Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's the end of the year as we know it, and I feel fine.

To my family and wonderful friends,

Here we are, the end of 2008. Already we’re closing in on the first decade of the 21’st Century, and time to wrap up the year. Joel and I did a lot of traveling, both for my books and for family. We hit Cleveland, Providence RI, DC, Chicago, NYC, San Jose and others. But my year really started in bed, with a viscous flu that struck me at a DC book signing and then lingered for almost six weeks.

This year, I notched a pair of writer’s panels under my belt. The first, an evening affair in New York City, was a real boost to my ego. In addition to being one of seven authors on the panel, there were two fascinating people on the panel with me. Susan Wright is an author of a few books in the Star Trek series, and Perry Brass published one of the original Gay Newspapers in New York. Plus, everyone laughed at my jokes. About a month later I was the moderator of the Erotic Writer’s Forum in Cleveland. I sat in the center of four other writers and posed the questions, we each read passages from our work, and then the audience got to ask questions. The response was wonderful. You’re always nervous about this kind of thing (will anyone show up? Will they pay attention?), that when the group actually had audience questions, it was a big sigh of relief from all involved.

My other first has been my first ever foray into political campaigning. I found myself in a phonebank office for Senator Barack Obama, making Get out the Vote calls for the two weeks before the Pennsylvania Primary. As hard is it may seem to believe, I’ve never actively supported a candidate before this, in the capacity of working for them. One of the usual phone poll calls came to the house, and I asked the caller where their phone bank was located. It turns out it was just a few blocks away, and when I let on that I work in a call center, they literally begged me to volunteer. It made for a very exciting two weeks, as the energy level in the office was inspiring.

The DVD I have a small part in, Paul Bright’s THEFT, was released in March. I was surprised to see how often I pop up in the background. There are multiple scenes in a Bar/Nightclub, and I’m easily spotted in the crowd. I have a few lines in the opening scene, and in the first few minutes, copies of my books can be seen on a magazine rack. I’ll take all the free promotion I can get!

In May, I flew to Texas to shoot another. It is my second role on a movie shoot with lines, this time as a mob boss. The character’s name reads “Big Boss” in the script. Basically, I am chewing out an underling who calls me every time something in the crime caper goes wrong. I read the part originally in my own voice, and then Paul suggested I whisper. My voice now sounds like Katherine Hepburn meshed with Marlon Brando. It’s going to be weird to see how this turns out. The DVD should be available next spring.

Another big event was with Joel’s eldest daughter. She graduated from Rabbinical studies and is now a fully ordained Rabbi. Joel’s father Syd came up from DC to attend the graduation, and the delightful Shoham was SO proud of her Mommy. Nomi took a job as Executive Director of Hilel at SUNY Albany, and they packed up the cats for a move in September. Joel’s younger daughter, Miriam, has been accepted for her Executive Masters in Government Administration at UoP.

Shoham has added so many little treats to Joel and my life – not to mention that of her Mothers’ lives – and took on a habit of saying “Go Red Sox! Sabba Tim says that!” whenever she saw a red object, which I think is a riot. She loves to sing and we were doing “The Teensy Weensy Spider” song at a restaurant we went out to. Each time I’d finish, she’d laugh and go “again!” Of course, I obliged. We went for an Ice Cream after, and the shop had benches outside for the patrons to sit on. The benches have ice cream cones painted on the railings, and Shoham was running her fingers across them. Joel said “Those are Ice Cream Cones!” To which our smart little granddaughter replied “I know that.”

After Thanksgiving, we drove to Albany for a visit, and were surprised how much she had changed in just a few months. I took her some books and I think I read tham all to her by the time we left. She’s so inquisitive and in the what/why/how stage.

Shoham is getting to be a big girl and I feel more like an old man. In August one Sunday, I started feeling a crampy feeling in my chest area, which escalated into a pressure/squeezing sensation around my breastbone. Both Joel and my friend Dr Reeves (the man I work for Part Time) insisted that I get to a hospital. Once admitted, they ran an EKG, then took my blood pressure. This was their greatest concern: at one point during the evening my BP at fallen as far down as 70 (and they wanted it over 100). The automatic machine used to take BP has a little warning sound on it when things aren't good, and I kept setting it off. As the nurse put it, I was "alarmingly low." This resulted in an IV of Saline to bring the blood pressure back up. Unfortunately, the IV machine also had an alarm on it, so every time I moved in my sleep it would go off. The stress test the next morning was medicinal (no treadmill) and made me VERY nauseous. But the results were negative, and I was told I could go home around 3:30. It took another half hour before the paper work was finished. I was glad to be home. It seems I got off just fine, but it was scary.

