Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cloud Illusions

Our son came back last Sunday night.  I was in bed, having to get up at a ridiculous hour on Monday mornings now.  An hour so ridiculous it is almost Sunday night, but I still missed our son's arrival.  He left behind his son and former - or as they say these days "it's complicated" - girlfriend.  We are giving him a chance to push the reset button.

He is staying out back in our "cottage" which isn't really a cottage but a converted garage but it has a bathroom and kitchenette.  It also has my art supplies and art table and television and DVDs.  The television as been on the Cartoon Network since he arrived.  He didn't bring books.  He won't be borrowing ours or the ones at the library, in spite of my encouraging him to do so.  Cartoons.  And a game he has on his phone. 

He has changed.  He is much more willing to please and he is really trying to stay positive and motivated.  There are challenges out there for him.  I guess there are for all of us, but it is sometimes easier to see the ones that present obstacles for those we love.  That said, today he was offered a part-time job at one of the local grocery stores.  He applied a few days ago and went to a group interview this morning.  That is encouraging.  He hasn't had a job since sometime last year.

I'm in pain.  Pretty must 24/7.  The trigeminal neuralgia I've been taken medication for the past year or two has gotten worse.  I'm upping the medication, but I have to do it slowly.  Now I have developed neuropathy most severely in my right foot.  I was tested for diabetes but the results came back and it looks like I just barely dodged that bullet, but I have got to make some big changes.  This is my second warning, and it is a bigger one than a few years ago.  I'll be talking to my doctor again soon.  The pain is pretty continuous, but I do not want to define myself that way.  Last thing I want to be is "that person", the one who starts every conversation with a list of complaints.  I fear I may have already become him, however.  I'd rather people think of me as the funny guy who loves Italian films and bright colors and dogs and cats and muscular men and dark, strong coffee.  Who also suffers from pain issues now and then.  But it doesn't stop him from loving Pasolini and a cappuccino!

Tomorrow is Papa Seed's birthday.  Damn if I haven't already messed it up.  The return of our son and the pain stuff and money issues (again with the money issues, always with the money issues) I just couldn't get it together once again to plan something.  Today I started off in a pretty bad mood and he let me know that he was no longer wanting to do what I had thought we might do, since he was no longer feeling celebratory.  There, I did it.  Messed it up.  So he has been cleaning and cooking. 

I used to be so romantic.  I used to be so creative.  I used to have energy. 

Tomorrow we will both be at work.  Our son will be sleeping.  When we get home and our son wakes up, I'll figure something out for dinner and we will sit down and switch the TV channel from the Cartoon Network to Cosmos.  I have a little surprise for him too, one which a new friend helped me get.  Hopefully it will help put me look a little more like the old fun, creative guy.  The one who likes Soul Music and the color orange and bubble baths and images of smiling, radiant suns.  A little less like the cranky guy in pain.  Both sides are me, but I want the funny, fun one to show more.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

(The insert I made for the invitations to our Day of the Dead party - November, 2007)

The very end of April and the first two weeks of May are a time of deep reflection for me.  Even during the years when I'm not aware of or try to ignore certain dates, memories and nostalgia and sadness and deep thoughts come flooding through.  The birthday of my first partner, Amador, followed by Cinco de Mayo (for reasons I'll leave unsaid, a holiday that was significant during our time together) and a half hour later the date of his death and the date of my Mama's birthday, followed by Mother's Day and my Father's birthday.  Three of the most important people in my life.  There were others as well.  Two other men I later had brief, but intense relationships, shared a birthday with Amador (one of them deceased, the other I've lost contact with).  There are other anniversaries and memories attached to these days.

I have spent many hours in the past week getting lost in a Facebook group for folks who grew up in Sacramento.  I think I joined the group some time ago, but it wasn't until this past week I found myself totally absorbed by it.  Finally hit me why now.  Lots of memories there.  Spent my young life wanting out of that place - now I have so many fond memories of people, places and things that are gone forever.

For several years Papa Seed and I would host a Day of the Dead party in our home, before we moved to where we've lived for the past six years. At first it was a small quiet affair, but it got bigger each year.  We would cook for weeks and I'd make papier mache skeletons and skulls and other decorations.  We'd have an altar and ask our friends to bring photos or mementos of loved one to place there for the evening.  Before I found my way on stage, I had used every opportunity to perform at parties we would have in our home.  Sing-A-Longs, speeches - whatever I could do to make our guest captive audience members to my frustrated performer persona.

