Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gay Marriage

I don't even like the idea of gay marriage. I never did. Way back when, in the 18th Century, when I was a so-called "gay-activist", marriage was not on our radar. In fact, if being married meant having to live a life like my mom and all of her husbands had had, then no thank you, I was not the least bit interested in your




What I wanted was the freedom to f*ck my brains out with like-minded men.

And so I did.

And then a lot of us started dropping dead as a result of it.

So some dimwit came up with "Hey! Screwing around is dangerous. Let's emulate the breeders!" And a bunch of other dimwits went along with it.

The next thing you knew, everybody was piling on the "Hey! We're not a bunch of hedonistic sex fiends! We're just like you, only slightly different!" bandwagon. We even started adopting kids, or corraling willing sperm and egg donors into service. We even started hiring women to have babies for us.

I, for one, think that government has no business being in the marriage business at all. Government is in the business of sanctioning contracts. Business contracts. It should make up the rules by which both sides of a business transaction must abide, establish the rules by which the law can enforce those contracts and, when things unravel, oversee the dissolution of the contract in a mutually amenable (read: both sides lose) way.

I, for one, think that government should establish the granting of "Union Licenses" between two, consenting, semi-sane people. Union licenses, when properly signed and witnessed in the presence of some semi-government official, and a couple of friends, would automatically create all of the same contractural rights and obligations that "marriage licenses" do now, except they would no longer be called "marriage" licenses.

If people want to get married, fine, they can go see their local clergyperson and have him or her or it arrange to do the deed in a place of worship of their choice.

However, that clergyperson would NOT be authorized to oversee the establishment of the contractural union. That function must be performed by a representative of the civil authority.

Problem solved. "Marriage" remains the sanctified private property of the fire-breathing right and gay people get the right to have their in-laws treat them like shit every Christmas.

How exciting.

Like Iraq, is this really worth fighting for?

Monday, October 30, 2006

End of Daze

Well, today is the 1st workday back on standard time after a light-filled summer. I hate this day every year. It'll be pitch-black by the time I leave the office at 5:15 p.m.

It's also only three weeks until Thanksgiving and seven and a half weeks until Christmas, which means that New Years will be here in two months. (Can you see a theme developing here yet?)

Which makes it PRACTICALLY President's Day which is only a hop, skip and a jump ahead of Memorial Day Weekend.

So let's all thank God that the long, dark, cold winter is practically over, aside from a couple of minutes of minus zero temperatures and several feet of snow and slush, which we'll have to endure first!

Oh, yeah, sure, I bitch about winter. It's not nearly as much fun at 58 as it was when I was oh, say, 12. But you know what? I wouldn't appreciate summer nearly as much as I do, if I didn't have to suffer through winter to get it.

Which brings me to an interesting subject.

The necessity for downs.

I mean, would any of us appreciate how wonderful life truly can be if, at some time or another, perhaps even quite often, it didn't downright suck? A lot!?

Way back in 1998 I hit what we in certain 12-Step programs refer to as "a bottom." No, no, not a "bottom" the way gay men mean "bottom", but rather bottom in the sense of a place so low that it finally dawned on me that it was time to crawl back "up." It was a pretty awful bottom by contemporary standards (way back in 1935 when the grandaddy of all 12-Step programs began, everybody had a hideous "low bottom"). I lost everything, or at least everything I rated as important up until that time. I have, of course, rethought everything since then and what seemed so important in those days doesn't seem at all important now.

But if I hadn't hit that bottom, I couldn't possibly have come to realize just how blessed my life is today. In fact, if I still had my old way of "stinkin' thinkin'" working away inside my pea-brain, I would definitely think that my life today is boring, staid, and definitely way-too-sober.

Yet I'm so happy now because I was so miserable then.

I couldn't possibly have foreseen, then, how much my mind could change about so many things.

But it did.

And from out of that, the most barren winter of my pitiful life, there emerged the most wondrous spring I could've possibly imagined.

Just like what's going to happen in the next couple of months in real life.

And all I have to do is show up for it and wait for the miracle to happen.

Just like I did then.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday Morning Quarterbacking

Did you remember to set your clocks back an hour last night? If you're like me you'll still be discovering un-reset clocks for the next couple of days (How DO you reset the clock in the car radio? Where did I put that owner's manual? And the VCR??? Fuhgeddaboutit.)

Okay, the lunch with the 'Rents went off without a hitch. I guess we were all on our best behaviors for the occasion. Nobody said anything that they regretted saying later, or wished they hadn't said at all. Or, at least, I didn't.

I even passed out on the couch in the living room after lunch for an hour or so. Dad woke me at 4:30 p.m., in time for me to hit the road to Warrington, Pennsylvania, where I had a serious engagement starting at 7:30. Three hours to travel about a hundred miles. No sweat.

I got on Route 1 north in Delaware to I-495 around Wilmington to I-95 north at the Pennsylvania border. A few miles later a switch to I-496, to bypasse central Philadelphia and to pick up the PA Turnpike at Plymouth Meeting.

There was only one little glitch. I got momentarily confused and prematurely exited I-496 onto I-76 South.

I was suddenly stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, at 30 miles per hour, on the most notorious roadway in the mid-Atlantic... the Schuykill Expressway aka The SureKill Crawlway, heading into Central City Philadelphia at a snails pace.

When I realized what I had done I nearly broke down in tears. There was no way I could be late for the event in NE Philly. Hell, I was hosting the evening and had even shanghaied somebody from New York into coming down for the night to be our "special guest speaker."

I kept looking for familiar landmarks, to no avail. Eventually, I saw the Art Museum (the Rocky Balboa one) across the river, and the top of 30th Street (Penn) Station in the distance and I knew that there was a left-side exit coming up that would take me over the river to the east side of town, past Independence Hall on Market Street, to I-95 northbound (again).

Long story short (yeah, yeah, "too late"), I whizzed across Philadelphia in about 3 minutes, picked up I-95 north and 20 minutes later I was exiting Route 1 onto the PA Turnpike westbound, heading towards the Willow Grove/Doylestown exit.

I made it with time to spare.

And then I realized that I'd forgotten the key to the Unitarian Church where this event was happening.


Fortunately a friend lives nearby who happens to have an extra key.

The place got opened. The guest from New York duly arrived and performed as expected and all was right with the world.

Sometimes, when life gets a little too exciting, I really wish I'd spent the day in bed.

p.s. I went to see "Marie Antoinette" today. Save yer dough.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I just had breakfast with my friend who sends me those daily inspirational messages I talked about the other day.

As usual our conversation ranged all over the place from politics to the ultra-personal. I consider him to be my guru in all things related to recovery. There isn't anything about me he doesn't know. I suspect he knows things about me even I haven't figured out yet. I love him like a brother. I trust him with my life. Literally. When I had quadruple bypass surgery, two and a half years ago, I named him as my health proxy. If anything had gone wrong... he knew what had to be done. And he was willing to do it.

