Monday, October 31, 2016

Public Places, by Ray S

How very clever the person who suggested today’s topic must think he or she must be. Even smug when he or she imagined how much control he or she would have over all the Storytime minions. It is positively evil, but still waters run deep and we will get you in the end.

Now, we have the opportunity to rise to the challenge. Are you enjoying this imposed agony? Perhaps you have already determined the muse I rely on is not trying nor inspired. May be the time of day, lack of sleep or absent inspiration.

Perhaps ‘Public Places’ brings to mind somewhere that you discovered true love, or the golden splendor of a South Dakota wheat field. California Highway #1 and the first view of the Pacific Ocean, or the enfolding serenity of Big Sur, or the majesty of Muir Woods.

Another discovery is the beauty and charm of the city of Savannah with its 200-year-old array of parks that seemed interspersed every other block.

Then you mustn’t overlook the public places resorted to for various nefarious reasons, but we don’t put them in the same box with Mt. Rushmore or the steps of our Capitol the day same sex marriage was celebrated.

My muse has finally surfaced and brings our minds back to the NOW: to kick start an important PUBLIC PLACE where all are welcome, and the beautiful celebration last Friday of two of our most beautiful compatriots. On a wonderful sunny morning on the rooftop of our Center was a validation of the right place for all of us to be.

[NOTE: Two SAGE members were honored for their GLBT work.]

© 6 June 2016 

About the Author 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Train Trips, by Phillip Hoyle

As a child I liked to go to Coronado Park on South Washington Street to ride the miniature train. It puffed around the perimeter of the park back then and to me seemed as real as could be, an adventure of movement, a fascination with technology, a feeling of the wind on one’s face while traveling at imagined breakneck speed. I’m sure I thought of bandits or Indians like in some western movies I had seen. Of course the kiddy train was tiny compared with the big black steam engines that pulled box cars, fuel cars, grain cars, and the like. It was tiny compared with the big Union Pacific passenger trains that came into our station at Junction City, Kansas.

I also recall sitting on a large train at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo up above Colorado Springs, a train that for years took passengers from the zoo to the Shrine to the Sun higher upon the mountain. To four-year-old me it seemed gigantic but still would have looked puny next to the Union Pacific trains back home. I was decked out in my western wear at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Back home I would simply be a little boy, but even at home the railroad loomed large. My grade-school best friend’s father was an oil man on the Union Pacific and greeted and lubricated all the trains on his daily shifts. I fantasized taking a trip by train, a real one that led to something new.

One Sunday morning many, many years later, a Sunday morning that turned traumatic for our mid-Missouri congregation, I heard a train whistle blow as if to call me away.  That morning the senior minister Jack McInnis died. He and I had worked with the church for seven years. My only thought was to get on that train and get out of there. I did so two years later when I booked a seat on the Southwest Chief to Albuquerque. But first I caught a ride on the Amtrak that stopped at Jefferson City on its way to Kansas City. There I ran around for a day with a dear friend to say goodbye.  

Finally, I got on the big train to make my way west. At KC Union Station there was a long delay. We waited and waited for the very late train. When we boarded, I got comfortable and waited for the train to start moving. No go! I got out a book to read. (On trips I’m always prepared to read.) I made my way through several chapters. Still the train sat in the dark rail yard. Finally after three hours more the train took off. There had been engine trouble. No quick fixes were available and no extra engines could be substituted unless the train had been sitting on the track at Chicago or Emeryville (near San Francisco)! We made our way across the Great Plains at night.

Before I fell asleep I thought of my Great Grandfather, Frederick Schmedemann, a German immigrant who in the late 1860s worked for the Union Pacific as its crews laid the first track across Kansas. He cooked for the crew and during that time met William Cody who was supplying meat for the workers at the expense of the vast and rapidly dwindling buffalo population after which he was named. The family story says Buffalo Bill was so pleased with the meal my great granddad prepared, he gave him a gold piece. By the time I came along, though, there had been way too many depressions in the US economy. The gold piece probably went towards improving the farm or paid some doctor for caring for a family member with the flu. Who knows? I never saw it, never heard any subsequent stories about it. Maybe it was lost on a bet or paid for the first year’s coverage when crop insurance first was introduced. There were such stories about those later days on the farm, but no gold piece.

As the sun came up in mid-Kansas that summer morning through the window I watched rabbits, deer, and groups of domesticated cattle (no buffalo herds of course) and thought more about my great grandfather, his new life in America, and the new life I was hoping to begin in Albuquerque. Finally, I got a little breakfast, after which I returned to my novel.

I felt sorry for elders on that trip and for parents with little children. But when compared with wagon train travel down the Santa Fe Trail, this mode of transportation was a breeze.  That afternoon, when we were starting up Raton Pass, the train slowed to a stop and began backing up. The engineer announced that a switch had failed. They would change it by hand to get us on the sidetrack where we would be safe from the train hurtling down the pass towards us now. When that train sped safely by, we still didn’t move. The engineer said a computer engineer was on his way from La Junta, Co, to fix the problem with the switch. I chose this time to clean up and shave so I’d look good for my family. Finally, finally, finally we pulled into the Albuquerque station where my family met me and drove me to our new apartment. The reunion was grand, and a couple of days later I began a new job in that fair city.

