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April 22nd, 2024

DVC Again

Disney Vacation Club welcome tote bag…then…

…and now.

The tote bags are the welcome package you get whenever you buy points in the Disney Vacation Club. There are goodies inside, but mostly it was that first tote bag that really told me I’d bought into something special when I bought my first set of points a decade ago.

This time around…not so much.

When I retired I sold my DVC points because I thought the entire Disney World experience was going downhill and I probably wouldn’t go back. Bob Chapek, the previous CEO of Disney seemed to just want to trash everything people loved about the parks. The Disney message boards were full of heartbroken complaints about his disrespect for park theming and guest experience. All the little perks of staying in a park hotel were going away and the annual pass system was being changed out from under us. I never got a notice to renew my old annual pass and assumed they just didn’t want us having them because it was costing them money. For a while nobody could buy a new one.

And then there was the new park reservation system. They’d implemented that during COVID, but then it became a permanent fixture. So even if you had an annual pass, you still had to make park reservations and if you might not be able to if they’d all been taken for the days you wanted. So to my mind that made the annual pass worthless, and staying at Boardwalk pointless.

Then it began to look like single diners could not make dining reservations at the nicer sit down restaurants.

So I sold my DVC points and let the annual pass lapse. But then they fired Chapek and brought back Iger and it seemed things were turning around. Some of the perks came back (I’m still waiting for the bar stools and food menus to come back to the Tune-In Lounge…). I went back a few times and renewed my love of the parks, especially after the Florida republicans went on a warpath against Disney for treating its LGBT guests and employees decently. I bought tickets for the first time in over a decade (because no annual pass) and navigated the park reservation system. I still hate it, but with the new “go-to” days looks like Disney World is trying to move away from it.

With some difficulty I got the Disney World annual pass back. Then I visited Disneyland for the first time and lucked out on getting a Disneyland annual pass before my second visit. While at Disneyland I was approached by a DVC saleslady.

What happened was I was checking out the guest laundry at one of the hotel towers, which as it turned out was their DVC tower. My next trip to Disneyland I’m going to try to arrange a ride on the California Zephyr…a trip I’ve fantasied about since childhood. The plan would be to take the Zephyr to California, and pick up the Coast Starlight from Emeryville to San Luis Obispo where my brother could pick me up. I’d stay with him for a few weeks, then take the train to Anaheim again and Disneyland, spend five or six days there at the Disneyland Hotel, then take the train back to LA Union Station and pick up the Southwest Chief, which I’d taken before, back to Chicago and a train from there to Baltimore.

If I do it that way I will need to be able to do a laundry before the train ride back home because I won’t be able to carry a lot of luggage with me. Just enough stuff for the train. I’ll need to do a laundry before heading back. So I asked a security guard where the guest laundry was. He offered to lead me to it because it was down an odd hallway. Afterward we talked about our mutual love of the Disney Parks (I told him about the classmate, that Certain Someone who coaxed me into coming to Disney in the first place, showed him a picture of the guy, and he said he actually remembered him(!)) 

When we parted ways, a DVC sales lady came over to talk to me. She said she’d heard me talking about selling my DVC points and she asked me why. I told here basically what I wrote at the beginning of this post and she suggested (of course) that I might want to look into becoming a DVC member again. There were specials going on and she could get me back in for not so much money.

I thought it over, and later via email asked her about Saratoga Springs, which I used to use my Grand Floridian points for to have a nice warm weather vacation in February, at a DVC hotel that gives me walking access to Disney Springs. Saratoga Springs was the original DVC hotel, and it’s the least expensive one point wise. Walking access is super important to me. The reason I had points at Boardwalk, besides liking the theming of it, was it gave me walking access to my two favorite parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. But with the park reservation system that isn’t nearly as convenient as before. You don’t need reservations to walk over to Disney Springs.

Over the next couple days we talked it over…I had budgetary considerations…and I eventually agreed to buy in again. I got 100 points in Saratoga Springs.

What you see at the top up there is one of the two tote bags I got when I first joined DVC, first for 75 points at Grand Floridian, and then for 100 at Boardwalk. The tote bag below that is what I got after rejoining.

This came inside the new tote…

That’s one of the little goodies in the tote you get joining now. I’m sure the saleslady saw the look on my face when she handed that new tote bag to me. All I can think is Disney is still sweating blood over all the money they lost during the COVID lock downs and now they’re cutting corners everywhere they can that doesn’t piss off the guests.

But I’m fine being back in. Not as many points as before, but for now anyway I’m splitting my time between Disney World and Disneyland, so I don’t need as many points. There is a DVC section of the Disneyland Hotel, but even if I got points in that one it is so high in demand that I’d still have trouble getting in, so I’ll just pay the money for a stay there. My annual pass gets me a discount on a room there anyway.

Posted In: Life Travel

by Bruce | Link | React!

Weirdly Ill, And My First Use Of My New Disneyland Annual Pass

Week before last I was feeling extremely bad. So fatigued I barely got out of bed. No energy at all. It began to scare me enough that I went to the emergency room here (after checking that it was in my network). But they couldn’t find anything wrong…at least in the tests they gave me. So I was discharged with advise to get with my GP back home, drink more water, eat healthier food (good luck with that) and take a multivitamin. 

That afternoon, as I tried to give my car an oil change, I felt so badly out of balance that I fell over twice, and felt like I was about to fall over every time I leaned over the engine compartment of my Mercedes. I was tempted to go right back to the ER and tell them something was still wrong, you need to give me some better tests. But as usual with me, I decided to wait it out and see if it got any worse.

I’d bought some Boost Oxygen cans for a possible trip back home via I-70, to get me though that 11k plus altitude at the Eisenhower Tunnel. The next morning I tried huffing one to see if it helped any. Probably, in retrospect, it was just coincidence, but I began immediately to feel better. I think now that I might have had some food poisoning from that popcorn shrimp I had at the Dairy Queen in Santa Rosa NM. But I don’t know.

