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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

Acknowledgement

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?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

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

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

“Yes!”

“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
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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!

Trolls

“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!
March 2nd, 2024

Militant Homosexual

I saw an online post from a Hollywood person, someone who I absolutely consider an LGBT ally, hanging out at a comic convention with a lady artist and her husband, both publishers of a well known and well loved fantasy comic series, like they were all old friends. It got my hackles up. This particular comic book pair talk a good talk about being supportive of their LGBT fans, but when it comes to their story world they’ve a track record of, at best, gay vague…

Coined by Michael Wilke in 1997, ‘gay vague’ is the appearance of people who are seen by some viewers as gay, without it being explicitly stated or shown. When done intentionally, this allows brands to court two audiences: those longing for representation alongside those who would be put off by it.

Outvertising – 12 February 2022 “The vague vanguard: The story of one unintentionally groundbreaking 90s TV ad.”

I see these two all the time at Pride events and comic cons, proudly hanging out with gay creators and fans, who I have to assume never ask them where the gay characters are in their world, like I did on a USENET forum once back in the 80s, to which I got the immediate response that “we don’t do pornography”.

Let me be blunt…gay vague is not support, it is erasure. Especially these days, if you are still sticking to gay vague as a way of telling us you’re with us…you aren’t. You’re still deeply uncomfortable with the possibility of our presence in your fantasy world. Because you still really haven’t made that connection that we are people just like you, with the same hopes and dreams of love, and all its joys and happiness, and not some strange and disturbing sexual behavior.

I can see fans of these two and their fantasy world getting a tad pissed off at what I’m saying here. And believe me, I know the feeling of wanting so badly, so very very badly, to see people like myself, see our lives, our hopes and dreams, represented in art, on TV and movies, that I’m willing to accept the occasional nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean know what I mean. But that was a long Long time ago, and now there is a lot of water under the bridge.

No…tears. A lot of tears.

So what made me such an intolerant militant homosexual? I’ll give you the executive summary. In bullet points. In reverse order of importance.

1: Vito Russo’s book, The Celluloid Closet.

You always knew there were the occasional coded homosexuals in the movies. Russo was the first to gather them all up…all the sissies, all the pansies, all the psychos, all the tragically damned…and present them to you all at once in one book. And when you saw it like that, it shocked you, and then it made you angry. Not just because you knew it was what Hollywood was telling everyone, your parents and family, your classmates and friends, how to think of you, but even more because it was how Hollywood told you to think of yourself.

2: In 2005 a 16 year old gay teenager was outed to his parents, who promptly forced him into ex-gay therapy. Before he entered the program, called Love In Action, he put out a cry for help on his MySpace page:

“Somewhat recently, as many of you know, I told my parents I was gay… Well today, my mother, father, and I had a very long “talk” in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they “raised me wrong.” I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears, joing the rest of those kids who complain about their parents on blogs – and I can’t help it.”

Then he did something brilliant. He found the LIA rulebook on the family computer and put the entire thing on his page for the world to see what they were doing to kids in there. And it shocked everyone. I was not alone I later learned, in not being able to sleep for days with worry for this kid. In joining the protests and activism against ex-gay therapy, I met a bunch of people who had been through it…survivors of ex-gay therapy…some who went in of their own accord, others who were forced into it…and through that I came to know them, made a few friends among them, and I listened to their stories.

3: (This could be a subset of #2) The Quiet Room. 

As I began documenting the protests against ex-gay therapy with my cameras, I was generously allowed to document some of the ex-gay survivor’s support group meetings. At one of these I attended, they’d established a “quiet room”. Mind you, these people were among Friends. They were there to tell their stories in a safe setting, and support each other as they tried to get on with their lives and past the trauma they’d experienced. And they still needed a quiet room. A spot where they could go and decompress when it all started getting too much.

And they’d covered one wall of the quiet room with some blank sheets of paper and set some Sharpies out, so the people decompressing could write whatever they needed to just then, to Get It Out…Somehow… on that wall.

I read those words. The writing on the wall. And when the conference was over I photographed it.

