Friday, September 29, 2006

Oh, Ya Gotta Have Faith

I never admitted to being a control-freak. In fact, I had pretty much deluded myself into thinking that everything and everybody else was in control of my life, and that I was just a poor, little victim.

But when, after getting sober, my victimhood was stripped away, layer by layer, and I saw what lay underneath, I realized that I had a lot to learn regarding the fine art of "letting go, and letting God."

The Almighty (I) had done a royal job of screwing up my life. My 12-Step sponsor kept telling me that I had to "take the action and let go of the outcome" and that "an expectation is just a premeditated resentment."

Eventually, I began to get the idea. I can't control anything or anybody. The only thing I have even the remotest chance of "controlling" (if you want to call it that) is how I REACT to things.

And, truth be told, up until 1998 I hadn't done a very good job of controlling how I reacted to anything. In fact, I mostly just drank as a reaction to everything. Good, bad or indifferent. If I got a new job, I drank. If I got a big raise, I drank. If I was diagnosed with a heart condition, I drank. If it was Tuesday, I drank.

But now I couldn't numb myself to my own reactions. I had to face those feelings and walk through them. Concurrently, I had to learn how to manage my expectations. I had to learn what was "reasonable" and "realistic", and not build up fanciful, fantastic ideas of how things should be, only to be disappointed to the point of drinking when things didn't turn out that way at all.

I'm talking about all this because tomorrow is my date with Mr. X. In the old, evil, drinking times, I would've spent the whole week building up a set of fanciful expectations about this. I would've pre-ordained the outcome. I would've projected so far ahead that I would be practically envisioning our inevitable breakup in, oh say, 20 years.

And I would've been planning and rehearsing every move I'd make and every word I'd utter during our dinner. I would've done whatever I possibly could to manipulate and control the situation until I had stolen his heart. Because the Almighty (I) "knew what was best" for both of us.

This is not easy stuff for me to admit and to write down in public. But I have to face these things about myself if I want to have any hope of not doing them again.

I've been sober for 8 and a half years now. And I can honestly say that even though I'm still not the man I want to be, I thank God every single day that I'm no longer the man I was.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dreams? What're those?

When I was a couple of months sober somebody I respected and looked up to said to me:

"Now that you're sober you're free to follow your dreams."

I looked at him like he was from another planet. "Dreams?" I thought. "What the f*ck are dreams?"

This is what happens to people who grow up in alcoholic households. They don't have dreams. They don't know "how" to have dreams. All the "dreaming" got knocked out of them when they were very little kids. That's what happened to me.

ACOA's (adult children of alcoholics) don't have dreams. They have anger. And lots of it.

When you grow up in a family with an alcoholic in it everything, absolutely everything, revolves around the alcoholic and their needs. You're constantly walking on eggshells, because you never know what least little thing will cause a nuclear explosion out of the drunk. The whole dynamic of a room will change when the alcoholic walks into it. Everyone will become instantly subdued because of fear. Fear that the drunk will blow up.

I spent a lot of time as a little kid cowering under the covers of my bed, wondering if "those people" downstairs, or in the next room, were going to kill themselves because they were drunk and so angry with each other. Worse, I used to wonder if they'd kill me instead, because they seemed to spend so much time arguing ABOUT me. I used to think that their lives would be so much better if only I hadn't come along to f*ck things up.

Yes, I used to think that.

And as for "plans," forget about it. Whatever yesterday's "plans" were are out the window today. One day I could've been promised a pony or a trip to the New York World's Fair and the next day it was the same old sh*t..... only worse. The same went for household rules. Yesterday's rules are moot. Today we have all new rules, so please memorize them and adhere to them religiously, if you know what's good for you.

So I learned pretty early on to not believe in promises and to never pay any attention to plans. In fact, I pretty much become a cipher, a zero, a nothing, barely surviving the lack of oxygen in my life because all of the available energy, including mine, was being poured (literally and figuratively) into the centerpiece of the house, Their Majesties, the Family Alcoholics! I just kept my head down and my powder dry. I didn't have many friends because I couldn't risk bringing anyone into the "chaos" which reigned supreme at home. I didn't participate in many school activities because, well, that could lead to friendships and friendships could lead to someone wanting to "meet the parents." And that could never occur.

I spent my teens pretty much shut up in my bedroom, awaiting rescue. But, of course, the cavalry never arrived. But I kept hoping. Rescue finally did arrive, in the form of a draft notice from Uncle Sam. He wanted me to go die in a rice paddy in southeast Asia, but I got a brighter idea and enlisted in the Navy, instead. That's what it finally took to get me out of the House of Horrors where I did a credible job of raising me, if I do say so myself.

Oh, and you also never learn how to ask for help from anyone, either. There's no help available at home, or even in the extended family (who are all busy looking the other way so that THEY don't have to confront the drunk, either). I thought I had to do everything on my own. Worse, I thought I had to do it perfectly, in order to try to help keep the peace at home. So I became a neurotic, nervous-wreck, perfectionist who was mostly self-taught.

It's no wonder I became what I always swore I would never be. A drunk, just like my mother and grandmother. Believe me, by the time I had my first drink, I really needed it!

Those drunks of my childhood are long since dead, but their "melody lingers on" in my life. I'm still not able to sit down and come up with "plans" for anything. Oh, I can get it together to do things, fix things or be somewhere. I can hold down a job, or I can make a date for dinner and keep it. But to come up with some sort of reasonable, realistic, long-term plans for a career, or college, or even a relationship, are things which elude me and remain, in many ways, alien concepts.

A childhood spent "living from moment to moment" very easily translates into an adulthood spent living from day to day.

Fortunately, for me, that concept worked perfectly in early sobriety, where the idea of staying away from a drink is reduced to doing it "one day at a time."

Unfortunately, it's robbed me of one of life's greatest gifts, the ability to have a dream.