My Mama had died not long before one of our last gatherings, not long after we adopted our son.  In her honor, I wrote a piece which I read in front of our guests.  I was cleaning up in one of our rooms today, and I found what I had written and "performed" for those at the party.  After I read it, I had everyone sing "My Favorite Things" together.

This is what I said:

My mother would rescue the birds that fell from trees.

She'd put them in a cardboard box and try to nurse them back to health.

We had an old yellow radio on the top of the fridge that would play "Walk Right In, Sit Right Down, Daddy let your hair hang down...", "Guantanamera" and "Puff the Magic Dragon" while my mother would fry eggs and sip her endless cup of coffee.

Being the youngest - the baby - it was just the two of us in the house in the afternoons during the early years. I'd sit under table tents and eat tuna fish sandwiches and wait for "I Love Lucy" to come on.  My mother loved Lucy.  Everyone did it turns out, but I remember my mother loving her before I found out that it was universal.  I was pretty much sure my mother had discovered everything first.

Black raspberries, basketball, Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Glen Miller, Beverly Sills, Rock Hudson, ice cream, weak coffee, flowers, Cary Grant.

One Monday morning when I was very small, after a Sunday that my family had spent visiting Disneyland I woke up very sad.  I think that was the saddest I had ever felt up to that point.  My mother and I walked to the post office together and I stayed sad.  When we got home I asked her "Why can't we just live at Disneyland all the time?"  She said we couldn't do that because then we wouldn't appreciate it like we did when we would visit there.

As The World Turns, sewing, iceberg lettuce, baby animals.

My mother gave the world four children.  One of each, I used to say - but that didn't actually happen until the grandchildren - then the great grandchildren - showed up, We all managed to add our own combinations of pleasure and disappointment, stress and love to her life.  She didn't always understand but she never stopped loving.

Norman Rockwell, jigsaw puzzles, bridge and canasta, Carol Burnett, milk chocolate.

A few things I learned from my Mama - stray animals are more important than pedigrees, how to make a Christmas tree from old Reader's Digests, Musicals are beautiful, always add a bit of sugar to spaghetti sauce, say please, excuse me and thank you, never let your coffee cup go empty, if someone is even five minutes late they have probably been in a terrible, dreadful accident or have had some life threatening medical emergency, when you go on vacation you send postcards to the dogs, you should have a bowl of ice cream every night, listen to the birds sing, be a militant left-hander, I am always loved.

My mother was sure I'd be an artist.  I always thought I would be one too.  The second time I saw her cry was when I told her I was Gay. The first was when her father died.  She got over it.  She loved Amador. He died on her birthday. After I moved to Seattle, she befriended her hairdresser who oddly enough was Gay too.  Apparently, he was her safe entry way to the life. She got comfortable enough that when she came to visit me - back when I was still young and single and in shape enough to do something about it - my mother who never swore or spoke of these kind of things mentioned a rather specific sex act that most if not all gay men are familiar with, conversationally.  I started washing the dishes and changed the subject to something like trees or cats or some such.  Then came Rodney and my mother never treated him like anything other than her son.  "How's my boy?" she would say when we talked on the phone, asking about him. Late in my father's illness when he had forgotten who his grandchildren were, he still remembered Rodney by name - and the same became true for my Mama.  Although she insisted on calling him Rod, which he hates, he stopped correcting her. She loved him and I knew I was very fortunate.

The one thing she could never come to terms with would be my inability to have children.  "You always loved children" she would say and I would try to brush it off.  "But you'd be so good with them" she'd insist (although I figured if I had children they'd be tormented with Billie Holiday or Nina Simone theme weeks complete with appropriate food and dress, late night trips to see Fellini films in theaters the size of a living room and lunch boxes packed neatly with sushi and chopsticks).  It is that twist of fate that her wish came true after she was able to comprehend it, as she was getting ready to leave this mortal coil.  Instead of teaching him the lyrics to Sweeney Todd, I've sat in the cold bleachers watching football.  Instead of Italian film nights, we watch comedies and eat hamburgers - and while I've taught him to make cookies just as she did me, I've yet to get him to eat Thai food.  And he loves his ice cream late at night.  She would approve, she would be proud, she would love him. This is not at all how I saw this happening. I guess I wasn't at all what she saw happening either. And so, although she is gone in one way, I know when I look at our son that she is still putting fallen birds in cardboard boxes.  I know this because the wing that is mending is my own.

Looks like I haven't made a post here in a few years. I've thought about it. Doesn't happen.I'm still at the same job in the day, still doing a little stand-up at night, still in the same house with Papa Seed.

But there have been many changes. We said our final farewell to our beloved Kuma last spring, one of the hardest things I've ever done. A month later we said good-bye to our sweet Rusty, my Mama's dog.