4: The night the closest thing I ever had to a boyfriend told me as we were having a quiet moment together, what his father did after he came out to his parents. He had just returned from a tour of duty in a Los Angeles class attack submarine and I guess his military experience had given him the courage and resolve to tell his folks. He sought me out and we had a brief fling. One night in a very quiet voice he told me about coming out to his folks, how they both said they still loved him, and how that night his father went into his office and made himself a small brochure with every biblical condemnation of homosexuality he could dig up, plus a bunch of others from who knows where. Then he printed up a bunch of copies and went around the neighborhood, putting one in the front door of every house for blocks around. Then he went back home and told his son what he did.

(I also got a copy anonymously in the mail and was pretty sure where it came from)

5: (Remember, these are in reverse order of importance). Listening to my high school crush tell me I should stay away, because the life he’d lived in the closet had so badly damaged him that some days he looked in the bathroom mirror and didn’t know who it was he was looking at.

I had a crush on him back in high school. Before that I didn’t want anything to do with all that dating stuff. But in the late 60s/early 70s, nobody told me that boys could fall in love with other boys or I would have been all about it. Then I met him. He was beautiful, decent, good hearted, outdoorsy, hard working. It wasn’t long before I thought the world revolved around him. I couldn’t take my eyes away. My heart would beat faster, I’d break into a cold sweat, but it felt wonderful. That first time you fall in love. It felt like a Disney movie. The birds sang a little more sweetly, the sky was a tad more blue, the stars shone more brightly, I walked with a lighter step. Everything was wonderful. I was twitterpated. I put him up on a pedestal. I thought he hung the moon and the stars. But it was 1971.

I’m pretty sure now it was when his parents found out he was talking to me that they put a stop to it. We weren’t doing anything…it was 1971. Gay kids didn’t exist in 1971. We’d only just begun flirting a little. But it came to a sudden halt. Then that summer they took him back to their native land and for 30+ years I had no idea what had happened to him, or where he was.

So I got on with my life. And so did the gay rights movement. I became a young adult, made attempts at dating other guys, nothing really worked. Every now and then I’d make an attempt to find him again, usually by looking through different city’s phone directories. When computer bulletin boards became a thing I would occasionally toss a message in a bottle out into the BBS spaces to see if he was there, and did he remember me. After a while I began thinking that if I ever did find him again he’d be settled down with a much better way more handsome guy than me and I’d just have to accept that.

So many years later I still had him up on a pedestal. I knew he would be braver than me. I wasn’t brave, just stubborn. He would be brave.

I got on with my life. I attended the first ever gay rights march on Washington, and the first ever showing of the Names Project Quilt on the Capitol Mall. It was pretty unnerving walking among all those quilt panels with birthdates bracketing my own. But I resolved to do my part to make it a better world for all of us.

That night the nightmares began. I would be walking among the quilt panels, and see one with his name on it. I’d be in the grocery store, or a bookstore, or just walking down a street in DC’s gay neighborhood, and I’d see him, his face covered in Kaposi’s sarcoma scars, his body shriveled. So I kept looking for him. I had to know what had happened to him. I was afraid. I had to know if he was still okay.

I was stubborn. Eventually I found him, married to a woman, and somewhat closeted but at least not in denial. We reconnected for a brief period. He started flirting with me again. We would sit together after hours and talk and talk and talk. We talked on the phone. We tossed each other Christmas cards and emails. And then it suddenly stopped. I’m guessing because the family found out he was talking to me again.

And one evening as the silence descended, at the restaurant where he worked, he basically told me I needed to look elsewhere because living in the closet had damaged him so much. He tossed ex-gay tropes at me…that sex was no more substantial than a fart. That when I was on my deathbed it wouldn’t be all the times I had sex, but all the people I loved that I would be thinking about…as if the venn diagram of those two things had no overlap. And I sat there and listened to him telling me that some days he would look in the bathroom mirror and he didn’t know who it was he was looking at. The guy I put up on a pedestal when I was a teenage boy. The guy I thought hung the moon and stars. The guy who made my heart beat faster. The guy who made me believe that no matter what life did to me, it was worth living.