Anybody want to lend or sell me one?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

JoyZeeBoy, MD

Six Degrees Update - I called Mr. X last night. Saturday, apparently, was not a fluke. Despite the fact that he was preoccupied with family stuff he seemed very happy to hear from me and spent a half hour on the phone with me. We continued to yak like a couple of teenagers until finally I said, "Look, I know you're busy with your family right now, but I really want to see you again..." and before I could finish it he said, "YES. Let's have dinner Saturday night." So we left if that we'll speak again later in the week to set a time and a place. I'm trying real hard to not "project" anything about this, other than I've found a friend with whom, it seems, I have a "built-in" past.

If I'm going to be a "rigorously honest" blogger (and that is my intention, to the best of my ability), I'll keep spilling my guts about this as it plays out. However, out of deference to the other people in my life, including Mr. X, I intend to protect his anonymity, along with everyone else's.

Now, about today's blather.

Suddenly, so it seems, I'm the worlds foremost medical expert. I got a call from my friend Michael yesterday. "My big toe hurts" he said. Now, he and I often joke about what a couple of princesses we both are (the joke being that we're both hulking 6+ footers who look like a couple of linebackers), but the way he said it immediately set off an alarm in my head.

"Is it pinpointed in the knuckle of the big toe on the right foot and did it come on you suddenly in the middle of the night and is it all red and shiny and inflamed, and did it hurt to have even the sheets touch it?"

"Yes", he said.

"Hang up and call your doctor and tell him to phone in a prescription for Indomethicin immediately to your pharmacy. Mister, you've got gout! And if you don't treat it right now, it will turn into a permanent case of rheumatoid arthritis."

Apparently that put the fear of God into him. He hung up on me.

Then, this morning, my friend Bill was voicing a complaint about what he called "phantom sciatica." Now, I've known that he'd been living in some sort of non-specific pain for the last year or two, but for some reason today it all seemed to gel in my mind.

"Bill, do you take a cholesterol reducer?" I asked him. "Yes." he said.

I proceeded to relate to him my recent experiences with statins and how, finally, my cardiologist and I have totally given up on them because of the excruciating muscle and joint pain they'd started causing me.

I could tell from the look on his face that it was as though I'd just given him oxygen while he was asphyxiating. Suddenly, he could breathe. He had hope. I left him on the street, rushing off to his office where, presumably, he'll put in a call to his internist.

Am I a medical professional? Not by a long-shot. But I do know what ails me. And I know what to do, and not do, about it. And, God knows, I've had enough medical issues to last a normal person a lifetime (open heart surgery two years ago, bi-lateral endarectomies last year, high cholesterol, diabetes and who knows what else).

Part of my job as a human being is to pass along my experience, strength and hope to others.

Another part of being human is just being (and being sober) in the right place at the right time.

I guess that goes for running into Mr. X after all these years, too.

Crap. Maybe there is a certain amount of predestination at work in the universe after all.

Or, maybe God just likes to f*ck with us to see what happens!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Six Degrees of Puberty

I'm still wrestling with the right way to talk about this. So I'll be as vague as possible.

I found out last Saturday night that someone I have been admiring from afar for the last two years is somebody I have "peripherally" known since we were both at the University of Delaware in the 70's. He was a science major whilst I was wasting time in the theater department. I was way "out" in those days. He, not so much. But we both knew some of the same people. Then we both moved on. Me to Seattle. He to graduate school for an MBA.

Then, a decade later, and unbeknownst to either of us, we wound up working not more than 30' apart on the equity trading floor at one of New York's Mega-Brokerage houses. And we did that for nearly two years without ever having an "AH-HA" moment with each other!!

But I guess everything happens for a reason, and this is no exception. When we started talking and revealing more and more about our pasts to each other, it kept getting funnier and funnier just how close those "shaves" with each other had been.

I was pretty mocus in those days on Wall Street. (MOCUS = MOstly out of foCUS). It's also pretty clear how monumentally unhappy I was. By the time the two of us wound up working cheek by jowl, I was so chewed up and spit out by all the unhappy results of my nascent alcoholism, including being in a career that I never wanted and a relationship that was so miserable that I swore off even looking at other men as a result of it, that I wouldn't have noticed him even if he'd been standing there stark naked in front of me.

That's exactly how miserable and out of it I was in 1986.

And now, here we are, 20 years later, both in a much better space than we were in those days, suddenly "discovering" the existence of each other.

Somebody asked me recently if I believed in any degree of "predestination." I answered that I didn't think so. In fact, I think that God created us pretty much "for amusement purposes only" and that it would totally defeat the idea of mankind existing solely to provide celestial entertainment if God already knew the outcome of everything.

I think part of the joy of being God is in watching us flail around trying to figure life out, only to screw it up, time and again.

Anyway, I'm excited by finding (more like "stumbling across") this old/new friend. I want to call him up and talk some more. I'm hoping to see him again this coming Saturday night. But I'm also nervous about it. I don't know why. Except that he's really very good looking and, for some reason, I find that scary.

And all of a sudden I'm a tongue-tied, awkward, gangly, pimply-faced teenager, full of unbearable pain and embarrassment and dying to talk to him again, just to hear the sound of his voice and terrified of rejection.

I'm 58 years old, fer gosh sakes.


I gotta go throw up now.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Queen Marie

"..and love is a thing that can never go wrong
and I am Marie of Rumania."

Dorothy Parker wrote that. It's about delusion bordering on insanity. I used to be pretty deluded. Now I'm just cynical.

For example, I was raised to believe that all American politicians were country-born altruists who were routinely dragged, kicking and screaming, off of their farms and forced to do service for their constituents and the country by sitting in Congress, or otherwise tending to the business of the Nation.

I based this idea on some movie I saw when I was six which starred Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. I'm pretty sure that was the gist of the plot.

