January 17-Catechism

All serious daring
starts from within.
Eudora Wetley

He swears he doesn’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus. You need a certain innocence, a certain level of trust to do so; except for the first four years of his life, he didn’t own either. He doesn’t remember believing in God, either. He wishes he could, but having been a battered, emotionally abused child, he likes to say he learned scepticism before he learned to talk.

Not that he didn’t do his catechism lessons, catechism being that book which asks questions and supplies a pre-ordained answer- no thinking allowed. He learned to give back the answers they wanted, and kept his questions to himself. The Daughters of Charity, of The Blessed Virgin Mary, thought questions about catechism answers impudent, and awarded them a seat in the back of the class, and a number of written I shall not… lines. So, he never did ask questions, within the fifedom of their classrooms. He asked them of himself, and amused himself, with alternate answers.

“Who made you?’ asked Sister Carmina. That chapter had been among last night’s reading homework. “God made me” he shot back, with the perfect demeanor of an acolyte.

“Why did God make you?” She asked, as if checking to make sure he’d read the whole chapter.

“God made me to know Him, and to love Him, and to serve Him, in this world and the next.” He resisted asking if God didn’t have enough angels to do the housework. Probably a Union thing; conversations about Unions were bread and butter at the family’s dinner table. He didn’t think nuns had unions.

The smile, crinkling on the face under the headgear, told him he’d performed as needed. The nun turned next to the student sitting to the right of him, a pasty, smugged face mama’s boy, whose mother ran in and out of the convent every day with pastries and gossip, both of which she shared with Sister Honora, the school principle. He sat back down in his seat, planning his next trip to the library; there was a book on the Greek gods he wanted to get. He liked the Greek gods. You didn’t have to believe in them. An added pleasure was the pictures that came with the stories, all those beautiful faces and pretty muscles.

He didn’t blame the nuns for their belief. He had an uncle who sold used cars. Watching him with a customer, one day, he heard his uncle praise the wonders of a Hudson coupe to a man looking for dependable value; a car he classified aa a piece of junk to his boss, a few minutes before. Over a hamburger, his uncle had explained that “in sales” you have to believe in the product you’re selling, or at least make the customer think so.” He supposed the nuns’ product was God. It didn’t matter, really, whether the nuns believed, He didn’t have to. He just had to make them believe he believed.

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Jan. 16, 2016- Pruning

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them,
and pretty soon you have a dozen.
                                                                      John Steinbeck.
That you received this means that you are on a special list, that has grown over the years, of people I felt closest too, on these facebook pages, whose discretion I trusted, and with whom I felt I could share some of the more personal revelations. For my own housekeeping purposes, I named that list “close friends.” Looking over the list the other day, it occured to me that, although you have all, at one point or another, agreed to be my facebook friend, none of you agreed to be on the special list, and probably don’t realize you were.

Over the years, I haven’t used the close friends list, too often. As I intend to use my blog, daily, and often in a more revelatory way, this year, access to these entries, through Facebook, is going to be limited to my close friends group.

I am supposing that some, maybe all, of you on my list, may not wish to know more about me, or my interests, than my general entries provide. I have already begun pruning the list, removing those names from the list that have not responded to any posting of mine for a year or more. If any of you still on this list, as evidenced by receipt of this posting, would also prefer not participating in this project, please reply, within the week, asking to have your name removed from the list. You will remain on my general friends list, unless you unfriend me, or ask me to unfriend you.

Please do not think you will hurt my feelings, or otherwise offend me, if you want to be off the list. I do not mean this as an ego thing, but I do recognize that I am, quite often, an acquired taste, being too too, too often (hows that for a phrase?). Some prefer me in small doses.

Oddly, I feel weird writing this. It sounds too much like those embarrassing posts where people are asking “am I pretty?”, or I’m so lonesome, hug me posts. I always think those post both sad and a little creepy. Thinking about it though, in some ways, most post, by most people, are just more subtle about the need for ego-stroking.

When I was a child, there was always someone to whom I had to report. They didn’t have to be any more involved than being willing to be someone that was there, to be an occasional voice that said “No!”, or “You’re full of shit, you’d better rethink that.” Someone who could, and would, when necessary, warn me of dangers of which I wasn’t aware. I don’t know what direction this project is going to take, I only know I need to take it. Along the way, I want a few people to lean on, be responsible to. I’m not expecting that there will be an overwhelming response to everything I write. I just want the possibility of someone guiding me when I need to be guided, challenging me when I need to be challanged. It makes it easier to write, when there is a sense of a target.

I am never going to promise to make sense, though I will promise to try. Think of this entry as one of those tries.

