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August 29th, 2020

Approaching 67. . .

I follow several Mercedes-Benz pages on Facebook. This popped up this morning on one of them…

Yes, they’re talking about automobiles there, but you can take that a bunch of different ways. And especially when you’re well on your walk into old age. 

That first heart attack…assuming you survive it…gives you some perspective. Things that may have once nagged at you, or caused you some distress, all the what ifs and should haves, they stop mattering as much. And some just fade away as you look at them again from the new vantage point. That…really wasn’t all that important after all was it…?

It’s not, at least for me, the feeling that I don’t have much time left. Somehow deep inside I’ve never assumed I had any. Read the newspapers…people die all the time, young and old, suddenly, unexpectedly, and there it is…the end. The heart attack hasn’t really changed my thinking on that any. What’s changed is my perspective.

The torrent of love and support I got from friends, family (in California) and coworkers actually surprised me. After a lifetime of singleness, my working hypothesis had become that while I was perhaps well liked, nobody really cared all that much. I was unlovable. That had to be it or I wouldn’t be so alone. Somehow I just got used to that, and managed not to kill myself. I thank the art gene in me. And also I reckon, being an only child. We onlies are almost preternaturally good at keeping ourselves company. The outpouring of support I got while recovering was a big help. I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was. I actually do matter to a few people. 

To some I don’t, and never will, and that’s okay. No Meatloaf, objects in the rear view mirror are not closer than they seem. They’re behind you. That moment Death taps you on the shoulder…out of nowhere, except it was always there. It was there with you from the moment you were born. Now if it walks away again, then it was trying to get your attention. Keep your eyes on the road. Look ahead. Adventure is there. Everything that you didn’t know before, everything you haven’t yet seen, is there. 

by Bruce | Link | React!

June 15th, 2020

Why Are You Still Single? It Has To Be You Fucked Up Somehow.

This came across my Feedly feed today…from George Takei’s blog…

People Confess Why They Are Still Single

“Why are you single?” –– And just like that, Redditor Uninfectedl got to the point, asking a question that hits a sore point for so many of us.

The poster, Alan Jude Ryland says they’re single because they’re enjoying singleness. Lots of people do. But lots of us feel trapped and beaten down, especially as the usual thinking is you’re just not doing it right and it’s your own damn fault. You looser.

Here are my reasons…

1) I’m gay. We’re a minority. I had a Much smaller pool of potential dates to start with. Strike one.

2) I came of age during a period when gay folk were almost universally hated. So no socializing among gay teens and young adults as arranged by helpful caring adults. No dances, no proms, no anything to help guide us into making the right choices, finding the one that’s right for you. Strike two.

3) No stories about same sex romances, no songs on the radio, no movies or TV, no examples of how to grow up and find love. We were invisible at best, at worst we were dangerous deviants, sissyboy weaklings, psychopaths and predators. Straight kids got the happily ever after, we got the gutter. Strike three.

4) Too many people in my world when I was coming of age, all the way through my twenties and thirties, felt it was their sacred moral duty to break up any budding same sex romances and keep young lovers far, far apart for their own good. That happened to me over and over. Strike four.

5) The sort of guys I was attracted to, the nice boys, the ones I might have met in a better world at a church social or coffee house, were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want god to hate them. Strike five.

6) People who look like that want people who look like that. Strike six and game over.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why Are You Still Single? It Has To Be You Fucked Up Somehow.

June 8th, 2020

Memories Of Standing On The Outside Of The Comfort Zone Looking In

Facebook tossed this memory from today, 2015 in my face just now. I was visiting Walt Disney World and I had to vent…

Some days I visit he’s being a jerk and doesn’t want to talk to me. Others, like last night, he’s all warm smiles and cheerful eyes and just can’t stop talking and we stay long past park closing time and I’m walking on air all the way back to my room. But then it’s always why can’t we spend some time together outside the park and his comfort zone won’t allow it.

So either way I have to struggle to get my vacation started back up again. If he’s grouchy then I’m miserable and just want to go home. I’ve called vacations off early when it’s been that. If he’s full of sunshine and smiles then I feel like I’ve hit the high point of my trip and why bother staying. There’s that back to the reality of things after the visit let-down to climb back out of somehow. I have to remind myself I need the break regardless.

