Sunday, March 31, 2013

An article by a friend

Honey, we’re praying for you

My parents can't handle the fact that I'm gay, and we'll never agree on religion. But I've found acceptance anyway.  BY AARON HARTZLER

(Credit: Lincoln Rogers via Shutterstock)

“Honey, we’re praying for you.”
This is how my mother ends every email she sends me. Typed in italics and peppered with smiling emoticons, Mom’s electronic missives are as precious as she is — as earnest as the Empty Tomb Cake she bakes each spring on Good Friday. An edible replica of the cave where Jesus was buried after dying on the cross for our sins, the Empty Tomb Cake is the standard passion week centerpiece in my childhood home. It is frosted in gray, surrounded by a field of green coconut grass, and finished off with a Hostess Ding-Dong as the stone that was rolled away. On Saturday night, after everyone goes to bed, Mom steals into the kitchen under cover of night and rolls the Hostess Ding-Dong away from the door of the Empty Tomb Cake, then retouches the frosting. On Easter morning Jesus has risen — right there in the middle of the kitchen table.
As sweet as Mom’s loving messages and born-again baked goods appear at face value, there’s a silent threat in “we’re praying for you” that sticks in my craw. I came out to my parents the first time at the age of 19 when I was kicked out of the Bible college where my dad taught. Since then, their ongoing prayers for my “deliverance” from “Satan’s lie of homosexuality” have continued unabated in the presence of my four younger siblings and the unsuspecting wait staffs of Olive Garden restaurants nationwide. Indeed, my parents offer a never-ending stream of supplication to a God they’re certain is testing them with a son who has been blinded to the righteous pursuit of a female partner by the penis-shaped temptation of Satan.
“We’re praying for you” isn’t a harmless afterthought. It’s not a pleasant wish for my general well-being, continued physical health or financial security. No, my mother’s “we’re praying for you” is an italicized baseball bat, a silent plea for God to change her oldest son from something abhorrent and abominable back to the fresh-faced young man who dated the captain of the Bible college cheerleading squad, before it was discovered he was also sleeping with the captain of the boy’s soccer team.
Of course, Mom wouldn’t say that. But then, as far back as seventh grade, she and Dad have rarely been very articulate when it comes to the issue of my sexuality. My next-door neighbor at the time Wes Green, on the other hand, had no problem calling things exactly what they were.
I was the accompanist for the junior high boy’s choir at my Christian school back then, and one afternoon as I returned from the piano to take my seat with the baritones, Wes snickered a single word under his breath:
It wasn’t loud enough for our teacher to hear, but the group of boys sitting around us laughed while my cheeks burnt with embarrassment.
We’d moved into the house next door to the Greens several weeks prior so Dad would have a shorter commute to the Bible college. Our new backyard held a sparkling swimming pool, while the Greens’ featured an old El Camino the color of primer with four flat tires. Wes and I were both new students in our seventh grade class the next week. I was coming from a Christian school across town, but this was Wes’ first time at a private school, and he was being held back.
“Wes is dyslexic.” Mom had whispered the word. “I want you to be a good example of Jesus’ love and help him out as much as you can.”
Mom sent me outside to shoot hoops with Wes each time he asked if I was home, often interrupting my piano practice. Due mainly to my lack of skill, basketball bored me. I began hiding when Wes rang the doorbell. Mom would find me in the garage cowering next to the deep freeze, or behind the dryer in the laundry room. Finally, she gave up on forcing me to go outside, and began inviting Wes to come in. One afternoon he walked into the living room and found me sitting on the couch looping a slender, metal hook through a spool of silky string.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Crocheting,” I replied.
“Where’d you learn to do that?”
“My grandpa taught me.”
After 40 years of smoking ended in emphysema, my mother’s father had retired to his La-Z-boy recliner with an oxygen tank and a penchant for string craft. Papa spent hours cross-stitching elaborate pictures of a realistic Jesus above Bible verses rendered in complicated script while watching Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant on television.
Watching TV at Nanny and Papa’s was a big deal. Mom and Dad had gotten rid of our television at home when I was a little boy because I cried when they turned off the cartoons. “Cartoons are nothin’ but violence,” Mom would say. “All that hittin’ and kickin’ doesn’t please the Savior.” So, at the age of 4, I couldn’t tell you much about Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner. I could tell you how to crucify a man.
Wes crucified me at school the day after he saw me crocheting by shouting two words across the seventh grade boy’s health class: “Aaron KNITS.”
