Monday, February 29, 2016
Dear fellow Queer writers:
Comments from Larry Kramer on discrimination from the straight world he adamantly believes exists towards gay writers.
© 23 Oct 2015
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.
Friday, February 26, 2016
The famous essayist Nora Ephron once wrote a piece in which she denounced her neck. She said simply that she did not like her neck. It was scrawny and too long and had to be hidden with scarves and turtleneck sweaters. That’s how I feel about hair. I don’t like my hair and I never have. It’s fine, soft, and thin and getting thinner. It never was a color I liked—and gray did not improve over the former brown. It never grew out into any shape or style that was appealing. It grew long but not curly. It grew longer still but never full. It just sort of hung there.
The standard for beautiful hair, for me, is Danielle Grant, the woman who does the weather on Channel 9. I watch the weather just to watch her hair. Her rich brown tresses hang long over her shoulders in a lustrous waterfall of hair. Her hair shines with a deep luster. I don’t care if it rains or snows or turns sunny, her hair is a beauty to behold.
Hair has many functions, none of them really all that important. It can be a thing of natural beauty, a fashion statement, a political statement, a symbol and, of course, it was even a musical. In the 1960s, we let our hair grow long and shaggy to show our disdain for an oppressive establishment and our attachment to a new culture of freedom that did not include barbershops. We let our “freak flag” fly, as one song put it.
In the 1970s, we returned to those few barbershops that survived the ‘60s, and got it cut short—gay short—because we didn’t want to be seen as some kind of hippie longhair redneck. Hair styles came full circle, I guess. What was once a protest of the establishment, became the establishment. Long hair meant you were a right wing crazy conservative. Short hair was the rebellion.
Of course, we didn’t just go to barbershops. We went to stylists and had our hair styled. And paid a lot more for that styling. When I was first coming out I even had my hair permed once. I wanted curls and decided to torture my hair into curls even if I had to wear a toxic waste dump on my head. It didn’t work. I got curls, alright, but I looked like I had a nice dust mop on top of my head. I looked like Woody Allen on a bad day. I realized that my hair just was not made for fashion.
Now I just get it mowed now and then, about once a month. It’s like the lawn. Doesn’t really do anything or contribute anything but looks better if it’s kept under control. The problem is that there is too much of it where I don’t need it, like ears and nose, and not enough where I do want it. I go to the cheapest barber I know and for $10 get whatever excess is there clipped to a reasonable shortness. I like my hair best when I don’t have to think about it.
It would be nice to keep up with fashion, but I’ve given up. I would love to die it blue or purple, colors I really like in other people’s hair. But on me, it would just look silly. Beyond the basic requirement of workable hair, I don’t have that fashion persona to pull it off. You know how some people can walk down a street like they’re walking across a stage. I’m just trying to get a bus home before somebody stops and says, “God, what did you do to your hair?”
© 15 Jan 2015
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.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Is there any cliché about time that has yet gone unwritten or unspoken? I don’t feel comfortable making generalizations about the subject of time. I can only speak my own truths about time, if I can figure out what they are.
People spend a lot of money trying to mitigate the effects of time on their bodies. They are usually rich, perhaps even as rich as their plastic surgeons. I don’t know what a facelift costs. I’m sure that it depends upon a number of factors—the number of wrinkles per square inch of skin, the number of square inches of skin per linear inch of one’s face, the elapsed time since the previous facelift, the degree of satisfaction from the previous facelift, the amount of time spent in the sun showing off one’s facelift, and the percentage of body fat.
Also, I’m sure that, once one has had a facelift, there is tremendous pressure to make some adjustments to the birth date that appears on various personal documents. It must be extremely embarrassing to be pulled over for a traffic violation only to have the officer look at you, then your driver’s license, and ask you step out of the car, put your hands on the roof, and receive a pat down on suspicion of having a stolen ID.
What must a facelift do to one’s relationship with a twin who cannot afford to follow suit? Would they then introduce him or her as a parent or much older sibling? And what of the spouse who now must endure the clucks and chuckles from those who assume that he or she has “robbed the cradle”? Upon death—still, I’m afraid an inevitability—would it not feel unnatural to gaze upon the 90-year-old corpse with skin stretched drum-tight across its chops and exclaim, “Oh, how natural he/she looks?” And, of course, the worst message such shenanigans sends is that all the rest of us, the ones who choose to age naturally, are growing uglier by the day.
But I’m not buying it. I think of aging skin as a beauty mark. Nobody who’s into classic cars would think of putting 2013 parts on a 1957 Chevrolet. Sure, we might hammer out the dents, straighten out the frame, fix the rust, replace the worn-out springs, and spray a new coat of paint on her, but we would never try to make her look like this year’s model. I’m a 1946 model of a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant gay male who prefers to nuzzle the bumpers of others like me and who doesn’t give a fig for brand-new sporty SUV’s with programmable liftgates, reverse-view cameras, and touch screens. I’ve been around the block with beloved partners of both sexes, fathered two children, had a 30-year career that provided a comfortable life, and I want to look the part. I don’t want to pose for “before” and “after” pictures where the “before” photo looks like an old picture of me after being sucker punched in the mouth. George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Yeah, and today youthfulness is wasted on the old.