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January 13, 2016

January 13, 2016

Start where you are.
Use what you have. Do what you can.
                                               Arthur Ashe

Bridgette Bardot

From the Web-Bridgette Bardot- Then and Now

Starting from where I am, I am having a hell of a time writing these entires, these past few days. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to write. I don’t have a damn thing to say that I haven’t said a thousand times, in a thousand different ways than before. I’m here, for this hour, only to keep the discipline going. I know that if I don’t write today, it will be easier to find an excuse to not write tomorrow. So, here I am, hoping to hell that tomorrow something will change.

Odd thought crossed my mind, earlier today, while I was digging around trying to find something about which to write. That odd thought is I was born nine months and seven days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Makes me wonder if my conception was a reaction to a sense of terror that probably gripped the nation, during that time. Interesting, if I was more a child of desparate terror than any more positive emotion. As I’ve revealed before, I only escaped being a bastard by thirty-five days. Would I have been conceived if Pearl Harbor had not happened?

As I think I said yesterday (I’m too lazy to check, and to fearful to get side-tracked), I made it to the Center on Halsted despite the sub-zero temperatures. Major reason was that I needed to be there for the photo that will be attached to my city card. They use the card to ascertain who is using the lunch services at the Center, and how often. I suppose that has to do with city funding for the Center.

While there, I was asked by the Senior Services manager at the Center, if I would take part in an interview with some student nurses sometime during the month. I’m becoming the go-to guy for interviews? I did the radio interview during the parade, and this will be my second set of student-nurse interviewers. I can’t decide if it’s because I’m a fun, interesting interview, particularly articulate, or just part of a small circle of people willing to do it. Maybe it is a combination of all three.

If I mentioned, yesterday, my trip to the Center, I probably also mentioned that the discussion was about how Seniors were maniuplated and used because they are older, perhaps less mentally sharp when it comes to discerning that they are being manipulated, and when manipulated, too embarrassed or ashamed to tell anyone. The conversation evolved into a general discussion about how the aged are seen in America. If I understood the gist of the conversation, it can be summed up as older people being condescended to, spoken to, and treated as, if we were children. I can’t say that I haven’t noticed those possibilities as they effect me. The trick is not to let it happen, but that’s not alwas possible, especially when dealing with authority figures holding a whip hand, superior knowledge.

One of the things I mentioned, as regarding Seniors, is their fair representation in the media. We are most often shown as either shown as “cutesy”, or tragic, incompetent figures who are lucky if they remember their own name. Now and then, there is a chacter like the japanese instructor in The Karate Kid, but those characters seem the exception rather than the rule- and are usually not culturally American characters (the thought occurs to me), but from cultures that Americans like to see as wise and more advanced in their respect for/honor of their elders. It reminded me of the long struggle we gay people have had to get a fair representation of us through the media.

A little aside note: Gay people, by and large, do not like to deal with aging in any of its evolutions. We like to present ourselves as always young, always beautiful, always at the top of our game. Look at the pictures of men that gay publishers and product pushers foster. Everybody has a beautiful smile and a six-pack. Hell, I’ve never had a six-pack unless you count the ones I carried home from the liquor department, and I’ve had damn few of even them.

The answer is, I guess, that we have to take care of, look out after, each other. One of the point blank questions that was asked was, “If you saw a friend being exploited, should you risk their anger by telling them.” The general consensus was that yes, we had that responsibility.

And so, I’ve done what I can.

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BLATHERINGS

Suddenly you find- at age fifty, say
that a whole new life has opened before
you… as if a fresh sap of ideas
and thoughts was rising in you.

Agatha Christie

Blathering

Spent the day at the Center on Halsted and am late beginning today’s (at least an hour) entry. At the moment, to keep building my real life contacts is somewhat more important than sitting in front of the computer pretending I have something worth saying, pretending I’m a writer, or so it seems to me, presently.

The question of religion has come up with a few of my friends on Facebook. I need to clarify my position on the subject. Perhaps the first thing I should say is that I wish I could believe in a higher order. I was raised Catholic, and have a great affection for the Catholic liturgy, especially in the days when the priest faced away from the congregation, part of it, yet, somehow, as the idea of priest has always been, even in the so-called pagan religions, a person entrusted to represent the congregation when offering sacrifice. In the days before Vatican II, that’s what the Mass was, a mystical, bloodless sacrifice, based on the events surrounding Calvary and The Resurrection. After Vatican II, it became a shared meal, with the priest facing the congregation like a host at a dinner party.

One special note about the liturgy. I especially loved the old Requiem Mass. All those candles, all that sprinkling of holy water, all that wafting of incense- you just knew, as that casket was being wheeled out of the Church it was going straight to Heaven!

But I outgrew the emotional symbolism in both its forms. In fact, I outgrew the idea of God, at least in the way we creatures describe it. Because this is stream of consciousness writing, everything I say is going to be confused, off the cuff, disjointed. Stream of consciousness writing is like rattling around a pantry looking for what’s there, and how you can use it in the recipe.

