Thursday, September 30, 2010

Old men

 I'm gonna love you forever. Forever and ever, Amen.
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather,
As long as old women sit and talk about old men...
--Randy Travis

Coming back from the gym to make dinner --avocados stuffed with shrimp/crab salad, grilled cheese on English muffins--- I saw my old landlord making his way into the garage of our fourplex with a box of tools. He is in his eighties, a bit slow with two strokes behind him, a wiry old Italian guy whose son has been the actual landlord for me in my 18 years here. But Joe still comes by to make sure things are ok and that "the kid" is doing things right.

I like chatting with him. He's got that combo of raw common sense, lots of useful skills, easy good manners and a ready laugh. He brought a big pincers to fix a broken branch on the lemon tree, saying that the ragged edge looked ugly, and complained about how messy the backyard had become. We talked about hoarding, about his wife's relentless project (63 years in the making) to get him new clothes, about the right way to prune a tree, about getting old, about laughing.

Guys like him make the world work.

Pleasure for the color blind

Maybe it's because I am red-green color blind, or because I still carry the muted colors of the Original Thirteen Colonies and the Loyalist Dominion in my memory, but the purples in California still amaze me. Tree in front of a local house.

And two accomplishments and/or good news. I finally got to doing a thorough wash and clean of my kitchen floor, with two coats of Holloway on it. Looks very nice.

And the computer store had me in to check my dying hard drive from the crashed laptop and they think we can save all my documents and pictures and most of my emails. Fingers crossed. And checkbook at the ready, of course...

Ghosts of ghosts

When I was about this age, this poem seemed to speak directly to me. I did not know that almost a decade later it would still be all too much mine.


by Oliver Cooperman

At fifty-three, I have lived long enough
to see the ghosts of my failures
and understand that they are not
separate from who I am.

Despite my early promise,
I have been so slow
in understanding life.

My jokes don’t seem funny anymore.
I’m tired of myself
and restless with others.

Looking for glimpses of
the master’s hand
behind the curtain,
I clumsily stumble forward,
praying for grace

Marking time tomorrow

I arrived in SF to live on October 1st, 1991.  Two decades younger. Two and a half jobs ago. Three lovers ago. Tides and seasons have come and gone since then. As the old hymn says, "Time, like an everflowing stream, bears all her sons away."

Malesoul 36

4.30 AM

Because it was so hot and muggy yesterday, I left all the windows open, even when I went to bed last night and it was cooling down. The comforter keeps me warm enough.

But now it is pre-dawn, I guess, and the sound of the fog horns from the bridge are filling my bedroom through the open windows. Darkness, solitude, and the slow slow bass boom of the horns. One sort of high sound, then after several seconds, the answering lower one. Over and over. I tried to go back to sleep, but then memories began flowing into me, the way the fog does, enveloping what it meets. Like memories, even distant in time, the horns, though miles away, echo full voiced in my ears. Beautiful, but melancholy. If you are feeling alone in the dark, they will not lighten that feeling.

Veni Carthaginem, et circumstrepebat me undique sartago flagitiosorum amorum. When Augustine remembered his life it took the form of Confessions. (When he lay dying, at 75, Rome had fallen and the Vandals were besieging and burning his city.) Malcolm Muggeridge, another later life convert, called his Chronicles of Wasted Time. When I was down at Bill's on the weekend, I read a faded framed wisdom saying his mother had hung on the kitchen wall, God gives us memories so that we can have roses in December. She was, by Bill's account, a resolute optimist.

Memories can be sweet or searing, memories of the same moments, depending on the state of the rememberer. How I would title my own life story at this point, I have no idea. Richly varied? Or a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing? A lot of the time I really have little sense of who I am. A lot of who I was, but not much of who I am. When I have to, I go around and act like me --as far as I can tell-- but there's not much conviction in it. Maybe someday I'll be someone again.

There go the horns. It'll be light soon. Time, perhaps, to double-brew.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010




The 1989 film, Abyss, always captures my attention, even though it's by James Cameron. Of course, it stars Ed Harris, reason enough to watch it, or anything (still waiting for Riders of the Purple Sage to come out on DVD) ...But I watch the ending to see if I can contain my sentimentality. And I always lose, as I have just now.

Plot? "A civilian diving team are enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species." Harris plays Virgil Brigman, sort of a driven hydronaut, and his estranged wife is Mary Elizabeth Mastroantonio. They are on this deep sea mission together and sort of get back together and then he goes off into the deep to save the ship and she thinks she's lost him after just finding him again. I always cry, too.

