My friend, Ravn, let me know that the commenting feature on my blog wasn't working. I think I've fixed the problem - eliminating a "new" feature from Blogger that clearly doesn't work. Oh well.
So - will the two of you who read this blog, please say hello :)
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
My friend, Ravn, let me know that the commenting feature on my blog wasn't working. I think I've fixed the problem - eliminating a "new" feature from Blogger that clearly doesn't work. Oh well.
Posted by Firethorne at 7:10 AM
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Some years ago - the very early 80s - Eartha Kitt came to DC and did a concert at the Warner Theater downtown. I remember telling my Mom I was going to the concert and her reminding me that I would be seeing a "legend." Of course, my best memories of her were as Cat Woman in the old Batman series of my childhood.
The night of the concert arrived and I went with a lesbian couple who were good friends. Ann and Jackie were a lot older than me and I knew them from MCC-DC, the church where X and I met and attended for a few years. Jackie described herself in two ways - a "Stomping Bull Dyke" and Eartha Kitt's "Biggest Fucking Fan." I had proof of the first - X and I had seen her stomp around our apartment - she liked Sousa marches - no doubt to the terror of our downstairs neighbors.
I was soon to learn that the latter was mostly definitely true, though.
Watching Eartha Kitt in concert was, indeed, to see a legend perform. One of the moments I remember best was her taking a lengthy pause and simply looking out at the audience - nothing, really, was happening until she simply lifted an eyebrow and the crowd went crazy. Never have I seen a performer more in possession of her audience - the lady, often billed as a seductress, earned the title.
Anyway, at one point, Jackie grabbed my hand and pulled me down to the stage where she bulldozed her way (and mine) right up to the edge of the stage. Miss Kitt leaned down to speak to us and before I knew it, Jackie had thrown her arms around her neck, the whole time saying "IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyou..." I could see security coming from the wings, but I could also hear Miss Kitt very gently saying, "Honey, you have to let me go, I love you, too, but you have to let me go..." While Jackie was a little slow to let her go, I clearly saw her rather subltly wave off the security guys.
Jackie and I made our way back to our seats and that big bad stomping bull dyke cried like a little girl for the next ten minutes!
I've been to a lot of concerts in my time, but that evening with Eartha Kitt ranks as one of the great concert going experiences of my life.
A truly elegant, graceful, and compassionate woman.
We don't have many Stars left - another has returned to the heavens.
Rest in Peace, Eartha Mae Kitt, 1927-2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
I've learned that despite Mr. Hallmark's best efforts, the winter holidays come in a variety of flavors - beautifully sweet, salty, tangy and at times quite bitter. My observation as I grow older, however, is that most years it's a flavor for which there is not yet a card: bittersweet.
Our image of what Christmas is supposed to look like has wrecked havoc on the multitude of people for whom the holiday has not provided happy memories, those who by nature are predisposed toward melancholy, and those for whom being alone is a preference no matter what time of year it is. The dear people responsible for selling us Christmas every year can't conceive of those unable, or worse, unwilling to buy into the vision of a perfect holiday.
Me, I love the season - as a musician many of my memories of this time of year are wrapped up in stunningly beautiful musical moments over a long career as a church singer. I also admit to being the oddball who enjoys - in very measured doses - being out and about while people shop. I even admit to having drank the kool-aid on the idea that that this most wonderful time of the year is a great excuse for people being a little nicer to one another. I'm happy for any excuse to up the civility quotient.
My love of the holidays, however, is always balanced by the inevitability of growing older - those moments when - it often seems quite suddenly - I look around at my family and friends during the holidays and noticing someone is missing - and the pain that comes with the sure knowledge that that chair will remain empty.
Bittersweet, indeed. Mr. Hallmark, I'm still looking for a card that captures that.
Over the 23 year my former partner and I were together, we established wonderful Christmas traditions and for most of those years, even at the end, we celebrated well. We hosted elaborate tree trim parties and never seemed to learn from year to year that turning 20 gay men and lesbians loose on a single tree might not have always been the best idea. We attempted as best we could to enjoy a holiday we were never able to spend together. Every year a few days before Christmas, X would fly out to be with his daughter and his mom, neither of whom knew he was gay for most of the time we were together. That's for another post. His annual trip was tough the first few years, but I grew used to it. The fact that my family is local and the season was always musically busy helped.
1990 was the year AIDS came into my life in a real, personal way. Within a few months of each other I learned that my best friend from high school had the virus as did a young man who had lived with X and me for several months the previous year - a young man with whom I had fallen very much in love and conducted a somewhat clandestine affair within my own home. X was aware of the sex (we were a liberal kind of couple), but not the extent of the emotional involvement. Matt moved back to Pennsylvania, I discovered later, not only because of his HIV status but also to help me save my relationship. By Christmas of 1990 he had survived his first crisis with pneumonia, was generally healthy and in a relationship. I had gone to visit several times while he was ill, but his partner was a little uneasy with our emotional bond (we were no longer physically involved) so once he was well, we settled into a letter writing relationship. After his death, I received a sealed package containing every letter and card I had ever sent to him.
