Thursday, December 31, 2015

Feelin' Alright

Feelin' Alright (Click to Hear)

Seems I've got to have a change of scene
'Cause every night I have the strangest dreams
Imprisoned by the way it could have been
Left here on my own or so it seems

I've got to leave before I start to scream
But someone's locked the door and took the key

You feelin' alright? I'm not feelin' too good myself
Well, you feelin' alright? I'm not feelin' too good myself

Well, say, you sure took me for one big ride
And even now I sit and wonder why
That when I think of you I start to cry
I just can't waste my time, I must keep dry

Gotta stop believin' in all your lies
'Cause there's too much to do before I die
Don't get too lost in all I say
Though at the time I really felt that way

But that was then, now it's today;
I can't get off so I'm here to stay

Till someone comes along and takes my place
With a different name and, yes, a different face

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Update

I'm slowly easing back into regular posting. I'll be silent once again starting Wednesday, in observance of Christmas and New Year's. Like so many of us long-suffering writers, I've had to balance the work I do for free with the work I do for pay. Anyone who has blogged as long as I have (ten years, really?) has no shortage of free work, which I have done to further my publication name, even as I receive no financial compensation for my time and effort.

That said, I'm about to start a job where I will blog for pay. Unlike this forum, I don't choose the topics and the company I work for has primary rights to my content. It won't be featured here. Writers need good editors and editors need good writers, but the two are often mutually exclusive. I'm not blunt enough to poke holes through someone's baby but others most assuredly are.

Writing is a discipline that attracts many dilettantes and those who feel that it is somehow easy. In fact, writing is an intense challenge, and it requires hours of effort and lots of time devoted to revision. Like figure skating, it seems effortless when performed live, but this disguises the diligent work ethic that separates the average from the exceptional.

The internet has been my salvation and simultaneously the bane of my existence. It has forced me into narrower and narrower interest groups and the isolating esoteria of those spaces. I'm not feeling particularly religious or spiritual at the moment, nor do I feel it my current place to be Jimmy Carter to the liberal unwashed masses. I am nominally the man who gets it among feminists who are my contemporaries. Once I believed I was a voice in the wilderness, now I see how similar I am to others and how we have jumped aboard the same bandwagon and talking points simultaneously.

I continue to push myself off of my haunches as long as I have strength in my body. Young enough to be restless and unsatisfied, I'm growing into middle age slowly and steadily. I've been living in DC eight years now and am contemplating a lifetime in the nation's capital. Already I've seen great changes and I expect to see more. Every time I return home to Alabama I count the buildings that have changed owners and the vast new construction projects underway. Someone is making money, but it's not me or anyone that I know.

Christmas meant more to me when I was a child and I suppose that's true for most of us. If I had children of my own, I might be able to get a contact high from their enthusiasm. I paradoxically want my entire family around me at holidays. Since when did I become a believer in nostalgia and cease being the gritty realist? I'll make sure it won't happen again. I am on one coast, sister number one is on the other, and sister number two will never leave the South.

We're a pretty normal family that way. The teenage chip on my shoulder has departed. Fish and visitors still stink in three days, but can be forgiven under the circumstances. And even with the petty bickering that consumed whole years of my life, I wouldn't have it otherwise. I wish the best to you and your family, or the family you have adopted for your very own. The holidays can be a dose of depression to those without or with the huge silent tension that becomes open conflict.

May you get what you want, but be able to separate the genuinely helpful from the momentarily distracting. Merry Christmas. We're going to need it. 2016 is an election year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Late Saturday Video

10.15 on a Saturday night
And the tap drips
Under the strip light

And I'm sitting
In the kitchen sink
And the tap drips
Drip, drip, drip

Waiting for the
Telephone to ring
And I'm wondering
Where she's been

And I'm crying
For yesterday
And the tap drips
Drip, drip, drip

Quote of the Week

A comment upon the lone wolf shooters that have terrorized our country.

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? [turns around to look behind him] Well, then who the hell else are you talking- You talking to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to? Oh yeah? Huh? 'kay. [whips out his gun again] Huh?"- Travis Bickell from Taxi Driver.

Metro, the Culture of Dysfunction, and the Women Who Suffer

When I first entered feminist spaces, I encountered a huge supply of outrage and indignation regarding street harassment and other cases of men behaving badly. My immediate reaction was a compelling need to prove that I wasn’t that way. No one was debating that, but my male privilege was showing. I’m a large man who has rarely been propositioned inappropriately by complete strangers. It took me a while to realize that these stinging accusations had nothing really to do with me and everything to do with me.

Women, I have learned, can either shrug off these kinds of transgressions or get very angry. This situation reduced a friend of mine to tears, at which point she was strongly encouraged to formally report the crime. A security guard, aware of the situation, boarded the bus immediately following the verbal harassment. I should add that the driver had an outstanding warrant for rape, in addition. The man had been reported before, but I take it that many women would rather forget than prosecute or press charges. The security guard wanted to make sure this didn’t happen again.

It’s another black eye for Metro, whose shortcomings are profiled in the latest edition of Washingtonian magazine. The once revered public transportation system here in the nation’s capital has fallen on rough times in the past decade and a half. Filling openings for drivers has been difficult, meaning that problem employees are retained when they ought to be fired. This is not, as I said, an isolated incident. Women are subjected to such conduct on a regular basis, and that they soldier past it without growing bitter or angry is a testament to their own inner strength.

To quote from the aforementioned article, which focuses mostly on Metro’s command center,

It’s a self-reinforcing problem. Metro hasn’t been able to improve the ROCC [Rail-Operations Control Center] culture because it’s so beholden to the current personnel—yet the current personnel are a big part of the staff shortage. Despite a concerted effort to recruit and train new hires, Metro added just three controllers between 2011 and 2015, the FTA says.

As is often the case, a persistently dysfunctional culture shows itself plainly in ways that Metro tries to downplay. To return to the story of my friend, a security guard, aware of the driver’s indiscretions, almost forced her to press charges. It would be easy to assume that this reflects only a flawed system in one major US city, but it also shines light upon the plight of women. As is evidenced by the Bill Cosby allegations, women can be coerced to stay silent for years, well past the statute of limitations. And even within however many years the statue protects them, it takes a persistent number and severity of offense before successful prosecution can be all but ensured.

Meanwhile, management focused on making sure employees wore their uniforms correctly and used Metro-issued microwaves to cook food instead of their own. “Things are falling apart and you’re worried about a microwave oven,” Johnson says. “I mean, it was just dumb.” Accountability for day-to-day repairs had all but vanished:
“Consciously or subconsciously, everyone at Metro knows they’ve got a job for life,” he says, “unless they sit there and smoke crack in the middle of the platform.”

Critiques like these have been used to speak out boldly against unions. Metro’s employees have the right to bargain collectively, but it shouldn’t shield them from accountability, either. Color me disgusted at the whole sordid affair. My friend burst into tears at the brazenness of an indecent request that I will not justify by spelling out directly in this forum. It will take more than civic outrage and one story to change the lay of the land.

These days, I’ve come to terms with the kind of vulnerability women face, but I don’t want my sympathy to be confused or decried as insincere. When informed of the latest offense, I’ve recognized how jaded I’ve become, somewhere between the indignation of an activist and the fatalism of an old soul. This story is about the gaps in between these polar extremes and the problem that remains. It is everyone’s problem.

Monday, December 14, 2015


People say we got it made
Don't they know we're so afraid

We're afraid to be alone
Everybody's got to have a home

Just a boy and a little girl
Trying to change the whole wide world

The world is just a little town
Everybody trying to put us down
I - i - i - i - i - isolation
I don't expect you to understand
After you've caused so much pain
But then again you're not to blame
You're just a human
A victim of the insane

We're afraid of everyone
Afraid of the sun

The sun will never disappear
But the world may not have many years

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Quote of the Week

Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.-Muhammad

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Saturday Video

Let's have bizarre celebrations
Let's forget who forget what forget where
We'll have bizarre celebrations
I play the Satyr in Cyprus, you're the bride being stripped bare, bare

Let's pretend we don't exist
Let's pretend we're in Antarctica

Let's have bizarre celebrations
Let's forget when forget what forget how
We'll have bizarre celebrations
We'll play Tristan and Izolde but make sure I see white sail, sails

Let's pretend we don't exist
Let's pretend we're in Antarctica

Maybe I'll never die, I'll just keep growing younger with you
And you'll grow younger too
Now it seems too lovely to be true
But I know the best things always do

Let's pretend we don't exist
Let's pretend we're in Antarctica

Loopholes Exploited in Health Care Coverage

It was only $5.37, but it was the principle of the thing.

A cluster of recent hospitalizations and Emergency Room visits has resulted in my being sent four separate bills for a variety of services rendered. A routine EKG was performed each time, a test that is relatively cheap by American health care standards. I know from my bill that it costs $15 for five minutes of monitoring the heart. I have found, much to my annoyance, that it takes another five minutes to painfully pick electrodes off of my body hair. Such is life.

I'm federally disabled and rely upon Medicare as my primary coverage. Medicare is sound insurance, but as some may know, it doesn't cover everything, every expense. I use Washington, DC's Medicaid program to cover the remainder of my expenses. Usually this arrangement is not problematic, but I find increasingly that hospital administrators are discovering ways around it. For example, some enterprising soul decided to outsource EKG payments to Michigan, where Medicaid cannot be charged because it is out-of-state.