But on the brink, he is rescued by kindly and superadvanced aliens who have monitored their underwater texting, Virg and his wife, and discover their spousal attachment ("I love you, wife.") and decide for that reason not to destroy the otherwise violent and dangerous human race. Did I say Abyssmal?

And in the end everyone is rescued and saved. Harris and Mastroantonio meet on the wet surface of the huge otherworldly craft and she says, "Hi, Brigman" and he says, "Hi, Mrs Brigman" and they smile and kiss and I always have tears running down my face. Alan Silvestri's score helps.

I know, turn in your man card, Ex cathedra. But I can't help it.

Murder postponed

Early in the month, I contemplated insecticide, but haven't yet wiped out the wasps. They are living now inside the lantern by my kitchen door. When it is very hot, some of them come out and start trying to cool the nest down with a lot of wing flapping. It's kinda touching, actually. Now they are all hatched and grown, so they come out and sit, most of them, on the cool side of the lantern. As long as they don't sting me, I may leave them alone and let nature take her course with them.

Lost and found...and lost.

Emily Dickinson's poem, below, gave the title to an old theology book I found as I was going through my library, weeding things out. I memorized this poem years ago, with good reason.

    Finding is the first Act
    The second, loss,
    Third, Expedition for
    The "Golden Fleece"

    Fourth, no Discovery—
    Fifth, no Crew—
    Finally, no Golden Fleece—

Although I am no fan of the easy moral equivalence that passes for "taking responsibility" in these days, it is pretty clear that when you are feeling hard done by, it is easy to place all the blame on the shoulders of the other guy. But Jason, well, as Emily points out, he has his part in it as well.

A little known fact: Finding is the first act is one of those very rare Dickinson poems that cannot be sung to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Out of the gait

After I worked out today --abs, obliques and quads-- with lots of sweat, I was wandering home near sundown and found Thomas sitting with his laptop at the newish public space at 17th and Market.

I sat down, we started to gab. Spent a lot of time on the history of the devil and hell. He had watched a History Channel piece on it and had lots of questions. As often happens, it turned into a lot of laughing.

And given the spot, a river of men walking by. It amazes me how different people's gaits are. I first started noticing it years ago when, after living in Toronto for 10 years or so, I realized that I could often pick out American on the street just from how he walked. One of my favorite George W Bush moments was at the 2004 convention, when he said, "People look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called "walking."

A 19th century man who knew how to walk!

Along with looks, obviously --face and frame--,  and voice, I get a sense of a man from how he walks. I don't think there's a "right" way for a man to walk, but there sure as hell are lots of wrong ways! A lot of men do not seem to be at home in their skins. Last Friday night we sat there and watched the crowds gather for the Gay Porn awards. For some reason, I recognized a few of the lads. Were I a superficial man, rather than one of deep feeling and sensitivity --ok, calm down; stop laughing---, I might have enjoyed that. Even though I still have one man on the brain.

2 twu, 2 twu!

Pretty funny.

Religious, not spiritual

From the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the botafumeiro. Real religion, Catholic style. No "spirituality".

Marketing -101

Funny business card ad on the fridge at my friend Bill's place down in the San Joaquin Valley. I think Signor Boscolo might have considered putting commercial prudence ahead of the public interest...


Waddaya know

In setting up my new laptop, I thought I should have a Picasa photo site to store photos on. You can use to make animated gifs or slideshows on the blog. When I pressed the relevatn button in Blogger, I found that I already had one...and it had stored every photo I ever put on Ex Cathedra. (Just a small sample below of sexy men, angry Mohammedans and religious icons...and Obama-as-Urkel, who is none of the above)

Plus, it suggested I might like to be Picasa friends with three of whom is a patient of mine! How that connection got made I don't know and I don't like it.

I realize that being online makes "privacy" sort of a thin and funny concept. I justify this by the fact that I have a small readership. Yesterday I spent a very pleasant afternoon with a very nice fella from Alabama, in town for Folsom Street, who has been a regular reader of my blog. When I mentioned that I had had dinner with my ex on Friday, he asked if that was the guy I had just broken up with or the longer term guy from years ago. You realize that once you start talking about your own life on line, there are people who actually pay attention to it!

But the link to my patient's Picasa account, that one threw me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Old words

When I was a kid in Catholic school, we used various editions of the Baltimore Catechism to learn the religion. One of the learning aids on prayer was to remember that it had four parts, and the mnemonic PART contained them: petition, adoration, reparation and thanksgiving.