Even the teacher laughed, and I knew I was doomed. “You knit?” he said as if Wes had announced I had grown breasts.
“I crochet!” My retort was high-pitched with horror, but even as the words left my lips, I realized my mistake. It was fruitless to attempt this distinction in a group of young men who considered Funions delicious and flatulence funny.
The next day in choir when Wes called me a fairy, I felt the same hot frustration well up inside of me, and that night I cried as I told Mom and Dad what had happened. Dad decided it was time to take action. He straightened his tie and calmly announced:
“We’re going next door to pay the Greens a visit.”
“No! That will just make things worse,” I protested, realizing too late I had not thought this out very well at all.
Mrs. Green was startled to see me standing on her porch with my parents, but she smiled nervously and let us all in. Their whole house smelled like fried food, and Mr. Green appeared in his full beard and indigo work shirt, his name stitched across the front. Once we were gathered in the living room, Dad led us in prayer, asking God for guidance, while I tried not to throw up from anxiety. Telling my parents what was really going on with me had been a terrible mistake, I decided. Then, Dad said, “Amen,” and it got even worse.
“Aaron, why don’t you tell us all what happened at school today.”
I couldn’t look at Wes, but I could feel his eyes boring into me.
“Wes called me a fairy,” I said.
Mr. and Mrs. Green both begin to chastise Wes, but Dad held up his hand in a call for silence. “Is this true, Wes?”
Now it was Wes who turned crimson, and to my astonishment began to cry. “Aaron thinks he’s so much better than me,” he sobbed. “He’s always bragging about getting better grades than I do in science and English.”
Wes was right on both of these counts, and it dawned on me as I sat there watching him cry that he was right about one more: I was a fairy.
That’s the tricky thing about bullies: They’re often telling the truth. It’s not what they’re saying — that you’re fat, or black, or feminine — it’s how they’re saying it; it’s the hate behind their words, the fact that they see the truth of the situation as a problem.
Wes made tearful promises not to call me names, especially not that name. Again Dad prayed. Again we marched across the driveway, and that night as I slid between clean sheets in a house that smelled of Pine-Sol, and nutritious food, and righteous indignation, I thought about what had just happened.
Mom and Dad also had a problem with the truth of this situation. Instead of saying, “Son, we love you no matter what,” they decided to march next door and let it be known they agreed with Wes: that even the idea of me being gay was a huge problem. Such a huge problem, it couldn’t be said out loud. Ever. So they out-bullied the bully into silence. Sure, Mom and Dad were distressed about my pain at being picked on, and certainly their conscious motivation was love for me. Still, it was what my parents didn’t say that hurt far worse than the slur Wes had flung in my direction during choir practice.
By addressing the surface situation of a seventh grade squabble instead of the silent elephant crocheting in the corner, Mom and Dad unwittingly colluded with Wes. All three of them offered an unspoken message that I heard loud and clear: “Being gay is not an acceptable option.”
Several years later, when I finally came out, Mom broke her silence on the subject. “It would be easier to go to your funeral than to know you are going to spend the night with that man.” This was the fevered pitch of the bullying, the loudest it ever became. Since then, the noise has subsided along with any meaningful communication between us, buried beneath the shallow serifs of her email italics — cheerful updates about the weather in places I’ve never lived, and people I’ve never met, at churches I’ll never attend.
Growing up means learning to hold two opposing views about the same thing. It’s not that I’ve stopped loving Mom and Dad — I haven’t. It’s just that I’ve accepted the fact that they may be as powerless as I am to change. Turns out unconditional love is a two-way street, so I protect myself with a few well-placed guardrails — one of which is the relative distance of communicating with Mom mainly by text and email.
Not long ago, one of her messages arrived in my inbox while I was on the phone with my youngest brother. New York had just legalized gay marriage, and he was planning his wedding to the man of his dreams. Turns out two of three boys in our family are queer as a football bat. With odds like these it would appear that either the Almighty is ignoring my parent’s prayers on purpose, or the Mormons are worshiping the One True God.
My brother groaned when I read him the email. “Mom and Dad’s anniversary is coming up. What are you going to get them?”
“Not sure, but whatever I decide I intend to make it myself.”
“Is the 39th anniversary coral or jade?” he asked.
“Neither,” I said. “I’m pretty sure, it’s ‘crochet.’”
Aaron Hartzler is the author "Rapture Practice" (Little, Brown), a memoir about growing up gay in a born-again Christian family. You can find him trying to get Amy Grant's attention on Twitter at @aaron007.

