Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Memories of Growing Up Gay

This TV memory popped into my head tonight for some reason.  Probably because I was looking at the blog "My First Gay Crush"

I had just turned fourteen in 1962 when a TV show aired called "It's A Man's World".  (The link has a few short clips that I could find nowhere else).

It was one of my favorite shows, even though it was all very heterosexually oriented (as was every other TV show back then).  But the situation of four young men living together on a houseboat (with no parents) just seemed so ideal, so sexy, so right somehow.

The show starred Glenn Corbett (Route 66) as Wes Macauley, a college student raising his younger brother Howie (Mike Burns) after their parents were killed in an accident.  The two other boat-mates were Ted Bessell (later starred in "That Girl" with Marlo Thomas) as Tom-Tom DeWitt, a fellow college student and Randy Boone as Vern Hodges.

At fourteen, I definitely knew what I liked.

How sad that two of the stars have passed away, both barely past their 60th year.

Glenn Corbett (1933-1993)
From the internet without attribution
Mike Burns (b.1947)
From the internet without attribution

Randy Boone (b.1942)
From the internet without attribution

Ted Bessell (1935-1996)
From the internet without attribution

Monday, December 26, 2011

Very Nice Gift From Santa Leon

I've been using a Canon Powershot SD1100 IS camera for several years.  I've been happy with its performance overall.

Sometime last year my photos began showing dark spots that were especially noticeable against a blue sky.  The spots are always in the same area of the picture - except when using the zoom feature - then the spots are larger and more centered.  From what I could learn, there may be dust on the lens inside the camera which cannot really be opened for cleaning, or there is a problem with the pixels.

I've been using the touch-up feature on iPhoto to take out the spots and blend the sky on many pictures, but on pictures with clouds, the touch-up was difficult to get without making the clouds muddy.

This shows the spots, two in upper left and one in upper right
 Against the blue sky, the spots are noticeable but can be "fixed".  When they occur on people's faces they look like leprosy or some other skin disease.  I always had to be careful of my aim so as to make sure the spots were not located on a face, and then crop out the areas where the spots showed.

I was quite surprised to get a very nice new camera for Christmas.  This is a Canon Powershot ELPH 310.  (Canon has a few dozen Powershot models and I don't know much, except that this one is highly rated.  Santa Leon said he did the research (and he got a very good deal at one of the Big Electronic Stores that we LGBT folks are supposed to be avoiding).

Compare the two cameras taking similar shots today; I'm not sure the settings were set the same, and the picture quality seems comparable, although in some other shots there was a noticeable difference (improvement) in color quality with the new camera.

But I won't have to doctor up every picture.
The dark spots are somewhat less noticeable here
because of the zoom-in 
The New Canon is Crisp and Clear
I purchased Leon an update for his Garmin GPS.  When I hit download I didn't realize that it would take about six or seven hours to download; keeping Leon out of the guest room while it was downloading was quite a challenge.  That's a whole other story, but suffice it to say I was able to complete the task without him having a clue.

Remember a world without electronics, except maybe a transistor radio?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Can Say Nothing Of God Except...*

Last year my sister, who is a Sister of Mercy, sent me a prayer she had written about the things and people in her life that gave meaning to the celebration of Christmas.

Each line began with the words, "I can say nothing of God except..."

This prayer reminds us, whether theist, atheist or agnostic, that we can really say little meaningful about God.  That perhaps our belief in God's existence is about as meaningful as another's belief in God's Non-existence.

The fact that so many people today claim to know "God", the "will of God" or who or what or which country has "God's favor", is, if nothing else, awfully self-righteous and arrogant.

Perhaps we can say nothing of god except ... what is available to us in our own unique, concrete, quotidian experience.

This year I offer my version of my sister's prayer:

I Can Say Nothing of God Except

I can say nothing of God except the serenity of a walk in the woods on a clear December morning

I can say nothing of God except the surprise that the Bird of Paradise gave me when, after fifteen years, it bloomed in the sun room one February

I can say nothing of God except skiing down a mountain on a sunny winter day

I can say nothing of God except the good food we have to eat and share with whoever enters our home

I can say nothing of God except the seniors who think it is a miracle to make digital photos appear on the computer screen

I can say nothing of God except the shared company of long-time friends

I can say nothing of God except airplanes have taken me to fascinating places

I can say nothing of God except the memory of my mom and grandma and aunts makes me happy when I make manicotti or escarole with beans or cookies

I can say nothing of God except the paintings on the wall that my dad made when he was seventeen

I can say nothing of God except walking up to the rim of the Grand Canyon very early one morning and being speechless for fifteen minutes while tears flowed spontaneously

I can say nothing of God except sleeping on the beach while listening to Sergio Mendes 

I can say nothing of God except the loss of loved ones and dear friends

I can say nothing of God except the delightful vegetables that grow in my garden each summer

I can say nothing of God except an old Valentine from my honey I came across while cleaning drawers

I can say nothing of God except the feral honey bees returned last summer after a long illness

I can say nothing of God except the vastness of the sea and a sailboat against blue sky

I can say nothing of God except the touch of, and touching another man 

I can say nothing of God except I am sitting in the living room with the man I love while the dog sleeps on the couch and Christmas music plays softly

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Homely Tree Has Gotten A Few Trinkets

(note: a google search has this phraseology based on the words of William J. Bausch

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Un-Traditional Christmas Tree

Found Greens for a Holiday Arrangement
If we do a tree at Christmas, it is our tradition to find, make or buy one that is very Un-Traditional.  The rule is we don't pay for a Christmas Tree unless it is a potted tree that we can plant.

One year I used an inverted tomato cage to fasten cut greens together to make a tree.  One year we acquired the top of a fir tree that some friends had cut down.  Another time I purchased a tall skinny potted juniper which we decorated with Mardi Gras beads, then planted outside by the sun room.