It must make sense on paper, but it's not fair to those of us who subsist uncomfortably on monthly disability payments. They are designed to thrust one into the workforce, not for long term dependence. In my case, the latter has to suffice. I have never been able to hold a job for long and the shame has been terrible. Our system doesn't treat every case individually and perhaps doing so is impossible, but I nevertheless encourage reformers to take into account my story. It is not the only one.

No act designed for Affordable Care doesn't fray at the seams with enough time. As healthcare costs continue to soar, I fear that other hospital centers will use this precedent to wiggle through the loopholes. From the perspective of those who accept Medicaid, they always claim that the paperwork is extreme, the bureaucracy excessive, and the payments slow to arrive. This may be true, but what we may need is to cut through the clutter.

Medicare for all is not a bad aim. It is accepted almost everywhere, except in the field of mental health and psychiatry, but that is another story for another post. And rest assured I am thankful for the sacrifices and toil of the American taxpayer. They keep my head afloat, not totally dependent upon others for every penny. Medicaid, of course, is a different story. Red State governors continue to refuse Federal dollars to expand their programs. I'm glad, once again, that I live in a blue bubble.

As I peer from my bedroom window each morning, I see the cops pulling over speeders down a busy stretch of roadway. You'd think people would learn eventually. Every ticket paid goes towards my care and keeps my dental bills minimal. I'm not ungrateful, though I'd much rather be one of the faceless, nameless men in a business suit and professional clothes headed to work downtown. And I'm not alone, trapped in a body and a brain that has betrayed me. I'm educated, yes, but poor.

Government cannot be reset to a time before the New Deal, before the Great Society. We may never be a nation that embraces democratic socialism. But we can and should embrace looking out for those of us who are less fortunate. I don't wallow in my limitations. Instead, I ask for a leg up and usually don't complain. I don't believe that the world owes me anything, but I do believe that I have a right to add my voice into the discourse. Doing so is uniquely American, wouldn't you agree?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Notice

I am trying to rest up this week in anticipation of flying home for Thanksgiving. Starting Saturday and lasting through Thanksgiving Day, I will probably not be posting.

My parents are getting older and I find myself halfway through my thirties. They are a link to my past, and still relatively young, young enough to not be crippled with illness and physical limitations. My twenties were a navel-gazing time of selfishness, but your priorities change with time. The balance of power seems much more equal now, possibly because I live twelve hours drive away from them.

There will be more to come, but I've suffered with four hospitalizations in five months and my body is suffering from exhaustion. My progress is measured in weeks, rather than days. The brain takes a long time to recover from trauma.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Quote of the Week

I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.-Alice Paul

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday Video

I'm not like them
But I can pretend

The sun is gone
But I have a light

The day is done
And I'm having fun

I think I'm dumb
Maybe just happy

I think I'm just happy
I think I'm just happy
I think I'm just happy

My heart is broke
But I have some glue

Help me inhale
And mend it with you

We'll float around
And hang out on clouds
Then we'll come down
And have a hangover

Have a hangover
Have a hangover
Have a hangover

Skin the sun
Fall asleep
Wish away
Soul is cheap

Lesson learned
Wish me luck
Soothe the burn
Wake me up

I'm not like them
But I can pretend

The sun is gone
But I have a light

The day is done
And I'm having fun
I think I'm dumb
Maybe just happy

I think I'm just happy
I think I'm just happy
I think I'm just happy
I think I'm dumb

Friday, November 13, 2015

When A Man Takes Paternity Leave

I should begin by saying that I rent space on the opposite end of the pharmacy counter. With multiple ailments and disabilities, I have no choice but to take my medications in a compliant fashion. But I say this only as a means of introduction to a much more interesting topic.

When a man takes paternity leave, outside of professional sports and testosterone circles, we Americans applaud. We're becoming civilized like the rest of the world, we say. But the rest of American society must change, too. Our attitudes and expectations must be reformed. The system would buckle under the pressure if all men participated. Below is what I mean.

The way it has always been is not designed for men to take off the way women have since time immemorial. I've suffered because my hard working and entirely competent pharmacist has taken paternity leave. For over a month, everyone has been short-changed. The men, mostly, who have filled in for him are temp workers, many of whom take little pride in their work and are dubiously competent. They wait for their next assignment elsewhere, wishing that they could be assigned somewhere permanent.

Let's not forget that a pharmacist with his or her own store makes a very generous salary, sometimes over $100,000. The temps are not so fortunate. They are paid per diem for their wages. I am not totally dismissive of their plight. A more smartly managed workplace would have designated temp workers who would know where their next assignment was coming from well ahead of schedule.

Every day I go to the pharmacy, I see a different face wearing a white coat. I can't imagine what it must be like to pick up on someone else's system and weave it in with one's own in a single day or maybe a string of days. There's something nomadic about this way of life and when there are gaps, highly inefficient, not streamlined ways have to suffice in the minds of those who plan such things.

It doesn't have to be this way. It begins by smarter action and not resting on the haunches of the past. If paternity leave remains a rarity, we collectively lose out. I admire my pharmacist for taking an option available to him, giving him a chance to bond with his newborn child and to assist his wife. We are still beholden to the notion that raising young children is women's work and that a father's place towards parenting is distant and somewhat detached.

Old habits are what we are fighting. I think the change, if we agree to make it, will come slowly and incrementally. The roles of masculinity and societal patterns are being challenged by the mere notion of paternity leave. This is what makes some men bemoan that "real" men are no longer to be found in sufficient quantities or to feel that maleness is under attack from emasculating forces. But what we are really becoming is more compassionate, even if the latest news report would have you believe otherwise.

Friday, November 06, 2015

What's Wrong and Why It Happened

I have been hospitalized three times in the past five months. My progress in healing is going to be measured in months, not weeks or days. For whatever reason, bipolar disorder struck, along with a massive period of agitation. The causes are unknown, but I was dealing with a lawsuit and a massive amount of stress that went along with it.

I can't really talk about it yet. This is an act of self-preservation along with my decision to stop blogging for a little while. My health is of paramount importance right now. I hope my manuscript for a forthcoming short story was received before I collapsed under the strain. I hope this is not something more serious.

A Notice

I have a severe physical issue and will be posting only occasionally for the next several weeks. I hope this does not disappoint. Doing the minimum is a challenge right now, and I'm fearful this is not something worse. I am worried about the outcome of testing and doctor's opinions.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Iranian Quandary

Current events have been an enigma to me since forever. Keeping track of them is like trying to grab handfuls of flies. It’s a waste of time. The devils fly through the gaps of your fingers, rendering your action moot.

But that’s until current events become current for you, too. One of my doctors is Iranian, Persian really, but has been called back for a month for home. These are not Pro-American times in Iran, and the unrest I read about makes me wonder if she is on some imperative family errand. I wonder if her papers will be denied to her somehow, preventing her return. My worries go beyond finding another doctor.

Until now, as I have gathered, the crackdown has been mostly on the media. The regime doesn’t want publication of what it is doing by any means. My doctor is part of the group who left because of the Revolution in 1979, making this trip seem mysterious, to say the least. She is also my age, which at 35 is possible, but makes me know I am growing into an older adult. Most Persians loyal to the Shah went to California, but some of them migrated to this greater Washington, DC, area. And yet she is working on her English.

I could speculate about this topic and be no further along. She said she had no choice in the matter, which is a curious reason to cite. It speaks of intrigue but may not really say much in the long term. I’ve never had a doctor need to flee the coop with such urgency and at the last minute. Last minute decisions are rarely made with positive consequences, or even expecting them.

Maybe one of her relatives has gotten wrapped up in this mess. I’m not sure I’d feel safe as an American in Tehran right now. Death to America is once again the chat of the hour. Has it ever stopped, really? I find it hard to not want death and destruction for them, if they hate us so much. As I’ve written before, it tries my pacifism. I don’t want to surrender to what I see often as bullies.

They’ve taken away someone who provides an essential service to me. I’m not sure she will be allowed to return. I don’t think she is the source of the problem, but it is someone or something dear to her. I can pick up that much from the way she apologized for this arrangement, completely off-balance, wobbling, teetering slightly. It’s somewhat unprofessional, but forgivable.

We’re trying to keep nuclear material out of the hands of a dictatorial power. How we do it is a matter of debate. But in the meantime the people suffer as the dictators profit from the hatred they fan. And how do we break that resolve? It makes the Soviets seem meek and mild by contrast, and as someone who values my own religious freedom, it’s a temptation to say that this religion is neither free, nor religious. It’s an ideology of terror justified by blood sacrifice.

These are our current events, should we choose to accept them. This is what makes people run home out of haste. And how we deal with it is everyone’s issue.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

When Material Proves Elusive

The short story I've been posting snippets on here is done. I've been submitting it to literary journals and a few winnable contests here and there. My political opinions are minimal at this point. There's not much I can say that hasn't been said better by someone else. That's when I know it's time to step aside.

I've been having a resurgence of energy, recovering fully. Instead of pacing the floor, I perform stretching activities that calm down my restless legs. My partner assists me with these and I'm grateful for her assistance. Aside from that, writing is really a chore right now. And it probably will be for a while longer. But be patient with me.

See me as a cancer patient needing rest. My body has been through a ton the past five months and it is just now putting it back together. But I still have health problems and visit a doctor at 3:30 pm today to address one of them.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Early Quote of the Week

"I live!"-The mad Roman Emperor Caligula as he was being killed.

Monday, November 02, 2015

The End or the Beginning?