But the bitter old men of Congress have found a way to exact their revenge. They have saddled our youth with endless wars that ravage their bodies in horrible ways but mollify themselves by providing medical care that allows them to survive to live a full life in a condition that no octogenarian would envy. We load the young up with student loan debt that makes the home loan of my generation seem like chump change. We trap them in $9 an hour jobs with no hope of advancement so that they are actually making less money at 35 than they were at 25. And, worst of all, we are handing off to them a world who atmosphere has been poisoned to the point that their children almost surely will face a lifetime of struggle for ever-dwindling resources. We have made sure that, for them, growing old is the most coveted luxury of all.
For those of us who have lived free of ecological and demographic constraints on how we live our lives—how many children we have; how big a house we build or live in; how many vacation trips we take to how distant a destination; how we get to work, to church, or the store; how we feel entitled to anything we can afford—it is time to reimagine our lives in a new way. What truly makes us happy? Where does happiness happen? What kind of happiness do we want for those who come after? What is true? How much time is left before it’s too late? We are threatened not by growing old but by growing apart from what we know in our hearts is true and that time is not on the side of the young and we are responsible.
© 19 May 2013
About the Author
I came to the beautiful state of Colorado out of my native Kansas by way of Michigan, the state where I married and I came to the beautiful state of Colorado out of my native Kansas by way of Michigan, the state where I married and had two children while working as an engineer for the Ford Motor Company. I was married to a wonderful woman for 26 happy years and suddenly realized that life was passing me by. I figured that I should make a change, as our offspring were basically on their own and I wasn't getting any younger. Luckily, a very attractive and personable man just happened to be crossing my path at that time, so the change-over was both fortuitous and smooth.
Soon after, I retired and we moved to Denver, my husband's home town. He passed away after 13 blissful years together in October of 2012. I am left to find a new path to fulfillment. One possibility is through writing. Thank goodness, the SAGE Creative Writing Group was there to light the way.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
We all have them. Don't try to tell me you don't. Nobody gets to our age without them.
The first one I remember acquiring came along when I was seven or eight. Mum and Dad and I were wandering through the woods picking blackberries when a sharp, jagged, end of a broken-off small branch scraped a gash in my thigh. These days I'm sure it would be off to the ER for stitches, with perhaps a butterfly bandage to keep it together on the way, but back then we were expected to suck it up and soldier on; the result being a scar wider than necessary and very long-lasting. I still have it.
Roughly forty years later I needed a butterfly bandage again when I fell on sharp rock edges while backpacking in the Shoshone Wilderness Area, miles from anywhere. But this time I was carefully tended to by my beautiful Betsy, who had the foresight to carry butterfly bandages in her pack.
Back again in the old days, in college, I slipped at the top of some icy steps and fell, with my knee doubled under me, onto the metal blade of a boot scraper. Now that one did require stitches. But that was all it got. These days we'd be given all kinds of physical therapy; exercises to help it heal as efficiently as possible, but in 1959 I was on my own. It hurt like Hell to bend it, so a couple of days later, on a bus, I stretched my leg out beneath the seat in front of me. The bus got in an accident, the seat above my leg came down on it and hyperextended my knee. That hurt like Hell. A week later, with my knee the size of a football, I went off for a long-planned week's hiking trip with a classmate. Well, I was madly in unacknowledged love with the woman! What's a girl to do? Not surprisingly, I have had a lot of trouble with that knee over the years but I've worked hard at keeping it in working condition, mainly through water aerobics. It remains functional, and actually gives me less pain than it did twenty years ago, though I'm not off on any more backpacking or even hiking trips.
A few years back I broke my ankle - just a simple break. It healed perfectly, leaving no scars. Then, as some of you might recall, I broke my wrist a couple of years ago. That was a compound fracture, requiring surgery, nuts and bolts, and a long scar which has now basically disappeared. My ankle and wrist both healed quickly, fully functioning in record time. That, of course, in addition to skillful surgeons, is because I diligently did every therapeutic exercise I was given, painful though they often were. I would like to think that I have become a little less dumb in dealing with injuries, over the years, but much of that is because healthcare professionals know so much more these days. Our job is just to follow their excellent advice.
Which, it seems to me, is much the same for our inner, psychological, scars as for our outer, physical, injuries.
As a child, and even as a student, I had no more idea how to deal with my inner than my outer pains. Neither, come to that, did my parents. All of us colluded in some strange way to pretend I had no injuries, inside or out. Just get on with life, denying the pain. I've written often enough about my childhood angst so I'm not going to repeat it, but I rode roughshod over it just as I did my mashed knee, making both worse while denying there was a problem. Over the years, I have paid heavily enough for that. But, as I gained knowledge and sought expert advise to try to make my knee more functional and less painful, so I did with my inner dysfunctions. Endless physical therapy, endless psychotherapy. Both mostly of the self-help variety, but they worked. The trouble is, it's so much harder to go back; to try to fix those old inner and outer scars years later. Now, I try to deal with both immediately. Keep exercising that wrist, don't let that scar tissue form or I'll be sorry. Take those emotions out and look at them right now. Work them over. I don't want that psychological scar tissue building up, either.
