Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chronicling these orange times

punchcheetoWrite.

Online this weekend, I saw a meme or something that a Facebook friend had shared. The gist of it was: “If you sat in history class and ever wondered ‘What would I do?’ look at what you’re doing now. That’s what you would’ve done.” That led to a bit of soul-searching because, to be honest, I’ve done nothing since Trump got in.

I see friends attending protests and rallies, and I feel sick to my stomach. Those crowds! Am I going to let my deep-seeded fear of crowds prevent me from exercising my right to protest? Yes. The last thing a protest needs is some guy having a panic attack in its midst –it would take away from the Trump-hatred. Nor have I done that mystic act of telephony and called my representative. That’s due to a combination of a fear of cold-calling and a fear that Congress has already been neutralized via Executive Action.

I know I live in interesting times (in the full sense of the Chinese curse). However, years from now we will emerge from these dark times, all of us dancing around a maypole with a rotting orange head stuck to the top. On that joyous day, or maybe the day after, I’m sure the storytelling will begin. It’s then I see what my contribution –at least to my own sanity –can be. I can chronicle. I can commit to ones and zeroes what I see going on, at least with myself. I cannot live thru this time without an outlet, and words have always been an outlet for me.

This blog has been moribund for months because of some intense writers’ block. I felt I had run out of things to say. I was at the end of having experiences worthy of writing down. Frankly, I was tired of writing about my bipolar disorder. I felt writing about it was giving it too much power. So I stepped back for a while. Also, the election came as such a blow, it knocked my will to write out of my fingertips.

Then, on Saturday night, I found myself slumped on the kitchen floor, muttering “fuck”-s, and punching myself in the head. This was not good. This was about the time my Facebook feed was filling up with horror stories about he Muslim ban. I read the stories about people with Green Cards not being allowed to return home. Anger rose inside of me. I knew people were protesting en masse outside of JFK, but that just led to a growing feeling of impotence: A) I was in Columbus; and B) see fear of crowds above. All of a sudden, that anger and impotence I felt directed itself towards me. I started punching my head. I felt like I deserved it for not being at a protest. Luckily, my sister was within earshot and could come into the kitchen to calm me down.

I don’t like that Donald Trump makes me want to hurt myself. I don’t like that my anger towards him makes me feel my mental illness acutely. You know how when you’re in a nightmare, and you try to scream, but all that comes out in real life is a whimper? I don’t like feeling like that.

Side note: It’s the people who aren’t angry who are mentally ill, amirite? Wait, maybe “mentally ill” isn’t the best word for these people… It takes away from those of us who are legit mentally ill. I’ll suggest facist-philic for those other folks.

My mom always used to tell to not fight back at bullies. “You’re just giving them the reaction they’re looking for.” BULLSHIT! Trump is a bully, and he wants me slumped on the kitchen floor punching myself in the head. So I have to fight back. Maybe I won’t be showing up at any protests any time soon. I have to work up to that. (Do people even protest in Columbus? If so, invite me to one. I’m far too delicate a snowflake to show up to one alone when I’m ready.)

What I can do is write down what’s happening in my corner of the world. I know I’m going to want to read these words when we are free of the Orange Man. I would suggest everyone journal or something. Get your feelings down. Get the facts down. I have a feeling we’re entering a time when history, especially personal history, will matter.

Extra bonus: time spent at the keyboard is time spent not punching myself.

Write.

 

Advertisements

That tocking metronome

I live roughly eleven inches from the practice field for the Bishop Watterson Marching Eagles. All that stands between us is my front yard, the alley that passes as our street, backyards, a row of houses, a proper street, a small parking lot, and the practicing Eagles football team. See, eleven inches.

2016-02-01-om-43-mark-abel-52360The Marching Eagles practice with a monstrous, heavily-amplified metronome. It just tocks away there, forcing glockenspiels into line. I don’t mind the band itself; if the wind is right –and they’ve been practicing –I can make out what the song is. Apparently Katy Perry’s Roar has become a marching band staple. But beneath that all is the metronome drilling down. I never got to the point in my musical career where a metronome was needed, or deemed expendable enough. My theory on how they work is that they emit a noxious tock that will burrow right through the eardrum down to the spinal cord and then out to every last nerve… The only way to rid your body of this marauder is to do its bidding: You must toot, bang, or glocken that thing you’re holding. Do it now! Do it correctly, and the tock will seem like it’s not there. At least for that round.