I gave all my mother's tree ornaments to my sister-in-law to pass on to her kids, so we have no tree decorations (actually we have some bells, baubles, and trinkets we've acquired here and there that can hang on a tree).  We've used sumac and flowers for ornaments, and ribbons, and things we got on packages, and of course, Mardi Gras beads.

This year I found this fir tree growing in the woods just beyond our property line.  It was being crowded out by other larger trees, so I didn't feel too bad about off-ing it for our Un-Traditional tree this year.

We're not sure how or if we will decorate it.

Found Tree - Homely But Has Potential

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Interesting Proposal To Address Inequality

But It Won't Be Under The Tree This Year
A New York Times article Don't Tax the Rich, Tax Inequality by Ian Ayers and Aaron Edlin, Law Professors from Yale and Berkeley respectively, was discussed today on WNPR - Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live.   The PodCast should be available soon.

The authors are concerned about the demise of democracy in the face of political control by the wealthy.

The gist of the plan is to have a tax on the wealthy kick-in only when the disparity between the income of the 1% and the median income exceeds a certain ratio.  They arbitrarily choose the 2006 ratio of 36 (36 times the median income, which I, and most of the callers think is too high).

The plan would insure that "All boats will rise with the tide", i.e. that the wealthy could only get richer as the median income increases - as the 99% increase their income.  The incentive would help job creation, grow the economy and be the closest thing to a real trickle down economics.

As all solutions create new problems, this plan would not be without some flaws, drawbacks or unforeseen consequences.  But it is an interesting new concept.

Many of the audience who called in cited the dysfunctional congress as the major block to making any efficacious changes in tax law, let alone one that is as creative and innovative as this.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Makes Our "Marriage" Work

You've all no doubt seen the Folger's holiday "Brother and Sister" commercial.  It's been a standard for at least three years, maybe more. If you haven't seen it, see it here:

The gist is: Brother returns home after a long absence in some foreign country, presumably fighting for freedom or just bumming around, it's not clear.

The snow is falling, and his younger sister is brewing Folger's coffee.  He comes to the door, they hug...

He takes a small gift-wrapped package with a red bow out of his knapsack and hands it to his sister.  She takes the bow and sticks it on him.

"What are ya doing?" he says.

She replies, "You're my present this year."

Well the commercial was playing on the tv the other day and and when I heard the sister say "You're my present this year," I yelled out from the kitchen with my usual sarcasm, "What a cheepo, he got her the same thing last year...and the year before!"

Silence.  And  I glance over at Leon and he has tears in his eyes!  "That's so sweet" he says, "and you go making fun."

He is supposed to be the butch one.

So we both had a good belly laugh over that one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Elizabeth Warren on Health Care

Thanks to Truthspew for this post.  It dovetails nicely with a recent post Raulito did on Trickle Down BS The only thing I would add to her explanation of Health Insurance syphoning off billions of dollars to pay CEOs and administrative expenses is the payout to shareholders - the ultimate For Profit scam on middle America.


Thanks to Stan at Metrodystopia, THIS ITEM: the Walton (Walmart) Six have more wealth than the lowest 30% of the entire population of the US. Keep shopping Walmart, everyone. Read about it here and here. And more detail here.

NOTE: While I attempted to verify this story, I found it difficult to do so.  I found the story repeated almost verbatim in various web sites and blogs.  The so-called "source" - a government report, was indecipherable for me.  

Russ, at Blue Truck, Red State did a little more research and found the numbers questionable.  And his point that when making an argument, we should not make up "facts" is an important one.

Perhaps the only point I can make here is "obscene wealth is obscene wealth - give or take a few million dollars".

In any case, I choose not to shop at Walmart.

Monday, December 12, 2011

'Tis The Season To Make Cookies

Been busy baking...

Aunt Stella's Chocolate Cookies with her secret chocolate frosting...

and Cuccidati

See Dinner's Ready for details.

Friday, December 9, 2011

'Tis The Season To Be Careful - About Who You Donate To - And Where You Shop

The Red Kettle and Bell Ringers in front of your favorite store are a sign of the season.  The act of dropping coins in the bucket has been imbued with the sound of Christmas Carols and the warm fuzzy feelings of helping the poor and disadvantaged.  But please consider giving to charities that do not discriminate against and actively work against the LGBT community as does the Salvation Army.

Check out the article on Bilerico.

There are other charities that are not anti-gay and do not discriminate against any individuals or groups.  Charity Watch   is one place to go to check out various organizations - but not necessarily their record on LGBT issues.

As far as shopping goes, you can check out the Human Rights Campaign's Buyers Guide which rates corporations vis-a-vis LGBT issues.

However, nothing is Black and White.

As an example, Home Depot is rated 60 out of 100 and Lowe's is rated 15 out of 100.

But while Home Depot is fair on LGBT issues, the company founder and head of Home Depot Foundation which supports its own PAC is vehemently anti-Obama and by supporting conservative candidates actually works against liberal causes like human rights.    Check this. 

Best buy is rated 100 by HRC but is supporting an anti-gay candidate in Minnesota.


My suggestion: donate to reputable charities with a good record on human rights and don't shop at any of the big corporations box stores.  If you must shop, shop small, shop local.

Better yet, bake cookies.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

From My File Cabinet - 3 "1986 Gay Politics"

This is from a 1986 letter to the editor of a local gay news rag after he castigated some men who were arrested in a local "t-room" for allegedly soliciting a police officer for sex.  It was in the local news and there was a question of entrapment that was never investigated.  The paper's editorial implied that the men deserved what they got and that they should be shunned.

I share the letter here to contrast the issues then with those we deal with today.  In a sense Gay Liberation and Act-Up politics was so much more radical than the current Marriage Equality campaign or even the Occupy Movement.  And before the internet, cruising areas were frequently the only place where gay men could meet other gay men.

It seems to me that even when we read about kids getting bullied to the point of suicide or politicians treading on our rights with their heavy religious boots, we fail to get angry.  We have relinquished our indignation.  To borrow a slogan "ACT UP,  FIGHT BACK, FIGHT HATE!

