Kowalski called her an animal.
What does that woman want with my daughter… A same-sex couple who cannot have sex would be, if unrepentant nonetheless, ineligible for the Kingdom, let alone marriage. It’s not about the Act, if not engaging in the Act makes no difference. Their crime is that they love, and love is not permitted to homosexuals.
We cannot be human beings, we must be animals.
Pastor Ken Hutcherson Compares Marriage Equality to Horse-Fucking
Antioch Bible Church pastor Ken Hutcherson didn’t sit in the same room as two gay people to debate marriage equality. But he did call into the Seattle Channel studio where gay people were present for a debate on same-sex marriage.
And of course, Pastor Hutcherson went there: “If this law is passed, what is going to happen? Now ask your guests in the studio. Do they believe that if they change the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman, what is going to stop two men one woman, two women one man, one man against a horse, one many with a boy, one man with anything?“
We must be animals. Not sinners in need of salvation, but animals. Why? So we can be their scapegoats. The right wing politician who goes hiking the Appalachian trail with his mistress while his wife and children wonder where the hell he went. The religious right preacher who gets caught visiting prostitutes. The conservative moralizer who gets caught gambling. The problem isn’t that we are moral cheats, the problem is acceptance of homosexuality. Homosexuality is destroying the family and society, not our own failures of moral character. Probably it is also responsible for earthquakes and hurricanes.
Jennifer Knapp didn’t choose love over faith, but love over fame because there was no other way. Karen Thompson fought for nine years to free her beloved because their was no other way. The gay civil rights struggle is not a fight over scripture. It has nothing to do with faith. It is not about sex. It is a fight over the right, the essential human need, to love and be loved. Because love can overcome any obstacle, endure any hardship, hold on to any hope no matter how distant and faint. Because love can move mountains. Because the one thing you never want the scapegoat to do is move mountains.
October 13th, 2011
Myths Of Origin
by Bruce |
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Why am I here? What is my destiny?
We ask these questions naturally. And as we grow up we are given answers. We sit in our parents laps and we are told how it was the family came to be where it is now. How it was mom and dad met. How it was we ourselves came to be. And when we are young, we do not question them. They become unconsciously part of the bedrock of our lives.
And sometimes…sometimes…some few of us when we are older, look back upon those answers and discover that they make no sense.
I was born in California, to a mother who had traveled there shortly after her father had passed away. That is the basic fact of my life. Mom grew up, was born and raised in Greensburg Pennsylvania. But I was born in Pasadena California, and raised in Maryland after mom divorced dad and moved here. And it’s only been recently, now in my fifties, that I’ve looked at that and wondered. She was born and raised in Greensburg, and yet suddenly her and her mother uproot themselves in the late 1940s and move clear across the country to live somewhere they knew practically nobody. And when she divorced dad, her and her mother moved back across the country again. And it wasn’t back to their childhood home they moved, but once again to somewhere else that they knew practically nobody.
Well even when I was a small child I often wondered about that. And always when I asked, I got the same story.
Mom’s father had died she said, from a series of massive strokes, back in a time when medicine could do little for stroke victims. The event had disturbed her deeply. She moved to California she said, because she could not bear to live in the house she had grown up in, because the memories of the events of her father’s death were too traumatic.
Mom’s emotional life during that period was rough. Before her father died mom had loved a man, a navy man, who had gone to war. It was world war II. He was Jewish and, she told me, her father had not particularly liked Jews. But, she said, he had come to know the man she loved and that had changed him. He had eventually come to like this man, Morris she said his name was, and as time went on approved of their love.
Then one day, so she always said, he had come back from the war changed, disturbed. Her beloved sailor had been on a ship that was ordered into Nagasaki harbor after the war ended. His ship she said, became trapped in the harbor briefly due to all the bodies floating in it from the atomic bomb. She said the sight of it had driven him mad.