Note: I went to high school with Aaron at a ultra-conservative, private religious school. I can't say that I knew him very well, but we did spend a bit of time traveling and singing in a small choral group together. I knew his younger brother Josh better, as I played soccer with him. His autobiographical book "Rapture Practice" (Little, Brown) will be coming out this next month in which he relates his personal story of growing up gay in the middle of the United States, in a conservative religious family, attending a fundamental Baptist private school.

I appreciate this article and can relate to it in so many different ways. We all come from somewhere. We all become who we are. He continues to be an inspiration to me. Thank you, Aaron. Your words and story matter, more than you might ever know.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Best Picture goes to...

"Overnight tonight, someone projected the words, “Marriage Equality Now” across the front of the Supreme Court building. My friend Murray Lipp, who runs the awesome Facebook page Gay Marriage USA, alerted me via email, so I thought I’d post this now."

Thanks to Murray and to @rachnyctalk, a UK “Artist-Curator-Creator from Liverpool,UK now in NYC. LGBT activist & part of a bi-national couple @jennyguns fighting for the repeal of DOMA” for the image!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A tight curve in the story

For some reason, my mind is really resisting writing here today, but I said I would have an update about myself, so I am forcing myself to share what is happening in my life and it will probably come on in some jumbled, messy order, but so be it.

Last Saturday, I worked in the morning and then checked into the hotel, due to upcoming snow storm that was being predicted. I planned on staying there over the weekend and working each morning while avoiding having to drive in the unpredictable and less than desirable blizzard that was looming. After completing my shift and tidying up my kitchen, I decided to run some errands before the snow started flying.

I ran to the bank, paid some bills, stopped by the Post Office and picked up my laptop which had been forgotten at home. The weather was still clear and cold, so I grabbed some BBQ at Gates for myself and friend and went to visit him at work. It had been quite a while since I had seen David, so we had a great time while eating and talking. It was good to catch up but I lost track of the time and next thing that I know, the snow was coming down outside the window. We said our goodbyes and I got back on the road to head back to the hotel to settle down and get some rest for the evening. I took I-70 East and headed back towards Blue Springs. The weather was getting worse but I drove carefully and slowly incredibly thankful that traffic was still so light.

The next thing that I remember was an inverted face of a male paramedic leaning over me and speaking in a loud voice. I was very confused and in a lot of pain. Blackness. I came too in bright light, a lot of pain, and something clamped around my neck and head. I could feel something piercing both of my arms and it felt like my legs were both broken at the femur. Noise, light, pain. Blackness.

I opened my eyes again and saw my Mom and Dad in the emergency room with me. I couldn't really talk and I felt all types of electrical equipment strapped to my chest. I could tell there were IV's in both of my arms and a cervical collar was still in place around my neck. My Dad looked haunted and didn't speak but my Mom came over and quietly explained they were taking me to have an MRI and CAT scan done of my head and neck. All I could do was point at her and groan. Blackness.

The next morning I woke up. It felt like my left arm, leg and entire side were paralyzed. I was incredibly scared and had no idea where I was. I had a lot of pain in my head but eventually was able to move around a bit and figure out nothing was broken. I still have no memory of the accident. We have been able to piece together the events from the police report and wreckage of my car. It appears that I hit a patch of black ice, or some other compromised rad surface and my car left the highway and impacted head first into a guard rail. It then slid another 30-50 feet before coming to a stop, destroying the right hand side of the car. My airbag deployed, cutting and scraping my face badly and the injuries and bruising sustained to my left shoulder, arm and legs were from the seat belt and steering wheel on impact. I still have no conscious memory of the accident. I slept and laid there for two days.