Later on, because I lived just a hop, skip and a jump away and used to visit the place a lot, I somehow or other glommed onto the idea that everybody in Philadelphia in 1776 would much rather have been back home with the wife, kids and slaves on their farms and/or plantations in Massachusetts or Virginia, than sitting around in Foul, Fetid, Foggy, Filthy, Philadelphia, fomenting rebellion against the British Crown.

But I might've been wrong about that.

Then I grew up. And I found out about things like McCarthyism. And HUAC. And Viet Nam and Nixon and Watergate and Dirty Tricks and Lee Atwater and "pandering to the base" and "collateral damage" and smear campaigns and Jack Abramoff and the Religious Right and Fox News and Monica Lewinsky and campaign finance.

And now I don't believe a damn thing any lying SOB who dwells inside the beltway (or would like to) and sucks a living out of the people (or would like to) tells me.

Not a single, solitary word.

It's a little over a month until our next national election.

Between now and then you shouldn't believe a single, solitary word they tell you, either. No matter how pretty, or delightfully suprising, it might sound.

Otherwise, I might be forced to start calling you "Marie of Rumania."

Which would be just one deluded fools opinion, of course!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Best Week Ever

I didn't win the lottery. I didn't get a new job, or a big raise. I didn't fall in love (although I did come to realize that there are several likely candidates in my life, if I choose to pursue them).

Nah, there was nothing earth-shattering at all about my week. But it was my Best Week Ever.


I woke up every morning feeling refreshed from a good night's sleep.
I have a job I enjoy.
I get to see a bunch of people whom I love and care about every morning before I get to that job (okay, they're my "home group").
I have a terrific boss (who's a little spacey at times).
I have friends and family who love me and care about me (and whom I love and care about in return).
I have clothes on my back, food in my stomach and a roof over my head.
I have a bodacious auto with a totally awesome sound system.

Because I'm sober. And without that I could kiss all the other stuff goodbye.

Oh, it wasn't a perfectly wonderful week. Not everything went my way, or smoothly. There were hiccups all along the way. But I didn't overreact to the "life stuff" that happened. I didn't create any "drama" where drama was uncalled for. I didn't engage in any "poor me" thinking because of the traffic jams that affected everybody in Manhattan last week. I'm not that important. The UN does not lie in bed at night thinking of ways to ruin MY day.

Ever since I stopped waiting for the "other shoe to drop" in my life, and started being grateful for all the wonderful things I have (just for today), life has gotten wonderful.

Suffering, it turns out, is optional. Oh, pain is inevitable, but suffering is definitely optional.

Thank goodness I found that out.

When I refuse to suffer, it turns out that I can have the Best Week Ever.

I think I'm going to try to have another one, again, this week!

Friday, September 22, 2006


It's taken me years to figure it out, but now I realize why it's called "obsessive-compulsive" behavior.

It's because even though the compulsion to drink has been lifted from me, the obsession with liquor lingers on.

On the subway, do I stare at the ads for hemmorhoid creams, or English as a Second Language Schools? Nah. Not when there's a gorgeous ad for a "new" type of Remy-Martin called "Remy-Red" nearby. And it's so tasteful. You can almost taste it. Well, I can almost taste it. And speaking of taste, wouldn't a Remy taste good right now? Do I even remember what Remy tastes like?

By the way, this is how a recovering drunk thinks. Well, one recovering drunk. Me.

But here's where it gets interesting. While I no longer compulsively consume booze, I can't say the same about anything else. Such as cookies. Or Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream. Or Planters Peanuts. And don't even get me started on the subject of Ruffles Potato Chips.

I laugh at the so called "suggested servings" type messages on the packages these things come in.

As far as I'm concerned, one container = one serving. OF ANYTHING. They should say, "Open Lid - Insert Face". One ounce or one pound, it's all the same to me.

I've started noticing my inherent "ism" (without the "alcohol") cropping up all over the place now. Whether it's shopping for music on iTunes, or buying shirts at Lands' End. One is too many and 20 are never enough.

I even buy books that way now. I'll drop by Barnes & Noble or Borders, just to while away an hour or two browsing, and wind up schlepping home a pile of stuff I'll never read.

In other words, I'm still compulsive as hell, but I don't obsess over my compulsions the way I did in the past. The way I did over booze.

Booze, towards the end, was all I ever thought about. If I wasn't actually drinking, I was thinking about drinking, or planning drinking, or making purchases for drinking, or daydreaming about drinking, or cleaning up the mess left by last night's drinking.

It was all about the drinking.

If I was in a state that didn't have Sunday liquor sales, and it was Saturday night, close to closing time, and I noticed that there probably wasn't enough booze so that I would be able to drink the way I wanted to drink all day Sunday, I would fly into an absolute panic until I, or someone else, ran out to the liquor store to "stock up" enough supplies to last until Monday.

Now, have you ever heard anyone say "OHMYGOD!!! We're nearly out of brussels sprouts and tomorrow all of the brussels sprouts stores are closed!!! Someone must run out, right now, and load up on brussels sprouts so that we'll have enough to get us through the day tomorrow!"??

I didn't think so. No, only someone with a serious mental illness would actually say anything (or think anything) like that.

I've acquired a lot of self-awareness over the last couple of years and, with any luck, I'll acquire a lot more.

But I hope and pray to God that I never start thinking that Self-Knowledge = Wisdom.

My Higher Power is Wise. I'm just a recovering junkie.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shiny Happy People

10 years ago I was skidding towards bottom in a brownstone apartment, just off Second Avenue on East 78th Street in Manhattan.

There was no job to go to every day. There were no more friends to hang out with. I have zero recollection of that time now, except this:

The quiet time never lasted long. If I'd bothered to look at a clock it would've said 4:30 a.m. The neighborhood bars had closed, the last of the other drunks had wandered off into the early morning, and the garbage trucks and birds hadn't started yet.

