Thursday, July 31, 2014

I'm Getting - Check One: (_)Nervous, (_)Disgusted, (_)Depressed, (_)Scared, (_)Drunk

Who Needs A NEW Monster?
Just been reading (I Should Be Laughing, RH Reality Check, Alliance For Justice, and others) about Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court, Forced Arbitration, "Christian" Arbitration, the Congress Suing the President, and other disturbing matters.

The other day I listened to NPR interviewing the author of The Collapse of Western Civilization, A View From the Future. While that is mostly about global warming, the underlying problem of Western Civilization's failure to respond was cultural.

And I think by  cultural is meant the likes of Rush Lamebrain, the Christian right and other anti-science and anti-intellectual bozos along with the One Percent, their cash cows and Corporate Power and Money - the forces that are currently at work dismantling our Democracy word by precious word.

It seems that religion in the marketplace is the new norm, the Supreme Court justices are the new Opus Dei Bishops, and that the west coast is burning, leaving the faucets open, while the rest of the country is falling apart from tornados, failing infrastructure, Big Brother and Sharknados while the do-nothing Congress, another new norm, is going on vacation again - (they only actually don't work when they're at work, so what's the difference?)

So I can check all of the above except "drunk" - unfortunately, I don't drink - save for an occasional beer or wine - and could not even force myself to drink enough to get drunk at this stage of my life - but you know, I sometimes wish I could.

Update on Sound View Beach, Old Lyme, CT

Took  a ride to the shore yesterday for a beach fix. On the way to the state beach I drove by Sound View to snap a few photos. I never got out of the car, so the photos are a bit blurry or badly composed.

Hartford Avenue is practically deserted. Just the residents and a few day trippers use the beach.
Hartford Avenue
I think it was the town of Old Lyme along with the fuddy-duddy shore-line residents who were tired of the motorcycles, the drunks, the noise that forced out the businesses. Rather than clean things up, I think they just made it more and more difficult to do business there.Those postcards with cars lining the street are a thing of the past. There is no free street parking - spaces are rented at a kiosk and parking lots charge $7.50 to $15 a day for parking - but for what?

The El Morocco - Long Closed and Abandoned 
The Italian Bakery (forgive the blurr)
This Used to be an Arcade
The arcades were very popular with the teenage crowd. Kids played pinball games and skeeball, and ice cream and snacks were sold there.
How Sorry is This
The Carousel is Still Clean and Operating
Lemon Ice - Closed?
This Photo Says It All
The Club - With The Mandatory Imported Palm Tree
The Catholic Church used to be filled for Sunday Mass thirty years ago. Where have all the Catholics gone?
Even the Catholic Church Sold Out
To Some Generic Variety Christian Family Church

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sound View -- The Way I Remember It

Photos via Digital Commonwealth 
from Boston Public Library, Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection 
Terms of Use (as appended to each item): 
No known copyright restrictions. No known restrictions on use.
Note: These Postcards are slightly before my time
 A Little Background

Here in Connecticut we have beaches; our shoreline on Long Island Sound is mostly privately owned with only a few state owned public access beaches. 

In Connecticut, a line of state Supreme Court cases dating back to the earliest days of the State confirms that private property generally ends at the mean high water line (the line on the shore established by the average of all high tides) and that the state holds title as trustee to the lands waterward of mean high water, for the use and benefit of the public. … A waterfront owner may not exclude the public from lawful uses of the public trust area, just as an upland owner cannot exclude the public from driving or walking on the street in front of his or her house. (Connecticut Department of Energy and environmental Protection – Connecticut’s Shore – The People’s Resource)

However, getting to that strip of “public beach” can be a challenge. Back in the sixties a community organization out of Hartford held protests to open the shoreline to the public and sometimes “invaded” private beaches to make their point. The problem was and is that no one can get to that public area without trespassing through private property or coming in by boat. Though the protests forced property owners to make some accommodations to the public, most individual property owners and beach associations still found ways to completely restrict access to the shoreline through physical barriers, lack of parking or exorbitant parking fees, resident only restrictions and subtle or overt intimidation.