I am feeling much Much better now, but I still have this disturbing feeling that I’m about to lose my balance every time I have to suddenly change direction…like when I’m trying to avoid stepping on Henry, my brother’s Maine Coon cat, while he’s darting in front of me to get my attention. I really need to talk with my GP and see if someone can figure out why I’m still having balance trouble.

Last week I took my second ever trip to Disneyland. In a previous post I wrote about my good luck in getting a Disneyland annual pass. I got a chance to use it then. As before, I took the train down to Anaheim, which is a snap since the train station here is just a couple miles from my brother’s house. But I made a mistake I’ll never make again with the hotel reservations.

Because I saw myself spending so much money with the new Annual Pass and the road trip to California, I decided to see if staying at a nearby hotel instead of at the Disneyland Hotel would work. There was a Holiday Inn close enough I could walk to the park, and I am a Holiday Inn One member so staying there would get me membership points I could use later. And I favor the Holiday Inn Express hotels while on the road. So I made a reservation for that one close to Disneyland. It was about one-third the cost of staying at the Disneyland Hotel. But you get what you pay for.

It was a bad choice. The room was the worst I ever had at any Holiday Inn. Way too tiny for the two single beds in it, next to the elevator machine room, and the doors to get in and out of the pool so there was a Lot of noise from the other guests and the elevator. I couldn’t open the window without everyone at the pool being able to look in as the room was slightly below ground level. The bathroom was barely larger than a closet. I’d rate it as no better than a two star hotel. So I decided to see if I could get a room at the Disneyland Hotel and just accept the cost. I had an unexpectedly good tax refund this year, so the money was there. And I really needed this trip to Disneyland to get me out of the depressed funk I was in since February.

But there was a problem. The Disneyland Hotel website would not let me make a reservation before the Friday I was set to go back to Oceano. I tried the hotel apps and it looked like they were sold out for the week. So the morning of my second day in Anaheim, I walked to the hotel and went to the front desk and asked if they had any rooms I could reserve. The clerk said they didn’t make future reservations for walk-ins, only same day. That was fine I told her, I want to check in today and check out Friday.

They had a room! No annual pass discounts for same day, but I was desperate to get out of that Holiday Inn room. I went back, repacked my things, and rolled my luggage a quarter mile to the better hotel.

There were other complications…I could not link my hotel reservation to my Disneyland app for some reason because it was a walk-in, so they made a new reservation that would link to the app, but then the key cards I had wouldn’t let me in the room so they had to fix that, and then I got billed twice for the reservation because they hadn’t cancelled the walk-in one. But it all got fixed.

The Holiday Inn refunded me the money for the days I didn’t stay. Then billed me for them again, so I had to go back and find out why. Turned out the clerk that checked me out early and gave me the refund, didn’t actually note that was wasn’t using the room anymore. So I got that fixed.

And I was able, finally, to have a nice Disney vacation. Mostly at California Adventure because that’s my favorite theme park now, even over Epcot. First thing I did after getting into the Disneyland Hotel room was walk over to California Adventure and use my new annual pass to get in. I had to use the Disneyland app to show the cast member at the gate my pass, because I hadn’t just then linked it to my Disneyland Magic Band+. Things are different there versus Disney World, where the Magic Band does it all. More about that later. 

So I’m back in Oceano now, and my mindset is much, Much better. Apart from the occasional feeling of losing my balance. Which happened to me lots while trying to navigate the crowds in the Disney parks, and Downtown Disney.

Oh…and I’m back in the Disney Vacation Club. More on all that later…

Posted In: Life Travel

by Bruce | Link | React!
April 21st, 2024

Discreet? Not Exactly…

Many years ago a girl that a friend of mine was dating told me, approvingly, that I was a discreet homosexual. I replied that I was single and it is easy to be discrete about your love life when you don’t have one.

I blogged about my relationship with that family previously, and about when I finally realized that all the time I thought I was teaching them that gay guys were just another thread in the American quilt, and that liberty and justice for all thing applies to us too, they thought they were encouraging me to stifle myself and be discreet. It’s easier for some heterosexuals (not all) to accept a gay friend or family member provided they don’t have to ever see any specific evidence of their sexual orientation. Such as a boyfriend. Or the way a beautiful guy can jerk your eyes around and make you look, stunned. As long as they don’t have to see that, they’re fine with you.

One of my straight friends, from way, Way back, friended me on Facebook, and then promptly de-friended me. When I asked why he said he didn’t want all that gay stuff I was writing about on his Facebook page. Of course I wasn’t putting it on his page, but mine. The thing was that he saw it, because he’d friended me which meant he could see all the posts I marked as friends only, and he didn’t want to. 

It was like that whenever we spent time together. He could talk about his love life, but when I talked about mine, or rather my struggle just to simply have one, he would change the subject. I was okay for me to be his gay friend, so long as I wasn’t…you know…gay. 

Especially when all you can see about your LGBT neighbors in this life, is sex.

It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance. -Vito Russo

It’s on this website, in my artwork and on this blog, that you really see the shameless homosexual that I am. Which is not to say I am given to a lot of overt displays of sexuality here. My art gallery is full of sexy guys, but there is no pornography, which I consider just pushing buttons. I am not given to graphic descriptions of sex, even in my fiction. But there is no doubt that I like beautiful guys and that that same sex couples in my fiction are lovers. What makes me shameless is I really don’t think there is anything wrong with being homosexual. I am fine with this. I am not ashamed. 

Because once upon a time I fell in love with a classmate, a stunningly beautiful guy, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve written before it really was like something out of a Disney movie. I walked with a lighter step, the birds sang a little more sweetly, the skies were a little more blue, the stars shined a little more brightly. I was twitterpated. It was wonderful. There is no reason for me to be ashamed of that.

I can see how your average heterosexual might have some trouble grokking this. Sex is a basic drive inside of us, older than the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone us, and our libidos are what they are. It either turns you on, or it turns you off. Fine. I get that. But you don’t have to obsess about the sex I might be having to appreciate that apart from that detail of sexual orientation my desires are not that different from anyone else’s. 