© 22 July 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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The First Person I Came Out To, by Pat Gourley

Strangely I find myself vacillating a bit on this topic. I assume I would ordinarily not consider the first person I had sex with since that would be a situation that would seem obvious to both of us. However in my case it was with a man I sought out initially seeking an answer to the question was “I gay or not”. More accurately what I was asking at the time was am I a homosexual or not?

The person I sought out to help clarify whether I was really a big homo or not was most certainly not an openly gay man.  This was after all 1965 in suburban Chicago and he was on the faculty of a Catholic High school. It was a diocesan school staffed by Holy Cross nuns and though several of those nuns were progressive in the extreme there was no Gay-Straight alliance as an option for extracurricular activity.

Initial contact with this man would have been in late 1965 or more likely sometime in early 1966. Though I am not totally clear about this I do think I was genuinely seeking him out, as one of my high school counselors and a person 20 plus years my senior, to help me answer this perplexing question with no pre-existing assumptions about his sexual preference. Even at age 16 I was not seeking a cure but would have probably been very reassured to be told it was just a phase and that I was actually quite a masculine straight arrow.

There had certainly been lots of enjoyable nude swimming with male siblings and cousins to say nothing of the nearly obsessive urge to see my dad and the occasional uncle nude. These preoccupations proceeded by several years my seeking out my guidance counselor for help and advice.  So I may have been drawn to him subconsciously hoping he really was like me. And of course his Old Spice shaving lotion and hairy physique I assumed, an assumption later validated, and his being bald may have all helped to create a situation I would often in future years find irresistible.

Minus the Old Spice aftershave, which thankfully faded from the scene sometime in the 1970’s, I think the hairy and bald aspects are quite accurate physical descriptions of both of my long-term lovers, both named David, and they combined to occupy 30 years of my adult life. Why I remain today still hard-wired to pursue the mature and preferably quite hairy older male is interesting and a bit of mystery to me. So many of my queer male peers prefer at least in their dream worlds something younger, thinner and less hirsute.

Some months into that year of counseling sessions before fruition so to speak I decided this guy was really on my side and very sexually attractive. Long story short we did it eventually and it was as I recall the Friday before Palm Sunday after school in the biology lab. I absolutely did not fall into spasms of guilt post orgasm but rather was on cloud-nine for days and spent most waking hours relishing the thought of our next get together. I guess when one has ejaculated all over another man you have then come out to them certainly as someone with homosexual tendencies if not as full blown GAY.

The coming out process for many of us though is a recurrent theme that we are required to play out repeatedly since the attitude of society in general is that heterosexuality is always the unexamined assumption. I have for years though preferred to always give everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt and assume they are queer until proven otherwise.

© May 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, October 26, 2016

Setting Up House, by Nicholas

I’ve set up house a number of times. Sometimes alone and sometimes with others. Either way, it’s a lot of work bringing order out of the sheer chaos of boxes strewn about the new empty place. I remember when Jamie and I packed up our things in San Francisco, hired a mover, saw all our stuff go off down the street and hoped we’d see it again in Denver. We did. That was in 1990. We moved into a house on East Third Avenue in which the first thing we did—before we unpacked anything—was go buy candy to give away since it was Halloween and we wanted to be part of our new neighborhood.

We got a bedroom set up and the bed made so we could at least go to sleep in our new house. Next day we set about sorting and arranging our things in the place we were to live in. For me, the kitchen is the most important. My kitchen must have a logic to it. Pots and pans close to where they will be used. Spices and herbs within reach of cooking. Wine and wine glasses always handy. Less used supplies in more distant cabinets.

We stayed there three years and then moved to where we live now. We have lived longer at our present address than either of us ever had lived anywhere else in our lives. We do not intend to move again for some time unless we are forced to. Forget moving and setting up a new house.

Actually, we are heading in the opposite direction. Not setting up a house, but sort of tearing one down. Our house is big with lots of places to stash things. We have watched the detritus pile up. Fortunately, we have a two car garage that is just about big enough for two cars and not much else. And we insist on using the garage as a garage, not for extra storage. So, there are limitations. But stuff still accumulates.

We are trying to slow that accumulation. For birthdays and anniversaries, we ask for no gifts, please. We even try to get rid of stuff. We like to call it de-accessioning. I cleared out a shelf of flower vases, for example, by unloading them on a nearby florist who was glad to take them and will likely re-use them. Packing material, like those annoying popcorn things and bubble wrap, if reasonably clean, is welcomed by packing and shipping places. I have recycled bags full of the stuff. Jamie recently took a trunk load of old computer bits and accessories to a recycling center. Better they get broken down into usable parts than sit in our attic.

