Saturday, September 29, 2012


Downsizing is great. I have so much stuff that I have been wanting to get rid of. Whether it's games I no longer play, toxic clutter from the garage or memorabilia I used to collect but no longer do, it's all taking up space in my house or garage. It's got to go.

I have been reliving a lot of memories lately, mostly painful or uncomfortable ones surrounding people in my life, e.g., a few friends who've drifted away because of the changes they've gone through and where we no longer see eye to eye, or men I had met and no longer am in touch with. I'll admit though, it's mostly the men I've dated over my gay lifetime who keep coming up. Maybe it's because my plate is so full right now, one more thing will push me over the edge, and I'm trying to maintain some sense of stability that I am having these thoughts. I try to keep the painful memories out of my head and heart, but it's not easy. I do have those moments where I just want to erase or downsize them. But, then I remember the good times with these guys and try to hang on to those memories. But, does this mean I haven't let go of the men? Am I truly ready to move on? Emotionally, at least?

Remembering the good, reminds me there is good in everyone. Sometimes, I have to dig deep to find it.

It's those difficult and painful memories that cause the most trouble. Then, I force myself to stop and remember, this person came into my life for a reason, if only temporarily, and probably for me to learn something about myself. I may not learn that lesson immediately but I know in time I will.

Going through my iPod and non-iPhone the other day, I noticed several contacts I hadn't heard from in over a year. Some of the names I would recognize and others I wouldn't. Most of the ones on the phone were those men I had contacted when I was on the apps but had now forgotten who they were as I had no last name for them. A few of the special contacts had actually made it to the iPod, and my feeling was if I hadn't heard from that person in over a year, and he wasn't family, DELETE.

How do I feel about downsizing my contacts? I'm fine. I hardly remembered what I had chatted about with some of the guys. And if the memories do come back, they do. I'll take it as just that, a memory. 

A memory, like the corners of my mind, a misty water colored memory of the way we were.

And nothing more.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Alter Ego

I began this week in a deep blue funk. I was feeling something, but couldn't tell what. It seemed everything set me on edge. And what's worse, I was coming off a three day weekend. I went to work that first day back ready to bite anyone's head off, and I didn't know why I was ready to annihilate. Was I depressed? angry? frustrated? something else? Tell me, dammit! I need to know! Everything was getting to me. But, I had no known reason to be feeling this way.

Recently things had been going very nicely. My debut novel is moving along to its release date, sometime in early October. My mortgage refinance is also progressing, though frustratingly slowly, toward closing and that would give me some financial breathing room. I had received a nice financial windfall which could aid in some additional repairs around the house. With so much positive going on, why was I ready to eviscerate the next person who said the first cross thing to me?

Why were my fears also crawling up out of the cellar of my soul? My publisher had painstakingly gone through my novel, and made suggestions where he felt some improvement was needed. But he made suggestions in scenes I liked, not in ones I felt were weak. It was all a plot to take over my story and make it his. Or so I felt. I am a shitty writer.

The loan hit a snag. The windfall now deposited in my savings account triggered an investigation. I am not talking a five figure windfall, no siree. Only four digits. But as it came after I documented my savings account, the loan processors needed the cancelled check from the issuer. And they also needed condominium documentation from the property management company.  I hate red tape.

I had even decided I wanted to be a monk. I was never going on a date, again. Ever. The pain of past dates and men I had met was resurfacing once again. I was tired of the bullshit and the lies. I was tired of men who say one thing and do another. Men who send romantic pictures to me, and then don't want to move the relationship forward. Or men who just want to fool around, and will only do this to me, but won't let me do it to him. Or I can do that to him, but he won't do it to me. Users.

I spent my three day weekend at home. I blogged, I wrote, I cleaned, I played (on the iPad), I gardened, I shopped for groceries, I took the dog to the vet. I may have betrayed a friend's confidence. I did have a vertigo attack. I did not have fun. Maybe that's it. I didn't have a pleasant three day weekend.

And yet, there have been other weekends similar to that one, but without the betrayal or the vertigo and I didn't feel this way. So, what was the difference? I sat and seriously thought about the issues. Was it my novel? I knew my publisher was only trying to help me become a better writer. He believes in me. He said so. As do many of my friends, both writers and non-writers, alike. It's still my novel, for it's the story that makes it, not each individual scene. It's a collective overall effort. He wants to be there for me, he wants to see more of my future work. I greatly appreciate his help and his constructive suggestions. And, no, he is not trying to take it away from me.