With that sketchy background, I offer my impressions of being at the beach back when I was growing up. They may not be accurate in a historical sense, but they are my memories of many summers compressed into one composite snapshot, a collage of sorts:
For those of us not fortunate enough to own beachfront property, visits to the beach were limited to either the few state beaches or to private beaches where one might rent a cottage.

No one in our family owned beach property until one of my uncles bought a place in Westbrook. He had a large family of his own, children and grandchildren so the cottage was fully occupied all summer. The rest of us – extended family including my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins – were infrequent guests there.

We did, however often spend a week or more at some cottage we rented at a private beach, a family or two going in together to rent a place or my brother and I being invited guests of an aunt and uncle or cousin. It was usually a different house or beach each year, but Sound View Beach in Old Lyme stands out because we rented cottages there or near there several times.
Once some relatives rented a large house on Swan Avenue at Sound View that accommodated several families. I think there were 15 or 20 of us: cousins and aunts an uncle or two, all on my mother’s side. Most of the uncles stayed home to work, of course.

Private beaches in Connecticut back then more than now, seemed to reflect the demographics of the cities where we grew up and like the various Catholic parishes and Protestant and Jewish communities, the beaches were more or less segregated by ethnicity.

The WASPs, I’m sure, held the properties in places like Greenwich and Madison and Old Saybrook where Katherine Hepburn lived and where we would visit the marina to see, as aunt Mary quipped, “how the other half lived.”
Other ethnic groups had clusters of cottages in various shoreline towns where the more affluent families among them had purchased properties, which they would then rent to relatives and friends for a week or two at a time. The practice ensured that each of these well-established enclaves retained an ethnic characteristic charm or ambiance.

Sound View beach was inhabited primarily by families of Italian descent and because Sound View was one of the few beaches that had a business zone with bars and eating establishments, amusements and sundries, the ethnic flavor was enhanced, primarily by the food being offered for sale at little shops and outdoor restaurants: fried dough and calzones, grinders and gelati, Sicilian pizza, cannoli, pasticciotti and Italian bread at the bakery which was run by an old Italian couple - they were in their eighties for at least twenty years that I knew of. Across the street we would buy fresh doughnuts from the doughnut shop  that was open only on Sunday mornings and you had to get there early, before they ran out.

Sound View was the only beach that I knew of that had this kind of a very, very, little, Little Italy –where there was actually a nightlife and where people strolled down the main street, Hartford Avenue, after dark taking in the night air or trying to find a wayward son at one of the many arcades that line the street.
The El Morocco is the Stone Building
With Yellow Awnings Over Arched Windows on the Left
It also had at least three bars or nightclubs, a sleazy hotel called the Branmore and rumors of call girls. I was fascinated by one of the nightclubs because of its somewhat exotic architecture: a stone and mortar building with arched windows and a big sign “EL MOROCCO” spanning the length of the building. In my young adult years, when it was closed and run down, I thought I should buy it and turn it into a great Italian restaurant. As far as I know, it remains empty to this day as the whole business district is practically a ghost town.

The beach community back then had a seemingly decadent, earthy atmosphere. It also had its own summer "seasonal" Catholic church. Which made perfect sense.
The Sound View beach itself was no more than six or seven hundred feet at most – the little village, about three or four neighborhood blocks wide and maybe a quarter mile in length from the state road to the high water mark. The Sound View village, and I use the term loosely, was flanked by two other beach associations, both of which were entirely residential.
To the west is Miami Beach – a name I always thought pretentious, and the residents there were also mostly Italian-Americans back then. In contrast to their neighbors, they wanted privacy, peace and quiet, and mostly looked down on the more gritty Sound Viewers. The Miami folks frequented the businesses on Hartford Avenue for recreation and commerce nonetheless, while at the same time gating their streets to prevent any deliberate or accidental crossover in the other direction.

Further west was Hawk’s Nest, another private beach association whose residents also came over to Sound View for the amusements and food.
To the East of Sound View was Old Colony beach, a community of cottage owners who were mostly of Jewish ethnicity and who, although they also frequented Sound View for the food and fun, pretty much kept their beach even more private than the Miamians. We almost never strolled down their streets but we did cross over to their beach.