Minority groups or disenfranchised groups have learned with pain that the American government, or any government so conceived, lies when it is expedient to do so. The cable television fixture Turner Classic Movies recently aired the classic 1981 documentary The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter. It was part of a series of women directors. Women who contributed to the war effort were eventually lavishly compensated for their work, but were then expected to step aside when their jobs were given to returning servicemen.

The means by which this process was done were unfair and exploitative. The filmmakers were active in righting the wrongs that never graced history books. History has been a record of men's exploits, eliminating women's contributions. Since then, it has become fashionable to bash the government for all of its failures while not taking into account its successes. But to discount the vast failures is a travesty. Women were lied to, openly. We've all been lied to, since then, in other areas, women especially.

A kind of weary wisdom says that all politicians lie. The truth bears this out. The Democrats protecting Hillary Clinton are lying to some degree or another about something, and let's admit that now even if it discounts the party line now developing around her. Fox News is lying to bring its own spin out into the open. Liberals lie, conservatives lie, and that's pretty much how it's always been. But have no fear, Democrats, this is Hillary Clinton's year, in my estimation. The GOP field is too muddled, too unsettled for long term success, almost fractured enough to rival 1976, the last brokered convention.

For all the talk about the coronation of Hillary, it is born out of the facts. But this time, I think the American people will be a bit more realistic about what government can accomplish. Hillary Clinton knows the system intimately and while she might run a bit like a monarch for anyone's comfort, something might get done this time. It will be a long time before I vote (twice!) for a charismatic outsider with a minimum of practical Washington experience.

We really want the 1990's back. The nostalgia is for music and economic prowess is equal. It amuses me to see college students with Nirvana t-shirts who were infants when Kurt Cobain was already dead and buried. Can Hillary take total credit for her husband's success? She's certainly tried, but in some respects those were were more innocent times. You could wait for your arriving party at an airport and you didn't have to take your shoes off in the process. We weren't inundated with school shootings, but, immediately prior to that, the government always had the Soviets to point to as the source of all terrible things.

Now things are so unsettled. Music is abysmal and irrelevant. And we are beginning to ask some serious questions to ourselves about the golden age of American capitalism, and whether it has gone away for good is a relevant topic. We live in a global age now, whether we can see its results clearly or with some effort. I predict we will see it with clear evidence with every passing year. We live in a more multicultural country, and it is increasingly hard to close our eyes and not see it.

We've just come through Halloween, a time where we scare ourselves, a miraculous concept to me. But it's fear we cannot control that frightens me. Do you know what scares me? War. Open conflict. The always unstable Middle East, that makes me want to forsake the pacifism I own and carpet bomb the whole stinking area. A set of problems never ending. But then I turn into a heartless ranter, and the world has enough Archie Bunkers and conspiracy theorists.

What follows next? No one knows. Is this the great American resurgence or a lasting cultural slump? Regardless of President, we are likely to have a divided Congress because we are a divided country tied between the way we want things to be and the way things are. The sooner we own the future, the better we will be. Political science and trends are no help here.

Iceberg Lettuce, Part Two

“One more tomorrow, yes?” His English was heavily accented, almost Russian. And we all smiled the smiled of the stoned and the preoccupied. It was almost like speed, but it wasn’t quite that way either. No grinding of teeth. A nice mellow, highly tested chemical that dissolves rapidly and had no need to measure weight or blood pressure, or even pulse rate. You’d swear at the end you’d had a religious experience and maybe you had. Everyone’s kid bragged about it over the school lunch table the next day.

And amid thermos and lunch boxes, the talk was the same the next day. One more day of the mystical pill. Whatever will they think of next? We didn’t much talk about what they wanted from us. It gave us a break from the hunger and the Russians and the Iranians and the fifty minutes if we wanted gasoline. You could skim it off the line if you got desperate and some of us did, but the behavior was discouraged.  The poorest among us had no such reservation. Ever tried to use mineral spirits to get petrol out of a grey flannel shirt?

And then the military brass started walking all slow-like around 2 pm. We weren’t supposed to be on the premises at school, but we knew that. We were adults and few of us had work. And all the time, they kept walking lazily with a plastic bag full of those same little blue pills. Round two, said some widow, and so we prepared for round two.  It was our last go-round with the U.S. Army and nobody was afraid to look a gift horse in the mouth, two days where we weren’t worried about being poached across the river to the next grist mill by some foreigner.

They started knocking on doors like before; pouring pills into cupped hands into small circular paper containing containers of water.  Plastic cups from all over creation. Free. We drank them down with haste, ready to begin, to learn the meaning of life, even ordinary people who never had no book learnin’ like James Franklin Jamison, the town mentally challenged individual, who you used to call the village idiot.

He was rubbing out answers and blue boxes with his elbows, which soon grew blue. I wonder what his answers said. Could they be what we were looking for all along? As it turs out, there was nowhere to go before the Minnesota border and here were in northern Michigan. Not close to nothin’ as the neighbors would say.
The bullhorns let us know they were leaving soon and for us to dose or forget about it. So I opened up the gate to the bridge and off they sped. As for me, I walked back to the campsite to see what everyone was doing. They kept drawing boxes and talking frantically to each other. I wish I knew that universe they inhabited.

That same man who looked cowed kept collecting everyone’s piece of paper, assuming, of course, that they weren’t quite done with it yet. He’d stayed behind for some reason. The army guys weren’t done there yet.

Jane Mansun wasn’t ready yet. She’d decided on a two-color effect and after first applying blue ballpoint pen was adding shading with a school pencil, a number two. She sucked on the end of it like a student at a multiple choice test.

Now just remember, ma’am, there are no right or wrong answers.

She ignored him and briefly stopped sucking on the graphite only to add a brief, wild mark across the page only she was capable of understanding.

There, she said. I’m done now.

You sure? he said. Yep, she said, and folded her arms. Folding her arms underneath her was always a sign she was done with whatever task at hand, but it made her look like a petulant eight-year-old.

She shot me a dirty look. Even the lesbos get to participate. Even those dykes. No one could confuse my short hair or professional sports team jersey.  I’ve been out of work, too. Even my partner is unemployed, my wife, really, which just enrages the natives even more. I don’t care anymore. I’m so used to being despised that I’m reminded of that corrupt Latin American dictator in the Woody Allen film who has been poisoned so many times he has developed an immunity.

$500 buys a lot of groceries. Our home is full of none of them with three weeks to go before new food stamps. I have a half-sister working on marriage number three with two preteen kids from marriage number one, desperate to escape like the rest of us. They make google eyes at every rescuer with a car and gas no matter how old he might be. I doubt their mother would care. It would be one less mouth to feed, nobody to clothe anymore. It’s news story waiting to happen, one more Amber Alert to interrupt everyone’s telecast or cellphone conversation.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Quote of the Week

"Like most people who have had one baby, I am an expert on anything and will tell you, unsolicited, how to raise your child"-Tina Fey

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday Video

Well, I don't want a thing to do with your kind
And I ain't got no time to kill on your dime
Strung up, hanging 'round
Looking like you're upside down

Well, I ain't wanting to shed no blood, that's your crime
And I ain't wanting to sling no mud, I clean it up
You ain't what I'd call a friend
I wouldn't even if I could pretend
Man, you ain't like anybody else

As night becomes the sun to rise
As dirt becomes the butterflies
As sure as though it always seems to stay the same
And I'll be waiting anxiously
And I'll be falling fast asleep
And I'll be dreaming of the day the dream died
Uh huh

No sticks, no stones could break my bones like you can
If I knew hate, I'd call it love for you, man
High up on the hill, cheaper than a dollar bill
Man, you ain't like anybody else

Should we pretend that it's the end?
Are you my curse or are you my friend?
And if we got hit to the end of the road
Will you be there to carry my load?

I'm getting it back with that terrible feeling
My vision is cracked, but it looks like it's healing
I'm getting it back like it's four in the morning
When the sun only shines as if it's giving a warning

I'm getting it back with the rest of the leap year
I'm keeping the rabbit, the bat, and the reindeer
I'm getting it out, whatever I've gotta keep in
I'm telling the truth, said it don't win with pretend
Should we pretend?
Should we pretend?
Should we pretend?

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Notice

Friends, I am not back at 100% yet, so don't expect miracles from me.

Movie review: A Nos Amors (The Many Loves)

Displays of overt feminine sexuality have been stigmatized for generations. The virgin/whore dichotomy proves tempting to many directors, male and female both. Here, our main character, Suzanne, (Sandrine Bonnaire, in her first role) plays a role as a girl who uses sex with guys to disguise her dysfunctional homelife. She is both a bit of a slut, by parlance, and a bit of a good girl. These are the words of a superior critic to me, lest I be accused of plagiarism.

French indie director Maurice Pialat had been a known quantity before filming A Nos Amores in 1983, considered by many critics to be his best. And in so doing, he launched the career of Bonnaire, a fixture on the French film scene up to the present day. She has transitioned to the role of director herself. Sill a child, but not yet a woman, in this picture she looks like a fawn rather than a mature adult.

Pialat continues the tradition, rooted in male sexual appeal, of the sexually available nubile. We could talk about the inherent fantasy of the role and its objectionable qualities, but it's much more interesting to muse on what lies beyond it. Bonnaire was only sixteen, playing the sort of sexually believable role that would never be tolerated in the United States. The many sex scenes with peers would be labeled "jailbait" today and discussed as such with those parameters first.

Are these Pialat's gendered fantasies or a warm retelling of adolescence? I would opt for the second, while not discounting the first.