I don't expect to stop receiving wounds, and so the scars that mark them, either physical or emotional. But as I age, perhaps becoming increasingly vulnerable to physical scarring, I hope to balance it with a healthy decrease in psychological scarring. Due largely to my attempts to follow the spiritual path, and in no small part to this group where I find healing by writing out and sharing my problems, my wounds are less deep, less painful, and heal more readily. Little scar tissue has the chance to form. Even those big bad deep wounds don't get reopened as once they did. Those are the ones that are there because I'm a woman. Because I am gay. I am happy about both, but being female or being GLB or T leaves you constantly open to painful slashes of hate-filled sabers. Oh they are not usually directed at me, personally, but I feel the stab of the knife of every woman murdered because she wants an education, or refuses to hide away her body, and of every gay man murdered in Uganda or left to die in Wyoming. It's certainly not that I find any of those horrors less painful, nor, alas, less frequent. I simply, for the most part, recognize the pain sooner, deal with it better, avoid reopening those old wounds.
Yet I am happy to have scars. How can you live any kind of eventful, meaningful, life, and not have them? We are battle-scarred warriors who, having fought the good fight, did not come out unscathed. As Kahlil Gibran puts it,
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
© 30 June 2015
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 23, 2016
Driving home from Pueblo, after my fifty-year reunion for South High School I was feeling a little melancholy. I was pondering the source of these feelings; was it the fact that 50 years had passed so quickly and only a fraction of those years remain to be enjoyed, was it the fact I had lost touch with so many people who had once been an enjoyable part of my K-12 experience, or was it the hotel room I had stayed in because my parents were no longer alive? Certainly these were all a part of the melancholy, but not the primary source. Throughout the events, hovering in the background was a growing awareness of the different opportunities which the boys and girls had experienced. All of these attributable differences were driven by gender, that of the privilege of being male.
The area which was foremost in my mind was the provision of athletics for the boys- football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, track, golf, tennis, and cross country, and no sports for the girls… at the time it was against state law for girls to compete against one another at the high school level, a fact I became aware of when the principal called me into his office on a Monday morning and threatened to expel me if I ever played in another basketball game against girls from another school. The game he was referencing was a pick-up game against girls from the local Catholic high school in which there were not even any officials.
I first started thinking about the male/female high school opportunities when the introduction of former teachers was made. Out of the eleven who were in attendance four of them were coaches, definitely a disproportional number to the 59 teachers whom had been on the faculty. I hypothesize this disproportionate number was due to the fact coaches work more closely with athletes than teachers do students, thus forming a stronger and longer lasting bond. This was quite evident as Tom Mauro, my former classmate, carried out the introductions. His continuing respect and connection with his former coaches was quite evident and the introductory comments regarding the other teachers did not reflect this same elevated note of respect. Before any one jumps to any erroneous conclusions I must quickly interject that Tom was not a “dumb jock” whom of course would have been closer to his coaches- Tom graduated from Colorado School of Mines and was very successful in his career. In addition, he is a very accomplished pianist.
As I continued to process my observations and feelings as the reunion continued it occurred to me as I watched my former classmates interact that sports had provided more than just the opportunity for fitness. The boys had deep bonds with one another that crossed the boundaries of cliques; placement in college prep classes, business classes, or technical and trade classes. The girls didn’t have this avenue which provided for the intersecting of lives with other girls. Popularity, or the lack there of, was the main determiner of how friendships were established. I realized as I talked to my classmates that our high school years would have been different for the girls if there had been sports for us in which to compete. We had a very athletic group of girls- girls from all the different education tracks and cliques. A couple of girls “stories” supported my feelings about the missed opportunity of competing in sports. Linda a friend from elementary school was an incredible runner. She could beat all of us, boys and girls alike in both running and long jumping. I never knew until I talked to her at the reunion that she would have loved to have been an athlete. As I shared my memories of her abilities and the grace and skill with which she ran tears came to her eyes and she remarked that I had just made her day. I never would have guessed this desire of hers, she was a very bright and pretty girl whom had been part of the popular crowd. I also didn’t know she had always hidden a vision problem she had inherited which was so bad she was given a scholarship her final year of college from the National Federation of the Blind. She could only play ball sports which used a large ball like the one used in kickball, but man oh man she would have been a star on a track team had there been one and her self-described greatest embarrassment through all her young years would have been eased. Arlene, our head cheerleader stated in response to “What would you have done differently in high school?’ I would have participated on sports teams instead of cheerleading and would have sought out friends from a variety of groups.