My best friend from high school, Mark, was a poster child for the many things that could go wrong for someone with AIDS in the early days of the epidemic - no money, well-meaning but spotty services, a heroically dysfunctional family (how I hated those people!), and a partner who had difficulty figuring out if he were gay or not. Despite a fairly casual relationship after high school, I found myself cast in the role of both caregiver and advocate throughout his illness.
Christmas of 1990 was typical for our house except I was not singing that year for some reason. We had a great tree trim party and X departed for "home" on cue. Mark was staying with me through the holiday and Christmas Day included a large dinner with my family and several friends.
What I remember most clearly about Christmas Day 1990 was how bright a day it was. I don't recall now whether or not it was cold. It was a great Christmas day (which also happens to be my birthday) and the house was filled with wonderful smells and lots of people. Sometime in the late afternoon just before dinner, the doorbell rang and I opened it to see Matthew standing at the door - surrounded in that bright sunlight, with that crooked little smile on his face I loved so much. He had decided to surprise me (and everyone else) by just showing up.
I wish I could tell you how the rest of the day went but it's all just a big old warm emotional fuzzball of a memory and probably not much different from other Christmases before it - my friends, my family, my home, and of course, my Matt...
1991 held little promise for Mark. By May he was hospitalized and remained there until his death in late August - it was a long spring and summer. I worked in downtown DC and lived in the suburbs of Virginia. Every evening, I would leave my office, go home to change clothes and drive right back into town to sit with Mark. My friend was not one of those gracious, long-suffering "movie of the week" dying folk. He was pissed and constant pain only made it worse as the summer wore on. Mark's death remains vivid because of the very unusual circumstances of the day. My shift at the hospital was always in the evening (his mom was often there during the day - She Who Must Be Avoided). On the day he died, I had taken the day off from work to do some errands, including a stop by my office to copy some music for Mark's funeral because it was clear he was slipping away. As I was leaving the office, I decided to stop at the hospital. When I pushed at the door to his room, it was closed against me from the inside - I could see them working on him through the window. Moments later the doctor came out and told me he was gone.
After I pulled myself together (I discovered that going weak in the knees is not a metaphor), I went into his room and started to straighten up and pack his things to prepare for his family's arrival. As I busied myself, chatting with him, pausing at times to gather in the idea that Mark was gone and the ordeal of the summer over, I remembered I had promised him he wouldn't die alone. In the way that the Universe has of taking care of these things, after months of nightly visits, I was guided to his room in the middle of the day - a time when I was never at the hospital. To be there, moments before his death . . . I still marvel.
Matt started to fail in the early winter and I began making weekly trips to Pennsylvania. What I remember most vividly about those trips were the trips themselves, not necessarily my visits with Matt. I would drive up early on a Saturday morning, spend the day and come back to Washington after dark. Because it was almost Christmas, the town of Lancaster was beautifully decorated, there was snow on the ground, and I always noticed the Christmas lights in the countryside as I made my way through the winter night - through Pennsylvania, around Baltimore and toward home in Virginia. I was a smoker back then and the soundtrack for those trips was the Carpenters Christmas Portrait. A dark car, Christmas lights flashing by, a cigarette, and Karen Carpenter's darkly beautiful voice marked every single one of those trips. That particular album was one of X's and my favorites but it was years before I could bear to listen to it, any of it. My reaction is less emotional now, but X got out copy in the divorce and the only way I hear it is via a shopping center music system or station surfing in the car.
Matt died on December 18. His mom called me in the middle of the night to tell me he was gone. And this is where memory fails. I have impressions of things - people spoken to, a eulogy written, a final trip to Pennsylvania with X - but there's nothing really specific. I know I stood gazing down at Matt's face for a very, very long time but it's the action I remember, not his face. Memory is kind - most often I see him standing at my front door bathed in winter sunlight or, on a really good day, in one of our favorite compromising positions.
I do, however, always remember where I was Saturday, December 21, 1991 - just four days before Christmas and my 31st birthday. I remember thinking how strange it was that I had delivered eulogies at two funerals and I was only 30. My mind insisted on wandering back to the previous Christmas when they had both been with me and all had seemed so right. I learned then that Mr. Hallmark didn't have a card to cover those feelings and the Marketing Geniuses had no commercial or Big Sale to soothe facing a Christmas where the last thing I could think about was being happy or celebrating.
As I have done for 17 years now, I'll arrange to have flowers sent to Matt's mom on the 18th. I think it's important that she know that someone else remembers her beautiful boy.
Christmas 2001 - X and I were living in separate homes after more than two decades, and I was learning what it meant to establish new traditions.
Christmas 2003 - I was getting over a terrible cold. I limped through three Christmas services on half a vocal chord and made it to my Mom's house for our family celebration. Not quite a month earlier, on November 30, my grandneice had been born. I felt like doing nothing more than napping on and off throughout the day, surrounded by lots of Christmas noise, and a newborn resting on my chest.
And who knows what Christmas 2008, just a couple of days away now, will bring - new memories created, ghosts quietly whispered to . . .
