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About 4 years ago I lived with my godparents, Ruth and Harold. A few months prior to my moving in Harold had been diagnosed with a pretty aggressive cancer and as they are two of the most important people in my life and both in their 80’s I offered to move in and help out where I could. Towards the end of Harold’s life he was in bed full time with Hospice folks coming in and out to help take care of different things.
As Harold began to swing in and out of consciousness the amount of care he needed became an around the clock job. Eventually, day and night became of no use or matter to him and so, being on his schedule, it had little to do with my life either.
Sometimes at night, after Ruth would go to bed, there would be this eerie moment of quiet normalcy about the house. For a few hours, around 10 or 11p.m. we were all doing what everyone else was doing. Ruth and Harold would both be sleeping and I would go off into the TV room and try to unwind a bit before I went to bed. I’d try to zone out on the TV over a few beers or some of Ruth’s Wild Turkey that I found hidden up high in the cupboard above the stove.
As I’d watch TV at night I learned to divide my attention in half, so that I could relax a bit. Half of me would watch television and the other half stayed tuned in to Harold’s oxygen machine, making sure it was always a consistent rhythm. That oxygen machine became a strange and soothing lullaby of sorts: as long as I could hear it fill and release I could relax and with my bedroom across the hall from Harold and Ruth, that machine became the song that put me to sleep.
One night in the TV room I ran into the show, Six Feet Under, that I had never heard of before. I caught an episode in the middle of the third season and was instantly swept away. It quickly became the only consistent appointment I kept. At 10p.m. on Thursdays I would settle in to catch the latest episode. The show absolutely fascinated me. It was a strange show that came at strange timing on a strange subject and it felt like a strange mirror that I held up to see a bigger picture than I would have found on my own, in that little house. And every once in a while there would be a bit of dialog that would unexpectedly break me, make me cry, making more room for what I was in for.
Harold passed away about a month after I moved in and I ended up living with Ruth for about 8 months after that (in which time I met Violet, stories to come). Harold died in a sort of peace that I would not have imagined possible.
Every once in a while I’ll re-watch an episode or two, just because it is such a great show and in an admittedly strange way, I start to miss the characters now and then. Last night I watched an episode and heard one of my favorite exchanges between David and his dad (his dad has been dead for a few years at this point). I heard it for the first time about a month after Harold passed away.
(both staring out of a sunny window in David’s house)
Dad: The point is right in front of your face.
David: Well I’m sorry but I don’t see it.
Dad: You’re not even grateful are you?
David: Grateful? For the worst fucking experience of my life?
Dad: You hang on to your pain like it means something, like it’s worth something. Well, let me tell you, it’s not worth shit. Let it go… Infinite possibilities and all he can do is whine.
David: Well, what am I suppose to do?
Dad: What do you think? You can do anything you lucky bastard, you’re alive. What’s a little pain compared to that?
David: It can’t be so simple
Dad: What if it is.
After my parents split up my brother and I lived with my mom almost full time. We saw dad every other weekend until he moved to Chicago, when visits turned into bi annual events. I think I was around 11 when my newly single mom decided to go back to school for her master’s degree. This decision was of such a super human nature that even in my selfish little world of me-me-me I recognized how incredibly hard my mom worked, around the clock, with almost no help, continuously and somehow, most of the time, with a smile.
Monday through Friday she woke up, got herself together, made three lunches, got my brother and me together, drove us to school, drove herself to school, taught for 8 hours, picked us up, fed us, checked our homework, went off to her night classes, came home, did a few things around the house, and then went to sleep only to do this all over again in just a few hours. For years.
My mom did this for years until finally, one night she was on her way to her last class. She didn’t make a very big deal about this but she had mentioned at the beginning of the month that her last class was the last day of the month and that we’d start having more time together in the evenings. It was one of those things where I was confused by her casual attitude about graduating. In all of the movies I’d seen about someone graduating there was always a big celebration with cake.
I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to pull together a large celebration but I knew I could get a cake. I saved a little bit of my allowance for a few weeks and the second mom closed the front door, saying, “wish me luck, this is it” I ran upstairs, grabbed the few bucks I had squandered and told my little brother to go get his bike, that we were going to the store.
We pedaled the 7 or 8 blocks to the local grocery store, went in, found what we needed, paid and raced home. At this point in my life I had never tried to bake anything, let alone follow a recipe by myself but saw that all I needed to do was add some oil, a few eggs and some milk. Easy.