I kept going back to see him anyway. I figured a relationship between us was off the table…he was married…but I could at least set an example. But it was too much for him, and maybe we were never really all that compatible anyway. He told me one day by email never to contact him again in any way shape or form. I had to sit on my hands to keep from replying How do you contact someone with a shape? Please accept this dodecahedron in reply to your Octahedron of March 6…

I got angry. I said things to him that maybe I shouldn’t have. But I was hurt. I think the only thing that cut me deeper was when mom died. We haven’t spoken a word to each other in eight years. But I don’t blame him. Enough time has passed that I’m not angry anymore, just sad. I’ll never have that wonderful twitterpated body and soul love now…it’s too late. But my generation did what it could to make the world a better place for those who followed. There are others who need to be held accountable for what the hatred of the world has done, and still does, to us. 

And I know what an ally in that fight looks like.

Why I am a militant homosexual…as they say. Five points to hopefully explain myself. Not that I feel like I owe everyone an explanation, but here it is. And I have no fucks to give for anyone who thinks gay vague is enough to make them an ally. I do not care how well liked they are in the community, or who it pisses off. I have read the writing on the wall. I have seen the damage done to beautiful hearts. I have no fucks to give anymore.

 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 29th, 2024

Science Kid

Okay…so yesterday was National Science Day but I was only reminded of that fact today, on National Feel Sorry For Kids Who Only Get Birthdays Every Four Years Day.

When I was a schoolkid, there were two subjects where I reliably got A’s every time…science class, and art class. Everywhere else it was C’s and D’s. Even English class. I was a voracious reader ever since I learned the trick, and where the other kids might fill one card of books they’d read I routinely had multiple cards filled. But I could be stubborn about reading books that bored me and so reading assignments often went undone and I’d get an F, or they’d get done half-assedly and I’d get a D. This is why I never even got close to the Honor Roll.

I was all about science well before I really understood what it was. Any TV show having anything to do with science, and that included the nature programs, I was always right there in front of the TV to watch when the time came. And even the kid shows, cartoons and such, that I favored had some sort of science-fiction flavor to them…Supercar…Space Angel…Astroboy…

Before there was Bill Nye, this is who I watched raptly every Saturday morning for my science hit. What was nice about this show was he showed kids experiments they could do themselves. That is, instead of just talking to us about science, he showed us how to do it. I probably tried a few of them myself. It gets you in the habit of experimenting and testing what you don’t know for sure is or isn’t true. And that prepares you for adult life in a world full of superstition, prejudices handed down for generations, lies, damn lies, and slickly crafted disinformation.

Mythbusters was another science show I came to love in my adult years. It was a lot of fun. But most of their experiments were not safe for around the house.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 19th, 2024

Repost…Once Upon A Time…

I’m still decompressing a bit from Valentine’s Day, which isn’t helped any by it coming in the dead of winter here in central Maryland. So I thought I’d just repost a little something I’d blogged about many years ago…

This is from an old Polaroid a friend probably snapped of me while I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment in Rockville (now North Bethesda!) mom and I lived in during the 60s/70s/80s. I would have been in my twenties. I would have still had the Pinto and probably was working at the Best Products just on the other side of the fence between them and the apartments.

I can tell a lot about the timeframe that this was taken because it has to be sometime in the mid 70s, before that awful couple years I wrote about yesterday. It’s in my face. I look at this and see someone still comfortable in the life he has, confident that even better times are just around the corner. A boyfriend. A good job that paid well (I was going to be a newspaper photographer). A place of my own. Everything was still possible.

As to why I had it taken…I’m not sure. This would have been before the microcomputer days, let alone the Internet, so it wouldn’t have been to post to an online profile. This is a Polaroid, I had no scanner then, and getting copies off a Polaroid wasn’t simple. So this was a one-off. I think I had it taken just to have a couple of me that I actually liked. There are a few other poses in the set but I liked this one best. Which explains why it’s a Polaroid: I could look over each one and decide if I needed another.

The problem was always that I didn’t have many of myself that I liked. By then I was well aware that I wasn’t very good looking, but every now and then I saw a good photo of me so I wasn’t overly concerned about my looks at that age. My teeth were very crooked though, and I was extremely self conscious about that. In every photo of me from that period I’m always smiling with my mouth closed. You almost can’t see the smile here, but it’s there in the corner of my mouth. That problem wouldn’t get fixed until I was in my thirties when a friend kindly financed some dental work for me and pointed me to a super good dentist.

