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December 15th, 2016

December 15, 1971 – The Moment Everything Changed

December 15, 1971…Sometime around twilight I took a walk from the apartment mom and I shared, up Parklawn Drive to Twinbrook Parkway, then across the railroad tracks and to Rockville Pike. I sat down on a curb near the Radio Shack and watched the twilight deepen over Congressional Plaza. A classmate I was madly crushing on, but could not admit to myself that I was crushing on, had put an arm across my shoulders as we walked together down a school hallway to a side exit where he always parked his little motorcycle, and given me a quick little squeeze, and my head went into the stratosphere and I’d been walking on air ever since. I was watching the colors in the sky deepen, but all I could see was his face, and all I could think about was how it felt to have his arm around me.

Eventually I could think it: I’m in love. And then I could think the rest of it and not be afraid or ashamed, because nothing had ever felt so wonderful. And from that moment on I was never afraid or ashamed. Life was better than I’d ever thought possible. The days after that, winter into spring, then into summer, really were like a Walt Disney movie. The birds really did sing a little more sweetly. The stars really did shine a little more brightly. I walked with a lighter step. Life was wonderful. Everything was wonderful.

Forty-five years ago…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on December 15, 1971 – The Moment Everything Changed

September 27th, 2011

Stories To Definately Avoid If You Believe In Love: Scenario 2. Didn’t I Say I Warned You?

Continuing our gallery of morose, possibly horror story grade film or novel scenarios, here’s another based on the stream of thought I had contemplating the plot device in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That’s the one you may recall, where the two lovers break up and one decides to undergo a procedure which erases the other from their memory, and the other, sad to learn of it, does the same.  Then they reconnect anyway which only goes to show they were really meant for each other to begin with and love isn’t always a fairy tale but a lot of hard work for both people. Yes, yes…so very romantic. Actually, I love that plot device. But somehow it always turns a tad dark in my imaginings…

I have an idea. It’s a story about a heterosexual man…

When he was a teenager he was well liked by his teachers and friends. He’s very open minded, somewhat more so then his parents who are mostly liberal, but with some hang-ups about class and gender and race. They’re not raving prejudiced, because that isn’t fashionable, and they try, really try their best, to teach their kid not to be that way.

In school he befriends a gay kid and right away they start to get along really well. He defends his gay friend from bullies and takes his part in political arguments about gay civil rights and same-sex marriage. They become very close friends. Brothers almost. But as often happens, not just in gay/straight relationships either, he finds his perfect girlfriend, and the gay kid finds a nice boyfriend, they slowly begin to drift apart.

The gay kid’s boyfriend turns out to be a real jerk, and as he grows older it becomes a pattern with him. He falls into a bitter cycle of one disastrous affair after another. Nothing seems to work for him.

The straight kid’s girlfriend on the other hand is his perfect match. They have a lovely, almost fairy tale romance that grows ever more beautiful over time. They marry, have beautiful kids, he finds the career of his dreams, they settle down in a nice suburban community with good schools and decent shopping.

Fast forward. The straight guy is in his late middle age, and he is reflecting on how happy his life has been. Especially compared to most of his classmates from way back when. Many of them have had it really hard. One day, he reconnects with his gay buddy from back in the day. His gay buddy has had it hard. Very hard. He’s still single, and bitter.

They have lunch together one day and they instantly reconnect like old and dear friends. The gay friend is happy that his old pal has had it so good and it is obviously sincere joy. Seeing how happy his old friend from high school is makes him a bit happier too, brings him out of his gloom and lifts his spirits. It makes him believe once more, after so long, that life maybe doesn’t have to suck after all. It can get better.

He decides to tell his straight friend that he’s re-considering something his parents tried very hard to talk him into back when they were teenagers. There’s a procedure…it’s frowned upon in more liberal circles, but not illegal…that can change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. It’s just been so hard living my life as a gay man, he says, so lonely, so terribly terribly lonely... For all his accomplishments as a gay political activist, his private life has been completely miserable. I’m not sure I want to go on the rest of my life like this, he says. His straight friend is appalled. He urges his gay friend not to do it, it would be a sell-out, not just to the cause he’s long fought for, but to himself, to his soul. Yes, says his gay friend, but…it’s so hard being so alone. At least as a heterosexual, I’d have more of a chance at finding the kind of life you’ve had.

