Friday, December 26, 2008

YES, CAROLINA, THERE IS A CHRISTMAS


It’s just different from what we’re used to in ethnic, Catholic, New England. When I was growing up, Christmas centered on Italian traditions, mainly food, visiting relatives and Midnight Mass. This hasn’t changed too much except that in recent years, fewer elders are able to make the traditional cookies, the Christmas Eve fish and the fried dough (we had to abstain from eating meat on the day before Christmas), the ravioli or the lasagna on Christmas day. People now go to Mass at 5 o’clock in the afternoon on Christmas Eve instead of midnight and might call out for pizza instead of fried dough and fish. Everyone still greets one another with a “Merry Christmas, or an occasional “Buon Natale” from the week before the holiday till New Year’s Day. There are fewer gifts now, as most of us have everything we really need, or what we want is way too expensive (like those wedding bands we’ve had an eye on for nearly 20 years), even if not totally extravagant. The menus are simpler, the relatives fewer.

This year, we traveled south to visit the other family - transplants from the Northeast without the ethnic heritage of 19th and 20th century Catholic immigrants. This Carolina Christmas was culturally 180 degrees different from the Christmas I’d been used to. There was food of course, but ham and turkey, not dictated by religious rules or ethnicity, but mere holiday fare. Barely a “Merry Christmas” was heard on Christmas Day and even less so on Christmas Eve. It was as if everyone obviously knew what the holiday was, with no need to repeat it for everyone you see. There was no mention of church, on either day, the holiday being merely secular, though the traditional trees, lights, baubles, wrapped gifts, an occasional crèche were among the holiday decorations.

I’m not sure where I really fit in the spectrum of Christmas observance. It is not merely a matter of familiarity. When your faith tradition has been a source of anguish for so many years, one eventually loses heart and trust. When the church continually devalues, condemns and rejects you, it is difficult to return, even at Christmas, especially at Christmas, and feel at home. People are ready to empathize with those who have been abused sexually by priests and pastors (please don’t think this is just a “Catholic” sin) but fail to recognize the psychological abuse that the churches and various religions perpetrate against children who perceive themselves as differently-sexual. Such abuse is real. It has not been recognized, acknowledged, or corrected. How can we celebrate this Christ who our abusers worship? Given the so-called “message” of Christmas, the churches that are Christ-centered are more often than not in the forefront of rejecting, if not hating gay and lesbian persons rather than promoting love of neighbor.

On the other hand, a purely secular Christmas seems ludicrous. Celebrating a religious holy day with absolutely no connection to a faith tradition or church is at best thought-less and at worse, hypocritical. Yet those cultural-ethnic-religious traditions that are almost genetically programmed are difficult to let go. The gift-giving, the shopping, the decorating, the parties are too alluring in and of themselves to give up. But there is no context for any of this: symbols are “intentional” and are meant to point to something beyond the symbol itself. But the Christmas symbols have become merely ends rather than means to an end. Upon reflection, this seems disingenuous.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all ….

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

They've Done It Again

Although not a big news item, the Vatican just gave us another slap in the face. Purporting to be against hate and discrimination, but taking every opportunity to show and do the opposite, the Vatican is opposing a United Nations (non-binding) resolution that would decriminalize homosexuality. The resolution is being proposed by the French delegation on the 60th anniversary of the UN's declaration of Human Rights. My take on this event is personal, as personal as a slap on the face can be. Can anyone wonder why we refuse to keep turning the other cheek?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My New Life (style)

It has been nearly one month since I lefty my job as a Grant Writer for the homeless shelter. I worked there two years almost to the day. I took the job almost out of desperation after a difficult time that I've written about elsewhere. It was in many ways too similar to the previous job: the nearly identical grueling 50 minute to 1 hour commute into the city and the same returning home; the winters getting home in the dark; the 8 hours with the back-aching office chair and neck straining computer monitor; the depressing neighborhood. I hated that at 8:15AM, I couldn't wait till 4:15PM and that on Monday, I lived for Friday. I was wishing my life away. Although I was involved in a "worthy cause" I seemed to get little satisfaction from my work. My boss and I had discussed my intentions to resign at the end of October. When he left completely unexpectedly, it pretty much made my decision certain.