If the loan is to be, it will work out. These things take time and documentation. And even more time with more paperwork. I know that I will do my part, and will have to trust that everyone involved will do theirs. What will be, will be.

As for dating. I'm still not sure I don't want to be a monk. At least for now. Trying to find time to at least find someone I'd be interested in dating is daunting enough. I also think my reticence to dating now might also be due to the time of year. I have mentioned before that August is the month when my two relationships ended. This September marks one year since I had told someone I loved him, only to find out he did not feel the same. I realize it may appear I have not gotten over him though I believe I have, but am simply reacting to the time of year, and the fact next week is his birthday, which we were going to celebrate and then didn't.
As I tried to figure out where this mood came from, I began to notice what I wasn't saying. I was avoiding one topic. Work. It must be something about work. Maybe it's time to seriously consider retirement, once I'm eligible. But, I'd retire without full benefits. Could I give up some income for peace of mind? What can I afford to do without?  I need my peace of mind but can't afford to give up my benefits. So, I can't retire. Yet.

So, what is it about work that is driving me insane? Is it the deja vu of 'I just did all this last year' but with different kids?  Is it the fact this is my thirtieth year in the classroom in the same school? Is it the additional duties and responsibilities I took on for extra pay? Is it the group of kids themselves (18 boys and 11 girls, all turning 12 this year!)? Or is it a select few who try to run the classroom? I think it's all of the above. And everything in the paragraphs above that.

The funk may have started with work but it oozed into the different compartments of my life. It affected my attitude toward my writing, it affected my attitude toward dating. It's hard to separate the compartments of my life like in the cabinet above. I'd bought that to separate the different nails, screws and bolts that I have accumulated. While those can be separated, it's hard separating the different parts of me.

I did get myself out of the house this week. A fellow writer and Twitter/Facebook friend was reading near my home, kind of. He was actually closer to my home than his, but it gave us an opportunity to finally meet face to face and for me to support him out of gratitude for all the support he's given me.

I noticed after a night out, I felt better. Maybe it's none of the above after all. Maybe I need to get a life. I guess all work and no play turns me into my alter ego:

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I recently had a conversation with a fellow writer and good friend regarding the use of pseudonyms. In the past, female writers would write under male names since writing was a male dominated field and this was the only way for women to get their writing to the public. Some male writers would use female pen names when writing traditional romance novels; after all, men aren’t supposed to be romantic. As recently as 1997, a female writer was encouraged to use a pen name as it was believed her book would not appeal to its target audience; 10-14 year old boys, because it was written by a woman. She refused but consented to use her initials and Joanne Kathleen went on to write one of the most successful series in literary history, Harry Potter.

Because of past attitudes, we older gay men had become accustomed to compartmentalizing our lives, which many of the younger gay generation have not experienced to the extent we have. We had one identity at home, another at work, and a third (or fourth) within the gay community. We struggled to keep them all separate for fear someone would discover our secret. In today's world, while it is a bit safer to come out, some prejudices still abound as do our own memories and fears. A colleague confided in me that a well-respected, educated parent pulled her son from his class out of fear the teacher's homosexuality would be contagious and infect her child; or worse, he would molest the boy! This took place in September 2011!

Many writers who write across genres use pen names so as not to confuse their readers. Anne Rice is one such writer. Ms. Rice has written a large number of books with vampires and witches as her protagonists as well as two other wonderful historical pieces, all under her own name. Many artists try their hand at different media as a way to grow creatively and writers are no exception. Ms. Rice decided to try her hand at something a little 'different' and wrote erotica under the name Anne Rampling and, in my opinion, some hard core sado-masachistic pornography under the name A. N. Roquelaure. She later came out as the author of all those works.

Charles Dodgson was a brilliant mathematician and wrote several mathematical treatises. He was also an accomplished wordsmith and loved playing with words and language. He wrote several classic pieces under the nom de plume, Lewis Carroll.  Would the readers of his mathematical works have chosen to read his literary works? I seriously doubt any readers of his books would have chosen one of his mathematical tomes for a light read, not that his literature is light by any stretch of the imagination.

As the gay community struggles for equality, visibility does become important. Some people undecided on marriage equality were ultimately persuaded in favor of the issue by meeting same-sex couples who then shared their stories of mistreatment. Over history, visibility of LGBTQ people has indeed changed minds. Yet, we never know and cannot comprehend the pain, the sorrow, or even the joys of our brothers and sisters and therefore, we may never understand why some choose to come out and others don't.

