Saturday, August 30, 2014

Putting The Labor Back In Labor Day

Stone Wall "Repair".

Yesterday Leon and I removed the loose stones from the wall by the garage. It is a 5 foot high wall that had apparently come down sometime before we bought the house and the home owner just stacked the stones up haphazardly without any mortar. There is a section that didn't fall down and it is still held together with mortar.

The mason wanted $9,000 (that we don't have) to re-do the wall and stairs. I'm sure it would have been beautiful.

This is what I would like it to look like:

But we are amateurs and we work with what we have. The wall that is still in place with mortar is slightly bowed and so we went with it and brought the wall around with a slight bow shape back to the stairway.
This is what we accomplished today, but unfortunately we  only got about two-thirds of the job done. 

We'll be back at it tomorrow morning or Monday morning...not sure my old body can do this two days in row. And the part yet to do means naturally hoisting big rocks to a higher level than we did today.

The Intact Part OfThe Wall Is On The Lower Left

Who Needs a Health Club Membership
When You Can Get A Concrete Workout?
We've Got About Another Foot And A Half To Go

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wickham Park - So Close to Home

Sometimes we don't even know what's practically in our own back yard. This place is just a 30 minute drive from us.

Wickham Park in Manchester, Connecticut has some very nice gardens. We were there for a Lambda Car Club Meeting and I took a very quick tour of the park to see a few of the gardens.

The English Garden was closed for a private party, but here are a few pics of some of the other gardens.

The pics were taken hastily and unfortunately do not do justice to the landscaping, color, arrangement and variety of plantings.

I'll have to go back when I can stroll and take pictures at my leisure.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Report - Gossip by Christopher Bram

A summer read, Gossip by Christopher Bram kept me awake, which is all I ask of a book.

I read the book in four days - a near record for me.

I chose this book because I have read Christopher Bram before, namely, Father of Frankenstein, (which became Gods and Monsters in its film adaptation) and Hold Tight, a sexy thriller set in 1940s New York male bordello with a young Navy man and lots of intrigue.

(Note: Unfortunately for authors nowadays, you can buy a used book on Amazon for pennies.)

Gossip is set in New York City also (and Washington DC) in the 1980s. It was written contemporaneously and some of the references to computers, chat-rooms, telephones and media seem very dated and almost silly in view of the rapid developments in technology since then. But the story has substance.

Christopher Bram is not only a masterful storyteller who uses words with an efficiency that leaves no sentence superfluous, but he's also an insightful creator of characters, almost all of whom are drawn in complex dimensions. You glimpse their inner thoughts while seeing and hearing their outward actions and words.

The story is about Ralph, a gay liberal, onetime AIDS activist who gets involved with Bill, a closeted, Republican, DC journalist who's about to publish a trashy, anti-feminist expose about Hillary Clinton and Washington career women. Ralph finds himself "sleeping with the enemy" and is both perplexed and intrigued by his own attraction.

The story takes a turn a bit past the half-way mark when things get a bit like House of Cards - power, politics, homophobia, Christian fundamentalist religion, illegal activity and gay activism all come together to morph into a mystery novel. The author reveals psychological insights into each character and demonstrates the power of unrelated circumstances to produce something akin to existential chaos in an individual's life.

Gossip is just a good read.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Even The Beach Boys Ain't Who They Used To Be

Thanks to our good friends Joyce and Robin who bought us tickets, we got to go to a Beach Boys concert today (Sunday August 18th) at a very nice outdoor venue - Indian Ranch in Webster Massachusetts.

The Ranch is actually a campground/resort (we didn't stay there) on "Lake (see photo for the name)" which, back in our school days we learned meant "Lake You Fish on Your Side - I Fish on My Side - and Nobody Fish in the Middle" which of course is an approximate translation of the Nipmuk words. You can google it if you are curious. Now they call it "Webster Lake" - it almost touches the Connecticut border.
The Name Was Too Long For My Camera
and I Couldn't Back Up For a Wider Angle
But back to the Beach Boys concert. One thing about the Beach Boys music is that it is fun and happy music. The Beach Boys were singing about girls, cars and surfing before the Beatles came to America, before Vietnam was a daily news story, before we noticed that the world was going to hell.

