Sunday, February 26, 2006

Road Trip: Tucson

Sunday 2/26/06
OK, So I'm not dealing with issues.
Girl Cactus
Boy Cactus
Here in Tucson enjoying the weather and occassionally discussing life options.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Road Trip to New Mexico and Arizona



Wednesday, 2/22/06
Left camp at San Antonio around 8am. Some wet weather and a drab landscape. About an hour into the drive, the scenery improved somewhat - more hilly, with juniper and oaks, more like parts of New Mexico. Things flattened out again at 3200 feet, but there were mountains in the distance.

Having flashbacks of moments during my 8+ years at the agency...the dysfunctionality that is never addressed, the discontent. How often I've imagined it should have been such an exciting, cutting-edge, fun, radical place to work, but was always stifled, "managed" into being crippled and unimaginative. Watching staff go from enthusiastic to either leaving or conforming. I was so often the symptomatic child, the weakest link, the one who stayed on while having the least tolerance for the dysfunction. I am not unconvinced that the stresses of the office were a contributing factor in one staff person's having a heart attack. The sad part is that nothing changed, it only got worse in terms of office stress. And the one who was hired to do maintanence and odd jobs who literally didn't know the meaning of stess, now knows what it means. There was growing frustration and discontent there when I was dismissed following my burnout incident.

Well, I'm now free to make a new start. People older than me have done it. Had to get out of Texas today. It just doesn't feel hospitable. Made the New Mexico border.

SUNSET - ANTHONY REST STOP




Thursday 2/23/06
Spent the night at Anthony, NM, rest stop, a no-cost campsite. Slept really well and had vivid, weird and silly dreams like I haven't had in years. Could it be the "Land of Enchantment"?

Just glad to be out of Texas. I don't feel comfortable or welcome there. And that is a part of my country; I am a tax-paying citizen. It is dispicable that there are parts of this country where I, as a gay man, would feel unwelcome, uncomfortable, unsafe.

New Mexico has always felt warmer, more inviting, more welcoming. They have a gay aesthetic: the architecture, the palate, the landscaping convey thoughtfulness and attention to detail. It is a more pleasing place. But there is still a sense that one is just a visitor in a foreign land. United States of America: "red" states and "blue" states, perhaps less united than ever.



INTO ARIZONA

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Road Trip to San Antonio




Well, the weather is not what we expected in south Texas. It remains cold, damp and dreary, like New England in late November. Even so, San Antonio is a pretty city, at least the tourist area from the Alamo to the Mercado. The River Walk is quite a landscaping and engineering marvel, with natural and man-made features blending into an artist canvass at every turn.

For what seems like such a progressive city, the LGBT population is quite subdued. There is no LGBT press but the San Antonio Current did a gay /lesbian issue. The climate here is oppressive to say the least. It is like turning back the gay liberation clock to 1960's. Texans take this "don't mess with Texas" crap seriously and they apparantly resist any progressive changes. They passed a law to prevent same sex marriage, just to be sure. Well there's one Texan who's been messing with the rest of us, and it's about time we all wake up.

Have been feeling a hint of depression in the wind and trying to keep it at bay. Wondering what my options are. I need to deal with feelings without letting them cripple me. This trip is maybe 50% escape and 50% personal journey. I really need to leave the overwhelming stresses of that job behind me and feel the strength that comes with relief and freedom.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Road Trip from Cajun Country to Corpus Christi

"CAMP TESTOSTERONE"




Friday 2/17/06
Spent last night at “Land O’ Pines” campground in Covington, LA. When we returned from New Orleans about 10pm last night the camp was filled with work trucks, heavy equipment and lots of reconstruction workers who commute the hour into New Orleans to work on rebuilding the city. Unfortunately, most of the guys were already asleep, though a few were still sitting out in the warm evening air. We unofficially renamed the campground “Camp Testosterone”. “L” and I had some interesting fantasies last night.

Stopped at Zoe’s Bakery on the way out of Covington this morning to get a King Cake. (my first attempt to do a link) It is a Mardi Gras season specialty and it will be our breakfast for a week if we keep it in the freezer. Zoe was hiring and I was briefly tempted to stay. There is plenty of work here, with lots of places offering sign-up bonuses and benefits.