A gay author may choose to use a pen name, or not, depending on a few factors. How out is the author to him- or herself? To his or her friends or family? Is the writer trying to reach a variety of audiences? Would the audience buy the book knowing the author was LGBTQ?  And I’m not even going to touch the ‘gay authors can’t write straight characters’ line. Of course we can, many of us have been masquerading as straight for years. With proper research and preparation, I believe any writer can write characters of any race, gender, age or orientation.

The Pride Parades of today continue to serve the purpose of visibility. The first ones were held in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles on the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Today, Pride Events are held throughout the year on every continent except Antarctica, and have become major events complete with committees and regional coordinating organizations.

Visibility can take on many forms. There are those who like to be in the front lines, and those directing from behind, and there are even those of us who have been in the front and still want to continue our visibility, but now on a more quiet platform. I’ve been on the front lines. I’ve marched in parades, I’ve been part of political groups. I’m ready for a change.

I am one of those men who compartmentalized his life early on. I was not out at work, until I was out to myself. I came out to my family in stages, so I kept some secrets from many people. Now, I am out to almost everyone, except my students and their parents, though I believe some of them suspect, and may even know. Some of the compartments I used to live in are; man, gay, Caucasian, teacher, writer, homeowner, pet parent, divorced. I move in and out of the compartments as needed. I have spent the last thirty years putting myself together, with the last two being some of the most difficult and rewarding.

As I embark on this new path of author, I’m choosing to use my name for all my works. I’m choosing to use it because I am tired of compartments. I am the only male teacher in my grade level. I am the only white male teacher in my school. I am the only openly gay staff member at my school. I am the only openly gay homeowner in my community. I am the only teacher homeowner in my community. I am tired of being the (fill in the blank). I don’t want to be known as a gay writer, nor do I want to be known as a writer who happens to be gay.

Photo courtesy of GJ Spiller Photography.
I want to be me.

I just happen to be a gay divorced Caucasian homeowning male teacher pet parent who writes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Russian Mountains

Being a language aficionado, I love the nuances, strange phrases and out-of-date words in language.  Being a foreign language major (for a short time) I also love how languages express themselves, both literally and figuratively.

Take the Spanish phrase 'monatña rusa.' Literally, it means 'Russian Mountain.' Figuratively, it means 'roller coaster.' How the idea of a Russian mountain came to signify a roller coaster to a Spanish speaking mind is beyond me. But, I was dying to make that connection. Figuratively, of course.

So, I did a little research. Historians believe the first roller coasters were based on hills specially made of ice near Saint Petersburg, Russia. These hills had a 50 degree drop and a height of 70-84 feet and were supported with wooden beams and used more as a slide than a coaster. Most Latin based languages have retained the term 'Russian mountain' for 'roller coaster'. Ironically, the Russian term for 'roller coaster' is 'American mountains.' )

My first partner was an avid coaster enthusiast. He would often call me, after a difficult day at work wanting to "ride the range." (It's not what you think.) He was also a huge Disney fan, so we'd drive down to Disneyland and ride the coasters; Space Mountain, Matterhorn, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and for variety's sake, Splash Mountain. Afterwards, we'd drive home. We would periodically ride the range up until about one week before his death.

When my husband left, I felt my life was headed out on a new track; a single, gay man at midlife; a somewhat daunting, depressing prospect in a community where youth and perfection are often worshiped; the perfect face, the perfect body, the perfect financial standing. Plus, I faced deep emotional obstacles setting off on this new track; hurt, anger, pain, isolation, worry.

I faced uncontrollable financial challenges; a shrinking paycheck, a mortgage, skyrocketing fuel costs with a long commute.

I faced social obstacles; to date or not to date, to simply hookup or not, to isolate myself or socialize when and where I could afford to.

Yet, right now, I feel I am sitting in the last car of a roller coaster train as the front is cresting the first climb. I can feel the excitement and anticipation building as the tension mounts for the pending release.

I have finally been approved for and locked in a refinance loan at a fantastic rate, with a huge credit towards the settlement costs, so I can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Yet, loans can still fall apart at any step in the process, so until I see and sign the final documents, I am just going along for the ride. No expectations.

Recently, I received a small but sizeable windfall at a most needed time. While there are several needs to be taken care of; the washer doesn't agitate, the oven doesn't ignite, the carpets need cleaning, I need a vacation, I am holding on to every penny until the loan closes and I get a feel for the new and improved budget.

My first novel is also on course for a possible early release, bringing a little more into the coffers, and setting me off on a new direction in life.

I feel a new sense of optimism. I feel things are about to pick up and I'm holding on for the newest ride of my life. Literally.

And a bit figuratively.