Unfortunately for us gay guys, they were/are very straight and their music was/is very straight. It is so obviously straight, and that they play to a straight audience; that being there at the concert one realizes the depth to which straight people dominate our social discourse and our culture. But I digress again.

We gay boys were coveting surfer boys while the Beach Boys were crooning over the Surfer Girl. But, at least for some of us, the music touched us even though it made us feel both sexy and a little confused at the same time. (I just googled various permutations of "gay fans of beach boys" and came up dry.)

There were other articles that popped up including those that talked about the Boys' politics and their split up and divergent tours.

We saw Mike Love (who has the license or legal right to use the trade name "Beach Boys") and Bruce Johnston who was an early, but not truly an "original" Beach Boy.

Of course they were good, had good backup singers and instrumentalists and they sounded "original" to my ears. At first, I almost thought they were lip-syncing to their old music.

They had just about everyone up and dancing, clapping, singing along. I must say I enjoyed it.

But when they sang "Don't Worry Baby" I got a little emotional. Under my sunglasses my eyes got a bit moist. Crazy, I know, but why?

I was 16 when that song came out. I bought the 45 and probably played it a thousand times. I have difficulty describing the emotions of a 16 year old who knew he was different and did not belong to the world that was occupied by the adolescents he knew - a boy who did not belong to the world of Beach Boys and Surfer Girls, but who felt a deep, empty longing to belong...for some reason those old emotions got a bit of a stir. Silly me.
Except for Mike Love, the Boys's Outfits
Were Not Very Beachy
(actually a few looked like they shopped at Wally Mart)
And now, at sixty-six, I am dealing with this age thing...seeing the Beach Old Guys singing and being all fun and nostalgic while trying to recognize some kind of continuity between youth and old age, between past and present, between the person that I used to be and who I am now...

The concert was a hoot, but I was seeing it all with a philosophical eye: aging bodies dancing and singing like we were sixteen again, like age was/is, at least for the moment, just a joke, a meaningless transformation, a jest of the gods, an illusion. The grey, the wrinkles, the flab, the waddle, the liver spots...just a disguise for 16 year olds, incognito.

I'd say the majority of those in attendance were over fifty, many in their sixties (like me) and seventies.

Mike Love is, what 73 years old now? Not a Beach "Boy" by any means.

We are all in this boat together. A boat that takes us on a voyage where we lose our youth, our hair or at least or hair color, our strength, our complexion, our posture, our hearing, and eventually our health and our breath.

We are all on this boat together.

For a few moments this afternoon, it was the "Sloop John B."

Surfin' USA

Friday, August 15, 2014

Today's Bounty and Concrete Steps

"What earth has given and human hands have cared for...."

But even loving care could not prevent the blight....
All My Tomatoes Have Early Blight
There Is No Saving Them Now
The Rest Of The Garden Is Doing Well
And The Flowers Are Nice Too

The concrete project was finished a few weeks ago; a little rough, but at least the steps are now even - all close to 8.25 inches rather than the previous 7, 8.5, 9.5, 8, 9.... The last step was a challenge: it is on a sloping driveway so Leon suggested this solution. Not sure a building inspector would approve, but I'm claiming this was a "repair" job under someone's grandfather clause.
Now I have to finish repairing the stone wall to the left. That will be a project for which I will need Leon's muscle - we have collected a number of heavy stones from the property up in back of the house. They will replace some of the smaller rocks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

(Gay) Camping Ain't What It Used To Be - with additional photos

Our Truck and Camper
Just returning from a five-day stay at Hillside Campground in Pennsylvania where we enjoyed seeing some old friends and joining in with the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Northeast Naturist Society at the campground.

Leon and I used to go to Hillside frequently during its/our heyday – the late 80s and throughout the 90s and even into the 2000s when driving 5 hours seemed like a lark. It’s been five years since we were last there for a camping trip.

Five years is a blink of an eye, but in gay years, it seems like fifty. Five years ago I was already sixty-one, an old man to the eyes of many in our culture, but still feeling like a young fifty. The past few years have been a little rough on me and, as I was to find out, rougher on many others.