Anyhow a colleague's introduction got me in unscheduled interview at a local non-profit that was looking for someone to write grants for them on a "per diem" basis. So, here I am, a free agent. The pay is 3 times what I was making at the shelter, but the hours are about one-sixth what I was working...and I have to pay for my health insurance. Not exactly a lucrative position and pretty scary in the present economy. But then I have never been motivated by money.

I don't miss my old job - not for a minute. I am doing, at least for now, what I have wanted to do: see the daylight, go for long walks with dog, do some chores around the house, relive my chronic back-and-various-body-parts ache, lose a few pounds, and going through a list of other things I've been putting off for years. Perhaps turning 60 has had a lot to do with it. It is possible that I'll have another 20 years, give or take. When I measure that against the time I've been with my partner (20 years) the age of our dog (15 years) the span of years since I first went to Italy (40 years), I don't want to put off my living any longer.

On Tuesday the old dog and I took a hike to Pinacle Mountain. The short route was not an option because parking is now restricted. We had to take the long route...about 1.8 miles of rugged terrain to the lookout atop the rock and another 2 miles on the less rugged road back to the quarry. This is a hike I used to do several times a week when I worked second shift at the hospital (when I was in my thirties). It was a good, strenuous walk. It was sunny, peaceful, nostalgic. I forgot how long it would be and didn't take water. I promised Bruno, the dog, that there would be water on the top of the mountain - pools of rain water in the depressions of the rock. Lucky for the thirsty guy, I was right. The top of the ledge which is all rock has beautiful scrub pines and junipers growing out of the cracks like bonsai trees. I always loved the look of the twisted wind-blown trees. Unfortunately, I didnt have my camera with me.

Another little joy was discovering that some prickly pear cactus that I had scattered in an area just off the trail (among several other places) had taken root many years ago and were still thriving. My aesthetic sense had seen the desert-like terrain as a good place to release those pesky opuntia to the wild. My cactus garden has traveled with me from my previous residence to my present location and the opuntia, which are native to Martha's Vineyard and other coastal areas like Sandy Hook, NJ still dominate my garden with yellow blooms in June.





















































Well, all in all, I am content for now. The new life(style) seems to suit me. I am feeling a sense of freedom that makes me almost giddy at times and grateful at times. Definitely a Thanksgiving to cherish.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Update

Started my "new job" this week. Working as a free agent writing grants. This may not be lucrative by any means but I hope to maintain my health and sanity by eliminating up to 2 hours of commuting each day, $150 of gasoline per month and 40 hours of imprisonment, chained to a desk each week. Now I can work at my leisure with a laptop at home or at Panera. I feel better already and its only Tuesday.

Election Day. I can't stand watching the returns. I can't fathom why people would vote McPalin after they regretted their vote for W. Obviously people DON'T learn from their mistakes. Wake up! And our disgustingly self-serving Senator Lieberwhiner is so constantly, literally, behind his candidate they're beginning to look like a same gender couple. Connecticut should boot him all the way to some Red State, preferably Alaska.

And speaking of Connecticut, since my last post more than a month ago, our Supreme Court declared Civil Unions unconstitutional, meaning that Connecticut is now the third state to allow same gender marriage. This has spurred a campaign here to vote "Yes" for a constitutional convention with the long term goal of establishing religious tenets into law.

