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June 9th, 2021

The Wrecking Ball That Breaks Your Heart One Day, Lifts Your Spirits The Next

Time passes…the universe expands…I’ve lived long enough to see so many of my kidhood haunts coming down. Rockville it seems, is a city that just wants to eat itself all the time. Shortly after mom and I moved there, they tore down the old city center and built a doomed shopping mall they eventually tore down just a decade or so later, and then tore down what they’d built on top of that. A classmate posted that you can’t go home again, and I replied that’s especially true if home was Rockville, because you’ll get lost they’ve re-routed so many of the roads we used to drive down. I’m still stunned that Randolph Road now goes under Rockville Pike. My beloved high school got torn down recently and I’m still miserable over it, but I got a keepsake brick so there’s that. So much of my past is vanishing under the wrecking ball. But it’s not all bad. In fact, sometimes it’s wonderful.

Just heard on another page that this place is going under the wrecking ball next week. I couldn’t be more delighted. It was originally called Fritzbe’s. I have a particularly bad memory…a really Bad Memory…that place played a supporting role in. I have wanted to see it razed for decades.

What Happened:

It was a lovely summer night in 1981. I was in my middle twenties and on the downside of my second disastrous crush. We were close, or so I thought. I sent him love letters from the road while on a road trip with friends in the southwest. On my return it seemed we became even closer. But he was straight. What I learned from it is that straight guys can fall in love with other guys too, but for them it’s a purely platonic thing. For the gay guy who gets that deeply involved with a straight guy it’s a heart wrenching mess.

That night in 1981 he suggested we go to this new place that opened. It would have been at one time an easy walk, nearly a straight line from the apartment I grew up in to Congressional Plaza or the Radio Shack across the street from it. But the new Metro subway system was under construction and my path across the railroad tracks was now forever blocked, so my friend picked me up at the apartment and we went to Fritzbe’s. At Fritzbe’s I learned another lesson.

I was having a night out at a new place with the guy I was still crushing on madly. So I put on my best blue jeans and favorite shirt, got my long hair all washed and blow dried, put on my new Nike’s. But let’s face it, I was a scrawny ugly faced twenty-something no matter how well I dressed, and the summer humidity probably didn’t do wonders for my hair either. We got to the door to Fritzbe’s and there were two doormen standing there. One of them said my friend could go inside, but I couldn’t.

I was stunned. My friend told me he wanted to go in and just look around for a bit. So he did and I waited while the doormen made sure I stayed outside. When he returned it was clear to me that he wanted to spend the evening with the other cool people inside but first he had to figure out a way to dump me without making it look like he was dumping me. My memory of the rest of that night is a bit fuzzy, but I clearly recall saying something on the order of what’s wrong with me that I can’t come in I look okay, and under his breath he said “actually no you don’t”. So that was that. I politely excused myself from the evening and walked back home.

I got put in my place…which, of course I was. What was I thinking when I went out that night? Me? Really? The weird kid from the other side of the tracks. Clothes he bought at Sears or JC Penney…hair’s a mess…crooked teeth…no social skills at all…queer… Oh I know… Falling in love feels so wonderful, until the moment you hit the ground. It was impossible anyway, he was straight after all, but had the positions been reversed I’d have walked away from that place rather than go inside without my friend. I’ve actually done that a time or two. But that night I saw I was disposable. And that’s never just a circumstantial thing. It is what you are. Always.

People who look like that, want people who look like that…

Fritzbe’s eventually folded…I can’t imagine why. Well yes I can. Turn the uncool away as a matter of policy, to cultivate the shallow beautiful people, and eventually they’ll flit away to the Next Big Thing and what’s left are all the customers you might have had if you hadn’t pissed them off. So the name on the door changed but I never set foot in there. I was told not to go in and I don’t need telling twice. And now it’s going under the wrecking ball.

In its place, so I’m told, will be a massive new development of some sort that will occupy the entire block. Until that eventually gets torn down. Rockville just does that to itself. But eventually so does everywhere. The only thing that endures is the reputation you made for yourself. Whoever owned that chain and set its policies and created its theming probably made a lot of beautiful people very happy for a little while, and broke a lot of hearts for much, much longer. And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.

I probably shouldn’t blame the poor building. Like Hill House in Shirley Jackson’s novel, some places cannot help but take the shape of their builders souls. And the people who occasionally occupy them. But I am definitely taking one of my cameras down to the old neighborhood and snapping a few shots of the destruction. I’m toying with the idea of taking a few c notes with me and asking the wrecking crew if I can pay them to let me take a few whacks at it myself. But probably I’ll just go watch for a while, snap a few photos, and applaud at inappropriate moments.