It is a sad conversation, but by the end of it the straight guy has mostly convinced his gay friend to hang on, and live an authentic life. Even if you change he says to his gay friend, how do you go on knowing that it isn’t really you, but something that was done to you? Then his gay friend lays one more thing on him. The procedure can be coupled with a memory wipe, so you never know you were once gay. New memories are introduced to make you believe you were always straight. That’s completely outlawed now against children, but he says, even on adults it’s a lot harder to do that to someone our age. Too many memories…the risks of complications are much higher. No…he finally says, it isn’t worth it.

They get up to go their separate ways and now it seems the gay friend has had a definite change of heart. No…it’s too late now to even think about changing. Better he had done it back when he was a teenager. But really…better still to live an authentic life. And anyway he says with a shy smile that takes his straight friend back to their school days, the worst thing would be having to forget you.

They part ways. The straight guy had always known his gay friend had a crush on him, and for his part he was always very fond of his gay friend. Back in school they were almost inseparable. Brothers almost. But it was always clear to both of them that it could never be. He is thoroughly heterosexual. He has always liked women. And now he has a wife he loves very much, and even at their age they still have a great sex life.

But now something is bothering him. He does a little digging into this ex-gay procedure. It was something he’d never really looked at before. He’d always opposed it, had always spoken out against it. There had been attempts to outlaw it completely that he had supported.  But activists had only succeeded in outlawing the practice on children.  Mostly he avoided the issue altogether.  And now that he thinks of it, that seems a little strange.  In his own low key way he is actually very politically aware and active. But his style was more behind the scenes then his gay friend’s upfront activism.

It quickly falls entirely out of his mind. Then he gets an email from his gay friend thanking him for the visit after all these years, and the encouragement. He writes that he’s redoubling his efforts to find a mate after all, and getting back into the fight for full gay equality. He would still like to see the ex-gay procedure completely outlawed, and he tells his straight friend he’s getting back into that fight now.

Oh yes…that. Now it begins to bother him how uncharacteristically he’d just put it all out of his mind. It was something that should normally still bother him about the world he lived in. His parents had raised him to be tolerant and progressive, even if they’d had their own repressed doubts and prejudices. Homosexuality wasn’t something they’d ever much discussed when he was a teen. But as an adult, often while remembering his gay schoolmate, he had always worked for the better, more inclusive world.

Now he looks more deeply into it, forcing himself at times, posting reminder notes just to make sure he follows up on things he finds out about the ex-gay process…its invention, its history of usage…the patterns of its use…the political controversy. Sometimes it’s a struggle to maintain an interest…he has so much else he’s busy with in his own life. But soon his wife, also very much the progressive and pro-gay rights person, gets involved and begins helping him with it. He has told her the story of his gay friend’s struggles and she is very sympathetic, and as disgusted by the very existence of the ex-gay clinics as he is. With her help, he maintains focus.

So he digs for information and learns more and more about the procedure that turns gay people straight and wipes their memories of ever having been gay. What he learns appalls him. He periodically writes his gay friend back and tells him about what he has uncovered…much that was never really fully aired in public. His gay friend is overjoyed to have his old pal back in the fight.

But at night the research is also causing him very unpleasant dreams…dreams about sudden violent arguments with his parents…or someone’s parents, he is not sure. He wonders if they are real memories or just his own projections of what his friend’s home life must have been like.

One morning, saying nothing to anyone of his plans, he goes to a private investigator, someone who he has read about, who has done much of the main investigation for various gay rights groups concerning the ex-gay clinics. This man has a reputation for uncovering secrets in not always legal ways, but his revelations were crucial in getting the procedure against children stopped. He asks this man to check to see if anyone in his high school class had been taken to one of the ex-gay clinics, and then had their memory of being gay wiped.

The investigator takes him into another room, stacked with filing cabinets, some bulging. Through various court cases, and a few not completely legal methods, he has acquired tens of thousands of what were once secret files, documents, recordings, some he is still not at liberty to disclose the contents of publicly. These files have proven critical in the search for victims, the investigator says, and the prosecution of some of the people who ran the clinics, as well as the outlawing of the procedure against children.

Tell me a little about the school you all went to, says the investigator. Tell me about the neighborhood, the area churches, politicians, community leaders. Certain ex-gay clinics were intimately connected to certain churches, and certain politicians. Tell me a little more about the students…and…about yourself… The whole sordid story of these clinics is in these files. Tell me what I need to know, and I can give you the information you are looking for.

He spends hours talking to the man, who all the while is entering data into a small computer. Then the investigator gets up, walks over to a filing cabinet, and after a little flipping through the files inside, pulls one out. He hands it to him. In it is a name and a case history. Somehow he is not completely shocked to learn that, yes, there was one kid from his high school that got sent to an ex-gay clinic.