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
My former partner and I spent 23 Thanksgivings together. After we parted company in 2001, we had one or two more (he was a member of my family despite our change in circumstance) before he relocated to another part of the country.
As I was driving around doing some errands today and feeling rather relaxed, I was hit by a pang of nostalgia. It was only a little surprising since I've come to expect that around this time of year. The older I get the more attuned I am to the bittersweetness of each holiday. It's a cliche, but the image of empty chairs at a table is an accurate one for me and for a couple of days each November/December I have to work to not let it overwhelm me.
Ex and I hosted Thanksgiving for my family and our friends for most of the years we were together. I recall from my childhood how my mother collected folks at the holiday - people with no family in the area, usually. Ex and I continued that tradition and through the years the celebration got larger and larger. As our relationship wound down, though, so did our extravagant holidays with our guest lists dwindling to just a few close friends. Not sad - at least not at the time.
Thanksgiving now is held at my sister's home and tomorrow will be a small crowd, including two couples from my days with Ex who are members of my family now as surely as he was. The only children in my family - my grandniece and nephew - will be sharing turkey with a certain Florida-based rodent. I'll miss them because 5 and 8 are such an interesting age and they are such delightful children. They're too young to remember Ex, but they love Uncle Ollie and his straight "white guy" hair is a source of endless fascination to them! We'll have them back at Christmas if their mom, my nephew's wife, decides she doesn't want to be a Jehovah's Witness in December. She goes back and forth.
I'm trying to learn a new way to be thankful which isn't always easy. Very often when we consider all that we are thankful for, it is in the context of what others don't have - a good example would be I'm thankful for good food because many are hungry. I try to make an effort to simply be thankful for it all - food, breath, my family, my job, the 2.4 people who read this blog - all of it. Frankly, I just don't think I need a context for that other than waking up to a new day.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving,
Posted by Firethorne at 7:53 PM
Monday, November 24, 2008
I'm a little embarrassed. I don't think I could be more loyal to HM the Queen or a closer follower of the Royal Family than if I were actually British.
I suspect I like the dresses and the jewelry. Still, if there is something on PBS about the Royals, the TIVO is set. I'm one of those people who got up at the crack of dawn for Diana's wedding and her funeral.
I like these people.
I also like boys. I really like penises. So the opportunity to see Prince William's Willy (that's not original is it?) seems like a real treat. There's a paparazzo out there who is probably a millionaire now so I'm also a little envious.
And somewhere lurking in the back of my mind there's a little war going on. As much as I admit to enjoying this kind of thing (I also have a fondness for voyeur videos, but that's another post), I also struggle with the whole idea of why I, along with it seems everybody else in the world, appear to crave what, in other circumstances, would just be a gross invasion of privacy. In my channel surfing, I come across a show called TMZ the basic premise of which is let's follow celebrities around and ask them annoying questions or, better yet, see if we can catch them doing something . . .well . . . normal. Guys pee. The governor of California should be able to go commando without it becoming a big deal.
The same is true of the shows on TV during the day and the proliferation of Judge shows - people airing their dirty laundry for the titillation of the masses.
I'm not making a judgment here - look at the picture at the top of this post and you'll see I'm in a position to throw any stones. I suppose I'm just wondering how we landed here. If you read a tell-all bio of any Hollywood star or public figure from back in the day, there's an element of surprise when the details of their lives our set out. Almost always, those details also include the interesting fact that everybody knew. But, the agreement back then between the celebrity, the press, and the fans was that those things could be guessed at, but not published. It would take an extremely stupid move on the part of a "Star" to find a big secret in publication the next day.
Now, Hollywood/New York/London are big Star Zoos with high paid papparazzi on Safari, looking to land the big one. Prince William's penis is probably the equivalent of bagging a great Lion.
And like an accident on the Beltway, I'm still looking to see what I can see.
Posted by Firethorne at 8:14 AM
Friday, November 7, 2008
In honor of our President-elect, a few lovely men of color to grace a perfectly beautiful Friday afternoon in the Nation's Capitol.
The beautiful Darryl Stephens and Christian Stewart from Noah's Arc.