I could hope they sow the ground with salt afterward. But concrete and asphalt will do.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Wrecking Ball That Breaks Your Heart One Day, Lifts Your Spirits The Next

March 23rd, 2021

Makes It Easier For Me To Keep Coming Back, This

Made my usual pilgrimage to Biergarten at Epcot. Still the same COVID dining changes I saw since last September. Instead of it being buffet eating, they bring the buffet to your table, and since there’s a plague going on and I’m a party of one I’m the only one at the table. I fear a lot of food gets wasted this way. I’d wondered how they were going to manage having guests at the buffet counters and thought they’d just mark out six foot increments like they do elsewhere in the parks where there are lines. But no…they’ve dispensed with the buffet altogether.

At first the German staff that used to work here are nowhere to be seen. Except the band. The only thing that’s changed with them, apart from a couple members, is when the sing the German drinking song, Ein Prosit, they no longer call out at the end Oans, zwoa, drei, gsuffa!  Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, and the crowd is supposed to reply, hoi, hoi, hoi! and it’s never loud enough so the band leader has us do it again but LOUDER before we get our Prost! I’m guessing that’s so we aren’t all shouting COVID into the dinning area at the top of our lungs, assuming anyone who has it got past the multiple temperature screenings before they got inside. So the band is still there, but I figured it was like last time when all the regular workers were all gone, and worried that they were never coming back. Apart from the Usual Suspect, I’d actually made some friends there and I was worried about them.

But as it turned out some of the usual German staff are here, hard to recognise when we’re all wearing masks, and I talked to a few and got the scoop. Disney is slowly calling them back as things either improve or they get better at figuring out how to do things in the new reality. But they also tell me a certain someone has officially retired. He came back when Disney was calling the workers back, but then he retired. If he did that when I suspect he did, it was because he’d just made it to his full social security retirement age.

The saddest story was another older guy I used to see all the time here apparently came down with Alzheimer’s and can no longer work. I feel badly for him for a couple reasons. He always wore an expression like someone stuck in a job he really didn’t like but just kept at it because he was too old to go anywhere else. I never saw him smile. But also, the way a certain someone used him as a setting off point for a story that, as the story progressed, turned into a confession, the sadness of which I’ll take to my grave. I don’t think this old guy deserved to be used that way.

The staff I spoke with included some new faces, but they knew my classmate and offered to tell him I was there. I told them why that wasn’t a good idea, and then on the spur of the moment I did something that always irritated him… I showed them pictures I took of him back in high school. That was always a big hit with the ladies and tonight was no exception. Oh he was So Adorable!!!!! Squeeee!!!!

Oh yeah…made my jaw drop too…once upon a time. I tell myself that in a better world I wouldn’t have had a chance with him anyway. I was the little dweeb from the other side of the tracks whose clothes never quite fit and whose hair was always a mess. But then maybe in a better world that wouldn’t have been true either. It’s hard to reckon with how that torrent of hate and loathing you grew up under, long before you even began to suspect anything about yourself, cut into the life you could have had, were all of that not there.

I bet he never sets foot in Walt Disney World ever again. It’s how it looks to me like he ducked out the moment he reached full Social Security (I’ll avoid abbreviating it SS in this blog post out of respect). I don’t think he liked his job and I don’t think he really liked his employer much. His co-workers yes, but not the company. Mom did exactly that same thing. She worked for the company that had the advertising contract for the Yellow Pages, back when Ma Bell was a monopoly, for thirty-five years, and the instant she reached her full retirement age she was OUT OF THERE.

I on the other hand, love my job, and I’m still amazed to be working where I do. It’s just so wonderful. If it wasn’t for the heart attack, and then the second heart “event”, plus my legs now starting to give out on me and I’m starting to feel like my body is getting close to its End Of Maintenance date, I wouldn’t even be considering retiring. But I’d like to have at least a few years to spend doing other things, mostly time to spend on my artwork, and being able to have more time in California if possible.

If things ever get back to some semblance of Vacation Normal around here, I can visit Biergarten more often and not have to worry about whether You Know Who had enough peace and quiet that day or not. It’s not everywhere a single person can sit at a table and chat with the other diners there. Plus it’s real easy to get into, even when its crowded, since if you’re party of one you can be filler.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Makes It Easier For Me To Keep Coming Back, This

March 7th, 2021

This Year’s Corpse Food


“Comfort food a’la hopelessness and plague, on Fiestaware and 1950s chrome and formica table”. Collection of the author.