I poured the mix into a bowl, cracked in two eggs, two tablespoons of oil and grabbed a measuring cup for the milk. The box said to add 1 3/4cups of milk. But the way it was written, or should I say, the way I read it, it looked like it said 13/4’s. I did think it was odd to ask for 13/4’s of something but it just so happened that I had just learned how to convert fractions in math a week earlier. Confident of my ability to keep going, I rationalized this strange measurement request with the fact that these recipes were written by adults-for adults, because adults would easily know how to convert fractions. So, even though it did cause for a brief pause, it wasn’t that weird, it was just a grown-up thing, and it wasn’t going to stop me.
I did the math and added 3 ¼ cups of milk, mixed it all together, greased a cake pan, poured the mix in the pan and put it in the oven at 350. The package said to stick a toothpick in it in 20 minutes.
20 minutes later I opened the oven, stuck a toothpick in the watery pan of chocolate goo and reread the box to see if I had missed something. I saw this addendum at the bottom of the box that said, “oven temperatures and times may vary due to elevation” or something like that. And although that made no sense to me, I was sure it did to adults and decided to give it ten more minutes.
10 minutes later it was just as gooey. I decided to turn up the oven.
10 more minutes later it was still gooey but now, at 450 degrees it was also bubbling and spitting like chocolate hot lava. Clearly something wasn’t right, it was just too watery. So, I grabbed a handful of Bisquick, tossed it in and stirred a little bit.
5 minutes later I opened the oven door to find a huge chocolate balloon that had swollen so high it had hit the top of the oven. It was much bigger than I had intended but it would do.
I grabbed the toothpick to see if it was done and when I poked it the whole thing collapsed quite dramatically. I pulled it out of the oven and was now holding a smoking black mass of petrified bubbles in a very, very burnt cake pan.
A second later the smoke alarm went off which freaked the dog out enough to hop the fence and run like hell down the street while my brother was screaming and threatening to call the fire department.
I caught my brother and got the phone away from him right before he had dialed that last 1, sprinted three blocks down to catch the dog, opened up all of the windows and doors in the house and went back to the kitchen to see what I could salvage. As defeated as I felt, the idea of my mom graduating from college without a cake made my stomach ache. I chiseled the cake-brick out of the pan and proceeded to frost the different rock-hard chunks with lemon frosting, my mom’s favorite. Once the oven had cooled I did my best to clean it out. I was actually a little worried my mom would be mad at me at this point and so decided to clean the whole kitchen.
By the time my mom got home my brother and I had cleared off the dining room table and decorated it with three plates, three forks, three glasses of milk, a handmade card that my brother made, a fresh bouquet of dandelions and daisies in a small cup that my brother had picked and one awful, inedible cake with a tub of vanilla ice cream sitting next to it.
She walked in the door and said, “I’m home! I’m done with school!… What’s that smell? Is something burning? What is this? Did you do this for…” and as it all started to make sense to her rather quickly, I burst with watering eyes and said, “I totally ruined the cake, mom! I don’t think we can eat it” She grinned, sat down by a plate and said, “Oh my gosh, is that lemon frosting?! My favorite!” She grabbed a fork to take a bite. And as it crunched in her mouth like a piece of gravel she said, “I think it might have needed a bit more milk, honey” and we all started to laugh for our own reasons.
My brother gave her the handmade card that read “Congratulations of your Graduation from your Degree” which included some serious spelling issues, but the sentiment was clear. My mom’s voice started to wobble and crack as she said, “You two sure know how to make a graduate feel special. Now, who wants some of this amazing food?”
We didn’t eat the cake, we couldn’t. But all three of us ate lemon frosted ice cream with some of the proudest faces you have ever seen.
I know you know that I love Cher… squared. And what I love about her is an endless list of fabulousness, which I assume you would also be catching onto at this point. So, last week she was on Ellen and she was… FABULOUS.
One of the infinite reasons that I love her so much is that she is a mega-super-star-goddess-diva and she is just so real and frank and Cher about it all, all of the time.
I’m fairly convinced that the way she presents herself on talk shows and interviews is probably much the same as what you’d get as a close friend of hers over coffee. She’s not full of herself and never tries to fool you about who she is. She doesn’t do that I’m-rich-and -famous-so-I’m-deeply-profound-and-wise thing that you see so much of. She’s just Cher, which is obviously more than enough. Watch. Learn. Love. Enjoy.
