Saturday, October 25, 2014

I Do, I Do, We Did – Finally, After Twenty-Six Years!

Frank Joseph DeFrancesco

Leon Jay O’Hart, Jr.

A Celebration of Marriage

Saturday, the Twenty- fifth of October

Two Thousand Fourteen

Frank and Leon, those of us gathered here today are honored to witness and celebrate your commitment to each other in marriage.
As our society still strives to overcome its fear and prejudice we here have grown to recognize the validity and beauty of your love and commitment to one another.
May your love continue to grow sure and strong and true in the days and years of your shared life together.

On Saturday, October 25th, 2014 in a simple civil ceremony at our home and in front of a small contingent of family and friends, Leon and I said “I do”  - taking one another as our life-long spouses, “to support, honor and cherish through all the circumstances we may face and to never stop celebrating our love.”

We exchanged rings “as a symbol of our love and commitment to one another and of the values we share together.”

Leon’s mom “gave us away” and four of our friends who we’ve known for all twenty-six of our years together, Joyce and Robin and Ed and Jeff, were “Our Best Persons”.

Guests included Leon’s brother Marty and sister-in-law Debbie, his two sisters Brenda and Lisa, a nephew, Neil and his wife Mehgan and their daughter Ada. On my side was my sister MaryAnn, my brother Mike and his wife Claire, my nephew Joe, my niece Andrea and my cousin Rose.

The officiant was Justice of the Peace, Michelle, who is also a member of Chimney Crest Writers (the group that guided and encouraged me through writing my memoir).

The ceremony included two songs by Jeff Krassner that I posted recently, “Strong for You” and I hear the Angels Sing”;  my niece Andrea sang and played guitar accompaniment to “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan (a song which she chose for the occasion). We ended with “Prince Charming” by Romanovsky and Phillips for a little levity.

“Prince Charming” Romanovsky and Phillips
 I met you on a rainy day
But the sun’s been out since
And I knew from that moment that you were my prince
Funny how life is always a big surprise
I thought the man of my dreams would have blue eyes 
I thought you’d be taller
I thought you’d be rich
I didn’t think you’d be moody
And at times such a bitch
I thought you’d be brilliant
A real Einstein
But you’d rather watch TV than challenge my mind 
I thought you’d be happy
And never complain
But you’re so neurotic
You make me feel sane

I dreamt about you
Did you dream about me?
You wore shinning armor
And you rescued me
Funny how dreams are not always as they seem
My handsome prince turned out to be more of a queen 
You’re not as romantic
As I hoped you be
You never buy flowers
At least not for me 
I thought you’d be athletic
With muscles for days
‘cause it don’t matter
‘cause I love you the same
But don’t fear my darling
‘cause it’s you I adore
And I know you can’t be blamed
If at times you’re a bore….

After the ceremony and celebratory toasting we all went to Pagliacci’s, a local Italian-American restaurant. They were gracious enough to serve our wedding cake (a generic cake from Costco) and no Italian wedding celebration would be complete without cookies to take home, so I made 12 dozen of Aunt Margaret’s festive Italian cookies (while mine are not so fancy, the Italian bake shop cookies are like $11/pound)

Now I have been hinting in past posts that a celebration was being planned, about ordering flowers, about it being a perfect occasion with all our immediate family being together in one place, about some “gay” love songs and about our love affair with the gold mokume gane rings. (Note: after much back and forth with jewelry stores, real and virtual, we purchased our Sterling Silver wedding bands at Ruby’s in Provincetown back in September – it just seemed fitting and serendipitous the day we rode our bikes into town and stopped in on a whim and saw rings we both liked at a fraction of the price of gold; we realized that our rings are symbolic, not a financial investment)

It seems that only Russ, over at Blue Truck, Red State had a clue, but I tried my best to throw him off.

Planning the event was fun. Choosing music, finding a nice reasonable restaurant, making invitations, programs and announcements, ordering a centerpiece and a corsage for Leon’s mom. The only thing that was work was house cleaning – like only Leon can do, and I try to do. We joked about registering at Neiman Marcus, and compared our plans to George Clooney’s recent extravaganza.

Now this was what I called a simple wedding, though it was slightly more than that.
In our attempt to keep it simple, we didn’t tell too many people, including relatives. Yet we had people asking us if they could come. People were so excited for us. But we just couldn’t invite others beyond immediate family. For one thing we can’t afford it and for another, the house just isn’t that big.

I also didn’t want to know if any of my very Catholic relatives were uncomfortable with it. I just didn’t want to know. But everyone we’ve told has reacted with congrats and something like, “It’s about time.” or “We figured you’d do it sooner or later.”