This morning I’ll hit the grocery store for some perishables I couldn’t bring down with me, and more ice tea, and maybe something from the liquor store so I’m not always paying Disney prices for alcohol. Then spend the rest of the week chilling out, maybe working some more on A Coming Out Story (I brought my drawing things). But I’m in a state now I really have no words for, or at any rate words I’m willing to speak. He said something to me that lifted me out of myself in a way only someone who really gets you can. And it took a load off my psyche certain other gay someone’s I know weighed me down with for years.

It was all about how I don’t interact well with people. Too shy, too self absorbed, blah, blah, blah, your photography has no people in it, blah, blah, blah… Biergarten is “Octoberfest” seating, which means you get seated at a table with other random guests and you’re expected to talk and share a good time together. This time I was seated with a group that seemed really stand-offish. They just gave off chilly vibes. But after a while I got them talking about where they’re from and what they do, and of course when they found out I work at Space Telescope and on Hubble and James Webb they got all interested in that. And by the end of the night we were all chatting happily.

And after they left he and I were chatting and he noticed too how chilly that group was initially. He’s worked this line of business for so long now he can probably read a table the second he walks up to it. Then he said he’d always seen me open people up and that I was good at it and that I was always getting everyone talking and having a good time no matter how chilly the table seemed at first.

Well…yeah… One thing is you always know you’re with other Disney people here…so that’s something. It’s not like you’re in some random bar with bad mood people. We’re all Disney people here. And that Disney kid just comes out of me here. It’s a kind of freedom to be that kid I once was I never really appreciated I was missing before I started coming here. But I’m not the hopelessly detached single certain other people somehow managed to convince me I am either. I’m not that…so how did I get to thinking of myself like that? He just pulled that out of me with a few words and the look on his face when he said it.

He does that. It’s when someone shows you things about yourself you didn’t know, but should have known, that makes it serious. And…it’s been like that since we were teenagers. When he’s not in a touchy mood, it’s still like that.

But we never got the chance other kids did. And now he has his comfort zone, and I need to get on with my vacation. Somehow.

It was around this time that I’d figured out that if I told him in advance I was coming down he wouldn’t have anything to do with me, but if I just showed up it was all smiles and happy face and good times. Something just less than a year later we had nuclear war…I’d told him I was coming down and he lied about being on a ski trip and I shouldn’t bother and I came down anyway and he was so stand-offish even the new servers there noticed something was wrong with him. Afterward he sent me a nastygram telling me never to speak to him again and I blew up because I hadn’t done anything wrong or said anything to him I hadn’t said dozens of times before…and it was all over, and with it every memory I ever had about it being good…wonderful even. It’s amazing what tricks memory can play on you. If it wasn’t for these occasional Facebook memories I wouldn’t remember it ever being good with him now, not even back in high school. But it was. I wasn’t twitterpated for no reason. He felt it too. But whereas it lifted me out of myself, erased every shred of guilt or shame I might have had, it must have done the opposite to him.

…which set a pattern for the rest of my life. Because I would always fall for the nice boys…the ones I might have met in a better world at a church social, or coffee house. But in the world I grew up in all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them, they didn’t want God to hate them.

I’ve made my allegiances, I have to stay in my comfort zone…

So it goes. I reckon. I should get back to work on A Coming Out Story now that Facebook gave me that. But everything from back in the day is bad now. I finally found the guy I wrote about in this blog post (link) and he didn’t win his race. His life took a really bad turn through no fault of his and discovering that is really heartbreaking. And now this Facebook memory is something else to tap me on the shoulder, and whisper in my ear that everything is pointless.

In my senior years I’m basically just walking forward on auto pilot, going through the motions because what else is there to do…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Memories Of Standing On The Outside Of The Comfort Zone Looking In

June 5th, 2020

The Path With Heart In A Time Of Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

May 28th, 2020

The Cartoon That Was Not, About The Loves That Were Not…

…and the life that was not.

I’m going through some Google Docs looking for something and stumble across this script for a cartoon was going to do for my 60th birthday. I managed to get a few pencil sketches done but never finished it. For some reason.