The cottages we rented back then were no palaces. They came with old pots and pans, mismatched dishes and assorted utensils, forks, spoons and knives, lumpy beds, old living room furniture, unusual lamps, a stack of board games for rainy days, a stove, and a broom. There was running water, a bathroom and usually an outdoor shower stall. I think renters had to bring bed sheets and towels.

Our families packed as if for a cross-country caravan: food for a week that included the mandatory meatballs in tomato sauce (no, we NEVER called it “gravy”), towels and clothes, beach blankets and inner tubes, beach umbrellas and coolers. Beer, wine and booze were way down the list, if they even made it at all. Ours was not a drinking family. Ours was an eating family.

I loved being at the beach. There were very few chores and they were shared by so many that even the chores were fun. Washing and drying the dishes, taking out the garbage, hanging towels on the clothesline, sweeping the sand out of the cottage a couple of times a day. There wasn’t much else involved as aunts did all the cooking unless we kids took charge of the outdoor grill. I once witnessed a seagull swoop down and snatch a full chicken leg and thigh off a hot barbeque grill, fly up to the cottage roof and proceed to swallow the whole thing in a gulp.

Despite the beach rules (PROHIBITED: Littering - Alcoholic beverages – Pets - Motorized vehicles - Glass containers - Ball playing - Open fires / grills - Watercraft tied to any buoy line – Fireworks - Loitering - Camping, sleeping on beach after dark - All containers may be subject to inspection - No lifeguard on duty - swim at your own risk - Beach open sunrise to sunset) we managed to have fun. During the day we played in the water, swam, built sand castles, floated in our inner tubes and invented games involving water, seaweed and sand.

After dinner we would “go for a walk down the avenue” to check out the arcades but rarely were we permitted by our elders to actually go inside where the pinball machines clinked and chimed temptingly and where all manner of delinquency was apparently taking place.
We’d go instead to the Carousel – we called it the Merry-Go-Round – and we would ride around until we ran out of money or got tired of it. I was too chicken to reach for the brass ring for fear I’d fall off my horse. We’d end up at Vecchito’s Italian Ice, where the grouchy proprietors begrudgingly sold us lemon ice. We called it lemon ice no matter what flavor: “Can I have a root beer lemon ice, please?”

I found crossing the lines between the beaches interesting. If you were renting a cottage, you were expected to stay on your respective beach: Miami, Sound View or Old Colony – at least that was where your blanket and stuff would be located. There were definite lines of demarcation.

However if you were walking or swimming you could cross the lines with impunity and “visit” the neighboring beach. If you wanted to swim out to The Rock, a large granite attraction for kids between the ages of ten and sixteen, about a hundred feet off shore, it was much easier to go over to Old Colony and swim perpendicular to the shore rather than swim the longer diagonal distance from Sound View.

Miami beach had nothing like The Rock or anything else of much interest, so while we might walk over there once in a while, we would regularly cross over to Old Colony to swim to The Rock.

The contrast was what always struck me. On the Sound View beach, people were sprawled out on blankets, there was sand on the blankets, on the towels, inside kids swim suits. The young women and girls were slathered up with baby oil desperately trying to out darken one another. The kids were wet and kicking sand every which way and everyone was eating something: sandwiches, cookies, chips, fruit, ice cream. Mothers were clad in last year’s one-piece swimsuit, or more likely one purchased the year before or the year before that or when they were still single. They were all talking and wiping melted ice cream from their kids’ mouths while attempting to read some Harlequin romance. Jewelry among the Sound View women consisted of simple gold crosses on delicate chains, tiny engagement rings and generic gold wedding bands.

On Mondays the hairdressers in bikinis and wearing heavy gold chains with Sicilian Cornuti (horns) would occupy a section of sand in front of the Pavilion, a bar. That was back when there were still male hairdressers and even gay men were bold enough to wear bikinis. Other, macho young men in cut-offs who were going in and out of the bar, as well as their girlfriends, were all a bit rough and casual.

A fence and the rope that ran across the sand and out to a buoy in the water marked the boundary between Sound View and Old Colony. The water and the sand were identical but the contrast in the beachgoers on the two pieces of real estate was stark.
On Old Colony beach, women’s skin was several shades lighter than the Italians at Sound View. They wore fashionable, flashy, colorful swimwear, even if the fashions did not flatter their somewhat plump and fleshy bodies. Strings of large pearls or heavy costume jewelry hung around their necks, flashy earrings hung like fishing lures from their earlobes, and gaudy rings adorned more than a few fingers. They sat under large beach umbrellas, in beach chairs, often around a small table, playing rummy or some other card game while their children played neatly along the shore.