18 January 1986

To the Editor:
I must respond with incredulity to your recent comments in reference to ... the arrests at ABC Mall.  
... Regarding the ABC Mall situation: 

1) The management of XYZ Store had apparently been aware of the activities going on in the 3rd floor men's room for some time.  (Certainly it was no secret among [the city] area gay men).  Several measures could have been taken to curtail activity, e.g. a lock on the men's room door with key available on request, or a sign on the door stating that security will make frequent checks of this area.  Those are two...strategies short of police involvement that could have been employed...  

2) That police were employed following a complaint might suggest that the real intent was..."to make an example of a few."  

3) The media did not report or investigate the means...whereby the arrests were accomplished, thus leaving open the question of entrapment.  Given...that such methods have been used in other instances, this possibility should not be...dismissed.

4) The media, by linking "child", "homosexual" and "school teacher" (like bringing together critical masses needed for an atomic chain reaction) intentionally played to the emotions of its audience and ... reinforced the worst myths and stereotypes...  The media must be held accountable for any misuse of its inherent power to inform public opinion.

5) Because of the nature of their misdemeanor, the men arrested have and will suffer consequences disproportionate to their alleged wrong doing, regardless of their guilt or innocence.  They deserve compassion and support for this reason, if for no other. 

Ultimately, these issues must be discussed in the wider context of oppression:  society refuses to recognize that its intolerant and oppressive stance toward homosexuals fosters and encourages the types of activities which that same society so self-righteously condemns.  Our outrage should be directed at the oppressive attitudes which have cultivated the sexual underground and which continue to indoctrinate us as homosexual men and women to see ourselves and one another as perverts...

That the men arrested at XYZ Store have made a grave error in judgement is NOT the question.  Nor should our main concern be...that the publicity about the arrests reflects poorly on the rest of us...[Editorial] rhetoric against oppression cannot cover up the [underlying editorial] belief that homo/bi-sexual men and women must endorse and model the values of the white, upper middle class, heterosexist society in order to gain "approval".  I'm not convinced that is a laudable goal for any oppressed minority.  To say that any of our brothers and sisters who cause us embarrassment are to be excluded from the community is discriminatory and [is itself] oppressive.

[The editorial statement appears to define]...who does and does not belong to the gay/lesbian community: "many men...have disassociated themselves from the gay community because they are married and/or in a responsible professional position".  [The editorial's] criteria are exclusive rather than inclusive.  While we may endorse public 'coming out' as the...most effective means of  changing societal attitudes, we must not pass judgement or exclude those who, for whatever reason, choose to remain closeted...

Talking REAL politics, the fact is that liberation, born of oppression is always radical.  For us, coming out, in its most radical sense, means being sensitized and responsive to all forms of oppression... [The editorial's] Uncle Tom attitude toward the ABC Store arrests should make us wary of [editorial] opinions in the future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Link to Blue Truck Red State Post On Hillary Clinton's LGBT Speech

I will just refer readers to Russ's post here about Hillary Clinton's address to the United Nations on Human Rights and Gay Rights.

Link to the text of the speech - it is worth your time to read.

Read About My First Gay Crush

You can all check out my secret pre-adolescent love interest on "My First Gay Crush"

Do you know who this is?
From Internet without Attribution

From Internet without Attribution

Sunday, December 4, 2011

From My File Cabinet - 2

Early 1980's while still struggling with coming out....

Past and present
blending, fading, forming pictures
seeing kids stirs up memories
like dust when you move old books on the shelf - annoying
like finding a delightful memento while rummaging through the attic - nostalgia

I am on an expedition
exploring like an archeologist in drawers and cardboard cartons
on shelves
and stacks of records that play more than just old songs
a feeling of manic excitement and rebelliousness and independence
but mostly just movie theatre emotions

My own past - distant and removed
on scraps of paper, old photographs and in between the groves of scratchy records
most real is not the memory of what was
but the memory of what was only experienced vicariously:
the drama of life as others lived it
in the eighth grade or at the amusement park

The lack of distinction between self and other
as if I had no self
but only eyes and ears and an ability to pretend to feel
digging up memories 
sparse and fragmented
like ancient pottery and pieces of bone

I cannot yet tell a story
my fossil memories are only bits and pieces
of feelings in the synapses of my brain:
pain and longing, love and jealousy
sympathy and self-pity, guilt and shame
excitement and rebelliousness and vague sexual stirrings

An uncomfortable feeling that I was always missing something
not really experiencing the way others did
feeling like a kid all caught up in an adventure movie
and about to wet his pants
not wanting to go to the bathroom
for fear of missing something

Seeing others and pretending to feel their feelings act their actions and be like them
past and present jumbled up
a thread between then and now like a life line
to get me back to where I left something vital, something misplaced, something lost
or something which I never had
but which I sense I need desperately...

...to step into tomorrow

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day - A Retrospective

Me, Leon, Bob at the AIDS Quilt in DC
Bob Died of Complications of AIDS in the Late 80's

Here is a retrospective of my experiences working in the HIV/AIDS "industry".  The industry now includes obscenely priced pharmaceuticals and thousands of individuals working in HIV/AIDS organizations and programs whose benefits may be questionable.

My early work at the Gay Health Clinic was during the early years of AIDS which was still confined mostly to New York on the East coast but was slowly making its way up the Interstate 95 corridor to New Haven and beyond.  My experience at the clinic got me in the door at the State Health Department's Epidemiology Division which was then in charge of tracking AIDS and conducting educational efforts.  

The Department consisted of a few epidemiologists, only one of whom, a gay man, was actually involved in educating the public about AIDS.  When the Department finally got the go ahead to hire a few people I was among the five in the newly formed AIDS Division.  There was Bill, the epidemiologist, Jane, the Nurse/Educator, Hector, the "bilingual" educator, Marge, an epidemiologist, and me, the HTLV-III Counselor.  (Both Bill and Hector would eventually die of complications from AIDS).  We were a tight group.  We went on the road to schools, hospitals, libraries, businesses, where ever anyone would have us.