It takes a little work but it’s easy getting rid of stuff you don’t like. Now we want to start getting rid of stuff we do like. I plan to cull through books which I hate to part with but, after a time, they do only collect dust on a shelf. Clothes too. I have too much now so, I’ve decided that if I want to buy new clothes, I have to get rid of some of the old.

Largely as an accident, I ended up being the keeper of old family photo albums. One day, I parceled out some of the ten albums my mother had put together and sent some to my sisters. After all, their pictures were in there too.

Some folks become hoarders as they age. They can’t give up anything. Maybe, they think that’ll be the mark they leave on the world. Maybe that’s how they establish that they have lived—show a bunch of stuff for it. Maybe that’s how they remember all they’ve seen and done. If I leave a mark on this world, I hope it won’t be just a pile of junk for someone else to pitch.

I’m not a hoarder. I take great delight in getting rid of things. I love downsizing. It’s like losing weight (which is something else I ought to look into). But while stuff is easy to pass up, ice cream is not.

If I ever set up another house, it will be with less stuff. Of course, it will probably be smaller so I will be forced to de-accessionize even more. Some of that may be difficult with tough choices. But really it will be a joy. Taking apart a house is as much fun as setting one up.

© 12 Sep 2016 

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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lawlessness in New York City Welfare Office, by Louis Brown

The Webster’s Dictionary says “Cowtown” by extension means a dull unsophisticated city or town where cattle ranching is the major industry. Denver used to be called a “Cowtown”.  That theme by itself could be developed into an essay.

For me “Cowtown” reminds me of the Wild West and lawlessness. Besides Denver, Colorado, what other American cities come to mind where lawlessness prevails? One credible answer would be Washington, D. C. That could be another essay.

I posit that New York City, when Michael Bloomberg was the mayor, became a lawless Cowtown. In my last year as a civil servant in NYC, I was brutally harassed by a less than sane director, a certain Mr. Attikesse from Nigeria.

In the Human Resources Administration in New York City, the personnel, including myself, are all members of Local 371 of the Social Services Workers Union.

I was a social work supervisor in the DAS, the Division of AIDS Services. The function and responsibility of our office were to set up apartments for homeless PWA’s (homeless Persons with AIDS). In itself, it was a very good and rewarding job.

The office hierarchy consisted of a good number of caseworkers who made field visits, interviewed clients then wrote reports of what they heard and saw. The Supervisor I’s (such as myself) would read the reports and approve them with a countersignature. The Sup. I’s were under the Sup. II;’s. The office was run by a Director.

The arrangement, the established protocol was that, to get a promotion, you took a test for the next higher job in your line. I was a Sup. I, the next job higher up was Sup. II. I took the qualifying test and obtained a very high score. I was number 57 on the list. The NYC civil service requires absolutely, that, if number 57 applies for a job opening, the City has to give him (or her) the job and not give the job to number 58 or higher. Civil Servants plan their careers based on that guaranty.

I went to the Sup. II hiring pool three times and was “skipped over” 3 times, and then my name was removed from that Sup. II hiring list. What an outrage, and a perfect example of lawlessness.

I blame this illegal skip-over policy on Michael Bloomberg who evidently does not respect working people. When I complained to Local 371, that the so-called “skip-over policy” was illegal, the union rep said the skip-over policy was legal. Michael Bloomberg also corrupted the union.

The last year I was in that job, I was being harassed by my Sup. II, that is, my supervisor, Ms. Miller and by Mrs. Alvarez, another boss from central office. Mrs. Alvarez would hover over my desk and berate me for ten minute sessions. I finally told her that, if she did not stay away from my desk, I would call the police. She finally stayed away.

The Director of the office was Mr. Attikesse who would dream up long lists of imaginary examples of incompetency “exhibited” by the workers in his office, of which there were about 60. He would castigate, berate, scold, whine, write hostile, sometimes rather incoherent memoranda to the Personnel Department. Mr. Attikesse harassed not only me, but all the other Sup. I’s in the office and the Caseworkers and the clerical staff. He did not single out white personnel. He was particularly nasty with one black Caseworker from the Bronx, again citing imaginary examples of incompetency.

About once a week, Mr. Attikesse would change his shirt in front of the whole staff and show off his beautiful muscular torso. Mr. A. was from Nigeria. When I saw this spectacle, I said to myself that, if he were not such an abusive psycho, he would make a nice boyfriend.

Eventually, Mr. Attikesse, since he was only a provisional director, was demoted back down the ladder to the Caseworker job, to the bottom of the heap.

In addition to abolishing civil service protections, Michael Bloomberg also abused the poorest New Yorkers, evicting them en masse, canceling their Food Stamps, etc., etc. And now he is an enthusiastic supporter of Hillary Clinton. It is a mutual admiration society duo. Hillary Clinton admires Michael Bloomberg and MB admires Hillary Clinton who also admires Henry Kissinger. Two more good reasons to scratch her name off your list.

© 25 Aug 2016 

[editor:  The political views expressed in this post are those of the author and not the LGBT Center of Colorado.]