Archie Cho, Actor
And finally, Actor Marcus Patrick - who's explicit nude layout for Playgirl magazine cost him his role on Days of Our Lives in 2007
Posted by Firethorne at 2:06 PM
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I had lunch recently with a young man who interned in my office a couple of summers ago. Our lunch dates are always intellectually interesting, especially as we discussed the upcoming election. I told Joseph that I would be voting for Obama mostly because he’s black. Our poor political system is a limping, broken thing and I have no real faith that either candidate can give us the fixes we need, much less keep the promises made to get them through the gates at
Joseph’s next question was pointed. While he could understand my voting for Obama because he’s black, he was confused as to why mine was not a racist statement but were he to express the same rationale for a McCain vote, it would raise cries of racism. I didn’t have an answer for him. All I could do was attempt to describe the extraordinarily strong set of emotions I’ve carried around inside since I heard Senator Obama accept the nomination on that stage in
I have a picture in my apartment – a family heirloom – of an elegant couple on their wedding day circa 1901. Both stare straight into the camera in that oddly direct way of old photos. He is seated and she stands next to him with her hand on his shoulder. She wears a magnificently wide brimmed, beflowered hat and empire waist gown with a large pink bow. At first glance, they are a white couple. In fact, they are my Mom’s grandparents - my great-grandparents. Grandma died the year my sister was born, but I have clear memories of Granddaddy who did not pass away until the late 1960s. Granddaddy presided over a family of 13 children, most like my grandmother with white skin, straight hair, and blue grey eyes, and all raised within the African-American community of Roanoke Rapids,
My parents tell stories of childhood in the Jim Crow south – my Mom of spitting in the “Whites’ Only” water fountain as a child, and of a particularly harrowing encounter with a department store salesclerk who didn’t realize my mom, a dark child, and grandma, an apparently white woman, were together. My Dad spoke of working as a teenager at the city’s largest, most exclusive hotel which remained segregated until the year I was born. Not so many years later, the same hotel would host our family reunions.
My most vivid racial memories center around 1968. The country was staggering under the weight of the King and Kennedy assassinations and the race riots in April of that year. There was turmoil in my own family that often had to do with how “white” some members were in the face of how black it was becoming necessary to be. The conflict seemed to be epitomized by the horrified reaction of my grandmother to her son’s shaving off the long, beautiful hair of his two young daughters to short, funky Afros. My grandma’s sister, an activist and advocate for the disadvantaged and the original political junkie, made sure that we kids were at the railroad crossing in
From the safety of a close-in suburb, I remember seeing the smoke hanging over
It appears the smoke has cleared.
After my parents married and moved to
Thanks to my Mom and Dad and the efforts of those before them, I grew up in a world where hyper-vigilance regarding my race and others’ reaction to it wasn’t quite so urgent though still necessary at times. With such an integrated, almost color blind, upbringing, I am shaken and surprised by just how moved I have been during this campaign; a campaign in which I am politically disappointed but, as a man of color, I am invigorated and stirred on a deeply visceral level.
I look at my life, the opportunities I enjoy, and the ever more limitless future available to my nephews and nieces and to their children, and the tears and emotion of the last couple of months make perfect sense. Those rich and enveloping feelings remind me – color blind though I might be - that I represent the latest of less than five generations in which the impossible now appears possible. I am the product of a white-appearing family who refused to “pass,” and the son and grandson of people who imagined and then created a future for me that ensured my oyster and its pearl would be the same as that of any other American child.
I think that for many African Americans, in the last few weeks we have moved away from a political race and into the realm of dreams. The black experience in this country has often been compared to that of a dream – prophets proclaiming visions of what can be in the face of what is not.
Joseph’s question deserves an answer, but how can I explain to him what I really see? The Dreamers are awakening. What proof - other than my own inner knowing - can I give him that my ancestors, all the enslaved, the Martyrs – Till, Evers, X and King – all those of darker hue who have suffered in this country, stand near? They are Awakened. All waiting to see what we – what I – will do with this new reality.
I would not blame the person who sees nothing more here than romantic notions in the face of the difficult times confronting our country. Perhaps I should have more concrete, sophisticated reasons for casting this vote, but I don’t. What I do have is the overwhelming sense of the millions standing quietly – my aunt’s hand again on my shoulder – urging me to pay attention. To notice. To awake into the Dream.
No – it is not sophisticated, nor is it the neat intellectual package I’d like to present to my friend, Joseph. But for now it is the only reason I can give. I’ll go back to what Jeff considers my obsessive and cynical political analysis after the election. Even in this incredible moment, it is not lost on me that to win an election is not to successfully govern a country.
The lines are going to be long tomorrow morning – hours, even. But what, really, are those few hours compared to the waiting of a people who have wandered an endless dreamscape of far away continents trying to reach “that shining city on a hill,” who have been told that the future is just beyond the Mountaintop?
Walt Whitman said: I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers, And I become the other dreamers.
Posted by Firethorne at 12:05 PM
Friday, October 31, 2008
Posted by Firethorne at 9:01 PM
Friday, October 24, 2008
We simply cannot discuss Silver Foxes without mentioning the reigning King of Middle Aged Hotness, Anderson Cooper. I admit it - I'm a fan, but not nearly as dedicated as the person in the last picture.
Ours is a youth obsessed culture. Almost everything these days is geared toward the 16-30 crowd - advertisements, fashion, food, entertainment, cellphones - you name it.
Well, that's just fine. I'll eat a nice Twinky any day. I worked on a college campus for a couple of years and discovered that what they say about young men in the 18-25 bracket is true: they are at their prime with skin like silk, long lean bodies, and eyelashes that cast shadows on their cheeks. I had to keep my briefcase in front of me when the spring weather broke and they shed their winter clothes.
But (and this is a big but), there is something to be said for maturity. For graying hair and eyes that have not only seen a lot of life, but know life. For skin changed from smiling and bodies that carry wisdom along with an extra pound or two. Trust me, there is a difference in the touch of a man of years versus that of a boy with enthusiasm.
