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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

May 5th, 2019

I Know It’s In Here Somewhere…!

When your level of frustration trying to find something in the top drawer of your drafting table reaches a critical mass and you decide to repack it…

 

Every now and then I’d chance across some of these old drafting tools at a flea market or garage sale and snap them up. But the dividers at the far right I bought for myself back when I was a working architectural modelmaker. They’re precise, each tong hand ground so the distance between each one is exact. Props to whoever knows what the odd tool at the lower middle of the photo is for. The one above it is a ruling pen. It’s what they used in the days before the Rapidograph, and they still come in handy.

I must be on a repacking jag lately, or the household clutter has developed to a stage where my inner neatness geek is getting antsy. A few weeks ago I was looking for a screw of a particular kind and ended up digging through the entire bin of miscellaneous nuts and bolts and nails and screws I’ve accumulated since…well since I was a teenager. I never throw out things like that, and it gets progressively more and more difficult to dig through it all just to find that one perfect fastener you need. So I decided then and there to repack and sort everything, and of course I ended up with a bunch of miscellaneous odds and ends I could not categorize, like you do, and thereby find a container for. Little bags I’d collected over the decades of odd sized spare screws and fasteners and widgets of various sorts. It’s maddening sometimes because indecision can grind everything to a halt if I can’t work my way past it.

This is why I save coffee cans. But as always, the problem is how to label it so I’ll know which can to open when I’m looking for something…

I expect this can to be too full to put anything more into it in a couple years. Plus I’ll need to sort what’s in it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Know It’s In Here Somewhere…!

April 18th, 2019

Between The Silver Lining And The Angry One…

Facebook helpfully provides me with Memories. That’s when you log in for the first time that day and Facebook offers to show you all the posts you made on that day, going all the way back to your Facebook beginnings.

Today’s memories hold two posts of interest to me. April 18, 2014…two years after The Crisis…whatever the hell it was…

I’m cutting off my Walt Disney World vacation early and driving home in tears. Had I come of age in a better world I’d have got this over and done with back in ’72 or ’73. Anyway…then this happens…

…So I decided to wander back home instead of staying at Disney World. But it’s been a torrent of rain all the way, so I can’t exactly get out of the car and look around anywhere with my cameras. Several big accidents on I-95 blocked traffic for miles. But the worst of it was the car complaining about things that…once again…should have already been taken care of by R&H Motors.

First I started getting messages to check the fuel filter. That was supposedly replaced at the 40k service, and R&H charged me about 450 bucks to do it since (they said) it was a dual filter and more expensive for the diesels. I could buy that…you really need to filter diesel oil…just look at a diesel pump nozzle if you doubt that. But I strongly doubt I’m only getting 16k out of a new set, when I got 40k out of the set that came with the car. So I start worrying the car is going to suddenly stall out on me because the fuel filter never got changed and now it’s all blocked up.

And of course it’s a holiday weekend so I doubt I can get any actual Mercedes service done on the car until Monday.

Then I started getting notices that I was running low on Diesel Emissions Fluid (DEF). The DEF tank gets topped off every 10k and I only have 6.4k on the current tank. No way it’s almost empty now. If you run out of DEF the emissions system prevents the car from starting until you fill the tank again.

So I bought a gallon of some generic DEF at one of the truck stops along the way. DEF is supposed to be just a simple solution of about 35 percent (or thereabouts) synthetic urea and the rest distilled water. I checked the label that that is what I bought and hopefully the car accepts it even though it isn’t Genuine Mercedes-Benz DEF but I was in a panic.

I stopped for the night at South Of The Border because all their rooms have private covered car ports I could pull into and empty the trunk and fill the DEF tank with the gallon I bought. That stopped the complaining about low DEF. Hopefully the car won’t notice that it isn’t Genuine Mercedes-Benz DEF on the leg home tomorrow and stall out on me somewhere far from anything.

I began my trip home massively depressed. Now I am massively pissed off at R&H Motors. That seems better somehow. I guess every cloud has a silver lining, except the ones that have an angry lining. You work with what you get.