The older teenage boys over at Old Colony all looked bored, maybe because their girlfriends were too concerned about their hairdos to actually get wet. The younger kids would tease their brothers and sisters, swim out to the rock and generally behave a bit more like the kids across the border. Crossing over, it seemed to me like a foreign country.

After The Rock, I was always glad to get back to my beach.

The beach makes me happy. It always has.

(See also a short update HERE)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Watch This - It Is Worth 6 Minutes Of Your Time

 Thanks to Russ at Blue Truck Red State

If people would only begin to trust and respect the lived experience of real people - hearts and minds could be transformed.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Beach Makes Me Happy

The beach makes me happy the way nothing else can.

Really. The Endorphins flow. I am content. It's heaven.

On a perfect or near perfect beach day I spontaneously lose 40 years and 30 pounds.

That was today. I was 26 and 137. My hair was brown with some light streaks and I stood just a little taller. My wrinkles disappeared along with the liver spots. (Although you can't tell from the photo) And I was virtually pain free (except for a short bout of sciatica from sitting which I relieved by lying down for a bit.)

The day was certainly near perfect: sunny, blue skies, 83 degrees, negligible humidity, a light breeze. It was not a weekend so the crowds were tolerable. I have a senior pass, so it was free to get into the State Beach.

I listened to music, read, had a light lunch, walked the length of the beach from end to end and back - four miles total.

I saw only one group of about 9 or 10 college boys with nice bodies. I thought it was the gay section, but they had 3 girls among them, so I couldn't be sure.

Actually I don't think there is a gay section anymore. Years ago there was a gay section. You could tell by the proliferation of men with speedos and bikinis. But speedos and bikinis are out, surfer shorts are (still) in, unless you are at a real gay beach, then you'll see speedos and bikinis and skimpier things.

Feeling like 26
Blue Skies 
The Water is Murky -
Can't See Your Feet in Waist Deep Water
From One End (East)
To The Other End (West)
Beach Blanket Still Life
When I think about it, what does one really need at the beach? A blanket or towel, a swim suit (or not), an umbrella, some sun screen, a simple sandwich, a piece of fruit, a cold drink, some Sergio Mendes, a book. Everything else is superfluous.

Walking barefooted, minimal clothing, kissed and caressed by the sun, somewhat bohemian, no baggage. EVERYTHING ELSE IS SUPERFLUOUS.

There were only two things I could think of that made the day near perfect instead of perfect:
1) ONE big green beach fly, (but I got him before he got me)
2) it was not a nude beach

One near perfect beach day each summer is a necessity. A few more wouldn't hurt. The beach makes me happy.

This Stuff Still Goes On - "Christianity" - In Action

We don't get Showtime (we're on antenna only) but I would like to see this when and if it becomes available on the net.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How One Thing Leads To Another Or Just A Bowl Of Cherries

I bought some cherries, washed them, put them in a bowl and thought I'd take a picture.

I took this picture:

Then I thought I'd check the internet for some background and came up with these lyrics:
People are queer, they're always crowing, scrambling and rushing about
Why don't they stop someday, address themselves this way?
Why are we here? Where are we going? It's time that we found out
We're not here to stay; we're on a short holiday 
Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don't take it serious, it's too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go 
So keep repeating it's the berries
The strongest oak must fall
The sweet things in life, to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you've never owned? 
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh at it all

SongwritersBROWN, LEW / HENDERSON, RAYPublished byLyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., RAY HENDERSON MUSIC CO., INC.
And here is Judy Garland singing it: 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Return From A Little Jaunt to New Hampshire's Gay Campgrounds and Some Odds Without Ends

View from Mountainside
Have not been blogging much or reading as much.

Spent almost a week camping in New Hampshire - the Holiday weekend at Mountainside, a mens' weekend-only campground in Hinsdale and then a few days at Joe's Hideaway, another men's only camp in Washington, NH. Hiking, sunning, reading, having a few beers, doing pot-luck dinners, watching fireworks. Nice.