God works in mysterious ways. I'm sure neither of us, 10 years ago, ever expected that we'd be thrown together by HP and circumstance. (HP- "Higher Power", i.e. God, as I understand Him.) But, there we were, sitting in a booth in one of those grandest of all New Jersey institutions, the 24-hour diner, talking about amends and steps and ex-lovers and ... stuff.

I always think that we never have enough quality-time together. But I'm sure that we probably get just the right amount. God sees to that, too.

Now I'm about to hop on the NJTurnpike to drive to Dover (Delaware) to have lunch with my dad and step-mom. They're leaving for Florida for the winter sometime next week and this will be the last time I see them before they leave. My friend thinks I'm being a good son. I think I don't want a guilty conscience if, God forbid, anything happens to them between now and the next time I see them.

It's not going to be an easy visit for me. I haven't felt quite right about my relationship with them ever since I spent a few days with them in Florida last February. That visit didn't end well, with my father making it abundantly clear that although I was always welcome in his house, it would be a different story if I were ever to arrive with a boyfriend in tow.

Ever since then I have felt uncomfortable being around them, and I'm pretty sure I can't spend another night sleeping under their roof.

Hence, the breakfast with my friend.

I can show respect for my father and stepmom, and acknowledge my love for them yet still maintain my dignity as a fully-integrated gay person.

Now I just have to figure out how to do that.

Thank God it's a long drive.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Hundred Million Miracles

are happening every day.... ("Flower Drum Song". Copyright 1959 by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II)

I didn't forget to blog yesterday. I was tired and busy and blogged out. Sometimes, when you don't really have anything to say, the best thing to do is to simply shut up.

But I always have something to say on Fridays. The first of which is, YAAAYYYY!!!! IT'S FRIDAY!!!!

But I'm really grateful about it being Friday because I get to spend Friday mornings from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. packed into a room in the basement of CitiCorp Center (53rd Street & Lexington Avenue), with a bunch of other people who are working hard to get better. And the miracle is, most of us are. Some of them I wouldn't have given a dime's bet for their success when I first met them. Some of them I had every confidence would instantly latch on to the whole idea of sobriety, but they continue to struggle, even after years of trying.

But they're all there, and I love each and every one of them. It fills me up. It warms my heart. It lightens my soul. It's the finest hour of my day. I'm practically in tears (of joy and gratitude) for the entire hour.

All it cost me to participate in this miracle was everything. It was worth every penny.

After that hour I am 10 feet tall and bulletproof. It matters not what the rest of the day holds in store for me. I am armored for it. I have choices all day long about how to handle life on life's terms. I can choose to stoop to the games people play, or I can choose to remain above the fray and refuse to participate (as Oscar Wilde once said, "Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them more.")

Best of all, I can practice in daily life what I learn from my compatriots in recovery during that hour of sharing. I learn how to be vulnerable without getting hurt. I learn how to be compassionate without being codependent. I learn balance.

Somebody (an earthling, which is how we refer to people who don't get together in church basements for an hour a day) once said, "How I envy you. The rest of us don't have a program." I thought she was kidding, but she wasn't.

Ya know, I'm pretty lucky. Fact is, I should be dead now. God knows, I tried hard enough and if life were truly fair, I would be.

A Hundred Million Miracles. And I'm just one of them. It's a beautiful day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


A friend of mine sends me these daily "inspirational messages" via e-mail that he gets overnight. He generally adds some thoughts of his own to them.

I like the fact that he adds his own, personal take on them. It helps me clarify my own thoughts, sometimes.

Today's was on the subject of Unconditional Love. You know, the kind of love every child should get from a loving family.

To say that I have "issues" on the subject would be an understatement.

Here's what I wrote back to him this morning:

"The whole idea of "unconditional love" died for me the night [when I was six] my mom and nana [grandmother] [got drunk, woke me up and] wanted to know which one of them I loved more. It was clear that their need to be loved far outweighed any love they might have had for me, if any. And so I grew up believing that everyone else was the same way. That people just took and took and took until there was nothing left to give. So I started keeping people away from me... so they couldn't drain me to death the way I had already been drained by the very people who should've loved me the most.

I have now thawed out to the point where I have genuine feelings of warmth and compassion for other people, but to this day it never occurs to me that anyone reciprocates those feelings towards me. I continue to be astonished when anyone shows me the least bit of attention or affection. I'm also very suspicious of it. I'm sure they want something. Something that will, eventually, hurt me.

I did experience lust, of course, when I was young. By the age of 19 I was a raging hormone with low self-esteem. What little sex drive was left after 15 years of meaningless sex when I left Chuck at the age of 45 was erased by three years of continuous drinking followed by years of painful recovery. Now, thank God, lust is pretty well gone, along with most of the hormones.

It's difficult for me to be loveable. It's difficult for me to accept that there may be people who genuinely love me who aren't already planning devilish and scary ways to pull the emotional rug out from underneath of me, and to hurt me again the way I was hurt one extraordinarily fearsome and painful night in 1954.

A night when I knew, deep down inside, that if I gave the wrong answer to a stupid question, I would be thrown out in the garbage. Or killed.

I think in psycho-parlance they call that "trauma."

Yeah. Trauma. That's what I think of when I hear the word "love".

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tough Nuts

No, not those kind. Get your filthy minds out of the gutter right now. Shoo. Scat. Sheesh.

I'm talking about the sort of tough nuts I was forced to crack in early sobriety, when every slogan I heard was like a knife through the heart or a two by four up alongside the head.

One of the toughest was, "It didn't matter what had happened to me throughout my life... all that EVER mattered was how I had reacted to it."

I was outraged. What, in God's name, do you mean "it didn't matter" what had happened to me? Of COURSE it mattered. After all, I am just a product of all those events, outside of myself, which had shaped and molded me into the f*cking mess I had become.

In other words, it was all somebody's fault, G-damn it, and it certainly WASN'T MINE!!! Life wasn't something that had happened "with" me... it was something that had happened AT me. As though I were just some innocent bystander, sucked unwillingly into the slimy mess my life had become.

Bzzzzzt. Wrong. Thank you for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts.

Even in childhood which, admittedly, I wasn't exactly in charge of (despite my best efforts to the contrary), I had not reacted... ahem... "well" to events as they unfolded around me.

But even admitting that I had been a "victim" as a child, of the alcoholism of the so-called adults I lived with while I was raising me, the fact is that those adults were long since dead yet I had continued to live in denial, and overlook all of my own transgressions, by hanging the blame for everything on them.

They were very tough nuts to crack, having to own up to my idiocy.

To this day I have to keep reminding myself that it was my very best thinking that landed me in recovery. I didn't just drop in one day because things were fabulous and I thought I'd check out a 12-Step meeting "just for funsies."