All my life I have searched for that significant other, to have and hold, to share a life together, body and soul. And all my life I keep getting told that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with being homosexual, and having homosexual sex. But being reduced to a sex drive you can miss how the sight of a beautiful guy arouses more than my libido, but also every higher emotion of wonder and joy within me, that make life worth living. That’s the part that keeps getting missed when all you can see about your LGBT neighbors is the sex you think they’re having.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116 

That sonnet speaks to something deep within us, gay and straight alike. 

I never found that significant other. I’m 70 years old now and looking back at having walked my entire adult life basically single and alone in my heart. I blame the world I came of age in, that kept telling me and everyone else that homosexuals don’t love they just have sex. In a better world I might have found someone to have and hold. A nice guy I might have met at a church social or in high school or at some social event for the gay kids arranged by caring adults. Someone I could have brought home to mom and told her this is my boyfriend and she’d have made a place at the table for him. Someone I could have made a life together with, body and soul.

So if you ever see me gawking at some drop dead beautiful guy, just let me have my moment. Beautiful guys are still a good reason to keep on living, and I’m probably not just drinking in his beauty, but also seeing what might have been if only the gay kid I once was had lived in a better world.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
Tags: , ,

by Bruce | Link | React!
April 9th, 2024

California Is A Horn Of Plenty

I see the strawberries are in season now…

This is a big strawberry field less than a mile from my brother’s house. This shot is maybe one-forth of the area of the field. When I arrived last month the strawberries weren’t ready to harvest. They’ve a little shack on the street corner where you can buy fresh from the field strawberries. When they’re open they’re always busy.

This vacation spot where my brother lives…the Five Cities…has a surprising amount of agriculture going on. This is just one of several large and productive fields growing things in the area. It’s maybe a mile south of Pismo Beach. To our north it’s wine country. The grape fields are everywhere as far as the eye can see. To our south it’s all fields of various kinds of fruits and veggies. I pass through orange groves driving here from Barstow.

Driving from Baltimore I pass through vast fields of wheat and corn. Then there is cattle country. It seems like the rest of the dinner table is here in California. 

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
April 8th, 2024

Those Little Day To Day Coming Out Tests Of Nerve

I was reminded the other day, while in the ER, that there is a non-trivial likeness in the experience of being gay and of being atheist. I’m in the ER because I’d become so weak and unable to balance myself it was getting scary, but I am visiting my brother in Oceano California and I don’t have a local healthcare provider here. So I checked with my insurance to see who was in my network and it turned out the local hospital is.

Long story short, they found nothing that could be causing my problem. All the tests they ran not only came back good, but excellent for my age. So I will need to go over all this further with my cardiologist and my new GP (the previous one retired) when I get back to Charm City. That said, I am feeling much better now so maybe it was just a passing infection of some kind.

While in the ER, a technician came to do some paperwork on me. I say “paperwork” but it’s all in digital form these days, and then you get a paper printout when you are discharged. One of the questions she asked me was did I have a religious affiliation.

I said no, and for the briefest of moments, hesitated. I could have left it at that but it felt like I was closeting some part of myself. It didn’t feel right. It felt like I was ducking. So I added “I’m an atheist.”

No problem. She simply nodded and took it down. And that was that. But I took note of how much it felt like one of those little sudden moments a gay guy gets periodically when you are asked some innocuous question but it pertains to your relationship status and out of the blue you have to make this snap decision, do I duck or do I come out.

I am proud to say whenever this has happened I’ve dug in my heels and come out. But it’s always a bit nerve wracking. You never know what to expect. I blogged about a particularly bad outcome Here. Karma there was the guy who fired me and insisted it wasn’t because I am gay, was later arrested for not being able to keep his hands off young girls.

There’s a scene in Howard Cruse’ magnum opus Stuck Rubber Baby where the main character Toland Polk, describes his coming out during the memorial services of an openly gay friend who was lynched, and his lover in present day New York City avers “Say it once in public and the grapevine’ll take it from there.” Yes. But no. Probably within your own community and family that’s true, but you will find yourself coming out of the closet again and again all throughout your life in these little unexpected sudden out of the blue moments of truth.

You come out not simply to assert your own personal truth, and not just simply to stand up for yourself and your right to live an honest life, but also to be living testimony to the stereotypical falsehoods of who people like yourself are supposed to be. Yes I am a gay man. Yes I am an atheist. Whatever you thought that makes someone I’m a living example of one such and you have now been gifted with a small slice of truth, a living fact.

You’re welcome.


Posted In: Gently Tapping My Pulpit Life
Tags: , ,

by Bruce | Link | React!
April 7th, 2024

Artists And Friendship

I have been called “a piece of work.” Perhaps. But there’s another word for it. It’s a word that feels really pretentious to call myself. But I am an artist. Given what Stephan Fry said even so…

Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it. That is your punishment. But if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.
— Stephen Fry

This is truth. So maybe artist is just one of the verbs I go by. But notice all the verbs he goes by are arts. I am an artist, and not simply because I create art…

art·ist / noun

a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.

a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.

I would add something to this. Something about you produce art so you don’t go crazy. Something about you do it because you have that inner compulsion to do it and you can’t not do it. Vincent van Gogh so I’m told, once said he painted so he wouldn’t go mad. I know that feeling even if not to the degree he felt it. And to that I would also add that you have that need to get it out of you, whether or not you have an audience. You would do it if you were alone on a desert island. You would do it alone on a desert island if you did not have any of your artist’s tools, because you would make tools out of whatever you found on that island.