But the passion Bonnaire brings to the role is worth discussing, as is the inherent youth and excitement of high school life. These are high school students, though that terminology is not used because of the country of origin. Once again, we focus on the joy and newness of that sometimes ecstatic, sometimes traumatic time in our lives. And as we do, we see it with new eyes, eyes that romanticize and stigmatize in equal terms.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

God Only Knows

When I was get to writing again. These hospitalizations will get to you.

Week of Surprises

In this week of surprises, my father formally accepted me as queer. I am very happy.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Love Letter

I've 35 today. Earlier this week I celebrated seven years in DC, the date my life changed forever. But this piece ought to be entitled "In Defense of Monogamy". I've been with my lady for six and a half years and consider ourselves married in all but formal name. I have been at time, at her own request, hesitant to put much about her up here. So she remains a ghostly presence, but has been a constant.

She is silly and gets me out of my super serious self. But she can be tough and tenacious, too. My sexual orientation is not an issue with her. All she asks for is devotion, and has it. This has been an issue with some who are not queer herself, but she is secure in her sexuality.

I know the same old curves with her, but find their familiarity endearing with me. And I welcome them being around forever, just like her. I would find asexuality too alienating, and most of us want someone to partner with for good.

Saturday Video

Hey, hey, good lookin', whatcha got cookin'
How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?

Hey, hey, sweet baby, don't you think maybe
We could find us a brand new recipe?

I got a hot rod Ford and a two dollar bill
And I know a spot right over the hill

There's soda pop and the dancin's free
If you wanna have fun come along with me

Hey, hey, good lookin', whatcha got cookin'
How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?

I'm free and ready so we can go steady
How's about savin' all your time for me?

No more lookin', I know, I've been tooken
How's about keepin' steady company?

I'm gonna throw my date book over the fence
Find me one for five or ten cents

Keep it till it's covered with age
Cause I'm writin' your name down on every page

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Quote of the Week

"Of course, this artificial distinction does not strictly obtain in any particular marriage. There is an attempt to break it down. It is an honourable attempt. But our civilization is nevertheless built on that distinction, In order to break down that distinction utterly, it will be necessary to break down all the codes and restrictions and prejudices that keep women out of the great world.

It is in the great world that a man finds his sweetheart, and in that narrow little box outside of the world that he loses her. When she has left that box and gone back into the great world, a citizen and a worker, then with surprise and delight he will discover her again, and never let her go."-Floyd Dell

Friday, October 09, 2015

Saturday Video: Grieg Lyric Pieces Book VIII, Op.65 - 5. Ballad

I Try to Post This Once a Year

You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on, and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag
And skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions

The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
Blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell
General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat hog maws
Confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theater and will not star Natalie Woods
And Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle as Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner
Because the revolution will not be televised, Brother

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
Pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run
Or trying to slide that color TV into a stolen ambulance
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
On report from 29 districts
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers on the instant replay

The revolution will not be right back after a message
About a white tornado, white lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom
The tiger in your tank or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised
Will not be televised, will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Ranch Dressing, Part 2

Ranch Dressing, Part 2. Part 1 is Found Here.

Cars pulled off of roadways. Modular homes filled up without babysitters, the drug not safe for those under age 8. They watched impassively as rows upon ballpoint pen rows filled up on legal pads, and people joined together for protection, uncertain what their parents or sisters or guardians were doing out there.

I swallowed the small blue pill, expecting sleep. Instead I saw space in five dimensions, rainbow trails, ROY G. BIV and all those things I’ve half-learned in middle school chemistry. There were no videos. There was something not interactive about this medication, if it was medication, something that hearkened back to simple times. They gave us scores of charts, which we filled in like math students at some college worksheet.

Every so often, a military GI with a tommy gun opened up a door to a modular home or a real home made out of our famous red clay. What was today? What was tomorrow? Did any of it really matter? I saw everyone’s paint-by-number dreams, like a modern day Jackson Browne.  They took sheet after sheets. The Clutters looked the same. The Smiths looked the same. The Johnsons looked the same. Even the Maranpolas, the Greeks down the way looked the same as us, but theirs was in red, blood red.

It was just Crayola’s, markers and crayons and colored pencils. Nothing serious. The way the papers were collected was with deadly seriousness, as though someone had died.  They even gave it to the same guy, this little fella with fewer stars on his epaulets, who acted like he was due twice as much for duty this profane.

“One more tomorrow, yes?” And we all smiled the smiled of the stoned and the preoccupied. It was almost like speed, but it wasn’t quite that way either. No grinding of teeth. A nice mellow, highly tested chemical that dissolved rapidly and had no need to measure weight or blood pressure, or even pulse rate. You’d swear at the end you’d had a religious experience and maybe you had. You’d brag about it over the school lunch table.

And amid thermos and lunchboxes, the talk was the same the next day. One more day of the mystical pill. Whatever will they think of next? We didn’t much talk about what they wanted from us. It gave us a break from the hunger and the Russians and the Iranians and the fifty minutes if we wanted gasoline. You could skim it off the line if you got desperate and some of us did, but the behavior was discouraged, but the poorest among us had no such reservation. Ever tried to get mineral spirits out of a grey flannel shirt?

And then the military brass started walking all slow-like around 2 pm. We weren’t supposed to be at school, but we knew that. And all the time, they kept walking lolly-gag style with a plastic bag full of those same little blue pills. Round two, said some widow, and so we prepared for round two.  It was our last go-round with the U.S. Army and nobody was afraid to look a gift horse in the mouth, it was two days where we weren’t worried about being poached across the river to the next grist mill.

They started knocking on doors like before, pouring pills into cupped hands into small circular paper contains containers of water.  Plastic cups from all over creation. Free somewhere, once. They drank them down with haste, ready to begin, to learn the meaning of life, even ordinary people who never had no book learnin’ like James Franklin Jamison, the town mentally challenged individual, who you used to call the village idiot.

He was rubbing out answers and blue boxes with his elbows, which soon grew blue. I wonder what his answers said. Could they be what we were looking for all along. As it turns out, there was to go before the Minnesota border and here were in northern Michigan. Not close to nothin’ as the neighbors would say.  

The bullhorns let us know they were leaving soon and for us to dose or forget about it. So I opened up the gate to the bridge and off they sped. As for me, I walked back to the campsite to see what everyone was doing. They kept drawing boxes and talking frantically. I wish I knew that universe they inhabited individually. Was it different from mine?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Vaccination for HPV

A public service announcement from someone potentially older than you. Do you have HPV (Human Papillary Virus)? Who doesn't, you may be asking yourself? Well, just because it's highly prevalent doesn't mean that it isn't troubling and room for concern.

Having HPV has required me to take three expensive vaccines and go through two painful operating procedures. MSM (Men who have sex with men) are at particular risk, as are women who have sex with men who have sex with men. Or who live in Portland. (I made that part up.)

Get screened and catch the results earlier. If caught earlier, women and men both can get vaccines covered a full cost to your insurance. If not, look for out of pocket cost to be $170 a shot, for a series of three.

Monday, October 05, 2015


Have you ever felt better telling off a smartass parent over the phone before who is resistant to technology? Me too!

New Story

So today isn't a total wash, here's a story I've been working on for the last week.

Iceberg Lettuce

Though it will deny all knowledge, the local army encampment offered local residents of the town an experimental hallucinogen. The young people were the first to partake, drawing incoherent, but at the time meaningful boxes and circles on yellow legal pads. Older residents were more wary of this experience and the forms you had to fill out to get it, but they eventually came around to it.

My partner and I were different.  Everyone knew we were living together and said nothing about it because we said nothing about it. I said nothing about the fact that he tasted like ranch salad dressing sometimes during our obligatory makeout sessions. This may have been for the fact that he was quite fond of ranch salad dressing and iceberg lettuce, but I felt he was limiting himself, dietarily speaking.

We were both too reluctant to try the suspiciously tiny blue pill. Everyone was doing it, but not us. You got two doses and two doses only. We never knew why they picked us anyway. Sure, the military was a career for many a resident of this tiny little Southern town and indeed my own partner’s father was a Vietnam Vet, but neither of these factors.

Mostly it was because there was money in it. Only a few hundred dollars a trial, but ever since the mill closed, unemployment has been high. There are no new jobs and the prospects of a better life seem grim. Pickings are slim. No one can afford to turn anything away. 12.5%, 13%, 14.5%. It ticks up all the time and keep ticketing. Everyone is hungry for something different and they want out, but not all of us can abandon this hamlet and leave it a ghost town.  

We inherited the house with live in from my grandparents when they died. I wish I knew how maintain his vegetable garden but I always keep the grass cut. When he was alive, it sported a deep green color, but not is a bright shade of red. Sometimes you have to do something different. It’s not exactly prime real estate and I remember the way he tended to bee stings, by unrolling a cigarette and affixing the tobacco with spit. It didn’t really help, but you always pretended it did.

The talk of the town was the army installation. At first you thought they’d starting camping for no good reason.

Sick and Ailing

This summer was one of the worst of my life. It required three hospitalizations and several ER visits. I had another one yesterday because my system is not yet ready for new meds. So what I'm saying is please be patient with me as I heal and recover.