Fast forward to today. The car was towed from a lot and I have since had it moved to my dealership. The insurance adjuster has evaluated the car as a total and complete loss. I have provided them with all the documentation, receipts and pictures detailing the value of the vehicle. They have moved promptly and efficiently and it looks like we will settle and I will have a full pay out by the beginning of this next week. Thank God for full insurance coverage! There will be the usual waiting game with the ambulance service, hospital and attending doctors to figure out with health insurance. So much paperwork! I have already found an exact replica of my car for sale by a private owner in the area and have been in contact with him to view it once the weather clears. He is the second owner and it has lived quietly in his garage, been well maintained and only driven in beautiful weather. I certainly hope that I can become the proud third owner. My fingers are crossed!

I am out of the hospital and have spent several more days resting and healing all the while taking care of a mountain of paperwork, phone calls, research and building stress. I cannot even begin to comment on where my emotions have taken me over this entire week, but I am incredibly thankful to be alive and to have walked away from this relatively unscathed. I miss my little car greatly and I have been up and down and everywhere in between while contemplating the different ways this could have turned out. One minute I am elated and confident that everything is working out great and then next, I am dejected and completely crushed. These kind of events have a way of altering my interior perspective and current priorities in life. I was supposed to be installing my new leather interior in the car this week, my birthday present from my parents, but instead, tomorrow I will be watching the wreckage being loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away. I have a lot of fond memories invested in that car. We hugged a lot of curves and had miles of smiles together.

I know I am rambling. I have a lot on my mind. You would think I would be used to being in  car wrecks, given my past. I have totaled every single car I have ever owned and woke up in the hospital on five different occasions now. I am sure that phone call to my parents and the words "We have your son" was devastating once again. That part crushes me.

The long and short of it, life goes on. Cars can be replaced. People cannot. I know that I am loved and yet again, I am incredibly fortunate to still be continuing on this journey called life. I will be sharing more thoughts that come to me as days go by. I am thankful that I really don't remember much about the trauma and accident. I will be going back to work tomorrow and hopefully will be on the road in copy car number two within a week.

Take care of yourselves.  Love one another. Life is precious. That is all for now.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I cannot write about my life right now. There is too much going on and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. I will be back tomorrow to hopefully share some thoughts and events that have been occurring as well as my thoughts and ideas about it all. I am physically weary and in pain, emotionally drained and chaotic and feeling rather poorly.

This week has been a particularly trying one but I am attempting to hold it all together and accomplish each day what needs to be done. I will make it through all of this and the other side will make the light I have walked in seem before pale in comparison. Loss is a horrible thing. Contemplating mortality is draining as well. A lot on my mind, you could say.

I leave you with this short video of the magic of music that left me in tears as I watched and listened. May you all be well and never take each day and its amazing blessings for granted. I will return tomorrow after some rest. Enjoy the music. That is one of the best coins ever spent.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

And now for something completely differ...wat?

I do not have any words or explanation for this one. It does not require any. Morpheus never explained the other pill for a reason...

daemon :P


Time to grab a few moments for coffee and words before my whirlwind of a day of begins. I posted a few short films I watched yesterday during my Operation Stay In My Pajamas day. My schedule is starting to resemble something of a standard routine, if you can call working seven days in a row for two days off "normal". It is allowing me the time to relax as I can and for that I am thankful. Instead of packing yesterday full of activity, chores and fun, I simply decided to stay home and putter around the house. I have to say I enjoyed it immensely. All too often, I pack my free time with good things that still manage to leave me exhausted by my return to work, so a clean slate with no pressing obligations was a much needed respite.

The second cup of coffee, if you can call this huge mug a "cup", is going down nicely and my day is quickly filling up with the odds and ends that adult life beckons us to, albeit somewhat reluctantly at times. In a while, I am going to head over to a friends shop and I will change my oil, filters, top off all the fluids, wash the car and get it ready for Spring. This next week we are going to install the new leather interior that I received for my birthday (thanks Mom and Dad!) and after some new tires are installed I think the little green machine will be ready for some top down driving, crazy curves, good tunes and great times. I do get so much pleasure out of my cars and driving around. It is in my blood and always will be. The bond between man and our machines run deep in my family and I am grateful and thankful for all the time spent bonding and learning with my Dad over the various cars we have restored and built over the years.