That time was my time of the day. The only time my mind got any respite from it's own insanity.

It would last all of 15 minutes. That's when the birds would start. I never knew what they were so happy about. Didn't they know that winter was coming? Then the "bang/clang/crash" of New York City's Waste Management trucks would start. They didn't even pretend to be quiet. They were up, dammit, and the rest of us could like it or lump it.

I might've drifted into another blackout around 5:30 or so, and come out of the liquor induced coma again, just in time to join Katie, Matt, Anne and Al for breakfast (another swig of scotch).

I can't begin to describe it now, but try to imagine Hell. That's where I was. In Hell. All of my own creation.

Sober people have a saying to the effect that "religion is for people who are afraid of going to Hell... spirituality is for people who've already been there." I'm pretty spiritual today. But not then. There may have been a God out there, but he sure didn't give a rat's patootie about me.

That poor, pathetic, falling down drunk needed help badly, but would've refused it had it been offered. Things were just "fine" thankyewverymuch. "Fine" by the way is an acronym. It stands for "F*cked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional".

It seems absurd, now, that I was surrounded by sobriety in New York, if I'd only reached out for it. I thought that I was the only hopeless drunk in town and that no one had ever felt like I felt.

Of course I would never have agreed to even look for others like me. Not then. I hadn't lost enough yet (ring any bells? I mentioned this in my piece on King George yesterday). No, I still had some more to lose. More money, more sanity (not that there was much left) and what few friends I had left in my life. So I did!

Yes, there was a miracle. I woke up in a jail cell on a Sunday morning in Hightstown, New Jersey, on March 8, 1998. How I got from that apartment to that jail cell is a topic for another day, but suffice it to say, it worked. I'd been nailed on a drunk-driving charge the night before and when the enormity of that offense hit me, I knew the "party was over."

I found what I was looking for two days later, when I walked into a 12-Step meeting and realized that the "Mother Ship" had returned to Earth to pick me up. But I wasn't particularly happy about it. In fact, I was pretty miserable for a couple of years.

But, slowly, I changed. My outlook changed. My feelings changed. How I felt about all the awful things in my past that I used to drink over changed, too.

Today I am one of those most annoying of all God's creatures, a Shiny Happy Person, especially first thing in the morning. Little Ronnie Sunshine. (Although, if you value your life, don't ever call me "Ronnie" to my face).

I've learned lots of things in sobriety, one of which is, that happiness is an inside job, but it also is quite contagious. Remember that old saw, "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"? Well, that works both ways.

When Ronnie's happy, seems like Everbody's happy!

And just for today, I am extremely happy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Madness of King George

His Majesty, the occupant of the new and improved Imperial Presidency, has been in town for the last two days, causing traffic snarls and flaring tempers both in and out of the UN.

I can't imagine why a man so detested in this city, even by members of his own party, bothers to come here. The only thing he has done for New York is to make as much political hay out of it's misfortune on 9/11 as he possibly can. That's it. Nothing else. To borrow a phrase I learned from a Texan when I was in the Navy, that man "is as useless as teats on a bull."

Well, that's not completely true. His presence has inspired me to write about him. I suppose there's some good in that.

King George is a good ol' country boy, born and bred in America's heartland (New Haven, Connecticut) and educated at the finest schools of the south (Andover and Yale).

But what you really need to know about him is this...

Everything he does, everything he is, everything he thinks, everything he feels (which, I guarantee you, runs the gamut from numb to pissed off), is fueled by untreated alcoholism.

He is, what we in the business refer to as, "self-will run riot."

He often alludes to some nebulous relationship with God, wherein, apparently, he receives daily briefings on the state of the universe directly from on high. But as anyone over the age of 7 knows perfectly well, God does not speak to earthlings on a 1-to-1 basis without the benefit of psychosis. So, what he takes to be divine guidance is, in fact, the lying, cheating, conniving, addictive half of his inner-self telling the childish, grandiose, overly-sensitive, self-obsessed and self-deluded half of his inner-self what that half wants to hear, i.e., that he's special and unique and is being divinely inspired to shove his opinions down the rest of the world's throats, come hell or high water.

King George hasn't lost enough, aside from his marbles, yet. And he probably won't be satisfied until the nukes are falling.

Meanwhile (back at the ranch), he's aided and abetted in his personal insanity by his puppeteers, Satan (Cheney) and Rummy, who recognize a deeply disturbed co-dependent when they see one. They are cynically using the King's madness as an opportunity to indulge their neocon supporters philosophical contentions that it's okay to use all of this nations resources (money, weapons, lives) to create a radical realignment of the Middle East in our favor and that, if necessary in order to garner public support for it, it's okay to sell the project to the great unwashed masses of this nation as being part of some Divine Plan, for which King George is the Lord's mouthpiece.

And the heartbreak is, this show is selling out all over the country. Well, at least between the Alleghenies and the Sierras it is.

We have a long tradition in this country of being utterly enthralled by snake oil salesmen and P.T. Barnum-like con artists.

And we really love it when they come all wrapped up in self-righteous, born-again, salvationist visions of how the world should be.

The World According to US.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Capital Punishment

I forget when, but Jim McGreevey came out awhile back. He was the governor of New Jersey at the time. His poor wife was standing just behind him at the press conference. If I were her, I would've whipped out a gun and shot the SOB.

In case you missed it, he didn't come out because he wanted to come out. He came out because he was out of options. It took exactly zero courage on his part.

Now he's published a "screw and tell" about his days in the closet, his failed marriages, his really lousy choices in boyfriends (nearly as bad as mine) and how he's a much better person now, so please buy his book so he and his new boyfriend can have enough Benjamins to live a cushy life in a monstrous McMansion in northern Jersey.