My first day on the job I was handed a stack of Medical Journals and MMWR's (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports) to read.  I read about the rare cancer affecting gay men in San Francisco and New York, about opportunistic infections, about theories of transmission.  Over the next months I gained an increasingly in-depth knowledge of Mycobacterium Avium Intracellulare, Karposi's Sarcoma, Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia, Cytomegalovirus, Toxoplasmosis and of course Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus Type III (HTLV-III).

When our State finally joined the HTLV-III Testing bandwagon, I helped put together the counseling protocols that were to accompany testing.  As there was no money to purchase pre-printed brochures of which there were very few, I wrote the first Department booklet for people being tested for HTLV-III.  Sometime later it was, of course, changed to HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) testing partly to resolve a dispute with the French over who had first identified the virus in the laboratory.

A few months into the job I was informed that the hiring procedures had not been strictly followed by the Department head who hire me.  I was  required to take and pass a state "Career Trainee" test.  Then I would be re-hired as ( "demoted" to) a State Career Trainee at a considerably lower salary than I was then receiving.  I took and passed the test, got rehired and began my six-month stint as a "trainee".  After six months I was required to take another written qualifying exam in order to re-apply for my original job and classification as Health Program Assistant (HTLV-III Counselor).  I could be re-hired again provided I scored within the top five of "in-house" applicants.  That finally out of the way, I was able to earn my original salary.

My job duties, in addition to helping educate the public, included answering bizarre questions about AIDS over the phone: an elderly woman wanted to know if she and her husband could get AIDS from annual [sic] intercourse; the Greenwich housewife and prison volunteer who was worried about shaking hands with prisoners because they might have seh-men on their hands; and the countless folks asking if they could get AIDS from using a payphone, sitting next to someone on the bus or going to a restaurant where the salad boy cut his finger and bled into the salad...

In spite of what we now consider stupid questions, the work we were doing during the early days of the AIDS crisis was urgent, exciting, interesting.  Even though we worked for a state agency, we were "grassroots".  I was becoming more confident and a little less introverted.  We attended conferences and trainings.  They sent me to Baltimore for an intensive week-long training on STD's and then to San Francisco to a National AIDS Conference.  A job that required me to fly to other cities, and paid for the trip - that was so out of my reality and such a bonus!  I loved San Francisco.  I felt like I had been there before, like I belonged there.

My particular job as an AIDS Counselor was not only to develop protocols for Counseling and Testing but also to train counselors who were hired by local city health departments.  I did one-on-one training and group training and supervision.  I also saw individual clients for testing and counseling.  In the early days there were no pharmaceuticals for treating AIDS.  As HTLV-III or HIV Counselors we would have to convey the news to men and women with positive test results.  What would their reaction be?  How would we "counsel" them when there was no cure, no treatment for AIDS?  What impact would the experience have on us?

I remember delivering the news to one client.  When given the opportunity for questions and further counseling he only responded with "I know what I have to do" and got up and walked out.  Two days later I heard on the local news that a young man had been hit by a train in what might have been a suicide. All testing then was done "anonymously" due to fears of discrimination and repercussions, and I could not help but to think that it might have been the same "anonymous" young man to whom I had given a positive test result just two days ago.

Was there something more I should have done?  Something I should have said differently?  I was no more an "expert" than the other counselors doing the same job.  I thought it would be helpful for all of us counselors throughout the state to come together once each month to share experiences, feelings, and ideas.  I started and facilitated the State's HIV Counselor Peer Supervision Group - a model for HIV Counselors at the time.  There were only about 14 of us in our small State then, and we not only shared experiences, knowledge, and counseling techniques, but also our fears, tears, hopes and support.

About a year and a half into the job, the Federal Government finally allocated money to the States for AIDS Programs.  While this was welcomed, it also brought with it levels of bureaucracy that made both life and work difficult.  We were required to have a Review Council of "average" citizens to review every AIDS and HIV brochure, pamphlet or advertisement and approve them before the Department could purchase or distribute them.  That went for Safe-sex Messages, AIDS Education Curricula for various group presentations, you name it.  Luckily, in our state, the "average" citizen was more likely to approve stuff than not.  But it was another layer of bureaucracy and expense.

Because AIDS was largely affecting minority communities, outreach to blacks and Hispanics was made a priority. Unfortunately, the Health Commissioner unilaterally decided to hire an agency from the Washington Belt-way to do a large portion of this outreach - an agency that delivered staff from the airport by exclusive limousine, put them up in expensive hotel rooms, and billed the Department exorbitantly for questionable services. As "outsiders" they engendered a great deal of resentment on the part of Department staff.  Once, AIDS education was done by volunteers and a few dedicated health workers.  When Federal money entered the equation, there was suddenly no lack of entities with questionable qualifications vying for a piece of AIDS pie.

In the early days, we could easily put together an educational program based on current epidemiology and medical information to take to the schools, colleges, industries, libraries, city halls, insurance companies, hairdressing academies. But Federal Guidelines began to require a written "curriculum" for each particular audience.  The curriculum had to have goals, objectives, methods and evaluations.  Which would have been fine except for the fact that jobs were created for people who did nothing and many hours and dollars were spent and much paper was produced to achieve the same results we had before.  

The whole grassroots HIV/AIDS movement began to be taken over by those who were least effected but who had the most to gain financially.  And we were being choked by paperwork.  After a little more than two years at the State Health Department I left to get back to working with clients and to do HIV counseling at a local (city) health department.  When I left, they hired a woman with an MSW degree (Social Worker) to do my job - and at at nearly twice the salary I was getting with my worthless MA degree (Counseling).