There was a line in this summer’s “Indiana Jones” movie that resonated deeply with me at the time I first heard it: “We have reached the point where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”

I felt that intensely in August. One of the men I loved enough to live with, Ronny “Bear” Borders, passed away Sunday, August 17th, in Louisville. Ron took me in after I lost Peter in ’99, and as I was spiraling down in 2001. We shared love, laughs, tears and our beloved Hershey Dog before I moved to Philadelphia to be with Joel and in a place where I could heal. My friend and one of my writing mentors, Author Larry Townsend left us soon after, on July 29th. It leaves a space in front of me where few writers are left; those bold enough to be the vanguard of Gay Lit when publishing such material was still a radical and potentially dangerous act. It also leaves behind yet another blank space where a ‘village elder’ used to be. Maybe what frightens me more is that, suddenly, I am becoming that village elder. The barrier between me and the top of the mountain has one less person between me being in the final free fall from its peak.

There were weddings this year, first in San Jose in Sept, where my Uncle Mike’s middle daughter Lauren got married. The weather was perfect for an outdoor ceremony, which was held in a high mountain winery. Then my sister Beth got married on Oct 11th in the church we’d attended as kids growing up in Annville, PA.

Joel and I hit our sixth anniversary the first weekend in October. We celebrated by my treating him to dinner at Olive Garden. Pasta, yum. We are planning on going to Paris and Amsterdam next year, something that makes me goose-bumpy. I have never been with anyone who had an interest in life much beyond where the car could take them in one day, other than maybe Peter.

While in CA, Joel and I traveled to my good friend Jack Fritscher and his partner Mark’s home in Sebastopol. What a treat. I’ve known Jack and Mark for many years now, but this was our first visit at their lovely residence. In addition to being one of the gay world’s finest writers, he is also a gifted photographer. That is their dog, Guinevere, giving me kisses in the puppy picture.

The reality of my life is really tough at the present. The IRS discovered an error in my 2006 taxes and hit me for two grand. The Hospital bill actually arrived, and even with the insurance, I still have a big lump to pay. Phooey. Then my VW went kaboom on the way to work, turning into a Car-BQ on I-476 during morning rush. I got on the KYW morning traffic reports! Fortunately, Joel’s father was generous enough to offer his ‘97 Mercury with a mere 64,000 miles on it, so we were quickly back to a two car household.

The VW Flambeaux occurred just before Thanksgiving, where Joel and I hosted 28 family members for dinner and laughter. Three turkeys, a baked spiral ham, lots of Aunt Sharon’s pies, many bottles of wine and regifts. What a wonderful family I am blessed with and they all fit into our home. Tightly, but they fit. I don’t know if our house has ever been this crowded, or this clean, or if we’d ever get through all the leftovers.

We tried something else at the house this year, with my old friend James Lee Stanley playing a “House Concert” here. A house concert is when an artist sets up in your living room (or wherever) and plays for your guests, keeping the nights’ take. While it didn’t go quite as planned, James is a fantastic musician and terrific friend, and I’ll chalk this one up to first try experience, and then hope for better next time. In the meantime, my musical friends should find James’ CD’s on Amazon or I-Tunes, along with my other musician friends Sara Hickman and Mark Weigle.

We are Thankful that Philadelphia now has a world champion team, our Fightin’ Phillies! Joel, while seriously upset that the Red Sox got knocked out, was able to score tickets to a Boston/Tampa playoff game and flew to Boston’s Fenway Park with his dad. And we have a new President Elect. The fact that I volunteered should have led you to know that I am – as the right likes to say – In The Tank for Obama. So was Miss Sophie Cat, as the picture I took of her climbing a campaign poster indicates. Finally, the eight year reign of idiocy will be over.

So we have a New Year to look forward to with some trepidation, a new leader in shaky times. I am just glad and proud to know that I am surrounded by the warmth and love of my family and friends.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Shoe Flies In Baghdad: A Poem

A "Found Poem"
This Is a Farewell Kiss, You Dog!

Baghdad. On an Iraq trip
in the last month of his presidency,
a trip shrouded in secrecy
and marred by dissent,
President George W. Bush on Sunday
hailed progress in the war
that defines his presidency
and got a size-10 reminder
of his unpopularity
when a man hurled two shoes
at him during a news conference.
President George W. Bush ducked
as a man threw both dirty shoes at him
during a news conference
with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Baghdad.
"This is a farewell kiss, you dog!"
shouted the protester in Arabic,
later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi,
a correspondent for Al-Baghdadiya television,
an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo.
Bush ducked both shoes
as they whizzed past his head
and landed with a thud
against the wall behind him.

A found poem by Jack Fritscher
Copyright 2008 Jack Fritscher

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Rainbow Flag

Your rainbow is intensely shaded yellow, pink, and orange.


What is says about you: You are a strong person. You appreciate optimism. You're good at getting people to like you. You are a good listener and your friends are glad to have you around in difficult times.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keith Olberman on Prop 8, 11/10/08

Keith Olberman on Prop 8, Monday 11/10/08
Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love."