It’s amazing how a big dose of Anger can blow all the sadness in your life away. At least for as long as it persists. It gives you something else to focus on besides that knife in your heart. Maybe this accounts for the Fox News effect on us old people. Maybe this accounts for why that audience wants to be angry all the friggin’ time. Good thing I don’t watch much TV anymore. Besides that my bullshit buffer overflows the instant I see Tucker Carlson on a TV screen anywhere and it’s a good thing I don’t have a brick handy.

Anyway…riddle me this: how is a car dealership like a flirt who wants into your pants as long as their spouse doesn’t find out?

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

February 10th, 2019

A Marriage Saved

Took the Mercedes out for a long drive up into Pennsylvania and around and back, in anticipation of the coming snow and ice that might make it impossible to drive it for a while. Since I had the DEF tank heater fixed and several tire valves that wouldn’t hold air when the temperatures dipped replaced, the car is back to not caring how cold it gets, and it’s a pleasure to just hop in and drive. If I wander far enough there are always some roads I haven’t yet explored to detour off from all the roads I have. I was particularly pleased to see an ice cream stand where I was treated rudely some years ago gone now. I figured I wasn’t the only one. Treat your customers right and they’ll come back.

When I started out it was all warm-sh, bright and sunshiny. By the time I got home it was all grey and and a bone chilling cold was settling in. So good thing I took the opportunity when I did. The car is still a pure pleasure to drive and wander around in. You can stop showing me ads for new cars now Facebook. This marriage has been saved.

Which is good…because…

Prince Philip ‘voluntarily’ gives up driving following car crash

London (CNN)The Duke of Edinburgh has surrendered his driving license, Buckingham Palace announced Saturday, weeks after the 97-year-old was involved in a car crash that left a female driver injured.

“After careful consideration The Duke of Edinburgh has taken the decision to voluntarily surrender his driving licence,” the palace said in a statement.

I know this day will come for me eventually if I live long enough. And when it does I’ll give it up without a fight. Hopefully I’ll still have the wherewithal to take the train to places I want to visit, or to fly or take a cruise ship if I want to go overseas. But it won’t be the same. I could not begin to tell you all the things I’ve discovered unexpectedly while on the road. Wagon wheel ruts from the old Santa Fe trail, the spot of the Sand Creek massacre…I could bore you for hours with all that I’ve seen that I never would have, thanks to the automobile. I began my love affair with the open road when I was a teenage boy the day I got my driver’s license. John Steinbeck put it into me when I was 14 and read Travels With Charley. I couldn’t thank him enough. Within a year of buying my first car, a 1973 FOrd Pinto, I’d explored almost all of Montgomery Country Maryland, and the following year I’d taken my first cross-country road trip in it with a couple of classmates in a Dodge Van we’d worked on converting into a camper. My little Pinto went up the highest paved asphalt road in the world in Rocky Mountain National Park, drove through Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon, and alone I went all the way to California to visit family and back. It’s a memory I still take intense pleasure in recalling. When the day comes that I can no longer safely drive it’ll feel like my life is over.

So until then, I’m going to keep wandering the road, to see what it might show me, and for the pure pleasure of driving. I’m 65 and I might not have it much longer. Already I’m finding myself taking the train more often, when driving to a destination isn’t going to be fun anymore, or the weather looks sketchy. If this country put more effort into its passenger rail infrastructure I might not feel such despair at the thought of giving up my driver’s license.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Marriage Saved

February 7th, 2019

Guten Appetit Little Guys!

Back again Valentine’s Day? I thought I told you to never speak to me again. What’s that? Gifts for my spouse? You know perfectly well I’ve never had one of those. Gifts for my boyfriend? You jerk…you know I’ve never had one of those either. Gifts for my secret crush? Hahahaha…I don’t keep secrets like that from someone…I’m an artist, I wear my heart on my sleeve. You just want to sell me a paper one to give to someone I love that they can throw in the trash a few days later. I’m not biting. I’ve had my real heart tossed in the trashcan many times. Go Away!