I was hired by the local City STD Clinic to do HIV counseling and testing and AIDS education at local venues including the local rehab center, schools, etc. My former boss asked me to continue to conduct and facilitate the State HIV Counselor Peer Supervision Group, which I gladly did.  I also had to facilitate the local Mayor's Task Force which was made up of representatives from every agency in the city that provided services of one kind or another to every AIDS risk group.  

The turf wars were never ending.   When the state announced "open season" for AIDS grants - and required all agencies receiving HIV/AIDS money to re-apply for grants and opened it up to any and all organizations, every non-profit in the city began fighting over who was going to apply for the allotted funds.  Only one agency in each city would get an HIV Counseling and Testing grant.  

I knew from the outset, how it would work and that the City Health Department would naturally get the contract based on STD experience, its overall mission and because it was just the most logical choice.  But turf was defined and turf wars escalated: agencies serving blacks versus agencies serving Hispanics, drug rehab agencies versus the Episcopal Church-sponsored AIDS Project, Hospital versus Health Department.  

After several weeks of in-fighting, the dust cleared and the City Health Director informed me that I would be writing the grant application.  Tell me something I didn't know.  Weeks of valuable time had been wasted in the quarreling and the deadline was looming.  So I was promised that someone from another agency would help prepare the rather involved grant application - a promise that never materialized.

The City Health Department got the grant.  I was able to hire another part-time counselor, but I made a poor "boss".  I could never treat Orlando as a subordinate, so we got along quite well.  Meanwhile the HIV/AIDS bureaucracy was becoming more oppressive, more political.  Everything we were to do was defined, prescribed, stipulated, measured, counted, criticized, evaluated, revised and entered into a database so we could produce endless reports.  More was demanded of us while having our hands tied.  

City politics demanded we accept "walk-ins" in addition to appointments for HIV Testing and Counseling.  The required pre-test counseling could take an hour or more.  I'd be on duty alone, counseling a client.  Five "walk-ins" would be just outside my door, in the waiting room, getting antsy, demanding services.  

Next in queue would be a young woman whose boyfriend uses needles to inject drugs and who, she says has AIDS.  He "wants to father a child before he dies".  

I have to be the compassionate, rational, sensitive, and nonjudgmental counselor who takes his time to help her reason through this issue and hopefully evoke the appropriate decision.  Secretly, I wanted to just ask this young woman who was prepared to get pregnant by her dying boyfriend, "Are you crazy or what?" 

In the midst of the chaos, the State "supervisor" - the person who took over my job at the State Health Department - shows up to "observe" and "supervise".  It all became too crazy.   My time to leave this job too, drew closer.

I put in my resignation effective at the end of June, and decided to attend my last HIV Counselor meeting - which had grown to seventy-five or more counselors and educators from agencies around the state and facilitated by the State Health Department AIDS Division Medical Director.  The June meeting was always held at a conference center at the beach because, years ago, one of the local HIV Coordinators and I conspired to make it so.  We encouraged attendees to take a half day of vacation, if possible and then join in an afternoon of sun and surf.  Many did so and it became an event to look forward to.

This particular June meeting had been designated as "Award Day" and many counselors and health educators were to be recognized for their work in the field.  For some reason the Medical Director felt the need to acknowledge my presence at the meeting and after introducing me as the state's first HIV Counselor and the force behind the present group meeting, he added "We have a special award for Frank, but it wasn't quite ready for today's meeting. No, it's not a Ferrari." (Laughter)

I know BS when I hear it and this was definitely BS.  Did he suddenly realize that my contribution to the field had never been formally recognized?  Did he feel the need to "save face" because there was in fact no "award" for me?  I think awards are basically silly and was not even thinking about an award or lack of one.   But after that statement I must say I did think about it.  Needless to say, no award - special or otherwise - was ever forthcoming.

Several of my friends and acquaintances died during this period and it was a difficult time - often made more difficult by the very entities that were supposed to be helping.  I hope those of us in the trenches provided some degree of comfort, hope and direction to those who sought our assistance.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

From My File Cabinet 1

I would like to do a series of posts "From My File Cabinet" as I go through old papers and clean out stuff I've been keeping for years, most of which is pretty uninspired.  Not to say that everything I post will be inspired, but for what it's worth:

Letter to State Legislator, 2003 (before Civil Unions and Same-Gender marriage)

I was born in 1948.  I grew up Catholic.  Everything was a sin.  You get the picture.  While my peers were dating and courting and marrying, I was struggling.  Thank God, I won the struggle after 35 years, went through my "gay adolescence", dated, courted and now have a kind, loving and wonderful helpmate, companion and partner.

We have been together for 15 years.  We own a house. We pay taxes.  We donate to charity. We go to Home Depot.  We eat out.  We go on vacation.  We vote.

We have families who depend on us from time to time...taking dad to the doctor, to the hospital, making funeral arrangements.  Getting mom packed and moved to Florida.  We have nieces and nephews,  brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.

Sometimes we need to go to the doctor too.  We each have our own medical insurance.  My partner is self-employed and his health insurance company has been bought out by another company.  He may lose his insurance.  I called my insurance company because the rate schedule they gave me gives prices for "Single Male", "Single Female", "Two Person" and "Family".  So I called to see if he could be added under the "Two Person" category.  I was told, "No, that's only for married couples."

Let me understand this.  If, in your imagination, I got married to an opposite-sex partner today, my opposite-sex partner could get health insurance under my policy immediately.  But my real, same-sex partner of 15 years and a shared mortgage and with powers of attorney is not entitled to get health insurance as one of two persons in a "Two Person" family.

That is just one privilege that is taken for granted by "married" couples and extended as if it were a constitutional right. 

So we will seek insurance elsewhere.  We are used to it.  I mean we really are.  We are used to having to deal with discriminatory laws and policies.  We find ways.  We somehow manage to get by.  I takes a lot of effort.  It takes doing homework and learning the legal ins and outs of what others take for granted.