Block out enough tocks for enough hours, and you’re a musician. I guess that’s how it works. Continue reading That tocking metronome

For art, go stand by an eagle.

It was the first day of kindergarten, and free time had begun. Importantly, I had done everything Miss Petersen had said to do –to the letter. In fact, I was pretty impressed with myself for having identified and found an eagle in the visual cacophony of the kindergarten classroom at Manasquan elementary. There I was standing underneath the flag to which we had earlier learned to pledge our undying allegiance to the great man who made America possible, Richard Stanz, and yet I still had no painting supplies in my hand.

I had art to create. I felt I had done some amazing work with finger paints in pre-school, and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do with an actual brush.

“Everyone who wants to paint, go stand by an eagle.” Those were her words. Eagle. I know –it made no sense. Some kids went into an alcove and stood by big, propped-up boards. I didn’t know what you called those big, propped-up boards in the alcove, but they certainly weren’t eagles. I looked around the room. You could say I had an eagle eye. (Sorry. Not sorry) We had a bird book at home, and eagles looked exactly like what was at the tip of the flagpole at the end of the blackboard by the classroom door. So I stood there. Certainly she would get around to me sooner or later and lead me to that arting heaven I was promised in church. But she never did. Why did Miss Petersen hate me? I had half a mind to tell on her to Richard Stanz if I ever met him. Continue reading For art, go stand by an eagle.

Russell Drive, the end

[Because I’ve been quite blocked lately, I’ve been doing Writing Prompts. Here’s one… What is your earliest memory?]

Looking back, I’m surprised I wasn’t killed.

We moved out of the house on Russell Drive a few days after my third birthday, so consequently I have very few memories of my time there. All my recollections of what it looked like –white with reddish-brown trim and shutters –come from driving by on visits back to the Milwaukee area in subsequent years.

My only memory of the interior is looking up at my mother while she stood in front of the kitchen window while yellow lightning bolts hung in the sky behind her. And that’s not really a memory of the interior when you come to think about it. I have never seen lightning that exact color and duration again. One’s first memory of a thing always comes with a quality that makes it seem not real. You can spend your whole life chasing that first memory. Continue reading Russell Drive, the end

Aqua-Possum

Right now, here in Ohio, it’s about 92 and humid today. This got me thinking about pools. That in turn got me thinking about the first important lesson I ever got in a swim class…

pool-sanitation-3-1030x430

Youth swimming was a big deal at the Strathmore subdivision’s pool. Whether you were a pollywog or a tadpole or a minnow determined whether you could use the intermediate pool or were relegated to the kiddie pool. The big, big pool was beyond all our dreams and was only for those who graduated into levels with exotic names like “beginner” and “advanced beginner.”

I was five and just trying to get myself from tadpole to minnow so I could flop around unhindered in the intermediate pool. No one ever pooped (hardly) in the intermediate pool. Once you’re past pooping indiscriminately, the thrill of swimming with poop kinda diminishes. To get away from the poop, one had to learn such difficult moves as holding onto the side of the pool and kicking and pushing off from the side of the pool –all real minnow material.

But standing between my minnow badge and me was the instructor, Scott. He was a high school guy with hair that looked the same dry as wet, and, in place of regulation swim trunks, he wore too brief cutoff denim shorts with extra fringe. All in all, he gave the impression more of someone who herded children into a windowless van than into the shallow end of the intermediate pool. Continue reading Aqua-Possum

#MyFirstGayBar Part II… I discover gay bars don’t necessarily have to suck at The Phoenix, NYC

I felt that yesterday’s post about my first time in a gay bar was a bit of a downer, so here’s some words about finally finding a gay bar where I felt accepted.

I didn’t come out until 2000 when I was a whopping 33 years old. This isn’t going to be a tale about me tiptoeing into my first bar (for proper reasons; see above). I had sold pants at Dillards in Austin for a few years during grad school, so I was constantly being dragged to places like Oil Can Harry’s in the name of workplace colleague bonding.

No, this is about finally finding a place I liked. When I came out in Austin, I tried going out to the bars there. My entire circle of gay peers consisted of the sad sacks in my coming out support group, and they hated me because I admitted that drag queens kind of frightened me. I needed friends, and I figured I could meet maybe one or two at any one of Austin’s several gay establishments.