No, that 12-Step meeting was the last stop for the trainwreck called Ron. After that there was homelessness, mental institutions, jails and, if I was lucky, death.

Even at that I only grudgingly accepted God's Grace ("Grace: the unmerited love of God") for the first couple of years of my recovery. I used to sit in meetings arrogantly wondering why God would so cruelly keep me alive. As though God's will, even for me, was any of my f*cking business! It was several years before I finally, FINALLY started being grateful for God's grace, rather than resenting it. (Truth be told, although I mostly let God do the driving these days, I admit that I often sit in the passenger seat offering helpful suggestions as to which route to take.)

And when I actually started feeling grateful for God's grace, it finally dawned on me that ever since my first day in recovery, I had been reciting these words every single day:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done."

Thy will. Not "My will." Tough nuts.

I have changed.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Turned on the tv lately?

Good luck finding anything entertaining. It's High Political Season. I live in New Jersey. Bob Menendez (D) is running against Tom Kean Jr (R) for the US Senate. There's so much filth being flung in both directions you'd be hard-pressed to find anything even approaching a real "issue" in the advertising.

For all I know both of them are born-again Satanists who believe in child-sacrifice or, better yet, flaming queens who got secretly married in Provincetown last summer (damn! missed it while I was up there.)

But the stench emanating from the tv leads me to conclude that both of them are simply world-class, top-notch, American politicians, lacking a single sincere bone in their bodies, who've cut tons of shady deals and owe everything to everybody except their constituents.

Politics has always been ugly in this country.

But politics has, in my lifetime, degraded to the point where the parties might as well run ads on TV that say, "PLEASE VOTE FOR US. WE SUCK LESS!!!"

They needn't bother mentioning though, that unsaid in that slogan is the implicit admission that they both, indeed, suck.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Boy Crazy

There's this guy, see?

One of the things I really, really need to look at is how come I always seem to attract very nice straight guys who are really handsome and who want to be friends with me.

Most people would shrug and say, "So what's the problem? Be friends. End of discussion."

Except that I easily start developing feelings towards somebody I find attractive AND who shows me the least bit of positive attention.

Look, I don't go around wearing a big sign around my neck that says, "I'M THE ONLY GAY IN THE VILLAGE." I don't deny I'm gay to anyone who asks. But I live in a very straight world in which the presumption is, always, that I'm just like everybody else. But I hate having to constantly "break the news" to new people in my life. It makes me feel like I've been coming out for 40 years. When will it ever end? It was nerve-wracking enough the first time. And no, it doesn't get any easier.

My new friend is looking for a friend. He's trying really hard and I am not making it easy for him. I could be that friend. I SHOULD be that friend, but I'm allowing my craziness regarding boys to get in the way. It's really not fair to him. He has extended several invitations to me to spend time with him (and his daughter... he's recently divorced and new to the area), and I've always given him a bunch of ham-handed, lame excuses why I couldn't.

I used to think that life was complicated.

It turns out that life isn't complicated, but I sure like to make it that way and, given half a chance, I always will!

Friday, October 20, 2006


As I read Bev's Blog this morning it reminded me of my own family's dysfunctionality and I thought I'd share some of it with you.

Mom was 19 when she and my dad were divorced. She was pregnant with me at the time. He claimed, a couple of years ago after mom was dead and couldn't deny it, that she didn't bother telling him that she was expecting at the time. What he doesn't know is that I have court papers that prove otherwise.

It doesn't matter, though. She was 19 and pregnant and self-will run riot. Then I was born and immediately got cast in the role of "emotional football" for the next, oh, rest of my life. The rule was laid down that under no circumstances was I to have any contact, whatsoever, with my father. His parents, my paternal grandparents, were on the approved list. Dad remarried and had other kids, my half-brother and half-sister (whom I adore). Through the years, at holiday time, my paternal grandparents would take me out for awhile and whisk me off for a surreptitious visit of an hour or so to my... well, whoever those people were. Then, on the ride home, I would be sworn to absolute secrecy about the visit.

I was 8 or 9 or 10 at the time. Pretty sick, eh?

Wait, it gets worse.

I found out, years later, that my mom once became so pissed at my maternal grandmother (the other one), that she entered into secret negotiations with my father and stepmom for them to take custody of me, simply to deny access to me by my dear nana (mom's mom). This was the sort of brat my mother was. For whatever reasons, the deal fell through and when it did, so I've been told, mom uttered "he'll probably spit in my face someday because of this."

If she were alive, I wouldn't spit in her face. But I would ask her some very serious, sober, adult questions. The sort of questions which were never discussed in the house when I was growing up. The sort of questions which I wouldn't permit her to squirm out of answering. The sort of questions which would make her very, very, very uncomfortable.

The sort of questions a child is entitled to have the answers to, whether the adult wants to answer them or not.

But mom had it her way, right up to the very end, by which time it was too late for questions and answers. She managed to slide into dementia before I got uncomfortably sober. Then it fell to me, as her only known child (there is an other one, born out of wedlock two years after I was born, who was immediately given up for "off-the-books" adoption and whom of course was never spoken of, especially to me -- until my aunt blurted out the truth while she and I were planning mom's funeral -- and in front of the funeral director, at that), to take over the administration of her life and place her in round-the-clock nursing care for the last five, pitiable, years of her life, until she expired in February of 1995.

I was totally bombed through her death and funeral.

I should probably be ashamed to admit this, but the fact is that there isn't a day that goes by that I miss her. Not ever.

What a sad testament to a very sad life.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Better Things for Better Living Through Dentistry

I haven't got a lot of time today. I've got a dental appointment this afternoon at 4:30.

I wanted to thank my very dear friend Bev for her kind mention in her blog today about my blog of yesterday. I always blush when I read compliments about myself. I still have a hard time accepting the fact that I'm okay and even occasionally praiseworthy.

To be honest, I wish I'd had more time to edit it. But truth be told, if I had my way, I'd spend the rest of my life editing it.

I have this "teensy" little problem with obsessing about things. Not everything, but some things.

But I digress.

I hope everyone has a Serene Thursday, and I look forward to tossing out something juicy tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Myth is as Good as a Mile.

There's a lot of hooey out there about recovery and 12-Step programs.

Once or twice a year some newspaper, somewhere, will run an article or two about how science is on the "verge" of creating some magic pill which will either a) cure alcoholism or b) allow alcoholics to drink "normally" (which, by the way, for an alcoholic, means consumming every drop of liquor within a 10-mile radius sometime in the next half hour).

Most of the misinformation is a direct result of many people's inherent desire to live in a state of constant denial. Even non-alcoholics don't want to think too much about their own ... ahem, "habits"... which is why they happily enable a lot of alcoholics.

Families will often cultivate the "family alcoholic" so as to keep the spotlight off their own habits and issues. That state of affairs can continue for years until the family drunk (druggie/foodie/nympho/spender) finally breaks down and winds up in jail, an institution or dead.