This is me. There was a time when I became so depressed at seeing what was coming out of me…my second attempt at finding love failed miserably because I’d crushed on a straight guy…that I stopped completely because I just didn’t want to deal with my feelings anymore. But it’s not so easy. You can’t stop yourself…

One way or another it comes out. I was doing volunteer work for a gay BBS and while creating login scripts and programs to help out with some of the work I’d signed up for, I discovered there was beauty in the relentless machine logic of computer code, and it was a kind of beauty that didn’t get into my broken heart feelings. It was mostly a left brain enchantment, all logic and elegance of form. I dove into it. And that led to a well paying career as a software engineer that I worked for just over thirty years before retiring. Then, part way through that I stumbled onto the Hopkins student fair grounds while they were setting up the rides and something inside me reawakened, and I got out my camera again after nearly a decade. I rediscovered my other art media…painting, drawing, cartooning. I am a graphic artist, mostly. For a while I felt whole again.

Maybe being a bit older by then allowed me to work with my feelings and make art again. Also, I was part way into strike three and it had not yet come undone, so there was a new allotment of hope there. Now I’m 70 and at a crossroads feeling hopeless again and not wanting to do art anymore because I hurt so much inside. But I know I will eventually.

So this is the essential thing to know about me, noun or verb: I am an artist.

And the thing about that is, if you have a thin skin, we really can’t be friends.

Because I’ll either piss you off or weird you out. I won’t mean to, I won’t want to, but it’s like that scene in the movie The Adam Project, where Big Adam played by Ryan Reynolds asks his younger self (it’s a time travel movie) played to perfection by Walter Scobell, “Do you ever have a thought and not let it come out your mouth?” I’m 70 years old now and I’m only just getting the hang of that. It mostly goes into my artwork, but sometimes it does just come out of my mouth or it’s something I do or something I’m wearing or something I’ve done with my hair that you just think is weird.

I am an artist. I will occasionally say and do some very weird shit. I’m pretty solidly Chaotic Good on the chart, but that’s my tribe.

I am not the sort of person who provokes for the sake of provoking. To make me deliberately insult someone they have to really Really get on my nerves and even then I’m more likely to just walk away. I was raised by a single divorced Baptist mother and there is a lot of morality baggage that comes with that, some of which I still very much appreciate and live by, some of which I still struggle with (I really should have learned to dance). But though I might initially appear to you as some sort of middle class quiet kind of guy, not very adventurous, not given to extremes (except for that long hair), I am an artist. I will occasionally say and do some very weird shit. Not that I think it was weird when I said or did it. If anything I might have thought you would appreciate it. 

If that is going to bother or offend you then maybe just keep your distance. Even if I am sending signals that I’d like to get closer. No…especially if. 

We tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves (if you’re any sort of regular reader of this life blog you know what I’m talking about here), and that makes them easy targets, even if you don’t really mean to stab. And the thing about that is we also wear the scars on our sleeves (have you been reading my blog?). Hell, we take them out and make art with them. Some of my best art is stuff I made from the scars. Nearly all of my art photography is off of some bleeding part of my heart. This is how we deal with the weight of our lives. Normal people just drink. Well…we do that too actually.

The fact is a thin skin does not pair well with an artist.

(This post is mostly for a certain lieber Deutscher. Yes I was talking to you. Mostly.)

Posted In: Art Gently Tapping My Pulpit Life
Tags: , ,

by Bruce | Link | React!
March 30th, 2024

Out Of It

This was something of an ad hoc trip to California. The initial plan was to wait until August maybe and do the road trip there and back then, after I’d had a chance to do Disney World around Gay Days. But then I lucked out on getting a Disneyland annual pass and that combined with the depressed state I was in after February/March gave me motivation to do California now, and work in a trip to Disneyland along with it.

I really needed something to pull me out of the gray dismal state of mind I was in, and I thought a stay with my brother and a nice road trip would pull me out of it. It hasn’t. I’m still pretty depressed. I can’t seem to work up a head of steam for any artwork or photography, though I’ve brought all my tools with me.  I’m just vegetating here like I was back home. I try to sit down and draw something, I put down a few lines and then I can’t go on. I haven’t touched my cameras since I’ve been here. It almost feels like that period back in the 1980s/90s where I stopped doing any art because I couldn’t stand to look at what was coming out of me. But it isn’t that exactly. I want to work, the energy just isn’t there. I feel like nothing inside.

I know what it is. Or at least I think I do. It’s end of life depression. Any hope I might have ever had for a love life is in the rear view mirror now. I’m 70 years old, and I’m seeing all those jokes about old men losing interest coming true for me now. I’m a heart patient, I’m on drugs that keep my blood pressure and heart rate down. I’ve no stamina anymore, but a lot of that might well be I just don’t keep myself active. The sexual interest is evaporating. My libido, which was never a hot volcanic chamber of magma to begin with, is shutting down. I will have walked from one end of an adult life to another without ever finding a lover, a true love, even if just for a short time. Just a lot of near misses in the rear view mirror, and gay friends who really didn’t care about the human I am and the life within me.

Theoretically, I’ve had a wonderful life. I got to be part of the space program. I spent 23 year immersed in space and science and all the wonders therein. My signature has been in space three times, on posters the astronauts took with them into orbit that we all signed…a small thing but a very very cool thing. I got to speak with the astronauts and listen to their stories firsthand, along with lectures given us by the scientists and astronomers working a Space Telescope. I was a part of all that. I have a little house of my own, and a car I’d always dreamed of owning. I have a small, but surprisingly (to me) excellent body of artwork and photography to look back on. I did photojournalism at some major political events in Washington DC. My photos and political cartoons were published in local papers across the country. I have screen credit as Associate Producer and for Still Photography, and an entry in the Internet Movie Database. You could say I’ve had an interesting an amazing life.

I’d trade it all, like Alexander Hergensheimer in Heinlein’s Job – A Comedy of Justice, and wash dishes for eternity for a boyfriend, a spouse to come home to, that I could have and hold. But fate does not give us those sorts of choices, and I feel like I’ve lived a completely worthless life. Remembering the gay “friends” who basically told me to my face that I’m too ugly to have those kinds of hopes doesn’t help my mental state. I trusted them. It was a mistake. But I always got left behind. Somehow, despite everything I had to offer as a friend and lover, everyone seemed to know I wasn’t worthy. I try to hold on to what I know about the person I am, and that yes I was, but it’s a lost cause now. I’m 70, everything that might have happened is in the rear view mirror now, and it’s all lost to me. I can’t not know at this point, that it will never happen to me.

