Shamelessly, I picked up Christmas dinner from Cracker Barrel. The only thing that bothers me about it is that they had a pretty bad rap there for a while about divesting gay people of their jobs, or the opportunity of a job. It kept me from their biscuits and gravy for a very long time. Today, with a touch of reassuring irony, the woman who served me up two big boxes and a couple of pies, was indeed of the sisterhood.
I cut 6" off the top of the tree this morning to move the coffee table from the center of the room and the tree beneath it. Once I light a fire on Tuesday, I do not need the tree smoking the house to the ground with a dozen people crammed around the table. It was something to get it off the ground; a serious mouth full of pine needles.
The grocery store was a zoo today. I went up to get some cheese and olives and some flowers for the table. A friend of mine once remarked how much flowers brighten up the day, and I tend to agree.
I think you and I both need a poem tonight. I paused for a bit after writing this and thumbed through some Emily Dickinson, but I have realized only now how little I like her poems. I have had that anthology a long time. I may give it away.
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, (forgive me Father, for I have utilized Wikipedia) is ranked in my top 5 favorite books. Alma Rose is close to my #1 favorite. Of course, in my head all of these books all sit on the #1 favorite spot, elbowing each other for rank. I've read both books 3 or more times, and anything that can garner that much of my attention is most certainly tops.
So, I'm taking a passage out of it tonight for you to take away, out into the blackness of the night perfectly punctuated by the fullest of moons:
"To say that the dinner went badly would be an exaggeration, but it didn't go all that well, either. Though I didn't do anything stupid, exactly, or say anything that I shouldn't, I felt dejected and bilious, and I talked little and ate even less. Much of the talk centered around events to which I was not privy, and even Charles's kind parenthetical remarks of explanation did not help much to clarify it. Henry and Francis argued interminably about how far apart the soldiers in a Roman legion had stood: shoulder to shoulder (as Francis said) or (as Henry maintained) three or four feet apart. This led into an even longer argument - hard to follow and, to me, intensely boring - about whether Hesiod's primordial Chaos was simply empty space or chaos in the modern sense of the word. Camilla put on a Josephine Baker record; Bunny ate my lamb chop.
I left early. Both Francis and Henry offered to drive me home, which for some reason made me feel even worse. I told them I'd rather walk, thanks, and backed out of the apartment, smiling, practically delirious, my face burning under the collective gaze of cool, curious solicitude.
It wasn't far to school, only fifteen minutes, but it was getting cold and my head hurt and the whole evening had left me with a keen sense of inadequacy and failure which grew keener with every step. I moved relentlessly over the evening, back and forth, straining to remember exact words, telling inflections, any subtle insults or kindnesses I might've missed, and my mind - quite willingly - supplied various distortions.
When I got to my room it was silver and alien with moonlight, the window still open and the Parmenides open on the desk where I had left it; a half-drunk coffee from the snack bar stood beside it, cold in its styrofoam cup. The room was chilly but I didn't shut the window. Instead, I lay down on my bed, without taking off my shoes, without turning on the light.
As I lay on my side, staring at a pool of white moonlight on the wooden floor, a gust of wind blew the curtains out, long and pale as ghosts. As though an invisible hand were leafing through them, the pages of the Parmenides rippled back and forth..."
I just finished up some work looming over my head and now I am free until Jan 2, when I return to work. I will be in 3 other states by Jan 28th. Lately, I’ve been working through all this travel with my wife, and we are both satisfied that our jobs are demanding, but rewarding, and that a relationship is what you make of the time you have together. For now, the biggest thing on the agenda, besides packing the extended family into our modest house on Christmas Day, is making some cookies with royal icing, finishing gift wrapping, and dragging the family to Midnight Mass at Cathedral Basilica. I really want to take communion, but Catholics do it differently, and practice as I have, I cannot remember all the steps. I cross myself in the wrong order – what can I say, I was raised Pentecostal.
I’m sure this will be met with an array of huffs and puffs from our teenager. He fell asleep on me the last time we went to mass at 10pm, never mind midnight.