What’s that? a gift for my ex? I don’t have an ex…exactly. But now you’ve piqued my interest. You sly devil…

The El Paso Zoo isn’t the only zoo offering a non-traditional Valentine’s Day promotion. The Hemsley Conservation Center in Kent, England, will name a cockroach after your ex in exchange for a donation. You can also name a roach at the Bronx Zoo, which calls them “eternal” and “timeless” gifts.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I named a cockroach after you.

I told you never to speak to me again. And could you be any more adolescent? You’re a piece of work.

I had it fed to a meerkat.

Gott im Himmel…

Valentine’s Day…I think I’m in love with you again. Guten Appetit!

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Guten Appetit Little Guys!

July 18th, 2018

Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…
 
I resumed dieting again a couple weeks ago. It’s not the painful thing for me that it is for others. By sticking to a basically bland food intake and no sugary treats I can get back down to a weight and shape I feel good about, and which my body seems to naturally like anyway. Just today managed to get the hourglass is back. It feels nice. Now I need to stick to the plan for at least another couple weeks, but seeing this reappear is a big ego boost and encouragement because I can start feeling good about my appearance again. The age lines in my face notwithstanding. It’s important to me, solitary though I am. Maybe more so precisely because that. 
 
So…from the neck down anyway (people who look like that…) it’s…pretty good again. Gay otter body though it is. I need to stick to the plan for a while longer so it takes for the rest of the summer and autumn. You get to a point where your body is accustomed to a summer intake and then I’m always apologizing to the servers when I go out to eat for all the food I left on the plate, unless I remember to ask for small portions ahead of time. I can maintain a 148-150 weight and the hourglass pretty easily through the summer and fall. It’s when the holidays come around and everyone is waving cupcakes and cookies at me that it all comes unraveled. The past decade or so I’ve been in a cycle of gaining waistline during the winter holidays and shedding it in the spring. This year I just didn’t feel like it…for some reason. But somehow…somehow…I managed to roust myself out of it and decide liking how I look was worthwhile again, even if only to myself. 
 
I’m really not a very big guy and I never needed a lot of calories. What happened was I started making a good income and suddenly I could escape the bland diet of my youth. And then the waistline grew, the hourglass vanished, and appallingly my chin started disappearing along with it. I’ve written before about how I was at 160 heading for 170 and 33 inch bluejeans heading for 34s. I just put it down to middle age…mom was a thin little thing herself until she hit her 40s and I figured that was my fate too. But then I reconnected with my high school crush and he asked for a photo of me, and I started looking at what I was eating and adding up the calories and it shocked me. 
 
Call it empty vanity if you like, but being single and at the end of any possibility of dating at my age, it matters that I can still look in a mirror and like what I see. 
by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…

May 21st, 2018

That Shirt Would Look Great In Your Mouth

Two great regrets are always with me. That I’m single, and that I’m not in California. Sometimes I get to allay the latter. But it’s never enough.

I’m sitting at the bar at Texas Roadhouse the other day. I like their fried chicken and they make a decent margarita. One of the young ladies behind the bar recognizes me from previous visits and we chat for a little bit. She asks me if I’ve done any travelling this year and I start down the list…California, Florida, New York City… A man sitting next to me wearing a ridiculous camouflage Hawaiian shirt says “All of that is good except California.”

“I was born in California”, I reply, not even bothering to look at him. “My dad’s side of the family lives there. I go back as often as I can.” Probably the tone of my voice shuts him up.
 
I have lived nearly my entire life here in Maryland and I don’t completely regret it. I got a good public school education here, the economy is good, the people are nice, the climate is…bearable. Maryland is one of only three states that gave its gay couples equal marriage rights by popular vote before the Supreme court legalized it nationwide (the others were Maine and Washington).

But deep down inside I have always felt myself a California expatriate. Its deserts and mountains and old growth forests, its stunning beaches and ocean sunsets, its urban life and wilderness paths and California skies, have called to me as far back as I can remember. Every time I go back I know it’s where I’ve always belonged, and I ache knowing I have to leave eventually to return to my life back east. It is the great regret of my life I didn’t get a chance to live and grow up there. After the divorce, mom moved me back to her family’s side of the country. But at least it was to a place where a gay kid could grow up and not want to kill himself.