This riffs off a running gag in Tim Barela’s wonderful gay comic strip Leonard and Larry…which he described once as a kind of gay Our Miss Brooks. Every tenth year Larry had a birthday all his anxieties about getting old surfaced in a dream that he was having his birthday party while laying in a coffin with a birthday cake on it and his friends making catty jokes about his getting old. Picasso said a mediocre artist copies and a great artist steals. So I stole the idea (with proper acknowledgement). But the only thing I managed to finish was the script. Probably for the best…

Here it is. As Joe Friday and my own Sargeant Stoneface would say, The names have been changed to protect the innocent. And especially the not so innocent!


The Big Six-O!
(Slightly Anonymised) 

SCENE: My birthday party.  a’La Leonard & Larry, I’m in a casket with the lid open and a birthday cake on the bottom half lid that reads Happy 60th.  Surrounding me are my three loves. We shall call them CRUSH1, CRUSH2 and CRUSH3.

PANEL 1: (Most of the following panels are as above.)

ME: I really appreciate the party you guys, and this coffin’s a swell gag, but I have to admit the margarita embalming fluid bottles was a brilliant touch.

CRUSH2: I liked the asperen bottles labeled “For Headaches Due To Lovestruck Bruce”.

CRUSH3: That was 1’s idea.


PANEL 2:

ME: (off panel) Ha, ha… Yes, very funny…

CRUSH1: (to the others) Drove me crazy back in high school watching him try to work up the nerve to tell me he had a crush on me.

CRUSH2: (rolling his eyes) I had to deal with Overly Attached Gayfriend.

CRUSH3: Tell me about it. He actually thought we were boyfriends just because I let him sleep with me a few times.

 

PANEL 3: Closeup on Crush2 and Crush3

CRUSH2: Sparks didn’t fly eh?

CRUSH3: (Looking morosely down at his drink) Let’s just say I went Ex-Gay for six years.

 

PANEL 4: Closeup on me and Crush1

CRUSH1: (Smiling, gesturing to me while looking at the others off panel) Quick, tell NARTH! We’ve found the cure for homosexuality!

ME: (Frowning) Ha, Ha.  Very Funny.

 

PANEL 5:

ME: Can I get out now?

CRUSH1: Not on your life.  We’re selling you off as a collector’s item. 

CRUSH2: (gesturing to the ages) The gay man that never had a boyfriend. Too young to be liberated in 1971, too old to marry anyone in 2013.

CRUSH3: You’re a museum piece.

 

PANEL 6:

ME: You sold me to a museum?

CRUSH2: Museum?  Are you kidding?  We sold you to Disney World.

CRUSH3: You’re going to be a prop in the Haunted Mansion queue.

CRUSH1: I’ll stop by every now and then before my shift to dust you off.

 

PANEL 7:

ME: I’m dreaming all this aren’t I?  This is all about my anxieties over getting old isn’t it…and you guys are here representing the three chances for love Vonnegut spoke of…

CRUSH1: We prefer to think of ourselves as your three strikes.

 

PANEL 8:

ME: This is going to turn into a nightmare now isn’t it?

CRUSH1: You’re not asleep dear, you’re hallucinating.

CRUSH2: You drank half that bottle of tequila all by yourself and when you sober up again you’re going to feel like you’re 160.

 

With Apologies to Tim Barela and Larry Evans…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Cartoon That Was Not, About The Loves That Were Not…

May 24th, 2020

Well Since I Can’t Go Anywhere This Holiday Weekend…

…I might as well do some lawn work. Especially since the rainy spring has made it hard to get it done previously. Gets the grass and weeds growing though…

So I took care of my tiny backyard in lieu of going to Ocean City NJ or somewhere…like Walt Disney World which is closed now except for maybe Disney Springs. But Florida is a hot spot I don’t want to get into for the foreseeable future. Still don’t think I’m putting any flowers or garden lights out this season because going to the lawn and garden stores just for that seems a frivolous reason to catch the virus So the best I can do for the outside of my house this year is just basic maintenance which I can do without going to the store. I sharpened the lawn mower blades a couple weeks ago, and did some repairs to the Ryobi weed whacker. At least I can keep things from looking like an abandoned house.

Standing on my deck, exhausted but pleased with the results, I had a sudden strong urge for a cigar. First really strong urge I’ve had since just before the heart attack. I’ve actually been surprised I haven’t been periodically getting those urges, but I reckon cigars just aren’t as addictive as cigarettes. No I didn’t.