This week's google man search was "Silver Fox." Enjoy
British Swimmer, Mark Foster
American Idol, Taylor Hicks
Host, 60 Minutes
Some photos courtesy The Silver Feast
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Because this is my blog, I believe strongly that I should do the lion's share of the writing. I will try not to post too much of other people's stuff here. However, I'd like to direct your attention to this piece in the Huffington Post by Frank Schaeffer: Obama Will Be one of the Greatest (and Most Loved) American Presidents.
If you're a democrat planning to vote for Barack, Mr. Schaeffer puts into words some of the extraordinary feelings his candidacy have raised - people following politics for the first time or donating time and money to a campagin for the first time in their lives. He gives a voice to the strong emotion the possiblity of an Obama presidency strikes in many people.
If you're a republican, perhaps you'll get an idea of why this man is in the ascendancy and why it's entirely possible that we as a country will finally decide that business as usual is no longer acceptable.
Worthwhile reading. I promise.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I'm still getting the hang of this blogging and getting content up is a struggle for me. I want to opine on weighty matters (the election, metaphors for life, etc.) and have several posts started but my muse comes and goes - mostly goes.
Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light . . .
Here in DC we can usually depend on shirt-sleeve weather lasting until mid-November. However, winter seems to be coming a little early. The days seem to be shortening rather quickly and most evenings when I'm walking to the Metro downtown, the sun is low in the sky and the light seems to have a feeling - melancholy comes to mind.
But that's probably me.
Up until the beginning of the summer, I was enrolled in a bootcamp class - up three times a week at 5:15 am for a 6:00 am exercise class. It was fun and I stuck with it for a good long time, almost a year and a half. I wanted my mornings back so I stopped the class in favor of controlling my weight via Weight Watchers and I've enjoyed moderate success. Unfortunately, as the light becomes melancholy, so do I. I realized as I was walking home tonight that, since I'm not exercising regularly, I may need to pull out my SAD Light earlier than usual. Because exercise does wonders for depression - seasonal and the regular variety - my light didn't get a lot of use last year.
Still, coming home tonight and feeling that melancholy light, I sense I'm sinking a little bit. Noticing the dying light and feeling just a little... oh... I don't know - anxious - when there's no reason for it.
Worship the Locomotive
Waiting for the subway some mornings, I'm on the platform when the commuter train comes roaring in on its way to downtown. I've always loved trains.
Yesterday, as I looked at the locomotive, it was almost as if it was transparent and I could see right into all its inner workings. Just how did some engineer decide on all the bits and pieces that make this huge, noisy, powerful machine?
I felt like I should fall to my knees and worship such power. When it sings I have to struggle not to plug my ears with my fingers but I'm so thrilled.
I enjoy an occasional trip to the local adult bookstore. They're dying off, really, and seem to be filled with an older and older crowd of which I'm one.
So strange to see all those guys standing around, glaring at one another, feeling their dicks through their pants but nobody measures up enough to touch it but them. The space is crowded and those standing against the walls have to be brushed against so others can move from one place to another - you can't help but brush them a bit and they recoil as if burned.
I'd touch their dicks. That's what I came for.
What a fucking waste. Public play spaces are dying and the men who use them most don't even know it.
Posted by Firethorne at 6:23 PM
Saturday, October 18, 2008
My friend, Ravn over at Nightwatcher seemed taken by my story about my ex-partner so I thought I'd share a few things about my first and longest relationship.
In a nutshell, I met Ex on a gorgeous September Saturday afternoon in 1978, went home with him the next Sunday evening, and stayed until 2001. While I don't think we were/are soul mates, we spent the entirety of those 23 years in a relatively harmonious state. We've both been asked many times why break-up after 23 years, especially when - at first glance anyway - there was nothing wrong with the relationship.
Well, that's not exactly true. There was plenty wrong, most of which we simply didn't bother to acknowledge or talk about. By the time one of us wanted out (me), there was no repairing it. However, if I were to boil it down to a single, easily digestible, reason, I'd say that the 41 year old man I had become could no longer live with the decision made by the 18 year old boy I had been.
Leaving Ex was the hardest thing - to date - I've ever had to do in my life. The process was an extremely long one. I probably knew I wanted to leave the relationship 10 years before I did so which is proof that the human capacity for discomfort is vast. My father has a saying: never believe your own press clippings. Ex and I had extremely good "press" as gay couples go. Our 20 year age difference made us a successful intergenerational couple. Our racial difference made us a successful interracial couple. And, of course, as the years piled on, our longevity made us a shining example of a long-term gay couple. Everybody thought we were perfect and with all of that affirmation, who actually needed to work on the relationship?
In October 2000 while returning from a visit to see an amazing collection of Faberge eggs, I told him I wanted to end the relationship. He was surprised, shocked, hurt, and angry. Later, he was amazingly understanding and, on some level, it was a conversation he had been expecting since he found himself shacked up with a man 20 years his junior in 1978. Because of his profession, we remained together until the middle of the next year, sleeping in the same bed right up to the night before we moved to separate residences.