It’s very hard to care about anything now.


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
March 19th, 2024

Light To No Posting Until I Get To California

…sorry. But between the server move and my being on the road during a time of crazy winter hanging on even in the Southwest weather, I haven’t had the energy or the time to post here. I wanted my few regular readers here to know this place is not abandoned, regardless of what you might have been seeing if you tuned in. And I have a backlog of stuff I want to write about when I get to Oceano, so stay tuned.

Posted In: Blog Administration Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
March 12th, 2024

The Empty House Within

There’s a line from the poem The Man On The Bed by Debora Greger that keeps tapping me on the shoulder ever since I first read it in an issue of The New Yorker…

If the heart is a house, he thought, it is rented to strangers who leave it empty…

I was unaware the moment I left Space Telescope for the last time as an employee, how the combination of details of my life just then, being a heart patient, approaching seventy and having an aging body, plus living alone in my little Baltimore rowhouse, would impact my mental well being. But I see now that it is killing me.

I still have many of the friends I made back in high school, and in my twenties. But they are all scattered to the winds now. Most of them living in California, where I had once hoped to retire to. One has late in his life, resisted being pinned down to any one place and is travelling the wide world over, as though to become the very definition of that saying, that not all who wander are lost. We socialize via the Internet tubes and social media things. But as human contact it is second hand at best.

I can’t go live in California, much as I want to. I am tied firmly to my place in Baltimore. It’s not so bad really, in fact logically I have to admit I have it Very Good here. A nice solid little concrete block and brick rowhouse I bought in 2001 for less than ninety grand when I became staff at The Institute, and thus with a Very Easy monthly mortgage payment: a good thing to have on retirement income. The neighborhood is very walkable. In less than ten minutes I can be at the local grocery store, ten more and I’m at an upscale-ish organic food market. There are drugstores, restaurants, bars…just about everything I might need on a day to day basis is close at hand. That’ll come in handy when I become too old to drive. But I don’t want to live that long.

I had not reckoned with how being single, living alone, being old, having an iffy heart and an aging body, would make retirement something like Nietzsche’s abyss. Except I’m not just staring into it, I’m living much too comfortably in it. When I was employed I had human contact throughout most of my workday. And The Institute was such a Wonderful workplace. I actually enjoyed the company of my fellow workers there. Most of them. Some still invite me out to drinks and dinner at some nice place nearby, and there are lots of those. When that happens, I get an evening of intelligent, absorbing conversation. I feel alive again for a little while. Then I come home and go to bed. Alone. City life is invigorating. When you can get outside to enjoy it. 

I never used to really notice solitude. I’m an only child. Solitude is something of a birthright for us. We have to make friends and socialize outside of the home just like anyone else, but we don’t wilt if we don’t have company every day of the week. I could spend my evenings home alone with a good book or an art project and still have the companionship of my co-workers at The Institute during the day, and all the joy and wonder of being a part of human space exploration. I did not reckon with what might happen to my mental well being when that part of my life vanished into the doldrums of being retired. I was looking forward to it. I had so much I wanted to do.

I thought I would have more time to work on my art projects, and to travel a bit. I don’t have the money to do the great world tour, but road trips are something a really enjoy and I have a good car for that. What has happened now is that I’m just tired all the time. I can, and have, spent days doing nothing but napping and taking random walks through the neighborhood. For a while I used the local bars and restaurants as a way of grabbing a little second hand human company. But my heart troubles have put the brakes on drinking…I was never a heavy drinker to begin with…and dining out frequently is too hard on my retirement income budget.

So I spend a lot of time alone in the house, and you’d think that’s perfect for getting on to all the art projects I have in the works. But no. I look at my drafting table, or my cameras, and I have no energy for any of it. I ended up short cutting to the end of A Coming Out Story after I became concerned that death would take me before I could finish it properly, because I had no energy to work on the thing after all, and I didn’t want to leave the story hanging. But I’m not happy with it. There’s a whole lot of stuff I could fill into that story that I have no energy for. Which of course makes me feel even worse, even more like just wanting to crawl into bed and sleep forever.

The solitude, something I’ve been fine with all my life, is too much of my day now and it is killing me. I honestly did not expect that to be something that would happen to me in retirement. I didn’t reckon with suddenly losing that workday companionship, didn’t reckon on what effect that would have on me being a single gay male utter failure at romance. My co-workers and friends who have retired are all married and most of them have families. And this past couple month’s worth of rainy, grey overcast or bitterly cold weather hasn’t helped any. February is always a bad time of year for me, and March isn’t much better…memories wise. Valentine’s Day and March 6 only laugh in my face. I can see better now why retired people go live somewhere warm.

So this week I’m packing my car for another road trip to California for a short visit to my brother and Oceano, and a few more days in Disneyland. I need to jolt myself out of this cycle of solitude. Before it convinces me to pack it all in, stay home all day long and wait for the Grime Reaper to ring the doorbell. Figure a road trip will do it. I need something to wake me up and at my age now it’s unlikely to be a boyfriend. Not that it was ever likely I suppose.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Apple: It All Just Works. Except When It Doesn’t.

…because you need to be a better consumer.

Today in The Computer Geek Chronicles…I don’t know how I’d cope with these gadget’s, especially Apple’s since they seem to love breaking things so you have to buy new hardware you really don’t need. But anyway…

I’m listening to the radio and chance across some sort of Christian tune that I could swear was a note for note steal from a passage in Finlandia by Finnish composer Sibelius. So I go looking for Finlandia in my iTunes library, only to discover I never copied that over. Further investigation shows I didn’t copy it over because I don’t have it on any digital media.