So her relationship with her sailor came undone. Morris’ family, she said, had taken him off to a mental hospital. She never saw him again. And then her father had his stroke. He lingered horribly, for months incapacitated, unable to do anything for himself, unable to speak or even feed himself. After six months of it he had another stroke and died.
Mom said that afterward her dreams tormented her. In the way people did back then, before the funeral his body had laid in rest in a coffin situated right in the living room of the house. Family and friends had held the service for him right there in the house. That was common in those days. Mom said that afterward she had dreams of her father rising out of his casket, and walking up the stairs to her room.
After her father was laid to rest, her mother sold the house, and also his nice cabin in the woods in the hills of Pennsylvania. That cabin was a special memory of hers….of summer months spent there with her father and the family, her dog Jigs, and all her childhood friends from Greensburg. Sweet childhood memories. She would tell me fondly of the summer months spent there. She loved that cabin, and was for the rest of her life sorry that it had been sold. The new owners had left a fire burning on a stove…the cabin had no electricity…and it had burned down.
But they had to leave Greensburg, mom always said, because she could no longer bear to be in the house she grew up in. During the war her younger brother, Dean, had found work in California, and so mom and grandma left Greensburg and traveled to California to live near him. Grandma bought a house in Pasadena, presumably with what she had gotten from the sale of the house and the cabin. They moved close to where her brother lived. And one day they traveled to Catalina Island, and there, on the pier in Avalon, she met dad. They married, and soon they had a son. Me.
That is the story I was always told. It is the story of how I came to be. And now I look at it, and it makes no sense.
My grandfather, who I never met, who mom always told me because I took an interest in electronics and technology that I took so much after him, had two nice homes, and a business. And after his death they sold it all, and simply left everything they had, everyone they knew, and moved across the country to a new place where they knew nobody but her brother and his wife. Because mom could not bear to live in the house where she grew up.
I’m fifty-eight years old now, and now I look at this story and it makes no sense. Maybe everything happened just for the reasons she said it did…but now that I look at it with the experience of my own adulthood I can’t escape the feeling that some important piece or pieces are missing. Perhaps to understand my doubt you need to understand something I do and maybe you don’t: what the distances we’re talking about here seemed like back in the day before cheap jet air travel and the Internet.
I am old enough to have glimpsed the last days of the great passenger trains. When I was a kid, most people didn’t travel by air…that was for rich people. And in their day passenger air travel would have been burdensome even if you were rich. Before the first Boeing 707s passenger airplanes were propeller things that took much longer to go from coast to coast. Nearly everyone back then traveled by bus or by train. Train mostly for the longer distance trips if you could afford it. It took days, not hours, to go from coast to coast. So any sort of travel from the east coast to the west wasn’t just a trivial thing back then. If you traveled far away, let alone moved, you just about fell off the planet as far as your family and friends back home were concerned. You might send a postcard or two back home… Having a wonderful time, wish you were here… You sure wouldn’t phone home. Way too expensive. Back then long distance phone calls were an expensive luxury. Postal mail had two grades…regular and air mail. You sent letters by air mail if you wanted them to get there in a couple days. Otherwise it might be weeks to get something from clear across the country. The highways and the rails where how most people and everything including mail traveled.
So if you went on a cross-country trip you were on another planet until you came back home. And then it was everyone gathered around while you showed your snapshots and told your stories of the far away place you’d been to. To actually go live on the other side of the country, well, you might as well have moved overseas. It’s hard to grasp now, but that is how it would have been for my mom and her mother back then. When they left Greensburg they didn’t just go move to a neighboring town…they didn’t even move to a neighboring state. They moved about as far away from Greensburg as they could and still remain in the lower 48.
Now I’m grown up and I look at this and wonder…did she not have any roots there? I know she had a job there for a brief period at an architectural firm…she used to tell me about working with the ammonia stench of the old blueprint machines. And…she had friends there. I know because he spoke of them, but not often. There were a few she kept in correspondence with. They were friends she never saw again. After mom passed away I was given a stack of her old correspondence, but there were no letters to her from her Greensburg friends among them.