If we had stayed together, we would have just celebrated our 30th Anniversary. I sent him a letter I'll share here:
My dear Ex,
It's Official! We've been friends for 30 years! Certainly, in 1978 we both had expectations that things would turn out differently, but we are still friends and still looking out for one another (even with a little distance) - proof that not a one of our 23 years together were wasted.
I sometimes wonder where I would have wound up musically had I not met you. Would I have come to know a Mahler symphony (with more than a passing familiarity with at least three of them)? Would a Stokowski Bach transcription be one more thing I passed up on my way to the choral section? Would it all have sounded as good without a big brown mug of coffee from the industrial-sized urn?
Thank you for your wonderful music collection, your encyclopedic knowledge of symphonic music, our Friday night trips to Tower, and the open heart with which you shared all that with me.
Every weekend, I sing for 700+ people. Over the years, I was lucky enough to sing at the Vatican, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and other venues large and small all over DC. Along the way I amassed a small stack of recordings of which I am very proud. Somehow or another, I've actually managed something of a career as a singer in Washington!
Thank you for your encouragement when I was starting out - braving the rats in Old Towne, driving to upper Northwest late every Monday night in the Paul Hill Days, and dodging water-wielding Princes of the Church. You have always, always been my best and most loyal audience. It meant a great deal to me then and now to know you were out there, applauding for me, and giving me one more reason to do my best.
Remember how taken Stef used to be with my being a "WSS Girl"? Somehow a brief business English class in secretarial school cracked open the door to my own writing talent and how much I truly love expressing myself through words.
Thank you for being my best editor and encouraging my first efforts. I will never forget 1981, the year you gave me so that I could go to school unencumbered by a job or financial worries. That year established a rock solid foundation for my entire working life and benefits me right up to this very minute. How could I have known that a one-year certificate program would lead me to such adventures – Supercomputers, Charity Balls and Jackie O., Georgetown University, and now ringside seats at the meltdown of the entire f'ing world financial system!
Finally, thank you for our friends – Fred and Wilma, Jasper and Juliette and, most especially Tom and Jerry, who have been with both of us at not only our best times, but also some of the worst. We could not have asked for or been blessed with better, more supportive men in our lives. Thank God we were smart enough not to divide them up with the Christmas decorations! Seriously, could we have been luckier?
The year we lost Mitch and Murray to AIDS is never far from my mind. Your support as I helped care for them - more than two months of nightly trips to sit with Mitch and later weekly trips to Pennsylvania to be with Murray towards the end - made it possible for me to be the best kind of friend I could be to them at the end of their lives. All these years later I am moved by the care and love you extended to me during the resulting depression.
23 years is a long time and the hot little 18 year old with big hair you picked up at MCC is fast approaching 50 - I don't have the memory to recount your every kindness to me, every moment of teaching, every impact on my life. I want to be sure you know that they are remembered in my heart – each and every one - whether or not I can readily call them to mind.
Happy 30th Anniversary, Ex.
Thinking of you always with love and gratitude,
Yeah...30 years is a long, long time . . .
Friday, October 17, 2008
Before I bring on the guys . . .I'm wearing someone else's underwear at the moment. They're black, kind of stretchy, trunk style briefs and just about my size. I was putting in some laundry this morning and noticed a pair had been left in a machine. I washed 'em again and dried them (I'm a pig, but a clean one). I also realized that as soon as I saw them and noticed the size, I'd be wearing them today. And I am. Makes me a little horny. I wonder who the owner is? Anyone I've noticed in the hall? Maybe one of the hot military boys from Walter Reed?
I wonder . . .
This week's search was "classically handsome." Paul Newman (RIP) was as beautiful a young man as there ever was and Sean Connery just has "it." The last offering, young Hamdan, is the grandson of an Emir - perhaps not "classically" handsome, but damned irresistable, yes?
Posted by Firethorne at 4:41 PM
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I was commenting on a post over at My Confessions this morning and got shoved right down Memory Lane. My buddies, HB and Bigg, are experiencing something fairly common to intergenerational couples - petite angst based on the older partner's history and the younger partner's reactions thereto. HB's a little put out after witnessing Bigg's reaction upon encountering (after 25 years) a man who could be described as his First Great Love. On the face of it, I'm inclined to side with Bigg and think maybe HB's overreacting. Followers of My Confessions know that it would take the Second Coming itself to dislodge HB from Bigg's #1 spot - and there's some doubt about that!
About that trip down Memory Lane, though - my ex-partner and I spent 23 years together with a 20 year age difference between us. When we met, I was 18 and he 38 so I spent a good bit of time as The Child Bride (a favorite nickname of our friends).
Some memories from those 23 years are clearer than others. The one that tickled my brain while reading Bigg's blog stands out, if for nothing else, as an embarrassing reminder of one of my less stellar moments as both a partner and seemingly rational human being.