This image is from a time before the Internet, personal computers, cable TV, and cell phones let alone smartphones. I’m pretty sure this was before 1977 and Anita Bryant’s rampage on gay civil rights in Dade County Florida. I had listen to my shortwave radio to get the result of the vote in Dade County because none of the mainstream network news companies bothered to cover it until much later. News for and about gay Americans was not fit to print in those days. If I wanted that news, and I didn’t want to drive into DC to the Lambda Rising bookstore, I had to go to a seedy adult bookstore in Wheaton and walk past racks of pretty hard core heterosexual pornography to get a copy of the Washington Blade and The Advocate. The subway wouldn’t be built out beyond the beltway in Montgomery County until 1978 when the station at Silver Spring opened. After that I could drive into Silver Spring and hop on the Metro to get to DuPont Circle and Lambda Rising. When the Twinbook Metro station opened in 1984 I could just walk from the apartment to the subway and it was a straight shot down the red line to DuPont Circle and back.

I was so happy not to have to go past those heterosexual porn magazines ever again. I mean…okay…whatever floats your boat. But…jeeze… And yet, in many quarters of American culture, not just the pulpit thumping churches, but also mainstream news media, TV, movies, and magazines, the youngster you see in this photo was regarded as a deviant threat to American society, family values, and civilization itself.

That is the world you are seeing in this image. TVs still had vacuum tubes, telephones had a wire connecting them to the wall, you got your news from the morning or afternoon newspaper, or the nightly network news broadcasts around dinnertime. Am radio played mostly music or sports, music came on vinyl LPs or cassettes, big box department stores were still a thing, and bookstores and newstands were everywhere, but you couldn’t get any gay publications in them because gay people like the kid in this photo were almost universally regarded with contempt and loathing. But the kid you see there was still pretty confident of his future. Bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to meet tomorrow. He never found a boyfriend.

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

A Thread On AIDS In The 80s/90s

I still log onto Twitter/X every now and then and this is why. Despite the gutter Musk has dragged it into there is still the story of the human status to find in there. This was posted by  Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson). I also lived through that period of time. This is how it was.

——

A thread on #AIDS in the 80s/90s

Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson)

 

I was 15 when I first had sex with a man.

I’d snuck off to London’s Heaven nightclub with the express intent of ridding myself of my ‘gay virginity’, a goal I achieved easily with a visiting American photographer.

Later that week, I watched with rising panic the Horizon documentary, Killer in the Village.

It warned of a new disease that was killing gay Americans. A few cases had just been identified in the UK too.

At that time, the disease did not have a name.

We now know it as AIDS.

 

The government’s ’Don’t Die of Ignorance’ HIV advertising campaign, featuring icebergs, a tombstone and a doom-laden voiceover, came out a couple of years later when I was in my first year at university.

At the same time Section 28, inserted into the Local Government Act in an attempt to ban “the promotion of homosexuality”, started making its way through Parliament.

The ‘gay plague’, as the tabloids dubbed it, was all the justification needed for politicians, journalists and religious leaders to condemn our sick and short lives.
AIDS provided a powerful new weapon for those who wished to attack us.

My love life at the time was complicated and messy, often fuelled by alcohol and poor judgement.

I considered myself to be safe – I almost always used condoms but there were slips and breakages and mornings where I woke up with only hazy memories of the night before.

And then my friends started dying.

Death and grief were bound up in my experience of being young and gay.

And it didn’t even feel odd – a community dealing with fear and loss was the only one I knew.

I still picture those I lost: wise, twinkly Mick, a member of the Gay Liberation Front and the first person I knew with HIV; Roy, who denied his illness beyond the time when all of his friends knew; handsome James – and his legendary parties.

I think of David who took his own life rather than face lingering death, and I think of Derek, who loved beauty but lost his sight.

I think of Ian, always the smartest but kindest man in the room, and of Paul with his huge blue eyes and even bigger heart.

Fear, hatred and intolerance of homosexuality, attitudes which were then widely shared across all regions and social classes, combined with a virus to kill people like me and people like my friends.