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.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Meaningful Vacation, by Gillian

I started out trawling through wonderful memories of countless vacations, seeking out a really meaningful one, but quickly realized that every one of them, from months-long volunteer 'vacations' to single day trips, have all been very meaningful to me. If they were not, why would I take them? Why not simply stay home?

I have a passionate love of learning, and that is the primary reason vacations are inevitably meaningful to me; they are great opportunities to learn new things. I learn about people and places, wildlife and geology, languages and the arts, and frequently I learn a little more about my beautiful Betsy, and last but certainly not least, about myself.

I have never been a fearful person, but travel has taught me that a little caution is a good thing.  

In places which pick-pockets and purse-snatchers may frequent, I wear a well-hidden money belt. I try never to be in suspect neighborhoods alone and especially after dark. When, on occasion, I have ended up in such a situation I walk quickly and purposefully, attempting to look perfectly relaxed and as if I know exactly where I am going. Betsy and I did that in Cape Town one night, arriving unmolested at our hotel, as I did in San Paulo and St. Petersburg and, I must admit, once when I was lost in a very dubious part of Miami.

Betsy and I travelled all over this country in our camper van and I don't recall one single time we felt threatened in any way; two old women camping on their own. But we always practiced a little elementary safety. We kept the van doors locked while we slept. We always camped, as we faithfully promised loved ones we would, in designated campgrounds, though there were several occasions when we happened to be the only people actually camping there. National Forest campgrounds, in particular, are often remote and with no other occupants, and often in a location without cellphone service. But no-one ever bothered us.

Driving long trips across the country we learned to keep a very careful watch on the weather, and not to ignore those black skies ahead. We were under tornado warnings a few times, and learned that there is no shame in running for the closest hotel, and making sure they have a storm shelter before handing over the credit card.

So just this one aspect of travel has taught me not to be so stubborn; to be more flexible. If circumstances dictate a hotel room rather than the planned camp site, just enjoy that clean hot shower. Occasionally the camping spot we had been heading towards for five hundred miles didn't feel good to one or both of us when we got there. Sometimes this was for no apparent, recognizable, reason. It just didn't feel good. So we would go on. We both always listened to those inner whispers, no matter how unexpected or nonsensical they seemed, or how inconvenient the result.

I believe that vacations of all kinds have improved my character in many ways and much more effectively than all the self-help books ever written could have done.

I will bore you all with further details of these character enhancements another time.

© 25 Apr 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.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Black Eyed Peas, by Cecil Bethea

The origin of black eyed peas as a meal for New Year’s Day is well concealed in the myths and mists of Southern history.  Don’t worry about the past; just think of the present.  Most of the old recipes allowed room not so much for creativity as for availability.  If the cook did not have an ingredient, he substituted.

Actually black eyed peas are very much like beef stew.  The cook may put most anything into the pot and surprise his guests. Just as beef stew must contain beef; this dish must contain black eyed peas and some form of cured pork.  The purists would demand a whole hog’s head.  Not only does the head look like a fugitive from Elm Street, it also requires a very large pot.  Such might be all right for a family reunion but hardly suitable for a few Prime Timers.  If you go with the whole hog’s head, DO NOT let your guests see it before the meal. As Bismarck said, “People should not see how laws and sausages are made.”

Firmly believing that recipes are not rocket science, I think that precise amounts should not be given in order to allow the cook to express his individuality, creativity. or genius.  No matter, buy a one-pound bag of dried black eyed peas well before New Year’s Eve, Years ago I learned that enough people in Denver have Southern roots to clear early in the week the local Safeway’s shelves of black eyed peas: dried, canned, and frozen.  The traditional preparation is to rinse off the peas in a colander and to soak them overnight.  I usually just cook them in one operation which does take a while longer.

Now for the meat. The traditional form of pork to use is salt pork.  The inelegant call it sowbelly.  Usually you may buy a piece weighing about a pound.  Cubed the salt pork and brown.  Lacking salt pork, dice, fry, and brown as much bacon as you want.  Probably the best meat is a ham bone left over from a gluttonous feast.  Leave a lot of meat on the bone.  The final source of meat is ham hocks.  From what I’ve seen in the super markets, you might want to buy two.

Put the peas and meat with a chopped onion into a pot of boiling water enough to cover.  Return to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for a couple of hours.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Use some Tabasco. Remember the taste of Tabasco should be like the sound of a distant violin-- just barely noticeable.  In conclusion, remove the meat from the bone, fat, and skin.  Dice the meat and discard the other stuff.

Actually black eyed peas may be fixed early and reheated just before serving.  In our family we never used black eyed peas as a side dish rather as a main dish.  Mother would always have lots of cornbread which we slathered with butter.  She never used a mix; such didn’t exist in those far off times.  If you to go from scratch, I recommend you use yellow corn meal.  Le Roy Greene likes the white, but he’s from Savannah.  Also, the recipe on the box will say use one cup of meal and one of flour.  I prefer two cups of meal and no flour.  Cole slaw is an excellent accompaniment and easy to fix.  Slice and then chop some cabbage.  Chop and add onion and dill pickle.  Season with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, a squirt of lemon juice, and a dash of Tabasco.  For the socially daring, you may serve slices of onion on the side.