I have mixed feelings on the issue of same gender marriage, having never aspired to husbandom. I will sum up my comments thusly:
1. Being half of a same gender couple, I consider myself a member of a family based on having a long standing relationship with a spouse-like man, long standing relationships with extended family, a household, a dog, utility bills, taxes and a shared committment to love, respect and care for my partner and he for me.
2. The "sanctity" of marriage went out the window years ago
3. Marriage is an arrangement for managing responsibilities, finances and long-term care (and don't give me bull about "procreation" cuz married couples who choose not to have children are still considered "married")
4. Either we (same gender couples) deserve the same rights on both the state and federal level or "married" couples deserve no special rights
5. The religious, morally arrogant faction will never be satisfied until they rewrite the constitution to establish their religious dogma as law

Regardless of how this election turns out, I am not hopeful. Bigotry, hate, hubris and ignorance abound.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

PTown Vacation 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008. Leon and I are on our way home after two weeks in Provincetown.
















We have been coming here for a week or two almost every September for ten years or more. Post Labor Day the crowds have thinned somewhat but the weather is mostly ideal – warm, sunny days, bright blue skies, comfortable breezes, crystal clear water, cool, moonlight nights.

We always get an Oversand Pass which allows you the opportunity to drive out to the beach, provided you have a 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle, a shovel, a board, a jack, a chain or rope and a air guage that reads to 5psi. You must watch a short film before getting your pass and let the air out of your tires to 11psi before heading out.















We have friends there to spend time with boating or driving out over the dunes in our truck to spend a day or to have an evening cookout picnic.















The drive out through the dunes gets you a view of the landscape that you don't often see, and the feel of an amusement park ride and adventure rolled into one. It is great to drive out with the dog, the grill and a cooler to make burgers and watch the sunset.
video













































Once, we drove along the shore at Head of the Meadow when the tide was coming in, which was a bit unnerving as it was, but when the way was blocked by a vehicle stuck in the wet sand with waves splashing around it we had no alternatives: we had to tow the stuck vehicle backwards, out of the surf in order for us both to get through – and we had to do it fast. Mission accomplished.



Hiking out to "Boys Beach" at Herring Cove














We usually go out on the boat with Tony and Steven a few times. This year they have 4 lobster traps. Lobstering is not a sure bet but we did get two lobsters on one excursion.

Schooner Hindu












































This year we discovered the Hindu. It had always been there, but we've sailed with the Bay Lady, mostly because it has more comfortable seating. But the Hindu is a real boat, an historic vessel with a colorful history. The Captain, Kevin, and his wife Frankie, saved her from the boat graveyard about eight years ago and with the help of many volunteers, friends, sailors, craftspersons and others were able to restore her to what is today a working example of a turn of the century schooner. Captain Kevin is a burly gent with a thick Massachusetts accent that lends itself to the stories he tells while sailing. He and Frankie are very warm and affirming people who truly understand what it means to “celebrate diversity”.

Here is one story as told by Captain Kevin: Back in the early seventies two young guys hitchhiked to PTown from Minnesota. They had nowhere to stay, so were sleeping under a dock. (This was the seventies and PTown was a very seventies kind of place.) It was early in the season and he Hindu was in port with a Help Wanted sign. One of the two applied for and was hired for the job as first mate. The Captain realized that he needed someone on the wharf to sell tickets and mentioned the fact to the first mate. The kid told the Captain about his friend “who would be just the person for the job”, so the Captain hired the other young man. In the course of things it was revealed that the guys were living under the dock so the Captain unhesitatingly offered the guys living quarters on board the Hindu where they lived all summer. They returned to Minnesota at the end of the season to pursue their lives and careers. A few years ago they returned to PTown for the first time in nearly thirty years. When they unexpectedly spotted the Hindu, which they assumed was long gone, they both began running down the pier to the boat with tears in heir eyes. They told their story to Captain Kevin and were invited aboard to see the newly restored schooner – the boat that they had lived on during their first summer together. To hear the Captain tell the story, you knew it would make a great movie.


Thing is, I've been so hating my job. The commute, the hours in front of the computer, the indoor environment, the repetitious assignments, the deadlines, the time wasted chasing carrots. And I see life slipping away doing something I hate and making myself sick for health insurance. Anxiety, insomnia, back pain, sciatica. The first night in PTown I slept! And the second and third. I had probably 11 nights of good sleep. No aches, no pains. As I got closer to the return to work, the insomnia began returning. The thoughts of work and the feeling of being trapped began intruding on my days as well. As we were packing up today I could feel the sadness, saying goodbye to this wonderful place.