 

Pierogies,  Hot Cider Bourbon, and Chicken Fried Steak entree at Rocket To Venus here in Hampden. Because they’re local and I like them lots, and whoever is running their kitchen knows what they’re doing, and their carry-out process seems way more COVID safe than Corner Stable, which makes you walk inside their tiny restaurant (it really was at one time a corner stable) and walk all the way to the back by the bar.

A friend on Facebook pointed out that this didn’t look so good for a heart patient to be snarfing down. I laughed. My heart? My heart? I thought it had died of loneliness years ago and the rest of my body was just living on inertia and disbelief. But the food is good.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on This Year’s Corpse Food

September 23rd, 2020

Make The Chili

Some years ago, a dear friend died suddenly, and at least among some of us, unexpectedly. We knew he had health problems, but he always managed to pull through. When the end came it was a shock to all of us, and especially to his lover of many years.

At the funeral I resisted visiting the open casket. Years later I would dig in my heels and flatly refuse to look into mom’s open casket. I didn’t want to remember her that way. But lover of many years nudged me over. And I looked. I just don’t understand why people find comfort in that. But many do and I won’t begrudge it of them. Just don’t ask me to. I want to remember life.

Maybe lover of many years saw the look on my face. He was in the depths of grief and I know what that’s like, if not over a lover because I’ve never had one. When mom passed away I went out of my mind for weeks. I was glad the man in the casket and the one left behind looking at it had so many friends, so the left behind would not be lost and alone in grief. He looked sideways at me looking at the dead, and said something to me that almost reached a place of grief inside of me that I have lived with nearly all my life. All my life since one summer in 1973, when I discovered my first love had moved away and I had no idea where he’d gone. He said that perhaps someone like me who had been lonely all his life would also understand how it was, if not to lose the one you had loved, to have to deal with grief. Decades later he would let a chance to introduce me to a possibly Very compatible someone drop on the floor because, as he told me, he needed an excuse to do the work of arranging it, and my loneliness wasn’t it.

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…

This is good advice, and it isn’t just the recently bereaved who can say it from that empty knowing wasteland. I know what unrequited love is like. I know what being seen as a second best sex toy for heterosexuals who aren’t getting any is like. I know what it’s like to have my ass admired by random passing strangers.  I know what it’s like to have someone’s crotch shoved into my car window and ask me if I “want some”, all because they saw the lambda sticker on my car and figured a homosexual is as good a sperm dumb as any. I know what being called friends with benefits is like when I was in love and thought the other guy was too, and it turned out I was just a between serious relationships snack. I know what it’s like to have a gay friend tell me to my face that people who look like that want people who look like that. And I am going to go from one end of an adult life to another without knowing how it feels to be embraced by someone I loved and desired, who loved and desired me back. I turned 67 a few days ago. I really don’t see anything to look forward to now but the same existential aloneness I felt for the first time that summer of 1973, when I walked past the home of my first love and saw it was empty and for sale. For a moment I wondered if that was how the house felt too.

Make the chili. And if you have lost the love of your life, listen to this man who knows how much and how deeply that hurts…

There will come a day, I promise you, when the thought of your son, or daughter, or your wife or your husband, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen. My prayer for you is that day will come sooner than later.  –Joe Biden

I will never tell you this, but I envy you your grief. I envy you your memories. Staring into that casket decades ago, I envied his. 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Make The Chili

May 2nd, 2020

Gay Country Music Is Finally A Thing…

…and it’s cutting me to ribbons.

 

 

No offence to the singer here, Ty Herndon, who came out last year and changed the pronouns of this song, which was a hit in its previous incarnation. It’s wonderful in so many ways. That he found the courage to come out and live an honest life. That he updated this song with the pronouns that reflect how his heart saw the song when it first came to him. That gay kids and adults can hear music that speaks directly to us. So long have I mentally flipped a pronoun or two while listening to pop music, to at least imagine it speaking to me.

But for reasons I won’t go into now…or maybe ever…this particular song is both wonderful and devastating. Now I need a drink…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gay Country Music Is Finally A Thing…

March 9th, 2018

The Walking Wounded In The Garden Of Paradise

Political cartoonist I follow (including following him to the same web host his site is on, on the theory that if they were willing to host him they should be cool with me too), tweeted out something the other day about it being four months since his life came apart. So I went looking on his profile for all his previous tweets for the last four months and it’s looking like he suffered a breakup. To the point that he’s had to go find another place to live.

I don’t know much about his personal life. But for one recent post selling t-shirts his website has no posts since last October. And he’s been vague booking what happened, but it’s not hard to read between the lines. I don’t know if he was married or not. He was on tour in Europe promoting one of his books and apparently came back home only to be blindsided by whatever it was. But if it was a relationship breakup I wonder how blindsided it could have been. When Keith dumped me for some guy he met on AOL Instant Messenger it was a shock, but deep down inside not an entirely unexpected one.