But it turns out that, in some cases (such as mine), the obsession to drink can be lifted fairly quickly and easily. Continuous application of a 12-Step program, administered on a daily basis, can not only turn the alkies life around but it often turns around the lives of all the people around him or her.

Because, you see, we "came for the drinkin' and stayed for the thinkin'."

Look, here's the deal. In my own case, once I put the cork in the bottle, I was still an asshole. My problem was no longer drinking, it was the fact that I was an asshole. So taking a "pill" to cure my drinking wouldn't fix a thing, unless they also invented a pill to cure assholism. Liquor wasn't the problem. Liquor was merely the lipstick I had routinely applied to my inner pig in order to try to dress it up. It was my self-administered anaesthetic to dull my self-induced pain. It was a solution to life's problems that, in my case, no longer worked.

It, and I, had become unmanageable. Manageability, it turned out, was an illusion anyway. Nothing in life is "manageable" except how I react to it. Everything else is chaos.

So I learned how to work on my inner serenity. I learned how to "live life on life's terms." I learned that "acceptance is the key to all of life's problems."

Most importantly of all, I learned that it was possible to look at old events with new insights, and that they no longer needed to be a source of continuing pain for me. I learned that it was possible to derive meaning and sustenance from even the most unendurable of memories.

And I learned all of this one day at a time, one step at a time, through something that many people dismiss as a "cult" or "another religion."

But ya know what? In the 8 and a half years that I've been hanging around in this "cult" I have never once been asked to kick in an extra thousand bucks to buy the church a new furnace, nor have they ever insisted that I shave my head, dress in saffron robes and hang around the airport selling roses to strangers. Nor have they ever demanded that I adhere to any particular "brand" of a Higher Power.

No, it turned out that the most onerous thing this "cult" has ever asked me to do is to finally, at long last, sit down and look in the mirror and


get honest with myself.

No more self-delusion. No more evasions and excuses and alibis. No more "poor me's". No more "yeah, buts".

No more myths.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Old Nabe

I had occasion to ride my inbound bus this morning all the way up to 59th Street on Madison Avenue.

Then I walked up a block and started hoofing it east on 60th.

Ahhh, one of the many scenes of the crimes. It was like taking a tour of a Victorian Museum of Horrors. "Behind this curtain, the drunken episode with the barman!"

First, there was the Alliance Francaise (the French Institute), where I used to routinely show up drunk for French class. All I ever learned in French was how to order a cocktail in Paris... "je voudrais une ver du Johnnie Walker Noir, avec glas et eau, s'il vous plait!" Many a wasted evening and dollar there.

Next we pass the restaurant, Le Veau d'Or. Ah, yes. I remember the night I was poured into a taxi by the maitre'd there!

Oh, and there's Pegasus, a gay bar of some ill-repute I frequented during the last days of my drinking in Manhattan.

Somewhere around Lex and 60th there was an after-hours bar, upstairs from the street. I can't remember exactly where it was, because I was so drunk the few times I was in the place.

If I continued walking north along any of the avenues I crossed as I headed towards the East River, I'd be confronted with even more such reminders of where I was, what happened and where I am today.

I no longer fear being "sucked into" any of my old haunts, or of being visciously attacked by a bartender who'll hold me down and pour liquor down my throat. No, those ghosts are long since laid to rest.

But there's still the melancholy, still the remembrance of things past (a la recherche du temps perdu -- okay, I remember that too). But the most emotional spot for me is at the top of the stairs at the entrance to the subway at the northeast corner of Lexington and 60th. For it was there that I first publicly kissed my ex, sometime in the fall of 1979. He was leaving for England that night. It shocked him. It's not a painful memory, nor is it a rueful one. In fact, it's a very romantic memory. One of my fondest of our time together. Neither of us could have predicated then just how painful things were going to become for both of us as the years rolled by. We were very naive and, yes, in love.

It was a very long time ago.

New York is constantly changing. Where there used to be a "Crazy Eddie" electronics store, there's now a Maurice Villency furniture store. And yet the place is nearly timeless.

I still can't get over the fact that they closed CBGB/OMFUG last Sunday night. But other institutions will come along to replace it.

Just as sobriety came along to replace drunkeness.

And fresh love and first public kisses will come along again as long as I continue to believe that they will.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Only Thing I Have to Fear is my Baggage

FDR said that the "only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

I was 55 years old before I began to fully understand those words.

I had lived in a lot of fear throughout my life.

As a little kid I lived in fear of the crazy women (my mother and grandmother) who dominated my life.

Then I went in the Navy and lived in fear of them discovering my deep, dark secret. That I was attracted to other men.

Then I lived in fear of people not liking me; the fear of not being able to make money; the fear of not being successful; the fear of being successful.

And always, there was the fear of "being found out." Found out that I was a phony, that I had secrets, that I was "less than" you.

Always, always, always, there was fear. Fear of change because change meant uncertainty and I already had more of that than I could handle. Fear of being thrown out with the garbage, because that's what I truly deserved. I was just trash and I didn't want to be trash, but I was trash and would always be trash and it was only a matter of time before [fill in the name of a person or institution that really matters] found out that I was trash and would put me in my proper place, out in the trash.

I became a risk-adverse perfectionist; too afraid of failure to try anything and, if I did try anything, afraid that it would all go horribly wrong (eventually). That was true of careers, education, relationships and, above all, love. I grovelled at your feet if you showed me the least bit of attention or affection because I sure didn't deserve it. I was grateful for crumbs. I was the egomaniacal dirt beneath your feet.

It's a crippling way to live. Actually "live" is overstating the case. What I actually did was "survive." It would be fair to say that it was a crippling way to survive. Even though I did. Survive, that is.

But not without the aid of alcohol. Oceans of it. I had to numb myself to all these depressing feelings, and my old buddy alcohol was a great anaesthetic.

As I've progressed in my sobriety, though, I've found that it's okay to walk through, and experience, my fears rather than run away from them. In fact, the only way to overcome them, since they can't be mastered by will power or numbed or beaten into submission, is by learning to walk through them and, in the process, seeing them for what they really are, i.e. "paper tigers."

Lately I've started to sense that another change is coming into my life. I don't know exactly what it's going to be, but I do know that it's coming.

And rather than living with a sense of impending doom, I think I'm living with a sense of excitement about it.

This is change. This is progress. This is good!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sleepless in Hell's Kitchen

I spent the night in the city last night. This is a very big deal for me.

I swore, when I crawled out of town in December of 1997 with my tail between my legs and all my belongings squeezed into a uHaul, that the City and I were through. We'd both seen better days, and it was time for both of us to move on.

God, as She so often has a way of doing, twisted things around so that in no time I was sleeping in New Jersey and working in Manhattan. That state of affairs continued for six years.