It has struck me more than once that some of the best and most necessary language between human beings was not wholly unlike this, that the most important things we have to say to one another, however we stammer them out, are: Please. Wow. Sorry. Thank you.

And if you'll indulge me, one of the best videos she ever made.


I am saving this space today for all the things I'd like to say but can't or ought not, or have said too often and are tired and unconvincing, or things I'd wish I said but didn't and for things I've said that I shouldn't or wish I hadn't.*


*I am being serious and not snarky.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Down in the valley

First try at blogging from an iPhone. Down in San Joaquin Valley near Merced w my friend Bill ("the Other Old White Dude") and Mauli the wolf-dog. Out of wireless range but ATT 3G network thru the phone.

Very dark nights in farm country. Eerie quiet but for dogs barking and the whistling of the nocturnal trains. Soul feels too close.

Friday, September 24, 2010

God might not hate me quite as much

Well, after a series of setbacks, I have another laptop. (Man and car still gone.)  Fingers crossed. Got quite a good price on it, so we'll see if it stands up. Soon we'll be back to more naked men and angry Muslims!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God hates me

2010. Yuck. I lost my car. I lost my man. Now my laptop has crashed...literally. On the floor. Fitful blogging til I get a new one.

Monday, September 20, 2010

From sea to shining sea

Late on a warm sunny New York afternoon. Walking my bro's dog. Visiting the newest event in the neighborhood, Eataly, at 5th and 23rd: Whole Foods meets Bloomingdale's, alla Italiana. Huge food emporium with every kind of Italian mangiable you could ask for. Got my host some Piedmontese skirt steak and a few bottles of vino. I'm out tonight with another brother and his family.

Then early tomorrow morning I am out of the house, down to the subway, one stop to Penn Station, the LIRR to Jamaica, catch the Airtrain to JFK,* then fly back west, arriving home from home in the early afternoon. Good Lord willin and the crik don't rise. This year has not been the high tide of my life, and SanFrancisco holds some big challenges for me, but I still will be happy to smell the Pacific air. I've had some of the best moments of my life in that city.

*While arguing with my brother about which of us is the nicer guy --both of us want the other one to be that-- he asks about my departure plans. On discovering that I was planning the subway, train, airtrain route, he insisted I use his company's car service, gratis. So I go to JFK tomorrow in a limo. I guess that solves the argument.

It's been an ok trip. My mom is greatly improved from the spring, both physically and mentally. It's nice to recognize her again.

And I did NOT got down to the site of the proposed abomination of the Ground Zero UnMosque and either spit, pee or throw pork chops. I am a civilized man, after all.

Hidden worlds

When I first went to live in Italy, I discovered that the outside of the house was designed to hide what was inside. Given Italian history, no surprise. But what you found inside was often surprising. New York can be that way. Grimy buildings with industrial elevators can hide beautiful lofts. Or in the case below, in the backyard of my brother's brownstone, this pond of koi.

No balls

Gay American expatriate Bruce Bawer, who writes bravely on the dangers of Islam in Europe, takes on Camille Paglia today for wasting her energy on fluff like Lady Gaga, joining the hordes of other public American women who are loudly and grandly ignoring Islam's treatment of females.

At the risk of becoming a Johnny One Note --I hear a voice saying, "Too late!"-- I assume that their ladylike discretion about this issue is not due to an exaggerated reverence for religion, but an exaggerated reverence for darker-skinned people.

I sometimes think that Martin Luther King is at the origins of America's downfall. He made it so uncomfortable to be anything other than worshipful and supportive of blacks, that a huge chunk of white America --which was once mostly all of America-- can now no longer even think unpleasant things about darker-skinned peoples, even if they are manifestly barbarians or savages.

When I was working in the AIDS field back in the 80's and early 90's, there were a lot of lesbians involved. Very PC girls. Always ready to explode into a lecture. But they had a kind of ball-less fecklessness when it came to darker-skinned peoples. Two incidents from those bygone days:

At a workshop on Caribbean black culture, the issue of wife-beating came up. The very black male presenter was non-chalant about it. My blond lesbian colleague did not jump up and down and scream, as she would have if a white man had suggested it was not a good idea to make a new hire of a pregnant woman who would be heading off to maternity leave in three months. (I once said that and screaming followed). I asked her why she did not protest. "It's their culture," was her multiculty pathetic reply.

At a regional gathering of AIDS orgs, it was the turn of the Native Peoples* org to host the event and they wanted to put on an aboriginal healing and blessing ceremony for the hundred or so assembled activists. You could feel the frisson amongst the participants. Then one of the Noble Savages got up to start and announced that of course no menstruating women could join the circle. Not a peep from the fire-breathing, man-eating Sapphics or their straight sisters. After all, when it comes to darkies, "It's their culture" trumps everything. I left the hall and had to go outside because I could not contain my rather raucous Schadenfreude-infected laughter.

I have no idea why Paglia has not taken up the cudgels against Mohammad's sons, but the racial trope seems to me to be the only explanation for why her decibel-loving sibs have mostly shut their mouths so far about a system for which a glass ceiling would be a miraculous improvement.

*This was in Canada, a country far advanced in self-erasure, so they were actually called "First Nations". Amazing how you invade and conquer and then cede psychological and moral priority to the people you beat out. Liberalism: the ideology of Western suicide.


I just discovered that Freud's duo, love and work as the foundation of humanity, is actually Erik Erickson's who quoted Freud...but no one can find the original. Still makes sense though, even if Sigmund didn't exactly say it.
When love and work go well, a lot of what makes the world good is in place. When they are out of whack, the planet wobbles on its axis even more.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Every time I come back to NY now I get another story or a picture about some family member.

Below, a shot from 1926 of my maternal grandfather, who worked for Fox Movietone News, with the first woman to swim the English Channel, American Gertrude Ederle. I showed the pic to my niece and told her that her father looks like him. She opined that I look like him. True on both counts. Interesting still to see the ancestors, your own face in an earlier version. Nice pants, eh?

Since famous English convert to Catholicism, Cardinal Newman, has been beatified by the Pope this weekend, I should add my grandad's conversion story, just passed on to me by my mother. Pop Pop, as we called him, was a Scandinavian from Chicago and a Lutheran. He and my Irish Catholic grandmother had to be married in the church sacristy because he was a heretic. Years later, he started hanging out with the local guys at Oney Smith's bar on Quentin Road in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn, where the family lived. These were almost all Irish American Catholic guys. On Saturdays, they'd all head down to Sheepshead Bay to go to the beach and drink beer and gab. And on Saturday afternoons, they'd go to the local Catholic church there for confession, once a regular Saturday afternoon ritual. It impressed Pop Pop and he forswore his Protestant ways and joined the Church of Rome. Irish Bars as Tools of Evangelization! In later years he'd take me to Oney Smith's after Mass on Sunday...for a coke. I spent happy times with him and his friends there. So whenever I pass a bar with an open door and smell the beer, I think of him.

Hillaire Belloc had a line, "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there's always laughter and good red wine." How do you rework that for Schlitz or Rheingold?

And this masterpiece of the future ExCathedra...talking and pointing even then.

Turning of a year

A year ago today, my Dad passed away after a long and difficult illness.

Dad & Mom 1952

 Summer 2005

He was one of the Greatest Generation.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Back on Brokeback

I read Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain a couple of years before I saw Ang Lee's film version of her stunning piece. Both her craggy words and his open-skyed images have often moved me to tears. A great American love story. Someone (an Italiana?) has put some of them together, along with Pat Metheny's piece, Spiritual.

Meteorological confusion

I am told that it was foggy in San Francisco this morning. Here in Sasquatch the whole day was bright and sunny. Yet I felt like I was in a fog. Still do. I hate it when that happens.

It is rare for me, but today I felt it: it's as if I am watching myself live and move and have my being, talk and write and cook and such, but I am watching someone else. As if I am a kind of passenger on myself rather than myself. A little dissociative, to use the clinical lingo.

Had a success with my nephew, though. Been waiting for him to be the right age to give him The Dangerous Book for Boys. He loved it. Uncle Ex Cathedra is happy about that. He's making a go-kart and lobbying his parents for a Swiss army knife.

And physical exercise continues to give me what mental stability I have. Another trip to the local gym to work off a lot of dissociative steam. I told my mom how strange it felt, that the bookish introverted kid I was, now as an older man, bets his sanity on barbells! Not what anyone would have expected. She agreed. Not what anyone would have expected; could be my epitaph.

Sasquatch sunrise

Some of my dreams have an obsessional quality to them, where I keep going over and over the same ground, trying to solve some kind of problem. The night that is now ending ---the sky is lighting up, I can see it through the window-- I was having to find out how soldiers succeeded in inventing chocolate chip cookies by turning bullets into chocolate chips. No matter how closely I observed the process, the moment of transformation eluded me. I think that the white solider turned black during it, too, but I am not sure.

And speaking of obsessions, I was actually awake a little while before my other obsessive mind kicked into gear and the usual companion of my thoughts showed up. A brief and welcome respite.

The bedroom is still quite dark. Small window close to the floor because the eaves shape the room. It creates a rectangle of light and color against the blackness: golden sky on the top half, thick immobile cloud on the lower, and to the left and superimposed on these, the silhouette of a large tree.

Bad photo "sent from my iPhone"

Crickets chirp. A dog barks. My brain switches on. Another sunrise in Sasquatch. Coffee soon.

I am hungry for what I am always hungry for.

Even through the darkest phase
Be it thick or thin
Always someone marches brave
Here beneath my skin

And constant craving
Has always been.

kd lang

Friday, September 17, 2010

ill literacy

My travel book this trip is a novel by a political commentator...he was actually a novelist first, I think...whose worldview much matches mine. One difference, however, is his rampant heterosexuality. He clearly likes women, not only physically, but as three-dimensional people. I get his female characters as characters, but when he waxes appreciative about their corporeal characteristics, he loses me. One detail in particular about "soft glossy red lips and perfume like bubblegum or candy"...These things excite him, arouse him.

Not in a million years.

Sometimes the very minority shape of my erotic drive strikes me, my utter tone-deafness to the music of the sexual feminine. But I am nonetheless very...musical.

From five senses

down to one. Seeing words on screens.

Thank God it's so hard to remember all five sense together at once. Even getting close to that...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


A reluctant woman to her new lover on Torchwood: "The trouble with love is, once it gets you, you're at its mercy forever."

Nice workout at the gym. I am grateful I can still do what I can do.

Dinner tonight. Sinful. Thick rib lamb chops, grilled to perfection. Heirloom tomatoes cut with fresh mozarella, with olive oil and salt, roasted red and yellow peppers. Fresh corn on the cob drenched in butter, salt and pepper. New York cheesecake. And Bandit Pino Grigiot, cold.

Mom's new dog finds me irresistible. I am covered in puppy spit. No complaints.

Talking with mom tonight about my dad. And one of my brothers, a man made of far more than he lets on. Grateful tears for both. 

11 pm. A rare event for a San Francisco dweller: a summer thunder storm. Here in New Suffolk, it can rain any time of the year, and thunderstorms are not uncommon. Back in SF, the rainy season ends in spring and does not start up again til fall. And thunderstorms are rare at any time. But tonight, as I am sleeping in my dad's old room right under the eaves of the house, the wind is blowing in waves and the thick rain is crashing against the roof; you can almost hear every drop crashing, pounding loud, but you know you are safe and dry. Occasional flashes of light, then a few seconds later, the roll of the thunder. Again and again. Wonderful. You wish it would never stop.

Makes me want to make a thunderstorm of my own, if ya know what I mean.


Sasquatch morning

A perfect, perfect morning: clear sun, warm but not hot, bay like glass, smell of salt water, good coffee, walking the dawg through the streets of a quiet hamlet full of memories. If there are idyllic places left, this is one of them. A comfort to my bruised and weary soul.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Actually the name of the little miniburg where Mom lives is New Suffolk but Californians have a hard time pronouncing it correctly. Population 345, a small bud of land less than one square mile, on the south shore of Long Island's North Fork, about 90 miles east of Manhattan. The North Fork is actually a little like California, like the Napa Valley but flat. Settlers came across from Connecticut as early as 1640 and the oldest house dates from that decade. In the Burying Ground are people who were born while Shakespeare was still alive. Once given over to potatoes, it is now covered with vineyards.

My grandparents started spending part of summer as renters here and so did we as children. Forty years ago my dad bought land and built a summer house. He and mom had looked at the site but there was no beach, just a drop off into Peconic Bay, so they passed. A few weeks later, they thought they'd give it another look. In the meantime the Army Corps of Engineers had dredged a channel and dumped all the sand onto the shore of the lot. Voila! a beach. Still there today, held together with jetties. In the late 90's my sister bought a larger home next door, where Mom now lives.  It is the one place all of my siblings and I consider home.

The late summer colors are clear and sharp, the weather still warm in the day and cool at night. It is a very East Coast ecology. Unlike the awesome Pacific coast, where mountains and cliffs push right up against the ocean, here it is pretty flat with just a soft muted rolling, forested and farmed right up to the edge of the Bay. Very different from the spectacular San Francisco Bay where I now live, but quietly and calmly beautiful nonetheless, almost modest.

After Toronto and New York, I am glad to be in this little place.

