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