Somedays I may post like my old days and some days I might not post even at all. I've got to get this under control first.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Quote of the Week

1If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.- Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Saturday Video

You think we look pretty good together
You think my shoes are made of leather
I'm a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young but I'm just back-dated...yeah

(Substitute) Your lies for fact
(Substitute) I see right through your plastic Mac
(Substitute) I look all white but my dad was black
(Substitute) My fine-looking suit's really made out of sack

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth
The north side of my town faced east and the east was facing' south
And now you dare to look me in the eye
Those crocodile tears are what you cry
It's a genuine problem, you won't try
To work it out at all, just pass it by...pass it by

(Substitute) Me for him
(Substitute) My coke for gin
(Substitute) You for my mum
(Substitute) At least I'll get my washin' done

I'm a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young but I'm just back-dated...yeah

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth
The north side of my town faced east and the east was facing' south
And now you dare to look me in the eye
Those crocodile tears are what you cry
It's a genuine problem, you won't try
To work it out at all, just pass it by...pass it by

(Substitute) Me for him
(Substitute) My coke for gin
(Substitute) You for my mum
(Substitute) At least I'll get my washin' done

(Substitute) Your lies for fact
(Substitute) I see right through your plastic Mac
(Substitute) I look all white but my dad was black
(Substitute) My fine-lookin' suit's really made out of sack

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Film review: More

So, reader, have you watched a film you viewed before you raised your consciousness to a higher standard of acceptable behavior, only to find you have changed, but the picture has not? More (1969), fits that category for me. I first watched it in my early twenties on an expensive $40 VHS copy, attracted more at first to the mellow Pink Floyd soundtrack to the contents contained within it, but curious to explore nonetheless.

How times have changed. I’m not sure what I find more objectionable now: the sometimes dubiously consensual sex scenes or the violent outbursts of a jealous man. This film is dominated by jealous men, if the truth is to be known, namely Dr. Wolf (Heinz Engelmann), an outwardly smiling, but ultimately sinister older man, rumored to be an ex-Nazi, living on the Spanish island of Ibiza. Wolf competes with a fellow German (Klaus Grünberg) a generation younger who pursues Wolf's kept young woman with a kind of animalistic passion that is a little frightening to watch.

Meanwhile, Wolf keeps his beautiful blonde American girl, Estelle Miller, (Mimsy Farmer, in a great performance) financed sufficiently to live a peripatetic, aimless existence simultaneously with a periodic and frequently debilitating heroin addiction. No love lost here. Throw in some good-natured but nevertheless gratuitous woman-on-woman sex scenes, plus a threesome, and one has what passed for late sixties edgy art film (nudity! real nudity!) from promising young director.

It is a film of its time and yet not of its time. It mines the territory of a genre that never promises commercial success, an addiction drama. That it made no pretenses otherwise is not really a shock. Its director, a young man born in Tehran to French parents, was trying to make a statement about hippie drug culture and its numerous excesses. It is an effort designed at self-censor, when establishment directors and square corporate executives were trying the same thing in a much less accurate manner.

Its secondary message was to say that men can be corrupted easily, their vilest impulses swayed by hard drugs, loose living. and a lack of discernible boundaries. It’s an idea with some validity but it is clumsily manipulated, turning a supposed former innocent into a hardened junkie in ninety minutes flat. We’re led to believe that the male lead (Grünberg) had recently finished his studies in mathematics and instead of being socially awkward and heavily inhibited as math majors tend to be, had cast his lot by impulsively hitching a ride from Germany to Paris. The action begins here and ends with the demise of a leading character, but I won't tell you which one.

More was Barbet Schroeder’s first foray into filmmaking, arguably his most personal one and certainly his rawest. Much is the case for anyone’s first act. He wouldn’t hit his stride until the 1990’s in Hollywood with Reversal of Fortune and Single White Female, but wouldn’t attract much critical praise until a documentary expose of infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the Seventies.

Returning to More, the male lead is vastly overshadowed by Farmer, whose histrionic performance as a supremely hot mess was a career-best. Schroeder had a knack for identifying unknown female talent. One of them, Bulle Ogier, he married. Mimsy Farmer had previously played the American B-movie circuit, the girlfriend of innumerable bikers and social malcontents. Unknown actors and actresses weary of playing second fiddle in their homeland invariably drift to Europe. The same was true in this circumstance.

Mostly the film makes me feel old, aware that my days of scouting the next party or group watering hole are long since past me. If the late sixties were merely one drug-addled orgy, count me out. It turns out that our parents were just as foolish as we were, with equally moronic slang that has dated considerably over time. Those afraid of needles and squeamish of self-destructive behavior probably should avoid the picture, but strangely the images capture a moment in time for me. I've probably watched it thirty times over the course of one lifetime, even if I never watch it again.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

You Don't Mess Around with Change

There are, according to the old Jim Croce song, a few things you should simply not do. One of them involves spitting into the wind. Counteracting intractable Republican talking points might be one of these. The time-honored paranoia spilling from the mouths of House Republicans and Jeb Bush is merely the fear of anything moving in a forward direction. Free stuff means "you benefiting at my expense," which is conservatism defined.

What we are arguing about, as Western Europe has argued about for years, is the ethnic makeup of this country. Worried about bankrupting the country due to what you see as entitlement excess? Streamline the immigration program. The GOP and, to be fair, most of white America, doesn't want to see this happen. We have an imagined culture of whiteness to protect, even though we are a nation of immigrants by our very design.

My own faith, Quakerism, was peopled by persecuted immigrants, mostly from the modern day United Kingdom. The colony of Pennsylvania was set up specifically for that purpose. And anyone who has spent time in the now-state realizes the massive German influence present there. Place names, towns, and streets are often German in origin. This is by design, not by mistake or quirk of fate. It made quite an impression on me, as my partner is a Pennsylvania native.

And, though this borders on cliche, this very thing is the fabric of American society. Open the borders. We are not Switzerland or France. Nor do we pretend to be in any of our daily dealings and proudly so. We can speak to the concerns of those who believe we are slowly and steadily depleting Medicare, Social Security, and creating a legion of dependents milking the system dry. They will work and pay into the system. Problem solved.

But America and American life will be forced to change. Change is difficult, but not changing is fatal. We consign ourselves to the same fate as the rest of the first world if we continue to stubbornly and stupidly resist. By the time I die, American society will have radically redefined itself, whether I have anything to say about it or not. That is still several decades off, but unless the will of some foolish souls asserts itself and we become some kind of Apartheid South Africa, whites will be the minority in power and not by a little bit, either.

Like a grown up child, we have become like our parents. But the Spirit of Independence did not guarantee that all men or all white people are allowed to live here (and created equal, no less). If I had to guess, I would suggest that we will probably work together but not live together. We never have yet. The Hispanic population here in DC keeps to itself in one centralized part of town. Other immigrant groups are likely to do the same. But we've already fought one war testing the coalition of states that somehow manages to be a nation. We don't need any more turbulence fighting upstream.

Expecting otherwise may be too much, too soon. We can respect a multicultural society, but true racial integration requires the end of tribalism and tribalism is as old as the human race itself. We can give queer couples the right to marry legally but cultural understanding, true cultural understanding, is potentially impossible. We either don't want to know or aren't capable of knowing. At least not yet.

So stop resisting the inevitable. Let immigrants move here. Let them start a life in what really isn't a rotten place. Nobody said we were perfect. Let's stop acting like we ought to be or that there is some fleeting standard of perfection we can manage. Arguments based on purity are foolish. Let's accept the future with open arms, even if we can't manage to open our hearts a little bit wider.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Philosophy of Nick Saban

I'm usually reluctant to write about sports on this blog, for lots of reasons. It doesn't fit my target audience and yet it has played a large part of my secret life. I've been reading the recent Nick Saban biography, the current head coach at the University of Alabama, my state of origin, and finding much to like and much to dislike. He's neither and he's both.

Nick Saban is a multi-faceted person for sure, but one thing is for certain, he's often a complete dick. It's not difficult to see why he's been cautiously guarding the details of his life for years. A martinet in the truest sense of the word, he demands total devotion and obedience from his players. Quakers have trouble with obedience. The God they worship is consumed with equality, not some Old Testament God bent on destruction, groveling, and sackcloth.

Maybe if I had some fundamental belief in smiting I might find his tactics more to my liking. Maybe if I felt that his impact, psychologically, upon young black men was more fatherly than about power I would show my respect accordingly.  

Once upon a time, I too was a football player. I quit after two broken hands back-to-back, a wanton dislike of my teammates, all they represented, and a depression that would soon spiral out of control and narrowly deny me a high school diploma. A sensitive soul, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed playing for Nick Saban. He would have been too demanding, too quick to criticize. The Stonewall Jackson of football coaches, minus the pious beliefs and the eccentric demeanor.

Every football player expects to be broken down before lifted up. The most perceptive coaches realized I was my own worst critic and that more flies could be gathered with honey than with vinegar, same as in life. Let that be a lesson to us all.

I'm an inherently atypical male if ever there was one. If I ever get to be an influential enough writer, I'll write my memoirs and focus a large chapter about my life as a jock. I can't run away from it, because my body type reflects it, but one of the reasons I've had some gender dysphoria over the years is that I seem ill-suited for the way I look and the people I attract as a result. It's kept me miserable and kept me safe, too.

I don't mean that I would feel more comfortable in female form, but that maybe I would give up an athletic build and all that it entails for something different, something more in line for how I have always felt about myself. Believe it or not, I could have been one of the popular ones, the kind that date cheerleaders and make homecoming king. And peak at age 18. But these sort I never made friends with and never related to in any way, shape, or fashion.

Let's return to Nick Saban. He's much more interesting. What a complex figure, simultaneously cruel and compassionate. I know I cribbed that line from somewhere. Now that the cards are on the table, it makes me glad I'm nothing like him. It's the same reason I could never be a lawyer. I have no love for the fight.