Bon appétit” is not appropriate for black eyed peas, so I’ll just say “Good eating.”

© 14 Dec 2005 

About the Author 

 Although I have done other things, my fame now rests upon the durability of my partnership with Carl Shepherd; we have been together for forty-two years and nine months as of today, August 18th, 2012.

Although I was born in Macon, Georgia in 1928, I was raised in Birmingham during the Great Depression.  No doubt I still carry invisible scars caused by that era.  No matter we survived.  I am talking about my sister, brother, and I .  There are two things that set me apart from people.  From about the third grade I was a voracious reader of books on almost any subject.  Had I concentrated, I would have been an authority by now; but I didn’t with no regrets.

After the University of Alabama and the Air Force, I came to Denver.  Here I met Carl, who picked me up in Mary’s Bar.  Through our early life we traveled extensively in the mountain West.  Carl is from Helena, Montana, and is a Blackfoot Indian.  Our being from nearly opposite ends of the country made “going to see the folks” a broadening experience.  We went so many times that we finally had “must see” places on each route like the Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky and the polo games in Sheridan, Wyoming.  Now those happy travels are only memories.

I was amongst the first members of the memory writing class.  While it doesn’t offer criticism, it does offer feedback.  Also just trying to improve your writing helps no end.

Carl is now in a nursing home; I don’t drive any more.  We totter on.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

In the Backlot of a Cowpen, I Sprouted, by Carlos

I thought I had forgotten; I wish I had forgotten. However, as I consciously pulled the threaded needle through the fabric of those distant memories, the details slowly encroach upon me, one after the other, mushrooming like a cloud of shadows hovering, lurking, having waited patiently for the day they could again walk upon the earth. And as I flesh out the details of those distant memories, as they become real, even now decades later, I roll over in my bed and shed one solitary tear although in truth I think I have mercifully forgotten why I weep.

It was a hot, sultry day in early August. Having packed my few essentials and tossing and turning for hours, I lay tormented in my bed, enveloped in the silence of the night, pondering the moment when I would have to say good-bye to all I knew, all I was. I arose ever so quietly lest I disturb my parents’ sleep although I knew that on that night, no one slept. I dressed and tip-toed out into the darkness, the stars and moonlight serving as my beacons. I walked the few blocks to the man whom I had met only months earlier, the first man whose warm embrace I knew. Waiting for me at the threshold of his home as I approached, I enveloped myself in his embrace and we held each other, for our time together had been so brief, our future so uncertain. Among the shadows of encroaching dawn, we walked into the garden he and I had planted, smelling the unfurling tea roses and interlacing our fingers as though we could never let go.  Our time was brief. I promised to return; he promised to wait until that day. I walked back to my parents’ home, tears cascading down my cheeks, my heart feeling as though it would tear through my sternum.

Being that I had to report to the army recruiting office near Oregon and Mills across the street from San Jacinto Plaza in central El Paso at 9 a.m., my parents were already at foot. They were trying so hard to be stoic, even as I tried to deny the reality of events around me. They dressed, wanting to break bread with me one more time before I flew away. My father pulled out the Chevy, its dented fender a vestige of my learning-to-drive days, and we headed out to a Denny’s for breakfast. We ate, we chatted, but in retrospect we were so far away, trying so hard to hold on, trying so hard not to let go. Afterwards, in the parking lot, I reminded myself that although my world was in flux, I would return. I tried to capture the rays of the early morning sun, to hold on to the gentle touch of my mother’s fragile hands, knowing I was about to be thrust into manhood in spite of my wishes to remain cocooned in the chrysalis of my childhood. I wanted to bask in Peter’s arms the rest of that summer and forge our emerging lives; I wanted to till our garden. I wanted to comfort my parents and continue to celebrate our Sunday morning tradition of menudo and sweet bread. But from the moment I received my draft notice weeks earlier, I knew that change was inevitable. I longed for comfort like a new-born babe finding himself not in the arms of a mother who had anticipated his birth, but rather in the emptiness of an institutional layette. A few minutes before 9, we arrived at my destination, and I requested they just drive off, afraid of betraying my macho bravado with a deluge of emotions. Accepting the inevitability of time and circumstances, I recognized the futility of my longings.