View of Robin's Island, from the front porch


I think I am starting to actually hate the place that I used to think of my town and center of the world. Granted, the center of the world part was long ago. But coming back to New York used to evoke warm feelings from me, even in odd moments. In the mid-90's I once flew back from SF to La Guardia. It was a muggy August, and I had the good luck of going from the terminal right into an air-conditioned cab. As we got into Manhattan, I could see a lot of garbage around and the cabbie, who spoke English, told me there was a sanitation strike. Arriving at the corner of 8th Avenue and 23rd Street, I paid him and opened the door. Immediately my nostrils were assaulted with the combined smells of urine and rotting meat. You know my first thought? "I'm home."

Today I flagged a cab and when I was about to put the suitcase on the seat with me, the cabbie, some Indian or Pakistani guy whom I could hardly understand, waved me to put it in the trunk. So I went around and put it in the trunk, closing it firmly. When I was getting back in, he started to lecture me about closing the trunk too hard. I exploded. Who the fuck does this cabbie, and a foreigner at that, think he is? And now he expects me to pay him to take me somewhere. I left. I think my exact words were, "I don't need this shit. I'm outta here." I got the luggage out of the trunk. And slammed it shut.

The next cabbie was some kind of Muslim, with his woven cap and scraggly beard, reading the  paper about Koran burnings. But he gave me no guff and took me where I wanted. I think I am actually starting to hate not only Islam, but Muslims. In the end, wherever they gather in numbers, don't they always bring trouble?

Then I popped into a sandwich shop to get something to eat on the bus. The guy at the cash register, ethnicity unknown but definitely not American, could hardly make himself understood by either the customer ahead of me or me. And when I got on the bus, he'd given me the wrong sandwich.

This kind of reflection and emotion makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. We have been fed the line that any disapproval or lack of enthusiasm about foreigners or people of color is the worst possible sin. Part of the liberalism that makes Western suicide not only palatable but, to those who are erasing themselves and their civilization, even noble. Apparently Cardinal Kasper has been bumped from the papal entourage now heading for England when he opined, quite rightly as far as I can tell, that entering London was like "being in a Third World country."

As for me, it does not make me happy to go to a place I once thought of as home find myself increasingly a minority among strangers and many strangers whom I imagine consider it their divine mission to replace me and mine. No sane human would be.

I think I might hate New York.


The second name of New York used to be Nueva York. Perhaps not anymore.

Two good things: on my way to have a drink with my sister and brother in law last night, I walked past a new gym opening up on 14th Street and an enthusiastic young staffer named Michael gave me a free pass. Nice. Plus, my brother has replaced the big couch in his guest room with an actual sofa bed, a big one. Nice.

Today: Starbuck's for coffee, take the dog for a walk, go to the gym, catch the bus out to the east end of Long Island to the little burg where my mom lives. Hoping any episodes of SV&U ---being Small, Venal and Uncharitable--will be rare. But Mom has already started in. On the phone she announced that this would be a working visit for me, cutting back on my gym trips so that I can cook. We'll see. Without those hours away, I might cooking more than vegetables.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Angry Muslims, continued

and dickless Westerners, continuing. Bruce Bawer is painfully eloquent.

The real story here isn’t about Jones but about the rest of us
and what we’ve allowed to happen to our civilization since 9/11.

Boingo without the oingo

I am at the Toronto airport, using the Boingo system to access the internet.

Three days in my old city. I lived here from 1974-1991. Lotsa major life events in those 17 years. Spent most of my time with my two old friends, great guys who are having a rough time...not with each other (35 years together) but with age and life and institutions. Best food in the world. Hospitable plus. Weather was great. We laughed, commiserated and ate and drank, and given our ages now, took naps.

One unnerving thing. The guys related a story from 1988 where I wound up driving them to the hospital in the middle of the night when one of them had acute back problems (that led to surgery). Trip to the emergency room, etc. I have no recollection of this incident at all. Nada. Nothing. Even as they related it in detail. Blank. 

Canadians have never had the independent streak which made Americans Americans. No revolution. In fact, many folks in eastern Canada are descended from American Loyalists who headed north back into the Empire after 1781. They assume government intervention even more than our current USA nannies do. I tried to get a medium rare hamburger at a restaurant in my old Church & Wellesley neighborhood. Sorry sir, we can only serve it well done. Health code. San Francisco may not be far behind. Thank you, Mommy, for protecting my health, even at the expense of my trivial adult autonomy. You know best.

It was interesting to be in another self-destructing bilingual country but where the second language is not Spanish but French, at least officially. Like my experience with New York now, returning to a very familiar place like Toronto, I find myself not feeling at all at home there. These places may be the futures of their respective countries, but for me they are the past.