I think he's a world-class jerk who, not being content with having ruined a bunch of lives (wives and kids) already, hasn't thought twice about dragging their humiliation out into the fresh air again in order to make a few bucks off of it. How sleazy can you get? Apparently, pretty sleazy. But, then again, he is a product of the New Jersey political machine. New Jersey, where politics isn't just local, it's crooked right down to the grass roots. But that's a subject for yet another blog.

There are lots of reasons people stay in the closet. Maybe they're not sure about their sexual orientation. Maybe they belong to that central group of AC/DC's who can contentedly make their lives with either sex, so they opt for the one that will cause them the least public grief. Or, maybe, they just haven't thought about it until one day, WHAM, they see somebody of the same sex "across a crowded room" and their lives are turned upside down. Maybe they do it out of religious conviction. Maybe they do it to please their parents, or to avoid being cut out of the will.

McGreevey didn't do it for any of those reasons. The former governor of NJ did it for one reason and one reason only, to further his political career.

Rather than writing a book, he should be reading Shakespeare. "Hamlet" to be exact and this quote from Lord Polonius to his son, Laertes in Act I, scene iii, in particular:

This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

I came out in the fall of 1972. It wasn't a very popular thing to do in 1972. I'd just spent four years on active duty in the United States Navy, had risen to the rank of Petty Officer Second Class, graduated at the top of my class from aviation electronics school and had 4.0 reviews pretty much for my whole enlistment. The Navy was actually sorry to see me go. But I didn't have a choice. You see, I had read Hamlet.

"To thine own self be true." Not "to thine holders of the family purse be true". Not "to the voting public be true". Just to yourself.

The military was/is no place for any self-respecting gay person, unless you're an ancient Spartan and you and your lover both enlist on 'the buddy plan'. And that isn't about to happen in this country. And it sure as hell wasn't going to happen then.

I came out, got involved in college gay rights movements, organized rallies and conferences, attended other universities rallies and conferences, got to know some old-timers in the gay rights movement such as Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings and, in time, handed the reins of activism over to other, younger folks.

I never expected to get rich from my meager efforts. I never expected to get anything from it. I did it because it was the right thing to do, and it needed doing, and if I didn't do it, then who would?

Then along comes Mr. Captain Gay America who shits all over his family, feels he's entitled to get away with anything, then, when he can't, drops them like hot potatoes and sets out to make some major ducats off their continued misery ... in case he hasn't already given them enough.

I'm ashamed that he's gay. He's no better than some right-winger who gets nailed diddling call-boys in the cloakrooms of DC.

Let it never be said that politicians have the courage of any convictions whatsoever.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Automobiles and Alcoholism

I'm an anger junkie. Most addicts are. Anger fuels resentments which in turn fuels the desire to drink (or drug, if that's your substance of choice). It's very simple. and it's very deadly.

Which is why drunks and/or druggies who are in early recovery in 12 Step programs are constantly reminded by their sponsors and old-timers that "expectations are premeditated resentments" and "you will drink over your resentments."

So, of course, I copped a major resentment yesterday, by getting angry at the local body shop because I had EXPECTED certain things (like I expected them to tell me the truth, and to do their jobs).

I should explain. About 3 weeks ago, in the middle of the night (well, my time. It was 10:45 p.m.), some woman from Connecticut who had gotten off the NJ Turnpike at the wrong exit compounded that by turning down the wrong street (mine) and, in a moment of panic, turned up a side street, threw it into reverse, and backed straight into the driver's side door of my virtually brand-new, fire-engine red, Honda Element (the "Toaster" you see in my profile).

God smiled on me that night. First of all, there wasn't that much damage. The door was just slightly rumpled. It didn't affect the operation of the door at all. Secondly, the poor lost soul was either a very good Samaritan and instantly reported it to the local police OR our local patrolman just happened to be standing there watching the whole thing and nailed her before she could escape. In either case, I was off the hook for the damages and the ball was totally in her insurance company's court. She did report it to them, as I found out later.

In due course I got a copy of the police report, her insurance information, and I made an appointment with her insurance company's local adjustor to see what they were going to do. I got a recommendation for a body shop, picked up a check for over $1,000, and dropped the car off at the shop last Monday morning, assured by the shop manager that it would only take "three days to replace the skin" on the door.

I called them yesterday afternoon to see how it was going, given the fact that we were now up to four days, instead of three. "Oh, uh, let me see what the guys in the shop are saying... hold on." (three minutes of silence), "well, they're gonna get the painter here tomorrow... it should be ready on Saturday." (Saturday? Why so long?) "Oh, there was more damage than they originally thought." (more damage? from what? when Vinny backed the car into the hydraulic lift without looking?) "I see", I said. "And when was somebody planning on calling ME and telling me about this?" "Oh, we cleared it with Allstate." "That's lovely, but was somebody planning on clearing it with me?" No answer.

Okay, so now we're at the fork in the road. I can go into the abyss and start ranting and raving OR I can take the high road and keep my cool. I opted for the cool. I kept a non-committal tone and told them that I would see them on Saturday, and that's where the conversation ended.

Now, originally I had been told that the shop was closed on Saturday. Obviously, it's not. It turns out that they have somebody there to take care of drop-offs, to settle up bills, discharge repaired vehicles back to their owners, etc.

The whole conversation went to the very core of my issues regarding control and manipulation. It pushed my most serious buttons. I HATE feeling controlled. I HATE authoritarians in my life (people who, arbitrarily act "in loco parentis" really annoy the living hell out of me). I really hate being "left out of the loop" and lied to. If somebody doesn't know something, they should just say, "I don't know" rather than delivering some stock b*llsh*t answer ("3 days") that's so old and tired that it's already been the butt of a joke in a national advertising campaign.

Does anyone remember the guy in the commercial who calls the auto body shop to find out when his car will be finished only to have the bald fat guy say, "grunt. I got three of my best guys on it right now." While in the background there are three body-shop goons, eating their lunches on the hood of the guy's car?