Haven’t smoked one since the first week of October last year. I am well aware of the stress they put on my cardiovascular system…at least the smooth strong ones I’ve always enjoyed. It was a package deal with the pleasant nicotine buzz I got. I could feel my veins constricting. So I knew perfectly well what I was doing to myself. But I needed that nicotine buzz from time to time in my stressed out life. I’m actually surprised my psyche hasn’t demanded more of that since the heart attack. But just now it did and I didn’t. My psyche demands a lot of things of me that I either can’t or won’t give it, or infinitely defer it. Another trip to California for instance, right this minute for instance.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Well Since I Can’t Go Anywhere This Holiday Weekend…

April 18th, 2020

In Which The Abyss Gives Up A Ray Of Sunshine And Hope

Per my previous post…not so afraid now. Concerned yes, but lord have mercy the ray of sunshine I just got was very much appreciated, after so many weeks of worry.

Now I need to send a letter to a friend from long ago. I’ll say more later, maybe, when I get a reply.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on In Which The Abyss Gives Up A Ray Of Sunshine And Hope

December 4th, 2019

Dear Apple…Please Stop…

I’m listening to The Warsaw Concerto on the iPhone. It’s lovely Rachmaninoff-esq music (it was actually composed for a movie whose director initially wanted to use Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto but the copyright holder wouldn’t allow it. So he hired composer Richard Addinsell, to do something in the style of Rachmaninoff. The movie isn’t well known, but the piece by Addinsell is now a part of the classical music canon.

Anyway…it’s the sort of lovely beautiful, evocative romantic music I get in the mood for sometimes. Like the other night…and I’m doing the dishes and I’m zoning out to the music and occasionally swiping back to the beginning of the piece and listening to it again (it’s not really a full blown concerto, it just calls itself that…) and then the iPhone makes a sound and I look at the screen and there’s a popup window. I don’t have my reading glasses on and all I can make out are the words…

Your First Love…

Well all sorts of things went through my head and I scrambled around to find my reading glasses and by the time I got them on the popup had vanished. I looked in the notifications center. Nothing. I checked my mailbox. I checked my Facebook app. I checked my Twitter app. I checked every app I could think of that might give me a notification. I couldn’t find it. It began to feel like some existential message from a digital Twilight Zone about how completely I’ve failed in love.

Hello Bruce, here’s a message from Your First Love! Whoops…not quick enough. Now it’s gone. Vanished into the mists of digital infinity. Now you’ll never know what it was. Still the same dweeb you were as a teenage boy aren’t you? Now here’s your daily reminder to fill out your timesheet!

Before going down to the art room bar to pour myself a drink I decided, just on the off chance that it was some weird new iPhone Apple thing, to google “ios your first love”. Jackpot. It’s the damn music app. I must have touched the heart icon whilst rewinding the music I was playing.

That wasn’t nice Apple. #singleoldgaymaleproblems

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Dear Apple…Please Stop…

October 24th, 2019

Dear Night Brain…

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

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

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

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

October 18th, 2019

My Little Heart Attack Diary

As they were wheeling me into the elevator to take me to the room where they put the heart stents in, the doctor told me I looked very calm for someone who’d just been told they’re having a heart attack. But until the moment I got the diagnosis I was full of all kinds of dire imaginings over what was happening. It just didn’t feel like I was told a heart attack was supposed to feel. It felt more like a massive heartburn, or damage to my throat because of all the wheezing and coughing I did after the flu I’d just had, or worse…damage from throat cancer maybe, from the cigars I like to smoke. But now I knew…I was having a heart attack. It wasn’t the fearful unknown anymore. And I was in the ER, surrounded by one of the best hospitals to be having a heart attack in on the east coast. I felt myself to be in good hands. And I was.

It sorta started on my Walt Disney World vacation last month. I’d taken two weeks this time because it was a milestone birthday. I would be old enough now to draw full Social Security benefits if I wanted to. Which I didn’t…my plan is to keep working at Space Telescope at least through launch of James Webb. If I can keep working until age 70 I’ll have a very good retirement package, and since my job isn’t very physical I reckoned that was possible. But in the second week of it I came down with a flu. After that I started feeling my age more than I’d expected. I had a really bad cough for weeks afterward, and I was fatigued beyond anything I had known before. In retrospect, that fatigue was probably a symptom of what was to come.