Happy Friday-eve. Happy Cherday!
Lately, at some point in a discussion of gay rights (and the lack there of) someone will inevitably tell me to be patient, and I’m sick of it. Um, no. I am at zero patience in attaining equality as a human. Not at this point. Not with all of the information we have in our hands. Not in 2008. No way.
I asked Violet the other night how come we haven’t seen a surge in historian suicides in the last 8 years or so. I mean, these people spend their lives researching and documenting the past so that we can learn about and consider, in times before us or in places that we don’t personally exist, how things have happened, what has worked and what didn’t. My guess is that they also have a sneaking hope that this information will be considered in present time.
So, either most of us aren’t considering anything that we have not personally experienced or the current majority of the collective social conscious isn’t taking the time to truly consider what legal, emotional, and social ramifications they are taking the time to empower and impose on their queer co-workers and sisters and aunts and friends and children and dads and neighbors. Maybe taking this time would not leave time to catch the latest episode of Desperate Housewives? Or maybe a part of our humanness is that we are doomed to continue to learn the hard lessons over and over.. and over regardless of what we do or don’t know.
But I just don’t see anywhere else in our recent US history where landmark rights were/are being handed out and then yanked away like they have been with queer rights.
I mean, when we finally decided that women weren’t as dumb as we had previously thought we gave them the right to vote. And to our pleasant surprise the political system didn’t explode and so we never reversed this decision.
Abortion is extremely contentious and is constantly under attack, but thus far the right to make that decision for our own body has held strong enough since the day it passed (not without constant maintenance, but point is it became federal law and still is).
We eventually realized that when people with different skin colors marry each other or share the same drinking fountains or go to the same schools that the sky doesn’t start to collapse on top of us in large deadly chunks and so we legalized it all. And interracial marriage and desegregation have never been legally re-revoked.
Now granted, these examples took a lot of time and diligence and pain staking social activism and created massive social divisions and did not happen easily or overnight. I am not trying to make them look like simple feats. They weren’t and they aren’t. The thing is, measure 8 and the like are just more of the many examples of the legal attempts to take human rights away from a minority that had JUST BEEN GRANTED these rights a few months earlier. AND IT PASSED. And this seems to be the theme with ‘gay rights’ and I am wondering why this is happening and how this is legal?
Ok, getting off of my circular tangent here to make a point: I am concerned about how we are going to try and challenge all of this, in general, in the big picture. I am looking at history and I see that things like waging war work sometimes. I can see that protests and strikes have brought light to and have created a platform for change. I see that unexpected civil disobedience tends to make news and is a good way to get air time.
But looking at this last presidential election, the one where a black man with a funny name, that most people had never heard of before, accused of incompetence and all sorts of suspicious no-no’s, somehow, caught our attention. And one by one we started to listen to him and more of us than not liked what he said above all else. What he had to say trumped the powerful potential detriment of his skin color, because let us not be fooled and dismiss the power of the color of our skin in this country. I am looking at history and I am seeing a new wave of how to create political progress and I just saw some of the previously mentioned tactics getting booed and voted out of Washington.
No more dirty campaigning. No more half witted pretty faces. No more slander. No more wasting time trying to correct outrageous mistruths. No more bullshit distractions. No more yelling back and forth. No more name calling. No more manipulation. No more us versus them.
So, before my last statement, I want to make clear that I am not suggesting or superimposing a right and wrong for anyone else here. I am just talking about me. Plus, I think that variety paves smart progress. So, for those of you who are standing outside with signs and for those of you who are creating social chaos through radical gestures and for those of you who are yelling or not saying anything- I totally respect you and your decisions, so long as your brain and your heart were in on the decision making process.
But, for now, I will come out and say that you will not find me protesting at a Mormon church, nor will you find me publicly pledging my allegiances on myfacespacebook, nor will I go on strike for my rights as a homo. And honestly, I still don’t know what to do about things like measure 8 or the guy who threatened to kill me over eye contact a few days ago. But I am looking at our political history and our political present and I see a trend that I like. Pushing and shoving works sometimes, but it doesn’t last and the backlash seems to be a grand call for something different. Em left a well written and smart comment on my last post that included, “Many people who voted for Barack voted for republicans in other elections, but he explained to them why they needed to vote for him.”