In addition, two of my close friends, whom were both great athletes, did not come to the reunion. The first Rosalyn told the organizing committee she hadn’t enjoyed high school so why would she come to a reunion. Most of my classmates were stunned by this statement as Rosalyn had been a member of student counsel, dated one of the football players, and gone on to graduate from Colorado School of Mines- one of seven girls in attendance there at the time. I had known Rosie throughout school and played with her many times in pickup basketball and football games with other girls (the boys used to come watch us play football as they couldn’t believe we would play tackle without any pads or helmets, which we did because we loved the activity and we had no equipment available to us). My other friend Vickie, whom I was able to have lunch with, told me she didn’t want to go because she had always struggled with school and had not been popular. She added there had only been about six kids she had trusted in high school. I know in the depths of my heart both of these friends would have felt more connected with their high school experiences and enjoyed it more if they had had the opportunity to compete in sports.
When I thanked my former classmate Mike for supporting me as an athlete while in high school, a unique position for my male classmates, he replied, “Heck you could have kicked any of our butts, I really admired your ability.” It was nice to hear this compliment. I along with many of my female friends would have benefited greatly had we heard fans cheering for us as we had cheered for our male counterparts.
Beyond the camaraderie, fitness, and support from classmates and parents some of the boys were able to attend college on athletic scholarships. Of course during the time I was in college no similar scholarships were available for girls, but I am thankful I did get to experience the other benefits which sports can offer. However, I still need to have a conversation with the folks up at Colorado State University who still don’t recognize the contribution women athletes made to the college from the time women were allowed to compete against other colleges until the inception of Title IX – approximately a 15-year period of time. Had it not been for Title IX which in part said, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”, women athletes, (not the intended primary recipients of this federal mandate) would still be treated unfairly by institutions of higher learning and high schools. One only look at the current lawsuit brought by a University of Denver female law school professor to see the evidence of continued discrimination based on gender. We are getting closer to closing the gender gap- but at this point it is still status quo- close, but no cigar.
© 28 Sep 2015
About the Author
I grew up in Pueblo, CO with my two brothers and parents. Upon completion of high school I attended Colorado State University majoring in Physical Education. My first teaching job was at a high school in Madison, Wisconsin. After three years of teaching I moved to North Carolina to attend graduate school at UNC-Greensboro. After obtaining my MSPE I coached basketball, volleyball, and softball at the college level starting with Wake Forest University and moving on to Springfield College, Brown University, and Colorado School of Mines.
While coaching at Mines my long term partner and I had two daughters through artificial insemination. Due to the time away from home required by coaching I resigned from this position and got my elementary education certification. I taught in the gifted/talented program in Jefferson County Schools for ten years. As a retiree I enjoy helping take care of my granddaughter, playing senior basketball, writing/listening to stories in the storytelling group, gardening, reading, and attending OLOC and other GLBT organizations.
As a retiree I enjoy helping take care of my granddaughter, playing senior basketball, writing/listening to stories in the storytelling group, gardening, reading, and attending OLOC and other GLBT organizations.
Monday, February 22, 2016
When I was in the 7th grade I fell in love with Winifred Watkins. Her parents were the choir director and organist at our First Methodist Church. I’m not sure what it was about her, but my love lasted for three years. I did not really understand it, and I never did anything about it, like hold her hand or kiss her or tell her how I felt. But I thought about her all the time and was with her every time I got the chance and sang in all the choirs at church just to be close to her and maybe touch her accidentally on purpose.
Starting in the 10th grade I fell in love with Roberta Bromley, better known as “Bert.” Bert became my best friend. She was beautiful, and she could play the piano and sing like an angel. Once again, I never told her how I felt. I simply followed her around like a puppy and did anything I could to be in the same room with her or sit by her at an assembly. She loved boys and we double dated several times. I remember pining away at night at home wanting to touch her and kiss her and hold her. Alas, it was not to happen. But I had the distinct knowledge that if one girl could marry another girl, I would marry Bert in a minute. I never DREAMED of a future Supreme Court decision. In fact, Bert and I went off to separate colleges. She married her boyfriend within a couple of years, had a couple of children, and died of cancer all within a relatively short period of time. I did not even go to her funeral.
At SMU I had several crushes on a few women, and yet again, I did not dare let anyone know. I felt as though I could not share my feelings with anyone, especially since I was majoring in Sacred Music and wanted to work in a church as a Minister of Music. By this time I had heard the words homosexual and queer, but I was still in denial about my own orientation and continued dating boys without much fun or interest.
Finally, during my second year of graduate school, I was living in an apartment with three other students, and one of my sorority sisters spent the night with me at our apartment when my roommate was out of town. Her name was JoNell Bryant, and we called her “Jo.” That night, when everyone was in bed getting ready to go to sleep, Jo came over to my single bed and got in it with me. Ten years after my first desire, when I was 22, Jo kissed me and I kissed her back.
Fireworks went off. It was absolutely everything I had hoped and dreamed of for ten years. We were together all night in that little bed, and we had to hide it from everyone the next morning and pretend that it didn’t happen. We parted that day and went to our separate classes and I was scared to death of these feelings, thinking that I should be horrified of my actions, but I walked on air all day and all I wanted was more. It was unbelievable to me.