We also kept talking about how weird it felt to be considering “marriage”. Neither of us had any wildest dreams, let alone dreams of getting married to a male partner. Same gender marriage was not even a concept when we were growing up. It was unthinkable when we were young adults. And it was unheard of back when we first met in 1988.

It still requires mostly unfamiliar mental calisthenics to wrap around the idea of marrying, even after 26 years.

But we see it as a way of protecting what we have built over those years. And I’m not talking about money, because we haven’t much of that. Having heard horror stories of partners being denied visitation or the right to make decisions or the right to even claim their partner’s dead body or make funeral arrangements, we both think marriage will offer some protection.

And there is for me, at least, the fact that it is a “political statement”.  The fact is that legally we can be married; the fact that there are so many still who hate us – hate us no matter what our “legal” status; the fact that I want to be “in their face” with it to some degree. I want to flaunt it. I want to be able to say to someone who refuses to discuss with me an issue about Leon’s health insurance or whatever, “I’m his spouse. I’m legally able to speak to you.”

And I want us to be counted in the up-coming census. I want us to be added to the growing numbers of same-gender couples who are courageously “out” and visible and being role models in one way or another, whose visibility has begun to make our relationships a matter-of-fact reality.

And I want all the Ma Beckoff’s in the world to get off Arnold’s back and to know that Leon’s and my relationship is every bit as real, every bit as authentic, every bit as loving, as hers or as any male/female married couple’s. And that same sex couples who lose a spouse feel loss as deeply, as profoundly and as heart-wrenchingly as they do.

Photos and more to come.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Grow Old Along With Me

Leon gave me this sundial maybe twenty-three years ago, give or take.
It made me teary-eyed back then.

I'm well on my way to growing old along with him, although I have 14 years on him, so I growing a little older along with him than he is, if that makes any know what I mean.

And of course Mary Chapin Carpenter sang "Grow Old Along With Me" which also makes me teary-eyed. Too bad there isn't a gay version, one without the words "man and wife together" - I would like it  in my playlist if I could find such a version, sung by a male vocalist.

Two branches of one tree..."
Saw this tree today while walking the dog
I hoping the best is yet to be...though there's a good chance the best has already been...but we're going for it anyhow.

Ordered Some Flowers

We rarely buy flowers for ourselves unless they're the outdoor, garden variety. Sometimes I'll get an assorted bunch at the grocery store for a vase.

But some occasions call for a nice center piece and a little festive color.

So we put in an order for an arrangement with our favorites: Bird of Paradise (Leon) and Iris (Frank). Mike, the florist, said he'd fill in with mums and such. Should be nice. We'll pick it up on Friday.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Very Nice Comment and a New Poster

I received some great comments on Facebook (!) from a woman I've known for many years. We both worked in public health during the 1980s, in the early days of HIV/AIDS, doing counseling and HIV testing and education.

Laura has been one of the most supportive allies of the LGBT community in Connecticut. Here is what she said about Did You Ever See A Horse Go By?

Laura Schlesinger Minor 
Just finished reading it. Thank you, Frank for sharing such intimate details of your life to help those of us who didn't have to hide who we are understand what it takes to do it. Having known you for close to a quarter century, I'm so glad to have this book to add depth to knowing what your earlier life was like. The epilogue in particular is very moving.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Lost Musician

Back in the 90s I purchased a CD, maybe it was at a Pride Festival or some such gathering, and I only listened to it superficially. The album, "Strong For You" is by a gay singer/musician named Jeff Krassner.

I recently listened to it again and found several songs on the album that I really like - deeply touching love songs celebrating loving gay relationships.

Searching the net for Jeff Krassner returns very little content. It seems that he had a very difficult time getting a label to promote his music, started his own record company to produce his albums but fell short on marketing or exposure or finding a large enough audience. He has virtually disappeared from the music scene and there are no YouTube videos of songs on this album.

(My search brought up an interesting web site however - Queer Music Heritage and there is a playlist with two of Jeff Krassner's songs. You can actually click on each playlist and hear the music.

The album is available on Amazon, and used CDs go for one cent plus $3.99 shipping.

Unfortunately blogger does not provide an easy way to embed audio files and even if I were to make a video file for the audio and upload it to YouTube, I would probably be in violation of some copyright regulation which I think is stupid because I would not be making any money, but actually be providing free advertising. Oh, well, I might do it anyway...

The two songs I would post if I could are the title song "Strong for You" and the very sentimental "I Hear the Angels Sing" which you can hear in very short clips HERE.