Years ago, when we first went to Hillside, when I would still get a flutter of excitement through my body as we drove down the dirt road to the big green wooden gate, it was like going to a new gay country where no straights were to be seen once the gate was shut behind you.

Back then, we slept in the back of a 1983 Ford Econoline Van and thought we were in heaven. What was I, maybe 42, 43 at the time? - Old enough to know better but still largely an adolescent by gay standards, especially considering I was a late bloomer. Everything was exciting, an adventure.

The old Hillside campground, on weekends, used to be packed. There was a waiting list for campsites. The young men and men would stream in on Fridays, the dance hall would be shaking and all manner of goings-on would be taking place in the trailers, tents and woods all weekend.

That doesn’t seem to be true any longer. At least the crowds have dwindled some and the energy is gone. A lot has changed over the years and some of us speculate about what has caused a decline in Hillside’s popularity.

One thing is, there has been a significant amount of competition from other gay campgrounds in Pennsylvania, some with upgraded facilities and nicer amenities.

Another thing is, and I hope it isn’t true, but I’m guessing that most gay young adults are just clueless about anything having to do with the outdoors as most have been holed up in their rooms and connected to the internet since they were in grade school. Camping is not in their repertoire and may even scare some of them. Spiders and froggies and bears, oh my. (Lots of bears. A Sasquash or two. Some abominable.)

I think another factor is that the place has gotten a reputation of being a retirement village.

The campground used to be populated with guys in their thirties and forties, some younger, a few older. Now it seems like there are only old men like me there – as evidenced by a proliferation of poundage, golf carts and even an oxygen tank or two, (although I am still walking and breathing on my own). At Saturday night’s drag show even one of the drag queens was using a walker to exit the stage.

And conversation usually gets onto topics like the benefits of hearing aids, or someone’s last surgery, condition or obituary.

Some of us guys often have little code words to alert our partner or friends to a hot guy in the vicinity. Now I am in no position to make fun. But sometimes I just can’t help it. I’m going to hell, I know.

After seeing the crowd at Hillside I told Leon, “When you see a cute young guy, just say ‘nurse’ and if he’s hot and a little more mature, say ‘doctor’.”

We then got even more cruel and started classifying campers in categories: “residents” for average old guys; “patients” for those who are obviously impaired; “nurses aides” if they’re really young, smooth and fey; “orderlies” if they’re over thirty, have face and body hair, and a bit homely.

I AM GOING TO HELL for this and so much more. But I guess I’d classify myself as a “resident” and on the verge of becoming a “patient” myself. So there.

Yeah, the age thing gets to me.

Over the years, we went from the van to a small camper, then to a larger one, then a big fifth wheel and now we’ve downsized again to a 24-foot tag along, so now it is a challenge preparing meals in a small space, making the bed, getting dressed, doing almost anything in a cramped space that we share with Benni, our 100 pound Weimador.

Doing things now is more of an effort, not just because we have a smaller camper – but just because I’m older. Packing groceries, making sure we have everything we need, hooking up the trailer, setting up camp, cooking, dishes, dumping the holding tanks, having fun. Yeah, having fun is work.

I hate to be trite by saying that having fun is work or to use a cliché, “the thrill is gone”; or the colloquial, “been there, done that.” But perhaps it is time for a transition...And, as much as I fight it, go hiking, mow the lawn, do gardening, build stonewalls, keep active, try to eat a healthy diet, lose a few pounds, I am feeling the age in my bones, in my body, and, worse, in my spirit.

I see age reflected in my own mirror and this past week I’ve seen it reflected, no magnified, in my camping peers as well – even those a few years younger than me and certainly in those as old or older than me – most showing their age even more than I do.

I’m not sure if the past weekend has put things in perspective or out of it.

Things seemed somehow distorted: old guys trying to be boy scouts, talking about ancient conquests (and I don’t mean war stories), moving sluggishly and lugubriously in an environment that used to be so vibrant, so full of activity, so erotic, so full of life. Maybe my glasses were dirty.

Some permanent camps:

Leon and Benni
One of the Younger Fellows


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