Back home, I checked in twice to a local walk-in clinic for the cough, which just wasn’t going away. They diagnosed me as having bronchitis, which so I’m told is basically you have a cough. They gave me some meds which took care of the cough, but then I started feeling heartburn, every night, in the middle of the night.

It would wake me up, and I would sit it out. At first it all seemed pretty routine. Sometimes I’d take a Tums for it, and it would go away. Daytimes I felt fine. But at night the heartburn kept coming back. And it was getting worse. I began to worry there was damage to my throat from all the coughing I’d done. Then I began to worry about something else. I am an occasional cigar smoker. And by “occasional” I mean I can go for months without smoking one, or I can get on a jag about it…usually because of some life stress…and smoke one every day for a while, usually at night after dinner. First week of my Walt Disney World vacation I was smoking them every night a the Sosa Cigar Company in Disney Springs. They have a nice little cigar lounge were you can smoke a nice one and watch the people go by. But while cigars aren’t likely to give you lung cancer (you don’t inhale the smoke), they can give you cancer of the esophagus. They also stress the heart and blood vessels, but I was more worried now about cancer.

For several days the night heartburn just kept getting worse and worse. Daytime was fine…except now I was getting severely out of breath walking to and from work. I figured it was an after effect of the bronchitis. Maybe I’d damaged my lungs in some way. Maybe the cigars Had given me a lung cancer. One of my coworkers recently died of it. Suddenly. She was a pretty heavy cigarette smoker, but I was stunned at how fast it took her from us. I’d run into her on The Avenue just the previous week and she looked fine. Then she was gone. I was starting to get a bit scared, but not of my heart. The stabbing chest pains I’d been told to expect in every Hollywood movie or TV show when somebody had a heart attack weren’t happening. It just felt like heartburn. Really really bad heartburn, and slightly above my heart, and just below my throat, in the center of my chest. But there was another factor, that caused me not to rule out the heart attack entirely: When the pain came on, I got noticeably numb at the tips of my fingers. In retrospect I should have paid closer attention to that.

Last Monday morning, in the wee hours. It woke me up again and it was really bad. I think I might have snarfed down half a bottle of Tums. It came and went…something else I didn’t think a heart attack did. When it was gone I felt fine. Great even. Then it would come on me again, a bit worse than before. What I failed to fully appreciate then was there is a stage before the actual heart attack comes on, when the blockage in one or more blood vessels is starting to cut off the flow of blood in a significant way and a patch of your heart stops getting enough blood. That’s when you need to take action to prevent the damage from happening. But I was 4/5ths certain it was damage to my throat I was feeling.

By the time morning came, I’d decided I needed to go to the ER to get it looked at. The pain was getting scary. I figured I’d get a ride to Union Memorial, which is nearby, in my network, and one of the best. I was trying to avoid the ambulance ride because of the possible expense. It’s the abysmal way we have healthcare set up in this country. Is the provider “in network” or not? How can I tell? It’s not like they wear their insurance company credentials on their lab coats or the ambulance doors like race cars wear their advertisers. I was sitting down composing an email to my coworkers and manager, telling them I was taking a sick day, when the pain came back pretty forcefully. It was now officially scary enough that I called 911.

When the EMT truck came the pain had gone away again. The EMTs gave me an EKG and saw nothing. But I’d told them about the numbness and they strongly suggested I go to the hospital. I agreed…I was going there anyway…and they strapped me in and away we went, sans lights since this didn’t seem to be an emergency.

By the time they wheeled me into the ER the pain was coming back. The ER techs took another EKG. The doctor sent back a request for another, but by then the pain had gone away way. He asked for a third and the pain was back. He came into the room and told me I was having a heart attack. Not had…having. And that I was going right away to get it taken care of. Stents, not a bypass, though I wouldn’t have been surprised about a bypass: two of my high school classmates have already had major bypass surgery. 

But for me it was the stents. Union Memorial is state of the art…I was to get them inserted through a major artery in my right arm, not the groin. The procedure was completely painless. I was laid out on a table, drugged up, oxygenated, my right arm strapped to a board flat and straight out, some sort of device hovering over me that I assume was a scanner that could see into my chest. It moved about here and there over me like a curious large bird, while the doctor and the technicians and nurses chatted. Occasionally they’d call out numbers which might have been related to the position of the device they were moving up my artery, or heart and blood data points. I felt very calm. That might have been the sedatives. And curious. But I played rag doll the entire time so they could do their jobs. It was over in just a few minutes. Or seemed to be anyway…that might also have been the sedatives. The chest pain was gone.