That's how I felt.

But there is good news in all this. The first is that I didn't go ballistic over it. I would've in the old days. I would've started ranting about suing their asses and having lawyers all over them "like cheap suits". But I didn't. I turned it over and let it go.

The 2nd part of the good news is that I didn't drink over it. I would've done that in the old days, too. I would've felt "justified" to have gotten drunk, because the world sucks, body shops suck, God hates me, everybody's out to get me, yada, yada, yada.

The bottom line is, tomorrow I'll be picking up my car around noon. Until then, I'm not in charge. Things are going just the way they're supposed to be going. In the face of zero evidence to the contrary, I must assume that things are going to be just fine.

Ya know, sometimes, when it's raining, I have to remind myself that I'm not the only person getting wet.

There are lots of other cars in that body shop this week. And they all have owners, too.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Magical Thinking

It was Christmas in September at my place last night. That's because I went on an on-line shopping binge last week. I was after clothes that fit.

Because, you see, clothing shrinks on the hanger.

I know this for a fact. I used to have a closet full of wonderful Brooks Brothers suits, most of which I acquired in the 1980's, when I worked on Wall Street. Then I went through a bad patch, "the dark years" as I call them, and when I came out of the other side of that, well, wouldn't you know it, every one of those damned expensive suits had SHRUNK on the hangers. Probably from years of neglect and lack of use. They withered away, like the Velveteen Rabbit, from lack of love.

Eventually those turncoat rags all wound up being dumped at the Salvation Army clothing depot in beautiful, downtown, Trenton, New Jersey. Trenton now has the best-dressed homeless men in the mid-Atlantic region.

The dress shirts went, too. About 30 of them. All white, of course. Working on Wall Street had been like working for IBM or the Catholic Church. Everybody dressed alike. The only concession to individuality was in the choice of ties. That eventually spawned a whole industry making "power ties" for the power brokers wno worked on Wall Street. Anyway, I kept the power ties, but the shirts had all shrunk, too. Even though they weren't on hangers but were, instead, boxed and starched. Just the way I like 'em. But it was clear that 15 1/2" necks were no longer operative in my life.

So, thousands of dollars worth of perfectly good, albeit slightly past its prime, clothing went to charity, and I started buying stuff from that most magical of places, Land's End.

Anyway, my point is, that clothes shrinkage is a slippery slope. Once you acknowledge that it has happened, it seems to happen again, even more quickly than the first time. It gathers speed and worsens every time. By now I've reached a point where shrinkage is occuring from season to season. Last year's winter trousers have, inconceivably, shrunk a full size from the last time I wore them, causing my gut to push my belt over into the "90 degree" position. How embarrassing! Donning last year's loose-fitting shirts is suddenly like strapping myself into straight-jackets on loan from Bellevue.

Well, last week I'd finally had enough. So I paid (yet) another visit to my old friend, Mr. Land's End On-Line, and dropped (yet another) couple of hundred bucks on some new threads.

When will this madness end? To whom do I have to talk about this rampant plague of clothing shrinkage? WHY DOESN'T SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT????

Because it's somebody's fault, dammit, and it's certainly not mine!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I ain't dead yet

I channel surfed in bed last night. I don't usually watch tv in bed at night (unless I can't sleep), but I went to be so early that I decided to just surf and see what was on.

MTV was repeating the VMA's. If you need a translation of that, then you're hopelessly living in the 18th century and are beyond redemption.

Something glittery and glammy caught my eye. It had movement. It had funk. And it had a beat. A REAL beat. A real, catchy beat with a real, snappy tune to go with it. Without even thinking about it I was wiggling my toes in time with the beat (no mean feat, given the fact that neuropathy has practically killed feelings in both my feet). I was enamored. I was enthralled. I was in LOVE!!!

Once in a blue moon this happens. I remember the first time I heard a song with the refrain, "the morning sun is rising like a red rubber ball" on the car radio and nearly drove off the road into a ditch I was so caught up by the beat.

Later, aboard an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, I was stopped dead in my tracks when I heard Three Dog Night doing "Old Fashioned Love Song." Don't ask me why. I just liked it.

And, of course, I was swept away the first time I stepped onto a dance floor to the strains of "Love Theme" or "The Theme from Shaft."

Okay, so I got no taste. But I know what gets my mojo moving. And, being a child of the 70's, I moved a lot of mojo in my day. I was once complimented on my dance floor moves by a black gentleman in a dive drag bar in the sleaziest part of Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Believe me, I was flattered!

But the 80's turned into the lost years for me. I spent the decade hermetically sealed in a meaningless life of empty success with no clue as to what was really going on in the world around me. That decade is fodder for many a future blog. I'm still recovering from it.

But, back to last night. For the first time in a LOOOOONNNGGGG time, I felt my mojo coming back to life. This ditzy, glitzy, glammy group was belting out a tune that just reached down my throat and tickled my toes from the inside.

I'm going out to buy their CD at lunch today.

The name of the group? Scissor Sisters.

The name of the song? Ironically enough, it's called "I don't feeling like dancing."

You can listen to it here:

But be forewarned. It is infectious. Trust me, if you're looking for something to light a fire in your mojo oven, this song is just what you're looking for. (and no, I'm not being paid to say any of this.)

No lesson. Just a blatant product endorsement for some dee-licious ear candy!

Monday, September 11, 2006


I was in the city that morning.

Back up. I have the annoying tendency that all current and former New Yorkers have to refer to New York City as, simply, "the city." As if there is no other city but "the city", and that everyone else on the face of the earth will agree with me/us that New York is, by mutual, worldwide, consent, "the city." Everywhere else is "out of town" (i.e. "Jersey").

So, I was in the city that morning. It was a Tuesday and it was beautiful. Cool, autumnal, bright and sunny. A perfect day for just about anything, including evil. That's how it started out, but of course, as you all know, that's not how it ended.