When traveling I am always struck by fact that there are so. so many people, (perhaps too many people) all doing people things, all filled with self-importance and totally myopic. How in the scheme of things our individual lives are pretty insignificant, “It’s a Wonderful Life” notwithstanding. Our lives are lived for the most part within a small geographical circle, familiar territory. We are consumed by our own needs, crises, passions and drama. Even with TV and instant news from around the world, we aren’t aware of the pervasiveness of the quotidian and mundane. We are bombarded with stories of “important people” doing “important things” (like for Vice Presidents shooting lawyers). Not passing judgment, just an observation.


Saturday 2/18/06
Big traffic jam due to construction from the Texas boarder to Beaumont, TX. Signs of hurricane Rita all around. Even where hurricanes haven’t hit, it seems that humanity has succeeded in trashing 90% of the land that is occupied. The sheer volume of junk amassed by humans: rusting vehicles, machinery parts, assorted appliances, and miscellaneous garbage form prominent landscapes along America’s highways. Mismatched buildings and hideous structures that don’t deserve being described as “architecture” serve as dwellings and businesses. There is little, if any aesthetic for the masses, and it seems, little desire for it. The world so desperately needs more gays, if only to make it prettier!

CAMP WALMART


Spent the night in WalMart’s parking lot in El Campo, TX because it was getting late and we had a long rough ride into Houston, through Houston and out of Houston. One word this morning: “cold”. Two words this morning: “wet”, “cold”. There are palm trees here, it is not supposed to be this cold.






Got into Corpus Christi this afternoon. "L" keeps calling it "Corpus Crispie"; it's his Pennsylvania "accent".















Still cold, wet and windy. Drove out to Padre Island. Granted it is winter, but the scenery here can’t compare to Cape Cod and Province Lands or the coast of Maine. It’s a shame New England summers are so short.

We only partially realize how totally irresponsible the decision to travel cross-country with our camper was. Given we are not financially in great shape, with “L” not working steadily during the winter and me, without any job at all. This trip will cost us. But, life gave us some “lemons” so we are “making lemonade”. Was this gutsy or just plain foolish?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Road Trip: "Saved"?

Along Rt 90 in Biloxi

Riding along through the “Bible Belt” reminded me of a trip I made to Wisconsin back in the mid to late 70’s. Rob, a guy I worked with was planning a move back to his hometown in Wisconsin with his wife Jeannie, and asked me to accompany him and share the driving on what would be an advance, one-night-stop-over trip to move some furniture and household items before they moved out there for good. I had some time so agreed. The vehicle he took was an old milk truck packed with stuff. The rickety truck’s steering wheel had so much play in it, you almost wondered if it was connected. In spite of this and a few other mechanical problems, we arrived at our first stop-over at Jeannie’s parents’ house somewhere in Ohio at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Jeannie’s parents were up waiting for us. Her mother, a friendly, warmhearted woman fed us a great meal, provided us with a hot shower, and comfortable beds. Her dad was congenial and friendly as well, welcoming his son-in-law and myself to bed and board. Conversation centered on family, the current trip, the state of the vehicle we were driving and the upcoming move.

When we got up the next morning Jeannie’s dad, a country guy with a variety of necessary skills, had already made several repairs to the truck that he deemed vital for our survival. He apparently hadn’t slept at all so that he could work on the truck. His wife had prepared us a good country breakfast and after hearty handshakes and hugs we were soon on our way to Wisconsin with sandwiches and soda’s. They couldn’t have done more.

I’m guessing the next leg of the trip was about 20 hours. Arriving around six in the morning in a town in Northern Wisconsin, we were to meet Rob’s family at their home for breakfast. We entered the austere house. Several people were seated around the dining table. After a non-exuberant greeting we joined the group at the table. There was little if any talking. Someone began praying a grace after which it was permitted to begin eating. I was introduced to Rob’s parents, a brother and sister-in-law, and one or two other people. The suspicion in their eyes, when they looked at me, spoke loudly.

Rob had explained to me before we got there, that his family all belonged to an Evangelical Christian denomination and believed in a literal interpretation of the bible and in personal salvation. Every aspect of their lives and their friends’ lives centered around the bible, the church and worship.

It seemed obvious that outsiders were looked upon with suspicion and that I was allowed into their presence only because I was accompanying Rob. I wasn’t sure if it was it my “hippie” long hair and beard, my dark Italian features, the assumption of my being Catholic or just the fact that I had not been “saved” that made me feel like they intended to perform an exorcism on me at any moment. To say the least, I was a bit uncomfortable. And this was long before I was “out” as gay.