I was considering what to wear. I have been contemplating enlarging my skirt collection. We’ll see.
The Archdiocese sent out a letter in early December. I snapped it up before it went into the recycling bin. It contains a lot of information never seen on their letterhead before. Such as: I apologize to those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy. It goes on, for two whole pages. It’s well-written. Candid, too. I felt it came from the right place.
I grew up around pastors and churches. If it’s one thing those guys love, it’s the power they wield. Church is a big business, regardless of denomination. First, there are a lot of people under the command of the pastor. Secondly, those people represent two forms of capital – free human labor and financial revenue. When I was 10, the church I attended in the UK went through a split. That is, one portion of the church departed with the former pastor, who had been ousted in a kind of coup, by the remaining parishioners. The correlations of war are appropriate here. Character assassination, threats, general badmouthing, and definite back door strategies to overthrow were all employed.
The mega churches of this world represent an incredibly scaled up version of the smallish church I attended as a child. The stakes are far higher. The corruption is abundant anywhere power is in play. My favorite tactic is the super-anti-gay pastors who are later caught in same-sex acts. Where else but in plain sight is it best to hide?
Humans are seriously fucked up. We cannot find our asses with a flashlight, as the saying goes. Not one of us is exempt, either. It’s a learn from your mistakes kind of gig. Depends on how many goes at the mistake you’d like to take.
The laundry is calling. The Saturday nights I’ve been having this year are pretty epic. Before I go, let me say a bit more. Gripping, life-changing stuff!
My favorite thing to eat lately is whole milk Greek yogurt + KIND honey nut granola + fresh blueberries. If you let it sit together in the fridge for a while you will not chip a tooth on the granola.
I have arrived at the 9th book in the Tales of the City series, The Days of Anna Madrigal. To me, these 9 books represent Gay Americana, a kind of 101-historical experience – a read befitting everyone, but most definitely my rainbow people. I have enjoyed each chapter. I haven’t enjoyed a series of books like that since I read all of Outlander – a massive collection. Showtime is only just starting to unpeel the layers of that epic master many years after its debut in the Romance section, of all places. It unfolds into a historical thriller, in my opinion. While it’s steamy in spots, it is equally violent and true to each era. Go get some! I need something new to read.
My great Aunt called me today. She left a really long message. It’s why I did not pick up. I like to save her messages. She is 89, after all. If I had thought it through, I would have recorded my grandparents a lot.
I was at the candy store a few weeks back. A woman was chasing her kid around.
“Quila! Quila!!” she shouted, as the child ran around, literally a kid in a candy store. Suddenly, the mom was at her wits end. And then she let her have it: “TE-QUILA!! Get over here!!!”
I had to wait until December, but that takes the cake for my 2018 Name of the Year.
Me: ”don’t take it personally but I’m gonna tune you out...”
Doc: “ha ha”
I’ve been listening to this podcast called This Is Love. Episode 2, Something Large & Wild was so good, I replayed it for my son this morning on the way to school. Maybe you can listen to it, too? The commentator has a weird method of articulating some words, which is probably a signal that I need to be medicated for my Type A personality, but it’s tolerable, and the subjects on the episodes up to #5 have been good.
Ep.2 stood out to me because we do not often think of animals like whales as having a love-thing going on with their fellow whales, but it’s clear the mother-child relationship is happening with them. Losing your baby whale is not something the mother just chalks up to “oh well.” I also love when we can see moments where nature and humans come together like this, and I know there are a host of dog-and-cat moments to pull from, but what about something the size of an interstate bus? That’s not routine.
I have been writing a lot lately and it is eating into my t-shirt situation. Plus, I am having a hard time finding cyanotype liquids I need locally, which I sometimes prefer over Amazon. Not an excuse, but travel is easing up a bit, and I’m going to really try hard to get Eddlin finished first. I don’t really know what to do with it, other than post it here. I like that it is not really much of anything. I think that will change at some point, but for now, I don’t want to be competing. Competing brings out the worst in me. Creating, the best. It is copywritten, it is safe for now in the hands of the interwebs.