But I have some LP’s with it on them, so I fire up my household stereo, and the turntable which I’m sure is happy to know I still love it. Two good versions are by the very theatrical Leopold Stokowski, who was well known for taking…liberties…with the music he was conducting (See Disney’s Fantasia…). The other by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Finlandia is political protest. It was written as a veiled protest against Tsarist Russian control of the Finnish press. (One of my favorite composers, Dimitri Shostakovich, often butted heads with his soviet overlords) It has it’s energetic, you might even say bombastic passages. But toward the end is this beautiful, soulful, hymn like passage that gets to me every time I listen to it, the way Ralph Vaughan-William’s similar passage at the end of his 6th symphony’s first movement.

I could easily see why it would be co-opted by the religious set, and in fact Sibelius made that passage into a single set piece for his Masonic Ritual Music with a chorus for solo opera singer. I have no idea what those lyrics were, but they almost certainly weren’t Be Still My Soul.

So anyway, to remedy that omission from my portable music library, I went looking for it on iTunes. I couldn’t find the Stokowski version but I did find a copy of the von Karajan version. Then I remembered I have a problem with copying music onto my devices, ever since I upgraded the OS on my iPhone.

I’m still on old Apple hardware, and for several iterations now I’ve had to add a special software patch to my copy of iTunes on my artroom Mac Pro. Then the software patch simply refused to download due to some unexplained “network error”. Hahahahaha…that’s Apple’s way of saying time to spend more money at the Apple Store.

The bug is well known out in the wild, but Apple, in it’s traditional way, won’t fix bugs that allow you to not buy new hardware. So this means I can no longer copy music from my iTunes library to my iPhone.

The work-around is I buy new music on the iPhone. It still gets copied onto my Mac Pro copy of iTunes once I log in. And this allows me to then copy it to my very old iPod.

Because (don’t start laughing yet…), Apple hasn’t updated the iPod OS in over a decade, so the last patch to make iTunes compatible with the iPod, probably a decade old now at least…Still Works.

Dig it. So for now, until Apple decides to stop letting older versions of iTunes download new music from the iTunes store, I have a work-around to get music I buy from Apple onto my iPod. To get music I buy in CD format and copy into my iTunes library, I have to use a third party app. At least that works without my having to Jailbreak the iPhone.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
March 6th, 2024

Did I Really Need Another Annual Pass?

Yes…yes I did…

This is for Disneyland in Anaheim California…the original park, which I went to for the first time last year (and I still haven’t posted about that here…sorry…). At that time California Adventure became my new favorite theme park and I knew I was going back every time I visited family in California. So I began thinking about getting one of their annual passes too, or maybe even forgoing the Disney World pass for one at Disneyland, because both might be a bit too much to maintain on retirement income.

I’m still amazed I got it…Disney annual passes are Hard to get these days because park attendance just keeps going up and up and they’re trying harder now since COVID to keep a lid on it to keep it enjoyable…and yes, keep their costs down. I’d already decided to take a road trip to Oceano after I got some maintenance done on the Mercedes, and I was pretty sure that while I was there I’d do another Disneyland visit. I was about to go to bed last night when I randomly decided to check to see if the passes were on sale again. They only open up a short window of opportunity for just one day and for just a few hours until they hit their limit on sales. I’ve logged in before only to discover I missed the date by a few, but they seem to only whisper when the passes will go on sale and if you aren’t tuned in at just that moment you miss it. I logged in late last night and lo and behold they were selling them, and I picked one, got dropped right into a waiting queue, and then almost immediately was presented with a form to complete my purchase. I’ve no idea how I lucked out that much, but it happened.

So now I have a Disneyland annual pass too. I will probably renew the Disney World one at least once this year when it comes up: I already have a reservation for Port Orleans Riverside, my favorite, when that time comes around. Whether or not I renew it after that depends on what the renewal price is. But I am keeping my Disneyland annual pass. The political climate for folks like me is much better in California, and that is the land of my birth anyway. I’d wanted to retire back to there but it’s too expensive now, and I have a cute little house with an easy mortgage in a very nicely walkable neighborhood here in Baltimore.

I’ll do another road trip to California sometime around end of July or August.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
March 5th, 2024


I’ve been seeing ads for the movie All Of Us Strangers and avoiding it because it seemed like the same old struggle for self acceptance kind of gay themed movie that I was over with back in the 20th century. I didn’t bother trying to find out what it was actually about until the other day, when I saw a news article about one of the actors, Andew Scott, being snubbed at the SAG awards because he’s an openly gay actor. So I dug into it and now I really regret that I did.

I should have seen it coming from all the comments all over social media about how the file is So Wonderful and yet it leaves audiences crying as the leave the theater…

He [Adam] is just going back into the everyday feelings that he hasn’t had the luxury of feeling: It’s a luxury for your parents to be annoying you; it’s your luxury for them to be smothering. And that’s what he immerses himself in. It’s a luxury to be able to touch your parents, to be able to hug them, to be able to get into their bed and to get back all that sensuality that he’s missing so much. He lives in this apartment block, he’s eating cookies on the couch, he’s living in a comfort zone. And so by going into that world, telling them who he is, by having that difficult conversation, then he sees himself — and when he sees himself, he’s able to go and let somebody else in and love somebody else.

Yeah. And then what happens? 

I am so tired, so deathly tired, of this eternal trope of gay male romances that end tragically. I don’t know…maybe some of the rest of you, who have had some share of love and joy and contentment, regardless of how long it ended up lasting, maybe some of you can watch this stuff and think of it as a tribute to love. But what I see is the film industry’s insistence that we don’t exist, or if we do, that our love can’t. Because…lets face it…two guys in love is just, you know…Unnatural. It can’t possibly be real, or if it is it can’t possibly last. The subcategory of the Kill Your Gays trope is Kill Your Gay’s Love. Because let’s be real here…honestly…can two men really love each other? I mean…you know…like THAT???

Perhaps this is only the bitter ranting of some old gay troll who never found a boyfriend and, like the guy Adam was finally ready to let in, just needs to drink himself to death alone. Or perhaps this is a howl of outrage from someone who bears the scars of this culture teaching, and is Still Teaching Its Gay Young That To Love And Be Loved By Another Is Just Simply Not Their Due In This Life.