Then to Papa Seed's Dad. It was a very difficult ending.

There has been a lot of rebuilding in the months since.


I'm going to attempt to get back into writing about it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Show Time

I've been dabbling in this stand-up comedy thing since the end of last year, because my self-esteem wasn't quite fragile enough and I needed to completely destroy it and put myself in public forums where my self-worth is determined by a bunch of strangers.

So far, so good. I've made the decision to just stop at least three times now, but because I can't commit to any decision I make, I'm still doing it.

I've always known that stand-up comedy is for young straight guys, so it is no surprise that 90% of the folks I'm with in "the scene" fit that description. What I was too silly to realize is that this is a scene that takes place at night, when I'm in bed. I can't do it from bed, however, thus my dilemma du jour.

The advice I've been given is "do open mics, do open mics, do open mics". I have been doing them, but since most start at nine, about the time I'm usually turning out the light so I can get up before five to get my day started, I can't get to many. I meet the young straight guys there and get to hear how they have done seven or eight that week. I few of them have jobs. A few. I'm an unfamiliar face, because I average about one a week, two if I'm wild and crazy.

I was fortunate enough to land a gig early on opening for a Drag Queen Brunch about a mile from the house. There are two things that should never be done in the daytime, in a well-lighted room; comedy and Drag. We did both. I had no idea what I was doing. The story is that when you first start out in comedy, your family and friends will show up for the first show, a few at your second, a sprinkling at your third and then you are on your own. That was an accurate portrayal of my experience. Again, I felt fortunate to have friends, family and co-workers show up. Those who didn't had excuses and asked me how things went. At first. No more. They stopped with the excuses by March, and they don't make eye contact if I say the word "comedy". Of course, this could be read in a couple of different ways. The first one is that they are busy people with full lives and families and other scheduled events and day to day chores and routines to attend to. The second way to read it is that I suck. I always pick Option B. It is just my nature.

Getting laughs and applause on stage is one of the biggest highs I've ever had in my life. It is clearly addicting as well. Getting crickets or seeing yawns or watching people walk out isn't quite the kicky cool sensation as getting the laughs for some reason. I'm getting used to it, however. I think I'm at about 50/50 these days. I truly have NO idea how good or horrible I am. I am basing a good performance on how many folks, preferably strangers or other comedians, come up to be afterwards to say "Great job, I really enjoyed that" in their sincere voice.

The brunch has ended and this Friday I am doing the first evening kinda sorta version of it, except now I'm the Host and not just the warm-up. And I am putting it together, which is something I've never done before. It has been fun, stressful and an adrenalin rush which is helpful because I'm having to do it in a limited amount of time and it kept me from sleeping. There is no time to sleep in Show Business.

We might get five people, we might get fifty. I might get a few laughs, I might get crickets. On Saturday I might decide to quit, or I might start my new plan to take over the world.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I've been trying to go on a bike ride with Papa Seed most weekends.  Our bike rides are short, or would be for most people including the younger version of me, but they are strenuous enough.  I have to keep them flat, even the slightest incline makes my heart pound up through my throat, and the butt discomfort is intense. And not in a good way.

Years ago, my old bike was my essential means of transportation in Seattle.  I used it to get to work, to go to the gym, to go to the store and for recreation.  Funny what a couple extra hundred pounds will do to a body.  I don't recommend finding out if you haven't already gone down that road in life.  The late night noodles are delicious, but being able to move turns out to be better in the long run.

I'm trying to move again.  Today we rode our bikes downtown.  I had wanted to try this route but needed to do it during the early hours of a Sunday morning when things are quiet.  Along with oceans, forests, deserts and the interiors of funky art house theaters (RIP to most of them, but they will live forever in my heart), I feel most alive in quiet and abandoned industrial parts of town (even if the abandoned part is just every seventh day).  The route to downtown takes one past such areas, as well as shipyards, train tracks and construction sites on pause.  There were only a handful of people that we passed.  True, we were at times right by busy roads and bridges, but we were not on the busy roads and bridges.  The bike path took the road less traveled.

Near the end of the first half of our ride, we reached the official waterfront, and therefore people and cars.  I don't like most cars made after, say, 1970.  You have to go about a decade earlier for most people, and even then I prefer to read about them or see them on film than to actually interact with the, at least on a Sunday morning bike ride.  So we went a short distance and turned around.  Back to the quiet, the abandoned, the still and the peaceful.  It was a moody day with clouds and a crisp, cool air.  I like a good moody day, especially when on a bike ride through the quite and the abandoned.  Life was good.