As it turned out, Jo wanted more too. She lived with her parents in a little town outside of Dallas, and for that whole school year, I would often go out to her house and spend the night with her as often as possible, maybe once a week. We would sleep in the same bed in her room and we kept all of our feelings of love and attraction from her parents and everyone else.
As soon as I finished graduate school I went on a trip to Mexico with three other friends. In the middle of the trip, I received word from Jo that she was leaving in two days to go to Hawaii and marry a man that she had been engaged to who was stationed there in the Navy. So I left my other friends behind in Mexico City and flew back to Dallas and had one more night with Jo before she left for Hawaii.
That summer I was totally heartbroken. I remember sitting at home with my parents in Louisiana and playing a record over and over again and crying a lot. Jo and I exchanged love letters, and her mother found my letters and decreed that she could never write to me or see me again.
My father actually took me to Houston to apply for a church job, and after I got the job I started seeing a therapist to try to be cured of my homosexuality. He was wonderful and helped me to accept myself for who I am. I went through a terrible time when I lost that job after four years because of my homosexuality, but I got through it, and as they say, “The rest is history.”
© 20 July 2015
About the Author
I was born in Louisiana in 1939, went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 1957 through 1963, with majors in sacred music and choral conducting, was a minister of music for a large Methodist church in Houston for four years, and was fired for being gay in 1967. After five years of searching, I settled in Denver and spent 30 years here as a freelance court reporter. From 1980 forward I have been involved with PFLAG Denver, and started and conducted four GLBT choruses: the PFLAG Festival Chorus, the Denver Women’s Chorus, the Celebration ’90 Festival Chorus for the Gay Games in Vancouver, and Harmony. I am enjoying my 11-year retirement with my life partner of 32 years, Judith Nelson, riding our bikes, going to concerts, and writing stories for the great SAGE group.
Friday, February 19, 2016
La Vida Es Como El Chile Verde, Picante Pero Sabroso
Life is Like Green Chili, Spicy but Delicious
Me puede decir a que hora abren an santuario? I direct the question to an old man, wrinkles etched onto his affable face. He sits in the church courtyard quietly taking in the rays of the New Mexico summer morning like a raven perusing the world from afar. He looks up at me and replies, but I do not completely understand because the Spanish he uses resides in labyrinthine causeways of the past. I realize that though we are both conversing in the same mother tongue, the dynamics of phraseology, tonality and rhythm are traversed by centuries of experiences, of history, making communication between us difficult. My Spanish is the language of central Mexico, where the vowels lose strength while consonants are fully pronounced and the sing-song tonality of indigenous peoples is deemphasized. His is the language of our ancestors, forced upon the natives by well-intentioned but often brutal Old World friars; it is a marriage of Castilian conquistadores and Nahuatl poets, sequestered but nurtured over the centuries behind adobe walls and under Southwestern skies. I thank him for his kind, albeit incomprehensible, response, concluding that I am a time traveler caught up in the paradox of a fourth-dimensional arena. Rather than fleeing, as is my nature whenever disoriented by exotic, extrinsic ways, I prepare to drink from the chalice blessing me with an opportunity for new sensory delight. Little do I realize that as I prepare to unhinge myself from my bungee-cord concept of reality, I will be catapulted toward dormant realities. I continue on the high road from Santa Fe to Taos, a road that unlike the modern fast-paced interstate of the low road, is fraught with footsteps, wailings, ghosts of the past. Picaresque images materialize, worlds where straw is gold, where faith is genuine, where life and death are part of the bargain. And unlike mirages in the summer sun, these images remain as substantial as Paleolithic hand stencils.
Over the decades, my faith in organized religiosity has been shaken by the doxology of paint-by-the-numbers philosophies. I weep for conflicted gay folk who ultimately succeed in sacrificing themselves because of on-going wars between ingrained beliefs and self. I cringe at endemic violence and bigotry perpetrated in the name of God, at the narcissism of religious orthodoxy. Within the silent adobe walls of northern New Mexico, I am surrounded by hand-hewn cottonwood santos arrayed in home-spun cloth and weathered retablos graced in straw to imitate unattainable gold. The beatific looks on their faces look down at me with healing hope. Faith weaves its tendrils within me like morning glory vines awakened in the first glow of dawn. I may not understand the ways of people whose cultures have slumbered in a time cocoon, but I want to understand the faith that inspires them to recognize the voice of eternity in the rustling of the wind against the red willow branches. I want to understand what drives them to walk through the moonscapes of their deserts to reach their altars, what healing potions they drink from a curandera’s micaceous cup, what secret memories they subdue when in the midst of an outsider.
