Journal of a 77 Year Old Gay Man Coming In For the Final Landing

Archive for April, 2012

Gay Headstones?

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As regular followers of this blog know, I am a long time member of FAG. For those of you who don’t know what FAG is, it is Find a Grave.  I am a Find a Grave volunteer.  I take pictures of gravestones and post them to the Find a Grave website.

I am now at the point in my life where I am going to choose my own headstone.  However, I have a dilemma.  Do I order one of those dual headstones that so many married couples have?

In my cemeteries wanderings I have seen literally thousands of these “married” headstones.  I have wondered, what kind of headstones do gay couples have after they die?  Of course back “then” there were no gay couples.  “Back then”, gay couples stayed in the closet, even in the cemetery.

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Well, I think it is time for all of use to come out, even in the cemetery. Sure, one has to take into consideration that a headstone with two male names on it would be a prime object of cemetery vandalism.  Yes Virginia, gays are fair game for bashing even in the cemetery.

So it was with great interest that I came across this headstone this morning as I was posting my latest cemetery information to FAG.

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So here we go folks.  I found these headstones of two men, approximately the same age and obviously not brothers.  I researched these names on Ancestry.com and discovered that Lester Webb was listed as “single” on the 1940 U.S. Census. He lived in his sister’s house with her husband and family.  Could Lester be the gay uncle?  Ah ha!

The only information I could find on Joseph Hayward was that he lived in Sussex County, Delaware.  I could find no U.S. census information. I could find no wife.  I could find no family for Joseph Hayward.  Could it be that Joseph was Lester’s “friend?”

Just this weekend, as Bill and I were looking for two FAG requests at the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery in Milton, we discussed what type of headstone I should choose.

After my father’s death in August of 2000 I purchased two cemetery plots at the Northwood Cemetery on a hill overlooking Downingtown, Pennsylvania.  At that time I was not ready to purchase a headstone for Bill or myself.  Bill always said he wanted one of those metal military plaques on his grave.  We both like those plaques and I had even briefly consider having one of those myself.  However, I have since decided that I want a more substantial headstone.  I am not one of those people who decided that I want no trace of myself when I leave this earth.  I want a remembrance for which I do not apologize.

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I like these military grave markers but I think I have decided what I’m going to do.  We’re going to go the way of Joseph and Lester and have a dual headstone.

What do you think?

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Raison d’être Redux

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redux

  1. Of a topic, restored, brought back, revisited
 

Here I am back addressing the meaning of my life…again.  My last post explored raison d’être or the meaning of life.  

 

After I published that post I realized I left out the main reason for my existence.  How could I?  Only one of my blog followers caught my error.  Thanks Scott of “Bigger Than My Heart”.   

 

Of course my reason for existence is to provide security, peace and happiness for the love of my life, Bill Kelly.  

 

Too often I take this wonderful man for granted.  Too often I assume that my life of having the total love of a man such as Bill as normal state of affairs.  Then I look around and see other gay men I know who are either in dysfunctional relationships or alone.  

 

In my hubris I assume a lot of these guys are alone because they are douches, not very nice people.  Actually most of them aren’t.  They are selfish, grasping, opportunistic and self-serving.  I look at them and think “You deserve to be alone because you’re just not very nice.”  

 

But then I take a good look at myself and see many of the same characteristics that I deride in so many of the gay men I know.  Notice that I don’t call them my friends because they are not my friends, just men I know who happen to be gay.  I don’t have any gay men who I can call true friends (bloggers are in a different category). 

 

Now this is how fortunate I am.  I have Bill.  Bill loves me in spite of all my faults, of which I have many that I am not ashamed to admit.  God knows no one else would put up with me the way Bill has for the past forty-seven years.  Hey, I wouldn’t put up with me!

 

So to correct my last post which addressed my reason for living:  Bill Kelly.

 

I’ve been told many times over the years that I don’t deserve Bill.  I have always attributed these remarks to jealousy on the part of the person making that statement.  

 

Perhaps I don’t deserve Bill.  But I’ll tell one and all this one fact, I have and always will provide for Bill and happy, secure and peaceful life.  Bill is my raison d’être.

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Raison d’être

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Raison d’être  is a French phrase meaning “reason for existence.”


Do you know the reason for your existence?  


Most folks, straight folks that is, state that their reason for existence is to have children, grandchildren, et al.  Fine and laudable goals for sure.


So what do we gay folk have a reason for existence?  Except for those few of us who chose to fake it and have children of our own by the normal biological methods (lots of fantasizing necessary need to impregnate a woman guys), or adopting children.


Why are we gays here?  


 

  • Surely(“and don’t call me Shirley”) it is not to have the biggest and gaudiest drag show in town, although God knows some of my gay brethren work for hard at this goal.
  • Surely it is not to see how many sexual partners we can accumulate in our lifetime (although I did have a go at that goal myself during the Orgasmic Seventies myself). 
  • Surely it is not to descend into an alcoholic stupor each day we get older because of a perceived failed life to obtained a partner.  
  • Surely it is not to substitute food as your friend because of loneliness.  