Emotionally, I want to believe in a God, and to a certain extent, intellectually as well. All things have a beginning, all things are the result of something that happened before, until you arrive at a First Cause, a Cause that has no cause, but is. It’s more romantic to think of that First Cause as a caring, planning person, than as a result of mathematics. There is room to believe, if a God is a person, that it can be appealed to, that what you see as errors, like a crippling disease, can be changed by appealing to the Person, engaging its compassion. You don’t get that warm, fuzzy feeling of hope if that First Cause is just a mathematic equation. My nature, as an emotional human being, demands the certainty of the beginning as a loving plan. My nature as a thinking human being demanding evidence over Faith, does not allow me the luxury of warm, fuzziness.

Egostistically, I want to believe in a Person as God, because it means I wasn’t an accident, but a deliberate plan that is destined to live forever with/in it, forever. There is also a part of me that sudders at the idea of forever. Once, during fourth grade catechism, the nun said something to the effect that if we died in grace, we would get to spend eternity with God, singing his praises. She did not like my asking, “but what if I don’t wan’t to do that, forever? Even at nine, the little questioning heretic was pushing forward.

**********

Today’s discussion, at the Center, was about the process of aging in America. We talked about the aged being scammed, being abused, being ignored, being treated like children. We talked about how easy it is, for an aged person, to become isolated, through neglect, fear, ignorance of/by a society that is geared for the young, the quick. I brought up the special factor gay people faced as seniors, i.e., that of being gay- I did not get to mention one of the by-products of that factor was that many gay people went back into the closet, finding it easier to deal with a larger world that may not understand, and/or, even hate gay people. Gay elders have less of a mutual support system than the young.

I don’t know that our discussions at the Center solve anything. But maybe the value of the discussions is not in soloutions, but in the understanding that you are not alone. Most times, that feels like enough.

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It’s a dry Sunday, intellectually-

Work while you have the light.
You are resonsible for the talent
that has been entrusted to you
                                      Henri Frederick Amiel

It’s a dry Sunday, intellectually-

I need to say, first and upfront, that I am not an economist. I don’t understand money. What I do understand is the results of what I see in the actual, rather than the theorhetical circumstances around me. It is by way of these actual circumstances that I say the following.

A country’s greatest assest is it’s citizenry. When that citizenry is provided with both physical safety and means by which, as it is written in the Constitution to the United States, the general welfare is promoted, the country prospers.

As well as being a country’s greatest asset, the citizenry are also the greatest investment a country can undertake. That investment, in my thinking, is providing a means towards basic food and shelter, insuring basic health care, and providing its citizens full and free rights to education. When private investments can’t, or won’t, the government needs to fill in the gap.

We live in a country that has scores of abandoned houses and scores of homeless persons, including children. We tolerate this. We live in a country where being ill can bankrupt you even if you have private insurance. And the private insurance companies don’t care about the health of anything but their bottom line. We live in a country in which students have to mortgage their future to get an education. We live in a country where people work two jobs and still need food stamps because companies don’t pay a living wage. We live in a country where it is more important to own an automatic assult rifle than it it to feed hungry children.

I’ll be voting Bernie Sanders, come the primary.

This posting sucks, but I’ve done my hour and my mind is dry.

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A Regurgitation Entry

You are the one and only ever you. Nancy Tilman

A Regurgitation Entry

The thing that happens, when one does not get to what needs to be done, immediately, is that it becomes harder to do as a deadline approaches. I’ve been very good with these entries, this past week. I’ve put aside an hour a day for just writing, and have written, not well, but written. Today, because it was a Saturday, and because I was feeling quite proud of myself, I put off the writing until now (6:33p.m), and I’m going to have to write with thinking, without consideration of what I want to talk about. See why I say procrastination is my middle name.

My friend from the center, Eric, got some bad news over the holidays. His partner, who just proposed to him a few weeks back, has now said he wants to end the relationship. The fact that he, the partner, saved this announcement for the holidays is as big a shock, to me, as was the fact of the break-up.

I suspect that Tim wants to break up as a result of his proposal. I think he became overwhelmed by the committment the proposal implied, and knowing no way out, decided to end the relationship. Why he proposed, if he was that unsure, is the question. Also, what amount of pride would it have taken to rescind the proposal, explaining his unease over the seeming finality of the proposal, and letting things return to “as they were” until he was more comfortable?

This reminds me of the story my sister told me about her first wedding. She wanted to bolt, even the day of the wedding, but my father, pleading another “What will the neighbors think” pronouncement, and adding how much he had spent getting this wedding going, coerced her into going through with the ceremony. The only good thing that came of this was the birth of my nephew, and she doesn’t get to share in that because he doesn’t speak to her.