At the risk of being a criminal, I will post the lyrics for you. Tell me what you think:

“Strong For You”  Jeff Krassner
When the blues come cavin’ in
and you lost your way again
I will be strong for you
When the rain comes pouring down
and shelter’s no where to be found
I will be strong for you

Let my love provide a fortress for your soul
A haven in the chaos
That’s raging out of control
When the things that people say
Make you hide our love away
I will be strong for you

When the lies consume you whole
And you feel you just can’t go on
I will be strong for you

I cannot be shaken
No, no, I will not be moved
Though the winds of change are shifting
I’m steady win or lose
And when you’re feelin’ weary
I will hold you up
Just fall into my lovin’ arms
Close your eyes and trust
I will be strong for you…strong for you
I will be strong for you

Now I cannot be shaken
I will not be moved
Though the winds of change are shifting
I’m steady win or lose
And when you’re feeling weary
I will hold you up
Just fall into my lovin’ arms
Close your eyes and trust
I will be strong for you… I will be strong for you

No, I will not move
I’m with you, with you, win or lose
I will be strong for you

“I Hear the Angels Sing”   Jeff Krassner
I can’t believe they don’t understand
‘bout the love I feel for you
When you touch me baby
I feel the angels sing

They tell me it’s wrong
That the devil is loose
They think he’s draggin’ us under
But they don’t have a clue

‘cause when you touch me baby
I hear the angels sing
And when you give yourself to me
Honestly, I hear the angels sing

What makes them think I would turn you away
In this world filled with madness and sorrow
I won’t sell my soul
Or hide any longer
I won’t love you in darkness
Just to make them feel stronger
‘cause when you touch me baby
I hear the angels sing
And when you give yourself to me
Honestly, I hear the angels sing

And you remind me that life can be sweet
Though the world says we don’t belong
So let them preach some old ancient rules
But I know in my heart
It’s the judgment of fools

‘cause when you touch me baby
I hear the angels sing
And when you give yourself to me
Honestly, I hear the angels sing
Over and over I hear the angels
Over and over I hear the angels
Over and over I hear the angels sing

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Plans For A Celebration

It all started because Leon's mother always comes to visit us during October. Leon's birthday is on October 23rd, and well, he is her only offspring.

Her October visits are a habit she's gotten into since moving to South Carolina. I don't remember her visiting in October when she lived in Florida.

Well, this year, Leon's sister-in-law (his half-brother's wife) will be in Boston on business and she thought it would be nice if her husband, (Leon's half-brother) came along, then after the business meeting they would hop in a rental car and drive down to our house for the rest of the week and help celebrate Leon's birthday.

When Leon's two half-sisters (does that make one whole sister?) found out they decided that they would drive out together from New York/Pennsylvania together for his birthday too.

Now mom complained that she hasn't seen her great-grand-daughter (technically her step daughter's grand-daughter) so the baby will be visiting us along with her parents who recently moved back East from Illinois.

Fortunately for us a few of them will be staying in a hotel nearby as we have only one guest bed and our couch doesn't open. Leon and I will sleep in our camper/RV which is both comfortable and offers us privacy.

It is a rare occurrence to get all of Leon's immediate family in one place at one time, and an even rarer occurrence to get them all gathered in Connecticut at once.

So I called my sister and my brother and sister-in-law and niece and nephew. They all live near by and and will be available, with the possible exception of my nephew who just recently learned that he may be away on business.

We also called four of our closest friends - two couples who've been together as long as we have - and they are free that weekend too.

So I said to Leon, "What a great opportunity."

And plans were set in motion for a celebration.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Speaking of Gold Rings and Rainbows and From the File Cabinet Re-run

Looks like the Supremes have spoken in our favor once again. Or more precisely NOT spoken.

Their refusal to hear the appeals by a slew of states means they are letting stand lower court decisions that overturned bans on same sex marriage in those several states: Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin. And this has also opened the door to marriage equality in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wyoming.

Surprisingly, some of these states and/or their elected officials are embracing the outcome of this non-ruling by SCOTUS.

Thanks to Russ over at Blue Truck, Red State, for the link, you can follow the story here.

This seems like a good time to re-post an entry from April 10th, 2012:

This little ditty was written in a creative writing class - during a 3-minute exercise in which we were required to use the words "Manhattan Kansas". Interesting how the mind works in a spontaneous moment...

"I'm glad that's over." Gary said as he raised the whisky glass and took a good gulp. He put the cigarette to his lips with the other hand and drew a lung-full of smoke. "I hate weddings in general," he added as the smoke escaped through his mouth and nose, making curly-cues around his face, " and I especially hate being in wedding parties".