We sometimes talk about what would happen should one of us die and leave the other with funeral expenses and a mortgage.  Mom was married.  She collects her dead husband's Social Security.  Neither of us can collect our partner's Social Security.  It's just another reality we deal with.

We don't want to ruffle the skirts of the Reverend Monsignor or the feathers in the cap of the Grand Knight of Columbus.  We don't want them to change the Church (God forbid!).  But we do want a civil, legal recognition of our family as a unit of shared lives, assets, responsibilities and privileges.  It's really not a big deal...kind of like a corporation or small business.  Can't you lawmakers just get past the sex thing?  That's not what it's all about.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gay Popcorn Movie 3 - Netflix Pick - Saint of 9/11

Last evening, after some of the company left, Leon, my sister and I watched Saint of 9/11 on Netflix.  I knew Father Mychal Judge was a gay man and I had this documentary in the queue for some time.  Last evening seemed like a good time to view it and I wanted my sister to see it too.

The documentary was quite moving and, despite the limited available historical footage, this film presented a snapshot of a courageous and loving Franciscan Friar who, as a chaplain to the New York Fire Department, was killed in the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001.

The film had me shedding a few quiet tears at several points, especially when it documented Fr. Mychal's service to persons with AIDS and to the gay community and the expulsion of the Dignity Community from Church buildings during the "reign" of John Paul II, under the influence of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.

This historical moment was one shared in many communities across America, including Hartford, Connecticut.  The edict of October 1, 1986 and is aftermath was, for me, the fatal blow, the final insult, the ultimate abuse, that pushed me out the door of the church (and soured my taste for any religions). (See other posts - Here)

For Father Mychal, it was just another silly letter from Rome to get around.

Father Mychal embodied what I always believed the Catholic Church stood for, what I was taught it was about by the good Sisters of Mercy: humility and loving service to the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, the marginal.

Father Mychal was living the "aggiornamento" of Pope John XXIII, another man of holiness and humility whose memory the current Church hierarchy wishes would just go away.

In my opinion, it is truly heart-wrenching to consider that had Father Mychal lived and continued to serve authentically, he likely would have been "silenced" or excommunicated by now by the current regime.

It is also disturbing to read the few hateful, anti-gay "reviews" on Netflix.  Compare Father Mychal Judge with that so-called pastor of that so-called Baptist church in Topeka.  They are not even in the same universe.

You can watch Saint of 9/11 streaming on Netflix, or in 8 parts on YouTube.  Here is part 1:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Taking a Break From the Political News

Getting ready for the Turkey Day at our house this year. My favorite of holidays: good food; church, gifts, optional.  And we get the leftovers!

Check out Dinner's Ready for the details.

The Stuffing Is Ready
And The Rolls Too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Michelle Booed at Nascar

This is old news already and I won't post the video, but apparently Michelle was booed by a large section of the Nascar crowd in Florida.  

It is evident that hatred, much of it racist, for the President and Mrs. Obama is out there and people, even "genteel" southerners have lost their sense of propriety and feel free to cross the lines of civility.

Comments made by news/video feed readers and watchers reinforce this, and, although some "justify" the booing based solely on the President's disapproval record, their hatred and racism is still evident.

To add insult to injury, Rush Lamebrain defended the boo-ers, calling Michelle "uppity" among other things.   I couldn't even get through the entire clip because the sound of his voice makes my skin crawl.  I don't think even Dante could have conceived of a level of Hell low enough for him.

Sometimes I really get the sense that there are two species of humans on this earth, and we have been under the delusion that we are all one.  Either that or, as eminent physicists have theorized, we are trapped in  some nightmarish "parallel universe".

Either way, this sucks.

morgueFile Free License

Monday, November 21, 2011

Remember Kent State

We are entering an era of mass protest reminiscent of the 60's and 70's. Judging from this video, not much has changed except they use pepper spray instead of bullets, but this can change too.  So what happened to to the right to peaceably assemble, the right of free speech.  The unrest is international and is focused on the economic crisis but is really about the deeper issues of justice and equality.

The Super Failure Committee could not have done other than what it did. I believe it is too late to stop the train and history is playing out here and abroad and will play out until some degree of justice is achieved. Cops spraying non-violent protesters like they were roaches. There will be some ugly times ahead. God help us all.

Congress and "Super" Committee are Laughable

Three New Vegetables: Pepperoni/ Cheese;
Grilled Chicken/Asparagus; Eggplant/Sausage
Laughable if it weren't for the fact that they are not governing this nation or even making an effort to solve the problems we are all facing.

"Super" Committee - what a pretentious title for a bunch of Super Idiots.  We all knew the outcome of this Committee would be ZERO, ZILCH, NADA, NOTHING.

Meanwhile, their colleagues were able to decide one major issue over in the Halls of Congress:  we can all rest easier now, knowing the official status of PIZZA is a VEGETABLE.  What's next?  Chewing tobacco?

What makes the pizza story even more disturbing is that it was once again Congress paying homage to Big Business and corporation lobbyists...the frozen pizza and tomato paste industry.

Note to members of Congress: I guess if you can't deal with the real important issues that we elected you to deal with, you can waste your time and our taxpayer money (yes, we still pay your salary and generous health benefits) discussing trivia.  Grow up and serve this country like intelligent and reasonable men and women.  And to the Dems: Senators and Representatives - you're a disgrace. You discuss whether pizza is a vegetable while allowing Republicans to hold our country hostage to partisan ideology while more people in the USA are unemployed, lack health insurance and are on food assistance than ever.

Congress be damned, my homemade pizza is still made from bread dough!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One Senior Voice of The 99% - Perhaps

Unknown Attribution
This Email has been making the rounds and expresses the "fed-up" attitude of many of us.
But a check on Scopes.com (and some of their additional Links) while not refuting the sentiment and the the basis for it, is also very interesting.