This place of contrasts: Once a town of fishermen and artists, then of fishermen, artists and hippies. Now a town of fishermen, artists and the privileged; of gym boys, wealth and real estate; of $15 salads and $3 bottles of water. It is a town of sea, sun, and sand, of dunes and day sails, of scrutiny and judgment, of diversity and tolerance, of gay boys and gay girls and of all the variations of sexualities between and beyond.

PTown is one remarkable place, for sure. Till next time.
Here's a Documentary form Logo.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pics From PTown, Ledges, Dinner and Wild Mushrooms

I have lots to say, but little ambition to write.

A Hill of Beans picked from the garden in June















Loch Ness Dog at Lake Harriman "the Ledges" in Vermont





























Lounging at "Boys Beach" PTown, Massachusetts on a recent long weekend.

























































Tonight's Dinner - Spinach Ravioli from the local pasta shop with Carbonara (Olive oil, pancetta, garlic, black pepper and egg) and sauted garden vegetables (onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, basil)















Fungus.

We've had thunder storms almost every afternoon for a month. The Connecticut River looks like it does after snow begins melting in the spring. Mushrooms are popping up all over the woods and yard


























































This specimen is actually a light blue, with a lavender tinge.














































Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summer '08

Just returned from vacation. Not the best as far as vacations go. Was looking forward to a quiet, relaxing time, but unfortunately we picked the wrong week. Seems like it was Party Week at one of the Gay Campgrounds in PA, with the disco blaring 'till 2 AM almost every night. Because we were situated close to the disco, the thump, thump, thump was nerve wracking. The whole scene was utterly juvenile and ridiculous. Nearly every planned event involved the distribution of alcohol of some kind or another. Tropical drinks in test tubes, slushies, and some "Mommy Dearest" game that required drinking on cue while watching the movie. Not to mention the BYOB parties at the nightly disco. Not only were the nights unbearable, the constant music poolside during the day made even that normally pleasant experience miserable. These people seem to be catering to a party crowd with absolutely no consideration for other tastes. Not likely to return anytime soon.

Being home makes us appreciate what is in our own backyard, to use a cliche from Dorothy. The opuntia are blooming in the Cactus Garden.















These are native to the Northeast - growing wild on Martha's Vineyard and Jersey Shore. The potted ones are from the Arizona, California and New Mexico desert and from Florida. The potted ones come in to the sun room in winter. Some, like the big dinner plate Opuntia, (not shown) go down in the basement, bare root.











































the veggie garden is coming along - we've picked lettuce, Swiss chard, basil,and green beans so far.















There are wild blueberries















among the mountain laurel and all kinds of birds chirping in the woods. Saw a big owl perched on the wooden compost enclosure this evening. The woodpeckers and cardinals are always around. There is an occasional gold finch or humming bird. We need to get a humming bird feeder.















Stone walkway made with rocks from the property.
















Our outdoor shower is just delightful - it is my attempt at a Zen garden.


















We spend lots of time outdoors in summer and cooking out and eating our meals outdoors is routine.

The plants are getting too big - like the Strelitzia nicolai.
It also has some Birds of Paradise sharing the pot. Dragging it in in the fall and out in the spring is getting to be a chore.



















Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MY RESUME - a Narrative

Most of this is in now my book "Did You Ever See A Horse Go By? - A Coming Out Memoir" available on Amazon - see sidebar.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Some pictures from this Spring

Haven't had the time or inclination to write much lately; trying to get back into the groove.

Made Pizza last weekend: Pepperoni & Mushroom, Grilled Chicken with Asparagus, Eggplant with Sausage














All dressed up for our friends' Civil Union















Our Dogwood had its first blossoms this year
















Roto-tilling the Garden in April

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails