Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Purple, by Ricky

In the early days of my memory, colors were not memorable or perhaps my brain was not developed enough for colors to form memories. My oldest memory of color was my first home in Lawndale, California. The house was painted yellow with white trim abound the windows and front door. Next to the front door was a wall with a small octagonal window also with white trim. I still have no memory of the colors of the inside of the house.

I finally arrived at that age of mobility and language. Along with it came a bit more of color memory. We got a pet dog. It must have been viewed as MY dog because I was allowed to name her. The song “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” was popular then (at least within my home or nursery school) so, I named her “Bonnie”. Because she was a purebred collie, my parents listed her name on the registration papers as “Lady Bonita” thinking that it more closely befitted her. To me, she was just Bonnie. Bonnie was black with a white mane as I remember. She was a good toddler sitter and playmate playfully knocking me down and licking my face as she was still less than a year old. She would pitch a fit barking and whining whenever I would open the gate of our home’s white picket-fence. I can “see” in my mind the fence, gate, and the yard but, not the grass. I have seen photos of the house and yard so I know it had grass which logically was probably green but I have no memory of its color.

As I wrote above, Bonnie would pitch a fit if I left the yard but left her inside the fence. Of course this would bring my mother out to see what the fuss was all about and managed to cut my explorations (interpret that as “freedom”) very short lived. This happened so often that my escapes lasted increasingly shorter and shorter.

Necessity, being the mother of inventions, and Shirley, being my mother, often had major discussions about me. Mom wanted me to stay in the yard. Necessity provided her with methods of securing the gate so I could not open it. They both failed. I opened every attempt to keep the gate locked. Necessity’s son, Precocious, had been arguing that I should not be confined to the yard since I needed to explore. So he decided to defy the two mothers and keep me safe at the same time. He gave me the idea of taking Bonnie with me whenever I would leave the yard. First, I would put Bonnie in my red wagon and pull her about the yard. Then when I judged that no one was looking, I opened the gate and pulled her out with me. Guess what! No fit pitching. I was then off-to-the-races. My mother worried less because she knew she could find me by looking for the dog also. Besides, I always went to the house two doors down to visit another boy who lived there — without permission of course.

At the age of three or four, my color memory was beginning to yield results. Arriving at that age about the same time that we moved to a new house in Redondo Beach, California. That house was purchased through the VA. It was white stucco on the outside with a brown porch railing. The windows were trimmed in a mid-range light-blue. My bedroom had a circus motif linoleum floor with blue walls and a red ceiling meant to resemble a circus tent. I had a Bozo the Clown light switch whose red bulbous nose was pushed up or down to operate the ceiling light. Blue became my favorite color ever since then up to this day.

In 2010 I finally admitted to myself that I was normal and attracted to males. Surprisingly, along with that attraction came an increasing appreciation for and interest in shades of purple. This interest in purple is vying for the position of my favorite color. It is so strong an attraction, I asked a friend if gay men gravitate to the color because they are gay — a manifestation of gayness perhaps. In my case, it may be true but, I am not convinced yet. I remember another possible cause. When I was two-years old, my mother took me to a baby show, which was a popular thing to do back then. I was crowned King of my show.

Purple has been associated with royalty for many centuries. I think that my attraction to purple has to do with my royal past inserting its influence over my favorite color changing from blue to purple as it is more fitting to my heritage.

The next time I attend our Telling Your Story group, I will be wearing my Royal Purple shirt. You may then call me “Your Highness”, “King John”, or “Purple Dude”. Just don’t call me “Late for Dinner”.

© 6 Mar 2016 

About the Author

I was born in June of 1948 in Los Angeles, living first in Lawndale and then in Redondo Beach. Just prior to turning 8 years old in 1956, I began living with my grandparents on their farm in Isanti County, Minnesota for two years during which time my parents divorced.

When united with my mother and stepfather two years later in 1958, I lived first at Emerald Bay and then at South Lake Tahoe, California, graduating from South Tahoe High School in 1966. After three tours of duty with the Air Force, I moved to Denver, Colorado where I lived with my wife and four children until her passing away from complications of breast cancer four days after the 9-11 terrorist attack.

I came out as a gay man in the summer of 2010. I find writing these memories to be therapeutic.

My story blog is

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marking the Seasons, by Nicholas

I find flowers amazing. They appear delicate but yet can be strong and resilient. Their shapes and colors vary wildly from the palest shades to the brightest hews. I have tulips in my yard that are pure white and some that are so deep a purple as to appear black.

I trace the progress of the season through flowers, what’s in bloom, what is preparing flowers stalks and buds, and what has finished. Already I have spotted tiny leaves breaking through the ground in my yard. Within weeks flowers will appear.

When I lived in San Francisco, I marked the beginning of spring with appearance in late February of the plum tree blossoms in Golden Gate Park. Any day now, their pale pink flowers will appear breaking the dreary coastal winter with their delicate brightness.

Here in Colorado, at the lower elevations, it is the brilliant yellow of the forsythia that dares to announce Spring. Even though we have many more weeks of winter, maybe even the worst of winter, ahead, these tiny flowers will soon appear. I have two forsythia bushes in my yard. The early one will show blossoms by the first of March. The other one is later by about a month.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, I will uncover the planter boxes on the porch and plant pansies with their delightful array of purples, yellows, oranges, burgundies and splashes of white to brighten those late winter days. Pansies love the cold and are beautiful in the snow. It’s the summer heat that will kill them off.

Then some early daffodils will appear, starting what I call their annual “death march.” I don’t know why this variety shows up so early only to face hard freezes and heavy snow. But they persist and eventually bloom in time for a spring snow to crush them. The snow won’t kill them, just bury them. Fortunately, I also have later varieties with the good sense to wait until the weather is more favorable.

Tulips are beginning to show up but they seem more patient and wait out the winter weather to bloom later. A little bit of snow heightens the brilliance of the colors in bloom. But it doesn’t take much to push them all to the ground.

When it is safe to come out in late spring, the cherry tree will overnight burst into white blossoms. And then the iris will show up. When I was a kid, we called them flags because they bloomed around Memorial Day. Maybe because of climate change, my iris seem to be almost finished by the end of May.

Soon the roses will appear and the first bloom is always the best. My favorite is the bright red rose near the back door.

When the warmth of spring begins to turn into the heat of summer, the hawthorn trees flower. The white flowers are pretty but they, frankly, stink. For two weeks, my backyard will smell of rotten fruit. However, the bees love these malodorous blooms and the yard will hum with the buzzing of thousands of bees harvesting what must be rich nectar.

All summer, my garden will be full of bees attracted to the flowers on the herbs I grow. I use the oregano, sage, chives and thyme from the garden but I think the bees get more use of my herbs. The little yellow arugula flowers seem to be especial favorites.

I think climate change has altered the flowering time for the lilies. They used to be a late summer flower with their oranges and yellows. But now, it seems that they bloom by early July and are finished before August. Maybe it’s the dry heat of Colorado, but late summer sees a lull in flowers. And then in September, some come back to life—like the hot pinks and reds of the impatiens—and bloom again before the cold returns.

Fall brings its own colors as the plumbago produces its cobalt blue flowers along the front walk. And I know what time of year it is by the shade of the sedum. Early summer, its flowers are white. Gradually, the color turns to a pale pink. And in the fall, they deepen to a dark red and then rust. It’s amazing to watch this one flower change color over time.

So, that’s the year in flowers in my yard.

© February 2017

About the Author

Nicholas grew up in Cleveland, then grew up in San Francisco, and is now growing up in Denver. He retired from work with non-profits in 2009 and now bicycles, gardens, cooks, does yoga, writes stories, and loves to go out for coffee.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pack Rat, by Ray S

As long as I can remember saving bits and scraps of memories, Christmas and birthday cards, grade school report cards, birth announcements, baby books, funeral memorials, and anything else that was too important to discard in good conscience.

Like the bad penny, no matter how deeply buried all of that one-time vitally important stuff comes to the surface—no pennies don’t float, but you know what I mean.

Then there are the material things acquired over the years. For me just about all of that stuff can tell a story and the prospect of sentencing it to a new life at ARC or Goodwill can be like divorce or a death in the family. So much for untold years of materialism.

Just don’t give a damn and announce an estate sale, but be warned: what happens if no one shows. There is always the Salvation Army. That might save the day as well as you too.

This one is a lot of work but it might work.

Label with history tags all of the stuff you’ve saved since World War II so the recipient will know its provenance. Then gather family and close friends for a Free for All.

Again you run the risk like “Smarty, Smarty had a party” and nobody came. No matter how hard you try to cut the “silver cord”—like even the rest of your life, it’s been one more blinking choice you have to chance it.

You know, trying to get rid of that self nurtured rot leads to this solution: just get up from your easy chair, leave all of that clutter on the floor, open the door, lock it, and go out to the bar with a friend. Tomorrow is another life!

© 24 October 2016

About the Author

Friday, March 17, 2017

Main Street Kansas, by Phillip Hoyle

I moved into my apartment on Capitol Hill soon after reaching Denver in my fifty-second year. There I lived in the third block south of Colfax Avenue, that old highway that has claimed to be the longest main street in America. Not owning a car, I walked everywhere, but was surprised when a friend asked, “Aren’t you afraid to walk along East Colfax?”

“No,” I immediately answered. “It’s just like the main street in the town where I grew up.” I wasn’t freaked out to walk down an avenue with bars, tattoo parlors, Army surplus stores, small groceries, gas stations, two-story buildings with markets below and apartments or offices above, theatres, people of various races, even drunks on the street. Strolling along Colfax always reminded me of my hometown Junction City, Kansas that was located adjacent to the US Army Base, Fort Riley.

I had spent my childhood and early teen years living in the third block west of Washington Street, the long main street that offered in addition to groceries, clothing, theaters, lawyers, and real estate, a variety of beers, tattoos, Army surplus, pawned goods, drunks, and prostitutes. My family lived on West Eleventh Street, but the more colorful array of folks and their bad habits rarely made it that far off the main drag.

Washington Street ran for eighteen blocks from Grand Avenue on the north, the gateway to Fort Riley, to I-70 on the south—well eventually when the Interstate made its way that far west. On the south end of Washington Street our family ate at the Circle Cafe that offered Cantonese and American food. Dad ordered Chinese food, Mom her favorite fried chicken, and we kids our regular hamburger, French fries, and a Coke. Later, when I began working at the store, I had lunch sometimes at the Downtown Cafe where, much to my junior high delight, I discovered chicken fried steaks. I already knew the middle part of Washington Street from walks with Mom when she shopped, but also from visits to the two Hoyle’s IGA stores, both located along Washington, one at 9th, the other at 13th. Then there was the Kaw Theater where we watched movies and ate the homemade cinnamon and horehound candies made by Mr. Hyle, the owner and the father of my Aunt Barbara. Duckwall’s and Woolworth’s stores sat on the east side of the street in the same block as Cole’s Department Store where Mother used to model clothes on occasion. I had seen photos of her as a young model posing on the runway.

I got to know Washington Street. North, between 15th and 16th streets stood Washington School where I attend grades one through five. On occasion I got to be the crossing guard on the main street, wearing the white halter that symbolized enough authority to push the button for the stop light and walk halfway across the four-lane street with a stop sign. No accidents occurred on my watch. The school playground for older students was on Washington Street so I saw its activity from swings, monkey bars, and see saws. Walking down that street one afternoon when our class went on an outing to visit the local potato chip factory seems as real today as it was then. Across the street from the school was Kroger’s, and across the street from our store that Dad managed, sat Dillon’s. I knew these stores to be the competition. Next to Dillon’s was the Dairy Queen where we kids liked to go on Sunday nights after church. I knew Washington Street.

As older elementary kids we neighborhood boys began to walk the street without adults. There we discovered the bars, a variety of shops including the Army Surplus stores where we looked longingly at the gear of soldiers, the barbershop where my best friend Keith got his flattop haircuts and where I first saw professional wresting on TV, and tattoo parlors where we’d choose our future body ornamentation from designs displayed in the windows. From Washington Street, we’d gaze down East Ninth where we knew several houses of prostitution stood. We’d continue on to Duckwalls and Woolworth’s where we loved to look at toys and sometimes swiped them, to the Junction Theater where we ogled the ads for adult films we never got to watch, or to Clewel's Drug Store where we drank sodas at the fountain where they mixed drinks and I often ordered a grape Coke. Occasionally we’d walk on to Dewey Park where we saw small children dancing at the city band concerts, where a statue of the 19th century Admiral George Dewey with his drooping handlebar mustache stood atop a classical archway, and where large WWII cannons stood sentry. By day people sat there in the shade of huge elms and more than once on hot summer afternoons we waded in the fountain that dominated the middle of the park.

I never entered any of the many bars but was fascinated by their neon lights, dark spaces with cool air wafting strange odors out the front doors. I wondered about the men we saw inside sitting at the bar drinking beers, usually quiet but sometimes with juke box blaring and loud talk and laughter, especially around payday when the GIs came to town to squander their meager paychecks in the dives on Washington Street and the whore houses on East Ninth. The challenging presences rarely made it over to where I lived, but of course, we boys had planned all our escape routes in case we might have run-ins with drunks. Our survival tactics were actually just another form of play; after all we were kids, boys with dreams of self-sufficiency, survival, and strength.

Life changed for me over the decades between my fifteenth birthday when we left Junction City and my fifty-first birthday when I showed up along Denver’s Colfax Ave. My experiences along the unusual Kansas main street prepared me for living in the city. In my fifties I continued to spend time among people of various races and backgrounds. I ate Chinese food, chicken fried steaks, and really nice hamburgers along Colfax. In contrast to my childhood activities, I did go into bars and did get a tattoo. I still didn’t go into whorehouses. In this real, really large city I walked down many streets and greeted many people. I shared a new life with them but still kept my eyes open to possible developing trouble and chose my routes with the wisdom I had learned in childhood walking along Washington Street with my friends. Then I walked unafraid but never unaware. I still do.

Denver, © 2012

About the Author

Phillip Hoyle lives in Denver and spends his time writing, painting, and socializing. In general he keeps busy with groups of writers and artists. Following thirty-two years in church work and fifteen in a therapeutic massage practice, he now focuses on creating beauty. He volunteers at The Center leading the SAGE program “Telling Your Story.”

He also blogs at

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Self Acceptance, by Pat Gourley

Well this phrase certainly sums up the entire “gay agenda” now doesn’t it?

One of the insidious accusations pitched our way around a “gay agenda” is that we need to recruit to our ranks. Reproducing, per conventional wisdom, is not one of our strong points, this despite the fact that many queers do reproduce.

I would though argue that self-acceptance is really a very potent recruitment tool. That is if you define recruitment as the creation of safe space for people to get in touch and express their intrinsic identity. No brainwashing or perverted sexual enticement needed, just provide a bit of sunlight and water and voila. Not to indulge too much in a trite metaphor but it is like a flower blooming. When given the chance queerness reaches its full potential and gloriously presents itself for all to see and appreciate. Homophobia both from external sources and the more insidious internalized form can prevent this from happening.

I could pontificate on this for a few more paragraphs and come up with a few more cheesy metaphors but since this is meant to be a personal story telling exercise I’ll just say a few words about my own self-acceptance. I was very fortunate to come of age sexually in my late teens in an environment that was in rebellion on many fronts. Civil rights, women’s liberation, strong anti-war sentiment and exploding gay liberation were all ingredients in the stew I found myself in.

We will mark the 50th anniversary of the summer of love this coming year, 2017. I strongly encourage pilgrimages to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. The neighborhood is suffering under the ravages of gentrification but a bit less so than other parts of the City. Since I rarely pass on the opportunity to quote lyrics from my favorite band these couple of lines seem appropriate here:

Nothin' shakin' on shakedown street. used to be the heart of town.

Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart. you just gotta poke around.

Shakedown Street. Garcia/Hunter

If you get the chance to visit slowly amble along Haight Street and poke around a bit.

My own coming out was certainly facilitated by the social, political and cultural upheavals of the late 1960’s. It is however the personal self-acceptance on a deep soul level that provides the spark for queer actualization and this can take awhile. It is a process and rarely a single bolt of enlightenment. There were ups and downs along this path for me during the first 10 years of that self-discovery. I would date those years of maturing self-acceptance to be roughly from 1966 to 1976. It was capped off and really cemented with the “coming-out” letter I wrote to my father.

His response to my letter was rather unexpected, loving and astonishingly thoughtful. He said that my gayness explained a lot and he now understood better why I had always been sensitive to the underdog. Being Catholic he also encouraged me to search out the Gay Catholic group Dignity. I did that but my participation was fleeting.

I truly regret loosing his letter and not following up better with inquiries as to how he found out about Dignity; dad died in August of 1980 a few short days after the second national gathering of Radical Fairies ended here in Colorado. I suspect though that the Dignity referral came from the same parish priest who I came out to in the early 1970’s. This man, who after a painful counseling session involving my expression of personal doubt about my gay path, put his arm around me and said I would make a great priest! That did not happen.

I do realize that my own personal self-acceptance was much less traumatic that it has been for many. I was truly lucky in this regard and so fortunate to have had a great dad in my corner to help the process along.

I have for some reason been listening to lots of Lucinda Williams these days, especially it seems since November 8th. She has a song that seems apropos to the whole self-acceptance gig for us queers. The title of the tune is “A World Without Tears”: Here is aYou Tube link to aversion of it:

© December 2016

About the Author

I was born in La Porte, Indiana in 1949, raised on a farm and schooled by Holy Cross nuns. The bulk of my adult life, some 40 plus years, was spent in Denver, Colorado as a nurse, gardener and gay/AIDS activist. I have currently returned to Denver after an extended sabbatical in San Francisco, California.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

No to the 'Cision and the Italian Renaissance, by Louis Brown

In my humble case, I was born October 23, 1944. I was delivered by a Dr. Levy. A day or two after I was born, Dr. Levy told my mother that it was time for me to go to the chopping block. My mother said “no.” I have always wondered exactly what my mother might have actually said. Maybe she said, “No, thanks, I am not into infant mutilation.” I have always wondered why some Jewish men I have spoken to speak lovingly of circumcision because it brings them, the victims, closer to God. What are they talking about? I think most people would agree that, if an adult uncircumcised Jewish man chooses to get circumcised, no one would object. Otherwise leave the babies alone. I believe the euphemism for that body part is “French lace.”

Birthday in French is la naissance. The rebirth is la renaissance. Think of the Italian Renaissance! Why should I? Because the Italian Renaissance was another golden age for gay men. Recently I was talking with a recent college grad who said he did not know what the word Europe meant. If this college graduate does not know what Europe means, he certainly is not going to be up on his Italian Renaissance history. So, is it not our responsibility to foster a discussion of the IR? Especially inform gay men of their, our, illustrious past.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, 1475-1564, Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519, Andrea del Sarto, 1486-1530, Caravaggio, 1571-1610, Sandro Botticelli, 1445-1510. Benevuto Cellini, 1500-1571. And the biographer who kept track of their lives, Giorgio Vasari, 1511-1574.

Speaking of birthdays, how about the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticello? Or the birth of Adam, as portrayed by Michaelangelo Buonaroti on the Sistine Chapel ceiling?

I am sure for us this is all old hat, but for the recent not so well-informed college graduates, this is all unknown territory. How do we change this situation?

Giorgio Vasari (Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori, una serie di biografie nella quale egli copre l'intero canone artistico teso tra Trecento e Cinquecento.)

I visited Florence and Rome, Italy, once in 1969. Rome will knock your socks off. I never saw so many blushing nuns. They are in their holy city and there are statues of naked athletes in public squares. Some of the cherub statues are even peeing into basins. Not to mention the naked pagan goddesses and nymphs and dryads.

© 9 November 2016

About the Author

I was born in 1944, I lived most of my life in New York City, Queens County. I still commute there. I worked for many years as a Caseworker for New York City Human Resources Administration, dealing with mentally impaired clients, then as a social work Supervisor dealing with homeless PWA's. I have an apartment in Wheat Ridge, CO. I retired in 2002. I have a few interesting stories to tell. My boyfriend Kevin lives in New York City. I graduated Queens College, CUNY, in 1967.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Heroes, by Gillian

With a great stretch of the imagination I just might be able to see myself having a momentary lapse of concentration and running into the burning building to rescue a baby. It would require my being carried away on a huge rush of adrenaline, plus the balance of my mind being temporarily disturbed, but it just might happen. Though, to be fair, I should add that this is more a statement a previous me might have made, rather than the current one. I cannot imagine myself actually running anywhere these days, and toddling into the flames does not ring with great promise.

The kind of heroism I can never envision for myself, however, is that which must endure: day after day, month after month, even year after year, perhaps for a lifetime. This kind of courage has always been around, still is, and, human kind being what it is, doubtless always will be. Those of our generation probably leap most easily to tales of derring-do from the Second World War for such stories of silent, unseen, unsung heroes. I don't mean only the romantic figures of The Resistance, who certainly helped in the eventual Allied victory; but the many invisible, unseen, and mostly unheard-of men and women from all walks of life who risked their ordinary lives every ordinary day. Their names are unknown to most of us. Do you know the name of the owners of the attic where Ann Frank so famously hid? I don't. Do the names Caecilia Loots, Irena Sendler, Giorgio Perlasca, Frank Foley mean anything to you; to me? Yet they are just four of the 26,000 people from 49 different countries to receive the honorific 'Righteous Among Nations'; an award bestowed by Israel on non-Jewish people who saved Jewish lives during the holocaust. And that doesn't count all the non-Jews saved from the Nazis. And just think how countless many other simple saviors there must have been, who have slipped unacknowledged into the past

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon was a Protestant village in a predominantly Roman Catholic region of southern France. The village became a hiding place for Jews from every part of Europe. Between 1940 and 1944, Le Chambon and other nearby villages provided refuge for more than 5,000 people fleeing Nazi persecution, about 3,500 of whom were Jewish. (The exact numbers are, understandably, uncertain.) For four years, these people went about their daily lives, acting normally, while every single day they were at risk of discovery which would doubtless lead to torture and eventual death. How did they do that, these silent, invisible, unsung heroes? Where do you find that kind of ceaseless courage? In this community, also of around 5,000 people, no-one gave away any secrets either on purpose or accidentally. In 1943, the Nazis offered a reward for the local Minister who had been forced to go into hiding. Most of the population, including many children, knew where he was, but nobody talked. The Minister's cousin, who ran the local orphanage, was arrested in 1943 and sent to Buchenwald where he died. And still they continued their dangerous efforts. It was long after the war that this village's exploits became known, and then no-one wanted credit. They did what they did, as did all those on the 'Righteous Among Nations' list, along with so many unknown others, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.

Raised, as I was, in post-war Britain, I grew up with exaggerated, lurid, fiction versions of such heroic escape stories. Naturally, in my youth, I fantasized. I became my own secret, silent, unsung hero engineering miraculous escapes at great personal risk. But in reality I think I always questioned how brave I would really be under such circumstances. Would you really risk torture and death for others, strangers who meant nothing to you? I asked myself. Reluctantly, I was forced to face doubts as to my own courage.

Now, since the election of the Orange Oligarch, I unwittingly and unwillingly find that I am asking myself those same questions again - for the first time in over fifty years. No, I am not so far fallen into fear that I imagine myself facing some modern version of storm troupers and the gestapo. Though my insides do double back flips as I say that, so apparently I am not quite as sure of it as I would wish to be. Also, I am confident that most residents of Germany in the early 1930's would have said the same thing, which does not exactly fill me with confidence for our future.

In fact, since the election, I have a general, unformed, non-specific, fear which manifests as a cold hard lump of ice somewhere deep in my gut. I know that it is actually made up of a myriad of 'what ifs', which for the most part I just ignore. I have struggled along in this life long enough to know that letting those 'what ifs' crowd my every waking moment is not in any way a good thing. I go on with my life. But that cold hard fear remains.

So perhaps it is better, once in a while, to look closely at those 'what ifs' and test their validity.

Perhaps, when waved about in the fresh air, they will disintegrate. Vanish. Gingerly I reach deep down into my psyche and bring them out.

There is an outer ring of somewhat general fears. What if, as seems increasingly likely, we start a war? Multiple wars? What if, as seems increasingly likely, we deny the reality of climate change? What if, as seems increasingly likely, our economy crashes in burning rubble about our feet? Or what if, as some pundits insist, the economy will grow exponentially under the guidance of the Orange Ogre: most people's lives become better. Life is good. Then we're back to Germany in 1933: a booming economy, a better life for all. Well, no, not for all. But let's not notice who has to pay the price as long as we're all doing so well.

Those are not the 'what ifs' which really haunt me. They are too big: too unmanageable, beyond my capacity to fix. All I can do is make phone calls, write letters, protest, and generally try to turn the oncoming tide.

But the inner layer of 'what ifs', they squeeze my very soul. They ask about me. What will I do?

I am in control of my responses. Will I be my own silent invisible unsung hero?

That can be as simple as voting for, or encouraging action that is, the right thing to do but against our better interests. A few days ago, one of the endless on-line petitions I was asked to sign was urging Mayor Hancock to make Denver a Sanctuary City, as so many in the U.S. have done.

To my shame, I hesitated. The 'Orrible Orange has threatened to cut off all Federal Funding to communities so designated. I am not sure, without some research, what exactly that would mean. But I am sure that one of the fastest-growing cities in this country would certainly have to tighten it's belt. I added my name. But the hesitation, over such a small thing, once again made me question the courage of my convictions.

When that list of Muslims becomes a reality, will I really, as I now so glibly promise, add my name to it without knowing the consequences? Or worse, when I know that there will be very dire consequences? Will I do my part to make the list as meaningless as the Danes made the Jew's yellow star during the war, when everyone wore one?

I honestly don't know.

When it is forbidden for Muslims to enter the Mosque, will I walk beside them facing being beaten or shot by the riot police? Or will I cower at home and stare in fear and shame at the stories unfolding on TV?

I honestly don't know.

When Mike Pence, our bigoted, homophobic, VP, has pushed our legislators into outlawing any gathering of GLBT people, will this group continue? Will we meet right here in this room, waiting for the enforcers of the law to burst through that door, guns blazing; or at best to haul us all off to prison? Or will we continue to meet, but secretly, in a different location each week so we don't get caught? And will I be with you? Or will I slink away silently into the darkness to hide, to keep my head down at home; not the silent invisible unsung hero of my dreams but the silent invisible non-hero of my 'what ifs'?

I honestly don't know.

Right now, my very best hope for the future is that I am never forced to find out.

© January 2017

About the Author 

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30 years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty years. We have been married since 2013.

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Favorite Place, by Betsy

On a mountain trail, riding on my bicycle through a beautiful setting with no traffic, on the tennis court, with family, with my honey especially in her arms--all of these are places I love to be. But favorite means ONE place, not a dozen. So I have to really think about this. It came to me rather quickly actually. My favorite place is IN THE NOW. To be in the now is to be totally present wherever I am. To be in the now means not worrying about the future or evaluating the past.

My partner and I are currently trying to learn what it means to be in the now. So, in truth, I am a long way from mastering the concept promoted by Ekhart Tolle in his book The Power of NOW.

According to Tolle being in the now means being in an enlightened state of consciousness. Letting go of one’s ego and entering a state of elevated consciousness. I cannot say that I have ever gotten even close to this.

It’s not difficult. Do not try to understand this with your mind, says Mr. Tolle. Just FEEL it.

Ekhart Tolle is one of the great spiritual teachers of our time, and I really do want to learn from him. I cannot disagree with anything he teaches. Such as the concept that our minds and our egos get in the way of our reaching enlightenment, the Now. The same question keeps popping up in my head: Why is it so hard for us to get beyond our egos and beyond the interference of our minds, our thoughts? Thoughts just have way of creeping in most of the time.

Back to the topic--my favorite place. What I am speaking of is the NOW meaning the present moment. Put in other words: my favorite place is wherever I am at the moment. Right now my favorite place is here, trying to sort out my thoughts and put them down on paper so you all can get some understanding of what I am trying to say. On Monday afternoon my favorite place will be here in this room listening to your wise words. Oh, oh! There I go thinking about the future, already projecting myself into it. Who knows, I might be sick on Monday and then nowhere would be my favorite place except asleep in my bed.

We do get ourselves into trouble, do we not, when we anticipate the future.

We do ourselves a disservice when we anticipate something in the future. We may be setting ourselves up for disappointment or disillusionment.

And how many of us have ever completely tormented ourselves over something that happened in the past--a few minutes ago or long ago. Or something bad happens a few minutes ago or long ago and we cannot let go of it. We go over and over and over it in our minds. Both past and future are constructs of the mind and are illusions, says Tolle. Only the now is real. I like the concept.

Have you ever been in a place where you wanted desperately to capture the moment and make it last forever, such as a place of indescribable beauty? Visiting some of our national parks lately, I have noticed that everyone has a camera. This is a way of making the beauty last--taking it home with you. I am very glad that Gill and I have thousands of photos and I enjoy looking at them just as much as anyone.

But what you cannot take home with you is how it FELT to be surrounded by awesome natural beauty. The memory is not the same as the feeling itself. Tolle speaks of being one with the universe. Surrounded by incredible natural beauty and really taking it in is perhaps the closest I will ever be in my current human form to that feeling.

Tolle’s concepts are the same that have been handed down through the ages by many of the great spiritual teachers. Just spelled out in a different way. I will continue to read his books. That’s the easy part. Applying the principles to everyday issues and happenings is the hard part. But it’s a good place to be.

© June 2013

Betsy has been active in the GLBT community including PFLAG, the Denver Women’s Chorus, OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change), and the GLBT Community Center. She has been retired from the human services field for 20 years. Since her retirement, her major activities have included tennis, camping, traveling, teaching skiing as a volunteer instructor with the National Sports Center for the Disabled, reading, writing, and learning. Betsy came out as a lesbian after 25 years of marriage. She has a close relationship with her three children and four grandchildren. Betsy says her greatest and most meaningful enjoyment comes from sharing her life with her partner of 30 years, Gillian Edwards.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Family, by Ricky

Too many choices to pick from. Which family should I write about – my growing up family, my waiting for the divorce family, my step-father family, my Boy Scout family, my married family, or my widower family? I have actually written about all of these “my families” before so if you want to read of them again look up my past stories on the SAGE blog or my personal blog.

So this leaves me with only my LGBT family to write about. I did not list LGBTQ because I don’t know of any Q’s in my LGBT family unless I make the Q stand for “queer” instead of “questioning”. I also did not list the “LGBTQ alphabet” written about by Will a couple of years ago because, if I did write about it, I would still be here reading it to you when you came back next week and would still not be finished.

In the vernacular of the times, it appears that the LGBT “family” is referred to as a “community”. In a particular viewpoint, community is correct as a metaphor. After all towns and cities are made up of neighborhoods and communities of biological families or individuals. LGBT communities are made up of non-biological groups / ”families” of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders; each category which also has sub-categories of preferences.

Since LGBT marriages are now legal, there will also be legitimate biological LGBT families with children either natural or adopted. These relationships existed before but were not usually sanctioned by law or the hetero communities they lived within.

There was a time in the not distant past (which may come again) when gays were persecuted. When meeting together in public places they would talk among themselves using female names do disguise the fact they were gay. This practice continues to this day in the modified version of calling each other “girl”. I personally dislike the practice because, I am gay but I am definitely not a girl.

To close on a positive note, I have a gay friend who if he wants to know if someone is gay will ask, “Is he family.”

© 5 September 2016

About the Author

I was born in June of 1948 in Los Angeles, living first in Lawndale and then in Redondo Beach. Just prior to turning 8 years old in 1956, I began living with my grandparents on their farm in Isanti County, Minnesota for two years during which time my parents divorced.

When united with my mother and stepfather two years later in 1958, I lived first at Emerald Bay and then at South Lake Tahoe, California, graduating from South Tahoe High School in 1966. After three tours of duty with the Air Force, I moved to Denver, Colorado where I lived with my wife and four children until her passing away from complications of breast cancer four days after the 9-11 terrorist attack.

I came out as a gay man in the summer of 2010. I find writing these memories to be therapeutic.

My story blog is

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Choices, by Ray S.

Never had to make a choice or decision because my mother always did that for me. That’s what mothers do.

The US government decided I was draftable like all the other boys my age in 1943. Faced with making a choice as to what branch of the service would want me, it resulted in a trip to the US Army Air Force office and enlisting in their air cadet program. It seemed the best choice of all evils and besides I didn’t think I’d fit nicely into a tight white sailor suit.

Footnote here: Can you imagine me flying an airplane? I couldn’t even drive a car then.

The air corps was making all of our choices now having replaced Mama. As good fortune would have it, the cadet program was oversubscribed, so the powers that be (or were) scattered all of this wet behind the ears pubescent material to the winds. The talented ones went to aircraft mechanics school. The rest of the class members, having finished basic training in the wilds of Gulfport, were shipped off to a military police contingent where they were assigned to 11 pm to 7 am guard duty. Here we could reflect on our recently basic training that had taught all of the little boys how to be good little soldiers, drink beer, smoke cigarettes, strip down and reassemble a carbine, report on parade grounds at 6 am dressed only in your issue raincoat for “short arm” VD inspection (and he wouldn’t show us his), learn the intricacies of KP duty, and checking the scenery in the barracks shower.

Eventually through discovery, familiarity, or unknowing choices, the appearance of latent libidos or the right time and the right place, this boy found out what people meant by the pejoratives “queer” and “fairy.” However there was a conscious effort called ‘in denial’ to not own those words openly for some thirty to forty years hence.

Dating and girls:

It was a blind date that never ended until she delivered an ultimatum. The morning of the wedding the butterflies kept saying, “Do you really want this?” But, the die was cast, no choice, just make the best of it … for fifty-five years. And there were many good times and some not so good.

Is chance a choice or is choice a chance? A sunny day in June, crowds gathered at Civic Center Plaza, and I chose to hang out on the perimeter of all the action observing what PRIDE was all about.

Another CHOICE, after all of this time it was becoming easier—attending a SAGE of the Rockies conference. Meeting and learning to know there was a place for me in this beautiful tribe; and I belonged. Knowing I could reach out and love freely and openly. Finding I finally could come out of a closet I had lived in all of these years. I realize now that I might be the only person that didn’t know or suspect I was and am queer—in the most positive sense. My closet like many others suffered from structural transparency.

Now I am faced with another CHOICE. Trying to determine is this ‘indiscriminate love’ or ‘unconditional love’ that I feel for all of you; and is there really that much of a difference?

© 11 July 2016

About the Author

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Favorite Literary Character, by Phillip Hoyle

For me to choose my favorite literary character seems as impossible as to choose my favorite activity from a three-week road trip. I’ve never been able to select just one because I usually prize too many memories. So when I consider that in first grade I began reading about Dick and Jane, in the fifth grade was introduced to the novel when Mrs. Schaffer read to us of Jim Hawkins, Billy Bones, and Long John Silver in Treasure Island, in eighth grade read my first novel which I checked out from the school library, James Fennimore Cooper’s The Spy with its Betty Flanagan and Harvey Birch, and after that never quit reading book after book to the point that in my mid-thirties I was reading five books a week—most of them novels—I’m hard pressed to choose any single character as my favorite. There have been so many!

A few years ago when in my writing I realized I was working on a novel and not simply the collection of short stories I had imagined, I came to the awful realization that although I had read hundreds of novels and recalled from them plenty of characters, scenes, and situations, I had never seriously studied the novel as literature, had never read one under the tutelage of a professor, and had never analyzed the plot, character, or even writing style that makes some stories work so well. So with M.H. Abrams Glossary of Literary Terms in hand, I set out to learn about these things. I began analyzing short stories; then turned my attentions to the novel. I would read a novel and if I liked it enough select one
aspect of it to further study. For example, in one novel I compared and contrasted the opening sentences of each chapter. In another book I found and compared the contents of each place the author changed from present tense to past. In yet another novel I searched to find the dramatic turning points in the main character’s transformation. I went on to analyze how secondary or even one-dimensional characters entered and left novels. I was serious in my pursuit of this knowledge.

Then I turned to books I’d read in the past. I analyzed The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday. Somewhere along the way realized I had mostly read novels to enjoy exotic and unusual experiences and to find out what happened. This proclivity was bolstered by my habit of reading murder mysteries in which the big tasks is to figure out ‘who dun it’ as if that were the whole point of reading stories. That seemed my dominant approach. Finally I turned to Ethan Mordden and reread and analyzed several of his Buddies cycle that opened with what seemed to me appropriately titled I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore. I liked novels that told the stories of many different people. My novel search for understanding was moving me far away from how I had read them before and, like Mordden’s title far away from all my home state represented. And then there was the really big question: why was I trying to write a novel and how could I do it without making a big fool of myself?

I recall a voice teacher who seemed friends with a woman character Natasha Rostova in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace while I couldn’t even recall or pronounce the name of any character from my reading of that monstrously long novel. I recall in December my daughter-in-law reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for the umpteenth time. She said “It’s like a new story,” and she just loves Jane Eyre, probably her favorite literary character. Now I read Bronte and enjoyed the characters but never developed such a relationship with any of them. I just don’t get into character friendships, at least not easily.

Still I really have like some characters. First, Natty Bumpo in James Fennimore Cooper’s "Leatherstocking Tales" although I don’t recall if I respected him; second, Johnny in The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter although I may really have been more interested in his Shawnee Indian cousin; third, the first-person narrator in Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children by Felice Picano although I didn’t really like him so much as I recognized in him a character who as a child was bisexual like I was; fourth, Bud in Ethan Mordden’s stories, again another first person narrator who as a writer seemed as much the author of the story as its protagonist; and finally, Will in City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer although very much like in the cases of Picano and Mordden I may have liked the author as much as the character. Still Will became my literary friend because he came from an uncertain past, made creative adaptations to his surroundings, felt enamored of Native Americans, accepted into his life persons whose values widely differed from his own, worked hard, and introduced me to more exotic worlds of gay America, meaning in many important ways, more realistic descriptions of gay life.

But since I ended my list with Will from the Spanbauer book, I’ll say a few things about him who certainly has become an important character in my life if not a favorite (and be warned I’m speaking as much or more about Spanbuaer as I am about his great character Will). Will trusts people. Will does not try to fool himself. Will reveals his faults as well as his ideals and dreams. Will eats with sinners. He survives in the city, thrives there, values important aspects of his life, idealizes some individuals and loves them when they are too real to be idealized. He ekes out a living, is taken advantage of, finds friendship, and in general, builds a meaningful life in a hard and rough city.

And I thrill when Will says:

“Only your body can know another body.

“Because you see it, you think you know it. Your eyes think they know. Seeing Fiona’s body for so long, I thought I knew her body.

“I’ll tell you something, so you’ll know: It’s not the truth. Only your body can know another body.

“My hand on her back, my hand in her hand, her toes up against my toes, Fiona’s body wasn’t sections of a body my eyes had pieced together. In my arms was one long uninterrupted muscle, a body breathing life, strong and real.” (In City of Shy Hunters, p. 184) Will is really real; his friends are real. I am his friend.

© Denver, 22 June 2014

About the Author

Phillip Hoyle lives in Denver and spends his time writing, painting, and socializing. In general he keeps busy with groups of writers and artists. Following thirty-two years in church work and fifteen in a therapeutic massage practice, he now focuses on creating beauty. He volunteers at The Center leading the SAGE program “Telling Your Story.”

He also blogs at

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Capricorn to Sagittarius, by Pat Gourley

My birthday is January 12th and I was born in 1949 in LaPorte Indiana. So for my first 67.5 years of life on earth I was per popular astrology a Capricorn. I did have my astronomical chart drawn and calculated for me once many years ago. I always responded when asked my sign that I was a Capricorn. Then those with whom I had just shared this vital information would respond with a nod and often saying with authority ‘of course you are’. Strange how very rarely these days I am ever asked my sign when it was often the next thing out your mouth after stating one’s name in the 1970’s, at least in the circles I traveled in.

Needless to say I was surprised, though not particularly dismayed, to learn that I was no longer a Capricorn but thanks to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) I was now a Sagittarius. NASA went an added a 13th zodiac sign to possibly be born under: Ophiuchus (I think phonetically pronounced: ‘oh,fuck-us’)! I have linked below to a couple articles that I used in researching this new and to many a very disturbing development. That would be the crowd that has for years planned their day at least in part after reading their horoscope in the daily paper or blaming all sorts of bad stuff on Mercury in retrograde.

Maybe that’s why you hear less about people’s zodiac signs since who reads the print media anymore. I am sure though that an app must exist for those not willing to venture outside without first checking what’s up for them that day per 3000 year old Babylonian mythology.

So what’s up with this additional zodiac sign? Well in a rather snarky quote from Laurie Cantillo of the Planetary Exploration, Heliophysics Department she explained why they added a 13th zodiac sign called Ophiuchus: “We didn’t change any zodiac signs, we did the math. NASA reported that because the Earth’s axis has changed, the constellations are no longer in the same place they were thousands of years ago”. This shift in axis is due its theorized to lost ice related to global warming causing the Earth to sort of tip to one side. Oops! Try telling folks born under the new sign of Ophiuchus that man-made climate change is a hoax.

Apparently this update in the zodiac signs by NASA, perhaps the first such adjustment since the Babylonians first go at it 3000 years ago, has resulted in 86% of us now having a different sign. This of course radically alters the daily advice we need to be following if we still use these bromides to plan our life. Actually, if you are still relying on this advice I find that more disturbing than whether or not you are consulting the correct sign.

I am reminded of the apparently true stories of Nancy Reagan frequently consulting her personal astrologer, the late Joan Quigley, for advice during their years in the White House on how or when she and Ronnie should proceed in conducting personal, national and world affairs. That explains a few things doesn’t it! Reagan was born on February 6th, which made him a Sagittarius in the old 12-sign model, but now we know he should have been a Capricorn. We are left to ponder how different the world might be today if Nancy’s astrologer had been feeding them the correct celestial information!

One small caveat on how this change has been for me personally sheds a bit of light on my sexual escapades of the past 50 years. You can find all sorts of attributes attributable to your sign on-line though many have not caught up with the addition of Ophiuchus. There is even sexual stimulation advice available. For Capricorns you can supposedly drive them to a frenzy of sexual madness by tickling them behind the kneecaps. Since I am no longer a Capricorn but was really a Sagittarius oh these many years that explains why nobody ever got me off tickling me behind my knees! As a Sagittarius I can apparently be brought to the brink of orgasm by stroking my inner thighs. Though I think this is getting closer to pay dirt, a stimulating move farther north involving a sustained reach-around will still be required for a happy ending.

Capricorn: Jan 20-Feb 16

Aquarius: Feb 16-March 11

Pisces: March 11-April 18

Aries: April 18-May 13

Taurus: May 13-June 21

Gemini: June 21-July 20

Cancer: July 20-Aug 10

Leo: Aug 10-Sept 16

Virgo: Sept 16-Oct 30

Libra: Oct 30-Nov 23

Scorpio: Nov 23-Nov 29

Ophiuchus: Nov 29-Dec 17

Sagittarius: Dec 17-Jan 20

November 2016

About the Author

I was born in La Porte, Indiana in 1949, raised on a farm and schooled by Holy Cross nuns. The bulk of my adult life, some 40 plus years, was spent in Denver, Colorado as a nurse, gardener and gay/AIDS activist. I have currently returned to Denver after an extended sabbatical in San Francisco, California.

Monday, March 6, 2017

New Year Hopes for the Community, by Nicholas

According to my records, with this piece, I am starting my seventh year of coming to tell and listen to stories on Monday afternoon.

It seems odd to think about hope in this grim start to what may be a long and grim year of frustration, setbacks and bad news. This is not a very hopeful time we live in. But maybe this is when we most need to remind ourselves that hope is possible, hope is what keeps us going, hope is what gets us out of bed each morning. And hope, no matter how irrational, is good to have.

So, my hope for the lesbian, gay and trans community is that we learn to turn to each other more for joy and less out of necessity. I know that fearsome problems still haunt our world and community. Violence and bullying is a daily fact for many of our youth. Discrimination still runs rampant in many areas. Determined gay-haters, like the soon to be vice-president of the United States, persist in their work to undo the dignity and security of LGBT lives and generate hostility toward us. There is still plenty of inequality and prejudice out there.

But in many ways, our world is getting less frightening and our grasp on basic rights is growing more secure. It is no longer acceptable to openly degrade gay people—which is why our enemies have to resort to ever greater subterfuges to try to harass us. They’ve lost the sanctity of marriage so now they are reduced to fighting for the sanctity of toilets and who shall be allowed to do their business in which ones.

We still have battles to fight, but my hope is that we will seek out each other’s company less out of a sense of a need for protection, less out of desperation, and more because we just want to be around other L, G, B and T people. We come together not so much because we need to seek shelter in a hostile world but more because we can best express ourselves with each other.

I have many non-gay friends and love them dearly. It’s not that I sense any barriers between us. Yet, there is still more I sense in sharing with queer folk. We share experiences that we’ve all known and don’t have to explain. We share a humor derived from being outsiders. We share spiritualities, arts and a sharp sense of just what community is—or is not. We have been forced to make up our own culture and so we have. We are different and we should relish opportunities to engage those differences.

Most of us come out of a time when lesbians and gays could never take anything for granted. And we shouldn’t. Above all, we shouldn’t take each other for granted. You can find very fulfilling relationships with non-gay people but I do believe that there is one thing we can find only with our own kind—happiness. I do hope that organizations such as the community center we are in continue to thrive—not out of fear and self-defense but from joy. We still need to find each other. I hope that we continue to come here because we want to, not because we have to.

Even in a world more tolerant and open, there is still that special depth of connection that we get to see only in each other. Call it love or desire or a magical ability to coordinate colors and a flare for decorating, you won’t find it outside. You may be welcome to watch football games with legions of Broncos fans, but you won’t get much of a response by commenting that Eli Manning is so much better looking than his brother Peyton. They just don’t get it.

© January 2017

About the Author

Nicholas grew up in Cleveland, then grew up in San Francisco, and is now growing up in Denver. He retired from work with non-profits in 2009 and now bicycles, gardens, cooks, does yoga, writes stories, and loves to go out for coffee.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Obama and Gay Centurions and Death, by Louis Brown

I have three interpretations of “Leaving”: (a) Evaluation of Barak Obama’s presidency; Barack Obama will soon be leaving office; (b) Louis Brown leaves New York City from which he recalls another fond memory; (c) Leaving as dying: death of brother, Charles Brown.

(a) President Barack Obama: I voted for him twice. He talks like an enlightened liberal person, but, when the chips are down, he reacts like a hostile right-wing Republican. He went to Flint, Michigan, and spoke to a roomful of black students and told them, “I have your backs.” The facts do not really bear this out. His EPA knew all along that the governor of Michigan was poisoning the people of Flint but did nothing to interfere. His administration did nothing to get the governor of Michigan impeached and removed from office. Mr. Obama, like a bellicose right-wing Republican, continues to wage a perpetual war in Afghanistan, despite the widespread opposition of the American public. When Scott Walker was stripping union workers in Wisconsin of their labor rights, Mr. Obama was silent, breaking with the long history of the Democratic Party advocating for the rights of working people. Au contraire, Mr. Obama promotes TPP which is very hostile to the interests of American working people. So, despite some of his good qualities, Mr. Obama is just another failure in a long line of failed presidents.

(b) Louis Brown leaves New York City: one of my fondest memories of New York City was viewing for the past 3 years in June at the Gay Pride March the Alcazar Night Club float. This consisted of a large truck with a large dance floor platform on which around 15 very tall brawny beautiful Hispanic men, dressed up as Roman Centurions; they performed a rather wild and frenetic and yet very well-rehearsed, disco-style dance routine, accompanied by very loud disco music. The spectacular performance was not pornographic but was very suggestive and very erotic. Imagine, a loud boisterous display of male on male eroticism in public on a sundrenched day in June. I later thought that I should have videotaped the event so that, when asked why I recommend putting Classical Studies in gay and Lesbian studies curriculums, I would show these Hispanic gays evoking ancient Rome. They did a good job in expressing gay pride and making a naughty historical reference. Remember, if you want your minority group to promote a sense of community, and to empower itself, you have to learn its history – so taught Alex Haley, author of Roots. Amen.

(c) Leaving meaning dying: My brother Charles Brown died in 1999 at the age of 52. One of my friends told me he observed that my brother would stay a little too long at night at a local Irish bar in the nearby town of Flushing, New York, and would imbibe too many Martini’s, Manhattans and Bloody Mary’s. That is what killed him. Charlie Brown was thin, and soft-spoken and gay. He worked at a good job at the 42nd Street Library. He had several different boyfriends, but one long-term boyfriend, Pat Marra, was unusually good-looking. He was quite tall, had beautifully formed hands and dark wavy brown hair. He looked like a DaVinci painting. He was so beautiful he reminded me of my Italian teacher, il signor Guido, another unusually gorgeous Italian. I remember even the heterosexual male students in that Italian class were flabbergasted when they looked at him. To accentuate his good looks, he wore very expensive Italian silk suits and stylishly elegant Italian shoes. That was Italian 101. Everyone in the class was looking forward to Italian 102, but, at the end of the semester, Mr. Guido returned to Italy. Boohoo.

Two points to make, my brother Charlie died of alcohol abuse, and his boyfriend, Pat Marra, died of an illegal narcotic overdose, either heroin or cocaine, I forget which. Question, how could the gay community have intervened in their lives to prevent substance abuse? What was missing in their lives?

© 2 November 2016

About the Author

I was born in 1944, I lived most of my life in New York City, Queens County. I still commute there. I worked for many years as a Caseworker for New York City Human Resources Administration, dealing with mentally impaired clients, then as a social work Supervisor dealing with homeless PWA's. I have an apartment in Wheat Ridge, CO. I retired in 2002. I have a few interesting stories to tell. My boyfriend Kevin lives in New York City. I graduated Queens College, CUNY, in 1967.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Fault, by Jude Gassaway

You can see my fault from outer space.

Of the two big islands in the Gulf of California, Tiburon is the one closest to the Mexican mainland. Seen from above, the northeastern lobe shows a sharp line heading northwest, delineating lighter ground to the north. That straight line is my fault.

Air photo, Tiburon Island (Google Maps)

     In the winter of 1972, just as the subject of plate tectonics was getting started, another student and I were assigned to map the northeast end of Tiburon Island for our Graduate Field Geology class at San Diego State University.
     The week before, while mapping on the mainland, we met a pair of Wycliffe Bible translators, whose mission was to bring the word of God to native people. The Religious’ approach was to identify, define, and transcribe the local vernacular, and then translate the Bible into the new language. Here, they focused on the Seri Tribe.

     In Punta Chueca, I met a Seri man who wanted to demonstrate his new reading skills. He had a lesson pamphlet with everyday words in English, Spanish, and Seri. I remember two of the words because of their similarity.

A few Seri place names on our base map included oddities like Sierra “Kunkaak” and the multi-hyphenated Punta “Ast-Ho-Ben-O-Glap”.

Our professor, in the course of drafting the geologic map and interpreting the history, had to name and describe the geologic observations. The fault in my field area was just a bit off-kilter to the then-known regional picture. It needed a name so that its geologic significance could be discussed in the text. There were no place names in the fault valley.

I was unaware of the professor’s solution until the map was published several years later. The professor told me that he had noticed that I thought differently and that I often veered off to a little bit away from the others, just as this fault wandered. (As the only woman in the class, sometimes I moved away just to relieve myself.) Then, he thought, “yawassag” –that sounded kind of like a Seri word. And thus, Yawassag Fault was named. Jude Gassaway.