 

Each of us has something to offer as a reason for our existence on this earth.  


Some of us don’t know or don’t realize what it is they have to offer.  


Now I know there are some bad people on this earth and bad people who have come into and (hopefully) exited our lives.  Even those people have a reason for existence if for no other reason than we learn a lesson from them.


That lesson could be how to treat other people, because you know the hurt these people inflict by their selfish ways and you don’t want to do that to other people. 


I look at some of these vapid celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and think “What good do they do for anybody other than feed their own selfish egos?”  To me they make me appreciate that my life isn’t as selfish, empty and useless as their life.


I look at the current version of the Republican Party and their lies and their selfish goals to turn this country over to the rich and the rest of us be damned.  Good versus evil.  


I look at myself and others like me who counterbalance such evil in this world to protect those who are weaker than us.  And no, I do not apologize for saying this about myself.  Too long in my life I have apologized whether by word or action because someone or some people didn’t like me or what I stood for.  No more.  


One of the really wonderful things about getting older is that I can see clearly now.  I can see through all the lies and deception and what is true and right.  


Thus my raison d’être, I am a counter balance to the bullshit.  


What is your raison d’être?

Carrot Cake – Cracker Barrel Style

 

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The best carrot cake I’ve ever had in my life was a slice I had at Cracker Barrel a few years ago.  One bite and I felt like I was entering heaven.  I HAD TO HAVE that recipe.  I called Cracker Barrel and they graciously told me the recipe was on the Internet for all to share.  I copied it, got the ingredients and made it and yes…it turned out just like the piece of heaven I had at Cracker Barrel.

 

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I have made this recipe a few times since then but only on special occasion but it is quite a chore to make.  Set aside at lest an hour for preparation.  But oh is it ever worth it.  

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Today is my neighbor Bob’s birthday.  He and his wife Barbara love carrot cake.  What better birthday present?  So in about an hour, after Babs gets up (late sleep she is), Bill and I will traipse over to their manse and present Bob with his birthday present.  
 
Here is the recipe should any of my readers care to make their own cake for a friend or a favorite neighbor:

Cracker Barrel The Old Country Store Carrot Cake

Author: CopyKat.com
Recipe Type: Dessert, CopyKat Recipe
Total time: 1 hr 10 min
Serves: 10
 
This cake is just like moms!
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped English walnuts
  • 2 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple (8 ounce can with juice)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins that have been soaked in water until plump and then drained
  • 1 and 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • CREAM CHEESE FROSTING: 
  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans for garnish
Instructions
  1. Cake: Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix the vegetable oil, sugars, vanilla and eggs until smooth and fluffy. Add pineapple, walnuts, coconut, carrots, and raisins and blend well. Gradually add flour mixture a half at a time until blended through.
  2. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9×13 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 40-50 minutes. Test with toothpick for doneness. When cool, frost with cream cheese frosting.
  3. Cream Cheese Frosting: Blend cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and a little powdered sugar at a time until all has been blended well. Turn mixer on high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy. Spread frosting over the cooled cake and sprinkle with pecans.
  4. Yield: 24 servings

Bullies

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Me, First Grade – 1948

Bullying has been in the news lately because of some tragic suicides by young gay men. 

I’ve been giving the subject of bullying a lot of thought lately. 

When I was young (five years old, first grade) I was bullied a few times because I was a shy and timid kid.  The first time I was bullied was when I was trying to enter the building where my first grade class took place.  I lived three blocks from the school and I walked to school everyday.  One of my classmates would wait for me and push me to the ground, preventing me from going to school.  Ironically we’re friends how and he sometimes reads this blog (“Hi Jack!”)  He says he doesn’t remember bullying me. Years later when we reconnected at a class reunion he apologized for bullying me. 

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Me (far right) with Jack (far left) at a class reunion 52 years later – 2002

He only did it a few times.  I don’t remember exactly how I stopped the bullying but I do remember telling my Mother and father when I went home at the end of the day.  I assumed my father would confront my bully and put an end to it.  He did not.  I don’t think it was because he was afraid, he just wasn’t involved in my life.  I don’t think he wanted kids (he had three sons).  He just didn’t want to be bothered.  So I had to take matters into my own hands.  As I said, I don’t remember what I did but the bullying stopped.

The next time I was bullied was when I was twelve years old and in high school, seventh grade.  Our class was next and we were standing outside Mrs. Rogers’ science classroom, waiting for the previous class to empty the room so we could enter.  Kenny, one of my classmates and a football player (I wasn’t a football player) started shoving me for no apparent reason.  He said “I hate you rich kids who think you’re better than anyone else!” or something along that line.  Rich?  That was a laugh.  I was probably poorer than he was. I was still very shy so maybe he thought I was stuck up, which I wasn’t. 