But, as I wrote here a few columns ago, I've recently realized that that the City and I aren't done with each other yet. So, when a friend invited me (along with some others) to dinner last night, I accepted, knowing full well that it meant spending a night on my college roommates sofa-bed.

There's nothing wrong with Richard's sofa-bed, except that it IS a sofa-bed, and at 58 I'm pretty much the poster boy for the "Princess and the Pea" syndrome of insomnia in the face of anything that's different. Also, Richard's apartment, as lovely as it is, has the teensy distinct disadvantage of being right at the intersection of 48th Street and Ninth Avenue. Ninth in the 40's is one of THE major approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel, and it's also the very heart of Hell's Kitchen.

The dinner was lovely, the company was deliciously Noo Yawkish (gossipy and sophisticated) and it reminded me of all the wonderful things I had given up when I schlumped out of town 9 years ago.

The party broke up around 10:15 and I trekked downtown the several blocks to Richards, arriving there at 10:30. We chatted for awhile, I cranked up the ceiling fan, and tried to fall asleep.

Wrong. Too much caffeine, way too late for my own good. It must've been midnight before I finally drifted off. Then, as caffeine will do, it rapidly worked it's way into the liquid disposal system and, at 4:30'ish a.m. (my usual self-induced wake-up time) my eyes flew open in response to my bladder's sudden need to empty itself.

Rats. I took care of business and tried to go back to sleep. No dice. By now the City that Never Sleeps was starting to rev up for another day of business. By 5:00 a.m. the garbage trucks were rolling. Limos were heading out of town towards the airports, coffee shops were starting their day shifts, deliveries were being made, bakeries were pouring out smells and the all-pervasive "din" of the city was getting louder as more and more people hit the streets on their way to play their parts in the days' performance of The Greatest City on Earth.

I'm sleepy as hell right now (4:15 p.m).

God, I miss this town.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rebel without a Clue.

I had another "ah-HA!" moment last week and it had to do with my anger. I spent a lot of my time in recovery digging into the past to look at "everything that had pissed me off." Like a lot of folks, I came up with a laundry list of people and events who and which had really annoyed me over the years. Had annoyed me enough to drink over, as a matter of fact.

But then, last week, I started to think, "wait a minute. I didn't get pissed off at those people or events. They were only the excuses I used to allow my inate anger to erupt!"

In short, I have come to believe that I was born pissed off and that I had spent a lifetime acquiring people and events to justify allowing my anger to erupt! Okay, maybe that isn't big news to anybody else, but it's big news to me.

I realized that when I was angry I felt powerful. I liked feeling powerful because most of my life I had walked around feeling pretty powerless (i.e., a "victim"). But when I was pissed off, I felt justified in not being the victim but, instead, in being the victimizer.

Anger gave me the illusion of control. "I'll show YOU, you SOB!" And then I'd go indulge in some inappropriate and/or dangerous behavior like (over) drinking or (over) spending or (over)eating or (over) f*cking.

All of which is like taking poison and hoping somebody else dies.

And how insane is that?

I spent a lot of my childhood pissed off because I felt like a victim of the alcoholism of the adults who surrounded me. When I grew up, and inhabited an adult body, the inner-child continued to behave like a victim and continued to act out because I had "found" sufficient reasons throughout my life to justify letting my inner anger escape.

Now I can laugh at my inner anger. Somebody, I forget who, once said that "my therapist wants me to nurture my inner-child, but my sponsor just wants it to grow the f*ck up."

I think I'm getting beyond nurturing my needy inner-child now. I think it's time for the little brat to grow up. And with that, I can laugh at it's temper tantrums.

It doesn't matter what happened to me in life... all that ever mattered was how I reacted to it.

Thankfully, I react better these days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The World of Tomorrow

It took two hours to get into NYC this morning. It usually takes an hour.

Somebody wrecked a truck on the outbound side of 495 prior to 5:00 a.m. and things just got uglier until my commuter bus arrived on the scene, during the heighth of the morning rush, at 7:00 a.m. It took us an hour to go five miles. And even when we got to the tunnel, we crawled through it.

It's hard to explain the setup to anybody who hasn't actually driven up the NJTP to exit 16-E (Lincoln Tunnel), then on 495 (the connector) to what is called "The Helix." The Helix is a huge, curving, diving roadway, 8 lanes wide, that rises from river level, in a 180 degree arc, starting at the openings of the three tubes which comprise the Lincoln Tunnel, up over 150 feet, to an altitude sufficient to transverse the solid rock mini-mountains which line the Jersey side of the river, called The Palisades.

The Pallisades are where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton a couple of hundred years ago.

When I was a kid the Pallisades were the home of "Pallisades Park", an amusement park immortalized in song by Freddie Cannon way back in 1375 (when Dick Clark was 23).

Anyway, the cops still hadn't cleared the mess away by the time we arrived, which meant that the special bus express lane, for inbound commuter buses only, wasn't functioning. That forced us to blend into the regular traffic lanes.

The system, obviously, is stretched to its limits. The policy-wonks keep saying that "more asphalt is NOT the answer", meaning more traffice lanes.

I think the problem lies in the whole concept of a tunnel. The Lincoln Tunnel was originally built in the 1930's with two tubes, 4 lanes, any or all of which were reversible as needed. Sometime in the 40's it was decided to add a third tube, for a total of six lanes.

I guess they could add a fourth tube. But then, where do you put an additional 6,000 cars and trucks and buses on the Manhattan side, between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.?

Nah, for once the wonks are right. It's time... it's long past time... for the whole region to re-think how they move people into and out of New York City every day.

Some people are making noises about adding a new rail tunnel from New Jersey into New York. That'd be fine, but the existing stations are already strained to capacity. The existing trains are already full by the time they leave central Jersey. Anybody who boards north of New Brunswick is doomed to standing all the way into the city.

What are people supposed to do? Sprout wings and fly? Hire a helicopter service? Buy pogo sticks or roller blades?

Not to brag, but I have come up with what I think is the ideal (and elegant) solution. I think we should build a multi-track monorail system on concrete pylons ABOVE the center of the existing roadbed of the Turnpike, with station stops spaced out every 20 miles or so, with new park and ride facilities at the new stations.

Furthermore, the monorail wouldn't terminate in New Jersey. It would fly OVER the Hudson, again on pylons 100's of feet in the air, and cruise straight along over 42nd Street in Midtown, stopping at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (8th Avenue), Times Square, Bryant Park (6th Avenue), Grand Central Station (Park Avenue) and terminate at the United Nations, on the East River.

With so few stops (and with no dangerous vehicular traffic to contend with) the monorail could travel at a hundred miles per hour up the turnpike, only stopping at those few, designated, stops along the way. A trip from the state capital, Trenton, to New York, could be accomplished in as little as 30 minutes.

I often think about my dream monorail on trips like this mornings.

And then I remind myself that, once upon a time, I saw something very much like it, when I was a teenager riding through the World of Tomorrow, at the GM Futurama Exhibit at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair.