Well, off to the gate for the next leg.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quoting from an unnamed source

"This episode reveals the gulf between us and the Islamic world. Despite all our talk of universal values, tens of millions of Muslims, in countries not only hostile but friendly, believe that a sacrilege against their faith, like the burning of the Quran by a single American oddball, justifies the killing of Americans. What kind of compatibility can there be between us?
What do we have in common with people who believe that evangelism by other faiths in their societies merits the death penalty, as do conversions to Christianity, while promiscuity and adultery justify stonings, lashings and beheadings.
And what does it say about our ability to fight and win a “long war” in the Islamic world if our war effort can be crippled by a solitary pastor with 50 families in his church who decides to have a book burning?"

Jitter without the bug

It started maybe thirty years ago, when I was living in Toronto (where I am heading tomorrow). I began to dislike leaving home. Not agoraphobically, as in leaving the house. But going on extended trips out of town away from wherever I was living. Even to return to my Original Thirteen Colony turf and my family. Even on a vacation. I got anticipatory separation anxiety about leaving my den.

And it's been that way ever since. It's not about flying. Hell, tomorrow is a 9/11 anniversary and I am flying on that very day. I flew to NY for the Thanksgiving after the original 9/11 (I wasn't scared; I was hypervigilant --as was everyone--and  angry and hoping some Mohammadan tried something so I could rip his throat out and feed it to pigs*.) No, it's about separating from the familiarity of home. I get nervous stomach, tense, tight in the chest, etc. Once I'm on my way to the aiport, though, it's gone.

This trip tomorrow will be different. B and I used to keep track of each other's plane travels. And he sometimes took me to or picked me up at the airport --airport transport is something he inexplicably hates to do; it was a special favor to me -- or at least at the BART station. We had a very technologically thick relationship. Exchanged 8500 emails in three years; that averages out to a dozen a day. He really used to be my companion on them, via cellphone (calls, texts, pix) and online plane tracking. Used to be. One of a seemingly endless series of used to be's. Now I will feel alone on this trip in a new way, by myself again.

Not knowing of my reschedule, he sent me a card last month, wishing me a good trip home. It was not long after the last time I had seen him. In that, well, frankly, traumatic context it was very confusing, but it was intended mostly as a gesture of good will and kindness, typical of him. He used to call the psychology office where I worked The Upside Down World. For me nowadays, everywhere is that.

Anxiety is certainly one of the issues that people bring to work on in therapy. Along with its buddy, Depression. Hey, Gilgamesh and Enkindu. Siegfried and Roy. Anxiety and Depression, the BiPolar Buddies. Translated from the clinical, that duo becomes Fear and Sadness. Along with Anger and Joy, a basic emotional foursome of the human soul. One of the reasons I think I find the emotion of jealousy so revolting is that is composed of anger, fear and sadness all in one. No wonder it feels like you're drinking green battery acid.

Most current therapy is aimed at symptom reduction. Anxious? Well, we'll give you a pill to calm you down. Depressed? Same thing. I have no beef at all with meds, in the right context, but I am curious, in my Jungian way, about what the emotion is doing there. Sadness, fear, anger are not pathologies. These so-called "negative emotions" are part of the human psyche and they have a function and a reason for being there. People with congenital analgesia, who cannot feel physical pain, are in constant danger of injury and death. Their bodies leave them clueless to danger. Same thing for those who only wish to feel positive things. Clueless. Emotional analgesia seems no more desirable, really, although I understand the impulse!

While managing the tough feelings, I work on finding out what role they play in a person's character, their homeostasis, etc. Sometimes it is just a question of an essential component getting out of proportion. With anxious people especially, if they can ramp it down a bit they can see how a certain kind of vigilance, anticipation, looking out for things, actually helps to make their lives work. Maybe my anxiety helps me to make sure I get everything together that I need for a trip? To paraphrase Jung, a symptom is an ambassador, not necessarily an enemy.

Well, time to get out my pre-trip list of stuff I have to take care of, bring, etc. Non-sensate types like me, especially when we're a bit stressed...unless there's a list, I'll arrive at the airport without my passport. (I've done that.)


*New York is where my immigrant ancestors landed and lived and made new lives as Americans. I went to visit the great gash in the earth where the Twin Towers were. I saw it right in front of me and I could still smell it, even from blocks away. And the walls of notes and pictures were still up, with the faces and the names, fathers of families, girlfriends, police and firefighters. I will never forget it as long as I live. Perhaps that explains some of the rage that fills this blog.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Rock of aging

I had lunch at the Cafe de la Presse today with my friend, the Gnostic bishop Rosamonde. Worth a posting of her own some day. A mix of deep spirituality and resolutely on-the-ground good sense. We usually spend a few hours talking politics, sex and religion. Very Ex Cathedra. I was a half hour late, something I very rarely am. Been a bit off me feed of late, including dates and times. Thought today was Friday most of the day.