Don’t Expect Love…it isn’t yours to have. But hey…we Accept you! Now anyway. Isn’t that Wonderful?

I really wish I’d never heard of this movie. But I have a list of those, so, whatever.

I wake up early this morning, still a bit miserable that I read that synopsis. I see it’s almost sunrise and I could just get up and have my morning coffee, but I’ve no energy to face the day for some reason, and I tell myself I’m old, I’m retired, I can sleep in and waste another day doing nothing if I want to. So I pull up the covers and try to get more sleep. Those early morning nods almost always produce vivid dreams, and this time was no exception.

I’m in a courtroom, apparently fighting with a landlord about getting access to my, and my boyfriend’s things so we can finish moving elsewhere. My boyfriend in this dream is a Woodward classmate, but not the one I’m always going on about being my first ever crush. This is another guy who I will not identify, other than I’m pretty sure he and the other classmate he was always hanging out with were a couple. In this dream he’s my boyfriend, and we had rented space in that apartment complex, and the previous landlord knew we were a couple and was fine with it. But this new landlord had sincere religious beliefs and told us we had to leave. Fine. Okay. But we were only able to get some of our stuff out when the locks were changed and now I’m in court trying to get our stuff back.

The religious fanatic landlord is accusing me of hacking into her renters database with, of all things my graphic editor, GIMP. She’s holding our stuff hostage until I pay her a fine for doing that. The judge (and this is pretty funny like dreams can often be) is Fred Gwynne, reprising his role as the judge from My Cousin Vinny.

I tell the judge that you can’t possibly hack into someone’s database with GIMP. The fanatical landlord says I admitted GIMP has a programming language. Yes, I say, but it’s just for automating tasks in GIMP. You can’t write a program to hack a database with it. The judge asks to see documentation for the GIMP’s Script-Fu language. Somehow I actually have paper documentation of it, and I hand that to the judge, along with the lease we’d signed with the prior landlord. This new landlord never asked us to sign another lease, just told us to get out, and I think the lease we signed is still controlling.

The judge looks over the Script-Fu documentation, shakes his head and looks at the fanatic landlord. “I don’t see how this allows someone to hack into a database.”

She says “Well he did.”

“With this?”



“Well I don’t know how I’m not a programmer.”

“But you know he hacked into your database with this tool.”


“But if you’re not a programmer then tell me how you know he did that with this tool.”

“Well…what else could have happened? It had to be him.”

“How do you know your database was hacked into?”

“Because that’s just what people like them do!”

“Tell me what was changed in your database.”

“Well I don’t know yet, I haven’t looked.”

“But you know there is damage.”

“Yes! There has to be! Because I told them to get out.”

“Have they caused any damage to your property that you can document for me now?”

“Yes. They were occupying it.”

“How did that damage your property.”

“It’s against my sincerely held religious beliefs!”

And with that the judge shakes his head, and dismisses the charge of hacking into her database. Then he says something that brings me nearly to tears. Not the kind of tears people leaving All of Us Strangers are shedding though.

Saying my boyfriend’s name along with mine he says “Bruce and [boyfriend] are a couple, and as such they are entitled to the respect and support a decent civilized society gives to all its couples in love. But also, they are married (I’m a bit surprised to hear this because in this dream I wasn’t aware that we were married, just that we were a couple in love), they took that next step, made that deeply profound commitment to each other and to their community, and now in the eyes of the law they are a family, with all the rights and responsibilities that conveys. You are hereby ordered to immediately allow Bruce and [boyfriend] to enter their apartment to retrieve their property, and if you refuse or if any of it is found to have been damaged by you or anyone in your employ the fines will be severe.”

And that was that. I walk out of the courtroom near to tears, not simply of joy, not even of acceptance. Acceptance isn’t quite what I was feeling overwhelmed by then. It was Acknowledgement

We were Acknowledged. Our place at the American table was Acknowledged. We existed. Our love existed! We belonged. Our love belonged. It was acknowledged.

I woke up still feeling those powerful emotions. 

Made me feel a bit better, but I’m still really sorry I read that movie synopsis. This is why I have no fucks to give for movies about beautifully tragic gay male romances. Why do so many people eat those up? Is it because they can give us acceptance, but not acknowledgement?


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Locked Out Of My Facebook Account

For some reason Facebook isn’t accepting my logins and I’m concerned that it might be because my account has been hacked. I think I might know what happened…I accepted a friend request that perhaps I should not have. But I won’t know until I can get back into my account…if ever.

At least I have my website. I was going to post something here and there, but apparently for now I can only write my thoughts to the world here. That’s fine. If anyone notices anything strange going on in my Facebook pages, it isn’t me.

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
March 4th, 2024

Faking It

I had my first mock cocktail at Rocket to Venus last week and it convinced me that these alcohol free drinks could actually work for me. I haven’t given up drinking entirely, but I have to be very careful because it really is the case that more than one drink in a week’s time and I will get heart flutters. That said, later this week I’m planning on having one or more of La Cuchara’s lovely Velvet Undergrounds (Ancient Age Bourbon, Angostura Bitters, Orange, Hickory Smoke…yes…smoke…you read that right…) but that’s a break up celebration date and heart flutters seem appropriate for such things.

But now I’ve discovered mock alcohol, and in my quest for the perfect mock alcohol I can now report that “Cut Above” mock whiskey is…horrible. To me it tastes like that stuff they put on microwave popcorn to make it taste like it has butter on it, but served as a drink.

That might be me and your mileage may vary. I’ve learned over the years that my genes play a bigger role in how things taste to me than I would have thought when I was a kid. Cilantro tastes like soap, but others seem to like it. I can eat Durian candy and it tastes fine to me, but to others it apparently tastes like vomit. And I’ve never liked the taste of beer, but others will tell me that beer is the bread of life. I can tolerate a good German wheat beer, but that’s all.