Paradoxically, I hate to lose, but that impulse is counter-balanced by a sense of justice and compassion for the underdog, not the self. I'm a philosopher and an activist, not a bull-fighter, not so ultracompetitive that I can't let it go, As it stands now, we live in a schizophrenic culture caught between the caveperson and the intellect. It would be more fascinating if it wasn't absolutely terrifying in its contradictions.

And for every persistent soul, there are more who don't get it, more who don't understand the complexities of human existence. Some thirst for righteousness. Some thirst for the truth. All come home empty-handed.

And in the meantime, where are we? What is our role in this charade in this over-crowded planet where we don't know our neighbors. I streamed past people much like me today in my weekend errands and exchanged nary a word with any of them. Thirty-five years old in twenty-eight days and where am I? Graying temples and receding hairline and memories. That's what I'm made of these days.


How true.

Quote of the Week

There is one great God and power that has made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I and all people owe their being and well-being, and to whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we do in this world.

This great God has written his law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love and help and do good to one another, and not to do harm and mischief one unto another.-William Penn

Saturday, September 26, 2015

That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I will never mention his name and his identity on this blog. I will never mention his name and his identity ever. If pressed, I will not open my mouth. This is my life and my blog and my past and my history. And maybe I'm not a millennial when it comes to open, unrepentant confessions of sexual orientation and relationships. I'm beholden to a different era, one only slightly less reticent than his. So place yourself in my shoes, if you wish, or hear my story in your own unique way.

You, reader, know that I don't keep much back under the time-honored adage of the personal is the political. Some of you say I share too much. Some of you see me as courageous. He taught me what being queer was all about, more than any movie or book could do. We were clandestine lovers, our vast age difference a shield against gossip and a way for me to stay closeted. I've read so much bad LGBT literature and personal narratives, so I'm raising my pen now in part to counteract those issues, to counteract those tropes.

The conventional wisdom, still mainly true, is that LGBT media is highly mediocre. Gay-themed movies are still consistently terrible, with a few notable examples. There have been exceptions, more in recent times than others. I differ because I am not gay. Some of the best gay-themed content is couched in bisexual terms to cushion the blow. This doesn't mean that bisexuality isn't real, but that a heterosexual audience might find it more palatable than its more potent alternative.

These, as I said, were poor substitutes to real human interaction. So when we began what we began, he was eager to show me the ropes. I don't mean this in any predatory sense. At the outset, if you can believe it, we were totally celibate. Still, it is just as well that we live hundreds of miles apart. I have grown older, he has grown older, and I do not need him anymore. I do not want his advances or his advice any more. It is fitting and proper that we do this.

It's nothing personal. We outgrow certain people in our lives and so I have outgrown him. But I always take his occasional e-mails and instant messages. He was always timid and it is that timidity that ended us, not anything he did or said. He provided a poor example and a stereotypical notion of what a gay man was supposed to be, I thought. I wanted him to stand firm and not bend at the knees. Some want to dominate. I wanted to empower. Is this my own bias? Am I being unfair?

My own conflicted notion of masculinity may be to blame somehow. I guess you could say I don't know what a man is supposed to be, even now, even a month from 35. I wonder if I will ever. But I know that men come in different categories, but they usually get whittled down to two: acceptable and unacceptable. Men may only understand just what I mean.

Hear the words of black gay writer James Baldwin in his 1962 novel Another Country, featuring openly bisexual male characters, shocking for its time. It summarizes my deepest secret fear and why I out myself before anyone else has the satisfaction. I am the dreamer. My secret life is not so secret and yet totally secret. Rest assured I have not and will not even scratch the surface in the course of one lifetime.

“The trouble with a secret life is that it is very frequently a secret from the person who lives it and not at all a secret for the people he encounters. He encounters, because he must encounter, those people who see his secrecy before they see anything else, and who drag these secrets out of him; sometimes with the intention of using them against him, sometimes with more benevolent intent; but, whatever the intent, the moment is awful and the accumulating revelation is an unspeakable anguish.

The aim of the dreamer, after all, is merely to go on dreaming and not to be molested by the world. His dreams are his protection against the world. But the aims of life are antithetical to those of the dreamer, and the teeth of the world are sharp.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

Saturday Video

Good natured silliness a day early.

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Spread 'em out
Push 'em up
Put your head right in 'em

Scoop 'em
Squeeze 'em
Boy you gotta please 'em

Bite 'em
Lick 'em
Give that nip a tug

Grab 'em
Shake 'em
Show them titties love

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Bite 'em
Lick 'em

Give that nip a tug
Grab 'em
Shake 'em
Show them titties love

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Show them titties love
And nestle in my rug

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Da pope is a coming!

I couldn't resist.

Beyond Spoons

I have always found the spoons metaphor describing disability to the novice as a little silly. I would describe it as this instead. Imagine you have to add several additional tasks to your already busy life. Imagine if these never go away. I do this when I try to remember which medications are for daytime and which are for night. I do this when I juggle doctor’s appointments and take into account delays on public transit as I cannot afford to own a car, nor feel much need for one.

I have accepted my fate a long time ago. Sure, it’s annoying when someone doesn’t get it, but those of my relative generation are stigma-busters. I would have always gravitated to arty circles full of glorified eccentrics who wore their nervous breakdowns on their sleeves. Mental illness might even be trendy there, if it wasn’t so deadly serious.

In many ways, I have learned coping strategies with rejection and hurt feelings. And suffering makes you gloriously sensitive and understanding towards those in pain, those who resemble you. One of the reasons I think FDR pushed through the New Deal is that a once-vain man of privilege had to learn to restructure his whole life and see things through the eyes of the less fortunate. He had to concede that he was powerless over a medical problem that took away his ability to walk upright. He knew their pain and anguish and though I would not canonize him as some have, he was the only politician my grandfather, himself born of poverty, had any kind word of which to address.

I’ve been reflecting on the outside world only to an extent. A much more simplistic understanding might be in order. My plate’s always pretty full and it never clears. I know a lot of people in life who have that affliction, and they don’t have to be sick to be there. I worry about the nurse who works three twelve hour shifts in a row, back to back to back. Someone has to do it.

So I, be it known I understand the desire by some to spell it out for those who have been previously hurtful. It’s tough to be misunderstood for any reason. But the closer I get to 40, the less it truly matters. I know myself and I’ve become a good judge of character. But if I said that any of this was easy, I’d be lying. You have to learn by doing, not by explaining.

And in the end, I love my partner though I take care to take the time to see beauty in human form, in a way that is pleasing to the eye but not challenging to the bonds of fidelity I’ve made. I am nothing but human, after all. Why not take in beauty in all its forms, not just the physical? Beauty interests me more than building the perfect analogy, the one that causes people to sagely nod their heads up and down.

These cannot be taught to anyone other than those who inhabit limitations. Is it so important to make plain my intentions that everyone understands me completely? I am large, as Whitman wrote, I contain multitudes. As do we all, friends, as do we all. I have missed my blank computer screen and send to you this transmission that has been percolating in my head. God has blessed me as he has blessed all of you with your own strengths. You may not live your life in scrubs, but you have a greater purpose out there, even if it is not the easiest to find at first.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Capitalism and Psychiatric Hospitals

Like so many liberals and Americans, I hoped for a radical re-haul of the health care system with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. More people may be covered now, but hospitals and doctors can continue to charge whatever they damn well want. The ACA only covered part of the problem. It is an especially vast one, one with few discernible solutions.

I've seen employment in health care straddle racial strata. Mid-level income workers are still usually black, though many come from Africa and the Caribbean, as well as some doctors, low-level workers are usually Hispanic, and the upper echelon of jobs are usually given to whites. Doctors can often be foreign-born, of any native origin. The psychiatric unit where I was stationed for the past five days charges an obscene amount of money for even one day's treatment.

Without insurance, one day's hospitalization is $12,000. And as we know, if you don't have insurance, you're totally screwed. Looking at itemized statements of how much is charged to the consumer is enough to enrage. Testing the battery of an implanted medical device found currently inside me charges $750 to the insurance company, to cite only one example I noticed myself.

Health care is clearly a growing industry. Everyone talks about the aging baby boomer population, and that's true, but I predict as well that more men will adopt the profession, which is where the jobs will be. Typically, heterosexual men are not natural cultural fits for helping professions, like medicine, except for doctors, but I see more men in nursing school in the years to come.

It's a career that requires an immense amount of stamina and long hours. I worry about the mental health of the people who cared for me. I empathize with my fellow patients in pain and severe discomfort. There is a lot of untreated hurt out there, but hopefully it doesn't have to start in the crisis situation present inside a hospital. We could start by being far nicer to each other and understanding of social and racial inequalities.

It wasn't my intent to write an "ain't it awful" piece, but clearly something has got to give. Some hospitals with money are great. I was even able to look forward to meal times. But I've been in other hospitals that cut down on cost by using cheap and disgusting food, if not cutting corners in other ways that may be unethical and are certainly immoral.

We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We need to spread the wealth, and if that sounds too much like socialism, then that's just too bad. It's not fair that those with the means get all the goodies and those without get stuck in a black hole. In any large city, those in the know which ones to avoid and those to favor.

I was one of the lucky ones, due to my skin color and my insurance coverage. Others do not have similar advantages. I enjoyed Monday morning yoga, but across town, no one would see a need for it. We must balance adequate with lavish. We have not reached that apex yet.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Takes Two to Know

Takes Two to Know

A study of a transperson.