And there is this…as I grew up I just accepted the constant tension that was in the family. It was just part of the background noise. But she was the apple of her father’s eye…daddy’s girl. That is the one thing everyone seems to agree on, even the ones who later cut her out of the family. I have albums of the photos her father took of her…he was, like me, an amateur photographer. The photos all show a beautiful young girl, posed in various scenes in and around the house and the cabin.
He loved her very much. And she loved him very much. If there is anything I am certain of it is this. But throughout my own childhood there was tension between her and the rest of her family…all except her younger brother Dean and one cousin. It was a tension I always put down to her marrying my father, who they all despised. But looking back on all of it now it just seems to me that the tension had to be caused by more then that. Something more must have happened to her to make her mother take her away from the town they both grew up in, and had spent their entire lives in. Whatever caused the friction in that side of my family tree, it started well before mom met dad at the pier in Avalon.
I’m fifty-eight years old now, and while I don’t think of myself as worldly I am old enough now to understand some things better that I could not have while I was growing up. She had a life in Greensburg. She had friends, family, community. And so did her mother. Greensburg was their home. They were both born and raised there. It was where everything and everyone they had ever known was. And I was told they sold everything, their house and the cabin, and left it all for California. Because mom could not bear to stay in the house she had grown up in after her father had died.
It makes no sense. They could have bought another house. Surely whatever trauma mom experienced she’d have needed her friends. Surely grandma would have had friends of her own there as well to help her through the death of her husband. In an age before cell phones and cheap long distance, when letters took days to arrive from the next state over, let alone clear across the country, and when long distance cross-country phone calls were so expensive people would gather around the telephone at the appointed time to wait for the call, to move from one end of the country to another would have been like moving to another planet. They’d have both given up everything they knew, everyone they knew, to literally start life all over again in California. Because granddad died of a stroke?
No. Just…no. It makes no sense.
I am not on friendly terms with that side of the family anymore…not that I ever really was. Except for uncle Dean nobody was really nice to me. I was my father’s son, and they despised him and I was living evidence of that marriage they all hated. I had his face. At various times when it was useful to them, and particularly to grandma, I was told I had all his bad traits too. Did I talk too much? Well he’s his fathers son isn’t he. Did I forget to do my homework? That’s his dad in him. Was I too proud of something I had accomplished? A piece of artwork? A good grade in school? His dad was vain like that. Did I a get a bad mark in class? His dad was shiftless like that. Stubborn? His father’s blood obviously. Whatever I ever did that was wrong, it was always because I was my father’s son. I got used to it. By the time I was seventeen and began to realize my homosexuality, I already had a lifetime of training in coping with being hated for something I was that I couldn’t help being. So it wasn’t all for nothing.
The only one who really took an interest in me was uncle Dean. Mom and he always got along great, and I have lived to regret I grew up on the east and not the west coast where I could have been near him and away from the others. Whatever it was that was the cause of so much tension in the family, her brother Dean was never bothered by it, or blamed her for it. Shortly after mom passed away, I took a trip out to California and visited my aunt Cleone, uncle Dean’s wife, and she told me something that shocked me enough to make me pretty much divorce myself, finally and forever from that side of the family. She said one of my cousins, a daughter of mom’s oldest brother Wayne, an uptight right wing jackass, had told mom after Wayne passed away that mom would not be allowed a grave in the family plot in the Greensburg cemetery. I put it down to their hatred of dad, but it made me furious. It still makes me furious to think about it. So I’ve pretty much disconnected myself from that branch of the family tree entirely.
Whatever they thought of mom, she was a good mother to me, and a thoroughly decent person. She set a good example for her son. After she passed away people in the town she had retired to would come up to me…people I didn’t know from Adam…and tell me what a ray of sunshine she was everywhere she went. That wasn’t an act…I grew up with it, it was her. It made me absolutely furious how that side of the family treated her…all except her brother Dean and her cousin who lived in the small Virginia town she retired to. He cousin also loved her very much. Her older brother and the rest of that family, not so much. And me…I’m living evidence that mom married a man they all hated. So I can get no answers from them, and I wouldn’t trust any I got now if I asked.