Before Al Gore invented the internet, back when gay men actually had to leave their homes to meet each other, one way of making a connection was through local and national pen pal services - paper, stamps, the United States Postal Service and a phone number if you were lucky. Email? Still in Mr. Gore's imagination. Some of those services were through national magazines like Stars and others were local with some guy, for a membership fee, collecting and compiling personal ads into a newsletter, Xeroxing it and mailing it out to subscribers. Before meeting me, Ex (that's what we'll call him), belonged to one of the local pen pal groups. By the time we met, he had been using this service for quite a while, and we even socialized with a couple of guys he met over the year or so he subscribed to the newsletter. Domestic bliss made short work of that subscription.
Several months into our relationship, Ex was cleaning out some old files. I saw he was going to toss the pen pal file, and I asked if I could take a look before he did. The newsletters made for interesting reading. It was fun to follow how some men changed their ads from time to time, tops turned to bottoms, dick sizes increased, weights fluctuated, and men used words to figure out how to be appealing without the benefit of the very visual technology we take for granted today to get certain needs attended to.
As I mentioned, we socialized with a couple of guys Ex had dated before me, and I especially enjoyed reading their ads - mostly because they contained information I might not get over white wine and quiche (the preferred meal of the average suburban gay male circa 1980). There were also ads for guys he had hooked up with. He freely shared some of those hook-up experiences, some of which lead me to conclude that - Internet or not - dating was just as sucky an experience then as it tends to be now. One of his favorite stories was about a guy he called Long Dick Albert, a young Black man a year or so older than me with a 31 inch waist and a penis of significant - practically useless - proportion. They visited a couple of times and despite Ex's fascination with Albert's knee-length pecker, things never progressed though Ex said he was a nice enough guy who really enjoyed older men. (The photo is the infamous Long Dong Silver - to my knowledge Albert was never captured on film.)
I have to say this - no penis is so large as to be useless. One simply has to adjust his technique. That, however, is for another post.
Anyway, I'm happily reading and tracking Ex's ads over a period of time. They didn't change much, but when they did, it sure got my attention. At some point, his ads changed from "Any Race" to "White Only" and stayed that way until his subscription expired. Now what kind of news was that for his 19 year old, African American, Child Bride to stumble across? Considering we were both an intergenerational and an interacial couple (he's White), I could only conclude in the rapid, non-thinking way that teenagers do that I had been sharing my life with a racist.
There's no excuse for what happened next except perhaps at 19 I was kind of stupid. Okay - really stupid. I lit into the poor guy - still one of the gentlest men God ever put on this planet - as if he were George Wallace baring the doors at Ole Miss. How Could You! If I had Known! You're A Racist! WTF!!?!?! I went on at some length before Ex could get a world in edge wise - shouting at the top of my well-trained classical singer's lungs. I gesticulated, fussed, fumed and made a general handwaving idiot of myself, determined not to hear an explanation for his betrayal.
When I decided there was enough for the Academy to go on and calmed a bit, through gritted teeth, he offered his explanation for his Klan membership. (Never said I wasn't a Big Ole' Drama Queen.) After listening for a minute, it was clear he was not a racist and the noose in the bedroom had other uses. His explanation, in fact, puts a kind of weird perspective on the subject of "type" and "preferences" as we consider our attractions to other people.
Remember Long Dick Albert? Well, it seems that in addition to his obvious gift, he was also blessed with the kind of body hair common to African American men who may not be as racially mixed as are many American blacks. Albert was a darker guy with very short, very tightly curled pubic, chest and under arm hair and Ex just didn't care for that. I, on the other hand, with plenty of white folks climbing my family tree, have straight, very loose - yea, even silky - body hair. Poor Ex who had only come out moments before we met and seconds after leaving his marriage, didn't have enough experience with naked black men to know that we didn't all come in the same flavor.
And that, was that. And I felt silly. He told that story at least twice a year during our relationship and, I'm happy to say, we still giggle about it on occasion today, even with new men in both our lives. Even with my 49th birthday coming on like a freight train.
I'm all growed up now and disinclined to tantrums. Wouldn't do me any good, anyway - Ollie would simply leave the room, pour himself some Merlot and, if it got real stupid, suggest I hop into my car and finish the scene in my own living room. Smart guy, my Ollie.
I'm certain my friends at My Confessions have it all figured out - in addition to a great blog, it's a fantastic love story.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Many years ago here in Washington, DC, my former partner and I helped establish and run Washington's gay youth group. The group we led was the immediate precursor of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistant League (which does an incredible job serving Gay, Lesbian and Trans kids) as well as groups established around the same time for "kids" in their 20s and 30s.
In it's heyday, The Youth Group, as it was called attracted upwards of 40 kids on a Saturday afternoon. For a couple of years, a local bar owner opened her bar on Saturday afternoons for our kids, provided someone to sell the kids sodas and let our budding DJ spin records. The meetings usually involved a "rap" session (folks of a certain age will remember when "rapping" had a meaning not connected with the hip hop music movement), followed by dancing or, to my sometimes horror, a raid of 30 noisy gay kids descending on the local McDonalds which was popular both with tourists on Capitol Hill and Marines from the local barracks.
I still keep in touch with some of my kids including one I consider my best friends and with whom I have lunch every week - we've done that for better than 20 years.