After the mechanical stuff is taken care of, I am going to head to my favorite coffee shop in the world and catch up on some reading and sipping. It looks like it is going to be a clear, sunny but cool day and I cannot think of anything better in the world to do than catch up on my stack of National Geographic, drink some amazing espresso and watch this city wake up. I might run over to say hello to Bruce for a while as Mark, his husband, has taken off for New York again, leaving him with the dogs. I do so enjoy his words and company. It is great to sit down, listen and talk to someone much more brilliant than I in order to get my wits and mind sharpened by excellent company. Good conversation and someone who can stretch your thoughts to the limit is in short supply and I always come away from our time together, refreshed and challenged to see things in my world differently. Such is the perspective of time, life, age and experience.

This afternoon I am excited to go pick up a friend from work and grab some lunch. We so need to catch up as it has been almost a year since we had some patio time to kick back, talk life, catch up on stories and reaffirm all the amazing things that make us great and close friends. He really is like a brother to me and I certainly have missed working with him over the last two years. Staying in touch can at times be more difficult as our lives get involved with a myriad of things and all the "yes" we say to other things. I am ready to grab some food, maybe a beer or two and just listen. I also need some bone crushing hugs and teasing, so that is also definitely on the to do list. :)

I am showered, shaved and dressed in my favorite broke in jeans, vintage Adidas sneaks and an old comfy oatmeal sweater. It will soon be time to throw on a wool scarf and my old distressed, leather gasoline jacket and head out the door to enjoy this day. I hope wherever you are and whatever you may doing will bring a smile to your face, a spring in your step and the assurance that you are being the best you, you can possibly be. Find your happy. The world needs more smiles. This world needs more of you.

And with that, I am off!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Wastelands

This one cut me to the quick. I experienced the same once. A beautiful, haunting and touching piece of art this.


Water | Vattnet

I found this short film to be powerfully compelling. As much as I would like to think I have always carried myself with the confidence and poise I have learned over the years due to my experience and life choices, I am compelled to admit that I identify more with James in this story. He is an excellent caricature of myself, though at a younger age. I can see the boy I was in his movements, his eyes, his actions and his angst. It was good for me to remember who I was. It helps me understand who I am.


Monday, March 18, 2013

The Good, Bigoted People

The Good, Bigoted People
Posted: 03/15/2013 1:18 pm

When you're a kid, you don't see difference. You're trained to see difference by a society that tells you that other people are not like you. You are told to hate that.

My parents taught me what gay people were. Before he divorced my mother, I remember watching a Richard Simmons video at home with my father and Julia, our nurse. Julia loved Richard Simmons and so did I -- for his loud costumes, wild hair and the way the screen lit up when he was on camera. Simmons didn't look like most other people I saw on TV, and his voice was unbearably shrill, but I liked that. It was how my prepubescent, pre-queer voice sounded. I thought he meant I could be myself. Instead, my father made us change the channel, because he didn't want to watch that. I asked him what "that" was. I wanted know why I wasn't allowed to sweat to the oldies. I felt like Lucy Ricardo, kept from the one thing I really wanted for reasons that weren't clear. Why couldn't I be in the show? He wouldn't say.

The next time I saw Richard Simmons on TV, I changed the channel myself.

A few years later, I was driving down the road with my mother after we went to get a soda at the store. I bought a Sprite because it had the most bubbles, and I liked the way they tickled my nose when they reached the surface. I put it between my legs so I could put my hands out the rolled-down window, trying to grab the summer air. We were listening to Elton John, as he pined in space for a home he could never return to. Elton John was my mother's favorite, and she loved him dearly. She sometimes would sway with him in the dark as she got used to a life without my father. Elton was her candle in the divorce. However, she told me that if she I found out I was "like that," she would "lock me in a closet and beat me." I got it now.

I accidentally squeezed the Sprite between my legs, and the bubbles burst everywhere. They didn't tickle this time. They were cold.