They moved me to the Cardio Unit, and kept me overnight for observation. Two stents had been put in, and a third was staged for insert, but determined to be unnecessary. I was wired up to an EKG machine and an automatic blood pressure tester. Eventually they hooked the wires up to a portable EKG device that talked wirelessly to the big one in my room, so I could take short walks around the unit, so they could see how my heart behaved. The next morning they gave my heart a sonogram. It was…interesting…to see it beating there on the screen. Sixty-six years and a few weeks it’s been beating without stop. It’s the one muscle in the body that never rests. Now mine had damage, because I’d let the chest pain go and tried to tough it out and maybe it’ll go away and it wasn’t what I thought it was. It was my heart telling me to take action.

But I was unreasonably, fantastically lucky all the same. I’d had the actual heart attack in the hospital, where I was surrounded by a first rate cardio care facility. Within minutes I’d had the blockage causing the attack cleared. When the head cardiologist talked to me before I was discharged, he was almost bubbling over with satisfaction at how little actual damage to my heart there was, because they were able to get me into care so quickly. He had a small group of intern trainees there with him, and I was his case study for them, probing me with his stethoscope, telling them here’s where you look for this sort of damage…but he doesn’t have it…and here’s where you look for this other sort of damage…but he doesn’t have it…

But I have damage. It’s the minimum amount of possible damage that could have happened, given the sort of heart attack I had. But now my heart has damage. I have heart disease. Now I have to deal with that fact.

But here’s one amazing thing about all of this. I have better blood flow now, because the blockage is gone. The fatigue is gone. Mostly. I’m feeling the after effects of the heart attack and that’s to be expected. For the next several weeks I will be on strict orders to take it easy. I won’t be allowed to walk to work like I normally do, possibly for months. No road trips for months probably, although I’ll be able to drive locally, and in fact driving is what they would prefer I do. I will have to be careful and not stress my body and heart. But I can see that if I follow doctor’s orders and get into a regular exercise routine I will end up feeling Much more energetic than before I had the heart attack. Much more. This is wonderful! And I think, one reason why so many people don’t follow instructions and stick to the plan after a heart attack. You have better blood flow, and the effect of it is really Really noticable. Hey…I’m feeling great…and that eggs Benedict is looking so very nice… But energy is the least amazing part of what I am now experiencing.

I haven’t had this level of mental alertness since I was a young man. It’s hard to describe it, and I never really noticed much how fuzzy the world around me was getting because it happened so gradually. When I did notice I just put it down to getting old. But when I take my brief morning walks around my block now, and moving about inside Casa del Garrett, the world around me just seems so much more…there…than before the heart attack. It’s a really striking difference. Like the difference between watching something on an old analog TV set and a new 4k digital. Really. Seriously. It is like that.

I Never want that to go away again if I can help it. Plus…I got lucky. Unreasonably, fantastically lucky, having the attack in the hospital where I could get immediate and high quality care. It would be churlish, disrespectful, not just tempting of fate, but laughing in its face, to just go on as before. It’s hilarious, but while I was waiting at the drugstore for my meds, the in house music system was playing Second Chance by 38 Special…

This heart needs a second chance…

Okay…I get the message. Really. I take pride in my common sense. 

One other thing. I was hearing that song in that drugstore because a coworker graciously picked me up from the hospital and took me straight to the drugstore to get my meds, and then to home. She also organized an email chain at work to get a group of my coworkers together to help me out with groceries and moving things while I was confined to quarters during recovery. That, and all the expressions of care and support I got this week from family and friends, online and off, really touched me deeply. I have never felt so loved.