I crossed the street from St. Thomas' Episcopal and entered my office building at 666 Fifth Avenue. The entrance isn't really on Fifth Avenue, but rather, both of the entrances are on 52nd and 53rd Streets. Lots of buildings in the city do that. That way they can rent out the ground floor fronts as expensive retail space. They're not dumb.

When I got off the elevator at our 17th floor reception area Barbara, the receptionist, rather blandly announced that a plane had just "hit the World Trade Center." Oh well, I thought, some idiot must've plowed their Piper Cub into the side of it. I expressed my thoughts to Barbara and she said, "No, you don't understand, it was a real plane." I was horrified. I went back to the elevator vestibule and caught the next down elevator. I ran out into the middle of Fifth Avenue. There were fire engines and police cars and ambulances and anything else with a siren or flashing lights whizzing around me, heading downtown towards the catastrophe. The street was quickly filling with other spectators, more obstacles the emergency vehicles had to dodge on their way downtown... to Hell.

And then the 2nd plane hit the south tower. The plane entered the building from the south, over the harbor. We couldn't see it approaching. We were too far away for that. But we saw what happened next. We could see the explosion blowing out the north face, the fire and smoke bursting forth through the facade, even though we were miles away, in mid-town. It was like watching it through a telescope, though, from our elevated perch, in the middle of one of New York's busiest streets, one block north of St. Patrick's Cathedral and Rockefeller Center.

Then a horrible thought occurred to me. "This isn't over." And I looked to my left, down 53rd Street, towards the East River. There, just a few blocks away, was a mighty tempting target for hatred-fueled terrorists who might be hell-bent on bringing down American Capitalism. Citigroup Center is the most distinctive skyscraper on the East Side of Manhattan, north of the Chrysler Building. It's sleek, boxy, with that distinctive slanted roof and, above all, it's tall. Mighty tall. And a nice, tasty, American Imperialist target.

I went back upstairs and called my brother, Bruce, who worked a few blocks away. We organized a plan of escape. At that moment there were millions who would be running for the exits. It was pointless to join them. The TV's in the conference rooms were showing CNN live and we knew that Rudy Giuliani had ordered the tunnels to be closed as a precautionary measure. We'd never get out through the Lincoln, Holland, Battery or Queen's Midtown Tunnels. Bruce had driven in that morning, thank God! We decided to wait a little while, to "see what else might happen" and to let the situation settle down a little.

Along around 1:30 we started walking across town to the West Side. It was like a scene out of a science-fiction movie. People were gathered around in clumps, next to parked trucks on side streets, listening intently to one of the few "all news" radio stations which were still on the air. Most tv and radio was out, of course, because all the major NY stations had, over the years, relocated their broadcast towers to the roof of Tower One, the north tower, that had the huge broadcast mast on it's roof. And when Tower One went down, so did the signals of most of the stations in the city. Only CNN was still coming through live. And maybe WCBS. I forget exactly. By then we knew that the Pentagon had been hit, too. And that another plane had gone down, somewhere in Pennsylvania. We'd learned that two of the planes had taken off from Boston, and that the other two had been hijacked from Newark and Dulles.

I had been in my daily commuter bus, heading up the NJ Turnpike, going past Newark airport that morning, at almost exactly the same time that some of the hijackers were boarding their flight there.

Evil had come very close to us that morning. In the days and weeks that followed, I'd find out more about exactly how close it had come.

Bruce and I eventually got to his parking lot, on the West Side, near the Hudson. Bruce didn't know what to do. I looked north, towards the George Washington Bridge and, for just a brief second, I saw the tops of 18-wheelers rolling west, heading across the river, towards New Jersey. I told him to drive north on the West Side Highway.

We somehow or other were waved past two police checkpoints and, within minutes we were crossing the Bridge, heading towards New Jersey and safety. My baby brother was intent on getting over that bridge as quickly as possible. We both knew, without saying it, that it could be yet another target. There were no guarantees that the horror was over yet.

As he drove, I looked past him, and over the side of the bridge, towards the harbor and the south end of the island.

There was an enormous hole in the sky. Where once there had been two giants jutting up from nothing and piercing the heavens, there was only a giant, unending, plume of noxious smoke, rising from the hole in the ground and billowing downriver, over the harbor, through the Narrows, and out into the Atlantic.

All I could think was, "thank God the wind is from the northwest."

And every day, for the next few weeks, the smoke continued to pour out of the hole in the ground, under the hole in the sky, and the wind continued to come from the northwest, pushing the noxious cloud out to sea.

Further confirmation for me, as though any were necessary, that there is a God.

No lesson today. Just reporting.

Life is a real gift.

Go hug somebody you love.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Phunny Pharm

I had a heart attack ("mycardial infarcation") in July of '89. They finally did something about it two years ago.

On March 2nd, 2004 I had Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (known in the health racket as a "CABBAGE"). I had four of them, as a matter of fact. It was done by a man who is, arguably, one of the finest (not to mention the hottest) heart surgeons in the country right now. His name is Dr. Mark Anderson and he's the head of cardio-thoracic surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ. RWJ, as it's known by the locals, is the teaching hospital for Rutgers, the state university.

Lucky me. VERY lucky me. Dr. Anderson has a godlike countenance about him, and my friend Luke said that "he has God-Hands." Luke should know. Luke was my health proxy during the surgery and was the first person Mark talked to about my surgery, after it was over. Luke was very impressed. And I'm one damned lucky puppy.

But this isn't about that. (what, in life, is ever about what it initially seems to be about?)

What this is really about is pharmaceuticals. Specifically, about the long term effects of drugs, and how doctors quite often don't even know what's going to happen once a patient starts taking them.