It was AIDS that killed those men, but it was homophobia that allowed it to happen – and that led to so many men dying alone.

Homophobia killed us then.

Worldwide, it remains the cause of thousands of deaths, through violence and neglect, even today.

An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.

We need to share the good news that treatment will prevent AIDS.

We must challenge fear by ensuring that everyone knows effective treatment means we can’t pass HIV on to our sexual partners.

Just as we fought for greater acceptance of LGBT people, we now must fight to end HIV stigma if we are to end this epidemic.

I can think of no better way of honouring those who died.  #LGBTplusHM #UnderTheScope

 

 

Postscript

In 1996 effective treatment was introduced that prevented HIV from progressing to AIDS.

I was diagnosed with HIV in 1998.

I was 30.

At the time I did not expect to live to 50.

I will be 57 this year. #MakeStigmaHistory


Posted In: Life Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 16th, 2024

…And You Are The Easiest Person To Fool

Some time ago I read an article about safety regulations in some profession, I forget now which. A trainee sat in on a class with an instructor who would go over OSHA law as it applied to them. He began his class by telling the trainees that every regulation he was about to teach them was written in blood.

I spent just over three decades of my life as a software engineer. You could say that my job didn’t involve any hazards to my own health. True enough, I sat at a desk staring into a computer screen trying to mentally picture the algorithms I was creating in program code. Not very dangerous stuff. To me. Unless you count all the alcohol and nicotine I consumed to manage stress (I worked at an IT firm back when I was a youngster as the mailroom clerk, and a programmer there called his inevitable pack of cigarettes his “programmer’s candy”). But what I did was potentially extremely dangerous to others if my program didn’t do what it was supposed to.

One of the contracts I worked on ages ago, before I came to Space Telescope, was for a large medical diagnostic company. I had a piece of their new diagnostic machine’s reporting system. The machine it was hooked up to would identify specimens that had whatever disease they were testing for just then, and the report terminal would keep a database of results and generate reports for individual patients and disease rate of spread in a population for the CDC. The federal government imposed requirements on the software process for medical equipment, including allowable software tools, multiple code reviews, and independent verification of requirements as the software matured. Because lives were at stake.

I wasn’t subjected to that level of oversight at Space Telescope because I was not involved in creating any of the actual flight software. I did business applications mostly, science needs business applications too, although I could also build you a PC if you point me at a source of parts for one. I attended meetings, issued progress reports on my work, discussed requirements with managers. Those I gave my output to, both during development and when it was in production, were able to verify that my software was correct or not from their own experience with their numbers.

I would occasionally get a call from one about something missing from one of their spreadsheets. I was almost always able to trace that to the data not yet being entered in the “problem report” or “discrepancy report” databases. I could re-run the program for them when that was fixed. But now and then I found a bug in my software that I had to fix that was making the numbers wrong. That was unlikely to get anyone killed, but it could have given management a false idea of progress being made. So it was still very important to get it right.

At the major public utility I once contracted for, I worked with an accountant who Knew His Numbers. He could look at my output and go…”ah…you know…I don’t think you’re picking up…” and he would refer to some number bucket, one of many such, that I needed the report to digest. And I would go to my code and look and sure enough I wasn’t doing that. So I’d fix it and run the output by him again. I loved it. He didn’t know software but he knew his numbers, and I didn’t know his numbers but I knew my software and it was a perfect working relationship. He was my independent verification.

I can’t stress enough how important independent verification of your software is. The more mission critical it is, the more thorough that must be. It gets to a point, and I lived this while working on that medical diagnostic machine report, where periodically a group of other programmers get together with you and beat up on your code. It can be brutal. Ask me how I know. But when it’s that important, like with medical diagnostic software, it Must happen. Lives actually are at stake.

But beyond bugs, there’s also making sure both you and your users understand what the software is, and is not doing. Most of the business software I wrote wasn’t about life and death situations, or so you’d think. But that’s not always cut and dried. Like the one at my first big contract at a major public utility where I was tasked with designing and coding a report that would tell management how much revenue each of their field technicians were generating and at what cost. My report uncovered such a massive subsidy of one department by another such that, so I was told later, jaws dropped in the boardroom. Annapolis was Not going to be happy.