Maybe we should try some 40 year old technology to replace the obviously failing 70 year old technology.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New York - 2006


I left NY in December of 1997, thinking that I was through with the city and that I would never return.

God, as usual, had other plans. The first of which involved getting me sober. Then, after two years of small town recovery, I found myself working for a lawyer at a law firm in Plainsboro, New Jersey. I loved it. It was a 10 minute drive to work.

Then, one day, he came in and said, "we're going back to the city." It was so much more money than I was making (which was already more money than I thought I'd ever earn again), that I jumped at it. Besides, he promised me that it would only be for three years.

He lied.

Through thick and thin and 9/11 and blackouts I continued to commute. I cleaned up the financial wreckage my drinking had caused. I put a few bucks away in a 401-k. I even bought a new car.

But commuting was taking its toll. I haven't really been living in either world. I have friends in New York whom I only see for an hour in the morning. I have friends at home whom I only see for a few brief moments on weekends. I'm constantly torn between the two worlds. The world where once I'd had everything and lost it, and the world where God gave me my life back.

But always from day one back in the City, despite my terror of being sucked into one of my old haunts and being "struck drunk" again, I had a feeling of "home" that was always lacking back down in Hightstown.

I've lived like this for six and a half years. Up at 4:53 a.m. every weekday morning, on a 6:10 a.m. bus into Manhattan. A morning visit with a bunch of like-minded people for an hour, followed by a day at the office. A trek to the Port Authority at 5:30, aboard a 5:45 bus, arriving back in Hightstown at 6:45 p.m. Exhausted, I pull out whatever junk is available in the fridge and park myself in front of the TV for two and a half hours before lumbering off to bed.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Then, last Friday morning, as I was standing at the corner of 53rd & Park waiting for the light to change, it finally hit me. "I'm not done with this City."

It was such a little statement in my head. But it had enormous implications for me.

Not done?? What else is there to "do"? I don't know. I haven't thought that far ahead yet. I've worked in radio, tv, publishing, finance and law. What other mischief can I get up to? I'm sure there's something!!!!

This is a great big city with great big possibilities, and those possibilities don't end simply because of age. Or bottoms.

There are a few things I do need to be doing, that I'm not doing now, and which could be done if I moved back here. Number One of which is "have a social life." Let's face it, Hightstown isn't exactly Chelsea when it comes to the available, gay, dating pool. And it would aid my recovery enormously, too.

All of a sudden I'm coming up with a million reasons why it would be a good idea for me to move back into New York, and a million reasons why I should leave my safety net in New Jersey.

But the very first thing I need to do is to call my sponsor and tell him all about this.

So he can tell me how crazy I am.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Shakespeare it ain't

I was reading Steve Schalchlin's blog over the weekend and he had a pointer to a YouTube piece featuring a real live native-born Jersey Boy, film director Kevin Smith. Kevin was waxing poetical about life in LaLaLand, scripts in turnaround, spiders in the third act and "taking" meetings with Hollyweird Uber-Producer (and former hairburner), Jon Peters.

Kevin had lots of great one-liners in there including my favorite, "people in Hollywood fail upwards." People on Wall Street do the same thing.

But my favorite part was when he mentioned that Peters insisted that he (Smith) include a "spider" in the third-act of a script that Kevin was going to write for a Superman sequel.

It wasn't the spider that caught my attention, it was the mention of a third act. It's weird, thinking of movies as having "acts." I grew up in the theater. I saw a lot of it and did a lot of it. Even when I did commercials (I was the so-called "talent"), I hated it because there was lots of "hurry up and wait" to shooting things on film. There was a lot of hurry up and wait to shooting stuff on video, too. I just didn't like "shooting." But I loved the theater.

But do movies have acts? They have beginnings, middles and ends. But acts? Nobody gets up and goes to the bathroom while the cast ducks out into the alley for a cigarette during a movie.

But I digress.


Like my life.

Act I of my life was written by somebody else, and starred my mother and grandmother. To say that it was written is probably overstating the case. It was more like a "group improv." In either case, I was merely a supporting player in that act. God, it was a shitty part. I couldn't wait until I starred in my own show.

Then, one day and without noticing it, Act I was over and it's stars were all dead. The problem was that it was 20 years into the second Act and I hadn't noticed that I was now the lead. I was still improvising as though the original stars were still around. I hadn't even taken the time to sit down and write a few lines of my own dialogue. I was still mouthing the same trite, childish lines I had made up years before and which had been so successful then. Now, they just sounded old and hackneyed. My performance faltered. It lacked inspiration. Even I didn't believe me anymore.

Then, one morning, I woke up in jail. And that was the end of Act II and the beginning of Act III.

So far there haven't been any spiders in my third act. But there has been an infusion of freshness in my performance due largely to having acquired a whole new, wonderful, staff of writers. My performance has gotten comically quirky. It's developed a slightly off-center humorous quality, with just a hint of pathos and a healthy dash of humanity. It's gained in breadth and depth. It's lost the brittle bleakness which it had acquired over the years. Despite it's new depth it's also seemed to have acquired a sense of lightness, which people really like.

Suddenly, I'm no longer Lady MacBeth, I'm more like Peg O'Myheart (apologies to Jerry Herman).

They say that in life there are no Second Acts.

I disagree. I think there are as many acts to your life as you can possibly squeeze in.

My life is hardly Shakespearean but I hope and pray to God that at least it's no longer boring. Cause it sure had gotten boring. Like an evening of German opera.

And I think being boring is the worst sin of all.

It's just a waste of talent.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Free at Last!

Well, the good news is that Mr. X feels a lot better.

So much better, in fact, that he's going into Philadelphia tonight with a bunch of friends leaving me with the promise that we'll "try it again next week."

Okay, so what have I learned about this?

Logo (the gay cable network) is showing "Jeffrey" right now. Jeffrey is avoiding dating Jeff the hunk from the gym because he's HIV positive. That's the way the world is supposed to be ordered. Non-poz guys turning down dates with poz guys because they're afraid of "catching it."

Not me. I do it bass-ackward. I've gotten to a point where I've got no problem dating poz guys and I find the one poz man on earth who turns down dates with non-poz guys.

How weird is that? Is he co-dependently trying to protect me from him? I need to call my old therapist and schedule an appointment, I think.

I've also learned that Mr. X, although he went to the same university as I did, didn't quite have the same experiences I did. Whereas I was totally out, he was totally closeted. I was president of the Gay Community, he joined a frat and had a "girlfriend".

One thing we did have in common, though, was we both cruised into Philadelphia every weekend, to go dancing and whoring.

He also loves LA. I'm not wild about LA. There's a writer there who owes me millions.

He's probably a Republican, too, but I've already decided that I'm not even going to bother to find out if that's true or not. This relationship is over before the first date!


Do I know how to project, or what?

So, I'm back on the market, boys.