"Well," John replied, "You held up pretty well in spite of it and I'm sure my brother and my folks appreciated it. And, it was kind of fun being best man and having you in the wedding party too. I couldn't help thinking that someday the two of us could be exchanging vows, right here, in Manhattan, Kansas!"

Or Bristol, Connecticut for that matter...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

All That Glittered Was Gold and Rainbows

When I was in college, long, long, ago, I was standing in line at the cafeteria when a rainbow appeared in the field across the street. 

I mean the rainbow was right there, in the field. You could see it's end touching the ground and it was so near you could almost touch it yourself.

Some of us ran like fools, out of the cafeteria, across the road and into the field. The rainbow retreated a little further away with each stride we took. But it was still so close you could almost touch it. Almost.

Of course we never did catch the rainbow nor did we find a pot of gold in the field where it had touched down.

Twenty years or so ago Leon and I saw some gold rings in a shop - I think it was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire or possibly in Provincetown, Massachusetts - I don't remember where we first saw the rings by this particular artist, George Sawyer, because they were available in both locations. 

We both coveted those rings which are very beautiful being made of layered gold which looks like wood grain. 

The gold-smithing technique, after the art of Japanese sword-making, is called Mokume GaneHere are a few examples of George Sawyer's work:

Back then the rings went for around $800 each. Which was more than we could afford. We started saving up though, and when we had saved about $1000, we decided to buy an RV instead. Much more fun and practical.

The next time we had saved some money for our rings the price-tag had gone up to around $1,200. But we put all of our savings toward the house we now live in. Much more sensible and practical.

We pretty much gave up the idea of getting gold mokume gane rings after that, but we still used to "visit" our rings whenever we went to Ptown or Portsmouth. 

Each visit, however, saw the price increase to $1,500, then $1,800 to the current $2,500 - $4,000!

Needless to say, these rings are further out of reach now than when we first saw them. 

Kind of like trying to chase a rainbow. And we still have more pressing and practical needs.
(c) FrankDeFrancesco/End of Trail Productions

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Capitulated to the FB

Let me just say I have been a Facebook holdout till now.

I have reluctantly opened a Facebook page.

I did so kicking and screaming, and I'm doing even more kicking and screaming since going on FB. The only reason I gave in was because the people who published my book said it would be a good idea to have a Facebook page.

I'm not so sure. I despise Facebook.

I have been on Blogger for years and yes, there have been a few glitches and some irritating, user-unfriendly features. But nothing like Facebook. Facebook is an out-of- control harpy. Always nagging at you to "like" something or add something or find new "friends".

Those who know me know I don't "like" much and I don't have a lot of friends, just a few good ones.

Facebook constantly bombards you with what everybody and their brother "likes" -  like if Joe said he just farted, somebody is going to "like" that and then FB tells everybody they are connected to that they "liked" that Joe farted.

Who the hell CARES?

So, despite the fact that I am out there, the whole concept of "social networking" and especially the obnoxious, intrusive, Facebook version, is antithetical to my personality and style.

Facebook asks: "What's on YOUR mind?" That just about covers it for now.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Beach Bumming

Just a few photos from our annual trip to Provincetown.
As much as we are in awe with the natural beauty all around this country and places we've been in Europe, we never tire of the scenery we have here in New England at the Province Lands National Seashore. The sky and sand and sea and marshes are spectacular.

The weather was very cool for this time of year so the crowds were much smaller than usual.
Over Sand via ORV Road to the Beach
I Love the Beach Stones 

Our Trailer at the Campground
Yikes! I'm Gaining All That Weight Back!

Ever the Hedonist (with Inhibitions)
At Race Point 
We always meet great people at the campground. Some have become once-a-year friends including Linda and Sherri who arrive at camp before we do and leave a week before we do. They always have flowers in their trailer and each year they give us the flowers when they leave. It's become a very sweet tradition, don't you think?
We also met some new people this year - Frank and Elsie - both retired Army nurses who now live in Florida. They have a yellow lab who Benni really got along well with.

They've lived all over the country and in in many foreign countries as well. I would not peg them as ultra conservative or anti-gay; in fact they seemed very liberal and gay friendly, but, surprisingly  had no knowledge of the significance of the rainbow flag. We explained.

This year, our friend Dottie and her dog (our dog Benni's best friend) joined us for a few days.

The Hindu was finally back in Ptown after a long absence but minus Captain Kevin Foley whose many stories were always the most entertaining part of the sailing experience.
The Hindu is Back in Ptown

Funny, I have not included any photos of the town of Provincetown. Not much has changed there except for more refurbishments, fresh paint, manicured gardens, and upscale shopping. I've lamented the gentrification or should I say "snobification" of Ptown before, but this year it seems to be way over the top.