I am aware of how the sort of moron who thinks military camouflage makes a Hawaiian shirt look nice hates California. The land of fruits and nuts as I’ve heard them say. But as that famous California hippy General George S. Patton once said, If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking, and there’s a reason the bible belt can’t even buy its own stop signs without help from the diverse and energetic coastal zones. So don’t be badmouthing my beloved California and expect pleasantness from me.

 


Oceano Sunset

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Shirt Would Look Great In Your Mouth

May 10th, 2018

Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian

I’ve been a couple hours wandering around the March for Science rally zone near the Washington Monument with my camera. I’ve grown up in the Washington DC area and this is a familiar routine for me. So many marches and rallies I’ve attended and documented as a photographer, occasionally for a small local newspaper, but mostly to satisfy some inner need to turn my camera eye on current events. But today I begin to feel my age. My body wants rest now. And…food. Being a local, I know there is a hot dog kiosk run by the national park service near the old Smithsonian they call “The Castle”, and with some regret because I know it’s going to make me miss some good shots, I make for it. 

I walk further and further away from the crowd around the Monument, but not so far that I can’t hear the speeches. Once upon a time I felt lucky that I lived so close to such an important focal point of current events like the nation’s capital. Now I live in Baltimore and I can’t just hop on the subway and stroll down to the Mall with my camera bag. I have to pick my battles. As I did for the rally in front of the Supreme Court during the arguments on same sex marriage, I got a hotel near Union Station so I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic on I-95. I figured the subway was also sure to be mobbed with science marchers that day. I wanted to just walk out of my hotel room and spend the day in the middle of things, then go back and take a nap and maybe find a good place later for dinner.

Now I’m standing in line at the hot dog stand wondering if I can even make it through the rest of the event. I get my food, and a diet soda, and wander over to an empty table and chair. It’s been drizzling off and on here and most of the seats are wet, but I find one that’s close enough in to the kiosk that it didn’t get rained on.

Eventually a man and wife couple about my age come over and ask if they can have the empty chairs next to me. I tell them sure, but they’re probably wet. The man goes to get some paper napkins to wipe the chairs off and his wife sets their boxes down on the table and we begin to chat. She’s a science teacher in a deep southern state, and here to support her student’s education. I have a spiel I go into about how it was Khrushchev who gave me my good science education because he scared the hell out of us with the launching of Sputnik and suddenly teaching kids science was a good thing. As her husband joins us she tells me of her struggles teaching science where teaching anything that flatly contradicts fundamentalist dogmas can get you fired, if not shot. We chat amicably her husband joining in from time to time to say how much he supports his wife and admires her determination. 

The wife finishes up her sandwich and gets up to leave. She has a friend she has to meet up with. The husband is tired from all the walking and stays behind for a while. I know how he feels. We began to chat about making the trip here and how nice DC usually is this time of year. In the distance we can hear the speeches from the rally stage. Someone is comparing Trump to Nixon. I shake my head sadly. No, no…I was there… The husband says disgustedly “Now they’re getting political again.”

If I was a cat my ears would be pricking up now. “Well,” says I, “Nixon at least had some experience in government and politics, and he was smart. Trump is no Nixon.”

He shakes his head and says with more than a touch of bitterness, “Nixon was framed.”

In an instant I’m 21 again and I’m hearing that shifty voice on the TV again and all the memories of that time, and the anger and frustration and outrage come rushing back. But I’m not actually 21 anymore and I don’t jump up on my pulpit and start thumping away. I’m a 60-something and I’ve just had a head on collision between what was then and here I am now, and my voice fails me. Probably that’s for the best. It was such a nice conversation we were having. Maybe he sees the astonished look on my face, or hears it in my sudden silence. What the hell!? But we agree without saying so that our conversation is now over and because I’m four decades removed from the 21 year old I used to be I leave it at this. We part amicably. 