Then came the layoffs. I heard later that one of those laid off had a sudden heart attack at his dinner table in front of his wife and kids and died. You could say it was management policies that did that…they knew they were putting money where it did not belong, that they were subsidizing something they weren’t supposed to, but didn’t realize how badly it had become until my report waved it in their faces. So they did what management often does, they just started laying people off to make the money stop going in that direction.

They did that. But…my software did that. Management wasn’t just using my report to tell them where the money was coming from and going to, they were using it to tell them who their best workers were. And I still deeply regret it. I wonder if I couldn’t have done more in meetings to remind them a computer program can’t substitute for human judgment. There was a union that was supposed to be protecting the workers from that sort of thing. You could say none of that was on my plate. But my hands were in it too. He was a nice guy. Always had a friendly smile for me.

I never doubted after that, how dangerous my tools could be.

The procedures and best practices of software development have evolved over the decades from big iron to little silicone for a reason. Maybe they aren’t all written in blood, but they are all at least written in sweat and tears. They say mistakes are human but to really foul things up takes a computer. But no. What it takes, is thinking you can get away with bending the rules. Maybe just this once. Because we have a deadline. Because we have to get it out the door. Because there isn’t enough money for best practices. Just this once. And then the next once. And the next once. And the next. And the next. Take off your engineer’s hat and put on your management hat.

There are reasons for all those practices and procedures. And especially, there are reasons developers do not test their own software before putting it into production. Yes, do your unit testing, but then you hand it off the testers. Testers are your friends. They keep crap from going out the door that worked fine for you but that’s because you were running it on a workstation with all your software tools on it, and the test data you cobbled together that you always use. Out in the wild it will be different.

The physicist Richard Feynman once said (paraphrasing) that science is a way of trying not to fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. I think that’s a good general rule for software testing too. Testing is a way of trying not to fool yourself. And since you are the easiest person to fool, because you wrote it, you hand it off to an independent tester. Or put another way: beware the result you wanted because you had a deadline. It needs looking at by someone with no stake in the outcome, other than honestly reporting did it pass or fail.

There are reasons for the procedures and best practices of software engineering. They need to be respected. Not for the sake of tradition, but for the sake of not screwing things up badly. Because we are human and it takes a human to screw things up badly. But we can be aware of this, and build our guardrails accordingly. We do that, and we are capable of wonderful, marvelous things.

Why am I telling you all this? Just venting. I’m old and cranky is all.

 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 15th, 2024

A Re-Subscription And Memories Of A Lost Love Song Program

…for your post Valentine’s Day pleasure. Hey…it’s not all half price chocolates…

The other day I re-subscribed to Sirius/XM satellite radio because they made me an offer that was hard to refuse, even given how much I am still PO’d over what they did to my music lineup, and especially their gay channel OutQ…now ex-gay I suppose since it’s no longer there.

They offered me the music at three bucks a month for three years, and instead of that automatically renewing at the higher standard rate it simply expires and I have to get a new subscription or the radio goes silent. That’s fine with me, wonderful even. I’ve been piping Pandora through my car stereo via my iPhone for decades now.

For five bucks extra (that’s two bucks more than the music) I got the traffic maps, which show up on my car’s “Command” display. I’ve missed having those since I let that traffic only subscription lapse.

I can get traffic maps and navigation on the iPhone via Google Maps, and I have an iPhone holder that goes into one of the cup holders in the center console. But the Mercedes central Command display is easier to glance at and adjust while driving because it responds to the steering wheel buttons. I buy the smallest iPhones they make because I want the phone to fit into my pocket and I’m not a big guy. But this makes its display difficult to use while driving.

So I have the satellite radio stuff back at the max price I’m willing to pay for it, and it all works now, and there are still some music channels I like listening to on it. But I keep thinking about what there was when the service first started, and how it seemed to systematically remove what I liked most. And especially what they did to OutQ.

See…OutQ‘s afternoon/evening programming was mostly Derick and Romaine which was a raunchy talk format I just couldn’t listen to. But there was Michelangelo Signorile’s news and talk program which I really liked, and for a while Air America. And then there was Pat Marino’s Sunset Cruise.