How simple. How reasonable. How peaceful. How authentic. And it worked.
So, my gay agenda of now, as I will openly admit to having one, is to be willing to explain over and over, to anyone, until I am blue in the face, why I think I deserve the opportunity to be treated with the same decency and rights and respects and protections as anyone else. And I’ll just see where that gets me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am totally pissed off and encourage everyone to do what feels right. And I do love a good fight now and then, it just seems to me that it’s time to try something new.
Is it just me or should we be deeply concerned about the state of our social and political systems when chickens are gaining rights faster than homos? I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that chickens have had a long standing solid movement: Everything wants to taste like them, they have had Jim Henson and other prominent members of Hollywood as a long time advocates and promoters, and when you think ‘free range,’ what do you think? You think CHICKEN. And folks, that is some serious branding. So, good for chickens. I am just as passionate about their rights as the rest of California, as we should be. All animals deserve a level of justice and fair treatment, right?
But still, I am deeply bothered by the election results in California (and elsewhere but I am trying to focus on my upsets one and a time here). And after spinning things around and around in my head for a few days I think I’ve found the root source to my deepest place of concern:
Until Tuesday I had assumed that my struggle for equal rights was being funded, mobilized, battled, and batted down by this abstract entity of cross-toting, religious zealots that spend their time yelling to the sky in tongue while mobilizing against the queers with grand venom as a mere distraction to get people like baby W in office. BUT I had never ever, ever considered that the folks that are creating measures and voting against my ability to receive basic human rights were the blue people?!? The liberal, Obama supporting, Whole Food shopping, shade-grown coffee drinking, cloth grocery bag toting, recycle everything to save this planet for our children promoting, freer range chicken voting folks. Ever.
So when I realized this my head did a few flips and when it fell back onto my body and reattached itself I had a few new things to consider: I am obviously a tad more naïve than I would wish to admit; I obviously need to refocused my eyes and no longer safely consider the Obama bumper sticker as an auto-ally; it is unhealthy to ignore how disgusted I am with the people’s ability to abuse my life through government power; and I no longer have any clue as to who I am up against.
Measure 8 (and the other few homo-hating measures that I will emotionally sort through later) was a political hate crime. AND IT PASSED. AND I AM PISSED.
Although I was jumping up and down on Tuesday night, screaming YES WE CAN at the top of my lungs with the rest of the ecstatic Seattleites who took to and over the streets until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I woke up, read the results and was totally pissed off. I kept asking myself, “who in the world?” until eventually the question went from rhetorical to literal. And that’s when the hurt began to penetrate.
I have no solutions. No plan. No idea where the emotional, community, political and legal repair will come from. Per my usual, I put on a thicker skin before I read the results, just in case, but that sort of blow cut right through to that soft little place that can usually take it easy because it is well protected and rarely gets hit. And it was shattered.
Wednesday morning I read the results of measure 8, hopped on the same old crowded bus to go to work and ended up crammed in next to a man, who, after bumping into another man at a jolted stop, began to rant and rave with a sweaty, red face that he was going to kill that fucking faggot if he so much as looked at him again- that if any homo looked him in the eyes he’d kill them. He repeated this chant several times, and each time he would emphasize louder than the last, and I mean any fucking homo.
I know he saw me as he got on the bus and as he continued to yell I continued to tuck into myself as much as I could, to prepare. I kept anticipating him punching me in the back of my head each time he said it, and I mean any fucking homo, but it never came.
It was 8:45 a.m. in Seattle Washington, one day after Barack Obama was elected president, and I was stuck on a crowded bus, on a stopped highway, next to a man yelling about how fucking queer motherfuckers are all deranged animals, and it is our human duty to kill deranged animals. Don’t let them suffer. Fucking kill them.
He was one of 100 people stuck on that bus and he was the only one that said a word that entire commute.
I was terrified.
And all of a sudden every little abstract attack on homos that I constantly but safely read about on paper or online was now standing right next to me, threatening to kill me over eye contact.
I believe in Barack Obama. I have renewed faith in the voice of the people and our political system. I feel empowered by our ability to apologize to each other and the whole world with our decisive presidential decision. And I am deeply humbled, in a very literal way, that we, the people of United States of America, as a collective, want greater things, want hope and change, prosperity, freedom and the ability to believe that anything is possible right now… for some.