This has been something I’ve looked at a lot in the last week. Nick Cave’s site.
I’ve been listening to some good tunes, which are posted below, for you:
From Grey's Anatomy:
“When we say things like: People don’t change, it drives scientists crazy. Because change is, literally, the only constant in all of science. Energy, matter, it’s always changing. Morphing. Merging. Growing. Dying. It’s the way people try not to change that’s unnatural. The way we cling to what things were instead of letting them be what they are. The way we cling to old memories instead of forming new ones. The way we insist on believing, despite every scientific indication, that anything in this lifetime is permanent. Change is constant. How we experience change, that’s up to us. It can feel like death, or it can feel like a second chance at life, if we open our fingers, loosen our grips, go with it. It can feel like pure adrenaline. Like, at any moment, we can have another chance at life. Like, at any moment, we can be born all over again."
What is the big deal about the holidays? I don’t get the gearing up for hatred. The Hallmark Holiday crew, as in, “Oh, it’s just another Hallmark Holiday…”
Christmas to me isn’t about religion. No need to get triggered, people.
Christmas is awesome for the following reasons:
And being fucking thankful. Yes, give all the fucks!
Granted, you could do most of those all year long, but we don’t, we run about doing our high level, super-duper important stuff every day, oblivious to our need for joy. The communal “our.” The entire eastern seaboard does not want to be greeted with Midwestern charm. Trust me, I’ve tried. It’s like being in any of the weekly meetings at work. Slap that smile right off your face. Still, I think it’s worth persisting over. Who cares if there’s shunning to be done.
I fired up the Christmas music to speed me along to home today. The Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is my favorite.
I’m not allowed to hang the Christmas lights at home until after Thanksgiving – fair enough.
A few notes about Miami. Everyone drives as though they are on their way to claim $50,000,000. I saw a Maserati swerving through traffic; it must cost a lot to have insurance in Florida. I asked the hawker outside my hotel last night a question – these are usually very good looking men and women who stand about trying to get people to come in for dinner – she looked at me (it was the long pause that gave her away) and said, “No English.” So, there’s a lot of that and that would make me learn Spanish better than I know it now, which is to say I would need to learn a lot. But I would want to get around on both sides of the languages spoken here.
Miami is also expensive. Lots of beautiful high rises, more under construction. I saw 8 cruise ships lined up as I passed the port this morning. I used to be scared of cruising, but it is one heck of a restful vacation.
Miami has the best radio stations, the biggest array of music. Great food, rich in culture, the place is fun to visit, not for me to live.
I drove to Ft. Lauderdale to fly home and took 2 full loops around the airport trying to return the rental car, which I did not gas-up before doing so, which is going to come back to haunt me, but I was pretty late after doing the tour-de-force, so wth, let’s roll the expense budget together. That makes 2 Florida airports at which I have incurred fines in the process of returning rental cars and making my flight (in Orlando I did an illegal u-turn and got onto a tollway just to get off at the next exit, bypassing the change collector as I did not have any change).
When I land in Jacksonville or Ft. Myers it is so different. Such sweet and sleepy airports in comparison. It literally shoves the flip flops onto your feet to walk off the plane and out into the terminal. One of these days soon I am going to be done with all the travel and life will change again.
I took a look at the fires burning near LA as I am off there next. There is one not far from where I am going. I am considering bringing a mask. My coworkers tell me the air smells like smoke. I am also considering rescheduling for January. 300+ days of sun!
It's snowing at home. They've called off school and everything. I wait 2 1/2 years to go 4-wheeling in a good snow, and it snows while I am in Miami. What the ever lovin' HECK IS HAPPENING?!! Ugh! 7" falling right now. I have packed wisely with a sweat jacket and a pair of jeans for my return flight Friday. And a hat. I remembered a hat. I'm glad I raked the 3,000,000 leaves in the yard before I left. Now, the grass seed can be sunk decidedly down into the soil. Ask any old timer, they'll tell you that is the truth. (anyone over 65 at Lowe's or Home Depot)
The crazy looking gal in the pic over the bed greeted me (I know, who says gal anymore) when I entered my hotel room tonight. I didn't notice her at all until I turned on the overhead light and then I hit my kung-fu stance. Fortunately, she does not face the bed, or I would not be able to sleep tonight.