Arriving at the reception area, I found twenty some boys quietly awaiting the arrival of all the conscripts and volunteers. I took a seat, trying like most to become invisible, knowing that that luxury could not be so. Promptly at 9, several U.S. Army officials festooned with a multitude of colorful ribbons upon their chests, ushered us into a room nearly and after a cursory introduction, lined us up, had us raise our right hands, and had us recite an oath, offering our allegiance to military duty. Some of the boys were patriots stepping forward to champion our nation’s cause voluntarily, believing their blood would nurture glorious ideals and righteous causes. The rest of us were boys whose lives were interrupted by the draft but who nonetheless were determined to answer the call. We were simply boys who had run out of deferments and saw no escape. Regardless of motivations, all were now a union of brothers who would be preened and molded for combat duty in distant lands. Earlier, I had debated declaring myself a conscientious objector since I did recognize that the war was but a ruse, a rich man’s war being fought by a disproportionate number of poor boys, fighting and dying for an unpopular war to maintain a corrupt government. However, I thought such an action would dishonor my uncle and father’s valorous service a generation earlier, in spite of the fact that they had returned to a country that still saw them as second-class citizens. I also considered declaring that I was gay. After all, I had battled with my evolving gay identity for years and just that spring I had been joyously thrust into its lovely, complex culture and been initiated into the fold, when Peter and I met and declared our love. However, I feared the long-term consequences of speaking my truth for dodging the Vietnam draft, especially since so many men pretended unsuccessfully to be gay to avoid military service. Furthermore, being gay still carried a negative psychological stigma that I did not yet have the wherewithal to question or deny. Perhaps, I was simply an Emerson blow heart dutifully paying his taxes even as Thoreau languished in jail for refusing to do so, recognizing the conflict of their time was but a land grab of epic proportions. Perhaps, I was simply a coward who feared the repercussions of not moving to the back of the bus. Thus, I mumbled my oath, swallowed hard, and lowered my eyes in resignation, for once the words are given wings, I recognize oaths become actualized.

I have but snippets of recollections of what transpired the remainder of that day since everything from then on out was a whirlwind of events. We were herded into buses and summarily hauled to El Paso International Airport to be transported to L.A. Never having flown, I looked down at America stretching out before me, wishing I could open the airplane door and soar away to discover it, know it, claim it for my own. Descending upon L.A. that evening, my mouth was agape at the lights that emblazoned beneath me even toward the most distant horizons. They appeared like a massive crab stretching out forever as though valiantly battling against the inky blackness of a void devouring it.  Never did I know America was so massive, so oblivious to the realities of a boy from the fringes of its seams. Upon arriving at LAX, we were goaded toward a small two-engine plane, which followed the California coastline toward our final destination at Fort Ord near Monterey. It was late and the darkness of the night mirrored the trepidation I felt within. Arriving at our destination so late at night along with hundreds of other boys who had arrived from throughout the country, we were finally allowed to bed down in army-issued bunkbeds. The room went dark, and we coiled within the itchy olive drab wool blankets and sought refuge from the uncertainty of what awaited. I pulled out a small locket containing Peter’s hair, and held it to my chest, desperately trying to keep my cloaked sobs to myself. Although I wanted to awaken from the nightmare, exhaustion finally overwhelmed me and I lapsed into a sleep that momentarily staved off the fears and doubts of the unknown. Soon enough, we knew we would awaken and discover the sun water coloring the clouds. We were boys from dusty Texas cow towns like El Paso, Mesilla and Ysleta. We were boys from the windswept great plains of Dodge City and Enid in Oklahoma and Kansas. We were boys from western hamlets of Alamosa, Farmington, and Gallup in Colorado and New Mexico. We were boys from the inner city barrios and ghettos of Watts and East LA. We had so little in common, except that we were a divergent mass of humanity about to be molded by fates that would anchor us to the annals of history.

Years after my stint in the U.S. Army after decades of trying to forget the past, I walked into the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The experience was unexpectedly personal for me. I reflected on the millions who not long before had been unwillingly uprooted from their homes in Germany and Poland and throughout Europe’s backbone, only to awaken in camps with names such as Dachau and Buchenwald, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor. Entering a cattle car where “asphalt culture” Jews and “degenerative pervert” gays had once been transported, I broke down and wept. My brothers and sisters from American cow towns and from hope-defying Polish ghettos had been sacrificed, and I’m not sure history has ever truly come to terms with the magnitude of the sacrifices. I was one of the lucky ones. I survived something I would rather forget. I returned relatively intact to my home, to the cow town that infused me with its blood, allowing me to tell a story history would prefer not be told except perhaps in hushed whispers during moonless nights.

© 29 Aug 2016, Denver 

About the Author 

Cervantes wrote, “I know who I am and who I may choose to be.”  In spite of my constant quest to live up to this proposition, I often falter.  I am a man who has been defined as sensitive, intuitive, and altruistic, but I have also been defined as being too shy, too retrospective, too pragmatic.  Something I know to be true. I am a survivor, a contradictory balance of a realist and a dreamer, and on occasions, quite charming.  Nevertheless, I often ask Spirit to keep His arms around my shoulder and His hand over my mouth.  My heroes range from Henry David Thoreau to Sheldon Cooper, and I always have time to watch Big Bang Theory or Under the Tuscan Sun.  I am a pragmatic romantic and a consummate lover of ideas and words, nature and time.  My beloved husband and our three rambunctious cocker spaniels are the souls that populate my heart. I could spend the rest of my life restoring our Victorian home, planting tomatoes, and lying under coconut palms on tropical sands.  I believe in Spirit, and have zero tolerance for irresponsibility, victim’s mentalities, political and religious orthodoxy, and intentional cruelty.  I am always on the look-out for friends, people who find that life just doesn’t get any better than breaking bread together and finding humor in the world around us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Still Learning, by Betsy

I recently learned that I am not good at doing things at the last minute.  That is why I am writing this piece now--after the date that the topic was to be shared.  We got home Saturday from a trip to California where among other things, Gill and I were married. I could not get a piece on “Still Learning” together in a short two days.