I toss my hot dog box in a nearby trashcan and walk a short distance away. I can still hear the speeches in the distance, but now I just want to go back to my hotel room and sleep. It seems now that any food makes me tired. But also my legs are starting to hurt. I think about the shots I’ve managed to get so far and decide to just skip the march. I remember Don Juan’s warning about the forth foe and allow myself to feel even more gloomy. The walk back to the hotel is going to be about as much as I can handle now. But I know there is more to it. I’m 63, and reckon I’m just beginning my walk into the country of old age. I still find it hard to really believe. A therapist I was seeing after mom died told me once that I “present young.” It was the only thing she said to me that managed to make me feel better. But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore my body’s insistence on it. And I’m coming to realize that the weight of everything I’ve seen in my life seems to somehow add to the fatigue. So many times I’ve let my guard down, only to have reality suddenly jump out at me and laugh in my face. I want to believe in the human status. But humans make that so damn hard.

You present young… There is no such thing as growing up. There is only growing. That, ultimately, is why we practice science. To learn. To discover. To grow. And if you’re not doing that you’re just waiting to die and life is so damn short. How can you just let it all slip away like that. A joke I heard once is that it isn’t that life is so short but that you’re dead for so long. There is so much, so painfully much that you will never know…how can you let everything you Can know get away from you? The earth is round. Evolution happens. Global warming is real and burning fossil fuel is causing it. Trickle down economics is grift. Nixon was a petulant resentful cheat and yes…a crook!  We are all on Newton’s beach, finding this or that pretty sea shell or pebble while the great ocean of truth around us is all undiscovered. But at least we can find those.

I turn toward the Capital dome and start walking…and thinking… 

The first foe is fear. You walk into the unknown and it scares you and you back off and then you’re finished before you have even started. Defeat the first foe, defeat fear, and you will learn and you will grow and a moment will come when everything becomes clear. And so you have encountered the second foe: clarity. Its weapon is certainty. You believe you know all there is to know and you stop searching further, and again you are defeated, because that clarity you think you have is just a small part of a greater whole you will never know. Defeat the second foe, realize that for all that you do know, it is only a small portion of what there is to know, and taken by itself it is almost always wrong. Then you will be wise and strong in your searching. Your knowledge will grow and you come to realize that knowledge is power and you begin to seek out even more knowledge and bask in the power it brings. And so you have encountered the third foe: power. Its weapon is hunger. Now your knowledge is a powerful weapon you can turn on your enemies, but it is never enough and you want more. And more. And even more, because as you become stronger so do the enemies you encounter, and so you will seek knowledge only for the power it brings, and so you have become a tool of power. Defeat the third foe, realize that power is never yours to have, but only to yours to hold in trust for a short while, that you are never its owner but merely its guardian, and do not hoard it, but pass on to others. Then you will continue to grow and learn and continue down the pathways of knowledge, though the weight of all the years you have now spent learning and growing begins to bear down on you. And so you will encounter the forth and final foe, the one you can never completely defeat but only push away for a time. The forth foe is old age, and its weapon is fatigue…

I go back to my hotel room and take a nap. I miss the march entirely. Later I wake up and it’s not nightfall yet, so I go back out with my camera, and wander the streets taking pictures of the discarded signs and march ephemera…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian

April 19th, 2018

Things That Come At You From Out Of Nowhere…Like Van Doors For Instance…

Putting this out here in case this is worse than it seems at the moment so people will know what happened to me.

I was walking to the student cafeteria and there was a delivery van partially blocking the sidewalk. He had his hand truck blocking the grassy area next to it so I couldn’t walk around, but there was a gap between the hand truck and the back of his van that I tried to thread. As I was walking behind the van I hard gust of wind came up. It’s become very gusty just now. I bent my head down to keep my hat on my head, which may have saved me from a worse injury. The gust slammed one of the van doors into my head. Hard. No…really hard. I felt it in my teeth. And I fell over.

Someone came up behind me, I don’t even know who because my eyes were shut, and the van driver came out. Both offered assistance, but it’s a thing I reckon with my generation of guys that if you take a hit and you can still get back up you don’t make a big deal out of it. I asked if there was any bleeding. There wasn’t. But it really hurt. I expect there’ll be a knot on it later. I opened my eyes and nothing looked blurry. I hadn’t passed out. I tried standing up and didn’t get dizzy. So I thanked the folks there for offering assistance and told the driver to secure his darn door so it didn’t hit anybody else. Then I walked inside, bought some lunch, and walked back to the Institute.