Friday, October 06, 2006

New York - 1972

I was fresh out of the Navy and fresh out of the closet. A friend (who is still a very dear friend) suggested that a bunch of us drive up to New York City one Saturday night in late September to "go to a dance and then hit the tubs!" (translation: "the Gay Activists Alliance has weekly dances on Saturday at a converted firehouse in SoHo which we should attend, after which we can make a night of it at a gay bath house.")

In no time, a bunch of us were jammed into a car heading up the Turnpike to the City.

Even from a block away you could see the crowds heading towards the firehouse on Wooster. It was a beautiful autumn night and the doors were wide open to the street as 100's of gays streamed into the dance hall. There was something romantic about the whole idea of a bunch of gay guys dancing on the concrete floor of what had once been a very butch, macho, stud firehouse.

I stood on the sidelines for awhile, soaking up the wonderfully gay atmosphere (remember, I was pretty new at this and the only intoxicant I needed that night was the sheer numbers of gay people in the world!!! I felt wonderful!!!!!)

And that's when it happened. To the thumping dance beat "our eyes met across a crowded room."

Yeah, I know. How corny is that? Well, it was corny, and it was real, and it happened just that way and I thought I'd throw up, if I weren't so enthralled that somebody... ANYBODY... would look at me "that way." I never thought anybody, anywhere, would ever want me "that way."

I was wrong. Somebody did.

I blushed. I turned. I was afraid. I looked again. He was still looking at me. I didn't know what to do. I felt awkward. Tongue-tied. Ridiculous. Is my fly open? How does my hair look? I wish I'd shaved. He was still looking at me. The crowd closed in. I panicked. What if he escaped? What if he didn't??? The crowd opened. He was still there, still looking. Only now he was smiling, too. A great big beautiful smile. He was beautiful. Blonde. Handsome. The most beautiful, blonde, handsome man I had ever seen in my entire life. Ever.

I edged along the wall and across the floor towards the spiral staircase leading upstairs to the lounge. I hoped he would follow. I was afraid he would follow. He followed.

I sat on a sofa. He came and sat on a love-seat next to the sofa. He said hello. I melted at the sound of his voice. I wanted to scoop him up and run away with him right then.

"We're going to the tubs now" came from a voice behind me. It was my friend.

"Er, uh, well, I'm, I don't, HELP!!!" was all that I could muster. The "help" being unsaid. Fortunately for me Rick, for that was his name, piped up with, "he's coming home with me, where can we meet you in the morning?" Everything was taken care of. Everything was set. We agreed upon a time and a place and I was suddenly whisked off on the RR (now the R) train to deepest, darkest, Queens.

I was in love. Not for the first time, but it was the first time there had been a physical expression of my feelings for someone else. Someone who returned the love, and lust, with all the burning fervor of youth.

I didn't want to leave him the next morning. He escorted me all the way back into Manhattan to the assigned meeting place. We kissed goodbye. My friends all looked as though they'd just crossed the Sinai with Lawrence of Arabia.

My friends, except for the driver, slept all the way home. I cried all the way home. For the first time in my life I had felt complete in some way, and now I was feeling torn apart again.

I had no faith in the future. I didn't trust that things would work out. I wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it. I was like a baby.

Over the next few months, we spent just about every weekend together. I learned very well the various routes to Queens from Delaware. He took the train a lot.

Then I began to notice little annoying things about him. He nagged me about my friends. He wanted me to move to New York or, worse, made noises about moving to Delaware.
And suddenly, the blush was off the rose. He was crimping my social life. Really clingy. I looked for more faults, so I could get rid of him.

Finally, in January, I dumped him. Bad. In one one-hour session. Then I headed home and joined up with my buddies at a gay bar outside Philly.

There was nothing wrong with Rick. But my need to drink was growing and getting hungrier. And it outweighed any need for human love and companionship I might have had.

I have regretted what I did to that man for over 30 years. I also regret what alcohol did to everyone I've ever known. I hope and pray to God that it never happens again.

And I hope and pray to God that, wherever he is, Rick is happy and in love.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New York - 1964

I've had an on-again/off-again relationship with New York City ever since I was a kid, growing up in Wilmington, Delaware at the other end of the New Jersey Turnpike.

To my family, New York was an exotic foreign country, inhabited by aliens, and it might as well have been a million miles away, instead of just 126.

I ran away to the New York World's Fair in 1964. I'd lobbied my mother for an entire year to go. She kept "yessing" me, just to shut me up about it. But when the time came, and no trip to New York was forthcoming, I realized that it was time to take matters into my own hands.

And so I did. I saved up my money and, one early morn in very early summer (I had just turned 15), I boarded a bus to downtown Wilmington, got to Penn Station and bought a round-trip ticket to New York. I think it was around 8 bucks. Without thinking twice, I boarded a train and two hours later I disembarked in the old Penn Station (it was demolished later that same year). Only an idiot could've gotten lost. There were huge temporary signs showing the way to go to catch the "Fair Train" (now the 7 train, I think) which headed out to Shea Stadium and the Fairgrounds in Queens.

I got there around the time that the Fair opened for the day. I think it was around 9:30 or 10.

It was a wonderful day. I had my first Belgian Waffle. I was amazed by the Dupont, NCR, Ford and GM pavilions. At the IBM pavilion they were showing the very first "Selectric" typewriters, with the floating ball replacing the separate letter bars.

Twelve hours later I came dragging in the back door of my house back in the 'burbs and my mom was standing there, absolutely livid.


It wasn't hard to guess. I was standing there festooned with Fair memorabilia. Buttons, pins, a Worlds Fair baseball cap, even a souvenir Kodak "World's Fair" camera, which I'd bought because I forgot to bring mine, was dangling from my neck.

"The Fair," I said, trying to sound sophisticated by calling it, simply, "the fair." "And I'm going back again next year... and there's nothing you can do to stop me."

A line was crossed. There was no going back. It was the first time I had overtly drawn a line regarding my own independence. I could tell from the look in her eyes that she understood. She couldn't get over the fact that I had brazened it out, on my own. She lived in fear. I was pretty fearless. All she said was, "You're just like me." In some ways, yes. In others, no.

I still have a few precious mementoes of that trip, including a guide book to the fair and a few pins ("I have seen the future", GM Futurama).

But the most precious memento of all is my memory of striking out on my own to do something daring and having a whale of a good time in the process.

p.s. I did go back to the Fair the following year. But it wasn't nearly as exciting as I remembered it being the first time. Which taught me another lesson. Very little in life is as wonderful the second time around.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Matinee Ladies

It's Wednesday and according to the old commercials today is Prince spaghetti day in South Boston.

It's also matinee day in Manhattan. And that is not good news for commuters from central New Jersey.

Oh, the morning bus ride into the city is okay with the usual collection of quiet readers, sleepers and a sprinkling of laptop commandos, most of whom keep very, very, very quiet on the hour long trip from the park and ride at Exit 8-A into EnWhyCee.