A couple of things I learned on this recent trip come to mind now that I have had time to process the experiences for a week or so. Here are a few items of note.

On the subject of personal relationships: After 26 years together with my partner a marriage ceremony and a license do not make a big difference in our lives, but I have noticed that since making my vows I feel a deeper level of commitment to my partner.  Perhaps commitment is not the right word, rather more of a reminder to love and to cherish.  Speaking aloud and hearing these words in a ceremony gives more true meaning to the words and reminds me of their importance and the value of the commitment.

I am reminded of the topic “Straight Friends Who Love Me?”  These friends of whom I wrote back in 2012 really do love me.  My cycling buddies with whom we had the reunion were truly excited about our marriage.  They were so excited they wanted to be there for the ceremony.  They wanted to be there so badly that we had an extra ceremony--albeit unofficial--in their presence. 

The straight women on my tennis team from the Denver Tennis Club were so excited about our marriage that they are giving a party for Gill and me.  Every one of them is coming. Every one of them is straight.  They have shown extraordinary support and acceptance and are going out of their way to do so.

On the subject of geology: In our travels to Southern California we came across many geologic phenomena. When traveling west on the ground, one always does.   We spend a couple of days in a place neither of us had every visited before; namely, Death Valley.  I have never thought much about Death Valley.  Considered it to be a “dead” place in the desert--a small valley between mountain ranges.  First, I learned that it is not small, it is not dead, and it is surrounded by mountains on all sides.  The towering peaks surrounding it are responsible for its extraordinary and unique geologic characteristics. The fact that it is surrounded by mountains is the reason it is the hottest place on earth and the driest place in the U.S. Death Valley is huge--140 miles long and 15 miles at its widest point.  Death Valley is also the lowest place in the US.  Furthermore, it is sinking faster than it is filling up.  The valley once was a lake, only 2000 years ago.

On the subject of spirituality: In the last few days I have also learned that we create our own misery.  How and why?  Because we have egos which want to be fed constantly.  Our egos are not our true selves.  If we identify with our egos, we are looking at a false image of ourselves. The image is a reflection of how others see us.  This is a false image of who we really are--our true selves.  Once we understand this we are on the road to identifying with our true selves.  Our true selves--our souls, if you will, cannot be controlled and manipulated by others or by society as our egos can be.  The next time I have a negative feeling because of the way someone has treated me or something someone has said or not said to me--the next time that happens I am going to watch my ego, not feed it, not deny it, just watch.  Then I can tell myself that I am creating my own misery by having a needy ego.

A young brain may absorb information faster, but I believe some things are learned only after, and as a result of, decades of experience in living.  I’m glad I’m still learning every day. It’s never too late for an “aha” moment and we can never have too many.

© November 2013 

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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hunting, by Will Stanton

I know a little about hunting, but I have no first-hand experience.  So I cannot speak from the perspective of an avid hunter.  I do have, however, my own thoughts about the matter.

I know that, for millennia, human beings were required to supplement their diet of fish, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, with meat through hunting game.  Eventually, nobles and the aristocracy turned hunting into a sport, sometimes even declaring certain forests off-limits to the common folks under threat of punishment for any trespass.  Too often, this macho inclination to prove one's manhood by killing resulted in the shooting of literally hundreds of birds or numerous animals within a day.  Many so-called “hunting lodges” of the nobility still sport the skulls and horns of thousands of slain animals.  In theory, if I were to inherit such a lodge, I would remove and dispose of all those morbid skulls.  Only relatively recently, the British outlawed fox-hunts, a long-time tradition among the British aristocracy.

Only in more recent times in history, with the development of domestically raised animals, has modern man been able to sustain life without hunting.  Understandably, people living in homesteads outside of urban areas continued the tradition of hunting, even if game actually was not a necessary component of their food-source.  I also do recognize the occasional necessity of culling herds of wild animals that have become so overabundant that they threaten their environment or even their own species.

But, I also recognize in America that this so-called hobby became combined with some people's love of guns, a phenomenon that has resulted in this country's gun-collectors possessing nearly four hundred million firearms.  So, among people of today who are avid hunters and gun-collectors, the phenomenon of hunting is deeply entrenched in our society.

As for me, whose hunting is limited to the isles of the local food-market, I sometimes look askance at those people whose love of guns and hunting seems to me to be overly passionate.  I, myself, have a passion for the beauty of nature, for the exercise of wandering through the woods and bathing in the beauty of the environment.  I do not, however, feel a compulsive need to shoot and kill things while I am enjoying nature.  For modern society, I do not see learning how to hunt as an absolute necessity for obtaining manhood.  And, I never have had the slightest interest in joining the NRA.