Gastil. R.G., and Krummenacher, Daniel, 1975, Reconnaissance geologic map of coastal of coastal Sonora between Puerto Lobos and Bahia Kino, Geological Society of America, map and Chart Series, MC-16.

  © 2017

About the Author

Retired USGS Field Geologist.
Founding member, Denver Womens Chorus. 

Jude Gassaway is the figure on the left.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Blue Skies, by Gillian

Blue skies smiling at me; nothing but blue skies do I see.

Well for God's sake, how boring is that? Sure, we welcome blue skies because they signal a clear sunny day ahead. We use them metaphorically in the same way. But the fact is that clear blue skies are not interesting. They do not fascinate us the way cloudy skies do. We don't have different names for different parts of a blue sky, the way we talk of cirrus and cumulonimbus clouds.

I belong .... wait for it, you're going to love this .... to The Cloud Appreciation Society. Weird cloud photographers from all around the world post cloud photos and videos to the website, and so many of them are breathtakingly beautiful. I myself have, in my computer, something over 500 photos of nothing but clouds, or those taken primarily because of the cloud formations they capture. In only one of the whole collection is there a clear blue sky.

A while ago, I put together a small booklet of my own sky photos, accompanied by appropriate quotations, because the sky, to me, is too beautiful not to be accompanied by poetic appreciation. As the Cloud Appreciation Society says it -

' ... (clouds) are Nature’s poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone can have a fantastic view of them.'

And, I would add, you don't have to risk life and limb to watch them, unlike so many of nature's more dramatic displays.

The same website also reminds us, in its somewhat tongue-in-cheek 'manifesto', that we should fight what it calls 'blue-sky thinking' wherever we find it. Life, they say, would indeed be dull if we had to look up at a cloudless monotony day after day. It is, of course, a whole lot easier to espouse that philosophy living in a place like Colorado than in the many cities in this country which receive over 60" of rain per year, and have little opportunity to grow bored with clear blue skies.

And there are endless quotes exhorting us to appreciate those metaphorical clouds in our lives, in order that we might fully appreciate the blue skies when they return. Quite honestly, I'm not totally convinced. I suspect this may be a tactical encouragement towards positive thinking of, and response to, the inevitable. Did I really need to break my wrist in order to appreciate my fully-functioning joints? Must I suffer from that miserable Xmas cold to value my usual good health? I don't think so. But I couldn't help myself; I had to see what that WWW had to offer.

There are, need I say, many comments on the topic. Two I really liked.

The first said,

'One can appreciate the Good in Life without experiencing the Bad

However, when one experiences the Bad

That which was not quite so Good becomes Good

and the Good we experience radiates a stronger energy than before...'

The other said,

'.... experiencing bad would definitely allow you to appreciate the good more then you previously have. But if you were raised with the right values to already do all that then you wouldn't necessarily need the bad in your life.'

Points to ponder.

But I return to that 'manifesto' of the Cloud Society, which ends with the final, simpler, injunction,

'.... always remember to live life with your head in the clouds!'

© June 2016

About the Author

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30 years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty years. We have been married since 2013.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Believing, by Betsy

For the first two decades of my life I religiously recited a creed almost once a week affirming a belief.  Later in my 30’s I stopped doing this because I realized I really didn’t believe the things I was saying I believed. I had no hard feelings about the church, I just stopped believing. I’m referring to the liturgy of the Episcopal Church where I was baptized and confirmed.  The creeds recited in the church liturgy—the Nicene and Apostle’s—were so familiar to me that I could recite both from memory at an early age.

Why are children taught to claim beliefs which they are too young to understand, accept, or reject?  Could it be that IF it is etched deeply enough into your psyche, you will hold on to it for life, never questioning it. It becomes “yours.”  It feels good and it keeps us “safe.”

I recited as I’m sure most of us did, the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school hundreds of times before I ever pondered to what it was that I was pledging allegiance. Around third  grade I thought it odd to pledge to a flag, a piece of cloth hanging on a pole or a wall even while understanding that it is a symbol of our country.  But still why the rote recitation? I think we all know the answer to that question.  By recitation it becomes part of us, we own it and hopefully, later in life, we understand and embrace its meaning.  Never once did an adult explain to me what I was reciting and what it meant.  Just that the recitation was not only important, but also part of one’s life—part of one’s day—like brushing your teeth.

 The next question that comes to mind is why do some examine their beliefs and others go through life never doubting?  I cannot answer that for others, only for myself. I don’t remember my parents teaching me to think critically about anything. They were good parents and I loved them, but they did not question the standard cultural beliefs—at least not out loud. They were not ardent about spreading the teachings of the church, but they accepted those tenants more as a matter of being good Christians and good citizens. I pretty much went along with them, I guess. I really don’t remember. Believing was not “big” in our day to day life. At the same time doubting and challenging was not big either.

I think my mind became “ripe” for critical thinking when I was in college. Or maybe I simply was not mature enough before then. A light came on when I realized I could not will myself to have faith that something was true simply because I was told to do so or because I was told the consequences would be painful for me if I chose not to. One teacher, Professor Jaffe, taught me to question everything. I suppose that’s because that’s what one does in Philosophy class.  But I learned from Professor Jaffe that what is important about learning is thinking for oneself, as well as being exposed to the information. What one does with the information is the whole point.

Thinking back, it seems that it was my husband who put me up to applying critical thinking to   my religious beliefs.  They may have been faintly held beliefs; nevertheless, they had been a part of me for a long time. He simply raised the question one day, “maybe Jesus was just a good man and not divine. How do we know for sure?”  That’s when I made a conscious decision not to take that leap.  We started discussing the power of the church historically. How most of the wars fought throughout history were fought over religious beliefs.  From then on, I questioned everything, my feelings as well as my beliefs.  It was years later, however, that I took any action regarding the feelings I had been questioning in regard to my sexuality.

I am not trying to say that critical thinking is good and faith is bad. They each have a place in my life. But what I do say is that when believing gets in the way of accepting facts and blocks applying information to form one’s opinions, there is a problem. Believing versus gathering information and forming a point of view seems to be the conflict going on today in some political situations. When I see Trump supporters interviewed on the evening news, what I see is people full of fear holding a belief because of that fear, and holding it in disregard of the facts. For example, the belief that ISIS is the greatest threat to life in the U.S. today. ISIS is coming and therefore we all must have guns to protect ourselves and our families. One look at the numbers would make anyone question that belief: in 2013 deaths from ISIS-16; deaths from gun violence-33,000. The numbers speak for themselves if one is willing to take a look at them.

For me it is hard to put my faith in something a book says, even a book considered sacred, or something a person or institution tells me to believe. Yet until I grew up this is what I did and what I was taught to do. This is what most people are taught to do. If it works for them, more power to them.  But it does not work for me and I cannot imagine it ever doing so.

© 12 Jan 2016 

About the Autho

 Betsy has been active in the GLBT community including PFLAG, the Denver Women’s Chorus, OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change), and the GLBT Community Center. She has been retired from the human services field for 20 years. Since her retirement, her major activities have included tennis, camping, traveling, teaching skiing as a volunteer instructor with the National Sports Center for the Disabled, reading, writing, and learning. Betsy came out as a lesbian after 25 years of marriage. She has a close relationship with her three children and four grandchildren. Betsy says her greatest and most meaningful enjoyment comes from sharing her life with her partner of 30 years, Gillian Edwards.