A week or so later, back at home, I was talking with Jeannie about the trip. When I mentioned her parents, she expressed worry and concern. I asked why. She and Rob had accepted Christ, she said, but her parents, she feared hadn’t been saved. My response to Jeannie was that her parents, much more than Rob’s, had exemplified what I had always been taught were true “Christian” (human) values. They took us in, fed us, displayed complete and unconditional acceptance and did so with great cheer and kindness.

I told her truthfully that if there is some kind of an afterlife, I would much prefer to throw my lot in with that of her parents and end up wherever they do, than to be condemned to spend eternity with the so-called “Saved” clan from Wisconsin. And that opinion hasn’t changed. The only thing different now is that there seems to be more of “them”: the rigid, unthinking, bible-illiterates, who condemn and judge others and try to maintain a morally superior illusion.

They, including many mainstream, traditional Catholics, have usurped religion, theology, the churches and the pulpits and forgotten what used to be their mission statement: “Love God, Love Your Neighbor”. For some reason their anger, their insecurity, and their threatened worldview, seem to center more and more on gay, lesbian, transgender persons. Why is the "gay issue" so important to them and why does it bring out such venom? “SAVED”? I don’t think so.

Road Trip to Biloxi and New Orleans

Along Rt 90, Biloxi


Wednesday 2/15/06
Left South Carolina heading south and west. Uneventful trip into Alabama. Signs on a run-down shack of a store along the highway: "Adult Movies" "Guns". Only in the South.
Thursday 2/16/06
Traveled into Mississippi and stopped along Rt. 90 in Biloxi/Gulf Port. Walked along the road viewing the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina and now, the rebuilding. Months after the storm and it seems like they’ve only just begun.

Lonely Toys



You can walk along the street and along the beach and find bits and pieces of peoples lives: video tapes, photo albums, a recipe book, children’s toys, pots and pans, a high heeled shoe, a bikini, a kitchen sink. Multiply that by hundreds of thousands and add bricks, beams, pipes, shingles and tons of indescribable debris. The stuff of our lives.


"Even after you're dead, you don't know nothin' yet" my Grandma used to say.







On to New Orleans: Boarded up homes, traffic lights not operating, trailers and reconstruction workers. FEMA trailers lined up in vacant lots, all new and unused.

The French Quarter is as decadent as ever but only on a much smaller scale. It is only a few days before the first of the Mardi Gras parades and the streets, bars and restaurants are practically empty. There are people living and working there, and tourists to be sure, but compared to what it used to be like, not even close. It looks like New Orleans, but you know that something is definitely missing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Road Trip

Saturday, 2/11/06
Got everything packed in record time and Leon, the Dog and I were on the road in less than 24 hours to beat the blizzard. It's 9am and we are getting miles under our wheels. A diesel stop or two, and the snow is coming; find a motel in Haggersown, PA. at about 5:30pm. Almost 400 miles from home.

Sunday, 2/12/06
On the road at 9:00am with 6 inches of snow on the ground.
I am feeling suprisingly relieved of my job responsibilities and stress. I don't think I really appreciated the degree to which the stresses of the job were effecting me. It is such a dysfunctional system we adapt to...where the financial remuneration is adequate but by no means enriching, where there is the ever-controlling "Health Insurance Plan" that we fear ever losing, and a few weeks of vacation time that we end up living for, and using like it were the rare and precious commodity that it is.

These things keep us locked in and conforming even while our work load increases due to insane federal and state goverment paperwork, absurd record-keeping and agency staff shorages. We adjust, we adapt, we lose sleep, we have backaches, we "somaticise", we over eat, we become grouchy, depressed, and hopeless. We are trapped in our security. The thing that gets me is that I have said it before, many times, that the work environment was stressful, dysfunctional, unhealthy and unhappy, not only for myself but for co-workers as well. And it needn't have been so. It should have been a happy, pleasant place to work; it could have been a dynamic, cutting edge, exciting place but remained static, demanding and stressful. Right now I am free of it all!

Arrived at Leon's mom's house in South Carolina about 8pm after a snowy ride through the mountains of N/S Carolina. The camper and truck are filthy with slush and mud.

Monday 2/13/06
Record cold, which is most often the case when we've been south in the winter: We've seen the ice storms in Georgia and frost in Florida on more than one trip. I am convinced that the southern states engage in misleading and deceptive advertising and creating myths that lead northerners to believe that it is warm here all year long.

Did some camper chores, cleaning, organizing. Dinner with the family.