I’m learning all this just a couple days after I had my nuclear war with my first crush remembrance and dinner. I was eating the premium Kobe Beef dinner at the WDW Hollywood Brown Derby when I got the Hey, Let’s Both Burn Our Bridges And Dance In The Ashes email from him, so I’ve tried to buy myself the best dinner I can afford at a nice local restaurant on that day every year since. But it’s somehow more depressing to see it happen to other people than to me. Maybe that’s because as a barely post-stonewall generation gay guy my expectations were low to begin with. Maybe it’s because after a lifetime of singlehood I’m inured to my own experience. Keith never actually said the magic three words to me, which is probably why I saw it coming deep down inside. He was strike three and by that time walking alone back to the dougout was almost a relief. But seeing the hurt in others can still get to me.

Some folks in my life have suggested that I’ve been better off single because then I never had to deal with this kind of loss. From the inside though it seems to me like I’ve been fighting a two front war all my adult life, not to hate myself, and not to hate the world. Somehow, I’ve really no idea how, I’m still winning that war. But the internal cost…you’ve no idea, and I wouldn’t want you to.

I wish that cartoonist healing and peace. I wish it to all the lonely. We deserved better. Life is good, even so. But goddamn it can cut you just as deep as how high it can lift. So we walk. So it goes.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Walking Wounded In The Garden Of Paradise

December 4th, 2017

A Coming Out Story, Episode 23 On The Way!

ETA Sunday, December 10…

One of the cool things about doing A Coming Out Story is I get to bring back to life for a bit my beloved Rockville as it used to be when I was a kid. This episode takes place in the Congressional Plaza that once was. I used to burn off tons of nervous energy walking from the apartments at Village Square West to Congressional and then to the Super Giant and Korvettes and back down Randolph Road to home. But even before then, when mom and I lived in Courthouse Square, the Plaza was a center of gravity. And to this day I have a fondness for that 1950s-60s stack stone treatment on the facades of the storefronts. It will always take me back whenever I see it.

And oh God…you don’t want to see what they did to it now. But that’s okay. I can bring it back to life as it was in my artwork…

In this episode I consult with a world renown and highly respected oracle for some insight as to what the hell is going on with me. Here’s some work-in-progress. I’ve got panel one of the tale pretty much done. The inks and dialogue in panels 2 and 3 are ready for lighting and texturing treatments. I do all my initial artwork in traditional media, but then I scan it in and finish it in Photoshop…

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story, Episode 23 On The Way!

February 8th, 2017

Valentine’s Day – All In All It’s Just Another Heart In The Wall…

If I were ever to write a book about my love life, reaching from that first teenage crush to tired old man despair, I’d be tempted to titled it A Series of Unfortunate Events, but Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) has taken that one.

I’m on Facebook (aren’t we all!) and recently a certain postcard company has been tormenting me with advertisements for this…

Lovers-in-a-dogwood-tree

You have to appreciate how something like this hits me. Or maybe you can’t because you had the love life, or at least a memory of having had one, that I don’t and never will. But I am nothing but not resilient (otherwise I’d probably be dead by now). I buy myself birthday cakes…why not valentine’s day cards and flowers too!   So yesterday I went onto their web site to order up one for myself.

They were sold out.

And a more perfect celebration of Valentine’s day for Bruce I cannot even imagine. So this year I won’t be doing the Valentine’s Day Poster Contest again. I’m over it. I’ve moved on…

 

But I’ll be reposting the stories I’ve told previously on the lead up to previous Valentine’s Days, and maybe add one or two more, and not just because it gets it out of my system in the least self destructive way.

Maybe someday, maybe, give it some thought anyway, Valentine’s day will be a time when we all try to help the lonely find their other half, instead of merely congratulating ourselves for finding ours. How better to celebrate the joy of loving, and being loved, than by dedicating ourselves toward bringing more of that into this poor lonely angry world?

Well…there’s always postcards.

 

another-heart-in-the-wall-4

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Valentine’s Day – All In All It’s Just Another Heart In The Wall…

August 2nd, 2016

That Feeling You’ve Done All This Before…But Differently…

Facebook has this memories thing where it shows you all the posts you’ve made on this day, running back to the beginning  of your Facebook account. Here’s what came up in mine today…

my_life_as_a_tolkien_story

It was prescient…I watched Gollum fall in with it last spring. But he was happy at last, so there’s that.

It would have been ten years this October 6. Now I just wait for the boat to take me to The Undying Lands

 

happy_gollum

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Feeling You’ve Done All This Before…But Differently…

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