Link especially the interview with Alan Simpson, Senator from Wyoming , Co-Chair of Obama's deficit commission, who calls this [senior citizens] the Greediest Generation as he compared "Social Security" to a Milk Cow with 310 million teats.

Here's a response in a letter from (Fill in the blank) in Montana ... I think s/he is a little ticked off! S/he also tells it like it is!

"Hey Alan, let's get a few things straight..

1. As a career politician, you have been on the public dole for FIFTY YEARS.

2. I have been paying Social Security taxes for 48 YEARS (since I was 15 years old. I am now 63).

3 My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other Americans, were safely tucked away in an interest bearing account for decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give OUR money to a bunch of zero ambition losers in return for votes, thus bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme that would have made Bernie Madoff proud..

4. Recently, just like Lucy & Charlie Brown, you and your ilk pulled the proverbial football away from millions of American seniors nearing retirement and moved the goalposts for full retirement from age 65 to age 67. NOW, you and your shill commission is proposing to move the goalposts YET AGAIN.

5. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills.

6. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money. Now, you come to the American taxpayers and say you need more to pay off YOUR debt.

To add insult to injury, you label us "greedy" for calling "bullshit" on your incompetence. Well, Captain Bullshit, I have a few questions for YOU.

1. How much money have you earned from the American taxpayers during your pathetic 50-year political career?

2. At what age did you retire from your pathetic political career, and how much are you receiving in annual retirement benefits from the American taxpayers?

3. How much do you pay for YOUR government provided health insurance?

4. What cuts in YOUR retirement and healthcare benefits are you proposing in your disgusting deficit reduction proposal, or, as usual, have you exempted yourself and your political cronies?

It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators called Congress who are the "greedy" ones. It is you and your fellow nutcases who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers. And for what? Votes. That's right, sir. You and yours have bankrupted America for the sole purpose of advancing your pathetic political careers. You know it, we know it, and you know that we know it.

And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch..

Be sure to read the Comment Section for this post, also.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Last Facebook Holdout

Am I the last person left to sign up on Facebook?

I have resisted the pressure to join for a number of reasons.

From the start I was repulsed by the term "Facebook".  I can't say exactly why, but perhaps it reminds me too much of the FBI's Most Wanted posters; or a catalogue of masks; or a hall of mirrors; or a dusty yearbook.

All scary images.

As the social network phenomena progressed, the nightmares of harassment, invasion of privacy and worse that made the news gave me pause.

But what really irked me was when someone "invited" me to view their photo album on Facebook and I linked on, only to find that I needed to join Facebook - that is open an account with my personal information, and yet another username and password.

Now,  anyone can view blogger - you don't need to sign up or join anything.

Lately, Facebook has become so ubiquitous that it seems you can't do anything without it.  The local TV station holds a daily give-away that requires you to "LIKE" them on Facebook for a chance to win.  Non-profits sign up to win grants and cash by accumulating "votes" on Facebook.

New businesses and community groups all want you to connect on Facebook.  What ever happened to a simple Web Site?

It seems that all communication is now through Facebook.  What ever happened to simple Email?

From what I've seen of Facebook on other's accounts it is a confusing, irritating mess of drivel.  OK, so a lot of blogging is drivel too, but again, you don't need to be here in order to support your favorite non-profit or join some nebulous network of people you don't know in order to read my drivel.

People seem to have to announce their every activity and "LIKE" this or that, from the local cafe to their friend's new hair style or the party that all their kool friends were at last night.  There is definitely an aire of snobbery to Facebook - or at least that's my impression.

In general, the whole Facebook thing strikes me as juvenile.  Like school kids in the cafeteria.  Perhaps it is a generational divide.

I really would like to support Connecticut Labrador Rescue, Inc. which is where our dog Benni came from, but I am still resistant to join Facebook in order to do so.

My greatest fear of Facebook is that, like the Borg on StarTrek:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Can It Be "Indian Summer" ?

As I jokingly commented during the freak October snow storm, "we'll probably have Indian Summer next week."

Well sure enough, it was pretty close to 70 degrees - practically a beach day (with a few patches of snow still melting here and there).

I always found Indian Summer to be a real treat - one last burst of glorious weather before the dreaded foul skies and windy days of November.  I do hope it lasts a while.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turn Off Your Breaker For A Week

Some thoughts on being off the power grid for seven days:

There are folks here who have been without electricity for more than a week and who may not have their power restored until Wednesday.  It is difficult to convey the degree to which being depraved of electricity effects one's life.  So much time and effort is consumed substituting available resources for those that are suddenly unavailable.

Hundreds of thousands of people experienced extended "survival mode", perhaps for the first time in their lives.

The priorities came down to
1. Staying warm (during an unusually cold late October and early November nighttime temperatures in the 20's)
2. Having drinking water (if one depends on electric powered well pump for water)
3. Having water to flush toilets (if there is no running water)
4. Obtaining food when many grocery stores were closed for many days
5. Obtaining medications when many pharmacies were also closed
6. Preserving perishable food without refrigeration (plenty of snow was available)
7. Cooking, for those wholly dependent on electricity
8. Obtaining gasoline for generators and transportation with so many gas stations closed
9. Buying and selling goods and carrying on civic and business activities
10. Communication through telephone and electronic devices - TV, internet, etc.

Depending on their level of preparedness and common sense, some people are/were better off than others.  I find it difficult to believe that there were people who would not take advantage of the snow and outdoor temperatures to keep food cold or use melted snow to flush toilets.  There were others who had access to a generator and used it to run a sump pump in the basement but didn't consider plugging in an electric heater.  Others who may have had a wood stove, but failed to buy, gather or ask for fire wood.  Persons with a whole house generator who had failed to have a newly installed furnace connected.

Then there were the tragic few, actually quite a few, who died needlessly from carbon monoxide from gas or charcoal grills in  the house or from generators in a basement or too near the house.  If this had been December or January or February, many surely would have died of hypothermia.