Him.

He reads. The evidence in the file suggests it was done to him against his will. His memory of ever being gay, of ever even suspecting he was, was completely wiped. He checks the dates. It had to be he realizes, very soon after his parents found out about his gay friend.

And then and there in that office, reading the notes on his case for himself after all those years, he remembers it all in a sudden rush…about when his parents first learned about his gay friend. They had turned suddenly angry and suspicious. They’d had an awful argument. The next day some men had entered his bedroom in the middle of the night, and taken him to a place…somewhere…somewhere dark…

He can recall no more then that. But it is enough.

He walks back home in a daze. He loves his wife. Really deeply and truly loves her. And without a doubt she loves him. Their sex life is great, even in late middle age. They have beautiful kids, grown now and pursuing their own careers and love lives.

But…he loved his gay friend too. To his gay friend he has always been a straight buddy. Yes, his gay friend had a crush on him…that was always something they both knew, but it was always clear to both that it could never be, because he was straight. Except he wasn’t. At least, not born straight. He looks back to their teen years together and sees it clearly. They were always more then just friends. They were soul mates.

I…I loved you…

And he sees the life his gay friend had…his very lonely, bitter struggle…and sees now, clearly, the life he could have had…the life they could have had.

But…what does he do? What Can he do? Who does he tell? What good would it do to say anything to anyone at this point? His parents have both passed on…he, his wife, his gay friend, are all at the doorstep of old age. What good would it do to tell anyone? But there is more. The last words the private investigator spoke to him before he left the man’s office echo in his brain: You know don’t you, that the procedure can be reversed. You can be the man you were born to be again. If you want. Others, many others, have had the procedure reversed.

But could he really, after so much time has passed? And what would happen to his family then? What would they have? He loves them very much.

It’s not true that there is only one perfect soul mate out there for each individual. His gay friend still has a chance to find someone to love, and be loved by. They both know this. He decides to say nothing. The investigator had assured him that nothing would be said about him unless he specifically authorized it. Privacy laws forbade it. When he gets back home he finds an email from his gay friend telling him he’s dating someone new now, hoping that this time it would be different.

He agrees to meet them both for lunch somewhere, he and his wife and his gay classmate and his new boyfriend. And at that pleasantly cheerful little gathering of old friends and their lovers, he sees that this new guy is nice on the outside where it doesn’t count, but isn’t any better deep down inside where it does then any of the other guys his friend has hooked up with in the past. He can see another broken heart coming for his friend all over again.  And it makes him angry, angry at the new boyfriend/creep, angry in a deep dark place inside where he had never been angry before.

His wife sees the broken heart coming for his gay friend too. He’s such a beautiful spirit, his wife says to him later. It’s so tragic he never found someone. I hate how this world treats people like him. Not just that he’s gay, but that he’s such a beautiful spirit. It’s so hard for people like that to find love. So hard for everyone really. I’m so glad I found you.

Not all horror stories have blood splashing everywhere.

“Evil enters like a needle and spreads like an oak tree.”
-Ethiopian Proverb

by Bruce | Link | React! (7)


Stories To Definately Avoid If You Believe In Love: Scenario 1. Remember, I Warned You.

Another one of the Big Three major loves of my life finally decided to get himself a Facebook account recently…I discovered during another of my periodic name searches.  I mentioned on my status update that I wished there was a Forget You pill I could take, but that I’d only take it for one of the Big Three (Hi Keith!).  A friend then directed me to the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I was already aware of that film, although I haven’t watched it yet.  But the central plot device is a beautiful one for a romance story: Two people who choose to undergo a procedure that makes them forget about each other, who then hook up again later anyway, which means they were really meant for each other to begin with. Yes, yes…a very lovely tale of true romance. And one I’d happily read myself, if it were presented to me in a gay context.

Writing it myself is another matter, and not just because I’d have to copy it outright from somebody else, a thing I regard with distaste when I see other would-be artists doing that.  On the other hand, Picasso himself said a mediocre artist copies and a great artist steals.  And this plot device is just brimming with possibilities.

Unfortunately for you dear reader, those possibilities always seem to take a dark and morose turn with me.  I can’t imagine why that is.  But in the interest of getting some of this stuff that has always been percolating in me ever since I can remember…I seem to be able to think up more ideas then I ever have time to follow through on…let me belabor you with a few scenarios for a novel or movie.  Go ahead and use them.  If they flop and everyone hates you for making them sit through it, you can always blame me.

Here’s Scenario 1…there isn’t much to it.   Call it, The Good Life

It’s about a gay guy who tries all his life to find his soul mate.  Comes out to himself as a teen, but instead of going through fear and loathing about his sexual orientation, he accepts it, and tries extra hard to make himself worthy of a nice boyfriend.  Gets good grades, graduates near the top of his class, never cheats or lies or steals.  He’s no cardboard prude by any means, but he tries extra hard to be a worthy lover, so he can attract the man of his dreams.  Unfortunately for him, all he ever gets are the boyfriends from hell…the ones attracted to Nice Guys because they’re easy to manipulate and fun to cheat.

That’s his life.  One bad, failed romance after another after another after another.  His gay friends are no help either.  Oh they believe in love all right…but they think our hero is a tad childish to believe in Romance and finding that man of your dreams.  Better they keep telling him, to settle for Mr. Right Away instead of Mr. Right.  Who knows they say, that sexy rent boy you purchase for an evening might turn out to be a steady thing.  And if not, hey, he’s affordable at least.  Time and again, though he never finds out what the audience does, they fail to connect him to other guys who might actually be right for him.  Romance is for daydreamers.

Eventually he’s a very old man.  And one day he realizes this is all that will ever be.   He sees that he will never find that love of his life after all, that he is going to die alone and loveless, never having been loved, never having had that life affirming body and soul relationship with another person, never known that quiet peaceful joy of holding, and being held in the arms of the one you love.  Now, at the twilight of his life he sees, finally, the reason that there are so many beautiful love stories out there isn’t because there really are so many beautiful love stories out there, but that so terribly many people are like himself, lost and lonely and aching for a love that will never come.  He wishes he had never been born.

But all is not hopeless.  Modern technology has an answer for everything.  He takes the last little bit of his life savings and goes to a clinic, where they replace all his bad memories of failed romances with a fake memory of meeting his soul mate when they were both teenagers and they have a happy life together and then in their shared old age his soul mate dies (peacefully of natural causes) and he morns.  But then he goes on with his life because they both promised each other that they would if one of them died before the other.

He leaves the clinic knowing only that he had checked himself in for a very normal and natural case of depression after his one true love had passed away.  The doctors and nurses there he remembers, were all very kind to him, and all said he’d been a very lucky man to have found such a beautiful meaningful love, and he left the clinic feeling a little sorry for them, because they were still searching for it.

He spends his last few years peacefully remembering his lover, spouse and soul mate, and dies one day a happy man, knowing he had lived life to its fullest.

You see?  Even horror stories can have happy endings.

.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Stories To Definately Avoid If You Believe In Love: Scenario 1. Remember, I Warned You.

May 21st, 2011

Rapture

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane –
Lenny Bruce is not afraid…

-REM, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

So according to both REM and our latest End Of The World prophet Harold Camping, the end of the world will start with an earthquake.  The scriptures agree!  As I write this, Raw Story is currently live blogging the rapture

At 6 pm local time on the International Date Line, Harold Camping of the Family Radio Network believed the Rapture was supposed to begin with a tremendous earthquake and destruction the likes of which humans have never seen. Rolling westward, it was set to hit Tokyo — which has already witnessed its share of destruction this year — at 6 pm local time, or 5 am ET. Since that’s the most reasonable unreasonably early hour I was willing to get up, that’s when this liveblog began.

I feel as if I should take time out of my busy day to relax and enjoy this once in a lifetime spectacle, since according to Camping it’s folks like me who made it all possible…

Q: Why May 21?
A: Camping calculates May 21 is exactly 7,000 years from the date of the Noah’s Ark flood. In his book “Time Has an End,” Camping writes. “The year 391 B.C. is the year when the Old Testament was finished, and 2,011 + 391 – 1 = 2,401, or 7 x 7 x 7 x 7.” There you have it.

Q: Any other reason?
A: Yes. Gay Pride and same-sex marriage. Camping says God will punish America and the rest of the world for Gay Pride and same-sex marriages, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were punished with fire and brimstone in the Old Testament.

Of course, the gays are responsible.  The gays are always responsible.  A friend of mine in Kansas suggests we all leave articles of clothing here and there on the streets of our towns to mark the occasion.  Perhaps instead, it’s time for The Rapture to be reclaimed.

I have a scenario:  Instead of rapturing the one or two percent of the world’s right wing christianist nutcases, suppose God really does rapture His Own on that day and hour no man knows, not even the Angels.   Suppose He takes all the good people away.  No…the Good people.  The Really Good people.  The ones who gave a damn about this good earth, and their neighbors…all the ones who cared enough to struggle, give their lives even, to make this world a better place for all of us…all the ones who couldn’t let an injustice go past without raising their voices…all the ones who never let a friend down, even if it meant taking some personal risk…all the ones who were trustworthy, who wouldn’t cheat a stranger, let alone a friend…all the lovers…all the dreamers of a better tomorrow.  Whether they were Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or Atheist.  All the good people…which would be a pretty large portion of the human population, but alas not hardly all of it.  Suppose in one sudden instant God snatched them all away.  What would be left behind?

Why…all the assholes.

And there’s your Tribulation right there.  Never mind the seven seals and judgement day….every day is judgement day.  The antichrist isn’t a person, it’s a mindset.  It’s living for what you hate instead of what you love.  It’s cheating someone weaker then you just because you can and assuring yourself that the weak deserve it.  It’s bullying your way though life and then whining that you don’t get the respect you deserve.  It’s scapegoating your neighbor instead of taking responsibility.  It’s looking at life with zero-sum glasses that are always telling you that whenever someone else is happy it’s because they’re taking something away from you.  It’s resenting human joy so much you just have to strangle it wherever you see it in the eyes of others.  Suppose the world was suddenly left with nothing in it but people like that.

Seven years of tribulation?  Oh, no…my guess is less then one or two months before they’ve all managed to slit each others’ throats.  Judgement.  The joy we bring into the world, or the pain and suffering we inflict upon others, is our judgement upon the world, and ourselves, and this good earth, and some people hate everything so much they pray for the world to end soon, and some of us wish it never would.  Some live in rapture, and some in tribulation and every day is judgement day.

To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth, the jerks will always be with you…try your best to deal with it.  Later today I’ll pour a little glass from my bottle of Don Julio 1942 and toast the rapture that happens whenever I am happy and realize that for all its pain and struggle, life is good.  And when 6:30 comes along and the universe is just going on about its usual business I’ll be sitting on my front porch savoring a very nice tequila, and listening to the birds in my maple tree chirping like they don’t believe the world will ever end.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Rapture

August 16th, 2010

Images From A Sideshow Running Away With The Circus…(continued)

Here’s some shots of the counter-demonstrators…

As I said previously, the main contingent of the counter-demonstrators came in two waves shortly after the NOM rally began.  But even as NOM was setting up there were a handful of individuals there on the sidewalk near them, quietly speaking their truths.  And among these was Mel White and his companions from Soulforce.  I saw Mel occasionally walk over to some of the NOM folks and chat with them for a while.  What was said between them I have no idea: much as I would have like to have snapped some photos of those conversations, I kept my distance.  At 56 going on 57, I have a very negative opinion of the possibility of changing minds, let alone hearts of any of these True Believers.  But I deeply respect anyone who still believes in their heart that it can be done.  So I stay out of it.  This is why I am not a professional news photographer.  The spirit of Weegee laughs at my deference to the better angels.

More and more I am seeing at these demonstrations, young heterosexual couples who see this struggle as their own too.  And it is.  Only on its face is this a fight about homosexuality.  Look closer.  It’s a fight over the right to love and be loved, waged by the power hungry war mongering human gutter, that throughout history has viewed the power of love as the essential enemy to be smashed wherever it exists.  The gay rights struggle is the lover’s struggle.

There were also lots of individual folks bearing simple statements in support of the right to love.   Sometimes you  thought you saw another lonely heart, determined to stand up for what in their own lives is yet to be…

As I said, the main force of counter-demonstrators came in two waves.  The first was peaceful and positive.  The second wave were a tad angrier.  And…louder.   They were quickly asked/ordered to move further down the plaza, away from the NOM event.

I understand this anger perfectly well.  And I am not going to sit here and pontificate that this sort of demonstration is counter-productive.  The other side turns us into scarecrows they can safely fear at a distance, and defeat with bar stool valor and junk food religion.  They need to see that we are as human as they; and there is nothing less surprising on this earth then the sight of humans who have been attacked getting angry, and fighting back.  When people are denied the dream of love, when that ability to love another, and accept their love in return is gutted out of them, what is left?

I have have said often, that the one who fights this fight and doesn’t put their head down on the pillow every night, just a little bit angrier then the night before, just a little more angry then they thought it was humanly possible to be angry, isn’t really paying attention.  But it is oh-so easy for anger to become hate.  And hate will kill your soul.

This is the lover’s struggle.  When all you have left in it is anger, you are done for.  It is for love that we fight.  Every moment you can put anger aside and remember that, you defeat hate.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

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