And the privileged are flaunting it with a air of normalcy that betrays their ignorance of how most of us live. And what is sad, is that there are so many people who would consider Leon and I privileged. I guess in many respects we are.

Still, in Ptown ordinary folks like us are being excluded from most venues (guest houses, hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, retail stores, by virtue of our limited finances.

Ptown used to have something for everyone - restaurants, t-shirts, bars, shows - but now conspicuous wealth and in-your-face greed seem to be the norm.  Like the airlines, Ptown businesses and the town government are charging more for every little thing - pet charges, parking, food, ice cream, cocktails, etc. The Car Club had extravagant charges to advertise and rent space for their annual car show, and like many people and events, may not return next year.

We were able to find a few earlybird specials which, because meeting friends required us to eat out a few times, were very reasonable.

A grocery store roasted chicken provided us both dinner and lunch the following day for $9 ($4 more than the grocery store back home, however).

We did take in one show, Miss Richfield, a silly drag comedian, which was OK. I had a cocktail and Leon had a diet Coke at the show and we were blown away when the waiter announced it would be $17 when he delivered our drinks.

And we got gelato "buy-one-get-one free" on the closing day of the the gelato store.

Otherwise we mostly went to the beach, hiked out the breakwater and ate and had beer or cocktails at the campground.

(A word about our drinking habits: I transported a six-pack plus two bottles of beer in the camper when we left home and we returned two weeks later with two bottles; Leon went through a half bottle of gin in two weeks and we probably drank a few glasses of wine each. We were total lushes while on vacation!)
Benni Taking a Beach Nap
Dottie and Katija

Pilgrims' Monument at Night

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Nuns Protest Climate Change In NYC

I'm really proud of my sis (Sister "Dee" is on the far left of the photo) for going out and marching for the environment. It is one of the issues that the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas care deeply about and they are out there. They are not a young bunch, but very young at heart and they don't sit around much as you can see.

Update - "Did You Ever See A Horse Go By?" - Paperback Edition

Given that the book turned out to be only about 200 pages, I just want to say that I did not set the price for the book - that was set by the publisher. 

I know it may be a little steep for some of you guys (it certainly would be for me). Sorry about that. 

Anyhow the paperback version (there will not be a hard cover edition) is currently available on FastPencil.Com at this URL:

I'm told it will be on Amazon fairly soon. Before long there will be used copies available for twenty-five cents, no doubt.

Anyhow, I am lousy at self-promotion, but if any of you read the book and like it, don't pass it on - tell your friends to buy their own copy!

I haven't even got a copy yet - I think I get 5 copies as a courtesy from the publisher. 

Thanks to all of you for reading this blog and for all your support.

 Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
- Frank


More updates to follow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Did You Ever See A Horse Go By?" - My First Amazon-Kindle Publication

We just got back from P-town after two weeks of fun, sun, surf, sand, and sticker shock, (more on that later) only to finally read and follow-up on some email.

My colleague and a member of Lefora Publishing let me know I now had an ISBN and sent me a link to Amazon.

I'm thrilled to say I'm now available on Amazon in Kindle form.
Now this is both scary and exciting: scary because I'm finally out there in a way that is very different from the blogosphere. Scary because being out there means being open to criticism from a possibly wider audience. People whose opinions may be not so nice. Oh, well! I think I'm ready for it. And exciting - well, because it's pretty damn exciting to be published - and by a publisher who thinks me worthy of print.

From what I can ascertain, the print version of the "book" is not yet available.

But for the Kindle edition, click here:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Off The Grid

Well not entirely off the grid, but too busy having an enjoyable time to stay in touch with all of you. It  
is difficult to blog or read blogs with just my iPhone. We don't get good phone reception at the campground and no wifi at all. Cannot easily post photos. So until I get connected, ciao.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Coming Soon - More Details Later

I've just been informed by my publisher, Lefora Publications that my memoir will be published sometime in October.

Here is a mock-up of the cover:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day Weekend - Part 3 - Delirium

Just a few more rocks to go and some touch-up spots where there are gaps. We ran out of concrete ( after using 720 POUNDS of the stuff), so stopped and cleaned up the work area, then went out for a late lunch/early dinner at the Chowder Pot with Ed and Jeff.

Those Stones on the Top of the Corner Piece
Are Loose and Don't Belong There
I still have a few ideas...maybe embedding my old cell phone and an antique cassette player...some flatware and a few dishes...putting Mary on a half-shell on the very corner...or a building a grotto reminiscent of Lourdes complete with a fountain of holy water...Right now though, I'm sure delirium has set in and I'm dead tired.


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