Tuesday, 2/14/06
Happy Valentine's Day. Yeah, Right! I don't get chocolates or flowers. It's just not Leon's thing. We are almost always traveling on February 14 (last year it was Hawaii, before that Italy) We usually enjoy our time together, sans chocolate or flowers, which is romantic in a quiet sort of way.

Truck maintaninence scheduled for today at Leon's brother's garage. Beautiful day, sunny and spring-like. Still enjoying my liberation.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Fate or Folly?

I received official notice yesterday that I no longer have a job. Whether by fate or folly, it is a fait a compli; thinking it is some of both. There won't be any details right now. So my life changes radically, with little warning. Leon and I decided to take the opportunity to get some needed rest and relaxation. The RV is almost ready to go. We will be pulling out for warmer climes today or tomorrow. Will post as WiFi is available.

Friday, February 10, 2006

La Nonna

When Grandma said "You don' know-a nuthin' a yet" she usually meant that our young lives lacked a range of experiences that would teach important lessons and that, in time, we would live them and learn them. She would always add, (depending on her age at the time), "And I'm-a eighty years old-a and I don' know-a nuthin' -a yet." She had that Southern Italian accent that made her seem so ancient, so wise, so venerable. When once we questioned why she would say that even she knew nothing, Grandma told us a story that went something like this:

A long time ago in Italy there was an old woman who was dying. She had always been a very beautiful woman from the time she was young even until then in her old age. And because she was a good and devout woman she prayed, thanking God for a good life and good fortune, for her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "Dio mio", she prayed, "I am dying and I am ready to join my husband and the saints in heaven. I thank you for sparing me the awful death of my sister's husband Salvatore, who was crushed by falling stones in the earthquake, or the unthinkable death of Zi' Maria who was burned in the fire so badly that her family could not know her face in the casket. I am thankful to be dying here, my body, old, but still without a blemish. Grazie, Dio." And after a little while she passed peacefully as the priest performed the rites and her family kept vigil.

The old woman's funeral began with a procession from her home to the church. In the hills of Calabria the churches were often built on the highest hill in town and have many stairs leading up to the entrance. And so it happened that while ascending the steep steps to the church, quite near the top, one of the pallbearers tripped and sent the rest of the men off balance as well. The casket was let go and went tumbling down the stone steps, expelling the body of the old woman, whose flesh was torn and whose bones were now broken and twisted from the mishap.

"You see-a," Grandma concluded her fable, "even aft-a you dead-a, you don' know-a nuthin'-a yet," thereby proving her hypothesis beyond further argument.

Was it just an obvious lesson? Even a good old woman can be guilty of hubris. I am reminded each day that at any moment, within the space of seconds, lives can be, and are, regularly altered, changed forever: either by personal folly or by fate, or because of the compulsions of others.

As I write this I reflect on whether it was by folly or fate that events conspired last week that may result in my losing my job. My life could be altered, changed significantly if I lose my job.

I see myself a kind of "post-existentialist" (is there such a thing?) and as having less in common with Satre than with Sophocles: my perceptions have shifted from the sense of being “thrown into a random world” to that of the world (or everyone else’s worlds) “being thrown at me" with an inevitability that defies randomness. Truly, at this moment, despite the double negative, “I don’t know nothing yet”.

My ancestors, more ancient than Grandma, sitting in amphitheaters at Paestum or Agrigentum understood the inevitability of fate as they experienced the pathos and tragedy of Oedipus dramatically portrayed: how the Scheme to thwart his fate as foretold by the oracle puts into motion the very events that lead inevitably to his fate's fulfillment. My folly and my fate may seem insignificant next to men who, like Oedipus, or presidents, wield power: men who are compelled by their own hubris to set events into motion; men who, unlike Oedipus, experience no angst or honesty. Will the gods take notice?

Hello

By way of introduction, I will say it has taken me several weeks to get familiar with blogging and some of the technical aspects of the blogger dot com. I have not yet mastered formatting, posting pictures or links. I downloaded a new browser because Safari does not support some features.

I’ve been following a few of the (gay) blogs regularly and thought I’d give it a try. I don’t intend to comment much on current events, however meaty they might be…I’ll leave that to “rjr” who does it so well….my focus is self-centered (but I won't tell you about what I had for dinner last night UNLESS I cooked it myself and can share the recipe)…not that my life is so interesting but sometimes my thought processes scare me…and my grandmother was a great source of wisdom.

I reserve all rights to the content posted in this blog, unless otherwise noted.
- FDeF

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