Continuing on the high road to Taos, a joyful whirlwind of warm air hovers unobtrusively around me. It hums melodiously as I stand in quiet meditation next to the mud-plastered exterior walls of village churches and ancient acequias. It reverently glides through the mishmash of grave markers at the village camposantos, crosses whose sun-bleached and splintered wood return to the secret occulted realm like the brooding bones enshrined beneath the earth. The light plays tricks upon me as I weave through the canyons and fingers of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The landscape seems sublimely remote as though the ancestors watch and spiritual energy smiles. A light vertigo sensation arises within me as I walk among the fragrant chamiso, larches and piñones. I find myself humbled when I come across a procession of mourners. On their shoulders they hoist a simple pine box that serves as the eternal bedchamber for the deceased. They are dressed in the black weeds of grief, the women’s faces hidden by black rebozos and wisps of hair billowing in the breeze. It is so simple, so refined, so real. I want to stop and root myself into the depths of the sandy soil, yet I hesitate, for I find it eerily wondrous to walk in canyons breathing out the names of all that is immortal. Driving further, I note the super highway of the low road snaking through the desert below, I realize it is time to move on. Prior to my returning back to my world, I utter a silent prayer of gratitude. The journey on the high road from Santa Fe to Taos connected me not only to a part of history that is drying up like an uncorked inkwell in a ghost town schoolhouse, it connected me to myself.
Being gay has not always prepared me to embrace the diversity of life within my own community. I am aware of fortifications that isolate. Derision, rejection, and worst of all, reciprocating invisibility result in a segmented community. My journey into a world I thought existed only in shadows taught me to appreciate the diversity within my own family. I learned that though I and my brothers/sisters may fail to recognize each other, bridges constructed but abandoned long ago are still traversable. In a dream of unrestrained idealism, I invite all members of my community to break bread and drink wine with me, and if we are not too drunk by the end of our festivities, to dance like celebrants in unison even as the ticket taker validates our tickets. I’ve learned to rejoice that I am the son of a woman whose many breasts have nurtured legions of children. Through my brief foray into a peripheral world, I learn that life is a kitchen preparation in which ingredients, bitter chocolate, savory peanuts and sesame seeds, spicy mulatto, pasilla and ancho chilies, and pregnant raisins marry upon a volcanic stone altar, creating a mole ancient and wise, yet young and vibrant. Whereas the end result is a sacred dance, the process of preparation is the victory. A 38-year-old Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, was murdered during the Spanish Civil War by the Fascist militia for his being gay. In one of his writings, he reached back to a friend who had taught him to smack his lips even as the sauce dribbled down his chin. Garcia Lorca wrote, “Not for a moment, beautiful aged Walt Whitman, have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies. All we have are our hands and a hole in God’s earth”—Federico Garcia Lorca
© 28 Dec 2015
Thursday, February 18, 2016
One thing that pushes my buttons is deception and dishonesty.
This is about pushing MY buttons when I am pushing the buttons of my computer.
There is some excellent honest reporting and investigative work done in the media. But all too often the words deception and dishonesty bring to mind certain media sources and motives behind publishing certain bits of information.
The internet is such a great source of instant information. Put in a search word and in a nano-second you have more information than you ever needed. Often more information than you know what to do with. Sifting through it can be daunting. Can you trust that the information is true? To separate the reliable from the suspicious, I apply this criterion: what or who is the source and are they trying to sell me something or promote a product or service. If the answer is “yes” I toss it out as untrustworthy. The motive for putting the information out there is to get me to buy something, not to disseminate information that could be helpful or to help get to the truth, or to advance someone’s knowledge.
To report and promote the truth simply for the sake of truth itself is a noble cause. Most people, organizations, and corporations have ulterior motives for promoting their “truth.” If this is the case when I am searching the internet I cannot trust the information I am reading.
We are all familiar with some of the books promoting certain diets--often promoted as cure-alls for whatever ails you. For example, the vegan diet will keep your heart healthy well into old-age. It can actually reverse heart disease and diabetes claim its authors. The Paleo diet of meat and vegetables, no grains, no starch will keep you from ever getting any disease at all. I truly believe the authors of these books are sincere and I know they are scientific in their research and presentations of the facts they have determined to be true. But I also know they cannot all be touting the truth. The research they have done and they will continue to do is going to be exclusively designed to support their truth, not destroy it.
I cannot say enough on the subject of the media and its lack of trustworthiness. Many mainstream TV programs claim to be reporting the news. But some are actually making political comments at the expense of the truth. The truth all too often never gets out until it is too late. Even if the true story is reported, we still must be very suspicious as to whether it is accurate.
Consider the now known fact that the Iraq war was based on a lie. The people and the news media were told that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s. We had proof. Our government reported this information unequivocally knowing that it was not true and the media passed it on. Yes, the media did report the lie accurately. And then later reported accurately that it all was a lie, but some Watergate-type investigative reporting might have been very useful at that time.
So how do we know what to believe or not believe. People often select one belief over another because they WANT to believe it. This turns out to be simply a case of self-deception. Try changing the mind of a person who has deceived himself into believing what he wants to believe. I personally know very few people who behave this way. I suppose that’s because I prefer to hang with people who value the truth and the ability to think, and choose to use that ability when searching for the truth.
So when it comes to pushing the buttons on my lap-top or getting my buttons pushed I try to evaluate as I am reading or listening, I avoid Fox so-called news, and pick and choose the reporters I read or listen to.