I asked a co-worker to look at my eyes and tell me they were both dilating the same and she said they were, though one looked more bloodshot than the other. I walked over to my manager’s office and told him what happened, mostly to make sure someone else knew what had happened so if I happen to suddenly pass out people will know it’s probably because I took a pretty hard hit to the head.

At the moment I still feel fine. I think what saved me was bending my head down when the wind came up, and instead of taking it full in the face the door hit me pretty straight on the exact top of my head or close to it. I’ve only taken one harder hit than this in my life, ages ago at the Deep Creek cabin while I was trying to bang some firewood free from ice and a log flipped up and hit me square in the forehead. At least that’s what I’ve always assumed happened because I don’t even remember getting hit. One of my classmates found me sprawled on my back just as I was coming to and we both asked “What Happened?!” at the same time.

[Update…] It’s Friday afternoon as I type this and I seem okay. No ancillary aches and pains, no headache or dizziness. Must still have a pretty thick skull. Still not sure which side of the family to credit that to…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Things That Come At You From Out Of Nowhere…Like Van Doors For Instance…

June 6th, 2017

Health Fair Notes

One of the nice spiffs of working in a place that actually cares about employee health and wellness is they have an annual Health Fair here, where they set up booths you can visit and get various simple but informative tests done.  They had one  today at work, and  I went to some of the booths/tables. There was a new one that gave you an overall “inside the body” age, based on weight, body mass, body fat percentage, skeletal muscle percentage, visceral fat level and resting metabolism. It gave me an inside the body age of 49, which I’ll happily accept (I’m 63). Other tests were pretty good also, including happily the cardiac recovery test which had me doing vigorous step exercise for three minutes. I am not a high burn exercise kind of guy and was proud just to have finished the test (my knees aren’t shot yet), but they gave me a solid “normal” grade so there’s that too.

The general consensus was that even though I don’t do much formal exercising, the fact that I don’t smoke (cigarettes) and my day usually includes at least a couple miles or more of walking (back and forth to work when the weather is good, and an evening walk around the neighborhood before bed), that’s kept me in pretty good health despite the fact my job has me sitting down a lot. Also my vertical Baltimore rowhouse has me doing steps a lot. No…seriously…a Lot. Fact is, even at work I get up a lot and go talk to people rather than email or message them because I fidget too much if kept seated for too long and won’t sit still. Just ask any of my elementary school teachers. Plus I got a FitBit to remind me to get up and take a walk in case I get zoned out doing code work or documentation.

So I’m in pretty good health for my age. Which is something to think about whenever I get to fretting over it because it’s so horrible on mom’s side of my family tree.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Health Fair Notes

September 2nd, 2016

Holiday Fun Stuff

I’d tentatively planned to take a wee road trip up into Pennsylvania this holiday weekend, but the hurricane is getting in the way of that. As I write this it looks like central Maryland won’t take a direct hit like it was looking earlier, but the thing is now predicted to stall off the Jersey coast and dump tons of rain, mostly on the coast, but also it seems, here in Charm City. So instead of a road trip, I’m going to stay home and pretend for three days to be a working artist. No seriously, I’m going to put my nose to the grindstone on some projects I have going, including the next two episodes of A Coming Out Story, and try to make some progress. I also have a fun thing about how visits to the doctor get creepier the older you get I’ve been plinking with off and on for way too long. It’s a stand alone strip I am thinking about submitting somewhere, most likely to a gay comic if I can find one taking submissions from unknowns. Paul Cameron makes a cameo appearance.

I’m also hoping to get some time in with my oil paints…

But mostly I’m really needing to make some progress on A Coming Out Story. There are fun things to come, if I can just get past the current block. So when I get up tomorrow I’m going to start my day as if I’d been doing this for a living all my life.

And because…deep down inside…I’m really hurting. And the more it hurts, the more I need to go find that life I dreamed of first, when the world was new and everything seemed possible.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Holiday Fun Stuff

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