I had always, until now, put the family static down to her marrying dad. But now I look at it and it just seems so…wrong…so incomplete an explanation. Was that really all of it? I don’t know, but I am certain now that there is something that I was never told, because the story makes no sense. You just don’t pack up and leave everything, even over such a traumatic experience as your father dying of a lingering illness. Something happened.
Dad, let it be said, had…issues of his own. The marriage didn’t last. Mom loved him to the day she died, but the marriage didn’t work. Mom divorced dad when I was two, and she and grandma took me and moved back across the country…but not back to Greensburg. They moved to Washington D.C., to live near mom’s cousin, who was living there at the time. She got a job as a clerk for the Yellow pages. We lived in a series of small apartments. Whatever money they had from the sales of the house in Greensburg, the cabin, granddad’s business, and the house in Pasadena, somehow was all gone. I grew up in a very low budget household, being raised by a single working mother, in a time when women made about 60 cents for every dollar a man doing the same job made. Mom’s family in Pennsylvania made no effort whatever to help her out. It was something I took for granted as a child…but now it really stands out. I’m having a hard time now believing that was all because of her marrying dad. They basically shut her out.
But not grandma. Someday maybe I’ll write about what growing up was like with that cold constantly angry, fire and brimstone Yankee Baptist women in the house. Somehow she remained a bridge between mom and I and the rest of that side of the family, and a powerful force in it. She stayed by mom’s side from the time granddad died to the day she died, but at times it seemed to me more to punish her daughter then support her as she tried to raise a kid by herself in a 1950s/1960s world that regarded single divorced women with children as less worthy of respect then prostitutes. I never saw grandma smile, unless it was at the misfortune of others. When bad luck struck other people it always seemed to satisfy her somehow. And I remained a favorite target until the day she died, because I had the face, and the last name, of the man she hated. Stinking Rotten Good For Nothing Garrett Just Like Your Pap was her favorite name for me.
And me…I grew up with next to nothing, but I never really noticed that until I got older. I was fed on a bland, low budget diet but I never went to bed hungry. I often wore hand me downs but I never left the house in dirty clothes. I never saw mom cheat another person, lie to them or say anything about them behind their back that she wouldn’t have said to their face. I never once heard her utter a curse word or saw her take a drink or light up a cigarette. When I was a kid the first time I ever saw someone else’s mother smoking it shocked me…I didn’t think mothers did that. Mom sat down with me and my homework, tried her best to teach me right from wrong, and always encouraged my creative impulses. We didn’t have much, but I had what I needed to grow up on: I never doubted mom’s love. Never. Grandmas hate, and the disdain of most of that side of my family, I just accepted as part of the background noise. The love of a good mother can give a kid all he needs to stand up to whatever static life brings his way.
How her older brother, various other members of that side of the family, and especially her own mother treated her is something that some days makes me livid to think about, and others completely baffles me. She really was that ray of sunshine everywhere she went, a completely decent person and a good mother. Some of my childhood friends had horrible parents. Everyone told me how nice mine was. Everyone. It wasn’t an act. Yet her own family, with one or two exceptions, treated her miserably. I never once heard her complain. At least, not when I was there to hear it. Mostly the family tension was just there in the background. Always there. Something I just shrugged off whenever I thought about it. Mom loved me, that was all that mattered. The only time it burst out into the open in my presence, was when I was 16 and they discovered she had started seeing dad again. It was like being in the center of a nuclear blast. But that incident centered on dad. That they hated him does not really explain it all.
Something happened. Something more then just her marrying dad. Something that made them leave Greensburg and everything and everyone they knew, and when her marriage failed, prevented them from returning. Something her family, other then her brother Dean and her cousin, never forgave her for. Probably I’ll never know what it was. Mom never strayed from the story. Nobody else did either.
[Edited some for clarity, and add a few details that I missed occurred to me…]
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