But oh, the trip home tonight will be quite a different story.

The Yammering Yentas from Retirement Acres will be out in force. The Broadway shows all end around 4:00 p.m. and for the next hour or two the regular commuter buses will be jammed, not only with the poor schlubs who have just spent the day being clubbed to death in corporate offices all over town like so many baby seals, but also with highly wound-up ladies "of a certain age" (and their long suffering spouses, or at least the spouses who haven't yet died yet in self-defense).

They will take the outside window seats. Their spouses will be seated on the aisles. And they will review the shows they've seen. To each other. Across the spouses AND the aisles. At the tops of their lungs. While observing the passing scene in the adjacent lanes on the turnpike and dispensing invaluable driving advice to the driver. Also at the tops of their lungs. It will be the longest hour of my week.

But, God love 'em, they help support the American Musical Theater (the three most beautiful words in the English language!) So thank God for them.

And also thank God for iPod! So I can drown 'em out.

And also thank God for The Scissor Sisters ... and Steve Schalchlin, who give me something worth listening to, aside from the Yammering Yentas.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Congressional Slime

Someday, when I'm a better person, I'll be able to forgive the likes of Mark Foley, the recently departed Congresscritter who got caught with his hand in the Congressional cookie jar.

Nothing steams me more than hypocrites like him. I grew up drowning in a sea of hypocrisy and I learned to detest it.

And I especially despise Mr. Foley's type. He's the school bully who makes a career out of beating up "fags and homos" because that's all he can ever think about... fags and homos. And it upsets him to be constantly thinking about fags and homos. And all the disgusting, loathesome, fabulous things that fags and homos do to each other. Mmmmmmm. Yum... er, I mean YUK!

I realize that nearly all human beings engage in various kinds of "diversionary" tactics in order to keep the heat off themselves, such as the drunk who marries another drunk, thinking that their new spouse is a bigger drunk, so nobody'll notice how much of a drunk the original drunk is. It's a form of denial and self-protection. "My drinking problem??? What about HER drinking problem???!!!!"

But Mr. Foley is a classic example of the [fill_in_the_blank] bashing, self-loathing, closeted [fill_in_the_blank]. It's the self-loathing which gets channeled into lashing out at others in order to create a diversion that bothers me.

And I'll bet you, dollars to doughnuts, that he's also a classic example of the "Jim McGreevey Syndrome". This is what happens when a politician has nowhere else to hide. Having run out of options, they resign and run like hell. In Mr. Foley's case he resigned and checked into a rehab. It's only a matter of time before he pleads insanity of some sort, lays low for awhile, comes out, proclaims himself a "better person" for the experience and writes a tell-all book so he can cash in, big-time, on the whole seamy episode.

Mark my words. He'll publish before the end of 2007.

It's all part of the "big show" of American political life. Lots of fervent pretense. Lots of heartfelt public anguish. Lots of prime-time drama and lots of "collateral damage" (psychologically abused teenagers) along the way.

Betcha none of the pages who bore the brunt of Foley's unwanted advances, fearful of making powerful enemies in an institution they one day hope to join, writes a "blow and tell" about it. Nah, if they know what's good for them, they'll keep their mouths shut. And I'll go further and bet that the Republican leadership, mindful of the potential damage, cuts a few deals with the aforementioned kids, to provide them with "future consideration" in various forms, in exhange for them keeping their big, fat traps shut.

Even so, they'll wind up spending years lying on some shrink's couch talking about it. Or maybe they'll go postal and shoot up a Burger King or something.

And a few of them will wind up in Congress. Or elsewhere. Cashing in on their piece of the action by calling in the Republican IOU's.

But no matter what, I believe that you may count on the fact that, eventually, Mr. Foley will come up smelling like a Republican Rose. Like it was drowned in horseshit.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Day of Atonement

Today is Yom Kippur. And it's gotten me to thinking about my Jewishness.

Well, I'm Catholic (in name only), but that's practically Jewish.

Our respective clergies both dress in black and make us feel guilty.

It's a good day to look inward, to reflect on the year just past, and to ask God for help in the year ahead.

It's also a good day to just shut up.

Peace! Shalom!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

No Date (yet)

I thought I'd get that off my chest, first thing. Mr. X cancelled our date. But it's not what you think.

To be honest, I was relieved. Despite all my internal efforts all week, I'd spent all week trying, very hard, to not invest this "date" with much emotional baggage.

HAH. I have to face it, at 58 I've got baggage. Lots of it.

But enough about me. This is about Mr. X.

He's ill. Seriously ill. And he's taking all kinds of meds for it. Unfortunately, his particular medical "cocktail" sometimes has severe physical and mental side-effects.

When I came home from the office on Friday, around 7:15 pm, I found that he'd left a message for me earlier in the day, around noon. He sounded fine, so I tried to call him back. I went into his voice-mail, so I left him a message asking him to call. I have a regular Friday night gig which I attend, so I left the house around 7:50 p.m. with no word from him.

I got home a little after 10:00 p.m. and there was still no message, but I decided to stay cool and assume the best. The next morning I did my usual Saturday morning routine and chores and got home around 9:00 a.m. Still no message. I have to admit that by now I was getting pretty concerned.

Finally, at noon, the phone rang and it was him. He sounded pained and distracted. He explained that the medicines were kicking his ass and that he was sorry but that he was going to have to cancel. I told him that was okay (and I meant it), and that we could try it again sometime.

And, as I said before, I was relieved. Relieved that he was okay, despite the pernicious effects of the medicines, relieved that he understood what was going on with himself and relieved that he had been able, finally, to let me know what was going on with him.

I didn't make it "about" me. It was about him, and that was okay.

We're going to try it again next weekend.

He called me again, around 3:00 p.m. He was obviously feeling a little better and had become concerned about me. We talked some more, and I let him take the lead because I didn't want to tire him out or try to force him in any way. We talked for about 17 minutes. He said that he was sad because the medicines took such a toll on his social life, and he wanted so much to have a social life again. My heart went out to him.

I have a non-stop social life. I've got friends, really good friends, from Virginia to Boston, and from Ft. Meyers to San Francisco (and London).

Mr. X's life has gotten progressively smaller because of his physical illness. My life has gotten progressively larger, because of my mental one.

I am truly blessed and grateful.

HOWEVER, I'm not going spend this week pretending that I don't care about Mr. X by maintaining a cool, discrete, hands-off distance from him. Nor am I going to smother him with umpteen check-in calls every day (I'm not his mommy), but I am going to call him at least once a day, and not to make sure that things are going my way, but rather to let him know that he doesn't have to go through this alone and that I genuinely care about him and his well-being.

I don't know him very well yet, but I know enough to know that I want to know him more.

It's important to let people know how I feel about them.

Even if it means risking a piece of my heart to do so.