Sunset Cruise was a really sweet love song call-in dedication show that ran late on Sundays. I loved Sunset Cruise. I would listen to it while I drew my political cartoons for my website and Baltimore OUTLoud on Sunday nights. All the heartfelt love that came through on that show really kept my spirits up while I was drawing cartoons about the latest spew of anti-gay bigotry in that week’s newspapers.

It was sweet, it was heartfelt, and it raised my spirits to face the coming week. If it wasn’t for those two things, Signorile and Sunset Cruise, I wouldn’t have bothered with OutQ at all.

Then they replaced Sunset Cruise with…repeats of the Derick and Romaine show. Because we all know that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex…

Anyway…it’s the day after. How about a repost from the 2013 Valentine’s Day Poster Contest?


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 10th, 2024

That Sense Of Death Tapping You On The Shoulder

A neighbor across my street had to be taken off by the paramedics a couple nights ago. I just found out he’d had a really bad stroke and is still in the hospital, unable to move.

Him and his younger brother (both pretty old men, but 50s, maybe early 60s I’d say) live in one of the four single family detached houses across my street. The oldest brother who inherited the house was who had the stroke. He was into some sort of real estate business and possibly had other side work too. Whenever the weather was warm enough he’d be outside working on the front lawn or the side garden or the huge yard on the east side of the house with a Really Big tree and lots of scrub brush, which I saw him trying to clear out a month ago.

So he was active, if not a regular jogger or walker like me. I never once saw him smoking and he didn’t seem to be a drinker either. But I think his health wasn’t the best to begin with. He walked with some difficulty. Maybe it was the same sort of thing that had put his sister in a wheelchair.

The stroke scares me more than other possible health outcomes. For one thing I like to drive a lot and if it happens while I’m driving I could get other people killed. I’ve thought about that ever since I read the story of that school bus driver who apparently stroked out while driving the bus and crashed into a metrobus killing it’s driver and several passengers, plus himself. He’d apparently had a record of that happening before and should never have been given a school bus to drive. Luckily there were no children on the bus.

If I have the stroke, even one that doesn’t incapacitate me, I would need to give up my driver’s license, voluntarily if that isn’t the law. I won’t have that on me. But losing the ability to drive would feel like the end of my life.

I really don’t want the stroke. Unless it’s a massive one that kills me instantly. I can deal with that.

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 8th, 2024

My Retirement Anniversary Is Too Close To Tax Time!

Second anniversary of being retired. And also time to gather my forms and do my taxes. So naturally I decide to evaluate my retirement funds…and stress out about money.

Yes, Yes…you knew the balance would go down when you withdraw money didn’t you. Didn’t You??.

It’s okay. I’m theoretically good for many many years beyond when the heart unit is depreciated and support is no longer available from the vender. But I have to watch my spending more carefully than I did when I was employed and making six figures. I can do that…I have budgeting spreadsheets I’ve created and some rules about what to spend and when. I have excellent health insurance beyond Medicare parts the A and B. Financially I’m good. Not fabulous, but good. I can pay my bills and generally maintain a lower middle class standard of living. Even take a Disney vacation every now and then. These days that puts me in the Very Very Lucky category. But the ability to stress over Everything is just baked into me I reckon.

At the moment a source of stress is that it’s looking like I can either take the two week Disney Vacation this spring or go to California and stay with family out there this summer…but not both. And those are two things I count on to relieve stress. Ha Ha. But I’m still crunching numbers. I’ll know by the end of this month. That’s plenty of time to either cancel my Disney reservations or tell my brother that a California stay will have to wait for next year.

And the fact is that cross-country road trip is getting very tiring now. I have to stop more often, which means more hotel money for the trip both ways. And the anticipation of driving cross country isn’t as exciting as it used to be. I’ve done just about all the parts of the country I wanted to, and some of it now, like Texas and Oklahoma, feel scary in a way they never did before.

Maybe I just fly out to California now and then for a week or two. Thinking about a road trip doesn’t get me excited, it just makes me feel tired now.

Oh dear…I’m 70 now aren’t I. (Looks at the old man skin on his arms) Yeah. That happened…

 


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by Bruce | Link | React!
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