As I have mentioned before, Leon and I were fairly well prepared - at least for a short-term inconvenience.  Our portable generator could handle powering up the fridge, but even at that, we put leftover hot foods outdoors to pre-cool before putting them in the fridge.

Our propane kitchen stove was kept busy boiling water, baking biscotti and making roasts or shepherd pie or chicken.  A small vent-free propane heater in our basement kept the house at 58 degrees or more.  We had put up sixty gallons of water for washing and flushing and maybe 15 gallons for drinking and cooking but juggling hot water for washing self and dishes, washing and rinsing was a challenge.

We had flashlights and lanterns and a battery radio; we even plugged in our TV and satellite receiver and the bed warmer for a few hours before turning off the generator at bedtime.

Even with all the preparations we had made and the fact that we were not shivering or hungry, by the end of day five we were feeling the stress, the 19 inches of wet heavy snow to clear the first day notwithstanding.  The sheer physical effort involved was unanticipated.

I don't consider myself too compulsive but I do like to wash dishes and rinse them thoroughly in hot water.  In the fifties we took a bath once a week; now I feel gross if I don't shower at least once a day.  Sweeping the kitchen floor didn't do a thing for the unvacuumed carpet and I was thinking of transporting the pile of laundry down to the river and beating my jeans on a rock.  Hauling 5-gallon buckets of water up from the basement got tiring fast as did refilling the generator.  We probably went through 12 or more gallons of gasoline and a 100 pound tank of propane.

After the power was restored on Saturday I put in a load of laundry and as I turned on the machine I held my breath lest it might not come on. As water filled the washer I thought to myself, "I will never take this for granted again."   It took us all evening Saturday and most of Sunday to get everything "back to normal".  It took a thousand or more line crews, most from out of state, seven days to get the power lines "back to normal" in this small corner of the country - and they are not done yet.  Imagine a similar but more widespread catastrophe.

What we consider "normal" requires vast resources and massive infrastructure.  Most of us could not survive without the conveniences powered by electricity, without water and toilets and stoves and furnaces and gasoline and propane and gas and oil.  But all of this upon which we depend daily is, of course, part of the problem.

As we burn up our fossil fuels to create and operate nearly every aspect of our lives we also create the conditions that make the extreme weather events that bring us to our knees.  We create economic conditions that cause unbelievable wealth as well as suffering and hardships.  We create health problems that will make us sick while curing all kinds of illnesses.

Yet we couldn't survive a world without our appetite for and consumption of power, i.e. electricity.

If you think we are making progress in our attempts to restore the balance of the globe's ecology, try turning off your breaker for a week.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Welcome Back to the 21st Century

We got our power back today at 1:30 PM.  Three hours short of a week.

We cleared out the water jugs and the pots of water on the stove.  The generator and the electric extension cords that were all over the house are also put away and the 15 gallon bins in the bathtub emptied.  A load of laundry is washed and dried and hot showers were taken.

Pizza is in the oven and the dog is snoozing on the couch.  All is well here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Young Gay Man Murdered in UK

Just read about a horrible hate crime against a young gay Brit, Stuart Walker, who was brutally murdered recently.  Such crimes are obviously not restricted to the States and our sympathy and solidarity should be with the victims and their families wherever they are.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Little House in the Colonies

Some Minor Tree Damage
This must be what it was like back when the colonists first shared the table with Native Americans. Cooking on the barbeque, melting snow to flush the toilet, waiting in line for gasoline to power the generator, boiling water to wash dishes and body parts, and not having telephone or internet service or vacuum cleaners or battery chargers.

People are dying all over our state from carbon monoxide from running generators in their basements or garages instead of outdoors. When everything from cigarettes to plastic bags have warnings printed on them, you would think that generators would be plastered with big letters warning: “For Outdoor Use Only – Carbon Monoxide Emissions Will Cause DEATH If Used Indoors”.
Our Little House Generator
Water, Everywhere
Kerosene Lamp
Connecting The Essentials To Electricity
Gasoline To Run The Generator -
Part Of The Cause Of Global Warming -
That Got Us Into This Mess
Leon and I are about as prepared as possible. We put up over 80 gallons of water in large bins and coolers, we have a small generator to alternately run the fridge and a small heater as well as the TV and a couple of lights;, we have a gas/propane stove so we can cook and heat water, and we have a small vent free gas heater in our basement. The only thing we miss is running water, especially running HOT water, as the well pump requires electricity and even though the hot water and heat are oil, both require electricity to function.

We’ve had hot showers at our friends’ house across town - they have been fortunate not to lose power. People who have no generators, and are completely dependent on electricity are much worse off than we are. Especially in view of the fact that overnight temperatures have been more like January than early November.

For a country so dependent on electricity and electronic communications, it is ludicrous to have power lines that are so vulnerable to Mother Nature’s terrorism. Imagine how easy it would be for nefarious groups to purposely wreck similar havoc.

Here in the Northeast we have a slew of uncharacteristic weather events this year alone. Some fairly destructive tornados, a hurricane, unprecedented floods and destruction, now a freak snow storm with an aftermath that has nearly shut down normal day to day activities, not to mention that rare earthquake that shook DC.

Cars are lined up for a quarter mile each way at gas stations that are still able to pump gas, grocery stores, post offices, restaurants, schools and pharmacies are all closed due to power outages. Predictions are that power may be restored by Sunday, November 6. That will be eight days, if they are serious about the time frame.

The rest of the cleanup could take weeks, months, even.  There are some millions of cubic yards of debris to haul away and dispose of.  Spoiled food, lost wages and revenue, cleanup expenses.  This seems to be happening more often all over the country and where does the money come from to pay for the recovery efforts?  FEMA?  The government? Taxes - probably, but on the poor guy, not on the wealthy, of course.

I'm in Panera's parking lot accessing wifi; will post without pics first, then try to add some photos if I can.  Success there I think.  And I didn't even have to buy a coffee!


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