© 23 Jun 2014
About the Author
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.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
To ease understanding of the term “Rickyisms,” some people may equate these brief, humorous quips as “puns.” That term comes close; however, “Rickyisms” are not so generalized as common puns, and they reflect more precisely the personality of the originator, Ricky. To begin with, anyone inflicted with “Rickyisms” should be aware that the originator claims to have a personality of a twelve-year-old boy; and his little bon mots usually are on that level. He has provided us with ample opportunity to reach that conclusion.
Occasionally, however, his little quips, written or oral, garner special attention; and, in my imagination, I assign them special awards. One that comes to mind (and I'm sure Ricky will not mind my quoting it) was, “As for poor Yorick, the slain court jester, I believe Shakespeare killed him — in the library — with the quill. Yorick probably told Will a 'Rickyism' and was stabbed in the heart for his trouble.” I found that quadruple Rickyism particularly enjoyable.
I have encountered some people who do not appreciate puns. They may prefer something supposedly more sophisticated and witty. In addition, I also have noticed other people who don't even understand puns, or truly good humor in general. These are the ones who rely primarily upon the reptilian part of their brains, which also appears to correspond with how they think and vote. It also is reflected in their love and admiration for racial or political jokes that lack all valid meaning and wit. Often, our discomfort with their attempts at humor is fully justified, for their attempts at humor are extraordinarily and unnecessarily obscene, or they may be cruelly denigrating or politically and maliciously motivated. An essential part of successful humor, unrealized by such people, is that there must be some element of truth in it. Otherwise, the attempt is meaningless and unfunny. I frequently have noticed that deficiency in many so-called jokes from mindless Right-Wingers in their attempts to attack and denigrate people whom they hate. And, they proudly think they are being so witty.
True wit requires valid knowledge and practiced skill. Far too often, too many people come to the forum half-prepared. If you were paying attention, you may have caught all the puns in this piece.
© 26 November 2015
About the Author
I have had a life-long fascination with people and their life stories. I also realize that, although my own life has not brought me particular fame or fortune, I too have had some noteworthy experiences and, at times, unusual ones. Since I joined this Story Time group, I have derived pleasure and satisfaction participating in the group. I do put some thought and effort into my stories, and I hope that you find them interesting.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Exactly what is “patriotism”? Who possesses “patriotism”? What does “patriotism” look like to me? What does “patriotism” look like to others?
Today is November 11th, Veterans’ Day, the holiday Americans set aside to honor and remember our country’s military personnel, past and present, and the resulting deaths and heroic deeds. At least that is what it was following the Korean “Police Action”. The unpopular “non-declared-war conflict” in Vietnam with the anti-war protests, primarily lead by the under 21 draftees and draft-dodgers, tarnished this holiday for many decades. During the years that followed, politicians and corporate board of directors expanded the roll of “capitalist greed” destroying American citizens’ confidence and trust in the concept of benevolent authority.
I am very cynical about businesses and corporate “chain” stores offering veterans special discounts on this one day per year. Corporate business do these public relations gimmicks to attract money from those people they can fool into believing the corporation actually cares about our veterans both alive and dead. If they really cared, the corporations and business groups would send their lobbyists to Congress to demand that the Veterans Administration be fully funded and have the best facilities to serve our veterans. But instead, they send lobbyists to ensure laws are passed that favor their greed. As I said, I am very cynical.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child; I understood as a child; I thought as a child; I trusted as a child: but when I became a man, I eventually learned to use my intelligence and actually think and reason. This I can do fairly well. I only act childish.
During the American Revolution, everyone was a patriot and a traitor. Colonists who were patriots for England were traitors to the revolutionaries. Patriots to the revolution were traitors to King George. Both groups believed they were “right”.
Lord Baden Powell of England founded the Boy Scout movement. It was an organization to teach British boys the desired character traits, sense of honor, and moral values. No boy would willingly join a character building group, so the name became “Scouting for Boys” and was patterned after Baden Powell’s experience in the British army, specifically his time as a military scout. The Scout Oath begins, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country. …” It is the duty to my country which is the patriotic problem.
Raising generations of children to believe without critical thought that “duty to my country” means, “My country right or wrong” is a recipe for disaster. This is never more historically apparent than during military activity. For example, when the Redcoats retreated from Concord and Lexington back to Boston, they marched in ordered columns, shoulder-to-shoulder while those pesky and cowardly rebels shot them from behind trees and rock fencing, and ran away without giving a fair fight. Another example is the fighting at Gettysburg during the Civil War; specifically Pickett’s Charge. Thousands of brave men again stood shoulder-to-shoulder and walked across a mile of open field into the point blank firing of those damn Yankee soldiers and cannons all of whom were protected by a rock wall. Thousands of very courageous Confederate soldiers died doing their duty to their country as they believed it to be. Nonetheless, it was sheer stupidity.
Back to the British: during WWI, the British army lost approximately 60,000 men on July 1, 1916 (at the battle of Somme) by sending them to cross an open field (the so called “no mans’ land”) into multiple German machine gun emplacements. Again, sheer stupidity. “Aye, but we showed the buggers.” At least by WWII, everyone learned to make like Little Egypt and crawl on their bellies like a reptile when crossing open fields under fire; except the Japanese whose “banzai” charges into automatic weapons fire met with the exact same results obtained at Gettysburg and the battle Somme in WWI.