One of the things I remember most clearly about the group is that parents generally didn't know where their kids were on those long-gone Saturday afternoons. A few were "out" (it was 1980), but most of them slipped out of the house and into downtown DC from the burbs to spend some time with gay friends and be themselves before heading back home to their other life.
Meet Kaz Felix-Hawver - a local 7th grader who describes himself as bisexual and is pretty outspoken about the rights of Gay folk - all with the approval and support of his parents. You can read the whole story here.
Frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about this. A part of me is just thrilled to see this kid take a stand. He is the logical evolution of all those kids I spent Saturday afternoon's with 30 years ago. Yet, there's a queasy little part of me that recoils a little when I see that 7th graders are general "pre-teens" which I think means 11-12 years old. Despite the fact that I can look back to my earliest memories and know that I was gay, I'm a little concerned that a "pre-teen" - whatever that means - is able to label himself that way. And, until I read this article and actually thought about it, I was a big proponent of the world (and parents) understanding that children are sexual beings long before reaching the age of consent.
I suppose I'd just like to see Kaz be a kid for a little while longer, unconcerned with having to defend statements or take positions. I think back to my 7th grade year back in the Jurassic era and this kind of stuff just didn't come up.
Guess they're putting something else in the Cherrios these days!
Anyway, times have changed and this little guy is proof and I wish him luck. The article is worth clicking to if you have a few minutes.
Friday, October 3, 2008
In this case, Hot Men Friday. My taste in guys is rather catholic (small "c"). I love the male of the species - everyone from barely legal skinny twinks, skater bois, and saggerz to bears, cubs, daddies, and the ever elegant silver foxes . . . and whatever falls between! It makes for a very interesting porn collection, believe me.
I like 'em in all colors, sizes, shapes, flavors, and ages. My sympathies to those encumbered by a "type."
Herewith the Mosquito's First Hot Guy Friday:
Photo from Syd P's flickr files.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Up until August, my partner and I had two large dogs. We had to put our girl down in August and our boy has been languishing, both with loneliness and - we found out last week - lymphoma. Neither of us believe in extraordinary measures and ruled out chemo for him. So, we planned to see the illness out and, when the time came, we'd put him down ourselves (hubby works in animal research).
Thinking that yesterday was the time, we prepared ourselves, dug a grave, and amidst many tears administered the first shot - a narcotic to calm him. The second shot - a big one - was to knock him out completely before giving the third which would finish things. Often, they're gone before having the third drug.
Maybe it was seeing the fresh grave.
Our boy never went to sleep and as we waited for something to happen, a big thunderstorm blew in, soaking us, the dog, and turning what would have been his grave into a swimming pool.
Doggie seemed none the worse for wear - if anything those drugs seemed to mellow him right out. He seemed to rally just a tiny bit despite our jumping the gun. We'll still lose him, but I'm not complaining about having him around for a little while longer.
We'll file this one under "NOT QUITE YET"
Rumor has it the presidential candidates return to DC tonight to place their votes on the bailout package. Good for both of them.
Posted by Firethorne at 3:34 PM
Monday, September 29, 2008
I'm reading Diary by Chuck Palahniuk, the same guy who wrote Fight Club. In each chapter of Diary, he gives something of a weather report. The chapter I read on the Metro coming home pretty much sums up my mood this evening:
Just for the record, today's weather is nervous disgust with tentative apprehension.
My personal weather also includes some discouragement. As a Washington native, I have observed for some years that the people who are supposed to watch over us - make the laws, spend the tax money, etc. have no particular interest in doing their jobs - not when there's an election to be won, a corporation to be courted. I've watched as laws have passed that serve not the American people, but some corporation - Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Food, and all the other special interests that have just a few more bucks than I do.
With no small amount of open-mouthed amazement, I've seen vast numbers of people in this county vote - twice (sort of) - for an administration that in no way serves their interests. The sleight of hand that got this president and his gang elected will keep historians busy for a long, long time. I wonder if they'll ever find what flavor Kool Aid caused good, honest people to get caught up in diversionary issues like flag burning, abortion and Gay marriage, convinced that those sins touched their lives so directly that they would - as is now being proven in every news story - give up their futures and the futures of their children.
And you're damned right I'm apprehensive. For the first time in my working career, I'm fearful of what could happen with my job. Trade assocations depend on members and my members are dropping like dominoes. We depend on them to buy our educational products, attend our meetings and conventions, pay our big membership fees, and tell us what they want from the big 7-11 on Capitol Hill. Another round of layoffs (I've survived two) isn't out of the question considering the madness of the last couple of weeks.
No bailout, no rescue legislation for me.
As long as I'm bitchin', I might as well mention how utterly disappointed I am that my candidate isn't willing to put his balls on the line and come back to DC to vote one way or another on the bailout. I get it - if it all goes to hell, he can confidently say he didn't back it, and if all goes well, no harm no foul.
It's foul alright.
For now, I'm trying to figure out how to head downtown every day as the pit in my stomach grows larger.
Mood: Discouraged and pissed