So maybe whatever they’re using to simulate the taste of whiskey in Cut Above is just something that reacts badly with my taste buds. But I ended up pouring that entire expensive bottle down the drain because I simply could not drink more than a couple sips. I bought it thinking at worst it would simply not become a favorite, but there is always worse than worst.

I bought a bottle of Free Spirits mock Bourbon tonight at a spot on The Avenue, and I’m sipping it contentedly now. It’s not a perfect imitation, but close enough that I can tell myself it’s not a top shelf Bourbon but good enough for a nightcap. I can tell they’re using cinnamon to give it that alcohol bite, but it kinda does work.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!


“In the wake of a two messy and malignant closet cases getting outed – one a Catholic anti-gay activist, the other a very gay “ex-gay” conversion therapist – I’m gonna re-up a piece about a messy and malignant closet case who got outed a while back…”

-Dan Savage, February 26, 2024 on Twitter

He’s talking about this guy…

He led an anti-gay Catholic site. Staffers say he sent them racy selfies.

At the far-right Church Militant, Michael Voris accused liberal Catholics and others he opposed of being gay until he resigned over unspecified ‘morality’ concerns. Staffers now say he had shared shirtless gym photos.

…and this guy.

Notorious ‘Ex-Gay’ Conversion Therapist Jayson Graves Reportedly Fired After TWO Investigation

Arizona Rehab Center Confirms That Graves No Longer an Employee

Here’s the Advocate article he links to…

No excuses for West

I have no sympathy for ousted Spokane mayor Jim West or other hypocritical closet cases. They didn’t miss out on these years of greater gay visibility. They opted out. 

By Dan Savage
January 17 2006 

Savage begins his article talking about feeling sorry back when he was an 18 year old, for all the middle age gay men hanging out in bars whose clientele was too young for them. In 1981 he realizes something his friends didn’t…

When those older men in the bars were 18, it was 1961 or 1951–and it might as well have been 1661 for all the difference it made. When they were our age it just wasn’t possible to be an openly gay teenager.

He would tell his friends to give these men a break…that they missed out. I can relate. Sort of.

When I was 18 it was 1972 and you could say I had it a lot better than those who came of age in the 60s or 50s. Yes, but no.

Luckily I grew up in a mostly liberal and prosperous part of the country, and went to school in a smallish expansion school in a nice middle class neighborhood of mostly government and private industry contractor engineers and tech worker families. I was bullied in middle school relentlessly, but in high school I was among my fellow geeks and nerds. Religion there was of the mostly liberal denomination sort, and almost never discussed at school. The older kids had largely worn down the adults by then over things like guys wearing their hair long and bell bottom blue jeans. We protested Johnson and Nixon and the Vietnam war, which was killing the ones who couldn’t go off to college (I would just barely escape the draft the year after I graduated). But you could still not call it a good time for the gay kids.

Maybe for some of the gay young adults it was getting better. But it was just barely post Stonewall and that event had yet to really trickle down from the big cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. And even there it was still a struggle not simply for respect, but basic safety on the streets. Gay people still got static from every direction in the popular media….on TV, in the movies, in the newspapers and magazines…

Mad Magazine, #145, Sept 1971, from “Greeting Cards For The
Sexual Revolution” – “To A Gay Liberationist”

Jack Davis cartoon, Mad Magazine – July 1978


In the 1970s it was still coming at us from all directions. I spoke to this in my cartoon series, A Coming Out Story


If only to escape the disgust and ridicule of our peers, the tears of our parents, and gay bashing total strangers, we hid. We ducked. It was survival, even then. You got almost no support anywhere, you had to dig for gay supportive authors, like Mary Renault and their books. But don’t even bother trying to find your copies of The Advocate or The Washington Blade in your local newsstand or bookstore. I blogged several times about having to buy my newspapers and copies of Christopher Street (it was like a gay New Yorker), and The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review (a literary journal) in the backroom of a seedy adult bookstore where they kept the hard core pornography.

When I was in high school I knew of no way to socialize with other gay teens, even in liberal Montgomery County Maryland. And as I grew into young adulthood it was still a challenge. The only gay bar I knew of, its name spoken among the other kids like a dirty joke, scared me to get anywhere near, lest someone see me go inside, or I get gay bashed the moment I walk back out. And a dark seedy bar wasn’t anywhere I reckoned I would find a boyfriend anyway. I didn’t want to simply get picked up and used as some sort of sexual junk food. I was looking for love in a time of Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant.

I missed out, like the others. I wrote yesterday about the heartbreak of finding my high school crush after so many years, still terrified and full of all the same myths, lies and superstitions about being gay that I stubbornly rejected because I was in love with him. He missed out, I missed out, a lot of us who you might say came of age in a more enlightened moment, still nonetheless missed out. And I don’t think that is appreciated enough.

But Savage is absolutely right about this…

Jim West knew better. He knew he didn’t have to live a lie. He knew he could have lived as an openly gay or bisexual man–bisexual is all West has admitted to in most of his interviews, although no pictures of young women were found on his work computer–but he chose not to. Unlike the older gay men I met in 1981, West and other closeted middle-aged men today didn’t come of age at a time when no one could conceive of openly gay and lesbian people and communities. (Or politicians: Washington State has four openly gay members of its legislature.) Jim West chose the closet and shame and lies and hypocrisy.

So while I had sympathy for gay men who came out late in life in the 1970s and 1980s, I find I have no sympathy for Jim West or other men like him today. Their stories aren’t tragic, they’re pathetic. They didn’t miss out. They opted out. Fuck ’em.

I never found a boyfriend, let alone a lifemate. I am still missing out. I could have let myself become bitter (and maybe I am just a tad after all), or I could resolve to do what I could to make sure nobody in the generations to follow had to go through what I did, and miss out on that wonderful, life affirming joy of love and romance, desire and contentment. I dug in my stubborn heels and chose that path instead. Put it down, Rick Blaine once said, as a gesture to love.

I will go to my grave aching over that empty space inside of me I never found another to put at ease. But not in shame over what I did because of it.


Posted In: Life Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
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