Boys in makeup!, she would loudly proclaim, upon my arrival. This was said with great enthusiasm. That meant me. She took out eyeliner and eyeshadow from a see-through plastic purse that zipped up, and a few other things for good measure. Having never taken part in this ritual myself, I was ignorant of every aspect, puzzling over it the way an archaeologist might seek to find meaning in a faded hieroglyph. This effort was for her gratification, not mine. Her reasons for involving me were never expressed, though I suppose she might have been in pursuit of something mildly titillating. Mostly it kept the boredom at bay for a little while longer. For the evening, I was her guinea pig.

This is really complicated, I thought to myself. Each product had to be applied with practiced hand in a particular way. I'm afraid of irritating my eyes, so I fought hard to keep my eyelashes separated enough to apply a coat of mascara to the top half, then the bottom half. I was very grateful when the process was over. Many women kept this routine every day, I reflected, believing that repairing their faces on a consistent basis was an essential part of self-care. I wondered if I was devoted enough to this foreign process, willing to learn how to tolerate every step in sequence, alongside a thousand other momentary discomforts for the sake of fashion.

As I began to comprehend the complexities, the mystery slowly subsided. I began to pick up on the nuance of outward appearances, the subtle flourishes and not-so subtle flourishes. Not every woman spent an hour or more on her physical appearance, as had been the case for me tonight. Not every woman aspired to be a beauty queen, a debutante, or head cheerleader. I’d known this already on some level, information gleaned purely from slightly detached observation.

This eternal pageant of feminine presentation had proceeded in front of my face, marching to the pace of its own unfamiliar, but strangely compelling tempo. From what I observed, it appeared to me to be divided between those who participated and those who stood on the sidelines. As a man, I’d never been told I ought to care or to show much interest beyond the most rudimentary of details. I’d never honestly thought about the process in those terms, because most men didn’t. They were considered women’s ways. Instead, I was nudged strongly towards the gender roles and expectations of my assigned sex, commandments given by those who also told me how to express my opinions, and what to do in case of interpersonal confrontation.

I took the bait and began my own informal studies. The world of women beckoned to me, a fascination that I studied as assiduously as a college course. In my childhood, I’d gleefully check out a stack of books on a Saturday morning trip to the public library. Feeling intensely and immediately fascinated with whatever it was I was reading, I’d continue until I had finished the whole book, front to cover. Even if it took seven or eight hours to finish, I would still devote the time. Now I had a new interest, a new course of study and a new focus. It had been my habit that anything I put my mind to I usually mastered.

My natural allies, oddly enough, were the tomboys and other conscientious objectors who held fast to their individuality by eschewing hair curlers, face bleach, and tanning beds. I made an inquiry here and there among my female classmates, but I took care not to neither push too hard, nor to ask too much. Their decision to keep it simple and to reject the existing standard often expected of women was never talked about much. The scars were still too fresh, the failure or unwillingness to conform too painful to vocalize. In my case, I knew tomboy was about the best I could expect for myself. I was never going to be dainty, diminutive, or slight of build, even though I might be in my fantasies.

How I envied a close friend of mine, with her thin hair pulled back into a tight bun. She had a slightly frail constitution, which fit her mannerisms and her pale physical appearance perfectly. Some people fight tooth and nail and some people surrender to life. She was the latter. I was the former. Every time I saw her I wanted to save her from herself. My concern for her was full of physical desire and sexual longing, but these were feelings I never vocalized.

Underneath it all, I wanted to be her. She was a fragile, pale, alabaster china doll of a woman. She was a throwback to an old-fashioned, antiquated conception of emotionally overwrought and deferential womanhood. I tried to keep my jealousy at bay, but my envy was considerable. The years passed, but I still failed to understand how and why my attraction to her was wrapped around a desire to take on her physical form.

Regardless of whatever form of femininity I might admire in my dreams, I knew that transition meant I was always going to look like a female weightlifter. The legs I’d been born with were too muscular, my shoulders far too broad. My frame was designed to carry lots of weight. That fact alone caused me severe discomfort, but with time, I’d learned a few common sense facts here and there. Others on the same path towards a greater understanding of self gave me pointers.

Everyone not born into the proper physical form finds early on in the process to not expect a perfect match. We have to make a few compromises along the way. Pragmatism is probably the best approach until medical science can grow comprehensive enough to provide answers to persistently unresolved questions. Back then, I was still figuring out how to live with myself as I was. A friend of mine I’d encountered on a web board was my sole avenue of support. He frequently lamented that, no matter what surgery or treatment he pursued, he would always be a man with a vagina.

He had been quick to offer visual proof of the effects of weekly testosterone injections. These I viewed religiously, curious to know what to expect. Every week he made and posted a new YouTube video that revealed, over the months, the beginnings of a very pubic looking beard and sideburns. What he looked like eventually was a prepubescent boy, but he was thankful for any meaningful changes. The first time a stranger called him “sir” and not “ma’am” was a day we celebrated with a two hour, congratulatory phone call.  

Hormones work exceptionally well for some, but are frustratingly limited in producing results for others. I couldn't afford surgery, because insurance didn't cover it. But as I really thought it through, I came to understand that the procedure might well have had a limited impact. It might have only softened or smoothed out a few things out here and there. Expecting miracles was only setting oneself up for disappointment and I tried to stay realistic.

My bone structure and Adam’s apple would always give me away. Though I might choose to adopt a different haircut, seeking to at least dress the part, I knew I’d always look like a stage performer in a wig. To many casual observers, I would be a man playing a woman strictly for laughs, never to be taken seriously. Even in a more enlightened age like ours, nothing is as funny as a man in a dress. Grownups and children alike share this visceral response.

I was mortified enough in my own current form, afraid of imaginary judgments from every corner, but mostly from inside myself. I had to concede that being a man does have its advantages. My size and stature kept away most of the creeps, even though I was never the kind to pick fights and seek trouble. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give that unasked for gift away, risking being seen as weak and vulnerable. Most men I knew would never voluntarily give their masculinity away, for any reason. The fringe benefits and perks were too lucrative. Though times have changed, it is still a man’s world.

I wondered if I would really be able to block out the insults and keep from internalizing the hurtful remarks of the small-minded and uninformed. My family, for example, would never fully allow themselves to understand me, this I knew well. At least they would make an awkward attempt at acceptance, which is more than I could say for strangers. It had taken my parents ten years to accept queer and that revelation had come with fireworks and amateur dramatics.

Blocking my path were some certainties that could never be dismissed as needless worrying. I saw ahead of me several very uncomfortable holiday gatherings around the kitchen table in my parents’ house. I pictured myself in a dress, my newly shaven legs crossed like a proper lady, observing profound discomfort in the faces of my parents. I wasn’t sure I was strong enough for another round of this counter-productive bickering. They had put their differences aside with time once already, and I didn’t have the stomach for another round.

My online friend, who I never met in person, couldn’t bear to tell his parents about the change. Instead of risking confrontation, he wrote a lengthy letter, then left it in the family’s mailbox. Predictably, they went into shock for a time, but eventually righted the ship. His father was the first to accept him as he was, even though the father had grave uncertainties that he mostly kept to himself. His mother, however, insisted upon viewing her son only as the daughter to whom she had once given birth. She refused to accept his new male name, a name which he had legally changed to reflect his real gender, at great pains and expense. I was fearful of the same outcome and it froze me in my tracks..

Thanks for the boy. Shortly after I was born, my father sent flowers to my mother in the hospital. She was recovering from having me, and the nurse set the floral arrangement and the card on a table next to her. In the days before routine ultrasounds, my sex was unknown to both of my parents until the day of my birth. My father wanted a son, but had tried to keep his own expectations in check. My mother tried to prepare him for a daughter, but fortunately for him, he got what he wanted.

The card that rested on the table next to the flowers summarized my father's jubilant feelings in a few short words. He rejoiced when I was pronounced male and swathed in light blue. Since that long ago day, I regretted that I’d been such a poor son to him. I could not make his hopes and aspirations for me come true. Who I seemed to be was not really who I was. With time, we both lost something dear to us, a relationship predicated upon an illusion I could increasingly no longer maintain.

I'd tried to be a good son, but I could never understand how to parallel park, change a tire, or perform routine household maintenance. These were minimum requirements for him. Once, in frustration, he'd said, Are you some feminine man? I didn't answer him at the time, but I’ll nevertheless concede that the answer was probably in the affirmative. Most of my friends were women and I had few male counterparts. This had been the case since elementary school, fast friendships often made at the lunch table prior to the first bell or when waiting for homeroom to conclude.

Ironically, once I freed myself from a paralyzing self-consciousness that blanketed most of my adolescence, I found I was quite successful with women. Many men my age didn’t know where to begin, but my interactions with the opposite sex were usually seamless. I’d had lots of practice and I at least knew how to make a good introduction. But I once again my secret became an impediment. Any woman who might show interest in me now was going to need to be especially understanding. I was afraid that few would, so I never mentioned it.    

When I left home and moved elsewhere, I periodically called my father on the phone. He constantly asked me if I’d found an acquaintance with whom I might take part in masculine pursuits. I could always hear the disappointment in his voice when I always answered no. Eventually he dropped the subject and never brought it up again. But to make him happy, I deliberately made friends with a few men here and there. These friendships were more surface than they were substantive, but it gave me something to say to my father that clearly gave him pleasure.

My brain and my body always seemed to be at war with each other. I sought compromise first, trying to stay honest to my whole self, even though it was difficult. Easy answers were never forthcoming. I felt that was inventing something new out of necessity, a gender pioneer of a sort, cutting a roadway through a dense forest. No owner’s manuals were present. My only true guiding lights were the anecdotes of those who had come before me. They’d had blazed their own trail, in their own time, and made up the rules as they went along. As it turns out, so would I, in my own way.