That's why I was amused when a 1961 New Yorker magazine-cover sported an autumnal, Charles Adams cover showing an illegal hunter trespassing in a bird sanctuary and being flown off in the clutches of a giant pterodactyl.

Also, as a consequence of my personal discomfort with the concept of hunting as a sport, I understand and appreciate the satirical “Hunting Song” written more than half-a-century ago by Tom Lehrer, the humorist who was an apparently ambivalent academic who seemed to prefer to write funny songs.  So, here is his “Hunting Song.”            

I'll always will remember,
'twas a year ago November,
I went out to hunt some deer
On a mornin' bright and clear.
I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow:
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.

I was in no mood to trifle,
I took down my trusty rifle
And went out to stalk my prey.
What a haul I made that day.
I tied them to my fender,
and I drove them home somehow,
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.

The law was very firm, it
Took away my permit,
The worst punishment I ever endured.
It turned out there was a reason,
Cows were out of season,
And one of the hunters wasn't insured.

People ask me how I do it,
And I say, "There's nothin' to it,
You just stand there lookin' cute,
And when something moves, you shoot!"
Ten heads are stuffed and mounted in my trophy room right now,
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a pure-bred Guernsey cow.

© 25 May 2016  

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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Choir and Singing, by Ricky

        In November 2011, in response to the topic “music,” I wrote an account of my acquisition of various tastes in music from youth to adulthood.  My tastes are not limited to just one or two types of music and one sentence therein deals with, not only listening to my favorite march, but also conducting it whenever I hear the song played.  One aspect of music as it relates to me I did not write about – singing.

        From Kindergarten through 6th grade, first at the Hawthorne Christian School then the Cambridge Elementary School and finally at South Tahoe Elementary School, music is included as part of the required curriculum.  As a result, I learned to sing religious children’s songs and fun or near nonsense songs.  Among the former I recall Onward Christian Soldiers and Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.  In the latter category, I remember, “Skip to My Lou”, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” and “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

        Sixth grade was the final time I sang in a school Christmas program.  It was not because I did not want to sing but because the 7th grade and higher did not participate.  Therefore, as I aged into the teen years, the only singing I did was either in the shower (figuratively speaking) or around the campfire on scout campouts.

        As I attained the age of majority at 21, I sang in the choir of my church; not regularly but often enough.  My voice was stuck somewhere between bass and tenor like halfway in between, neither one nor the other dominating. 

        While stationed in Florida as part of the Air Force, I fell in love for the first time; or perhaps had my first major crush on a girl my age would be more accurate.  (I’m not counting the pubescent crush on my 5th grade teacher).  As a result, I became acquainted with her family for several years.  After I married Deborah who was the best friend of my crush, Charla, we ended up at Brigham Young University where I was a student of law enforcement.

        One day, Deborah told me that Charla’s brother (Vern) was also attending the school and that he is a member of a 50’s band.  She also said the band was playing that night at the student union building and we should go, which is her way of saying, “We’re going!”  We ended up attending the event with another couple from our student-housing complex and shared a table at the side of the room.  There were about 200 students present.

        Before the show began, Deborah found Vern and he joined us at our table for a few minutes.  The musical performance was excellent.  The band played all sorts of 50’s rock music but seemed to feature music by the Beach Boys, which I happen to like.  The band needed to play one more song before intermission.  However, as part of their performance, this song was not to be sung by the band alone.  All four members of the band rushed out into the audience and literally grabbed a person and pulled him to the stage to sing with the band.  Vern came out and grabbed me.

        Of course, I protested just like the other victims were doing but in the end “Deborah made me do it,” (at least that’s my excuse).  At that time in my life, I was introverted, shy, and always maintained a “low profile” so I was very anxious about what was about to happen.  I did not expect a good result from singing an unfamiliar song with no advance rehearsal.  I became even more worried when it was clear that the four victims (all males) will be singing four-part harmony without the band members.  The worst part was having the band members sing their parts, one at a time and each victim had to sing it back.  The others did fairly well as I recall but my anxiety increased when it became clear that my part was last; too much time to think about it.  Then panic set in when Vern sang his part.  It was in the falsetto range and I never sang anything that high since before puberty attacked me.

        As I wrote above, Vern sang his part and I sang it back.  The band selects victims to sing with as a regular part of their performance to be a bit of comic relief I suspect, especially the falsetto part.  When I finished singing the phrases back at Vern, he just stood there with his mouth stuck open for a full second.  By the next second, he and the audience were applauding.  Apparently, I sang the part back perfectly.  The only other time I sang solo and received applause occurred in a weekly scout meeting when I taught the troop the summer camp’s song by singing it to them.  Both back then and on this night my face flushed.

        The four of us victims went on to sing the first verse acapella and band members joined in for the rest; more applause when we were done.  I was relieved it was over.  In spite of a few extra hugs and kisses from Deborah, I cannot remember anytime that I have sung solo to any audience after that night.

        The name of the song?  Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys.

© 8 April 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,