It didn’t work out that way. I hardly talked to anyone basically because I felt so uncomfortable in the Austin bars. They were not for me. My only pleasant memory of Oil Can Harry’s was that night I closed the place and found a nice GAP shirt on the empty dance floor in my size. The Chain Drive, the leather/bear bar in town, had fluorescent lighting.

Fluorescent lighting.

phoenixOne winter break, early 2002, I decided to spend a week in NYC. I found a cheap guesthouse on Second Avenue and 13th Street in the East Village and set out, armed with my Damron guide. I didn’t have to go far –The Phoenix was only two long blocks away. First thing I noticed was the music. I had no idea that gay folk who listened to the same type of music as me existed. To this day, I think The Phoenix had the best-curated jukebox I’ve ever encountered. Continue reading #MyFirstGayBar Part II… I discover gay bars don’t necessarily have to suck at The Phoenix, NYC

#MyFirstGayBar: I’m a jerk at the Gold 9, Studio City, CA

My first visit to a gay bar was to the now-defunct Gold 9 in Studio City, CA, and it was as awash in closeted homophobia as you can get. You see, this took place a full ten years before I came out. To this day, I worry I was a jerk.

Several of us from my film program at the University of Michigan had moved out to LA late in 1990 to pursue our dreams. We all settled within a few miles of each other in the Valley or in Hollywood proper. To make LA seem a little more like home, one Saturday afternoon we set out to “interview” bars, to see which ones offered the proper mix of drink prices and amenities like pool and darts.

It was going along all very heteronormatively as the six of us walked into Gold 9 on that slow Saturday afternoon. It seemed like a nice dive, nothing out of the ordinary. Two gentlemen were shooting pool so my friend Mark wrote his name on the chalkboard. Beers were obtained. We chatted among ourselves, completely unaware of our surrounding; it wasn’t as though the Gold 9 was awash in rainbow splendor. Continue reading #MyFirstGayBar: I’m a jerk at the Gold 9, Studio City, CA

Don’t touch the Bear there

IMG_0067
The belly in question.

This morning I’m filling out my registration for this year’s Bear Pride, which is to be held over Memorial Day in Chicago. For the uninitiated, the term “Bear” refers to larger gay men who usually choose to sport facial hair. They proclaim that they prefer to gather in groups with other “Bears” to get a little something-something and to fight the stigma of body shaming.

There is a lot of body shaming.

I know I don’t wear flannel shirts and a beard because they look particularly fetching on me. I wear flannel shirts and a beard because flannel shirts are easy to find in XXL, and a beard is really only the socially acceptable way to cover a triple chin, extra jowly.

So I will travel to Chicago for Bear Pride to NOT be nervous about my body and instead judge people on normal things like the wittiness of their quips, or the irony of their t-shirts, or inanity of their WOOF tattoos. [FYI to the uninitiated: Some Bears like to say “Woof.” Avoid these Bears. They are stupid, and this one word will be the extent of their conversation.] Continue reading Don’t touch the Bear there

A review of the Wendy’s at Exit 262 of I-80 in Hazleton, PA…

IMG_8165

Mile marker 262 of any stretch of highway is as good a place stop as any other.

On the eastbound trip along I-80 into NYC, one knows there’s only fifty more miles of Pennsylvania. Better start prepping your mind and your bladder for the descent into the City.

On the westbound journey, one pulls over to steel themselves in the face of the 262 miles of Pennsylvania that lies ahead.

“It’s sooooo long,” people you talk to always seem to know the exact mileage, “311 miles!” And it not just any 311 miles of Pennsylvania, it’s 311 miles of Pennsylvania laid out as to avoid major population centers. You’ll pass by such landmarks as State Game Lands Number 331 and State Game Lands Number 54. The cruel joke here is the original name of the highway was the Keystone Shortway. “You want the shortest way through Pennsylvania? Well, it’s 311 miles. Fuck you. Call it the Shortway, you rest stop fouling bitch!”

“Shortway…” you grovel.

“Good. That’s how Pennsylvania likes its motorists.” Continue reading A review of the Wendy’s at Exit 262 of I-80 in Hazleton, PA…