After years of struggle, I reached some greater resolution. I made peace with the feelings always in the back of my mind, the ones that I could rarely shove aside for long. I resolved that I could usually live with myself as male, though there were many instances where I was conscious that my assigned gender was never going to be a good fit. My identity was at best an approximation, and never would fit like a glove. As I thought more about it, I surmised that I was probably more akin to a hermaphrodite in my gender identity than I was to a transsexual.

As much as I demanded individual expression for myself, I recognized that I wanted easy acceptance from others just as badly, and sometimes even more so. It’s the routine quandary that befalls every person who demands both freedom of choice and freedom of expression. We are taught mixed messages. It is good to be unique and authentic, but it is also good to belong and be complimented for properly fitting in. I’d grown up an isolated, lonely child, tormented by thoughts I barely understood. Absorbing the approval of others was like water to a man dying of thirst.

I recognized that I was bisexual around the same time. Curiously, even though I was mystified by who I was, my male partners were usually more understanding than my female lovers. They understood the fluidity of gender with greater acumen, and some had their own fantasies of being a woman, though they often differed from my own. I recognized I was selling myself short, expecting to be rejected, rather than entertaining the possibility for a satisfying outcome.

I began cross-dressing when I was fourteen. When I had time alone I would sneak into the laundry room, close the door reassuringly behind me, turn on the light, and root around in the dirty laundry of my sisters and my mother. Being that I was the oldest child and had the largest body size, I rarely found much that fit me. But what I did find in the proper size produced some of the strongest mixed emotions I have ever felt, those of guilt and euphoria combined.

One of my sisters owned a form-fitting dress that I had always silently coveted. When no one was around, which was rare in the those days, I would begin my explorations. Full of nerves but strangely excited, I made my way to the bathroom mirror. The dress fit strangely, designed for curves and angles I did not possess, but somehow I liked the effect anyway. Paradoxically, it was comfortable as much as it was uncomfortable, physically and psychologically.

Too much, too soon. My thoughts turned from an idealized and thrilling notion of perfect gender balance to immediate disgust and shame. I quickly removed the garment, resumed male attire, and placed it back in the basket exactly where I’d found it. I became very adept at memorizing the precise way the pilfered clothes had been tossed into a laundry basket before I got there.

In my mind’s eye, as though I’d taken a photograph of the crime scene, I knew what had gone on the top of a stack and the pattern it formed upon a heap of soiled wash. I was a competent thief, making sure not to leave behind fingerprints or other telltale signs of what I’d done. I probably could have gotten away with it without the need for such obsessive detail, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

Eight years later, I’d begun buying my own clothing. I began with underwear and intimate wear first. Making sure not to blow my cover, I invented a non-existent girlfriend for whom I was purchasing these items. She always wore the same size that I did. It was my fall-back defense, should anyone call me out on it, but I was paranoid enough about my privacy that no one ever did.

In my grandiose fantasies, which now embarrass me with their naivete, I imagined that female retail employees were kinder to me for obviously having a curvaceous, voluptuous relationship partner who wasn’t a size 3. In reality, I was merely another customer to them, another head-scratching man rendered uncomfortable and clueless within the walls of the store, seeking to make his purchases and scram.

An adrenalin rush followed my exit. I began bringing along my own bags, because it felt incriminating and wrong to advertise where I’d been shopping. I felt the same way when girlfriends asked me to hold their purses for a little while, except that the contents were theirs and not mine in disguise. Few would have ever picked up on anything out of the ordinary, but like many men, I was still afraid of somehow losing my masculine identity or appearing less than male.

Alone, in the solitude of my bedroom, I tried on each article of clothing, but not before locking the door behind me and closing the curtains. This was a secretive act I never shared with anyone else. I had always felt out of step somehow with others, in ways well beyond how I viewed my physical self. These hidden behaviors only confirmed that I was tremendously strange, at least in my mind. I had accepted most of my idiosyncrasies long before, but this one seemed the least forgivable. Alone by myself was the place I felt most comfortable, away from prying eyes.

I would tell myself that this time was the last time ever, knowing that I’d never be able to stop. There was an emotional payoff to every day of playing solo dress up, a comfort that words cannot express. At times, I even viewed it as an untreated addiction, but that was just the guilt talking. What I really felt was my whole world in proper balance for a few fleeting moments. It accurately reflected, at long last, how I felt about myself and who I was.

After having shopped at a department store, I recognized from time to time that my physical proportions were not well-suited to the design of whatever I’d purchased. I never had the ability to try on anything before buying it, fearful of being discovered by the gender police. Stares and disapproving glances were my most prominent anxieties. I learned about fashion details most men never had any compelling reason to know and likely never would for the whole of their lives. I had, at least, gathered when buying men’s jeans and pants over the years that a stated size might occasionally not be standard from brand to brand, company to company.

I found this same problem was fifty times worse when it came to select clothing designed to be worn by women. I suppose I could have returned the ones I cast aside on the floor of the bedroom back home, but I was too ashamed. I donated the remainder of my shopping hauls to thrift stores, hoping someone might get use out of them. I felt paradoxically glad to have concluded my last shopping trip, though I knew it wouldn’t be long before I went back.

All was not gloomy. Along with this grave seriousness came great pleasure. That’s why I kept returning to the well, over and over again. Back then, I believed I was engaging in taboo, highly unacceptable behavior, but I always felt joyful at the conclusion of each excursion. For a time in my teenage years, I’d frequently stolen undergarments from middle aged women, the moms of my friends, within moment of being graciously escorted into their houses..

Making strategic trips to the bathroom, I must have rooted through a hundred hampers full of dirty clothing. What I pilfered tended to fit much better, usually because previous owners were larger themselves. This reflected the inevitable weight gain of their original owners. Though I might have felt guilty, I never honestly felt sorry for what I did. It was the first step in self-acceptance. I rationalized that one article of clothing wouldn’t be lamented by its former owner like an entire wardrobe.  

Once, I deftly lifted a negligee from a bedroom closet, put it on underneath my clothing, and received a massive rush of adrenalin for the daring act that could have easily ended up with me getting caught red handed. I sprinted up a huge hill, arriving at my car five minutes later, panting and out of breath. Behavior like this made me feel as though I’d somehow gotten away with robbing Fort Knox. With time, the thrill and satisfaction would give way, but I tried to live in the moment as long as I could. It satisfied a part of myself I barely understood in ways nothing else could.

In those days, I did not keep what I took for very long. Within a week, the most recent article of clothing was placed inside a paper lunch sack. It was set upon the gravel underneath the deck outside, then solemnly and silently burned. The process felt cleansing and sad. I stood and silently watched it burn into nothingness. I destroyed the evidence, even though it was unlikely anyone would ever put two and two together. There would always be time for plotting my next move, whenever it might be and whatever it might be.

Arnold Layne
had a strange hobby
collecting clothes
moonshine washing line
they suit him fine

On the wall
hung a tall mirror
distorted view
see-through baby blue
he dug it

Oh Arnold Layne
it’s not the same
takes two to know
two to know 
why can’t you see?

“Arnold Layne”, Pink Floyd

Several years back, I watched the televised story of a woman born biologically male dealing with circumstances similar to my own. After expansive and highly expensive plastic surgery, she looked flawless in every way. Many of us who identify as gender non-conforming wish that this could be their life as well. What made the surgery a success is an important distinction to make. She always looked very feminine, even when still in male form, which is a blessing that is not granted to everyone.

I didn’t have those kinds of financial resources, nor that kind of luck. Passing is a chore, one I always knew might be too impatient to ever adequately learn. I can’t completely rid myself of the tell-tale traces of who I don’t want to be. Transition doesn’t stop in the recovery room or with the first injection or application of a hormone. Instead, it frequently promises more than it provides..

I plead and bargain with God for the day this second-guessing goes away forever. In childhood I was taught to pray, eyes closed, kneeling before my bed. Though my understanding of direct communication with the Divine has grown more complex, in times of uncertainty and doubt, old ways return. There is comfort in the familiar. I continue hope God hears my prayers and provides an answer, or some guidance at minimum.

Church for me was, more often than not, remote and stuffy, full of people who did not want to know me or even for me to know them. In the absence of friendly behavior from the congregation, I sought instead to believe in the introvert’s God, the one who speaks comforting words, one-on-one, like a trusted friend. He has never let me down.

When I find my identity liberating, rather than restrictive, I know I’ll have really ended this strange and peculiar trip. I believe in a different kind of faith, a mysterious belief that provides few absolutes and even fewer identifying details. I expect God to be mysterious and unpredictable, not scientifically precise. Science is supposed to be the ultimate exercise in rationality and certainty, but who I am is neither rational, nor certain. Seeing myself more as an abstract philosophy than a hard science is how I manage to stay sane. For now, there is no certainty. Once again, I deal with approximation, hypotheticals, and conjecture. I hope for the day I understand in greater detail.

I try not to feel jealous of the women I walk by on my way to do errands. In spite of everything, I don’t regret most of my decisions. In time, we’ll probably understand much more than we do now about sexuality and gender. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

We, each of us, live within our own period of transition, doubt, and uncertainty, regardless of what identities we assign to ourselves.. We may not wish to modify the shape and form of our bodies, but we do wish to be worthwhile and genuine in the eyes of others. Authenticity takes many forms. I stay patient, seeking to keep my expectations and my hopes reasonable. One day, I know I’ll receive another long sought answer. And so may you.