There's a hand protruding from the wall in the shower holding the shampoo and soap. Very boutique.
When I checked in, the front desk guy (a man whose hair is likely the envy of every man he knows, so dark and swirly and gelled into place as it was) told me I had to re-park my car between "the two little yellow lines" if I wanted the valet to park it.
I'm not snotty little shit, everyone valets their cars at these hotels. This is South Beach. There is no parking unless you pay the meter every 38 seconds. I watched the Parking Division lady stand next to the car in front of me and wait patiently for a few minutes until she could give it a ticket. I wish the same amount of care and concern could be administered to getting the breakfast sandwich I order from McDonald's, but we can't have everything we want in life, I know this much to be true.
So, the guy with the hair, gesticulating us both outside to the curb, where he led me to see to the car (so polite, it was hard to refuse), to which I sighed in a way I wasn't proud of.
He replied, "I know, it is an inconvenience" in a very masculine Latin voice that commanded me back inside the car to do a U-turn to park within the little yellow lines without further question.
"Thank you, miss. Here is a coupon for a glass of champagne at the bar."
God knows I was a hot mess. Windows down, hair blowing all over the place as I crossed the bridge, a rainbow in my wake (really, a rainbow appeared, it was pretty stunning). I had sweated all day at work in a series of hot buildings. I was wearing a dayglow t-shirt and the usual industrial garb.
Have I mentioned Miami is a hot bed of French tourists and fashionistas and half-naked people every day of the year? Well, it is. I looked like I had taken a tumble dry in the tumble dryer.
I took his coupon and sweated my way over to the elevator and punched the Up.
When I arrived at my floor, I found it hard to locate my room. Turns out, the room numbers were etched into the mirrors next to the door. I think I had been touched by the sun because I couldn't see the numbers for a long time, circling where I thought my room would be, if I had counted to the left from the first room at the sign's arrow pointing and beginning with the odd numbers in the 20's. I kept thinking why would they not put the number on or near the door?
I ain't too bright.
Went for a long walk down to the water though the sun had set by then. A woman was playing in the ocean with a group of friends, no shirt on. Bilbo Baggins boobs flappin' in the wind. Oh, and there's a United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights on the nightstand; I'll probably thumb through it. I used to have a Pocket United States of America Constitution. Good reading.
Been up since 3am. Lord. What a day.
Day 2, coming right up. Enjoy that snow!
This Veteran's Day would have been my maternal grandfather's 100th birthday. He's been gone a long time now. He was a blacksmith by trade, a blue collar guy. Gentle and loving. His wife was a spitfire, as are all the women on my mother's side, it seems. She was a machinist, mother of three. They lived on the southside most of their lives. My grandmother died of cancer in her late 50's and he lived to 88 but he didn't leave their house, he stuck to the plan. There's something about marriage that says this is going to be tough and maybe it breaks you in two sometimes and you go on, your two halves barely holding together. My grandmother made her husband promise to never marry again, and he didn't. They weren't two people incredibly in love - they weren't lovers - they were hardworking and practical folks. Tough, long-suffering. It sounds boring, huh? Well, it was a resilient kind of thing they had, not unusual for a marriage formed in the 1940's during war time.
It's hard to gauge what soldiers go through in battle, what they give up, what they suffer with forever. The chemicals they end up ingesting with and without their consent. I read most of Cherry by Nico Walker this week. He is an Iraq war veteran. It was a visceral experience.
An old friend of mine was sent to Iraq a few weeks short of retirement, in his early 50's when he was activated. One day he was going to work at his government job, a few years into a new marriage, and the next he was in a blazing hot and very hostile country dressed in fatigues carrying 70 lbs of gear while being shot at, the sun so hot it could burn the retinas without sunglasses.