My sister left the marriage after a few years because her first husband was abusive. Just so as to have nothing to do with him, anymore, she surrendered custody of her son to her husband, and my parents, by and large raised him. I don’t know if my sister contributed anything to her son’s upkeep, while he was growing up. I do know he never saw her, again, until he was an adult, and then, only once. After that, he pledged me to keep silent about him to my sister. I agreed because it was the only way, after my parents’ deaths I could stay in touch with what was going on with him. I still am in touch, to this day.

My brother is also estranged from his son. I don’t think he’s even seen the grandson. Facebook is largely the way I stay in touch with that nephew.

Me? I’m mad at nobody. I’ll talk to all the relatives, even the annoying right-wings cousins. I don’t have to agree with my relatives to talk to them. They’re family. However, family doesn’t seem to be an idea that matters, in the rest of the family.

It’s not just a one-side situation, either. My mother died not having talked to her brother for twenty-five years over a piece of furniture left him by their aunt. I think it was more involved, financially, than that, however. I learned, recently, that the aunt in question left the bulk of her sizeable estate to my uncle. Of course, he was the only surviving sibling who helped her during her dotage years. I don’t think my mother had even phoned her aunt for at least 30 years before her death. Why she expected to be remembered more than she was, is a mystery to me.

I’m going to title this A Regurgitation Entry. It’s just words thrown up out of my mind to honor a private, personal, pledge to write at least one hour every day for as long as I can keep it up. It’s not a New Year’s resolution, I have trouble keeping those; this is just a pledge. (That last sentence will make no sense to anyone but me.) Tomorrow, I’ll try not to tempt my natural sloth and begin my writing earlier, before all the distractions set fully in.

My weekly session with my psych went well, although I was as random and purposeless as I am being here. These sessions, Eric’s visits, plus my visits to the Center keep me partially balanced. Add to that, my Facebook activity, and I remain practically sane.

The yearly health department visits are imminent, so the staff, here, is tense-walking on eggs. Once it’s over, the tension, at least that part of it that’s due to the threat of the visit, will dissipate. Of course, that’s only if we pass the inspection, but we always have.

As regards today’s header about being the one and only me- Every now and then I do wish I were someone else. Those nows and thens, I’m usually bored to tears with myself.

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Old Fogie Speak

Old Fogie Speak.

If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship,
don’t ask what seat, just get on.
Sheryl Sandberg

A shoutout to Robin Kimble, whose picture and post prompted this entry.

Monkey Bars

The Monkey Bars: Weren’t they great? Sometimes, you fell down, scraped a knee, or something. Sometimes you even bumped your head, a little. You cried ouch, shed a tear or two and then got back on the damn thing.

Sometimes, somebody broke something and had it set, and walked around with a cast like wearing it like a medal, and got ice cream for being brave.

I’m going to speak wearing my old-fogie hat. There was a time when adults didn’t mix in child’s play, much. There were no supervised play dates, no choosing a child’s play companions on the outside. Of course, if child invited a friend over to the house to play, the clumsy kids were relegated to the back yard, with only access to the bathroom, when necessary, allowed. If during play, the child needed a drink, it got it in a cup so heavy an atom bomb couldn’t have shattered it, or later, tupperware. For sibling play in the home, the only restrictions were don’t tease the dog, and don’t wake your father.

A kid fell down, the adult bandaged the knee and sent them back out. In the summer, kids only came home for lunch, and when the street lamps came on. Now, greed owns the playground and the backyard, and any play space not your own. Today, we look for reasons to sue; we sue over hangnails.

Little League, (the grandparent of play-dates) the beginning of the end of this halycon existence learning about life, was a suburban thing. In the city, this kid had a bat, this and that kid had a softball and/or gloves. You went to the park and played ball, arguing over rules and regulations almost more than you played. You learned how to negotiate rather than obey higher expertise.

It all looked like fun, and mostly it was, but play was also about learning that life wasn’t all lollipops, and winning. It was about learning how to deal with the bad and the good. It was about learning how to win, how to lose, and how to deal and live with both. Losing often encouraged trying harder, making deeper committments.

Despite my use, earlier, of the word halcyon, there were moments of darkness amidst the light. For example, the problem of bullies. I know that bullies have always been and always will be, but I will admit today’s brand seems more vicious, more given to a kind of invisible presence, which is allowed, even fostered, given today’s technology.

Bullies, in my time, always had a group of scyophants around to admire their bullying. Not the “butchest” of boys. I had to learn how to protect myself. With Bugs Bunny as my role model, I learned to turn most attempts to humilate me on their heads; sarcasm and ridicule made the bully the butt, not me, and they lost face among their friends. Bullies do not like losing face. Gay people, especially men, learn to use the weapons of sarcasm and ridicule very early. Practice makes perfect, and not to add to a sterotype, but this is why most adult gay men are very good at this kind of humor. Others were not so lucky. .

All considered, my generation of kid had both less and more. I think I understand a little of how our more was lost, but that will have to wait for another post.

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