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 29th, 2019

After Work At The Drafting Table

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

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

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

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

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

May 27th, 2019

Boomer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Boomer

May 24th, 2019

Yeah…that…

Aaannd… She’s back. And I’m feeding her again. And I put out a freshly washed blanket for her. Because I’m a sucker.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Yeah…that…


Getting Tired Of It

Out for a cigar walk this evening, after drinks and dinner at Rocket To Venus. Thinking over things. I came home and the feral calico cat I’ve been feeding and providing shelter and food for, came up to the porch looking for an evening meal. I brought the dish out for her and, as usual, tried to keep her a tad away from the bowl as I put it down. She’ll swat at me if my hand gets too close, which it will if she gets too close to the bowl as I put it down. Usually, this involves me putting my foot between her and the bowl until I get it situated on the concrete porch floor. This time accidentally, I managed to step on he paw and she yelped and now I’m the enemy and she won’t come close. I called and called and apologised profusely. But of course cats don’t understand any of that. So she’s gone. For now. Eventually I suppose she’ll come back. There is food and water here after all. But I’ve just about had enough.

Enough of all these one-way relationships in my life. I let myself put my heart into these relationships that never give much if anything back and I’m tired of it. She’s a feral, granted. I knew that when I first started putting food out for her, but it’s like a recurring thread in my life I am getting really tired of. She won’t let me touch her, she’s so skittish. but I’ve grown fond of her nonetheless and I get almost nothing back out of it but her occasional rub up against my door or my foot if she’s feeling safe enough. I didn’t mean to step on her paw but she’ll swat at me and draw blood if I get too close. If she doesn’t come back I will be heartbroken but such is what it is. My other neighbors feed her too so she won’t go hungry. I’ve become accustomed to this sort of heartbreak.

I don’t need these sorts of relationships in my life anymore, where I put my heart into it and I get nothing back. It’s how my life has gone for…well…mostly all of it. And I’m tired of it. Crushes, attempted boyfriends, putting my artwork out there and getting silence back, wearing my heart on my sleeve and getting battered, so it goes. I need to assert some degree of self respect in these things. I know…cats. Especially the feral ones. They’re not domesticated. They don’t trust humans and they’re skittish and they have to be to survive. Some gay guys too. Especially ones of my generation. But I’m tired of it. I need to be loved back. At least a little. She can go somewhere else and that would be good. I’d actually like to be able to sit on my front porch again and enjoy the evenings. Alone I suppose, but at least not loving someone that won’t love me back.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Getting Tired Of It

May 23rd, 2019

Guess It’s Time To Start Realizing This

I will take the light rail out to Hunt Valley to eat and drink, rather than drive it, because then I don’t have to worry about the drinking part. There are two favorite spots; the Texas Roadhouse and Bar Louie, both easy access from the light rail stations, and Bar Louie makes a great chicken quesadilla and a pitch perfect Godfather margarita. But running hard to catch a light rail train home last night I feel like I might have over exerted and hurt myself. Now my legs are aching, and the rest of me feels like a squeezed out dishrag. Plus, I felt chest pains last night. It has me concerned, and not just about having a heart attack. I need to remember how old I am. Surprisingly that’s a bit difficult.

A shrink I went to for a while after mom died told me once that I “present young”, which I took to be a polite shrink-speak way of saying I don’t act my age, even when I’m just sitting down and having a chat with someone. But I am what I am and I’ve accepted for a long, long time now that my mental sense of self isn’t quite in sync with my actual physical self. Inside I still have that same sense of self I had in my twenties. All the life experience I’ve accumulated haven’t attenuated that a bit. And it extends to my sense of my physical self. When I’m not looking in a mirror, my mental image of my face and body is lots younger than it is. When I actually look at myself and see the signs of aging I tend to give them a sniff of disapproval and put the subject back out of my mind.

Up until now it’s caused me only minor grief, like when I plan on doing some home cleaning or simple repairs, and it turns out to take three times as long to do it because I don’t have the energy I expect to have for chores like that. So far when that happens it’s just been an irritant. Last night sitting on the light rail train and nearly passing out from over exertion, it was a bit more than that. So I reckon the reckoning with age is finally here. If I don’t at least acknowledge that my body is in its middle sixties now, even if my mind isn’t, I’m going to hurt myself worse eventually.

I’ll just have to left brain it. Right brain is not going to be any help at all with this because that’s where I’m still a twenty something. No Bruce…let that train go on by and catch the next one. Pissed off fidgeting impatiently on the platform because you just missed the train isn’t as hard on your body, and it’s still keeping you active.

I don’t mind getting old as a concept. I mind getting old as a thing.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Guess It’s Time To Start Realizing This

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