After my heart attack my then internist put me on a diet that would satisfy a Munchkin-Vegan, and started dosing me, daily, with a cholesterol-reducing something called "Mevacor." This stuff cost out the nose. I remember that it was, literally, hundreds of bucks for a 90-day supply. I took it for 10, 12 or even 14 years. I forget exactly how long I took it.

I never seemed to have any really bad reactions to it, although it was hard to tell, since I was drinking like a fish most of that time. Then came the black period, when I don't remember much of anything, including what drugs, if any, I was taking, and then, somewhere around year two of my sobriety, I acquired another doctor and he had me start taking something called:


which belongs to a class of drugs called "statins." My personal experience hardly constitutes empirical evidence (one way or the other) regarding this stuff, but I will tell you this:

that over the last five years I developed an increasing intolerance for this drug, which manifested itself as a GROWING deterioration of muscle tone in my legs, concurrent intra-muscular pain and spasms, all to the point where I was in excruciating pain most of the time, unable to easily climb a flight of stairs and totally unable to get a good night's rest without resorting to heavy-duty doses of either pure aspirin or Tylenol P.M.

I kept telling my (new) internist that I was experiencing pains which he totally ignored. He, like a lot of other medical professionals, believed the pharm company bullcrap that any contraindictations would IMMEDIATELY manifest themselves and that a growing intolerance was unheard of.

It was thanks to my new cardiologist that I finally realized just how much physical pain I was in. He suggested, quite simply, that I stop taking the statin for two weeks. The effect was immediate and dramatic. I was suddenly able to navigate the stairs with no problem and, even better, I was able to get a good night's sleep, all the way through, without having to resort to pills to offset the effects of other pills. My Cardiologist then had me try a couple of other statins, just to make sure that it wasn't my imagination. It wasn't. I had developed an INTOLERANCE to statins, and it had taken five years for it to happen.

My point is, never take what a doctor says at face value. Be pro active in your own healthcare. Nag them. Read the PDR and Merck Manuals behind their backs. Second-guess them. They are not omniscient, they are not omnipotent. They are fallible. They are not gods.

All except for Dr. Anderson, of course.

Thus endeth the lesson for today.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gay Dating

I haven't "dated" since 1979.

Okay, the truth is that no gay man dated in the 70's. If you were gay and out in the 70's, you would take a club with you to the disco on Saturday night, and, if you saw somebody you liked, you would bash him over the head and drag him back to your tastefully appointed lair.

If you remembered the guy's name on Sunday morning, and if you bashed him over the head and dragged him home the following Saturday night, then that was followed by the inevitable U-Haul and long term (more than one month) commitment.

I got involved with somebody in 1979. Somebody who really had what I wanted, i.e. a swell apartment, generous income and a bottomless liquor cabinet. Oh, yeah, and he could cook, too, and he wasn't half-bad in bed, either. So I moved in with him in January of 1980. That's when I found out what a controlling prick he was. Okay, so he was a lawyer.

Anyway, the relationship did serve many useful purposes, number one of which was that we kept each other out of circulation until 1994, which probably saved both of our lives. Then I finally got drunk enough to leave him, my life got even worse, I hit bottom, then life got a little better, then a lot better and, all of a sudden, it's 2006 and I haven't been out on a date with another man since The Flood.

There was no "safe sex" the last time I went out with somebody. Now I'm like a horny teenager trapped in Methusaleh's body. I find myself gazing surreptitiously at the condom displays at the local Kwiki-Mart, wondering which ones I should experiment with. I find myself discussing subjects such as "male erectile dysfunction" with my urologist and cardiologist and getting sample packets of various pills which, inevitably, wind up being tossed in a drawer until "I have time" to "experiment" with them.

Like I need to block out a week of unscheduled time, in case I have an unusually lengthy erection... so to speak.

I deliberately don't ask guys out. I told a therapist once that I "stopped 'looking' back in the early 80's", by which I meant I stopped lusting ... or even finding other men attractive, back then. Which is true.

I know that I'm acting (or not acting) out of fear. Fear of being loved and having to return that love. Fear of feeling vulnerable. Fear of being hurt... again. I want life to be perfect, by which I mean, "pain-free." I arrange my life, to the best of my ability, to be pain and risk-free.

But I know, deep down inside, that this isn't really living. Life is all about being vulnerable. Life is all about being open to hurt... and joy.

Feelings are a package, you can't stuff one without stuffing them all.

Life is about experience, not observation.

Just for today I'll try to be a participant, rather than a bystander.

Thus endeth the lesson for today.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Fifty Ways to Leave your Blubber

I'm feeling very fat today. I've been feeling fat for years, and especially fat since I quit smoking, just prior to my heart surgery, two years ago. But I really feel fat today.

But it isn't really about the fat. It's really all about my old friend, addiction. You see, a little over eight years ago I hit my bottom with booze. I've worked real hard on myself for these past eight years, and I no longer compulsively obsess (or is it obsessively compulse?) about booze, so my addiction has hiked up it's skirts and moved on to greener pastures, i.e., food. Addiction does that. It's always on the lookout for new and creative ways to manifest itself. Food, sex, spending, booze, drugs, old boy/girl friends, cleaning, and so on. It's not about the "thing", it's about the obsession! Addiction never goes away. It merely morphs.

So, with me it's food. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I go to the gym tonight. I'll plow through the workout like a man on a mission (I am! I want food!!!) I'll sweat on the stationary bike, practically collapse on the treadmill and strain on various weight machines. I'll work up a nice little sweat, hop in the car, race home and devour a half a pound of Havarti on Bremer crackers.

I kid myself that I'm entitled to reward myself for the workout by indulging in very unhealthy eating habits.

I could go to OA, if I weren't spending so much time already going to other 12-step meetings and the gym.

When I finally quit bs'ing myself about my drinking, back in '98, I thought, "Well, that's that!"

That, most definitely, was not that. Ain't self-awareness grand?

How are you going to bullshit yourself today?

Thus endeth the lesson for today.