“My country, right or wrong” brings death and destruction to soldiers and civilians alike. This is not a good definition for “Duty to my country”. I do believe that every citizen has responsibilities: voting, paying taxes, engaging in dialog over public issues, serving on juries when selected, and to use their God-given intelligence to think and reason and not to trust blindly. I do not believe that any citizen need die overseas to keep Dick Chaney’s or Scrooge McDuck’s money-bin full.
I believe a true patriot: resists warmongers and bullies, speaks out for truth, exposes government and corporate corruption, and when necessary or unavoidable, makes the other guy die stupidly for his country.
© 11 November 2013
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 was sent to live 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 9-11-2001 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, TheTahoeBoy.Blogspot.com
Monday, February 15, 2016
In retrospect, which can be daunting in itself, there has been a multitude of “onces” all succeeding in importance over the last one subject to the time and place on the road of your life. With all of these one-time “onces” cluttering our mind, we can’t see the forest for the trees; i.e., the miracle of birth. Contrary to some popular beliefs it only happens once and we, being present, don’t even have the slightest memory of this once in a lifetime happening. From there on out it has been a script written by the fates and whims of those whose paths have crossed ours.
One could recall the adage “life’s a crap shoot.” Perhaps your “ONCES” occurred by your will, but keep in mind, nothing has ever been for sure until it happens.
So, what is the best of all of you “onces?” Assuming you can recall more than one. Entry into this world on your part consisted of responding to a slap on the bottom and the ensuing cry as you took your first deep breath. Since then one challenge after another has kept us crying and/or laughing—the latter being the best medicine for all of life’s following “personal events.”
In the meantime, at some point you realize that the world as we know it is having its own life, and that we must “stop the world and get on” for the ride. This is when chance can take over making for so many “ONCES’S” over which we have no control.
And so it goes. Take stock of especially the good and happy “onces,” let all of those other RIP and consider them learning experiences—there’s not one thing you can do about them except try to profit by those mistakes.
Bringing this piece full circle (no, I’m not leaving this veil yet) in spite of the burdens of our ongoing lifetimes, "now" is the only “once” that counts, and it consists of being here among dear and crazy, thoughtful, loving and verbose friends at Story Time. Thank you and peace.
© 22 Nov 2015
About the Author
Friday, February 12, 2016
Obviously “Writing Your Story” stands as a subtopic under “Telling Your Story,” for writing them is a modernized version of an ancient practice that persists today around kitchen tables and campfires, and in conversations over cups of coffee. Even though I write, I stand in awe of anyone’s ability to extemporaneously tell their story with clarity and humor. They’re like the best preacher I ever heard who made his sermons sing with stories of his early years in Mississippi. He’d take his listeners back into a past of childhood feelings, wise sayings from his elders, and rich relationships that made sense of some esoteric idea he was pursuing. Of course his deep southern accent helped. As I write my stories, I keep in mind that the best written stories derive their strength from what is called a strong voice.
I learned to write because I wasn’t very good at conveying my emotions except those that warranted screaming, kicking, slamming doors, or crying. With age those went out of style. By my college years I was much more interested in written communications than oral. I tried but failed to become a preacher, but recall that even in homiletics classes we were warned that if we were to undertake difficult or controversial topics, we should write out what we were going to say and then stick to our manuscript. The preacher might need the written document to substantiate what was said rather than what might have been misunderstood. One’s job might be threatened.
My unsure feelings not only made me uninterested in preaching but also ill at ease when my girlfriend and then later she, then my wife, wanted “to talk.” When I had to say something that I didn’t trust, I’d rely on writing. Twenty some years into our marriage, when my wife realized how tenuous our relationship might become and sought to enrich it, she proffered a notebook in which we could write to one another hoping it would give me the medium I preferred—writing. I now realize that by then my feelings had become way too complicated and, I assumed, even more unacceptable than in my younger life. I could never remember to write something to her in the book so ended up disappointing her even more. By then what I needed to say wouldn’t promote her purpose. It was a sad time although a productive one for my professional writing projects! I wrote to stay afloat but not in “our” secret book. Rather on my Word Processor I was writing resources for a publisher to print and with body parts other than my fingers, sexual messages to other men.
Now, some seventeen years later, I am writing my story. It’s contained in a growing volume I call Family Portrait: Self Portraits. I suspect the manuscript will remain firmly relegated to becoming a posthumous revelation like another book I have yet to write, that one called Ministers Who Loved Me. I am writing my story because writing is my best way to tell it.
In this storytelling group, I have come to realize that collectively we are writing a gay or queer story no matter what details or themes we approach. An ancient image from one of the Christian gospels asserted that what had once been whispered in private would someday be announced from the rooftops. That’s our storytelling task, one that promises to liberate us as storytellers, as a group of citizens searching for rights, and as a group of leaders in the wider community. We announce our love no longer hidden. There’s great freedom to be found in those tasks.
© 1 Apr 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 artandmorebyphilhoyle.blogspot.com