Walking back down Market Street, --great sunshine--I thought I'd stop in at the Apple store to see if I could find a decent earpiece with microphone, with a wire, so I could talk without holding my new iPhone up to my ear. Well, as soon as I walked into the jampacked store, I realized that I was old. Was there anyone over thirty in there?

I went looking for the phone thingy and a young man from the staff asked if he could help. When I explained what I wanted, he took me over to the Bluetooth earphone section. I allowed as how I had already lost two Bluetooth pieces and they were too expensive for that. His answer, Yeah, my dad lost his while he was gardening. I could tell by his tone that he was trying to be culturally competent and make the old man feel at home. Kinda sweet, actually.

But the young Applets, well, they're young!

Well, the message is clear

UnMuslim Global Post-American Prez Obama and Unspeakably Arrogant Foreign Imam agree with the General formerly known as BetrayUs:

Whatever you do, don't upset the Mohammadans.
It makes them mad and they do bad things
and it'll be your fault.

Strangely similar to advice an enabling mother might give to her children about how to handle a drunken and abusive father.

A gay man living in Europe, who knows what it's like when Islam becomes a societal force, has wise things to say.


My rescheduled trip back East is upcoming this weekend. I am still not at all looking foward to it. Is there such a thing as de-anticipation?

I am very fond of my family --not something you can count on for so many immigrants to San Francisco, immigration being for many a form of running away, often precisely from kin. The first anniversary of my dad's death will happen while I am there. Thick clusters of memories about that, some awful, some awful and sweet. And my mom's health, though improving, remains an issue. Low tide in lots of places. My siblings will be their usual fine and stalwart selves. Trouble is, I am feeling neither fine nor stalwart. Well, maybe they will help me snap out of it.

All too close to home. When you see or hear your life in movies and pop songs, does that mean your are archetypal or a cliche?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Overheard on TV

Guy in bar to Ziva about his lost girlfriend: "Well, aside from the fact that we were totally incompatible, she was perfect for me."

The tenured shall inherit the earth

I spent a lot of time in academia. I guess I used to be an intellectual. Several degrees, PhD included. I loved learning and I loved teaching and I was damn good at it. My colleagues, however were another matter...Here is a painfully accurate picture of life amongst the brilliant, or at least the conventionally overeducated. William F Buckley said he would prefer to be ruled by the first five hundred names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. Amen.


Both personally and professionally, the male dyad fascinates me. My recent failed attempt certainly provides motivation for research; I am a Five after all and take comfort, real or illusory, in information.

But I watch and consider all kinds of men who are two-by-two. I just did a quick survey in my head of varieties of iconic "buddies" (a word known in English only since 1850; probably a form of "brother"), mythical, historical, fictional, in literature and in popular culture. I looked for two guys who formed a strong bond which was the dominant bond in their lives or in the story, who are not usually related by birth and who are not overtly sexually involved. The immediate commonalities kinda leap out, but the variations and pecularities are just as fascinating.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu, David and Jonathan, Jesus and Peter, Jesus and John, Sergius and Bacchus, Gautama and Ananda. Achilles and Patroclus.

Cisco Kid and Gordito/Pancho. The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Marshall Dillon and Chester. Boss and Charlie (in the terrific Western Open Range). Seth and Sol (in Deadwood). Starsky and Hutch.

Batman and Robin. Kirk and Spock. Jack and Daniel (in Stargate SG-1). Tod and Buzz (Route 66). Jim and Blair (TV show The Sentinel) . Sam and Dean (brothers by birth) in TV show Supernatural.
Captain Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones (in Torchwood) of the few whose connection is also erotic.

Holmes and Watson. House and Wilson.

Laurel & Hardy. Martin & Lewis. Abbot & Costello.

Where is Jan Sobieski when you need him?

In these days when our rulers and teachers and pundits and betters in general, including a general, are trying to get some incredibly frustrated ordinary Americans not to burn a book the fuels and legitimates ongoing murder and carnage in the name of a "religion", and the foreign-born imam who holds the US responsible for 9/11 gets op ed space to trumpet his plans for a Ground Zero Victory mosque...the day after 9/11, in the 17th century, the Muslims and their Caliph tried one last time to take down the West by direct military action, aka State jihad, against Vienna. The Polocks saved our asses.
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