His wife told him she did not sign up for something like this, which made him call me from Iraq, to tell me how fucked up something like that made him. What do you do? You can't call his wife and reach through the phone to smack her stupid face until she comes back to consciousness. Short of listening, that was all there was to do.
He was stationed at Camp Anaconda, living right alongside the burn pit. When he got home he developed lesions all over his brain. Half his company died from weird cancers. He was not right. The VA took good care of him.
John Cochran VA Hospital is packed with good medical people. My father in law was sitting in the chair by the bed yesterday trying to come out of the anesthesia, feeling dizzy and unwell. He sat forward and put a napkin to his lips and then he threw up.
The nurse showed up a few minutes after that and noted how many times he had thrown up in the last few hours and decided to expedite something with the doctor to help him settle down.
She returned a half dozen more times over the next hour to tend to him. He kept dozing off while she was explaining how they were going to tackle his medication and treatment that evening, and as he would nod back to consciousness, she would repeat what she had been saying. Like, who does that 5 times in a row without losing patience? That nurse.
The surgeon showed up, shook 4 sets of hands, explained what he found while he was on the inside, and politely left to continue his rounds. A porter dropped in and set two lemon-lime Shastas on the table "Thank you for your service," he said, leaving. In fact, everyone there was polite and respectful of the veterans. They were upbeat and funny, but quiet enough to keep the place restful and calming.
"I just don't feel right until they do," the nurse told me in the hall.
The snow whipped up out of nowhere a little later. It left a white dusting and a bitter wind. The botanical gardens were beautiful today, the last of the Fall leaves straining to hang on, everything a golden wonder.
I have to go to the wake for my cousin on Monday and I am going to bring my mother-in-law because my wife has to work and my mother-in-law takes no prisoners if someone attacks her family. I need her to be there and I told her why, tonight. I am not good at asking for help or expressing my distress or anything else around knowing what's good for me most of the time. On top of that I am ridiculously headstrong and into my fourth decade, based on my own inability to get out of my way, it is a miracle I have made anything of myself at all.
She was thankful I asked. I do not understand why, but I am thankful I am not going alone. It gives the little fella time alone with his grandpa, too, because even in pain, that guy makes an effort to mentor that kid.
What else? My father is a veteran of the Vietnam war, too. He did not see combat like my uncle.
My uncle is a stand up fella whose presence I cannot be without. He is a good writer, someone who can capture a scene perfectly pictured in the mind's eye. He's a tough old bastard, crusty as they come, and he likes to drink his coffee around 5am, the same time I'm up, and we are close, we have an ease in our conversation. We talk a lot about PTSD. We come at it from 2 different angles. PTSD all the same. Real as real can be.
It is with a sense of dread that I embark upon these years in my life. Every person I know in my parents' generation has already gone through this, they have lost their family slowly, the seniors all disappearing. I'm not depressed about it, I realize the way things work out for us, riding on our one-way ticket. And being gay, growing up in the 90's, I have had to select a family of choice a long time ago. But lately, I have had another family.
We go after it - searching for the right fit for us - and when we find it, when it shows up, a-blazin', then comes the time to deal with the Everything. Everything you have been for every year before you met your significant other. Go plow through that mountain. A fleet of luggage later, you are trying to weed through blending your family, which is volcanic, at the best of times, considering you are blending it with a teenager who is apt to burst into tears or a fit of total panic at the prompting of any advice around not wearing the same hoody for 3 days in a row. It is enough to send everyone teetering to the edge. This being alive is a big bet, every single day.
It is good to have a group of people you can rely upon, whoever they are, they're yours. My friend told me she freaked out about something a while ago, tried calling 7 friends, and was beside herself when none of them answered (me included). Then, she reminded herself that she had 7 friends to call, and that alone was enough to celebrate. Take that, self-doubt!
There's a cool old song from a movie called Georgia called Hard Times worth a listen. Give it a whirl.
Creating within the protective, mildly narcissistic/over-sharing shell; low-scale pressure, nothing to live up to except to frequently teleport into the open field of mind-space. I have turned off the comments section; if you're burning to talk with me, click the icon at the top of the page and send me an email.