I brought this incident up to my mother almost a decade afterward, because it was a formative memory from my childhood. When I grew older and my queerness became apparent, my mother became an ally and, more importantly, someone I could talk to, and she doesn't remember a time when she was not supportive or wasn't by my side, fighting with me. But I remember things differently. I remember when I was nine and having a hard time relating to the other kids around me, not as athletic and coordinated as the other boys or socially adept enough to hang out with the girls. I felt like I would never be accepted or have someone to love me for who I was.

When I asked her if she would be my friend, my mother admitted that if she were my age, she wouldn't be. She didn't hang out with kids like me back when she was in school.

She probably thought she was being helpful by being honest. She was being a good mother, sparing me years of pain by encouraging me to just fit in and keep my difference to myself. I needed to be like other boys -- or I would always be picked on for being too short and too much of a "sissy." I would always be the kid whose backpack was thrown in the garbage can and the one nobody would sit next to on the bus. I was destined to be alone. Adolescence is much easier when you drift along with the current and stop fighting the waves. It's a lot like drowning.

You don't hate by accident. You have to be taught to hate -- in little ways that are reinforced every day, ways you might not even recognize. In my case, hating yourself takes a lifetime. It involves the help of many people around you. It takes standing in church and watching everyone talk to a God they think hates you, listening to a bunch of people silently pray that you will pay for being different, because they think it's the right thing to do. They think they are doing what God wants. I remember the nice ladies in church who hugged me when I was in the closet and hugged me differently after I came out, when I kept going to the same Baptist congregation, daring them not to accept me. They hugged me harder because they didn't want to let go of something. They just weren't sure of what.

No one thinks of themselves as a bigot. They don't look in the mirror and say, "I hate gay people. I am a homophobe." Those women didn't hate me. They loved me so much that they didn't want me to stay the way I was. They didn't want me to experience an eternity of damnation. They wanted to save me, just like my mother did. My mother didn't want me to come home crying or have to stay up late with me because I was too scared to go to school the next day. She didn't want the world to break my heart at such a young age, and it was too hard to ask everyone around me to change. So she asked me to change and broke my heart her own way. I was the one being punished again for not understanding what being different meant.

I thought about this some months ago when I read a tweet from "Morgon Freeman," a fake Twitter account that facetiously bills itself as "messages from God" -- or Black Hollywood God. In the tweet, Freeman wrote, "I hate the word homophobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole." Were those nice ladies from church assholes? Was my mother being an asshole? Is my father still an asshole? My father and I haven't had a real conversation in years, not just because I'm queer but because there's something about me he fundamentally can't relate to.

When I took Eric, my brother from my father's second marriage, to see Life of Pi, my father made a strangely big deal about it, but in a mock-genial manner. He told us it was a "girl movie," and we should go see something else instead. How about the Red Dawn remake?

My father hadn't seen Life of Pi. He didn't even know what it was about. His problem wasn't with the movie. He couldn't articulate what his problem was, the problem he can never talk about, the one we've never talked about. He was scared that I was growing up to be different than he is and that I'm going to have a life he doesn't understand. He thinks he's going to get left behind. It's the same look I saw in his eyes when I was a kid and wanted to play with Barbies or asked to try on a dress. It's the same look I saw when I told him I was going to art school. It's the same look I saw when I eventually told him that the family I create wouldn't look like his.

He already lost two sons. He was afraid of losing another.

I thought about my father when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece last Thursday in the New York Times, which discussed the recent frisking of Forest Whitaker in a New York deli. This incident was yet another example of daily aggressions and microaggressions, not the capital-R racism that we're constantly told is a relic of the past but the smaller racisms that go ignored, the ones that thrive in the margins. It's about the racism that's so ingrained we don't notice, the racism of "nice" people. Coates writes,
In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist... The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion... But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner.

We do this with homophobia. We believe homophobia to be the exclusive territory of diehards, the people who wave signs that "God Hates Fags" or broadcast their revulsion through a microphone outside Old Navy on State Street. We label them as "crazy" and quickly look away.

However, bigotry isn't so easily identifiable. It doesn't always wave signs or march on your funeral or spit in your face at a Pride parade. Bigotry might be your grandfather who turns away slightly when you hug your boyfriend or your grandmother who asks you're bringing your "friend" to Christmas. It might be your mother who gave life to you but doesn't know how to deal with this other thing inside you, who fights herself to love you better. It might live in your own heart, tucked away in one of the rooms you never go into, a room you might not know is there. It might shine in that ersatz smile you show to the trans* and queer youth of color that walk down your street, the ones you push past and learn to politely ignore when you get that late-night cocktail at Minibar. It might be the neighborhood you want to keep "nice."

When I reflect on 2011's Take Back Boystown meetings in Chicago and the people who told our youths they don't belong here, I don't think about bad people. I think about people who fear losing something. I think about my father. I think we're all not as different as we imagine.

A great filmmaker I know once interviewed Rev. Fred Phelps for a documentary. This is how I remember her story. She told me that when she turned the camera on, Phelps spewed the conservative religious dogma he is famous for, performing the intolerance we expect of him. However, after the film stopped rolling, Rev. Fred Phelps became a different person. He offered her a glass of water, because it was a hot day and he worried she wasn't properly hydrated. Phelps and his wife doted on her. They cooked for her. She met members of their family. She shook their hands. She sat on their couch and talked with them.

When she said goodbye and took her crew with her, they embraced her, hugging her differently than she expected. They hugged her like they didn't want to let go. She told me they were the nicest people she's ever met.

This is an abridged version of a longer post for WBEZ. You can read the original here.

Follow Nico Lang on Twitter:

I came across this article the other morning via my Twitter feed (@IcarusAlways) and was moved to share it here. I felt that its message and impact needed to be seen and thought upon by people that I care about. Take from it what you will.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of the impending holiday, I present you the best Guinness commercial ever made. Have a fun and safe celebration!


Thursday, March 14, 2013


Coffitivity: Instant Coffee Shop

This is the best background noise app I have ran across. Just play it quietly by itself or layer it with your music for instant local coffee shop ambiance. I have included an interior shot of my favorite coffee shop in the entire world where I am often found reading and sipping.

I find it pretty soothing and it scientifically claims to boost creativity. I found myself several times looking up to see who the cute guy with the voice was and then realized I was still at home. Enjoy. :)


Monday, March 11, 2013

The Journey

The Journey

One day you finally knew 
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you 
kept shouting 
their bad advice—
though the whole house 
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug 
at your ankles. 

"Mend my life!" 
each voice cried. 
But you didn't stop. 
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried 
with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy 
was terrible. 

It was already late 
enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones.
But little by little, 
as you left their voices behind, 
the stars began to burn 
through the sheets of clouds, 
and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world 
determined to do 
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save. 

~Mary Oliver

Coaxing words out of my head.

Some days we are inspired. We walk through life with our heads tall, eyes clear, commanding and deciding, as life parts before us. We can do no wrong and whatever magic chemicals our bodies produce are surging through us and everything is more than right. The lighting of the sun, the songs that play and the people we come across seem better and more fantastical as the hours move. Those are the Kings of days.

All days cannot be such but I am so thankful for those that are. They are the bright glints and diamonds of our lives. They make me keep reaching, working, striving and grasping. Looking back at them, I can see them in the future. They come around unannounced and always needed.

Today is strange. I am in an odd mood that I cannot quite define. I did something bizarre for my usual predictable pattern of behavior. I woke up this morning, cooked and ate breakfast and then went back to bed and slept for another three hours. I cannot remember a day that I have ever done that. I have started this day twice. I wonder what it may hold for me?

A situation I am pondering in life right now but have few words for. Michael texted me. He saw a convertible like mine driving around with the top down the other day and was reminded of me. He wants to get coffee tomorrow. I don't know if my mind and heart can handle seeing him again. I have to say, despite all the warning bells and whistles going off, my face was smiling like an idiot. I will follow my heart, as I always do. Nothing ventured...

I have two days off of work after a slam bang week of cooking my tail off. I have to admit, I kicked some serious ass in my kitchen and am a little proud of that! I don't know what I am going to pack into these forty eight hours, but at the least, sharing a few words here has been done. Has anyone seen my muse? That bastard boy seems to have taken off and stolen all my words, or at least borrowed them for a bit of time. I'd like to get back into the swing of writing and doing it is the only way to make it happen.