Mountainside is more of a tight-knit community than many larger campgrounds perhaps because of its regular clientele, many of whom are seasonal. Others who camp there often and a number of weekenders who are new to the campground make for a good mix of men.  There is no swimming pool, so that is a drawback for some, but a number of activities are usually scheduled (potluck, hikes, drumming) as well as area attractions like the Rock River. The atmosphere is very low-key, and casual and is operated at such.

Joe's Hideaway, a small, membership only campground with an above-ground pool, full hook-ups (water, electricity, sewer) clean restrooms, picnic tables and a pavilion. There are several seasonal campers, a number of transient sites for campers and tents. It is busy on weekends but very quiet during the week when we were there. I would characterize it as somewhat more "cruisey" in comparison to Mountainside.

We are so used to Vermont and find New Hampshire similar but distinctly different. 
Vermont, land of left-over hippies; New Hampshire, land of left over Young Republicans. (See here).Vermont, despite a period of "Take Back Vermont" signs all over - aimed at the Gays and the Flatlanders invading the state, is mostly open to diversity and we feel comfortable there. 

New Hampshire, just across the Connecticut River and very similar in geography seems more Redneck and Tea Party. 

Back in the garden the Red Lily Beetles were attacking the Asian Lilies, so I cut them to the ground and cut off the food supply for the little devils. I can be ruthless. Yet when I mow the lawn, I feel guilty. Yes guilty: for mowing down the clover flowers that the bees like so much. I guess I have my insect prejudices.

 Back in the garden things are looking good. These were taken a few weeks ago.

 The Prickly Pear are not so prolific this year as I cut them back severely last fall. They need year0old growth from which to produce buds.

Hostas are nice for shady areas, and the leaves are pretty - but they have to have the homeliest flowers in the garden. Actually I think Hosta flowers are pretty ugly.

Astilbe are also pretty boring flowers - again a shade loving plant. Here's one putting on a fireworks display for the Fourth of July.

A Deer along the Quinnipiac River

Of course when we got home, the central air conditioner was acting up and so there was the air conditioner repairman who came yesterday. Long story short: air conditioner is no good. The repair guy was a dufus. End of that story.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Report: Jack Holmes and His Friend by Edmund White

Sometimes I don't know why I bother to read a book, something I do so seldom anyhow that I could be considered illiterate by the standards of any well-read individual. My mind wanders, I tend to fall asleep, or at the very least nod off until I snap my neck and wake myself. Then I must re-read the last several paragraphs, sometimes even several pages to get myself back into the flow of the story.

It usually takes me weeks to finish a book, with so many priorities on the to-do list above sitting and reading: walking the dog, doing laundry, grocery shopping, reading a blog or two, filling the coffee canister, brushing the dog, cutting out coupons, etc.

Jack Holmes and His Friend by Edmund White was no exception. I started it on the plane to New Mexico in March and just finished it. I went back to the beginning after reading the epilogue and found that I barely recognized the narrative or any of the minor characters that appeared in the first part. This is partly due to having a memory like a sieve and partly due to the fact that I don't pay close attention if something doesn't get up and grab it.

I chose the book based on the fact that White is a gay author (A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White plays a part in my own memoir, to be published this fall) and it received good reviews.

I am not intellectual enough to appreciate the nuances of superb writing, and I only do my reports on books that I actually finish - in other words, books that didn't put me to sleep more often than they kept me awake. (I have never gotten through In One Person by John Irving, for example. I found I was bored beyond belief. But that's just me. I suppose intellectuals love it.)

So Jack Holmes, a gay man coming into his own in New York during the late fifties and early sixties finds he's attracted to his straight friend, Will, who he never ends up having sex with. The two are the gay and straight versions of newly sexually liberated men, and White juxtaposes their proclivities and their sexuality with some interesting narrative, observations and descriptions. But not interesting enough for me to read the book in a week. The story follows their "friendship" into the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

The New York Times reviewer was impressed with White's portrayal of physicality, sex and sensuality, which was the essence of the work. Perhaps having seen way too much porn, I found the sex rather matter-of-fact, rather than eye-opening.

The book was available on Amazon for something like fifty cents, used.


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