When he saw I didn’t do anything after the first shove (I never react immediately), he shoved me again.  Still I did nothing so he shoved me a third time.  This time I turned around and shoved him back.  Then the fists started to fly.  We were soon grappling on the floor.  Mrs. Rogers came out of her classroom in hysterics.  Someone pulled us apart and we were sent to the principal’s office.  My first visit to THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE!  Mr. Emery, the principal, wanted to know what happened. I told him.  I don’t remember what Kenny said but it must have been pretty lame because the principal believed me.  Kenny had a reputation as a bully and apparently I was to be his next victim.  After our visit to the principal’s office, Kenny never bothered me again for the rest of our years in high school.  The first class reunion I attended was my 20th.  I wanted to see Kenny and laugh about our “experience” back in 1954.  Kenny wasn’t at the reunion.  He died in Vietnam in 1963.  Oddly, I felt guilty.  Wonder why?

My next bullying experience was in ninth grade.  We were in a class showing a film on one of those old projectors.  One of my classmates, who I thought was a friend thought it would be funny to walk up to the teacher’s desk and on the way back slap me in the face. The first time he did it I was caught by surprise.  He returned to his seat to the titters of some of our fellow classmates.  He did it again.  We went up to the front of the room and returned to his desk, slapping me a little harder this time.  As he returned to his desk I heard him and his friends laughing again.  By the way, he was also a football player.  I wasn’t.  I was in the band.  Maybe that had something to do with it.  He was having a grand time so he decided to go up to the teacher’s desk again and on the way back he gave me another good slap.  He returned to his desk and the titters of his friends.  This time I got up from my desk and went back and “slapped” him but I forgot to open my hand.  What I actually did was slug him with my closed fist so hard that I knocked him from his desk to the floor.  No tittering this time from his friends.  Now we were grappling on the floor.  I remember that we knocked over the projector and the teacher was hysterical.  Again, we were pulled apart and another visit to the principal’s office.  Again, my explanation was accepted and Lewis (his name) never bothered me again. 

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Me, Marching Band Member – 1957

The third time I was bullied was in basic training in the Army when I was 18 years old.  This was another “Ken”.  His last name was Rondeau.  For some reason he didn’t like me and made my life miserable by setting little booby traps for me.  I won’t to into all the things he did to me (like stealing the top of my water canteen so when I was out on the range I got soaked) but it all came to a head one night.  I had Fire Watch, which was guard duty for the barracks.  Of course I had the worst time, 2 am to 4 am.  After my watch was over I went to go to bed and found it full of shaving cream.  I head muffled laughter (titters again) from the darkened barracks.  I knew who did it.  I was furious.  The barracks were two stories high. My bunk was located on the first floor.  Rondeu’s was located on the second floor.  I wanted to kill him.  I would have taken my rifle but it was locked in the gun rack at the end of the barracks along with my fellow trainees.  I looked for something else to use as a weapon to do damage to Rondeau.  I found it, a mop.  I unscrewed the mop handle from the mop and went upstairs looking for him, ranting and screaming all the way.  Someone turned on the lights in the barracks.  With the mop handle in my hand I found Rondeau’s bunk but it was empty. I’m still ranting (lots of F words, believe me).  The barracks sergeant wanted to know what was going on.  Someone must of told him because I didn’t.  I was still furious shouting “Where the f*k is Rondeau?  I’ll kill him!!!!”  This time I was taken to the captain’s quarters.  I remember him very clearly.  His name was Captain Green and he was a black man, very black.  They tried to calm me down.  The master sergeant told me to sit down.  Eventually I was calm enough to tell what happened, that someone put shaving cream in my bunk and I knew who it was.  I also told them that Rondeau had been sabotaging me for weeks and I finally had enough.  Captain Green sat and listened to me with his hand on his chin.  My barracks sergeant and the sergeant major were standing listening to me.  After I finished my explanation Captain Green said “Private Tipton, go back to your bunk.  We will take care of this.”

ImageMe, Army Recruit Private – 1960 

I don’t know what they did or said to Rondeau. However for the remaining three weeks of basic training he stayed clear of me.  He didn’t even make eye contact with me.  I was very lucky in this instance because I really did want to kill Rondeau.  I understand how people get in trouble when they are pushed to the edge. 

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Ft. Dix, New Jersey – Army Basic Training Recruits standing in chow line – 1960

Those are the three times that I was physically bullied.  I responded the only way bullies understand, with force and telling someone in authority exactly what happened.  I did not internalize anything.  I am incapable of internalizing.  Maybe I’m lucky that way.  I can put up with a lot of bullying but eventually when I have enough, I put an end to it.  I think I get this trait from my Mother because she was exactly the same way.

I feel for those who are incapable of standing up for themselves.  I don’t understand it but I guess some internalize the hatred that is directed towards them and internalize it into self hatred and feel they must destroy themselves or they see no way out and they just want the pain to end.

The bottom line is that the best way to deal with bullies is to confront them.  My father probably did me a favor all those years ago by not sticking up for me.  Because I had no one to protect me I decided my only alternative was to stick up for myself.  

I  sleep better at night too.