Whoever you are and wherever you may be, thanks for popping in here for a look. Have a better day. I know I will, just because I got to talk to you. :)


PS: This post was written while I was listening to the very first album I ever purchased when I was sixteen years old. I kept turning it up louder and louder and am now ready to fucking PWN this day! KICK ASS! *plays air guitar and dances around in my pj pants*

PSS: I also may have had too much coffee, MUCH too quickly. o.O

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Mother's Prayer

When Ralph Stanley sings us spiritual songs, it's like listening to a weary traveler that has been up and down nearly every road of life -- perhaps multiple times. He no longer has that smooth voice that created perfect harmonies with his brother Carter. Instead, his voice is a little shaky and obviously aged.

This song's lyric offers up a sad commentary on the spirituality ratio between men and women. For instance, you almost never hear about praying Fathers; it's always the womenfolk that wear out their kneecaps.

"A mother's prayer, more precious than gold," Stanley tells us as he thanks God for "the power of a mother's prayer."

I cannot even begin to comment on the prayers of my own Mother that have kept me alive and safe for all of these years, in spite of all my choices and fool hardy risks. I just thought I would share a song I ran across this evening that may sound just a bit different than what you all may listen to on the regular. I love you, Mom.


What to say?

While driving home today from work, I tried to think of something to write about. It is finally a bit warmer and I had the windows down with the heater cranked up enjoying some fresh air. My mind skipped around a bit to different topics that have crossed my mind and that I have pondered the last few weeks and still nothing really jumped out at me. It is not that I do not have anything going on in my life. To the contrary, it is quite full now with work and squeezing in my friends and family in the free time that I do have. I am not really one to review books that I am reading, nor to talk about music or movies. Some bloggers write endless details about their social lives but I tend to prefer to leave most of that where it belongs, between me and the friends experiencing it.

Looking back across the numerous and vastly different posts over the years, I cannot say that this blog has ever really had some theme or purpose in my life except to provide a public written space for me to verbalize and muse about the events, questions and circumstances that I find interesting or happen to be engaged with at the time. Some are more trivial and humorous, while others are gut wrenchingly personal, vastly emotional and capture in specific detail who and where I have been at different moments in my life. I rarely write about my past and that seems to be a direct reflection on how I live my life. I am either constantly engaged in the present or looking, working and planning expectantly for my next future. I do not think it is a bad thing to examine our past, as that is where we have come from and has contributed to who we are now, but I have always felt that my own time is constantly slipping into the future. I tend to look inward, outward and forward. Just an observation, I suppose? I may start writing more about my past, once I have a reason to or can discover ways to tie it more closely to my present. I feel like I have lived many different lives and been so many varied people in a multitude of places over these years.

What do other people like to read about? I follow several different blogs that are vastly different in subject content, world views and personal opinions and keep up to date with the things those authors choose to share. Some are prolific, while others post more sporadically. I like to explore other peoples experiences, their thoughts about their own lives and the lessons they are learning as their own book of days go by. I really don't like to read any one's sex life or huge collections of emotional, drama infested turmoil that some tend to create daily for one reason or another. I enjoy seeing other people make some of the same discoveries that I have made, watch them cope in different manners and strategies and contemplate and view the similar circumstances we can all share in such diverse and other angled ways than my mind works. I like to read about reality and the way that we all are investing our seconds, minutes and hours.

I guess I never quite sit down and write with an idea, purpose or plan in mind. Some of what I consider my best writing has been the most painful but has also been inspired in an instant and flowed effortlessly from my mind and fingers. I do not like to edit what words find their way here and usually will only scan for spelling and grammar. I find it unusual and amusing at times what others have tended to comment on, but I always welcome the words that others leave for me to find here. I guess it just reminds me that these pebbles I keep tossing into the pond at least leave a few ripples for others to see before they fade. I have no illusions of posterity but I do know that I have made some great friends over the years, simply by sharing my ever changing life and self here. Some times I have a lot to say and other months, it wanes. It is simply part of my life cycle and how I process the information that is always sweeping across the background of my consciousness.

I am eagerly awaiting Spring. I cannot wait until I can see life and green all around me, for warmer days and sunshine on my face and body. This winter has done enough and I am more than ready to see it be gone away. Time will tell.