Then we had to go back over a bridge.  Not a very high one, but the incline was more than my heft enjoyed.  My heart pounding, the gears of my bicycle kept slipping.  3/4 of the way up, I had to give in and then came the announcement that the bridge was "going up".  What was a racing heart became a frantic one, complete with dread and sweats.  The bell was deafening, my anxiety was blinding as I raced back to the halfway mark with visions of riding right off the edge of a lifting bridge to my horrible death (in fact, the bridge was low enough that I probably would have just caused a big splash before safely swimming to a boat dock).  Totally harshed my mellow from the quiet ship yards and big abandoned gray buildings.

The bridge doesn't actually go up.  The middle just swings around so one pleasure boater can get through while the rest of us wait.  I wouldn't have died even if I hadn't made it across the finish line.  Well, I may have.  My heart was pounding pretty hard.

A bit later I was home, exhausted and sore.  But proud of myself for pushing on.  I'll keep at it.  Eventually I will whip those soft inclines into complete submission.  It is ON!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Down and Not Quite Out in Middle-Age

Listening to Patti Smith's "Banga" gets me to thinking about how she had to be older to make her most youthful and innocent sounding album.  Sure, her wisdom and experience is clearly present as well, but there is a quality to her voice that is so sweet and pure and a vibrancy to some of the music that borders on playfulness.  It is easily one of her most powerful pieces of work

I wish I felt more youthful and innocent, and especially would like to feel more vibrant and playful.  I don't want to be young again - wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, especially in these gosh-darn messed up modern times.  Actual youth confuse me, what with their discarding of books and films for first person shooter "games" and tiny little screens to view photos and mini-movies.  At least five or six times a day I want to go for the throat of some young adult who will ask some variation of "What is that?" about a very newsworthy current event.  Now that newspapers are rarely found in homes and the evening news is just one of 600,000 options for post-work or school viewing, there is no need to keep up with anything that hasn't been reported by your Facebook friends, and most of that noise you can just scroll right by.  We know more about what our internet friends had for lunch than we do about what our government is doing.

I'm not the first middle-aged curmudgeon to bitch and moan about such things, and I won't be the last.  I am just as powerless as my peers to do anything about it as well.  Just sit back and let it all be, but I'll complain about it too.  That's how I roll.

My own attention span seems to shrink like an Amazon rainforest, month to month, day to day, hour to hour.  By the time I'm ready for diapers again, I'll have the focus of heavily caffeinated gnat, unless the depression helps me balance out into something like more of a flatliner with frequent brain jolts.  Most of my thoughts these days are centered around doing things I haven't the motivation or stamina to actually accomplish.  I have mental "To Do" lists of cleaning, writing, painting, exercising, cooking and learning but the exhaustion keeps me grounded in a chair, the joint pain and back pain and foot pain makes it difficult to move and the overwhelmingness of it all knocks me down when I start to gather the strength to move a finger.  I'll just sit it out.  This too shall pass.  Tomorrow I'll get up and get things done.  I ain't been licked yet.  Ms Ross sang that one, kids.  Google it.

Hell, I have things to do and things to say.  These damn young 'uns, I'm not going to let them take over the world just yet.  We are going to have to share for a bit longer.  You go and do your hot yoga. I'll just figure out a way to get up off my ass.  We shall live again, we shall live again.

I'm Back!

Damn it, I'm Back!

Had some weirdness attached to my Blogger account, complicated by a bad case of the Whatev's but today I finally had both the motivation slash burning desire and the patience to figure out how to get back in. So here I am now, entertain me.

Since I've been gone ~

* I've turned 53

* I started doing Stand-Up Comedy

* I started doing a monthly Stand-Up Comedy warm-up act right before a gaggle of Drag Queens entertain a brunch crowd

* I've become a Grandfather

* I met my gorgeous Grandson

* "Broke up" with Papa Seed (SPOILER ALERT - It was temporary)

* Went on a solo vacation and spent a week in a Hollywood hotel room sicker than sick

* Started therapy.

* Started couple's therapy with Papa Seed

* Celebrated 20 years together with Papa Seed

* Watched our beloved Kuma go blind and become disabled

* Watched our sweet, sweet Rusty get dementia and become disabled

* Watched our love puddle Aspen become more wonderful daily

* Been held a love captive by the terrorist cat known as Kerouac

* Walked. A lot.

* Read some books, ate some food, watched some films, heard some music.

* Other stuff as needed

Stick around please, now that I'm back. I'll give more detailed descriptions of what is now known only as the future.